By Ken Stringfellow, 2001
There are very few labels that I would consider hitching my wagon to in this day and age-after years of, let’s be honest, complete and utter destitution and obscurity, I would be hesitant to embarrass most of them. Out of respect, none have called as of yet in this decade. But my years associated with Houston Party without a doubt contain my fondest and most respectful recollections of any working relationship I have been in within the music industry. Their commitment to artistry recalls the early years of Atlantic, the classic years at Blue Note, or even the great catalogue-building era at Boner. At this stage in my life, I view the world of music strictly as a consumer, and I buy every Houston Party release as if HP was my favorite band. I buy them because I know what I’m going to get. Houston Party has found their own vein of obscurists’ popular music to mine, refine and cast into objects of beauty. Situated in one of Europe’s most culturally aware cities, Barcelona, they have been exposed to unique artists from their neighborhood and beyond. The Posies, Parkinson DC, the Libs, Gallygows, Mondo Fumatore, Saltine, White Flag, the Zeros, Holland Park, Jean Jacket Shotgun, Skyward, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jon Auer, even the my own beloved Minus Five after my brief tenure was over, I own them all. I have listened to these records more than I have listened to the White Album or Saturday Night Fever.
When I was signed to the label with the Minus Five (sadly, this was in the early days of HP, and the album was released only on cassette and never re-issued. You would understand why this would be if you heard it), I got to know the label’s founder quite well. Back then, Jaime Hernandez ran the label out of his Barcelona flat, with a one-room office and stacks of CDs piled in the hallway. And this is exactly the state you’ll find him in today. I can also attest to the fact that before this label was started, Jaime was an incredibly lazy person, who preferred freedom from labor over any possible material reward, so his hard work with the label over the years is hard evidence that he loves these records immensely and is very selective as to what he will expend his energy on-only the purest, truest, and uncompromising artistry would be worth his time.
I’ll be honest. I don’t own a computer. I do not know what the website I am writing this introduction to will look like. I just get the CDs at my local import shop, and put ’em in rotation. I believe if you listen to 3 or 4 of these records one after another, you’ll find the thread running through these disparate bands from different countries: a desire to be melodious, a desire to be hard edged whilst striving for beauty in its highest form, and a desire to mix familiar musical structures with truly obscure and avant-garde thought. Thank you, Houston Party, for not doing the obvious-i.e., putting out the most anti-commercial or the most blatantly commercial music to impress one set of the unimaginative or the other. Thank you for being an obscurists’ dream, thank you for existing in your own world, and letting the rest of us in.
Ken Stringfellow En route between Atlanta and Seattle, 2/12/00