It’s been a while…how’ve you been?

Has it really been this long since I’ve put anything up on here? Well, yes, I guess it has been. I hope this post finds you in good health and good spirits. Myself, I am knee-deep into putting the next MERCH record together. I am struggling with the guide tracks to figure out exactly what I want all the rhythm instruments to be doing along with the orchestra. “Wait, what was that?” you might be asking. “An orchestra?” Yes, an orchestra! This past November I raised enough scratch together on a crowd-sourcing campaign to head all the way out to Prague in the Czech Republic to record the songs for the next MERCH record with one of the finest orchestras in the world. They have worked with musical artists as diverse as Arcade Fire and Joanna Newsom to doing the scores for incredible films by visionary directors like Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. My orchestral arranger on this is a wonderful man named Richard Hieronymus and he took my ideas for where I wanted these songs to go and made it all better. The only problem is, now I have these incredible orchestral songs that my original rhythm-instrument parts just can’t stand up to. So here we are in the struggle and every time I think I get it, I feel like I better come up with something better. My deadline to have this all worked out is in the next month, then some rehearsals, then laying down the rest of the tracks. By Hell or high water, this album will be done in the summer and out into stores by the fall.

Wow, this actually happened!

Wow, this actually happened!

Of course, I couldn’t have put any of this together without all the support the vinyl of MERCH ‘This Betrayal Will Be Our End’ received over these last couple of years. I didn’t tour it in the normal sense (the songs hit a little too close for me to want to them live), but I did get to do a monologue about the record in various locations around the country and that was super great. At some point, I will get it together to do this as a tour of record stores. Someday.

Finally, Sassafras Records & Distro will be back up to its normal distribution strength and schedule in the fall of this year. At the moment, the focus is getting the last of this latest pressing of ‘This Betrayal Will Be Our End’ out of here. This will be the final pressing of ‘This Betrayal’ to have this particular cover–so if you see it around, be sure to snatch it up. When the initial pressing was being planned, I was commissioning an artist in Brooklyn to allow use of an artwork of hers for the cover, things didn’t align at the last minute, and we were forced to comb through Creative Commons images for a fast cover. We checked around to see if it had been used for a record cover by anyone else, no one found anything, and six months after ‘This Betrayal Will Be Our End’ is out and had built up some critical acclaim–it turns out Bill Evans had used the same cover image for an album called ‘Undercurrent.’ Damn.

This Betrayal Will Be Our End 12"

All future pressings of the album will have new artwork (still figuring out what that is going to be) and multiple-language liner notes and hype stickers for our friends overseas.

Well, I believe that is it for the moment. I will be good now about peaking my head in here every week. I’m sure there will be some high-faluting fancy site up in the next few too.

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MERCH ‘This Betrayal Will Be Our End’ Cassette

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Originally released in March of 2012, This Betrayal Will Be Our End is the magnum opus of San Francisco’s Merch – a genre-decimating musical project from the brain of Joe Medina. Created in the aftermath of a gut-wrenching breakup, this epic record is twelve songs of intense loss, interpreted through Medina’s unique brand of psychedelic, string-laden and fuzzed-out rock music.

On Black Friday, the cassette version of this album will be released to a select number of independent record stores. For this release, Merch has partnered with As Green As it Gets, a co-op that aims to facilitate the independent and sustainable sale and distribution of coffee by collectives of small farmers in Guatemala by empowering the farmers and providing them with the tools to earn a fair working wage. All profits from the sale of the cassettes will be donated to the families of those farmers.

Last December, Joe and his partner spent a month in Guatemala, where he would begin writing songs for the eventual follow-up to This Betrayal Will Be Our End. It was during this time that they were introduced to and became very fond of the kind, passionate local coffee farmers and their families. As such, it is with great excitement that Joe looks forward to the profits from this cassette release benefiting the farmers that showed him such warmth.

Stores and individuals can pick up the cassette for Black Friday here, along with the LP version.

If you represent an independent record store, you can email Sassafras Records & Distro at sassafrasrecs@gmail.com for details on purchasing the cassette and LP at wholesale cost.

 

September-October [Update added September 19th]

I go pretty far back with Ammo and Andy of ZOO. Back when they were in Little Teeth (whose release Child Bearing Man came out on Absolutely Kosher), we played several shows together–including their first time playing at Bottom Of The Hill in SF. When they splintered off and formed ZOO, I saw them perform as part of a lecture they gave at the San Francisco Public Library. I had heard from Andy that they were working on their first record as ZOO and I truly wasn’t sure how what they were doing would translate. Well, the day that the vinyl arrived here I must have listened to it half-a-dozen times–both sides! The only way I can thnk of to describe it is a spiritual cousin to Van Dyke Parks ‘Song Cycle’. I truly believe that anyone going into a record store that is looking for something a little let-of-center and that has a place in their heart for ‘Song Cycle’ (an album which Andy assures me he has never heard) will really be into this.

June 25th–July 2nd [Update added July 17th]

7/17/12 This will be the last item I add to Sassafras’s titles for the rest of the summer, but it’s a doozy. A ton of stores out there are already hip to San Francisco’s Future Twin due to their debut cassette that Sassafras distributed a few months back (which we still have some available of!), now the mighty Twin is back with a 7-inch double A-side of new-wavey riot-grrrly goodness ‘Lockits/Badseed’. Be sure to pick this up while its in stock. We have two versions: the super-sweet standard w/ a mini comic book and the even cooler deluxe copy with a limited-edition print.

Most recent full posting 7/2/12:

This week we add three new releases to our offerings. First up is two releases from the latest addition to Sassafras Records & Distro’s roster of labels—Father/Daughter Records! [wild applause]

Father/Daughter’s newest release is a slice of low-key and light confectionary goodness out of Portland called Pure Bathing Culture. PBC is comprised of members of Vetiver, so if your customers are fans of the mighty V they are bound to be into this (this also wades in the same part of the musical river as Beach House…by the way, have you picked up the Roman Ruins LP for your store yet? You know, by the drummer actually in Beach House? Just sayin’) Only after a handful of shows, they were picked by Willamette Week as the #2 Best Band Of Portland, so there is significant buzz around this band. This vinyl EP is very much in-line with a certain kind of sound I associate with the Pacific Northwest and it is done very well here.

Also available from Father/Daughter is a 7-inch that came out a little while ago and I have gotten my hands on the remaining copies. I’m just going to paste everything Pitchfork wrote about it because it was a long weekend and I’m feeling lazy:

Over the past few years, the number of home-recorded solo projects has ballooned to unprecedented numbers, with styles varying from outrageously blown-out punk to miniature symphonies. Even with the skill level of certain artists increasing, even with the technology expanding to make their talents flourish to a greater degree, every now and again, a song comes along and makes us scratch our heads incredulously and say, “There’s no way one person is doing all of that.” “Look on the Bright Side”, the debut single from Levek, happens to be one of those songs.

Levek, the bandonym of Orlando’s David Levesque, is essentially the work of one person (he played everything but violin and part of a bassline, and there’s a female voice during one section). Which makes “Look on the Bright Side” all the more impressive, given the seamlessness of all of its components. A slinky rhythm section straight out of the playbook of soul band Frankie Beverly and Maze makes way for gorgeous harmonies interacting with skyward synthesizers and unironically funky guitars, right before the trumpet-led breakdown. With the remarkable amount of musicianship packed into just three minutes, what’s even more startling is how breezy it all feels; it’s easy to close your eyes and imagine a sextet of seasoned players in Hawaiian shirts just floating through their parts on a stage cluttered with instruments. And then, when you open your eyes– whether after the first or 50th listen– the fact remains that this is almost completely the work of one person, and that fact never ceases to be very surprising.

Since we’re on the topic of breezy sounds you can close your eyes to, I have just gotten in the new Monster Rally LP from Gold Robot Records and I must say that I’m really into it. This is brighten-your-day music comprised of meticulously arranged samples from all sorts of stuff that taken as a whole bring to mind bits of jazz, funk, tropicalia, Afro-Cuban, Hawaiian slack-key, and Bollywood. This is what exotica greats like Martin Denny and Les Baxter probably would have come up with if the technology was there in the 50s. I’m going to go ahead and give this my Pick Of The Week. Put this on in your store and see moods lifted. Sometimes you need a record that is good to just have on while you-re doing other things like BBQing in the summer an drinking frothy cocktails with your friends. This record really fits that bill.

June 11th-June 18th

We just got in the first Awesome Tapes From Africa cassette, so now we have both limited-edition releases for a nice price for your store when you get them together.

            

We’re also doing preorders on a shipment of new titles from KRAAK Records out of Belgium. On these titles we are only taking Net 30, COD, and Paypal. If you’re a store that deals with avant-garde music, you know that you want everything on KRAAK.

K076 Bear Bones, Lay Low ‘Telonero’ LP

Floris Vanhoof ‘Cycle Of Confusion’ LP

Let’s not forget all our other good stuff too…

June 4th-10th

  Wow! I just got in the vinyl for John Fryer’s (This Mortal Coil) ‘solo’ album. The project is called Dark Drive Clinic and the name of the album is ‘Noise In My Head’. These songs have been tinkered with by John for upwards of two-and-a-half decades and were assisted in their completion by Stripmall Architecture vocalist Rebecca Coseboom. John’s production hallmarks are all over this record, you’ll swear this is an unearthed reissue of a late 90s gem. But no! It’s brand new and a must-have for fans of goth/industrial as well as John Fryer completists. The release date is June 5th on this, but we’re shipping to stores right now! Speaking of Stripmall Architecture, we also have in copies of their limited-edition double-10-inch album ‘Feathersongs For Factory Girls’ on white vinyl. It is a perfect companion piece to that Dark Drive Clinic record, so pick up both! Also newly in is ‘Bola Vol. 7’ released thru Awesome Tapes From Africa! I received 50 copies today all the way from Germany and these cassettes are going to move fast. Lastly, I got another goodie in from Gold Robot Records, the Mane 7-inch by Conveyor. It’s very summery and comes to you straight out of Brooklyn. Consequence of Sound says it “is quite gentle and flow-y, utilizing lush, layered harmonies and folksy, whimsical guitar to create a track that tip-toes through the air.” Doesn’t that sound nice? You betcha! Don’t forget to add some Empty Cellar Records to your order, along with some of the other Gold Robot Records titles [Roman Ruins LP…ahem], the critically-adored MERCH album ‘This Betrayal Will Be Our End’, some garage-rock from Chocolate Covered Records, and the ever-popular Future Twin cassette!

Dark Drive Clinic Noise In My Head

Stripmall Architecture Feathersongs For Factory Girls

Awesome Tapes From Africa–Bola Volume 7

Here’s an interesting write-up about this release on Tiny Mix Tapes

  

Gold Robot Records Conveyor ‘Mane’ 7-inch

See below for lots of cool stuff from the last couple of months! For example…

Roman Ruins – Homebuilding 12″

The debut album from the drummer for Beach House and The Papercuts!

Quasi-tropical percussion and subtly energizing bass lines sneak in and out of the track while layer upon layer of everything under the sun (vocals, rainsticks, synth squeaks, oohs and aahs) flesh out the rest. Part high life, part Beach Boys, part post-Animal-Collective musical hieroglyphics, it’s exactly the sort of music I get all giddy for in 2012… which is why Homebuilding has rushed near the top of my albums-to-watch list.”–I Guess I’m Floating

Yalls – Fantasy 7″

This new guy on the scene just played a sold out show at the Noise Pop Festival with Grimes!

Empty Cellar Records

We are so very excited to be adding Empty Cellar to our roster of labels. If you, like us, can’t get enough of that somewhat unclassifiable sphere of music inhabited by artists ranging from Bonnie Prince Billy to The Fresh And Onlys–these releases are going to make you a happy camper indeed.

The Sandwitches

Just a few excerpts of the phenomenal press ‘The Sandwitches’ have received for the below releases:

finds former Fresh & Onlys Heidi & Grace at the height of their powers, a perfect marriage of the group’s genre-spanning debut and their darker, haunting/heartbreaking Duck Duck Goose EP”—Gorilla Vs. Bear

throughout three 7-inches, a 12-inch, and a smattering of compilations worth of material, the Sandwitches have created some of the most unusual and challenging music I’ve heard and wrestled in years”-Coke Machine Glow

pulls you down in the dirt where the lost souls of Mrs. Jones’ Cookies live and breathe” –The A.V. Club

Makes the primordial sound fresh”–Pitchfork

The Sandwitches – Mrs. Jones’ Cookies – LP + Download


The Sandwitches – Duck, Duck, Goose! 12″ e.p.

From Tim Cohen, the inexhaustible visionary behind The Fresh & Onlys, we offer these titles—the 2nd pressing of his first solo album and an album featuring his more experimental side which is released under the name of his backing band Magic Trick.

Magic Trick (Tim Cohen) – The Glad Birth of Love, LP

The Two Sides of Tim Cohen (2nd Pressing), LP + Download

Pillars and Tongues – The Pass and Crossings, LP Poster + Download

Over 6 tracks, The Pass And Crossings formulates, constructs and exhibits some of the most unique (yet not unfamiliar) music being recorded today. In the most simplistic terms, you can file this album under genres like folk, drone and even blues; what’s unique about it is that the music doesn’t sound played, but rather it sounds induced. 8.5/10—Sic Magazine

The Cairo Gang – Holy Clover 7″ ep

Yes, the Cairo Gang of Bonnie Prince Billy fame:

“HOLY CLOVER” new EP by THE CAIRO GANG. features four NEW songs recorded in a risen cornfield in shelby county, kentucky. A departure from previous cerebral and primarily acoustic efforts, this record is tight and electric with choruses and vocal harmonies all supported by an enforced bass and drums set. One mic at a time and brought to you in 33 rpms on glorious 7 inch vinyl”

We finally have the MERCH LP  ‘This Betrayal Will Be Our End’! It’s getting tons of great press, some of which we’ve excerpted below:

I know we’re not even halfway into the year, but I’ll make the perhaps bold proclamation that San Francisco band Merch’s album “This Betrayal Will Be Our End” will be the surprise of 2012.”

Vinyl Under Review: A-

reaches to be a time-forgotten concept album…recommended for anyone who gets off on that merciless gut knot that comes with true loss.

–I Must Find Atlantis

Really nice psychedelic album with high quality production and orchestration. You can hear some quite unique sounds on it. So if you are for modern psychedelia, go for it!”

–Psychedelic Baby Magazine

The army of string instrumentation which Medina uses in “This Betrayal Will Be Our End” is certainly enhanced when listening to the record on vinyl…has taken the pain and agony of a broken relationship and converted it into art.”

–Modern Vinyl

unfurls darkly and dramatically, shifting constantly from sound to sound…minor key miserablist downer pop blurs into stripped down bluesy rock, fuzzed out indie rock blossoms into bombastic almost progginess, twang flecked drifts sprawl into propulsive hypnotic minimalism which in turn transforms into shimmery acoustic folk and back again”–Aquarius Records

right away, the record is off to a powerful start…rich with orchestral genius…the presentation here is unique and fresh…I like how this album is not afraid to leap from genre to genre without losing consistency…this recording is something to be heard.

–Tuning In To The Obscure: 4.7 out of 5

plumbs the depths of personal misery and human suffering in a relationship gone bad…songs that could be Arthur Russell or Yo La Tengo outtakes. Plenty of depression, bedroom-symphonic arrangements, and brutally honest lyrics…High quality sound, good mixing and arrangements.

–The Record Geeks

And still available…

Gold Robot Records Enjoy Some Tracks From Gold Robot!

GRR020 – Primary Structures 12″

GRR018 – Not the 1s 12″

GRR015 – Ned Oldham 7″

GRR014 – Colossal Yes / The Good Fear Split 7″

GRR012 – Roman Ruins 7″

Chocolate Covered Records Go here for some chocolately goodness

CCR006 – Rantouls – Little Green Hat 7″

CCR07 – Skipper – Cold Pizza 7″

CCR08 – Saucy Jacks – Saucy Jacks 7″

CCR09 – Rantouls – In The Village Of Rantoul 12″

CCR10 – Shrouds/Hondettes – Shrouds/Hondettes split 7″

Self-Released

Future Twin – Situation – cassette EP Have A Listen 

Warren Teagarden & The Good Grief 12″ LP Hear A Sample Or Two!

KRAAK Records  Check Out The Latest Sounds From KRAAK

Just added 1/1/12: GOD DAMN, I HATE THE BLUES–A double 7-inch gatefold release of compelling new songs from artists on the KRAAK label.  Remarkable stuff.

K072 – Various Artists – God Damn, I Hate The Blues A bit more info from the label

K071 – KÖHN – Random Patterns 12″ LP

K070 – U.S. GIRLS – U.S. Girls on Kraak

7.9 on Pitchfork!

K069 – Gerard Herman – Fêta Justice – LP

K066 – Bridget Hayden – An Indifferent Ocean – LP

K064 – Ignatz – Selected Songs – LP