Thursday, January 26, 2012

Drop Nineteens - Delaware

i think it was the first time i realised that i can change the world
or, at least change the way you and my sister hit the clock on every tick just to see what happened
time's really flown by i guess and it's hard to think of the way it might've been or remember specifically all the words and the rest of it
i felt down, more than i wanted to be probably
the things that we can do with it all together
like the trees in the backyard and its easter and it won't ever end
fucking phil, he's off with his boys somewhere and i'm just sitting here getting more and more lost with everything
and that was the thing about it, it's not like something was promised and then taken away
it was like no one else could share my so called dreams, which meant none of it was really happening
and that reach, around midnight, left her with just about that - nothing.
there's not anything particular about it either and i think the whole thing just gets vaguer every passing second,
but i am too and there's nothing wrong with that
it's funny when i stopped to realise that i was just nineteen at the time
how important could things have been anyway? 

not very. 

kick the tragedy

Saturday, January 21, 2012

musings on the questions of illegal downloading and the music industry

'piracy', and the supposed effects of it are visible and it would be foolish to deny they have an effect on the people involved in making art/music/whatever it is. but instead of ascribing to de facto arguments that only glance at the surface of the situation within the framework of the old economic model, it's perhaps better to ask 'what kind of effect is it having?'

so let's start at the top. 

in regards to 'theft'

firstly, the argument that something is inherently wrong simply because it's illegal, ipso facto, is sheer childish nonsense. i find it ridiculously absurd that, in the frontier that is the internet - if an item is offered for a particular price, the only legitimate choices are either paying the price and getting the item or not paying the price and not getting the item. ridiculously close-minded if you ask me.

law-making bodies aren't moral engineers; they are (allegedly) servants of the popular majority or – more precisely in your american case – agents of corporate welfare, i.e. protectors of wealth & status quo, not ethics. governing bodies do not solve problems; they treat symptoms. in this situation, the symptom, according to major record labels, is that record sales have been steadily declining and so they're not making enough money. but the problem is not people downloading music, rather, it's that major record labels have failed spectacularly to adapt to changing technology and the modern zeitgest of music distribution, and hence, they need a scapegoat. 

which brings us to the issue of intellectual property, and corrections, feel free to correct me if i'm wrong because i'm not a law student, just calling things as i see 'em. for those of you law-abiding – or law-fearing – people it's also important to distinguish between copyright infringement and theft ( dowling v. united states, 473 U.S. 207) . illegally downloading music is not, theft, since the intellectual property rights are what is actually being dealt with, not a physical 'something.' therefore, it is unfair, inaccurate, and illogical to equate illegal downloading with theft. consider this:

x legally purchases cd-r from a department store.x illegally copies y's legally purchased record from artist z z cannot accuse x for theft because x's legally purchased cd-r is not z's physical property, and more more importantly, x has neither stolen the copyright or deprived z of the use of his work. 

but, i'll humour you.

assuming that downloading music is "stealing," where does one draw the line between what does and does not constitute "theft."? certainly sharing is not theft: if i let a friend borrow a record, make him/her a tape, burn her a cd of music that i have legally purchased, surely she is not stealing from the artist. what if i want to download an album which i already own on vinyl? should i have to pay for it twice? listen to the radio isn't illegal, but what if i want to record a song off the radio? haven't you ever done this? more importantly, how do you morally justify buying records or cds? the huge majority of the money from a secondhand purchase goes straight to the retailer, not the artist. plus, consider the hypothetical: a cd is legally purchased new by person A, who then burns it to their iPod, and sells it to a secondhand store, and then another repeats this exact same process all within legal bounds. and then person x, y, z, alpha, beta etc repeat the same process ad infinitum. the artist only sees one royalty payment from this, yet potentially hundreds of people have legally copied his/her music! according to the naysayers logic, this is stealing, but only because they feel that the artist has been deprived in what was supposedly a perfectly functioning model (lol). i find these situations difficult and near impossible to reconcile if we consider them as criminal activity. 

naturally these + there are many dilemmas of non-physical property rights which are further complicated by the technology of medium duplication. ultimately, what must be acknowledged as the actual problem implicit in this issue is the notion of private property (which ultimately is far beyond the scope of my post, lest i start rambling like a madman). 


in regards to music, and the music industry:

unfortunately, the inherent evils (or rather, functioning mechanisms) of our capitalist economy forcibly reduce all goods and services to the value of the dollar(or pound, euro, rupee what have you). monetise everything, monetise everything, such a terrible way of going about things. probably explains why so many corporate types are insufferable pricks. anyways, this dictates that all goods and services (should) necessarily have some established (although fluctuating) economic value. the problems herein are multiplicitous: namely, not all goods and services (e.g. intellectual, ethical, social goods & services, ART) have an intrinsic economic value, rather, their value extends far beyond any prescribed monetary system. take this as an example: i make music (it's quite bad). i believe my music should be free. ergo, my music has no necessarily prescribed monetary/economic value. if you want to pay for my music, you may pay me however much it is worth to you, but this value does not assign or establish an intrinsic economic value. my music cannot be reduced to the value of a product when the effects of its usage is entirely subjective. if i press records, the value of the record to me is only what it costs to press it. this would be the value of the physical medium, not the material within it. this seems to be the dividing line for most people: the tangibility of a product. and this seems to be the only logical justification for assigning a monetary value to music, but this necessarily gets trickier when the medium(in case of the internet, ones and zeros) has virtually no economic value. regardless, the point being: to assign absolutely a monetary value to a music product is depriving it of its real intrinsic value (aesthetic, intellectual, psychological, etc.) and reducing it to nothing more than a commodity. i, however, tend to think of music as a little more important to me than, say, toilet paper.

this ideology further implies and moreover, it insinuates, the infallibility of our economic system: that because our political & global economy is based on money and it is right and just, it is therefore morally wrong to desire or think that something/anything could be not worth something tanglible, and if you act upon this line of thinking you are a thief (what we find, in effect, is that the free market economy is attempting to invoke a moral argument – a situation of infinite irony given that capitalism is predicated upon taking advantage of your brethren for capital gain!). this is ridiculous, and in fact, quite the opposite is true: capitalism steals from me the opportunities and freedoms that should be my natural human rights by forcibly restraining me with limited financial resources. within an ideal utopian system, neither case would exist, major labels wouldn't be fucking me over with their ridiculously overpriced cd charges ($20-$35 here in canada, laughable) and i wouldn't have to 'steal'. neither one action justifies the other, they just cancel each other out. but as it happens, both sides of the story exist, one being the counterculture to the other. the beauty of the free market, innit?

furthermore, a recurring & implied argument from naysayers seems to be that musicians will only make music if they can make money and that they will stop making music if there is no money to be made. this is just a load of bollocks. money doesn't make music; musicians make music. people have made music for thousands of years (and still do) without needing to make money off of it. you are denying the entire historical, social, educational, and psychological impetus of music to imply that money is a necessary part of the equation. artists make art because they love making art, not because they love making money. if they have come into the business with pipe dreams of owning that house and that car and feeling entitled to waves of cash, they're doing it wrong - or are in the wrong business altogether.

personally, probably 90% of the music i download i would never purchase. i have close to 4,500 albums in my external hard drive. i download music to learn about new bands, new records, and simply to expand my musical breadth. it's my primary passion in life and one of the three things i live for. why on earth would you willingly let your financial status limit your ability to expand your musical wealth? i have been exposed to an unbelievable abundance of music i would have probably never come across if it weren't for illegally downloading. i also purchase music – in fact, significantly more than most people i know. contrary to what many download junkies say, i do prefer a hard, physical copy though, so i get the satisfaction i actually have something as opposed to just a bunch of ones and zeros floating around in space. purchasing a dynamically-squashed fidelity-sapped digital representation of sound (e.g. mp3) is like buying a scratched & warped record without a picture sleeve (really, why do people pay for music they get online?) in fact, mp3's are usually robbing me of better fidelity. but in most cases, i don't give a fuck, 320k/flac is always around if i need it. 

coming back to the original point, it seems to be unanimous that most people want to support the artist; that making sure the artist gets what he/she deserves is the moral end that justifies the means. this requires a responsibility on the consumer to ensure this happens. but! dundundun, purchasing major label music from a third-party retail store (including online) does not ensure this whatsoever. the absolute best way to ensure the artist is receiving the most of his/her dollar is to buy from him/her directly (e.g. online or at a show). most major label record deals offer a pittance in royalty revenue for the artist(and sometimes independents aren't a whole lot better). when you indirectly purchase firsthand music through a retail store the artist is almost always the last to receive money and accordingly, receives the least. what you are mostly supporting is the retail store and the record label, which in effect is only supporting the greedy corporate money-go-round-so-we-get-more-money cycle. how much do our artists actually make? here's a good source on where your money goes when you buy music. 

in conclusion, the problem is not with the internet or with illegal downloading, but with an industry that has traditionally been - and now, more than ever, so steeped in selling, and not providing anything else of actual worth. and when your business model exists because some people feel like they are morally obligated to some weird idea of capitalism within the mechanism of the internet, then that business model is fucked to oblivion. it makes me a little sad yes, some good people will be out of work blahblah deus ex machina, but it's a change that was inevitable, natural and offered to us and created by us because of our nature and of course, the nature of the internet. if the industry fails to adapt to it, then it's not an industry that is fit to exist in 2012. 



i fucking love music.  money-wise, i'm lucky, by all means; i've had my super hard times but i'm alright now. i spend about $3-5K a year on my love for music. that's over 10% of my income, for better or worse, a larger percentage of my expenditure than anything else (other than what i give my folks). i buy records, i go to a show almost every other weak when it's off season (winter) and sometimes 3 shows a week on season. i buy tickets for my friends, buy a shit ton of band merch, buy band members drinks if they are in the audience, buy vinyl directly from the artists at shows whenever possible. if you are familiar with the current music scene, you would know that most bands, whether signed to corporate biggies or independents make a huge chunk of their money touring. and i support that scene as much as i can, in fact i feel like i go to every artist i like even a little just to experience them firsthand. so what labels am i killing exactly? or what kind of damage have i done to the industry? surely you can see the fallacy of accusing downloaders of 'killing' music in this line of thought. 

i have never met an artist who told me they believed illegal downloads directly hurt their record sales to the point of them being forced to poverty or some crap like that. as someone who is fairly intimate with my local scene, i tend to believe that illegal downloads don't even slightly negatively affect record sales. we've seen this same crap myths perpetuated by every cycle of new technological formats; from burning CDs is killing music to home taping is killing music to burning mp3s is killing music. if the impending doom of the collapsing music world is so greatly affected by copyright infringement why do major labels and their artists still make so much money? and despite of this, how do independent labels and their artists make money and tour? how do some artists still sell millions of records? why do so many kids start new bands? why is the musical landscape more rich and fertile now than it has ever been? why does any band release a record now? 

simply because illegally downloading barely influences any of the above.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Swirlies - They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons

Swirlies were a noise pop band formed in Boston, MA, in 1990. Their 1995 album 'They Spend Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of Salons' is just one of the best albums of all time; definitely one of the most colourful, exuberant pop records ever conceived. It's a shame that they never received the kind of recognition that MBV, Slowdive, Ride etc did, least of which because they were fairly unique by noise pop standards in any case.

Thoughtful, brilliantly written pop music is definitely for the keepers. This Swirlies LP is downright magnificent. This bears all the hallmarks of every great noise pop record, layer upon layer of intertwining material, blissed out musical landscapes to wander and reminisce in, lyrics that cut into the heart of you, obscure samples and synthesizers that add to the whole swoon of the whole affair. Sometimes, the songs seem to mutate often halfway through themselves, becoming relentless drum/guitar riff rhythm assaults, and then come back to their melodic roots like it was no big deal. And then, there are some jaw droppingly good  songs on here that would be the highlight of anyone's careers - "Sounds of Sebring", "San Cristobal de las Casas", "Two Girls Kissing" and "Sunn", the latter of which is one of my favourite tunes of all time. For some reason, this album has been overlooked by tons of people. Swirlies were one of East Coast's best kept secrets, and everyone with a love for good noise pop and a twinkle in their eye, look into this. You will not be disappointed.

i see the sunn
wrapped around the strands of your red hair
i burn inside from my fear of telling you that i care
i wake up from the phone, its you
calling me to tell me of your dream
i believe your ways are true
unlike most others do

a latent calm that's half confused

Friday, January 13, 2012

Morita Doji - A Boy

Morita Doji was a Japanese psych folk singer active from 1975 to about 1983. She has since disappeared into complete obscurity. This is my favourite album of hers, titled 'A Boy' from 1977.

 A grecian urn of black joy - for there is no such thing as real happiness, only paler shades of melancholia.

a letter for my friend

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Clint Mansell/Mogwai - The Fountain OST

Clint Mansell needs no introduction really. He's one of the most successful contemporary soundtrackers to all your favourite films (Aronofsky or otherwise). And Scottish post rock act Mogwai need no introduction either; while I'm not a fan of their LPs very much, I'm willing to forgive anything for their work here. This is my favourite work of Mansell's, the massively underrated soundtrack to The Fountain, which just might be my favourite Aronofsky movie too. (I'm a hopeless romantic, can't you tell). Actually, barring Koyaanisqatsi, I'm ready to call this my favourite soundtrack of all time. Blah blah hyperbole, i know.

It snowed heavily a couple of nights ago. I was out at a friend's place a bit out of town, halfway between civilisation and isolation in terms of population density. I was in good company, old friends and wine and warm fireplaces and rusty, slightly detuned guitars with familiar songs carrying us amidst drunken revelry. It was lovely, but I felt an urge to get out for a bit considering it was January and it was not that cold despite the snow, and lord knows how cold it usually gets in January here in Canada.

I had this burnt as a CD for my friend because she was getting into OST's in general and I had to burn her a copy or two of my favourite stuff. (I'm that guy in the group, still burning CDs, still ripping files) She hadn't listened to it yet and I asked her to come along for a walk because well, it's nice being alone but better being alone with company. I inadvertently slipped this into her discman and off we went, into frozen winter lakes and trees that have slipped into silent slumber. We talked, about our lives, loves, ups and downs, about nothing and everything, and eventually settled to rest against the bark of a gigantic oak overlooking her cottage. We shared earphones and rested, and smoked half a pack of Belmonts. It was a clear, clear night, amazing how much of a difference in perspective the skyscape presents when away from the perennial urban haze.

We eventually passed out there, in silence. I woke up to a warm hug from her, suggesting that we should head back because we'd been out for a good 3-4 hours. I realised that at this very moment, my heart was full but my mouth was empty. That, at the very best of moments, I had nothing to say, except apologise. (I say sorry a lot, a personal defect, if you must). It's an eerie kind of inner peace, one that I am still reluctant to accept. We walked back and we caught each other glancing back at the old oak, like it had heard all of our unfocused discussions, our laughter and our pseudo-romantic aspirations. It was like leaving something behind, but not in a way that was sad or threatening, or even disquietening. It was, simply, humbling.

Now, whenever I listen to 'Together we will live forever', I know there's a place where I can recede to where nothing can taint me. It's the light that never goes out, as Moz sung, it's the essence of the beating heart, it's the only place where you can 'draw a drop of blood from a sugarcube'. This is me, fucking batman, broken, happy, sad, completely detached and completely innocent. And there is nothing more that I can say that would justify the beauty within this album other than the fact that I sometimes find myself there when I'm listening to it.

together, we will live forever

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Emeralds - Does it look like I'm here?

Emeralds are an ambient/drone trio from Cleveland, Ohio. They've released over 30 records since their formation in 2006. This is probably their most popular record, and for good reason.

Digital minimalism is the urban primitivism. This is heaven on the synthesizer; Emeralds producing sounds attuned to the very soul of the internet, the poetry of the interstate highway, bringing together the musings of the city's worried and heartaching outsiders.

does it look like i'm here??