Monday, April 21, 2014

RSD 4.19 – Long in the Deux...

My last Record Store Day trip to Long in the Tooth was a good one, so I made plans to head over there this year.

Most of the details of this year's trip weren't necessarily plentiful.  I met up with some friends for a train ride to Suburban Station from Lansdale.  From there we would travel the remaining few city blocks by foot and get in line at the store as early as possible.  After casually finding ourselves inhaling a wake of second-hand pot smoke smoldering from the tip of a joint being passed back and forth by a group of city workers on their way to Dunkin' Donuts, we took our spots at the tail end of a line that was about twenty-something people long.  We stood for maybe an hour before the store opened at 10AM.  For the purposes of keeping the crowd controlled and the year's exclusives distributed as fairly as possible, only a few shoppers were allowed in the store at a time.  Consequently, we were in line for an additional thirty to forty minutes before we entered the store.  My entire budget went toward exclusives this year.  Here's what I picked up:

Learn to OBEY 7"

Artwork by Shepard Fairey.  I haven't had the chance yet to pick up OFF!'s newest release, Wasted Years, but once I got to the counter and naturally blanked on what I wanted, the bold presence of "OFF!" printed on the sleeve caught my eye and was then added to the pile.  After pretty much spending the entirety of what I was able to, I mentally punched myself in the head as I perused the store, finding Drop from Thee Oh Sees, the Joy Division 12" and other gems that I'd wanted.  There were no copies of the yarn-embedded "Mess on a Mission" 12" from Liars, which was also a primary want.

Dinosaur Jr. 
Visitors 5 x 7"
Jagjaguwar/Numero Group

The Visitors box set from Dinosaur Jr. is a reissue of the band's first four singles (plus a bonus 7"), recreating cover art that had been originally been conceived by artist, Maura Jasper.  There's an essay from Jasper detailing her time with Dino from 1985-1990, sensitively recalling how the band's music had inspired her work and the ins and outs of creating the band's early visual identity.  The booklet also includes some of her unseen artwork.  For a couple of the sleeves, "Jagjaguwar" is printed as "JAG" and meant to stylistically emulate the SST logo.  I found that amusing.

I thought this was a decently priced acquisition at $40.  If nothing else, it's a very well-produced package.   The bonus 7" contains a cover of the Byrds' single, "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," which was originally featured in a 1989 tribute album called, Time Between — A Tribute to the Byrds

Contents include:
"Repulsion" b/w "Bules of Passion"
"Little Fury Things" b/w "In a Jar"
"Freak Scene" b/w "Keep the Glove"
"Just Like Heaven" b/w "Throw Down" & "Chunks"
"Show Me the Way" b/w "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better"

Various Artists
TAANG! Records — The First 10 Singles
TAANG!/Get on Down 

While I stood in line, my friend Chris, who'd arrived at the store earlier, approached me with this beautifully constructed TAANG! Records box set, which I'd considered picking up.  "You wanted this, right?"  I couldn't say "no:"  It's pretty awesome and definitely the type of release you'd want an event like Record Store Day to inspire.  The set is ten 7" singles, a full CD compilation of the material to satisfy any wish for portability and a booklet penned by the label's founder, Curtis Casella.  And, the housing package is stunning to the point where I don't even want to get fingerprints on it.  I almost experienced some remorse just pulling off the shrink wrap.  It wasn't cheap: $70 was the price.  But, seeing as only 2,000 of these were produced for the occasion, I knew I'd regret taking a pass.

Contents include:
Gang Green: "Sold Out" b/w "Terrorize"
Last Rights: "Chunks" b/w "So Ends Our Night"
Stranglehold: "Shame All Over" b/w "She's Not Leaving"
Last Stand: "Scum Guns" split w/ Noonday Underground: "Injun Joe"
Negative FX: "V.F.W." b/w "Mind Control/Negative FX/Together/Feel Like A Man"
Gang Green: "Skate to Hell" b/w "Alcohol"
Oysters: "Mine Caroline" b/w "Tell Me"
Lemonheads: "Glad I Don't Know/I Like To" b/w "I Am a Rabbit/So I Fucked Up"
Moving Targets: "Less Than Gravity" b/w "Faith/Squares & Circles"
Slapshot: "Same Mistake" b/w "Might Makes Right"

As for this year in event analysis and cynicism, I'll leave that to The Quietus who put out this rather compelling article on how Record Store Day is hurting the indie labels it'd intended to help.  As always, blame the majors.  (Thanks for article, Chris.)

Until next year...

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Shopping For Records: Sonic Youth and John Coltrane

Took a drive to The Vinyl Closet on Saturday just for some casual browsing and found the following:

The Vinyl Closet
North Wales, PA

Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth EP
SST Records
Originally released: 3.82 (via Neutral)
Reissued: 1987

Sonic Youth's self-titled EP was originally released in 1982 on Neutral Records, which belonged to Glenn Branca of Theoretical Girls.  The version I found is the 1987 SST reissue, which, to me, was still a pretty cool find and worth the $25 I dropped.  I gave this a spin last night and it sounds clean, though it could use a dusting.

It's worth noting that Sonic Youth's signature dissonance hadn't yet become a major part of the band's identity, (though feedback and atonality still play some role), so the EP is rooted in the more familiar workings of the post-punk/no wave underground that defined New York's art scene in the late 70s.  There's some A Certain Ratio groove to this, too.

John Coltrane
The Africa/Brass Sessions, Vol. 2 
Originally released: 1974
Reissued: 1999

John Coltrane began his very prosperous relationship with Impulse! In 1961 with Africa/Brass, a grand endeavor featuring a cast of 21 players.  Included were future quartet partners, drummer, Elvin Jones, and pianist, McCoy Tyner, both of whom had already performed on the last of Coltrane's Atlantic releases, Coltrane Jazz and My Favorite ThingsEric Dolphy had been tasked with orchestrating the sessions, though Tyner was later accredited with sharing that responsibility in the 1995 reissue of Africa/Brass, which was renamed The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions as it pulled together the original album and the material found on The Africa/Brass Sessions, Vol. 2, another of my Saturday finds.

The Africa/Brass Sessions, Vol. 2 was originally released in 1974 and features three outtakes from the 1961 sessions orchestrated and arranged by Dolphy.  "Song of the Underground Railroad" hadn't yet been released.  The copy I purchased is a 1999 reissue of the album, a large sticker on the back boasts "Includes original liner notes and photos."  I paid $15.

I'm at a point where I'll pick up whatever Coltrane vinyl I can find.  So as to keep the cost low I put back an early 80s Ornette Coleman LP and a copy of JACO by Jaco Pastorius.

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Singles: Boris, TOBACCO, Helms Alee, Warpaint, Geronimo!, Cloak of Altering

Boris: "Quicksilver" (via Sargent House/Pitchfork/Soundcloud)

TOBACCO: "Streaker (w/ Notrabel)" (via Force Field PR/Noisey/Soundcloud)

Helms Alee: "Punchy Stabby" (via Sargent House/Pitchfork/Soundcloud)

Warpaint: "Disco//Very" & "Keep It Healthy" (via YouTube)

Geronimo!: "Mr. President" (via Exploding in Sound Records/Soundcloud)

Cloak of Altering: "Chaos Magician of the Abyss" (via Earsplit PR/Crucial Blast/American Aftermath/Soundcloud)

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra: "Birds Toss Precious Flowers"

So, I'm still in need of a copy of Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything from Thee Silver Mt. Zion, but I'm hoping to remedy that very soon.  In the meantime, Constellation Records is issuing a new EP of remixes of SMZ material called Hang On To Each Other.  So far, the very dance-friendly "Birds Toss Precious Flowers" is all that's surfaced.  You can sample that track below and then check out the released information brought to you courtesy of Rarely Unable. 


Constellation are an unstoppable force, as today they announce the last of their new releases for Spring 2014, and what a way to round up with the announcement of Hang On To Each Other, a vinyl and digital-only EP of “remixes” from Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra.

Following their acclaimed Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything released in January, SMZ dusted off an old chestnut from their 2005 album Horses In The Sky and coat it in glitter and shards of glass; not remixes really, but brand new recordings that use set-closing live favourite “Hang On To Each Other” as a launching point for some rather glorious dancefloor excursions.

The EP will be available in the UK/EU April 28th (and from the band directly during their upcoming North American tour). See below for some words from the band, and to hear "Birds Toss Precious Flowers"

Here's some words from the band...

It's like that famous quote that Emma Goldman never said = "DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION"!
Somewhere around 1964 or thereabouts, we wrote a tune called "Hang On to Each Other". Acapella mostly, with just a few chords on harmonium. Recorded the thing in the woods 'round a campfire = heady times.

The chords to that tune are like house music chords, and we figured we'd re-record it someday, thusly and EARNESTLY. 4-on-the-floor. Drum machines and arpeggiators. Pink lasers and grape-flavored smoke machines. Most important thing = No irony.

Because we love that kind of music, and impromptu dance parties too.

Guess it took a long time to manifest, but this past x-mas we finally rustled up the necessary gear and holed up in the snow to loop thee joyful noise = 808, Oberheim Two-Voice, bright yellow toy keyboard, low pass filter, auto-wah bass guitar, wooden drone-box, squeaky tape delay, broken oscillator, string machine, distortion pedal, and violin. No guitar.

We let the machines yell at each other until they were hoarse and wheezing. With a baby in her belly, Ariel Engle of AroarA did the kind of singing that we can't, and we are thankful. Outside of the studio, the city was frozen, and thin tendrils of fine snow whisped across the ice like dragons.
We made this thing like a for-real disco 12-inch, to give to d.j.'s to play because we live in the kind of town where some d.j.'s maybe will. Much respect and much love to thee sweaty dancers, and the lost ones, and the ones who fell away.

- xoxoxox thee silver mt. zion memorial orchestra

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Body/Thou: Released From Love EP

So, The Body and Thou have released a collaborative EP on Vinyl Rites called Released From Love.  I had no idea this was coming out, The Body still running full-on from 2013's Christ, Redeemers and Thou gaining some momentum with their latest album, Heathen.

As far as collaborations go, it's fair to say that the amount of doom and gloom amassed into this EP is considerable and ably rep'd by everyone involved.  While I can't say I'm too familiar yet with Thou's latest release, I can certainly confirm the severity of the contributions The Body offer, the EPs first two tracks ("The Wheel Weaves as the Wheel Wills" and  "Manifest Alchemy") as grim and molten as anything on Christ, Redeemers or All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood.  The third track, "Meetings Hearts Beat Closer," struck me like a dropped anchor.  It has devastating weight. 

And, then, interestingly, the band closes the EP with a cover of Vic Chesnutt's "Coward."  You can even discern the song's key melody.

The album is currently streaming at Invisible Oranges.  All the info, tour dates and links come to you courtesy of the always excellent people at Earsplit PR. 

THE BODY/THOU: Fully Collaborative Vinyl-Only Release Out Now On Vinyl Rites

Both Bands To Undergo Shared Summer Tour

Vinyl-only independent label, Vinyl Rites, this week releases
Released From Love, a fully collaborative recorded effort between THE BODY and THOU.

With three original tracks as well as a harrowing cover of Vic Chesnutt's "Coward," recorded last year with James Whitten and mastered by Machines with Magnets, the entire lineup of Baton Rouge's noise-soaked doom/sludge quintet, THOU, and now-Portland, Oregon-based apocalyptic/experimental doom cult, THE BODY, orchestrate their wretched, noise-drenched tones and horrifying lyrical deliveries into twenty minutes of material through this four-movement mini-LP. On this collaboration, everything comes to its peak. Everyone's voice is heard, through instrument or otherwise, clearly defining their role in the project. All the things that make both groups special are apparent and fleshed out.

Invisible Oranges is now playing the entire Released From Love 12" in its entirety, stating of the opus, "
Chip King's distinctive shriek punches through the mire and then retreats; caustic electronic sounds seethe up through seams in the riffage. If these bands were a street-fighting tag team, Thou would be the big hulking dude who occupies your attention long enough for the small, shifty Body to sneak up behind you and jam a knife between your ribs."

Listen to Released From Lovenow AT THIS LOCATION.

Released From Love is a vinyl-only release, pressed on 180-gram black vinyl with heavyweight covers and letter-pressed inserts by Beck Levy. There will be no CD pressing nor any form of digital distribution of the material. Orders for the wax can now be placed HERE.

Released From Love Track Listing:

Side A

1. The Wheel Weaves as the Wheel Wills
2. Manifest Alchemy

Side B

3. In Meetings Hearts Beat Closer
4. Coward (Vic Chesnutt)

THOU has been active for over seven years, honing their sound over dozens of releases. Stereogum called their most recent full length,
Heathen (Gilead Media), "...dark, bombastic, hugely ambitious album of great sorrow, but perhaps even greater beauty." THE BODY is two men who have been recording, playing, and consuming heavy metal together for most of their lives. Their newest LP, Christs, Redeemers (Thrill Jockey), is so original and devastating that The New Yorker called THE BODY "[One] of the most remarkable acts bubbling up from the extreme-metal underground."

Having already toured extensively together in the past, in the coming months both bands will be playing live in support of the release. On the last day of June, THE BODY and THOU will tour out of Baton Rouge, and up the East Coast, and out to the Midwest playing a wide array of clubs, galleries and DIY venues into the third week of July. On the trip, both bands will perform solo sets as well as collaborative material from Released From Love. While the final details of the tour are still being confirmed, some of its highlights will include a radio set on underground radio station WFMU in Jersey City, and the end goal is a collaborative set from both bands on the opening night of the massive three-day Gilead Fest in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on Friday July 18th, alongside Ash Borer, Hell, Inter Arma, Protestant, and Oozing Wound that evening, as well as a set from THE BODY on day two and a set by THOU on the final day, July 20th.

THOU / THE BODY Summer Tour:

6/30/2014 TBA - Baton Rouge, LA
7/01/2014 The Forge - Birmingham, AL w/ Lume
7/02/2014 Legitimate Business - Greensboro, NC
7/03/2014 Empire the Bar - Richmond, VA (2pm matinee)
7/03/2014 TBA - Washington, DC
7/04/2014 Sidebar - Baltimore, MD w/ Curse (12pm matinee)
7/04/2014 TBA - Philadelphia w/ Hirs, Pissgrave, Backslider
7/05/2014 WFMU - Jersey City, NJ (matinee)
7/05/2014 ABC No Rio - New York, NY (matinee)
7/05/2014 TBA - New York
7/06/2014 The Orphanage - New London, CT (1pm matinee) w/ Empty Vessels, Snow Orphan
7/06/2014 TBA - Amherst, MA w/ Rozamov
7/07/2014 TBA - Boston, MA w/ Curmudgeon
7/08/2014 Machines with Magnets - Providence, RI
7/12/2014 TBA - Syracuse, NY w/ Bleak, Blood Sun Circle
7/13/2014 The Shop - Pittsburgh, PA
7/14/2014 Trumbullplex - Detroit, MI
7/15/2014 TBA - Grand Rapids, MI
7/16/2014 Carbon Room - Michigan City, MI w/ Angry Gods
7/17/2014 Club Rectum - Chicago, IL w/ Ash Borer, Hell

Gilead Fest:

7/18/2014 Masonic Center - Oshkosh, WI THOU/THE BODY collab set w/ Ash Borer, Hell, Inter Arma, Protestant, Oozing Wound

7/19/2014 Masonic Center - Oshkosh, WI - THE BODY w/ Bastard Sapling, Mutilation Rites, Kowloon Walled City, Geryon, False, Sea of Bones, Owlfood, Hexer

7/20/2014 Masonic Center - Oshkosh, WI - THOU w/ Barghest, Loss, Uzala, Lychgate, Seidr, Generation of Vipers, Alraune, Northless

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Singles: Ought, Hiss Tracts, SoftSpot, The Library Is On Fire, Skinfather, Dwellers

Ought: "Habit" (via Rarely Unable/Constellation Records/Soundcloud)

Hiss Tracts: (via Rarely Unable/Constellation Records/Soundcloud)

SoftSpot: "Black Room Blues" (via Force Field PR/SPIN/Soundcloud)

The Library Is On Fire: "Red Flags" (via

Skinfather: "Drown In Black" (via Earsplit PR/Decibel/Soundcloud)

Dwellers: "Creature Comfort" (via Earsplit PR/Small Stone/Bandcamp)

Letters From A Tapehead

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Over The Hill (Halfway): My Life in Records According to 1994 (Part 2)

Four more...

As I've been delving into all of this personal history (or old CDs), some of which I haven't revisited in ages, it's apparent which albums have held up in my mind versus those that haven't.  This has proven both interesting and disappointing depending on what I've listened to.  In some ways this sort of makes me regret my decision to reexamine these albums, their impact permanent despite my new assessments.  You sort of go, "Huh...  I wonder why this was such a big deal."  Naturally, exposure humbles your opinions with regard to your milestone records.  Age does, too.  At 17, my musical world tiny next to where I am at 37, I definitely interpreted these releases differently.  But, like I said, some have held up.  For that, I'm grateful.

Nine Inch NailsThe Downward Spiral
When Trent Reznor released the Broken EP, which was much more of a metallic and guitar-driven affair than Pretty Hate Machine had been, I was really into this evolution and figured this was where he would take The Downward Spiral, once word of its imminent arrival had spread throughout the pages of Rolling Stone and SPIN.  Guitars were doing more for me at the time than keyboards, even if Reznor's use of the instrument resulted in something attractively dark, his mechanized environs pointing toward a void of humanity, which I found enjoyable.  Inasmuch as "Head Like A Hole" justified my self-absorbed teenage want of independence, ("I'd rather die, than give you control!"), I found the distortions emanating from "Wish" enthralling and wanted a long player to carry out this direction.  The Downward Spiral, though, turned out to be an excessively wired treatise on sexual tension, nihilism and personal dismay, which managed to align with just about every thought, insecurity and instance of physical longing I was experiencing at the time.  Reznor could plainly express something as blunt and perverse as "I wanna fuck you like an animal" and somehow jumpstart the reproductive works within the bods of every of teenage girl I knew at the time, an enviable position that I certainly had not the balls nor status to ever hope to attain.  Such declarations from my mouth would've earned me a slap across the face.  I eventually discovered the word "charisma," gleaned its definition and realized it was not a word that applied to me.  (Not sure it ever has, to be honest.)   

But, the album:

While for me Nine Inch Nails hasn't translated too well past Y2K, listening to The Downward Spiral now is different.  Whatever old feelings had manifested while running through its 65 minutes notwithstanding, Reznor's talent for arrangement is much more apparent.  While the novelty of a song like "Closer" still remains permanently fixed at its point of reference, the smaller moments in songs like "March of the Pigs," "The Becoming" and "The Ruiner" grabbed most of my attention this time around.  While "March of the Pigs" remains as much of a kick in the head as ever, its momentary lapse of piano ("Now doesn't that make you feel better?") a perfect, sarcastic little jingle that I can appreciate more now.  The acoustic shifts in "The Becoming" are conversely serene next to the song's intensity and the live instrumentation brought into "The Ruiner" as some analog component fits in unexpectedly well.  

The doom behind "Reptile" still resonates.  It's a song that I'd put on more than a couple mixtapes and it still sounds vast and explosive through a set of headphones.


I remember making many copies of Soundgarden's Superunknown for friends of mine, happily distributing them with "you're gonna love it" certainty.  Even before hindsight proved as much, Superunknown felt like a big album, a then new world application of the classic rock paradigm finding relevance in a 90s "alternative" album.  It's long and grand, accessible but still loud enough to appeal to those of us who were above that sort of "mainstream bullshit."  And, part of the reason I put Superunknown in the same league as something like Zeppelin IV is that this was one of the only albums my Dad ever listened to without argument.  Even that ever-reliable and dismissing babyboomer superiority eased up just enough to appreciate what was going on and, like all classic rock, FM radio has more or less driven Superunknown into the ground so much it no longer means anything.  Kind of like "Stairway to Heaven."  Kind of like "Iron Man."  And, I forgot how many singles this album would eventually boast. (Fucking FIVE!!!)  

While the singles might now represent the album's weakest moments, "Fell On Black Days" and "My Wave" still sound great.  I can't say the same for "Spoonman" or "Black Hole Sun," the latter forever associated with a "Pleasant Valley Sunday"-styled suburbia depicted in the track's video, its populace altered by stretched mouths and growing eyes.

The song, though, that made the album for me were the sludgy crawl of both "Mailman" and "4th of July," not to mention the harmonic guitar phrases Kim Thayil performs in "Limo Wreck," which were particularly affecting this time around.  Not sure why I didn't appreciate them as much when I was younger.  Also, Matt Cameron's drum combos in "Head Down" are perfectly relentless.  My favorite track on Superunknown, though, remains "Fresh Tendrils."  It has my favorite vocal melody employed by Chris Cornell.  The song still makes my blood turns to ice.


PanteraFar Beyond Driven
It could be said that there wasn't much room for thrash metal in the early nineties while "alternative rock" was king, but Pantera managed to transcend the climate and somehow embedded themselves within the era.  Far Beyond Driven isn't something I can listen to often, as it conjures unpleasant memories and feelings I'd rather forget.  The album is an intense, artfully brutal masterwork that's had me forever hold Dimebag Darrell, Phil Anselmo, Rex Brown and Vinnie Paul in the highest regard.  From the introductory snarl of Dimebag's six string in "Strength Beyond Strength" to the runaway drum sounds during the middle of "Slaughtered," Far Beyond Driven boasted the highest payoffs, the sweetest drum fills, some incredible guitar work and pinnacle performance from Anselmo.  "25 Years" was the offering with which I could most identify, its second half a monument to confessional styled rage.


Rollins BandWeight
I refer to Rollins Band's Weight as "the one with the hit."  Following the personal revelation that was for the band's 1992 release, The End of Silence, Weight was an album I'd eagerly anticipated and grew with for most of the year.  While it's since become one of my least favorite Rollins Band releases, songs like "Disconnect," "Civilized" and "Liar" sounding rather thin next to some of the more deranged and heavy-hitting songs featured in Weight's predecessor (not to mention the extraordinarily abrasive Life Time and Hard Volume), it's still a solid album, though I find the second half to be its most engaging.  "Volume 4" is an amplified sludge quake on par with the band's more metallic output and "Alien Blueprint" is perfectly energized, guitarist Chris Haskett's tone remarkably clean.  The addition of bassist Melvin Gibbs provided more of a funk sensibility, very prevelant in "Alien Blueprint" and the album's closing track, "Shine."  It was the first Rollins Band album I'd heard that didn't end in a flurry of sonic eruption and Henry Rollins' mic-as-catharsis screaming, which might've seemed a letdown at the time.

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, March 24, 2014

Daughter of a Tapehead: S.O.A.

First Demo 12/29/80
Dischord Records
Released: 3.14

*Genuine shock.
**Despite my daughter's reservations, First Demo 12/29/80 is completely worth picking up for any fans of D.C. hardcore and, in my opinion, trumps in many ways the performances in the No Policy EP.  

Letters From A Tapehead

No Ripcord: Liars

Released: 3.24.14

Letters From A Tapehead


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