At H2K2, there was a guy who addressed peer-to-peer music sharing. (Later, he made a pass at me, and I apologized and said I was taken and gave him my card. Where did he go? silly.) One of the things he kept saying is that we cant be ashamed of sharing music. Were not stealing; from whom are we taking value? Not the people who give us the music; they still have their copy. The musicians are already being robbed blind by labels, and we need to find other ways to pay them. (Some people say live concerts, with which I heartily agree.)
[Ive had occasion to think about similar issues from a writing standpoint at work lately, though Im not sure how to fit this ultra-bleeding-edge kind of critique into the dead-tree-oriented work I do under the guidance of a stodgy old-school New York leftist...
The one thing I do know is that I dont think anyone should make a living off writing memoirs and personal essays. Not anyone. Possibly people shouldnt get paid for fiction or poetry, either. Do it in your off hours, when youre not plumbing or teaching or farming or signing off on contracts which enrich you by exploiting the work of others (at least until the system collapses and takes the latter kind of work down too). Its great that right now some people want to pay for this stuff, and I do exploit it, but Im coming to think of getting paid for most writing as an unsustinable by-product of the current corporate system. This kind of writing (this kind. right here. and I extend the categorization to include anything written by Philip Lopate, Adrienne Rich, Barbara Kingsolver, Piers Anthony, Malcolm Gladwell, Neil Postman, anyone who writes product feature or home-decoration pieces for magazines, and, um, other writers who I dislike for either personal, political, or aesthetic reasons) doesnt do anything useful for the world as a whole.
By contrast, I think real honest-to-god journalism is valuable, and requires a good deal of time-consuming work to do well; I was struggling to think of a sustainable system for paying journalists that didnt compromise their ethics by making them dependent on some large corporation... so I thought about state sponsorship, which is obviously fatally flawed... Anyway, more thoughts on this sometime.]
Annnyway, so this guy suggested possible ways to help entrench music sharing into culture until were able to squeeze control of art out of the hands of the giant profitmongering media conglomerates. The proposal that I remember particularly is having parties where everyone brings drives and disks full of music, rips them, shares them, heads home, and comes with a new set for the next party. Id actually recently been to something like (only more one-sided) at Jessamyns Fourth of July party, during which CDs were ripped continuously, adding to her already huge selection of MP3s. Seems like a good model, and I do always like practical applications to visionary whining.
Robert Durff sent me a CD for my birthday which I found fit well into what Ive been looking for from music recently. He was surprised when I told him so, because the last thing I told him I was into was Latin. Which is still true, really. The bulk of the music I listen to has Latin roots, mostly because I find immersing myself in it is less irritating than immersing myself in the remaining trickle of the mainstream American rock tradition, which is so polluted with influences and demography as to be unswimmable at this point.
So. Lets all get together and swap. Heres what Ive ingested over the past year; if you want some lemme know; if you know similar things I might like, tell me. Heres reviews, which Ive arranged according to my foraging patterns in response to record industry hysteria. Notice not one of these musical interactions involves theft, though one does involve questionable borrowing.
These are CDs Ive actually bought in the past year:
- Groove Armada, Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub)
If you listen to KCRW, youve heard them, because theyre good for Los Angeles nights.
- Los De Abajo, Cybertropic Chilango Power
Hear them for yourself at www.luakabop.com
- Zuco 103
Itchy itchy dance grooves from Brazil.
- Dan Bern, Smartie Mine.
Sounds like the living heir to Bob Dylan sometimes, Elvis Costello others. Unholy good driving music; Ballerina, in particular, makes me want to take a road trip just to do it justice. He gets filthy sometimes (theres a whole song about his giant balls, and Tiger Woods, and Muhammad Ali), and youd think he was a conpiracy theorist by hobby, but isnt that how a post-Nirvana Dylanist ought to be?
- Erin McKeown, Monday Morning Cold (and James gave me Distillation)
Shes little and cute and doesnt sing that way, god bless her. Sort of music-hall, sort of gutbucket, sort of ragtime and hot jazz.
Heres artists Ive copied in bulk in the past year:
- Immortal Bhangra 5
Borrowed it from an editor who pissed me off. Someday, Ill give it back, but not now, ha ha. Ripped all the songs, which I dont listen to all that often. Straight bhangra doesnt appeal to me as much as dance mix bhangra, except of course for Gurdas Mann; I find the very high-pitched soloists vocals distracting.
- Caetano Veloso
Borrowing CDs from the library + burning them is goooood cleeeean fuuuuun! Unfortunately, my burn turned out badly. Velosos sambas and bossas are cool and smooth, less jumpy and more adult than most of the world music I get into these days.
Featured on Audiogalaxy shortly before it closed, this Mexican electronica (trance? I never know how to categorize) group is really one of my favorites, with nicely subdermal, walking-pace bass.
- Orishas, A Lo Cubano
A clean, innovative mix of Cuban, rap and other styles which we listened to death at work. One or two of the vocalists have voices I find super-sexy.
Heres copied music Ive been passed in the past few weeks:
Neil handed me one of their albums. Their songs are almost entirely about geeking out — video games, sysadmin work, Commodore 64s — and they rely on old-sounding computer sounds as well as some sort of garage band setup. My favorite: Social Engineering (will get you what you want). A little too close to pop alternative for me on the guitar front (boring, repetitive chords), but the lyrics make it worthwhile.
Neil tacked on a song by Figurine (Our Game (Is Over)) at the end, which is more entirely bloops and bleeps; its sparer than Barcelona, and sounds like early eighties experimentation with synths, maybe Depeche Mode? Sprinkled with delicious video game noises, which I think is a hallmark of our generation, I could be wrong. Neils notes imply that it was remixed with some sort of AI.
Zero Seven, Rinocerose, Thievery Corporation, and other good things, burned for my birthday. Pizzicato Five and Lovage are my favorites.
Heres CDs Ive received in the past week and have only barely listened to:
- Rachelle Garniez and the Fortunate Few, Crazy Blood
Rachelle gave me her CD Sunday as I was interviewing her for an article Im working on. Shes an accordion player, grew up in NYC — shes half Belgian, and has this funky throaty accent. Shes had this kind-of-ethereal-like-Katherine-Whalen-but-a-little-more-twisted,-like,-uh…-Kate-Bush?-I-dont-know thing going on. She and this other accordion player have a semi-regular gig with a guitar player at Lilys in Red Hook, which has a nice back patio but is a bitch to get to by subway. Some Leon Redbone-sounding blues stuff, tango, jazz. Go! Lilys has tiki torches!
- dj Cheb i Sabbah, Krishna Lila
Heard him spin at a club in San Francisco, and it was truly fantastic stuff, African, Arabic and Indian dance music. Here hes taking devotionals and adding a beat underpinning that is subtler and more suited to the classical style than a lot of the hip-hop trash which gets slapped onto bhangra.
Heres a CD I ordered and havent received yet:
- Negativland, Dyspepsi
Yes, its many years old now, I dont care. I couldnt get the anti-Pepsi jingle Mark Hosler played at H2K2 out of my head, and I felt guilty I was hanging around their table all day talking about Jon Land and never got around to buying anything. so its coming to me, fully paid, in the mail. You have to support artists whose legal fees tend to skyrocket unexpectedly.
Heres stuff off of cassette tapes Ive been turning into MP3s, but it probably wont piss off the RIAA:
Its the stuff our youth orchestra played in Carnegie Hall, only this tape was recorded in Ambassador Auditorium back home in Pasadena, and includes solos, one by a flutist named Gregory Jefferson who I always thought was just way too good for junior high. Features Fiddlers Stew by Richard Meyer. Anyone want a copy? Ill swap for some of Meyers other works
Featuring me on accordion and vocals, Lindsay Smith also on vocals, Greg Howard on Chapman stick, and I think a counselor named Charles on chicken shake. I think I called it Amphibian Astronaut Guys. OK, so that link is dead right now… I promise I’ll upload it sometime, like when I figure out how to make the server stop sucking.
Heres artists whose tapes I have had forever but havent listened to until recently:
- Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Vasos Vacios
Surprisingly like the Migty Mighty Bosstones, with some salsa thrown in for good measure. I think they had a song on the Strictly Ballroom soundtrack.
- Los Lobos, Kiko and The Neighborhood
They played Irving Plaza Tuesday, and I didnt get tix on time, moron that I am. The Village Voices review got them right: they’re Chicano, but they’re definitely blues, too. Also makes for killer driving music.
Heres artists I know who deserve mad props:
- KERMIT CRILL! IM GOING TO SCREAM HIS PRAISES IN CAPS!
Id heard Kermit talk about his legendary Poot Rock for years and thought it sounded like a good idea, but only heard some stray snippets many years ago at a party at Kenji Baughams house. Lots of MIDI underpinnings; samples of all sorts of random shit including me yelling NOOOO DEVOOOO! NOOOOO! to his answering machine. Has an energy and worldview more frenetic than Danny Elfman film scores; this is not music to put in the background if you need to multitask and think, because it will periodically throw your attention some right hook and proceed to play tetherball with it. Streaming! (use iTunes if you have a Mac). Even Neil was impressed, and hes picky.