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.

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