Seattle is already blessed with several stellar reissue labels, from the globetrotting oddballs at Sublime Frequencies to the groove hounds of Light in the Attic. Now a newcomer has joined their ranks: Medical Records, “purveyors of classic synth, cosmic disco, wave (cold/new), and future music.” Founded by Dr. Troy Wadsworth, a 37 year-old oncologist (hence the name), this boutique label launched this past summer with a pair of celebrated discs, the 1981 self-titled album by Krautrock outfit Deutsche Wertarbeit (aka Dorothea Raukes, one of the few women of note in this seminal German musical movement), and Ce N’est Qu’un Début, the 1984 mini-LP by Italo-disco legend Alexander Robotnick, perhaps best known for his cult classic “Problèmes d’amour” (included on the EP).
“My favorite bands of all time are — and always will be — Kraftwerk and Brian Eno,” says Wadsworth. That snapshot provides a pretty good idea of his aesthetic vision for the label, which focuses on Krautrock and synth-pop grooves from the late ’70s and early ’80s. Inspired by like-minded labels such as Minimal Wave and Vinyl on Demand, Medical Records releases are crafted with the collector in mind, pressed on 180 gram, colored vinyl, in limited, hand-numbered editions of 500. No compact discs, no downloads. “I’m a big vinyl geek and collector myself, and have been for many years.”
But as Medical Records’ reputation spreads, demand for his lovingly crafted products is already forcing Wadsworth to rethink his game. While the pressings of his first two titles took a couple months to sell out, the third and fourth ones — both by Italian new wave duo Chrisma — were snapped up in under three weeks. So while his original Medical Records editions of Chrisma’s albums Chinese Restaurant (1977) and Hibernation (1979) were released on orange and clear vinyl, respectively, the second pressing will be on standard black vinyl and sans numbering; they’ll also cost a dollar or two less.
Alas, these obscure artists weren’t quite as excited before the label off the ground. Wadsworth weathered eighteen months of unanswered e-mails and declined offers in pursuit of potential titles to launch the label. “People don’t really pay attention to you until you’re somebody.” More importantly, he was determined to play by the rules. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there doing illegitimate things,” he acknowledges. “I wanted to make sure we did everything down to the letter.” That meant waiting for contracts and master tapes to be sent back and forth between continents. And waiting. And more waiting. “The logistics always takes a month or two longer than I anticipate.”
2011 promises to go a little smoother. Already in the pipeline are Geri Reig (1980) and Normalette Surprise (1981), the first two albums by Der Plan, a Dusseldorf electronic combo considered at the forefront of the neue Deutsche welle (“German new wave”) movement. The latter will even amend bonus tracks, in the form of both sides of the band’s 1980 “hit” single, “Da Vorne Steht ‘Ne Ampel” (1980). That will be followed by a collection of unreleased cuts by Swiss band Guyer’s Connection. From there, Wadsworth — who also spins at Seattle’s new monthly Pop Surgery party — doesn’t want for additional possibilities. “There are just so many amazing records that nobody gets to hear.” Medical Records is hoping to rectify that. Just make sure to nab them while you can!
DJ El Toro hosts the variety mix show on Wednesday nights from 9 PM to 1 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His weekly rant, “Weird At My School,” appears infrequently on the KEXP Blog. Please follow DJ El Toro (aka Kurt B. Reighley) on Twitter and/or Tumblr!