Walking into the Miami-area record store, Kelly Olynyk’s eyes had to quickly adjust from the bright sunlight of the outdoors to the cool dimness of the shop. After sharing a nod with the proprietor, a young, but prematurely graying man who was behind the counter cataloging vinyl records, Kelly walked over to the vast shelves of used vinyl and began to browse.
It had been a long time since he had been in one of these places. In his world, online music had supplanted physical forms of music distribution. Ever since his mom had thrown out his large collection of prog rock, acid rock, post rock, symphonic rock, jazz rock, and punk rock CD’s after his first NBA season, he hadn’t bought a single thing at a record store. Everything was YouTube and Spotify for him now.
Until he had randomly walked by the shop that day, he hadn’t realized that he had a deep yearning to feel physically connected to his music again. But now that he was in the store, surrounded by a plethora of records, CD’s, and cassette tapes, he felt at home. This was his place. This was where he was meant to be.
The used records were helpfully categorized by genre, with “rock” happily being separated from “metal” and “pop”. He picked a box of records and started flipping through them, seeing many familiar bands as well as some that he didn’t recognize. The records were priced fairly, anywhere from a few dollars up to fifteen or so, and it occurred to Kelly that he likely had enough money to buy the store’s entire record collection several times over.
He wouldn’t do that, though. He would just pick out a few old favorites, take them home, then order a turntable online to be able to play them. The prospect of being able to hear those classic albums on such a classic medium nearly caused him to tremble with excitement.
While casually flipping through the “S” section, he caught a glimpse of familiar cover art, and his heart nearly stopped. Now he really was trembling as he gently took the record out from its place in the box and stared at it:
“Visions of Mars (Cubistic Journey Part I)” read the title. “Starcubism” said the name of the band. His breath was coming shallowly and quickly. The defining work of the little-known, and long-forgotten, genre of “British Columbian Prog” was in his hands. The album that had defined the first chapter of his life, because he hadn’t simply been a fan of the band, it was his band.
Memories of banks of Moog synthesizers flooded his mind. Conrad, Ferguson, Ichabod, Moonbeam, his old bandmates. The intricate soundscapes that they weaved with their instruments. Technical mastery, tripped-out ambience, a collection of influences from all across the globe, all melded together into something that was uniquely them. Uniquely Starcubism.
“I listened to it. Pretty good album,” said the proprietor of the shop, who had silently walked up behind Kelly to see what he was looking at. “Too bad they broke up, they could’ve been the next Hawkwind.”
“Yeah, they were pretty cool guys. I knew them personally, once upon a time,” Kelly replied with a laugh. “Never thought I’d see this all the way down in Florida.” He followed the man back to the front counter and got out his wallet to pay for the album that, if he had dared to open the cover, had a picture of his 17-year-old self standing behind a large synthesizer. “Moog Man”, they had called him in those days.
“Five bucks,” said the man after a brief glance at the sticker on the front of the record. When the money was handed over, he nodded his head once. “Come again soon, man. There’s a lot of great prog in those stacks.”
“For sure,” Kelly said, nodding in return. With his purchase in hand, he walked back into the dazzling Florida afternoon. In the light, he could see the album art more clearly. Seeing the colors so vividly caused those old memories to rush back at him once again. When a single tear spattered the record, he quickly wiped it off, not wanting anything to damage the precious relic.