Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

I wish arcane signs to splay across the night sky

I wish arcane signs to splay across the night sky

As an avid collector of music since the late ’70’s, I’m often asked when I thought was the best time to collect/hear music. Clearly it’s today/tomorrow. With each passing day, more and more avenues to hear music become available as more and more artists/labels embrace social media as an alternative platform to gain exposure for their sounds. Each day seems to feature a new netlabel being born, a new community-driven social site focusing on highly targeted musical preferences and a greater move by a growing numbers of bands/artists to embrace,,, among many other hosting sites, as well as Facebook, Twitter, et al., to promote their music. More music than ever before is out there, waiting to be heard, embraced and downloaded, and it is falling upon the informed listener to find their own musical choices by knowing how to look for exactly what they want. This blog is meant to be an inspiration for you to begin your own search.

Over the years I’ve built up a fairly hefty list of netlabels, artists and bands that I continually go to for inspiration and guidance. Of course, not everything everyone on that list is currently promoting is what I want to hear at the time, but more often than not, if not immediately taken by their suggestion, I do find myself returning to older choices with fresh ears only to find myself liking that choice much more than I initially did. That’s part of the charm of this endless quest for sonic Nirvana. And while I enjoy revisiting these old friends for their latest offerings/suggestions, part of the love in this quest is finding new sources for hearing new sounds.

One of my favorite new sources for learning of new music is the Facebook group, I ♥ Netlabels. Hosted by Coltep Spielfeld (an amazing DJ in her own right and definitely someone you should follow if you don’t already), it is the one Facebook group I’m in (and I’m in quite a few at this point) whose posts I follow as rigorously as those on my own wall. I’ve only been a member for a little over 4 months, but the music I have been directed toward has already made this a daily go-to in my continual search for music I may have missed. The most recent gem being Abstraction‘s Tension EP on the Spanish netlabel Doppt Zykkler.

Launched in 2010, Doppt Zykkler had flown under my radar, despite having released some very good, and very interesting, releases, and probably would continued to have if not for their (and my!) involvement with Coltep’s group. Their latest release, Carlos Valle’s project Abstraction, is an interesting collection of tracks. At times leaning toward an almost electro-dub-techno sound that thrives on a minimal-esque sense of less is more, it still manages to lure the listener in with repeating loops and disparate harmonics that leave you entranced and enthralled.

Another joy of finding a new label is discovering they have released material from artists that you love but didn’t know had been released. In October of last year they released Substak‘s Cortas los acordes.  I’d first come across Substak’s work through his releases on deepindub and Gleichtakt (both of which have also released mixes from Coltep. Starting to see how this works?) Having also released material through Dast netlabel (more, much more on them next week) and Sirona Records (who have also released material from one of last week’s featured artists Mystified), Kostas’s work has continued to impress me. His latest, Noise Panorama on Adpet Label, continues his exploration of sparse dub-techno beats layered atop minimal deep-toned washes of almost sinister import. Deeply hypnotic yet deceptively simple in nature, these are the sounds of an industry as yet unfounded from world as yet undiscovered.

Another invaluable resource for discovering new music is With their stated aim of building the world’s largest music database, currently listing over 3.5 million titles from 2.5 million artists, they are the second stop on every music journey I take. Once I’ve discovered a new label or artist, it’s off to discogs I go to get as comprehensive a back discography as is possible. It is through them that I have discovered more netlabels than any single source. And it’s not just labels and releases that you can learn from them. With extensive cross referencing and web addresses for aliases and sister labels for most of their entries, I am frequently pointed to projects that I never new existed. More importantly, I’m often made aware of which artists run which label, something not always obvious through netlabel sites. One such case was Camomille Music.

Run by Montreal native Vincent Fugère, I’d long been aware of both his work as Muhr as well as Camomille‘s back catalogue (the Hope’s Not Lost compilation is still one of my favorite ambient collections ever), it wasn’t until I chanced upon Camomille‘s discog page searching through Shiftless‘s back catalogue that I realized that Vincent was responsible for this wonderful selection of music. And with the release of Trans Alp‘s Après quatre pièces d’Erik Satie, this collection of beautiful sounds show no signs of abating. I’ve tried several times to describe these pieces and I’ve thrown each attempt out, continually going back to Vincent’s own comments on the release page, “Erik Satie’s compositions wander in Trans Alp’s vast and deep world, drenched in texture and echoing in space, like a drop of water falling in a pool of static.” Well said, Vincent, well said.

Not only has Vincent presented me with music I love through his own label, he was instrumental giving me my first exposure to the Soft Phase netlabel through his Muhr release, Farewell Anthology. Having been on hiatus for nearly 2 years, Soft Phase returned in January with Outra-G‘s Seiren, a collection of glitchy, staccato beats underpinning ethereal, shimmering sheets of translucent washes and hints of distant, whispered conversations hovering just beyond earshot. It may have taken 2 years for Soft Phase to release new material, but the wait was definitely worth it. Beautiful, beautiful post-ambient music that proves ambient isn’t just for late night listening.

Circling back to tie up a loose end, I included a track from Saffron Slumber on last week’s accompanying Mixcloud mix off his release, Somnogen, (as the drone pieces from the release featured were each nearly 30 minutes long) without any attribution in the blog. Released on Resting Bell Netlabel,  I neglected to mention Resting Bell as I planned on featuring their new release, lefolk‘s, isn’t this dangerous, this week. Founded in 2007 by Christian Roth, Resting Bell has continually released some of the most inspirational ambient music on the net from many of the artists that I follow passionately (including, and not limited to, Ian Hawgood, Saffron Slumber, Bengalfuel, offthesky, Phillip Wilkerson, and Saito Koji.) My external hard drive is loaded with Resting Bell releases, many of which I return to again and again. lefolk‘s latest will not be an exception as fading beats weave in and out of a hypnotic, ever-present hiss amid relentless hints of rain in landscapes just beyond while surging electrical currents surface through droning soundscapes bent on warping the very fabric of time. Stunning!

Finally, last week I featured one of my new favorite netlabels, Since that post, they’ve only gone up in my estimation as I’ve become a huge fan of emptywhale (having featured a collaboration between him and litmus0001 in last week’s accompanying mix.) Having released 2 albums through HAZE, fearscapes and that grey place we go, I’ve become enamored with his post-nuclear, darkly ambient, droning soundscapes that lurch and churn from behind hidden corners, leaving terrifying images burned on peripheral visions from sights you’re unsure you’ve seen and nervous twitches stirred from unsettling sounds that harken back to primordial fears found lurking in the dark. If H.P. Lovecraft were alive and writing today, fearscapes would be his soundtrack. As you might have guessed, emptywhale is currently on very heavy rotation in my headphones.

Next week I hope to feature a few of the older netlabels which have forged my preferences and listening habits and return to a Friday/Saturday posting scheduling (but all that depends upon more things than a mere mortal can control…) Until then, please remember; “… all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death,”  and it’s only what we do tomorrow that may make a difference. Enjoy.

Accompanying Mixcloud mix:


it’s a small, small world in netlabel land…

drains to Boston Harbor 69

As those of you who may have read my inaugural post know, this blog is meant merely to be a long personal thread that wanders through the fabric that Creative Commons and netlabel music weave, tracing a faint seam across the sounds that this global music community expands every day. Not surprisingly, it can be a very tight-knit and supportive community that crosses wide geographgic, political and cultural divides. And picking up the thread in one spot can lead to a longer unraveling of many, many threads that can lead anywhere but home.

A case in point is The Fucked Up Beat, a sound project created by Eddie Palmer of New York with Brett Zehner of San Diego in October 2011. I first came across them about a year ago through Free Music Archive, an invaluable resource for anyone interested in finding music on the edge of any genre you may favor, FMA continues to provide me with hours and hours of inspiration every time I return. Eddie and Brett have posted all their recent releases on both their FMA and Bandcamp pages with links to the respective netlabels that host them. While I did find myself familiar with several of those netlabels, I wasn’t familiar with Nostress Netlabel.

Founded in 2011 and operating out of Palermo, Italy, Nostress offers CC music in a wide range of dark and experimental genres with The Fuck Up Beat’s epic two-part foray into the death of the American dream, Rust Belt (1961) & (1968), released at the end of last year, being a perfect example. It truly is an unbelievably impressive feat and an extended glimpse into their creative process. Last month, Nostress released BAUMANN.electronic‘s, Zeitgeistangst.  I’ve been following Jep Cuesta for the last couple of years on all his platforms, in particular his Mixcloud page, and am overwhelmed at the sheer scope and breath of his latest release. Clocking in at over an hour, its 3 compositions offer an unsettling ride through dark dub-techno beats juxtaposed with detached found loops and low grumbling washes. It really does evoke the sound of “Anxiety from the Spirit of Times.”

The Fucked Up Beat have also released music  through picpack, a small netlabel out of the Ukraine that’s already nearing 170 releases, opsound, an almost overwhelming resource for free music, free art, free literature and free creativity of nearly every genre  founded by Sal Randolph, (a long-time copyleft advocate  and someone you should be familiar with!) and who hosted The Fucked Up Beat’s Schizophrenic Wolf last spring, among several others. But it’s their new release, Roswell Radio Cult,  on HAZE Netlabel, which has knocked the pins out from underneath me. An invigorating mash of concrete found sounds and post-ambient/retro-futurist beats and space, Roswell Radio Cult creates one of the most original and intoxicating listenings I’ve had in quite awhile. Their composition titles, visuals and music combine to create an aural poetry that is a refreshing reminder of just how unique an artistic vision can be.

HAZE, a netbal based in Belarus, has been releasing a wide range of experimental music since 2007. They’ve hosted the two most recent The Fucked Up Beat’s releases and have been on my radar throughout the last year for a series of monthly releases they call Sound Interpretations and feature musical interpretations of 20th century writers they feel have been some of last century’s most influential. Beginning with Julio Cortazar, the series features a variety of interpretations of the writer’s words, feelings or personality by a number of HAZE labelmates and outside contributors, and currently includes releases focusing on Franz Kafka, William Gibson, Albert Camus, Stephen King, and (my current fave, of course!), James Joyce. They plan on finishing out the series with interpretations of Jack Kerouac, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Samuel Beckett (which I hope to have a piece finished to contribute…) and Antoine de Saint-Exupery. And it is through these compilations that I continue the thread for this post. While initially drawn to them through their literary angle, once I noticed The Fucked Up Beat were included, I rushed to download them all, leading me to discover Mystified.

A solo project from the prolific Thomas Park, who, as a trained musician from youth, brings a refreshing sense of timbre, tempo and scale to his compositions often lacking in today’s experimental music. Despite having released sounds on such legendary netlabels as webbed hands records and magnatune,  as well as several of my current faves, Petroglyph Music,  Vuzh Music and Buddhist on Fire (among many others), since 2004 (!), I’ve only just become aware of his music. Crossing many musical genres with his vision, Mystified’s Moonshine, on Buddhist on Fire is a particularly intriguing release as it takes Park’s sound in a more  motion driven direction with a feeling of long miles spent on endless highways in lonely cars transecting the unwashed underbelly of empty southern expanses with a radio pulling indistinct sounds from an extraterrestrial signal.

Vuzh Music, a netlabel out of Colorado initially founded to release C. Reider’s personal compositions, has also released material by Mystified and Phillip Wilkerson (see below), growing over the years to spawn several sister labels including  dystimbria, and provided me with my first exposure to the incomparable and entrancing Saffron Slumber through his release Piano Drones 1. I’m now an avid follower of his Soundcloud page.

Mystified has also released a 47 minute track, Coming From the Void,  on we are all ghosts, a netlabel out of Motherwell, Scotland. Started by Thomas Mathie, who also presents the podcast circumambient under the moniker headphonaught, waag features expansive, beatless soundscapes that are more meditative than contemplative. The recent V.A. release, Silas & Friends vol. 1, a collection of collaborations between Cousin Silas and fellow ambient enthusiasts like Phillip Wilkerson, Bing Satellites (both of which will be discussed in detail below) and emptywhale (among others), typifies the close comaraderie this community possesses.

Mystified’s  foray into the uncharted terrain of his inner vision continues on his newest release, Music for Journeys, this time on the netlabel he founded, treetrunk records (originally begun as an opportunity for him to release material of his own which had not found a home but which has grouwn to include a pretty impressive roster), and from which you become fully aware of the breath of his compositions. He has clearly become one of the more influential producers, as well as promoters, in the ambient/experimental community through treetrunk records and its sister site, Complex Silence, a “creative challenge (…) to explore the depths of long-form ambient music composed entirely of extremely subtle changes, dissonant harmonies, stretched-out harmonics, abstract tone washes, layers of mystical atmospheres, or field recordings, but without straying too far from beauty, mystery, or wonder” (italics author).

The most recent Complex Silence release, Complex Silence 32, is a collaboration between Phillip Wilkerson & Mystified, a slightly darker, earthier release in this series that will take the listener on a deep journey through both the lower reaches of seamlessly looping drones and the shimmering peaks of crystalline pads and provides a wonderful introduction for those unfamiliar with these releases. Other outstanding offerings in the series include works by both Bing Satellites and Cousin Silas. In particular, my recent discovery of Brin Coleman’s work as Bing Satelites has provided immeasurable pleasure in both listening to his music and discovering the netlabels he has appeared on.

Once again, as is often the case in the experimental music community, not only is Brin a musician, but also operates the netlabel BFW recordings. His most recent release as Bing Satellites on BFW, The Dream, showcases his use of ambient treatments and lush orchestral strings interspersed with  laconic beats and treated found sounds, creating a mesmerizing blend of driving rhythms and ethereal dreamscapes.

And like treetrunk, BFW has also released material from Phillip Wilkerson and Cousin Silas. All three of these artists have also had material released on another of the influential Creative Commons netlabels, Free Floating Music. Originally begun as a music blog by Vancouver based music lover, Brad Ross-MacLeod, in 2007 (becoming Free Floating in 2008), Brad expanded to a netlabel in 2011 and has already posted some of my favorite releases in the ambient scene, the newest being Cousin Silas’s, Whispers Fall. A mournful, elegiac ode to the moments between day and night, light and dark and sleep and wakefulness, Whispers Fall is a collection of 5 tracks (none less than 10 minutes in length) that point decidedly toward everything that I hope for in an ambient release. It has been on repeated play in my headphones for several weeks now.

Finally, Phillip Wilkerson has also collaborated with litmus0001 on the Anubis Music Netlabel release, The Renaissance House Sessions. A collection of 3 tracks written and recorded over the course of one day, it not only shows the warmth and friendship many of these artists have but also highlights the inherent creativity they have in creating such detailed and intricate work in such a brief time period. It also is the debut release from Anubis and so begins another thread that will hopefully lead down many, many currently uncharted paths, allowing us to unearth riches as yet unimagined.

And for your continued listening pleasure, here is the first installment of mixes that will accompany each post as we journey on: it’s a small, small world in netlabel land on mixcloud. Happy travels.

sounds from the outer edges

lost in a digital forest...

lost in a digital forest…

First of all, thank you for accepting the invitation to hear sounds that may not have passed your way or that may give you pause to revisit warm, old haunts from sessions past. I know you probably won’t love everything you hear on these posts, but hopefully one or more of the following links will help lead you on your own sonic exploration. Because for me, music is a series of transits with neither beginning or end… just an unsatisfied sense that the sounds you’re truly looking for are just around the next corner, sounds heard in an unconventional way, under unique circumstances for no other reason than the sense of discovery.

But how does one express the first tentative steps to someone who has never taken that quest? Would a brief overview of personal favorites provide the necessary signposts for journeys to come, or should there be a linear delving into the individual genres hinted at above in this blog’s tag-line, and should it be necessary to provide the technical specifications that composers use to fashion their visions? After long and deliberate deliberation, I’ve decided to approach this endeavor in much the same manner with which I’ve come to appreciate the great interactive community of musical composers and the network of promoters and labels that help it take flight, by following the threads that tie many of these experimental artists together and to allow room for each reader to interpret their own sounds. Less review and more an offer to listen, each post will be a brief hint at what has recently been released within the reach of my gravitational pull and, more often than not, being freely offered by those creating and releasing it. As many of you know, I’ve long been an advocate of Creative Commons licensing and the countless netlabels that release astonishing music under those terms and this journey will feature many of those labels, as well as band and composers’ personal websites, Soundcloud and/or Bandcamp pages and maybe an occasional link to one of the many blogs I follow that paints a more poetic portrait of the aural experience in question than I ever could.

Okay, so how does this work? Simple. One of the netlabels I’ve recently come across is etched traumas; an impressive new netlabel from Athens that have been releasing material since October ’11. In January they released Nicholas Fair‘s How to Get Lost in Your Bedroom, a laconic, hypnotic suite of 3 instrumental tracks layering treated guitar runs over decaying vocal echoes. Stemming from older recordings, they carry the warmth and noise of time past, of days hazy in memory.

The reason I follow this label and found Nicholas’ wonderful release is etched tramumas’ earlier, back to back release of Red CloudsThe Introduction of a New Species, in April of ’12, and IOK-1‘s That Which Remains is Silence, a month later in May of ’12. Both are projects which I’ve followed avidly through their Soundcloud pages for quite awhile now. Right, I think you’re beginning to see how this works…

James Hoehl, aka Red Clouds, followed “The Introduction of a New Species” with the brooding, droning “Mythology”, 3 soundscapes which continue his dive deeper and deeper into the hypnotic hum of engines yet invented, of an overarching industrial ambience which the future will thrum with night and day. Released in November of ’12 on “Petroglyph Music”, a new Norwegian netlabel launched in the earlier that summer by Rune Martinsen and Oystein Jorgensen, it proved to be a very fortuitous find for me as they would include one of my recent compositions on their extensive, end-of-year holiday compilation, The X-Mas Compilation (sorry, shameless plug, but an amazing compilation featuring more new sounds and musicians for you to discover than there are hours in a day to listen to them all.) And as is often the case with netlabels, those who run them are also artists in their own right. A case in point is Oystein’s new release on Petroglyph Music, “Winter EP”, a blend of crystalline Aurora Borealis shimmers bracingly arcing across the night sky as the cold tones of barren, snowswept tundras howl across the landscape. Rarely does a release’s title match the feelings it evokes, but this truly is the sound of cold Nordic winters slowly passing to their own rhythms and time.

Petroglyph Music continues to impress with their roster of artists, also releasing new material from the Greek producer (who has recently relocated to Manchester, England, I believe) John Ov3rblast. Veteran of several of the more influential netlabels, I first came across his music through DeepinDub. One of the elder soapboxes for Creative Common releases, DeepinDub has a long history of releasing some of the most influential music in the dub and dub techno communities. Although started way back in 2006, it wasn’t until 2008 and their releases from Zzzzra, Upwellings, Idealist and, in particular, the amazing Fingers in the Noise, that I become an advocate of DiD. Like many of the netlabels struggling to cover the costs of production and release, DeepinDub have recently crossed over into the realm of physical releases with another new favorite of mine, Textural Being, having just released his latest collection of tracks, Dreams of Falling, as the second CD to be offered with the DeepinDub imprint.

Another young veteran of the netlabel release circut, Textural Being’s Sage Taylor has released material on basic_sound, which I will feature in-depth in later posts, the influential Monokrak, as well as one of the most promising new labels, Cold Tear Records. In roughly 3 years, Cold Tear has gone from a small Lithuanian upstart to having released material by Textural Being, Brickman, who is currently one of my favorite artists, slow noise and Moonwalker. In addition to all those wonderful releases on Cold Tear, they’ve also just released a new series of tracks from Brazilian born Cesar “M1A1” Alexandre, aka Iminazole, who, while vacationing in Japan, created 10 tracks of sonic space that continue his exploration of the frequencies and tempos that inform and define minimal ambient techno.

And so there it is, the first tentative steps on this epic voyage of discovery. From Nicholas Fair’s haunting sounds of moments slipping into memory to Oystein Jorgensen’s hyperboreal Arctic ambience to Iminazole’s dubbed out clash of modulated loops and distant, hissing Oriental rains, all in one easy journey. And this is only the beginning…