This is a little different of a review for EvilSponge, but these are different times. Not only are we trapped in a high-mucous and (surprisingly) low-mutant apocalypse, but the very nature of music is changing. Again. Or maybe it never stopped changing and i, or any one person, only change in stages as the technology we use changes.
When i started writing reviews here at EvilSponge, record labels and artists mailed us CDs. They came in packages through the USPS, a piece of plastic and a sheet with some press stuff. I have a wall of CDs, many with a press release one-sheet folded up inside.
Then for a while, the press releases in email transitioned to "here is a download let us know if you want a CD". And so i downloaded vast sums of MP3s and sorted them, meticulously, into folders that made some sense to me. I have offline hard drives with archives of old albums. But you know, those things are hard to sort through, hard to remember. "Out of sight, out of mind" is a very true sentiment. Files on a hard drive do not invite the same kind of browsing listening that looking at the wall of CDs, or my other wall of vinyl records, does.
So that is one flaw with the MP3 download idea: the final storage media looks like any other piece of hardware and it is difficult to keep the MP3 files in mind as something you "have" and just grab and listen to.
Now most of the promos i receive are along the lines of "here is a link to take you to several streaming services with the music on them, or if you ask we can send a download". This pushes more of the expense of music distribution onto the listener: i have to pay for the streaming service or listen to ads interrupting play. Plus, i have to pay my service provider for more bandwidth.
I am not a big fan of streaming services. First of all, i work in IT at a high-security company, and streaming media is considered a security hole. Yes, dear reader, IT people in America still think that thieves can get into the network as you listen to the latest Trap Music Hits on Spotify... I am not sure how much of that i believe, but it is an issue for me as i cannot listen to a lot of the promos i get when i am at work. Plus, streaming services never seem to have the obscure stuff that i want to listen to…
And now that i am working from home because the world has ended, i can stream stuff. Yay. Hope that Comcast doesn't start throttling my bandwidth because suddenly i am using too much... But i am at least "of the times". And i can say that i find the browsing features of streaming sites to be just as uninspiring as my MP3 storage.
Sigh. But i try to work with it as best i can. That brings us to the ostensible subject of this "review", isolatedmix98, put together by Windy & Carl for the blog A Strangely Isolated Place.
ASIP is a, well, a peer of EvilSponge. It started as a blog in 2008 and has grown. I guess they have a little more discipline and post with more regularity. Now they release records, and regularly host mixes.
The mixes tend to come with an interview or an article about or by the artist. So here we have a 67 minute mix of mellow ambient music put together by Windy & Carl paired with an email interview of the two of them.
Windy & Carl are a dreampop / drone duo from Detroit who seemed to have disappeared for a while. They haven't released an album in 8 years, and to be honest i kind of worried they had gone the way of the dodo. But, reading the interview included with the mix, they were just busy with other stuff and recording and ... life. And their new album just came out. (We'll get to that album in time, dear reader. You know that EvilSponge is not really "timely"... we require patience to get to the depth of listening that we strive for.)
This is pretty much exactly the sort of mix i would expect from Windy & Carl: some Durutti Column, Aphex Twin, Stars of the Lid, etc. The music is a haze that floats along, often with no discernable percussion. It is musical impressionism: just a blur that seems meaningless at first, but that reveals deep layers the more you focus on it.
The relaxation level is also important now, as we wait for the virus to come knocking on our doors, huddled in fear while staring at the Internet. This music washes over and soothes.
That's what i like about ambient music, and that is what i like about Windy & Carl.
The mix is free to listen to on SoundCloud, and if you dig around a little you can download it and store it on your laptop / phone / tablet / MP3 player (does anyone have those anymore?) / media server / TV / whatever else. Or you can stream it to whatever device.
So even though the world is frightening and music has changed into different and less browsable forms, music still has the power to soothe and calm as well as entertain.