Archive for August, 2007|Monthly archive page

To what end

The argument of whether or not to offer free mp3s on my blog is one that’s raged on inside me ever since I began to take this blog more seriously last year. With how effortless it is to host files online for free with sites like Yousendit, and the newness of treating mp3s as legitimate products you purchase and own, it’s easy to forget what the files represent: hours and hours of creative effort and a good deal of money spent making the product available. The internal debate intensified as Ewan Pearson, Ronan and JBH spoke their mind on the issue, providing convincing arguments for and against the practice. So I guess here’s my two cents on the issue as well.

I have to give mp3 blogs credit for helping me grab on to the genres of house and techno. Because they are rather underground genres, especially in America, there’s little out there to point an inquiring mind toward the best new music. Acquiring it physically isn’t much easier, as only a handful of specialty shops carry techno CDs, let alone the hot new 12. Under the tutelage of a handful of blogs, many of which provided me with the actual tunes I was reading about, I found the gate to electronic music and was able to let myself inside. I even found shops online to buy the music I came to love. As a blogger might, I started posting mp3s myself in hopes of making the journey easier for other inquiring minds. And based on comments both on this blog and in real life, I know it’s made a difference and sparked an interest in quite a few people.

While I’ve set rules for what I’ll post on Little White Earbuds (no unreleased tracks, no more than one track by an artist per post, no promo copies I’ve received for review from RA, lowered bit rates for newer singles, and accompanying links for buying a copy), others have not been as scrupulous. Today I was looking at a del.ic.ious page on which I was linked and clicked on some of the other blogs included. To my dismay, many were handing out full albums for free, oftentimes with no review or original text at all. Not only did it lack any sort of creativity, it stank of disregard for the artists the blogs (actually, let’s just call them file-sharers) claimed to support. I’m not going to pretend that I buy every album I “own,” but I would never consider just handing them out for anyone who happened to stumble across my site. It made me truly upset and concerned at my own mp3 handouts.

I know I’ve stepped on a few toes with my posts as well, perhaps most notably the folks at DFA, Samim and a few labels, all of which I’ve obliged swiftly. But for every request to remove a track I’ve received four or five times as many promos and from labels and artists who like the exposure my blog provides. So it’s like even when I feel I’m harming artists with my practices, I’m asked to continue on — to promote releases and provide exposure to a vast audience which might otherwise never hear a tune. With the frantic pace at which electronic music is released, it’s almost like bloggers are necessary tastemakers. Does that make it right? Are artists/labels getting the same monetary mileage from a download as simple word of mouth?

So that brings me to where I’m at now. I’m fairly sure my blog sees the traffic it does because of the music I offer daily, and at least partially because of the descriptions and endorsements I offer as well. Would people still read if they couldn’t come away with their hard drives a little bit fuller? In the coming months I’m looking to move to streaming media, so that tunes can still be heard but without any negative consequences to the artists, so that’s the question I’ve been asking myself. I will still offer mp3s which labels have given me the OK on, but it will not be the daily occurrence it is now. Half of the reason I wanted to explore this issue is to provide another place to sound off about the matter, which Ewan and Ronan’s posts provided as well. Is that something you will still be interested in? What are your feelings on the lawless environment encouraged by easy publishing software and hosting sites? What exactly do you get from the mp3 blogs you frequent?

And because what good argument doesn’t have a bit of contradiction, here’s your loot:

Neu!, “Isi” [Astralwerks] (buy)

Among friends

My Ripperton feature is now up on RA. This piece was — for one reason or another — months in the making, so I’m glad it’s finally available for all to read. It’s Ripperton’s first English interview/feature and I’m proud to say I was on the other end of the phone.

Danton Eeprom, “Ableton & Screaming” [Love Triangle Music] (buy)
Let’s look at this from a different angle. Imagine that kid who could do nothing on the dance floor except for one move, but he did it so well that each time it drew applause. Funnel that mental image through your ears. Danton Eeprom’s “Ableton & Screaming” is neither groundbreaking nor fancy, but its oft-repeated bass motif is a true hook. It’s playing in my head right now and I haven’t listened to it in days. And let’s not ignore the warm swells and colorful counterpoint pads which mark the end of each loop, both of which hang in the air after their initial impact to make sure listeners get an earful of the whole thing. I bet if this a DJ threaded this between more well known tracks it would prove a tactful stepping stone and might even draw a trainspotter or two.

Staffan Linzatti, “Quibble” (Efdemin remix) [District of Corruption] (buy)
If you haven’t had enough of Efdemin’s deeply-inclined sonic palate, look no further than his rework of “Quibble.” The submerged synth stabs, fawning ambiance and a barrage of hi-hat clatter suggest that Linzatti (confusingly credited here as Decoy Linzatti) put it on the tee for Phil Sollmann to punt into a dance floor near you. Anyone else anxious for Efdemin to get even housier?

All shapes, all sizes

Paco Osuna, “Tornado” (WJ Henze remix) [Zenit] (buy)

Jeff Mills, “Inner-Life” (529) [Sony] (buy)

Midnight snack

Raz Ohara, “Whitmey Na” (Raz Vocal Nass remix) [Kindisch] (buy)

Stevie Wonder, “Jesus Children of America” [Motown] (buy)

SuperMayer capers

I’ll skip the brief history of Superpitcher and Michael Mayer (Teleosteopathy beat me to the punch) and get right down to it: If these singles are any indication, SuperMayer’s album, Save the World, is not going to be for everyone despite the wide swath of sound it attempts to cover. Enthusiasts of loopy, trance-informed techno may have trouble swallowing the arms-akimbo dance rock of “The Art of Letting Go.” And fans of that very tune may find themselves searching for the exit when caught in the vortex that is “Two of Us.” But if you’re ready for some à la carte listening and have any feelings of fandom for SuperMayer’s co-conspirators, read on.

SuperMayer, “Two of Us” [Kompakt] (buy)
Fears that Save the World might be too loose and arty will be calmed by the bulldozing first single. Its thrumming oscillations and squirrelly synth vamps are tempered by tinkling glockenspiel patterns and balls-to-the-wall crescendos; an odd combination to be sure, but mixing puerile tones with rave dynamics makes for a menacing dance floor monster. Perhaps as flattening as their remix of Gui Boratto’s “Like You” while less sticky, “Two of Us” is surprisingly straightforward Kompakt trance which does Jürgen Paape proud. But this is just one platter on the dessert tray that is Save the World.

SuperMayer, “The Art of Letting Go” [Kompakt]
A complete 180 from the above, “The Art of Letting Go” delivers on the press sheet promises of instrumental cornucopias in an unfamiliar way. Somewhere between Holger Czukay and Todd Rundgren, the laid back tune is a stretch for Mayer and Aksel Schaufler. Structurally it’s assembled like any other techno track, with one Schaufler-sung vocal line and a handful of constants (spring-loaded bass guitar lines, rudimentary drum kit hits) and picks up elements as it saunters through it’s five and a half minutes. The bright but decidedly unfunky horn licks spar with Schaufler’s tenuous vocals and I’m not sure the listener is the winner. Perhaps a bit too indulgent for my tastes, the tune’s title seems indicative of how seriously it’s to be taken. Taken together I’m uncertain if I want to hear more of the album or not. Who knows; maybe it will save my world from boredom or push me deeper into the hands of faceless techno producers.

Tuck it in

M. Rahn, “Stryx 08” [SIXONESIX]
Sometimes it’s best to play it simply and to the point, as M. Rahn does here on his Stryx Sessions release for net label, SIXONESIX. Gaseous synthy plumes are chipped away at by the binary counter-melody below, like a toothier Maurizio track with handclaps; or perhaps B12 stuck in Earth’s atmosphere. Slipped between Basic Channel worshipers Brendon Moeller or Andy Stott, this could be a serious mover on a dub-happy dance floor.

Tokyo Black Star, “Still Sequence” (Innervisions Version) [Innervisions]
If you can ignore that it uses the same chirpy motif as Martin Buttrich’s “Well Done,” the Innervisions version of “Still Sequence” is an organically deep treat. Innervisions wizards Dixon and Âme smooth out Tokyo Black Star’s latest and supply a growling drone, which, combined with its languid tempo, suggest a good track to warm up a crowd. While this EP might not be TBS’s finest moment, the good will and even better production skills of its remixers manage a worthy purchase after all.

Serving size


Art by Till Nowak (website down, unfortunately)

Maxime Dangles, “Strawberry” (Joachim Spieth remix) [Paso Music] (buy)

Process, “Contain” [Traum Schallplatten] (buy)

Blurry fury


Photo by yu_plus

Marc Houle is playing at Smart Bar tonight as part of a Minus showcase (which is suspiciously lacking in Minus labelmates). In anticipation of his set, I did a brief email interview with Houle for New City. Check it out if that’s your bag.

Riley Reinhold, “Lights In My Eyes” (Dominik Eulberg remix) [My Best Friend] (buy)

Gez Varley, “Soul Gate” [Force Inc. Music Works] (buy)

We report, you decide

My review of Henrik Schwarz’s fantastic new(ish) single, “Walk Music,” is now up on RA. Oh, so is my interview with The Field done at the Pitchfork Festival. Kind of forgot to post about that.

Len Faki, “The B-East Roller” (Joris Voorn remix) [Len Series] (buy)

The Shock, “Manhattan” (Einmusik remix) [Boxer Recordings] (buy)

Take me to your refrigerator

Jimpster, “Square Up” [Buzzin’ Fly Records] (buy)

Monne Automne, “El Salvador” (Luciano & Pier Bucci remix) [Lo-Fi Stereo] (buy)