Calling Alaska in Winter, the musical project fronted by Brandon Bethancourt, elusive would be selling it short. I probably found “Berlin” when it bubbled to the top of early Hype Machine for a day. And though Bethancourt’s debut album, “Dance Party in the Balkans,” is a brilliant mélange of pop sensibility, anguish and bloggy-electo, the band seemingly dropped off the earth after 2008.
They didn’t, not really. Aside from a dissipated sophomore effort that same year, the rest of their releases have been either extremely limited issue or sold only in nu-vintage format ie. micro-cassette. I guess theirs an argument to be made that releasing your music in such an inaccessible format maintains a level of credibility and alliance to your true fans…oh wait, no there isn’t.
Music press has a strange obsession with forgotten acts or rare recordings. I get it, especially in the case of total unknown geniuses who recorded in third world countries decades ago. The rock music of pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, for instance, or the genius William Onyeabor, who was recording funk fusion in the vein Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem circa 1970s Nigeria. In other cases, (I’m thinking of Pitchfork’s recent love affair with Lewis) the narrative centers entirely on the fact that “you haven’t heard of this guy” rather than “this music will change your life.”
You’d hope that the press would take their (our?) soapbox seriously. I’d guess that any of you who’ve read this far are actually interested in what writers have to say about music, and that you can see through bullshit. Have I written some bullshit posts? Sure, and I honestly regret that. But when you’re writing for Pitchfork, you just can’t. I get that the corporations need their clicks and shares, and that writers need to pay the bills, but journalistic integrity does still mean something to many who ply the trade. If I were paid for these posts, there would be no bullshit, ever.
But artists don’t share that responsibility. Though there is no argument I can make in favor of restrictive releases, I say do art your way. If Alaska in Winter doesn’t want me to hear their music, so be it. At least I’ve got Berlin and the entire first album (which you should really listen to, it’s great autumn/winter music). And now you do too.