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April 2020

Wishing a very happy birthday to Wayne Kramer! xM

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Postponed Terraforma 2020 plants 100 trees

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Alan Licht releases unheard collaborations via Bandcamp

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20% of print sales from five of my rare archival images via @WestContemporaryArt will go towards the…

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falsepriest New Release Submissions Drop Following Supply Chain Disruptions

So far the 2000s edition of the roaring 20s has been anything but. The effects of the pandemic have been wide-reaching, touching nearly everything you can think of. The music world is no exception.

For the past few years, the Discogs Database has indicated a steady increase in the volume of new releases put out each year. About a quarter of all the releases in the database were released in the past decade. About 280,000 new releases were cataloged in the database last year alone. So with supply chains, release date delays, and other interruptions in the music world, how do we expect to see this reflected in the database? Is this how a new decade starts: not with a bang but a whimper?

The Impact Of Supply Chain Disruptions To Releases Added To Discogs

Each year, the number of new releases added to the Discogs database is growing. Items added to the database in the same year they’re released generally make up for about 15% of the total volume of submissions a year.

Bar graph showing the volume of new releases added to the Discogs database compared to total submissions, year over year.

This year, we’ve noticed the volume of new release submissions are lower than what we’d expect to see by this time. While it’s not massively off, looking at the upwards trajectory of new release submissions from earlier years, we’d expect it to be higher.

Bar graph showing the volume of new releases added to the Discogs database year over year, up to April each year

This is compounded by the fact that submissions have been higher than ever over the past few months. So far, we’ve seen just under 460,000 submissions added to the database this year. That puts the proportion of new releases at about 11% – several points lower than any year over the past 10.

Where Are New Releases Getting Held Up?

Of course, with life as we know it kind of on hold right now, it only makes sense that our record collections and the data going into Discogs would be affected as well. The effects of the pandemic and subsequent shelter-in-place orders have had a significant impact on record stores, artist release schedules, distributors, shipping, events, and everything surrounding releasing new music.

The slowed distribution of new music into ears and collections isn’t great for anyone, but it’s fascinating to see the effects of a global event reflected in the data entered into Discogs. We weren’t able to find any other ghosts of current affairs in Discogs data up until this point – the closest we could think of was the late-2000s recession or 2010’s travel disruptions from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull eruption, but if there was an interruption in the flow of music it must have recovered quick enough to go unnoticed in the database. If you can think of an event that might have impacted the data or have seen anything to suggest it, we’d love to get into it.

Pressing Plants Mostly Still Operational

According to the Vinyl Alliance, for the most part, vinyl pressing plants are still operational, though some may be working at a slightly lower capacity than usual and are facing decreased orders. “The biggest issue is the broken supply chain. Lockdown of air travel and reduced transport capacities led to a sharp increase in shipping rates and delays. Transport between pressing plants, dealers and end customers is becoming expensive, even if there is demand.” Robert Morgan-Males, CEO of Audio-Technica Europe explained.

Speaking to the CEO of Deepgrooves pressing plant in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, Chris Roorda (also of Deeptrax Records), he noted that business took a hit in early March when the impact of the coronavirus was first starting to be felt in Europe. Business quickly recovered in subsequent weeks, albeit with some tweaks to operations. “At the moment we are almost on the same level as we were in February with a completely different approach. Because of the restrictions in the Deepgrooves vinyl pressing plant, all our office crew except from one, is working from out of their homes and the working force in the pressing plant has been reduced because of safety reasons. This abnormal situation is taking a lot of flexibility and creativity because a lot of suppliers are closed, but we do have different routes and are flexible enough to cope the current situation.”

It’s a situation that demands ingenuity, which they’re leaning into to best serve the community of artists and labels desperate to get a physical product out to support their income streams, and music fans hungry for new music and a relief from boredom. “At the moment we are expanding our business with more pressing machines so we can serve more and different products in a faster and even more eco-friendly way than before… We feel obliged to offer these services as an extra, to help each other out and to overcome the direct occurring distribution problems. We are also offering split payments towards our customers to help them, so they can offer it already by pre-order.”

Delays In Album Release Dates

While it seems pretty straightforward to put an album out in the digital age, there’s a lot of unseen steps that go into releasing an album. Because of the sheer volume of music being released on a daily basis, artists and labels obviously want to do everything in their power to stand out from the crowd. That includes shooting music videos (usually done months in advance), locking in TV appearances, tours, festival dates, press, and anything to keep awareness up in the public eye. Without the typical access to press and promotional engagements, many big artists have instead opted to push back their album release dates.

On the other hand, some artists who have chosen to stick with their release dates for new albums may have benefited from the stemmed volume of new releases, getting more eyes and ears on their output.

Record Store Day Releases Temporarily Off The Table

The postponement of Record Store Day is another blow to the new release schedule. Originally slated for April 18, shelter-in-place measures saw plans for RSD pushed back to June 20. Earlier this week it was announced that RSD would be delayed even further and split over days in three months; August 29,  September 26, and October 24.

That’s resulted in the hold up of another sizeable and usually reliable wave of new releases and reissues that would have been added to the database by now. However, with the announcement of new RSD dates – or drops, as they’re referred to on their website – came the promise of additions to be made to the official list of releases coming out especially for the day. That new list is due to be announced on June 1, so we may get even more new releases than originally anticipated.

Will The Number Of New Releases Bounce Back?

Assuming some semblance of normality returns over the coming months (if there’s a God, please make it soon) this drop in new releases may be just a blip that’s superseded by a surge in new releases come fall. With so much uncertainty – not just in the music industry, but the world at large – it’s impossible to say whether 2020 will stand out in the database as the first year in memory we saw fewer new releases. Time will tell.

In the meantime, thank you to all the contributors who’ve been busy submitting releases to the Discogs database – whether they’re new or they’ve been out for a while (or a long time). And thanks to the artists releasing new music and keeping us sane!

The post New Release Submissions Drop Following Supply Chain Disruptions appeared first on Discogs Blog.

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CAS Respect: The Women of Atlantic – Dusty Springfield

CAS founder Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy interviews biographer Karen Bartlett about the icon generally agreed to have been the best British female singer of her generation on this series ‘Respect: The Women of Atlantic’.

Dusty was a fascinating artist with a troubled personal life. She was also an advocate of the Civil Rights Movement who helped some of America’s greatest artists like The Temptations, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix gain exposure to a mass British audience. And of course she recorded the soulful classic album ‘Dusty in Memphis’ featuring the song ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ later resurrected by the film Pulp Fiction.

Listen to the full podcast here.


Watch: Lisa Stansfield on Dusty Springfield ‘Dusty in Memphis’

 

The post Respect: The Women of Atlantic – Dusty Springfield appeared first on Classic Album Sundays.

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Read an extract from Harald Kisiedu’s European Echoes: Jazz Experimentalism In Germany 1950–1975

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Freya Parr The best recordings of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata

Rating: 
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Calling Beethoven’s Op. 106 a ‘piano sonata’ is a bit like labelling the Titanic a ‘boat’. Could any generic title encompass even half of what lies within this mighty creation? Sonata? Pah! The Hammerklavier is a seismic shifting of earthly and spiritual planes. It takes you from the edge of the impossible to the darkest places of the human psyche, then saves you through fugue alone. 

 

The best recording

Peter Serkin (piano)
Musical Concepts MC122

In the early 1980s, Peter Serkin, son of pianist Rudolf, recorded the six last Beethoven sonatas on a fortepiano by Conrad Graf, owned by the Schubert Club of St Paul, Minnesota. The microphone placement varied from sonata to sonata, and for the Hammerklavier Serkin chose to give us a ‘pianist’s bench’ perspective on the work.

Little information about the instrument is provided; some internet research reveals that it has been dated to 1824-5, though its authenticity has been questioned. It’s hard to imagine how it could still be standing by the end, and its sound is full of vinegary overtones – but in terms of hair-raising energy and spiritual veracity, Serkin’s performance is electrifying from first note to last.

In the opening movement, taking Beethoven at his word about the tempo, as I rather think one should (ignoring it is just too convenient), Serkin sets off like a guided missile. There’s nothing polite, pompous or predictable about this playing or the instrument, though the composer’s nobility of spirit is there too. Throughout the work the flow is splendidly flexible, while the awareness of overall architecture is ever-present, yet worn lightly.

 

 

The countless thoughts flash by with fresh insights in every bar, delivered with a range of tone colours that may come as quite a revelation to fortepiano sceptics. The sense of struggle that is so much a part of the piece seems accentuated by the Graf’s vulnerability, rather than being restricted by it.

Indeed, it’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it; even at the few moments when Serkin and the fortepiano seem perhaps not fully in agreement, the ‘authenticity’ of this performance lies not in the instrument
but in its performer’s soul.

The Scherzo is manic, its trio gloriously smoky in texture, with Serkin finding extraordinary sounds in the bass and persuading the instrument to growl, roar and snap like a waking dragon. The slow movement takes him 18 minutes and 28 seconds – slow enough to draw out the utmost expression, yet always keeping the flow.

The keyboard tone’s unevenness sometimes makes itself evident, but Serkin fills the melodic line with such anguished intensity that that scarcely matters. The last movement’s opening sounds as if it could have been improvised on the spot and leads into a fugue that unfurls at a tempo that seems bananas – but is delivered with irresistible exhilaration and wonder. Some others play it nearly as fast, yet without half such satisfying substance.

 

 

Three more great recordings

Solomon (piano)
Warner Classics 476 8652

We’re allowed just three runners-up, so apologies that my all-male shortlist just misses out the fiery Mitsuko Uchida and shining-toned Yvonne Lefébure. But my next choice is Solomon, recorded in 1952. Sound quality is rough, and there are wrong notes, but this artist exists in some state of grace.

There’s a humane, multi-faceted radiance about his playing. He makes the most of the work’s colouristic potential for pointing up dramatic progression, something that is sustained throughout his glorious Adagio, as rapt as a state of deep meditation. And his fugue is life-affirming.

 

 

Friedrich Gulda (piano)
Decca 475 6835

The earlier of Gulda’s recordings, from the 1950s, is characterised by clear, vivid rhythm with a remarkable focused power within the sound, elemental energy plus a clear-eyed sense of architecture.

After a spontaneous yet streamlined Scherzo, the Adagio is magnificently voiced and flowing, with an inner stillness that emanates more from the tone than from the pace – the bass-voice episode seems to come from another world. His fugue is light-fingered and focused, teetering on the edge of reason.

 

 

Stephen Kovacevich (piano)
Warner Classics 623 0812

Among the sock-it-to-’em interpretations, Kovacevich’s is vastly rewarding. Recorded in 2001, this is a generous, vivid, playful, great-hearted performance, with a Scherzo that lives up to its name before evaporating in a ghostly puff, and a slow movement where profound tragedy is evoked through inexorable tread and a sense of limitless long lines. The finale’s opening is mysterious, full of startling outbursts, but it’s the white-hot fugue that really sweeps you away.

 

 

Glenn Gould (piano)
Sony G0100009124419

Gould’s opening is sluggish, with noisy singing along, and although his deep, strong Beethovenian tone is appealing at times, the development section’s fugato galumphs like an overweight donkey. The Scherzo seems bossy; the Adagio (20 mins 42 seconds) involves some nice contrasts of character but lacks flow and flexibility, and the fugue – even from this arch-player of counterpoint – seems to consist of sound and fury signifying not a lot.

 

This article first appeared in the January 2018 issue of BBC Music Magazine.

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Unknown On ClassicsToday: Antheil Serenades on CPO

Major Discoveries: The Wonderful, Gentle Side of George Antheil

Review by: Jens F. Laurson

CPO’s series of George Antheil’s music has been a boon to music lovers and very successful in showing the composer’s softer side, as musically he wasn’t so much the bad boy he liked to present himself. As Robert Reilly points… [continue reading]

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