Post Tagged recommendations

Best of 2010 PLUS: Christopher McFall

Saturday, 01 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 and 2.) Marc Weidenbaum.

This time we’ll get Christopher McFall’s recommendations. Here’s what I had to say about his new release:

Christopher McFall – A Long Time Running for the Suicide Strays
Sepia loops of tones & textures clustering and spreading apart. Unmissable.

Now then, here’s Christopher’s recommendations:

I’ve a few recommendations that I’ve listed below:

1. Coeval – Distante 3: This is my favorite release of 2010, period. Coeval is even more stunning with this release than in previous releases in the series. The rendered field recordings/music composition on Distante 3 convey an amazing sense of dark cinema. It’s hard to believe how under exposed Coeval’s music is because Coeval one of the best things happening out there on the field recording/ambient music circuit.

2. Alessio Ballerini – Blanc: It’s my understanding that this music was created for a video installation. The music for this release is lush with layered textures of sound and music. Static and distortion characterizes some instances and then parts emerge exhibiting ambient soundscapes coupled with guitar, piano played in a modern classical style and field recordings. It’s an exceptional release and one not to be missed.

Those are the two big ones that I have for 2010. Great stuff to be found with both of these.

Best regards,

Thanks Christopher!

Best of 2010 PLUS: Marc Weidenbaum

Friday, 01 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.

This time we’ll get Marc Weidenbaum’s recommendations. His indispensable website Disquiet is one of the netlabel underground’s most important resources. He curated a compilation which was one of my favorites from 2010.

V/A – Despite the Downturn: An Answer Album
Marc Weidenbaum’s sonic activism compilation reacting to an article by Megan McArdle in the Atlantic Monthly, in which artists used the article’s accompanying illustration as a graphic score. Nice concept, and lots of cool music on here, including one piece by yours truly.

Here are his comments and recommendations:

I’d like to add one comment by way of introduction. I entirely agree with your statement that it’s “important for the netlabel underground to actually talk about netlabel music,” and not just “promote” it. I do, though, want to propose that not all talking is verbal or written. A lot of the best netlabel communication occurs in the form of remixes and collaborative projects. However, that is musicians talking to musicians, and I agree it is necessary to communicate in a more broadly accessible language — e.g., the best-of list. So, here goes. Three of these five are on netlabels, one is a podcast, and one is a project housed on a musician’s website. The latter, two, though, being freely available, strike me as being netlabel in spirit.

For a Touch Radio podcast entry, saxophonist Thomas Ankersmit did a spell of Deep Listening inside an echo-heavy Estonian hanger:

Elisa Luu’s The Time of Waiting emphasizes variety: playful beats, quasi-orchestral extravagance, and a real keeper that artfully employs processed vocals:

The music on Diego Bernal’s Besides… is the like some secret side-project team-up between Ennio Morricone and DJ Premiere, mixing atmospheric melodrama and rough beats:

The track “Homage to Jack Vanarsky,” featuring viola and motorized gadget, on the album Solo Viola d’Amore by Garth Knox, sounds more and more like a duet the more you listen to it:

Tim Prebble’s Synaesthesia project invites musicians to respond in sound to photos that he posts. In this case, one from Bali. Gamelans not required:

Full list of 2010 favorites at:

Happy new year.

Thanks Marc!

Response to Silent World of Netlabels

Wednesday, 11 November 2010

There is, in this mini essay by Mixgalaxy Records, a discussion we should be having in the netlabel underground.

Clearly, yes, there is very little intracommunication between netlabel artists who do not already know each other… there is very, very little community-wide feedback. This is something I’ve been saying for years. I had the great pleasure of having participated in the final ‘golden years’ of the cassette underground. With each tape trade there was an exchange of letters, and often there was a follow up once both traders had a chance to listen to the other’s work. Sometimes this led to a friendly connection. Other times just a polite comaradery, or in some cases a dismissive ‘nice try, just not my kinda thing’. For what it was, there was at least some feedback, even if brief.

The author of the Mixgalaxy essay is correct to accuse the netlabel underground of ‘silence’. It’s shameful the total vacuum that people’s efforts disappear into. I may not necessarily be composing my own music for an audience, but I do feel it’s part of the experience to occasionally have someone contact me and say “Hey, really weird stuff… I dig it.” As Gurdonark says in the comments to the Mixgalaxy post “A listener need not spend 16 dollars on a CD to download a netlabel album, but spending 30 seconds on an e mail or 5 seconds on a tweet is a form of ‘payment’ netlabel owners crave.

My biggest beef with the netlabel underworld has long been that although I myself am constantly listening to netlabel releases by artists that I frequently know little about, and recommending them via email or Twitter or through this blog (check out this post, or this one, or this one, this, this, this, or this one for example), I see only a small minority of other netlabel supporters doing the same. Most of the time the only interaction some netlabels/artists have with anyone is a promo blurb about some new release — or ten new releases. There may as well be a mechanoid behind some of these labels. Do they listen to their peers? Do they even know their peers exist? Who knows? But hey, they have several new releases this month. Why even participate in a community if you don’t want to communicate?

Where I disagree with the author is the false dichotomy of netlabel with commercial music. I don’t see that the average artist in the net underground is at all ‘hoping for that big break’ that’ll help them cross that supposed thin line that separates the two worlds, and they’ll suddenly be rich and famous. Net artists have embraced obscurity, and why not? Obscurity is a virtue. Yes; we all want more listeners, yes; we even want fans, but the kind of music most of us make is just never going to have a hope of being popular, and we all know it. I for one am happy to reach more and more listeners, but I am happy with a slow and small accumulation of appreciative listeners. I feel like I can be honest to my own creative direction (which is something I take very seriously), with this approach. I may be misreading the essay, but I simply don’t agree with the diagnosis that netlabels’ problems have to do with money not being involved. I think the free aesthetic is one of the strongest bonding elements we all have.

I want a more inclusive and supportive community of netlabel artists than there is currently. Perhaps this can change. I have seen signs lately that point to ‘scene boosting’ activity… the Mixgalaxy Records blog post itself is a pretty good sign of this.

It occurs to me, perhaps, that what the community might have a need for is a more centralized method of communication. Mail art had some central hubs… Ashley Parker Owens’ Global Mail filled that role for a while. The cassette underground had Gajoob, and later Autoreverse (among others)… the net underground is completely de-centralized, which can be a strength, but it definitely doesn’t lead to a sense of community. Right now, it’s every man/label for himself. I may not be the chummiest guy in the whole wide world, but I sure as shit reject that kind of isolationism.

More best of 2009

Thursday, 01 January 2010

Given yesterday’s post about the best free downloadable albums of 2009 I should also make mention of a couple of incredible albums that came out last year that aren’t free, and you can’t download. Both I list here are by underground artists, if you choose to buy them, you’ll be buying from the artist directly, and you’ll be making the world a better place, not to mention giving yourself the gift of some great music.

Michael J. Bowman – Psychic Borderland
Unequivocally one of my absolute favorite albums of the year. Brimming with a kind of hallucinatory melancholy coupled with catchy hooks, this album could be compared with Grandaddy’s better work, but that just doesn’t do the thing any kind of justice. On this album you’ll hear beautifully textured, potent, heart-tugging, sculptural songs and even one seventeen minute long technicolor scrambled egg trip down the hellhole worthy of comparison to Nurse With Wound. The kind of imaginative recording on display here should reap Mike some kind of award. If I had one I’d fuckin’ give it to him. Congratulations Mike, aside from that one Beatles remaster I bought, this is hands down my favorite pop music of the year.

Mystified – Pulse Ringer Pieces
Mystified on vinyl. Do I need to say any more? I’m actually not sure I could add to the review I did back in January other than to say that I listen to vinyl a lot, and this lovely blue record found it’s way onto my turntable quite a lot during this last year.

If I were made of money, I’d buy both of these for everyone reading this. But I’m not, and they’re really not very expensive so I hope you’ll buy them. Do it for me!

Favorite Net Releases 2009.

Tuesday, 01 January 2010

You know how you’re like a netlabel and stuff, and you release some new recording, and you can see from your stats that only one guy listened to it? I might have been that guy!

Here were my favorite netlabel releases of 2009, all are freely downloadable, so maybe YOU can be hit number TWO on someone’s statcounter!

1. Gurdonark – Seven Virtues
At a time when it would have been much more fashionable to put out an album dedicated to the seven deadly sins featuring dark and gloomy doom sounds, this charming collection of light musical fancies celebrates what’s to be admired about the human spirit. (some of Gurdonark’s thoughts on making this album)

2. Hannah M.G. Shapero (a.k.a. Altocumulus)My Name is Marietta Cashman
Not many of us can claim to have recorded experimental music on a Buchla modular synthesizer in the late sixties when merely an adventurous teenager, but Hannah Shapero can. Culled from forgotten tape reels, unheard for 40 years, this treasure of naive noodling sounds fresh and innocent, a stark contrast to modern noodles by hipster cognoscenti. At the moment the accompanying photo of Hannah was taken in 1970, in her futuristic silver jumpsuit and glasses in front of the synth modules, she looks like she may have been the coolest nerdy girl in the universe. Modern Noodles by Hipster Cognoscenti would make a damned fine band name.

3. Mystified – Collusion (with PBK, the Implicit Order, KR-Ohm & Kwalijk) – A collection of guys I admire working with sound sources provided by another guy I admire. This is a collection of the kinds of sounds I love, loopy and squiggly and gritty and crunchy. Quietnoise of the highest order!

4. Various Artists – No-R-Mal
Oh, hullo! What’s this? FIVE FUCKING HOURS of top notch weirdness from 50 underground artists? I keep coming back to this and finding new gems all the time. Stunning.

5. Chubby Wolf – Meandering Pupa
A brief collection of smooth ambience, dancing slowly, exactly in-between light and dark. The prolific artist behind Chubby Wolf, Dani Baquet-Long, (also one half of celebrated ambient artists Celer) passed away in July, suddenly, at the age of 26. The entire underground network was saddened by the loss.

6. Pavonine – Pavonine
Dark, vaporous, mysterious, alluring? Sure, all that and more.

7. Dexp Lab – Sectors LP
A fine collision of rhythm and noise.

8. PBK – Asmus Sources (plus pretty much everything else on soundgenetic)
I have to admit, somewhat embarrassedly, that when I bought the Asmus Tietchens / PBK collaboration from Realization way back in the early nineties, it didn’t entirely gel for me. I loved both artists apart, but this album just didn’t quite get there. This year, PBK released the sound source files that he originally sent to Asmus for their collaboration, and upon hearing these imagination-pricking sounds, I decided a re-evaluation of the actual collaboration was in order, and now I find that it all makes sense. I’m not at all sure what I was thinking back in the 90s. I may simply not have been mature enough to get it! Now, I love both the collab, and these raw, stripped down sources equally. This is a rare chance to compare and contrast the working methods of two great minds in abstract music.

9. Olifaunt – Three Crows Become Four
Slow growing drone ambient with stringy textures and melancholy tones.

10. Zondagmorgen – La Fin du Monde
So apparently the end of the world is slow, blurred and extremely melancholy. The world ends with us gazing at our shoes. Alright then.

Don’t forget to also check out my blog post about all the stuff I did this decade, including my own big project for 2009, the Electret Quintet.

Earth Incubator & Dichotomy Engine

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The admirable Russian netlabel Rus Zud has released a new spooky ambient release on the Internet Archive called Time Anomaly. It is a collaboration between Earth Incubator, who lists himself as being from Antarctica, and Serbian artist Dichotomy Engine.

The floating and grinding synth compositions on this release remind me of Jeff Greinke and Eduard Artemiev. Quite nice, but a bit short at 23 minutes long. I hope for more from these artists, but for now I’m enjoying this release.

Dark Planet, by ‘kirchenkampf’

Sunday, 12 December 2009

John Gore’s ‘kirchenkampf’ project has long been known and admired by me for producing consistent, high-quality conceptual electronic space music. The characteristic ‘kirchenkampf’ release draws on influences from early electronic pioneers such as Subotnik, Parmegiani, the Barrons and Tangerine Dream, composing vast experimental sound-paintings with a strong central theme. His releases often follow a story structure hinted by the song titles and fleshed out with abstract, yet evocative electronic sounds. He is in top form on the new ‘kirchenkampf’ release “Dark Planet”

The CD opens quietly with a long drifting drone titled “In Transit”, suggesting an awakening ship coasting through open space, and by the second track “Homesick”, a human element is introduced suggesting a deep melancholy in the crew after a long, cold voyage.

The mood changes considerably on the title track. It seems that they’ve drifted into the orbit of an extraordinary planet, one that demands to be explored. The remainder of the CD explores the planet’s mysterious and frightening geography, its hungry caverns, its hissing fumaroles, its monoliths and volcanoes, “Terrorform” finally suggesting that they are not alone in this world. Serpentine figures lash out of the fog, etching curlicues in the air. As the story resolves, Gore describes, “The moon rises and bathes the planet with reflected light. Now they sit and wait for the first sunrise.”

Another accomplished release from this venerable artist. I highly recommend it.

It is available through Cohort Records as a physical CD, or a download.

Mystified – Collusion

Sunday, 11 November 2009

One of my favorite releases of the year has been put out by Mystified on the Clinical Archives netlabel.

Mystified’s “Collusion” collects the work of three of my friends and peers into one densely packed work of abstract quietnoise. I could be subjected to criticism for being biased in this recommendation, because my much admired friends and collaborators Phillip from PBK and Anthony from the Implicit Order, and Patrick from Kwalijk (also known as Desohll, with whom I collaborated on a recent release of darkambient) have contributed some remixes of music by my equally admired friend Thomas from Mystified for this release. Given the participants, one could almost expect nothing but the finest of challenging soundwork that exists on the quiet and calming edge of noise, that weird hybrid area that has been described elsewhere as “noiseambient”. Perhaps I am biased, or perhaps I have managed to make the acquaintances of several extremely talented composers on the outskirts of musical exploration. I tend to think the latter is more the case.

On “Collusion” you will find an admirably cohesive set of gritty, yet calming collection of music that treads the border between ambient music, with its calming background qualities, and noise music with it’s upfront challenging qualities.

Also contributing some remixes to this collection is KR-Ohm whom I don’t know personally, but who holds their own in very respectable company. For that she/he gains my respect.

It’s nearly a perfect music, this.
I could not recommend it more.

The sound is now

Monday, 09 September 2009

What was the last music you heard that shocked you and made you think “This is the sound of the future!” ?

Tiago Morgado

Sunday, 08 August 2009

I’ve just found a few recordings by an interesting underground artist named Tiago Morgado. He runs the netlabel XS Records from his homebase in Portugal.

His release 363 features some long avant-garde flavoured improvisations, with spacey analogue synth treatments burbling and subdued percussive elements in the background.

The far more frantic Algorithmic Chaos EP, released under the alias DNP X-Citer, features angular compositions of viola phrases paired with with abstract skittering percussion and electronic noises pointing to a clear lineage with Autechre’s more complex work. It’s worth a listen.

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