Aural Fixation: Hussalonia

I first came to the music of Hussalonia through Coverville, a podcast that features usual interpretations of well known songs.  That particular episode included a selection from this mysterious group’s full-album cover of Billy Joel‘s Glass Houses.  This, along with the fact that this group gave away its albums for free online, got me interested.  As it turns out, Hussalonia is the project of one pop mastermind by the name of Jesse Mank, and his cover of Glass Houses only hinted at the strange genius of his original material.

Mank regularly participates in the RPM Challenge, in which artists write, record and release an entire album in just one February.  Hussalonia seems to have expanded the project to include other short time frames, often releasing something new every few months.  The output is extremely eclectic, ranging from the noisy saccharin of Emile Berliner Hussalonia to the “metal” venture Satan Amongst The Sofa Cushions to the robotic spoken testimonials on the recent Dear Hussalonia: Letters From Animals, Mostly Ducks.  Hussalonia’s music is informed by a myriad of influences, musical, visual and conceptual.  Since the project’s style changes so frequently, new influences are compounded and new directions are frequently explored.  Hussalonia has existed since the late 1990s, but the more recent use of the internet as a gateway to music has created a cornerstone of Mank’s business model.  Albums are available for free download for a period of time, after which they may be purchased.  Many of Mank’s earliest recordings remain out of print, though his internet archive still hosts a few years’ worth of material.  Of course, donations are encouraged.

The internet has been cited in furthering the decline of music’s value in today’s society.  Since Hussalonia is so steeped in classic pop craft, the band is proof that great music transcends the medium by which it’s delivered.  Sure, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails get all the attention for giving their music away online, but those guys have the financial backing and industry clout to make a real killing even when those mp3s are pressed to disc.  Hussalonia’s music, however, waits patiently to be discovered, not unlike a hidden gem in your corner record shop.  Not only is Jesse Mank keeping the creativity and vitality in pop, but he’s keeping alive the thrill of the search that too many music lovers haven’t felt in years.

Listen: Hussalonia – “This Is Not Rock And Roll, This Is Retail” from Emile Berliner Hussalonia (2007)

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~ by E. on May 20, 2010.

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