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Listening

Mp3 Digest: October 4, 2006

Having just seen the K Records Documentary, I can now say with authority that music critics do have a place in this world outside of keeping Yo La Tengo in clean spats. They can translate the rambling theoretical diatribes of musicians into actual comprehensible statements. For example, in the movie, Michael Azerrad (Our Band Could Be Your Life) waxes sagely about the tape underground K Records pioneered—the cross-country sharing, selling, and spreading of music in its most egalitarian form before the digital age. It made me think about how the craft of creating custom tape covers or carefully selected mix arrangements has been lost on today’s file-trading youths who just pass on raw files. Where’s the love?

Well, K Records is still going strong and have even embraced the vulgarity of the current day by offering the entire Poor Aim: Love Songs album by the Blow, a lo-fi electronic R&B duo, for free on their site. Maybe they’re selling the tape covers separately.

» Download the Blow’s Poor Aim: Love Songs at K Records (zip, 30.8MB)


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K Records weren’t the only ones spreading biased love in the ’80s. There’s a whole German tape underground that was also dealing in minimal synth sounds at the same time. We’ll leave arguments over who landed on Plymouth Rock first for later, and instead proceed with doing the robot to Der Kuenftige Musikant’s “Stummel.”

» Listen to the German Casette Underground at WFMU’s Beware of the Blog


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Originally, most of these tapes came piggybacked in plastic bags with the music zines that talked about them. Like the original Sub Pop, Flipside, and Cometbus, written by Aaron Cometbus, who put out this audio version of his magazine filled with music, random sound samples, and a political call-in show done from a payphone.

» Listen to Cometbus Compilation at Krucoff

Two other Bay area compilations from Cometbus include Lest We Forget and 12 Bands From Bencia.
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This may all be obscure nostalgia for a self-indulgent minority who already know about these things, but I like to call it historical preservation. And what about the nostalgia of today? Surely there’s still good music being made that doesn’t have to wait 20 years in a tape vault to be aged properly. Why there’s even a Tom Waits boxed set headed our way very soon.

» Listen to Tom Waits’s “Bottom of the World” at Said the Gramaphone


And there are folks like the Liars who would certainly release something on a tape if you asked them nicely.

» Listen to the Liars at 20 Jazz Funk Greats


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And speaking of music archeology, if anybody has some insight into the great garage Simla Beat compilations, please share with the world. Right now they are the equivalent of Toynbee tiles, with people not knowing much about the bands or why an Indian cigarette company made them.

» Listen to the Confusions’ “Voice from the Inner Soul” and the Dinosaurs’ “Sinister Purpose” at Garage Hangover
(Sept. 8 entry)


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Who knows what things are still yet to be unearthed from the archeological dig into the tape vaults of the ’80s? More introspection into the zeitgeist of the times or more Teddy Ruxpin rap albums? Only time will tell.

» Listen to Teddy Ruxpin’s “Grunge Music” at Sweet Thunder

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