The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'cds'

2013/12/31

As 2013 draws to a close, it's once again time to look back on the records of the year, and so here is this year's list (ordered by artist name):

And this year's honourable mentions go to: Beachwood Sparks - Desert Skies (summery Californian retro guitar-pop; formulaic as all hell, but done decently; a stylish haze of displaced nostalgia), CHVRCHES - The Bones Of What You Believe (2013's hipster-friendly electro smash; like a more euphoric, less witchy Purity Ring), Crocodiles - Crimes of Passion (Crocodiles' most poppy record so far, produced by Sune Wagner of Danish rockabilly pop combo the Raveonettes), Day Ravies - Tussles (a promising début from a new Australian band in a lo-fi/shoegaze/skronk vein; this will take more listening), Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus (a worthy follow-up to Tarot Sport and their Olympic opening ceremony appearance, albeit in a darker vein), Mazzy Star, Seasons Of Your Day (another in 2013's crop of comeback records, this time from the pastoral dreampop combo), Momus, with two releases; the stripped-down almost bluesy Bambi and MOMUSMCCLYMONT, the funky self-titled début of his collaborative project with David McClymont, the now Melbourne-based bassist of Scottish indie legends Orange Juice, My Bloody Valentine - m b v (a worthy and intriguing follow-up to Loveless; now let's see what they do next), Neon Neon - Praxis Makes Perfect (a concept album about an Italian Communist book publisher during the upheavals of the Years of Lead, executed in electropop/yacht-rock style), OMD, English Electric, and Pet Shop Boys, Electric (two similarly titled albums from two veteran synthpop acts bring two different approaches; OMD bring the gravitas of High Modernist heritage to the genre, as evident in tracks like Metroland, while the Boys take it to the dancefloor with some hard grooves and their usual wry lyrics), The Paradise Motel, Oh Boy (the Motel's concept album about Australian masculinity sees them change into a band almost unrecognisable from the haunting Tasmanian Gothic of their early EPs; this record starts with a ballsy, bluesy growl and goes on from there), Pikelet, Calluses (loop-pedal wizard Evelyn's latest goes into loose-limbed mutant-disco territory than Pikelet's previous works, with funky basslines and coruscating synth arpeggios melding with the exotic tonalities one has grown to expect), Still Corners, Strange Pleasures (Still Corners' second album is a brighter affair, with more of a spacious 80s dream-haze thing going on), Yo La Tengo, Fade (YLT's latest is a warm, layered and subtly idiosyncratic affair, building on their legacy, and doesn't disappoint), various artists, I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America, 1950-1990 (forget the airbrushed dolphins-and-rainbows kitsch and cynically made cash-in attempts for sale in crystal shops, this is a compilation of original compositions by various inspired individuals and eccentric experimentalists, complete with biographical liner notes, and, musically, is a lot more interesting and nuanced).

Nothing immediately jumps out as a record of the year, though Samarís and Underground Lovers are strong contenders; had Black Hearted Brother come out earlier, it could well have given them a run for their money.

My gigs of the year would be:

  1. Loney Dear, Majornas Missionsyrka, Gothenburg, 5 October; Loney Dear performing a number of songs, including some classics and a few new ones, accompanied by a chamber orchestra, in a rather lågom church next to a Gothenburg tower block. The orchestral arrangements were exquisite, and the whole experience was worth the flight to Sweden.
  2. Kraftwerk, Harpa, Reykjavík, 4 November; not having managed to see them in London or New York, I jumped at the opportunity when they announced a show in Reykjavík, making my second trip to Iceland of they year. The show was spectacular; more about it here.
  3. Haiku Salut, St. John's, Bethnal Green, 12 October; Haiku Salut playing in a church, accompanied by several dozen electronically controlled lamps that lit up in time with the music. A great show and a somewhat twee spectacle.

For your listening pleasure, there's a streamable mix taken from the records of the year here.

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2012/12/31

And now, as usual, here is my annual list of records of the year:

With honourable mentions to: Jherek Bischoff - Composed (a nice set of instrumentals from the other guy from Parenthetical Girls), Carter Tutti Void - Transverse (two former members of Throbbing Gristle and up-and-coming electronic ecstasist Nik Void reinvent the idea of “trance music” along similar lines to New Order's Video 5-8-6), Dead Can Dance - Anastasis (DCD pick up where they left off, with just a little more electronics), DIIV - Oshin (driving, motorik guitar/bass/drums workouts, with reverbed vocals floating above; just barely missed the top 10), Dntel - Aimlessness (Jimmy's latest effort, which sounds more like Life Is Full Of Surprises than Dumb Luck to me), Greeen Linez - Things That Fade (1980s Japanese City Pop-flavoured hauntology from two English blokes based in Cambridge and Osaka), Heligoland - Bethmale EP (five subtle, gently shifting soundscapes from the Paris-based, Robin Guthrie-connected Melburnian shoegazers), Memoryhouse - The Slideshow Effect (Memoryhouse return with a fuller lineup and an album more in a rock/pop idiom than their EPs), Milk Teddy - Zingers (languid yet slightly dishevelled and somewhat leftfield guitar-based rock by a new Melbourne band), Momus - Bibliotek (One of Mr. Currie's two contributions this year, this one without a collaborator, in the cut-and-pasted electronic chanson style he now favours), Peaking Lights - Lucifer (interestingly dubby arrangements of lo-fi electronics, home-organ beats, tape delays and sparse vocals), Saint Etienne, Words And Music By Saint Etienne (the thinking indiekid's Kylie contemplate the meaning of pop music and the passing of time), Sunbutler - Sun Butler (Momus and Joe Howe's second collaboration following Joemus), Swans - The Seer (a record of brutal, transcendent ecstasy which makes Grinderman sound like Michael Bublé by comparison), The 2 Bears - Be Strong (in two words: “Dad House”; in more words: late-thirtysomething blokes who know more about dance music and cratediggers' classics than most flex their production muscles and have fun doing it), Ultraísta - Ultraísta (the Radiohead producer's own effort, which sounds like late Radiohead minus all guitars and Thom Yorke's new-world-order weltschmerz but instead substituting motorik rhythms, layers of warmly detuned analogue synths, fuzzy drones and hypnotic female vocals), WeShowUpOnRadar - Sadness Defeated (somewhat more stripped back than the Nottingham project's previous EP).

Had I to choose an album of the year, it would be either Tigercats' Isle Of Dogs or The Wake's A Light Far Out; two very different records it would be very hard to choose between.

The rerelease of the year would have to be Clag - Pasted Youth, which is more of a retrospective compilation of the Australian twee-punk band's releases and live gigs, long unavailable except on badly digitised MP3s, now remastered and accompanied with liner notes. Were there to be a track of 2012, it would be Peaking Lights' Lo Hi.

For your listening pleasure, there is a mix here.

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2011/12/31

And now, here is my list of notable records of 2011:

With honourable mentions going to: Evan Abeele, Lineage EP (an understated instrumental album from one half of Memoryhouse; subtly lovely), Amor De Dias, Street of the Love of Days (Lupe from Pipas and Alasdair from The Clientele's new project; languid bossa-tinged pastoral pop), Apparat Organ Quartet, Pólyfónía (the Icelandic kraut-pop combo's first record in about six years sees them get less heavy and more chiptuneish), Bachelorette, Bachelorette (the New Zealand electronica artist's final album under that name is a more organic affair than the previous ones), Brave Irene, Brave Irene (Rose Melberg (of The Softies/Tiger Trap)'s latest project goes back to an upbeat garage-pop style; should fit well alongside All-Girl Summer Fun Band), Girls' Names, Girls' Names and Minks, Over The Hedge (two bands doing a slightly gothy, in a John Hughes way, 1980s-influenced guitar pop), Greeen Linez, Greeen Linez (a revival of 1980s boogie groove as instrumental electronica; look for it in a mixtape or DJ set near you), Help Stamp Out Loneliness, Help Stamp Out Loneliness (Dee from the Language Of Flowers' new band, in a new-wave-tinged pop direction), Jens Lekman, An Argument With Myself EP (Jens' first recorded work in some years reveals a more Afrobeat direction; the title song also recounts a drunken walk across the north of Melbourne, and the somewhat maudlin reflections on said walk), Loney, Dear, Hall Music (slightly less bleak and more organic than the predecessor; the closing track, What Have I Become? is particularly lovely), M83, Hurry Up We're Dreaming (the latest instalment in their journey sees them put aside the John Hughesisms of their last album and sound more like Toto or The Police, all yelped vocals and gated drums, only with more synths), Memoryhouse, The Years (technically disqualified as it's a rerelease of last year's EP, with a few new tracks, tough it bodes well for their upcoming album), Ringo Deathstarr, Colour Trip and Spotlight Kid, Disaster Tourist (two great contemporary takes on classic shoegaze; the first from Texas, the second from Wales), Xander Harris, Contamination (a Bandcamp-released EP of synthesised instrumentals, which borrows from electro-industrial, ambient and kosmische musik and does so well), Zola Jesus, Conatus (with her pop melodies, electro-industrial synthpop backings and dramatic voice, Zola shows us the middle ground between Lene Lovich and U2).

Were I to anoint one title as my record of the year, the accolade would probably go to My Sad Captains.

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2010/3/6

Poptimist Tom Ewing has written a future history of the 2020s CD revival:

But for the fans, the music is still at the core. Unlike today's collaborative, crowdsourced, and automatically generated playlists, a CD's tracklisting is fixed, and the CD-burning scene is an opportunity for music lovers to show their deep individual loves of music, its sequencing and presentation. The 74 Sessions is one of many CD-burning clubs and groups-- some ban members from remixing or mashing up material, others ask people to theme their CD-Rs. Chantal Fielding, who runs the Prismatic Spray trading club out of Rochester, NY, loves the way CD-Rs make her focus her fandom. "You've got all this information, literally everything you look at you can find out everything about it right there, and for music that means there's no mystery anywhere. So saying no, you can't explore endlessly, you have to reduce it down-- it's powerful."
The romance of CDs in Ewing's 2020s world isn't just about working within finite physical constraints, like a sort of music-curatorial Lomography; while there is that, and undoubtedly an element of nostalgia as the hipsters and scenesters of the day relive hazy early childhood memories of the CD age (you've probably seen these kids, being wheeled through Stokey or Fitzroy in three-wheeled prams, dressed up in their Ramones onesies), a lot of the physical media revival would be driven by a backlash against the network-centric age of social software, recommendations, playlists and crowdsourcing, and the ever-hungry target-marketing apparatus beneath the surface. (Or, as one of the interviewed CD fetishists says, "when you can't see what the product is and someone's still making money, the product is you.")
While earlier physical-music movements fought to preserve analog formats in the face of digitization, CD revivalists see music's physical existence as a rebuke to a world where people's digital presence has overtaken their physical one. "It's not just about the music," explains Wolfe. "Words like 'social' and 'sharing' became absolutely twisted. It used to mean things people did together, now it's about how well you fit into algorithms. We leave snail trails of data everywhere, and all 'social' means now is that two trails have crossed and somebody's making money off it. Forcing people to collaborate for a fuller experience helps restore some of the real idea of 'social.'"
Wolfe sees CD-R revivalists as part of a 'post-social' wave of digital mischief-makers and situation-builders, in the tradition not of industrial or noise culture but of Fluxus and Neoism. He's sympathetic to "troll artists" like bot-creators and recommendation-scramblers. A friend of his was involved with the 'artificial hipster' Karen Eliot, a digital taste bundle whose infiltration of music friendship networks in 2020 caused scores of trusted playlist generators to start throwing in 00s tracks like "Starstrukk" and "My Humps".
Another dimension of CD revivalism would, of course, be the sonic characteristics of the medium; the brittleness of 44kHz 16-bit audio compared to what everybody's listening to in the future. Of course, the revival would take this even further; much as 2000s "electro" ramped up the electronicness of 1980s synthpop by throwing in anachronistically vocoded/robotised vocals, some participants in the CD revival will go beyond the limitations of the CD and start playing around with low-bitrate audio compression, with subsubcultures of hipsters settling upon a right form of crappiness as a cultural touchstone.
The sound on most CDs Wolfe releases is deliberately low-bitrate, with a glossy, uneasy, skinny sheen that's a stark contrast to the lossless warmth of most streamed music. Some fans call lo-bit music "ghostwave", because, as Hall Of Mirrors act Cursor Daly puts it, "you start listening to stuff that isn't there, phantom sound-- your ears are filling in the gaps. Below 128 kbps you're essentially hallucinating sound, no two people hear the same thing. Loads of CD nerds were neuroscience majors."

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2009/12/30

Another year is drawing to an end, and once again, it's time to look back on the past year in music. So here's my list of the top records of 2009, in alphabetical order.

With honourable mentions going to: Aleks & The Ramps, Midnight Believer (it's good to hear a new album from them, though a bit more understated than Pisces vs. Aquarius), Atlas Sound, Logos (nice summery ambient pop; the guest appearances by Panda Bear and Lætitia Sadier are particularly good), The Brunettes, Paper Dolls (the New Zealanders move further from their doo-wop retro-pop roots, in style if not in themes; they're still the band who sing about boys and girls holding hands and feeding ducks, but it sounds like they've been listening to a lot of Architecture In Helsinki), Decoder Ring, They Blind The Stars, And The Wild Team (the project, always hovering in the spaces between electronica and post-rock, moves further into post-rock territory), The Depreciation Guild, Dream About Me (only a 7", and sold out except in MP3 form, but a damn fine song for the shoegazers out there, with the same sort of dreamy romanticism as Slowdive's "Alison"), The Horrors, Primary Colours (though only Sea Within A Sea really grabbed me), Loney, Dear, Dear John (a darker record from Emil; where I could hear unrequited longing in the predecessors, in this one, time has run on, the flame has sputtered out and the cold shadow of death looms all too near; or at least that's what it says to me), Misty Roses, Villainess (more genre-movie-quoting loungecore from the transatlantic duo), Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (immaculately assembled pop from Paris), various artists, Dark Was The Night (a collaboration between 4AD and the AIDS charity Red Hot, consisting of indie bands doing folk standards and their own pieces; there's a thread of the longing for human intimacy running through the record, and perhaps an echo of This Mortal Coil in places). Not to mention three rereleases from significant artists: Another Sunny Day's London Weekend (on Cherry Red, with bonus tracks, including an entirely unexpected OMD cover), Spearmint's extended edition of A Week Away (weighing in at almost twice the original's length, thanks to the generous helping of bonus tracks) and, of course, Kraftwerk's magisterial box set, The Catalogue.

Were there a gong for the record of the year, it'd have to go to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

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2008/12/31

And now, here come the lists of things of the year. Starting with the top 10 records of 2008 (in alphabetical order of artist's name, as usual):

With honourable mentions going to Pelle Carlberg - The Lilac Time (with some great songs, such as the transparently B&S-esque 1983 and a song about how crap Ryanair is, how can you go wrong?), I'm From Barcelona - Who Killed Harry Houdini (their second album, which is not quite as exuberant as their debut, though still good for a fix), Los Campesinos - We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (the limited-edition second album from the Welsh tweexcore combo; good, but next to The Deirdres, sounds a bit too shambolic in places), The Motifs - Cross Paths (most of the tracks on this came out last year, which is why it's not in the top 10; otherwise, it's excellent), Slow Down Tallahassee - The Beautiful Light (girl-group indiepop with attitude from Sheffield). I'd probably have added Fleet Foxes to one of these two lists, had I ordered their CD earlier. As for things which didn't make it: well, the new Hot Chip album didn't grab me as much as the previous one did, and 2008 was the year Of Montreal disappeared into a vortex of self-parody. Their live shows should still be good, though.

If I were to choose a record of the year, 2008's would be Moscow Olympics' Cut The World.

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2008/5/19

I recently received in the mail a new EP by a band named Moscow Olympics, and have been listening to it rather a lot (as is evident in my last.fm stats). Anyway, I think this is a cracker of a record, and possibly the début of the year.

I found out about Moscow Olympics' Cut The World via the indie-mp3 blog (though had heard the band mentioned before), and ordered a copy. Soon enough, an envelope arrived bearing Swedish postage stamps and containing a CD, its cardboard case printed with photographs of the interiors of 1980s East German apartments.

The record itself starts strongly, with gated drums straight out of 1988 and the plaintive ringing of a guitar line; within the first 30 seconds of the first track, What Is Left Unsaid, it is obvious that this is going to be a slice of classic indiepop in the post-C86 vein. Choppy guitar chords, wistful chord progressions, tensely wound rhythms and Hookier-than-thou melodic basslines are reminiscent of the likes of The Bodines, Factory-era Wake or something from Manchester before it became Madchester; just listening to the record, one is transported back to northern England in the 1980s, to visions of row houses snaking their way downhill under the leaden glow of grey skies; views from grotty bedsit windows, the BBC on the telly, and the miners' strike in the headlines. Which is all the more unusual, as the band hail not from Thatcher-era Grey Britain but from Manila, in the Philippines. Yet, obviously, they are driven by a deep love of 1980s British indie-pop, as this record is imbued with its spirit, with all the awkward exuberance that still keeps this genre fresh and relevant.

The next two tracks go on as the record started; in the fourth track, Safe, the vocals, which already were low in the mix and washed with reverb, blossom into full-blown shoegazing à la Slowdive or Secret Shine. Meanwhile, track 6, Ocean Sign, ramps up the New Order influences, with extra-Hooky basslines; it almost sounds like something off Low-life. The finale and title cut starts innocuously, but rises to a crescendo of gloriously delayed guitar, like a brighter, sunnier version of Slowdive's Primal (the closing track from their first album), before exiting gloriously in a tail of shimmering reverb.

I'm tipping this to be one of my records of 2008. Well done, Moscow Olympics.

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2007/12/31

And now, with 2008 knocking on our door, it's time for the annual lists of things of the year.

acb's top 10 records of 2007 (by order of artist):

As for the record of the year? That would have to be The Motifs' "Away".

Honourable mentions go to: Architecture In Helsinki, Places Like This (a pumping, funky muscle car of a record, which sounds like Cameron has been mainlining the Cookie Monster's steroid supply since In Case We Die), and Soft Tigers' Gospel Ambitions and The Brunettes, Structure and Cosmetics (two records for those who find AIH's new direction too macho); Butcher Boy, Profit In Your Poetry (the great Glaswegian tradition of indie-pop has some worthy heirs keeping it alive), iLiKETRAiNS, Elegies To Lessons Learnt (everything you'd expect from the Leeds collective; post-rock dynamics and lyrics about subjects such as the Black Death, assassinated Prime Ministers of the early 19th century and Donald Crowhurst; were they around 20 years earlier, they'd probably be classified as "gothic rock"); Jens Lekman, Night Falls Over Kortedala (which has its moments, though seems to have lost some of the poignancy and melancholy of his earlier works); Midnight Juggernauts, Dystopia (which stands apart from the electropunk/wolfdisco/nu-rave crowd, as while some others are all attitude, the MJs have good songs and a pop sensibility, as well as grooves to rock the trucker hats off the trendies); Pikelet, s/t (another promising new talent from Melbourne, this time making pop songs with a loop pedal, accordion and percussion); School Of Two, s/t (slightly shoegazey lo-fi electropop from Jason Sweeney, of Prettyboycrossover and Simpàtico) and Mist & Sea, Unless (another Jason Sweeney project, this time working with Vince Giarruso of Underground Lovers).

Next: my list of the gigs of 2007.

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2006/4/10

I recently acquired a copy of the special edition of the new Morrissey album, Ringleader of the Tormentors.

I must say that I was impressed by the packaging design. Those who have seen the CD package will know that it is styled on classical records. However, only when you open it up do you notice that the disc itself is designed to look as much like a vinyl record as possible, black on the underside (like the old PlayStation CDs) and with vinyl-like ridges along the top (like the Verbatim Vinyl CD-Rs). Which was a rather nice touch. I suspect that only the limited-edition copies may have this:


The album itself is not bad either; it's a more optimistic album than a lot of Morrissey's previous work, including You Are The Quarry, with songs like At Last I Am Born ("once I was a mess of guilt because of the flesh, it's remarkable what you can learn once you are born"), not to mention Dear God Please Help Me, whose Moz-angsty title belies its hopeful, upbeat tone. It's as if, having left socially atomised Los Angeles (and, before that, grey Britain) behind for the dolce vita of sunny Rome, Morrissey has found somewhere he feels content, made peace with his past (as evidenced in On The Streets I Ran) and decisively buried his awkward celibate image (you have undoubtedly heard about the "explosive kegs" lyric, and possibly about his mystery romance in Rome).

Musically, it follows on from Quarry. Moz's lush quasi-falsetto is still there, couched in equally lush arrangements. Among collaborators on the album are producer Tony Visconti (who has worked with David Bowie, among others), guitarist/lyricist Jesse Tobias (that's Mr. Angie Hart to the JJJ listeners in the audience), and the legendary film composer Ennio Morricone, who does a string arrangement on Dear God. Oh, and there's also a children's choir, though it's kept unobstrusive and appropriate.

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2005/12/31

And here are my records of 2005, in no particular order:

* these are Australian releases with no overseas releases; you can buy them from here or here.

Honourable mentions go to Architecture In Helsinki, In Case We Die, Broken Social Scene's self-titled album (which I received only in the last days of the year, too late to fully get into, though I get the feeling it may be a grower), LCD Soundsystem's self-titled album, The Magic Numbers' self-titled debut (which has some strong guitar-pop tracks, though is a bit bland in places, and may not be a proper CD in all territories), Momus, Otto Spooky, Francis Plagne, Idle Bones (which has a few good songs and a lot of meandering ambient field recordings; were the ratio reversed, it'd be quite impressive), and Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, #3.

It was also a good year for rereleases, with the entire Field Mice back-catalogue seeing the light of day again, in the form of new releases of Snowball, Skywriting and For Keeps, all extended with non-album tracks, and all three Slowdive albums (Just For A Day, Souvlaki and the exquisite Pygmalion) being rereleased—the first two with bonus discs full of EP and live tracks—through Sanctuary; meanwhile, neo-shoegazer Ulrich Schnauss's first album, Far Away Trains Passing By, is seeing the light of day again (good to see that Domino are using their NMECarlingnuwaveartrock windfall for good).

My gigs of 2005:

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2005/12/15

Freedom To Tinker has a tutorial on how to create "copy-protected" CDs, describing how the protection works:

Notice that the tracks are grouped into two sessions -- essentially two independent CDs burned onto the same disc. Unprotected CDs that combine audio and data files contain audio tracks in the first session and a single data track in the second. The only difference in the passive protected CD you just created is that the second session contains two tracks instead of one. ... This simple change makes the audio tracks invisible to most music player applications. It's not clear why this works, but the most likely explanation is that the behavior is a quirk in the way the Windows CD audio driver handles discs with multiple sessions.
For an added layer of protection, the extraneous track you added to the disc is only 31 frames long. (A frame is 1/75 of a second.) The CD standard requires that tracks be at least 150 frames long. This non-compliant track length will cause errors if you attempt to duplicate the disc with many CD drives and copying applications.
It says that this only works on Windows. I wonder whether this is the same scheme as used by EMI Australia, circa 2004. Their scheme resulted in errors reading the table of contents under Linux, with tracks having anomalous lengths. Strangely enough, it only worked on some drives: a then-recent Pioneer DVD drive choked on it, but an old 24X CD-ROM (borrowed from a beige G3 Macintosh) had no problems.
Despite these limitations, who wouldn't enjoy finding a homemade copy-protected CD in their stocking? They're a great way to spread holiday cheer while preventing anyone else from spreading it further.

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2005/11/25

Never ones to allow reality to get in the way of the Great War on MP3 Terrorism, Sony BMG, the company behind the copy-protected CD rootkit, have announced that they will be adding copy protection to CDs in Australia. Perhaps someone in the Australian office missed the memo about DRM having been thoroughly discredited throughout Sony BMG by the recent rootkit fiasco. Though the company has announced that the CDs will magically prevent users from making copies without causing the problems that affected users of their CDs in the US, so that's alright then.

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2005/11/10

It looks like Sony's CD copy protection compromises Macintoshes too; at least if you're trusting enough to enter the administrator password. Which just means that Sony's copy-protection geeks haven't found a local privilege-escalation exploit in MacOS X that they can use. (I'm sure that Sony would believe that they are within their rights to do this because their prerogative to control access to their intellectual property by all means necessary overrides the user's right to maintain the integrity of their computer, and the ability to use it to potentially use Sony's IP in unapproved ways.)

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2004/7/5

I picked up a copy of The Clientele's most recent album, The Violet Hour, today. As far as sound goes, it's much the same sort of thing as their previous album, Suburban Light; reverbed vocals and slide guitars and live drums, a bit like a less twangy, more ethereal Mojave 3, or perhaps like the Warm Inventions with male vocals instead of Hope Sandoval.

Anyway, this CD came with a data section containing two MPEG files of videos for various songs. These videos take the form of two monochrome Super 8 movies, and suit the music perfectly. The Reflections After Jane video consists of shots out of the window of a moving train at passing houses and trees, reflections of trees and the sky in puddles, and two blokes walking along a path. It appears to have been filmed in the environs of London or nearby, and makes no attempt to hide the everyday nature of its setting. We see rows of terrace houses, post-war brutalist tower blocks and semi-detached suburban houses go past, amidst the everyday magic of the play of light. Which, I suspect, is the whole point of the title of their first album.

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2004/5/18

A quick review of various items which arrived at my PO box today:

I also got a copy of that CD of HP Lovecraft-themed retro fonts. Had I paid any more for it, I'd be disappointed; some of the letter spacing is a bit inconsistent, and more annoyingly, all the fonts have "HPLHS" as the style (where "Bold", "Italic" and so on should be), with the different weights and slants in each family showing up as separate faces. I suspect that the designers are not professional typographers (btw, who would call a font "Italic"?)

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2004/5/9

It looks like there's a new Slowdive CD release coming out on the 24th; titled Catch the Breeze it's presumably a best-of/retrospective, though details are scant. Oddly enough, it's not being released by Sony but by some outfit named Castle.

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2003/12/29

The Onion AV Club's Least Essential Albums of 2003 list includes things like awful poet Jewel's Britneyfication (I'm surprised Liz Phair didn't make it onto the list; though perhaps she was 2002), Russell Crowe's pub-rock band, and the usual dodgy tribute albums, band members' solo albums and the obligatory Tupac necrophilia. (They also give a gong to Dave Gahan's solo album, in which they have a dig at Martin Gore's Counterfeit2, which I thought was quite decent.) (via Rocknerd)

Meanwhile, the Graun has a list of 50 things we'd like to see less of in 2004.

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2003/11/25

I picked up the Kill Bill vol. 1 soundtrack CD today. Like film soundtrack CDs (well, the better ones, anyway), it's a bit of a mixed bag, though has enough good moments to make it worthwhile. Nancy Sinatra's Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) is, of course, beautiful and haunting, and Bernard Herrmann's Twisted Nerve is a very stylish piece of retro ambience. Luis Bacalov's The Grand Duel (Parte Prima), taken from the score of some old film, is spaghetti-Western music in the Morricone tradition, and I'm sure I have heard Zamfir's The Lonely Shepherd before. I wasn't too fond of RZA's contributions, particularly Ode to Oren Ishii, a rather gratuitous piece of gangsta rap. (I suppose it makes marketing sense to have it there, though, and it probably beats having LL Cool J rapping about whatever cardboard-cutout character he played in his latest film.) The CD is padded out with loops of drumming and sound effects created by RZA for combat sequences; listening to them is not unlike listening to an electronic-music magazine CD of free samples.

One annoyance: they only put a bit over a minute of Neu!'s Super 16 on the CD. Given that the disc clocks in at 59 minutes, they could have fit the whole track on it. Though perhaps it'd have cost them higher licensing fees or something.

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2003/10/31

My copy of the new Ninetynine EP, Receiving the Sounds of Science Fiction just arrived. I've posted a brief write-up to ninetynine_fan. I'll probably write something more detailed later, possibly for Rocknerd.

Executive summary: it's all good.

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2003/10/28

First impressions of the 3 CDs which arrived in the mail today:

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2003/10/7

Pitchfork's list of the 50 most common CDs in secondhand shops, each bagged with Tanya Headon-esque exactitude. The words "shoegaze", "grunge" and references to Dawson's Creek/90210 and aging yuppies disposing of their Lollapalooza merchandise upon moving to the suburbs come up repeatedly. (via VM)

Though I think they were entirely unfair to Lush's Lovelife (a good record, even if it is somewhat more mainstream than Split; tell me that Runaway or Olympia aren't good songs, and 500 (Shake Baby Shake) doesn't have a classic pop appeal).

cds lush music pitchfork 4 Share

2003/9/15

The new Ninetynine mini-CD is out, and it's called Receiving the Sounds of Science Fiction (how's that for a cool title?). So how do you get it? Well, you can't buy it, but you can get it by joining the Dark Beloved Cloud singles club. No, it's not a dating service. To join, you send your details and six hand-decorated 3"x3" cards (which will become the artwork for other people's singles) to a PO box in New York.

If your creative skills aren't up to it, you can always wait for the UAR Australian rerelease next year, which apparently will have bonus tracks. (I wonder what those will be; new original material, remixes, live tracks, or multimedia content?)

(Thanks to Leigh for the heads-up)

cds diy indie ninetynine 5 Share

2003/7/4

I got the limited-edition CD version of the new Radiohead album yesterday (from the US, where it's available on proper CDs). I haven't listened to the whole thing yet, but I've noticed some differences from the preview: there are additional, rather faint, voices at the start of the first track, for example. Disappointingly, however, they've cut the entire third verse out of The Gloaming, reducing it in length by some 50 seconds.

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2003/6/11

I've just ordered Radiohead's Hail to the Thief from the U.S. The local copy, you see, is "copy controlled" (i.e., distributed on a deliberately defective CD which doesn't work in some computer CD-ROMs and other devices). It works well enough if you run Windows and run a player application on the CD, not minding the poor quality of the low-bit-rate WMA versions provided and having to have the disc in the drive the whole time and trusting EMI's proprietary player program not to spy on you, delete your MP3s or fux0r your registry out of malice, stupidity or both, but if you use Linux, you're SOL. Unless you're lucky and your CD-ROM drive ignores the "Copy Control" voodoo and lets you rip everything without a hitch; but IMHO, that's not good enough, and if the local EMI subsidiary disagree, they can do without the hefty subsidies I've been paying them over the years. And with the peso being at a high, ordering from the U.S. is affordable again.

This isn't the first EMI disc of which I've ordered a Red Book copy from abroad. A while ago I picked up Goldfrapp's new one, Black Cherry (which is OK, though not as good as Felt Mountain; and it does seem that she's trying to be fashionable and jump on the '80s tinny-synth neo-electro bandwagon like everybody else), and Martin Gore's Counterfeit2 (which is very, very nice; basically a collection of covers, done with the combination of cold electronic glitches and bleeps and aching humanity that Depeche Mode fans will feel right at home with; I'd say it's probably better than any Mode since Violator, in fact). I also picked up the quasi-official fan edition of David Bridie's Hotel Radio (which is also excellent, and not as far from Martin Gore's territory as one would think).

Of course, some EMI titles have fallen by the wayside; for example, I probably won't be bothered to import the new Placebo album.

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2003/4/9

Information on CD copy-denial systems and how they work.

I got my hands on four EMI Copy Controlled pseudo-CDs today, for research purposes. One of them appears to be a regular Red Book CD with no bogosities, but the other three have corrupt TOC data. It's funny because generic IDE CD-ROMs, like the one on my old Mac, rip them perfectly, whereas both the DVD and CDRW drives on my Linux box choke. More on that later.

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2003/3/25

I picked up the new Seascapes of the Interior album, All Safe, All Well today. (I won it from 3RRR's Local and/or General show last night.) It's pretty impressive; six tracks, ranging from just under 2 to 20 minutes, lots of lush, multi-instrumental textures with piano melodies, guitars, synths, violins, chromatic percussion and sampled voice fragments; very atmospheric and textured. And that applies to the packaging too; the disc came in a two-part sleeve of very rough recycled paper (mine still has pieces of newspaper classified ads visible; your mileage will doubtlessly vary), printed in monochrome and with a window cut in the outer sleeve.

Seascapes are launching this CD at the Great Britain Hotel this Friday; I probably won't be able to make it, as the once-off Strange Tenants reunion is on that night. Oh well.

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2003/2/7

A somewhat iffy review of the new Massive Attack album in the Graun. To be honest, I'd agree with much of it; a lot of the songs go on for too long and yet somehow seem somewhat flat, at least compared to Mezzanine. Though it's not all that bad an effort.

Indeed, on the only occasion when 100th Window props itself up and makes a point, you wish it had stayed supine. A Prayer for England concerns child abduction and murder - an issue virtually ignored by the media in recent years and thus in desperate need of the boost in profile that only a protest song on a chill-out album can deliver. It's certainly difficult to argue with the thesis - infanticide is a bad thing - but a point this facile hardly warrants O'Connor's finger-wagging fire-and-brimstone routine. By the second verse, she is addressing God as "Jah", an affectation that recalls a wackily hatted student reaching for his bong. At this point, one's thoughts do turn to murder, but not quite in the way the song intends.

(Is 100th Window the 18 to Mezzanine's Play? Discuss.)

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2003/1/11

I've been unusually disciplined so far this year, with regards to CD buying. I'm trying to keep my habit under some measure of control (for reasons which will become apparent later), and not to grow my collection too rapidly. So far, the total number of CDs I have has only increased by two.

Over the past two weeks I picked up Flunk's For Sleepyheads Only, an OK piece of chill-out electronica from Norway. It hasn't really grabbed me; the version of Blue Monday there, incidentally, is a bit irritating IMHO. (Aside: why is it that every cover of that song ends up sounding disappointing; we had Orgy's whiny mall-goth take on it, Pee Wee Ferris' cheesy commercial-dance cover (don't ask), and Flunk's, while not dire in the way that they were, is still disappointing.)

Last night, I picked up local spoken-word artist Klare Lanson's Every Third Breath; which is mostly ambiguous cyberbabble over glitchy, vaguely Björkish electronic beats and bleeps (proviced by Cornel Wilczek, aka Qua), replete with lyrics written in cod-XML. It's technically quite good, though whether it'll have lasting appeal remains to be determined.

Today I went to Dixon's Recycled and picked up three more CDs, though sold three which I wasn't likely to listen to anymore. One of my new acquisitions were plunderphonic art piece Deconstructing Beck (on a classy unprinted CD that just screams "copyright violation"). Another was an equally (if not more) choice find; one of the Least Essential Albums Of The '90s. That's right, dear readers; I'm now the proud (but only in an ironic sense) owner of The Adventures Of MC Skat Kat & The Stray Mob. It'll sit proudly in the bulldada section of my record collection, next to Acid Brass, my Wesley Willis CDs and Spaced Out: The Very Best of Nimoy/Shatner.

blue monday bulldada cds electronica kitsch mc skat kat music new order qua records 10 Share

2002/11/24

A brief review of a few of the CDs I picked up in the UK (well, the ones I've had a chance to at least partially digest), in alphabetical order by artist:

ballboy below the sea bis cds curve high llamas lists music the cure trembling blue stars uk 2 Share

2002/9/13

Hmm... Ninetynine's The Process comes out on Monday, and chaosmusic.com already have a page for it. The track listing looks very promising (and the excerpts I've heard on 3RRR do too). The artwork doesn't seem to have the same indie-geeky quality of previous albums (they've ditched the graph paper, I see, along with the numerical album title thing), but it's probably appropriate, as their sound has become more fluid and organic and, dare I say, more mature.

Right now, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this disc.

cds indie indiepop music ninetynine 3 Share

2002/8/23

An Israeli company has developed CD-ROMs which cannot be copied. The CDs contain a smart card with a photodetector and LED and a chip containing a decryption key; to decrypt itself, the software requests the key from the card. Though I'm skeptical about the practicality of such a system; CD-ROM drives are read-only devices, and whether or not the software can control the laser enough to communicate with the chip (to send requests for codes) seems rather uncertain, given that it's not part of any standard that drives have to comply with.

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2002/7/21

In live music news, Ninetynine have completed recording, mixing and mastering their new album. It'll be titled The Process and should be out in 3-4 weeks.

(I dragged myself along, doped up on pseudoephedrine, to see them tonight. They put on an intense show; more so than you'd expect from a group of people who had been up for 48 hours putting the finishing touches on an album. And they're playing in about 2 weeks' time at the Rob Roy.)

cds gigs indie ninetynine 4 Share

2002/6/16

Angry Robot reviews the new Curve album, which is only available by mail-order from a UK niche retailer. Sounds promising, though I'm not sure if I'll buy it; I've already got 3 Curve albums I don't listen to much and mail order from the UK is expensive. (Besides which, they never got back to me about the remix I sent them.)

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2002/6/13

Oh yes, I picked up the new Piano Magic album, Writers Without Homes, today. Currently am halfway through it. The packaging is very nice (4AD's house design firm v23 were involved), and so far, the album sounds mellow and understated, with poignant bits of atmosphere, song and spoken-word about lives, stories and such. I think it'll take a few listens to fully get into though.

When I watch old films in which animals appear, I get sad because those animals are certainly dead now. And that certainly prompts my private epitaph and I have to say it out loud "That dog is dead. That cat is dead. That horse is dead..."

Interesting to see that Simon Raymonde, of Cocteau Twins/This Mortal Coil fame, is involved on some of the tracks here. (This sort of cross-pollination, I've noticed, is something characteristic of 4AD acts; what, with This Mortal Coil, and Robin Guthrie producing the first Lush album, and so on...).

4ad cds piano magic post-rock 5 Share

2002/5/19

Looks like Curve have a new album out, The Adventures of Curve, and this time they're self-publishing and self-distributing, after the recording company dropped the ball with their last release. That's what to get when you sign to a major label and you're not Limp Bizkit or Puddle of Mudd or some other fashionable yoof-metal outfit, I suppose.

Meanwhile, further down on the page, it appears that the new CD from Californian swirlygoth-turned-drum'n'bass outfit Love Spirals (formerly Downward) is out, and the description sounds somewhat interesting. I may have to give it a spin next time I'm near Heartland. (via Cos)

cds curve love spirals music 0 Share

2002/4/4

A propagandistic News Corp. article about the evils of coin-operated CD duplicators, how they threaten to kill musical artists, and how outrageous it is that they're perfectly legal, as a result of our inadequately lax copyright laws. (Keep in mind that News Corp., along with Disney, is one of the major advocates of legally mandating copy-protection in all electronic devices in the US.)

NEW machines installed in Adelaide convenience stores make the illegal copying of the latest CDs and computer software - which costs artists and software designers millions of dollars - as easy as buying a loaf of bread.

It also makes legal copying of CDs you already own, for backups or use in the car, for example, or of your band's demos, or whatever, easy. But we all know that consumers have no legitimate reason to copy CDs.

The machines are able to operate under the same legislation as public photocopiers, where the burden of responsibility for copyright breaches lies with the user and not the owner of the equipment.

How much do you want to bet that there'll be legislation in parliament to remedy this promptly?

cds copyfight piracy 3 Share

2000/10/19

I just picked up the EP Freckles, by local band Minimum Chips. So far, it's pretty good; I'll have to look out for them live. (Graham, you should probably check them out as well, as they sound a bit Stereolabesque.)

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