[Listophilia] Top Couple Dozen Non-2008 Discoveries of 2008
Most music geeks do an end-of-year Top 50 or 25 or 100 albums each year; without one, a year doesn’t really feel complete. But I haven’t really had one since about 200o and 2001 (Erykah Badu’s ‘Mama’s Gun’ and Sam Phillips’ ‘Fan Dance’ at #1, if I remember). I tried my hand at a 2008 mix (cheating in some 2007) but I couldn’t say it was a “best of,” in either the “authoritative objective” school (“important”) nor the “personal subjective” (“good”) approach; it’s just what I heard that stuck with me. As far as 2008 goes, I have a lot yet to discover.
But 2008 was an incredibly fertile year for musical discovery of music from the other 115-odd years of recorded music. Many of those discoveries mingled with old favorites in the mixes here at Musicophilia. So in the interest of those for whom my new-to-me discoveries remain new-to-them, here is a Best-of-2008-Non-2008-Discoveries list (in no particular order). Perhaps it will provide another opportunity to peruse the BUY. MUSIC. links to the right, and help keep me an honest music-pusher. . . To be sure, Exiled Records (Portland, OR’s finest) and Dusty Groove were good to me last year. Please share with us some of your top non-2008 discoveries of 2008 in the comments section–we’re in this addiction together.
- Arthur Russell – ‘Love is Overtaking Me‘ (1974-1991) and ‘Wild Combination‘ documentary [I admit that Russell is one of the few artists who, taken as a whole, still inspires teenage completism Fan-as-fanaticism in me, with ‘World of Echo’ probably my favorite album of all time. But I’m not lock-step: ‘Springfield’ didn’t do much for me. ‘Love is Overtaking Me’ was nevertheless a surprise, revealing yet more almost-unknown faces to this uber-Janus: a sweet folkster, a moody Costello-and-Richman-like rocker, and a syrupy-sweet 80s popstar. A little unwieldy as a compilation, but it houses probably Russell’s catchiest melodies yet. The documentary is lovely, truly moving, and all I hoped for.]
- Stringtronics – ‘Mindbender‘ (1972) [Ignore the cheesy generic reissue cover art. A deserved “holy grail” compilation/project of some of the commercial sound library world’s best, one I’d heard before (thanks to Mutant Sounds) but which I never expected to be able to easily purchase. If you find it available, grab it. Along with the next entry, it’s just one of the most cohesive (impressive, as a comp) and perfectly-produced works of the genre. Unfortunately, Barry Forgie, the creator of the superior Side A suite, is seemingly a dead-end for further listening–in that I can’t find anything else.]
- Sven Libaek – ‘Inner Space’ (1973) [If Bill Evans and Dave Brubeck and Milt Jackson had failed in the mainstream jazz world and become a sound librarian soundtrack writing team for nature documentaries, I think this would’ve been one of their better collaborations.]
- Lady June – ‘Lady June’s Linguistic Leprosy’ (1974) [How this one eluded me for so long I don’t know. It only features some guys named Kevin Ayers, Brian Eno, (probably) Robert Wyatt, and David Vorhaus (of White Storm/BBC Radiophonic. And while it’s not a supergroup effort–Lady June’s voice is the most distinctive here–it’s a fantastic oddity in its own right as well as a keystone of intersecting musical strands.]
- Dorothy Ashby – ‘Afro-Harping‘ (1968)/‘The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby’ (1969) [What I thought/hoped Alice Coltrane would sound like, when I was 22]
- Godley & Creme – ‘L‘ (1978) [I admit, I slept on TenCC; but even giving them another listen, I wouldn’t have predicted this amazingly bent, bizarro cousin of Roxy Music and Sparks and sure inspiration of Dominique Leone would’ve followed.]
- Bernard Parmegiani – a 12-disc boxed set [I haven’t bought this, because I already own every CD reissue that had been done before. But this would be an incredible eye-opener and a huge time-and-money-saver for someone just getting going with this genius.]
- Curt Boettcher, Et Al – ‘California Music‘ (mid 1970s) [I’m still not entirely clear on who’s really responsible for this work. Boettcher, of Sagitarius & The Millennium, is sure; but it sounds like a smorgasbord of SoCal beach boys (and Beach Boys), stemming from an aborted nostalgia tunes-done-disco project. Amazing disco sunshine pop in full cheese mode, but produced wonderfully well–“Iko Iko,” “The Word,” “Banana Boat Song,” and an amazing 7-minute epic about the Marx Bros. Certainly the purchase i least expected to love of 2008]
- Dick Raaijmakers – ‘Complete Tape Music‘ (1950s-1990s) [I wouldn’t have guessed at the breadth of this man’s experimentation from the elements in the fantastic ‘Popular Electronics’ box, but this is essential musique concrete at a bargain price.]
- Leda – ‘Welcome to Joyland‘ (1978) [Reissuers, take note! This one is a female-fronted electro-disco by ex-Tangerine Dream, sounding like perfect Italo Disco.]
- John Cale & Terry Riley – ‘Church of Anthrax’ (1971) [I’d heard it earlier, but it surprised me by being reissued in 2008. Every bit as good as I would’ve hoped, almost channelling L’Infonie’s funked-up take on Riley’s ‘In C’ (nearly hidden on the recent-ish reissue of ‘Reed Streams’). Elemental and visceral.]
- Pierre Henry – Multiple box sets at Dusty Groove [Henry wasn’t new to me, but the fact that a number of import box sets of his work could be had at Dusty Groove for $40 was. Amazing music at any price, but at this price–BUY. MUSIC. As good as “Psyche Rock” is, if that’s all you’ve heard by Henry, you’ll have your mind blown.]
- Space Art – ‘Play Back’ (1980) [All props to the essential MUTANT SOUNDS blog for this one. Another secret, heretofore, Daft Punk were keeping to themselves. NEEDS to be reissued.)
- Brigitte Fontaine & Areski – ‘L’Incindie’ (1974) [Somewhere between Nico’s ‘Desertshore’ and Vashti Bunyan, this is a spare, simple, haunting gem.]
- Voodoo Economics – ‘If : Then :: Iminami‘ (2007) [Portland’s loss and Philly’s gain, Voodoo:Economics are tapping into a less Pitchfork-approved strain of post-punk’s zeitgeist that warms my heart. Of no party or clique–and freely available for download at their website.]
- CHBB – ‘Demos’ (1984-1985?) [The CH and BB behind Liaisons Dangereuses, making insane dark techno completely out of time. We can only hope these and the mythic color-coded c20s from 1981 get reissued some day.]
- David Thomas & Two Pale Boys – Surf’s Up (2001) [I passed this one up in 2001 because of its awful, horrible cover that screamed “old man who’s lost it,” and it was my loss. As a huge fan of the ‘Monster’ box set of his early solo albums (one of the best values possible, along with that Wipers’ box set, at around $20 for four albums), I don’t know how I gave up on Thomas. But this is one spooky, expansive, dark-story-telling album. As strong as any but the top Pere Ubu.]
- Anja Garbarek – ‘Smiling & Waving‘ (2001) [I ignored this one when I first heard it as derivative of Bjork/Stina Nordenstam, but Robert Wyatt’s cover of “Stay Tuned” sent me back, and it’s a gem. When I found out it brought Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis out of his tragic self-exile from music, it didn’t surprise me–his mark is evident.]
- David Sylvian – ‘Blemish‘ (2003) [Similarly to the previous entry, passed up as has-been projecting cover, a weirdly placid late-90s vanilla thing. The music is anything but–genuinely scary, broken, spare, and haunting, it’s his ‘Mark Hollis,’ and the inheritor of Japan’s “Ghosts”.]
- Marzette Watts – ‘Marzette & Company‘ (1966) [Still not the secret Sonny Sharrock freakout that I keep dreaming of after the mind-expanding ‘Complete Jack Johnson Sessions’ Miles Davis box, but it does feature damn fine and probably not-very-heard Sharrock madness.]
- Stick Men – ‘Insatiable’ (early 1980s) [My favorite 1981 discovery in a while, they’re Philly’s answer to both James Chance and the Minutemen. Perfectly named, they are remarkably taught, tight, punchy and unique, and honestly a band could sound like them today without seeming the least bit nostalgic.]
- Secondhand – ‘Death May Be Your Santa Claus‘ (1971) [OOP and thus costly, but worth finding. Gets labeled as prog, but there’s nary a moment of lock-step-noodling. A hard-edged Canterbury, or maybe a British answer to Faust and Captain Beefheart on a wider screen, and a lot of fun.]
- Elodie Lauten – ‘The Death of Don Juan‘ (1985) [Deep NYC minimalist opera after Reich, a little Ryuichi Sakamoto, Laurie Anderson and Peter Zummo; features Arthur Russell in fine form.]
- Girard Manset – La Mort d’Orion (1970) [A slightly grandiose, but convincing cousin to Gainsbourg’s peak work, with a more melodically-voiced central figure. His later work seems a mixed bag, but this one is worth hunting down as an import.]
- Haruomi Hosono & Tadanori Yokoo – ‘Cochin Moon‘ (1978) [This one cost a pretty penny, OOP on eBay. But it was more than I could have hoped for: pre-Yellow Magic Orchestra, it is mroe reminiscent of their ’81 and later era work–but for me, it bests almost anything YMO did. Complex, layered, sophisticated, dimensional, and utterly non-datable, this one desperately needs to be more widely available.]
- Oliver Sacks – ‘Musicophilia‘ (book) [I honstly promise I’d thought of the ersatz Latinate “musicophilia” years before I saw this book at the library, but choosing it when I finally started a blog is a small homage to Sacks. A fun, humane, if occasionally frightening book–it has long sections on things that can go wrong with music-lovers’ relationship to music and sound–even if the author, who hardly seems to think of “pop” (meaning non-classical) music as music, probably wouldn’t approve of most of the music this Musicophilia features.
On with 2009!