Sure, you know about The Big One. It’s been almost coming, then shelved, then coming in dribs and drabs, then promised, then shelved, then released in part, then supposed to be in whole, then shelved again, and now, finally, decades after it was promised, the Beach Boys’ original Smile sessions are around. And they’re hogging the spotlight. So we decided to shine some of it on these other fine items.
Dry and deranged, like tripping in the desert in the early '70s, when these German minimalist rockers and their free-associating Japanese frontman laid down four LP sides worth of whatever they felt like coming up with. Harsh, harrowing, cockeyed-cosmic, and unerringly on time thanks to super-drummer Jaki Liebezeit, their 1971 double-album holds up beautifully, especially paired with some dust-kicking '72 live jams.
We're cheating a bit on this one, since it's not technically a reissue, but a collection of long-unreleased material. But it's no matter. You like details? Feast your ears on these three German and Swedish concerts from what may be the greatest of all jazz quintets at its peak and you'll be spotting them for years to come. Start with Herbie Hancock's Monk-gone-glissando runs up the middle of "Masqualero." Or maybe Tony Williams dropping climactic bombs on "Footprints" like he was picking up a newspaper. Or just bask in how utterly rangy this music is, and how everything meshes completely.
Running samplers through their guitars and embracing every sonic distending device available to them, this mid-'90s British indie band wanted to break into the future, and like the ravers they shared their time and tech with, they did much to blueprint it. The Five EPs originated as a fan's CD-R, and hearing them back-to-back — from the slow-turning epic "From the Devil to the Deep Blue Sky" to the straightforward indie-pop of "The Last Word" to the bashing-pop "It's a Kid's World" — is a tour through a surprisingly cohesive time, and band, made up of seemingly opposite musical impulses.
New Order weren't the only folks putting out 12-inches on the label their sales more or less financed. Factory Dance collects two-and-a-half hours' worth of rarities by cult faves such as the Durutti Column and Section 25. Sometimes it got weirdly funky, such as on the huffing-sax-a-thon "Puppeteer" by Blurt, or the Royal Dirt Family and the Poor's tracks. Electronics had their say (the "New York Mix" of Quando Quango's "Atom Rock"), of course. But everything seems up for grabs.
Sure, you know about The Big One. It's been almost coming, then shelved, then coming in dribs and drabs, then promised, then shelved, then released in part, then supposed to be in whole, then shelved again, and now, finally, decades after it was promised, the Beach Boys' original Smile sessions are around. And they're hogging the spotlight. So we decided to shine some of it on these other fine items.
Taken under the wing of '80s Chicago DJ legend Ron Hardy at age 13, Gene Hunt was playing Hardy's club, the Music Box, soon after. That's how he acquired a large cache of unreleased reel-to-reel masters from a wide range of Chicago house producers, a dozen of them compiled here. Chicago Dance Tracks is early house at its most exploratory, be it a blend of tracks by Larry Heard and Marshall Jefferson ("You're Mine vs. Destination [Zernell Gillie's Rework]") or Mike Dunn's drum-machine workout "Gherkin Aftermath 909" — not to mention Hunt's remix of Fingers Inc.'s (a.k.a. The It) completely nutso "Donnie."
"Most albums I buy have four out of 10 good songs," Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1978. "And this one, I think, has more than thatand perhaps the reason why this album is good is that we did 42 songs." Turns out a lot of them still have punch: Not only does '78's Some Girls still have the last extended true Stones snarl of their career, the 12 bonus tracks (abetted by new overdubs) indicate they could have done a straight blues album and it would have been their best since Exile on Main St., too.
Opening with the charging "Licensed to Confuse" and "Careful," Sebadoh's third album for Sub Pop, 1994's Bakesale, was the band's hardest-riffing. "I was just coming up with them," Lou Barlow told eMusic this year. Enough to fill another disc of muddy-sounding gems, but the real action was and is on the main item. Barlow and Jason Loewenstein, along with their pot-holding drummer friend Bob Fay, were full of piss and melancholy, and so, so many tunes.
Post-punk pioneer Richard H. Kirk understood innately how to make computer sounds dance in their own way. As Sweet Exorcist, Kirk and partner Richard Barrett (aka DJ Parrot) took the warm, rounded, still-alien bleep and bass sound that would define early Warp Records in many directions without straying all that far from its innately limited core. RetroActivity collects everything the duo did together for the label in one handy package, and all together, it's still got plenty of ballast — still seems future-forward even after 20 years.
Ninety-nine agreeable minutes of '70s Afrobeat and highlife from a Ghana guitarist-bandleader who liked to sink a groove deep into the ground. Nowhere does he do so more than on the 1975 "Aba Yaa," 15 minutes of deeply meditative and utterly alive slow-mo ass-shake that never, ever quits: endless-circular shaken and struck percussion, sashaying horns (the second solo is way better than the first), and an implacable bass pattern that adds a jump to any step it intercepts.
If all Detroit techno godhead Carl Craig had utilized Planet E for were his own productions and remixes as Paperclip People, 69, Innerzone Orchestra, and C2, a label retrospective would be a shoo-in for this list. 20 Fucking Years is so wall-to-wall it can even leave out Craig's (and maybe dance music's) greatest record, Paperclip People's "Throw." But Craig's got great ears as well as ideas, and cuts from underground heroes like Moodymann, Martin Buttrich, Recloose, and Kenny Larkin make We Ain't Dead Yet that much more alive.