In the unpredictable wake of music's digital rebirth, vinyl has experienced a modest boom in popularity, seen by many (with delicious irony) as a replacement for the awkward middleman that is the compact disc. INCHES seeks not only to review the output of L.A.'s healthy vinyl community (one populated by many indies and some well-intentioned majors), but to pay dap to those who continue to tend the flame, believing that good music deserves much more than a handful of ones and zeros. This week: Five recent releases by five L.A.-area artists on five L.A.-area labels. Suggestions? Email us.
SPECIAL: LOCAL REVOLUTIONS
Artist: Mika Miko
Label: Post Present Medium (Hollywood)
Title: We Be Xuxa
Format: LP (+ newsprint poster, download card), 1000 pressed
Mika Miko is no stranger to the Weekly readership. The Valley-bred party-punk quintet ("all-girl" until the recent addition of drummer Seth Densham) is one of the archetypal bands associated with Downtown's lo-fi mecca, The Smell, which makes the group's placement on Post Present Medium an organic one. PPM is owned by No Age's Dean Spunt -- founded in 2002 after he won a collision-related settlement against a Backstreet Boy (no joke) -- and specializes in all things noisy, punky and pretty. MM's recently released sophomore LP, We Be Xuxa, does well at capturing the live energy that has electrified so many house parties and made the band famous in the first place.
The vinyl sold out in less than five weeks, which is a shame considering how well those clicks and pops compliment the ruddy bass and playful experimentalism, but a forthcoming repress will feature a limited run of colored vinyl (150 copies, so says PPM's Josh Taylor). Next up for the label is a 12-inch mini LP featuring an L.A. sludge supergroup of sorts, White Shit, which comprises Andy Coronado (Skull Kontrol, Wrangler Brutes) and Big Business/The Melvins' Jared Warren and Coady Willis.
Second pressing forthcoming. CD available (if you must) via PPM's web store.
Artist: Shafiq Husayn
Label: Poo-Bah Records (Pasadena)
Title: ...Presents Jank Random Vs. Earl Leonne: The Frequency Cla$h
Format: 12-inch EP, 1000 pressed
Mt. Washington's Shafiq Husayn has a greater history within L.A. music than even most hip-hop heads know. Crack open a copy of Jurassic 5's Quality Control, and you'll find the man's name attached to two songs left untouched by resident super-DJs Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark. Husayn's production style was futuristic even then, and possibly more so when he laid down beats for Ice T's O.G. Original Gangsta (1991). He's best known as one-third of Sa-Ra Creative Partners, but within that group and elsewhere, the man's work stands out as ethereal, bassy, percussive and soulful -essentially the blueprint of this city's current "beat music" scene. The Frequency Cla$h, released earlier this year, sounds at right at home between Madlib and Flying Lotus -- though he's probably influenced both -- and best on vinyl.
This 12-inch EP, limited to 1000 copies, comes courtesy of Pasadena's Poo-Bah Records (both a label and a digger-friendly new/used record store), owned by Ron Stivers, who works the shop floor seven days a week. He cofounded the imprint in 2004 with producer Black Monk and flagship artist Ras G. Poo-Bah's excellent 10-inch series will soon resume with offerings from SAMIYAM and Kankick, but before that, Stivers is giving Nosaj Thing's Drift a proper (as in "on wax") release.
Purchase at the Poo-Bah Records store (2636 E Colorado Blvd, 91107) or via MySpace.
Artist: Rx Bandits
Label: Sargent House (Echo Park)
Format: 2xLP (+ download card), clear blue vinyl, die-cut, gatefold; 1000 pressed
It's a rare Sargent House [http://www.sargenthouse.com/] release that doesn't get the royal vinyl treatment, and thus far, Rx Bandits new record Mandala is the most breathtaking. The cover itself is a Sonny Kay original (the artist/singer who co-owned the GSL label before it folded in 2007, R.I.P.), which opens to reveal a die-cut inner jacket -- a small hole out of which gazes the eye of an oversize green parrot, seated on a sleeve which displays a stunning skull-ridden mandala. Inside of that, of course, is a translucent disc of rich blue vinyl. The pre-listening experience is akin to an Indiana Jones expedition, and the music actually manages to live up to that.
The Seal Beach-based band has long fought an uphill battle against the dooming un-hipness of having horns and an audible appreciation for roots reggae, even though RxB's path has, for the better part of 14 years, been guileless and boldly experimental. The Bandits have recently reconfigured as a brass-less four-piece, and Mandala was committed to 2-inch tape live in a house deep in the Angeles National Forest. It's a fiery prog-rock document right at home on a label closely associated with The Mars Volta. Sargent House owner Cathy Pellow also oversees the happenings of Rodriguez-Lopez Productions.
Purchase Mandala on its own, or buy the deluxe package (w/ slipmat) via the SH shop.
Label: Seven Inch Project (Long Beach)
Title: 'Til We Sink EP
Format: 7-inch (+ download card), 70-gram purple vinyl, gatefold, 500 pressed
Castledoor's 'Til We Sink EP, captured on 7-inches of extra-heavy purple vinyl, finds the Silver Lake six-piece doing what it does best: composing intimate orchestras equal parts pop swoon, folksy lilt and D.I.Y. chamber instrumentation. Lead-off track "Dumpster Diving" has all that in spades, while "We Will" adds dark synth swells to the mix, offsetting sweet vocals which don't fall too far from Grandaddy/Earlimart tree. Never mind two of the members' past lives in the Tennessee-based Bible-beating boy band Plus One; singer Nate Cole and guitarist Gabe Combs have paid dues enough to dispel any doubts about their current band's pedigree. Castledoor has just self-released its full-length debut, Shouting At Mountains, which means this gem will soon be hard to come by.
'Til We Sink is only the most recent release (of six) in the ongoing 7-inch series from Long Beach's Seven Inch Project]. The one-man label run by Clarke Wisco takes pride in its releases, outfitting each in colored vinyl and a gatefold jacket (a rare 7-inch feature). Past releases have featured, among others, Rio En Medio and Half-Handed Cloud, and Wisco says the next batch will include L.A.'s Mad Gregs.
Purchase 'Til We Sink alone or in a bargain-priced box set at SIP's web store.
Label: Hydra Head Records (Los Feliz)
Title: All Reflections Drained
Format: 2xLP (+ back patch), 180-gram picture vinyl, tip-on gatefold, 200 pressed
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They say you save the best for last. Hydra Head Records, co-owned by Mark Thompson and Isis singer Aaron Turner, specializes in a particularly dooming brand of heavy metal, but the label's vinyl releases are nothing if not the very embodiment of class. Xasthur himself (it's technically a one-man band fronted by the corpsepaint-sporting Malefic) hails from Alhambra and hews out blacker than black ambient skronk. Malefic, nee Scott Conner, has toured as a member of Sunn O))), but Xasthur doesn't play live, and hence reserves his strange magic for his records, wonderful things that seep despair from every crevice. All Reflections Drained is no exception.
This release however, which boasts a shipping weight of nearly 2.5 lbs., is more magnificent than most. The Hydra Head owners also head up Los Feliz's Vacation Vinyl shop, and the fetish is more than evident here. Every bit of jacket and sleeve is made up of heavy-duty cardstock, while the vinyl itself is a full-bodied 180 grams of gorgeous picture disc. Also included is a silk-screened back patch (as in: what you'd affix to your steel-studded sweatshirt). And to think, there's a Torche/Boris split 10-inch coming in September. Stay tuned.
Xasthur - "Dirge Forsaken" (MP3)
Purchase the All Reflections Drained picture disc (etc.) at the Hydra Head web store.