Opening 23yr old Laser Discs

My stepdad kindly gave me his modest collection of Laser Discs, an old obsolete home video format that began in 1978 and persisted for about 42 years. The format ended up being overshadowed by the much more affordable VHS and later in 1996 the highly innovative Digital Video Disc or DVD as it is more commonly known.

My stepdad kindly gave me his modest collection of Laser Discs, an old obsolete home video format that began in 1978 and persisted for about 42 years. The format ended up being overshadowed by the much more affordable VHS and later in 1996 the highly innovative Digital Video Disc or DVD as it is more commonly known.

One thing i find interesting about Laser Discs is that as the name of the product suggests the data is read by a laser, much like a DVD however it is an analog signal and not digital. The picture quality is not great but picture quality is not what charms me about the format, if i wanted ultra high definition i would invest in the newest format of UHD and get a 4k TV. What i feel i enjoy about the product is mostly the artwork on some of the releases.

Much like vinyl records the artwork on Laser Discs can be really nice, mainly the gate fold releases that have extra information and art for the film. This is also a reason i began collecting vinyl records. What CDs, DVDs and Digital streaming makes up for in audio/video quality it lacks in artwork, a very important part of any media release in my opinion.

Unlike vinyl however where if you get a good record with really nice packaging, high end production and and really good turntable and hifi setup records can sound almost indistinguishable from a lossless digital file (although personally i think the whole belief that they sound better than digital is just snake oil) however with a Laser Disc the video quality will be nothing to marvel at by today’s standards. On top of this discs can contract disc rot or bronzing which will make things a lot worse for the disc.

A Laser Disc in my collection with severe bronzing/rot. Luckily pretty much all the discs are in very good condition, this is the exception.

In the collection where two unopened Laser Discs: “Independence Day” and “Just Heroes”. Video at the beginning of this article features a section where i open these Laser Discs, both which appear to have been released in 1996 and are roughly around the same age as i.

Looking forward to expanding my collection a bit and may do some more Laser Disc content in the future if people find this to be interesting.

[REVIEW] | “Eternal Voyage” – Midas |

After months of anticipation, one of my favorite bands has released a new album. Midas are a symphonic rock band based in Japan who started their career in 1992 with their debut album “Beyond the Clear Air” released in 1988. Their first album is something i have talked about in an embarrassing video review on the internet *wink wink* .

Their newest release was a surprise to me. They originally had a website i would visit frequently to try and see whats happening with them, even though the articles are in Japanese you do get a sense and understanding of what happened from accompanying photos. Unfortunately the website seems to have been down for the past few months. However a week or so ago i did a search on them to see if there was any news on them or a new website, and sure enough i found something great!

midas8th-300x297
Artwork to “Eternal Voyage” – painted by Takatsugu Shirakawa 

Their new album “Eternal voyage”

The albums opens with the intense instrumental “Air brewer”. an exciting, dramatic and all round musically talented piece that introduces a new style for Midas. Friends i have played the track to make reference to metal and rock bands for the playing style mixed with folk, the reasoning can be heard around 3 minutes in where the section is started by a driven bass guitar, really cool. The continues with a synth solo and ends with a classic Midas violin solo from Eigo Utoh.

After this we spring into “a Trip for Five Seasons” which opens with a chippy cheerful synth riff, this opening highly reminds me of two tracks from their second album “Midas II”. The pieces in question are “La Festa” and “The Night Sky Lies Without a Word”, the latter of which was re recorded and released on their previous album “Eternal Voyage”. The second section of this song contains English lyrics which is good, i unfortunately can’t speak or read Japanese haha. The lyrics seem to cover themes of just carrying on and not worrying about the past, continue on and follow the seasons. a good message there. For those of you who may be confused about why it is “Five seasons” and not for (which was totally not me haha), in Japan they have an extra season between Spring and Summer called the Rainy Season. I think you can guess what it’s like from the name…

“a View of Sierra De Cobre” opens with a cool 80’s sounding synth bass line and merges with another one of Eigo Utohs classic quite mysterious sounding Violin solos. Listening just now i was thinking. I’ve listened to Midas for a while and they are one band that made me go into making music myself, i never really realized how much of an influence they have been really. Meanwhile back to the review. The song is actually one i have heard from a you tube video which upon a search or two i cannot seem to find. although the introductory violin solo was not there, it was a live video of them playing a year or two back and it was this song, or at least an early version. When i watched the video i knew they’d be releasing a new album. This is probably actually my favorite track because of it, i dunno. But it this song specifically just does stand.

From this we lead to my second favorite track “Long Lonesome Road”, an epic instrumental piece that builds up from the ground, like a cowboy walking off into the sunset, something like that. It grows from a duel violin/synth leading and then trails into an organ solo by Eisho Lynn. Eigo Utoh and drummer Masaru Henmi get their own awesome solos. The Piece is finished up with another violin solo then re emerges to the duet with synth and Violin.

are Penultimate track is “Blood on the Sands” which is dedicated to composer Ennio Morricone who composed for films such as “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and “a Fistful of Dollars”, Both Clint Eastwood westerns which runs with the cowboy analogy. Reading the lyrics in the CD booklet just now i noticed a typo i think. The lyrics read “Feelig High” which i imagine is supposed to be “Feeling High”. I can only imagine this song now to be like a showdown between three cowboys or something .

The album itself apparently has a concept, as on the credits of the CD it is listed on there. If it does then i’d imagine it to based around westerns and cowboys as that is certainly the vibe i’m getting.

Time Robber is a sad sounding piece, almost like it’s about a failed love. Although i feel i like “Destiny Warriors” from their previous album better, it’s still a nice closer, and has almost a sing along chorus because half the lyrics for the chorus are in English which is nice, the ones in question and i quote from the CD booklet “Time Robber she said, Time Loser He said”. You can probably get from these lyrics why i get the impression of a love song from this one. It also contains one last beautiful and dramatic violin solos before the song it’self concludes almost cinematically and bringing the “Eternal Voyage” to a close.

All in all my view may be biased but i have to give this album a 4/5. It’s got some really great instrumental work, interesting concepts and does a brilliant job at doing something i feel you should always do with your music and that is blend the old with the new. If you change your style completely you risk alienating older fans where as having the blend allows you to keep your old fans whilst still progressing and being fresh.

Really good album and i recommend visiting their new website here. You can also purchase “Eternal Voyage” on Amazon or iTunes.

 

 

[REVIEW] “Ummagumma” ~ Pink Floyd


I’m gonna start by saying this album (studio portion) is not good, however i feel i need to look at it critically and open mindedly. Dunno why i found myself listening to this but i did and i have 30 minutes till work so here is a brief review of the album. Please note that i won’t be looking at the live portion of the album.


There is nothing wrong with experimental music, i have listened to some pretty weird shit and own some weird music in my collection. A good example of experimental/avant-garde done right for me personally would be Gentle Giants eponymous debut LP with a good mix between the more conventional rock and also experimental music.

This area of music was not new though to the Floyd with works such as a Saucerful of Secrets, which i personally see as a masterpiece, and also Interstellar Overdrive. It can be done right by them but i feel that it must be done right together. The way i see it, Ummagumma is like if you took a Saucerful of secrets and separated it into all the creative inputs from each member and had them as separate tracks. This is album is the biggest piece of evidence to prove that Pink Floyd really were a sum of its parts.

I’m not saying the album is not worth owning though. A couple of standout tracks being “Grantchester Meadows” and “The Narrow Way Part 3” being decent enough tracks from Roger Waters and David Gilmour, which makes sense due to their successful solo careers, and also the live portion of the album. Ummagumma is definitely a quintessential album for the Floyd fan.

 

2/5

 


 

[REVIEW] “Fortress of my Dark Self” ~ Ocean of Grief

A few days ago i received an email from a guy in Greece. He was the guitarist for a melodic doom metal band based in Athens and asked me to do a review of their new EP Fortress of my dark self, here is that review…


Ocean of Grief are a melodic doom metal bands from Athens, Greece. They formed in late 2014 and brought together influences from bands such as Enshine, Slumber and Saturnus. Their debut EP began its production in late 2015 and was released in February this year through Russian label GS Productions.

Photo


The EP opens ominously with a keyboard and guitar, this builds in the first track Spiritual Fortress. One thing that strikes me is the use of death metal type vocals from vocalist Charalabos Babis Oikonomopoulos, though they sound really awesome i personally feel that they don’t really fit with the genre of music too well, at least not as the main vocals. I think the addition of the keyboard is a nice touch and something i feel adds to doom metal music quite nicely when done correctly, which it is here.

The second track comes in with some nice clean-ish guitar and a beutiful distorted lead. House of Misery is the longest song on the EP at 6:22 and has again got some nice use of the keyboards from Aris Nikoleris using what sounds like a synth-strings patch of some sorts. I really like the melodies in this song as well, something about it just clicks together.

One thing i will say is that i feel that this first track and “House of Misery” maybe need some more dynamic variation to the mix to give more texture to the songs

Futile Regrets blasts in as the third song bringing a more uptempo feel to the mix yet still retaining that dark tone. The use of keyboards again draws me in further with a nice piano sound added in here and there.

Cover

From here we move onto “Drowned in Nostalgia”, again returning to the slower ominous opening with guitar and keyboards bringing the track to life slowly before more guitars explode onto the playing field. Again another track that i feel has a good melody. Their is also a nice bit of dynamic and structural variation, probably why this is my favorite track on the EP.

The final track “The Birth of Chaos” has again got that uptempo yet still dark feel to it and also like “Drowned in Nostalgia” and “House of Misery” it has a good melody flowing throughout. This song probably has the nicest sounding solo out of the EP with an awesome melodic bass line from Giannis Koskinas holding up with again the keyboard and guitar.


Despite a couple of small things this is a good EP for people to check out if you are interested in exploring sub genres of doom metal or already like melodic doom metal!

4.5/5


Check out Ocean of Grief with these links:


 

An Analysis of “Jean Michel Jarre: Oxygene Live in your Living Room” (College 2013 – 2015)

Watch the full performance here.


 

 

What Equipment do they use?
As Jean Michel Jarre started off in the late 60’s and early 70’s he uses primarily analogue synthesizers of various types including modular, polyphonic and monophonic. Using analog in place of the modern digital synthesizers keeps to the original sound and tone of his music and also creates more authentic tones and textures. When it comes to controlling effects the main things controlled are modulation and filter FX. All the equipment used is hardware as again it adds to the authenticity and overall sound of the music. Some notable examples include:

  • Eminent 310 U – used a lot throughout the album
  • E.M.S VCS3  – one of his first synthesizers which he has used for most of his compositions
  • RMI keyboard computer – one of the songs for oxygene was made primarily with this synthesizer.

He has used some other instruments though which were not originally used on the album. One such is the Theremin, which he has used as a lead. Another synthesizer that wasn’t on the original is a key tar, again used as a lead. I think that even though they weren’t originally used on the album changing the equipment list gives a fresh sound to the music and also results in live performances being superior to the original recording.

 


What Techniques do they use to perform their music?
The majority of the performance is all performed live by him and his backing musicians who play the instruments manually however some parts require arpeggiated sequences, which have most likely been looped. All of the synthesizers are hardware as it keeps with the original sound and feel of the music when it was recorded.


Where do they fall within the historical timeline of performance technology?
He began making music in the late 60’s and 70’s when synthesizers where just being perfected. There was almost little to no sequencing so any mistakes made would have to be re-recorded from the start. Sampling was also a very rare concept, which came about during the 80’s with the Fairlight CMI; an instrument utilised by jarred on later works. The CMI used a computer to process the samples and also popularised the use of MIDI.


How do they fit in with other related artists?
His primary influence is Pierre Schaeffer who he learnt a lot of experimental techniques from in the late 1960’s. During the 70’s and 80’s artists such as Vangelis and Kraftwerk created similar music using electronic music however all the artists managed to maintain a unique sound due to the synthesizers they used.

For example Jean Michel jarre used the Eminent 310 home organ a lot in his earlier albums utilising the string sound through a phaser, this gave his music a very spacey sound. Vangelis on the other hand used the Yamaha CS-80 a lot in his works. This synthesiser had some very orchestral sounds included which Vangelis a symphonic tone to a lot of his music whilst still being electronic.

Despite the differences in personal sound each of these artists all started by using hardware synthesizers as Software synthesizers were rare and computers were also very primitive and could not support musical software.


 

 

Bar 42 Metal night 15 December 2015 (college)

With Tuesday nights gig gone, here is a reflective post…

Poster

Well the music was good but we didn’t make back the £80 that was used to pay headliners Hole in the Sky and main support Enslavement, this however is not too bad as the college has a policy of if we don’t make back near enough the money we borrow then we don’t need to pay them back. I feel that the main problem of the gig is that it was on a tuesday night when most people would be working. If it were to be held say at the weekend we might have had a better turn out and possibly would have made back the money with a nice profit for pints at the end.

Despite the loss, everyone still seemed to enjoy themselves. The bands were all very good and friendly people, definitely would hire them again for another gig…

View the Photo’s here.


 

Files for Lecturer

Comparing Critical Perspectives on Pink Floyd’s The Endless River (college)

Released in November last year, the final Pink Floyd album had been sitting around for about 20 years before David Gilmour and Nick Mason decided to released these old sketches to the public. Here are some different critical perspectives from various news papers and blogs on the album. First some positive reviews:

“A good way to call it a day”

This first article is a review in the Guardian newspaper by subeditor Molly Woodcraft. The article seems to have looked at a lot of the facts behind the album as members of the band and personnel for the album have said a lot of the stuff they mentioned in interviews. There is a chance that these fact might also have been included with a press release sent to the paper.

I feel that the review focuses too much though on the redeeming qualities of the album and doesn’t mention the cons at all such as the album being based on material that was essentially thrown away during the Division bells sessions and so if it wasn’t good enough then why is it good enough now. You could argue that they really released the album for the money alone. However to give them the benefit of the doubt they both seem like good people and released the album for the sake of former band member Richard Wright who died in 2008.

“Pink Floyd: The Endless River – Review”

The next article is a review from the Financial Times written by Ludovic Hunter. The article mainly mentions the feeling of loss that reoccurs throughout Floyd’s discography and history, making mention of original front man Syd Barret’s departure and ruined mental state and also Roger Waters bitter leave after falling out with the rest of the band. This review also mentions the fact that the album was intended mainly to be a tribute to the late Richard wright.

The article itself is quite short, although it may be a shortened version of the one published in the paper that day as some websites do that from time to time. Again it is also too positive focusing only on the angelic idea of there being a new Pink Floyd album making the reviewer blind to the cons.

Both these reviews seems quite credible being from well established news papers but do give to much of an angelic view to the album instead of being constructive and focused. To Balance out the positive, lets see some negative:

“Boring and desperately disappointing”

Oh boy, this one sounds fun. This review comes from The Independent and is written by Andy Gill, a clear hater of anything post waters for the Floyd. The whole article is barely an actual review in the sense that it is just one biased opinion and does not really look that much at facts with the exception of the backstory of the album. Honestly, did David Gilmour shit in this guys coffee or something?

After many dated terms and half baked insults about the music he even makes a reference to original front man Syd Barret with the line “It would take a Barret-load of drugs to make this sound remotely interesting”, a reference to Barret’s mental deterioration which has been blamed on drug use.

“Pink Floyd drifts towards nothingness with ‘The Endless River'”

We move across the Atlantic for our next stop, a review from the Los Angeles Times written by Mikael Wood. Again i think Gilmour dropped his guts in this guys mug or something as he comes off as one of the post-waters haters, even mention the lack of “bit-sized tunes” such as “Money”, “Wish You Were Here” and “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)”. These songs while good were all just commercially successful where as something such as “Echoes” is disputably one of their best works in terms of composition, team work, production and lyrical work; all coming from a song approximately 23 minutes long.

Again like before this ‘review’ is hardly that as it is too biased to his own view rather than thinking critically about the album itself. One of the stupidest things he says is that the album should not be called a Pink Floyd album and refers to it as “bait and switch” claiming that the album is a rip off to all Floyd fans. Some people really are not worth the time.

Now one thing is clear, reading those last two reviews my fan boy nature came out to defend the Floyd as best as i could so my view to is going to be bias on the album, therefore i shall try to conclude in a constructive and balanced way. But first, one more review:

Prog Review 290 – The Endless River – Pink Floyd

This review comes from you-tuber Darren Lock from his series Prog Review. His review while giving it a lower rating looks at both the positive and negative in a balanced and constructive manor. To name a few things, he mentions about how to mixing and flow of the album is good. Looking at his personal feelings about the album i get the sense that he has listened to the album and that though i disagree with some of his points i can respect his view more by the way he delivers the review.

Conclusion

In my opinion i like the album, but it is by far a ‘good’ album. When they announced the album and slowly released interviews they mentioned it would be finished version of jam sessions from the archives and Division Bell sessions and so it would be stupid to expect a masterpiece. I feel that these reviews from the newspapers are too biased whether it be a post-waters Floyd hater or a Floydian fan boy but the review from You-tuber Darren Lock is more balanced and constructive.

Comparing Two Events (college)

Below are comparisons of two contrasting festivals:

Download

Download Festival is a rock and metal music held in Donington Park.  The event has an age restriction of 17+ (children 16 and under can attend accompanied by an adult of 18+, Children under 5 are not permitted).

The events team has a contact email for any lost property and also provides special facilities and services for disabled festival attendees.

Each Year they donate a large amount of their profit towards the neighboring communities who will then use the money to improve local areas such as schools, medical centres etc… This will help the event’s team gain a good relationship with the local communities and ensure that the festival can keep taking place.

Other facilities include the camping grounds. People who purchase camping space will need to bring everything. The grounds will have washing and toilet facilities. There is also a “quiet” camping area in a separate field with a 00:00 curfew which is good for younger attendees and families. For £16 you can also book a campsite locker to store valuables such as phones, jewelry, cameras etc… Each locker has a usb charging port in so you can charge devices.

Aside from rock and metal bands there are also rock DJ sets played afterhours in the Doghouse, a local venue.

Because download showcases a specific genre of music they need to show it within the design of their media coverage. Their website design uses darker colors, fire effect borders and graphics of “hellish” hounds. If someone was to stumble upon their website they certainly would not mistake it for a pop or EDM music festival. This design will also help draw in the specific crown they are looking for as people familiar with the genres of music will see the designs as similar to some of their favorite bands album artwork or media designs.

Glastonbury

Glastonbury festival is a music festival that takes place in Pilton. The festival donates money and works with charities Water Aid, Oxfam and Green Peace. Because of the last one, people who travel to the festival via public transport or bike receive a special ‘Green Traveller’ discount for the festival. This discount is good for encouraging attendees to be greener and help the environment.

The festival showcases a wide variety of music from pop and rock music to club music meaning they can attract a much larger audience. Their diverse entertainment however is not very well conveyed through their website and media as their designs include bright colors and simplistic fonts. This design conveys the ‘pop’ feeling, which works for some genres but not for something such as metal music.

The website has an online registry for disabled attendees who will need special assistance and facilities. This however comes with a warning that with the venue being a field and unpredictable weather there may be complications with movement and access around the site for wheelchair users.

Because Glastonbury showcases a wide range of genres they can attract a lot of attendees. Even with the media and website design aside it Is a well known festival and so they do not need to work as hard to advertise.

Noobs on the NSR – a Radio Show Review by Alex Peter Josephson (college)

Listen to the show here.

As I tuned into NSR just the other day a mix came on by four of the college’s students. The show begins with no opening but with a short introduction to their first song ’18 and Life’ by Skidrow, a song about a young man being imprisoned for murder. Starting of the show this way is kinda dull as anyone listening might not know what the show is about. The Show itself follows a simple format of introducing each song, playing the song and then each other presenter giving their own opinion about the song. While there is nothing wrong with this format however it is executed in a clumsy way.

Their next song is ‘Kings of Beer’ by Tankard, a song that follows ’18 and Life’ well being the same genre and style. Now despite the lack of opening just by the first two songs listeners should be able to gather what genres they will hear… Or at least you would think.

Thirdly is the song ‘Run with the Hunted’ by Sky Hill, this song while still technically rock music stands out instantly with it’s alternative style rather than heavy metal. Despite this, it is still a nice song and somehow does fit with the show.

Now would be a good time to mention that the songs for the show were each chosen by the four presenters evenly meaning that their personal tastes are brought to the show. This does work for most of the songs with the exception of songs brough on by both Joseph and Ryan as they stick out, especially with Ryan’s songs (You’ll see what I mean).

The fourth song is ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd, again sticking out from the first two but still somehow fitting. This song was chosen by Joseph and you will notice a “dad’s record collection” vibe to his choices, all of which being from the 70’s and being prog. This is one of my favourite songs from the set, but this is inevitable accounting to the fact that I am a major Floyd fan and have been since The Wall was released in 1979.

After a fantastic solo from David Gilmour and more rubbish commentary we move onto ‘People = Shit’ by Slipknot. Oh dear. This song instantly displays terrible mixing within the show as I found myself turning the radio down 20 dB lest the neighbours complain. It feels as if the editing consisted of sequencing only and not mixing the audio to give a consistent dynamic range. Going back to the commentary they clearly recorded it with no effort as it sounds like they passed around an SM57 with no pop filter or shield and just gave a brief view on each song. A better way to have recorded the show is to get a condenser with an omnidirectional pick-up field and talk with that in the middle of them, but that’s just how I would do it anyway.

Our next delight is ‘Put Your Death Mask On’ by Wednesday 13. This song returns the to the style of the first two songs. They should have really thought about their choices more to make the style consistent. If you think that all the songs so far are fine together (and I know I said they worked but I can go back on myself) then think again because after this comes ‘The Next Episode (Remix)’ by San Holo. This song is a remix of a Dr Dre & Snoop Dogg song…. Yes, Dr Dre & Snoop Dogg. Now tell me how did we get from rock and heavy metal to hip-hop? Well that fault belongs to Ryan, one of the four presenters. While this song sticks out more than Kim Kardashian’s ass it is still a good song… But 0 points for consistency.

We then return thankfully to rock music with ‘Watcher of the Skies’ by Genesis. The song unfortunately is the previously unreleased single version as opposed to the 7 minute album version but the length suits radio more, that and this version is interesting to hear. After that we have ‘My Name is Jonas’ by Weezer. This song again fits better with the first two songs and was a good choice for the show. This can also be said about ‘Milk Lizard’ by The Dillinger Escape Plan. This song has a very experimental style to it which wins me over being a prog fan. After these three songs I felt like the show was becoming more consistent in style, how can they fuck it up?

Well… ‘Raw’ by Bad Meets Evil, that’s how. This is another song from Ryan. Although it is a good song like his last choice ‘The Next Episode (Remix)’ it again sticks out so much, how hard is it to be consistent? You pick a genre, then pick your songs. This inconsistency continues with ‘Oxygene Part 4’ by Jean Michel Jarre. This electronic gem is a favourite of mine but seriously guys, pick songs that compliment each other. It seems that I am focusing too much on the inconsistent nature of the show’s music choices so to be constructive, maybe they could have done a prog show as the style is quite universal. That way “Oxygene Part 4” would have fit in being ambient electronic, a genre that has origins from progressive rock.

The next song almost gave me heart attack as it exploded into my ears. This was ‘Coldly Calculated Design’ by The Faceless. Again fitting in more with the opening songs but maybe a bit too heavy, especially following Jean Michel Jarre. Still a decent song with again some interesting compositional elements to it.

This is followed up by ‘Dragon Slayer’ by Ninja Sex Party, a band with a pretty funny name. This song though sounds like it was ripped straight from the music video which there is nothing wrong with in a way but couldn’t they have edited out the opening and closing sounds? There really is no excuse for that lazy editing. Ranting aside, this song is a parody satirising songs where the protagonist is bragging to a women about the stuff they have done to try and get into their pants. Quite funny when you listen to the lyrics. The Lead singer from this band is also the lead singer from Skyhill who was featured earlier within their mix.

After some more bland commentary we move onto ‘Know your Enemy’ by Rage Against the Machine and I Love this song. Rage against the Machine’s funky style always gets me moving just from Timmy C’s great bass playing. This is followed by the final song ‘Funny Ways’ by Gentle Giant. This song is a decent choice to end the set but again the lack of mixing is evident as the song is really quiet. It’s as if the group slacked off for most of the time and then their teacher informed them of the deadline so they rushed to finish on time. Idiots!

The show ends so abruptly after the group converse. They could have at least recorded a short opening and closing then put some sort of stock music or whatever, maybe it would have sounded a bit more professional. Despite this and the inconsistencies it is still worth a listen for fans of rock music (who also like a bit of hip-hop) and is a good listen if you are doing house work or typing up a review under a fake name of your own radio show made for college…

With that note, I conclude.