Once upon a time, entering a record store meant the start of a hunt. Not in the crate-digging sense, in which one digs, archeology-style, for the remnants of past cultures — “Why look, a totem of early remixes in the form of the INXS 12″ ‘What You Need'” — but a hunt for what fresh prey might have surfaced. New records from non-chart-toppers would arrive in bins unannounced. Thus, during this time period (think of it as having come to a close circa 1995 BCI, or Before the Common Internet), discographies were still hard to come by, and so one often found oneself face to face with an album or a single, and one would have no real sense from whence it came: Was it new? A re-release? A re-packaging?
This was especially an issue in the case of “imports,” which were tagged (and priced) accordingly, and which carried with them some special aura, having been yanked from their native land and ferried surreptitiously across one or another body of water (this tradition lives on in the vestigial form of the “Japanese bonus track”). That would be back in the day when getting music from, say, London to San Francisco involved a week of freight — not today when it’s a matter of how much you’re willing to cough up for so many Mb/s from your Internet service.
Of course, the Internet may have made hyper-detailed discographies universally available (unless China is censoring discogs.com along with Twitter), and it certainly introduced the joys of buying (not to mention sampling) music late in the evening. But with those digitized renditions of past behaviors came new behaviors, and thus one might find oneself today on the personal web page of an accomplished musician to learn he (or she) has uploaded an experiment — something neither single nor 12″ nor full-length, just a taste of what it is they’re working on between such things.
It may be one of the most exciting realms in music today, that gray zone of listening — as when Chris Carter, of the legendary industrial band Throbbing Gristle, posted “no MIDI no keyboards,” five and a half minutes of low-grade throb, at soundcloud.com/chris_carter recently:
Carter explains in the post (and at “chemistry lesson” blog) that the slo-motion techno dirge was an attempt to make music, as the title suggests, with neither of the cornerstones of much electronic music (at least his generation’s understanding of electronic music), not the universal trigger known as the keyboard, nor the tech-communication protocol called MIDI. Instead he employed various Kaoss pads (which use a pre-iPhone/iPad touch interface), and numerous lesser known devices, arranged as follows:
Carter isn’t just a consummate drone-smith. He’s also an eager participant in this new realm of music. Gone are the days of paying extra for a plastic-sealed Throbbing Gristle LP, uncertain of its origin or contents. Instead, Carter regularly posts new tunes at his Soundcloud.com site, and uploads photos of his activities at flickr.com, and tracks his daily thoughts at twitter.com/chriscarter, just to name a few of his online hangouts. Chris Carter: no MIDI, no keyboards, and no rules.