By Annette Hinkle
One of the many miracles of modern technology is the way it has changed how we do virtually everything.
That includes buying music, which is now available on a dizzying array of devices with the simple swipe of a finger — and for the generation that has come of age in the digital age, iPods, MP3 players, smart phones and computers are indispensable for getting the latest release by their favorite bands.
But for a certain segment of the population, there is really only one way to listen to music.
Sag Harbor drummer, guitarist and songwriter Peter Landi is in his early 20s and one of those kids who came of age in the era of downloads and apps. Yet as a musician, Landi not only understands the appeal of the record, he embraces it.
Landi, front man for the group “The Glazzies,” recently headed into the studio to record some new tracks. In addition to distributing the music online, he’s also hoping to press some vinyl and release seven or eight songs as a long EP.
“Bands are going back to vinyl, which is great,” says Landi who knows many people his age who appreciate vinyl, though he still sees them as a niche group. “I don’t think a lot of people my age are buying vinyl, but those who are are musicians or die hard fans of bands and they want specific rare releases they can only get on vinyl.”
“It has its own cult,” adds Landi. “I think the people buying vinyl are appreciating the music in a whole other way. They want to look through the album art, hold it and hear it in the order the artist wants them to.”
The appeal of vinyl is something Craig Wright understands intimately. Wright is the proprietor of Inner Sleeve, the vintage record and turntable shop he opened a year and a half ago. With locations in both Amagansett and Sag Harbor, Wright has long embraced what others are now only discovering … or rediscovering.
There’s something about vinyl.
“Twenty year olds are my biggest demographic,” says Wright. “When they found out about me, they started dripping in.”
“It’s been trending back into public consciousness and popularity,” adds Wright. “Every year more and more people are becoming dissatisfied with digital music, CDs and downloads.”
Like people who are into first edition books or vintage baseball cards, Wright notes really serious vinyl collectors hunt down those rare releases (and pay a premium for them) on sites such as eBay. His shop, he notes, is the place to get those basic long lost albums that bring back memories or, for the younger generation, start a new hobby.
“It’s a interesting mix of clientele from around the age of 15 to their mid to late 30s,” says Wright. “The back to school crowd is something I’ve seen in late August — especially those going to dorms. It’s like bragging rights, ‘I listen to vinyl.’”
“The 30-somethings are the ones who are maybe are more comfortable with a career and disposable income,” he adds. “They want a conversation piece around the coffee table.”
While many of the big labels have dismantled their vinyl divisions, Wright knows of a vinyl plant in Brooklyn that is a year behind in pressing orders. Major labels are now shipping pressing work overseas in an attempt to catch up with demand.
“CD sales are down and downloads are down three percent. But vinyl numbers are going up,” says Wright who adds that big labels do something now called “Record Store Day” for shops like his. “Two times a year, an exclusive release comes out for mom and pop record stores. They’ll put out a 7” or 10” or, like Columbia, repress a Dylan single that’s only available at local records store.”
Another sign of the times — Rough Trade, a legendary used CD and record store in London is opening a 10,000 square foot branch in Williamsburg — complete with a coffee bar and stage.
“It’s in the public consciousness more than ever,” says Wright who adds that these days, albums also come down with a free digital download so you don’t have to buy a record twice.
So what is it about vinyl that captures the imagination? Purists will tell you the pops and crackles of analog recording give music a depth which digital can’t hope to capture. But Wright takes the idea a step further by proposing that the notion of analog extends beyond the recording method itself to the very interaction between listener and album.
“It awakens the senses. You’re looking at the art and are involved,” he says. “You have to get up and flip the record. You feel like you’re participating in the experience and even if you don’t know it, you’re involved. Even cleaning the records you’re improving the experience.”
“To me it’s not only a tactile experience but an emotional experience,” he adds. “Because something is touching something, it resonates in the human spirit in a way… like the automobile at the beginning of last century.”
“It’s gears and it’s touch and I think that has a lot to do with humanity,” adds Wright. “A laser reading ones and zeros — how can it possibly be the same? When its too perfect it’s not right. The drumstick hitting the rim of the snare, the flaws and the little tick … that gives it life.”
“Whether people know it or not, they realize it and it’s why they’re gravitating back to this,” he says. “In the kitchen my wife and I put on Pandora. But when I want to sit down with a record and have ‘me’ time, it’s totally different.”
For those nostalgic about their long lost youth or just curious about record culture, currently on view at Silas Marder Gallery in Bridgehampton is a collection of Marder’s vintage record players and bins of classic vinyl for sale provided by Wright. Also offered are “Mystery 45s” which Wright has wrapped in brown paper packages tied up with string.
Marder has long been a collector of old record players and while some models have been fully restored, others on view are still in their original working order. Incidentally, all the various parts you need to keep a record player spinning are readily available again.
“There’s definitely a different sound quality and tone through time,” says Marder of his turntables which date back to the 1940s and ‘50s. “There’s been a mix here, people who directly remember having that certain player and living with it as well as younger people.”
“To them, it’s like a whole new discovery,” adds Marder. “It’s fun to watch. You notice they start to get really excited by it and that’s all it takes. They’ve gone down that path to understanding.”
For Marder, it’s a path that’s defined by the tactile experience.
“For me, it’s the physicality — especially now when we’re so disconnected with the things around us,” he says. “It’s about that process of going through my records, selecting them and setting aside the ones I’m most often going to, as opposed to scrolling and double clicking.”
“It’s also the architecture of the record,” he adds. “I think for a lot of people, it’s about understanding the physicality or putting it under your arm and the sound produced by the grooves.”
“There’s something about having to slow down, the intention that went into the track order,” says Marder. “People talk about authenticity. There’s something more real about it. It’s not so remote.”
This Saturday, December 21, 2014 Silas Marder Gallery (120 Snake Hollow Road, Bridgehampton, 702-2306) hosts a casual holiday reception from 2 to 4 p.m. where you can check out the record players and browse the bins.
Looking to recapture your long lost vinyl days? Inner Sleeve has two locations, 5 Wharf Street (in the shops on Long Wharf) in Sag Harbor and 199 Main Street, Amagansett. Call 375-5316 for more information.