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Following up on the downloads part 2: Buying from the artists January 15, 2012

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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I bought some albums from artist-affiliated websites in 2011, always a good way to ensure artists are getting their share.

From Robert Fripp’s DGM Live website (dgmlive.com) I bought two downloads: Fripp and Brian Eno on May 28, 1975 in Paris, and Theo Travis and Robert Fripp live on May 21, 2009. The Fripp and Eno release was a must buy for anyone who loves Eno’s ambient music, as I do; Fripp’s done a lot of great solo ambient stuff as well, and I’ve bought a couple of his soundscapes through DGM Live in the past. I bought the Travis/Fripp download to get a sense of what the John Foxx and Theo Travis CD that came out in 2011 might be like. My concerns that Travis might be too jazzy, too proggy, or too new agey seemed to be allayed by that one.

From Silver Mountain Media I bought some His Name Is Alive albums. They used to put out official, major releases through 4ad and put out lots of odds and sods through small labels, but their focus seems to be SMM now. This time around I bought one newish album, The Eclipse, and a couple of grab bags, The Emergency LP and When the Stars Refuse to Shine, the latter bits and pieces from the recording of one of their last 4ad albums. Not as essential as their classic 4ad albums, but I needed an HNIA fix and was glad to get one.

I really liked Dälek’s blend of noise and hiphop. They’re either on hiatus or split, but the legacy continues through their Deadverse label. From Deadverse I bought a label comp and the solo debut of MC Dälek under the name IconAclass, a solid old school hiphop album, much more conventional than anything the old band put out but a fine album in its own right.

But the most interesting and rewarding experience was the Leyland Kirby subscription. Kirby, under such names as V/VM and The Caretaker, used to make lots of material available for free at his website, and I certainly benefited from his largesse. And I love his three-CD Sadly The Future Is No Longer What It Was album. So, when he announced a subscription plan a year ago, I signed up. It was a choose-your-price arrangement with a few options, but the only one that worked was the lowest — £15 or something like that — ended up being a hell of a deal. Multiple EP downloads, a full Leyland Kirby album download, two Caretaker album downloads, plus random odds and sods — well. The Kirby album continues the moody, dark ambient feel of Sadly…, one Caretaker album continues that moniker’s exploration of old ballroom music samples (remember Jack Nicholson in the haunted ballroom in Kubrick’s version of The Shining?), the other reworks Schubert samples for an art movie soundtrack, the EPs cover a wide range of electronic terrain. I would so do a subscription like this again. But I’d pay more. Gladly.


Following up on the downloads, part 1: eMusic January 15, 2012

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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That’s a lot of downloaded albums. More than I can properly absorb, and it’s been that way for years now. Fortunately, eMusic continues its war against its customers, so I’m not getting as much there as I used to. They lost three of the biggest indie companies late in 2010 (Merge, Matador, Beggars) when they managed to make a deal with one of the majors — for the US only, and with drastic changes in US pricing. Here in Canada, we didn’t get the major labels eMusic has been courting, but we still lost the important indie labels.

To follow that brilliant move, eMusic came up with a drastic redesign a couple months back that made the site unusable for several days, and made some features barely usable for weeks. Fixes aren’t going to be finished for at least another month. Browsing the site has become much more difficult, so my daily runthrough of new downloads has come to an end. I did that every day for years. New releases show up in physical stores on Mondays in the UK and Tuesdays in North America, but you could never be sure which day a particular label’s new releases would show up on eMusic, so I checked regularly. Now it’s just too much of a pain.
The two main things keeping me tied to eMusic are inertia and S.T. Holdings. And electronic, ambient, and experimental music labels in general. Most of the major dubstep labels are there, mainly through S.T. Holdings, and there’s still enough good and interesting music related to dubstep to follow (though the ways in which dubstep is impinging on the mainstream — Skrillex, Nero, Korn, etc — are fodder for another, more casually dismissive discussion).

A part of me, though, still hopes that the site will become user-friendly again, and that some labels will return, and I’ll be excited about eMusic again.