Tracking down an obscure album

Sep 8, 2020

Sometime in 2016 I was playing Elite: Dangerous and listening to Radio Sidewinder when a gorgeous track came on. Turned out this track was Childhood by Belgian trip hop group Airlock, and I wanted to listen to it again. Usually, I’d either find it in a torrent, on some shady Russian mp3 sharing site, or maybe even buy it with actual money like a decent person. With this track, and the album it’s on, it’s not quite that easy.

Airlock was active in the early-mid 2000’s and released two studio albums around this time — Drystar from 2002 and Symptomatic from 2004 — as well as a soundtrack album for a movie called The Room (no, not the famous one, it’s actually this one that you haven’t heard of). These albums are widely available, but none of them contain Childhood. That track happens to be from a fourth release from 2005: the soundtrack for the documentary The Long Journey Home. It’s listed on the band’s extremely stubby Wikipedia article, but MusicBrainz doesn’t know about it, and it’s also not listed on any store page, torrent site, or low quality MP3 site I can find. What.cd, back when it was still in operation, didn’t have or mention it. Airlock’s own website, when I researched it in 2016, had last been updated in 2004 and so predated the album (and is now defunct). It’s pretty obscure.

The Long Journey Home cover art

It does have a couple of references around the web, though. Discogs lists it, and trip-hop.net, a French music review site, contains a 2005 article about it. I couldn’t read French to save my life, but thanks to some dodgy machine translation the article gives us this juicy bit of info:

Just a few months after the release of “Symptomatic” which had confirmed the group as an ascending value of Belgian trip-hop, a press release from the group informs us of a new release, which is in fact film music!
. . .
Good luck finding this album, however, because it is not scheduled for sale … but can be won on Trip-Hop.Net thanks to Airlock which keeps us some for you! A rare and very precious collector …

So it looks like The Long Journey Home is indeed not available anywhere except in a giveaway on a French music site… 15 years ago. Despite the “nostalgic” look of trip-hop.net, the site is still in operation, so I contacted trip-hop management, who confirmed it.

Hey,
apparently the album wasn’t released, but available in very few copies and Airlock offered some via a contest on trip-hop.net.
I can’t share the name of the winners, but I’m trying to get some infos among the oldest members of our redaction. Maybe they have some tips to find a copy.
best regards from France !

After this exchange, months went by, and they never contacted me again. I contacted Radio Sidewinder’s admin and their music provider Radionomy. I contacted Airlock member Ernst Meinrath, who in 2012 uploaded a trailer for the documentary that actually starts out playing Childhood. No success.

But it turned out the answer had been right in front of me the whole time. I realized the album’s Discogs page was oddly detailed compared to every other mention of its existence, and a single user did claim to own it. This one owner turned out to have found it on eBay after searching for it for years, and he was kind enough to send me the audio.

This all took place in 2016, and I’ve had a draft about it lying around since, mostly because I didn’t know how to end it. It felt wrong to just go and share the album, which is to my knowledge still quite rare. But without something to show for all my effort, the story just felt extremely unsatisfying. After a good 4 year ponder I’ve now decided to at least share the track that started it all. Here’s Childhood by Airlock.