A recent download made me think about the difficult ethics of illegally downloading music from the net...
A friend of mine recently passed me a USB stick containing the MP3s of a very rare album on it, by a French fusion group called Dun. Their sole album was going for £250 on Discogs and was impossible to find to buy anywhere else. He had ripped from Youtube by converting song posts into MP3's. Poor quality but the only way to own the album. I have immediately passed on the album to several friends who would enjoy it and spread the word. It struck me that this band are almost completely forgotten and I only heard about them through people posting the album on Youtube. Without someone having stuck up their music illegally online they would remain an unknown myth inaccessible to all apart from the rich obsessive vinyl collector. If enough people hear and pass on the music then there is a possibility that a small label will eventually rerelease the album due to the interest.
For cult artists this can work as people into obscure music would most likely buy the CD if rereleased, mainly due to the improved sound quality, but also to support the label, invariably small and fan driven, and band. Even if you buy an album at an inflated price second hand the band still does not receive any royalties, if the CD is rereleased and available new they hopefully will. In the past the recordable cassette was seen as the death of the industry but did not significantly effect sales, in fact it was soon seen as an unlikely form of stealth promotion. In the past many albums such as The Modern Lovers then unreleased demo's (a huge influence on the UK punk rock movement in bootleg form) and more recently The Beach Boys "Smile" album have only been circulated and reevaluated through dissemination as illegal bootlegs. Often a flood of bootlegs forces the artist to acknowledge an audience for a particular aspect of their work, such as Bob Dylan's "Biograph" box set and Led Zeppelin's "How the West Was Won". Ripping files from the internet is just the new form of bootlegging.
However there is a possibility that the downloading phenomenon has damaged the industry in another way. Record companies' back catalogues are proving significantly more stable income than newer artists principally through the massive costs of promoting a new act. A rerelease frenzy that has created a retro obsessed "dad rock" industry. Too busy re-promoting the past to spend time developing the future? Newer music is absorbed by a generation to whom packaging and historical significance is less important than before, in general people have a less personal connection to artists. The emphasis in breaking a modern act, which is closely linked to film and advertisement tie-ins, is that the music is now selling the concept of consumption not the idea that you consume because of your believe in the values or messages expressed in the product. Modern pop is seen as a tool to fluidly create connections between disparate products in the minds of the public. You are as likely to picture a soft drink when hearing a pop song as you are to remember the lyrics.
Another aspect in retro active consumption is that modern music is such an extravagant display of wealth, either explicitly through the clothes and jewelry or through the subtle technological showcase of the promo videos. Many people imagine that either the artists will not be significantly financially effected by your illegal download, after all they are practically forcing their wealth down your throat, or consumers desire the music but resent paying money to fund such ostentatious neo yuppy life styles during times of recession. An artist from the past is protected from this to a certain extent by the passage of time. They are not constantly in your face through the over saturation of multimedia, and their extravagance or foolishness is given the protective perception of "retro", the 70's, a decade of terrible record company corruption, prejudice, the worst excesses of rock star arrogance and debauchery is now seen as a fun pimped up era of afros, bell bottoms, double necked guitars and disco glitter.
It will always remain a controversial topic but it is worth remembering the amount of money and resources squandered by the record business. It is unfortunate that artists and sound engineers are suffering because of a situation created more through record company incompetence and mismanagement than what is promoted (by the record industry) as the greed of the consumer. I see the industry splitting into two linked but ideologically divided sides. One will retain the old model and will see music become merely a supporting player to reality TV, film and advertisement. It will not be created for aesthetic worth or longevity but as a cog in a capitalist machine for aspiration and consumerism. On the other side a new industry will grow up from the grass routes level where small labels of enthusiasts promote artists driven more by the music than the desire for fame and money. This is already happening, with artists accepting that their music will remain something which has to give satisfaction in and of itself without being a route towards financial independence. Future music for both creator and listener will provide a spiritual but not a financial release from your day job.
"Downloading discussion" > read the full post
Friday, 9 March 2012
By counterfieter at 10:58
An informal series of reviews of prog/psych/weirdness for the drug crazed and incontinent...
Does anyone else have the thing where you KNOW a particular album is the best creation by a band but time and again you read reviews where inferior albums by the artist are recommended in magazine reviews and blogs?
Well with KC you will be told that their debut album or "Red" or "Discipline" or "Starless and Bible Black" are the first port of call to get into the band...They are not...the pinnacle of the Crim's catalogue, and possibly prog rock in general, is "Larks' Tongues in Aspic".
Don't get me wrong I love a lot of KC's previous albums, I love the weird culty appeal of liking such stodgy over ripe fair as "Lizard" or " Islands". Yes they are easy to mock for the pretension and opulence of the arrangements, hell "Lizard" practically defines the word "rococo" with more folds and ruffs than a King Charles II portrait, but they are bold, imaginative and unique. In a world of Starbucks and X Factor such strangeness and exuberance is almost shocking when rediscovered on dusty old vinyl.
But early Crim suffered as much as any band of the era from the flaws that bedeviled prog and still keep it as the music you hide in a cupboard when a girl comes to visit. In fact with their massive debut album "In the Court of the Crimson King" they more or less defined the genre in both the positive and negative aspects. Hideous "poetic" lyrics, hilariously overblown chest beating vocals (by Greg Lake later of the god awful ELP) and aimless jamming.
Following the collapse of the original band guitarist Robert Fripp led a motley crew of ever changing sidemen and drifted further and further into complete abstraction, nothing wrong with this of course, but it was by way of a particularly weedy form of light jazz which reached it's nadir in the terrible track "Formentera Lady" as bland as "21st Century Schizoid Man" was fiery. Fripp was at a cross roads and he made the first step towards a brave new world by jettisoning the horrible lyrics and influence of Peter Sinfield and sought out a younger hungrier set of musicians to reclaim the fury and promise of the first line up.
Having poached drum prodigy Bill Bruford from mega successful Yes, former Family bassist John Wetton and deranged free jazz percussionist Jamie Muir the band's first shows created an instant stir. Gone were the flourish and ornate orchestration of old, replaced by a brittle sound based on improvisation that foreshadowed both obvious progeny such as Tool and more unlikely bands like Public Image Ltd and This Heat.
The new units first record together is a culmination of all the varied strands that Fripp had been attempting to weave together but until now a firm alloy had always eluded him. Serene violin reminiscent of Vaughan Williams (by David Cross) abruptly switches into spasming Teutonic riffing. Dark swathes of mellotron glower over bubbling Gamelan percussion. Sludgy Wah bass straight from a Sly Stone record rumbles against percussion which sounds like scurrying cockroaches after a nuclear fall out...and that's just the first track, the mighty "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part 1"!
The seemingly ridiculous title of the album actually sums up the twin obsessions of impossibly gentle pastoral and terrifying bludgeoning which have always been a KC trademark. Except this album combines both poles within tracks rather than the traditional "heavy track" vs "ballad" split on previous albums. This schizophrenic quiet/loud arrangement trick was later turned into a cliche by bands like The Pixies and Nirvana. Oddly Kurt Cobain was a fan of the follow up album "Starless and Bible Black".
One of the features of the album is how Bill Bruford's elegant drumming is prevented from the fussiness which permeated his work with Yes by the thuggish brutality of Wetton's distorted bass and Muir's scatter gun approach to percussion. I still have no idea how Muir creates half the sounds that squirm throughout the music. Scurrying insects, buzzing flies, ripping suspenders, laughing clowns, Muir has a whole menagerie of creatures at his disposal. There is a crawling sense of unease in even the gentlest tracks, a Gothic crepuscular tension as the instruments fight for space amid the sound effects.
The second track is also the weakest, "Book of Saturday" is a gentle ballad with terrible lyrics in the tradition of older tracks like "Cadence and Cascade". A pretty tune but bland after the fireworks of the previous title track. One positive is that it shows Wetton to be a much stronger singer than previous members although I tend to think of KC as an instrumental unit who happen to sing the odd song.
However the next track more than makes up for it, "Exiles" is possibly my favourite track by the band. Massive and mysterious it drifts in on a swirl of dissonant mellotron, not unlike something by Tangerine Dream. Delicate verses are interrupted by this returning storm cloud of sound at regular intervals preventing the melody becoming saccharine. This track shows off the melody of Wetton's bass playing and the restraint in Bruford's percussion. Few guitarists have such an ability to match exquisit lyricism with brute force as Fripp and this track is a web of fluttering Spanish guitar and liquid soloing. Despite the technique the solo at the end is simple and melodic, completely servicing the song. This is the reason Fripp had a concurrent session career with such artists as David Bowie and Brian Eno.
The next track "Easy Money" could not be more different and is the most dated song. An uneasy mix of jazzoid chords, funk and power chording anthemic chorus the track is let down by rank lyrics about a prostitute. KC were unable to find a good lyricist until Adrian Belew joined the 80's line up with his Talking Heads inspired word play. After the song part of the track it breaks into a elongated jam with some inspired minimalist funk between Muir and Bruford before Fripp's dense tangle of notes brings the track home. This track shows the influence on bands like Rush and Voivod.
The last two tracks are brilliant as they are released from the restraint of supporting lyrics and charge headlong into the music pure and simple. "The Talking Drum" starts with a simply drum patten and the sound of buzzing flies before being joined by a repetitive bass line, so far it sounds a bit like Neu. Gradually the track moves up a gear as first David Cross with his violin and then Fripp start playing variations of a riff which crosses dervish intensity with a sitar drone. David Cross was an often overlooked member who eventually left due to being reputably drowned out by the Wetton/Bruford axis in concert. Live sound systems of the day were simply not up to capturing all the nuances of this band so perhaps inevitably it was the harder heavier material which won out in concert. Fripp was an admirer of the Mahavishnu Orchestra so perhaps Cross was added to mimic that band's mix of instruments? On this track though he plays like a demon and the track finally explodes as Wetton steps on his fuzz pedal and the music grinds to a halt amid a scream of feedback.
The intensity does not let up as the second part of the title track comes in like Godzilla destroying Tokyo. One of their most violent pieces of music "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part 2" starts with a simple hacking chord which is then slice and diced by Wetton and Bruford. A hall mark of this album is the way the rhythm section play with time signatures, juggling the "one" about, while still keeping a hard pounding groove. Fripp plays with punk like abandon, he is the only guitar player of his generation who could play with such dirty jagged fury in such a complex context, assimilating the brute force of a garage punk Les Paul with the bare wire harmolodics of Derek Bailey. Cross rips into the music with a shrieking solo before the song rumbles to a halt with a blaze of thrashing chords that sound like a dentists drill.
If you want to get into a truly unique band then this is the place to start.
Thanks for reading.
"The Maningrey Review # 2 - Larks' Tongues in Aspic" > read the full post
Thursday, 8 March 2012
By Riisu at 17:53
Ever wanted to know what a "professional" Drum & Bass session looks like? Thanks to Loxy & Resound, the wait is over...
Well, Resound & Loxy have given away their tune Kernel for free download via Loopmasters to promote their new sample pack.
In conjunction with this, if you're a Logic user, you can also download the project files and see what's happening in the arrange & mix windows.
It proves for some interesting viewing (and listening). Which should get you thinking and analyzing your own projects, as to what you may be doing right or wrong, and open your eyes and ears to some new ways of thinking.
But before you rush ahead and start copying channel strips and doing things because you think you should.... Resound will be answering questions about the session. Anything that doesn't make sense, or techniques you don't understand etc, he'll aim to answer in a video he'll be doing through loopmasters.
If you check out Resound's site, he's got all the relevant info on how to obtain the free mp3 & session files.
His site is actually packed full of other useful information including weekly tips and he offers chances to mix and master your tracks as well as tutoring services.
Unfortunately this is not available for anybody on any other DAW, but the final video where he aims to answer questions should be of general interest all the same.
"Loxy & Resound - Kernel [Free Download/Session Files]" > read the full post
Tuesday, 6 March 2012
By counterfieter at 13:32
An informal series of reviews of prog/psych/weirdness for the beardy long hairs out there...
My first introduction to Can was the excellent but haphazard "Anthology". Fortunately Can are such a distinctive band that it still all seemed to fit together but I always found myself returning to the tracks "Future Days" and "Moonshake" so eventually I bought the album "Future Days" itself.
For me it has always been the peak of Can's music and for a long time I only really enjoyed this and "Ege Bamyasi" from their extensive catalogue. There is a definite split in Can's music between the jagged Velvet's inspired one chord garage drones of the Malcolm Mooney era and the more liquid and original Damo Suzuki music. From Damo's first track with the band "Don't Turn the Light On, Leave Me Alone" you can feel the change in feel as the band mold their music around Damo's voice. With Mooney it often felt as if they were being dragged in his wake such was the strength of his personality. Damo is no less striking but much less declamatory, the tone of his musings blend with the guitar and organ in such as way that with the liberal doses of reverb and delay which cloak the music often it is difficult to say who is creating which melody within a tune.
The title track has been a perennial favourite, it has always felt like a perfect piece, just the right length with not a note out of place. Can with Damo were the only "progressive" band who managed to be both excellent players but also write extremely catchy melodies. The sounds are always extremely organic, no flashy excessive soloing, even though Michael Karoli plays extensively he always plays intricate little tunes which Damo plays off and vice versa. The magic of Can is how they subvert certain prog rock cliches with unexpected twists. The mesmerizing samba rhythms master drummer Jaki Liebezeit weaves beneath "Future Days" is as silky as a Tom Jobim ballad yet also propulsive and muscular. Think of any other prog or Cosmic rock band who would use this groove? Oddly Liebezeit's playing reminds me of Fela Kuti's drummer Tony Allen in that it is jazz influenced but accented in a way that is neither rock, jazz or funk while combining the grooves of each genre.
The next track Splash is my least favourite from the album and feels like it could have come off Can's next album, the Damo less "Soon Over Babaluma" where the jazzy improvisation was removed from the discipline of working with Damo's songs and became indulgent. However being Can it is never less than fascinating, on any other album it would be a stand out track.
It is interesting that noted Kraut rock fan Julian Cope (faded 80's pop star turned all round guru) hates the second side of "Future Days" calling the oceanic 20 minutes of "Bel Air", a total "mess". However I think that this track perfectly demonstrates the perfect balance Can had with Damo. Yes there are self indulgent parts and yes it could haver lost a few minutes here and there but Damo is always there singing his strange incantations whenever it looks like the band has drifted into ambient doodling. Remove Damo and yes it would be a mess, infact I often see "Soon Over Babaluma" as a series of "Bel Airs" without the tunes. Like any long track it demands your attention, but if you look at "Bel Air" as a series of short pop songs which blend together rather than one intimidating slog the beauty unfolds itself, every time Damo sings it is a new song.
I see "Bel Air" as a follow up to Jimi Hendrix's track "1983" with it's washes of sound which never fall into ambient banality due to the delicacy and sensitivity of the playing and the tough beats which anchor them. There are parallels in the mood to John Martyn's album "Solid Air" which was also released in 1973 with it's blend of electric piano and reverbed twanging guitar. However where Martyn finds sorrow and darkness in this mix Can find a massive neutral charge, removed from any identifiable human emotion, more like standing on a beach in the sun as a cool breeze brushes your face. Not quite elation, not quite pensive.It is this aspect which means this is an album you can listen to in any mood and find yourself in a different place. Only a later album like "Loveless" by My Bloody Valentine would combine this level of the avant and the pop in one sound although again the prevailing mood on MBV's masterwork was intense nostalgia and pain.
Before this monster track comes Can's sweetest pop song. Moonshake has the same sexy samba groove as the title track but this time the Jobim in the beat is given free reign. A cousin to "One More Night" from "Ege Bamyasi" and directly reused by Can themselves on the later "Saw Delight" for the soundalike "Don't Say No", this is a propulsive stomper which is both funky and weird with the odd scratches and bleeps which take the place of a solo in the middle. Can's disco side would coem to full fruition on their one UK hit, the facile but fun "I Want More".
I can see why this album is often under rated compared to the more obviously rocking Mooney era "Monster Movie" and the Damo led "Tago Mago". It is possible that "Future Days" could be perceived as being a little bland after their previous fire breathing sturm und drang. However I feel that many of the early Can tracks are too close to The Velvet Underground and The Mothers in style and simply lacking in the narcotic melody they would find on Ege Bamyasi" and "Future Days". Despite the ferocity of Malcolm Mooney I find much of the garage rock Can boring in the same way I find much of the proto punk critics darlings like The Stooges tedious. If you are going to have no tune then go all the way and sound like "Negativland" by Neu! I would suggest that at least half of "Tago Mago" and "Monster Movie" are more of a "mess" than "Bel Air"!
Of their later albums after "Future Days" I dislike "Soon Over Babluma" and "Landed" (their worst album by some way) but enjoy "Flow Motion" for it's odd dub experiments and poppy disco and enjoy the first album with new members Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baahchaz, "Saw Delight" which has a sunny around the world in a day vibe.
Thanks for reading
"The Maningrey Review # 1 - Future Days" > read the full post