Entire volumes could be written about the output of the label Vinyl on Demand. The roughly 150 re-releases of obscure, long-forgotten material—mostly located somewhere between experimental, minimal, and early-80s noise—each has its own story. Here a mere two of our favorites briefly are introduced.
Many of the albums reissued by Vinyl on Demand were originally the fruit of a flourishing 1980s cassette tape scene whose members preferred to control and oversee every step of the production and distribution process themselves—why sign to a major label when there’s an alternative, homemade approach? This often meant very limited editions, which accounts for the now-exorbitant prices of the original cassettes.
Frank Maier, an obsessive collector from Friedrichshafen, near Lake Constance, recognized this problem and took matters into his own hands in 2003 with his label Vinyl on Demand, through which he filters a both impulsively and meticulously selected output of music that until now has only been available to a very small audience. Maier has released reissues, collector’s editions, t-shirts, posters, and much more on an almost monthly basis since the early days of his label. It’s easy to lose an overview, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to single out two essential pearls of the catalog.
The Arms of Someone New’s Tape Recordings 1983 – 1985 focuses primarily on three releases: Significant Others, Occam’s Razor, and Notes From Underground, all of which wonderfully demonstrate the band’s magnetic tendency towards experimentation. The collection of short sound sketches hovers between post-punk and sparse dream pop. The three releases sketch a two-year trajectory over the course of which band members Mel Eberle and Steve Jones developed and sharpened an idiosyncratic style.
The compositions by Don Slepian, an oddball computer programmer from Hawaii, take a very different turn. In 1972, Slepian explored the so-called Arpanet, a predecessor of today’s internet, and reflected—via sound—what he discovered there. His first tape, Electronic Music From The Rainbow Island, is considered by insiders’ circles to be a milestone of the free New Age scene. As such, like many other Slepian releases, it’s long since out of print, but Vinyl on Demand’s Tape Recordings 1971-1982 delivers the remedy. The compilation includes some of Slepian’s boldest compositions, in which baroque synthesizer melodies meet algorithmic bass funk to form intricate cosmic fractals. Also not to miss is the accompanying breathtaking gallery on the label’s website.
These and many more releases are available through Vinyl on Demand—online and IRL.
Text: Marc Jauss
Issued in Zweikommasieben #15