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jason on 07/20/2010 at 04:30PM

Spotlight on Workbench Recordings

NYC's Workbench Recordings offer a steady stream of high-quality Creative Commons tracks on a monthly basis, each accompanied by unique text and visuals. Workbench specializes in "unusual and experimental music," which ranges from cinematic soundscapes and fingerstyle guitar, to abstract pop and psychedelic folk. There is an organic element that defines what I might call "the Workbench sound," favoring acoustic guitars and sparse airy percussion. The consistency of that sound is further enhanced by the label's relationship with a worldclass mastering facility (Masterdisk), which is a rarity in the netaudio world.

James Beadreau is the curator, musician, producer, and graphic artist behind Workbench, and he has compiled a mix to showcases the 'songier' side of the Workbench sound, with some more experimental sounds mixed in. The mix begins with two covers -- a psychedelic take on the public domain lullaby "All the Pretty Little Horses" into a Fahian twist on Deerhoof's Creative Commons composition "Fresh Born" (part of a very cool Cash Music project). The mix includes three tracks by Philip Lynch, a progressive folk artist who writes with a compositional flare that recalls an unleashed Elliot Smith. Then there's the short, haunting Richard Youngs & Andrew Paine soundscape...lots to dig into, and be sure to check out more over at Workbench Recordings

>> FMA portal

These Workbench Recordings are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license

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herr_professor on 07/20/2010 at 05:46AM

Damned if you Don't

Dr. Von Pnok

The haze of nationalistic sports fervor having finally died down, we can now turn our gaze back to the true competitive energy inherent within the international chipscene.

With even the bigger netlabels offering material for free there is great incentive for artists or groups who don't feel they fit in with the greater identity of these collectives to branch out and create their own labels and organizations. One such label is Chip n' Damned Records. The label, "which promotes and releases experimental, hard and uncommon chipmusics from artists all over the world" lives up to their mission statement with their 2009 compilation release "Bleep or Die".

This release, which features tracks from such superstars as BSK, Dr. Von Pnok, Yatagarasu, Peter Quistgard, and Divag, is a great walking tour of the basic transformative power that chip hardware has over common place electronic music genres like glitch, idm, breakcore, dubstep and more. It is great to see that people are not content to allow chip music the platform not become a rigid uniform concept and push it forward always, just the same as other music genres.

Enjoy some of the highlights of the compilation, then check out the rest of the 20 tracks, and catch up with us next week as we take a look at some more chip trash for your earholes.

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mwalker on 07/19/2010 at 02:00PM

floating points

The term supergroup should not be bandied about lightly…or perhaps, used at all, considering possible connotations of ego-clashing wankery and undeserved hyperbole. Nonetheless, considering the ridiculously high caliber of musicianship/resumés/chemistry exhibited by the subjects at hand, I’m having a tough time resisting the urge to drop said nomenclature in reference to Volume(II) -- the new improv project of composer/electronic artist Stephan Moore, composer/flautist/electronic artist Suzanne Thorpe, composer/harpist/laptop-ist Shelley Burgon, and composer/avant-turntablist Maria Chavez …undeniable heavy-hitters in the Brooklyn/NYC experimental community that rack up a cumulative curriculum vitae about 100 times longer than I can provide in this forum. But to go ahead and rattle off a few: Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Mercury Rev, Stars Like Fleas, Ne(x)tworks, Thurston Moore, Pauline Oliveros, Lydia Lunch, etc, etc, etc.

This Friday (July 23) at ISSUE Project Room, the group will present their second-ever performance: a certain highlight of the fifth annual, Stephan Moore-curated Floating Points Festival – a month of new works utilizing ISSUE’s 15-channel Hemisphere speaker system (designed and constructed by Mr. Moore himself). Definitely not a performance to sleep on.

As a preview, the impeccable quartet has shared with us the full, 26-minute recording of their debut set - Volume(I) -  from last month at the White Box gallery, showcasing a pitch-perfect balance between the fluid, performer-blurring integration of naturally intuitive communicants and the compelling, narrative-driving friction of dynamic interaction between wholly individualistic personalities.

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dsuisman on 07/19/2010 at 09:10AM

Fat Possum Mississippi Juke Joint Caravan live on WFMU

Paul "Wine" Jones, photo via Fat Possum

Matthew Johnson has said that he started Fat Possum Records just to be able to put out a record by R. L. Burnside. He did that (Bad Luck City, 1992), but fortunately he didn’t stop there. From that time on, Fat Possum has released many of the most exciting blues discs to appear since the 1960s, revitalizing interest in music that many people (outside the South, especially) had long thought was creatively exhausted.

For a number of years, a handful of artists from the label’s roster toured the country, billed as the Fat Possum Juke Joint Caravan. Back in the mid-1990s the troupe featured R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. Later, its mainstays were T-Model Ford and Paul "Wine" Jones. In 2004, the opportunity arose to bring the Caravan to WFMU for a set on my show "The Inner Ear Detour," and I was thrilled to have them.

For reasons I don’t recall, everyone was packed into Studio A, rather than setting up the musicians in the regular, roomier performance space upstairs, connected to Studio B. It wasn’t intentional, I’m sure, but with everyone crammed in there, the effect when the music started was that Studio A felt an awful lot like a crowded hill-country juke joint. The sound had a lot to do with it, too, of course. Listening to these recordings today, this is not a sound—gritty and dark, loose and groovy—that I generally associate with 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning! It helped too that we had a throng of people squeezed into the room: all the musicians, their handler, engineer Jason Engel, sundry WFMU staffers and volunteers, and, somewhat incongruously, a small television crew doing a story on Fat Possum for the Canadian branch of Bravo.

The late Paul "Wine" Jones played first, with a searing guitar style reminiscent of the rawer recordings of Hound Dog Taylor. T-Model Ford played next, with echoes of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters in his repertoire but with a sandpaper-and-gravel timbre and sparse accompaniment (by his longtime partner Spam on drums) that no one would mistake for Chess Records. "T” (as everyone seemed to call him) was then in his 80s and walked with a cane, but this didn’t stop him from getting up and dancing when the other musicians played. Last was Kenny Brown, best known as a protégé of R. L. Burnside but whose lighter finger-picking on this date was more reminiscent of another of his mentors, Joe Callicott. Cedric Burnside played drums with Paul Jones and with Kenny Brown.

Great musicians, and a great morning.

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jason on 07/16/2010 at 01:45PM

Sic Alps live at Primavera Sound 2010

I hadn't seen Sic Alps since a show a couple summers back at Brooklyn's Death By Audio, which is a DIY venue that looks a little something like this:

Death By Audio has its own sound system, but Sic Alps didn't care. They brought their own, cuz that's how they do -- running everything through a big set of black and Orange amps, mixing in a touch of tasteful delay to create that distinctive Sic sound. It's a sound you may already be familiar with from their releases on myriad awesome labels (Slumberland, Siltbreeze, Woodsist, Important, Almost Ready, Drag City, the list goes on). If you've yet to hear these fine releases, you can check out "Message From the Law" on this FMA Sampler V2, and their amazing 2007 live session on Brian Turner's show (part of which appeared on a highly sought-after tape via Mike Donovan's own Folding Cassettes imprint). I've often heard Brian Turner speak of Sic Alps as exemplary of the new crop of DIY bands (Thee Oh Sees and Naked On The Vague among them) who shape sound entirely through their own equipment instead of depending upon outside forces.

Sic Alps sounded downright at home on the big festival stage at Primavera, pumped through gargantuan outdoor speakers like it was no big deal. The former two-piece of Mike Donovan (vocals/guitar) and Matt Harman (drums) are now joined by bassist Noel Von Harmonson, which helped round out their sound on classic Alps tunes like "Brill Building," "Bells (w/ Tremolo and Distortion)" "Stories" plus new jams, "Do You Want to Give $$" being one of my faves from the set. If you like these free sounds and want to give $$, the $ icon on Sic Alps FMA profile directs to their merch page but for some reason it only contains lyrics, nothing for sale...well I'm sure you can find stuff online thru Drag City, Siltbreeze etc, or find a new track, "Maddy / Riley" available on a new Amnesty International compilation called "PEACE" that with exclusive tracks by 180+ artists -- including Bonde Do Role, Dan Deacon, Steve Wynn, Vieux Farka Toure -- available for a donation of $5 or more (link).

>> Full Set

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andrewcsmith on 07/16/2010 at 09:00AM

Joëlle Léandre: Solo bass

provided by Joëlle Léandre (

"It's a big beast, you know--it's better to play flute," Joëlle Léandre said as she sweated through the end of her second athletic improvisation at ISSUE in June. And then seagulls cawed, and she launched into an ostinato backed by field recordings and overdubbed bass, and punctuated by ecstatic shouts from the upper range of her instrument.

Léandre was in town for the free jazz festival Vision Fest, and stopped by ISSUE to play a solo set of improvisations, John Cage, and her own compositions (all titled—and announced in a Cagean way—as "No Comment"). Léandre exploited the way that the resonance of the bass fills the room, and the way that any upper harmonics sympathetically resonate the lower strings. In her other composed work ("No Comment") she utters French phonemes and nonsense syllables, alternately grunting and spitting out infantile sounds. In each of her works, she seems to have internalized many of the experiments conducted in the avant-garde of the late 20th century, to the point where each of the improvisations or compositions is strikingly personal.

I've added all of Léandre's own compositions and improvisations from her performance, so check them out on her Artist Page. Below, you can hear the "No Comment" involving the field recordings (mentioned above).

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jason on 07/15/2010 at 07:06PM

Magic Hammer's Most Extreme Ultimate Thunder: it is what it says it is and Nashville is befuddled

artwork via Magic Hammer)

Eric W. Brown is RainbowDragonEyes to the chiptune world, drummer for Inferi and Destroy Destroy Destroy to the metal world, and elsewhere he can be found by the handle iheartdoublebass. From this twisted mind comes a new musical entity known as Magic Hammer. The debut album Most Extreme Ultimate Thunder melds rave-worthy happy hardcore with furious death-metal, in an explosive style they call "extreme dance music". The album morphs from rainbow candy-pop into epic metal riffs, often over the course of a single song or a series of fluid seconds, like an energy drink in musical form.

Not exactly what comes to mind when thinking of Nashville, home to the Grand Ole Opery, the Country Music Hall of Fame, karaoke bars and singer-songwriters. The "Athens of the South" is home to a thriving independent music scene, with top-notch garage/psych rock like Jeffrey Novak's Cheap Time, and Jeff the Brotherhood's Infinity Cat label (home to the prolific soft-punk Pujol and retro teens The Looking Glass). Some good stuff's a-brewing, but The Nashville Scene remains completely "befuddled" by Magic Hammer.

"I'm basically the antithesis of the current music scene in Nashville," Eric told me in a recent gchat. He seems to take pride in the fact and solace in the DIY ethos. Magic Hammer is his beast; he's the self-appointed CEO For Life, but he has managed to find an arsenal of likemindeds to bring Most Extreme Ultimate Thunder to life. You can catch Magic Hammer and RainbowDragonEyes live this Friday night, in a live stream from East Nashville 5spot, online at RageNotRave is Eric's "company slash empire," and the free concert/stream is billed as a Nashville 8bit and explosion showcase (more info)

Two tracks from Magic Hammer's debut can be found here on the FMA, and Eric reports that a fresh batch of CDs is at-the-ready (the first were lost to Nashville's recent flooding disaster), available at

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Halas_Radio on 07/15/2010 at 11:30AM

Aviv Mark - Uncontrollable Mumbles

Uncontrollable Mumbles [Milmulim Chasrei Shlita] is Aviv's first solo album, but he is by no means a beginner. Aviv has been in the music biz for 16 years now, and is fondly remembered as the leading man of The Subway Suckers, a punk-rock-grunge band.

The Subway Suckers released 2 albums on a major lable-NMC. The first, KOMOT KARKA VAMATA, came out in 1994. The next album was SHEKET NAFSHI which came out in 1996. the subway suckers started in 1992 and broke up in 1998.

In 2002, Aviv started a new band called Aviv Mark and the Philharmonic. They released their debut album in 2004. This album, Milmulim Hasrei Shlita (Uncontrollable Mumbling) is a departure from hispast works. It still rocks, though. Personal songs from the gut.

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aviv mark, tel-aviv, israel, rock
lizb on 07/14/2010 at 08:00PM

The Bane of Broadcasting

Image by the|G|™ (CC by-nc-sa)

If you've never worked in TV or radio here in the U.S., you may be unaware of the crazy and utterly confusing rules that the FCC came up with long ago to guide broadcasters on what is not allowed to go out over the airwaves. We've got to avoid content that is "obscene" at all times, while "indecent" and "profane" material are only allowed in the late-night hours. But try reading up on what the FCC means by obscene, indecent, and profane, and you're likely to emerge with an even foggier idea of what the hell is ok for broadcast.

In contrast, podcasting, webcasting, and anything internet-based does not have to abide by these content restrictions (copyright, however, is a different story!). The internet floodgates were open before any content police could do a damned thing about censorship.

While preparing for my radio show each week, I try to pick out the best songs to play over the air, but I have to listen closely to lyrics for any hints of the elusive "obscene, indecent, and profane." Strange situations come up with song lyrics, and all of the sudden I'm debating with myself over whether a guy is singing "ship" or "shit," whether a song that mentions but does not describe masturbation is ok. Ditto for the fantastic song below by Funk Police. You probably couldn't even tell the lyrics say "fucking" if it wasn't in the song title... The vocals are pretty unintelligible, they could be saying "broken" or "rockin" or any other permutation of 2 syllable words ending with -ing. Still, I play it safe and don't air the song. Bummer. Thankfully, I have a podcast, where I can play any podsafe song that grabs me, regardless of its lyrical content.

Finally this week, a U.S. Court of Appeals came to the same realization that any broadcaster had the minute they stepped behind a microphone or videocamera: the FCC's indecency policies are "unconstitutionally vague." This means that either the FCC will need to rewrite their definitions of obscene, indecent, and profane (possibly coming up with a discrete list of words or terms that are not allowed for broadcast), or they will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Either way, I'm hoping that broadcasters get some better guidance, and perhaps it will clear up what to do with those masturbation lyrics.

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jason on 07/14/2010 at 09:00AM

Vimeo adds Creative Commons licensing // Share Alike mix

cover art to the Russian duo Monokle & Galun's new album In Frame (12rec), artwork by Brandi Strickland

Vimeo is increasingly becoming the go-to video hosting platform for independent producers. And as-of yesterday, Vimeo has incorporated Creative Commons licensing options to help producers share their work on their own terms. They're one step ahead of YouTube, who have been testing CC licensing (only available in their partners program) for over a year now (source). Community Director Dalas Verdugo writes on the Vimeo blog: "We think this is going to be a real step forward for the creative culture here on Vimeo, and we're just as excited to use these new options as we are to see what you guys do with your new SUPERPOWERS."

This also means that "Vimeons" who find Creative Commons music with a ShareAlike clause (like a lot of the music here on the FMA) can more clearly/easily abide by the terms of the license. Creative Commons developed the concept of "Share Alike" as a way for artists to "allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work" (via For producers who use Vimeo, this just got a lot easier.

To celebrate, I've made a mix of Summer Jams to Share, with all tracks pre-cleared for use in video projects under a Creative Commons license. Most of the tracks' licenses have a ShareAlike clause, some also have a NonCommercial clause, and all require Attribution. If you hear something in this mix (or elsewhere on the FMA) that you'd like to use in your own work, be sure to check the terms of the track's license (click the "i" or the name of the track to visit the Track Info Page). You can also find out more about each artist that way, like Bud Melvin the banjo-weilding chip musician, Volumina from Guadalajara, and Twin Sister the Long Island pop group who offer CC-licensed stems for all of their music. Please leave a comment so we can all see what you come up with!

One nice example of a Vimeo video made using music from the FMA after the jump, and if you want more CC music picked out with video producers in-mind, check out Bennett4Senate's Music to Sync series of mixes.

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