An Informal Introduction

An environment is always expressed personally: only the degree of personality varies.

Hello Readers,

I wanted to give you a slightly more intimate glimpse at what gave rise to this blog/webzine, and though it’s only been a little over two weeks since its initial launch, I also want to talk a little about the ideas I have for its future. And I think to begin to communicate either of those points, I must first provide a short self-introduction.

            Hi, I’m Isak. I’m a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, a small liberal arts school in Bronxville, NY. In my time there I studied Comparative Literature, and I feel that my eventual vocation will probably have something to do with that or my specific literature of choice, Japanese. I am currently living in Japan and trying to improve my Japanese language ability to better prepare myself for graduate school and give myself direct exposure to the culture I studied so thoroughly in college. But while I feel literature and Japanese will be parts of my primary professional calling, I also am a dilettante within the world of experimental music. I’ve released albums of various genres under various noms de plume since I was 13 years old, although I am currently officially on hiatus (though that’s not entirely true…).

            And when it comes to the music I listen to, my greatest loves have to be British electronic music (think Warp, Planet μ, Ninja Tune, etc.), Midwest Emo (not limited to the American Football strain—think Joan of Arc, The Appleseed Cast, etc.), and ambient music. I think of ambient and drone as incredibly expressive and personal genres, quite the opposite of what Eno conceived of in the ‘70s—music as a fragrance or wallpaper and whatnot. To me, the musical personality you might find in a Plaid song or an Appleseed Cast song can be expressed just as well—albeit more subtly—in sparse drone. That’s just my opinion, but I share it because that’s the perspective that underlies this whole website.

            Now since about 2016 I’ve become more and more interested in the small online communities associated with all of these genres, and I’ve found that in fact the “underground” ambient/drone community has quite a following. And as I say in the more formal Statement of Purpose, I think this community might be legitimized by some amount of critical discourse and theoretical discussion. I think that’s important for us as both engaged listeners and avid supporters of independent music. But beyond these previously stated reasons, I would also like to practice writing something serious in English during my time in Japan. Here, most of my friends are Japanese or otherwise non-native English speakers, so I think it’s important that I maintain my English writing skills to some extent. To that end, I will personally try to post at least one article a week. Other than that, I think maintaining this website may help me keep in touch with the other global communities in which I participate. So I will say, I did have some selfish goals in mind when making this.

            That said, I really don’t intend to make money from this site. None of my reviews are advertisements, and I write them honestly. Moreover I don’t currently intend to monetize the site with ads or some kind of stupid shop. I also honestly don’t expect enough traffic to make that a viable option. However, I do think I have some obligation to appeal to an audience and gain traffic. I want people to read these reviews and find new artists that they would otherwise not listen to. And generally, I want these to be small independent artists who sell under 100 physical copies of their albums. To that end, soon I will begin writing about some bigger artists simply for the sake of drawing more readers to the website—as this will hopefully ultimately benefit smaller artists. On top of that I’d like to try to engage readers more, so I will sometimes conduct polls to decide what I will write about and other times try to elicit recommendations. And of course, as I have said before, I readily welcome more writers who agree with the intentions expressed here and in my Statement of Purpose.

            Those are my current thoughts on “A Voice for the Background” in its present form. I may post this kind of breaking-the-fourth-wall informal article in the future as well, but for now this is all I need to say.

By Isak McCune

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