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.