Record Shopping - Argentina Style

Hola amigos y amigas!  Sorry that it’s been a while since the last post, but the Life in the Vinyl Lane family is wrapping up a nice vacation in Argentina, our first time visiting South America.  We’ve been super busy (we walked approximately 55 miles over the course of 4.5 days in Buenos Aires according to our fitness tracker…) and since we’re getting ready to head home in a couple of days (which involves three flights… ugh) I thought I’d reflect for a few minutes on our attempts at record shopping.

So first things first.  A lot of stuff in Argentina is super inexpensive by US standards.  Great local wines are easily found in the $5-10 range and I’m constantly amazed at how small our food bills are.  But some stuff is expensive as hell, and one of those things is, unfortunately, vinyl records.  Brand new, sealed vinyl generally sells in the 650-800 peso range, or about $40-50 US, and I saw a few double albums priced around $90 each.  Ouch.  In talking to a guy at one of the shops, it sounds like the big problem is there are no longer any major pressing plants in the country, so even the re-releases of classic Argentinian bands are manufactured in the Czech Republic and shipped to Argentina, which adds all kinds of extra costs and taxes.  Used vinyl is pricey as well, though, and generally in very shabby condition.  It appears the jackets produced in the 1970s through 1990s were of poor quality stock and most suffer from evidence of moisture exposure, which isn’t a surprise given the climate and what I suspect was a general lack of home air conditioning back in the day.  Now, if you want Argentinian pressings of the rock classics, they’re all available; just expect to pay $10-30 for low quality copies, many of which looked like the probably wouldn’t sound too hot on my table if they played at all without skipping like a kindergartener.

I probably should have dropped $30 for the beat-to-hell copy of Led Zeppelin II I found just because I love the record, but it would be something that just sat on my shelf unplayed, a fetish item, so I decided to pass.  Unquestionably the items I got most excited about were original pressings of two different records by the OG Argentinian punk band Attaque 77, but at 3,600 pesos each (about $230) in “Good” condition, I just couldn’t justify the expense.  I can’t find any sales history on these from the various sites that track such things, so I’m sure they’re quite rare.  But to spend that much on something that had more scratches on it than a cat lady’s sofa didn’t make much sense to me.

I hit up quite a few shops in Buenos Aires, probably a half dozen in total.  But I only ended up buying stuff in one of them… and that was only CDs!  To be fair, I’m not going to write about any place where I didn’t make a purchase, which unfortunately only leaves me with two shops to touch on here.

Tempo Musica 
Jorge L.Borges, 1664
1414 Buenos Aires
Palermo

We stumbled upon Tempo Musica by accident on our way to a pizza joint near our rental apartment.  Up to that point I’d been completely shut out musically and was a  bit bummed.  However, earlier in the day we’d been at a food truck in an out-of-the way part of town and the dudes running it were blasting some killer Argentine metal, so we asked who the band was and they told us Rata Blanca.  We decided what the hell, and asked the guy at Tempo if he had any, and he seemed quite excited that some Americans wandered in asking for local metal.  Next thing you know we left with about 8-9 CDs by various local bands, including the previously mentioned Attaque 77.  And unlike vinyl, new CDs are cheap here - were paid about 140 pesos each, rough $9.

The guy working there, who I believe is the owner, was cool and spoke very good English. He was happy to talk about local music and made some good recommendations.  The shop is tiny and is mostly given over to CDs.  He had a little vinyl too, though honestly I didn’t spend much time flipping through it.  A worthwhile stop if you’re in the Palermo district and looking for some local jams.

Amadeus Rockería
Necochea 75
5500 Mendoza

I was going through vinyl withdrawal by the time we traveled from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, and I only had one shop on my list that I wanted to check out - Amadeus Rockería.  A narrow hallway of a shop, it’s packed to the gills with all kinds of stuff from music to DVDs to patches to buttons and backpacks and posters…  There’s a decent amount of loosely organized vinyl that is grouped by category (“1970s Rock”, “Male Singers”, etc.) but not alphabetized or arranged in any other way, making digging difficult.

Before even stepping foot inside I’d already decided that at the very least I’d pick up one or two of the local re-releases I’d seen in Buenos Aires, so with that in mind I came away with reissue copies of the sophomore albums from speed metallers Hermética and new wavers Soda Stereo.  They weren’t cheap (720 pesos each), but at least I’m bringing something home on vinyl.  Condition on the used records was similar to what I’d seen in Buenos Aires, and one thing that made this place a bit tricky is that most of the vinyl stock wasn’t priced - I had to take it up to the counter to find out how much everything cost.

 

Fortunately that wasn’t all we experienced on the music front, as we also got a chance to hook up with brothers Ariel and Diego Sima from the electro-group Farmacia.  I recently reviewed their latest release Suero, and that resulted in us getting in touch with them.  We had a great time meeting with them in Buenos Aires and bought some of their previous albums (CDs and cassettes) from them as well.  We got to play some of it in our apartment and it’s fantastic stuff - you’ll definitely be hearing more about it on the blog after we return home next week.  It’s important to support indie artists directly whenever possible, so it was a privilege to meet them and buy some of their merch.  We even hooked up again later in the trip with Ariel who took us to a local pizza/empanada joint where we spent a few hours talking about our lives.

Well, that’s it from Argentina, my friends.  Hopefully I’ll get back to a more typical posting schedule in a week or so!

Slicing Grandpa - “Chaos Midnight” 10″ (2007)

Slicing Grandpa are a noise/no-fi band based in Seattle.  Somehow a copy of their 2006 10″ Chaos Midnight found its way to my local used record shop, Vortex.  I’m thinking it probably came in as part of the radio DJ collection that yielded some great Throbbing Gristle finds for me a while back, stuff that falls pretty well outside the norm of what I generally find at Vortex.

Slicing Grandpa was formed in 1993, though most of their recorded output seems to be from 2003 forward, with most of their material coming out in the 2003 to 2012 period.  Chaos Midnight, in a hand-numbered limited edition of 334, was spewed forth into the world in 2006, right in the middle of their most prolific period.  The music is noise with elements of industrial.  Structurally it feels chaotic, though my subconscious tells me there’s some semblance of loose structure in how the songs are conjured into existence, a sort of undercurrent of psych that plays around on the edges of my mind.

Chaos Midnight isn’t good times music.  It’s not the kind of thing you’re going to put on as dinner music, or when making the moves on that certain someone you’re interested in.  It’s not going to make you feel good, but it will definitely make you feel something, and if that’s not the point of art, I don’t know what is.

Mitch Murder - “The Real Deal” EP (2017)

He cites Jan Hammer, he of the Miami Vice TV show theme song, as a major influence.  His music is synth-poppy-goodness, but his performing name is pure violence.  He used to do hip hop, but now he’s all about that 1980s synth sound.  I’m speaking, of course, of Johan Bengtsson, better known by his nom-de-synth Mitch Murder.

I recently learned about Mitch from my co-worker Rob.  We were both in Kansas City to attend a couple of days of meetings, and the ice-breaker was that each person would talk about what new music or books they were currently into.  Rob told us that he was way into synthwave right now, so of course I made a point of getting some recommendations from him.  And one day when we were headed back to the office after lunch he played some Mitch Murder in the car.  And I was sold immediately.

Most of Mitch Murder’s releases are only available via download (which you can find at his extensive Bandcamp page HERE), but after a bit of poking around I found one that was released on vinyl - the five-song 2016 EP called The Real Deal.  I had to order it from Norway (Murder himself is Swedish) and it just arrived.  These songs are pure electronic goodness, sounding like the soundtrack to every great 1980s teen movie ever made - upbeat to the point of being almost chipper, incorporating unusual sounds like flutes and bells alongside beats that feel like they came straight from Mattel Synsonic Drums, more flat and snappy than the deep bass sounds we hear in more contemporary electronica.  There are no vocals and only one track that has any vocal sampling, so you’re left with pure, crisp music.

It’s hard to compare Mitch Murder to anything specific from the 1980s, because he doesn’t sound like anyone in particular, but at the same time he sounds like everything we were hearing in pop and soundtracks at the time.  “Outpost Alpha” initially reminded me of the early parts of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is,” but as it progressed it turned more into something that could have been part of a slower early Madonna track, but then again maybe something Lionel Richie could have used… like I said, it sounds like everything and nothing in particular at the same time.  And if “Prime Operator” doesn’t make you think you’ve just dropped into the middle of a sports-karate-military-training-sequence from a movie, you haven’t seen enough 80s movies.  It makes me want to go paint a fence or gleam the cube or something.  So good.

Go check out Mitch’s Bandcamp site (link above) and just pick something at random.  You’ll be glad you did.

Connections - “Tug of War” b/w “Give Me the Knife” 7″ (1981)

I bought this solely based on the fact that a quick internet search while at the record store indicated that the Connections were from Seattle.  And since there isn’t much pre-grunge Seattle rock out there, and this 7″ dates from 1981, it’s something I felt I needed to hear on general principle.

After giving it a spin and hearing the awesomeness of the B side, “Give Me the Knife,” I decided I needed to at least make an effort to learn something, anything, about this band that, according to Discogs at least, only put out this one 7″ to document their time together.  The internet itself failed to yield anything significant other than a few blog posts by people like me who’d found and liked it but didn’t have any info on the band, and the jacket wasn’t much help either being that it didn’t even list the names of the members.  But I had an ace up my sleeve.  A secret spot hidden in plain site on, of all places, Facebook.  I speak of course of “The Seattle Syndrome” group (♥), a group dedicated to keeping the memory of Seattle music from the pre-grunge era alive.  So I posted a simple “hey, anyone remember the Connections” there.

Members were able to provide the names of a few band members, and within a couple of hours I was in touch with Nolan Anderson’s wife, then a couple of days later Nolan himself.  Anderson, who is still making music today as part of the Mad Andersons, was the lead guitarist for the Connections and helped me connect the dots and put together the pieces about this interesting band.

Standing (left to right):  Randy Doak (drums), Cathy Croce (vocals, writer), Dan Baker (vocals, rhythm guitar, writer), Nolan Anderson (lead guitar)
Seated:  Pat McCullough (bass)

The Connections started as an acoustic duo comprised of Dan Baker and Cathy Croce playing both originals and covers.  They were influenced by the likes of the Everly Brothers, Sam Cooke, Buddy Holly, and Elvis.  Nolan and Dan met while studying music in college, and Nolan joined the pair as they expanded and continued as an acoustic trio.  Later they widened their sound, went electric, and brought aboard a rhythm section of Randy Doak and Pat McCullough.

The band made the rounds in the Pioneer Square (♠) bar circuit during the late 1970s and early 1980s, a time when that wasn’t the safest place to hang out but one that nonetheless encouraged a certain amount of artistic freedom.  They played in some classic Seattle bars and clubs like The Central and The Gorilla Room, plus made the occasional foray north of downtown to play Panchos and Astor Park up in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood.  Anderson has a lot of fond memories both of those musical spaces as well as the generally positive relationships the various Seattle-area bands shared, artists like The Heats, Visible Targets, and Student Nurse, a few of which I’ve previously written about here.

So what about the music?  “Tug of War” reminds me a little of early Elvis Costello, a bit of a melancholy pop song.  Dan Baker does the lead vocals with Cathy Croce coming in for some harmony and the chorus.  Musically the first half of the song is fairly straight forward, though the second half gives all three instrumentalists an opportunity to add some of their own flourishes as the track comes to a cacophonous conclusion.  But it’s the B side where the magic really happens.  Many of The Seattle Syndrome members remember hearing “Give Me the Knife” on KCMU, and deservedly so, because this track rocks.  It’s way more punk than “Tug of War,” driven forward by some very basic and aggressively played chords  that give Croce a lot of room to wander around a bit vocally as she steps into the lead role.  Anderson gets to drop some nice guitar work into the middle, and the pacing throughout the song is consistent and driving.  This thing is begging to be covered by a female-fronted band like The Kills or Dream Wife or The Bombpops.

I confirmed with Nolan that “Tug of War” b/w “Give Me the Knife” is the only formal recording Connections put out - getting studio time was expense in the days before anyone with a laptop has a de-facto recording studio right in their home, and like so many bands from the period all Connections left behind was a single.  So I’m glad to have both found this 7″ and to have learned a bit more about the band.  You can give ’em a listen for yourself below.

(♥)  The group is named after the two great Seattle Syndrome compilation albums that documented the Seattle music scene in 1981-82.

(♠)  Pioneer Square is an old part of Seattle, just a bit south of the downtown core and nestled between the high rises to the north and the sports stadiums to the south.  It was, and still can be, fairly sketch, though it’s definitely gentrified over the last couple of decades.

Q5 - “Steel The Light” (1984)

How has Q5 escaped my attention all these years?  An early 1980s metal band from Seattle… I don’t understand how they managed to stay under the radar.  Sure, their output was minimal, only releasing two LPs in the 1980s before coming back together in the nostalgia-fueled present to unleash a new record on us in 2016 (New World Order), but still.  I live in Seattle.  I love 80s metal.  I should have heard of these guys before now.

I lucked across a first pressing of this underground metal gem the other day over at Silver Platters, the only version that has this particular cover.  And it was the cover that first caught my eye, that “drawn by your best friend who is a good, but not great, artist” quality that seems to have been the mainstay of metal bands for decades.  It just screams 1980s metal.  And, my friends, it delivers.

I was stopped cold as soon as the opening lick on the first track, “Missing In Action” (which you can play at the bottom of this post), blasted through my speakers.  This song shreds in an early 1980s thrash kind of way.  Driving rhythms, ripping guitars, solos, soaring vocals… Steel The Light has it all.  Full speed rockers like “Pull The Trigger” fit in well alongside metal ballads like “Steel The Light”.  Honestly, if you asked me to create the most perfect representation of 1980s metal, I couldn’t come up with anything better than Steel The Light.  I mean, just look at the band!

And that was just the A side.

The reverse opens with the blistering “Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady,” moves on to the Whitesnake-ish “In The Night,” then takes it down even further with the moody, searching “Come And Gone” before bringing us home with the sleazy blues rocker “Rock On” and the teen angst of “Teenage Runaway.”  I have to say that the A side rocks harder, but the B side shows off Q5’s versatility by giving them more stylistic range while still staying within the hard rock/heavy metal framework.

I’m going to have to track down a copy of their sophomore album, 1986s When The Mirror Cracks.  If it’s even half as good as Steel The Light it’ll be well worth it.