Obscure Records was set up in 1975 by Brian Eno. Effectively it was a subdivision of Island and later Polydor Records. It lasted three years and put out ten records, one of which was by Eno. Nine of them were produced by him (the other one had him down as 'executive producer'). Even given that this was the Seventies, Obscure was a brave venture. After all, Eno had only been in the public consciousness for three years or so, and that was mostly as a glam icon making funny noises on synth and churning out futurist avant pop gems.
Yet here he was, allowed to put out whatever he liked, on his own label. And the stuff he did put out sounded like it belonged on labels like Deutsche Grammofon or Incus or FMP or ESP or on Audio Arts cassettes. There wasn't much in the way of electronics or interesting haircuts or feather boas.
For the most part Obscure acted as a home to a hub of English 'experimental' composers. It was the first time the work of Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman, David Toop and Christopher Hobbs could be heard outside of their usual small run cassettes or vinyl. This was a nod to some of Eno's immediate influences, many of whom he played with in the Scratch Orchestra.
The records were made quickly and cheaply and not all of those involved were happy with the results (Tom Phillips' Irma seems a case in point, and it is pretty awful), but at its best Obscure showcased a range of peculiarly English experimentalism that fed on Cage, free improvisation, 'world' music and jazz. With the exception of Eno's Discreet Music and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra album, most of the Obscure releases have been sporadically available, with many not making it to CD. This mix highlights a few of my favourite party starters from the label.
Slavoj Zizek interviewed by Vice
3 days ago