New Music’s Cheap!


New Music’s Cheap!

            Technology’s made music pretty accessible these days. These days few factors limit the temptation to torrent and download. However, if you are looking for free or cheap music through a legal venue, then rest assured that some artists will at least encourage your legality. Recently I found two wonderful artists practically giving away their music. Perhaps they just want to get their music out there for the sake of it, perhaps it just makes more sense to rely on live profits and use free music to generate profits. Either way, nowadays more people are making music than ever and plenty of them release it for next to, or actually, no price. Anyhow, if you take a look you’ll find plenty of cheap music out there, but here’s just a quick surface glance at two artists you may want to check out.

 

1. Mystery Skulls – EP

Right when the first song of the EP, “Amazing” hits, you know largely what you’ll get. This band might not set the world on fire, define genres to come or cause some grander revolution. These tracks are simple and easy but they do not pull back. The Bass thumps out a rhythm and the rest of the music falls into a tremendous groove. The EP really takes off on the second track, “Money”. The synthetic beat ramps up gradually from a guitar riff paired with a single undulating ‘unce’ into a falsetto groove matched with vocals echoing from on high. Just before the chorus hits, the music sinks low briefly before expanding into a larger sound. The track climaxes to an almost absurd and over-stylized synth pop glory before it plummets into a calm valley filled with whispering voices and a tamed bass beat. It shoots back out at towards the end and easily creates the most dynamic and ridiculously over-stylized song on the album.

 

http://mysteryskulls.bandcamp.com/track/money

 

Mystery Skulls so embodies and hypes this sensation of synth pop that I almost want to throw it out, but something about the boldness of all that style makes it almost hypnotizing. The following tracks “You” and “Beautiful” do not measure up to “Money” but they emphasize some of the variability Mystery Skulls has in them. All off the songs on the EP follow a similar style and structure, but the addition of piano in “Beautiful” certainly mixes things up. When everything concludes on “Brainsick” I had to admit there was no way this music did not seem worth the asking price of 1 dollar. Sometimes it gets repetitive, and bit into its own pomp, but you could do worse with a dollar. It sure beats four gumballs or giving that waiter an adequate tip. What’s more, you can follow this up and coming Dallas band via their tumblr. They post up demos and new tracks pretty often.

http://mysteryskulls.bandcamp.com/

http://mysteryskulls.tumblr.com/

 

2. The Isosceles Triangle – The Isosceles Triangle

If all those anime theme songs, irritating vocaloid programs and saturated J-Pop hits have made you lose faith in Japan, then here’s a band that ought to restore it. The Isosceles Triangle fits their name quite well. They are a progressive rock, instrumental trio coming out of Tokyo with notable instrumental talent pulled together by incredibly clean composition and a strong creative force. The first track, “4 parts of 1” demonstrates their capacity to create an interesting beat that rotates through different speeds and sounds while maintaining continuity. They create seamlessly fluid music that does not overstress any instrument, something particularly rare for bands with talented instrumentalists. Their song “Spy Theme” ushers in a heavy bass line that holds down the rhythm with the drums so the guitar can create an eerie and intriguing solo that really does illicit a sense of excitement and  mystery that belongs in any spy theme.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvEfJ2wohBU

 

The cool composition brings in a jazzy feel that smooths out the whole track and brings the idea together. Instrumental acts often fail to put a sense of tone behind their music, something vocals can usually provide with more ease. Too often instrumental groups create a wash of heavy hitting sounds that, while it still might please the listener, often fails to hit an emotional chord or an interesting theme. All of The Isosceles Triangle’s tracks resonate really well, to the point where the titles of each track seem to make a lot of sense, despite having no words to explain them. “If I think Of…” layers on so much slow bass and plodding drums that when the guitar comes in with a layer of smoky solos, it all feels intensely nostalgic and sentimental, as though something from important from the past really was coming to mind again. The Isosceles Triangle turns out to be an excessively generous shape, too, charing you exactly zero dollars for its album. Naturally, the band probably wants you to pay a bit more, and they sure deserve at least five dollars for such an exceptional album, but as it stands, you can get it for free!

http://theisoscelestriangle.bandcamp.com/album/the-isosceles-triangle

 

These are just two bands providing great offers to their listeners. In the modern era, with low overhead and so much competition not only with other musicians but with illegal downloading, music’s a buyer’s market. Go out there this Christmas break and find some good deals, it is a lot easier than you think!

 

By Austin R Ryan

Advertisements

Gossamer Year


Here’s an article I wrote for my column “Feedback” on WVAU.org talking about Passion Pit’s new album Gossamer Year. I highly recommend it the site, album and the article! Design credits go to the WVAU web directors Marissa Cetin, Maeve McDermott and our website staff.

~Austin R Ryan

Cover Culture


Cover Culture

 

In my recent song selection I played two covers, the first being BADBADNOTGOOD’s cover of three Legend of Zelda pieces. I assumed that most people would recognize the beat of the old video game classic, even shrouded in a layer of smooth jazz. When I played the song, the idea of a cover culture dug at me. Every month I see a new remake of a movie and wonder whether Hollywood degenerated. I remember discovering Franz Ferdinand and feeling irritated that after only three albums, they produced a remix album called Blood. Unique pieces felt discombobulated by a mesh of mash ups. I felt angry that The Killers made their cover album Sawdust after three albums and then announced that they intended to do more covers. I wondered if these bands weren’t just throwing in the towel, caring too little to shell out something new.

Blood and Sawdust. How timeless.

 

Despite all the resentment I felt for cover culture, I played two covers on air because I cannot bring myself to reject covers, reworks, remixes, remakes or re-anythings outright. I love the way BADBADNOTGOOD smoothed the edges of a classic video game theme. The old styling of Jazz hyperbolized the beautiful nostalgia of a tune that already brought me years back. The way the instruments smoothly slid over the flashy eight-bit notes gave the song a sunny and calm feel that made all that nostalgia hit harder. I wanted to play something original to BADBADNOTGOOD, an original creation of any band. Nothing, even elsewhere in BADBADNOTGOOD’s collection, could send shockwaves of materialized memory ringing across my appendages, like those remade Legend of Zelda themes did. In my mind that made BADBADNOTGOOD’s remake as unique as an original work.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCHTX_pgw6A

If you think I am being emotional, just read those comments

 

So much of a piece of art boils down to the effect on the beholder, and plenty of original works never sounded so stirring. I played The Bad Plus’s cover of Tom Sawyer for the same reason. Tom Sawyer brought me into my musical identity. I remember getting struck by Tom Sawyer’s stupefying speed and rhythm long before I got into progressive rock. When Bad Plus played that song, they preserved the frantic rhythm of the original version and converted so much of it into a sound all their own, versed with a unique sense of drama as they built up to let the rapturous roll of the drums explode outward. Once again the wash of memory surrounded me, and I congratulated covers on eviscerating emotions and provoking ponderings in a way other works cannot.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXAbGUxLMRM

 

It is easy enough to judge the validity of a remake based off its merit. Blood sounded cheap and dull to me, so I dubbed it invalid, while Sawdust sounded better than some of The Killer’s original stuff, so I could at least say it wasn’t a waste. But I found a profound danger in that line of thought. Covers held more to them than their merit. Covers carried the banner of the past and more importantly of authority. Authority can restrict knowledge, talent and reason into the arena of the dull, or it breed something intriguing and new. The covers and remakes often sink underneath our skin because we recognize what they can take away. Sure, Sawdust sounded pretty good, but what if The Killers used those influences to create a unique album? Even if the remake of red dawn turns out to marvelously, the money used to make it could have funded an original idea.

We do not face a new issue. Even back in Enlightenment Europe Kant thought the authority of ideals kept people shackled in tutelage, restrained from ideological independence. Kant’s worries about tutelage are not entirely comparable with our worries about remakes, but it does show that even centuries ago we were worrying about this urge to copy the past.

Little known fact: Kraftwerk is Kant’s jam.

 

The cover shelters no special sin in its unique anatomy. The remake and the remix only highlight an age old fear of a culture coated in the authority of the old. Fighting all remakes or even remakes of recent works is not valiant or fair. After all, original works do not escape the script of the past. As humans the past shaped us, so of course we haul the past into the present. History figuratively repeats itself every day. The repetition does not teleport us back to the seventies; it just lets us walk through the important bits and pieces of it. I played two covers because in trying to move forward, I am walking back through the romanticized decades as much as anyone else is.

 

~Austin R Ryan