I've been posting to a few places about this for the last three years to no avail, but after seeing the Robyn Nice thread on this forum, I figured that this might find some interest here.
Back in January of 2017, I was shopping for records in Columbus, Ohio while on vacation. I stumbled upon a tape that looked pretty DIY and figured that it was worth the dollar they were asking for it. In short, what little I got to hear on my friend's car cassette player (a bit of side 2, as that was where the last listener appeared to have left off) was very intense to the point that it unsettled me, and between the music, some very personal inserts left inside the packaging (comprehensive scans are available here), and my later noticing that the back was inscribed '1/1', I realized pretty quickly that I chanced upon something pretty unlikely. When I got home from my trip and was able to hear it in full, I learned that a great deal of side one was far less foreboding than the five or so minutes of the latter half of the record I'd sampled, but the whole thing was thick with a very detached yet deeply personal miasma that - even without all of the interesting context of it claiming to be limited to a single copy and the inserts making it apparent that it had an intended and/or initial recipient - made it an appealing record to me and to the vast majority of people I've shared it with.
Aside from recently determining the source of some Gregorian choir samples on two cuts from the second side, I haven't been able to find any considerable leads; some people think that Kevin De Broux is a strong a potential suspect, but I don't hear much in the way of vocal resemblance and the aesthetic overlap seems incidental and minimal. A clerk at the store I found this at - Used Kids Records on Summit - was made aware of the tape not that long after I found it, but they had no knowledge of the artist, any leads to give me, or access to records kept pertaining to whoever might have returned it.
I've been considering writing Light In The Attic about this as they handled the Lewis situation with both grace and sensitivity (plus, they found the dude, which would be a conclusion I'd like for this scenario as well), but I'm worried that if they did find it notable, they'd want to reissue it. I don't know how I feel about amplifying the guy's signal in any way that finds it monetized for a handful of reasons - the ethics of putting a price on something so personal and hermetically intended, the source being a home-dubbed cassette with at least one brief dropout and a bunch of noise/hiss, the simple act of bootlegging being weird, et al. -, but I do want to raise awareness in a manner whereby someone who trades in this sort of thing hears it and thinks 'oh, yeah - I know this person'. This kind of thing is catnip to a lot of us so I'm hoping we can find the right enthusiasm here to get this mystery solved.
Here is a link to a digitization of the recording that I made the night I got home from my vacation. I've also uploaded it to YouTube in case someone prefers that platform. Regardless of what we do or don't find, many thanks in advance to everybody who reads this for your time and interest.
― theorchidshow, Sunday, 9 February 2020 19:43 (two weeks ago) link
I posted this to my Facebook. I used to live in Columbus and know a bunch of people immersed in the scene there. We'll see if anything turns up.
― Loud guitars shit all over "Bette Davis Eyes" (NYCNative), Sunday, 9 February 2020 20:06 (two weeks ago) link
― theorchidshow, Sunday, 9 February 2020 20:13 (two weeks ago) link
Thanks for sharing! Reminds me of Secret Boyfriend
― paolo, Sunday, 9 February 2020 21:29 (two weeks ago) link
You're welcome - thanks for checking it out! I've heard about Secret Boyfriend in passing; what record(s) of his do you think the Ⓚ tape resembles most? Definitely looking to hear more things along those lines.
― theorchidshow, Sunday, 9 February 2020 21:44 (two weeks ago) link
Thanks, just linked the bandcamp on Twitter, with gist of your query. In Pre-Web days, used to get mail order catalogs from dealers who consistently featured this kind of thing--also Option was a nationally (internationally?) distributed mag that *mostly* featured this kind of thing (if you incl. bedroom/basement artists who listed a full name and did mail order, but otherwise were complete outcat unknowns, at least beyond very local venues).
― dow, Sunday, 9 February 2020 22:14 (two weeks ago) link
I don't know anything about it (being from far away and not knowing anyone) but really enjoying listening to it, thanks for uploading
― a passing spacecadet, Sunday, 9 February 2020 22:16 (two weeks ago) link
xpost But also some who were much more mysterious and/or RIP (via parents left with drawer of tapes/basement of LPs).
― dow, Sunday, 9 February 2020 22:17 (two weeks ago) link
Dow - I get the sense from one of the lines in the insert addressed to the tape's recipient that he has other stuff out there; at the least, this isn't his first stab at music-making. Might be worth digging up some of these lists and seeing if anyone whose first or last name starts with a K fits the sonic bill.
Spacecadet - glad to hear you're digging it! There's no real evidence that the thing originated in Ohio or even America, though I'd like to think it didn't get too far from its home before I found it, just for the ease of narrowing potential leads. Windy Weber is a fan of the tape and she once told me that some early Windy & Carl cassette demos have turned up in shops in countries that she had no idea how they could've gotten there. A friend of mine suspects that Ⓚ could be English or Scandinavian based on a few of his vocal inflections, but his delivery on Northern Air has a slight drawl reminiscent of Robert Pollard to me and Dayton is a stone's throw from Columbus, so who knows?
― theorchidshow, Sunday, 9 February 2020 23:06 (two weeks ago) link
The only Secret Boyfriend albums I've heard are This Is Always Where You've Lived and Memory Care Unit on Blackest Ever Black. Your tape definitely sounds like something that BEB or Low Company would be interested in.
― paolo, Sunday, 9 February 2020 23:45 (two weeks ago) link
Listened to some of the Secret Boyfriend stuff - I really dig it and definitely see how some of the vibe overlaps, but there's something very implacable about Ⓚ's work in contrast to anything I've heard along similar lines. Maybe it's how every element resolves in this very organic-seeming manner - the use of loops and, estimably, a DAW don't undercut the Acid Archives/4-track feel. It's pretty nuts when you think about it.
Curious if anyone else has a suggestion on where we can go from here in terms of getting this to someone that might know more.
― theorchidshow, Monday, 10 February 2020 20:16 (two weeks ago) link
I can't helpfully contribute here, but just wanted to say thanks for sharing this story. Fascinating.
― Duke, Monday, 10 February 2020 20:29 (two weeks ago) link
You're very welcome! I do hope someone sees this eventually and recognizes it as a friend's work. This is quite understandably the most interesting record I possess and more than anything else, I want to thank the dude responsible.
― theorchidshow, Monday, 10 February 2020 20:32 (two weeks ago) link