sat 22/06/2024

Best of 2023: Music Reissues Weekly | reviews, news & interviews

Best of 2023: Music Reissues Weekly

Best of 2023: Music Reissues Weekly

When the past excites as much as a new thrill

Faith Hope & Charity: amongst the stars heard on the illuminating early disco collection ‘Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night’

In the Light of Time - UK Post-Rock and Leftfield Pop 1992-1998 was unexpected. Collecting 17 tracks, it brought a fresh perspective on a particular aspect of the UK’s independent-minded music. This ground-breaking, agenda-setting release was effectively the soundtrack to what has been written about post-rock.

The groundswell dug into by In the Light of Time ran in parallel with shoegazing but what was heard – while as much about texture as shoegazing – came from a different perspective as it embraced elements of Krautrock and techno. This was music which impacted on Radiohead and sigur rós. Mogwai, compiled here, are still thriving. An important release, In the Light of Time invites a rethink about how music has evolved during a relatively recent period – and how that evolution still resonates.

In The Light Of TimeFurther reconsideration was prompted by Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night. This diligent compilation – issued by Ace Records, the same label as In the Light of Time – took a perception-shifting dive into the music of the mid-Seventies New York club scene which motivated Nik Cohn to write the article inspiring Saturday Night Fever. This was not the overground take on disco which became an immediate cliché, but 22 tracks – given proper contextualisation – which packed dancefloors before mainstream attention was paid to something which could be codified and repurposed for mass consumption. And, importantly, every track collected is a mind-blower.

Closer to home, and from a few years later, a couple of single-band releases provoked re-evaluations of the narrative of the early days of British punk rock. Cock Sparrer’s The Decca Years and Chelsea’s The Step-Forward Years were each about more than the bands, or even their music. Instead, each urged scrutiny of how the two outfits slotted into and were integral to the emerging punk landscape, and how irregular a topography it was.

Less-familiar topography was explored by Musical Offering - Works for the Soviet-era ANS Synthesiser, an extraordinary collection of music composed for and made on a Russian synthesiser patented in 1957. Sadly, the release lacked any annotation but this was, nonetheless, a spectacular overview of a little-charted aspect of the development of left-field music.

COCK SPARRER Decca YearsEqually unusual was March 1960’s I Hear A New World EP, a British release which was barely heard at the time it was originally pressed. It rolled-into-one musique concrète, contemporary pop and studio-only sonic manipulation. Its creator was producer Joe Meek. In time – despite its initial obscurity – it was judged as pivotal to the development of British popular music. Its story was duly uncovered, as was most everything there was to be found out about Meek. But 2023 proved a landmark due to the arrival of the 10-inch album I Hear A New World Sessions – An Alternative Outer Space Fantasy, an astonishing, first-ever opportunity to drop in on the project’s creation and its development. Meek’s master tapes had been in storage since the late 1960s and these were the source for the new release. There were alternate takes, works in progress and raw sound effects – all in superb sound quality. An important release.

Hawkwind were also concerned with outer space and the 11-disc, box-set version their live double album Space Ritual – originally issued in 1973 – increased the impact of this already great live album to a hitherto unforeseen degree. Devastatingly so.

Such an effect – and the effect generated of any of these releases – confirms that music from the past can be as fresh, as surprising or excite in the same way as work by a contemporary artist. The best archive releases and reissues are as exhilarating, as vital as any new thrill.


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