Michael Whalen & Atomic Skunk: Free Music that Doesn’t Stink

Michael Whalen and Atomic Skunk-Free electronic music from very different musicians.

I’m not sure why these artists do it and not even sure I agree with the concept, but more and more musicians are letting out music as free digital downloads.  Not just a song or two, but entire CDs worth of materiel.  Here’s two more from electronic artists working at opposite ends of the spectrum in almost everyway.

Michael Whalen is the veteran.  Haven’t heard of Michael?  Well he only has well over 20 CDs released on labels like Narada and Hearts of SpaceNightscenes (Remastered) He’s scored numerous soundtracks, commercials and released albums from the meticulous space melodies of Nightscenes to commercial fodder.  Michael can be squirmingly  sentimental, bleeding his heart all over his synthesizers with titles like “Swimming in a Lovely Sea of You,” though to be honest, that track, from My Secret Heart, is actually a very deep ambient piano piece.   Michael is  working with a more complex harmonic language than most electronic musicians and he’s as much a player as a composer.  Those elements give his music  some added heft even in their most maudlin moments.

treeoflife-cvrFor the past two months you’ve been hearing selections on Echoes from an album by Michael Whalen called Tree of Life.  It’s a 60 minute work of expansive, sometimes symphonic electronics.  A none-stop trip through spacey freefalls, lyrical piano themes and sequencer interplay that may be his best work yet.  Michael has a more original sound palette than most of his peers and it gives his music a depth and expression often lacking in composers at the prettier end of the electronic scale.  As he often does, Michael sells his music short with trite  imagery.  He says Tree of Life is “designed for meditation, relaxation and yoga.”  Don’t be fooled.  It’s an album for imagistic exploration and mood elevation with some very intricate arrangements.   AND IT’S FREE!  Michael is releasing this as a free download at the highest quality.  I don’t get it, but I did get download and you should as well.  It’s on his website at www.michaelwhalen.com

Michael Whalen is a working musician with a great studio, lots of gear and an infrastructure that allows him to make commercial music as well as his more personal works like Tree of Life.

binary-cvr Atomic Skunk, on the other hand, is more typical.  He’s an indie-musician, although he’s gigged on the San Francisco rock scene as guitarist Rich Brodsky for over 20 years including playing in a Grateful Dead cover band, Buffalo Roam.     Although he plays a sampled guitar with Midi-guitar, he made most of  Binary Scenes album working strictly within a computer and the Ableton Live program.   The music is sometimes free-floating deepspace like “Suspended Ascent 1” but he often infuses electronica grooves as the album moves from gentle pastoral guitar-strumming ambiences like “China Box” to cyclical bell-tones that recall Klaus Schulze‘s “Crystal Lake” on “Chronoswamp,” but updating those retro sounds with glitched stutters.  Those are two of our favorite tracks on Echoes along with “A Winter’s Gift.” The name Atomic Skunk kind of stinks (yuck-yuck), but the music on Binary Scenes, except for a couple of audio verité soundscapes, is mostly note perfect ambient, full of mood, unusual dreamstate shifts and psychedelic edges. You can buy a high-quality download, but he’s also offering it as a free download mp3 at 128k.

Go forth and oscillate.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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