Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 - my year of Dave Stafford

As I look back on 2013 the year is overwhelmed by Dave Stafford. 

To recap, I first got in contact with him early in the year to discuss Scape, the Brian Eno music creating app. After a few exchanges of email and blog-comments I thought I should listen to some of his music. And download and listen I did. At this stage I have the following in my library

1.08 GB of Dave Stafford non-eternal albums
2 Bindlestiff albums
A Scorched By The Sun album
2 Pure Ambient samplers compilations
1.03 GB (22:35) of Drone Forest

And then the Eternal albums - growing collections of tracks created by Dave using different Apps
Fairlight Pro - only 6 tracks, just under half an hour - there are lots more but this format didn't grab me (Similarly I have none from the Scape collection as I have the App)
Nanostudio - 4 tracks, 36 minutes - I really like this set and am awaiting more. Complex.
Mixtikl - 61 tracks at over 22 hours. (Plus another 1:20 of outtakes). When put down like that it is a big thing both in size, time and (almost) money (at 50p a track it adds up, but when taken by time quite cheap). Created with an aleatoric app these pieces vary in length, mood, ambience, beat etc. There are some elements that recur, but each piece is different (unless a remix/reconceptualisation) and equally attractive. I find that I put it on random selection most nights and also quite happily jump out of a track before the end without guilt as I know the tracks aren't leading to a climax or a resolution but seem more like visitations from a music that is playing eternally somewhere.

And now we have a new album
classical - only one track so far, but a tweet this morning promised another on the way. The one so far is a Concerto for guitar and oboe. This is some of Dave's most composed music. It has a stately baroque mood (I was reminded of Walter/Wendy Carlos' Switched on Bach [She was Walter when I bought mine, so is still that in my mind] partly because of the tones but also the structure). Amazingly it was all created on the guitar (roland guitar synthesiser), but that is not a factor in what makes it so good: it is just a great piece of music.

All of this music (except Drone Forest) is on his Bandcamp page so you can try before you buy (worth doing - his styles vary from album to album to format - check the blog for various reviews along the way)

Other highlight

Bowie's - The Next Day: played very regularly
Fripp soundscapes - have continued to expand the collection
Podcasts - I have probably reduced music listening due to increased podcast consumption - and very few are music related!
Just bought Archive 828585 from Cabaret Voltaire from BigPond ($15 for the 3 disks) - a nice addition to that period of the Cabs.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Xmas update 1: Kickstarter

Sorry for being away, so some shortish updates.

I have become quite the kickstarter fan - as well as the record label relaunch, also the 99PI podcast, The Magazine-The Book and a massive one called Wipebook (4000 requested 424,314 pledged), Tim Held's album got up, so I have a copy of that which I will review in the new year.

Have just supported another album - Sayonara Kyoto's Midwinter parts 1-9. It's a bit old school ambient - Tangerine Dream, Enigma and such - but the excerpts sound interesting and for only pounds5 you get a digital copy (as long as it's funded). The link is
if anyone is interested.

And also Duende - Bethesda requiem, which is based around kennedy's assasination, and again, a low entry price for a digital download.

There are other interesting reading/sounding albums but one barrier IS the price - a complex piece about Eric Dollard by Adam Bull has a base pledge of pounds15 for a digital download - which means about $30 Australian for a relatively unknown quantity. It is still in my starred list and I will consider it as we go along.

The other barrier though is how much is required. Tim's album and the Duende one were both looking for about 200 for marketting, which seems achievable for a relatively unknown, while Kyoto and Bull both are looking for a few thousand pounds - which might be hard going - it will be interesting to see how they pan out

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kickstarters - support Tim Held (and more)

Kickstarter synchronicity - Maybe it's the time or maybe the podcasts I am listening to, but Kickstarter is coming up a lot.

It sort of started when I saw that Instapaper (one of my most used apps) creator Marco Arment was creating a podcast app. While his is still in the works I got into Pocketcast (excellent - see my review) and various techish podcasts. The Accidental Tech Podcast (here) that he's on and Glenn Fleishman's The New Disruptors (here), which is about new ways of developing/funding. Kickstarter gets a lot of mentions.

Contact with them took me back to The Magazine (which Marco started a year ago). At that stage the articles didn't grab me, but when you download the app now you get the full back issues - and it impressed me enough to take out an annual subscription (it's a website and an app - here).

I had supported one Kickstarter last year - an iPhone case & stand system from Studio Proper which went very well. Then, following my post on roden on dragon's Eye I subscribed to that, admittedly just for Steve's disk, partly cause they had raised the funds. 

But they say most backers are multiple backers & I've gotten into it.

Through The New Disruptors I heard about 99% Invisible - an architectural, design podcast. Which is excellent. They had done a Kickstarter for the current season & had another for the next - initially to go weekly.  So why support something that is free? Partly it's to keep it going - even free things have to get funded somehow. And with Kickstarter there are the various rewards - actual things for providing the funds. Anyway, it has been very very successful & met the goal and more. I'd recommend the podcast.(here).

The Magazine currently has one, to create a best of anthology of their first year, both book and actual. Now I don't want the book - I have the back issues - but I could give it as a gift. But one option also gives a discount on a subscription (in fact this can be added to any pledge). So I am thinking hard about it - it would mean a 2 year commitment to the magazine, but also showing support.(here)

I've become a bit of a Kickstart junkie, regularly looking through on my iPhone app. And have a few starred to think about.

One I have backed is an album by Tim Held (called Alb(L)um). What attracted me? Well, it was in the electronic category, has a goofy image which pricked my interest (band photos are a tricky way to promote something unknown). I played the video & thought the music interesting, as is the description of the project. Next, the aim is modest - only $200. 

Then the cost/reward structure is excellent. For next to nothing you get the album, for a bit more you also get existing music (available to listen to on bandcamp) and then advancing ones with some physical product. The electronic downloads are good as it cuts the postage cost which has been a tipping point for me on some. 

So I backed it: $5 for the album and 2 eps, and while there is still some time to go, Tim emailed me codes for the 2 eps. This is very generous/trusting as unless the project reaches its target he won't get any money. I think the reasoning is that he (rightly) feels we'll buy the album if it gets up on bandcamp if the Kickstarter fails (the kickstarter is for promotion costs)

The two eps support the impression I got of the brief listens on the video and bandcamp - satisfying electronic music, some beats, reminisent of Bill Nelson's Orchestra Arcana, but an individual voice. 

So why back this or any other project? The reasons I see are

  • Early ordering discounts
  • Getting something you want
  • Financially supporting something you think worth doing
  • Giving that moral support to keep artists going
  • A connection you feel through patronage

Monday, October 28, 2013

A couple of Roden things

Things are quiet here at the moment - though not workwise.

So a couple of Roden related things.

My podcast listening has broadened since hearing Marco Arment on his new podcast app & I know listen to the accidental tech podcast, the new disruptors, the talk show. Anyway, the new disruptors got me to 99% invisible an interesting design based show, and I found this in their archive - a program on bubble houses. Now most of you should know Steve Roden lives in a bubble house (the last in the US, which I didn't know) and this program is about them & he's on it. The show page has some great photos. (and to remind you, airform was the construction method).

And then, on airform archives is a link to this kickstarter project to releaunch a label (dragon's eye). Steve has put up some great stuff for big donor's but also has a cd in the release schedule (a year away - but so what!). 6 days to go, the limit has been met, so you will get your cds.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pocket Cast

One of the first apps I bought for my iPhone 3 was pocket weather (aka pkt weather and now weather Australia). I found the onboard app inaccurate and limited in detail. Pocket uses Bureau of Meteorology data which is the best available. The app also includes a wealth of detail - 7 day forecasts (obviously), radar, 2 day temperature forecast graphs with actual(predicted) & feels like  lines, rain time and amount, tides... As the Bureau's data has improved so has the app - it now has quite fine localization. It is one of my most used apps. 

Move forward & I hear Marco who created Instapaper (another long time very used app) is writing a podcast app. I have used iTunes & the podcast app most of the time (there was a period I used another app but it fell by the wayside). I was generally happy but some things with in interface always annoyed me (the placement of the store button for instance). Anyway I thought I'd see what the competition was. 

A few searches narrowed the field to the main players. One was getting a lot of praise for it iOS 7 implementation. Pocket Cast by Shift Jelly- it took me a little while to see the connection and a combination of the reviews, my experience with their weather & the fact they are Australian decided me on giving them a go. 

And I am very pleased 

Yes - it is a very nice implementation of the design aesthetic. Clean & effective, overall easy to pick up & work with. There are 2 main screens. 

Podcast view- all your subscriptions in an icon grid. 3x4 on a 4s. You can move the tiles around if you want to re-order them. A + 'button' takes you to the search area - with featured, search, networks, category, chart options.
Back at the grid tapping on an icon brings up the program information -  a list of unplayed and played files, indicating if they have been downloaded  their length, and if they haven't, the file size. Tapping on a program brings up a window about it with content details and actions (download, delete, mark as played/unplayed, star, queue, add to playlist (which are way to create) etc).  
Podcast view - note now playing
Episode view
episode info
Menu screen - this is where It gets very useful. Top line takes you to the subscribed screen, if you want to select an episode by Podcast. But Pocket Cast's filters are its strength. As you can see I have theme filters, but also one for all downloads and unplayed. Filters, as the screen shot shows, can include played, unplayed, downloaded etc. As I don't want to keep played podcasts (for memory management) my downloaded and unplayed lists should be the same. If you wanted you could have a filter that included all unplayed podcasts - but it would be unwieldy. 
Menu screen
PC uses notifications well to indicate when new episodes of subscribed podcasts are available. And my filter new/undownloaded Is set so that I also have a list available - and I can go there to download or mark as played (you can't delete an undownloaded episode, so the list of unplayed will show all available ones which annoyed me at first but I am getting used to it (rather than the past players where previous episodes were hidden by default or could be deleted from the list)  
filter options

Play - as the screen shots show, there is a floating playback control, and the circle around the play/pause button indicates time passing. Touch this and you get the full screen player - with all the visuals and controls you could want. << and >> skip a predetermined time set from the setup menu. Information, playlist controls are up the top right. Rather than having space dedicated to a volume slider, that is accessed by the speaker menu: and most of us probably use earphone volume controls, the buttons or some external control anyway. 

Speed of replay has a slider also, and can do increments up to 3x. 
Play screen

Sync - You can set up an account to co-ordinate your subscriptions and playing position. It is syncing and saving where all non-Apple apps seem to suffer for me. All the podcasts on the list are 'mine', there are others that I give Carol a copy of. Now we have an expensive internet contract - rural wireless broadband & I would rather not download them twice. With the Apple app & iTunes sync the files are available to copy. I think this is a fairly specific requirement so won't hold it against them - there probably aren't any that do it. 

This is a universal app, so no need to pay for a separate app, and is also available in an android version

In conclusion - a very nice podcast app, does everything most people could want very nicely. You can suffer a free app or pay a little bit & get something good. 

The website is here; buy from your favourite Apple or Android shops!
(Drafted on write for iPhone)

TIMR ?: Nothing to something

solipsism to the MAX

Yep - new carpets

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Nels Cline & Elliot Sharp: Open The Door

Public Eyesore again - Open The Door is PE121 (link to public eyesore in the side bar).

The name Elliot Sharp was familiar, though not Cline. Anyway, two guitarists. This release had a long gestation. Four tracks come from sessions in 1999 while the fifth track (Pietraviva) is live from 2007.

I put on this album with some trepidation, uncertain about the 2 guitar approach. But it is a lovely album. The Cline and Sharp have approached their interplay with a combination of musical artistry, serious skill, joyful interaction and a sense of play and adventure. 

Yes at times it is atonal or dense or oblique at times, but the two instrumnets complement each other brilliantly, one providing a base while the other may be searching the acoustic space. And both guitars are acoustic, adding to the atmosphere. There are elements of Spanish, blues, modernism and bluegrass emerging through the pieces; the lead and rhythm change; there is space and then density.

Obviously, if you don't like or want to try acoustic loose guitar, avoid this album. But if you are interested in an exploration which thrills, entrances and entertains give this a go.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Kills - Richard House (updated as I finish volumes) FINAL UPDATE

I like to think of my readers as intelligent, literary, interested in music and the new, broad of mind and interested in saving money. So this one's for you. 

On the long list this year for the Booker prize is The Kills by Richard House.   It's not on the short list, but the long list gave it some prominence and it garnered some excellent reviews and comment. 

It consists of four separate but interconnected novels. The first Satler is a page turning thriller that starts in Iraq & traverses turkey to Malta and Europe, with random encounters, deaths and mystery. Thoroughly enjoyed its complex incompleteness (after all, it's only the first part, but I am not expecting answers to everything by the end - it's that sort of book), but satisfying. The next The Massive takes the situation from the opening of book 1 (a dump in the desert run by contractors) and expands on it backwards and possibly forward (it does). Characters recur and get filled out with personalities and histories. 

I haven't read The Kill (3) & The Hit (4) yet, but know 3 concerns a novel that gives the novel its name & has been being read at various times - and I expect some of the characters will pop up. The Hit then returns to Satler apparently and muddies that story. I think that there will be a lot of fun following the links, puzzling over uncertainties and just enjoy a well written book.. 

So why here?

2 things. The novel in electronic form contains links or embedded content (which, beware, make the files bigger) of films, phone calls, maps. So far I haven't found them intrinsic, but they are an indication if where fiction could go. 

But to my money conscious literary readers, if you go here (paywithtweet) you can get volume 1 as a free download if you sell your soul and send a tweet. My twitter following is pitiful so there won't be too many people bothered by the spam! Alternatively, each volume is quite cheap from amazon or apple (au$2.99 each from iTunes) which makes up to a good value equivalent 1000 page book. 

As I said, really enjoyed volume 1, 2 is great too but going a different direction, more personal story/ies. Will report back. 

Quick note: do not read the brief blurb for the fourth novel before reading it. It clarifies the role of a main protagonist, while a pleasure of the first third to a half is wondering where these characters fit and their roles.

Ok - have finished volume 2 and thoroughly enjoyed it. It completes some of the picture seen in volume 1 explaining the blast, raises questions about where Satler is, and the question of Guezzler broadens from merely his puppetmaster-like role, but also his identity at the end of 2. The book discussed in 1 was a film in 2 and will be volume 3. So 4 will have to wait to supply more answers.

Volume 3: an interesting murder mystery where we don't really know who was murdered. It is based on the book & film mentioned in 1&2. Lovely writing, amazing sense of dread built, but asks questions and answers few. About its content and action - but also what is it doing here! At this stage I can't see the link to the other volumes other than as mentioned in them.

I am getting through this quickly - don't often read through a novel as big as this so precipitously. What is glorious is the questions it leaves unanswered!

And now finsihed. The final volume continued from the end of the first. Introduced some new characters, revisited some old. A very clever use of the book by one character. Some questions answered, not all ends tied. But another very good read.

Overall well worth the time and money - and enjoyable and thought provoking read. He is great at creating a sense of dread. DON'T READ THE BLURB FOR THE HIT BEFORE STARTING - IT IS A TERRIBLE SPOILER.

Recurring aspects: unidentified deaths, unknown deaths. Misidenticication, misunderstanding. Uncertainty as to the fate of characters. Coincidences.
Well managed development of our understanding.

I was wondering about the placement of The Kill as the third volume. It doesn't directly link in terms of characters, however what I think is that it is largely there as a metafictional game - to remind us that everything between the covers is a novel; and that seeking answers for all the uncertainties in the 3 other books is like expecting the third book to be true - it is all lies. Themes/strands of the overall novel are exlored in this one. But that all 4 novels refelect life in terms of its undertainty and openness.

And a final note on the embedded material - it is interesting and adds a little detail but is not essential. The final film, which explains how Mr Wolf & his brother got the original original novel for their exploits in part 3 was filmed at Halong Bay (which I visited recently) and coincidentaly I have changed my phone wallpaper to a panorama of the bay as it works very nicely with iOS 7 - but coincidence or what!!!!

FINAL FINAL NOTE a couple of days later: This novel, set of novels has stuck with me - thinking about the plot, the fascinating intertwining and the simple pleasure. Well written, well plotted and fascinating - it is totally absorbing as a straight novel, but retrospectively mesmerising in its structure. I read all 1000+ paper pages on my iPhone & enjoyed every minute. Get the free first volume & you will want to buy the other 3 - money well specnt.

A side note about reviewing: when deciding whether to buy these I looked at online reviews. In the Telegraph they say that The Massive We know at the start that these men will die of horrific cancers within a few months of each other. Yet it is very obvious, as the first chapter goes through the deaths (yes) that there are a variety of causes (including suicide) and that the first reported (the last actual) is Santo which makes distinct reference to 36 years of psoriasis and the next starts "before Luis by 18 years came Clark" - makes you wonder how much they read if they get lost in the first chapter 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TIMR 23 : tom phillips

OK - a person not a thing, but then Tom Phillips isn't in my room, he is a presence.

My memory of his entrance into my mind starts with non-knowledge: I had King Crimson Starless and Bible Black and Eno Another Green World without realising that the covers were by Phillips.

A synchronicity of sorts happened while I was in Canberra. There was an article about him in The Age Monthly Review, I found a copy of IRMA (Gavin Bryar's version of Phillip's libretto & score - he doesn't like this, but I love it) which was released on Eno's Obscure Records so I bought it, and the National Gallery had The Heart of A Humument in their shop.

Which brings us to what is his signature work - A Humument. He has taken a Victorian novel Mallock's A Human Document and with a mesmeric obsession excavated it. The Humument itself is in it's fourth edition - the first included every page of the novel as transformed by Phillips. Each page is a miniature marvel. Here is one at random drawn from the web.
Text is extracted to make a minipoem and an image drawn around it. These can often reflect other aspects of his work, other themes. The text has been used in a variety of other works - IRMA is based on texts suggesting sounds, words and moods to create the score. Since the first edition there have been 4 more, and with each some of the pages have been changed so that by the next edition no page will be the same as the first. I now own four versions of this book, plus that original The Heart of A Humument which takes small central fragments and creates even smaller images.

Much of Phillips' work comes from obsessions or concepts - and while much conceptual art doesn't work, I always find his does. These include paintings based on recreating postcards, or specific parts (such as a series of Union Jacks as seen in cards); coloured edges and components based on recycling old paint and I Ching sequences; the Mappin Gallery where he took a postcard of an art gallery and recreated the individual painings as full size - and then recreated the whole room; 20 sites in N years where he goes back to 20 spots in a walk round his neighbourhood and photographs the same view from a fixed spot, creating a view of the changes.

Others of his books that I have are
The postcard century - for each year to the 20th century he curated a selection of 20 cards from his collection, providing a visual history of changes but also recurring tropes. 1974 - This essential text combines 50 Recapitulatory Paintings 1962-1974, which are recreations of works from this period in the size of the book, with reprints of the originals and short text, with essays and images about specific works (Benches, Mappin Art Gallery) or themes (Flags, Berlin Wall). Plus a little about photographic projects and all of his music scores (including the IRMA score [mined from Humument])
Works and Texts - from 1992, this covers some of the same ground in terms of the essays, but brings the artworks up to date, and is larger scale with better production. This one is easier to get, but both are essential.
Dante's Inferno: he translated the Inferno and provide 4 illustartions for each canto, all including worked extracts from Mallock and extensive notes. This was also made into a television series (A Television Dante) with Peter Greenaway
A Humument for iPhone (there is also an iPad version which would give a better experience because of the screen size, but I didn't own an iPad) - go to the app store.

The books give me many happy hours - looking at the pictures, reading the poems in Humument or rereading the texts about how some of these works evolved. The blog is worth following - a high point was when Phillips was creating a multipanel piece and showing pictures of it as it grew and changed. I have been fortunate to see some Humument pages and otehr works in a show in Canberra years ago - to my mind Phillips is not sufficiently celebrated, and I don't know why.

Where to end? A portrait of Brian Eno seems appropriate.

(Note - I have put in links to the relevant pages of the Tom Phillips site - it is a brilliant and detailed beast. Other links are to Amazon where you can see more detail about some of the trade publications). 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cactus Truck: Brand new for China

Brand New For China! is Public Eyesore release number 119 apparently came as a 45rpm disc (I imagine 10") or a CD. I have the second, and the tracks are listed as side A, side B and not on the album.

Cactus Truck are a three piece, John Dikemanon saxes, Onno Govaert on drums and Jasper Stadhouders guitar and bass. The album is to some degree what you might expect from a freeform line up like this. I played this more times than I expected to, and ejoyed it more than I thought I would.

It opens with Aporia, a viscious assault from the sax with driving percussion and guitar. This 10 minute track was Side A, and moves through some more restrained passages, swapping lead, but seems to propel itself onwards. Side B and the extra 2 tracks combine either short (3 at sub 30 second) bursts of noise and three more considered pieces at 5 to 7 minutes. Again there are periods of more melodic sax (such as Coitophobe) together with machinegun guitar. And under it all Govaert pounds away at the rhythm.

In total this is only 30 minutes long - and it benefits from that. The playing is focussed, the musicianship strong, and the raw entertainment and excitement carries you through the time easily. Don't file under easy listening, but do under thrilling and visceral. 

Monday, September 16, 2013



A bit of selfcongratulation: blogger says that I have now had over 20,000 pageviews, and to celebrate here are the stats

Anyway, thank you all for persevering this long!

All time - and we can see a big spike which was probably Marina Hardy

This month - Marina is still there, but some more recent ones are getting hit too!
This week, and surprisingly the most recent posts are up there

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New roden book a'coming - update: has come

On his blog steve roden has noted a new book to be released to coincide with his new shows - called rag picker

I have this info from the publishers, publication studio

The two book launches are in LA (Sept. 14th) and NY (12th), the information we have can be found on our events listing page but more detailed info can be found on both the gallery's websites (their links are on our events listing page).

However, we CAN tell you this about the book: the book will be available tomorrow on our web-store! It's a beautiful full color book that includes new art as well as older pieces, his notes and thoughts. It's a beautiful, very intimate book.

Sounds like it will be good - more info as it comes to hand

The direct link to the book is here

I have bought a copy - I must admit the $10 DRM-free PDF - mainly because the cost of the book and postage was a bit beyond me at the moment (curse you dave mixingtickles stafford). But am very happy and can provide a first report.

It is largely based around the Walter Benjamin immersion and includes some extracts from his books, but mainly is a brief glimpse into the workings of steve roden's mind. Pages from the notebooks which correlate symbols and colours, long lists, a spoken piece called from greensomeness to whitesomeness (based I imagine on colours in the texts), artworks based on postcards of Siena, pages from notebooks which look like a coded text - coloured boxes, crosses, blobs -, development stages of a soundwork, a couple of works from when the body becomes city (seen on the blog, plus the photo of young steve), some extracts from 365 x 433, a series of collages based on notes for baudelaire, a list of benjamin's graphic silences and some card sr made to illustrate them, a video extract, and finally some of the recent paintings that have also recently been seen on sr's blog.

All in all a fabulous slight insight into some of roden's working methods and a lovely collection of images. Looks pretty impressive on the iPad

Friday, September 6, 2013

Grape Nuts

I was eating breakfast this morning and thought, why not blog on grape nuts? The obvious answer to myself was why? But then I answered if you are going to have a solipsistic blog why not use it. So this short paen to the breakfast cereal.
Many years ago, the early sixties, when we lived in England (land of my birth) it was a holiday ritual to get up ealy on the days we were going down to Cornwall and have a bowl of grapenuts before we set off. I don't know how this started or how hard it was to get them in England at the time - presumably hard as it was a treat.

We moved to Australia and the ritual was abandoned and Grape Nuts became a wonderful memory.

Then Carol and I went on the trip described in Fossils and Drones and there were Grape Nuts, available in the supermarket. I bought some and got her hooked.

For the next couple of decades the cereal was like hide and seek - Daimaru opened in Melbourne and stocked it as did David Jones food hall, then they didn't. Some were found at the tastes from home store - which specialised in UK foods but had Grape Nuts - suggesting that they were special for English people.

Some friends I made at a conference sent us a box.

And then Mum found USA Foods - a site for expats which stocks all sorts of goddies - but for us it importantly has Grape Nuts.

We still see it as a little luxury - but one we can indulge more often, and usually as a part of a bigger bowl of cereals. And they stock catering size packs which makes it especially exciting.

But what is it about Grape Nuts? Which have nothing to do with grapes or nuts?

There are two main things, I think. One is the texture and the maintenance of that texture. Grape Nuts are crunchy and they stay that way even after some time in milk. And then there is the flavour - malty in the main with no sense of sweetness. They are just great.

And for me there is the taste of nostalgia for holidays in England, a trip to America and theexcitement of the chase for finding them in Australia.

I don't know why they haven't become big in Australia - part would have been the high prie stores charged for small packets. Through USA Foods they are quite competitive - cheaper than many high end mueslis in fact.

Anyway - to all the Grape Nuts fans out there I say enjoy!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dave Stafford (4) All things being equal

When I downloaded the Pureambient free compilations I was struck by one track that seemed more experimental, edgy. Then while I was first looking through his discography I noticed a track called Blint's tune - parts 18 to 34 I recognized that this was a reference to the final side of Godley/Creme's amazing six-sided opus Consequences. When I saw the intriguing track was from this album, I had to get it. I got All Things Being Equal from the Pureambient site, but it is now available at bandcamp.

This album has three sides to cover. 

The first part gave the album its title. It consists of 7 relatively short tracks, the first composed got the name Pastel = doubt and the idea for a binamial track titling popped into Dave's head, and the album title followed.(The naming also suggests links between the tracks)

The first track Annunciation = day exemplifies the complexity which Dave has inserted into these short pieces - the whole side is only 22 minutes long. A bright calypso beat with steel guitar swings into distorted guitar with a feeling of dread, tabla through back & then back to the steel, back again to distortion, a harp over ticking then theremin, distant guitar solo and beats, piano solo, bloops of synth with low guitar, an abstract segue into a piano solo which (like many elements here) could expand into a long track of its own. And finally it all dissipates into a long fade which is almost as long as the rest of the track. 

Drones open Pastel = doubt joined by melodica like tones (or high strings), with little synth eruptions, quite menacing and slow. A King Crimson feel to Improv = mincer with little percussion bursts, some bendy guitar, deep drone which suddenly bursts and guitar intersperses with Mellotron. 

Day = twilight seems familiar, a car engine tries to start as a calypso beat plays on tuned percussion - and the notes explain that it is track 1 with different settings: an amazing way of working and shows the wonder of modern electronics. The long fade becomes a swirling bleep. A lovely short bass, guitar drum Trio = power.

Doubt = certainty mysterious formless piece of ambience - deep underthrobs, slinking guitar, distant. And finally for this short excursion, Twilight = night takes the drone from the first track allowed room to display itself with some added bass, different reverb and ending this part of the set with a gorgeous long swoop.

Described as the 8th track, Blint's tune = parts 18-34 (note the similar naming) is in its originally format a 51 minute track, as the original mix. But you get a bonus disk (download) which is the 17 component tracks of Blint's tune presented separately in a mix that was created after the single version was made. It is an interesting presentation as it gives each piece its own personal space. 

17 tracks over 51 minutes is too much to try and describe in detail - and even highlights aren't quite the right way. So I'll just throw out some impressions. Opens with percussion & searching guitars finding way. (The drums on the suite are mainly from a piece created by Mike Bowman for Drone Forest to sample). Long slow loop, wild rocking guitar, a cathedral of layered loops, hidden tones, distorted dirty guitar swings from ear to ear, throbbing bass, dark. E-bow, mad percussive loop, building, reverse guitar, e-bow. Gritty guitar, harpsichord, birds reminds me of the original; a sample on a late track also does that), piano, melancholic accordion. A guitar-craft circulation (Dave regrets inserting, but it fits! The longest part) Weird choppy guitar over drums, the final track has cymbals, a drone, slipping into a long fade before the real conclusion on a different drone, distant birds, a dim light at tunnel's end. Changing moods, changing speed, changing density, dissonance to sonority! 

I have listened to individual tracks and the single long version - they each have their place: individually they work as short songs, as a longer suite the fades and segues are seamless but audible - they are smoothly done. This is an album that points in all Dave's directions at once - very satisfying and complex.

I have been lucky in the way I have got to know Dave's music - I didn't have the chance to pigeonhole him as looping-ambience as I have encountered his diversity from the start - Gone Native, this and the ambient albums. And now there is the pleasure of following his path through his various apps - in particular Mixtikl (go to Mixtikl eternal album here) as mentioned before on &etc.

(This will be my last Stafford retrospective review - I have bought another album recently (The haunting - lovely ambience: 6 midlength tracks with 2 whopper remixes). But I will leave it for you to explore, as all Dave's albums are available on Bandcamp which offers the chance of listening on-line for free &/or buying individual tracks or albums. Get there via the Mixtikl link. I haven't hit a dud one yet)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Unbearable Itch: a tribute to Little Fyodor

It is not often that a cover version improves or equals the original - I still think Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is the best. 

I have only heard one Little Fyodor album, reviewed ages ago on the blog (Peace is Boring, from Public Eyesore), so can't speak comprehensively. But this set of covers The Unscratchable Itch (PE122: available from Public Eyesore) of his songs often improve and develop from either the originals I have heard or the impression given by that earlier release. The good ones emphasize the lyrics or musicality of the works, provide a diversity of voices & don't include the distracting babushka. As I wrote before, Fyodor can write a great hook & many are on display here. 

We open with Ralph Gean singing All my clothes are uncomfortable which seems to be close to the Fyodor ethos but Gean's voice has a more serious tonality which adds to the song. I believe in god (Patrick Porter) is also close to home but develops the song while on Get out of my head the Voodoo Organist gets down and rocks. 

The version of You give me a hard-on by Dan Susnara demonstrates where things can go wrong - a fake crooner with cheesy special effects tries for comedy and fails - emphasized by The Inactivists later version of the same song. With sax and guitar and some fabulous orchestration it takes the song seriously and makes it really cool but adds anger to the vocal. This is one of the highlights, along with Boyd Rice's The blackness which impresses with its simple dark production and female chorus.

I won't comment on every track - good or bad - but some of the other high points are Amy Denio who extracts the seriousness and music on The god gripe song and injects some pleasant female harmonies; a swampy psychedelic Happy people from Brian M Clark. A couple of tracks cutup the vocals and add electronica - Cruising (bummer scene) from Diablo Mountain sounds like a remix and Darren Douglas Danahy provides a change with abstract electronics and distorted vocals on No relief in sight.

Lasse Jensen does two songs - a cool translated version of I want an ugly girl and a smashup Everybody's fucking: playing around with song lyrics and just having fun.

Outside these there is a live death metal noise version of Won't somebody fill the void (Blood Rhythms), a rockabilly I wanna be the buddha (Evan Cantor), shouted punk That was a mistake (Us from the Superfuture) and Nervesandgel is a growling devil on Doomed. And much more 

The sequence is good - the first few tracks being more consistent with what I know of Little Fyodor and then moving into a range of directions with the music. And again, he can write hooky tunes, thoughtful lyrics and thought provoking comedy.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Three from Eh?

The first batch of new reviews - I have grouped these Eh? releases because they seemed to have something in common and yet be distinct. The main feature is that they are relatively restrained, closer to the ambient end of freeform, and also are not instrumental groups as such.

The July Amalgam (Eh?74): this album is in two parts. The first half is Wilsey, Kreimer and Graves playing on July 6 while the second substitutes Bachmann for Wilsey on the seventh. There is no detail on the disk about who plays what, and a web search was not much more helpful. Which has the advantage of listening to the sounds and letting them speak for themselves. The instrumentation seems to include things to bang and pluck, scrape and pling. There is perhaps some electronics - at times there are some deep tones coming through.

The first part, with 6 shorter pieces, seems a little more active, though both are quite restrained in their development. There is a track with a sound like paper being scrunched on it, another has something that is almost like a sample of one of those barrels of laughs, and some feedback. The 3 longer tracks in the second part develop more slowly and spaciously (spacily?), again there are some electronics, hints of voices, tones, uncertain sounds like crackling water. 

This album appealed to me as a nice abstract work to have playing in the background or to let move into the foreground. The pieces meander through their course, not trying to approach the state of music, but more an air of focussed intensity that develops into its own space.

Looking on the web, dotolim seems to be a small venue for live webcast performances. Alice Hui-Sheng Chang, Park Seungjun and Jin Sangate performed their live at dotolim in Jan 2010 (Eh?70). Park and Jin provide a backdrop of ambient whitenoice crackling electronica through spring reverb, speaker, standlight, hard disk drive, radio and PDA. This varies in intensity and volume, although generally restrained and quiet sometimes plucky, others pulsing. The key to the release is Alice's voice - she is credited with 'extended vocal technique' and she has quite a range - sounding at times like Yoko Ono, Tuvan throat singers, quavery tones, moaning, a sax and more. The group move through their 48 minutes rising and falling, building and releasing, in a work that again provides a thoughtful mood.

And then Jean-Marc Montera on guitar and fx and Francesco Calandrino on lofi stereos, manipulated audiocassettes, field recordings, clarinets recorded on 1 March and release on 'Idi Di Marzo' (Eh?64)(mysteriously as, as the Italian hints, Idi is ides). Their album together is quite a slippery beast though. The first track has scraping and rapidly played guitar over a protean bed of electronica that shifts and cuts like an audio whirlwind - buzzing crackling whining, samples emerging briefly, though a longer choir sings. Things get more restrained in the next track, with a hint of Calendro's clarinet which becomes more obvious on subsequent pieces, particularly track 4. As you listen your mind focusses on the electronica - the child's voice or the whooping in 3 perhaps - and then to the guitar which uses a range of tricks (scraping, percussive, treatments) and straight playing in varied styles. The balance between the 2, and the interplay, is well judged and satisfying. There is also a flow to the album - as it moves to the conclusion it passes through a noisy ragged track 5 with voice samples more prominent and then the more rocking conclusion of track 6.  This is a driving album, which pulls you along and demands that you listen to it. 

After finishing the review I realised that the albums are perhaps more different - if I had kept it at 2 we would be fine with a tying together here. July Amalgam and Dotolim both have a quiet earnestness - I see these groups sitting playing with serious faces to a group of intense audience members, they work the silences and subtly modulate; while in Idi there is more excitement and extravagant drama. I am not a ranker: each of these albums works its field skilfully and is satisfying in their own way - either as ambience or as pummelling noise.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Scape versus Mixtikl

Two of the main ambient music generators, discussed here and also pointed to in relation to Dave Stafford's Eternal Albums.

Following his experience with them Dave has initialled rated them equally

But just two days later realised Mixtikl won

A view I would agree with - based on my review-notes on my post & an email to Dave concerning his Mixtikl eternal album

It is one of the best drone albums I've heard for a while - dronier than most of  the forest. It is subtle and supple. 

I am trying to think of the word for scape. Toy is wrong, but something like that. It is almost impossible to create a bad scape - but that is due to the constraints: only 2 general drones at once, maximum element count. And then really nothing. 

Mixtikl is, despite it generative basis, an instrument. I can create mainly crap pieces cause I don't have the time, experience or ear to learn it. The examples they give you show the genre range. The pieces on the eter/bum work because even on your first excursions you understood the parameters of selection and then manipulation. 

Anyway. Congrats on some brilliant pieces there. 

Looking forward to downloading and lisatening to the 4 new mixtikl tracks - a album which is both good value (all tracks are long) and, more importantly, beautiful ambience