#Writing #Music Monday: L’autre endroit by Silence

23 Mar

[cover] Silence - L'autre endroitHere we have a one-album one-man band from someone whose main occupation appears to be as a digital animator. Yet this album argues that he should probably give more attention to creating music.

L’autre endroit is a strange, haunting mix of orchestral classical (or, as one Jamendo reviewer puts it, pseudo-classical), majestic guitar rock, and electronic music that has hard, sharp edges, yet works well as background music for writing, too.

To name one’s musical project “Silence” could be either pretentious or interesting. I would say, after listening to this album through a few times, that this case falls under “interesting”.

I’m not kidding about those hard, sharp edges, either. One track, “Stop!”, has the sounds of a woman being abused in the background. It’s not presented approvingly, not in any way, but this is definitely a work that should be handled with care.

L’autre endroit by Silence is free to download from Jamendo.


L’autre endroit by Silence released under a Free Art License (FAL) 1.3, also known as a Libre Art License (LAL).

This license is compatible with the Creative Commons Attribution–Share-Alike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license.

#Writing #Music Monday: It’s Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away by Re-Drum

16 Mar

CoverGoing a bit outside my comfort zone here, and possibly for the rest of the month.

Re-Drum is a French musician/d.j. who focuses a lot on the variation of techno called “house” (a distinction which escapes me). This album is the one I’ve listened to enough to be familiar with, and it’s not generally the sort of thing I like. Very repetitious and loop-y, mixing in spoken word in ways that most days I’d generally find distracting than writing-trance inducing.

But I’ve listened to this one enough that it doesn’t rub me wrong as background music, if I’m in the right mood.

That’s the thing though — it’s not easy to love this one. And it is easy to be irritated by it.

So, as stated, this one is outside of my usual comfort zone.

The only commentary by the artist I can find regarding this particular album is “This is a collection of really deep tracks”. So, unusually, he let’s the music speak entirely for itself.

About the artist himself (real name Léo Urriolabeitia):

After being heavily influenced by 70′s music, Zappa and Minimalism he decided to imagine a place to share sample based music with an experimental edge. That was the connection of past and future music, something that hasn’t been found on the web yet. While still DJing in Toulouse, Re-Drum is now more focused on Live performances and various Audiovisual experiments/Short Movies/Animations.

Download It’s Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away free from Jamendo.

(You can also get the album under a more restrictive, non-Free Culture CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 License, from Bandcamp.)

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It’s Better To Burn Out Than To Fade Away by Re-Drum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 International License.

#Writing #Music Monday: Speed Surfer by Pirato Ketchup

9 Mar

Speed Surfer CoverA very short album this week, less than fifteen minutes if you discount the long silence on the last track. But sometimes, you just need your surf music, and Pirato Ketchup delivers.

Pirato Ketchup is a band from Belgium, and they specialize in really fast-paced garage surf rock (which is totally a thing — just listen, there’s no better way to describe it!). It’s fun, fast, entertaining, and great. The only possible flaw is that there’s not nearly enough of it, and the album might finish before you’ve even gotten started writing.

But, really, isn’t that your fault for being slow?

Download Speed Surfer free from Jamendo.

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Speed Surfer by Pirato Ketchup is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #Music Monday: Kuddelmuddel by Jahzzar

2 Mar

Kuddelmuddel CoverSometimes it seems to me that I make Music Mondays all about Javier Suarez. Other times, I spend a fair length of time looking at other musicians’ work, and come back and find he’s released three or four solid albums when I was distracted.

With Kuddelmuddel, his first release of 2015 (and not his most recent, even at this writing!), he returned to the happy synth universe of previous Writing Music Monday album Wake Up, and that can be no bad thing.

Kuddelmuddel is rich, layered, complex, contemplative, and happy. All things which our culture, especially our musical culture, cannot possibly have enough of.

Jahzzar himself writes of it:

Influences… Lykke Li, CHVRCHES, Crystal Castles, Electric Youth, Zola Jesus, Hundred Waters, Jessie Ware, Chairlift, The Chromatics, Metronomy… A little bit of Dum Dum Girls, Todd Terje, Liars, Wild Nothing, Beach House or Daft Punk’s “Discovery”. It may contain traces of OMD, New Order and Grauzone.

I cannot add much in this description that can not be seen from influences.

Which means there is a whole list of artists I should probably look into, since I only know New Order and have heard of Daft Punk. However, I feel sure I’ll end up preferring Jahzzar to most of his influences. That seems to be the way it works most of the time.

Download Kuddelmuddel free from Jamendo in MP3 format, or pay what you like and get it from Bandcamp in almost any format you could want.

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Kuddelmuddel by Jahzzar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://betterwithmusic.com/contact/.

#Writing #Music Monday: Epicentre by Adam Certamen Bownik

23 Feb

Epicentre CoverHere’s a second appearance by Polish composer Adam Bownik, and this one is just as welcome as his first was.

A thing I have been pondering a little bit lately is how truly, truly awful many 1980s movie synth scores were. Leave aside Tangerine Dream, Brad Fiedel, and Vangelis, and you get into some very mixed results. Synthesizers were so badly used and abused at the time that bands would release albums with “no synthesizers used” stickers (often a blatant lie) because people hated them so much.

I don’t have the musical or audio background to give any kind of definitive reason, but two scores in particular went through my head when I was thinking this over most recently: The Princess Bride and Ladyhawke.

(I’ll bring this around to today’s album and artist, just bear with me.)

The score for The Princess Bride is objectively pretty awful, sounding very much like it was done by one man on a cheap synthesizer trying to pretend to sound like an entire orchestra, and failing. And yet, somehow it works for the film. My theory is that, whether composer Mark Knopfler intended it or not, it works for the viewer because it’s the kind of thing the grandson being told the story would be able to do with the stuff in his room. (That makes the opening shot of the 1980s Nintendo game and music a stroke of genius, setting the audience up for the rest of the score of the film.)

Andrew Powell’s score for Ladyhawke, on the other hand, is in itself a mixed bag. Focusing only on the parts that use synth, the dreamier, magic-related portions of it work amazingly well even today. But when it shifts into a jaunty “theme”, it grates on the ears completely. For one thing, given the rather somber story told, it’s way too happy-sounding. But, for another, it sounds like it’s trying to do things other instruments would do better, or more smoothly.

As any fan of 1980s Hong Kong cinema can tell you, using synth just because it’s cheaper lead to lots of very cheap-sounding film scores. But those composers who embraced the new technology and tried to do new things with it, things only possible with synth, the invented new and amazing things never possible to human musicians before. Again, see the works of Fiedel, Vangelis, and Tangerine Dream for prime examples.

And that brings me back to Adam Bownik. I’m not going to claim he’s a genius on the level of those three, but he uses synth to try things only possible to synth. He’s not trying to sound like anything else — except, possibly, to sound like he created these wonderful tracks in the 1980s himself. But they’re original to him, even as he manages not to sound of his own time.

Which is quite a trick, if you think about it.

He says of this album:

One of the most dynamic albums in my discography. Inspired by natural forces of our planet Earth.

Download Epicentre free from Jamendo.

Epicentre by Adam Certamen Bownik released under a Free Art License (FAL) 1.3, also known as a Libre Art License (LAL).

This license is compatible with the Creative Commons Attribution–Share-Alike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license.

Mid-book thoughts

20 Feb

I have a confession to make: I do not enjoy reading Robert Louis Stevenson.

Oh, sure, I read Treasure Island when I was nine or ten. And as an adult I did manage to get through The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

But I’ve also failed to get through Kidnapped many, many times. And now I’m slogging through The Master of Ballantrae for my reading project, and it’s just irritating the hell out of me.

I’m two chapters in, plus an in-story preface, and while I have a better handle on what’s going on than I did the first time I tried to get through it last year (I’m already further in than I got on that attempt), RLS is still failing to give me much handle by which to grab on and get into the story.

The opening takes place around 1745 and the Second Jacobite Rebellion, which is fairly important to the plot, as it takes one main character away from the others and causes them to believe he is dead.

Let me pause to observe that “Jacobite” and “rebellion” are two words yet to be mentioned in the novel. At all. You’re simply supposed to know what Bonny Prince Charlie’s being around and the year means. No notes, no asides, nothing to help orient the reader.

Look, when Sir Walter Scott covered his fictional Third Jacobite Rebellion in Waverley, written much closer in time to the events it presumed the reader was familiar with, he still managed to give enough detail that I, who am fairly ignorant of those events, had no trouble following his (cracking good) story.

(It is, perhaps, partly excusable in that the story is narrated in the first person, and such a person would assume that anyone reading it would “just know” all the background, but I still hold that it’s bad writing to give readers basically no handle at all if they don’t have the same background as the characters in the story.)

Then there are the characters. The lists and lists of names, and indirect mention of certain characters being referred to by different names or different titles at different times, and again no explanation of why. You’re just supposed to already know, I guess.

There’s also the thick, thick Scots accent he transcribes for certain characters. A lot of it I can work out from my own knowledge of how Scots speak, or from context. But some things are just tae oobscur tae ken fa me Moorcin eyre.

I imagine that RLS is one of the authors who inspired Heinlein to write in his own particular style — that is, to describe things without explaining them, and let the reader work out the hows and whys himself.

But that doesn’t work if you don’t give the reader any way to figure anything out. So far, RLS doesn’t do that.

Also, probably best not to get me ranting on how he gives just as little description or orientation for his fictional places as for real ones, so that all of Scotland exists in a foggy nether realm where things have no spatial relationships to each other in this reader’s mind. Argh.

It’s quite maddening, but I’m going to soldier on, because this is my project, dammit, and I will finish it. Eventually.

(This is probably going to be very funny, as the next two novels in the project seem to be rather over-written Victorian pieces, so I’ll soon be bitching about having too much description, after complaining about not getting enough. Call me Goldilocks.)

“One-Eyed Dragon” by Cedar Sanderson

18 Feb

One-Eyed Dragon coverAs “One-Eyed Dragon” is a short-ish story, I don’t want to say too much about it.

It takes place in an unnamed Japanese village at an indefinite point in the past. We follow a tattoo artist who has lived there a short time, and is all but shunned by the villagers for reasons only ever hinted at. A small, mysterious lady comes into his shop and asks for an unusual tattoo. And that’s about all I can say without detracting from the delight that this story offers.

Sanderson’s writing is quiet, and she sets up all the elements of her story with perfect subtlety, all but effortlessly (to the eye of the reader, that is), so well that it makes this particular writer just a little jealous.

The other point that stood out for me is how well she evokes historical Japan. It’s not overt, just implied through detail and character interaction, but it is very effective and came off believably, though I’m not an expert in Japanese history. The only possible quibble is a reference to an artist with an obviously Chinese name (a real historical figure, as it happens, though Sanderson has distanced her story just a tiny bit by altering the spelling of the name), yet no mention is made by the character mentioning him that he is Chinese rather than Japanese. That an educated Japanese man would know about Chinese art does not a surprise, but that he would not make a distinction between the two cultures felt wrong to me. But again, I’m not an expert in Japanese culture or history, and the quibble is excruciatingly minor.

Even including that, I can’t recommend this story highly enough. It is lovely, just lovely.

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This review of “One-Eyed Dragon” by D. Jason Fleming is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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