We're inching towards the finish line on Music Arcades. I admit I'm looking forward to it. Yet like the hare giving chase to the tortoise, each time I reach where the tortoise was, I find it's inched forward. So when I was looking for the Cloud Bass EP, I came across a couple of records that I had a feeling had evaded the net until now. Annoying. One was a Rough Trade album, which I think was connected to this one, so I don't think it deserves its own entry. Another was Yes's Big Generator — where the hell did this come from? I see I explicitly denied ever having heard anything by Yes after 90125 — yet it looks as if I bought it from new, with the tell-tale Our Price sticker inside the cover. I considered pretending I hadn't found it on the grounds that it was bound to be awful. But to start excluding awful records at this stage of the project would seem whimsically inconsistent.
I'm bullish in my defence of some Yes albums, but this one truly is beyond-the-pail dreadful. Take everything I said about the crassness of 90125 and multiply it by three.
In other collection-related news, I've been whimsically inconsistent following my firm assertion that I'd be buying no new digital music hardware this year. Just a matter of days later I found myself facing the combination of an unexpected windfall, an Amazon gift voucher earned from the princely affiliate link income from this site, and the Squeezebox being under £200 at Amazon. So I bought one. After a week with it, I have yet to play any better-than-CD-quality 24-bit music, but it's proved to be a potential game changer (can't believe I just wrote that with a straight keyboard) in another way that I hadn't anticipated.
Let me back up a bit first to explain… I've had an eMusic subscription for nearly five years now (first mentioned here). It's given me a steady stream of good value off-mainstream music — 2,749 tracks, if my iTunes library is to be believed — each for around £0.25 or less. These include just about the whole Electrelane catalogue, most of James Blackshaw's, Eilen Jewell's astonishingly good Sea of Tears album, The Congos' Heart of the Congos and the glorious, liquid recordings of Sissokho Yakhouba & Lansine Kouyate. It was via eMusic that I first heard the two great classics of the 21st century so far, Strange Geometry and The Amber Gatherers. And at the other end, I've amassed fascinating Gaelic psalms, Tangerine Dream live recordings, outsider artists such as Abner Jay and old doo-wop classics. Plus an awful lot of albums that I've dipped my toes into, downloading three or four tracks, and then abandoned. Now my 50-track monthly quota "refreshed" at the weekend, but I scan through the 347 albums I have stored in my "Save for later" list and none of them excite me. I realise that I am now scraping the eMusic barrel. It doesn't help that holes are opening up in the eMusic catalogue: they don't have the new Eilen Jewell album; they don't even have Sea of Tears or The Amber Gatherers any more. Shame.
Meanwhile Spotify does have all the Eilen Jewell albums. Up until now, I've not given it, or its web-based sister We7, much time. They seemed useful for dipping into occasionally to research whether an artist or an album was worth exploring in depth. But their feature sets for discovery and for managing large collections seemed pitifully poor. No tagging, no smart playlists? Come on!
Nothing's changed my view on that front. Indeed, after a week of using Spotify more intensively, I've been forcibly reminded many times of the weakness of its user interface and collection management. But when I realised that, with Spotify Premium, I could play the 13 million tracks in the Spotify catalogue in 320 Kbps quality through my hi-fi, as much as I like, whenever I like (and load some of them onto my phone for listening offline as well)… well, it changes almost anything. What reason to buy any of the albums in that catalogue again? There may be a few, but they're the exceptions.
So I'm still on the 30-day free trial of Spotify, but I can't see myself keeping my eMusic sub going into another month, when I can switch it to Spotify. This one more, major, step in weaning myself off buying more clutter for cluttered rooms.
MusicBrainz entry for this album
Wikipedia entry for this album
Rate Your Music entry for this album
Some metadata about this album at Last.fm
Listen to this album in full at We7
Listen to this album in full at Spotify