Month: May 2014

Shakuhachi concert, 28/5/2014

Simon Barker performs.

Simon Barker performs.

I spent part of last night at a performance of shakuhachi and percussion works at Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music. The players ranged from student to shakuhachi master (and grandmaster) level, and while the event did have some slightly off-target moments, it was good to see how a casual approach to programming and execution – and at a free concert! – can yield rewards. (more…)

This guy right here

Lately I’ve been listening to Kirin J Callinan‘s album Embracism lot. It’s a bizarre thing, all spiky and full of what could be joking but likely isn’t. The filmclip above should give a good overview. It’s very weird, kind of sweaty and sexual and puts me in mind of an electro Dave Graney in the way that nobody can really figure if it’s serious or not because it’s so honest. Or is it?

Regardless, it’s great. Particularly when you get to stuff like this:

I think the appeal is in that it rides the line between like and dislike so adroitly. There’s always a question in mind – do I like this? – while listening, which to me is a mark of an artist (if not good) then worth investigating at least. Doesn’t strike me as much preaching to the choir going on here.

Anyway, the reason for this post is that Kirin is currently seeking some funds to continue touring the album and making some more music. It’ll receive funding but he’ll still make a loss, so in the last twelve hours why don’t you go and help out? The list of rewards is worth a couple of bucks alone. Arm-wrestling anyone?


Oxbow: An Evil Heat (2002)

Oxbow: An Evil HeatThis is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word. 

Once in a while, a record comes along that makes you question the sanity of the people who made it — or a CD makes you feel that there’s something, at a basic level, terribly wrong. An Evil Heat is one of those recordings. Try taking the big guitar sound that was found on some Rage Against The Machine tracks, and giving it to the Birthday Party. Pour them full of crack and paranoia, and then make Nick Cave slur more, utilising a vocal technique that varies between the squalling of newborns, the ranting of mental patients released into the community, and demon wails.

Like The Jesus Lizard after a stay in prison, Oxbow‘s music is dangerous, in-your-face and utterly compelling. Their live act is described as “live cock fun”, which is pretty much what you get here: demonic cock-rockin’ riffs, corralled by someone who sounds like he’s working through some serious problems. It’s truly oceanic. (more…)

Robot songs of bookish love

This article is great, because it details the process by which an algorithm – called TransProse, no less – can take the ’emotional temperature’ of literature and generate a piece of music on the results. Such as this, gleaned from A Clockwork Orange.

I’m kind of thrilled about this because I’ve always loved the way computers can take stuff we’ve created and make things from them. When I was younger, I used to play around with a DOS program called MARKV, which would eat any text you fed it – the longer the better – and then return output based on Markov Chains. It was random but it also relied on statistical examination of what pieces of data sat next to, so you’d receive something back which followed the kind of rules required for construction of lucid text… but in a very strange way.

I’ll wait. There’s an online version here. Go check it out. Or, better yet, feed album reviews or party political statements into it: the result is no more confusing than the real thing.  (more…)

New The House In The Woods review

My review of The House In The Woods’ Bucolica has been published over at Cyclic Defrost. I liked it so much I actually bought my own copy before I’d even finished writing the review.

A sample:

The principle of Bucolica appears to be obfuscation; snatches to gain orientation. ‘Untitled Blackniss’ is the sound of waiting, as something large and mechanised – accompanied by the pan-pipes of the damned – comes. ‘Dark Lanterns’ offers a feast of winds and pregnant statis, while ‘Favershell’ is a soundtrack to a procession of the devotees of Dagon, heard from a few streets over. You can hear something either excellent or fucked is occurring just over there – but you’re uncertain you need to see it. It’s not going to make you feel any better, is it?

Read the full review at Cyclic Defrost.

Written in the WordStars

“I actually like it, it does everything I want a word processing program to do and it doesn’t do anything else. I don’t want any help. I hate some of these modern systems where you type a lower case letter and it becomes a capital letter. I don’t want a capital. If I wanted a capital, I would have typed a capital. I know how to work the shift key.”

I was pleased to note that George R. R. Martin (whose mammoth tomes I’ve just begun to read) is fervent about something other than wearing that cap. He is one of a dying breed – the DOS user! More particularly, he uses WordStar to crank out his lengthy bestsellers. Not for him the (now Clippy-free) white screens of Microsoft Word or its free replacements. He eschews the fancy writer-friendly face of Scrivener. Instead, he spends hours facing this:

Mmm, chunky.
I said ChKWord, goddamnit.

Nice.   Of course, this isn’t the first time he’s mentioned this method of working. This LJ update provides more information on his working process, most notably this:


Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen: Journey Through the Land of Shadows (2005)

Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen: Journey Through the Land of ShadowsThis is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word.

Additional note: Jesus, is this a long review. There’s some video throughout to ensure you don’t die before reaching the end. 

Since forming in 2000, Mikelangelo And The Black Sea Gentlemen have been gathering accolades for their superlative, part fairy-tale, part cabaret, part cautionary huckstering live performance. Playing a number of festivals worldwide – including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – they’ve honed their approach and reeled in punters with an ear for the more curiously strait-laced (in a completely Victorian, bodices-and-waistcoats kind of way) side of the gypsy-folk spectrum. (more…)

Book review: The Undeground Man

The Undeground ManThe Undeground Man by Mick Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jackson’s Booker-shortlisted book is a real gem. It’s a strange amalgam of fictionalised history, memoir and gothic horror – gothic body horror, come to that.

It takes its genesis in the life of William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland, but rapidly diverges from the accepted record. Using a combination of diary entries and testimonies or statements, the mole-like additions to his home at Welbeck Abbey are described, as is his increasing infirmity. There’s a lovely turn of phrase in the Duke’s private reminiscences, and the reader if left wondering if it’s the result of a poetic soul, or of dementia. (more…)

New Nagual review

My review of Nagual‘s self-titled LP has been posted at Cyclic Defrost. I swear the people at that site must think I’m like some kind of Kurtz, going dark for ages and then sending strange proclamations downriver when least expected. Suffice it to say I just wrote what I heard.

Here’s a sample:

The track moves slowly, steadily towards the light until, a third through, a buzzy, busy sound (akin to a melodica or harmonium) comes through. It’s a Carnatic contender against the large-fisted drone, and becomes more insistent as the track moves, by turns sinuous and deadly, as if charming electronic snakes. The ear’s inability to discern actual instruments – was that a clarinet? – places the listener delightfully off balance a very vocal line swoops against itself, like Narcissus and his own reflection. Until, that is, the track becomes a riot of either buzzsaws or traffic noises, like a Tzadik album abandoned by a freeway, left to bum its way to Masada.

You can read the whole thing here. I really enjoyed this album, so I hope you enjoy the review.