Category Archives: Music

From The Vault: the nights are darker and longer than they were a week ago

My soundtrack to yesterday was a collection of essential 1990s ambient music from Woob, FAX Label, and Global Communication, and Deep Space Network.

I mentioned this on Twitter, and was delighted to discover that there is a new (to me) Woob album, which should be embedded here:

And this is as good a time as any to cut and paste part of an old post I wrote about ambient music in 2008:

I’m always happy to share this type of music with people, and if I have an opportunity to turn people on to music that really opened my mind (without the assistance from any chemical or mind-altering substances, I always feel compelled to add) I always seize it.

 

I’ll point those of you who are interested to a portion of a post I made in 2005 (my god, how is it that it simultaneously feels so long ago and so recent to me?) about ambient music. The “it” I refer to is an ambient song I made in GarageBand called Lakeside Shadow:

 

If you like it, you’ll probably like some of the artists who influenced me over the years: Woob (especially 1194, and especially the track strange air) Dedicated (especially Global Communication, also called 76 14), and Solitaire (especially Ritual Ground). Also, Instinct Records (still alive) andSilent Records (sadly, tragically, defunct since 1996) released an amazing number of genre-defining ambient discs in the 90s. And now, just to prove how hardcore I am, I’m going to throw out Pete Namlook, and the FAX Label, but their stuff is far more experimental than the rest of my list, and isn’t what I’d use to introduce a new listener to Ambient music.

 

Finally, if you can find it, Silent Records put out an incredible record called Earth to Infinity (I think in 1994) which was pulled shortly after it was released, due to some sampling issues. I think it’s one of the greatest ambient recordings of all time, and don’t ask me for it because I’m not going to jail for you, Chachi.

 

I think I could have said “incredible” a few more times. Allow me to emphatically pulverize this dead horse deep into the ground: if you only get two ambient records in your whole life, they should be 1194 from Woob and Earth to Infinity (holy shit there are two available from Amazon). If you can only get three, add 76:14, and thank me before you touch the monolith and journey beyond the infinite.

 

Okay, as I said in 2005, most of my ambient CDs are from Silent, Instinct, and Caroline, and I have a metric assload of FAX recordings that I don’t listen to very much any more. If I were to expand on the artists and albums I mentioned three years ago into a list of essentials, I would add Pelican Daughters‘ breathtaking record BlissConsciousness III (orLunar Phase) by Heavenly Music Corporation, and the 2295 compilation from em:t.

 

If you’re intrigued, and want to know what some of this stuff sounds like without waiting, please go directly to Magnatune, and fire up their ambient mix. They’ve got artists over there, like Robert Rich and Falling You, who make truly incredible music. (I really think I need to say incredible and really more. Really.) Soma FM has magnificent downtempo and ambient streams, as well. Groove Salad and Dronezone rarely disappoint.

 

The thing to understand about ambient, though, if you’ve never heard it before, is that it’s slow and deliberate. It takes its time. It doesn’t work in the car, and it doesn’t work if your brain is cranked up to eleven. It’s best enjoyed when you can relax, and let it fill the room around you as you slowly sink into it and out of yourself, like you’ve stepped into a giant gelatinous cube.

 

Hrm. Maybe that’s not the best way to describe it. Go ahead and fill in your own: “______________.”

Yes, that’s it. That’s it exactly.

So there you go. As the weather changes, the leaves begin to fall, maybe something here will help you through the nights that are darker and longer than they were a week ago.

Three fantastic Halloween music compilations you really want to download

I love Halloween. As long as I can remember, it’s been my favorite holiday. I think it was Warren Ellis who called it “Goth Christmas”, and even though I’m not Goth (Goth-adjacent since 1987, though), it’s pretty much my Christmas. Of course, this year I’ve been sick and busy, so not only do I have no costume tonight, I never even decorated the house. But a cold, the flu, and a few thousand miles of travel haven’t stopped me from enjoying the usual amount of Halloween music, which is what this post is about.

When I was a kid, I had the Disney Haunted House record (both releases), a whole bunch of kiddie records with scary stories told by people like Boris Karloff, and the usual collections of sound effects records.

One night a few years ago, while wandering around the Internet, I came across some fantastic music blogs that had links to long out of print Halloween-themed records (look up Frankie Stein and His Ghouls for what I consider the canonical Halloween 60s pop), as well as links to this blog called Scar Stuff, that was like hitting the motherlode of awesome Halloween nostalgia.

Jason at Scar Stuff made two Halloween music compilations that are in heavy rotation every October at Castle Wheaton. I don’t know why I’ve kept them to myself all these years, but I’m correcting that Trick by offering this Treat: Spook Party and Ghoul-arama, by Jason at Scar Stuff.

If that whets your appetite for more human flesh gallons of delicious blood brains fantastic Halloween compilations, allow me to point you over to WFMU’s Rock ‘n Soul Ichiban, where you will find Kogar’s Spooky Spectacular.

Oh, and as a stupid bonus, here’s the first and only (so far) Halloween Radio Free Burrito that I made a few years ago.

Happy Halloween, everybody! I hope it’s fun, especially for those of you who are drying out from the Superstorm.

Green is the cat’s eye that glows in this temple

The following 1000 words of mildly interesting thoughts are brought to you today by iTunes shuffling to Love At First Sting, which teleported me back to the living room floor in our house in Sunland, surrounded by M.U.S.C.L.E. figures while I tried to figure out which ones I was willing to trade the next day at school. Through the magic of memory, the scene shifts to my bedroom around the same time, where I carefully copy a program from a computer magazine into my TI 99/4a computer, and then to the same room where I fudge a roll because I really needed my WIS roll to be higher than 8 for the Wizard I was making. I’m at the desk where I do my homework, trying and failing for the nth time to draw Eddie on the cover of Piece of Mind. I am a child, a pre-teen, and always, always weak and weird and awkward and strange. But I have music, and that is comforting.

There’s this moment in a child’s life when they start to build a sense of self, as they develop their own likes and dislikes that are more complicated than “I don’t like milk” or “I want to have more ice cream” (ICE CREAM HAS MILK IN IT YOU STUPID KID! THAT’S WHY YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING! YOU’RE STUPID KIDS! JUST TELL ME HOW TO FIX THE FREAKIN’ SHOW! *cue Ralph Wiggum turning the dial to sad.)

For me, this sense of self is heavily tied to music, to the exclusion of almost everything else. My earliest memories all feature music in some sense, from listening to Fleetwood Mac and Elton John on my parents’ record player with the giant can headphones and the 20-foot curly cord to sitting with my first wind-up record player out on the lawn with a 45 of The Beatles Love Me Do that belonged to my mom. Those memories are from around 1975 or 1976, I guess, and in my memory, they look like the pictures in The Happiest Days of Our Lives.

My whole childhood, my dad had great taste in music: ELO, Boston, Steve Miller Band, Pink Floyd, and whatever was on KMET. My mom was … not so much. She was all about Barbara Streisand and Joni Mitchell and Christopher Cross and artists that just seemed whiny and wussy because they were. I spent a lot of time in the car with my mom when I was going on auditions, and  I still hear Streisand in my nightmares. When dad took me on auditions, we got to listen to The Doobie Brothers, mom! I MEAN JEEZE.

My musical awakening came in the fall 1984, when I was 12, and a kid I knew at school slipped me a cassette tape at school. It was Judas Priests’s Screaming For Vengeance. I thought the cover was cool, and when I got home that day, I played it on my little single-speaker tape player thing that was standard issue if you were a lucky kid in the 80s.

I wasn’t sure about this music when I heard The Hellion, but by the time Electric Eye was finished, I was on board. It was You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, though, that hooked me. I still can’t say why, but when I bought the album, I put that song on every single heavy metal mix tape I made for the rest of the 80s … even the ones with Metallica. I took the cassette back to him the next day, and asked him for more heavy metal. In the coming weeks, he gave me Ozzy, Iron Maiden, Dio, and The Scorpions.

I loved them all, saved my allowance, and bought my own copies of Diary of A Madman, Number of the Beast, and Love At First Sting at the local record shop. (I should point out that we were in a parochial school at the height of Reagan’s Conservative American Nightmare, and the Satanic Panic was about to hit its peak. It says a lot about my parents that they let me buy Number of the Beast, instead of freaking out like a lot of parents did at the time.) I loved the thick, heavy guitars. I loved the raw vocals. I loved — I mean, really loved — Iron Maiden’s lyrics, which were smart, literate, and about history and mythology instead of less important matters.

I wasn’t an angry kid, I wasn’t a particularly rebellious kid (though I admit that I’d already decided that religion was something I didn’t want or need in my life, so listening to music every authority figure in my life besides my parents deemed terrible and ZOMG SATANIC did give me a bit of a thrill). I just really liked the music, and the artwork, and how it seemed like a natural extension of Thundarr The Barbarian for some reason. There was real power in the music that didn’t exist in any of the rock-and-roll I was used to. This music wasn’t about just sounding nice, it was about kicking ass.

This music became a huge part of my sense of personal identity. It was one of the first big choices I remember making for myself, because it was something that I liked, not because my parents or a relative gave it to me, or because it was something popular in school that I wanted to have. )Metal was decidedly unpopular at my school, and since I was already a nerd, I really didn’t need to give the Cool Kids something else to use against me on the playground).

And yet.

It became the soundtrack to my life. While I made D&D characters and dungeons (a little on the nose, I know, but it’s true) I listened to Maiden. While I played with my M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, I listened to Dio. When I played with my WWF action figures, my Transformers, or my Stomper Trucks, metal was there. I made dozens of mixtapes featuring the same songs in different order, always using Dee from Blizzard of Ozz to fill in the space at the end of each side.

As I got older, my musical proclivities changed. I fell in love with punk rock, then British new wave, then grunge. Metal was still there, but less and less frequently. I think it was Metallica’s shitty Black Album that started pushing me away. Not even Tool could bring me back. Thanks a lot, Lars, you dick.

Interestingly enough, as my tastes changed over the years, the one constant was the musical comfort food of my youth: Pink Floyd, Boston, and ELO, which all came from my father, and The Beatles, which came from my mother (true fact: my mom once got to sit in on a Beatle’s press conference when she was a kid. The way she tells it, John Lennon made eyes at her. TAKE THAT YOKO.) I mean, I still listen to that stuff today, and probably will for the rest of my life. It’s my classic rock, despite what the goddamn radio says today when it plays music from when I was in high school.
There are people in the world who can take or leave music. They don’t really care what’s on the radio, or even if the radio is on. I am not one of those people. Music is profoundly important to me, because it has helped me define who I am at various stages of my life.
I guess that’s why I was able to clean 10GB out of my iTunes folder yesterday, and still have 60GB left.

JCCC2: in which I “sing” Karaoke on a boat.

So this is a thing that happened.

It has everything Karaoke should traditionally have: not-very-good singing, not-very-good dancing, fucking up of lyrics, and the obligatory small glass of magic juice* responsible for the entire thing.

Enjoy… if you dare:

On our performer mailing list, John Hodgman kept saying that he was going to turn this into a Murder Cruise… none of us believed him, but I can see that he was successful, because I just murdered that poor song. Well played, Hodgman. Well played indeed, sir.

Very special thinks to KatyHaile for sharing my shame with the world, and preserving it for future generations.

*A type of "sauce" if you will.

The boat is still moving, even though I am not on it. But there was music when I was on the boat.

I've gotten much worse at writing relevant titles since an hour ago. Oh well, circle of life.*

Previously, on Battlestar Galactica my blog: 

Holland America goes to this private island in the Bahamas that is everything you'd expect from a private beach in the Caribbean, if you were expecting a beautiful white crescent beach with a giant pirate ship on it, and inside the pirate ship is a bar.

We spent the day playing Frisbee and Ball on the beach, with occasional breaks to visit the pirate ship.

"This is the best in the world," I said to Ryan while we were swimming in the ocean. In February.

"Yeah, it totally doesn't suck," he said.

And now, the exciting conclusion to that day…

We swam back to shore and traded the Frisbee for Ball. Ball is what we call this sort of smooshy ball Anne and I bought when we were in Hawaii last year. It's slightly bigger than the palm of your hand, waterproof, and skips off the water when you throw it. I don't know why it's as much fun to play with it as it is, but holy crap Ball is probably the best thing you can do on the beach that doesn't risk getting sand into your neither regions.

After hours of Frisbee and Ball (where we were joined by, at one point, seven or so Seamonkeys), it was time to get back on the boat and set sail for Aruba. We bid the beautiful beach a fond farewell, and rode a tender back to the ship. Which I prefer to call a boat, because it really annoys people who fancy themselves nauticalists, which is a word I just made up to annoy them further.

When we got back on the boat, we cleaned ourselves up and headed into the main theater, to enjoy the Paul and Storm musical programme, featuring the musical music of popular musicians Paul and Storm.

They performed their newest songs, which as it turns out are pleas to creators of popular culture named George.

BEHOLD THIS VIDEO THAT IS NOT FROM THE CRUISE BECAUSE NOBODY HAS UPLOADED ANY YET, BUT FEATURES A SONG CALLED THANKSGIVING THAT YOU WILL ENJOY!

(Fun fact: the Han Solo ice cube tray Storm talked about was bought for me, and given to me as a gift. It's currently filled with frozen water in my freezer.)

AND ALSO ENJOY THIS ONE BECAUSE I COMMAND IT!

Ahhh. Wasn't that nice? Some of the great works from canon were performed. Panties were thrown. Then, it was time for a song about pirates! Featuring the additional vocals of me! And a lot of cover band jokes! ARRRR!

WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT TO SEE IT HERE? SORRY IT CAN'T HAPPEN COME ON NERDS GET ON THIS SHIT ALREADY IT'S BEEN TWO DAYS MY GOD AHHH.

Okay, after Paul and Storm and a little bit of me, there was a brief intermission, and then we had our first actual rock performance by an authentic rock and roll musician: Chris Collingwood, who some of you may know as the guy from Fountains of Wayne, performed a set for all of us. He was super nervous about not being relevant to our interests (I know, right? I don't know why he thought that, but there you go) but he was amazing. And then Paul and Storm got to sing Stacy's Mom with him, which was pretty freaking awesome.

BEHOLD THE VIDEO FOR THAT SONG!

Neat!

All kidding and excessive use of all caps aside, Chris was just amazing. He was kind to me and my family, his set was beautiful and fun to listen to, and if I hadn't already been a huge fan of his band (because I was introduced to Fountains of Wayne by John Kovalic, by the way, which is interesting and name-droppy) I would have become a fan for life.

He closed his set with Hey Julie, which is my favourite** Fountains of Wayne song. 

"Anyone who wants to sing backup with me can come up on stage right now," he said.

This wave of increduility washed over the audience. "Really?" A girl near us said.

A few people — about a dozen, I guess — found their courage and made their way to the stage, where they sang with him.

The wonderful thing about this, that made me smile so much my face was in danger of splitting apart like I was in some kind of Japanese horror movie, was seeing the girl who'd said "Really?" who was probably around my sons' age, singing and dancing and being the physical embodiment of pure joy. It was obvious that she loved this song, knew all the words, and loved getting to sing it on stage with the guy who wrote it. Maybe I'm just a little too sentimental, but seeing how joyful she was made me #FuriouslyHappy, and even more grateful to be part of the cruise than I already was.

I mean, think about this for a moment: where else could you see a real rock and roll musician perform music you love and then invite you onstage to sing with him?

It turns out that this was just the beginning of the awesome things that were going to happen in this theater, and on this boat, for the next seven days and six romantic nights.

More later…

*If you're looking for footnotes to make sense, you've come to the wrong place, Chachi.

**That's for you, Canadians. I love you.

Today the US Senate is considering legislation that would destroy the free and open Internet.

“Why is it that when Republicans and Democrats need to solve the budget and the deficit, there’s deadlock, but when Hollywood lobbyists pay them $94 million dollars to write legislation, people from both sides of the aisle line up to co-sponsor it?”

        –Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian on CNBC.

I put this on my Tumblr thing earlier today, but I'm reposting it here, because it's important to me. If you don't know what SOPA and ProtectIP are, read this technical examination of SOPA and ProtectIP from the Reddit blog and come back when you're done.

SOPA Lives — and MPAA calls protests an "abuse of power."

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has looked at tomorrow’s “Internet blackout” in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—and it sees only a “gimmick,” a “stunt,” “hyperbole,” “a dangerous and troubling development,” an “irresponsible response,” and an “abuse of power.”

“Wikipedia, reddit, and others are going dark to protest the legislation, while sites like Scribd and Google will also protest. In response, MPAA chief Chris Dodd wheeled out the big guns and started firing the rhetoric machine-gun style. 

“Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.”

Can I interrupt for a moment? Thanks. When you complain that opponents didn’t “come to the table to find solutions”, do you mean that we didn’t give NINETY-FOUR MILLION DOLLARS to congress like the MPAA? Or do you mean that we didn’t come to the one hearing that Lamar Smith held, where opponents of SOPA were refused an opportunity to comment? Help me out, here, Chris Dodd, because I’m really trying hard to understand you.

“It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.”

Oh ha ha. Ho. Ho. The MPAA talking about “skewing the facts to incite” anyone is just too much. 

“A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals.”

Except for the part where this is completely false, it’s a valid point.

“It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”

Riiiiiiight. Protesting to raise awareness of terrible legislation that will destroy the free and open Internet is an abuse of power, but buying NINETY-FOUR MILLION DOLLARS worth of congressional votes is just fine.

I’m so disappointed in Chris Dodd. He was a pretty good senator, wrote some bills (like Dodd/Frank) that are genuinely helping people, and is going to be on the wrong side of every argument as the head of the MPAA. What a wasted legacy.

===

I am 100% opposed to SOPA and PIPA, even though I'm one of the artists they were allegedly written to protect. I've probably lost a few hundred dollars in my life to what the MPAA and RIAA define as piracy, and that sucks, but that doesn't come close to how much money I've lost from a certain studio's creative accounting.

The RIAA and MPAA are, again, on the wrong side of history. Attempting to tear apart one of the single greatest communications achievements in human history in a misguided attempt to cling to an outdated business model instead of adapting to the changing world is a fucking crime.

A free and open Internet is as important to me as the bill of rights. I don't want the government of one country — especially the corporate-controlled United States government — to exert unilateral control over the Internet for any reason, especially not because media corporations want to buy legislation that won't do anything to actually stop online piracy, but will expand the American police state, and destroy the Internet as we know it.

Please contact your Senators and US Representatives, and tell them to vote NO on SOPA and ProtectIP. The future of the Internet — and the present we take for granted — depend on it.

tamed by the purr of a jaguar

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. I had no idea so many new readers were visiting my blog; I'd just assumed that the Internet had gotten bored with me, moved on to whatever the new hotness is, and I was writing for the few, the proud, the geeky who had been here forever.

Knowing that there are a significant number of you who are new to my words is incredibly inspiring to me, and I woke up early this morning (not my choice – more on that in a second) feeling pretty excited to fire up Typepad and write in my blog. I haven't felt like that in a long, long time. So thank you to those of you who have been here for a while, and thank you to those of you who are recent arrivals. I hope to make it worth your while to spend some of your time with me.

So let's talk about this morning, shall we? Last night, I celebrated the 4th of July the way the founding fathers intended: I went to the Hollywood Bowl with my wife, our son, his girlfriend and our good friend BURNS! (his actual name, with the ! and everything) to see Hall & Oates perform with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

It was a very short concert, because of the 10pm noise curfew, but it was still a whole lot of fun. Initially, Ryan and I thought that Darryl Hall looked like Hasselhoff, but we later decided that he actually looks sort of like Thor, if Thor were a rocker. Oates doesn't have his epic moustache, and I'm not going to lie to you, Marge: a little bit of me died inside when I saw that.

But then I was clapping along with Private Eyes (CLAP!)* and I didn't seem to mind all that much.

Even though we took the Red Line to Hollywood like intelligent people who don't want to spend an extra fifty hours** waiting to get the hell out of Hollywood, we still didn't get home until almost 11. We were all pretty amped up from the fireworks and clapping along with Hall & Oates, so we were all awake well after midnight. I actually ended up reading comic books in bed until almost 2, before drifting off to sleep to dream of maneaters and the M-E-T-H-O-D-O-F-L-O-V-E.

Four hours later, at six fucking o fucking clock in the fucking morning, my asshole cat decided that he was going to chase a ping pong ball around my bedroom, jump up onto my bed and attack my feet, and then make that one particular sound all cat — I almost said "owners" but we all know the correct term is "staff" — hear when the cat wants to go outside. So I dragged myself out of bed and opened the door for him to go do whatever the hell a cat does at six fucking o fucking clock in the fucking morning … which, as it turns out, is make that same noise again ten minutes later until I let him back into the house.

And that's the story of how I only got six four*** hours of sleep last night, but don't really care because I woke up feeling energized and excited, knowing that writing silly stuff in my blog is actually worth the effort, because you — yes, you — are still coming around to read it, even if it's only a stupid story about my cat.****

* They're watching you (CLAPCLAP!)

** Duration possibly exaggerated for comedic and editorial effect.

*** Okay, maybe I'm a little more tired than I originally thought. Also, math is hard.

**** But the writing is the thing, even if it's something stupid about my cat. I have to get this stuff out of the way so I can write the good stuff.

three incredible indie bands you should listen to

My brother has been making these cool time lapse videos of life on his ranch in Montana. In a recent video, he used music that I instantly loved … but he didn't say who it was.

Luckily for me, I live in the future, so I fired up Shazam on my Android, let it do its thing, and in less than a minute, I was streaming Telekenisis' album Telekinesis! from Rhapsody through my Sonos.

While I listened to my new favorite album, I read Jeremy's blog. That led me to another video of his where he played music from a band called The Smith Westerns. Again, I went straight to Rhapsody, and added Dye It Blonde to my Sonos playlist. I had those two albums on repeat for much of the day, yesterday.

Seriously, living in the future is awesome, even if I still don't have a jet pack, death ray, or a flying car.

Those of you who are good at math will have noticed by now that I said there were three bands, but I've only linked to two. Good job, give yourself a gold star and a check plus!

The third band is actually on the page I linked above for Telekinesis. They are called The Love Language. I heard them about a year ago, when I got an e-mail from Merge records offering to share some new music with me, based on my loudly-proclaimed love of similar-sounding bands. I've been meaning to play The Love Language on Radio Free Burrito forever, but as I am reminded at least once a day, I haven't done a new RFB in months. (Also, if you like Camera Obscura and She & Him, spend some time at Merge; they have a ton of great artists you probably haven't heard, yet.)

Anyway, I wanted to use this experience as evidence that the music industry should make it easy for people to discover music this way. People like my brother who aren't looking to profit in any way from using music (and podcasters, and YouTubers and other bloggers) should be able to do it without applying for expensive licenses and bullshit. It's valuable – and free – promotion, Music Industry Guys! I don't listen to the radio very much, and when I do, it's mostly oldies stations that play music from my youth (FML). I don't like pop music at all, so I find new indie music via recommendations from friends, or when I tell LastFM to build me a station based on some band I already like. Because Jeremy played music from The Smith Westerns and Telekinesis on his videos, I was able to discover them, buy their albums, and hopefully introduce a few thousand other new listeners to their music. That's awesome.

Now, about that death ray and jet pack…