The Drag City Newsletter, July 20, 2011

posted July 20th, 2011


So what have you been up to lately, nothing? That’s cool…well as for us, lately we’ve noticed people looking at us funny. Like they’re sort of expecting something. Like they’re saying, go ahead, Drag City – act the fool! Say something stupid and then offer us a record. Yeah, put out another bunch of records while you’re at it. Churn them out of your military-industrial cervix, why don’t you? Like we’re some kind of predictable force in this world. It rankles, it does! … Anyone who thinks that we’re some sort of creature of habit is either paranoid or stupid or (duh) both, and they definitely need to stop being so crazy and clean up their own backyard while they’re at it!

So, who wants to hear about our totally mcexcellent bunch of new releasez ? You’ve never heard anything like them, promise! We’ve got half a dozen new titles of all sizes that are absolutely for everyone, except “everyone” is too dumb to know to buy the shit! But not you, ho-ho! You’re the one that we love. So get your head out of whatever ass that is you’ve got it lodged in and listen up.

Who says we’re talking the same old shit here anyway?


Industry secret, kids: there’s a designated release day for new records every week, pretty much. Come rain or shine, that day is Tuesday in America. Over in the UK and Europe, it’s Monday. FYI, huh? I suppose your next question will reflect your swiftly-increasing grasp of the complexity of our existence: “Why then, Drag City, are you releasing records on Tuesday? If you’re so punk rock or whatever? Kicking against the cocks and shit, right? So what’s up, Drag City?”

People, people! You’re right; there’s not a system that’s been built that isn’t worth subverting. And when the time is right, we’ll be there. On a Friday. Or a Sunday. Or a day that doesn’t have a name yet, how about that? Just hang close, we’ve got a couple of plans for you that are out of this world (not to mention the calendar)! And once we can bring them down to earth (or reasonably near), you’ll hear about it. Little bastards… you know, back in the day, we’d release a record whenever it came in the door! But we owe it more to everyone including YOU to regulate this process so that nothing gets lost in the shuffle – like a new Jim O’Rourke something-or-other or a Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy keychain that is also an EP, or WHATEVER. Or anything really – you deserve a fair crack at all of this stuff, no matter how insane it is. Or because of how insane it is, right?

Yeah, Drag City: 21 years of batshit logic. And still going strong, kids!


Dateline: Drag City record release day, July 2011 (that’s Tuesday the 19th to you and me, my fellow Americans). Its midnight in what’s left of the record industry this year – or if you’d like a more organic metaphor, how’s about low tide? That’s July for you in a nutshell. But do you think that matters to us? Hah! Only kind of. Plus one. For this insidious type of generally consumer-proof month, we’ve carefully assembled a set of releases designed to counter-intuitive your recalcitrant asses into doing that what you’re demographically supposed to not do: buy them. Like check this out, closet potatoes: Singer is back, and they’re more navally-oriented than ever. If you want a sweet soul soundtrack to the non-linearity of your own inversion, look no further than Mindreading.

This follow-up album to 2008’s Unhistories finds the Chicago-ish once-quartet now a trio, their buzzing edge sublimated in favor of the synthetic analog heart that burns within. Guitars are on the far horizon, mostly: synths provide pulses, drums the beat. The voices of Robert A.A. Lowe, Ben Vida and Adam Vida slide in and out of falsetto (whispered: just like all the voices in your head!) finding melodies and disposing of them with a stream-of-consciousness impassivity to the passing of thoughts and…emotions? Such shells are a thing of the past to this new Singer of ours. Sure, there’s still some musical thrashing about that one can only assume has something to do with passion and preferences, but beyond that, this is one impressionistic ride.

Also new on Drag City this month is a record that isn’t new at all! Its 35 years old! And that’s nothing new for us either! We’re always putting out 35 year old records these days, it seems. But there’s something about this Carol Kleyn album that we’re talking about here that has such a sweet, fresh feeling about it. Not new – and yet, new. Certainly to a lot of listeners anyway. If you haven’t heard the story, pull up your cushions, because it’s a fun tale. Because who doesn’t like to hear about hippies? Yes, Carol was a west-coast flower child in the days of Vietnam, when protests tore through the campuses of America and the campus of her southern California college. Carol had met a young man named Bobby Brown, a visionary type who acted as something of a mentor to her, giving her a harp and challenging her to write her own songs. Throughout the early 70s, Carol and Bobby played their music everywhere they could, from street corner to coffee house to any kind of opening gigs they could score (Bobby opened for Fleetwood Mac, Carol for Greg Allman). Carol was Bobby’s sound man, helping him with the construction and complexities of the “universal one man orchestra.” While playing at flea markets, swap meets and annual Renaissance Faires, Carol’s songs began to come. Despite close calls with some of the superstar singers of the day, no deal for a record ever emerged – and Carol put her record out herself, in 1976, selling it everywhere she played. That’s this record! Love Has Made Me Stronger is a still-fresh expression of hope and optimism from those ever-more-distant times, giving perspective to our view of the cosmically conscious kids from that era. Now available in a deluxe LP reproduction and the first-ever CD version of the album, Love Has Made Me Stronger is here to soothe and inspire as it always was.

Also in July is another record from the past that recalls another innocent era (compared to the hell of confusion that is today) miles removed from the world of the love generation – a little 7” single called “Fist Fight.” The band, Crisis of Conformity, may not be remembered as one of the greats of the hardcore punk era, but we like them a lot. They’ve just got two sides, and Drag City has ‘em both. Gee, who’d have guessed that we’d be getting old and grey and nostalgic for this era – but really, the thing we’re nostalgic for is the pure, unadulterated rage and the belief that we can take down the man if we only scream loud enough. Fighting the government was never so much fun! Get this record and let the good times roll – punk out with Crisis of Conformity!

Last on the Drag City docket for July but hardly what you could call least is a one-sided 12” record called “What We Have Known” from none other than Joanna Newsom. This is a song that came out on the back end of the “Sprout and the Bean” CD5 single in 2004 – but that single went out of print years ago and only recently was restored as a downloadable item. This here is something a little nicer – the six minute-plus song spread out over the grooves of a 12” record and on the flip, an elaborate etching that expresses Joanna without any music at all! Song + etching on the vinyl are placed inside a beautifully austere Becca Mann jacket design and bingo! A really sweet keepsake for Joanna fans and friends alike. This is a record that we’re only selling directly to stores and directly to customers through the website here – so make a direct contact before all the copies of “What We Have Known” become unknown again. Or exclusively digital – whichever comes first.

Also alive in July are two new CD releases from Streamline. First comes Plastic Palace People, Vol 2, from Jim O’Rourke & Christoph Heemann. You know how sequels are usually better than the original? Yes. This is one of those too. Jim and Christoph’s 90s adventures are remixed into an increasingly exciting brew for this second go-round, and based on this, we’re checking on the ETA of Vol 3! Then there’s an ever-exciting Streamline debut: Please Stop Loving Me from Nicholas Szczepanik. Nicholas is a young man whose goal is to expand the world, one massive piece of musical space at a time. Previous titles such as The Chiasmus and Dear Dad have explored his sonic journeys with great effect and now Please Stop Loving Me continues on with one of the brightest drone pieces we’ve ever heard – 47 minutes of illumination and escalation. Please start loving both of these discs, they’re awesome.


Remember the first time you fell in love? Remember falling out again? Pardon us for juxtaposing these two moments of extreme feeling, but if we’re going to talk about Starry Mind, the new P.G. Six album, we need to talk in this fashion – about two-way streets and doors that open both ways. And we also need to talk about the first time you fell in love with P.G. Six! It was back in the old days that aren’t really that old (ten years ago is nothing). You heard Parlor Tricks and Porch Favorites and you were like, that’s it man! This is what I’m listening to all summer long. Yeah, that’s how you were then. Dumb. Trying to predict the future. Programming a life you hadn’t yet lived. The one right thing was the P.G. album. You’d liked the messy eclectic psychedelia of Tower Recordings and now it was going to a whole other level. And thus began the tale of you and P.G. Six. The records came out slowly, sparingly – and as you and your life changed, the new music came to you in a changed form. Was it you or the music? A little of both, the truth be known – and that’s life! So when Slightly Sorry dropped in the mid-winter of 2007, you were years into the thing, and the evolution of the sound, the way it wasn’t just like an exploded organic music box, but something a bit more streamlined, it was compelling. There was transition, it wasn’t all there yet, you were grateful for what it was. And like the country folks of old, you sat back to wait for the next phase. Time would take care of the rest. And time sure did. It’s over four years later, homey! But here comes P.G. Six – and where once one man stood supreme, now we’ve got a quartet, shoulder-to-shoulder, drums-a-pounding, axes swinging and voices still quietly intoning themselves in the great wide open. P.G. is a band, I tell you what. They’ve taken the wild folk wanderings of Parlor Tricks… and The Well of Memory and shoot, even The Sherman Box Series CD and Slightly Sorry, and through the alchemy of rock, they’ve worked it into a concentrated yet fibrous format. Folk-rock with the accent on the rock. The guitars play with the same impassive pathology that all the old masters displayed, twining together in merciless rhythm and the rhythm locks underneath them. This is P.G.'s most modern record – right? It’s his newest. But it’s also his band-est and it seems to look more forward, integrating all influences into a compact and driving whole. Yessir, Starry Mind is something to look forward to – even after you’ve heard it.


Some people are lucky, and they swim around in Olympic-size pools full of their money, Scrooge McDuck/Richie Rich-style. This was a favorite pastime of McDuck’s sleuthing nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie and the poor little rich boy’s dear friends Freckles and Pee Wee. But we don’t have access to that kind of luxury. However, our music-rich friends and extended family do have pools, stocked with tapes and reels and spools and even a little stool now and then. On a good day, there are good old-fashioned reels in there, and not hard-edged cassettes, DATs, VHS tapes and so forth – that shit don’t swim so well. But it’s better than diving into a pool full of dimes. Though I recall we signed Magik Markers after jumping into a blue jean pool of CD-Rs, and we’ve never looked back. We like our life! And that’s why we’re so excited to tell you about Galactic Zoo Disk’s recent vault-diving expedition over at The George-Edwards Group’s place. The George-Edwards Group, if you recall, was a 60s-70s Detroit-descended basement duo who finally got their due on the Drag City/GZD release 38:38. This album officially issued a record they’d pressed in a number of 200 or so back in 1977 in a vain attempt to get a fat Hollywood contract. The only problem was, their chillingly wistful Midwestern sonics had no place on any major label of the day. With no other takers on the horizon, Ray George and Edward Balian turned their attention away from getting signed and went back to the basement, where more tracks were recorded with no endgame in mind. But thank Jove they did it! Because now we have a follow-up album to 38:38, continuing the dreamy George-Edwards sound with the addition of a jagged rock bite. Archives is the next step – and since 38:38 is OOP on vinyl (but still around in pristine mp3 and FLAC format), your best choice come August 23 is to sign up for a copy of The George-Edwards Group Archives.


Sure, we do a lot of reissues these days. It’s a gas doing records that barely came out, almost didn’t come our and/or came out on groovy labels like Elektra once upon a time. It’s a whole different kind of fun when the record we’re reissuing is one of our own! In this case, we’re reissuing a reissue we did back in 1998 of a record first put out by Thermidor in 1983. That’s right, the Nig-Heist album! The first time we put this out, it was fifteen years old and it seemed a little out of time and place. That was no surprise; this is some punk rock that felt a little out of place in 1983! Blatant displays of sexism, misogyny, racism and general anarchy endeared Nig-Heist to a precious few in their heyday, and this proved to be true again in 1998. We came prepared, issuing a vinyl edition and CD counterpart that included a live disc in limited numbers – and then we had to live with the desolation of not having any Nig-Heist records to sell for years and years. So, we’re bringing it back. This time it’s vinyl only, because you pussies have proven you can’t be trusted even with a limited run of CDs. However, the vinyl comes augmented with all the additional Nig-Heist songs that didn’t originally appear on the LP and with the live disc thrown into the jacket for good measure (and good riddance)! What the world needs right now is the Nig-Heist record again – thrown right at its asshole, to dislodge the enormous stick that’s shoved up there! On August 23rd, you’ll get your chance, don’t blow it this time, champ.


The Sic Alps story just grew another foot. That’s right, there’s a single on the horizon! I know, you’re thinking, “Drag City, a single is 7 inches! Now where’s my no-prize, dicks?” – but when you’ve played two sides, that’s fourteen inches – aka, a foot or so. Furthermore, “Breadhead” isn’t one of those one-song singles that has a pt. 1 and a pt. 2 – ho hum (actually, we’re pretending to be jaded about pt.1/pt.2 singles because of the narrative flow here, but would that be AWESOME?)! Why, “Breadhead” isn’t even one of those two-song singles with each side dedicated to a single ode. You know what, even? “Breadhead” doesn’t just stop with three songs, and still we’re calling it a single and not jacking the price up like we do on every other vinyl record these days (uh –TMI! Control Alt Delete! Fuck! –ed). Just so we retain a little touch of mystery, we’re not gonna say another word. The next revelation you have on this will hopefully be the day you encounter it in the vinyl-and-paper-sleeved flesh. “Breadhead,” singles is coming, kids – sic ‘em!


Down here in this ivory bunker we call home, we’re always glad for something that rocks our underworld cavern as befits a true subterranean lair. This is true and then some when speaking of the enigmatic Sun Araw. Listeners who’ve been hipped to these guys since way back in 2008 will protest that no it isn’t true man! Underground isn’t their sound – Sun Araw are surface dwellers trying to get highter! They’re reaching for the stars, the sun and the moon! They’re attuned to the tides, they’re oceanic in nature. Yes, OKAY, we get it. They’re of the earth in all its permutations, which means they have have a molten quality as well, doesn’t it? Additionally, their latest epic is a set of jams entitled Ancient Romans – and for the Romans to be ancient, this means that their proud civilianization is crumbled to dust and ruin and that their Republican asses are at least six feet under at this point. Of course, being the intrepid types that Sun Araw are to say the very least, they are musically “examining” the Romans both within and without their time. And so this leads to ripples and distortions in the images – which makes for four sides of deep rhythm and reverberation, all of which will cause you to sway and thrust and maybe even in the final analysis, groove. If this is the lone discovery that Sun Araw are laying on us with Ancient Romans, that would be cool. But there’s more here kids. Much more. Dig it - we’re deeply psyched to be distributing Sun Araw’s latest Ancient Romans , on Sun Ark records and compact discs.


You know what? There’s only so much we can do here at Club Drag City. We make records, CDs, DVDs, books and yeah, sometimes just a t-shirt. We make adverts to sell these things, and sometimes we make signs and wave them around or little video clips or what have you. Hell, we made a coin once when times were thin! But after that, it’s up to you. And you know what? When you die, you die alone! Even if you take all your Joanna Newsom albums and t-shirts and posters and press clippings (and that lock of hair – yyyyuuggh!) up to your death pyre, they’re not going with you – it’s just another sacrifice to the so-called gods (and they dig it). Face it, people: when you die, you die alone. And as your energy goes up to the life-force and you become one with the infinite, the contents of your mind and soul will edify All That Is, and in some way we can’t possibly understand or try to explain, help form a life that lives sometime in the future. What we’re trying to say is, don’t you think that the only real form of entertainment is live entertainment? It goes into your body through eyes, ears, nose, and who knows – hands? Feet? Wrists? And then it’s yours. Forever and ever. Even in the twisting coil of light that is the life-force. So for – well, not god’s right? For the sake of infinity and a better light in the future, don’t miss the shows! They’re the umbilical cord you’ll never cut, the connection to this time and place that only you have (when combined with all your other unique life experiences). So don’t miss Sir Richard Bishop’s opening gigs with Swans! Don’t miss Neil Hamburger’s extended runs in Edinburgh and London! Be sure to see Joanna Newsom in select EU locations! See Ty Segall’s extensive Goodbye Bread tour of the United States! See Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy in Canada and beyond! Catch Sic Alps slinking and slacking their way through Europe! Get thee to a Six Organs of Admittance US tour date – he doesn’t play that many of them these days! And don’t miss shows by David Grubbs, Sophia Knapp, Laetitia Sadier, Alasdair Roberts, Magik Markers, Baby Dee and Bill Callahan. And Chicago residents, don’t miss People Under the Stares, life-force damn it! This is your spirit-form’s chance to shine. The life you take in becomes your own.


Is that where we’re headed? Can’t tell. But wherever it is, we’ll see you there!

Rian Murphy

Drag City Inc.

July 19, 2011