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Laurie Spiegel

The Expanding Universe

(Unseen Worlds / Philo)



Laurie Spiegel
The Expanding Universe


Working on an early analogue-digital hybrid system called GROOVE (“Generating Real-Time Operations on Voltage-Controlled Equipment”)in New York’s Bell Labs, Laurie Spiegel forged her own path throughout the 1970s. Her music was lighter than the stuffier academics with their wall-sized motherboards and far more intricate than kosmische and ambient contemporaries experimenting with similar sounds in Europe. The Expanding Universe, recorded in the ‘70s and released on the folk-oriented Philo label in 1980, was initially her most visible output, but the slow growth a minor cult and the unexpected use of a piece of hers in The Hunger Games soundtrack allowed for a fantastic expansion of the original album’s four pieces into a full two disc set of material. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Spiegel did not seek to abandon traditional music altogether, but to expand on it, merging the atonal and the melodic and satiating the pre-existing tension between the folk of her idol John Fahey with the avant-garde futurism of folks like Morton Subotnick. Ultimately, Spiegel’s role as early synth pioneer may drive away listeners not apt to absorb the technics and theory behind it, but even with dense drones and unusual sequences this is a very accessible release in the milieu of 20th century classical music, and a delectable contemporary-sounding one to boot. Timothy Gabriele


 

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The Preservation Hall Jazz Band

The 50th Anniversary Collection

(Sony/Legacy)

4



The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
The 50th Anniversary Collection


In this new box set, The 50th Anniversary Collection, Ben Jaffe gets to show off his family’s history with New Orleans music, as well as a few new wrinkles of his own. Authenticity is all over this four-CD collection. If you love New Orleans music, or jazz, or rhythm and blues, or funk, or rock, or music history, or fun, then your heart will thrill hearing this track and the other songs from the 1960s and 1970s scattered all over this collection. But this set isn’t just old-school nostalgia. The classic tracks from the 1960s and 1970s nestle alongside newer material from the last couple of decades, and glitzy guest artists like Tom Waits and Andrew Bird. High marks all around—as well as a renewed interest in what comes next for this hot “new” American jazz group. Matt Cibula


 

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My Bloody Valentine

Loveless / Isn’t Anything / EPs 1988-1991

(Sony)

3



My Bloody Valentine
Loveless / Isn’t Anything / EPs 1988-1991


At the time of writing, fans are eagerly anticipating the mythical next My Bloody Valentine album, slated for release by the end of 2012. Then again, what’s the point of putting yourself at the mercy of Kevin Shields’ very unreliable whims, since there’s no chance it’ll be better than Loveless, right? Appropriately enough, the reissue of the pantheon-level album—along with the re-release of Isn’t Anything and the EPs 1988-1991 compilation—reminds you of what’s transcendent and frustrating about Shields and co. From the shape-shifting swathes of guitar on “Only Shallow” to the immersive dream-pop of “When You Sleep” to the clubby space-rock epic “Soon”, Loveless hasn’t aged or become dated one bit—it’s still as revelatory now as the first time you heard it, the rare album where each instant feels as rich and deep as the complete whole the pieces add up to. Yet true to form, Shields seems to be testing his ever-indulgent fans with the remastered set, offering up two mixes infinitesimally different from one another with none of the bonus ephemera usually tossed in to get you to buy your favorite record again. (If the MBV reissues are even available to you, since the trio of recordings remains import-only in the U.S.) With this version of Loveless, Shields only convinces us not to hold our collective breath for him to top his best work, since he still seems to be stuck perfecting what was already perfect. Arnold Pan


 

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Blur

Blur 21: The Box

(Virgin)

2



Blur
Blur 21: The Box


Blur have been together for 21 years yet they’ve only been a working band for less than three-fourths of that time. There’s really only one other band that has successfully covered so much musical ground in such a short time and that, my friends, is the Beatles. To mark this odd-numbered anniversary (and possibly the end of the band as we know it), Blur has released the exhaustive Blur 21, a 21-disc collection that dwarfs career-spanning retrospectives by bands with far lengthier careers. Blur’s seven studio albums have been remastered and are being sold individually, each with a disc of corresponding supplemental material (b-sides, demos, BBC performances, etc.). Those 14 discs are included in Blur 21, along with four more discs of rarities as well as three full-length DVDs. Will you ever listen to all 18 hours of Blur 21 in one sitting? Hopefully not. Even the most dedicated fan would have a hard time making it through the eleven minute version of “She’s So High” or the band’s dreadful cover of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May”. Is it worth having the entire recorded output of one of our all-time great bands on your shelf in a tidy blue box? Absolutely. Daniel Tebo


 

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Sugar

Copper Blue / Beaster / File Under: Easy Listening (Deluxe Editions)

(Merge)

1



Sugar
Copper Blue / Beaster / File Under: Easy Listening (Deluxe Editions)


It was a good year for Bob Mould, considering he put out a great solo record and Merge Records reissued his catalog with his early ‘90s outfit Sugar. And while Sugar wasn’t exactly ignored, they have gotten lost in the shuffle a bit in the story of rock music in the ‘90s, and these reissues go a long way towards reminding us just how powerful that buzzsaw wall of distortion Mould gave us, and the sweet hooks behind it, were and are still today. We of course get crisp remasters of Copper Blue and File Under: Easy Listening, but it may be the slightly moodier but excellent EP Beaster that gets to shine new here, and deservedly so. On top of hearing what is essentially a flawless (if brief) discography from Mould’s second seminal band, we also get live shows that show just how furiously the band could deliver these tunes live (seriously, it ramps up to double-time in spots and never skips a beat). In the end, these reissues help us re-see Sugar as a more seminal band, as one that birthed a million crunching power chords that came after them. Of course, they also remind us that none of those followers ever struck as hard, or as sweetly, as Sugar did. If you haven’t gone back to these albums yet, Merge’s jam-packed reissues leave you no excuse not to. For rock music fans of any kind, this is essential listening. Matthew Fiander


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