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Here you can find links to free music, videos and literature by Mike Dickson, Systems Theory, Greg Amov and the Ashley-Dickson Immersive Experience.


Journal 2024

22nd February 2024: Not sure if I can possibly overstate just how fantastic Decent Sampler actually is. It's quite a bit better than merely 'decent', for sure.

I've spent some time today rattling out some code that will take a WAV file of a single drone, analyse it to see what key it is in, then rattle out a .dspreset file. It can also be used to analyse multiple WAVs and combine them into a single .dslibrary file, along with the samples and any graphics that are needed for the background, etc.

This one is a particularly useful library - really accurate sound and has some real presence to it:

This one also - very inventive and simple:

              

              

              

              

19th February 2024: Messing about with a terrific bunch of SoundPaint libraries right now. Everything seemed to be coming out so quietly though. No idea why. Then I saw my secondary MIDI controller volume was down to about 20%. Duh. Still, I like that quiet quality to music, and perhaps even life in general. We need a little more peace, I think. I'll keep it like that, I think. It adds to the general colour of the sound too.

Next up on my string-o-hits is a weird one I've named Mekanik which will have some of this in it. At the moment it's almost totally atonal (or deeply simplistic) and is performing some sound-effect stuff. I am seeing this as 20 tracks of 2 minutes each. I will see where this goes. I have eight in the bag already: sometimes with good libraries and a day of inspiration this stuff just falls off the keyboard. Other days it's like drawing teeth.

I also really have to focus on my mastering skills.

Amazing. He's now reduced to doing every single bat-shit crazy thing his team of red bull wired 20 something spads dream up. Pure monkey tennis. https://t.co/DQaf53zUMK

— Memorial Device (@memorialdevice) February 19, 2024

Hating what Twitter/X now is, but liking the added context feature a lot.

This one is very much worth a watch:

It may get lost, so I repeat it here but the video has an excellent comment on it from @Test_Card_Tom which I reproduce here:

"On a Panorama programme Thatcher was being interviewed and was bleating on about some striking workers not understanding that salaries could only be increased if their productivity increased. As quick as a flash the interviewer said something along the lines of: "Then please explain to the viewers how MPs including yourself increased their productivity to warrant the 12% pay increase you've just awarded yourselves" Thatcher visibly looked shocked and made some pathetic reply as the interviewer pressed for a precise explanation of how productivity had been increased. Sadly I don't know the name of the interviewer but I did notice as a regular Panorama viewer that this interviewer never again appeared on the programme."

In some ways the final remark above reminds me of the description of the Communist stalwart Clementis, who appears in Milan Kundera's extraordinary novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, where he tells the story of how this person fell from favour and was gradually airbrushed from history. What the airbrushers had forgotten was that at one parade he had given his hat to a comrade who was cold, thereby preserving his presence by his hat - all that remained of him in any photograph of the time - to live on.

17th February 2024: Microsoft Copilot is as up to the job as ChatGPT, I see...

Mike Dickson, a renowned sports journalist, tragically passed away while covering the Australian Open in Melbourne on January 17, 2024. He was 59 years old and had been a correspondent for the Daily Mail since 1990. His sudden death left the sports media community in shock and mourning. Dickson's family announced his passing via social media, but the cause of death was not specified in their statement.

So we try again...

Mike Dickson, a respected sports journalist, was also a passionate Mellotron enthusiast. His project, mellotronworks showcases classical favorites performed exclusively on this unique instrument. Let's delve into the fascinating world of Mellotrons and Mike Dickson's musical journey.

Mike Dickson's journey with the Mellotron was far from straightforward. These instruments are more than mere tape players; they possess quirks, tetchiness, and unpredictable behavior. Learning to play a Mellotron involves understanding its mechanical personality - a blend of power, beauty, and occasional irritation. Julian Cope aptly described them as breathing instruments. Dickson's dedication to mastering this complex machine resulted in a captivating musical exploration that resonates with enthusiasts worldwide.

So, as we listen to the Mellotron's enchanting notes, we honor Mike Dickson's legacy - a journalist who not only covered sports but also breathed life into this extraordinary musical instrument.

A bit of a coincidence that the journalist and I were born in the same year...

We are deeply saddened to hear of the sudden passing of the Daily Mail's hugely respected Tennis Correspondent Mike Dickson.

Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

— LTA (@the_LTA) January 17, 2024

I soldiered on, reading about Where can I listen to Mike Dickson's music?

Mike Dickson's music, performed exclusively on the Mellotron, is a captivating blend of classical favorites and electronic elements.

'Exclusively on the Mellotron...but blends electronic elements?

Unfortunately, there isn't a specific platform where you can directly listen to his recordings.

Yes there is. There are three.

If you're intrigued by the Mellotron's hauntingly beautiful tones, consider exploring classic compositions by renowned artists and Mellotron enthusiasts. Here are some steps you can take:

Learn to Play: If you're musically inclined, consider learning to play the Mellotron yourself. There's something magical about creating music with its quirky, tape-based sound.

Yes, drop into your local Mellotron dealer/tutor today!

Remember that the Mellotron is more than just an instrument - it's a journey into a world of nostalgia, experimentation, and sonic exploration. As you explore, you'll connect with the spirit of Mike Dickson and countless other musicians who have embraced this extraordinary machine.

Well, that's reassuring.

16th February 2024: There are so many plug-ins these days that claim to replicate exactly the sound of one instrument or another than the choice has become utterly bewildering. Any DAW will let you quantize anything to the exact mark on the beat. You can get freeware pitch correction tools now that will tune anything you do to the exact microcent, to the extent that two tracks of the same thing will either cancel out or phase. A single button on your DAW will compress and master for whatever target you choose from a list of words given to you.

And yet...

DAWs will also have a 'humanize' button next to the 'quantize' one, and will knock everything off so it plays behind the beat by a millisecond or two. Another plug-in will replicate the sound of a 'vintage compressor' (I have one which will let you choose how many broken valves it has for an 'overdriven experience'), and you can get a replication of almost any amplifier you care to mention for built-in grittiness.

Summed together, this tells you that what some want is to be able to assemble MIDI files and press buttons to play a perfect sound (which is easy) and then press some more to make it sound like you did it all in 1972.

Brian Eno's advisory card set Oblique Strategies has a good one in it that I have always held dear: 'Honor thy error as a hidden intention'. Like risk, you can do four things with mistakes:

The only one where you are guaranteed to learn nothing is #4.

Brian Wilson: Beach Boys star's family seeks conservatorship due to health issues

By Mark Savage

BBC Music Correspondent

The family of Brian Wilson has asked a court in Los Angeles to place the Beach Boys star under a conservatorship.

Court documents obtained by several US media outlets said the musician, 81, was suffering from a "neurocognitive disorder" similar to dementia.

The move comes after Wilson's wife of 28 years, Melinda, died in January.

The family said their decision had been taken after "careful consideration and consultation" with Wilson, his doctors, his seven children and his housekeeper.

A doctor quoted in the documents said Wilson was "easily distracted, often even when aware of surroundings" and "often makes spontaneous irrelevant or incoherent utterances".

According to the filing, the singer is also "unable to properly provide for his own personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter".

At the time of writing, the BBC had been unable to independently verify the court documents, which were first reported by US celebrity website The Blast, then corroborated by People Magazine and The Wrap, among others.

15th February 2024: Further to the USA-related vinyl running time stuff, here is something I found on Threads:

I thought the second message above was interesting. 30 mins gives the best playing time/quality ratio? If I bought a 30 min long LP then I'd have felt cheated. (I'm looking at you, Brian Wilson, and frankly Mr Parks is not that far behind you...)

   

Now watching...

Hugely recommended viewing for anyone with an interest in the most magnificent instrument that there is. Also, very sad that so many of these instruments are simply being scrapped when a church closes its doors. I think I'd give up every musical thing I own just to have one of these magical machines.

14th February 2024: Pluphoriant released.

Time for this again...

Easily one of the best songs ever written and probably one of the greatest TV performances ever.

 

 

 

 

13th February 2024: An astonishing moment in music from The Gesualdo Six: O send out thy light composed by Owain Park (the guy on the right). I've seen them twice and they are worth every second of it.

A day of good news, helped along with some of the best live recording (sort of) of the best live band on the planet, presented in one of the loveliest vinyl packages I have:

A beautiful shot of John Wetton, I reckon.

(The above is a bit too close to those 'gaze lovingly at father' family portraits, for me...)

The black Mellotron on the right was the first one I ever played. An odd boast, probably. Never forget that moment, though. Mostly because it's imprinted on the still from the video that someone took of Robert Cervero playing it.

That's me in the foreground in the leather jacket in front of the Skeletron, and probably Norm Leete standing headless to the upper left..

This particular version of the USA album took months to find until found a place that had two in stock. That was after wading through a quagmire of dead ends and false starts, not to mention a ton of Discogs pages which featured prices in the astronomical range. Some people are really optimistic (or badly informed).

Not bad for a live album that's about 90% live and (to me) sounds significantly remixed in places from bootlegs of the shows. Why did they use Schizoid Man from Rhode Island as opposed to Asbury Park? And why they fade out Easy Money like that? It must be a playing time/vinyl thing - it's just under 40 mins long.

12th February 2024: Still on Pluphoriant but now righteously fucking about with something I have long wished about which to fuck:

Utterly awesome.

11th February 2024: 'No clear grounding'.

Happy birthday to the Beast of Bolsover himself. A genuinely principled MP with an extraordinary intellect which only the very stupid ever chose to underestimate. Along with the likes of Tony Benn he belongs to another time, when speaking the truth was a matter of personal principle and pride, no matter what ridicule or criticism was thrown against you.

Perhaps ironically, I also feel the same about the target of Skinner's ire as expressed above. I loathed her more than any other politician at the time, but at no point did I think that she didn't mean what she said, or that she was anything like the shapeshifting shits we are currently experiencing. She was the architect of the misery of millions and had the autocratic air of one who knows better - which was her ultimate undoing - but you knew where she was coming from and you also knew (and this is very important) that she could argue her case because she was well-informed and actually had some intellectual heft about her. Now compare and contrast:

We should recall that this woman was the culture secretary at the time of this exchange. We should also remember that at times on camera in interview she appeared to be drunk.

Anyone doubting the drop in standard in our public servants should be shown this as an example. There are so many others, and not just about her. Osbourne and Gove spazzed out on chemistry, Jacob Rees-Mogg lying to you about the benefits of an arrangement which never would exist, Boris Johnson being incapable of having any relationship with the truth...and shall we also not forget the whole partygate business?

7th February 2024: Nice one from Kirby Ferguson: MULTIPLE DISCOVERY - The Curious Case of Simultaneous Invention

And a good day for the Jambos too.

6th February 2024:

How long did it take a court to come up with this patent and obvious truth? I've no doubt he wll game the system for years yet, though.

5th February 2024: Pluphoriant 05 is coming along even better. This sounds quite extraordinary to my ears.

4th February 2024: I don't know what my favourite song of all time is, but I know Brian Wilson wrote it.

Pluphoriant is coming along well, if slowly. The 4th 'movement' is particularly pleasing to me. Here is a window into it as a work in progress...

The piece ends with a mesh of three sounds: Farfisa, Mellotron oboe and a distorted Venus Theory synth which sounds like Set The Controls for the Heart of Rick Wright to me.

1st February 2024:

     

     

     

     

     

Listening to Gilbert and George on This Cultural Life on a BBC Podcast. There is something deeply unnerving about them in the extreme. Almost unclean, as much as I hate to say it. I used to have time for their stained glass works, but not it all seems so... desperate?

It's impressive, as is their rehearsed speech. But it's just so contrived at times. The real issue I have with them - aside from their unpleasant and juvenile liking for dabbling quite literally in bodily fluids and excretions - is the fact that they are the ultimate diarists, whose personal documentary is all about their art and they make art about that fact. Thinking of this is like trying to understand the mechanics of the plight of the ouroboros: where does the art begin and end and where does their life/lives begin and end? I have few doubts that they would seize on this and say this is exactly what they are doing, but to me it is self-defeating. Your life is all about documenting your life? At what point does one realise that your life is all about itself and that your work is a huge self-circling miasma of self-obsession? Is this hypergraphia in action?

30th January 2024: I still keep coming back to this:

   

   

For all that I love the series, there is a streak of misogyny in it that's about three miles wide. Never trust a woman, as Number 6 says in Dance of the Dead after he finds he has been 'betrayed' by a female cat (!) to the outstandingly malevolent Mary Morris' Number 2. Throughout the series he is betrayed by woman and let down by men (Dutton, The Rook, even The Kid to some extent). Mrs Butterworth in particular in Many Happy Returns (a staggeringly brave episode where there is no English dialogue for about half of the episode) appears to be one thing and turns out to be another. The maid in Free For All (playing the same trick) is a masterwork of deceit with the genuinely shocking ending coming (almost) as a surprise every time I see it. In some ways, the worst is Nadia from The Chimes of Big Ben who tries to play on whatever Number 6 has in the way of romance. (Though the notoriously prudish Patrick McGoohan plays it so weirdly that it hardly seems like a romance at all, even to the end of literally boxing them apart in their escape).

One thing links them all - they all give him the illusion of freedom whilst at the same time actively withholding it from him. The Maid makes him think he has won the election and is Number 2, able to grant freedom to others as well as himself; Mrs Butterworth schemes to actually let him return to London only to pull him back again as a sort of show of strength against him; in Dance of the Dead we are told that the Village is 'democratic', but at the same time it even keeps its prisoners back from the freedom of their death (which I think is the metaphor used at the very end - that took me ages to realise); Nadia even convinces him to travel with her back to a freedom and place that do not exist.

The message is really quite consistent: you might fall for a woman, but she will always let you down. So never trust them.

It's all signs of the times, for sure and there are mores of the past that have been revised for the present, but I wonder just how long it will be until this series comes under the same scrutiny as others of the time, and fails to meet up to views that are perhaps as de jour as those which created it in the first place. In this particular case there are a large number of very strong female roles, where you are cast as way more than pretty face that screams and watches when the fighting breaks out. Whether that was deliberate, or because a more fleshed-out character on the page makes the betrayal worse or more believable is up to conjecture. However, by accident or design, it's a remarkably equal opportunities presentation, at times. Certainly more than most.

People like Mammy Two Shoes did actually exist and to airbrush that out of existence almost seems to belittle them in a different way, having the same effect but in a different direction: rather than admit to the fact that it's an unfortunate stereotype (for a reason) it's easier to wish them out of existance altogether. There is an honesty about all of this that we can use whilst knowing that it wasn't always around. No one is making Cordelia into Ellen Ripley, and why should they?

(For those who care, there is a plot hole a mile wide in The Chimes of Big Ben. Some think this is about the location of the Village being in Eastern Europe, when Many Happy Returns shows it in the south of Spain, and Fallout implies it's within driving distance of London. I just take all that to mean that Village is eveywhere and nowhere, which is in keeping with the rather esoteric nature of the final episode. No, the plot hole is better than that. When Number 6 hears the chimes at the end he realises that he is being duped when London time and Polish time seem to conicide as the time on his Polish watch is the same as the chiming in the background. Unfortunately, the chiming is on a tape. That means that whoever was running the operation chose to meticulously start the tape at the same hourly stroke as was showing on the watch, but got it an hour out. Hard to see how one so careful could make such a dreadful blunder as that, unless the scriptwriter got himself horribly confused by his own devices. Frankly, I suspect the latter, as it would not be the only gaping chasm in some of the storylines. I just prefer to sit along for the ride and enjoy it all at face value, sometimes)

Also, this guy:

The most foul, perverse and hideous Number 2 in the whole series. A violent bully who is undone by the weakness in his owm mind and the terror of being seen for what he is. As an exercise in paranoia, Hammer Into Anvil is one of the very best episodes there is. Not only is the drama in it utterly and completely electrifying, but the victory won by Number 6 is the best he ever finds. He doesn't just turn everyone against his nemesis, but he makes him crumple in the end like a terrified child, in the full knowledge of his failure.

Some might think of Cargill from the light entertainment of the likes of his talent for farce on the stage, or his customised series Father, Dear Father. That is frivolous. This shows just what a powerhouse of acting talent he was. Sadly, he was another actor for whom the revelation of his homosexuality was thought of as a threat to his career, so he kept it secret for decades. Never keen on being in the public eye other than through his work he was an intensely private man who'd rather stay at home playing bard games than being seen at showbiz parties or award ceremonies.

There is so much style to this television series, it's almost impossible to believe that it was made on the basis of a brief meeting between McGoohan and Lew Grade over early breakfast one day. Grade reportedly said that he didn't understand a word of the pitch made to him but that he trusted McGoohan so much that they shook hands on it there and then and the budget was drawn up.

   

   

A slight moment of pride :-)

29th January 2024:

27th January 2024: Laptop returned, all working. Now set up to work again. Time to BACK UP immediately.

24th January 2024: I've given Exphoriant a listen and it's actually okay for what it is. Still spewing that the arrangements and stems etc have all been lost but that's not nearly as bad as I thought it might be. Now working on Pluphoriant which lost ony fragments of the first track, which wasn't really up to scratch anyway. Maybe I need more hardware disasters to ensure I have a robust editorial policy. And maybe I don't.

On this subject, I cannot say enough good things about Backmarket. I don't know their reputation wih others, but their after sales and guarantee process is outstanding. I'll be using them again in the future, no doubt.

Just had a weird discovery. Crow Hill Company is a firm specialising in high quality VSTs and was borne from the remains of what used to be Spitfire Audio after a split over some disappointing Twitter Spat. The guy at the front of this operation is a chap known as Christian Henson who has worked with a boatload of people and who was even interviewed by Rick Beato. But the surpirse came when I found that the operation is actually based in Edinburgh.

They seem to make a bunch of interesting VSTs, one of which is their free VAULTS software which (at the moment) contains a piano, a celeste, a shimmer guitar and strings. It all sounds terribly good at the moment too, like some of the the better moments from Spitfire in a more concentracted form, just with more limited voices. The default piano sounds superb - very deep and rich.

Between them and Venus Theory, things are looking up. Now all I need is the laptop back again...(should be tomorrow).

23rd January 2024: Exphoriant released, such as it is.

22nd January 2024: Had a bellyful of this laptop now. The faulty drive is back with Amazon for a refund and the laptop has been shipped off to the Backmarket seller for a 5 day repair. It's a simple OS reinstallation, for crying out loud. This should not be that difficult.

Watching True Detective S04E02 to make up for this. Jodie Foster is astoundingly good in everything.

20th January 2024: FFS. The clone won't restore, so I have gone top the effort of getting the Lenovo installation disks for the system. They install onto a USB...and it fails every time. Now buying new USBs for the job. I might just have to reinstall from scratch. Not a great prospect, but maybe tidier. I will restore the arrangements that I can and leave it at that. Seriously, this shit is incredible. No idea how someone less-savvy would fare.

19th January 2024: More and more SSD issues. The backup I have won't re-clone from the original SSD as the new one is about 100Mb short. So I now am faced with the option of reinstalling from scratch. But that means I will have to have installation disks, and I didn;t get them with this. So I download the Lenovo USB Recovery Creator tool and it fails every time I try to run it.

18th January 2024: Fuck, damn and shite (2). The faulty SSD has completely blown a gasket and will not even register on any system to which I connect it. That means that at least the arrangements to the ongoing Exphoriant are lost and probably some from the preceding recordings in the series. Not good news at all. A salutory lesson though, without any doubt. Back up every day.

Another 2Tb SSD (branded this time - Samsung) is being delivered today, so the next few days will be a rebuilding process. It's quite cathartic though, as I have really had way too many instruments (etc) installed as it is.

17th January 2024: Fuck, damn and shite. My music laptop has died on its arse. The Lenovo P50 I have will not progress beyond the boot screen with a helpful message saying that pressing enter will interrupt the boot sequence. Shit. A post to Reddit was very helpfully replied to, which indicated that the problem likely as with an SSD within which was dead or dying. Sure enough, disconnecting the 2Tb SSD boot drive caused the system to boot into the BIOS. Reconnecting it stopped it dead.

Backmarket (from whom I bought the system) were very helpful before I got to this point, but they will likely give me short shrift as the 2Tb drive was something I bought in as an add-on and installed myself. They sent a 1Tb SSD which still seems to be working - the 2Tb drive came from Amazon, brand new (I was told). I will get back to see if there is a warranty with it. I also hope it's the SATA connector (maybe) as that would at least mean the drive is working and I can recover data from it. Not sure when the last backup was, but it was over a month ago.

I actually have a reasonable backup policy, but recently I admit it has slid a bit. Normally I back up my ongoing projects to an external drive. I know I ought to use the Cloud, but that could be expensive as I have 75 albums to back up.

Away from all the Dan Brown (and others) bullshit, this is a truly astonishing painting, I think.

All done. And yes, it's on an ironing board. Lots of pieces left over, none of which are any use.

15th January 2024: Caught up with this last night:

Jodie Foster is great in it, but she always is. The rest of it seems a bit littered with tropes and expositions already. And it has ten 'executive producers'? Really? My guess so far: the deer went mad and killed themselves because the water went bad three days ago which either (a) drove the men crazy or (b) got the mining company onto their case with murderous intent. We'll see.

13th January 2024: A salutory lesson for some:

Q: Is it true that you had a clause in your contract with [the label] that allowed you not to tour?

A: Kind of. What happened was that when we first went to [the label] we were presented with a 150 clause contract which took some reading and which we were being pressured into signing on the day. We didn't agree to that and said that we would rather walk away from the contract than be bullied like that. When we were called to the meeting, I found that there was myself and an assistant along with six people from the record label, five of whom never uttered a word, so it was clearly an intimidation tactic.

So we refused to sign the contract. We asked them how keen they were to actually have us on their books and they said that they were very keen indeed. I said that if they were really that keen then they should realise that if I did not agree to the contract but signed it anyway under duress I would get out of it on a cooling off period immediately afterwards. So they took my side of it and agreed to let me have the contract for the week. I promised them that I would have the contract back with them with any amendments if we found any that we needed to make and that we would either present these changes or sign the original. They were not happy with this but grudgingly let us do so. The only thing we mentioned at the meeting was that we were not entirely happy with the royalty rates because we did not think we would sell that many units. So we said that we wanted to increase the royalty from 4% to 8%. They said that they would see what they could do so we will not entirely without hope. The one thing of course that we did not want to do was tour.

Q: Why not? Most people seem to value that? Even, enjoy it.

A: Because touring involves being away from home for a long time, but mostly involves trusting other people to do their job and that was something that I found difficult. You have to trust people to turn up on time; you have to trust people to play the music properly; you have to trust people to buy into the whole deal; you have to trust people not to rip you off. You have to trust people and all manner of ways and I found that very difficult when the music would be entirely in my control in the studio so to lose control of it in another setting would be quite difficult for me to do and in any event, the music would not really suit itself to being played live anyway as it is rather complicated so I never really saw the point in doing shows anyway. You also live in mediocre hotels and eat mediocre food, and also I hate the idea of always travelling.The guys in the label said that I had the opportunity to sell merchandise but that never interested me either.

Q: That's an unusual position to take. Most only make money from the sale of merch, no?

A: Yes, but that come with its own issues about quality and prices and anyway I didn't want to reduce us to a t-shirt. I really didn't want this marketed any way other than by pure demand. It's risky, yes, but that's the way I wanted it. So my position was an honest one from my point of view. We took the contract away and we had to look at it and took out the entire clause about touring that appeared under the marketing section, essentially that said we were expected to commit to tour on the release of each of four albums, the details of which will be having arranged with the promoter and the label and ourselves.

I didn't like that at all so I struck that entire clause out. I altered the contract to say that I would do 8% royalty as opposed to 4% and added another clause to say that the royalties are paid and prepared quarterly on four given dates so that I can be assured that payments would be made. So in total I deleted one clause, added another and changed one more. We had the contract retyped to be taken back to the company the next week.

Q: What happened?

A: I think what happened is that they looked at it and saw that it had the same number of clauses, then checked the section about royalty payments and then agreed to it. They agreed to it, we all signed it and I was surprised but happy.

It was only later on the release of [the first album] that they said that sales are going well in a particular area of Europe and that we should tour to boost that product. I said that I was not intending to tour at all and of course that raised the hackles a bit, but they must have checked their copy and found that there was no clause to have us tour at all.

Q: Incredible. When did you start touring?

A: We played our first gig after the release of the [soundtrack to the film], by which time we had parted company with the label. I think we were both happy to see the back of each other. I assume they learned a lesson or two from that. When we eventually toured there wasn't even an official OST for the music we did for it, it was either bootlegged or the people who wanted it got the DVD. But the music was a bit simpler and could be replicated in part live, but then we improvised around that too, so you had recognisable themes which spun off in another direction. That I could live with, musically speaking.

Q: And how did you find touring?

A: Oh I hated every fucking second of it.

10th January 2024: And while on the subject of the flawless...

I am never sure how to describe this album to anyone who needs to hear it. There is almost no conventional moment in it: it's show tunes without a show, folk music without folk and social commentary that needs a commentary, but that is a stunningly lazy definition. The lyrics are (more or less) impenetrable without a text, the restless music never finds a beat or anything like a 'groove', the singer can carry a tune within a song but patently cannot 'sing', and the orchestration is half orchestral, half traditional and half something else found within a dream.

It's criminally short, but so dense that it seems to last twice as long as it does, and once I start to play it I don't think I can stop it. Neither can I dip into it to play a favourite, because it feels so homogenised to me that taking a small part of it out seems to be just wrong. The tunes never find a real groove (Christgau famously said this album does not rock which says more about him and his love of the utterly obvious and self-evident than the music), and there is barely ever a moment when any conventional 'drumming' happens, with the most syncopated part of the whole thing being the intro to the first track which is actually Steve Young singing a 17th century ballad originating from the Scottish borders, but which is actually a setup for the lyrics of the first song (written by Randy Newman for Parks) about the singer being a failed session musician.

Wut?

Maybe most baffling of all is the presence of the a track named after the artist which sounds like him singing Nearer My God To Thee with a huge choir and the sound of either fireworks or warfare in the back ground.

Wut?

Perhaps the thing I would like to hear most from the album is the pitch to Warner Brothers. "This is what it will sound like; this is how it will be arranged and this is how much it will cost. Oh yes, and this is how much it will flop." And flop it did. Monstrously, despite hugely positive reviews and even a giveaway by the record company who (maybe correctly) assumed that fans will have worn the record out so they would give you two in replacement so you could spread the word.

When I first got this, it was on a prerecorded casette. Mostly I would have ditched it for vinyl right away, but that was then on the way out and CD seemed the obvious medium to jump onto. However, the cassette was fine, if I was playing it from one end to the other.

And I did. A lot. Actually, an awful lot. My ex utterly hated it, almost as much as she disliked the sound of Peter Hammill. She would quite literally leave the room when it was on. I could not fathom why. I found the music utterly compelling. It seems that some others agreed with me. I am still finding those who do. In a perverse manner, I even enjoyed the singing, although maybe that was because I knew I could do better. Later, Parks said that he made 'every possible mistake' in making this record and that it was more of an experiment to see if he could do it. A rather expensive experiment, one must note.

Maybe weirdly, I didn't first hear his name in relation to his famous collaboration with Brian Wilson, but in the pages of a music catalogue from Recommended records. I thought Van Dyke Parks was the outre name of an RIO band. I had no idea at all. So my route to him actually came from Sounds ads to Beefheart to Babylon Books to Recommended Records. Crazy.

As one may expect from the EMT shock he gave to the Beach Boys, lyrically it's light years beyond anything else you've likely heard or read in years. You sort of know what he is singing about, but you are always under the impression you are maybe five yards behind him as he spins off puns, alliteration and wordplay like few others could do. It's like hearing the best of Beefheart but a Beefheart who didn't get it right by accident only sometimes.

He is not your run of the mill garden variety Alabama country faire. Left on Silver Lake he keeps a small apartment top an Oriental food store there. He returned from Alabama to see what he could see.

Off the record he is hungry though he works hard in his Alabama country fair. I should think he'd fade away the way that Bohemians often bare the frigid air. He returned from Alabama to see what he could see.

Constant commentary by the wayside. Nowadays them country boys don't cotton much to one two three four. Rest your team. Work out in the All Golden! You will know why hayseeds go back to the country.

Constant calm might still our stately union. Nowadays a Yankee dread not take his time to wend to sea. Forget to bear your arms in the All Golden. You will know why hayseeds go back to the country. Might as well not 'low for one more go round. That's all folks. Them hayseeds go back to the country. Ja git it? Alright.

('The All Golden' - Van Dyke Parks)

And the subject of that song? The singer from the intro to the first track. Who also headlined for Parks at a 1990s show he did and from which he released a live recording. Head spins.

Never seen this one before: VDP takes you through the making of the album - hugely recommended listening:

9th January 2024: Someone tell me where the flaw exists in this album, because I sure as hell cannot find it.

It must be possible to rig up an equivalent of that 'choir organ' somehow...

"Herzog's first choice for the role of Aguirre was actor Klaus Kinski. The two had met many years earlier when the then-struggling young actor rented a room in Herzog's family apartment, and Kinski's often terrifying and deranged antics during the three months he lived there left a lasting impression on the director. Years later, Herzog remembered the volatile actor and knew that he was the only possible man who could play the mad Aguirre, and he sent Kinski a copy of the screenplay. "Between three and four in the morning, the phone rang", Herzog recalled. "It took me at least a couple of minutes before I realized that it was Kinski who was the source of this inarticulate screaming. And after an hour of this, it dawned on me that he found it the most fascinating screenplay and wanted to be Aguirre."

Yes, yes...I know that Kinski was a horrid piece of shit who sexually abused his daughter but the story is still an amusing one. The film is also very worth your time.

Pity about the star...he seems to be hugely talented man possessed by a weird rage and some hideous urges.

Having a bit of fun with this one, playing a piano through it. The result is actually quite convincing as far as sheer noise is concerned.

Less convincing playing a sustaining keyboard, though. Most of them sound downright horrid. Thi is of course a replication of the legendary Big Muff by Electro-Harmonix (link provided to avoid a risky Google search there) and does a fairly good job of reproducing the noise and the sustain of the original. As used by everyone the pedal is probably the sine qua non of the rock guitar. I've never been much tempted to play guitar, probably because I am not much cop at it, but making a racket like this is always appealing. I tried the Mellotron through it and the sound was god awful so I won't be doing that again in a hurry.

4th January 2024: Just acquired myself this:

First impression is that it looks great in theory, but already I have found one malformed piece which won't allow one of the wheels to be fitted. I've emailed the seller (Jadlam in Glastonbury) to see what can be done. Aside from this it's brilliantly designed and actually feels more solid than the Lego McLaren.

2nd January 2024: Inphoriant released. Not sure if there is going to be a fourth or not after this one. Maybe. I'm enjoying Decent Sampler a lot.

Unfortunately, I have found that my laptop is refusing to boot properly...which is a pisser. I have it working after a constant cycle of cold-booting, watching the whirly Windows 10 boot logo and hoping for the best. Seriously, there has to be a better way than this. Hiding some of the technical stuff from the user might be good for some, but it's useless for diagnostics.

I couldn't resist it. Exphoriant is started, on a rather beautiful note too. One of my favourite vocal libraries, being the brilliant looped vocal set from 10CC's I'm Not In Love, which I am pretty sure I have blithered about in the past.

Good grief. Sixteen albums in 2023. That's strangely productive. 15 hours and 43 minutes of music. Good grief.

1st January 2024: There is always the hope that this one cannot be worse than the last, but I have found myself saying that year after year sometimes.

I'm using Decent Sampler a lot now, to the extent that I am not only pillaging the pages of Pianobook but that I am also making up my own libraries, partly for fun and partly for use. I have a load of single shot sounds here which I can pitch and spread out over a DS preset. Better yet, a library of single shots can be converted into a library for DS too.

I've spent some time writing code for software to automate this process entirely. It's working well so far.

I've also had a gander at Output Co-Producer which claims to be (here is that badge again) "a new set of AI capabilities we're building to help music makers unlock more time creating and less time searching, beginning with Pack Generator." The whole AI thing is a pain in the bollocks - it's being applied to everything these days, regardless of there being any intelligence being used at all. It's all got way more in common with the ancient concept of expert systems which really had the knowledge from numerous sources embedded within and from which answers could be summoned by judicious filtering and the appropriate combination of sources used to produce a synthesis of those sources. In that regard, what most modern 'AI' products do is much like that. They don't really use any intelligence, just have gigantic (and unverified) sources to draw from. So by definition, if this is 'intelligence' it's bottom-up intelligence, where the systems really fakes the thought process.

The opening screen shows you that this process is free, although the strangely specific mention of a credit card implies to me that they are at least considering a paid version.

After a log in screen you're taken to a prompt box where you describe what you are after in words:

I gave it the prompt of heavy synth bass drone in E, phasing, some flanging which I thought was pretty simple. It then posts and analyses your prompt and comes up with four 'packs' for you to choose from via demos:

The four packs and demos are then presented to you for review. Notice the line at the bottom which allows you to regenerate the whole thing if you want to. If you like what you hear then you can download the packs. Pack #2 above was opened and I found the following content:

The track stems folder contains this...

...where MIX.WAV is the sound produced and the others are (I assume) the three sounds combined that sound. The sample pack folder contains three folders for each of the three combined sounds, again I presume being the sources for them. In this case, this is the Flanging System sub folder:

So how is the finished thing? My initial response is meh really. Amazingly, it produced pack four in the key of F (!) and none of them really were what I was after, was a plain drone with flanging and phasing. There was all kinds of other fairy dust scattered over them which I really didn't want there at all.

The jury is therefore out on this one, at least as far as I am concerned. As with all the business around AI I find it's not much more than someone else's idea about what they imagine you are thinking. It might kick start some ideas and some creative process, but as a creative tool on its own it has some way to go. I will try some more with it to give it a fair crack, though.

The ten base tracks that comprise Inphoriant are now done and will lie fallow for a week or two. I was amazed to find that Euphoriant needed nothing more done to it. I have a feeling this one may be the same.

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