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Archive for April, 2006

I still really like Pink Floyd

Monday, April 17th, 2006

Last night, as my bedtime music, I somewhat whimsically decided to play Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. Back in the day, when things were simpler and I could actually answer those annoying “what’s your favorite band/album?” questions, my answers would have been… Pink Floyd, and Wish You Were Here. I still rank this album among my favorites — in my personal Gnosis-style rating system it’s still one of very few 15s — but I probably haven’t listened to it in five years.

I was suprised at the extent to which I still know pretty much every single note on this album, and the extent to which it still packs an emotional punch for me. In the past couple years I’ve been considering my two former “favorite bands” (King Crimson being the other) more or less played out for me; I’d listened to them so obsessively that at this point their music has lost all personal impact. I’m glad that this appears not to be the case. I enjoyed immensely my spin of Wish You Were Here last night, and now I’ll probably go back and give my other Floyd albums a go. I won’t be listening to them nonstop like I used to, of course, but it’s nice to know that a few years away from an old favorite can make it sound fresh and new all over again.

Very exciting news from ReR

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

I usually try to avoid posting straight-up news items on my blog, leaving that task to sites like Avant Music News (or for the more neo/symph prog-inclined, the excellent DPRP news pages). But Chris Cutler’s recent post to the ReRmegacorp Yahoo group has me too excited to not mention it. Cutler outlines ReR’s plans for 2006, which include some things that had me practically jumping out of my seat this morning:

  • The This Heat box set announced last year should be ready May 10th.
  • Remastered, repackaged versions of both News From Babel albums.
  • New CDs from Chris Cutler/Fred Frith (duo), Biota, and The Necks.
  • Possibly some unreleased Henry Cow material… maybe a set of two or three cds.”

Unreleased Henry Cow material? What’s this? Live stuff, or actual unreleased compositions? Either way, if this came to fruition I’d be one hell of a happy camper. Keeping my fingers crossed!

You can read Cutler’s full post here.

On an Island: “resounding bore”?

Wednesday, April 12th, 2006

PopMatters’ review of David Gilmour’s new On an Island is probably the best thing I’ve read there for a while, in that I agree with it pretty much 100%.

On an Island sounds exactly like an album by a 60-year-old, semi-retried [sic], Upper Class British multimillionaire guitar legend, recorded with his famous friends—and the wife—on his floating houseboat studio anchored on the River Thames. It’s laid back beyond measure, sparse, leisurely, unforced—that last trait arguably missing from the pair of Gilmour-led Floyd albums. Whether all this results in Gilmour’s most personal, genuine musical statement or a resounding bore is a matter of perspective and personal taste.

Yup. I’m closer to the “resounding bore” side of things, but I do like the album and feel like it might appeal to me more as time goes on. Most of all, though, I echo this reviewer’s sentiment that, though we can criticize the album for being too laid-back, “thank Heaven Gilmour didn’t decide to ‘rawk’”. No shit.

In which I pimp foobar2000

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

Well, if I’ve been going through music burnout as I mention in my previous post, at least it’s been mitigated by the fact that my recent spike in interest in computer nerditude has led me to upgrade my playback software to foobar2000 v0.9 (from v0.7 — it’s been a while since I upgraded). This is really the ultimate music playing software for the slightly geeky crowd. It’s practically infinitely customizable, though since it comes with a totally bare-bones, ugly interface, it’s not really for the casual computer user, and won’t be fully appreciated except by those who really want to take the time to customize their music software.

Aside from the customizable user interface, foobar also has amazing batch tagging capabilities, native support for a wide array of popular audio formats, including OGG and FLAC, powerful organizational possibilities through an album database function, ReplayGain support to deal with albums of widely different mastering levels, and the fact that it’s stable, bug-free, and will run breezily on systems that bloated pieces of shit like RealPlayer, iTunes, Windows Media Player and some versions of WinAmp would slow to a crawl.

Below is what I’ve done with my foobar (I cheated and stole someone else’s basic config, then built around it); you can click the thumb for a full-size version. I usually have it taking up most of the real estate on my secondary display:

For those interested, check out the foobar2000 official website for a download of the stable 0.9 build (if the TAGZ scripting language scares you off, you can always do what I did and steal someone else’s config from forum threads like this or this), read the extremely active and helpful official forums for hints on how to customize the look and feel, and download what I think are the most essential plugins for the latest version (one of the examples of how unfriendly foobar is to unsuspecting non-geeks is that new versions are almost never backwards compatible with plugins written for older versions):

  • foo_ui_columns Columns User Interface — the one single plugin you need to make foobar actually start looking good; an absolute must.
  • foo_uie_albumart Album Art — displays the cover artwork for the currently playing album in a Columns UI sidebar. Requires a bit of work to get all the cover scans you need, but it’s well worth it and you can use software like the Album Art Aggregator to make the process easier. (See the upper left of my screenshot above.)
  • foo_uie_albumlist Album List Panel — Adds the powerful database-driven album list functionality (allowing searching and sorting by artist, album, genre, directory structure, and more) to a sidebar panel using Columns UI. (See the lower left of my screenshot above.)
  • foo_infobox File Info Box — Adds essential tag-editing functionality, especially for torrented files.
  • foo_input_shorten SHN decoder — adds support for the mildly popular Shorten lossless format. Mostly for folks interested in live recordings and torrents.
  • foo_playcount Playback Statistics — tracks how many times you’ve played a song. Inessential but fun.

Between foobar, the Exact Audio Copy CD ripping program, and the LAME MP3 encoder, I have everything I need to encode my entire music collection to convenient electronic files — and all these software packages are completely free. I now have my computer hooked into my amp and bookshelf speakers instead of using crappy computer speakers, so this is pretty much how I listen to all my music at home these days.

Ok, here ends my plug. I’ve been having fun playing with foobar for a couple days now; hopefully soon my excitement for the music itself will get back up to its normal levels!


Monday, April 10th, 2006

Been in a bit of a disinterested phase lately. This happens every so often, every few months or so I’d guess — I just kind of get a bit apathetic towards music. Because listening to music is so ingrained in my life — whenever I’m at home, I put something on — I end up scrolling through my entire playlist looking for something that inspires me, end up with nothing, and hit the shuffle button in a somewhat disgruntled manner. I don’t like not being into music, and I’m not sure why it happens. It happened for an entire summer once, in 2002; the whole summer I just wasn’t really that excited by anything I listened to. As a result, out of apathy and sheer laziness, I listened to the radio a lot that summer, something I almost never do. Weird.

Interesting that my fallback option when this happens isn’t to simply listen to nothing. I always play something, even if it goes in one ear and out the other. I guess I’m kind of an addict.

I suppose these occurences might coincide with me getting seriously into another hobby — recently I’ve been a bit engrossed in upgrading my computer, reading a lot of books, and a few other things. But I’m not sure there’s a 100% correlation. I suppose everyone experiences this sort of burnout once in a while, but I wonder why it seems to be so hard to predict?

Hopefully this phase will end soon. This one doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a particularly long-term one.

OK, maybe reviewers do need a base of knowledge

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

Doing my daily rounds of review websites, I came across a review of Nels Cline, Wally Shoup & Chris Corsano’s free-improv album Immolation/Immersion at The Axiom of Choice. Now, I like Jurriaan Hage and his website (though his track-by-track review style has worn thin on me), but he’s never really had much of an ear for the avant-garde. I’ve also never seen a jazz review on his site. So, I can’t imagine why he’s now reviewing some of the most abrasive free jazz I’ve heard in the past year. This would be like me trying to write a review of a country album: I could say “I don’t like this very much,” but not much beyond that. And sure enough, this review isn’t particularly useful. About the only thing to be garnered from it is that if you don’t like free jazz, you won’t like Immolation/Immersion.

Interestingly, I didn’t much like it either, and I do like a lot of free improv. I bought it because I really enjoyed Cline’s improv trio disc from the previous year, Ash and Tabula with Andrea Parkins and Tom Rainey; but Immolation/Immersion lacks the atmosphere of that album. Being a bit of a shredfest at times, it calls out for the percussive control and direction of a Tom Rainey, at least to my ears, but Chris Corsano’s drumming fails to fulfill that role, whether by accident or design. I’m still giving it a chance, but for now I agree with Jurriaan on this one.

I guess my criticizing Jurriaan for reviewing an album, the context of which he knows absolutely nothing, seems a little silly after what I wrote two entries ago: “expressing a simple opinion is still the most important thing” when it comes to reviewing, regardless of how much you know or don’t know about the album’s stylistic context. Am I flip-flopping? I guess so. I’m glad Jurriaan offered us an undiluted opinion — and it should be noted that if he did like this album, I wouldn’t be writing this — but all things considered, it does seem sort of pointless.