Gold Mining the DC Scene with On Repeat Recordings
During his time with the Washington D.C. band Black Eyes, Michael Kanin was part of a group of elite, eclectic musicians that destroyed stages in the early ’00s. Every live performance was a crushing experience of raw, unfiltered, post-punk wreckage that exploded out like a new kind of free jazz. Reflecting, Kanin says, “D.C. … was always evolving; every band came with a punctuation mark. People were creating and demanding to be heard.”
The label Kanin currently manages, On Repeat Recordings, began as a means for revisiting and reamplifying the artists from this era through reissues of their rarely heard records. The project was born from a nostalgia for a bygone scene. “As Black Eyes really started talking about getting back together [in the last few years], it brought up a lot of stuff and these bands that existed in the community; there was a special thing going on,” he says of the label’s origins. “All this stuff was happening around the turn of the century, and all these folks were playing together and creating stuff that was really phenomenal.”
“D.C. … was always evolving; every band came with a punctuation mark. People were creating and demanding to be heard.”
Kanin has a simple goal: “To give a window into what it was like to make music in Washington from 2001–2004,” he says. “It’s hard to place the music in time, because I think for me it’s still vibrant … The sound of it feels of a time for me, but that time is still relevant. I’ve been chasing that musical experience for years.”
On Repeat Recordings gets its start housing three bands from that era: et at it, Rench’s Rifles and RaRaFre+Am. These three bands are a perfect foundation for the label, and they blossom like beautiful, complicated flowers. Respecting (or tolerating) my flower metaphor, Kanin continues his description of these records in that vein. “et at it is a flower; it blooms in different ways. Rench’s Rifles is a sturdy fir tree, and RaRaFre+Am is more prickly—yet, there’s warmth to it, like getting a big hug from a cactus,” he says.
RaRaFre+Am, Rench’s Rifles and et at et deliver loud, electric and beautiful records. RaRaFre+Am is as punk as you can get showing a unique aggression with absolutely no drums and an oboe.
“et at it is a flower; it blooms in different ways. Rench’s Rifles is a sturdy fir tree, and RaRaFre+Am is more prickly—yet, there’s warmth to it, like getting a big hug from a cactus,”
Rench’s Rifles may be the tightest of the three records. Each artist had overlapping projects in the scene that include El Guapo, Orthrelm, Chrom-Tech, The Craniums and stints with RaRaFre+Am. The record is bouncy, sublime and strange, and it sticks heavy like cement.
The final record of the three, from et at et, throw out a fisherman’s net and catches everything. “Something’s different about et at et,” says Kanin. “They were more tongue in cheek, incredibly stripped down, incredibly thoughtful—just brilliant stuff. It shines in contrast to what is loud.” Et at et has the same noise and aggression as the other two records, but they comes across more like a Valentine. The trio of Fiona Griffin (guitar), Amelia Saddington (guitar) and Franke Vogl (bass) seems to have invented noise pop—equal parts malfunctioning alarm clock and warm sonic blanket.
“They were more tongue in cheek, incredibly stripped down, incredibly thoughtful—just brilliant stuff. It shines in contrast to what is loud.”
On Repeat Recordings succeeds in bringing Kanin’s larger musical goals to “play intentionally and to think about bringing a larger context with us” to fruition. “I think that creating with history in mind, the borders that we carry in mind and whether these borders are privileged or not is extremely important, and I think there has to be space for that,” says Kanin. He’s found that space with On Repeat Recordings, as the three releases bear the mark of their regionality and inventiveness. The labels’ initial releases from et at et, Rench’s Rifles and RaRaFre+Am reintroduce an era to a new generation. Purchase cassette releases of these albums and stay up to date about future releases at onrepeatrecordings.bandcamp.com.
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