Lost In Translation: A Boy’s Adventures In Records
Lost records. It’s a concept I’m very much smitten with.
It’s not so much discs misplaced; the early Primal Scream single lodged behind the refrigerator, that vinyl copy of Psychocandy that Steve borrowed back in 1998 and never returned (although these are included too).
No, I’m suggesting lost in a wider fashion. Something more abstract. Allegorical, even – an oft-worn trope in literary fiction when extrapolated to artistic endeavour in general. Think films unmade, books never published or rapidly out-of-print. Unfinished symphonies, The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, Jerry Lewis as a concentration camp clown – that’ll be a movie forever locked in a vault, viewable exclusively by lawyers.
This (allegedly) is a music blog, so I’ll attempt to keep to the remit. A few years ago I knew a guy who spent the majority of his time horizontal in his hipster London apartment, watching basketball on cable TV and smoking copious amounts of stuff you really shouldn’t be smoking.
Every few months however, he’d have to disengage from this slacker methodology and fly across the Atlantic to play trumpet in a band (I won’t name the guy concerned, or the hip if commercial, stoner-rock outfit he played with, although I guarantee you’ll be familiar with their work. Recording studios, headline tours – you know the drill…).
After one such jaunt he returned to the UK with a lost record; the band’s fourth, self-produced album, a recording taken straight from the mixing desk. And it sounded marvellous; ambiguous, sultry, infused with a sense of laid-back, melodic knowing… the record company hated it, of course, and parachuted in a producer who gave the album – once it was eventually released – a very different texture than that intended by the originators.
Obviously deciding that LGM was a character of dubious virtue, Mr Trumpet whisked the disc from the stereo the instant the final track spun out, and then hid it, just in case he’d get the blame for bootlegs appearing on Camden market stalls (and I would have got away with it too, if it weren’t for you pesky kids).
To be honest, I only wanted a copy for strictly personal use – essentially because of its lost record nature; attraction based in part upon an audio Pepping Tom model – the fact that is wasn’t intended for public consumption – but also because allure comes in many different flavours, and sometimes the more obtuse ones deliver that fix in a range of different colours.
(Postscript: a couple of years ago the band got to release their version of this particular album – and it sounded nowhere near as enticing as it had when I first surreptitiously listened to it; maybe something was missed in translation as lost record became found. Or perhaps fumes from a dubious source weren’t inhaled the second time around).
Lost records. There’s a human element to all of this. Tracks forgotten by the hive mind and left to prowl at the periphery of obscurity, or set aside by shared recollection, by individual immediacy, a record gathering dust on the shelves – be it in your manor, or somebody else’s. We live in an age of artistic ubiquity, where music has the capacity to go viral at any juncture. Which is why I’d argue that amongst this universal vocabulary, there’s a perverse beauty to lost records. Items with a story to tell, like smudged newsprint.
Below the words, ‘Point Hope’ by Intastella. Not a lost record per se, but qualification can’t be far off. Think: mid-nineties indie disco (Saturday nights at the Tufnell Park Dome springs to mind). Probably early in the evening, the simian shadow at the decks plays a St Etienne track which segues into this – a St Etienne from Manchester, not London, attired in Doc Martens.
Only nobody gets up to dance, and the compulsion to play ‘Fool’s Gold’ or ‘Elephant Stone’ grows stronger and stronger until… well, you know how the rest of evening goes.
And as for this particular track? Like many an audio rediscovery, and no doubt these self indulgent words, think: lost in translation.
Intastella / Point Hope