Artist Mat Jarvis in the studio. Yes, his gear collection is enviable – but more importantly, so, too, is his sound. Courtesy the artist.

Musical tastes are fickle and diverse – it’s actually the disagreement that makes musical freedom such fun. So I can only ever speak for myself. But ever pick up a compilation, hear a couple of previews, and think to yourself – yup, this one’s going to be on heavy rotation for the coming months.

In an outpouring of love for one of our neighbors, everyone seems to have some sort of benefit for Japan. But Mat Jarvis and Microscopics have put together something really special, a multi-faceted, multi-course feast of electronic sound. The favorites and exclusives on this compilation represent what I feel is some of the best-crafted production technique around. As they describe it, it’s “a supercooled album fractured with exclusives, classics and the new.” Curator Mat Jarvis (Microscopics) writes:

It’s quite a chilled electronic album with tracks and some exclusives from Roedelius ([collaborator of Brian] Eno, Cluster), Richard Barbieri (Japan, Porcupine Tree), Charles Webster (Furry Phreaks etc), Gas, High Skies, Woob and others;
There’s also a bonus DJ mix version, mixed by Charles Webster for anyone who donates above the average.

I also like their donation model. This isn’t Japan’s sorrow being used for promotion (heck, I’ll promote the music, as it gives me real pleasure). The album is simply a gesture that you get back in exchange for donation.

Donation links directly to the Red Cross – any Red Cross and Red Crescent organization. (So, I’ll give to the American Red Cross and choose “where the need is greatest” both for disaster relief in Japan and anywhere it needs to go.)

And this is an appropriate time, I think, to recall that disaster and humanitarian crisis faces other people on Earth all over the world, right now spanning from Japan to Libya. Need can arise literally down the street, or a place that’s completely foreign to your experience. People can find themselves in need in the “developed” world or in the resource-poorest corners of the globe. At least in the new musical community, we get to share work, limited only by our own languages and the (increasingly-expansive) reach of the Internet. Artists are uniquely able to reframe those connections, and help express in ways words can’t how we feel about our own humanity.

Just giving arbitrarily isn’t meaningful, but you can do your homework on an organization like the Red Cross and find that your donation really does go to places where it’s needed, with minimal administrative overhead. (This is, at least, my own opinion and based on volunteering with other NGOs.)

But since we’re musicians, I hope, too, that our musical expressions have some meaning independent of news headlines. I believe pretty strongly that they can be a place to go and reflect and share experience, now across those same geographies, and say something that the news alone can’t. On my darkest days, I find music I love can really make me feel hopeful. I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way, or you wouldn’t be here.

So, enjoy the work of:

January Tuesday
Richard Barbieri
High Skies
Charles Webster
Anne Garner
Richard Barbieri
High Skies

Richard Barbieri live, as captured by Tom Oldham. Photo courtesy Microscopics.

“Supercooled,” indeed – each track is chilled-out, but as dynamic and dense as dry ice.

Anyway, I’ll stop drooling over this particular album and give you time to listen to it. Anyone who claims we don’t have an abundance of great music at our fingertips, from a stunning variety of artists of different backgrounds, probably isn’t looking very hard.

  • hungrych


  • Johnny
  • Peter Kirn

    Thanks for the catch … updated right after posting. Mea culpa. Whoops.

  • Too bad they don't accept PayPal donations 🙁

  • rob

    One of the tracks is called "The Experience of Swimming".  Maybe not the best title for songs to benefit tsunami victims?

  • Ben Alex

    I would SO donate for this 'cept I'm a poor student who've already spent to much money as it before I heard about this. Sucks because I love everything I've heard from both Mircroscopics and Em:t. I Have the deepest respect for the initiative. 

  • keyser

    I would give all the money I can share, but I´m not willing to give every personal detail to any of those organisations.

    make it fast, make it paypal, do not punish people for helping.

  • the dude


  • Random Chance

    I agree that wading through a bunch of forms that want some your personal information is not the best way to generate money from donatinos by people like me whose incentive for giving is not tax breaks or building a reputation for being charitable with a British organization. It's a great idea, but the execution is flawed.

    Slightly more on topic (i.e. music): The picture makes me sad that Mackie does not produce the 32/8 anymore.

  • Personally I really love this japan relief effort&nbsp ;

    Amazing music too!

  • Peter Kirn

    Some of you may be seeing different forms depending on country. I sure didn't see much.

    Credit cards require addresses for verification. The reason PayPal doesn't is because they already have your personal information. Disclosing contact information to the Red Cross is hardly what I'd describe as invasive; virtually any credit card transaction for anything will involve the same thing, and identity theft is vastly more likely to occur at a point of sale (like a cafe). 

    If you have some objection to the Red Cross, let's hear it. Otherwise, it sounds like people are actively looking for things to complain about. (Okay… let me take my Captain Obvious hat off.)

  • Peter Kirn

    Also, when you use PayPal, the same information is disclosed. And certain records are necessary for a tax deduction. So, no, I don't get the complaints. 

  • maux

    useless charity done with clear promotional intent, surfing the tsunami wave…

    Red Cross already stolen most of the charity donations for Haiti and Indian Tsunami…
    if you like to get a different view about what the Red Cross really is (especially the rotten american and republican one) and what they do with the $$ they rise…you might want to read these articles :

    "THOUGH IT is technically a nonprofit, the Red Cross is run more like profit-hungry corporation than what most people think a "charity" would act like."

  • maux

    1) In 1989, the Red Cross raised $50 MILLION for the victims of the San Francisco earthquake. But it’s estimated that only $10 MILLION of it was turned over to the actual victims.

    2) After September 11th, the Red Cross raised $543 MILLION for the family members of people who died in the attacks. But they held back more than HALF of that money, which eventually led to the dismissal of their president.

    3) In 2004, the Red Cross raised $3.21 BILLION to aid the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami. But they’re still holding onto $500 MILLION of it.

    4) And in 2005, the Red Cross raised $1.1 BILLION to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina. But they kept $200 MILLION of it to, quote, “prepare for future disasters.”

  • Peter Kirn

    Yes — because the high visibility of these particular events means that the donations exceeded need. And that was precisely the point I was making. Too often, people in places with serious need *aren't* visible in the same way – which means that funds aren't available there. 

    Very often, what happens in the immediate aftermath of a disaster is you literally *can't* spend all the money you get efficiently in a short period of time.

    If the Red Cross were collecting money and you know, spending it on themselves, that would be one thing. Instead, it seems to me that they're responding to the need of specific locations and working to be efficient. This money *is accounted for* – it's not going into administrative costs. There really are shady, unscrupulous fake charities out there where people profit privately. This isn't one of them.

    Part of the reason we know where these funds go is that the Red Cross accounts for them.

    One thing you absolutely cannot do as an NGO, though, is dump money in places where people are saying no to it or where it's simply going to be wasted. That'd be irresponsible. And that's why my own donation went not specifically to Japan relief but to the discretionary fund. For instance, in Haiti there's still funding need – at a time when it's fallen off of everyone's radar.

    I'm impressed at the extent to which you're an expert in *someone else's intentions.* 
    i.e., "useless charity done with clear promotional intent"

    Most conversations I have with artists run something like this: wow, I read the news. This seems extraordinary. It makes me wonder about the relevance of what I'm doing as an artist. I wish I could do something – maybe this is a good thing to do.

    But please, far be it from me to get in the way of your ability to read someone else's mind and/or assume the worst of their intentions.

  • Peter Kirn

    Again, though, this is just one organization, and there are other choices. If you have a suggestion of where you suggest giving, let's hear it.

  • maux

    yes…I really think that all of this is shameless self promotion using other ppl disgrace.

    off course the musician involved…and yourself too (maybe)…might be not aware of it…but that's not an excuse.

    and don't try to cover Red Cross ass…

    they holding on 1 bilion dollars already collected for japan…help during a crisis is needed ON TIME:..not 6 month later…and in the meantime Red Cross cashes in on the interests,,,

    and without talking about the dirty biz they doing on blood banks…

    if you donate just to feel good with yourself…then go for the Red Cross…
    if you really want to help…you need to find other ways….not necesseraly bundled with pretty music.

  • Damon

    I'm rather certain people in need are less concerned one's motives for offering support. Yes, ideally, persons and artists would contribute out of the goodness of their hearts and minds, but we live in self centered times.

     I would suggest were you an artist struggling to entertain some sort of virtuous motive in your support Japan creative process, associate producing your best work with offering your best on behalf of Japan. This way you can zero out some of that awkward prostitute feeling.

  • Peter Kirn

    @maux: Offer an alternative, and I'll listen. Otherwise, it's just pure cynicism.

    While you were spending time ranting about this comment, apparently based on one-sided reports you've picked up on the Internet, the US Red Cross was on the ground in Texas, dealing with the aftermath of tornadoes:

    Any NGO – the Red Cross included – is fair game for discussion, for criticism, and for oversight and audit by third parties. But to suggest they're "cashing in" by spreading resources across different crises just doesn't hold water for me. The issue would be governance and transparency, and there organizations should be subject to criticism, internal and external.

    But honestly, if you're going to claim that the very act of giving to a charity, or using music as a way to raise money for charity, you're not going to have very many friends on your side.

  • Peter Kirn

    For all those interested, here's the US Red Cross disclosing governance. That includes US legal requirements for audited financial returns. A significant amount of information is in the open. If you don't like the Red Cross' policies, there are other organizations to which you can give.

    I would feel it'd be entirely irresponsible for me, even though this is well outside our primary sphere of interest, to endorse even indirectly an organization that wasn't behaving properly. But there are other options.

    For instance, even organizations (like the American Institute of Philanthrophy) that have criticized aspects of the American Red Cross have given positive ratings to:

    These organizations have narrower charters and may appeal to those who find elements of the Red Cross lacking in transparency, neutrality, and cooperative governance.

    Despite the above reports, though, even some of those critics (like the American Institute of Philanthropy) don't necessarily endorse the idea of avoiding donations to the Red Cross – let alone to *any charity whatsoever*. (One irony: Senate Republicans criticized the US Red Cross' extension of humanitarian work to parties they didn't like, as violation of "neutrality." At the same time, the Socialist article above complains about the presence of a GOP giver on the ARC board, even though it's very typical for boards of NGOs to assemble people from different political backgrounds. Neutrality is in the eye of the beholder. But yes, if you like, you can find organizations with different governance structures.)

    Yes, of course, you can be suspicious of motives for producing a benefit compilation. You can also be suspicious of the motives of any musician doing anything – and promptly lead a very unhappy life. It's your prerogative, but I'd hope in some cases you'd give people the benefit (ahem) of the doubt.

  • DJ So-and-So

    Friends in Japan have made it clear to me that Red Cross donations are among the few that are actually getting to where they need to go. I'll take their word over that of any neo-Pravda publication any day.

    Subverting a worthy agent (Red Cross) in a time of need is as bad to me as those who would willingly profit from others suffering in a time of need.

    Think for yourself and question all popular activist trends at least as critically as you would question any other authority.

  • Keith Kenniff (of helios, goldmund) is putting together comp for japan as well.

    Sounds like it will be excellent (in addition to helios and goldmund, it seems to also feature ryuichi sakamoto?):

  • Daniel

    However obnoxiously phrased, I think maux raises legitimate concerns, ones that would ideally be addressed when such urgent help isn't needed. 

    But, it seems that the majority of the critiques are leveled against the American Red Cross, which is only the national affiliate of the much larger International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Perhaps this is why the download site stipulates that donations to *any* red cross are sufficient.

    So, want to make sure your money gets to Japan? Donate directly to the Japanese Red Cross Society, using an English form in USD, Euro or Francs:
    You won't get a tax write-off, but you'll get to be snarky towards cynics.

  • maux

    cynicism is a very healthy habit in this days of awesome hypocrisy :).
    Damon said it IMO.
    Devolve the income of your best selling product already on the market without branding it as a charity.
    Plenty of alternatives to Red Cross (very lame choice IMO)…Doctors Without Borders is one…google can help you to find more. 😉
    I might be obnoxious….but all this Japanese flags and charity efforts are for sure more obnoxious than me.
    good intentions are not enough.

  • maux

    for the record…there is a difference between being cynical and being skeptic (google it)….you missed it.
    anyway my obnoxious comment challenge you enough to type quite alot again…so there was some beef under the smoke.

    I gave you alternatives…and I documented my skepticism.

    if mine is cynicism..yours is propaganda. ; )