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Intro to Record Clubs, Bargain Bins, and Record Washing

 

A surprise bargain-bin find

 

Earlier this month, I accompanied an art teacher friend of mine round the 2nd shops, looking for random trinkets to be used as subjects for his water colouring class. In one of these shops, I stumbled upon a veritable treasure trove of cool records! They were all priced roughly $2 to $3 (US), and after I checked them for possible defects or scratches, I decided to treat myself. I ended up buying 20+ essentially brand new records, many still in their original shrinkwrap, for about $50 US. Don’t you love stumbling upon things like that?

To be fair, they were absolutely filthy and I am in no way surprised that the person who priced them thought they weren’t worth much, but I am pretty experienced at visually evaluating the condition of second-hand records, even ones that are coated in filth, so I knew I had stumbled upon a great find. I took them home and began the long process of washing them, visually inspecting them again and then storing them in PVC inner sleeves, replacing the damaged generic inner sleeves that many of them came with. I am really pleased to report that, once cleaned, many of them appear to be unplayed!

Unfortunately, I haven’t quite finished listening to all of them yet. That’s a BIG chunk of time to try and put aside, HAHA!

Just for your information, here are the records that I found. I’ve only been able to listen to the first twelve so far. With the exception of the two Yazoo albums, I didn’t own any of these ones yet, so that’s why I made a point of listening to them first. Except for the Mick Jagger and the Kenny Rogers LPs, I already owned all the ones that I haven’t yet listened to:

  1. Face to FaceFace to Face (1984)
  2. The CarsThe Cars (1978)
  3. Scandal Feat Patty SmithWarrior (1984)
  4. The MotelsLittle Robbers (1983)
  5. JoBoxersLike Gangbusters (1983)
  6. Hall and OatsBest (1980)
  7. Chris DeBurghMan on the Line (1984)
  8. Steve Miller BandLive! (1983)
  9. YazooUpstairs at Eric’s (1982)
  10. YazooYou and Me Both (1983)
  11. The Moody Blues – The Present (1983)
  12. Cheap TrickIn Color (1977)
  13. Mick Jagger – She’s the Boss (1985)
  14. John Fogerty – Centerfield (1985)
  15. John CougarUh-Huh (1984)
  16. John CougarAmerican Fool (1982)
  17. Alan Poarsons Project Ammonia Avenue (1984)
  18. Alan Parsons ProjectThe Best of (1983)
  19. Dexy’s Midnight Runners Too-Rye-Ay (1982)
  20. Kenny RogersEyes That See in the Dark (1983)
  21. Fleetwood MacFleetwoood Mac (1975)
  22. Fleetwood MacRumours (1977)
  23. Duran DuranSeven and the Raged Tiger (1983)
  24. The PretendersLearning to Crawl (1984)

 

My poor record cleaning machine

 

Also rather unfortunate is the fact that my record cleaning machine has died; though it was unlikely due to sudden overuse. I admit that it does get seriously abused on occasion, especially when packages from some of my vinyl subscription services come in (see below)! I have brought it in to be repaired but who knows how long that will take.

My record cleaning machine is locally made here in Taiwan, by a vinyl enthusiast/engineer who individually hand crafts and assembles each one he sells. It has a motorized platter and a vacuum brush attached to a wet/dry vacuum, which is housed under the platter. The water (or cleaning fluid) gets sucked off the vinyl surface via a “tone arm” that is actually a soft brush at the end of a clear plastic tube, and the liquid goes into a small storage tank beneath it. There is a valve at the back to drain the fluid. There are also two safety cut-off switches; one which turns off the machine if it begins overheating, and one which disables the vacuum if the draining faucet is open. Overall, it’s a really nice and nice looking design.

The whole thing is housed in see-through acrylic panels and, frankly, it looks pretty retro cool. I am really happy with my machine with a single exception: the liquid does tend to build up a bit, and occasionally leaks from the bottom on the side where the vacuum is house; though to be honest this only happens when I am cleaning excessive amounts of albums in one go (and consequently there is a LOT of liquid going into the machine.. so it likely can’t drain properly fast enough). Black mould has also formed on the inside of the drainage-storage apparatus, which sounds worse than it is because this is actually to be expected in a climate like Taiwan’s, especially when you consider the inside of this container is dark, damp and airy. I wish I knew how to clean it out without damaging the machine, but I don’t. In the end, I think it was this buildup, more than any fault of my own usage, which caused the machine to begin to function sub-optimally, and to need cleaning/repairing.

 

The importance of cleaning all newly acquired records

 

I am of the strong belief that cleaning your records when you bring them home (yes, even new ones!) is important before you place needle to groove for the first time. For 2nd hand records, this is pretty obvious since there is likely a large accumulation of gunk in there, but even for new records, washing them can ensure a nice clear sound from the first spin.

When records are manufactured, a small vinyl “puck” is heated and squeezed between two metal “stampers”. One stamper contains the inverse of the grooves on side one, and the other plate contains side two. As the puck flattens between these stampers, a playable record is created.

The next part of the process involves removing the newly minted record from between the stampers. A chemical wash is used to ensure uniformity and to prevent damage to the playing surface. This is where washing your new records becomes important: these chemicals used to remove the records from the stampers never get washed off the vinyl. The record simply gets packed into a sleeve and shipped out to be sold.

This allows for a couple of small problems to arise.

The first is that, because the chemical bath used in the manufacturing process is never removed, it may create microscopic “bubbles” within the groove instead of simply uniformly evaporating. The second is that dust particles or other impurities that are present in the manufacturing warehouse, may settle in the grooves (and may even stick to the chemical “bubbles” if you’re really unlucky!). These bubbles and impurities would naturally interfere with the stylus as it glides through the groove, creating pops, crackle, or clicks during your first playback. These pops and clicks would then likely become permanent since the needle would then damage the groove as it is pushed off-center by the bubbles.

This, of course, doesn’t even take into consideration the shipping process. If you’ve ever bought records on-line you know that, unless they are really, really shipped carefully (record outside of the sleeve, for example) the inner sleeves (and even sometimes the JACKET!) can get seam splits caused by the friction of the record jiggling around during transport. I’ve had records arrive with 3 and 4 inch seam splits on the inner sleeve and great streaks of white paper fibers embedded in the grooves of first couple of tracks due to the rubbing, so I’ve seen the extreme. The other end of the spectrum is just as important to consider, though. Even if your new record arrives safely in your hot little hands without any seam splits, you can be certain that there has been a certain amount of rubbing/friction and that microfibers have fallen onto the grooves of your album. 

I remember going to a local store and buying a nice new sealed pressing of Cat Steven‘s “Tea for the Tillerman” a few years back and then being so disappointed when I got it home and played it because it had so many pops and clicks. I honestly thought that I’d ended up with a pad pressing, and there was nothing I could do about it since returns are not accepted in most stores. A few years later, after I had learned my lesson about washing vinyl, I remembered this album sitting forlornly on my shelf. I pulled it out, washed it, and then gave it a spin. The difference was like night and day! The cleaned album sounded absolutely spectacular.

And THAT’s why I always wash my brand new records when I get them.

 

Recent vinyl arrivals

 

At the insistence of my really good friend Ryan, I revisited Pulp’s A Different Class recently via my Spotify account. How did I never actually listen to this album before? It’s a great album that somehow either escaped my attention, or that I purposefully ignored when it came out because I was more of a music snob then than I am now, LOL!

Other exciting additions to my collection this month include:

  • Gary MooreCorridors of Power (1982)
  • Within TemptationThe Unforgiving (2011)
  • The MonkeesPisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (1967, Mono Reissue 2021)
  • Curtis HardingIf Words Were Flowers (2021)
  • LadyhawkeTime Flies (2021)
  • NirvanaNevermind (1991, 30th Anniversary edition 2021, single LP with bonus 7”)
  • The MissionCollected (2021)
  • You Said StrangeMourning Colors (2021)
  • Various Artists90s Dance Anthems (2021)

Damn. I really do have tastes that are all over the place… well… for every mood there is the right music to suit the moment… there’s always something I want to listen to. It’s best to be prepared! 🙂

I have a few more albums from Within Temptation on their way, as well as a few new albums I haven’t heard yet but that I am really excited about (You Said Strange Thousand Shadows Volume 1). Other interesting reissues (like Shakira‘s Laundry Service)… Essentially all my free time is eaten up before I even start having any free time! Can you relate?

Earlier today I got an email from the two record clubs I belong to (I have whittled it down to to two because {1} they’re not cheap and {2} There are only so many hours in a day to listen to new music on vinyl). One of them had been unable to ship to me since July because of the ongoing shipping crisis, so they have bundled everything together and sent it via FedEx… the other was waiting on a new release that got delayed, and they have now received it and so have shipped my package… 

 

Upcoming Graveface Records package

 

Graveface records is based in Savannah Georgia. I have been a member of their record club for nearly 10 years. They put out an eclectic mix of Indie Rock, Electronic, Goth, Indie Pop, Punk, and the occasional Emo. Their records are almost always fun to listen to and there are a lot of hidden gems among their catalogue. The record club guarantees you to get a copy of every single vinyl album that gets released by Graveface Records. The record club editions are almost always exclusive colour variants that, if it happens to be an album I don’t like (rarely happens) I can usually sell for enough money to cover the cost of my subscription. The only downside to the subscription these days is that the international membership no longer includes international shipping (which it used to).

  • Skeletal FamilyThe Singles Plus
  • Beachy HeadBeachy Head
  • Marshmallow Ghosts – Graveface Magazine + flexidisc
  • HooCentipede Wisdom
  • HooWe Shall Never Speak
  • Vandal MoonWild Insane

 

Upcoming Fuzz Club package

 

Fuzz Club records is a company based in the UK that has been around as a record label and concert/festival promoter since about 2012. They specialize in Psychedelic Rock, Indie Rock, Drone, Krautrock, Shoegaze, and the occasional Electronic album. You honestly never know what you’re gonna get. Sometimes it will be an album full of rocking funky bass with an edge of menace, or it might be hard rocking locked grooves. Sometimes it will remind you of Kraftwerk, or Joy Division, or something straight out of San Francisco circa 1967. I’ve been a member of their record club since it’s inception in 2018. They are one of my favourite indie labels, and naturally I stumbled upon them completely by accident.

I have quite a large collection of music form them and I am rarely disappointed. In fact, I have gone out of my way to seek out many non-Fuzz Club releases from a lot of the artists in their catalogue. Being independent artists, usually means that their music is released on many different independent labels. Sometimes these are notoriously hard to find, but it’s always fun!

Unlike Graveface Records, Fuzz Club record club membership only guarantees one record per month (and sometimes they release quite a few) but it does offer a discount to members and free shipping for anything you buy in their shop. Fuzz Club Record Club membership guarantees an exclusive colour variant every month (which sometimes sell for extravagant amounts of money, if it happens to be that rare album I don’t like). The best part of the Fuzz Club membership is that it includes international shipping, making the records really, really affordable.

  • The Underground YouthThe Falling
  • VeikSurrounding Structures
  • Cult Of Dom KellerThey Carried The Dead In A U.F.O.
  • New CandysVYVYD
  • Acid DadTake It From The Dead
  • The GlutsUngrateful Heart
  • Electric EyeHorizons
  • Sei StillEl Refugio
  • Alex MaasLevitation Session (Fuzz Club Edition)
  • Piatcions Heaven’s Sins
  • Heaven All Love Is Blue
  • The OscillationU.E.F
  • Rev Rev RevKykeon
  • The Oscillation / 10 000 RussosSplit Single No 9 10″
  • Sonic JesusDead Man 7″

Holy crap! I have a lot of vinyl coming in the next two weeks.

I have previously written about some of the artists I have discovered via Graveface and Fuzz Club (JuJu, Fawning, Vandal Moon) but some others that are definitely worth checking out include: (from Graveface) Casket Girls, Closeness, Kid Dakota, Monster Movie, and Tennis System (from Fuzz Club) Dreamweapon , Elephant Stone, Helicon, Nonn, The Oscillation, Sonic Jesus, Tau, Throw Down Bones, The Vacant Lots, Vuelveteloca, The Wands, and You Said Strange. A lot of these bands you’ve never heard of will likely make it to me “best of” year end playlist!

My biggest problem, besides finding the time to listen to all of these, is how to wash them without my record cleaner. The thought of doing it by hand is a bit daunting. Oh well. I’ll try to be patient.

Here is Graveface‘s official 2021 label sampler for your listening pleasure!

…and here is a personally curated Fuzz Club Spotify list to whet your appetite!

What do you think? Had you heard of Graveface Records or Fuzz Club Records before? Are you a fan? I’d love to hear from you!

Have I missed anything? Are there any songs you know that I should have included in our playlist? Is there any particular artist I’ve mentioned that you’d like to hear more about? Drop me a line in the comment section below! Remember to subscribe so that you don’t miss our next monthly (ish) post (We’ll never bother you more than once a month). PLUS! subscribers get a discount on any purchase made from us.

We have received no remuneration or compensation for anything we have reviewed in this article and the opinions expressed are genuine at the time of publication. We are not affiliated in any way with any of the products or services that may be mentioned in this article. Any suggestions or links are for your convenience only!

#FuzzClub #Graveface #IndieRock #Psychedelic #Krautrock #music #vinyl #vinylcollection #myvinylcollection #recordcollection #myrecordcollection #musicboxtw #Taiwan #Chiayi #台灣 #嘉義 #黑膠唱片 #音樂

Please forgive the wall of hashtags!

#JuJu #AmusementParksonFire #APoF #VandalMoon #CasketGirls #Closeness #Fawning #KidDakota #MonsterMovie #TennisSystem #Dreamweapon #ElephantStone #Helicon #MyInvisibleFriend #Nonn #TheOscillation #SonicJesus #Tau #ThrowDownBones #TheVacantLots #Vuelveteloca #TheWands #YouSaidStrange

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