Amoeblog

What We're Doing With What They've Done: Amoeba's "Vinyl Vaults"

Posted by Rick Frystak, April 28, 2013 07:15pm | Post a Comment

If you don't already know, we here at Amoeba are very much underway with our monumental archiving project for our website Amoeba.com, simply called the "Vinyl Vaults". It's a really spectacular beginning to what is and will be a huge undertaking in offering to the public digital transfers of the most remarkable older, oblique and hard to find works of creative peoples around the globe throughout the history of recording. I myself, am curating a large part of this, and have been very excitedly pulling out many, many unique pieces of vinyl out of the used LP buys that we take in at Amoeba's buying counters, and sending them into the ether (ie,our great team) to be archived and considered for sale on Amoeba.com. Our sound team takes these copies of the LPs, 7" singles and 78 rpm discs and digitizes them via ProTools, into 24-bit files, and then make mp3, mp4 and 16 bit .wav files (CD quality) from the 24-bit master and split up the sides into tracks for folks to download. We sometimes offer of the highest resolution 24-bit file as well for a certain title. And in many cases the original LP or 78 or 45 we used to digitize the sides is available right there next to the download. 


How do I decide what we save to digitize and offer to the public as I go through all these LPs? The records almost speak to me as I sift over the aquisitions we've purchased in the collections we buy. If I don't  know the record, I'll see the look of the cover, the paper texture, and the era of manufacture as the first things revealed. Even the weight and smell of the "thing". Exotic LPs have a feel to them, a way they communicate to the holder that they are something interesting, distinctly special, and a thing to be investigated further. If you've held a phonograph record in your hands  you know what I mean. Often the packaging will tell me what's inside, but how many records say "vocals" or "guitar" or "piano", and yet how different can all these records be? The actual sound on the disc is an exciting mystery of immense promise before I hear it. So then, to play a little bit, I "needle-drop" (sample bits of) so many records in a day. And it just so happens that Amoeba offers 1 1/2 minutes of free sample listening for all the records' songs, so this is comparable to how I listen to potential pieces for the Vaults. Once chosen, a disc will undergo a discerning ear's analysis and judgement for condition, and a little research to see if folks already know about this record. Ultimately, the bliss of finding a transcendent musical performance by a deceased or obscure artist or on a long-defunct label is intoxicating. And to think that others can later enjoy these provocative sounds via the "Vinyl Vaults"  is exhilarating.

Continue reading...

Personal Picks: Kelly's Best of 2012 Year-End Recap

Posted by Kells, December 31, 2012 02:30pm | Post a Comment


Well, here we are. We weren't thrust into a new dark age oblivion, the world didn't end and neither did my workaday quest for the best music for the day. This year was rife with records that just had to be snatched -- reissues, compilations, and a fair few newbies too.

Here follows my personal, "show and tell" style best-of list for 2012:  the year that didn't stop the big wheel a-turnin'. Rather than just dicing up a list of cold-cut favorites, I've included personal events and trends herein that shaped the music I sought and gravitated towards within the past year.


BEST NEW ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Jessica Pratt - JP. No contest. I have naught but the best of things to say about this disc of spun gold and I'm not alone. It seems every Barry, Rob, and Maurice in the blogosphere has been falling all over this record like autumn leaves in the rain. If you really want to know my take check out my real talk review of JP here, otherwise please do enjoy the album's opening track, "Night Faces" below.





 
BEST 2012 REISSUE: It's a tie between two (Numero related) comps: WTNG 89.9FM: Solid Bronze and & Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974 - 1984. Both platters piled high with private press oddments and rarities one could hardly go more wrong than to miss out on these two exemplary feats of the compilation arts. The former being a point of revision for many in that it is essentially a mix of largely unheard "yacht rock"/AOR triumphs of seventies song-writing sensibilities (man, is it ever sensibly sensitive) that confronts one's moral definition of guilty (listening) pleasures. The latter comp, Personal Space - a seemingly dark horse among the usual reissue fare fleshing out the the soul comps shelf space, made the rounds among Amoeba staff regularly thus enjoyed a healthy amount of in-store play as well. Chock full of rhythm-box workouts a la Sly Stone, Timmy Thomas and Shuggie Otis, it's a far-out soul/funk excavation of the highest order. Both of these are solid front-to-back listens for the home vinyl library/curio corner.

An honorable mention smoothing out the angles in this Bermuda triangle of smooth sailing comps would have to be that Tim Findlay (of Groove Armada) mix for the Late Night Tales series, Music for Pleasure. Holy horse latitudes is this mix ever the very essence of a guilty, yacht-rocking pleasurecraft. I'd swear it's been a banner year for harnessing the soft, ever-lilting easy breezes of boxed-wine status AM Gold.
 

REIUSSUE RADNESS: Thin Lizzy, Takeshi Terauchi, Judas Priest, Stan Rogers, Can, My Bloody Valentine and so, so many other reissues really lit up the old hi-fi this year. Of the pack I'd say that the Light in the Attic reish of Thin Lizzy's self-titled album and Allen Toussaint's Southern Nights (out via 4 Men with Beards) have been fighting it out for turntable dominance most of this past year. I'm still digesting the Can - Lost Tapes box set and don't even get me started on the glory that is the live at the '83 US Fest DVD that comes packaged with the latest remastered reissue of Judas Priest's 30-year-old masterpiece Screaming for Vengeance. Other notable reissues include the waves of fuzzy shoegaze nostalgia imparted to the middle bit of 2012 thanks to the My Bloody Valentine reissue tsunami, the continuation of the very long overdue reissue of Canada's working man's maritime-folk troubadour Stan Rogers' back catalogue (what began last year) and the release of Nippon Guitars -- a killer comp ofering an overview of the life and work of Japan's godfather of surf guitar, Takeshi Terauchi. It's so good we can't even play it in the store on a busy without selling out by the end of track three.

speaking of compilations...

Continue reading...

The Nature Boy and The Island-aire: Digging Exotica's Wild Roving Mystics

Posted by Kells, October 10, 2012 03:32pm | Post a Comment

If there's one thing an appreciation of music micro-genres has taught me it's this: work in a record store long enough and you'll eventually get into everything. Being predisposed to an appreciation of all things nautical by nature and developing a fondness for "theme" restaurants during my formative years it was only a matter of time before I would incur an full-on addiction to Exotica. At first I admit I mostly overlooked the jazz elements inherent to the genre, however pleasantly tropical, but obsession has a funny way of broadening ones taste for the far flung and curiously obscure. While I cannot trace my collection back to one single acquisition I can proclaim without a doubt that this squaw has stalked the warpath for Exotica, in all it's varied and as-yet-unconfirmed aspects, for quite some time. I'm so hot for it I'm on fire and, with that admonition out of the way, I'm pleased to report that a vinyl reissue of Eden Ahbez's seminal contribution to the genre, Eden's Island: The Music of an Enchanted Isle (out on Moi J'Connais/Black Sweat via Mississippi Records), is once again gracing the selections in Amoeba Music's Lounge section at long last!


A beach-bummin' beatnik guru by nature, Eden Ahbez was famous for three things: penning the pop/jazz standard "Nature Boy" (made famous by one Nat King Cole), looking a lot like Jesus (both on the original Eden's Island cover art, circa 1960 above on the left, as well as the updated screen-printed jacket housing the current reissue pictured above right), and thriving on a diet consisting of  raw fruit and vegetables, living outdoors with his family beneath the first L of the Hollywood sign in the grassy Los Angeles wilderness. His music is a strange arrangement of piano, flute, and exotic percussion instruments fused with nature sounds (rolling surf, the creak of a wood-masted sailboat, squawking birds, breezy gusts of wind), and features a mixed chorus or Ahbez's own cheesy vocal musings, waxing poetic about a snake-chasing mongoose, living in an old shack by the sea, fires on the beach, and knowing "the thrill of loneliness" -- charming, to the last.

Eden Ahbez - "Full Moon"


It's difficult to think of any other artist alive that qualifies as sounding similar to Eden Ahbez (vibe-wise, free-spiritied surfer/singer/songwriter Little Wings might be his closest contemporary), but there is another wayfaring purveyor of Exotica's far-out Polynesian pop-tones who also made his way in L.A. and whose vinyl legacy that is even harder to hunt down than that of a Hollywood hill-dwelling proto-hippie. I speaking of course (of course?) of Mr. Paul Page.


The Hapa-Haole strains of Paul Page and his Island-aires earned the inclusion of two tracks on urban archeologist and Tiki godfather Sven A. Kirsten's momentous, seventeen-song Sound of Tiki compilation (Bear Family Records) -- an action that not only speaks of the high regard Exotica enthusiasts, Lounge lizards, and Tiki-philes alike ought to impart to Page and co. but also presents evidence to the relative shortness of their songs which are really more like little odes to a succession of fantasized South Seas daydreams. Kirsten himself lauds Page's unsung hero status as an early proponent of the castaway aesthetic, bolstering America's mid-century fascination with the Pacific Islands and inspiring aspiring restauranteurs to bring a driftwood and fishnet flotilla festooned paradise to the mainland.

Paul Page, like Eden Ahbez, narrates more than he sings, rhapsodizing simple island pleasures with a deep, lazy resonance that sounds like Johnny Cash doing his best William Shatner impression after downing a couple of Mai Tais. Simple percussion and lilting pedal steel cut with the sounds of, yes, rolling surf and seagulls, Page lays down some of the most naïve "aloha" lyrics ever uttered, some of them don't even make a lick of sense (i.e. "when Sam goes back to Samoa/ he'll have to change all his wicky-wacky-woo/ for to swing and sway the island way/means rock-a-hula, baby I love you"). What's more, the record was released under four differing titles meant to promote the four individual Polynesian restaurants that proffered his tunes once upon a time. You'd think that four issues of the same record, differing titles or no, would mean it'd be four times as easy to locate the damn thing, right? Riiight?

Wrong! Castaway, Ports O' Call, Pieces of Eight, Reef is Calling -- I've searched for them all for so long it seems as though the quest itself attained a sort of Holy Grail level of devotion. As luck would have it, my years-long quest ended quite recently while on vacation in Hawaii. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Sven A. Kirsten and other informants (such as this site) I was fully aware of Page's split career living as a model and entertainer in both L.A. and Honolulu (and his owning up to bedding "over 400 women"), but having never visited the Hawaiian islands before, and therefore being fully blinded by her charms and distracted by my own search for all things Tiki, I never imagined I'd find a lonely copy of Ports O' Call lurking behind a rack of musty muumuus in the depths of a darkened Kapahulu vintage boutique. Total score! The only thing that could've one upped this fateful exhumation (despite the holiday in Oahu, mind you) would have to be finding this record at Amoeba Music where, without a doubt, it would be concealed within the confines of the clearance vinyl hoard yet glowing knowingly like the treasure of Tutenkhamun's tomb, to be had for the princely sum of one dollar.

Paul Page - "Castaway"

Vinyl dreams can and do come true, people -- here's my Ports O' Call victory shot to prove it; keep digging, diggers!

And if you ever find yourself daunted by the quest to procure that which you most desire please keep in mind that record collecting is, at the very least, a waltz with fate what occasionally trips and falls on dumb luck. It's an unpredictable, exciting pursuit whether you fancy yourself a serious record, poker-faced record collector or, as Paul Page puts it, "just a derelict on the foam" -- I like to think of myself as a hybrid of the two. 

Below are a few images I captured during my recent adventures in Hawaii. Needless to say, I can't wait to go back -- it really is an Exotica addicts' fix. Aloha!




Ports O' Call: Paradise is Spinning (at 33 1/3 rpm)

Posted by Kells, February 22, 2011 12:00am | Post a Comment
What do you get when two nerds from the same record store meet regularly to discuss all manner of music, art and general enjoyment over rum flights and multiple cocktails at San Francisco's best stocked "tiki" lounge? Hmmm, somehow I can't rememeber...

...oh right, "Ports O' Call" --- three hours of uninterrupted Exotica mixed live on the wheels of steel as a part of Amoeba's weekly, in-house "Mandala" DJ series! DJ Martin Baxter Lyman (a.k.a. Amoeba jazz-man extraordinaire, Mr. Scott Walker) and DJ Long Gone Gamelan Gong (that's me!) will be exploring the experimental themes and concepts of Polynesian infused grooves from the founding fathers of Exotica and their Tiki temple grounds to popular Hapa Haole and Surf styles, with respect to native influences inherent to and modern music influenced by the genre. So if all sounds Exotica are your thing then this Friday, February 25th, from 6 to 9pm is the best time for you to come down to Amoeba Music in San Francisco to do a little vinyl treasure hunting while we mix up some island fever inducing south seas sonic realness. Requests welcome!

Martin Denny & Si Zentner "Tiki" from Exotica Suite

(In which the author receives an anonymous gift.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 21, 2011 04:38pm | Post a Comment

Don't you hate it when you're stuck sitting on a plane next to someone with thick ankles?

The other day I was busily preparing my usual breakfast – a small bowl of nonfat cottage cheese with a few cucumber slices, a cup of black coffee, and a rice cake, all deep fried and smothered in butterscotch gravy – when a knock came on the front door. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and found no one there, some eight hours later. What was there was a small package, neatly wrapped in what looked like paper (though this is merely speculation on my part).

Strange packages from persons unknown should always be regarded with suspicion, but as I am a curious person by nature (my great-great-grandfather was a cat) I couldn’t help but open it, which proved to be a long and arduous task as I opted to use only my tongue, rather than the more versatile and saliva-free hands I keep at the end of my arms.

Inside the package was a cassette tape, painted a variety of colors, but without any linguistic explanation as to its purpose or content. I assumed it was a gift from one of my fans, but then I remembered they were without capacity for thought, incapable of free will and basically only good for circulating air. No, this cassette tape was almost certainly from a human, probably a living one, and almost certainly residing somewhere on this planet!

Having thus solved this riddle to my satisfaction, I sought out mechanisms necessary to enjoy the cassette. I decided to use my old boom-box (that’s 1990’s for “ghetto blaster”), which gets far better sound than my washing machine (though does nothing for butterscotch gravy stains).

Continue reading...
BACK  <<  1  2  3  >>  NEXT