“…because there’s nothing like an epic soundtrack to transport a viewer to another time and place, bring a theater full of strangers to tears, or complement a narrative so well that one simply cannot exist without the other..”
Now that this year’s record shopping shenanigans are off my chest, let’s move to more important things like the beautiful music that graced 2021. The second part pertains to anniversary editions and special re-issues; a new lease of life to quintessential albums and compilations, which I absolutely recommend. In recent years, especially with the establishment of Record Store Day, it’s become almost de rigueur among record labels to re-release selected titles from their back catalogues, re-mastered and packaged in anniversary collector’s editions, featuring the original or updated artwork, extended liner notes, rare photos and ephemera. In certain cases the price of the first pressings had gone from exorbitant to speculative, so it’s been a golden chance to fill in some gaps, as well as revisit and replace some of the originals, which sadly I was too young and naive to look properly after.
I’ve noticed complaints from certain record traders on social media, that their original pressings will lose value in the second-hand market. Although I might justify a mild frustration from a collector’s point of view, I find their public rants ungrateful, graceless and short-sighted. Music is no tooth brush and artists’ legacy should be available to everyone, especially to newer generations, instead of being lost into oblivion or becoming the object of self-indulgence for the ‘chosen few’.
This list is supplemented with brief reviews, liner notes, comments and fan facts, and the entries are ordered by their official release date, which does not necessarily coincide with the time they were added to my collection for all the reasons I explained in Part One. I have also attached direct links for preview/purchase, however in most cases the physical products have already sold out. Without further ado, let’s start my personal highlight reel.
Celebrating the 50th release milestone, Dutch label Music from Memory published the first in a series of VA compilations. ‘Virtual Dreams’ delves into music created in the 90s and defined the ostensible boundaries and endless possibilities of ambient music. Written mainly by accomplished house and techno producers, the compilation strikes perfectly the balance between the club chill-out room and the living room listening experience.
From early IDM classics, to lesser known one-off projects, as well as ambient deviations by some of house and techno leading producers, the first volume features tracks by Bedouin Ascent, David Moufang, LA Synthesis, LFO, The Primitive Painter, Marc Hollander, Mark Pritchard & Kirsty Hawkshaw, Richard H. Kirk and many more.
Favourite Track: The Arc – Orphic Mysteries
Release Date: January 15th
Cat. Number: MFM050
Compiled by Jamie Tiller
Artwork by Vica Pacheco and design by Steele Bonus
Liner Notes by Piers Harrison
The first 1000 copies included a 90 x 60 cm poster and a holographic Virtual Dreams sticker.
*Due to several different agreements between the label and the artists the tracklisting is different per medium. This is also the reason that the digital version wasn’t offered together with the vinyl version.
In 1990, Andrew Turner aka Aim opened his own vinyl-only specialist record store Speed Limit Records, selling up-front UK white labels and US & European imports to DJs across the north-west of England. Through the shop’s distribution contacts Turner had access to a plethora of records released at the time. Inspired by the golden age of hip-hop he bought a Commodore Amiga and started making his own music. A demo was sent to Manchester’s Grand Central Records, who readily signed him and a few years later Aim released his sensational debut album ‘Cold Water Music’.
A touchstone, genre-defining UK classic, ‘Cold Water Music’ plays with emotional elements assembling a collage of micro-contradictions. Despite being drenched in horror movie samples (‘Demonique’ samples a dialogue from the movie Halloween and the iconic riff in ‘Cold Water Music’ is sampled from Carter Burwell’s ‘Maureen In The Desert’ from Psycho III OST) the album still sounds uplifting and mellow. Featuring an array of guest vocalists from the siren-esque Kate Rogers to rap legends QNC, AG and YZ, the album sounds as relevant and inventive as it ever did.
Favourite Track: Sail (featuring Kate Rogers)
Repress of the 2016 edition, with a different sleeve design from the original 1999 pressing
Release Date: February 15th
Format: 2xLP, 140g ice-blue coloured vinyl
Cat. Number: ATICLP015
Concept/Artwork by Aim
Design/Layout by ALLFORU
Photography: Phil Turner, Tony Stone
Is ‘Timeless’ the best d&b album of all time? Debatable. Is it the most influential and celebrated d&b album? Definitely.
‘Timeless’ is an album that justified its ambitious title, defined the drum & bass blueprint and established Goldie as the genre’s face catapulting him to mainstream fame. A unique blend of symphonic strings, sophisticated yet unbearably fragile vocals and clinically programmed drums and basslines that captured the pressure, anxieties, hopes and fears of urban life. It has been so extensively reviewed and scrutinized that it seems almost pointless to add anything more, except that the anniversary vinyl edition includes this time around the track I’d fiercely argue that is Goldie’s magnum opus: ‘Sea of Tears’.
Timeless’ rare vision had gained a new lease of life with contemporary aesthetics after a mesmerizing live performance by Goldie & The Heritage Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Saturday, June 14th 2014, as part of the Meltdown Festival. Watch the official video directed by Lyle Lindgren here.
Favourite Track: Sea of Tears
25th year anniversary limited vinyl, CD and digital expanded remasters edition featuring rarities and remixes unearthed from Goldie’s personal archive.
Release Date: April 16th
Format: 3xLP, tri-fold sleeve, Gold coloured vinyl / 2xCD
Cat. Number: LMS551367
Artwork by Neil Simpson @ The Brightside
Liner Notes [MMXX] by Tim Barr
Mastered by Lewis Hopkin
Blue Note Photos Courtesy Of Eddie Otchere
New York Photos Courtesy Of Martin Jones
With an artist name so flamboyantly confident, I would expect nothing less from the duo of Dougans & Cobain than universal acclaim. Pardon the fanboyism, but The Future Sound of London are one of the reasons I started listening to electronic music 3 decades ago and still do to this day.
“… a desire to get the balance of Debussy, Cocteau Twins, Cabaret Voltaire and dance music all in the same bag …”
‘Accelerator’ has been one of the first records I bought with my own allowance, so it will always have the utmost sentimental value. In fact, I had a t-shirt custom-made (ca 1993) using an image from the back cover, which I still have in a drawer and I wish it’d still fit 😊.
The lead single ‘Papua New Guinea’ is one of the most celebrated and powerful anthems of electronic music, a staple if there ever was one and paved the way to commercial success and a contract with Virgin. Gaz Cobain has playfully disclosed in an interview the chain of events that led him to that iconic Lisa Gerrard vocal hook (Dead Can Dance, Dawn of the Iconoclast, 1987); he sampled it from a cassette and effectively made history. Released at a time when the lines between genres were blurry, if even existent, ‘Accelerator’ has been the first and last time FSOL made a record aimed at the dancefloor, before retreating to explore other sounds and concepts.
Favourite Track: While Others Cry
30th Anniversary edition, limited to 1500 machine-numbered copies in a gatefold sleeve for RSD 2021.
Release Date: June 12th
Cat. Number: DLPRSDTOT2
Format: 2xLP, Numbered, encased in a special printed inlay with historic photographs and cuttings featuring the original artwork
Recorded & Engineered @ Earthbeat Studios
Artwork: Mark McLean (Buggy G. Riphead)
“I had killed a man, a man that looked like me”
‘Dead Cities’ is their 4th album, originally released in 1996 and in my opinion their finest moment. If ‘Accelerator’ attracted the spotlights on Cobain and Dougans, ‘Dead Cities’ is a ‘leave me alone’ war cry. FSOL capture the deafening silence of a post-apocalyptic metropolis in decay, skies painted with gunpowder, somber and unsettling like staring down the barrel of Mad max’s sawn-off shotgun. Counter-intuitively the album features the band’s two highest charted singles ‘We Have Explosive’ and ‘My Kingdom’ (the former recreated, re-imagined and reinterpreted into 13 new mixes for RSD 2021). Acclaimed composer Max Richter plays piano throughout the album and co-write the eponymous track ‘Max’.
Marking the ‘Dead Cities’ 25th anniversary the album is re-issued on vinyl for the first time, featuring the original ominous 3-D artwork by the band’s frequent collaborator, Buggy G. Riphead.
Favourite Track: Her Face Forms in Summertime
25th Anniversary Edition
Release Date: April 16th
Format: 2xLP, gatefold
Cat. Number: Virgin- 3537463
Recorded & Engineered @ Earthbeat Studios
Artwork/Additional Modelling: Olaf Wendt
Artwork/Photography & Image: Buggy G. Riphead
“… sound like sound never sounded before… Squarepusher gives us the SOUND of SOUND” – From the LP’s liner notes penned by Richard D. James
If there’s an album that combines the wildly experimental drum programming of jungle, the improvisations of a live fretless bass guitar, the rhythmical drive of funk, the free form sensibility of jazz and the textural layers of ambient, serving as a snapshot of the UK electronic music canon in the mid-90s, then ‘Feed Me Weird Things’ might be exactly it.
Squarepusher’s (Tom Jenkinson) mind-mending debut album was originally published on Aphex Twin’s Rephlex in 1996 and is re-issued now by Warp for the first time. According to Jenkinson, the title was inspired by a conversation with Steve Beckett, a co-founder of Warp, in which Beckett told him about his girlfriend, who would ask him: ‘feed me drum & bass’. The packaging for the album features various photographs taken by Jenkinson at different London locations in February 1996, which were subsequently edited by Johny Clayton. The front cover photograph was taken inside a job centre in Palmers Green.
Favourite Track: Tundra
25th anniversary edition, remastered from the original DATs, featuring two extra tracks on a 10″ which were first released on the B-side of the ‘Squarepusher Plays… EP’ and later featured on the original Japanese release of this album.
Release Date: June 4th
Format: 2 x LP, Orange or clear/ Bonus 10”, Orange or clear
Cat. Number: SQPRLP001C
16 page booklet with personal photographs, ephemera and notes from Tom Jenkinson
Liner Notes [February 2021] by Tom Jenkinson
Liner Notes [Original] by Richard D. James
Remastered by Matt Colton
4hero came to prominence in the late 80s. Embracing the dynamics of populist rave culture, they spearheaded the transition from breakbeat/hardcore to drum & bass via their own label Reinforced and maintained an avant-garde status as innovative and experimental producers. The label’s ethos and vision reaches well beyond the musical sphere. A community with strong allusions to their cultural roots and a creative hub, Reinforced has garnered praise across the electronic music spectrum, as well as a dedicated fan base. In 2021 Reinforced celebrated their 30th year anniversary.
Originally released in 1994, ‘Parallel Universe’ is their second full-length album. 4hero effectively redesigned the bass music blueprint, ripping the seams of technology and recasting the fragments into new forms and structures. Fusing their trademark futuristic drum programming with their extensive canvas of musical influences – from soul and jazz to hip-hop and techno – Marc Mac & Dego delivered a timeless classic which still sounds as fresh as ever.
Favourite Track: Wrinkles In Time
Reinforced 30th anniversary
Release Date: June 28th
Format: 2xLP, 180 gram vinyl in gatefold sleeve featuring the original artwork / 2xCD including 10 bonus tracks (previously unreleased/alternate versions) from the same era.
Cat. Number: RIVETLP042021
Recorded in the Dollis Hill Attic Studio
Originally composed in the second-half of the 90s to channel his private thoughts, a refuge and escape from rough times, James Bernard was eventually encouraged by a dedicated and appreciative online community to unearth a collection of 28 unreleased tracks and publish them on a limited run of 25 3xCDrs, hand-signed and hand-numbered, with inlays made of glossy photo-paper in 2005.
Over the years the collection garnered a cult status and 16 years later James and A Strangely Isolated Place have repackaged this deeply personal collection of acid-infused ambient-breaks, reducing the list to 20 tracks and dividing them into two separate theme-based editions titled ‘Acid Dreams’ and ‘Elemental Dreams’ respectively.
Volume 1: Acid Dreams
A Roland TB-303 electronic bass synthesizer/sequencer time capsule connecting the cross-cultural melting pot of raves with psychedelic ambience.
Favourite Track: UWB03
Volume 2: Elemental Dreams
The soundtrack of a self-induced hallucination into a multi-dimensional world riddled with imaginary forms and structures.
Favourite Track: UWC02
Release Date: July 5th
Format: 2 x 2LP, gatefold sleeve, yellow (Vol. 1) and orange (Vol. 2) transparent vinyl
Cat. Number: ASIPV033A/B
Remastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri @ Blackknoll Studio NY
Artwork by Steve Hyland (Geometric Love)
“ … Steel was another one of my guises. I had originally started to write a Steel LP for Hydrogen Dukebox, when we had initially started talking about doing something, but I quickly realized that it was really a Justice LP I should be doing, which is what happened – Tony Bowes
After curating the renowned compilation ‘Modern Urban Jazz’, Justice started working on his debut album, free from expectations and genre restrictions. ‘Viewpoints’ is a sonic hybrid showcasing Justice’s influences and creative experimentation; an amalgamation of low-slung drums, dreamy textures and bleeps, hip-hop sensibilities, funky basslines and tumbling breaks. The seminal drum & bass anthem ‘Aquisse’ might take centre stage, tracing the links from Detroit to London, but it’s the sonic diversity of the album that garnered praise and recognition by DJs and producers across the electronic music spectrum.
Originally released on Recordings of Substance (the vinyl version included 8 tracks, as opposed to the 11 of the CD version) ‘Viewpoints’ has been re-issued by Hydrogen Dukebox on vinyl for the very first time with all 11 tracks, complete with striking new artwork .
Favourite Track: More Air
Release Date: August 27th
Format: Deluxe 2xLP, full-colour gatefold sleeve encased in a custom made screen-printed PVC outer sleeve / CD
Cat. Number: DUKE211DJV
Bonus Tracks from the original pressing: ‘Intention’, ‘Film’, ‘Brasilia’
Sleeve Design: Studio Thomson
Merging indie songwriting with electronic instrumentation Ulrich Schnauss, the highly esteemed German electronic music composer and member of the latest incarnation of luminaries Tangerine Dream, has become a vital element in the world of electronic music. In 2020, acquiring back all the recording rights, he re-mastered and re-issued his entire back catalogue on his own label Scripted Realities. ‘Now Is A Timeless Present’ is a career-spanning retrospective 7xCD box set, including extensive reworks of his two latest albums, as well as a compilation of outtakes and demos. Later in the year Ulrich made also available on vinyl his 5 solo albums. The original pressings of his first two LPs on City Centre Offices in particular (‘Far Away Trains Passing By’ and ‘A Strangely Isolated Place’) were reaching eye-watering prices in the second-hand market. The box design and album sleeves have also been reinvigorated by long term collaborator and visual story teller Nat Urazmetova.
The last CD of the box set contained an 18-track compilation of outtakes, demos and fragments including Ulrich’s version of Bach’s ‘Prelude And Fugue No1 in C Major’ and has become finally available on clear vinyl especially for RSD2021 featuring the same artwork with the box set.
Favourite Track: Memory Lane (2003)
Release date: September 4th
Format: 2xLP, clear vinyl, 500 copies
Cat Number: SCREALLPX006
Love Record Stores limited release.
Cover Design: Nat Urazmetova
The follow-up to ‘Parallel Universe’ Jacob’s Optical Stairway has been Marc Mac & Dego’s exclusive special project for the Belgian label R&S. The album title is an implicit reference to the 1990 psy-horror film ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, directed by Adrian Lynne. Despite being perhaps one of the most under-rated albums of that era, ‘Jacob’s Optical Stairway’ is still of my favourite albums of all-time. Enlisting electronic music luminaries Juan Atkins and Josh Wink, vocalist Samantha Powell, as well as a host of musicians, Marc Mac & Dego captured the fragmentary visions and bizarre hallucinations of Jacob and translated them into an avant-garde narrative beyond the confines of drum & bass.
Favourite Track: Jacob’s Optical Illusion
Reinforced 30th anniversary
Release Date: September 24th
Format: Limited edition 2LP, 180 gram, translucent green vinyl, with a bonus 7”.
Cat. Number: RIVETLP025
Back in May 2011, ASC debuted his own tribute to Blade Runner ‘The Light That Burns Twice As Bright’ as well as excerpts from ‘Time Heals All’ at a small intimate venue in Tokyo. After his set, a friend suggested that he should send this material to Silent Season, as it’d be a great fit. When he returned from Tokyo, James spent the next few months going through field recordings he made out there and started to weave them in with textures and pads from his vast library.
Finding a natural habitat for his cinematic explorations and orchestrations of ethereal themes, James’ partnership with Silent Season culminated in 6 albums (available only on CD) in the course of 8 years (2011-2019). Now, they are being re-issued on vinyl for the first time in reverse order, from the most recent to the oldest. My favourite of the lot ‘A Fervent Dream’ should be in line next, hopefully soon.
In literature and popular folklore the sea is a symbol of hope, tranquility, reflection and recreation, the standard metaphor for eternal flow, change, new discoveries and new beginnings. But then again, perilous if you defy and underestimate Poseidon’s wrath, promises and hopes buried beneath the deep green waters.
Favourite Track: Marine Layer
Release Date: October 16th
Cat. Number: SSCD22
Produced and Mastered by James Clements
Cover Photo by Apertism
Silent Season © 2019
Accentuating feelings of desolation, heartbreak and sorrow the project has a distinct elegiac aesthetic, but if you listen closer you might sense glimmers of yearning and hope.
Favourite Track: Idyll of Sorrow
Release Date: December 17th
Cat Number: SSCD21
Written, produced and mastered by James Clements
Photography by Danthon
Silent Season © 2016
Released in 2010, the original CD version included 39 defining musical moments from a wide range of genres and styles spanning 60 years of film-making. For the 2021 vinyl re-issue the selection has been trimmed down to 24 tracks, but all the highlights are still present.
Pour yourself a fine drink, dim the lights, switch the phone off and re-live classical moments plucked from the critically acclaimed film canon. From retro to modern, romance and heartbreak to violence and horror, ‘At The Movies’ features themes and motifs from timeless classics like Donnie Darko, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Blade Runner, Brazil, Midnight Express, The Deer Hunter, The Shawshank Redemption, Shaft, Midnight Cowboy, Platoon and many more. Because there’s nothing like an epic soundtrack to transport a viewer to another time and place, bring a theater full of strangers to tears, or complement a narrative so well that one simply cannot exist without the other.
Release Date: November 5th
Format: fluorescent ‘Glow in the dark’ 2xLP
Cat: Number: ALNLP62
Liner Notes: Bill Brewster
The other parts of the series: