Last week a package arrived in the mail and the completist in me went absolutely apeshit. Years after its original limited release of just 400 copies, I finally had in my possession the long lost (at least for me) Voxtrot single, Berlin, Without Return.
The Obsession Begins
Let’s take a trip back twelve years to a time that led to the creation of FensePost. I was working as a college DJ at Washington State University’s premier radio station, KZUU, in Pullman. It was the second half of 2005 (or maybe early 2006) and I was studying to receive a Masters in Business Administration.
The way it worked then, before things got all digitized:
- Bands, labels and PR companies would send the station physical releases.
- The station would allow DJs to snag these copies to listen to and analyze.
- DJs would jot notes, including favorite tracks, on a little address-sized Avery sticker.
- The CDs would be added into the “new arrivals” shelf in the station.
It was while doing this that I stumbled upon Voxtrot’s debut EP, Raised by Wolves. Very quickly this became not only my favorite EP of the year, but one of my favorite releases of all time. Title track “Raised by Wolves” and its successor “The Start of Something” immediately gripped me thanks to their somewhat jangly, super pop-filled hooks.
So, I’ve been a huge fan of this band ever since.
Such a fan that, while working for 206, Inc. in Seattle a decade ago on the Free Yr Radio project for Toyota and Urban Outfitters, my recommendation led to the band performing a benefit show in Houston for a prominent Texas independent radio station.
My Crate Digging Find of the Century
I was living in Seattle at this point, Ballard to be specific. While the current me would love to say I spent my spare time split between riding by road bike down the Burke-Gilman Trail and frequenting the various record stores north of Belltown, it was invariably swayed more toward the latter.
On one particular weekend afternoon, I was at the now defunct Sonic Boom in Fremont. I cannot recall much about the general storefront, although my fading memory of the place was that it seemed sadly empty for a record store. CDs were abound but I recall there being a vast amount of open floor space, which was odd.
However, if you stepped outside and turned down the adjacent alleyway, there was a small staircase that led down to a tightly packed basement dubbed the Vinyl Vault.
It was here I found myself scouring through a variety of records, and as I hit the 7-inch section I stumbled upon my own personal gold nugget: the debut single by Voxtrot for the song “The Start of Something” with b-side “Dirty Version” on Cult Hero Records.
Until then, I didn’t think any copies still existed that hadn’t been purchased. In fact, this may have been the last new stock version anywhere. After all, it’s original release date, according to Discogs, is 2003. Yet here it was, all these years later, brand new and a penny under $4.
It remains my favorite single to this day.
The Elusiveness of Completing the Collection
In the years that followed, I pieced together every single vinyl release Voxtrot put out. From that first one in 2003 through the subsequent singles that spawned from their 2007 self-titled LP, which I also snagged.
One, however, kept me in agony.
In 2009, the band released their final 7-inch in a limited run of 400 for a pair of exclusive tracks, “Berlin, Without Return…” and “The Dream Lives of Ordinary People”.
I, of course, purchased it. But it never arrived.
Communication with lead singer Ramesh Srivastava led to a promise to get me a replacement copy, but that too never arrived, and I dropped it. These things happen.
Then, all these years later, it suddenly popped up on Discogs for sale and I snapped it for a cool $60 after shipping. Far more than I’ve ever paid for any other 7-inch single.
I now have the complete collection.
Delving into Voxtrot’s Last Single
Throughout their career, Voxtrot’s music varied between the jangly indie pop prominent on Raised by Wolves and Mothers Sisters Daughters & Wives, and the more orchestral indie pop of Your Biggest Fan and selections off their Voxtrot LP. Both tracks on Berlin, Without Return… fit the latter. These tunes are adorned with prominent string arrangements that lend to the emotiveness of Srivastava’s writing style.
“Berlin, Without Return…” is the inevitable favorite and begins with a light piano intro and before dropping a rhythmic bass line. Largely missing is the prominent jangly guitars of the early days, replaced here by the string arrangements and Ramesh on piano. Despite that, the song remains centered in pop-sensibilities. “The Dream Lives of Ordinary People” follows suit but packs a slightly heavier punch.
Without delving too far into the lyrics, “The Dream Lives of Ordinary People” almost seemed like a longing by Ramesh to get out of the spotlight. While a closer listen tells me this read is unlikely, that which followed has remained somewhat few and far between.
Post Voxtrot: Ramesh Releases “The Fool”
In the time that followed, members of Voxtrot went on to form or take part in a few other groups. But, like most other artists that have disbanded (with perhaps a sole exception in Seattle’s Carissa’s Wierd [sic]), the following groups almost never live up to that original collective or have largely remained off my radar.
Of all the projects to split off from Voxtrot, two have maintained my interest. First, Jason Chronis took part in a lovable female-fronted Austin pop group called Belaire. Then there’s the solo work of Ramesh himself.
Four years after Voxtrot split, Srivastava dropped a solo release under his first name dubbed The King. We didn’t hear from Ramesh again for another two years.
Last year, he updated his Bandcamp page with a new track called “The Fool”, which you can hear below and purchase for $1:
Tunes under Ramesh have largely maintained Voxtrot’s style but typically have a more stripped down and subdued sound which is to be expected given that he was the lead singer and songwriter and here’s he’s gone solo. I like “The Fool” for its stark differences from that which came before in both Ramesh and Voxtrot. The inclusion of banjo is unique to this track, and also quite refreshing.
For one, I hope to hear more from Ramesh going forward; maybe “The Fool” is a taste of what’s in store for the future. Like me, maybe Ramesh is ready for somewhat of a comeback.
Given my love of his music, that’s something I would easily support.