In the Christmas 1988 issue of Melody Maker the Stud Brothers wrote one of my favourite features of all time. It began something like this: 1988 was the best year for new music ever.
I kept a load of those Christmas issues. I loved them. However, I’m pretty sure 1988 has gone missing unfortunately. It went on to rave about the best releases that year including the likes of Butthole Surfers’ Hairway to Steven, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions…, My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything, Happy Monday’s Bummed, Dinosaur Jr’s Bug, Pixies’ Surfer Rosa…and loads more. There must have been some acid house in there too.
And the thing is, they were damn right. We really had never heard anything like any of the artists named above (with perhaps the exception of Dinosaur Jr). Oh, I’m sure they would have raved about The Young Gods too – they always raved about the Young Gods. Anyway, everything was totally new back then: never before had we heard noise and power used as beautifully as My Bloody Valentine. Never before had we heard hip hop like Public Enemy. Even the Happy Mondays were doing strange funky things that were totally new.
I was 15 for most of the year, 16 by Christmas. 1988 was a formative year for me. Things would get a lot more exciting as rave flourished, De La Soul’s DAISY Age bloomed and My Bloody Valentine got even more blissed out. And clearly, the ages 16 to 22 are exciting enough anyway – even without a wholesale musical revolution to try and keep up with.
And keeping up with music was a difficult task back then. We had John Peel late nights on Radio 1. We had Melody Maker…that was about it until rave tapes, Kiss FM, Mixmag and then Jockey Slut came along. There was no way we could afford all the records we wanted and even with the joys of home taping, we were a long way short of being fully clued up. I still haven’t heard The Young Gods.
But I’m supposed to be writing about 2014, right? So we have pretty much the opposite state of play right now. The internet has bequeathed us an absolute overload of new music. That was really bloody exciting for a few years but for the last few I’ve found it tiring. A bit of a headfuck really.
However, in 2014 it seems that some sort of order might be coming about. Perhaps this order is only in my own brain as I manage to differentiate which sites and sounds I really like, as opposed to the ones that just sound interesting. But internet headfuck (or not) aside, it strikes me that 2014 might just be the best year in the history of music ever.
Yes, I was as surprised as anyone by that realisation. ‘Cos there sure as hell has not been any musical revolutions during the past year that I have been aware of.
However, I was browsing (nay, devouring) The Wire’s Reissues of the Year and it struck me that there are all sorts of fans of music exploring old music and curating it with a passion and attention to detail, which is both artful (that is full of art rather than cunning) and historically important.
Labels such as the fantastic Light in the Attic are presenting all sorts of beautiful forgotten gems to a much wider audience via the soundclouds, youtubes, blogs, magazines and message boards of another load of rabid music fans. While the internet can be an almighty headfuck, in this context it is also an extremely virtuous circle.
So here’s a list of just some of the amazing reissues I have heard:
Lewis – L’Amour (Light in the Attic)
Caustic Window – Caustic Window
OK, just two then. But the stories behind both re-releases are almost as fantastic as the music within. But this is where things get really interesting. There’s a whole bunch of superbly curated historical compilations:
Gigi Masin: Talk to the Sea (Music from Memory)
Various: I am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990 (Light in the Attic)
Various: Native America, Vol. 1: Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985 (Light in the Attic)
Various: I’m just like you: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-70 (Light in the Attic)
Ariel Kalma: An Evolutionary Music (original recordings 1972 – 1979) (RVNG Intl.)
Then there’s a bunch of old music I’ve just listened to a lot this year, discovered in books or in the web’s echoes:
John Martyn: Live at Leeds and Inside Out
Donnacha Costello: Together is the new Alone
Daniel Bachman: Seven Pines
Pub: Summer and Do you ever regret a pantomime?
John Fahey – America and The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death and The Voice of the Turtle
Eliane Radigue: Trilogie de la Mort
Simon Fisher: The Epic of Everest
Dennis Bovell: Ah who seh? Go deh! and Strictly Dub Wize
Blackbeard & Winstone Edwards: Dub Conference at 10 Downing Street
Marcia Griffiths: Play Me (Sweet & Nice)
And finally there’s all the new music that came out. Some of it I’ve only discovered in recent weeks. Special mention to the ever-reliable Resident Advisor’s end-of-year poll, which always throws up some gems that I never understand quite how I missed. Well, that’s the bad bit of this overwhelming flood of music I guess. A good year for dance/electronic music, not so good for hip hop:
Mushrooms Project: Mix for Balearic Social
Call Super: Suzi Ecto
DBridge & Kid Drama: Heartdrive podcasts
Aphex Twin: Syro
Francis Harris: Minutes of Sleep
Sebastian Mullaert & Ethan Reiter: Reflections of Nothingness
Imaginary Softwoods: The Path of Spectrolite
And some global sounds that rocked my world:
Ryley Walker: All Kinds of You
Gunn and Gangloff: Melodies for a Savage Fix
Addis Pablo: In my father’s house
Suns of Dub & Walshy Fire: Present Suns of Dub (official mixtape)
Various: Glitterbeat – Dubs & Versions 1
Dub Addiction: Dub Addiction Meets Kampuchea Rockers Uptown
All of which makes brings me to the conclusion that while it might not quite have had the revolutionary impact of 1988, 2014 could well have been the best year in the history of music ever.