Sunday, December 05, 2004

Places to hear and see...

AFTER being benumbed by the banality of mainstream pop for years as a music critic, I'm experiencing the joy of discovering cutting-edge music again, thanks to broadband and a spanking new PC.
Hours on end spent cruising the highways and byways of cyberspace for free (and totally legal) downloads have yielded some fabulous harvests, including what is arguably the most exciting boundary-smashing music portal you'll ever stumble onto., which calls itself "a site for sore ears" and amply justifies that tag by offering tons of free music by little-known acts in America and various parts of the world, is truly a remarkable treasure-trove for the jaded music freak desperately looking for stuff that will engage his soul and reaffirm his faith in the regenerative power of music.
Run by a "a group of individuals who share a zealous lust for music... that invades our thoughts (and) propels our bodies", takes you into a world of fresh, fiercely form-expanding sounds made in tiny studios, cramped garages and cluttered bedrooms by young people driven by the passion to prove that, in the age of Britney and soulless, profit-motivated assembly-line junk-pop, you don't need a pretty face and a megabuck recording contract to stay true to your tattered muse and have your music heard.
Covering heaps of loosely defined genres and sub-genres, ranging from goth and slo-core to emo and experimental, the site introduces you to a whole new galaxy of terrific talent. Every page devoted to an act features a sharp and incisive introduction, and at least one full MP3 or wma download. Also, streams from selected albums, mostly on indie labels, are downloadable if you're the kind who gets off on surfing to music.
The best way to find out what's hot at the site is Epitonic Radio which lets you launch "a big old stream" under various categories. There're thousands of tracks here, so you can spend days or even weeks discovering a a refreshingly brash and brave tribe of bands, singer-songwriters and instrumentalists fiercely committed to pushing the perimeters of pop, rock, jazz and classical.
Among the fabulous finds I'd like to share with you are Early Day Miners, Tristeza, Unwed Sailor and Ativin, bands that mainly play sublimely moody, exquisitely melodic instrumental rock, and Jhno, an electronic explorer with a wondrously eclectic outlook.
There're also some truly original singer-songwriters whose stuff eschews platitudes with such infectious wickedness that you'd forgive some of their more grating quirks.
As I said, there's loads and loads of great music here so be prepared to be wasted by waves great noise.
Another site that has thousands of free music downloads is a, a CNET Networks Inc portal that lets musicians from any part of the world submit their original compositions.
Although it's run by a bunch of fatuous wannabe headmaster types -- their rigid "if you don't conform, you're out" attitude runs counter to the loose-blues slacker spirit of indie rock -- the joint is still worth a couple visits.
As it's a free-for-all concept, watch out for plenty of dreck, though. But if you just stick to the "Editor's Picks", you'll find yourself happening upon raw but forceful and fascinating real-world music that's blissfully free of artifice.
Finally, if you want to watch some of the world's greatest drummers in action, zip over to a drummerworld which gives you a sensational slew of free QuickTime clips. Among the must-sees here are a truly awesome, spell-binding 1972 clip of the late Tony Williams flying over the skins, and a three-way thunderfest featuring Steve Gadd, Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl. Enjoy!