Documentary 'Other Music' Chronicles A Record Store Navigating A Shifting IndustryBreaking News
tags: New York City, music history, documentary, record store
Watching a movie about an indie record store at this particular moment feels about as far away as a Ken Burns miniseries about the Civil War. What I wouldn’t give right now to go kill a couple of hours flipping through a shop’s stacks while chatting with the clerks and fellow customers. I suppose the next best thing is “Other Music,” an unexpectedly moving documentary about the beloved, recently shuttered New York City institution of the same name. The film was originally scheduled to screen at the Brattle Theatre this weekend, in tune with the now-postponed Record Store Day. Instead, on Friday it will be available to rent via virtual screenings, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Brattle or music shops like Vinyl Index in Somerville and Dyno Records in Newburyport.
Directed by Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller, “Other Music” chronicles the cramped, underdog store for connoisseurs that thrived for a time directly across the street from Tower Records’ East Village multi-story megalopolis. A labor of love begun by three young clerks who worked together at the sprawling, sketchy Kim’s Underground — a place that could probably spawn several R-rated documentaries of its own — Other Music provided an impeccably curated collection of sounds one would never find at the neighboring corporate colossus, selected by a staff that could be downright intimidating in their expertise. (In the film, regular customer Benicio Del Toro confesses that he usually just let the clerks pick out whatever he bought, because after a while they knew his taste better than he did.)
The film focuses on owners Chris Vanderloo and Josh Madell as they attempt to navigate seismic shifts in the music industry and a formerly funky New York City being blanded out by anonymous commercial monoliths. (The store’s third founder, Jeff Gibson, moved to Belgium in 2001 and did not participate in the movie.) You’d never know it now, but there was a time when the East Village was overflowing with such strange shops and oddball artistic endeavors. Other Music had an endearingly personal quality, with its passionate staff recommendations hand-written on one-inch cards. In the late ‘90s and early aughts, the shop became a nexus for the city’s underground music scene, with the burgeoning careers of bands such as Vampire Weekend, The National, LCD Soundsystem, TV on the Radio and Interpol helped along via in-store appearances or selling homemade CDs through the store’s consignment program.
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