1. Music for Biscuits Mike Sammes & The Mike Sammes Singers
Few years back, Trunk honcho Jonny Trunk was invited to rummage through the house of the just deceased Mike Sammes. Crooner/composer, Sammes along with his Mike Sammes Singers were the back-up vocal orchestra for people such as Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand and Burt Bacharach. Whats more, they even sang on The White Album and provided vocal harmonies on Krzysztof Komedas Rosemarys Baby soundtrack. No doubt about it, Sammes had a real knack for sweet harmonies and pastry vocals. This album subtitled Lost Advertising & Rare Film Sounds is a gem in that it was saved from the books of history by Jonny Trunk himself. He was given a crate of old reels that contained advertising jingles. Through meticulous work and a great mastering job, these short, snappy tunes take on a new life of their own. When you think of Sammes music, its best to keep people like Love Unlimited Orchestra and surf music circa Hawaii 5-0 in mind. With no attitude and skylarking vocalizing to spare, these guys take on everything the marketing people pushed their way. TUC is a snazzy ad for a 'crispy' wafer. Timex is obviously a medium tempo tune for a watch, while Heineken is a blasting good ad for a 'world famous flavour' beer. Even shampoo Loxene sounds so fresh and exciting in their world. At no extra charge, Trunk included the soundtrack to an independent film soundtrack titled Youth. Jazz oriented, with a big emphasis on easy-listening, lounge side of pop, these tunes are so addictive, youre assured to be singing these before the record is spun for the first time. Fun, joyful and without a care in the world, this band is so damn snazzy they could probably make the Middle East conflict sound like a sandbox fight. I only hope Sammes is enjoying the efforts Jonny Trunk had to go through to release this gem. Satisfaction guaranteed!
2. Touch Three Phill Niblock
Not only are the pieces on this 3 CD set enrapturing, they're also ideal in drilling a near perfect tone into your brain. This is an album that demands absolute concentration and a steady, patient ear. Firmly positioned in the here and now of contemporary music, Niblock's Touch Three is a new paradigm by which future minimal works will be judged.
3. Continuum Georg Graewe / Ernst Reijseger / Gerry Hemingway
Trios music needs to be heard and has to be judged on its own terms. Trio specializes in communication of the highest order. The question whether this is a one-off reunion or whether the trio plan on recording more is a hard one to answer at this point. I can simply point the way to Continuum and tell you to get a hold of this recording quickly before another crucial document in modern music history goes out of print.
4. Pariahs Sing Om Peter Wright
The drones are still here in all their metallic glory. Some are organic, while others feel oddly alien and removed from any real sense or source. When all comes to a close, I tend to sit there with my mouth gaping wide open, and think of Casey Kasem's words of wisdom, who once said (off the record though the tape luckily enough ended up being published) "is this fucking ponderous man... ponderous, fucking ponderous!"
5. New York in the 1960s John Cale
For most people, hearing the name John Cale will automatically bring about visions of Velvet Underground. What people miss out though is a whole period of exploratory music before the Velvets and after theyd disbanded. This gorgeously packaged 3 CD box set (housed in a wooden box) features Cales perhaps three most important pieces, all date from between 1965 and 1969. All culled from Tony Conrads private collection that was quickly gathering dust; it represents an important facet of musical history that has been left by the wayside for too long. The album sees the first complete gathering of Cales most crucial work in one place. Brilliant and influential as hell!
6. Northern Taylor Deupree
King of microtones, Deupree now shifts away from the static and the quiet glitching and moves into a more 'organic' territory. This is a creaseless creation, full of wonder and surprises everywhere you turn. Microtonal, ambient and revelatory to the core, Northern is very much a record for all seasons and places. Deupree has again proven himself to be the master of introspective music.
7. Dialogue Hisato Higuchi
As with the previous two releases, the proceedings are kept to a bare 36 minute length. This is something that highly works in his favour. Higuchi's pacing is morosely slow. When he picks at the strings of his guitar, you feel he's straining hard to figure out his own way. It's improvisation by force of nature. The whispers he exhales are quiet and heavily restrained. Wonderful landscapes are crafted from thin air and everything happens as if by magic. Rarely do you hear someone with this much unspoken power in their instrument as you do here. Intimate playing with an abundant degree of reserve, this is guitar music for those with adversity to the guitar.
8. To Play Derek Bailey
When Derek Bailey passed away late last year, little did the world know there was a solo session of material waiting to see the light of day. This isn't some sort of mood-setting exercise but a firmly delivered philosophy of life life of a troubadour, life of an improviser in the truest sense of that word. I love to pick out single lines of melodic fervor from underneath the improvisational mayhem Bailey serves up. If only to remind us that Bailey possessed a sense of the melodic in his head, even if his main love was pure improv. Playing dipped in blues, dripping with irony, drenched with a proud walk of a man whose mission on earth was accomplished.
9. Yellow Fever! Senor Coconut And His Orchestra
After moving down to Chile a few years back, Uwe Schmidt got drunk on influences all around him. Following his tribute to Kraftwerk, Senor Coconut (aka Atom TM, real name Uwe Schmidt) makes a striking comeback with his tribute to the music of Yellow Magic Orchestra. It may sound funny if I mention this 20 track CD is actually meringuenized versions of YMO's music (along with a good number of originals). What's funnier is that all three original YMO members come along for the cookie ride and make cameo appearances on various tracks. Even if the album does feature guest appearances by Schneider TM, Towa Tei, Mouse on Mars and Burnt Friedman, this is a fairly standard affair. Meringue meets some acid jazz meets click'n'tick electronics meets sexy mambo, all swirling to a hot Latin vibe. I'm breaking out in a cold sweat already!
10. Egg and Two Books Volcano The Bear
British quartet of 'cooks' strike out with a live recording from this June performance. Weirdly appealing to every sense you possess. From any perspective imaginable, these guys tend to amaze more and more with each release. Brilliance without a net!
11. Plays Secret Mommy
Vancouver native Andy Dixon who is the brain behind Secret Mommy knows a thing or two about non-conformity. He documented the sound of the tropics on Hawaii 5.0. Then, with Very Rec, he made a stab to comment on recreational areas in his neighborhood. This time around, Andy's focus is to concentrate on his talent as a songwriter and storyteller. In bringing lots of his friends together into the studio, Andy had just one stipulation which was that no instrument could be electrified. Idea was to create the most "anti-electronic electronic album" ever, which was full of real, homey sounds. If only all albums were this fucked-up, Id be swimming in a cesspool of honey.
12. Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent: Two Huge Fovea Hex
Atmosphere on this release is icy cool. Fovea Hex is deep into mood that resembles arctic ice caps, small villages in northern parts of Norway and the sounds of morning snow beneath ones feet. Stunning choral of four vocalists (this time around augmented by Sarah McQuaid) is perfectly realized. "Huge (The Joy of Trouble)" features the four women in perfect choral harmony, while the softest sound touches makes up their bed. Release comes in a gorgeous paperbound packaging, which makes the listening experience even more awesome. Nothing short of perfection on this EP. One can only wait with anticipation for the third installment to see what worlds this ensemble can uncover next.
13. The Roots of the Moment Pauline Oliveros
Not to be confused with the book of the same name, the latest release from Pauline Oliveros is actually a re-issue of her 1987 piece. Featuring a single instrument accordion, which is played in just intonation in an interactive electronic environment created by Peter Ward the piece is a solitary hour long drone. In the best tradition of minimal gurus Terry Riley or say La Monte Young, Pauline takes it upon herself to show off her chosen instrument from every angle possible. Though in parts it does in fact sound like an actual accordion full of zesty waning beauty most of the time, her instrument actually resembles other instruments. As Joe McPhee so fittingly points out in his linear notes, "For Pauline Oliveros, like Sun Ra, Space is the place". Essential listening for aliens and humans alike.
14. Ray Warleigh's First Album Ray Warleigh
The same saxophonist who was featured on Leaving Las Vegas soundtrack, the same one who has worked with giants such as Phil Woods, Ronnie Scott, Jack Bruce, Tuby Hayes had to have a start somewhere. That place was First Album. The man in question is Australian born saxophonist and flautist Ray Warleigh. Back in 1969, Scott Walker (of the Walker Brothers though that's a thing of the long, gone past now) produced this little gem with much love and care. This is a bachelor pad classic through and through. The sweet tones of his alto are so mesmerizing and sexy, you can't help but start ripping the clothes off your loved one.
1. From the Closet to the Charts: Queer Noises 1961 1978 Various Artists
Gay music has had one sole disadvantage over the decades. First and foremost, the music was judged by gender alone, instead of talent or any musical factor. This is perhaps the first compilation that I can think of that makes an obvious attempt to attack the lack of gay-music exposure from the popular music perspective. Compiled by Jon Savage and focusing on the 17 year span between 1961 and 1978, it meanders its way through kitsch, psychedelia, pop, rock, country, blues and oh my gosh, even disco. Beyond camp, beyond category, though stubbornly focused on gender politics, this album gives the first all around, complete picture of gay-music through the popular music lens.
2. Radio Algeria Various Artists
This isn't the first time Sublime Frequencies have practiced a form of plunderphonics. How else would you call someone going into a country, tuning into FM or AM radio waves and indiscriminately taping whatever music they could grab and then releasing the music without any credits (which begs the question, are any royalties paid along the way?). Though much could be argued in favour of looser editing (the pieces are so tightly edited at times, it's enough to make your head spin) or perhaps devoting a single CD to a single musical style, Radio Algeria still wins an uphill battle by the sheer instance of exposure to music so rarely heard in the western world.
3. Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967 1974 Various Artists
Back in the day, Toronto was a crucial meeting point for all sorts of Jamaican musicians. Though the flight may have been 8 hours back in the 60's, while today the distance between Toronto and Kingston has narrowed down to 3 hours, Toronto has forever had a close affinity with Jamaica. Everyone from Jackie Mittoo, Jo-Jo and the Fugitives, Lloyd Delpratt, The Cougars, Wayne McGhie and Eddie Spencer make an appearance. Some of you may still have the original 45s collecting dust in your basement. It's all sweet. It's all good. Most importantly, the soul and heart of this music stood the test of time. I say amen to the people who dug up these rare gems and brought us the real deal!
4. Musics in the Margin Various Artists
As the name implies, Musics in the Margin is a compilation highlighting performers and songs left by the wayside of the music trade. For one reason or another low pressing numbers, non-existent marketing, schizophrenia these people never made it out of the doldrums and were simply left for dead. Wesley Willis singing "suck on Kenny's cock" and "my Daddy smokes doobie" on "Selling a CD" is truly a demented vision, if I'd ever heard one. André Robillard's "Batterie" is an awkward glimpse of a percussive genius in the making. A couple of untitled pieces (one being a solo violin and one a guitar piece) from Martha Grunenwaldt make for a nice break from the seriousness. My vote for the stand-out track goes to Dr. Konstantin Raudive from Latvia who provided "Radio Stimme + Microphone Stimme". He committed the last ten years of his life to Electronic Voice Phenomenon and this experiment claims to have captured voices of the dead. Truly creepy stuff indeed and only makes me wish someone will put out a greater chunk of this stuff in the future. All around, this is music that will hopefully gain more recognition and move towards the centre as time goes by.
5. Brazilian Beat Brooklyn Various Artists
Brazilian Beat is a theme club night started by DJ Sean Marquand at Black Betty back in June 2001. The main reason for its existence was to share the music he bought during his two year visit to Salvador, Bahia. While much of the music presented on this compilation showcases the best Brazilian rhythms played at the club over the last five years, the beat is sweet and the musical selection ripe. Sweetness and pure gold through and through. Now, if we could only see original vinyl from this compilation reissued in some format any time soon!
6. Sunday Afternoon at Dingwalls Various Artists
I remember watching live shows by Galliano and Incognito during the late 80's / early 90's. Their energy was nothing short of bombastic. Their grooves were sumptuous and their rhyming patters and soul were well, simply delicious. To celebrate the ever influential "Talkin Loud and Saying Something" or just "Dingwalls" night put together in Camden 20 years ago, Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge have compiled this tasty 2 CD set. Steeped in grooves that influenced the whole Talkin Loud movement, the compilation doesn't have a single weak point. Everyone from Tribe Called Quest to Roy Ayers, Janet Lawson, Dom um Romao and Bobby Montez, Pharoah Sanders and Michel Legrand make an appearance on this sweat-inducing set. Brilliant phrasing, wonderful execution and deep rhythms to boot. All of this begs the question is there a Talkin Loud revival in the works?
7. Territorium Richard Garet / Dale Lloyd / Jos Smolders / Ubeboet
Non Visual Objects is a label that has been making its mark on the ultra-minimal scene for nearly a year now. Releasing ultra limited editions (Richard Chartier, Heribert Friedl, Steve Roden, Roel Meelkop); the releases always come packaged in gorgeous paper-bound sleeves. This time around on Territorium, NVO label gives us morsel-sized portions of sounds from four crucial minimal purveyors. These are sounds that are extra-terrestrial. From beginning to end, Territorium is another strong addition to NVO's already stimulating catalogue.
8. I am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey Various Artists
Guitarist John Fahey somehow managed to keep his music just under the radar screens of the unsuspecting public. Too bluesy to be a rock musician and too brave to be considered anything else, he kept pushing his distinct musical styling until his death in 2001. Set up during the mid 90's, his Revenant imprint preserved a slew of crucial, long-forgotten and undocumented blues (along with improvised and new music). While tribute albums are key ways of saying goodbye to someone who was a musical comrade, they can also hold an uneven, mixed bag of tricks up their sleeves. Luckily, the most recent John Fahey tribute certainly does hold a wide variety of genres up its sleeve. Other than prevalent finger-picking throughout the disc (Fahey was surely a heavy finger-picker), there is a ton of surprising turns and twists. Devandra Banhart, Howe Gelb, Pelt, M. Ward, Sufjan Stevens, Lee Ronaldo and many others serve up Faheys music like youve never heard it before. The album maybe a mixed bag, but at every step of the way, it gives us the many different facets of the legend and the man that was John Fahey.