Author Topic: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels  (Read 13697 times)

uhurit

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2010, 01:06:52 PM »
We've agreed, after much debate, that most ambient musick out there in the last 3-4 years has been shite.


And that's pretty much where I stopped reading.

Even though I didn't stop reading, but +1 on the sentiments

mgriffin

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2010, 02:59:59 PM »
Well, Austere did say the first post would possibly offend some people!

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petekelly

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #22 on: January 03, 2010, 03:12:49 PM »
Quote
We've agreed, after much debate, that most ambient musick out there in the last 3-4 years has been shite.

Further elucidation, fellers ?

Premonition Factory

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #23 on: January 03, 2010, 03:50:46 PM »
I recommend http://tonefloat.com/. Although not a pure ambient label, they released ambient projects of Dirk Serries like  Microphonics, 3 Seconds of Air and VidnaObmana. Other ambient related artists are Bass Communion, Theo Travis and Robert Fripp.

And I almost forgot: I wish you all a fantastic musical year 2010!

Sjaak
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Steve Brand

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #24 on: January 04, 2010, 03:38:57 PM »
At the risk of self-promoting... In addition to Hypnos, AtmoWorks is putting out some of the most interesting and challenging work available, with artists like, Vir Unis, Disturbed Earth, Paul Vnuk Jr., Igneous Flame, Numina, Dan Pound, Sarana and Chris Russell.

jkn

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #25 on: January 05, 2010, 06:59:10 AM »
There's a lot of good music on AtmoWorks - obviously I do have a bias here since I co-owned the thing for well over year and I've been friends with John/Vir Unis and Matt/MjDawn since high school ;-)

However, seriously - I ran into some artists that totally blew me away while co-owning the label.   I wasn't familiar with Steve Brand prior to AtmoWorks (and if you've noticed my new label threads at all - you know I *really* like Steve's music!).    Steve is well worth looking into - he's got an HSS release, several AtmoWorks albums and collabs, and an upcoming Relaxed Machinery (cough - that's my label) album coming out in a week that will be for sale on cdr here at Hypnos and as a download through CD Baby.

Dean Richards / Disturbed Earth - is the single most prolific and naturally good ambient musician I may have met (he's also a genuinely nice guy and I love his phone calls) - he hits record, goes until the tape ends, and calls it done.   Yes - of course some of it isn't that great (always good, but not always great) ... but when he's on - he's dead on perfection.   Just listen to his Butterfly album from 1977, or Sho, or Ghosts of Carthage - or his collabs with Steve Brand.

Are there some artists on AtmoWorks I don't care for as much - of course there are - some of the music is more challenging and experimental.  When I'm in the mood - I like it.   Always listen first - that's the great thing about the internet and labels like Hypnos or AtmoWorks or DataObscura/Blue Oasis - you're not buying blind.

Anyway - an Austere thread is generally an entertaining thing... and a drunk posting Austere thread... even more so.  ;-)
John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #26 on: January 06, 2010, 08:09:18 AM »
At the risk of self-promoting... In addition to Hypnos, AtmoWorks is putting out some of the most interesting and challenging work available, with artists like, Vir Unis, Disturbed Earth, Paul Vnuk Jr., Igneous Flame, Numina, Dan Pound, Sarana and Chris Russell.

I agree whole heartedly with Steve, especially on the "interesting and challenging" part, and now I will make a possibly offending statement, I think this may be the problem with the lack of interest, lack of reviews and lack of general cheer-leading about this genre...I am not sure many of the listeners necessarily want to be challenged.

If you look at most of the threads here, it seems people are in search of the darkest, slowest, droniest music there is, or maybe the glitchiest or they are simply content to contribute to 13 page threads about one of the grand masters of ambient repeating the same old same old ad infinitum. So on one hand it is taste, on the other it may just be a lethargic contentment.

So the big questions are:

Why aren't people purchasing, listening to and discussing and debating every atmo-works, dataobscura/blue oasis, earth mantra, Hypnos secret sound, ect that has come out in the past two years?
Do they suck?
Are they not breaking any new ground?
Are they breaking too much ground and not sticking to the rules of the space music play book?
Are the caliber of artists that lack luster?
Are they too "musical" ?
Is it the economy?
Is it apathy on behalf of the listeners?
Has the fan base shrunk?
Do people no longer feel the need to evangelize this music?
Should artists stop being challenging?
Are they not as challenging as they think they are?
Do the labels not do enough to promote there wares any more?
Do the artists not do enough to promote themselves?
What do the fans listeners want out of this music?
What do they want or need from a label?

Lots of questions...

Its easy to say the labels and the artists in the past few years are releasing garbage...but the bigger question then is...what exactly constitutes "Good" & "Awesome" in the ears of the listener.

Ok...done rambling. I am just a frustrated artist  :(

Paul
« Last Edit: January 06, 2010, 08:11:28 AM by Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le) »
"I liken good ambient to good poetry ... enjoyable, often powerful, and usually unpopular" APK

ffcal

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #27 on: January 06, 2010, 08:51:23 AM »
I don't think the music is to blame.  There are so many more technological distractions/alternatives to recorded music than there were 20 to 30 years ago, that I'm not surprised that listeners' time and opportunities to fully engage in a piece of music have been fragmented.  Yes, an iPod can lead to more listening, but I'm not surprised that iPods are no longer the big sellers for Apple that they used to be.

Forrest

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #28 on: January 06, 2010, 09:04:04 AM »
Paul - good questions - and each of those could easily be it's own thread topic.
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mystified

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #29 on: January 06, 2010, 09:06:41 AM »
Yeah, thinking about it, and judging from what I've heard, I can't agree that the entire genre suddenly went downhill music-wise. With such a wide range of talent, and even new technologies emerging, my guess is that quality is the same or better in the last 4 years.

What I can imagine, is that the audience is shrinking as the genre is going through a period of being less popular. This seems to happen with most music, and I am hoping that popularity will return when it finishes orbiting the dark side of the moon.
Thomas Park
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mgriffin

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #30 on: January 06, 2010, 10:25:05 AM »
So the big questions are:

Why aren't people purchasing, listening to and discussing and debating every atmo-works, dataobscura/blue oasis, earth mantra, Hypnos secret sound, ect that has come out in the past two years?
Do they suck?
Are they not breaking any new ground?
Are they breaking too much ground and not sticking to the rules of the space music play book?
Are the caliber of artists that lack luster?
Are they too "musical" ?
Is it the economy?
Is it apathy on behalf of the listeners?
Has the fan base shrunk?
Do people no longer feel the need to evangelize this music?
Should artists stop being challenging?
Are they not as challenging as they think they are?
Do the labels not do enough to promote there wares any more?
Do the artists not do enough to promote themselves?
What do the fans listeners want out of this music?
What do they want or need from a label?

Lots of questions...

Interesting post, Paul.  I would stop short of "blaming" listeners for not being passionate enough, but I do think it's worthwhile for all of us to spend some time thinking about why the passion about this genre has diminished.  Why are people buying less music, and talking less about the music they do listen to?

I don't feel it's just a matter of the music being too drone/minimalism focused. Actually I'd say that kind of thing is less interesting to most people than more musical, rhythmic or dynamic ambient music.  Among the better-selling Hypnos CDs ever, the only one that falls on the drone/minimalism side of things is Somnium, and people tend to get more enthused (measuring by listener comments, amount of radio airplay, quantity/quality of reviews of the CDs) about stuff like Jeff Pearce or Saul Stokes.

If the "problem" were something as clear-cut as "too musical" or "not glitchy enough" or "not drony enough," we would see clear differences in how a given artist's music would be received, when they released something in more one direction than another.  I mean, let's say listeners simply wanted minimal drone music - - then Steve Roach would find the Immersion discs would sell double or triple the quantity of his more dynamic releases.  That would be a sort of referendum that a certain type of music is less in favor, and I believe if that were the case, some artists and labels would consciously or unconsciously begin releasing more work in the more favored style, and the genre would stay popular, CD sales would remain high, and there would be lots of discussion about the new releases, plenty of new people popping up to say "I'm going to start a blog to review ambient music," and more posts on mailing lists and forums.

No, I think the problem is a number of things combined, which makes it hard to diagnose.  It's like going to the doctor when you have three or four things wrong with you -- even Gregory House can't figure out what would cause all your weird symptoms!

I think we're looking at a bunch of issues in combination. 

One, the economy sucks, and sales of CDs and downloads have dropped significantly due to that.  People simply have less money to spend, and every business suffers a bit.  I'm sure everyone reading this, whether they work at a steel plant or a grocery store or a car dealer, has seen business drop off a bit due to the economy.

Two, there are so many ways now to copy and share music conveniently, which cuts down a bit on the number of people who will buy it.  It's cheap and easy to burn a CDR for a friend, or to email zipped mp3 files, or just find it for yourself on bittorrent or one of the rapidshare-linked pirate blogs.  Many people won't get their music way, but enough do that it results in at least some decrease in the amount of music being purchased.

Three, all genres and styles have ups and downs in terms of audience involvement and interest, and while ambient music and related niches had a great "up" in the 90s, this seems to be a "down" recently.  If it's just something cyclical, it could rebound for some cultural reason or some other thing unrelated to the music itself, the economy, or piracy.

Four, for various reasons (probably chiefly the cheap and accessible means of making and recording music in a home studio) the number of people making ambient music has increased massively.  This has resulted in more CD and CDR releases and "for purchase" download releases, and even with that increase, some artists want to get their music out there and can't find any commercial outlet for it, so they have resorted to free giveaway release, generally download.  So this is really two things... a higher quantity of music being sold by a larger number of artists, and if that weren't enough "competition," there's quite a bit of free stuff available, much of it of a quality not too different from the stuff for sale. 

In my opinion, it's this last issue which has several effects, all of which decrease the sale of individual music releases and result in listeners having less enthusiasm or excitement for the releases they like best.  In the 90s it was really easy to get into huge debates about Aphex Twin's SAWII on the ambient list because there were hundreds or even thousands of people online who had all heard the album.  We had all heard the album because it was one of maybe a handful of significant, major releases of that year so virtually everyone bought it.

Now, even if a new album comes out that many people consider major and significant (say, the new Forrest Fang this year, or the new Parks) that album is not owned by everyone in the community, or even half the people, or even a quarter of the people.  So if you have a mailing list or an online forum, even if the group has a thousand members, but only 30 or 50 of them have heard a new album, it's harder to generate enthusiastic discussion (since many people are always going to remain lurkers no matter what) than it was when a mailing list or forum had 500 or 2,000 people who owned the album.

I remember discussions flaring up where dozens of messages would come up regarding Rich & Lustmord's Stalker or Apart by Paul Schutze.  Though recordings of this quality are still being released, there are only rarely any discussions of a single release stimulating more than one or two mentions.  Really it only seems to be Steve Roach generating this kind of debate, and that's partly because he's an important artist with possibly the biggest listener base of anyone currently releasing ambient music, and also partly because he's a controversial figure, a "love him or hate him" sort of artist.

In my opinion there is nothing artists can do differently in order to make a big difference in how the music is purchased, or discussed, any time soon.  Labels and artists both probably promote their music a bit less, though this is not due to laziness, but to the fact that most promotional efforts have brought diminishing benefits.  Everyone still sends CDs to Star's End or Echoes or Hearts of Space because airplay on these stations definitely result in more awareness of the album, and more CD sales.  But sending CDs to every college radio station that used to report to New Age Voice, as in 1995?  Not any more.  If you're selling fewer CDs, you need to be more careful about how many promos you send out, and if you send out fewer promos, you reach fewer DJs (at least until digital promo distribution catches on more) and fewer people hear your music, so presumably fewer people buy it.

As others here have said, in commenting on the first message here, the problem isn't that ambient music has gone downhill, or that there are no more good artists or labels releasing music.  Only someone not paying attention, though, would argue that things are as vital and energetic as they were ten or fifteen years ago.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

APK

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #31 on: January 06, 2010, 12:04:48 PM »
These are great, and timely, questions from Paul.

I'm with Mike in thinking that the (or at least a) primary problem here is the sheer number of people and labels producing albums in our general genre. It seems to be immense. "Best of" lists come out with albums I've not heard and artists I've not heard of. And the pace is quickening. In a community like the Hypnos forum we share some similarities and tendencies and pick up on what is praised, but there is a much wider world outside that is ever-expanding. Music from russia, china, japan, and the whole of Europe etc ... all with interesting releases. Too much to keep up with, for sure.

But a tendency I find in many listeners is a desire to find the next best thing. The next mini-trend. Rather than a rumination on what is great that already has been released. So questions like Paul's are not posed for very long. And albums that were praised one moment as being so great are, so soon, not spoken of again.

So many things could be said about these questions.

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judd stephens

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #32 on: January 06, 2010, 01:23:24 PM »

Lots of questions...

Its easy to say the labels and the artists in the past few years are releasing garbage...but the bigger question then is...what exactly constitutes "Good" & "Awesome" in the ears of the listener.

Ok...done rambling. I am just a frustrated artist  :(

Paul

I just listened to "Imaginarium" yesterday and thought it'd be great to hear some more Ma Ja Le.  The album is really strong, especially the slower, second half, and love the guitar work....  so by all means, bring it on! ;D  About what Mike and others said plays a huge part no doubt, but for me, it was the economy, pure and simple, a move to another place combined with rebuilding business, and dealing with less income.  The few ambient albums I did buy were mostly downloads.  Maybe this year the overall enthusiasm for ambient at least in this country waned, because of obvious priority shifts in finances and mood, but overall, this decade was pretty good for ambient music.  I'm surprised to not see a best of the decade thread yet.  But back to Ma Ja Le:  didn't you or Chris Short post a link to a new song around a year ago or so?  Surely there's interest here of hearing more of your guys' creative output.     

Seren

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #33 on: January 06, 2010, 03:32:53 PM »
For me the shift/return to making music has deeply affected what I listen to in terms of time and finance - I used to listen to music intensely to de-stress from a very hectic and time consuming job, now I make music - partly for the same reason, but mainly as an expression of what I feel. Buying equipment has taken a large chunk of finance that was previously spent on CDs and creating music takes up a large chunk of time.

I think there is a hhhuuugggeee amount of music out there in this and every genre - more than I could possibly listen to and still have a life involving anything else. I think many of the comments made by Mike a very accurate - and hats off to him, Lena and all others involved in music labels for the energy they put in to maintain the labels and music scene - on top of their own creations and other parts of their lives.

All groups go through phases of energy and lethargy, whether general interest in ambient or the interaction of that community itself.

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #34 on: January 06, 2010, 04:32:29 PM »
It's funny that the same day this topic took a turn toward "what the fuck is wrong with the ambient scene?" a similar blowup occurred on the ambient@hyperreal.org list, though that mostly sidetracked really quickly into piracy-related name calling.  And featuring mostly Hypnos Forum members, as well.
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ffcal

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #35 on: January 07, 2010, 01:18:01 AM »
I agree with Seren.  Time can really become an issue-whether it's because it's being used for other things, like creating music, or simply because there is less time to listen for pleasure because of longer work days.  Mike, I think you're being too kind--the only thing major or significant about my CD was that it came out at all.  It was a struggle every step of the way--probably not unlike your Fabrications CD.  I'm glad that this forum is generally civil and tends not devolve into the kind of scatological name-calling that recently hit the ambient list.  Wasn't too thrilled about Austere's comments, though, drunk or not.

Paul, isn't it about time for that next Ma Ja Le CD?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Forrest

Brian Bieniowski

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #36 on: January 07, 2010, 05:47:31 AM »
Regarding the opening statement, I think if you don't find anything in ambient and electronic that's "good" these days, you simply aren't listening to music.

To bounce off of some later points made by different posters: I think the trouble is that we have an embarrassment of riches in ambient music, far more than any one human could ever listen to, much less give adequate time for repeated listening.

While I've felt the internet has benefited my own music buying over the last ten years, I think there's a certain point where the massive upswing in the number of artists and labels and releases does a great level of harm.  What I mean by that is that there is never going to be enough word-of-mouth promotion (a big factor in all the long tail theories, as I understand them) to adequately promote the exponential amount of music out there.  So, though there's a ton of great stuff produced every year, it would seem to me that, statistically, the high tide does not raise all boats, because the sea level itself continues to drop each year.

That said, and perhaps this is because of the ease in which electronic music can be made (similar, I guess, to things like indie rock), there's never been so much decent, if not outstanding, work out there.  And while that's wonderful for the consumer on paper, the fact is that so much of this stuff is going to be forgotten or unheard, just because of the way the new marketplace is set up.  And this is ignoring the natural limit each individual has for a type of music.  I'm pretty tired of glitchy techno, for instance.

Mike brought up a wonderful example of a kind of (to me, anyway) paradigm shifting album that was something like a moon shot: that Aphex Twin record.  That album still sounds alien, revelatory, and timeless to me, from the perspective of 2010.  What I'd like to hear, just to get the juices flowing, is what some of the other forum posters think might be albums that possess this level of quality to them.  I think, as fans, we may need to set our sights higher in terms of what we believe in as lifelong worthwhile listening experiences—surely we can all think of stuff that we fell in love with instantly and grew less enamored with after three or six months.  With lengths of time with that, we might as well be talking about pop music!  What's the music you've listened to with regularity over the long term?

For me, it's artists like Wolfgang Voigt, Stars of the Lid, Andrew Chalk, Fennesz, Biosphere, Alio Die.  These guys are masters, sure.  But there are tons of artists who I play almost as regularly without the same level of "popular" esteem.  I think of Kiln and the Heavenly Music Corporation (admittedly the latter is defunct), or one-off brilliant albums like Scott Solter's One River.  Perhaps the short term amelioration for these issues is for the fans to purchase less music, but make sure what they do buy counts, no matter who the record is by?  I have to admit I don't have any concrete solutions for the overarching issues here.

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #37 on: January 07, 2010, 06:32:31 AM »
"What's the music you've listened to with regularity over the long term?"
Good idea, Brian. I just started a thread for this in the Now Playing section.
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Numina

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #38 on: January 07, 2010, 12:54:39 PM »
Well, thank you kind sir (Austere) for the compliments.  Your work ain't too shabby either my friend.  :) ~ Jesse

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Re: A Grand, Possibly Offending Statement 'bout Ambient Labels
« Reply #39 on: January 07, 2010, 01:10:31 PM »
Jesse, you always be keepin' it real.  You have yet to trip in this Ambient game...