In the strange wake of music's digital rebirth, vinyl has experienced a modest boom in popularity, seen by many as a replacement for the awkward middleman that is the compact disc. INCHES reviews the output of L.A.'s healthy vinyl community (artists and labels, indie or other), believing that good music deserves much more than a handful of ones and zeros.
Artist: High Places / Soft Circle
Title: Split 12 Inch
Label: Post Present Medium (Hollywood)
Format: split 12-inch (+ download), 1000 pressed
With due respect to Dean Spunt's excellent label, we've grown weary of waiting for a new release from PPM. The time that's passed following the arrival of the White Shit 10-inch has sent us back to our crates, an act which thankfully turned up this sorely overlooked split from two groove-steeped projects. Recently relocated to L.A., Brooklyn duo High Places delivers an 11-minute track that opens with choral reverb then sprinkles electronic flourishes into the mix as the steady, jangle-happy beat blows forth. On the flip, NYC's Soft Circle, a.k.a. Hisham Bharoocha, does a bang-up job living up to the label's description of two long-players that fall “between ESG on acid and Ravi Shankar if he produced club tracks.” The first, “Light Bright,” is easy and organic, while “Don't Just Stand There” is an aggressive, hypnotic rhythm feast of the !!! variety. Like Ibiza with a soul.
Download: Soft Circle – “Light Bright” [MP3]
Artist: Baron Zen
Title: Strange Woman's Room
Label: Stones Throw (Mt. Washington)
Format: 12-inch, spray-painted jackets, 1000 pressed
Another one that almost slipped through the last remaining cracks of 2009, this Baron Zen single not only delivers a few audible treats, but unique packaging to boot — individually spray-painted jackets (plus a decal or two if you're lucky) in black, purple, orange, and yellow. Orange might be the most fitting, considering San Jose rapper Dave Dub's reference to “tangerine perfume,” one of a handful of Gary Wilson-like oddball lyrics that bookend the creepily cooed chorus, “I stay relaxed/And she stay relaxed/On my back in a strange woman's room.” The skittering percussives and wampy electro beat are given a synth-loving chillwave rebirth by James Pants, while the B-side sports two versions (plus instrumentals) of “Talk To Me!,” a catchy and warmly goofy track built around the titular demand of the Baron.
Stream: various clips from this release.
CONTINUE ON TO PAGE 2 FOR MORE INCHES…
Artist: I Heart Lung / DWMTG
Title: Ecstatic Jazz Duos, Vol. 2
Label: Thor's Rubber Hammer (Washington D.C.)
Format: split 12-inch, 500 pressed
According to D.C. label Thor's Rubber Hammer, the Ecstatic Jazz Duos series was actually started with Long Beach's I Heart Lung in mind. The experimentally inclined pairing of guitarist Chris Schlarb and drummer Tom Steck typically records for Asthmatic Kitty, but here the group indulges its more chaotic side, eschewing the sprawling beauty that marked 2008's acclaimed Interoceans LP (which featured an appearance from Nels Cline) for a more urgent, fiery set of songs. “Conflagration,” in fact, makes good on its name, vacillating between skronky explosions and moments of heady serenity. Through all three tracks, order is maintained via a frayed but vital shoestring — a lurking calm that persists even through the clash and clatter. The B-side is a less rewarding foray into organized noise, with DWMTG — a bass and percussion duo — utilizing flutters of notes, ringing cymbals and even a rubber ducky to bang out ten tracks in about as many minutes.
Download: I Heart Lung – “Axes Only” [MP3]
Artist: Bohren & Der Club Of Gore
Label: Hydra Head (Los Feliz)
Format: 2LP, 180-gram “pete moss” swirl vinyl, gatefold on heavy cardstock, 200 pressed (+ 500 black, 300 “churned butter”)
Though the vinyl version of Dolores is currently only available for presale, this too is an older work. Originally released on CD by Ipecac Records, the sixth album by Germany's Bohren & Der Club Of Gore slowly won fans over with its gorgeous textures and unbelievable restraint, making a proper LP release a must. Hydra Head gets the job done here, giving the record the royal treatment — thick jacket, thick wax, thick colors — and hopefully opening a few more eyes to the strange majesty Dolores contains. Bohren's members have called what they do an “unholy ambient mixture of slow jazz ballads, Black Sabbath doom and down-tuned autopsy sounds,” which is accurate enough, but does nothing to convey the pervasive brightness of these songs. Drums, upright bass and keys (piano, mellotron, rhodes) do most of the work — their players striking or plucking with such deliberation that each note is a statement of its own — while saxophone and the occasional chant add deep, noir-riddled richness to the slowly opening soundscapes. Highly recommended.
Origami Vinyl's Top Ten Best-Sellers: December 12 – 25
02. Local Natives – “Camera Talk” 7-inch (Infectious)
03. Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind (Domino)
05. Holly Miranda – “Forest Green Oh Forest Green” 7-inch (XL)
06. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic (Warner Bros.)
08. Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms (Lefse)
09. Crocodiles/Graffiti Island/Dum Dum Girls/Pens four-way split (Art Fag)
[*previously featured in INCHES]
Origami Vinyl is located at 1816 W. Sunset Blvd., 90026 (213.413.3030).