Sunday, March 15, 2009

Golden Cowboy (Painting)

Golden Cowboy (2009)

Well that took a while. Started late January, just finished today. It's always a risk to become bored with what you're working on and cut corners to get done sooner (and then onto the Bigger Better Ideas you have that you know will be twenty times better). There probably is a bit of that in every painting and even today I started to feel it... but I gave this painting two months so it can't be said that I cut too many corners. There can always be more: more detail, more parts worked over, colors balanced, etc. But at some point you just need to let a painting stand on its own and then move onto the next one. Especially since I'm looking to build a bit of quantity in the next year (since last year I did... three? Five?)

One issue about this one is how much larger it is than all the others. 40" x 30" where the next one is 22" x 28". There is just more. Also it's the first time I have had multiple figures which might explain the gulfs between working: once you "complete" a figure, it's hard to get started on the next one. But when you do, it's enough of an annoyance to not have it done to go back and knock on it. One issue is I usually start with a person's face... and if you mess that up, it can be a lot of work to get it back into something you like. Sure, this is paint and you can always paint over it... but it can be annoying. But that can also be a crutch an easy excuse to procrastinate (e.g. "I'm too bushed from work, no reason to start painting as I'll just need to go over it again"). So setting a goal (I've got a conference at the end of March so I wanted to be done by this week) is really key.

So what drew me to this image? Well it really comes down to texture. I decided to not get playful with the colors because I really liked a lot of the stuff in this one. And this is a reason why the Japanese make interesting subjects: there is no problem finding folks dressing classically next to those of a more contemporary vibe. It all starts with the woman in the middle, she of big Wookie hair, camo baseball hat, torn jeans and cowboy boots. Even now I'm not sure if the patch on her hat says 'Night Sure' or 'Night Surf'. I guess WFour is a Japanese surf lifestyle company so I'm pretty sure its the former. You can see some of their styles here (it also makes me feel good she's wearing WFour and not Barf Ait :P). Now I'm interested to check out the Japanese surf scene 'cause I gotta know if cowboy boots are the new hotness.

The next bit that really got me about the image was the purses (can't be sure with the middle one). Chicks dig their purses and these three have definitely underlined their personal character with theirs. They all coordinate and, interestingly, provided a perfect opportunity to provide depth to the image. The one on the left, with its flat bottom is the obvious example (nothing like strong shadows to make it all easy for your boy) as does the one on the right (with its vinyl/leather crosshatching which catches the light just so). As you can see I started with surfer girl so the effect I was able to get with hers, specifically the straps over her legs, really punches out the third dimension. I also made an artistic choice there: originally the straps on her surfer purse were a fine lace... but I wasn't in the mood to paint that. This is one of the first places where brush technique let me get an effect that A) approximated the original while B) was interesting in its own right.

Similar with her hair, and mimicking the denim of her jeans. A lot of that comes from trying to work wet-on-wet as much as possible. This is more difficult with acrylic as it dries so quickly that either you have to get a new mix on your palette and just coat it over or try to go wet-on-dry' by using watered down washes. I have been reluctant to use washes as twice I've gotten burned by them (maybe using off-white wasn't the best choice in either case. But the result was to only flatten the result). So trying to get paint onto not-yet-dry paint meant having a calculated Oceans 11 approach where I'm in and out as fast as possible. There a lot of benefits to this: being able to work up from the back, not needing to mix so much on the palette and instead of on the piece itself (all reasons why oil is so popular). I guess that's one benefit of experience- the confidence to work fast and so you get more time to play around with something.

Sometimes though you are constrained: the area is too small and the shape so detailed you end up going over it again and again. Flesh tones are big on that and hands in particular (high detail and a lot of variation) and sometimes I think I need high zoom sources so I can get a level of representation that I like. Since that probably won't happen, my plan to move onto oils at some point and then probably bigger canvases would work just as well.

The flowers on the kimono were a difficult bit to figure... I didn't want to get bogged down in the trenches on a finite design and there just is only so much return on such a thing. Again the key was to get the essence of the design (like the textures of the other clothing) without doing a strand by strand recreation. I liked the silk effect I got on her kimono jacket around her shoulders (a bit of dry-on-dry using a flat brush) and so getting the waterfall of flowers on her kimono was key.

Another bit I discovered while painting was that the kimono woman's eyes aren't closed or looking at the floor: she's actually looking at the audience. And even a slight arch has gotten into her eyebrows and a bit of a grin too. How very crafty of her :P It's nice because so many of these IRL source photographs only work because the photographer is able to get a woman standing still who hasn't noticed them; and that probably involves them looking down or away at something (by my estimation 99% of the women in Japan are looking at a cellphone right now).

The last girl was a treat because of the muff collar of leopard fur. She was also the only woman to not have dyed hair and must have just rushed onto the train because her face was all red (either that or I'm very interested in what text she's reading). The size of the canvas means the resolution of my little pocket digital camera isn't enough to capture everything so the fur doesn't pop as much as it does ont he real painting. I also realized that this was the first time I painted a woman's legs and I'm quite pleased with the results (don't expect me to go all DJ Assault though). The Harajuku woman I painted before gave me a chance to work on the crosshatched leather purse stuff so I think the result here too was quite successful.

I'm mixed on the window reflections. This is really where the limits of my patience came in and it was really a no win situation for me: without the reflections the image lacked a definite realness but the result here seems to be too... I dunno, it seems to force itself into the foreground more than I would like. I'd rather just have it be something you could ignore and only realize later than something that irks me now.

Still I'm pretty happy with this. I think the result is probably more primary color that the original and I probably could have done more to spice up the color selection. But there are always future chances to fiddle with color. And any one choice can throw off the whole balance of an image. Here I think the equilibrium works.

To help simplify things, I threw all the intermediate images into a video for y'all:

Hattip to Neimo for this. When I hit about five weeks on this one, I knew trying to space out the page with text was going to be tough. One video makes it all a bit easier.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Island (Meme-thing)


1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write that song name down no matter how silly it sounds.
4. Have fun!


1. If someone says 'are you okay' you say....?
'Music is Math', Boards of Canada

2. How would you describe yourself?
'Lost', Neurosis [That one sorta works]

3. What do you look for in a guy/girl?
'Japanese Bodies', LeƦther Strip [This one too]

4. How do you feel today?
'White Lips Kissed', Mew

5. What is your life's purpose?
'Supply and Demand', TRS-80 [Basically]

6. What's your motto?
'Carey', Joni Mitchell [OK, that one makes no sense]

7. What do your friends think of you?
'You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart', Eurythmics

8. What do your parents think of you?
'Disarm', Smashing Pumpkins

9. What do you think about very often?
'Animals', Talking Heads

10. What do you think about your first kiss?
'Cringe', Neurosis and Jarboe [Ow... although if this means Jarboe and neurosis was also involved, I guess that does make sense]

11. What do you think of your best friend?
'List of Takers', Scorn

12. What is your life story?
'The Carriage of the Spirits', Ennio Morricone

13. What do you want to be when you grow up?
'Army Life', Leadbelly

14. What do you think when you see the person you like?
'Stalker', Shackleton [With some, that's pretty true]

15. What will you dance to at your wedding?
'Weakener', Scorn [I don't think you can dance to this song]

16. What will they play at your funeral?
'Stay Away', Nirvana

17. What is your hobby/interest?
'Banano's Bar', Plastilina Mosh

18. What is your biggest fear?
'These Days', Susanna and the Magical Orchestra

19. What is your biggest secret?
'I'm Getting Sentimental Over You', Tommy Dorsey [Uh...]

20. What do you want right now?
'My Shadow in Vain', Gary Numan

21. What do you think of your friends?
'Where is My Love', Cat Power

22. What will you post this as?
'My Island', Paulette Williams

It seems a lot of song titles are declarations of some kind, either straight up nouns or some action verbage. So that seems to makes asking questions pretty easy as long as you expect one or the other. I'm surprised I didn't get any IDM song titles (say 'PWSteal.Ldpinch.D' or 'Li2Co3').

Monday, February 2, 2009

One of Them Good Problems (Ask *)

So I did a painting. You know that part. I put it up here as well as on my photo sharing page so my non-circle people could see it.

[Forward to December] I'm talking to Girl Alex and we're at a bar that's way too small and there are way too many people to see the White Man's Blues being played way to loud and it's just not interesting to me and the discussion comes to my art and I promise to give her my art's URL so she and Misses Maria and Regina to see. Later that week, after the link had been sent, Alex said she liked them quite a bit and that I should do a show at the museum she curates at.

"Hey cool, " I thought.

The problem: "Yeah, the display studio would work for about 13-15 pieces," her email said. Uh... *counts the paintings in his condo... realizes he has a lot to do*

So I figure 2009 might be out of the question (Girl Alex offered that I should do it around the holidays so everybody can check it out when they're back in town). But 2010 is a possibility. I've got five right now (four I like), and am working on a larger one. If I can hit 12 or so, I think I should be good.

[Forward to Today] I check my Gmail to find a message from [photo sharing site] from a user saying he saw his photo on my site and that at first he thought it was a photoshop but then realized it was a real painting. He said it was of his wife and one of his favorite photos.

So he asked me if I'd be willing to sell it to him.

[Forward to Right Now]

Uhhhh... so now what? Personally I like that painting and I'd like to use it in a show. Of course that show might only be in over a year, once it's out of my hands its hard to get it back. Also, I got no idea what the hell I would sell it for. A woman at the art supply store got angry at me because I had been giving them away before this. So how would I figure out what I could sell it for. Look at Etsy? I mean, it's no Jimi Hendrix on Velvet... So thoughts?

Who Do You Trust?

Reader lead me to this article today, The Plot to Kill Google, which talks about the turf wars between Google, Microsoft and the Telecoms being fought in the halls of the DOJ. The funniest (funny as in tragedy not comedy) bit is the organ grinding going on by AT&T over Google being bad for privacy... coming of course from one of the good companies who gave us wireless wiretapping (and then pulled the leashes on their Congress critters to have the whole thing swept under the rug). But this whole war in Washington came up with this question...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Goddamn Mixed RPM LPs!

So I got my copy of Ricardo Villalobos' What's Wrong My Friends? and found that my turntable would skate horribly on side C. I ended up doing the old/dangerous trick of weighing the arm head so I could rip the track.

The fucked up thing: the resultant track ("Africolaps") was 11:12. The listed length? 8:15.

WTF? I didn't need this type of headache after work. I'ma just want to listen to my music! But as I'm sitting here going from fat WAVs to Quality 2 VBR MP3s[1] I see something on the Discogs page:

"Sides A, B, and D play at 33 ⅓ rpm, side C at 45 rpm."

Well fuck me. I throw the switch on the turntable and suddenly the track slides along beautifully. So how did I make this fuckup? Well as it says on that same page:

"Durations are not listed on the release."

Nor are the RPMs. So am I just to guess? Sure, I have some maxi-single 12"s. But all of them say 45 RPM on there for we among the daft and dumb. And I gotta say this is the first time I've seen a heterogenous RPM LP.

Of course this points to one of my favorite activities: playing 45s at 33 ⅓, especially if it's supposed to be a dub. I have the maxi for Yazoo's "Situation" where the B-side is supposedly a dub but, other than some reverb, it ain't much of one. Yet you slow that bastard down. It's a fucking heavy stepper (Allison Moyet's chick-tenor just adds to it). Same with Aaron Funk's Black Sabbath dubs. Of course most anyone over the age of 30 probably finds this completely banal but, eh, oh well. I've decided to keep the 33 version of "Africolaps". It actually sounds like a Villalobos song, like his remix of Shakelton's "Blood On My Hands". It's got a good midline beat while the slowed down vocal sample gives it a hypnotic air. Like mixing codeine and cough syrup. Shit, the normal version is a short (in a Villalobos' worldview) 8 minutes long. This stretches it out to a nice 11:12. Enjoy.

[1] Don't trust the MP3 encoder in Audacity 1.3 Beta. Sure, it can do all the metadata stuff and do all the various encoding types, but it doesn't build the header right if you use VBR. So when you put that MP3 in iTunes it gives a different song duration and says the encoding is a static 160KBPS. Uhhh, no.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Favorites in Music 2008

Usually I look forward to writing about music... movies... something. But I've gotten a bit tired of the exhibitionism of the Internet: before the Internet the lines between consumers and producers of criticism was pretty well outlined. You had your Lester Bangses, your Robert Christgaus and everybody would read that and complain about this or that and there was this assumption that if We the Common Folk were given the opportunity Things Would Be Different.

Well things have changed, but not what we expected. There are more voices now, and all of them more derivative than the last. With the Internet and given the chance, instead of expanding the dialogue with a broader sensibility, the masses only squirted out a tidal wave of the same diarrhea they were fed, chewed and digested for a second time. There is little critical or original thought. There is much recycled and cheap imitation. It isn't even simulacra, it is homoculii: sad parodies that do nothing but shake your faith in people. You watch it enough you can see the thought fragments bubble up through the media, picked up and parroted out through the Internet and carried along until the next fads of thought appear. Ohhcrapp is read by HIPSTERRUNOFF who is namechecked by Philip Sherburne who writes for Pitchforkmedia and moonlights for the Wire, which is read by the blog monkeys at the New York Times and Rolling Stone who trade interns with the Viacom media empire and by that point everyone out there in the world has heard about something.

Maybe its choice paralysis: so much data, so fast and so we are left with people who grasp at whatever goods are pushed into their hands. People don't collect music; they horde MP3s, they download at any whim. Nothing is every discovered slowly or revealed. It is delivered naked and cold on a mortuary slab. Orphaned from any socialization or personal perspective, the groping masses in their shame only just ratcheted up the volume in place of their lack of worthwhile opinion. You read the reviews on or any other site and you see the worst grade inflation this side of the public school system. The fucking average has to be 87% (BTW, when was a 100 degree of freedom ranking scale decided to be useful? Can anyone really tell the difference between a Pitchfork 6.7 and a 6.6 rating? In my line of work that is called Disguising Accuracy with Precision and a sure sign of fraud). You read the forums and some twatty internet hero with no record contract, now stage experience and two MP3s on his Myspace page gets someone to post a "MC Shitforbrains... Greatest MC of All Time??!" with excessive punctuation used to doubledown on that point. None of it's worth reading. Marketing firms and cool hunters have seen a tidal shift in focus groups. Where before various demographics would prove incapable of stringing together any useful sentiments, now people from ages as young as 7 are huge reserves of opinions and facts, bombarding the pollsters in an ongoing public therapy of self-interest.

But it is all useless. Going back over what people say the marketeers find only cheap cliche phrases and colloquialisms, many they themselves made up. People's minds are superfund sites of stupid half remembered commercials and aggressive branding. There are no personalities anymore and all that forum traffic tempests of electronic randomness. The Internet again proven twice idiotic.

On the website for the Planet Mu record label, there's a link to an article in Clash magazine (I've never heard of it; we've all read it before). The fucking thing is classic UK music media backhanded compliment. "Erase the image of computer geeks creaming themselves over fucked up studio wankery and preposterous breakcore edits and 'IDM'" it starts. It goes on to laud the label for switchin' shit up and becoming a house organ for that latest street poetry, Dubstep. Of course the article tries to have things both ways by saying the above described wankery was also "outsider visionary... innovative... insane" back in '98. Of course it's 2k9 now and there's nothing more a British hipster hates more than who he and his friends were yesterday. It's the constant Internet-speed race to keep up appearances. A puritanical Victorian world view where the only sure bet is to completely close yourself off from any authentic expression other than the pervasive fear of being exposed.

As you can guess, '98's latest-newest was IDM... now its Dubstep. Next year it'll be who the fuck knows. But whatever it is, it'll hate whatever we like now. The best part of the whole article is the picture: a group of whiteboy thugs dressed so you can't place the date as either '01 or '09. Obviously they aren't some bassackwards council estate-aping chavs but some real as the suburb streetwise Grime and Dubstep 'ardcore motherfuckers. One picture, two faces. A glossy miasma of adolescent insecurity hovering all about the edges.

This is how everything is now: politics, science, economics, food, love. An Oprah-type mania of redefinition and contempt for what nameless failures we've become. It is about appearances and the single philosophy that no real constructive change needs to occur; merely the appropriation of the symbols and styles of the times is sufficient. We are all kings! We are all heroes! We are all martyrs! The nominal triumphant over the real. The only thing good about it is it's wonderful terrain to disappear into.

Should Have Been Better, But That Didn't Stop People From Lauding Them Anyway

Two records that epitomized this desire were Portishead Third and The Bug London Zoo (the latter the Wire's Best Album of the Year). Both are two groups who I've loved for a long time and, in the case of Kevin Martin, championed out in the wilderness. But reading anything about both albums you hear more about what the author wishes than the actual music itself. Both are kind of interesting but flawed albums that have weak middle parts and where the singles are some of the best stuff (of course you would never want to say that: as these are Artists and they make Albums and aren't those mainstream pop acts who luck into a hot single and crap out a dozen other songs to charge twelve bucks for the experience). Both would have benefited from more retooling. Third begins to wander in its middle (being carried by Beth Gibbons' voice as Barrows' production almost completely disappears) before redeeming itself somewhat in the final four songs. London Zoo just proves again that the UK has never produced any great MCs of note (no matter what new genre name smokescreen you throw up) and proves that Kevin Martin produces more exciting production with Ragga deejays and toasters. Other than "Poison Dart" nothing comes close to approaching his collaboration with Rootsman a few years back, Razor X Productions. But, hey, who would let such a little thing like that get in the way when you want to write about the new darkness of our souls? Like a lot of hot fuss, history will judge this albums differently and journos will all say they were petty tools of the Music Criticism Machine.

My Favorites in 2008
  • Barry Lynn Balancing Lakes - Here's a great album that if it was instead labeled as a Burial or Flying Lotus album folks would be queuing up to suck it off. Instead it's another one of those Planet Mu producers who won't let themselves be constrained to a particular genre (here Mr Lynn being originally best known as the Dubstep producer, Boxcutter) and instead use a bredth of styles to create a rich and textured album (that only hardcore fans buy). The album has banging snares, soft Rhodes tones, a nuanced appreciation of dub and jungle, samples Rakim, etc, etc. It's interesting and was released to almost zero fan fare. (Recommended tracks "J-Set Jogwheel", "Lattice Shimmer", "London").
  • A Storm of Light A Storm of Light - This is another example of a creepy as hell dirge of a post-metal album. After Josh Graham did visual media stuff with Neurosis, he went on to form the instrumental metal outfit Red Sparowes which dropped two classic albums while helping put out that Battle of Mice disc. So A Storm of Light comes along, no Neurosis' own label no less, and no one's heard of it. It's the classic slow brutalism of Khanate and Sunn0))) with a character all of its own. The vocals are what you'd think a monastery choir would sound like if under hypnosis and 100 meters of water. The album is abstract and brilliant. ("Black Ocean", "Thunderhead")
  • The Dodos Visiter - Ahh, folks couldn't wait to step up and beat on this album. "It does the polyrhythms that Vampire Weekend does" yeah, except that this is their second full LP (plus an EP) with this sound and they actually use the drums in a lot of creative ways throughout the runtime to make some killer tracks. "Its just more white boy relationship angst" well true except *points at the Pitchforkmedia Top 50* and at least the lyrics are novel and funny without being pithy or ironic. It's an indie album of acoustic guitar, big drums and a murderer's row of songs. There are people who confuse volume with complexity and density with depth. This is not the album for them (and that's a great thing for us). ("Fools", "Ashley", "The Season", "Park Song")
  • Final Afar/Fade Away - Sadly Justin Broadrick's Jesu stuff seems to have gotten out of hand and disappeared into its own monotonous dream pop-isms. But I really don't mind since he keeps on dropping some classic noisy and weird ass shit under his multitude of other aliases. Here is Final, his first incarnation, at its noisy ambient best. It's environmental and expansive and is the classic music listening experience: the chance to become lost in another person's expression. ("6", "7", "They Just")
  • Mamiffer Hirror Enniffer - Once more: a collaboration in the post-metal field (here Isis' Aaron Turner and Chris Common from These Arms Are Snakes) that passed unseen across everyone's radar. Faith Coloccia combines found noise and piano into a post-metal classical hybrid that's weird and absolutely unique. When folks look at all the shitty records on their shelves and how they all sound the fucking same, this is the sort of album you wish you had. ("Death Shawl", "Cyhaeth")
  • Jazzanova Of All The Things - Folks seemed to talk about this one a little more but then it didn't appear on anyone's favorite lists. It's a slight departure from Jazzanova's first LP in that vocalists appear on every track, but that's just meant the connection between the songwriting and the sequencing is tighter. Jazz signatures, Philly soul styles, big fucking breaks, tales of heartbreak ("I Can See", "Little Bird")
  • Last Step 1961
  • Venetian Snares Detrimentalist - Throwing more water on that Clash article about Planet Mu above, Mr Aaron Funk flipped his two personae in new and interesting ways. As Venetian Snares he released an almost nostalgic ragga jungle album where he still performed his mayhem of odd time signatures, comical samples and genre potpourri. By the end the album takes turns into house and finally the symphonic breakcore he had set out in Rossz Csillag and My Downfall. Meanwhile his acid house Last Step alias became a darker instrument, avoiding the 80's danceflooriness of their first release and instead exploring epic and strange spaces (which seem to involve various cake frosting options and colors). Funk challenges expectations but doesn't seem to do so for its own sake. He doesn't seem to care if he's pigeonholed, moreso that he doesn't feel the need to do the same album twice simply to cash in. He follows his own surrealistic muse. ("Seafoam Green", "Shoreline Gold", "Eurocore MVP", "Poo Yourself Jason", "Koonut-Kaliffee")
  • Syclops I Got My Eye On You - Everyone loves DFA (PFM made the underwhelming Sound of Silver by LCD Soundsystem their top album of 2007), everyone likes Mu... so when Maurice Fulton decides to release an album of his classic disco house on DFA people don't even review it. C'mon... there's essences of Chicago and P-Funk on here! Fulton does his own drums! In all probability this album doesn't have much of an audience (it's not as if Fulton is really aligned with any particular scene) but its still a great disc of house music that isn't like anything else you'll really hear. ("The Fly", "Nelson's Back")
  • Austrian Death Machine Total Brutal - Fuck it, this novelty album is better than anything As I Lay Dying did. Tim Lambesis put together this parody of "What if Arnold Schwarzenegger headed a Metalcore band?" and came out with comic gold. Quickly written, pummelling idiotic songs that are just infectious. Everyone would have done it if they would have thought of it first. And you got fake Arnold going ape all over the place. The song even has some nice meta moments such as Arnold getting frustrated with his band fucking around with their FX pedals in "What It's Like to be a Singer at Band Practice". It's not perfect (where are the Conan songs?) but it's actually entertaining. ("Get to the Chopper", "If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It")
Other Stuff
  • Grey Machine "Vultures" - Aaron Turner and Justin Broadrick forming up to make hellacious noise! What was lost from the first two Jesu releases seems to have been stored up and released in this new collaboration. This first single dropped online and has me excited for 2009.
  • Hot Pink Delorean - Their debut EP of all original stuff wasn't the same as their remixes or earlier tracks but this production collective has a lot going for it. They cross French electrohouse with Miami style booty bass and go around making all sorts of genre bending remixes from Britney Spears to Q-Tip to Jodeci to Hollywood Holt (an unsigned Chicago MC) to the Victorian Gentlemans Club. They're able to take all these loose strands and tie them up in a sweaty ecstacy. Not to be missed (You can find a lot of their remixes loose on the internet. "Caked Up", "Freak Night", "Played Out", "Le Mer" are all worth it).
  • DVAS "Ambient Room (SymbolOne Remix)" - One of my favorite house tracks of the year. DVAS is eh to me but SymbolOne transform this into a smooth gem of a song.
  • The Duke Spirit Neptune - Another album that didn't live up to expectations mostly because producers still haven't been able to capture their live sound (maybe they should try to do what the Stooges did for Funhouse?). But another problem was that two of the tracks were released last year on the Ex-Voto EP while another ("Wooden Heart") was an old demo that came on the second disc of Cuts Across the Land. If they never would have released that EP and all the songs were on Neptune I would have loved it a lot more. But I think the apex came with their EP Covered in Love. The kids are too talented and put on too much of a good show to be let down like this on plastic.

Best Reissues
  • Ragga Twins Ragga Twins Step Out - This was a "Holy Shit!" moment for me and one of the things that keeps me digging in old crates. This milange of ragga, sub-PE boombap and early 90's rave never made it stateside. But leave it to Soul Jazz to put together this compilation for the kids. This shit is fucking explosive! The production of Shut Up and Dance is way ahead of its time (an example: the track "Rude Boy" shifts between reggae, to house, to hip-hop in the span of three minutes) but also was a victim of the Intellectual Property jihad that soon followed (too many samples == albums that never get released and groups that die before their time). But that's the best thing about music: some of its brand new second hand ("Ragga Trip", "Illegal Gunshot", "Tan So Black")
  • Bitcrush Shimmer and Fade - Bitcrush released an OK album this year but N5MD felt it good to rerelease this album (originally an mp3 release in '05) properly. And its a great mix of your normal Eluvium release if you then dropped some smart beatwork and basslines on it.
  • Edit: Loop - Heaven's End/Fade Out - Loop's always been one of those groups right outside of my radar... from Hampson appearing on Pure with Godflesh to the covers each group did to the "Yeah, a lot of what you think avant garde metal and shoegaze is came from the 80's UK psychadelic noise scene". These albums are fucking bananas. Spacey, lucid and loud like the best of what people expect from the likes of MBV and Ride. Plus the reissues have a slew of alternative versions and Peel Sessions. So don't miss out.
That's probably enough. I'm off now to buy some vinyl cleaner.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Andrew Wyeth Dead at 91

Well this is sad (says the man who has a Wyeth painting as an avatar on this and other sites). Wyeth is best remembered as the master of American pastoral, using egg tempera as a medium and this:

Most would be surprised that "Christina's World" is in the Museum of Modern Art. It isn't very modern, let alone contemporary. It is representational but not hyperreal or any other statement of the process of painting or art itself. It's even less a statement about Us (unlike, say American Gothic). But that's what Wyeth was: it was a documentary, not declaration.

Andrew Wyeth's work existed where words (often) fail... or they come so much of themselves that they obscure and confuse. If music criticism is like dancing about architecture, Wyeth's work shrugged off the vocal language and led us to think of the images, the space, the moments. Nature unfolds into its own structure; no need for us to walk out to the Rocky Mountains and place a billboard the obvious: SCENIC VISTA.

Wyeth's best contemporary wasn't a painter but the director, Terrence Malick. Days of Heaven, Badlands and the others all express the same sentiments. They work in a canvas as big as a sky and the sights they set out to capture... those are their camera obscura.

"If I never meet you in this life, let me feel the lack; a glance from your eyes, and my life will be yours.", SGT Welsh, The Thin Red Line

Wyeth will be missed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rip Vinyl (Ask *)

So, I've got this
And with my turntable I turn it into nice


But that's all WAV files. So I'm trying to figure out how to best turn it into some nice MP3 (MP3 since that's what, if I put it on a data disc, I can listen to it in my car, versus Ogg which I can't).

So, what should I use to go to WAV->MP3? Command-line LAME? Or is there some front-end I can use to batch a bunch of files? The problem with Audacity (which I use to rip from the turntable) is that it doesn't seem to do other encodings than 128Kbps (yuck). Or can it? And should I go for VBR? If so, what rate? And a Windows solution would be best.

I'm starting to get a backlog of LPs and 10"s that I need to turn over :P

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hay Consuelo! (Painting)

Hay Consuelo! (2009)

I'm sitting here in my office with Willie Nelson Stardust ("Blue Skies" specifically) on the turntable. It's the first thing I listened to on it, buying the LP during the holiday so I'd have something to listen to (and with my order of Snares Sabbath Dubs and Ricardo Villalobos Sini Es Drum on back order through Forced Exposure) and I always liked this album. We'd listen to it in my Mom's old Chevette, the red one with the vinyl seats that were sticky hot and where the metal buckles would burn your legs if it sat out in the sun too long. But the music I painted the above to (mostly) was Pier Bucci's Familia album. I did that first, well, because I think it's a stellar little microhouse/techhouse/minimal techno album. But also because the source image I found was from Chile.


I'm not that original. Often whatever the hell I'm listening too becomes the title. In this painting, the title fit. The look the young woman is giving is what caught me originally. Yes, I prefer the voyeuristic image for the simple fact that the posed image is often trite and dumb. Posing for photographs usually reduces any individualism from the image, subtracts the moment and instead you are left with just more of Everything Else.


The photographers on Flickr are twice as bad about posing. Its all Art with H1 tags, garish colors and all that else. Lil Fatty at work last week admonished me for calling some of the folks we work with Nominal Analysts (since they seemed more interested in playing Jack Ryan instead of writing anything with the insight to warrant merit).

"You have to call yourself something before you become it," was his reasoning.

"Really?" I thought. I could have sworn that title came after deed. You only get to call yourself a doctor after a whole gamut of things, not upon entering med school.


The photography on Flickr can be just as naval-gazing. It's all folks with cameras and too much time spent at home and not enough out in the world. The basic logic seems to be "Finally, I can show myself in the light I was always meant to be seen in". But all you're left with is something souless and trite. At most there is simply a gimmick (365 days of photos is a popular one). But they are never any document. You look at them and only see a fleeting fancy. No statement.


And so while I am more compelled to paint the voyeuristic street photography people have on there, now and then you find something that goes against the rules, the source for this painting being one. Another name for this would be "Why so Arch?" as the first thing I liked about this was the look on the woman's face. Scanning back over what I've painted before, most of what I've gotten to paint so far has involved folks with neutral faces. Look here, look there, light falls from overhead, ambient light from below. That's it. But the face can have so much to it, paradoxes, crossed purposes.


The look our girl here has the one people give after giving someone (our photographer)grief and getting an exacerbated "Can you please be serious?" It is childish playfulness caught for a moment. You can see it in her arched eyebrows, and smiling cheeks juxtaposed with her chin slightly offset and lips tightly pursed. She's biting her tongue. For now.


It's a personal look. You don't share glances like this with your boss. Children give it to their parents. Old married couples share it. Girls give this look to boys. Often (and it doesn't bother us one bit). For our girl here the look breaks open the narrative of the image. She's got the "Goddamn it I wouldn't have come out like this if I knew you were going to take my picture" casual going on (bandana with her hair pulled back). I guess she and her boyfriend had gone down to the shore, wandering around, for what?, they probably don't know. And they stopped and, sitting on a guardrail, looked out at the sea. That I was able to capture this look, a look she only gave him, and now share it with us... I'm pleased.


The image is made more interesting by the weather. There's all of this light (morning? Since it's Chile I'm assuming winter light and if the ocean is to the West then its gotta be dawn-ish) but then these menacing huge clouds over the town. The big sort of romantic clouds Caspar David Friedrich would love to paint. And then even further out, this unbelievably tranquil blue sky. I over-exaggerated that sky and underdid the clouds... in the process making it less of an artifact but underlining one of the things I really liked about the image.


One thing from the original that I wasn't able to capture was her scarf: in the original image its this eye bleeding magenta. Sadly I tried about a dozen fucking mixes and couldn't get a single one to pop. Curse of Acrylic? Maybe. Or its quite possible all the blues I have are too dark. Likewise I really hate Medium Violet. It has the visual consistency of oatmeal. And anything you mix it with soon goes to a hideous gray. So I instead continued most of the color work I had on her face down onto a more red-dominated scarf. Not at all realistic and doesn't capture the color combinations of the original, but still interesting and an adequate save. One thing that doesn't show up here is the amount of texture it has. That's always the one thing you can get by going to a museum that pictures never have: the weight of the strokes. In that way painting can be a 2.5 dimensional process. The fabric of her cardigan thing seems to have worked well. I originally was going to stencil every cord in the fabric but found this way looked better (sort of doing a Valasquez-type thing). I saw that the left arm of her jacket has more of a blue tone but I decided to keep it. I dunno, there's something on how it breaks the uniformity and the expectation that I like.

The ground worked in a similar way: its actually a bunch of smooth shore rocks that, goddamn it, I'm not going to fucking paint. So you have to find an out. This was complicated by the big shadow cast by the guardrail she's sitting on. Having a solution that doesn't work there would be obvious. A three level go with dry brush and the result is what it is. It "ghosts" well. The town is very Edward Hopper to me, with its simple lines and cool blues. The original image was described for all the color in it. Looking at this the one thing I wanted to avoid was making something where the color was flat and that whole aesthetic was lost. Instead I think it remains, with something else separate here that rewards the eye looking at it. I'm happy.

With this painting I've officially run out of material to paint on. I'm thinking I might move to something BIGGER. Not too big, but maybe some custom canvas. I've got a couple pictures that almost seem to require it.