• The haunting beauty of plunderphonics, field recordings and sonic art

    By | November 2, 2018

    Maverick composer Janek Schaefer delves into his personal archives to deliver an era-spanning mix introducing the experimental art of found sound, from Brian Eno and John Cage to DJ Shadow.

    Back in the early nineties, while I was studying architecture in Manchester and well before I discovered my interest in sound, I learned about the importance of context in creative process and production. I was drawn to artists like Gordon Matta-Clark, Rachael Whiteread, James Turrell and Andy Goldsworthy who worked with the materials around them in-situ. I also taught myself how to develop and print photographs with my inherited Nikon F1, capturing the light/image of a situation in a fraction of a second, and using the camera as a tool for adventure to explore my environment, to bump into chance observations.

    In the mid ’90s while at The Royal College of Art, I swapped the camera for a tape recorder [as heard on track 32], which in many ways was the exact opposite. I loved how sound creates images that you cannot see, capturing an impression of spaces and places that can only be revealed again thought playback over time. In 1996, Touch Records put on an RCA lecture/concert with Philip Jeck [track 8], Panasonic, and Chris Watson [track 17], which was to prove very inspiring, as they all worked with found sound sources in different ways: vinyl, electricity, and microphones.

    This C-90 style mixtape, entitled ‘New Dimensions In Time, Space and Place’, is a meander through my physical collection of works that have inspired me over the last 36 years, and I still enjoy. The loosely connecting themes explore found sound, ready-mades, collage, samples, sound design, sculpture, performance, field recordings, sonic art, appropriation, alteration, and accidents. The context of these sounds brings meaning to the works, and our understanding of that context brings the work to life when listening to it.

    My first recollections of this realm were in my mid-teens, with the 1985 flexi disc by Steinski [track 39] that came on the cover of the NME, a cassette my dad had of flute playing inside the enormous reverb of the Great Pyramid, and listening to Jacques Tati [track 11] films my mum introduced me to when I was about 12.

    All of the above experiences proved influential when I started making my own sound work in 1995. I have jotted down sleeve notes and thoughts for each track – and added the date, as its place in history has always interested me. I love how each era of technology can be heard within the tracks, which date back to 1929. Imperfection can be far more interesting than perfection.


    SIDE A

    01 > [00:00]
    Janek Schaefer
    ‘What Light There Is Tells Us Nothing [for Robert Wyatt]’ [2018]

    The title track from my debut album for Temporary Residence records this year. It comes from a commissioned installation by the Sounds New festival whose theme that year was the Canterbury Scene. They invited me to use Robert’s Cuckooland album as the source sounds to create a new work, with his blessing. Using several FM transmitters, I broadcast the music to a collection of battery operated retro boombox radios in the gallery, and incorporated lasers, glitter, feathers, and mirrors. You can view the exhibition film here.

    02 > [01:36]
    Robert Leiner [The Source]
    ‘Out of Control’ [1993]

    On arriving in Manchester in 1990 to study architecture, I fell in love with the energy of dance music [at the No1 Club & The Hacienda, without pills], and listened to the flourishing ambient and electronica releases while working all night long making models etc. I loved how these genres incorporated recognisable sound samples within the easy beats and drifts. Robert Leiner released on R&S records out of Belgium, who were my favourite label at the time and who introduced us to the (never bettered) debut album from Aphex Twin. I chose this track as it inspired the title of this mixtape, and it’s a cracking album.

    03 > [02:52]
    Sam Annand
    ‘Cupar Grain Silo’ [2018]

    A Scottish artist who is new to me, Sam Annand took part in a project working with sounds in reverberant deserted interior spaces. I spotted the new release while compiling this mix, and liked how he has composed using electronic rhythmic patterns that were designed to work within the 36-second reverb of the abandoned grain silo, composing for, and activating the delays and reverbs inherent in the structure. I believe this is a live performance in the silo, where you can hear the space vanishing slowly.

    04 > [04:55]
    Stephan Mathieu
    ‘Remain’ [2011]

    I met Stephan playing at Mutek on the same evening in 2002. I was entranced by his elegant engulfing drones and jealous of how he appeared to be so economical in a performance that was so mesmerising, as I struggle sometimes not to overcomplicate things. This track is the first of 3 pieces in this mix that play back and record sound again and again into the same architectural space. It is a process of entropy. Stephan used several copies of my work ‘Extended Play’ deployed around his house, recording with ‘an entropic setup, spectral analysis and convolution processes’. I love durational pieces that ebb and flow and you can keep on loop for days. It creates its own place that you feel you can inhabit as it envelopes your environment, always moving onwards but staying in the same place. We made an album together in 2005 in the home of Sir John Tavener.

    05 > [05:35]
    Alvin Lucier
    ‘I am sitting in a room’ [1969]

    Heralded as one of the iconic pieces of the 20th century, you can imagine how excited I was to first discover this, as it definitively places architecture and space at the centre of the work. It uses recording technology in a very simple way to reveal the site-specific qualities of that acoustic space.

    06 > [08:30]
    Jacob Kirkegaard
    ‘4 Rooms’ [2006]

    I like this update to the previous piece as it was produced in abandoned spaces within the Chernobyl exclusion zone to reveal their emptiness. Jacob chose places that had formerly been social spaces, capturing and enhancing the voids.

    07 > [10:35]
    Harry Bertoia
    ‘Sonambient’ [1970]

    This piece is as old as I am, and from the wonderful life’s work of Harry Bertoia in the US. He constructed dozens of sonic sculptures with long resonating rods that are tuned and, when agitated, activate the space in which they are played beautifully. There is a wonderful DVD out on Important Records of them being performed.

    08 > [11:25]
    John Cage
    ‘Imaginary Landscape 1’ [1958]

    This is one of the earliest pieces for turntable composition/performance that I have a recording of. The composition is from 1939, but the only recorded version that has any sense of history is this performance at the Town Hall, New York, in 1958. You can hear the history in there, the acoustic of the hall, the quality of the recording and the early electric record players. I found it in an expensive Cage double CD that I bought from These Records in the late ’90s.

    09 > [12:42]
    Janek Schaefer
    ‘His Masters Voices’ [1997]

    I invented my three tonearm, any speed, bi-directional, three level ‘Tri-phonic Turntable’ in the spring of 1997. I was inspired by seeing the video Philip Jeck showed in his lecture of his 180-record player masterpiece Vinyl Requiem, and decided to build the opposite. I premiered it outside Kylie and Jason’s recording studio on my birthday. In trying to find a way to ‘demonstrate’ what a three arm record player sounds like on the eve of the debut, I stumbled on an LP my mum had passed on to me of T.S.Eliot reading his own poem – a poem about time past, present, and future, which linked the concepts together neatly. You can hear the tone arms dropping one after the other across the stereo field as the disc rotates, revealing the revolving results.

    10 > [15:58]
    Janek Schaefer
    ‘I can hear myself’ [2016]

    A little one from the family recordings archive here. I remember well the first time I put on headphones, pressed record and listened to how my environment sounded quite different through a microphone, compared to our own sensational hearing system. In the summer of 2016, I took my two kids on our little boat for a float on the Thames, and helped them experience their very first sound recording trip, as they listened to themselves discovering how it sounded. It appears they enjoyed it! I was a very happy father to have captured that moment.

    11 > [18:22]
    Jacques Tati
    ‘Trafic’ – soundtrack [1971]

    I adore Jacques Tati. As mentioned in the introduction, I was introduced to his films in about 1982, and they only improve the more I watch and learn about them. Unlike albums, I rarely put on other films more than once. Tati’s dedication, production values, sense of humour, comic observations and use of sound are all a tour de force. He rarely used visual close ups, preferring the wide gaze of the lens, with the details brought to life with his foley and sound design, bringing them to the foreground. This is the audio from the motorway car cash scene.

    12 > [19:25]
    David Tudor
    ‘Rainforest’ [1968]

    Vibrations take place in all things all the time. Transducers different to speakers in that they are designed to drive ‘sound energy’ through solids rather than the air. In Tudor’s ‘Rainforest’, a hotchpotch of objects hung in the space connected to a network of transducers that resonated them, create a very sophisticated lattice of localised sound around the entire room. A highly three dimensional sonic space.

    13 > [20:50]
    Janek Schaefer
    ‘Ashley rainforest’ [2012]

    The outcome of a workshop I ran with thirty 8-year-olds from my children’s school, using their voices and bodies to create the sounds of a rainforest soundscape. The recordings were broadcast using several FM transmitters to a dozen retro radios in the school hall that students and parents could walk around and listen to.

    14 > [22:44]
    Janek Schaefer
    ‘Villanueva de la Concepcion’ [2006]

    While on our holidays in Spain, we stayed in a tiny village in the hills. From the terrace, I could hear a distant cluster of bells in the valley below. Wandering down with my recorder I discovered a huge herd of goats wearing bells, making no bleating noises, silently ambling around, creating a pure cacophony.

    15 > [24:17]
    Charlemagne Palestine
    ‘La Beaute et la Bette’ [2007]

    I had to follow the goat bells with Charlemagne’s delightful farmyard of animalistic noises!

    16 > [27:44]
    Francisco López
    ‘Wind [Patagonia]’ [2007]

    Wind is everywhere, but I believe Patagonia is said to be one of the windiest places in the world. So send in Francisco to relish in its raw power.

    17 > [29:12]
    Chris Watson
    ‘Casa in Galapagos’ [2005]

    Chris Watson travels the entire globe recording nature. So when I was creating Vacant Space, an installation amplifying recordings of empty interiors, I invited Chris to record indoors while on his adventures. Here he made it to an empty house on the Galapagos Islands.

    18 > [30:03]
    Francisco López
    ‘Buildings [New York]’ [2001]

    Recordings from building interiors and structures including the World Trade Centre. This extract sounds like it could be a contact mic on the windows of the top floor, filtering the city outside up in the clouds.

    19 > [31:10]
    The Orb
    ‘Little fluffy clouds’ [1990]

    Manchester. Summer of ’91. I’d just moved to my concrete flat in Hulme which cost me £6 a week, and I got hooked on this album. Good vibes for an exciting time. Matt Wand lived a few doors down but I didn’t find out until 1999 when he released my first 7”. ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ defined the era of chill-out rooms in clubs, uniting interview samples by Rickie Lee Jones, and instrumental samples from Steve Reich. It’s ann iconic track for me. I usually play it at the beginning of my Lucky Dip Disco parties.

    20 > [33:33]
    Steve Reich
    ‘Come Out’ [1966]

    This is another classic inspired by early recording technology, which uses the inherent imperfection of tape recorders to stretch out the particles of speech as they slowly slip out of phase, each copy playing at a slightly different speed. An accidental process transformed into an idea for a revealing gem.

    21 > [35:28]
    Martin Arnold
    ‘Alone, Life Wastes Andy Hardy’ [1998]

    There comes a tipping point in the history of all media technologies. This piece has added depth and meaning for me, as it was not digital, but a tactile, craftsman-like, physical, hands-on production during the early days of decent home computing. Arnold took original 35mm film and its associated optical track and hand-printed a succession of frames back and forth, revealing new interpretations in the found footage and the associated soundtrack. I first saw him present it at Avanto 2001 and was blown away.

    22 > [38:26]
    Christian Marclay
    ‘Maria Callas’ [1988]

    Marclay is the most prominent artist to first refine the conceptual art of vinyl manipulation or turntablism. In this piece, he uses just the LP’s of super diva Maria Callas. I shared the stage opening for Christian at Sonar 2002, and after the gig was intending to go for dinner, when a friendly Spanish fan wanted to carry my custom TWIN turntable case for me, and the handle fell off as we headed out the door, and in the confusion dinner never happened. Marclay has just been announced as the composer-in-residence for the HCMF Festival in November 2018. His sculptural work with found objects is probably my favourite work of his.

    23 > [39:24]
    Martin Tetreault
    ‘Je suis a Londres‘ [1996]

    Martin is from Montreal, and curated the Turntable Hell UK tour, which was a lot of fun. I like this piece from an LMC concert in 1996, which admirably represents his charming and fun personality. Narrative improvisation with a suitcase of found vinyl.

    24 > [41:53]
    DJ Shadow
    ‘Building steam with a grain of Salt’ [1996]

    Plenty has been said about this elsewhere, but for me it’s an accessible, beautiful, and fluid concoction from found sources.

    25 > [42:30]
    Pierre Schaeffer
    ‘Etude aux Chemains de Fer’ [1948]

    Tape came along during and after the Second World War, and Schaeffer was the first to have a go at cutting the portable recordings to vinyl and collaging the results. It’s a pure and primitive sonic exploration.

    26 > [43:14]
    Unknown
    ‘Runaway Train’ [1948]

    I picked up this single sided 12” on Ash International in the late ’90s. Simply a live recording of the train driver and dispatcher discussing the peril of the runaway in the US, moving fast through space, broadcast over radio.

    27 > [45:27]
    Marina Abramović & Ulay
    ‘Rest Energy’ [1980]

    I have listened to the 15-CD autobiography of Abramović’s incredible life’s adventures. The quest for the ‘eternal moment’ that fused so well with Basinski’s oeuvre when they collaborated together. Abramović, I learned, has produced a number of sound art works, but I chose this piece, which is the close up sound of them both leaning back holding a bow and arrow. A powerful and elegant piece infused with proper peril captured in their breathing.

    SIDE B

    28 > [46:17]
    Philip Jeck
    ‘Vinyl Requiem’ [1993]

    At the RCA lecture in 1996, Philip showed a video of his Vinyl Requiem, and the idea dawned on me to create one record player (discussed in track 9) with several arms, in order to make my own found sound collages, and take it out the door to start to tour. By complete serendipity I was to learn that Philip had known me since I was a young child and we’d been on holiday together around 1979. One of my oldest friends! This extract is the sweet interlude solo Philip played in the middle of the Vinyl Requiem performance.

    29 > [48:18]
    William Basinski
    ‘Watermusic II’ [2003]

    This is possibly my favourite of Basinski’s pieces, as it ebbs and flows in unfolding ways. He told me how he had this on shuffle mode around his space for a long time before releasing it. It made me smile as I like to do the same. I like William’s economy of means, and in our ongoing collaboration I am aiming to restrict my own impulses to do too much.

    30 > [54:28]
    Alan Lamb
    ‘Beauty’ [1986]

    Lovely recordings from the Australian outback where Lamb purchased some abandoned telegraph poles and wires, and set about recording them with a contact micover time. This is the result. Most beguiling, and indeed very beautiful found sounds.

    31 > [57:24]
    Scanner
    ‘Mass Observation’ [1994]

    It’s exactly 20 years since I sat on a London double decker bus with my new girlfriend and got driven around London listening to Robin/Scanner capturing the mobile phone conversations in the airwaves live mixed into electronica textures. A super combination of my love for vocal samples/electronica and a live performance.

    32 > [61:19]
    Janek Schaefer
    ‘Recorded Delivery’ [1995]

    My first sound art work. Inspired by the exhibition taking place in a self-storage building, it features a sound activated and auto-edited recording over night of the parcel moving though the post office to the room of the installation, captured on a single C-90 cassette. From the beginning to the end of the journey, I first saw the opportunity to pitch ideas for the show in the lift at the RCA. I wanted to do something with sound for the show, and realised that a self-storage facility is all about the secret life of boxes that end up in secret rooms. At that moment in time I was meant to be re-designing the Post Office for an architecture project with my tutor Ben Kelly, but the magical post office I felt was something to be celebrated rather than changed, so this was my submission! It was released on Matt Wand’s label Hot Air, on red 7”. The exhibition was curated by Brian Eno and Laurie Anderson, and produced by the wonderful site specific facilitators Artangel, in London.

    33 > [66:36]
    Stock Hausen and Wallkman
    ‘Bye Me, Sue Me 7” [1997]

    This is Matt’s masterpiece of locked grooves: multiple samples of the word ‘Me’ from popular films and songs. Endless fun, and a classic, again purchased from These Records in south London, which was such a great and important shop in my early record shopping legacy.

    34 > [68:54]
    Brian Eno
    ‘Fullness of Wind’ [1975]

    Eno was there at the start of my career, and this is my favourite piece of his from the start of his ambient career. Tape manipulation of recordings of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Gradual evaporation and elongation and looping of the acoustic source sounds. You can almost hear the spools spinning. A divine use of found sound through sheet music for a composition from 1680 as the source material.

    35 > [72:22]
    Janek Schaefer
    ‘Radio 101 FM’ [2013]

    When I discovered that JG Ballard lived just over the river, I was preparing to go and say hello, but by 2009 I was just too late. At the end of his road is the M3 motorway, that was built past his house in the early ’70s. This must certainly have been a big inspiration for his novels Concrete Island and Crash. There is a little magical concrete footbridge at the end of his road that passes over the motorway that I used to take my kids to when they were young, to watch the traffic to and from London in Ballard’s shadow. One late night I made some location recordings on the bridge of the passing traffic for my Asleep at the Wheel installation, and these became the backbone of my album Lay-by Lullaby. You can listen to the wisdom of many different knowledgeable people discussing the future of our global culture from the Asleep at the Wheel soundtrack. Download it for free here.

    36 > [74:58]
    Janek Schaefer
    ‘Is this Just?’ [2003]

    Composed for ‘60 Artists Protest the War’. 60 x 1min responses to war, released by Atak records, Tokyo.

    37 > [17:58]
    John Duncan
    ‘Hymn’ [1996]

    I was in Valencia for a festival show with Robert Hampson, and witnessed a John Duncan performance for shortwave deep dark drones in the middle of the day in an enormous tent in the hot town square. It was quite a wonderful experience. Again this is found sound from the ether caught and repurposed in real time. Mind expanding stuff live.

    38 > [77:54]
    Charlemagne Palestine
    ‘schlongo!!!daLUVdrone’ [1998]

    This is an epic organ piece from Valentine’s night in LA. A couple of years previously I had one my earliest ‘experimental’ concert experiences in a church near Waterloo station, London. Charlemagne Palestine was in town, and it turned out to be a formative concert. Charlemagne played a field recording from Brooklyn where he grew up, announced it, and began to walk around the perimeter of the pews. Then he started to jog, and then sprint as fast as he could.

    Then he did some piano, but finally went up to the organ, held notes, then chords, all held with cardboard between the keys, and it took for what seemed like a lifetime for him to bring in the bass (20mins). The whole church was massaged with sound energy waves, occupying every crevice, truly playing the room – and it was immersive. I wanted to create those sonic ‘spaces’ my way and in 2008/9 I went to make an album at his new warehouse studio in Brussels. At the second visit he did not feel in good shape to make music, so I worked around the problem and suggested we take my gift of a set of tuned desk bells out to the local café, and have a drink and play the bells for passers by!…. the results are here.

    39 > [82:18]
    Steinski interview
    ‘The Motorcade Sped On’ [1985]

    I received this track on the cover of the NME as a give away 7” flexi and loved its cut-up collage musical vibes. This is an extract of an interview with Steinski on Jon Nelson’s ‘Some Assembly Required’ radio show based in Minneapolis. You can listen to the whole podcast series themed on cut ups and plunderphonics via iTunes.

    40 > [85:50]
    John Oswald
    ‘Power’ [1975]

    Some say this is the first hip-hop track. Either way, it certainly is a powerful early plunderphonic piece by a master of the art.

    41 > [86:09]
    John Oswald
    ‘z24’ [1993]

    Here Oswald was asked to come up with something ‘Straussy’ for a commission. So, obviously, he collected every known recording (24 copies) of ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ and overlaid them on top of each other. Sweet and simple – and Straussy, for sure!

    42 > [86:58]
    Janek Schaefer
    ‘Minneapolis Office Max Messages’ [2003]

    While Composer in Residence for the American Composers Forum in Minneapolis, I needed to buy a very lightweight recording device to tie to a weather balloon so I could record the clouds. I went to Office Max as they had every model out on display to try out. One little one caught my eye. I was told it was the last one in the shop, so persuaded him to sell me that display model. In the car outside I opened it up to discover a series of test messages that had been left by other shoppers. It was an amazing variety… what on earth do they all choose to say when they can say anything at all! I love serendipity, so this was a golden moment. The last spoken word sample is from the radio I recorded there and then in the car, about the satisfaction of making things work.

    43 > [88:42]
    Jonty Semper
    ‘One Minute Silence Remembrance Sunday’ [1929]

    Finally, an ancient recording full of texture and history within ancient equipment, of one minute’s silence at the Cenotaph in London, and Big Ben striking the passing of time.


    Janek Schaefer (For Robert Wyatt) – What Light There Is Tells Us Nothing is out now on Temporary Residence.

  • Christian Marclay’s 24-hour audio-visual installation ‘The Clock’ to screen at Tate Modern

    By | September 20, 2017

    Ticking through an entire day.

    Artist and VF collaborator Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’ will be on show at Tate Modern, for three months next year.

    Read more: How Christian Marclay redefined what an exhibition can be

    Marclay’s 2010 project is the culmination of years of research and production, with excerpts from 70 years of famous and obscure films alike, including westerns, science fiction and thrillers.

    A 24-hour-long montage of thousands of film and television clocks, the film is edited so they reflect the actual time.

    Running from 14th September 2018 to 20th January 2019, ‘The Clock’ will be shown during the museum’s regular opening hours, as well as once a month, for an entire 24-hours in full.

    In 2015, Christian Marclay collaborated with The Vinyl Factory for a major exhibition at White Cube, where a series of live performances from the likes of Thurston Moore, Mica Levi and Ryoji Ikeda were pressed to vinyl in the gallery by the VF press.

    Head here for more info.

  • Christian Marclay and Mats Gustafsson release live performance on vinyl with etching

    By | November 22, 2016

    500 copies only.

    In Hindsight, the live recording of a collaboration between multimedia artist Christian Marclay and free jazz saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, will be released on vinyl by The Vinyl Factory.

    The joint performance, which featured Marclay on turntables and Gustafsson on saxophones, took place at Café Oto in London on 13 March 2013.

    The limited edition release of 500 copies includes the duo’s performance on the A-side and an etching by Marclay on the flip side. Marclay’s onomatopoetic artwork has also been screen printed on the thick card cover.

    Have a closer look in the gallery below and place orders for In Hindsight here.

    Christian Marclay was recently awarded SFMOMA’s 2016 Contemporary Vision Award and a handful of his works are currently on display at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof and the Kunstraum Innsbruck.

    Last year, Marclay collaborated with The Vinyl Factory to create The VF Press – the world’s first mobile vinyl factory – which was used to press live performances from his major solo exhibition at White Cube.

    Mats Gustafsson will perform a solo concert at the Leopold Museum, Vienna on 16 December, followed by a show with Dieb13 in Marseille on 16 December. Then on New Year’s Day, he will play Symphonie Nr. 1 Minnet für Saxophon, Turntables und Orchesterin at Tafelhalle, Nürnberg. Find his upcoming tour dates here.

  • Gallery: Christian Marclay performs experimental turntable piece Groove with London Sinfonietta

    By | April 4, 2016

    Originally recorded in NYC in 1982, Groove is given a symphonic rework.

    When Christian Marclay put together his experimental turntable piece Groove in the creative cauldron of New York’s downtown no wave scene back in the early ’80s, it’s unlikely he would have imagined performing an orchestral adaptation of the piece in a cavernous former (and sadly soon to be demolished) theatre over thirty years later.

    Created by densely layering multiple copies of the same 7″ single and applying stickers directly onto the groove causing the needle to skip and repeat, Marclay used techniques that prefigured hip hop sample culture and experimental turntablism by some years, but it wasn’t until 2013 that Groove was finally released on vinyl by The Vinyl Factory.

    See photos from the performance in this gallery:

    Previously described as “an ambient classic”, Marclay performed Groove with three copies of the record, using his Technics and modified turntables alongside an ensemble from London Sinfonietta who, under the direction of Ivan Volkov accompanied Marclay reimagined the drone composition as a skittish, livewire piece of atonal sonics and complex rhythmic abstractions.

    Performed as part of Ivan Volkov’s Mix at The Coronet Theatre in London, you can see photos from the show below and find out more about The Vinyl Factory’s release of Groove here.

    Last year, Marclay continued that collaboration to develop the world’s first mobile pressing plant, the VF Press, which was installed at his White Cube to press recordings of performances live in the gallery.

    Photos by Michael Wilkin

  • Christian Marclay to perform experimental turntable piece Groove in London

    By | March 22, 2016

    Artist and musician joins London Sinfonietta on mini-festival bill.

    Originally recorded in New York in 1982, Christian Marclay is to perform a new and revised version of his debut solo piece Groove live on turntables with an ensemble in London next month.

    Part of the London Sinfonietta & Ivan Volkov-curated mini-festival Mix, Marclay will be joined on the bill by maverick Italian composer Fausto Romitelli, a new commission from George Lewis and performances from Common Objects, featuring Marclay collaborator and experimental saxophonist John Butcher.

    Released on vinyl for the first time in 2013 by The Vinyl Factory, Groove has been described as “an ambient classic”, a mesmerizing example of early experimental turntablism and manual sampling, created by densely layering multiple copies of the same 7″ single and applying stickers directly onto the groove, causing the needle to skip and repeat.

    Christian Marclay will perform a new version of Groove live at Mix: London Sinfonietta & Ivan Volkov, which takes place at the Coronet Theatre on Sunday 3rd April from 6pm. Click here for tickets and more info.

    Last year Marclay collaborated with The Vinyl Factory once more to create the world’s first mobile pressing plant which was installed at his major White Cube show to press records of performances recorded in the gallery to vinyl in situ. Watch our short film from the event below.

  • From John Cage to Kool Herc: A Brief History of Turntablism

    By | February 2, 2016

    We explore the history of turntablism, from its primitive beginnings with travelling showmen right up to contemporary sound installations and the DMC.


    Words: Sophy Smith


    Coined by DJ Babu of the Beat Junkies crew, the term ‘turntablism’ emerged in 1995 to reflect the artistic practices of the hip hop DJ and, specifically, to denote the difference between playing back records and using turntables to manipulate sound. What’s described as turntablism today however, extends beyond hip hop, and its history starts much earlier.


    Precursors

    In fact the creative use of reproductive technology started early in the development of the equipment. From the mid-to-late 1800s, buyers of cylinder phonographs and graphophones were using the equipment not only to listen to pre-recorded music, but also to make their own vocal and instrumental recordings.

    Both Edison’s phonograph and Bell-Tainter’s graphophone enabled sound recording as well as playback, with wax as the medium to allow the recording to be removed from the cylinder and stored for later listening. Although Edison didn’t foresee the creative and commercial potential of his invention, the first manipulation of recorded sound for the purpose of entertainment took place using his phonograph. Seventy years before hip hop turntablists, traveling showmen would, as the grand finale to an evening’s entertainment, instantly record a cornettist and then perform sped-up takes of the recording by turning the phonograph handle faster and faster.

    50652t

    When a commercial version of Emile Berliner’s flat disc gramophone was introduced in 1985, both the phonograph and graphophone lost appeal because the new flat disc could support longer, better quality recordings than the cylinder. The disc gramophone, however, lacked home-recording technology – instead it was restricted to playing the records that were commercially available.

    With recording out, musicians began to experiment with the gramophone as a performing and composing device, and from this point we see the development of what we now call turntablism. Musicians from across the board began to experiment with the creative potential of the turntable, transforming it from a reproductive device and into to a musical instrument.

    The background to the creative musical use of the turntable falls into several distinct histories. The work of hip-hop pioneers and radio/club DJs is well documented, but the other earlier, and equally important history, lies outside popular music, in the field of experimental music and installation art.


    Experimental Music and Art

    In the early part of the twentieth century, a handful of composers became interested in the creative potential of the phonograph or gramophone, and began undertaking small-scale experiments. Paul Hindemith’s Trickaufnahmen (trick recordings), for example, investigated the technical abilities of the gramophone as well as the performer with a range of sound manipulation techniques – including acceleration and deceleration of discs and the knock-on pitch changes, possibly even using two phonographs simultaneously.

    These experiments set the foundation for visual artists Moholy-Nagy and Christian Marclay and composers Pierre Schaeffer and John Cage; four major turntable pioneers emerging from a range of musical and artistic backgrounds.

    john-cage3

    Moholy–Nagy, along with Oskar Fischinger and Paul Arma, attempted to alter the acoustic content of records before amplification by carving graphic structures into the grooves and running the record backwards against the stylus to scratch new patterns. Nagy hoped that his experiments with turntable music would result in the creation of a new musical language, through studying the graphic signs on the record.

    Pierre Schaeffer, pioneer of musique concrète, also experimented with manipulating recordings by playing them backwards and forwards, juxtaposing sounds taken from their original time continuum, playing recordings at different speeds, and creating repetitive sound loops by breaking the groove at specific points.

    Many contemporary turntablists manipulate the sound of records by creating repeating loops or ‘locked grooves’ and Schaeffer was the first to use this technique, pressing records with a groove that holds the stylus in a continuous cycle, looping the sound as the record rotates. This technique was used in Etude aux Chemins de Fer (1948) which was constructed from successive extracts of material made from manipulated recordings of steam locomotives at Gare des Batignolles, Paris.

    In John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape No.1 (1939), the records alternate between two speeds – 33 and 78 rpm – and rhythms are created by lifting and lowering the needle onto the record. Meanwhile in his work Credo in Us (1942) the player of the phonograph is instructed, “If phonograph, use some classic: e.g. Dvorak, Beethoven, Sibelius or Schostakovich” to add fragments of sound to the piece. His Imaginary Landscape No.5 (1952) work was composed for 42 records and 33 1/3 (1969) for twelve record players. This creative use of turntable technology also extended to the phonograph itself. In Cage’s Cartridge Music (1960), performers are directed to amplify small sounds using pick-ups taken from the tone arms of record players.

    Marclay Footsteps

    The idea of the record as basis for production is later found in the turntable music of artist Christian Marclay – his tribute composition John Cage for example is a recording of a collage made by cutting slices from a number of records and gluing them together to form a single disc. Marclay’s Footsteps also explores the effects of physically altering the record – three thousand five hundred records were used as flooring at an art exhibition over six weeks, packed in individual covers and then sold. For Marclay, these experiments that alter and distort the original recording highlight his understanding of the record as a constantly changing capsule of sound and he deliberately brings the residual sounds of pops, clicks and scratches to the foreground of the composition.


    Reggae, Radio and Club DJs

    Meanwhile in ’50s and ’60s Jamaica, musicians began a radical relationship with records that transformed recorded music into a live event. Until 1995 Jamaica had limited music copyright laws, meaning that soundsystem and reggae DJs could use records for their own creative ends. Through EQ alterations, sound effects and vocals, as well as pioneering tricks like the ‘rewind’ (spinning back a record to be repeated), DJ created original compositions using rhythm tracks from popular records.

    Jamaica

    Over in the States, early radio DJs played their part in developing turntable techniques. In order to enhance his promotions of records for example, Bill Curtis (veteran DJ for American station WUFO) began to manipulate the records he played, extending the record by slowing it down, repeating sections and/or talking over the track.

    The first DJ to introduce mixing, albeit in a primitive sense, was Terry Noel, resident DJ at the ’60s New York nightclub Arthur. Working with a relatively simple set-up (having only a volume dial for each turntable), Noel subtly mixed tracks in a way never heard before.

    Francis Grasso, resident disco DJ at The Sanctuary in New York, was arguably the first club DJ to manipulate recorded material for artistic purposes. Prior to Grasso’s turntable experiments DJs played records one at a time and club evenings lacked a cohesive flow due to the constant start-stop of three-minute records. Although Grasso was not the first DJ to mix two records together, he was the first to deliberately perfect beat mixing as a creative technique. In the 1970s, DJ Francis Grasso went on to introduce slip-cueing, which he had learnt from friends working as radio DJs.

    Not far away, at the Paradise Garage, Larry Levan perfected the practice of constructing music from many different sources, blending rock, pop, electronica, soul, rap, funk and disco and in a similar vein Frankie Knuckles incorporated sound effects into his sets at the Warehouse, Chicago. In an unconscious nod to Pierre Schaeffer’s Etude aux Chemin de Fer, Knuckles played an extended sound effect of a speeding steam train, panning the sound from the front to the back of the club, giving the effect of a train ploughing through the dance floor.

    Larry-Levan

    During his time at the club Galaxy 21, Walter Gibbons developed turntable-based cut and paste techniques to manipulate small sections of drum breaks – the forerunner to the beat-juggling techniques used by contemporary hip hop turntablists. Walter Gibbons’ cut and pastes enabled him to construct small sections of music into an original whole at the turntable.

    The 1970s and early 1980s witnessed a club-based popular music revolution that took DJs from using one turntable to two, and sometimes three, decks. These innovations, taking place as they did on turntables, established the concept of the DJ as music creator rather than solely player of records. and paved the way for the sound manipulation techniques and compositional processes of turntablist musicians.


    Hip Hop

    Perhaps the best known examples of turntablism sit within hip hop, which has embraced the genre from its outset. Creating original music using records, turntables and microphones from the early 1970 onward, hip hop pioneers and visionaries developed many of the turntable manipulation techniques that are still central to turntablism today.

    The story starts with Afrika Bambaata, who in the early ’70s transformed his street gang into the hip hop orientated Universal Zulu Nation. Bambaata became known as the “Master of Records” for the wide variety of music and break records he would blend in a DJ set.

    One of Bambaata’s contemporaries, Kool Herc, pioneered the breakbeat ‘merry-go-round’ technique. Noticing that dancers would go nuts for drum sections of funk records, Herc began to play these sections back-to-back, elongating the break and ignoring the rest of the track. This breakbeat DJ style set the blueprint for hip hop production.

    DJ Grandmaster Flash added to the growing body of turntablism tricks with his Quick Mix and Clock theories. With Quick Mix, passages of music are spun back to be repeated, whilst Clock Theory allows the DJ to identify key sections of the record by markings out the record label. Flash also developed punchphasing, in which shorter sound sounds are played over the breakbeat from another record, and backspinning which allows the turntablist to quickly rewind a part of the record.

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    Developed by Barry B (Get Fresh Crew) and Steve Dee (X-Men) in the 1990s, beat juggling also deserves a mention. Here new patterns are created by alternating between two identical records on different turntables.

    And of course the most celebrated hip-hop technique is scratching, where the musician moves the record back and forth against the stylus whilst also cross-fading on the mixing desk. Legend has it that this was discovered, accidentally, by DJ Theodore in the early ’80s when his turntable practice was interrupted by his mother and his hand subconsciously rocked the record, producing a sound of its own.

    These days there are dozens of scratch techniques – including (but by no means limited to): the baby, the tear, the scribble, the chirp, the transformer, the flare, the crab and the orbit.


    Contemporary Practice

    Turntablism is still thriving today. In 2007 Gabriel Prokofiev composed Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra which, following its performance at the BBC Proms with DJ Mr Switch as soloist, has received critical acclaim. The fifth movement was recently included in the BBC’s classical music initiative Ten Pieces, designed to introduce a generation of children to classical music. The idea of accompanying an orchestra with a turntable is hardly new though – Hansjörg Dammert, composer and pupil of Arnold Schoenberg called for a ‘concerto for phonograph’ back in 1926!

    Artist Janek Schaefer has used turntablism in his work throughout the past two decades. In 1997 he developed the triple tonearm Tri-Phonic Turntable, which is inspired by Philip Jeck’s piece Vinyl Requiem, itself created using 180 old Dansette record players. Schaefer’s first composition using the Tri-Phonic was made with a T.S. Elliot poetry LP – playing ‘Burnt Norton’ simultaneously with the three arms, staggering one after the other.

    Schafer is also known, and received acclaim, for his sound installation Extended Play. Three solo string parts were recorded separately, edited, and cut onto vinyl. In the installation, three cello EPs, three piano EPs and 3 violin EPs play at either 33, 45, or 78rpm using nine retro record players. These play continuously, modified to pause in response to the audience moving around the exhibition, changing the composition for each performance.

    Perhaps one of the best-known examples of contemporary turntablism though is the DMC World DJ Championships. An annual DJ competition hosted by Disco Mix Club (DMC) since 1985, DJs can enter as individuals or teams and are allocated exactly six minutes to perform original routines.

    Originally sponsored by Technics, since 2011 the DMC Championship has permitted the use of vinyl emulation systems, alongside traditional vinyl, to balance traditional mixing and the popularity of digital playback.

    As well as supporting established techniques, digital vinyl systems also include additional tools including those for re-editing, effects, tempo awareness, key-locking and they offer visual feedback as well as the ability to sync up with external hardware. Whilst the manufacturers stress the creative potential of these systems, some feel that artistic experimentation is limited with this new equipment, promoting a future haunted by ghosts of the past.

    This feature is based on Sophy Smith’s Hip-Hop Turntablism, Creativity and Collaboration book, published by Ashgate (2013).


    Cover Artwork by Hector Plimmer

  • The top 10 VF Editions of 2015

    By | December 31, 2015

    Click the image above for an interactive guide to our 10 favourite releases of 2015.

    It all started way back in January as we unveiled the world’s first mobile pressing plant, The VF Press, at Christian Marclay’s White Cube show, pressing hundreds of records a week with hand-screen printed sleeves by the likes of Thurston Moore, Mica Levi and Ryoji Ikeda. And it’s the latter’s collaboration with Christian Marclay himself which is first on our cardboard Christmas tree of vinyl.

    Next to Ryoji is Jeremy Shaw, whose soundtrack to film Variation FQ with legendary voguer Leiomy Maldonado recently made our list of the 50 best albums of 2015. As Circlesquare, Jeremy Shaw had previously released on Trevor Jackson’s Output label, and it’s Jackson who is next on the tree, releasing F O R M A T, his first album in fourteen years, on The Vinyl Factory earlier this year. A homage to the physical music format, the album was initially released across twelve different formats but has since become available in its entirety on one triple vinyl LP.

    Another triple vinyl, 20 Years Of Planet Mu celebrates one of dance music’s most consistently adventurous labels charting its evolution from IDM to footwork with a load of unreleased material.

    Up a level, Gwilym Gold’s aching ballad ‘Flex’ gets an old school jungle rework from Zomby next jazz pianist Jason Moran, whose work song-inspired three track EP Staged was released in conjunction with the artist’s Venice Biennale show of the same name.

    The only live recording on the tree, the release of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Taylor Deupree’s St John Session performance raised the curtain on The Vinyl Factory’s label collaboration with the series Thirty Three Thirty Three, while approaching the top of the tree we’ve got French techno whizz Gesaffelstein’s haunting soundtrack to Maryland and Keaton Henson’s new LP of electronic compositions – perfect for fans of Mount Kimbie and James Blake.

    At the top of the tree though is not a record (or a star) but a book, and the hardback edition of 3D and the art of Massive Attack, the first comprehensive look at the trail-blazing cover art, visuals and ephemera of one of the most important bands of the last twenty years.

    Click the dots on the image above to purchase any of our top ten editions this year or go here to browse the shop for more of The Vinyl Factory’s 2015 releases.

  • The 10 most collectable records of 2015

    By | 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


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    10. Ragnar Kjartansson / The National

    A Lot Of Sorrow

    (4AD)

    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.


    FrameShot4 copy

    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.


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    8. Rupture

    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.


    shit and shine2

    7. Shit & Shine

    Chakinʼ

    (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.


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    6. Chiwoniso

    Zvichapera

    (Nyami Nyami)

    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.


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    5. David Wise

    Battletoads (‘Dark Queen’ edition)

    (Iam8bit)

    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”.


    tame impala_currents ltd

    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.


    Len Leise edits

    3. Len Leise

    Edits 001

    (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.


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    2. PM

    Sweet Thrash

    (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.


    lee scratch perry - i am paint

    1. Residence La Revolution (Richard Russell & Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry)

    I Am Paint

    (RLR)

    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

  • How Christian Marclay redefined what an exhibition can be

    By | November 20, 2015

    Thurston Moore, Mica Levi and more join Christian Marclay to discuss his ground-breaking show at White Cube earlier this year.

    “We’ve broken the silence”. Maverick sound artist, conceptual heavyweight and experimental DJ Christian Marclay has never been afraid to be loud. From pioneering a disruptive form of turntablism as part of NYC’s downtown scene in the ’70s and ’80s to capturing the world’s attention with his timeless a/v collage The Clock, Marclay has always thrived on performance and improvisation.

    Taking over London’s White Cube gallery for three months earlier this year, he created a productive, experimental environment that facilitated that same passion for disruption. Artists and musicians were invited to perform improvised works in the gallery space in response to the exhibition, with London Sinfonietta on hand to interpret their radical scores. The VF Press was installed in the space to press those performances live in the space, and Coriander Press were invited to realise Marclay’s designs on hundreds and hundreds of record sleeves a week.

    More than a static gallery, White Cube was transformed into a hub of activity, production and collaboration that really did break the silence. In the words of Steve Beresford “I think that really redefines what an exhibition is”.

    Speaking with Marclay and the project’s key collaborators, including Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, Mica Levi fresh from her BAFTA winning score to Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin, experimental saxophonist John Butcher and pioneering improvisor Steve Beresford, this film captures the essence of creativity and verve than coursed through the show.

    Over the duration of the exhibition, fifteen limited edition hand-screen printed 12″s were produced, documenting performances from the world’s leading experimental musicians. Alongside those featured in the film are live recordings from Ryoji Ikeda, Okkyung Lee, David Toop, Laurent Estoppey, Elliott Sharp, Mark Sanders, Nicolas Collins, Roger Turner, Elaine Mitchener, Gunter Muller and Rie Nakajima.

    Special thanks to Jon Lowe at White Cube for providing extra footage without which this film would not have been possible.

  • Ryoji Ikeda and Christian Marclay collaborate on limited edition vinyl

    By | June 9, 2015

    Unique compositions by Ryoji Ikeda and Christian Marclay at White Cube are available now on 12″ vinyl.

    Earlier this year, Christian Marclay had London at fever pitch with his major solo exhibition at White Cube. As part of the show, Marclay curated a dynamic programme of live performances, including new works from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and a new spine-tingling composition by rising star Mica Levi.

    The programme culminated in a new piece by Japan’s leading composer Ryoji Ikeda, who most recently took over Brewer Street Car Park with supersymmetry, his immersive CERN-inspired exploration of particle physics. A firm highlight in the ten week programme at White Cube, Ikeda’s disorientating performance was recorded live and then pressed by the VF Press to create the A-side of this new record.

    Music by Christian Marclay forms the B-side. In an inspired and personal gesture, Marclay chose to work with vinyl records pressed by The Vinyl Factory from the curated programme. Using two turntables, Marclay manipulated the records to build a percussive and improvised remix of works created during the run of the exhibition.

    With artwork by Christian Marclay himself and screen printing by Coriander Studio, the record is available in a limited edition of 500. Check out the sleeve design below, and order a copy from VF Editions but move fast because this one won’t hang around.

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    Ryoji Marclay 500

  • Ryoji Ikeda to perform a unique composition this weekend at Christian Marclay’s White Cube show

    By | April 10, 2015

    Japan’s leading electronic composer and visual artist Ryoji Ikeda will present a one-off live performance on Saturday 11 April.

    The final weekend of performances in a unique ten week programme curated by Christian Marclay, culminates in a new work performed by revered composer Ryoji Ikeda. Accompanied by musicians from the London Sinfonietta, Ikeda will present a special live performance exploring the sonorities of glass, created in response to one of the key works within Marclay’s White Cube exhibition. The composition will be record direct-to-disc and pressed to vinyl on site by The VF Press, our mobile vinyl pressing plant.

    Later this month The Vinyl Factory will collaborate with Ikeda once more; this time to present the UK premiere of supersymmetry, a major new work that explores music and visual art through mathematics and physics. Taking place at Brewer Street Car Park from 23 April – 31 May, click here for more information about the exhibition.

    See below for details on the final weekend of performances at White Cube:


    Performances / The VF Press
    Saturday 11 April: Ryoji Ikeda

    Sunday 12 April: Elliott Sharp

    Performances start at 3pm and are free but spaces are allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis so arrive early.

    The Vinyl Factory Press is in operation every Thursday and Friday during the exhibition, pressing performances from the previous weekend straight to vinyl.

    Christian Marclay at White Cube
    28 Jan – 12 April
    Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 6pm and Sunday, 12 – 6pm
    Address: White Cube, 144-152 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ

  • New exhibition exploring art’s fascination with vinyl records opening next week

    By | March 26, 2015

    The Curves Of The Needle to profile artists and musicians who’ve pushed the boundaries of vinyl.

    The art world can’t keep its hands off vinyl. From Fluxus artists like Milan Knízák and Nam June Paik, to experimental turntablists and sound pioneers like Christian Marclay, records have proved infinitely fascinating both as aesthetic objects to be celebrated and formats to be manipulated, pulled apart and reconstructed. Opening at BALTIC39 in Newcastle, The Curves Of The Needle will gather works together from artists all equally obsessed with the audio/visual possibilities of the humble vinyl record.

    Exploring album artwork, the cultural significance of the record collection and artists who have experimented with the format, the group exhibition includes work by Marclay and David Toop, who recently collaborated with The Vinyl Factory at White Cube, Rutherford Chang, who has amassed a collection comprised entirely of first edition copies of The Beatles’ White Album, X-Ray Audio, who have revived bootlegs records pressed onto X-rays in Soviet Russia and :Zoviet*France, whose rusting metal LP made our rundown of the best vinyl record sleeves last year.

    There will also be work from visionary musicians like Sun Ra, Jandek and Elaine Radigue who was featured in our interactive timeline charting the influential women of electronic music.

    The exhibition will run from 3 April 2015 – 17 May 2015. Click here for more info and see a selection of featured works from the show below.

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