January 21st, 2012 | Published in Blog
In December we asked various site contributors, people who’ve played at our shows and people we liked to contribute their thoughts on 2011. Today it’s the turn of Another Timbre label owner and professional sound recordist Simon Reynell (who we interviewed for in April). Another Timbre is one of the few labels that seems unanimously loved by all us site janitors at Bang the Bore, so we were particularly interested in this message that Mr. Reynell put up on his site regarding his plans for 2012:
“Since 2007 Another Timbre has produced over 50 CDs and CDRs, discs which we hope have helped to chronicle some of the most interesting corners of improvised and contemporary music. But times and technologies are moving on, and listening habits are changing. Increasing numbers of people hardly use CDs at all and obtain their music as downloads. These changes offer challenges to CD-based labels like Another Timbre. Until now we have managed to break even, but in the future, as the move towards downloads accelerates, it is likely to become unsustainable to release CDs in minority areas of music like this.
We want to start adapting to the age of digital distribution and making changes before economics compels us to. Over the past year we have been thinking about what a label is or could be in an era of digital distribution. This process of re-thinking is ongoing, and we welcome your thoughts and opinions about how you would like to see the label change. Over the next year we intend to radically transform the way Another Timbre operates. Though we don’t yet know the details of these changes, they are likely to include offering downloads in addition to discs, and releasing music on CDR more than on CD. We also want the website to become much more central to what we do, offering projects and resources instead of being just a virtual shop window.
As ideas become more concrete, we’ll let you know more about what we are planning. In the mean time, please send any thoughts or suggestions to info [at] anothertimbre [dot] com.”
Without further ado, over to the man himself:
2011 was a strange year for me personally, what with my father dying, and a number of other family issues making it unusually tricky. Perhaps this affected my mood in relation to music, because I certainly had a sense of an era coming to an end. It feels like the long-presaged death of the CD as a format finally reached the tiny corners of music to which I’m committed. The onward march of I-pods, downloads and filesharing gathered pace, and I think 2011 will turn out to have been the tipping point. Which is exciting and fine and dandy for many people, but clearly brings challenges for someone running a CD label.
Does anyone out there know what running a label means in the age of digital distribution – especially if, as seems likely, the norm is that people will get their music without paying for it? I’m sure there are things that labels can usefully do in this brave new world, but I’m not yet sure what they are. So I’ll have to make it up as I go along for the time being, and just hope that I can somehow keep Another Timbre afloat financially through 2012 – and it seems really foolhardy to try to see any further into the future than that.
All this isn’t helped by the fact that my taste in music seems to have become even more obscure [i.e. unpopular] over the past year. My favourite Another Timbre disc of 2011 – in fact, if I’m honest, my favourite disc on any label that year – was James Saunders’s divisions which could be autonomous but which comprise the whole. But it clearly puzzled many of the few people who heard it, and didn’t even get a review in The Wire. For whatever reason, for the past 12 months I’ve been far more inclined to spend time with the music of a number of young, un-famous musicians than with that of the superstars of the improvised music world. And as the output on Another Timbre closely follows the trajectory of my personal taste, it seems that the label is condemned to go through a process that Stewart Lee has described as ‘refining the audience’, to which he then adds the rider that ‘you can’t refine nothing’.
But whatever the travails of the labels, the music itself is doing well. In a year that started with a load of Cassandras loudly prophesying the demise of improvised music, I’ve managed to witness a remarkable number of inspiring performances and strong releases: a veritable flowering of music in that no-man’s land between post-reductionist improvisation and indeterminate composition that I love.
And finally, in the unlikely event that your taste is remotely similar to mine, here’s a few UK-based names to watch out for, as well as James Saunders: Patrick Farmer, Stephen Cornford, Laurence Crane, Dimitra Lazaridou Chatzigoga, Dominic Lash, Sarah Hughes and Samuel Rodgers. All well worth catching if you can.
UPDATE: Another Timbre now has its own dedicated YouTube channel, with excerpts of many releases from their peerless back catalogue. Click here to enjoy…