Jan Felipe makes great, mellow music, and it’s absolutely free. Fans of José González will definitely dig this stuff. The album, Abril, features a range of styles and languages, and the download is very well-presented with fully tagged files (320kbps mp3 or FLAC, your choice), and an included pdf booklet with the lyrics.
You can’t go wrong with free music— give it a try, you’ve got nothing to lose. Link
Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows I’m a firm believer in the power of Creative Commons music releases. In fact, I love CC music so much that I review albums over at Frostclick just to help support the community. One thing I’ve been frustrated about in past years, however, is the lack of any decent Turkish CC releases. Don’t get me wrong, I can deal with Turkish pop as well as the next person… up to a point. Of course, there are those kids out there who would rather die than go pop, and thus was born the Turkish independent death metal scene… which I can also tolerate up to a point. My tastes in metal tend toward the old-school.
The last time I did any in-depth checking, which was a couple of years ago, pretty much all the Turkish CC music I found was thrashy. Meh.
Then a couple of days ago it occurred to me to look again, specifically for artists in Turkey, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how much things have developed. There are at least half a dozen genres to choose from now, including trip-hop, disco, and post-rock.
It’s a little trippy, a little nu-loungey, and completely chilled. Check it out:
If you like what you hear, you can download the album here. Creative Commons releases are free, available to everyone, and 100% legal. Enjoy.
In case you’re the last person in the world to hear about these things… the new Zero7 album is out. I don’t think this one got quite as much hype as The Garden, which is a shame, because to my ears, Yeah Ghost is a much more interesting offering. The Garden was one of those albums I loved eventually, mostly out of brand loyalty. But I digress.
I was a little bit worried about listening to Yeah Ghost, because reviewers were saying that it was a radical departure, and that musically it was “scattered all over the place” and had no cohesion. Personally, I think it holds together just fine. More to the point, it is radically different, while still managing to be undeniably Zero7. It’s difficult to accomplish “completely different” and “still the same” simultaneously. I think they did a pretty good job with both, and the reconciliation of those two apparent opposites in the context of a 45-minute record is nothing short of inspired.
I cannot say that I am absolutely in love with Yeah Ghost yet (aside from “Mr. McGee,” a song which I had on repeat for about six hours yesterday). But as mentioned above, I wasn’t in love with The Garden at first, either, and in any case I already like Yeah Ghost better than I ever liked The Garden, despite the fact that there’s no Sia Furler this time around (my obsession with her is well-known, but she makes her own albums now, so I get my fix there). My relationship with The Garden is of the variety that when you make the commitment to love someone, you even love the worst things about them, because that comes with the package. Yeah Ghost has been a pleasant surprise by comparison.
Murakami would have told you so
If you catch him, will you let me know?
Bobbing apples in the studio
This put a huge smile on my face, but then when I Googled “Murakami would have told you,” I discovered that the BBC reviewer singled that verse out as cringingly embarrassing proof that this album is mostly crap. Guess he’s not a fan of surreal imagery. He also went on to say that he thought maybe Zero7′s time had passed, but I absolutely don’t buy that. This album is quite a step up from the last one (but admittedly nothing will ever touch the first two). Also, I disagree with the assessment that Yeah Ghost is stuck in the late ’90s. I don’t hear any evidence to support that at all. Most of the production technique on this album wasn’t even possible ten years ago, and the musical style reflects that, as well. All I hear is fresh, fresh, fresh. And if there’s a little Basement Jaxx nostalgia sprinkled over certain areas, I’m willing to bet it was not only intentional, it was firmly tongue-in-cheek. For me, it only adds to the charm, because Zero7 is one of those groups who has always managed to manipulate me into thinking about the good ol’ days, regardless of how modern their range of styles can be.
As with any significant change, Yeah Ghost will take some getting used to. I’m okay with that, especially since the change is distinctly in the electronica direction. I think a lot of the naysayers either (A) will come around eventually, or (B) are only into the modern-Muzak aspect of Zero7, and aren’t interested in innovation. You can’t please all the people all the time, but I do think there’s something on Yeah Ghost for just about everyone.
And hey, the new Air album is out next month, so we might still get our Muzak after all.
I never would have thought that something like The Karma Collection would be the catalyst to get me talking about music again… but here we are.
God, where to start? There’s so much history.
In 1998, when I moved to England, I was suddenly exposed to a whole world of Indian and Pakistani sounds that hadn’t been familiar to me before outside the music of the Beatles and some random Ravi Shankar tracks. The large percentage of people of Subcontinent descent in the UK means that their traditional and modern music has had a huge impact on the progression of UK music of all genres. I am a big fan of cross-cultural fusion, so this was fantastic news for me. It gave me a big range of new things to discover. I immediately became a fan of artists like Nitin Sawhney and Cornershop, whom I had never heard of before.
I was lucky enough to be attending university in Liverpool at the turn of the century, when Cream was having its last hurrah and was at its strongest and most vibrant. Now, it has to be said that I’ve never been a particular a fan of what I call “thump-thump” club music, but even so, the influence of Cream and Ministry of Sound (both the club and the record label) in the UK was undeniable, especially at that time. My school was just a few blocks from Cream, so of course it was like being at the epicentre of a pop culture earthquake.
By coincidence, in 2001 and 2002 the whole concept of pre-packaged “chillout” music was taking off in what we would now refer to as a viral way. This was Muzak for the younger generation, it was an updated and ultra-chic version of easy listening. For me, it was a more tolerable interpretation of thump-thump music, something I could actually see myself listening to in a non-club context, maybe. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.
And then in the spring of 2002, the Ministry of Sound record label released The Karma Collection.
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for beautiful packaging. I think a lot of independent musicians in today’s anti-record-label movement underestimate just how much great album art and package design can enhance the experience of the listener, and indeed can entice the listener to give the music a try in the first place. I remember walking into HMV, seeing the huge display of red suede boxes with the gold embossed Buddha on them, and immediately thinking, I’m having that. And the sale was literally that easy— I picked up a copy and took it home. I think subconsciously, I was looking for a way to get into the whole club music thing on my own terms, because as much as I didn’t care for the more common thump-thump varieties, I wanted to understand what it was like to be directly affected by the nation-wide buzz surrounding major club releases, especially since I was so close to one of the major clubs in question.
The Karma Collection redefined “club music,” “chillout,” and “Asian influence” for me. It was certainly the best chillout album at that time, and even now I don’t think there’s anything that can hold a candle to it. Even subsequent Karma Collection volumes headed more in a straight-up pop direction, and none of them came close to capturing the magic of the original. This wasn’t dance music, it wasn’t pop, and it wasn’t all Asian, either. Yet, it all seemed to fit together perfectly. I couldn’t put my finger on a lot of it, and that’s precisely what I liked about it. And any musical venture that includes a Rumi text is bound to push all the right buttons with me.
When I moved to Turkey in 2004, CDs were not at the top of my packing priorities. I ripped a few things to my iPod, and left the majority of my music collection in boxes in the UK. By then I was already buying most of my music online, so it didn’t seem to make much difference in practice.
But recently, the friend in the UK whose attic houses my CDs had some free time on her hands, and asked if I would like her to do any maintenance work on my stored belongings. The very first thing that popped into my mind was that I wanted her to dig out my Karma Collection and rip it for me, which she kindly did.
Listening to the album again was like seeing an old friend after a half-decade absence. It has not lost one bit of its magic, and if anything I appreciate a lot more about it now that we’ve had a bit of space from each other. Personal university nostalgia notwithstanding, it’s just a really, really solid compilation. There’s not one track on there that I’d remove or change the order of. The progression makes perfect sense the way it is, and I can’t even bring myself to listen to it on shuffle because it would ruin the artistry of the construction.
So if you don’t like thump-thump music or regular chillout (I still don’t care for either one), give The Karma Collection a try and see what you think. Believe it or not, you can still get the limited edition suede box via independent sellers at Amazon UK, though if you want to buy it in the US you’ll have to pay import prices for a new one (used ones can be obtained for cheaper). I didn’t have much luck finding the collection online— the 2003 version is widely available in digital, but is not the same album. And anyway, I think it’s totally worth it in this case to be able to hold the red suede box in your hands and let it transport you back to the excitement of the time when club/chill/Asian crossover was just taking flight. It’s a feeling that isn’t really possible anymore in today’s watered-down market of crap-’em-out-as-fast-as-we-can pop chillout compilations, and I think going back to these more esoteric Cream-heyday-era Ministry of Sound recordings is well worth the trouble it takes to obtain one.