Archive for May 5, 2008

Whistler Records: Mailorder and Karl Blau’s “AM”

Posted in mailorder, music, records, Tom with tags , , , , on May 5, 2008 by criticalreviews

I typically refuse to buy CDs but if I like a musician enough I occasionally will. In this case that musician is Karl Blau (who released one of my favorite records of last year and who I saw live earlier this year). Before I clicked on that BUY button on Whistler Records website I sent an email to Billy at Whistler inquiring whether or not they planed to release Blau’s latest master piece AM on LP. And I got this response:

Unfortunately we won’t be releasing AM on vinyl anytime soon, so the evil CD is the only way to go right now… But it’s funny you ask because we just recently decided to stop doing CDs and switch over exclusively to vinyl — so it turns out that AM was our first AND last CD release.

So I feel pretty good about buying their last CD release ever (ohh the death of a format). But a little more about Whistler Records. Whistler is a small record label located in Chicago, IL. Their current catalog consists of only five releases (two of which are Karl Blau, and it appears that they have one other CD other than AM). But none the less super small, and really nice people (Billy and I went back and forth on email a couple of times within a day).

So I ordered AM on 4:15pm on Friday (according to my PayPal receipt), and what did I find waiting for me when I got home on work on Monday? You guessed it Karl Blau’s AM! Whistler Records has to have the fastest mailorder on earth! The CD was shipped First Class from Chicago. These people do it right, and if all record companies were this quick they would be a threat to the independent record store too! On top of the fast shipping and the wonderful record Whistler enclosed what appears to be a set list from Blau which is accompanied by philosophical writing about life (which I can only assume is Blau’s being that it is on his set list). This random and wonderful surprise really makes me love mailorder, and I plan to order Blau’s 7″ from them some time in the near future.

I haven’t listened to AM enough to give a proper review, but it is very different from his last release, Dance Positive!. AM seems to be more on the experimental side, but with a pop sensibility…kinda what you might expect to come from this man from Anacortes, WA. AM was recorded by Phil Elverum, and Blau and Elverum are the only two musicians on the album…lyrics are taken from poems of A.A. Milne (of Winnie the Poo fame), and from Blau himself (with help from Elverum one track). I was listening to “It was hot we stayed in the water,” by the Microphones last week on my headphones, and I want to explore this album in a similar way (I am currently on my second listen as I type…and I know it is going to be stuck on repeat in my iPod for at least a week). As I have read the album is about that time when night turns into morning, and named appropriately so. There are lots of interesting things going on so it is easy to get fixated on a piece of distortion, or a lyric, or something of the sort, and you are thinking about it for quite a while…or at least I am.

Other people are already giving Blau and AM great reviews…Pitchfork said:

When confronted with Karl Blau’s large and often excellent catalog, the inevitable question is: Why isn’t this guy at least as well known as his musical cohorts Phil Elverum and Laura Veirs? It’s easy to get on one’s soapbox and suppose that people want mediocrity. I mean, how else are we to explain the success of a musical Steve Guttenberg such as M. Ward?

I would highly recommend checking out Blau’s AM, and if you do you should order it directly from the wonderful people at Whistler Records. AM should hit the spot for fans of Elverum, and the like, but those who are looking for something a little more upbeat, and may I say dancey, check out Dance Positive! Either way Karl Blau is wonderful, and he has rad people putting out his records.


“Spring Morning” off of AM

“The Lake King’s Daughter” also off of AM