'Music' Category

Guitar :: A Wild Telecaster Appears

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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.

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.

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!

 

Live ::


Live streaming video by Ustream

Prince :: 3rdeyegirl 2013 Tour

Prince is on fire onstage and online, and this 3rdeyegirl tour looks off the hook. Can’t wait for UK dates.

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.