5 June 2011

Les Étoiles on BBC Introducing

Posted by Dave at 5:47 pm

Tom Robinson on BBC 6music’s Introducing has said kind words about RoR before, and is set to feature Les Étoiles’ lastest release- the heartbreaking Little Measurements- on his next show, which is on from 1am-3am tonight, and which can be iPlayered 24 hours after its broadcast (for a week, I believe).

Little Measurements can be downloaded (for free) right here.

27 May 2011

Records on Ribs: A Machine of Loving Grace?

Posted by Dave at 9:52 pm

A while back I wrote a lengthy post at nomadic utopianism about hypnaogic pop, cyberpunk and utopia (I noted in the ‘get out clauses’ at the bottom that I’d rather shamefully failed to work Records on Ribs into my discussion, and reading it back now it seems strangely pessimistic- coloured by a more paternal Marxist bent than I would generally subscribe to, powerful though such arguments are). Anyway, I’m reminded of this because Rick Poynor’s post on Adam Curtis’ latest BBC documentary, ‘All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace’ (which is named after the poem below- image from Poynor- and which I’ve shamefully not yet seen)  joined up the dots for me between cyberpunk and the prefigurative utopianism of Records on Ribs which I discussed in today’s earlier blog post.

Of particular note in Poynor’s dissemination of Curtis’ documentary is the idea that the cybernetic dream of utopia- of a ‘cybernetic ecology’ is over. This seems to run contrary to the claims I made in yesterday’s post about seeing Records on Ribs as a prefigurative utopian space, but I think we have to acknowledge that the web- whilst it might provide the model- does not provide all the means. Building a society beyond capitalism will mean far more than sharing stuff online: the basic substances of existence- food, shelter, clothing-  cannot be downloaded, no matter how fast your modem. We cannot pretend that Records on Ribs constitutes an adequate offering to the struggle. It is relatively easy to create communist spaces online; far less so in the physical world.

But we do not believe that we should abandon decentralised, nonhierarchical, self-organising modes of being. Whilst there is a similarity with much neoliberal thought (Hayek’s concept of catallaxy, for example, or even ‘The Big Society’), and whilst neoliberalism has co-opted this rhetoric, the world we live in fails to deliver on the promise of anarchistic cyberneticism because it is a system which is founded upon- and which perpetuates- inequality. Where there is inequality there is also hierarchy and where there is hierarchy there cannot be immanent self-organisation. Money buys access and control, and forms which threaten neoliberalism’s total domination are destroyed or co-opted. Where there is hegemony and police brutality there is not genuine, immanent, self-organisation. The system does everything it can to head off change. It might be internally dynamic (though even this is questionable), but it refuses to go beyond itself.

It’s time to wrestle back nonhierarchy and self-organisation from capitalism and to liberate it in the name of communism; in the name of commonly owned property. It’s not time to retreat from the utopian dream that networks and nonhierarchical organisation promise us.

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
by Richard Brautigan

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pins and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

 

26 May 2011

To Free or not to Free?

Posted by Dave at 6:17 pm

The issue of distributing music for free rarely goes away, and it’s all kicked off in Wire magazine following UbuWeb founder Kenneth Goldsmith’s Epiphany in last month’s issue in which he stated that as a result of filesharing  ‘just like you I stopped buying music’. This month’s edition contains a strongly worded response by ReR boss Chris Cutler, which argues that the ‘all music should be free’ movement is an ‘idiot wave’. As a record label that gives away its music for free these are issues we’re naturally interested in. We’d like to think we’re not part of an idiot wave, but are aware of the complex ethical position we’re in. Hopefully this post will clarify our position a little more.

A New World in the Shell of the Old

Despite our manifesto claim that we are ‘not against anything’, Records on Ribs exists at least partly to protest capitalist modes of production and the monetary theories of value and the system of copyright that accompany  and support capitalism. But negative critique  contains- at least implicitly- a positive vision of how the world should be otherwise, and for us that positive vision is writ large in everything we do. We see Records on Ribs as a prefigurative utopia: a space of commonly owned property which points to how the world might otherwise be. It is ‘a new world in the shell of the old‘, as Aaron Peters puts it. It is communism, decentralised: here and now.

Pop Will Eat Itself

Kenneth Goldsmith’s file-sharing inspired Epiphany is something quite different. I don’t know much about what his politics are, but the views he expresses are not in any sense anti-capitalist. Rather, they embody the eternally disatisfied greed of capitalism’s dream consumer. ‘The minute I get something’, he writes ‘I just crave more’. This is what capitalism demands of us: each purchase promising something it can’t possibly deliver and setting in chain a feeling of dispondancy and failure, which drives us on to consume more and more, even as we boast about what we do have (‘It’s all about quantity…I’m drowning in my riches. I’ve got more music on my drives than I’ll ever be able to listen to in the next ten lifetimes’). Goldsmith argues that this ‘is an inversion of consumption…in which we’ve come to prefer the acts of acquisition over that which we are acquiring’, but there’s not really much inverting going on-for many decades capitalism has been about the thrill of the chase rather than the catch itself. After all, if we’re satisfied with the objects of our consumption we’ll cease to consume. Goldsmith sitting in his study feverishly downloading rarities from across the globe is experiencing the same thrill as Carrie, Samantha and co as they trawl the malls of Dubai for dresses they’ll probably forget they own. t’s an alienating existence marked by addiction to the chase rather than any enjoyment.

What’s interesting about Goldsmith’s column (and I should make it clear that I have no interest in passing judgement on him) is that his views represent the point at which the logics of capitalism overtake themselves. Promised the world, consumers suddenly realise that through the internet they can take it for free, and help themselves to whatever they can. Having for so long been told that greed is good, the subject of consumerism seizes that greed and uses it to bring down the system that helped to create them.

Where’s the free plumbers?

Except it doesn’t really threaten to bring down the system. The immediate result of thousands of people downloading music, films and television is that the people who make it suffer. We couldn’t give a flying fuck about Lily Allen or Warner Brothers or 20th Century Fox, but we do care about our many friends who make brilliant music and struggle to make ends meet from day to day because hardly anyone pays them for their music, whilst capitalism carries on as usual in other spheres.

There are two answers to this. The first is to encourage people to pay for the music they listen to-  by calmly stating the damage that downloading music can do (as Cutler does) and by making the physical object worth spending money on, restoring the fetish for the object which Goldsmith says he has lost. The second is more long-term (although as a prefigurative movement it is also immediatist) and calls for a system of exchange beyond capitalism: gift economies, common ownership and mutual aid (and to be fair to Goldsmith, he touches on these issues here). Free music here works as a prefigurative movement heralding a complete shift in our relations. As Cutler notes, plumbers do not work for free. But capitalism is not the end of history and perhaps one day plumbers will work for free. Perhaps, perhaps by giving away our music for free we can play our part (a tiny part) in showing what can be done when we abandon capitalism’s modes of exchange.

A Cautious Revolution

It’s clear that these two strategies are almost mutually exclusive- and this clash between short term survival and long term radical change is a problem that those trying to go beyond capitalism often encounter. Discussing the plight of workers at car manufacturing plants in Oxford in the 90s, David Harvey noted that the short term aims of securing their jobs hampered many longer-term goals- better working conditions, higher pay and a cleaner local environment. And many sympathetic to the plight of workers would probably also crave a world without so many cars and their destructive impact on our health and our environment, which clearly wouldn’t do their job prospects much good.

There is, then, clearly a tricky balance to strike and in my own musical consumption I try and navigate both paths. On one hand I offer music for free through Records on Ribs, recognising that doing so is not just a way of ‘getting the music out there, man’, but a political act; a utopian act. And I download music for free too. On the other hand I spend as much as I can on music released by labels who care about their artists and support a whole microindustry of professionals and creatives- designers, lathe cutters, etc. These are all skills/trades we’d want to survive beyond the revolution so we must be cautious not to trample them in our greedy haste for a new world. And hey, Records On Ribs isn’t above accepting donations too.

It’s a tricky debate, and I think we should welcome both the honesty of Goldsmith and the clairty of Cutler. But as we think through what it means to acquire music, we should also think how we might be able to live beyond this shitty system that causes so much suffering and unhappiness.

All music should be free, but so should all plumbing.

I write from my own standpoint here, and not necessarily from those of our artists, who may have a diversity of opinions on this project and the need for free. I think I’m right in saying that ROR co-founder Alex agrees with me on much of this, so I’ll take the liberty of using the collective noun. If anything, Alex is perhaps a little more pro-free than I am, but I’ll let him speak for himself in future – Dave.

24 March 2011

Little Measurements

Posted by Alex at 7:26 pm

Records On Ribs are proud to announce the details of Little Measurements, the latest release from Les Étoiles. We think it is utterly wonderful – quite possibly the best thing he has ever done.

For the first time in the history of ROR, the release features collaboration between Les Étoiles and EL Heath and Talk Less, Say More. With Tim Wright of Neume Audio once again at the helm, the production is subtle but incredible.

Like all our music, it will be available for free download (as MP3, Flac and Lossless) both from our site and on torrents. It will also be a reasonably priced CD with full colour gloss artwork.

Little Measurements will be released on the 5th of April 2011. If you’d like to review it in advance, then drop us a line.

Here are a couple of tracks for you, to be frank they blew me away. First, the opening track, A Year. Beautiful ondes martenot by EL Heath.

Your Answer is next. Beautifully sad – we are so happy to be putting this out there. Clarinet by Tim Wright.

18 September 2010

SoundCloud Players Now Across Site

Posted by Alex at 4:23 pm

The SoundCloud player is now across the site. If you click on Listen you will be presented by this rather lovely window – button subject to colour change.

Although ultimately I will program a customised SoundCloud Javascript player I decided to deploy the player across the site as quickly as possible. The easiest way to do this was to simply replace out existing Flash based music player with a SoundCloud player. But how would I be able to pass on the URL of the set to the Player so it knew which album to play?

Well, each of our sets is uploaded with a title like “Les Étoiles – Never To Alight”, which translates to a permalink like http://soundcloud.com/records-on-ribs/sets/les-etoiles-never-to-alight/ on SoundCloud. All I would have to do is transform “Artist Name – Release Title” into a slug like “artist-name-release-title” name, make this into a URL like http://soundcloud.com/records-on-ribs/sets/artist-name-release-title and send this to the SoundCloud Flash player ‘url=’ parameter. This was achieved pretty simply, as Ribcage can work out the name and the title of a release from a given slug.

# We are passed $release_slug from the URL structure - http://recordsonribs/player/$release_slug

$release = get_release_by_slug ($release_slug, FALSE, FALSE);
 
	if (is_wp_error($release)){
		ribcage_404();
	}
 
$artist['artist_name'] = get_artistname_by_id($release['release_artist']);
 
    if (is_wp_error($artist)){
    	ribcage_404();
    }
 
# Setup how this set would be named at SoundCloud
$url = $artist['artist_name']." ".$release['release_title'];
 
$table = array(
    'Š'=>'S', 'š'=>'s', '?'=>'Dj', '?'=>'dj', 'Ž'=>'Z', 'ž'=>'z', '?'=>'C', '?'=>'c', '?'=>'C', '?'=>'c',
    'À'=>'A', 'Á'=>'A', 'Â'=>'A', 'Ã'=>'A', 'Ä'=>'A', 'Å'=>'A', 'Æ'=>'A', 'Ç'=>'C', 'È'=>'E', 'É'=>'E',
    'Ê'=>'E', 'Ë'=>'E', 'Ì'=>'I', 'Í'=>'I', 'Î'=>'I', 'Ï'=>'I', 'Ñ'=>'N', 'Ò'=>'O', 'Ó'=>'O', 'Ô'=>'O',
    'Õ'=>'O', 'Ö'=>'O', 'Ø'=>'O', 'Ù'=>'U', 'Ú'=>'U', 'Û'=>'U', 'Ü'=>'U', 'Ý'=>'Y', 'Þ'=>'B', 'ß'=>'Ss',
    'à'=>'a', 'á'=>'a', 'â'=>'a', 'ã'=>'a', 'ä'=>'a', 'å'=>'a', 'æ'=>'a', 'ç'=>'c', 'è'=>'e', 'é'=>'e',
    'ê'=>'e', 'ë'=>'e', 'ì'=>'i', 'í'=>'i', 'î'=>'i', 'ï'=>'i', 'ð'=>'o', 'ñ'=>'n', 'ò'=>'o', 'ó'=>'o',
    'ô'=>'o', 'õ'=>'o', 'ö'=>'o', 'ø'=>'o', 'ù'=>'u', 'ú'=>'u', 'û'=>'u', 'ý'=>'y', 'ý'=>'y', 'þ'=>'b',
    'ÿ'=>'y', '?'=>'R', '?'=>'r', '’'=&gt''
);
 
$url = preg_replace('/ /', '-', $url);
$url = strtr($url, $table);
$url = strtolower($url);
$url = preg_replace('/\p{P}(?
$url = urlencode("http://soundcloud.com/records-on-ribs/sets/".$url);

There are obviously ways to refactor this, but this is how we did it. We replaced all the foreign characters, lower-cased the string, replaced spaces with hyphens and removed all the punctuation. We then make a URL we can pass onto the SoundCloud player and put this into the standard Flash player after ‘url=’, adding a few additional strings to it to customise. With a quick edit to our Javascript which pops up the player window, to change it to the correct dimensions and we are done. Easy.

12 September 2010

Records On Ribs at SoundCloud

Posted by Alex at 9:03 pm

After many hours of uploading the whole Records On Ribs back catalogue is now available on SoundCloud. Slowly but surely, we will be replacing the old Flash player with a SoundCloud player.

Not only does this provide yet another way to enjoy the music we put out, but it makes it far easier for you to share our music with others. By clicking on the share link over at SoundCloud you can easily add whole albums to your WordPress.com or Blogger site, find the HTML to paste, or share it on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere.

Results in (we’ve even tweaked this one a bit more):

The same goes for individual tracks.

Sharing A Track

Results in:

Soon hopefully these by track and by album embedding features will be available throughout the site. We’d love to see people just plain taking our music and putting it on their sites.

This also means that you’ll be able to listen to any of our tracks through the SoundCloud iPhone app if you so desire.

This isn’t the extent of Records On Ribs on SoundCloud. Les Étoiles has uploaded some of his pre-ROR releases onto there, including offcuts and alternative versions from Never To Alight, entitled Left Luggage and some cuts from his 2004 records From A Closed Room, that I’ve embedded below.

Seasoned Dave watchers might be aware of his previous outing with the band Roquentin. Their existentialist pop record Portraits of Homes and Pictures of Ghosts can be listened to on the site.

EL Heath is also a fairly prolific SoundCloud user, rattling out tracks, some of which might come from future releases over here at a rate of knots. Check this out – hauntological.

Many thanks to the SoundCloud team who have been really supportive of Records On Ribs and provided a whole load of help, in particular Dave Haynes. This included kicking off a command-line uploader for SoundCloud for us to enable the shifting of all our releases onto the site with ease. They wrote the basis of it, we added to it and the program will soon be publicly released. It works as a Ruby script through their excellent API. SoundCloud just makes moving huge volumes of music effortless, a really cool site.

28 August 2010

Blue Ducks Live Videos

Posted by Alex at 8:22 pm

Blue Ducks had the wonderful chance to support Fog and Crook and Flail, who feature the ever capable DoseOne from Anticon records and Andy Broder from Fog. They just sound tracked Alan Moore’s new audiobook Unearthing alongside Mike Patton no less. Someone was on hand to record the following live videos which I hope you’ll all enjoy.

The first is a joint from his as yet untitled forthcoming banger. This one is called I Never Really Learned to Ice Skate.

The next seems to be the next in the set and is a mash-up of Blue Duck’s dreamy Farewell to Floss and Floss is Full of Surprises from his record Six.

As an additional treat here is a couple of Blue Ducks remixes. Ducks turns his hand to a remix classic – Jay-Z’s 99 Problems. A remarkably soothing take on the song.

An a rather marvelous remix of Cool Kids’ brilliant oh eight hit What Up Man.

17 August 2010

New and Forthcoming

Posted by Dave at 2:59 pm

We’ve snuck out another couple of releases since our last update, and mighty fine they are too. And there’s much more to come…

Kettle Blacksmith‘s Well, We Get These Rashes is supremely silly, and we really don’t blame you if you hate it. But in the right mood, it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s the brainchild of Patrick Farmer (who’s played with- among others- Chora, The Family Elan, Dom Lash, Matt Milton,  Fuzzy Lights, Last of the Real Hardmen, Birmingham Improvisers’ Orchestra and The Exploits of Elaine, and who runs the mighty Compost and Height netlabel) and Ben Houlihan, who played with Patrick in Welshpool’s Beefheartian loons Call it a Clunes.  Patch made me promise I wouldn’t mention Chris Corsano, so I won’t- but think of your other favourite improv drummer and imagine him having a fight with a tramp and you’ll be halfway there.

Altogether more sober is Talk Less, Say More‘s Proof Rock. Not only does this have quite possibly the best bad pun for an album title since Mercury Rev’s Yerself Is Steam, it’s a mighty combination of dubstep wobble, metal guitars and heartbreakingly gorgeous pop melody. Oh yeah, and it’s a concept album built around Jennings’ relationship with the poetry of T.S. Eliot and the City of London (as well as Eliot’s representation of London). It’s quite sumptuous stuff.

In the not too distant future we have releases from…

Earth Defence Force – Earth Defence Force

This’ll be our heaviest album yet. Another mighty Shropshire export, EDF take influence from all your favourite loud and fast bands. Check ’em out on MurdochSpace. ‘Who Did It’ is particularly highly recommended.

The Exploits of Elaine – Plateau Suite.

A joint release with the mighty Gravid Hands (who’ll be putting out a lovely CD-R). Plateau Suite is a rollicking, clattering and rocking work of improv mayhem for those who like urban gamelan, balls out kraut grooves, ghostly melodies and morass like textures. Hear a couple of tracks (or ‘intensities’) here.

Les Etoiles – Little Measurements

More heart-breaking melancholy from Cardiff’s most brutal songwriter. Features contributions from EL Heath (among others), and higher production values than previous releases.

Spiral Jacobs – Prolegomenon

International Socialist Black Metal from the author of the mighty Cold World: The Aesthetics of Dejection and the Politics of Militant Despair. Cold, soaking blackened ambience somewhere between Aphex Twin and Burzum (but with far better politics).

Keep checking back. And follow us on twitter for updates and unsurpassed aphoristic wisdom.

1 May 2010

Ghost Dance

Posted by Alex at 8:23 pm

Ga’an self-titled debut album is now available for free download as well as a limited edition tape (70 copies). People have been rightly very excited about this release and we are very pleased that it is finally out there – we apologise for the huge delay, we have been snowed under here with other tasks. This is the first time we have distributed an album using Amazon CloudFront, which should make for a faster more enjoyable downloading experience.

We are also pleased to announce the status of Les Étoiles latest record, which has songs created in collaboration with other members of the Records On Ribs roster – Talk Less, Say More and EL Heath as well as others. I had the privilege to listen to some premastered versions – they were really genuinely beautiful, a real sonic progression, but still hugely moving. Once again, Tim Wright at Neume Audio has done an incredible production job, even adding his own work as a collaborator on a number of tracks. Indeed as a special treat you can hear his remix  of one of the tracks, A Year. On the album version the work is done in collaboration with the Martenot of EL Heath, but here Tim explores the album as a whole in a tremendously sad electroacoustic reworking. Watch the Les Étoiles MySpace for other tracks soon.

7 April 2010

EL Heath’s New Album Out Now

Posted by Dave at 1:13 pm

EL Heath’s new album Snailbeach Mines Trust (on Wayside & Woodland records) is now available to buy from Norman Records and is currently at #6 in their ‘This Week’s Hottest Shit’ section- above Ikonika, Disappears and Ambarchi, O’Rourke and Haino  (among others). Naturally, we can’t recommend it highly enough: it’s a stunning evocation of place and memory. Dank, desolate and utterly transcendent. And all profits go to the wonderful people at the Shropshire Mines Trust.

Here’s what Norman Records have to say about the release:

This record left our Phil feeling ecstatic.

Over the years we’ve sold about a million Epic 45 records. You guys… you love ’em! Well here’s another one for you of sorts. It’s by EL Heath which is Eric from Epic 45 and it’s released on their Wayside And Woodland label. The album is named after Snailbeach lead Mine which was the largest lead mine in the UK back in the olden days when things were harder than they are now. He used to visit there as a child and it obviously had an effect on him as he’s returned as an adult after saving up for recording equipment 🙂 and recorded some of the sounds of the rusted up machinery and built up an album around those sounds. Listening to it though you wouldn’t know that. It’s gorgeous and there’s not an industrial clank in site :)…… The Music is very much like latter Stars of The Lid (the last album comes to mind). Rich warm waves of neo classical drone wash over. Occasional vocal tracks take on a different approach as they go down a more British 60’s folk route….. They blend seamlessly as the folk tracks still have some of the those warm sounding drones in the background. A remarkably moving and soulful album which gets my highest recommendation!

We’ll be helping Wayside & Woodland host a download of the album soon. Downloading it will require a minimum donation of £1 to the Shropshire Mines Trust.