It’s International Womens Day! A day to celebrate brilliant women, to acknowledge the massive debt our culture owes to the many millions of women who battled uphill to get past massive sexism and inequality to shape the world we live in. To give thanks for the mothers and sisters and wives and girlfriends, friends and colleagues who teach us and with whom we partner in building lives, culture, society, friendships, homes, communities…
But it’s also a day of reflection, a day of lament, a day to acknowledge that pretty much none of us dudes do enough to correct the imbalance, that we are want to fall back on tropes about slow progress or even to use clever blogposts and Facebook statuses to hide our inactivity behind. It’s WAY, WAY easier to write this than it is to call out some dickhead at work telling sexist jokes, to make a fuss about those situations where women are constantly overlooked, to check our language for times when we put appearance first in the list of things we compliment a woman for, as though they need to earn the right to be complimented on their work by looking the part first.
It’s always easier to sound like a feminist than to act like one. To write inspirational bullshit on the Internet than to get off my arse and do my fair share of the housework, to daily resensitise myself to the systems that enable my male privilege… So don’t take this as a statement of success, but an admission that I’m not where I should be. And neither are you, dudes. No sackcloth and ashes, just take some time to fix some things, OK?
And here, to celebrate the day, is some incredible music by women I’m inspired by and aspire to be like. Geniuses all:
Finally, my new album, What The Mind Thinks, The Heart Transmits, is out.
You can download it here, paying whatever you think it’s worth, from Bandcamp:
How It Came To Be:
The album was recorded live as part of a guided meditation on a retreat led by Jo Sumner – Lobelia and I had played a house concert for Jo a while back, and she mooted the idea of me providing live music for a meditation on one of her retreats last year. I loved the idea, especially given how many people already seem to use my music as an accompaniment to yoga/meditation/massage/therapy/etc.
There seems to be a certain kind of person who goes for my music in that setting – people who are REALLY annoyed by shitty 80s keyboard sounds and panpipes, who want music that the like, first and foremost, and THEN music that fits the setting.
But for years I’ve had emails from those people expressing some frustration that my music so often has weird spikey, dissonant, freaky bits that properly break the moment… Those bits of music aren’t about to stop happening within my usual ‘story telling’ approach to music creation, as they’re a vital part of the bigger story, but having the chance to make music in context meant that this piece ended up fitting that role perfectly, without any of the freakiness.
It’s a SLOW journey. 45 minutes of it. A single live track, with the only editing being post-processing (adding some spatial effects to the ambient layers, to make it sound amazing on headphones!)
The title is the English translation of the Japanese idiom, Ishin Denshin. From the wikipedia entry ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishin-denshin ) ::
Ishin-denshin (以心伝心?) originally comes from a Chinese proverb and is a Japanese idiom which denotes the traditional concept of interpersonal communication through unspoken mutual understanding. This four-character compound, known as a yojijukugo, literally translates as “what the mind thinks, the heart transmits.” Sometimes explained in English in terms of “telepathy” or “sympathy”, ishin-denshin is also commonly rendered as “heart-to-heart communication” or “tacit understanding.”
The reaction so far has suggested that for many, it’s just what they were looking for. It’s very obviously my music, but in a format that fits a new context. I hope you enjoy it too!
(photos taken by Neil Sumner, at the retreat where the album was recorded.)
Right, so an interesting thing started happening as soon as I put the ‘Entire Solo Works for £10‘ offer online – people who already had *most* of the albums started buying the set, and then offering the rest of the download codes as gifts to friends who didn’t have those albums or had never heard my music.
I really like this idea – £10 is still way cheaper than buying even two of the albums on iTunes would be, and you can get them as 24Bit FLAC files if you’re a lossless HD audio buff…
So, please, feel free to buy the whole set, keep the ones you need, and either send the rest to people you want to introduce to my music, or offer them up on Twitter/Facebook etc. to people who might want them.
The download codes are single-use – so prob best to get people to email you and then send them, rather than posting the codes publicly and just annoying anyone who fails to get the album from a code they think is going to work
Next week, my brand new solo album comes out. It’s called ‘What The Mind Thinks, The Heart Transmits’, and is a single 45 minute piece, recorded live as accompaniment to a guided meditation on a retreat.
I’ll write more about the album itself next week when it comes out, but for now, as a pre-release option, I’m doing my second ’10 albums for £10′ offer, and making my entire solo back catalogue available via Bandcamp for £10. That’s 14 years of solo bass playing, for a crisp tenner (or paypal’s impersonation of one).
[CLICK HERE TO BUY ALL 10 ALBUMS FOR £10]
The album list is:
What The Mind Thinks, The Heart Transmits (2014)
Believe In Peace (2012)
11 Reasons Why 3 Is Greater Than Everything (2011 – Remastered 2012)
Ten Years On: Live In London (2010)
Behind Every Word (2006)
Grace And Gratitude (2004)
Not Dancing For Chicken (2002 – Remastered 2012)
And Nothing But The Bass (2000)
Lessons Learnt From An Aged Feline (Pt 1) (2002)
Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline (Pt 2) (2004)
Those of you who’ve been around for a while will note the absence of Lessons Learned Pt III – the reason for that is that I’ve no idea where the master recordings are, and as such only have a fairly low res MP3 copy. I’ve rummaged through old hard drives and haven’t yet found anything labeled as that, though there’s a fair chance it’s in amongst some other sessions… When it crops up, I’ll stick it on bandcamp
If you want to listen before you buy, 9 of the 10 albums are available at music.stevelawson.net
When you buy it, you’ll get Believe In Peace as an immediate download, and the rest will arrive ASAP in the form of download codes – I’ll email you all 10 download codes, and the link to redeem them.
I’ll also be writing extensive PDF sleeve notes over the next week or so, and you’ll get those sent to you as soon as they’re finished
Exciting News! I’m playing at the London Bass Guitar Show on March 2nd.
Want proof? OK, all the mainstage artists are pictured on the cover of this month’s Bass Guitar Magazine, with me right in the middle. Oh yes. Good times, eh?
I’ll be on at 11:15am on Sunday 2nd March, though I may actually be on a little earlier than that in the masterclass room, talking to one of my heroes and friends, Leland Sklar… the two sessions overlap, so we’ll have to see how the planning works out! [Read more →]
So yesterday, we crossed the £10,000 mark on Bandcamp. That’s sales on my main Bandcamp account since Sept 2009. In reality, we crossed it a while ago, because there’s other money that we made when I had separate accounts on there for each project, and also the money that Lobelia has made, but this is the first time it’s actually displayed it on screen…
So before we get to the main bit of the blog – here’s a special £10K offer – all 10 FingerPainting albums to download for £10. Click here to buy. [Read more →]
So, here are my favourites of my blog posts from 2013. Hope you find something useful in here:
Steve, Why Is Your Music So Cheap?
Being A Good Citizen Of The Internet:
Who Is Your Audience?
What Do Singles Sales Tell Us About The Health Of The Music Industries?
How To Talk About Music On The Internet:
“Conversational Hegemony” or, How Lobbyists Hijack The Terms Of Engagement:
Expanding Audio Orthodoxy: Recording/Mixing/Mastering
Twitter Brain Dump About The New Music Economy:
How To Send Bandcamp Download Codes Via Mailchimp:
Our Glorious Dilemma: How To Release A Huge Amount Of Music:
Here’s the 6th album to be decoupled from the FingerPainting: Complete set. The title feels like a fittingly optimistic meditation with which to enter the new year, hoping for the greatness of possibility to be realised.
There are so many things that can make us despair, but holding onto some kind of shred of optimism that we can rise above the misery and find a path to a better future for all of us… that’s why I play music, why I teach, why I continue to wrestle with the questions of how to make art sustainable in the face of the pressures of capitalism to measure all value in monetary terms…
As Bruce Cockburn sang “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight, got to kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight”. And we do it because of the possibility that things will get better, that we can do it for those who are powerless to kick their own darkness.
Here’s to a justice and peace-filled 2014, friends
2013 was another bumper year for amazing new music. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by so much of it. As soon as you let go of the NEED to hear it all, it just becomes this amazing immersive creative environment that, if you’re at all like me, invigorates your own creative journey.
So there are LOADS of things that could’ve been on this list, but here are the main things that inspired me this year:
Throwing Muses – Purgatory/Paradise – let’s start with The Muses. Kristin Hersh has such a remarkable work rate. She’s one of the only artists in the world who makes me feel like perhaps I’m not nuts after all for releasing so much music. She’s constantly updating the demos section of her site, and has three main projects in rotation – her solo records, 50 Foot Wave and Throwing Muses. This album got SO much amazing press, if that meant anything, it’d sell half a million copies. It’s cropping up in a ton of people’s lists of favourites for 2013, and there’s a damn good reason for that. Throwing Muses are making the best music of their almost-30 year career. Unlike
ALL so many of their peers, the magic never went away. The writing, singing and Kristin’s ever-brilliant guitar playing (she’s up there with David Torn, Nels Cline and Bill Frisell in my biggest guitar-playing musical influences list) are all running at an all time creative high. What’s even more remarkable about this is that even they love this one. Packaged as an exquisite book, beautifully designed by drummer Dave and chock full of words to cherish and pour over by Kristin, it really does feel like a gift, a treasured message from three people who’ve arrived at this point because of all the joy and pain of being in a band for so long, and no longer give a shit about any of the stuff that doesn’t matter. It’s amazing, and you really should own it.
KT Tunstall – Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon – you’ll know from previous years if you’re a long enough reader that I’m a MASSIVE fan of KT Tunstall. She’s so far ahead of anyone else doing anything remotely similar, it’s not even funny. I loved her last album and its excursion into weird spikey electronic grown-up pop, but this one, made in the desert with piano-wizard Howe Gelb is truly exceptional. Recorded beautifully, written through all manner of life upheaval, stripped back. The two versions of Feel It All (single and album) tell such markedly different stories they even had two different videos. She’s amazing, and she’ll no doubt continue to be amazing for many, many years to come.
Jon Gomm – Secrets Nobody Keeps – one of my favourite solo gigs of the year (perhaps my favourite) was opening for Jon Gomm in Birmingham. Jon has been VERY good for a long time. The archetypical road-warrior, he built exactly the kind of career and fan base an artist needs to properly capitalise on the kind of attention that comes with a massive viral youtube hit. What he also did was make a truly mind-blowingly great album, and assembled a live show to match. Right at the top of his game, the world is definitely his for the taking. Also, supremely nice bloke, shockingly talented collaborator/wife (Natasha plays sax and sings beautifully on the album), deserves every bit of success that arrives…
Ihsahn – Das Seelenbrechen – this years metal triumph. I’ve loved all of Ihsahn’s last 4 albums (and finally bought Emperor’s last album this year too, and that’s fab) – this is his best yet. Calling it ‘progressive’ doesn’t really do justice to how natural the genre-hopping sounds in his hands. There’s no sense of any of the many disparate elements being shoe-horned in. It sounds like the record he’s been building up to. There’s still a whole load of properly scary black metal in there, but also entire suites of music that without the screaming to bookend it, sounds entirely unmetallic. Properly brilliant writing, singing, arranging, recording and guitar playing. All good, nothing bad.
Prefab Sprout – Crimson/Red – a NEW Prefab Sprout album?? Felt almost too good to be true. It’s beautiful, though if I was being picky – as a huge fan of Wendy Smith’s voice – I’d love to have heard the rest of the band on it, rather than just Paddy’s playing and singing. But that hardly dents the beauty of the record. All the great things about Prefab Sprout are there (except Wendy’s voice) – the songs, the combination of grand vision and resigned patheticness (I’ve never come up with a decent way of describing the combination of world-changing ambition and parochial intimacy of Paddy’s writing… One day I’ll actually put some proper time into it, the music deserves it!)
Richard Thompson – Electric – New Richard Thompson! Sounds like Richard Thompson being amazing! Because it is! Bought this in the first week of release. Which is a very very rare occurrence in my life. Happy that I did.
Yvonne Lyon – These Small Rebellions – this is Yvonne’s forth album in a row that I’ve loved. She has an uncanny pop sensibility about her melodic writing, but never sacrifices the depth of the song itself to that pop-ness. Nuance, beauty, and a huge investment of self seem to be the hallmarks of Yvonne’s writing and recording. Also an exceptional live performer. One of those artists whose albums I’ll buy without having heard a note, read a review or seen the artwork. And I can’t imagine ever being disappointed. Wonderful.
Tiger Darrow – Aqua Vitae – Tiger’s first record since leaving Texas moving to NYC and doing incredibly well at music college. When I first tweeted about this, Jonatha Brooke tweeted back that she’s a fan (having taught Tiger for a songwriting class at NYU) – lots of people have fallen in love with this album since I encouraged them to check it out. Falling loosely into that Imogen Heap/Bjork/clever electronic singer/songwriter world, Tiger has both a sound of her own, and a huge breadth to her talents, as a writer, singer and instrumentalist. Scarily gifted.
Sunna Gunnlaugs – Distilled – “new album from Sunna Gunnlaugs, and it’s fantastic” – I could just cut ‘n’ past that after everything she releases. Huge fan, always happy to get new music from Sunna, whatever the format she’s playing in, but I think I particularly enjoy the interplay in her trio. She’s a firm favourite of mine.
Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing – there was a huge amount of expectation hanging over this record, hype built up around it, and for good reason. Steven assembled an amazing cast of characters to make it, and clearly spent an awful lot of time and energy making it. And it paid off. Everything that’s great about progressive music with none of the absurdity. Adventurous, exciting, emotive, expansive. Exhilerating stuff.
There were other albums I really enjoyed this year - Billy Bragg, The Fierce And The Dead, Sam Philips, Scott Barkan, Søren Bebe Trio, Steve Uccello, Danny Barnes, Darkroom, Emmalee^Crane, Janek Gwizdala and a load of others all released excellent records this year. Like I said, a bumper crop. Best place to go crate-digging is my bandcamp collection, which has everything I’ve ever bought:
There were two events in my 20s that helped me understand the scale of the age we live in. one was visiting the Berlin Wall. The other was reading Long Walk To Freedom.
All of a sudden, the scale of the importance of what was going on in my lifetime was brought home. It wasn’t just seeing it on the TV, it was reading about world changing events and people and REMEMBERING them happening. Seeing the broken wall, walking from West to East Berlin, and remembering watching it live, being taken apart. [Read more →]