The Mailbox Giveth: Library Catalog Music Series

Music For Lubbock, 1980

Law of the Least Effort
Music for Measurements

Casey Foubert/James McAlister
Music for Drums

Asthmatic Kitty
Released: 7.7.09

Things may be improving a little bit, but we’re still in the midst of a recession. Earlier this year, once Touch & Go Records became a casualty of our economic decline, it was suddenly apparent that any sort of artistic or cultural bastion would be threatened and possibly forced to disappear or modify itself into a lucrative co-identity. The independent music industry is still surviving, but who knows for how long. Pessimistic view perhaps, but it’s difficult to accept the absence of underground or alternative outlets without preparing a little bit, even if it is by taking a mostly defeatist view on matters.

Asthmatic Kitty Records is breaking into an interesting part of the music industry, becoming a pseudo-music stock house with their new series, Library Catalog Music. In what I imagine to be a mostly humorous explanation, the Series is explained to be instrumental music “designed for possible use in films and television,” but it’s mostly soundtrack music for your daily tasks; y’know: driving, walking, working, cleaning, cooking, surviving the economic collapse… etc. So, it’s music to buy for personal use, and music to license for corporate use; better grade muzak that could potentially add some artistic appreciation to the otherwise capitalist outlook that music is only meant to sell shit.

You can take it as a Moby-ist ploy, the generation of revenue through commercial exposure, even if it is being delivered from an independent platform. But, to be honest, I would have a hard time imagining any of this music being used in ANY commercial function, except maybe as potential score music for some film, which would mostly likely also be from an INDIE film house. And that’s simply because this music is not dry enough to be outshined by some glitzy product, and would likely be a distraction to mainstream filmgoers who’re really trying to figure out the twists on some unimaginative A-lister’s vanity project. The non-potential for this music in a mainstream marketplace so blatantly exposes the vapidity of the average consumer that the Series almost works as a reaction AGAINST the compromise of independent art and music and its possible licensing seems somewhat of a “fuck you” to the whole machine.

Or, I’m just not giving the public enough credit. But, I think I’m right.

Anyway, so far the Series is comprised of three volumes and two musicians, with three more volumes slated for release at a later date. The first volume is Music For Lubbock, 1980, IDM/techno/remix music by 900X, an alter ego of musician James McAlister. With an Eno’s worth of ambience and experimentalism, McAlister incorporates live instruments with sampled beats and synthesized tones, sort of a John Carpenter-inspired collection of music sans the impending dread.

McCalister later teams up with Casey Foubert for the third volume, Music For Drums, which is exactly what it says it is. An all-percussive showcase, it’s the anti-melodic component of the series, which comes to full realization with the second volume, Music For Measurements.

Operating under the name Law Of Least Effort, Foubert is a one-man band, creating funk and soul tinged instrumental music. The Bar-Kays would be proud: it’s very existence owed to late 60s/70s Stax output. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it completely emulates the bow-chika-wah immediacy of 70s film or television, but it plays similarly with song structure and relies heavily on funk-laden bass rhythm. Foubert does go a little Western at times (“Blu”), and flirts with Link Wray (“Law 13”), though, so he does at least attempt to capture various moods, as any good “life” soundtrack should.

Asthmatic Kitty’s attempted plunge into the stock house market is probably too ambitious to become reality. Though appealing, the Series doesn’t possess the sort of lifelessness that one can ignore, the pleasant dullness with which one can subconsciously boost consumer morale and enhance product attractiveness. Instead, the Library Catalog Music Series will likely do more to expose the talents of some of the label’s artists, and maybe show up on a film or two. Either way, times being as they are, it’s telling that an indie label would try and position itself into such a sterilized sector of marketability, attempting to find new ways to fund their artists’ endeavors. What I appreciate is that compromise, no matter how tempting, still seems thankfully off the table.

Letters From A Tapehead


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