For $1, you can help start a new record label.
This is Eklektic Gardens (ChipIn site with explanation, Tumblr with music and video), a project of electronic and spoken-word musician Conscious Walker (Twitter, blog, Soundcloud). $1 is the price of a lottery ticket, and I figure the odds of a serious indie musician with a network of fellow musicians being able to do something interesting are better than the odds of my winning Powerball.
An auspicious dish for launching a new business venture is Hoppin’ John, which is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day to bring a prosperous year filled with luck. Since one of Conscious’s projects is Leave the Animals Alone (site with music links, Tumblr with animal content), it seems safest to make a vegan version of Hoppin’ John, and it seems appropriate to give it a contemporary twist or two. There will also be a sweet corn pudding.
Start as many servings as you like of dark rice according to the package instructions (I’m still working the Black Japonica) and let’s start with musing a bit on labels and checking out music samples from Conscious Walker and some of his friends.
Choosing a track turned out to be difficult: I’d let the whole set of Soundcloud set run last night and loved it, both the pithiness and variety. Then a whole bunch more tracks were uploaded last night. So “We Sort Glass” is one of the new ones. The extremely dark, literally “underground” sound of the beat and the “we sort glass” repeated vocal (which is really a vocal used as a percussion element) sucked me in. So did the interlocking metaphors between glass-that-cuts and glass-that’s-seen-through, and its thoughts on the role of music. Also, it features Sum, who’ll show up again. (But go visit more of the Soundcloud, as the Otis Redding-influenced next track has to be heard. )
So why a label in this era of self-distribution on the interwebs? What the every-indie-for-himself model misses is that this form of “empowerment” has a strong element of disempowerment: no collective bargaining leverage, no economies of scale, no organized help with ancillary tasks like promotion, no cross-marketing with like-minded and compatible-sounding souls (other than those dished up by iTunes or Last.fm’s algorithms).
Labels develop inhuman priorities when they get past human scale (especially when they take on massive debt). But little labels are cute and cuddly.
Also cute and cuddly are white beans. Drain and rinse them. A key to this dish is that the rice and the beans must be contrasting colors for a yin-yang effect, so if you’d rather use white rice, you need black beans. If you insist on using brown rice, you’re on your own.
If the rice is close to being done, hurriedly chop half an onion and a handful of mushrooms (for two servings) and sauté in a little olive oil. Add the beans, then add a good-sized handful of frozen peas. (The green of the peas stands for money!) Add a tablespoon of peanut butter and 1/4 cup of apple juice or white wine. Stir in a good shake of chile powder and a pinch of white pepper. When the peanut butter dissolves and the bean/pea mixture is well-coated, add the rice, stir it together, and it’s food!
Since this is the main dish, it helps to be able to go back in time and whip up the sweet corn pudding side dish (the gold of the cornbread is also for wealth). The wealth of a label is its musicians, and the wealth of a social network is its members, so it’s time to look at some of Conscious Walker’s cronies, starting with Mon-tag (Bandcamp).
My recipe is a modification of Lee Ann Clarke’s Sweet Corn Cake (here), which is inevitably a pudding. Put 1-1/2 cups corn in the food processor and whirr it into oblivion. “Oblivion” is a good mood to go with “The Other Day”… but if this is jazz-influenced (and I think it is, with the strong bass and the syncopation), I may have to rethink my apathy about jazz. The gloomy bass makes this song: I thought from the lyrics it was going to be bouncy and up-beat, and instead it’s this distillation of pushing against depression and longing.
Mix 1/4 cup oil with 1/3 cup white sugar. Mix in 1/4 cup of frozen apple juice concentrate, a pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and the whirred corn. Now it’s time to be gutsy and add 1/2 cup of corn meal. Mix well, and it’s probably not a bad time to add another half cup of corn meal.
Ordinarily, I stick to three musicians per blog, but the wealth of links from Leave the Animals Alone is overwhelming. So let’s make an exception and slip in Tori Nicks (Soundcloud), whose “The World Goes On” (embedded after the corn cake) sets a fairly rueful meditation on life to music that starts out in a sultry groove… then when the beat turns martial, that groove starts sounding more like distant military horns.
Pour the batter into a 9×9 pan. For the streusel swirl, hurriedly wash out the food processor and use it to blend together 2 tablespoons margarine, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and serious shakes, in descending order, of cinnamon, nutmeg, and coriander. Sprinkle this gently over the batter. Into the oven it goes for 30 minutes.
If this Hoppin’ John doesn’t bring wealth, it’ll at least meet your muscle-building protein needs. I’m proud of this one: the peanut butter helps pull the flavors together, and it has a little edge of heat without being omg-Thai-food! (If you want to Thai one on, add more chili powder and white pepper.) I could eat this for days and form it into bars to take on hikes.
With the sweet corn cake, I’ve finally achieved the mushy consistency that I loved in Don Pablo’s corn relish, back when the restaurant chain was in Minneapolis. It’s meant to be sweet, and it is: and apple-cinnamon undertones with corn turn out to have a pleasant, late-summer feel, as if one had candied fresh corn. I’m going to eat this in very small quantities, possibly only after intensive labor.
Also worth checking out is Sum’s blog, where he talks about his two-month social network detox (here). A favorite part:
In the age where they say you have to keep your fanbase engaged by letting them know you’re clipping your nosehairs at Pinkberry, or stuck on the third line of your third verse, I call bullshit. Yes, you have to let people see your human side and glance into your artistic process….but control how big that window is…it still helps to keep a healthy mystique about your thoughts, whereabouts, process and opinions.
His band, The Milky Way (site), is also responsible for the most delightful funk update of “Black Magic” that retains the jazz feel while making the hip hop insertions feel seamless.