With the rise of digital music and filesharing, many record companies and bands have had to rethink how they get listeners and sell their music. Some have ranted and screamed and resisted, others have recognised that touring and merchandising may work for them; most record companies seem to still be blundering around with their fingers crossed, hoping they can carry on as they always have. (A similar process is happening to book publishers and those working in other media.)
A lot of musicians have been more savvy, and seen the possibilites open to them through the web. Now that anyone can make professional sounding music on their laptops, the question is one of time, not finance; as ever, the real issue is dissemination: how to find an audience, how to share the music you have made. Many have chosen to gift their music to interested listeners, or at the very least making downloads available for a voluntary contribution (sometimes this includes nothing as an option) or a nominal sum, but often also offering limited run CDs or cassette tapes and band merchandise. All available at the click of a button if you have access to a computer and a credit card or paypal account.
Although there are arguments against virtual fanbases and online communities, including the fact we end up only being in contact with those of a similar persuasion or inclination), I rather like that there is so much new music available if only I hunt around. Here are some of the more interesting releases I’ve found online in the last few weeks, which you can easily find using your search engine of choice.
Huey Walker makes music from field recordings, drones and instruments. His music is quiet and focussed, slowly changing and mutating, but without major incident or trajectory. It clicks and whistles and mutters to itself, made of texture and sound, incident and half-heard ambience. His pieces are often about 20 minutes long, his albums only have one or two works on them (I guess you could call them EPs). My favourite is Blearies, but Chausse, Nachts Ruf is also good, if more abrasive and noisy.
Testet ölt are a quartet from Serbia who call themselves an experimental rock band. although others have mentioned spacerock and psychedelia when describing them. Their two albums, Testet ölt and Wellness are surpsingly funky, with lots of organ swirling through their mainly instrumental compositions. The kratrock association comes I guess from the precise, hypnotic rhythms the band use to underpin said organ, percussion and guitar work. This music peaks and troughts, swirls and slides along, sometimes angry, sometimes gently beautiful, with some intriguing changes in mood, tempo and dynamics.
We Are Ghosts improvise their music as it happens, be that in the studio or on stage. I guess you could call it ambient post-rock, but on their most recent release, ANDARTA there’s something of a klezmer feel going on too, bringing the music a celebratory awkwardness. The near-fifteen minute title track is especially strong and accomplished as is the brief jewel-like 3 minutes of ‘Luna [we love you Polly]’.
Antethic’s Origin is more awkward sounding, expansive rock with an experimental edge that includes some dark and unnerving textures and aggressive moments. The music is slighly unearthly and distant at times, but the other album of theirs I downloaded, Antethic, contains more electronic versions and remixes of their work, five tracks that sound much more contemporary and exciting. If they can somehow combine the two they’ll be even more interesting than I already find them.
Bill Mallonee used to be the main man in Vigilantes of Love, a band who had a proper record deal, an interesting discography and toured constantly. But he now functions pretty much as a one man band and record label, regularly producing finished studio albums, but also collections of demos and working recordings, as well as occasional live outings and collaborations. Little Births (The Dolorosa Demos) is the best of his recent output. If you like intelligent songs about spiritual searching, politics with a small p, love, doubt and day-to-day life, Mallonee is for you.
Lost Trail are my current favourites. This band are a husband-and-wife duo from North Carolina who make eerie, experimental soundscapes that are exquisitely unnerving and considered. Their albums are full of distant voices (often from tiny radios or damaged speakers), static, recorded sounds and slow music, that creep along towards the shadows we don’t want to notice or see, let alone walk into. Their most recent album, One Day We’ll All Walk Outside And Stare Up At The Blameless Sky And Wait for Something To Happen is a gem, from the knockout noisy opener, ‘Post Industrial Truck Scales Rag’ through to the quieter ambience of work like ‘Join Hands As the Dark Descends’ and ‘For Roaring Woodlands’. I should also mention their exquisite The Afternoon Vision, a beautiful wallet of art work and two 3” CDs which has been released by Wist Rec. Its strange images, graphs and diagrams of soil samples, colour photographs and formal sounding but unintelligble information adds something even more to the 44 minutes of music here (which you can also download without the artwork and folder). Lost Trail are prolific and accomplished artistes, with a whole slew of releases, again including compilations of outtakes, demos and working sound files as well as completed albums.
picture Nick Victor