Asthmatic Kitty Records

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Encyclopedia Asthmatica Vol 1

Catalog: • Cover Art: Zack and Gala Bent
Release date: April 4, 2008
  • CD $$8.00

Release Date: March 4, 2008

In the corner of a quiet, maze-like neighborhood library, slid carefully between the cook books and dinosaur pop-ups, is the Encyclopedia Asthmatica. Though too rare to obtain a second copy, its check-out card documents a regular readership over the years, steady enough that the book is beginning to wear at the corners from its journeys through backpacks, the seats of automobiles and trains, and quiet moments in the study.

The Encyclopedia Asthmatica is a text comprehensive in its inclusion of the quirk, less about constitutional law and more about the strange way unraveled cassette tape creates patterns from chaos. Instead of economic charts of Wall Street, there are pages of arrows dissecting the ways Pyrocumulus clouds subvert tradewinds.

A more unusual attribute of this text is that readers have inserted their own finds into the pages of the Encyclopedia Asthmatica. Sometimes these are strange objects; a wooden paperclip here, a rubbing of a three-winged fossil there. But the newest addition, a “Digital Versatile Disc,” tucked safely between “Gazelle” and “Ghana,” is perhaps the most interesting to the general public.

Though its placement is anonymous, the disc’s contents are certainly not. This is a collection of Asthmatic Kitty Records visuals; the odd, the sublime, and the delectable. It also includes stop-animation menus meticulously captured from the artistic imagination of Gala and Zack Bent, set to characteristic music arrangements by jingle-virtuoso Rafter Roberts.

Nearly all of the Asthmatic Kitty Records’ roster, and many of their friends, make an appearance somewhere on this DVD: from the playful choreography of the Think Dance Collective frolicing in shoes made of bread to the music of Half-handed Cloud, to the lovely abstraction of Sufjan Stevens’ projectionist, Deborah Johnson; from the haunting and raw post-apocalypse video fuzz of live Castanets, to the crisp color footage of My Brightest Diamond at Northsix, there are visual pieces that hopscotch the chasm between the professionalism of a music-visual DVD to the rabid eccentricity of a five-copy, underground video-zine. Asthmatic Kitty is known for its creative fanbase, and so this disc also includes the winner of the Rafter YouTube video contest. The label’s patent homemade aesthetic is here too, with Bunky’s bizarre yet appropriate space alien video, and a selection from Liz Janes that employs found footage. The Shapes and Sizes videos turn the incidental and accidental into a hidden design, while a video from the Curtains subverts the banality of survelience video by rendering it magical.

Who inserted this disc into the Encyclopedia Asthmatic Volume I is unknown. What is known is that it certainly deserves its place amidst the oddities already cataloged within the pages. Now, discovered and released into the public, it may well find its own journeys apart from the book.