Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Here, for now by Celer & Nicholas Szczepanik

Why do I often begin discussions of ambient drone with a quasi-apology like "Drone isn't for everyone but..." It's not like we're talking about Country & Western. <rimshot>

Then again, no genre of music is for everyone.

Here, for now by Celer & Nicholas Szczepanik is a 2015 digital only release of a recording the pair did together back in 2012. The album consists of four tracks, consecutively and Romanly enumerated I, II, III, and IV.

When I hear the music and think of the album's title I visualize sitting on the shoreline of a vast river, slowly and steadily gliding past with the sun setting on the opposite shore. There's the sense of great depth and understated power yet subtle undercurrents swirl just beneath the surface. There's a constancy and timelessness but yet transience as the water flows by. The river's surface is flickered and dappled with accents from the low angle sunlight.
"I don't know much about music but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Midori: Live in Tokyo 2015 by Stick Men+

I think I've found another contender for my annual list of favorite albums: the two albums that comprise Midori: Live in Tokyo 2015 by Stick Men+.

All the details are below but let me jump right to the chase. The recording of these two live albums is head and shoulders above many out there. In addition to the immediacy and intimacy you hope for in a live performance, each performer in this recording is given extensive spatial depth and aural clarity resulting in an almost three-dimensional effect. You want to turn up the volume, not to be hammered by a wall of sound but to fall into the expanding soundscape.

Then there are the performances. Stick Men by themselves are spectacular (see 2014's Power Play, their live recording based on the Deep album) and on Midori the result is not "Stick Men and a fourth performer" it's truly Stick Men+; a truly integrated quartet. Cross' performances weave throughout the other players binding them even closer together and nowhere is this more apparent than on Shades of Starless, a beautifully arranged tribute to King Crimson's album Starless and Bible Black.

And now some details.

Let's decompose the name of the album and band. Stick Men are the prog rock trio of Tony Levin (Chapman stick), Markus Reuter (Touch Guitar), and Pat Mastelotto (drums and percussion). On their recent tour of Tokyo, they were joined by 1970's King Crimson violinist David Cross. This quartet went by the name Stick Men+. They released two separate live albums - First Show and Second Show - as subtitles under the main title Midori: Live in Tokyo 2015.

The two shows are mostly different but with some overlap as listed below.

First Show

  1. Opening Soundscape (Gaudy)
  2. Improv - Blacklight
  3. Hide the Trees
  4. Improv - Moth
  5. Industry
  6. Cusp
  7. Shades of Starless
  8. The Talking Drum
  9. Larks Tongues in Aspic, Part 2
Second Show
  1. Opening Soundscape (Cyan)
  2. Improv - Midori
  3. Breathless
  4. Improv - Moon
  5. Sartori in Tangier
  6. Crack in the Sky
  7. Shades of Starless
  8. Firebird Suite
  9. The Talking Drum
  10. Larks Tongues in Aspic, Part 2
As you can see from the track lists, the addition of Cross seems to have let the quartet delve deeper into the King Crimson catalog in addition to plundering music from Stick Men's four studio albums. 
Don't hesitate. Any fan of progressive rock, King Crimson, and/or Stick Men should buy this album. Note that it's only available for download except in Japan where you can get the CDs.
"I don't know much about music but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Time is the most valuable thing...

The University of Virginia is putting the people and places of William Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County online.

Agnes Martin, Untitled #3, 1974
A nice write-up of the Agnes Martin exhibition at London's Tate Modern: "the greatest paradox being the tough determination of the singular vision behind the delicate mind."

What are the 10 commandments of eating and drinking in Texas? #9 Pay your respects to Joe T. Garcia's.

Remember in Jurassic Park when the kid has to restart the computer on her own and it dawns on her "It's a Unix system, I know this!"? What they showed as she interacted with the computer was not some Hollywood BS computer system; it was a real 3D graphical interface to the file system call FSN (fusion) on Silicon Graphics IRIX workstations. This was back in the day when SGI was pushing to get their boxes in as many films as possible. (See also Twister.) Anyway, I had used FSN prior to seeing Jurassic Park and it was completely cool and completely useless.

If you know what ESTJ is, skip this paragraph. Otherwise, read on for a little background on the Myers-Briggs personality test and find out what  type you are. I'm an ESTJ meaning Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging and you can read the details here.

There's a lot of Stuff in Space. See for yourself - click, zoom, rotate.

During the Cold War, the Soviets had creepily ultra-precise maps of Western cities.

During the Cold War, the U.S. saved about $2 billion based on the work of one Soviet spy alone. (Who was later discovered and executed based on the revelations of Aldrich Ames.)

Two new video archives are now appearing on YouTube: those of the Associated Press and British Movietone.

The image processing by Google's Dreamscope is disturbing.
Science solves the top problems of every day and age. In 1902 it was mapping human hair streams.

...a man can spend. ~Theophrastus

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Live Music from Peter Gabriel and Porcupine Tree

Hidden silences,
But now the coast is So clear.
Don't know how to stop.

I have loved Peter Gabriel's music for a long, long time - all the way back to his days with Genesis. His first four solo albums are part of my collection and his fourth, Security, nearly got worn out by all the play I gave it in college. (For the younger readers, you could actually dull the sound of a vinyl LP by excessive playing. Ask your grandparents for details.) His 1986 live album, Plays Live, is one of my favorite live performances by any artist. And I think I've seen him perform live two or three times and those performances were wonderful combinations of musical artistry and what I'd call minimal stage theatrics.

Then - for reasons that are likely benign - I just stopped buying his albums - and missed So's debut in 1986. The silver lining is that now I had a good reason to buy So (Special Edition) with its additional two CDs worth of live material. And not to take anything away from the studio version of So, but the 2 live CDs are worth the price of admission by themselves.

It sounds cliche, but I must really prefer his live performances. (The old TV network Ovation used to run one of his live concerts and it was great too.)

So (Special Edition) consists of 3 CDs. The first is a re-issue of 1986's So feature including the five singles you've all heard: Sledgehammer, Don't Give Up, In Your Eyes, Big Time, and Red Rain.

The two live CDs are an outstanding performance of material from So and other albums: This is the Picture, San Jacinto, Shock the Monkey, Family Snapshot, Intruder, Games Without Frontiers, No Self Control, Mercy Street, The Family and the Fishing Net, Don't Give Up, Solsbury Hill, Lay Your Hands on Me, Sledgehammer, Here Comes the Flood, In Your Eyes, and Biko.

Family Snapshot, Intruder, and No Self Control are especially formidable live performances, riding on the strength of his band which includes Tony Levin on bass and David Rhoad on guitar. (I don't have the liner notes handy to identify the keyboardist and drummer.) Give a listen (and appreciate a little bit of late 1980s fashion):

The porcupine's quills
are now a blossoming tree,
my hearing transformed.

On the other hand, Porcupine Tree has always been somewhat of an enigma to me. Despite being a huge fan of Steven Wilson's solo work, I could never get over a mental hurdle with the band's studio work. I never felt any resonance with their music, anything that would pull me back in.

That is until I heard their live performance of Octane Twisted. What an excellent show. Since I'm not too familiar with the band's discography it appears that the first CD is a complete live performance of album and the second CD completes the live show with material from other albums.

I don't know what it is about this recording, but the sound is more spacious and, to my ear, gives each performer room to breath and to be heard. There's great interplay between all the band members. Even Wilson, who has a larger than life stage presence when solo, is just another (integral) band member which works to the performance's benefit.

Here's an example of what you can expect:

You can find both performers on the web:

"I don't know much about music but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Though we travel the world over to find beauty...

If you blinked, you missed it. The Large Hadron Collider discovered a new subatomic particle: the pentaquark. It exists for only a billion trillion trillionth of a second.

Let the Bard of Avon guide your tweets, posts, and chats with these rules for social media. #5 No legacy is as rich as honesty.

The superfood du jour is dulse, a red seaweed that doubles kale's benefits while tasting like - wait for it - bacon.

The Nanny State deserves a new nickname - The Chaperone State. New York has passed a law requiring both parties engaged in sexual activity to obtain verbal consent for each successive act. Oh - and the law only applies to college campuses. For the record, let me state that date rape is a crime that should be punished to the full extent of the law. But this stunt really isn't the best way to go about it. If it was, why limit it to college campuses? And I can't wait for someone to film a sexual encounter and use as their defense the idea of documenting each act of verbal consent to avoid a - probably drunken - he said she said argument. Again, the blame falls back onto these students' parents for not teaching them about sex and respect.

Christopher Rothko has authored a new book about his famous painter father, Mark Rothko. From the Inside Out will be available on 24 Nov 2015.

Clyfford Still, PH-1103, 1946. 
And the Clyfford Still Museum announced a new exhibition Repeat/Recreate (18 Sep 2015 - 10 Jan 2016). The exhibition will feature 70 works grouped in twos or threes that show "a new and greater understanding of Still’s process and methods, while challenging the popular understanding of Abstract Expressionism as an outpouring of impulsive creativity."

A brief look at the contemporary art scene in Cleveland.

Speaking of Cleveland, enjoy the Ballad of the Big-O.

Anil Prasad proposed a fair music streaming model.

"The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud."

This used to be a world map showing the location of all missing aircraft. But now the image links are all broken.

All hail King Mario. Top selling video game franchises. source
70 years ago this week the Trinity Test marked the beginning of the atomic age. General Thomas Farrell witnessed the detonation and later wrote "The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray, and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse, and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined. It was that beauty the great poets dream about but describe most poorly and inadequately.”

There are four types of introversion: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained. You can take a test to score yourself on all four levels. I was surprised that I scored nearly a uniform 40% on each of the 4 types which I interpreted to mean that I'm basically a 60-40 extrovert.

Tech Soft 3D takes an honest look at merging an acquired company into your existing team.

...we must carry it with us or find it not. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Note: General Farrell's quote was added after this post was first published.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

It takes a long time...

A perfectly delightful animation: The Goat Herder and his Lots and Lots and Lots of Goats by Will Rose.
Six things everyone should know about quantum physics. #2 It's discrete, which is how atomic clocks work.

Use opensignal.com to see 3G and 4G LTE signal strength in your area.
Lockheed Martin shares photos from inside the cockpits of all its aircraft.

Boeing presents Strategic Airpower: The History of Bombers. Well worth a look.

From the Dept. of Bad Ideas comes this patent application for an airline seating arrangement that has the middle seat passing facing rearward. Could only have been design by a robot.
Anil Prasad ignited a lot of passion with his article on the negative impact of streaming services on the music business because he included the phrase "listener complicity." Basically, music streaming is financially disastrous for musicians. I wonder how the payouts from Pandora and Spotify compare to those from traditional FM radio. I personally have given up on Pandora, the service I used for a while, and only listen to music I have actually purchased. And honestly, the audio quality of streamed music that you play over your computer or through ear-buds is so poor you might as well be listening to a cover band.

From the project to digitize the Vatican's collection of documents, Digita Vaticana, comes these pages from a 16th century book of hymns.
Maybe you'd prefer to read scanned back issues of Computers and Automation magazine.

This editorial from the Fort Worth Star Telegram on Christians' dwindling influence in modern society is sad and borders on the pathetic. The piece begins with this odd statement: "...devout Christian communities are bracing for what they anticipate will be the wholesale collapse of any Christian influence in the broader culture." I wasn't aware that the goal of Christianity was to influence broader culture. I thought Christianity was a faith-based set of principles for guiding one's own personal behavior. Instead, the editorialist seems to be playing a zero sum game: because other people don't agree with my religion's traditions, my religion is somehow diminished (i.e. someone is winning, therefore someone else must be losing). And who is to blame for generational thinning of the faith? Frankly my dear, it's not secular society's fault. Look no further than the manner in which you the faithful instill your beliefs in your own children.

Bird song visualized.
Remember when video games didn't have plots? Here's one that might be true for Mario World.

This is not a special effect. Several visitors photographed the castle at Disney World being struck by lightning.
Extra credit is due this article on 3D printing and robotics that uses the term "trouser cough" to describe the means of locomotion of a robot with a "soft butt able to belch hot gasses." However, demerits are warranted for the use of the term "boffins" which really shouldn't be used anywhere under any circumstances, you sons of a silly person.

...to become young. ~Pablo Picasso

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Overstuffed Musical Box

Play me my song
Here it comes again.

I've been binging on new music this year (see here). But the current crop of tunes in my musical inbox has me especially giddy.

What am I currently listening to? I'm glad you asked. In no particular order...
  1. Koi by Lorenzo Feliciati
  2. Inflamed Rides by O.R.k.
  3. Komara by Komara
  4. Midori - Live in Tokyo, First and Second Shows by Stick Men
  5. Tres Caballeros by The Aristocrats
  6. Doctoring the Dead by Metallic Taste of Blood
  7. Here, for now by Celer & Nicholas Szczepanik
  8. Fish Out of Water by Chris Squire (R.I.P.)
  9. Fear of a Blank Planet by Porcupine Tree
  10. Mesh by Colin Edwin
Glorious grooves.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Doctoring the Dead by Metallic Taste of Blood

Come for the metal,
stay for the compositions,
throw labels away.

For Doctoring the Dead, the 2nd album from progressive metal band Metallic Taste of Blood, to not make my list of favorite albums of 2015 the latter half of the year will have to be a glorious orgasm of new music.

MToB's lineup for their 2nd album is Eraldo Bernocchi (guitars), Colin Edwin (Bass), Ted Parsons (drums), and "select contributions" by keyboardist Roy Powell.  The album's tracks number 8: Ipsissimus, Pashupati, Synthetic Tongue, Doctoring the Dead, Blind Voyeur, Day of Bones, Murder Burger, and The Death of Pan.

Relative to their 2012, self-titled first album, Doctoring the Dead is tighter, more refined, more focused, but perhaps paradoxically even more exploratory. This trio stretches the sonic space defined by their instrumentation and the result ranges from buzzing, discordant heaviness to velvety smoothness; from a raging thunderstorm to a swollen river rushing by in the night. Give the teaser a listen.

You can find MToB on the web at www.metallictasteofblood.com and on Twitter at @tasteofmetal. Their albums are available at Rare Noise Records.

"I don't know a lot about music but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

He who binds himself to a joy does the winged life destroy...

Stream a little ambient drone: Casiopia by Twigs and Yarn.

Too short? How about Here, for now, a 2012 collaboration of Celer and Nicholas Szczepanik. Stream it, like it, buy it.

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park No. 29, 1970. Source: Dallas Museum of Art. This masterpiece was hung in a triangular gallery (open at each of the triangle's vertices) with diffuse natural light from above and a Motherwell and another painting on the opposite walls. Enthralling.
Have you seen this? The only known film of Mark Twain, shot in 1909, has been digitally restored.

Need help choosing which Don DeLillo book to read next? Here's help.

Esquire suggests 80 books every man should read. I've read 11, plus 3 more if you count seeing only the movie. Oh well, at least it included one Faulkner and a DeLillo (with high praise that the first 50 pages are the best ever written.) Completely awful site navigation that loads each of the 80 books as its own page with a "next" button that's tiny and twitchy.

Esquire also suggests 75 movies every man should see but after the books I'm too lazy to click through them all.

Here's a page full of maps that promise to teach you something about the world. Be sure to see #21, the ranking of countries by ethnical diversity.

Real-time interactive map of internet attacks.
Use this visualization to see when worldwide stockpiles of nuclear weapons peaked. Guess before looking at the graphic because you might be surprised at the year. Hint: it was the year I got married.

For those Disney fans out there, Hollywood Studios' Magic of Disney Animation attraction will close on 12 July. Rumor has it that a lot of construction at that end of the park is for a Star Wars themed area.

When it comes to visualizing information it's no secret I'm a fan of Edward Tufte. But here are 9 books on data visualization by other authors that come highly recommended.

Would you pay $125 for a caviar topped Twinkie? You can at the Orange County Fair.

Sobering "then and now" photographs of  U.S. Civil War sites. Here I've screen grabbed an image in the middle of its transition from then to now.
And here's an animated timeline map of 315 years of the slave trade.

Insightful article on the mid-life crisis. Some highlights:
  • Young people are overly optimistic due to biased information processing.
  • Reality sets in as we age and we realize it doesn't match our earlier expectations.
  • Those who objectively have the least reason to complain often suffer most. They feel ungrateful and disappointed with themselves particularly because their discontent seems so unjustified.
  • We hit bottom between our mid 40s to mid 50s before things get better because...
  • The aging brain begins accepting life as it is and becomes less regretful about past events.
Pickles. If you're chronically fearful or shy or just have a tiny bit of social anxiety, eating a pickle can markedly reduce symptoms of those afflictions.

Was the opening drone music not your cup of tea? Maybe this "essential mix" from Four Tet and Jamie XX will be more to your liking.

...but he who kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity's sunrise. ~William Blake