Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Brooklyn Flea Record Fair

Why go to a record fair? Everything's available, everything's free, the album is dead, blah, blah, blah. Everyone's so busy trying to be the one to predict the future maybe they've lost touch with how music lovers actually live their lives.

The Brooklyn Record Fair (located at the fabulous Smorgasburg) is the kind of event you come to to meet other fans, connect with the good folks at record labels like Merge, Domino, Warp, Mexican Summer, etc., and, most of all, stimulate new pathways in your mind to find great music. Instead of pontificating further, here's a quick rundown of what I bought today and why.

The Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits (2012): As I told the good people of Merge Records, I was initially cool on this Britt Daniel (of Spoon) side-project. The first song out was one of the Dan Boeckner (from Wolf Parade - I was never a fan) numbers and it's electro-pop leanings rubbed me the wrong way. Britt's brilliant Would That Not Be Nice was another story, however, and led me to listen repeatedly on Spotify. It's really grown on me - even the Boeckner contributions - and is a damned good record, with kudos due to the keyboard player Alex Fischel and producer Nick Launay, who cut his teeth with PIL, Killing Joke, The Slits and Gang of Four, for the beautiful electronic sonics. Looking forward to spinning the vinyl and hearing it in its full glory.

Hospitality - The Drift/Monkey 7" (2012): Their album is one of the delights of the year; why wouldn't I want two new songs from them? I also appreciate the included download code - Merge knows how people listen. Thanks for the free Telekinesis single, too!

After Merge, I hit a couple of used record vendors. I've flipped through 1000's of records in my life and use a very speedy technique. The encyclopedia of album covers in my head allows me to stop only when I see something unfamiliar, or something I'm looking for specifically. I only need the barest hint of typography, photo or illustration to recognize something so it might seem like I'm not even looking. While the records flip by a mental radio station starts up, playing samples of almost everything I see, for better or worse. It's a very relaxing activity for me, not least because it is focused entirely on music.

The Eleventh Hour - Hollywood Hot (1975): The guys from Greenpoint's own CO-OP 87 were having a blowout sale - $2 a pop for LP's and 12 inches - so I took a chance on this. It's a Bob Crewe vanity project, but he wrote Lady Marmalade (with Kenny Nolan) and much else besides, so he's entitled to it. Also, Cindy Bullens is all over the thing, writing, singing and playing guitar. I have an affection for her since she bravely chronicled her grief after the death of her daughter on Somewhere Between Heaven And Earth (1999, also the year my son died). She's a music biz lifer who's worked with everyone from Elton John to Lucinda Williams. I'm curious to hear Crewe's own take on the Labelle smash, plus it's on 20th Century Records, Barry White's label!

Jose Feliciano - Souled (1968): I heard this in a record store in Hudson, NY at the end of the summer and figured I could just get it on eMusic or listen on Spotify. Turns out that his million-selling catalog is a mess and this album was nowhere to be found. I can stop kicking myself now. Feliciano has mainly been a source of amusement for me (Feliz Navidad, anyone?), but I was sold on Souled by the gorgeous rendition of Nilsson's great Sleep Late, My Lady Friend. The fact that it also has Hi-Heel Sneakers on it was the final clincher.

Gwen McRae - Rockin' Chair (1975): Background vocals by Betty Wright, George McRae and H.W. Casey? That's some serious disco-funk-soul royalty right there! I've always loved that naive and sunny TK Miami disco sound (Rock The Boat, Get Down Tonight, etc.), but I admit to whipping out my phone and checking the AllMusic app (four stars) before laying down my $3.

My last foray into the used realm was with a guy named Robert Schaad who I probably rubbed elbows with at St. Mark's Sounds back in the day. Lots of Roxy Music and Bowie - and Bill Nelson, an old favorite of mine currently somewhat neglected by the culture. A real find was his Furniture Music 45 (1979), which has two non-LP b-sides from his new wave-ish Red Noise project. Pere Ubu singles are also hard to come by so I was glad to pick up one for The Fabulous Sequel (1979), which also has two extra songs on the flip.

Peaking Lights - Lucifer (2012): I still get a little thrill buying cassettes in this day and age and this is has already been a Spotify regular for me so I grabbed it. This is spacey and dubbed out stuff but with a slightly rough-hewn feel that is very appealing. Co-Leader Aaron Coyes has some great playlists on Spotify - it's almost like he's been in my head - so I'm not surprised I like his music. The rep from Mexican Summer graciously agreed to email me a download code and links to some more playlists by the band.

Flying Lotus & Thundercat checking out
a fan's bass
Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes (2012): FlyLo, aka Steve Ellison, has been on the periphery of my radar for a while but I somehow had trouble finding the space and time to evaluate what he was doing. When the buzz for this album began building I went back and gave his previous collection, Cosmogramma, another listen and was amazed. Featuring sumptuous synthetic textures parlayed with a DJ's gift for sequencing and dynamics, the world of Flying Lotus has tentacles in hip hop, R'n'B, and electronic music while being completely its own thing. Imagine a commingling of Raymond Scott and J.Dilla to start to get an idea of his sound. The man himself was in residency at the Warp Records table in the afternoon, relaxed in the scrum surrounding him and very agreeably signing stuff and taking pictures. I told him I was considering having him sign my Gwen McRae album and he laughed and unleashed his dazzling smile - you ain't going to have that experience trolling the Internet for free music.

Ellison happens to be the nephew of Alice Coltrane and earlier in the day I had seen one of her rarer records for sale. I said to the vendor, "Hey, Flying Lotus is going to be here later - maybe he'll want to buy this!" The blank stare I received from him and his fellow sellers was a stark reminder that all of us at the Brooklyn Record Fair were on our own trajectories though the universe of music. We might cross paths in one orbit or another, communing at a concert, sharing online, or elbow to elbow in front of a bin of records, but we ultimately make the journey alone. A record fair is one place we can be alone together.

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