Much more to it than endless noodling

Thu, 26 Jul 2012, 11:35am

Electronic music – what does that make you think of? Massive Jean Michel Jarre shows, complete with half of London lit up to look like imploding galaxies or wonky pyramids?

The Doctor Who theme? Brian Eno's synth breaks on early Roxy Music singles, sounding as completely alien at the time as Eno looked?

Seemingly impenetrable classic pieces, all strange bangs and crashes, sound effects and shrieks? Modern electronica?

Whatever your take on electronic music, there's something to be discovered in the survey of the history of the art put together by download music store Bleep, and available for a limited time in MP3, WAV and FLAC formats.

The 55-track Bleep: A Guide to Electronic Music covers everything from Messaien's Oraison, played on the Theremin-like Ondes Martenot through to the likes of Boards of Canada's Roygbiv, Aphex Twin's Windowlicker and a recent ambient track from Brian Eno, Emerald and Lime.

Something for everyone? Just about: there's music based on R&B samples, pioneering musique concrète in the form of Pierre Schaeffer's 1952 Etude aux chemins de fer, composed completely from recordings of trains, and John Cage's Williams mix from the following year, combining eight quarter-inch tape channels, each playing sounds of a different kind.

Other standouts include Louis and Bebe Barron's main title music from Forbidden Planet, and a piece by Iannis Xenakis, built up from layered recordings of burning charcoal, for the Le Corbusier-deisgned Philips Pavilion at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels (seen below in a picture by Wouter Hagens).

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop is represented by founder Daphne Oram (above) and a later track by John Baker, Jean Michel Jarre is there with a movement from Oxygene, and the diversity of the content here is demonstrated by the inclusion of everyone from Charanjit Singh, Afrika Bambaataa, Divine and Shannon.

Yes, Shannon – Let the Music Play, from 1984.

It's not always the easiest listen, especially the earlier tracks, but I found it to be as fascinating as it is illuminating: if your view of electronic music starts and ends with prog-rock noodling, you owe it to yourself to open your mind to what is probably the biggest influence on the way most popular music sounds today.

Bleep: A Guide to Electronic Music is based on a Facebook timeline on the same subject, and is available for download until September. The MP3 version is £14.99, with WAV and FLAC at £17.99 apiece.

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Thanks for pointing this out, a trip down memory lane and then some! I agree that the early stuff was really nice, turned me on to some great tracks, this is awesome: Ragas To A Disco Beat Smile

There is quite a lot of noodling though! The early stuff is REALLY interesting, the compilation gets a bit samey towards the end as it concentrates on a very specific branch of dance music.

And £17.99? I didn't pay anything like that much for my FLAC download a few weeks ago!

£17.99 is what it says on the website, so that's what I quoted. It may be available at other prices elsewhere – happy to flag it up if you know of somewhere to get it for less.

Hmm, just checked my email receipt, £17.99, what the hell else did I buy that day? I need a vacation...

Ah right – the guys at Bleep did say yesterday that it's always been £17.99 since release. As to what else you bought that day, hmmm...