On Friday I had the pleasure of attending Pitchfork's Music Festival in Chicago, marking not only my first trip north of Columbus, Ohio but also the first time I've gotten the chance to explore a true music fest to its fullest. I came to Union Park to witness the throbbing, industrial dance epics of Factory Floor and The Haxan Cloak's hissing intensity wrought of bassy minimalism, but it turned out that the record fair that took place in the tennis courts was what made the day most memorable. Hidden among American Football beanies, "Rad Dudes" trading cards and Vampire Weekend records were rare treasures: out-of-print LPs, small-run cassettes, even entire labels I'd never heard of before! My favorite discovery: Chicago's own 1980 Records. They're a non-digital cassette label, a bold stance to take in a bandcamp-driven DIY climate, but that makes them all the more special. Such an ethic invites potential listeners to take risks, to buy a copy of something they've yet to hear, to check out a booth peddling unfamiliar music, to judge a tape buy its cover. The label's name doesn't evoke an abstract nostalgia, it truly embraces the magic of old-school record collection, the allure of the unknown. I took home a handful of selections from 1980 in my backpack. I'll write about a few of my favorites.
Miki Greenberg - Piano Music
What I really enjoy about 1980 Records is that they can honestly claim that they put out all kinds of music. In perusing the label's discography you can jump from bruising hardcore punk to anthemic psych-pop to relaxing, yet engaging tape's worth of piano solos. As you can guess from the title, Miki Greenberg's 1980 Records offering is the latter of the three. Intelligent and often upbeat, Greenberg's pieces evoke the chipper bounciness of 18th century chamber music, Satie's spareness and sometimes even the fauvist abstraction of Schoenberg throughout the album. It's a surprisingly fun listen that's as artful as it is pop-conscious ---Greenberg has cited the Beatles and the B-52s as influences in other projects he's worked in. If you liked Aphex Twin's work in the Marie Antoinette soundtrack, you'll probably dig this.
The Clams - Self-Titled
Sure, The Clams might be your friendly neighborhood garage-rock band, but under that lo-fi exterior hides an immensity that could fill a stadium. Their self-titled tape opens with a bang: wailing lead guitar atop a trudging rhythm section. It's a bold move, essentially opening your album with a three minute amalgamation of towering guitar licks, but it's worth listening to for the transition into "Jim Song", a song that is initially sparse and folky, but borrows the intensity of its predecessor for its thrilling climax. In a way, The Clams mimick Godspeed You! Black Emperor here, balancing quiet, restrained sections with enormous instrumentation in the chorus of the track. The rest of the album channels Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, bringing a surfy psych rock assault to the table. Totally tubular stuff!
F*ck Everlasting - Kenswick Cycles
I love a good cassingle, especially a hardcore punk cassingle! The whole tape is just over two minutes, and makes great use of its time. It reminds me quite a bit of the raw fury heard in Minor Threat's first two EPs. Loud and fast punk that focuses on delivering a knockout blow of fuzz and little else. Each side of Kenswick Cycles is bassy and dizzyingly furious, yet somehow also catchy and memorable.