To stream or not to stream ? Impressions

J’ai mis du temps à sauter le pas, mais ça y est je me suis abonnée à Spotify.

Pourquoi Spotify et non Tidal ou Apple Music, ou encore Deezer? Je ne sais pas. En grande partie parce que j’avais envie de varier les plaisirs, ne pas avoir un mac tout Apple, et parce que j’en avais assez de ne pas pouvoir écouter les playlists Spotify des artistes que j’aime.

Ce qui m’intéresse ici n’est pas la part ridicule reversée à l’artiste ou le fonctionnement économique du système, mais la façon dont le streaming modifie nos habitudes d’écoute.

Jusqu’à il y a un mois, je n’étais abonnée à aucun service de streaming. Mon téléphone était rempli de mp3 que je téléchargeais consciencieusement à partir des cartes de download récupérées dans les vinyles. Je n’achète plus de cds depuis des années, mais beaucoup (trop) de vinyles. Je n’écoute pas de musique dans la rue ou dans le métro, je n’ai pas de casque Beats ou Marshall à 300 euros, et mes habitudes étaient jusqu’alors assez old school. Je découvrais des artistes par recommandation, ou par le net, sur des sites spécialisés, fouillais sur youtube ou sur le site de l’artiste pour en savoir un peu plus sur son actu, ses projets, et si j’amais, j’achetais le vinyle. Parfois même aux US, directement auprès des labels, quand les artistes n’étaient pas disponibles en Europe, et tout en me délestant de 30 euros de frais de ports. Mais toujours avec le sourire et la certitude d’avoir soutenu un groupe indépendant de qualité et donc d’avoir fait avancer l’humanité dans le bon sens.

Puis j’écoutais ensuite le vinyle chez moi, au calme.

Spotify m’a obligée à changer un peu ces habitudes. Tout d’abord j’ai acheté un connecteur bluetooth pour pouvoir piloter facilement l’appli de mon tel ou mon ordi et profiter du plaisir de mon système de son sans envahir mon appartement de cables. Quand ça marche c’est plutôt pas mal.

Alors, un nouveau monde s’est ouvert à moi et j’ai erré dans l’immensité du catalogue Spotify.

Cette errance m’a permis d’écouter beaucoup de musique, beaucoup plus que d’habitude. A force de rebondir sur une suggestion de l’algorithme, d’écouter les playlists, d’aller fouiller chez mes contacts et espionner leurs préférences, j’ai perdu un temps précieux, fait quelques découvertes, mais en vérité, rien de véritablement marquant.

Le streaming rend passif et fainéant. Ma platine ne tourne plus, mais j’écoute tout, beaucoup, ce qu’on me suggère, ou ce qu’on ne me suggère pas, des albums anciens, des nouveaux, je découvre des artistes que m’étaient inconnus, et mon cerveau ne fait absolument plus la part des choses. Je ne peux pas vous citer le nom d’une seule découverte.
J’écoute beaucoup, vite, et mal.

Oui, le streaming nous encourage à une consommation quantitative et non qualitative, il n’y a aucun doute. L’immensité de l’offre n’est absolument pas contrebalancée par une démarche artistique des plateformes. Il y a certes des recommendations, par style, mais elles tombent à côté de la plaque une fois sur deux parce que c’est un robot qui applique son algorithme en fonction des albums écoutés par l’utilisateur, du temps passé sur tel ou telle page, de la vitesse à laquelle ce dernier à zappé le titre etc. L’automatisation tue complètement la dimension personelle de l’acte d’écoute. C’est un gavage organisé.
On peut toujours essayer de dégotter de bonnes playlists spécialisées, mais c’est long, fastidieux, et les choses vraiment intéréssantes sont bien cachées.

Pour un consommateur avisé, cette immensité donne la nausée.

A mon sens, une plateforme de streaming devrait être comme un disquaire. On ne devrait pas tout avoir à dispo, mais chaque plateforme devrait obéir à une ligne artistique. Aussi les fans de jazz, soul, musique du monde iraient plutôt chez untel et les mordus de pop rock indé plutôt chez trucmuche. A cela s’ajouteraient des mises en avant censées, obéissant à une ligne artistique cohérente, comme lorsqu’un magasin de disque fait découvrir des choses à ses clients. Il y aurait des spécialistes.

Evidemment, si mon rêve se réalisait, le marché serait morcelé en une multitude de petites offres de streaming. Il y aurait les gros, bien sûr, mais on pourrait aussi aller chez les petits qui feraient un travail humain et à une échelle concevable, de défrichage et de découverte. Comme dans la vraie vie.

D’une façon plus générale, je pense qu’il faut remettre de la personnalité et de l’humain dans toutes nos entreprises, qu’elles soient commerciales, ou artistiques. Personne ne peut s’identifier à la société telle qu’elle fonctionne aujourd’hui, et ces plateformes sont un énième exemple d’un modèle vide de sens, où l’on accumule des catalogues d’oeuvres dans une immensité qui n’est pas absolument structurée.

Quelle culture musicale pourrions-nous bien nous forger en abandonnant nos oreilles à spotify et consorts?

Une culture chaotique et sans histoire, artificiellement assemblée par un robot qui, par définition, n’est pas très humain.

J’hésite à me désabonner.

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Montage of Kurt

I finally got a chance to watch the new Kurt Cobain documentary everybody has been talking about : ‘Montage of Heck ‘. Reading Buzz Osborne interview on the Talkhouse this morning made me jump ahead. If this documentary is 99% bullshit, I had to see for myself.

Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t like it. I haven’t learned anything, and I thought it was just a collection of sounds and images, but couldn’t see any insightful purpose behind it all.

I read Kurt’s dairy and Charles R. Cross book “Cobain Unseen” a few years ago and I knew almost everything already : how the divorce of his parents affected him deeply, the fear of humiliation, how music and the development of Nirvana structured his life for a while, his influences and surroundings, how sudden was the exposure to massive media, as well as his struggle with heroin, the fake stomach issues to justify drug medication, the shady influence of Courtney, and of course the awful ending.
What else is there to say?

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This being said, I did enjoy how the documentary was built. The animations are really great, the footage from his childhood, and some demos we can hear in the backround turned out being really inspiring. Unfortunately, the final result is nothing but a montage, and there is no convincing thread holding the images together.
Footages of Kurt and Courtney totally high while taking care of Frances Bean Cobain are terrible, and make you want to shut the whole thing down. What’s the point of showing this anyway?

It is obvious that Kurt was a smart yet fragile fellow, with a huge talent, and I do believe he is one of the finest songwriters ever. But as many others, he got crushed by success and mass exposure, and he couldn’t cope with being the leader of an entire generation. That’s basically all there is to know. There were many others like him. Celebrity and money often lead to bad influences, bad surroundings and bad people, all of this combined with drugs…well, it also usually leads to a bad ending.

Save two hours of your life for something else, you obviously don’t need to see ‘Montage of Heck’.
So there.

 

 

Cannonballs and seagulls

It’s funny how preparing a record makes you reflect on your musical identity.

When I was a teenager, I was clearly torn between the United Kingdom and the United States, between Blur and Nirvana, between Elastica and the Breeders…etc. I thought the Brits wrote killer songs but the Americans sounded better. Still makes sense for me today.

I’m listening to a lot of Breeders lately. I always loved this band, and I remember watching the Cannonball music video over and over again when the single came out. This song is such a miracle. You can tell when you listen to the entire record that this track is different from all the others. The sound is prodigious.

At the time, I already had started playing guitar. I was 11 or 12 and when my parents bought me a shitty classical guitar for Christmas. I learned a few chords and started recording songs. But I was not into acoustic things that much and I started dreaming of electric sounding guitars, of cables, distortions and amps.

Next to my my school, there was a little shop where they gave music lessons. In the shop window there was an acoustic guitar. Everytime I got out of school I would walk by the shop and stare at the guitar. It was a Seagull electro-acoustic, and it looked so beautiful compared to mine.
One day, encouraged by a friend, I entered the shop and asked if the guitar was for sale. The guy told me it was his guitar he placed in the front window so people would understand they gave music lessons but it wasn’t for sale. I asked if he was totally sure, and then he said maybe he could sell it to me.

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So that’s basically how I got my first real guitar : love at first sight. It was only a while after that I realized Kim Deal had exactly the same Seagull in the Cannonball music video, and I felt so bloody proud. Quickly after I  bought an awful 10W Park amplifier, and that’s basically how I experienced my first overdrive. The acoustic guitar was plugged into the amp and I would play alternative versions of smells like teen spirits, endlessly, until my parents told be to shut it down.
The funny thing is I learned years later that one of the reason why Cannonball sounds so special is that Kim Deal plugged her Seagull guitar in an amp in order to get this very specific distorted sound. I swear I didn’t know. But great minds think alike, right?

Anyway, I still play that guitar, and I never understood why this brand was not more popular. They are pretty cheap and sound awesome.

And the Breeders rock big time. I will never get tired of this band.

Girls & Bands

I was not convinced I should read Kim Gordon’s memoir. Although I do like Sonic Youth, it was never a band that fascinated me. I respected them a lot, and I bought some of their records, but I was more into Nirvana at the time, it was more pop, more visceral and spoke to me more. I always thought Sonic Youth was a bit too artsy.
Therefore, Kim Gordon was not my reference as THE woman in a band. She looked too strong, and too confident, there was something harsh about her. Maybe she was too American, too girlie. Maybe I was more into girls playing guitar and I despised bass. Maybe she was not enough of a leader. I never really thought about it, but she was not my type and I never identified with her.

When Kim and Thurston’s marriage exploded, and Sonic Youth called it a day, I felt weird. It was rather unexpected. It’s true that those two looked like a myth, it was the perfect rock and roll couple and everyone thought they couldn’t ever separate. They had been through so much already, they were in a rock band together! That had to be the biggest test ever for a relationship! But they failed, after so many years, and like most couples do, in the most pathetic way. There is no exception for rockstars, obviously. Everybody goes by the same rules.
I remember the official statement the band made for the press, it was simple, clear, and straightforward. There was no crazy media fuss about it, which I thought was elegant.
I was not a Sonic Youth fan, but those two meant something to me, and I grew up with them. Sadly, I realized how important they were to me when they separated.

‘Girl in a Band’ sounded like a good hook.
I, too, am a girl in a band after all. And whether Kim Gordon is my type or not, she is so damn cool. So I bought the book.

Autobiographies or memoirs are always interesting when you are in the music world yourself, because most of the artists now in their late 50s or 60s or even older have had unusual lives. My generation is much more formatted and trajectories often look the same. But back in the days, there were real musical movements and all those people were, if not pioneers themselves, part of something huge, something that changed the society, the music, the fashion, the way of life, and the business too. And grunge was probably the last real musical movement along with britpop. I was a teenager when it happened, I remember it all, I was watching MTV, and those bands were everywhere; on television, on the radio, on the mixtapes I made for my friends and we exchanged at school, and in my imagination too. I wanted to be like those guys. I wanted to be a girl in a band.

Kim Gordon’s book looks like an essay to me. It’s extremely insightful. As I was reading along I took a bunch of notes. She reflects about being a woman in general, and in this band in particular, about relationships, in the band, outside the band, in the business, in art, in love, in the family. It’s not a boring collection of chronological events summarizing her life. Of course, it made a lot of sense to me. Some questions I also have, some issues are simply identical because I am a woman, surrounded by guys, and expectations are somehow similar.

I was convinced Kim was a pure New Yorker, but although she was born in Rochester, NY, she was raised in California. The sunny glamorous halo surrounding her probably comes from there. But her intellectual journey really took off in New York around the no-wave movement.
What I really found fascinating is that she never really describes her job as a songwriter’s duty. It’s not about the songs, or the melodies, but mostly about the performance and the idea. For her, music, at least in the beginning, seemed to have been an artistic medium like any other. Making sound was as important as creating pictures, filming, painting, dancing or performing in any way.
It’s definitely not how I came to music, I came to music by the melody, and how it obsessed me, and by rhythmic patterns and how they appealed to me physically. It was not intellectual, at first, but totally instinctive and sensitive.
Although Kim appears as an overly sensitive person, she seemed to have found a shelter in the intellectual aspect of art. When you hide behind an idea, everything seems much easier, because that idea structures what you are doing as much as it shapes your being. It’s fully reassuring. Kim wanted to create, and it was natural for her to move into the art world. Although performing was vital for her, she doesn’t speak precisely about writing and the band’s workflow. Some songs are highlighted, and she tells the story about specific lyrics but you really understand, that despite such a raw and primitive sound, Sonic Youth’s music was guided by a highly sophisticated ambition.

Gordon also speaks as a woman, a wife and a mother, and depicts herself as insecure and fragile. She is not indecent in any way, but still manages to share a lot about herself. It’s a strong book and you sometimes feel she probably had written more than what was kept in the final version. All extracts about Kurt Cobain are amazing, their affinity was moving and it didn’t surprise me. There is something solid about her, probably linked to her social background, that makes her so wonderfully normal.
I believe one needs to have this sort of solidity to succeed in art; normal is necessary. The strength and longevity comes from that. Normal doesn’t mean boring, it’s just a structure. It means you know where you come from, and where you’re heading at, and it supposes you are not building things up randomly. It’s like a grid you can always refer to. It doesn’t protect you from everything, but I think it helps keeping you alive in a world that constantly requires you to open up, and puts a lot of pressure on you.
Kim Gordon did just that. She wasn’t really aware of herself as a rockstar. In the book you understand she somehow figured out what she represented for the kids, but it was never meaningful to her. She always had her feet on the ground. Maybe her marriage didn’t survive that normality, but I tend to believe she did, as a woman. Her career and life looks very consistent to me. She was never a girl in a brand.

Anyway, this book a must-read and Kim Gordon is obviously a smart woman. He reflections are genuinely openhearted and inspiring. It was stimulating in many ways. It’s not a rockstar’s ego-centered autobiography, but a woman’s collection of thoughts and memories. And a very valuable one.

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I love you Bandit.

Nous y sommes.

La tempête est passée, le Bandit est en cavale depuis lundi dernier et je ne sais pas exactement quoi écrire ici.

Je me doutais qu’en relisant la plupart de mes posts précédents à propos du disque, je sourirais. Un sourire tendre bien sûr, car je sais comment cela s’est passé, et je me souviens des nuits d’insomnies. Si les insomnies n’ont pas vraiment cessé, ce n’est plus à cause de l’angoisse lourde de ne pas arriver à faire un bon disque, mais de l’inquiétude de ne pas le défendre convenablement. On ne se refait pas. Il y a toujours une excellente raison pour ne pas dormir.

Donc lundi matin, ‘Bandit’ était dans les bacs et j’avais peur. Peur d’une catastrophe, d’un casse majeur, d’une garde-à-vue. Rien de tout cela n’est arrivé, et le disque est désormais libre, et probablement aussi prêt à en découdre que je le suis moi-même. A vrai dire, ma fierté est immense. Lorsque l’on sort son premier album on ne sait jamais si on parviendra à en sortir un deuxième. Et un deuxième que l’on pourra aimer convenablement.
Et bien ce disque je l’aime, un peu bêtement, comme on aime lorsqu’on est adolescent. Je l’aime parce qu’il m’a fait comprendre un certain nombre de choses essentielles, sur moi-même, et sur mon métier infernal.

Aujourd’hui tout est différent. Parce que je sors mon second disque, le regard que l’on me porte a changé. On lit diverses choses sur la maturité, l’évolution… Non il n’y a pas de maturité, pas encore, cela viendra peut-être un jour, mais certainement pas tout de suite. Il y a simplement davantage de moi-même dans cet album, et c’est sans doute ce qui lui donne une certaine valeur. Si le chemin pour s’enfuir fut long et tortueux, l’aventure s’est avérée essentielle.

On ne peut pas se cacher derrière un disque, c’est l’inverse qu’il faut faire. Il faut se révéler. Je ne l’avais pas compris, mais c’est désormais une évidence. Un disque n’est pas une photographie d’un moment comme je l’ai souvent dit à propos du premier album, c’est un morceau de soi-même que l’on choisit, que l’on façonne avec soin, et que l’on abandonne aux oreilles des autres. Alors oui, j’avais peur de la vulgarité, de l’impudeur, mais en vérité je n’ai partagé que de la joie et du bonheur avec le Bandit.

Maintenant que les couleurs sont revenues, je n’ai qu’un souhait à formuler : que le disque vous plaise, infiniment, et que vous l’aimiez autant que je l’aime.

BANDIT-BIG

Here we are.

The storm has passed and the Bandit is on the run since monday morning. I don’t really know what I should be writing here.

I knew that re-reading most of my previous posts would make me smile. A sweet smile of course, as I remember it all, as I recall the nights of insomnia. To tell the truth, insomnia is not exactly over, but now it’s not about finishing a good record anymore, it’s about how I can share it properly with you all. People can’t change their nature, right? There is always a good reason for not sleeping anyway.

So last monday the album was in most record stores and I was terribly scared. Scared of a catastrophe, a robbery or some kind of custody. None of this happened and the Bandit now runs free, and is probably as ready as I am to start the fight. I am very proud. When you release a debut album, you never know if you will ever get the chance to make a second one. Another record you’ll love properly. Well I do love this one. Probably in a puerile way, but I love it because it helped me go through essential things, about myself, and made me understand a bit better how my job works.

Everything has changed today. People look at you differently when you release your second album. You start reading things about maturity, change. No, there’s nothing like that yet, but it’s more personal and that’s probably what confers value to this LP. The road to get it done was as winding as the experience was vital. You cannot hide behind a record, you need to do the exact opposite and reveal yourself. Although it seems pretty obvious, it took me quite some time to understand it. A record is not a snapshot of a moment as I thought it was, it’s simply a part of yourself that you chose to let go, and share.

I was afraid of becoming somehow tacky, lacking reserve and delicacy, but what I found is priceless. I shared pure joy and delight with the Bandit.

And now that the colors are back, I hope you’ll love this record as much as I do : boundlessly.

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