Best of 2010 PLUS: Gurdonark

Thursday, 13 January 2011

My post detailing my favorite netlabel releases of 2010 was quite popular, and led to a lot of people discovering some cool music, which is one of my main goals, aside from promoting my own music. It is my humble opinion that all netlabel artists ought to have the same goal: namely to promote the stuff in the netlabel underground that they think is really great at the same time as they promote their own stuff. That way ALL of us benefit, both listeners and producers. Right? Right.

With this in mind, I am going to be focusing on each artist (hopefully-this will depend on if they want to participate or not) whom I reviewed in the best of 2010 post, re-running the review I originally wrote, but I’m ALSO going to ask each of the artists reviewed to recommend a few completely FREE netlabel albums that THEY have enjoyed recently.

Previously we’ve had recommendations from:
1.) Mystified
2.) Marc Weidenbaum
3.) Christopher McFall
4.) Andreas Brandal
5.) Meteer

Gurdonark’s unassuming little record from 2010 made my best-of list, here was my appraisal:

Gurdonark – Butterflies of North Texas
Gurdonark’s unique brand of sampling-synth musical fancies takes a move into slightly darker territories than last year’s wonderful “Seven Virtues”. Don’t look for scary dark ambient or anything though! Self-described “kid music” with odd modes, interesting sounds and unexpected changes.

Robert Nunnally, a.k.a. Gurdonark has a few things to say, and a few recommendations to make, so let us make haste to LISTEN:

I’m a huge believer in Creative Commons music, and in a sharing culture in general. I find solace in netlabel and other free download music–a musical connection to my imagination and a sense of exploring new lanes on forgotten but welcoming highways. I see the netlabel movement less as a monolithic Tower of Babel, and more as thousands of rivulets of water which will grow into a redefining stream. Here are a few of the albums that inspired me.

Phillip Wilkerson – The Way Home
The releases at Earth Mantra, an ambient label, are quite regular and yet almost always quite inspiring. I’d like to single out one: Phillip Wilkerson’s “The Way Home”. Phillip works in both “dark” and “light” ambient music, often using vintage drones to explore new melodic hallways. “The Way Home” explores his lighter side–not the light of the new age, but the warmth of innovative sound in search of an innovative melodic sonic experience. I listen to this album when I want to find a little serenity. This album is not cheap grace, but costly discipline, in pursuit of an ambient pathway.

I should also give a shout-out, while I am on this topic, to Stillstream, the ambient netradio station which is affiliated with Earth Mantra
whose playlist, shows, live performances and even live chat show what incredible vistas Creative Commons music can achieve, if a dedictated group of listeners believe in it. I offer special thanks to Palancar, the ambient artist who operates both Earth Mantra and

Altus – Black Trees Among Amber Skies
The Canadian artist Altus has released a fine body of work. His 2010 release “Black Trees Among Amber Skies” is meditative without being sterotypic meditation music. When I seek to collect my wits, I find them assorted easily on the spindles of this sound. I like the way his songs subtly shift from sound to sound, creating a whole that is more than the drone of the parts.

I love ambient and chill music, but I am not the captive of those genres. I think that netlabel music is wonderful in a world of niches, and not just two. Here are a few releases in other genres:

Cagey House – B is for Breakfast
I love contemporary classical music and novelty songs. An artist who shares my love for each is Cagey House. His songs tend to run Ramones length, and always show a strong sense of fun. Yet the fun is only the handle on the mirror. The real fun-house is contained within the glassine core of his music, where he explores ideas from modernist music and free jazz like a
serious academic dressed as Pierrot at a costume party. Cagey House’s “B is for Breakfast” is BP 055 on the Bypass netlabel. The Bypass Netlabel wins a special prize for its DOS-style graphical user interface on its website. This album features manic melodies, absurdist spoken word sampling, and contemporary classical nods with a wink from a left eye, a right eye, and a third eye. Cagey House is netlabel music at its best–unconcerned with fashion, unafraid of fun. My music sounds nothing like Cagey House music, yet I consider him a huge influence.

Lucas Gonze – Ghost Solos
Netlabel music seems too young to me to inspire urban legends, but already it has its now small-town myths. One such myth is the notion that only electronica and lo-fi experimental music emanates from the Creative Commons scene. Lucas Gonze approaches music from another place altogether. Using his guitar and a vintage mandolin, he makes recordings of public domain sheet music from the 19th and early 20th Centuries. the vibe here is not “virtuoso”, but “insightful sharer”. Those who, as I do, both completely love and to some extent nonetheless reject pop music, will be delighted to find these melodies neither as safe nor filled with sentimentality as the brochures say. In the same way that John Fahey may have been the first truly ambient artist, Lucas Gonze may define truly experimental music in our era–by way of the time machine.

Adam and Alma – Back to the Sea
When we rush to the ramparts to resist pop music, let’s be sure and lose to the invasions by the
stylish songwriters who are Scandinavian at heart. The wonderful 23 seconds netlabel out of Sweden, provides unapologetic pop electronica.
Adam and Alma’s EP “Back to the Sea” mines pop and electro to create a sound that is buoyant but not drowning in pop sentimentality. The track “Smile for Me, Sun”, an upbeat, seductive flirtation with the star around which our planet orbits, may qualify as the official soundtrack to the brighter sides of 2010. Ellen Arkbro and Johan Graden, who comprise this electro duo, leave me wanting more–more vim, more vigour, and more Adam and Alma.

These are but a few of the wonderful releases that caught my eye this year–and space permits only the merest mention of German artist Entertainment for the Braindead’s
banjo madness on her EP “Roadkill” on, or Josh Woodward’s continued conquest of American pop modes on his “Ashes” release on his site I cannot let the moment go by without a mention of Mark Stolk (Mystahr’s) amazing experimental label, Just Not Normal. There are so many fun releases available. I could go on, but I’ve gone on and on.

I agree with you, C. Reider–one way we can help spread the word about Creative Commons music is to discuss the music we love. My own tastes run a wide gamut-and I am delighted that Creative Commons music fulfills so many of my hopes and daydreams for what a new music culture will be.

Thanks Robert!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robert Nunnally, c. reider. c. reider said: NEW blog series #netlabel artists recommend freely downloadable music. 6th post by @gurdonark […]

    TrackBack by Tweets that mention Vuzh Music Blog » Blog Archive » Best of 2010 PLUS: Gurdonark -- | January 14, 2011 4:59 am
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