Apple Music – A Failure At the Outset

 “APPLE BETS BIG THAT YOU’LL
START PAYING TO STREAM MUSIC”

So proclaimed last night’s headline on NPR Music.  But most music consumers know full-well that this is a losing wager on the part of Apple.
Apple Music will be the latest in a line of failures from the media giant.  They’re coming into the streaming service market far too late in the game. The world has had 100% free music for over a decade and Apple’s branded service is too little, too late to matter.
 
Certainly, it will appeal to a specific niche audience – Apple fans with no active interest in music, who will use the service on their iPhones much in the way transistor radios were used in past… but with an even smaller base of popular song.
 
A hundred years of great music – works by the world’s greatest conductors and orchestras, big band, classical, and opera, legends of jazz, funk, rare groove, and 20th century avant-garde… works which defied and defined the musical philosophies of their era – none of these will have a place in Apple’s expensive, shiny box.
 
This will be Beats Music all over again. (And we all saw how well that worked out.) Poster-boy flavor-of-the-week artists can have their contracts of exclusivity with Apple Music. The rest of the world will barely notice when the service closes in the year ahead.
 

And for the millions in the middle – the casual music consumers of the world – Colin Barrett (interviewed in the NPR article) has already spoken for them. 55 million listeners have free accounts with Spotify, and the rest are happy with the similarly free services offered by YouTube or any of the dozen other available services.

All of this while the world’s more discerning listeners will continue on as they always have, whether crate digging or file sharing to uncover rare and elusive sounds not available from any of the commercial markets.

Apple, you had a good run. It’s time to hang it up.
Published in: on June 30, 2015 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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32 Hours of Cool Jazz and Soul Jazz Classics

I was in a jazzy mood when I got home from the office so I compiled a list of the top-rated albums where %GENRE%=”cool jazz” and a second list of %GENRE%=”soul jazz” on RateYourMusic.com.

After about an hour I’d successfully constructed two 16-hour playlists from the selections I’d compiled.  Below are the resulting album playlists.

Stan Getz Focus

THE COOL JAZZ SET

[1958] Miles Davis – Ascenseur pour l’échafaud
[1957] Miles Davis – ‘Round About Midnight
[1958] Miles Davis – Milestones
[1959] Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
[1958] Bill Evans – Everybody Digs Bill Evans
[1960] Bill Evans – Portrait in Jazz
[1961] Bill Evans – Explorations
[1963] Bill Evans – Undercurrent (w Jim Hall)
[1977] Bill Evans – You Must Believe in Spring
[1961] Gil Evans Orchestra – Out Of The Cool
[1975] Jim Hall – Concierto
[1962] John Coltrane – Ballads
[1956] Art Tatum meets Ben Webster
[1963] Oscar Peterson Trio – Night Train
[1955] Dave Brubeck – Jazz Red Hot & Cool
[1959] Dave Brubeck – Time Out
[1961] Stan Getz – Focus
[1976] Bernard Herrmann – Taxi Driver OST

FreddieHubbard_RedClay

THE SOUL JAZZ SET

[1958] Jimmy Smith – The Sermon
[1960] Jimmy Smith – Back at the Chicken Shack
[1963] Jimmy Smith – Prayer Meetin’
[1964] Jimmy Smith – The Cat
[1965] Jimmy Smith – Organ Grinder Swing
[1966] Jimmy Smith – Jimmy & Wes The Dynamic Duo
[1973] Clifford Jordon – Glass Bead Games
[1974] Gil Scott Heron – Winter in America
[1967] Pat Martino – El Hombre
[1963] Donald Byrd – A New Perspective
[1972] Archie Shepp – Attica Blues
[1960] Bobby Timmons – This Here is Bobby Timmons
[1965] Big John Patton – Let ’em Roll
[1961] Ray Charles – Genius + Soul = Jazz
[1962] Grant Green – Feelin’ the Spirit
[1970] Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay

What do you think?  Are there any glaring omissions?

I have a number of these albums on vinyl, but there are several LPs on the list I’ve never heard – and some by artists who are completely absent from my library.

I’m looking forward to 32 hours of outstanding jazz music, and all of the new favorites I’ll find along the way.

It was NPR’s feature on the cocktail jazz duo, Twin Danger that got me in the mood for these mixes, so have a listen to them below.

Moonbuilding 2703 AD (2015) has arrived!

This evening, the latest 3LP special edition of The Orb’s new album arrived from Kompakt Records!

Check out the photos below.

Moonbuilding 2703 AD (2015)

Moonbuilding 2703 AD (2015)Moonbuilding 2703 AD (2015)  If you missed my recent review of a promo copy of the album, tune in here!

Published in: on June 27, 2015 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Slow Music for Fast Times

This morning saw the conclusion of our latest archival project.  The world’s longest-running ambient radio program, Hearts of Space began broadcasting slow music for fast times back in 1973.  The original program was a 3-hour set, shortened to its present 1-hour format when the show began public radio syndication in 1983.

Hearts of Space

Since syndication Heats of Space has aired 1080 hour-long episodes showcasing quality ambient music each week for over 30 years.  Innerspace has successfully compiled a complete archive of the show’s broadcasts and will continue to add new episodes as they are aired.

We’ve made sure to uniformly name and tag each program and to include the original broadcast date and a companion track listing with the metadata for each episode.

Beginning next week I’ll be moving into a larger office and wanted to create a downtempo chill-out library as a relaxing ambient soundscape for my work day.  The Hearts of Space broadcasts will be added to a rotation along with other complete label archives, such as:

– the six phases from the late Pete Namlook’s ambient FAX +49-69/450464 label

Fax-tribute-poster-web

– the intelligent d’n’b sounds of LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking Records and its companion projects

LTJ Bukem

– the first ~150 records on the Ninja Tune label for some jazzy, downtempo electronic music

Ninja Tune Beats & Pieces

– a wonderful 330-hour audio archive of psybient albums from Simon Posford and other prominent figures of the scene

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– and an additional 72-hour collection of quality psybient mixes by Spacemind

Spacemind - Light Reactions (Remastered Edition)

The majority of these selections are not offered by any of the major streaming networks or from current commercial markets, but Innerspace Labs has got it covered.

And you can check out Spacemind’s mixes on Youtube.  Here’s Light Reactions (Remastered)

How Music Got Free – Cover to Cover

pTIS74v

Thrilled to have received my copy of Stephen Witt’s How Music Got Free in the post on its date of official publication, I made myself comfortable, put on a full pot of coffee, and eagerly dove in to what I anticipated would be a fast-favorite addition to my library.

The book quickly settles into an exciting rhythm – its chapters circling around the activities of key figures in the story of the music industry and of music piracy in the last thirty years.  It begins with the struggle of Karlheinz Brandenburg to develop his MP3 audio compression format over twelve years of fine-tuning and a constant battle for acknowledgement by a fiercely competitive industry.

The action then jumps to a few seemingly inconsequential men working at the PolyGram compact disc manufacturing plant in North Carolina – an unsuspecting locale for the most pivotal characters in the end of an industry.

A chapter later, we are privy to private exchanges between the newly-appointed CEO of Warner Music and his fellow overseers of the empire.  As the story unfolds, we follow these figures through label acquisitions and purges, through major shifts in industrial policy, through aimless crackdowns on “pirates” including the elderly, the deceased, and a 12-year-old girl who’d downloaded the theme song to Family Matters.

As these individual stories progress, the reader develops an in-depth perspective of the tumultuous end of an era for recorded music.  The author offers an astoundingly detailed account of the lives and conversations between core members of the Rabid Neurosis warez group and their suppliers.  The storytelling is exciting, calculated, and fast-paced.  In elegant Hollywood style each chapter leaves one scene at a critical cliffhanger to pick up at a similar point of action from another of the sub-plots in the puzzle that was turn-of-the-century music.

I read the book, eyes wide from cover to cover, captured by every thrilling twist in the tale.  What could have been a dry and drab account of compression algorithms and legalities is instead an action-packed saga of a dangerous underground organization where anonymity is critical and risk is always high.

The book also explores the advent of the iPod and the birth and death of numerous filesharing services like Kazaa, Grokster, Limewire, Bearshare, the rise and fall of TPB, as well as a few contemporary players I’d never expected to see named in print.

The ending is incredible satisfying, and even evokes a strong sense of emotion and empathy in the reader – yet another surprise I hadn’t anticipated from a text on piracy.

Witt’s book is a fascinating read and adds a much-needed perspective to a story which is still being played out before our eyes.  This is easily my favorite title of the year.

Rnslogo

Vinylmania! Night in Buffalo, NY!

I had an absolute blast at the local Vinylmania record show last night!  I went to the event hoping to get some Klaus Schulze LPs (but honestly was not expecting to find any). I was blown away that one killer table hooked me up with several of his albums on the Brain label, all in fantastic condition!

I also took home The Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy vol 2 LP, and J.R.R. Tolkien Reads & Sings The Lord of the Rings (all from that same table.)

We also picked up an original Roxy Music tee for my fiance.  An excellent way to celebrate my birthday!

klaus schulze\ R-566432-1170021681.jpeg

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The Orb Returns with Moonbuilding 2703 AD!

Ten years since their last album on the Kompakt label, The Orb returns to Kompakt this month with their 13th album, Moonbuilding 2703 AD.

The Orb

The Orb – Thomas Fehlmann and Alex Paterson

Moonbuilding is hypnotic, engaging, and endlessly fascinating.  There is an ever-shifting spatial environment as an assortment of deep beats, dub rhythms, and indescribable microtonal sounds traverse the space between your ears.  There are no hooks or identifiable refrains on which a more passive listener could settle comfortably.  Instead the record is a cerebral adventure, whether you choose to explore it consciously and critically or just lose yourself in the entrancing future-tribal magic.

Moonbuilding_2703_AD

The pending Moonbuilding 2703 AD 

Like all of The Orb’s albums, it is thoughtful and reflective, but there are no peaceful, ambient epics to be found on Moonbuilding.  Still, the record does retain Paterson’s trademark natural, analog warmth.  Even his most cosmic and interstellar tracks have always maintained an organic quality sorely missing from much of the bleep-bloop techno of the last few decades.  Similar percussion is present on their newest album, though the wide-eyed energy of the LP is measurably greater than on any of their previous recordings.

But make no mistake about it – at no point does this approach hi-nrg 4-on-the-floor frat techno.  This is an immensely atmospheric record, rich with subtleties and nuances which make repeated listenings most rewarding.  This is, at its heart, proper German electronic music.  Thomas Fehlmann’s contributions are clearly evident as are all the influences of his present home city of Berlin.  If a listener is curious how The Berlin School of the late 1970s has evolved to the present day, the track “Lunar Caves” answers the question perfectly.

“Caves” is where Paterson’s work is most evident.  The song is guided more by classic, dub-inspired ambient rhythms than by heavy percussion and there is a brief but definite nod to Aphex Twin which fans will instantly detect.  If you’ve any doubt that The Orb is ideal for heady headphone listening, you’d do well to remember that this is the band who played chess live(!) on Top of the Pops for “The Blue Room” in 1992.

The Orb live Blue Room Top of the Pops

“Live” performance of “The Blue Room” on Top of the Pops, 1992

 In all, Moonbuilding 2703 AD marks a triumphant return for The Orb to the Kompakt label and demonstrates that these old boys still have what it takes to make outstanding and fresh new music.

The album is set for release June 23rd and available for preorder at kompakt.fm, as well as a 3LP+CD expanded edition which features a tribute to J Dilla.

Published in: on June 20, 2015 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Some Albums Hit You Like a Ton of Bricks – Others Wait Til You’re Ready

This morning I decided to revisit an album I’d honestly neglected when I’d first picked it up 15 years ago.  Slowdive’s Souvlaki is heralded as the quiet answer to My Bloody Valentine’s epically-loud shoegaze masterpiece, Loveless.  Released in 1993, it has remained to this day one of the definitive albums of its decade.

Slowdive - Souvlaki

The opening track, “Allison” is widely-acclaimed as the strongest selection of the album.  Straight away it sets the pace for the dreamy majesty that is to come.  The next two tracks – “Machine Gun” and “40 Days” begin with a sharp attack and relentless guitars and both tracks dissipate elegantly over powerfully-long 16-second fade outs, creating a wonderful sonic-staging of a band performing in the void of outer space.

Still, this isn’t a perfect album.  “Sing” is an attempt at a more freeform, atmospheric piece, but while Nick Chaplin’s bass maintains a simple, melodic structure, the rest of the band appears to disregard it.  The resulting instrumentation seems out-of-focus, and whether intentional or not, the lack of a tonal center takes away from the music.  “Here She Comes” had similar potential, but ends abruptly after only 2 minutes.  Neil Halstead closes the track speaking the title into silence, and you’re really left wishing there was more.

But other tracks like “Slowdive Space Station” return to the strength of the album’s start.  The song features a wash of heavily-reverberating guitar drones and indecipherable vocals that would make Elizabeth Fraser proud.  Rachel Goswell’s speech echoes from a distant star system and by the end of the piece the guitars have slowly decayed into beautiful noise reminding the listener why Souvlaki is one of the essential albums of the shoegaze/dream genre.

Slowdive

The remainder of the album is similarly trademark of the shoegaze scene.  All of the elements are there –  from the backmasked drums on “Melon Yellow” to the infinitely-sustained tones and delicate melodies of “Some Velvet Morning.”  This is a quintessential dream record.

And that’s one of the things I love most about music.  It doesn’t judge its listener for shelving an album for over a decade without ever giving it a fair chance. It simply waits there quietly to be rediscovered, knowing you’ll fall in love with it when you’re ready for its beauty.

Published in: on June 6, 2015 at 12:05 pm  Comments (1)  
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Transformative Soundscapes – The Latest from Innerspace Labs

This week arrived two absolutely astounding additions to our library.  Each is a milestone in its own right so I’ll waste no time getting right to them.

The first is a modern classic from the legendary NinjaTune label.  Originally released in 2004, Skalpel’s self-titled double LP was repressed through beatdelete in 2013. The DJs behind Skalpel, Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudło were dissatisfied with the humdrum music of their native Poland.

Skalpel Polish Jazz

“The Polish music scene is very poor at the moment. Nothing really interesting happens. The majority of music on TV and radio is kind of ‘World Idol’. Very little individuality – just copies of American music.” (interview, R4NT.com)

Their response was to create their own sound – “resurrecting the dusty & smokey spirit of polish jazz of 60s and 70s, re-imagined for 21st century audiophiles.” (NinjaTune.net)

I’d nearly pre-ordered the 2013 180g 2LP beatdelete reissue when it was announced, but had let the opportunity pass.  Thankfully, a member of one of the vinyl communities I frequent recently posted a shot of the album which inspired me to give it a second listen.  I was camping at the time, but came prepared with my Sennheiser circumaural studio monitors.  Around 11pm I laid back, closed my eyes, and lost myself to the album.  The 5-wheel camper and fold-out mattress was instantly transformed into something more like this:

Dimly-Lit NightClub

By the middle of the third selection, I’d already tracked down a sealed copy and processed my payment – certain that this was an essential for my library.

Mr Tim G – my sincere thanks for re-opening my ears to this album!

Skalpel - Skalpel

 

 The second (and equally-outstanding) recording is a selection from minimalist composer, Terry Riley’s catalog.  I already have A Rainbow in Curved Air, The Church of Anthrax (with John Cale), The Ten Voices of the Two Prophets, and know very well that I need his most-celebrated work – In C.

But this particular record – Persian Surgery Dervishes, had escaped my radar.  It was only after I saw numerous copies surface among members of a social network that I decided this was something I needed to hear.

Terry Riley

At first listen, I was completely enveloped in a wash of pulsing electric organ loops.  Each side-long track sounds as if it were an exercise in the tape loop technique developed by Riley and Pauline Oliveros (later popularized by Fripp and Eno).  However, the rapid, cyclic melodies heard on each side of the album are in reality two LIVE solo performances of Riley in LA and in Paris performing on a just-intoned Yamaha organ.  Even more astounding is that the second performance sounds far different from the first, but is simply Riley demonstrating the importance of improvisation.  The two recordings are each of the same composition.

Terry Riley - Persian Surgery Dervishes sm

Dervishes is beautifully meditative and is really an album you can loose yourself in.  Like most great minimalist compositions, the listener loses their sense of time and the piece becomes the atmosphere of the room.

Special thanks to all of the users who posted their copies of this exceptional record – Andrew G, Tintin E, Andrew T, Luke B, Chris A, and likely many others!

Now get lost.

Steve Albini’s Keynote Address at Face The Music – The State of the Music Industry

Steve Albini may not be an expert at public speaking. But he IS a 40-year veteran of the music industry – working as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer, audio engineer and music journalist for most of his life. He lived and worked through the age of commercial rock radio and payola, through the birth of MTV, and through the most formative years of filesharing and torrenting right up to the present day.

Albini has worked on an estimated 1500 albums, which certainly qualifies him to speak on the state of the changing music industry.

He delivered a Keynote Address at Face The Music in 2014. The first 30 minutes comprise his essential arguments – exposing the self-perpetuating system of major labels, commercial radio, and the convoluted laundry list of associated professionals who were all guaranteed to profit from a band’s record, usually leaving the band with nothing.

He demonstrates that the old system was in place to serve everyone EXCEPT the band and its fans – the two inconsequential and often ignored parties of the music industry.

Albini then outlines how the internet and improved recording technologies rendered the old system obsolete and empowered artists. The web and filesharing gave bands, for the first time, a direct and personal relationship with their listeners and exponentially increased the reach of their music.

In closing, Albini describes the resulting listening culture as discerning and passionate, with the ability to pursue their own niche musical fetishism, and that these listeners find a way to reward the artists they love in return.

The old industry giants loudly proclaim that the new system is “broken” and a “crisis” that must be remedied. But in reality, the bands and their listeners are better off now than ever before.

This address shattered my shame about filesharing, and restored my faith in music.

Published in: on May 30, 2015 at 10:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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