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The Holidays Are For Box Sets: Finding the Future Through the Past

MachineHead_BloodstoneDiamonds“I wish I could have seen The Cure back then,” my friend Xio said to me the other day. “When I was 13 in 1996, my diary was full of crush notes to Robert Smith.” Xio went on to see The Cure a couple of times, and Depeche Mode too. Of course today, both bands have achieved a legendary status, enough to justify multiple box sets of singles, rarities, remixes, live performances and such. And right now, the holiday gift giving season is the time for the latest avalanche of super deluxe box sets in the physical realm.

With so much of our business moving to digital and especially streaming, you’d think the days of these pricey coffee table heavyweight packages would be over. But as art objects in and of themselves, box sets bring an immersive fan experience that is qualitatively different than streaming some of those same tracks on Spotify. They are an excuse to celebrate our inner geekdom and obsessiveness to the smallest details. Like Jimmy Page’s more prominent acoustic guitar in the Sunset Sound Mix of “Stairway To Heaven” on Led Zeppelin’s just reissued/remastered IV Deluxe (aka ZOSO), or the instrumental versions of some of your Zep classics on I-IV before Robert Plant added his vocals. Really? I never heard John Paul Jones’ keyboard part in there before! Or the improved stereo imaging and fine sonic detail in Bruce Springsteen’s classic The River, just issued this week (as part of The Album Collection 1973-1984.)

But it’s not just a question of sharper bass with more low frequencies or a kick drums that you can feel in your chest vs. fairly HQ 320 kbps MP3s that are easy to purchase. Let’s face it, no one reads 20 page liner notes by veteran Rock writers like David Fricke or Greil Marcus online about all the minutiae involving The Velvet Underground Super Deluxe with its 3 different mixes of the same album or Bob Dylan & The Band Basement Tapes Complete with multiple versions of the same song in different tempos or styles. It’s a different listening experience sitting at home on a Saturday afternoon reading the book while the music plays than rocking some tunes on your smartphone on a bus or a subway on your way to work. Something vinyl lovers have long known as well.

As the physical realm continues to adapt to the realities of the modern niche market place, box sets are where record labels can recoup on long-term investments and trend setting cult artists can finally grab some of the mainstream attention they’ve long deserved. Like British Invasion-influenced Pop masters Big Star finally getting their due with multiple box sets, reissues and a fine documentary, “Nothing Can Hurt Me,” after years of only being acknowledged by fellow musicians and indie trailblazers like The Replacements. Today, the simple act of physically compiling brings streaming attention to the new classics, such that Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and company can play their college radio “underground hits” to packed stadium sing alongs decades later, as many of us witnessed in Forest Hills, NY this past summer.

In the last few years we’ve seen a wide range of large box sets from icons like The ClashWoody Guthrie, Johnny Cash and even Judas Priest. The real question is who are today’s musical heroes that will be compiled in the years ahead? Will LCD Soundsystem ever merit a reissue like Underworld’s 5 CD Super Deluxe Dubnobasswithmyheadman including live rehearsals by an Electronica group in the act of composition? Are Machine Head destined to become the next Judas Priest or Metallica? Or will they be this generation’s Diamond Head spearheading the mostly under the radar NWOBHM (that’s new wave of British Heavy Metal) and thereby influencing every major Thrash/Speed Metal act in their wake? Will Eminem and Jay Z ever be anthologized like James Brown was on the 4 Funk-filled Star Time CDs? And can the Foo Fighters, Maroon 5 and even Nickelback transcend their mass appeal to reach Journey’s guilty pleasures God-like status for stadium anthems? “Don’t Stop Believin’…”

From CBGB to Warped Tour: “How Did I Get Here?”

ramones“And you may ask yourself, well… How did I get here?” is a line from the Talking Heads classic “Once In A Lifetime.” Of course Talking Heads, like the Ramones, are an original class of 1976 graduate of the CBGB Punk Rock explosion. Just recently, the RIAA announced that almost 40 years since its 1976 release, the Ramones’ genre defining, self-titled debut has finally gone Gold, selling 500,000+ copies.

Punk Rock has become a musical institution in America in the past four decades and nowhere is that more clearly visible than in the Vans Warped Tour, now celebrating its 20th anniversary with dates running from 6/11 to 8/3. One Orchard label, Pure Noise, has 8 bands alone performing on Warped Tour, including Cali’s breakout success The Story So Far, and veterans like Massachusetts-based Vanna and Four Year Strong.

“The Ramones have one Gold record to their name,” KISS’ Gene Simmons told Consequence of Sound once referring to their comp Ramones Mania. “But they meant nothing. They never succeeded, failed, in fact.” But history has proven otherwise. Although Ramones peaked at No. 111 on the Billboard 200 and “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” never became the hoped for radio hits, SPIN named Ramones #1 in 50 Essential Punk Records, and it was inducted into the Library of Congress, along with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Janis Joplin’s Cheap Thrills.

The Ramones and the other hard touring bands of their era like Talking Heads, Blondie, Patti Smith Group and Devo (whose Something Else For Everybody is also being distributed by The Orchard) singlehandedly created a Punk Rock touring circuit that previously had not existed in 1976. Today, getting the crucial support and live exposure is so much easier — young bands just plug in to Warped Tour‘s festival, playing short sets and meeting fans afterwards at merchandise booths to swap stories and autographs. Warped Tour is so successful in 2014 that many bands schedule their releases around it. The Story So Far‘s Songs Of, Vanna‘s Void, Handguns‘ Life Lessons, Heart To Heart‘s Dulce, My Iron Lung‘s Relief, Four Year Strong‘s Go Down In History, To The Wind‘s Block Out The Sun, BrigadesCrocodile Tears – all will benefit from the audience reach and impact of the Tour. Some of these developing acts will eventually grow like The Story So Far to be mainstage headliners someday.

TheStorySoFar

And that is the Ramones legacy all these years later: non-stop relentless touring, taking the live Punk experience to their fans and creating your own definition of success. Punk may have evolved into many sub-genres over the years — from Hardcore to Emo, Screamo, Metal Core and so on — but its impact today can be felt on the Warped Tour, in Vans footwear, at clothing based mall outlets like Hot Topic and in the latest generation to emerge from the streets of Noo Yawk City like Brooklyn’s Cerebral Ballzy who just this week released Jaded and Faded on Cult Records, a label run by The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, a man and a band clearly influenced by the CBGB era DIY Punk aesthetic. Punk Rock, like Rock & Roll, is here to stay!

You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover….The Electronic Joys of Fuck Buttons

June 20, 2013 Artist News No Comments

fbuttonsAt least, you could say The Doors, Nirvana, the Velvet Underground, Blue Oyster Cult or Joy Division were band names that had some subtlety, irony and or (black) humor to it. But when you name your act the Sex Pistols, Crass, Slayer, Venom, Hallucinogen, or Killing Joke and so on, you pretty much have an idea of what’s coming. So, you’d think was the case with seemingly controversially named, Fuck Buttons. You might also think that Fuck Buttons would remain a band with a cultish following but influential fans like Underworld and acclaimed film director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), who took the internationally acclaimed UK techno act’s recommendation and included Fuck Buttons’ 2009 track “Olympians” in the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, launched this band into widespread public approval.

Certainly, Fuck Button’s newest number, “The Red Wing,” is  no more confrontational than any of the previously mentioned acts. Its video images of a model dancing, shape-shifting into occasional rorschach tests makes for subtle, artistically fascinating watching. Its musical mashup of Aphex Twin, My Bloody Valentine, Mogwai, Kraftwerk, Chrome, The Prodigy, Suicide and many  other electronic influences make for some forward looking, freshly unique music.  Not your average song and dance routine electronica here. More is to come when Slow Focus, FB’s third album is released on July 23rd in the States on ATP Records.  With US dates coming in September, expect FB to help redefine the leftfield one more time and shake up the increasingly cliched electronica field.

Forward Thru The Past: Austin Psych Fest, The Black Angels and Some Texas Psychedelic Originals

Austin Psych Fest 2013Stick around long enough and you can watch musical trends come and go…… Punk fades in the early 80s, goes underground and re-emerges with a (commercial) vengeance. Heavy Metal morphs through various re-incarnations, even Dance music evolves from Disco to House to Techno to whatever Step/Trap/Shake thing is happening.

And so it is with Psychedelic music, which began in Austin, TX in 1965 with Roky Erickson’s 13th Floor Elevators and almost simultaneously in London with the formation of Pink Floyd. The leading lights of today’s American Psych Rock scene are of course Austin’s own The Black Angels, whose new Blue Horizon album, Indigo Meadow, hits digital media sites and record shops on April 2. By now, many of you have heard their very of the moment new single “Don’t Play With Guns.” Perhaps the more cutting edge aficionados out there have even purchased the just released Austin Psych Fest 2012 DVD featuring the Angels and contemporaries like Brian Jonestown Massacre, Black Lips, Thee Oh Sees, Dead Meadow and so many other bands bending minds live on stage. Like Austin’s famed SXSW and Austin City Limits Festivals, Austin Psych Fest has developed a momentum of its own, this year attracting artists from as far away as Brazil (the re-united Os Mutantes) and Mali (Tinariwen).

While the fest boasts an awesome lineup of talent too deep to detail here (check their website for details), it is the triumvirate topping the bill on Sunday April 28 that has tripendicularly-inclined fans salivating. Austin’s Psych godfather Roky Erickson? Check. Leaders of the new school The Black Angels? You betcha. But wait, who’s this? Houston’s legendary The Moving Sidewalks with all four original members, including some guitarist from ZZ Top named Billy Gibbons?

Seems like everything old is new again. The Psychedelic Blues Rock of The Moving Sidewalks imploded in the summer of 1969 after a few successful singles, one album — Flash — and tour dates opening for Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and the Jeff Beck Group w/Rod Stewart. Uncle Sam drafted original band members Tom Moore and Don Summers and the dream came crashing to an end. Their influence continued on and in late 2012, a Christmas present appeared in the form of a 2-CD reissue, The Complete Moving Sidewalks. Then came news of an exclusive NYC reunion show at BB King’s club in Manhattan on March 30. Still, the wild-eyed fans of the Texas Psych Rock scene were heartbroken until the announcement that yes indeed the original Moving Sidewalks would be appearing on the same day as their fellow Texans at Austin Psych Fest 2013!

… Continue Reading

We Don’t Just Sell Music, You Know

November 28, 2012 Artist News, Orchard News No Comments

DJ Comrade "Favela Trap"Over here in the Physical department at The Orchard, the sales reps are privileged to rep CDs from some of the finest musicans and DJs in the world. When a legendary DJ like DJ Premier is in the house to discuss his latest project, you best believe we’re paying attention! And we’re always happy to see someone like RJD2 pop by too. In 2012 so far, we’ve sold and marketed old school legends ranging from Premo to Pop royalty Dionne Warwick, from Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Dion to Mr. Worldwide himself, Pitbull, with his first collection of Original Hits. Of course, Pitbull’s booty shakin’ dancefloor anthems have their roots in both the Miami bass scene and his earliest mentor Luke and the Southern crunk beats popularized by his early producer and collaborator Lil Jon.

EDM, or Electronic Dance Music, is constantly evolving and morphing into the latest flavas. Somewhere in the mid-2000s DJ Diplo picked up on a Brazilian Dance craze, Baile Funk, the latest crossover music rockin’ all the favela (communal Brazilian shanty town) parties in the working class neighborhoods of Rio De Janeiro. Of course Diplo has gone on to become a superstar DJ and producer and spread the Brazilian funkiness everywhere he went in the States. Meanwhile back at The Orchard Sales department, Comrade Xão was working alongside some of the very same original sales reps who first blew up Pitbull, Lil Jon and Ying Yang Twins to gold, platinum and multi-platinum status. The Orchard got busy releasing greatest (or Crunkest) hits compilations from all three artists while Comrade Xao played parties in Brooklyn and visited the favelas of Rio to check out the party scene first-hand and show the locals his latest fusion of all of these influences. After a few close encounters with the machine gun toting favela security forces and the equally feared local polícia, Chris brought back his newly added Rio street knowledge to his mixes in New York.

And so it is with great pride that The Orchard Physical Sales department can now say, “we not only sell great music, but make it as well!” Ok, we know what you’re thinking…. sure, some of the reps have played in bands with label deals before and can rock a fierce, power chorded version of the Kinks “Father Christmas” at The Orchard Christmas party. Not what we’re talking about…. 5 minutes of fame on a small stage. Nah, Comrade Xao is rocking a complete full album release here, featuring some of Rio’s hottest MC’s over cutting edge Baile Funk/Trap beats and he’ll be hitting the sunny streets of Rio just in time to unleash Favela Trap for its December 12 street date. Check for it at your favorite online retailers and don’t take our word for it. Listen to Rio’s own DJ Wooles (Apavoramento Sound System): “DOPE!!! This style will bring a fresh air to baile funk overseas.”  And…. “There is only one release this year that I have been looking forward to for so f*&%#in’ long: DJ Comrade’s Favela Trap,” straight from the mouth of Dutch wonder kid and producer Munchi (Selegna, T&A, Mad Decent).

We see new releases come and go all the time over here. But fresh Dance music is like awesome fresh coffee, the real stuff hard is to find. Now you know!

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