One of the plus sides to this new-fangled digital approach to music distribution is that artists or labels aren’t necessarily tied down to traditional release dates. That many still do is probably a nod to tradition and habit more than anything else, as chart-bothering doesn’t seem as exciting as it used to be; overhyped drivel from whatever was on the TV karaoke shows the day before to a market with the attention span of a ringtone being the one-hit order of the day.
So it’s nice that, in these uncertain and compressed times, that it’s possible for anyone nowadays to go “hello everyone, have a record” pretty much on a whim. Social media provides instant advertising to those already in the loop, who then pass it on and on. In theory, all this model really requires in order for it to succeed is for the artists and labels embracing it to put out stuff that is actually good. Which is sort of how I remember good music being promoted and passed around as well.
Thankfully, there’s a point to all of this. Texas-based musical co-operative My Jerusalem has today released 11 tracks of something that casts their communal net wider than ever, and evoking the spirit of a favourite album of mine from some time ago.
Sleepwalking is taken from My Jerusalem’s debut full-lengther Gone For Good, and here it is reworked, remixed and rewritten ten times over (plus the original outing) by friends, neighbours and associates, which furthers the companion-ey ethos of the band before even a single note is played. The array of different versions is as eclectic as the assembled recording throng as they reinterpret the song in their own particular idiom; Minneapolis band Alpha Consumer provide a low-fi 1990s shoegaze slant, The Honorary Title’s Jarrod Gorbel offering up a stripped-down acoustic affair and 00:02:59 Records labelmate and Austin compatriot Dana Falconberry giving her cheery lullaby approach just in the first three new editions make each new take sound like a whole new song, and that continues right the way through the record.
Continuing in the same vein (in as much as “the same vein” can be construed as “they’re all a bit different”), there are electronic reworkings from Dosh and (proto-Twilight Singers collaborators) Fila Brazillia’s Steve Cobby, an alt-countrified effort from Frank Smith, a somewhat folktronica Skew treatment and a light, airy pop reading from What Made Milwaukee Famous. My personal favourites however are a short, minimalist, reverb-heavy electronic runthrough from Matthew Ryan and David “Daveaux” Rosser’s setting of the whole affair to a sort of late 1980s speed-metal rendition that immediately put Bay Area veterans Heathen’s cover of the Sweet’s Set Me Free to mind, which is fun both in its unexpectedness and delivery.
Last year, I revisited Tom’s Album on a quiet Saturday afternoon and mused on the notion that albums of covers of one single song are very rare indeed. Probably because it’s very hard to keep interest levels high from start to finish if everything on there sounds the same. On Sleepwalking Refurbished, as with (and even more so than) Suzanne Vega’s collection, everyone involved has kept the spirit intact but everything else has been fair game for removal, reshaping, respraying and replacing. There’s been a fair amount of mutual trust between writer Jeff Klein and his friends here, and the result is a winner for everyone.
This collection is available for download from the band’s site as a pay-what-you-like deal. There’s also the option to pay nothing for it if you so wish, but hey – that’d be rude.