Dec092015| December 9, 2015
Following the modest 7-inch, it’s time to see what big little brother 12” has to offer.
Being the all-devouring record fiends that we are, our end of year review covers vinyl from every angle: reissues, collectables, artwork and new releases. In the past we’ve evaluated all types of new music within one grand list, but with vinyl sales continually peaking, it makes increasing sense to judge and celebrate new material by format – because ultimately, 7”s, 12”s and LPs are different beasts.
The dawn of 12” back in the ’70s heralded a new era for DJs, previously constrained by short run times on 7-inch. With its wider groove space, engineers could cut louder levels on the disc, in turning offering wider dynamic range especially in the lethal bass regions. It quickly become the format of choice, as popular with dancehall DJs playing Jamaican sound systems as it was with Larry Levan spinning Tom Moulton mixes at the temple of Paradise Garage. It’s no wonder that many DJs refused to give up on the 12-inch even during vinyl’s darkest days.
Today, the 12-inch market is stronger than ever, and while this list is inevitably dominated by dance music, we’ve opened up the format to all genres. Alongside techno, balearic, IDM and grime, we’ve found homes for folk, modern soul, R&B, and even jazz records in this list – proof of the format’s timeless appeal.
A few ground rules: only new releases count (re-releases go in the reissues list) and, not limiting ourselves to singles, full EPs get a look in too.
Catch up on all our end of year lists:
The 50 best vinyl LPs of 2015
The 30 best vinyl reissues of 2015
The 20 best 7″s of 2015
The 20 best record sleeves of 2015
The 10 most collectable records of 2015
The Year in vinyl tech
The 10 best vinyl soundtracks of 2015
20. Wiley x Zomby
Two generations of eski, one single-sided slab of 12”. It’s perhaps surprising that the pair haven’t linked on a release prior to 2015. Zomby grew up listening to Wiley’s eski beats, which use the Korg Triton’s gliding squares preset and EMU percussion clicks to create a hollow and bouncy ice-cold sound (hence the name).
Fitting then that he gives Wiley’s much-loved lyrical avalanche ‘Step 20’ an update with a biting sharp OG grime beat that steps the template up a pace or two. Given that the white label 12” was grime’s greatest currency back in the ‘00s, this release harks back to those days without sliding into pastiche.
19. The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band
The New Sound Of Siam (Rabih Beaini & Manasseh remixes)
Like Soundway, who we featured in our 7”s list, Paradise Bangkok have built their reputation on reissues, and like Soundway, they are now beginning to bring their knowledge of South Asian music to bare to craft new and unique international sounds. The New Sound Of Siam is representative both of where the label is right now and how our expanded knowledge of intricate musical sub-cultures from around the world is now front and centre on our dance floors.
With their house band The Paradise Bangkok Molam International laying the ground work, Nick Manasseh reworks ‘Kwang Noi Cholay’ into a Dinosaur-L-goes-dub disco banger on the a-side before Rabih Beaini (Morphosis) pulls ‘Sao Sakit Mae’ into a shimmering, atmospheric house track that builds with subtle force, awash with trance-like Thai violins and lush Balearic percussion.
More reissues doesn’t have to mean less new music. It can only enrich our experience, as it has done so brilliantly here.
18. Aphex Twin
Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt 2
Given that last year’s Syro was cited as only a fifth of the unreleased works Aphex Twin has recorded over the past 10 years, it didn’t come as too much of a surprise that only a few months later at the start of 2015 this EP showed up.
Dipping into Richard D. James vast pool of ideas, it was of no similar surprise, that it’s an altogether different beast to Syro – here James’ computers are controlling all manner of acoustic instruments and robotics for some tracks that are much more mechanical and dissonant than most contemporary ideas of computer control would have it.
That’s not to say there’s a nice piano etude or drum break to be found, flitting from one idea to another under the conceptual banner, there’s a lot of ground covered in this one.
17. Jason Moran
(The Vinyl Factory)
Jazz is a genre that, as far as vinyl is concerned, revels in its past. The hip hop/electronic crossover of Robert Glasper or Kamasi Washington aside, not much challenging contemporary jazz ever makes it to vinyl, let alone as a 12” single. As such, despite our involvement in the project, Moran’s Staged was impossible to ignore.
Draw a line through the genre’s great pianists, from Duke Ellington to Monk to Herbie Hancock and you will eventually arrive at Jason Moran. Exploring the social and political resonance of New York’s great jazz clubs and the genre’s roots in the work songs of the blues, the pianist and artist exhibited Staged at the Venice Biennale this year, releasing a three track 12” of solo piano compositions in the process.
While each track adds integral brush strokes to the expressive picture, the flagship composition is ‘He Cares’, which swells towards denouement from amid the chopped samples of chain gang cries, before resolving in a gospel blues refrain. On the flip, ‘Sharp Works’ is a study in intensity before the EP concludes with ‘All Hammers And Chains’, Moran working the piano aggressively to evoke the salve tools of its title.
16. Don’t DJ
What has been a choppy year for the label on social media has been trumped by real consistency in the record shops, with Don’t DJ’s Hexentrix leading from the front as one of the deepest, weirdest, most compelling techno 12”s we heard this year.
A transcendental twelve minute trip of dance floor minimalism, Florian Meyer dips away from the label’s technoise fare, favouring a full frequency fusion of Reich-in-Africa rhythms and surging bass that is perfect for dreaming or dancing. Jordan (GCZ) takes things in to even more primitive territory with a keen remix on the flip, rounding off a complete, concise 12” with stunningly detailed artwork to boot.
15. Laurel Halo
On the cusp between EP and LP, the eight tracks of Laurel Halo’s ‘In Situ’ were impossible to ignore. A sophisticated series of techno experiments and warped dance floor machinations, Halo manipulates afro-influenced rhythms and swells of synthetic emotion that nod to Honest Jon’s last great techno album, Actress’ Splazsh.
There’s so much going on here, you’d be forgiven for not reducing ‘In Situ’ to simply techno, drawing on free jazz, the sensibility (if not the acoustics) of field recordings and improvised, cosmic psychedelia. What a strong year for a label that this is the lower of its two entries into this list.
14. Wayne Snow
If virtuosic, off-kilter electronic music is your thing, get to know Tartelet Records. Having introduced the world to Brandt Brauer Frick, Kenton Slash Demon and Max Graef, the Danish label continues to catch our ears in 2015. Glenn Astro’s debut album deserves a mention, as does Nu Guinea’s ‘World’ EP too, but the one for us is Wayne Snow’s sophomore EP.
With wonky, warbling Max Graef production, Snow’s falsetto vocals tread a careful tightrope between soulful and rugged, resulting in three tracks that sound like Barry White, D’Angelo and Theo Parrish just jumped in the studio. Remixes of ‘Rosie’ by Nu Guinea and Hubert Daviz on the flip, this package is a genre-hopping bomb!
Did any track this year get as much coverage as Powell’s ‘Insomniac’? From the original letter to Albini to his response via that billboard and the amazing fit-inducing video this got everyone talking. It’s almost like the track got forgotten which just by itself is a monster. With it’s buzz saw bass and see saw rhythm it was total Powell and should just how unique and special his music making is.
Reactor (Mikey Young remix)
After licensing this all-girl post punk’s debut from Goner Records, Heavenly created a match made in heaven by getting Total Control’s Mikey Young to turn the track ‘Reactor’ into something quite different altogether.
By slowing it all down, building an instrumental track that wouldn’t have been out of place on The Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication and laying the girl’s vocals back over the top the finished product came on like a modern day Slits. Amazing mix. Pretty limited too.
11. Stump Valley
After a trio of essential releases for Off Minor, Uzuria and Rush Hour, Stump Valley returned to the Dutch imprint with this essential double pack tribute to under appreciated cosmic pioneer DJ Peppe.
Harnessing the percussive, psychedelic style of the understated Italian, S.V. fired up the hardware and unleashed a sublime six tracker, incorporating wall shaking proto-house, head-spinning tribal drum tracks, future primitive funk and slanked out, wrong speed madness, complete with new wave drums and detuned sax.
Enhanced by an analogue mix from Nu Guinea, this EP expertly married both the retro and futuristic into a unique hit of tripped out magic for the new school freaks.
10. Laura Groves
It’s ‘pop not slop’; so says Bullion of his label Deek recordings, which, through a carefully selected handful of impeccable 12”s (check out Thool’s debut too) this year continued its quiet rise to being one of the most exciting young labels around.
Last year we charted Nautic’s Navy Blue in our end of year list in large part due to the tactile interplay between Laura Groves’ Kate Bush-meets-Linda Thompson vocals and Bullion’s sumptuous production. It’s a relationship which has flowered on ‘Committed Language’.
As we said in our mid-term review: Another flawless four-track of balearic-inclined pop music, ‘Committed Language’ has an addictive, chimerical quality where every track helps to induce a kind of soft-centred dream-state. The EP ends with the gorgeous, revelatory ‘Mystique’, where Groves’ cushioned harmonies seem to evaporate completely.
Laura Groves may be a debut album away from being on everyone’s radar, but until then, we recommend you enjoy this EP as your own little secret.
Passing away whilst at the peak of her career, Chiwoniso Maraire’s truly inspired and unique voice for the mbira is much missed, and this 12” presented us with her final recording- a stripped-down and moving version of Thomas Mapfumo’s Zvichapera.
Clearly a labor of love in its production and as the inaugural release for French imprint Nyami Nyami, the 350 copies flew out the gates (see our most collectable records of 2015 list as well). From the lead track to the silk screened artwork, and B-side remix from her brother Tendai Marare (one half of Shabazz Palaces), everything about this one makes for a fitting and beautiful testament to Maraire’s legacy, and one of this year’s most memorable 12” releases.
(Golf Channel Recordings)
Yet another peerless year of 12”s from NYC imprint Golf Channel. From the bossa nova-infused sounds of Cherry Garcia to The Loose Control’s industrial thrash to the ancestral boogie of Africaine 808, if you picked up any one of their ten releases in 2015 you’ve done your DJ sets a favour.
Cream of the the crop is this absolutely lethal Payfone record. Side A continues the line of thought that 2014’s ‘Paradise’ sketched out with powerhouse vocalist Louis Howard Jones delivering a knock-out blow, right between your eyes. On the flip it’s a completely different story – a wild afro-cuban tribute to Passera’s (one half of Payfone) Italian father.
7. Maalem Mahmoud Guinia / Floating Points / James Holden
Earlier this year Sam Shepherd and James Holden were invited to Morocco to collaborate with Mahmoud Guinia, a Gnawa musician, singer and guembri player, traditionally regarded as a Maâllem (translation: master) of the North African sound.
Communicating via translators, the musicians spent a week in residency toying with the intersection between ancestral rhythm and contemporary electronica. The finished product is simply stunning, one collaboration on each side of 12”, packaged with a 20-page photo essay by Camille Blak which beautifully documents the unique cultural exchange.
One month after the release, Guinia sadly passed away – which makes this already singular 12” extra unique.
6. NO ZU
(Home Loan Records)
Earlier this year Melbourne’s freakiest multi-limbed ensemble hit up top label down-under Home Loan Records with a vibrant EP packed with the rattle of percussion and shimmer of heat haze. Over the course of five body moving cuts, the crew channel the disco-not-disco spirit of ESG and Was (Not Was), the house energy of the mid ’80s Chicago dancefloor and plenty of antipodean charm, resulting in a truly ecstatic listening experience.
Their new ‘High Gloss’ EP which dropped just last month also deserves a shout out. Another four tracks of wild x-rated boogie and percussive lunacy, including a dubby collaboration with Sal Principato of pioneering post-punk outfit Liquid Liquid, we’d highly recommend adding some NO ZU to your collection.
5. Beatrice Dillon
(Where To Now?)
Setting the bar high in terms of debut releases and fresh approaches with last year’s ‘Blues Dances’ and her acclaimed Conrad Shawcross collab, this second 12” from Beatrice Dillon is even more reason to pay attention.
Throwing saxophone noodles into a heady mix of pulsing dance-floor electronics is a bold move, or a recipe for disaster depending on your outlook, but the results are fantastic on Face A and testament to Dillon’s ability to fearlessly experiment with these dubbed-out songforms.
4. Project Pablo
I Want To Believe
Vancouver’s prolific cassette peddlers took their first step into the vinyl world this year with a sublime four tracker cherry picked from fellow Canadian Project Pablo’s tape and digital LP I Want To Believe. Slotting neatly into the same smooth, synthetic and soulful deep house bracket as those deservedly hyped Mood Hut releases, ‘I Want To Believe’ served up vaped out pads, sophisticated sax licks and live sounding rhythm sections, leading you into the stoned haze of the heart of the contemporary dance floor.
A worthy vinyl debut from the label who gave us the original cassette releases of modern classics from Khotin and Moon B, ‘I Want To Believe’ retained a little of that raw, tapey charm, while filling out the frequencies for peak time club play.
“I would like to do Brandy but weirder,” Kelela told FACT in 2013, just before her Cut 4 Me debut recast R&B. Two years later, she’s back with a deluxe vinyl reissue of that mixtape, a Warp deal, her follow-up EP and talk of a new album. Jam City and Girl Unit might have been on the last one, but Arca and Kingdom unite on ‘Hallucingogen’.
Exploring cycles of love and carnal proclivities across six tracks, the EP refines the electronic sound of R&B whilst maintaining tight lyricism and storytelling. Alongside FKA Twigs, Frank Ocean and Abra, Kelela is further proof that the future of R&B looks bright…
2. Golden Teacher
Golden Teacher Meets Dennis Bovell At The Green Door
Everything coming out form behind Glasgow’s Green Door studio is pure fire right now, and what better way to celebrate their most inventive residents than with the year’s most potent collaboration.
But first a schooling in Golden Teacher. The Glaswegian six piece primitive afro punk outfit have had some year, self-releasing their Souchiehall Enthrall 12” and contibuting to Optimo’s ace Youth Stand Up comp (also check out GT member Cassie Ojay’s wicked LAPS (Ladies As Pimps) side-project). Not to mention that their first six singles now collected as a de facto debut album.
What a brainwave this was from Optimo, nabbing the legendary dub producer Denis Bovell for a day to retool the Teacher. The man behind some of the ‘80s finest dub, disco and post-punk (think Linton Kwesi Johnson, The Slits and Orange Juice), Bovell winds such thick mire of low end and echo around these two tracks (one an unreleased belter and one a hit from the back catalogue now collected in the LP) that it almost subsumes the trenchant vocals and driving percussion native to GT.
Delirious, heady, guttural stuff, packed up with ace artwork and wholly representative of one of the UK’s most exciting acts pushing things forwards.
1. Insanlar / Ricardo Villalobos
Helmed by a much-loved record shop in Notting Hill, that can count Mo’Wax boss James Lavelle and vibes player Roger Beaujolais within its alumni, Honest Jon’s may be veteran but 2015 will go down as a banner year for the label. Everything released this year, whether archival or cutting-edge, demonstrates the importance of curation in a world increasingly dictated by streaming and direct-to-fan sales.
Long-players from DJ Sotofett and Moritz Von Oswald Trio, 12”s by Laurel Halo, Tapes and Dresvn, and a rather good gospel roots compilation, all deserve mention. The highlight by some stretch though arrives all the way from Turkey with late night stopovers in Chile, Berlin and Ibiza.
Scoring points alone for the way it embraces the 12-inch format; three compositions, averaging 20-minutes, stretch across a full side of vinyl each, leaving one side of the double pack free for a striking Katherina Immekus etching. In fact the quality of packaging throughout – from the labels to the insert to the art on the front – makes this a hugely collectible item, even before we get into the grooves.
Leading the charge is Insansalar’s ‘Kime Ne’, a snaking 24-minute Moog-infused groover from Istanbul that takes its roots in traditional Turkish mysticism, and delivery in a mesmerizing tangle of improvisation and electronic manipulation. The baglama is the instrument at the forefront here, with its staccato runs and inflections merging within the acidic pulse that propels this into something for both the dancefloor and curious ear alike.
That track was originally released on Istanbul imprint Aboov Plak back in 2013 (and has attracted three digit sums on Discogs) but Honest Jon’s brought it to these shores with two syncopated Ricardo Villalobos rides through haunting Anataloian folklore. The original is worth your money alone, but with an hour of incessantly pulsing, deep desert trance in total, this is one hell of a package. Haydar Haydar…
Illustration by Hector Plimmer
Photography by Michael Wilkin
Nov302015| November 30, 2015
We begin our end of year review with a look at the 10 most collectable records of 2015.
Over the next two weeks we’ll be looking back at the year in vinyl, from the best artwork to the most important reissues, the strongest 7″s to the most complete LPs. As we did last year, we’re starting things off with something a little less clean-cut. Here, more than in any other list, it’s important to set out our terms.
There are many factors which make a record collectable, and many reasons why those factors will mean more or less to every individual (just take a look at our number one…) The first thing to say is that rather than rank these releases as a definitive list, we’re taking each as an opportunity to discuss a different aspect of what we deem to be collectable, and by extension, valuable.
The most ostentatious mark of value is, of course, monetary. Given that we’re dealing with this year’s new releases and reissues, the time period in which a record can accrue value is relatively short, so any increase should be treated accordingly. While some records will look to artificially create value through limited runs or extravagant packaging, others will simply go up in value through a combination of quality and demand. The most desirable Record Store Day releases are a good example of the former, Arca’s self-released 12″ which topped last year’s list, a good example of the latter. In every case, an inflated re-sale price tag can only tell you so much.
Collectability can also be defined in terms of the desirability of an individual object for a specific fan base; a record that acts as a trophy or fills some unassailable void (like Ringo’s No. 0000001 copy of the White Album). By the same token, rather than looking at records as totems, collectability can also be seen in terms of series, where a completed set represents more than the sum of its parts.
Being confined to the last twelve months, we’ve also taken into account some more timely trends (perhaps most strikingly where vinyl is concerned with video game soundtracks), nodding to the movements which have seen a revival of interest among DJs, and elevating the artists who have helped define them. There is really no point discussing collectable records in a vacuum.
One final word before we start. The records we’ve picked below are subjectively collectable, a list of ten releases we believe to retain some intrinsic value. In doing this, we have sought to keep these choices as accessible as possible, opting (for the most-part) against high-end box sets in favour of ten records with ten unique stories to tell.
Catch up on all our end of year lists:
The 50 best vinyl LPs of 2015
The 30 best vinyl reissues of 2015
The 20 best 12″s of 2015
The 20 best 7″s of 2015
The 20 best record sleeves of 2015
The Year in vinyl tech
The 10 best vinyl soundtracks of 2015
10. Ragnar Kjartansson / The National
A Lot Of Sorrow
If a pragmatist gauges collectability by monetary value – both on release and secondary markets – then, pragmatically speaking, A Lot Of Sorrow isn’t especially collectable. Retailed at £120, it’s not worth an awful lot more six months on, especially in relative terms. But concept can be as alluring as capitalism, and it’s on qualitative grounds that A Lot Of Sorrow scores points.
The recording captures the collaboration between Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson and The National, who teamed up in 2013 to play the track ‘Sorrow’ repeatedly and continuously for six hours at MoMA. The marathon concert interrogated the potential for repetition to produce “sculptural presence within sound”.
The release echoes that concept on vinyl – with ‘Sorrow’ pressed down 99 times, across nine, clear, identically packaged LPs; all housed within a functional acrylic box. Like Trevor Jackson’s FORMAT, A Lot Of Sorrow follows the archival turn in contemporary art but through near-laughable obsessiveness it pushes object fetishisation one step further.
9. Christian Marclay / Various Artists
Live at White Cube
(The Vinyl Factory / White Cube)
Thereʼs nothing more collectable than a series, particularly when every sleeve has been hand-screen printed to designs by Christian Marclay. Released in conjunction with the artistʼs solo show at White Cube earlier this year, the series features performances from the worldʼs leading experimental musicians cut direct to disc in the gallery and pressed in editions of 300. Our mobile pressing plant, The VF Press was on hand to produce the records, which are among the first to have ever been pressed live in a gallery.
Collectable in so far as youʼll need all fifteen to complete the series, here are records you could witness being performed and pressed for free before purchase. OK, we’re a little biased but weʼve included this series to highlight that collectable need not mean prohibitive expense nor outlandish novelty.
Documents of a process of experimentation and improvisation, a number of specific releases also stand out, notably Thurston Mooreʼs collaboration with Christian Marclay, which rekindles a creative partnership first forged in the spaces of downtown NYCʼs no wave scene in the early ʻ80s and has sold for £70 since.
And far from an anachronistic practice, the setʼs emphasis on contemporary music also sees Mica Leviʼs return to composition after her score to Jonathan Glazerʼs Under The Skin won a BAFTA at the start of the year, and Ryoji Ikeda collaborate with Marclay on the final 12” of the series. The VF Press was also in operation at Barbican for Doug Aitken’s Station To Station where Savages, Nozinja and Giogrio Moroder were produced in a similar fashion.
Israel Suite / Dominate En Bel
(Digger’s Digest, French Attack)
This year’s lavish reissue of holy grail vocal jazz fusion album Israel Suite / Dominate En Bel is an instant collector’s item. Recorded in France in ’73, but never commercially released, the original has held a mythical position for over four decades. No one knows how many copies were originally made, but you can bet your needles it’s less than 100 – which goes some way to explain why a first pressing has never traded on Discogs and why dealers push four digits for it.
The reissue, a joint production from Digger’s Digest and French Attack, brought this rare groove masterpiece back within reach, but with just 500 released, it sold in a flash. With demand still far outweighing supplying, and no sign of a repress, this one’s a wise investment.
Other reissue collectables this year include Mariah’s absurdly cult album Utakata No Hibi, and ‘Disco Shitan’, a super rare Italian cosmic disco banger from the ‘70s. We also reckon Athens Of The North’s 100 copy reissue of soul burner ‘Thousand Years/Party Time’ has the makings of a rarity, just like the revered father pressing.
7. Shit & Shine
(Rock Is Hell Records)
Craig Clouse rarely does things by the book. Following Shit & Shineʼs stellar showing in 2014’s top 100 records list, this yearʼs contribution comes in the form of five differently coloured, hand-printed editions of Chakinʼ, which originally appearedon just 250 cassette tapes. As collectable as those are is, weʼre here to talk about the vinyl, and why Chakinʼ is a perfect example of how hand-crafted anomalies can be both collactable in themselves and relative to the market.
Not shackled by round numbers, there are 407 copies of Chakinʼ out there, each with variously different sleeve patterns. Hereʼs the breakdown: Green background print, limited to 149 copies. Green/Grey background print, limited to 3 copies. Green/Yellow background print, limited to 8 copies. Grey background print, limited to 99 copies. Yellow background print, limited to 148 copies.
While ‘Green/grey’ is obviously the combination to covet, the concept is charmingly shambolic, somewhat random and wonderfully egalitarian. While weʼre not suggesting Shit & Shine super-fans are going to go out and complete the set, this kind of variation lends an intrinsic value to each individual object. Needless to say, the record is also heisse scheisse, and the kind of thing that should sky-rocket when S&S finally get the credit they deserve.
French label Nyami Nyami debuted earlier this year with the final recording of late Zimbabwean singer and mbira player Chiwoniso Maraire who sadly died aged 38, at the peak of her career. Weeks before she passed, Chiwoniso stopped by a studio in Harare where she and fellow musician Jacob Mafuleni, captured an enchanting, stripped-down take of ‘Zvichapera’ – a song popularised by Thomas Mapfumo.
“It was one of the most emotionally intense sessions I’ve ever experienced,” writes Nyami Nyami label head Antoine Rajon in the record’s liner notes.
The swan song, remix from her brother Tendai Marare (one half of Shabazz Palaces) and silk screened artwork all make for a fitting and beautiful testament to the artist. Totting up those elements and a limited run of 350, we’re taking a punt that Zvichapera will mature into a sought-after item.
5. David Wise
Battletoads (‘Dark Queen’ edition)
Digital composers of the ‘90s introduced teens to trippy and daring electronic music while they mindlessly bashed buttons on the NES and Sega Megadrive. It might have been background noise then, but it’s a digging treasure trove in 2015.
Right up there is David Wise’s glitchy soundtrack – featuring the best pause screen music ever – for the impossibly difficult 8-bit beat’em up Battletoads. Iam8bit pressed up the soundtrack in a limited batch of 300 and sold it exclusively at the San Diego Comic Con back in July. That ‘Dark Queen’ gatefold variant – which plays music when you open it (like a massive birthday card) – now attracts three digits on second hand markets. It’s since been repressed without frills in a generous run of 3000.
Other gaming collectables this year include Yozo Koshiro’s incredible Streets Of Rage score on Data Discs, Minecraft on Ghostly, Mondo’s reissue of the The Last Of Us, and Super Mario by Koji Kondo on 7”.
4. Tame Impala
Currents (Limited / numbered edition + prints)
(Fiction Records, Interscope records)
One of the yearʼs heavyweight releases and a collectable record in the traditional sense of the word. While loads of releases will throw in a limited edition run with a print or some kind of extra, these only occasionally become truly collectable. Hereʼs how Currents hit that sweet spot. This edition of was sold exclusively online through Get Music in Australia; it features five individually numbered lenticular prints of the album cover and the singles that preceded it; the appetite and size of the bandʼs following (over a million on Facebook alone) dwarfs its five hundred-copy run.
￼While all these factors create fertile conditions for collectability, thereʼs one simple fact which has elevated Currents in this instance and pushed its value up ten-fold to between £200 and £300 on the re-sale market, and itʼs perhaps the simplest and most over-looked of all. Currents is a damn good record with emphatic artwork that delivers for Tame Impala fans on every level, and this run is the ultimate trophy edition. No wonder 500 was never going to be enough.
3. Len Leise
(Len Leise Edits)
One place where value and rarity tends to stay constant is on the international balearic underground. Not so much a genre as a state of mind (once defined simply as anything that came out of Daniele Baldelliʼs record bag a little slower than intended), this brand of cosmic, afro-infused downtempo dance music has played a major role in 2015, both in the glut of reissues weʼve seen from labels like Music For Memory and Emotional Response but also in new music pushed by the likes of Stump Valley and, of course Len Leise.
A relative enigma, here is an example of a year making a man. Culminating in his first LP Lingua Franca released on International Feel and a stunning afro-dance mix for us, 2015 began with the quiet release of Edits 001 in a run of 150 hand-numbered copies. Doing the rounds in no time, these two tracks sent the price of this 12” spiralling – a modern balearic rarity for a scene of seasoned collectors and DJs experienced enough to have a accrued a fair bit of disposable income.
Such is the appetite for new music in the scene, and such is the international flavour of its cognoscenti – from Growing Bin in Hamburg to Music From Memory in Amsterdam and Claremont 56 in London – this 12” is a great example of the workings of a global online community in action. There may be a repress in the wind, but for a self-released 12” from an unknown artist to push £70 (itʼs never sold for less than £40) on Discogs is quite something. And if Lingua Franca charts well this winter, you know where those figures are heading.
(Paul McCartney Self-Released)
The tide somewhat turned on Record Store Day this year, with labels, consumers, even record shops, knocking the annual festival. There’s a feeling (amongst some) that majors have co-opted the event: clogging pressing plants with pointless and novelty reissues – that are then turned out on eBay for dizzying profit.
In the thick of it is this ‘secret’, self-released Paul McCartney record, with two previously unreleased mixes of ‘Hope For The Future’. Pressed as hand scrawled white labels only, selected shops in the UK and US received a single copy and were instructed to quietly file it away. No prior advertising, nor was it listed with the rest of the RSD releases; presumably the idea was that genuine fans riffling Beatles’ racks would find the record, rather than grasping market flippers.
But with only 100 copies pressed down, it’s become risibly sought-after and inevitably invited three figure sums on Discogs and eBay alike. One fan even splashed £865 on it. Perhaps the insert card with details of how to download a ‘3D printable Paul’ figurine was one temptation too far. Easily one of most valuable records of the year (in price gain at least), completist McCartney fans can visit Discogs to fight over a copy. That’ll be $1,500 please.
1. Residence La Revolution (Richard Russell & Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry)
I Am Paint
Buying records can be an awfully passive affair. The simplicity with which you can access records online is both liberating and a little worrying. The period of contemplation between desiring a record and buying it is often brief, card details typed in and confirmation sent before youʼve had a chance to ask yourself whether you really wanted it. Sometimes, the answer would have been no, had there been any more resistance along the way.
Thereʼs a little more activity involved in getting hold of rare records, particularly new releases (although Warp last year put pay to that by entering collectors into a ballot for new limited edition of Syro). None however, have required such active participation as Richard Russell and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perryʼs I Am Paint, where prospective ʻbuyersʼ were tasked with creating something of equatable value to be bartered for a copy of the record.
Beyond the fact that the record itself was limited to two hundred and fifty uniquely (and literally) hand and foot-painted sleeves by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the project has spawned a series of unique artworks that are more or less collectable in their own right.
Profiled on Richard Russellʼs tumblr, some of the most creative barters include a 3D printed teapot, a painted brick proclaiming itself as ‘I Am Stone’ and our personal favourite from Lee Waller, who first sent a letter suggesting he trade his own birthday for a copy, only to have his attempt denied for not having ʻmadeʼ his own birthday. Resubmitting both his letter and XLʼs response as a single image seems to have done the trick.
An original, generous and endearing project that turns the concept of value, monetary or otherwise, on its head, itʼs been impossible to look beyond ʻI Am Paintʼ for this list. Thankfully, there isnʼt a single one up for re-sale on Discogs, making it not only the most collectable record of the year, but one with which those who own it may never want to part.
Illustration by Hector Plimmer
Jul032015| July 3, 2015
Six months in, we take a step back and admire the best new vinyl releases of 2015 so far.
Having charted our 10 favourite reissues of 2015 so far yesterday, it’s time to give new music a bit of shine and pick twenty of the year’s strongest vinyl releases.
As with our end of year lists, being a vinyl-focussed list, our choices are made at the intersection of music, artwork, packaging and to a degree, rarity. Or in simple terms, how much you’d rather own this album on record than on your desktop. The criteria is similarly straight forward – the music has to have been released in vinyl for the first time this year (D’Angelo’s Black Messiah only made it to vinyl in March but it was defined by its surprise release in December last year) – meaning that Arthur Russell’s posthumous, previously unreleased Corn very much makes the grade. We also love a good EP, and don’t feel like these should suffer exclusion for being concise.
Here’s to the next six months.
Gorgeous and poignant inaugural release from French imprint Nyami Nyami capturing the final recording of the late Zimbabwean artist Chiwoniso Maraire who sadly passed at the age of 38. Built on the twinkling, polyphonic resonance of the mbira, Zvichapera is a fittingly beautiful testament to Maraire’s unique, soaring voice. With a remix from her brother Tendai Marare (one half of Shabazz Palaces) on the flip, the silk screened 12” is without doubt one of the year’s under-the-radar gems.
Captain of None
A record we’ve returned to time and again this year, Captain Of None is French producer Colleen’s most complete statement to date, an elegant, thrilling and at times unsettling record that dips and dives between fully formed songs and immersive soundscapes. Beautifully packaged by Thrill Jockey, Captain Of None creates and then explores a world of its own. It’s well worth spending some time there.
(Beats In Space)
Another producer who’s taken the art of the soundtrack to heart, Kai Hugo rebooted his Palmbomen moniker earlier this year for a gluey analogue affair, that pulls at once towards the italo leanings of his 2013 LP Night Flight Europa, and then away to dreamier lo-fi atmospherics that arrive like midday sunlight filtered through a beach umbrella. The hardware-to-tape production shines through and artwork, as ever on BiS, is second to none.
A life’s work condensed into dark matter, a trip from footwork to the outer-reaches rising and falling with cinematic intensity. Dark Energy bristles with jagged rhythms, chopping antagonistically between vocal samples (including Holly Herndon’s) that try to shine through the cracks. Softer moments like ‘Unknown Tongues’ and ‘Erotic Heat’ lend dynamic range to an adventurous record.
(One Little Indian)
Where to start with Vulnicura? A nuanced, confused, inquisitive, painful, vivid interrogation of a break-up, at times soaring above the complexities to analyse human emotion with idiosyncratic clarity, at others languishing in the mire of despair, anger and misunderstanding with the rest of us. Abandoning all concept in favour of pure emotion, Vulnicura could have fallen flat were it not so honest. With unforgettable artwork woven into the fabric of the narrative, it’s a complete piece up there with her most important records and a ready reminder that Björk is still out front all by herself.
Golden Teacher Meets Dennis Bovell At The Green Door
If the sounds of potent Glaswegian six-piece Golden Teacher have evaded your ears so far, you’ve got a trio of golden EPs to catch up on, and that’s not counting this killer collaboration. What a brainwave from Optimo: get Golden Teacher, one of the UK’s most exciting bands (both on record and in the flesh) to be given a retooling in dub from the UK’s legendary producer Dennis Bovell, the man behind some of the ’80s finest dub, disco and post-punk gems. The thick mire of low end and echo that dubmaster Bovell has wound around these two tracks (one an unreleased belter and one a hit from the back catalogue) almost subsumes the trenchant vocals and driving percussion of GT, and the remains wriggle in delight.
Thee Oh Sees
Mutilator Defeated At Last
Badass garage-psych heavyweights The Oh Sees churn out records like butter but this latest batch of nine muscular cuts is their best in a while. Omnivorous beasts that they are, John Dwyer and his merry men (a whole new gang for this record) lay down a mixture of synth and acoustic guitar lines that wind their way around like veins of gold through granite. It’s the warmest and heaviest Oh Sees record yet, evident from the get go on ‘Web’ which starts one way then twists and turns into a monster.
Brother I Prove You Wrong
Following a beautiful reissue program of the late-’70s and early ’80s free jazz electronics of American musician Charles Cohen, the Morphine label run by Lebanese DJ and producer Rabih Beanih (aka Morphosis) now releases an album of his new recordings. Opener ‘Cloud Hands’ sounds like a dawn chorus drawn through the singular tones of Cohen’s Magic Easel, the extremely rare instrument designed by pioneering synthesist Don Buchla (who’s considered by some to have out-pioneered even Robert Moog), and the record surges with blissful, richly layered electronic sounds designed to blot out time and reconfigure space.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
Diehard fans will recognise the material as ‘Behemoth’, a long form piece from their live sets which the Canadian post-rock titans have carefully distilled into this tight four-track record. In typical fashion, there’s an epic album climax taking the form of ‘Piss Crowns Are Trebled’, a post-apocalyptic 14-minute nightmare of ascending and descending string parts crashing over distorted bass and military drumming. Clocking in at just over 40 minutes, Asunder is GYBE at their shortest, most focused, and quite possibly, best.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
It took until 2014 for the first Iranian vampire Western noir to be born, courtesy of Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival, producer Elijah Wood and distributor VICE. Filmed in California, and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour from her Iranian short film of the same name, it doesn’t have a specially composed score – so it’s different from the usual Death Waltz releases – but is instead soundtracked by a collection of tracks chosen by Amirpour. There is a predominance of Persian, and the mood is sulky, new wavey: from the arpeggio-and-spoken-word of Farah, a Persian beat poet from Texas, to the spooky strings of Radio Tehran.
Nhk Yx Koyxen
Hallucinogenic Doom Steppy Verbs
The snappily named Japanese Nhk Yx Koyxen pulls no punches at all here with five tracks of blazing acid techno electronic mayhem. The production is top notch and the rhythms are completely amazing. Dare you to stand still while ‘218’ goes off around you? I doubt it very much. Powell’s Diagonal label do it again. Is there another label around who’s quality control is this high?
Following a show stealing cameo on Cut Copy’s Ocean’s Apart compilation, Melbourne’s heat beat originators deliver more sun-baked brilliance for your local discotheque. The many limbed ensemble follow in the footsteps of Andras Fox and Zanzibar Chanel, hitting up Home Loan with a vibrant EP packed with the rattle of percussion and shimmer of heat haze. Over the course of five body moving cuts, Nic et al invoke the disco-not-disco spirit of ESG, Liquid Liquid and Was (Not Was), the house energy of the mid ’80s Chicago dancefloor and plenty of antipodean charm, resulting in a truly ecstatic listening experience.
It’s been six years since O’Rourke’s stunning instrumental suite The Visitor and sixteen since we heard his voice adorning the more traditional song structures that are the subject of his latest LP for Drag City. Whilst Simple Songs may indeed appear ‘simpler’ than The Visitor’s 38 minute sprawl, the pop arrangements and layers of instrumentation are no less refined, and lyrical content included, there’s more and more to be garnered from this one with each listen.
Over two decades on from his death, Arthur Russell is more relevant than ever. Following a series of acclaimed posthumous releases, Audika, the label created to release Russell’s archive works, drop another precious extraction from Arthur’s original tape masters. Corn collects previously unreleased recordings from 1982-1983 that primarily feature Russell’s solo work on cello, keyboards, rhythm machine programming, vocals, and production. Russell himself compiled this material for a 1985 release but it didn’t happened – perfectionism crept in – so it’s wonderful to see this collection of experimental, classical and disco now spinning on turntables.
(RVNG Intl, 4AD)
Born in landlocked Tennessee but reared on music abroad, 2015 has seen Holly Herndon emerge as a true force in contemporary electronic music. And this album, her follow-up to debut Movement, is a glowing, singular protest album for the digital age. Circumventing polemics, Platform cryptically hints at modern crisis borne out of systematic inequality, computer surveillance and neo-feudalism. Best consumed as audio-visually, watch your laptop melt away via videos “Chorus” and “Home”, or better yet, catch Holly live for maximal engagement.
The process that went into creating this album is as appealing as the output itself. At the very heart of Max D and Matthew Papich’s Lifted project is a modern re-awakening of the freedoms of collective improv and 1 is a beautiful exercise in jumping of the grid in pursuit of communal emancipation. Using loose and experimental studio sessions as the environment to build upon, the duo reached out to a whole bunch of collaborators, dialling in the likes of Jordan GCZ and Italian ambient pioneer Gigi Masin for overdubs from Amsterdam and Venice respectively. The result is an international meshwork of projectile jazz, freeform techno and blissed-out ambience. Earlier this year we caught up with the Lifted collaborators to find out about the record in depth – have a read here.
This radiant EP from vocalist and songwriter Laura Groves follows up her part in last year’s Nautic 12″ Navy Blue, which ranked highly in our end of year list. Another flawless four-track of balearic-inclined pop music, Committed Language has an addictive, chimerical quality where every track helps to induce a kind of soft-centred dream-state. The EP ends with the gorgeous, revelatory ‘Mystique’, where Groves’ cushioned harmonies seem to evaporate completely. While parallels with Kate Bush abound, this is modern pop at its best. A voice to look out for and a 12” to return to.
Coin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Thee
The third part in her visionary Coin Coin series, Matana Roberts’ River Run Thee is the most fluid instalment yet, a stream of consciousness that flows in one uninterrupted gesture, tracing her own solo ‘sojourn’ south of the Mason-Dixon line. Her stories, expressions and exasperations are delivered as a vernacular act, drifting in and out of focus as her voice meanders in an intuitive double helix with memories and samples of her own processed saxophone. Warped and sometimes even obscured by drones, the continuous suite (a form so crucial to Black American protest jazz – notably Charles Mingus’ Black Saint And The Sinner Lady) is described by Roberts as a ‘fever dream’, able to disturb and transform in equal measure. The vinyl comes complete with two pull out posters, Roberts’ own manifesto for the album and a beautifully printed sleeve. Put all distractions to one side and let River Run Thee run over you.
Voyage to Arcturus
Vakula followed up the majestic You’ve Never Been To Konotop (#2 in our 2013 chart) with another expansive, expressive triple vinyl excursion beyond the imagination of us mere mortals. Conceived as an imaginary soundtrack to David Lindsay’s book of the same name, A Voyage To Arcturus sees Vakula apply his lysergic sonics to psychedelia, kosmische and ambient soundscapes as well as his usual freaked out jazz-funk and psycho-active house. Re-listening to this a few weeks ago some strange and disturbing parallels began to emerge with Chick Corea’s Scientologist soundtrack The Ultimate Adventure, but don’t let that put you off. Voyage To Arcturus is in a world of its own.
(Sacred Bones Records)
Touched by the hand of Norman in their monthly column, Apocalypse, Girl is Norwegian sound poet Jenny Hval at her visceral best. She has already made spectral folk and abstract noise, using her music to investigate the way human bodies constrict with social norms, but for her third record, she joins the goths in Brooklyn for a radical synth seminar. More questions about where we’re at as a collective civilisation, channelled through music that’s interchangeably her harshest and most accessible.
Illustration: Petra Peterffy. See more of her work here.
Apr272015| April 27, 2015
We select the 10 most essential vinyl releases of the last 7 days.
With Record Store Day now a distant memory, regular releases are out in full force again. Hot off the press this week is a ten LP boxset showcasing the unissued works Pierre Henry, a pioneer of musique concrète. Travelling from past to present, we’ve also bagged an hour of odd-pop and heart-stopping sounds from Britain’s most absorbing composer of the moment Mica Levi.
The singles don’t look too shabby either. Whether it’s beach-ready Balearic beats, hi-tech jazz style techno, twisted punk or Zimbabwean mbira music, there’s something for every palette.
Scroll down for our definitive across-the-board rundown of the week’s new vinyl releases as selected by The Vinyl Factory’s Chris Summers, Patrick Ryder, James Hammond and Theo Leanse. 5 singles and 5 LP’s every 7 days that are unmissable additions to any collection.
Farbror Resande Mac
After a stunning mini LP on Mystic & Quantum and a swooning single on Is It Balearic? last year, Farbror Resande Mac bring their stargazing sounds to Manchester’s imperious Aficionado for their strongest release to date. More diverse than their previous offerings, this EP sees the Swedish spacemen blast off with pulsating Balearic trance and zero gravity house before gliding into relaxed ambience, soothing New Age and horizontal night music. Each track sits well within the whole, sharing the same kosmische DNA of glittering synths and sustained tones, but evolves into a different strain of the Farbror Resande Mac sound, by turns transporting the listener to the dancefloor, the bar, the beach and the bedroom.
The inaugural release from French imprint Nyami Nyami is the final recording of the late Zimbabwean artist Chiwoniso Maraire who sadly passed whilst at the height of her artistry at 38. The lead track, remix from her brother Tendai Marare (one half of Shabazz Palaces), and silk screened artwork, all make for a fitting and beautiful testament to her touching song-forms and role as a truly inspired and unique voice for the mbira.
Pertti Kurikan Nimipaivat
If you haven’t come across Helsinki’s PKN yet then make this limited 7″ your first point of call. Founded in 2009, these four cooler than cool Finnish punks got together through a charity workshop for adults with learning disabilities called Lyhty and decided to form a punk band. A real punk band. None of this fake shit punk either. Their tunes match their attitude and here’s six reasons why.
Decon Recon #1
Delivering UR style hi-tech jazz along with some straight-up industrial techno, rRoxymore, Aquarian Jugs (a.k.a. Planningtorock), Oni Ayhun and Jaguar Woman (aka Paula Temple) present this four-track EP on Temple’s own Noise Manifesto project. But which track belongs to which artist? This is libertarian techno, forget ownership. Each of the artists submitted samples to an open archive which were assembled and re-assembled by the artists themselves, blurring lines of ownership, surrendering identities and ultimately producing a string of slamming otherworldly dance cuts.
Jeb Loy Nichols
Katie Blue / Don’t Drop Me
(City Country City)
Jeb Loy Nichols is an American-born singer-songwriter who has been based since the ’80s in Wales, where he has recorded almost ten albums of material tied to the music and musicians centred on Nashville, Tennessee. He’s released these records on labels including Capitol and Rough Trade, but this latest single is for his own City Country City imprint, and is a double-header of country-tinged vintage southern soul limited and signed by Nichols and launched with four gigs on one day.
Magik Sunset Part 1
Kentish DJ duo and record obsessive-compulsives Psychemagik mark the beginning of the end with this concluding part of their compilation trilogy (preceded by Magik Cyrkles and Magik Sunrise, both also on Leng Records). It’s another haul of psychoactive dance music and meditative ooze from the oddest recesses ever to be touched by the legacy of psychedelia, stretching like a long private beach from the huge surfside hippy dream of Bobby Brown’s ‘My Hawaiian Home’ to the extra-terrestrial strut of Terry Brooks & Strange’s ‘High Flyer’, with a blissful glut of guitar and sitar, funky, sometimes edited for DJs, often privately pressed, and always super obscure.
Dawn Of Humans
Slurping At The Cosmos Spine
(La Vida Es Un Mus)
The ever excellent La Vida Es Un Mus label reaches its 100th release with this unhinged masterpiece from New York’s very own Dawn Of Humans. This could easily be the soundtrack to the creepiest house party you’ve ever been to yet guaranteed to bring the best time ever. It’s punk for sure – but twisted, chewed up and brutalised in equal measure. Nice package too – reverse board, lyric sheet and poster too. All made with love.
Feeling Romantic Feeling Tropical Feeling Ill
In 2014 indie singer Mica Levi traversed new territory with Under The Skin, one of our favourite records of the year and arguably one of the greatest horror scores ever. In 2015 she continues to experiment with composition in new contexts, most recently producing a work in response to Christian Marclay’s exhibition at White Cube art gallery. Slipped in between these projects, at the tail of last year, was a very limited cassette run on DDS that sold out in a flash. Set across three unbound and interlinked chapters, as per the title, Feeling Romantic Feeling Tropical Feeling Ill mashes together vignettes of spine-tingling post-classical ambience and scratchy strings with folding and warping odd-pop, instrumental hip-hop and soft rock. Now on vinyl for the first time, this hour-long session is the strongest evidence to date of Levi’s ability to put her own, utterly fascinating, stamp on a diverse array of musical styles.
Eddie C parks his reliable chopper in a truck-stop off Route 101 and invites us all to party with the rest of his beat-loving biker gang with this limited double vinyl compilation of head nodding sounds. Bringing together his nearest and dearest associates from the extended family of Red Motorbike and Common Edits, Eddie curates a thirteen track selection of all new material perfectly in keeping with the label’s inimitable style. Psychedelic soul, laid back funk and navel gazing aor are looped and flipped into hypnotic grooves as we’re taken for a slow cruise down the coast. There’s plenty of bang for your buck in the tracklist, but if I were forced to pick a stand out I’d have to go with Eddie’s sublime rework of JJ Cale’s “Ride Me High”, a worthy inspiration for the LP’s title.
Choix D’Oeuvres: 1950-1985
It was around this time last year that Vinyl-On-Demand dropped their expertly curated and beautifully presented Muslimgauze box set, and this time round the same treatment has been given to half of Pierre Henry’s life in sound. That this set stretches out across 10 LPs and focuses on previously unissued works isn’t surprising- quite simply to step into Henry’s library of recordings is to step into a vast and self-contained universe of sound where the wondrous abounds. With the size, contents and attention to detail these sets call for- from mastering to Henry’s specifications, to the 4 panel booklet of liner notes and onwards- they do end up as a bit of a financial undertaking, but one that is indeed most worthy for all lovers of experimental music.
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16-18 Marshall Street
London W1F 7BE
Registered in England and Wales under no. 04184222.