Percolators, Eastern Bloc and the Technics RS-X301

Sometime in the middle of March, my single cup cafetiere, after a long two years of rigorous use and abuse, fell apart. Both its wired mesh and plunger (forgive me, for I am no technical coffee-artiste and do not know the components all that well) broke, and seeing as the month of March is a typically horrific month for personal finances, there was a substantial delay in its replacement.

This delay, however, allowed room for thought: What are the key differences between the percolator and the cafetiere. One plunges and the other cycles the boil. That is about as far as my knowledge goes. That being said, the question did pose as a good excuse to procrastinate. On the 4th April, I spent an impressive six hours watching and reading analysations on the differences in taste, smell and even the logistical workings between the two brewing pots.

Despite this, I still know relatively little on the two variations, and this was not in any way off-putting. After the delay, I acquired a percolator, thus putting meaning to my flatmates’ consistent use of the quote: “It’s time for the percolator”.

Eastern Bloc Travels

The way in which he expresses the words, “It’s time for the percolator”, with its rhythm, added depth within the voice and non-melodic touch suggests that he could be quoting a classic pre-noughties hip-hop track. Perhaps it is this constant reference to the ‘percolator’ that has resulted in an upward swing of beats and hip-hop LPs within my record collection over the past thirty-nine days.

Within that time, five out of eight of the records that have been added to my collection have, at the very least, contained some form of hip-hop or broken beat influence. This influence does go on to include Deftones’ ‘Diamond Eyes’, which, I am assured from numerous interviews, is tied in with the genre thanks to Abe Cunningham’s rhythmic style — one of the many elements that give the mature metal group such a diverse and unique sound.

Anyway, I digress. This monthly shop took place in Eastern Bloc, a store which has a bad reputation for price comparison, but an excellent reputation for customer service. This fact is exemplified by one of the staff members’ overtly large list of recommendations, totalling at fifteen, and also his non-pressurised personal invitation to the shops Record Store Day party.

This was politely turned down. I do not mean to appear as ostentatious, but the idea of a day dedicated to the purchase of records makes my toenails turn into a figure of eight knots. If I am going to commit to an anti-capitalist ideology, I may need to turn down events that were created in the sole interest of gaining extra capital from an art-form which, if the common trends were to be believed, has been installed to save independent record stores.

Capitalist Realism

Taking into consideration the capitalistic mentality of Record Store Day, there is a faint reminder of the community values within its roots. However, even this notion of community and society brings forth a familiar Mark Fisher quote from his textbook Capitalist Realism:

“When it actually arrives, Capitalism brings with it a massive desacralization of culture. It is a system which is no longer governed by any transcendent Law; on the contrary, it dismantles all such codes, only to re-install them on an ad-hoc basis. The limits of capitalism are not fixed by fiat, but defined (and re-defined) pragmatically and improvisationally…”

“… Capitalism is very much like the Thing in John Carpenter’s film of the same name: a monstrous, infinitely plastic entity, capable of metabolizing and absorbing anything with which it comes into contact.”

Record Store Days roots may have been somewhat similar to the original meaning around the winter festivities across Europe. It may have started as a community-driven celebration to give charity to local record stores, thus saving them from financial ruin, but — like the winter festivities — it has been bludgeoned and twisted away from its original meaning into a day in which the community is seemingly used as an excuse to buy a product.

The product, however, can be reissued or released at any point of the year. But why release it on Record Store Day? To maximise capital. By labelling the LP as a unique and limited release which can only be acquired on one day of the year, it increases a false demand and ensures both profit and sales. In this digital age, a product can never be limited.

Moving on, I do disagree with Fisher on some points. He states that capitalism consumes everything, absorbing everything it comes into contact with. Reflecting on feudal societies such as the Ottoman Empire and the Duchy of Muscovy after the collapse of the Tatar Yoke, I see Capitalism as something that ensnares things that it comes into contact with, forcing them into difficult situations, before persuading them to become economic vassals, and then moving on to do the same thing to communities, ideas and pride.

Village Live and SoundWay Records

Quite often though, especially in a room of academic peers or even family, I am often informed of my own hypocrisy when it comes to the topic of capitalism.

My latest infatuation with hip-hop has led to an intrinsic-like obsession with Village Live Records. Without existing knowledge, three of the eight records I had recently purchased belonged to the above-mentioned label, and out of the fifteen listened to in Eastern Bloc, approximately eleven belonged to Village Live. Perhaps it is their artist’s heavy reliance on funk and jazz samples, producing a kind of jazz-hop or cosmic and postmodern sound, that so naturally draws me to them.

Recommendations? Of course. Listen to: Aver; Klim Beats; Gas-Lab; Liphe; Kuartz; Cappo & Cyrus Malachi.

One of the other records obtained from Eastern Bloc is a product of Soundway Records, a label that has become synonymous with reissuing and remastering gems from sub-Saharan Africa. They have been on my radar for some time, and last year I had purchased an extremely long-winded compilation from them titled ‘Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth-Boogie in 1980’s South-Africa’.

That year, and the year before that, an emphasis to expand the afrobeat and Brazilian tropicalia records within my collection had occurred, and now that that time has past and my obsession has died a little, I have time to ponder.

Sitting in my Norwegian prison cell of a room, listening to a joint EP from Soundway, I cannot recall the last time I had listened to afrobeat. Upon deeper consideration, did I even like the afrobeat records that I owned? What encouraged me to take them home, listen to them, then forget them?

Othering and Postcolonialism in Record Collecting

Embarrassingly, and much to my own sadness, I must admit that their purchasing may be due to the ‘exotic’ sounds on the records. Their grooves are appealing, but what makes them tempting is the beat and the message that has become a signifying sound for afrobeat during Fela Kuti’s era to Obongjayar’s of the modern day.

The genres use of instrumentation too ensnares my interest. It does not sound European, but it reflects cultural identity whilst exploring the topic of pan-Africanism. But is that why it heightens curiosity? Is that a negative factor? Should I admire the records for their musicality much rather than their locations’ cultural impact on the sound?

I do not have any answers, though I do believe that every being across the globe has a sense of intrinsic postcolonial mentality or cultural superiority, no matter race, religion, or political affiliation. Perhaps it is this deep-seated mentality of mine that has led to their obtainment?

Ol’ Reliable

In the Autumn of the last year, I had a lust for cassette decks and all things tape. A failed interview with Amulets, an artist who relies heavily on cutting and looping his own recordings on cassettes, patching the loops through various delay and chorus pedals and then placing them into a sampler, thus producing a tone synonymous with the ambient-drone genre, had started this obsession.

The composers’ innovation with his instrument and cassettes is magnificent and, thanks to his influence, led to the purchasing of a 1990 issue of the Technics RS-X301 Twin Cassette Deck.

Technics turntables, and I am sure the same can be said for their cassette deck siblings, are well-known for their indestructibility and reliability. Sadly though, I have had to wave goodbye to this tape deck. I had not used it, not once, and it is currently travelling to London to be united with its new owner. Hopefully, he will have better knowledge than I on the mysterious Technics amplifier which is needed to ensure power and playability.

Music and society writer based in Manchester / Zine Creator @ Knee_Xap / /

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