I like buying records

If you’ve just joined us, I’m reflecting on a bunch of things I like to do. This post here explains why.

Today: record shopping. I like buying records.

The important thing to notice is that I didn’t say that I like listening to records, collecting records or owning records – although those are, of course, things that I very much enjoy. If I really think about it, the activity that seems to give me the most satisfaction is the process of acquisition. The time spent browsing, rummaging and discovering second hand vinyl – and usually cheap stuff.

I guess that’s largely because I’m always immersed in music, and the records I buy simply get absorbed into that mix and take the aggregate experience in new and interesting directions. I certainly wouldn’t be short of stuff to listen to if I didn’t go record shopping – but I do really love going record shopping.

It’s relaxing and exciting at the same time – simultaneously meditative and engaging. Like I imagine knitting would be if there were spot prizes.


Scrobbling vinyl

I’m no longer a Last.fm member, but I did like the idea that they ‘scrobbled’ everything I listened to – that is, they kept a record of what tunes I played on my computer so I could look back. It was fun for things like compiling personal charts and favourites. Not that I needed that data for anything in particular, but it was a nice idea all the same.

Trouble is, listening to music on my computer is only a fraction of the music listening that I did. It’s an even smaller fraction right now.

I’ve been moving things around at home recently – and because I’m working on a number of large projects that involve a lot of sitting and typing, I’ve set up the turntable in the office and I’m playing records while I work.



The joy of liking unfashionable music

RecordsAs you’re no doubt more than aware, today is Record Store Day. Historically, I’ve avoided them like the plague. Bloody tourists, etc.

But just this once, I thought I’d show my face. Skip the crowds and go late, of course, but make a special trip into Polar Bear Records, my local. Solidarity and all that.

Just to have a browse, you understand – not to buy any of the hundreds of limited edition (i.e.: expensive) vinyl releases and numbered reissues out today for the people who go to record stores once a year and the eBay speculators.

Bumped into friends there, which was nice – though unfortunately, they were digging for more or less the same stuff I was after, and so the bargains they found were ones I’d missed – and vice versa. But the good thing was that it’s mostly bargains for me these days.

I’ve been on a bit of a binge lately. After finding a whole pile of late 90s, early 2000s electronic jazz stuff in the 50p bins, I’ve been re-exploring that territory, poking around on Discogs to fill some of the gaps – and there are many – in my collection. I have a particular affinity for that music because it’s what I used to play on the radio and I had musician friends who were heavily involved in that scene at the time.

Records2So even before breakfast this morning, a delivery of records had arrived. A triple vinyl album, a double, and three 12″ singles. All bought online from an independent retailer, and I got change out of a tenner (plus postage).

So my lunchtime visit to Polar Bear had a mission: nothing over £1. I stuck to the same bins where I’d located those first forty or so bargains that had sent me down this particular nostalgic path, and found another thirteen absolute gems for no more than the price of a coffee and a slice of carrot cake.

In the pile, one of my favourite remixes of all time (Kaidi Tatham’s take on Fertile Ground’s ‘Spiritual War’), and even a couple of original Nat King Cole albums for good measure. You can never have too much Nat King Cole or Lou Rawls. Fact.

All fine and dandy – until Nathan at the counter asks if I’d had a look at any of the Record Store Day releases.

“No thanks – I’m totally fine.”

“There’s a couple of Miles in there…”

“I think I’m pretty good for Miles Davis vinyl,” I began, starting to remember a few serious omissions. “What have you got?”

“Well, there’s this…” he says, holding up a 180 gram, numbered mono pressing of ‘Round About Midnight, which, twenty quid later, now lives at my house.

And that’s exactly the kind of thing I was trying to avoid by not being very interested in The White Stripes.


The day I had been looking forward to…


Having a dreadful time in Brazil as you can probably tell. People keep giving me nice things to eat, taking me to interesting places, and getting very excited about my research. It’s a terrible ordeal… ;)

But as it’s Saturday today, it was time to go record shopping – which is secretly the main reason I’m in São Paulo (not really, but it’s certainly an additional ulterior motive).

Eduardo and Rosana from the University, both of whom I met for the first time yesterday, picked me up at 9 o’clock at the hotel and we went straight to the Galeria do Rock – a six story shopping mall devoted entirely to rock music, underground culture and hip hop.


Virtually listening to records

Choosing records to play at the Hare & Hounds this afternoon

I’m spending the evening listening to records. I’ve been doing that a fair bit recently. But these records I’m listening to aren’t from my shelves. I can’t hold them in my hands. I’m actually listening to digitised records, which is an interesting thing to do – or rather, I think it’s interesting – and here’s why…

I would like to be an audiophile. I say “I’d like to be”, rather than “I am” because I don’t have audiophile equipment. I have an okay stereo as home bookshelf stereos go, but it’s sort of overdue for an update and (more importantly) an upgrade. But I’d easily be looking at £1500-2000 for a step up of the kind I’d really be interested in. Turntable, amp and speakers alone. And that’s barely scratching the surface – and the bottom surface at that – of audiophile gear.

But I’ve started doing all the audiophile stuff. I sit in the sweet spot between the speakers and listen to records, marvelling at the recording quality, the performance, the presence and the space in the sound. All that sort of thing. And of course, mp3s don’t really cut it on that front.


Gluing my records


I bumped into my friend Roy at the Soil & “Pimp” Sessions gig at the Hare and Hounds last week. He’s a DJ and knows a thing or two about records.

We were talking about the vinyl I picked up in Colombia when I was there a couple of months back. He was appropriately jealous, of course, and I told him he’d get to hear them when I DJ at Shambala Festival next month.

They’re pretty old records, and Roy asked if I’d given any thought to deep-cleaning them. He’d heard of a method that involved coating the records with PVA glue, waiting for it to dry, then peeling it off. Here’s a link.

Anyway, I thought I’d give it a try.