About a hundred years ago, Your Humble Narrator had a job at the local community college’s radio station. In addition to initiating an appreciation of jazz, forcing a surface knowledge of classical music, and exercising cut-and-paste mixing skills, the other primary takeaway was an exposure to a relatively large record library of fairly diverse genres. Coupled with a weekly dance music program on WXRT, and my primary musical education, flawed as it was, seemed complete. “Flawed” as in I was more or less immersed in the underground electronic movement that bled over from the ’80s with Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, and Front Line Assembly, into the ’90s with The Shamen, LaTour, and The Orb, among others.
Among the myriad albums and twelve-inch singles I either duped onto cassettes. mixed into my “Earth Noise” freeform show, or stole outright was the vinyl single for The Creatures’ “Fury Eyes” remixes. The Creatures were an on-again, off-again side project of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the sound of their second long-player Boomerang (1989) hinged on multilayered, organic, percussive sounds that would eventually act as a gateway to other similarly-styled acts in the near future, such as Orbital, Leftfield, and The KLF.
The standout from the “Fury Eyes” twelve-inch (other than a ten-minute remix by Pascal Gabriel, whose name I misread at the time as Peter Gabriel) was a B-side instrumental called “Abstinence:”
Fellow music nerds will recognize the rhythm section of a traditional bluegrass train song. Unlike other traditional American songs that celebrate the railroad in verse, a bluegrass train song will actually attempt to recreate the sound of a rolling and passing train in music; complete with clackety-clacks drummed out on banjo heads and screeching steam whistles simulated by extended draws across fiddle strings. Imitating the inherently percussive sound of a train is additionally challenging when you realize that most bluegrass bands don’t have drummers. True to its near-obsolete status, train songs rarely show up in modern music; Banco de Gaia’s “Last Train To Lhasa” is probably one of the few easily-recognizable electronic train songs:
“Abstinence” haunted me for years afterwards, partly because I had neglected to steal the original vinyl, but mostly from the spooky artistry of Siouxsie and Budgie, taking disparate elements of percussion, flute, and marimba and coalescing them into three-plus minutes of rhythm and sound that could logically go on forever and not even loop once. As Web 1.0 flourished, however, I was able to locate a CD copy of the single on eBay, thus filling another gap in The Concrete Standard at the time. It’s survived every purge I’ve made on my collection for various reasons, and still holds a place among the coveted survivors:
The obvious counterpoint to this story is that the interregnum between coveting a thing like the “Fury Eyes” single and acquiring it wouldn’t be nearly as drawn-out today as it was for me a hundred years ago. Just now, a Google search for “creatures fury eyes site:blogspot.com” returns at least three hits in the top ten for potential downloads of the single. Whether this “small world effect” is a good or a bad thing depends on your perspective, but also on your equipment. Even if I had remembered to nick the Creatures vinyl back in the day, I wouldn’t have any gear to play it on today, because I no longer own a turntable. So even if I hadn’t picked up the single, I still probably would have resorted to the resources of the internet; co-opting bits and pieces of other people’s libraries into my own.
So, if so many people online are sharing their records with the world, and so many people are taking advantage of the exposure to these libraries, like I was back at the radio station, doesn’t that constitute a crowdsourcing effect? Everyone who downloads music made available by someone else is contributing to the world’s biggest, most diverse, infinite mixtape.