Archive

Author Archive

Enough Manifesto (Part 6)

‘To push into other audiences.’

Know your enemyViva La Revolucion

In the final part of the Enough Records Manifesto series I’m pushing into what, to some, is the most contentious point of them all – ‘to push into other audiences’. As a general rule this one should garner fairly obvious approval – no one, no matter how in love with the intricacies and eccentricities of tiny hobbyist corners would deny at least some desire to spread the word of good music to ever more people and on that level this part of the manifesto doesn’t bear up to much scrutiny. That said though there are arguments brewing around it, not because more people listening can ever be considered a bad thing but because the source of those new listeners can always draw a line between two major schools of thought within the free music movement.

On the one hand you have those who look at the scene and, finding it to be a very good one, want it to exist in isolation from the rest of the cultural world – not isolated from new input and influences but very definitely not attempting to usurp existing models, the most notable of which is the commercial mainstream. For those in this camp the main message seems to be that what we’re doing is good, undeniably so, so why frame it in any relation to the opposition? Why even call the mainstream model ‘opposition’ in the first place when their existence and ours are so obviously juxtaposed? Even if business led systems garner more listeners and more influence in most peoples cultural lives our mere presense as an alternative, albeit an understated one, proves that there are other ways and that, vastly succesful or not, those other ways are always valid in their isolation. It’s an approach which I can understand and it’s certainly the more comfortable option as far as most aspects of what we do goes; it allows us to negate the demands of competition and focus solely on the music without worrying about the wider context it takes within society. We don’t have to proselytize, promote or compare ourselves to the work being pumped out by those whose main motivation is profit and through that we don’t have to compromise an inch in search of wider acceptance. That most people beyond our still very insular world will never hear much of the music which we love is a side note, in time those who want to hear something new will, perhaps, come across it on their own or by the actions of a self-sustaining movement without our having to move into enemy territory to spread the word. And it’s a belief which will always hold sway within the movement because, as ever, no one ideology can dictate the progress of such an incredibly diverse community of musicians, listeners, writers and miscellanious others. But – and there’s always a but – there’s at least one other school of thought working away on the issue. And it’s the school that I belong to. Read more…

Enough Manifesto (Part 5)

‘To push into other models.’

There are half a dozen different ways to look at today’s point from the Enough Records Manifesto, whether you head in the direction of expanding netaudio into other structures and models of distribution, sharing and community; to create new sound structures under the aegis of absolute freedom offered by the basic concepts of what we do or, as I myself am probably most enthusiastic about, taking the free model that we’ve created and extending it beyond the boundaries of music and into, well, anything and everything.

It’s easy to see why music stands at the forefront of the free and open culture movements – after all the technology which makes these new structures viable is the same technology which has opened up the creative process to a vast swathe of people who, previously, faced the choice of either investing endless amounts of money into the equipment and training required to put together even the most rudimentary of sounds or accepting the limitations of traditional instrumentalism, learning to use one tool at a time and, more often than not, defining your musical evolution by that initial path. The latter of course still applies as even the technology we have today can’t offer absolute mastery over sound even if it makes the process of learning vastly more egalitarian and open. At any rate, the musical revolution of home producing hit just at the right time to make this vast scene of ours an inevitability – a sense of timing which hasn’t extended to other arts for whom digital mediums, especially in their free or open form, remain something of an odd fit. Read more…

Enough Manifesto (part 4)

The next step in my often disrupted series on my interpretation of the Enough Records manifesto. At this rate I’m almost in danger of reaching the end within the year.

Pondering the present and the future are always, for obvious reasons, obvious facets of analysing and following the free music movement. With the chaotic freedom offered to those artists involved this corner of the musical world more than any gives way to experimentalism or even simply messing around with sound. Everyone from avant garde, near impossible to get into sound-scapers to more traditional instrumentalists is free to modify and manipulate their efforts without the looming demands of a commercialised or dictated crowd. Infinite choice leads to infinite variety, a fact which the framework of the commercial mainstream belies in it’s insistence on moulding the path of musical progression in tune with manageable, predictable trends. Indeed even the greater freedoms of the Indie scene can’t afford to indulge the truly eclectic given that, nine times out of ten, the experiment fails regardless of the hope behind it – but that odd one out, the time when an unthought of musical structure works to the point where it becomes a foundation from which to launch even greater explorations is well worth the jarring attempts which fall short. It’s a liberty which from genre to genre calls for a ‘sonic squirrel’, eclectic enough to indulge the oddities but also aware enough of where musical paths lead to know what’s worth following. The next album, the next track, the next EP – the future’s an easy pre-occupation to have. Read more…

Categories: Netlabel Reflections

Jamendon’t

It’s rare, these days, for me to pay real attention to Jamendo. Way back when I first tripped over free music I treated the place as a hub, the first check-in point whenever I felt like finding something new and for the most part it worked. An hour wading through the dross and I’d usually be able to come up with at least one album worth hearing and the detritus surrounding it seemed like a fairly marginal issue. Over time though that marginal issue of the bad stuff started to define the site for me, facing the vast jumble sale of music I increasingly decided not to bother trying, instead shifting my attentions to the net labels. There was still shit music about but finding the one good album out of 10 on a label’s catalogue took far less devotion and patience than finding the one good album out of 200 on Jamendo. It’s a ratio of good to bad which is always going to be part of the equation when it comes to free music. Not necessarily through self-delusion or a lack of talent on behalf of the artists but the ease of releasing stuff incites some musicians to include the stuff that they know is only a step on the path to the final project. Especially when it comes to those, like me, who have only just started fiddling with sounds – the second you get to grips with the basics there’s an immediate desire to be involved, to add your work to the whole, to see it standing alongside the artists you admire. A good thing, to some degree, given that it frees up the creative process and means people can learn and explore what they can do with an actual audience to guide them but the overall effect on a site as welcoming and all inclusive as Jamendo can never be an entirely positive one. Read more…

Categories: Netlabel Reflections Tags:

Review: Arie – Cold Up Norf

Arie - Cold Up Norf

Arie – Cold Up Norf (Planet Terror Records)

One of the many tricks to decent Dub is, in my eternally humble opinion, the ability to craft out an abyss of bass which bubbles along just deeply enough to offer up the duvet of sounds which marks the genre out but not quite so wandering and lost as to require a hefty amount of THC in your system before you can grasp on to it. A rule forgotten on occasion – especially by the modern breed of bedroom based producers who can easily imagine an appeal which is invisible to everyone else whilst lost in the structures of what they’re doing.

Arie, of Sheffield based Planet Terror Records, however, doesn’t fall for the trap of self-indulgent bass intricacy with his release Cold Up Norf. It’s a six-track EP but each track has sufficient meat to it to make it a worthwhile and well formed effort, mixing in Garage and Dance elements with some healthily abyss like Dub beats which offer up an almost perfect level of immersion if you’re in the mood for it. And I say ‘almost perfect’ not because there’s anything in particular missing from Cold Up Norf, at least nothing easily described, but compare this release to something in the same sphere, like Dig & Delve from Arie’s Planet Terror label mate Titus Twelve, and there is an undefinable something missing. I suspect that it’s the final touches of uniqueness which Arie has missed out on, although there are some nice hooks in there it’s not quite enough to carve out a recognisable niche. The quality is there but the sound is still emerging. For criticisms beyond that there’s only really the occasional poorly placed interjection of Danciness into the proceedings – which might just be an illusion from my own dislike for the more hackneyed Dance devices which have a tendancy to poking up rather than a complaint which anyone else would share.

To balance that out though and prove that I do actually quite like this album, whatever my complaints might suggest, the beats on Cold Up Norf are undoubtedly good, minimally constructed as they are there’s no sense of sparseness about them, indeed there’s a rich sound here which offers up a beautifully easy and indulgent listen.

I’d make a definite recommendation of Cold Up Norf if you like your Dub heavy and dark (and, let’s face it, who doesn’t) but it’s a staple addition to the collection, not a remarkable one.

Download ‘Cold Up Norf’

 

Categories: Reviews

Review: Texture – Synaesthesia

SYNAESTHESIA - TEXTURE

SYNAESTHESIA – TEXTURE (Black Lantern Music)

A while back I reviewed ‘Aphasia‘, an EP from Texture which, like ‘Synethesia’, came out on the Black Lantern Music label, one of my favourites since back in the days of The Creative UnCommons and a reliable source for intelligent (and seldom pretentious) Hip Hop and Trip Hop. I largely had good things to say about Texture back then and not much has changed since fortunately.

The beats on Synaesthesia (again coming from a couple of sources including the returning Morphamish and Salem Anders alongside lyrical contributions from Kid Ritalin on ‘Non-Sequitr’) are a little subtle for my tastes, with only a couple of obvious (and interestingly original) hooks to hold the attention but that’s clearly partly by intent rather than a lack of forethought as the general feel with Texture is more of a confined sound, with beats and lyrics merging together in a hypnotic flow. Which would be a problem but for the fact that lyrically there’s enough here to make the rhythmic foundation make sense.

So, on to that lyrical side of things, Texture retains the same predilection for melodic yet densely packed delivery which demands more than a single listen to properly start to fully appreciate but then that’s no bad thing and the demanding blocks are balanced out by a handful of well constructed interludes within tracks which are light enough to strike some compromise. There’s added interest in seeing the identity of Scottish alongside other UK Hip Hop breaking down into recognisable voices and continuing down the path to sounding like an independent entity, free, in part, from the traditional behemoth of the US which has long been the cultural looting pot over here. A sense of self already blossoming at times but still outside of the majority and the general consensus on the genre.

Anyway, that’s a bit off topic so ‘Synaesthesia’, another quality release and well worth a download.

On a bit of a side-note ‘The Dawn View’ a track from this release was just featured on the rather spiffy Density of Sound CC podcast which you can check out here.

Categories: Reviews

Enough Manifesto (part 3)

‘To promote free culture.’ – With this third installment we’re heading towards the trickier end of things. On a practical level this is a fairly easy point to deal with, we all have our immediate impressions of what free culture does and does not entail and with a bit of imagination it’s easy to come to conclusions as to how we can promote it both as individuals and collectively. Of course just saying that wouldn’t offer much of a read and it’s when you’re driven to delve a little deeper that this aspect of the manifesto opens up a bit and starts to offer up its more confusing ideas and questions. Firstly, to promote a system or concept it helps to understand exactly what the aims of that system or concept are and ‘free culture’ is a term that’s more than ambiguous enough to offer up a spread of different interpretations. It’s a potential discourse which I’m far from the first to pick up on, the likes of Lawrence Lessig long ago tackled the various conceptions of ‘free culture’ and done so with far more ability than I’m likely to be able to muster here but there’s still, I reckon, plenty more to be found within the theory.

The Creative Commons licensing system is, as the myriad organisations who’re against it usually fail to realise/admit, a long way from being an extremist model of ‘free’ culture, a reluctance to even consider the model highlighted by events such as the (fairly) recent spat between ASCAP, supposedly a group representative of their creative members and Lawrence Lessig, scion of the free music movement. The very use of the term ‘free’ is slightly inappropriate when dealing with artistic products released under CC licenses given that there’s no inherent aversion to commercialism or profit within the system – anyone can charge for their creations and, indeed, stifle any and all distribution of them outside of their immediate control. The concept no doubt lends itself better to a more dynamic and ‘open’ culture than any traditional conception of copyright does, especially in the age of corporate and private ownership of artistic works as commodities to be traded and invested in but it still exists within the framework of a proprietorial notion of culture and art. As far as it goes it’s an eminently reasonable framework for those creating content, it holds the potential to remove power over culture from the hands of strictly financial ventures and place it with the artists and, to a lesser extent, the audience who’re more likely to be granted the opportunity to interact and evolve the work that’s out there than they would ever be allowed by the commercial behemoths who rely on legal and media based assaults to keep their ‘property’ fenced off from the rest of us who’re only ever meant to look in (having paid the right price, naturally). With that said however it’s not hard to see that there are other interpretations of what the broad (and perhaps poorly titled) ‘Free Culture’ movement should represent and therefore how it should be promoted.

My own views, for example, are often radically beyond the remit of the Creative Commons system given that, to a large degree, I do believe in truly free culture, both in terms of the ‘free beer’ notion and the evolutionary/conceptual sense. I can see few higher goals than to achieve a state where all creative products can be freely distributed, experienced and modified via the networks the internet provides us with – it could be a potentially world altering liberation of ideas and creativity. With that in mind the moderations demanded by CC licenses with respect to the established copyright system are reformism to my radicalism, fated I occasionally think to emerge down the line subborned to a marginally altered yet still determinedly mercenary commercial industry of culture and disconnected from the principles of universal free culture. A cynicism which immediately places my interpretation of what free culture should be promoted at odds with the views of plenty (if not most) others.

Of course at this point in time there’s no split waiting to happen, neither interpretation of the concepts involved has either enough force or understanding to seem likely to bring about real change and, unlike the more extreme ‘piracy’ advocates, who couldn’t give a toss about any form of legality, I remain aware that the artists right to earn a living by their work is more important than any disdain I and others may have for the mechanisms we’re forced to offer that support through, much as I wish we could create new ones which enshrined both access to and reward for the efforts of the artists..

It is a divide that already exists though and there are some minor manifestations of disagreement in the making I suspect. To take a plausible (and fairly common) scenario; is it a reasonable advance for an artist to mix freely distributed CC work with commercial releases (even CC licensed ones)? Not, I hasten to add ‘is that reasonable’ given that we all need to earn a living and I make no efforts to stop anyone from doing that as best they can, but is it a reasonable advance – is a partial indulgence in either free or open culture in the form of, say, a sample track or EP a positive change in the greater model of cultural distribution or is it simply a minor act of reformism/promotion which does little to serve the evolution of our culture? And if it’s not then is it the ultimate model we should be promoting? Realities aside (and that’s a big aside) I’m all for the de-commercialisation of all levels of creative art, it seems infinitely preferable to me that all content should be freely distributed and manipulated (barring plagiarism) with the only real question being one of how we bring in that change without leaving every musician, writer, artist and ‘creative’ just as broke as I habitually am. And it’s on that foundation that I try to promote free culture, using Creative Commons more as the practicable foundation of an emergent movement than as the next great evolutionary stage of distribution. Others, of course, see things differently and whilst I definitely wouldn’t start calling for bloody civil war amongst those who support any kind of open or free cultural development I do think that there needs to be some discussion as to how the various models of introducing it can be reconciled and what it is we’re actually promoting.

Categories: Netlabel Reflections