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I live in the Seattle area and love searching out new and interesting music.

Blue China – “Tomorrow Never Knows” (1982)

bluechinatomorrow2Google searches reveal very little about Blue China other than that they were Swiss and the title track for this five-song 12″ is a Beatles cover (and I didn’t need the interwebs to figure that last part out).  What’s happening on this record?  It’s like a lo-fi proto-Smashing Pumpkins kind of thing, but super proto.

I found it in a box labelled “New Wave / Goth / Darkwave” sitting on the floor just inside the door of Berlin’s Sound Vinyl Store and it seemed interesting enough.  And it is.  They style is more on the experimental side of new wave and the beats have a machine-like quality to them.  Overall the tracks feel more like demos than completed work, great sketches that just need to be filled out a bit.

Kuldaboli – “Stilleben 053” (2019)

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Outside of the big hitters like The Sugarcubes, Sigur Rós, Of Monsters and Men, and the like, it’s pretty rare for me to run across Icelandic vinyl out in the wild.  I figured I’d have a shot, though, on our recent trip to Berlin and Copenhagen given that so many Icelandic electronic artists move to Berlin and the close ties between Denmark and Iceland.  And the first nugget I found was this newly-released five-song collection by Kuldaboli, which was in the New Arrivals bin at Berlin’s Hard Wax.  I’d just learned of the release while at the airport in Seattle waiting to depart, so I was pretty excited to lay my hands on a copy.

The down side is that all five of these tracks have appeared elsewhere previously.  “Nýtt heimsmet í kvíðakasti karla”, “Maður er negldur”, and “Svæsin blæti” all appeared on the 2016 CD Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016, while “Sovétríkin” was part of a super-rare split 2017 10″ release with Kosmodod and “Strangar Reglur” was on the first Sweaty Records CD comp called VA_001.  I’ve never managed to get my hands on that split 10″, so at least one of the songs was new for me.

I’d probably refer you to my post on Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016, which is linked above, for more on Kuldaboli’s overall sound.  I’m a huge fan, so even if I’d known there was only one track here I didn’t have I still would have bought Stilleben 053.  You can check it out at the label’s Bandcamp page HERE, though I don’t see the vinyl for sale there, so it might be a bit harder to track down.

“Kleeblatt № 22 – Hard & Heavy” Compilation (1987)

One of the interesting things you’ll find when crate digging in Berlin is a lot of records put out in the former East Germany, which makes sense since Berlin was literally a city divided for over 40 years.  Kleeblatt № 22 – Hard & Heavy is one such record, a dozen hard rock/heavy metal songs from three different East German bands – Plattform, MCB, and Cobra.  I uncovered this gem at an outdoor flea market.  I knew I was paying over the going price, but it was early in the trip and I was intrigued.  It was a tad dirty, but it cleaned up great on my Okki Nokki and the sound quality is surprisingly good.

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It’s hard to imagine hard rock/metal being played behind the iron curtain, but the proof is right here on this record.  Hell, the bands even had the looks down (see below), Plattform looking like Scorpions clones, Cobra like they walked off the hair metal scene on the Sunset Strip, and the denim-clad MCB channeling early Metallica and Motörhead, which is impressive because dressing like this seems like it would have been a great way to attract the attention of the Stasi.  Ve have vays of making you talk.  Clearly, though, the kids in East Germany were hip to what was happening in the West, because while I don’t read German the liner notes on the reverse clearly call out a number of big-name bands like AC/DC, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin, and it literally also refers to “… des New Wave of British Heavy Metal…”, so the label (Amiga) was making direct comparisons to their Western counterparts.

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I wasn’t expecting these three bands to be that heavy, but you know, they’re pretty decent.  The female-fronted Plattform is somewhere between hard rock and 80s hair metal; a bit dated, but something that would have been right at home on rock radio.  MCB bring a blues element to their style of hard rock, grittier, dirtier, and less polished than Plattform.  Their song “Eisenmann” flat-out rocks.  As for Cobra, they’re definitely trying to channel some Iron Maiden here, and not in a bad way, the music is fast and tight, the vocals soaring, and the guitar work on “Träumer” shreds.

Kleeblatt № 22 – Hard & Heavy was a pleasant surprise – good bands, good sound quality.

“Tropical Goth Records Compilation #001” (2018)

tropicalgothcompWell, we’re back from our trip to Berlin and Copenhagen and after putting in some time all the records purchased on the trip are clean and housed in new sleeves.  So what to play first?  So many choices… ultimately I decided to go with a comp and give myself a bit of a mix, and my hands landed on this intriguing little number I picked up at Berlin’s Space Hall.  Tropical Goth Records is the label of Chris Video (aka Shredder), originally founded in Brooklyn in 2016 and subsequently relocated to Germany, and this appears to be the label’s first non-Shredder record.

The opening track “Like It Hard” by Le Chocolat Noir is definitely noir, as in synth-noir, a dark and edgy number with elements of anxiety-laden doom, the perfect introduction to this comp.  On the other end of the spectrum is Snuffo’s “Ringbahn Blues”, thump thump thump, a pure beat-driver with no filler to get in the way, thump thump thump, relentless and pounding, thump thump thump.  Somewhere in the middle lies Hellboii and his hard techno “battlegiveitup2THEDIRECTWORK”, a 130 bpm banger that borders on hardcore and features trippy, almost computer-like vocal samples.  But just when you think you have a handle on things, the closing track, Facket Strejkar’s “Järntorget” actually has true vocals on it, which kind of blew my mind with its unexpectedness.  This is a well-curated collection of tracks that orbit the same dark core, but with each doing so in its own unique way.

You can listen to Tropical Goth Records Compilation #001 on the label’s Bandcamp site HERE, though it doesn’t appear that they currently have physical copies for sale.  That being said, there are a number of copies of the vinyl listed on Discogs, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting one.  It may only have six tracks, but at about 35 minutes you’re getting plenty of music and every track is solid, so it’s well worth the price.

A-Ha – “Hunting High And Low – The Early Alternate Mixes” (2019)

ahahuntingrsdA-Ha was Mrs. Life In The Vinyl Lane’s first favorite band and is still probably in her Top 3 (and maybe still #1), and we all know what an impact your first favorite band has on your musical life – you never ever forget them.  So when I saw there would be a Record Store Day release of early alternate mixes of their seminal album Hunting High And Low I knew I needed to be on the lookout for a copy.  Frankly I didn’t expect it to be that hard to find, even though the edition size was fairly small (2,450 copies… not 2,500 mind you, 2,450…) for such an iconic band, but we struck out locally.  Fortunately, however, Al Gore invented the internets I and was able to secure a copy for pretty much the retail price online via Discogs.  Thanks Al!

I’m not an expert on the A-Ha catalog.  Certainly I know the mega-hits from Hunting High And Low (“Take On Me” and “The Sun Always Shines On TV”) because, well, if you watched MTV at all in 1985-86 you couldn’t miss these videos – “Take On Me” in particular seemed to be played about once an hour for six months straight.  I also don’t have nearly enough experience with this record to hear the differences between the studio version and these alternate takes, though Holly certainly could.  What I can tell you is that this thing sounds perfect – no cracking, no hissing, pure sonic clarity.  In fact I’d say it’s probably one of the 10 best sounding records I own.  So if you’re interested, have no fear – these “early” takes are fully produced and sound tremendous.