I Go Back to A Memory Again - Reissues in 2018

The repress. The remaster. The reissue.

Every year, there is an album, somewhere, that is celebrating a milestone anniversary, and is re-released, and reintroduced into the world; sometimes maybe it’s not even a milestone anniversary—maybe only four years have passed since its initial release. Maybe 39 years have passed and the opportunity for a quick cash grab couldn’t wait another year.

The reissue, or repress, can serve a number of purposes: in the case of a simple repress, it is bringing back into circulation an album that has long been out of print in a specific format—in most cases, that format is a vinyl record. This year, as it celebrated its 15th anniversary (not a milestone one thinks to celebrate with much fanfare), Ghosts of The Great Highway, the landmark debut album from Mark Kozelek’s Sun Kil Moon project was repressed and reissued via a joint effort between the UK based Rough Trade imprint, as well as Kozelek’s own vanity label, Caldo Verde.

Originally released in 2003 on CD by the now defunct independent label Jetset, and on vinyl through Cameron Crowe’s Vinyl Films (the original pressing fetches over $200 on Discogs), the Rough Trade repress, issued during the first part of the year, was met with polarizing results—I, personally, heard none of the imperfections or flat sound that many audiophiles in the dark corners of the internet have griped about, so I guess I consider myself fortunate, though I’m not entirely sure what people were expecting; this isn’t a remaster, nor was it ever billed as one.

Some vinyl reissues saw the light of day in 2018 after a long gestation period—like the painstakingly assembled reissue of Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. Arriving well over 25 years after it was originally released, MBV mastermind Kevin Shields went above and beyond and nearly broke the bank (again) on this album in an effort to preserve the way he wants it to be heard—and that means every time you listen to it, you hear something new. It is still, to this day, a gorgeous, dissonant labor of love—from the very first snare hits of “Only Shallow,” through the cacophony of guitars that make up a bulk of the album, all the way through to the up tempo drum sample that energizes the sprawling, swooning closing track “Soon.”

After a lengthy delay from the original late 2017 release date, continually pushed out through the first half of 2018, and finally arriving in the summer, Irish ‘heart on sleeve’ singer/songwriter Damien Rice’s iconic debut release, O, was issued on vinyl for the first time, celebrating 15 years since it originally landed in the United States—and all of those feelings from the first time I heard it as a 20 year old came flooding right back.

Smartly sequenced across four sides (the album proper takes up three sides, with the fourth being dedicated to a small collection of b-sides from the O era), a lot of the themes of the record—e.g. “Why doesn’t she love me back? Oh, woe is me!” have not aged particularly well in this newly woke time in which we live.

That heart on sleeve earnestness is one of the things that made O an important album from me as an overly emotional young man, but it was also the thing that made it an album that did not grow with me—in a sense, I aged out of it a few years after college. 

Despite that, it’s still a record that resonates with a part of me, and I didn’t even bat an eyelash at ordering this reissue—the first side alone is a flawless, four song run including “Delicate,” “Volcano,” “The Blower’s Daughter,” and “Cannonball,” and is totally worth the price to hear them playing from deep within the grooves of the record, finally, after all this time.

The four year mark is not something one would normally think to mark with a lavish deluxe edition, but Ian William Craig’s experimental masterpiece A Turn of Breath, originally issued in 2014 as a limited edition LP, and then repressed again the following year as an even more limited edition LP, was reissued this year in an expanded double LP format, collecting together unreleased material recorded around the same era, as well as the Short of Breath EP—originally a CD-R that was issued with A Turn of Breath’s initial pressing.

A record not for the faint of heart—both on an emotional level, as well as the style with which Craig performs in—the catharsis of the original album’s sequencing sees additional growth and development through the inclusion of the supplemental material.

Additionally, 39 years is not a milestone one would think to pointedly mark with a special edition repressing, but the folks at Rhino Records, the archival and catalog branch of Warner Brothers, thing differently.

Released as part of a summer ‘Record Store Crawl’ (not as corporate and awful as Record Store Day, but still, you know, corporate and awful), GI, the only LP from the seminal, volatile punk band The Germs, was repressed on translucent blue vinyl in an edition of 2,000.

A blistering set of 16 songs, some of which barely last a minute—and the rambling, dissonant closing track, “Shut Down,” lasting almost 10—stumbling upon this edition of the record was borderline serendipitous; released at the end of July, it was over the summer when I began to grow nostalgic for all of the ‘punk’ albums I used to listen to when I was a fat, sad pre-teen—like Let’s Go and …And Out Come The Wolves by Rancid, or the classic Stranger Than Fiction by Bad Religion.

This nostalgia, coupled with some additional nostalgia, got me thinking about the Germs t-shirt I owned in 1995—purchased because Dexter Holland from The Offspring wore it in the video for “Self Esteem.” I was a 12 year old kid, living in a world without the internet; I had no idea who The Germs were, and someone should have pulled me aside and given me a good scolding for being such a poseur.

The particular shirt in question is nearly impossible to find now, though countless other Germs t-shirts (some of questionable licensing) are out there on the internet, and the violent, larynx destroying screams of Darby Crash, spread across GI, soundtracked many an afternoon and evening of me, searching in vain for what I once had and didn’t even really appreciate.

It, much like A Turn of Breath, is not for the faint of heart—but for different reasons entirely.

The repress. The remaster. The reissue.

In some cases, it’s an opportunity to get a record on vinyl that you always wanted to have on vinyl—like Loveless, or O, or Ghosts of The Great Highway.

In other cases, it’s an opportunity to discover an artist new to you through listening to something old. Of all the reissues or remasters or represses that I explored in 2018, the two most important presented the opportunity to be introduced to an artist’s larger body of work.

Prior to 2018, Christoph de Babalon was not a household name for me, but now, as the year concludes, the reissue of his 1997 opus If You’re Into It, I’m Out of It has spent countless hours on my record player. A chaotic, dark, and vehement piece of art (Thom Yorke once called it the ‘most menacing record’ he owned) de Babalon is unrelenting in his breakneck drum samples and aggressive synthesizer patterns; he also opens up the record with a 15-minute, slower than codeine, spookier than David Lynch drone called “Opium.”

If You’re Into It, more or less, reignited interest in de Babalon’s canon—including the archival collections he’s issued digitally—recently finding a home within a physical format, as well as paying close attention to his future projects.

Similarly can be said for the 1990s electronic collective Pablo’s Eye.

Curated through Stroom label head (and all around good dude) Ziggy Devriendt, and conceived as a trilogy of anthology based releases (the third of which arrives in early 2019), Pablo’s Eye caught the attention of Pitchfork—they gave the second reissue in the series, Bardo for Pablo, ‘Best New Reissue’ and an 8.2—which is what put this series, and the collective, on my radar.

A sparse six songs—though the opening piece, “Amb 8,” is, like, 11 minutes—Bardo for Pablo focuses on the collective’s more ambient, tribal, and infectiously hypnotic material. It, much like If You’re Into It, served as a means for me to become interested in tracking down the back catalog of Pablo’s Eye—though it wasn’t as easy as visiting a Bandcamp site and downloading some mp3s.

Because of the idiosyncratic nature of Pablo’s Eye, a lot of their material is not available digitally, and most of it is out of print, which meant coming Discogs as well as the Amazon Marketplace for copies of albums like You Love Chinese Food, or All She Wants Grow Blue—both of which are wonderful and strange in their own rights.