In 2009, music recording, publishing and distribution is in disarray. Digital distribution through online sites is often presented these days as the fait accompli known as "the future," while many artists complain that they've lost control of how their music is heard, by whom and through what medium. Terre Thaemlitz has even detailed the experience of "discovering" his work being sold on iTunes, even though nobody had contacted him, no contract had been signed and no-one would tell him who was receiving the royalties. There's also another, muted question I hear more and more in interviews…. Is there any money in music any more? And if so, who's raking it in? If anecdotal experience is any measure, it's not the music makers, the dreamers of dreams. We have a situation here, folks, one that raises all kinds of questions: What should a recording cost? What is its value? Where does music-as-information come from? Who benefits?
Dead Stock Archive offers Thaemlitz's set of answers.
The concept is simple, the contents are complex. The coolest version of this immense project is already sold-out: a super plush cheesy burger, in a box, with a smile, containing… well, everything that Thaemlitz has ever produced. Which is not a little. We're talking over eight gigs of audio (711 titles, 61 hours 29 minutes 40 seconds), with rarities, inserts, posters and all artwork and album-related texts. As the website warns: "IF YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD OF TERRE THAEMLITZ, THIS COMPLETIST MP3 ARCHIVE OF AUDIO PROJECTS IS PROBABLY NOT A GOOD PLACE TO START."
To be worthwhile, an artist contemplating producing a box like this would have to do or have a couple of different things. First of all, you'd need to have a massive archive. Second, you'd have to have quality as well as quantity. And, last—to make the release really appealing—you'd have to gather together a number of releases that were otherwise scattered to the four winds. Thaemlitz has managed all three, condensing quality, quantity and diversity into something daunting—the sense I have after spending six or so weeks with the box is that it's going to take all year (and then some) to really get through all this work, to appreciate it, to digest it. (Even so, it hasn't stopped me from wishing that Prince and Wolfgang Voigt would contemplate the same.)
Weirdly (or not), it's exactly the opposite of the "eight-tenths full" feeling you have when you download a file from a commercial site. Purchase Dead Stock Archive and you feel the transformative vertigo of realizing how much work is involved in music, how much information it adds up to, what that's worth and, really, how little a sense of that you get from most digital download sites. Given the possibilities of so much, how come we only mostly get so little? In fact, getting the box in the post and unpacking it was not unlike the thrill I used to get as a kid when I finally brought home the latest computer adventure game after a few months worth of saving, knowing full well I had floppy disc after floppy disc to load, followed by hardcore month after hardcore month of adventure, and beyond…
The whole she-bang costs 275 USD, 25,000 JPY, or 220 EUR, which, on first glance, seems a little expensive. But consider this: Because Thaemlitz has produced the package and is selling and distributing the work on her own, you know exactly where your money is going—unlike, for example, when you buy something on iTunes. Dead Stock Archive is something of a curiosity, something of a fetish item, something of an artistic fuck you and something of a completely different way for an artist to package and sell their own recordings. In all these ways, it's interesting, and on most counts, it's extremely worthwhile.
Tracklist: Terre Thaemlitz - Dead Stock ArchiveEvery thing that Terre Thaemlitz released before January 31, 2009 and more. For complete release info, please head to the Comatonse website.
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