October 8th, 2012 by David Gerard
Here’s something instructive: YouTube: A Dinosaur Story. That’s a three-hour movie done by two kids in their loungeroom with toy dinosaurs. Ridiculously low production values, make-it-up-as-we-go-along story by a couple of kids who seem to be about nine or ten. It’s genuine unintermediated young children’s folk culture, on the internet. HOLY CRAP. PUNK ROCK FOR EVERYONE.
The reason this is noteworthy: it’s one of my five-year-old’s favourite films. She’s watched her assorted Disney DVDs about half a time each, she’s watched this movie repeatedly and tells bits of it to her classmates. I boggle, but I cannot deny the observation that they’re doing something right that Disney isn’t, on a budget of zero.
She was also incredibly excited when she saw YouTube videos of kids making Thomas the Tank Engine fan videos using wooden railways just like hers. “They’re making their own stories!” (Example. Of course it’s rubbish. That’s not the point.) The powerful drive for a culture of your own starts early.
The recording industry used to try to justify not being taken out and shot by claiming blockbusterism was necessary to music, which was of course just a lie. Bands can (and do) now do albums with a microphone and a laptop. Microphone optional. Record at home, put it up on Bandcamp, the physical barrier to recording and distribution is gone. I remember the eighties, and just how bloody hard it was even to record, let alone distribute the result. Sure, the studio result is better, but that’s optional now. For getting the damn song out of your head and into the world, convenience beats quality every time the two are head-to-head.
Culture is everything humans do to impress each other, and it’s diseased unless it’s owned by all of us. The arrangement where you have creators here and consumers here and never the twain shall meet is a twentieth-century perversion we are well rid of.
September 26th, 2012 by David Gerard
James Taylor has filed suit against Warner Brothers for unpaid digital royalties. This has dug up a pile of dirt dating back to 1969. 52 ways to screw an artist. Burn. It. All. To. The. Fucking. Ground. There is nothing worth saving.
September 14th, 2012 by David Gerard
Cracked delivers. “The Sign Says ‘Fire Your Graphic Designer’.”
September 9th, 2012 by David Gerard
Jay Ruttenberg in the New York Times laments his own career as a rock critic, and discusses current trends in literary depictions of musicians. Sounds like the authors didn’t actually get it all stupidly wrong. “Encouraged to ply his music on the Internet, Spiotta’s fiercely guarded artist reacts as if he has just been asked to streak across the town square.”
August 16th, 2012 by David Gerard
David Weigel, a political reporter for Slate, is in the midst of a series on the history of prog rock. It’s really quite frightening.
July 22nd, 2012 by David Gerard
I bet you’ve always wondered what music would sound like if the bottom 8 bits of 16-bit sound were ever used for anything at all. This is promising: the ITU has defined a unit of loudness, and the European Broadcasting Union is making it a recommendation. What this means is that recordings with no dynamic range will end up played apparently more quietly than recordings with dynamic range. The US has also passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act so that ad breaks don’t blare. We can but hope. I SAID, “WE CAN BUT HOPE.”
July 21st, 2012 by David Gerard
This week’s bit of Wikipedia: Space Invaders (Player One song). A disco novelty hit from Russell Brown and Bruce Dunlop, Australian #3 in 1980 and fourth-best-selling single of that year, which for some reason had no article. Check this page for the most collected information on the thing, the cheesy pre-MTV video and, since it hasn’t been available for thirty years, here for the still pretty good single and here for the incredibly awful album. This thing also started Chicago house music: it was sampled, or at least the bass line copied, for “On And On” by Jesse Saunders.
July 9th, 2012 by David Gerard
It’s doomed, along with the CD in general. But then, albums have always sorta sucked, with a very few exceptions; they were a more cost-effective music carrier per song for a while, and they’re not any more. The main thing keeping CD sales afloat at all in the UK in the past year was 21 by Adele, which was actually put together as a coherent piece of work, not just a CD-sized bucket of stuff.
(So we are told, anyway. I did listen to 19 all the way through and had that thing where you literally can’t remember the tune five seconds after the song finishes. But apparently someone likes this sort of thing.)
I’m sure people putting out downloads will continue to group them into conceptual “EPs” and “albums”; perhaps the resulting groups of songs will suck less on average. The bit in the late ’80s when Australian indie bands were putting out really good and concise five- and six-track EPs was great, until Shock started telling bands to record full albums because they’d have a higher sticker price. I sorta miss B-sides too, but most artists didn’t really use them very artistically either.
June 23rd, 2012 by David Gerard
The huge FBI raid on
massive bootlegging entirely legitimate file upload site MegaUpload in January sure struck a blow for ethics, morality and of course the artists, who are the RIAA’s eternal and only concern. Except that the raid was actually timed to take out colourful racing identity Kim Dotcom’s plans to go into competition selling recordings, which is why the RIAA was gunning for it already.
Not only is the raid itself turning out more and more legally dubious, but Dotcom’s plans are back in full swing: MegaBox, a site where artists can put their stuff at a 10% commission on sales. A bit like BandCamp, but with backing and fame, which may well make all the difference.
The recording industry is not just fucked because of
home taping downloading — it’s fucked because it isn’t the gatekeeper for the means of production any more, and never will be again. Does anyone actually remember just how insanely fucking hard it was even to record thirty years ago, let alone release the recording?
June 19th, 2012 by David Gerard
So much for the argument from design. Computational biologist Bob MacCallum at Imperial College
had too much time on his hands was inspired to push back the boundaries of musical knowlege, so set up a system to generate random sinewave tones, then run it through public opinion testing at DarwinTunes. “The higher-rated loops get to have sex and make baby loops.” After three thousand generations, it even evolved a kick drum. He’s got it into Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as “Evolution of music by public choice”.
June 17th, 2012 by David Gerard
For those of you on Facebook: the Shit Record Covers group, and its hall of fame. NSFW for unstylish seventies breasts. I am particularly delighted that they flag many a hipster favourite, wherein even the people owning the records concede the cover’s just a bit crap.
June 11th, 2012 by David Gerard
Some musicians — I’m sure none of you reading — are observably fucking delusional about business, relationship management, reputation management and what copyright actually is and how it works. They are certain that the three chords and the melody they know damn well where they nicked ’em are MINE MINE MINE and no-one else is allowed to think about them until the end of time without coughing up. They act like the kids who make LiveJournal icons out of other people’s images for fan fiction then hit the goddamn roof when someone STEALS their ORIGINAL CREATION.
Today’s example is Andy Scott, one of the surviving members of The Sweet and in one of the two bands touring under that name. Mr Scott keeps a keen eye on technological developments relevant to his career interests, and thought he was onto a winner when he saw someone daring to sell an obvious bootleg on eBay for one euro. He claimed it was a pirated copy and demanded €2000 from the fellow, but the scofflaw in question insisted it was a disc he’d actually bought and could actually sell for 80p if he wanted to. Scott went to court asking for €36,000. When the scoundrel opposing proved in court that it was his bloody CD, Scott changed his claim to say he owned the “copyright” on the name, so definitely deserved all the money from any second-hand sales. The court told him to fuck off, funnily enough.
Copyright, it’s like oxygen. Too much and you get high. Still, I’m sure Scott is pleased to have established a good European precedent protecting second-hand record sales.
June 10th, 2012 by David Gerard
Copyright collection agencies are actually a really good idea for working songwriters. Record companies generally never cough up a royalty cheque ever past the initial advance, but publishers frequently do, so public performance and radio play are a non-trivial earner for many.
The trouble is that when collection agencies pull this sort of outrageous bullshit, they continue to discredit copyright altogether in the eyes of the public. You’d think they’d all have learnt by now. (Although ASCAP’s attempt to collect on ringtones meets with my full approval.)
May 22nd, 2012 by David Gerard
To bludgeon the point home about anything over CD quality being superfluous, we have, from 2008, Audibility of a CD-Standard A/D/A Loop Inserted Into High-Resolution Audio Playback — a study in which professional “golden ears” were subjected to random A/B/X testing of SACD audio which was randomly switched to 16/44.1, and this was consistently undetectable by the trained listeners.
The difference in commercial 96kHz recordings is that they have usually been mastered better, with no loudness wars. But the bitrate is literally useless for the end listener. And if you insist it isn’t, I’ve got some over-the-phone system tweaking to sell you.
May 21st, 2012 by David Gerard
In the Internet era, copyright laws are just getting tougher. But people really, really don’t give a shit. 61% of 15-25-year-olds in Sweden fileshare personally, and heavy sharers have gone up. (Translated Swedish news report.)
Industry education about copyright provokes “fight the power” — it turns out people think record companies are lying fountains of shit and if they said the sky was blue people would first assume it was green. And politicians who do what Hollywood wants cause a healthy general disrespect for the law. Oh, and these kids are voting now.
What you need to do is work out how you’re going to make a living when, not if, copyright is cut to a straight fourteen-year term. At least your competitors will be in the same boat.
April 28th, 2012 by David Gerard
My high-school English teacher really wanted me to do journalism at Curtin because I did well on the school magazine. I did chemistry at UWA instead (striking out badly) and a fanzine in my spare time (which rapidly became all of it).
But think what I could have been missing out on: a chance to write about the poor oppressed mainstream. They just can’t get a break with all the hipsters running WAM. I hope the author is really embarrassed about this piece when they’re older.
April 9th, 2012 by David Gerard
You have a record collection this big and all you do and think about every day is records and music. So just how closely have you been listening? Can you tell a note out of place in a chord? Lots of testees are surprised and horrified to discover they can’t. It took me a few tries, so you can get better.
March 12th, 2012 by Lev Lafayette
The “industrial groove machine” known as The Sisters of Mercy recently performed twice in Melbourne at the Corner Hotel and apparently also at the Soundwave Festival. The crowd was a good mix, but mainly of goth aficionados from the 1980s when the band reached a high-point of popularity, with the albums First and Last and Always and Floodland.
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March 6th, 2012 by David Gerard
Mere CD quality (16 bit/44.1kHz) is so passé. Apple is now pushing 24/96 (and telling engineers not to compress stuff to shit, God bless ’em), and audiophile download sites are selling 24/192.
It turns out this is audiophool bollocks. Monty is the guy who wrote Ogg Vorbis — he knows his stuff. There are no humans found in the last century who can testably hear over 20kHz, ultrasonics encoded at 192kHz just cause intermodulation distortion, 16 bits is provably all the information any known human ear needs and the main benefit of 24-bit is headroom.
“Modern playback fidelity is incomprehensibly better than the already excellent analog systems available a generation ago.” Monty’s advice for actual fidelity? Spend effort on decent headphones.
(Can you tell a 320kbps MP3 from the FLAC? I know damn well I can’t.)
March 3rd, 2012 by David Gerard
Official Church of Scientology Australian rap music. That is all.
(This is what I get for declaring something the possible worst.)
March 1st, 2012 by David Gerard
Oldies but goodies from Tom Ellard of Severed Heads, on the trouble with fan spaces (I was on the email list version for a coupla years, it was pretty good then) and a reminder that fan is short for “fanatic.” The artist’s shit effect is the mildest form. You cannot buy souls on a record. “I’ve started forwarding messages and phone recordings to the police, hoping to get someone to leave me the hell alone or get a warrant. And I’m nobody.”
February 27th, 2012 by David Gerard
Students of Australian music need to listen once to the first six songs on Icehouse by Flowers as part of first-year New Wave. Beyond that, singles will do. Hitting fast forward a lot.
Mostly. I have discovered the best Icehouse album ever recorded: The Berlin Tapes, a collection of post-punk covers Iva Davies put together for a Sydney Dance Company production. Yet again, we see excessively skilled musicians do well handed someone else’s songs. I most strongly commend to you “Disappointed?” His “Love Like Blood” wins as well. How the hell did I not hear of this when it came out?
February 26th, 2012 by David Gerard
The twentieth anniversary of the release of “Baby Got Back” was February 5th. To commemorate this occasion, we present a logical puzzle. “You are curious whether your butt is big or small. Unfortunately, you lack the ability to accurately assess the size of butts. Fortunately, there are three rappers before you …”
February 25th, 2012 by David Gerard
Today’s is from the advent of the evil talkie in the cinemas. The obvious solution is to ban soundtracks on moving images. Playing YouTube memes should be illegal without professional musicians present, paid union scale.
February 24th, 2012 by David Gerard
Remember Street Sounds? Brilliant R’n'B compilations, unavailable on the face of the Earth for the past thirty years? Here you go. The label is also back and running.
February 19th, 2012 by David Gerard
Now listening to The Quietus Radio. Like the magazine, it’s actually decent and worth your time. God help me if I start following popular music again. More.
February 12th, 2012 by David Gerard
Chalga is possibly the worst pop genre ever, and that’s a subject I have considerable expertise in. Bulgaria could take over the world. “What’s the difference between chalga videos and porn? Porn has better music.”
February 11th, 2012 by David Gerard
Plans are afoot for Rowland S. Howard to get his own disreputable dark alleyway. Well, it worked before! (Is RSH Lane actually dark?)
January 28th, 2012 by David Gerard
January 27th, 2012 by Lev Lafayette
In previous reviews the general superiority of Billboard as a venue has been mentioned and they remain applicable here; the light is better, the sound is good, the floor-design is excellent and they actually keep the place at a moderate temperature. With an audience of the usual suspects, The Damned came with two support acts. The first was some clown (I mean a magician) who didn’t like the fact the audience were indifferent to his tricks; the accusations of being on heroin and being a bunch of grey-haired “fruity arses” are obviously designed to endear us to the performance. To be fair ‘Dr El Suavo’ did have a cool mask and a stylish assistant, but the act and customer relations is going to need some improvement.
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