Getting by with a little help…

we will  be with you in approximately 59 minutes...

the signs were conflicting, paralyzed through indecision…

A friend once told me a joke. Q: “What’s the difference between space pirates and depression?” A: “I don’t wake up every morning fighting space pirates.” The joke has become one of my mantras. Since then, whenever a select few friends ask how things are going and I’m under that cloud of depression, the answer is, “It’s a space pirates kinda day.”

While not talked about publicly much, depression is something many of us face daily and can often be very tragic. Long bouts of anxiety and fear, hours/days spent questioning the very motives for living and the inability to see beyond this moment’s pain can be severely debilitating (look how long its been since I’ve posted…), reducing even the strongest to tears. While many who do suffer from depression go on to seek medical help, some, like me, feel that this black space is integral to our creative process. Far too many friends and loved ones have been unable to cope with this decision and have since moved on. I don’t blame them, living with someone who is clinically depressed is an onerous burden and one most people should never have to confront, let alone commit to. I’ve grown to accept that. Unfortunately, seeking a way through alone can be very difficult and few are able to continue the fight throughout one’s life. My family history testifies to that. Each sufferer has to find their own life-preserver to grasp when the ship starts going down and depression begins pulling you into the undertow, and for me, that preserver has always been music.

Whether revisiting old favorites or finding new sounds to pull me through the current bout of darkness, music has been, and always will be, the single most important influence in my life. More often than not, though, it’s a case of finding something new in an old familiar sound. I first came across Entropy Records 3 or 4 years ago, (just after discovering Schall netlabel (a full blog on their influence on my listening habits is in order one day), another standard in my listening palate and a label that has released many of the same artists as Entropy, including, Axs, Djorvin Clain, Gabriel Le Mar, Lo, Orcalab, optic, p.Laoss, Slow Noise, The Marx Trukker and Zzzzra, to name a few.) Their new compilation, Entropy Records Sampler 2013, drew my immediate attention as it includes a track by one of my favorite new (to me, anyway) artists, Brickman. But as is almost always the case when listening to a new compilation from a familiar source, it’s not who you know but who you’ve just discovered. In this case the artist is Fischerle. Hailing from Poland, Mateusz Wysocki is a producer of deep dub techno cuts that are as inspiring as they are emotionally impressive. And of course, once I’ve found a new artist/project, I become obsessive, (it helps to draw my attention away from the depths of depression back into the heights of sonic inspiration.) As usual, as is my want, further delving into Mateusz’ work revealed several netlabels and sources, some familiar and some not. The first release I found was Standards on the wonderful Polish electronic netlabel, Minicromusic. 4 deep, dark stabs of minimalist dub techno that define most of their releases. Definitely a label I’ll be watching for in the future.

Having briefly mentioned Polish netlabel No Echo Records in my last post, I’m only just beginning to embrace the breath and depth of the Polish netlabel scene. Mateusz has had a lot to do with that. His first release (at least as far as his Discogs listing) was, on the Qunabu netlabel. No longer releasing material, they were able to provide me with his first release, wzrost ep, an unknown (to me) Brickman EP,  Consume, and to turn me on to LifePHORM, which led me to Oorlab.  But this digresses from the main thread of this section, Polish netlabels, so I will leave it to you to discover any of the aforementioned, if so inclined.

In addition to releasing on independent Polish netlabels, Mateusz also partners in one himself, Pawlacz Perski. A label so eclectic that it defies categorizing, it was founded on the principle of interaction and dialogue between artists and composers open for collaboration and sharing. I’ve been working my way through their catalogue for a few weeks now and it’s an impressive endeavor. Of particular note, though is the debut release, For Love of Our Kids and Cats, from Thomasz Wegner’s solo project, aimless driving. Combining acoustic guitar, field recordings, electronic music, various percussive noises and trumpet (yeah, really, and it’s awesome!), For Love is stunning. I can only offer these words from the release page itself as a hint of its beauty… “The tones of the volubility played melody are subsiding as the corner of the mouth after a stroke.” Like the music, that phrase leaves me breathless.

Fischerle‘s also has an EP on the Canadian netlabel/blog/multimedia extravaganza, basic_sounds. I’ve been a rabid follower of the netlabel since 2010, they’ve had an amazing run of releases in their short history, including releases from Dntel, offthesky, Textural Being, Pimilk, as well as 3 (!!!!) releases from the magnificent Radere (including their latest release in April, Radere’s A Pouring Out of Sleep.) If you haven’t listened to anything from this label, please, do yourself a favor and download everything now. Here’s a couple tastes:

(A link to the new Radere track is not yet available on Bandcamp, but this will do.)

Another tried and true method to help alleviate the depression is to run through some of my favorite artists/projects Discogs page in the hope that someone has released new material that flew under my radar or, when in a more adventurous mode, to scroll through latest additions to the Free Music Archive looking for inspiration.

Possibly the most effective method for me for calling the black dog of depression to heel, though, are the fortuitous moments when I discover a favorite artist or band I love has begun a new project. This, too, has come into play recently when I discovered Eddie Palmer, of the impressively innovative The Fucked Up Beat (who are releasing a couple new albums this summer themselves and I’m excited and honored to have had Eddie send me tracks for an early listen), had teamed up with vocalist, guitar, banjo and loops player Christine Annarino, in the inspirationally inventive Fields of Ohio. Building on The Fucked Up Beat‘s use of public domain samples and off-kilter, skittering beats and loops to create a futuristic beat poetry of sound and word, Fields of Ohio adds Christine’s intimate acoustic playing and detached, drifting vocals to produce an imaginative amalgam of early 20th century folk and blue grass, free-form jazz and IDM beats and loops that propel the listener through memories that never were and futures that will never be. I love this project! Their first release, (fields of ohio), on possibly my favorite netlabel going right now, HAZE, is not only breathtaking in its scope and beauty, it’s release page features words that sang to my very core, especially in those all too frequent moments of darkness:

“Now in the midst of the broken waters of my civilization rhythm begins. Clear above the flood I raise my ringing voice. In the disorder and darkness of the night, in the wind and the washing waves, I shout to my brothers — lost in the flood.

We have to sing, you see, here in the darkness. All men have to sing —poor broken things. We have to sing here in the darkness in the roaring flood. We have to find each other. Have you courage to-night for a song? Lift your voices. Come.”

The honesty, emotion and truth in those few lines will be carried with me for quite a while. As will this release.

Further cause for rejoicing is the upcoming second release from Fields of Ohio, Woods Without Maps, scheduled for release on June 5th. You can download the track, DragonGourd/November Witch, now.

Finally, if all else fails and new music is not to be found, I resort to the tedious task of trying to present the sounds and darkness in my head in the most succinct and accessible format possible. Whether digital manipulations of photographic inspiration, like the images above which accompany each of these posts and which can be found on my photography/poetry blog, unless you got lost on purpose (you would never get this far), or sonic distortions of the noises that cycle endlessly through my consciousness, this moments of creativity are often one of the few reaffirming instances in an otherwise brooding, claustrophobic day. Usually, these creations are solo endeavors, but recently I’ve begun collaborating with others to create compositions of deeper depth, though no less dark and ominous, in most cases. In fact, I’ve recently finished a collaboration with PhuctUp, the voices from the cave mouth smelt of death, and am working on another piece with him.

More often than not, though, these sonic abominations are created alone and can intimately reflect the mood I’m in.

Because this post has been more personal than most and meant to reflect on how music helps alleviate depression in me, I won’t be posting a Mixcloud mix as not enough divergent music was discussed, focusing instead on a couple specific artists, releases. There will  be a longer mix to accompany the next post, though, I promise.

And that, briefly, is why I love discovering new music. In the end, each bout of depression is different, although all too similar. Each must find his or her way through the night and try to emerge into the new day. It’s a difficult and lonely trek, and if these few words are of comfort or assistance to anyone, then these long weeks penning these words will have been worth it. And if you’d like to comment or talk, please feel free to contact me. Just remember, I may not always respond promptly, as I may be struggling with my own demons, but your words will be read and a response forthcoming.

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 Soundcloud.com, Mixcloud.com, Bandcamp.com, 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 discogs.com. 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, HAZE.org. 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:

http://www.mixcloud.com/johnny_nowhere/tomorrow-and-tomorrow-and-tomorrow/