It was a week or so ago, while rearranging my CD collection for the 475th time to accommodate the new QOTSA, Shapeshifter, and Mount Kimbie releases, that I found myself wondering why I was wasting another 90 minutes of my life that I wouldn’t be getting back. Like any self-respecting OCD control freak, my CD racks have to be well maintained. Albums are arranged alphabetically, then chronologically within respective artist discographies, then with similar artists grouped together (BT next to Booka Shade, just a little bit away from James Blake and Katy B, who are close to Tim and Jeff Buckley but nowhere near The Beatles, for example), and finally – if the stars truly align – colour-coded by spine. (The rules for DJ mixes are too complex to detail here, but incorporate elements of the same method/madness.)
It’s an effective system for keeping your collection on its toes, and particularly useful that time I was staring at my racks a couple of weeks after moving to Sydney and noticed a gap in the Js where Jay-Z used to be, and Muse’s Showbiz missing, and Wish You Were Here, and pretty soon the tally had hit double digits while some shonky removalist in Sydney’s west was no doubt blazing up to the strains of their ill-gotten gains. But when your collection runs into the several thousands (not counting the box full of promos that you’ll digitise one day, or the several hundred gig of external hard drive that you’ve never listened to), shuffling everything along to slot three Fiona Apple albums in at the tail-end of the As becomes a bit of a burden. It was midway through this process that I knew a ruthless cull was in order. It’s not that simple, however, because these aren’t just shiny discs encased in dust-specked plastic that’ll long outlast their owner. They’re trophies of war, signposts in your life, with memories attached to them that are more vivid than 15 albums of Facebook selfies (#nofilter) will ever be.
The date you went on the day you bought Welcome To Sky Valley.
How Beaucoup Fish was a gift from a friendship you foolishly shitcanned over a decade ago. Buying Guy Gerber and Gui Boratto albums with an ex on the recommendation of the clerk at a now defunct Lower East Side record store, before being pointed in the direction of Francois K’s Deep Space Monday at Cielo and a 24 hour bender that ended in locking yourself out of your hostel. Twice. That year when Teenage Dream turned an entire office of jaded rock pigs into Katy Perry fans.
Can a podcast or DJ set recorded at some far-flung festival or leaked copy of Yeezus give you the same feeling? In five years time, will you remember where you were and what was happening in your life when you hit stream/download/torrent?
Until recently, I would’ve said “hells no”, but I wouldn’t have been entirely correct. Because while I couldn’t begin to tell you where my head was at during any of my plethora of Beatport transactions since 2005, I’ll never forget that I bought Rudimental’s cracking Home long-player from the industry standard digital download portal to soundtrack my drive out of Dubai into the surrounding desert. Or how my Australian account with aforementioned portal enabled me to buy Random Access Memories three days earlier than anyone else in the USA (though I paid $7 more than them for the privilege, which is another rant for another time), and how I drove into the Palm Springs desert in search of the Sky Valley sign that I didn’t quite find last time (but nailed on this attempt) and started to think that maybe these Frenchies were onto something after all at precisely the moment I saw a billboard sporting their robotic visages staring tauntingly back at me.
Add to this the fact that my pre-ordered CD of the new Henry Saiz album still hasn’t shipped over a week since its digital release, and my obsession with holding a hard copy in my hands should be well on the way out. Addictions aren’t easy to shake, though, even if you’re on a philosophical mission to divest your life of ‘stuff’. The proposed ‘ruthless cull’ of my alphabetised, chronological, genre-fied, colour-coded CD collection numbered a grand total of 12 albums. I dropped them off at a nearby Vinnies, which just so happens to have the most consistently awesome secondhand CD stash in Australia at $3 a pop. I walked out with Danny Tenaglia’s GU017: London and one less gap in my Faithless collection.
They’re staying in the car until I’ve got another 90 minutes to waste. KRIS SWALES