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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

13th June 2024:God almighty this man was great...

Now playing his eighth symphony. The transcription for the organ is strangely unsatisfying as there is a loss of dynamics which has to be made up by voicing, which (to me) diminishes the piece. As much as I adore the organ, this is so much better played through the orchestra.

There s an excellent write-up of the eighth in the Guardian here which explains a lot.

12th June 2024: the Music Box IV now started. It's strangely related to the preceding versions of 'constrained music' ( Pandora, etc) and yet strangely liberating at the same time.

10th June 2024: the Music Box III released. Very pleased with this one. Lots of movement happening here, even when it seems like there is none. I am actually so contented with this one that I have another three musical boxes in the planning, which was not in my initial scheme.

Please also to be back at the Get Organised concert series at the Usher Hall with John Kitchen. Excellent stuff. There are two more coming up, one with requests! I have my choice...

7th June 2024: I recall first being able to play this and being thrilled by what I heard coming from the speakers in front of me:

I didn't have the accordion bass, so instead I played a mix of String Section (which came with cello) which gave the bottom end, and Mk II brass which gave the requisite blare which was required. I never really liked the song as such - it was a bit too sci-fi for me - but the intro really got to me, especially the one on Genesis Live which was extraordinary.

I always liked the early sound of this band, way more than the twee sound that they picked upon soon after Trespass, which might be my favourite album by that band. That prompted me to investigate what Anthony Phillips contributed, which led me on to his rather excellent solo material which sounds like the missing mink between the beautiful Trespass and the rather more drearily prosaic Nursery Cryme.

6th June 2024: Pandora released. Also, The Music Box II. Onto the third Music Box now. First track is deeply dark indeed.

The Music Box III 01

Using a series of mysteries and voices (recorded 7th June 2024)

4th June 2024: Pandora coming to a close now. It's been a pretty entertaining journey, but I am kind of happy to see the back of this one. Should be up for release this or next week.

24th May 2024: Another fantastic release from Warrington Runcorn New Town Development Plan which demands your attention. Suitably dystopian with a hint of misplaced optimism.

8th May 2024: Natalie Elphicke has been admitted to the ranks of the Labour Party?

"It was in October 2017 that the Conservative Party suspended Elphicke when other women had also made complaints to the whips. Elphicke's wife, Natalie, immediately defended him. In November 2017, she said the manner in which he had had the whip removed, based on Jane's allegations, was a threat to British values and an injustice. She compared his situation to that of Carl Sargeant, the Welsh politician who committed suicide after being told he faced unspecified claims about his behaviour."

"Then there were five senior Conservative MPs, who were later forced to apologise or be suspended from the Commons for improperly trying to influence a judge. Natalie Elphicke, Sir Roger Gale, Theresa Villiers, Adam Holloway and Bob Stewart signed a letter pressing Mrs Justice Whipple not to disclose their character statements for Elphicke in his sex assault trial at Southwark crown court. Natalie was later found to have been the ringleader of the campaign. The other four had formed part of Elphicke's 'flock' - the group of MPs he was responsible for - during his time as a whip under David Cameron. The Commons standards committee later described the MPs' actions as 'egregious behaviour' that was 'corrosive to the rule of law'."

From The Times CHARLIE ELPHICKE: THE PREDATOR MP AND HIS PROTECTION RACKET by Gabriel Pogrund, Whitehall Editor, Saturday March 26 2022

I am not sure exactly how to phrase how ridiculous this situation is, nor even quite what appalling damage this does to a Labour Party that meeds to show to the electorate that they are not the Tories.

7th May 2024: Timewerks released. Very happy indeed with this one. Onto Pandora now, same constraints and limits.

23rd April 2024: An interesting e-mail was revealed today in the Post Office Inquiry with Susan Crichton, a former in-house Post Office lawyer:

Just come to the conclusion that I am collecting VSTs without actually needing half of them, so a load of them are being retired. I also have some VST synths I've not even half explored yet. Once upon a time I'd look at every preset and mess about with them until something interesting happens. Now I install them and they just sit there. I just counted eight VST pianos. Time for some heavy cuts to be made.

19th April 2024: In furtherance of my David Lynch fixation I watched through both Mulholland Drive and Last Highway last night. Neither make a lot of sense, but one makes way more sense than the other.

14th April 2024: Watched Eraserhead for the first time in years - it never fails to astonish me how this man's mind must work. I've watched this film what must be about ten times now, and I still have no idea what it's really about. Some say it's about Lynch's fear of fatherhood and others say it's a spiritual drama, whilst others maintain that this is all a put-on and in fact it's really just a Dadaist fantasy with no meaning attached to it whatsoever. I'm not so certain about that last point: if it was meaningless then the impetus to film it over a period of five years through times of no money would have dwindled to a flicker quite quickly. Yet everyone remained on the task, right down to the same camera crew and set designers. Some of the sets were torn down during the process and were meticulously recreated for a a reshoot some time later. Jack Nance had one shot where he opens a door and is then seen from the other perspective, stepping into the room: these scenes were shot 18 months apart. Lynch slept on the set (sometimes in Henry's bed) and delivered newspapers to make ends meet once his initial grant ran out. The film cost a total of $10K to make and made $22K at the box office, which is a sort of triumph for a 22 page scripted film beset by fiscal woes.

Famously, Lynch has never disclosed how he made the baby, nor how it was made to 'work', nor indeed anything much else about it. That's a stroke of genius, akin to the Residents lack of identity: the lack of this information makes one's imagination work faster and produce so much richer a solution to the conundrum. I think it might even be likely that the answer is very simple, just as the Residents were inevitably four people you'd never heard of before. (One web site claims that 'info has since leaked that an embalmed calf fetus was used to create the infant deformity', although the nature and source of the leak has never been revealed.)

The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall could have a simple metaphorical meaning, but someone on Reddit has suggested that she represents the 'artistic life' escaping Lynch completely, so Henry has to pursue her. Personally, I don;t get that. I am not sure the film is really that deep. Or maybe it is.

The Girl in the Radiator is (I think) a lot simpler to explain. To me she is cerntral to the whole thing with her silly dance which stomps giant sperm-like things underfoot. Is this Jack's fear of fatherhood and a way out of it? After killing the baby, both Jack and TGinR embrace which suggests that he has his freedom at last. Oh, and for those of you who don't know it - that's David Lynch singing In Heaven.

Jack Nance sounds like a bit of a handful. His first wife died whilst he was making his film and he started drinking in earnest about that time, which made his life as erractic as Henry's. That said, Lynch had faith enough in him to casthim in numerous other films (Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet are the obvious ones to me) and seemed to be supportive of him throughout, even when he was at his worst. Unfortunately, Nance remarried and found himself with another substance addict who hanged herself after they had quarrelled. Poor old Jack really hit the skids after that and died froman injury after a likely street brawl in Pasadena.

As said before, I have watched this fim what must be ten times in total. I will likely watch it another ten times before I die. It's not only entertaining (and funny - the eponymous scene is actually quite amusing) but it is absolutely beautifully shot.

Last words to David Lynch:

'Eraserhead is my most spiritual movie. No one understands when I say that, but it is. Eraserhead was growing in a certain way, and I didn't know what it meant. I was looking for a key to unlock what these sequences were saying. Of course, I understood some of it; but I didn't know the thing that just pulled it all together. And it was a struggle. So I got out my Bible and I started reading. And one day, I read a sentence. And I closed the Bible, because that was it. And then I saw the thing as a whole. And it fulfilled this vision for me, 100 percent. I don't think I'll ever say what that sentence was.'

10th April 2024: I'm not one for actively hunting out new music as I tend to find that what I do takes up enough concentration. However, here is the latest discovery made...

I came across this lump of baroque pop thanks to an interview I read with Sean O'Hagan of the High Llamas who said that whilst making Gideon Gaye and Hawaii he was listening to the Beach Boys, Van Dyke Park and The Left Banke. I had never even heard of them. I positively stampeded towards their work.

First impression is that it's jangly, harmonised, sunshine coast pop reminiscent of the Byrds (a little), but maybe even more The Zombies (a lot, thanks to the strings and the upfront piano) with usually staggeringly good harmonies, excellent arrangements and fairly simplistic lyrics about lurve. However, it's not all sunshine and happiness. As the liner notes to this album states "The Left Banke's story is liberally strewn with bad choices, missed opportunities, interpersonal acrimony and squandered potential. But the negative aspects of the band's history are far less pertinent than the fact that, in their all-too-brief existence, the Left Banke created a consistently magnificent body of work that stands with the most original, inventive and emotionally resonant pop music of its era." Which explains why there are only two albums from the late 1960s to their name.

They try to stamp that 1960s string section and harpsichord along quite well (which also makes me think of Love) but they overplay it a little. It also suffers from the whole 1966 thing of forcing music through one speaker and vocals through the other, per Nowhere Man and others. The whole link of arrangements, production and subject matter along with the vocals does make this a bit monotonous to take in, but it's certainly well-crafted and deserves a bit better exposure.

The best story I found about them was where their most famous song of the time Walk Away Renee was written by one band member about his obsession with a fellow bandmate's girlfriend who was at the session when it was recorded. I sort of see where the interpersonal acrimony comes into it now. I can barely think of anything more awkward, unless it was written about the other guy's mother or something. It's an excellent song though with the terrific melody which seems to have a fair old range to it which might defy anyone singing along to it. It also transpires that this song's gestation is disputed as to who wrote it and even that it was about the other guy's girlfriend at all: they just chose a French name to compete with the Beatle's Michelle. The guy credited with writing it then says he wrote others about her that they didn't even know about. All extremely messy. Plus ca change...

And while on the subject - here is a flawless album for you all. And I mean flawless. The way it was treated was close to criminal. It's a masterpiece. Maybe we will catch up with it some day. Maybe we will. I dearly hope so.

There isn't a weak moment on it, anywhere. Anyone with even a modicum of musical appreciation will need this in their life. I wish I had a tenth of this guy's musical ability. A twentieth. A smidgeon.

This is rather a lovely thing. Cheap and very effective. I'm impressed. I will play with this a lot.

So impressed that I used it immediately...

TimeWerks 26

Using Celesta, orchestral choir, bass, and Omnisphere (recorded 10th March 2024)

10th April 2024: A plea to my readers. Someone help me out here...

Please. Someone tell me what merit there is to this noodling, AOR, caucasian-to-the-core claptrap, will you? I have just played it for maybe the third time thinking that the problem must lie with me, and yet every time I do I find myself wondering if the problem is actually in the music. I ask because it's held in such bizarre reverence by some people that it's almost held to be a sacred cow, to the extent that anyone questioning its greatness is somehow the one at fault. And yet I have to. The jazz chords. The pacing. The endless stream of musical and lyrical cliches. The hellish singing. Did I mention the cliches? That Fender Rhodes doing that little sparkly thing at the end of every phrase. Oh dear God above, save me from this mediocrity. Better yet, just explain it to me. I look for inspiration elsewhere. Here is the top answer Google flung at me: The way Aja came on, it had a very authoritative sound. It was very well produced, had a lot of good players, and everyone was playing well. If it's musically great, you can get away with poorer sound. But here, with Aja, we had the trifecta: great performances, great sound, and great mixing. I notice it says nothing about the compositions themselves. I try again: There really isn't a dud on that whole album and it's so slick and well produced, you can really hear the time they put into it. Theres a great video on YouTube that goes into the making of Aja that helps to really appreciate everything that went into it. Once again I see the same thing: it's the work, not the product of that work. Levelling off a four legged stool is hard work, but i don't expect (or want) every visitor to my home to marvel at it. Again: Personal preference but I find myself lately going back to Katie Lied..and I mean daily. I mean...daily? Are they kidding? You can play this stuff daily? I can only assume that anyone who plays this noxious syrup daily must have some sort of existential crisis going on somewhere, that renders the least amount of challenge to the mundane peace of their daily life to be murderously close to a living dystopia. To me, this is music without redeeming features.

George Carlin : [about people who hold their babies in slings] 'These are the same people who sort their garbage, jog with their dogs, and listen to Steely Dan, you know? I'd just like to take them out to the deep end of the forest and disembowel them with a wooden cooking spoon.

7th April 2024:

GOAT

1st April 2024: Awaiting the arrival of my favourite Who album Quadrophenia on vinyl through the post.

This has to be one of the simplest and most effective videos I have seen.

This is telling:

Unfortunately for 'George', a conference regular, he always had to stay until the end. 'I have developed my own theory about Paul Dacre over the years, and that's that he is very much this shy and awkward, slightly scared chap who has built this weird fucking feudal court around himself to make himself feel more secure in the world, you know? And he really is the Absolute Ruler. I'd watch him sitting behind this huge desk in conference, harrumphing at the news list, with all these weird courtiers trying to win points, it seemed to me. Screeching away about 'Alan Rubbisher' [Alan Rusbridger, then editor of the Guardian] and anything mildly liberal. Year after year, on and fucking on it went. They were utterly obsessed with the bloody Guardian, it defines exactly what they do not want their Daily Mail to be. Dacre would grumble away himself under his breath about 'Polly fucking Toynbee' [the Guardian writer] as he marched to the lift. Everything Dacre learned about the world outside, it seemed to me, came from these courtiers. The more rabid loons in conference would just whisk Dacre up into a frenzy, and convince him there were hordes of Romanian refugees marching up High Street Ken - which Dacre could well believe, because he barely left his fucking office. The Stephen Lawrence story was one of those very rare exceptions where he actually met a member of the public - a plasterer working on his home!'

From Mail Men: The Unauthorized Story of the Daily Mail - the Paper That Divided and Conquered Britain by Adrian Addison (Atlantic)

30th March 2024: Finished binge-watching The Dropout on BBC iPlayer. An astonishing story, really and one the very much reminds me of the story of Napster. No one really seems to have taken the time to think 'is this right?' or is this working?

A RECURRING FLASHPOINT WAS a seventeen-year-old Haverhill, Massachusetts, high school student named Wayne Chang. Chang, the hacker son of the owners of two Chinese restaurants, knew Shawn from his earlier days as 'Napster', the fellow hacker. He found out about Napster the program early and took to it with a passion. After being made a chat-room moderator, Chang suggested to Shawn that the company also host a message board on its website for discussions that would be open to everyone, no matter what server and accompanying chat rooms they were connected to. Shawn agreed and put Chang in charge of the message board, which was visible to any Web visitor. That exposure put Chang in an unusually sensitive position, since the messages posted by Napster users included tirades against the record industry and open support of piracy, statements that would come back to haunt Napster in court. In one, a user wrote: 'We all know it's illegal. We just don't think it's wrong.' And the messages sometimes included recommendations for Napster competitor Gnutella, which Chang deleted.

From All The Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning's Napster by Joseph Menn (Crown Business)

Strangely, the one thing that I took from the view of Holmes was that she is not actually that dishonest, or at least not completely consciously. I think her problem is that she has simply no grasp of reality whatsoever, and that she was in love with her own cleverness to the extent that anything that contradicted that notion was simply to be ignored, which included ethics, mechanics, physics and economics.

But maybe the most bizarre thing about the whole story is the way Elizabeth Holmes presented herself. I mean, it's all very well to say that people can be photographed to look bad, dishevelled, tired, demented or stoned: but this is what she seems to look like in just about every picture of her, so you have to assume that this was how she wanted to be seen:

And in the same way that a tune sticks in your head, so I find that the tone of her stage-managed and affected voice has stuck in my head too.

She has a weird, fixated stare (and never seems to blink) and a voice like she's swallowed a ton of Quaaludes. Is she totally unaware of just how odd this is?

There is also an excellent documentary over on Amazon Prime called The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley that shows all the dramatic monents in the BBC series shown in reality.

TimeWerks 12

Using treated Mellotrons, samples of Mellotrons and artificially aged synths (recorded 30th March 2024)

Loving this style of working, where you seem to find yourself in the midst of something that has been going on for ages without you. And it's all over and gone inside two minutes. If I could, I would make it so this could only be played once and then it disappears. Maybe that's a decent AI idea: have it make something in a style at random and then play it once and once only.

26th March 2024: It was inevitable that something featuring in my head as strongly as it is right now should find its way into the music. Think of it as a musical quotation.

Looking for a decent bullhorn VST. There are a couple, but they just sound way too clean and polite.

26th March 2024: Ah. Fingerprince.

This one is by far my favourite Residents recording. I have it on second hand vinyl that I picked up at Ezy Ryder (journals passim - mine has the original brown/sepia cover and the vinyl feels solid) and have adored it from the first moment I played it. I don't think anyone on the face of the Earth has made anything remotely as strange and organic and downright weird as Six Things to a Cycle - not even Harry Partch himself, upon whom so much of the album seems to be predicated. (I know - I find that a lazy description too, as if that is all the work actually is) I mean, where else are you likely to find lyrics such as Chew chew GUM chew GUM GUM chew chew / Smack Smack Smack /Good, good coffee. Some people would slay for the ability to do this sort of thing, but these guys (I assume they are, anyway) seemed to have been able to do it in their sleep.

The CD release of course has to expand on the original release (which only lasts about half an hour) and includes the entirety of the included EP Babyfingers (which my vinyl didn't have) between sides one and two, and weirdly closes side two not with the fade to Six Things but instead has the strange guitar pickings and chimes of You Yesyesyes Again, which I don't think improves either. Still, I find the overall experience of listening to this deeply dark and mysterious album to be almost like the first time I heard it. I mean, I get it, but at the same time I don't get it. The whole thing is just surrounded by mystery to me.

And oh yes...what is that on the cover?

Some things don't need much interference...

TimeWerks 07

Using synthetic chimes, synth and massive reverb (recorded 25th March 2024)

I have no idea whence this emerged either. Some things just come together.

24th March 2024: That was one crazy Grand Prix, Australia. And the best man won. I think Checo Perez was just just being kind when he said that Ferrari would have won the race without Max's retiral. So many drivers have commented on the speed of the Red Bull. At least this one has mixed it up a bit now.

Max is of course still ahead of the field on points, which should come as no surprise. What might come as a surprise is that Lewis is only two points ahead of a young driver who had one FP session to get used to a Ferrari. I wonder if the Scuderia are maybe reconsidering their decision to take him on and oust Carlos?

21st March 2024: Sometimes, things fall apart. Sometimes they fall together.

TimeWerks 05

Using Piano, Mellotron and treated Woodwind and Voices (recorded 20th March 2024)

I have no idea whence this emerged.

19th March 2024: Tinkering has started. However, I realise that I didn't give Mekanik any eyebrows, then likely realised that it didn't need any. Or maybe that it didn't need it or even require it. Maybe I should spend less time agonising over tiny details that I will never notice again. Need more instinct.

It puts me in mind of this:

W█████ then continued with expressing the intricacies of writing music: 'It's a very strange thing when you're a musician and you work in these things, there are things to a layman which may seem like nothing that is really glaring and jarring. Though I did read that D████ said somewhere or other that if we listened to them both now we wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.'

No prizes for guessing the names.

17th March 2024: Mekanik released. Very happy with this one indeed. I don't think it gives you a moment to get bored.

Next up is something in a very similar vein indeed. Provisionally it will be called Timewerks but that may change. Again, a sample of 2 minute tracks.

Absolutely loving the artwork, both as a process and a product.

14th March 2024: If there was ever one character that I encountered as a child that made me realise that I might not be normal, it was this guy:

I think it was here that I genuinely started to overthink things. First off was the outfit. Not clownish, but definitely a pierrot, of some sort. But why was he not wearing clown makeup? That, plus the short back and sides, made me think that this was an ordinary person who had transgressed to such an extent that he was forced into this: he was condemned to be a clown. Every minute of his existence was therefore punishment. From the frilly collar, to the orthopaedic boots, right up to the rather silly hat - all were instruments of punishment. And witness the eyes, and the mouthless fear. This is a soul in hideous torment.

But I knew there was more. The lurching, cranking motion he put into turning the roller to show the credits looked so unnatural that I thought that maybe it was cranking him and his feet were bolted to the floor.

What had he done? Who can tell, but it seems clear he was musically talented as there was a lute there, and these are hard to play. But there was also a bass drum too with a soft drum mallet. When playing the lute there is no way to play the drum too, so that led me to the conclusion that he either plays the lute and then pointlessly hits the drum on its own at other times, or that he has access to studio nearby so he can multitrack this and that of course means having electrical power which could be the means to crank the handle and torture him. Or is it more sophisticated than this and he knows there power there but he is being forced to turn this contraption by hand? And who is he turning it for? His eyes meet our gaze, but are we in the room with him?

And who chose that wallpaper?

What room is he in? What is the room known as? Who cleans and tidies it? Where is the door to the room? What is on the other side of it? Are there others like him, cranking or being cranked? If he is not always a clown, does he get changed here? What does he usually wear? What building is this? Who built it, and when? What do you do with a bell and why? What did he do before he was a clown?

And who chose that wallpaper?

Mekanik is coming to a close shortly. I may make another exactly along the same likes afterwards.

7th March 2024: So what has been entertaining me other than Mekanik for the last two days? None other than this chap right here...

From what I can see it's better thought out than the McLaren and most of the construction is processed in a better order. For example, the wheels seem to be the last thing to go on now, which means you have a flat surface to work on. (I may have that confused with the Cada Alfa Romeo, though.

This is my progress up to day #2:

Notice the clear engine block with moving pistons and steering rack. Some of the detailing is really terrific, such as the diff and the rear wing with DRS flap...

And as ever, the manual is clear and a work of art in itself, almost.

I'd be building these for the rest of my days, if I could...

All done.

This really is a great model. Fabulous design. A really intricate build too. Excellent fun.

6th March 2024: I can barely believe my luck with this awesome error message I just encountered on the BBC web site...

I've played right through Mekanik today from one end to the other (27 tracks so far) and I genuinely think it's (a) a new approach, and (b) one of the best things I have done. I will listen to it for pleasure. I cannot say that for everything else, for sure. With this one there isn;t an opportunity for me to get bored of it.

5th March 2024: Playing this old chestnut today for the first time in a while and I am really enjoying it:

I first had this as part of the 1978 Harvest reissue known as Three Light Years in which this and the next two albums were released in a cardboard box without sleeves, but within transparent vinyl bags, and accompanied by a book of photographs and lyrics with more misprints than the Grauniad. The vinyl was also the first of its kind I had ever seen: with a bright enough light source you could see right through it, and it flexed like a wobble board. The late 70s were a bad time for this sort of thing. Represses were notoriously cheaply done and usually with little care or attention to detail. I am immediately reminded of the cheap Dutch imports (remember the slots cut in the sleeve of single album sleeves that were once gatefolds?) and Polydor represses that flooded the market. Hey the album was cheap. Who cares about pressing issue that popped the needle out the groove?

Anyway. The arrangements on this album are much better than the rather syrupy way they ended up, but they still have Bevan's big tanky drums banging away. Compare this to the slightly muffled sound on the next album and the utterly muffled sound on the next and you'll see what I mean. (Were the engineers at Musicland deaf? You really have to wonder about that sometimes) The songs are (mostly) decent too, although what I have here now is the 'extended' version which is blemished by having the rather mediocre Showdown halfway through it. I prefer the original run without this or the bonus tracks which I find unnecessary and a bit distracting.

The best moments are probably found on the first side, mostly because I don't much care for Ma-Ma-Ma Belle much, and the intro to the second side Daybreaker sounds just a bit too much like a 'warm-up triad' exercise at times.

I started on this one because I had this one as an earworm (from ELO II) and played it, enjoying it very much indeed. They really are one of those bands that you forget used to be good, and then listen to the right thing and have it confirmed to you. This one is probably the realisation of what they were aiming for all along, I think.

Unfortunately the rest of that album is pretty dreadful, even the (un)usually rated Kuiama at the end which really drags on at times. The instrumental passages are good, but when he starts singing it's the same verse structure and the same frankly crappy lyrics. I am not usually a fan of any rock lyrics, but Lynne is a really good example of what is deeply bad about most of them. His strength was as an arranger really. Lyrically it all just seems a bit...inane. The good news is that these are not his worst. In time they released Eldorado which is great (although they ditched their own string players for a string orchestra from that point onwards, aside from the odd Mik Kaminski solo which could be fun) and Face the Music which is mostly terrible, after which they totally ran out of ideas and ended up way less inventive than they were but went on to make much more money through mediocrity. Same old story, I guess.

Anyway. Here's the earworm.

3rd March 2024: Loads of ideas coming out now. Mekanik is really an expression of that. Forty tracks of two minutes each, which may remind some people of this effort:

Some people seemed to hate this one when it was released, seeing it as a cop-out to them becoming 'commercial' or something or other. One of the many daft accusations was that 'they made videos!' in an appeal to the MTV generation, or something. As we all know, they started off as a video project and found their way to music through the soundtracks they made for their (extraordinary) video efforts. I thought the album was weird and menacing. The NME review of it said that they made music like evil little apples, which is a phrase I have remembered for years as it's just about perfect. This one was a favourite at the time and remains so.

That whole album is actually still a favourite. The idea of doing 40 one minute songs was really a stroke of genius, which I assume was on their part. If there is one thing on the album you don't like, there's 39 others to choose from. Moisture features a Resident doing a very over the top guitar solo:

Here is a picture of Homer Flynn.

William Poundstone, author of the Big Secrets books, compared voiceprints of a Flynn lecture with those of spoken word segments from the Residents discography in his book Biggest Secrets. He concluded, 'the similarities in the spectograms second the convincing subjective impression that the voices are identical', and that 'it is possible that the creative core of the Residents is the duo of Flynn and Fox.' A subset of that belief is that Flynn is the lyricist and that Fox writes the music. The online database of the performance rights organization BMI (of which the Residents and their publishing company, Pale Pachyderm Publishing [Warner-Chappell] have been members for their entire careers) lists Flynn and Fox as the composers of all original Residents songs, including pre-1974 songs from the 'Residents Unincorporated' years.

Some people seem surprised by this revelation. Just listen to Homer's voice and draw your own conclusion. Everyone and his dog knows that the band was Homer Flynn, Hardy Fox, John Kennedy and Jay Clem.

I did this one today:

Mekanik 24

Using assorted Voices and Synths, and processed acoustic sounds and effects (recorded 3rd March 2024)

I think that's quite wonderful.

1st March 2024: There seems to be a glut of good, free Kontakt libraries out there now. I've got a few of them (but not all of them) and will be making assessments later.

29th February 2024: Shout out to these new free libaries for Kontakt from Fracture Sounds...

All seem to be excellent so far, particularly the Gentle Winds which has a texture all of its own. Nice to find original sounds at long last. I wonder how many pianos I have...

Mekanik is coming along at a great speed - it's almost done. The idea here is that I find something cool and express it for 2 minutes and no more. The plan was to include 20 tracks, but I am very much thinking of upping that to 40, maybe even 60. Some of the new libraries I have either acquired or developed are so good that they almost play themselves.

27th February 2024: Watching this with interest on live feed:

One highly illuminating expert witness on firearms explaining the minutae of how single action revolvers work. It's great to watch someone who is totally in command of their subject. Also appalled by just how bad the IT solutions are in the courtroom. They cannot play video or hear audio without some melodrama happening.

It's also odd to watch court proceedings like this and even weirder to watch it with occasional commercials. Fortunately NewsNation has relatively few.

It's very obvious from the testimony heard so far that the armourer who is accused of negligence had a catastrophic set up and had live ammunition mixed with blanks and dummy rounds, and live rounds were found all around the set. It is little wonder that Baldwin ended up with a live round in the gun he was using. It also seem that her checking of the gun was sloppy and her rtecord keeping non-existent. They have also thrown in the fact that she smokes dope and tried to get another member of the drew to hide a bag of coke for her too, but that may or may not have contributed to her catastrophic disorganisation.

What may have, though, is a dick like Baldwin shouting at everyone to get stuff done on the double, directing the film himself (he was not a director) by waving a firearm about, pointing the gun during a shoot at the camea crew and firing blanks at them at close range, and generally having about as much idea of gun safety as Yosemite Sam. This trial will hang the accused out to dry, but Baldwin's ought to crucify him.

26th February 2024: Jesus wept....it's -4 outside according to my phone. (That's a phrase that would have seemed incomprehensible 30 years ago.)

I have just had a bloody awful experience with Monzo who chose to shut down my account when I attempted to make a legitimate transaction. The fact that they employ security is not the issue, but the fact that they lock off the account for over 12 hours certainly is. Worse, if you phone them they cannot help as it 'all has to go through the app chat', but no one seemed to be listening to it.

Very unimpressed with this. A pity - there is a lot to commend them, but their customer service stinks. UPDATE: turns out that the transaction was triggered by AnyDesk being on the phone and possibly open at the time. Maybe I should be impressed by this, but my major beef is the slowness with which they responded. The initial message I received at about 21:30 yesterday said that it would take 30 mins to resolve this. It was not resolved until 15:00 today.

24th February 2024: So Scotland has utterly dominated a mediocre and mistake-prone England team in the Six Nations...

And the hero of the day is undoubtedly the utterly magnificent Duhan van der Merwe who put three tries past the English, the first being a opportunist take from the relentless Huw Jones, the second being a work of resounding individual skill, and the third being something that is just glorious.

But the above shows something else about the third: the kick-on from Finn Russell which might well be the best I have ever seen.

He also kicked 100% when he is kicking about 60% for Bath.

A magnificent team. A magnificent performance. It's not enough to just beat England: we have to humiliate them. And we did.

But...the shocking refereeing decision against France, plus the team's inability to really crucify a team for bonus points means that we are short of five points: we should be one behind Ireland as opposed to six. And as we all know, BPs always matter in the end.

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.

Also some other great stuff on Pianobook for Decent Sampler. 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:

Freakshow BACKMASK

A CHAOTIC REVERSER PLUGIN BUILT TO MAKE MOM PROUD. BACKMASK USES GOVERNMENT APPROVED PARADOX PROCESSING TECHNOLOGIES TO EXPOSE THE HIDDEN TERRORS OF MUSIC.

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.

Pluphoriant 05

A work in progress...

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...

Pluphoriant 04

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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