Sunday, April 24, 2011

Free music for Japan ('The Sun Will Rise')

Many people around the world were quick to react to the Japanese earthquake/tsunami and reach out to those affected, through donations of cash, goods or time. The immediacy of the needs combined with the platform of the internet also led to some innovative approaches to fundraising.

One such example is the crowd-sourced book '2:46 - Aftershocks' (previously written about here). Another project, which has received far less publicity than the book, is the new album release 'The Sun Will Rise'. I've got a track on it too, so have another reason to want to spread the word.

Started by ambient musician Kevin Stephens from Portland Oregon a few days after the first quake, the 'double disc' collection was released online on April 17th. With contributions, musical and otherwise, flooding in via tweets, blog posts and Facebook status updates, the entire project went from idea to realisation in a little over a month.

The compilation has its roots in the netlabel scene. Netlabels are online record labels that distribute music entirely over the internet via digital audio formats and typically give away the music for free under 'free to share' licences. With no physical product to contend with, the running costs of such a label are considerably lower than those of a traditional record label (if not non-existent). The element of curation that comes with a label means that there is also a level of quality control over the music. Although many netlabels deal mostly with electronic music, there are other genres of music also released in this way, as the tracks in the player on this page should show.

Despite this music generally being made available for free, 'The Sun Will Rise' is intended as a charity project with 100% of proceeds raised going directly to the Japanese Red Cross. This is why downloads are completely free and donations are requested via a separate page at The album itself is available from profiles at both Bandcamp and the Internet Archive.

I must admit that the first 'disc', an entirely ambient collection, isn't completely to my tastes. The tracks are glacially slow, somewhat meditative, and almost uniformly rather dark sounding. This is perhaps inevitable for music inspired by the worst natural disaster ever to hit the benefiting country and perhaps likely for a collection that has emerged from the ambient community, but it doesn't seem a natural candidate for taking the project to a wider audience. I'm a fan of ambient music myself in some cases, but I do prefer a slight sense of narrative to what I listen to. However, it will undoubtedly have an audience with the right set of ears.

The second collection is the more accessible one. It opens with Kristopher Fisher's 'Tsunami', an building orchestral swell with a sense of large pending waves. The punky 'Another way of living' leads on to the gorgeously spacious 'Essex' by Mark Preston.

'Going My Way' is a fairly jaunty acoustic romp, followed by 'My Heart Bleeps Noisy Beeps', a high school electro jaunt that in parts conjures up early 80's New Wave. Liam Stewart's 'German Army Coat' is up next, a thoughtful guitar-based piece reminiscent of an upbeat Joy Division after a bit of a lie down.

The next piece is the one that I was involved with. Now I am back in Brighton, I have started working again with an old band mate from The Zamora. The first fruits of this project (dubbed NASA Technical Station) is titled 'Stenographic Records' and was essentially put together in a night - specifically for this album. I sequenced the beats and other samples, Steve played guitar over the top plus added a bass line, then I topped it off with a vocal (a reading of a speech given by someone from Japan's 1960's space programme). We were a little surprised yet rather thrilled to have been selected to appear on the album - an encouraging sign for such a new project. If you like the track, you can comment on it over at SoundCloud.

Aeroshell's 'Lighthugger' comes after us, delivering up more ambience, but beaty enough to be a distant relative to the likes of Air. The pace drops a little with Dao Audio, then gets dramatically Wagnerian with the orchestral swells of 'Heaven's Gate'. The slightly paranoid beeps and swirls of IR's 'electric dragonfly' (great title) precede the thoughtful and spacious textural synthscapes of 'Light Splash Dream', which is the followed by 'Million Eyes Of Dew', the most 'Asian' sounding track on the collection. The album concludes with Cascadian's 'The Corinthian Sea', a track of pending darkness.

The player at the top of this post contains all the tracks on the second collection. This post also contains a badge to donate directly to the fund (go on - they're aiming to raise $1,000) and a mini player for the first collection. Click through onto the album profile pages, download 'em all or track by track and please drop some cash in the collection box on your way out. Spread the word too, while you're at it.


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