Category: Eclectica

Two Zombies Later

Two Zombies Later at the Comfort Stand

There’s nothing quite like your, “first time.” Sure, I’d dabbled in free music before, by which I mean I’d grabbed a free compilation CD[ of local indie bands lying in unwanted stacks at the record shop, only to use them as impromptu drink coasters within a week. But there was that turning point, the day a naïve young boy heard about a collection of free music that anyone could download and own. And so I downloaded and even printed out the cover and CD art for the bold new Creative Commons compilation, Two Zombies Later, and that boy…became a man. It was the album that would ignite my passion for the Creative Commons cause.

Two Zombies Later is a two CD set of over thirty songs from various artists which would tend to fall into the lounge, progressive and eclectica genres of music. A study in opposites, the various songs, taken alone, would seem to derive from entirely disparate sources. Philip Jackson’s ambient mix of traditional electronica and sampling in Nature Boy has virtually nothing in common with Otis Fodder’s smooth swinging jazz sound in Brilliant Pillows, at least at first listen. But collected together and blended in one of the finest mixes ever made, these strange sounds all turn out to have a root thematic element. They display a fundamental unified theory of musical construction, the atom that is also a solar system.

In theory, free compilations are an excellent way for artists to join forces and advertise together. Even artists disinclined to give out whole albums for free can use these to take easy advantage of the free music model. Compilation albums like the drink coasters I describe above, however, are too often collections of artists which are not only sub-par in quality but also entirely unrelated, their music all jarringly dissimilar. Two Zombies Later, by contrast, is a collection of established, quality artists drawn together by competent producers and mixers to create a compilation with a signature sound and theme, a true extended play album, not just a hodgepodge of b-sides.

Together the music can, in fact, seem strangely one note, as the overt differences mysteriously slip away to be replaced by the once subtle but now absolute similarities. The sound becomes singular, a singularity, a mass less pinpoint of genre-specific excellence which, I think, is what compilations are supposed to be about in the first place. So instead of just listening to a couple of randomly selected songs, you connect with a uniformed effort to explore a very precise aspect of the whole of musical potential; in this case, the playful world of progressive lounge/jazz exotica! And what a fun place it is to hang around! Frankly the whole album is like staring at a gallery of Josh Shag paintings.

Alas I cannot tell you that this album will fill the holes of your pop/indy megaband collection. If you really needed the Creative Commons version of Pink Floyd or Sting then you’re just going to have to keep looking. But I’ll also say that Two Zombies Later has something for everyone. If you like music, I mean as in if you actually consciously appreciate music in any meager manner beyond as a means of displaying your chosen social class to your chosen peers, then you’re going to be challenged and pleased by at least some of what you find there, and that is a promise I’ll stand behind

Chenard Walcker at the Comfort Stand

Most people trace the roots of the information age back to the first iterations, like the telegraph, telephone, or phonograph (but not the phonophone.) The savvy data mixer, though, knows that the age truly began with the first file casually copied from one digital floppy to another. From the moment society began digitizing everything, from ideas to pictures to music, the information became truly free, free to spread, to grow and, most importantly, to change. Now you could not only record music, but you could chop it, bend it, stretch it, dice it, turn it inside out into countless new iterations to astound and delight. Recording information was no longer just a means of preservation. It became itself an artistic medium.

Part of the importance of free information and fair use is to allow works of art to grow beyond themselves. As demonstrated by THRU-you in the atthecommons manifesto, in the correct hands fascinating, even culturally important new works, or even whole new genres, can be born. And probably no one understands this better than self described cut-and-paste artist Chenard Walcker.

Walcker is a French musician who focuses on producing music through sampling, using new combinations of music snippets and found sounds to engineer strange new melodies. His songs, particularly those found on The Lotus Opus, tent to mix traditional lounge with eclectica, forming a haunting but mellow atmosphere. His music is comparable to the ambient explorations of more mainstream artists like Moby or Aphex Twin, both practiced cut-and-paste-ers in their own right. At the same time, Walcker lends what almost resembles a coherent but twisted sense of madness to his music, an askew viewpoint regarding art and reality that is dutifully reflected at his homepage. Not speaking the French language stymies me somewhat in reviewing the page, but what there is that I can access paints a picture of whimsical self contradiction in the medium of pop, and that serves as an excellent base description of the music, as well.

Walcker’s sound isn’t for everyone, but the practiced hand combines with bold explorations into the unknown that produce not merely songs of a unique nature, but of definite quality as well. Each track will keep the mind guessing, while laying down an overtone of classic grove that combines the modern scene with the hip era seamlessly. And for those looking for good examples of how free use and sampling help redefine and repurpose the potential of art, look no further, for The Lotus Opus shines like a beacon in the dark for such seekers.