Sometimes, you have to judge an album by its cover.
In the case of Identities by Infomatik, it’s an intricate jewel case wired with electronics.
I ran across a copy of the EP during a volunteer shift at Lifelong Thrift Store. The case was falling apart because the electronics had been dislodged. At first, I thought someone was crazy enough to ditch a copy of Tristan Perich’s 1-Bit Symphony, but a closer examination of the album credits ruled that out.
Then I had to wonder — what kind of band would go this amount of effort to craft such complex packaging?
I reached a dead end when I attempted to visit the band’s web site, which had long been surrendered to domain squatters. The Wayback Machine gives some hint of who this band was. A Google search on the band’s requires the use of quotations, otherwise Google will assume you want to search “informatik” instead of “infomatik”. (The best terms to use: “infomatik” band.)
In the mid-2000s, the band got a lot of good press in Seattle, eventually releasing a full-length album, Technologies. Obviously, Infomatik is no longer, the band’s members scattered to the wind and any evidence of their existence relegated to difficult web searches and a scant entry in Discogs.
It’s a pity.
Infomatik threw its hat into the ring of ’80s revivalism so prevalent at the time. The synths are grimy, the live beats as danceable as anything found in a machine, and the vocals a satisfying balance of deadpan and angst. They may descend from Killing Joke and Wire, but they understood what made those bands good.
I was so thoroughly impressed with Identify that I tracked down Technologies. All the tracks from Identify found their way to Technologies, but it’s none the worse for it.
In the mid-’00s, the infrastructure to get music online was in its infancy, so none of these releases are available through any of the usual digital services. As of this writing, a single copy each of Identify and Technologies are for sale on Discogs in the $30 range.
With my volunteer discount, I took Identify home for $0.83. I snagged the last remaining copy of Technologies on Amazon Marketplace for less than $2. The shipping cost more than the disc.
Unlike 2018’s Both Directions at Once, this album is not so much lost as unreleased. Coltrane recorded a soundtrack for the film Le chat dans le sac, but most of the sessions were not used in the final cut.
Sturgill Simpson, Sound and Fury, Sept. 27
Judging by the first single, I don’t think this album can be called “country.” The fact it will be accompanied by an anime film is about as far from country as anyone gets.
BBMAK, Powerstation, Oct. 11
Finally! A date! Albeit for the digital release. I don’t need an autographed copy of the CD, which is available for pre-order on the band’s site. I’m hoping a normal, vanilla pre-order will be available. Soon.
Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Oct. 18
I remember when I was really getting into Southeastern, I tried listening to Isbell’s previous albums. At the time, I didn’t really warm up to Sirens in the Ditch or the self-titled album with 400 Unit. I think enough time has passed since then to revisit what I passed over. Also arriving on the same date is Here We Rest. Both albums have been remixed and remastered.
Michael Kiwanuka, Kiwanuka, Oct. 27
I picked up Michael Kiwanuka’s debut, Home Again, from Goodwill for $1.99. I liked it enough to pick up Love & Hate at full price.
Loveless casts a big enough shadow over My Bloody Valentine’s work that it made me hesitant to explore the remainder of the band’s catalog, lest it fail to live up. That is not the case with Isn’t Anything, and I regret not ordering the remastered vinyl when I picked up Loveless a year ago.
Rick Springfield, Tao
A five-disc bargain box set of Rick Springfield albums got a discount on Amazon Prime Day, and I fully succumbed to FOMO when I bought it. I’ve always liked “Celebrate the Youth”, but it turns out Tao is Springfield’s most ambitious album of his 80s work. If you must own a second Springfield album — the first being Working Class Dog — Tao would be the one.
NUMBER GIRL, Kanden no Kioku
I hate to admit it, but … I’ve listened to the four studio albums of NUMBER GIRL enough times to want more variety from the live albums. Still, NUMBER GIRL is that rare band where their live albums are hotter than their studio work.
Janet Jackson, Control: The Remixes
I didn’t realize how much I prefer the remixed version of “Let’s Wait a While” till I heard it on this reissued compilation. I’m also reminded of how awesome “The Pleasure Principle” is.
Missy Elliott, Da Real World
I’ve read a number of lukewarm reviews for this album, and compared the work preceding and following it, I could see how it might seem not up-to-snuff. But that’s not saying much. It’s still a solid album and light years ahead of The Cookbook.
Re-Flex, The Politics of Dancing (Revised Expanded Edition)
I’m not sure how this album has been relegated to the vinyl dollar bin. It’s damn awesome and ripe for rediscovery.
Band of Susans, The Word and the Flesh
I remember reading about Band of Susans in Pulse! magazine and wondering if I would ever encounter any of their albums out in the wild. It took 30 years, but it happened.
My brother instilled in me proper care for the media I owned. He did so by being incredibly territorial about his.
In a household of six people, resources can get scarce. Space and privacy were two such resources.
Understandably, my brother was loathe to share anything with his younger siblings, especially given how poorly they treated them. In my case, I really tore my album covers up to shreds. You should the condition of The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack in my collection.
As such, he forbade anyone from handling his album. That meant the only time we got to hear them is when he played them.
He scooped me in acquiring Paul Simon’s Graceland and Sting’s … Nothing Like the Sun. He also possessed the only boombox with a phonograph connection, so he could dub his albums on cassette. Naturally, he would never let me borrow his boombox to make my own dubs of his albums.
My dad also owned a boombox, one without phonograph connections. But it did have RCA connections for line in and line out. I also got my hands on the owner’s manual of the family stereo, where I discovered similar RCA connections with different labels: tape in, tape out.
Did I finally find a loophole in my brother’s prohibition? The only way to find out was to get a spare RCA cord and connect the family stereo to the boombox.
On a day when my brother was out of the house, I put his copy of Graceland on the record player, connected my dad’s boombox to the receiver, put in a cassette tape and started to make a dub.
I played back the results and reveled in victory. If it hadn’t succeeded, the remaining alternative was to put the boombox next to the stereo speaker and hit record. This method did not produce quality sound.
On that same afternoon, I made a dub of … Nothing Like the Sun as well. My brother wasn’t pleased to learn I had succeeded in bootlegging his albums.
Learning how to connect pieces of audio equipment together would manifest into building a home recording studio roughly 15 years later. Along the way, there were mixed tapes to be created.
One new song out of a 52-track career retrospective? I think I’m fine.
The Replacements, Dead Man’s Pop, Sept. 27
Don’t Tell a Soul was the first album I bought from the Replacements, so I’m interested to hear this period of the band’s history expanded on this boxed set.
Cocco, Star Shank, Oct. 2
Three years is pretty much the average gap between Cocco albums these days, now that she’s diversified into fashion, films, stage acting and literature. So she’s right on schedule.
Explosions in the Sky, The Rescue, Aug. 16 Explosions in the Sky, How Strange Innocence, Aug. 16
Explosions in the Sky wrote and recorded The Rescue in two weeks, and it’s a surprisingly tight album given its self-imposed constraints. Previously available only at the band’s shows, it gets a vinyl reissue for the band’s 20th anniversary.
Pinback, Summer in Abaddon (15th Anniversary Edition), Sept. 27
During my days as a record store employee, I got the impression Pinback was a fairly mellow band. So when I found this album at the thrift store, I was taken aback by how boisterous it was.
NUMBER GIRL, Kanden no Kioku, Nov. 3 NUMBER GIRL, DESTRUCTION BABY, Nov. 3
Just as Universal was starting to neglect NUMBER GIRL’s albums, the band reunites and gives the label a reason to dig into the archives. Oh, thank goodness.
Midnight Oil, Breathe Tour 97, Nov. 29
I’m unclear about whether this album was actually released on Record Store Day 2019. It showed up on the list, only to disappear as the April date approached. But it’s up on Discogs, so … where was it available? And is this reissue vaporware?