The Earthly Frames is a one-man band from Maryland spawned from the mind of web game developer Gabriel Walsh. Combining live guitar and vocals with samples from country, folk, and pop music, Walsh’s sound is a thick, heavy, and brooding experience pierced with beautifully melodic moments. Earthly Frames, Volume 1, is an album only available on custom USB drives throughÂ Perhaps Transparent Records.Â More than an album, though, the limited-edition custom USB drive contains the elements of a true piece of chaotic fiction in the making.Â In an interview with music blogger Lightning Fay, Walsh admits that this debut release from The Earthly Frames is a first attempt at exploring “ways a band and fiction or concept art could interesect.”
Each custom USB drive contains the five songs in The Earthly Frames, Volume 1, as well as samples (loop AIF files and RX2s) free to use in your own music. In addition, each drive contains a unique “fragment” file, which could range from images to PowerPoint Presentations to text files and more. Together, the files form some kind of chaotic uber-narrative, bringing together real and unreal elements of the somewhat autobiographical, certainly mysterious story of the origin of The Earthly Frames. Participants are encouraged to share the fragment files at a forum at Perhaps Transparent Records. There are already a few fragments posted for viewing and use.
There are only 50 USB drives available, and ARGNet was lucky enough to get one of them (Number 25). Our fragment file was this letterÂ from “YOM” (Your Only Mother?) to her son, Gabe. The letter describes a fleeting and perhaps long-neglected memory, and the misplaced photograph that may have captured it. Did the photograph ever exist? We don’t know, and we can’t tell what is real and what is ephemeral. Memory can be such a fickle thing. We’re pointed to a painting, Manet’s “Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe”, and more questions. Why is she naked? Why don’t they notice? Did I notice? I’m reminded of a visit to the Musee d’Orsay where the painting resides, the bittersweet taste of the coffee I had that overcast afternoon….
Wait, am I unwittingly being pulled into an almost-true fiction that nobody controls?
I hope so.
Because each fragment file is unique, the project is a fascinating exercise in interpretation, perspective, and creation. According to Walsh, “[o]wners of the device are the sole owner of the fragment file. I destroy the work as I go. So it’s up to them what to do with it. In other wordsâ€”if they wish to post it on their facebook or blogâ€”that’s fine or if they wish to bury it in the backyard fine too. Both scenarios have been accounted for narratively speaking.”
“The notion of ‘owning music’ is obviously conceptually and thematically at play with both the device and the story,” comments Walsh. In this day of contested notions of ownership and digital distribution, three kinds of licences are at play with Walsh’s release. As explained in an accompanying text file, The Earthly Frames tracks are held under an Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives license, the audio samples for remixing fall under an Attribution-Share Alike license, and the fragments are sole ownership, so participants can do whatever they like, giving them free rein to be a part of a larger narrative process.
But, “[w]hat becomes of it? Lost forever? Collector fodder? I have no idea,” says Walsh.
The USB drives are available for purchase directly through Perhaps Transparent Records, and some will be given out at live shows. Check out The Earthly Frames’ single “Pike” for a taste of Walsh’s haunting musical style.