June 1 2014: Record Store Day Again?
I was back in London this weekend so went to all my usual record store haunts. And one thing I notice is that a lot of the Record Store Day releases of April 19th all seem to be back. Is this part of the plan? I always assumed RSD was about getting highly limited releases that come but once, but it seems that the music industry thinks RSD is primarily a way to release stuff early and then release it again once the dust settles. Anyone have an idea of what is going on? Why are all these supposedly-limited records all turning back up in stock? Let me give you examples - William Onyeabor's release was apparently limited to 1200 copies, yet it is available again at Rough Trade. Ditto for Oneohtrix Point Never's Commissions, which was apparently only available in 500 copies. Get it now at Rough Trade. So what's going on?
April 20 2014: Record Store Day 2014 Releases reviewed
I was in London for Record Store Day 2014. My plan was to hit Sister Ray Records in Berwick Street first, as it opened at 8am, and then head over to Phonica Records on nearby Poland Street to finish off my record buying mission. In advance I did a lot of research and had a list of what I wanted. I got to Berwick Street at 3.25am and found that I was 29th in the queue - not bad.
After shivering with cold for 5 hours I finally got into Sister Ray at 8.30am and got a copy of everything I wanted. Then I hit Phonica and cleaned up on the rest of my wants. Altogether it was a successful day of hunting!
As is the case with Record Store Day, the shops are overwhelmed with customers so browsing the RSD offerings is impossible. You walk in with a list, hand it over, and then get the goods in exchange for cash. So I really was buying a little blind - no chance to listen or even look at the covers to decide if it would be what I would like. So this was a bit of an experiment.
I am struggling a little with what Record Store Day has become. There now seems to be an enormous number of releases (over 700 this year) including some re-releases. Personally, I'd like to see RSD focus entirely on fewer releases, in strictly limited numbers, of never-before released material by up and coming or fringe artists. Releasing records by One Direction, for example, is just ridiculous. Please make it a true record collecting event where people salivate to get their hands on a rare copy of a track that they have never heard by their favorite artist. Also, I think the record companies are starting to gouge customers with the prices. Some of the 12" EPs I purchased on RSD were twice the price of a usual 12" single. Gimme a break!
Nile Rodgers - Do What You Wanna Do Remixes
This was an edition of 550, remixed by Eats Everything. First off, it's a pretty good song, so I was looking forward to the remixes and they do not disappoint. Nicely structured with plenty of variation, even though the entire track is basically a repeat of the mantra "do what you wanna do". The Haus rework on the A side has a screeching TB303 in it to add a little early house feel. The B-side is the "Eel Interpretation" which has a little more pace and features more of the guitar work, but I prefer the A side. 6 out of 10.
Pet Shop Boys - Fluorescent Remixes
The Pet Shop Boys are well known for doing a lot of remixes, and here is a limited 100 copy run for RSD. The Indio remix on this EP is not groundbreaking and I'd even go as far as to suggest it is rather lazy. The Cali remix has been stripped down much more from the original song and is rather good. It reminds me a little of Kraftwerk's The Model, although to mention this track and that track in the same sentence does not do The Model justice - it is simply so superior. Neither of these remixes are going to go down in history as gotta-haves for Pet Shop Boys fans, but I have heard worse. 6 out of 10.
Moebius/Neumeier/Engler/Schneider TM - Wohlauf (Maxi Version)
500 copies on white vinyl. Unreleased prior, I was looking forward to this piece of historic experimental music. And I'd say I was a little disappointed. Not experimental enough, perhaps, on the A-side with Moebius, Neumeier and Engler's Wohlauf. It didn't grip me, let's just say. Schneider TM's side of the record has the WFMU Stream Test which is significantly better. Haunting looming electronics moan from your speakers, you feel a sense of menace in this one, although it doesn't really build of change - it ultimately just fades away. In summary, one good track, one bad. 6 out of 10.
Kreidler / Automat - Split EP
Double A-side release on white vinyl in a limited run of 500. I was particularly looking forward to this as I am an emerging fan of Automat. Kriedler's tracks, Snowblind and Escaped, are both rather good, with Escaped probably coming out on top on account of its chugging bass and arpeggiating synth. Plenty going on across the whole stereo spectrum although my copy did seem to have a lot of pops and crackles on it - but you sometimes get that with white vinyl don't you? Automat's side features Genesis P-Orridge on the first track, Berlin Wall, a rather sedate piece of electronica while Gen signs about escaping over the wall while wearing 5 inch heels. To be honest, I think I would have preferred the track without Gen's lyrics, which were a distraction. The remaining tracks, all unreleased, were rather nice pieces of simmering electronica. This gets 7 out of 10.
Kingcats - Down In California Remixes
Limited release of 1000 copies on vinyl (although next week they release the digital download version). Remixed by Psychemagik and Albion, this release is firmly aimed at the dance floor. Albion's remix is decidedly funky with plenty of drum variation and a barracuda style finger plucked bass. Being a big fan of Psychemagik, I was keen to hear their remix. Very nice indeed - definitely the better of the two. Both tracks have a west coast USA cosmic vibe to them, with Psychemagik's release the more danceable. 6 out of 10.
The The - Giant
Ah this is a great song and now it gets an extended remix for RSD in 2000 copies. This one was controversial because people were selling it on Ebay two days before RSD! Anyway, back to the record. Truly great extended mix by The The themselves, then turn over to the flip side and DJ Food has a remix which was originally released in 2011. Dj Food's remix is OK - he has smoothed out the track to make it flow better for dancing and extended it greatly, but in doing so he diminishes the very cool bass line and tones down Matt Johnson's vocals. I prefer the A-side! Overall, I give it 8 out of 10.
Grace Jones - Me! I Disconnect From You
1000 copies on a previously unreleased track. I follow Gary Numan on Twitter so was surprised to discover that he didn't know Grace Jones had even recorded a version of his song until recently. Turns out that in the process of working on the anniversary of Grace Jone's Nightclubbing album, they discovered a few unreleased recordings, this being one of them. So does Grace do justice to Gary's track? With Sly and Robbie backing track, it's gotta be good.. As to Grace's singing, I like it. You could dance to this and enjoy it thoroughly while reminding yourself what a brilliant song this truly is, thanks to Gary. The B-side is an extended version of Feel Up, and rather good too. 9 out of 10!
Joy Division - An Ideal For Living
1500 copies of Joy Division's first EP which has been out of print and very rare (but I have an original). This is, of course, very early Joy Division when they had yet to find their true groove, and it misses the production skills of Martin Hannett. But still good. You feel the energy and the raw talent. 8 out of 10 for me.
Oneohtrix Point Never - Commisions 1
Limited to 500 copies, three tracks by the Producer and Composer Oneohtrix Point Never. These recordings were commissioned for performance, artworks or films. All rather interesting and well worth queueing for, the feature a lot of atmospheric ambient music and voice. It gets a 7 out of 10.
Metronomy - Love Letters (Single-Sided Etched 12")
Limited to 500 copies, it is Metronomy's classic Love Letters remixed by Soulwax. My brother loves this. I personally think it is a bit too much pop for me. But I bought a copy because I am a collector at heart, although I do not sell the stuff I buy. The track is cool... danceable, memorable, catchy. You know what I mean. Soulwax did a good job. I must also comment on this idea of single-sided etched records though - I find them rather irritating. Why the hell don't they just spend a little time putting another track on the back? After all, I am trying to buy music, not art. Personally I'd give it 4 out of 10.
Alexander Robotnik - Vintage Robotniks
Much of it claimed to be on vinyl for the first time, 2000 copies are now somewhere in people's record collections, and it's on transparent blue and purple vinyl - rather neat if you ask me. If you like a bit of euro disco/electro disco with the occasional french voice, then this was a good thing to try and get. Lots of early drum machines (including a Boss Dr. Rhythm on the second track) and a touch of the early sequencer and synthesizer playing, all delivered in a package of 11 cool songs. Sometime you think you're listening to early Depeche Mode sung in french. I could not fault this release and enjoyed it enormously. 9 out of 10.
Various Artists - Dance To The Best Of ESG
A triple 12" of disco greatest hits from ESG, released as a box set of 200 copies, also with download code, which should be mandatory with every vinyl release (although the file metadata on this release is not correctly indexed, which is frankly lazy). Once I clean all the files up and sort of what is what, I will let you know what it's like.
Various Artists - Electroconvulsive Therapy Volume 2
There are 2000 copies of this release in italian flag vinyl (red, white and green). It's a rather impressive disc, unlike anything I have ever seen. On it you'll find 8 releases of electro-pop from 1981 through 1984, all previously released. The B-side is mainly instrumental edits of the tracks on the A-side. It's another nostalgic early electronic pop compilation and I enjoyed it for all the right reasons - I dissected the drum beats (I found the Dr. Rhythm track!), listened to the synths and marveled at the primitive sequencers. Rather good. 7 out of 10.
William Onyeabor - What? Remixed
1200 copies released. A series of remixes by other artists, including Hot Chip, The Vaccines and Daphni, of William Onyeabor's nigerian funk style. I got this on recommendation but was disappointed. Not really my sort of thing. Oh Well. 3 out of 10.
The Amorphous Androgynous - The Cartel
750 copies 2xLP hand numbered, apparently, although mine had no number on it. Billed as a "funky psychsploitation soundtrack for bank robberies, heists, cop/car chases, gunrunners, counter-intelligence, killing sprees, espionage & regrets", you expect it to be good. And it actually is. I can imagine it perfectly fitting into movies with the above sorts of thing happening. It's a sort of psychedelic rock with lots of swirling guitars, drums and effects. It's actually a side project of Future Sound Of London. Rather enjoyable. It has plenty of remixes by famous names too, and Noel Gallagher playing guitar on one track. Enjoyable. 7 out of 10.
Various Artists - Music Finland With The Line Of Best Fit
After getting my records, I stopped in a cafe for a coffee and to try and remove the chill from my shivering frame. And that's when I noticed this record in my bag. I hadn't asked for it. Oh God did I get given the wrong thing? Then online I discovered that there were 5000 copies handed out for free on RSD to promote music from Finland. I don't really associate Finland with music, so it's like promoting Frisbees from England isn't it? Six tracks by groups I had never heard of - Satellite Stories, Neov, The New Tigers, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Mirel Wagner and Beastmilk. What it is is a mixed bag - a variety of genres and as such, not that interesting. I wouldn't want to hear electronica followed by heavy rock, no matter what day it is. So 3 out of 10.
Al Kent - Happy
Al Kent delivers two northern soul tracks. Velvet Hammer's Happy on one side and an unnamed singer on the B-Side. On yellow vinyl, and despite searching I could not find out how many were pressed. Both tracks are rather good northern soul tracks. Not really my thing, but I enjoyed it. 5 out of 10.
Amir Alexander/Hinode/Samuel Andre Madsen/Chris Mitchell - Subwax RSD 2014
300 copies on black vinyl with four artists from Subwax. This was right up my alley - back to techno! And the four tracks on this are rather good too. Amir Alexander's track is a catchy deep house track with plenty of bottom-end bump. Hinode's track, Molecular, is a gem with a complex drum pattern and a looming bass. Samuel Andre Madsen's Etude In Solitude is a very neat piece of deep house. . Chris Mitchell's track is pretty much common house. But this EP is worth finding if you can. 7 out of 10.
Delroy Edwards - 4 Club Use Only
2500 copies of this in existence, which seems like a lot to me. 4 Club Use Only, the A-side is a foot tapping house track that could definitely find itself in any good club night. With drums near to distortion, there is a groveling synth and a groovy bass line. Then the B-side features Bells, which honestly sounds like a cow bell - not really that great. And finally, Love Goes On and On, a slightly darker techno trip. Overall I found this release a bit lazy, to be honest. 6 out of 10.
Various Artists - Trax Records RSD 2014
4 track reddy pink vinyl limited to (I think) 500 copies. Classic original house from Ralphi Rosario - I Want You, On The Houses' Give Me Back The Love, and on the B-Side Screamin' Rachael and Lymuel Rock Investor. All good tracks of cool house music, with that classic beat and killer bass lines. What's not to like? It gets an 8 out of 10.
Rodion G.A. - Misiunea Spatiala Delta
Obscure Romanian soundtrack to the Sfi-Fi animation movie of the same name. Tinny electronics recorded in 1984. Rather amateurish in many respects, but probably genre-breaking in Romania at the time. As a collector of early-electronic experimentation, this is a good find, but it does not have the greatest of production quality. 6 out of 10.
Groove Armada - Untitled
I believe there are only 300 copies of this on vinyl. Groove Armada reworked Rocker's Revenge's Walking On Sunshine in two different tracks. Really damn cool actually - the original has great drums but Groove Armada pump them up to yet another level. The B-side slows things down a little and adds a killer bass line. This is perhaps my favorite release of Record Store Day and most people will not even know about it wasn't really publicized too much. The record cover gives nothing away either unless you look carefully. I give it a 9 out of 10.
Kai Alce - NDATLTD EP
500 copies in black and white splashed vinyl. Very cool disc and when you put it on the turntable you discover three stellar house tracks. The production quality is superior to many other house tracks thanks to Kai Alce's experience. Fabulous rhythms, great lead synths and a catchy voice track with an underlying bass line that compels you to move. You can't get much better than this for classy house. A polished release packaged beautifully. It gets 9 out of 10.
Klein & M.B.O - Last Call EP
4 tracks of remixes of Last Call limited to 198 copies. Four very strong electro-poppy tracks that are well arranged and overall rather good. Highly enjoyable in fact. 8 out of 10.
Joey Negro vs. Horse Meat Disco - Candidate For Love
500 copies on red vinyl. On the A-side Joey Negro's mix of a high ranking house track with a plenty of sampling/stolen riffs. You'll find a bit of Donna Summer's I Feel Love as well as Let's All Chant by the Disco Queens. The B-Side contains a further two tracks with yet more sampling. It's house and nu-disco blended together in an infectious way. Very good. 8 out of 10.
John Morales - The M+M Mixes Record Store Day Dubs Special
Limited edition of 1000 copies on clear vinyl of never-before released mixes of two classic disco tracks. That is what RSD should be about right? Inner Life's Ain't No Mountain High Enough gets the first treatment with a bit of an acapella start before it really starts a rocking. Half way through you feel like it is about to end when it all starts up in acapella again. And then again... It's a classic cut and John Morales has done a nice job of refreshing it. On The B-Side you'll find Salsoul Orchestra's You're Just The Right Size which is similarly lengthy and covers the gamut of song flow - full-on orchestration then refrain, then back to full-on etc. Altogether a killer couple of mixes which come in well past 15 minutes each. 8 out of 10.
Donna McGhee - Make It Last Forever Deluxe Edition
Limited to 500 copies of a 2x12" gatefold rare collectors piece from the 70s. I confess to having never heard of Donna McGhee but I bought the album on recommendation. Donna was a singer with The Fatback Band and toured extensively during 70s disco madness. She has that classic disco diva's voice and is backed by the usual disco arrangement including a lead guitar riffing over the top of the track. There are extensive sleeve notes which I enjoyed reading and as I listened to the tracks you can appreciate why this was such a revered collectors album - it is simple really good. Donna is a very sexual singer too - her "oh yes's" are something to be smiled at. 8 tracks later and I am a Donna McGhee fan. 9 out of 10.