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VIP9 Vinyl in print from Feedbands “2” by the Unknown Relatives

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Publisher’s note: I received this article from Phillip approximately 18 hours ago, with a request to publish as soon as possible, as the LP is “almost out of print.”  Readers, take note.

The Concept 

“Confound it, that’s the most unheard of thing I ever heard of!”

–King Leonardo

Certainly some of you have heard of the new subscription LP service called Feedbands, where new music from (presumably) up-and-coming bands will be pressed on vinyl and regularly sent out to subscribers.  Unlike the “good old days” of Columbia House, we aren’t dealing with greatest hits compilations, MOR, Elvis, The Beatles, The Rutles or Bieber.  It’s new music, pressed on vinyl, and you buy it sight unseen, sound unheard.  While many people are afraid of the unknown, I am exhilarated by the possibility of hearing something astounding.  That means I’ve rarely been exhilarated by audiophile “music”.

The idea of the Feedbands project is to find interesting music, press it on vinyl, and mail it out to subscribers. “What if a company could find smashing bands and press their unreleased records? What if a company could pay their artists while letting them keep all the rights to their music?  Enter in Feedbands.  We discover exceptional artists, we pay to have their latest unreleased album released on vinyl, and then we ship their album to you each month. Feedbands delivers the best new vinyl to your door.  $19.95 a month + S&H.  Always 180-gram records.  Always first pressing.  Don’t like a record, don’t pay for it.  Your subscription helps feed bands.  Vinyl records are a lossless analog format which offers the absolute best listening experience. MP3s, by comparison, contain only 15% of the original sound information. If you want to hear music exactly the way the band sounded when they recorded, vinyl is the only option.

Sounds like a good idea, and one that any vinyl mastering and pressing plant could make work.  It takes the big labels out of the mix, which is a good thing.  The musicians aren’t saddled with unrealistic expectations.  Their music and sound isn’t limited by any preconceptions, weather audiophile or pop.

This is what Feedbands has to say about Unknown Relatives: “This Month’s Band formed in Austin in a haze of David Bowie and cheap beer before up and selling their furniture, buying a van, and hitting the road for two back-to-back nationwide tours.  Their second album is rife with upbeat rhythms, grungy guitar riffs, ethereal vocals, and just the right amount of distortion, making for perfect summertime-coastal-road trip-montage music.  It’s the psychedelic surf rock of the Haight in the 60s meets the visceral grit of your teenage years spent lying on the bedroom floor listening to Weezer.”

The Music 

“There are unknown forces in nature; when we give ourselves wholly to her, without reserve, she lends them to us; she shows us these forms, which our watching eyes do not see, which our intelligence does not understand or suspect.”

–Auguste Rodin

Though I didn’t hear any obvious Bowie references, I don’t have every Bowie album.  And I don’t have anything from Weezer.  On the other hand, I did immediately hear a bit of surf, a dose of Echo & the Bunnymen ambience (find “Lips Like Sugar”), a bit of punk, maybe some Flaming Lips, perhaps Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti (especially Before Today).  Some song structures remind me of the Ramones.  The Vaccines?  A little Cure?  All acts are influenced by something.  There’s no such thing as a completely original musical act.  That’s not to say the Unknown Relatives are derivative.  They aren’t.  The music is interesting and fresh, with a style that is unique to them, and will continue to develop unique qualities with time.

The production qualities are “lo-fi” in the best traditions of the golden age of AM pop music, of the ‘60s and the ‘80s.  It’s not lacking in bass or treble, or detail, but it is drenched in reverb, something I enjoy.  The space the music inhabits is huge.  The huge space and reverb brought back memories of college; I won’t elaborate.  It is good to be reminded of good times.

The tunes are short with simple structures.  There is nothing pretentious, self-serving, self-righteous, self-indulgent or self-conscious.  It’s classical straight ahead rock-n-roll.  The guys in the band sound like they are enjoying themselves and probably have plenty of beer and sex, if they wanted it.  I miss college.  (A-ha! -Pub.)

The Pressing and Sound 

The low-fi approach is echoed in the primitive album graphics, which are deceptively simple.  Just go to your kitchen and try to duplicate it.  The clear vinyl pressing is 20 grams lighter than advertised, though I find 140 and 160 gram pressings just as viable, depending on the music.  I signed on late, and there is the distinct possibility that the pressing plant operators cheated.  As vinyl demand has increased, I’ve seen more and more problems with quality control, and from most pressing plants.  I haven’t seen anything bad from Speakers Corner, I must add.

There were some tics on the first tracks on both sides, and it sounded like they pulled the record from the press a little soon.  After that, the sound was mostly good.  While the music is heavily reverberant, there is mild compression.  It’s not “loudness wars” compressed, but I’d love to hear a little more dynamic contrast.  The tonal balance is good.

For Some… 

While this music isn’t for everyone, especially readers of Dagogo, there will be a few of you that have seen and heard just about everything, and need something interesting to break the monotony of the day.  I feel you.  I grew up in a musical family, got a music degree, collected records, worked on and reviewed equipment, etc., etc…  In recent years, it has been hard to find the motivation to turn the system on.  At times, I sat inside a room with 7,000 records and thought “there’s nothing worth listening to”.  That’s a stupid thought, as there are records there I haven’t even opened, plus many that are forgotten, and many that have only been casually observed.  Still, the newness of this music and the idea of the project are exciting for someone who is suffering from musical burnout.  Like a junkie changes drugs, I need a change of music.  Everything here is at least good.  The music is interesting and beckons for repeated listening.  The sound is good enough that I didn’t suffer fatigue.  Other than a few tics on the outside tracks, the pressing was good.  What is most exciting is that I have no idea what will show up next time, and that’s why a I recommend Feedbands to the hardcore record collector and casual audiophile.

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3 Responses to VIP9 Vinyl in print from Feedbands “2” by the Unknown Relatives

  1. Bob Dalrymple says:

    I just received the Feedbands copy of the Unknown Relatives LP. Like you I’ve worked in record stores and collected vinyl for over 45 years. I agree the pressing was a bit light (my copy was red) but didn’t experience the surface noise at the beginning of the first tracks. I also agree with your description of the music. Looking forward to other releases from Feedbands – very interesting concept and a boon for we vinyl junkies looking for a monthly fix of new music.

  2. Oliver says:

    Love the first record I got from feedbands. Such great service. Vinyl is receiving the support it deserves for being the best sound around. Keep em coming.

  3. Ian says:

    Really glad that there’s some support inherent in both sites such as this and from true audiophiles… There seems to be a lot of apprehensiveness to the blind-approach to Feedbands, but part of the excitement in the joy-of-discovery process is serendipity–coming across something that you’ve never heard of before, that virtually no one else you know likely has, either–and there is great craftsmanship and dedication in the company’s work, both to bands and to their customers. (Really, I don’t have anything to do with FB, like Phillip, I just received my first album this week and wanted to share my ‘success story.’)

    I agree with most of Phillip’s assessment of the quality of the press, which was really the only concern I had going in (really, there’s no risk, no commitment: #1-they let you return a record if you don’t like it / #2-you can cancel your membership at any point)–would the company be able to deliver high-quality vinyl to a very finicky cross-section of people? I also really adored this recording’s lo-fi, big space feel, though I also believe that it catered particularly well to the Unknown Relatives’ sound in general and hope that FB doesn’t make each master like this across-the-board just to be ‘precious.’ Also, to be fair, like Bob mentioned, I had no audio issues (surface noise) with any track, so I wanted to point out that not all records are exactly the same to the uninitiated…

    So far, pretty great. The curative approach is an ingenious angle for audiophiles and the service really is excellent. (*Though bizarre, the download card that you plant and watch grow into a wildflower is just one inspired example of attention-to-tiny details that shows Feedbands is something more than a company turning out product-for-profit. They are genuinely passionate about this endeavor–it’s evident in virtually everything they do. I could have done without the just-short-of-bonkers “story of how the record was made”–while some might find that interesting, it was utterly diminished by the fact that it was ‘told’ from the POV of a ‘baby record’ (!)…)

    One other tiny quibble–don’t know if it bothers anyone else but it’s worth mentioning: the generic labeling for sides A and B of the record should really be improved to meet the standards of the rest of the presentation. It’s not just an eyesore, it lacks the professionalism and perfectionism that is a through-line in pretty much every other aspect of the whole experience.

    So, really, I guess it’s up to a casual or more aggressive listener if they want to take the ‘blind plunge’ on a new band. I think that is part of the spirit of vinyl as-a-whole–from the adventurous nature of picking through racks and racks of vintage records for a ‘find’ to the passion fostered by newfound lovers of the medium, in great forums precisely like this.

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