Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Pocket Change Records
A glimpse of the future in an interview with an internet label.
Post Rock, Ambient, Instrumental, Experimental, Electronic, Psychedelic, Analogue Noise. These are the sounds. The theme running through them, that binds all of Pocket Change Records’ releases so far, from the very first wreaths to the current (at time of writing) Talbot Arms, is one of an enveloping atmosphere. The ultimate goal of soundscape artists is to build a bubble that refracts the world beyond it; the wall of sound the speakers throw up doubling as a blank canvas for the listener to project synaesthetic accompaniment, an emotional relationship that invests itself in the narrative of the album that needs silence for reflection and solace after the music finishes.
Now that the MP3 is king of formats the rise and potential dominance of the net label is inevitable, free music is about to mean something more that just piracy and theft. Pocket Change is a free-download net label run by San Francisco based 21 year old Bobbi Westfield. He began it in May 2008 as a way “to help out talented musicians who may get overlooked because they're not sure how to market themselves” and already has a roster of 15 artists with over 1000 downloads clocked up and counting. What is it about an internet based, download label that attracted Bobbi to it? “With all of this "illegal downloading" and "Music piracy" going on today I think it's important that artists have a choice. If they want to charge people $17.00 for a CD that’s fine - but if they want to give it away - really want to because they are so excited and proud of their music, then I think they should be able to do that as well.”
EMI just brought in the CEO of a private equity firm to take over the helm and make it more profit. With the internet becoming the dominant music medium the death of traditional forms is inevitable: “The music industry today is trying to relive the glory-years of the 1960's - 1970's. And they are failing. I'm trying to keep it less about money and more about music/creativity/originality.”
Originality is something Pocket Change’s bands have in abundance. A defining feature of each release has been the sense that it starts in familiar terrain, yet instantly moves from there into uncharted territory. To describe just a few:
UK based Double Handsome Dragons’ combination of guitars, keyboards and samples offers an interesting and arresting angle to that heavy post rock template. I Saw Simon Dance and Goat & Chicken Best Of Friends are both incredibly propulsive tracks full of tricks, twists and riffs;
The Newcastle based wreaths creates doomy sad drone, embellished with touches of post-rock guitar work with a beautifully weighted production that oozes a heavy paranoid atmosphere;
Tunbridge Wells’ On Earth builds on a heady mix of ambient references that recall Eluvium, Meursault, Acre, Stars of The Lid, Natural Snow Buildings…a lot of intense records that combine into really beautiful flowing ambience;
From the USA, Arizona’s incongruously named ihopeyousuffer is a super heavy (but distinctly un-Metal) vista of guttural guitars mangled into a heady airless space with an inherently melodic core that makes for an exhilaratingly dense and claustrophobic listen;
Albuquerque’s ZH - who is the only artist Bobbi has put out two releases for, which should indicate how alluring this artist in particular is. As Bobbi himself says “Probably the most underrated artist I have. His work is genius” – both albums are woozy, surreal trips, intricate microclimates of sound with an overarching atmosphere that is similar to the apocalyptic sighing of the "They have a large barge with a radio antenna tower on it" section from Godspeed’s East Hastings;
Michigan’s A Death Cinematic, one of the farthest out of all PCR releases so far, is a one man instrumental (although nearly all PCR releases fit that description) heavy guitar drone improviser who you can really hear putting a lot of himself into his music. An intense artist with a direct, raw approach, stripped to the minimum that is a wonderful counterpoint to the detailed layers and textures of the other artists on the label.
Every new release has created a sense of anticipation over where Bobbi will take the sound of the label. Receiving submissions at a rate of “2-3 a week” is a very healthy start for such a young label. Is there a grand scheme at play with a mapped out trajectory and releases planned in advance? “Generally, I try and have a release every Monday. Sometimes I'm booked up with releases for a month in advance. We're working on a CD sampler that will have an original song by most of the bands on the label, so things have slowed down considerably while working on it. They will be packaged in beautiful white digi-packs with original artwork, and each and everyone will be handled, folded, stamped, and numbered by yours truly. They will go on a limited run of 200 copies with a PCR sticker, and cost less than $10.00. Aside from the CD release, there are a few big changes and surprises coming to PCR.”
Keep your eyes and ears, bookmarks and favourites locked to this label. Artists planned for releases in the near future include To The Boy Elis, [praw], Iconx6, and Yellow6. After such an encouraging start, with the owner’s focused, open minded attitude Pocket Change Records has the potential to develop into a postrock/ambient/beautiful sounds contender to rival current genre leviathans like Kranky and Constellation.
Pocket Change Records
Conceptual Reality - www.myspace.com/conceptualrealityband
A Death Cinematic - www.myspace.com/adeathcinematic
Double Handsome Dragons - www.myspace.com/doublehandsomedragons
False Awakening - www.myspace.com/falseawake
Icon6 - www.myspace.com/iconx6
ihopeyousuffer - www.myspace.com/ihopeyousuffer
On Earth - www.myspace.com/chrissansonmusic
piers. - www.myspace.com/theweathercouncil
[praw] - www.myspace.com/prawmusic
Talbot Arms - www.myspace.com/wecryforwine
To The Boy Elis - www.myspace.com/totheboyelis
wreaths - www.myspace.com/wreathstaperecordings
Yellow6 - www.myspace.com/jonyellow6
ZH - www.myspace.com/zhus