Tribeca 2019: "Other Music" Review- A Cacophony of Memories
“Other Music” is one of this year’s feature documentaries at Tribeca, a film about a record store that opened in the East Village in 1995. If I took away anything from this documentary, however, it is that Other Music was not just a record store.
This documentary was directed by married couple Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller, an LA-based team that has specialized in music video production and recently collaborated on the soul music documentary feature Syl Johnson: Any Way The Wind Blows. The film chronicles the store’s 20-year history and features artists and bands such as Regina Spektor, Vampire Weekend, Animal Collective, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Strokes, Interpol and TV On The Radio. The record store, which closed in 2016, was a solace for the independent musician. It was a destination for artists, industry representatives, music lovers and wanderers alike. It was a place where bands were formed and friendships blossomed. Other Music created an environment that supported musicians and allowed bands to grow, which ultimately served as a great influence on the music scene in New York City.
As retail stores lose business to online shopping, Other Music reminds us how human interaction can help nurture a community. When you enter the store there are shelves replete with vinyl, many of which records are labeled with a hand written note card. A professional vote of confidence for the work. There is also something gratifying about owning something tangible you spend money on. The spirit of this record store certainly lives on in a world dominated by online streaming services. The film does a great job focusing on employees of the store as well as customers who frequented the shop, and these customers cried when the store closed. I may have even broken down watching this film and I never had the chance to go there before it closed, but I digress.
From a storytelling perspective, Basu and Hatch-Miller succeed in chronicling a beginning, middle and end. They take you on a journey that offers great company and even better music. They extinguished my only criticism of the piece with a cacophony of noise, but I had to wait until about two-thirds the way through the film. From an editing perspective, the cuts could have been more inventive, creating a rhythm to compliment the narrative. But as the story neared the end and the store closed, the directors made their own music. It was a beautiful and emotional ‘Trashing the Camps’ style tune that satisfied the itch for something more self-reflective.
It is important to note that I don’t typically end a review in personal anecdote, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t articulate the profound impact this film had on me. As the credits rolled the theater erupted in applause, I calmly rose from my seat and exited quietly so as not to disturb the fellow movie goer and I walked. I walked to 15 E 4th St, just blocks south from the theater. There’s a coffee shop there now, one of many in the area. But just a few years ago was a record store that changed many lives.
Basu and Hatch-Miller welcomed me into their world of groove and funk, rock and roll, pop and disco, they sat me down for a history lesson and spit me out onto the streets of New York looking for an album that could fill the vacancy they created. In a world cluttered by noise, this film broke through it all with a heartfelt focus and all I can say is ‘thank you.’