Musik Music Musique 3.0 – 1982 Synthpop On The Air – Cherry Red Records

Travelling through the expressway of electronic motion a question might spring to mind. Centred around songs verses sounds, which are the most significant here? It’s maybe that the uniquely 1980’s song structures hanging lose over the fast propulsion of drum machines, desperate to cling to a tradition of accessible, tuneful melody like rock n roll anyway is only a heartbeat away, can seem dated transmitted to contemporary ears. Perhaps that’s why an inclination towards the moodier atmospheres generated by OMD or Blancmange, where the words feel as interesting as the music, comes into play. Then again on CD.1 you have Fashion’s brisk Streetplayer, Japan’s syncopated heaven realised as European Son alongside Ultravox’s brutalist Monument singularly highlighting the introspective quality moving in tune with the times. Retrospectively or otherwise.

Spread across three discs this will either play like a nostalgia fest or cause you to burst into that peculiar eighties dance people with fringes used to do at any given opportunity. But in all seriousness the second disc has New Order – Temptation, Soft Cell’s eternally epic Sex Dwarf plus the superlative production genius of Yello. CD 3 then opens with Heaven 17 and Let Me Go (one of the better representations of the genre) as Thick Pigeon – Subway supplies one of the most intriguing tracks on here. The likewise titled Sergeant Frog – Profile Dance sequences all of those glorious, brand new, synthesizers together in fizzy harmony again delivering upon the promise of a future tomorrow. Does the word Pop always mean the same thing in any decade, or is it the music itself that becomes more exciting over time?

Release: February 17


Music For New Romantics – Cherry Red Records

I learnt more about the spirit of The Blitz and the people who inhibited that world from Kevin Hegge’s brilliant film, Tramps: The Death Of Punk, New Romantics, The Art Of Survival than I did from almost any other source. Tracing the lineage between early 1970’s Glam and its disparate offshoots, charting a course through electronic Disco to its more radical European interpretations and consequent interactions between Art and Fashion. Although centred on London these ideas took root elsewhere in the UK as Punk broke down and new ideas were sought.

This compilations attempts to tell that story across three cd’s beginning with seminal numbers like Mott The Hoople’s epic All The Young Dudes, Alice Cooper – I’m Eighteen alongside all the usual tearaways: Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and The New York Dolls all setting the scene. Disco is also touched upon from Grace Jones, Donna Summer and from Giorgio Moroder’s outstanding Chase.

The second disc breathes life into some of Dj Rusty Egan’s peerless selections for the Blitz with timeless numbers from The Human League, John Foxx, The Associates and Magazine. The list could very easily continue and I wait with anticipation to hear his own forthcoming compilations. Unquestionably this amalgamation of breath-taking styles covers a unique period in British club culture feeling light years ahead of what else was happening, one that remains radically influential today.

CD three continues to expand the story to include selections from a diverse range of artists from Marianne Faithfull’s Broken English to Gina X to Coati Mundi’s wonderful Me No Pop I. I guess this is a broad snapshot of the nightclubs which existed outside of the mainstream around the turn of the decade and the music they celebrated, despite lots of essentials missing – where does it end? – there are still gems hidden from view to discover. On a finer point exactly what could or should qualify as being ‘New Romantic’ with A Certain Ratio and New Order alongside Sister Sledge also featured can only be truly answered by the figures involved. However, to focus primarily on the music there is plenty of brilliance on offer here acting as either a breath of nostalgia or fresh inspiration. Either way that alone is worth the price of admission.

Release: November 25


Erik Satie – Old Sequins And Ancient Breastplates Historical Recordings 1926-1961 – él Records

Diving into the ocean of Erik Satie’s musical world is like diving for pearls. A rapturous, immersive experience capturing the essence of the senses as they rush by. His music was always remarkable and remains so. Explosively quiet as much as it is exhilarating this incredible collection works spans decades. At times reflective, at others dancing around the corners. Listen to Obstacles venimeux (below) from 1914 as it prefigures the likes of Monk’s playing. Refresh the resilient, sublime notes of No. 1 Lent and the emotional triggers ignited via Gnossienne No.1 or, of course, Gymnopédie No. 1 amongst many, many others for pure beauty.

The compilation also boasts rare recordings of his inspired works alongside magnificent sleeve notes guiding your entrance this other world. There is also a telling discussion between John Cage and Morton Feldman titled: In conversation regarding Satie and Noise in the Environment. Perhaps that is a good starting point too.

Release: August 19


Pierre Boulez – Composer Conductor Enigma – Él Records

Where does one note begin and another end. Think about Pierre Boulez when he greets you with Sonatine for Flute and Piano, Op. 1 (1946; revised 1949) as danger dances in the air mere moments after the end of the Second World War. Why should music remain the same. The safety of nostalgia never seemed so tempting. The intensity is almost terrifying, yet completely engaging and thrilling.

The accompanying booklet contains a number of quotes from the composer whose defiance is both parts refreshing and informative. Likewise the notes expand and inform on the story of this iconic, disruptive figure in full. In ways the music spanning his early works feels found somewhere in-between the expression of black and white and the explosion of technicolour. While each story is being told it is constantly caught off-guard. His experiments with magnetic tape conjure up a whole other abstraction that is as timeless as it remains radical: Deux études de musique concréte For Magnetic Tape (1951-2). However these words do little justice to the sheer exhilaration of pieces like La Symphonie mécanique musique concrète, for a film by Jean Mitry (1955) as his involvement with France’s Groupe de Recherches de Musique Concrète testifies.

As an addition this brilliant four disc compilation includes music from other composers who occupied a similar orbit, as well as his work as a Conductor – a word that perhaps best describes Pierre Boulez.

Release: May 6


Money In My Pocket – The Joe Gibbs Singles Collection 1972-1973 – Doctor Bird

I meant to review this before its release, must have been distracted by unseasonal sunshine here in the UK. It’s a real pleasure to listen to this collection of Jamaican sounds spanning 1972-1973 produced by the legendary Joe Gibbs well before his masterpiece Chapter Three. Still containing that cutting skank from Ska the brew of words had already began to contain more message in the music. The deeper feelings expressed on the soulful end of things like The World Is on A Wheel by The Mediators seem as timeless then as now. While the Dub explorations seem just as spaced and revolutionary as More Dub by Joe Gibbs & The Professionals proves. The roll call of names appear from the breadth and depth of Augustus Pablo, Big Youth, Dillinger, Delroy Wilson and of course Denis Brown whose signature Money In My Pocket still exceeds expectation. There’s much more to discover than that though when paced alongside the sleeve notes detailed by Tony Rounce guarantee a continuing essential experience.

Release: March 25


The Trammps: Burn Baby Burn – Disco Inferno – The Trammps Albums 1975-1980 – Robinsongs

If you’re going to do a boxset then do it right, make it big. Totalling eight discs charting their album releases over the course of 1975 to 1980 this pays testament to the enduring legacy of the band in the national consciousness. While the final album Stepping Out succumbs to the schmaltz and musical clique characterising a lot of mainstream R&B as it drifted into the 1980’s it’s time to turn to that initial run of five albums which provided a wealth of soulfully charged, incendiary passion with songs such as the meaningful Love Epidemic contained on their debut. 1975 is of course a great place to start proceedings as the sounds of what became Disco had become well and truly established as the instrumental Trammps Disco Theme eloquently testifies. The legendary Zing Album contains the timeless Hold Back The Night and the rather beautiful Tom’s Song. But its perhaps by their third album that the band’s sound truly matures with numbers such as the exuberant title track Where The Happy People Go and Can We Come Together, alongside the quietly smouldering Love Is a Funky Thing.

The Trammps III released in 1977 contains one of my favourite tracks of the era, The Nights Went Out crystallising Early Young’s signature drumming alongside the powerful instrumentation and soaring vocals by Jimmy Ellis. More often than not The Trammps wrote about love and heartbreak but this song was about the Electricity blackout the same year. And it’s songs like these which give the band real depth of meaning. It is also well worth reading the sleevenotes by MOJO and Record Collector’s contributor Charles Waring for the bigger picture.

Release: March 25



Notes From The Underground: Radical Music Of The 20th Century – él Records

Where to begin. Like forever calling this collection of exemplarily works celebrates all that was worthwhile of the twentieth century, denoting times, evoking memory, lives lived and lost. Spanning four discs of undeniable pleasure living in the moment is cast aside as history is rewound spelling out the story of humanities rites of passage tuning into a panoramic view of Art, sound and all that that was radically exciting in its wake. If the needle got stuck on Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) from 1894 who would complain. Breathing life. Igor Stravinsky’s challenging intensity follows suite featuring a collections of bombastic light and shade making you feel lost in a Hitchcock or expressionistic drama of dark celluloid. Contrasts are always informative and no less so than the sonic collages from Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Schaeffer who proceed to delve into unimaginable depths of the soul pulling out incendiary fragments. Then complimented by John Coltrane’s superlative live version of My Favourite Things performed in 1961.

Listening to Edgard Varèse’s incredible 1954 World Premiere of Déserts must have seemed like aliens landing less than a mere ten years after the Second World War. However, music of a different passion is also featured providing that all important light relief in the shape of Vicente Alvarez and his Tropical Orchestra – Tango Argentino. A number of these lighter, seemingly more conventional tracks intersperse the playlist working well as distractions that make the impact of the revolutionary all the more potent. Compositions and interpretations by Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman are also present, while mere words can’t really do justice to hearing Allen Ginsburg recite Howl in all its brutal, shining glory. The wonderful Daphne Oram is here too.

The third disc is primarily given over to the poems by Edith Sitwell accompanied by the music of William Walton, a step too far perhaps but then again. Or the delicate sound of melting hearts care of Bill Evans, My Foolish Heart featuring the eloquent bass playing of Scott LaFaro sounding just like the cinema of life never changes. By the fourth CD energetic heartstrings are played Gustav Mahler’s incredibility poignant Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor IV. Adagietto, getting lost in a please don’t ever end moment this must be one of the finest ever compositions. Then, John Cage happens. From 1951. And you think radical music just happened. Out of nowhere. On the music travels.

There are a whole host of other artists not mentioned so far but isn’t that the pleasure of discovery. If you find music a serious exploit then do try this for yourself. You might get a little shocked or even surprised in the process but not dulled by disappointment. Music of genius can be said to be timeless and with release the point is correct.

Release: January 21


Lux And Ivy Dig Crime Jazz – Film Noir Grooves & Dangerous Liaisons – Cherry Red Records

Who doesn’t love the drama of crime? Then again you doesn’t love Jazz. This late 50’s sizzling combo is inescapably awe-inspiring featuring a feast of Film Noir scores across the roulette of excellence taking you into worlds unknown. This is real close your eyes and you are there stuff. Maybe, just maybe, they don’t make music quite as evocative as this anymore. I’m listening to Warren Barker’s cool Harlem Nocturne and the details are exquisite but then you also have The Man With The Golden Arm amid the sassy swing of Henry Mancini’s Son Of Raunchy conjuring up all sorts of naughtiness. Or Miles Davis hauntingly beautiful Générique or even Andre Previn’s snappy Like Blue. This is very much about late night encounters spread across the unrestricted, uncontained unreality of wonderful Jazz. The artists you will recognise, as much as the wonderful array of films whose scenes are adorned throughout. I really can’t recommend this highly enough for all sorts of reasons but after all time is timeless.

Release: November 26


Musik Music Musique 2.0: The Rise Of Synth Pop – Cherry Red Records

Sometimes it feels like we have never left the 80’s, or even escaped the 90’s for that matter. Being tied to history because it might seem safer or more familiar is a better place to live out life instead of processing the fraught airwaves of current reality. Maybe the decade did actually in fact begin and almost end via (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang, although give me Gina X Performance – No GDM anytime, or Yello – Bostich all the time.

Following on from the first instalment, Musik Music Musique 2.0 now delves into the full flavour of 1981 charting the radical aftermath of Punk with this selection of readymade electronic pop, which quite rightly also touches its various edges, while capturing the essence of what defined the year. So ok, some of this sounds wonderfully/ dreadfully dated as seminal moments and memories get relived across the movement of Fashion and Chris And Cosey’s sizzling – This Is Me as if electricity had just been discovered pointing fast-forward into the future. It’s likewise recommended that besides the inclusion of Spandau and Duran Duran if you’re looking for something more meaningful you also try the tense delights contained within the third CD such as from Naked Lunch, AK-47 and Zeus Cowboy’s low-slung – On The Beach. However, if you’re after the breeze of lighter melodies there are plenty of those available too from all the big hitters. Finally the sleeve notes written by the most knowledgeable Mat Smith from Electronic Sound Magazine detail the relish, covered in depth to enhance the aural experience.

Release: October 15


Pure Exotica: As Dug by Lux & Ivy – Cherry Red Records

Part of the reason this is all so exciting is that I have very little idea of what it actually is. Described neatly as, ‘exotica, space age bachelor pad music and the weird side of easy listening’, is quite frankly about as tempting as it can get. Transporting you to somewhere else entirely like a magical dance these sounds feel that they might have a secret to revel. Lost in the heat of a celluloid dream located sometime in the 50’s or 60’s this whirlwind of shimmering exuberance is nothing short of a joy to behold. In many ways this is simply a beautiful compilation of heart-warming music as it is occasionally, very slightly odd. Some of artists involved will may be familiar with such as Martin Denny and Henry Mancini but in ways this fusion of playful Latin, Jazz and cinema is all about experiencing the journey, crisscrossing the wonder of sight and sound, rhythm and sassy slink. Any track on here could be a personal favourite but I’m easily drawn towards Ahmed Abdul Malik’s African Bossa Nova, plus Martin Denny’s 1958 masterpiece Primitiva. Selected by The Cramps’ Lux & Ivy so you can of course expect the unexpected all wrapped up in a sea of mildly camp, technicolour hysteria. Yes Please.

Release: September 17