A death note.

Disc & Dat @ Penang.

There used to be a CD store I frequent to stock up on my CD collection. After finding out about the place years ago, I found it hard to step into another Artist Gallery or Tower Records.

All along, it is hard to find CDs beyond the commercialised airwaves, and there are not enough indie music stores out there to get what we truly desire. For an avid music fan like me, it is downright disappointing to only find Avril Lavigne and The Pussycat Dolls on the shelves when I am looking for something with more depths.

In my journey to musical discovery, I managed to stumble upon Evanescene and Maroon 5 way before they hit the Malaysian shores with Bring Me to Life and Harder to Breathe, respectively. And back then, lacking popularity, you don’t see them on the shelves yet.

I do not remember how I found Disc & Dat, but I did. Tucked in one of the shop lots just a stone throw away from Penang’s Island Plaza, there was the most humble CD store I have come across in Penang.

The first time I stepped into the CD store, I was greeted by rows and rows of abundantly filled CDs of all genres. Dimly lit and always with something soothing coming from the surround speakers, it was like stepping into a heaven where rocked out souls go to rest. Sitting behind the counter was either Ivan, the store owner, or a lady who will both always greet their customers with familiar and warm smiles.

Every time I stopped by the CD store, I would take my own sweet time to browse the shelves meticulously and pick whichever CDs I would like to purchase for the day.

I remember the day Ivan pointed our Maroon 5’s debut, Songs About Jane to me. It was a wonderful feeling inside of me because I was just looking for that particular CD. And to hear him say what a breakthrough album it was during that period of time, I was happy to find someone as thorough with music as I was.

Sure, now Maroon 5 is everywhere, but just think about it: back then when they were merely silent whispers and not many people know of them yet, it was like hitting a goldmine.

I have bought some of the best CDs I am proud to have from their store. Sure, a trip there will cost me near to hundreds (CDs in Malaysia range around $40 and above), it was still nice to tear open the plastic in my car still parked outside of the store, pop the CD into the stereo and listen to some good music you don’t hear on the radio airwaves.

Of course, it was not all the time satisfying. I remember going to them to ask for Switchfoot’s The Beautiful Letdown, again, before they got so big. I have to end up buying the CD on Amazon instead.

I guess I miss Disc & Dat when I left for Australia. I will not deny that I have found better CD stores over there (ie. Rocking Horse, JB Hi-Fi and HMV), and if I do say so myself, my demand for better music got to a whole new level. I still miss the fact that the CD store is near invisible, and there are only so many customers that the owner can recognise you every time you visit and will introduce you to the right kind of genres for new stuff. The towers of CDs I like to browse through and smile whenever I see something I recognise or like, just the idea of knowing the bands I like are still hitting the shelves here, which can be quite rare.

The last time I went back there was after I got back from Australia. I have seen the store closed down their vinyl section and became a smaller store. This time, Ivan had on a grim face instead of his usually cheery one. I decided to ask if the business had been good, knowing that his customers do not come like rushing currents, merely the few loyal ones.

“Hmm, business isn’t doing well,” he had said. “Sometimes, it seems alright, but really, it’s not.”

You can kind of sense it that something is not going well anymore.


It was around June when I called him up to help JoeVern ask about Death Cab for Cutie’s Narrow Stairs. The first thing Ivan told me was they aren’t taking in anymore new stocks. Apparently, they were closing down and till the end of June there will be a clearance sales to get rid of everything. Something tugged my heartstrings to hear him so downhearted on the line, and I know not much people will know some little good in Penang is going to be gone forever.

Alas, work calls in KL and I cannot return back to pay him one last visit. Invite him for a cup of coffee and maybe ask him what is his next move. By the time I returned to Penang in July, Disc & Dat is already in renovation to make room for something else, and Ivan, as I know it, has disappeared.

So, Ivan, wherever you are, it was great to have met your acquaintance. It was nice knowing there is a place where I can go to look for good music, and a place where I know I am welcomed without the corporate big shots. Wherever you are now, I wish you well, and I do hope in the foreseeable future, we will bump into each other again. I still owe you a cuppa.

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5 Responses to “A death note.”

  1. vern Says:

    now if only u didnt download so much he would probably still be around.

    tsk. shame on you.

    heh

  2. Celeste Says:

    hey, my downloading rate picked up only when they closed down.
    i don’t know what to do without them. 😦

  3. ivan of disc & dat Says:

    Hi Celeste,
    Forgive me for not able to locate how you look like now in my mind but I sure will recognise you when I see you in person again haha:P
    My friend forwarded me this link and after reading such heartfelt article and praises about my shop, it probes me to at least write and let you know about my whereabout, and oh that cuppa haha:)
    After I wrapped up my business in end-June, my Mom passed away 2 months later…she’s been suffering from stroke for 2 years and it was a painful period for both of us to cope with life then. It was a relief on her part and glad I’m all over it now and moved on with my life…a new environment and new life living in KL now since Oct last year. I’m still having my long break doing nothing for the moment, so hit me up if yuo’re in KL and we’ll have that cuppa sometime, anytime haha:)
    Thanking you and take good care.
    Rgds,Ivan:)

  4. Rem Says:

    I was in Penang for a holiday recently (Nov ’09)and was quite disappointed to learn that the shop was no more.Yes,this was a specialist record store with a diversified collection of CDs not found anywhere else in Penang,comparable to maybe, Victoria’s in KL, but with a way better ambience. I do remember purchasing a single CD at the shop in ’97 though: Green Jelly’s ‘Cerial Killer!’ I think the proprietor of the shop asked me then quite nicely, what kind of music I was partial to and I said:’alternative.’ And that’s how I got my first, and last CD, at that particular store!Long live D&D!

  5. Raj Says:

    Hello all, I use to buy CDs there too and only recently (past ~ 1year) started to look for more CDs to buy…and too bad shop is no more there. Great place, excellent collections and i wish it reopens 🙂

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