Archive for category music

Pop: embrace complexity

Embrace Complexity (which way of thinking will save the planet too!)

Getting some kind of overview in a niche-filled world can be a problem.
There must be quite a few A and R bosses who would dearly love to
achieve that state of being – not just the overview derived from looking at computer printouts of sales figures but the sort of thing that actually gives you a feel for what people are feeling.

As individuals we don’t have to care about this. We just hope that
someone, somewhere, is plugged into us or our group – our niche, and
supplies something we’d like to hear, dance to, make love to,
whatever. If we’re not particularly broad, this could be just one band,
and if we’re really young, it could be just one song!

This makes it difficult for artists too. An artistic ideal is to just
do it and let everyone else figure out what it is and which little box
to put you in, which can get difficult when people have absolutely no
idea – like when marketing departments have a try at cramming someone into a currently fashionable but entirely inappropriate box.

But the artistic ideal is seldom met anyway – people have audiences they want to talk to – dance, rock, pop, hip-hop – and will make an effort to be recognisable to those groups while adding something of their own, hopefully. And none of us come from a vacuum either. Our influences are many and quite often unrealised, unconscious, and unannounced.

And if we’re searching for purity in all this, then what purer than an
accoustic guitar and voice? Or an electric guitar – a tele through an old tube amp maybe. Nu-folk? Folk? Actually, who cares? Not the mass audience that’s for sure but in most bigger towns there will be somewhere where people go and do this stuff without any thoughts of posterity, well, maybe secretly, and where passive drinkers and friends supply some kind of
audience.

All of that tells us something – that people like human voice and instruments in an intimate setting – as well as liking human voice and heavier instrumentation in a huge setting! But then that’s more of a tribal rite and the CD’s or whatever are relics of the rite.

And the artists who achieve celebrity or notoriety, in addition to having ‘name recognition’ or brand awareness also come with some sort of backstory which feeds the imagination and provides sometimes the only meaning to the sounds they make… which makes something that might otherwise be instantly disposable into something that can last at least a few days on a CD shop shelf, or even longer if an mp3 is up somewhere and people just grab it for free.

So the view from the mountain top has a few clouds in the way and some heavy forests obscuring the people playing beneath. You have to go down from the mountain, embrace complexity, and wander amongst the pixies with your ears open and an open heart.
(thunderfinger)

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Afro-punk tonight (NYC)

‘From South by Southwest in Austin, Tex., to Long Island,
everyone we know who’s seen Janelle Mone, a neo-soul,
neo-punk rocker and protg of OutKast, has
raved. A charisma machine on and off the stage, she’s “a
song-and-dance trouper,” Jon Pareles wrote, “in nearly
constant motion, with moves from hip-hop angles to
old-fashioned hoofing; she has a real singing voice, and
she was bursting with ideas” — sci-fi, social consciousness
and the ways to rock a pompadour and saddle shoes. She
plays at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s free Afro-Punk
Festival tonight, along with Saul Williams, Dallas Austin,
Elevator Fight and more.
(NYT)

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thunderfinger: Internet niches

The Internet was supposed to encourage the distribution of music of
small (audience-wise) bands, and in many ways it has. People have got
signed on the basis of a flash flood of hits on their myspace pages
and niche bands have been picked up by niche labels … but it hasn’t
added up to all that much.

There’s a new breed of micro-labels that actually don’t do anything
much at all mostly because they’re just as skint as their signees.
They can get the pressings done and the artwork and put up some
posters but that’s about the end of it. Nothing bad in all that; it’s
just quite a small step from being completely unsigned.

If a niche band is to make a living out of music then they need
exposure somewhere – same as it ever was. Signing to some aggregator to
get on iTunes or somesuch is actually fairly useless also unless
people have heard of you and are actively looking for your tracks.
Clever tagging might help, but the more clever it is, the closer it
usually gets to dishonesty, which some people do still care about.

And the answer to all this is the same as it ever was – something like
“don’t worry, be happy” alongside “never give in”. Like every other
activity in life, one thing is setting realistic goals. If you just
want to play once a month and have some fun, this is not so hard to
fulfill (but you might have to move cities!). Being after world
domination will, odds are, make you and everyone around you unhappy!

So, anyway, everyone knows that and this is really not meant to be
some kind of primer with the title ‘Do You Really Want To Start a
Band?’.

The reality of the internet is that it is really powerful once a band
has made a name somehow – touring, tabloid scandals, music press crits,
etc. Some would say there’s mileage to be had spamming forums and the
like but I don’t think so. That’s small change. Once you have an army
of fans doing it, that’s big change.

Work, work, work …

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Bleepfest Berlin 3: Easter in Church

At least there should be a number of people after
Bleepfest who could say to people to whom it mattered
“I spent Easter in church!”.

It’s being held at the Theaterkapelle which is the oldest
building in Friedrichshain, Berlin (although only 1880’s) and it used
to be a church.

That’s not all though: In the old days, and now as well in
some places, great efforts are made to put on some really
fine music (and remember, Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, etc. were
once “modern”) to lure people in … and doubtless there were
and are people who go for that reason alone. And so,
Bleepfest in a church follows in that tradition quite nicely.

What sort of people will be playing and what will they
play? The musicians, who come from all over the place, are a
sort of midi-cosm (micro, too small – macro, too big) of Indy
music makers – pros, semi-pros, squat dwellers, jobbed and
unjobbed: They do it because they love it, and “it” is
everything from the meditatively eerily beautiful to harsh
urban breaks and beats with maybe even with voice or other
textures thrown over the top.

In this month’s Mstation you can catch interviews with
two of them – Chicanolive, and fe-bac. And there are podcast
tracks from both as well.
(thunderfinger)

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The non-DJ

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