I had purchased vinyl when I was about 14 - Beck's Sea Change, Transatlanticism by Death Cab For Cutie, a really cool pink vinyl edition of The Flaming Lips' In a Priest Driven Ambulance - but I never quite went through the whole bin-digging experience when it came to finding records. All of those purchases were made online.
Finally, though, I found myself in Rocket Records, casually dipping into the discount section, when I came across 1972's Son of Schmilsson by Harry Nilsson. Besides being silly, weird, moving and totally genius, the album featured a skit near the beginning with some ominous voice intoning that all of the record's spooky sound effects came from "RCA Records and Tapes," followed by mad cackling.
The whole experience was a small peek inside the deep culture of analog entertainment - a culture that had largely passed me by. To think of this process of stumbling across crackly treasures in the bins of local record stores; to think that stoned rockers back in the day would have giggled at that RCA joke; to think that the entire reason I even picked up that album was because of its silly title and faux-spooky cover.
Luckily, for me and for lots of even younger people, the culture of analog music was fast returning. CDs have begun to lose some of their cache, as the warmth and weight of vinyl and the cheesy nostalgia of cassette tapes have begun to return to the mainstream.
Two ardent supporters of the analog movement are touring up the West Coast and will find their way to Olympia Friday. Calling their tour "Analog Resurgence," Rakehell and Go Pills are traveling with their salvation show, preaching the gospel of low-tech.
"In 2001, I started a ten-year project to put out an LP of my own material," says Russ Forster of Rakehell. "I thought that things would look different in ten years, but I had no idea, when I was doing the record and I was having the record pressed down at Rainbo Records in Los Angeles and I saw that they were just buzzing with work. It completely amazed me. I had heard that LP and vinyl sales were on the rise, quite dramatically, in the past few years, but I saw it with my own eyes in the pressing plant. It was really inspiring."
Rakehell and Go Pills are both basically one-man bands - Go Pills has its rotating cast of contributors, but for the most part it's just one guy. Forster, with Rakehell and Skizz Cyzyk, with Go Pills, are both lovers of analog technology from way back. Both have been entrenched in the DIY arts community since the early '80s, having made films and prints, in addition to music, for much of the time.
Musically, they could reductively be described as pop-punk or New Wave, with quirky lyrics and unpredictable style shifts. Go Pills, in particular, might play around with twisted '50s novelty music like the kind Bobby "Boris" Pickett would play ("It Came From Outer Space") and then jump over to lo-fi punk anthems ("I'm So Tired [It's Not Funny]").
"We both started out as filmmakers, before there was digital," says Cyzyk. "We cut our teeth in analog. So, we're going to be showing some of our analog work on the tour, as well as some of our recent stuff on other formats. ... Before we perform, we'll be showing about thirty minutes of short films. And then, because it's not always easy to find musicians who will go on tour, I'll be performing along with the videos of the songs and Russ will be joining me on some of the songs."
It's going to be a unique show, to be sure. Forster also tells me that they'll be going "back to 1983 prices" with their merchandise. LPs and T-shirts for $5, he says, in addition to copies of his long-running zine, 8-Track Mind Magazine.
This show will be a celebration of the tangible and the imperfect. Of analog.
ANALOG RESURGENCE, w/ Rakehell and Go Pills, 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 6, Northern, 414 ½ Legion Way, Olympia, $5