Archive for June, 2009

Anni Rossi & Whitman

This past week People in a Position to Know Records partnered with Folktale Records to release a gorgeous 10” re-release of a collaboration between Anni Rossi and Whitman, originally released as a limited-edition CD-R on Folktale. The new version was pressed on both burgundy and black vinyl, with the former in limited quantity and guaranteed to those who pre-ordered the album through PIAPTK (from whom I purchased the album, and, incidentally, the burgundy is awesome). I can’t quite make out the name, but the album artwork was apparently done by a certain “Kristina Co[il]antes” and is among the most striking examples of such that I’ve ever seen. Here’s a picture of the album artwork from PIAPTK:

Anni Rossi & Whitman Album Cover

The music is a bit inscrutable at times, but undeniably fun for those in the right mood, with Rossi’s wonderful vocals and the murky noise-folk of Whitman. I recommend it highly and plan to set it aside in my mind as a prime art object; beautiful packaging, beautiful materials, and beautiful music. For those unawares, Anni Rossi is preparing to release a new album and shows every sign of approaching a larger audience. I love it when small labels with exceptional values occasionally release work from what might be called more prominent artists. Though Folktale Records is new to me, their website leaves a great taste in my mouth, with an impressive distribution section and a catalog of well designed releases. People in a Position to Know Records is a bit more familiar, and never ceases to impress with a huge catalogue of lathe-cut, small-run vinyl albums and singles, as well as larger projects like the 500 lp run for Anni Rossi & Whitman.

Even if you don’t feel like buying the album, both websites are worth exploring. I’d be surprised if anyone couldn’t find something they liked. In the meantime though, here’s a track from the 10”

Anni Rossi & Whitman – Val Verde

Toodle Pip,

Dwight

June 27, 2009 at 12:43 am

Eat Hell & Narrow Books

A few days ago I an attractive little short story collection called Eat Hell from Little Paper Planes, a great online seller of artwork, books, handmade crafts and clothing, and a huge variety of homemade or boutique art zines. Eat Hell pulls together three short stories of Joseph Mattson, the author of what is apparently a “much anticipated novel” and a handful of poems and stories for various literary publications. The book was illustrated by Mel Kadel and published by one of my new favorite boutique presses, Narrow Books.

The stories collected in Eat Hell have rightly been characterized as both “wrenching” and “funny”, with Mattson laboring to convey both a sense of constant dirtiness and the dark humor of his characters’ situations. Each is very short – the entire book totals only 80 pages – so there is only limited time in which a reader might become too disgusted anyway, but Mattson builds his characters and their situations with such tact that empathy arises without drawing anyone too much into the muck that they often inhabit. The book is a great day’s read and I’m tempted to find the enthusiastic anticipation of his first novel justified.

Based in Los Angeles, Narrow BooksEat Hell’s publisher – is only four years old and relatively small, though the handful of books that populate their catalog appear uniformly great. Of particular interest is Two Letters, a series of short story anthologies, approaching the publication of its third volume, with the second coming into print alongside Eat Hell earlier this February. As with Eat Hell, Two Letters is an undeniable work of art, presenting short fiction “sandwiched” between the work of an equal number of artists. I recommend taking one or even two peeks.

Here’s a picture of Eat Hell from Narrow’s website:

Book Cover

Cheers,

Dwight

June 25, 2009 at 9:02 pm

The Dark Beloved Cloud Singles Club

I recently ran through some backissues of Yeti Magazine for the first time in a few months, after being fairly engrossed by the most recent compilation with Yeti Seven, and encountered an unusual track titled “Sheba” from a band called pHoaming Edison that apparently hadn’t done it for me when I listened to it for the first time last year. This time round, it did, and while searching for more music from pHoaming Edison, I found their primary label Dark Beloved Cloud. I was surprised to find a label that appeared modest, relatively old, and undeniably prolific, all alarmingly in that way that only underground punk or noise labels do anymore. Fortunately for me and anyone else that finds them, it’s neither so inscrutable nor specialized and sets itself apart by defying typical business practice.

Among their innovations is the Dark Beloved Cloud Singles Club. A subscription consists of six 3” CDs of music from the DBC stable of bands (not to minimize the importance of the individual bands, but I’ve been trying to find a way to use that expression for a wee-bitty bit), with each, in the label’s own words, “focused on one great song that’s not part of an album, with extra stuff that complements that great song somehow.” What’s significantly less typical is how subscribers go about getting their subscriptions: “by sending [DBC] your name, your address, and six hand-decorated 3”x3” cards,” that are used to adorn the jewel-cases of another subscribers’ subscription. Whether the appeal of this method lies in it’s requiring no exchange of money or just being cooler (and more personalized) than a flying cucumber, that it has appeal is undeniable.

Here are some links to two recent contributing musicians and the artwork of one creative subscriber (I imagine apparent quality or effort varies):

Fly Ashtray
Grace Braun

Single Covers

STOINK!

Dwight

June 23, 2009 at 2:47 am

Timothy Bracy’s Collection Agency

Late in 2007, the Brooklyn-based band The Mendoza Line broke up during the divorce of band mainstays Tim Bracy and Shannon McArdle. To mark the event, the band released 30 Year Low, a “mini-album” of new and very personal material alongside a bonus disc (titled The Final Remarks of the Legendary Malcontent) of odds and ends on Seattle based label Glurp Records. I first got in touch with Tim a few months before the album’s release, asking after a Mendoza song for the first Build Your Army With Potatoes compilation, which ended up being “First Time, Long Time,” a final solo-recording of his.

A little before the release of 30 Year Low Tim asked me to pass around a link to a promotional page Glurp had put up, with some album and band info and a downloadable outtake from the album. The outtake has only Tim and Shannon’s vocals, recorded without Will Sheff of Okkervil River, who did sing in the album version. Talking to Tim recently, I was reminded of the link and thought I’d post up an mp3 of the outtake for digestion:

The Mendoza Line – Aspect of an Old Maid (Alternate Take)

Of more immediate interest, with The Mendoza Line’s retirement, Tim and a crew of old cohorts from the band and elsewhere got together to form Collection Agency. Although very much in their infancy, the band has already made some great recordings, reworking a couple of old Mendoza Line songs. Bracy’s vocals take center stage on most of the recordings (sounding more like Bob Dylan in each successive song), but others, like Beth Wawerna of Bird of Youth, compliment his alt-country sound beautifully. At first listen, the songs seem a little softer and less rowdy than most Mendoza songs, but the band’s energy is made evident by beautiful instrumentation, Bracy’s consistently pleasing vocals, and a prominent feminine presence.

Though Bracy is now contemplating a move, I hope that this new project stays together and we get at least one album out of them. Once more, here’s their myspace page.

Bienvenidos, mi electrico compassinos!

Dwight

June 20, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Abstract on Black

To kick off a practice it will be my pleasure to indulge in frequently – profiling, recommending, suggesting, what have you, what don’t you – I thought it fitting to direct attention to a relatively new venture based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, only a couple of hours from Morgantown and the Rhino Throne.

Sort of Records is one of a handful of labels sufficiently near my own, geographically speaking, to keep me assured that creativity and positive enterprise are both pervasive and that I am not so isolated from these things as attitudes in my current habitation might suggest. Sort of is run by Ray Morin, a talented artist in his own right, who designs much of the label’s packaging, all digipaks that Ray produces himself. For a while the label actually offered short-run CD duplication to musicians and labels, all packaged in digipaks, and offered at a reasonable price. For labels and musicians, this is usually unexpected, and until costs became prohibitive, Morin was one of the only people I’ve ever known of that offered such a service. I regret hugely that I never had call for or opportunity to take advantage of it.

More recently, Morin partnered with local musicians to create Abstract on Black, an imprint of Sort of “that is dedicated to releasing modern composition, jazz, improvisational, electronic and other forms of new music. All recordings come packaged in handmade digipaks created by Raymond Morin.” From what I’ve heard, the music being released under the new moniker is wonderful, with albums from producer David Bernabo and most recently John Berndt, a prolific multi-instrumentalist and tape-musician from Baltimore. You know Berndt’s grand because every press piece that discusses him bends over backwards to emphasize that he is wildly “non-commercial.”

Here’s a great video from Bernabo, and I highly recommend checking out some Abstract recording’s on on their myspace page.

Happy Birthday!

Dwight

June 20, 2009 at 2:22 am

Getting the Website Together

Thanks to Jeff Kuykendall of The Optical Atlas this website exists, and thanks to me it’s taken until now for it to even begin appearing a reasonable public face for the label – a few computer problems have prevented me from getting work on it done as quickly as I would have liked.

For those that have found the site, you can anticipate my shortly becoming a proper steward for the thing. Ideally, in the next couple of weeks you will begin to see regular updates on label and band activities, as well as my own burning social and cultural commentaries, as the case may be. By then, the information contained in the other sections of this website should also be up to date, with some additions, some cuts, and maybe one day I’ll get together some sort of photographic element.

To kick off the “burning social and cultural commentaries” I mentioned, I feel obliged to direct your attention to a band I recently heard for the first time. A few weeks ago, we handled the physical release of the debut EP from Todd Webb’s Fox Hands (about which more will be heard later, harooh), with the truly remarkable Gold Robot Records handling a digital release. A few days after the album became available, Gold Robot’s proprietor Hunter Mack and I exchanged a few albums, leaving me at trade’s end the proud owner of, among other lovely things, an amazing four-track 7″ from San Francisco’s Meanest Man Contest. Beyond containing at least two of my new favorite songs, the single is a beautiful object, with packaging designed by Casey Jex Smith. Here’s an mp3 of the title track Throwing Away Broken Electronics from Gold Robot’s website.

In addition to that, here’s a video for their song I Was Only Kidding.

Hope it pleases. In any event, I’ll be back soon.

Cheers,
Dwight

June 13, 2009 at 6:32 pm


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