Sunday

sequal like a pig

So, as a person who doesn't play many computer games anymore, but still has a large interest in them for some reason, I'm intrigued by the revivals of games that meant something to me. Both Syndicate and UFO: Enemy Unknown were quite formative.Especially intriguing that these two games should be hyped at the same time, because i remember them from the same period of my life. They both came out in 1993, and though I didn't play syndicate at the time, I remember having an argument with Wij about which was better, both of us only having played one. We sparred off each other with feats that we thought only our game could do. Research, upgrading your team, tactical squad-based gameplay... They sound quite similar on paper.



Later, when I had syndicate wars, I realised how different they were. As well as the matter of real-time vs turn-based, Syndicate gave you absolutely no punishment for killing civilians. Bystanders were little more than hedges, although they could be captured and armed, and oh the joy of working your way up the hierarchy of civilians, police, and eventually agents to capture. Syndicate gave you the freedom to do anything - murder citizens or local police, steal cars, rob banks, nuke office blocks - without consequences. UFO let you do anything, but everything had an impact one way or another. To different extents, these both both hugely emergent games. UFO's levels were randomly generated from set pieces; you had no idea when you landed what you were going to face. On the other hand, Syndicates cities were set-up to deliver unexpected consequences to your actions, and to reward improvised solutions to problems. They were sandbox-y enough to work as both living environments and missions.



I've just been playing syndicate wars again recently, and what strikes me is how much of an action game it is, when it's remembered more for tactics and strategy. Syndicate was already a lot more like Doom than UFO; it was fast (when the action kicked in), and it was your reactions and aiming that was the defining factor, not the qualities in your team. In Syndicate, you screwed up when you missed (and missing with the LR rifle sometimes meant all four members of your squad couldn't shoot again for ages); in UFO, you screwed up when you didn't sufficiently plan for the risk of your troops missing. Syndicate had some of the trappings of tactics and rpgs, but wasn't really a plan-ahead strategy game; on the one hand, you couldn't save mid-mission, and the missions could be big, so there was a lot of casing of joints, a lot of reconnaissance, and then only as a last resort, loading when things went wrong; but mostly, it's a trial and error game of learning to respond to ambushes before they happen. The only stats bonuses your drones get are the three levels of 5 different cybernetic implants on offer, and I've just maxed all those out by half way through the game.



With the 'remakes', Both the trailers for these games have similar, 2010s trappings - linearity, cut-scenes (press x to extract chip OMFG), sops to rpg elements with lame-o-rama upgrades, and chest-high walls. But I can totally forgive a large amount of the changes in Syndicate; the remake actually seems to capture some of the atmosphere. Hacking into people's brains is totally what Syndicate was all about (in that it ripped off loads of cyberpunk), even if the choices you have when you've hacked them is only 'suicide'. And bundling a four-way co-op into the bargain is great, because Syndicate Wars offered the same thing. XCOM, on the other hand, has thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and kept nothing but the name and the vague concept (which only bears as much relationship to UFO as to any other game ever. It might as well be a remake of R-Type).



What I really resent about both remakes is that they put you into the action. In the old syndicate games, you controlled brainless drone cyborgs in trenchcoats, expendable up to the point of having been financially invested in. In UFO, your people were incredibly valuable to you - but you were not one of them. Now, maybe these plot elements were dictated by the available technology, and the fact that in 1993 people were still more used to playing action games from a third-person view (like alien breed or chaos engine). But the change of perspective makes you the action hero, not the boss. It means your the actor, not the director or script writer. The story of the game was always the same, but the details were all up to you. But now every play through will be the same. So why call the new UFO game XCOM at all? I could ask the same thing about the new Syndicate; while it might capture the spirit of the original, the setting is so hackneyed that there's no sense in just taking the name. My point is, the perspective makes the game. It dictates the feel, and it grows stories from the missions in your head but never get put into words. Are we looking at the death of emergent gameplay in mainstream games? No, as exemplified by the popularity of GTA and Elder Scrolls. But I find it a worrying trend.

There's a more sinister point. Only a small minority of gamers today were playing games 20 years ago, when the originals came out. And they are not the ones these reboot/sequals are aimed at. So why acquire the licences at all?



Because of this lot (I mean games journalists. I googled 'games journalists' and a picture of Gillen came up, albeit in his role as a comics writer). The fact that these games have something - anything - to do with games from the fondly-recalled childhoods of the people currently rating and reviewing games for the mass market, is basically free advertising. The companies know that it means the game will get talked about, talked up, and given an extra chance when they might not have deserved one, as oppose to just flopping out of the industry like every other fresh-faced product. It's the cynicism that's so depressing. Despite the fact that the games aren't sequals, aren't in the same universe, aren't anything to do with the earlier games, doesn't matter. It's like a Led Zeppelin tribute band, who are allowed to call themselves Led Zeppelin, and play songs that LZ didn't perform.



It's like when they made Inspector Gadget: the movie, and showed The Claw as a person from the outset. The whole point of IG is that you never see The Claw beyond his eponymous hand, you don't even know if he's human. Sigh.

So Why do I have time for 1998's Battlezone - a remake arguably as flimsy as the ones I've discussed above?
BZ was so far removed from the simplistic gameplay of the 1980 original (note the similarity in timespan) that it could have come from two directions: either they said 'let's make a new 'battlezone' game', and just not stopped adding more and more cool stuff; or, more depressingly, some creative types had this wonderful idea for a game, set in space, that combined strategy and fps elements, with a plot, where you could build and ride around in tanks; and then the managers said "did you say it has tanks in? let's call it battlezone, for some free publicity!".



Ultimately, it's just a good game, irrespective of it's licence, which meant nothing to me at the time. But maybe I'd only heard of it because of the backroom shenanigans that led to it being given a name familiar to games journos of 1998.

So I suggest remaking another classic 1993 top-down strateg-action game: Cannon Fodder.



Remake cannon fodder? As a linear, cover-based FPS? Could it be done? Of course. Because it needn't have to be anything like the original; As long as the name's there, and the journos are excited, the bosses are happy. let's do it. Jools and Jops for 2012!

Wednesday

Where's Nick Clegg?

Today is strike day, and I'm ill in bed. This is a shame. Its a waste of a good day as I'm technically still striking.

So lying here, my thoughts turn to the coalition government, or as they're also known, the tories. Because as someone who watches and reads the news quite a bit, I have to say I can't remember when I last saw clegg. I remember seeing cable, looking grumpy in the wings like an understudy waiting for the lead actor to die, while osbourne announced his horrifying/unzurprising news that things are worse now than when he started.

But where's clegg, who made all those promises in the campaign, who everyone sucked up to? he's vanished from be media, like a discarded mascot lost in a 'merger'.

A merger like when sky and bsb merged to become... Sky.

Or a merger like when 2000ad and starlord merged to become... 2000ad.

Or a merger like when HSBC and midland merged to become HSBC, or when santander and abbey merged into satander, or when walkers and smiths merged to become walkers.

What I really hate about the lib dems is that they have given the tories the pretence of having won an election, and thus legitimate control of the country. They didn't, and they don't have it. But thanks, clegg, for giving your name to everything they're doing, and then fuckjbg off, so that everybody who voted for was tricked into voting tory.

Where did it say that, in your manifesto, clegg? Because if you can't find it written in black and white that this was your plan, I think we've got a caseof false advertising.

Never was a politician so aptly named after a race of alien lizards.

Sunday

Things I don't need on a sunday

*spex breaking, improvised repairs.
*hot water bottle bursting on me.
*two counts of illness, with bodyaches and headache for me and the long-suffering being sick all through the night.
*having to plan a lesson to be judged on for tomorrow.
*dishwasher breaking (and then turning out to be fine but still).

I can't wait for wednesday.
On the plus side, I get my golden hello this week. Do you accept cash? Chaching.

Saturday

day 06 - a song that reminds of you of somewhere

In at number 6: "You just stepped off the curb..."



I know Kemo City so well; I drove a cab there a few months, looking for a way out. I would always feel so lost, exploring new parts of town, but every area had such character that I would quickly learn the way around the main thoroughfares and the districts they carved the city into.

Okay, so bullshit attempt at NGJ aside, This song on the quarantine soundtrack puts me straight back into the game when I hear it. Bugged as it's engine was. Quarantine was the first game I was aware of to have a 'proper' soundtrack, pre-empting Quake's cd or GTA's radio stations. Most like GTA, you had a whole city to explore by car, and one of the best features of the car was the built in cd player. This was the DOS era - no multi-tasking. If you wanted to listen to your own music while playing a game, you had to use your actual hifi.

These places are as real to my brain as physical spaces I've genuinely travelled to. I know the architecture of the levels of doom and quake so well because i've wandered round those strange, pointless spaces so many times, looking for secrets or just replaying for fun. And while this song, from the soundtrack, brings me back to Kemo city, there's other songs that remind me of other virtual spaces; Captain Beefheart's Zig Zag wanderer instantly transports me back to the ice level of Dark Forces, Mansun's Legacy e.p. was on continually while I played Quake, and Blectum from Blechdom (and other bands featured on the 'structure of scientific misconceptions compilation) bring me back, bizarrely, to Shadowrun's hitech backstreets (I downloaded the snes emulation around 2003).

This is something that games, especially first person games, have that movies and books don't. Sure, hearing the music from Brazil reminds me of the film and makes me shudder, but it doesn't remind me of being in that world. hearing NIN's blasting opening to quake reminds me those cathedralic corridors, doors and lifts. I'm back in those spaces.

And then I went all mp3, and by the time I was playing Planescape: Torment (surely, the The Wire of computer games?), my soundtrack was a random mix of everything I listened to, and nothing stuck. I didn't even listen to the Torment soundtrack, regarded as a classic. No music reminds me of torment now. And most games I play, being indie, don't have much music. I'm listening to the Portals soundtrack now, and while it's great, I don't remember a note of it from the game and it doesn't bring me back to it as a place. Not like Kemo. That's a real place.

that gig from last night

So last night I did my first gig in a huge long while. In reflection of the times in which I live, it was a solo show, similar to the christmas show i played at with girls girls girls the year before last. No hang on, what's the chronolgy here?

I remember playing at betsy trotswood with the band and girls girls girls.
I remember playing at betsy trotswood solo with girls girls girls around christmas time. oh yeah, this was two years ago because: I debuted intelligence and paradise gas, and I played killing in the name because 'it's a christmas song'.

That time, I remember someone complimenting me on my combination of electric guitar playing and picking style. So, sans band, I thought I'd run with that idea, with a two-amp setup and a few choice effects.

I got home from work, ironed out a 'burnt ogre' t-shirt (logo by Corey), was fed pies and mash by the long-suffering, and threw my things in a taxi.

Upon arrival and unloading from the £7 taxi for a 1 mile journey, I learned of a tragedy having befallen headliners The Feminists: they'd left their violin in Berlin, and had been up to Watford and back to obtain a new one. But that had broken a string. Where are you gonna get violin strings from at 7 o'clock in Hackney? Well if only they'd asked sooner, there's a music shop 30 seconds from the venue, but never mind that now. I opened my big fat mouth and said I had a violin somewhere in my flat, although I couldn't remember where. Upon protestations that the string was 'essential', Sam and I turned tail and drove the 5 minutes back to my flat, where Sam went gooey over Esmeralda, and the violin was nowhere to be found. A guitar string was made to suffice; thus I missed my opportunity to sound check. oops.

Barish's band, 'the outfit glitch', were on first, and played a familiar kind of accessible and pleasant grunge.

I played:
Oh, Esme
Fumito U
Flim (by aphex twin)
Intelligence
Waitrose
Paradise gas
Encore: Purple Milk

My set was, as far as I could tell, a shambles. Having not had time to balance my levels, The effects just didn't sound right; the flange felt too crude, the delay feedback felt too long. The two distortion volumes weren't balanced. I didn't feel comfrotable on stage, unable to see the audience for the lights. My playing was so-so, and I was barely even trying to hit the right notes on my first vocal song, 'Fumito U'. My finger nails felt slightly too long, great for picking but on the verge of breaking (especially when i was going for my trademark plectrum-free pinch harmonic)

After the first three songs, all in open D major (DADF#AD), I had to retune up to standard tuning for intelligence, and broke the e string. I'd toyed with the idea of having two guitars, to get around this, longest, retuning point. I should have trusted my instinct, or not trusted the crummy strings the shop put back on the guitar. Either way, I had to shout out for a guitar to borrow; out came Jeremy's (should have asked for Barish's! he has the same guitar!), which had a totally different tone and a strap that went down to my knees. How does anyone play with any precision down there? So I took the strap off and grabbed what looked like a stool to sit on, which was actually a monitor stand that went down a few notches when I sat on it and felt like it was about to collapse, and I had to rest my feet on the top of the breadbin.

So I started playing intelligence, and stopped when I realised I hadn't found my note at all. I started again, having tuned up my voice. Waitrose should have gone better, but it sounded muddled and lost with the guitar sound. Then Jeremy came up to play his organ on paradise gas and it sounded great. I asked for requests and Sam shouted for purple milk. I couldn't remember the chords at all when i started playing, just dicking around in C; it came together with the first chorus, and I could hear Sam singing along. There was someone I didn't recognise asking for one more when I finished, but that was it.

Girls Girls Girls were on next, and you know what? it was a really entertaining show, as Lizzy Hawkins and I both agreed, having been watching them play for about ten years, these new songs were top fun. At times reminded me of a mix between roxy music and 10cc; at times, reaching their chaotic hilarity that they do best. I played Jez's organs on 'dogs', which probably went better than my entire set.

In between the bands, Mat, Nikki, Lizzy, Carol, and Carol's friend and I talked about the new edition of Star Wars... ok that's all I can remember.

I've got a theory you see, I might have mentioned it in a previous post; we should put our money where our mouths are, and pay McGregor, Portman, Oz, and McDiarmid to star in a 'real' star wars prequel. I want to see a moment in it where Kenobi and Yoda think they've rumbled Palpatine, only to find that they're too late; everything's in place for him to take over the republic. And I realised that this technique is exactly what Alan Moore uses in both Watchmen and V for Vendetta; Watchmen when Ozymandias monologues, safe in the knowledge that he's already done what he's talking about and the heroes have failed, and in V when the detectives realise that everybody else to do with the Larkhill camp is already dead. It's the same moment, viewed from different angles (although the detective in V is a very sympathetic character). Where else does it turn up? not often, because in mainstream stories, heroes don't often lose.

Headlining, as I said, was Sam's band The Feminists, and blimey, I haven't seen such incredible musicians acting so daft for, perhaps, ever. They'd played together for 5 years as an instrumental rock band, and then one day saw Sam busking; and decided he was the one. He simply stood, pointed, helped 'alright', thrusted his crotch, took off his sunglasses, put them on again, and lept. Meanwhile 5 technically super-competent and imaginative players took off in every genre of rock, from zappa to 'schlager' (The bassist was very happy with his purchase of the UK mono edition of Zappa's 'cruising with ruben and the jets', which he assured us 'sounds completely different').

Minutes after performing, Sam very kindly and gently drove me home. He's an absolute treasure and I can't wait to see him again, which I know will not be soon. But what a magical night it was. I'm going to go and practice guitar now.

Tuesday

Hey Record Labels, stop being idiots

So I had a bit of a splurge today and bought a couple of cds from various record labels.

I love buying music direct from the artist or the label; it gives me a sense of enormous well-being. It feels like fair-trade or something. I get stuff cheaper, they get more money. Everybody's happy, except rough trade who keep having to find new reasons to exist (cafe, bike racks, guitar strings, a one-day-a-week gourmet synthesiser shop; literally every time i go in, there's a new stupid, desperate thing in that shop).

But this particular shopping trip has given me a bad taste in my mouth.

I've recently got more into vinyl. I needed a good record player, so I bought one, so I thought I might as well make the change to 12" as my main listening avenue (other than mp3, obviously). So I've started looking for the vinyl option more.

But both Monotreme and Probe Plus records have thwarted me, by 'giving away' the cd with the vinyl. I don't want two copies of most albums (a couple i've bought in both formats... stupid, i know). I can buy the cd without the vinyl; I can't buy the vinyl without the cd.

Just give me the vinyl and the mp3s (or flacs). That covers all my bases - the lounge for the vinyl, everywhere else for the mp3s. What do I need the cd for as well? It sounds just the same as the soft copy, but takes up space. The vinyl copy sounds different and better (I actually think this now, after comparing analogue and digital versions of Cephalic Carnage's 'Anomalies'). How ever much I can save by not including the cd in the package, I'd like to save that money please. It must be an actual number, cds can't be so cheap as to be free.

So because of the lack of a pure vinyl (plus mp3) option, I've resorted to buying the cd version of two albums. It seems really wrong, but I just don't want two of every album. Vinyls are big enough as it is, without me having to store the cd as well.

Or am I looking a gift horse in the mouth? Is the cd version really really free?

Monday

Robert Webb BBC3 Filler Fan Fiction

Famous Movie Title Inconsistancies, starring robert webb
episode 1: the Final Destination series

"hi, i'm tv's robert webb. you might remember me from 'robert's webb' and 'great movie mistakes', as well as 'britain's top 100 dance crazes'.

The final destination series has one of the most inconsistent naming formulae in recent cinema history. The first three were fine, aside from the awfulness of having sequels to something that started off as supposedly 'final', with the aptly named 'final destination', 'final destination 2', and 'final destination 3'.

It all started to unravel with the fourth film in the series, 'THE final destination'. This reboot-style gambit would have paid off, if the next film had not been called 'final destination 5'. Surely, 'THE final destination 2' would have been a more apt title, or simply 'final destination 4'. Their choice of title totally undermines the logic so far, unless at some point they decide to release a different film as 'final destination 4' in the future. People like me wait, earnestly, to see how the film titles will resolve themselves."

jesus, grilly, wasn't plinkett fan fiction enough?

originally posted as a comment on cawreigh's facebook update of "We're waging a fierce war of incompatible computer OS security settings and missing ports...all this, just to watch Final Destination"

Sunday

The Page You Made



Today is the 9th of the 10th of the 11th, and it's been a year since I've added anything to the 'ongoing remix project' that is DJ Gallowslutt's 'The Page You Made'. So, in accordance with my mantra 'if you don't use something for a year, get rid of it', I announce the project closed, completed, and retired.

I might still rework tracks, but I think I'm done with the dj gallow slutt persona, and this era of recording. I guess in times of austerity, you gotta makes some cuts. Enjoy the album, and kudos to the grist.

Saturday

Things I learnt from SUPERUNKNOWN



Soundgarden's 'Superunknown' was one of the first rock albums I fell in love with. I was 12 when it came out, in 1994, and I remember 'Black Hole Sun' being on the radio, and it being about the same time as Primal Scream's 'Rocks', which I think I knew was a fraudulent pastiche even then.

I gave it a listen yesterday, and noticed a huge amount of pointers in the record I've just stolen whole heartedly. I was writing about covers in a previous post, and how SFA and Bravecaptain influenced me to incorporate the remix into the song (my song 'tofu' on the forthcoming album has elements of this now); but listening back to superunknown, there's a whole slew of themes that I've been casually using that I didn't even realise went straight back to this record.

1. Odd Timings Are Cool
You can hardly call Soundgarden 'mathcore'. They're don't play that way. But it's an album where 4/4 can hardly be called the norm; it opens and closes the album*, but only features in about half the tracks. My first impressions of the album were that it was self-indulgent, but the odd timings here aren't that odd in general. There's lots of dropped beats; Notice in the similarity in the rhythm of 'The Day I Tried To Live' and my song 'Tofu', both have a jaunty (7+8)/4 (I use this to mean alternating bars of 7/4 and 8/4). But even the predominantly common-time songs have dropped beats all over the shop - like 'Mailman' - or some fantastically perverse ways of arranging 4/4 time. 'Fresh Tendrils' has some awkward back beat, likewise, 'Head Down' manages to make 4/4 sound like a chaotic eruption.

I wonder now if the reason I'm fascinated by odd timings is that i suffer from dysrhythmia; Moby's 'honey' sounds completely wrong to me. I just can't resolve the beat on it. I had a lot of trouble with e1m9 on doom, too; I've literally only got the rhythm right in my head for it in the last year, 19 years after it was released. Maybe these songs sound normal to other people. Anyway, if it hadn't have been for superunknown, I might never have become interested in anything outside 4/4.

2. Odd Tunings Are Cool
You wouldn't know from listening to the record that the band are playing in anything other than in drop-d and standard tuning. When I looked up, and printed off, the transcriptions on the internet, I was amazed by the plethora of unusual tunings (also, it was a clear indication they'd been ripped off the official songbook). A bunch of songs are in tunings that you could only play that one song in - 'My Wave', for instance with its ludicrous E-E-B-B-B-B tuning, 'Like Suicide' with its D-G-D-G-B-C tuning (for non-musicians, let me explain: you'd never normally tune a guitar so that two strings are only a semi-tone apart. This is a very specific tuning to make one particular riff sound 'just so').

I was a fairly inexperienced guitarist at the time, and this completely opened my mind not just to drop-d tuning, but also the whole idea that a guitar should be tuned for the performer. Often, since then, I would find a melody or riff, and decide that the guitar could be set up better to play it. Maybe it would be easier if it were in drop-d, or open G, or open D, or even something entirely new. Or maybe I would start with an odd tuning, and play around, see what comes out. It's a great way to break out of old habits and freshen up the fingers.

As I started playing live with a band, I went back to playing with a standard tuning more often. We weren't soundgarden, with roadies, budget, and hundreds of guitars waiting in the wings to be brought on, ready for the exact next song we were going to play. But in solo shows, I love the opportunity to have a moment of retuning, offer some jokes, some anecdotes, and be more intimate with the audience; the different feeling from different tunings is more pronounced when there's just one instrument on stage. Nick Drake was a great re-tuner as well, but reputedly froze up on stage with no banter, the poor thing.

3. Fretwanking is ok, as long as it's not centre-stage

Bill Bailey look-a-like Kim Thayil is a great guitarist, that's not up for debate; 100th best guitarist of all time, according to rolling stone. I find him a mysterious figure on the record; his lead guitar lines don't cut through the whole song, and he just seems to contribute when necessary. When he's not beefing up the main riff, it's not usually melodic, but improvised, flailing guitar; and then sometimes, he just had some nice simple harmonies. The best example of this is during 'Fell on Black Days'. But when he's fretwanking, it's never the point of the song; many prog-rock and metal bands would have virtuoso instrumental performances as the entire raison d'etre of the band. Here, it's just a touch, it's in it's place, and it's a part of the whole mix. We're not meant to hear it and go 'wow, he's such a good guitarist!', it's not mixed to the foreground, with a sign next to it saying 'listen to me go'. It's expressive, but it's not dictatorial. Maybe this is simply in keeping with the times, the shift away from extended guitar solos; maybe the success of Superunknown helped form that shift. Either way, it taught me that there was a point to guitar soloing, and many of my tracks leave room for an improvised section, usually around particular key notes and phrases. That self-indulgence is ok, as long as it's not the point, as long as you're not force-feeding people your 'genius', but letting it float on the mix instead.

4. Can't Make Your Mind up which take to keep in the mix? Use both
There's lots of double-tracked rhythm guitar on the record; that's usual. It gives more depth and longer-lasting appeal. But what I remember from the record is not just Cornell's vocal range, his variety of styles that he could draw on and switch between - the rock wail, the harmonious voice, and his barely-singing murmer - but how he would use them together, in ways you could only do with overdubs. For instance, 4th of July; a droney-stoner rock song, with the rock vocal lower down in the mix than the soft vocal. The contrast and balance is fantastic; either take would have been good but by putting them both in, we've achieved both simultaneously, plus the contrast.

For the same reason, I love 'Crossing Over' by Cult of Luna, a track that has wonderful doubled vocals. I love the stacked vocals in TV On The Radio songs. In my own recordings, I've usually tried a couple of different takes, then decided the track sounds best with both. This isn't a comment on multitracking itself, but how the interplay of different interpretations is highlighted when they're mixed together. Maybe a more subtle approach would be to do one style one verse, another style the next; that's fine too.


5. Keep The Tracklisting and Instrumentation Varied
Superunknown is a pretty pessimistic album. Opening with 'Let Me Drown' and closing with 'Like Suicide' - a song written after Cornell had to kill a bird that flew into his window, the hook lyric being "love's like suicide" (prefiguring, probably co-incidentally, the similar line in Smashing Pumpkins' 'Bodies') - the lyrical themes are of desolation, apocalypse, despression, and on 'The Day I Tried To Live', the perils of trying to get up and dressed. Meanwhile, the music is as varied a collection of rock songs as you could find outside a Blur album. You could broadly describe it all as grunge, but that doesn't capture the variety of styles in the album. It 'runs the gamut' of rock, from sludgey doom to punk and riffy rock, with a few more things too; actually, thinking about it, this is quite usual for grunge bands. And while the lineup is fairly constant through the record, most tracks have some extra instrumentation that piques the ear a little, such as melotron, extra puercussion, spoons, or simply very bizzarre-sounding guitar. The variety of harmonies, scales, instruments, timings, effects, all add interest and psychedelia to what could have been a very rough, dull, monotonous album. kind of like 'badmotorfinger'.

So yeah. It's a great record, but unlike other great records, I can see so much of what I love about music, and so much of what I love about the music I make started here. I reccomend it to anyone.

*I'm excluding 'she likes surprises' as the official last track since it's a bonus track, but I will include it while talking about the record.

Thursday

Autumnal Ephemera


So this is a mix that kind of ended up being quite autumnal. Outside of the brashly seductive 'Willow's Song' (from the wicker man), it's pretty regretful; there's a lot of break-up songs, plus a couple of tracks that are pretty disrespectful to one social group or another; 'Graffitti...' which, in the same vein as 'harrowdown hill', is actually one of the angriest songs i know, and 'Absolutely Free', which both captures the ideals of hippydom and disses flower power. The bitterness seems quite autumnal, like the traces of a betrayal.

Tuesday

day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone

In at Number 5: "Silence in the Studio!"


I'm a 6th former, being driven to school in my dad's volvo. It's got a CD player built in, and we're got the AAD un-remastered reissue of Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother playing. With the stereo seperation enhanced by the front/back separation of the front tweeters and rear woofers, the music fills the car and feels like a quadrophonic concert hall. We slowed the car down and stopped in the car park to wait until it finished, determined not to start the day until we had finished the half-album-long song. Maybe as an act of autism, maybe as an act of respect for the work.

I can't remember if it's the first time I heard it, but the memory of this particular listening session has been branded onto my memory of the song. It was my father who put up with me putting Jan and Dean's 'Dead Man's Curve' on a loop when I came round, listening endlessly to the same few songs by Elvis Presley and the Human League in his city-centre flat. But by the time I got to 6th form I was hunting more deeply into my parent's music collections; trying to understand The Smiths beyond the hit singles, taping Trout Mask Replica for friends, scrabbling for meaning amongst the tapes, records, and cds. This track felt like absolute pay-dirt, and I argued with everyone who would listen about how it was the best thing Pink Floyd ever did, and they were wrong that meddle was better that was rubbish.

It may be the song that showed me what instrumental music is capable of; in fact made me hold instrumental music in the highest regard, as 'true' music, unsullied by cheap sops to expressionist lyrics (I don't want to know what's going through your mind, I want to know how you feel). It definitely influenced particular tracks of mine, such as 'New Boyfriend'. Every time the refrain is played, the orchestration is different, and while it's massive, expansive, patient music, the structure is fairly simple; and so satisfyingly ordered, it feels like a musical landscape painting. It feels like exploration. the return to the opening section near the end, and then into the final coda of the refrain, feels totally suicidalyptic, like superman throwing himself into the sun to save the universe. It makes me feel important, and mortal.

Saturday

On Paternity

writings from long ago i never published...


So, I'm a dad now. So it comes.

The day that Esmeralda Rose Griliopoulos was born, I spent a lot of time
asking 'what have I done?'; I was baffled. We'd been up all night; the induced labour
had started at about 11, we went to hospital at about 1, finally got
seen about 3, and Esm was born about half 8, when the morning team
arrived with new energy and actual doctors, and kicked everything up a
notch. We were let out the same day, and got to introduce her to 4 of
her grandparents and her only true uncle. The lack of sleep didn't
help with inability to deal with what I was witnessing.

That day, my perspective on the world changed in two unexpected ways.
Firstly: childbirth. I instantly resolved that the long-suffering
never had to make the tea again. For a start. Every mother I see, I
think, you've been through That. Mothers... jeez. Hats off to all mothers, everywhere. Which really changes what you think as you walk down the street.

Secondly: looking down at Esm, and thinking adoring thoughts of her. And realising that this is the feeling your parents have had whenever they looked at you, for the last thirty years. And feeling massively guilty for every time you didn't appreciate this.

That was stuff from the first day, which I never got around to writing down. But it's important to put it up here.

We're not just a couple now, we're now 'team esme'. We're here to keep her alive. That feels strange. It has changed our relationship, because we're a three-piece now. a family, not a couple.

Tuesday

Plinkett Star Wars Review Fan Fiction

So I was thinking back about star wars, and the prequels and everything, and I thought that Plinkett didn't go into quite enough detail regarding the character Count Dooku. So I thought I would write some Plinkett fan fiction to psuedo-remedy the fact.

Count Dooku is the worst supporting villain since Darth Maul. They're both total nothings, but while Maul has no character but a face for lunch boxes, Dooku is played by the most prolific actor ever. How did George Lucas manage to squander yet another massive talent? Let's see my lovelies...

Oh and I'm writing this from memory because I don't wanna sit through these crap movies again. I'm sick of editing this stuff down so it looks as though everyone hates George Lucas allatime. I don't need to be watching these crappy films in order to know how bad they are - I'll just have a quick look at the wikipedia pages and ignore everything they say about all the books, and comics, and video games, and popcorn buckets cause none of that shit matters, I don't care if they explained it all in the books it don't matter.

Number one: COUNT Dooku?

The first two things we find out about Dooku are that he's a count, and that he used to be a jedi. A count? A count of what exactly? We don't need to know, I guess, because we never get told. I guess he's a count like Leia is a princess and Padme is a queen, even if being a democratically elected queen totally defeats the point of having that title. It's just a fancy title to make the thing feel more like The Princess Bride... you know, all fairy tale and stuff. Which is why there are so many amputations and decapitations in these movies.

Hey waidaminute... Count Dooku? Like, Count Dracula? One of Christopher Lee's most famous roles? Is that a coincidence? Or did Lucas think, Hey, we've got Christopher Lee over to do some prancing about in front of green screens while I sit and drink my coffee, why not get everyone to call him 'count'? Cause then it will remind people of that other, good film he was in, and that might make people like this piece of crap more. I'm surprised they even bothered with Lee, and didn't just hire Jerry Nelson to do a voice for a cartoon lobster or something.

Cause, you know, Jerry Nelson performed The Count? In Sesame Street? And Frank Oz was on it too, playing Bernie, so it's not that implausib

Number two: The fallen Jedi

So the very second thing we find out is that Witchfinder Dooku used to be a Jedi. Whaaaaat? Since when did people leave the Jedi Order? We've seen these kids being indoctrinated with this monastic bullshit since they're babies, and then one guy just decides to quit? and he's allowed to keep his lightsaber and all his powers, and all of the other Jedi are like, "sure, quit, that's cool, see you around bro." This makes no sense. You wouldn't just let ex-jedi wander about the galaxy, like some rich kid of holiday. If he left the order, if the other jedi didn't kill him on the spot, then they'd at least keep a pretty close eye on him. And who knows, maybe this incredibly powerful ex-jedi would be a prime candidate for this dark lord of the sith that we keep hearing about who never seems to show up anywhere or do anything except by carrier pigeon. Maybe it's that one guy who learned all the jedi powers, then left and became an evil count. Could he be the secret enemy? or does Sidious force powers hide even more of the plot from the good guys than we realised? So that they're not just not allowed to think about Palpatine being a Sith, but they're not allowed to have any intelligent thoughts at all?

So how did Dookie lose his faith, or whatever? Once again, we're told something interesting, and just expected to swallow it. You've skipped the interesting bit, asshole, and moved straight onto the boring exposition. Show us his fall, why he has gone evil. Otherwise he's just some guy who we're expected to believe is a bad just because he's a Count. You could invest something in your characters you idiot, Show, Don't Tell. Go back to film school you just broke the most important rule of fi

The thing is, Chris Lee is a damn good actor, and he's up for anything, no matter how cheesy. So why waste him on this nothingy character? Hey idiots, why not make Dooku the main villain? And while you're at it, Since we're calling him 'Count', Why not go the whole way and totally rip off Dracula? Why not have Anakin and Padme taking their honeymoon in Spacevania, and they go to stay at Count Dooku's Spooky Castle, where the evil Fallen Jedi nearly seduces them to the dark side, and locks them up. Then they could find out that Dooku has been breeding clone troopers to attack Numenor.. oh, wait... that's that other other christopher lee film.

Number Three: Darth Sharku

So at the same time as making this, Christopher Lee was filming The Lord Of The Rings, where Lee played Saruman, who was... a fallen Wizard. Given that Gandalf is pretty much the complete model for Obi Wan and Yoda, a scene where Kenobi and Yoda and Dooku fight is going to be pretty fuckin' similar to a scene where Gandalf and Saruman fight, isn't it?

Well no, because Lucas is such an idiot that he can't even rip things off right. See, in the LordoftheRings film, Saruman is the head of the council, like Yoda, but fallen, like Anakin, because he was seduced by the power that Sauron could give him. It's pretty much a complete analogue. So when Gandalf visits Saruman, realises he's lost his way, and they fight, the scene is beautiful because while they're using magic to move each other around, there's a pretty brutal, raw feel to it all, not to mention the pain of Gandalf having to swallow his disappointment that his master and friend has turned. If Saruman can't resist Sauron, how will Frodo? worse still, how will Gandalf? There's a lot at stake in this fight. It's a subtle fight scene that is both physical and mental. When Yoda fights Dookie, there's no mental edge to it at all, just two computer generated things bouncing off the walls. You don't even get a sense of the pain anybody feels, even when hands get cut off.

It's just so crushing that yet again, Lucas could have made so much more of this character, and totally failed it. It would have been cool if Dooku Manchu dealt with the two younger jedi physically, but then when Yoda showed up, stashed his laser sword and knelt, ready for a meditative battle of wills. This would have been a really good opportunity to use some of those Computer Generated special effects that lucas loves so much, to illustrate what's going on in the force between these two characters. They should have settled their scores with a massive psychic game of Go. Show us elemental Krayt dragons savagely fighting Rancors to the death as a metaphor for the inner struggle they are experiencing. It would have been a beautiful scene, in keeping with yoda's character and showing Dooku's inner strength, and maybe that there is a balance between the darkside and the light side.

Aw fuck it, let's just have little cartoon yoda jumping round the place so that it looks like what he said in the future are the bitter words of a loser jedi. Cause that's what star wars is all about, that in order for the little guy to win, he doesn't have to believe in himself, he just needs to be able to move his laser sword around real fast.

I've been thinking hard about, y'know, hiring Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Ian Mcdarmid, Frank Oz, and Christopher Lee to make a space opera movie, that if you squinted, could fill in for the star wars prequel films we wanted and really deserved. But you know what? For all his previous meddling, horrible filling-in of gaps and such forth, I'd love to see an SW film set between 4 and 5, where Vader goes investigative and finds out exactly who this character who beat him in space combat was . Lucas had basically painted the plot into a corner - Vader had to have no idea that he had children, but had to have fathered them. Tricky situation. Plus, for some reason, Luke is in hiding, and Leia is in full-on public life; clearly some ret-conning went on to make them brother and sister. So vader has to find out that luke is is son, but not Leia, who he lets go. This doesn't make any sense. But still, It'd be nice to see Vader's reaction to the news that he has a son, his realisation that Sidious lied to him, and the start of his plotting to overthrow the Emporer. It must be a fascinating revelation, for someone who until the end of Empire, has really not much personality.

I'd also like to go as far as de-lucasing even the original trilogy, and copy-pasting wookies onto all the child-friendly ewoks he replaced them with (you know how Jedi was meant to take place on Kasshyyk, right?). I mean, why stop with the new films, when there's seeds of his madness in the original trilogy. Take them back, I say. They're our films now.

Sunday

The new racism

So yeah, there's a lot of racism around at the moment. But you have to look for it.

I've been watching the red letter media 'half in the bag' reviews with increasing obsessiveness, but the captain america review got me thinking along these lines.



The two critics talk about how the film happily makes historical inaccuracies about 10 minutes in; they're talking about how it makes them uncomfortable that the designs look futuristic, when they should look old but with sci-fi elements. They should look like laser guns that were designed in 1940, not 2100. They're nerds; schticklers for detail. Then they speak about political correctness.

What they say isn't technically racist; they speak about how there were african americans that fought in world war 2*, but they were assigned to separate units and the film should reflect the segregation of the time rather than lie about it. Fair enough; they're after accuracy. But they complain about the ethnically diverse team of superheroes; correctly they point out that there's no women in the team (women obviously have even further to go with their struggle for equality). But "The asian guy with the emo haircut who was talking on his cellphone just threw me out of the movie."

These are not racist comments. But they are striving for historical accuracy above employment opportunities for an ethnically diverse range of actors. Which is more important?

What they don't say - that I was crying out for - was "why set this in world war 2 at all?" Iron Man wasn't set in the 60s, when Tony Stark first appeared; Rhodes, his African American sidekick didn't arrive until 1979, but was included in the film. Maybe Captain America is more strongly associated with national struggles and the military, but there's something more here. I'm deeply suspicious of the current fashion for 50s and 60s-set media, such as 'madmen', the forthcoming 'xcom', and our 'the hour'; historical accuracy is a great excuse for not allowing ethnic minorities on the screen.

(In their review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, they praise the diverse cast. But I wonder if in this case, the producers of the film wanted to move away from the race metaphors of the original book/film, by casting the main antagonist as a black man. This leads us to think that the the apes are rising - sorry, the planet of the apes is rising - against all of humanity, not just whitey. I dunno, I've not seen it.)


All this, as we enter an age where finally, we have series like Luther, where a black actor, Idris Elba, plays the lead character with no whisper of a plot line surrounding his ethnic heritage. I think this would have been unimaginable even 10 years ago.

Last time I saw a Shakespeare play, it was played by actors of no fixed ethnicity. I had no trouble believing that the Montagues could consist of such a diverse group of people; that brothers would have entirely different skin tones. Some people would argue against this, and the only hope actors from ethnic minorities would have of getting to play the great Dane would be if some visionary director decided to stage the play around a different nationality. It would be segregation again.

Look, I love Lord of the Rings as much as the next person (chortle), but you have to say: it's pretty damn honky. But why are we obsessed with continuing to set fiction in times where discrimination was acceptable? Why does Lord of the rings - a fantasy land - have to have an all white cast, to please the nerds, and yet adaptations of the Earthsea books (where Ursula le Guin stipulated a darker-than-caucasion skin tone) whites? Middle Earth is a fantasy land. Isn't their room for ethnic diversity in there? and I'm not talking about the evil 'Southrons', who stood in for Arabs. I'm really disturbed by the whiteness of LOTR. I can understand that you're going for a certain look; the books were written 70 years ago. But I hold it to be a discriminatory one that I don't agree with. If Idris Elba went for an audition for a part in LOTR, what would they say? 'Sorry, we aren't hiring people of your skin colour?' How is this acceptable?

I seriously suggest that there's something going wrong here, that there's a deluge of productions which conveniently exclude minorities. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy, just a handy work around to maintain a predominantly-white casting policy. Until we get the corollary to mad men - the 'what all the black people in new york were doing at the same time' show - I believe I have a case.

*I actually can't stand the term 'world war 2', but for convience, and lack of a better suggestion, I'll use it here.

Tuesday

David Cameron complaining about the wrong people being greedy.

"There are deep problems in our society that have been growing for a long time: a decline in responsibility, a rise in selfishness, a growing sense that individual rights come before anything else."

The words of David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative party, talking about the causes of the riots.

Satyr is dead.

album diary 6



We recorded 7 songs in 5 hours. I was drained from the experience, and the travelling, and despite a good night's sleep, I still am.

The record is so close to being finished now. The latest mixes - 'day five', since every subsequent mixdown is a day's virtual work - sound pretty much like finished tracks to my ears, partly because I've listened to them so much that I just accept them as sounding the way they do. The biggest remaining job, other than the actual mixing and mastering (which I am not doing, no way), has to be the final fixing of the drums, which I'm not looking forward to; Andrew suggested using more sampled beats, which I think is a good idea. I think the biggest deal is just to find a really, really good snare sound.

London Fields Summer Chillout mix



Interesting for me to be doing a mix with a specific direction, but I felt the need for a mix that *doesn't* go mental, and it wasn't hard to do, since everything I've been listening to has *at least some* relaxing stuff on it, although the track by Igorrr might be pushing it.

Heroes of the moment include Euros Childs, who contributes a solo instrumental, plus, as part of Jonny, the 10-minute 'Cave Dance', highlight of their self-titled debut. I don't think Euros has done anything as gorky'sish for years, and the track is hugely reminiscent of their early, Ankst Musik-released, Alan Holmes-produced, early stuff.

We have a track from the Soundbyte's second album from 2007, which I've only just caught up with. Aaron Spectre (AKA Drumcorps) and a surprisingly jeff buckley-esque number from Igorrr from Ad Noiseam records, both from Ad Noiseam records. See guys: label samplers definitely sell records. I wish more people realised that studying labels is a really good way to find more bands you like, and also see the connections between other bands.

Necro Deathmort turn up as ever, as does Clint Mansell's moon soundtrack. Marmaduke Dando is someone i'm very much in love with atm - like the intersection of The Tiger Lillies and Wild Beasts, but just concentrating on writing very good songs.

But the main hero of the mix is Muddy Suzuki. I've been listening to his latest album, 'Head In The Sand' consistently for several months now, and it's such a massive work. I'm thinking, Stevie Wonder levels of genius. I've not shown his rockier side yet, but believe me there's much more to the album than the two proggy, neo-classical works i've put on this one or last mixtape's touching 'keep taking the tablets'. He's got talent, wit, humour, a stack of literary and musical references, and rocks super-hard. Go listen.

Sunday

Scifi films are bullshit

Sorry to harp on about films - i'll write some stuff about music soon, i promise - but I've watched a slew of rubbish - well, to be fair, merely flawed - scifi films recently. WELL LET ME EXPAND UPON THAT.

I was going to write just about Splice, but I just watched Monsters and, thinking back to other recent films, like Sunshine, there's definitely something going wrong here. spoilers ahead!

All these films seem to be half good. I'll start with Splice, which I watched in a strangely, thematically, appropriate double bill with Fishtank.

The premise of Splice - sidestepping the actual 'science' - is Frankenstein, but with a happy couple instead of a weird student doctor. Two co-habiting gene splicers decide to push the technology to the limits and throw some human genes into the mix. Of course, it's all the stupid woman's idea, but never mind that, what they create is a growing-too-quickly mutant girl, surprisingly human. As the plot unfolds, we learn that the woman of the pair had a difficult relationship with her mother - possible case of neglect and/or emotional abuse - and while initially loving of the creature, begins to play out her parent. The man starts off sceptical - in fact, tries to kill it several times - but soon warms and admits he loves the weird little thing. Up to this point, I loved this film. It was dealing with nature and nurture in an interesting way, it was dealing with a mother-daughter relationship (which is rare as hen's teeth in the father-son-obsessed mainstream cinema world, see Inception below), and it was dealing with the ethics of letting things get too far.



And then it all went Woody Allen, when the man shags his, let's face it, adopted daughter (being seduced by her does not let him off the hook). And then, after it dies, it inexplicably comes back to life as a man and rapes the woman, it's mother. What this says about the writer/director of the film's view of the world, I'm not too sure - possibly that all men want to kill all other men, and all women want to sex all men. The Long-Suffering Girlfriend pointed out how unpleasant it was that men get to be seduced while women get raped. The film was great until the sex got in there; I'm not saying there shouldn't be films about sexual abuse and it's consequences, and you should definitely watch Fishtank for evidence. But Splice started off with a great story, then threw it out the window in order to make space for some alien sex scenes. Is Xenopaedophilia a word? It is now, thanks to Splice.

Then we come to Monsters, which is like heart of darkness but with no characters. It owes most, absolutely and definitely, to Stalker; a perilous journey across an alien-infected zone, on a budget so low that real ruins are substituted in for sets and the beauty of nature is explored and the influence of the aliens is felt obliquely and in the periphery. The main difference is that while Stalker felt like three philosophy students walking slowly across the landscape, Monsters feels like two gap-year dickheads. The conceit of the film is great, I don't argue with the vision, the style, or the use of limited budget to achieve something personal.



But she's a drip, he's just any bloke. There's no charisma between them, such that the ending where they kiss feels like a surprise. oh and there's the father-son bullshit again. It feels quite a lot like jurassic park, partly because of the scenery and the threat from massive things, but mainly because the couple have the sexual charisma of the children in that film (I MEAN NONE). A lot is made of the improvised dialogue, bringing comparisons to Mike Leigh, but while Mike Leigh joints have dialogue and scenarios that have erupted from weeks of intense character study, the dialogue in Monsters feels genuinely just improvised, in the way that they couldn't think of anything interesting to say. They just amble about like blankly yawning wildebeest. Or, as I said above, students on their gap years, with inexplicably long-lasting hairspray.


Sunshine could have been great, I was really enjoying the way that the creators had wreaked enough drama out of these people just doing their misson; up until the point where it turned into a slasher film for some reason. Actually, I got a lot more out of the film with Brian Cox's commentary track, as he explained how the sun was driving them mad, and what happened to the other captain could have happened to them, but I just lost interest in the film and missed what happened at the end (despite it being on in the room), and it's a pretty clear failing of the finished film when you need the commentary track to enjoy it.

Splice and Sunshine both have great ideas, but squander them in a lazy attempt to attract attention through (sex and) violence. Monsters justifies it's brief moments of horror (spoiler: it's called monsters), but it's failings are more to do with the actors, or perhaps the director's misguided approach to improvised acting.

Positive note: cest scifi film i've seen for a long time, then, is Skeletons. you'll love it.


I just want to mention Inception briefly here, as it is a sci-fi, and was quite good. However, it stakes the need even more clearly for a reverse Bechdel Test: one that tests for father son relationships in films (the other all-time great father-son film is National Treasure). Here's a breif outline to give you the flavour:


The Protagonist (di Caprio) of the film is estranged from his son. The protagonist followed in his father (Caine)'s footsteps into the dream-hacking industry, which apparently they teach at university.
The target of the film is also estranged from his father, and works in the family business. The plot of the film is to plant an idea into the target's head, that he wants to start his own business; they do this by convincing the target that his father secretly loved him, despite the tough charade.
The protaganist succeeds, therefore uniting him with his own father, and his son, and putting the target's mind at ease about his father's death.

It's like Noland thought, i've got this idea for a really big clever expensive film, but the only way i'll convince anyone in hollywood to make it is if I put hyper father son relationships into it - at least three should do it.

There are two women in the film.
They speak to each other.
About a man. ("the whole conversation is about how mal needs cobb in her life to feel whole. and that few seconds is basically the only female-to-female conversation in the ENTIRE movie. i'd call this one a pretty clear fail.")


Sample questions for father-son test:
Does the son follow in the footsteps of his father's career?
Is the father estranged from his son?
Is the father too busy to see the son?
Is there a phonecall between the father and son on the son's birthday?
Is the relationship resolved in the course of the movie?
does the father die?

i'd love to see this test implemented.

Wednesday

Hellboy 2 features

So one of my favourite films is 'the dark crystal', and another of my favourite films is 'the world of the dark crystal'.

I strongly suggest you watch the whole thing:


The hour-long documentary details the two years of preproduction on the film, from earliest concepts all the way through to the filming. One of the reasons I loved it so much is it seems like a forgotten world of actual things made of actual stuff. It seemed like the very height of technology, as what they were doing was inevitably going to be superseded by the computer graphics that were just around the corner. I didn't know of any films that had a more intricate construction, and for the same reason that I love The Thing, from the same year: This, for me, was the peak of a brief period in cinema where the technology existed to create genuinely different, and realistic-looking, creatures, which could then just be filmed. The same year, Tron came out, a film that relished in unrealism, but that started a trend that fantasy films would be easier to realise on computers, which we are now seeing the fruits of. Later years presented Return of the Jedi (mostly people in suits and stop motion animation), Ghostbusters, Gremlins, even Labyrinth, but none of these for me match the achievements of The Dark Crystal.

"Do you remember the material world? Actual things?" said Stewart Lee in his recent run on the bbc. He was satirising observational comedy and nostalgia, but what was great about these films is that they were real things, put in front of the camera. The Thing was such an achievement: an explicit rejection of 'man in a suit' monster films. The techniques employed to create something that just could not exist in reality, but had to be created for the camera, are staggering. Watching the making of these two movies in 2011 is heart-rending. I maintain that all films are animations, and by using actors, puppets, drawings, computers or whatever, what matters is how you feel when you watch the flick-book. But I love the art and the industry that surrounds a physically grounded film. More recently Coraline broke my heart, with the incredible and round-about efforts that went into making the film.

I'm so glad that Guillermo del Toro has shown me to be wrong.

Watching the making of Hellboy 2 - there's 11 hours of bonus materials on the 4-disc hellboy boxset - gives me as much of a thrill as the films mentioned above, but more, because it proves that actual skills are still in use.

Hellboy definitely owes a huge debt to The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth (as well as to 'The Wizard of Oz' in its 'three weird things and a girl learning life lessons' themes, and the troll market is reminiscent of the mos eisley cantina in star wars), in terms of the needless detail of its worlds, the look of some of its inhabitants (the elves not only look like gelfings, they look like they're made out of wood), and the variety of labours needed to be performed to bring it to life. But del Toro is doing this in the 21st Century, with competition from computer graphics and budgetary constraints, because he knows that the best way to get something to look real is to actually make it. Look at the wink character in this back-stage footage:



It looks just as good as in the film. And its not that del Toro doesn't use CGI; he just uses it when necessary, or to enhance the already-elaborate techniques employed in the making of the film. Plus, it's a massive improvement on the first film, which felt clich├ęd and generic, and repetitive, whereas The Golden Army feels like an amazing and fresh work of imagination. I suppose that's the main thing.

Take the last scene of the film; I was amazed to discover they actually built that rotating set, and got an olympic gymnast in to do those real leaps that the elf prince does. Dangerous stuff. It just feels like a counterblast to (especially) George W Lucas and his incessant star wars fiddling, which employs CGI in it's laziest, worst aspects. I just wonder what del Toro has left sitting in The Hobbit, and vice versa.

Sunday

Antikythera Furthermore

Upon re-reading my recent post on the mechanism, I'm reminded of this:

Everything in the heavens is here, moving as the heavens move. This is how to know when... Suns, moons, stars. Yes, the angle of eternity.




Aughra's Orrery in The Dark Crystal is exactly what I described, a device for modelling the heavens and thus knowing what was going to be happening on earth. So that's probably what I was thinking of.

Saturday

Our Hypothesis is Yes



Much of the music I'm listening to at the moment - and I'm listening to a phenomenal amount, which is a post in itself - has roots in two people: Euros Childs, previously of Gorky's, now out on his own and also out of Jonny; and the more recent find Mat Reznik out of Astrohenge and Necro Deathmort. And a couple of wednesdays ago, both Jonny and Deathmort were playing the same night. Torn as I was, I ended up spending the evening comforting an all-broked-up friend, so at least I was spared the decision.

Elsewhere this mix just gives a flavour of what i'm listening to atm. There's another in the works that will probably be quite similar.

Tuesday

So this is pretty



We love the antikythera mechanism at grilly towers. It's quite an obsession, since it allows us to rewrite supposed history as to what was invented when, quite a feat for a single find. Hence, it's been incredibly well studied.

I think there's something missing from the analysis though. That is, the mindset of the people who would have used it. I love the device because it's so state-of-the-art; it feels so modern and functional, entirely analogues to modern palm-top computers.

Now, I'm wandering outside the boundries of science here; this is speculation, but I think it's interesting speculation.

The mechanism is, basically, as far as we can work out, a computational calendar. It shows the eclipses, the phases of the moon, the position of the sun, and (possibly, at least according to some authors) the position of the planets, at any given date of the future, just by turning a small handle. It's a model of the skies.

This is no mean feat, for a culture that believed the state of the skies accurately reflected the state of the world. This isn't just a calendar for the fun of it; no-one would design and build such a complicated mechanism just for that.

I think that the mechanism is a fortune-telling device. Knowing the positions of the heavens at any given date in the future would tell you everything you needed to know about it.
If you were arranging a festival, you could look at your mechanism and it would tell you what a good day was, when the gods would be looking favourably on you. When would be a good day to set sail. When would your fortunes change. Of course, it does not interpret anything, which is up to the owner of the device, but you've got the raw data.

And it augments the fortune-teller's art with solid technology. We all talk about our 'offboard memory' now, but this was over 2000 years ago. Think about how much power knowing the future would give the owner. And how much they would want to be the sole owner of that power. Is it a surprise we've only found one of these?

Wednesday

more fun with recommendation algorithms

so nearly a third of people who look at google laptops decided to just by the bon iver album instead? really?

Sunday

Poetic Injustice

This has never happened before:

Someone at work was telling me I was gimpy for wearing a bike hat. That it wasn't cool.

Last week he fell off his bike and hurt himself. He broke his fingers.

Take that, karma.

Tuesday

day 04 - a song that makes you sad

In at number 4: 'I know you think I've got to be joking, but if you touch him again then I'm going.'



A song that makes me sad is a lot more difficult than a song that makes me happy. almost any song makes me happy, even the sad ones, because if they make me feel anything, then that emotional engagement ultimately results in happiness.

Except Pink Glove.

Although Pulp's 'Different Class' was the first CD I ever bought, after that I totally missed the boat with them. I kept up with what they were doing, but as much as I loved them, I never actually bought any of their other albums.

Eventually I came across 'His and Hers' in a charity shop in 2005, and quite got into it. I can't believe that's 6 years ago, I was sat on the bus home from work in manchester with my awkward portable cd player that didn't have jog correction, listening to Pink Glove, the closest I'd been to tears for a long time.

It's hardly the first time jarvis had written a song about longing after (even porking) his ex - not even 'do you remember the first time?' was the first time (argh clumsiness) - but there's something about the passion and desperation in this song. the prosaic assault on his former lover's new, idiotic boyfriend, who's sapping her personality and trying to turn her into the woman he really wants.

It's awful seeing someone - a friend or an ex - go through that. But from the ex's point of view, being jilted for someone *inferior to you!* is horrendous. Seeing the person who you thought was happily single, you were waiting for the chance to make a move but now she's with *him*? In an obviously doomed long distance romance, more accurately the fall out from a fling with no chemistry-fuel to go anywhere anyway.

This song brought it all back. All the bitterness, all the nastiness, all the *why isn't it me?* feelings. Banging my head against the bathroom wall because she wouldn't be with me. Feelings I'd exegesised in page after page of torturous introspection, in diaries I've got in a box in a cupboard that I hope I'll never open. The knowledge that for all the repairs you'd made to your emotional base-camp, you'd burn it all down again for a chance to be in their arms. Even if you know they're a waste of time and you'd be better off without them. Walking into the garden, looking up at the sky and thinking 'why?'.

Sigh.

You'd better watch what you're wearing,
if you want him to come round and see you tonight.
Uh, uh, uh, oh. Uh, uh, uh, uh. Uh, uh, uh oh.
And he doesn't care what it looks like,
just as long as it's pink and it's tight.
It's what he likes.
Uh, uh, uh, oh. Uh, uh, uh, uh. Uh, uh, uh oh.

Mmmmm, so what should you do?
Should you stop being you?
Just to be how he wants you?
Mmmmm, say you'll visit your mum,
and tell me that you'll come,
and meet me in the afternoon.

Mmmmmmmm
He's got your heart,
You've got his soul.
oh well You might as well know.

Alright, I know you're never going to be with me,
but do you understand now that maybe,
you got it right first time.
I realise that you'll never leave him,
but every now and then in the evening,
you get it right first time.
I know you think I've got to be joking,
but if you touch him again then I'm going.
you got it right first time.
You get it right first time.

And now you've done it once now he wants you,
to wear your pink glove all the time.

Uh, uh, uh uh.

And he says you're a fine looking woman,
So you'll do it again and again, all again,
So he can take, so he can take it off you now.

Mmmmm.

So what should you do?
Should you stop being you?
Just to be how he wants you?
Mmmm, say you'll visit your mum,
then tell me that you'll come,
and meet me in the afternoon.
Mmmmm, he's got your heart,
You've got his soul.
You might as well know.

Alright, I know you're never going to be with me
but do you understand now that maybe,
you got it right first time.
I realise that you'll never leave him,
but every now and then in the evening.
You got it right first time.
I know you think I've got to be joking,
but if you touch him again then I'm going.
you got it right first time.
You get it right first time.

Uh, uh, uh, ah.

Well you'll always be together,
cos he gets you up in leather.
And he knows your friend called Heather
That he never kissed tonight,

So you know what to wear at the end of the day,
and I'd laugh if I saw,
but I'm out of the way.
Yeah it's too long ago,
Can't care anymore,
but I wanted to know;
is it as good as before?
Oh it's hard to believe,
that you'd go for that stuff,
all those baby-doll nighties,
with synthetic fluff.
well it looks pretty good,
yeah it fits you OK,
Yeah, wear your pink glove yeah
you put it on the wrong way.

Jesus, Alright, I know you're never going to be with me
but if you try sometimes oh then maybe
you'd get it right first time.
I understand that you'll never leave him,
but every now and then in the evening.
You get it right first time.
I know you think I've got to be joking,
but if you touch him again then I'm going.
you got it right first time, yeah.

Oh, I realise that you'll never leave him,
but every now and then in the evening
Oh You got it right first time,yeah
Oh I know you'll always be with me
Oh do you understand now that maybe
You got it right first time
Oh you got it right first time...


It never gets me like it did that time, on the bus back from the Salford quays coin store. But it always reminds me. I guess I can't complain, I'm happy now, and I'm glad for the experience. Always thank for jailor on your way out.

Edit:

I forgot to talk about the kind of heart break in the song where someone you love settles for someone boring and you know they'll never break up because they're just so reliable and dull. that's in there too.

Wednesday

Debug Yourself



So; what's the justification in me putting three tracks together from 4 years ago?

It's a bit strange, I admit.
Thee tracks have always been on my mind. Situation was meant to turn up on an ex libris records compilation that never happened, the other two tracks were meant to be a single or an album or something, which I tentatively called 'The Gathering' for some reason. I think it says something about the direction my music is headed in now, despite the fact that these are so old. To The Boats was a holiday from complex structures and out-rock. I want to do those things again.

I'm proud of this e.p., even though I feel i can't take the credit for it.



Sleeve notes:

A small but dense collection of archived tracks.

Situation Tragedy was an experiment in acoustic doom-core, improvised and recorded 'mostly live' summer 2006.

The other two tracks were meant to be... something more, but came out of the same era of recording in 2007. The Dirtbox Experience became 'tofu', when performed by To The Boats. Sacred Charm of Making (originally 'reed hove branch') will surface on a future project. While technically demos, they both have something that will invariably be lost by the time the 'finished' version appears.

See individual song pages for more detailed sleeve notes. All in all, I think these are three strange and different takes on metal tropes.

Situation Tragedy:
Recorded at collerabbey studios, portrush, during ex-fest 2006.
Guitar, piano and drums recorded live, one-take. Vocals recorded same day, also one-take.

Ideally the mixdown should be 6 minutes 66 seconds, but the outro was too nice to cut.

Dirtbox Experience:
The main riff here was originally played acoustically, and was written when I was living with Ian out of To The Boats. Back then, we played it in a way that felt like a Jansch/Renbourn Duet. I put this demo together, and the riff came out all distorted like, and when we put it together as a band, in our second iteration without bass-player Sam, it mutated again into a more funky thing.

I think this is a classic grilly track, with far too many incongruous sections, break-neck drum programming, and poor mixing. There's an attempt at a doom-dub crossover in the middle, followed by something that can't work out if it's break-core or spazz-core, followed by something attempting 65daysofstatic-style post-rock. compared to the other 'second batch' To The Boats material, which will comprise the 'In Case Of Emergence' album, Tofu has by far the richest structure, and this demo from 2007 is basically why.

I had the vocal sample, the open monologue from some random hardcore 'jazz' film, lying around for a while. It struck me as both nasty and faintly sad, as well as peculiarly trying to fetishise britishness, and I knew I had to use it somewhere. Also, she had massively overacting eyebrows, but that doesn't come across in the audio.

Sacred Charm of Making:
Originally entitled 'reed hove branch', inspired by my long-term association with that employment agency.

I never quite knew what to do with this track, until I watched John Boorman's wonderfully ludicrous 'Excalibur'. Suddenly I was gripped by using the sections of the song to tell the story of the rape of Igrayne, and wrote lyrics to that effect. Note the appearance of 'Anaal Nathrakh'.

I took it to the band, and there's a recording of us jamming for ten minutes on the middle section, which is quite familiar to a piece by Nick Cave and The Dirty Three, featured on the x-files album. However, they weren't happy about the ferocity of the main riff (possibly the closest riff i've written to my heroes, Ephel Duath) and wanted to slow it down, which ruined it for me. This happened to be the session when Corey announced his retirement.

Consider this a sneak preview of the material that will be featured in my next project, 'Kno', which will hopefully be more along the lines of this.

Friday

Album diary 3



We had a band meeting a few nights ago, in which we decided not to go with a live drummer. Basically, bringing in a new drummer, with their own style and technique, to learn all these songs just to record them felt like a bit of a faff; so the album will be recorded at home, layered, and then sent off for mixing. This is basically what we were going to do, I think, but now I can really see it happening.

It's funny, I sat down this week, and thought, this record is never going to get done. All this drum tracking, dodgy guitar tones, and fluffed takes aren't going to make for a good record.

And then I went back and listened to some of the drum tracks i'd sequenced back in the day, and they were alright. It gave me hope.

The main thing I wanted to talk about in this diary, and didn't, was synthesiser settings. Phasing - not literally phasing (where a signal is delayed by a small but changing amount), but controlling a filter cutoff with an LFO - is something i'm finding hard to get right. I find it hard to get the right amount of subtlety, and part of that is because i'm not hearing the whole mix. That's why I'm so glad I got my midi-usb connection working, because I won't have to worry about the exact sound I'll be getting out of the synth until the final mixdown.

I'll try to keep these videos under two minutes.

Sunday

oh and another thing

I've seen two people, recently, wearing an item of clothing with a picture of big headphones on, so that it looks like they've got professional headphones around their neck; and yet, the headphones they were actually using were tiny in ear ones.

This annoys me in exactly the same way as a tshirt that says 'calvin klein jeans'. wear the jeans! don't tell, show. dickhearts.

Monday

Payed and Displaid

And another thing about english: words that start out logical but don't have consistent constructions.

Take the phrase, "This is a pay and display car park. Have you paid and displayed?" It winds me up so much that the modification doesn't make sense. There's no need for it.

Likewise: take the word 'Read', as in, to visually process words. the past tense is 'read', pronounced 'red' (the colour). Now take the word 'Lead', as in, to coerce something along. The past tense is 'led'. Now take the metal 'lead', pronounced to rhyme with 'led', and you think: didn't you get these the wrong way round? shouldn't Read and Lead (prn. reed and leed) both past tense to read and lead (prn. red and led), leaving red and led (nouns) to be homonyms? wouldn't that make more sense?

it's not to late to improve our language...

Saturday

day 03 - a song that makes you happy

So not my favourite song, but one that simply makes me happy.

Happiness is a funny thing. Pure happiness will make you sick, something that can only be expressed part ironically. The Todd Solondz film 'Happiness' expresses this best, because the whole story is crushing, since happiness is entirely central to the plot as a mcguffin that everyone is chasing and nobody has. The stories that have truly happy endings are the ones that have unhappiness overcome; and while MJ Hibbett's song "being happy doesn't make you stupid" is utterly true and honest, I still associate pure, unadulterated happiness with idiocy and a shit-eating grin. It feels like a disney con, like a fascist ideal, something to rebel against; how can you be truly happy in an imperfect world? and how can you tell any interesting stories in a perfect world? As Primo Levi quotes at the start of The Periodic Table "troubles overcome are good to tell"; while his later suicide casts doubt on whether he ever really overcame them, the quote reminds us to celebrate what victories we can.



Belle and Sebastian make me happy. 'The Boy With The Arab Strap' brings me back to A levels, minidiscs, and my friendship with Tom Brimelow, who introduced me to loads of good bands, as well as every friend I have shared a love of B&S throughout two universities and everything since. They're a touch-stone for any potential friend; occupying a similar musical fort to early Nick Drake, they're both the strangely rare combination of happy and mellow. Something to stick on the turntable and have a conversation and some very mild narcotics over; tea, real ale, and/or spliffs.

Super simple chords, melodic, a beautiful arrangement, weird little 'whoop' sounds, all-gorgeous harmonies, the music is just what you need. It's warm and comforting and twee and sweet and genuine and unpretentious...

I only knew a few lyrical fragments from 'Sleep the Clock Around'; something about valium, something about 'milk to get rid of taste', something about 'the memory will shine'. Looking over the lyrics now, it's exactly what fits the mood of the song and weirdly in touch with what I've been saying;
And the moment will come when composure returns
Put a face on the world, turn your back to the wall
And you walk twenty yards with your head in the air
Down the Liberty Hill, where the fashion brigade
Look with curious eyes on your raggedy way
And for once in your life you've got nothing to say
And could this be the time when somebody will come
To say, "Look at yourself, you're not much use to anyone"

Take a walk in the park, take a valium pill
Read the letter you got from the memory girl
But it takes more than this to make sense of the day
Yeah, it takes more than milk to get rid of the taste
And you trusted to this, and you trusted to that
And when you saw it all come, it was waving the flag
Of the United States of Calamity, hey!
After all that you've done, boy, I know you're going to pay

In the morning you come to the ladies salon
To get all fitted out for The Paperback Throne
But the people are living far away from the place
Where you wanted to help, it's a bit of a waste
And the puzzle will last until somebody will say
"There's a lot to be done while your head is still young"
If you put down your pen, leave your worries behind
Then the moment will come, and the memory will shine

Now the trouble is over, everybody got paid
Everybody is happy, they are glad that they came
Then you go to the place where you've finally found
You can look at yourself, sleep the clock around


This is about overcoming the mental ogre that stands between you and happiness, over a perfectly jolly riff. Like 'being happy...', it's about throwing down your introspective diary and just living, because the analysis doesn't help the problem - the analysis *is* the problem. maybe. They're actually great lyrics and I'm sorry that I've never read them before (see day 8).

But anyway, for all that this makes me happy, maybe it's just because it's one of the few songs about getting enough sleep. 87)

Sunday

crash

Everything crashes now.

My dvd player flips out - crashing when we try to turn off subtitles. My DAW hangs when trying to export a video. Even my delay pedal - analogue modelling and all - became a refusenik the other night, after i'd left it on too long. this has happened in practices too, and me not realising that all the little blighter needed was a power cycle. 'Have you tried turning it off and on again?' should not apply to deterministic audio equipment.

It used to be that a simple tap would mend a t.v. or radio that was wired up a bit faulty - no chance of that with today's printed circuit boards. Our boiler was ruined by a drip of water that killed it's pcb. Every household object now contains a computer, and every computer crashes. I'm not talking millenium bug-type stuff here - I'm talking about basic buffer-overrun type things that stun processors. Everything does it, regardless of whether it needed a brain or not.

Guys: stop putting brains in things that don't need them! Imagine how much perpetual torment they are in.

Monday

competition fail



So.
If i view your collection, I might win a... ipad? Doesn't that utterly cheapen your products?

Giving away a product in a competition makes it seem desirable. That's why 'win an ipod' is such a strong meme, because apple are happy to give away their products as prizes, because they know the sales generated by seeing ipods and pads as desirable items will make up for it.

So to fix fred perry: 'view our collection and you could win some of our clothes (not just 'accessories')' would work wonders. If I'm just coming to your site to try and win someone else's product, something that has nothing to do with your clothes whatsoever (doesn't even fit in the pockets), then I'm going to see your clothes as just not worth anything.

Tuesday

The curious case of Julian Glover

1979: Dr Who, 'The City of Death': Julian plays the time-fractured alien Skaroth


1989: 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom': Julian gets his comuppance as Walter Donovan, Nazi Archeologist:


Did you think he was on set and thought "this is a bit of old hat"?

Are there any other Julian Glover Accelerated Aging scenes that you know of?

Friday

Portals

Have you noticed how 'portal' technology has basically driven first-person shooters? right from their 'true birth', doom, the plot was:

Scientists were messing around with teleportation technology and accidentally open a portal to a dimension full of evil. The army comes over to sort things out.

This is the plot to doom, quake, and half life. What half life did differently was have you playing a scientist instead of a grunt.

But there's something else in doom that has lingered in the background of first personers: have a look at the doom box art:

A bloke, shooting a pistol at a bunch of imps or demons or hell knights or something. I always thought that one in the bottom left looked a little out of place. He breaks the fourth wall of course, his tongue breaking out of the picture and looking at YOU, the hero of the game.

(Still, not as 'I don't remember him from the game' as UFO: Enemy unknown:
)

But let's go back to doom. As always.
Have another look at the art. I thought I knew that picture so well, but I only just noticed that doom guy's left hand is curled up in a 'bring it on!' gesture, while the flash I always thought was from a second gun, is in fact from a demon's fireball.

I just noticed else: another doom guy, at the back, running to help.
This is because doom was originally envisaged as a co-op game from the start. The original level was Deimos Lab, in it's original Tom Hall design state. As far as I remember, and I can't find a reference for this, it was meant to be a four way co-op game, about as likely in 1992 as finding 3 other people willing to bring their stereos round to listen to Zaireeka with.

But while co-op was included in doom and its imitators, it was overshadowed by deathmatch. I guess for all of its many faults, at least Gears Of War had strong co-op, although I maintain that game had more in common with streets of rage than doom.

But now, we have Portal 2. Still with the portals, but in a completely different way; but half the game is given over to dedicated co-operative play, levels that you simply can't play solo, much as you can't really play team fortress solo.

As someone who loves a good co-op game - it's more fun working together against the game than working with the game against each other - I can't wait to get stuck in to the co-op side of Portals (as I call it). Valve have already built a following around action in co-op left 4 dead, which I'm happy about, but this time, we have a problem of waiting for someone to commit to playing it with: I need someone who can commit to not playing it with anyone else, because it's a puzzle game and playing with someone who knew how to complete it would suck. But also, I only have time for the odd casual blast, being a father-thing. So that's been tricky, but I have found someone. It's nice to commit to things.

really lost my way with this i tihnk.