#Writing #MusicMonday: Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie

coverThis both is and is not the first work by Chris Zabriskie I have shared with you for Writing Music Monday.

Zabriskie was one half of lo-fi is sci-fi, whose first album (of demos) I shared for Lyrical April. But this is his first solo work I’ve gotten to, despite all his work being Attribution-only.

Among the less obnoxious post-modernist literary types — you know, the ones who actually have something to say, rather than just posturing and expecting everybody to praise their superiority merely because they know how to sneer at everything — there is the idea that a novel, especially if it is experimental in any way, must teach you how to read it (or how to interpret it) in its opening pages.

So, for example, Catch-22 has, in its first few chapters, the story of The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice, which very neatly encapsulates the madness of war, its effect on the minds of warriors, the utterly insane and useless ways authorities respond to those effects, and how soldiers not in authority must go along with the insanity in order to get anything at all, but not so much that they lose their own minds in the process. The one chapter is almost a blueprint of the entire novel, and prepares the reader for the madness that lies ahead.

This idea can certainly be carried over to film, where it is considered good screenwriting to have the first ten pages (and thus, first ten minutes) of the script be a sort of a primer for the audience for the rest of the film. The diner conversation in Reservoir Dogs is, metaphorically, an introduction to who each of the characters actually is, even though at least one isn’t revealed till the climax in fact. The opening of The Shawshank Redemption puts you in the position of every character in the movie except for Andy Dufresne, not knowing whether he’s cold-blooded or merely aloof, so that once you learn that he’s actually the most honest man in the story, you also have the heartbreak of realizing that by the time you learn it for certain, you realize he’s been corrupted (to an extent) as well.

This notion of a work of art teaching you how to appreciate it, within itself, very definitely applies to Zabriskie’s Cylinders. The first track is light, and almost sounds like someone just noodling around on the piano. And yet, every track that follows builds upon it, building up and out, priming and preparing the listener for what is to come, to the point that when “Cylinder Six” plays, it’s a viscerally thrilling experience, even though considered on its own, it’s hardly a romantic sweep, nor a crescendo of any kind. But taken in context of the rest of the album, it has the goose-bump feel of sudden revelation and release. And each track that follows just keeps building further.

The Free Music Archive page compares this album to Philip Glass and John Cage. I don’t care for the Cage comparison, but the Glass one is apt (and I’ll be using Glass as a reference point again next week). I don’t personally care for Glass’s work, or the part of it that I know, but the influence is definitely there, and what Zabriskie does with it is very much, very much to my liking. It takes some listening and getting used to, if you don’t go on sonic explorations very much. But the result is well worth the time you invest in listening.

Download Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie free from the Free Music Archive, or get it for one dollar (or as much more as you care to pay) from BandCamp.



Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under an Attribution License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://chriszabriskie.com/licensing.

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#Writing #MusicMonday: Invent the Universe by Stellardrone

Cover“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

— Carl Sagan

And once again I bring you Stellardrone, the Lithuanian synth composer and musician whose Vangelis-inspired work puts him into my heavy writing rotation.

As with all of his other work, this album works both as pure background music, or as inducement to a reverie of exploring the cosmos. Virtually all of Stellardrone’s releases make explicit reference to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and this one is no different, with the above quote turning up at the most enthralling possible moment in the opening track. The rest of the album could easily back Sagan’s exploration of the universe in his “spaceship of the imagination”.

At this point, he’s only got two albums left that I’ve not shared, so I sincerely hope he puts out some new work soon!

Download Invent the Universe free from the Internet Archive, or get it from Bandcamp and send some well-deserved money Stellardrone’s way.


Creative Commons License
Invent the Universe by Stellardrone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: noaccordion by noaccordion

Cover [Yes, I crapped out on posting yesterday. But I’ve got albums selected to the middle of next month, at least, and easily can go beyond that, I just have to write them up and prepare the posts. And it’s clearly much better when I do that well ahead of time.]

Though she has been making music for a long time, and releasing as “noaccordion” since 2010, I only chanced across Onah Indigo’s work quite recently.

She seems to be a restless soul, ranging across genres and styles at whim, almost like Miles Davis, needint to finish one thing, then do something completely different, then do something completely different from that.

This first, eponymous, EP has a mix of sounds that’s hard to describe, but if you cross the French grunge girl band UNKNW with Le Tigre, that captures some of it. Toss in a dash of the Raveonettes, too, while you’re at it.

And that’s part of why I’m having a hard time describing this EP. Each song is different. They’re all obviously by the same artist, but they’re all completely distinct.

And they’re all worth listening to, at the very, very least.

Download noaccordion free from the Internet Archive or from Soundcloud.


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noaccordion by noaccordion is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: The Beautiful Machine by Josh Woodward

CoverI feel like kind of a schmuck.

See, I’ve known about Josh Woodward for pretty much the entire time I’ve listened to Creative Commons music, close to ten years now.

And I kept trying to listen to his music, now and then.

And… I just didn’t care for it. He clearly had musical chops, but something rubbed me wrong about his songs for a long time.

And so, I’ve never really promoted his work. Like, ever. Despite the fact that he’s like the flagship musician for Free Culture (along with Incompetech).

Well, after the Great Laptop Disaster earlier this year, I went and started rebuilding my CC music library, and I revisited a song of Woodward’s that I definitely liked from recently, “Airplane Mode”.

And yeah, it’s fun. And even if it retains a bit of the attitude I disliked in a number of his other songs, it’s well-camouflaged.

Then I listened to the whole album it came from, The Beautiful Machine. And this album, more than any of the previous ones, worked for me. The elements that rubbed me wrong previously do remain, but as with “Airplane Mode”, the songs are fun enough, and bury those elements deep enough, that I can easily ignore them.

And the songs are very fun.

So, finally, I am pushing some of his work. Without reservation. Hie the over and acquire it!

Download The Beautiful Machine by Josh Woodward free from the artist’s own site.


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The Beautiful Machine by Josh Woodward is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: The Black Hole by lo-fi is sci-fi

cover-blackholeWelcome to Lyrical April 2016. This year, as with last, I’m not only sharing music with vocals that you might like to write to, but deliberately sharing Free Culture music with, for the most part, easy-to-discern lyrics, so that you have four more albums’ worth of lyrics to quote in your books, if any of them catch your fancy. This year, it’s very Free Culture, with only one of the three albums carrying a Share Alike restriction. That’s right, three of the four albums, including today’s, only requires attribution for you to create any kind of derivative work!

This is also an album, and frankly a group, that I personally have saved from vanishing from the internet. That is not an exaggeration.

lo-fi is sci-fi was a duo comprised of Chris Zabriskie and Marc With A C that put out four excellent albums from 2006 to 2008, and appear to have kept planning more projects through at least 2012, though nothing appears to have come of that. They had all four albums available on BandCamp, as well as a website for the project, and all of that is now gone. Vanished. I have no idea what happened, but the two appear to have parted ways for personal reasons, and pulled their collaborative work from availability.

I don’t care what the reasons were for ending the project, that’s not my business. What I do care about is that four brilliant albums, albums with Free Culture licenses, were pulled from public availability. One of the main reasons for Free Culture licensing, so far as I am concerned, is to enable works of art to achieve longevity even without popularity or institutional support. A digital release is not something you’ll find used, hanging around old book or CD shops. If it’s not posted somewhere, preferably to a stable place like the Internet Archive, it’s gone. (Insert rant about Jamendo being hideously unreliable and dishonest here.)

Wait, you’re thinking, if these albums vanished, how in hell did Fleming preserve them? And no, the answer is not, alas, that I snagged the lossless FLAC files from BandCamp while they were available. I only discovered lo-fi is sci-fi after their disappearance. How?

Well, the memory-holing of the band’s work was slightly incomplete. Their albums were posted to the Free Music Archive. And at least some effort seems to have been made to pull them from there, but it didn’t take. If you try to find the band’s page, or the album pages, you get kicked to FMA’s main page.

But. If you pull up individual track pages, or search the band name , you can download the MP3s one by one.

And so I did that.

Also, thanks to the Archive’s Wayback Machine, I was able to view the band’s site as it existed in 2013, verify that I got all tracks to all albums, and get copies of all four album covers.

But that’s all background, and you likely don’t care. What about the actual music?

To start with, when I first ran across them, I heard one song that I loved, found the band name, and almost immediately realized I was going to like most everything they did.

Why?

I’m 90% certain that the band’s name is a reference to an album by one of my personal favorite bands, Dramarama, whose last album cut before breaking up (and later re-forming) was hi-fi sci-fi.

And as I’ve been exploring their body of work, that reference is appropriate. They don’t sound much like Dramarama, but they have the same pop cultural, metatextual sensibilities. There are a lot of science-fiction themed tunes, including “The Stars Are Closer Than You” on today’s album, as well as “You’re Assuming the Gravity Wouldn’t Crush You Instantly” on their last one, among others.

As to pop culture, consider that the band’s songs include “Joss Whedon”, “I’m On A Talk Show”, and “The Script You Wrote is Terrible”.

The Black Hole is their first album. And it is as good as any of their others, excepting possibly their last. Possibly.

The recordings manage a complexity of effect despite being produced with relative simplicity. Consider the first track, “You’ve Got The Body + I’ve Got The Brains”. It sounds like a practice session for a Broadway show tune done, at first, with just a piano for backing. It grows more complex as it goes on, but it’s still done relatively simply.

It is entirely satisfying and stands up brilliantly to repeat listens.

And the entire album is like that. It just works, each song, and as a whole.

Download The Black Hole by lo-fi is sci-fi free from the Internet Archive.


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The Black Hole by lo-fi is sci-fi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: piano jazz by Andre zimmerman

CoverThis week, a bit more jazz, but different.

A Frenchman named Andre Zimmermann released this Attribution-only short album in 2013, and that is the sum total I know about it or the artist, other than what I hear when I play it.

And what is it that I do hear?

Something… different. When I first listened to the first track, “Duetto à Saint Ange,” I thought that maybe the album was mislabelled. It sounded more classical than jazz to my ear. And as the too-short album goes on, that classical mastery remains. Zimmermann is, I think clearly, a classically trained pianist.

Yet he marries that classicism to jazzy riffs gorgeously, and with something I can only call control.

It’s beautiful, utterly delightful to my ear. The utter mastery of technique married to the playful fun of jazzy exploration wins me over completely every time I listen to it, and I wish he would release more, under any license.

(Note: An Andre Zimmermann appears to have at least two albums available on iTunes, Expo 1: Jazz Conception and Expo 2: Jazz replique, and the clips I can hear on Rippletunes sound, to me, like the same musician, but with no actual info on either artist, I can’t verify this. And since I refuse to use iTunes, in part because of the licensing, I can’t listen to more than clips anyhow. But if you like this, you might want to check out the other albums.)

Download piano jazz by Andre zimmermann free from the Internet Archive.


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piano jazz by Andre Zimmermann is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: The Sound Theory by Andrey Avkhimovich

The_Sound_Theory[This is the album that I would have posted on February 1, had I not had the Great Laptop Failure of 2016.]

I believe I’ve only shared one album by Andrey Avkhimovich previously, My Own Album With Blackjack and Hookers, and coming back around to his first album today, and also dipping into some of his most recent work, I guess I’m not surprised.

Avkhimovich is good, he’s very, very good. But his musical sense is something I can only describe as combative, to my ear. Listening to his work, it very often feels like a wrestling match between musician and listener. Sometimes playful, but with something stronger behind it, more serious.

Like some of the more outré jazz that I share, it’s not just “sit back and relax” music. It can set you on edge, or bring up conflicting feelings without resolving them one way or the other.

None of this, I wish to make clear, is a criticism. As I say, he is very, very good. His music is professional grade, and only repetitive with intent and purpose, never once feeling like he’s an amateur just noodling around with new software.

But smooth and easy listening his work is not. It is challenging.

And sometimes I very much like to be challenged while writing and trying to concentrate on other things. Not always, but regularly.

If you do, too, give this album a try.

Download The Sound Theory by Andrey Avkhimovich for free from the Internet Archive in FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, or MP3 format.

You can also get it, in all those formats and others besides, from Avkhimovich’s BandCamp page, and send some well-deserved money his way into the bargain.


Creative Commons License
The Sound Theory by Andrey Avkhimovich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.