If there's one thing that's going to send a vinyl-buying fanatic into a tailspin it's a copy of their new favourite record being cut in some new, bizarre way. Whether it's filled with a noxious liquid or shaped like the drummer from the band, it almost immediately becomes a must-have item. With Record Store Day fast approaching (mark April 22 in your diary) and the race to put out the weirdest vinyl record yet hotting up, here are a few of our favourite developments in the world of vinyl records.
Vinyl that looks like a CD
In a desperate attempt to shift physical product in the mid-00s, before vinyl had taken off again, a few bands and labels tried marketing CDs that also worked as vinyl records. No one really cared. But in 2012, Erol Alkan's ace Phantasy imprint created this majestic thing: a vinyl record that looked exactly like a massive 12-inch CD. Cue lots of people pretending to be very, very small while they held up their shiny (pretend) CD-R.
Jack White and his Third Man Records have cornered the market for new-fangled vinyl pressings. They keep coming up with new, ingenious ideas, including locked grooves and intros that play differently depending on where the needle is dropped. But The Dead Weather's Blue Blood Blues was even more interactive than that. It came as a regular 12-inch single – with a 7-inch single inside, ready to be cut out with a knife. Nifty.
Perfect Pussy's Meredith Graves infused the transparent vinyl of their Say Yes To Love album with her own blood. It was limited to only 300, thanks goodness. But rather more icky, the Flaming Lips pressed 10 copies of their Heady Fwends album with real blood encased (and sloshing around) inside the clear vinyl – blood that Wayne Coyne collected from Coldplay's Chris Martin, Kesha, Justin Vernon, Jim James, Sean Lennon and more. Proceeds from the records, which were sold for $2,500 USD each, went to charity.
Vinyl is an old-school format, so covering it with zoetrope animations – a key, pre-film moving animation technique – seems apt. Zoetrope animation is a sequence of images that, when they move in a circular motion, displays a fluid, progressive animation. It works slightly differently on vinyl, though. You need to apply a strobing light to the spinning record and film it or look through a special viewer to bring it to life. London duo Sculpture did just this on their mind-bending Plastic Infinite seven-inch single.
Very, very tiny vinyl
This rapid-fire compilation of punk rock released by the PEA BRAIN fanzine is a mind-boggling feat of vinyl engineering. ADHD EP is the smallest compilation ever pressed to vinyl – a two-inch record featuring eight songs by six different Southampton and Portsmouth punk bands. OK, so each song is only 10 seconds long but still: genius.
With scratch-and-sniff technology already readily available, a new evolution in the world of vinyl pressings was inevitable. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters single came this: a shock-white record in a squishy white gatefold sleeve that smelled of – you've probably guessed it – Stay Puft Marshmallows. Third Man Records (them again) have also dabbled in whiffy records, releasing Karen Elson’s The Ghost Who Walks on peach-infused vinyl. There were rumours, too, of a poo-scented Mr Hankey's Christmas Classics.
Augmented reality vinyl
Brian Eno's latest album, Reflections, is, on record, a single, 54-minute track of slowly shifting ambience. The digital app version, though, is a constantly evolving and never-ending tide of ambience that's different every time. So it's little surprise to hear that, back in 2014, he and Warp Records asked Lukasz Karluk and creative studio Toby and Pete to build an augmented reality app for the vinyl version of his album with Underworld's Karl Hyde (Someday World). Via your phone, you can watch “outside architecture metropolises” spring up on the vinyl as it turns.
Not to be confused with bog-standard lenticular displays, holograms have been stuck on album covers since the early '80s by bands such as UB40, The Fall, Slayer, TLC, Pink Floyd, even Kylie. But thanks to the wizardry of holography expert Tristan Duke, they’re now being etched into the vinyl itself. He helped Jack White stick a spinning angel in the run-out groove of his 2014 album, Lazaretto, but went even further on the double vinyl release of the Stars Wars: The Force Awakens soundtrack. When the record spins, a series of dots in the run-out groove create revoloving 3D TIE Fighters and Millennium Falcons.
You can press pretty much anything into wax these days – and trust us, people are trying everything. Leaves, string, cremated ashes, asteroid dust – it's all been done. But a special shout out goes to noisy psych-rockers Eohippus. Their seven-inch single Getting Your Hair Wet With Pee, pressed by the innovative crew at Velocity Of Sound, was soaked in urine after it had been filled and cut with human hair. Nice.
Now this is the real deal: vinyl technology that evolved out of necessity. In Stalin's Soviet Union, rock 'n' roll and other forms of music from the West were banned. But the nation's youth had a hunger for new music at any cost and created an underground distribution network to pass on new releases etched onto discarded x-rays. The hole in the middle? It was made with a cigarette burn. Apparently the phenomenon was called "bone music".
Unusually shaped vinyl
There's no real limit to the shapes you can cut vinyl into – the only question is, how much do you want to annoy fans who'll struggle to file the record away with their normal-shaped ones. Brilliant examples range from buzzsaw-shaped vinyl, an amazing version of Fat Larry's Band's Stubbon Kind Of Fellow, shaped like Fat Larry himself, and Toto's continent-shaped Africa single. But we like this one a lot: a copy of Talk Talk's Living In Another World, taken from their 1986 album The Colour Of Spring. Is it a butterfly? Is it a tiger? Is it a biger?
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