01: Catalog Community Week
Alex Siber
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Catalog
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June 28th, 2021

Last month, a group of artists met for the first time on a chaotic but joyful Catalog orientation call. They had the option of dropping their debut Catalog records in tandem or whenever they wanted. The group overwhelmingly voted to move forward together. Enter the inaugural Catalog Community Week, just the latest foghorn-blaring signal that there’s a new golden era brewing in the ether.

This time around, that signal carried the transmissions of megiapa, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Starkey, Adder, Bozo Nightmare, GREGNWMN, 30exp, Death Hags, Gavin Gamboa, 0x-Jitzu, Christopher Stracey, trey willis, Xcelencia, Lafayette Stokely, and Vitalii Dominichenko. In other words, lots of globetrotting, jaw-dropping, playlist-puzzling sounds, from soloist piano pieces that reinforce links to ancestral homelands to fuzzy 808s underpinning ingenious punchlines (“I’mma jump from the rooftop, land right on top of the forecast”), all shared between June 21 and June 27, 2021.

Just days before the Catalog Community Week kicked off, we were voted through Mirror's pearly gates. We decided to hold off on publishing until now, using our first post to unify the special songs that came out and spotlight the people behind them, in their own words. It features lots of context direct from the source(s), an easy means of supporting everyone involved via direct patronage, and a bit of backstory. Let’s start with how we got here then get to the good stuff (the play button).

Decades ago, way back in December of 2020, we unveiled a dark mode, barebones landing page hinting at what would eventually become v0 of Catalog: a web3 world where new music formats are possible and experiments are the point, not fring. We also encouraged artists excited by the possibilities to join us in Discord and sign up for email updates with launch details. Our day ones, basically.

We’ve been out in the wild for a little more than three months now, collaborating with both friends and internet strangers to test the waters while sorting out the initial working version of where we’re headed. Modest gains have been made in proving the value of one-of-one digital records. And more and more people are seeing the importance of songs with built-in value capture mechanisms that outlive their host platforms, ours included. There's quite a lot left to do (we’ve only built .1% of what we envision), but the most glaring omission to date, until last week's rollouts, were fewer early-bird believers releasing on Catalog than there should have been. We wanted to celebrate more of the folks who had waited patiently in the trenches.

To fix that, with decentralized onboarding and curation still on the drawing board, we invited everyone on the waitlist to confirm their interest in releasing music on Catalog and share what they were proud of. Then we simply listened, listened, listened. No glancing at Instagram followers. No ogling over Spotify monthly listeners. We just listened. It’d be an understatement to say we loved what we heard, and who we’ve met as a result.

Our hope is to repeat some version of this process as a stop-gap method for highlighting the talented people who want to help shape what this project becomes. To that end, please consider supporting this post via the tip block below. All proceeds will be split amongst the artists who participated in this initial Catalog Community Week :)

Now, as promised, the good stuff. Take a few minutes to listen to each record, then get to know the artists a little better by reading what they had to say about their first release. After catching a glimpse of their adventures to date, we hope you choose to become a part of their story from here. To bid on a song you love, click the hyperlinked track title, or click "Zora" at the bottom of that song's NFT embed.

megiapa - "Monday"

megiapa: I chose to press "Monday" as my first Catalog record because this anthem is close to my heart. I produced and recorded this song during 2020 as a sort of remedy to move through the endless news cycles and restless pandemic. Writing it helped me keep my things in frame, which is a constant effort—stay humble, helpful, confident, kind, mindful, resilient, and all the sweet things in between. When I'm producing and writing music, I'm often reflecting on sentiments from my life and the current moment. 'Monday' is an example of me working through it out loud... I hope you enjoy <3

Gavin Gamboa - "+ [ 1 ( O ) p | us ]"

Gavin Gamboa: It has been 10 years since the release of what I consider the first major work I composed, a String Sextet that took to Arnold Schoenberg's "Verklärte Nacht" for guidance. With the help of friends/collaborators, a group of phenomenal instrumentalists was assembled and we recorded it in an acoustically vibrant space (what is now the Bakery Building at Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles). Composing a large instrumental work was a daunting idea for me in my mid twenties, as I had no formal training in composition and was dealing with whatever doubt which comes with that territory. But looking back now with the expanded knowledge that I have gained not only of music but also about art and life in general (and especially generative algorithmic electronic music) I wanted to wholeheartedly acknowledge that younger version of myself with a new piece commemorating this last decade of experience and creating. The timing with being able to press and release "+ [ 1 ( O ) p | us ]" on Catalog feels serendipitous and in-alignment with my goals of continuing to produce independent music. This is a piece which has emerged in the form of a new, electronically processed, chaos version of its former self, in resemblance with how the disruption caused by web3 and blockchain technologies are transforming what has come before, and granting artists new levels of autonomy and control over the distribution process.

Bozo Nightmare - "Silver Painted Tears"

Bozo Nightmare: We went with "Silver Painted Tears" for our first release because we like abstraction and this song was the purest expression we had of that. We're probably most proud of the ending. It's kind of got one of those impressionistic false endings that the Beatles made popular (think "Strawberry Fields Forever" or "Hello, Goodbye") and almost hints at a lost section or remix of the song that does not exist (or does it?). The abstraction is there in the vocals, the lyrical content, the style and structure. It leaves a lot of room for what we can do next without pointing in any specific direction. We’ve just always wanted to experiment with songs, sounds and ideas, and this track seemed like the perfect starting point for whatever we want to do next.

Lafayette Stokely - "Listen To Your Heart"

Lafayette Stokely: I live in my head so my music is usually me venting to myself. "Listen To Your Heart" is just that, me reflecting on my situation and reaffirming that I’m on the right path. "How can I look into my daughters eyes and tell them daddy never chased his dreams / Then turn right around and tell them that you can be all that you want to be" is my favorite line because it not only represents my drive to give my daughters the world but to also teach them that anything is possible. Never second guess and never over think. Just listen to your heart, it’ll never steer you wrong.

Starkey - "Skies Are Open"

Starkey: I've been working on this project with another Philadelphia-based artist, Idely Rey, called Yung Jupit3r for some time now. We started working on songs around the time I was doing The Transponder Orchestra for Alpha Pup. So it's been about 6 years plus. It's a project that I really love and pulls together lots of different styles of music that I enjoy: trip hop, modern classical and bass music with stacks of vocals and very rich orchestrations. ["Skies Are Open" emerged from that process.]

0x-Jitzu - "Veloop"

0x-Jitzu: "Veloop" is a condensed electronic track that I composed thinking about the peculiarity of the new 'media': the NFT. A tight conglomeration of sounds that represent a short and compact sound sculpture, which can be repeated inexorably as a loop. I've always been passionate about new technologies applied to art, and Catalog has given me the opportunity to experience this new language through musical NFTs. I hope to instill some peculiarities in what I produce as NFT, compared to what I usually produce for the dance floor.

Mark de Clive-Lowe - Motherland

Mark de Clive-Lowe: My first Catalog release is a really special project to me. Motherland is a suite of eight meditative, instrumental pieces exploring themes of belonging and identity as a Japanese-New Zealander reflecting on my Japanese ancestry and heritage. The pieces are part of a 40-minute immersive film, set to nature footage I shot in Kaga, Japan that's also being minted as part of the Motherland project. I’ve been active recording, releasing and touring for over 20 years now and have been central to multiple iterations of the jazz/electronic music spectrum over that time. To be able to take all my experiences and consciously apply them to share sonic stories of my cultural and ethnic roots along with considering broader ideas of global diaspora and maintaining connection with the past while moving towards the future, is core to my creative intentions and mission.

Vitalii Dominichenko - "Eternity"

Vitalii Dominichenko: Здитинства я відчував, що світ навколо мене значно глибший, цікавіший і тонкіший за те, що мої органи почуттів та суспільство говорять мені. Музика супроводжувала мене весь час у цьому пошуку справжньої природи мене та світу. Я шукав, блукав, думав, що знаходив і знову губив це переживання глибинної суті. Навчаючись та практикуючи трансперсональний коучинг в Alef Trust, я відчував, як мої попередні духовні пошуки почали інтегруватися в щось більш цілісне та заземлятися в моєму житті. В цьому потоці пробудження нового, ще більш справжнього Мене народився альбом «Небо на Землі» (2021) та композиція «Вічність», яка є колоревою та джерелом всього цього альбому, тому я вирішив презентувати саме її, як мій перший запис в Catalog.

[English: As a child, I felt that the world around me was much deeper, more interesting, and more subtle than what my senses and society were telling me. Music accompanied me all the time in this search for the true nature of me and the world. I searched, wandered, thought I found, and again was losing this experience of deep essence. During my study for and first practice of transpersonal coaching in Alef Trust, I felt my previous spiritual experiences begin to integrate into something more holistic and grounded in my life. In this stream of the awakening of the new, even more, true Me, the album Heaven on Earth (2021) was born. "Eternity" is the queen and source of it, so I decided to make this track my first record on Catalog.]

Christopher Stracey - "Unfolding"

Christopher Stracey: I chose "Unfolding" to be my first Catalog release as it represents growth and transformation. It has a central repetitive riff which gets enveloped by its surroundings and comes out as something different. I feel as though I am in a similar phase in music-making where up until now much of the music I have made has been signed to labels and geared toward a dance-floor situation. But this new music I am creating as a composer and solo artist is more explorative and conceptual. It feels good to start a new chapter as an independent artist who is able to explore and create autonomously.

Death Hags - "Looking for a Big Grey Sun"

Death Hags: The emerging world of web3 is full of new ideas that I'm very excited to explore with Catalog. This first release is a rework of my track "Looking for a Big Grey Sun," inspired by Aphex Twin's cheeky approach to remixing (he doesn't listen to the song, just sends one of his own tracks). AFX is an artist I look up to and I find his iconoclast spirit reflected in the blockchain metaverse. This track is what I imagine he would do with my song. All proceeds from the sale will be donated to the David Suzuki Foundation for their efforts to preserve the old growth forest in British Columbia. The winner of the bid will get a unique endless loop tape and the option to send me an ambient track made with that loop for a future Catalog release.

trey willis - "Get Back"

trey willis: Excited to release my very first single as a solo artist, as well as my very first NFT! This track is special to me and tells the journey and inner struggle of making the same mistakes over and over again, living in darkness, but reaching up for help and finding my way back to the light. "Get Back" was birthed from a Louis Futon producer challenge on Splice. Producers were to create an original track using one or more samples from the Louis Futon “pretty cool sounds Vol. 2” sample pack. I am generally a lot more inspired creating my own sounds and samples, but wanted to challenge myself to see what I could create using someone else’s samples. I ended up using 28 samples from the pack, and tried to tweak each one to make it my own. I also used some of my own samples, an Omnisphere patch, wavetable patch, and a Moog Sirin for the bass and leads. I tracked everything in Ableton. I hope you enjoy!

30exp - "VORTEX"

30exp: Sound is, for me, an escape from the rules of visual design. Design tends to lead with communication over art so I guess it's freeing to not have to spell out an idea. The beat itself [of "VORTEX"] was a turning point in the way I understand my own process of creation. As for the song, the way it came together from the beat to the demo to the final mix and art direction was a collaborative effort, that is I'd say the best part.

Adder (f/k/a/ Wild Kid) - "Extremely Naïve"

Adder: "Extremely Naïve" is the first in a new project under a new name, Adder. Until now I've released music as Wild Kid, but I felt that that project had run its course. The biggest change is that whereas Wild Kid was an instrumental project, Adder features my own vocals. With Wild Kid, the challenge motivating the project was to create a sense of narrative and personal vulnerability—which I thought could sometimes be missing from electronic music—without the use of lyrics and vocals. I had been singing in choirs and groups since I was 13, but I just wasn't interested in writing songs, so that never made it into my own music. For years, that challenge really interested me, but recently the motivation began to fade. I started to feel like it was time to incorporate this new element into my process and take on a set of challenges I had sort of been subconsciously avoiding: how to record and process my own vocals, how to use my voice as a sonic tool, and how to write lyrics. It's a whole new writing approach, and making space for my voice in arrangements is reforming my production style. Learning to produce my vocals is kind of like learning to make music all over again. This release is very distinctly the first page in a new chapter for me.

GREGNWMN - "SOLAR FLARE"

GREGNWMN: "SOLAR FLARE" carries a heavy tone of introspection, transparency, urgency for me. This record stood out as the perfect fit to begin my journey with Catalog based on the progressive energy surrounding not only the platform, but the arrangement of the narrative comprised on the record itself. After finding myself driving home from working two 8-hour shifts back to back, all my mind was focused on was the new verse I wrote the day before. There was a crazy glare coming from the freeway that made the whole road look like it was made of gold. In that moment, the early remnants of "SOLAR FLARE" began, building off of the idea that regardless of the drive we may have, our goals & desires may blind us in the process. As the artists/creatives of tomorrow, we are always pushing the boundaries of what we consider to be valuable. Some of those experiences manifested themselves into the verses performed on "SOLAR FLARE," which mirrored not only some of mine & Carter’s journey, but hopefully the journey of the listener as well.

Xcelencia - "Problema"

Xcelencia: My first Catalog press, "Problema," is curated from a volume of work I developed during quarantine. There was a pressure to try new things, sounds, and even explore distinct genres during the quarantine but sometimes it's important to stay true to your roots and this release reminds me of when I first started creating music over eight years ago. This specific single was selected to kick off the summer and experiment with as my first audio NFT. Latin music and in particular Reggaeton is experiencing a renaissance in the music industry. What better way to honor that than by bringing that lineage to a nascent format, one that aims to be an outlet for independent creators looking to pave the way for their careers in the new music industry? Everything from getting my first headline show at SXSW to my first 30 million streams on Spotify has led me to this moment. If you’re new to the genre I hope this release sparks your interest to dive in and enjoy what we have to offer to the world.

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