A conversation over a record bin helps you find your next favorite album the way an algorithm never will. Too bad their disappearing. Spotify’s never going to tell you to listen to Journey in Satchidananda because you dig End Hits. Record collecting is for searchers: It is an obsession. It is the pervasive thought that with every record you are one step closer (to what we don’t know). The back of every LP sleeve is a lost chapter. And nowhere is that obsession more apparent than in overwhelming effort put in to the song selection, sequencing, and liner notes of a compilation.
World Psychedelic Funk/ Tropicalia in Furs, Analog Africa, Soundway, Normal/Q.D.K., Sublime Frequencies, The Numero Group, or Mississippi Records, just to name a few, are all fantastic stewards of record bins worlds away. They take the esoteric and create narratives both sophisticated and accessible.
Tropicalia in Furs, working with the New York label World Psychedelic Funk, have a few releases under their belt. Not least among them, Brazilian Fuzz Guitar Bananas, a survey of garage bands caught in the fallout of Tropicalia movement of the mid to late ’60’s. The Youngsters cover of “I Wanna be your Man” howls like the Stooges snorting Jobim. Every track scorches earth with driving guitar as promised. Fuzz lines slice through Stones’ tunes and even a great rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ like chainsaws. Each song is fascinating, but its the liner notes that really makes this anthology so captivating. Complete with a detailed account of assembling the compilation and as much information on every artist “vinyl archaeologist” Joel Stones could find as he made his way through the radio archives in San Paolo.
On the opposite coast, Analog Africa‘s Samy Ben Redjeb lost his passport, detoured through Ghana, and came out with Afro-beat Airways. His enlightening story told in the 44 page booklet that accompanies the re-issue label’s 14 track compilation. Opening with a powerful statement of groove from Uppers International and Apagya Show Band, its guitarist Ebo Taylor that really kicks on this compilation. Still managing to dig up tracks that remained obscure after the British label Soundway began compiling West African Highlife, Funk, Disco, Psych, and Rock records, Analog Africa have many enlightening collections.
Soundway are perhaps the most successful in their field. Their Nigerian Special series famous for their bold, matte, primary colors behind black & white cut-outs; begging you to listen to their impressive remasters on 180-gram. I bought every one of them. Each as incredible as the last. They have a second installment in their Sound of Siam series out soon.
The sound of Siam is explored ,briefly, on one of my favorite compilations from the German label Normal/Q.D.K. Their well received Love, Peace and Poetry series draws psychedelic rock from around the world. The third in a wide offering of blissfully cool garage rock focuses predominantly on Southeast Asian Psych and will reward even the casual listener. The B-side opens with one of my favorite genre bending beats.
Bending genres, expectations, and minds is what Alan Bishop’s Sublime Frequencies project is all about. Diving
head first in obscuro and rejecting the bourgeois trappings of the studio, opting most often for field recordings and first person style documentary, Sublime Frequencies reports from around the world but bed down in Seattle.
Perhaps better at documenting compelling curiosities than full-fledged anthologies, Sublime Frequencies gets your hands dirty- and you’ll love ’em for it.
Elsewhere I’ve discussed the wonderful job the Numero Group is doing in preserving the legacies of largely forgotten American record labels. They have series devoted to Soul and R&B, Power-Pop, 60’s Folk revival, Funk inflected Gospel, and World Music. Recently they’ve begun re-issuing rock 45’s with elegant style.
The Numero Group is not alone digging through the crates of American history. Mississippi Records crafts indispensable insights. Mostly representing pre-war music, they have diverse collections ranging from Gospel and Blues to Cajun/Creole music. They have wonderfully sequenced and curated collections of regional American Blues styles for the new comer and devoted fan.
I Woke One Morning in May, The Rain Don’t Fall on me, Oh Graveyard You Can’t Hold me Always, etc. are each strikingly well re-mastered without losing the sense of intimacy given off by the hiss of an old 78. In the Storm So Long is a record no collection could do without. A great example of their style, it focuses on a brief post- war period of Gospel singers backed by over-driven electric guitars.
Creating compilations of this caliber is challenge. They require devotion to the thrill of record collecting and a love of sharing what you find. Each of these incredible collections are carefully put in to context. Each achieve balance; avoiding a lifeless genre introduction, but creating something more accessible than the deepest deep cuts.