Matrix HiFi: Blind-testing high-end audio equipment.

May 11th, 2015 by David Gerard

As usual, a well-set up blind A/B test of supposedly stupendous audio equipment. And as usual, the actual answer is “fix the room first.”

The interesting thing is the excuses for why science, logic and joined-up thinking don’t work when someone is making a factual claim like “superior audio reproduction.” In this case, subjects claimed the A/B/X switch being present affected the sound, even though the test also showed this couldn’t possibly be true. The testers indulged the subjects by swapping entire cables by hand rather than using A/B/X, but frankly when they reach that stage of homeopathic balderdash, “bugger off” is the right answer.

Apple wants free streaming and videos on YouTube shut down.

May 4th, 2015 by David Gerard

Of course the new distribution channels are going to act like the old distribution channels. Apple wants to relaunch Beats as a new and exciting service that involves paying them money, so they’re pressuring labels to kill Spotify and Pandora’s free tiers, and pressuring Universal to pull all videos from YouTube. The US Department of Justice and the EU Competition Commission is looking severely askance at these moves. Of course, if Apple succeeds, I’m sure their name won’t become mud or something.

Help the suffering stars of Tidal.

April 28th, 2015 by David Gerard

With the app sinking without trace for no better reason than that it’s terrible and there’s no conceivable reason to bother with it, Unnamed Insider puts out a heartfelt plea to you, the concerned music lover.

(VLGroup analyses their deal, which is streaming FLAC at a premium … despite A/B testing on good AAC on earbuds coming out much as you’d expect. Wonder if Tidal will pivot to pure 24/96 snake oil, and if there’s a market for 24/96 Nicki Minaj.)

Based on the trailer, it is blindingly obvious that everyone must watch the hell out of Kung Fury.

April 25th, 2015 by David Gerard

A kung fu cop film from the television ’80s. Here is the trailer. And here is the Wikipedia article. And here is the theme song, by David Hasselhoff. The movie is released 28th May. YOU MUST WATCH THE SHIT OUT OF THIS.

The Cramps’ long-lost video for “Human Fly” found.

April 24th, 2015 by David Gerard

An item alluded to in epic-nerd-level Cramps coverage, but so rare nobody was even known to have a full copy. Here in the astounding world of the future, we have YouTube. Story and video at Dangerous Minds.

Donald Fagen: Sunken Condos (2012).

April 23rd, 2015 by David Gerard

Donald Fagen: Sunken CondosThis is light jazz funk rock with brilliant musicianship, and Fagen’s voice is still lovely after all these years. I could not remember a single tune while the songs were actually playing, let alone when they finished. If any of these songs had been any good at all, this would have been the best record ever. The same applies to his 1993 and 2006 albums, in case you were wondering. Play The Nightfly again. Or just “New Frontier”.

Metroland: Triadic Ballet.

April 20th, 2015 by David Gerard

Metroland Triadic Ballet sleeveMetroland is a Belgian electronic duo. Their publicity says “Kraftwerk” a whole lot, though my first thought was “the Kraftwerky end of Severed Heads”. This is their new album, Triadic Ballet. I can keep this short ‘cos you can go to that Bandcamp link and listen for yourself. Also check the single from the album, “Zeppelin” (regular edition, spacious edition), which is just amazingly nice and will stick in your head.

Musician links.

April 19th, 2015 by David Gerard

Industry links.

April 18th, 2015 by David Gerard

Petition to reform TISM to represent Australia at Eurovision.

February 11th, 2015 by David Gerard

So Australia won the wildcard for Eurovision 2015.

And there’s a petition for TISM to reform and play it. Go sign now. Because you might be a cunt, but you’re not a fucking cunt.

(No, Severed Heads are unlikely. Let alone New Waver.)

Update from Humphrey B. Flaubert: “If a multi-national with a horrendous human rights record gives me a large cheque, all bets are on.” Also, check his new album out. And here he explains the entire point of TISM.


January 23rd, 2015 by David Gerard
  • Google puts the hard word on artists using YouTube. Sign up for five years or you’re off YouTube.

  • What the “vinyl comeback” actually looks like.
  • The Museum of Techno reconstructs basslines. “bass was rare in man’s sonic environment before the 2nd half of the 20th century …” The whole site is worth a giggle.

Why every mainstream record sounds the same, step by step.

January 12th, 2015 by David Gerard

Tom Whitwell has just reposted his 2008 Word article on the recording process for mainstream radio-targeted music: how to record music literally targeted at people who don’t actually like music. It is every bit as processed as you can imagine, and possibly more so. I recently listened to all of the top 100 US chart hits for 2014, and by crikey you can hear this process.

You will also enjoy these videos setting out country hits of 2013 and 2014 and how they are literally the same song. Yep, there’s still no reason to pay attention to mainstream popular culture.

Steve Albini: How The Internet Solved The Problem with Music.

January 11th, 2015 by David Gerard

Steve Albini’s 1993 classic “The Problem with Music”, written at the height of the grunge era, when post-hardcore punk bands were getting gobbled up by majors, summarised precisely how bad a deal things were at the time. “Some of your friends are already this fucked.”

In November 2014, Albini gave the keynote speech at the 2014 Face the Music conference in Melbourne, updating how things have changed in the past twenty years.

tl;dr everything is incomparably better for bands and audiences in 2014 than in 1994, entirely because of the Internet. If you think you have it hard now, it’s because you don’t know how badly it sucked then.

That’s quite a claim, of course, and musicians reading this may be sceptical. But Albini sets it out in considerable detail. This piece is every bit as important as the first piece and should be heeded as closely.

So there is a tacit assumption that this money, lost money, needs to be replaced and a lot of energy has been spent arguing from where that money will come. Bitchiness about this abounds, with everybody insisting that somebody else should be paying him, but that he shouldn’t have to pay for anybody else. I would like to see an end to this dissatisfaction. It’s worthwhile to remember from where we’ve come.

You may have noticed that in my description of the mass market music scene and the industry as it was pre-internet I made little mention of the audience or the bands. Those two ends of the spectrum were hardly considered by the rest of the business.

If we’ve learned anything over the past 30 years it’s that left to its own devices bands and their audiences can get along fine: the bands can figure out how to get their music out in front of an audience and the audience will figure out how to reward them. The internet has facilitated the most direct and efficient, compact relationship ever between band and audience. And I do not mourn the loss of the offices of inefficiencies that died in the process.

Statistically, very few musicians make a living at it — or ever have. Successful musicians of the pre-Internet era were 1% of 1%. I was most surprised that Albini not only thinks it’s possible, he’s optimistic.

Work for Oprah’s $999-ticket tour for free. “No budget” for perfomers – but “exposure”!

January 4th, 2015 by David Gerard

Pity the poor cash-strapped billionaires! Oprah Winfrey’s Live The Life You Want tour, with tickets priced from $99 to $999, has “no budget” to pay performers. The theme of the tour is “realizing self-worth”. Obviously the performer needed to project her wishes into the universe more strongly, and not be so spiritually lazy as to require tawdry currency.

How comprehensively fucked Hollywood is, in detail.

January 3rd, 2015 by David Gerard

The Sony hack revealed that even the execs are sick of the latest Adam Sandler vehicle. Mark Harris at Grantland sets out the next five cookie-cutter years in detailed historical perspective. Terry Gilliam gives the view from the gutted midlist. It’s no wonder takings continue to drop.

Oh, and Sony tried to use the DMCA to suppress leaked emails concerning financial malfeasance. I’m sure that’ll work out just fine.

A new year of links!

January 1st, 2015 by David Gerard
  • There’s a new Rowland S. Howard career collection, Six Strings That Drew Blood. Here’s an excellent review and history from the Quietus.

  • I didn’t realise until a few months ago that Karl Bartos, ex-Kraftwerk, had remixed “Planet Rock.” Full circle indeed.
  • And speaking of early ’80s New York black music, why don’t you search YouTube for New York KISS FM mix tapes. People’s old off-air cassettes of Shep Pettibone’s mixes as a radio DJ.

Danny Says: a documentary about Danny Fields.

December 29th, 2014 by David Gerard

Danny Fields was there before the birth of punk rock in the US: he’s the guy who signed the Stooges and the MC5 to Elektra and managed the Ramones. Now there’s a movie in production about him, Danny Says, with a nice New York Times writeup.

Nick Cave: 20,000 Days On Earth and Q&A session

December 19th, 2014 by Lev Lafayette

20000At a special screening at The Astor, the Nick Cave documentary 20 000 Days on Earth was screened, with Nick present for a Q&A session afterwards. The film, directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, loosely depicts the lead up to the production and performance of Push the Sky Away, the fifteenth studio album of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, who had just completed an Australia and New Zealand sixteen venue tour, with several shows added to cater for excessive demand.

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LOUDEST LINKS OF THE DAY. Spanish newspapers in thermonuclear foot-bullet hilarity.

December 14th, 2014 by David Gerard

Sony Pictures hack: how to save a bundle of cash through wilful negligence.

December 13th, 2014 by David Gerard

Sony Pictures’ computer network got comprehensively pwn3d recently, with huge amounts of confidential data being dumped to the world. Because everybody hates Sony, for excellent and ongoing reasons.

That’s what makes this 2007 interview with their Chief Information Officer such a delicious and tasty slice of schadenfreude pie.

“I sincerely believe that if we left it all up to the auditors to tell us what works, we wouldn’t have a business at the end of the day,” Spaltro says.

The hack has left film shoots stopped because Sony can’t process payments.

There’s also the most injured victims, the random low-level employees who just got fucked over by their upper management’s wilful negligence and incompetence. Your first reaction should be to wonder how competent your own bosses are in this respect.

Notes On The Accounting of Musical Taste

December 13th, 2014 by Lev Lafayette

Recently I gave a presentation on The Philosophy of Music. Putting aside the definitional and ontological questions for a moment, perhaps the most troubling from a reviewer’s point of view was an epistemological one; what sort of knowledge does musical and lyrical content give us?. Without being able to answer that, qualitative musical criticism becomes extremely difficult beyond mere evaluation of relative competence of the performers, industry sycophancy, or expressive bitterness on the part of the reviewer. This is not to suggest that that such elements in a review aren’t important, let alone the non-musical elements (venue, visual presentation, crowd behaviour), but rather to identify aesthetically good music from that which is not. Why is it that a reviewer can say, with grounded justification, that the lyric snippet from New Order‘s ‘Crystal’ (“Here comes love, it’s like honey, you can’t buy it with money”) has the same sort of credibility as Stephenie Meyer in Twilight when the protagonist is asked whether they are hungry and responds; “No.” I didn’t feel like mentioning that my stomach was already full – of butterflies.

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I bet you thought the record industry actually wanted people to buy their records.

December 12th, 2014 by David Gerard

The estimable PopBitch details how UK labels refuse to actually make songs with massive demand available for purchase — deliberately missing the Christmas binge period for Nicki Minaj “Anaconda”, Gwen Stefani “Baby Don’t Lie” and Mark Ronson’s superlative “Uptown Funk” (which you should definitely play right now).

They’re all on YouTube, making fractional pennies per view, but the actual locally-chartable sales aren’t happening because the labels refuse to release them in that territory, as if the Internet never happened. The only vaguely plausible reason anyone can come up with is that the people running the PR campaign are attempting to make that campaign look good, and never mind the bit where the business is supposed to pick up all the free money lying around.

(“Uptown Funk” is finally being released before Christmas, with talk of intra-Sony shenanigans to achieve this.)

Skinny Puppy, ‘Weapon’ (2013)

December 10th, 2014 by Lev Lafayette

Skinny_Puppy_-_Weapon_(2013)As perhaps the most important industrial band of the 1980s, Skinny Puppy developed a loyal following with their harsh instrumentation, samples, and politically blunt messages, especially with their opposition to vivisection. Albums such as ‘VIVIsectVI’, ‘Rabies’, and ‘Too Dark Park’ whilst far too challenging for mainstream popularity, appealed greatly to a select audience. An cascading set of disasters and a change in musical direction however plagued the band in the early 1990s; they changed labels, moved, had recording sessions interrupted by an earthquake, sacked the producer for the upcoming album, and faced increasing tension between band members, eventually leading to one member leaving, and another dying of of a heroin overdose shortly afterwards. The concept album, ‘The Process’, was not entirely well received and represented somewhat of a change in musical direction, which disappointed some fans.

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Forget “Paul is dead”: the Beatles NEVER EXISTED. Apparently.

December 7th, 2014 by David Gerard

AcousticBrainz: An open database of song fingerprints from MusicBrainz.

November 22nd, 2014 by David Gerard

MusicBrainz, the database of everything music-related, has launched AcousticBrainz, a database of song characteristics in the manner of Soundhound or Shazam, but with the data freely available to anyone, and a really horrible name. Nobody’s built a Shazam-like frontend for it as yet, but no doubt that will come. Here’s a sample of the sort of data they collect, which is more extensive than MusicBrainz’ existing AcoustID fingerprint database.

Yours Is No Disgrace: A Small Selection Of ‘Yes’ Trivia

November 22nd, 2014 by Lev Lafayette

Formed in 1968, “Yes” is fairly much the iconic example of the crossover point of progressive and art rock. Whilst the line-up has seen many changes of the decades, with brief splits and reconstitutions, they’ve produced an epic 21 studio albums, 10 live albums, 32 compilation albums, 34 singles and 19 videos. With a total of at least thirty million album sales, two of the albums made their way to UK number one, and one of their singles did so as well in the US.

With a journey of that length, there is more than a few tales to tell. The following is but a small selection of oddities as a potted history in the “Yes” story, some of which are well known to aficionados, but nevertheless will give all a taste of the flights of these starship troopers..

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Punk rock links.

November 18th, 2014 by David Gerard

Yes, but which day was that good day?

November 12th, 2014 by David Gerard

Donovan Strain went to great effort a couple of years ago to find out precisely what day was Ice Cube’s good day. Two years later, he got to meet up with Mr Cube. And there’s a video of the analysis. ICE CUBE SAYS TODAY WAS A GOOD DAY.

65daysofstatic: Wild Light

November 6th, 2014 by Lev Lafayette

It’s a cute fashion for the originators of subcultures to declare its ‘death’ just as it is starting; thus the hippies of Haight-Ashbury declared a “death of hippie” march in 1968, the punk band Crass sung “Punk Is Dead” on their first album in 1978, and so too that marvellous contemporary style of music where progressive and alternative meet in complex rhythmic structures, math rock, would face the claim of the “fall of math” by genre-exemplars 65daysofstatic likewise in their ground-breaking first album in 2004. Since then they’ve brought out a further four studio albums and a soundtrack with their complex and experimental sounds.

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Radio Birdman Boxed Set

November 4th, 2014 by Lev Lafayette

Courtesy of our friends at The Dwarf your author had the opportunity to see the legendary Radio Birdman as long as finger was put to keyboard in review. This iconic founding band of Australian independent rock and punk from the 1970s announced a reunion tour and concurrent with this was the release of an extraordinary CD boxed set consisting of all three early studio albums, a previously unreleased live album of the notorious Paddington Town Hall gigs, a DVD of various videos, three bonus discs of unreleased material, and a forty page booklet of images with an essay about the band from their earliest days by Toby Creswell, all packaged in a solid black box with the red Radio Birdman logo.

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