“CORNISH: When you mentioned being happy that people upload videos of your song, it’s almost the opposite of what most artists are saying now about their work.
SPEKTOR: Yeah. I mean, I can’t really relate. You know, I grew up poor and, you know – and there are a lot of people that grew up a lot poorer than I am, so, to me, I just – I think that if somebody doesn’t have an easy life, they should at least have access to free books and films and music. And I think that I feel very lucky to live in this time where people can go online and get everything I’ve ever made, whether they have a lot of money or not.”
We are very lucky to live in this time when someone can tell you about something they heard on the radio and you can track it down immediately and give it a listen. I love being able to hear “Eet” over and over again from the youtube video stream when I’m in the mood, but several artists have gone a step further, offering high-quality, free downloads that you can carry with you and add to your personal collection. I wanted to share my top free culture music recommendations in no particular order:
- Lessazo’s Soleil d’hiver sounds like a looser, more improvisational Manu Chao. This is actually a double disc set with 30 musicians performing on it throughout. It’s under an Art Libre license that basically only restricts “exclusive appropriation” so you can use these tracks for any purpose you can imagine but it’s always helpful to remember that attribution (giving credit where due) is what makes this type of distribution work for the creator. This is first rate eclectic jam music. My personal favorite track is Lendemain au café.
- MIA’s “Vicki Leekx” has been out since late 2010 when the whole Wikileaks thing seemed like it was going to boil over and cause people to actually take notice. It’s a high energy 20 min mixtape that succinctly sums up the revolution that the first world needs. The message seems to be further reinforced by the fact that almost two years later nothing much has changed at the top and the fate of Private Bradley Manning is still uncertain. In a strange way I feel this music represents a sort of contemporary re-imagining of the ideas behind John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
- Axial’s SiMBiOSE is what one might expect Deerhoof (who’s also released a live album available as a free download) to sound like if they had a distinctly Brazilian flair. Their previous albums, also available at the Free Music Archive, are brilliant as well. Their sound is so diverse that I was reminded of everything from my recent experience hearing Briana Marela perform at a Jacksonville house party (by their track Oriki de Oxum) to Eighth Blackbird’s performances of experimental, contemporary classical works (by the interlude in Tamanquero). Axial isn’t quite as danceable as the others but it’s the kind of music I personally gravitate toward and it’s definitely going to be playing non-stop in my car for a while.
I meant to include Major Lazer’s “Get Free” and brag about how Amber Coffman played guitar on an album for which I created one of the official music videos. However, while I was working on this post I discovered that it’s no longer a free download. As of last week it’s just a stream, music video, or link to the iTunes store.
Other artists employing creative digital distribution include Rafter who has made 5 of the 18 tracks from Music for Total Chickens available for download at the Asthmatic Kitty records site and Des Ark whose latest album WXDU V. 3 is available as a “donate what you want” digital download from paramnesia records. I’ll be trying this approach myself with original digital stills available from any of my films posted to the web. More information here.