Buried Treasure at The Sound Garden in Baltimore

Posted in Buried Treasure on July 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

sound garden haul

Try to stay with me on this one. Last weekend was Maryland Doom Fest 2016. I drove down from Massachusetts last Friday to Frederick, MD, for it with The Patient Mrs., dropping her off first at family friends’ outside of Baltimore. We had her car, which, on Sunday, died in the parking spot outside the venue and had to be towed to a garage to receive a new alternator. Okay. That’s step one.

Step two: I had to get back to Massachusetts on Monday to start my new job on Tuesday. As her car would not be ready in time, The Patient Mrs. rented another vehicle and came and picked me up in Frederick and north we went. The repair would end up costing $900, but I made it to work on Tuesday and all went well, so it could’ve been much worse. The snag was that her car remained in that garage in Frederick and the rental would also need to be returned to Maryland, so looming all week was this impending journey back down I-95/I-78 to swap out cars again.

My job is in Rhode Island and gets out early on Fridays. 1PM. After swinging through Frederick to get her car and dropping off the rental, we got to where we were staying Friday night at 11PM. Between that, the fact that I’d survived my first week at a new job while still feeling positive about the experience, and the likewise impending trip back north, there was basically zero fucking chance I wasn’t going to The Sound Garden in Baltimore to do some serious-business record shopping before we hit the road.

So that was Saturday morning. My foot still screwed up, I hobbled toward the Psychedelic section (which had moved since last I was there) and started grabbing discs. Some new, some old, some in between, but The Sound Garden is arguably the best record store I’ve been to on the Eastern Seaboard — my heart will always hold a place for Vintage Vinyl in NJ, of course — so I knew I was going to find plenty.

I don’t record shop the way I used to. It used to be constant, a snag-this-snag-that process to put CDs on the shelf. I’m a little less likely to find stuff now, buy more online and direct from bands, and so on, but though I couldn’t really walk in the early part of the day, I still very much enjoyed digging through the rows to see what there was that needed to get bought. Turned out I did fine:

Maria Bamford, Ask Me About My New God!
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
Causa Sui, Return to Sky
Comet Control, Center of the Maze
Conan, Revengeance
Death, For all the World to See
Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
Flower Travellin’ Band, Satori
Graves at Sea, The Curse that is Graves at Sea
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Noeth ac Anoeth
The Meters, Look-Ka Py Py
Monolithe, Epsilon Aurigae
The Motherhood, I Feel so Free
The Peace, Black Power
The Pretty Things, S.F. Sorrow
Valley of the Sun, Volume Rock

Some of that was stuff I had to own on principle. How often do you run into a US-based store with El Paraiso Records distribution? Causa Sui, then, was a must. I was likewise surprised and thrilled to see Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Monolithe, so those were musts. The Death record (and documentary) was recently re-recommended to me from a trusted source, so I figured I’d grab that, and then stuff like Graves at Sea, the Earthless / Harsh Toke split, Comet Control, Valley of the Sun and Beastmaker were records I’d written about that I wanted physical copies of anyway. I’m about 80 percent sure I already have a copy of the latest Conan. but thought I’d get it while I was there, and if I wound up with a double, worse things have certainly happened.

From the aforementioned Psychedelic section, a couple treasures in Flower Travellin’ Band‘s Satori, which was also the first of the haul I put on, its hard-thudding krautrock-inspired proggy proto-metal enough to gloriously alienate a room, and The Pretty Things‘ concept album S.F. Sorrow, and The Motherhood‘s I Feel so Free — all ’70s-era outings. The Funk/Soul section yielded The Peace and The Meters, and Comedy/Spoken Word the Maria Bamford, which I picked up in no small part because her show on Netflix, Lady Dynamite, is so remarkably brilliant. If you haven’t yet watched it, do so immediately.

By the time I got through finding Monolithe, Graves at Sea and Beastmaker in the metal section to grabbing the Death record as I walked past it on my way to the register, I was feeling considerable discomfort at standing on my right foot, which was in the same supportive cast — I call it “das boot,” well aware that the actual German word means “boat” — I had on at the fest last weekend. That put something of a rush on the tail end of the shopping experience as I needed to get somewhere I could sit down, but while I probably could’ve spent a few more hours dicking around at The Sound Garden, I don’t at all feel like I missed anything except perhaps a t-shirt from the store, which I’ll grab next time, and for a trip that was made under less than ideal circumstances, I definitely felt as I walked out that I’d made the best of the time I had.

There are all kinds of record shop ratings out there, but if you happen to be in Fells Point or the greater region, The Sound Garden really is one of the best stores I’ve ever been to, and it continues to be a destination in my mind for when I’m around. It made the long drive back north that much easier to endure, which is saying something in itself.

The Sound Garden – Baltimore website

The Sound Garden on Twitter

The Sound Garden on Thee Facebooks

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Buried Treasure in a Garden of Sound

Posted in Buried Treasure on November 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Driving past the homogenized “warmth” of the brick retail chains that have appeared since I was last down on the outskirts of Baltimore’s Fell’s Point neighborhood, I couldn’t help but think of John Brenner from Revelation discussing the inner harbor in that interview that went up last week. These places with all the trappings of economic stimulus except any investment back into the community that hosts them the way feet host blisters. There for a painful while and then gone. Pop.

It was different once I actually got into Fell’s Point. Not that the neighborhood wasn’t gentrified from its working class harbor roots, but that at very least it was actual gentrification, independently owned businesses or at least smaller, regional chains and a most welcome onslaught of pubs, eateries, and other gastro-type decadences. Kooper’s Tavern, where The Patient Mrs. and I had lunch, had tables set up outside selling oysters and recycling the shells for use by — wait for it — other oysters. Seems nobody is immune to the economic ravages of our age. Even the oysters have to buy used.

Fitting that act of conservation would be prelude to a radical haul whose like — in what otherwise might be considered a regular ol’ record shop — I’ve not seen in some time. Sound Garden (no relation) was just down the street from the pub where we ate and several others, and it wasn’t my first time there by any stretch (seems impossible that it would’ve been over three years ago, but I guess that’s why old posts are dated), but I didn’t remember it being quite the trove it was this time around. Walking up the middle of the three aisles, I went past the metal and the midsection divide — I’d come back to the metal, no worries — something strange compelling me forward, and that’s when I saw it:

The Psychedelic section.

Oh yeah, that’s right. The monkey that lives in my head where my brain should be clicked on the dim bulb of his cavernous abode and for a moment I said a prayer to my pagan octopus god that I might win the $300 million Powerball and come back to Sound Garden to purchase every album in the Psychedelic section on principle alone. A mere celebration of the existence of such a thing. Portrait of the mouth, drooling.

What fun I had. Flipping through was like opening presents. I limited myself to two discs about which I knew absolutely nothing but what was written on the eloquent description labels — Truth‘s Truth from 1969 and EscombrosEscombros, from 1970. The former is a poppy, folksy thing, not bad but not quite as bizarre as I was hoping based on the cover, and Escombros is a heavier Chilean obscurity that opens with a cover of Hendrix‘s “Stone Free,” so I guessed I was pretty safe in grabbing it. Turns out I was right about that. The vocals sounded mixed too high on my office speakers when I listened, but I expect on a different system, it might not be an issue at all, and there were a couple gems there anyway. Wicked Lady‘s Psychotic Overkill was a welcome find as well, all buzzsaw-this and early-’70s narcodelia that.

I also picked up Goat‘s World Music based on the tarantula-sized hype surrounding. That hype is probably earned, and however problematic I might find European acts copping a feel on some Fela Kuti afrobeat fuzz, they’re hardly the first and they did it well enough. I wasn’t quite enchanted, but sometimes with albums like that I go into it determined not to like them and usually find I don’t. That wasn’t the case with Goat.

In the “I reviewed this and I’m annoyed at buying it” category, the newest ones from Golden Void (review here), Astra (review here) and Six Organs of Admittance (review here) were fodder enough for a grumble, even if Astra and was used. Six Organs was $15 new and the sleeve isn’t even a gatefold. Call me a privileged shit if you want — boo hoo you don’t get free stuff, etc. — but for the time and effort I put into even a shorter review, I don’t think a CD is too much to ask, especially when I know that I’m one of like three remaining motherfuckers who cares in the slightest. Apparently the music industry disagrees. Grumble grumble, man.

One might include the new Neurosis (review here) in that category as well — and the Grand Magus I didn’t even step to this time around — but the fact is on that one I was just being impatient and that a physical promo of Honor Found in Decay would show up sooner or later (it did, today). However, my wanting to hear it right that minute met with such logic on the field of diplomacy and the compromise reached was that I’d buy the digipak edition, because it’s limited and the promo would likely be the jewel case anyway. I never got the digi version of 2007’s Given to the Rising and there’s a little bit of me that still regrets it. That same part is very much enjoying listening to “My Heart for Deliverance” as he types this.

There were odds and ends as well. With Kalas on my brain after The Johnny Arzgarth Haul resulted in another promo, Used Metal paid dividends in the first full-artwork copy I’ve ever owned — and in case you were wondering why I care so much about physical media, that’s how long I remember shit like that — and over in Used Rock, the first Grinderman happened to be situated next to a special edition of 2009’s Grinderman 2, the unmitigated sleaze of which I friggin’ loved at the time, as well as Grails‘ cinematic 2012 outing, Deep Politics (review here).

I wound up with a used copy of Dungen‘s 2002 third album, Stadsvandringar, getting the band confused with Black Mountain, I think because they both used to have the same PR. Thanks a lot, Girlie Action Media circa 2005. I felt a little pathetic when I discovered my error, but I checked out the Dungen and it wasn’t bad, covering some of the same sunny psych folk territory that Barr did on their 2012 sophomore installment, Atlantic Ocean Blues (track stream here), and giving me a new context for not onlyBarr, but a slew of other acts as well. Could’ve been much worse.

Cap it off with a used copy of Lewis Black‘s The Carnegie Hall Performance from 2006 — a stellar two-disc show recorded in the depths of American hopelessness post-Katrina but for the bit about air traffic control — and when I brought it all to the counter, the dude asked me, “Are you local?” I said I wasn’t and he said, “Well, I’m going to give you a discount anyway.” It was much appreciated, regardless of the geography involved, and by the time I left Sound Garden, I was more pleased with the outcome I carried in a red plastic bag than I’ve been coming from a single record store in a long time. Probably since I visited Flat, Black and Circular in Lansing, Michigan, over the summer, and that’s saying something.

My hope is that it’s not another three years before I get back there — appropriately enough, Lewis Black has a whole section early into his show about time moving faster as you age, and he’s absolutely right — but whenever it is, Sound Garden is definitely on the must-hit list for next time I’m in Baltimore. If you want to look them up, their website is here.

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