Friday, June 4, 2010

The Microphones(' SINGERS): I Can't Believe You Actually Died/I'm A Pearl Diver 7" (Coming In Second Records, 2000)

(7" front, back, vinyl inner label side A, B, 7" pictured with insert)

The Microphones(' SINGERS): I Can't Believe You Actually Died/I'm A Pearl Diver 7"

-Recorded in November of 2000 at Dub Narcotic, Olympia, Wash. by Phil Elvrum, Bret Lunsford, Dennis Driscoll, Ariana Jacob, Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, Forrest Martin, Chris Sand, Calvin Johnson, Jenn Kliese, Jason Wall, Nate Ashley, Khaela Maricich, Amber Bell, Mike May, and "Karl Blau"*

*One assumes these usual suspects are the "Singers" referred to in the cryptic title here. Also, if anyone can tell me why Karl's name appears here in quotation marks that would be just so great.

**Update on that "Karl" questions. Ben helpfully commented below that he read "Karl" is actually a reference to an ancient tape-loop drum machine used at Dub Narcotic named "Karl Blau" in honor of Karl Blau himself. Ben goes on to guess that that is the source of the distorted drums in "I'm A Pearl Diver" and at the beginning of "I Want Wind To Blow" etc... Thank you, Ben! Much appreciated!

-Released on Coming in Second (CIS 012) (I've got two conflicting addresses here. The one on the 7" itself is: 1807 Division Ave. Boise, Ida. 83701. Then I see one on which may be more up-too-date []: 1823 Atlantic St. Boise, Ida. 83705. May the best address win.). They have a website that has, at some point, apparently been "hacked" (

-As is par for the course there is a serious lack of info out there about this release. No one is credited with the design or art, which is a lovely block print, I think. It is really reminiscent of a couple of Nikki McClure 7"'s K Records put out years ago. I remember them also being block printed and having this little, weird, fold-over edge to them. I even sort of remember them having this same dragonfly insignia. I'll get back to you on this. Probably just a coincidence or trick of memory.*

Ok update on this. According to the Japanese release of the "Song Islands" cd Phil did the artwork for this. Although I have to say there some little discrepancies sometimes between the info given on that disc and its US counterpart or the 7"s themselves.

-No idea how many were pressed, I'm guessing, as usual, in the 500 or less range, based on the size of the label.

-Record plays and 45 rpms, both sides.

-These songs would later be collected (same versions) on the "Song Islands" CD.*

*As with some other songs, the title for "I'm a Pearl Diver" appears in variant forms. On the back of the 7" and the back of the "Song Islands" CD, as well as the liner notes it is referred to by it's full name. However, on the vinyl inner label it is referred to simply as "Pearl Diver"

-The inner groove info is pretty run-of-the-mill, i.e. a corresponding label number and then a longer set of numbers that I have no idea what they mean (CIS-012-A and B, and then U-53168-M-A and B,). Additionally, on both sides there is what appears to be a little initialization or signature. Am I naive, is this like, a "thing" with vinyl pressing that I am not aware of? My apologies if it is/I am. The signature appears to be, on side A, a tiny overlaid "OI" and on side B a tiny overlaid "OS".

-Vinyl is black on all copies so far as I know.

-The only insert that came with this is a small black and white label catalog for Coming In Second (Winter Catalog). As of this writing I actually do not have a copy of this 7" with the insert and, in fact, did not realize until recently that such an insert existed. If anyone has one and feels like parting with it I'd be grateful. I'll get back to you on any further specifics about it when I get my hands on one.

-Other details of note on this record:

Inner vinyl label is in Phil's trademark style, not quite there yet but getting closer to hitting it's stride.

This is the first appearance of the concept of "Singers". Which, I guess, Phil sort of considers a subset/band from his proper project. Something slightly more collective maybe. Though he utilizes all of these people and their choral presence all over many of his recordings. For some reason, I'm assuming it was the recording circumstances, they here get a special billing (as they would later get their own actual "SINGERS" LP).

"I Can't Believe You Actually Died" is about Phil's friend Brandon Shafer (Leica Piranha). I do not know the details of his life or death and I am not going to even attempt to go further with that, out of respect to the parties involved. All I know is that he was a young, creative individual amongst like-minded friends, taken, in some way, too soon. In Jimi Sharp's FIB zone (Issue Twelverum) they talk briefly about Leica and this 7". Phil just saying that he had made this record as a tribute and sent it to Brandon's mother but had lost touch with her.

Not sure if "I'm a Pearl Diver" is related to that or not. It does, however, feel like an early progenitor of Phil's later, far-flung, two part story featured in "A Log in the Waves" and "I Whale".


This was one of the first ones I got this past winter when I started this ridiculous collecting thing in earnest. My first priority of business being to track down all of the records of all of the songs collected on the "Song Islands" CD (some of which, alas, I think I will go to my grave never having seen, like, oh you know, the ones where Phil himself doesn't even know what their on or if the comps they were supposed to be on ever even got released).

Not sure what the explanation behind the "Microphones' Singers" attribution is, other than that these two songs seem to be recorded in sort of the same spirit as the much later released "Singers" LP, ie a bunch of people in a room sort of improvising to what Phil is doing, i.e. all Microphones recordings? haha.

This record has the distinction of being home to the song which is the namesake and standard bearer of our floating, "eternal last" mix --Figure 8 Plus......(I Can't Believe You Actually Died)
It was an accident of fate that that turned out to be the subject song of the 8th and last mix of the first wave. Prophetic really, performing the last rights and elegy before any of us even knew there was soon to be a death in the family. I know this song and that mix are sometimes particularly hard for some of us ex-Bmax-ers and current KINGS' (More on all of that over at THE SEANCE, coming soon.)

This is one of those records where you look at it and the cover gives you a feeling that is not very like the music therein. The front has that weird Halloween feel and the back looks like the Microphones version of a Sailor Jerry tattoo. No insert, all the info is on the back. But really what do you need? These two songs, esp. "Died" are, once again, really high-water marks for The Microphones, and us, as Microphones acolytes.
(Figure 8 Plus [originally 008]/032)

Side A:

I Can't Believe You Actually Died

Side B:

I'm A Pearl Diver



  1. "...if anyone can tell me why Karl's name appears here in quotation marks that would be just so great"

    I seem to remember reading in an interview somewhere that "Karl Blau" was an ancient tape-loop drum machine at Dub Narcotic, named in honour of Karl Blau himself. I suppose this is the distorted drum sound audible through most of 'I'm A Pearl Diver', the introduction to 'I Want Wind To Blow', and other songs.

  2. Whoa, amazing. That's really interesting, thank you for the input!