2015 Music in Review

A group of music friends and I put out top releases of the year each year-end.  I put up my picks from last year, instead of through email format, here on my blog with media attached (unlike the others, who just had text; one had a podcast)!  This year was a bit different as my favorite finds were not necessarily new releases.  Here are my picks of favorite new music from this last year.

Local Musicians

As always, I start off with local musicians like myself; we all had a great year and more people should be talking about the great scene we have in the Denver/Boulder area!

Acidbat.  The Magician.

There aren’t many artists in the area focusing on acid music, but there is one band I can always count on for straight up acid, and that is Acidbat.  I had the opportunity to play a gig with him this year as well.  This album is on the Cyberdyne label on limited cassette format limited to 15 (there are a few left, grab the media while you can!).  http://acidbat.bandcamp.com.  This album is a wonderful acid excursion through various techno styles.  World-class acid from a local artist!  Awesome!

Acidbat - The Magician

Symbols + Translations

Not quite local, this Austin Texas resident co-manages the Obsolete Future record label which has strong local ties.  This release is their first foray into acid music and it is a great one!  Many moods and melodies tag along with the consistent acid lines weaving throughout the mix.  My personal favorite is “How long is the coast of Britian” which starts off the b-side of this cassette release.  Limited edition to 100 on cassette, still available if you’re fast.

Ambit ^~-

This is a great local band who I hope to see much more out of them in the future!  They did a lathe cut 7″ single and have this album available for free digitally on band camp!  Cheers!  Melodies and vocals are addictive, great tracks!

Non-local musicians

Now onto the other non-local artists and bands that I picked up in 2015!

MAKiNA GiRGiR – Torment

Coming out of France, on La Forme Lente Records out of Belgium, this amazing cold wave album came out in 2013 but I have searched for the limited edition silkscreened cover to no success; so I purchased this digital only (sad, but true) in 2015.  This album is amazing; for any fan of synth-based alternative, cold wave, dark wave, new wave, etc.  Cold, female vocals; stunning lead synth lines, and groovy tracks all the way through!

Solvent – C for Comfort

Solvent goes way back into the last 90s with his label Suction Records.  Jason Amm is a purveyor of synth leads and melodies.  This is his own creation with tribute to the classic composers of the new wave synth gods — Depeche Mode, Human League, Visage, Ultravox, etc.  This 6-track cassette release is rock solid synth instrumentals all the way through.  So happy to see Suction Records back in business, releasing very strong releases!  Released in 2014, I rediscovered this label and placed an order for many awesome releases in early 2015!

Mark Van Hoen – The Worcester Tapes 1983 – 1987

I’m a huge Mark Van Hoen fan, synth/sampler aficionado!  In case you are having problems recognizing the name, think Seefeel, Scala, Locust among other projects.  The Tapeworm presents… put together his original demo tape from early works from the artist. Beautiful piano and reverb dosed synth pads on this cassette-only release of 150.  Appreciate The Tapeworm going out of their way and putting this out there!  Beautiful Eno-esque ambient music!

Mark Van Hoen demo

Mark McGuire – Beyond Belief

Mark McGuire has had a big year; starting a family and continuing to press new age style music.  Definitely different than his prior band Emeralds, this contains beats, guitar and even some vocals.  Still, wonderfully looped melodies as only Mark McGuire can do.  This double orange swirl colored vinyl came with a bonus cassette release of remixes and a poster.  Beautiful release!

New Order – Western Works Demos

Limited edition of 50, this grey swirl vinyl was released containing the Sheffield based Western Works Studio demo masters of New Order’s first tracks after the death of Ian Curtis.  6 tracks on this one, recorded on July 9, 1980.  The demos are what you would think they would sound like–Joy Division still in shock from the loss of their front man…with all the emotion and rawness that would bring to the sessions.   Dreams Never End (Mix #1 and #2), Homage, Ceremony, Truth and Are You Ready?  All very different versions from other recordings.  This is an amazing find!

New Order - Western Works Demos

Various – Something Cold

With my discovery of Suction Records releasing material again, I also discovered they are also distributing likeminded music.  This album is one I purchased in my order with Suction in 2015.  This is great coldwave tunes; every track is awesome!  Several dance floor tracks too…well worth a listen!  Vinyl is sold out, but I suspect you can find copies around…

Miss Kittin & The Hacker – Lost Tracks Vol. 1

Dark Entries Records out of San Francisco is on fire; releasing great gems old and new.  This is true to the coldwave/demos I have spoken about in the last few highlighted releases, the original demo from 97-99 from this dynamic duo!  Leather Forever is a club classic!  Electro and cold wave!  Think Drexciya or Dopplereffekt style electro!

http://www.darkentriesrecords.com/store/dark-entries/miss-kittin-the-hacker-lost-tracks-vol-1-ep/#

Luke Vibert – Halloween Part 1

Looking to get part 2, this is a classic acid record like only Luke Vibert can put together.  Halloween is a spooky acid anthem that would rock any dance floor.  Jack U Whole is classic Chicago style acid house.

Acid Pauli & Nancy – iBang

Had this as a favorite like on Soundcloud for a while, but Katermukke decided to produce 4x 12″ singles with their favorite tracks, one of which is my favorite track from the label. I also like Animal Trainer and the other Acid Pauli tracks too.  This is a fun dance floor remake using the classic Nancy Sinatra vocals.

Acid Pauli iBang

AtomTM – Riding The Void EP

These took a while to get; I’m assuming due to excessively long pressing times for vinyl, but it was worth the wait.  Atom TM remixes of Riding the Void from the HD album.  I still haven’t gotten the HD video, I can’t seem to make myself purchase a low-fi DVD on an album called HD.  Bluray only Uwe, that is the only acceptable format other than perhaps 16mm.  These are wonderfully produced dance tunes.

Mato – All About That Bass

Believe it or not this was the first version of this track that I heard.  I bought it on a whim because of the title; but this is a wonderful 7″ Reggae plate remaking of the classic pop song. All the right junk in all the right places…

Leon Switch featuring Alys Be – Make Your Move

Been listening to a lot of bass music from the UK, sub genres of dub step called Dungeon / 140.  Slow, heavy bass dub.  This track I heard on a London radio show by a guest mix from Leon Switch, who plays dub plates of his own works.  Love the pop vocals on this cool dub / bass track.  Finally released in December with a bunch of remixes by another artist Markee Ledge, but the original Leon Switch mix is the best.  Digging other similar modern “pop” tracks in this style.

Flexi Picture Records

Hasenbart Zeotrope Flexi-disc

As many of you know, I’m a huge flexi record collector.  This I found by Hasenbart Records out of Germany, simply a beautiful Christmas picture record that is lathe cut.  Get one while you can, good luck!

Hasenbart Zoetrope Flexi

Hasenbart Flexi Record

Acidbat – Autumn Mourning

Extremely limited edition of hand made double-sided flexis from a 1940s lathe.  Wonderful acid tracks by Denver’s premiere acid scout!  Available for free in digital download, check out Autumn Mourning now!

The Beatles – All You Need Is Love

This is a Polish bootleg flexi-record postcard from the 70’s.  The premise is they would take postcards and press music on them and distribute them throughout Poland where there wasn’t proper music distribution.  I have six different, equally cool (by the same artist) postcards with this same song.

 

Beatles - All you need is love

 

Digitizing Records

I purchased a Tascam handheld recorder about a month ago so I can record my live sets, environmental recordings, and for digitizing records for listening to in the car.  The model is DR-40e.  The E is the “enhanced” processor feature according to the Guitar Center rep I talked to on the phone; although there is no real documentation of what this really benefits me anywhere on the net that I can find, and the rep was clueless.  It was a good deal, and it is a stellar recorder so far from my limited usage of it.  Good battery life so far, although I bought the power supply for it to save on batteries!

The Tascam DR-40e is my new recorder. So far I really like it; I've recorded records, a couple of live sets, and some environmental sounds with the built in microphones. Sound great!

The Tascam DR-40e is my new recorder. So far I really like it; I’ve recorded 25 records, a couple of live sets, and some environmental sounds with the built in microphones. Sounds great!

I pulled a random assortment of new and old records and have been listening to them in their entirety while recording them.  This has been a really fun process.  My card had accumulated 25 records so I figured it was time to dump the WAV files onto my computer and process them for digital listening.

Collage of the records I digitized this round.

Collage of the records I digitized this September and October.

Here is my workflow that so far is working pretty well…

  1. Record the vinyl onto the Tascam DR-40E recorder
  2. Pull the WAV files over to my computer
  3. In Sony’s Sound Forge software, load the file and normalize it once (to peak value, so no compression occurs) to get good levels.  I go in and mark the beginning and end of each track; delete the unwanted sections
  4. In Sound Forge, once the tracks’ beginning and ending points are marked, I simply double click inside of that region and it is selected.  I then <CTRL><V> (cut) and <CTRL><E> (paste to new).
  5. Now that I have the track isolated, a scan it for any pops or clicks and take care of those if necessary.
  6. I then normalize to peak values again.  This will give me the hottest possible sound.
  7. I save in a folder with a standard filename.  The folder name is Artist – Title – Catalog Number – Year.  The filename is Track Number – Song Title.  These go in a wavs subfolder.  I get the proper filenames and catalog numbers and images from Discogs.com.
  8. I delete the original sound file and go to the next one.
  9. Once I have all the albums edited, I can go in and create MP3s for lossy listening; I typically use MP3s for portable devices to save space and given there is a significant amount of ambient noise in “portal environments”, so lossy isn’t that big of deal.
  10. I drag the WAV files into CD-EX, a great ripping and encoding software using the LAME encoder.  Old school but it works great.
  11. I then drag the MP3s into MP3Tag, I like this program for consistently tagging MP3s.  I select the entire album, use the auto-convert feature to snag the track number and song title, I add the Artist, Album and Year manually (using copy/paste form Discogs if there are special characters).  I then drag the cover art into the program and save the files.
  12. I end up with lossless WAV files (someday I may convert to FLAC, but right now I don’t care about space for lossless) and MP3 files with consistent tagging.

All of this does take a while, of course the recording of the records is real-time; and then I processed 25 records (mostly EPs) in about 3 hours.  Not too bad.  Now that I have the Tascam DR-40e figured out and a process refined, I’m going to pick some of my favorite records that I have never seen digitized files and continue the process!

Here is the first round of 25 records using this new workflow…

Here is the list of records that I digitized. Gonna start listening to them in the car tomorrow!

2014 Favorite Records & Tunes

A the year comes to a close, there is a group of likeminded music enthusiasts that puts together their favs for the year.  This year is no different–although like always I tend to stretch the rules and this year is no different! 🙂  Some of these releases are vinyl re-releases that came out long ago; and some of these releases are not from 2014 but I learned about them and picked them up in 2014.  Finally, some of these releases are not albums but rather singles–likely found on Soundcloud.

Would love to hear your opinions and comment on your favorites of the year; or perhaps give me some tips on releases I should have heard but didn’t!

First, some local artists…

Munly & The Lee Lewis Harlots (Pesanta Urfolk 032-1)

Bummed that I didn’t get the colored vinyl version (I even pre-ordered), it would be amazing with the gatefold artwork of this double vinyl release.  Heavy 200g vinyls to boot!  This is classic Munly, not really country but definitely a rural vibe.  Munly’s unique vocals (sometimes high, sometimes low) and various stringed instruments in the composition give this record a very unique feel.

Reighnbeau x Sister Grotto – Highways

Remix by New Mexico artist Reighnbeau, this is a classic shoegaze pop track featuring Denver’s Sister Grotto.  I first saw Sister Grotto open for Mark McGuire earlier in the year and really enjoyed her ambient/melancholy set.  Soon thereafter she released this track and I have been enjoying it on my commute for the rest of the year!  Definitely worth checking out!

Obsolete Future’s House of Mutes Vol.1

Coming from around the world, Denver/Austin based Obsolete Future describes this compilation of electronic music / techno tunes precisely.  Beautiful artwork on this cassette release (think ANALOG) and overall great presentation of local and global artists.  In the electronic high rotation bin for sure!  A must listen!

Carpe Sonum’s Veni Vidi Audivi

This was just released at the end of the year and already is in high rotation.  For those unfamiliar with this label, it is a tribute label to the late Pete Namlook (think FAX – the pioneering electronic music label out of Germany).  This is an excellent lineup of ambient artists and look forward to what 2015 has to bring from this label!

SYM TRN

Symbols & Translations?  This is banned media from some Austin freak.  This track is solid techno and makes you yearn for the next release.  I happened to find a bootleg of the upcoming Austin show and that track is amazing.  Clubs, beware!

 Now some not so local artists…

Trentemøller – Lost

I’m a big fan of Trentemøller; his latest couple of albums have been more listening albums than his earlier dancefloor style.  This album is great; excellent female vocals throughout; some really mellow tracks while others are seriously rockin’.  Several tracks remind me of older The Cure, especially in the guitars!  Got to see him on this tour at the Gothic and was a stellar show!  Full band…he’s a very talented individual!

Hank III – Long Gone Daddy

This is a great record of probably mixed timeframe of tracks on Curb Records.  Hank III has departed ways with Curb (seems pretty nasty relationship) but they must have a wonderful archive of his stuff.  I liked this better than his Brothers of 4×4 and punk albums he came out in 2014 as well.  Classic country, as only Hank 3 can pull off!


Terranova – Hotel Amour (Kompakt)

I’ve been a big fan of this German producer and this album took me by surprise.  Vocal electronic tech house music, but a little more soulful than I typically listen to.  The album has grown on me and I listen to it often.  I recommend all his releases!

Kid Koala – 12 Bit Blues (Ninja Tune)

Ok, the gimmick lured me into this album, but after the first listen I loved it.  Kid Koala mashes up old blues tunes as only he can.  The best part, though, is on the CD there is a small turntable you put together (cardboard) with a flexi record you can listen to!  Now this I couldn’t turn down.

 

Bonobo – Cirrus (Ninja Tune)

What a cool picture disk.  This is a zeotrope with a cardboard zoetrope viewer.  The limited picture disk was made available only to fans with a voucher (from the fan club I think).  The track is really nice, and the picture disk and its Zoetrope video is incredible.  Super sweet!

 Blawan – His He She & She EP (Hinge Finger)

Love this straight up techno track.  Why they hide bodies under my garage?  Don’t know, but it definitely inspired an amazing track.  The other 3 tracks on the EP are killer tracks too.  Mostly dancefloor techno tracks, one is an amazing “anxiety” track ala Demdike Stares.  Highly recommended!  Oh, and the video is amazing; again Zoetrope!  Took 2 years to track this bad boy down; but acquired the single in 2014 so it made the list!

Plastikman – EX (Novamute)

Richie Hawtin was commissioned to perform at the Guggenheim Museum and this is the set he put together for it.  Classic Plastikman minimal acid techno, I really like the album.  Lots of work on the EFX and straight up 303 and beats like only Richie can pull off!

Luke Vibert – Ridmik (Hypercolor)

Luke Vibert is one of the kings of acid music, and this is a great expedition down that classic acid sound like no one but Luke can do.  FUNKY beats and soulful techno acid.  Super sweet!

 

Bjork – Bastards (One Little Indian)

This was a record store day special from several years ago, Angelos had it for 1/2 price. Great album full of limited edition remixes from the album Crystalline.  Bjork remixes are typically more fun and I like them better than album versions.  Bjork was ahead of the game (image that) creating an interactive iPad app for this album.  For fans of Bjork; even includes a Daniel Bell remix, who passed this year; his Dancer In the Dark soundtrack was amazing!

Kline Coma Xero (Medical Records)

Tony Williams I first heard on Soundcloud, the Left Behind track.  I’ve been following him since.  This is his first album and it is absolutely classic EBM.  Very talented, can’t wait for future releases from him!

 

Happy New Year S/T

I bought this on a whim; the discogs seller had it cheap and it was free shipping; sometimes you have to take a chance to get something new.  This would fit perfectly at The Road House opening for Julee Cruise!  Sometimes you get lucky.  Also on pretty white vinyl!

 And finally some classic reissues on vinyl…

  • Lassigue Bendthaus – Atom Heart’s first project, essential EBM, an absolute classic!  Comes with a 12″ and 7″.
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees – Songs from the Void.  The earliest Siouxsie recordings available, on incredible orange marbled vinyl (my favorite color and rare color for vinyl).  Amazing bootleg!
  • Psyche – Re-membering Dwayne.  Tribute album of Skinny Puppy band member Dwayne Goettel.  He was in Psyche and crushed the band to join up as a permanent member of Skinny Puppy until his overdose prior to The Process album.  I am a big fan of Psyche after Dwayne left; and this album doesn’t disappoint; much more aggro–all the stuff Dwayne recorded with the band including his diary/notebook as an insert!
  • Skinny Puppy – The Greater Wrong of the Right.  Classic re-issue of this album when they started their comeback in my opinion.  Only available on DVD/CD combo (concert) and Metropolis released this super packaging gatefold release.  Classic “new” album in the Skinny Puppy catalog.
  • Xymox – Subsequent Pleasures.  This album has been impossible to find over the years, and recently repressed in high quality vinyl with a remaster.  This is the first Xymox single before they signed to 4AD Records as Clan of Xymox.  If you like early Clan of Xymox, this is a must!

Singles – Soundcloud playlists

Finally, I have been finding a bunch of music on Soundcloud.  As you probably know, you have to dig to find gems; and many times you come up empty handed; but as prospecting for gems in the real world; when you hit a pocket you are treated with many incredible finds.  That’s Soundcloud for me.  I have been interested in 140/Dungeon style of Dubstep…very slow funky beats with cinematic backdrops and just amazing bass.  Check out some of these tracks…

 

New Multicast / Obliq music on Pete Namlook tribute album!

*NEW* Multicast tracks (under the Mothership and Obliq Recordings side projects guises Replicast, Ted Sturgeon and Freq Modif) are featured on the late Pete Namlook tribute Die Welt ist Klang on Carpe Sonum Records!  We are honored to be a part of this tribute to one of the pioneers of electronic music along with 30+ other great artists!

Here are the individual tracks:

Ted Sturgeon – Sea Foam Green

Freq Modif – Spy Hunter

Replicast (Multicast) – Gurrr

Multicast – Lowrider in Cairo

All About Art – Dave Alexander in Perry Park Sentinel Newletter

Suzanne Jenne was kind enough to interview and post this article in our local monthly newsletter, the Perry Park Sentinel.  She makes it sound like I’m doing this all the time; I wish I could be that busy with music!  LOL!  For those that wanted to read the article, here it is.  Thanks to Suzanne and the folks at the Sentinel for their support!!! –dave

All About Art-March 2012

Happy New Year to all and by the time you read this, Chinese New Year celebration will have come and gone so a belated Gung Hey Fat Choy to you!

After being absent for several months, I’m taking up the pen again and have decided to feature local artists in this year’s “ All About Art”  segment so that you may learn more about the genius that surrounds us here in Perry Park.

Dave Alexander

This month’s article focuses on Dave Alexander who is a fascinating electronics wizard, computer programming expert, musician and producer.  One of Larkspur’s best kept secrets, Dave is known internationally in the electronic music world in places such as England, Japan and especially Germany.  His projects and interests are diverse and eclectic. I think you’ll see why.

Dave began his college study in engineering, but, knew early on that computer device design wasn’t for him.  He segued into business management and realized that human interaction was an important component to his happiness.  Cycle forward a few years and Dave found his forte in consulting in the PeopleSoft software arena.  Somewhere along the way Dave was a DJ at KUCB 1190 AM and resident at several clubs in Boulder 4-5 nights a week, where he met his wife Erin, the business manager at the station.  A few years later and Dave finds his career has taken him to Children’s Hospital in Denver as a PeopleSoft applications consultant.  Mix the passion for music with a real gift for “things technical”, add a flair for design and marketing and you are looking at Dave Alexander!

Dave has developed a clever process for making music.  He tends to look at his music work in terms of “projects”.  He defines a “project” as a “stream of consciousness”: a certain type of sound, the perfect sound.  Dave is actually a member of 5 different collaborations or “projects” as he calls them.  “Obliq Recordings”, “Multicast”, “Replicast”, “Freq Modif” and “Ted Sturgeon” are all  joint partnerships with other musicians in, distinctly different music styles.  Equuicast is a collaboration of long time Denver pioneering electronic bands Equulei and Multicast.

While he plays “keyboards and technology” he is largely responsible for producing recordings on CDs and, yes, records.  He started in the ‘90s, working with his college roommate, then moved on to evolve this project-oriented style of production.  That’s how ”Freq Modif” a funky electronic style (check out the single inspired by our community, “Larkspur”), started out. The “Multicast” project is a bit more “down tempo”.  “Replicast” has more jazz influence.  “Ted Sturgeon” yet, another project, is decidedly acoustic. .  At any given time he is running 5 or 6 different music production projects…this is one VERY busy guy.

Dave and Erin have 2 children, Hunter (11) and Daphne (7), and he works full time so has limited hours to make music.  When he collaborates with the various project musicians, he tends to set up a play “date” and then they all jam for 4 to 6 hours straight.  Next he goes back and edits that content down to 1 hour highlights of the session.  Then the fun begins as he resamples or redoes tracks, and then produces them, primarily as records.  He’s intrigued by the mystique of records.  Besides collecting historical records, he focuses his spare time innovating in the processes of record production, packaging and distribution.

The challenge for an artist as busy as Dave is that he continually has to manage his time by asking himself, “what do I want to do today? do I want to play music, or edit and produce it?”

His love for technology has driven him to build his own studio, an impressive enclave full of analog and digital production equipment.  He used to begin his search at 5:00 am each morning scouring newspaper ads for used synthesizers to add to his extensive collection.  Thank God the internet came along and made that job easier!  His favorite medium for electronic expression is analog, which produces “big, thick, fat sound”.  Dave feels there is a “warmness” to analog sound that digitally produced sound just doesn’t have, but enjoys working digitally as well for his ability to manipulate the output.  “It’s like working with puzzles” Dave says.

Dave recently did a 6 channel surround sound engineering project for “First Friday” on Santa Fe Ave in Denver and another on Platte, the art event where galleries open their doors for the first Friday evening of the month.  Another recent project is with the Aurora History Museum and Regis University Department of War History honoring the heroes of our wars!  Dave is also working on a project to collaborate with Denver International Airport for “Everything Art”.  The annual CMKY Festival in April of 2012 in Boulder is also on Dave’s radar screen. The festival brings in electronic musicians from all over the world.  Laurie Anderson, the renowned performance artist is a headliner at the event, so Dave will be in esteemed company!

Dave has an interesting point of view relative to making, producing and listening to music.  He believes the next few years should prove an interesting passage for those who get their music through the internet and for those who make music.  All of his music is available for free download at his website!  While we live in challenging economic times, it’s an incredible time to be a musician, an artist or a writer with the changes in technology and platforms available to us.  It’s exciting to see the wave of innovation that is occurring again. Dave is a great example of a musician who’s determined to collaborate on music-making, but also passionate about producing and distributing his music without the help of a large music company.

Round about this time in our interview, I am wondering if Dave ever sleeps!

He then starts talking about his personal interests.  He chases storms every spring!  He is an avid Rock Hound!  He is a fish breeder!  He collects historic record memorabilia!  Dave and his son have developed an IPAD application to redirect surround sound!

If you’d like to learn more about this amazingly talented musician, sound technician and producer, check out the following web sites:

http://davealex.com

http://obliq.net

http://youtube.com/obliqrecordings

http://soundcloud.com/davealex/sets