Trawling through various Internet record stores over the last week or two has shown that, as the nights lengthen towards midsummer and the thoughts of the young ‘uns drift away from getting munged in some sweaty hole in the ground and turn instead to lazy afternoon sessions in a sun drenched beer garden, we are now well and truly into repress season.
The front page of one store seemed almost entirely devoted to represses. At a rough guess, I’d say three-quarters of their ‘new releases’ were fresh copies of old records. Many of them were simply fresh prints of those that went out of stock early – a common enough thing these days when labels might press up a run of 300 records or so – but many, many more were represses of records that have long since vanished from the wild.
I’m no enemy of represses. I bought two myself last week: I missed out on the first pair of releases on Dixon Avenue Basement Jams when they were available the first time around and I’m pleased to be able to rectify that. Both the Jared Wilson release and the Marquis Hawkes one are well worth owning. I plan to get another couple of represses in the next few days – Storm by In Sync is a tune I have never owned by always wanted – I’m delighted Delsin have got the rights to it – and there is a repress of one of Mike Dunn’s QX1 records doing the rounds that I never had a hope in hell of picking up way back in the dark days. One other one I really badly want to get my hands on is the reissue of Darkside by Derrick May on Pheerce Citi. Just the idea of picking up a piece of vinyl by Mayday after all this time gets the fanboi in me going.
But is there something perhaps slightly off about all this? Techno was always supposed to be about the future, after all and here we are lining up to buy records from the Stone Age. How may times do we need fresh copies of some of those old Trax releases? almost everything they did is available on CD and digital formats and if those don’t satisfy you, there are literally hundreds of copies of that stuff on Discogs that can often be picked up for next to nothing. (As an aside, I don’t think I ever bought a record by Trax new. Almost every one was bought in second-hand record shops. Admittedly, most people don’t have access to places like that any more, but isn’t Discogs a 21st century analogue?)
There is, I think, a difference between buying a repress of a record that sold out a few months back due to a limited run and buying a reissue of a 25-year-old record which still exists in its original form in fairly large quantities. A secondary issue is that most of the pressing plants in Europe and the States can barely cope at the moment with the demand for vinyl coming at them from all corners – A dreadful reissue of some awful early nineties grunge band on vinyl still takes resources away from your favourite House and Techno artists, after all. Sure, it is easier to order a repress from Juno or Redeye, but I’m not sure easiness often leads to that moment of appreciation you feel when you finally hold a record in your hand you may have been after for years. But I guess the same thing could be said of Discogs.
Of course, there are benefits. It provides the labels with a revenue stream – which is of ever increasing importance these days – and hopefully some of those artists whose work is being re-released will be also be able to benefit financially from it. Some of the stories from way back about artists getting stiffed by their labels are legendary in House and Techno, and if this modern trend helps alleviate that even a bit it is worth it.
Meh, I’m as big a sucker for this sort of thing as everyone else. If I wasn’t I would have got rid of all my records years ago and gone the digital route. Part of me thinks the younger generation should be relegating these records to the past and worrying about what is coming along tomorrow. But another part of me, probably the larger part, thinks its good that they have an interest in what came before, and if they can learn from what they discover, it can only make what comes next even better.