State of the Ambient Union (2008) - Pete Kelly (Igneous Flame)
– my plans for 2008
In 2008 (and beyond, hopefully!), I’d like to carry on
creating music that I think is sufficiently good enough to release.
hugely prolific - my albums take quite some time to complete, I like to think
there’s a strand of improvement in my work over time.
I am currently nearing the end of a collaborative project
with UK based artist Michael Stringer AKA ‘Achromus’. We will be releasing two albums
that have come out of the project - ‘Flicker’ and ‘Halo’.
‘Achromus’ gave me the raw compositions and source sounds from a pool of
material that he had been working on and I added guitar parts, transformed the
sounds and generally re-worked the material.
‘Flicker’ is the more sonorous album if the two, synth and
guitar being the primary sound sources. ‘Halo’ is something of a departure for
me, it’s a single-track album. It’s a dark and experimental drone based work,
with lots of variation and ‘vivid’ spatial processing throughout.
After the release of these two albums (which should be
relatively soon), I will be producing and adding guitar parts to
debut solo album. Other collaborations may well follow later in the year and
I’m working on collating a pool of material for the next solo Igneous Flame
Things have certainly changed from when I started looking
up ambient resources on the web a few years ago, some established sites and
forums have come and gone, but I think the main change is that the ‘ambient
world’ has become wider. Certainly for musicians, MySpace (in
particular) has really opened things up. While it has a lot of rubbish attached
to it, the networking side really does work. The correspondence I've had with
other ambient musicians has been very encouraging (the private messages thing
that goes on behind the scenes), as has been the comments and messages from
fans and 'friends'.
I would say that the vast majority of previously unknown
artists' music I've come across recently has been from MySpace and the 'viral'
nature of it leads to a degree of 'cross-pollination' that I don't think exists
anywhere else. I get friend requests from people outside of the ‘ambient world’
and I find this very refreshing. It’s the whole social-networking element,
which has brought about this diversification.
Another site I’ve come across recently is the Atmoworks ‘Ning’ site,
this looks to be a really promising web 2.0 ambient community site. The
integration of blogs, music-players, profiles, images and videos really works
is also an interesting one, I don’t use it’s ‘audio-scrobbling’
facility, so I can’t really comment on that, but again the social networking
element is very interesting, if nothing else to see what other music the people
who are listening to my material are also listening to.
Regarding Internet airplay, sites like Soma FM’s ‘Drone Zone’ and Stillstream are
great for musicians and listeners alike. For example, my ‘Oxana’ album has had
tracks played on Drone Zone almost every day for at least 3 years, that’s some
Naturally, other ambient music web resources (such as Ambient Visions, the Hypnos forum and many
others) are still very useful, for musicians and fans alike.
I feel that technology has had a direct impact on the
volume of ambient music that is being created - freely affordable tools have
allowed anyone who wants to, to be able create music and ‘release’ it.
Primarily as downloads on the net, as opposed to making up CDs and trying to
sell them. On one hand this is wonderfully empowering, but on the negative
side, I see little in the way of self-editing and consequently, there’s an
awful lot of music out there and finding the ‘good stuff’ gets harder.
labels are an interesting recent phenomenon. I see these more so
in Electronica / IDM circles, where free mp3 albums / compilations are
regularly released on the net. I wonder if they are really helping artists
expose their work, or are they the modern equivalent of ‘vanity labels’?
However, from an artist’s point of view, it’s certainly one way of getting
their material ‘out there’.
I have no problem with artists deciding to give their
material away for free (under Creative Commons Licenses and the like) but
personally that’s not the route I take.
I choose to sell it – even it means it’ll probably get
pirated at some point!
Regarding CDs – I think they will hold their own, there are
still people who want a physical CD (and the artwork) rather than a download.
For most people, 256/320 kbps mp3s are indistinguishable
from CD quality audio. I'm not making any judgements on this, but I think that
for a download-only ‘store’ a higher quality option would be a welcome option
for the people who are more concerned with fidelity. Ian Boddy's download-only
offers Flac downloads as well as mp3s. I’m interested to see how the
download-only route pans out in the future.
I have to say, there’s whole sub-genres/artists that I know
very little about and new artists appear all the time. I’ve stumbled across
some of the new ‘hepsters’ (William Basinski, Tim Hecker et al) through mp3
compilation mixes, which are usually themed or someone’s ‘best of year’
selection. I’ve found them to be an interesting way to pick up on new (to me)
I think in general the whole ‘scene’ has changed, I think
that if an artist with real talent were setting up now, they may be hard pushed
to make a name for themselves in the way that this happened in the past. On the
other hand, people who would have never been able to release their material
before, now can. I really can’t predict where it will go, now that the download
genie is well and truly out of the bottle and that the whole ‘free culture’ and
piracy are now so prevalent on the net.
Interesting times though…
Thanks for reading
Pete Kelly (Igneous Flame) June 2008