For the most part, I've constricted the /found page to items I discovered on sidewalks or in dumpsters. I'm making an exception for this item though. It was found in a store.

Last week I was digging through a large mound of newly arrived cassette tapes at a pet-friendly thrift store. It addition to the standard fare stuff such as Morrissey and the Thompson Twins, one of the boxes had a bunch of unusual tapes, like Samba Mapangala from Nairobi and a various tapes from Thailand. I decided to go through and look at each and every tape. I got excited when I found one marked "messeges" since it seemed to be a tape from an answering machine. Some of us like listening to calls left by strangers. Seattle's Damien Jurado even put out an entire CD filled with messages he found on thrift store tapes ("Postcards And Audio Letters"). I also found one marked "telephone calls" and decided to buy that one too. Each tape was 25 cents.

Later in the day I got around to listening to the tapes. After hearing a few callers talk about the "Dog Squad" walking their dogs, I decided to turn to Google to see if I could find out about the mentioned business. Seconds after the search results appeared on my screen I realized who the tapes used to belong to. It felt like I had hit a goldmine, for I was listening to calls left on the Trachtenburg family's answering machine!

And now I'll quote The Stranger... "But before we get into all of that, a little background for folks who've missed out on one of the city's most original rock bands. The music part of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players is composed of keyboardist and guitarist Jason and drummer [and his daughter] Rachel, age nine. The rest of the act is centered on a slide projector, run by [wife] Tina. A couple years ago, the Trachtenburgs came up with the idea of purchasing vintage slides sold at estate sales and then writing songs based on the inherent themes the anonymous images lent to the imagination."

Note that the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players base their songs around old slides found at estate sales. The fact that I happened upon a Trachtenburg tape at a thrift store just seemed fitting. I knew that they were in the process of moving to NYC (after playing their last shows in Seattle a few weeks ago) and so they apparently dumped a bunch of their unwanted goods at the store prior to fleeing this city. They probably inadvertently donated these two tapes as well. I continued listening to the tapes with more interest.

Both tapes are from 1993. The first tape contains answering machine messages from April '93 through November '93. The second tape is a bit different. It contains two phone conversations that Jason had in '93, one with his parents and one with an old friend.

Lots of the calls on the first tape involve the Dog Squad, the dog sitting/walking business that the family ran for awhile. These callers are confirming appointments, trying to make future appointments, or just trying to get information on what exactly the Dog Squad is.

Another chunk of the calls pertain to music-related items. Of these, the ones that stand out are the calls from Chris Ballew, formerly of Presidents of the United States and long-time friend of Jason Trachtenburg. I don't know if it was just a Chris-Jason thing, but Chris refers to himself as Casper Babypants in half of the messages he leaves. The most humorous messages on the tape are the ones left by Chris.

I've decided to share excerpts from the first tape. Click here to listen to a MP3 of them (file size is about 480K). There are six calls on the track and it runs about 4 minutes. The mp3 contains a few messages from Jason's mother. It also has a message that relates to the Dog Squad although it's not a genuine Dog Squad call. Note that it abruptly ends with the word "babysit" as that was the end of that message.

The conversations on the second tape are in some ways more interesting, but the audio quality is not as good (there's a constant hum). By listening to it though you learn the cost of Tina's engagement ring and other such matters. Lots of the talk involves daughter Rachel, who hadn't been born yet.

Anyhow, perhaps in another 30 years someone will happen upon these tapes, write music to go along with them, and perform the act in New York City. Who knows.

  -LP    7/02

Vintage Answer Machine
Messages from Seattle Volume 1

»» listen to MP3 excerpt ««

photo by john e. hollingsworth

Vintage Answer Machine
Messages from Seattle Volume 2

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