One week since you looked at me…

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NUS PhotoThe irony, of course, is the more time you spend doing exciting things to make for exciting bjournal entries, the less time you have to actually write them. Happily for you, the reader, I have been busy this past week but not with particularly exciting things so you’ve not missed out on much. Before we talk about the tasking efforts of the past few days I should mention my new radio show on URY (University Radio York), beginning tonight at 11pm (GMT). My plan is to avoid the usual radio fare (which will not be too hard given I don’t actually know what the usual radio fare is) and, hopefully, play some things that are wholly unfamiliar to the audience. I have a couple features prepared, though more will certainly follow as the weeks go on. I would prefer to have a co-host, to be honest, but I’ve done radio shows and podcasts before without one, so it’s really a matter of getting back into the swing of it. Mostly, it’s nerves I reckon, which should be overcome during this first show. And I do know through experience that good preparation means the show is 90-99% done before you even get started.

The new Benrik book was released recently. A best of collection of the best tasks from all their books as selected by their readers, it’s a good place to start with life change. Plus, I am in it as both a contributor and, in form of actual photographic evidence, as one of the best of Benrik readers. This is a more ordered approach than my own, which has this past week seen me trying to have too much of a good thing, giving up shaving and pondering loafers.

The first of these tasks seems simple enough on paper to most, I’d imagine. The specific thing of which I was to have too much was alcohol, which they equated to 17 beers. I bought 18, giving one to the housemate who leant me his evil jester costume to wear into town last Tuesday, and got stuck in as early as possible on my mid-week rest day, figuring an endurance challenge would be better than trying to go at speed. In roughly six hours of trying, I managed only eight, not even crossing over the halfway threshold. I’ve never been much of a drinker (before getting to university I hadn’t had a drink for about three years), so it’s possibly understandable, but it does mean I am keeping up my pitiful rate of success.

Not shaving is something that will apparently draw attention to yourself. This is a fine theory when not at university where it seems most of the men are too lazy to do it even as much as once a week. As the task fell at the start of the month, a few of us in the house agreed to do the Movember thing (albeit not for charity, but if any of you do wish to make a donation, you can do so to the charity of your choice). A “before” image of sorts is above, a picture taken for my NUS Extra card; another photograph marking the “after” stage will be posted at the end of the month. I’m not really a hairy person, so don’t expect too much.

Finally, for the time being, I was told to wear loafers (or to come to terms with the fact that I never will). I thought about going out and buying a pair, as they’re easier to slip on than my current shoes and I don’t like walking around the house with nothing on my feet, such is the nature of student living. My physiotherapist actually wants me to invest in a pair of shoes as the hightop sneakers I am currently employing offer little support, but she suggests running shoes. I wanted some running shoes anyhow, so shall head into town on the weekend and get some. I have worn loafers in the past, so I can consider this a task done.

I am hoping for something a little more unusual to do, that might actually require a small (but not so small as this) amount of effort on my part, but for the moment I have plenty enough work to be doing. And that radio show, of course. My understanding is you can play shows back that you have missed, so I would be delighted if I had some listeners, even retrospectively.

Addendum: I can’t pick my next task at the minute as my computer is completely absorbed in ripping one of my oldest CDs. This one has grown a little tired, so I’ve got a programme fixing all the frames that haven’t come out quite right as it rips them, one by one. So far it’s taken almost 41 hours to rip and it’s working on the 11th track of 20.


Nightmares on Wax, Part 1: Richard Quin – The Last Leviathan

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Last LeviathanA few years ago I started collecting bad vinyl, a direct result of exposure both to WFMU and the first 365 Days Project. I trawl through vinyl bins in charity shops and markets to see what horrors lurk amongst the multitudinous Sound of Musics and James Last compilations.

In Snooper’s Paradise in Brighton, England, I found my favourite ever stall. There was almost always something there worth picking up. I had, at the time, a £1 limit on my vinyls, mostly to stop dramatic overspending, and would usually try to acquire full-length albums. Richard Quin’s The Last Leviathan (Denver Records, 1978) broke this second not-quite-rule, but it looked too special to ignore.

Getting it home, I put on the A side and began my usual hunt for information about what I had procured. What I found, even after my laughter had abated after the sixth consecutive playthrough, was nothing. Not a thing. One person in one forum had mentioned having heard it, but admitted knowing little else about it, and that was it. More recently, it has turned up on discogs, but again all the information included is that which is on the reverse of the cover, which you will also found dispersed about this entry.

Both A- and B-side were written by Richard Quin (who seems to have nothing else to his name and doesn’t seem to have an actual web presence, barely even a footnote via that of somebody else) and arranged by Andrew Pryce Jackman. It is a record with a cause, that cause obviously being to alert mankind as to the potential plight of the whale. The A-side is sung as by the titular creature, the last member of his race, driven deeper and deeper into hiding to escape “Man with [his] spear“. It is what Do They Know It’s Christmas? would have sounded like if, instead of feeding the world, they had instead attempted to save the whales. By this, I mean it is ever so slightly egregious; though, to me, it was a rare delight. I played it over and over again quite happily, never even turning it over to see what the other side was like. It was only last week, having had the record in my collection for a good three years or so, that I finally flipped it and heard what was lying in wait on the other side.

Somehow, it managed to be even worse than I had been expecting. A curious piece of prose poetry, If Only … is Too Late is perhaps Richard Quin’s true voice, listing off all the things that could have been done differently (including listening to the whales themselves, and everybody being “friends of the Earth“) to prevent the dystopian future that lies in wait for our aquatic cousins over the sound of the muzak of the elevator to Hell.

I’m not sure anybody having heard this would have been roused particularly to take up the cause in defense of the whales (I must admit feeling slightly compelled to procure a harpoon gun myself on some listens), but in case I’m wrong I’m providing both songs below. I’m doing it for the whales.

The Last Leviathan

If Only … is Too Late

If any of my readers has any information on Richard Quin, I’d love to know what you’ve got. I’m especially intrigued to know if there are any other Quin recordings out there.

For those that really feel the strong desire to sing along, the lyrics can be found after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Overdue Reviews, Part 1: Decomposure – Humidity Patient Guide

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

For a long while I’ve been sent CDs and have promised I’d review them. As it was at the time, I was between blogs, but now I have one I like the look of and intend to get back into the swing of things. The first of these albums I was sent almost a full year ago. So now you know what I’m dealing with. However, not everyone will have been made aware of these albums as they were released, such is the nature of the sort of things I am sent, so I still feel the reviews are appopriate.

Decomposure’s Humidity Patient Guide was this first album. It took over a year and a half to emerge from its very beginnings, a sample recorded by Mueller of somebody buying a condo. From here, he decided to record one new sample every day to compile into a mixtape style mix, though not of the easy, throwaway nature of which there are many dozens recorded and sent out every day by those DJs seeking to make their fortunes from music; not only did Mueller agonise for months on end on how to piece this album together, coming close to abandoning it at one point (I, for one, am pleased he did not), but himself describes his purpose as “unprofitable,” though “non-profit” is the term more generally accepted that better describes his ethos regards the methods used more and more these days to distribute music.

Indeed, H.P.G. is a free album, available from Blank Squirrel Records (link direct to the album page – a click on “Buy Stuff” will lead you to a page where one more album is available for free and another is available to buy). If you like it, all he asks is that you donate. You’ve nothing to lose, so why not give it a go?

More or less all I’ve done thus far, however, is to summarise Mueller’s own detailed description of his work. So, you might be wondering, what do I think of it personally? Having somehow stumbled onto the work of Matthew Herbert (I forget how precisely, but it was a good while after this before I located and purchased one of his albums), who has a particular manifesto when it comes to samples and their use, I appreciate the organic nature of the electronic composition used by Caleb Mueller on this work. The elements used seem somehow disparate, but all come together in a concrete whole. I would hate to use that tired comparison to the work of the impressionist painters and how the it becomes cohesive only when viewed as a whole… but I suppose I just did, albeit by proxy. This is almost certainly down to the desire to create a mixtape; the sound and style of each of the excerpts (such as they are called) are determined not only as isolated incidents, but as a direct path from start to finish, dictated as much by the availability of samples but by the material on either side. As the construction of albums become, arguably, less and less relevent, this is one example of why this extended format can still offer much as an part of our ongoing cultural development.

That said, two excerpts are provided below for your delectation, along with another link to the site from which the full album can be downloaded free of charge, or with a donation if you so choose.

Excerpt 1

Excerpt 2

Download: Humidity Patient Guide

Rolling out.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Eiron Page here, beginning yet another bjournal (I prefer to keep a web journal), the one which pretty much promises to be my last. If I can’t keep this one then there’s no hope for me and I should admit it to myself that I am not a writer and stop trying.

So, I’ve had this thing sitting about empty a little while waiting for me to write something. I’ve wanted to move here because Old Fridges Can Kill is a name I’ve been using for a while as a catch-all for my various projects (I call it my ‘production company’, even though it’s only me and I’m not all that productive at the best of times). Casting the Net will continue to be (or, at least, will resume being) my podcast on netlabels, though I may begin hosting it on the Internet Archive if I am able, but writing here will give me a little more freedom to explore other things, write about what interests me generally, waffle on about things going on in my life and point out things around the Internet that have captured my attention. I shall, much of the time, also endeavour to perform a task, selected via my own unique method from a database compiled from various books. I have made an effort to do the first of these to the best of my ability tonight: Ride Steel Dragon 2000, one of the world’s largest rollercoasters.

Now, I’ve never been a rollercoaster type of guy. I think I was put on one as a kid and it pretty much traumatised me for the rest of my life. At best I can go on those log flume rides, so long as they’re not too big, but that’s about it for me. I’ve been to theme parks a few times and simply wandered about taking it all in, without going on a single ride. I think it’s something about not being totally in control of my environment. At least, not enough that I can get out when I want (I’m not a complete control freak, but I do like an exit plan). Some people find it exhilerating. I find it quite unsettling. And not, as somebody who doesn’t mind being unsettled time to time, in a good way. Besides all of which, I occasionally get vertiginous simply looking up.

Happily for me, the chances of my getting to Japan this weekend to ride the thing myself were slim enough for me not to make a conscious effort to hurry over there, though maybe eventually I’ll bite the bullet and do it. Or die trying. One minute of potential terror should make for some wonderfully euphoric sense of having narrowly avoided death when (read: if) I do eventually walk away at the end or have my legs buckle in the attempt. So I found the best video I could of the ride from a POV perspective on YouTube. Below is that video:

In the days and weeks coming I shall make an effort to write up some reviews on album I’ve received over the past few months, as well as some other bits of writing I’ve been meaning to do, and get podcasting again. I will also try to do these little tasks, possibly even a bit more convincingly than this one, but it’s not bad for a first.