Category Music

Disempowering the user.

I think what really happened was that in the early days of personal computing, decisions were made to give the user an enormous amount of freedom, to communicate without barriers and to share files. And consumers started to use those to, you know, trade information, outside of the boundaries of the law. Since about 2007 or 2008 though we've seen a complete shift in this paradigm. Since that time the technologists and the rights holders have really been working together to disempower the user and to turn them more into a customer. So the goal is no longer to empower the computing user, it's to extract value from them. And I think if you look at your smartphone you'll see that: it's a lot more closed than a PC used to be. You almost always have to go through a corporate intermediary. And that was not the case in the early days of computing. There was a period there where the average user had an extraordinary amount of power to do, basically, what they saw fit.
This is a quote by Stephen Witt, author of 'How Music Got Free', as mentioned in The Pop Star and the Prophet (around the 20 minute mark), a BBC podcast published back in September --- if you're a music lover in addition to a technology enthusiast, you should listen to the podcast and, perhaps, read the book. And while his book is probably only tangentially interesting to anyone interested in the history of technology, but without an interest in music, the quote couldn't possibly be more accurate or well-put.

Goodbye Dave.

I don't know why, it could be the cold weather or just coincidental, but December is fast becoming the month so many good Jazz and Blues musicians of ol' pass away. Oscar Peterson, for example, in 2007. Or James Brown a year earlier. This time it's Dave Brubeck. 'Take Five' is the piece most identify him with, and 'popular' doesn't even begin to describe its appeal and success --- recognizable by so many generations in the fifty one or so years of its existence. Yet his work goes well beyond than this single track that everyone feels so familiar with. After all, who, in their right mind, could possibly forget 'It's a Raggy Waltz', 'Blue Rondo A La Turk' or 'Take The A Train'. Dave was undoubtedly one of the great pioneers of his time.

Cube – Cube (2012)

I don’t often write about Greek bands and for good reason. If there is one thing one can write about the rock underground in Greece is that it is unpredictable. Its rare highs exceptional, its frequent lows painful and the…

Bon Iver – Bon Iver (2011)

Bon Iver - Bon Iver (2011)Two days of listening to Bon Iver (the new album) by Justin Vernon's synonymous band. Part of me admires this guy for evolving, for moving on and not capitalising on what he achieved with 'For Emma, Forever Ago' three years ago. Yet another part of me is sad; all that made "For Emma" the jewel it is, is all but gone from this album: the emotion, the pain, the pure, unadulterated sound and simplicity of Vernon's voice + his acoustic guitar. Without arrangements, without electronics and fx*, without guest musicians or overengineered sonic landscapes. That's where 'Bon Iver' is different to its predecessor and so much like other contemporary indie/folk albums: there may be some glimpses, sporadic moments of brilliance that reminded me why I liked the band in the first place, but as a whole it's an average album. But then again, it is clear to me that 'For Emma' was the exception, not only because of how it was produced (the product of a three month seclusion at a cabin in northwestern Wisconsin), but also because of the ripple it created exactly because it was so authentic yet so different to everything else that made it stand out. In that respect 'Bon Iver' is nowhere near 'For Emma' territory, but still an album that showcases Vernon's songwriting ability and unique voice. * Ok, there is some autotune in use in For Emma..But it really doesn't detract from the statement above.

Brett Garsed – Dark Matter (2011)

Brett Garsed - Dark MatterIt's nine years since Brett Garsed's last solo album, Big Sky. And while his output has more or less declined in volume this past decade, his latest album, Dark Matter is a great example of contemporary Rock Fusion, along the lines of Big Sky as well as many of his numerous appearances and collaborations. Although I only got the album a few hours ago, I have found it to be particularly interesting in that it literally 'fuses' (pun intended!) several familiar --- at least to me --- related styles: Vintage Satch, Liquid Tension Experiment, touches of Holdsworth, Fripp, Metheny and Shawn Lane. The tracks are more upbeat and energetic than those found in Big Sky; jazzier at times, heavier in others, with a distinct bent on fusion. I particularly enjoyed Avoid the Void, Dark Matter and Enigma, although I cannot say that any of the other tracks were disappointing. Dark Matter may be an interesting album, yet it is somewhat typical of the genre, which has been largely stagnant for years. It may lack the exceptional feel one finds at times in Big Sky --- there are no tracks like Trinity or Drowning, for example --- but includes many tracks with more uplifting, polished and --- I might argue --- technical deliveries of interesting compositions and improvisations that lean heavily on Garsed's signature technique and sound. For those enjoying rock fusion, progressive rock and virtuoso guitar instrumentals this is definitely an album worth getting and listening to. Those more familiar with Garsed's competence and compositional skills (and more demanding of their music) may have expected a bit more.

Fingers & Maschine = Groovy.

If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I would've never have believed this came from a human messing with a pad. What you can't see from this video is the volume pedal that Haynes typically uses, which takes dynamics to another level, nevertheless this is insanely good.

The Books – The Way Out (2010)

The Books are back! After four --- long --- years The Books return with The Way Out. An album upon which they've worked for a year and a half, it is a gradual evolution of their fantastic work of the early to mid 2000s. Familiar, yet daring in parts, The Way Out felt like 'more of the same' at times, with some notable exceptions (e.g. 'I Didn't Know That'). The 'experiment' that was Books keeps going; The Way Out may be interesting, true to The Books heritage, and evolved, but somehow the end-result is not as immediately attractive as their previous works.

Guitar Rig 4

Two years after Guitar Rig 3 was released in autumn 2007, the fourth iteration of the software modelling application for guitarists was released by Native Instruments. This time around a combination of an ever increasing workload, little free time and…

The Books

One of the most impressive and original groups that I’ve listened to in the past few years, I’ve been meaning to write something more substantial about this for ages, but never got around to doing it. Difficult, but warm, exceptionally…

Slammin' Magnatune [For No Good Reason]

For some unknown reason someone [or a group of people] have been hitting Magnatune hard with credit card fraud, to the point where the company was dropped by their payment processor. This is a great example of how a good company [and one that helps artists worldwide] gets harassed by 'criminals' only to find itself punished by the very same people whose inadequate systems are responsible for the mess in the first place: Visa. John Buckman reports that Magnatune saw ⅓ of its subscriber base disappear due to this change [Magnatune is now depending on PayPal for its credit card transactions and the fact that each payment goes via another entity makes it slightly harder to charge the recurring fees subscriptions bring, without asking the users to register with PayPal etc]. As regular readers may have noticed, I am a great fan of Magnatune; both ethically and artistically I find their effort and business commendable and I have, over the years, found several excellent albums from that company. I hope that things get better for them soon. As a sidenote, I really wonder why someone would hit Magnatune in this manner. Clearly it's not aimed at getting hold of the music, given that you can get the tracks for free anyway...