As with previous years, I’ll be posting a series of separate year-end lists here on the site over the coming weeks, starting with a few of my favorite reissue/archival releases. With plenty of terrific reissues coming out at a steady clip throughout the year (too many, really), I could’ve easily expanded this list well into the double digits. Heck, had I opened this up to some of the amazing “grey area” reissues like those by Tolerance or The Electronic Hole, or to SouffleContinu’s Futura Records reissue campaign, or even to The Complete Recordings of Jackson C. Frank (which I still need to spend more time with), and this would’ve really all gotten away from me quite quickly. So, in the interest of keeping things concise and truly focused on the albums that have provided me with hours-upon-hours of listening enjoyment, I offer up the following titles. I’d also encourage you to follow the links provided to find out more about each of these releases. As always, thanks for checking in with us.
N. Mankato, Dec. 2015
Amos & Crew – True Tears (War Extension)
It was nice to see a few more of the It’s War Boys titles, and other previously über-limited works affiliated with the great UK D.I.Y. outfit The Homosexuals, get proper reissues this year. In addition to Superior Viaduct putting out the equally great L. Voag and Milk From Cheltenham albums, War Extension delivered one of the more quirkily accessible avant pop entries from this elusive pseudonym-loving artist. The album was originally released on cassette back in 1982 and was reportedly recorded while on tour in Japan with the Henry Cow offshoot project, The Work. Those little details actually provide a decent frame of reference here as there is an oddball Yximalloo-meets-Recommended Records collaborative feel at play on True Tears. Bonus points for the highly cryptic and slightly perverse foldout liner notes included.
Joshua Burkett – Gold Cosmos (Feeding Tube)
Burkett was one of the more hidden figures within the whole Free Folk “boom” of the previous decade, though undoubtedly a key player out in its spiritual hub in the wilds of Western Massachusetts. Originally released back in 2001, Gold Cosmos features Burkett’s signature brand of hushed loner psych folk songs, but here several tracks are fleshed-out by a cast of sympathetic contributors that includes Matt Valentine, Ben Chasney, Chris Corsano, Dredd Foole, Noah Wall and more. Gold Cosmos has a subtle melancholic power that makes for great late night listening over several hearty stouts.
William S. Burroughs – Nothing Here Now but the Recordings (Dais)
I don’t consider myself a full-blown Burroughs devotee by any means. I’m sure like plenty of others out there, though, some of his key novels certainly re-wired a few synapses and had a pretty sizable impact back in the day. In recent years I’ve become more intrigued by his work with tape recorders and cut-ups, maybe more so than his prose. Part of the appeal of Nothin Here Now but the Recordings – originally released on Throbbing Gristle’s Industrial Records back in 1981 – is just hearing that distinctive, stern voice of Burroughs coming through on tape. Not only does he paint these vivid and, at times, disturbing images, but his tape cut-ups and manipulations create an extra sense of confusion and unease. Listening in now, it’s easy to see how Burroughs’ tape recordings would have sat comfortably amongst the work of TG and many of their contemporaries. This album, consequently, led me down a few different listening paths during the course of the year that involved sound poetry and other tape-based music, with a healthy pit stop in the Alga Marghan catalog.
Departmentstore Santas – At The Medieval Castle . . . (Superior Viaduct)
This is one of those much talked about private press rarities that actually holds up to some of the hype. Originally released back in 1984 in an edition of 500 LPs – OG copies of which still fetch a pretty penny – it was uncertain, despite the growing interest, if this would ever get a legitimate reissue. Superior Viaduct, a label that is damn near flawless in their curatorial efforts, has once again stepped in to offer this essential slab of homespun DIY pop at an affordable price. The music jumps around wildly between fractured instrumental jams and off-kilter folk/pop strummers that are all laced with a unique adolescent charm. It’s maybe a bit twee in places, but not overly annoying by any means.
Joe McPhee & John Snyder – To Be Continued (Kye)
This previously unreleased live performance from 1973 captures the first outing between legendary free jazz blower Joe McPhee and lesser-documented analog synth twiddler John Snyder, who would go on to record the otherworldly Pieces of Light together the following year. The duo is here joined by a larger group ensemble made up of friends and neighbors to perform music that was reportedly inspired by The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Ancient to the Future album. The group interplay is as equally impassioned and as rhythmically locked-in as the TAEoC with the tracks moving from sublime melodic lines to more enlivened free sax and synth eruptions. Over 40 years on and this recording still sounds remarkably fresh and contemporary.
Vincent Over the Sink – 22 Coloured Bull-Terriors (Another Dark Age)
Like many others I’m sure, outside of a few heads in Australia, my introduction to Vincent Over the Sink came through their posthumous 7” that came out on Kye Records in 2011. Based on the strength of that single alone, I was eager to dig into this duo’s back catalog, only it was next to impossible to track down any of their earlier releases, aside from maybe Bible Bashers. So, it certainly was a pleasant surprise to see Another Dark Age give 22 Coloured Bull-Terriers, VOTS’s first full-length, the full-fledged 2LP gatefold treatment. Musically, the album inhabits a similarly murky and downcast feel to, say, early Shadow Ring or Smog, but Vincent Over the Sink can also catch you off-guard with their oblique pop sensibility. Hands down, one of the true highlights of the year for me.