Category Archives: Music

Musical musings.

Just read.

I just snapped out of one of those particularly idyllic afternoons, when I finished the remainder of this year’s Jonathan Strahan edited “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year” after I put it down a couple months ago and forgot about it. This was complimented with kwxx stream bringing me ridiculous but relaxing island pop. I hadn’t spent an afternoon just reading in too long.

I’ve picked up every previous volume of the collection and am going to post up a couple quick notes like I did for previous volumes in the preceding link, to give credit where due and make it so I can find them later.
Continue reading

Posted in Entertainment, General, Literature, Music | 3 Comments


Cellular automation-based generative synthesizer in flash. Very cool. Incredibly easy to make pleasing patterns. Would love a scaled up version.

Posted in Computers, DIY, Entertainment, General, Music | Leave a comment

Blog Move

This blog is in the process of moving in from it’s previous location at to it’s new home at on bluehost. This current page will no doubt be repeatedly created and destroyed in the process, as I try to explain to the terrible migration tool about internal linking, resources, categories, and a variety of other things it is doing it’s best to lose or mangle. Things should be up and running in a couple of days, when the links will be updated, and the relocation notice will go up at the old location. This post also has a full set of categories, to force updates.

Posted in Announcements, Computers, DIY, Entertainment, FoodBlogging, General, Meta, Music, Navel Gazing, Objects, OldBlog, School | Leave a comment

As I’ve been telling myself I would for a while, I set up a account and attached most of my media playing devices to it:

The update behavior is …quirky… but I’m not sure if that is a symptom of my usage or the service. I had a bunch of tracks go from “now playing” to “yesterday evening” (apparently because it is confused about time zones), and a few tracks have been randomly excluded/doubled up/etc. (I think it excludes tracks it doesn’t know?), but I’m reasonably willing to call it working server-side. Client side, maemoscrobbler on the n810 is being twitchy, probably because I’ve replaced a bunch of OS pieces it interacts with with patched versions, but basically seems to work. The plugin in Rhythmbox on my media machine is much better behaved. I wonder if the squirrelyness is just because I had different clients from the same IP in rapid succession.

There are a couple behaviors that seem natural to me and don’t seem to be integrated: I’d really like to be able to export my whole music library into their connection service, and let it feed back selections to the media player via some protocol; It’s the first thing I’ve come across that even competes with my old Rio Karma’s “Rio DJ” features, and I want to be able to do the unattended “play similar music” stunt with my own music library.

Now to see how long until I leave an album muted on repeat for an entire weekend and poison the account’s history/suggestion engine.

Is anyone else scrobbling?

Posted in Announcements, Computers, Entertainment, General, Music, OldBlog | Leave a comment

Musical Clicktrances

I’ve spent a disgusting fraction of my winter break embarking on various clicktrances, in to all manner of vaguely embarrassing and totally useless topics (The Elder Scrolls Lore? Rimfire Rifles? The hunt for new Electropop?). I’d really love to know the etymology for “Clicktrance;” it gets used on BoingBoing frequently, but I’m not sure if that is where it was coined. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, a clicktrance is a common (and my favorite) term for the situation where one finds something marginally interesting/attractive/etc. online, and, hours later, discovers they’ve been intently link following from it. The phenomenon still always makes me think of the Eugen Roth quote I posed a while ago while griping about Distractability.

As for the last clicktrance topic, lately I’ve been noticing the only way to actually find interesting music on the Internet is by finding some weird little scene and browsing in it. The last round of unusual finds I listen to consistently (A Kiss Could Be Deadly, Electric Valentine, Hyper Crush) are all out of the same Southern California scene that I stumbled upon via Pandora, then clicktranced through their mutual linking. Another more recent (for me) example of the phenomenon: earlier in the break I found my way into a link cluster for some British pop starting (Warning: The following links may consume hours of your life)here, and here. Most of what turned up ranged from unremarkable to truly awful, but had a few gems. These include
Ellie Goulding – A pretty good, synth-dressed version of the “Girl and a Guitar” archetype.
Little Boots – Imagine if the “Girl and a Piano/Guitar” archetype were translated to “Girl and a bunch of bitchin’ synthesizer gear” in the best way possible.
Example – His older pure storytelling hip hop is terrible, but he has found quality pop hooks, and produced the following two tracks, which are pretty amazing. Apparently there is a whole album like that coming, and I will obtain it on first opportunity.
Loebeat – Noise meets Pop, it’s truly something different. The “Dicey $Verbs” videos are fascinating, basically ambient/noise with storytelling value. The player on their website includes direct links to the MP3s so you can make it portable for when the odd sounds haunt you hours later.

Later in the same foray, I got off the British common thread and found a couple other winners. The pick of that batch was from the always exciting electronic, girly, and morose vein: Fan Death, who are probably named for the very, very weird Korean superstition. They only have a handful of tracks available (including creepy-awesome videos for 3 of them), but they are all excellent, and there is supposedly an album coming. Also, the leads’ names are captivatingly ridiculous: Dandelion Wind Opaine, who is apparently a fixture in the Vancouver techno scene (?) and Marta Jaciubek-McKeever.

In general, I’m so pleased the Kid + Pop Sensibilities + Synthesizer = Electropop/Synthpop genre is being legitimized by acts like Owl City. His current tour mate, Lights, is pretty fun as well, but a little too saccharine for my tastes.

All the links in this post should be copyright-legit; it would be irresponsible to just link easily available torrents for everything with a published album…which is irritatingly only about half of the bands listed.

Posted in Entertainment, General, Music, OldBlog | Leave a comment

Lady GaGa: Transhumanist Icon?

Looking at an amazing BoingBoing post comparing a recording of Stefani Germanotta (Lady GaGa before she became Lady GaGa) playing at a NYU talent show in 2005 and the official video for Bad Romance that recently became available really shows the degree to which one can radically, radically alter themselves with the help of modern technology.
Go watch and have your mind blown.
I suggest reading some of the comments as well, some of the thoughts there are interesting.
Basically, the question is how one goes from the stereotypical “Cute little brunette girl and a piano” performance (most people are comparing to Norah Jones, that recording in particular strikes me as more similar to Sara Bareilles, but listening to Red and Blue definitely brings out the Norah Jones sound), to the absolutely over-the-top haute fashion/burlesque/modern art look and electropop sound everyone knows in less than four years. I happen to be in the tiny demographic that enjoys both, which makes it great fun to look at the connections.

In the 2005 video, she has a normal, albeit impressively powerful and well trained, human voice. In the 2009 video her voice is autotuned, layered, sampled, and distorted into things no human could produce directly. In the 2005 video the instrumentation is easily recognizable piano work. In the 2009 video, most of the instrumentation doesn’t even strongly suggest what sort of physical instrument it might be modeled after. Likewise, in the 2005 video, she looks like a cute little Italian girl in a green dress. In the 2009 video, she changes hair colors, hair textures, (apparent) skin tones, and bizarre illusion-inducing makeup jobs, and runs through a collection of costumes that look like they belong in a creepy scifi movie (5th element-esque strappy outfit? – check. Translucent medical gown – check. Flamethrower bra – WTF? – check.). All this stuff is really pretty cool technical accomplishments, from the DSP wizardry that goes into producing pleasing, but entirely unnatural, sounds, to the bizarre chemical manipulations (or just wigs, who knows if she has any hair left after all that) for the hair, to the exotic materials that go into the bizarre outfits (go browse some press pictures, it gets way worse. bubble dress for fuck’s sake), to the careful psychology to make the illusions happen (huge-eye makeup, low sloped ceilings, carefully controlled perspectives, and bunches of little head-trips I’m not even sure how happen). You can call it un-genuine, but this is expressing yourself with the full capabilities afforded by modern technology, irregardless of the fact that it deeply erodes one’s ability to perceive her as human.

Posted in Entertainment, General, Music, OldBlog | Tagged | Leave a comment

ML and Music

I’ve been working on figuring out ML for an Advanced Programming Languages assignment. ML is a peculiar language, so it’s been taking some time, and when I’m spending hours staring at blocks of text I tend to get more into music as a complimentary activity. Both are turning up things worth sharing.
Functional programming has always confused me; as a computer engineer it strikes me as a deeply unnatural thing for the computer to do (what the hell does it look like in memory? — I mostly know and it isn’t pretty), and it isn’t a terribly natural paradigm for humans (although I will grant that is would likely be no more of a contortion for someone not accustomed to programming than any other paradigm). I guess there is a reason the deeply functional stuff tends to be mostly limited to “interesting” languages that are mostly outside the mainstream. I can “feel the power” on a lot of fronts; the ability to completely describe functions as input/output pairs is cool, recursion is natural and easy, and the type system is nifty, but it all still feels a little uncomfortable to me.
I’ve spent the last couple weeks on a Hyper Crush kick . Pandora brought me Hyper Crush off an A Kiss Could be Deadly derived station a while ago, and it took me a while to make up my mind about them. They make INCREDIBLY catchy, ostentatiously course, and somehow still incredibly geeky techno-influenced hiphop, which is either absolutely brilliant or unforgivably obnoxious. Aside from endless energy and spectacular synthesizer work, their songs are laced with a vast and remorseless collection of samples from and references to bits of pop-culture ephemera from the 1960s onward. Just to name a few, one track begins with a sample from The Shangri-Las “Leader of the Pack”, and another borrows its background from “Crazy Frog”. Both mixtape releases (Both available legitimately free online, but buried behind some flash obstructions) are shot through with samples from West Side Story, The Wizard, Back to the Future, and a wide swath of 80s and 90s video games. It is the pure sound of geeks letting their hair down, and it feels damn good.

To compliment the loud, I started listening to The xx yesterday, which I actually learned about from the music section in the back of last week’s The Week, which is usually too pretentious to pay attention to. Their debut album xx is unbelievably complex and nuanced for a first effort from a group of 20somethings. The lyrics are often male/female harmonies (I like the female vocalist’s voice much better, but thats par for the course with me), which are not necessarily the same words or timing for both voices but remain in harmony none the less. The lyrics are also quite subtle, one could reasonably make it through the entire album without realizing it’s mostly about sex. The coolest thing to me is how much they play with negative space; the crisp gaps are as much a part of the music as the instrumentation itself. There really isn’t any standout track, good or bad, on the album, so just go listen to any random track.

Posted in Computers, General, Music, OldBlog, School | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Birthday Music

The world coincidently provided me with a couple of musical birthday presents: Third Eye Blind’s new effort, Ursa Major came out for my birthday (a day earlier than was announced…), and Electric Valentine’s first full length Automatic the next day.

On first listen Ursa Major is… kind of disappointing. It’s not BAD; understand I’ve loved 3eb as long as I’ve been listening to music; the first album I bought when I got my first portable CD player in middle school was Blue, and they have been a standby for me ever since. All of their albums have had something that really moved me: The selftitle was cut with crystallized adolescent angst, Blue was the sound of a burgeoning broadening and discovery of the world, Out of the Vein was pure passion… and in comparison Ursa Major just sounds kind of douchey and self involved. The music itself also seems a little less sophisticated, or at least less polished (they called it “more acoustic” but it’s more than that), especially in the meter of the lyrics. Judged against rock albums in general it really is a good album, but it doesn’t seem quite up to their previous efforts. Maybe it’ll grow on me.

As for Automatic… real bands don’t only release on iTunes. I don’t want AACs, I can’t install iTunes on my (Linux) machine, and I wouldn’t install Apple’s memory-eating crapware even if it were an option. Their previous releases are all on Amazon, this should be too. That said, I ordered a physical copy, and already have a digital copy (I’m not 100% sure the tracks on said copy are the album versions, some of it sounds a little lo-fi). Purchasing complaints aside, its wildly catchy electropop, with rich instrumentation, dark lyrics and adorable delivery. The album sounds a little less energetic than their earlier EP, but it still has that infectious quality that makes me keep catching myself dancing to it. I found their previous project (A Kiss Could Be Deadly) more compelling than Electric Valentine, but it really is great stuff and deserves all the attention it can get, and I’ll be listening to it for some time to come.

Yay music.

Posted in Entertainment, General, Music, OldBlog | Tagged | Leave a comment

Passing Obsessions

I INTENSELY wanted to hear female-voice country/pop this weekend while studying. I’m not really sure why, I’ve been noticing that I did in fact grow up in the south lately, and it’s clearly a related phenomenon, but I only have nebulous suspicions as to what triggered it. Therefore, a playlist full of The Wreckers and Taylor Swift to assuage the urge. I need to go out and talk to (flirt with) a “Look at me, I’m a peach” sort of girl to remind me how irritating they are so I can put an end to this.

In a related note, listen to the melody of “Tears on my Guitar” (current single) then the melody of “Dear Lie” (single about a decade ago)… recycling plastics is good for the environment, what is recycling pop hooks good for? I’m pretty sure the same hook is in something else that was on the radio, maybe one of SR71’s singles?

Posted in Entertainment, General, Music, OldBlog | Tagged | Leave a comment

Culture Experiment

Last night I had the sudden realization that I had NO IDEA what the US Top 40 chart looked like, so I went and found a listing. Turns out I only recognized 5 tracks out of the 40. I then proceeded to ask around; of the 6 quick responses I got, individuals recognized an average of 4.5 tracks, with a spread from 0 to 11. Either I know very cultured people, or the Internet really is making radio irrelevant. Or some partial mixture thereof. I’d be curious how other people do.
The second part of the experiment was trying to listen through the whole list. It really is godawful, I ended up stopping over half the tracks before they finished because I just couldn’t stand it, and I only made it to about #30 before I gave up. Perhaps my generation is becoming old. Damn kids, get off my lawn?

Posted in Entertainment, General, Music, Navel Gazing, OldBlog | Tagged | Leave a comment