'General' Category

Music :: Pivixki

Pivixki is an Australian experimental music duo, equal parts electronics, drum kit, piano, and ferocity. Although they sound nothing alike, they hold similar appeal to Cheval de Frise – another boundless two piece who truly achieve the oft-mooted, seldom achieved status of operating outside the realm of classification, possessing as they do their own entirely unique style. Where the heritage of Cheval de Frise is not immediately apparent, Pivixki drop a few hints here and there – Schoenberg, Nancarrow, minimalism, and Zappa definitely pop up their heads on occasion. These compositional and stylistic allusions are accompanied throughout by some thoroughly modern, thoroughly brutal drumming, and form one of the most original styles I’ve heard in ages.

[Also in the keys / drums duo category is the late-90s/early-2000s Binary System. They’re not nearly as aggressive, and didn’t grab me as being nearly as good either – too cinematic. I will listen further and see if they grow, but they definitely didn’t have the immediate appeal of Pivixki.]

Binary System on Spotify:

And some more Pivixkl:

Music :: Logic + Github

logic+github

 

This morning, I discovered a cached of sketch recordings from my phone that I haven’t yet reviewed. The list contained over 4 years worth of material, which gives some indication as to how good of a job recording this stuff I’ve done lately / in the last couple of years. Anyway, to spur myself on to actually start fleshing this stuff out, I decided to (very sketchily, just using the mic on my MacBook) record them one by one into new Logic projects – a format much more conducive to actually working on them in the future than random, hidden snippets of audio on my phone.

In an interesting twist, I’ve made each project into a Git repository that’s sync’d up to my GitHub account – you can find it here. I did 6 out of a total 106 this morning, so the whole process might take some time, but once I’m done, I think that taking a ‘software development’ approach to creating music might be quite an interesting way to work. And I, or anyone else, for that matter, can check up on how well I’m doing during the whole process. Cool!

 

The Perfect Grapefruit ::

a) Great name for a band / album

b) The above Vine, which is a service I should use more often

Music :: Clever Girl

Music is most interesting when it challenges you, which is why so much ‘relaxing’ music – a constant release with no counterpoint – is so excruciatingly dull.

Clever Girl is a total release, but one laced with hints of tension. Like a sweet, easy cocktail, where alcohol is an ephemeral aftertaste, or a kind of aggressive massage.

If you are adverse to anything with ‘easy listening’, ‘chillout’, or ‘smooth’ in the genre column, but are in need of something in which to rinse a frazzled brain, this EP might be just what you need.

Playlist is here, and you can download a RAR from here. (I wouldn’t ordinarily post Mediafire links, but one of the former band members actually linked it in the comments of one of the YouTube clips, a useful endorsement.)

Music :: This is My Jam

Ping

I’ve always been a fan of music-centric social networks, and although Last.fm is really the only one that’s stuck around, it’s always fun to give a new one a go (new to me, at least – apparently This is My Jam has been around since late 2011, but I’m just getting round to joining now).

Anyway, I just posted my first ‘Jam’ on my freshly minted profile page.

As an aside, Cougar in the Workplace isn’t actually my current ‘Jam’, but the first test of any of these services is whether they support weird music that people don’t like very much, which they passed. My actual jam right now is the latest (2012) Com Truise album, specifically its opening track:

 

Guitar :: An Essential Cry Baby Mod

crybaby-after

I’ve had my Jerry Cantrell signature Cry Baby for a couple of months now, and it’s easily the best wah I’ve played or heard (if you don’t believe me, just ask Guthrie). Whether you like Alice in Chains or not, this thing quacks, rocks, and takes care of just about every other type of wah-wah action you might conceive of, with style. I’ve tried posh wah pedals with boosts, sweeps, different inductors, fancy pots etc… before, and come away unimpressed, but for some reason the JC just gets it right: the depth control is wide enough to be super flexible, but narrow enough that you can notch it just right, and unlike quite a few Cry Baby pedals I’ve played, it’s dead silent at the footswitch and the pot.

But even this Baby has a flaw, shared with all of its kin – when it comes to clicking on and off, it takes a real stomp, which is difficult to accomplish when sitting down, and really goes against the nature of most gearheads (I’ll drop a Telecaster without a second thought, but for some reason I just don’t like stomping on stompboxes).

To rectify this problem, take a knife, and carefully chop away the rubber feet on the toe of the pedal. I say carefully, because you want to get a clean cut across; hacking away at the rubber isn’t the end of the world, but I’ve cut myself doing so more than once. You have been warned.

See below for a before + after shot of my wah. I learned this mod, weirdly enough, from a video of Zakk Wylde, and I’ve used it on every wah I’ve had. I’m sure there’s a good reason why some people might want the difficulty of the standard pedal, but really, who switches a wah on by accident? Hopefully this tip will rectify an irksome attribute of an otherwise wonderful pedal for you. Until next time…

before-after

 

Live ::

My streaming plans have so far been a non-show – so in order to get things kick-started, I’ve actually set up a Ustream channel (here). To start with, I’ll be broadcasting my laptop, pointed at my amp. I will be recording these for my own amusement, and personal improvement (is my timing really that bad), and in the spirit of the Internet, all are welcome to join.

New Gear :: Chicken Picks

Chicken Picks

There are tons of articles online and in magazines about the unexpectedly pronounced tonal revelation that occurs when switching picks, and how marked the change in your sound can be by simply switching to a different shape or weight or material. Tonal transformation for 50p. It’s a point that’s been made many times, which does nothing to dilute its legitimacy – changing your pick really is an easy win if you’re looking to change your tone for next to no cash.

So this could be another one of those ‘OMG new pick, total tonal epiphany’ posts, but there’s already plenty of those around, and I actually think it’s a little bit deeper than that.

The pick in question is the Chicken Pick, which just came into stock at Strings Direct. I ordered a ‘tester pack’, which is a tenner, and comes with one each of the 2.6mm and 2.2mm thicknesses. First of all, it’s a great pick, very nicely made, and comfortable to hold. The thickness of the pick belies the ease with which it sits in your hands – I normally find thick picks to be a bit unwieldy, and my previous squeeze, the Dunlop Nylon 1MM, was the thickest pick I found comfortable until now. And it improves your tone as well, which is an important thing to mention in the field of plectrum hagiography.

I was thinking about recording a couple of comparison audio clips for this post, which is when the actual difference between this and other picks dawned on me – I’m actually playing better. It reminds me of the review excerpt touted by Mesa/Boogie on the advertising literature for the Mark IV:

“You know how a great instrument can make you play over your head? The Mark IV gave us this transcendental experience.” Andy Ellis – Guitar Player – May 1991

It’s the same deal. With a thicker pick, like this one, you really have to step up to keep it under control. If you try and play with limp fingers, you get nothing out of it – zero forgiveness. But in the same way as playing thicker strings makes things a bit more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding, the Chicken Pick repays the extra effort required in buckets. I’ve always known the guitar sounds better when you’re really trying, and hitting the strings at full force (literally the first lesson on my first day of music college), but for whatever reason it’s easy to get lazy when you’re playing, which is something I am regularly and supremely guilty of.

The Chicken Pick  is fundamentally incompatible with lazy playing, and for that reason it has already shifted itself to be my regular pick.

TL; DR – the advantage is 20% pick, 80% psychological. It perversely plays to weaknesses rather than strengths, and is all the better for it. I’m hooked.

Live Stream I :: The(e) Speaking Canaries :: The Joy of Wine

The Joy of Wine

 

So, I’ve been thinking about sharing cool and unusual music on the web (specifically on this website) in a cool and unusual way, and I want to give live streams a go. Just sitting and listening to an album the whole way through is a rare enough thing in the MP3 era anyway, so the primary goal is to get me to sit down and listen to something from start to finish. And just like I write this website for myself and if people want to read it then that’s cool too, doing a live stream of an album is an open invitation for anyone else to join in should they so desire.

Maybe we can get some kind of ‘internet music book club’ type vibe happening.

So without further ado, I’d like to cordially invite anyone who cares to my inaugural weirdo online listening party, the subject of which will be the amazing and supremely hip debut album by The(e) Speaking Canaries – The Joy of Wine. It will be held on this very website (I will have sort out a Ustream channel or something similar) at 10:30AM GMT, Saturday 22nd June 2013.

EDIT

I’m postponing the first stream until later in the week, having found myself woefully under equipped for such an undertaking. Cables have been ordered.

Guitar :: Cable Myths, Cable Facts

This is a post I would have been very interested in reading 18 months ago when I was putting together my current rig, and is a lesson in why ‘better’ is not always ‘best’.

The rig in question is built around a Fender Deluxe Reverb amp, with a Keeley TS808+, xotic BB Preamp, Dunlop Jerry Cantrell Cry Baby, and a fancy RJM switching system, because coming from 10 years of Mesa/Boogie Mark IV I just couldn’t deal with learning to tap dance. One of the big treats that I gave myself (other than a whole new rig) was an Evidence Audio Lyric HG cable, a solid-core, very high end, and very expensive cable. Buying a high end cable is an effort to maximise the tonal bandwidth between the guitar and the amplifier by minimising the loss of signal at this crucial stage in the chain. The Lyric HG is an incredible cable, and performs this task absolutely flawlessly. The difference between the Lyric and the merely very good Van Damme that it replaced is dramatic – and if that’s what you’re after then I cannot recommend the product highly enough.

In addition to the Lyric, the RJM Effect Gizmo has a buffered input, which means that anything past that jack isn’t going to lose any signal no matter how long the cable run – what goes in the front stays true into the front end of your amp, which is nice when you’ve got pedals racked up and not necessarily right next to the amplifier. So where’s the beef? A perfect reproduction of your guitar’s tone through the Lyric, and preserved into the front end by the buffer on the RJM…can’t complain, right?

This is where too good comes into the equation. There’s so much top coming off the Telecaster, and through the Lyric it isn’t going anywhere but into the front end of the pedalboard. With so much tonal bandwidth coming from the guitar, super-high-order overtones don’t get lost like they do with a merely mortal cable, and with some distortion chucked in the mix it adds a distinct metallic ‘squink’ on the top end. Yuck.

So this week I decided so mix some stuff up, and learned a very important lesson about ‘the best’, and how doing it ‘wrong’ is sometimes the right way to go. I stuck the Cry Baby out front, and used the standard input instead of the buffer. The tone – rounded out on the top, still really pronounced in the middle…a touch less bottom, but a serious step in a very tasty direction.

Of course, Stevie Ray Vaughan had the same idea, using Radio Shack guitar cables with his mega-bucks Dumbles, vintage Vibroverbs, and Marshalls. Of course, with a dark rig and humbuckers it might be a very different story, but if you’re in the Telecaster business, you might be well advised to save your cash – and improve your tone.