Last night I lay in bed and thought about some of things that I've found inspiring over the last twelve months. I always find it difficult to think in terms of individual releases that have come out over the course of a year; I am not particularly 'in the loop' when it comes to new music, so I prefer to think of 'new' in the sense of something being new to me. Anyway, here are some of the year's discoveries, things I was grateful for and things which inspired me. I hope you get some mileage out of them too.
1 - White Russian by Imprints
Aside from the vinyl reissues, this was the only release that came out on Serein in 2014 and I feel it's a special addition to the the label's catalogue. The album was really well received and one track in particular got a lot of attention, including radio air-play from Maryanne Hobbs. That track was White Russian, the track that still makes my spine tingle when I listen to it. It's one of those pieces I try not to play too often for fear of diluting the effect it has on me. The SoundCloud stats speak for themselves, nearly 15,000 plays to date! Thank you Shaun, Alex and Darren.
2 - The Return of Shuttle358
Having been a fan of Dan Abrams work for well over ten years, I always wondered whether he'd make a return to music. I remember his MySpace band profile a few years back had a sentence on there saying that he was still making music and this had me regularly polling the internet for updates. At some point the MySpace profile went and a SoundCloud account appeared in its place - to my joy it was full of sketches, works in progress and alternate takes from some of his old albums (these are well worth a listen). Some time later again, in typically subtle fashion, a little snippet of text on his profile gave me the news I wanted, an album for 12K was in the works.
Although the album isn't out yet, we did get a teaser in the form of a very nicely produced lathe-cut 12" single, I was lucky enough to get a copy and it's wonderful - woozy analogue electronic music, layered, smudged, abtracted, brilliant.
3 - The 21st Anniversary of Mo'Wax
My first exposure to Mo'Wax was when a school-friend gave me a copy of James Lavelle's mix for Cream Live 2. That came out in 96, so I guess I was around thirteen or fourteen when I heard it. It completely altered my listening habits and pretty much transformed my musical interests overnight. A lot of the selections on that mix were from the Mo'Wax label, tracks like Bear Witness by Doctor Octagon (with the insane turntable skills of Q-Bert), Berry Meditation by Unkle, Modulor Mix by Air and Meiso by DJ Krush. Mo'Wax later put out DJ Shadow's seminal album Endtroducing, I guess there's not much that needs to be said about that!
Mo'Wax dropped off my radar a bit in later years, but those early days were a special time for me and I'm sure many others. In 2014, Lavelle created a Kickstarter campaign to fund a Mo'Wax 21 year anniversary exhibition called Urban Archaeology. The campaign was successful and although I didn't make it to the event, it was good to see old names and faces doing the rounds due to the buzz surrounding it. The inspiring moment then, was watching old Mo'Wax artists in discussion with CDR, it was laidback and just good to hear people reminiscing about their involvement with the label, how they made music and how things have changed.
4 - The Voice of Tzeni Vanou
This is my wildcard entry. I know next to nothing about Tzeni Vanou, she was a Greek singer who passed away in 2014, the same year that I discovered her incredible voice on recordings much older. I don't remember how I came across the pieces, but it feels fitting that this entry should follow a talk with DJ Shadow, king of unearthing old, forgotten records. The song I've posted really does sound like it's been prized from under a pile of old 78s, it's lo-fi to say the least which adds so much to the character and mood. Surprisingly, there's a lot of on Tzeni on Spotify, happy hunting, may her memory live on.
5 - Parabolas by John Tejada
Parabolas came out in 2012, but I've already explained my stance on that. It was new to me in 2014 and I absolutely love it - simple music brilliantly executed. The music is unpretentious, deep yet approachable. I listen to it all the time in the car, in the office when I'm working, on headphones or through speakers, it just always sounds good. The icing on the cake is that the vinyl pressing is superb. Dig it.
6 - The Retold & Charcoal Crowd-funding Success
Last but not least, I wanted to mention the crowd-funding that made vinyl reissues of Retold and Charcoal possible. These releases could not have happened without the feedback and support of our loyal followers, that these campaigns succeeded inspires me greatly and really makes me wonder what else is possible. Exciting times and here comes 2015, another 365 days to have more fun with!
What inspired you in 2014?