A group of music friends and I put out top releases of the year each year-end. I put up my picks from last year, instead of through email format, here on my blog with media attached (unlike the others, who just had text; one had a podcast)! This year was a bit different as my favorite finds were not necessarily new releases. Here are my picks of favorite new music from this last year.
As always, I start off with local musicians like myself; we all had a great year and more people should be talking about the great scene we have in the Denver/Boulder area!
Acidbat. The Magician.
There aren’t many artists in the area focusing on acid music, but there is one band I can always count on for straight up acid, and that is Acidbat. I had the opportunity to play a gig with him this year as well. This album is on the Cyberdyne label on limited cassette format limited to 15 (there are a few left, grab the media while you can!). http://acidbat.bandcamp.com. This album is a wonderful acid excursion through various techno styles. World-class acid from a local artist! Awesome!
Symbols + Translations
Not quite local, this Austin Texas resident co-manages the Obsolete Future record label which has strong local ties. This release is their first foray into acid music and it is a great one! Many moods and melodies tag along with the consistent acid lines weaving throughout the mix. My personal favorite is “How long is the coast of Britian” which starts off the b-side of this cassette release. Limited edition to 100 on cassette, still available if you’re fast.
This is a great local band who I hope to see much more out of them in the future! They did a lathe cut 7″ single and have this album available for free digitally on band camp! Cheers! Melodies and vocals are addictive, great tracks!
Now onto the other non-local artists and bands that I picked up in 2015!
MAKiNA GiRGiR – Torment
Coming out of France, on La Forme Lente Records out of Belgium, this amazing cold wave album came out in 2013 but I have searched for the limited edition silkscreened cover to no success; so I purchased this digital only (sad, but true) in 2015. This album is amazing; for any fan of synth-based alternative, cold wave, dark wave, new wave, etc. Cold, female vocals; stunning lead synth lines, and groovy tracks all the way through!
Solvent – C for Comfort
Solvent goes way back into the last 90s with his label Suction Records. Jason Amm is a purveyor of synth leads and melodies. This is his own creation with tribute to the classic composers of the new wave synth gods — Depeche Mode, Human League, Visage, Ultravox, etc. This 6-track cassette release is rock solid synth instrumentals all the way through. So happy to see Suction Records back in business, releasing very strong releases! Released in 2014, I rediscovered this label and placed an order for many awesome releases in early 2015!
Mark Van Hoen – The Worcester Tapes 1983 – 1987
I’m a huge Mark Van Hoen fan, synth/sampler aficionado! In case you are having problems recognizing the name, think Seefeel, Scala, Locust among other projects. The Tapeworm presents… put together his original demo tape from early works from the artist. Beautiful piano and reverb dosed synth pads on this cassette-only release of 150. Appreciate The Tapeworm going out of their way and putting this out there! Beautiful Eno-esque ambient music!
Mark McGuire – Beyond Belief
Mark McGuire has had a big year; starting a family and continuing to press new age style music. Definitely different than his prior band Emeralds, this contains beats, guitar and even some vocals. Still, wonderfully looped melodies as only Mark McGuire can do. This double orange swirl colored vinyl came with a bonus cassette release of remixes and a poster. Beautiful release!
New Order – Western Works Demos
Limited edition of 50, this grey swirl vinyl was released containing the Sheffield based Western Works Studio demo masters of New Order’s first tracks after the death of Ian Curtis. 6 tracks on this one, recorded on July 9, 1980. The demos are what you would think they would sound like–Joy Division still in shock from the loss of their front man…with all the emotion and rawness that would bring to the sessions. Dreams Never End (Mix #1 and #2), Homage, Ceremony, Truth and Are You Ready? All very different versions from other recordings. This is an amazing find!
Various – Something Cold
With my discovery of Suction Records releasing material again, I also discovered they are also distributing likeminded music. This album is one I purchased in my order with Suction in 2015. This is great coldwave tunes; every track is awesome! Several dance floor tracks too…well worth a listen! Vinyl is sold out, but I suspect you can find copies around…
Miss Kittin & The Hacker – Lost Tracks Vol. 1
Dark Entries Records out of San Francisco is on fire; releasing great gems old and new. This is true to the coldwave/demos I have spoken about in the last few highlighted releases, the original demo from 97-99 from this dynamic duo! Leather Forever is a club classic! Electro and cold wave! Think Drexciya or Dopplereffekt style electro!
Luke Vibert – Halloween Part 1
Looking to get part 2, this is a classic acid record like only Luke Vibert can put together. Halloween is a spooky acid anthem that would rock any dance floor. Jack U Whole is classic Chicago style acid house.
Acid Pauli & Nancy – iBang
Had this as a favorite like on Soundcloud for a while, but Katermukke decided to produce 4x 12″ singles with their favorite tracks, one of which is my favorite track from the label. I also like Animal Trainer and the other Acid Pauli tracks too. This is a fun dance floor remake using the classic Nancy Sinatra vocals.
AtomTM – Riding The Void EP
These took a while to get; I’m assuming due to excessively long pressing times for vinyl, but it was worth the wait. Atom TM remixes of Riding the Void from the HD album. I still haven’t gotten the HD video, I can’t seem to make myself purchase a low-fi DVD on an album called HD. Bluray only Uwe, that is the only acceptable format other than perhaps 16mm. These are wonderfully produced dance tunes.
Mato – All About That Bass
Believe it or not this was the first version of this track that I heard. I bought it on a whim because of the title; but this is a wonderful 7″ Reggae plate remaking of the classic pop song. All the right junk in all the right places…
Leon Switch featuring Alys Be – Make Your Move
Been listening to a lot of bass music from the UK, sub genres of dub step called Dungeon / 140. Slow, heavy bass dub. This track I heard on a London radio show by a guest mix from Leon Switch, who plays dub plates of his own works. Love the pop vocals on this cool dub / bass track. Finally released in December with a bunch of remixes by another artist Markee Ledge, but the original Leon Switch mix is the best. Digging other similar modern “pop” tracks in this style.
Flexi Picture Records
Hasenbart Zeotrope Flexi-disc
As many of you know, I’m a huge flexi record collector. This I found by Hasenbart Records out of Germany, simply a beautiful Christmas picture record that is lathe cut. Get one while you can, good luck!
Acidbat – Autumn Mourning
Extremely limited edition of hand made double-sided flexis from a 1940s lathe. Wonderful acid tracks by Denver’s premiere acid scout! Available for free in digital download, check out Autumn Mourning now!
The Beatles – All You Need Is Love
This is a Polish bootleg flexi-record postcard from the 70’s. The premise is they would take postcards and press music on them and distribute them throughout Poland where there wasn’t proper music distribution. I have six different, equally cool (by the same artist) postcards with this same song.
I often get asked “How do you find crystals you have posted?”. Which techniques to use is a very subjective question, but certainly there are standard ways of prospecting for pegmatite crystals here in Colorado. I will try to cover some of the techniques I use in this article.
UPDATE: I have posted another article showing examples of these techniques here.
UPDATE: I have posted another article explaining how to create your own prospecting map here.
UPDATE: I have added videos of me picking crystals at the bottom of this article.
It has taken me years of prospecting, tons of reading, and networking with other prospectors and rock clubs to figure out what I’ve learned to find crystals so far, so I’m hoping that if you are new to this hobby this article can help expedite the learning curve and take away some frustration…i.e. not coming home empty handed as often! Note that I sometimes STILL come home with nothing to show (and I keep even the littlest crystals)…I think of it like fishing, sometimes the fish simply aren’t biting. My other hope is that folks having successful techniques can share their wisdom so I and others can continue to learn (the comments on this article is a great place, hint hint !!!). Note I am self-taught and have no formal geology schooling or experience, so my descriptions in this article may be scientifically inaccurate; the goal of this article is not to explain the science as much as for tips to helping you learn to find crystals! Of course the science is helpful and very interesting, if you have anything to share or correct (or have further questions), please leave comments, I would love to hear your techniques, opinions and knowledge on the subject!
Hitting a crystal pocket gives you a tremendous high! This was my first crystal pocket!
How to Find Crystals
There are three standard ways I prospect when searching for crystals; I may use only one way on any given day, or may use all three:
Searching the tailing piles of other digs
Finding float and following it
Digging in the source pegmatite
Prospecting Tailing Piles
When I’m prospecting I always check out old and new digs. There are several reasons for this–to learn what the other prospector was into when (presumably) they find crystals themselves, to perhaps continue where the previous prospector didn’t go, and to search through their tailings to ensure the weather didn’t reveal something that was missed or discarded!
Mount Antero double terminated Phenakite my son found laying on the surface, would have been great to have more of that aquamarine attached!
If the prospector was into a pocket or seam of crystals, they may have had mud or iron coatings on the crystals so the prospector tossed aside because they couldn’t see the sides or simply missed it…it happens, I’ve gone back to my digs before and found incredible crystals that I somehow missed! After a good rain or season of snow Mother Nature may help to reveal crystals that were left behind! This is the easiest form of prospecting. I also find that some prospectors are not interested in “boring” or imperfect crystals; another person’s trash may be my treasure! I have found many great crystals by searching the tailings of previous digs!
to find crystals it helps moving around the pile to get a reflection of sunlight from a flat shiny surface of a crystal…you should train your eyes to focus on any flat sided rock
getting down closer to the ground for a different perspective; I find many crystals this way that I missed standing up
look for color, some crystals are coated with iron-based minerals and may look rusty
poking around the sides of the hole to see if the prior prospector left part of the pocket
looking for float from the pocket (talked about further below)
dig through the tailings to see if other crystals are slightly buried
Finally there is a lot to learn from studying what others were into. This is how I’ve done much of my learning. What did the rocks they were pulling out look like (note to self, keep an eye out for these signs in my holes)? Are there other digs along the hillside along the same “zone” that I should also check out? What did the other person see that kept them digging? The bigger the prospector’s hole the more likely they found something good (otherwise that is a lot of effort for nothing), so explore those big holes/trenches for sure!
This Milky Quartz and Fluorite plate was found discarded by the original miner on the dumps, cleaned up it is awesome, good enough for me! Just wish I could find the other material which made this trash in comparison!
These Fluorites were covered in pocket mud and then again in dirt. Always examine “dirt balls” !!! Needs some more cleaning, but examples of what you can find in the dumps. Fluorite and other crystals are heavier than other rocks, so pay attention to the weight of the rocks you are extracting!
First of all, what is float? It took me a while to get my head around this concept. My definition of float is simply any rocks or crystals that have weathered out of their original location — in other words Mother Nature has moved them via some process over time.
What could have moved the crystals? Glaciers, wind, rain, etc. Glacial movement is pretty easy to spot on the crystals, because they are broken, cleaved and/or have rounded corners like they’ve been in a rock tumbler. These crystals have been potentially moved long distances and there may be no correlation in where the crystals are located to where they originated from–in other words they may be randomly displaced and you may not find other related crystals around them. However I have found several times that pockets were moved (relatively) together by glaciers and there are concentrations of crystals that are completely worn in a somewhat small of an area.
Float coated smoky and milky quartz crystals found in a 10 foot diameter area about 6 inches under the ground. The left smoky is ~10 cm.
Wind and water (and ancient glaciers too) are common forces that move crystals from their original location in the seams/pockets they were grown in. Over the hundreds of millions of years (or perhaps just thousands, or even last month’s torrential rains?) the land has been eroded and the original locations of the crystals may have been partially or completely eroded away. If on a hill, the crystals are likely displaced downhill as they are eroded out of their original pocket. If on a flat area, crystals can disperse radially away from the pocket (which may at one time long ago been above you).
One misconception that I originally had about float was that the crystals would be laying atop the ground easy for the prospector to see. It took me a while to realize that float can be (and often is) buried. The layer of topsoil / organic matter is a recent addition to the ground (decomposed plants, trees, etc) in the perspective of geologic time. Most often I’ve discovered float that is buried in the boundary between the top soil and the granite gravel layers which can be visible or buried many feet deep. Note that with the hundred plus years of prospecting occurring in popular areas, it is very unlikely you’ll find crystals on the surface; but there is still plenty of float to be discovered!
Now that we’ve reviewed what float is in theory, how does one utilize this float concept to actually find crystals? When I find good signs on the ground I dig test holes (more about what are good signs in a minute). I try to dig deep enough so I’m at (or below) the boundary layer between the topsoil/organic matter and the gravel–the steeper the hills the likely this layer will be more shallow. I will also dig about a foot or sometimes two deeper to see if what I’m seeing at the surface continues in situ underground–signs of a pegmatite outcropping.
As I continue to explore the source of the float, I will dig an area of several feet in diameter, left and right, up and downhill. If I continue to find signs, then I will follow those signs in whatever direction they lead me, which typically trends uphill. The hope is that this investigation leads you to the originating crystal pocket or seam still in the pegmatite rock!
If there are no signs on the surface but the area in general looks or “feels” good, or if I’m feeling lucky, I dig test holes in best-guess locations and if I find nothing interesting within a 2-3 foot diameter, I move on to another spot.
I have also seen videos of folks using dowsing rods–the concept is they loosely hold L shaped rods in each hand and as they walk over an area with a crystal the rods will move. I keep thinking I should try this but I have no experience nor have done any research on this technique yet. Chime up in the comments if you’ve had success with this method!
A float dig. I was following signs up the hill (probably 10 feet here) digging only about 3-7 inches deep. Notice the pile of dirt on the right, this makes it ultra fast to fill in the hole once I’m done…literally 2 minutes. I often backfill the hole as I’m following the float. Notice the rocks on the surface above my digging, these are what you want to see, but in this case they are likely from another dig up the hill as they are not partially buried like Mother Nature would do.
What are good signs to follow? What do you look for on the surface to start digging there? How long do you follow the trail of good signs when they are not panning out? Well, that IS the trick, these are all the million dollar questions of prospecting! I’m still perfecting this myself and likely will be forever, but for now my answer is many things. Here is where joining up with a Crystal Club or digging with other prospectors is very helpful. I have found that even though I’ve read a ton on the topic and talked to many experienced prospectors, I didn’t really “get it” until I’ve gone and and moved some rock and dirt–experienced it; sometimes it even takes many times before what I’ve read or been told clicks. That said, however, I’ll try to give you some tips and rules of thumb based on what I look for.
You are looking for the following, above and/or below the surface as float or in situ:
Anything with flat sides. Train your eyes to see flat surfaces; having flat surfaces means there was enough room for the rocks to start to crystalize which is evidence of a crack, seam or pocket in the host rock. Finding flat sided rocks is integral in the hunt for crystals.
Quartz. Pegmatites are partially composed of quartz, so you are looking for chunks of quartz either by themselves or mixed with Microcline / Feldspar.
Microcline. Like quartz above, microcline or amazonite is a good sign.
Graphic Granite. Granite by definition is composed of small crystals of quartz and feldspar. Pegmatite is when the crystal sizes get to a certain size. Graphic granite / pegmatite is where these crystals get bigger TOGETHER. Often in just one rock sample you’ll see the crystal size increase from one side to the other! (see image below). This sometimes means you are getting closer to where the crystals can grow better (i.e. a pocket).
Combinations of above. This means that all the right ingredients of a pegmatite seam are floating out of somewhere.
Crystals. If you’re finding whole crystals or multiple sides, well, you’re there! Congratulations!
Here are some good examples of graphic granite from one of my digs. Notice the quartz crystals getting bigger in size and consistent through the rocks. Click the image for a larger picture with more detail.
These pieces of quartz are great signs with many sides–but none are totally faceted which tells me they came out of massive granite. Also notice the microcline. Follow these!
Example of a good mix of quartz on feldspar, almost (but not quite) starting to look like a plate of quartz crystals. The upper quartz has a several flat sides! This chunk definitely kept me on the hunt!
One other technique I use digging float uphill is when pulling out quartz or microcline chunks I leave them on top of my tailings pile close to the spot I found them. If I’m not finding the source of the float or lose track of the good signs (or when I take a water break), then I’ll often step back, take a break and review what I’m finding from a distance (which is possible because I left my findings consistently in sight on top of the tailings). This technique will let me analyze my current prospecting situation from a different perspective. While analyzing the rocks as I have dug up the hill, I will also analyze the surrounding hillside for clues like other digs, surface rock, contour, etc. Sometimes I get overzealous in my digging and forget this simple step-back-and-analyze step which can be really helpful in minimizing the search for the source of the float!
Another way to find crystals using the “float technique” is to start at someone else’s dig and start to explore around (if a flat area) and downhill of that prospect/hole. It’s likely that there is float around or below that pocket that someone else has done all the hard work and located for you! Many times the crystals are really nice and have just rolled down the hill a little bit!!! The original prospector was only interested in the pocket material and left all the easy float finding to someone else! I’ve found some really nice crystals using this technique!
Of course, the best place to dig is in crystal pockets. This is where the crystals will likely be the best quality and most plentiful (but not always, ask any experienced prospector and they will tell you stories of hours/days of work in fabulous looking pockets with junk, crushed or no crystals). Whether you happen upon a seam or pocket in the pegmatite using float prospecting techniques, or you find the peg right away and dive in, this is the goal of prospecting–to hit the mother lode!
First, a little bit of theory from what I have discovered in the field and also from reading and talking to other prospectors. I think of pegmatites as basically a lava flow of harder rock that when forming had the right (and larger) concentrations of minerals we are searching for. Because it is a flow, it often will be long and extend across or into the hillside and will often be somewhat straight. This is helpful to know as you often can follow the pegmatite as it trends in a somewhat straight direction across the hillside.
If the conditions were right at that instant of time millions and millions of years ago, you have highly mineralized fluid that was flowing through the cracks in the rocks. If there was room in the host rock’s cracks then it would give the fluid a chance to crystalize in that “open space” in the rocks. Because we’re talking about an extended “flow”, the pegmatite can open up (i.e. crystals!), then pinch out, and follow that pattern again and again along faults or cracks over its length. You sometimes see this play out when following the pegmatite getting pocket after pocket along the length of the peg! This is something to remember as a previous prospector may have found a great pocket but didn’t finish it or follow it as it opened up into even a larger pocket along the length of the original flow!
The great Blue Cap Productions video on Rhodochrosite at the Sweet Home Mine in Alma Colorado details that pockets were often found at the intersection of faults. I have found this to be true in some cases with pegmatites pockets I’ve found, as two pegmatites intersected there was a pocket. Additionally, Joe Dorris of Glacial Peak Mining has documented that when the pegs bend they often form pockets (which were eddies during the liquid phase?). This is also something I’ve experienced and definitely keep an eye out for.
Pegmatite is currently often surrounded by gravel or dirt. Over geologic time, the surrounding rock may have decomposed into gravel while the harder, more mineralized material is still in place. So once you are upon the pegmatite you’ll likely know its boundaries by gravel. Knowing this, I don’t spend much time when digging test holes if there is just gravel, but if there are chunks of peg, quartz or microcline then I continue as I may be digging into a pegmatite; and if I was into the peg and then enter into just gravel, I change my direction as I likely have found a border of the peg. When finding bigger chunks of rock, ensure they are pegmatite and not just solid granite. You won’t find many crystals if you are not in the pegmatite!
Note that have seen instances where all the surrounding rock is completely gone leaving just a trail of crystals in the gravel or dirt! So again none of these techniques is absolute each and every time!
I categorize the peg in a couple of ways, as described above (chunks) and also as solid masses (this digging takes the most effort). Sometimes I get into a peg that is still holding together as more massive rock and there is a seam sandwiched between top and bottom plates of granite. In that seam, especially when it has the opportunity to widen, I sometimes find small pockets of crystals. Following these openings the trail of crystals sometimes dives deeper; and that is where things can get interesting as you may be into a pocket. Note that these chunks of pegmatite can be quite large and heavy, requiring pry bars and even chisels and hand sledge hammers to extract, so ensure you are employing safe leverage and lifting techniques (a hurt back doesn’t allow one to dig for many crystals) and always wear eye protection! In these cases I follow the peg in all directions as the crack/seam may be rather long and wide but not very thick, but eventually it could widen and form a pocket. Here is a video example of this (these are HD video, so change the resolution if you have the bandwidth!).
So these are the techniques that I am currently using to find crystals. I am fairly successful in finding some crystals, but finding the great crystals or pockets is still somewhat elusive to me! My thought is it’s all about moving dirt and rock to maximize the chance of getting lucky. Comparing it to the lottery, you have to play to win! Regardless, employing these techniques has brought me success and hopefully will aid in your success too! As stated before, I would love to hear your techniques and ideas in the comments or by emailing me; I’m looking for any ways to improve!
Here are some videos showing me finding crystals out of a pegmatite pockets or seams. Pay attention to what is surrounding the areas with crystals as that is what you will be targeting when you dig! Additionally, I have accumulated a playlist of people extracting crystals from around the world, you’ll want to check it out!
For more articles on my prospecting adventures click here.
You should also check out the other blogs I follow with great information about prospecting in Colorado: