Next thing I know it’ll turn out that St James’s really was eaten by a giant adenoid

Sunday 30 September 2007

Mrs. Quoad offering a tin of that least believable of English coughdrops, the Meggezone…
The Meggezone is like being belted in the head with a Swiss Alp. Menthol icicles immediately begin to grow from the roof of Slothrop’s mouth. Polar bears seek toenail-holds up the freezing frosty-grape alveolar clusters in his lungs. It hurts his teeth too much to breathe, even through his nose, even, necktie loosened, with his nose down inside the neck of his olive-drab T-shirt. Benzoin vapors seep into his brain. His head floats in a halo of ice.
Even an hour later, the Meggezone still lingers, a mint ghost in the air…
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, pp.118.

The mummified corpse of Jeremy Bentham reads inter-office emails.

Thursday 27 September 2007

You shall learn to curse softly and fluently in Italian.

What’s on top of the pile?

Thursday 27 September 2007

Brian Eno, The Drop
The sound of someone starting to believe the critics who say his ideas are more interesting than his music.
Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes, The Soft ‘n’ Sexy Sound
I’m compiling a list of albums I love to bits but cannot be bothered going out of my way to find out about anything else by the same artist. So far I’ve got Highway 61 Revisited and this.

(Last time on the pile.)

Filler by Proxy LIV: Actually James, you’d be surprised how often it works if you just tell it to them straight.

Tuesday 25 September 2007

The Guardian is a newspaper which occasionally lapses into worryingly consistent periods of self-parody (like in the opinion pages over the past month or two) but how can you not love a widely circulated, national morning paper which publishes items like this review of James Blunt’s new album:

Elsewhere, songs ruminate about celebrity, among them the deeply peculiar Annie, on which the titular heroine’s failure to achieve fame is bemoaned -“Did it all come tumbling down?” – and Blunt, gallant to the last, offers her the opportunity to fellate him as a kind of consolation prize: “Will you go down on me?” More bizarre still, he offers her the opportunity to fellate him in the kind of voice normally associated with the terminally ill asking a doctor how long they’ve got left: tremulous, replete with pregnant pauses, suggestive of brimming eyes, etc. The overall effect is so bizarre that it overshadows anything Blunt may have to say about the fickle nature of fame. You come away convinced that the song’s underlying message is: give me a blow job or I’ll cry.

Work in progress: Sketch for “A”-16

Monday 24 September 2007

For years now, I’ve been making electronic music which can be performed live, without using computers, synthesisers, samples, or preset sequencers. This generally involves setting up a table full of guitar effects pedals bought at pawn shops or cadged off friends, all connected with a rat’s maze of cables, to produce feedback loops. It’s inconvenient, but it’s fun when it works.
This type of feedback system, made without using anything designed to actually produce sound by itself, is often called the “no-input mixer”. Sketch for “A”-16 is a new piece I’m working on, my first attempt to make a piece for a no-output mixer.
The fundamental premise for the piece is a principle used by David Tudor in some of his compositions: that many electronic audio components have jacks that can be used for either input or output. I’ve used this aspect in my recent live electronic works, but Sketch for “A”-16 is the first piece I’ve made which is entirely based upon this property. It can only work if the inputs for each circuit are simultaneously working as outputs.
I’ve uploaded some examples of how the work’s going so far. They’re more of a proof of concept than a finished composition, but still work quite nicely as music, each with its own mood and sense of form. What you hear in these tracks is the combination of two simple bi-directional feedback loops. Future versions of this piece will use a greater number of components, to produce a greater and more subtle variety of sounds.
1. Sketch for “A”-16, take 1 (part 1) (3’48”, 2.97 MB, mp3)
2. Sketch for “A”-16, take 2 (16’15”, 12.95 MB, mp3)
3. Sketch for “A”-16, take 1 (part 2) (8’05”, 5.73 MB, mp3)
There is no editing, overdubbing, mixing or other post-production of any kind on these three pieces. Each was recorded directly to hard drive, with all sounds produced by analogue electronic feedback loops, created with closed circuits of effects boxes and an 8-input mixer.

(More about Sketch for “A”-16 and other music.)

Please Mister Please

Sunday 23 September 2007

Stuffo & Beth Alphett, “BLD2” track 7 (2006).
(4’23”, 4.03 MB, mp3)

The Canterbury Block

Sunday 23 September 2007

With larger increases in temperature and increases in rainfall pasture production increased by 2030 in the north, but not in the south, and results were not as positive by 2070.

As it turns out, the “Old Europe” is prepared to serve in the relatively peaceful northern parts of Afghanistan, but not in the south, where active combat is the norm.

Over fifty years after the practice was first defined, the Canterbury Block is still thriving.

The constitution contained many present-day Dutch political institutions; however, their functions and composition have changed greatly over the years. The constitution was accepted in the North, but not in the South.

Dry season adults were consistently larger than wet season adults in the tropical north, but not in the south.

From agriculture to international relations, biology to constitutional politics, there is no field of endeavour to which the Canterbury Block can be applied without immediately enhancing and expanding upon the sum of expert knowledge.

In the North Fore, but not in the South, the corpse was buried for several days, then exhumed and eaten when the flesh had “ripened” and the maggots could be cooked as a separate delicacy.

In Ghana, female headship was associated with poverty in the north but not in the south.

A quick search on Google finds choice examples of the Canterbury Block bolstering opinions around the world, informed and uninformed, in a variety of languages. I am beginning to suspect that if there is a grand unified theory of everything, then one of the fundamental building blocks will be the Canterbury Block.

Sinn Féin will probably gain some ground but are not likely to make it into a governing coalition due to a curious double standard that sees the party as fit for government in the North, an increasingly foreign and alien place, but not in the South.

Time is running, but not in the South.

(Crossposted at Sarsaparilla.)

I, for one, welcome Blogger’s new German overlords

Thursday 20 September 2007

Seriously, it's been doing this for the past week.

The New New Magic Online Survey

Thursday 20 September 2007

If you’ve taken the Magic Listener Advisory Group survey as I suggested, you might want to go back and take it again. The preliminary questions are all the same, but they’ve updated the list of songs to give you something completely different. Better still, this time they’ve thoughtfully uploaded audio samples of each song in case you don’t recognise the title.
Once again, its a clever mix of solid gold classics and the unexpected esoteric: highlights include “Chattanooga Choo Choo” by Harpers Bizarre (which I have’t heard Magic play, although they do seem to like band’s cover of “Anything Goes” an awful lot), Vicki Lawrence’s “He Did With Me”, the “wrong” Gibb brother, the non-ironic-quotes-wrong version of “Jolene” (Olivia Newton-John?), some Freddy Fender, Johnny Crawford’s “Petite Chanson”, back-to-back versions of “Puppy Love” for your analysis and comparison (Paul Anka and Little Donnie Osmond*)… and if Magic has to pick a Supremes hit, well, it has to be “The Happening”.
As with the last time, there’s also one song so odious that it must be given the thumbs-down, and it’s not the Kevin Johnson track.

* Yes, that’s how they list him on the survey.

I suppose this is the world’s way of telling me I should buy my own turntable

Wednesday 19 September 2007

This was supposed to be a post recommending you go look at the videos posted to Youtube by a guy or girl called Spoonfedcornbread. SFCB had a strong, clear vision: point the camera at the record player turntable, put on an old single, drop the needle, and watch the record go round while the music played. Eight hundred and fifty times.
If you’ve ever played lots of little pieces of vinyl in succession I don’t need to tell you what a beguiling experience this can be, listening to the music while the record spins and the tone arm gradually draws in towards the centre. In a way it emphasised the little self-contained world the 7-inch single created. SFCB’s virtual recreation of this phenomenon was strikingly vicarious.
The music was good too, being a collection of over 800 singles from the late 50s to the early 70s – all A-sides, from what I could see. There was a Magic-like variety, ranging from R&B to easy listening, from the more obvious Beatles and Stones to people like Keith (a Magic favourite), or Liz Damon’s Orient Express.
Sadly, Spoonfedcornbread’s account has been suspended by the forces sworn to make the world a meaner, sadder place; but not before some 20,000 people got to watch and hear “Some Velvet Morning” whirling round – more than twice the number of viewings of the second-most popular video.
In the meantime, try Office Naps for your old 7-inch fix. Sadly, no streaming video of the records going round. Yet.

RANDOM RERUN: Hope I die before I look old

Tuesday 18 September 2007

To die of the cigarettes, that is a misfortune, no? But to have one’s skin look not so young before one’s time, that is the real tragedy.
The French have their priorities straight. The real mystery here is that this photo was taken in Estavar, where a 5-minute drive into the next village will see you over the border into Spain, where a packet of Camels will set you back only €2.50.

(First posted 26 October 2005.)

Please Mister Please

Sunday 16 September 2007

Laughing Clowns, “Every Dog Has Its Day” (1982).
(3’50”, 3.80 MB, mp3)

On Friday evening he stood around on the bank of the Thames for an hour. Then he went to the pub.

Sunday 16 September 2007

I went to see/hear Alvin Curran’s Maritime Rites on the river out front of Tate Modern, expecting to be slightly underwhelmed. I was either a real enthusiast or a slow learner, so it took me at least five years of regularly going to to events like this which combine:
  • public, outdoor locations
  • spatialised performances
  • amateur scratch orchestras
  • composition mixed with improvisation, and
  • acoustic instruments and electronics
are more likely than not to be pretty bad. After it had finished I wondered if it was my lowered expectations that made me like it so much.
The piece made use of the brass section of the London Symphony Orchestra on a stage on the bank, Curran himself on piano with a group of improvisers on a barge in the middle of the Thames, and an orchestra of volunteers assembled along the Millennium Bridge. These first two ensembles were heavily amplified to carry across the water, also effectively drowning out the musicians on the bridge and any surrounding ambient sounds, which was supposed to be one of the features of the music. Mind you, any distinctive sounds made by the Thames around Waterloo get lost in the regular city noise.
Yes, the music tended to ramble, but it did so in a nicely discursive way, apparently getting caught up in one piece of shtick after another, from freeform antiphonal honking back and forth across the river, to passages of Handel pastiche, to long sax solos by Evan Parker out on the barge, disrupted by confusing outbursts of digital DJing.
More than the arrangement of musicians around the river, the most interesting spatial aspect of the music was the way the sound would echo, with only some sounds and frequencies travelling along the water, bouncing off the distant buildings in unpredictable ways. All the way through the live music was ghosted by transformed shadows of sound hovering in different parts of the air amongst the evening commuters, joggers, tourists, and drinkers on the riverbank while the sun set.

The top ten photos in my Flickr account

Wednesday 12 September 2007

It took a while for me to notice that Flickr provides an analysis of how many times your photos have been looked at. I’ve never expected any of my stuff to have broad appeal, but it’s intriguing to see what people seem to be interested in.
With one exception, this is the fairly stable order of popularity amongst my pictures.

10! I still haven’t seen Patrick Keiller’s London again, so I still don’t know how close I got to guessing the particular location of the forgotten corner of the city that briefly appears in the film. Instead, I relied on Iain Sinclair’s description of finding the same place some years later, somewhere near St Andrew By The Wardrobe.

9! Trainspotters ahoy! The Tube’s inexplicable allure adds a cachet to even the most mundane snapshots.

8! Heh heh, I said ‘faggots’. I’m amazed this one isn’t the most viewed in the entire set, because half of my website traffic consists of kids on MySpace linking to the smaller version on this blog.

7! The promise of violence. Because people like violence. Especially when it’s close enough to enjoy but you’re safely out of the way.

6! The tastefully understated Colloseum photograph. One of very few taken on my holiday in Italy. I can’t help feeling people are mildly disappointed when their searches turn up my photos.

5! See? This is exactly what I mean. This a security guard outside the Sagrada Familia and is tagged accordingly, so I hope people turning up this one are more interested in handcuffs than Gaudi.

4! The only thing more exciting than an old Tube station is a derelict Tube station. Aldwych station, once briefly known as Strand station, is now a ghost station and frequent stand-in for real Underground stations on film and TV.

3! Now here’s the anomaly. A blurry shot at a graduate art show off Brick Lane, which has suddenly rocketed up the charts in only the past week. I have no idea why. Perhaps it’s been discovered by a cabal of Ballardian fetishists who like to pretend this is Rosanna Arquette.

2! A street stall of nested dolls for the tourists in Riga. There’s nothing like Harry Potter, Stalin, and Osama Bin Laden tags to boost the hit rate, although I guess this photo must have disappointed many feverish authors hopefully searching for illustrations for their slash fiction.

1! Ah, the inanimate carbon rod of my photo set! These soothing wood tones and rich timber grain have brightened the desktops of geeks around the world. A pinnacle of repose and tranquility, which I thought had an unassailable lead over the others until the James Spader wannabes turned up.

Anything you can do, I can do better

Tuesday 11 September 2007

There’s a broken portable CD player under the bottom drawer of the kitchen dresser which isn’t doing anything, so I’ve decided to publicly launch the defunct device as my very own iPod Killer.
I figure all I need to do now is issue a press release announcing that this useless piece of technology is the first serious competitor to Apple’s portable music device and see if I can attract any investment capital. As I see it, my iPod Killer has the advantage over previous contenders by having no effort or expense put into the technical development or business model whatsoever, and yet being just as doomed as every previous iPod Killer.
Although my bold, innovative plan is already condemned to failure, I can unequivocally state that the past five minutes have been a great journey for me and my plucky little startup. Despite the completely forseen pitfalls along the way, it’s been a real learning experience which will immensely benefit me when going forward with my future doomed e-commerce strategies and worthless online business solutions.
As for the rest of you, I wish you nothing but success in developing your own DOA iPod Killers.
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