'General' Category

FZ :: Music vs War

“If ya wanna have a world of well performed orchestra music, you’re gonna have to spend the money to do it. Now, where ya gonna get the money? Well, you know, if you were to shut down some of these places that make tritium for nuclear warheads, which we don’t really need, you could have one hell of a musical culture in the United States just by shutting down … one! … of those facilities, which is making the environment polluted, and it is questionable whether we really need, we got plenty of nuclear warheads. We could blow up the world five times over right now. Why do we need to make more of this stuff? I’m baffled.”

FZ in 1989 – sounds like a win-win to me (source)

Admin :: New Home, New Name

This site, formerly known as ‘zebpedersen.co.uk’, has undertaken its third official server move.  Since the first post on Sept. 15th, 2010, the site has inhabited Uncle Meat – an HP DL380 G3 which was loud as hell,  Lumpy Gravy – a homebuilt PC which was much more civilised, and most recently Phaze III – a rented VPS on a 200 meg pipe (up from the 512k home broadband the original machines ran on).

That server grew to be slow as hell, and I’m serving more professional content now which means uptime is important, and the old box wasn’t cutting it, and was expensive. And thus we arrive at today – the old site, reborn on a new, faster, more reliable, cheaper server (named Thing-Fish), and with a new domain to boot. The original zebpedersen.co.uk will soon redirect to the new zebpedersen.com, my portfolio site, so update bookmarks etc… to the somewhat new zeblog.co.

Music :: Kongor-ol Ondar / Dance Me This

Kongar-ol Ondar, the Tuvan throat singer who attended one of FZ’s 1993 music parties and got as close to mainstream culture as any throat singer had before (or since), died aged 51 last July following a brain haemorrhage. Frank’s fondness for and adoption of Tuvan styles in his later work is something that makes his untimely passing all the more upsetting — Dio Fa sets a pretty high bar for fusing the unusual with the unusual, and we are left only to imagine the possibilities.

In tribute to Ondar, the ZFT posted a Synclavier piece featuring his vocals to the ‘of consequence’ section of Zappa.com. There’s not much to go on aside from a hint dropped by the Idiot Bastard, but it’s very possible that this piece is from the legendary, unreleased Dance Me This album, and is likely (at least an excerpt from) ‘Calculus’, a piece executed with Synclavier software created by Todd Yvega designed to follow the Tuvan’s no-beat ‘free time’ rhythms.

A helpful person has uploaded the piece to YouTube, and it’s embedded below. Now if the ZFT could prioritise Dance Me This and The Rage and The Fury for release ahead of all the Roxy business (which has been going on for decades anyway), that’d make for a great 2014. Arf!

Music :: OXES / Reverb Motherfuckers

My trawls of the web for new bands have been most fruitful of late, yielding as they have many excellent new discoveries. Because there’s so much good stuff, I’m going to start structuring my music posts a bit differently, picking a couple of new bands at a time from the latest crop, and spreading the posts out over a couple of weeks.

OXES

OXES is a sick three piece instrumental rock band from Baltimore, MD. Their music has elements of post rock, heaviness, riffs (memorable ones, too!), noise, a little mathiness, and a touch of prog, which reads like a list of Things That I Like in Rock Music. You can hear early Don Cab, Breadwinner, and RATM in there for sure.

One of the most interesting things about OXES is that they are a band who’s appeal is largely rhythmic, yet they lack half of a traditional rhythm section: two guitars up front, drums at the back, and no bass player. Testament, I suppose, to some of the best rhythm guitar playing I can think of. I have the OXES and OXXXES LPs, both of which have been very difficult to switch off. A vinyl copy of Bile Stbudy is on its way.

Reverb Motherfuckers

Or RMF for short. The band has a single album, Route 666, of which 666 copies were pressed in 1988. I have a thing for limited run, hand assembled vinyl already, so we’re off to a good start on the mojo front before even listening to the record. Apparently the band was part of the New York ‘Scum Rock’ scene in the late 80s, which looks to be an interesting corner to explore.

The disparate territory covered from track to track and sense of irony and humour throughout is very reminiscent of early Mothers recordings. This record has tape experiments, rock tracks, drum machines, garage punk, and it’s difficult not to be reminded of Burnt Weeny Sandwich when the album opens with an advert. (Of course, WPLJ was an expansion on a real commercial, and performed in earnest, while Highway to Hojos imagines a post apocalyptic trip to a family restaurant. It’s really good.)

 

Guitar :: A Wild Telecaster Appears

photo3 5

It’s super effective, and looking great in between its new siblings.

I’ve been after a project guitar for months and months, and I’ve finally got one. On Denmark street a couple of Saturdays ago, I looked at a bunch of Squiers and entry level Mex Teles on my fairly half-arsed search for a modder, and came away uninspired. It seemed a bit dumb to buy something too ‘nice’, a USA model of some sort, and then start upgrading, but equally so to get a cheap base guitar and stuff it with expensive bits. When I wandered in to the relatively new No.Tom — which has taken the place of Vintage & Rare, has a much better *real world* selection, and much nicer staff — I saw the answer.

The Baja Telecaster is a Mexican-made model which entered production a few years ago, and is widely (apparently universally) acclaimed as being ‘one-of-those’…a great guitar that defies expectations associated with instruments of its provenance (think Squier JV). The neck has a 50s-style profile, fatter than my other pair, with a good feel; the body is a heavy piece of ash (same as the others). It’s a quality feeling instrument for sure, and comes with a pair of custom shop pickups, overall making for a great base on which to build my custom creation. (It was a weird process, buying something for its potential rather than its existing features. All that was of concern was the feel of the neck and body, and it handily ticked both of those boxes.)

Any negatives are now items on the shopping list, and good as this guitar is, there are quite a few items for attention. I have a few improvements to start with (some of which are fixes for questionable Fender Mexico QA), and then it’s going to be a test bed for all manner of ideas.

As I type, it’s in the shop having the existing nut (plastic, slightly angled, machine cut) replaced for a higher quality bone nut, and being set up for 10s. The next changes will be removing the tone pot, face-mounting the jack socket (both standard mods I have carried out on my other guitars), replacing the volume pot for a 500kΩ (for more top) or just a better quality 250kΩ, removing the S1 switching and chucking the 4-way switch for a 3- or, if I can find it, 2-way switch.

But that’s just going to be for starters. It might be sporting a Bigsby next week, and maybe an active pickup or two…or three? I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this one takes me.

Internet :: Return

Giving up the Internet at the weekend, starting last September, has been a great experiment, but one that I’m bringing to an end in 2014. My dozen or so weekends offline (how lame/first-world/etc… does that sound?) were in aid of rediscovering what the Internet is good for, and where it’s been encroaching too far on my *real life*. And interestingly, the points at which it has proven to be utterly superfluous are those in which it was aimed at augmenting or extending (embracing, extending…extinguishing?) my behaviour as a regular hyouu-maahn.

There’s some interesting takeaway, which I’d like to spend more time researching in the coming months, but a skim of my messy, messy notebook yields a few headlines:

— It just seems like social networking isn’t for me — Facebook and Twitter are both out of my pocket, and I haven’t particularly missed either, nor have I been at all tempted to invite them back. Maybe this is a true reflection of my everyday social attitudes, in which case, I’m probably not qualified to comment any deeper. But maybe there’s a lot of people who aren’t nearly as social as their online selves would portray.

— However, I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for Instagram. I think perhaps that putting content first in a unifunctional app that doesn’t have to pull any UX manoeuvres to trick you into using it lends it some real credibility. It is authentically what it is, no more, no less.

— I never realised before how reliant I was on streaming video (Netflix, NBA Game Time) for entertainment — TV for me is a total thing of the past, I could buy a set without a tuner and not skip a beat at this point. The Xbox (or Apple TV, or Roku, or RPi + XBMC etc…) are fully equipped to take over

— The internet is amazingly good for discovering music. Yes, most online music services are mostly just mainstream taste homogenisation devices (‘You liked Drake? You’ll love Drake featuring Rhianna!’), but for people with more esoteric (that is definitely not to say better) taste, the web is outstanding. (Where else would you find a documented exchange in which one Don Cab fan offers to exchange chicken parmesan for a CD-R of a Speaking Canaries record? It’s awesome.)

Music :: Ganger / Rodan / June of 44

I think I’ve cracked music discovery — visit every different music website you can, and click through the related artists for Storm & Stress. Last time I used this tactic I discovered the excellent Lowercase, recommended by Last.fm (badly) as being similar to Under Thunder and Fluorescent Lights.

This time around, it’s Allmusic.com making the tenuous, but nonetheless excellent recommendations. First up is Ganger. (Just as a quick aside, they have one of the worst band names I’ve ever heard, something approximate to the cover art for You Wanna Kiss About It by the Bulletproof Tiger — great music needlessly marred by plain bad paraphernalia.) Ganger were an almost instrumental four piece from the 90s, and their music has plenty interesting going for it. Hammock Style, the band’s sole LP release, has hints of My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth, some sparse, amazing female vocals that sit perfectly under the top of the mix (listen and you’ll get what I mean, it’s something pretty special), and, because the band has two bass players, some unique textures and melodies. It’s a good, varied and very interesting album.

Next is Rodan, a post-rock/hardcore band from Kentucky and the early-90s. Their album, Rusty, is a pretty schizophrenic affair, with some acute stylistic changes from track to track. It could get a bit annoying, but they remain on the spectrum of rock & hardcore (and their ‘post-‘ incarnations) throughout and, crucially, execute well on each vibe.

Lastly, June of 44, featuring Jeff Mueller from Rodan. I’ve been listening for a few days, and they haven’t totally grabbed me at any one time as of yet, but I have a strong hunch that they are going to become one of those bands you suddenly realise you’re in love with after 6 months. They’re not as aggressive or stark as Rodan, but their influences are varied, and very interesting. There’s some Mogwai-i post rock, some Sonic Youth (think Small Flowers Crack Concrete from probably the best album ever), spoken word, environmental sounds, Led Zeppelin string arrangements (yuh!), trumpet…I could go on, suffice to say that it’s very intriguing stuff.

Offline Weekends :: 21 – 22 Sept. 2013

21 / 22 Sept. 2013

– I want to replace my Fender Deluxe Reverb amp with the smaller Princeton model (yup, the one I sold to get the Deluxe). With no idea how much they cost, or what models are available, my first thought is to head for the website. Of course, that’s now off limits, so instead I made a phone call to GAK. The salesman and I discussed my old Princeton, my pedalboard, the current models available, and the merits of the forthcoming models. It was a more valuable experience than any solitary internet research could possibly have delivered.

– I was trying to get rid of a cold, so had a Berocca with my breakfast. I instinctively put an ice cube in it, which for some reason I thought was worthy of Tweeting. It seemed idiotic when I thought about it, twice as much so when I wrote it in my notebook, and ten times as much now. Even though I think it’s really valuable, Twitter is mostly vapid.

– Twitter again. I was listening to Autechre, and was struck by what a vital piece of information this was to share with the world. With no access to Twitter, I took a second to think about what I was actually trying to accomplish – I think I just wanted someone to talk to about some great music. Social networking seemed really sad all of a sudden. I texted a music-loving friend to recommend the group and a couple of their albums, he text back saying he’d give them a listen. I can’t wait to discuss them in person.

– The opening track from What Burns Never Returns, Don Caballero 3, has a section that sounds a bit like Zoot Allures, one of my favourite Zappa guitar pieces. I was satisfied to have made the connection, and couldn’t think why it was necessary to publish this information (which was my first instinct).

– Probably the best offline moment came on Sunday. I had a train delayed by half an hour, and without Reeder, Hacker News, or Twitter to entertain me, music was my only option. How completely fucking stupid that music is fourth on that list. I listened to the first Storm and Stress album, without distraction; it was a perfect experience of a wonderful record.

Internet Addiction :: Offline Weekends

After my awakening as an Internet Addict, I decided to start experimenting with my relationship to the Web. Following after my inspiration and taking a year off isn’t exactly compatible with my role as a Technologist at an internet company, but while my hands are tied during the week, the weekends are still mine to toy with. As such, I have decided to spend my weekends offline for a while to see what lessons I might learn, and with a bit of luck curb the problematic ‘Internet reflex’ I’ve developed. I’ll be transcribing any relevant scribblings and thoughts here after each offline weekend.

(As one caveat to my ‘offline’ experience, I’m permitting myself access to my iTunes Match account — although it’s an online service, it’s more like just having a massive iPod, and I don’t really think it’s relevant or restrictive to what I’m trying to achieve anyway. So there!)

Internet Addiction ::

Last Friday, I finally got round to watching the TED talk embedded above. It’d been sitting in a Chrome tab for a couple of weeks before that — 18 minutes repeatedly deferred in favour of bite sized online entertainment: some weird Twitter, another Kobe vs LeBron video on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram. Of course, I knew all about Paul Miller’s experiment in Internet abstinence from the time that it was announced (online, naturally) and followed his reports throughout the time he was ‘offline’, which I certainly found to be curious, but never anything more. A weird thing happened when I watched his talk, though — I really felt like I got what he was talking about. I’d read about all this stuff in his columns, but this time it really resonated.

Writing this now, I wonder if perhaps I subconsciously place greater value in communication that feels more tangible, like video shot in a lecture setting, than yet another online dispatch. I’m certainly curious about the shift in my ascription of credibility, but that’s tangental, for now at least. What really spoke to me about Paul’s talk was the feeling of stress, the inhibition of creativity, and the almost adversarial nature of his relationship with the Internet. It sounded unhealthy, and it sounded like my relationship with the Internet.

It dawned on me pretty quickly while watching the talk that I am hopelessly addicted to the Internet. Paul talks about people not knowing what boredom is like any more, and he’s absolutely on the money — the slightest break in my concentration while trying to do something that requires some effort, and it’s CMD-space -> ‘t’ -> enter (open Twitter), or CMD-Tab -> CMD-T -> ‘n’ -> enter (switch to Chrome, open news.ycombinator.com in a new tab). These are very real, very practised neural reflexes — a mental ‘panic button’ that my brain pushes at the slightest hint of boredom, and often times in intellectually taxing situations.

My name is Zebedee and I’m an Internet addict.

This was an important realisation for me, and it’s something I feel the need to regain control over. It also sounds like perfect, if a little ironic, fodder for a recurring series of blog posts (of which this is the first) in which I attempt to understand my Internet problem, and chronicle my voyage of self discovery.