Long time reader, first time caller? Welcome to Mailbag, our monthly column in which we dig in and respond to your questions. Got a query? Hit us up at email@example.com. In this month’s bag: out-of-print albums, new versus ‘old’ music, a Bicycle Day query from New Zealand, record store strategies and more …
What reissues of out-of-print albums do you think have been most severely overlooked? Any era, any genre is fair game. Personally, I’ve always wondered why John Fahey’s Fare Forward Voyagers and Railroad albums have never been properly reissued. Same with Gil Scott-Heron’s mid-late 70’s albums. – E. Knoll
Your examples are definitely good calls. I’ll throw in the frustratingly unavailable Opal albums — Early Recordings and Happy Nightmare Baby. I’d put both up there with the best underground music of the 1980s, but the late David Roback (who would go on to co-found Mazzy Star) made it nearly impossible for these records to be reissued during his lifetime. It was never clear exactly why. And his estate continues to make it difficult. A few years back, CDs were even pressed up and were ready to go … but the project was quashed at the last minute (a few discs made it out into the wild, however). A total shame. The masterful, darkly psychedelic work of Roback and Kendra Smith deserves to be heard by a larger audience.
Another group in desperate need of a reissue campaign is Pell Mell, the unclassifiable instrumental band that put out several terrific records in the 1980s and 1990s. But the killer LPs they released on SST — 1987’s Bumper Crop and 1991’s Flow — are in limbo thanks (one assumes) to Greg Ginn’s general lameness. Set this great music free, Greg! | t wilcox
AD. I’m curious as to what percentage of new versus ‘old’ music you all regularly engage with. Nothing scientific, just in general. – R. Casey
I kept track (loosely) of my listening habits for the past week or so, and — unscientifically — it came out to about 40 percent new music, 60 percent old music. (“New” here meaning stuff that was released in the past five years.) It is kind of tough these days, with so much music at listeners’ fingertips, for current artists to compete with what is now more than a century of recorded sounds. Do you want to listen to something that is, say, krautrock-influenced, or do you want to listen to the genuine article? Still, platforms and outlets like Bandcamp (and, well, Aquarium Drunkard) make it pretty easy to discover good new shit. It’s out there! | t wilcox
It’s that time of year. As someone who regularly visits the local shops here in L.A., I am wondering what your thoughts are regarding Record Store Day. Good? Bad? Out of control? Geoff M.
Loaded question! Kidding…but, yeah, in an ideal world every day would be record store day, in that folks would legitimately appreciate the value (artistically, monetarily) of music. While the second hand market for prized Record Store Day releases can be a huge bummer (the vulture aspect), it’s historically been a good excuse for labels to release interesting curios, etc. Here are a couple of releases that immediately come to mind: Miles Davis: Turnaround, Stephen Malkmus And Friends – Can’s Ege Bamyasi. | j gage
I’ve got a hypothetical for you. You stumble upon an unknown record store and have 10 minutes to dig before your hypothetical wife and children take off in the hypothetical minivan. Do you have an express strategy in situations like these? – Bob
Ah, the dreaded time crunch. Hardly a hypothetical, Bob! And, of course, these type of situations typically present themselves while traveling, and usually in places you’ll likely never visit again. My move? Consult that note in your phone with the list of records you’ve been eyeballing and make haste. That, and check out the shop’s ‘staff picks’ section. | j gage
Happy Bicycle Day from New Zealand. The term ‘psychedelic’ gets thrown around a lot when describing music across multiple genres. What 5-10 records you would classify as such. – JK
Thrown around a lot, indeed. In an effort to not overthink your question, here’s a random grip of oblique/bent records that I’ve been pulling from lately at the AD hq. Amon Düül II: Tanz der Lemminge, Miles Davis: Agharta, Alice Coltrane: Journey in Satchidananda, The Olivia Tremor Control: Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle, Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes: Paix, Gary Higgins: Red Hash, Broadcast: The Noise Made By People, Boards of Canada: Music Has the Right to Children. Pedro Santos: Krishnanda. Godspeed, traveler. | j gage