Now Playing: Netlabel music

Sunday, 17 June 2012

I’m finally getting some time to get caught up on my netlabel listening. The big project that was taking up so much of my time is now behind me (a sound art exhibition archived here: and I can concentrate on my other interests again!

So in preparing this post, I noticed that a lot of the Creative Commons licenses that are used here don’t allow remixing… “no derivative work”. Obviously it’s up to each artist / label to decide what license to use, but I humbly argue for a more open license, such as CC BY or CC BY NC SA — a no-deriv license amounts to a monologue, allowing derivative work opens up the work to dialogue. I’ve been strongly considering the idea of basing a new work on appropriated sounds from the netlabel underground, (with proper attribution, of course) and it’s dismaying seeing all of these good releases that disallow it.

And now I’m getting off my high horse and we can proceed to the reviews.

Clay Gold – Clay Mining
Three Legs Duck / CC BY SA / Name your price

A percussion improvisation with heaped-on effects, soft-pad washes & tinkles, and some samples too. I am ambivalent about it.

He Can Jog – Pocket Suite
Pocket Fields / CC BY NC SA / Free
(Note: lists the release as CC BY NC ND, but in conversation with the artist, that’s a mistake, and the above license is correct)

It is a bitcrushed swampland of electronic crickets & frogs, with an Ariel Kalma-esque feeling of something hovering. Comes packaged with the source code.

Miquel Parera Jaques – Empty Space
Techno Nucleo / CC BY NC SA / free

Frequency oscillations beat and collide together until they burst. Aw… poor square waves!
Samples and source code also available.

Travis Johnson – Menotact
Control Valve / license not listed / free

A quietly modulating electronic drone supplemented by the occasional electro-bloop, or sine-glissando is paired with an indoor site recording in which not much happens (a rustle of slight movement, something clicks or clatters). Later, there are a few claps in a reverberating space. None of it adds up to much, but that’s all-right with me, I happen to think it’s pretty nifty!

Lezet – Hum
Etched Traumas / license not listed / free

Assembled from incidental mouth / breath noises. Disinterested sounding “ah”s & “hm”s join amphibian snurks, clammy gurgles & bovine grunts as the primary source material for the two pieces that are the focus of this release. The compositional structure is as insistent as aimless, like a room full of morons bumping into one another: perhaps then the point is to dance to it? It’s funny at first, and then a little disturbing, and most definitely worth a listen. I’ll leave it to a literary scholar to tell me whether or not this is sound poetry.

BFW Recordings / CC BY NC ND / free

One day the “outside world” will discover how good Bjorn Asserhead’s Meteer project is, and what’ll happen then? Hopefully the rest of us netlabel folk will beam with pride and send him virtual handshakes and pats on the back, and he’ll make sure to remind people in that edenic “outside” that there’s other people like him making music and giving it away for free… “down there”. Seriously, though this chill rhythmic ambient music is better than much of the similar stuff I’ve heard on the 12k label, and he hits the occasional evocative groove that stands on its own. He’s an artist worth following.

Naïve Mind – ___________ (Put a title in this line if you want)
Zenapolae / CC BY NC SA / free

If you asked a lot of people if they like competent pop-techno with simplistic, pretty melodies sometimes with a bit of guitar plucking alongside, many of those people would say “yes, I like those things”. I’m not one of them, so this gets chucked in the bin.

David Nemeth – Home Drones
Treetrunk / CC BY / free

Miscellaneous domestic hums and whirrs treated as though they were worth documenting and listening to, which of course they are. I think it’s fab.

Juan Antonio Nieto – The Voice Inside
Electronic Musik / CC BY NC ND / free

Filmic spooky atmospheres with a distant hint of Robert Rich’s “Trances / Drones”

Protofuse – Bits#10
self-released / copyrighted / it was free, but I guess now you have to pay?
Low-rent Basic Channel minimal techno stuff. It burbles along unremarkably enough. I’m often partial to this kind of thing, so I like it, but admittedly it’s not the most exciting music in the world.

Radio Royal – RRDL01
Clinical Archives / CC BY NC ND / free

A few seemingly competing interests here. Several extended freeform electronic jams with background loops and dirty lo-tech synths. Then the loops come to the fore to accompany a boring sampled vocal monologue, and things get more problematic. Then there’s another big change when nestled in the middle of it is a great psychedelic track with a wobbly repeating guitar / drum phrase and the vibrating inflections of a vocalist intoning in Japanese (?). Suddenly it all sounds more interesting.

Restive – [m2012/30-09]
self released / CC BY NC SA / free

That fondly familiar Restive construction: independent loops of rumbling noises, one track has a Cluster-ish little keyboard meditation, I’d love to see more like that!

Slowpitch – Biosphere Stargaze
Bah Doom / copyrighted / free

Hazy sound clumps looping for opiated head-nodding. Each track starts off promising, but never develops into anything but another reason to stare bleary-eyed at the wall.

Chris Whitehead – South Gare
Linear Obsessional / CC BY NC SA / free

A composition that organizes selected phonographic elements and multi-tracks them together with a smattering of humble percussive interactions with actual spaces. Absolutely fantastic.


  1. I never understand experimental music with the ND license. I suppose there must be some incipient fear that music will be remixed into something unacceptable,but it’s hard to imagine those scenarios.

    I also get on my high horse about people who take very routine samples and apply the NC label. It’s one thing to apply the NC license to a vocal track or a guitar solo,but I see a bash, a hit, or a two-note pad from time to time with BY NC. I think BY is okay, but PD for this type of thing is better, and NC is unnecessary.

    I like reading your capsule reviews,because they remind me of the best parts of the review sections of magazines like Trouser Press.
    Also, a good few of these people are people I know and admire, so it’s like getting an update from a familiar front of a worthwhile conflict.

    Posted by gurdonark | June 17, 2012 5:01 pm
  2. ND doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I’ve had so many good experiences
    with people unexpectedly remixing my stuff because I have an open license
    that there’s just no way I’d go back. I can’t help but think people are cheating
    themselves out of great interactions with other artists by limiting there work
    like this.

    I think the potential of the netlabel underground is a true intra-influential
    community where bits and pieces of established works take on a new life.

    Think about how great those early Public Enemy albums were with all of these
    samples smashed together, and how impossible a work like that is now.
    The underground doesn’t have to be like that.

    Posted by C. Reider | June 17, 2012 6:10 pm
  3. I agree! The underground should not be like that, and it’s a matter of changing enough minds that
    ND is eradicated.

    Posted by gurdonark | June 17, 2012 9:06 pm
  4. Thank you for the pithy review of Chris Whitehead’s “South Gare”. I completely agree with your editorial stance – all releases on Linear Obsessional are share alike, I welcome any remixes or reworkings – as long as I get to hear them of course!

    Posted by Richard Sanderson | June 18, 2012 1:43 am
  5. I applaud your netlabel policy. I do, however, think more artists should take licensing more seriously and set it themselves, with the label complying. I realize we’re not there yet.

    Posted by C. Reider | June 18, 2012 6:54 am
  6. Many people uses ND and NC licences for “moral protection” of their work. For instance the Jim Morrison/Light My Fire case and in particular the Dead Kennedys/Levi’s-Too Drunk To Fuck/Planet Terror case.

    I believe that many people have strong ideological prejudices against their music being used by “wrong hands for wrong purposes”. I personally think that a SA licence is cool because everyone with a “strong ideological prejudice” will always stay away of something like that LOL. Just imagine hearing your SA track on a blockbuster movie… Not in your lifetime bro.

    Posted by el bjorch | June 18, 2012 4:08 pm
  7. I personally use a NC license.

    I think there’s plenty of protection from unscrupulous use with the BY NC SA license, that way someone can remix the work, but they have to do it non-commercially, and they have to use the same or similar license on their work. This doesn’t protect against someone using your work in bad taste (which may be the objection???), but I don’t think this is so much of a problem.

    I use an open license, and I’ve been very pleased and flattered everytime someone uses my sounds in their compositions. More power to them!

    Posted by C. Reider | June 18, 2012 6:31 pm
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