#Writing #MusicMonday: Lines by UP (Pasqualino Ubaldini and Paolo Pavan)

CoverPaolo Pavan and Pasqualino Ubaldini are, separately, two of the best jazz artists working in the Creative Commons.

I’ve previously shared two of Pavan’s albums, Inside and The Swing Of Things, and one by Ubaldini, Metissage.

However, to the delight of myself, if nobody else, they also team up and collaborate, creating sounds that are wholly different from their solo works, and they do it under the name of UP. Their first collaboration, which I shared previously as well, was an eponymous release that had a wide an eclectic variety of styles.

And that pattern holds through their second collaborative album, Lines.

The title track is upbeat, borderline-smooth jazz. The second track, “Nije”, has an early-70s fusion-funk jangly rough-edged synthesizers feel (makes me think of Ramsey Lewis a bit). Then the third track, “Talking about Petra”, goes into relaxed, urbane quartet cool jazz. That’s three tracks in, and it’s already all over the map. Yet, and of course, because this is Paolo Pavan and Pasqualino Ubaldini, it all works together brilliantly.

I’ve been waiting on posting this album a bit, because Pavan and Ubaldini have started up a new Creative Commons music site largely devoted to jazz, FreeSoundtracks.eu, and I was hoping to link to it there. However, it’s still not live yet — one imagines both men are just a little bit busy — so I’m linking to Bandcamp, where you get it under a Free Culture license, though you do have to pay to get it. But give it a listen on the site, and then try telling me it’s not worth it, because I’ll just laugh.

Download Lines by UP from Bandcamp

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Lines by UP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: I love you a bit… by Windpearl

cover(It’s the week of Thanksgiving, but this album isn’t particularly festive. There’s some darkness, some hard edges. Considering that after this, there’s going to be four to five weeks of sentimental schmaltz, I chose to do a bit of counter-programming this week.)

Windpearl is a Frenchman living in China, so I’m already prejudiced in his favor as a bit of a kindred soul.

On top of that, while he only has two albums out, they are both terribly interesting in terms of his musical taste and influences.

“I love you a bit…” is a long exploration of synth, and the title is rather a pun, as at least two of the tracks are 8-bit tunes (think “’80s video game soundtrack music”), also known as chiptunes.

Chiptunes are a thing which I don’t believe I’ve brought to Music Mondays before, actually. They’re an active subgenre in the Creative Commons, and quite possibly elsewhere, and while I mostly avoid them, I’ve heard some impressive work when I have gone dipping into that particular pool. The examples here are among the best I’ve heard.

The third track, “Nestification”, in particular, is noticeably done purely in 8-bit mode, and is very, very good.

The album as a whole isn’t dark, it’s complex, with elements of darkness scattered throughout it. It’s quite good, give it a try.

Download “I love you a bit…” free from the Internet Archive.

You can also get it from Windpearl’s BandCamp page, and send money to him at the same time, all while getting it for exactly the same license.

Creative Commons License
“I love you a bit…” by Windpearl is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 International License.

#Writing #Music Monday: Orbital Nights by Chill Carrier

CoverChill Carrier is a German artist I’ve not featured here before, perhaps in part because I’ve only downloaded two of his albums and so he hasn’t turned up in my random explorations of my music library too much.

After giving Orbital Nights a few close listens, as well as using it as background a few times, I realized I need to rectify that and explore his work more.

Here’s what he says about it:

Orbital Nights is my hommage to the cult show “Space Night” which has shown views from earth from the orbiting space shuttles mixed with a great electronic soundtrack fitting perfectly to that dreamy scenery. I was influenced myself by that television show pretty much back in the late 90s and still love to watch them on DVD nowadays.

It’s repetitious in the way that “chillout” tends to be, but complex and layered enough that it never bothered me. One or two of the tracks are little more than sonic wallpaper, but others go beyond that, and none grates on the nerves or pulls you out of whatever you’re thinking about once you’ve got the music going.

Download Orbital Nights by Chill Carrier free from the Internet Archive.

Or, you can purchase it from BandCamp for £3, or about $4.50 (at the exchange rate at the time of this writing) and get it in a wider variety of formats, including lossless FLAC.

Creative Commons License
Orbital Nights by Chill Carrier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 International License.

#Writing #Music Monday: Pen by Jeffrey Philip Nelson

Pen CoverJeffrey Philip Nelson is a singer-songwriter in the ’70s mold, and I basically mean that as a compliment.

This album of folk-ish songs is quiet, evocative, and entirely appealing. And they’re the product of an interesting life. Nelson didn’t put everything down on “making it” as a musician. He owns a construction business in southern California and has a family. His songs are the result of living life, and his life supports his art.

Isn’t that refreshing?

But back to the actual music. I’m going to say something about it that will be too easily misconstrued, so I’ll try to make clear what I am and am not saying.

The quietness of the songs, the spareness of the arrangements, and the focus on the carefully crafted lyrics put me in mind of Townes Van Zandt.

But I am not suggesting his lyrics and songs are as brilliant as Townes’s work. Nobody’s is, honestly. But Nelson has a bit of the same feel as Van Zandt’s recordings, and some of the soulfulness as well.

This is another treasure trove of lyrics that you can quote freely in your books, with the only requirement being that you give proper attribution for them (Credit and copyright on your copyright page, along with a link to Nelson’s site, and a direct link to the song’s download page would, I think, be appropriate.)

Listen to and download Pen by Jeffrey Philip Nelson free, from Jamendo, from NoiseTrade, or pay for it on Bandcamp (and still get the same license!).

Creative Commons License
Pen by Jeffrey Philip Nelson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #Music Monday: It’s Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away by Re-Drum

CoverGoing a bit outside my comfort zone here, and possibly for the rest of the month.

Re-Drum is a French musician/d.j. who focuses a lot on the variation of techno called “house” (a distinction which escapes me). This album is the one I’ve listened to enough to be familiar with, and it’s not generally the sort of thing I like. Very repetitious and loop-y, mixing in spoken word in ways that most days I’d generally find distracting than writing-trance inducing.

But I’ve listened to this one enough that it doesn’t rub me wrong as background music, if I’m in the right mood.

That’s the thing though — it’s not easy to love this one. And it is easy to be irritated by it.

So, as stated, this one is outside of my usual comfort zone.

The only commentary by the artist I can find regarding this particular album is “This is a collection of really deep tracks”. So, unusually, he let’s the music speak entirely for itself.

About the artist himself (real name Léo Urriolabeitia):

After being heavily influenced by 70′s music, Zappa and Minimalism he decided to imagine a place to share sample based music with an experimental edge. That was the connection of past and future music, something that hasn’t been found on the web yet. While still DJing in Toulouse, Re-Drum is now more focused on Live performances and various Audiovisual experiments/Short Movies/Animations.

Download It’s Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away free from Jamendo.

(You can also get the album under a more restrictive, non-Free Culture CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 License, from Bandcamp.)

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It’s Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away by Re-Drum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 International License.

#Writing #Music Monday: Kuddelmuddel by Jahzzar

Kuddelmuddel CoverSometimes it seems to me that I make Music Mondays all about Javier Suarez. Other times, I spend a fair length of time looking at other musicians’ work, and come back and find he’s released three or four solid albums when I was distracted.

With Kuddelmuddel, his first release of 2015 (and not his most recent, even at this writing!), he returned to the happy synth universe of previous Writing Music Monday album Wake Up, and that can be no bad thing.

Kuddelmuddel is rich, layered, complex, contemplative, and happy. All things which our culture, especially our musical culture, cannot possibly have enough of.

Jahzzar himself writes of it:

Influences… Lykke Li, CHVRCHES, Crystal Castles, Electric Youth, Zola Jesus, Hundred Waters, Jessie Ware, Chairlift, The Chromatics, Metronomy… A little bit of Dum Dum Girls, Todd Terje, Liars, Wild Nothing, Beach House or Daft Punk’s “Discovery”. It may contain traces of OMD, New Order and Grauzone.

I cannot add much in this description that can not be seen from influences.

Which means there is a whole list of artists I should probably look into, since I only know New Order and have heard of Daft Punk. However, I feel sure I’ll end up preferring Jahzzar to most of his influences. That seems to be the way it works most of the time.

Download Kuddelmuddel free from Jamendo in MP3 format, or pay what you like and get it from Bandcamp in almost any format you could want.

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Kuddelmuddel by Jahzzar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://betterwithmusic.com/contact/.

Writing Music Monday: Echoes by Stellardrone

Echoes CoverI’ve only posted one album by Stellardrone, and that was more than a year ago. This is not a comment on his quality, but rather on my dependence on mood. Stellardrone is very good, but I’m very often not in the mood for his sort of sonic wallpaper.

Well, I’m back in the mood, it would seem, and since he hasn’t released a new full album since the last one I linked, I went one back.

Stellardrone released Echoes in 2012, and it’s an interesting bridge between his older works and 2013’s Light Years. The older works tend to be less melodic, more of a drone (per his name), and that’s the part of his musical sensibility that I just don’t care for. But with this album (and more so in the more recent one) he began experimenting with build ups and releases that sound more melodic to me, and if not, certainly shift the listener’s mood more successfully than the more neutral sounds he was creating before.

You can download Echoes by Stellardrone from Bandcamp in almost any audio format you want, as well as send money his way (or for free). You can also get it from Jamendo.

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Echoes by Stellardrone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Writing Music Tuesday: bunk by Jahzzar

bunk CoverI’ve been sick the past several days. Not mortally ill or anything, but enough to be distracting, irritating, and yesterday I hopped myself up on Benadryl so that I could breathe without blowing my nose every ten seconds. Benadryl sends my brain of to some OtherSpace where it floats hither and yon, bumping gently into many thoughts but unable to hold on to any one for longer than a minute or two.

So, I meant to post yesterday, but it just did not happen.

And even today, sans Benadryl, I’m not braining too good. So if the following doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, ignore it and go listen to the music, which is the main point in any event.

With bunk, today’s album, Jahzzar has now appeared in five different Writing Music posts. I note that particularly because it is, in some ways, a companion album to the very first of his that I shared with you, Wake Up. Where that first album was the bright and happy side of ’80s style synth, today’s album is darker, slower, and more lonely feeling.

Here’s what Jahzzar himself (Javier Suarez, in his non-superhero identity) has to say about it:

Bunk is a collection of beats. It’s instrumental hip hop and ambient. Minimalism and maximalism. To explain it, is better to imagine a triangle. In one vertex we would have r’n’b: The Weeknd, Drake or araabMUZIK (even). In another, the maximalism of people like Flying Lotus, Rustie, amor,est. or Mouse on Mars. Dreamer Tokyo may also be included in this vertex. The last vertex would be for the minimalist ambient: Alva Noto, Balam Acab, Nicolas Jaar electro …
Arguably, Bunk tries to find the middle point within this triangle.

It’s not something I listen to all the time, but when the mood is right and I need the dark of ’80s post-apocalyptic synth, it usually works.

You can download bunk in almost any format you like, as well as sending some well-deserved money Jahzzar’s way, through BandCamp.

Alternately, you can get it in either MP3 or Ogg Vorbis format from Jamendo, absolutely free.

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bunk by Jahzzar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Music Monday: Bring Me Down by Fresh Body Shop

[cover] Fresh Body Shop - Bring Me DownFresh Body Shop is a French band that does songs almost exclusively in English. They are incredibly prolific, putting out thirteen full albums or EPs since 2007. Some of their work doesn’t appeal to me, but some is amazing.

And Bring Me Down is the best of the best.

It’s a very odd melange of hard pop, ’90s alternative, and early 80s New Wave (mostly due to the brilliant way most of the tracks incorporate a synthesizer).

If you don’t want to give the whole album a listen, do this: listen to “Wawawawa”, “Spaceship”, and “Mr. Sunday”. If you don’t run away screaming, then download it and listen to the whole thing.

My only problem with Fresh Body Shop is that they choose the most restrictive Creative Commons license available. Their choice, of course, but keeping people from even making Youtube videos? That doesn’t strike me as the smartest way to go, especially when you have such a rich catalog to work through.

That said, it’s totally worth downloading. (And as a guide, none of the tracks in this album are among FBS’s top ten on Jamendo. I happen not to agree with that, but do keep it in mind.)

Bring Me Down by Fresh Body Shop is available for free download via Jamendo.

Alternatively, you can get higher-quality files of the same album from Bandcamp, at the same time giving some well-deserved cash to this French band, but without the Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons License
Bring Me Down by Fresh Body Shop is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.

Music Monday: Elijah Drop Your Gun and From The Mouth Of Paris EP by Mieka Pauley

Elijah album coverYes, I am cheating enormously by giving you two this week, even if one is a four-track EP. And while both are Creative Commons-licensed, you have to pay for them. But the money goes directly to the artist, and she kicks ass, so quit yer complainin’.

Mieka Pauley has been an indie performer for more than a decade, winning a number of contests, and supporting herself solely through her music for all that time.

And if you give her work half a chance, it’s not hard to see how she’s able to do so.

Her lyrics are intelligent, thoughtful, often quite wickedly clever, and always satisfying. Her melodies are pleasing, engage the listener directly, and often anticipate and trump the listener’s expectations by doubling back and doing something much better than expected.

I’m also biased toward her because she has done quite a number of songs that make me feel she’s spent time spelunking in my subconscious and writing out what she found there.

Elijah Drop Your Gun is her first full-length album, yet it’s completely mature work. The third song, “Secret”, is just one example of how her lyrics work at multiple levels, setting up your expectations and then pulling the rug out from under you:

Can you keep a secret and guard it with your life
Can you keep a secret, cross your heart, hope to die
Would it stay between us, just simple words between us
Can you keep a secret this time

Those last two words come out of nowhere and turn the entire verse from an expression of cautious trust into a knife in the back, with a good solid twist added in.

I have many theme songs, and Mieka sings several of them. The one on this album is the kick-ass rocker “Be Like The Man”:

Be like the Man, be like the Mob
Be like the State, be like a God

Get mad, get mad, dress yourself in black
This cannot wait, you gotta take it back
Get mad, get mad, dress yourself in black
And prove it, do you want it back

What’s interesting about this song beyond the adrenaline-pumping tune is, again, the complexity. It is an anthem, but it’s also a challenge and an expression of preemptive contempt. (She tells the story of writing the song in live shows — the chorus is what it is because those are the four things “you do not fuck with”.)

albumThe EP From The Mouth Of Paris was originally done as a release for a band, The Mieka Canon, but that project seems to have fallen by the wayside, and it is now listed as a solo. In any case, it is a group of four great songs and no bad ones.

“Colossal” might well be titled “The Sociopath’s Song”:

Be honest, be straight:
Do you wanna make a colossal mistake
As much as I do?

“We’re All Gonna Die” is blackly funny when you know that it’s written from her own life. Her husband is (or was) a stand-up comedian, and she “got” to hear him work up his material from inspiration onward, which meant that he kept telling her about awful news stories as he was sifting through them, things that most people shrug off, but which left her, as she put it one time, curled up on her bed sobbing.

“Faster”, my favorite song on the release, is simply a brilliant piece of songwriting. It captures perfectly the yearning to be healed when you know you’re broken, the “if I could just have x, things would be better”, and each verse demonstrates how “x” is never what you thought it would be once you get it.

Finally, “That Golden Room” is a piece of quiet beauty, a different take on yearning, this time for that moment in your life when everything was Right, but you didn’t realize it until after it had already changed.

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Elijah Drop Your Gun by Mieka Pauley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons License
From The Mouth Of Paris by Mieka Pauley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.