There is a light
In my previous edition, I told you about some recent greebling in support of the new Cotton Modules album.
Today, that album has arrived!
You can stream The Greatest Remaining Hits on Spotify and Apple Music. This is a sci-fi concept album, so it comes with a story: a tappable web presentation with sound and music.
The story begins like this:
The Deep Space Sloop John Bethel was leaving Earth because culture had stopped.
It was an age of paranoia and boredom.
Politics and entertainment ran in a dumb, dark loop —
the regurgitations of banal AIs that were, apparently, good enough.
The Bethel’s patrons believed there could be more. They were the last of the rock stars, disappointed by history, and before they died, they traded their music —
a vast tranche of intellectual property — for permission to exit the solar system.
What follows is a tale of interstellar survival. You’ll learn why this album exists … and who made it.
This is an archived edition of Robin’s newsletter. You can sign up to receive future editions using the form at the bottom of the page.
It’s a strange time to be making and sharing music —
So it has come to pass that, in 2023, as you are preparing to launch your sci-fi concept album, you cobble together a little DIY press list, and you write your email newsletter —
It’s a weird feeling!
As a gateway to listeners, old-fashioned radio stations were (and remain) totally daunting, and of course sometimes also corrupt … but are we really better off with two, maybe three, monstrous “radio stations” for the whole planet?
Well, it’s what we’ve got —
I will now humbly request your participation. Saving (or “hearting”) the album helps. Adding a track to a playlist, any playlist, helps. Listening helps, of course! Every little interaction sends a signal into the algorithms at the heart of Spotify and Apple Music. Maybe, if enough of those signals add up, the algorithms get the hint and put this music in front of more people. Then, a few of THEM save the album … and the flywheel begins to spin.
In platform-ized media, there’s not much of a middle ground. There is the calm obscurity of mere availability, and there is a seat on the algorithmic flywheel. The latter is difficult to secure, particularly if you are not willing to change the substance of your work to make it more “algorithm-friendly”.
Even in the instrumented 21st century, pop breakthroughs depend on luck —
As you’re listening (and saving, and sharing) here’s what you should know:
The lyrics are all mine. (Cosmic Hemophiliac is perhaps the song that’s most deeply-felt. It expresses something I’ve wanted to get down for a long time.)
The composition and production is all the work of my bandmate Jesse Solomon Clark. (If a song slaps: Jesse made it slap.)
The vocals are all generated by an AI model, which I coaxed and guided in its “performances”. (The model was trained on decades of recorded music —
a slow-simmered sonic reduction, now spooned with care.)
There are about a million things I want to say about this project, but I am not going to make the mistake of loading you down with an album, a story, AND an essay. I’ll write more soon. For now, it’s sufficient to note that, after working on this music for 18 months, we release it into a world suddenly electric with discussion of AI tools, newly flooded with voice-cloned pop simulacra. I’m very proud of the fact that The Greatest Remaining Hits is NOT that. Instead, Jesse and I made something original.
The album’s story continues:
The last of the rock stars recruited passengers: a thousand and one refugees of the heart.
Their destination would be Wilson 6b, a healthy and habitable planet that sparkled across the gulf of space.
The lure wasn’t money or opportunity or destiny. It was the thing that had broken the loop before, at its dumbest and darkest:
P.S. You’ll receive my next newsletter on June 4. It will be a return to form, packed full of links and recommendations. Can you believe my DISCIPLINE with this one? I didn’t know it was possible …