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Physical Media Done Right: Freeform Human’s Arnika Project

Blog | May 20, 2009 | Updated: June 27, 2012 | Posted by Basilisk

freeform-human

Gi’iwa Productions has the right idea with the release of Freeform Human’s debut, Arnika. Most psytrance albums are just a collection of tracks–DJ fodder, in essence. Not this release. The team behind Arnika have taken this “psychofunkadelic” production to the next level. Other labels and artists should pay attention: if you want to actually sell physical media in an underground niche market, well… this is how it is done.

First: the raw facts of the release. Freeform Human is a collaboration between two Australians, one half of Hired Goonz (already known from a smattering of compilation appearances) and Hueman, a visual artist and VJ. Together they have composed a seamless 60 minute voyage into genre-bending psytrance with “elements of electro, breaks, chill, hip-hop, disco and full throttle metal.” Want a taste? Check out the MP3 mega-mix available from the group’s web site or click below to stream it now (Flash required):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

In addition to its healthy disregard for stylistic conventions, Arnika is composed almost entirely with analogue gear: a Minimoog, Sherman Filterbank, a “shit old microphone,” and not much else. In a marketplace saturated with pristine digital productions the raw organic sound of this low-tech album is particularly ear-catching.

Freeform Human also cover the charity angle: 10% of the net proceeds from the project will be donated to the protection of Tasmania’s old growth forests via Still Wild Still Threatened and The Wilderness Society. Smart move; this is sure to appeal to the album’s core demographic. Since I expect this release will sell out this also means that a nice chunk of change will be put toward saving the trees.

All of the above would be enough to give Arnika an edge in the dwindling physical media marketplace but there is more. From the band’s web site:

Each album cover is one-of-a-kind hand painted and hand crafted from 100% post-consumer recycled cardboard. The album cover is UV reactive and has been limited to 999 editions.

Very smart. And it is smarter still that the manufacturing process was documented. Here are a few shots of the album artwork in progress:

freeform-human-hands

freeform-human-stack

freeform-human-paint

freeform-human-glue

Doesn’t that make you want to own one? Anyone merely downloading this release is missing out on the experience of the release. My only criticisms: the band’s web site is a bit weak (very “web 1.0”) and it would be nice to see the DJ-friendly digital version available at more than one outlet. These issues are not huge, however. The sheer strength of the concept and presentation should be enough for this album to succeed.

The take-home message for labels and artists is simple: find a way to make your releases special. The market for mass produced copies is shrinking fast but here is still some hope for individualized releases like Arnika, where every “copy” is actually unique in some way. Music fans place high value on experiential qualities; they want to be involved in the narrative unfolding around the music. Freeform Human’s Arnika project demonstrates one way in which physical media can be infused with elements of the experiential.

The Arnika CD is available for purchase from the Freeform Human web site or Saikosounds. DJ-friendly versions of several tracks can be purchased from Mindawn in MP3 or FLAC format. Finally, Damion (of Psyreviews fame) has conducted an interview with Freeform Human for Chaishop.

Update: Psyreviews approves.


5 Comments

  • Ashwin says:

    this is a lovely initiative…..those images tell a story ..something that we all can follow..it makes sense, its fun and its unique.
    Good work and best of luck to all those involved : ) !!!!!

  • Kris Andersen says:

    I have to say even though it’s a nice comcept I seriously doubt recording with analogue gear, making alternative covers, experimenting with various electronic genres and donating 10% (Done it myself and people could care less) will result in better sales than any other release. Let’s face it. Sales are stone cold dead and will remain dead. It’s an new Era. Embrace the digital world and seek new ways!

  • Jared Malcolmson says:

    I actually ended up buying the disc due to this article bringing it to my attention. And am now patiently waiting for John to make it to Canada. It may be a digital era, but I love having the physical media, even if I only ever see it once before it becomes flac.

  • Joel Raiti says:

    For me making music isnt about sales, playing it live however is different :) i for one would like to own a copy!