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Reviews of Independent Music

New Independent Artists - New Music - New Labels
 

Modus Vivendi Music Collective
 
Luke Etyrnal
 
Dr. Echo
 
K (just ... K)
 
Afternoons in Stereo: Aural Pleasure Karma Recordings (news to follow) Label to watch: Tokyo Dawn Shine - just a link, review to follow
Angina P. Greg Vickers 
(updated FEB 2002)
Marius Melleby Stone Idols
Aubergine3 (new: 4-03) Kahvi Radio Samizdat Sub CIty
Breeze Greg Long (updated DEC 2002) Saru
Domino M45 Sequel Trancenden
DRM (updated DEC 2002)
 
Mahogany Halibut
 
Sharee
 
Urban Phunk Society
 

Performances
Software and Services Reviews

I believe that one of the ways the web can work to liberate art and artists is through providing a direct connection in any direction.  Reviews are one tool for pointing the way to a possible connection.  Once artists and audience can connect and exchange directly, then the web will have justified itself in the music wars. 

There's always a twist  – in this case, of the rule that supposes some distance between reviewer and artist.  This page is devoted to reviews of work by people I’ve met and corresponded with exclusively over the internet -- usually because they posted the music for download and then mentioned that fact where I could find it.  Go to the Charts page for reviews or comments about releases by artists who have label support (who aren't independently hustling their stuff to an internet audience.)  

 

In the "pardon my dust" category, this is one page that needs substantial updating as part of the new look for 2006.  For anyone who enters here during the site update shake-out period in early January, , this note is just to let you know that changes are intended, but not yet in place ... revisit the page as the month rolls on to see what's new...  Thanks for your patience and persistence.

 

The month of August 2004 was incredibly rich in new music, as I heard from numerous artists who invited me to listen to their independent releases.  I was knocked out by the overall high quality and many of these excellent tracks were incorporated into the BeatConscious mixes on mmRadio and the Live365 stream ... here's a short rundown on the new stuff:
bulletThe Modus Vivendi Music Collective.  Their first CD sampler, "Vol. 1", is a solid collection of complex and absorbing tracks ... no fluff here, no moments when the mind wanders ... this is music to attract and hold your attention.  Label-mates B.N. Loco, Sanchez Dub and Julian Brody all distinguish themselves, top tunes (to my ears) being B.N. Loco's "Buen Ambiente" (a slight return of Basco's "The Beat is Over" is audible in there), Brody's "Greensleeves" and "Soula" from Sanchez Dub -- gorgeous downtempo vibes goin' on here.  More information available at www.modusvivendimusic.com and the above-mentioned tracks soon to be featured on the BeatConscious streams....  In addition to the sampler, there is a Sanchez Dub EP, and trust me, ya gotta hear "DVDs (Through the Wind Mix)".  Also part of the Collective is Plan B ...
bulletDr. Echo.  Dub today with deep respect to the dub foundations of yesterday ... this all-organic set (live percussion, trumpet and vocals, no samples) looks back to the legacy of King Tubby and Lee Perry while creating timeless sonic imagery that is deeply sensual and strongly spiritual ... In addition to including the Dr. Echo tracks on upcoming dub sets for the BeatConscious streams, I eagerly anticipate the chance to see a live performance when Florida hosts them in December.  You can check the web site: www.doctorecho.com for performance news and also for purchasing the Doctor Echo CD.
bulletLuke Etyrnal.  A solo artist spinning ethereal, deeply moving melodies, Luke sets the controls to GLIDE and invites you to join him for the ride.  Do it ... your mind and your body will be delighted.  In a jazzier vein, Luke's Brise de soiree d'ete opened a recent BeatConscious set (VooDoo Child's Slight Return) ... catch that one on mmRadio.
bulletK.  Remixes of extraordinary vision and originality ... not available commercially -- due, no doubt, to the difficulty of licensing all the elements used to create these amazing tracks ... simply a record of one musician's skill and devotion.  Listen at the newly-redesigned DigitalEvolution site http://homepage.mac.com/digitalevolution or you can hear his JimE close out the above-mentioned VooDoo Child's Slight Return on mmRadio....   May 2005:  Let me update this just a bit:  A full-length CD of K's original material has just been offered for limited release this month ... hear the entire album stream from the DigitalEvolution site and also check out the downloads page, where a new track will be available each month.  There is beautiful, dazzlingly beautiful music to be heard here....visit soon.
bulletAfternoons in Stereo.  Nom de musique of Greg Vickers (see below), an exceptional talent ... just about every  set I've done this summer has included an AiS track (or two) because Greg's inventions are among the best:  wickedly intelligent, solidly rhythmic, captivatingly melodic -- totally absorbing.  
bulletTokyo Dawn (label).  Not sent to me personally, but a regular update on their new releases is supplied to the downtempo.com list ... this label is shockingly hot ... Check out their freely-downloadable mix sets and ponder this:  all selections used on these mixes are by Tokyo Dawn artists, and there's not a bad track in the pack.  Hiphop, downtempo and basically any other style that catches their interest ... stellar production and a distinctively fine web site in support of it all -- this German label has the juice ... can't recommend them too highly.  Because of their generous download policy, you will hear numerous tracks from the Tokyo Dawn catalog on the October 2004 BeatConscious set "You Know Me Now" ... a compendium of recent independent music featuring music from the artists in this review.

And that's just a sampling of the very fine music people have been sending my way this summer ... in the table below, you will find all the original reviews of independent music that I worked on in those first heady days of exploration on the internet ... a number of the sites referenced have disappeared in the intervening years (and perhaps the musicians responsible for those sites have disappeared as well, which would be a shame ... )  At any rate, if you read of someone who interests you and can't access their site, please try searching online using Google or something similar ... you may still be able find the music you seek.)

 



www.aubergine3.com 

A long-time contributor to thedownbeat.org forums, and fellow Washingtonian, Chauncey Canfield is part of the group Aubergine3, which I first became aware of through the online version of The Washington Post -- they had a section for local bands to post tracks, and I downloaded a number of Aubergine3's back in 2001.  

Chauncey let me know he would be attending WMC as the guest of Shure, having submitted an original track in their "DJ Biology" competition which ended up winning the Grand Prize. In addition to lots of Shure gear, the prize included a trip to Miami, where we (including  Laura, Chauncey's wife, and Christine Moritz, a DC DJ) got to hang out and hear some music together.  

While in Miami, I got a copy of Aubergine3's new release on  Transistor Recordings, In All Things Modulation, and it's good to hear the group's solid progression from those early tracks.  If you are a DC resident, I can only recommend that you catch them live ... for a schedule of dates, you can contact www.aubergine3.com and get the details.  

I'm considering a couple of tracks from the "...Modulation" CD as candidates for the set-list: Panderthal Redux and The Pickup should show up on the stream in due time....  They do the "electro-organic" thing with style and invention -- an Aubergine3 track would elevate any downtempo mix.
In the waning days of thedownbeat.org, Marius Melleby posted a notice about his music, inviting us all to check out his tracks on mp3.com.  It took me a while to sit down and listen, but it was definitely my pleasure when I finally did ... Marius, a 20-something musician from Oslo, Norway, had a couple of dozen tracks available and the range of styles is respectably broad, but the sound is consistently lush and inviting, and the musical skills are strong.  Don't let this one pass you by -- outstanding music!

The Link: 

http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/39/earwax.html

 

Another set of tracks which, at the time of the review, was too new to me to have been included on a mix yet, but there's fantastic potential here ... check back to see where Marius takes me.... 

The Link:
http://www.softartstudios.com/party/balancegl.htm

http://www.citrona.net/

 

The newest indie music in the door is from Greg Long, who has a sampler CD out right now (FEB 2002) on the Shadow label.  Christina Long, a community member of thedownbeat.org, put me in touch with this three-track sampler, as well as pointing me toward some MP3s to download.  On the CD, it's the cut Tease which I like the most -- for its beat, its horns, and its subtle touches of electronica.  From the downloads, I pick Glimpse, which has a darker, rougher feel to it.  

Update, Dec. 2002:  Greg's label, Citrona Recordings, continues to push out gems, and you'll find him wearing both musician and remixer hats on the latest releases.  Greg's nom de musique for The EP CD is Canton, and his style is deepening and becoming increasingly confident, employing a tight balance of electronic and organic sounds.  "Focus" suggests a Thievery Corp influence, which is a fine space to find yourself in.  "One Day" is a study in dubwise vibes.

Clearly, Citrona is the place to look for your musical refreshments in 2003. 

All this is still too new to have made it onto a set, though for my money, Glimpse is the one to work with ... but I know there's more of Greg's music to hear before I make a selection.
Urban Phunk Society

This German group was one of the brighter musical delights I found at www.besonic.com checking out their Electronic Dance Music categories.  As the group's name implies, Urban Phunk Society are all about bringing smooth, bumpin grooves to your listening experience.  They have a solid professional sound and they're not afraid of adding a luscious layer to their tracks ... perfect for gettin' your lounge on!  

The Link:

http://www.urban-phunk.de 

Yep, the captivating track Body Waves made it onto the Oddstep Culture mix.  More to come?  Watch this space....

The Link:

http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/64/sub_city.html

 

Sub City

I discovered Sub City while checking out the links on the Angina P. page -- I figured that the lady had such good musical impulses she'd probably be attracted to some equally talented folks.  Sure enough, this Vienna-based group makes chocolatey-rich triphop tracks, great moody grooves.  There's not a huge amount of information on their mp3.com web page, so don't expect to get friendly with them unless you strike up an email correspondence.  Their music, however, will give you that warm welcome feeling -- and, like chocolate, leave you wishing there was a bit more.

So far, just an unmixed compilation of Sub City, Angina P and some tracks from the Kahvi Collective ... but a fresh new triphop mix would be a good thing, and they will surely be part of it.
Trancenden

Another gem from the pages of mp3.com -- prolific production from this duo, reflecting their stylistic connection with the triphop'n'funk of K&D and Nightmares on Wax, and influences they claim range from George Benson to Alex Patterson. 

Just as their influences span genres, so does the variety of music they have available for download.   There's something for every mood -- dig in and enjoy 'em....


The Link:

http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/19/trancenden.html

 

Indeed!  In fact, one of the most popular downtempo sets I've made is titled in honor of the Trancenden track that appears on it -- Downtime: Dig This.  Recently completed is another mix (Oddstep Culture) which also has a few Trancenden tunes on it -- hey, these guys make fine music!


The Link: http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/70/angina_p.html

Angina P

I needed to get on over to the Angina P page on www.mp3.com to satisfy my curiousity about the unusual name and learn something about the author of these emotionally compelling DnB tracks, originally recommended to me by Greg Moreau of Radio Samizdat.  

She turns out to be a single artist, Austrian, with a slender catalog of tracks and lots of fans.  No wonder -- she crafts richly minimal tracks, highly listenable stuff.  There's a particularly nice interview with her posted on the Radio Samizdat site (http://www.aisllc.com/apinterview2.html) that will give you the necessary introduction.   A bonus for visiting her site was grabbing her link to SubCity, an outstanding Viennese downtempo outfit reviewed elsewhere on this page. 

Both Tokyo 6PM and Grayday are the obvious choices to grace any mix of atmospheric Drum'n'Bass tracks.
Saru

The most recent connection I've made has been with Steve Branson, who records as Saru.  Steve is a fellow staff reviewer for thedownbeat.org, where we both contribute to the effort to bring the world to fuller knowledge of fine music.  Steve got my attention with a thoughtful posting about what it means to be a musician in the age of Napster.  He kindly satisfied my curiosity about his music with a sampler and links to his tracks online.

This is some delicious music, moody and deep, melodically rich and exotic -- everything I like best about downtempo and triphop.  As I listen to Subterra, I'm at a loss to put a name to  the sense of the familiar it gives me ... maybe that's just the essence of liking something at first listen....

Look for Saru's Downtempo Dojo on the Shadow label, and check out his website for information on the next release.


The Link: http://www.downtempodojo.com
Saru's radio station: http://www.realtime365.com


Well, it's only just come in the door, so I haven't used it in a mix yet, but I would like to build a set around Subterra.... 


The Link:
  http://stage.vitaminic.com/g3/ 
http://www.gregvickers.com/music 

 

GREG VICKERS

Downloaded a dozen tracks from Greg’s Vitaminic page and other online storage, after he posted to thedownbeat.org forum inviting us to try ‘em.

From exchanging emails, I’ve learned that G is Canadian, articulate, passionate about music.  He’s a musical omnivore whose tracks span a number of styles – like a resume showing all the moods he likes and can create.  He’s a dab hand with funk and downtempo, but seems really suited to upbeat stuff … no apparent dark side here as yet, though he's flirting with atmospheric drum'n'bass and that could lead anywhere.

I particularly liked his RMX of KC and the Sunshine Band’s I’m Your Boogie Man and his downtempo twins Lemon and Lime and Velvet Martini – those are not only my personal preferences, but I think they show off G’s musical intelligence best too….  He seems to turn out new material at a steady rate, so I know there'll be more to consider soon.

REVIEW UPDATE 23 FEB 02:

As anticipated, remixed, release-ready versions of four of G's tracks have been gathered together as The Afternoons in Stereo Electronica Project. The results of the smartly polished production treatment has been to work a change on the selected tracks that's really stunning.  When I reviewed the original demo versions (above), you'll notice I didn't mention It's A New Dawn, New Day -- it just made no impact at all.  But with the capable production contributions of JAF, working at Chateau Forest, this has turned into a bit of vocal driven funk that incorporates some irresistable house rhythms and dub touches--it sat me back in my chair and had me taking notice.  

Modernist Abode has had a similar deepening and phattening.  This stuff sounds awfully good, and now I understand Greg's disclaimers when I put the demo version on a mix ... he knew what it COULD sound like once the production work was finished.

Two versions of the very jazzy Esquema da Sophia grace the Afternoons in Stereo EP:  The first is defined by some moody swinging and smooth horns ... the second version (and closing track on the EP) seems to spring directly from the bandstand of a small jazz club, bass lines played off against a horn's bright upper register.  I'm partial to the opener ... but you listen and find your own favorite.

In addition to the music of Afternoons in Stereo , look for the launch of www.gregvickers.com, which will showcase G's art and music portfolio. 


I gave G his own compilation CD, because of the volume of his output.  I'll be using those downtempo numbers on a mix that will be posted here later.  In the meantime, his Boogie Man RMX adds a stellar moment to the recently-produced Oddstep Culture set

Modernist Abode (the "demo" version) appeared on East Coast Basis, along with Abstrakt Jazz, another demo (which was edited out of the BeatConscious radio show that aired in November 2001.)

The Kahvi group: Xhale, Vae, 4t thieves, and more...

Big big thanks to Vae who sent me a note suggesting I check this site out … right you are, it’s brilliant: totally crisp, blond wood site w/ spare, elegant graphics  and great links to the Kahvi Collective:  I visited the sites for  miasmah, choqolate, theralite and others.  There was great music on every site and I strongly recommend them for all varieties of electronic / dance / IDM tracks.  Plus which, there's good strong funk going on in this northern consciousness -- actually, the bands are from Finland, Norway, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Australia, UK…quite global, really…but because it was Vae that contacted me, the association created in my mind is northern.


The Link:
  http://www.kahvi.org 

There was enough material amongst all these links to give the Kahvi collective a couple of their own compilation CDs.  As I identify my favorites, I mean to move them onto other mixes.


The Link:
http://stage.vitaminic.co.uk/mahogany_halibut/ 

Mahogany Halibut  

Downloaded the tracks from their Vitaminic page after Toby Webb mentioned in an email exchange about Black Science Orchestra that he had tracks posted there.  He provided this background on the group:

Mahogany Halibut are Tobias Webb and Mark Billyeald, two layabouts from the UK who got some cash together in 1996 to buy a Roland Mc303 and spend a year learning what the buttons did, then wrote 3 albums on it by 1999. 

Albums to date include: 

The Epic (1997, 34 minute piece) 
Dead Fishy Ramblings (1998) 
A Squabble of Collective Nouns (1999) 
Kickin Chebab (presently under production) 


Early Sampling was done using BBC sound effects records, Indiana Jones tapes and Korean folk CD's, not forgotting a confusing dabble with a Korg Prophecy, which achieved about one note, literally. 

Stuff in the pipeline includes a mahoganyhalibut.com website, a new album and more tunes to go up online.

M-H is on one of Vitaminic's ambient pages and that’s fair enough, but really there’s a welcome funk component in a couple of these tracks:  Balloon Man has just a bit of that bumpin thing goin on; Bone Merchant has a Morcheeba feel as it gets underway – this triphop number is the most impressive track for me.  


Of the Mahogany Halibut tracks I've heard so far, I'd put Bone Merchant on my next triphop mix.  But there's more in the pipeline, so check back on this review later....

 

DRM

I originally followed a link in a newsletter from  thedownbeat.org to the drm tracks on www.mp3.com and corresponded with him because he was located in the same part of the world I’m in, and I figured he’d know about the music scene here.  I downloaded his tracks from mp3.com, and also went to a downtempo club in Tampa’s Ybor City to hear him do duty on the decks.

Now here’s an example of a guy, both as a composer and a DJ, playing the sounds I’m just naturally drawn to, that minor key dark side stuff,  persistent funky beats, spare and relentless.  He could take this style in any direction really and I’m curious about which one he’ll choose once he heads north to pursue musical possibilities.  For now, his tracks Triple-eyed and Breathing Signs deliver the mood and the beats, and Green in Blue kicks it up to the next level of complexity by virtue of the jazz threads runnin thru it.  Likewise It’s the Truth is focused and narrow, very compelling funk twist on this minimal sound … 

DEC 2002 Update:  Since the time this review was written, DRM has relocated to NY and helped to start the Bastard Jazz label ... the good folks at Citrona Recordings hooked me up w/ this fall's release, Shaeed -- a 4 track EP featuring the title track in its original and remixed forms.  "Shaeed" is a gorgeous number, rooted and ethereal at the same time.  The original version is supplemented by two remixes -- by Greg Long and by Greg-as-Canton, increasing the tempo and the presence in the bottom end and re-emphasizing the melody.

Check out the Bastard Jazz site (link provided on the right....) for up-to-date information on their releases and future plans.


The Link:  

http://www.bastardjazz.com


DRM's moody tracks make perfect mix material, and I'll be adding them wherever there's a need to downshift in a mix.


The Link:
http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/78/radiosamizdat.html 

Radio Samizdat 

At about the same time I found the drm tracks, I got tipped off to Radio Samizdat … when one of the band members posted a BSP to thedownbeat.org forums.  Turns out Greg is a Washington, DC artist, and I’m curious to know what kind of electronic music my hometown nurtures. 

Radio Sam describes its work as Atmospheric Electronica, which was a bit different than what I'd been listening to at the time … not so sly and knowing as a lot of downtempo, but spacious and embracing as you might expect from the ambient / trance tip … it’s a change I’m enjoying as I sit listening to 3rd Tiger.  We get really spatial with All In Life Is Sorrow which gives me a vision of Radio Sam waves beaming out into the icey universe … but this is less impressive than the track that follows:  Inshallah delivers anthemic, uplifting trance ….  Ah, and then, something else to like: Trespasser gets into the dark /minor key range. 


Haven't mixed with any of the Radio Sam tracks yet, but again, that's my fault, not theirs....  Their epic uplift is a mood I need to get into once I'm tired of my same old same old....  Meantime, I foresee Trespasser appearing on a mix shortly.

 

Breeze

Well now here’s a classic music biz story … I hear this group on www.besonic.com and even tho’ I initially pigeonhole it as earnest pop fluff, really, the hooks are effective and the vocalist indisputably does the trick for me … I email to them to say “Great stuff” and learn from band member Ben Rush that 1] they are being courted by a major label and 2] they are re-recording everything because they’ve changed vocalists!  Well, dayum.  

So I guess I’m reviewing a group that doesn’t actually exist now – though perhaps these tracks still remain on Besonic to represent them – and I remain curious to know whether they can get themselves another vocalist this good effective.  Listen while you can.


The Link:
  www.breezemusicuk.com 

I'm looking for opportunities in the generally darker sound that I tend to work with, to slip in a Breeze track.  Their hooks will make any mix they appear on one to hear over and over.

The Link:
www.bristolsound.co.uk

http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/47/sequel.html

SEQUEL

I'm a little hazy on how I found www.bristolsound.co.uk -- you've had the same experience, wandering around the Internet, I know.  But I found excellent music there, including a few drum'n'bass tracks by Sequel.  The most intriguing number, "Like This", had disappeared from the website by the next time I visited and if I hadn't downloaded the track, I might have thought I dreamed it.  I contacted the site, asking about it, and was referred to Sequel's CD -- but my favorite track didn't appear among the titles.  

This is one artist I'd like to know more about, especially whether any future releases are planned.

 

 

Yep, there's tracks by Sequel on a couple of my mixes -- look here:

"One Style" on   I and I Dub Stylee
"Like This" on  Funktional Dub

SHAREE (aka SCYTHIAN)

Sharee is one of the many Amazon wonders of the sisterdjs community.  She DJs, obviously, but also produces original music, designs for and contributes to the junglevoodoo collective's website, and then does all that regular stuff like you and me: have a job, have a relationship, have a life.  Multitaskus maximus.  Because she posted to the sisterdjs group about new music she had available for download from www.mp3.com, I discovered her tracks and a whole lot more besides.  Since that time, I've also received a sample of her DJ skills in the form of the CD "Meridians" -- it features not only impeccable mixing, but also some of the finest cover art I've yet seen  come out of the DIY music world.

Sharee's style reminds me of the music on the many fine mixed sets I used to get from www.pureacidmixtapes.com -- what I think of as the So. California jungle sound: menacing, relentless, dark.  If you're after muscular music, Sharee and the Jungle Voodoo Collective have what you need. 

The Link:

www.mp3.com/sharee
www.junglevoodoo.com

I would need to be very bold indeed to venture into mixing Sharee's style of jungle ... maybe someday.


The Link:   http://piescream.org 
http://swexel.iuma.com 
http://mekanik.iuma.com 

Domino / Chaos Theory

Pixel posts to the sisterdjs group which is where I saw her mention of new music that she created along with her partner Mekanik.  She kindly sent me a CD to listen to, along with this comment:  Domino is poetry and electronic music arranged by the artists Mekanik and Swexel.  Although most of the arrangements on Chaos Theory (their first release on Gray Recordings) have an industrial feel ... Swexel and Mekanik are multi-genre producers.  On their latest release, they appear as M45

Chaos Theory is for when you want to get yr gritty on, seriously.  Spoken word and an austere, grinding library of sounds … touched every so often by a danceable beat … I think they’re playing hard to get.  No, actually this is more like hardcore IDM.  I had a good friend who objected to punk bands back in the day, on the basis that they sounded so urgent but were largely unintelligible … they demanded your concern and then prevented you from focusing that concern on anything.  There is an argument to be made for verbal clarity, but a sound experiment is not the place to do it, I think.  Mixawhirl was the track that broke down my resistance….

M45 UPDATE:

The group was kind enough to send me their next, self-titled CD (also available on MP3.com) and this one moves on toward danceability without forsaking the experimentalism that is their driving wheel.  The tracks that really caught my attention were Parabola, Hardware and I Don't Belong Here.  I think I understand the decision to muffle or otherwise dilute the vocals, a technique used often on this set, but since I'm fond of the effectiveness of voice in raising music, especially dance music, to the next level, I hope M45 moves on to that level, too.  I understand there are new tracks available on their MP3.com page, and urge you to hear these women for yourself.

Couldn't mix with this one -- sui generis and all that.  But if and when they pop out the intended dance-friendly next release, they could enliven a techno set.

Stone Idols

The very first band whose music I downloaded once I got an internet connection – and , o what a time we had, getting me something listenable (I got a screenload full of code for the first couple of tries…)  Eventually, when they got their album out (Reversion was self-published once they got tired of trying to strike a deal with a label) I bought a copy direct.…

Brian Eno is the influence on this group … in fact, I found them while following Eno links in one of my first-ever internet searches.  They do an excellent job of honoring this influence, too.  Stately and rhythmic tracks like Under Dark Skies remind me a little of the Eno/Byrne collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts….and you can’t beat that.  Michael Brook is another name that comes to mind … If you like elegant ambient guitar and beats, these guys provide f’ya.

Stone Idols is: Rob Jenkins: Synths, Guitars, Percussion, Production; Martin Smith: Synths, Percussion Co Production; Neil Cowley: Synths, Percussion


The Link:
 http://web.ukonline.co.uk/Members/rob/ 

Another group that's easy to work into an ambient set, or as a bridge in a downtempo set.  

 

These reviews are posted to help bridge the gap between you and some interesting music.  Let me know if they accomplished that purpose; if there's an addition that would make them more useful to you, tell me what it is; if you have music posted on the internet that you'd like to have reviewed (or if you have a recommendation to make) here's the opportunity to say so: 

There used to be a form you could use to make your suggestions, but spammers have hijacked it too many times ... please feel free to email your suggestions to talkback at beatconscious dot com and including the following info:

bulletSuggestions for adding a new feature to the reviews page
bulletSuggestions for artists that should be reviewed, along with their website, if possible
bulletYour email address, if you would like a reply

Your feedback is welcome and it is important to make the reviews page better -- thanks!

SOFTWARE AND SERVICES

Software:

MixMeister (v. 3) available from www.mixmeister.com

A friend recommended MixMeister and, since a trial version was available as a free download from the MixMeister site, I decided to give it a chance -- certainly my beat matching skills could use an assist from time to time, and since I'm not a "working" DJ, I don't need to be concerned about misrepresenting my abilities by producing bedroom mixes that I can't duplicate live.  So, yes:  help me out, lil' MixMeister!

I decided to sequence a mix, and pick one thorny cross-fade that was obviously too difficult for me to do well  as a candidate to run through the MixMeister mill.  In addition, I worked up a true beat matching segment that required two tracks to play simultaneously and not sound grotesque.  My concept was to make these two segments with MixMeister, then export (burn) them to CD and use the resulting mixed tracks along with my other selections to finish off the set in the usual way (I normally use a Tascam CD302 dual deck and a Numark 2002X mixer to work my magic.)

Like many another sound editing program, MixMeister gives you a visual presentation of your tracks, and for us visually-oriented folks, that's a real thrill.  However, just being able to "see" your music won't entirely compensate for a tin ear, so be prepared to listen and listen and listen to every adjustment you make -- it might look good and yet not sound quite right.

You can set MixMeister to automatically beat match for you, but in doing so, you'll lose some ability to fine tune the start and stop points of the cross-fade.  I had some pretty definite ideas about where I wanted these tracks to begin and end, so I chose to use the manual functions of the program (adjusting the tempo, the bass volume, etc.) to create the effects I needed.  The primary benefit, of course, was not having to do this work "live" and in one pass, but being able to tweak and re-tweak it until I felt satisfied. 

The end result is far from perfect (well, thank goodness, or it would make all my other mixes sound pretty rotten!)  I passed on perfection partly because I realized at some point that, while I could play with it endlessly, I really needed to finish up the project and move on.  I think there's plenty more for me still to explore with MixMeister, and I believe it's possible to become really handy with it ... if the goal is to make yourself some close-to-flawless mixed CDs of your favorite tracks, you could get there with MixMeister.  And, another blessing:  the price for this dynamite little program is currently just $39.  I would recommend the program both for its functionality and the fun you'll have making those mixes sound tight!

By the way, if you're interested in the mix project described here, check out Oddstep Culture for the complete set list.  This mix has not yet been posted to my Live365 show, but if you're curious about the results, contact me.

 

29 SEP 01:

The fine people at MixMeister hooked me up with an evaluation copy of the Pro version of their excellent software.  You'll find my write-up here.

Services:

Legal downloadable mp3s by subscription from www.emusic.com.

The past few months have given lovers of free music plenty to groan about, with the demise of Napster's file-sharing service, the co-option of MP3.com, and the apparent end of the great big internet music goodie bag.  While other programs and services will seek to fill the gap and continue to help you find your music, the subscription model for downloadable music is worth testing out, since it's very likely to be the future we all have to live with.

I chose emusic.com because I've already been to their well a time or two -- they took over the old blend-your-own CD site, CDuctive, and sent offers to all the old CDuctive customers (that would be including me) that promised free MP3 players in exchange for spending a few bucks on their mp3 downloads.  The music selection was really quite good, but downloading via a 56K modem takes some persistence.

Lately, emusic.com has been flooding the old inbox with yet another special offer:  trial subscription, download 100 tracks for free, and if you think you like the experience, sign up for the real deal: unlimited downloads by subscription.  They offered two flavors for unlimited downloads: 3 months at $14.95 per month or a year at $9.95 per month.  My decision to try them out was based on access to a friend's cable modem set-up, and since I couldn't depend on that being available forever, I chose the 3 month subscription once I'd bagged my 100 free tracks.

With cable, the process is pretty painless ... you can choose to download an entire album at a time but this will require you to either have or obtain RealPlayer or a similar aplication called FreeAmp.  I chose FreeAmp, and clicked on the Download Album button which sent an .rm file to my hard-drive.  As long as you remain connected to the internet, FreeAmp will then process this file and save individual song mp3s to your hard drive.  For those of us looking to plump up the CD collection, this is about as quick and easy as it gets.  You also have the choice of grabbing the albums you want track by track -- for instance, if your hard drive space was limited and you wanted to cherry-pick.  But to do that effectively, you'd have to preview each track and depend on the 30 second preview to tell you what you needed to know to make your decision.  This could take forever, and besides, it's not my style -- I preferred to gut it out, choosing albums based on familiarity with the artists or the blurb supplied by the emusic folks (not every album gets a blurb, BTW.)

By this time, I may have accumulated 50 CDs worth of music and I can say that I'm happy with at least 85% of it -- some selections, of course, are just never going to get burned on a CD (I wouldn't waste the media.)  As I determine which ones are my favorites, I'll be reviewing them elsewhere on this page.  Call me easy to please, but my verdict is: there's an awful lot to like on emusic.com (and remember, I really only scouted the electronic music sub-categories: downtempo, acid jazz, remixes, dub, ambient, house, and the like.  They have much, much more to choose from for those of you interested in Alt-Rock, Pop, Jazz, etc.)

But a cable connection (or other broadband delivery) is the key here, unless you've got absolutely nothing else to do with your life but click that "download" button and wait for the process to complete.  And the entire world is not yet kitted-out with broadband ... so emusic.com will need to survive until this delivery system becomes the standard.  And I guess that means they will keep on offering enticing deals in the meantime.  If you've ever wanted to try this concept out, now might be the right time.

For a review of the music (the enormous amount of music!) go here.  To see some of the mix possibilities, check out the emixes.

For a service of another sort, there are numerous file-sharing applications.  I've checked out a couple, and you can read the review here.