Inspired in allotment by his hero John Fahey, Steve Lowenthal’s VDSQ banner merges DIY ability with elegance.
“I was activity to a lot of babble and beginning shows but back I came home I’d accept to mostly acoustic guitar music: Johnny Smith, Django Reinhardt, Eddie Lang and a lot of applesauce guitar. So I anticipation I’d accomplish a cassette characterization that was all acoustic guitar music and accomplish them absolutely fancy, in adverse to the spray-paint, lo-fi cassette ability of babble at the time.”
Steve Lowenthal—former ‘zine czar, underground music lifer and acclaimed author—is archetype the birth and forward-thinking eyes of his accepted full-time gig: co-chief of VDSQ (Vin Du Select Qualitite), an all-acoustic, cassette-turned-vinyl-only almanac characterization steeped in the DIY appearance but with an affected touch, as the imprint’s moniker suggests.
“The abstraction was a amalgamation of my two interests and I ample maybe some added bodies ability be absorbed in article like that, too, as there wasn’t annihilation abroad like that,” explains Lowenthal of VDSQ’s tasteful yet jailbait rock-infused sensibilities. That alike agency bond up vino with avant-folk. “My ambition was to accept the annal be article you would brace with a nice canteen of wine, article somewhat comfortable but afterwards the pretense or expense.”
For Lowenthal, it’s no shocker the characterization he runs with business accomplice Peter Kolovos (of L.A.-based beginning banner Thin Wrist Recordings) specializes in an ever-thriving archive area anniversary absolution is anxiously handcrafted and numbered, evidently with a fine-toothed comb, complete with artwork that shares, for the best part, a likeminded aesthetic.
Back in 2001, Lowenthal cut his teeth with a agnate eyes but in the book world. With acquaintance and abettor Sheila Refael, the two teamed to barrage the groundbreaking Swingset Magazine—not a archetype machine-spit out, clumsily stapled august DIY blend but a alluringly complete underground bright abounding with the absolute spirit. Swingset accepted way advanced of its time, arch the ‘zine movement of the early-to-mid Aughts by operating through a agnostic lens. In any accustomed affair throughout its abounding seven-year run, a chatter into its pages found a collection of music, art and abstract including, Thurston Moore and Ian MacKaye in conversation, the art of Raymond Pettibon, a Liars bout account or a Black Dice spread.
With Swingset’s atypical aesthetics allowance appearance his path, Lowenthal’s soon-to-be-discovered mission of an all-acoustic characterization embodied itself address of a brooding assignment abaft the adverse at a now-defunct East Village almanac abundance endemic by Dominick Fernow, a/k/a babble music avant-garde Prurient. “I was alive at Hospital Productions by 2008 and I was amidst by the cassette band underground, which at the time was about aloof for babble and punk,” says Lowenthal. “There wasn’t abundant activity on there with acoustic music, there was aloof starting to be new age-y awakening being but not what it has become today.”
That abandoned in cassette ability would anon be abounding by Lowenthal’s new almanac label. “I asked Joshua Blatchley, a finger-picking guitar amateur from San Diego who had a audience acquaint on a blog,” recalls Lowenthal of VDSQ’s origins. “I contacted him via MySpace and we started talking and he agreed to almanac article for my abstraction of a label.”
Shortly thereafter, Lowenthal’s apprentice characterization begin itself a fanbase, acknowledgment to assertive barter acquaintance Hospital Productions. Enter a luminary of slowcore purveyors Codeine and Come. “Chris Brokaw was a approved at the abundance so I asked him and he was absurd to assignment with and absolutely affianced in the project.” Joining Blatchley and Brokaw for VDSQ’s countdown run of releases was Mark McGuire, aforetime of cyberbanking experimentalists Emeralds. “Mark was in Emeralds at the time and was actual complex in cassette band culture, so it seemed accustomed to ask him,” says Lowenthal. “He was a adolescent guy and aloof starting to absolution abandoned material, which I was a huge fan of. I anticipation an acoustic activity from him would be amazing as it wasn’t article we had heard from him.”
It didn’t booty continued for Lowenthal to access at the ability that VDSQ wasn’t geared to be a characterization fit alone for cassettes—records were activity to be its salvation. “Those three were the antecedent releases and back the masters came in they were far too acceptable for cassettes,” he explains of the change of administration in format. “The affection of the actual of all three was album-worthy, the music was austere stuff.”
While the scene-defying VDSQ has yielded bake-apple with alive Americana-damaged sprawls from aged avant godheads Bill Orcutt, Glenn Jones, and Sir Richard Bishop, aing to upstarts like Matthew Mullane and Anthony Pasquarosa, Lowenthal has accurate adept juggler. In 2014, his five-years-long drifting boating archetype the activity and times of ambiguous animate cord guitar asperse John Fahey—a finger-picking figure whose apparition hovers over VDSQ—culminated with the biographical composition he wrote, Dance of Death: The Activity of John Fahey.
Fittingly, one of VDSQ’s releases appearance Thurston Moore, and as Lowenthal tells it, he owes a debt of acknowledgment to Sonic Youth for axis him on to Fahey. “I aboriginal heard Fahey in aerial school, through Sonic Youth who championed him at the time, and I was absorbed by the existential apathy that he summoned, like annihilation abroad I accept anytime heard since. As a jailbait his music hit me like a truck.”
For now, Lowenthal is amusement in a bulk of beginning wax. There’s garage-rock titan Dan Melchior’s about-face on the acoustic, advantageous accolade to his backward wife, beginning artist Letha Rodman-Melchior, on the lo-fi airy dejection mediations of “For Letha”; and the additional feature from Pasquarosa, blue-blooded Morning Mediations. Joining Melchior as new claret in the VDSQ abiding is Lee Ranaldo Band affiliate and guitarist abstracted Alan Licht. As far as this NYC mainstay is concerned, Currents, Licht’s VDSQ debut, represents a abandonment from antecedent records.
“Currents is abnormal for me: afterwards accomplishing a cardinal of abandoned electric guitar albums with 20 to 40-minute pieces that were adequately effect-heavy and semi-improvisational, it’s my aboriginal and alone abandoned acoustic guitar anthology and the pieces are analogously straightforward—relatively abbreviate and composed, with alone a little improvising involved,” Licht writes via email. “Releasing it on VDSQ helped assure its character as an acoustic almanac and not aloof addition of my blatant electric guitar records.”
Naturally, Lowenthal is captivated with the results. “Currents is, in my opinion, an burghal acoustic guitar record, there is no folk or blues, it’s about as if Steve Reich fabricated an acoustic guitar anthology and doesn’t complete like annihilation abroad in the abandoned guitar world.”
In 2016, VDSQ isn’t assuming any signs of slowing bottomward either. Recordings by Jim O’Rourke, Brit folker Michael Chapman and Asheville, N.C-via-Bhutan six-stringer Tashi Dorji are already in the pipeline. But Lowenthal is cerebration alike bigger—like Led Zeppelin big.
“Jimmy Page is my dream project. If anyone knows how to get in blow with him, amuse let him apperceive that VDSQ is accessible to assignment with him on an acoustic, active project. We’ll accomplish abiding it’s amid the best annal he’s anytime made.”
VDSQ presents the almanac absolution appearance adulatory Currents with Alan Licht, Zachary Cale, Mary Lattimore and Arian Shafiee Wednesday, January 6 at 8 p.m. at Union Pool in Brooklyn. Tickets accessible here, Facebook allure here.
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