July 17, 2010
Distant Worlds II
I attended the Friday half of the Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy at the San Francisco Symphony last night. I really enjoyed it, although I would have enjoyed it more if I had the entire hall to myself. ^_^ Primarily because the audience acted less like a symphony performance and more like a get-together. So there was a lot of clapping and cheering and even a few jokes called out. I didn't appreciate all the clapping during the credits, which prevented me from hearing Terra's Theme.
I kept my eyes closed as much as possible, during the performance, so that I wouldn't get distracted by the visuals they had up. They played pieces from a variety of Final Fantasy games, including one from the upcoming FFXIV online game. I know Roger Ebert is skeptical about the artistic nature of games, but having played the games added a lot of emotional depth to the music I was hearing. I have a much deeper understanding of what the music is trying to convey, and an emotional attachment to the songs. I got goosebumps during Aerith's Theme, JENOVA, as well as a few other songs. (No goosebumps during One Winged Angel because that was played sort of like karaoke&emdash;I chanted but the choir was a little weak.) The music from FFXI and FFXIII didn't have the same effect on me, because I didn't really have any context for it. There was an older couple sitting in front of me that didn't even know what Final Fantasy was, and I don't think they got much out of it and were somewhat confused by everyone else's enthusiasm.
One thing that I was confused about was clarified for me last night. I'd picked up the FFXIII soundtrack while in Japan, and although I haven't taken the time to listen to it (on purpose) I did listen to a few songs. And my immediate thought was that this is not Final Fantasy music. It didn't sound right. Sounded much more like a typical classical soundtrack. I thought perhaps Nobou Uematsu was doing something different. But, the FFXIII soundtrack was entirely composed by Masashi Hamauzu.
After getting back to Alla's place, I ordered both Distant Worlds CDs. (The Symphony Store was selling them for $20 each so it was cheaper ordering off Amazon.) I really enjoyed some of the new compositions, and want to be able to listen to them at home.
July 7, 2010
Lilith Fair 2010
I went to Lilith Fair with Yvonne and two of her friends, Tina and Jackie, yesterday at the Shoreline Amphiteatre in Mountain View. (Make the drive to the venue itself to purchase tickets; they are significantly cheaper that way.) I had a lot of fun, but mostly because of Yvonne, Tina, and Jackie and not the fair. We did end up meeting Dantam and her friends later on, after having gotten there around 1:30pm but not actually listening to any music until 4pm.
The event wasn't put on the way I expected. Gates opened at 2:30pm as I was told by the box office when I purchased the tickets. It didn't take too long to get inside although everyone's bag was thoroughly checked which meant slow entry. But the lawn didn't open until 3:30pm so we ended up standing in that line for a while too. They obviously wanted you to spend time checking out the sponsor booths, getting samples, and buying food, drink, or other little things. Borders was selling CDs at relatively high prices.
After eating a bit on the lawn, I stayed with our spot while they went off to check things out. They came back with a bunch of freebies. All the freebies are for women though, so I didn't really get much. One person still had a bunch of stuff she needed to get rid of before performances on the main stage started, so I was offered something for "my girlfriend".
I did get to see the one artist I really cared about though, which was A Fine Frenzy. Their set was kind of short and on one of the small stages though. And the audio setup wasn't super great. But it was still cool. Much cooler was getting Alison Monro to sign my CD (I bought it from the Borders tent after I found out there was going to be a signing). I think she was happy when I told her I came to Lilith specifically to see them. ^_^ The guy behind me in line was pretty nice and took a photo of me and Alison, which he promised to mail me later.
I didn't get a chance to see Terra Naomi (heard her a bit while in line for the lawn, and sounded interesting) or Kitten and I think I would have liked to. It wasn't that clear to me how the schedule worked; we only found out about the multiple stages after getting inside.
The sponsor booths basically shut down once the main stage opened. Everyone piled in to see the main attractions. But none of them had any real interest for me. All the new interesting artists were outside on the little stages, before the main performances. We stayed through Colbie Caillat, The Bangles, and left in the middle of Miranda Lambert around 8:15pm because they all had class the next day. Looks like we missed Heart and then finally Sarah McLachlan, who is the only one any of us had any interest in listening to.
There are a bunch of other artists participating in Lilith Fair that I would have really liked to see, but they weren't playing in San Francisco. Some of them "oldies" like Sheryl Crow and Suzanne Vega and Beth Orton, but most of them newbies or people I haven't heard about before (too many to list here) and they usually only showed up at one or two of the venues, whichever happened to be closest to where they live. I actually thought Lilith was primarily to show off new interesting female artists, so have a main set featuring artists that made music before I was born was a little disappointing.
June 28, 2010
I recently went on something of a whirlwind business trip through three countries as part of a project we've been working on at Netflix for a short time now. My trip started off in Hong Kong, then Shenzhen, China, followed by Seoul, Korea and finally Osaka and Tokyo in Japan. It had been almost ten years since I was last in Hong Kong, and it was my first time visiting Japan. I was in Korea last year for business but not in Seoul that time.
Things were pretty hectic in the beginning. We had one day in Hong Kong to acclimate to the time change, but Shenzhen and Seoul were completely filled each day with meetings and travel so there wasn't any free time at all. Mitch and I extended our stay in Tokyo, Japan a little extra though, so we could do some things that we wanted to. I was especially excited about Tokyo because I've wanted to visit Akihabara and Shibuya for a very long time.
In Hong Kong, we went to Lantau Island via the Ngong Ping Cable Car to see the Tian Tan Buddha tourist attraction. I say tourist attraction because when I was there ten years ago the site wasn't so commercialized. The clouds were very low that day, which meant our cable car went right through some dense fog, and walking around at the peak meant walking around through clouds.
Crossing from Hong Kong into Shenzhen meant going through the China border inspections. It wasn't a big deal, but it is like crossing between countries. (Returning into Hong Kong took much longer.) Shenzhen is pretty much what I expected with small towns, usually containing an obvious main street, based around industrial areas. The factories are what brings workers into Shenzhen and keeps money flowing into that area.
Both Hong Kong and Shenzhen were very hot and humid. My body is not at all accustomed to that sort of environment so I was constantly sweating. I think one day the humidity was listed as 90%, and the temperature was always above 30°C.
After China we flew into Seoul, Korea. I like visiting Korea because I have a friend there that works at Samsung. His English is quite good and we get along well. It happened to be his daughter's 100-day celebration when we were there, and he gave me a cute little rice cake treat. I was also hoping to meet up with someone in Seoul whom I just recently met at Can Jam 2010 when I was exhibiting, but a schedule conflict prevented us from doing so.
One thing that I really liked in Seoul were the interactive maps. Both the subway and shopping mall had an interactive map. Using the touchscreen, you could select where you wanted to go, or search for where you wanted to go, and it would provide detailed animated directions on the map itself for how to get there. This is so much better than the static maps used here in the United States. Although I suspect there would be some hesitation of installing expensive maps in U.S. subway systems out of fear of graffiti or vandalism. People, and police officers, appear to be so much nicer, polite, and courteous in Korea than in the U.S. (Obviously this is even more true in Japan, where manners are extremely important.)
After Korea, we flew into Osaka, Japan for our last business engagement. This is where it first hit me how expensive things are in Japan. I'd heard and read about things being expensive there, but a fruit plate in the hotel restaurant was more than USD $40, and I found out the waitresses at that restaurant were probably only making about USD $10/hr. I thought at least food should be about the same price as in big U.S. cities if the pay scale is about the same, but since it is more expensive and going out to dinners and drinks are such a big part of Japanese culture people must spend a significant portion of their income on food. The pre-packaged meals at 7-11 are priced around what I usually spend if I'm eating out to lunch at home.
Also really expensive are pets. We stopped in a pet store in Osaka, and kittens and puppies are regularly priced over USD $1000 and often close to USD $1500. Some of them were even around USD $3000-$4000. The pet stores were pretty small, and probably had about a dozen or so of kittens and puppies. There was one store that also had some monkeys. No prices were listed on the monkeys; I imagine they might be considered a luxury where if you have to ask, you can't afford it. One thing I noticed though was that all the kittens and puppies were very young. It's a lot easier to sell cute kittens and puppies, and I saw a bunch of girls watching and saying kawaii a lot, but it also makes me wonder what happens to the ones not adopted. If they only keep young ones in the store, the others might be discarded. T_T
After Osaka we went to Tokyo. For a few hours one day Mitch and I took the train to Hakone and went to the Kappa Tengoku onsen. It took about two hours each way by train, and we spent about two hours at the onsen itself. The soaking pool water was very hot. So hot that I immediately started sweating like crazy and my body began tingling all over. I had to get out and shower in cold water once, and also sit mostly out of the pool, in order to cool down. I also got over a dozen bug bites right away. Most of them got bigger and only just started disappearing a couple days ago.
But by far I spent the most time in Akihabara and Shibuya. Akihabara was very exciting for me because of all the shops and the culture. Maid cafés have gotten very popular and there were dozens of maids on the streets handing out flyers and trying to convince customers to enter their shops. We didn't end up going into a maid café though. Which was fine by me since I was spending all my time shopping anyway. Although I would have liked to go to one. As well as check out some of the other crazy theme restaurants; I'm not sure where they are though since they're not in Akihabara. I didn't get a chance to check out a love hotel or capsule hotel either.
There are a bunch of otaku-stores in Akihabara, unsurprisingly. The stores tend to be thin and tall. Only the stores that sell electronics or are like department stores have enough floor space that things don't seem cramped. There was tons of manga, anime, movies and TV shows, figures, video games, and pink stuff. Although when it came to figures and trinkets only the most recent stuff was getting shelf space. I can't read Japanese so manga and anime was pretty much out. Plus, music and videos are super expensive over there. A new release movie on DVD or Blu-ray might be over USD $50. PC and console games are only slightly more expensive than in the U.S. And there is a ton more selection. I picked up a few video games that are only available in Japan including Atelier Rorona, Record of Agarest War, and Agarest Senki Zero; I need to learn how to read Japanese before I can play them though. I would have also gotten Atelier Totori but it was releasing a couple of days after our return flight. I only picked up a couple of music CDs, because at those prices I couldn't just grab stuff that might be good. I did find a Final Fantasy XIII collectors music set though which I immediately purchased. (Have yet to buy the game though.) Mostly I bought figures to add to my collection: I got some Mari Makinami figures from the new Evangelion 2.0 rebuild; Nagi and Tsugumi from Crazy Shrine Maidens; Ein from Phantom, a couple of Vocaloid Hatsune Miku wind-up music toys; a distorted Rei; and Chocobo and Moogle plushies.
The other thing I spent a lot of money on is clothing. I really like Japanese casual street fashion. The sort of interesting stuff you can't find in the U.S. and gets featured in some video games. Most recently in The World Ends With You, a Nintendo DS game that deals heavily with fashion and takes place in Shibuya, although the store names were changed. (The game itself gets a bit repetitive and collecting all the items would take several play-throughs.) To find the better stuff, I ended up shopping mostly at Jeans Mate in Akihabara and Parco in Shibuya. Individual stores in Parco are relatively small and devoted to a single brand, the clothing selection is limited, and there is usually only a handful of specific styles per brand. Prices at Jeans Mate and some of the stores at Parco tended to start at around USD $30 for a T-shirt. But some of the really high-end stores in Parco sold a single T-shirt for USD $300. Some of the stores had more complex clothing, like jackets, that sold for USD $1000. This despite being something that could be made for a few dollars in material and labor. I limited myself to things that were priced at the lower end, but even then I think I spent more on clothing this one time than I've spent on clothing my entire life so far.
There were two things that made it more difficult to buy clothing in Japan. First was the extreme leaning towards girls' clothing. There are entire mall buildings that only contain girl clothes. I would say only about 10% of the stores sold boys' clothing. The two types of stores were also physically segregated in many cases. Only the larger non-boutique stores carried both male and female clothing.
Secondly, the clothes in Japan aren't sized for me. I had to purchase size XL / LL or size 4 (for shirts) and even then it is a tight fit. My shoes are 2cm larger than the largest they stock in shoes and socks. On many occasions I simply couldn't buy the clothes because they didn't sell it in my size. I guess there are a couple of stores that do sell larger clothing, but you have to go find them specially.
I think I could have spent a whole lot more money in Tokyo, both on toys and clothes. And there are still a lot of other things to do and see just in Tokyo itself, never mind the rest of Japan. I'm not much into sight-seeing, but I can imagine myself spending weeks more exploring just Tokyo.
April 18, 2010
Florence + The Machine
I just got back from seeing Florence + The Machine live at Mezzanine in San Francisco. It was great and I had a lot of fun. Her music is unique and very engaging. There's something about her songs that is very hard to pin down; when asked what type of music it is I don't know that I can say something better than Alternative-Indie, and yet that's wrong. She sings real lyrics that remain catchy and magical. The backing band, and in particular The Machine, brings it all together to create an experience and music I want to listen to over and over again.
I ended up spending the night with Becker, whom I sold my extra ticket to, and a pair of sisters, Heidi and Mary, from Oklahoma who flew over for the weekend just to attend the concert (and do some tourist stuff). Becker was crazy excited the entire time. We also met a girl from Ireland who was stuck on holiday due to the volcano ash. Having them to hang out with did make it more enjoyable for me, although I spent most of the night just enjoying the music.
Before Florence + The Machine came on, some music was being played by DJ's Aaron and Nako. I liked some of what they spun, but probably less than half. The intro band was Holy Hail. Unfortunately it seems as though their setup was messed up because none of us could understand anything being sung. What little I could understand didn't impress me. Pretty much everyone was just standing around waiting for Florence + The Machine to show up.
Florence has an awesome voice and really gets into the music while singing, except she does it while being herself. When watching her on stage, I feel like she's dancing and flailing just the way she wants to and not through some choreographed set. I feel like she dances and moves the way I do. She sounds quite different when speaking instead of singing though.
I particularly like The Machine (Isabella Summers) who is on keyboards. I feel as though the drums provide the musical foundation but Isabella provides the glue. There are drums, bass, guitar, and harp. Everything else that flows throughout the songs is provided by Isabella. So I gave her a heart-hand and she gave me one back. ^_^
After the show, said good-bye to Becker as he was buying a Lungs T-shirt and gave Heidi and Mary a ride back to their hotel.
I should also mention that by chance Carol Chang happened to walk by while I was waiting in line. We talked for a minute or two as she was on her way to meet some friends for diner. I haven't seen her in years. It was really nice to see her again.
March 11, 2010
Harder Better Faster Stronger
Words not required.
June 30, 2008
LAFF 2008 + Electric Daisy
This year Netflix's film festival-related party was in Los Angeles as part of the LA Film Festival. Luna and I drove down and stayed in a hotel near the beach. We spent some time exploring there, and ate at a theme seafood restaurant (not super great). But probably the most memorable part of exploring was this pet store we found near the hotel that had some kittens and cats for adoption. Of course Luna wanted to bring them home, but we can't take care of any more cats than we already have.
Netflix's party was co-hosted by FOX again, in some expensive house up in the hills. I guess someone actually lives there, but it was available for rent. It has a really great view of Los Angeles, and there was a swimming pool and it was fairly large in comparison to the types of houses that you might find in the area. Luna mostly ate some food, and met Reed for the first time. I danced a little bit but not much. We didn't stay too late.
Since we had gone down to Los Angeles before, this time we went to Universal Studios instead of Disneyland. The park was much more movie-oriented of course, and more shows than rides. So I didn't find it as much fun but there were certainly a lot of interesting things to see. We did the ride that goes through the park and stage sets. There was a Mummy ride in promotion with the new Mummy movie. We had a good time for the most part.
At night I went with Greg Orzell to Electric Daisy. That was definitely the most exciting part of my trip. Luna isn't into that sort of music or dancing so she didn't go. It took us a long time to get inside, but it was really great. Tons of people, but not too many so you didn't have room to dance since it was outdoors at a stadium. Although it was too many if you wanted to try and get in and out of the stadium. I wasn't really dressed the part. I should have worn shorts and a T-shirt instead of slacks and a clubbing shirt. A lot of people were wearing a lot less clothing.
The best set was definitely by BT. His music is upbeat enough to keep the body moving, but intricate and beautiful at the same time instead of just being a bunch of drum 'n bass, jungle, or house. Paul Oakenfold was also there, but I thought his set was just okay. I also remember Paul Van Dyk's set, because he was last and probably the most heavily promoted of the artists. He included a strong laser light show, and it was probably good to place him last because his music is more trance and ambient so it slowed things down a bit. But that also meant it wasn't really the most exciting music to listen to in this party environment.
There was one scary incident during the carnival, when a girl collapsed. I ran to find the local paramedics, but by the time I actually found them someone had already called it in. I'm not sure what ended up happening to her, but I think she was okay when they found her.
Overall a really fun time. I danced pretty much non-stop for around four hours. Massive leg cramps but I danced through those too. :)
December 29, 2007
Why Hot Songs Are Crap
Rolling Stone has an excellent article about why compressed songs sound bad. The practice of compressing music is also referred to as mixing "hot", because all of the sounds are boosted until they all measure close to the max decibel level which is usually displayed as red and white on a spectral analysis graph. This can also result in a form of clipping when a frequency is boosted such that its amplitude hits the ceiling for too long. Imagine a sine wave that has a peak of -0dB. To the left and right of the peak, the amplitude drops. But if the entire signal is boosted, the areas to the left and right of the peak will also be at -0dB.
This is one of the most annoying aspects of music produced today because really high end gear will expose these problems. But on the other hand, it does mean that for lots of music, you won't hear much difference if you listen on high end gear or mass market gear. In other words, if that's the sort of music that you listen to, you don't need to spend time or money on good speakers or electronics. Things may actually sound better to you if you don't, because a high-frequency roll off will make it less fatiguing to listen.
Well mastered audio on good gear will sound loads better though. I've remarked before about an album from Tosca, classical music, and other well mastered CDs that let you hear the instruments and performers. Wide dynamic range adds a lot of depth and captures the meanings behind a passage that is supposed to be done with fortissimo instead of pianissimo.
March 8, 2007
iiO - Poetica
Anyone who's into the dance scene is sure to know of iiO's amazing single, Rapture. The duo recently released an album titled Poetica, which contains more dance numbers of the same high caliber featuring Nadia Ali's distinctive voice. It also contains a few tracks which have different sound to them. Maybe less dance and more melodic or down tempo. Not as catchy but still very good and worthy of appreciation. Overall, I find the entire album very enjoyable.
Sinéad O'Connor - So Far...The Best of Sinéad O'Connor
So, this album, So Far...The Best of Sinéad O'Connor, collects the best singles of Sinéad O'Connor's career up until 1997. While I've always felt somewhat drawn to her, and vividly recall seeing her tear the Pope's photo on Saturday Night Live, I never really paid attention to her music before. And I found myself not really noticing this album while listening to it. Perhaps it was just because I wasn't entirely focused upon it, but more so I think it's that her songs aren't catchy or unique or rhythmic. Instead, it's the lyrics that really matter and that requires careful attention.
I suspect I'll have to listen to this album and the songs several times. I will have to listen carefully to the lyrics and exactly what she is trying to say. Her songs are very contemporary and fueled by her feelings and opinions on current events and the human condition. So maybe I won't have the background or context that is required to fully appreciate her music. Regardless, I don't think I'll be able to appreciate her music without putting some more effort into it.
February 10, 2007
BT - This Binary Universe
I've always liked BT's music, and recently picked up his This Binary Universe DVD/CD combination album. The DVD features music in DTS 5.1 audio format, which adds a new dimension to the composition since it was designed that way to begin with. I found the surround version more immersive and engaging than the stereo version, no doubt because BT had that format in mind to begin with. This album is a little different though, because it's less of an ambient or trance work. Instead, it has more in common with classical, jazz, or an opus with electronic flavors. Some, including myself, may find this less appealing than his earlier works.
January 12, 2007
GitS:SAC 2nd Gig Soundtrack
The 2nd gig of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is also scored by Yoko Kanno. As I mentioned before, the soundtrack is even better in this season, and very enjoyable. That said, there are some differences between this season and the first. I found the second season's soundtrack to be more experimental. Somewhat mixing rock, classical, jazz, and electronic influences together in an interesting way that is sometimes very pleasing but also sometimes a little grating. I'm sure other people would have different opinions about each track, but my personal tastes made me like some songs much more than others.
September 24, 2006
Love Fest SF 2006
I just got back from the San Francisco LoveFest, 2006. I didn't go the previous two years (when it was called Love Parade) because Shannon had her birthday parties. But this year Shannon isn't having a birthday party. I took Caltrain up to BART right to the middle of the event. Took a little under 2 hours that way. I met up with Alla and some of her friends as the parade was moving down Market Street.
The parade wasn't as good as I thought it would be. For starters, most of the people were not dancing. The crowd got larger in the afternoon, but most people just stood around. It seemed more of a San Francisco parade where people were more interested in dressing funny and strutting around than in the music and dancing. We saw a bunch of naked men walking around, and also a naked transvestite. The number of naked men far outnumbered the number of topless women. Alla's friends weren't much interested in dancing either; they just kept walking around and standing in front of floats.
The music also had good points and bad points. I would say about half the floats had music I didn't like, and the other half had decent music that was just messed up because the speakers were being overdriven and creating a lot of distortion. They also boosted the bass frequencies and at times, because the floats were so close in the plaza, it seemed like a war between DJs as they tried to out-bass their neighbors. During the parade, there were large sections without music, which also wasn't that great.
Unfortunately, it was so loud my ears were ringing within the first few minutes. I should have brought my earplugs.
There were a few floats that were good. And DJ Rap showed up to do a set later in the afternoon, which was really cool to see. She was doing a little less breakbeat and a little more drum 'n bass, so while I liked seeing her and was excited, I didn't like her music as much as her debut album. But it was the right type of music for this venue, I suppose. Alla didn't like what she did with the synthesized music at all; she said it made her feel naseous.
I did find out about the promotional tracks off Beatport though, which I was able to download for free. Not WAV format, unfortunately, but MP3. They gave out a download card if you gave a $10 donation to enter the plaza. Turns out you really didn't need to get the card in order to access the promotional tracks. Two of Alla's friends thought the $10 donation was required, partially because of how they set up the entrance, and decided not to enter the plaza.
I feel a little sick now, with a headache and I notice now a sunburn. I think the sun, the activity, and a lack of water has left me dehydrated and with a headache. I bought some Gatorade that I hope will help a little. Not sure if I will go next year. If I do, I'll have to remember to bring ear plugs.
September 7, 2006
Replacement Plus 12.3 Driver
The replacement Plus 12.3 driver I requested from SVSound arrived today, although it didn't get sent to my office like I'd asked. I guess that change got lost in the RMA shuffle. Anyway, swapped it into my subwoofer and the rattling is gone. I played back Kodo's Ibuki and the two tracks Dub Gusset and Swords off Leftfield's Rhythm and Stealth. No rattling from those tracks or the startup thump either.
July 20, 2006
Venus Hum - The Colors of the Wheel
I ordered a promotional pre-release copy of Venus Hum's new album, The Colors of the Wheel because I really liked their first album. But this second album isn't as enjoyable. It's too discordant and feels experimental. The sound is very different than the first album. The lyrics themselves have the same sort of similar range of expression though. Sometimes celebratory and at other times hinting at some deeper, personal emotion.
The promotional copy was shipped out to customers earlier than the public release date came with a set of four crayons and a little coloring picture of The Colors of the Wheel, although this was shipped without any hard backing so it arrived with some creases. Certainly not in collector condition. That doesn't really matter to me though, as I'm really just interested in their music and the crayons and coloring sheet are just something fun to have gotten as a bonus. I'm not actually going to use them.
April 27, 2006
Canadian Music Creators Coalition
A number of Canadian musicians have formed the Canadian Music Creators Coalition. This group was created to stand against recent political and legal "abuses" that have been harming the reputation and consumers of the Canadian music industry. The three goals of this coalition are to make it clear that suing consumers is bad, DRM is a risky and more often than not negative proposition, and to promote local Canadian music. They also want to make it clear that the labels are not looking out for the best interests of musicians or consumers. The top three coalition members listed on the home page are: Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, and Sarah McLachlan.
March 19, 2006
Heather Nova - Siren
Heather Nova's Siren was actually the album of hers I first wanted to get. I finally found it for a decent price and picked it up. I was quite pleased to discover the total album length fills the disc; this was not a forty-minute album. Heather Nova's distinctive voice is as beautiful as ever, and this album has enough of its own character to make it something special. I really enjoyed listening to it, with her vocals as the centerpiece with a nice sort of folk rock accompaniment.
March 10, 2006
Massive Attack - Mezzanine
Massive Attack's Mezzanine is the album that I first heard of them by. The music on this album is very bass-heavy. Almost too heavy, as I think my ears got a little fatigued from listening to it, although that's more likely due to my poorly calibrated subwoofers and the boominess of my room. It's a very nice album to listen to though, with good composition and a nice emotional feeling to it. Somewhat downtempo while maintaining a solid rock beat with the instruments.
March 5, 2006
Emiliana Torrini - Love In The Time Of Science
I heard the singing of Emiliana Torrini a few times, and it really appealed to me. The character of her voice has a very alluring quality to it. I picked up her worldwide debut album, Love In The Time Of Science which was received with excellent reviews. I enjoyed the album, although I don't think it's one of the best I've heard. It has some influences of rock while maintaining a more downtempo tone with good vocals driving the songs.
Turns out Emiliana Torrini has contributed to many other songs and artists that I like. Such as the track Slow by Kylie Minogue, Thievery Corporation, and Gus Gus. She also sang the wonderful Gollum's Song which was played during the end credits of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
February 25, 2006
Venus Hum - Big Beautiful Sky
I heard the voice of Annette Strean, singer of Venus Hum on the Blue Man Group's The Complex Rock Tour Live DVD. And I really liked it. So I picked up their album Big Beautiful Sky and it is an amazing album. Her vocals are unique and wonderful to listen to, and set against a panoply of music that covers everything from guitars and drums to synth sequences I've never heard anything like before. Each track has its own distinctive flavor, but at the same time a characteristic feeling of Venus Hum.
January 12, 2006
Email to Susie Suh
I wrote an email to Susie Suh's representatives regarding the large FBI anti-piracy emblem that appears directly on the face of the physical compact disc I received as a replacement from Sony BMG. The email content follows:
I just received my replacement non-XCP damaged Susie Suh CD through the Sony BMG replacement service (it took quite a long time, I'm sorry to say) and I thought Susie might be interested in knowing that on the CD itself, the top has a large FBI Anti-Piracy emblem. It's so large, in fact, that looking at the CD makes one think this CD is an FBI Anti-Piracy CD, and not a Susie Suh CD.
If it were my CD, I'd be a bit annoyed at this fact, since that certainly isn't the first thing I'd like someone to think of or see when looking at my CD, or to have the thought "FBI Anti-Piracy" so closely associated when someone thinks of me or my music. Unfortunately, that's the first thing that hit me in the face when I got the replacement CD. It's not the greatest thought association to have in my head.
January 10, 2006
Susie Suh Replacement CD
I received my replacement CD of Susie Suh yesterday, after several weeks of waiting since I sent the original back sometime in Novemeber. At least I got it back, although I was sort of starting to wonder since it was taking so long. The length of time is no doubt a source of annoyance for some people, but I did have a copy of the CD for my car and the tracks imported to my computer anyway.
The XCP reference is gone from both the CD and jewel case, replaced by a fairly large FBI anti-piracy warning label. On the CD itself, the label is larger than any indication of Susie Suh herself, so you might be inclined to believe the CD is an FBI anti-piracy CD. I wonder if Susie Suh is aware of this and if she has any opinions on that matter. Perhaps I should stop by her web site and ask.
December 22, 2005
World on Fire
I ran across the url for World on Fire, which is a web site that presents one of Sarah McLachlan's music videos. What's special about this video is that instead of spending tons of money to produce something flashy (at some outrageous prices due to how things are) that money was instead donated to many different causes around the world.
December 11, 2005
Subwoofer Phase Adjustment
A few nights ago, I noticed that the bass on the 4 Strings Turn It Around album was not synchronized with the higher frequencies. And today, while playing DDR, it was sometimes hard to keep the beat. So I decided to investigate.
As it turns out, Kodo's Ibuki album is an excellent source of material for determining subwoofer phase. With my previous subwoofer phase setting of 0°, a fair portion of this album seemed muddied. It sounded like there were a lot more drums than there actually are. During busy sections, it became hard to distinguish individual drumbeats. Switching my subwoofer phase to 180° immediately cleared up the entire album.
It was a lot harder to use AVIA to determine the correct phase, even though it can be done with very careful attention to the subwoofer phase calibration tone and corresponding description. The beats on Turn It Around are much better aligned now as well.
November 19, 2005
Ellen's Birthday Dinner
Ellen had a birthday dinner tonight at Frankie Johnnie & Luigi Too, which is actually only about ten minutes from work. So I went straight after work. A lot of the same people from her last birthday dinner were there, and it was lots of fun. I got her a Hello Kitty pop-up doll house book. She also got a yoga mat, Alias season one, the game Taboo, and some gift cards. Alla and Jeannie's present is on its way. One of her friends baked a delicious three-layer cake.
Afterwards, we thought about coming back to my place to play Taboo, but Karissa didn't want to because it was far. In the end, a few people said they were too tired to play anyway. Even though it was only around 9pm. Instead, Ellen, Rita, and eventually Karissa started badgering me to "dance techno". Alla was supposed to be on my side but instead just gave Karissa instructions. Brian tried to defend me as Ultraman. I eventually gave in and played Puppy from my car.
I accidentally put my finger next to Ellen's head as if flicking her, when she was blowing out the candles and that ended up in the photo. I didn't realize she was blowing out the candles, otherwise I wouldn't have done that. x_x
November 10, 2005
Infected by XCP
I discovered today that I may in fact have purchased a copy-protected Sony CD. A while back I purchased Susie Suh's debut album. Turns out this is on the list of copy-protected CDs. At least I don't use Windows, so my computer hasn't been compromised.
November 6, 2005
Blue Tonic World
Blue Tonic World was one of the top ambient electronic artists on the original MP3.com (before it was bought by one of the major labels and started sucking). Now that I have a decent setup, I wanted to get his music in the original uncompressed form, so I could play it back and enjoy it without compression artifacts. BitBurn was kind enough to allow me to purchase the uncompressed versions on CD from him directly.
There are a few specific tracks which I really enjoy, while the remainder of Blue Tonic World's music is of somewhat average fare when it comes to independent ambient music. I suggest checking out some of his music to find out which of his tracks you would prefer. One of my favorites is Visions of Mother Asia. Unfortunately, he did not have one of my other favorites, River, in the original uncompressed format.
November 1, 2005
Supreme Beings of Leisure
The first time I listened to the Supreme Beings of Leisure was when Janet Jones at UNC let me borrow their title album, along with some other nice albums. I'd heard of them before, but listening to them made a real impression on me. I ended up buying the album for Karen as a birthday gift, and just recently purchased my own copy. SBL is a treat to listen to, and they have a very distinctive sound thanks to their singer, Karin. Their music is somewhere between electro-pop and chill-out lounge music.
October 12, 2005
Tosca - Dehli 9
Tosca is the joint collaboration of Richard Dorfmeister (of Kruder & Dorfmeister fame) and Rupert Huber. I picked up Dehli 9 about a week ago, and I think it is an amazing two-disc album. It should be noted that the two discs are very different from each other.
The first disc contains some wonderful compositions featuring beautiful vocals. These tracks are wonderful chill-out music, but very distinctive and not to be confused with the typical lounge chill-out style you might recognize from such clubs. The first disc can be listened to and enjoyed with focus.
The second disc is of a completely different style. Here, the mixing is extremely transparent, which is amazing to hear, and the tracks are almost entirely solo piano. When the piano source is included on one of the early tracks, you can hear the noise that accompanies its signal. Later, on solo tracks, this noise is gone and you can really hear the keys pressed and the pedals pushed by the pianist. This disc is something to listen to while you do something else, or wish to drift away.
September 18, 2005
Heather Nova - Oyster
Heather Nova is an artist I've been wanting to pick up for a long time. I finally got around to purchasing one of her earlier albums, Oyster. I'm not particularly aware of when I first learned about Heather Nova, but I've also liked her on ATB's album Two Worlds.
The amazing thing about Oyster is that not only does Heather have amazing song-writing and vocal skills, which come through great on this album, but that there is so much rich music accompaniment. Heather has a very ethereal voice, which becomes even more awe-inspiring when she reaches for the high notes. The music is hard rock at times, almost bordering on metal, but also sometimes more ambient in its style. Unlike many other albums, the instrumentals here are a direct reflection on the contrasting moods and emotions that show up within a single song.
The production on this album was also very good. Although it's obvious it was mixed a little hot, there are a lot of subtle nuances going on which can be very hard to miss completely. I think with a better processor and better speakers, more of that would come out. I really liked being able to localize minute background audio, and being able to hear the moist break in her lips when she opened her mouth.
August 11, 2005
ATB - Dedicated
ATB's album, Dedicated is a pretty good effort. In some ways it is another issue of Movin' Melodies, but there is new material on there that makes it worth a look. I don't think it is as inspirational as his two disc album, Two Worlds, which has some amazing tracks on it. I do probably need to take another listen to this album when I can take more time to appreciate it. Regardless, ATB is still one of the best trance artists you'll find.
August 8, 2005
Mark Farina - Air Farina
Mark Farina's AirFarina is his debut solo album. There is an underlying premise of an international flight, with tracks representing destinations, layovers, and other flight-related concepts and events. It's a pretty unique album. There are some flight-crew samples, and the tracks titled layover do feel like intermissions. I found listening to the album enjoyable, in part due to its eclectic sound. But it is not so strange as to require an acquired taste. I do think to appreciate it you need a full-range setup; my initial impressions on my computer speakers were not very good.
August 6, 2005
4 Strings - Turn It Around
The new 4 Strings album, Turn It Around is a great followup to their debut album, Believe. The majority of the album is more experimental, but the music and lyrics show growth. Near the end, a track called Back to Basics announces a switch in the musical approach, and this is obvious as the last few tracks are a return to the traditional approach of building a track by gradually layering sequences. Quite enjoyable and a great sophomore album for 4 Strings.
Interestingly, visiting the 4 Strings web site, a large number of comments have been left indicating that their iconic representative and singer, Vanessa van Hemert, will no longer be teaming up 4 Strings. That's a bit of a disappointment, as her voice is one of the defining factors in the 4 Strings sound. While I don't doubt Jan de Vos and Carlo Resoort can succeed without her supporting vocals, I do think their music will be changing a great deal as a result.
July 10, 2005
Fluke - Puppy
I picked up a copy of Puppy by Fluke. Their previous album, Risotto, was one of the best electronic albums ever released. Puppy does not contain the same sort of music as Risotto, and while my initial impression is that Puppy is very good, I'm not sure it is as groundbreaking as Risotto was.
Puppy has some excellent new material, but I found that it reminded me more of a combination of artists like The Crystal Method, The Chemical Brothers, and of course Fluke themselves. I think Fluke decided to experiment with their presentation and style a bit more on Puppy. It comes off extremely well, but the fact it reminds me of other artists prevents me from declaring it as important as Risotto.
I haven't finished listening to the entire album yet, and the later tracks seem to have entered a much more downtempo area. So my above comment is not to say the entire album has the harsher edge reminiscent of The Crystal Method or The Chemical Brothers. In fact, I think the track I have stopped on is more like some Jan Johnson tracks from Paul Van Dyk.
July 2, 2005
Frou Frou - Details
I picked up Frou Frou's album Details yesterday. It's a great album, and I think Alan may have recommended it to me over a long time ago. Imogen (the singer) has a very distinctive and captivating voice. And it is great that these songs and her voice are so unique, that this does not sound like an album which will get lost in the others.
May 22, 2005
When I picked up the Kodo album, I also changed upon the debut album of Susie Suh. I took a listen and found her voice and songs amazing. She has the sultry voice of Fiona Apple but with a more acoustic sound. Her primary instrument is her voice, with a guitar accompaniment. The lyrics are soulful and sung from her heart.
My only question would be whether or not she can be successful with more of the same. I think the potential is there, but it's easy to get stuck when you are this kind of singer. Perhaps if she is careful to work just as hard on her second album as her first, it will happen.
February 23, 2005
GitS:SAC Soundtrack / Be Human
The first two limited edition DVD releases of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex included audio CDs of the OST and Be Human. I found both of these albums to be very good and I've enjoyed listening to them a few times now. Hopefully the second OST will be made available in one of the upcoming limited edition releases.
The GitS:SAC soundtrack was done by Yoko Kanno. Turns out she's done a whole lot of anime soundtracks, including The Vision of Escaflowne, which also has a good musical score, although one that involves a lot of repetition between episodes.
Spylab - This Utopia
I found Spylab - This Utopia on Overstock the same time I found Caia - The Magic Dragon. Also for only $1. This is a decent album, but I don't think there's anything particularly special about it. Perhaps I just need to listen to it again more closely.
February 22, 2005
Caia - The Magic Dragon
I ordered Caia - The Magic Dragon off Overstock the other day. They had it for only $1. It's a pretty good album, with some interesting stuff on there. I wouldn't say it is amazing, but it adds some nice variety to my collection. The tracks are unique, and make for enjoyable listening. This album was actually on my wishlist for quite a while. I don't remember how I found out about it.