Sunday, March 29, 2015

Strangers No More

It's pretty rare to hear a recording so amazing that the live act seems to pale in comparison.  Especially for loud, heavy bands, the experience of seeing said band crushing it (your face) on tour can be transformative.  Recently when the VVers went to Baltimore's Metro Gallery to see Brooklyn's A Place to Bury Strangers things were more in the reverse.  This is not a slight to the band (having only seen them once live) and instead has shed new light to how truly impressive their recorded work is.

The VVers have more than a few platters by these guys, but it is their second album, the titanic Exploding Head, first introduced by Brother VV as a gift, that has spawned such musical affection.  Even though drenched in feedback, the production values on Exploding Head (and most of the APTBS records, for that matter) are fantastic.  It's hard to get enough of that signature APTBS sound: crisp, echoey, devastating.  Exploding Head is a frenetic batch of songs with sonics so over the top that by the end it's not hard to imagine the recording studio being blasted off of the map.  Even more amazing is how the mix of sharp drums and direct guitar riffs easily sticks in your head.  That's right, high speed noise-rock that is catchy.  Exploding Head is on crystal-clear vinyl and the band often does a respectable job pressing their vinyl on fun colors; Strange Moon is bright tie-dye yellow and the new single is translucent blue (read on)!

Back to the aforementioned concert in Baltimore, VVer #2 spied some highly unusual looking vinyl at the merch table and had to claim it as her own.  The packaging contains the equivalent of a solid quarter-inch thick metal trivet (this thing is really heavy!) for a front cover of the 45.  The single "We've Come So Far" is from APTBS' new album, Transfixiation.  It is a moody track that briefly enters the realm of radio friendly, but that thought is quickly atomized by the instrumental pulverizing that ensues.  Singer Oliver Ackermann takes an impressive vocal journey with female vocalist Emilie Lium Vordal through speeding guitars and CHAOS!  It is a fine melding of relatively calm vocals overlaid with serious reverb.  Somewhere mid-way dissonance overwhelms melody into disintegration, to reform back again just in time for the close of the track.  Yes, thar be serious loudness here, but it be quite pleasing to the spleen.  The sleeve notes indicate it was recorded by a cooperative in Etne, Norway.  Good job Norge on loving crazy music; the VVers have been to Norway and approve.  Hah!  On the B-side, "Resistance" combines patient industrial mayhem on what, at first listen, sounds like a purely instrumental track.  Credits to vocals beg another few listens.  The singing in question, which is 99% muffled so that the lyrics might just as well be about anything.  It's as if the vocals are transmitted over a CB, then beamed to Mars, and back again to be played over the speakers in a submarine in the Pacific Ocean.  Enter drums like thundering machine guns and done.  APTBS keeps this track short as it's more or less a fragment, but not in a bad way.   Nice tour purchase for VVer #2!

The VVers have plans to see APTBS in the near future at Austin Psych Fest, "Levitation."  The venues couldn't be more different: tiny club in Baltimore and giant outdoor festival in Austin. Fingers crossed that they play a night set and bring "the goods."  The Vinyl Vagabonds will be there; earplugs at the ready and eagerly looking for the merch table.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Six Street Vagabonds

VVer #1 was rolling solo out from a concert at the Black Cat the other night and out of the corner of his eye spotted a small stack of vagabond vinyl sitting against a nearby wall.  Since the Black Cat show had no vinyl for sale (boohoo), he had a little jonesing for the stuff.  "Sad vinyl out in the cold, it is I who will rescue you!"  In the dark it was hard to tell what was what, but it was definitely vinyl.  Here is what he found:

Rimsky-Korsakoff Scheherzade, Montreux Conducting the London Symphony Orchestra
This platter is loaded with all manor of flourishes.  Soft violins and flutes over gentle percussion lead to bombastic wind gusts of power.  Classy classic classical.  Though the VVers are by no means experts on classical, they know what they like and this is it.  Description on the back sleeve of Montreux as "the dean of living conductors," completing this recording at the age of eighty-six!  Welcome to the collection.

Bonnie Raitt Sweet Forgiveness 1977
This LP gets off to a "not entirely displeasing" start with two super bluesy numbers, the most interesting of which is a cutting rendition of the 50's Del Shannon hit "Runaway."  Things get sappy from here and a little into gospel territory.  Ick.  Side B has a similar unevenness.  The title track is a touch sentimental, but ... "I don't know what my tolerance is for any more of this yelping," says VVer #2.  Thankfully, "Three Time Loser" and "Takin' My Time" both have more swagger, and the later goes briefly into epic "November Rain" territory.

Anne Murray Love Song 1974 Wow, this is not the sort of music that ever gets played in the house of VV.  Is it bad?  No, not really.  Ms. Murray has a rich, calming voice.  The music is soothing, mellow, slightly country, and no.  No.  The VVers don't really do this sort of thing.  "BLAH BLAH BLAH WHOO WHOO AGH!" said VVer #2, the sound of a dying wombat.

Charlie Rich Behind Closed Doors 1973
Basically the same album, but with a lot more dude.  The first two tracks on this one were so badly scraped that they cannot be played.  This may indeed turn out to be a blessing.  In this case, the less music, the better.  The back cover write-up is so ridiculously over the top about Mr. Rich, it is to the point of deification.

Don't do it Bonnie!
Bonnie Raitt Home Plate 1975
Ms. Raitt gets another chance here and just from the first glance at the album cover things don't bode well.  Such a hokey pose Ms. Raitt.  VVer #2 is shocked that this is a cover for an album.  Horrible.  The music however starts off well.  The sound is a pleasing blend of funk, jazz, and blues with a decent amount of moxy stirred into the brew.  Ms. Raitt probably brought the house down at the small clubs.  This sort of music rarely makes the cut in the House of VV, but it's impossible to deny that Ms. Raitt's vocal chops go for miles with a healthy slice of soul to boot.  Too bad most of it is kind of boring.  YER OUTTA HERE!

Orchestra Harlow Heavy Smokin' 1966
Whoa, what's going on in here?  This cover really is kind of scary.  Looking at the vinyl is also scary.  It looks like hell.  It looks like somebody attacked it with a sandwich full of gravel.  VVer #1 assumed it couldn't even be played, but surprisingly, with a significant amount of cleaning, it played nine of the twelve tracks with minimal skippage.  Heavy Smokin' is an enjoyable salsa album.  While it isn't exactly "heavy," "smokin'," or remarkable (except for the cover), "it isn't terrible" exclaimed VVer #2.  And like a puff of smoke, gone.

Moral of the story for picking up a stack of random vinyl off the side of the road; have low expectations and be pleasantly surprised if one is a keeper.  Enjoy crappy records for all their crappiness, then toss them back onto the side of the road for another vagabonder to discover, or a squirrel to go sledding on.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Brand Spankin' New Zine

Did the VVers mention how busy they have been arting it up for the release of their SIXTH (yes, you read that right) Vinyl Vagabonds Zine?! Featuring original musings about record collecting, original drawings, and an original lush screen-printed cover. You will want to buy it.
First chance to get your grubby mitts on a copy is at the zine release party at Bump 'N Grind, cafe/record store in Silver Spring, on Friday the 13th of March. The VVers will be DJing from their collection from 7pm-9pm. More info here.

Your second chance to score a copy directly from the source is the very next day at SMUDGE Comic Arts Expo at Artisphere in Arlington, VA on Saturday, March 14th from noon to 6pm. Buy comics, art, and zines!

Be there
For the new zine!
It's going to be
It'll blow your socks off!
It's one of those things
Where Cookiezilla versus zine
Zine versus comic
Comic versus vinyl record
Be there!
Intergalactic record battle
It's... instupituous!!