Tag Archives: music

Doing Vangelis Doing John Williams

The ET theme as done by Vangelis done by Muted Vocal

(Via Classic FM.)

I totally agree:

A YouTuber named Muted Vocal has decided that there’s no good reason why [ET’s “Flying Theme” and Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire”] shouldn’t exist in perfect harmony, in the same piece. And who are we to argue?

And while Muted Vocal’s rendition is nothing to scoff at, as far as uber-talented Vangelis fanboys go, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the one and only mik300z.

Subsisting in a Post-CD World

What to buy...and where to store it all?

Neil Peart on why Rush is no longer an album-per-year band:

I know that the mechanism that brought us up doesn’t exist anymore. For instance, a perfect example of how reversed it is, in those days we made no money touring for a long time, even into the successful years. You counted on record sales and songwriting to make your living. And touring was a way to publicize that. Suddenly, in the last 10, 15 years all that turned around and our income is entirely from touring, and recording is an indulgence. In a band like Rush, no one’s going to pay us to make a record. It’s going to be an indulgence. Even Snakes and Arrows basically paid for itself and that’s it, and if we want to make a living beyond that we have to go on the road and tour.

Somewhere between the lines is an assumption that the transition from store-bought CDs to downloadable MP3s had more than just a little to do with it. And it makes sense: If you’re a non-Bieber hard rock / heavy metal band and you decide to put out an album, who’s going to carry it? Walmart? Target? Barnes & Noble, maybe—and even then, only if you’re Rush, and even then only a few copies tucked out of the way on the Rock shelf.

I used to have to take two buses home from school. The connection wasn’t great, but it wasn’t too bad either—twenty minutes between buses, and the stop was right out in front of a Circuit City. I passed the time by ducking inside and browsing the music section. That’s where I discovered most of what I listen to today. That’s where, an album a week (it took me that long to recharge my jar of pennies), I acquired Alan Parsons’ entire discography, ten bucks a pop. And Hanson. Yes, goddammit: Hanson.

That was a good fifteen to (holy fuck!) twenty years ago. A lot has changed. Circuit City doesn’t exist anymore. Tower slit its throat in 2006. Borders? Terminal cancer. Virgin Megastore? Pills. All those shopping mall CD shops? Starbucks. My first instinct on walking into a modern-day Wal-Mart is to lament the death of the CD and of “better days.” There’s a narrow aisle of boy-girl pop discs wedged between the audio/video department and the video game displays. I want to cry. But then I remember: as good as they sounded, I kind of hated CDs. I hated having to store them, hated how easily they scratched. I hated only being able to fit a handful into my backpack during any given road trip (lest I sacrifice toothbrush or extra-pair-of-underwear space for that copy of The Moody Blues’ Time Traveller).

No, I don’t miss CDs. I miss the experience. Much as the older kids missed vinyl once CDs came along and transformed the lavish album format into a 4.7-inch-sized disc pressed into a jewel case, I’ve come to miss walking up and down the sprawling, labyrinthine music aisles of yore now that brick-and-mortar music stores have basically become the music section of Amazon.com. The old ways—that’s how my love affair with David Arkenstone’s music began. I walked into Tower’s New Age section looking for something that sounded funny, there was David with his poofy hair and outdated clothes and bad-ass multi-instrumentalist abilities. Mission friggin’ accomplished. Amazon has great discoverability, don’t get me wrong. I find new and fabulous music—Anathema, Metric, Nightwish, Pendragon, Tycho—all the time while browsing their site. It’s not that music-buying has become harder or less rewarding. It’s just…a little less glorious clicking a “buy now” button and instantly downloading something onto my MP3 player. I love the fuck out of the convenience, I love being able to carry around my entire music collection on my laptop—so why do I have that empty calorie feeling?

My theory is this: buying music has become too easy, and even though that’s a good thing, my archaic upbringing yearns for the thrill of the hunt, the glory of the kill. It’s the part of me that imagines how awesome it would be for my employer to switch from humdrum paychecks and / or direct deposits to bags filled with gold and silver (who am I kidding—nickels, dimes, and a few quarters). So much more substantial than plain, boring direct deposit…although I guess I’d have to pawn or Cash4Gold my earnings, then deposit them at the bank before I could spend anything at Amazon.com. And then I’d have to store or recycle all the empty money bags afterward—

—whatever. My theory’s air-tight. Music tasted better back when you had to hunt and kill it yourself. Today’s kids don’t appreciate the value of a dollar. Get off my lawn. And so forth.

Blood Metal

Death_Metal_by_nosve

Wikipedia may be the great oracle of information in these modern times of ours, but they don’t know everything. Take the heavy metal page, for example. It lists practically every metal sub-genre you could ever imagine—with one noticeable omission: blood metal.

The SuperMegapedia defines “blood metal” as the following:

A sub-genre of heavy metal and / or death metal with an emphasis on piercing vocals, heavily overdriven guitars, bass, and gain-enhanced blast-beat drum patterns. Blood metal sets itself apart from other metals in that there is less reliance on melodic technique and more of an emphasis on raw power. Microphones and amplifiers are often set to such levels as to illicit the breaking of glass, the blistering of skin, and the boiling of blood. Spontaneous bleeding from every orifice of the body is not unheard of during live performances—hence the term “blood metal.”

Kind of makes me think that Dethklok are really a closet-blood metal band masquerading as death metal for legal reasons. Pussies.

Not pussies: the musical pioneers on this list of up-and-coming blood metal bands who aren’t afraid to be damned for what they really are:

  • Bloody Discharge
  • Creeping Paralysis
  • Mass Dismemberment
  • Poetry of Pain
  • Puke Stain
  • Pustule
  • Putrid Infection
  • Rotten Corpse
  • Vasectomy
  • Violent Diarrhea

Phil Collins is Evil

Phil Collins will give you nightmares unless you buy his music

Phil Collins has a habit of putting close-ups of his mug on all of his album covers. It always seemed kind of cheesy to me—but if this was the cover of his new album I’d so fuckin’ buy it just so that I’d have something to listen to while they wheeled me into the mental institution.

Those of you who know me know that I outgrew pop music almost twenty years ago, back when I discovered Rush and, conversely, The Moody Blues. But I never gave up on my old Genesis CDs, the ones where Phil played drums and Peter Gabriel sang vocals and danced around in grotesque costumes shaped like giant tumors and creepy old men. That always gave Phil some cred: He was able to keep the beat while a lactating Slipperman danced around in front of him. So, reading a Phil Collins interview (like the one in Mail Online, May, 2010) from time to time isn’t totally unjustified, because even though I personally haven’t listened to “Sussudio” since cassette tapes were the shit, it’s still interesting to see where the various roots from the Genesis tree have spread over the eons.

Phil Collins may not be cool, but he sure is evil…and in a way that’s cool. In a way.

Big Media’s Anti-Everything Wishlist

My crackpot take on Big Media’s latest anti-infringement wishlist: Two trade representatives are on a flight bound for the annual Conference of Copyright Conglomerates. On hearing the captain’s announcement that the plane will be landing soon, the first trade rep nudges the second, who’s dozed off in the next seat over.

“We’re about to land,” the rep says.

The second rep stretches, yawns. “Damn. I was having the most vivid dream.”

“Oh? What about?”

“You ever read George Orwell’s 1984?”

“Sure.”

“I was dreaming about that scene a quarter of the way into Part 1 where the Parsons boy accuses Winston of being a thought-criminal.”

The first rep smiles, nods understandably. “Sometimes I don’t want to wake up, either.”

The scary part is, the perpetual-surveillance attitude is becoming less whimsical with each passing year as Big Media continues to circulate its IP (intellectual property) wishlist. A quote from an EFF article that caught my eye:

…the entertainment industry thinks consumers should voluntarily install software that constantly scans our computers and identifies (and perhaps deletes) files found to be “infringing.”

Oh, that will go over well. Raise your hand if you’re a piece of software and you’ve never, ever had any bugs. Go ahead, don’t be shy. No one? No one at all? That’s what I thought. Automatic file-appropriateness scanners are a ludicrous idea—because you know they’ll follow a delete first, ask questions later policy. Heaven forbid you should save your daughter’s birthday video on your computer if it’s got a copyrighted song playing on a boombox in the background. Begin hypothetical: If it doesn’t get deleted, it’ll be held hostage until you pay the appropriate license fee. And you know there are those out there in IP Land who’d prefer you pay for each viewing rather than for a one-time only private usage license. Not your cup of tea? They’ve thought of that, too. A premium broadcaster’s license is also available. This gets you unlimited playback rights for a year. Pay for two years and you get 20% off. All because your daughter’s air-headed best friend thought it would be cool to play Justin Bieber during the barbecue. End hypothetical.

I’m not a big fan of automation. In February of this year, Scribd’s automatic IP-sniffing software accidentally classified two of my own books as infringing on my own copyright. The related Scribd pages were removed without prior warning. I understand the intent of such a system, and the desire of a company to negate the risk of a lawsuit due to perceived negligence. But when rolled out as, say, part of an all-inclusive security suite that gets installed on personal computers across the country…who’s accountable when false positives spring up? How does one get back their misidentified files? Can Norton Anti-IP 2010 Home Edition tell the difference between a DVD rip you made for your netbook and a file you downloaded off of a file-sharing site? How quickly do the anti-IP tech support departments think they can respond to all the e-mails that are sure to crop up?

It’s a can of worms, new solutions to old “problems”. Never mind that James Cameron’s Avatar has made close to a billion dollars in the midst of the Download Age. Big Media is insisting that Joe Average is killing their profits, and they’re counting on anti-IP legislation to bolster their pay-per-view models. In the meantime, experienced downloaders and pirates are unaffected—they’re in the business of steering clear of mainstream computing practices. It’s the average user who’ll leave Best Buy with an encumbered PC, a music CD that won’t play in more than one device at a time, or en e-reader that takes all of your e-books with it when you accidentally drop it down a flight of stairs.

Do not want.

Rush Never Sleeps

Rush Never Sleeps—Rolling Stone cuts Rush some slack

Rush Never Sleeps—Rolling Stone cuts Rush some slack

I just broke out Moving Pictures and, for the first time in ~fifteen years, listened to it all the way through. Pardon the pun, but what a rush “The Camera Eye” is, and what a shame Rush doesn’t perform it live anymore. Guitar riffs like that are what got me through the early-to-mid 1990s.

I got into Rush when I was thirteen and badly in need of an anthem, something through which to channel my various burning teenage frustrations. Roll the Bones was my first Rush album, certainly not one of the band’s harder albums (and certainly not very “hard” when compared to the typical garage band fare that was emerging at the time), but hard enough. Keep in mind that until that point, I’d spent half a lifetime listening exclusively to Phil Collins and Neil Diamond. So, yeah, Rush was hard. And it only got better when Counterparts came out. The guitars were louder, the themes darker—there was angst all over the album. I needed that. Whenever I got pissed at my school teachers, my family or friends, or the world in general, I’d lock my bedroom door, cue up “Stick It Out,” and air-guitar myself into a more amiable state. See, I was going through that phase most teenage boys do, that adolescent maelstrom during which I needed to kill something, or fuck someone, or set fire to something valuable. I suppose I could’ve used my weight set more often, or gone jogging around the neighborhood whenever the juices got backed up…nah, fuck that. My family lived between the ghetto and a cemetery at the time. Both were scary. I stayed indoors after school and listened to Rush, watched Star Trek, struggled with my math homework.

In 1995 I moved (back) to Texas, leaving the ghetto and the cemetery behind and re-meeting a childhood friend, who literally had that all-Rush case from Hutch’s van in Fanboys (though my friend had CDs instead of cassettes). I discovered Presto (my third and, to this day, favorite Rush album), 2112, Fly by Night, and all the other classic staples. I stayed in Texas for a year, and Rush continued to score my life, albeit now under more positive circumstances (did I mention I no longer lived next to a cemetery?). I got a girlfriend, made some amazing friends at school, and discovered my passion for writing.

The following year, my family decided to move back to California. By then, Test for Echo was out, and I needed it, as I was once again pissed at life. I bought the album at this really cool little music shop in North Star Mall. I listened to it at least a dozen times during the drive, spending the entire trip with my head stuck between a pair of earphones as I sketched out the beginnings of what would later become The Knack. Frustration is inspiration.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s I shifted from hard rock and heavy metal to New Age, electronica, and ambient. I was writing seriously by then, and needed good mood music. My Tangerine Dream phase lasted a good five years…I still can’t shake my David Arkenstone habit. However, in the last two or three years I’ve rediscovered my love for the hard stuff. Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, and, funnily enough, Dethklok have tickled my fancy—but I’ll always have that soft spot for Rush. In the old days I would’ve reserved a section of my CD rack for their albums; nowadays I always make sure I have enough hard drive space set aside for their MP3s. In the future I’ll make sure I keep enough space on my back free so that I’ll be ready when musical grafts become commonplace.

What’s a Tesaurus?

Album cover for Monokle's Tesaurus

There is some real good netlabel stuff out there (Elliptic and several of Tom Larson’s mixes come to mind), but the recent iD.EOLOGY release of Monokle’s Tesaurus is something extra special. Summed up by the album’s description:

Music can act as something like an emotional anchor. Listening to some old songs will conjure up past experiences, situations and moods and will transport the listener into that state of mind he was in back then.

Tesaurus is a great blend of electronic samples with guitar and piano. It’s minimalistic (I’m all about minimalism, you know), introspective without being overly analytical, nostalgic without all the extra remorse. Ever heard millennium-era Steven Gutheinz? Tesaurus is something like that. Minimalism with meaning. Good for adding color to old memories during a long train ride. I likie very much.