Counter Culture: Recommendations From Sydney’s Radio Free Alice

You walk into your local record store and head straight to the unsorted New Arrivals bin. You flip through seemingly endless copies of ‘Tommy‘ and ‘Breakfast In America‘ in hopes that someone sold their mono pressing of ‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn‘ to make rent. The guy behind the counter feels your disappointment as you reach the end of the bin empty-handed (again) and the conversation turns to that new King Krule wax, ‘The Ooz ‘. You grab it, walk home, drop it on the turntable and immediately say, “Yes! Dude was right!” That’s the vibe we’ve got going with the co-owners of Radio Free Alice for this installment of Counter Culture!

In store photo of Sydney record store, Radio Free Alice

Founded by James Tsai and Louisa Achille, Radio Free Alice is perhaps one of the newest record shops to have popped up in the city of Sydney in Australia within the last three years. The shop was born on December 1, 2014. RFA is probably the smallest record shop in Australia as well. But there are always enough vinyl goodies to put a smile on everyone’s dial.

Music fans gather in Free Radio Alice for a music workshop conversation

Located in the Sydney city fringe area of Darlinghurst, the suburb where the oldest jail once stood (built in the year 1824. Now a converted art school in its place), the record shop by the name of Radio Free Alice is a little haven for vinyl explorers with diverse taste. From home-grown Australian avant-garde music to Brazilian Tropicalia; free-jazz to oddball soundtracks, they have something for everyone. They also have chairs for diggers to park themselves and talk music or whatever topics take their fancy. RFA is not just a record shop; it’s also a cultural exchange hub… a much-needed establishment in the rapidly gentrified city of Sydney.

Let’s check out six hot picks from the two co-owners of Radio Free Alice!

Radio Free Alice staff music recommendation: Jim Denley ‎– Cut Air

Jim Denley ‎– Cut Air

There is the vinyl edition, but only the CD version is listed on Discogs at this point. Veteran Australian improviser Jim Denley’s first solo bass flute album. Well, Jim lives only a few streets away from the shop. Two long mesmerizing tracks reminding the listener of the best works by the likes of minimalist maestros La Monte Young, early Steve Reich and Jon Gibson. Trance music for the 21st century from Down Under. Highly recommended!

– James Tsai

Radio Free Alice staff music recommendation: Various ‎– The Royal Tenenbaums (Original Soundtrack)

Various ‎– The Royal Tenenbaums (Original Soundtrack)

Soundtrack to the Wes Anderson 2001 crazy film courtesy of Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo fame. The soundtrack alternates with Mothersbaugh’s quirky tunes with songs by Dylan, Lennon, Ramones, Nick Drake, Nico, Emitt Rhodes, Elliott Smith… Not unlike a depressed teenager’s locked-in bedroom playlist but with taste.

– Louisa Achille

Radio Free Alice staff music recommendation: Jorge Ben ‎– Fôrça Bruta

Jorge Ben ‎– Fôrça Bruta

We had a bunch of original Brazilian pressings came in a few weeks ago. And of course, all the Jorge Ben records were gone in a very short period of time. This is my all-time favourite Jorge Ben record. Jorge Ben here with the Trio Mocoto; raw, basic and bare, true to the title of this 1970 album, powerful. Although some tracks have strings accompaniment, the production and arrangement never let it overpower the songs. I must confess… I have an original mono Brazilian pressing tucked away somewhere.

– James Tsai

Radio Free Alice staff music recommendation: Teletopa ‎– Tokyo 1972

Teletopa ‎– Tokyo 1972

The British have AMM, the Italians have Gruppo Di’Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, the Americans have the Sonic Arts Union, the Japanese have The Taj-Mahal Travellers, and the Australians have Teletopa! Courtesy to Jim Denley’s Splitrec record label. Teletopa’s mammoth triple LP set was recorded in Japan’s NHK studios in Tokyo way back in 1972. What were these Aussies doing in Tokyo back then? You have to buy the record and find out from the liner notes. You are going to love this 3LP set if you’re interested in any of the groups I mentioned above.

– James Tsai

Radio Free Alice staff music recommendation: Kate Bush ‎– Aerial

Kate Bush ‎– Aerial

This double CD is a journey, literally. I travel with this all the time. In transit from Austin to NYC, waiting for the train to Bologna in Italy. Kate’s the experimental / concept album mega pop star way before them all. This is Kate Bush’s magnum opus for the new millennium.

– Louisa Achille

Radio Free Alice staff music recommendation: The Smashing Pumpkins ‎– Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

The Smashing Pumpkins ‎– Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

What can you say? 24 tracks over 2CDs or 3LPs of perfect pop. Songs that make you want to cry, songs that make you want to go and burn down your local church and smash things up, and songs just make you feel great. Hands down one of the 10 best albums that came out of USA in the 90s.

– Louisa Achille

Pick up these Radio Free Alice staff  music recommendations in store, or shop for that hard to find wax on Discogs!

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