Obscure Records at Ubuweb
July 13, 2012 9:51 PM   Subscribe

Obscure Records was a U.K. record label which existed from 1975 to 1978. It was created and run by Brian Eno, who also produced the albums (credited as executive producer in one instance). Ten albums were issued in the series. All ten are available for your listening pleasure at Ubuweb.
posted by flapjax at midnite (30 comments total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
That "Brutal Ardor" Pachelbel variation on the "Discreet Music" album? It was on a tape I recorded of an Eno special by Dierdre O'Donoghue on KCRW decades ago. I think I propped the microphone in front of the hi-fi speaker that I had wired the guts of my brother's broken clock radio to. Very glad to find it again.

Oh La.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:05 PM on July 13, 2012

Yes! I love Gavin Bryars so this will be a pleasure to comb through. Thank you.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:08 PM on July 13, 2012

I adore Discreet Music, I didn't realize it was part of a larger project of sorts. I'm excited to dive into this music.
posted by Harpocrates at 11:03 PM on July 13, 2012

posted by nebulawindphone at 11:15 PM on July 13, 2012

yuummmmm...great goodies.
I didn’t know that Bryars’s “Sinking Of The Titanic”
came out in 1975. I though it was a more recent piece.
Live and learn on Mefi.
posted by quazichimp at 11:33 PM on July 13, 2012

The Gavin Bryar's recording of Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet and Discreet Music were among my favorite records of 1976. I spent many a Sunday morning with them.

And that was the only version of Pachelbel's Canon I heard for some decades to follow. Which warped my mind a bit, I guess.

I owe a deep debt to Creem magazine for turning me onto both of those albums.
posted by y2karl at 12:13 AM on July 14, 2012

Fantastic, thanks - I could only find about half of these when hunting for them a while back. Tracking down a set of the original LP's is still on my to-do list, but as is clear from the article, the array of different pressings makes them a bit of a nightmare for completist collector-types..
posted by anagrama at 1:29 AM on July 14, 2012

Why haven't I heard of Ubuweb before? Great post, thanks.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:04 AM on July 14, 2012

Wow! Thanks for this post! Discreet Music was a favorite of mine, but I never found all ten Obscure releases. Some of these mp3s, such as the one for Discreet Music, appear to be corrupt... but Wow!
posted by rajbot at 3:46 AM on July 14, 2012

Brilliant. Thanks.

Just now listening to Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Incredible piece of music.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:09 AM on July 14, 2012

Thanks for this. Harold Budd has been a favorite since he collaborated with the Cocteau Twins as The Moon and the Melodies, which is outrageously gorgeous music. And Gavin Bryers of course, who's haunted me since the first time I heard Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet which is scarily powerful and moving, and I've wanted to hear more of his material.

This is a nice little shower of music. Although, not to complain, but reading about the actual original Obscure vinyl releases is making me a bit nuts in wanting em. Just a little bit. A little tiny itsy bit...
posted by Skygazer at 5:09 AM on July 14, 2012

That PCO record is among my favorite things ever. Wonderful stuff.
posted by mintcake! at 5:33 AM on July 14, 2012

Wow, thank you for posting this link. I've been a fan on Brian Eno, Harold Budd and Gavin Bryars since the 1990's and this makes my Saturday a little sweeter. Thank you for also reminding me about Ubuweb, I'd forgotten about it.
posted by Chocomog at 6:53 AM on July 14, 2012

Why haven't I heard of Ubuweb before?

It's actually intentional. From this interview (via this post):
But I’ve made a move in the Luddite direction recently by trying to remove UbuWeb from Google. I want the site to be more underground, more word-of-mouth. The only way you’ll be able to find it is if someone links to it or tells you about it, just like music used to be before MTV. But you’ll still find UbuWeb on all the bad search engines that no one uses: AltaVista, Dogpile, and Yahoo! Again, everyone wants to rush toward the center: they even write books about how to get your Google ranking higher. We’re headed in the opposite direction. We want to get off Google.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Ha! That's wonderful! And sure enough, whenever someone points me towards something on Ubuweb, it does end up feeling like I'm getting in on a cool secret — like hearing about a new band used to feel back in the BBS era or something.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:02 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Ha! Um, clearly I was a teenager in the 90s. "Yes, I gather back in the real dark ages you had to talk to other music nerds in person, but this is obviously a myth. We all know music nerds don't talk to strangers in public. They all just meet up on BBSes and then maybe if they get to be real good friends they'll log off and go to Denny's together." Gawd, what a weird time to be alive.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:06 AM on July 14, 2012

(Ha! Looks like I only have one way of indicating my feelings about the previous comment!)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:07 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you, not just for this amazing post (which I suspect will provide my Saturday morning soundtrack), but for Ubuweb. This collection of Bertolt Brecht's audio works? AMAZING. So. much. good. stuff.
posted by smirkette at 11:06 AM on July 14, 2012

There's a track on Obscure #2 (Ensemble Pieces) which curiously doesn't have an artist listed here, just the title (1 2, 1-2-3-4). It has to be one of my life's most listened-to pieces of anything. I recorded it to cassette from a friend's album in maybe 1985 (same recording bumped to the digital realm maybe seven years ago). It's just so easy to listen to, yet strange, beautifully awkward, entirely unpredictable.

As I recall, the albums liner notes explained how it was done. Basically, a bunch of different musicians were given a key to play in and a time signature - 1 2, 1-2-3-4 (or whatever - music theory is not my strong point), and told to improvise. Except they couldn't hear each other. So listening to it is like wandering through a beautiful garden. There's a few other people doing the same thing so you keep catching glimpses of them, crossing their paths, sometimes sharing the same path for a while, but always diverging eventually, because everybody's working a different route.

Kind of like life.
posted by philip-random at 11:10 AM on July 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oooh, that one's tasty. It sounds like they were also all given the same set of chord changes or the same key or something — it keeps almost fitting together harmonically, which you wouldn't expect from total free improv.

Or maybe it's just that the individual parts are harmonically sensible, and my ears are finding ways to make them fit together?
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:20 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by benito.strauss at 11:49 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for pointing out that Brecht. Man can roll his "r"s with the best of them. And the first two songs are my Threepenny favorites!
posted by benito.strauss at 11:51 AM on July 14, 2012

i like most of the Obscure releases very much. They were done on the cheap but it's amazing that Island/Plolydor let Eno do it at all. There's some exquisite music on there, especially on the more, er, obscure figures like Jan Steele alongside the bigger hitters like Eno, Budd, John Adams etc. There's some old cack as well, but it's all interesting in some way (it possibly helps to have an enthusiasm for English art rock, free improvisation and minimalism though). And you get to hear Robert Wyatt sing Cage! And the covers are great (shame they changed them for the reissues of Discreet Music and Pavilion of Dreams).

self link - I did a mix of some of my favourite Obscure recordings some while back...here if anyone's interested.

thanks for the post. and Ubuweb is a fantastic resource.
posted by peterkins at 3:36 PM on July 14, 2012

As I recall, the albums liner notes explained how it was done.

Okay, so I was vaguely correct. Found some more accurate info here ...

Gavin Bryars‘ ’1,2, 1-2-3-4′ is an extraordinary set up for ensemble where each interpret listens to a cassette on headphones and mimick the sounds he hears on his own instrument. All players hear the same music but play their specific part only, at the specific speed of their own cassette player and at the pace their skills and ability allows them. The basic composition is lounge/jazz music. Shifitng occurs early in the recording and soon the music sounds aleatoric. Musicians for this session are top notch players, like Derek Bailey, Cornelius Cardew or Bryars himself on bass. The wind parts are gorgeous, especially the trombone. A real treat.

Note how the variable speed of the various cassette players (there was always a bit of that in pre-digital days) factors into what we end up hearing. Brilliant.
posted by philip-random at 3:43 PM on July 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I ain't suppose it's particularly surprising that posting '70s Eno projects will always make me happy, but I love this.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:18 PM on July 14, 2012

philip-random: There's a track on Obscure #2 (Ensemble Pieces) which curiously doesn't have an artist listed here, just the title (1 2, 1-2-3-4). It has to be one of my life's most listened-to pieces of anything.

Listening to it now (2 or 3 minutes in). Just wonderfully weird and unsettled in a sweet kind of way. And when it does match up, it's very touching. Poignant.

Hahaha...so cool.
posted by Skygazer at 4:19 PM on July 14, 2012

I think it may be making the neighborhood dogs howl...ha ha...
posted by Skygazer at 4:29 PM on July 14, 2012

@ubuweb recently tweeted:
UbuWeb is back but will not be here forever. Everything on the site is downloadable. Please download as much as you can. ‪#donttrustthecloud‬
And followed up with
Thanks for all your concern. For the moment, Ubu is fine. Should the case be otherwise, we'll let you know. For now, download & enjoy.
Makes me nervous anyway!
posted by moonmilk at 8:17 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is an amazing website.

There's a shortnote about ubuweb killing off their rss feed, but they do have a twitter feed that you can feed into your rss reader:

via the method here: Feed

Also downthemall for firefox and chrome equivalent Download Master are your friends, what a great site.
posted by stratastar at 11:17 AM on July 15, 2012

Ubuweb is just so awesome, in the true sense of the word. So is Eno. I have this stuff already, but this makes me very happy.
posted by OmieWise at 11:36 AM on July 15, 2012

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