Honestly, I’ve spent the past week with the belief that in its current state, music is in great peril. Why, you ask, would I momentarily fixate on such an idea? Because thanks to a mere 10-minute conversation with my buddy Dan, he managed to convince me that the majority of records being put out today are novice crap.
His words went something like “Robin, you want to know what really pisses me off about music? The masses of amateur albums that are being put out, because of the accessibility of computers.”
Never mind my gullibility, the issue made perfect sense at the time. The electronic age is upon us; the age of the “computer geek,” which means goodbye lo-fi, hello digi-fi. Goodbye experimentation with four-tracks in your parents’ garage, hello the lightning-fast computer upstairs in your parents’ spare room. The laptop is the new college-ruled notebook, seafoam is the new red, and the computer is the new garage.
After the incident with Dan, I spent the next few days pretty riled up – angry even, because I could not legitimize my feelings. The local bands I had come to love were suddenly relegated moot.
Somehow, during my mopey travels I ran into and had a chat with Karen Antunes, an employee at Fabulous Jackpot Records (203 S.W. Ninth Ave.) about her thoughts on the current state of music. I was refreshed to speak with such a genuine individual. She seems to expect nothing less but the same genuine qualities in music, and provided me with some quality insights.
What do you know about the whole lo-fi movement of the ’90s, particularly four-track cassette recorders?
Karen: It seems to me that four-tracks are more commonly used now than in the ’90s. They are easy to use, which encourages kids to use them, because they see how easy it is.
Why do you think kids are recording on four-tracks, instead of computers?
Karen: Punk rock, indie and country are put out on four-tracks, whereas computers are more electronic. Four-tracks seem more avant garde, more organic, like the Shins or Modest Mouse. People are becoming more attracted to these lo-fi recordings. To me, they seem more genuine and approachable. I tend to like stuff that seems more genuine.
Do a few bands come to mind when talking about four-tracks?
Karen: Jandek and Chris Clark. Jackie-O Motherfucker is a local band. Jandek is the most prolific example. He’s huge among record collectors and has put out 19 albums, all in his home. He refuses to do interviews and is pretty mysterious. If you want to find more info on him, there probably won’t be much on the internet. Nobody really knows where he’s from, but I know he has a P.O. Box in Houston, Texas.
(I checked into Jandek like any good little journalist would, and Karen’s right, there is next to no concrete information about him on the internet, except that he has a P.O. Box in Houston.)
It seems like there are a plethora of amateur albums being put out, because of the abundance and accessibility of computers. Do you agree and what are your thoughts?
Karen: Yeah, I do think so, but I think there’s definitely a place for bad music. It’s sort of a rebellion against the big labels, like Sony.
So, what would you say is “bad”?
Karen: Bad music, to me, is like copying a sound just because another band did it. I’d rather have shitty honesty, than a bad repetition.
Not to be overly dramatic, Karen helped revive my faith in music. It is apparent now that the peril that once seized me is more a figment of my imagination, a product of my misconceptions. There will always be kids in their garages mixing tapes, or kids on computers recording CDs. These kids are creating, and that is always beautiful and always relevant.