20 Years Frozen for All Time

In March 1996 I made my first multitrack recording of one of my poems with an audio backdrop. Since then, depending on how you count things, I’ve recorded 80 or more. The most recent from this January, “Sleep Now”.

Just a week ago I released an anniversary retrospective on Bandcamp, 20 Years Frozen for All Time.

The selection process didn’t take all that long. I excluded all tracks that are on 15 Years of Prattle and Din, my previous anniversary collection, as well as those that were clearly half baked, not finished, or totally beyond my abilities to take them where I need them to be (that would again be half baked). I suppose I could have chosen more and made it a 3-disc release but two full CDs, totaling over 2 1/2 hours, already seemed excessive. In that regard this has a touch of a “best of”.

The first disc (eight compositions) draws from my pre-computer era, 1996-1999. A few have been recreated in the box, such as “The Naming” and “Evil 2”, but the majority are mixes of the original 4-track analog or 8-track digital drafts recorded in the 1990s. The second disc has thirteen compositions from around 2003-2007 that rely heavily on commercial loops from the ACID loop library and those primarily 2010-2012 that are based more on my own odd loops and MIDI synth performances, or merely heavily processed sounds (my favorite tool being Spektral Delay, an obsolete virtual instrument from Native Instruments—you can hear the results on “The Angels Are Agitated” and “Winter Flowers”).

As I said, that was the easy part.

January and into February my time went into creating a booklet to accompany the audio. Several times I had to start over as the thing kept growing. It ended up being 72-pages, with biographical details, essays on my history recording (which is more fully represented on this blog), the texts of the recordings, notes on each composition, as well as photos and numerous drawings. (I will note here that not only some of the poems but almost all the drawings are sexually explicit and not suitable for all audiences). In part I had to redesign to accommodate so much material. But also I struggled to bring it all together into some sort of flow and coherent whole (the audio is in chronological order but flow and presenting of a whole also affected my selection).

The next struggle was to create a version that could be printed and bound. I expect someone to use a heavier print stock, such as a double-sided brochure or photo paper, rather than just some general purpose paper. You need something that will keep the colors and details vivid. Because of this, to keep the edge of the sheets from creeping out as you collate and fold more pages together, I made each signature only 12-page (three sheets of paper). As I composed I kept adding more signatures until I forced myself to limit it to 72 pages. Of course there could have been more.

The export to PDF menu in InDesign made the formation of a print booklet relatively easy, though I had to do some experimenting. So far, several weeks after completing the booklet, I have yet to print out my own copy. It seems like too much work. (I’ll include here the printable PDF should you feel so ambitious…I’ll also include the stitching guide).

20 years 72 page book-print version

stitching guide

 

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Collaborations

I don’t get out much. You’d think that the internet was made for someone like me, that I could make all sorts of friends and participate in a variety of creative projects. It’s a nice idea. Still, somehow, I don’t seem to get out much.

I might be involved in numerous “collaborations” without my knowledge, where someone has downloaded my recording and added it to their own. I’ve always requested notification and the right to post it myself but not everyone respects others. (I do know of one instance where a German DJ copied one of my compositions and added it to his set. It wasn’t available for download. If he’d have asked I would have given him permission.) After posting on SoundCloud for a couple of years I made all my recordings available for download.

My only fear, and it could be totally irrational, is if the other artist were to have the collaboration distributed by a record label and I would somehow be blocked from doing so myself. When it comes to greed my imagination knows no limits.

I suppose the most active collaboration I’ve been a part of is with Charles Schlee (Sordid Business, loops)  in 2005-06, when we did “Hungry Eyes”. I supplied some beats and my voice. He played guitar and bass. Then I added a little synth and remixed it. I really liked the process of taking turns and would like to do this again, with him or someone else, especially it went from artist to artist.

Hungry Eyes, draft 1.4, by Charles Schlee and Michael Myshack, September 15, 2012:

 

In 2010 another coworker in the office furniture business (who’s had the sense to move on), Alex Bacon (SoundClick, SoundCloud, Facebook, Metal Archives…Alex is more savvy regarding social media than most of us), asked for some of my words to add to an instrumental recording of his. Initially I tried doing an ad lib but nothing clicked. Then he asked for the vocal track from several of my own recordings. He used parts from “Always Prodigal” (excerpt), “Coverage”,  and “Blue Bodies” (excerpt). (You should be able to hear the instrumental version on at least one of his links.)

Endgame, by Alex Bacon and Michael Myshack, 2010:

 

Another one already discussed on these pages, 2012, is “The Wish”, originally “Ghosts on the Kaskaskia” by Hank Tilbury (Flickr, SoundCloud, Bandcamp). I added one of my poems and wind sounds to his slide guitar.

The Wish, by Hank Tilbury and Michael Myshack, draft 1.2, September 27, 2012:

 

The final addition is from an Argentinian musician living in Germany, El Fulminador (check out his record label). Via SoundCloud he’d asked about using one of my poems from Essay, “Heat”, and then sent me a rough mix. I don’t know that he’s had time to get back to it to tweak it. (Compare this with my own interpretation of the poem, “Night” , from 1997. “Heat” is the original text as found on my ceiling, or an early variant, back when I lived at my mother’s house in the early 1980s.)

Heat, by El Fulminador and Michael Myshack, September 2013:

Digital Publishing: Dreams

Photo of author taken by family member, sometime between 2004 and 2008.
Photo of author taken by family member, sometime between 2004 and 2008.

 

In 2013 my second attempt at digital publishing was to create a website in Adobe’s Muse (we need to get past the idea of publishing as specifically being a book, at least us old folk do…I think the main issue is marketing and collecting money, which is of little interest to me). It is a dreamlog, a collection of dream narratives and poems going back to about 1977 or 1978. Thankfully I don’t remember many of the damned things.

(In opening the site to provide a link I find that it’s actually titled Dreams. I don’t know why I did that, I’ve always referred to it as a dreamlog.)

I’m not going to go into much detail here since I’ve already written at length on Poetry and Other Sounds. It should be noted here that for the recording I bought a headset mic to facilitate my reading. I am not happy with the quality of sound; even with some EQ boost my voice lacks substance. Basically, the recording sounds cheap and amateurish.

I had hoped that I could post a zipped folder containing the whole site for you to explore on your computer. It didn’t work. An EPUB is essentially just HTML packaged in a container (I was hoping to bypass that particular container): so far,  even with EPUB 3 it would lack the richness of an actual website. If I have time I’ll recreate Dreams as a multimedia PDF.

One of the quirks you’ll notice on the recordings is that as I announce the title of the piece I preface it with a number. I think I left that on the published recordings so that if anyone were to mention a particular title I could figure out what they’re talking about if they included the number. As I typed out my written work to archive it digitally, I would file each piece with a number. Not entirely sure why I did that. I think I started the process back in 1992 when I was first working on a stand alone word processor, then carried on with it on computer as I found the documents in boxes or came up with something new (stopped recording for a couple years, roughly 2000-2001, so that I could archive hundreds of poems and drawings). So, generally, the numbers do not reflect chronological order. Originally most of these poems and dreams and rants did not have titles. Nor do I remember the first lines or anything else about them. So, the numbers can at least help me track down the file.

Digital Publishing: Essay

My house is a library, everywhere shelves of books, music, and film. This is a passion and comfort I share with my partner and our children. It’s only natural that I would want to create things that fit on shelves. Ever since I began taking art seriously, circa 1975, I had it in mind to create books that were as much image as word. I would have thought more about making music, even though I’m not really a musician, if recording had seemed more attainable. At least with words and images you could make something and then hope someone with money would want to publish your art—the creative work was done, you still had temporally frozen physical objects.

When I started recording in 1996 other ideas of art were temporarily set aside. Getting a computer at the end of 1999 then put recording on a back burner as I archived my work in other media and began to explore publishing software (at that time QuarkXPress). Since then it’s been a back and forth, or maybe more of a round and round, as I write or draw or record or make collections and booklets and, eventually, websites.

In 2012 the recording was being set aside as I became obsessed with improvements in digital publishing. Well, only partial improvements in digital publishing. It was more a matter of what was becoming possible rather than what was actually doable or worth your time. I began to find out the hard way how empty the promises were (three years later the situation is only slightly improved, as publishers and device manufacturers are slow to accept EPUB 3 or for everyone to switch to HTML5)..

The first attempt at digital publishing, in the mundane PDF format, was to resurrect a chapbook I put together in the spring of 1984, Essay, itself just an exploration to see if 1980s budget printing was in any way satisfying (it wasn’t). I’ve written about this elsewhere, just follow the link.

Because of the limitations in Adobe’s software and a rapidly changing market, due to Apple’s introduction of the iPad and none of the portable devices accommodating Flash, I found that my wonderfully flexible interactive PDF only worked fully on computers. So I did two more versions, one that’s just a conventional print PDF and one that has the audio files attached (of lower quality than those in the playlist I supply below).

Essay chapbook. First produced April 1984. Original cover
Essay chapbook. First produced April 1984. Original cover showing inept binding and aging as paper slowly decomposes.

 

Essay: 2013 Print Version

Essay: 2013 Interactive Version

Essay: 2013 Interactive Version with attached audio files

(Sorry these are such large files. I recommend a right click to save the target file, then open it. The instructions apply to the fully interactive version. Everything but the audio link should work in the other versions. Or you can just use the standard Acrobat navigational tools.)

Navigational instructions for interactive version of Essay.
Navigational instructions for interactive version of Essay.

 

 

Poetry and Other Sounds

I think my most daring deed and greatest failure was to create a blog as a mixture of resource, community, and fanzine for recording poets. Specifically poetry combined with music or other sounds.

This would be a WordPress blog called Poetry and Other Sounds, first appearing online April 2012.

It was inspired by Tape Op, a magazine for recording engineers, in two ways. Every two months I get an issue in the mail that is filled with interviews of engineers, producers, gear designers, musicians, sound designers, film music editors, archivists, and others. There’s a sense of history of the medium as well as a hint at current affairs. There are explorations of both the gear and the creativity that goes on behind the scenes of every recording. We find out what’s going on in the world’s greatest studios as well as the cobbling of destitute songwriters in their family’s basement. It is a community for those who make recordings and for those of us who want to learn from them.

That was the background inspiration, the very existence of such an exceptionally rich magazine that was created out of necessity and love of the art. The other is more specific. In issue 85 there was an interview with Brian Eno. They had a sidebar discussion of his collaboration with poet Rick Holland in which he mentions that it’s something of an unknown genre. For me that triggered a letter to the editor and subsequently pushed me into creating the blog. We need a way for recording poets to hear one another and to learn more about the art (very few of us are at home in a studio or with recording tools and might even be outright technophobes).

I wanted to introduce people to some of the more readily available recordings such as the one by Eno and Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite by Farewell Poetry as well as some of the very obscure artists I was finding on SoundCloud, especially in Mark Goodwin’s Air to Hear. In part it sprang out of my enthusiasm for all the cool stuff I was finding on SoundCloud in 2012, finding out that I wasn’t the only one making this weird stuff (and finding that no two of us did much of anything alike except for the spoken poetry). I wanted to establish whatever sense of history of such work there is. I wanted us all to get to know each other. I wanted everyone to hear of how they might go about recording on any budget, with almost any tool that can capture sound. More than sharing my own limited skills and experiences, I was hoping we could all learn from each other.

I’ll tell you some of the reasons it didn’t become the community centerpiece I had hoped it would.

  • Very simply, I lack the temperament of an editor. I also lack the training and/or background. Some of this I believe I could overcome through time, native intelligence, and experience. But I still think I’m missing something essential that is needed to make a success of a periodical.
  • Even in the age of the internet I don’t think a loner and homebody is the best person for the job. You need to keep your fingers on the pulse of a movement. You need to get out there and see and hear and feel what people are doing. You have to be hanging out on street corners and in clubs and galleries; you have to be exchanging phone numbers and connections. You have to like to be around people and in the thick of things.
  • Time. Someone who comes home from a day job and falls asleep before dinner, someone scrambling to make whatever temporal free space they can to make their own art or to compile and archive it, someone who hangs out with his partner and children in those precious hours off the corporate clock isn’t going to see what the rest of the world is up to, even with the help of the internet. No networking plus no research equals a very out of touch person.
  • It doesn’t help that it’s an almost non-existent field. Everyone I’ve talked to who makes this sort of art shares my feeling that it’s a very rarefied field. Even for someone like me who celebrates all art-making regardless of skill there are probably not more than hundreds or a couple thousand recording poets all over the world, many of us thinking we’re the only one, generally making something of less than commercial quality. If you’re snobbier about it, the field might shrink to dozens of artists. And what has been released for commercial consumption can probably be limited to a few albums per year. Or per decade. It seems musicians never know what to do with that weird poet person if they’re not going to sing. And how many poets make their own music or other audio background?

Poetry and Other Sounds was a wonderful idea. I want to thank Tape Op editor Larry Crane for showing me what can be done with dedication and a lot of hard work.

Poetry and Other Sounds, it’s time hasn’t come. I haven’t totally given up on the blog though I feel I have little to offer any time soon. By all means give it a read. Better yet, contribute. Tells us what you’re working on or what your friends are up to. Poetry and Other Sounds was never meant to be my personal mouthpiece.

(Many of the links to SoundCloud are likely to be dead. I found this out almost immediately. It’s a very unstable environment (compared, say, to archive.org, which is a whole other problem). Many of us have only had the free membership with a limited amount to how much you could upload. So we’d delete older tracks to make room for what is new. Some of us sprang for the paid memberships which allowed possibly unlimited uploads only to find the changes at the site making our experience miserable, as I’ve mentioned in another post. We would drop our paid memberships and begin deleting recordings. Others among us would change our name or identity with some regularity, or totally change what we were posting. Or just pull our recordings for no obvious reason. I assume you’ll find this as frustrating as I do. I’m kind of a librarian at heart.)

Influences

I have a lot to say on the subject of influences, considering almost every book, film, record, or any other cultural artifact I’ve come into contact with to have become a part of who I am. Here I’ll try to keep it focused on recordings, specifically the few with poetry or other spoken content.

Because I do this bizarre art shit you might suspect I had a privileged art background, that I grew up in museums or that my parents knew the avant garde of 1960s Duluth. I am entirely the product of pop culture, working class edition, Bumpkinville USA. The public school system tried to open our eyes to a higher art tradition but I was not in any way open to that until after I’d graduated high school in 1975.

Venturing from that mainstream base is something I took up pretty early in my record collecting, in part because the mainstream a few years either side of 1970 ventured out, though I’ve never strayed all that far from what was put out by the major label production engine. My own creations are much stranger than most of the music I listen to, perhaps because I lack the talent to make anything more conventional. I like to think it’s more the result of a will or need to deform the familiar.

By far the most important record I have ever owned was a Christmas present in 1978: An American Prayer, the recordings of Jim Morrison reading his poems, posthumously compiled and composed by the surviving members of The Doors. I was 21-years old and had already been writing poetry for a couple years (itself influenced by Morrison). At that time I couldn’t even imagine making my own recordings. Still, I would say the seed was planted.

From around that time I would also have to include Hawkwind. Musically, obviously, they show up in my compositions in the steady rhythms and whooshing synthesizers. But they also had pieces spoken by Bob Calvert or Michael Moorcock (I was an obsessive fan of Moorcock between about 1975-85, buying and reading everything I could find).

Patti Smith is less important but I have to mention her. I’ve been an off and on fan since I first heard Horses. My classmates in the architectural drafting program would argue that it wasn’t music, that Boston’s album was where it was at. For the record, I liked both. But, seriously, could I claim Boston as an inspiration or influence? Maybe I could: it was a home recording.

Laurie Anderson’s Big Science is essential. I came to hate her because of a perceived art school smugness, a snubbing of people less privileged than herself, but she really is a direct ancestor.

Mzwakhe’s Change Is Pain is an album I listened to quite often in the years in which my impulse to record was growing, in the early 1990s.

There are so few examples of poetry and music outside of rap. Even spoken word, as a rather blanket genre has little but clips from films or speeches. The most influential of these was Material’s Seven Souls, featuring William Burroughs.

The long instrumental common to the psychedelic era, most notably the live half of Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, often shows up in my work, though lacking the spontaneity or flow of the real thing. This would include the Julian Cope interpretation of Krautrock (my experience of German rock was much more conventional). Again, Hawkwind comes to mind.

Early Pere Ubu. Need I say more?

I would like to claim Mike Oldfield and Zap Mama as influences but I could never do anything like what they’ve done, at their best or worst. On the other hand I have done numerous things that sound like a bleak, perverse imitation of Peter Gabriel’s Temptation, seeming more mockery than homage. Once in awhile my swinger roots show in really weird twists of Burt Bacharach or Sergio Mendes, people I heard or willingly listened to when I was a child. It’s a mixture of an imp of the perverse that wants to deform beautiful things combined with a genuine lack of talent. (I go on and on about not having talent. I have talents. I don’t have the talent to make beautiful music. I cannot state emphatically enough that I am not a musician. To be a musician, I think, requires at least some craft, some ability to play instruments in a predictable manner. That’s a pretty liberal interpretation of musician. It’s fair to say that a sound artist makes music. A collagist makes art but that doesn’t make them a painter; likewise, a sound artist is not necessarily a musician.)

Musical influences would have to be as diverse as my record collection. But if it were based on what I listened to most (at least in my youth) it would be progressive rock and metal, with touches of folk and blues, followed by punkish things. There would also be classical and jazz. I think what inspires me and shows up more as an influence would be film soundtracks and some experimental music. Found sound is essential, yet I’d heard little of this before I’d begun recording—people would direct me to things that I remind them of, such as Einstürzende Neubauten. I had heard the local band Savage Aural Hotbed shortly before I began recording but they were too limited for me, too taiko, too post punk, to be more than validation for what I was already planning.

I would have to include electronica almost from its inception. I didn’t seriously listen to synth music until the mid-1970s, when Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Synergy, and Jean Michel Jarre were making headlines. Prior to that it was around and I was aware of it but what hit the airwaves was pretty gimmicky (remember “Popcorn” or Switched on Bach?). More often synthesizers were space age organs in prog bands.

If you think you’re hearing something anachronous in my work, something impossibly familiar or mainstream, you might be right. Even the music I consciously avoid, such as commercial country or my grandfathers’ beloved polkas, are part of my musical heritage and consciousness. It’s all there to be regurgitated at any unexpected moment. In true omnivorous fashion, everything goes in and everything comes out.

 

SoundCloud

As of 2015 I hate SoundCloud, no longer visit the site, and have been slowly deleting my tracks as I cut back on my membership category. Initially I had some great experiences and have been richly rewarded with the discovery of artists doing similar work and the acquisition of some delightful online friends.

I will tell you of the rise and fall of my SoundCloud experience.

In 2010-11 I would have conversations with this guy while we were in the service elevator, traveling between the basement and the 37th floor. He worked in the mailroom of one of the primary tenants (occupying about 35 floors) and I worked for the company that installed and maintained their office furniture. Turned out he was an artist, too, working in a variety of media, also like me: graphic arts, sculpture (something I don’t do), poetry, and music. I gave him a copy of 15 Years of Prattle and Din.

This was Kristoffer West Johnson.

He suggested I post my recordings on SoundCloud. I’d never heard of it. So often someone mentions a site or I stumble across one and it seems promising until I start exploring it. My very vague recollection is that SoundCloud looked like a waste of time but it was free so I uploaded all the tracks from the album.

This was the first time since spring 1985, when I participated in a group exhibit of drawings at the Duluth Art Institute, that anything of mine had been placed before the public.

What started to turn me around was that I began exploring groups. I found other people combining poetry and music (or sound). This encouraged me to find the work of others, to hear what else was being done, and to exchange comments and emails. In other words, I found a rudimentary online community.

Of course I usually confused and offended whenever I commented on someone’s recording or responded to their comments on my stuff. Part of this is because many of the people I interacted with were not accomplished speakers or writers of English. Yet it was a thrill to engage with someone in Hungary or England or Argentina or Japan, to name a few. The idea that some obscure radio program in England or Germany had played one of my recordings or that one of them was part of a DJ set in Serbia gave me so much pleasure. But also to engage with the artists on a personal level was such a rare experience for me. Unfortunately I have a strange way of joking that is often misunderstood, even by family. And I am very resistant to kind words directed at me or my art; they were so rare in my childhood and those people who always say them seem insincere, so it’s been a struggle to be gracious enough to just say thank you. I also get prickly when anyone suggests that I’m a musician—it seems an insult to those who really are.

A related, attempted good thing that failed was a blog called Poetry and Other Sounds that was intended to be a bit of a reference point for poets working in sound the way Tape Op is for recording engineers. There were two primary failures: one is that it’s just too small of a field, many of us are working alone and suspect we’re the only one putting poetry and music together; the other is that I have neither the skills nor personality to be an editor. It was too much of a growing process for someone who doesn’t have the time to consume or adjust to all the new things out there on the internet.

Was it 2012 or 2013 that SoundCloud launched the new interface? It seemed designed to shut out people like myself, those creators exchanging ideas and support. On the one hand it became just another market site for producers and consumers. On the other it became just one more social site exploiting the narcissism of following (look at me! look at me! I have great taste!). One fatal change is that I was no longer able to limit my stream to what was posted by those I follow. My only reason for following someone was to hear their recordings and not to get sucked in by their tastes in music (though it’s a great way to discover new music I’d stopped following most of the musicians in order to focus on the poets, ostensibly to feed Poetry and Other Sounds). The other flaw is that the comment boxes became so small that you couldn’t read anyone else’s comments nor put in much of your own. It came to revolve around being seen commenting on someone’s track without actually saying anything. Dialog was over.

The results were that I stopped posting, I stopped listening, I stopped commenting, I stopped following or even logging in, and now I’ve begun deleting my tracks. The temporal commitment was sometimes more than I could afford but I seriously miss the new recordings and the interaction.

Below are the names and slight profiles, in alphabetical order, of some of the more talented and interesting people I encountered on SoundCloud, all of whom have become an online friend to some degree. I encourage you to support these artists. Most of us feel we’re so far out of the mainstream that every penny and pat on the back means something.

Andrew James Anderson is an American musician. I’d almost forgotten him because I had poets on the brain. His music could be lumped into some sort of dark ambient industrial ghetto if you don’t want to think about it. I’ve always heard it as a form of tone poem (though descended from industrial) with layers and textures gaining in intensity as the piece progresses. We’ve had a sporadic email dialog that almost ended up in us meeting face to face when he was in Minneapolis. That would have been cool but awkward, because I’m so shy I become very strange.

Lee Foust is a poet and prose writer, musician (drummer), raconteur, and academic who spends three quarters of the year in Florence, Italy teaching creative writing and summer breaks back on his home turf in the San Francisco Bay area (where, once upon a time, he was in a band called Nominal State), I assume trying to recover his humanity. His recordings have kind of a street corner vibe, Dante meets the Beat generation. So far I’ve only had the opportunity to purchase one of his books, prose and poems. The recordings of the poems were made available for download on SoundCloud but have not been assembled into any kind of album. Lee and I have had some interesting email exchanges regarding pop culture: even though we come from very different backgrounds, being close in age we’ve had similar experiences because of mass consumerism (a love of horror movies and the resulting plastic model kits, for instance).

Mark Goodwin, poet and sound artist, teacher (as community poet), host of Air to Hear, lives in the UK. Mark aggressively seeks other artists to promote what we’re doing, including putting together an exhibition in England that featured recordings from all around the world. Over the years I’ve heard him develop as a sound artist. His readings are a sonic adventure, the phonemes often drawn out until the words are barely recognizable. His use of sound is more ambient than musical, more of a suggestion than a statement. I’ve purchased several of his books but his recordings have not been packaged in a way that is convenient for the general consumer (for instance, his publisher provided a download link to a limited number of book buyers), neither as CDs nor as downloads. The last time I checked very few of his recordings on SoundCloud were available for download (correction, Mark says that they are now downloadable).

David McCooey, poet, musician, and academic, lives in Australia. Mark Goodwin was adamant that I listen to David, who at the time had just uploaded an album of spoken poetry and music onto iTunes, Outside Broadcast, featuring many poems from his book Outside. His work is subtle, quiet, and restrained, in the manner of Tomas Tranströmer and Brian Eno. I have since purchased or been given books of his poetry as well as volumes of prose and poetry by his wife, Maria Takolander, both of whom teach creative writing at Deakin. David and I have since developed a rich online correspondence. I have also had the pleasure of mailing him a very large (actually, gigantic) box of Grape Nuts as a thank you for academic assistance for when my younger child was in Australia in early 2015.

Dave Migman seems to work in so many media I’m afraid of mentioning any for leaving out something. Poetry and novels, graphic arts, stone carving, music. He usually says he’s from the UK; I think of him as Scots (he has the most enviable accent). Whenever I can I buy his books and recordings, though much of it has been available for free download on SoundCloud. There are several solo albums on Bandcamp as well as a couple of collaborations with Spleen Erebus (I’ve had trouble purchasing one of these, it seems a Serbian bank is somehow involved and the transaction won’t go through—I hope this is not a permanent condition). His solo recordings tend to show punk roots, being rather stark and energetically abrasive. The readings with Spleen of course retain his dark, angry, misanthropic growl, like Poe or Baudelaire resurrected in the 1980s Punk scene, but surrounded by Spleen’s lush, dark, synthesized ambience.

American artist Jeff Sampson hasn’t done much with spoken word, that I’ve heard, but he has numerous albums featuring his voice and keyboards. A good place to start is on Bandcamp. I’ve purchased quite a few of these albums but have also been given some, more than a dozen total, and yet I feel I’ve barely tapped into all the work Jeff has available. The majority of this work could loosely be defined as ambient, though I’m always hesitant to label anyone’s work either because their creative output is too diverse or in the hope that it will become so. Jeff is not only prolific but also quite flexible. He and I have also developed a rich online dialog.

Hank Tilbury is an American painter, storyteller, and musician. He is the greatest person for exchanging comments on SoundCloud, simultaneously supportive and irreverent. I have had the good fortune of downloading a couple of his albums from Bandcamp (more or less ambient experimental rather than the bluegrass and folk he so often posts) but it’s such a small representation of all the fine work he’s produced. We’ve developed an online dialog that sometimes strays into talk of collaboration (I have set my words to one of his performances).

I’m not saying SoundCloud isn’t worth your time. I encourage you to explore the groups to find some truly unique and interesting artists. I will say it’s no longer worth my time.

Really, I just wanted to post this as a small plug for the artists I mentioned.

And to complain. Complaining makes me happy.