Clients - Very Special Recordings Presents: Super Hi-Fi and Beninghove’s Hangmen


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A small, boutique Brooklyn-based label puts out cassettes that showcase the stunning diversity of that borough and city’s music scene, eventually settling on two releases that radically re-work the ouvres of two of rock music’s most beloved (and overplayed?) war horses into refreshingly creative statements. So goes the story of the eighth and ninth releases from Very Special Recordings: “Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana” and “Beninghove’s Hangmen Play Led Zeppelin.” The pair of releases will, like everything available so far from the fledgling label started by Super Hi-Fi bassist and founder Ezra Gale, be released on cassette-and-download only on December 2.

The two NYC bands are sonically diverse. Super Hi-Fi- an underground Brooklyn supergroup, whose members have backed up legends ranging from Beyonce to Bill Frisell to Donovan- draws inspiration from deep Jamaican dub. Beninghove’s Hangmen- whose members include a couple John Zorn band alumni- fashion their own brand of ‘cinematic surf-noir.’ But they share a healthy irreverence and a stubborn originality (as well as a couple members) that serves them well when tackling these twin pillars of rock’s Mt. Rushmore. In both cases the spirit of the source pokes through the radically different sounds- from the dirty reggae groove of Super Hi-Fi’s “Heart Shaped Box” to the wild salsa ride of Beninghove’s Hangmen’s “D’yer Ma’ker.’ They’re mixtapes of sorts, Super Hi-Fi’s with remixes of their own covers from several well-known dub producers alongside their own versions, and Beninghove’s Hangmen’s darting from one side of the stylistic map and back again- and what better way to experience these twisted versions than on cassette?

It may seem odd to release cassettes in a world where mp3 playlists and streaming services rule the day (not to mention where few people have cassette players anymore), but the last few years have seen an uptick in the once-ubiquitous format. To Gale, the underground and out-of-the-way nature of them is part of the appeal. “You have to really want to listen to a cassette,” he says. “You have to listen to the whole thing, too, or at least a whole side, because it’s a pain to find just one song. So all these tapes we’ve put out are meant to be listened to as a whole, and I like music like that.”

The label started as a way for Gale to release a batch of songs he’d written and recorded on a 4 track cassette recorder, which became Very Special Recordings’ first release, The Eargoggle’s “Little Black Book.” “I’m a complete nerd about the 4-track, I love it, and I played some songs I recorded on it for some friends and they were like, oh, you recorded these on cassette, you should release them on cassette too. And at first I said, very funny, nobody has cassette players anymore, but then I looked into it and found out it’s become kind of a thing lately. Which I was really excited about, because I’ve always loved cassettes, ever since I got Duran Duran’s “Rio” for Christmas when I was like, 8 years old!” he laughs. That simple self-interest grew into a label as Gale realized he could take advantage of the medium’s low cost to curate some of the wildly creative bands around him in the Brooklyn scene. “The fact that cassettes are cheap to manufacture and to buy is huge, because we can take chances and just put out things we love, which we wouldn’t be able to do if they cost as much as records. And people who see something that’s only 5 or 6 bucks can take a chance on discovering new music.”

That spirit of discovery continues with the label’s two new releases. Just in time for the 25th anniversary of “Nevermind,” Super Hi-Fi’s fourth full-length album finds the band putting Nirvana’s well-worn music through their own unique blender. Founder/bassist Gale says he’s always had an affinity for the Seattle trio ever since his band opened for them in college, but that the reason for tackling this music now was the challenge of crafting something new. “I hate cover versions that just sound like the original,” he says. “So with Nirvana, it seemed interesting to make something new out of something so familiar.” The band- which also includes Jon Lipscomb on guitar, Madhu Siddappa on drums, Rick Parker on trombone and either Curtis Fowlkes, Robert Stringer or Alex Asher on 2nd trombone- recorded 6 beloved Nirvana and Nirvana-associated songs (“Verse Chorus Verse”, “Heart Shaped Box”, “Polly,” “Something In the Way”, Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz” and LeadBelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,”) and one original tribute (“Space Needle”). The results were either mixed by Gale and Nicola Stemmer at 9 Lives Studio in Jersey City, NJ, or sent all over the globe where legendary dub producers Victor Rice (Sao Paolo), Doctor Sub (Venice), and Prince Polo (Brooklyn) added yet another layer of interpretation. The result is “Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana,” a wild ride that guarantees a fresh spin on this beloved material.

“Beninghove’s Hangmen Play Led Zeppelin” finds the downtown NYC surf-noir group- including founder Bryan Benninghove on sax, Rick Parker on trombone, Eyal Maoz and Dane Johnson on guitars, Ezra Gale on bass and Shawn Balthazor on drums- tackling 6 iconic Zep songs- “Kashmir,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “What Is and What Should Never Be,” “Immigrant Song,” “D’yer Ma’ker” and “When the Levee Breaks” along with the original tribute “Zohove.” The twisted takes veer from surf to salsa to heavy avant-rock, and despite a healthy sense of fun the versions retain the power of the originals. “It’s very easy to get cute with the stuff” says Beninghove, “but with Led Zeppelin you better be all in or the audience is going to smell it.”         The two releases continue VSR’s knack for documenting a wide stylistic slice of the Brooklyn scene on the seven previous releases from the label over the last year. The breadth of styles is so wide, in fact- from experimental guitar duos (The Council of Eyeforms, VSR005) to lush indie chamber pop (Green and Glass, VSR002) to heavy afro-dance-rock (People’s Champs, VSR003)–  that it could be taken as a lack of a defining sound for the label. But Gale says he prefers it that way. “I mean, for starters, this is all music that I listen to and love, and I know I’m not alone in listening to a wide variety of music. And also I hear a lot of connective tissue between all these bands, maybe due to the incestuousness of the scene here” he says, pointing out that Ryan Dugre (“Gardens” VSR004) plays in Green and Glass, Jon Lipscomb from Council of Eyeforms and Alex Asher from People’s Champs play in Super Hi-Fi, and Rick Parker (“Free World Music”, VSR006) plays on Dustin Carlson’s “Shakes/The Noise of Wings” (VSR007), and on Beninghove’s Hangmen’s new release. That healthy disregard for genre borders continues on the label’s two new releases, and gets applied to two rock icons, too. More info at


Beninghove’s Hangmen Play Led Zeppelin (VSR008)

  • Kashmir
  • Misty Mountain Hop
  • What Is and What Should Never Be
  • Zohove (Bryan Beninghove)
  • Immigrant Song
  • D’yer Maker
  • When the Levee Breaks

Bryan Beninghove- saxophone
Rick Parker- trombone
Eyal Maoz- guitar
Dane Johnson- guitar
Ezra Gale- guitar
Shawn Balthazar- drums (1, 3, 5)
Kevin Shea- drums (2, 4, 6, 7)

Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana (VSR009)

  1. Verse Chorus Verse (Doctor Sub RMX)
  2. Polly (Prince Polo Dub)
  3. Heart Shaped Box (9 Lives Dub)
  4. Something In the Way (Prince Polo Dub)
  5. Space Needle (Victor Rice Dub)
  6. Love Buzz (Doctor Sub RMX)
  7. Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (9 Lives Dub)

*Hidden track- Space Needle (Victor Rice “Jerry Lewis Dub”)

Rick Parker- trombone
Jon Lipscomb- guitar
Ezra Gale- Bass
Madhu Siddappa- drums
Curtis Fowlkes- trombone (1)
Robert Stringer- trombone (2, 3, 5, 7, 8)
Alex Asher- trombone (4, 6)

1, 2, 3, 4 written by Kurt Cobain
5, 8 written by Ezra Gale
6 written by Robert Van Leeuwen
7 written by Hudie Ledbetter

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