1. François Bayle: 50 Ans D'acousmatique (Ina GRM)
Covering a half-century of work, this massive, absolutely awe-inspiring 15-CD set celebrates one of the indisputable masters of “acousmatic” music. Field recordings, musical instrument sounds, and electronic noises are meticulously arranged and transformed into complex, stunning pieces, demonstrating Bayle’s boundless imagination.
2. Can: The Lost Tapes (Mute)
Krautrock fans, rejoice―here’s three hours worth of unreleased recordings with outstanding sound quality and vocal contributions from Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki during the band’s golden years, with soundtrack work, live tracks, and plenty of other gems underscoring the group’s improvisation-as-composition method.
3. Anthony Braxton: The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint & Soul Note (Black Saint/Soul Note)
This eight-CD set features several sides of the composer and saxophonist, with configurations both large (a 17-piece ensemble on Eugene) and small (a duet with drummer Max Roach); it’s an abundance of creativity that’s sometimes perplexing, yet it’s always challenging and stimulating.
4. Various Artists: Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Remixes (Harmless)
Both the disco-era hit-factory-label Philadelphia International and Tom Moulton―the inventor of the 12-inch remix―are celebrated here with this 4-CD boxed set, featuring the entirety of the 1977 double-album Philadelphia Classics plus 17 new mixes and other stirring classic-era tracks from outfits like The O’Jays and MFSB. Enjoy without guilt.
5. Captain Beefheart: Bat Chain Puller (Zappa)
Withheld by the Zappa estate for years, the legendary original recording of this 1976 Beefheart album—mostly re-recorded and released as Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)—finally sees the light of day as a non-bootleg release; his off-kilter rhythms, lyrical weirdness, and enthralling, jerky tugs are uncompromised here.
6. Hermann Szobel: Szobel (Laser’s Edge)
Unbelievably, Austrian child-prodigy pianist Hermann Szobel was still a teenager when he composed and recorded his astounding 1976 debut (and only) album, doomed for obscurity before this reissue. It's breathtakingly tight runs bear a Frank Zappa influence, along with his unique classical/rock/jazz/funk amalgam.
7. The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground & Nico – 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (Polydor)
The legendary 1967 first album from The Velvet Underground with the teutonic, husky-voiced Nico singing lead on three key tracks gets the grand treatment in this six-CD set, featuring both mono and stereo versions, the Scepter Studios sessions acetate (famously found at a flea market for 75 cents), The set includes Nico’s full-length debut, Chelsea Girl, plus rehearsal tracks, and an unreleased 1966 live Columbus, Ohio, set.
8. My Bloody Valentine: EP’s 1988-1991 (Sony Music)
Loveless is the acknowledged shoegazer masterpiece album, but My Bloody Valentine’s last four EPs, compiled here with a generous helping of bonus songs, are consistently strong, as well, with Kevin Shields’s trademark guitar-and-whammy-bar-and-sampler assault, tracking the path Shields took to get to Loveless.
9. Maggie & Terre Roche: Seductive Reasoning (Real Gone Music/Sony)
Before younger sister Suzzy joined the fold to form The Roches, Maggie and Terre Roche released this brilliant, often overlooked 1975 album. Alternately sly and touching, it features accounts of hormonal urges mixed with lunacy with the sisters’ trademark harmonizing and take on folk-country and ballads, with each song capturing a novel’s worth of emotional turmoil and uncertainty.
10. Various Artists: TV Sound and Image (Soul Jazz)
This two-CD set is an impeccable selection of memorable British TV and film themes from largely unheralded composers (apart from the big names John Barry and Tony Hatch), perfect for fans of 1960s/’70s-era library records, funk, and instrumental rock. Roy Budd’s indelible theme from Get Carter and Keith Mansfield’s syncopated horn-drenched “Soul Thing” are among the many high points.