Friday, October 12, 2007

Now I'm sure you've all figured out how much I like spending all my money on records. And surely you also know how much I fetishize vinyl, right? Well there have been a couple of releases recently that have raised the question "how far is too far" in regards to these predilections.

KTL - III (Or)
The latest release from the duo of Peter "Pita" Rehberg and Stephen O'Malley of Sunn0))) comes courtesy of Russell Haswell's Or label. It's a limited edition one-sided album housed in a thick card sleeve and pressed on heavyweight vinyl, the "blank" side of which is adorned with a Savage Pencil engraving. The whole thing is genuinely visually beautiful.

But boy is it expensive. That's fine as far as it goes but it's a shame given the fact that KTL III isn't going to be released in any other format. Therefore, to get "legal" access to this music, you have to have both the funds and the obsessive mindset of a fairly serious record collector.

This really is a shame because KTL III is by far the best thing they've done so far and it really deserves to be heard as widely as possible. Having said that, these things usually end up on illegal file-sharing networks the moment they're released, so perhaps it's not such a big deal.

3/4hadbeeneliminated - The Religious Experience (Soleilmoon)
A yes, my favourite Italian post-rock outfit. I've been waiting a while for these folks to bring something out on vinyl, so when this particular limited edition came up for pre-order, I jumped at the chance - in spite of the hefty asking price.

This one comes in a fragile hand-made sleeve. According to the label, said sleeve is supposed to be "delicately perfumed" or some such nonsense. In fact, it smells like it's been dipped in industrial strength toilet cleaner. The record itself is pressed on patterned white vinyl that makes it look somewhat like a giant peppermint. Cool, certainly but maybe a little gauche, no?

While I'm somewhat doubtful about whether this one was really worth the dosh as a collector's item, I certainly can't argue with the quality of the music. 3/4... have a distinctly spooky and pretty much unique sound - it's as if the whole album was recorded under the covers of a king-size bed.

For those of you who don't buy schmancy vinyl editions and aren't into the whole file-sharing deal, there is another option with this album. While, it's not actually available on CD, Soleilmoon did simultaneously release a "sister" CD to go with it, called Theology. If it's anything like as good as The Religious Experience then it's not to be missed.


Mark R said...

God bless Southern Lord and their extravagant packaging. Perhaps one of the only labels that consistently put out amazing vinyl packages. My favourite release from them is the first pressing of Sunn O)))'s 'Black One.' Now that is something to drool over, my friend. Still wish I got the first pressing of Earth's Hex. I definitely have many more Cd's than I do vinyl, but I like to think my vinyl collection is more refined. I tend to only buy something on LP when it comes in an amazing package or when I love the album so much that I need to have a copy on LP AND CD. As for downloading, I don't do much of that these days as I did about 5 or 6 years ago (ie. before I started working in record stores). I buy so much that listening to what I have bought is more important than listening to something that I got for free. Downloading these days is strictly limited to checking out OOP albums or checking out a band that we cannot get at Zulu (usually a rare occasion). Thinking about it now, yesterday was the first time that I actually paid for a download! I pre-ordered the new Radiohead discbox and received a download of the album to hold me over until it get delivered. Pretty fucking good so far. Opinions on the whole Radiohead debacle???

Biggie Samuels said...

It's neat that Radiohead are basically giving it away for free but the whole thing has some depressing aspects.

A lot of moderately popular bands tour like hell so that they can scrape a living from sales of their CD releases. Apparently, the likes of Radiohead, Prince, Oasis and Green Day are going to start using their releases as loss-leaders to promote their multi-million dollar revenue-generating stadium tours.

Seems like it can only be a matter of time before this paradigm gets applied across the board, making it all but impossible for anyone other than the biggest music mega-stars to even have releases or tours.

Meanwhile, the big bands will manage to make a bit of extra cash on the side by gouging their fans with uber-expensive vinyl/CD collector's editions. The small and medium-sized acts will try to attract attention via sleazy social networking sites, so that they can sell their albums as paid downloads. Consequently, music fans will get used to paying for harsh-quality downloads and the indie record stores... well it doesn't look good for them.

I'm not really into the whole idea of people being able to make money off music. I kind of feel it should all be free. But the alternative to the current music industry paradigm that I propose above... well it just doesn't sound like much fun does it? Especially, the bit about the record stores.

I never seriously though that the Internet would substantially change the way music works as a cultural entity. More and more, though, I'm beginning to feel that he web is going to basically eliminate music as a category.

A depressing thought but I still can't quite bring myself to believe that anything like this would ever happen.


Mark RRR said...

Some innarestin' points made but I don't see it in such bleak a way. First of all, groups as large as Radiohead won't have to spend millions of dollars making/promoting the albums (loss leaders, as you call them) as they won't have to worry about major labels taking a huge cut of their hard earned music and forcing them to use expensive producers/mixers etc. Also, I don't think that what Radiohead have just done is going to be copied by everyone else thats in their league. These other artists are gonna have to wait until the final results are in and all the cash/downloads/pre-orders has been counted up to see if it is in fact worth their time. Besides, wouldnt you much rather give the artist the money directly than have to go through paying some scummy major label. Paying a major label isnt actually much of a deal to people like me and you because i dont think that there are too many artists that we listen to that are distributed by the big 4. Most of our money goes to smaller labels or directly to the artist these days anyways.

The thought that only super-mega-arenaplaying-rock-stars are the only ones that are gonna be able to release albums is pretty ridiculous. If anything, its gonna make it easier for the little guy as major labels are soon phased out or become near-obsolete (I give it another 7-10 years). No one in their right mind will sign to a major if they think they can make more money on their own or with smaller label. All of this adds up to the death of chain stores (almost there!) and the greater need for independently run record stores.

AS for music being free, well, if you want an actual piece of hardware (cassette, CD, LP etc) it never will be free. Artists shouldn't have to slave away making music AND working shitty day jobs just because you feel it should be entirely free. If it were all free then you (for the previous 6 years or whatever) and I would have had to work a truly shitting job selling who knows what.

The web will never "eliminate music as a category" its just allowing more music to be heard than ever before. Things are just gettin' innarestin' and i'm pretty excited to see where we end up next.

Biggie Samuels said...

I think the main thing for me is that the web is removing all the context for music. We live in the age of "just good music", where music doesn't even try to mean anything anymore. There's no such thing as "just good music". Music is nothing but an empty consumer experience if it isn't given any other context.

Basically, my main beef is that legal downloads are a culturally barbaric, shitty sounding rip-off. The jury is out on what the Internet will do to the music industry. All I can say is that, right now, music itself is dieing of boredom.

charlie m. said...

As far as vinyl goes. I've been severely frustrated with the band Mirror. Most their material is vinyl only and long out of print. The packaging is usually fairly nice, nothing extravagant but stuff sells for so much!

Biggie Samuels said...

Yeah, once you get into that industrial/dark ambient underground, things start to get really pricey. Note that the 3/4hadbeeneliminated record is on Soleilmoon.