THE TOP TEN "Outsider" Records I'm Enjoying Right Now
Swan Fungus (http://www.swanfungus.com/) is well-known for its top ten lists. This one includes ten great experimental/avant-garde/"outsider" records that you should do your best to find and listen to. To see what this list looked like before you all screwed it up, visit http://www.swanfungus.com/2009/03/the-top-ten-outsider-records-im-enjoying-right-now.html
Swan Fungus (http://www.swanfungus.com/) is well-known for its top ten lists. This one includes ten great experimental/avant-garde/"outsider" records that yo... more
01. Great Fences Of Australia - Are you ready for this? Two violinists travel through the Australian outback, bows in hand, playing various fences that they come across. Some of these wires run for miles before they are interrupted. The sounds, likewise, will carry for miles. Oh my God, is this the coolest fucking idea I’ve heard recorded in a long time. The fences can sound like epic drones or a shrill ray gun. The spectrum of melodies and noises is insane. The best part is that the box has an actual length of barb wire fence mounted inside of it. Unreal.
02. The Conet Project - This is like, the holy grail of field recording/outsider albums. It’s 4 CDs of shortwave radio broadcasts from what are known as “numbers stations” (hello, LOST fans!). The stations are believed to be encrypted spy transmissions, but this has never been proven. For years, enthusiasts have heard these signals broadcast in languages all over the world. Some are supposedly CIA, others KGB, MI6, Mossad, etc. Basically, it’s a disaffected voice reading series of numbers. It’s super creepy and all kinds of awesome. Jet introduced me to this album back in ‘04, but I’m pretty sure it’s way, way out-of-print now.
03. The Cat - The Cat - This sadly out-of-print CD captures 45 minutes of a purring cat, as heard through a contact microphone. Need I say more? Urchin the cat resides at Stormy Records in Dearborn Michigan. It was recorded by Windy Weber (of Windy & Carl fame) and David Brainard (who helps run the label that released this, Time Stereo). It’s just too cool for you not to own. Especially you, Vegan Nick and Lauren. You’re total avant-garde/experimental nerds as well as “cat people.”
04. Douglas Quin - Antarctica - I can’t believe i only learned about this a few weeks ago. I was listening to WFMU and commenting on the live playlist when this weird fucking ambient piece began playing in the background, behind a spoken word recording. It sounded melodic and beautiful, but something about it made me wonder whether or not it was actually a field recording. After a brief Amazon search, I found out that in 1996, Quin received a grant from the National Science Foundation as part of a program that sends artists and writers to Antarctica. He recorded with an array of hydrophones (underwater microphones), in addition to recording some sounds above the ice. Oh, and all the cool melodies I was hearing? Those were fucking PENGUINS! So incredibly cool.
05. Christian Marclay - Guitar Drag - Everyone I play this for hates it. And why shouldn’t they? It’s the sound of a man plugging in an electric guitar, tying it to the back of a truck, and driving around recording the sounds it makes. I try to tell those people that if they were to approach it not knowing what it was, they might feel differently about it, but then I realize I shouldn’t be so quick to yell, “It’s a guy dragging a guitar around with a truck!” before they have a chance to hear it. I’m a fan of all the Christian Marclay recordings I have ever heard, and this one ranks up there as one of my favorites (see also: More Encores, Records).
06. Stephen P. McGreevy - Electric Enigma - He records the earth’s electromagnetic sounds as generated by different geographical and atmospheric anomalies, like the Northern Lights. It’s all way more scientific than I could ever understand, but it sounds unreal. This would be perfect for a fan of LOST because it deals with electromagnetism. Many people claim to have seen the Northern Lights, but how often can they say they’ve heard it? Now you can one up ‘em.
07. Wilhelm Kleinbach - The Funerary Notebooks Of Herr Gratchenfleiss - The most amazing thing about this album is its back-story. An entire genre of music was “purged” by the Catholic church after flourishing in the 1800s. The music of funeral violins. No mention of the genre ever appeared in a book or magazine. The only evidence it ever existed are old wax cylinder recordings by Wilhelm Kleinbach and some partially ruined photographs. Oh, yeah, and the story entirely made up! Someone took the time to record this music, treat it to sound like old wax cylinders, take (and then alter) a series of phtographs, create identities for characters who were important historical figures related to the fabricated “genre”…it’s really as much a work of fiction as it is a of music. Such a cool album. The record label, The Guild Of Funerary Violins, has released a few other albums, but I haven’t heard those yet.
08. Eric Cordier - Breizhiselad - Another Erewhon release. Cordier took an old 10″ record from a friend’s grandmother’s attic, recorded it to tape, and experimented with highlighting different aspects of sound. It doesn’t quite sound like an old 78rpm record, but there are enough human elements left to remind you that you are listening to a recording of human voices. It’s super weird and dark and creepy.
09. M. Holterbach - Aare Am Marzilibad - This pretentious French guy (sorry, I mean “sound artist”) hermetically sealed a microphone inside a bottle and let it float down a river. Released on a 3″ CD by the Erewhon label. Close your eyes and listen to the weirdly distorted voices in the distance, the rush of the water, the sounds of little stones plinking against the glass, or just enjoy the steady drone. Either way, this is an unbelievably cool recording. I’m just sorry I didn’t think of the idea first. Then again, the LA river would truly be no match for whatever normal river Holterbach used for this recording.
10. The Ghost Orchid - An Introduction to EVP - This disc should be in your collection if only for that one time in your life you decide to host a Halloween party. EVP is “Electronic Voice Phenomenon,” and if you believe the people who claim to have captured and recorded instances of EVP, it contains the voices of the deceased or aliens. The CD includes 75 tracks of EVP recordings, explanations and translations from parapsychologists. You’ll either laugh at it or become mesmerized by it.
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