Monday, December 6, 2010

Tapes 'n' Tapes

Originally Appears in Issue 5

As the era of downloading only continues to advance, Niamh King looks at how one Brooklyn Record label takes a stand in the name of nostalgia.

Remember the days of hearing a song on the radio, but not knowing what it was? Loving it so much, but never being able to find it again? The excitement you felt when you did hear it again, like meeting up with a friend you hadn’t seen in years. Wanting to share that song with every single person on the planet, because the three minutes spent listening to it were three minutes of sheer perfection. Today when you hear a song you like, you note the lyrics, go home, search, download and, after a few days, can’t bear to listen to the song one more time, never mind share it with anyone. Perfectly manufactured recordings of new “it” artists are passed from person to person in minutes. Within the space of a week they’ve exploded, become part of the zeitgeist, filtered out and eventually are strictly verboten, done, kaput.

This level of instant gratification represents everything that is both right and wrong with the music industry today. More new artists are getting noticed than ever before. But the wide availability of EPs and the readiness at which they are obtainable has destroyed the romance, the indescribable messiness that a love of music used to mean.

Jeremy Earl is the man behind the retro, Brooklyn based, Woodsist Records, a label focused on the distribution of artists recorded on vinyls and cassettes (or in the case of sister label; Fuck It Tapes, exclusively cassettes). To term the label ‘grassroots’ would truly not do it justice. Beginning with just one act (Earls’ own band Woods) Woodsist has grown, acquiring new and eclectic artists as it goes. The home grown feel is only enhanced, as Earl says there are no contracts, only “friendly handshake deals,”.

The sound of a Woodsist record, or alternatively a Woodsist live show, is that of the indistinct fuzziness of mix tapes and nostalgia. Almost like recording a song off the radio, because that was the only way you were going to get your hands on it. Each artist signed to this unique label has the feel of being handpicked and deliberated over. In reality Earls says he signs “whatever bands I’m digging,” at the time. Together artists such as Real Estate, Psychedelic Horseshit and, of course, Woods, gives the label an undeniably diverse sound, ranging from noise pop, to garage rock, to lo-fi and punk.

The modus operandi of Woodsist is, indisputably, a genuine love of music, of any genre. The retro vibe of vinyls and cassettes isn’t about hitting the Hipster trend at its peak, but about genuinely trying to give the world great music in any way that is possible for those involved, the music that people love to hear and love to play, without it being contrived.

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