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.
Title: Secondhand Sureshots Deluxe Super Set
Label: Dublab / Stones Throw (Mt. Washington)
Format: 12-inch EP (+ documentary DVD, 2 unique slipmats, golden ticket) on picture disc, hand-screened vintage gatefold record sleeve, 500 pressed
At the risk of fanning out, it's hard to imagine a cooler release (both in concept and physical product) than this project executed by Dublab with assistance from Stones Throw. Four L.A.-based beat-makers, each with his own inimitible style, were sent into local thrift shops in search of five used records (apiece) that they'd subsequently use to craft four brand new songs. Cameras documented the entire process, and the results, both visual and audio, are presented here in grand fashion. In order to give the content a fitting release, Dublab's minions went back to the bargain bins to find 500 old gatefold jackets — “rescued,” redesigned by screen-print posse Hit + Run, and repurposed to house a beautiful, heavy-vinyl picture-disc. The A-side graphic is a kaleidoscopic image digitally collaged using the covers of the records sampled in the first place, while the B-side features a photo of 100 or so worn jacket spines. Vinyl geekery abounds.
But what about the music? Well, it's great. Beat Junkies legend J. Rocc carves himself a timeless, funk-fueled Sunday barbecue rap beat. Poo-Bah Records' Ras G turns in two entries: a skittering raga jam that plays with racheting loops and tinkling ivories, and dulcet-toned beat-music feast of record static and warbly samples. Ninjatune producer Daedelus creates psychedelic washes of thick electronic ether with percussive bits coasting in and out of the frame. And Low End Theory resident Nobody offers a piano and organ-featuring tune well-matched for a rainy day. On the B-side are a series of further recontextualizations — a remix by Daedelus, a megamix of Ras G bonus beats by Kutmah, and live, improvised versions recorded at Cinefamily. Gasp gasp. Drool drool.
Download: J Rocc – “Secondhand Sureshots (MP3)
Stream: clips from each song.
Title: Songs For The French
Label: Hydra Head (Los Feliz)
Format: 12-inch EP on mabre brun (brown marble), 1000 pressed
When you've released albums with names like “The Balls In The Great Meat Grinder,” recorded for Greg Ginn's legendary SST Records, worked with Steve Albini, and been crafting avant-garde blues since the late '80s, well, your throne should already be lined with the finest black velvet and the skulls of lesser artists. But despite Oxbow's legendary track record, the San Francisco band still has yet to get its due. Hydra Head Records has been doing its part to prove this fact, reissuing the group's game-changing 1989 debut Fuckfest earlier this year, and pressing up this noisy little gem — a tour disc whose A-side includes three in-studio improvisations (lyrics and all) and whose B-side collects a handful of live highlights from last year's European tour. In both contexts, Eugene Robinson's groaned, sung and screamed vocals sound as desperate and commanding as ever, while the music ranges from minimal plucking and percussion to jazzy feedback-fueled skronk.
Artist: Red Sparowes
Label: Sargent House (Echo Park)
Format: 12-inch EP on clear orange, 12×24″ poster, 1000 pressed
Glasgow's got post-rock. Austin's got post-rock. But Los Angeles? This city seems far too fast-paced and steeped in good weather for slowly unfurling, expansive and slightly depressed songs with titles like “We Left The Apes To Rot, But Find The Fang Still Grows Within.” And yet, the Red Sparowes quintet has done it — they've given the land of endless summers the gift of endless songs, and they've done it well. This three-track set was released digitally last year, but sounds all the more wasteland-ready on vinyl. Credit's due to the band's original core, bassist/pedal steel player Greg Burns and Isis keyboardist Bryant Clifford Meyer (who here plays one of three guitars). Without ever getting too heavy in the fuzz, Aphorisms strikes a delicate balance between broad mood-making and canned fretted heat. Word is a third full-length is coming early next year.
Stream: the entire EP.
Artist: Topaz Rags
Title: Capricorn Born Again
Label: Not Not Fun (Eagle Rock)
Format: LP, 400 pressed
“Grey clouds stay grey. Low light situations birth low-lit moods. It's all bummer clockwork. West Coast lurk-jazz triad Topaz Rags return to vinyl with their debut long player, Capricorn Born Again.” Once again, Not Not Fun does a pitch-perfect job of summing up its own release. Of course, it helps that two of said triad's corners are the label's married head honchos, Amanda and Britt Brown. They're also Pocahaunted, but it's the addition of third member Ash Cunningham that gives this project it's particular flavor. Her piano-playing sets the scene — an old hotel barroom haunted by a ghostly patronage — while Amanda coos and wails. Equally vital are the soft bass notes and the crackly atmosphere (apparently achieved through “a complex 4-track/boombox assemblage method”), which help to make Capricorn a worthy, if lower-key, followup to Topaz Rags' appearance on the excellent My Estrogeneration comp.
Download: Topaz Rags – “Slow Gin Fizz” (MP3)
Vacation Vinyl's Top Ten Best-Sellers: November 21 – December 4
01. Boris – Japanese Heavy Rock Hits V.3 7-inch (Southern Lord)
02. Washed Out – Life Of Leisure 12-inch (Mexican Summer)
03. Robedoor – Pagan Drugs (Ketchup Cavern)
04. Baroness – Blue Record 7-inch (Relapse)
05. Saviours – Accelerated Living (Kemado)
06. Converge – Axe To Fall (Deathwish)
08. Cold Cave – Death Comes Close 12-inch (Matador)
09. Accused – Curse Of Martha Splatterhead (Southern Lord)
10. White Shit – White Shi'ite 10-inch (Wantage)
[*previously featured in INCHES]
Vacation Vinyl is located at 4679 Hollywood Blvd., 90027 (323.666.2111).