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  • Archive for August, 2011

    Primo Vino Art: Leitz Out Riesling

    2011 - 08.30

    I would not say that this wine tasted “sassy”, in any way really.  However, that said, this was a superb Riesling.  If Riesling is your thing, check this one out.  It’s divine on a hot Texas summer night.

    The Funky Cactus Vinyl Gold, To Blow Up Your Eardrums

    2011 - 08.27

    It’s time to raise the curtain on two little mini-mixes I’ve been compiling for some time. I’m really tickled with how awesome these turned out.  First off: “The 70’s Cactus Vinyl Funk Mixtape” (click the cassete to play)

    I’ve been hitting up this really awesome record store in Houston called Cactus Music, where they have maybe 20-30 crates of used vinyl which is up for grabs at 97¢ per LP. Yes, $0.97. It’s completely unsorted and a good deal of the records are scratched and dirty, but still, for under a dollar per LP, this place is a total gold mine. This mixtape is the cream of the funky crop I found while diggin through those crates down at Cactus this summer.

    As you’ll hear immediately from the start, there’s plenty of crackle and vinyl “dirtyness” in here. I did pick up a record cleaner soon after I started buying LPs, but listening back to two recorded versions of the opening track which I dubbed before and after using the record cleaner, I actually decided to use the dirty one on purpose. I dig the raw, unkempt vibe that record crackle gives. There’s even a minor skip in the second track; see if you can catch it. I left if raw intentionally so it’s exactly like you’d hear if a buddy came over to your house and you were excited to play that hot LP you just found earlier this week–we’re not going to waste time cleaning this thing, throw it on the platter and go, man!

    That’s pretty much the spirit of this mix–it’s a bunch of weird 70’s funk that I’d never known of before, mostly from bands I’d never heard of before either. I compiled it to share my favorite finds with fellow funk fanatics. The mix is 30 minutes long so it would fit perfectly onto a cassette tape as part of the Bill’s Boat Cassette Project. Since I was putting extra care into the track selection and mastering of this mix, moreso than any of the other tapes, I got on eBay and picked up a sweet looking reel-to-reel style tape for it, as you can see above. The vinyl was digitized to FLAC through my Pro-Ject Debut III USB turntable, arranged in Sony ACID, compressed and mastered with T-Racks tube emulation software, rendered back to FLAC again, and then put to tape on my NAD 6130 cassette deck. I was very pleased with the end result!

    Since I did spend time obsessing about the sound quality, I’ll offer this one in FLAC in addition to the usual 160kbs mp3. Right click those links to download. Click the cassette above to stream it now (flash required).

    Track Listing:

    1. Cosmic Truth – Earthquake Shake
    2. B.T. Express – Do It ‘Til You’re Satisfied
    3. Brass Connection – Movin’
    4. The Commodores – Patch It Up
    5. Cosmic Truth – UFO’s
    6. Ronnie Laws – Mis’ Mary’s Place
    7. Steve Miller Band – Fly Like an Eagle (psychedelic intro only)
    Playtime: 30 minutes

    And the proverbial Side B to The 70’s Cactus Vinyl Funk Mixtape: “BOATCHASE!” (you can stream this too, by clicking the previous cassette and going to the next track. Since these mixes were created together, I’m grouping them in their own playlist together)

    Track Listing:

    1. Brass Connection – Sambo (progression)
    2. Curtis Mayfield – Junkie Chase
    3. Ohio Players – Fight Me, Chase Me
    4. Ohio Players – The Big Score
    5. Mandrill – Silk
    Playtime: 24 minutes

    As with the A-Side, this mix was gathered exclusively from 97¢ vinyl I bought at Cactus Records and built/mastered the same way, only this time I picked these particular cuts to emulate the soundtrack for a 1970s style boat chase scene, probably from a movie about people smuggling illicit goods from tropical locations. There’d be a lot of exposed chest hair and mustaches involved. And brown avaiator sunglasses. You’ll notice the last tune is a change of pace–this is the triumphant part of the boat chase where you’ve eluded the pursuers and are chillin out in the sunshine, smooth sailin.

    As above, we got FLAC format available for you audiophiles with the Grado headphones, and we’ve got 160kbs mp3 available for the iPod listeners on the move. Click the top cassette to launch em right now in the player, playa. Also available in the Music section.

    Awwwwwwww GIT IT!

    Games I Like: “Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP”

    2011 - 08.26

    I have no idea how they settled on such a mouthful of a name, and we already went over how much I kinda think tabets are stupid, but I have to admit: This game is totally radish.

    To sum it all up in one paragraph, it’s an 8-bit retro style puzzle/action adventure for the iPad (and other devices now too) with a charming sense of humor and masterfully done sound design. Why is it so cool? Well, I’d say simply “the vibe”. We’ll expand on that in a minute. Watching their trailer should give you a good idea (note, although they humorously insist otherwise, I don’t think watching this really spoils anything):

    I was leaving the next day, and so played through the entire game in one night on my cousin’s iPad, which took me about 3+ hours or so. I also played it almost in darkness, and with in-ear headphones on, which definitely added to the experience; counterbalancing the fact that I rushed all the way through the game in one sitting. Most definitely it would do the game better justice to space it out and play slowly.

    One of the innovative ideas it tosses out is that to complete certain stages, you need to play the game when the moon is in a certain phase. As in, the game knows what the actual moon, orbiting the Earth, is doing, and certain events can only happen on certain days of the month. That’s a brilliant concept. Obviously, if you’re determined, there is a way, within the game, that you can get around this. It’s almost too bad that they allowed you to. But still, awesome idea there.

    The game has a mimimal cast of characters, and essentially no spoken dialogue, outside of the rare humorous banter from a woodsman called “logfella”. His trusty sidekick “dogfella” serves as a guide to keep you on track when the goal maybe isn’t as obvious–always a welcome touch in any game. There were a few moments where I caught myself fruitlessly backtracking because I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be doing, but on the whole I managed to stay on task, which is a key attribute for puzzle games.

    The humor is a consistent source of enjoyment as you play. For example, you happen across some interesting detail in the woodland scenery and double tapping on it produces a small bit of text saying something to the effect of: {We happened across three spooky looking graves, randomly near the side of the road, and we wondered what was up with that.} This is a text adventure and for the most part, the text will keep a grin on your face.

    It’s also pretty overdramatic, for an 8-bit affair. There’s lots of lightning and thunder, there’s swords being raised to the sky, rainbows, giant stone faces, mysterious tomes, 8-bit monsters that somehow manage to be actually kinda scary, and enough little cryptic snippets of folklore to give the illusion that some larger, grandiose tale is hidden behind the minimalist framework of the game itself. The 8-bit art style works excellently in this magical mideval setting, where the pixelation gives you just enough detail to understand what things roughly look like, but at the same time obscures them to the extent that you sort of find your brain filling in the gaps, like how you imagine characters beyond an author’s description when you read a novel.

    S: S&S EP (that’s how the game abbreviates itself) is split into 4 acts or “sessions”, which is hip. A mysterious cigar smoking man with a giant throne called “The Archetype” provides a brief plot review and critiques your progress, before 8-bit curtains close over the screen with a thunderous mechanical clanking. Chapters are good. And giving credence to the “EP” in the name, there are sections of the game which take place inside of a dream. When you reach them, there’s a sweet visual of a record rising into the night sky and flipping over from side A to side B. A neat touch. I love the fact that there is a real world and a dream world, and in certain parts, they do overlap a little.

    When you first reach the dream world, the word “dream” appears in the sky, slowly fading away. There’s a few other parts where they do this same technique, for example “believe” when you stand on the store of a lake that it turns out you can simply walk across. It’s cool. You spend more time doing ‘sworcery’ than swordsmanship in the game, sleuthing out forest sprites with your magical musical abilities. The gameplay works; it’s fun. The pixellated, misty forest atmosphere makes you feel like there’s magic in the air, and you’re part of it.

    Something ususual for a game, and smart, is the fact that in the early stages you have 5 stars of health, and as the game progresses, you actually get fewer and fewer stars of health, until you eventually can only have 1, near the end.

    The final thing I’ll comment on is how totally BOMB the sound design is. Every little bird chip, raindrop, wolf howl, or chime to guide you toward a puzzle solution is meticulously chosen. It all fits together so cohesively. The game has sporadic music which plays after certain events or in certain locations too, which serves well to build the dread as monsters grow near, or heighten your triumph when a key solution happens. For those so inclined, composer Jim Guthrie has a 180g vinyl release “Sword & Sworcery LP: The Ballad of the Space Babies”

    I love how the soundtrack is the LP and the game is the EP. They’ve got some high-minded chatter over on the Superbrothers website, about how “One of our earliest goals for the game was to create a space that could also be described as ‘an album you can walk through.” Worth a read if you’re into the game. Normally I’d roll my eyes a bit at such artist-speak, but I have to admit, these dudes have kinda created something special here. Go play it!

    The BBCP: Bill’s Boat Cassette Project

    2011 - 08.23

    Ever been jealous of a present that you’re giving to someone else? This tape collection is totally like that.

    My buddy Bill acquired a boat some time back, and since I knew I’d be chillin on it with him over my Wiscotrip this summer, I wanted to bring along some hot jams. Deadly hot jams. As detailed previously, being able to provide the proper musical playback format involved getting a cheap tape deck and makin tapes. And here’s the results:

    The tapes:

    “70’s Cactus Vinyl Funk” Mixtape / “So Funky It Hurts!” Mixtape
    “BOATCHASE!” Mixtape / “Modern Funksters” Mixtape (not shown–it’s in the player!)
    “70’s Vocal-Funk” Mixtape / Donny Hathaway: Live
    Orgone: Cali Fever / Orgone: Killion Vaults
    Greyboy / New Mastersounds
    Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles: Live (Sides A & B)
    Curtis Mayfield: Superfly (Sides A & B)
    “Heady Downtempo” Mixtape / Scientist Dubtape
    Easy Star Allstars: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band (Sides A & B)

    Click on the linked titles to Listen!

    Some of it is taped directly from vinyl, others are recorded from the PC, where I’ve got a nice retro-wamrth compressor/limiter program that brings out the detail on those tracks. As you can see, there’s a definite genre theme here with a heavy amount of funk. That’s what Bill digs the most, and also I wanted to stay centered there so the whole collection would have its own ‘vibe’, as the soundtrack to the boat. The two exceptions to the funk theme would be the Heady Downtempo/Scientist Dub mixtape, which I envisioned as something you’d want to put on while floatin on the lake after the sun’s gone down, and the Easy Star, which is just such a killer record I had to throw it in.

    There’s a veritable cornucopia of killer jams here, a substantial portion of which will eventually get posted on the site. Stay tuned for the full lowdown.  In the meantime, check out the SS Advanced Manoeuvres

    Back Down South Again

    2011 - 08.23

    After about a week and a half of vacation in Wisconsin, I’m back in the Lone Star State again. It’s friggin hot here.

    I’ve got an overabundance of photos, videos, music, stories, etc to talk about, so we’ll get to all that soon. There may be a bit of a lull while I dig through it all and sort out the A-Sides from the B-Sides.

    Primo Vino Art: The Cover Drive

    2011 - 08.19

    This one is minimal, so I gave it a minimal background.  We’ve got a guy playing cricket I think, with what I can only assume are… robot legs?  Cybernetically enhanced athletes; those kooky Australians!  As for the wine, bleh, not the best.

    When I’m Feelin’ Down, These Things Bring Me Back Up: Part II

    2011 - 08.18

    It’s been a hot minute since I wrote about anything space-related on here, and we’re due.  In the words of the late great James Brown, awwwww, git on UP!

    #1 news item: SETIstars succeeds! They raised their $200k and will use it to reactivate the Allen Telescope Array. That, my friends, is news sweeter than yams with extra syrup. Their website is curiously brief about the this victory and what comes next. Maybe I might email the people from SETI I had been talking with and see what they say. Inquiring minds want to know; what now?

    #2: The Juno probe has been launched to visit Jupiter in 2016, where it will orbit for 1 year in a highly elliptical path, dipping into the atmosphere repeatedly to make measurements. There’s two especially fascinating things about this probe: one, it will be subjected to radiation more harsh than any other space probe, EVARRR. This craft will serve as a test-bed for future missions into the most unforgiving environments; It’s even got a titanium vault for the electronics to withstand all those deadly alphas betas gammas and whatnot. And two: it runs on solar power, at a distance from the sun where the photons are 4% as bountiful as here on Earth. Therefore it must be very power-efficient, and uses special solar cell designs to derive the juice it’ll need way out there. Stunningly cool.

    Also, another awesome tidbit: the name is derived from the wife of the Roman god Jupiter, who was able to see through the veil of clouds that Jupiter drew around himself. Poetically done, guys! Popular Science has a solid roundup of the details here.

    #3: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has mapped Mars in greater detail than Google Earth’s satellite imagery shows our own planet, has spat out some eyebrow-raising images that seem to convey liquid water moving down some slopes on the red planet (see the streaks in the images above?!). You can maybe file this under ‘knew it was coming eventually, but still über-rad to have real evidence now!’

    #4: NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has reached the asteroid Vesta, where it will orbit for a year before progressing on to Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. Now that it’s nice and close, the Dawn team made an eyeball-poppin’ movie showing the asteroid spinning. That’s pure spaceporn and I love it. Vesta is the brightest object in the asteroid belt and thought to be the source of many meteors that reach earth. If I read correctly, Dawn is done snapping pictures for now, and is commencing it’s “science orbits” where the many other instruments will check out all the asteroid’s vitals. Awww git it!

    #5: Mars Rover Opportunity has almost reached Endeavour Crater, its target since 2008. This crater is more than 25 times bigger than Victoria Crater, which Opportunity spent two years checking out. Endeavour has some exposed ancient rocks to study, spotted by the aforementioned Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Note that Opportunity’s primary mission ended in 2004, and they’ve been continuing on “bonus, extended missions” since then. That’s like… mega friggin’ triumphant. If the rover had beats for its mission, I bet it would be the second half of Ewan Pearson’s Ride A White Horse Disco Odyssey remix. That thing is out in the wilderness scoring so many points right now.

    All this stuff is so sweet. Seriously. It’s things like this that really help me maintain a positive outlook on us humans. As I said in my previous post of this same title, the people who are conducting these missions and operating the satellite dishes that recieve these images are called heroes. While the majority of us are concerned with daily operations on a tiny backwater outpost known as planet Earth, or the small quests like groceries and entertainment for the evening, these badasses are studying the timeless questions, about how the larger universe ticks–The larger universe that will be there still moving onward, long after the genus homo sapien is a minor footnote in the annals of what once was. Hopefully, due to the knowledge gained in these quests, an evolutionary descendant will be able to look back and think, ‘nice one ‘sapiens!’

    Primo Vino Art: 14 Hands Cabernet

    2011 - 08.17

    Another in the ongoing series; 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon, another one from Washington state, with a nice colorful western theme.  This is a pretty good wine, actually.

    Makin’ Mixtapes!

    2011 - 08.16

    So since I got this cassette deck, I picked up a box of high-bias blank cassettes and I’ve been taping some hot jams direct from the turntable. Interesting thing about cassettes; since your recording time is limited, there is maybe a bit more pressure to make sure that every song which goes onto tape is a badass track, worthy of ferromagnetic imprinting.

    I had forgotten how making cassettes track-by-track is fairly labor intensive–you can’t really walk away from the deck for more than a couple minutes at most. There is something rewarding about finishing a tape though–one where you think to yourself, damn, every song on there is tops, and I’m pretty sure I nailed the order too. This tape’s got FLOW, baby!

    I just completed one that’s a combination of two double LP Orgone releases. If I don’t say so myself, the track listing is AWESOME.

    Side A: Cali Fever
    1. Cali Fever
    2. Time Tonight
    3. Lookout
    4. The Cleaner

    Side B: Killion Vaults
    1. Cruel Intentions
    2. Wanting Wondering
    3. Shopping Spree
    4. K. Irin
    5. Counting On You
    6. Done Deal
    7. Dark Falls

    Total playtime: only 40 minutes.  Make it count!

    Since these cassettes didn’t come with stick-on labels, I used metal-ink pens to label them, then put transparent tape over the writing so it can’t get scratched off. I’m pretty sure that should keep the labeling in mint condition for the life of the tape.

    And–AND–I’ve got three little mini-mixes that I whipped up for these tapes. After the goods have all been delivered, they’ll be posted on here. Stay tuned for that in the latter half of August.

    Primo Vino Art: Jargon

    2011 - 08.15

    I’m actually off on vacation in Wisconsin at the moment, but through the wonders of technology, I’ve arranged for a series of posts to happen while I’m away.  Mostly bringing the primo vino series up to date, since I have a backlog of pictures to post!

    We’ll start with this one, called Jargon.

    I love the sentiment on this bottle.  Some of you may be disappointed that I only post superficial descriptions of the wine featured in primo vino art.  Well the reason for that is because I think a lot of wine descriptions are at best vague, or worst, a bunch of flowery nonsense.  But someone else has already gone way deeper into this that I care to.  Check out this guy’s diatribe for a good laugh (it’s a pdf, FYI)

    Anyway, onto the art