IAN PREECE – Listening to the Wind: Encounters with 21st Century Independent Record Labels
“Listening to the Wind: Encounters with 21st Century Independent Record Labels” by author Ian Preece turned out to be quite the revelation for yours truly and something out of the ordinary. Being relatively fond of ambient, drone, minimalism, experimental soundscapes, electronica, and to a lesser extent field recordings (just to list a handful of the genres covered in the book) but not really knowing an awful lot about those particular genres or the labels and acts responsible for them, this huge 702-page examination and study of just what it means and entails to be an independent record label in the 21st century turned out to be a thought-provoking and insightful read. You probably could have glanced that from the title too, but the thing is that Preece, who is a clearly a music connoisseur and extremely knowledgeable when it comes to everything from obscure Chicago jazz albums to the dealings of the record industry in the UK and further on to the experimental sounds emanating from the Finnish and Japanese undergrounds, adds a fresh perspective on the importance of music devoid of compromise and its constant and continual relevance in our lives. The evocative and strangely melancholy introduction instantly draws you in and from that point on you are sucked into in-depth interviews and conversations with labels (often run by veterans with experience aplenty) that the author encounters along the way in Atlanta, Berlin, Tunis, and London among many other places. Some of the labels covered include Pressure Sounds, Unseen Worlds, Dust-to-Digital, and Sublime Frequencies.
“Listening to the Wind” is (in some respects) an exhaustive and in-depth study of (niche) music and the various labels that serve as purveyors and distributors of amazing, richly textured pieces of music by innovative artists, but by focusing on a select number of labels, there is a clear structure and conciseness to the affair. That is partly where the beauty of Preece’s colorful and detailed literary excursion into the world of esoteric and surreal sounds lies; it provides the reader with a wealth of information on different artists, outfits, shops, labels, venues, and releases, but it also serves as a great introduction to a massive sphere of captivating and compelling sounds capable of inspiring you to hunt for musical gem and overlooked masterpieces hiding under ground on your own. When embarking on your inner journey around the world with the author, I recommend having YouTube on hand so that you can check out some of the songs and albums that are name-dropped or discussed. While reading this expertly crafted tome on otherworldly music, I personally found it quite thrilling to listen to some of the releases that are to be found on the Café Oto website (https://www.cafeoto.co.uk/ ) as many of those served as a good backdrop to Preece’s travels across the globe and the general atmosphere of the book. The only minor flaw to “Listening to the Wind” is that it is almost too dense at times, or packed with too much information, if you will. It is impeccably researched, but it is also easy to miss or overlook certain key points from time to time.
“Listening to the Wind” is a beautiful portrait of the day-to-day realities of running an independent record label and the many ups and downs as well as triumphs and failures associated with such an endeavor. This one is also utterly essential if you are deeply passionate about music and believe in its ability to transcend words and language regardless of what type or genre you normally tend to dabble in. Long live vinyl!