Supporting Soundmakers and Doing Some Sonic Self-Care

Social distancing is hard. Here are some sounds that might help.

One of the things you have to do as radio / podcast producer is email people out of the blue and ask to interview them. When I do that, I usually start with “I hope this email finds you well.” I’ll be honest: before today, I didn’t really mean it. It’s not that I wished anyone ill, but I also didn’t really mean it because it didn’t really mean anything. It was a formality.

But today I wholeheartedly mean it: I hope this email finds you well. Well physically, mentally, and emotionally. I hope that your friends and family are well, that they stay well, that all of the well people you know stay inside and wash their hands so that we can slow the transmission of this thing and get care to the people who need it.

I haven’t written this newsletter in a long time, but this week reminded me that we have a little community of listeners here, and I wanted to reach out and let you know that I’m still out here, still listening. I hope you are, too. And even though our inboxes are overwhelmed with COVID-19 messages ranging from the mundane to the meaningful, I wanted to share some recommendations for music and podcasts that might help pass the time and even give you some enjoyment over the next days, weeks, and months.

Support Your Soundsmiths

One of the groups hit hardest by social distancing are musicians, many of whom make large portions of their income from touring. There have been a lot of calls to support these artists through merch and record sales, and for today only, Bandcamp is waiving their cut from all purchases. So feel good knowing that 100% of what you spend today goes to the artists and that you’ll get some great music in return. Here’s some stuff I bought on Bandcamp recently that I highly recommend.

Recluso, “Beat Tape” and Cienega, “Isla Eterna”

John Schlotfelt, a deeply knowledgable music lover and public school teacher, turned me on to this wonderful article in Bandcamp Daily about two musicians in Puerto Rico who made music from samples they recorded during Hurricane Maria. The music is great on its own, but the stories behind it make it even more powerful. Signs of hope and creativity emerging from tragedy. Both of these releases, which are available on beautiful cassettes as well as digital, are put out by the Discos Diaspora label. Snag “El Beat Tape” here and “Isla Eterna” here.

Photay, “On Hold”

Was turned on to this album by the folks at the Flow State newsletter. (If you haven’t signed up yet, do it: they recommend one ambient / electronic / “chill” artist every weekday. Simple as that.) This record is, as they say, “an ambient album called On Hold, which takes recordings of hold music and slows them down to create beautiful lofi focus music.”

The album is pay what you can, with 100% of proceeds going to the NYC Food Bank. Available here.

Spring Reverb, “Which Girl?” / Reverb Rations Vol. 1

I first crossed paths with Devan Kochersperger back in 2013, when I was living in State College, Pennsylvania, and he was fronting a great band indie-pop band called Swiss Alps. Somehow I found him again on the internet this week, and it turns out he has a brand new project called Spring Reverb. The fist single is hazy and catchy and on Bandcamp now for one whole dollar. He also put together an hourlong mix of old country / western / surf jams on Mixcloud, called “Reverb Rations Vol. 1.” Yes, there is reverb.

Sounds Relaxing

One of the great, strange things in our sonic lives is the ebb and flow of “taste.” In case you hadn’t heard, New Age is back, and new and old practitioners of the once-maligned genre are having a small renaissance in certain corners of the music world. What this means: you no longer need to harbor a secret shame for just digging long, mellow, chilled-out, sometimes super corny synth and piano jams. Here are some of my favorite discoveries from the last few months, almost all of which I learned about through Strictly Discs, a damn fine record shop here in Madison. (But even if you live nowhere near Madison, Evan Woodward writes the best weekly music newsletter on Earth. Find the “email signup” form on the righthand side of this page.)

Pauline Anna Strom, “Trans-Millenia Music”

Suso Saiz, “Nothing is Objective”

Iasos, “Angelic Music”

Mary Lattimore and Mac McCaughan, “New Rain Duets”

Field Mix - Volume 6

And finally, there is my own Field Noise mix series. The latest one, Volume 6, is much less ambient and more upbeat than usual—it was certainly made before we know what we know now. But I find myself returning to it when I need a pick-me-up.

And all of the previous mixes are available in the archive:

Sounds like Sound

If social distancing has made you long for the sounds of the outside world, then there is plenty of that to go around as well. Here are some podcasts that feature the sounds of the world around us.

The World According to Sound

The World According to Sound is a 90 second podcast about sound. It actually used to be even less narrative, but now they jump in a bit to tell you what you’re listening to. Bite-sized and certainly juicy little nuggets of sonic pleasure here. And they are releasing an episode a day right now to get us through our doldrums. Add it to your podcatcher here.

Field Recordings

Field Recordings is a new project that is very appropriately named: “A podcast where audio-makers stand silently in fields (or things that could be broadly interpreted as fields).” These range in length and style, but are generally short sonic escapes. Add it to your podcatcher here.

Framework Radio

Framework is the granddaddy of field recording podcasts / radio shows, now up to over 700 (!!) hour-long episodes of people sticking their microphones out into the world. Unlike the first two recommendations, these are long-form, immersive pieces for you to turn on and tune out. Add it to your podcatcher here.

Thanks for reading and listening, everyone. Have a great weekend, and please feel free to share this with a friend who might be interested.

Talk to you soon,
Craig