Just Played: Record Shops Pick Out Treats From The (Virtual) Racks

Just Played: Record Shops Pick Out Treats From The (Virtual) Racks

Some prime picks for these lockdown times...

As the music industry begins to adapt to the lockdown landscape, Clash is here to shine a light on some of our beloved independent record shops and offer some suggestions on how best to support them in the months ahead. In part one of this piece, we heard from a number of different stores about how the coronavirus has impacted upon their business. Those same shops have also offered some thoughts on how we can engage over this curious time, as well as recommending some essential additions to your racks.

Most record collectors already tend to mix purchases between over the counter and online, but the tactile experience will just have to wait for a while. Ian Rankin is not only a world famous crime writer but also a record shop enthusiast who posts his end of year lists on his website every December. He is already missing the experience but ensured a degree of preparation: “I stocked up just before physical shops had to lock up. I’m not a great one for downloads, so am now dependent on mail order - and a few things I’ve ordered are now subject to delay due to the virus. So, it’s a good time to rediscover old and cherished albums. Everything from Hawkwind and Third Ear Band to Eno and Art Pepper getting played here.

“The last great thing I bought was from Assai in Edinburgh - the new Isobel Campbell on indies-exclusive coloured vinyl. I also placed an order there for some forthcoming releases, although I wish now I’d paid upfront as it might have helped them. I’ve bought book tokens from indie bookshops and meal vouchers from indie restaurants. Every little bit helps, as they say.” This sentiment is something that our beloved record shops are going to be relying upon over the coming months. 

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To ensure their survival, there are certain things we can do to help. In Frome, Raves From The Grave’s Tom Coates says: “We know this is a challenging time for a lot of people, especially with financial uncertainty, however we urge you, if you can, to please support your local record shop - you don't have to spend loads, anything will help. We really do appreciate all orders. If you can't support financially, please follow and interact with them on social media - the more interactions, the more people see it, and might use us.”

Rupert at Drift echoes this, commenting that, “the #loverecordstores response from our partners has been very heart-warming, and for me above anything else it just highlights that we are all in the same team here and understanding how we can collaboratively work together is super important. We have to be in touch and adapt. I'd take any opportunity to say that Drift is only where we are now because of the excellent friendships we have across labels and distributors; that is huge.”

Rankin is already keeping a keen eye on how the internet is offering some hope. “I note record shops maintaining an extended online presence: Monorail springs to mind. The passion for music does not wane - see Tim Burgess’s nightly album playbacks on Twitter (look for the hashtag #timstwitterlisteningparty). I just hope venues and shops can ride this out. Fans will be ready to embrace them when this shitshow subsides!” Coates agrees: “For us, it's all about getting the public back into the shop. The big question is, will we ever open our doors to the public again? We very much hope so.”

In Totnes, Morrison is maintaining his positive outlook and says that Drift will “still write about the new releases for our newsletter and put images and text across our websites. We'll still order records (which have largely arrived unaffected thus far), we will still restock and we'll sure-as-shit keep taking orders and posting the damn things out as far and wide as we can! We'll all have some horror stories to tell, but we ALL have to stick together. We're part of a fragile but amazing ecosystem and we all love it. We're all going to hang in there and there will be a future.”

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Music writer and broadcaster, Pete Paphides, whose wonderful part-memoir, part-pop history ‘Broken Greek’ was published last month by Quercus, is effusive in his love of record shops and here sets the scene for a batch of wonderful suggestions for what you might want to order in for a lockdown listen:

“When we go on family holidays to places that don’t have a record shop nearby, I’m the sort of person who will acutely feel that absence. As long as, during any period of seven or eight days, there’s an opportunity to go and browse racks full of records, then I’m happy.

For me, that scratches the itch that, perhaps, the pub or the betting shop might scratch for other people. But this situation would have been a lot worse 20 years ago. Some of the most resourceful record shops have long since evolved their online operations so that pretty much anything you would do in a bricks-and-mortar shop you can do on their website.

“For me, it’s all about being able to listen to anything that tickles your interest. Sounds Of The Universe is brilliant for this. I’ve spent most of the morning so far listening to newly-arrived seven-inches of Gang Starr’s Jazz Thing (Mr Bongo reissue) and Guasa, Cununo Y Marimba –  an incredible introduction to the world of Afro-Colombian music from the Pacific Coast, released on the Vampisoul label. The sort of percussive, emotive, intensely melodic uplift that feels especially necessary in the midst of such a strange time. It’s precisely the sort of record you might come away with in spite of the fact that you walked into the shop looking for something entirely different.

“Some of my favourite record shop websites allow you to do that, just as you might have done had you physically gone to the shop. Rough Trade is similarly user-friendly. As I write this, I’m about to click ‘BUY’ on 'Rejoice', the collaborative album Tony Allen recorded with the late Hugh Masekela – and I’m about to do that because I was able to listen to it while continuing to browse on the site.

Beatin’ Rhythm in Manchester allows you to jump straight into their inventory of soul and funk rarities. And even if I can’t quite justify splashing out £75 on Leslie Uggams’ surging, string-laden 1965 dancer 'Don’t You Even Care', or £70 on The Marionettes’ charmingly pacey version of 'Under The Boardwalk', I’m two records smarter than I was before I heard them.”

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Jon Burnip, from the aforementioned Sounds Of The Universe, would add the following to your online basket:

“Firstly, and making its vinyl premiere, are these sessions from the seminal Marvin Gaye soundtrack to the blaxploitation classic ‘Trouble Man’ called ‘More Trouble’  

Our good friend and incredible talent Emma-Jean Thackray launches her new label with an EP of her own material, ‘Rain Dance’

And, of course, the highly anticipated new album release from Thundercat, ‘It Is What It Is’”.

Tom Coates, from Frome and Warminster’s Raves From The Grave is similarly enthusiastic about the following:

“Firstly, La Luz’s ‘Floating Features’. We discovered them about two years ago from a promo sent out by one of our suppliers: a really great surf/garage sound, It’s a fantastic record and it made our staff picks for 2018 - we love it! 

Moonlandingz’s ‘Interplanetary Class Classics’. We think we originally found out about this record because it featured two members of Fat White Family, and it caught our attention immediately. If you're into the Fat White Family / Warmduscher sound, then we're sure you'd love this record. Featuring guests such as Yoko Ono, Rebecca Taylor (Slow Club/Self Esteem) Randy The Cowboy (of The Villiage People) and Sean Lennon.

Wooden Shjips ‘Back To Land’. A shop favourite! Every time we play this record in the shop, we seem to sell it! It's a good blend of experimental, psychedelic and drone rock! Ripley Johnson is on guitar and, if you're a fan of his style, we also very much recommend checking out Moon Duo.” 

Steve Courtnell at Southsea’s Pie & Vinyl is seeking your clicks with these: “One to wallow in right now, is A.A Bondy’s sublime ‘Enderness’ (our record of the year last year) and I can’t get Caribou’s latest ‘Suddenly’ off the deck at the moment.”

And, once you get Rupert Morrison from Totnes’ Drift talking about great music, it’s pretty difficult to stop him. It’s what makes his shop such a joy to visit, but for now you’ll need to do so virtually for any of these picks: 

Richard Norris ‘Abstractions Volume One & Two’  

Richard is quite the amazing producer, his attention to detail is lush. He put out two ambient works on his own Group Mind label and we were stoked to get hold of some. I believe there will be more to follow, so do make sure to look them all up. Ambience that is powerful and serene, really wonderful.

Squid - Town Centre [12" EP Repress] 

Squid. One of THE most exciting bands around. We were pinching ourselves daily to have them locked in for the Sea Change festival. Thier EP on the ESSENTIAL Speedy Wunderground label is just perfect. Brash, funny and really addictive. I think we have about the only copies left!!

OCS - 'Memory Of A Cut Off Head'

Man, John Dwyer! King of the East Coast. The/Thee Oh Sees main man returned to his (folky) roots as OCS. It is co-written with long-time collaborator and vocal counterpoint Brigid Dawson (who also has an AMAZING new LP out soon too including a special indies Dinked Edition); they were born to wooze together. We have a limited pink vinyl pressing.

Cornelius - Point

One of the first albums I became totally obsessed with. I must have listened to this a few hundred times back in 2002. So pretty, so euphoric, so clever and so cool. A classic, a much needed repress this one (and on blue vinyl too!)

Gia Margaret - 'There’s Always Glimmer'

Just a record we love to bits. The debut self-produced album by Gia Margaret. Brilliant voice, brilliant delivery, brilliant songs. It's a real joy.” 

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Words: Gareth James

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