On the Download

In case you're not one of the several dozen or so folks who read the local music blog circuit over your morning (or afternoon) cup of coffee — or over your late night fifth beer — there's some news springing forth from Detroit's fertile and circle-jerkulous blogosphere. Jay Carrol (aka JRC) and his pseudonymous partner Jasper over at eatthiscity.com have started a record label they're calling FiveThreeDialTone Records. So after taking (generally thoughtful-though-snark-ripe) potshots at the music business' stumblings in the digital age, fanatically blogging about a pet circle of local bands and generally facilitating a discourse on local music that's way-too-often anonymous but oftentimes an echo of the 'tude thrown around pre-Internet by folks like those at Orbit mag (call it an unironic, navel-gazey, meanspirited version of Orbit, if you must), the boys apparently pooled their tax refund checks and decided to start releasing music. In other words, they're further blurring the line between fandom and self-promotion, evangelism and capitalism. As sure a reflection of the information torrents to which we're all exposed as there can be. And a slippery slope too.

Whereas, say, Blender magazine records would get (rightfully) scrutinized for conflict of interest and advertising-based self-service, fan blogs can call it "an extension of their fandom," a capitalist expression of what they're already doing out of love. But that's where it gets tricky. JRC and Jasper have already parlayed the blog attention into a series of live shows, including the recent Detroit Unplugged II — and now this as sort of the next logical (?) step. They've framed it in a "We're putting our money where our mouth is" context. And that's admirable as a new media experiment. It's also a move that puts them somewhere in the sweet spot between giddy and sometimes annoying fangirl-turned-self-promoter Sarah Lewittin (aka Ultragrrl) — who way back in the early 'oughts parlayed her fan gush into a fashion-victim vanity label and chat circuit zeitgeist-grabbing book — and the more curatorial approach of the promoters-bloggers and indie-nerd dudes who make the Daytrotter site a "must bookmark." Not a bad place to be if you're firmly on the Daytrotter side of that particular time zone. After all, we don't need Jasper and JRC gushing about how Randy and the other Deastro boys came over to their place to listen to rough mixes and ended up drinking schnapps and passing out on the couch. OMG!!

But they've made a pretty safe bet for their first 45 release, a single from site fave Deastro with "Spritle" as the A-side and "Tree Frog" (which will also appear on Deastro's forthcoming Ghostly International full-length) on the flip. The tracks were recorded by the Octopus' Joe Frezza (who, by the way, has some sweet new jams on that group's MySpace page at myspace.com/octopus666) and the covers of the 45 — at least some of 'em — will be hand-painted by Chabot and will come with a CD-R of the jams. This is a crucial proof point for the ETC-ers: Give the music away for free and sell the "value-added" object. It's also a theory that's being tested an awful lot around these parts recently. From Prussia and Hidden Ghost Balloon Ship's recent free download albums to Ghostly International's consistent sample song MP3s and Suburban Sprawl's online-exclusive albums, it would seem that the crest has arrived and we're all about to see how to surf this shit out. Another recent example of the freebie-as-loss-leader is the very, very good news that Ann Arbor-via-Chicago-via-Milford folk-pop-rock-whatevs-awesome band Office has signed to Ann Arbor multimedia goodniks Quack! after relocating back home from the Windy City. The band, led by Dave Masson, has crafted a new set of jams for an album titled Mecca that will be released via Quack! in the near future. You can download Office's awesome aural shenanigans at the band's site (ordinaryoffice.blogspot.com). Look for the link to "Mecca." Sure, it's downloadable via a sendspace link which means pop-ups, ad redirects and other nuisances, but the content is worth the hassle.

With all this content blasting into the ether from the indie side, it should be mentioned that the former "Big 4" have also seemingly found (yet another) way to venture into the void. QTrax, another "coming soon" service, promises free downloads, streaming, playlists and ringtones from major label artists. From the looks of the dummy teaser interface, it seems like they've actually put some thought into the little things like user-friendliness and it promises to be open to all (once the damned software is finished, that is). Check it at music.qtrax.com.

So into the fray we go, kids, let's try to stay in touch as we follow the bouncing ball that marks where art, commerce, pranks and ego conflate into one big glowing orb of whatthefuck, shall we?


With all the hubbub around their other band, Gardens, it should be noted that, yes, indeed, Genders are a still-going, still-wildly-imaginative, still-sprawlingly-great concern despite not having played out in the last couple years. In fact, they've been digging through their tapes and have compiled a 13-CD release that they'll use to kick off their own Holographic Resonance label. Each set will be $25, will be hand painted and include a follow-along-at-home booklet. They'll celebrate with a show at the Lager House on the 24th of this month before heading out on the road. You can pre-order the box set at holographicresonance.com. Let's hope for good things from HR and keep your ears tuned.

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