Honestly folks, the main reason I put on the flexi-disc by a group called Pair of Arrows was simply that I was curious to hear how the record — which is pressed on an old x-ray — actually sounded! I didn’t know anything about the band or the music within. Blank City Records is a small label loosely based around the concept of honoring the historical creation of “ribs” recordings… This was a period of international music history where jazz and rock ‘n’ roll records were in fact pressed on old X-rays — images of skeletons, bones and … ribs! — by bootleggers in order to sneak the music behind the Iron Curtain back in the 1950s and beyond. Music like this was outlawed at the time.
You may have heard about these discs due to a book by author Steven Coates called X-Ray Audio. I was thus intrigued when I saw the press release circulating about a NEW round of 21st Century ribs releases. I reached out to the label and they kindly send me one of their new releases to check out.
As expected, I knew the disc wasn’t going to sound particularly great because that’s the nature of the medium… These X-Ray discs are only intended to be played a maximum of 10 times, so it’s a limited-use art form… It even came with a free Nickel to tape on the disc in order to play it properly (I didn’t need one on my turntable, btw). However it also came with a download card for the music on Pair of Arrows Wall EP in fuller fidelity. And this is where things might get interesting for you, Dear Readers of Audiophilereview — at least, that is where things got interesting for me!
Going back to my Trojan horse earlier comment in the title of this review, the actual music contained on the flexi-disc jumped out at me and was compelling enough even in its far from perfect fidelity. I knew immediately that I wanted to check out the download to really hear what this group was about (especially as a five song EP was available).
And here’s the joyous rub to this rib release: Pair of Arrows sound really really good! Their five song mini-album of very chilled out electronic pop music features a sultry female vocalist who pulls you into their universe in the best possible way — with melodies and hooks and interesting production. Pair of Arrows’ music on this Walls EP falls somewhere in the grand spaces between Beach House, Cocteau Twins and perhaps even Sigur Rós.
I played a bit of the EP for a friend who liked it as well and, in turn, introduced me to some music that was also not on my radar at all by a younger artist name Lana Del Rey — her music seems to be spinning in a somewhat similar vein, but I think like the vocalist in Pair of Arrows better. Its really too early for me to judge either fully and I plan to explore both of them more in the near future.
Anyhow, this was an interesting exercise for me and as cool as the X-Ray records are, it underscores the importance of the need for good music on the disc to make it a worthwhile listen, no matter how cool the promotional device might be. I can’t tell you how many nifty looking picture discs, odd shape records and — yes — flexi-discs I’ve come across over the years that are genuinely lackluster. That is not the case with Pair of Arrows. This is good stuff. You can find some of Pair of Arrows’ Wall EP up on YouTube (click here), SoundCloud (click here) as well as the whole EP in fuller resolution on Tidal if you have access to that subscription streaming service (click here to hear it there)
I will certainly be looking for more music by this group and perhaps we’ll someday hear them on something more full fidelity than an X-Ray flexi-disc or a basic CD-quality download (this would be nice music for a surround sound release). That said, I will likely check out other artists on the Blank City Records label, hoping for more musical wonderment to emerge from their grizzly recycled X-Ray grooves.
Give Pair of Arrows a listen.