1)What a surprise! Two more studies confirm that people who share files illegally actually spend more money on culture than the rest of the population.
- The first study is a new extract from the much-awaited Copy Culture in America and Germany, made by Joe Karaganis and Lennart Renkema. The study focuses on music and notably shows that people who are illegally sharing culture (online or offline) buy 30% more music than those who don’t. It also reveals that large parts of people’s music collections come from friends and family, and that for the younger generation, most of culture sharing is made offline, through Hard Disks, Usb Keys and Dvd-Burning. Of course, The RIAA (via their survey firm) and IFPI has been trying clumsily to discard the study, but Joe Karaganis is a very kind and patient dude and you should also read his answers here and there.
- The second study comes from the Dutch Institution for Information Law and expands the scope to movies, books, games, concerts and box office tickets with similar results: yes, file sharers are the biggest culture consumers, and illegally sharing culture doesn’t prevent people from supporting financially what they like.
The survey also looked at the effect of the court-ordered Pirate Bay blockade in the Netherlands. Results show that among the customers of ISPs who already enforce the block, only 5.5% say they have stopped downloading or now download less.
- Non Commercial Culture Sharing have been declared legal in Portugal! Last year, local anti-piracy organization ACAPOR reported the IP-addresses of 2,000 alleged file-sharers to the Attorney General. The Portuguese prosecutor came back with a ruling and decided not to go after the individuals connected to the IP-addresses. “From a legal point of view, while taking into account that users are both uploaders and downloaders in these file-sharing networks, we see this conduct as lawful, even when it’s considered that the users continue to share once the download is finished.” The prosecutor adds that the right to education, culture, and freedom of expression on the Internet should not be restricted in cases where the copyright infringements are clearly non-commercial. I want to marry him.
3) The Pirate Cloud
The Pirate Bay have first stopped using trackers, then switched to Magnets instead of Torrents. Their new step is now to get rid of servers and operate from cloud-hosting providers around the world, to frustrate attempts to take The Pirate Bay offline. They stated on their blog: “Slowly and steadily we are getting rid of our earthly form and ascending into the next stage, the cloud. Our data flows around in thousands of clouds, in deeply encrypted forms, ready to be used when necessary. Earth bound nodes that transform the data are as deeply encrypted and reboot into a deadlock if not used for 8 hours. All attempts to attack The Pirate Bay from now on is an attack on everything and nothing. The site that you’re at will still be here, for as long as we want it to. Only in a higher form of being”. Lofty words, right ? More pragmatically, a TPB member told the TorrentFreak website: “Moving to the cloud lets TPB move from country to country, crossing borders seamlessly without downtime. The hosting providers have no idea that they’re hosting The Pirate Bay, and even in the event they found out it would be impossible for them to gather data on the users. If the police decide to raid us again there are no servers to take, just a transit router. If they follow the trail to the next country and find the load balancer, there is just a disk-less server there. In case they find out where the cloud provider is, all they can get are encrypted disk-images”. TPB says it will retain control of the technology – transit routers and load balancers – which allows to distribute file-sharing requests across multiple computers, and also hide the identity of both the cloud-provider and its users.
These days, Zombies are just about everywhere. In addition to last’s summer series of strange events suggesting that a global attack of staggering cadavers was near, a a recently published philosophy paper (Petite philosophie du Zombie) examines the various meanings of this phenomenon. In the meantime, hordes of aficionados can hardly wait for the third season of TheWalking Dead to be broadcast in mid-october — expect them to throw themselves on it as prowlers on some fresh brains.
As reminded by an excellent Arte report, one of the reasons why these monsters from beyond the grave have invaded popular culture is their ability to constantly reinvent themselves, ever since Georges Romero’s (“the Godfather of All Zombies“) founding movies introduced the archetype of the modern zombie.
After having colonized the horror movie genre, they spread on every field with astonishing ease : through music, with Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, through literature (Max Brook’s Zombie Survival Guide or Pride and Prejudice and Zombie, a parody of Jane Austen’s novel), or video games (Resident Evil among others, till the recent and crazy Lollypop Chainsaw).
Entire Conferences are now taking place in order to try and analyze the causes of this zombie-mania. In his essay Petite Philosophie du Zombie, Maxime Coulombe explains that these creatures echo our societies’ questioning on death, conscience or civilization. This is certainly true, but there is another explanation to all this, and it’s a legal one.
Georges Romero’s first movie Night of the Living Dead was never protected by copyright due to its distributor’s unbelievable screw-up… Released in 1968, the movie landed straightaway in the public domain, although theoretically it should have remained protected, as Romero is still alive.
This odd legal fate probably accounts for the fact that the Zombie Movie Data Base contains… 4913 entries so far, many of them directly inspired by Romero’s founding movie without fearing a possible trial or having to pay licences. This distinctive feature of the Zombie (which he doesn’t share with the Vampire, as will be discussed below) says a lot about copyright and creation : maximum protection is not always the best way to distribute a work and let it become part of the cultural heritage.
Right of the Living Dead
In the Internet Archive you will find Night Of The Living Dead available for free download or streaming, with a “Public Domain: No Rights Reserved” note, while most of the movies released at the end of the sixties will enter the public domain only in the second half of the 21st century!
The reason of this incongruity is the confusion associated with the movie release in 1968. At that time, a work was protected by copyright only if a Copyright Notice appeared in the credits, with the identity of the intellectual property rights holders. Just before the release, the distributor decided to change its title from Night of The Flesh Eaters to Night of The Living Dead. The decision was probably not bad, but in order to complete the modification, the distributor changed the credits and erased by mistake the Copyright Notice.
The movie was therefore never protected by copyright, and yet it had a great success and was considered as the most profitable horror movie ever made. The mishap later allowed many videotape distributors to spread the movie without having to pay for copyright.
Admittedly it was a bummer, however it somehow enhanced the popularity of the movie and made the propagation of the Zombie character easier.
Walking Public Domain
Cinema’s zombies existed long before Romero’s movie. They appeared in the United States in the 30s, in movies likeWhite Zombie, inspired by Hawaiian tradition and the voodoo religion. Romero’s contribution consisted in developing in the Night of The Living Dead many characteristics that reinveinted the monster – zombies’ staggering walk, their taste for human flesh, the way they move in hordes, their vulnerability to head injuries, their fear of fire, the epidemic propagation, the post-apocalyptic dimension of the story, the gore scenes, etc. These elements certainly represent original contributions, which could have been protected as such by copyright.
But as the movie belonged in the public domain right away, these features were easily reusable for others to spread them widely. By the way, Romero himself was one of the first who benefitted from this creative freedom – as the American jurist Jonathan Bailey explains, Night of The Living Dead was the result of a collaboration between Georges Romero and co-scenarist John Russo. Following the first movie, an artistic disagreement arose between the two men about the outcome of their successful opus. The Night of The Living Dead being in the public domain, they couldn’t prevent one another from reusing the concept of zombie as it appeared in the movie. So they decided that they would both create their own sequels, and therefoire shared the legacy of Night of The living Dead : Russo made a series of movies whose titles included the phrase “Living Dead”, while Romero’s series were characterized by the phrase ”Of The Dead”. So the initial project experienced some kind of creative fork that could have happened with a free software.
From that point, Romero’s sequel (Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, Survival of the Dead) broached a political dimension, which already permeated the first movie. Fas for Russo, he put forward a humoristic vision of the zombies in his productions (Return of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead Part II, Return of the Living Dead 3, Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis, Return of the Living Dead: Rave from the Grave).
These two approaches represent the two main zombie “traditions” in cinema, leading other directors to play with it by delivering their own variation from the original elements and themes. So zombie movies are appealing because somehow they are fun, elaborate remixes.
Later on, the staggering living dead left the movie theatres and invaded every field of creation. Its success illustrates in fact the fertility of the public domain, and its major role in the development of creation. It can be enlightened even better by a comparison with another great figure of horror movies: the Vampire.
The anecdote isn’t well-known, but F.W. Murnau’s movie Nosferatu the Vampire has also experienced a rather incredible legal adventure, due to a fight between the creators of the movie and the owners of Bram Stoker’s (author of Dracula) rights.
In the early twenties, film producer Albin Grau wanted to make an adaptation of the novel Dracula, but did not succeed in acquiring rights from Bram Stoker’s widow, who was particularly tough in business. The project was however maintained, but included notable dissimilarities with the novel so as to avoid plagiarism charges. The setting was moved from London to Germany; Dracula became a monstrous-looking “Count Orlock”, quite different from Stoker’s Victorian dandy. Murnau also introduced details which were not in the novel, i.e. the fact that daylight ravages vampires, or that their bite transforms their victims in blood-thirsty monsters. As explained by Techdirt, a certain number of characteristics we naturally associate to vampires actually stem from Murnau’s struggle to avoid conviction for copyright infringement!
Despite these measures, Stoker’s widow sued him in Germany in 1925, and won. This conviction led to Prana Film’s and Albin Grau’s company bankrupt, and the destruction of most copies and negatives of the movie, as ordered by the judges. The story could have come to an end if a film reel had not been miraculously spared and brought to the United States, where the novel had fallen in the public domain because of a recording mistake (again!). Stoker’s widow had no means to prevent the movie’s diffusion in this country, where it became very popular until the sixties. Then, the return to Europe was possible, when Dracula’s copyright expired.
This story shows what could have happened with the zombies movies, if Night of The Living Dead had not fallen so quickly in the public domain. The copyright would have most probably prevented directors from picking elements from Romero’s movie, and the zombie character could not have invaded the popular culture so easily.
Copyright is brain theft! Brrraaaaiiiiinnn!
The morality of these stories is that the relation between copyright and creation is a lot more complex than what we are usually indoctrinated with.
Undoubtedly, authors need protection so that they are able to create, but the creation dynamics itself implies that works should be reused, changed, extended and enriched – a trend which was amplified with the Internet.
Nowadays, not only do artists reuse previous creations, but the audience also appropriate their favorite works, remixing them endlessly. This is particularly true for zombies, who inspire an impressive and vast amateur movie production.
In comparison, other emblematic works have become a bone of contention between fans and legal assignees. For instance, Korben recently revealed that Warner Bros had acted against a group of net surfers who had rebuilt Lord of the Rings’ Middle-earth, using a map generator from the videogame Skyrim. They were forced by the assignees to remove all the references to Tolkien’s universe, such as names of places and characters, which were protected as such by copyright and trade-mark.
In the end, Romero’s zombies may be more repulsive than the creatures of Lord of the Rings, but they are perfectly adapted to digital culture.
Peddling a product that consumers can duplicate for free is a tricky business. With affordable consumer technology, you can now copy a song a hundred times, with no degradation in the sound quality—and most people seem to immediately recognize why that’s gonna make it harder to get paid for songs. But my first experiences with lossless, duplicable technology didn’t have anything to do with my career as a rapper. My first encounter wasn’t with a torrent site. Or a bootlegged disc. It was a tomato.
Seeds, quite obviously, are the mechanism of plant duplication. You drop a sunflower seed in wet dirt and, bang, you get a brand new one. Essentially, you just ‘burned’ a sunflower. The seeds of this new plant can then be harvested and planted to create an infinite, almost lossless supply of flowers and seeds. ‘Seed saving’ is the term for collecting seeds to be replanted.
So if farmers can just save seeds from previous crops, why would they still buy them from seed companies?
Monsanto is probably a familiar name to most readers. I know it’s often invoked by my generation as the archetypical hulking conglomerate, which regards ‘ethical concerns’ only as pesky hindrances to the bottom line. But I don’t have much interest in condemning agribusiness: people who know more about the industry than I do can speak to Monsanto’s record more credibly than I can. Suffice it to say that Monsanto is a really big company. It sells seeds that are genetically modified to increase farmers’ yields. The genes in those seeds are patented. Without Monsanto’s express permission, it’s illegal to save seeds for replanting. You gotta buy new ones every year.
A lot of people are concerned about Monsanto. One of those people is my mom. When I was a kid she would take me to a summer conference called the Seed Savers Exchange. Although the nature of the event wasn’t completely clear to me, I knew it had something to do with her gardening. And I knew we were to stay in a tent. And I knew she would try to make me wear a bonnet (I later learned that this penchant for homesteaders’ costuming was idiosyncratic to my mother, and is not integral to any organic movement).
At these summer events, gardeners and naturalists traded heirloom seeds, which is perfectly legal because there’s no patent to infringe upon—it’s just a tomato. Some of the conference participants were motivated by the concern that the planet’s genetic and biological diversity was threatened by big agriculture, which tends to plant only a few varietals. So it was through Seed Savers that I had my first encounter with lossless duplication. These campers were essentially taking it upon themselves to copy and disseminate DNA. They planted heirloom varietals in isolated, uncontaminated gardens; saved their seeds; and met once a year to distribute the genetic codes around the country. You can’t quite download a tomato, but in sharing seed, you can sort of upload it.
Monsanto seeds, as I mentioned, you’re not allowed to save. While farmers buy the seed, they only license the the technologies inside it. And this is why Apple and Monsanto find themselves in such similar positions.
Rap fans and crop farmers are perfectly capable of duplicating the products that they purchase. To protect and maximize their earnings, Apple and Monsanto must find ways to prevent Rick Ross MP3s and Roundup Ready® sugarbeets from being copied at home in a way that would detract from future sales.
Both companies limit the way you can use what you buy.
Apple maintains a list of limits collectively called “Usage Rules.” Monsanto maintains a list of limits collectively called the “TUG,” or Technology Usage Guide.
Apple says, “You agree not to modify, rent, lease, loan, sell, distribute, or create derivative works based on the iTunes Service in any manner.” Monsanto growers agree “Not to transfer any Seed containing patented Monsanto Technologies to any other person or entity for planting.”
It’s worth noting that both companies prevent you from transferring ownership of what you’ve purchased. Usually we’re able to sell the things we own: bikes, clothes, even used CDs can be traded, bought, or loaned to friends.
To buy their products, consumers must agree to be monitored.
When you use iTunes, you agree only to do so in the United States. As stated in their terms and conditions: “Apple may use technologies to verify your compliance.”
When growers sign up with Monsanto, they agree “To provide Monsanto copies of any records, receipts, or other documents that could be relevant to Grower’s performance of this Agreement,” and to ensure compliance, Monsanto may request “aerial photographs.”
Both companies aggressively limit consumers’ understanding of the purchased product.
Monsanto’s license states that a “Grower may not conduct research on grower’s crop…other than to make agronomic comparisons and conduct yield testing for Grower’s own use.”
Apple is known for making products whose parts are very difficult to access. Most of the iPhone 4 units, for example, are held together with pentalobular screws instead of standard screws. (Looking down at them, you’d see a little flower shape with five petals, instead of the classic plus sign of a Phillips head.) So for a while, you couldn’t open the thing without first finding someone to sell you a strange little screwdriver with a flower tip. Nancy Sims, an attorney and the Copyright Program Librarian at the University of MN, hepped me to the fact that there’s even a If-You-Can’t-Open-It,-You-Don’t-Own-It techie manifesto. (You can buy t-shirts and all sorts of stuff emblazoned with the phrase.)
By preventing crop research and by using “tamper-proof” screws, both companies make their products black boxes. You can’t look inside to see how the thing works.
These rules and regulations can undermine our fundamental ideas of what it means to actually own something. In most of our purchasing lives, we pay for product and then we can do with it as we like. As long as I’m not endangering others, I can throw the thing into the air, I can write in the margins of it, I can mail it, or strip it for parts. So If I’m only allowed to interact with my purchase in meticulously prescribed ways…it starts to feel less like mine. Like a pet I’m not allowed to touch or see.
But if you don’t abide by license agreements, bad things can happen. According to its own site, Monsanto has sued 145 farmers for saving seed. Hundreds of thousands of people have been sued for illegally downloading digital content (though not by Apple—movie makers are the busiest filers of lawsuits, mostly for films downloaded from torrent sites).
Losslessly reproducible technologies are just complicated things to own. And when you really think about what you’re buying (not the jewel case, not the disc, but a particular and incorporeal sequence of binary code) it’s easy to start sounding like a burnt-out stoner, pondering the impossibility of the whole transaction through a haze of weed smoke. “You can’t, like, own a song dude.”
Even as recording musician, I’m not sure you can actually own a song in the same way you own other stuff.
When I was an elementary kid, our American history lessons still had a good deal of the Noble Savage narrative in the curriculum. I remember learning that some tribes didn’t have a tradition of real property rights—land just wasn’t something you could own. So, according to our textbooks’ (rather hasty) explanation, everybody shared everything and generally got along. My little mind was blown by this alternate utopian paradigm.
I wondered then, and still wonder, what sort of things are okay to call ‘mine.’ Can you privatize water? Chile and South Africa think so, and the issue is debated here too. Can you own air? A gesture? An idea? What’s really ownable? isn’t as high-ass a question as it sounds; it warrants some rigorous consideration. Keep in mind that, historically, we’re not very good at recognizing what’s ownable. We tried to own people.
In many ways, the whole ownership model just seems poorly suited to duplicable technology. Square peg, pentalobe hole. When we try to force new technology into the old model, our contracts end up sounding really, well, creepy. In fact, some licensing contracts stipulate that the people who sign them are not allowed to talk about what’s written in them. That just doesn’t sound like our best work. Instead of asking, Whose is this, who gets paid for it, and how much?, the conversation might be better reset by asking What is this, who made it, who uses it, and what’s fair?
The history and function of tape trading is something we’re very interested in at Decoder Magazine. To that end, using the stock from our tape label Crash Symbols, we’ve been conducting a series of “guided trades” with other cassette imprints. Part of the advantage we perceive in this treatment is the ability to identify and talk clearly about a more structured notion of “eclecticism” – the idea that many beautiful things can work with and enhance one another so long as they are all beautiful. In the case of art objects or furnishings, they needn’t be made in the same style or by the same craftsman. The same can apply to albums. A record label’s catalog might draw more or less from one or more particular genres, but it need not of necessity. As curators, many label owners would sooner maker their catalogs a reflection of themselves. Considering that a fair number of these people are avid collectors of experience, information, and tapes or records, their imprints begin to share in the same academic and operational rigor that motivates their other passions, so it seems meaningful for us to talk about their catalogs comprehensively.
More importantly, trading tapes underscores a positive way to cultivate coherent and self-sufficient communities, independent of the kind of praise that we admittedly make every effort to lavish on labels in our recurring Tape Trade feature at Decoder. To some consumers, labels are a thing worth reaching out to, and for some label owners, an imprint is something to communicate with; this sometimes plays itself out in the common perception of imprints as too aloof, but also too friendly, depending on what angle you use to scrutinize “the scene”. The difficulty with really evaluating tapes and tape culture is the extent to which it has become a fundamentally voluntary and participatory culture. Paradoxically, many cassette labels have distinguished themselves through an honest and effective leveraging of support through social media.
So, that’s the big idea. This is our fifth tape trade – you can check out some earlier ones here and here) – but more than being your requisite 1,000+ words worth of random music reading today, we hope that this will inspire you to reach out to friends, bands you love, or labels you admire and offer to trade. If you hit us up at Crash Symbols, God knows we’d be psyched to arrange something.
Without further ado, Field Hymns of Portland, an imprint focused on experimental electronic music, with significant helpings of kosmische, prog-rock, and even a little bit of skwee (which I for one can always use is greater quantity than I’m getting).
“Let us cross a great modern capital with our ears more alert than our eyes, and we will get enjoyment from distinguishing the eddying of water, air and gas in metal pipes, the grumbling of noises that breathe and pulse with indisputable animality, the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of curtains and flags. We enjoy creating mental orchestrations of the crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and shuffling of crowds, the variety of din, from stations, railways, iron foundries, spinning wheels, printing works, electric power stations and underground railways.”
Luigi Russolo – The Art Of Noises (1913)
Noise, Noise Rock, Experimental Rock, Avant Rock, Industrial, No Wave, Avant Punk, Post Punk. A trawl through the internet produces the above genres to describe Brooklyn based trio Sightings. They are all these and more. Let’s add some Minimal Techno, Electronic Music and even a touch of Funk to the mix and you’re getting close to the sound Mark Morgan (guitar/vocals), Richard Hoffman (bass) and Jonathan Lockie (drums/electronics) have been producing since their inception in 1997 (Hoffman joined in ’98). I’d prefer not to pigeonhole them at all as Sightings are a beast that stand alone amongst their contemporaries like every great band should. Ultimately they have, over the course of 15 years, taken the traditional rock trio format and ran it through a future sound blender, consumed the contents, shat it out and made neo-glacier sized ice cubes from the stuff they couldn’t flush away. These modern shit cubes make the perfect addition to a glass of sub-standard beer served up at their frequent boiler house shows in North Brooklyn.
I first came into contact with Sightings in 2003 when my group Volcano The Bear opened for them at their first ever European show in Nottingham, England. We really didn’t know what to make of them and found them a daunting and confusing prospect. To be honest we didn’t like the music at all. A few years later I moved to Brooklyn and became friends with them. They are now my favorite NYC band by far and I try to see them as often as possible.
To witness Sightings live is an incredible sonic experience. Although they are very different musical personalities they each combine to create a singular monster of industrial proportions and I’m talking ‘Industrial Revolution’ size proportions. They sound like the future portrayed in the film Blade Runner but paradoxically like a vast piece of agricultural machinery from the mid-19th century, ploughing the living hell out of the land to make way for the planting and harvesting of forked lightning. A recent Brooklyn show I attended started with Lockie’s electronic drum pads producing what sounded like the crackle and hum of a menagerie of electric geese – then CRASH! – tight as my shoes feel after a transatlantic flight – Lockie’s convulsive machine gun drums and Hoffman’s helicopter blade bass pound out a dyslexic rhythm that’s almost impossible to figure out. Morgan starts to weave a tapestry of guitar textures and loops with finger work like a patient tailor sewing a suit of steel for Robocop and begins to vocalise. A narcotic drawl leading to ferocious vomit barking and back again (at times Morgan’s singing is reminiscent of Nick Cave). It’s manic but at the same time strangely therapeutic. There’s something undeniably sexy about Sightings live. Lockie’s pounding rhythms set the heart beating faster, pulses racing. Morgan’s pole dance with the mic stand as he shoots bolts of electric bliss and piss from the guitar. His sultry voice leads you on, teasing, while Hoffman’s unique fluid as fuck bass lines and ejaculatory facial expressions tempt you further. It’s stunning that a sound so caustic, fractured and violent can also be so erotic and strangely camp (great examples of Sightings campy eroticism can be discovered via their cover version of the Walker Brothers ‘The Electrician‘ from the ‘Though The Panama‘ album and their sleeve for their debut album ‘Michigan Haters’ which features Lockie in full drag. Tight red sleeveless dress, white framed mirror shades, fright white afro wig and a cigarette hanging from his pouting lips. Contrary to that on the reverse of the sleeve Hoffman and Morgan stand together in black t-shirts, arms folded, serious as hell and as hard as nails. Perversely, if they were each sporting a leather biker cap they could be auditioning for a Village People video! A Sightings concert is like a soundtrack to some fucked up cyber sex party from an x-rated Star Trek episode. Don’t get me wrong on that one. It’s camp like Iggy Pop, Lux Interior or Nick Cave is camp. You definitely wouldn’t want to cross any of these boys in a dark alley and pet their poodles.
The depth of Sightings mission becomes much clearer on their albums. From the all out mud and punk noise assault of their early releases, recorded by the band themselves on a 4 track machine, to their more recent albums produced in the studio to thrilling effect. Their discography tells the story of a band in pursuit of a brand new way to play music. The first 2 self-produced albums, ‘Sightings‘ (Load Records) and ‘Michigan Haters‘ (Psych-O-Path / S-S Records) , both released in 2002 are completely raucous, distorted affairs. Incredibly noisy and energetic with both feet knee deep in a thrash punk field. Difficult listening but you can hear echoes of the group’s future sound on the tracks ‘ Chili Dog‘ from Michigan Haters and ‘Don West’ from the self-titled predecessor. ‘Absolutes‘ (Load Records / Riot Season) from 2003, self produced and recorded on 4 track again is a compositional step up from the first 2 albums. Part of the album still contains the riotous hardcore noise onslaught of the past but there’s a definite move to a more spacious industrial racket. The drums are different, more machine like. The guitars are more angular and controlled. It reminds me a little of early Chrome and despite it’s distorted nature it has a groove. I know the band are fans of minimal techno from labels like Kompact and Basic Channel and you can just start to hear that sound having an influence.
By 2004′s ‘Arrived In Gold‘ (Load Records) that minimal techno influence is much more apparent. There’s a much more industrial feel about this album, in parts comparable to Einsturzende Neubauten’s more abstract work. Entering a studio for the first time and relinquishing some control (the engineer is Samara Lubelski who also contributes some violin) Sightings were at last able to hear what they could potentially sound like. It shows! ‘Arrived In Gold‘ is a fascinating record. Remarkably different from their previous albums in it’s minimalist approach. It’s such a spacious record and very bold and successful because of that. The distortion and full on chaos of previous albums is replaced with a calm, mannered almost polite division of sounds. This division gives an order to the drums, guitar and bass as they move in and around each other to create one unified cell, no longer a trio but a combined futuristic sound machine. Subtle as fuck and an album any budding (or old in the tooth) experimental musician/experimental music fan should hear. The same year saw the release of ‘Gardens Of War‘ (The Smack Shire). A collaborative album with Tom Smith (To Live And Shave In L.A.) using a lot of post production with strange edits and digital fuckery. The music is great and typical Sightings with Smith taking over vocal duties. His voice is an acquired taste, sleazy but filled with character. ‘GOW‘ is a successful album and worth tracking down.
Post ‘AIG‘ Sightings hit a difficult period of a personal nature with Morgan moving out of New York to his home state of Michigan for a while. This is reflected in their next album ‘End Times‘ (Fusetron) from 2006. Featuring 3 tracks from a limited EP (2005) on the En/Of label and filled out with new 4 track recordings. ‘End Times‘ is a deranged and raucous affair, much like a combination of all their previous albums but lacking the subtleties of ‘AIG’. It’s angry and obnoxious with a quality fuck you attitude. The production is rougher than ‘AIG‘ and it’s a long haul at 52 minutes though it definitely has it’s energetic moments. One of the highlights is the stoned monster ‘Carry On‘ which sounds like The Birthday Party slowed down to a nihilistic crawl. Another is the epic Chrome-like ‘Only Below’.
The work ethic of Sightings is admirable. For most of their existence they have rehearsed 2 or 3 times a week. Constantly honing their sound and exploring their instruments and sonic ideas together. They are constantly composing and each time they play they always have new pieces to perform. They definitely don’t play the hits. This tireless approach to experimenting with their format reaped it’s rewards on their next 2 studio albums. In my opinion their finest works.
‘Through The Panama‘ (Load Records / Ecstatic Peace!) from 2007 was their most ambitious studio recording to date produced by long time friend and associate of the band Andrew WK. It’s a step up from the minimal ‘AIG‘ with much more electronics courtesy of Lockie’s electronic drums (he plays a mixed acoustic/electronic kit). The minimal techno feel is back and coupled with Hoffman’s bass they provide some serious grooves for Morgan’s searing guitar work. But the major difference with this album is Morgan’s vocals. At last they are at the front of the mix and surprise, surprise, he’s a great lead vocalist! Up to this point all the previous releases had the vocals way down in the mix or were performed in such a way as to make them indecipherable. Now installed higher up and clearer in the mix the band is raised to new heights and the songs achieve greater depths and significance. The sounds on ‘TTP‘ are so clear and precise you can hear every nuance. The bass throbs like a WWII bomber plane while the crisp drums and electronics fire rapid machine gun crackle through the air raid guitar. Electric pterodactyls do battle with airsick helicopter techno typewriters as the disturbed vocals lure you like a siren to perish on those metal teeth the police use to burst the car tyres of villains on the run . Perfectly executed and sexy as an alien invasion surfing in to the sea shore on a tsunami wave. ‘TTP‘ is Sightings matured. The album means so much. I don’t know what it means but I believe it without doubt.
‘City Of Straw‘ (Brah Records) from 2010 is almost as good as it’s predecessor. Again it’s a studio recording. Recorded by Shahin Motia and Kid Millions from Oneida at their studio in Brooklyn. It’s in a similar vein to ‘TTP‘ but a little more dirty sounding. The drums are less powerful and precise in the mix but on tracks like ‘Tar And Pine‘ and ‘We All Amplify‘ Lockie’s electronic percussion add another level to the sonic interference. It’s still a superb album with some of Morgan’s best guitar work featured. A claustrophobic album, very dense and humid in parts. Like being trapped in a steel room floating on a boiling lake. Through the small porthole window you can see the desolation of a post-apocalypse world outside.
Sightings last album, 2011′s ‘Future Accidents‘ (Our Mouth Records) is a vinyl only release. A collection of tracks left over from the ‘City Of Straw‘ sessions. Side 1 is typical of later Sightings but with less electronic rhythms and more acoustic drum work. It’s not as immediate as the previous two albums but still excellent. Side 2 is a very different beast altogether. ‘Public Remains‘ at almost 20 minutes in length takes up the whole of the side. It’s quite unlike any Sightings track. It’s a very meditative piece, looping and droning. It could be an old Faust jam. It’s definitely got a krautrock vibe. Pat Murano (NNCK) guests on this track on keyboards (he’d played keyboards with the group on a couple of ‘COS’ tracks and has recently played with them live). Like a lot of Sightings material the album is futuristic sounding and highly unique. A post-apocalyptic future. As an over populated world comes to terms with a perpetual energy crisis feeding environmental disasters and oil wars Sightings provide the soundtrack to our decaying industry and infrastructure. Luigi Russolo would have been proud.
There are some things that never step out of the shadows. Some objective facts which remain confidential. Facts that no one knows about, or wants to know about. It applies to the true essence of financial capitalism (i.e. to artificially create movement of values based on a monstrous nothing-system whose self-proclaimed autonomy seems to have no other purpose than going deeper and deeper into dehumanization), or about how a streaming service such as Spotify chooses to split the benefits made from its use of other’s people music (i.e. just try and ask them…), or to the sporadic activities of Canadian collective Ejaculation Death Rattle (i.e. brilliant and adventurous as their name suggests).
Ejaculation Death Rattle is one of those bands you come across at the very end of a too long wandering on the interweb, but only if you’re temporarily lucky. EDR never benefit too much publicity, nor were conveniently propelled by an influent music journalist into some fancy à-la-mode musical sub-genre. Too bad for them.
Freak folk, experimental electronics, weird improv… All those names could nonetheless fit them transiently. But EDR just doesn’t belong to a genre, it rather subsumes them all through each extreme “song”. Inside EDR, who cares about your service number, what only matters is the final electric cloud. EDR is a a group from Vancouver, simply a true and dynamic improvisation/improvised collective who knows no boundaries.
“Live recording from a Spring Equinox party at a warehouse space in Vancouver called the Secret Location, recorded in 2009. It’s a bit old now, but maybe it is somewhat timely since I see that Grrrnd Zero was (and perhaps still is?) facing venue challenges in Lyons. Reading through the posting on the collective’s site, the troubles sound sadly similar to what’s been happening in Vancouver for a number of years – many groups that contribute so much to the city’s underground arts and culture have lost the spaces in which they work and host events because of zoning regulations and/or ridiculously high rents and little to no rent control. The Secret Location is an artist studio/jam space with an anarcho-feminist mandate that has run for 7 or 8 years now in varying states of stability. This recording is from one of the events that took place in the space.”
“More recent – from Feb. 2012, and from a jam session for a Day-glo Mardi Gras performance at a downtown gallery/shop called Blim. I’ve attached a picture from the event with this email just for fun, because day-glo is fun!”
Room 304 is an album released in 2007 by the courageous netlabel NoType. There is a lot of deviant music to be found, freely shared under the CC BY-NC-ND licence, on their website. An attempt to describe the sounds on Room 304 could be (assembling words from the album’s credits) : “ominous throbbing, buzzing of wasps, melodious deception, wailing spasms” + “screeching tires, low end rumbling, air raid sirens, herald of pestilence” + “amplified rust scratching, sawtooth scrapes, cheap and destructible strung plywood, ethereal string manipulation” + “the swelling of leeches, CPU shrapnel, microtonal dentist drill, pure waveform alchemy, transcendental pulsation”. See?
EDR also released a series of Lathe cut in 2010, via the excellent Fluorescent Friends label. Naturally, they also share all those contents. They rule.
The Copyright Justice League delude themselves a lot. One of their most recent illusion is that Commercial Streaming will make Culture Sharing obsolete, while an old one is that enforcing copyright laws will stop or strongly curtail Culture Sharing (although Hadopi was a massivefailure in France, the USA are about to start an analogue program). In A&D manifesto, we said strenghtening copyright laws is absurd and inefficient, and that “when we’ll be able to store all the music ever recorded and all the books ever written in a hard disk as tiny as a fingernail, it will probably seem more and more strange to buy digital culture products one at a time.” We should have added “Why would we need streaming services when we’ll have such personal storage?”. Here, Glyn Moody provides some data arguing that this kind of hard disk could materialize sooner than expected, and that even very harsh penalties do not stop Culture Sharing.
1 – Spotify in a box
Most people will be familiar with Moore’s Law, usually stated in the form that processing power doubles every two years (or 18 months in some versions.) But just as important are the equivalent compound gains for storage and connectivity speeds, sometimes known as Kryder’s Law and Nielsen’s Law respectively.
To see why, consider that the IBM PC XT had a 10 Mbyte hard drive when it was launched in 1983, which meant you couldn’t even fit a single song on it. Similarly, the first widely-used modem, the 1981 Hayes Smartmodem, had a maximum speed of 300 baud: to transfer a digitized song using a dial-up connection would have taken around 500 hours.
With those kind of figures, it’s easy to see why the recording industry underestimated the threat that file sharing would become once the Internet arrived: based on the past, it was almost inconceivable that people would ever swap music between computers. Of course, once that did start to happen, and the shape of the future became obvious to many, the industry nonetheless wilfully ignored the facts and the trends at every turn, when instead it should have taken the lead in re-inventing media for the Internet age.
That woeful history of refusing to accept the implications of rapidly-advancing technologies makes this prediction, found via Slashdot, even more fateful:
Technologies that will make it possible to expand disk density include heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), which Seagate patented in 2006. Seagate has already said it will be able to produce a 60TB 3.5-in. hard drive by 2016.
Assuming Seagate or someone else delivers, that 60 terabyte hard disk could store around 10 million typical MP3 files. A year ago, Spotify was said to have 15 million tracks, which means that you could store most of today’s Spotify on that future Seagate drive. Spotify is likely to grow even larger by 2016, but it probably won’t grow as fast as the storage capacity of hard disks, so there will be some point in the not-too-distant future when you can place all of its holdings on a single hard disk: Spotify in a box.
Obviously, few people will choose to do that, but storing your favorite million songs will not only be realistic, it will be cheap — and even portable. Provided the transfer rate to and from such disks also keeps up with the growth in capacities — an indispensable technological requirement, otherwise they become impossible to use — this means that people will be able to move around huge collections of music, without ever touching an Internet connection. That makes all those three-strikes plans moot, since you won’t actually need your broadband line in order to swap files with friends. You’ll just plug in your portable hard drives to a common computer and exchange stuff directly (as it already happens with today’s terabyte-sized portable disks).
In an ideal world, we would also see a kind of constant scaling of the intelligence of the recording industry, such that by 2016 it would finally accept that trying to stop sharing — whether online or off — is simply pointless. Somehow, though, I think we’ll just have to make do with the other variants of Moore’s Law.
2 – North Korean Study Confirms It: People Will Share, Whatever The Risks
The previous lines are somewhat theoretical, based on general trends in technology; but here’s some supporting data from a rather unusual source: North Korea (aka the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” – DPRK).
It comes in the form of an extensive study entitled “A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment” (pdf). It’s long but really worth reading for the insights it gives into a world that has been almost entirely hidden from the West for half a century. Rather surprisingly, it shows the impact that the physical sharing of pirated materials from South Korea and elsewhere is having on the once isolated nation. As TorrentFreak puts it:
With Internet unavailable to all but a tiny percentage of the elite, citizens of North Korea are obtaining their information through other means, notably file-sharing devices such as DVDs, MP3 and MP4 players, and USB drives.
The vast majority of those music and video players are owned by young people:
“About 70-80 percent of people that have MP3/4 players are young people,” a 44-year-old male who left DPRK in 2010 reports. “When you do a crackdown of MP3/4 players among high school and university students, you see that 100 percent of them have South Korean music.”
That’s significant because the penalties for anyone caught with forbidden music and videos are severe: depending on how the offense is viewed, punishments can range from 3 months unpaid labor to 5 years in a prison camp if the media originates from South Korea… TorrentFreak makes the obvious connection:
Despite the massive risks, young people in the DPRK are apparently prepared to defy the regime by consuming unauthorized media anyway, something they have in common with the US youth who share files in the face of $150,000 statutory damages.
That explains why the copyright industries’ current approach to enforcement isn’t working, and — more importantly — why it will never work, no matter how harsh the penalties become. Whatever the risks, people will carry on sharing.
Neokarma Jooklo Experience in Villanova dello Judrio (Virginia Genta, Maurizio Abate, Christian Zandonella, Andrea Gulli, Luca Massolin, David Vanzan)
Since Sun Ra started to leave Earth in the 70s in a pharaonic egotrip towards greater territories, it seems like there is a crucial « cosmic-occult » vector to explore the heavy catalog of outsider-musics. Something has emerged, perhaps as a sub-sub-musical-genre, as an aesthetic and communitarian alternative, lying in metaphysics dreams, vortexes and parallel dimensions.
Some hippie enthusiasts gathering around perception tools as reliable as the love of stars or multi-dimensional travels? The search of meta-terrestrial musics? Why not? Sounds alright, actually. However, the lazy assemblage of multicolored triangles decorating the 1512th new-age-generic-drone cassette of 2012 might make you feel perplex about the sincerity of such a practice — i.e. the sickening amount of undeserved references to cosmos, psychotropic drugs, pagan ceremonies and so on… Sadly, today these pervading keywords are associated with a vague network of synthetic, kinda-cute-and-nicely-prepared-for-facebook-communication bedroom-projects, which for the most part are frankly dispensable.
Above this black viscid mass of new musics fancying themselves as “psychedelic”, there are a few resistant groups obsessed with producing — through ancient techniques you could have thought extinct in the fast-production-consumption era — rough, unpolished, both corporeal and spiritual musical forms . There is for example an unfamiliar island close to the Italian coast where an audacious group of individuals are united under the mysterious banner “Jooklo”.
The Jooklo, a system in orbit around Virginia Genta’s and David Vazan’s hyper-duo, develops in various ramifications corresponding to many circumstantial groups/layouts : “Golden Jooklo Age“, “Neokarma Jooklo Experience/Trio/Sextet“, “New Jooklo Age”… many names that could fit perfectly your future local Order of the Solar Temple lodge. These numerous micro-structures prove the difficulty of drawing limits to the Jooklo sound ; the identity of the participants, the instruments, the sonic techniques, geographics, all these elements are hard to determine. What remains is the explicit message that a sincere affective community is struggling with a blurry mathematics to build a peculiar, psychedelic and physical entity they name Troglosound. Troglosoud is the platform from where they broadcast their rugged forms of musics we could in a way call “ritualistic”. But not ritualistic as a bad joke, not as a senseless and out-of-context imitation, but as the genuine practice of people who fly high. Unlike 2010s’ plastic psychedelism, this is something rooted in immaterial traditions, this is something funnily hippie from a time which predates the digital revolution.
The Jooklos, like some nonchalant and highly sympathetic Luddites, are certainly having a lot of fun playing around with all these cultural anachronisms. You can most likely meet them in the course of one of their numerous tours, while traveling with an extensive band of desperados, or in a smaller format. I assume that they spend the rest of their time looking after their label (an activity they prove to excel in) and other stuff I would not even assume. Virginia and David play a lot as a duo these days. It sounds like some primitive and very explosive free-jazz. Sometimes Bill Nace, the super-guitar-noise-hero, joins them in an improv fury.
Bologna with Bill Nace
To understand what their new obsession is about :
Jooklo Duo – Time Over (right click + save as) – Unreleased take, rec January 2010, Tenor Sax Virginia Genta, Drums David Vanzan
Jooklo Duo – I (right click + save as) – From “Free Serpents” LP, Qbico, September 2007, Tenor Sax Virginia Genta, Drums David Vanzan
Jooklo Duo – Gimme Five (right click + save as) – Unreleased take, rec january 2012, Tenor Sax Virginia Genta, Drums David Vanzan
Jooklo Quartet – Crossing (right click + save as) – From “Where has jazz gone?” LP, Troglosound, March 2011, Baritone Sax Virginia Genta, Double Bass [Upright Bass] Tero Kemppainen, Drums David Vanzan, Electric Guitar Topias Tiheäsalo
Jooklo Duo – Grooving (right click + save as) – From “High” cdr, Troglosound, April 20102, Tenor Sax Virginia Genta, Drums David Vanzan
As one of a handful of living Canadian composers to cause waves on an international level, Raymond Murray Schafer has pushed the boundaries of music, theatre, and performance through his explorations in environment and ritual. Born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1933, he studied music at both the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory of Music before accepting a teaching position at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. Finding himself increasingly disturbed by the city’s cacophonous backdrop of mechanical noise, Schafer founded the World Soundscape Project. During the late sixties and seventies the WSP dedicated itself to studying the ecology of soundscapes and the potential impacts of noise pollution, advocating for noise by-laws and acoustic design in urban planning. In a representative piece of writing from the era Schafer wrote:
A park or a garden is a place where nature is cultivated. It is a humanized treatment of landscape. It may contain human artifacts but they must harmonize with the natural inheritance – otherwise we no longer have a park but a highway or a slum. If synthetic sounds are introduced, if we venture to produce what I would call “the soniferous garden,” care must be taken to ensure that they are sympathetic vibrations of the garden’s original notes. The wind chimes of the Japanese, or the once-popular aeolian or wind harp, are reinforcements of natural sounds in the same way as the trellis reinforces the presence of the rose. (The Music of the Environment, 1973)
The score for “Divan / Shams / Tabriz”, by R. Murray Schafer
As some of the first to produce methodical soundscape recordings and publish treatises on soundscape ecology, including The Tuning of the World (1977) and The Handbook for Acoustic Ecology (1978), the WSP proved influential to environmentalists and artists alike. As a composer, the realization that the totality of environmental influences had such an impact on the perception and reception of sound would ultimately compliment Schafer’s interests in history and myth and his penchant for romance during the production of some of his most spectacular works.
Although Schafer’s musical output is diverse in style and genre, it can be roughly divided into two bodies of work: his concert music and his environmental works. The concert works include a series of eight string quartets (check out the great recording by Quatuor Molinari here), a number of orchestral pieces, a handful of concertos, and some chamber works. Check out this 1987 composition for guitar and tape titled Le Cri de Merlin for an example of Schafer’s instrumental writing. This work showcases Schafer’s expert integration of extended instrumental techniques, his interest in electronics and prerecorded sounds, and his fascination with myth and nature. The title of the work is a play on words, referring to both the Merlin species of falcon and Carl Jung’s analysis of Merlin and Parsifal myths. There is also a powerful allusion to Merlin the wizard’s powers of transformation.
Schafer’s concert works also encompasses his large body of choral writing. Here is a fantastic recording of Snowforms (1986). Schafer composed the piece in his farmhouse in Ontario over the course of several winters, inspired by the snow covered landscape outside. The score for this work makes use of graphic notation and some improvisation on the part of the performers. The text is based on a number of the various Inuit words for snow.
R. Murray Schafer – Snowforms
While the influence of the natural world is evident in all of Schafer’s music, it truly takes centre stage in his environmental works. Compositions like Music for Wilderness Lake (1979) and some of the opera and theatre pieces in his grand cycle Patria transplant the performers and audience directly into the wilderness of North America. Music for Wilderness Lake is scored for twelve trombonists in three groups and an isolated wilderness lake. Schafer places the groups of trombones at separate locations around the shore and conducts from a raft or boat in the centre of the lake using coloured flags and cues. The work comprises the two movements “Dawn” and “Dusk” that are to be performed at those times and requires the performers and audiences to camp at the lake on the preceding night in order to be prepared for the early morning performance. Similarly, The Princess of the Stars (1981), the prologue to his twelve-part opera cycle Patria, plays out at dawn on the surface of a lake. Based on Native American mythology, the piece tells the story of the Princess of the Stars, daughter of the Sun God, who falls to earth and interacts with a cast of characters including Wolf, the Three Horned Enemy, and the Dawn Birds. The instrumentalists are located around the shore and the singers and actors placed in costumed canoes on the surface of the lake. The libretto of the work is written in an imagined language of Schafer’s own design and a medicine man narrator serves as an intermediary between the performers and the audience.
Due to their very nature, recordings of these works are difficult to find. There is a National Film Board of Canada production of Music for Wilderness Lake that is engrossing to watch, ask your local library to find you a copy of the DVD. While there doesn’t seem to be any full video productions of the wilderness operas, there are a number of excerpted recordings and photographs available online and in print. Schafer’s own book Patria provides an incredibly in depth overview of the cycle and his philosophy and is well worth checking out if you can find a copy. Here is a short excerpt of The Princess of the Stars that gives you an idea of how the costumed actors are conveyed in canoes and you’ll also get to hear a bit of Schafer’s original language. Also worth checking out is the following excerpt from Isis & Nephthys, part of Schafer’s sixth opera in the Patria cycle, Ra.
R. Murray Schafer – Isis and Nephthys
The music, productions, and settings of these environmental works are beautiful and stunning, but they hold an even greater ritual significance for Schafer. Pieces like The Princess of the Stars compel an otherwise urbanite audience to undertake a pilgrimage into nature. The exceptional change in niche that the opera dictates compels the audience to pay attention to their surroundings, as does the actual content of the work. The immersion is absolute as the opera begins with the narrator paddling slowly across the lake towards the audience before informing them that they are about to witness the sacred actions of gods and animals and performing an incantation meant to turn them to trees so that they may not interfere in the proceedings. This opening act completes the transformation begun during the voyage to the site and sacralizes the setting whilst solidifying the audience’s identity with the local ecosystem. This ritualistic approach reaches a zenith in And Wolf Shall Inherit the Moon, Schafer’s epilogue to the cycle and ongoing project. Realized each summer, the epilogue has no audience and calls for sixty-four performers divided into eight clans to hike into the wilderness where they camp for a week. During the week time is split between routine camp work and highly ritualized performances. Schafer provides the performers with music and ritual instructions to be realized during certain activities and at certain times of day. The week culminates in a highly involved ritual that marks the return of the Princess of the Stars to her home and Wolf’s reward in Schafer’s mythos. For an idea of what Schafer is trying to create in these works, one need only look to his own characterization of an idyllic pre-modern time:
Once ‘art’ made divinities out of trees, out of mountains, out of the sun and the sky, out of the sea and the moon and the stars. … Then there was no art. There were miracles. Then there was no music. There was tone magic. Then there were no artists. There were priests and magicians. Then the whole world of nature was a continuous, evolving hierophany. And man was dancing and singing and gawking at the heart of it. (Patria, 2002).
The adventurous multi-modal label/blog/broadcast program Discrepant feeds us with another outsider gem. An introduction to the great work of Cedric “Acid Kirk” Stevens, member of 5-piece psychedelic noise ensemble South Of No North. A 2×12″ LP impetuously named The Syncopated Elevators Legacy has just been released, and it’s time for you to start assembling the clues that will lead you to Stevens’ majestic territories.
Cedric Stevens – Glicerine Militante (right click + save as) – Juno 106, Analogue Modular System recorded in The Hermetic Garage in 2004 – (…a discrepant & subliminal toy crash collision)
“The elevators were born from an urgent need to distance oneself from the techno pigeon hole and the already established Acid Kirk moniker. It was a turning point for me in the techno movement; I could feel it falling apart under the media hype and my instinct, as a composer was to detach myself from that scene.
1997 was the year I decided to start afresh with a strong intention of developing a different sound with more ambitious structures. It was to my great surprise however, that my simplest attempt, “Vanda”, became the definite turning point of my new musical career. The “Apostasy EP” was conceived to be the departure point from a convoluted, hyperactive style that was very much in vogue with the then burgeoning IDM scene. In fact, “Vanda”, because of its innocent nature and the equipment used (pure electric wave generators: VCO’s, LFO, ADSR), its simplicity in shape and intuitive creation (it was made in a few hours) made this track all the more authentic and personal. This undeniable fact made me realize that I had unconsciously laid down the foundations of my very own musical expression and that the emotions in that sound reflected my very own self-being with a melancholic nature that was (and stays) the essence of my personality.
It was a revelation, and the intensive use of home made analogue modular systems during my techno years gave me the experimental foundations that cemented all of the forthcoming SEL work. This same awakening pushed me to become less indulgent as a musician and the elevators story became the story of my very own development as an artist finding his own voice.
The next chapter on the SEL history was exclusively based on the auto feeding results of electric currents, serpent patching or infinity looping if you like. Because of the never ending patching possibilities modular systems can offer, I threw myself into an electrical current looping frenzy- the results, way mellower than you’d imagine, were released on “The Siamese Level”. First conceived as an LP, I constantly questioned the quality of some of the compositions and took almost three years before being completely satisfied of the result. I wanted the record to be so perfect that it eventually became an EP sacrificing more than 20 compositions in the process, settling finally for 3 main tracks and 3 interludes – the result was more than satisfactory.
After the release of “The Siamese Level” my life became somehow chaotic and the following record clearly carries the stigmas of certain wounds. In “Still Between the Battle & the Sheet“ my aim was to incorporate more concrete elements into my electrics mixture. I organized several recording sessions with musician friends, both professionals and amateurs, so I could reach this more ‘musique concrete’ result. One of the sessions perfectly transmitted the sentimental anarchic state I was in; broken china, Tibetan gongs, fragmented toy sounds, a very wrecked and destructive approach. In addition I also wanted to transmit a more eventful side to my music, in contradiction with the more pastoral drones of “The Siamese Level”. The evolution of recording techniques through the use of computers also highly influenced my working habits and one can tell by listening to these recordings. The mixture of chaos with the constant desire to innovate perpetually connected with SEL, gave birth to this 3rd record. I was aware of the flaws at this stage, being more conflicted interiorly it transpired into the tracks and the mix had trouble finding a coherent whole. The title of the EP reflects this; it’s clearly a record “between heaven and earth.
The use of guitars and Larsen phenomena gave a new lease of life to the SEL dynamic whilst allowing me to pursue my fascination with electric circuits in conjunction with a more straightforward human intervention. This new path allowed me to create with more precision and serenity the mix between concrete and machine; “Siam Electric Skyline” is, in my opinion, the perfect example of this fusion.
The constant evolution of my experimentations with SEL soon pushed me to create a real live band and it was natural for SEL to fade away as my need to melt into an ensemble and interact with other musicians became paramount.
It’s only since 2008 that the need to return to a solitary form of expression returned. The musical baggage accumulated with South Of No North radically changed my approach to composition and particularly its interpretation, pushing me from now on to use my birth name when working solo. Truth be said, the sonic excursions of SEL will always remain the foundations of my musical language, making this anthology a perfect introduction to my work.”
Cedric Stevens, Barcelona 2012 Unpublished text that should have been originally used as sleevenotes for the The Syncopated Elevators Legacy LP
Discrepant and Stevens also just put up for free download a magnificent EP called The Politics Of Weakness (right click + save as), showing the same taste for electronic mastery and complex sonic topographies. You have no excuse for not getting it right now, seriously.
The Politics Of Weakness
…a Discrepant & Subliminal Toy Crash collision CAT: CREP04 released 31 May 2012 all tracks written & produced by Cedric Stevens Artwork by Vassilis Economidis
Cedric Stevens -The Politics Of Weakness 01 – Dead Man(right click + save as) – Prepared guitar and analog modular system. Recorded to DAT in 2006, edited on computer in 2011
Cedric Stevens – The Politics Of Weakness 02 - Abstract, As My Failure Does (right click + save as) – Analog Modular System, Flute & TR808. Original material recorded on DAT in 2002 during the “Still Between & The Sheet” sessions. Edited on computer in 2009.
Cedric Stevens – The Politics Of Weakness 03 – L’Ombilique Des Limbes (right click + save as) – Clarinet, Analogue Modular System, Digital Treatments, Contrabass played by Squeaky Lobster recorded in 2002