Thursday, February 28, 2008

All Records Sound the Same? reference to this good piece by Music Thing wordsmith Tom.
Noteworthy and quite a well rounded bit of writing - but it misses a few things:

I will try to address a few of them:
When you record sound, the sound you record is not the sound that happened. There is a chain of hardware, cables, electronics, ears. Whether a sound is authentically 'captured' or not is a matter of taste and debate. Ears, perception (or should it be peraurtion - it'll cost you $50 to use it!) It doesn't matter how fancy the microphones or anything else in the chain. Does it sound good?

Tape by its nature compresses sound. So the 'great' sounds of yesteryear were compressed before they even got near the ears of an 'expert' mastering engineer. Heaps of arbitrariness in this equation.

Don't turn on the radio!

Ignore big record labels.

Do not look to the good ol' U. Arse of A to hear good new music...

White coats? Sounds like Stalinist life control to me. Coming to the USA soon. Why should meticulous placing of mics be even noted in this way? Yes, place the mics for the best sound, but white coats...? (hairnets and latex gloves just to be sure that the proletariat does not besmirch the expensive machinery with grime and dust and dandruff. The machines were built to last a thousand years - the 'technicians' are expendable). People still do lots of mic placement, even for jams and rehearsals.

There must be more. But Tom did a good job for the lay man and frustrated this music head a bit more than I would have liked.
Sounded like it was written to appease a certain readership rather than challenge current practice and norms.
A thumb and a half...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pictured Yesterday (day before actually) in Sunny Manhattan

If anybody can decifer this lady's instructions for voting, please let me know. She was unwilling to talk and would not have her picture taken with the colorful bundle and cryptic crib sheet...

Mangled Web stuff

this is funny
scroll down, read the comments (by the way, I have no idea who these people are hosting my music-doubt I'll ever see a penny)
and this is too
again scroll down to the comments -a sample of the bottish bullshit:
"Admirable music, special sound of the Eating Betty will not leave you calm. Have the following Black Noise dub and have a rest"
It gives me a nice warm feeling reading these fake comments because I'm a sucker for anything positive said about these musical efforts of mine. But I love the total contradiction. Black Noise Dub apparently requires you to be somewhat disturbed and have a rest. Perhaps it is not all at the same time - so freak out when listening and then lie down and hug a pillow and suck your thumb for comfort after that terrible musical assault. I just wish i knew how this automated shit is generated...definitely gave me a laugh...
Though fate decreed otherwise, I was not born in Jamaica; others (it's a slow load) however would beg to differ. I have no problem with this at all and it is amusing (and gratifying) for it to be thought that my music is JA originated.
Always interesting to find mangled stuff...
Compiled by foreign language bots no doubt in the first two, the third one...who knows. Presumption perhaps...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

ACEtone Studio's Greatest hits for Jan 2008

...thought this might be of interest:
If I had a dollar, or 50 cents or even a dime for every download, I'd very be nicely supplementing the income from the day job and no longer struggling from paycheck to paycheck. And I'd be able to pay off a heap of debt. But you see, the thing is, most of the people, whoever they are, who downloaded the music most likely wouldn't have done so if there was the added hassle and expense of going through the process of paying for it. So, say I stop making 'The Dub Canon' for example available for free - I suspect it would no longer be heard by any new pairs of ears. Or at least very few.
To the people who downloaded the tracks, I heartily thank you and encourage you to keep on doing it. But if you can get around to it some time, please do buy a track every once in a while! And tell others...pass on the links...

I think this is a tiny thumbnail illustration of where the major record companies have it completely wrong. They haven't really lost anywhere near the number of sales they say they have due to 'illegal' filesharing. Again, they have misunderstood human nature, misinterpreted the art form and then gone on to insult and degrade their potential customers by bringing baseless lawsuits against them, extorting exorbitant settlement fees from individuals where no legal decision has even been reached and generally pissing off any sane minded lover of music.

I wouldn't give the majors a penny of my money now. They have nothing of value to offer. However, I do encourage supporting the little man, the small labels, the true independents - people who respect musicians and do not insist on business speak 101 such as calling musicians 'content providers'. Should we be selling music by quantity, or weight? When music becomes measurable it ceases to become music. You can say, well it's all mathematics really isn't it? But that notion in my view always misses the point. How mathematically inclined are you when you are being transported to another place and time whether playing or listening? It takes a certain kind of intellect and personality to find advanced mathematics transcendent, uplifting, inspiring etc.

When I'm working on a recording, I know that the timing/arrangement/note placement of the piece may be a sort of mathematical timeline/grid but this consciousness is buried beneath deep layers of expression and emotion/passion, neither of which are as yet quantifiable in mathematical the best of my knowledge anyway...

It has never been about money for me, maybe I'm a musical fool...
But is indeed gratifying to see some ACEtone productions being so popular with the barest minimum of promotion. The top three on this list were jammed live at 6/8 Studio and dub mixed back at ACEtone. The musicians I played with on these tracks are just some of the best coolest people I know. And if you find yourself listening to these tracks, remember that we were jammin' - no prior rehearsal involved. Sometimes it's the best way to make music.

Underground Roots is all ACEtone recorded and not bad at all. Nice to know it is getting out there a bit...

Enjoy free music. Pay for it if you think it is worth it...
I'll tell you what, pay for my music, then I'll be able to pay for music (to listen to) ; )

Friday, February 1, 2008

Cans: A Personal History

Excuse me while I ramble ignorantly on the subject of headphones.
Just today I ordered a paired of these and hope they won't be too terrible. They were $20 so I won't be too annoyed if they sound terrible. And why am I getting these?

I've been doing a lot of walking lately and really enjoying listening to a ton of music on the ipod (60G of constantly updated music) and finding that despite the greatness of the music that is playing, the sound is just not satisfactory. Now I really don't expect these cans to solve the problem, but here is what I have been up against:

With the iPod I inevitably got the standard issue crap white ear buds. My ears are just not designed to accommodate buds. Yes, I'm a mutant. I had a pair of Roxio ear buds from a few years ago that I thought were crap at the time but they actually sounded pretty good with the iPod. They were bigger and the foam covers stayed on (as they would not on the Apple buds) so i could wedge them into my shell-likes and actually hear some bass. So I lost the Roxio buds, whether misplaced at home or permanently. I had a pair of Sony in-ears - the ones with the head band that I dug out from some box or other which surprised me by actually sounding better than the aforementioned two bud phones.

Wouldn't you know it, the repeated taking out and putting back in to pocket resulted in the left phone on the Sonys to die? Wire breaks. Back to the Apple buds. Horrible!

A couple of attempts to find a quick fix in LOCAL SHOPS resulted in NOTHING. In slight desperation I went to Radio Shack and confident in the knowledge that their ear buds had to be crap, I bought a pair for $10 just in case I would be proven wrong. I do not mind getting things wrong if the final outcome is a positive. They practically jumped out of my ears before I could even get to hear how bad they were. Weirdly shaped, small and very slick, there was no way for them to adhere to the walls of my earholes. A total waste of time, but now they serve as You Tube or similar incidental 'hearing what some asshole politician has to say about something on the computer at the office. Not a really a total waste then, but a reshuffle of resources, or something.

So I went internet shopping. And, will I feel silly with a pair of cans on walking through the streets? People used to look insane a few years ago talking on cellphones, so...who cares? if the music sounds better.

Now on to the personal headphone history. I must admit that I started recording music totally clueless and in some respects took longer than I should have to nail down some basics. Even still I skirt some of the high and mighty 'expert' advice on basic stuff. For example, I still do not have a pair of proper monitor speakers. But what I do have in this apartment living home recording studio environment is a pair of proper cans that I trust, not because they are so wonderful, but because I know them. I've had the same pair of Sony MDR V6 for 13 or 14 years.

In fact, most of the music I hear is through these old reliable friends. They are well worn. The ear pads are denuded of the plastic coating (making them less sweaty in a NY summer) and less puffy (less squashed into the ear, better for my ears in the long run) and at high volume one of the drivers distorts a little - but I don't push them like I used to when I was younger and admittedly stoopider. Probably still stoopid but a little less so nowadays.

But to embellish the history and add a little relevance to this post. Immediately preceding the Sony MDR V6 I got a pair of AKG something or others something like these (pictured). On whose advise, I cannot remember, and this was before internet information / disinformation (or shall I call it 'indisinfo'?) but I do remember that the thrust of the recommendation was that the headphones would give a 'flat response' so I could really hear what I was recording and not be fooled by headphones that accentuated certain frequencies to produce a false aural image of what was actually on tape. Well bollocks to that. I hated those things so much. They were DEAD. I think I tried them for a short time and in frustration tore them apart and threw them in the rubbish. balls to the 'flat response' mafia. Thing is, almost nobody listens to any music on a 'flat response' system - so why restrict yourself to a dead sound while you are engaged in the recording process? I got the Sony MDR V6 headphones and for recording purposes all I want is a brand new identical pair - that is how much I trust them. I have recorded things I would in hindsight like to change but I would never blame the cans. My mistakes.

So what is the point of this ramble? I'll see what the Yamahas have to offer - but recording and listening are two very different experiences with entirely distinct requirements from cans. If the Yamahas are crap for listening on the iPod or are too much of a drain (I can always get a Boostaroo for volume if they suck too much and are too quiet) I may need to rethink. But I really need a cost effective (extremely low budget) solution to making ipod listening a pleasure not an academic exercise: 'that sounds like a really good track, I wonder what it is supposed to sound like...' sort of thing.

I'll have a second pair of cans for a vocalist or other musician at least, for cheap.

Maybe I'll update with a review of the cheapo Yamaha cans...
Any by the way, I buy a few things here and there but mostly from for no other reason than that they are usually cheaper and they have a somewhat useful review system. But the reviews very often are by complete illiterates who have no idea what they are talking about. It can be amusing, frustrating or both. But then again, in the REAL WORLD of human interaction whoever it was that swore by the AKGs was just plain wrong...for me...
All opinion all the time!

The Futility of Blogging?

I have wrestled with this for quite some time but after hosting my own somewhat popular website for a couple of years I decided to hell with it - blog and be damned! It's not as if anyone reads the stuff anyway. But certainly, having done some random blog viewing just a few minutes ago the notions of relevance and inherent worth come into question. Can a person's personal blog about the birth of their child for example, transcend the status of diary writing and be worthwhile to a wider readership? Well, I'm absolutely not one of those baby diary readers, though if you put a road sign, or bus schedule in front of me I will read it as I read anything there is to read whether I like it or not. Put it out of sight and I can happily forget about it...

I am perhaps old fashioned or overly cautious, but I consider posting personal information and pictures on the internet foolish and generally embarrassing.

Is this worthwhile? It doesn't really matter to me if anyone reads it or not. But I would hope that some of the topics and opinions would be considered relevant...not foolish or embarrassing!

an evening with: The Soul Brothers: Last Train to Skaville

I was very excited to get my ears around this reissue of tracks I had for the most part never heard before. Listening on the iPod I was definitely delighting in the music - so exciting to hear a track such a 'Ska-culation' and rack my brain to finally figure out that it is a loose cover of the Chantays 'Pipeline' (more on this kind of oddity at a later date I'm sure!) - but after a few tracks the novelty of the new tracks quickly waned. I was definitely conscious of the fact that I was hearing the tunes through the sound destroying ear buds that came with the pod...and then I got home and...

The remastering is thoroughly awful. I think it is a Studio One reissue, so there is not much of a surprise in this, but I have my own vinyl rips of the Carib Soul and Hot Shot LPs and they sound so bright, energetic and musical in comparison. The 'Last Train...' tracks sound pretty dead to my ears. The difference? If you must insist on removing clicks and scratches you must know what you are doing (check anything reissued by Blood and Fire who I think in most cases did and continue to do a stellar job of bringing the music to life and minimizing the extraneous vinyl noise in a subtle fashion) . If you are anything like me, you would rather have the clicks and scratches and whatever other surface noise if you can hear the music (check the podcast in a previous posting). On these tracks I can still hear the clicks but they are clearly EQed out in some blanket way - so obviously the frequencies that are the same as the clicks are also minimized. Bad news by any sonic reckoning. Much of the drums, hats and cymbals are very obviously lost and much else I'm sure...

In fairness to Studio One, we're still talking about a fairly ad hoc system of reissue from my understanding. I have Studio One vinyl that to my ears sounds like it has been ripped to tape from vinyl and then re-pressed, resulting in a weird double layer of clicks. It makes interesting listening sometimes! But when the vinyl copy is good it can be ripped and still sound vibrant. what in the name of the god of sound can be wrong with a bit of surface noise?

To add to this, I have met a few times a sound engineer who was present at a session of Studio One tape archiving (I know not the studio or circumstances but it was prob. about late 80s). He (Mike D) told me that much of the very early Studio One material was on one track paper tape (!) and that the archive process involved trying to get the paper tape to pass successfully over the heads. In many cases the tape disintegrated immediately after passing over the heads. Powdered musical genius anyone. you could sell it in bottles...

So maybe some of this Soul Brothers material fits into this category of only redeemable via vinyl.

So I would say, these are great tracks for the most part, but if you can find them on vinyl - do it. I certainly will.

And this applies to most pre - say 1975 stuff for me now. I don't have the cash but, hell, better to spend a bit on the real deal instead of a hack job of vinyl ripping.

All of that said, there are some great tracks on here and only a couple of dupes from Carib Soul and Hot Shot (one from the JM Tribute - the excellent Boogaloo track) - I recommend the music without reservation - it is wonderful but it could sound so much better...gimme the vinyl and I'll do an honest to goodness straight rip, clicks'n'all!

Side notes: If this is Jackie Mittoo at age 13+ playing and arranging, it is truly humbling! The Soul Brothers at Studio One material is a really interesting period that I would like to hear a lot more of (leave comments with recommendations please!). In this music you have Ska-becoming Rock Steady-being jazzy and loading a lot of (current at the time) pop culture than people are aware of. Make no assumptions. these kids were sophisticated. But having fun. Chicken and Booze! Alright, where's mine?