bondad on 04/28/2011 at 09:00AM
About four years ago, John Wood gave me a a hand-numbered CDr packaged in a folded Trader Joe's butter box that had been turned inside out and run through an inkjet printer. "Music by Clem Ten, the song writing robot" it said. Hmmm. I loaded it in iTunes, but it wasn't until a chance encounter on shuffle that I first heard this band. It was one of those precious moments of music discovery that caused me to double-take at my speakers.
Initially, John recorded an album a month for distribution among friends. Once I was hooked on the Clem Ten album, I eagerly visited the site each month to download his latest work. To this day, many of my favorite Learning Music tracks come from these early records. After completing 12 albums, he took a break from the studio to focus on the live band. Learning Music hosted several monthly residencies at the now defunct Tangier in Los Feliz. These nights were always great fun as the controlled chaos of the 20+ person mega Learning Music band took the stage. John would write out marching-band style flip charts, and anyone that showed up was more than welcome to play or sing along.
Later that summer, John and I were eating some tacos and I asked him if he'd consider recording a new album for vosotros. He paused for a second and asked, "what if I recorded twelve?". And just like that, Learning Music Monthly was born. We spent the rest of our lunch mapping out the basic details of a subscription series. The first iteration of LMM was a little over the top. For instance, our annual subscribers received a private song written for them on their birthday (one of which is included here as track 20!). But just as John's creativity evolved and matured, so did our distribution model. We experimented with a donation-based paywall for downloads - but after some reflection, it seemed counterintuitive to put any barriers to entry in place. In its current form, the band's entire catalog is licensed under Creative Commons and available for free stream & download at LearningMusicMonthly.com.
For the last several years, John has driven over to my house each month with a new album in hand. "I feel good about this one," he'd say. But now, after 3 seasons, 36 albums, and over 500 songs, Learning Music Monthly is coming to a close. One of my favorite bits of press came from a blog called The World In A Paper Cup. In describing the project, Emma wrote "the only consistent thread is the high quality of intent and skill put into each piece". I couldn't agree more. Anyone that knows or works with John knows how much care goes into his music - and after all those albums, his ethos has remained the same. The 50+ musicians that have eagerly donated their time and talent to LMM is a testament to this.
Putting together this compilation proved difficult for me. I started with a playlist of over 100 tracks and spent weeks slowly whittling it down and trying to arrange it in a way that made sense. I was eventually left with one song from each album - not necessarily all the "hits" - just a collection of personal favorites. They are loosely arranged into "loud" and "soft" with a brief intermission in between. The mix ends with "Robot Anthem Part I and II" - the first (of many) Learning Music songs that caused me to stare at my speakers in bemusement and excitement. My hope is that through the FMA, new listeners will continue to discover their own gems from this great catalog of music.
- John Gillilan
macedonia on 05/15/2010 at 10:34AM
You know why I like Vosotros? Because it's a record label that doesn't really feel like one. Their imprint is more of this open-ended philosophy towards music. They release and champion what they like and one project doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the next. Sometimes songs lie next to each other on the same EP that are as different as night and day, the only connecting factor being the circumstances that brought a particular collection of musicians together. That and the fact that Vosotros believes in the music they want to expose others to, and that alone makes their releases intriguing.
The Rhoda EP is a great example, consisting of five songs that were each released on a weekly basis until the EP was complete. Spaced-out Brazilian numbers peacefully coexist with experiments in dubstep and even prog-rock/gospel fusion. Week one resulted in a lush folk song entitled "New Farmer," featuring the always engaging vocals of Mia Doi Todd. The accomplished team of musicians behind her include Miguel-Atwood Ferguson on viola (who was partially responsible for the Suite For Ma Dukes in J Dilla's honor), Rob Hardt on flutes, and Nat Mcintosh making his presence felt on the tuba. Gabe Noel is the gentleman you can thank for writing, mixing, programming, and recording the tune.
Now that you know all of that, push play and enjoy the next three and a half minutes of aural tranquility...