“Being a young teenager growing up in England in the early ‘80s, the music that made the charts was diverse and groundbreaking,” says Stuart Leath in the music room of his South London home. “You’d be listening to a punk record, next to an electronic disco record, next to a left-field pop record and you would just think it was normal.”
A veteran of the UK’s free party scene of the early ‘90s with a penchant for the outer reaches of post-punk, folk, ambient and disco, Leath founded his label Emotional Rescue in 2011. “I’ve always been interested in making connections and joining the dots between all these different records,” he says surrounded by the vinyl that is the source material for his eclectic reissue label.
A sister imprint to the Emotional Response dance label, Emotional Rescue specializes in releasing recordings that only the deepest diggers would know. The label’s output spans everything from the Krautrock of Dunkelziffer to the Mexican ambience of Jorge Reyes. “The identity of the label is really just my tastes and these records I own,” Leath says, gesturing to the LPs, 7”s and 10”s that cover every bit of wall space around us.
Stepping inside Leath’s music room is like entering a research laboratory. On the floor is a row of albums that he is either considering re-issuing or is in the early stages of negotiations to re-issue. “Tracking people down can still be a challenge, but it’s become a lot easier with the Internet,” he says. “With experience, you also get a feel for what you are doing and there is a methodology to it. So now I quickly know if I have hit a dead end.”
Like other boutique labels, such as EM Records out of Osaka and Music From Memory in Amsterdam, Emotional Rescue’s catalog continues surprise—whether it’s a boogie record from Jamaica or a dancefloor edit of Hawkwind. “I think in some ways we are putting out music that somehow resonates in a stronger way than when it was originally recorded,” Leath says.
As he digs out a selection of records that are in the pipeline for release, it’s clear his own thrill of discovery has never faded. “I’m always coming across new things,” he says. “And I do feel like the label has its own sound—and that really is very much me and my collection coming through in the records I reissue.”
“Wild It’s Broken”
Wild It’s Broken is an avant-garde disco rarity recorded by an ex-member of ‘60s garage band Jubal’s Children. Something of a holy grail for collectors of the freakier end of the disco spectrum. New Yorker Robert Wahlsteen’s (aka Bob Chance) 1980 track “It’s Broken” came from Chance’s uber-obscure LP for San Francisco’s Morrhythm Records. “That was a big record from the DJ History forum (run by DJ/writer Bill Brewster),” Leath says. “Bob is now living in California and retired from music, but he loved the fact that his music was being heard again.” The LP was re-issued later in 2012 by Trunk Records, but Emotional Rescue went deeper by releasing a previously unknown test pressing recorded seven years after the original. DJ Shadow called it “hairy forearm disco”.
Clive and Mark Ives had been making tapes for their own amusement in their South London home for nearly 10 years before their first LP, Whichever Way You Are Going, You Are Going Wrong, was released in 1982. They create a sound all their own, where pastoral English folk, lo-fi jazz, analog dub electronics, and new age ambience meld into a meditative and somehow nostalgic brew. “I can’t remember when I first heard Woo, as a lot of this music just seeps into your subconscious,” Leath says. “But I do remember what song it was, and that was ‘It’s Love’ from Into The Heart Of Love, which I think is their masterpiece.” It came out on the small Cloud Nine Music label on cassette only in 1990, but was revived by Emotional Rescue in 2014 following their re-issue of the equally beguiling Whichever Way You Are Going. “They had always just done their own small thing creating this unique sound,” Leath says. “It was really music out of time so it’s great to see them reaching a new audience today through Bandcamp.”
Carl & Carol Jacobs
In 1987, Trinidadian soca singers Carl and Carol Jacobs enjoyed a momentary burst of fame after they released We Wanna Live on Eddy Grant’s ICE label. But one year earlier, they released a 12” single called “Bend Down and Rock.” The A-Side was typical of the pop soca the couple was known for; but it was the B-Side that caused prices of this 12” reach as much as $100. “I can remember when I first heard ‘Robot Jam.’ It immediately felt like a record I knew, because it has the British-type feel of Eddy Grant.” This Caribbean electro rarity cut up the duo’s take on Santana’s “Jingo” and Rock Master Scott “The Roof Is on Fire” and became one of the biggest sellers for the label. The B-Side features Nick The Record and Dan from Idjut Boys stretching the track out to an eight-minute dub electro bomb.
Born in Madrid in 1958, Javier Bergia is best known for his guitar work in the group Finis Africae. Formed in the early ‘80s during Madrid’s post-Franco cultural renaissance, they are known for their Balearic classic “El Secreto De Las” and LPs of exotic ambient brilliance like “Prima Travesia” and “Un Dia En El Parque.” “Finis Africae was another record that was always floating around on DJ History,” Leath says. “After hearing it, I started digging for that Spanish sound, and found the Javier Bergia solo LPs.” Taken from albums like “Recoletos” and “Tagomago” this selection shows Bergia moving between the classical and electronic to create music that straddled folk, Balearic, ambient, and pop.
Jorge Reyes & Antonio Zepeda
A La Izquierda Del Colibr
Jorge Reyes incorporated elements of his own indigenous music to create ambient electronic soundscapes all his own. Born in Uruapan, Michoacán, Mexico in 1952 he was a member of two of the country’s leading rock bands of the ‘70s, but also spent time studying Indian flute and percussion during his travels in the Himalayas. After a solo debut Ek-Tunkul in 1983, which mixed prog rock and ambient, he became a leading figure in the new age scene collaborating with the likes of America’s Steve Roach and Spanish guitarist Suso Sáiz. But it was his fellow Mexican experimental electronic folk artist Antonio Zepeda that Reyes recorded what Stuart Leath considers to be his masterwork. Mixing indigenous instrumentation with electronics the pair created an ancient to future sound that still sounds progressive today.
O Yuki Conjugate
Scene In Mirage
“I knew O Yuki Conjugate from their ‘90s chill out album Peyote,” Leath says. “Then I came across Scene In Mirage about 15 years ago, and when I started the label I thought, ‘Why don’t I mail them and discuss releasing it.’” Emerging during the creative fallout of post-punk, Roger Horberry and Andrew Hulme formed the group in Nottingham, UK, in 1982. They debuted two years later with this LP for the small A-Mission Records label. With a love of found sound samples and tape loop collages made from cassettes stolen from libraries, they created their ‘dirty ambient’ music using a homemade digital delay with a 1.6 second sampling feature. DIY music at its primitive best, the album stands alone as one of the more darkly ambient post-industrial/cold wave releases of the ‘80s. They credit this to the influence of the fourth world music of Jon Hassell, whose mix of world music and modern electronics provides the foundation for Side 2 of this LP on tracks like ‘Odomankoma’ and ‘Aura’.
When The Boom Was On
From the more pop end of the UK’s independent music scene of the 1980s, Furniture are best known for their chart-topper “Brilliant Mind,” recorded for the Stiff label in 1986. Formed in the late ‘70s in Ealing, West London, the trio arrived at “Brilliant Mind” via a series of alternative pop EPs recorded for the tiny Premonition Records label. “It’s a sound that you immediately know if you’ve grown up in that early ‘80s period in the UK,” Leath says. “But they also have a very distinctive sound. Two of the group (Hamilton Lee and Tim Whelan) went on to become part of Transglobal Underground, and you can hear that link—Furniture have a very percussive sound.” The six-track EP “When The Boom Was On” from 1982 was the most sought after, with Discogs prices now around the $100 mark. It’s a wonderful LP of quirky British new wave pop that veered from the Japan-influenced ballad “I Miss You” to the marimba driven “Robert Nightmare’s Journey,” to the DJ friendly “Why Are We In Love.”
Elaine Kibaro grew up in Tunisia before moving to France when she was 13. In the late ’70s and early ‘80s, she recorded a series of LPs that brought a new twist to the chanson tradition, with the singer incorporating folk, disco, and soul. This compilation opens with a segue of the spoken word “Introduction” from her 1979 debut Miroirs and the soundtrack style folk-rock of ‘Le Réveil’ from the 1981 follow up, Au Solei. As Stuart puts it: “Kibaro’s music’s has a timeless essence; a voice and words found through life experience—beauty, discovery, nature, and dreams.” On tracks like ‘Sorcière’ she proved herself a worthy carrier of the chanson torch passed down by legends like Juliette Gréco. But it’s the modern production on Balearic disco burners like ‘Ne Doute Pas’ that have helped nudge up the price of the original late 80’s LPs like Kiroël.