From left to right: Rob Hatch-Miller and Puloma Basu
Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller on their documentary “Other Music”
A lasting presence
November 25, 2020
Photography by Lauren Randolph
In these cloistered times, a geographical myopia begins to appear. Although the record store was once a habitual oasis in the wave of relentless activity that drives our lives, it has been an increasingly distant retreat, disappearing behind the lines of gentrification, monopolization, streaming and crises. global health. Despite, or perhaps because of, this growing scarcity, its function takes on an almost sacrosanct quality, reminding us of a time when shared community spaces energized our interests and deepened our appreciation of the soundtracks that guide us through life. Few spaces could claim the enduring influence and historical significance that defined Other Music, the Manhattan record store that operated from 1996 to 2016, a titanic purveyor of all things weird, eccentric and independent. In their moving tribute to this truly singular space, filmmaking couple Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller highlight the passionate, curious and generous spirit of the souls who created Other Music like no other record store before or since.
The store itself brought an intimately personal touch to the musical fandom, even functioning as something of a jumping off point for the director couple. “I was a long-time client, Rob actually worked there for three years. We actually met through a very dear friend who also worked there,” says Basu. Carefully curated of rare and independent treasures, owners Chris Vanderloo and Josh Madell created a vibrant ecosystem of deeply informed outsiders whose enthusiasm and passion were infectious. not really an equivalent There were many, many record stores, and there was a Reggae store, soundtracks and Trance music store, but Other Music was a central hub of a bunch of different scenes that represented not only indie rock but club oriented dance, avant-garde and jazz music and music, they passed through all of these scenes and became a hub of the underground music scene in New York during the years where it existed,” says Hatch-Miller.
At a time when New York’s underground music scene was enjoying a resurgence, his heart was set on Other Music. “When TV on the Radio, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The Rapture were all going through Other Music, none of us felt like they would still be bands people really cared about deeply about two decades later. “, describes Hatch-Miller. “They were the first store in the United States to sell a Belle and Sebastian album, so in 1997 there were only thousands of people coming to buy that album because you couldn’t get it anywhere else. ” Unsurprisingly, such an ethos has attracted tastemakers and artists from all walks of life, a small selection of whom make an appearance in the film, including Benicio Del Toro, Jason Schwartzman, and even former Animal employees Dave Portner and Noah Lennox. Collective. The real stars of the film, however, are the curators and employees who eat, sleep and pray to the music every minute of every day. A charming cast of uplifting and offbeat dreamers made the otherwise daunting “aware” atmosphere a welcoming space for heads and young fans to cross paths and rejoice in their shared passion for the eclectic and original of the music.
Reflecting on the state of record stores more generally, Basu and Hatch-Miller believe that Other Music was once again ahead of the curve. “Record stores are an option even for music fans now. You don’t need physicality to experience music, and while I don’t think [record stores] disappear, they just exist for a different reason. I think that’s one of the reasons Other Music didn’t stay open is because after their 20 years of being open they saw that their reason for being open had changed and that the need they served had changed. They weren’t going to expose people to new music like they were when they had Belle and Sebastian’s debut album,” says Hatch-Miller. Luckily, record stores still exist and many of them benefited from renting this movie online, which raised over $25,000 for independent stores, as COVID-19 plunged many of them in a precarious financial situation.
A fitting send-off for one of the most beloved and inspiring record stores ever, the documentary continued to foster the spirit that has made Other Music such an enduring space. Recalling how major distributors turned down the film, Basu recalls that the film’s commercial potential was never the motive behind praise from such a fiercely independent venue. “Everyone said it was a niche story and we knew that, but we wanted to make this movie because it’s a universal message. I think people who don’t go to record stores can relate that community and small spaces matter.
(Other music is available to stream on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, Vimeo On Demand and elsewhere.)
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