The music industry’s decade-long struggle to make money has led to all sorts of artists trying out new ways of packaging product so people shell out real currency instead of just typing “album title .rar” into Google. Sometimes you can “pay what you want,” other times you can get an MP3 download by buying a tote bag and sometimes you can buy a “newspaper edition” though I’m still waiting to see what that’s about. Yet others resort to a time-tested method almost always resulting in net gains – just giving the damn stuff away for free. It’s the classic college trick of adding “free pizza” to an event flyer to draw people in, hopeful they might listen to what you have to say if they get some free Dominoes out of the whole deal. Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All became the most buzzed-about group of 2011 partially because (until they started flirting and pairing off with major labels) everything they released could be downloaded for free via their Tumblr. Fellow weirdo rapper Lil’ B used a similar “flood the net” strategy to get attention, and one of his most prominent producers Clams Casino released a no-cash-required mix tape recently that led to more awareness.
Japan’s Maltine Records attempts something similar in this country. A netlabel started up in 2005 “by Tomad and Syem,” Maltine boasts about 90 releases on their official site, most of which can be downloaded for free or streamed online. They specialize in “tracks based on pop and dance music” and is that “based” oh so important. The collection of artists dropping music on Maltine…the most prominent name here being 80s-lovers Dorian…certainly make “dancey” and “poppy” tunes but they also gesticulate around in a way you wouldn’t expect J-Pop to ever move. Peppered by samples from anime and video games, Maltine’s offerings imagine Japanese music giving into every stereotype held against Japanese music that isn’t deserved at all. It’s a little crazy but something you could find yourself bobbing along to if you aren’t careful.
Maltine’s 90th release comes from something called 三毛猫ホームレス, and lead-off track “KANEKURE” captures everything thrilling about this web label in one go. Opening with pleasant enough electronics, “KANEKURE” swerves right into its pleasure center by letting the slightly worbly, vocally manipulated chorus show up early. It’s a pop-ready moment rendered human by the somewhat vulnerable voice. From there, “KANEKURE” sets off on some Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride stuff – the thing jumps from bass-blasted dance sections to semi-rap portions to sample-heavy bits featuring exclamations from Street Fighter. “KANEKURE” ends up sounding like The Avalanches, not in practice but in spirit, a mish-mash of noises that shouldn’t fit together clicking just right to form a catchy track. Listen here, and if that interests you…start digging here.