The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982

In Writing

Unofficial Channels Portal

November 2010

"Each album is made using free software at every stage of its production – that is, software which can be modified and freely redistributed, with the proviso that users must be able to continue to customise the code..." – from Keith Moliné's Unofficial Channels article in The Wire 322

Wireless Buccaneers

"Old Skool fanatics generally prefer the slickly-mixed official releases to the vibe-rich but erratic pirate tapes; a lot of people just don't like MCs, it seems. But if you dig the brink of bedlam atmosphere of the pirate set, or are just curious to cop a feel of what it was like in those raw, crazed days, seek out these online deposits of delirium:

Reviving The Dead

"Ordinarily, their set lists from night to night are much more, each concert evolving its own distinctive overarching scheme, with the group constantly shifting mood and tempo, seguing from Chuck Berry travelogue to Motown rave to maudlin gambler or outlaw ballad to loser blues to cosmic jam, ever inquisitive, always pushing songs further out there."

The Eel's Foot Inn

"A man puts down his beer, stands up to sing. He receives no fee for his performance, and none of the listeners have purchased a ticket. The event is not recorded and there are no reports in the press. Can music ever be more 'unofficial' than that?

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

"I'm standing in the bookstore at the Aurobindo ashram in Pondicherry, India. A heavy synthesizer drone fills the air, like something by early Tangerine Dream [...] I ask one of the staff what it is, and I'm told that it's by Sunil, a former scientist who lived in the ashram for decades and began composing keyboard and later synthesizer music at the encouragement of one of the ashram's two founders, The Mother..." "

Online Mixes

"Dinky's Get Lost 3 should have been one of 2007's best mix CD's. Instead the album - a cannily mixed, 70 minute tour of state of the art Minimal House, featuring artists like Mountain People, Matthew Styles and Dinky herself - got buried in the fallout of Amato Distribution's collapse at the end of the year.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the landfill: the mix came out anyway. Not via a different distributor or new licensing deal. Not even via a leak or MP3 blog. Instead the DJ herself offered up the mix - zipped as a set of 19 MP3s - as a free download from her site."

MP3 Blogs

"It seems to be primarily the free or avant garde scene which is reduced to digitizing old jazz records in this way. Blue Note churns out reissues of even middling hard bop titles at a speed no gainfully employed listener can keep pace with; Verve, Impulse! and Prestige continue to recycle their catalogues [...] But what about the more difficult releases sponsored by the major labels in the 1960s, 70s and even 80s?"

Hiphop Battle Tapes

"Although tapes don't do justice to the DJ battles which were often contests of volume) the few that do exist give a hint of the amazing atmosphere and the creativity that went into the record selection. There's Afrika Bambaataa cutting Disco King Mario at 123 Park with the themes from the Andy Griffith Show and the Munsters and a quick cut into James Brown's 'I Got The Feeling'."

Free Music Archive

"How often do you use the site? As a curator I try to add new material at least once a week. For what reason do you use the site? Free music that's been filtered by music fans. What relationship does the site and its content have to your work? Well, I get to upload heaps of plover stuff as well as my own work."

Avant Garde Project

"A series of recordings of 20th-century classical, experimental, and electroacoustic music digitized from LPs whose music has in most cases never been released on CD, and so is effectively inaccessible to the vast majority of music listeners today."

"Net labels offering free Improv downloads are springing up by the day. The cream of them includes a label with the simple philosophy of presenting only the best music they can find..."

"... In the UK, covers Improv and creative field recording and makes quality new music available at quite a rate."

Flat Grey Marked Suspended Pole Holds Tree

"Benedict Drew, Paul Abbot and Seymour Wright have chosen to document their every get-together online."

"... an improvised music CD Audio label and netlabel and art edition."


"100Copies was founded in 2006 by artist and musician Mahmoud Refat, primarily as a platform for sound art in Cairo, and to release music from Egypt and the wider Arabic world."

Helen Petts

"Petts has posted nigh on 250 high quality videos of improvisors, complemented by properly recorded soundtracks. Here’s Parker with guitarist John Russell, trumpeter Peter Evans and John Edwards on bass, from London’s Freedom Of The City Festival in 2009. Making a virtue out of the limitation of her one-camera set-up, Petts grabs the musicians in close-up and pans slowly across each instrument during the nine minute piece. It’s more fun than listening to the records. Plus you get that inimitable YouTube viewers’ debate: “What about a polka for the next time? ;-)” Clive Bell

Also, check Helen's Vimeo channel here.

Alan Lomax

A recently rebroadcast 1990 interview with the Folklorist and field recordist Alan Lomax...

"In essence, the aim of Klingt (the word translates simply as the verb 'sounds', as in 'it sounds’) is to provide a virtual resource for a largely Austrian and German group of some 80 or more improvisors. As well as providing space to advertise CD releases and list forthcoming concerts, the site has become well known for its Jokebux archive of freely downloadable music. A huge stockpile of recordings by the likes of Burkhard Stangl, Los Glissandinos, Fennesz, Christof Kurzmann, Taku Unami, Martin Siewert, Radu Malfatti and many more besides is available."

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