Sunday, February 8, 2015


RRRecords is a record store and label ran by Ron Lessard, out of Lowell, Massachusetts. The label were the first to focus exclusively on 'noise', publishing Merzbow's first American vinyl release in the early 80’s (and then later issuing a 5 cassette box set). The have also released projects by Alan Licht, Jon Oswald, Kevin Shields, Nurse with Wound and dozens of others. The label reissued one of my favourite artist records ever: Pop Record by Roger Miller (of Mission of Burma, not the easy-listening crooner).

Other than their elaborate (and often unique) packaging, they are perhaps best known for a series of influential compilation recordings. The first was released in the early nineties, and includes tracks by Jim O’Rourke, John Wiggins, Controlled Bleeding, Ron Rice, Merzbow and, ah, ninety-five others. On a single 7” single.

Each artist is represented with a single lock-groove.

Lock grooves are typically silent, designed to prevent the turntable tonearm from drifting into the paper label at the centre of the disk. Eventually it was released that the final groove was usable record real estate. The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper LP originally contained looped audio after the extended fade of the crashed E Major piano chord that closes A Day in The Life. The collaged backwards studio chatter was briefly controversial as fans mistakingly took the indecipherable dialogue to be “we will fuck you like supermen...we will fuck you like supermen...”

Later in the same year The Who employed a lock-groove to close their Who Sell Out record, and the technique reappears every few years, from bands such as The Arcade Fire, Abba, Godspeed You Black Emperor, The Dead Kennedys, Stereolab and Sonic Youth. Monty Python’s Matching Tie and Handkerchief closes with an endless loop of a man in a record store listening booth saying "Sorry Squire, I scratched the record”. I suppose they were the forerunner to DVD Easter Eggs.

A year before Sgt Pepper, John Cale released Loop as his contribution to the Andy Warhol curated issue of Aspen Magazine. Considerably more experimental than even the more difficult of songs that he and Lou Reed were releasing as The Velvet Underground, the piece consists of seven and a half minutes of feedback, followed by a lock-groove, extending the assault. Reed’s much celebrated (and much despised, see review below) Metal Machine Music nine years would build on this approach, including the use of the lock-groove.

Other sound artists who employed the technique include Boyd Rice, Lee Ranaldo and The Hafler Trio. RRRecords upped the ante by turning every groove on the disk (50 per side) into a lock-groove. This is surely the first Various Artists 7" to feature a hundred contributors, if not the last.

The edition size is unclear, though a second edition (with the above blue xerox cover) was limited to three hundred unnumbered copies.

Lowell, USA: RRRecords, 1993
7” 45 rpm single
Edition size unknown

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