Something for the Weakened

Archive for July, 2011

They Call Me Mister Jubs

July 29th, 2011 by Alastair

They don’t really.

Got to aspire to something though, eh?

A Life Well Spent

July 17th, 2011 by Alastair

This evening I achieved something truly incredible. Something I’d been hoping to manage for months now, that I feel sure will dazzle you all with its magnificence and shake the world to it’s very core. I managed to fill all the holes in my television’s version of Tetris at level 10! I know, I know. Don’t all rush in with your commendations at once. I can’t begin to imagine how many hours I’ve ploughed into this monumental feat, but isn’t it a marvel to see them all pay off at last? A waste of time? Frittering the hours away? Of course not, it’s been entirely worthwhile and will be a boon to humanity. Should the world ever be plagued by regularly sized blocks falling on it very slowly, I will obviously be the one the government now calls on to make them rotate and cause less damage. Somehow. Yes, I’m guessing you’re all pretty jealous now. But where can I go next, having reached the summit of all my possible achievements? I suppose I could try it again. Just to keep my reaction speed up. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Excuse me a moment, I must run and let work know I’m going to be absent for quite some time.

Day. For. Night. Day. For. Night. Dayfornightdayfornightdayfornight.

July 10th, 2011 by Alastair

The night turned into a long one, you know the way that they do. By half three I had entirely failed to cop off with that girl what I like down to a combination of my being pathetic and my being pathetic and there were only two of us left standing. A conversation on the relative ignition points on differing art projects fizzled out as I finished my last G & T and decided that the offer of an area to sleep in wasn’t as promising as the lure of my own pit. Thus I departed, mounted my wobbly wheeled bicycle, hoped that the chain would stay on and began to wend my way home.

It was around four AM when I mounted the bike. The sky was beginning to get some colour into it as I rode the three, maybe four, miles homeward. Approaching the penultimate turning into my final homeward straight, I was seized by an idea.

Dawn.

I hadn’t watched dawn break in an age. Why waste the opportunity on a relatively clear morning when the sun was so close to popping his head over the horizon? I rode on, past home, over the ring road and out into the park just outside the city. I carried on as far as the tarmac and gravel would allow me until I found myself in a wide open space of three, maybe four football pitches. Plonking my chariot by the pavilion, I wandered out into the field and gloried in the wonders of the natural in my still half cut state. I marvelled at the size of the sky as I walked as far from the surrounding trees as I could. Once the disc I was listening to finished, I took in the myriad calls of the dawn chorus (the last track was an Ivor Cutler favourite and frankly the natural world’s never going to get in the way of that). I focused on birds as they flew overhead and watched their progress until they were invisible to even my squintiest eye. I ignored the morning dew sopping through my cheap canvas shoes and solely focused on the wonder of it all, blocking out the distant traffic rumble, surrounding myself in the wonder of the natural world.

The light grew steadily brighter. The clouds nearer to me than those obscuring the sun slowly changed from magenta to orange. The world around me began to reveal itself in finer, even more focused detail. And what did it show me?

Gulls.

Dozens of them. Living in one of the countries most landlocked cities, this came as a bit of a surprise. Turning round from my majestic view of the sky, I was surprised to see that a fair portion of all the football fields were festooned with gulls. As the light brightened it soon became clear to me that all the birds flying over my head, including the ones that I had been following as far as my myopic sight would allow me, had all been gulls (except for one particularly arsey crow, who cawed over my head after he had been shoved off a playing field by gulls).

As I say, this was a bit of a surprise, but got me thinking. Where had they come from? Do they nest this far inland? Where? In tips? I imagine this to be the case, seeing as I’m far too tired to research it and it seems unlikely that they’d be coming in from the coast hours before dawn even breaks. I concluded that this must be why they’re so successful – they do actually get up at the crack of dawn, unlike the rest of the avian world who presumably like a bit of a lie in. No worms for you, tardy feathers.

But this was just a diversion. It in no way detracted from the glory of watching the world brighten as I stood alone in a field as the hour rolled round to five.

I only wish you had been there.

SFTW025 – Sin When You’re Sinning

July 3rd, 2011 by Alastair

Okay then, let’s see if I can make this make some sort of sense. As many of you are no doubt aware, a group of friends and I meet every quarter to swap CD compilations that we have all made. One of the five of us will pick a theme, each of us will do our level best to fill every possible groove on a CDR with sounds relating to said theme, then convene at the theme selecter’s home on a given date, where each disc will be listened to, scrutinized and mocked. There are many other levels of finesse that go on within the group, but I think that’s all you need to know for me to start on the story proper.

The 25th swap occurred a couple of months ago. I decided to try something different. I don’t recall where the idea first struck me. It may have been at the previous meet, I couldn’t say for sure, but at some point a thought occurred to me. During these marathon 400 minute listening sessions, I was always fully aware of how 80 of those minutes would sound. Part of the joy of the musical endurance contest for me is discovering new sounds, but there’s always an hour and twenty where I’m fully aware of what’s going to come next. Don’t get me wrong, that feeling of power over what one can force a captive audience to listen to is one that I’ve enjoyed, exploited and abused on many previous occasions. But would there be a way to take that away? A way by which I could make a compilation abiding by all the rules of the group, but without hearing a note played?

Yes, I realised. Yes there was.

For almost a year prior to the compilation’s deadline, I had been downloading various odds and ends from Bandcamp. The existence of a site where artists offered there work for download, often for free, was well known to me. Several months prior to deadline I noticed that the site was searchable (not through their own engine, but via Google). This was it. I resolved to abide by the complicated stipulations that had evolved over the previous six years and by which each comp’ had to abide, but to make this one consist entirely of songs I had never heard. I mused that it would be amusing to see the reactions of others, though even more intriguing to experience my own. Could I actually put together a package that would be a decent listen?

The compilation themes generally manifest themselves in picking song titles (but never artist’s names!) that fit with that quarter’s choice. Occasionally there are deviations from this, but to save complicating matters further, that was the method I chose for this assemblage. The theme, as chosen by sporadic correspondent Fforbes Munchell, was The Seven Deadly Sins. This made my work significantly simpler. I chose to use songs that contained the words ‘Seven’, ‘Deadly’, ‘Sin’ and the names of the seven sins themselves (I won’t list them – I’m sure all you God fearing folk know them all by heart). My initial thought was just to take the top two results my searches brought up (these compilations contain just over twenty tracks on average, so two from each keyword would have filled up most of the running time) and leave everything else up to chance. It quickly became obvious that doing this would be a horrible mistake, when one of the top results turned out to be a song about Harry Potter. Instaed I decided that the songs I picked would have to meet the following criteria -

1 – Contain one of the relevant words in its title.

2 – Appear within the top 100 results that a search for that keyword returned.

3 – Be under 8 minutes in length.

4 – Be free to download.

First criteria I’ve already gone into, the second was so I didn’t have too much to choose from and so I didn’t spend too many hours prevarcating over what to use. Number three was to help the flow of the compilation – pieces much longer than that seem to drag on forever amongst other, shorter works, so are generally to be avoided (especially if you have no idea how they sound). The fourth was down to my desire not to pay for music I might hate, because I don’t fully trust my computer’s antiviruses so never buy anything online from it and basically because I’m a cheap little bastard. The only other criteria I used were the tags the bands had put with the tunes (something I was highly aware of the general inaccuracy of), generally grabbing stuff that I thought that I would find interesting, and whatever accompanying artwork had been produced.

Overall, the searching didn’t prove too tricky. There were a couple of interesting looking tracks relating to almost every search – the major exception being Gluttony. Probably unsurprising that it isn’t in the title of that many songs on that site, or indeed in the rest of the musical world I imagine. I only found two songs that were free to download containing that word, both from albums realting to the seven deadly sins,  so had to go along with those. The rest led to me creating long lists normally between half and a whole dozen, that I inevitably whittled down to two or three.

The search also proved interesting in how it showed up some trends in the ways certain types of musicians use Bandcamp. I had hoped to use more folk or acoustic acts, but all the acts that used those tags were charging for their music. Bands generally seemed to want more in return for downloading than the more electronic artists. I’d speculate that this might have something to do with their having made more of a financial outlay on instruments and what have you than the people composing stuff at home on their computers, but I don’t really know. It could be that they’re more set in the old ways of the music industry and feel that they can charge for recordings as they might well have for physical releases in the past. Perhaps they simply feel their recordings are worth the admittedly tiny costs they charging. I couldn’t say. A couple of the people I eventually downloaded stuff from required that I join their mailing lists before I could have any of their music, which is a fairly minor payment and possibly the best way of creating a continued interest in their output. I’ve yet to receive any mail outs from either of them, so it’s possibly not.

Deciding what I could and couldn’t use from the long lists then came down to timings. I had to aim to get as close to seventy-nine minutes and fifty-five as I possibly could, seeing as my PC really isn’t happy trying to fill in those last five seconds on a CDR. I think what I eventually came up with was 79:57. I could stand to risk losing 2 seconds off the end, so I went for it.

Next came the puns and the artwork. Of late I’ve been taking album covers, lightboxing (or ‘tracing’ as I believe it is sometimes known) them and then inserting a poorly drawn representation of my own fizog over the head of whoever released the original album. Following a bit of Google imaging, it occurred to me that the option with the most potential was Robbie Williams’ Sing When You’re Winning. The title’s double pun potential gave my compilation and this post their titles and led to me sketching something that looks a lot like this -

With everything put together it was simply a matter of waiting until the day to hear what I’d assembled. Which I did. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad a listen. I was expecting there to be at least one or two tracks that were unlistenably amateurish, but surprisingly there’s very little of that. Whether this is down to improved home studio technology, embarassment about releasing obviously poor material or just the success of my own selection process, I couldn’t say. Yes, there are a couple of things there that I really misjudged, but couldn’t have known about. The absence of rapping on almost all of the tracks tagged as being hip-hop is mildly frustrating. The vocals on that live track are horribly, horribly flat. The one that claimed to be 8-bit has far more band than Gameboy. But overall, it isn’t a bad selection. It even feels like one of my compilations, being frontloaded with the really interesting stuff before wandering off into a slightly duller series of selections before redeeming itself by the end. There are even some inspired segues, that I’m really rather pleased about. And the last track is just the right side of stupid, which is always pleasing to me. Here, see what you think -

Bad Lieutenants – Seven

Ghost Fight – Deadly/Chessboxing, Python

The Peoples Republic of Europe – Nicolae Carpathia Died For Your Sins

Crabon Tanso – Hearts & Lust

Mad Brainz – Third Circle: Gluttony

Eli Ot – Aquamarine Beyond Greed

Matt Dzugan – Half Anteater Half Sloth

Lich King – (Remix of the) Attack of the Wrath of the War of the Death of the Strike of the Sword of the Blood of the Beast

Voyaguers – Envy is Inevitable

Unkle Nancy & The Family Jewels – Put Your Pride Away

S.P.E.C.I.M.E.N – Seven Cities

Octopocalypse – Eleven Deadly’s Chin

Mentizid – Sins & Reset

Visited – Age Of Lust

Hoxvox – Belief: Gluttony

Geist – Kings of Greed

Allan’s Grand Day Out – Sloth

The Plasmas – Feel The Wrath Of The Nopino Goblins!

Haktrak – Malicious Envy

Pariah Carey – Batman Pride (Free The Jinjo)

Superhuman Happiness – 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

F. T. G – The Deadly Nightshade Overture

We Broke Symmetry – Immoderate Lust

Middlesex – Penis Envy Instrumental

I was going to embed every song into this post, but that killed my computer on the three occasions I tried to preview the post, so might have done yours too. But those are the 24 tracks that make up Sin When You’re Sinning. Give them a listen, they are worth it for the most part. If you like them, why not bung them some cash. God knows, I didn’t.