December 20, 2014
5. Various Artists
Cybernetic Serendipity Music
(The Vinyl Factory / ICA)
This year we teamed up with the ICA to reissue their much-sought after compilation of early electronic music released in 1968 in tandem with the gallery’s computer art exhibition of the same name. Aside from being the first collection of music both composed and performed by a computer, it also a rare instance of John Cage and Iannis Xenakis appearing on the same record, making it a true under-the-radar milestone in the development of electronic music. You can find out more about the release here.
4. Linda Perhacs
I don’t know if you visit a dental hygenist and I don’t know if you’ve marked them out as a little boring, but if you do and you have, take this opportunity to reconsider. Like Linda Perhacs, they could be behind a beautiful folk record admired by Four Tet and Opeth. As you can see below, Anthology have really gone to town in capturing the hand-drawn artwork on what is a stunning reproduction of the original.
3. Francis Bebey
Psychedelic Sanza 1982-1984
(Born Bad Records)
The follow up to Born Bad’s first Bebey retrospective sees the Cameroonian artist and musician hone in on the deep and hypnotic properties of the sanza or African thumb piano. The resulting collection is one of the most singular and entrancing records we’ve heard all year. Sometimes adding tonal flourishes at other times used as a sonic tapestry, the twinkling sanza weaves in and out of complex percussive compositions that unfold like concentric circles, at times driven forward by soft-touch bass lines at other times allowed to float free against breathy flutes and Bebey’s expressive singing. An utterly unique find.
2. Arthur Russell
World Of Echo
Some reissues have made this list for bringing to light fantastic records that previously skulked in the shadows, some however, like Arthur Russell’s World Of Echo already enjoy seminal status. You won’t not need us to tell you again of its myriad qualities, quirks and wormholes other than to celebrate the fact that it was this year once again made available on vinyl with the blessings of Audika, who have dutifully presided over the legacy of one of the most universally admired artists of the last thirty years. A record to surrender to in full rather than consume in pieces, World Of Echo can do strange things to your perception of time, not least in sounding as unique today than it would have done on a rainy autumn afternoon in 1986.
1. Harry Smith
Anthology Of American Folk Music (Volume 1-4)
It’s fairly standard practice for a label to talk up the significance of their own releases, but for a cottage imprint like Mississippi records, who have consistently eschewed any internet presence at all, promotional or otherwise, you’re inclined to feel like they’re not taking you for a ride. Eric Isaacson, the man behind the reclusive Portland outpost once told us that the Anthology Of American Folk Music changed music in America “more than maybe any other record ever made” in giving a platform to a vernacular musical tradition from North America’s most disenfranchised peoples. But unlike the other great archivist of American folk Alan Lomax, Harry Smith’s collection had little discernible method, consisting instead of thousands of monophonic 78rpm records dated between the mid-’20s and the Great Depression, which he’d picked up as low-worth parochial trash from junk dealers. From this he selected the music he connected with on a personal level, and grouped it into three volumes (the forth only seeing the light of day in 2000) for a protracted release on Folkways in 1952.
Then there was the spectre of the occult, which fascinated Smith to the point where he adorned the records with details from illustrations, writings and codes of various 16th Century mystics, drawing more than superficial comparisons between local lore and medieval mysticism. Whether telling the extraordinary stories of farming’s hardships and barn-dances, or revelling in stern country hymns and rancorous lovelorn ballads, the Anthology Of American Folk music says perhaps more about the fabric of modern North America than any other single collection of music. Admired by, if not even based on Smith’s own musical philosophy, Mississippi have presided over the reissue with great care, meticulously reproducing all the attendant ephemera in four cloth-bound editions. A true collector’s item from the original collector Harry Smith.