Portal:Adanson Jukebox/A Musical Legacy

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"We never strive for less than anything decent."

So goes the motto of Autrison Records, a music label hailing from Giraudel, Dominica and now incorporated as a brand-holding firm in Panama City, Florida. Founded in 2013, Autrison is a spiritual revival of what was once West Indies Records Limited (WIRL). WIRL's regional discography is covered by OtherSounds, a music interview site whose name's French translation "autres sons" gave the company its name. Until 2020, Autrison was a force to be reckoned with in the vinyl revival, priding itself as the Lesser Antilles' only outlet not to venture beyond vinyl singles.

Originally, Autrison used the "A####" catalogue code for their releases; between February and May 2020, they started over with "AN####", or the Autrison New Series. As the COVID-19 pandemic upended their field, they joined forces with their biggest clients—the Adanson Trust—along with their new sales partner Kino Lorber and other firms. This ad hoc joint venture, Kino Lorber Panama City LLC (KLPC), specialises in the production, development, music clearance, and animation of multi-hour visual albums. Each tune in those albums falls under the "AVA####" scheme, while the albums themselves bear the label/production codes of "AVA-4J" and "AVA-RF##".

Most in Autrison's team reunited with their former Adanson clients in late January 2020, just in time for their comeback re.BUILD concert at Panama City's M.B. Miller County Pier. They also allied during a New Year's feast during February and early March, plus edition #9 of their one-night Music Time revues on March 10—both at the Celebration Hall in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. As COVID-19's first wave was approaching, the team planned holding the next three editions of Music Time, their next Easter Ball, and a Record Store Day Panhandle finale by April, en route to the Bahamian leg of re.BUILD—all using buffered seating. Nothing came of those the moment Dr. Anthony Fauci and his maximum mandate of 50 in a crowd made headlines—the likes of which ran contrary to their live-performance commitments. Since April 2020, Adanson has become the Core of the team responsible for Kino Lorber's visual albums, Revolution and Reflections.

The Jukebox takes its name from the Adanson premises, a Manse-cum-event facility and nature reserve located uphill in Marigot, Dominica. Adanson in turn is named in honour of the Adansonia grandidieri baobab of Madagascar, a 150-year-old specimen of which towers next to the Manse and is the basis for its official logo. (The two 19th-century botanists immortalised in its species name are Michel Adanson and Alfred Grandidier.)

The Manse is a 95% brick-by-brick replica of The Vault, a bank-turned-reception facility in downtown Tampa, Florida. The Marigot architects responsible for its design saw the building on a drive through the city in the late 1950s, and negotiated with the original bank's proprietors to construct the replica on their home turf. (Elements of Malagasy architecture found their way into the design.) Opening in 1958, it initially served as a wedding hall for its first eight years, before doubling as a community hall in 1966 and transitioning into a discotheque during 1976-1979 and 1982-1983. (The gap in operation resulted from Hurricane David.)

After a visitor suggested Michael Jackson's Thriller to them, Adanson's tenants flipped to top hits whose LPs were donated by locals and guests alike. Times changed along with the hottest genres of the moment: Zouk and Caribbean music hit the team's playlists by the dawn of the 1990s; adult contemporary favourites (from Céline Dion, Michael Bolton, Annie Lennox, and Enya among others) in 1995; bouyon in 1997; country classics in 1999; New Wave picks in 2006; and a handful of Jpop, soukous, and Afrobeat selections in 2010. These genres formed the basis of what Adanson branded as "world contemporary", a format slightly more advanced than what Dominica's national stations (DBS, Kairi FM, and the later Q95) were dishing out.

The Adanson troupe, a revolving door of performers from the village and beyond, only performed during Easter break, summer vacation, and Christmas time. Admissions to the nature reserve helped pay for the upkeep of the facility when school was in session. (Three in five of the troupe's performers were children and teenagers.)

From the very beginning, Adanson operated a backup system comprising twelve gramophone turntables whose playback would compensate for any gaffes or difficulties during sessions. This lasted all the way into the 2010s, even as new and more efficient formats—8-track and cassette, the compact disc, and MP3s—displaced vinyl in the public conscious. As such, Adanson became one of the vinyl revival's first beneficiaries without once knowing it.

Into the early 2010s, Adanson only kept a fraction of their donated records permanently; most of the material on their racks was leased for 1–2 years before their withdrawal, sale, or return to the original donors. All of what they played till then were official, label-sanctioned cuts. This practice wound down soon after they announced a partnership as the first-ever clients of a new Giraudel record outlet, Autrison Records.

Autrison's founder, brown-furred rabbit lady Tabitha St. Germain of Giraudel, was previously friends with several former employees of WIRL's Barbados division. WIRL had already gradually disappeared by the turn of the millennium, while the original Jamaican outlet (established by future Jamaican politician Edward Seaga) became Dynamic Sounds in 1969 under new management. Research, recollections, and interviews with the old WIRL team from 2007–2012 led St. Germain to secure a loan for a new label that would effectively fill in the gap WIRL left—complete with legal personnel, a couple of curators, and the Nature Island's first vinyl-pressing plant. The latter dominated the local fanfare, press coverage, and marketing of its May 2013 launch.

To industry observers, Autrison was the Caribbean's answer to Time-Life Music, their catalogue encompassing highlights from hundreds of artists across dozens of genres; replacements being offered after they managed to locate cleaner masters; and a dedicated legal team offering them a hand. Autrison stood out by issuing and manufacturing nothing but 7"/12" vinyl singles for sale all across the Lesser Antilles—all under official license from the original labels and artists. Autrison was merely a licensee and distributor (sometimes for hire à la film's Freestyle Releasing), and eschewed signing up bands and offering contracts. DJs were their main clients and biggest source of revenue, but several releases went on sale to the general public as well. Suggestions for their catalogue came from many sources: customers, citizens in Roseau and vicinity, local radio, TV commercials, movies on cable, Saturday-morning memories, Inside Edition, Billboard's Hot 100, the UK Singles Chart, the SNEP France archives, even "recently played/searched for" feeds from a couple of discreet sites.

At the end of August 2014, Adanson from the northeast struck a supply deal with Autrison on the west coast, the Marigot elite seeing value in the exclusives they offered—and the rest was history.

Reginald Routhwick's Last.fm feed began keeping track of Adanson's exploits on July 11, 2015—back when the Marigot troupe's collection was relatively smaller than it is today. The early logs show a work in progress, the differences between which era and now will be be explored in future. At the end of August, Tropical Storm Erika prematurely put an end to Adanson's summer season; one more get-together was scheduled before then. (The Manse itself did not escape from the damage, but the vinyl collection fared better inside a nearby warehouse used for evacuation.) In response to Erika and several later tragedies worldwide, Adanson initiated a global charity-concert series called re.BUILD. (Their trademark received this styling at the behest of another such institution, Rebuild Dominica.) The bulk of those concerts were held from December 2015 till February 2016, with future legs occurring sporadically until January 2020.

In 2016 and 2017, Adanson held the first two editions of the Easter Ball at their old facility while on break from re.BUILD. Edition #3 has since been called off indefinitely due to the Nicaragua crisis (2018),[1] the passage of Article 13 in Europe (2019), and COVID-19 (2020-present).

Adanson returned to Dominica in October 2018, just in time for the last days of local Independence season. Starting the following month, four test parties ensued before most of the team left again in March 2019 for Hurricane Michael cleanup duties in the Florida Panhandle. In response to the Article 13 debacle not long after, their affiliates at Autrison vowed to look towards open-source music to complement years of fully copyrighted offerings. Starting on June 28, new management in Marigot treated the villagers to the first such offerings from the catalogue during a grand reopening, with selections from TRG Banks, Lamprey, RXNS, Wordsmith, Kevin MacLeod, Jahzzar, and more.

Summer outing #1—and a Fourth of July Gala catering to the islands' U.S.-based diaspora—were both plagued by communication errors and were remounted in August; a second outing occurred days afterward. Meanwhile, Autrison's Giraudel offices had been swamped with hundreds of licensed acetates from all corners of the world since February—to the point where they started holding lotteries in an effort to clear the backlog that had accumulated. This put pressure on their open-source campaign in later months.

Outing #3 was called off due to concerns over potential tropical activity heading Dominica's way. When Adanson returned in September, it was with Music Time, a one-night version of their summer weekend feasts. Eight editions took place until October 8, by which time Independence and election frenzy began to set in. After a November of wedding banquets, election protests in Marigot that December forced Adanson to close for Christmas.

During New Year's 2020, the remainder of Adanson's old guard and most of Autrison's Giraudel staff reunited with their former Marigot friends in time for their comeback re.BUILD performance at M.B. Miller. February and early March brought a New Year's feast and edition #9 of Music Time at Celebration Hall. Once Dr. Fauci's crowd limits became headlines, the Nature Islanders were forced to cancel all future engagements of theirs. A list of Upcomers for MT #10 was already in the can, and negotiations with iHeartMedia (the former Clear Channel) to send that next setlist to radio syndication were tentatively underway.

On March 25, talks with iHeart ultimately disintegrated, and the Dominicans—now facing the start of a pandemic—stayed put for a miracle. The following day, that miracle came—in the form of a set of secondhand servers and SSD drives from an anonymous Ohio donor who was apparently a big fan of theirs. Raccoon cousins Sam and Alfred Dixwell—themselves already artistically talented—already saw the potential in these systems. A hand-drawn animated rendition of the setlist was practically their only way out going forward. Production began during April 1–11 with a 15-minute proof of concept made entirely in-house at their Briarwood Apartments Phase II facility. The 92 personnel based therein—78 from Adanson, the rest from Autrison—each worked on 36 or more frames a day. The Nature Island critters shopped it around to several potential suitors before Kino Lorber, a firm better known for DVD reissues and silent-film offerings than music programming, caught wind of it. Seeing promise in the concept—a sort of modern-day Fantasia for the Autrison brand—they immediately struck a distribution deal with the Dominicans on the 15th and greenlit the first four volumes. Kino Lorber effectively took over from Italy's pandemic-stricken Mediaset as their new sales partner. By the time the governments of Dominica and Bay County in Florida provided co-production financing, and animation society ASIFA provided technical and union assistance, a new joint venture—Kino Lorber Panama City LLC (KLPC)—was launched.

In the early stages, KLPC planned to call the series Quarantunes following the lead of several LFM users, but soon found it too contrived and questionable for marketing purposes. Fortunately, someone in the team already brought up "Reflection", the theme from Disney's Mulan. The choice made a lot of sense, given various factors that led to the branding of KLPC's endeavours as Reflections.

Pretty soon, the MT #10 list once reserved for Reflections' début was abandoned in favour of a fresh new pool consisting of more than 200 tunes. At that point, the Briarwood campus knew they couldn't do it by themselves—an 18-hour volume would take them almost a year and a half to complete—and so they enlisted the help of a few dozen overseas outlets for outsourcing. Among the most prominent of these were Production I.G., Sunrise, OLM, and Toei in Japan; Flying Bark (formerly Yoram Gross' studio) in Australia; Les Armateurs in France; and Nelvana and WildBrain Vancouver in Canada. Within the U.S., Baer Animation and William Joyce's Moonbot Studios helped out as well. To save money and time, and to meet a planned Memorial Day deadline, most of the footage in Volume 1 was entirely rotoscoped on digital equipment; this strategy would be employed for the next three volumes and beyond. (On Wacom tablets, animators traced over live-action scenes frame-by-frame à la Max Fleischer, Ralph Bakshi, or Richard Linklater.)

But a while after that very Memorial Day deadline, protests over the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police began to take root worldwide, putting pressure on the Panhandle team to deliver Volumes 1 and 2 by a new late June date set by Kino Lorber. Things only got more complicated on July 18, once someone in the team reminded them the Fourth of July was only a fortnight away. With that, Briarwood went into break-pace mode for the rest of 2020's first half, and put the main projects on the shelf for the time being. This was also where they called on the help of "homesteaders"—stay-at-home artists and animators receiving their big break in the spotlight—for the first time. Since they were now making an ode to America, their appeal was limited to personnel in all 50 states and D.C.

Kino Lorber eyed a July 4 premiere, but a series of delays stemming from various factors—chief among them Hamilton on Disney+—pushed it to August 8. This allowed the crew to check for animation errors, smoothen out the keyframes, and shell out extra for the six licensed Upcomers in this year's go-round.

What ultimately became Revolution: An Animated Fourth of July premiered on Vimeo Livestream and as a brokered special on select U.S. and Canadian broadcast stations. The following morning, its companion soundtrack went on sale at Bandcamp, and an official Internet Archive upload surfaced.

Exactly a week after Revolution, Kino Lorber launched Volume 1 of Reflections—in six parts—across Livestream, IA, Pluto TV, CBS All Access, and various national broadcasters in over 120 countries. Volume 2 premiered in late August; Volume 3 on September 11; and Volume 4 at the start of October.

After a six-month hiatus stemmed by various holdups—hurricanes Eta and Iota in October 2020, followed early the next year by the death of Baer Animation namesake Dale Baer, the closure of Blue Sky Studios (which supplied various CGI assets starting from Volume 2), and a snowstorm in Houston (also affecting the workflow of Rooster Teeth's RWBY)—two theatrically test-screened supplements of Volume 4 surfaced in April 2021. This was followed by Volume 5 during Golden Week (April 29–May 5), and Volume 6 in early May. Volume 7, originally intended for Halloween 2020, was shelved until mid-May out of respect for the affected of Samuel Paty's beheading in suburban Paris. Volume 8 was released during and after the Memorial Day weekend, leading up to the simultaneous theatrical and home streaming bow of Volume 9 (Musical Grand Prix) during June 4–11.[2]

Production imagery of KLPC's visual albums is placed in the public domain under CC0 and Kopimi, while the individual segments inherit the license of their original tracks, and the entire volumes are officially copyrighted to Autrison Records, Adanson Trust, and Kino International.

"We'll Meet Again,

Don't know when,

Don't know where...

But I know we'll meet again

Some sunny day"

Notes

  1. In May 2017, Adanson scheduled a re.BUILD event in Nicaragua and travelled there from their last venue (Minneapolis-St. Paul) shortly after an Ariana Grande concert was bombed in Manchester, England. Worries over security integrity put the event on hold for months, but after fallout from the Nicaragua crisis, Adanson's backers cancelled the performance in September 2018 and instead opted for Panama City in Central America. An impromptu encore at Barbados' Kensington Oval (already visited in December 2015) followed shortly after.
  2. Originally planned for co-release under MGM's United Artists label, whose last official output was 2010's Hot Tub Time Machine. A revival of its 1982 "Paperclip" logo opens a workprint version (from early May 2021) that circulates internally among KLPC employees and peers.
    Animated material previously handled by UA included much of the 1930s short-film output of Walt Disney Productions (which took over ownership by the 1953 launch of their Buena Vista Distribution outlet); The World of Hans Christian Andersen, dubbed into English from Toei's 1968 Japanese original in 1971; and Don Bluth's The Secret of NIMH and All Dogs Go to Heaven in the 1980s. Mere days before Volume 9's launch, MGM returned the first-run theatrical rights to Kino Lorber after announcing plans for a US$8.45 billion sale to Amazon.com.