Treasures From Vinyl’s Dark Days – 1997-2005

As promised, this week I’m featuring the latest LP treasures added to my library.

Once I secured a copy of the pink vinyl numbered original master recording release of Beck’s magnum opus, Sea Change on Mobile Fidelity records, I knew that there was still one Beck beast I had to capture.

Sea Change is the must-own LP for every fan of Beck Hansen’s music.  Hailed universally by critics as his greatest achievement, surpassing the sample-wizardry of Odelay in its hi-fidelity mastery, Sea Change is the Sgt. Peppers of Beck’s discography.

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But my favorite Beck record for all time is the somber, lo-fi masterpiece – Mutations.

Released in 1998, the album suffered an unfortunate fate.

From Wikipedia:

Before beginning the recording sessions, Beck gained permission from the major label he was under contract with, Geffen, to release Mutations on the small indie label Bong Load Records. However, when Geffen executives heard the album, they reneged on their agreement and released the record. This led to a lawsuit filed by Beck against Geffen. As the record was in a markedly different style than the multi-platinum Odelay, Geffen’s marketing effort suggested that the album was not an “official” follow-up.

The limited press swept the release under the rug, and I only discovered the album by chance in a local CD shop.

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The best-selling single from the LP is “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” features sitar, tambura, and esraj, giving the track a haunting atmosphere.

 

I jumped on a $60 mint copy of the LP which surfaced online, complete with the original bonus 7″.  The single shipped in a six-panel foldout sleeve with artwork and lyrics.  This album was pressed only once back in ’98, so if you see a copy in the wild, grab it.

According to the liner notes, the background artwork, composed of small intenstines, is a detail shot from a piece of art titled, Wallchart of World History From Earliest Times to the Present.

No high-res copies of the 7″ sleeve art were available on the web so I’ve seamlessly tiled both sides of the sleeve each as as a 12″ x 75″ jpg.  Magnify and enjoy.

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Next up, a favorite musician of mine from London posted a wonderful vinyl surprise to Facebook.  This remix of Sundae Club’s “Angels in the Sky” was limited to just 50 white-label copies.  It was originally released and sold out in 2005… Or so they thought.

Recently, Sundae Club announced that they found an unopened box of these white-label rarities, and decided they would flog them off as an additional fund-raiser for Haiti’s Earthquake relief.

From their site:

This is a two-speed promo 12″ (30cm) vinyl record in a plain white cover and a plain white label. One side was designed to be rotated at 33.333rpm and contains two chilled tracks, the other side is a 45rpm cut with massive compression and sounds great in a club. Loud.

I thought I had missed my opportunity back in ’05 so I didn’t hesitate when I saw the post.  And a few weeks later, my copy arrived, with the recording speed info penned in by Mr. Ridware and a special “Thank you, James!” added to the sleeve.

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Highly recommended for fans of Lemon Jelly, or general downtempo bliss.

You can check out the tracks for yourself on Sundae Club’s bandcamp page here.

The third and final treasure of the week was another delightful impulse purchase – one I found posted to a record forum on reddit.

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F♯ A♯ ∞ is the first official full-length LP from Montreal’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor, originally released in 1997.

There have been various vinyl issues of the album, each with minor differences but on the whole each includes the following:

The band name, album title and image frame is debossed on the album jacket.

The cover has a print glued in place, (first editions including an actual photograph).

And a cross and the catalog # are hand-drawn beside the Constellation Records logo stamp on back cover.

Several inserts were included with the release – An etching illustration of a locomotive and a manilla envelope containing the credit sheet, a handbill from a previous show, a blueprint of “faulty schematics for ruined machine”, a Constellation spring 2000 merchandise flyer and a Canadian penny flattened by a train.

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The LP itself is black with black labels, with the track titles etched in the runouts.

The tracklist on the LP version is particularly interesting.  CD and MP3 copies of the album feature the following track list:

‘The Dead Flag Blues’ (16:27)

1.1                          The Dead Flag Blues (Intro)         6:40
1.2                          Slow Moving Trains         3:30
1.3                          The Cowboy…   4:19
1.4                          (;outro)…             1:59

‘East Hastings’ (17:58)

2.1                          “…Nothing’s Alrite In Our Life”/Dead Flag Blues (Reprise)              2:17
2.2                          The Sad Mafioso…           10:01
2.3                          Drugs In Tokyo/Black Helicopter                5:40
‘Providence’ (21:26)
3.1                          Divorce&Fever…              2:45
3.2                          Dead Metheny…              8:15
3.3                          Kicking Horse On Brokenhill         5:40
3.4                          String Loop Manufactured During Downpour…   4:46
3.5                          Silence 3:39
3.6                          J.L.H. Outro        4:48

While the LP lists the tracks as:

Side 1: Nervous, Sad, Poor…

1.            “The Dead Flag Blues (Intro)”     6:09
2.            “Slow Moving Trains”     3:23
3.            “The Cowboy…”               4:16
4.            “Drugs in Tokyo”              3:29
5.            “The Dead Flag Blues (Outro)”                   1:52
6.            Untitled               1:34

Side 2: Bleak, Uncertain, Beautiful…

No.         Title       Length
1.            “…Nothing’s Alrite in Our Life…” / “The Dead Flag Blues (Reprise)”           2:00
2.            “The Sad Mafioso…”      5:33
3.            “Kicking Horse on Brokenhill”     5:37
4.            “String Loop Manufactured During Downpour…”              4:26

What this reveals is the origin of the record title – F♯ A♯ ∞.  The first movement, “Nervous, Sad, Poor…” is F#, “A Bleak, Uncertain,
Beautiful…” is A#, and the closing track, “String Loop…” is in fact a locked groove which effectively plays forever, hence “Infinity.”

Another intriguing fact about the vinyl version of this album is that it features an entirely diffent master than that of the CD release.

To quote Discogs.com user, Gecks from April 4, 2005 –

“What I find interesting about this LP version when compared to the later CD release (and indeed the rest of their material), is the almost complete lack of crescendos. It is important to note that the CD release is remixed, re-sequenced and includes two new movements that brought it closer to the familiar GYBE! sound of build-build-buld…crescendo! This LP predominantly features GYBE!’s more droney sound – something that featured less and less in future releases. My guess is that the style shift was a result of their much-lauded early live performances showing a more intense side, which they wanted to document. That’s not to say this release is anything less than utterly engaging, and provides an interesting counterpoint to the whole Post Rock movement which so often relies on pure dynamics.”

As a fan of ambient drone music, this was wonderful news and made the purchase all the more satisfying.

I have had a framed screenprint of the “faulty schematics for ruined machine” graphic on my wall for years, and was very happy to make F♯ A♯ ∞ my first Godspeed purchase.

Here is the memorable, bleak opening to the album – “Dead Flag Blues.”

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