December 6, 2014
Behold, the inexorable rise of the novelty record.
Somewhat debunking the myth that we all buy vinyl because the music just sounds better when pressed into virgin black wax, this year has seen what feels like a dramatic increase in the number of records being pressed with basically anything that’s to hand – blood, piss, hair, string, leaves, your gran – you name it, if you can mix it into a vat of wax pellets someone’s tried to press it into a record.
The peacocks of the record industry these ten releases are the ultimate exhibitionists, boisterously insisting on your attention with such clamour they make you average splatter vinyl look positively vanilla. Given that they basically speak for themselves, we’ll keep this intro short. Here are ten of the weirder and in some cases actually quite interesting things that have been pressed into records.
Mess On A Mission
For Record Store Day, Liars dropped a special version of Mess On A Mission, embedding the clear vinyl with string to match the artwork. Liars’ Angus Andrew on string theory: “To us it seemed like such a unique and interesting way to extend the visual language of Mess right inside the music…We talked about the idea for days but weren’t at all sure it could physically be done. After all, pressing bits of colored string into the actual vinyl was nothing we’d ever heard of before. ”
Say Yes To Love
In 2012 Nick Cave, Erykah Badu, Chris Martin, and Ke$ha rolled their sleeves up and counted to ten while Wayne Coyne took a sample of the red stuff for Flaming Lips’ ‘Heady Fwends’. But while that was bottled to swill around the record as it spins, Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves’ actually had her blood pressed into the wax itself. There were just 300 copies made; any more and the poor girl would have keeled over right there in the factory.
Hair & Piss
Getting Your Hair Wet With Pee
(Velocity of Sound)
There’s no brushing this one off – these guys have literally soaked their vinyl in piss and then for some reason felt the need to make it even more bodily by filling the clear yellow wax with hair. Nice. No surprise “this unique item lends itself to surface noise and no two singles look alike”. It’s not a concept we immediately connect with, but we’ll give it credit for novelty.
Ghostbusters (30th anniversary ed.)
For the 30th anniversary edition of the Ghostbusters soundtrack, Legacy got so excited by the Marshmallow Man they packaged the release in a puffy sleeve that exhales wafts of sugary synthesis every time you go near it. Great, as long as you don’t mind your record collection smelling like ratty Halloween leftovers.
(Third Man Records)
The Ultra LP, as it was called, may not have anything actually physically pressed into the wax itself, but its bells and whistles are so extensive we thought we’d throw it in here anyway. Although not pressed into the wax, the idea of a hologram shimmering on the surface of the run out groove is pretty beguiling. We were partly hoping to see Tupac resurrected in the run-out groove, but you can’t have everything.
Eno & Hyde
Even more ephemeral than Jack White’s holograms was this novel, smart-phone friendly gimmick from messres Eno & Hyde, where by owners of the album app would be able to witness “outsider architecture metropolises” take shape on their vinyl as it plays, like pixelated petri dishes blossoming with aggressive bacteria. It’s a pretty ambitious coming together of the analogue and the digital. Björk would be proud.
On to its fourth pressing, this Dads release on 6131 has pretty much tested out every colour of vinyl – clear green, opaque pink marble, red with random splatters, pink, you name it. The latest release takes it to the next level, pinching rainbow glitter from the craft store and stuffing it in a clear 7”. Only 100 copies were pressed, but they also dropped 900 in yellow marble to keep the coloured vinyl variants going.
Apart from cleaning products, liquids and records are normally a losing combination, but what about liquid IN your records? In what we concede must have been an impressive engineering feat, Beyond Beyond is Beyond have done the unthinkable, mixing liquids and vinyl. We’d be interested to hear how they sound, but only 15 were released and apparently only around half were actually offered for sale although rumours are floating around that a new batch is on the horizon.
An Island Called Earth
About as otherworldly as a record gets, the ‘COSMOS’ edition of An Island Called Earth features a run of 100 green/yellow/orange records, containing sprinkled fragments of an asteroid that crashed into earth during the 16th century. Quite literally a piece of history, and indeed interspace geology, in your wax. We give Alcopop! full marks for effort on this one.
We do love it when form pays a little bit of attention to content, and no more so than on Barren Harvest’s Subtle Cruelties, so neatly embossed with russet leaves that shimmer like one of those novelty toilet seats behind crystal clear vinyl. The record’s novelty ‘nature’ is not lost on Thrill Jockeys who issued a manfully honest disclaimer with the release: “be advised that there are noises and irregularities in the audio that differ from record to record”. That’s the beauty of nature, right?