Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay: documentary film later this year.

March 16th, 2014 by David Gerard
Industrial

Now this is an interesting thing. Amélie Ravalec and Travis Collins (the one from RTR) track down the conceptual origins of 1970s and 1980s industrial music, interviewing a pile of the original participants. The trailer is marvellous. They’ve put up mixtapes. There’s a Twitter and Facebook too. I’m looking forward to this one.

Why we love repetition in music.

March 14th, 2014 by David Gerard
Esoterica

Why do we listen to our favourite music over and over again? Because repeated sounds work magic in our brains. Do anything repeatedly and it is music. And even if you consciously avoid repetition, listeners in studies consistently rate the same piece with a bit of repetition inserted higher than the version without.

Daniel Miller from Mute’s top five German prog rock albums.

March 12th, 2014 by David Gerard
Industrial

Miller is not quite comfortable with the term “Krautrock”, and neither am I. But this is a delight for any decent record nerd, and particularly any record nerd who likes their bleep. I’m surprised he rated Radioactivity above Trans-Europe Express, but given it’s Daniel Miller I’m not going to quibble.

As a bonus, here’s Daniel Miller’s Modular Synth Masterclass at LEAF 2013 (including lack of fandom for Switched-On Bach — any bleep fan needs to watch this) and the BBC documentary Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany.

Neil Young launches new music player based on magic beans and unicorn poop.

March 10th, 2014 by David Gerard
Audio

Neil Young has unveiled at SXSW a new $400 pocket music player that only plays one specific file type, encoded at “high resolution”. The file type will only be sold through a single proprietary store.

Look at these bloody things.

Just look at this bloody thing.

Quite apart from the bit where the triangle edge sticks into your thigh — I think Jony Ive is losing no sleep here — just imagine how much of your expensive high-resolution audio will make it through your earbuds. Or your Beats by Dre. This is like bringing Betamax to the market in 1994.

The actual sound format appears entirely made of audiophile woo. Dig this from Friday’s press release:

Ayre’s custom designed and implemented digital filter. It is minimum phase, with no unnatural (digital sounding) pre-ringing. All sounds made always have reflections and/or echoes after the initial sound. There is no sound in nature that has any echo or reflection before the sound, which is what conventional linear-phase digital filters do. This is one reason that digital sound has a reputation for sounding “unnatural”.

Or, from today’s press release:

PonoMusic is a revolutionary movement conceived and founded by Neil Young with a mission to restore the soul of music – bringing the highest-quality digital music to discerning, passionate consumers, who hunger to hear music the way its creators intended, with the emotion, detail, and power intact.

I can play FLACs — including 24-bit ones — on my phone. Bit-perfect copies of my CDs. And it’s also a phone.

If Neil Young, age 68, who’s played feedback-drenched noise on stage for the past forty-odd years, can reliably tell a Pomo file from a FLAC prepared from said Pomo file in A/B/X testing, I will give you a lollipop. Two lollipops.

(HT Daniel Lopez on the RationalWiki Facebook group.)

That Tyson guy? Eh, I could take him.

February 28th, 2014 by David Gerard
Your rights

Liberation Music really don’t like people using their music on YouTube. So when some guy used a recording they owned, they got it taken down. Then he claimed fair use. But they decided no, they weren’t putting up with that shit.

As it happened, the guy in question was Larry Lessig. Gentleman, scholar … copyright lawyer … founding member of Creative Commons … argues copyright cases to the US Supreme Court … former board member of the Free Software Foundation, Software Freedom Law Center, Electronic Frontier Foundation …

So it turns out that calling Mike Tyson a cunt may be bad for your facial integrity. And Lessig has proceeded to paint the canvas with their blood. Liberation Music has had to admit wrongdoing in issuing the takedown notice, apologise and pay Lessig compensation for the privilege. Really, we expect a better choice of battles from Mr Gudinski.

The levels of musical appreciation.

February 5th, 2014 by David Gerard
Esoterica

From The Dark Side Of The Room. I’ll note that Rocknerd has already reached the later levels. HT Ms45.

How a major record deal works in the 2010s.

February 4th, 2014 by David Gerard
Industry

From Cracked, one-hit wonder rapper Spose describes his major label career trajectory. Thankfully his story had a happy ending and he’s now making a living selling directly.

Deaf from birth, Austin Chapman hears music for the first time.

January 13th, 2014 by David Gerard
Audio

Filmmaker Austin Chapman was largely deaf from birth until, a year or so ago, he finally got hearing aids that didn’t suck. “It was like seeing the world through a pair of high definition 3D goggles, when he’d previously only witnessed monochromatic pixelated visuals.” See also his initial musical explorations on Reddit. The worst music he’s heard in this time? “‘Call Me Maybe’, Bieber, and ‘What Does The Fox Say’.”

Renaissance by the Village People: the Highlander 2 of disco.

January 12th, 2014 by David Gerard
Record

It’s 1981. The disco empire has fallen. The Casablanca label has been bought by PolyGram and all the disco artists have been dumped. You are the Village People. What to do? Why not … a New Wave comeback!

Figure 1: What the shitting Christ.

Figure 1: What the shitting Christ.

Despite the Visage makeup, the sound dumped all danceability, taking its cue from the AOR of the time. Here’s the terrible single, which is probably the least-worst song on the record.

There exists a torrent. Pray for a lack of seeds.

A year later they went back to disco with the slightly less terrible Fox On The Box, a.k.a. In The Street, and the world was slightly safer.

HT Brad Coleman for bringing the existence of this thing to my attention. Thanks, I think.

Kim Jong-Il was the North Korean Roger Ebert.

January 9th, 2014 by David Gerard
Film

Amongst his stupendously many literary achievements, Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il was an accomplished film critic. LET US CREATE MORE REVOLUTIONARY FILMS BASED ON SOCIALIST LIFE. And opera, too.

The trouble with actually learning how to write.

January 7th, 2014 by David Gerard
Writing

This is entirely and horrifyingly accurate. Chris Bucholz, Cracked: 4 weird side effects of learning how to write.

If only you could collect this well.

December 21st, 2013 by David Gerard
Record

How a working-class couple amassed a literally priceless art collection. “They were artists, and the collection was their work of art.” If only I could believe anyone would care this much about my record collection.

Macaulay Culkin has formed a pizza-related Velvet Underground tribute band.

December 10th, 2013 by David Gerard
Esoterica

That is all. Available on Bandcamp.

Don’t be this embittered ex-rock star.

December 5th, 2013 by David Gerard
Industry

There’s a lotta David Lowerys out there.

A real-time Internet radio search engine, from the creator of mp3.com.

November 16th, 2013 by David Gerard
mp3

Michael Robertson, original founder of mp3.com, has come up with an interesting new toy: the world’s first real-time radio search engine. It takes the RSS feed from thousands of Internet radio stations and can find a favourite band playing on one for you — including the bands whose stuff isn’t on the other streaming services. The question now is how the majors attempt to sue this one out of existence.

The completely recyclable LP record.

November 7th, 2013 by David Gerard
Audio

And if her 3D-printed records made of petrochemicals are too icky and modern, Amanda Ghassaei has followed up with a wooden record. Cut with a laser. The resolution is slightly better (1200dpi instead of 600dpi) but it still sounds like a late-night AM radio station hundreds of miles away, and that’s the important thing. That and being able to set on fire much more easily if it sucks. Full how-to. (Hat-tip to Ian Wadley.)

Problemem muzyki nie jest piractwo, a sama ekonomia życia kulturalnego.

November 5th, 2013 by David Gerard
Rocknerd

The hit ramble Culture is not about aesthetics. Punk rock is now enforced by law is now available in Polish, translated by Kuba Danecki, on the copyright reform blog Co nas uwiera w prawie autorskim (“What’s bugging us in copyright”). Cheers!

Do the ostrich.

November 2nd, 2013 by David Gerard
Drugs

Hat-tip Lawrence Miles. “I still prefer to remember him this way.”

lou reed in bird suit

From “Modern Dance” from Ecstasy.

Do-it-yourself payola on Spotify.

October 31st, 2013 by David Gerard
Industry

In the olden days, you needed to bribe DJs or just buy a bootload of copies of your record yourself. These days, you can rent $30 worth of time on Amazon and make $1000 in royalties, as security researcher Peter Fillmore did with his album Kim Jong Christmas, mashed together from public domain audio. Spotify lacks automatic detection of click fraud, relying on listener reports; this offers the possibility of DDOSing your competitor off the chart for $30 of computer time and then reporting them.

Black MIDI is not as cool as it sounds, but is still pretty cool.

October 30th, 2013 by David Gerard
Esoterica

When presented with a new musical technology, the first question that occurs to a certain sort of mind is “what happens if I press all the buttons?” People used to do this with pianola rolls (particularly Conlon Nancarrow and his studies for player piano); now they do it with piano-sound synthesizers, controlled by hand-tweaked MIDI files. “Black” because that’s what the manuscript rendering looks like.

The current wave was started by kakakakaito1998 on YouTube; now it’s a scene. Unfortunately, much of what you hear in the result is artifacts of synthesis; it would be interesting to hear some of these on a physical player piano.

Update: Of course, some are not fans.

Blagger’s guide: Winny Puhh.

October 26th, 2013 by David Gerard
Metal

This video (warning: strobe lighting and cuts) is circulating in social media today tagged “what the fuck did I just watch?” It’s Estonian metal band Winny Puhh coming third in the local Eurovision final with “Meiecundimees üks Korsakov läks eile Lätti.” Here’s the take from the previous week, and here’s a slower, ten-minute version of the same song for a fashion parade. And they’re huge in Estonia. Of course.

A questionable timeline of the evolution of Western dance music.

October 21st, 2013 by David Gerard
Techno

Thomson Package Holidays have a blog in which they attempted to tell people about music. Despite having perpetuated the stuff myself, I find myself increasingly sceptical of anything that smacks of a narrative in describing the spread of music — musicians steal everything they possibly can from everywhere, and for every traceable influence there’s countless ambient factors that make the difference. And occasionally history actually acknowledges them. But the chart is a lovely piece of graphics with nice animation. The commenters get on their case, of course.

“Twitter had a music app?”

October 21st, 2013 by David Gerard
Industry

Is the universal refrain of those hearing that Twitter is killing its music app. I live on Twitter and I hadn’t heard of this thing. It was apparently a nice thing called We Are Hunted which they bought, crippled and just killed off.

A review of the DSM-5 as a dystopian novel.

October 20th, 2013 by David Gerard
Writing

Nothing to do with music, but this review of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition pushed my Ballard buttons. “If the novel has an overbearing literary influence, it’s undoubtedly Jorge Luis Borges. The American Psychiatric Association takes his technique of lifting quotes from or writing faux-serious reviews for entirely imagined books and pushes it to the limit: Here, we have an entire book, something that purports to be a kind of encyclopedia of madness, a Library of Babel for the mind, containing everything that can possibly be wrong with a human being. “

BandHub: The Internet recording studio.

October 9th, 2013 by David Gerard
Musician

Remember Res Rocket Surfer and Google Jam? This one is a new thing to collaborate with people over the Internet. (If you sell your soul to a Mac-only application.) Technical discussion (for computer geeks). If this doesn’t suck, expect a clone that won’t gouge you down the line.

DistroKid to get your music into the chart stores.

October 9th, 2013 by David Gerard
Industry

If you want to get your stuff onto the chart stores (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Google), you can spend a pile of cash (around $40/album) with TuneCore or CDBaby — or rather less cash ($20/year unlimited) with DistroKid. Endorsed by the founders of TuneCore and CDBaby, no less (the latter of whom just uploaded everything he’s ever recorded through DistroKid). The site, some technical details. Anyone here used it?

Beethoven’s 9th on Russian doll theremin.

September 30th, 2013 by David Gerard
Esoterica

From NPR: So here’s Beethoven’s 9th played on 167 theremins built inside Russian dolls. Oh, and wait for the boogie, about 1:20. HT Liam Proven.

Slashdot, ha! Reddit, however.

September 15th, 2013 by David Gerard
Rocknerd

So Rocknerd’s latest article is a hit. Slashdot got it a few thousand hits, which my small but clever setup based on WP-Super-Cache coped with just fine.

Reddit is another matter: 20,000 35,000 and still going. (Update: Topped out around 58,000. Update: Make that 80,000.) The server CPU got hammered to shit, then it ran out of memory, then it ran out of CPU again but this time in wait state. Answer:

  1. Cut fcgid children from 10 to 7. This means Apache queues a bit, but now it doesn’t run out of memory.

  2. Hit the berserk button: put the page into “directly cached files”, i.e. serving that particular page completely static from Apache without even mod_rewrite. Means comments will show up when I remember to purge the cache by hand.

Comments are occasionally pretty good too. Slashdot, Reddit, Reddit. They keep talking about the majors and the rock stars, because people don’t care what you wrote and just riff on the title. Oh well.

(For non-technical readers: you almost certainly don’t want to run your own copy of WordPress, I’m just a control addict. Just have wordpress.com host it, you’ll be much happier.)

This is, of course, a perfect example of what I was describing: a huge hit with no monetisation. So GO BUY A T-SHIRT. We’re supposed to sell T-shirts to make money now, aren’t we. UK/Europe shop, US/international shop. The printing is impressively good quality and copes with washing just fine. SELL SELL SELL.

Culture is not about aesthetics. Punk rock is now enforced by law.

September 13th, 2013 by David Gerard
Musician

  (Also in Polish.)

Record companies complain the Internet will destroy music. Musicians complain that they can’t make a living any more. The unsympathetic public, feeling the squeeze themselves, tell them to get a proper job.

The problem isn’t piracy — it’s competition.

There is too much music and too many musicians, and the amateurs are often good enough for the public. This is healthy for culture, not so much for aesthetics, and shit for musicians. Musicians in the early ’90s were already feeling the pressure of competition from CD reissues of old stuff; here in the future, you can get almost anything that has ever been digitised for free and listener time is the precious commodity.

This article is not about the majors or rock stars, but about the indie musicians and labels watching the waterhole dry up and wondering what the hell happened.

Read the rest of this entry »

Five years of The Quietus.

September 11th, 2013 by David Gerard
Writing

John Doran of The Quietus reminsces about five years of running the site. “I drank so much coffee I felt like I could control the weather.” He’s plugging their book as well.