Saturday, March 26, 2011
Originally this review started with some contrived link to Simon and Garfunkel but on reading it back it didn't really make any sense so I scrapped it.
The other week saw me on vacation in Whitby, great I thought, a chance for me to go to the town's 'Fruitshop Records', sadly 'Fruitshop Records' is now a children's wear boutique and the children's wear boutique did not sell any records. Luckily I had a plan B in the shape of a drive about 20 miles further south to Scarborough, home of the most awesome monument to Victoriana, The Grand Hotel. Seriously, why isn't this in every guide book of the UK? We are talking about what was at one time the world's largest hotel, a 300plus room bohemoth built like the Titanic.
This was my second visit to Scarborough's 'Dysc World'. You will be relieved to know that it is not in fact a Terry Pratchet themed fantasy record shop but rather a normal every day used record store that has taken on board tour shirts, DVDs and that kind of fayre to stay afloat in these uncertain times. They also sell Poppers (Amyl Nitrate) just in case you were wondering where you might score yourself a heart rush followed by a throbbing headache featuring a floating green dot to blur your vision.
The first time I visited 'Dysc World' a couple of years back the stock was much the same, some unusual sections, 'Rainbow' for instance got their very own divider. In case you are wondering this also doubled as an Ian Gillan section and yes, there was a copy of the 'Future Shocks' album. Anyway, I picked up a few bits and pieces but nothing much to really speak of. On this trip however I came away with a few things including first presses of both 'The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter' and 'The 5000 Spirits' by Incredible String Band both very reasonably priced.
I was in the middle of wondering how a shop like this might stay open in a northern seaside town with high unemployment and the now obligatory influx of Eastern European immigrants (No issues with anybody from the former Eastern Bloc at all, it's just that in my experience they are not know for their love of used records) when a couple of people came in doing what looked like a weekly DVD box set exchange.
'How much for the complete series of Firefly?' etc.
It's a pretty tiny shop and much of the given space is used to display CDs, DVDs etc. That said, if you are in the area it's well worth a visit, especially if you are an early 80s metal completist.
Friday, March 25, 2011
I suppose if I were to stay true to what I has actually listened to today this would be a review of the majesty of Irene Cara's 'Flashdance'. Luckily it is not because it's a terrible song that I can't defend but also one that I am more than happy to listen through as and when it appears at 'random' on my MP3 player. (Kind of like the whole of Erasure's glorious 'POP' album)
This had been on a fair bit at home though so I thought it was worth talking to.
The images that the name 'Riechmann' conjures up do not necessarily tally with the picture used for the front sleeve. Was I the only one expecting our man to be dressed like he was in the Waffen SS? Anyway, 'white face' with blue lipstick and dusted hair is also good. Kind of Klaus Nomi style utter cod but also good.
Luckily the similarities with the previously mentioned late castrato pop-opera idiot end there. This is high-quality late 70's electronic music fresh from the Fatherland. 'Wunderbar' is not a concept album about a late night drinking establishment, what it is is a strangely fluid and metallic sounding collection of almost timeless songs. It's chock-full of gliding synth work and washes the kind of sound that has become very en-vogue of late (this might go some way to explaining this album's recent re-issue.)
This said it's not without it's faults. The opener and title track desperately needs the 'Doctor Whoisms' sucking out of it. It plods, sounds derivative. it has a sleeve that screams 'second rate Kraftwerk, These moans aside it's a very solid entry into the genre and the remaining tracks bring to mind the highlights from Vangelis' 'Blade Runner' score at times confidently out-doing it.
Riechmann was from the same Dusseldorf school as Klause Schulze which goes some way to explaining away the sound. I have to come clean and admit that whilst I understand the sound of 'Dusseldorf school' music I am still unsure as to whether this is an actual school (all blazers and ties) or if it's a conceptual school as in 'school of thought'. Either way.
Sadly our man Riechmann was stabbed to death weeks before this was released (leading me to believe it was an actual school as this is a pretty standard occurrence around such places London) meaning that aside of the hooky looking 'Riechmann/Streetmark' album this is his only recorded solo output. So to conclude, it's good. It's well worth buying. It's also worth going the extra few quid and getting an original copy as they go for around the 20 mark. In theory it should sound better and if it doesn't you at least have an original that smells of that electronic time of wonderment.
And there was me thinking my day wasn't going to get any better after a nice and crispy copy of Richard Pinhas' 'Ice Land' finally landed on my desk.
Awesome blog alert!
Not something I have given space to before but in a search for images for my current 'wants list/bingo card' I discovered this site. It is utterly amazing in every respect. Yes it's written in French. No I don't speak the language beyond being able to ask for directions to the library but holy shit if the international language of music doesn't speak for itself.
I came away educated, titillated and with an overwhelming desire to get on a plane to France to get my 'hunt' on.
I suppose it's also something of a reality check. I am never going to own all of the records. Just when I think I'm in a place my desire or addiction has subsided, where I can sit happy and thumb through those that I own at my leisure, maybe even playing the occasional record something like this comes along: A deep and un-mined vein rich with suggestions of how I might spunk eighty quid on something black round and wonderful.
Take the above for instance: I don't even buy 7"s but this left me questioning my own parameters, maybe it's time to break my own rules so that I can give a home to what might be the greatest picture sleeve the world has ever seen.
Not that I have some strange 'hoard-all' desire like the man from the 'Vinyl' documentary to own a copy of every song ever recorded. (I wonder if he finally caved and went the way of itunes). I do however have an at times unquenchable thirst for new, exciting music and beyond that beautifully printed heavy stock laminated gate-fold sleeves that smell of days gone by.
Anyway, merci bien Monsieur Francemusik, tres bon!
Go there now, join up, learn French, but don't download the music because downloading music is very bad... But maybe not as bad as spending all of your time and money in used record shops.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Yeah it's totally passable if you like the Pastels. If you don't it's way too wishy washy and forgettable.
Jingly-jangly guitar, a very slow-tempo and production that favors the Bowie circa 'Raw Power' 'recorded from behind the sofa' method. It's unsubstantial, instantly forgettable and too dreamy. I mean I like dreamy, Mazzy Star did it to perfection, this is just kind of annoying though. It's the soundtrack to a frail lactose-intolerant teenage boy falling down a thick-pile carpeted staircase in slow motion.
The reason for my revisitation is that in print they would often get mentioned in the same sentence as Rugby's world changing and ever (almost ever) awesome Spacemen 3. Maybe it's because of vocal similarities or maybe it's because both bands have numbers in their names. (I could easily have ended up with Maroon 5 playing on my walk home).
The reason for me specifically choosing 'This is Our Music' was the Ornette Coleman album of the same name, i wondered if there might be some head-nod or similarity. Unsurprisingly there is not.
What to say other than if I was a female college student doing a degree in 'Social Studies' circa 1990 I might really like this. I could eat fried Tofu to it while I brush my hair into my face to hide myself from the world. At best I could have bad and instantly regrettable sex to it with some guy with shoulder-length hair that I met at a party whose name might be Ian to it.
...And Ian would not call me back.
So this place has something of a reputation. It's supposed to be one of THE places to go to 'dig the crates'. Maybe it is. I'm not a crate digger and the chances of finding something mis-priced, misplaced or forgotten in 2011 are slim at best. The Japanese guy who has apparently extended his stay due to the tragic nuclear/water based situation on the home-front is a crate digger. He is loving the 7" boxes.
There is also a woman with what can only be described as a homeless air about her sifting through a box of what looks like electronic jumble.
'Jack! I'm going to buy the DVD player. We don't have a DVD player, it's five bucks.'
Another guy comes in minutes behind me asking where the 'dollar bin' is. Despite this I soldier on and check and double check both the 'World' and 'Jazz' sections stopping only to take in the overweight black dude mesmerized by an entire wall of cassettes. He is skipping through them on his Walkman muttering as he does so.
I find nothing.
The 'A to Z Rock' section looks more like hell on earth than anything else but I persevere, skipping the less attractive sections. Sections like 'Bee-Bop Deluxe', 'Alex Harvey Band', 'Sad Cafe'. Okay so there wasn't a 'Sad Cafe' section but their album did crop up in the 'S' section. Anyway, you get the picture and it's at about this point that I start to loose the will to live and instantly regret not only paying the $26 cab fare to get here but also the 3 hour window I have given myself to spend 'leisurely perusing' said racks.
There is a 'Psych' section with jolly and hand drawn graphics for certain bands and sub-genres. Unfortunately it's currently the home of the dull, the obvious and the reissued.
It's a shame as the guy in the hat with the grey hair who appears to own or at least run this place seems very friendly, not that i attempt to engage him in any way, I am far to absorbed at the task in hand - Attempting to salvage something from a place that has it would seem been systematically picked over by everybody on the planet with a turntable apart from me.
I do manage to cobble together a small pile of potential purchases including a first press of Big Black's 'Racer X' from the confusingly titled 'Imports' section. Apparently in this part of Boston 'Alternative and Indie' music is called 'Imports'. But it's no good. The mood has left me. There is nothing in here that I am prepared to pay excess baggage on my flight home for. (NB: Fuck Virgin atlantic for its recent and paltry 1 case 28kg limit)
I leave the shop starved of air and empty handed.
The homeless lady does not buy the DVD player and Jack puts back the copy of Turner and Hooch that he had been considering.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I asked a few people what would make the top album's of 2010 list and aside of the long drawn out bouts of silence peppered with 'fuck me it was a shit year for music' the only other common denominator was this 'King Night' by Salem.
Personally I had managed to avoid all of the fuss surrounding this, mainly because I thought it was by Z-list metal band Salem but also because the people telling me to go listen to it couldn't really explain why I should or what it sounded like.
In time cool monikers for the genre apparently championed by Salem came along.
'It's Witch House'
Well what to say other than 'You had me at hello'.
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect other than some really dense, mid-fi beat based music and the first couple of times I played it that's exactly what I got. Kind of like sorry for it's self trip-hop (ugh) fed through the Kevin Shields machine. Then I started using it to calm number one son when he wouldn't stop crying, well okay mostly it was to calm me but as I did I started to get into it.
To say the sound is dense is an understatement, Salem have succeeded in packing so much into their sound it plays like the needle is being dragged through a dirty old suitcase stuffed with shit-stained clothes salvaged from a hospital incinerator and I mean that in the nicest way possible. Its music that's so dirty that it smells. Really though, it does, of beer, of sex, of heroin shit on stone-washed denim.
High pitched keyboard squeals layered over budget drum machines with a voice at the back of the mix so smacked out and slowed down that if the singer needed a Black Metal name he would be called Mogadon. There's some orchestration in there as well and surprisingly, the entire thing managed in part at least to come across as anthemic. Something that despite of itself you could imagine a room full of people dancing to.
I now find myself in the same position that my much hipper friends found themselves in last year: Trying to recommend something to people without really being able to label the sound or explain the musical motive, but that's okay because it's about fucking time.
It was a sunglasses day. One of those days where the sun jumps out at you every time you turn a corner blinding you as it defies the time of year and makes you wonder 'coat or no coat?'. I opted for 'no coat' and regretted this decision right up until buying an old M65 field jacket from a used store. Anyway after nearly freezing to death and a couple of minutes of temporary sun based blindness I found her.
I've not been here for a few years and the last time was pretty brief due to the fact that my wife was in tow.
Despite what the carrier bag says the other branches of Academy Records have closed down and this one stands lone it's finger raised as a 'fuck you' to all of the downloaders, the CD buyers and the people who casually pass by the store front assuming it's a laundromat or something, oblivious to the potential for pure magic that lies within.
I say 'potential' because so much of the 'Academy' experience hangs on what's in the used racks. This is more unpredictable territory than usual because New York gets hit by vinyl hunters, record collectors and idiot 'beat minerz' more than any other city I can think of.
Sadly I was in Williamsburg with work so I could only afford a quick 'in and out' as it were but in the 20 minutes or so I stayed I got a good feel for the place. The racks were patchy, the dance music section was unnecessary and not particularly well sectioned, the 'just in' bins were stripped bare and stuffed with filler and the Rock A to Z section was predictable. 'So where's the magic?' I hear you cry Rice Krispies and milk spluttering from your mouth as you do so.
Well I'm glad you asked. The magic is on the walls, behind the counter and in the 'new' records section. The Indie/Alternative racks were brim full of dead impressive stuff. The walls had a couple of highlights, amongst them a Harry Partch ballet album from 1973 that I bought and the second Animal Collective album complete with poster, which I didn't.
The staff swayed between massively helpful and too kool for skool but then this is a record shop, you'd feel cheated if there wasn't at least a little bit of attitude. You need to get cold shouldered by the guy with the beard every now and again. (NB The guy with the beard was actually very helpful I am generalizing here)
So, no whilst Academy isn't a contender for the hallowed 'Possibly Best Record Shops in the World' list (who is nowadays?) it's not far off, it's way better than the one that used to be downtown on 17th and whatever and I'd work there tomorrow if I could.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
So this place is on 7th and 1st or something, not far from Other Music, one of the remaining places for new releases on the island now that Mondo Kim's bit the dust.
It's alright you know this place. Very friendly, good size and layout, something boutiquey about it. Very attractive lady behind the counter who was more than happy for me to check out the stuff she was cleaning before it was priced. The only slight down side to this place is one synonymous with most of shops in and around this area - They are chock full of Hip-Hop. The Sound Gallery, A1 Records etc. They all feel the need to ram the crates with the 12" artifacts of a dead musical genre.
I mean yeah, some of what came out under that particular umbrella is up there and I could comfortably fill a few C90s with the highlights of the 'Rapness' but really? In 2011? Are people still listening to this in a non post-modern or ironic way? Next you'll be telling me that nobody has identified it as thinly veiled black homo-erotica. Not that there's anything wrong with that at all. I for one like nothing better than watching a buff and shirtless Hip-Hopster gyrating in front of a slowly pulsating large car whilst his trousers fall down.
So to conclude and move on to my thoughts about 'Good Records': Yes Hip-Hop is rubbish and it's a shame New York can't get over it BUT 12" of 'Love Me or Leave Me Alone' by Brand Nubian should be in everybody's record collection right next to '93 Til Infinity' by Souls of Mischief.
We established that half of the floor space is only worth a skim, so what about the rest of it? Nice selection of Jazz, Soul, Rock a modest but pretty impressive Avant section and a fuck load of rare-ass Reggae. The wall was home to some corkers on Black Jazz records and it's the only place I recall going that had three different Doug Carn records in stock.
Anyway, I liked it, it smelled nice and I bought something there. I can't remember what it was as I am still sorting through the 30 plus records that made it home with me from this particular trip.
To conclude. If I was still a resident of Manhattan this place would be a regular haunt, I got the feeling I could happily hang out there just listening to stuff, waiting to be inspired - Even if the hot girl behind the counter asked me if I had just come back from a skiing trip due to my awesome hat and jacket combination.
So go to 'Good Records', it's friendly and clean and unlike a lot of places I shop, the other punters did not smell of piss. Huh! Maybe I just made a connection? Despite their other short comings, people who listen to Hip-Hop do not smell of piss.