Alameda’s Time Released Sound fills unique music industry niche
By Lou Fancher
In 2011, an improbable idea bloomed in the mind of Alameda-based artist Colin Herrick. Following three threads of longtime interest — classical- and folk-based ambient and electroacoustic music, expertise in printmaking and acquiring collectors items, a practice dating back to childhood — Herrick began to produce handmade, one-of-a-kind, limited-edition deluxe vinyl albums, along with CDs and digipaks (custom CD cases).
In the last 10 years, the record label he named Time Released Sound, referencing a clock with no hands and the timelessness of the music and art for each album, has released 100 albums. A sublabel, Time Released Materials, offers six albums that Herrick says in an interview are “a little noisier, more beat-centric and, in the case of one album, ‘The Classical’s Diptych,’ something with vocals.”
Housed in a cozy shop on the city’s East End, Time Released Sound shares space and philosophical superstructure with Moodswing (instagram.com/moodswingmarket), a vintage store at 2707 Encinal Ave. owned by Herrick’s work and life partner, Maria Chenut. Moodswing sells clothing, barware, vintage accoutrements and fine art sculptures.
“She has two-thirds, and I have one-third, divided by a curtain,” says Herrick. “Her shop is an extremely squeezed, well-stuffed cabinet of curiosities. I’m a neatnik.”
Their different styles stop at interior decoration, which means the seamless collaboration they enjoy braids Chenut’s skills as a seamstress, costume designer and collage artist with Herrick’s craftsmanship as a printmaker and a prolific propensity for going to flea markets and garage sales to find the vintage books, old gift and candy boxes, children’s board games, decks of cards, film canisters, matchbooks, wallpaper, sheet music, maps and other materials used in designing and constructing each deluxe edition package.
Together, they curate submissions from musicians worldwide that, as recognition of Time Release has grown, now flows freely, with sometimes a new demo arriving daily. Herrick admits to having specific musical tastes that run toward atmospheric minimalist electronic and instrumental works that veer toward contemporary takes on classical, jazz or folk music traditions and structures.
“I get way more music than I can release. I’ve done on average of one album a month over the last 10 years. It’s a nice problem to have — too much music — because I can be selective. Maria listens extensively, and I’m much more instinctive. I know right away if it’s the kind of music I want to sit with extensively. Even so, I respond to everyone who sends music — not with a form letter but with a personal note. In the world of little labels like mine, I’m known to be responsive.”
Asked to speak specifically about two releases selected for the variety they demonstrate, Herrick says English musician Orla Wren’s “The Blind Deaf Stone” is pastoral.
“He’s lived a pastoral life in an old farmhouse, surrounded by cows and sheep. That’s why I used turn-of-the-century animal prints I had in a book I’d been keeping on hand, waiting for a pastoral sound to come along. Inside each deluxe edition on a string is an old 1930s cigarette card (with an image) of Scottish hillsides.”
Herrick crafts 50 to 100 deluxe editions of every release — each uniquely handmade with thematically related components — and up to 200 standard vinyl editions or digipak CD versions. Collectors of his work sweep up most of the deluxe editions, but standard versions come at lower price points and have nearly equal brisk sales records.
Invited to select one release to highlight, Herrick chooses Polish band Bastarda’s “Ars Moriendi,” above. The instrumental trio comprised of clarinet, contrabass clarinet and cello on the album transforms medieval liturgical compositions into mysterious, long-form jazz tracks. (photo courtesy of Time Released Sound) Catherine Watine’s “Errances Fractales” is the third album by the French artist that Time Released has produced. Herrick says Watine’s neoclassical, minimal-symphonic music is a favorite.
“I just think she’s a genius and her music is fantastic. She’s been open to what I do and hasn’t given me any guidance. The packaging just came out of my head; sometimes inspired by the title, sometimes by other things.”
The deluxe “Errances” packages integrate images of a 1980s sculpture made by his father, Ken Herrick, 125-year-old Parisian newspaper advertisements with cut-out snowflake fractal patterns, a page from an antique piano instruction manual and an insert with various musical reviews in French and English and imagery drawn by the French fine artist, Guillaume Mazel.
Invited to select one release to highlight, Herrick chooses Polish band Bastarda’s “Ars Moriendi.” The instrumental trio comprised of clarinet, contrabass clarinet and cello on the album transforms medieval liturgical compositions into mysterious, long-form jazz tracks. Herrick struggles for words to describe the flickering influences of spiritual gravity and illumination on the album.
“Haunting? Medieval jazz? I don’t know what to call it, but I chose to use old etchings from the era, vintage East European mural photographs, Catholic church-approved incense, and 60 different period-specific matchbooks from different mortuaries and funeral homes.”
That indicates that if Herrick finds only a limited stock of an item related to a specific location or concept, he’ll pass.
“Because my works are made in editions of 50 to 100, I need to find that many copies so I can make each one original. If there are only 25 matchbooks, I can resist that.”
Looking ahead, Herrick has embarked on his biggest project ever: a “large, lavish, 288-page, 10-inch square hardback legacy book” that includes two-page spreads for each of the label’s 106 releases, along with “behind-the-scenes” content. The 500 copies printed on offset press in Singapore will have two CDs recessed in the cover. The music is a compilation of new and unreleased tracks by 40 of the musicians with whom Herrick has worked.
“I’ll do a portion, maybe 50 to 100, in a deluxe form with handmade cover, art objects tucked in the pockets and maybe even a special box it comes in.”