Guerssen Records are reissuing some of the most daring, unusual and straight up mindblowing obscure records of all time. They’re doing an especially excellent job recently, so here’s a quick rundown of some of my favorite of the label’s recent batch of releases:
Thomas Hamilton – Pieces For Kohn
Sometimes, there is nothing more fascinating to listen to than early electronic music. Often amorphous, cosmic and daringly freeform, recordings of this quasi-genre often push the very boundaries of what can be considered as ‘music.’ Yet even with these inaccessible qualities, records like Tom Hamilton’s Pieces For Kohn continue spark the imagination to this very day.
Composed and performed on custom-made ARP synthesizers at the Washington University Electronic Music/Recording Studio (that Hamilton himself had built), the album was born out of a response to four particular three-dimensional geometric abstract paintings by Bill Kohn (as seen on the cover).
The resulting pieces are somewhat minimal by today’s standards, but this fits the theme of the chromatic architectural artworks by Kohn. Squiggly tones bounce and overlap in a sort of chaotic frenzy, as cold, dull notes drone under the surface, sounding like a squadron of robots in mid-conversation. In many ways, the tracks here bear a great resemblance to the work of the legendary BBC Radio Workshop and Delia Derbyshire. There’s even a particularly pulsing portion of “Fatehpur” that brings to mind the early horror soundtracks of John Carpenter.
Despite being amazingly abstract, it’s hard not to appreciate how much this album sounds like Hamilton discovering how far he could explore the possibilities of his hand-made instruments and gizmos. It very much has a ‘mad scientist operating in his laboratory’ kind of quality to it, which is very hard not to enjoy.
Turn down the lights a little, put this new vinyl reissue (due out on April 18th) on and dream about the future that the ‘70s once imagined.
McPhee – S/T
One of the rarest albums to ever come out of Australia, McPhee’s sole outing is a monster.
This has the makings of the perfect cult acid rock album: crunching big-ass riffs and fuzzy guitar solos, bleary-eyed and hazily drawn-out covers and tight beats that any DJ would love to sample. The fact that not enough people talk about this album is an absolute crime and probably a testament to just how obscure and difficult to find it really is. Thank god the folks at Guerssen are giving it its long overdue vinyl reissue.
With vocals that echo Ultimate Spinach’s Barbara Hudson and proto-metal guitars that bring to mind bands like Toad and Josefus, it’s a shock that this band wasn’t more popular. At some points in the album, like the stellar cover of “Indian Rope Man,” they even start to sound like if Santana and Sweetwater ever joined forces, especially when the Hammond B3 takes complete dominance over the rest of the band.
You’re going to have a rather difficult time wanting to hear this record (also due out on April 18th) without cranking it loud enough that your neighbors will call the cops on you with noise complaints.
The Momes – Spiralling
Wonky post-punk with abstract time signatures and kosmische noise? Sign me up!
Featuring members of Henry Cow, The Work and Unrest; The Momes were an absurdist power trio that were anything but predictable. Many of the songs here sound highly unhinged, yet when you give them a very focused listen, they’re actually very intricate and wisely crafted together. Elements of free jazz clash here with No Wave atonality and DIY outsider rock weirdness in a way that is simply peerless. The songs are more sonic sculptures than anything else, and often sound like what might happen if Syd Barrett and Jamie Muir took control of a jam between Faust and The Residents.
Much like the rest of the records mentioned so far in this article, Spiralling deserves a far bigger following. If you love Captain Beefheart and the likes of Television and This Heat, then you owe it to yourself to give this stellar reissue (with bonus 7-inch) a listen today (you can purchase it here).
Lite Storm – Warning
Closer to the dark, proto-metal acid nightmare side of the psychedelic garage rock spectrum, Lite Storm’s Warning is a collection of wah-wah guitars, snarling organ and uneasy vocals that is quite unlike any other Nugget that you’ve probably heard before.
Lite Storm recorded these Arthur Brown-esque trips between ’67 and ’68, when they were a big club act on the Sunset Strip, probably freaking out every audience to the point of adoration. Yet again, this is an album that is wholly, perhaps even dangerously unique. As mentioned on the first ever vinyl re-issue’s Bandcamp page, they might fit in among groups like The Seeds and Music Emporium, but I think that barely covers it. They are a truly inimitable act through and through. Just give the closing track, “Continuation (Introducing Toga)” a listen. With primal drumming, crashing gongs and a swirling organ melting behind Barry Melton-like guitar noodlings, this track takes you to a very unfamiliar place indeed.
Check all of these otherworldly albums and many, many others out over at Guerssen Records today.