Squirrel Hill's 720 Records shop is ground zero for two new vinyl labels | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Squirrel Hill's 720 Records shop is ground zero for two new vinyl labels

More than a decade ago, I predicted that vinyl records would outlast CDs, and now it's coming to pass. Vinyl makes up 55 percent of sales at Oakland's Wicked Discs, according to owners Vince and Daphne Curtis. At Eide's Entertainment, Downtown, vinyl accounts for about one-third of the traffic. At Squirrel Hill's 720 Records, vinyl has always made up more than 90 percent of purchases, and over the past year, the shop's two main employees, Tom Cox and co-owner Andrew Burger, have started their own vinyl record labels.

Burger named his The Harmony Society. He's backing the four-track 7-inch EP, Buscrates' 16-bit Ensemble, by local DJ Buscrates (a.k.a. Orlando Marshall, a beatmaker for local hip-hop MCs).

"The music is downtempo hip-hop with lots of live instrumentation, playing Korgs and Moogs and electronic pianos, and plenty of layering," says Burger, who grew up with punk and hip hop, and is developing a penchant for jazz. He agrees that DJ Shadow or Prefuse 73 are relevant touchstones for Buscrates' music. "It does have more of a jazz sound -- those into Hammond players or Herbie Hancock [would like it]."

But Burger's label isn't limited to regional artists. "If it comes from Pittsburgh, that's great, but not a necessity."

The same holds true for Cox, who covers soulful dance music for the infinitestatemachine.com blog, and who has recently launched his Love What You Feel label. The debut release is by Disco Nihilist from Austin, Texas. "It's deep dance music -- a guy with a TR-707, a 303, and a Yamaha synth, recording to a four-track cassette machine," says Cox. Nihilist's music "has modern structure but with that do-it-in-your-bedroom feel," Cox adds. "He makes it raw and nasty, and that's how I like it."

Nihilist's tracks are reminiscent of both dub-laden techno and old-school Chicago house, which interests Cox more than current software-based productions. For Cox, "The most interesting connection is between a person and limited machinery, where you do things the best you can, instead of striving for perfection." And he's already planning his second release: Chicago's Noleian Reusse playing a stripped-down live set. 

Other than the well-established Shawn Rudiman, Cox hasn't found any Pittsburgh electronic producers who fit his soulful aesthetic, but he urges hidden talents to get in touch via the record store. In the meantime, his records are available worldwide via Chicago distro Crosstalk. Both labels' releases will also be on sale at 720 and Paul's CDs in Bloomfield.

DJ Buscrates' release party takes place at 10 p.m. Sat., July 18 at Shadow Lounge, as part of the Classic Material night featuring DJ SMI. For more info, visit www.shadowlounge.net or call 412-363-8277.