University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Waxing Nostalgic

Ballistic Mystic album
Photograph by Sally mcCay


Waxing Nostalgic

By Thomas Weaver

Walk into WRUV’s Davis Center studio and take a left. Wind your way through canyons of compact discs to a back corner and you’ll find a trove of records—you know, albums, LPs, vinyl. 

Imagine decades past as ’RUV DJs slit open the shrink wrap with a thumbnail; gently slid a pristine black record of Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin, the Four Tops, or countless others out of its sleeve; placed it on a turntable and cued the needle. Through those years, UVM’s college radio station built what’s said to be the largest record collection in the state. 

No secret that vinyl is making something of a quiet comeback among audiophiles and hipsters, not to mention today’s WRUV DJs, some of whom dig into this history for their on-air programs. 

“It’s kind of weird,” says Derek Neal ’15. “With records, people of my generation have a nostalgia for something we didn’t actually experience.” The UVM senior is known as DJ Derelicte on his two-hour weekly slot, “Furniture Music,” featuring house, techno, and some R & B. 

Neal says he appreciates the way vinyl allows him to mix songs, both in his radio shows and when he plays live gigs as a DJ. He elaborates on other reasons to love the old technology. The richness of the sound. The sheer physicality of the object. The way a full album of music, as opposed to one song bought on iTunes, can connect to a time and place in memory. (He fondly recalls a high school field trip when Beck’s Guero was on replay in his head.) And there’s the social dimension—sitting with friends listening to a room filled with music rather than burrowing into your headphones. 

Deep in the ’RUV archive one day last fall, Neal flips through the records for some of the hidden treasure he’s found. He’s uncovered music that—brace yourselves—can’t be found on the Internet. “There’s something nice about that,” Neal says. Take Ballistic Mystic, for instance. Drawn by the band name, he gave it a spin on his show without so much as a preview listen. “This could be really good or really bad,” he thought.

It was really good. Amazing even. The record earned replays on his next several shows, perhaps planting—right here in Burlington, Vermont—the seeds for a Ballistic Mystic reunion tour. 

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