Tuesday, April 29, 2014

conflicted retromaniacs, blank regenerations, Auteur as compiler versus compiler as auteur


In the new issue of The Wire, I contributed an extended review of  the new record by "conflicted retromaniac" Luke Haines -  New York in the '70s, an oddly blank regeneration of proto-punk idioms from the CBGBs / Max's Kansas City / Mercer Arts Center era.

A fun record to think about, although I had much more fun listening to its immediate predecessor, Rock and Roll Animals - on which Haines turned rock history into an anthropomorphic children's story.  For the line - for the thought -  "a badger called Nick Lowe" alone, Haines deserves a knighthood. Or at least a CBE.

New York in the '70s is a teensy bit like one of those Top of the Pops compilation albums you used to get where a session band pallidly covered choice items from the top forty (except that Haines is offering pastiches and forgeries, rather than covers, and none of his models -- Suicide, Lou Reed, New York Dolls, Richard Hell, Jim Carroll etc - ever came close to charting).

Still it connects faintly with this theme issue of Wire which explores "game-changing compliations, anthologies, a-chronologies and lists".

A meaty issue, with lots of mindfood and entertainment strewn across its "22 page survey of paradigm-busting compilations, anthologies, mail order lists, mixtapes and other collections" involving most of the magazine's sharpest writers.  (Particularly enjoyed Joe Stannard's remembrance of the Moving Shadow / Suburban Base 1993 collaborative compilation The Joint). 

Other commitments prevented me from contributing but if I had, I think I'd probably have written about the "introduction to the New Music" samplers and compilations that classical music labels put out in the Sixties and, tapering off signficantly, the early Seventies. The major labels like Columbia, with series like "Music of Our Time", curated by David Behrman, and issued via its budget imprint Odyssey; Deutsches Gramophon, with those attractive color-varied but uniform-styled comps; Nonesuch, obviously, but also Folkways had an odd penchant for electronic music.



But of particular interest  to me are specialist labels like Turnabout, about which it's very hard to find any information these days. (Like, who were they, beyond being a subdivision of Vox, and why did they decide to focus on this segment of the market?).

postscript: triggered by Bollops comment below, even more avantclassical samplers, from the RCA Victrola New Music series



  1. Ooh, I have that first Turnabout LP, but I had no idea they did a whole series - will have to look out for the others.

    Here's a lovely cover from a New Music series on RCA / Victrola:


  2. That is niiiiiice!

    I have some of the RCA New Music ones but the cover design is uniform but different from that one -- not quite as cool

    That is

  3. Ah, looks like the ones you've posted up there with the uniform covers are stereo versions of the same albums. Mine is the mono version of the one with the purple cover.

    I wonder how well they sold outside of academic circles? Did many classical music fans / afficianados dip a toe in, as it were?

  4. well there are a lot of the Turnabouts and quite a few of the RCA New Music ones in circulation, so possibly they were pressed in reasonable amount numbers and sold budget price - encouraging curious punters to give it a try. and most of these punters later got rid of them most likely after only a few listens. Same with Nonesuch electronic stuff - I am always seeing things like the Kenneth Gaburo LP Music for Voices, Instruments and Electronic Sounds, or the Pulitzer winning Time's Encomium by Charles Wuorinen, or Tragoedia by Andrew Rubin, going in the used racks and usually for not much,. Same with Morton Subotnik's LPs, they crop up quite frequently.