I’m always on the lookout for truly independent artists who release
their own homegrown albums in any genre, but when the genre is
indietronica and the album is released under a Creative Commons license, I really sit up and take notice. Earlier this year, Danish singer and music producer Tone released her debut album Small Arm of Sea
on her web site, joining a growing wave of Creative Commons artists who
are taking control of their careers and their rights as artists by
producing and marketing their own work.
Tone (whose real name is Sofie Nielsen) had already been a very
active presence in her local electronica music scene, which eventually
progressed naturally into her developing her own music. Although she is
relatively unknown outside Scandinavia, her popularity in her native
Denmark has risen to the point where other nations are starting to take
notice, and with good reason.
Small Arm of Sea is a delicate mixture of Nielsen’s soft,
floaty vocals, beats reminiscent of early 90s trip-hop, and relaxing
beds of swirling electronic sounds. Although this is primarily
chill-out music, some of the tracks have an unusual dark upbeatness to
them (“Work It” and “I Am Long” are good examples), and one is a
downright happy song (“Stringphant”). The overall mood of the album
falls quite short of cheery, though, and is probably better suited to
sit alongside such melancholy poptronica as Imogen Heap or Air.
The production quality does have some of that tell-tale independent sound, but it is charming rather than distracting. Small Arm of Sea
is certainly head and shoulders above most spare-bedroom-produced
music, and is a testament to Nielsen’s previous experience in the
production arena. In fact, the lack of slick engineering and glossy
beats works so well within this set of songs that I’m increasingly
convinced it may have been at least partially intentional. The
differences are subtle, though, and if you listen to this album shuffled
up with the rest of your electronica collection, I doubt any track from
the group would stand out as immaturely produced or sub-par in any way.
Nonetheless, it has to be said that Sofie Nielsen is very much a developing artist. Seeing as Small Arm of Sea
is her first full-length studio effort and she is pretty much on her
own in terms of production team, it makes sense that she is starting
small, and I’m curious to see where this journey will take her. No
doubt she is hoping that the popularity of this album will continue to
grow, enabling her to engage in more ambitious ventures in the future. I
fully believe that with the right equipment upgrade, combined with
Neilsen’s innate talent for magnetic electronica, there’s nothing this
girl wouldn’t be able to do if given the chance.
Small Arm of Sea is released under a Creative Commons license, and is available for free (really, no money whatsoever) on Tone’s web site.
At that price, there’s no reason not to check it out, and be sure to
send your friends the link if you like what you hear. Independent
artists such as Tone rely on internet exposure and word of mouth to
build a fan base, so sharing the independent music you enjoy assures
that more of it gets created in the future.