The Best Hidden Treasures from Amoeba’s Digital Vault of Out-of-Print Albums

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We were disappointed, but not surprised, to read earlier this week that LA institution (and rather beautiful record store) Amoeba Records’ new Vinyl Vault project may fall foul of copyright law. The project involves the store digitizing its obscure vinyl and selling the resultant MP3s, holding the funds in escrow if they can’t find the rights owner. It’s a way to get your hands on a whole bunch of strange, obscure music that you’d never otherwise see outside of rural thrift stores and stoop sales, and we’d be disappointed to see it discontinued — but still, we’ve spent a couple of very pleasurable hours trawling the catalog for the crazy records you’ll want to pick up ASAP, just in case the site does get pulled. You’re more than welcome.

E-Space Men — Autistic Dance Music

Right, so, believe it or not, this is Doctor Who-themed dance music from early-’80s Chicago. E-Space Men took their name from (geek alert) the alternative space/time continuum in which the Fourth Doctor became temporarily marooned, and their music samples various sounds from the series (and also includes at least one memorable Doctor Who-centric rap.) The music is fascinating, too, and rather ahead of its time — especially the second side, which sounds like Liquid Liquid getting messy at a gay disco on Gallifrey.

More information: Vinyl Obscurity

Buy it here.

Various Artists — The Pulse of New York

From what we can gather, this was released on UK label Glass in 1983, and was marketed as a compilation of US minimal synth bands dating from 1983. The actual tracklisting seems to oscillate between the sort of proto-minimal wave stuff you’d expect and James Chance-y avant-jazz. Both make for interesting listening.

More information: Mutant Sounds, Discogs

Buy it here.

Leadbelly — Leadbelly Memorial: Vol IV

There’s a shitload of old blues tunes to be had on Amoeba, but most of them come in the form of 45s. Entire albums are harder to find, most likely because they tended to be few and far between back in the day. This Leadbelly compilation, however, is a helluva find. It’s one of an exhaustive four-record set released on Stinson Records — itself a rather fascinating label, which you can read about here — in 1962, and it’s home to some great tracks, including the decidedly socialist “Bourgeois Blues” and a great a cappella rendition of “Black Betty.”

More information: Discogs

Buy it here.

Susan Justin — Forbidden World OST

Regular readers may have noticed that your correspondent tends to lose his shit over strange synthesizer sounds, proto-electronic music, and cheesy sci-fi films… all of which makes us wonder how in god’s name the joys of Forbidden World have managed to escape us thus far. Wikipedia describes it as “a cheap, exploitive imitation of the movie Alien, with sex, nudity, uneven editing, cheap special effects, and an audio track that some found unpleasant… notable for its gruesome violence, oddball electronica music score by Susan Justin… odd, choppy editing and a scene in which the two female leads take a shower together.” In other words, it sounds amazing — and the soundtrack is pretty ace, too!

More information: Discogs

Buy it here.

Luciano Michelini — Screamers OST

On a similar note, you only need to have a look at the artwork for this film to get an idea of what to expect here. But while they’re definitely cheddar-y, the compositions aren’t quite as Carpenters-esque as you’d expect, and they also feature a surprisingly beautiful orchestral grandeur. Fun fact: the film was apparently a reworked version of an earlier film called Something Waits in the Dark, itself a re-edit of the original 1979 Italian film, which was called Island of the Fishmen. Apart from its soundtrack, Screamers is chiefly remembered for its trailer, which featured a scene of a man being turned inside out that didn’t feature in the actual film, much to audiences’ consternation.

More information: Internet Albemuth

Buy it here.

The Bourbon Street Irregulars — Let’s Fly Down

We’re rather impressed that the catalog lists “New Orleans” as a distinct genre, even if it currently only has three records to choose from. This is the pick of the bunch, a collection of jaunty jazz players fronted by a dude who sounds a lot like Louis Armstrong. It’s just a fine way to warm up a chilly winter afternoon.

More information: Rock’s Back Pages (subscription required, annoyingly)

Buy it here.

Chief Bey and his Royal Household — Congo Percussion

Wait, so was Chief Bey a real tribal chief? A bit of research seems to indicate that the answer is a slightly disappointing “no” — he was plain old James Hawthorne of Yemassee, North Carolina, a respected jazz drummer and African folklorist. Despite his lack of aristocratic lineage, Bey was a fascinating character — he took the “Bey” name after joining something called the Moorish Science Temple, and he performed right up until his death in 2004 at the age of 91. (There’s an obituary here.) The music here is similarly fascinating — it’s atmospheric and percussive, full of West African influence, but also notably minimalist.

More information: The Homoerratic Radio Show

Buy it here.

Shri Anthony Dass — In Budapest

This seems to be a collaboration between tabla virtuoso Ustad Shri Anthony Dass and a bunch of musicians from Hungary (as the title might suggest.) Dass was an interesting figure — among other things, he was one of India’s few Christian tabla maestros — and this album seems to find him in didactic mode, calling out the intricate rhythmic patterns to his fellow musicians.

More information: We can’t really find any, to be honest. Feel free to take to the comments section if you have any light to shed.

Buy it here.

Sonny Bradshaw Seven — On Tour With Reggay

We can’t find a release date for this, but the “reggay” spelling and the psychedelic cover art mean that we’re guessing 1960s. In any case, if you like upbeat rocksteady flavors, you’ll find plenty to like here. Bradshaw’s career spanned some six decades, and his influence on the evolution of Jamaican music was substantial. He was also apparently famous for recreating the sound of a 14-piece orchestra with his seven-piece ensemble (he refused to employ any more than seven because that was his lucky number.)

More information: Discogs

Buy it here.

Stanley Wilson — Primitive Themes From the Original Soundtrack of the Motion Picture “The Mating Urge”

Sometimes it’s worth reminding ourselves how far we’ve come as a society. It was barely 50 years ago, for instance, that a film like The Mating Urge could get funded and made, as opposed to getting its makers put in the stocks. The film was a pseudo-anthropological exploitation piece that was basically about the shagging habits of 17 cultures around the, promised “unashamed love rites… shocking to you (but not to them!)… exposed for the first time!” The whole thing was laden with racist undertones — the “us and them” mentality, the generally salacious tone, and the use of the word “mating,” which is laden with animalistic connotations. The soundtrack, with its cover that emblazoned the word “PRIMITIVE” across a photo of a naked black woman, was also all kinds of wrong — but the thing is, the music is pretty fascinating, and since you’re not putting cash in the pockets of anyone involved, it’s well worth a listen as both a historical document and a general reminder of just how deeply fucked up the world used to be.

More information: Discogs

Buy it here.