Saturday, July 24, 2010

Eric Copeland – Strange Days REVIEW by Adam Brodsky

As the core member of New York trio Black Dice, Eric Copeland is no stranger to experimental soundscaping. Teamed up with Animal Collective member Avey Tare to form the side project Terrestrial Tones, Copeland was able to create a true sense of sound as an encompassing atmosphere. But with his third full-length solo album, Copeland takes a step away from soundscapes and instead moves to the less familiar space of schizophrenic sound production. Strange Days is far too spastic and fast paced to develop any rational or cohesive soundscape, and Copeland would not have it any other way.

Limited to just 500 self-designed, silk-screened copies, Copeland and label mates at Post Present Medium are aware that this album is not for the weary at heart. A first listen will be tempting to fans of rising artists like Sun Araw, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Julian Lynch. But these artists are strong embracers of slow, patient progressions that ultimately bring a singular and repetitive concept to the forefront. Rather, Strange Days’ fast paced noise is more comparable to the most abrasive moments of Tim Hecker’s oft overlooked 2009 album An Imaginary Country or even pre-Night Ripper Girl Talk. Nonetheless, Strange Days is no less gratifying than such contemporary ambient artists, and equally as mind-altering, while ultimately less meditative.

Strange Days has a similar effect to driving in the back seat of a car, victim to a front seat passenger with A.D.D. who keeps changing the radio dial every five to ten seconds. While at times this two-track, 35 minute long LP may become unlistenable, bearing the brunt of the experience is half of the fun. There is a small reward in every moment that you identify a particular field recording, feel the moment of a fleeting groove, or scratch your head at what the hell that hypnagogically familiar sample might be. And Copeland is truly relentless—once started, Strange Days will toss you around until its finale.

So with fair warning I advocate investigating Eric Copeland’s Strange Days before the limited edition LP becomes a high stakes eBay tussle. At the very least, you won’t ever get another chance to the transitioning of the sound repeating gong, to the rhythm of a distorted disco beat, and back again to the tones of a malfunctioning synthesizer. Or was that actually the sound of water falling on a tin roof? This puzzling juxtaposition of natural and manufactured sonic tones is invaluable, as it forces the listener to confuse and in turn reconsider what is natural and what is digital, and in today’s technoculture how exactly to define those terms. With each listen of Strange Days the resultant mood will depend strongly on the listener’s state of mind, at times bringing a serious headache and at others great gratification.

El Guincho – Piratas de Sudamérica, Volume 1 REVIEW by Adam Brodsky

My friend Mike likes to argue with me about the merits of world music. He thinks he knows a thing or two because he saw FELA! on Broadway and once burned me a CD-R he called “The Emperor’s New Groove” that I later discovered was actually just a mix of various Numero Group and Sublime Frequencies b-sides.

Pablo Díaz-Reixa is not like Mike. Within the upcoming year Díaz-Reixa aka El Guincho is set to release a volume of covers of lost South American traditional folk songs called Piratas de Sudamérica. The first of the volume is a splendid little five song EP that is mostly Cuban themed. And unlike Mike, El Guincho does not need to prove his credentials through the depths of his crate digging. Granted, unless you are a seventy-year-old Cuban grandpa you’ve probably never heard any of these songs, but for El Guincho, it doesn’t seem that way. The vibe on this album feels completely natural, and the selection of covers seems to really reflect the nature of this native Barcelonan, and the true capacities of his style.

When El Guincho first came onto the radar with 2008’s Alegranza! it was hard to defend his rapid success from Animal Collective skeptics who arraigned him for chasing the drowned-in-reverb trend. Now, with a crisper, less cluttered sound, the Piratas de Sudamérica series proves that he is not a follower. While trademark textures and grooves still remain, the sound here is stripped down and simplified, and the result is more charming and effective than ever before. “Mientes,” a rendition of Cuba’s renowned Trio Matamoros, fits perfectly with El Guincho’s aesthetic. Its son cubano style that gained worldwide popularity in the 1930’s is preserved here and it sounds right up his alley. If this is what it takes for kids in Brooklyn to discover the origins of Arará percussion, so be it. And while El Guincho is certainly no less aware how effectively Spanish guitar combined with African rhythms lead the current indie chic, at no point on this record does it feel appropriated. For all you early naysayers, a once-over of this fifteen minute EP just might be enough to prove that El Guincho is not simply riding the Panda Bear coattails. Once converted, you won’t be able to get enough of El Guincho’s perfected, tropical crooning.

We’ll have to wait and see how the Piratas de Sudamérica series unfolds as it leads up to El Guincho’s second full length LP, Pop Negro, which is due out later this fall on Young Turks. In the meantime, anyone fixing for a little steelpan medley can stream Piratas de Sudamérica Vol. 1 in its entirety over at El Guincho’s myspace. It will have people of all backgrounds sipping coolattas and singing along to every line, even if you—like my friend Mike—don’t speak a lick of Spanish.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Cultural Politics of Lo-Fi Indie Music

The Cultural Politics of Lo-Fi Indie Music

by Adam Brodsky

The blogosphere is taking over—it is not to be discredited or taken lightly. For millions of people who value the most current styles, scenes and trends, internet blogs are a crucial and realistic source of information. The notion that blogs are “unreliable” has become nearly irrelevant for most bloggers, and while they do take this into consideration, the trends and styles that blogs deem to be “in,” are not in need of any credibility other than street cred. It is a fast paced game in which trends can seem to come out of almost anywhere. Right now, people are being paid to sit in front of computer screens, tracking trends and corralling demographics, hoping to jump onto the next big thing and place an advertisement in its way before a whole slew of anxious consumers arrive. Popular music is an example of a realm where trends dominate. For this essay, I want to focus on a specific musical trend that has come to prominence in recent years, perhaps even months. “Lo-fi indie” music is the term I will use to describe this new phenomena that is sweeping across high-traffic blogs and websites, consequently reaching music promoters, record labels, booking agencies, and millions of listeners. Specifically, I want to focus on an article that was published on earlier this year by the music news and review website The article brought to light the debate “What, if any, are the political values of lo-fi indie music,” highlighting two positions from different online sources. I want to explore this question further, expanding upon analysis offered by bloggers and critical thinkers before me. By applying similar methods to that of Ien Ang, I aim to reveal how blogs function as a form of anonymous person-to-person interaction, information, and interview around any plethora of issues. In this case, lo-fi indie is the issue in question, and I seek to define and determine its parameters and qualities, both musically and otherwise. Finally, I will revisit Dick Hebdige’s theories on subcultures to compare the radical punk culture he studied with that of “lo-fi indie culture” in order to answer whether or not lo-fi indie music opens a space for a new cultural politics. This investigation is largely one embedded in the intricacies of musical and aural pleasures, and as such, mere words may never suffice for the reactions for which sound is responsible. Recognizing this fact as much, I will attempt to be as descriptive and distinct as possible, so as to make up for any loss of reward that may result as I traverse such fragile territory.

On February 15, 2010, published a thought-provoking online article for musicians and musical critics alike. The article brought to light the debate “What if any, are the political values of “lo-fi” indie music?” The article went on to outline two positions on the issue: the first argument comes from a British daily newspaper’s online blog with a long-winded article title that claimed “Blog Rock Lacks Political Edge: Dream-pop, nature and nostalgia is in, raging against the machine is out. Just when did indie rock get so laidback?” The article went on to site a number of contemporary lo-fi indie bands and make the claim that this type of music is “set utterly outside the city, outside work, outside the America of healthcare debates and ongoing wars.” The Guardian article further distinguishes specific bands such Wavves, Best Coast, Beach House, Surfer Blood, and High Places, which, as a point of reference, are relevant to the lived realities of many local Claremont students. Within the last year, five out of the six above-mentioned bands have played on-campus, which alone in itself nearly demonstrates how these are by no means obscured or abstracted bands. Nonetheless, the Guardian article insists on their amoral, nearly nihilistic stance stating, “Their fascination with the pastoral and apolitical is augmented by the other major strain in the US underground: nostalgia. With their intoxicatingly naive, redolent and melancholic music… [they] retreat from the realities of modern life to the rose-tinted and half-remembered plains of their childhood…” There is need for clarification at this point. Lo-fi music does indeed trigger a sense of nostalgia. It reflects like a memory, invoking intentional tape distortion and reverb. Intentionally degraded sound quality and echo effects make lo-fi indie music sound as if it comes from a lost bin of 1980’s records, allowing for a finely crafted hypnagogic sound. But does such an aesthetic move in sound equate a political retreat? The other side of the argument offers a counter to the guardian, claiming that this type of music is precisely political because of its pastoral quality.

Chocolate Bobka is a popular and resolutely grassroots independent music blog. In response to the Guardian the writers from Chocolate Bobka stated that rather than merely escaping the material world of political realities, lo-fi bands choose to subvert the mainstream economic and political value system. Specifically by choosing to utilize low-cost, low-tech, lo-fidelity quality music production techniques that would not regularly enable a band to be “marketable,” they are creating a political space that constitutes “a critique of society’s failure to deliver the egalitarian future that technological progress once promised. ‘Why rage against the machine,” [Chocolate Bobka asked], “when you can organically build a 'new world' within America outside the status quo?’”

Before launching into which side of the debate is right and which side is wrong, it needs to be established that the blog surfing method, while reasonably understood, still works within a new paradigmatic frame that shifts from previous approaches by cultural studies theorists. When considering Ien Ang’s work Watching Dallas, published in 1982, I presume that she would have utilized different methods or mediums if she had been carrying out a similar project in 2010. Ang sought to collect and analyze responses from a target audience on the question of what types of pleasure they received from watching the television sitcom Dallas. Ang placed a small advertisement in a Dutch women’s magazine calling for people to mail her letters explaining why they liked or disliked watching Dallas. She received forty-two responses in total, all of varying lengths and opinions (Ang 10). Whether or not Ang would still nominate the readers of a Dutch women’s magazine as her target audience, it is almost unfathomable to believe that she would have used a small publication in a single magazine page as the main vehicle to call her subjects. Modern technoculture nearly disallows for participation in a survey via snail mail. People’s tendencies are guided by rapid point-and-click technology, and as such, the blog is a far more likely medium for conducting research in Ang’s style. It makes sense then, that the article was published in a section entitled “Debates” and allowed for open user feedback. The debate on lo-fi indie music received 38 anonymous responses, all in varying opinions and lengths, yet, even though Ang received more responses, the blog as a forum still wins out as more advanced and useful than the methods utilized in 1980. I would argue that due to the vastness and innumerable music review sites on the internet, thirty-eight responses is a commendable number. Additionally, they do not reflect short, off-hand, or terse comments that one might find on something like an site that would receive hundreds of comments per news article.

Blogging is the most reasonable and accessible method of today, and Ang would recognize this change and would realign her method as such. What has not changed is the “symptomatic” approach with which I read and analyze the responses given on the site. While this essay does not rely heavily on an interpretation of the participant responses as Ang’s did, I still find it useful to point out the opinions of readers, and to validate their responses in my research. Their array of views and comments from the merely cynical, i.e., “'And all of it set utterly outside the city, outside work, outside the America of healthcare debates and ongoing wars’… because a song about the American healthcare system would be truly thrilling,” to the more thoughtful and theoretical are all present. Some of the blog readers pointed out that the Guardian article was nearly as much of an advertisement bands it listed as it was a critique of them: “‘Blog Rock Lacks a Political Edge’ might as well have been the entire article, with links to the myspace pages of the bands mentioned. The piece uses a bunch of clichés and tries to force them onto a set of completely unrelated musical principles/stylings. Tape recordings = nostalgia, nostalgia = childhood (political) apathy, the end. That literally seems to be the extent of the reasoning.” Whether malicious or appropriately insightful, comments on blogs cover the entire spectrum of responses, and allow for complete and total anonymity. There is no need to place a return address on a blog comment, enabling users to speak their true thoughts in a public forum. From the moment they press the “post” button, there is instant gratification in seeing that they have something published on a public site for potentially infinite viewers to see for an indefinite time period. From that moment, anonymous readers can engage in back-and-fourths, choosing sides, forming online comradery or debate adversaries. Furthermore, my own position as an analyst of the debate is not a privileged one; any person who chooses to can interact with these public domains in a similar manner. But before choosing sides, it seems necessary to clarify the terms lo-fi and indie as they are used in this context. To define these terms is a task that at once seems insurmountable and simultaneously beckons for transparency.

The term lo-fi comes from low fidelity, referring to the quality of the music recording and the technology employed in capturing the sound. The popular lo-fi music of which I refer to in this essay intentionally utilizes and finely crafts a lo-fi sound that forms a distinguished niche and aesthetic preference for a musical taste. Lo-fi music is not simply degraded just because it sounds cool, rather, it is compellingly referential, evoking half-remembered hits as portals to the subconscious. Indeed, it is a sweeping phenomenon in America’s Do-It-Yourself underground that has caused many of these artists to update their high-traffic Myspace accounts with cluttered images of 1980’s pop references from Ghostbusters’ Slimer, straight-to-video surf movies, old Beverly Hills 90210 posters, and faded polaroids. One reader who goes by the pseudonym Paralelliot commented on the blog and summed up this musical and cultural aesthetic with a comment, “...young people are listening to a form of music that whispers into their ears stories about fantastical memories of all night pizza parties and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pajamas and smooth beaches.” The word “indie” is slightly more complicated. Its etymology can be traced from the word independent, originally referring to the small, record labels that produced albums outside of the dominant means of production. With rising technologies and new forms of communication, “indie labels” began to gain popularity and had a real chance at making their mark on the musical scene. However, this history says nothing about the aesthetic or musical quality of “indie” music, but rather absorbs in it a summary of the musical quality that coincided with this movement. Early indie rock bands like Pavement and Modest Mouse are good examples of bands that epitomized the seminal indie sound that comprised the specific “indie music” qualities.

Flashing forward to 2010, the amalgamation of lo-fi and indie almost seems to backtrack in an illogical musical direction. By no means does it necessarily mark anything new or groundbreaking. Yes, lo-fi indie music is challenging the traditional order with its do-it-yourself characteristics, but with modern technology being so advanced and accessible, basement recordings can often sound as crisp, clean, and professional as any headlining band with an album released on Warner Bros. Lo-fi indie bands are deliberately choosing to resonate with the punk and new wave aesthetic that paved the way before them. Take for example the angst-driven lyrics of lo-fi band Wavves’ frontman Nathan Williams: got no car

got no money

I got nothin' nothin' nothin' not at all

(From the song “No Hope Kids” off the self-titled album “Wavves” – 2009)

Or for instance, the carefree, sunshine beach pop lyrics of the band Best Coast in this song entitled “Sun Was High (So Was I)” also resonate with the teenage daydream:

I went for a walk

watched the cars go by

the sun was high

I thought of you

Clearly, there is nothing profound or metaphorically compelling in these lyrics. And yet, there is something to be said for straightforward pop lyrics that are both simple and finely crafted. It would be wrong to discredit the gift of writing a song so precise.

Defining lo-fi indie in its mere musical context comes up short of the proper analysis for revealing whether or not it can create space for a new cultural politics. Musically, it is a hybrid. Alike punk, it is distinguished from mainstream pop because of its distorted and degraded quality. Alike punk, it is “uniformly basic and direct in its appeal… a barrage of guitars with the volume and treble turned to maximum” (Hebdige 109). But while it may be considered an art form and a certain type of musical pleasure, is it culture? Stacked up against its punk predecessor, lo-fi indie is lacking in nearly all cultural and political qualifications. As the Guardian article notes, “Their use of lo-fi recording, once such an anti-corporate statement, is now often merely retro,” merely musical and aesthetic preference.

One would be hard-pressed to find someone who would take offense to a song about taking a walk in the sun—even the harshest censors could smile along to the image. But does this pastoral naivety begin to define the music and its culture? Dick Hebdige’s analysis of punk culture is useful for tackling this question. One way in which Hebdige proves punk to be a subculture is by demonstrating how punk was so “profane” that it “breached our expectancies” of what fit into normative culture (Hebdige 82, 91). Comparatively, lo-fi indie music has been celebrated and quickly consumed by pop culture. While the original punks were vilified and cast aside, lo-fi indie music—for all its aural similarities and resemblances to punk—has been a central part of mainstream pop from its inception, and by no means has it been rejected or labeled as profane. The acceptance of lo-fi as a positive component of new pop music is one aspect that defines lo-fi indie as possibly a musical advancement. In their prime, the punks, as described by Hebdige, “seemed to be parodying the alienation and emptiness… celebrating in mock-heroic terms the death of the community and the collapse of traditional forms of meaning” (Hebdige 79). When looking at lo-fi indie music, it is clear that it is completely devoid of this aspect of emptiness. Rather, as in the case with the Wavves’ lyrics, there is almost a sense of revelry in melancholy.

Shortly after the article published the public debate, a reader identified simply as “BROM” added this view:

“I don't think lo-fi is political at all. However, as others have inferred in this thread a consumer could listen to the music as a political rallying call (for whatever beliefs they hold). Likewise music which has a strong political dimension for the musician can serve no political purpose for the listener. E.g. Radiohead have drawn attention, through their music, to the environmental agenda. Personally I don't much care for their political beliefs but I still think they're a great band. In short there are no political values in lo-fi (or any genre of music), only those which the listener creates for themselves.”

Is this true then, that the reader or listener can interpret the political meaning as a catalyst for whatever they choose? Let’s turn again to Hebdige for an analysis of such issues within a subcultural and political framework. In order for indie music to relay a clear political message and create space for culture, it must resonate an unambiguous identity. This is the first lacking aspect of indie. There is no homologous movement within the lo-fi indie scene. Instead it has evolved out of trends and musical history only to uniformly accept whatever labels it has absorbed. Aside from its origins that subverted large scale, capitalist record and music production companies, indie or “independent music” has been devoid of any reactionary aspect. In this sense, I concur with the Guardian article that lo-fi is a product of the “yes we can” era, and is not a form of resistance to oppressive systems. Any number of resonant sounds or noises cannot transmit the possibility for the average listener to transmute any message into political action. The example of Radiohead advocating for environmental rights is an aspect of their work outside of their music. Of course, any band that plays popular music has the right (some may even say the duty) to use their fame for a better cause. But since any political action is removed from the music and lo-fi in and of itself, this is not something with which lo-fi, nor any musical genre, can be credited. If anything, the lo-fi image contradicts such action, it is a retreat into a certain idleness, content with sunshine and the hope that everything will be all right—still a far cry from “yes we can,” but more like, “I hope someone does.”

In his book Hebdige credits the media as playing a crucial role in defining experience (Hebdige 84-5). He goes on to say that “they provide us with the most available categories for classifying out the social world. It is primarily through the press, television, film, etc…” (Hebdige 85). For the sake of this essay, we have already established with an analysis of Ien Ang’s methods that we are living in an age dominated by the blogosphere. There is new media that does not rely fully on television or the newspaper to transmit new representations—certainly not lo-fi indie representations. Unquestionably, lo-fi indie grew out of an initial “blog shock” and has since permeated traditional media. Such a current phenomena is one that Hebdige was not able to account for at the time of his publication on subcultures.

Hebdige goes on to talk about how “the emergence of a spectacular subculture is invariably accompanied by a wave of hysteria in the press” (Hebdige 92). Yet, this seems to be less of the case today. With so many different types of trends rising and musical genres causing disjunctive yet substantial and deeply personal connections, it is impossible for the mainstream media to stay on top of the constellation of what one may deem to be a “spectacular subculture.” In fact, today the term “mainstream media” comes into question as more and more print publications and magazines across all spectrums find that they are losing audiences rapidly to online sources—blogs, zines, tweets, or other.

Perhaps the most substantial point to focus on comes within the discussion of the media’s ability to appropriate subculture into commodity. Hebdige notes how “it is the subcultures stylistic innovations which first attract the media’s attention” (Hebdige 93). While clearly “style” is an important aspect of the indie community and no one would claim that indie rockers are lacking in style, there is no firm strand of “dress and demeanor” which connotes difference from indie rockers and that of mainstream popular culture (Hebdige 83). So what is the singular object that the new media clings on to today in order to expose new rising artists and trends? In reality, I would refute this claim—there is no singular object of desire for the media. Hebdige notes how The Daily Mirror ran an article on punk as a subculture at the same time that the Sex Pistols exploded onto the scene. From that point forward, it was through the spread of hype and word-of-mouth that other punk bands and punk culture began to receive coverage in the media. It was an organic form of exposure for bands that had been crafting an aesthetic; they were suddenly thrust into the limelight. Eventually, through the media’s continued representation and ability to return subcultures “to the place where common sense would have them fit” these spaces for cultural politics were “recuperated” (Hebdige 94). Hebdige expands on this thought, noting that one major component of this process of recuperation includes “the conversion of subcultural signs (dress, music, etc.) into mass-produced objects (i.e. the commodity form)’ (Hebdige 94). Such a “process” as described by Hebdige does not occur in the blogosphere. Instead, I see an instantaneous incorporation of the new and current chic into the commodity form. The blogosphere allows for the powerful commoditizing systems to immediately absorb new narratives into dominant mythologies. While seemingly providing new freedoms and access to communication for millions of internet users, the blogosphere is also a veiled mechanism for taking unexpected trends and turning them into commodities at the moment of their production. Such a phenomena nearly negates any possibility at the novel—the ability to create something original and innovating.

Take for example the lo-fi artist Neon Indian who suddenly came to widespread popularity in mid-2009. His rise can be linearly traced through a series of specific blogs until at the right moment, dictated by forces beyond the recognition or scope of this essay, he became the new iconic face of lo-fi indie. His sound was distinguished from earlier bands because, unlike any lo-fi before him, Neon Indian was explicitly dance oriented and electronic. His sounds were never recorded onto a computer; rather, they were all generated from within a computer. Within this space, he was able to work with the given set of sound parameters and create the digital tape distortion, reverb, and delay that is necessary in giving the music that intentionally melted, antique trademark. This trademark sound signaled for millions of top-tier businessmen an easily marketable product and within days, Neon Indian became a household name within the lo-fi indie scene. Within weeks, Neon Indian became a name that millions of web-surfers encountered in reviews, interviews, and blog gossip. Further still, his face went on to grace major billboards, and he teamed up with corporate ads for companies like Mountain Dew. But the real story goes beyond Neon Indian, to a series of copycat musicians and savvy bloggers who saw an opportunity not to be missed. Hebdige summarizes this concept, recognizing that “as soon as the original innovations which signify ‘subculture’ are translated into commodities and made generally available, they become ‘frozen’. Once removed from their private contexts by the small entrepreneurs and big fashion interests who produced them on a mass scale, they become codified, made comprehensible, rendered at once public property and profitable merchandise” (Hebdige 96). Within days of Neon Indian’s fruitful recognition, musical artists popped up all across the map with nearly identical musical aesthetics, and sonic palettes. Donning names like Washed Out, and Memory Tapes these bands seized a lucrative wave that they are still riding and capitalizing on at this moment. Perhaps then, it is no wonder that electronic lo-fi indie music is also commonly termed “Chillwave” within the blogosphere.

Chillwave represents the end of an era that utilized an organic process. Today, the concept of climbing the charts or “getting that lucky break” does not exist. There is no need to put in hundreds of hours of time at band practice. Instead, viral marketing, heavy blogging, and keeping up on internet trends are the essential ingredients to getting signed, touring the world, and making a living. That is not to say that chillwave and lo-fi artists are not talented; of course, hundreds of other copycat artists failed in their attempts. I do not also mean to lay the claim that this is the only way to gain worldwide musical recognition. Certainly many bands, perhaps the best bands, are going the traditional route in order to achieve their dreams. This is certainly admirable, and I wish it were more often the case. However, the days of old—when bands like the Sex Pistols were able to reveal an underground subculture that carried a whole slew of significations, exposing similar artists and bands that truly believed in a certain unified movement—are gone. We are left with disjunctive, disconnected, fast-paced technoculture that dictates the terms of a fierce “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” mentality.

With a global technoculture rapidly growing and spreading, the blogosphere becomes more pertinent by the day. And while perhaps it does suggest a loss of an organic process within music as well as in potential other realms, is this something to be feared and mourned? Is the fact that “lo-fi indie” as a musical movement falls short of creating space for cultural politics something for which we should express regret? In a world in which it is becoming increasingly evident that power is diminishing from within centralized traditional systems (media, the state, etc.), it is becoming easier and easier to claim that everything is political. This is perhaps the most dangerous issue that faces true sites of political resistance and reversibility. The depoliticizing effects of claiming that everything is political can leave the spaces for real openings of cultural politics looking like dead letters, wondering, if everything is political, then is nothing political? And if so, what is the point of resisting at all? Punks literally thrived by being vulgar and, by promulgating their deviance. They were able to sustain themselves as a subculture that resisted conservative narratives and normative conventions. Lo-fi indie rockers do not go so far. Yet, can those who associate with the lo-fi indie scene be somewhat essentialized as important figures for a working class narrative? Certainly not everyone who partakes in the production of lo-fi or low quality recordings does so out of an aesthetic choice, but rather because of a lack of choice and access to higher technologies. Additionally, the great majority of lo-fi artists never see the lucrative ends of their process. Is it then possible to infer as to the capitalistic relations surrounding any disillusioned semi-subculture that has no say who will become the vanguard of their craft? Perhaps the answer can only be found by turning to the open forum, and to the bloggers and readers who launched the whole discussion. One anonymous response from the website had this to say of lo-fi indie music: “This form of music may result in the yuppieification and pacification of a generation of potentially radical commandos who will work harder to perpetuate capital such that they can one day afford a second home on some gentrified tourist-filled beach.”

Perhaps the pastoral and naïve qualities possessed in lo-fi music will indeed have such adverse and dramatic effects. This political ambiguity could possibly be used as a vessel for innocently supporting the ideal capitalist endeavor. But then again, maybe it will not, as lo-fi indie music ultimately falls short of establishing a real subculture. Fortunately, one thing is for certain, and it is worthwhile to restate: the blogosphere is a fast paced game. Who knows what will come after lo-fi, or after chillwave, and for how long these fads will sustain themselves. Because beneath their multiple guises and tiers of signification, all that really exists are fads-- and that is not such a bad thing after all. As bands continue to make us question their sonic palettes and their technological mediums, they in turn, force us to consider the political implications of the world around us. While sometimes they may form authentic and cohesive subcultures, and other times they may just be trends, or a flash in the pan, at least they are still pushing the envelope. And that alone is something worth noting.

Ang, Ien. Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination. London: Metheun & Co. Ltd, 1985. Print.

“Blog rock lacks a political edge: Dream-pop, nature and nostalgia is in, raging against the machine is out. Just when did indie rock get so laidback?“ Ben Beaumont Thomas, 9 Feb. 2010. Web. 15 Feb. 2010.

Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Metheun & Co. Ltd, 1979, Print.

“Retort: ‘Blog Rock has No Political Edge.’” McGregor, 9 Feb. 2010. Web. 15 Feb. 2010.

"What, if any, are the political values of “lo-fi” indie music." TMT Staff, 15 Feb. 2010. Web. 15 Feb. 2010.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Music to Paint yr Deck to...

Hi Friends-
So Falby and Freedman and I got commissioned to paint my parent's deck and I made this mix to help pass the time. In honor of the worldly, celebratory flare that is the world cup, this mix traces 40 minutes of upbeat summery jams from across the globe. Some of the best unheard artists from places like South Africa, Brazil, Martinique, and Nigeria. Happy July everyone!

THE EMPERORS NEW CLOTHES - a summer mix by adambrodsky

Thumbkin Presents... THE EMPERORS NEW CLOTHES: A Summer Mix (to paint your deck to)
1) The Movers - Bump Jive (South Africa)
2) S. Piliso & His Super Seven - Kuya Hanjwa (South Africa)
3) Nkengas - Ube Frank Special (Nigeria)
4) Byron Lee & The Dragonaires - Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Jamaica)
5) Les Lee (With the Beacons) - Jasmine (Hong Kong)
6) Dara Puspita - Semua Gembira (All Happy) (Indonesia)
7) The Marvelettes - He was really Sayin' Somethin' (USA)
8) The Firebirds - Never mY Love, Never Say Goodbye (USA)
9) Frankie Smith - Double Dutch Bus (USA)
10)Esin Engin ve Orkestrasi - Anadolu Çiftetellisi (Turkey)
11) Climaco Sarmiento Y Su Orquesta - La cigarra (Colombia)
12) Los Orientales de Paramonga - Lobos Al Escape (Peru)
13)Barel Coppet Et Mister Lof - Jeunesse Vauclin (Martinique)
14) Tom - Camelo (Brazil)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jake Falby Playing Live on 4/6 “Flowerhours”

The honorable Clutterer Jake Falby will be making his on-air radio debut tomorrow at 5 PM. If you're in the So Cal area, tune in to KSPC 88.9 or stream the show live on

From the KSPC website:

Jake Falby, of the band Thumbkin, will be playing live on “Flowerhours” at 5PM on Tuesday, 4/6. It will be a wondrous mix of experimental violin loops, singing, and improv!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Download the new Thumbkin album!

Click here to download the new album or get a handmade copy and be the coolest kid on the block with your free thumbkin puppet! Woooot!

Also, be on the look out for live Thumbkin performances with the full band: Adam Brodsky, Cal Siegel, Jake Falby, Gabe Guerrero.

Pomona Workers for Justice!

Pomona Workers for Justice!