Discontent Phase Two | ‘Free Music’ Mixtapes

For over 20 years, I’ve been making mixtapes. Originally on cassette, briefly flirting with MiniDisc before landing now on the ubiquitous CD-R, there are just under 200 of my own mixtapes clogging up shelf space in the house. The first, titled ‘Aural Subculture’ (a vague reference to New Order) is dated February 1988 and includes tracks from The Sugarcubes, Cocteau Twins, Joy Division, The Fall and the Jesus & Mary Chain, amongst many other less notables.

For me, mixtapes serve two purposes – first, they are archival documentation that not only preserves a moment in sound, but that also ensure that I don’t lose pieces; that artefacts are catalogued and available to recall at any given moment. As a broadcaster, charged with identifying and promoting new music on a weekly basis, music can pass me by in a heartbeat – the average audition time for a track is less than ten seconds. It has to catch me in that time frame, otherwise, I’ve clicked on to the next. Without that dictum, I’d never get through the volume required in any given week. Thus mixtapes help me preserve the stand-outs, to ensure that they get played (often repeatedly so) on radio and remain on the shelf for a lifetime to come.

If that sounds a little clinical, then be assured – the second purpose is pure pleasure. The curation, collation and sequencing of mixtapes is one of my favourites pursuits. Even if no one else ever hears them, it gives me great joy.

Thus, when considering phase two of Discontent, it felt very much as if the time had finally arrived to put two and two together. Blogging and mixtapes, as one. Blogging about a single track in a single post certainly gives space and context, but the time allocated to writing is disproportionate to the length of the music itself. With mixtapes, I can get across a wider selection of music, but also create a context in a different way – by placing each piece in a sequence with a considered selection of other sounds.

Importantly, as always, all of the music on Discontent remains ‘legal’ or, more simply, ‘free music’ – that is, that the music in these mixtapes has been made available for free by artists, labels or other organisations. Perhaps they never considered that their music would be used in this way, but hopefully, the introduction of a new filter, a new context or a new curation will help distribute and ‘sell’ their work more widely.

To launch Discontent 2.0, I’ve posted two new mixtapes – the first is inspired by an article in this month’s Wire magazine on ‘Hypnogogic Pop‘ and features new music from Sun Araw, Pocahaunted, James Ferraro, Salem, Witchbeam, Yeti Scalp, Cock Safari, Jason E Anderson (also in his Brother Raven guise), Steve Hauschildt and Emeralds.

Although most of the mixtapes will feature new music, the second selection this week takes a more retrospective approach – in memory of artist Merce Cunningham, who sadly passed away on Monday. The mixtape includes musicians that have at one point or another featured in the repertory for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (Pauline Oliveros, Sigur Ros, Earle Brown, Brian Eno, Sonic Youth, Yasunao Tone and, of course, John Cage) as well as music inspired by Cunningham’s artistic and personal partner, John Cage. ‘Music For Merce‘ is a small tribute to a great man and a timeless body of avant-garde work.

In addition to these tapes, I’ve also reposted recent mixtape selections: Discontent Mixtape Volumes One & Two, the first volume in the New Weird Australia project, and ‘Databass Eclectic Audio‘ – a 1997 collection of (then) new experimental Scottish music.

I hope you enjoy this new approach for Discontent and get just as much pleasure from listening to these selections as I had putting them together.

So it goes,
Stu.

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