Begin again – revisiting the beginner’s guides

In all, between 2014 and 2015, this blog posted 66 beginner’s guides. The idea was to present six things:

  • Key moments – why you might have heard of these people before
  • Where to start – my thoughts on which of their albums to buy or listen to first
  • What to buy – the three items you should track down next
  • Don’t bother with – an item that is probably best avoided, or definitely should wait until you graduate to the level of completist
  • Hidden treasure – one song that’s hidden away somewhere and should be located at all costs
  • For stowaways – some collected highlights from their posts on this blog

They were very popular – in fact, for a long time, Depeche Mode‘s was the most popular post on this blog, and while that does suggest to me that it reached the wrong audience slightly, it’s still a good thing. They were also divisive – inevitably, people disagreed with a lot of what I wrote and told me so in angry or passive-aggressive ways. This is the internet, after all.

So what’s happened since they were written? Here are some highlights:

  • Air released a vinyl-only box set called Music for Museum, which you can probably skip for now
  • Conjure One released Holoscenic, which is nearly as good as their debut album, so is probably worth tracking down
  • Crystal Castles came back with a new lineup – I haven’t heard it yet, but the feedback seemed positive
  • Depeche Mode returned with the fantastic Spirit. You wouldn’t want to start with it, but it should be high on the list
  • Erasure keep churning albums out every couple of years, and finally seem to have returned to the consistent quality of the late 1980s and early 1990s
  • Goldfrapp have a new album, but it’s not quite as good as the previous one
  • The Human League have a new best of to consider, A Very British Synthesizer Group
  • Hot Chip keep throwing out great albums every time you turn your back for a moment
  • Jean Michel Jarre has managed three fantastic new albums: the two Electronica volumes and Oxygène 3
  • Kraftwerk now have a diverting live collection to consider
  • New Order now have the fantastic Music Complete to add to the list, which wouldn’t be a bad thing to add to the “what to buy” list either
  • Pet Shop Boys brought us the lovely Super
  • Röyksopp reappeared with two albums, Do It Again and The Inevitable End, before taking what looked at the time like an early retirement
  • Saint Etienne reissued their reissue series and just came back with Home Counties

You can find the index to all the beginner’s guides here.

Moby – Moby

It’s a quarter of a century since rave happened. Specifically, it was 25 years this week that Moby‘s debut album Moby was released. For the preceding couple of years, he had been churning out 12″ singles under various pseudonyms, and so most of his early albums really seem to be compilations rather than actual albums. Having said that, it’s still annoying to me that the version that I own of this album has a slightly different track listing to the original one, and so I had to search around on YouTube to find the first track. Mind you, the UK release, The Story So Far, has a completely different selection of tracks altogether.

Anyway, having tracked the original album down, it opens with the slightly daft rave piece Drop a Beat, a single from early 1992 which would not have sounded entirely out of place on an early record by The Prodigy.

It’s fair to say this album hasn’t entirely aged well. Everything, originally from 1991’s UHF EP, is better, particularly when the house piano arrives, but it still all feels as though you have stepped out of a time machine into the early 1990s, rather than a coherent album track. I gather that’s what Moby thinks as well.

Yeah is less inspired, and then comes Electricity, which was previously the b-side to Drop a Beat, is a bit dull, but is one of the more pleasant tracks on here. Next is Next is the E, or I Feel It, as it was renamed for the UK charts. Quite why this was picked as the second UK single is a total mystery unless you imagine yourself in a sweaty early 1990s, drug-fuelled haze, at which point it starts to make some kind of sense.

Mercy is one of Moby‘s ambient moments – a little out of place here perhaps, and there isn’t a lot to it, but it’s one of the best things so far on here. It leads us on to the Woodtick mix of Go, the huge single which had just taken Europe by storm and probably led to the release of this album in the first place. It had originally appeared on the Mobility EP as his first release in late 1990.

It’s difficult to know what to say about Go – it’s certainly Moby‘s finest hour, and honestly if this album hadn’t existed then it would have been another five years or so before this turned up on one, which would have been a lot less than it deserved. It’s so good! Those huge string chords from Twin Peaks, the enormous drums. Not to mention the millions of alternative mixes, which we probably didn’t need.

Help Me to Believe follows, released under the Mindstorm and Brainstorm pseudonyms in 1991. It’s definitely nice to have something that’s fairly pure dance music, but not nearly as manic or crazy as most of the things on the first half of the album. You do get the feeling that probably isn’t going to last long though.

Your gut is right, although Have You Seen My Baby?, silly though it is, isn’t too offensive. Ah-Ah is much more what you might expect from a rave track, but it bounces along without causing too much trouble. Maybe it just feels less of an affront on the senses by this stage in the album.

Slight Return is next, definitely belonging on the Ambient album rather than here. It’s a very sweet piece, and although it doesn’t really go anywhere in particular, it’s difficult not to enjoy. The same is true for Stream, which has some lovely gentle tribal drumming and lots of pads. It’s a world away from the first few tracks on here.

And that’s about it. Except that the German CD closes with Thousand, which has pretty much nothing going for it except for the concept, and therefore also the title. It’s silly, but fun.

But Moby was the album that introduced us to Moby, the eccentric multi-instrumentalist who periodically sets the world alight

Perhaps surprisingly, Moby is still widely available.

Chart for stowaways – 24 June 2017

Here are the albums this week:

  1. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  2. Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  3. Erasure – World Be Gone
  4. Depeche Mode – Spirit
  5. Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 3
  6. New Order – Music Complete
  7. Goldfrapp – Silver Eye
  8. New Order – Lost Sirens
  9. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
  10. Gorillaz – Humanz

Unsigned, but not forgotten

One of the things I really wanted to do when I started this blog five years ago was to try to do anything I could to help unsigned artists. I had tried previously, actually, on a radio show, and had found that a lot of unsigned acts couldn’t get their, um, “act” together to make it work as a cohesive feature, and so it only really ran three of four times before falling in flames.

The unsigned feature on this blog lasted a little longer, and did showcase some interesting acts, but it also opened me up to a lot of artists who for one reason or another weren’t appropriate for the blog, and one or two people who didn’t take that news too well. These are the perils of doing anything on the internet.

But let’s take a look at those who did make it, and see what they have been up to!

Blue Swan

First covered on my radio show in February 2005, and then subsequently looked at in detail on this blog in November 2012, this Danish duo seem to have entered a quiet phase in their career. Looking at their Soundcloud, their last new tracks were the ones we covered here five years ago, and there have been a few DJ mixes since then, but not a lot of activity.

Hugh Doolan

We covered this Irish acoustic act back in November 2012, and looking at his Soundcloud account he’s been very busy recently. His Bandcamp page includes ten releases since we last spoke to him, including acoustic tracks and film soundtracks.

Rance Garrison

Covered back in August 2013, when he was between albums, he seems to have released three new albums in the last few years, all of which are available on his Bandcamp page.

Jonteknik

We first covered Jon’s debut album in November 2012, and when we visited him again the following year, he had just released another album. He’s now part of a label that I need to look into further called The People’s Electric, and recently released an album called Skylines.

Kyma

Introduced to this blog back in November 2012, this UK-based act was still busy a year or so later, including proudly posting one of his songs that was played on BBC Essex, but he hasn’t pushed much to his Soundcloud recently.

mindXpander

An old favourite of mine from the mp3.com days of the early internet, I first covered them here back in 2013. Things seem to have been quiet for them for a couple of decades now, but you can still enjoy their back catalogue at Soundcloud.

Movement Ten

This Brighton-based duo were first covered here back in December 2012 when they had just released their debut album. The following year when we looked again, they had just released another album, but things seem to have been quieter since then.

Subculture

Featured on my radio show in 2005, unfortunately I don’t have any record any more of who they were, how they got in touch, or where they are now. If you know, please ask them to get in touch!

Devin Tait

First covered in August 2013, then revisited later that year when he was in the middle of touring, this flamboyant LA-based artist is now working on his next solo album The White Tomato. More at his official website.

Finally, I think a few more people had filled in the form on the website and asked for coverage. I’ll sit down and actually read those messages and do a feature on them very soon – apologies for the lack of responses if you’re feeling impatient.