#Writing #MusicMonday: Sparks by Chill Carrier

18 Jan

CoverI grew up, and really started paying attention to music, in the 1980s. Because of that, when I listen to contemporary music I often get a bad case of “the future ain’t what it used to be”.

But not always.

Sparks by the great Chill Carrier is what Future Music was supposed to sound like, according to my youthful self.

And I almost don’t know what to say about it beyond that. But let me try.

It’s a very positive emotional experience. Relaxed but exploratory, upbeat without being manic.

And, since it is Chill Carrier, it’s a solidly professional production, complex and deep without any hint of amateurism, while also being totally accessible to anybody. The complexity isn’t there to scare off anybody, or to show off how superior the composer is to the listener. It simply makes listening, and re-listening, a richer experience.

The other thing I can say about this album is that it pairs up nicely with, and leads almost perfectly into, next week’s WMM album, which is funny because next week’s is older, and composed by somebody else entirely.

Download Sparks by Chill Carrier free from the Internet Archive.

Alternatively, you can buy it on Bandcamp and make sure that Chill Carrier profits from his efforts.

Creative Commons License
Sparks by Chill Carrier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: Keep On Groovin’ by Federico Palmolella

11 Jan

CoverFederico Palmolella is another Argentinian jazz man I just recently discovered, and this album is something special.

Here’s why it was made:

Keep on Groovin´ was made in [memory] of Ezequiel Iturrieta, one of my best friends who [passed] away [recently], and was the principal inspiration of it. The meaning of Keep on Groovin´is the friendship, love and respect for all, and a motive for continuing.

It sounds like it should be a somber affair, but it’s not. It’s fairly mellow, but much more upbeat than last week’s share from the Agustin Strizzi Group. Celebratory, even.

And, like last week’s album, it has a distinctively 1970s feel to it.

In fact, it was only listening to this a week ago that I realized something. I am sometimes curious why I am so open to a kind of music that, on the face of it, I should hate. This type of jazz/funk/fusion really runs counter to my tastes in a lot of ways, and the more outre examples of the genre leave me cold. Yet I can listen to Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew with little pain (it is, after all, Miles), and I keep finding albums like this, and last week’s from the Agustin Strizzi Group, that I like in spite of them getting pretty weird for a guy like me.

And the reason, I think, is Sesame Street. I watched it as a little kid in the late ’70s, and they often did little bits with jazz/funk/fusion, such as the following:

So, if you like that, you’ll probably like this.

And again, if you did not care for last week’s album, this one is far less melancholy and more upbeat.

Download Keep On Groovin’ free from the Internet Archive

Creative Commons License
Keep On Groovin’ by Federico Palmolella is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: Will by Agustin Strizzi Group

4 Jan

Will coverAgustin Strizzi is an Argentinian jazz drummer and composer who, like many jazz men, pursues multiple projects at any given time. I first discovered him through his work in the trio Gepel, shared here almost two years ago.

Will has, for me, a very ’70s feel to it. There’s a lot of jazz flute used in it (a sign of death for many, apparently, though I think it can be done well, as it is here). It detours into tinkering and “off” sounds here and there, which will be off-putting for many listeners, but in my opinion it is kept to a minimum. The musicians explore freely, but don’t actually stray so far away from the central tune that they lose it. Of course, with this sort of thing, that’s totally a subjective call.

It also has a very down feel to it, most clearly expressed in the track “Tristeza (Sadness)”, but not confined to it. There are other colors and moods throughout, but the sadness pervades the project.

Strizzi says of it:

This record [is] about my musical willingness. Searching through my most deeply paths…curiously, where I’m not alone.

It’s a bit weird, experimental and well off the mainstream track. But it’s also very professional and well done.

Download Will free from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License
Will by Agustin Strizz Group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: Best of 2015

28 Dec

radioI decided not to try to extend the holiday mood, because that never really works, and instead of posting a filler album for the week nobody ever downloads music (from me, at least), I thought I’d look back on the year and share ten albums that stick out for me.

To be clear: I don’t share bad music. Or, at the very least, I try not to. My taste is eclectic and my moods can skew it to insanely wonky, or very dark, so not every album is an any day kind of a thing. But every single artist I shared this year is worth listening to.

(And every single one is someone whose work you can use for your own projects, thanks to the Free Culture licenses, excepting the most recent two weeks.)

But I’ve got to select a smaller number than the forty-three that I managed to share in fifty-one weeks. (Wow, I did a much better job than usual working around my bouts of depression!)

So, herewith, my all-time, desert island, top ten free culture albums that I shared with you this year, in the order that I shared them:

La vie sous la mer by Bruce H. McCosar

A jazz album that tells a cryptic story with no words at all. If you go by the track names, a woman, time travel, and werewolves are involved. And even if you didn’t know that, it’s just a wonderful jazzy piece that all hangs together in a lovely way.

Back to the Source by Tradmark

I don’t know why, but I go for these evocative soundscapes in a big way. There is something both cool and ineffably lonely about this album, and I love it.

Simple One by Art Owens

Romantic Valentine’s Day jazz that works any time of the year. This one still hasn’t gotten old for me.

What Is Love by Melanie Ungar

This pop country album lead off Lyrical April, and while I still like all four albums from that month, this one is so darned catchy and upbeat I can’t put any of the others above it. If you don’t know what I mean, listen to either the eponymous first track, or “Deeper For You”. Or any of the tracks, really, but “Deeper For You” I could probably put on repeat for most of a day and still not be sick of it.

On A Beam Of Light by Stellardrone

Stellardrone’s first album, and a gorgeous piece of Vangelis-ian cosmic synth, as is all of Stellardrone’s work.

Cinematic Volume 10: Epic Choir by Gregoire Lourme

Lourme does Free Culture soundtrack music for anybody to use in videos, but it also works beautifully to put you in the writing mood, particularly this album.

Cyberpunk by Bod

This one haunts me, and I think one of the reasons why is that it doesn’t try too hard. It’s not just one genre, and it doesn’t ever strain to make you go “Cool!” Instead, it suffuses the background and hits all its different moods and genres with deceptive ease, and without any showing off.

Back from Reality by Jazoo

Granting that I have a lot of jazz on the list, because I am me, I would argue that this is the best jazz album I’ve shared this year. It’s probably one of the best jazz albums in the whole of the Creative Commons, let alone under a Free Culture license. It’s really very good indeed.

Tumbling Dishes Like Old-Man’s Wishes by Jahzzar

Yes, I share a lot of Jahzzar’s work. But only because it’s so very, very good.

Holidium by Torley Wong

OK, I lied, I’m extending the holiday mood a bit. But that’s mostly because I’m a Torley Wong fanboy.

So that’s the ten that stick out to me today. Another day would yield a different list, more likely than not.

One other note of possible interest: My playlist for all the music I shared this year reports that I shared a day and a half’s worth of music. Thirty-six hours, fourteen minutes and thirty-one seconds, in fact. It’s all free, it’s virtually all free culture. That’s a lot of writing without repeating even one track. And a lot of music, considering the weeks that I missed.

#Writing #MusicMonday: Voices of Christmas Past – 1898 to 1922 by various artists

21 Dec

vocpYou know, this year, I was all set for Christmas, as I noted previously. I not only had all my November Music Monday posts picked out ahead of time, I had three out of the four weeks leading up to Christmas all accounted for, and in the mood of the season.

But I suddenly got all indecisive about what to post the week of Christmas. Should I go traditional, or ultramodern? Free Culture or anything goes? Instrumental, or vocal? A collection of various artists that already has been selected, or put together my own selections? (That last one tempted me, sorely.)

Finally, after listening and exploring quite a bit, I narrowed in on two collections I first found at the Free Music Archive. One was a collection of electronic instrumentals meant as new, replacement Christmas music, since the curator felt too many of our seasonal songs are too old. 1 The other was this, a collection of public domain 2 recordings from the early 20th Century.

What tipped the balance was finding the website of the organization that was the source of the collection, which pointed me to their uploads to the Internet Archive, and finding that you could download the lossless FLAC files, as well as MP3s and Ogg Vorbis. The fact that you can get the lossless files and make a CD from them without any (further) degradation of sound quality did it for me.

In 1998, vintage recording website Dawn of Sound released a compact disc collection of public domain early recording artifacts called Voices of Christmas Past. The recordings were cylinders and acetates from 1898 to 1922. Every year after the release, the website was inundated with requests for the CD. Once it was out of print, Dawn of Sound released it online for free.

From the original liner notes of the CD:

On October 30, 1889 banjoist Will Lyle made history by recording “Jingle Bells”, the very first Christmas record. Although no known copies of this record survive one of the earliest vocal examples of “Jingle Bells” does survive on an Edison brown wax cylinder entitled, “Sleigh Ride Party”. It was made a decade later and is reissued here for the very first time in this collection. These songs and monologues from the original vintage recordings capture the essence of the Christmas spirit as it was in the opening two decades of the 20th Century.

If, like me, early 20th Century Americana just automatically gives you warm fuzzies, then this is an hour and fifteen minutes of pure joy. If you’re not like me, give it a listen, and see if it doesn’t put you in a warm, nostalgic mood anyway.

I bet it will.

Download Voices of Christmas Past – 1898 to 1922 in multiple formats, including lossless FLAC, free from the Internet Archive.

You can also get it in MP3 format from the Free Music Archive.

Voices of Christmas Past by Various Artists [Dawn of Sound] is licensed under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.

  1. I do not say that I agree with him, since there are any number of 20th Century songs already considered classics, from “White Christmas” to Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. 
  2. I am posting this with the CC license the organization claims, but frankly, since the recordings themselves are public domain, I fail to see how they can reasonably claim copyright on them, simply for digitizing. However, the case law (as I understand it) currently favors allowing copyright on any alteration, including simply transferring something public domain into another medium, so I’ll let it stand. The recordings themselves, however, are public domain. It’s only the files themselves that have the restrictive CC license. 

#Writing #Music Monday: Christmas by Dee Yan-Key

14 Dec

CoverDee Yan-Key is a German composer and musician who is incredibly prolific. He began posting albums to Jamendo at the tail end of 2012, and from then to now has released ninety-six separate EPs and full-length albums. He’s a one-man show, working purely through synthesizers as far as I can tell. And while the synths at times sound less than professional grade, his music is never boring.

I chose this album for a few reasons, despite it breaking my year-long streak of Free Culture music right before the finish line for 2015.

First, Christmas music isn’t Christmas music without some jazz in the mix, and there is vanishingly little Christmas jazz in the Creative Commons, at least that I have found so far. This album has moments that are undoubtedly jazzy, though it’s never going to make anybody’s all-time greatest list.

Second, it’s nearly an hour, and perfect for putting on in the background for gatherings or get-togethers. One shouldn’t have to be shuffling playlists every few minutes during the holidays.

Third, having listened to it several times, I think that Dee Yan-Key has a lot of potential, so getting his work out a little more can hurt nothing in helping him to reach it.

If last week’s share had a bit of the coldness of snowy winter to it, this week’s has some of the warmth of the fireside and an over-eager puppy excited at all the new things and new people happening around it.

Download Christmas free from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License
Christmas by Dee Yan-Key is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: Christmas Presence by Neil Dawson

7 Dec

coverLast week, we had an hour and 20 minutes of completely original, solo piano music. This week, I bring you nearly an hour of Christmas music that is a solid mix of traditional and original work, all done purely through a synthesizer.

Christmas Presence has a very definite New Age, Mannheim Steamroller feel to it. Except that I loathe New Age music; and Mannheim Steamroller, for some reason I’ve never been able to articulate, irritates me a great deal. Neil Dawson’s work here, though, I consider quite wonderful.

To be sure, it has a certain amount of that schmaltzy, cheap synth sound. But somehow I never mind it when I’m listening through. It never pulls me out of what I’m doing, makes me roll my eyes, none of that.

And he put a lot of work into it:

This is my second Christmas album, recorded in my home studio using a Yamaha Motif 6 keyboard for all voices including percussion. It took me nearly an entire year to complete this mix of traditional, contemporary and original arrangements and compositions. I hope you enjoy them!

It is, overall, entirely lovely and very much in the spirit of the season. Yes, schmaltz and all. If this doesn’t put you in the holiday mood, I’m not sure anything will.

And, really, I say “schmaltz”, but there’s a track titled “God Rest Ye Merry Exorcists”. Which is pretty much what you’d expect from that name, yet somehow also has moments that make me think of 1980s Hong Kong movie soundtracks (and I mean that in a good way).

But if you want a feel for what the album has to offer, condensed into one track, I suggest you give Dawson’s rendition of the “Carol of the Bells” a listen. If you like that, you’ll like the whole thing.

Download Christmas Presence free from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License
Christmas Presence by Neil Dawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.


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