Recently writer and critic Robert Nagle made a list of 11 Incredible Musicians You Can Download for Free. Many of the musicians on this top list make their music freely available on Jamendo, a free and legal music sharing site. Several musicians appearing on this list also gave interviews to this blog (Read the other interviews). You can also download a free sampler containing full songs from artists profiled here .
Väinö Ala-Härkönen (VAE) is a young Finnish electronic musician whose music is described as cosmic-funk or intergalactic disco. Aleksi Virta Meets Torsti At The Space Lounge is a marvelous collection of whimsical pieces based loosely on the idea of an intergalactic spy. (By the way, Aleksi Virta is an actual Finnish musician, and Torsti is the imaginary character who is Virta’s sworn nemesis in the album). Vaino even wrote up a silly fake diary (which I reprint in full at the end). I loved this quirky little album a few years ago and love it even more today. Lots of sampling, random voices, hard beats, unexpected arrangements and instruments. Whirlwind Pistols Dub is a reggae funk beat with a fun harmonica melody trapped inside. Cosmos Bossa is a silly tooting bit of work, reminiscient of Ugress’s Swing e Sesso. Nebulae Herb (my favorite) is a hard pounding dance number with great organ background. O Tema de Viagem Especial has a jazzy South American feel, with rapid horns and lots of pounding. Dragons is a exciting bit of jazzy-funkiness. True Dwelling Place is a jumpy, eerie piece with a fluttering almost hypnotic quality, as though it were random noises and melodies spinning about a drunk man’s head before he fades to sleep. Update: Apparently Catching the Waves blog is a fan too:
Väinö Ala-Härkönen’s opus has been out for years, got reviewed up hill and down dale, passed the 42,000 download mark at archive.org, and has its own dogbasket in the CTW household. If you don’t know it but are in the market for some trippy, dubby, funky, trip-hop-funk-bigbeat-dub-hop-skip-n-jump-hop, your luck is in.
Here is my interview with Vae:
1. Can you talk a little about your creative process? What parts about making music are the easiest for you? What parts are the most difficult?
I find that good ideas come naturally when their time is right… When I’m out of inspiration, I’ll just have to go on, do things and hope that something sparks an idea at some point. That’s what I live with since I rarely have any deadlines or schedules with music.
It’s making an interesting and working whole that is really challenging to me. The “work” part: finishing a song, finishing an album, whatever scale you want to look things on. It’s the classic “1% of inspiration and 99% of perspiration” thing. I constantly have dozens of unfinished melodies, chord progressions, sounds and grooves I’ve written down, most of them I might never finish because I just don’t feel I’m up to it for some reason or another.
2. How has your biography or geography affected the kind of music you make? What do you think is unique or different about the music you make?
Both of the questions are hard to answer since I haven’t been anyone else but me, obviously – so my music is what it is because what I’ve done and where I’ve lived in my life, and what makes the music unique to me is that it’s the only music that’s been made by myself. So I think to get a proper, meaningful answer you would have to ask someone else who has listened to my songs…
3. What other musician or musicians have inspired you? Can you name someone who is not a musician who has provided inspiration for your creativity?
I listen to and love lots of music (as they say, there’s basically just two genres: good music and, well, not-so-good music) and get inspired by everything around me – whether things I love or things I hate. So I can’t really mention anyone or anything above else just now… Often it’s just some sort of subconscious influence you just can’t pinpoint, too – realizing afterwards that some book or movie I just read has a mood similar to something I’ve just made.
4. If a friend or family member listened to your music, what parts of your personality would this person recognize in it?
Again, hard to say. At least I guess it depends on the particular song he/she was listening to.
5. What is the most difficult part about being a musician?
I guess generally the most difficult part of being a creative person (well, we’re all creative in some sense) in general is that the creativity is both a blessing and a curse… Blessing because it allows you to express yourself in fun and awesome ways, and a curse because it’s kind of something you just have to do it to feel whole. Even though I don’t earn my living making music, every time I don’t get done any music or other creative stuff over a period of months I start to feel it negatively in other sides of my life too.
Someone once said that hobbyist musicians envy professionals because they get to do what they love for living… and professionals envy the amateurs because they get to do what they love in the way they choose, not having to agree to do whatever gigs that you get paid for. I like being an amateur in that sense, I don’t have to worry about creative freedom 😉
6. Music seems to be an important part of videos and film now. Have you ever imagined what kind of video or film might be perfect for your music? What is the best situation (i.e., time and place) for people to hear your music?
More interesting to me is the other side “what kind of video, film or place I would like to make a soundtrack to?” I’ve thought about that a lot when making some of my songs, but still haven’t come to any conclusion, except that it probably should be something just a tiny bit weird and really magical…
7. Can you think of one event in your life which caused you to decide to “become serious” about music?
Honestly, I don’t feel I’m “being serious” about music. I’ve earned some money making music, but it’s never been my main income. I do love making, listening and playing music and feel that it’s is a spiritual thing… But I guess that just comes naturally while you listen to music and learn new things.
8. In what ways do musical people look at the world differently from nonmusical people?
You should ask a musical person about that 😉
One frivolous thing about this album is that it even includes an imaginary space diary. Unfortunately it has been offline for years (except for a cached copy on the Wayback Machine). I am reprinting the silly thing here:
( diary day one / a peer rumors ah gwan )
spending endless hours reading obscure, twisted novels and small-print magazines, watching b-flics from betelgeuze, listening to new dub cuts during my space travels. sipping cocktails at interstellar lounges, scent of exotic herbs floating around me. meeting people from all around the universe, being intelligent and polite, making witty remarks, memorizing every little thing they do and say for future reference.
that’s me. using my irresistible ninja charm to score beautiful cosmic ladies. soothing them with the sounds of the past and the future, polishing my aural armoury and sharpening my sonic shurikens, plucking their strings gently while they’re playing soundscapes with my flute.
after my nemesis torsti disappeared from the known universe and his minions scattered, i’ve had little to do. endless nights of travelling around space, partying, meeting people, looking out for clues that might help me and z15 intelligence agency find a new mission. until now i’ve thought torsti was gone for good but i’ve been hearing alarming things tonight – at this very space lounge i currently chill out at…
things are different now. world isn’t what it used to be when i first met torsti. sound is the weapon of the future and – let me tell you – the future is right now. i must stay alert, gather my powers and keep my sound system ready. you never know when dem evil selectas n soundbwoyz are coming and if torsti is not yet as dead as i suspected… he might be back some day – with a vengeance.
ever since i was a little boy, i’ve been dreaming of spacemen. and now i’m an intergalactic, supersonic secret agent. my name is aleksi virta, somewhere between 10 and 30.
( diary day two / likkle more labrish floating in outer space )
i’m slowly starting to sense my nemesis everywhere around me. daily reports from z15 secret headquarters and nu wonder espionage center on earth have suddenly stopped, some of the girls have got cold all of sudden and – what’s worst – the cosmic lounge bar has suddenly run out of all my favourite beverages. torsti hasn’t actually shown up yet but i have this weird feeling he’s behind all this. and when he’ll show up… all hell’s gonna break loose. for real.
i just hope all this travelling, partying and chilling out hasn’t made my senses dull. i’ll need all of my ill skills for this mission. too much wine and nebulae herb i suppose – i’m starting to suspect that even my magic reverb and delay fingers have gone numb. mental note to start concentrating, training and grooving as soon as possible. yeah. learning a few new tricks wouldn’t hurt either… after all, nobody knows what wicked things that evil mind has invented to battle against me this time. let me tell you: it’s not about the sound system size, it’s about how you use it. and this time i intend to use mine to the max.
to god, confidential: if you still exist, please give me your blessings for this one. kind regards – aleksi virta, top secret agent from z15.
( diary day four / trouble no set like rain )
still quiet before the storm and i feel happy… i’ve finally met the woman of my life. her name is gavrila nebula and she’s beautiful.
i met her at the lounge last night – turned out she’s also sort of a freelance agent, sound system specialist, whatever. she’s from earth too, russia to be exact. and her grooves are sooooo smooth you just couldn’t believe it. writing about her is like dancing about architecture, for sure. what’s best, she’s agreed to join me to fight against the supreme evil. my chances of winning this battle are now better than ever and gavrila has given me new hope and lots of motivation to start practising my skills again. now i finally understand what “back to back” actually means.
still no word from z15 – and i’ve been hearing rumours that someone has cut nu wonder off from the galaxy-wide network. sad news for the whole humankind – it’s getting harder and harder for me to get espionage information on torsti and his diabolical minions. i might even have to ask the secret service of the planet of the leather moomins to timewarp back from 7003 to help me in acquiring information on torsti’s whereabouts. i know he’s alive and somewhere in vicinity, but i want to be the one making the surprise attack.
strange things have indeed been happening lately – i started writing this diary only little more than four days ago out of sheer boredom and already there’s too much happening around me. well, at least now i have someone to rely on. gavrila my love.
( diary day unknown / just pure almshouse a gwaan )
still no reports from z15 nuwonder cut off torsti came out of nowhere i disappeared or at least i think i did i don’t know if i’m dreaming or not it’s all too confusing for me now damn you damn you you got to strike first and now i’m having illusions and making love in surround technicolor here’s a picture of how i feel like now
no… i’m okay really. really really. i think. it’s just that… these weird images started appearing in my mind i can’t concentrate and i’m seeing colors i’ve no doubt that torsti is beep beep behind all this. the master of frequencies he is, yes, but only after me. i had it all ready and planned with ms. nebula, this time that vile soul just made his first move before i did. and what a move. i know i’m still at the lounge but i can’t just believe it. echoes floating around me. sleeping on the pink rays of light. it’s useless to explain, everything is so… i can’t get no sleep.
i don’t mind the colors and the shapes-hapes-apes-pes-es; and the dreams. it could be worse. i like them. the only big problem is: unless i find out a way to get off this state of mind, how am i going to get gavrila – if she’s not in same state as i am – or anyone else to help me? i know this is just the first step and if i can’t get back to normal, i’ll be doomed. hahaha. doomed.
there’s a cute proud brazilian girl in the treshold of my dream and she’s blowing bubbles to keep me awake. caro… carol… all – that – jazz. it’s all one giant catch 22.
( diary day seven / obeah )
just when i was about to freak out and dissociate myself… a sight, a faint memory saved me and woke me up.
whirlwind pistols. in my dream i saw a mysterious brown-skinned girl giving me signals, apparently trying to wake me up from whichever nasty spells torsti had woven on me. she gave me these flashes, memories from my past and – who knows – maybe even visions of future. i was still falling deep into the hallucinations before this image appeared into my mind, out of nowhere.
… whirlwind pistols. my secret weapons. 1 and 2. my precious ones. capable of creating anything from gentle soundscapes to pure noise bursts. the memory of them, the memory of my fingers on their triggers made me find myself again and escape from those illusions that would probably have trapped me forever. thank god.
cool and calm again. when i woke up, gavrila was sitting next to me. and next to her sat the very same brazilian girl appearing in my dream. carolina. that’s her name. carolina. one of the few. one of those who’re still out there, waiting.
( diary day eight / creation steppa )
carolina’s a young space gypsy with mystical powers. she’s been traveling around the galaxies since she was little – in fact she says she was born on a spaceship.
the noble space gypsies have been there since the beginning. even before space travel was realized, they had their plan ready. you see, they had always wanted to be free. one thing they’ve got now is patience. another thing they’ve got now is total control of themselves.
carolina is… special. in most ways. she probably possesses powers i and gavrila can only dream of having. i know she can heal people from inside – like she did to me – as easily as outside. even though she seems to be very open, happy and talkative otherwise, she’s really quiet about her other skills. i’m starting to suspect there’s WAY more to her than meets the eye.
torsti has vanished again but carolina says she can easily track him down when we want to. i guess she’s joining us against the supreme evil too, then. which is nice.
( diary day eight part 2 / art of war )
ready to meet my nemesis. and this is what i learnt today.
“ the art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors to be taken into account in one’s deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.
1. the moral law
4. the commander
5. method and discipline
the MORAL LAW causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.
HEAVEN signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.
EARTH comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.
the COMMANDER stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.
by METHOD AND DISCIPLINE are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.
these five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail. ”
-from art of war by sun tzu, a native of the ch’i state.
( diary day nine / nuff badness )
the chase is on. here we come, torsti. i, with my whirlwind pistols. gavrila and carolina with their special skillz. all three of us. armed, calm, dangerous. i defeated you last time and i’ll do it again now, no matter what you try. and this time i won’t be alone against you.
carolina has found you, easily like she promised. the lounge’s forest chillout zone may be a good place for hiding but remember – it’s also a good place for a surprise attack. we know where you are and you’ll never now what hit you before it’s too late.
there’s only two types of evil overlords in this world: the ones that get their ass kicked… and the ones that get their ass kicked really bad.
( diary day ten / armagideon time )
and so the final battle begins…
“let the rain pour down from god above with the blood on my blade, no love, begin the flood open the gates, let the battle begin, wherein with wind at our backs, ready for any attacks sound the horns, prepare for war, begin the storm the flaming arrows hitting your body, keeping you warm with the uniform of my sworn enemies you raped and pillaged my city, and spread disease feel the sword of the warrior’s wrath, the path you take can lead to the math that the master’s break the clash of the titans, are you frightened of loss fighting with the cause to free, you and yours, and god’s law look in the stars, aligned with sign and mars destruction, what’s your function, you roll with god”
– from ancient scriptures, labelled “clash of the titans”
torsti’s dark minions are abundant but we’re still going to be victorious. i know it now, better than ever before.
( diary day fifteen / all is well )
” Rain, hail, snow and ice:
All are different,
But when they fall
They become the same water
As the valley stream.
The ways of proclaiming
The Mind vary,
But the same heavenly truth
Can be seen
In each and every one.
Cover your path
With the fallen pine needles
So no one will be able
To locate your
True dwelling place. ”