Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tod Dockstader/Mordant Music/Ekoplekz - Electronic Vol 1

When I read a few months ago that Mordant Music were preparing to reissue two rare volumes of music by early electronic pioneer Tod Dockstader, I was excited at the prospect of finally being able to replace my rather low quality vinyl rips. I also couldn't help feeling that it was about time this largely forgotten pioneer of electronic music was given a little more credit for the massive influence he has undoubtedly had on the modern audio landscape.  

Both the albums in question were recorded over thirty years ago for library music specialists Boosey & Hawkes who made them available exclusively to film and TV studios. They were both called Electronic, and carried the subtitle "Recorded Music For Film, Radio & Television".

It seems that just recently, people have finally begun to fully appreciate the music contained on these hard to find LPs, the vast majority of which were never given a full commercial release. It's commendable that some of these largely unheard volumes are now being released into the public domain by forward thinking labels and are no longer the sole preserve of obsessive vinyl junkies willing to pay hundreds of pounds for a battered secondhand copy. Over the past few years there have been some sterling reissues of material by the likes of Daphne Oram, Suzanne Ciani, David Cain and Bruno Spoerri so it's only fitting that seventy four year old Tod Dockstader should now join this group. 

Dockstader began his career as a film editor in 1955 after studying painting and film at the University of Minnesota. He became a sound editor a few years later and released his first album - Eight Electronic Pieces - in 1960. This album would later go on to be used by Federico Fellini as the soundtrack to his 1969 film Satyricon. Following the closure of the studios where he had worked since 1958, he found himself rejected by the established electronic music institutions due to a lack of academic experience and so he eventually moved into audio-visual work. After his retirement in 1990, he built himself a home studio and spent the next fifteen years recording short wave radio transmissions which he used as the basis for his Aerial series of albums on Sub Rosa.

Although he achieved only modest success during his career as a composer and musician, he managed to establish a small back catalogue of recordings which have since become hugely influential despite being virtually unknown outside the aficionados.

Listening to these twenty three musical miniatures, I find it almost impossible to place them on a timeline stretching back to their original recording date of 1979. If recent albums by Moon Wiring Club, Pye Corner Audio and almost anything associated with the Ghost Box label are anything to go by, it's clear that Dockstader's presence is still felt today.

Bridging the reissue of these two volumes is a 10" remix disc of sorts. It contains three tracks which have been suitably deconstructed and rewired by the good Baron himself and Mr Nick Edwards under his Ekoplekz moniker.

It shouldn't be any great surprise that this album is being issued by the redoubtable Baron Mordant's label. After all, he did release Carrion Squared, his own entry into this field back in 2007. It was culled from sessions recorded for a library music album called The Drone Continuum which was commissioned by Boosey & Hawkes and released via the Strip Sounds imprint. 

Both these releases are essential listening for anyone remotely interested in the evolution of modern electronic music.

Electronic Volume 1 is available on vinyl and digitally through the Mordant Music online store as is the remix EP. Electronic Volume 2 will be available soon.

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