[Please welcome the Mercury's new intern and resident English person Alex Ross, as he reflects on last Saturday's retail bonanza, Record Store Day.]
At 7 am on April 18 last year, I was standing outside the only record store in a small British city. Tired and disorientated by the mix of late night hangers-on and eager early risers, I became fearful that I was unprepared for Record Store Day. These people had lists and goals. When the doors flung open an hour later, they would charge into the tiny room. It would be each man for himself, full on warfare, bleary eyes meeting only to give death stares when elbowing someone out of the way wouldn’t do. They wanted that Sigur Ros 7-inch that played from the inside out and nothing was going to stop them.
This year as I stare at my spoils from Record Store Day 2013, a common theme seems to be developing. Being hopelessly disorganized, I’ve again ended up with a bunch of records that had nothing to do with the day itself. As always, I’ve got a load of vinyl that I could have bought at any time of the year and I’ve spent a load of money that I didn’t have.
Yet there’s one record that peers out at me, telling me that, even if I haven’t got my shit together, I’m in Portland. Portland has got my shit together for me, and everything will be okay. It’s a copy of American Gong by Quasi that Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes signed for me on Saturday and I’m trying not to drool on it as I type this.
There are a number of reasons for this over-salivation. First of all, Janet Weiss is my favorite drummer. Everything she does is perfect. Try listening to "The Fox" by Sleater-Kinney and not air-drumming. You can’t. Second, Quasi sum up everything that is great about the early '90s indie rock that we’re all so faithfully trying to rip off at the moment. Exuberant and melancholy all at once, they tread a line between sarcasm and sincerity that most people still fail to match, and American Gong, released in 2010, is one of their best. On top of this, Sam Coomes played bass for Heatmiser and toured with Elliott Smith. This is an awful lot of stuff I like.
So whilst the eager and over-caffeinated were scouring the special releases on Saturday, I was wearing my Kill Rock Stars T-shirt and sheepishly handing over my copy of American Gong to Janet Weiss, staring at my shoes and mumbling something about “favorite ever love you amazing.” I looked like a tourist and sounded like a 12-year-old and felt decidedly like I had my shit together on Record Store Day. For once.
To illustrate why vinyl is so great—apart from the obvious reasons—I would now like to show you what came inside my 1981 Prince album Controversy:
Actually, that would be a waste of money, as not only will Sonic Recollections not bang you after you get it drunk, it is an inanimate object and doesn't even have a mouth for drinking. So, there are better ways to spend your dollars--especially since Sonic Recollections is in the midst of a big sale that goes through the end of the month, offering 21 percent off the entire inventory. (21 years -> 21 percent off... get it? Maths are hard.) That's pretty cool, particularly for a record store that often gets overlooked in favor of some of the other stores in town, but has a great inventory (60,000 records in stock, according to them)—I got a Move record there a little while back, and am long overdue for a return visit. This 21 percent off sale is the perfect impetus.
Sonic Recollections, 2701 SE Belmont, noon-6 pm Tues-Sat
Wasn't this a lovely little nugget to find in the inbox! Sacred Bones Records is putting out the unnerving-as-fuck soundtrack to David Lynch's insane 1977 masterpiece Eraserhead. I think the soundtrack is more unsettling than the actual movie, with eerie creaks, echoing groans, moist squelches, and ghastly machinery rumblings. Lynch and sound guru Alan Splet designed the haunting beast with organic found sounds, layering them for creeping effect, a process that took years. Basically, it's the perfect haunted house soundtrack, especially if crying mutant babies give you a behemoth case of the heebie-jeebies. It's super limited with just 1,500 copies being pressed and lots of little goodies included. Check it:
It's coming out August 7, with pre-sale going on right now over on the Sacred Bones site for $25. Don't buy them all, okay? I have to wait 'til payday for this one. Or better yet, how's about an early Labor Day present? (That's a thing!)
Here's a bit more from the press release about the previously unreleased song "Pete's Boogie":
Though Eraserhead’s most famous piece of music is undoubtedly Peter Ivers’ unforgettable, oft-covered haunting ballad “In Heaven”, and the most exciting attribute of this edition of the soundtrack is no doubt its expansion; during the process of transferring the audio tapes, an unreleased recording from Ivers was discovered. It had not been heard since it was originally performed, over three decades ago.
Why choose between pizza, PBR, and metal, when you can have it all? That's the A- and B-side of the new Red Fang picture disc, a special edition of their monolithic Murder the Mountains album which came out last year. As you can see, side A is a Red Fang pizza—an actual item on the menu at Portland's Sizzle Pie, which just happens to be run by Matt Jacobsen, who also owns Red Fang's record label, Relapse. The B-side is a handsome collection of crusts, crushed PBR cans, and bloody Band-aids. Yum.
The special picture disc of Murder the Mountains can be ordered here. Red Fang have some US dates before heading to Europe for July and the beginning of August. They'll be back home to play MusicfestNW on September 5.
Portland retro-swing band the Stolen Sweets are releasing a 78 RPM record, and if you are thinking to yourself, "Does my record player goes that high?," the answer is NO. It does not.
78 RPM records fell completely out of favor by the 1950s, when 45 RPM singles overtook them as the preferred (and much more convenient) medium of choice. Of course, countless other formats have since been introduced since the 45—not that it keeps punk and indie bands from pumping 'em out.
But I haven't heard of a band making a new 78 RPM record until now. Jen Bernard of the Stolen Sweets explains:
It was recorded live and direct to lacquer via rare lathe cutter machine with Charles Bork of Seattle's Groove-O-Matic Records. Despite the fact that very few people will actually be able to play the 78, we're still pumped up about it. There's some serious audio geekery at hand here. The 78 resurgence movement is alive and well, and it really reflects the era of the Sweets' music.Okay, I don't know about the 78 resurgence movement being alive and well, but everything else sounds pretty interesting. Recording anything live to lacquer (if you remember that seen in The King's Speech, that is what recording live to lacquer means) is a pretty daunting task, so cheers to Bork and Groove-O-Matic for making such a far-fetched project possible.
The Stolen Sweets celebrate the release of their unplayable-for-most-people record on March 15 at the Secret Society. It sounds like a wonderful keepsake.
Make room in your record collection for one of the best (and most sought after) psychedelic garage records of all time, and one of the best records to come from the 1960s, period. The Bachs' 1968 private pressing of Out of the Bachs was limited to just 150 copies, so it's seen many reissues through the years, but this is the best of them. Of course, you could go after one of the originals if you're willing to drop, say... $8000. So unless you're a One Percenter, you're gonna have to settle for the newest reissue from Time Lag. But that's not a bad thing. Actually, this is the first reissue to cut the record from the original pressing at the CORRECT SPEED. You see, the previous versions were just a teensy bit slow (and poorly mastered to boot), making this pressing the definitive issue.
So, what sets this apart from other psychedelic garage greats like Index or the Savages? The Bachs stand out as the only ones of their breed to spill out their insides in such an utterly human and spiritual way. While other fundamental records of the time are plagued by an omnipresent "trippiness," as though the musicians are constantly trying to convince the listener that they're stretching the boundaries, Out of the Bachs is a remarkably free-flowing capture of teenage enlightenment, punctuated by the group's effortlessly overlapping textures, tempo shifts, and spookily poetic lyrics.
The Bachs - "Tables of Grass Fields"
Please welcome Beacon Sound to Northeast Portland. The brand-new record shop opened its doors this past weekend in what might be the most musician-friendly mini-mall in Portland, sandwiched between Revival Drum Shop and Tiga (the watering hole where Portland musicians spin their records and hang their weird art whenever they're not touring).
Beacon Sound is brought to you by Andrew Neerman (of the Intima) and Josh "Sugarbear" Tuntland, and Neerman tells us:
We're going to carry both new and used vinyl; the new stuff will be a well-curated selection of indie rock, electronica, and hip-hop. Used will be much more eclectic, but with the same focus. We intend to carry and promote some labels that you rarely see around town, like Modern Love and Ghost Box (we're going to be Ghost Box's exclusive "stockists" in PDX). My friend Clayton Pledger is also going to be selling his handmade guitars out of the shop, as well as taking repair jobs (pledgerguitars.com)... We hope to make it a social hub, more than just a "retail experience", and also be open late on the weekends.The space is incredibly attractive inside (pics on their Facebook page), with plenty of vinyl and acoustic guitars adorning the walls. In addition to records and guitars, Beacon Sound also sells books, publications, and vintage postcards.
Beacon Sound, 1465-D NE Prescott, Mon-Thurs noon-9 pm, Fri-Sat noon-late, Sunday noon-6 pm
Whenever a new reissue comes out on eclectic local label Mississippi Records, you automatically know it's an essential buy. But the quality of their most recent releases bumps these up from essential into the MUST-HAVE category. And with so many of them to purchase, you may find yourself selling your plasma and Oregon Trail Card to make ends meet, because Mississippi vinyl is surely more important than blood and food. Good thing their records are always so well-priced.
DEAD MOON - IN THE GRAVEYARD / UNKNOWN PASSAGE / DEFIANCE
The first three Dead Moon releases reissued on vinyl. "Dead Moon were a band that existed outside of the constraints that time & style usually impose on artists. An authentic mix of psychedelic rock, punk, blues, country, & every other American music worth a damn. Lo-fi as hell. Remastered from the original tapes."
Portland band Neptune Skyline has readied their second album for vinyl release. Entitled Spring Reverb, it's another collection of inventive and difficult-to-classify music from Mike Pitts, former vocalist of long-running Northwest rockers the Kent 3. There are synth explorations, strummed acoustic guitars, spacey psych, and more, all flowing from Pitts' wide-ranging pen, which incorporates elements of razor-slice goth, tranced-out shoegaze, and crumpled bedroom pop. Spring Reverb is for sale at Jackpot Records, and you can listen to several songs online here. Even better, tune into KZME's The Magic Number program tomorrow, Saturday, July 23 at 6 pm, broadcasting at 107.1 FM or online here; the direct link via iTunes is here. Pitts will be visiting the show, performing live in the studio as well as playing songs from the record.
What's so cool about a Japanese band with a French name that references cheeky Sam Peckinpah movies? Well, they just happen to be one of the greatest of all time, and they never even recorded a single studio record, although bootlegs of their live performances reveal a band miles ahead of international peers Hawkwind and Blue Cheer. Heavily influenced by the noisiest moments of the Velvet Underground's records and performance art, frontman Mizutani Takashi centered the band's live performances around heavily reverbed white noise, deafening feedback screams, and visual stimulus like mirror orbs and strobe lights. However, the band was anything but a one-trick pony, as evidenced by their stubborn refusal to play anything the same way twice, the frequent incorporation of lilting doo-wop/dub basslines, and the sublime heartbreak of Takashi's vocal melodies. Without this band, you wouldn't even have an Acid Mothers Temple, whatever that is.
FACT: Dénudés bassist Moriaki Wakabayashi was instrumental in the Japanese Red Army's hijacking of Japan Airlines Flight 351. Takashi is rumored to have been offered a part in the operation as well, but he denied to participate.
Get your vaporizer fired up, dudes. Portland chuggernauts Eternal Tapestry (E-Tap to all you psychedelic gangstas) are set to release an improvised collaboration LP with Sun Araw's Cameron Stallones on July 19 though Thrill Jockey Records.
The LP, entitled Night Gallery, is 45 minutes of improvised head-fuckery that took place at a University of Texas television studio during SXSW 2010 for a KVRX live broadcast in-studio session. Captured in one take, with no overdubs, the music has been sectioned off into four songs, paying homage to Twilight Zone's Rod Serling's early '70s television program Night Gallery, which the musicians fell asleep watching during their stay in Austin. As with most everything the two have released over the past four years, Night Galleryis bound to be an epic journey destined to fill those voids in your mind.
E Tap is scheduled to perform June 24 at Someday Lounge with Danava, July 27 at The Know with recent Thrill Jockey signees Barn Owl, and Sept. 10 at Ash St. Saloon with White Hills and Pierced Arrows. Sadly, there are no Pacific NW dates for Sun Araw.
Record Store Day, despite the main intention to draw customers into independent record stores with exclusive, limited releases only available that day, seems to be on the receiving end of shit-talk from record consumers who regularly shop at the very stores they deliberately avoid on Record Store Day. The Stranger's Mike Nipper, an avid, obsessive record collector who regularly hits up thrift stores and record shops (including one I used to work at), recently posted on Line Out:
"I've been buying records for 30 years, and I shop every-FUCKING-day for records. Seriously, I do. So I always cringe a bit that there hasta be some special-day-by-marketing to keep punters interested. That said, I HOPE YOU ENJOYED YOUR RECORD STORE DAY.".
But it should be noted that record stores, despite trying to get as many of titles that they can, only get a fraction of what they order, sometimes none at all. Many indie labels, from Goner and Light in the Attic, to Sub Pop and Matador/XL handle direct-store sales and distribution with indie music retailers. The direct-sales reps at the labels factor how frequent and how much the stores regularly order non-RSD releases when they divvy out the rations of RSD releases. So, a record store like Amoeba will obviously get more than Exiled Records or Green Noise. It's a numbers game, where smaller shops unfortunately get the shit-end of the stick. When Matador released the Jay Reatard singles a few years ago (some limited to as few as 500 - and it wasn't even for Record Store Day), stores like the one I was a buyer at received only three copies out of 25 of each single we actually ordered, and all of those were claimed by "special orders" placed in advance. Those singles never even had a chance to hit the racks for the general public. Though most stores adopt a NO HOLD policy on these Record Store Day releases (going as far to sign an agreement that states they won't withhold any RSD stock to later sell on eBay), it was only those who got to the store the earliest that secured their chances of snagging a limited release. And this year, there were many, many releases, catering to all demographics of fans, completists, and vinyl fetishists. And those people came out in record numbers to get them.
The lines are another thing. Yes, you will have to wait in a long line to make your purchases, as most record shops are only set up with one or two cash registers. It's like a popular coffee shop at 8am, or Splash Mountain in July, all day long. Record store clerks are inundated with questions about certain records, complaints about the availability, and other things, while re-stocking the shelves to better service you. We can complain all day about the crowds and the lines of people who swarm to the record store to scoop up these items that some see as more of an investment that can later be resold for a healthy profit, than a cherished part of their collection, but that's not the point.
Record Store Day is about the record stores that serve the community year-round, not just on this day. And I think people should realize that RSD was started to reignite a spark in music collectors who might have lost it at some point and to keep them coming back, to spend money in these stores. The internet changed the game for record stores; trying to compete with something that's readily available for free as a download is not an easy thing to do. So they decided to bring in music that you can't get on the internet. A lot of record stores feel like ghost towns most days. You can't really blame the stores for wanting to be packed.
Some record stores around the city are celebrating the annual Record Store Day tomorrow with a slew of free all-ages instore performances, sales, contests, and all sorts of swag giveaways.
Here's a quick run-through of what's going down at a few shops around town (if you know of something you don't see below, feel free to leave details in the comments!). Don't forget to set your alarm and watch that tax refund you just got back from Uncle Sam disappear faster than some of those records on the shelves.
Jackpot Records (203 SW 9th/W. Burnside)
10:00am - DJ Steve Turner (Mudhoney)
2:00pm - Red Fang
4:00pm - DJ Anjali
Jackpot Records (3574 SE Hawthorne)
Noon - "We are enlisting the services of our Vinyl Clairvoyant who will be psychically deducing what FREE record you will be going home with" (I have no idea what this means, but you'll get something free out of it...)
3:00pm - School of Rock acoustic set
Music Millennium (3158 E. Burnside)
2:00pm - Deftones ltd. RSD vinyl album signing*
*while supplies last/time permitting/limit one per person
All Day - Enter to win a pair of Onitsuka Tiger shoes. (I wonder if these are RSD exclusive vinyl shoes. Jokes.)
Everyday Music (1931 NE Sandy Blvd)
All Day - 20% off all used, 10% off all new
1:00pm - DJ Steve Turner (Mudhoney)
4:00pm - Purple & Green
Everyday Music (1313 W. Burnside)
All Day - 20% off all used, 10% off all new
1:30 pm - Hosannas
2:00 pm - Zia McCabe (Dandy Warhols/Brush Prairie) DJ Set
3:00 pm - Brush Prairie
4:00 pm - Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside
5:00 pm - Nurses DJ set
6:00 pm - White Hinterland DJ set
7:00 pm - Ancient Heat DJ set
Exiled Records (4628 SE Hawthorne)
No instore performances are scheduled for the tiny Southeast haven for psych, garage, and experimental records, but along with the exclusive RSD vinyl releases, Exiled Records is having a huge sale on their compact discs.
Record Room (8 NE Killingsworth St)
12:00pm-10:00pm - DJ Gutter Glamour, 1939 Ensemble, DJ Keep it on the Brownlowe, Old Wars, DJ Jenny Hoyston
Mississippi Records (4007 N. Mississippi)
Nothing planned for this great North Portland record store. Go there anyway. It's highly possible they have some piece of vinyl you've been trying to track down (except the new, already out-of-print Grouper record...major bummer).
Goodbye, Savings Account.
The folks over at Pitchfork are giving us the first taste of Grouper's forthcoming double LP release, A | A, with the title track to the second LP entitled "Alien Observer." (To lessen the confusion, each LP of A | A is individually titled: Dream Loss and Alien Observer, respectively.) On "Alien Observer," Liz Harris creates an expansive yet spare and nuanced dream-like state, with hushed piano chords and airy vocals that drift into the cosmos and explore whatever else is out there that might never be known. It seems rather introspective and lilted with strange, enigmatic beauty that has always been the case with Grouper's music, but even the smallest sampling of it has me hungry for more.
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