history sifter :: come night

I don't claim to know the ins-and-outs of the record industry. Even still, I'm baffled to find records out-of-print. It feels as though we’re living through the era of peak-discography. Streaming services make vast amounts of recorded history available. Of course, when you look at all that's actually missing, you realize only swaths of popular music are available. There's certainly plenty of experimentalism to be found on spotify, but it feels nowhere near comprehensive. There's also an entire cottage industry of unearthing and reissuing rare gems on vinyl—which captures at least a small portion of what streaming services overlook.

This, though, is my OOP! WTF?! subset of the History Sifter series, wherein I make a direct plea to that those who reissue music and keep it in circulation: if you are listening, rectify this situation; quickly, please.

Recorded long before Loren (née Mazzacane) Connors' mid-to-late-90s rediscovery as an avant blues legend, Come Night was a small group record—something that's still a rarity in his oeuvre. He usually appears in a duo, at most. There’s a couple of records by group Haunted House (also with Langille). Come Night is more closely related to Hoffman Estates—the sole record by the Loren Connors / Alan Licht Ensemble, featuring a wealth of guest turns by Chicago jazzmen like Rob Mazurek and Ken Vandermark. Hoffman Estates was entirely instrumental, though. The result on Come Night is amorphous. It’s not blues, jazz, ambient or rock, but it’s not-not-those either. There are few records that mine this same terrain of abstract, patient, distended songcraft—Chris Connelly’s Everyoned or The Episodes come to mind. (And yes, it does feel weird to put Loren Connors on the same shelf as a record by the former frontman of Revolting Cocks.)

Loren Connors work has always felt desperately solitary. It’s unmoored from timekeeping, spacious and unpredictable. His partner, Susan Langille has long been his perfect foil, her husky, hippy intonations meshing perfectly with his bent strings and amplifier hiss. Come Night expands outward without spoiling the chemistry. The supporting cast acts more like a makeshift lean-to, partially protecting them from the elements.

History Sifter :: Concept 96

If you still consider Richie Hawtin a titan of techno, you probably live in Europe and go to electronica festivals. Except as a megastar DJ, he's dropped out of any other conversations of electronic music. There's been precious little new material from the Plastikman camp in the last 15 years and the work he built his reputation on remained unavailable on streaming services for far too long. To any casual techno fan, Richie Hawtin had all but disappeared.

Even though you can finally listen to most of his catalog online, I would argue he left out one of his most striking works, and it still remains absent. In 1996, Hawtin released one 12-inch single, every month, called Concept 1-12. Each was a strident, minimal beat exploration using a purposefully restricted set of gear and sounds. They were suitable for only the bravest and most inventive DJs. Reportedly, he recorded the tracks live, in the studio, and mixed each single at the last minute, giving himself little time to fuss.

I never managed to get ahold of more than a few of the original singles—but for a brief period, his Plus8 label offered a large cross-section of them, collected on CD. The Concept:96 collection remains a touchstone of my aesthetic development. In my very unscientific surveys, the people I've introduced it to—some who have little use for minimal electronica—are unananimously impressed.

It's easy to cite a handful of releases that are clearly influenced by the Concept series. Many of them, like snd's makesndcassette, ended up as landmark records in my personal history, as well. I wish I knew why Richie Hawtin chose to leave Concept:96 in the past, while he was bringing the rest of his catalogue into the present. It's too esoteric to change the written history of techno in the 90s (or even about Hawtin himself) but it's still one of the most daring—and therefore, rewarding—albums of his career.

Strangely, it even seems the (also out-of-print) remix record Thomas Brinkmann made, Re:Concept, is easier to find. These versions were made by simply playing the Concept singles on Brinkmann's vari-speed turntable with a sepearate tone arm for each channel—the same device he'd previously used to make versions of Wolfgang Voigt's Studio 1 releases. Sometimes, I suppose it pays to have a gimmick.