Sunday, October 27, 2013

Black Sunday: Harding Street Assembly Lab 10" Splits (2012)

A recent weekend trip for a family wedding found me in the Blue Ridge Mountain community of Lynchburg, Virginia and, with a Saturday afternoon to kill, I fired up the Vinyl District app on my phone and, lo and behold, found an independent record store, Speakertree Records, a few hundred yards away from my hotel.

Speakertree's wares were devoid of my usual metal desires but they had a healthy stock of indie label vinyl and I was immediately drawn to a trio of 10" records unified by a simple single-colored print stamped onto their jackets. Without bothering to look up the artists or ask about the contents within, I snatched up all three, took 'em home and only later dug into what I was hearing.

Turns out the label, Harding Street Assembly Lab, was also local to Lynchburg and their last blog post, from 2012, indicates that they owned the record store, too. The contents of the records are six sides of moody, largely instrumental, collegiate art and noise rock, not something I would generally actively seek out. That said, I like the project's approach: a label act on the A-side with a friend of the label occupying the B-side. I imagine this is a win-win strategy in terms of financing and, of course, exposure and applaud the ingenuity here.

The presentation of each of the records is pretty fantastic. The aesthetic is simple and generally well-executed. The prints, pulling from Greek mythology, are fine and clean and the records' center labels are minimal with only the catalogue numbers and artist names presented on a stark white label. The label's own logo occupies the reverse of the glossy white jacket and each album also includes a two-sided full-color insert on heavy stock with varying amounts of specific track, session and artist information.

The vinyl itself is heavy and clean and the multicolor blends are generally well-matched to the colors of the prints on the jackets. HSAL16 is a predominantly slate-colored slab with enough purple highlights to complement the Minotaur and Theseus on the front. HSAL 19 is laregly a deep pumpkin hue with streaking traces of green similar to what I am guessing is Heracles and Thanatos in combat on the cover. Here the vinyl itself, poorly described as "burgundy" on the label's blog, really matches nicely with the Guilty Ghosts' side of the insert. Finally, HSAL17 provides my favorite of the records, visually, with a rich brown blend that matches precisely with Hercules and the Hydra on the jacket.

All in all, the Harding Street Assembly Lab 10" trio is a find I love. The handmade work is both a blessing and a curse, though, as I love the effort that goes into these but find myself a little disappointed with some sloppiness here and there (HSAL17 has an off-center, incomplete print with some smudges above that indicate errant ink was wiped away - I would have saved this record out as a second at a reduced price). Still, said sloppiness also adds to the charm and unique aspect of releases such as these. While it's likely not a label I will return to as the music within just isn't my thing, it's the perfect souvenir from a long weekend and the best way I can think of the leave a little money in the local economy and arts scene.

HSAL16 and HSAL19 still appear on the label's Bandcamp site as available for purchase on vinyl at $12.00 each with HSAL17 listed as sold out. All were produced as pressings of 100 each.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Transparent Vinyl: This is Great Until it Sucks.

Kids today would say I am butthurt. They're probably right (whatever that really means). Viewing this blog as a DIY guide to starting (and/or wrecking) a record label, though, I thought some may find this exchange interesting, amusing and hopefully somehow educational on the subject of review submissions. I guess I'm really just posting this as a "what did I do wrong," looking for assurance that it ain't me, it's them. It's a long one, so I'll keep the commentary throughout to a minimum.

The set-up is this: while I rely on The Black Birch for PR and digital review submissions, I still have been handling any physical copies of the vinyl I send out for review. As these are precious and few - and each one sets me back its cost plus postage - I try to solicit sites that not only focus on the music we love but also the vinyl format and the little details that make our releases special.

I found such a site in mid-August. I commented on a post and, on August 19th, got a direct message on Facebook from the blog's owner. You can see below how everything unfolded. I have left every post in the thread in, editing only to disguise any items that may ID the blog or author. I'm not angry and don't want to single them out for any ire. I'm a little confused and really just want to share the frustration that can occur with just a single effort to get a record some exposure. I don't know why this went the way it did - perhaps it was just a true change of heart, perhaps it sat too long and just felt like too much effort - regardless, I'm out about $25 worth of vinyl plus international postage. Thing is, I still love this blog and this author's contributions. I'll still continue to read and share and comment. It's great. Until it feels too contrived, marketed and paint-by-numbers.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Black Sunday: Slaves BC / Cousin Sleaze - Split 7" (2013)

Pittsburgh's Slaves BC, a favorite of this blog since I found them in August of 2012, is a band I've been longing to have on the shelf in the vinyl format (hell, they're a band I wish I had on my own label). While a full-length is still forthcoming (from Veritas Vinyl, I believe), the band have satisfied the appetite for now with a self-released split with New York hardcore act, Cousin Sleaze. With just a total of seven minutes of music across seven inches of vinyl, each band delivers a short, sharp and shocking blast of sound smartly housed in a simple package. Slaves BC give us "Place Axe to Root" and Cousin Sleaze turn in "Indecision."

i appreciate a large hole.
Chris Smith of Grey Aria Design Studio put together a stellar sleeve in shades of gray whose bones and binding recall the aesthetic of the iconic Pushead but keep things appropriately blackened for the content within (but also check out his killer poster for an upcoming Mutilation Rites show to see how this guy can fill a larger canvas). I'm not sure who actually pressed the vinyl but each variant - 100 each of black, white and clear - are clean to look at and listen to. The black and white center labels carry the same design as the jacket's reverse and the entire record exudes a no-frills, utilitarian vibe. "Would you prefer to be fucked up with sound," it asks, "or would you rather we give you colors and stickers?" Yeah, the first one.

Pick who you love more and get it from them. Better yet, grab one or more from each. It's worth noting that each purchase on Bandcamp doubles the music with an extra track available for download from each band ("To My Beloved Bride" from Slaves BC and "Begin Again" from Cousin Sleaze):