- Gareth Crook
Other Music (2019)
I’d never heard of Other Music, a New York Record Shop, now closed down. This documentary is a love letter to its memory. It’s a weird thing watching a film with such nostalgia for a place that thrived on being new. Shot when it was still trading. It looks much like any other good record store. I don’t mean your local HMV (remember them?) or any chain, this is a proper record shop, for people who love music, selling music to people who love music. The place itself isn’t about the bricks and mortar. It’s the understanding that when you go there, you’re gonna find inspiration. I know that sounds like elitist snobbery, but for me there is a difference in music that challenges and lifts you... or drops you for that matter. Popular chart music has its place of course, but that stuff needn’t worry, the money making machine will look after that. Music as art though struggles, that’s why people vehemently strive to protect it, elevate it and love it. This was a store with handwritten signs from the staff detailing the contents on the shelves. It’s the curation that’s special, even in its style of organised chaos. There’s an honesty and a bravery. Tower Records were right across the street, but Other Music had soul, presence and staff with encyclopaedic knowledge. It’s this for me that makes this film captivating. You’ll listen to them telling stories behind the music to customers and think “Yeah that DOES sound good. I want to listen to THAT!” It’s exciting! As music should be. The thrill of discovering music that’s new to you, be it released this year or 60 years ago. I kept hitting pause, visually scrutinising the racks. The role call of talking heads is impressive, members of The National, Mogwai, TVOTR, Magnetic Fields, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Depeche Mode, Interpol, We Are Scientists, Vampire Weekend, Le Tigre oh and Benicio Del Toro. That list is significant. It’s different, on the edge, it’s ‘other’. As a doc, it’s familiar ground. Talking heads, loose GVs, archive and footage capturing its closure. It still has a dizzying array of content though, especially the clips of live in-store shows, often cut cruelly short... I wanted more Mogwai! More Interpol!! In true fashion I found things here that peaked my interest, almost like I was flipping through the racks myself, William Basinski most notably and that’s what I’m listening to right now as I write this. Beautifully haunting stuff, have a listen. Naysayers will dismiss it as a hipster hangout and it is that, was that, but so so much more. Music consumption has changed though I guess and sadly not in a good way. Other Music was an institution and it’s quite heartbreaking to watch it close, even 4 years on, on a screen, having never been there. Is it a film about music? Well yes and the changing times in retail. It could be argued though that’s it’s more about people, people talking, interacting, breaking down all the walls, music can do that. Music does that. RIP Other Music and all the other beloved stores around the world that haven’t made it.