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Maxine Funke - Felt

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Artist: Maxine Funke

Album: Felt

Label: Epic Sweep

Review date: Nov. 1, 2012

  • Listen to the entire album at Maxine Funke’s Bandcamp page
  • If you were an independent musician in the 1990s, you might press 2,000 vinyl copies of a record. There was always the possibility that 1,500 of those were going to become part of your interior decoration scheme, but you did it because it didn’t make sense to press less, cost-wise. There was a market expectation to meet in order to get distributors to take a chance, and going too low meant you might not get the attention or exposure you would need. Then Napster happened, followed by MySpace, Bandcamp and SoundCloud, and it became clear that pressing plants could turn a buck by following the longtail.

    Vinyl has survived in the file-sharing age due to (among other things) a new understanding of the vendor/artist relationship. The average pressing size quickly shrunk, first to 1,000 copies, then to 500, then to 300, which made sense; the instant access of free streaming audio and the world falling into the shitter means only diehards have an interest in collecting.

    Can 100 copies be the new 300? Some of the best records I’ve heard this year — Uranium Orchard’s flailing foray into a prog-punk narrative threading together alternative music from like 1993 onward; David Novick’s piney self-titled album of folk-psych and pre-Jr Dinosaur folk-rock; Felt, the second album by New Zealand’s Maxine Funke — were all pressed in vinyl editions of 100. When you have that few copies of your record to release to the world, you can be sure that only those paying attention will understand. You could distribute all of those copies locally, or even control who gets to own it. The motives for success in any conventional manner are almost completely meaningless at this level. In the case of all three artists, they could each certainly generate interest outside of a hundred people. So these records stand as evidence of something that was done, not something to do. They were made for personal reasons, and exist in an amount that I’d refer to as “intimate.”

    The way Ms. Funke presents herself on Felt speaks to that sort of intimacy; she’s right there in the room with you, nothing but her voice and guitar rolling along ever so gently. To those who’d heard the teenage vocalist of The Snares break out on her 2008 CD-R Lace, you knew that you’d discovered one of the finest singer-songwriter efforts of the last decade. That work seemed to take the haunted/shackled nymph demeanor of Grouper and return such fantastical sentiments back to a nearby bookshelf, where they could loom ominously against a rough yet flawless collection of raw, original songs. Felt, her second album, jettisons the wax cylinder production, and instead sets her up where some of the best records from her country were made: alone, in front of a 4-track, with the sounds of a home settling gently around her. Felt drops what little pretense the debut had and dives into an 18-song set of austere, revelatory folk music, gently sung and played with focus and determination on guitar with some piano, drumming and minimal adornment otherwise. This is one of those records you’ll have a hard time shaking; the lyrics focus on freedom, the time we spend mulling over relationships, and the spaces in between. It plays like something that fell out of the Galactic Ramble, the whole understated feel of the session, and the warmth that Ms. Funke brings to these songs pushing this in the sphere of timelessness (both the music of Tony, Caro and John as well as Mark Fry’s legendary Dreaming With Alice come to mind as valid comparisons in terms of content and approach).

    At this stage, however, only 100 will hear it outside of a Bandcamp page. I’m not sure that someone half a world away who’s keeping a profile this low really wants to be disturbed, but those of you with deeper pockets than mine should certainly try to knock on that door and bring all of her work to at least a few more people.

    By Doug Mosurock

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