Monday, May 10, 2021

7" records in the 90s

Frequent readers of this blog (i.e. no one) will know that I'm kind of bleah on vinyl in general, particularly as a 2021 proposition. But it had its place in certain times, scenes, etc. One particular vinyl scene that I miss: The 7" record from the 90s.

  • Somewhere between 4-8 songs. 33 rpm.
  • Cheaply recorded and made - cover a photocopy/silkscreen/collage, label blank or one color at max
  • Only thing ever done by band (aside from maybe a tape or an appearance on a compilation)
  • Artifact sold at shows and in the occasional dollar bin.
  • Sneaky good
  • Preferably not listed on Discqogs or referenced anywhere on the Internet.

Oh, I love these! Maybe I should start a little series for these. Give them some airtime 25 years later.

Today I am looking at what appears to be the only thing ever done by Rosenthal (only appearance on Discqogs an appearance on some Yo-Yo compilation). Five songs, super haphazard 4-track recording quality, certain 90s cliches in effect (disaffected singing, lack of bass instrument) but a bit outside of time as well. 

Three dudes, first names only please, living room sound, address listed at a house next to the Triple Nickel on Belmont in Portland, 14 blocks away from where I would end up living a few years later, probably a $700K house at this point (!). I must have had some moment where they were at the same gross early-00s basement house party I was. Record label listed as being in Irvine, so I must have met someone when I was down there and somehow the record ended up in my possession? Who knows?!?!

Totally unassuming but also pretty good. The sort of thing that hides behind your speakers, but it doesn't look bad there. Pleasant if not catchy. Obscurity forever. I will take that as a virtue.

Friday, May 7, 2021

J.L. Carr / Stencil duplicators

J.L. Carr's A Month in the Country is a wonderful little book about pain and longing and summer and youth and the transformative power of work and great art, one that I think about a lot, but it's kind of a shame that none of the rest of his work is readily available, at least not through the library! I went digging a little deeper on Ye Olde Wikipedia and was delighted to discover that he had written and hand-mimeographed 82 copies of his book The Old Timers, a history of the people of Huron, South Dakota. I'm always a sucker for small-press histories of small towns (having grown up reading and rereading the history of my own), so it is pretty great to see this intersection of interests.

Let's rewind for a second: He hand-drew every image in the whole thing, ran the crank on the stencil duplicator, and handed them out as gifts to friends.

A perfect quote that encapsulates my feelings about stencil duplicators - I love them, but...

"About the drawings - with the exception of one or two early ones, there is no second-hand material, all were drawn on the cuff or on the hoof, and, later, put on the stencil by a ball-point pen which is a little better, but only a little better, than drawing with a club."


Thursday, May 6, 2021

Single Girl Married Girl / Scott Churchman / Right Back Where We Started From

I'm going through the archives of Philadelphia label Single Girl Married Girl. So far, very happy with the outcome. Nice to throw a dart at their catalog, throw a few virtual dollars in the mail, and have a box full of little beautiful cassettes show up in front of my door in a week or so, with old-school download links that exclude Bandqlamp entirely no less. Quality.

Their stuff is well curated - from the disembodied android weirdness of Actual Pearls (nice Mark Beyer album cover!) to bands with names like Your Children Is Beautiful (whose floaty feeling reminds me a bit of Disco Inferno minus the samplers) to Scott Churchman - see next paragraph.

Mr. Churchman's Ignore That Noise has been on heavy physical and mental rotation lately. Pick-to-click sad hit "Anna" begins inauspiciously with the line "nape of your neck" - for some reason I can't hear the word "nape" without hearing bad poetry - but it ends up going to some cool, dark, and surprising places. Bonus points for upright bass. I've also been enjoying his downer showtunes on No Ambition. He mentions that the four songs "seemed to just fall out of the sky on four consecutive days." The best songs are all written in 15 minutes anyway, right?

OK, I was going to throw in that reference to Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From" as a little joke (apparently it really was written in 15 minutes though), but I think the gold lamé waves (complete with shark fins) on this ridiculous TopPop set deserve their own entry:

Sorry for hijacking your blog entry, Single Girl Married Girl! Keep making great stuff!


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Youth for Mondale

RIP Fritz Mondale. I wrote a song that was sort of about him back in the 90s.

In 1984 I was growing up in a town of fewer than 50 people in the upper Midwest, one state down from Walter Mondale's stomping grounds of Minnesota. Not many Democrats in that area even then, my family being among the few exceptions.

My 6th grade teacher had us make campaign signs for our preferred candidate. My classmates offered up zingers like "Vote for Reagan And You Will Be A Winner." I made one that said:
Q: How is Ronald Reagan like a chocolate-covered grasshopper?
A: Take off the candy coating and all you're left with is a minor nuisance.
Not so bad for a 6th grader, right? But it turns out people wanted candy.

I loved his honesty and his super-dry Midwestern wit. That time in 2002 when they asked him about the problem of his age, and he responded, "I've looked into it and there's not much I can do about it."

My 1984 Yamaha SBG200 guitar has a Mondale/Ferraro pin on the strap. Appropriate for the year, right? I will wear it proudly next time I actually have a chance to play in public.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Mouth Painter - The Arkturus Suite

I heard Mouth Painter's entire Arkturus Suite (side A at least) on the lovely Backroad to Nowhere show on Xray.fm a while back. I always like it when radio deejays play 20-minute-long songs because it makes me think about when I was a college radio deejay and I pulled that kind of stuff all the time - maybe I had failed to plan enough music for my set? Maybe I was trying to finish reading something before a test? Maybe I was pitching woo or discussing the merits of some obscure band from New Zealand?

After hearing this and loving it, I ordered the tape off Bandqlamp and I'm pretty sure they hand delivered it to my door. Hyperlocal, then. It sounds like rain, as it should.

Pedal steel clouds, flute, delay, is that a musical saw? Timeframes and tonality shifting all over the place, not graspable at all but very pleasant. A good fit for the tape medium because any wow and flutter will only enhance the sound of the recording. I mean, my mid-life crisis garage-sale tape deck is pretty damn solid, but still, it's a tape deck. 

It is pretty easy to crap out floaty 20-minute instrumentals, but it is not easy to keep them compelling. This one keeps me coming back at weird moments.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Rose 4 Bohdan - What Heavy Metal Taught Us

There are several ways to figure out what to listen to. In descending order of Apollonian temperament:

  1. Voluntarily recall a song, or read about it somewhere, and deliberately find it, whether by searching through physical media or on a computer device.
  2. Notice a physical album object in a pile, stack, or other grouping, and voluntarily choose it.
  3. Have it suggested to you, either through some sort of algorithm or via shuffle
  4. Reach into a box full of unlabeled media (preferably cassettes without labels) and put the thing you grab into your tape deck

Today I'm going with #4. This approach naturally led to Rose 4 Bohdan's crazed early-aughts epic album Major Label Drugs. Of course. Lead Bohdan (disclaimer: I've known him for nearly half my life [!!!] and he's put out some of my stuff) Brian M. has always specialized in situations that were both highly friendly and yet somehow deeply weird. So this album naturally pinballs between endless inner-space drone epics, dudes singing about Snapple and boobs, and of course the best track, which I often find myself repeating:

What heavy metal taught us:
Heavy metal taught us how to speak German
and put it into a little song.
Just how tough Florida really is.
Bethlehem.

Repeat forever and digitally slice it up until it is scarcely recognizable. Great. 7 views on YouChoob - will you be the 8th?



Thursday, April 8, 2021

Charlie McAlister - I Haven't Any Sea Legs

Charlie McAlister's songs come up pretty frequently when I have my celestial jukebox on shuffle - probably because there are so many of them. And I haven't even digitized half of what I have.

Today a couple songs from I Haven't Any Sea Legs came up. What a great album, and what a generous one. His mid-90s tapes were janky little universes that I could carry around to temp jobs and get lost in while I did data entry. The work I'm doing now is a little higher-level and I can listen to music on some excellent speakers rather than half-broken cheapo headphones from Target, but the music is still great.

Miss that dude.