19 Years of Avant Music News

After a few months of thinking it over, in April 2003 I launched a very primitive version of Avant Music News. The goal was to use the new concept of a “blog” to provide information about weird and interesting music from all over the world. Because…why not?

At that time I had only one kid with another on the way (they are now young adults). We had recently moved into a new home that would better fit our growing family (we’ve now been here for almost 20 years). I had a different job in a different industry and moonlighted teaching in a master’s program at a local university.

The site grew slowly but steadily since its inception. Today, we have a few thousand regular readers (as far as I can tell – these numbers are surprisingly hard to vet) and we get more review submissions than we know what to do with. Our writing staff is quite informal and has evolved over the years with people coming and going. Our blog software evolved from a bunch of scripts held together with duct tape to a managed service where I (thankfully) don’t have to do any coding.

The music community has grown dramatically as well. Again, it is hard to put numbers to their size, but there are more musicians making interesting music now than at any time I remember. Much of this is unfortunately under the radar and without the recognition it deserves.

In the recent pandemic, we’re seen more than a little suffering in the community. But we have also seen musicians who would not be silenced. If they could not play live, they gathered in small groups and outdoor locations. If they could not record in groups, they recorded solo albums. A ton of music was recorded and released. During this time, my appreciation for the emotional depth of solo and small-scale efforts grew manyfold.

At this point, it is hard to say where we are going as a community. Lockdowns are probably over for good in most of the world, as are mask and socially distancing mandates. This allows more music to be heard but also puts an even higher burden on traveling musicians to stay healthy. And not everyone is comfortable attending live performances just yet.

It is now a cliche to state that COVID brought the best and worst out of everyone, but I am convinced that the music community handled it better than most. The amount of kindness that I’ve seen and experienced from its members, despite their personal challenges, has been inspiring.

So once again, let me thank the listeners, musicians, writers, label heads, venue operators, and others who keep this type of music afloat. The world is much better for all of you and I am happy to play a small part.

-MB

1500 Reviews

We reached this milestone earlier today. Now to be fair, we have reviewed more than 1500 albums, as some articles cover multiple releases. Nonetheless, this is our modest contribution to the community over the last 10 years. You can browse the complete list.

Thanks as always to all of the time and effort our reviewers have put into the site. Thanks also to all of the artists who have shared their music with us. I wish we could write more. Nonetheless, we are looking forward to the next 1500.

-M

AMN Facebook Page Is Gone

We have unpublished our Facebook page and it is scheduled for deletion. If you want to follow us on social media, please use Twitter (yes, we are going for the apparent lesser of evils approach). This means that we will have no presence on Facebook anymore so those of you who have used that platform to communicate with us in the past, please send us an old-fashioned email instead. Thanks.

A Reminder About Retrospectives and Overviews

We have published compilation pages of artist and label retrospectives and overviews. In some cases, these compile upwards of 20-25 reviews of albums from a specific artist or label. They serve as great starting points for exploration.

AMN Celebrates Braxton75
Area Retrospective
Astral Spirits Overview
Cold Spring Records Overview
Cryo Chamber Overview
Cuneiform Records: An Abbreviated Overview
Cyclic Law Overview
John Zorn: Releases and Performances
Magma Retrospective
Minus Zero Overview
New Focus Recordings Overview
Orenda Records Overview
Plus Timbre Overview
Setola di Maiale Overview
Unexplained Sounds Group / Eighth Tower Records Overview

18 Years of Avant Music News

I launched this site on April 29, 2003. Since then, stuff has happened and the world has changed. The last 14 months or so has been the toughest period for music, musicians, and fans in my lifetime. On the other hand, the amount of creativity that has come forth in response to a period of isolation has been commensurately impressive.

In practice, what this means is that we are busier than ever and yet still falling behind on listening, reviewing, and keeping up with events. The weird / creative music world keeps getting bigger, and that can’t be a bad thing. So I have to be okay with letting go of the need to hear every release. And yes, I don’t respond to many emails and I don’t see that changing soon, unfortunately.

It has been a strange week for me and I don’t have the frame of mind for deep introspection right now. So I’ll just thank all of the musicians for sharing their tremendous efforts, the volunteer staff writers who keep the content coming, and of course everyone who reads these words.

In most parts of the world, there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. My family members have all recently received their second COVID shots, and I am scheduled for mine next week. Live music may become a reality again by the late Summer or early Fall. Maybe, and if we stay the course. In the meantime, let’s be kind to one another in these trying times and help others as much as we can.

Review Page for Unexplained Sounds Group / Eighth Tower Records Labels

Related labels Unexplained Sounds Group and Eighth Tower Records have been producing a significant number of recordings over the last few years focusing on experimental music worldwide. The variety of sounds represented is quite wide, from industrial to ambient, dark ambient, chamber, electronic, experimental, and so on.

We have reviewed quite a few of their albums and have not even scratched the surface. Nonetheless, you’ll find a reviews page for these labels here, with reprints of all of our reviews so far. We will add to this page over time.

Just How Many Submissions Does Avant Music News Get?

I’ve often written that we are overwhelmed with submissions and therefore unable to listen to, much less review, all of them. But rather than relying on estimates, we collected actual numbers for January 2021.

In short, the count is 351 submissions, for an average of 11.3 per day.

Most of these submissions were via email. We occasionally receive a handful through physical mail and social media messaging, but there were only about five arriving in that fashion during the month. Of the submissions, many are off-topic, in that they are directed to types of music that – while possibly enjoyable, well-done, or otherwise solid – are outside the scope of the site. Also, some submissions were for multiple albums, boxed sets, or otherwise long recordings. One, in particular, was for an 11-hour piece of music. Therefore, the 351 number is an underestimate.

If translated into listening time with a few reasonable estimates applied, we have about 263 hours of music. If only half of the recordings are on topic, we still have over 130 hours.

To write a decent review, multiple listens are advisable if not required. So let’s multiply 130 by 2 (a conservative number) and we’re back to around 260 hours if we were to write reviews of all of these albums. That’s 8.4 hours per day, every day, in the month of January.

Of course, we have multiple people writing reviews, so we can say, divide that number by 4 and come up with around 2 hours per day. But that does not account for the fact that we have jobs, families, other obligations, and importantly we need to avoid burnout.

In January, we published 19 reviews, 5 of which were for multiple albums. Realistically, that was a good month for content generation.

So like I’ve said many times, there a ton of great music that does not get covered here. If we don’t get to your album, it says absolutely nothing about what we think about the album or its quality. What it does say, however, is that this little corner of the music world has grown tremendously and that there is no shortage of great stuff out there.

1,000 Reviews

Earlier today, we posted our 1,000th review. Looking back I find this quite remarkable, as we did not review anything for the first 8 years of Avant Music News. I had done some music writing in the mid-nineties but was of the mind that the music had to speak for itself – words were not sufficient to describe what one can hear.  In line with Frank Zappa, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” As a result, I resisted publishing any sort of original reviews.

That changed in 2011 when Dan Barbiero convinced me that reviews can be well-written and thoughtful. Since then, he has contributed nearly 400. I started writing again, and a number of other individuals have helped out as well. And as the music world has evolved since, I believe that reviews are taking on a valuable filtering function – there is so much music coming out (much of it quite good) that you need some way of focusing your efforts and time. Reviews help you do that.

In any event, I am grateful to all who have written for AMN over the years – Dan, Stephen, other Dan, Chris, Mike, Irwin, Monique, Tom, and Jacob. And of course to all of you who have read, commented on, and shared our work.

https://avantmusicnews.com/reviews/