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  • Posts Tagged ‘analog life’

    It Begins with Cheap Binoculars…


    2011 - 12.19

    Ah, like the first snowflake of an avalanche-to-be, I have spent $25 on astronomy. This is surely the start of a costly and destructive addiction.

    This week in the mail, a pair of el-cheapo Tasco 7×35 binoculars arrived. I had been watching the binos classified on astromart.com, waiting for an awesome pair to show up, hopefully made by some telescope maker. A couple weeks ago there were some 10×50 Celestrons and I got all excited, thinking, ooh, this is it! Then I searched for reviews on them and found out that everyone was bad mouthing these binoculars. So much for patience and diligence paying off! Buried in one of the threads on the cloudynights forums, I found someone who said that they have several pairs of pricey binos but that these Tasco 7x35s were just so comfortable and easy to use that they did all of their observing with them. The guy even went on to say that they had tried like thousand dollar binoculars (seriously, there is such a thing?!) and that these cheapo Tascos felt just as good. Okay, screw it, I’m just getting these then.

    The other night I busted them out and checked out the full moon, which was pretty sweet.  You can see plenty of detail on it, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how many stars reveal themselves, even from a light-polluted backyard.  There’s a nice double star just above Vega that jumped out at me.  Sweet…

    Also, binos, like rhinos and dinos is my new favorite word.

    Orgone: The Grand Finale That’s Actually an Intro


    2011 - 11.15

    Out of the many excellent bands on the contemporary funk circuit, I personally think that L.A.’s Orgone is one of the greasiest and most underappreciated groups doing it today. Each one of their albums is heavy-laden with meaty cuts that you might swear came from 1977 if you didn’t know better. I’ve been evangelizing about this band for a while now to anyone who will listen, and was anxious to see their deliberately crafted retro sounds in motion again.

    Orgone played twice last year at Bear Creek, although the first show seemed under-attended and the second was early in the afternoon. That being my first time seeing them, and knowing full well the extensive size of their catalog of gems, I was quite cross to find that they actually repeated maybe three to five songs between their two sets at BC’10–a big no-no for back to back festival performances! Don’t get me wrong, their performance was excellent, but it just wasn’t…. what I knew it could be!

    This year, on the other hand, was exactly the Orgone show I’d been waiting for. They dropped a great mix of new tunes and old, with a ferocious amount of energy on stage. Unlike last year this set was outdoors after sunset, and a giant, enthusiastic crowd had gathered to move to those west-coast grooves!

    Their keyboard player, whose solos really did a number on me at their previous shows, never really quite stepped up to the intensity level of which he is capable. But as seen in the photo collage above, artist at large Robert Walter stepped in to provide that B3 hotness.  The horn section certainly was as powerful and brazen as ever–a central component to the signature punch Orgone delivers. Being partial to brass horns, these guys with their tight articulations and well-crafted harmonies are an inspiration to behold. Seeing their trumpeter and trombonist work together is a treat.

    There’s been some personell changes since I caught them last, although from the looks of their website I think the band may just have several players who swap out depending on availabilty. That makes sense since these guys have a positively brutal touring schedule. If you get a chance–and you will–go check them out. Seriously. Top shelf grooves, this stuff.

    It was certainly great to get in the crowd and feel the energy their music was stirring up amongst the people. When the performance ended in a climactic frenzy, Bill commented “That felt like some kind of grand finale.” to which I roared with excitement, “And this is literally just the very beginning of the must-see shows at this fest!”

    As I fly off to catch the funk, some fly beats from the underground to get it groovin


    2011 - 11.11

    We were riding the subway in NYC when we pulled up to the West 4th street stop and there was this kickass drumming going on when the doors slid open. I listened for a split second and then said to my brother & girlfriend, hey let’s get off for a minute and check this out. My bro was like … YEAH!

    So we step on to the platform and I pull out my admittedly huge camera and the dudes kinda trailed off. They looked at me and said ‘hey we gots to get paid or else we can’t play!’ So I dropped some jazz millions in the collection bucket and told them to keep it rolling.

    True story.


     

    Occupy Microcosmologist


    2011 - 11.07

    So the weekend before last I was in NYC visiting my bro (I still need to compile several time-lapse scenes from this trip!). We visited a bunch of cool places in the Apple and I got some cool pictures of the city. Among the places we went was Zuccoti Park, home base of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was cool to see people both this amped up and also dedicated enough about their cause to live outside in the freezing New York weather. Saturday there was a particularly nasty triumverate of wind, rain, and snow. Yikes. Anyway enjoy the slideshow.

    I get to do WHAT?!


    2011 - 10.16

    Okay, not gonna lie: extra-large size awesome news struck on Friday and I’m totally not able to play it cool about this.

    The most excellent people at Madison House Publicity have helped me obtain a media pass and photo credentials for the 2011 Bear Creek Music Festival.

    Just gonna sit back and absorb that one for a minute…

    Ah yes, that’s ah, well, you might say that it’s, um, geez, what can you say about that??  It’s gonna be flippin amazing.

    In the coming weeks I’ll be adding several posts leading up to the festival, and then once I’m there, I intend to upload photos and do a little live-blogging as the fest unfolds.  Then for (many?) weeks afterward there will be a steady stream of photos and other coverage.  I’m not even sure what all that will entail yet.  Being the ambitious guy I am, I intend to try to make the most of it.

    So consider this like a tiny preface to a novel that you’re about to read (and see and listen to!) on here.  It’s going to go deep into the artistry of funk music, like I’ve only scratched the surface of before.  This is something I’m terrifically excited about.  For serious.

    Speaker building update V: FINISH HIMMM!


    2011 - 10.12

    So I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labors for quite some time now, by holding on to these speakers I built for my brother.  Last weekend we worked out dates for me to come visit him in NYC and deliver the speakers, so they’ll soon have a new home.  I’m excited to give them to their rightful owner…. but I would be totally lying if I didn’t admit that I’ll be very sad to see them go as well!  These Scanspeak tweeters are detailed and exquisite as can be.  I’m probably going to have to build something to replace them because I know I’m gonna miss these so bad when they’re gone!  Plus, they’re GREEN.  I mean, how often do you see green speakers?  Shown above is a view from the backside; I mounted the terminals vertically, with positive on top.  That will make it easier to figure out which is which in a dark corner of a room.  I also offset them to one side so they’d be easier to reach.  Since this is my third major speaker design, I took a metal-ink marker and wrote “JB mk.III” and LEFT, to denote that the L-pads should face the listener (so you can always check their setting with a glance)

    Anyway, they turned out pretty kickass, and the last thing I need to do to them before they’re ready for a plane ride is to take some PVC pipe adhesive and cement the flared ports so they cannot come apart.  Since you cut them to your own desired length, they need to be glued together before they’re “finished”.  As you can see in the below picture, looking through the woofer opening and into the cabinet, the adhesive sort of melts the plastic a little; when I wiped the excess away, it left a little grungy residue behind.  These are the little secrets that only the speakerbuilder will ever know.

    I also thought it’d be nice to post an image of the crossovers mounted inside the cabinet.  As you can see, I’ve got some sheets of foam about 1.5-2″ thick that go over the walls of the cabinet to dampen the internal reflections.  I took a small piece of that and put it underneath the wooden backplate of the crossover before screwing it down into the bottom of the cabinet, so that it should never rattle when the volume gets bumping.  For anyone who’s curious, these crossovers are pre-built ones made by Parts Express, and have a 12dB slope at a frequency of 2.5kHz.  Obviously you can get better materials (more $$$) and go nuts on crossovers, but I believe the money is better spent on quality drivers; plus these things were on sale at the time and it was too hard to pass them up for $25 a pop.  Bam, done.

    ‘Late Nite Chill on the Lake’ downtempo mixset


    2011 - 10.09

    Servin’ up another mixset to add to the list of original content around here; I call it the “Late Nite Chill on the Lake”. This is another byproduct of the Bill’s Boat Cassette Project, only unlike the previous two “Cactus Vinyl Funk Mix” and “BOATCHASE!” this one is a descendant of the mix which was imprinted to ferromagnetic tape, labeled “Heady Downtempo”. The tape was version 1, this is version 5. Click on the image below to stream it from the music player on the navigation bar!


    This mix is intended to be something you’d put on after a long day of cruising around on the lake, tubing, drinking, goofing off, enjoying the sunlight and the fresh air. The sun goes down, you turn on the running lights, pop open one last brew (or maybe the second or third to last), and slip this tape into the deck. Or this could be what you put on the stereo after you get back to the lakeside house after a day on the water. In any event, it’s the soundtrack to the end of a long day of good times.

    Tons of artists suffer from the desire to keep tweaking their works ad nauseum, to the point where one begins to wonder, “Will it ever be ready”? This mix was suffering from the same nagging feeling that I could still improve it, but finally I decided to just shove it out onto the stage and say okay, OCD adjustments OVER, this is it. Some of the neat tweaks you guys might appreciate knowing about:

     the sounds of the Mediterranian Sea can be heard between tracks 2 and 3. I recorded these on MiniDisc in 2004. Finally I put them to use here.

     the very start of the mix begins with the sound of me taking a cassette out of its plastic case, opening my cassette deck, putting the tape in, closing the door, pressing the power button, and hitting play.

     the end of track 1 and the beginning of the last track were run through my Glass Nexus effect pedal, providing a large reverb and some delay. On track 1 the effect starts out light and gets progressively thicker; on the last track the effects start out thick and fade back into to clean. I tried using the software reverbs on the PC and they just weren’t cutting it–the Glass Nexus has an awesomely realistic ‘verb.

     some of the chatter (in French) before the last track I recorded at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris from 2005. There is also a really cool sound effect that I included, which plays through the airport preceeding any announcement over the intercom.

    update: the people have demanded a tracklist, so here she be:

    Tracklisting:
    1. Global Communication – “5:23″
    2. Leggo Beast – Bizzare Love Pentangle
    3. Tipper – Everything Is Everything
    4. Visit Venus – First Man On The Moog
    5. Tom Middleton – Astral Projection
    6. Blue Planet – Chaser
    7. Bonobo – The Shark
    8. Swag – Aug Munch
    9. The Karminsky Experience – Departures

    As with before we’ve got a 160 kb/s mp3 for download, and a luscious, rich FLAC file for your audiophile needs. Put this on after dark, and kick it.

    Riding In An Ultralight Seaplane — WOW!


    2011 - 09.01

    So there we were, chillin on the SS Advanced Manoeuvres, drinking High Lifes and getting down with some funky jams, when off on the horizon this weird plane appears. I say to my buddies, Q: “is that a seaplane?” A: “why yes, it appears that it is.” The mystery plane comes in for a closer approach and yep, it’s a bright red seaplane with yella pontoons. Awesome! Then he comes in for yet another pass, this time REALLY close. After buzzing the boat, we watch this guy circle around the lake and ask “is he about to land that thing?” Spoiler alert: yes.

    We’re anchored in a shallow part of the lake where most pleasurecraft tend to congregate due to the nice sandy lakebottom, along with maybe 5 or 6 other boats. The red seaplane touches down not too far away and pulls up alongside another vessel not far from ours. After debating it for a little while, we decide to go over and talk to the guy.

    His name is Donny and we chat it up for maybe a good 10-20 minutes or so. He says the plane runs off of normal gasoline just like you’d get in any gas station, and tells a story about how he flew it all the way home from Florida once. That’s sort of extreme, considering that it probably qualifies as an ultralight aircraft, and I doubt the top speed is really all that fast. After a while, I can’t resist asking any longer; “so uhh… what would it take to get you to take me for a little spin on this baby? I can toss some gas money your way and I’ve got a sweet camera that can capture a video for youtube.”

    Answer: yeah sure, go grab your camera. I could always use some extra gas money.

    My buddy Cody rolls his eyes in some combination of astonishment and admonishment; “John… I can’t believe you.” All I can say is “aww man!”

    So I hustle back to home base and retrieve the gear, hop on this seaplane and shoot this video (be sure to hit the 1080p HD!:)

    Aww man is RIGHT.

    Earlier this year I flew in a single engine Cessna and it was definitely way cooler than a commercial jet. Being able to see forward really changes the experience. Single engine planes are really a whole different world compared to airline travel. Flying in this ultralight seaplane was like the next level of coolness beyond that–you can easily look down on either side of you. For someone afraid of heights, this thing would probably be terrifying. Me, I do have somewhat of a fear of heights, but when I’m strapped in tight, as on an amusement ride, it doesn’t bother me. The whole thing was over before I knew it, finishing with an exceedingly smooth landing. I thought that touching down on the lake would feel rough, but no, it was actually softer than a large jet landing.

    So yeah. That was really something else. I wasn’t paying too much attention to where the camera was pointed; pretty much just gawking at the world below and trying to take it all in. Donny and I both had headsets on, so we could chat while we were up there. Right after we took off, he’s like, “hey, do you mind if I put on some reggae while we fly?” And I was all, “oh man, this is the life.”

    A day to remember.

    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

    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.