Audacity

Over the holidays I went shopping for some fresh music. I was very pleased to learn that Ugly Duckling have released a new album as I had already feared that the guys have vanished as they never updated their original website. It seems they have moved to myspace so the old site is history.

When I first unwrapped the CD and started listening I immediately started nodding my head and after a few minutes I caught myself thinking: Wait! Something’s wrong here. Andy Cooper is singing! What audacity! And guess what – he is doing a wonderful job. This new vocal nuance blends into the beloved UD sound just as if it had always belonged there. The choice of samples is as exceptional as always and what Einstein is doing is simply astonishing. This is definitely my favorite UD album as of yet and there’s really some tough competition out there. And even better: UD will travel all around Europe again this year, so be sure that I will be there when they come to Stuttgart next month.

And now, as an instant prove of how they are keeping the old-school alive, may I introduce to you: Ugly Ducking – I wont let it die.

Slipping

The Slip I feel obliged to plug NIN’s new album, as Trent Reznor has yet again risen to new level generosity. The Slip which was released today is – just like its predecessor Ghosts – available as a FLAC download, DRM free and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike. As if that were not enough, it is also completely free – there is no way you can pay for it at the moment (there will be physical releases available later on). And yes there is more: the audio is also available as 24Bit/96kHz Wave files, which will make you happy if you spent a whole lot of money on your audio equipment.

So what about the music? I didn’t have a chance to listen to it more than once yet, but from the first taste it sounds like another excellent NIN album. The mood and sound differ quite a bit from the (non-instrumental) predecessor Year Zero, it’s a lot more organic and laid-back. This man does not cease to inspire.

Field Excursion

Just recently I wanted to check whether the lord of the samplers (Amon Tobin) will release any new music any time soon. But instead of advertising new releases Amon Tobin’s website took me on a field recording excursion. Resembling the approach he took with his excellent latest album, where he actually recorded the samples himself instead of recycling old material, a heavy Flash application allows the visitor to control some kind of ship in order to search for specific life forms.

Once such a life form has been found, the visitor can record a set of samples from that species. When all of the samples have been recorded, the specimen will perform what could be called a dance accompanied by an audio track composed of the previously recorded samples.

I’m definitely not a big fan of neither Flash-supported nor solemnly Flash-based web sites, but this one is very well done and provides an original experience that is actually related to the art it is intended to present.

Visuals

NIN Ghosts The claim that Trent Reznor is singlehandedly fixing the music industry is a bit¬† far-fetched, but NIN‘s first release after leaving their major label is a very ambitious step in the right direction. Not only is a part of the album available for free and Ghosts a DRM-free download (including a lossless FLAC encoded version), but also is it licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike!

When I first bought Ghosts, I was bit disappointed that the tracks have no names – even though I really like the album. Somehow that seemed loveless. But then I learned that this was done on purpose, so that contributors to the NIN YouTube Ghosts Film Festival could start visualizing what they hear from scratch without being influenced by the title of the song. The people out there have contributed more then 600 videos until now and some of them are very well done.

Now if only Google burnt even more money on YouTube Рtheir performance  is really tedious sometimes.

Some Are Getting It Indeed

Album Download Site Finally! RADIOHEAD’s new way of distributing music seems to catch on. Another artist who’s excellent previous album often finds its way onto my playlist will release his upcoming album in a fashion similar to ‘In Rainbows’: Saul William‘s new release will be available as a DRM-free download in two flavors:

  • if you decide to pay 5$ you will be able to choose from a 192 kbits/s MP3, a 320 kbits/s MP3 or a FLAC version (yes!)
  • if you don’t want to pay anything you will still be able to download the 192 kbits/s MP3 version

Hey, even the free version is encoded with a higher bitrate than ‘In Rainbows’! I just hope the revenue generated by my five bucks will not be diminished by the bandwidth costs necessary to transfer those FLAC files to my hard disk.

Note that, according to the download site for the album, the MP3 files will be:

encoded with LAME v3.97 and love.

In Rainbows For those that have been off-line last week: RADIOHEAD released their new album “In Rainbows” as a pay as much as you think it’s actually worth digital download. As I enjoyed their music for more then a decade I was happy to learn that they chose such a consumer friendly approach with this release.

Some might argue that three quid are not overly generous, but I find the release to be somewhat reduced: The songs come as 160 kbits/s mp3 files, which is pretty much as low as you can go – I would not even have considered purchasing a 128 kbits/s release. While I would have preferred a >=192 kbits/s (or even a FLAC) release, I have to admit that the sound quality is excellent.

In case you are unhappy about the lack of an official cover you can easily help yourself with this large collection of inoffical ones.

I have to say it’s a wonderful album and although it’s not as “complicated” as the previous ones (and I really enjoyed that complexity) it still is a RADIOHEAD album and I am happy to hear that the online release seems to be a success. One can just hope that other artists get the message that people will actually pay a realistic price for high quality music if you give them the freedom to listen to it any way they want to.