It’s release day for Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years! It features new or previously unreleased songs from Vehlinggo mainstays: Anoraak, Betamaxx, Bunny X, Deadly Avenger, Diamond Field & Dana Jean Phoenix, FM Attack, Forgotten Illusions, Highway Superstar (feat. Zoe Polanski), In Mirrors, Johan Agebjorn (feat. Tom Hooker & remixed by Wolfram), Le Matos, Maethelvin, Mecha Maiko, Metavari, The Midnight, Parallels, and VHxRR.
It feels a bit unreal, considering how it always seemed like it was months away. But we’re here! To celebrate, I’m going to share some embeds and other information to make it easier for you to dive in.
Before we get to that, though. Below is an intro essay I wrote for the digital liner notes:
5 Years: A Note from Aaron
It took me a few years before I finally hit PUBLISH on the first Vehlinggo blog post. Here’s a quick tale of how I got here. My brother and I used to listen to Italians Do It Better acts Chromatics and Glass Candy, drink Bell’s Two Hearted, and talk about life — all at his apartment off Summit Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota. This was around 2010 and 2011. Chromatics’ Night Drive and Glass Candy’s Beatbox were revelatory music to me and so I was pleased when I learned of Italians Do It Better’s involvement with Drive, a film with a promising team behind it.
I was a local newspaper editor/reporter then and so I’d have time off in the middle of the day before I had to return to work and cover things like late-night city council meetings. (Really, I started the day at 6 a.m. running an online journalism program at a local high school, so the days ran long.) In 2011 in particular, I would see at least one film a week in the middle of the day; often two or three. It was great — the movie theatres were virtually empty and it was a respite from any contact with the outside world.
Well one day in September 2011 I went to see Drive and left the theatre a different person. I resolved to dive even further down the Italians Do It Better rabbit hole: Desire’s “Under Your Spell” led me to their exquisite debut LP and then everyone else on the label. But I also fell in love with College and Electric Youth, with “A Real Hero” bringing me deep into the world of the Nantes, France-based Valerie Collective, listening to everything I could find from College, Anoraak, Maethelvin, The Outrunners, Forgotten Illusions, and their friends. I’d drive around Minneapolis blasting College’s Teenage Color and A Real Hero EPs and Anoraak’s Nightdrive With You. (Though there’s a chance I listened to cuts from Secret Diary before I saw Drive on Pandora and didn’t realize it — a lot of that was going on at the time.) That all tangentially led me to Le Matos, Sally Shapiro, and Parallels, and then at some point in 2012 it led me to synthwave artists like FM Attack and Betamaxx. Eventually, a couple years later, The Midnight, Dana Jean Phoenix, Mecha Maiko, and Deadly Avenger would enter into the picture, as would In Mirrors, one of Italians Do It Better’s newer and finest acts.
At some point in 2012 I’d resolved to start a music blog that would cover all of this kind of music, but I could never find the time to start it. Perhaps I wasn’t ready yet. I didn’t exactly have much confidence. But fueled by Drive and by my trips to New York to hang out with friends, I reoriented my entire life in pursuit of something bigger. In late 2012 I found myself moving to Harlem in New York, eventually meeting Allison, who’d later become my wife, and ultimately feeling the energy, spirit, and confidence to finally start Vehlinggo in November 2014. From there it’s been a journey of meeting the aforementioned acts, interviewing them, and in some cases becoming great friends. Along the way, artists Bunny X, Diamond Field, Highway Superstar, and Von Hertzog effectively became members of Vehlinggo.
The first post I published was — shockingly! — a review of College EP Save The Day, featuring the great titular collaboration with Nola Wren. The date was Nov. 19, 2014. That same month, David “College” Grellier and Nola Wren did a show in New York that I reviewed — a post they shared that helped establish Vehlinggo as a known quantity. Futurecop! shared a review I did of their album Fairy Tales, furthering solidifying Vehlinggo’s place in this lovely corner of the world. A month later I got the courage to ask the Valerie Collective’s artistic director, Alex Burkart, to make the now-iconic Vehlinggo logo and by March 2015 I had the logo out in the world and was reviewing as many albums and interviewing as many people as I could.
The rest is history, I should say. (There’s too much for liner notes.) Over time, Vehlinggo expanded to cover obscure dance music and major TV and film scores alike, interviewing pretty much everyone who’s ever been involved in anything related to this realm musically (with some glaring exceptions). In 2016 this site truly set forth on the path to what it is today. The catalyst? My Drive 5th anniversary piece, which featured the second interview with Grellier and the first with Austin Garrick and Bronwyn Griffin of Electric Youth, along with Johnny Jewel of Chromatics and Desire, and score composer Cliff Martinez.
All in all, Valerie Collective members have graced these pages regularly for years in interviews and reviews, and my reviews of Italians Do It Better releases persist with great devotion. I’m always keeping an ear to the ground for new releases from pioneering synthwave label Rosso Corsa (Miami Nights 1984, Lazerhawk, Highway Superstar, and so many more). MONDO/Death Waltz, Lakeshore, Milan, Waxwork, and Burning Witches releases have become the norm on these pages, with artists like Deadly Avenger, Le Matos, Robert Parker, and Waveshaper becoming as crucial to Vehlinggo’s existence as the Drive extended family of artists.
So yes, we are at the 5th anniversary of Vehlinggo. So much has happened. So many things have changed. But a sense of community, trust, and camaraderie has reigned supreme, and I’m honored to present new or unreleased songs from a slate of artists who have been important to me personally and to Vehlinggo and its global community. Their music and their friendship has moved the earth. You hear them everywhere — such as film, TV, video games, or your favorite bar — and you are starting to see them fill ever larger venues on their growing tours. The momentum is unstoppable. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.
Anyway, this is my two cents. I likely forgot some key moments and hopefully didn’t forget to mention anyone. Thank you for reading the website, listening to the podcast, buying logo tees, and of course buying this compilation.
Let me leave you with a nice tweet about Vehlinggo from a reader and music fan named Matt Brandenburg: “It’s definitely opened my eyes to a ton of great music. Thinking back to even just two years ago and how different my music taste was, and how much it has changed with the help of Vehlinggo — it’s amazing.”
Info on the Comp
The album’s digital liner notes offer a lot of information: commentary from the artists about their songs and about their thoughts on Vehlinggo, plus album credits and the above essay by yours truly.
Here’s what Anoraak said abut why he contributed to the compilation: “Vehlinggo, to me, is this awesome man, Aaron: A truly passionate, open-minded, extremely supportive and talented writer, who likes to discover new music, help spread the word about it, and is also a very good friend to have drinks and endless discussions with <3.”
Bandcamp is of course the go-to for fans interested in downloading an album or songs. There’s no physical release for this compilation, so this is the closest thing to that.
Stream the hell out of these songs on Spotify. Add them to your playlists. Stream some more. The artists on this comp have contributed a host of awesome cuts. Let’s honor them!
It’s changed over the years, but Apple’s been in the digital music game a long time. You can stream the record there, too.
And there are plenty more outlets at which to listen. Deezer comes to mind. Basically, there are no shortages of options. Have fun!