Barcelona-based, Los Angeles-edited PublicSpacesLab is an example of what a netlabel can be. Instead of just another dumping ground for sounds, it feels like a well-curated cafe, pairing regular but thoughtful releases with reflections on music making. Everything is Creative Commons-licensed, free music, from a variety of artists spanning geographies and genres.

If you’re in the mood for reading, recent thought pieces from the editor cover a range of topics:
Expansion, the lesser known dynamics tool (Amen, brother)
The demise of an indie radio station in LA (with some harsh words for the town – sorry, Los Angeles)

For listening, there’s a bit of something for everyone there in their near-20 releases, including ambient soundscapes and a crackling compilation that sounds like your radio waves have achieved sentience and begun singing maths. Ambient and noise are typically the order of the day. But the latest and apparently most popular of their releases is decidedly at the warmer end of the spectrum.

Paul Croker’s medium is sampled vinyl, but to me it’s just as interesting that some of the perceived organic, warm and fuzzy quality comes from the low-fidelity digital samples, too. Paul’s apparent workflow: sample vinyl to MPC, use the MPC for the “vibe,” arrange on DAW (apparently Ableton). The specifics are less important to me, however: it’s the combined crunch of the turntable with the digital sample that works here, true to the traditions of hip hop.

The Creative Commons license covering Paul’s two releases for PublicSpacesLab is sadly problematic. Because of the current interpretation of US Copyright Law, the fact that the samples themselves aren’t cleared means you probably aren’t free to do what you like with this. You are free to listen, however – and, as I said, if this isn’t your cup of tea PSL has plenty else to explore.

PublicSpacesLab official site

PublicSpacesLab @ Soundcloud (with links to other free music groups)

[PS019] Dustmotes | The Containment Sessions by PublicSpacesLab

And because the release was disseminated via Twitter, Twitter becomes a forum for feedback. (Oddly, Twitter commenters are often more positive and enthusiastic than the troll-leaning web commenters, I find – perhaps because they reserve their time for the stuff they like.) Thus, Kieron James replies via Twitter:

“Primitive, raw and beautifully crafted. A collage – components collected and mounted with complete respect for their musical heritage on a cave wall (solid, dependable rhythms chipped, cracked and twisted into something new). More pretentious feedback you won’t have read for some time, but I want to convey something of what your music speaks (to me)!”

Bonus listening – here’s Paul’s earlier release for PSL:

PS012 – dustmotes – Beats for the Subverted by PublicSpacesLab

So, folks, what are your favorite netlabel resources? Who do you most closely follow on a service like SoundCloud?

  • ElQuinto

    Dope album. Great find.

  • http://thezargon.org Fernando Fonseca

    Hello Peter,

    Thank you so much for this review. In name of everyone that works at the Lab, we thank you.

    Cheers,

    Fernando

  • http://lab.pubspaces.com Paul Croker (dustmot

    Peter,

    Really excellent review, thank you so much. Your description and comments exactly mirror what I was hoping to achieve with this work, so I can consider it a success now!

    Thank you so much and keep up the excellent work :)

    All the best

    Paul Croker / dustmotes

  • http://http:://www.malaventura.net malaventura

    It's great to see these guys here! Fonseca, dustmotes and all the PublicSpacesLab people, keep the good work!

  • http://www.6ft5.org 6ft5

    Great review. The benefits from being such a seemingly great collective of people is the outcome. Great music!

  • http://grantbeehler.net/GrantBeehlerBlog/ Grant Beehler

    Reminds me a lot of RJD2 and I really like RJD2, so awesome job!

  • aaron

    Peter.. you're about the get a glimpse of why netlabel ideals and their format has been choked to death.

    While there have been many serious netlabels with very high quality output (most of which eventually shut their doors :( ).. theres also the 5 million shitty dumping-grounds as you've put it.

    What kills the voice of quality? Spam. For showing some support for a netlabel you deemed fit, you're about to get 90234823904823 emails from the worthless downtroden that ruin free music. It's not their fault though, how can they know better… just the reality of the situation.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Aaron: I don't follow. You mean that they'll spam my email inbox?

    That's okay; it's my job to separate signal from noise to whatever extent I can.

  • http://zeroreference.blogspot.com zero ref

    @aaron

    I think you have an interesting point. It seems like a good, reliable filter, i.e. a voice one trusts to provide interesting music, has yet to be found in this new music business environment.

    For that matter, the model for such a filter (magazine?website?etc) seems to be missing to. DJ's are the closest thing, as the ones who are really into their curatorial role are up on what is going on in a mix of fields and will slip it in to their work.

  • edison

    this was dope!

    loving the beats…

  • http://thezargon.org Fernando Fonseca

    @aaron It is true that there is a lot of dumping in the netlabel scene but I don't think that it is a bad thing. It allows listeners to follow closely those netlabels that do have a concept and actually put hard work into their releases.

    Social media networks like twitter are more and more allowing for people that are following the scene closely to become authorized sources of information. There are many already by Thomas Raukamp (@thomasraukamp) ex editor in chief of Beat Magazine Germany is someone to follow closely if you want to find real ccmusic gems.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    There's long been a lot of dumping in the record recording scene. (Check out the peak of vinyl, then the peak of the CD… ever been through a used record bin of "discards"?)

  • http://johnlinke.com continuous

    Really enjoying this… Thanx!

    p.s. CDM has really become a part of my day to day… keep it up!

  • Auditory Canvas

    Very much enjoying these tracks.

    Have gotten to know Paul slightly via twitter over the last year, and it's great to see his music getting discovered and receiving the attention it deserves. His attitude and persona is as cool as his tracks, which makes them that even more enjoyable.

  • Wanderer

    Wow… Bringing me right out of my inspiration-less winter. It's so sparse, but it fits together so well and anymore would just be too much. Such a nice break from the overproduced music I've found myself listening to over the past couple years. :)

  • aaron

    I'm glad no one took my post as a slam (going back and reading it, it could have been taken harshly).. because I'm an avid supporter of netlabels. There are some good voices out there for filtering things out and the like, but the sheer mass is really hard to overcome. Ive basically gravitated around the same 5 or 6 labels now instead of checking everything out. With commercial media, people naturally get more possesive and the popularity of a product speaks through that.

  • aaron

    Peter: what I meant was that from time to time a decent site, magazine, whatever.. will occassionally throw out a review or article about specific netlabels/artists. Pretty soon after they become innundated with mass requests for the same from XXX person(s). That factor also hurts the reputation as a whole as some reviewers just give it up or get overwhelmed.

  • http://www.eatyone.com EATYone

    as a Pete Rock lover, i say thnx to Peter for pointing us on thoses excellents tracks!

  • http://www.partidoalto.net Pedro Oliveira

    I knew Fernando by accident but it was a lucky shot, after all. His work with his fellas in this netlabel is just inspiring. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.exodub.com/ Kyran

    Yet another great musical find through CDM :D

  • http://rekkerd.org/ ronnie

    Great album, deserves the attention. I hope you'll be able to highlight some more worthwhile releases in the future, Peter.

  • http://www.quikphix.org xonox

    @aaron (and everyone else for that matter)

    As the founder of a small netlabel and a fan of netlabels, i can say i almost agree with you.

    I am not knowledgeable about what happens with other netlabels. Yet some lesser known netlabels have provided me with great music.

    I don't think it's different than record companies, the crap/quality ratio seems the same to me. And nobody likes the same music, so something i hate can be someone else's favorite…

    So many times i've heard music that was commercially released and wondered what happened… Kick drum and 2 note pattern with no variations over 7 minutes ? I wish i could sell that :P

    One of the best things about netlabels is that music is free. We all like free things. But what's important to me is that since i didn't pay for it, i don't force myself to listen to it. I've bought a few albums i thought i'd like and it took time to like them. I wanted to like them 'cause i spent money for them and had nothing else to listen to

    I don't know to which extent the eerik inpuj sound netlabel is known but they put out music i really enjoy. I always felt they were quite small and a bit unknown.

    Okay, enough rambling. Maybe i'm just weird. It's not even 7am and i'm here punching buttons on this little machine with a display to interact with people i don't even know…

    Okay, i'm weird.

  • http://dkstr.bandcamp.com dkstr

    (I thought I posted this already but maybe something happened)

    Really good, though I would like to hear more layers from time to time. I like the worn out sound on this! It's really nice to hear something like this since I made somewhat similar album earlier this year with primarly samples from 1920's-30's recordings and my toy keyboards. If somebody wants to check it out it's on my bandcamp site.

  • Vehical Driver

    I would be more interested in articles like this, links to other quality netlables, etc…

  • http://blocsonic.com Michael Gregoire

    Terrific review, Peter. I hadn’t come across your blog up until now, but I'll be adding it to my regular stops.

    I've been privy to the impressive work that PublicSpacesLab and Paul Croker have been doing for some time now. PSL have become a regular stop of mine to find quality netaudio.

    Peter, you’re right about the idea that netlabels can sometimes be a "dumping ground". I do an extensive amount of listening to netaudio when developing blocSonic's netBloc releases and at times it can get to be a bore and rather monotonous which, at times, makes me wonder why I bother. Then suddenly, I hear a gem, like dustmotes' "The Containment Sessions" and it makes it all more than worthwhile. It’s finding gems like it that makes me do what I do in order to share them with others who are also open to fresh, new sounds.

    The world of netlabels and netaudio is evolving and it seems to me that the quality is generally on the way up. Another thing I see happening is that more netlabels are taking their identity, presentation and catalog more seriously. A dose of professionalism is seeping in.

  • anyways

    nothing against the producer.

    but these tracks are tired, and there are literally hundreds of albums that do this sound better. tracks seem to be a little light…beat,sample, some kind of atmosphere or melody.

    not to say i wouldn't play a few of them i might, they sound like they would work better in a mix than by themselves.

    not to be an armchair qb, i couldn't do any better myself. but as a snob of this "style" of music i do not think it is special or differentiates itself from the loads and loads of other people making similar music.

    besides that props to the producer, maybe he didn't want to differentiate himself and wanted to pay homage to some of the producers of the past that he enjoys or had enjoyed.

    you obviously have some skills, but this style of music is diluted.

  • http://fallsastar.com Foosnark

    Not really my cup of chai, but I did find some other things I liked while poking around the netlabel. Really like adamned.age!

  • http://turntablepoetry.com/blog dj professor ben

    Anyone bitching about LA radio isn't really listening. Public radio is still where it's at, anyway, and they're still making it happen despite the economy. The loss of indie 103.1 is sad to be sure, and there were some great shows on there, but Henry Rollins got scooped up by KCRW which is a fantastic station despite it having an annoying dominance over LA musical culture. And we've got KXLU which is eclectic ALL DAY LONG. KPFK is a great alternative news station with some excellent music shows at night. What happened to 103.1 (and don't forget it used to be groove radio back in the day) is a sad result of the trend in radio across the country, not just LA; LA is a lot better off than most U.S. cities I've listened to the radio in. And as everywhere, the truly innovative stuff is going online.

  • aaron

    @Michael/xonox

    Just so im not taken incorrectly & for the record, I run the currently defunct netlabel One (and are good friends with the guys from thinner, montonik, inpuj, kahvi, etc). We strived from day one to strictly release what we saw as high quality music and acompanying artwork/projects with a strictly slow release schedule (that way you can be extremely picky and the releases get time to be exposed by not immediately moving on to the next thing). You can't always bat 100 but I think we did a pretty good job. I'll love forever the releases from Loscil, Badloop, Plosive, IUA, Proswell, Emil Klotzsch, If:Then:Goto, Khonnor, Ronny Pries, etc. Maybe one day after really thinking things through we can get our shit together again.

    There is always room for quality netlabels and I wish some form of recognition or success to those that are truly hard at it. It's my opinion that its an honorable thing that strong netlabels do and many bridge the gap between commerical and noncommercial in fascinating ways.

    I dont think anything has evolved though, I just think the noise floor has risen w. the countless # of new "netlabels" everyday while the numbers of truly well ran and quality netlabels have diminished. The golden age to me was 1998-2004, before the #'s became so imposing.

    Matter of fact, I keep waiting for that evolution and I tend to think it has more to do with those that are turning to profit and online stores, because there is more at stake.

    I dont and have never thought that there is no difference between a record label and a netlabel in GENERAL. There IS. $$ and investment = risk. While there are a ton of crap record labels and a ton of crap releases on labels everywhere, those records that rise to recognition do so because they earned their worth. On the flipside, I know there are netlabels worth twice the salt of commerical ones but we're talkin slim pickins here.

    There's a quote by Jon Wozencroft (touch records) that I always found alot of value in (and is hidden deep on our old site as a motto) : "…we depend more or less on a long-developed support system with the artists with whom we work and the key people who act as our antennae. It’s all based around collaborations. We publish music and artworks in small editions just as a printmaker or photographer might make an edition of their work to sell in a gallery. Except we have to put up with the vagaries of the distribution system open to us, and its perception of where we should 'fit' – or not."

    To the future! ;]

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Hi Aaron, good points. Since you didn't leave an email, I'd love to hear more — and anything you feel *does* rise above that noise floor, of course, do share. The golden age may arguably be over, but people are still making music.

  • http://lab.pubspaces.com/ Fernando Fonseca

    Wow! This is turning into a really amazing discussion.

    First of all thank you for the comments on our work at the Lab. We take every release as a product and try and to put all the care in the world in the way it is presented and promoted.

    Unlike Aaron I see no difference between a record label and a netlabel. The Lab is a part of our business model, a cost center to where resources are allocated on a monthly basis, and those that work at our company see it as a "pet project" that requires the same attention as other "pet projects" we have running.

    We want the artists to be recognized and the feedback that those artists get, either it is via a comment on the release post or (more and more) via Twitter or Facebook is to us important because it empowers the artist. We are nothing but a vessel, the channel to put in contact artists that we believe in and a wider audience that they would not be able to reach on their own.

    In general I think that what we are witnessing is no different from the natural evolution of other kinds of product areas: first the pioneers or early adopters, then everyone jumping in on it thus rising the noise floor and actually ending the life cycle of the early adopters followed by a group that knows that to be above the noise floor they have to provide an added value in order to capture the interest of artists and listeners.

    Anyone that has been on twitter for the last year has seen the rise and fall of at least 30 netlabels. Those are part of the noise since those were projects that wanted immediate satisfaction, immediate feedback and thought they would have thousands of downloads on their first 3 releases or such. Those are the ones running the marathon like they were running 100m hurdles. Those that are running a netlabel for the joy of doing it, because they want to give something back to the community and they have fun (yes fun!) in discovering new talents.

    At PublicSpaces Lab we have fun in what we do and we feel privileged to be able to release such an amazing group of artists that trust us with their talent. And that, to us, is payment enough.

  • http://www.applejux.org applejux

    enjoying both the discussion and the music. looks like every now and then the quality/quantity issue is reproduced somewhere online. ;)

    [quote=xonox] Okay, i’m weird.

  • http://www.quikphix.org xonox

    @aaron : i know your netlabel. I got a few releases of it some years ago. Stuff i still remember today. Great music was out on your netlabel.

    Thank you.

    This being said, i think we can never have too many netlabels. I have several friends who make music and never release anything anywhere. It's not music that fits with my netlabel so i wish they'd start their own.

    A netlabel to me, is a way to express yourself. Going against what some think, i suggest that anyone feeling like starting a netlabel does it.

    20 years ago, few could share their music like this. Now is the time to do it.

    I got nothing against commercial labels too. A lot of greatness came out on commercial labels. But that's something i'm saving for another post (or not?)

  • http://humanworkshop.com Durk

    The word netlabel does not mean much to me anymore. I used to run a netlabel called Fant00m. Eventually it was merged with Humanworkshop. (www.humanworkshop.com)

    We release CD's AND free albums. We even feature a blog, a studio and sound design services.

    To me a (net)label is just a platform to release music. I wont get rich from Cd sales so i don't count on making money from CD or digi sales.

    However some acts still like CD's, and some media will only review CD's. So if your aiming for certain acts or coverage from certain media, you'll need a physical release.

    But if you release music because you love the product more than the money who cares about a review by Xlr8r.

    If you are talented, you can make money with music, just not with CD's. So, thats why the word netlabel has little meaning to me these days…

  • http://soundthefreetrumpet.typepad.com/ Catching The Waves

    Honestly, I send my site to sleep for a month and Paul slips out a PSL release when I'm not looking. Fernando, you are a revolutionary reprobate recidivist. ;)

    I reviewed Dustmotes' first release a few months ago and now I'm itching to hear The Containment Sessions. Netlabels and netmusic portals (and the odd blog devoted to the latest in music technology) are fertile hunting grounds for new music. This is one aspect of the future that please me greatly, and you are all under orders to keep up the good work.

    Message ends.

    And I didn't even mention my crappy CC music blog…

  • Toranaga

    Super-fantastik.

    I listened to this three times today. I still feel i could give more listens.

    Thanks for the heads up.

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