Tag Archives: The Venopian Solitude

Wknd to release The Venopian Solitude single June 7


Just got an awesome update about a unique artist I wrote about a while back: The Venopian Solitude, stage name for a young woman from Malaysia with a great voice and even better tunes and lyrics.

The Wknd, a Malaysian magazine that promotes indie music, held a contest and put out a call for demos and The Venopian Solitude won. She is the first ever recipient of the Wknd Recording Fund. The fund will get her a professionally produced single, which Wknd will market and make available for sale through their website.

Wknd writer Faiz Fadzil commented in my “about” section, “We’ve finished recording her first single. It will be launched on Friday 7th June 2013. We’ll be announcing the Soundcloud links to her tracks on that day as well.”

Congratulations to a very talented and deserving musician. I’m proud to have had a chance to find her early and see her mature as an artist.

Check out my blog post about her from 2010: The Venopian Solitude – unique voice from the global village


Here’s the link if you want to check it out http://the-wknd.com/music/new-music/the-venopian-solitude-warkah-narcissus/

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Filed under experimental, folk, indie, music, one to watch

Approaching the end, or just the end of an Age?

Horrified yet enthralled. That’s the best way to describe my state of mind as British Petroleum’s broken well gushed uncontrollably into the Gulf of Mexico.  The well was capped and it didn’t turn out to be the apocalypse, though people living on the Louisiana coast might beg to differ–their lives will never be the same. But it was still a pretty clear sign that our civilization is overextending itself. Essential resources are getting scarcer and harder to reach. It can’t go on like this forever.

The disaster reminded me of a novel: Ian MacLeod’s The Light Ages.

The novel revolves around a substance called aether that’s pumped out of the ground by huge engines. Not the stuff doctors once used to anesthetize people, but a flowing substance with magical and industrial purposes–closer to the stuff alchemists and early scientists once believed flowed around our planet, a medium containing stars, comets and angels.

Aether powers a great civilization that uses it for everything from construction to medicine to communication. Important magic spells are jealously protected by guilds that control various industries. It’s a civilization of great beauty and great ugliness. Improperly handled, aether is poisonous and pollution is widespread. Aether is absolutely essential to civilization. And it is running out.

I wouldn’t call MacLeod’s novel allegorical, but there are definite parallels to our civilization. Aether’s analogue in the real world is obviously petroleum. The civilization in the novel is perched on the edge of a great crash. Yet the crash doesn’t lead to the end of the world. Just a new Age. Kind of scary but in a way optimistic. (The sequel, House of Storms, describes a new Age, also powered by aether, and a different kind of crash. The novels are self-contained and I highly recommend both.)

Like MacLeod’s fictional aether, oil is terrible yet essential. It has allowed us to create works that previous generations — and maybe generations to follow — would call magic. Works that will likely end when the oil runs out. And it’s only one of the vital resources that are running out. When it happens, will it mean the end or just more change? It’s possible that another fuel for our civilization will turn up. Humans are pretty resourceful. Not much we can do except wait and see.

I have seen MacLeod’s novels referred to as “steampunk,” (again with the labels!) a blending of science fiction and fantasy that usually involves an alternate history where civilization reaches great heights using “old-fashioned” means. If you like to read and that appeals to you, check out The Light Ages and House of Storms. I would also recommend The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, a novel about high level computing during a strange alternate version of the Victorian Age; and Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, a steam-powered civilization so bizarre you can’t really describe it as alternate (or possible), that is dark, rich in detail and fascinating.

There is also a budding musical scene (fad?) called steampunk: Check out this article in the Guardian. The name describes the lyrical themes more than the style of music, which in the examples I’ve heard are basically cabaret. The Clockwork Quartet is one of those groups:

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Filed under but I digress, commentary, Uncategorized

Bandcamp begins charging artists for free downloads

Looks like another installment in the continuing story of “No Free Lunch” on the Internet. I don’t think it affects listeners, but Bandcamp is trying to get musicians who give away all their music for free to start selling. Evidently, the site wasn’t getting enough money from its cut of purchased music to pay for the streaming and upkeep of the site, since most of the downloads turned out to be from artists who were giving everything away. Nothing to take a cut from. Now musicians have a limited amount of songs they can give away. After that they have to pay.

300 downloads for $9 USD (3¢ each)
1000 downloads for $20 USD (2¢ each)
5000 downloads for $75 USD (1.5¢ each)

If they sell $500 worth of songs, they get 1,000 added to their free download allotment.

Here’s Bandcamp’s explanation.

As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t change anything. I still like Bandcamp because it’s easy to embed in places like this blog, which in turn gives a lot of value to the musician because it’s easier to get spread around and potentially go viral. I can see where it might cause problems for a struggling musician though. How do you sell music when no one knows who you are yet?

I’ve heard from a couple of indie artists about it and one, The Venopian Solitude, whose music I reviewed in March, is unhappy (Here’s her take on it). She wants to give her songs away and not have to bother about money. Although in my opinion, her songs are already beyond the point where she ought to be selling them. She just keeps getting better and better. She’s looking for a free place to host her songs though, other than Reverbnation, which her school blocks, so if anyone’s got ideas, send ’em her way.

Aviv Cohn aka The Widest Smiling Faces basically took it in stride. He gets good value out of Bandcamp and said, “Yeah, it sucks, but it seems fair.” Obviously the service has to be paid somehow.

That’s the reality of the Internet that we keep having to face. Startup services might do cool things that attract a lot of users, but don’t actually pay for themselves. Maybe they have to do so to satisfy investors, or they at least have to break even. They might make drastic changes and basically sell out, the way TheSixtyOne did in my opinion. Or they can do like Pandora and basically pull a bait & switch on us, pretend to be free till they get us hooked, and then spring a surprise cost on us. I don’t think Bandcamp has done either of those things yet. Hopefully they won’t have to.

It’s a huge dilemma for us users and for the startups. There’s a ton of free content on the Internet, some of it amazing and very useful. But when the bills come due, they tend to go away. Either they make changes like I mentioned, or they just get exhausted and let their sites go dead. On the other hand, when they try to start charging for things, some other site is liable to spring up and start giving the same stuff away again.

It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out. Despite the piss poor economy, people still want to make and listen to music. The demand is there. If only we could figure out how all our broke asses can still eat and pay the rent. No answers here, unfortunately. Only questions.

P.S. I recently did an exensive interview with the Widest Smiling Faces which I will put on this blog as soon as I get a chance to edit. Stay tuned…

Note: Jennifer from Bandcamp just replied to this post, saying, “Just wanted to be sure you saw the update on our site – we took the suggestion from several artists to refresh free download credits every month, which seems to work for most bands who give their music for free on Bandcamp.” She also left a link explaining the policy in detail. (see below in comments)


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Dandelion Radio, awesome online station

Found something cool that I’ve been enjoying quite a bit the last few days, an online station called Dandelion Radio, inspired by the late British DJ John Peel.

The station plays a very eclectic mix, full of obscure indie music, world music, experimental noise, you name it. I’m not crazy about everything I hear (now and then he plays rave music. Blech.) but mostly I love it, and I’ve come across some great discoveries. In particular, I really liked The Crocodiles’ cover of Deee Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart,” which puts a shoegazer Jesus and Mary Chain type spin on the hit. Barely recognized it at first. I was also impressed to find that they were playing “The Groupie Song” by The Venopian Solitude, the young Malaysian singer/songwriter I featured previously on this blog. In fact, that’s how I found the station. Did a web search and she turned up in his playlist. I figured that was a sure sign of good taste and an adventurous musical ethic.

Check him out when you get a chance: DandelionRadio.com

And get a load of The Crocodiles version of “Groove is in the Heart.” I saw some YouTube comments bashing them for sounding too much like JAMC, but I don’t think so. Kind of a surf thing going on in it that I don’t remember from that band.

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Filed under experimental, indie, indie pop, indie rock, music, rock, trip hop, Uncategorized, video, world music