Monday, February 27, 2006

Nick Cave Interview

Here. Apparently he's written a screenplay for a new Australian movie they describe as an outback western. It sounds pretty cool.

The most interesting bit though is where he talks about his (rejected) script for Gladiator 2.
"I wanted to write an anti-war film and use Gladiator as a raging war machine. He died in the first one so he comes back as the eternal warrior. It ended up in Vietnam and the Pentagon."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

1001 Albums You Must Listen To Before You Die

Edited by Robert Dimery

'Best of' and 'Top N' lists are disparaged by critics of all styles and creeds, whether you're talking about music, movies or masturbation fantasies. Any given list is almost guaranteed to contain at least one item that will piss off any given reader, no matter the credentials or wisdom of the compiler. That said I have a perverse fascination with them. It's kind of like how I always watch the Grammy's; I think I enjoy being outraged at how terrible everyone else's taste is.

So this book had to really prove itself in order for me to judge it worth reading, and I'm surprised to admit that it isn't too bad. Out of 1001 albums there are of course more than a few shockers that make me shake my head in disbelief, but by and large I think they've done a decent job of providing an overview of fifty years of popular music. If I was to compile such a list it would of course contain a lot of things that were left off here, as the editors barely touch on my favoured genres of metal and industrial, but at the same time I'm not too disappointed with what they have ended up selecting.

The book lists the albums chronologically, and it seems that the contributors tastes worsen as they get closer to the present day. I guess that's to be expected, with more hindsight it is obvious which albums were important and influential, while there is more of a tendency to favour the flavour of the month when dealing with the more recent times (I don't know if The White Stripes deserved to have three albums listed). On the good side they've picked quite a few albums which I approve of. It isn't too surprising to find records like Nirvana's Nevermind and Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral here, but I was very pleased to note the inclusion of a few important but under-appreciated industrial bands, namely Laibach, Einstuerzende Neubauten and Throbbing Gristle. On the bad side there are some truly atrocious pop acts named in the 90s and 00s sections. Mariah fucking Carey anyone? I also could go on forever about the many many good albums and bands that have been neglected, but I will refrain from listing any, except for noting their inexplicable and saddening decision to not include a single Tool album.

I think it will be a good exercise to start listening through these albums. Even if I don't like most of them there's bound to be at least a few discoveries to be made, and it would be good to familiarise myself with some of the older stuff which wouldn't normally come to my attention. Sure the thought of having to sit through Madonna and Justin Timberlake is an unpleasant one, but I just comfort myself by thinking about all the people who must have bought this book expecting it to be full of U2 and Franz Ferdinand only to find themselves listening to an hour of Einstuerzende Neubauten at their noisiest.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Eye Holes In A Paper Bag, Greatest Lay I Ever Had

Placebo – Self Titled

Yeah they're a terrible live band, and their most recent album wasn't that great, but I still have a soft spot for Placebo on the basis of the brilliance of Without You I'm Nothing and Black Market Music. I knew their first album had at least two good songs on it, 'Nancy Boy' and 'Bruise Pristine', so I decided to give it a try.

On this album they haven't yet developed the talent that they would reveal on later releases. The first four or so tracks are pretty straight forward verse-chorus-verse grunge. It may be a little more upbeat than what their contemporaries were up to at the time but it's still not anything particularly exciting. The later part of the album becomes a little more interesting, with the aforementioned 'Nancy Boy' and 'Bruise Pristine' rocking out in a very satisfying manner. Other songs like 'Hang On To Your IQ' and 'I Know' are sad, pretty songs, in the vein of some of the brilliant album closers they would go on to write on later albums. The last track 'Swallow' is quite good too, a heavy menacing song with vocals provided by a collection of ominous sounding spoken word samples.

I think what's missing is the angst and depression that afflicted their future work and gave it an extra bite. ('Without You I'm Nothing' off their second album is one of the most incredibly harrowing songs you'll ever hear. Don't listen to it when you've just broken up with someone.) This album is far from their best but still worth listening to. Far from essential though, even if you like their other stuff.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I Am The Hunter I Am The Prey

Collide - Some Kind of Strange

I got Collide's second album Chasing the Ghost some time ago and liked it a lot. They're a dark, gothic electronic band with a very good female singer, but underneath the spooky industrial exterior they're a pretty slickly produced act with some real catchy hooks and song writing ability.

The idea behind these kinds of bands is usually that the crunching grinding industrial music and the woman's vocals floating above it will form a pleasing dissonance, but Statik, the man responsible for the backing music, seems to have too much of a pop sensibility to let the music get all that menacing. Vocalist kaRIN (precocious names are par for the course with this genre of music) has a strong but dreamy voice, and the dark music accompanying her combine to create a beautifully ethereal mood. Some of the gentler tracks exhibit this well, the highlight of the album is 'Tempted', which matches a soaring string harmony in a middle eastern sounding key with otherworldly vocals. Another good track is the album closer 'So Long', where the music switches to a major key (while remaining somewhat industrial) and multiple overlapped vocal tracks sing sadly and regretfully. On the heavier side 'Complicated' has an incredibly catchy keyboard riff welded to some low, heavy, Nine Inch Nails-esque rhythm, creating a chorus that will stay in your head for days after hearing it.

The opening hooks of many of the songs are simply some of the best attention grabbing mood setters you'll ever hear, must notably the echoing synth stabs of the opening track 'Crushed' which mutate into one mean guitar riff. And also the aforementioned 'Complicated', which opens with haunting noises that sounded like they've been sampled straight off Einstuerzende Neubauten's 'Boreas'.

Still there is one major criticism I could make and that's that despite the many layered music there isn't a lot of depth to it and it doesn't really reward repeated listening, however the surface is so well put together that I can't really let that stand in the way of my recommendation.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Flowers for the Queen

Darling Violetta – Parlour

In a true fit of geekery I ordered this album from Amazon purely based on the fact that they did the theme music for Angel. Taking into account Joss Whedon's unimpressive taste in music made these guys a bit of a gamble, but fortunately they turned out to be not too bad.

More than anything else Darling Violetta remind me of the likes of 12 Rounds and Collide, making slightly heavier than average rock/electronica with a female vocalist, but these guys lean a lot closer to the rock side of the divide than the other bands (although I don't rate Darling Violetta nearly as highly as either of them).

When they put a bit of crunch on their guitars and rock out they're pretty good. The opening track 'A Smaller God' is quite easily the standout on the album. When they go poppier it tends to be much less interesting, for example the last track 'Star Shoes (Love Is Everything)' is as cheesy as the title implies. I also have to admit that their vocalist, while competent, has a voice that doesn't do much for me. She sounds a bit like Claudia Sarne of 12 Rounds but without the edge.

The best parts of the album are for me the small interludes scattered between songs. They range from being straight up instrumental segues to context free sample collages to blasts of abstract jazz noise.

While I don't regret buying it I don't think I'll be getting any more of their albums. My money would be better spent on 12 Rounds' back catalogue.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Fire Upon The Deep

by Vernor Vinge

This novel is a bit of a modern sci-fi classic by virtue of its original concepts. Vinge has heaps of cool ideas and in true old school sci-fi style spits them all out in direct but breathless and inelegant prose. A real geek book in other words. The story takes place in two parallel threads, the first taking place on a galactic scale, as human civilisation battles a super intelligent AI determined to enslave all life in the galaxy. The other follows a pair of human children shipwrecked on a medieval world, who hold the key to defeating the AI.

Vinge's most memorable idea is that of the Zones, in his story the galaxy is divided into concentric spheroid areas, with intelligence (both living and artificial) being enhanced in the outer ones and inhibited in the inner ones. In the central one anything living becomes too stupid to run a spaceship, and invariably crashes and dies. Anyone exiting the galaxy transcends to a higher state of being.

Vinge's second trippy and original idea involves the nature of the inhabitants of the medieval world that the children are stranded on. The native life form is incapable of intelligence on its on, but when grouped in a pack of three to six become a single entity. However the individuals must communicate with each other by talking, which means that if two groups get too close they lose their minds.

Vinge explores his ideas in plenty of detail, and fortunately the plot is engaging enough to support it. The ending was more than a little sappy and a touch predictable but the rest of the story is good in an 'exploding spaceship' kind of way. Especially as his no nonsense style is well suited to writing a tense, exciting action scene. So while the prose might be a little awkward in places the book is well deserving of its reputation by virtue of its originality and clever concept, and it's still a good read on account of its fast paced plot.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Quiz Answers

Well between the three responses you answered most of the questions so I guess its not a terrible result, although I did expect better.


  1. Radiohead – Paranoid Android

  1. A Perfect Circle – Three Libras

  1. Dire Straits – Money for Nothing

  1. Deja Voodoo – Beers


  1. The Doors – People are Strange

  1. Faith no More – Helpless

  1. Mr. Bungle – Pink Cigarette

  1. Muse – Stockholm Syndrome

  1. Pink Floyd – What Shall We Do Now? (Barnes you should know this one!)

  1. Tool – Undertow

Really Hard:

  1. Dillinger Escape Plan – When Good Dogs Do Bad Things

  1. Dr. Kevorkian and the Suicide Machine – The Factory

  1. Coil – The Auto-Asphyxiating Hierophant.

  2. Tom Waits – Another Mans Vine

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Debussy – Poetic Impressions

Two dollars from cash converters! Bargain! The Best of Debussy album I bought a little while ago has been growing and growing on me. This album tends towards the gentle, pretty side and most of the tracks are solo piano pieces, along with three orchestral tracks and a violin and piano sonata.

The orchestral piece is a little boring but I like the rest of it very much, although he can tend toward the peppy side a little. I like his inventive tonalities and his light but complex and evocative style. In fact I think I'm starting to like this guy as much as Ravel.

Monday, February 13, 2006

O is for Awesome

(via Google Video of the Day) I could watch this video of a 500kV arc in a power substation all day.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pop Quiz Motherfuckers

In the interest of generating more comments on my blog I'm stealing an idea from Uncertain Principles. I'm going to list a whole bunch of song lyrics, and you guys are going to list the artist and song that they come from. And using a search engine is cheating!

First some easy ones that everyone should know to warm up:

  1. “Kicking squealing Gucci little piggy.”
  2. “Difficult not to feel a little bit disappointed, and passed over.”
  3. “Now look at them yoyos, that's the way you do it.”
  4. “I write songs that always rhyme/ That's why I made this one rhyme.”
Now some harder ones:
  1. “Women seem wicked, when you're alone.”
  2. “Every leaf, every stone, every speck of dirt/ but where's my place?”
  3. “Your kiss goes everywhere/ touches everything, but for me.”
  4. “Look to the stars/ let hope burn in your eyes.”
  5. “Shall we buy a new guitar? Or drive a more powerful car?”
  6. “I've been baptised by a voice that/ speaks from deep beneath the clear blue water.”

And lastly a few that I'll be really impressed if anyone gets:

  1. “In this crowded place there is room to swing a cat, and not even hit a soul.”
  2. “Barbed and explicit, they are anchors/ weighing the measure of the stars.”
  3. “The white magic of the moon/ Is the black magic of the Earth.”
  4. “The rose is climbing over blind/ Because the sun is on the other side.”

Plus an extra for experts:

  1. “You will all be dead soon!”

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Peter Sculthorpe - Earth Cry

Another extremely random Christmas gift. Peter Sculthorpe is an contemporary Australian composer. Unlike the kind of thing I normally associate with modern classical music Sculthorpe isn't aggressively avant-garde, but he does use lots of unusual instrumentation and tonality. Most notably 'Earth Cry' features a lot of digiridoo, as the piece is inspired by the Australian outback.

I found the album pretty agreeable, as it's modern, accessible and far from peppy, but a few high points aside it isn't overly exciting.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Richard Wagner – Life and Work

He's been described as the greatest composer of all time, and as I'd like to be considered a well educated musician it behooves me to at least be familiar with some of his work. So I asked for and received a nice big four disc collection of his music for Christmas.

It was always going to be a bit of a challenge to get into this stuff, given my lifelong animosity toward opera and the fact that Wagner is remembered primarily for his operas. The first disc presents little problem, as it's all orchestral works, but in order to appreciate the remainder I had to first learn to appreciate women warbling at extremely high registers.

The final disc contains material from the Ring cycle, which I found the most enjoyable, partly because I'm somewhat familiar with the story and partly because it's more fantastical, numinous mood agrees with me more. Plus it contains the legendary 'Ride of the Valkyries', which of course we are all familiar with! The other operas impressed me a little less. In particular The Mastersingers of Nuremburg did nothing for me, possibly because it's a comedy and the music is very straightforward.

It still isn't obvious to me why this guy is the greatest composer of all time, (although it's easy to see his influence on twentieth century movie, television and musical soundtracks), but I'm willing to attribute this to my own ignorance. In the meantime I'll continue to listen to more instrumental classical music and come back to opera at some later date.

Fuck Yeah

(via Google Video of the Day) Who would win in a fight between a tiger and a crocodile?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ah Fuck It

FAWM is not going so well this year so I've decided to give up while I'm not too far behind.

I'm really not competent enough with my recording equipment to put anything reasonably good together, so I'm better off working on music at my own pace rather than trying to hurry the process and producing a big load of shite.

And I'll get right on to it just after this quick game of Heroes 3...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Success (Of A Kind)

After a week of trying I finally recorded something for FAWM that doesn't totally suck. Sure, it's only half done, it has no lyrics yet and it's a total noise fest, but at least it's restored a little bit of faith in my song writing ability.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Saw some death metal bands last night. Some of them were OK, all of them were technically very impressive. I'm not sure if it was worth staying up until 2am for but at least now we can finally say we've seen Meatyard...

Coincidentally enough Arts and Letters posted a link to this article on death metal singing yesterday.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Goddamn Motherfucker

So FAWM is not going too good so far. I spent an hour last night trying to get my recording working OK, with little success (I can record, but for some reason it's incredibly quiet). Shit like this is the main reason FAWM is so hard. If I had a direct channel from my fingers to an mp3 file, things would go a lot smoother.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It's That Time Of The Year Again

Yes it's time for FAWM, again, so don't expect much posting for the next month. I hope to improve on my performance last time, seeing as I only got 20% of the way there I should hypothetically not find it that hard...

At least I won't have to waste time on things like buying a decent sound card and learning how to use recording software this time.