For the 25th anniversary of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1983, the BBC released The Soundhouse: Music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, “a new collection of tracks illustrating some of the work that has been completed at the Workshop” since their last compilation, the retrospective BBC 21.
As Roger Limb’s notes on the rear album cover note, The Soundhouse provides notable examples of the new advances in technology - notably the Fairlight Computer Synthesizer - as well as the Workshop’s “new departures”, which feature the blending of electronic and conventional music.
The first cut, “Radiophonic Rock,” features the Fairlight as the rhythmic backbone, with each of the Workshop’s composers - Peter Howell, Roger Limb, Jonathan Gibbs, Malcolm Clarke, Elizabeth Parker, and Dick Mills - putting together half a minute of music each, all of which are incorporated into a 25th anniversary celebration. It’s just as odd today as it was 34 years ago, which is why it’s still absolutely fascinating.
The previous BBC Radiophonic Workshop compilation, 21, had been a little scattershot, covering as it did a solid twenty years’ worth of recordings. As The Soundhouse focuses more tightly on a four-year period, and the advances made with the Fairlight, this sounds less like a historical document, and much more like a proper album. Hearing Mills’ “Seascape” from The British Seafarer off Radio 4 go into Paddy Kingsland’s “The Whale” from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is stunning and gorgeous, and shows the thought and care which went into the sequencing.
With each Radiophonic Workshop reissue, Silva Screen gets better and better, and with The Soundhouse, they’ve absolutely come up aces. The reissue comes on yellow edge glow vinyl, in a reproduction of the original sleeve. It looks fantastic, as with most of Silva Screen’s reissues. Plus, as it’s been remastered by Mark Ayres, it sounds like it was just recorded the other week. One would never guess that these were over three decades old.
THE SOUNDHOUSE (1983) / COMPOSER: THE BBC RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP / LABEL: SILVA SCREEN RECORDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW