An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Re-releasing the re-releases please

So after waiting a long and patient month for any objections, I took it upon myself to change the data on Discogs for the Bauhaus releases of Dark Entries.

There were five versions on Discogs, I also had five different versions, but only two matched.

Well, I managed to slightly amend two of them on Discogs and I had two that were the same.

The Matrix numbers on a vinyl record are the little scratches of numbers on the run out groove of the record.  These are generally scratched onto the masters by a chap that works magic getting the masters formed, so that the best sound is produced from them.  Some of these ‘mages of the vinyl process’ take great pride in their work, and add little extras onto the run out groove along with the matrix numbers and catalogue number.  Sometimes a little message, sometimes one word.  You get the feeling some of these are IN jokes.  Some even scratch little pictures on.

The matrix numbers themselves are records of the process of creating these masters. An ‘A1’ on one side and ‘B1’ on the second side is generally a sign that the mage has done really well and got good quality from the first attempt to create the master. Equally this could also show that the record company are not too fussed what it sounds like as long as it’s done and the records can be sold.  If the master is not good enough, another attempt might be made and the first side on the new master may be ‘A2’.  Sometimes the studio producer or someone from the record company may reject this attempt and another attempt will have to be made.  I have read of some releases not being put into full production until the sixth or seventh versions.

It also appears that masters are destroyed after a production run is done.  So, if a re-release is required or just more copies are needed because a release has sold out, a new master has to be created and the process starts again.

This is the general way vinyl is mastered and cut, concerning the matrices.  But with the Dark Entries single, the form book seems to have been thrown out the window.  In a few of the re-release cases, the master seems to be the original one perhaps, as the original AXIS 3 or AD3 matrices are on the record, but they have been scratched out and other catalogue numbers added.  It all seems quite a mess on some releases, with some of the new matrices being that light, they can hardly be picked out.

Regarding some of these lighter etched matrices editions; I think some of the contributors on Discogs have probably easily missed them.  So, the two releases I changed on Discogs, I feel shouldn’t be a major upset.  But the one release I had left over in my collection didn’t match the one release left on Discogs.  This had a different label on the record to any of the copies I had.  The only conclusion I had was that there are six different releases in total.  So I updated Discogs with my extra version.

Maybe, each release could tell a story of release and re-release by what matrices are on the record and which have been added and which have been scratched out.  Until I get this final one I can’t make a comparison to see if the matrices can tell a story or not.

Watch this space

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

If music be the food of life, give me a pizza with mayo

 I seem to get a lot of negative responses to my attitude to other people’s music tastes. Probably because I find most folks taste in music bewildering and to many this comes over as arrogant. So in light of this, I wanted to explain the best way I can, how I perceive music and music tastes. Not being the most eloquent user of the English language, the following will be interesting to say the least.

Probably the best way for me to describe my attitude to music is to relate music to food. For me music is necessary for life. I love music and it has nourished me and kept me alive for the whole of my existence and without it my life would be non-existent. I see music tastes as similar to tastes in food. I have my favourite styles of music, but I can appreciate all styles. Life would be dull without variety and extremely unhealthy

I see the majority of mass commercial music in the way that I see crisps (or potato chips if your American). There’s nothing wrong with crisps. They come in many varieties and are enjoyable to eat. But I wouldn’t want to spend my life on a diet of them and I wouldn’t be very healthy if I did. I certainly wouldn’t take anyone seriously if they expressed how much they loved food, and yet existed on a diet of nothing but crisps. Nor would I be overtly interested in someone who ate nothing but crisps their whole life and tried to convince me how good the new flavour was that came out last week, no matter how excited they were.

The majority of crisps are not made with love, nor are they made to give the customer any real sense of satisfaction. Of course they aren’t. They are made solely to make lots of money. Plenty of food is made with love, with experimentation, where the food is the primary concern and money is either secondary or completely unimportant.

I see commercial pop and most chart topping music as the same. Made purely for money. And no matter how many “varieties” there are, it’s only slight flavour variation. I am bemused beyond any understanding why anyone would choose an entire life solely with this music, to the point where most people restrict themselves to this diet and look on others, like myself, as delusional or just plain weird for having variety.

So I feel two things. Pity for most people, as they cannot see how much they are missing out on variety. Imagine a life spent solely eating crisps and missing out on chicken Balti or pizza. And yet, I find the majority of people happy to have no variety in their music taste. They settle for music made purely for money and of course music that is popular, which is narrow in it’s variety. The other thing I feel is a strongly humorous disbelief.

Imagine if the most of society had only a crisp diet, then had crisp festivals, crisps award ceremonies, Eurovision crisp contests, crisp charts, reality TV crisp eating with celebrity judges, celebrity crisp eaters marrying famous sports people. And yet that’s what we have dominating the music world. It’s hilarious. It’s not this existence that’s funny, it’s the sole diet of this stuff. I don’t mean to be patronising, I just find it all so alien. And I also pity the people stuck in this narrow way of living.

You may then think I hate pop music. I don’t hate crisps. I don’t hate pop music. But I would prefer to pick out the home made crisp. Music made with sincerity, where money is secondary. But I never forget that even these can still be just crisps.

Oh well, I’ll stick to my roast beef, sweet and sour, tikka massala, ….. and keep childishly sniggering at ..oh…look now, pizza flavoured crisps!!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Additions and storage conundrums

 Well, manage to acquire AXIS 1 some weeks ago. This weeks triumph is The The’s first single “Controversial Subject”, although still not yet delivered. Some releases are surprisingly worth little, but when a release crosses more than one collectors groups, the desirability increases and so does the price. The The are collectable in their own right, and this 7” single was their first release and the only one on 4AD. Although main man Matt Johnson also released an album with 4ad in the same year.

Also purchased today an A1 sized portfolio wallet. This is a large briefcase that holds A1 size plastic wallets on a ring binder spine. I’ve deliberated for a while with different storage methods for the different format releases. Polythene seems to be the best choice for records and not PVC. Although PVC seems thicker, it seems to sweat and also has a habit of sticking to the gloss of picture sleeves. Unfortunately PVC is the majority of the sleeves that I have at the moment and need to be changed before damage is done to the record sleeves.

Other releases such as postcards and the beautiful card covers of the Pleasantly Surprised tape series are kept in a photo album. But again I’ve realised today that these also have a plastic covering that hold the pieces in place. Do you remember having an old photo album and all the photo’s in it, that haven’t moved in years, stick to the plastic cover that holds the photos in place? I’ve had a photo’s gloss ripped of in the same way a record sleeves gloss can be ripped off when using PVC sleeves. So I need to think of a new way of storing these.

The A1 portfolio is for storing the posters. The wallets have black A1 size pieces of paper in them. I plan to store the gloss side of each poster facing the black paper with the blank side facing the plastic wallet. If sticking occurs, nothing would be damaged on removal. At the moment some posters are stored rolled up in cardboard storage tubes, which causes problems trying to flatten them when taken out of the tube, and the rest framed and displayed in our house. The problem with a permanent display like this is light bleaching. Even if displayed where little natural light shows and posters are only illuminated by artificial light, there is still some bleaching taking place.

With all these I’m fighting a balance between preservation and enjoying my collection. Is a collection worth anything to me locked up and fully preserved, or should I get some enjoyment from it by having it out at greater risk of depreciation and damage? I think finding the right balance is the trick.