One of my very good friends is serving time in prison. I’m only bringing that up so I can best explain my selection for this Sunday. Inmates of federal prison are provided with the option to purchase an mp3 player for roughly $75 that they can buy songs for at a range between 99 cents to $2 per song.
The prison music library is an incredibly strange thing. There are rules about what is allowed and what is prohibited. The obvious rules are that there are to be no songs with controversial lyrical content, that include references to physical violence, drugs, sex or other illicit behaviors. I’m also told you can buy, “Get High, Rule the World” and, “Don’t Give a Fuck” by Lil Wayne, so maybe those are more like loose guidelines than strict rules.
The music selection is limited to artist and groups with major distribution deals, so a lot of the lesser names, or groups that rely on a more direct distribution model get left out. Which is why my friend, who is absolutely in love with STS9, cannot get any of their music. Not until that magical release day rolls around, anyway. But it’s not all bad news. Apparently there’s a lot of EDM/whatever title you’d like to call it, music from 2007-09. Lots of obscure remixes and bootlegs that I haven’t been able to track down very easily. They typically get new releases about four months after the release date.
It winds up being a game for the inmates. One one hand, you can search through and find all the music you know, artists you recognize and everything you’ve heard before. Or, you can take a chance on a name you haven’t heard before. But if you’re wrong, you just wasted $1.50 on something you don’t like and you can’t use, which also means you would have been better off buying some of the ingredients for Coffee Balls, which is actually a thing. A very real, very potent, thing.
But when you gamble on something, whether it be random, vaguely informed or thoroughly researched through reading actual magazines, when that works out you feel like you won the lottery. Which is a pretty big deal, especially in prison. It’s even better, I’m told, when you’re able to bring new music to your friend’s attention from inside the confines of a prison. That is how I found out about Rufus du Sol. From my friend in prison.
Some songs are so potent, and at the same time immediately accessible. They grab you, and hold you there until they’re done with you. Any time I discover one of these songs, I catch myself just staring at the speakers, like I’m watching the sound come out. But I’m not; I’m just enamored with the song.
“Modest Life” was one such song, and it struck me as a song that sounds like it could very well be five or ten years old, that withstand the test of time. As such, it follows that this is a song that feels like I should have been listening to it for those five or ten years. It’s strikingly good.
Rufus du Sol is a three-piece group from Australia, part of an incredible stream of talent coming from that continent, along with the likes of Flume, Chet Faker, Hermitude, Anna Lunoe, Nervo…so many talented artists. They produce somewhat dark dance pop, deftly accomplishing the fickle task of a more inward-thinking, introspective lyrics with a carefree, but complimentary musical backing. That’s a lot of fancy words to say they’re good electronic music, but they aren’t glammy EDM.
What, I mean where do you select the lesson in all of this? Is it that inspiration can come from very unexpected places? Is it the commentary about how we find and learn about new music? Are we doing it wrong, or is my incarcerated friend just that good? I can’t point at one and say it’s right, so this Sunday, I’m going to leave it like NPR and let you decide the lesson for yourself.
Rufus du Sol will be touring North America this coming fall, along with the similarly impressive Hermitude in support of their upcoming album, “Atlas,” set for release August 25. Find more information here, and take a listen to their Cali Mix #2 below.