Saturday, November 29, 2008

Capping off yet another week

I've just been to the psych yet again. This has been a constant fight to "get back the old Vic" that I had. Actually, really, to build a new Vic that respects and retains elements of the old one... but is a hell of a lot stronger.

She wants to see what positive work I've been doing toward my goals. Fair enough, that's what I need to do and she has to follow up on it. But when it comes to music she doesn't see that the things I have been doing are absolute milestones for me with respect toward my attitude changes. To a non-musician it seems that getting back into music means that you should go out and gig next week. HORSESHIT. Maybe somebody who has no respect for skills and reputation would. Not me.

Why the hell am I posting album reviews here? Because I'm listening to anything I can get my hands onto. That doesn't impress a non-musician either. Yay, you listened to something. It doesn't seem impressive at all. But what she doesn't get, and that I have to fight to explain in a recognisable manner to her, is that when I listen to something I am critical about it. I don't kick back and let it flow. I analyse, I constantly try to find what could be improved or what the strong points of a piece are. This sort of exposure and analysis is so integral to moving forward as a musician, but so overlooked.

Am I playing, even at home? A little. My instrument doesn't scare the hell out of me any more. Yet, I pick it up and it's a fight to build up the old skills I had. They fall into disrepair so quickly once you stop playing. There is no way I can handle a regimented practise routine yet - the failures I would measure against myself in this would create more frustration than positivity. The fact that I play when I want to shows that I building back the skills without the pressure. Does anyone hear me playing? No. I live in a granny flat seperate to the lives of others and really who gives a toss whether or not I decided to have a bash at my own acoustic version of whatever I've been listening to?. Forward progress? For me. It means that I am inspired, thinking. The fact that I'm playing is building the old skills up without the pressure of practise. The fact that I'm not inflicting this on anybody else is circumstance mixed with respect. Nobody should have shitty playing inflicted upon them without their consent.

When am I going to gig again? Not tomorrow. When am I going to look for others to gig with? Also not tomorrow. There is nothing respectable about somebody who goes for an audition and says, Oh, I used to play but I haven't picked it up in a while. Fuck off, you are not a musician and you have no dedication. I will never turn up unprepared. It's unproffessional. It shows no respect for the other musicians. So the hard yards have to be done at home, alone.

I bought a drum kit today, which I know will be intrepeted by most as a departure from guitar toward another instrument. Again, it's a fight to explain what this truly does for me. Playing a variety of instruments builds your musical knowledge but still has the same core activities involved. It doesn't mean you are giving up one for another, it actually helps your playing across the board. Like hell a non-musician is going to understand that one.

Apart from the music, I've been working and sleeping. Sometimes I take photographs. Sometimes I go on the internet and read about whatever takes my fancy. At work I have been spending hours occupying my mind and hands with drumming patterns and thoughts on what I've been listening to.

Photography has been a way for me to look creatively at what is around me. Kat and I have been playing tag for the last couple of weeks on different themes, and it is my turn to pick one again. I haven't posted many from the last theme, but lets blame that on a time thing. Like the music, just because you don't see it, doesn't mean I haven't been doing it.

It's my turn to pick a new theme.

Lockdown


The new theme is trees.

Remember: Just like the tree falling in the woods with nobody around, if you don't see the it... Doesn't mean that I'm not doing it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Album Review: Snow Patrol's A Hundred Million Suns

Snow Patrol don't seem to do space. Silence. It's always a wall of some sort of sound. Though I guess this structural complexity is their signature, sometimes your ears would be glad for a break, just some sort of break. It would be a far more effective method of creating contrast to introduce some gaps, some of moments of far less clutter.

In listening to their latest album A Hundred Million Suns, I have mixed feelings. Initially I diagnosed it a s same old, same old. There was nothing that stood out as immediately brilliant to me. But then, I think about my exposure to the last album, Eyes Open. There were only two songs on that one that stood out to me, however I ended up loving the entire thing through constantly exposing myself to it. The hook seems to be in the poetry of the lyrics more than the song construction. Once you're familiar with the words, the other nuances seem to come out, too.

Track 3 - Take Back the City
Ah, the single. The guitar introduction to this is quite nice and spacey, which I complained about a lack of overall. The vocals, especially within the verses, are less whiney than normal. This, I think, is because singer Gary Lightbody ventures into the lower range a little more often. This is something I would like to hear more often throughout. Swapping the registers also gives more contrast to the verse.
Both verses and chorus have a relentless quaver strumming in the guitar part, bordering upon the boring, but relieved extremely well by the use of a completely different rhythm for a prechorus. The prechorus is long enough to serve as a break from the relentless strumming -rive of the verse and chorus.

Track 5 - The Golden Floor
How blatantly annoying. This song starts off with a nice little fingerpicked chordal motif on an steel-string guitar. We hear it once, for four bars, before it is overlayed with a percussion motif that would be more appropriate to some pop trash that Shakira would pump out. It stays there, unchanged, throughout choruses and verses until the final eight bars of sound, where we are once again teased with the gorgeous guitar part that could have been.

Track 7 - Set Down Your Glass
A nice, slow, potentially beautiful song. This is where I am having difficulty with the constant background sound that this band insists on. I wonder does the keyboardist, Tom Simpson, feel he needs to justify his presence within the band by providing some sort of humming wash in the background of absolutely everything? This gorgeous song would have been much better presented as purely vocals and steel-string guitar.
I think this is something that bands have to learn from orchestral composers - especially this run of emo/indie bands that proliferate at the moment. Just because you have a wide breadth of musical sounds and effects at your fingertips it does not mean you have to use them all at once. A sensitivity and interplay between instruments - a conversation/contrast approach - is far more effective that having all voices speak over each other at once.

Track 11 - The Lightning Strike: (i)What If This Storm Ends? / (ii) The Sunlight Through The Flags / (iii) Daybreak
What an epic! I love the emphasis on the piano within this piece as a whole.
In the first section (i) What If This Storm Ends, the building of rhythms over the initial piano part is brilliant. Vocally, the same melodic idea is used throughout to great effect. It's a captivating melodic motif, mesmerising just like the intent of the lyrics. There's some great lines here. In particular - Be the lightning in me/That strikes relentless
On to the next section: (ii) The Sunlight Through The Flags
The introduction to this reminds me of the piano pieces of composer John Adams, and also the compositions of Steve Reich. It's layered, cross-rhythmic, mesmerising stuff. More and more gets added to it , changing the rhythmic direction and emphasis. When it comes to the chorus, the introduction of a straight rhythm on distorted electric guitar is frankly disappointing. It detracts from the complexity of the rest of this section of the piece.
Finally, for the third section: (iii) Daylight
This a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise brilliant piece. The verses are boring slow and uninspired, but redemption comes from the chorus with a lot more movement and far less bleeding heart sappiness. Overall it's okay, but would be better as a standalone song rather than being bundled in with it's outstanding predecessors.

On the whole it's quite a complex album. There's some brilliant moments, offset with some downright emo whinginess. Best listened to on a cold cloudy day with at least two glasses of red wine in hand.

Project Texture: Catching up on the week that passed too quickly

Night shift, day shift. Combinations of both resulting in approximately ten hours sleep over four days. Despite being tired and having stuff all time for myself, I've had a brilliant week. Playing with water cannons... Spending nine and a half hours on overtime rate doing absolutely stuff all... Who can ask for more?

Actually I can. More blog time would be fantastic. More time for music would be mind-boggling.

In the mean time, I have a photographic challenge to catch up on. Here's some of my thoughts for Project Texture:

Part of the landscape

Run through my fingers...

Lounge

Curve/Relief


That will be all. I'm off to have a life for a day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Project Texture

Kat has come up with the challenge this time - to photograph texture. It seems like such a broad context, but to take it out of the realm of the obvious is proving quite a challenge to think about.

My starting point is at the local wetland centre - just around the corner from home. Bush, and plenty of interest in it. I've always liked the texture of barks from different trees. At the moment the scarring within the bark textures is captivating. Little bits of scars from the story of the life of that particular tree. A history in a sense. A little inner glimpse.

I guess this one could be like one of those psychologist dot pictures...

Wound/Scar


See in it what you will!

Now Playing:

I've finally got the shits with mainstream radio. It serves it's function at work - something that most people will put up with listening to, and a bonding factor because eventually all the people will know all the songs and sing along.

But why we know all the songs to sing along to them is the problem. We hear the same four new songs all day interspersed with pub rock classics. Even after a day of listening to this you've got a fair chance of knowing the choruses to anything they play.

I've swapped back to my old favourite station, where they play non-mainstream pieces and with a heavy emphasis on the Australian local content. The announcers tend to get into the backgrounds of the songs and bands, so there's more talk but it's informative rather than advertising bullshit.

So why am I talking about this? Swapping stations has brought me back into the mood for appreciation of new music. I've got hold of a bunch of albums that are out now and I've been systematically listening to them. What a breath of fresh air! It doesn't matter if I don't like them or not - doesn't matter much at all really. The fact that I am listening critically to what is going on in them has given my ears and my brain a new lease on life.

Now playing on the familiarisation list:

Sara Barielles - Little Voice
To me this is pop-oriented jazz. Joss Stone without so much in the ballsy voice department. However I love it. There's a big emphasis on piano in most of the songs, mainly as chordal rhythmic accompaniment. I like this style of piano accompaniment - punchy, heavy in the bass. I'm not much of a fan of flowing, arpeggiated piano accompaniments - and anyway that would not be fitting for this style.

The hit list for me on this album:
Track 1. Vegas
Despite there being too much emphasis on the single chord hits on the piano within the first verse (this could have been mixed with more importance given to the vocal lines) this song is a winner. The chorus and bridge more than make up for it. At times Sara Barielles lets loose, whereas for most of the songs on this album you can tell she's holding back, reigning it in. It's nice to hear the chains being let go on occasion.

Track 9. Many the Miles
Oh so soul. Vocal harmonies in the chorus, slow groove, a capella section. It's all there. In a way the song is commercial, but it's easy to identify with and I'm loving it. The last line should be an echo for my life at the moment:
There's too many things I haven't done yet/There's too may sunsets I haven't seen. This is the kind of song I would listen to twice in a row because it doesn't seem to last long enough for how much I like it.

Coming soon in the album review list:
Pink - Funhouse. - From first listening it will probably be a quite scathing review.
The Screaming Jets - Do Ya. - Classic Aussie rock returns. Similar enough to their old albums from way back when to still be The Screaming Jets, but different enough not to be accused of releasing the same old songs with different titles.
The Presets - Apocalypso. - I'm undecided on this ablum. Very mood-oriented, there's elements that impress... but are they aiming too low?
The Living End - White Noise. - The Aussie boys are back with a mixed-feelings album that has some absolutely brilliant moments.

All this keeps bringing to mind a line from a song by Aussie intelligent pisstake electronica group TISM (standing for This Is Serious Mum). The name of the song is Lose Your Delusion II. The song itself is taking a dig at switching away from the ideals of non-mainstream and returning to mainstream bum-fodder "like some inner technical hitch".

Don't change your life - Change your channel

So true, whichever way you go.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Whinge, Whine, Fricken Whinge.

It's a cloudy, windy day. Bugger.

This kind of day just seems to take the life out of me. I can't go to the beach, because it will be cold and the sand will be blowing around enough to remove a few layers from any exposed skin areas. Exfoliation, yes. Painful and annoying, more so. If I ditch the plans of spending the weekend exploring outdoors and instead attend to the indoor challenge of conquering Mount Washing, I will end up being bashed about the head by sheets and towels as I hang them on a wildly swing Hills Hoist clothesline. Since I have a tenuous relationship with the clothesline at the best of times, it's better to avoid that idea too.

It seems that sunshine and fresh air are a requirement for my happiness. I like my job because a large portion of it is outside work, and in a very changing environment. In my current state of mind [ie. muddled, medicated, working on getting better] I couldn't imagine being inside in a little box all day, the same little box all day, to earn a living. Honestly I would not cope.

I'll add to that - sunshine, fresh air, new experiences. I feel happy when my eyes are opened to new things. Often on days like this I will spend a fair amount of time on the internet. At the end of the day it might look like I've accomplished nothing, but I will have been on a linkfest that takes me through hundreds of different perspectives, reading about whatever may fleetingly take my interest. I will have given myself brain fodder at least.

Speaking of brain fodder I need a new challenge. Kat and I have kind of run out of steam on the stripes photography challenge, so I have thrown the ball to her for the next choice. Who knows what it will be!

Even the doga are going nuts in this weather. They're whinging, all of them. Joey the turdlet will not stop barking until he is let inside. The other two join in just because they hear him barking and whining, and they're probably sick of it too. I have no idea how to shut them up and it's frustrating to say the least. Thank god I don't have children - it would be worse.

Anyway, I'm off to find something somewhat positive to spend my day on.

This has been a public service does of whinge.
Tell me to shut up and get over it anytime.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Stripe Project: Backlog

I went on a stripe-hunt the other day. My plan was to get a backlog of images that I could post one of per day when I got busy during the week. Well, that was one of the plans anyway.

The other plan was to get serious with my little Fuji camera and start shooting in RAW mode.

Brilliant. The files that come out of the thing are HUGE in comparison, take a hundred percent more time to download and presumably have a shitload more data trapped in them. That is, if I can open them.

The programs provided by Fuji with the camera are shithouse to say the least. They seem to be aimed at first-time users who just want to see the pretty things they snapped in a window only slightly larger than the LCD display, and then print them to palm off on to all their admiring friends. I installed them, I tried them, I deleted them.

Photoshop... My dear pirate copy of CS3 that runs in some european language other than my own wouldn't go near my raw images. The english version of Photoshop 7 wouldn't touch them either. I tried, just in case the europeans were fucking it up for me.

So... delete.

I'm now running GIMP. It's free. It seems to work. In fact it seems just like Photoshop without the price tag or piracy. Getting my raw images to open is still a bitchy little hassle, but eventually I'll get a workflow again.

So here's three shots I took the other day, that I've finally got through veiwing and editing.







Methinks I could avoid all the hassle by upgrading the camera rather than the software...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Stripe Project: Day 5



No standing? I came to a full-on halt yesterday.

What do I do when I find out I've been shafted by somebody? Usually, I drink it all out and forget it in the aftermath of the hangover. The drinking lets it become not much of a problem. And the hangover... Well, let's see? ... That reminds me that health is far more important than getting annoyed at some idiot.

Oh, the joys of working with a hangover. Luckily, we had to get off the machine we were working for about an hour today, so that some other crew could work on it. Ideal time for a hung over sleep session. On the rocky, dusty ground I lay underneath the work truck, stretched out like a starfish, with a bag of rags under my head for a pillow. At the time not even a fluffy doona on a king size bed with a mountain of pillows could have matched the relief of the sleep I had today under that truck.

Hung over? Yes. It's not the drink that makes you get over something. It's the hangover that reminds you that life can be far better.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Stripe Project: Day 3

We live just around the corner from a Wetland Centre. I've been there a couple of times but have not actually paid the couple of dollars required to get through the turnstiles and into the main attraction. Instead I've spent time in the lobby area, looking at the displays and cruising the information pamphlets about the local naturist activities.

That's where I met this guy.
Let's call him Big Daddy, though for all I know currently, he could be female.



In the tank with [him] were two others, Medium Size and Little Dude. They were swimming around, active as all hell and very uncooperative. They resisted my attempts to lure them over to the other side of the tank into more favourable light. They would not show me their cool little stripey undersides for long enough to focus on them.

I will return for them later, on another lobby adventure.

So I concentrated on Big Daddy, who was content to be motionless and high and dry. [He] blinked once, but that was about the extent of it. An ideal subject. Stationery, and no complaints. Beautiful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Stripe Project: Day 2

Our driveway is a nightmare. It is lined either side by our house and the one next door in a hell-run that ends at a gate that is a prick to open. I'm not much of a fan of gates, anyway. Maybe this is because I do not have little kidlets to send out of the comfort of the vehicle to go open them for me. Maybe I have lived in the non-dog non-gated world for far too long. Anyhoo.

Guarding the very start of this gauntlet run is a mailbox on one side and some sort of pole on the other. They're both annoyingly close to the nightmare driveway, so some sort of hazard control measures had to be put into place.



Out comes the reflective tape.

So really, to get in and out of the driveway you're still running the gauntlet, but at least now you can see the enemy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Stripe Project: Day 1

I decided I needed a new challenge. The colour projects I did a while ago were great for opening my eyes to different perspectives. Thinking about that this morning, I've decided to challenge myself away from the idea of colour and into a favourite land for me: geometry. In particular within this category this time it is stripes.

I don't know if this one will last a week, ten days, or a fortnight. Who knows? So far, (on day one), it's been pretty exciting to see things in a new analytical light again. To tear things apart visually in search of a useable pattern. You'll see if I get bored because I'll go off and do some thing else.

I've managed to con my sister Kat into joining in. If anybody else is game for it, drop me a line in the comments.

Anyway, here goes.
The Stripe Project #1:



Let's be clear on the terminology here.
No, they are not sandals.
They are not to be referred to in their onomatopoeiac form as flip flops.
These beauties of Australian culture are known as THONGS.

A thong is not some flimsy piece of material you wedge into your arse and call underwear. That is a G-string. Consider that the epitome of the range of thongs is the highly regarded double plugger. The statement "I just bought another pair of double pluggers because my old ones gave up the ghost" becomes a little too suggestive when it's confused with flimsy material bits.

So get it right, yanks.

The thong is footwear, the double plugger is king, and the G-string goes up your arse.

Mailbox Monday