Intense, surreal, remote, dynamic. Come along with us as we chronicle the adventures of the soul through psychedelic, drone, noise, experimental, pop music based around Chicago bands in particular and local bands everywhere.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Autobiography #1: Record Collection, 2009-2014

Over the last few months, I've had the feeling that my record collection is complete. Both my wife and I have a  lot of pop titles we like, and over the years, I've traded psychedelic, experimental, and other titles to shape new acquisitions. Over time, our collection shifted with our respective identities and interests, first out of necessity -- it would be impossible to buy new records without trading old ones-- and then for fun. For some time, I felt anxious about whether my new release acquisitions could keep up with release schedules and shifts in taste, but once I became familiar with trading records, I enjoyed that as much as acquiring new titles. Suddenly, our record collection became curated, rather than expansive. Now it's a lean, sharp collection.

I grew up with music on vinyl, so there's always been a part of me that connects the enjoyment of music with spinning records. My dad taught me how to play records at a young age, and I vividly remember listening to loud James Gang records with him. I started buying records for myself in high school, after my family moved the stereo to the basement, and I loaded up on a few Folk Implosion and Sleater-Kinney records. Unfortunately, after high school I did not have a turntable for quite some time, as I moved frequently between college dorms and apartments, eventually migrating to Chicago in 2008. Around this time, I began searching for records of some of my favorite bands, including The Dandy Warhols (my first "gateway drug" from pop music to psychedelic music) and Darker My Love. This collection began in earnest in 2009, expanded greatly when my wife and I purchased our stereo after our wedding, and then contracted as moves, budgets, and taste changes instigated a period of trades. My feeling that this record collection is complete corresponds quite nicely with the fifth anniversary of getting reacquainted with vinyl.

Consuming records can be a rich, engaging, and revealing experience, for tastes can lead in many different directions. Our collection follows several threads and identities: records by bands that my wife and I both like (or, records that she turns me onto), pop and rock projects, records by bands related to Chicago and Permanent Records (as well as a constellation of related outsider labels), experimental records following my time with Foxy Digitalis and Decoder, and gifts from others. These threads can reveal contradictory and joyous tastes; perhaps gifts are the most revealing, as friends think about records you might not have, or relatives hunt for Beatles records when they're at flea markets, etc. After five years, it is quite clear that I do not have one musical narrative, and neither does my wife; together, our experience with vinyl is a unique partnership.

There are so many landmarks one can find within a collection. I remember, to this day, reconnecting with my childhood friend Travis Bird, who once drove me home and said, "I really think you'll like this;" this music came from the CAVE / California Raisins split 10" (and CD!) from Permanent Records. It was the type of revelation that friendship often brings. A lot of music I consumed between 2008 and 2011 matched different conversations and explorations through our musical friendship.

I've always loved digging for "related bands," ever since I first heard the KIDS Soundtrack in middle school and learned that seBADoh and The Folk Implosion had tons of related projects. After The Dandy Warhols' tour introduced me to Darker My Love in 2008, Darker My Love led to The Strange Boys, All the Saints, A Place to Bury Strangers, Lumerians, etc.; their tour partners in 2008-2009 seemed incredible (and almost unbelievable, in hindsight). Following All the Saints -- one of my introductions to hard psych rock, I learned of The N.E.C. in Atlanta, and began another lasting musical friendship. In some way, records by CAVE and The N.E.C. were the catalysts for my experimental music narrative. Little did I know that California Raisins would also foreshadow most acid or noise punk records I'd come to enjoy.

I owe an awful lot to my friends along the way. Both Travis and Evan (founders of Notice Recordings), as well as cinchel, provided direct access points of amazing experimental music and DIY spirit. Thanks to them, and The N.E.C., I started 'Spective Audio, a journey of several tapes that spread into a CD (Bird's Bourgeois Treats) and LP (N.E.C.'s Last Point of Radiation). Consuming records always brings surprises, and I also learned that pressing records can bring some personal touches -- in the process for creating Last Point of Radiation, Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland pressed six handmade clear+explosive color records.  This record is a reminder of a valuable musical journey and friendships (and, it's a killer record, too!).

Thanks to my partnership with my wife, there are so many pop records that I never would have known about. One of the best surprises of collecting records is each blindspot uncovered -- Cyndi Lauper's Prince cover that serves as a prelude to Tegan & Sara's latest record, Bowie's phenomenal / polarizing Let's Dance, The Monkees' teen exploitation pop, etc. These threads lead into other areas of our collection -- we love 80s music from Echo & The Bunnymen to Nice Strong Arm, and "exploitation" pysch from Simon & Garfunkel through SRC, Food, Gandalf, and The Common People.Again, the lessons are crucial -- there is no need to tell one set musical narrative, since each thread or series of records can push in its own valuable direction.

During this period of time, my digging guided me toward Permanent Records, which has become a brick-and-mortar locale for much of Chicago's outsider explosion over the last five years. Through friendships and recommendations forged by their clerks, and voyages into related record labels, I've learned a lot about the history of Chicago's music (and outsider music in general). I've also learned to embrace those disparate threads and narratives that run through a record collection; it's not necessarily a strange thing to have a Destruction Unit record next to a Lee Hazlewood collection.

Ultimately, at this point, there are so many stories tied into this set of records. Beyond the wax itself, consuming records also allows for the chance to build friendships, sustain local businesses and small labels, and explore the depths of art and music. Concrete places tell their own stories, too, as records from each Reckless Records branch and Permanent in Chicago, Hausfrau, Loop, and Bent Crayon in Cleveland, Deaf Ear in La Crosse, among others, are spread through this collection. In a lot of ways, the narratives of a record collection not only showcase specific sounds, but also the places, projects, or states of mind associated with each acquisition. One might argue that this is a record collecting triviality, but I beg to differ; what one buys in Chicago can differ quite greatly than what one thinks about or encounters in Cleveland, La Crosse, Brooklyn, etc.  This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of a record collection -- with no vision or expectations for our future collections, I can already anticipate that our collection in five years will hold another string of stories, friendships, and explorations.

The N.E.C. / Jovontaes (Double Phantom)
The N.E.C. Is (Double Phantom)
The N.E.C., Last Point of Radiation ('Spective)

The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's (Capitol)
The Beatles, Abbey Road (Apple)
Filardo, Falling Up (Holy Page)
Hiro Kone, s/t (Bitterroots)
Laughing Eye Weeping Eye, Beway (Hairy Spider Legs)
Les Rallizes Denudes, Blind Baby has its Mother's Eyes (Pheonix)
Joey Molinaro, The Inalienable Dreamlress & We (Inverted Music Company)
Queen, The Game (EMI)
The Ronettes, Introducing the Fabulous...(Sundazed)
Simon & Garfunkel, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme (Columbia)
Spires that in the Sunset Rise, Ancient Patience Wills it Again (Hairy Spider Legs)
The United States of America, s/t (Sundazed)
Various Artists, 2131 South Michigan: USA Records (Sundazed)
Various Artists, The Breakfast Club OST (A&M)
The Velvet Underground, Quine Tapes boxed set (Sundazed)

MARRIAGE RECORDS! (All on original labels, no reissues)
The Beatles, Meet the Beatles
The Beatles, Yesterday and Today
The Beatles, Rubber Soul 
Pat Benetar, Seven the Hard Way
Pat Benetar, Precious Time 
David Bowie, Let's Dance
Belinda Carlisle, Heaven on Earth 
Devo, Freedom of Choice
Dire Straits, s/t
Duran Duran, The Reflex 12"
Echo & The Bunnymen, Ocean Rain
Eels, Wonderful Glorious
Elton John, Greatest Hits
Cyndi Lauper, She's So Unusual
Miami Sound Machine, Primitive Love
The Monkees, Greatest Hits
Nada Surf, The Proximity Effect
Nada Surf, LET GO
Nada Surf, The Weight is a Gift
Nada Surf, Lucky
Nada Surf, The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy
The Police, Outlandos d'Amour
The Police, Reggatta de Blanc
The Police, Synchronicity 
Lou Reed, Live
Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends
Simon & Garfunkel, Greatest Hits
Tegan & Sara vinyl box
Tegan & Sara, Heartthrob

Afflicted Man, Off Me 'Ead
Bad Drugs, Raw Powder (RT)
Black Math, s/t
Black Math, Phantom Power 
CAVE / California Raisins
CAVE, Neverendless (Drag City)
Cheveu, Cheveau (S.S. Records)
Cosmonauts, s/t
The Dreebs, Bait an Orchard (RT) 
End Result, Ward (Ruthless)
Implodes, Black Earth (Kranky)
Jealousy, viles (Moniker)
Lumerians, Transmissions from the Telos V.1 
Mako Sica, May Day at Strobe
Miracle Condition, s/t (Tizona)
Moonrises, Frozen Altars (Captcha)
Obnox, Rojas
ONO, Albino (Moniker) 
Plastic Crimewave & Djin Aquarian, Save the World (Prophase)
Purling Hiss, s/t 
Purling Hiss / Puffy Areolas
Rind, Exhaust Yourself (RT)
Running, s/t
Running, Asshole Savant (Captcha)
Running, Vaguely Ethnic (Castle Face) 
Steel Pole Bathtub, Unlistenable
Toupee, Dinner Parties (RT)
Various Artists, Busted At Oz
Warhammer 48k, Ethereal Oracle
Wume, Distance (RT)

All the Saints, Fire on Corridor X (Touch and Go)
Band of Horses, Infinite Arms (Columbia / Fat Possum)
The Byrds, Notorious Byrd Brothers (Columbia)
The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man (Sundazed)
The Byrds, Younger than Yesterday (Sundazed)
The Common People, Of..By..and for the Common People (Label Unknown)
Creedence Clearwater Revival, Willy and the Poor Boys (Fantasy)
Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pendulum (Fantasy)
The Cyrkle, Neon (Columbia)
The Dandy Warhols, ..Come Down (Tim Kerr / Capitol)
The Dandy Warhols, 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia (Label Unknown)
The Dandy Warhols, Earth to... (Beat the World)
The Dandy Warhols, ...Are Sound (Beat the World)
Darker My Love / Moccasin (I Hate Rock n Roll)
Darker My Love, s/t (Dangerbird)
Darker My Love, 2 (Dangerbird)
Darker My Love, Alive as You Are (Dangerbird)

Destruction Unit, Deep Trip (Sacred Bones)
Fleet Foxes, s/t (Sub Pop)
Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)
Folk Implosion, Dare to be Surprised (Communion)
The Food, Forever is a Dream (Label Unknown)
The Fresh & Onlys, Play it Strange (In The Red)
The Fresh & Onlys, Secret Walls (Sacred Bones)
Gandalf, s/t (Label Unknown)
Jacco Gardner, Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble in Mind)
Bruce Haack, Electric Children's Record (Mississippi)
Has a Shadow, Sky is Hell Black (Captcha; whoops! Actually a "Gift" record)
Lee Hazlewood, The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes, Backsides ('68-'71) (Light in the Attic)
Hot & Cold, Border Areas (Moniker; whoops! Also a "Gift")
Lumerians, Transmalinnia (Knitting Factory)
Lumerians, Horizon Structures (Knitting Factory)
The Men, Leave Home (Sacred Bones)
Nice Strong Arm, Reality Bath (Homestead)
Nice Strong Arm, Mind Furnace (Homestead)
Thee Oh Sees, Single Collection 1 & 2 (Castle Face)
Thee Oh Sees, Castlemania (In The Red)
Thee Oh Sees, Carrion Crawler / The Dream (In The Red)

A Place to Bury Strangers, s/t (Important)
A Place to Bury Strangers, Onwards to the Wall (Dead Oceans)
A Place to Bury Strangers, Worship (Dead Oceans)
Portishead, Third (Mercury)
Psychedelic Psoul, Freak Scene (Columbia)
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood, Nancy & Lee (Reprise)
Sleater-Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One (Kill Rock Stars)
Spiritualized, Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space (Plain)
Spray Paint, s/t (S.S. Records)
SRC, s/t (Label Unknown)
Various Artists, Nuggets (Sire Promotional Edition)
Various Artists, Experiments with Destiny (Bomp!)
The Velvet Underground, White Light / White Heat (Label Unknown)
The Velvet Underground, Scepter Studio Sessions (Polydor)
Vivians, Vivicide (Hit & Run)
The Who, Who's Next (Decca)
Wooden Shjips, Volume 1 (Holy Mountain)
Wooden Shjips, Dos (Holy Mountain)
Wooden Shjips, West (Thrill Jockey)
Neil Young, Trans (DGC)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Re*Ac*Tor (Reprise)

Cinchel, Stereo Stasis (self)
Cleared, s/t (Immune)
Ornette Coleman, Free Jazz (Label Unknown)
Corum, Beguiling Isles (Psychic Sounds)
G.I. Gurdjieff, Improvisations (Mississippi / Psychic Sounds)
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath 1972 (Kranky)
Kraftwerk, Autobahn (Vertigo)
Liquorball, Hauls Ass (Blackjack)
Lustmord, The Word as Power (Blackest Ever Black)
Pharmakon, Abandon (Sacred Bones)
Shampoo Boy, Licht (Blackest Ever Black)
Various Artists, Offstrings: Inventions for Guitar (Complacency)
Various Artists, Drop on down in Florida: Field Recordings of African American Traditional Music (Florida Folklife)