Thinking about something Intelligent Machinery chairman John Ingram brought up, I wonder if there is much of an audience for music available free on the web?

Certainly when discussing music with others, few people mention much in the way of free music or things they are listening to from netlabels. I have to wonder if the glut of free music is too much for most listeners? And those brave enough to venture out toward free music have so much to choose from that they move on fairly quickly to something new?

Even many net radio stations–Stillstream.com for example–which used to play primarily free music, seems to play significantly less now. Are most folk too accustomed to the label/radio/shop/television as filtering mechanism, that they just aren’t interested in listening to something they might not like in order to find something that they might? I’ve heard a lot of terrible free music on the web, sure, but I’ve also heard some of my absolute favourite music, too.

I have a feeling tapping into the mechanisms of commerce might be a surer way of finding a mainstay audience than putting up a “free music” sign, as perverse as that may seem. It’s only a feeling though, can’t say I know if going commercial would be of much use either, given the stories I’ve heard from folk who do try to sell their stuff.

Strangely, while I listen to lots of free music on the web, I listen to less now than I used to, and listen to a lot more things I’ve downloaded through my subscription with eMusic. So it seems I, too, am under the sway of commerce, programmed sheep-like along with the rest of the world.

New SIGHUP release today, Edison Moon:

This is so far my favourite thing I’ve made. It’s a reflection of everything I like music to be and it’s my small contribution to the plunderphonic artform.

The project has been in the works for six months or so, I had come across the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project curated at the University of California, Santa Barbara and was simply in awe of the contents of the library. Through some technicalities in copyright law, it is assumed that the Edison wax cylinder recordings are in the public domain, so the library has graciously transferred the collection of recordings and placed the raw transfers on their site for download. The collection is very deep, and well worth browsing thoroughly.

While I was looking it over for the first time, I accidentally came across several songs with the word “moon” in the title. Struck me as a sort of quaint ephemera, when popular songs had lots of moonlights, and gardens and sweethearts, so I started searching to see just how many moons I could find, and the idea for a full project was born shortly afterward.

I had played around with several of the recordings and built up a good stock of materials for a set of tracks, but in creating the tracks nothing was particularly cohesive. So I sat on the idea, did several other things in the interim, including my Kenji Siratori track and the Drum Machine EP, and once I came back to it, it all fell into place fairly quickly. I think I finisehd all five tracks in under two weeks.

I have plans to do more projects from the wax cylinders.

Click on the picture above to go to the release page. I wouldn’t recommend the lo-fi files that can be accessed through the player, go straight for the high-quality VBR recordings instead. I’ve listed there the eight recordings that comprise all of the source materials used on this project. I think my approach to the original material is both reverential and perverse, I hope it is perceived as such by listeners.

At last, February and its big bag full of suck has passed. To say that the month sucked a thousand magnificent donkeys would not be an overstatement.

To celebrate my return to blogdom, here’s something on the elaborate side for you, my loyal two readers.

About two weeks ago, I picked up the Jomox M-Resonator. I had been wanting to get an analog filter, since I did not have one about, and did have many digital filters already. I especially wanted something tabletop-sized and stereo to go with the MPC500 (pictured together above). I got mine from the fine folks at Analog Haven. Top service from the lot of them, highly recommended dealing with them.

The M-Resonator is cool, but isn’t perfect. It works very well as either a distortion box or a special effect. It doesn’t always have to make an over-the-top sound, as it can be subtle, but I find that a) it wasn’t really designed to be a simple, straightforward lowpass filter, and b) it can be tricky to get the same setting twice. Given the amount of knobs and the complexity of the feedback routing, I went in mostly expecting both of these conditions. They are only shortfalls in that it would be handy in some cases to move from simple to monstrous gradually, which isn’t the easiest thing to do with this, or rather, it can be easy, but in its simplest arrangement (a straightforward lowpass filter) the filter resonance can sound a little on the thin side.

One note on the build quality: the box itself is very sturdy, and the pots all seem like they’ll hold up, but the knob caps are pretty crappy. The place marker is a separate plastic piece placed inside the knob cap, and sadly seems prone to moving around independently from the knob. I’ve already had to dismantle and glue three of them in place. Not difficult to do, but annoying for new gear.

The envelope is very versatile as envelopes go (actually it has two envelopes doing some underlying voodoo). I do kind of wish it had an LFO. It’s not essential, since some the envelopes are pretty deep, but it would give you a means of getting sonic variety without resorting to moving knobs. Move them too much and the filter will go off on its own crazy little path.

Here are some sound clips to give you an idea of its sound:

Here’s a dry loop with some tablas.

Here’s an example of the filter being used subtly.

Here’s another reasonably low-key setting, gives you some nice envelope shaping capabilities.

Here’s some distortion.

Here’s some more distortion, screaming stylee.

The way the envelopes work, you can get all sorts of cool wavering effects with the filter. And you can kept some pretty huge bass sounds. However, it is often inclined to run off and play on its own, so with a lot of settings, you get a lot of this.

I’ve so far found that I like the sound of the filter best when set just on the cusp of extreme settings, since the feedback will move in and out of oscillation, and you can create some nice textural sounds. I had been playing around with it to see if I could come up with something to go in to the SIGHUP Machines series, but so far, I’ve come up short. It does have its own sound, but finding it outside of those dreadful Youtube demo cliches (watch me turn the thing on and randomly adjust every knob like I have no idea what each one does) might take a bit more time.

Here’s a somewhat unsuccessful attempt at a track emphasizing the filter. I don’t think I chose the right bed of sounds for it, so there’s an odd disconnect between what is on top and what lies underneath. But, as an experiment, it has some interesting things to say. It’s one live take playing the MPC through the filter.

SIGHUP – sketch #02

The track isn’t exactly my strongest effort, and highlights some of the difficulty I’ve had working the MPC into my style (i.e. lots of looped and droning sounds) since the MPC wasn’t exactly designed for sustained sounds. Which actually might be good for me in the long run, get me to using some new kinds of sounds.

Expect the M-Resonator to start showing up in my stuff more and more, already made heavy use of it on the first track of my next big project.

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