Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

I am of two minds about this

I am nearly as unenthusiastic about mediocre amateur rap as I am enthusiastic about subatomic physics.  But here it is anyways in case you have yet to see it:

Physics: A.  The video is informative without being too technical.  Alpinekat expresses a very high level confidence that the experiments will either confirm or deny the existence of the Higgs boson, which surprised me.
Lyrics: C-; not bad for the most part, but several lines scan poorly and I cannot abide that.
Arrangement: D+.  It is no longer clever to use Simpletext-rendered “gangsta” phrases in a song.  Sorry.

There’s a somewhat bizarre FAQ at CERN’s website to reassure the public that the LHC will not destroy the world.  The first beam test is scheduled for Wednesday, and you can apparently watch it live.

More on Phase

Yesterday I mentioned the iPod game Phase in passing.  Phase is a music game: you listen to a song and score points by pressing buttons in a pattern in time with the music.  The cool feature is that you aren’t restricted to playing with the game’s built-in soundtrack: you can add any song from your library to the game.  If that description sounds even vaguely interesting to you, it’s worth five bucks.

For me, the quality of the follow-along patterns make or break a music game.  The patterns should be intuitive for a player with a good sense of rhythm.  In other words, the challenge should come from following the patterns, not figuring out what they are.  This is pretty tough, and an algorithm to generate them is quite a technical challenge.  Here’s my experience.

House of Jealous Lovers, The Rapture.  I boldly opened the game on “Medium” difficulty.  The song was pretty fun to play, and the pattern kept the beat nicely.  But it was very easy; I got nearly perfect accuracy on the first try.

Supernaturally, Nick Cave.  I bumped up to “Hard” difficulty.  I thought this song might give the algorithm trouble; in addition to the distinctive rhythmic figure, the loud songs on this record are compressed to hell.  To my surprise, the generated pattern was fantastic and quite intuitive.  This song was tons of fun to play, not the least because it’s so stirring and easy to get into.  Man, I fxn love this song.

Tigerbastard, Mu.  The pattern started off fine, but it sorta lost the plot during the break.  I felt like I was just striking buttons at random for a while.  Unfortunately the break is pretty long, and I got a little bored of this track.  Being a masochist, I moved on to ..

Pygmalion, Venetian Snares.  If you’re not familiar with him, this song might euphemistcally be described as “high information content.”  I wasn’t sure what the algorithm would make of the complex and irregular rhythms.  The pattern seemed a tad too regular during the frantic parts, but I’m seriously picking nits here.

Any flaws?  It’s way too easy to press pause accidentally.  My hand hurt pretty badly after three or four songs, but I have comically large hands and a comically small iPod.

Overall, I was quite impressed with the technology.  The game is a fantastic time-killer if for no reason other than forcing you to pay more attention to your music.

Travel notes

I just got back from a trip for Day Job.  Some notes:

  • The guy next to me on the flight out was definitely cranking House of Pain on his iPod.
  • The iPod game Phase is a great way to pass time on a plane.  On this more later.
  • You find Kaosillators where you least expect them.
  • If you download a bunch of podcasts before a flight, you should make sure you have the “sync podcasts to my iPod” button turned on.
  • I greatly enjoyed guitar goddess Kaki King’s new-to-me record Dreaming Of Revenge.  30-second review: “Pull Me Out Alive” has the best hook; “Montreal” has the best guitar work; “Saving Days In A Frozen Head” has the best line; and “Can Anyone Who Has Heard This Music Really Be A Bad Person?” has the best title.
  • If you have time to kill in a major American airport, and you want to meet some interesting people, find a bar showing a soccer game.

Prophet 08 review

William H of Inside Synthesis and Sonic State has part two of his in-depth Prophet 08 video review up.  Here’s part one, a bit higher-level, if you missed it; it includes a interesting comparison with a vintage poly synth, but not the one you expect.

Band name of the day

The Aneurythmics. They have a droney garage-band-from-space sound to them. You can download Fathom from Amplified Music Pollution. I haven’t decided if I like it yet, but give them points for the name.

Trivia: the proper name of the 80s band is Eurythmics, not The Eurythmics.

(HT: Inq)

Other people’s music

I just got my hands on Abiku and Kid Camaro’s 7″ “Split.” I don’t really know anything about Abiku, but Kid Camaro is a friend (and, in fact, Aaron’s former roommate).

Abiku / Kid Camaro - Split

The A side belongs to Abiku, and “Regency” is the highlight. “Feel” and “Bobby” are shouty electro-punk that appear to be intentionally difficult to listen to. But if you’re going that route, you need to give the listener a reason to make the effort, and I must have missed it.

On Kid Camaro’s side, “Drop” is gorgeous and worth the price of admission by itself. Meticulously chopped breaks support 8-bit melodies. It’s both catchy and intricate. “Dusk” pairs more NES sounds with a drum and bass background.

You can get “Split” for four paltry dollars– that’s just 96 rubles!– direct from Automation Records. Or, if you’ve already sold the turntable, it’s also available from iTunes.

Here’s another Kid Camaro tune, a demo he made for my soft synth Mopis:

[audio:http://www.mopis-synth.com/audio/kid_camaro_tubeworms.mp3]

The traditional sense of the word “techno”

I just finished listening to Sessions, the new Carl Craig anthology/mix CD. I found it refreshing more than anything else. I don’t mean it was a welcome change of pace from whatever; I mean the synths are crispy, the beats are tight, the arrangements are clean, and it feels like drinking a lager on a warm spring evening. If you like Detroit it’s worth a listen. But if you like Detroit, you probably don’t need me to tell you that.

It’s only nine bucks from Amazon digital downloads, which works out to less than three cents per minute. If you just want to sample one song, I would recommend the Grammy-failing-to-win remix of “Like a Child” or the techier “Oscillator.”