Browsing the archives for the Music category

We Interrupt This Non-Broadcast…

Culture, Music, Politics, Visual

Many moons ago I posted this video called Flying at Tree Level.

It’s a stunt/trick video showing some of the insane movement tactics in UT2004. The other day while checking my email I got a friendly message from the YouTube Police telling me that this video had been removed for violating copyright.

Now, as it turns out, YouTube hasn’t totally removed the video, they’ve simply muted the audio. Fine, at least they’re not totally annihilating volumes of original work just because they include something that may be copyrighted*.

*Although, the distinction must be made that these works themselves have copyright, what they don’t have is deep pockets and teams of lawyers to aggressively antagonize hundreds of millions of people.

So, anyway I went back and took a look at this so called copyright violation. Apparently the audio on this video was pulled because it contains a whole 40 seconds of the song “I Believe I Can Fly” by Space Jam. What a crock. Bitterly ironic that it gets pulled for containing only the main chorus of a song by a band who only ever made one popular song…

Update: Related Reddit thread.

NIN Ghosts

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In case you haven’t heard, Nine Inch Nails has done a rather interesting thing with their latest album Ghosts I-IV. The first nine tracks (“Ghosts I”) is available for free online in high quality, DRM free MP3. For $5 you can get the whole thing as a digital download including a 40 page PDF. There are some other options as well for receiving actual physical media if you’re so inclined, the cheapest being $10, and the most expensive being a $300 limited edition package that’s already sold out (only 2,500 were produced).

The catch for a lot of people will probably be that Ghosts is totally instrumental. Ironically, that’s actually what makes me interested in the album. Lately my tastes in listening have turned into more often than not preferring ambient soundscapes to actual songs with instrumentation and vocals. That Ghosts is instrumental and not totally atmospheric is a bit of a concession for me to make, but not hugely so. On the other hand, an instrumental offering is a bit more accessible to people who aren’t normally interested in Nine Inch Nails’ music, so this might actually be quite a smart move. It won’t bring in the vapid Hip-Hop/Pop crowds, but what would, other than more of the same?

I got the free download version earlier this week but hadn’t had an opportunity to listen to it until now. Granted, I’ve only had one full sit-through of the the album, and I generally reserve judgement about music until I’ve heard it a good ten or so times. That said, I’m looking forward to listening to it again and have already put in my order for the complete album. I’d definitely recommend at least checking out the tracks that are freely available for download and make a decision for yourself. Personally, I can’t see a reason why I wouldn’t want to pay $5 for music I enjoy when it goes directly to the artist and supports their efforts to reform the industry.

Update: Trent Reznor is also announcing a “film festival” of sorts on YouTube for people to create their own visual accompaniments to tracks from Ghosts. A very cool move, and pretty indicative of how forward thinking he is.

Getting Jazz

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Culture, Music

Over at 2Blowhards Michael made a rather long and involved post dealing with elitism, snobbery, high and low arts, America, Europe, and all that. Definitely a great post, and worth checking out.

Michael talks about Jazz as an example of the sort of eclectic American mix of low/high art, and how these categories that have developed in the European art world lose relevance when talking about the American arts world. I’m not entirely in agreement with this sort of thing, as I’m a major elitist, but I’m also in favor of poking the academic arts world in the eye now and again. What I can appreciate about the so-called “low” arts in America is the raw vitality, the in-touchness with human themes and emotions, whereas so much of the academic world seems to be caught up in the pure cerebral.

As usual, the comments on any 2Blowhards post are half the fun. After reading some 50 comments or so, what strikes me is how many people seem to accept as a given that jazz is a “Great Art Form”. Maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t get jazz. Maybe I haven’t listened to enough, or only to the wrong people. For me, Jazz seems to fall into roughly three categories. The first is as background music that might be part of an enjoyable experience so long as it’s not the central focus of the activity or action. A recent example for me is the music in Taxi Driver, which I found to have great, evocative and moody music without being overpowering to the rest of the movie. The second is sleep-inducing. I’ve listened to a fair amount of jazz, and half the time where I’m simply listening to jazz it seems to induce narcolepsy in me. It’s actually quite astounding, because I can be feeling perfectly fine one minute, then put on some Miles Davis or Charlie Parker and I’ll be napping in no time. The third is just painful. Maybe it’s the academic-bent of the artists that’ve been recommended to me, but a good quarter to half of the jazz I’ve heard is legitimately painful for me to listen to. Whether it’s the brass instrumentation, the poor recording quality, overemphasis on cerebral stimulation, the atonal and dissonant qualities just overwhelm my ears.

To delve into pure nerditude for a moment, it always struck me as beyond belief that Will Riker from Star Trek: TNG would be a big fan of jazz some four hundred years in the future. Jazz today strikes me as a relic that’s pretty much only sustained by academics who use jazz as a form of boosterism for credibility. Mix and match buzzwords like improvisation, syncopation, polyrhythms, throw in a few mentions of dead musicians or fifty year old albums and, voila! Instantly you’re a hip cat with something relevant to say.

Or not. Personally, I think jazz is dead. Whatever historical forces aligned to allow the creation and appreciation of jazz are over, at least in my eyes. In four hundred years jazz is going to be as widely appreciated as medieval folk music is now — And I generally like medieval folk music. But lets not pretend like jazz is something special or enduring. I’m over the “magical negro” formulation, over “soul” being used as a code-word for black, and over the white-guilt appreciation of jazz. I’m over musical scholarship playing its stupid political games using jazz as its knight in shining armor for its neo-Marxist “post-Colonialist” narratives. I’m over people tossing around names of techniques used in the creation of music, to build up its aura of mystique and respectability. Why should I care if I don’t enjoy the music?

The Scene

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Culture, Music, Technology

Awhile ago I made an off-hand reference to The Scene, a made-for-internet video series about people in the clandestine world of file sharing.

I started watching The Scene’s first season some time ago, but I have only just recently finished it. The storyline for this show is extremely compelling, and I’m amazed at how well I was drawn into this fictional but all-too-real world. It was easy to predict the anti-piracy angle of the show, as that surely must be an omnipresent theme in the scene itself, but the directions the show explored from that initial trajectory were not what I was expecting at all. It was very well done and quite clever.

The real kicker here is that virtually every important plot development happens via text. The only concession to the video medium, so-to-speak, is the small quarter-screen sized video feed of a main character sitting at a computer screen, reading, typing. Even that is, ultimately, unnecessary. The actors are merely punctuation to the drama conveyed through text. Despite the seeming tedium and emotional paucity of reading text typed onto a computer screen, the result is actually quite rich, if subtle. Speed, tempo, accuracy, verbal style… All of these are elements in conveying the emotional state of someone who is depicted, more often than not, doing nothing more than staring flatly into the blue light of a monitor. The emotion of this story lies beneath the surface, but no less visible and no less real.

(Though impressive, the centrality of text is also probably the single biggest obstacle to watching the show. I can’t read text on my computer monitor from across the room, and it’s not very comfortable sitting at a computer watching a show. Additionally, it takes more mental concentration to focus on reading the show than it does to watch most traditional television shows.)

The videos are accompanied by amazing downtempo music from various artists that tend to accent and heighten the viewing experience. After I finished watching the series I went back and downloaded any music I could find by the artists featured in the show. Sadly, it seems that most of these artists are too unknown to be easily found online, but I did manage to get a few sample tracks by Beauty’s Confusion (3 tracks available to download via the “Sounds” section) and Planet Bliss (4 tracks available to download).

Link Roundup

Art, Miscellaneous, Music

I’ve had a few things sitting around here for awhile so I may as well get rid of them in one fell swoop:

  • I was recently linked by a friend to this publicly available release of techno-industrial music by an Unreal community musician known as Zynthetic. A bit harsh for my tastes but pretty nice stuff, and free.
  • On a similar note I ran across this music by another Unreal community member, Toxeen, awhile ago. Nice stuff, rich sound and consistent with the work of Alexander Brandon and Michiel Van Den Bos without being derivative.
  • This link was relayed to me from the Epic Community forums. It’s a collection of all of the tracks from Unreal and Unreal Tournament. When I saw that I immediately grabbed all the tracks with Flashget. Run, Course, Foregone… They’re all good.

Earlier this week I ran across this article which looks at IMDB’s worst rated movies of all time and wonders: Will 2006 become known as the worst movie year of all time? Is it possible that the Wayans’ 2006 movie Little Man can outdo their smash [no-hit] work in White Chicks?

Although the Wayans must undoubtedly must make some of the worst movies, nobody can take a well-loved franchise and gut it of everything anyone loves like Uwe Boll. The article expresses a bit of incredulity that 2006 could be the worst year ever when Uwe doesn’t even have a film coming out this year. But wait, didn’t I see a trailer… Oh, I suppose it’s not one of Uwe’s projects, but that other guy.

I’m going to have to contradict the article here though: I certainly did see one of Uwe Boll’s movies this year. In fact, it’s Uwe Bolls best film ever.

On a serious note, I was recently made aware of Darren Aronofsky’s new film, The Fountain. I didn’t care that much for his Requiem for a Dream, but I thought Pi was excellent, and this new film, if hype is to be believed, looks like a new 2001.

Lustmord: Purifying Fire

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To give a little backstory, I was first exposed to the Tarkovsky film Stalker several years ago. I’m not going to discuss the film or reveal any details about it, but suffice it to say that I found the film to be … Mesmerizing. About a year or two later I found an album by Brian “Lustmord” Williams and Robert Rich entitled Stalker. I didn’t know at the time whether this album was, in fact, related to the film or not but the track names seemed evocative of it … I gave it a chance.

The album turned out to be largely ambient, but in a good way. Of course, it didn’t compare to the film, but it seemed to point towards the experience of watching it in a way that I could relate to. Since then, even though I am typically not inclined to listen to purely “ambient” music, I’ve been interested in hearing more from both Brian Williams and Robert Rich.


I picked up Purifying Fire as an experiment. I enjoyed the Stalker album that Brian Williams collaborated with Rich on, but more than a bit of my positive experience listening to that album was thinking about the film. Would my positive feelings hold?

I listened through the first three tracks without much notice … But the fourth track, Black Star, is incredible. Listening to it for the first time… There is a genuine sense of tension and release created by the sounds. I hestitate to even think of this as an “ambient” track as the various sounds create a vocalization — If not actual language, then something more primal. The sound is deep, oppressive, and summons up a variety of images that seem to be almost narrative.

The fifth track, Permafrost, follows up in a different note — An extremely short track for this album, it seems more like an instrumental piece than something strictly “ambient.” It reminds me a lot of Philip Glass in the use of traditional instrumentation combined with experimental sounds.

Since that first listen through I must have listened to the album twenty times already. The first few re-listens were simply to get to Black Star to re-experience that chest-clenching anxiety I feel when listening to the song. But as I did so I began to appreciate the way the first three tracks seemed to build up into the climax of the album. The song Deep Calls to Deep seemed to me to harbor the first intonations of what would come later, abating some for the follow-up track Deep Calls to Dub before returning in full force.

A few days ago I went out in search to learn more about Lustmord — What were other peoples’ assessment of this album in relation to his other work? I was surprised to learn that this album Purifying Fire, is merely a collection of previously unreleased work. That makes me intensely curious about what the quality of his other albums must be like. I was also surprised to find out that he initially did soundtrack work on the game Planescape: Torment (although his work was eventually not used). All in all I have to say that I enjoyed this album even more than I did the Stalker album, and will definitely be on the lookout for any other Lustmord releases that I can find.