Posted on March 13th, 2021
Filed under: Music News — Karl Olson @ 8:31 pm
So, the next Ultraklystron album, Karlland, is already done. There’s singles for pretty much every track already cued up on the major streaming services for the coming months, though my Bandcamp Club Members will get them and the full album about 2 weeks ahead of each wider release. Lots of spoilers like track titles and album art are available in this twitter thread, but I figured for the handful of folks reading this blog (probably my oldest fans and a few tech recruiters,) I’d embed a playlist that’ll be updated as I get tracks into wider release:
I know Audius is a bit of niche platform, but since it provides soundcloud-like functionality without upload caps, it’s a nice secondary place for me to post music and build playlists. I’ve already got all of my publicly released vocal music up there now, and I’m considering uploading all of my instrumental work too as it makes it pretty easy to push in bulk compared to most platforms. Plus, folks seem to be actually listening to my music there, and it’s driving people back to my socials and my Bandcamp, though maybe that’s just crypto-mania (Audius has the $AUDIO token to denote ownership of the platform by artists.) I don’t know, and if you listen to one of my recent songs, you know I don’t care necessarily either.
I know also that the single-by-single drip is not the most satisfying means of taking in fresh music from your favorites as a long time listener sometimes. Albums are a rush and an experience, but only if you’re already pretty into an artist. Besides, singles seems to be the structure of modern music, and while this is just my hobby, I won’t go against the grain of the medium except for when I’m trying to by design (IE: my instrumental albums are staying albums.) Thus, that means dropping singles first usually because for a tiny bit of extra effort on my end, I’m in everyone’s inboxes/feeds/new music playlists/etc. 10 or more times, not once. More reminders mean more streams, follows, downloads, etc. and that means I don’t feel so bad about spending time on a hobby I know I could mostly enjoy on my smart phone uploading direct to Bandcamp without outside distribution. I even double-checked this assertion by dropping two all new vocal albums last year, Just You Wait And See and Zenith. The prior had all pre-release singles while the latter didn’t, and there was a 25%+ increase in streams and sales, so I might as well get it.
Anyway, if the slow drip is annoying, check back around about June. I’ll have an album for your summer because it’s not even spring and it’s done. I even learned how to master to -14 LUFS so it’ll sound better on all the streaming services, no extra leveling.
PS: ICYMI, did a TeeSpring for Merch for KARLLAND. The album title was a joke that fell out of this twitter thread, so this is another reason why this is a hobby – I can just do silly stuff like this, no risk!
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Posted on November 26th, 2020
Filed under: Music News — Karl Olson @ 8:17 pm
YouTube Preview from The Tsundoku Zone:
Yeah, one more Drum n’ Bass album to close out the decade. I have lots of stuff already brewing for 2021, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with y’all.
Speaking of things to share, I forgot to link a couple of albums, so:
Oh and speaking of things I forgot to link, here’s a preview for 2021:
PS: Code “friday” at ultraklystron.com gets you 95% off everything, including my complete discography until Feburary 1st, 2021.
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Posted on August 10th, 2020
Filed under: General,Music News — Karl Olson @ 6:47 am
Time for another reaction blog to a great YouTube video that muses justifiably on the difference between Anime Rap and Nerdcore as thematic approaches, and yet again, what started as a YouTube comment became a blog post.
After all, even in Nerdcore itself, there’s been a long-running debate between what’s “Book Report Rap,” where someone is writing in character or summarizing a story vs. nerdy/otaku-centric media and topics as a referential lens for rapping about personal experiences vs. perhaps still nerdy personal experiences (cons, coding, hacking, etc.) as the topic. It’s debated because those differences may determine what’s more explicitly commercial rather than being artistically minded first, or rather, what’s being made out of novelty versus what made out of authenticity (assuming such separation can ever be made.) I don’t think that debate has ever settled out.
Many successful nerd/otaku-adjacent artists, regardless of their self-applied label of choice, really work over a spectrum between the various extremes depending on the song or project. Where they usually land on average has less to do with their level of admiration of Rap as a creative artist as the video implies, (though yes, some folks are really just trying to pander to nerds first,) but more to do with their personal processes and experiences. I think anyone trying to make a polished, professional track probably loves rap in the same I’d a say a Backpacker and a Trap artist both love Rap, but they each express it very differently. Maybe the purely novelty artists are consistently identifiable, but they don’t seem more common under any given label.
Still, it’s understandable how tremendously unsatisfactory that vague conclusion is when artists are trying to brand and market their work, as unclear scene boundaries and labels can result in the dilution of search results and listener confusion. When listeners craving novelty and levity suddenly encounter something more challenging, they get very upset because as the video alludes to, they’re not always genre fans, they’re fans of some medium (anime, comics, video games, etc.) first. Conversely, when someone who likes the tone to be serious encounters the slightest novelty, it can then scan as cornball and can sour a scene name or brand or genre or whatever forever to them. This creates legitimate tension in both directions – no one wants their plans undermined by another artist’s vision or aesthetic.
Alas, even decades into this, I don’t have the answer for where novelty stops and authenticity begins, because it is so personal and variable. As I note in the header, I’ve got a newish LP out, based on an EP mixtape that was originally very anime-themed and even had samples from those works. In turning it into an album, I pulled out the samples and pulled in some remixes of songs that also thematically fit because they were also very anime-themed. Now, on one hand, it’s probably rather novel – there’s lots from the perspective of anime characters covering many of their respective series’ plot beats. On the other hand, my love of those anime and of Rap is very core to me. It’s nothing if not authentic, and it can’t be helped in the slightest. Further still, there’s an aspect of simultaneous, shared perspective in a lot of those songs too, making distinctions of novelty and authenticity that much murkier as it’s not a question of writing in character or as myself – it’s very intentionally as both because the experiences are that close, that relatable.
So, I guess can’t and won’t blame anyone for saying what I do doesn’t fit their vision for a given signifier regarding Nerdcore or Anime Rap or whatever. It’s only natural in the absence of strong sonic boundaries to look for thematic ones, but those by definition are going to be very personal. Still, I think all we can do is trust that when an artist applies a signifier on themselves, that they’re doing it from an authentic place, especially in heavily independent scenes and genres.
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Posted on July 23rd, 2020
Filed under: Music News — Karl Olson @ 2:34 am
An internet acquaintance of mine tweeted the following video with a quick nope, which I generally agreed on…
…however, after watching the video and finding the points and issues to be mostly agreeable and too familiar (probably because I’ve been doing this whole internet music hobby thing in various scenes and genres since the dial-up era,) I wrote a big effort post about what Anime Rap (and Nerdcore, and any other thematic content-based scene that’s not sonically distinct enough to be a sub-genre) is/isn’t relation to genres in the video’s comments, and after realizing that was a clean 700+ words, and knowing I don’t blog enough, I’ve done the ol’ copy/pasta with some polishing here, if I only because I bet in another ten years the same questions will arise again for who knows what future scene, and I want to just paste a link in future when that happens. Maybe for V-Tuber Rap or TikTokCore or whatever else the future holds:
tl;dr: I agree with the video generally, but I’ll talk more on it because I’m washed & old AF by rap standards, so I have seen some things including history repeating, and I want to see anime rap win.
I think there’s an important middle ground on what Anime Rap is that’s between “legit genre” and “something fun,” and that is that it’s a defined scene with specific thematic content, but sonically isn’t different than most Rap/HipHop. At least it doesn’t have to be any more different than is a fit a for a given artist. That aspect of Anime Rap is actually totally to it’s advantage. Even 90’s Gangsta Rap was more scene than distinct genre, if only because Puffy & Dre had some very divergent sonic choices, and both produced for more pop artists as well (suggesting theme rather than sound was the connective tissue, which suggests a musical scene.) However, since Anime Rap is more scene than genre, that means the limits on it are, as noted in the video, on the artists, and it’s not just on mainstream artists borrowing the aesthetic. There’s nothing keeping an Anime Rap song from being as catchy and popular as a mainstream rap song, but that’s much more about Anime Rap artists themselves networking outside of their scene while also building their scene, which was touched on in the video, but I want to stress it here.
That internal building is important because the more anime rappers network and build a central gravity, the easier it is to build the reputation of the Anime Rap scene outside of it. A strong internal scene lets folks bounce things off each other before release, helps recommend reliable producers, managers and promoters, gets videos made, gets local promo done faster and better, passes opportunities to each other when they aren’t an immediate fit for whoever was offered it initially, and helps big up the folks internally who are driven to succeed and put the best foot forward such that the folks who are still levelling up can hang back and get good while the banner is carried high by folks who can deliver. With that locked down, the easier is for Anime Rap talent to fill a bar, then a club, then a con, then a tour, etc. because the scene, the brand is strong, even if the “genre” and “sound” aren’t their own draw. That scene branding even makes it easier to sell merch online, at shows and in artist alleys. And to be fair, the video gets at that point with the music video thing, but it’s broader than just that; it’s just the visible example – one part of a whole of music as career rather than hobby that pays for itself.
That internal building is also crucial because yeah, big artists will bite at whatever aesthetic is hot from the top down, but they’ll rarely bring anyone up, sometimes especially because a scene can be seen as too niche, and they’re aiming broadly because A&Rs are on them to do so. It bites to see history repeat and to see today’s big artists pass over Anime Rap as they did when everyone started sampling 8-bit stuff in the mainstream during the mid/late-00s, half a decade or more after Nerdcore and Chiptunes folks were doing it from a more heartfelt place. However, rather than worrying about a lucky chance from above, build something so visible from below that ignoring it looks out of touch.
To be fair, I’m already seeing all that with today’s Anime Rap scene and it’s many sub-fragments. Y’all are working together in exactly the ways that turn “something fun” into an important, vibrant scene, sonic distinction worth a sub-genre or not. Lively, talented scenes like that draw in attention over time, and those bigger opportunities start to come along one by one. Now, that can take years to build, maybe more so when it’s not a full time job, but the transition can be gradual yet happen so long as that’s the goal of the artists in the scene. It doesn’t have to be a day job from the jump to be serious – it just has to be a goal on the vision board or whatever to be serious and something that you’re taking conscious steps towards.
Go forth and become legends. Don’t sweat the labels of genre or novelty. Real recognizes real and all that.
Comments Off on Genre vs. Scene vs. Hobby: Redux Final Z
Posted on July 3rd, 2020
Filed under: Music News — Karl Olson @ 6:38 am
Yes, another free Drum n’ Bass LP, Limited Edition Flavour. Now live on my bandcamp, which until July 5th has a 95% off everything code, “95off”.
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Posted on June 23rd, 2020
Filed under: Music News — Karl Olson @ 6:15 pm
And I will be wide releasing another Drum n’ Bass album, Limited Edition Flavor, at the start of July, so you can either pre-save it, or subscribe to my Bandcamp to get it right now. I also have some more Anime Rap/Otakucore Drill on deck, the first taste of which I’ve already released:
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Posted on April 22nd, 2020
Filed under: Music News — Karl Olson @ 2:14 pm
However, the notable thing I tried with this was specifically releasing each song as a single on all of the streaming and download services first before releasing the album to the general public (my Bandcamp subscribers received the whole project way early!) My guess was it’d be some kind of improvement over the traffic dropping a whole album normally does as it’s an excuse to push every song through the social media, Spotify Release Radar and so on. It’s the maximum possible free surface area for attention I figured.
The result? 14% more lifetime plays from the start for the release over Variable Undefined from last year, and that’s without any reviews to back it up. To be fair, the lack of YouTube and Google Play pushes for those single releases due to on-going, widespread issues between my distributor and those platforms might account for some of this. However, 14% is enough more plays that I doubt it was just that. I won’t say it’s for everyone, but I think for me, it’s the move going forward: all singles, then an album.
That said, that project is not the only new music I’ve had on the go recently. I dropped Query Timeout (another Drum n’ Bass LP and those by the way are sticking to album drops). I also quickly produced an EP for my buddy Steve from Death*Star based on ancient unreleased beats of mine I’d given him years ago and concepts he sourced in a contest. Lastly, I have an entry up for Mega64’s theme song contest for their temporary extra podcast, Mega64antine.
Comments Off on Serial Experimental Releases: My New LP & More
Posted on January 24th, 2020
Filed under: Music News — Karl Olson @ 10:44 pm
Nerdazine has also reviewed my latest Nerdcore album, and while they’re not saying it’s perfect, they also compared my work to a lot of great artists whose I enjoy, and so I’m feeling pretty good about it. Read it over yourself, and be sure to keep up with Nerdazine on Twitter too.
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Posted on January 21st, 2020
Filed under: Music News — Karl Olson @ 10:05 am
(Long time friend & some time collaborator) Steven Kelsey has started a YouTube channel and media critique blog centered around Nerd/fandom culture, specifically the oft under-served music segment of that culture, and it also thankfully eschews the grouchy, “internet shoutman”, hyper-parasocial aesthetic all too many independent critique outlets now employ in favor something more grounded and authentic.
To launch the album review portion of that project, he took on dissecting my latest album Variable Undefined. I think he did an excellent job of breaking down my record, taking time to ask me questions to clarify my intent without robbing every metaphor I bury on the record of it’s mystery. Yes, it helps that he was very receptive to my work here (something I’d imagine our friendship plays into as much as his willingness to listen to try new things,) but on the whole, I hope my listeners don’t just watch and read this review, but also subscribe to his channel. I can tell from how he talks about my record that he absolutely has the chops to critique any media work, and that he’s going to use that insight to really contribute to and grow the discourse around this scene in a way other blogs and channels have yet to fully capitalize on. I’m honored that I could be the first step down that path.
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Posted on December 15th, 2019
Filed under: Music News — Karl Olson @ 8:49 pm
My final album of the 2010s, Variable Undefined
Not coincidentally, I also just did an interview on MC Lars’ Podcast, which I’ve embedded below but which is also on all major services. I talk about my process, my feelings on being a hobbyist more than a professional regarding music, my reticence towards embracing the modern parasocial path towards a wider audience, on learning to be an art burner the hard way, a little about Nerdcore history, too much about anime and on my admiration for all the people who found a better lane to blend otaku culture and rap culture than I did. Please, take a moment to listen to it when you have a chance, and be sure to subscribe to MC Lars’ podcast and patreon:
PS: Here’s my final instrumental album of the 2010s, which I forgot to blog about the wide release of. It’s called Guttersnipe’s Grimoire and it’s pure Drum n’ Bass: