22 Oct 2010

radio cegeste at records records, dunedin

The bugler sent a call of high romance—
“Lights out! Lights out!” to the deserted square.
On the thin brazen notes he threw a prayer
- Robert Graves, 'The Last Post'

Records Records is an iconic second hand record store in Dunedin, New Zealand. An institution in the city, it was started in the 1970s by Roi Colbert, in a little space located in Stuart St, just off the central Octagon, where in the crucial decades of the 80s and 90s it filtered the ebbs and flows of the financial realities vs. the listening and collecting habits of various illustrious locals, while acting as an information and networking hub for Dunedin's sound culture. Recently, Roi sold up and the shop shifted to new premises over on Princes Street. Current owner Pat Faigan has continued the legacy and hosted many live gigs in the store, but, in an era when running independent record stores is a difficult proposition at best, Pat will be retiring from the record selling business at the end of October.

apart from a long history buying records from the shop, I spent a lot of time in the neighbourhood last summer, working right next to the current RR store at second hand bookstore Raven Books.

so, on Friday 22nd October, radio cegeste opportunistically crashed the end of someone else's gig upon finding out it was the 2nd to last one the store would host, and with half a day's notice, transmitted a site-specific soundscape at 8:30pm as a performative radio programme for RR, using the things I had at hand - namely, mini FM transmitter, 13 small radios, some of my 'bowed airwaves' violin tracks and field recordings transmitted via the above, alongside manipulation of room-sensitive radiophonic noise interference.

I also used a portable battery powered record player with material sourced from the shop that very afternoon (incl. an incredible spoken word 1-off private pressing of a british family recording an audio christmas greeting 'letter' to Grandma - the latter presumably located in NZ, which Pat sold me for a dollar), and some 78s found by a friend at the Dunedin dump (incl. a broken, skipping, cracked HMV 78rpm recording of the band of H.M. Coldstream Guards' rendition of ceremonial military standards Evening Hymn and The Last Post).

There were also some musical birdsong cards from the Otago Museum i'd bought that day, coupled with Radio NZ birdsong recordings on 45rpm which i'd picked up from the Blue Oyster Gallery after their inclusion in the Media Povera show. The lack of working overhead lights in the shop added to the huddled and intimate nature of the resulting peripheral, floor-based, no-mains-power performance for receivers and transmitter alike.

my post-Melbourne nomadisms have included, as is usual at some point in such Dunedin interludes, a temporary docking-point at None studios, and renewed engagement with the deep-listening silences and ghost-terrain of Dunedin has been balanced with a grateful nod toward the ongoing industrious activities and artistic vitality of the city's ever-shifting living communities.

Tonight's gig saw long term None residents Motoko (violin, voice) and Justin (percussion, voice) playing together as a duo they call The Surgical Department for this Records Records (second to) last post, as well. Also on the bill were local groups Communist Rainbow Relationship and QTPI.

as if this wasn't enough I cancelled my plan to see Robert Scott play at Chicks Hotel in favour of continuing the evening's energetic bust of engagement in event-based audio exploration by going back to None immediately after the gig to record a duo set with percussionist Lee Noyes.

This was more minimal, based on radiophonic feedback, and involved manipulating 'radios talking to each other' in theremin-like accompaniment to Lee's spacious and subtle acoustic manipulations of a drum, a wire, and various strings. Lee has since tidied this up and is treating it as a potential release, pending acceptance.

RIP, Records Records. thanks to Arron Clark who shot and edited the following video montage of the RR in-store proceedings...

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