Charlene Soraia,
The TVD First Date

“When I was a child I used to flip through my parents record collection and stare at the covers. I don’t think I could even read, let alone understand that they somehow played music, but I do remember always getting to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and flipping it over to stare at Stevie Nicks, whom I believed to be Lindsay Buckingham, the most beautiful woman in the world! You can imagine how confused I was many years later when I found out that Stevie and Lindsay were the other way round! But alas, this piece isn’t about Fleetwood Mac, it’s about vinyl and my strange little journey with it!”

“I was fascinated with my parents record collection when I was little, I’m not sure if it was the colours on these giant squares, or the smell, but both still satisfy me greatly. There was a lot of David Bowie, The Police, Kraftwerk, Bob Dylan, Prince, and Bob Marley in my parents’ record collection and every now and again new records would pop into the pile and others would go, sometimes they came back, but I eventually learnt how they worked and it was definitely some kind of witchcraft!

I vividly remember one LP turning up in the pile and thinking, “This is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen, I bet the music is just as ugly,” so I never gave it a chance. It had the scariest picture of a man screaming and it frightened the crap outta me! The inside of the gatefold was just as disturbing with vivid colours that were kinda freaky, so I never played that LP, I never knew the name of the band or the record. I claimed a bunch of my Dad’s records when he and my Mum broke up, one being an extremely old Disney LP, which was actually my Dad’s first record! I was given some Beatles records as a teenager and lots of gifts from people twice my age to listen to, but the first LPs I bought with my own money were actually a couple of 13th Floor Elevators picture discs.

When I was 16 I developed my taste for psychedelia. I was a proper ‘60s throwback in a time before Facebook and the rise of social media; how on earth I got through those summers in vintage nylon shirts, I will never know! I lived with my boyfriend/ drummer who was also a budding sound engineer. His grandad was an engineer and had built this stereo system with Tannoy Golds in the ‘50s. We were fascinated with all things vintage and how they worked! We used to play these tapes that his dad had bootlegged from his favourite LPs! We’d listen to this one over and over with the “wind song” and the “moon song.” Months went by and one afternoon he played the actual LP on his grandad’s stereo and it sounded INCREDIBLE! It was a bit clearer as it didn’t have that extra layer of ancient tape saturation (which was also stretched out at a couple of places from rewinding the tape!), but when I was shown the cover, I was in total shock! Here was the “ugliest record” I saw as a child, yet I was completely in love with it. Not only was it musically interesting and strange and gorgeous and luscious and intricate and freaky but it had some of the most beautiful sounds I’d ever heard, but it was like ancient secret knowledge—musical occultism! That vocal sound on “Moonchild” changed my ears forever! The album was In The Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson. I eventually learnt that the things that often frightened me the most in life had a habit of becoming the things I loved the most!

I started saving my pennies and learnt so many new things with each record I bought. I picked up a French pressing of Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother from an old record shop in Beckenham and figured out that the thicker the vinyl, the better the bass response. I found this random pressing of The Beatles “White Album”which I thought was a bargain and a 1970s reissue of David Bowies Space Oddity which had a totally different cover on it compared to the CD that I was obsessed with and that was my reason to buy it! That record was a bit a flimsy, but there was still something magical about it and, like my Diamond Dogs LP, it sounded so drastically different to the CD version I had only ever previously listened to. I was consciously listening to songs I already knew, but simultaneously absorbed in these totally different colours the vinyl had, even some of the levels of the mix were totally different and I was obsessed with these differences!

I bought two picture discs of the 13th Floor Elevators Easter Everywhere and The Psychedelic Sounds of. I thought like the coloured vinyl were a bit detrimental to the sound, despite them being thicker than an American Pancake, but they looked fantastic and no-one else I knew had ever even heard of the band! They were one of the bands I’d discovered in the BRIT School Library, which I chose to listen to solely based upon what the cover looked like. I used to jokingly say, “Baby Jesus made graphic designers for a reason,” and it must be true, because Storm Thorgerson—one of the greatest designers of recent history, along with Salvador Dali for Chupa Chups lollipops!

I became besotted with ‘60s psychedelic poster art too. Haphash and the Coloured Coat’s poster The Soft Machine Turns On is an all time favourite, which I aim to own an original of one day, but I discovered a whole world of American underground psyche music thanks to gig posters of Bill Graham! It was a joy I can only liken to when I was really young, when every new chord was a new song. I was in Waterloo Records in Austin when I found a reissue of Gandalf’s first album and it’s still one of my most prized possessions! In that store I spoke to another fan of the record and he introduced me to Blue Cheer and Power Plant. That’s one of the perks of vinyl—the brief meetings of like-minded individuals in record stores! These were the days before Google had the answer to everything!

It’s impossible for me to talk about vinyl without speaking about design. It’s an art that I feel is ironically becoming lost in the digital world. We’ve never had so many pixels, yet the joy of the art is diminishing due to the formats on which music is listened to—in fact, I sometimes wonder if there’s any point mixing in stereo these days! I’m just unsure as to whether people notice as much. It’s so easy to make a pastiche of the past with Instagram filters or Photoshop, but I don’t doubt that people still strive to make interesting artwork, in fact we used a bunch of prisms in front of the lens for my latest record, Where’s My Tribe, which was shot by James Holt and designed by Neil Bowen of ZipDesign. The cover for my first album Moonchild (which was produced by Paul Stacey) was created using long exposure photography in the dark and was designed by Richard Robinson and shot by Mads Perch. I really enjoy “meta” conceptual art, stuff that’s felt, but isn’t always understood. Music (and all forms of art) are vehicles. Let them takes you to places unknown.”
Charlene Soraia

Charlene Soraia’s forthcoming 10-track LP, Where’s My Tribe, arrives in stores on January 25, 2019 via Peacefrog Records.

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PHOTO: JAMES HOLE

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