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Idyllic nature meets heavy beats on an emerging Paris label

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

stage Lpc

We talk about the idea that online democratization should be unearthing new musical gems — but you have to find them first. CDM contributor Zuzana Friday is scouring the Web, looking for the collectives and labels and artists who stand out of that virtual noise. First up: Paris’ Lpc.

With the growing popularity of contemporary (post)techno, there have been many collectives, platforms and labels forming around the globe who want to promote and share their own angle on this music, its aesthetics and its attitude. Amidst that overwhelming superabundance, one of the collectives that genuinely deserves your attention is a Paris-based Lpc, aka La petite compagnie. We already shared Aquatic Life, a beautiful oceanic video of theirs; now let’s check them out in detail.

Lpc is an independent label founded in 2012 by a small collective of friends who met in the south of France. They’ve dedicated the project to the memory of Antoine Debens, who they call “their faithful friend and former president of the association.” So far, Lpc consists of duos Keadz and Monochrome and two solo artists, XVII and Mas, who all name-check influences like labels Stroboscopic Artefacts, raster-noton, and 12k, and artists like Yves de Mey and Samuel Kerridge.

In the productions on Lpc, various elements of techno, dubstep/post-dubstep, and deep dub techno meet ambient and ethereal, organic atmospheres — a mix of inspiration from contemporary techno titans and nature. Those natural aesthetics are interwoven with field recordings in the sound, but also in the images they choose for promotion and music videos. The visual side of the label is run by Mas, who shares his inspiration in photo albums dominated by black-and-white shots of trees, forrest, and sky.

Keadz blurred

Mas

Nature for Lpc means “purity, timelessness, and simplicity,” says member Tarek Iked, “and that joins the idea of beauty that we have. Nature is very inspiring for us. When we are in a countryside, listening to nature’s sounds, we don’t have the impression that someone is talking to us — in contrary to music made by humans. Nature’s sounds are random and unpredictable, they vary constantly, and that’s what makes them beautiful.”

Opening Ceremony// Abyss from LPC on Vimeo.

In Paris, Lpc runs parties called Ceremony, each themed with headings like like “Abyss,” “Night,” and “Desert.” “We choose the themes so that the image and sound are completely inseparable,” says Ikeda. “By defining a theme, we have the feeling that the artists we’re inviting make a special performance for this occasion. We also noticed that artists like to be given a sort of restriction, because it awakens their creativity.” Records take themes like this, as well.

The previous compilation, Quiet Sum, aimed to “transform summer’s rest and quietness into music.” The compilation is the work of a group of friends, retreating together to the countryside to produce the music. Lpc’s next release deals with chosen artists’ perception of silence. It will include tracks by Elle from Hypnus, Fjäder from Full Panda Records, Lpc artists, and Paris’ Hydrangea, whose album Dawn Lights I also highly recommend.

Was 4’33” an inspiration? “Of course we know John Cage’s work, but it didn’t directly inspire us,” says Ikeda. “This album was an opportunity for the different artists to reveal their personalities through the meaning of silence. It was also a way to create something homogeneous and linked. For the moment, we have most of the tracks, and we can say that there are no blank records. But in case we would have received something like this, we would have probably keep it as it is.”

With the positive feedback for Monochrome’s fourth EP by artists like Cio d’Or, Cassegrain and Edit Select, the awareness of Lpc’s artists and activities slowly grows. But with such beautiful work, this is a label to watch.

Horty Shooter

lpc

http://soundcloud.com/la-petite-compagnie

https://www.facebook.com/PetiteCompagnie

keadz.bandcamp.com

quietsum.bandcamp.com

Keadz
soundcloud.com/keadz
on.fb.me/1iKgWE9

Monochrome

soundcloud.com/monochromemusique
on.fb.me/IcD3EN

XVII
soundcloud.com/lpcxvii/mix-i

mas
soundcloud.com/mas111

The post Idyllic nature meets heavy beats on an emerging Paris label appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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50WEAPONS, Legendary Techno Label, Just Announced It’s Dead

Monday, July 20th, 2015

50WEAPONS, the iconic techno label from Berlin known to be a home to major releases from the likes of Cosmin TRG, Modeselektor, Falty DL, Benjamin Damage, Marcel Dettmann, Phon.o, announced without explanation that it’s dead, via a video posted to Facebook (and now, YouTube). There’s even, ominously, a gravestone.

The “50″ in 50WEAPONS is 50 releases. And they weren’t kidding.

#rip50weapons [Facebook post]

It’s not a great time to be a label. Vinyl purchases are up, but production is backlogged and still requires capital. Download outlets are seeing major consolidation, with DJ-facing giant Beatport swallowed up into EDM festival ticket-pushing conglomerate SFX Entertainment. And then there’s streaming — ’nuff said.

The reason for the death at this moment isn’t clear. The label planned only 50 releases, and promised to stop afterwards:

“We still want to keep the concept of only having 50 releases, and then stop the label. Let’s see if we can manage to do so. “

Here, it’s tough to count. They had 39 releases on 12″, but more than 50 by other counts — so maybe they split the difference. It does seem that they are closing shop. Benjamin Damage on Twitter suggests we’ll see more, after death:

Some life is likely to continue. 50WEAPONS already pledged support for Native Instruments’ Stems format, which means 4-track stems for DJs should be available from the back catalog. And you can expect to find the artists elsewhere, as well. Modeselektor, who launched the project, are safely at home on Berlin’s Monkeytown.

http://www.50weapons.com

By way of memorial, Resident Advisor had a great profile of the label, complete with representative mix:

Label of the month: 50 Weapons

This post from a commenter summed up the consensus:

donlike

And, if this is all part of their plan to expire as engineered, well, this is also obligatory:

The post 50WEAPONS, Legendary Techno Label, Just Announced It’s Dead appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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A Pounding Free Download, A New Label, and Lots of Other Reasons to Love Paula Temple

Monday, December 22nd, 2014
Paula Temple. Photo: Julia Gunther.

Paula Temple. Photo: Julia Gunther.

For me, one of the best things about 2014 was, simply, Paula Temple.

The artist, on R&S Records, consistently demonstrates that you can combine a dedication to heavy, left-field but traditional techno with an expansive appetite for experimentation. And then there are her signature, over-the-top-in-a-good way bass detonations. Her DJ sets were each highlights — check out the Goûte Mes Mix below, heavily featuring her regular collaborations Dadub, Eomac, and Lakker (the latter whom I got to join Friday in Amsterdam, lovely lads).

And then there was her audiovisual show with Jem the Misfit, a shining beacon at this year’s Amsterdam Dance Event (from the aptly-named venue across the water, EYE). We’ll cover more in detail shortly as we talk to the artists but suffice to say I was impressed that Paula struck just the right balance between her shadowy, pounding techno world and more reflective moments of calm, perfectly matching the wondrous worlds of Jem the Misfit’s vibrant optical candy. Just as Paula Temple finds transcendence in tried-and-true techno vocabulary, Jemma Woolmore’s visual performance picked up familiar tropes — “let’s film stuff melting,” for instance — and makes them new, colorful abstract etudes and geometrically-tuned compositions.

Next up for Paula Temple’s ambitions is a new record label called Noise Manifesto. We’d heard word this was coming, but the free download “Gegen” gives us the first clue where this is going — before more releases come to Bandcamp and the like.

“Gegen” returns to Paula Temple’s roots. It is relentless, unforgiving techno with a synthesizer riff on top that sounds angry. It is also, for those of us who take pleasure in such things, a fine Advent gift. Grab it for free — unfortunately, MP3 only, but worth downloading. And then play it at some holiday party, ideally for your family get-together. Or, okay, maybe not.

pt_amsterdam_creditTaniaGualeni

What’s most important is, Paula Temple is effectively giving away a “secret weapon” — and, yes, I believe it.

‘Gegen’ is a very powerful word here in Berlin. It is a word of Tension. It is the word you see on all the protest posters on the streets, and when I first moved here, this instantly made me feel I have come to the right place. Residents standing up and AGAINST what is hurting people, and residents are active every week to be against (gegen) oppression. At the time I was making this track, I was invited to a club night called ‘Gegen’ and the atmosphere was something that left a mark on me. It’s a party environment that smashes up the idea of ‘normal’ and you are against yourself, your own fears and pleasures. This is why I’ve heard people either say it is the best night of my life or the worst night of my life. So I had to dedicate the track title to this night and to Berlin. In the same month I tested my new track when I played at Berghain for a benefit party — the reaction was over the edge! So for the past year this has been my ‘secret weapon’ in all my festival sets. I apologise to many people asking for the track for not releasing it sooner, it is a rave track and it really stands out on its own. So now I have decided to release it on its own. As a way to say thank you for giving me the most amazing year I’ve decided to make this a free download in the last two weeks of 2014.

Download via SoundCloud:
Gegen

PaulaTemple_Gegen

Credit to the Gegen party, too, which to me is notable in that it combines Berlin’s open-mindedness about identity and sexuality and expands it to a broad lineup of music — including some nicely experimental additions on the “drone” stage.

But somewhere between rave and concert, protest and meditation, I look forward to what comes next from this artist.

For more, watch her talk about technology and process — and technology as a platform for making it easier to be expressive — in her insightful piece with Slices:

Last year, she also walked through her technique of designing percussion with Ableton Push in a push. And that’s doubly interesting, as according to her resume she’s co-developer of the MXF8 from Grex Ultra Dynamics. That unique if unsung controller may have been a bit ahead of its time in 2004, but its combination of crossfader and knobs and buttons heralded various ideas that would follow.

Here’s that mix, complete with track listings — read more about it if you can read French.

Goûte Mes Mix #44 : Paula Temple by Goûte Mes Disques on Mixcloud

Let’s not be contented with ‘Gegen’ as the only free download. Her remix of Perera Elsewhere’s “Ebora,” featuring Aremu, is spooky, tribal-futuristic grooves with drops that require you to find a safe sitting position before listening. I’m effusive only because this has to be one of my favorite tracks of the year, even if I’m not partial to making lists.

While they’re streaming-only, you can also have a taste of her work remixing vocal artists in outings with the duo KNOX and (needing no introduction) The Knife:

Yes, “ridiculously massive” are the two words that come to mind.

Here’s the AV show:

Paula Temple HYBRID AV Show Teaser from Paula Temple on Vimeo.

HYBRID_NONAGON was a highlight of Amsterdam Dance Event.

HYBRID_NONAGON was a highlight of Amsterdam Dance Event.

“Deathvox,” the track, is actually frightening. I prefer to imagine scary imagery in my mind, though, rather than the wander-about-in-the-woods music video — nothing wrong with it, but sometimes internal visuals can be more fantastic. Definitely don’t miss the track, though. (And Paula’s performance in the video is a highlight.)

For more:

http://paulatemple.com

https://www.facebook.com/paulatempleofficial

The post A Pounding Free Download, A New Label, and Lots of Other Reasons to Love Paula Temple appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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After 100 Releases, A Label You May Not Know, But Should [Thoughtless Interview]

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

thoughtless

Noah Pred didn’t just run his own label. He has run a label that has traced a lot of the finest music of the past years, making its way from Toronto to Berlin. And he did it while juggling his own career as a techno producers’ producer, a DJ’s DJ. At 100 releases, he’s got plenty to say about what that musical journey has meant — and not just the easy bits. I pressed Noah to reflect on what he really thinks of the flow of the music industry’s power and resources to the top, and the conflicts that can happen in trying to keep a label like this going.

And, like any meeting with Noah, there’s plenty of great music to discover along the way — stuff you know, stuff you don’t. Certainly, I’d never be afraid of not being able to name-drop every release; Noah has a way of discovering superb music you wish you had known earlier. So let’s go along for that trip.

If you missed the last seven years, don’t worry. We have not only a chat with Noah, but some music to hear.

There’s a 50-track mix to mark the latest mixes, free to hear. (Track listing below, at bottom.)

And 130+ podcasts to hear, on Mixcloud, which I suppose should cover your next seven years.

http://www.mixcloud.com/thoughtless/

No? How about the entire catalog on YouTube in celebration of 100 releases:

https://www.youtube.com/user/ThoughtlessVideo/playlists

“Ah,” you say. “But, I can also read.” Good! Let’s! The music to hear, the life of a label, the effect of global capitalism on our souls — I’d say we’ve got our bases covered.

CDM: 100 releases — there’s a lot here. Walk us through it; where should people start if they’re new to the catalog?

It’s difficult to single out specific records when we’ve done this many. I’d like to think there’s a lot of entry points to the catalog. People into more classic techno sounds might discover the label by way of artists like Rennie Foster, Shane Berry or Arthur Oskan, whereas people on more of a deep house vibe might get there through Murr, Canson, or Derek Marin. Fans of rougher upfront sounds could find a path through Deepchild, Alland Byallo or Tonepushers, while those into dubbier stuff could get there through material by Meesha, Evan Marc or Stare5 (a.k.a. Bryan Zentz). Each release is a thread in the label’s fabric.

In particular, I really appreciate some of the artist finds over the years — thinking of cats like Dave Aju and, well, you. Who are some of the artists you’d like people to get to know?

We’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing talent, but I would probably steer people toward some of the lesser-known acts. Auk is a new duo from western Canada with loads of potential. Toronto’s Brian Johnson has a quite unique sound worth checking out. A guy who went by the name Platypus did a couple really special records for us, and two of my favorite releases from the catalog are from a short-lived Canadian duo who went by the name Co-Op.

thoughtless98

thoughtless73

It’s amazing, too, looking down the artist list, at the network of people who are here and their life beyond Thoughtless. Brendon Moeller, Hrdvsion, Johanna Knutsson, Kate Simko, Lando, Maceo Plex, Mike Shannon, Rick Bull, Qzen, Stewart Walker, Tim Xavier, XI, just pulling down the list. I’m not name dropping; these trigger memories, musical and social, people I keep bumping into… what is the role of community in that way? Does it mean something different to you that you have had them involved in the label?

I’ve always thought of it as a family, and yeah, as an extended community as well I guess. With all the artists and remixers we’ve been able to work with over the years, the label has brought a lot of people together. I knew some people on the label for years before ever working on a release with them, others I met through the label and then became good friends — there’s a wide range of relationships there.

Looking back, that’s one of my favorite aspects of the label: how many good and talented people have connected through it; lots of them have even gone on to work together in other capacities. And especially with all the Thoughtless events — where there’s always a family vibe — we’ve had some great times over the years.

Label head and producer — this is a lot to juggle. It’s pretty obvious how they conflict, but how has it influenced your work?

As a DJ, there’s few moments more exciting than dropping a new track from the label before anyone else has heard it or has it — it’s a thrill I’ve always looked forward to. But as a producer, it’s been tricky. Running a label, you have to hone your critical skills and maintain your version of quality control at all times. Applying the same critical approach to my own music has maybe improved my production, but it’s also made me second guess myself out of more and more decisions. I’d like to be able to move past that a bit and get back to a more natural, less mediated relationship with my own material.

We’ve talked a lot about the struggles independent music faces these days. Part of the dance music scene really is becoming an industry the likes of which the planet has never seen before. So let’s talk the dark side: what are the obstacles independent labels face now? Are there bright spots? Are there things that need to change for imprints like yours, artists like these to thrive?

Sure, there’s bright spots — plenty of talent being exposed that may never have seen the light of day in previous incarnations of the music industry; at the same time, there’s plenty of bright talent losing inspiration from the struggle to get noticed above the ever-growing fray of mediocrity.

In my view, most of the problems in the music industry are more deeply entrenched than people tend to realize. The music industry has always been tied up in a recursive relationship with technology, most noticeably during the past couple decades, and everyone’s been more or less trying to adapt in real-time. Those with knowledge or prescience of upcoming technological advances are best equipped to take advantage of emerging market forces.

thoughtless80

thoughtless68

Having said all that, I don’t see any of the fundamental problems in the music industry being solved until people are ready to collectively step back and ask what the purpose of all this competing infrastructure really is: what are we ultimately trying to achieve? Who does this infrastructure really serve? What problems are we trying to solve, in terms of cultural development, music delivery, and adequate compensation? Are the models currently in place serving those aims, or do we need to retool everything from the ground up?

The system now in place seems to remain fairly slanted towards the consolidation of capital, and many of the problems within the music industry tend to spring from assumptions built into the overall economic system — as above, so below. I think it’s crucial not to view or discuss the music industry in isolation, as though it exists in some kind of vacuum. Large-scale cultural changes may be necessary before we have a system in place that truly works for artists and fans.

I know the engineers building the services we rely on read CDM. What are the best tools right now in terms of getting music out there — not just producing, but on the distribution side? Where is there a place for new tools?

Well, I probably don’t need to talk about music production tools here — you’ve already got those bases covered and then some. But if you’re asking about label management tools, I’ve seen some promising platforms in development that’ll go a long way to helping those with big workloads get a lot of the administrative details handled more efficiently so they can focus on the creative, big-picture stuff.

However — much like the democratization of studio and distribution technology — those very tools pose a classic double-edged sword scenario: while they’re designed to help overworked labels manage their catalog, they also stand to make it even easier for peddlers of mediocrity to further dilute an already crowded marketplace with subpar output.

Keep in mind this notion that simply because you wrote and recorded a song it should automatically be made available to everyone everywhere is a relatively new concept, and an arguably narcissistic one at that. On the other hand, the idea of quality control is dangerously subjective; everyone has their own version of quality.

Instead, I would urge prospective (and existing) label owners to simply ask themselves whether their music is essential for mass dissemination — and if not, would their time, energy and resources be better spent in further development, or maybe even redirected to other fields? It’s a question I’ve begun to grapple with, and try to ask myself every day.

Track listing for that mix at top:

Seven years deep, Thoughtless marks our milestone 100th release with the second installation in our ERA mix-CD series. Featuring 49 tracks each handpicked from our previous 49 releases, one track per release – along with an exclusive new track, We Bug, from label boss Noah Pred to make fifty tracks total – the compilation is mixed by Pred himself. Weaving an expansive array of output through a dynamic narrative that highlights a number of the label’s recent accomplishments, ERA TWO serves to both expose and reinforce the label’s wide-ranging yet coherent aesthetic…

01 Ruoho Ruotsi — Waiting For Troll [TLM053]
02 Arthur Oskan — Use No Good [TLM052]
03 Daniel Ray — Warm Black [TLM078]
04 Co-Op — To Life V1 [TLM064]
05 Ethan Borshansky — Zag [TLM062]
06 Brian Johnson — All Of The Time (Tom Clark Remix) [TLM065]
07 Tomas Jirku — Solaris 2002 (Kenneth Scott Remix) [TLM089]
08 Stone Owl — Planet X [TLM070]
09 Android Cartel — Terminal (Billy Dalessandro Remix) [TLM082]
10 Arthur Oskan — Exit Strategy (Marc Houle Remix) [TLM071]
11 Deepchild — I Woke And You Were Smiling (Falko Brocksieper Remix) [TLM075]
12 Noah Pred — Left Unsaid [TLM077]
13 Derek Marin — We’ve Been Expecting You (Hreno’s Deep Pockets Dub) [TLM066]
14 Platypus — The Streets Have A Voice (Joachim Spieth Remix) [TLM072]
15 Stone Owl — CBD [TLM094]
16 Deepchild — The Suffering Ones (Tim Xavier Remix) [TLM055]
17 Metalogic — Dark Shines [TLM056]
18 Jason Short — Zone Of Middle Dimensions [TLM073]
19 Rennie Foster — Perimeter Abstract (John Norman Main Remix) [TLM099]
20 Lock Smith — Settle Down Na (Dave Aju Remix) [TLM098]
21 Deepchild — Riyadh (Deadbeat Remix) [TLM068]
22 Deepchild — The Suffering Ones (Gingy & Bordello Remix) [TLM057]
23 Santini & Tellez — Lost Thoughts [TLM059]
24 Danielle Nicole — True Romance (Roberto Remix) [TLM090]
25 Nigel Richards — Deeeeep [TLM058]
26 Noah Pred — Circles & Circles feat. Rosina (Joel Mull Hypno Dub) [TLM085]
27 Shane Berry — Akaforme [TLM074]
28 Deepchild — Safe Passage [TLM087]
29 Rennie Foster — Legionnaire (Exercise One Remix) [TLM081]
30 Simon Beeston & Andi Numan — Freaks Back [TLM096]
31 Arthur Oskan — Back In Black [TLM092]
32 Murr — Dive Into The Deepest feat. Rosina (Maceo Plex Remix) [TLM088]
33 Derek Marin — Being Sleazy (Alexi Delano Remix) [TLM084]
34 Alland Byallo — Blunderlust [TLM079]
35 Dave Vega — In A Chord With Something [TLM051]
36 Bryan Zentz — The Sprawl [TLM060]
37 Noah Pred — Monotasking (Brendon Moeller Digital Resketch) [TLM063]
38 Daniel Ray — Night Watchman (Pheek Remix) [TLM061]
39 Deepchild — Neukölln Burning [TLM069]
40 Signal Deluxe — Zero Seven (Reverse Commuter Remix) [TLM091]
41 Phantom Ambulance — Medicine (Dactilar Remix) [TLM054]
42 Brian Johnson — Time Will Tell [TLM080]
43 Deepchild — Slave Driver (Mihai Popoviciu Remix) [TLM097]
44 Canson — Don’t Stop [TLM076]
45 Noah Pred — We Bug [TLM100]
46 Noah Pred — Your Signal feat. Marc Deon (Steven Tang Remix) [TLM093]
47 Auk — Afraid To Fly [TLM095]
48 Noah Pred — Third Culture [TLM086]
49 Platypus — Soft Spoken Trees [TLM067]
50 Murr — Sacred Ground feat. Rosina [TLM083]

01:19:23

www.thoughtlessmusic.com

And more reading — Noah on his favorite 90s records:

FLASHBACKS 101 | REMEMBERING MUSIC THAT WAS ACTUALLY GOOD WITH NOAH PRED [chasethecompass]

The post After 100 Releases, A Label You May Not Know, But Should [Thoughtless Interview] appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Fret-King Black Label Elise ‘JE’

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Read more about Fret-King Black Label Elise ‘JE’ at MusicRadar.com


The 335-inspired Black Label Elise from UK firm Fret-King has been well documented on this site, but this John Etheridge signature is so new the paint is barely dry.

“This sample impresses, as it’s lighter than the previous Elises we’ve tested”

Essentially the same as the standard Fret-King Elise in terms of its Korean origin and solid-wood construction, this sample impresses, as it’s lighter than the previous Elises we’ve tested. As a result, played seated, it sits on your lap rather than having the tendency to slip off due to the weight of the body and its balance point.

Another change here is the three-a-side headstock, unlike the back-angled Trini Lopez-style six-in-a-line head of the standard model. It gives the guitar a more classic vibe that’s less racy. And that’s the aesthetic here: from the beautifully rich honey finish to the ultra tidy faux tortoiseshell around the top of the body, fingerboard and even the ebony pickguard (unique to this model).

One thing that isn’t correct on this example is the nut width. Here, it’s a regular 43mm, but Etheridge has spec’d a 45mm width, which will give air in lower positions: ideal for complex chords and picking.

Along with an altered layout for the volume, tone, Vari-coil and pickup selector toggle, another change here is the ebony ‘trapeze tailpiece’.

It looks like a standard floating wooden trapeze that you’d find on an archtop, but in typical Trevor Wilkinson style there’s a twist. Not only is the tailpiece glued down to the body – it doesn’t float – but we have through-body stringing.

It means the strings exit over small rounded-edge ferrules, but at quite acute angles that could preclude the use of flatwound strings – something for any old-school jazzers to bear in mind. Also, perhaps strangely given the flat solid back, there’s no rear-access electronics cavity – any electronic maintenance has to be done through the f holes.

Sounds

“With its downsized, offset ES-335-meets-mini-archtop vibe, the Fret-King is a superb guitar”

Clean, it captures plenty of the 335’s snappy percussion, but the Vari-coil could be renamed ‘colour’: fully clockwise (humbucking) it nails a very PAF-like low output ‘bucker tone that already has plenty of single-coil-like character. As you turn the control anti-clockwise, the sound thins out, and fully ‘off ‘ (single coil, voicing the screw coils only) has bags of sparkle and bite.

The neck humbucker has the right amount of plumy-ness; back the tone off a little and the clarity smoothes a little; knock the Vari-coil back and it’s like a slightly underwound P-90. With crunchier tones, there’s a very Robben Ford openness, but it’s hard to be definitive because there are so many colours here.

With its downsized, offset ES-335-meets-mini-archtop vibe, the Fret-King is a superb guitar.

Read more about Fret-King Black Label Elise ‘JE’ at MusicRadar.com




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New FedByMachines EP is Haunting – As Cut Recs Label is Going Subscription

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

fbm_abyss

Big players have gone subscription. But what about a boutique label? That’s the different distribution DFRNT has chosen. And whatever the model, his latest EP is simply gorgeous. Matt Earp unearthed this one and reports back.

The interplay between free vs pay-for music in the digital world takes new twists and turns every year. Everyone from the majors to first-time producers eventually have to make decisions about whether to “sell” their music or give it away, and then decide what exactly the concept of “selling music” even looks like in 2014. As a group, subscription models have been a fertile ground for novel business experimentation — everyone from Spotify to individual artists have played around with different ideas for how to make them work. A particular one I’ve loved and covered previously for CDM is Drip.FM, Ghostly International’s service for exclusives from itself and a raft of its label friends. So I was excited to get the announcement that DFRNT was working on a similar idea on a much smaller scale for his label Cut Recs. The new Cut subscription service has been running since March in its current form and the latest release is the super gorgeous 5 track EP from highly underrated Dutch producer fedbymachines. I thought I’d use the occasion of its release last week as a chance to dive deeper into the world of Cut Records.

DFRNT-Press-photo-03

DFRNT is Scottish-born, Riga-living Alex Cowles. Cowles is probably one of the harder working men in his corner of the digital music universe. As an artist he’s made a ton of music that sits on the more lush, cinematic end of the dubstep universe, blending its polyrhythms into dub, techno, and house. (Patience was a favorite release of 2013). He ran the recently defunct but seminal Echodub label that set a standard for his sound, but just ended it to launch his latest label Brightest Dark Place. The man’s a workhorse — his Insight podcast is at over 100 episodes, he both DJs and performs live, he designs great websites, writes for a couple publications himself, and publishes not one but two hilarious sites on the side — Music Descriptions and How To Send Me Music. You, me and everyone else only wish we were this much a renaissance man or woman.

His baby for the last several years has been Cut Records — a second label he launched purely to give away lush, complex music from artists he rates highly for free. His quality control is through the roof — many of its releases and artists have become dear to me over the years. And it’s a truly international crowd, with all sorts of tunes coming from Mexico, England, Canada, The UK, The US, France, The Baltics and beyond. But “free” ain’t exactly free – after 17 releases, he was having trouble paying the server bills and mastering costs, to say nothing of his long standing desire to actually pay artists for their work. So he hit on the idea of switching Cut to a subscription service in March of 2014.

From the press release announcing the move:

 Popular netlabel Cut is shifting from providing releases on a “pay what you want” basis, to a $ 1 per month subscription model.

For the last 3 years, owner, Scottish-born Riga resident DFRNT (Alex Cowles) has been curating a selection of electronic music releases featuring talent such as KRTS, Thefft, Essáy, Lung and Rain Dog as well as his own productions as DFRNT.

Citing rising costs, Alex has announced that in order to return to a more regular release schedule, and maintain the standard of music he is switching to a $ 1 a month subscription.

“We hope those who have not donated in the past might consider subscribing after enjoying all our releases so far. $ 1 isn’t a huge amount, and at just $ 12 a year you’re paying around the price of a single album for at least 12 quality releases.” 

Subscribers will get “at least” one release a month, but despite selling the benefits, Alex realises the subscription model is not going to be favourable with everyone:

“This is not a decision I have made lightly, and I don’t expect everyone to be happy about it, but in order to move forward, to continue to release good music, to regularly provide listeners with new and exciting artists, and to keep our little corner of the music scene alive, it is a decision that has been made with as much of everyone’s best interests at heart.” 

Find the official announcement at http://cutrecs.com/new-cut-records/, and subscribe to Cut on the new website at http://cutrecs.com/.

An ambitious move. Especially considering that if you subscribe now (for a paltry $ 1 a month), you also get access to the entire Cut Recs back catalog for the cost of your dollar. (If you don’t want subscribe, you can now pay for the tunes direct at Cut’s Bandcamp site.) Now that the new service is four releases deep, I wanted to check in with DFRNT to see how it was going. Cowles reports:

So far, the switch to subscription has been OK, but I was expecting it to do better. We had a mere 1% signup rate from our mailing list, so of the thousands of people who were happy to get free music in their inbox, only a few were willing to support it by this means.

However, some small-time promotion, and getting the word out on Facebook, plus a reminder to the big list got us up to a slightly more manageable set of subscribers. Still not enough to go wild, but enough to cover mastering costs on the releases, and get an email out to those who are subscribed about new releases.

I’m disappointed that I can’t build it up as much as I’d hoped — we’re getting very little traction in terms of press and PR. Nobody seems bothered that we’re trying to do something relatively new, so in that respect, it has become more difficult. Free music more or less spreads like wildfire, but as soon as there’s money involved, people switch off.

I’d like to build the service, so that we can get, let’s say 1000 subscribers. That’s a major milestone as far as I’m concerned. Then we can afford to pay artists up-front for their music, pay for mastering, pay for solid Press and PR — and really build things up from there — being able to guarantee an artist 1000 people effectively “buying” their release (as well as giving them a good advance) is probably better than many independent labels can do these days.

SO it’s fair to say that the venture is in untested waters, setting a price point and doing this sort of subscription service. It’s impressive that it can all be run by one man but it’s unclear yet whether a subscription fits in with the Cut listeners’s ideas about their methods of music acquisition. When Cowles asked for feedback on the switch, a fan posted a comment to the effect that the price point might actually be too low — that $ 1 could be perceived as more of a hassle than it’s worth and debase the “value” of the product, whereas $ 5 or $ 7 a month might make the subscriber think they were really getting something worth paying for. I’m not exactly sure if that’s the case or if something else is going on, but there’s certainly no script for what Cowles is doing. At any rate, I’m happy to see him try it – especially if he conducts his experiments using people like fedbymachines, a truly nuanced, clever artist whose Abyss EP is his best yet — equal parts atmosphere and bass-y shimmer that’s surprisingly good to dance to.

fedbymachines

So check out Cut Records and give your thoughts about subscription services in the comments.

The post New FedByMachines EP is Haunting — As Cut Recs Label is Going Subscription appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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A Digital Label and Online Radio With True Depth – Talking Shop With Dewtone

Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Dewtone FM

Dewtone FM

Turn your radio on. In an age saturated with a tyrannical quantity of choice, tuning into something consistently inspiring matters more than ever. Our resident sound seeker Matt Earp looks into one channel that’s providing just that. Dewtone is a fantastic place to go for a range of music, so much so that it’s worth investigating the person behind it. Matt talks to Dewtone’s Dustin Morris about how he’s making this work. -Ed.

Dewtone has been a complete joy to my ears ever since I found it — and the more I explore it the more I love it. I first came across it as a Bandcamp label that focused on deep music — sometimes more ambient, sometimes slightly glitchy, often on the slow hypnotic end of dubby techno. I’ve been exposed to countless new artists through it, and in turn to many new labels by further exploring those artists works. Nikosf. and Sven Laux have seen me through hard times. Because I write to them, it’s totally possible I’ve listened to the two Dewtone albums by Purl and Deflektion (2012′s Growing and 2013′s Rest In You) a greater number of times than any other albums in the last year.

Turns out my explorations, and the connections I’ve drawn, were just what label owner Dustin Morris had in mind when he launched the project as a streaming radio station. Dewtone.fm is a carefully curated channel (or actually now twin channel) of beautiful music. Many of the world’s best labels operating in the ambient, downtempo and dub techno worlds have their music on the station, and while it does have a fairly specific sound in some ways, it’s defined broadly enough to never be boring. Listening to it has actually been quiet humbling really — the more I explore the family of labels on Dewtone.fm, the more I realize what a small percentage of this world’s artists I know. Fortunately, if I ever get overwhelmed, I know I can just return to the Dewtone catalog itself, which has curatorial standards at unparalleled levels.

Dustin took time to answer some of my questions about the history of the Dewtone project and what’s coming up for it in 2014. It’s below, and if there was ever an article made to be read while listening to music, this is it. In order to hear Dewtone.fm, you’ll have to sign up for their mailing list to get an access key, but barring that, 29 staggeringly great releases are available on Dewtone’s Bandcamp page for streaming right now.

Rest In You [DTR029] by Purl & Deflektion

What’s your own musical background and what lead you to the universe of Dewtone sounds?
I’ve been involved in digital production since back when tracking was all the rage. Micro communities kept popping up around the software, laying the foundation for what ultimately became netlabel culture. For a time it seemed like there were an endless amount of sounds and presentation styles to uncover. I was completely enthralled by the movement. Dewtone had a short history as a netlabel from 03 to 05, then transitioned into a net-audio focused broadcast in 2006. It wasn’t until 2011 that the project re-launched a digital label.

Where are you yourself based?
I’m from Vancouver, British Columbia, but currently residing in Toronto. I’m hoping to swing through the UK, Germany and Greece this Summer to meet some of our guys before I head home. This time last year I was traveling through South East Asia and Australia. I’ve been a bit of a nomad! Our artists are scattered everywhere too, so it hasn’t affected label operations much.

For those that haven’t heard of it, what exactly is Dewtone, both in spirit and in component parts?
When you strip it all away, Dewtone is essentially a transient collection of soft sounds. The focus is on production technique, rather than genre, but there are reoccurring ambient and dub-centric themes throughout the programming. The core of the project is a 24-hour broadcast, supported by a monthly podcast and label. Some see it as a resource, or a service, others know it as an imprint, home to a few household names.

Can you give us a brief overview of how the radio station works, both from a content point of view and a technical point of view? What was behind some of the decisions you made and how has it evolved over time?
The station is split into two playlists. One is focused on lighter frequencies, the other deeper. Prior to this year, it was all on one channel tuned to whatever my current location’s day and night schedule was. This was always an issue, as Dewtone has such a far-reaching audience that timezones were preventing them from accessing all the content. This year we’ve finally raised enough to introduce a second channel and now users can flip between the two playlists at their leisure.

The web-player has built-in functionality to allow anyone to click the current track to bring up an artist’s catalog on Beatport. Legal downloads and artist support are principles the project backs at every opportunity. I encourage people to follow Dewtone’s Bandcamp collection too as that’s a platform many of us are hoping will continue to grow.

In December, we upgraded playback to 256kps, which is roughly double the average bitrate of your typical online station. In order to keep tabs on bandwidth consumption, a key was introduced for our web-player in order to access it. A key is automatically distributed to anyone who signs to our mailing list. It’s a quick little filter that ensures we’re getting the right people listening. We’re still 100% listener-funded, so those who donate to the project get external player access, priority connectivity (via IP registration) and a few bonuses from the label.

There seemed like a possibility that the radio would be taken down last year, but now it’s back. Tell us about that, and about its future.
I think as far as a lot of people are concerned, the radio has been taken down. Dewtone was readily available on just about every public directory service out there (Radio Tuna, TuneIn, iTunes Radio etc.) until last November. In September, Dewtone breached 25,000 monthly listens for the first time in its history and back-end costs were stalling the project’s growth. Public directories also discouraged users from visiting the site, which made it difficult to relay some of our values and introduce people to the artists. I had to either accept the project was going to stay stagnant, or figure out a way to raise funds to accomplish our goals. Taking the radio private brought forward so many people out of the woodwork. Donations poured in and here we are. I was blown away. I’m sure some CDM readers were in there too, so thank you!

Looks like you’re working on a mobile version of the Dewtone radio site — tell us more. When can we expect it?
We’ll be keeping it simple. If you visit the site on your phone right now, you are forced to zoom right in on the player in an attempt to connect and, even then, the display is a bit cumbersome. The idea will be to strip away some of the pages, lay it out similar to an app and have the sole focus on the radio. It should appear sometime next month.

What’s the release schedule for the label look like for the upcoming year?
We pushed a lot of music out over the last two years, so I’m not on a mission to release at the same pace, but it could still happen. We’re starting the year with a sophomore EP from Cordoba-based artist Nadia Popoff. We’ll be featuring a vocal performance for the first time on that release from Montreal’s Lily Jordy. Bjorn Rohde returns with a conceptual EP under his “Exif” guise, but reminiscent of his Forgotten Hearts EP. A full length solo effort from Purl is due out in the first half of this year and we also just confirmed that Sven Laux will be releasing another album with us too – so keep an ear out!

You’ve mentioned wanting to be involved in more live shows — what does that look like if Dewtone is, at its heart, an online radio station and label?
Well, with any show, a lot of that comes down to the artist(s) performing, the venue hosting and less about your digital footprint. You’re right to ask though, because finding the right context has been a challenge. Dewtone presents a lot of intimate music, not quite fit for the club and not intended to be background ambiance either. I was fortunate to host Loscil and Ali Khan to an engaged sitting audience last Summer, but I’m not sure we’ll see any Canadian shows until well late in the year. The goal right now is to get enough of us under one roof for a show in Berlin by July.

You’ve got a lot of assets to juggle — the label, the website, a podcast series, maybe upcoming shows, now mobile — it definitely seems like a multi-armed project. Where are you focusing energy for 2014, or if it’s still on everything, how do you balance it all and keep it in harmony?
When you lay it all out like that it sure seems like a lot! In all honesty, it feels much easier to manage now than a couple of years ago. I’ve been chipping away to simplify the process on my end in order to take on more. I think it really comes down to not putting too much pressure on yourself and to take your time. My focus this year continues to be on my relationships with the people involved, making sure we’re growing and getting what we both seek out of a collaboration.

Any other upcoming plans for you yourself or the Dewtone project?
I continue to write for Exclaim! (Canada) and I’ll start making regular contributions to A Strangely Isolated Place. Founder Ryan Griffin has been a big supporter of the label and many like-minded projects so we’re both looking forward to presenting more written perspective around that content. As for Dewtone, we’ll continue to maintain, build our audience and keep the door open for new collaborations.

The post A Digital Label and Online Radio With True Depth — Talking Shop With Dewtone appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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New Waldorf Synth Teaser Proves No One Will Make a Crazier Knob Label

Monday, January 20th, 2014
It's a cutoff knob - for a quantum singularity. Photo courtesy Waldorf.

It’s a cutoff knob — for a quantum singularity. Photo courtesy Waldorf.

This week is likely to be bursting with new synths. And one of the prolific makers of such instruments comes from Remagen, Germany, in the form of Waldorf.

Their latest teaser doesn’t tell us much other than there’s a new synth coming. But oh, my — that’s a crazy looking label for a filter cut-off knob.

There’s really only one way to respond to this:

For reference, here’s the last wild knob label from Waldorf, on their (wonderful, by the way) Rocket synth:

rocketknob

I just hope you don’t get your double helix in a strick on this one — what, just because the last NAMM preview coverage has occasionally been based on unverifiable, potentially-completely-wrong rumors and my inability to count to the number 4. (4×4 grid, 3×4 grid, maybe I go cross-eyed sometimes looking at a computer screen all day.)

Via De:bug

Updated: Tom Whitwell, creator of the wonderful former Music thing, suggests an alternative for an even crazier knob label:

Innerclock Systems Sync Shift MKII MIDI / DIN Interface [Matrixsynth]

The post New Waldorf Synth Teaser Proves No One Will Make a Crazier Knob Label appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Fret-King Black Label Country Squire Semitone De Luxe

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Read more about Fret-King Black Label Country Squire Semitone De Luxe at MusicRadar.com


The Fret-King Black Label range gets another string to its bow in the form of the tonally versatile Country Squire Semitone De Luxe.

Once upon a time, finding one guitar that scratched the itch of all of your tonal requirements likely involved chiselling the hell out of some poor old Tele or Strat to cram an overwound humbucker into its ravaged body.

These days, thanks to the likes of British hardware and pickup guru Trevor Wilkinson, you can take your pick from countless modified classics without troubling your toolbox. Which brings us to our review…

Build

“The Semitone De Luxe takes an established design and goes all Inspector Gadget with the spec sheet”

One of the new additions to Wilkinson’s well-respected Fret-King Black Label range, the Country Squire Semitone De Luxe takes an established design and goes all Inspector Gadget with the spec sheet. The story begins with a two-piece centre-jointed, semi-hollow alder body bolted to a slim C profile maple neck. The neck itself has a 254mm (10-inch) radius rosewood ‘board and 22 well-finished medium jumbo frets.

So far, so unremarkable… but here’s where it gets interesting. Unlike the American classic that inspired it, the Country Squire has a vibrato unit. Instead of the six- saddle format, the Wilkinson WVT vibrato has three vintage-style brass blocks to retain some of the T-type vibe. At the other end of the guitar, you’ll find Wilkinson’s E-Z Lok machineheads with staggered shaft heights to avoid the need for string retainers.

The Semitone De Luxe adds to its Swiss Army Knife-like versatility with a Wilkinson WHHB humbucker in the bridge position, a WHS single coil in the middle, and a WDG mini-humbucker at the neck. The wiring loom consists of a master volume, a concentric tone and Vari-coil control, and five-way pickup selector switch. Let’s back up a little. ‘Concentric’ means that the tone and Vari-coil are stacked. The tone is the large knob on the bottom; the Vari-coil is the smaller knob on the top. What’s a Vari-coil? It’s a variable coil-tap that shuts off a proportion of a humbucker’s windings to produce single coil-like output and tone as you turn the control down – handy.

Sounds

Plugging in, we find that while the bridge humbucker is all bright and spunky Dr Jekyll through a clean channel, stepping on the gain unleashes its filthier Mr Hyde persona. Winding down the Vari-coil reveals a tone that’s closer to the sweet sound of a Strat than a brash Tele, despite the clever bridge saddle setup.

Combining the coil-tapped bridge or neck ‘bucker with the middle pickup draws out sweet Hendrix rhythm and lead tones. We also like the clarity of the neck mini-humbucker. It’s just the thing for blues noodling, where you want plenty of dynamics without typical full-size humbucker slush.

The Semitone De Luxe’s looks might be more Nashville session ace than tattooed metal obelisk, but it easily covers that wide tonal remit – and all points in between.

Read more about Fret-King Black Label Country Squire Semitone De Luxe at MusicRadar.com

    


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Fret-King Black Label Series Ventura

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Read more about Fret-King Black Label Series Ventura at MusicRadar.com


Trevor Wilkinson’s Fret-King Black Label Series Ventura is a surfin’ bird with a love it or loathe it body shape. It also includes Trev’s Vari-coil control, which enables you to dial out a proportion of each pickup’s windings to help pull single coil-like tones from those humbuckers. Let’s take a closer look.

Build

“The upper bout of its American alder body echoes the offset design of a Fender Jaguar”

The Ventura that strays pretty far from its inspiration. While the upper bout of its American alder body echoes the offset design of a Fender Jaguar, albeit with an extended top horn, the unconventional squared-off lower bout looks like it’s been caught in a mangle, making the Ventura, visually at least, a bit of an acquired taste.

There is plenty of good news. Playability is first class thanks to a slim-profile bolt-on maple neck, 254mm (10-inch) radius rosewood fingerboard and 22 superbly finished medium jumbo frets. The Wilkinson WVP vibrato has a reassuringly chunky baseplate, not so unlike that of a PRS, while Wilkinson’s WJ05 E-Z Lok tuners keep the pitch in check. Power comes courtesy of a bridge-position Wilkinson WHHB humbucker and two Wilkinson WDG ‘Focusfield’ mini-humbuckers.

Sounds

“The Vari-coil control expands the tonal palette brilliantly”

The Ventura’s powerful bridge Wilkinson WHHB humbucker is perfect for full-on rock, punk and metal stuff. Conversely, the alder body/bolt-on maple neck construction renders the middle- and neck-position Wilkinson WDG ‘Focusfield’ mini-humbuckers with a lighter touch than you’d expect from those installed on a Les Paul.

For instance, there’s very little loss in clarity when you flick the switch to the neck position. The Vari-coil control expands the tonal palette brilliantly, especially when you want to back off the heat for more clarity in your overdriven moments.

It gives the bridge humbucker the opportunity to impress with a classic surf tone, too. On full power, the in-between positions are much fatter sounding than those of Fender’s finest, but judicious twiddling of the Vari-coil gets you pretty close.

Trevor Wilkinson doesn’t so much reinvent the wheel as give it a retread, whack on some shiny rims and then make sure it handles as good as possible. It’s an approach that’s working. Some of the best affordable new guitars that have been through our hands in the past year or so have had the Fret-King name etched on their headstocks.

Read more about Fret-King Black Label Series Ventura at MusicRadar.com

    


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