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Mr. R. Moss
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d'Demonstrator
d'Demonstrator
Price: £9.43

5.0 out of 5 stars remember when you were driving through a long tunnel, 3 Sept. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: d'Demonstrator (Audio CD)
i don't think of daft punk when i listen to this. the thing this record makes me think of most is frankie goes to hollywood - the feeling of listening to frankie goes to hollywood in the back of a ford granada on the motorway at night as a kid. this is a deeply misleading and unhelpful connection to make, though, so i will have to explain myself. this record has the same sort of vision of the future as a dimly remembered nightmare, like reverse hauntology or something, that trevor horn stuff like frankie and buggles did in the 80s. remember that people were worried in the 80s, and they're worried now. remember the thrill of concrete and street-light and the rear window heater wires. remember the fake wood panelling and the ashtray smell.
i guess he recruited an undisclosed death metal band to make this creepy metallic soul with the barely intelligible philosophical mutterings in the lyrics. it makes sense, you can hear ghostly whisperings mirroring the vocodered vocals. there are absurd tracks about abstract analogue-electronic sensuality, and music that speaks of dusty apartments at night, LED light transfiguring the dark like a drug. and there are tracks to sit in the back of an 80s car on the motorway by - that's "into the blue" and "frisco wave" in particular, which i think lots of people don't like or don't get because you sure wouldn't find them on your average electro record.
i don't really know how he ended up making this music. that's the miracle of art. but i listen to it a lot. i listen to it in my car.


The Miners' Hymns
The Miners' Hymns
Price: £14.85

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The horror of the present, 26 May 2012
This review is from: The Miners' Hymns (Audio CD)
"Francis, William, 14 Apr 1853, aged 13, Driver, he had left his work to do the duty of another boy who was employed as a putter, and being unacquainted with the place, his head became jammed between the tub and the timber supporting the roof, he died instantly."

I remember living in Durham, a beautiful, haunted place, and seeing a single old photograph of mineworkers walking up a cobbled street, Durham cathedral in the background, and wondering what ages the cathedral walls have seen. I remember by father pointing to a small wall in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, another now-dead centre for coal mining, saying that as a child he had seen smoke rising from behind it, looked over, and seen a row of miners sitting behind it waiting for the bus, hunkered down, out of their element in the freedom of the open sky.

"Bolton, James, 29 Apr 1857, (accident: 18 Apr 1857), Onsetter, he was cleaning out the cage hole when the brakesman lowered the cage on him. Signals were made to get the cage taken up, but, in his confusion, the brakesman lowered it a second time onto Bolton, who suffered severe crush injuries and died on 29 April."

This music is a kind of a war requiem. War requiems are written after the war is over. What was just life for the people who have been made the subject of the music and film is a horror to us now, or so it is suggested. Horror is the inability to give order to, and see justice in, a recognisable reality, to wit: men have died for us. Men have suffered stunted, curtailed, servile lives; have suffered innumerable little deaths, for us.

"Taylor, John Thomas, 24 Nov 1902, aged 16, Driver, when driving, his pony crossed out and the limber end caught and displaced a prop which let down a stone upon him and killed him."

The materials - Durham Cathedral's organ, the brass bands so well representing the voice of mining communities, the archive footage used in the film, the grim Britten-like themes which pervade much of the music - rise out of the subject matter, with as much authenticity as one could really hope for. They are of the period; but the feeling, the motivating cause, is all our own. The past, we have learned, is something that ought to be feared, because it cannot be trusted to stay dead.

The end of the piece at last grows into an anthem, and in the film is backed by footage of the labour unions marching in festival through the door of the cathedral. It speaks of justice being reborn, and so too should it speak about our place in the present. Let it be our duty to offer our past the hand of friendship.

"Qui passus es pro nobis, miserere nobis."
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 12, 2013 9:03 AM GMT


Apple iPad (16GB, Wi-Fi, Black) 3RD GENERATION
Apple iPad (16GB, Wi-Fi, Black) 3RD GENERATION

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, personal computing comes of age, 25 May 2012
I have to admit that, being a geek, it was difficult and painful when I first bought an iPad. I even tried (unsuccessfully) to take it back to the shop after a few days in despair, but since then I have grown to barely use my laptop or even my iPhone, because the iPad is so much better.

The iPad forces you out of PC-era comfort zones. There is very little to fiddle about with, only a vestige (copying music and video over from an iTunes library, and iTunes Match can free you from this too, if you pay) of the entire concept of "putting things on the computer". The fact is that the iPad is, to a revolutionary extent, the purest expression yet of the idea of IT being an intangible set of services rather than a physical device or object, and the iPad itself is just the endpoint of those services. You will see this if you ever restore a new iPad from a backup - it takes a few minutes to restore all the identity your particular device will ever have, automatically, over the internet.

I bought the 4G version of the iPad - I have only used the 4G once or twice so far but I don't regret paying the extra £100, which I did just in case I ended up a rail commuter or some other likely regular cellular data user, because one of the things that it took me a while to realise about the iPad (and this "taking a while to realise" is the case with lots of things about it) is how much more portable, in a relevant way, it is than even something like a MacBook Air. The iPad can do what it does anywhere - in bed, at a desk, in the garden, in the living room, at your grandparents', in a motorway service station at 3AM, with no impediments. Whenever I took my laptop outdoors it felt like an excursion, like when people who are trying too hard take a board game into a busy pub. There are constant and numerous hardships and annoyances and you look like a dork in any social situation. No such problems occur with the iPad. The screen is bright, the battery lasts all day, and to come back to the original point, you have uninterrupted internet connectivity whether or not there is a wireless network available.

To somebody interested in an iPad, one thing I would also suggest as worth investigating is AirPlay devices. I bought an AirPort Express a while ago, which is a wireless access point which supports streaming audio to an attached hi-fi. There are an increasing number of AirPlay speakers becoming available, and being able to fill a room with the audio from the music or video on your iPad, without wires, enhances the experience no end and again reinforces the central power of the iPad, that your computing life need not be boxed into one machine, but is instead wherever you want it to be. Your PC is no longer the centre of your digital life - if anything, the internet is, but mostly, you are.

What I am trying to say is that it is hard to describe in straightforward terms what is good about the iPad because in some sense it changes you - how you approach computing, how you feel about what a computer should be. I personally see PCs, and related trappings like optical media, anything involving trailing wires around, etc. to be clunky, obsolete, childish even. There were no personal computers before; there are personal computers now.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 17, 2012 10:18 PM BST


Changeless
Changeless
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £14.27

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...the Sun. I never realised before. The Sun. It's just a mask, too. And the face behind it... It's beautiful. It's..., 24 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Changeless (Audio CD)
-- Neil Gaiman, "Façade"

If you listen to the rendition of "Autumn Leaves" on the standards trio's At the Blue Note box set, you hear the group giving a more restless and energetic performance of the song than usual, that suddenly kicks into a meditative groove in a manner that feels like the façade of the song has been thrown off, revealing some hot universal energy that was inside, or behind it all along.

It appears as though the music featured on this record is what the standards trio sometimes spontaneously launch into at their concerts of jazz standards. The amazing thing with this record is that, while it consists of extracts from four concerts recorded days apart, it feels like one continuous piece of music, as though the concerts are a process of passing through into a higher state, universal and changeless. Recently I have been particularly drawn to the final track, "Ecstasy", as it represents the culmination of the whole process, a final way station on the road towards silence, in which the energies of the three jazz musicians at their most passionate coalesce into a shimmering, convulsing wall of noise.

As noted at the beginning of this review, there have been several other recordings of the meditative music heard here, but none have the impact of this record because, ironically as the pieces are taken out of their context as part of separate concerts of standards, their power is in standing together as a continuous canon.


9
9
Price: £14.86

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very unengaging for Supersilent, 18 Oct. 2009
This review is from: 9 (Audio CD)
The big story behind this record is that following the departure of drummer Jarle Vespestad, the three remaining group members recorded this album at an art gallery with nothing but three Hammond organs. I'm not sure whether this music was a backdrop to an art exhibition, or related to an art exhibition in some other way like Arvo Pärt's "Lamentate", but it certainly does sound like art gallery background music.

While Supersilent 5 was widely described as a "quiet, ambient" record, the music still had teeth and still had some menacing crescendos. This record, on the other hand, goes right off the quiet ambient deep end. For a quick preview of what this disc sounds like, listen to Supersilent 6.3, but imagine no drums and no electric guitar crescendo at the end. Everything else you hear on that track is, apparently, made from Hammond organ sounds. Broadly speaking, tracks 9.1, 9.3 and 9.4 are all pretty much variations on a similar theme to that track, while on 9.2 they make an excursion into unwelcoming alien soundscapes akin to Lous and Bebe Barron's Forbidden Planet soundtrack. The music does clearly have a lot of complexity drifting beneath its surface, but the whole still feels like an unengaging fog of glum ambience, as of an art gallery exhibition.

I feel about this record how I felt about Supersilent 8, really, which is that the energy feels gone from their music. 8 seemed like a lot of dejected puttering about to me. Given what a relentless tour-de-force Supersilent 7 was, though, it may be that they have in fact passed onto some higher state of music making that I don't get any more. All I can say is that I don't really care for this record; your mileage, as they say, may vary.


Nintendo MP3 Player (Nintendo DS) (German version)
Nintendo MP3 Player (Nintendo DS) (German version)
Offered by PlayAllGames
Price: £9.37

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty clunky but a perfectly usable player, 13 Mar. 2009
My MP3 player was an iPod shuffle before I bought this, but somehow one of the audio channels developed a loose connection inside the player, and I couldn't stand to use it any more. (I promised myself I'd crack it open and try to resolder it one day, but that has yet to happen). Having a Game Boy micro which I tended to carry around most of the time I thought, why not, I'll give this player a go.

The manual says that the player will work on a DS, DS lite or Game Boy micro, but isn't supported on an older Game Boy Advance model because of something to do with power. I haven't ever tried using it on one so I don't know what this means in real terms.

The player comes as an oversized GBA cartridge, with an empty SD card slot on the side. You have to supply your own SD card (and also, in my case, a card reader so I could put stuff on it). This may bump the price somewhat above £15, but on the other hand you aren't constrained by capacity - it accepts my 2GB SD card no problem, for instance, and if you were really keen you could have several cards and swap them out.
The cartridge also has a headphone socket on it. This is because the game boy advance* sound hardware is somewhat limited, so to play it through the game boy speakers it actually has to downsample it to somewhere below radio quality. If you plug your phones into the cartridge it plays in full quality, and you can also put the game boy into sleep (or shut the lid on the DS), saving power and meaning you don't accidentally press buttons with it in your pocket.
Aesthetically, it looks reasonably neat on a game boy micro or original DS, but pretty ugly on a DS lite, as it sticks out of the front like a GBA cartridge does.

As for usability, it's peculiar and kind of clunky. To add music to it you have to just manually copy MP3 files to the card. The onscreen interface is a kind of austere green staircase thing - to move between tracks you move a stick man between stairs which represent your tracks. You can play on random and repeat, but you can't skip to a random track - you have to wait for the one you're listening to to finish. Also, the random feature is limited to the current directory you're using - you can't shuffle every song on the player. This, combined with the fact that if you're using a big card you run into the problem of there being a maximum number of files you can have in a given directory (I think this may be a limitation of the FAT32 storage format it uses), has meant that the way I tend to use it is to just drag directories with whole albums onto the card, and listen to albums. I don't mind this manner of using it but you're pretty much railroaded into it.

That's about all there is to say about it, really - it doesn't get anything majorly wrong (I hated the Creative MuVo because there was no way to lock the buttons, for instance) and it's not like it's expensive. I'd say in summary that the number one benefit of it is that it is a half-decent mp3 player that runs on a game boy, so it reduces the number of gadgets you have to carry around with you by one.

--
* Geek footnote: the player is a game boy advance cartridge, which means that even if it is used on a DS, it cannot access any of the DS's features or processor. Game Boy Advance cartridges are purposefully locked out of the DS processor as an anti-piracy measure.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 5, 2009 7:52 PM BST


Pärt: Alina
Pärt: Alina
Price: £11.70

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The ground; the sky., 15 Jan. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Pärt: Alina (Audio CD)
The last CD I bought by Arvo Pärt was the recording of his Kanon Pokajanen (the Canon of Repentance), which is a very long piece of music concerned with transformation. The music is very static; for most of the record the same notes and phrases are used, unchanging, but in a few places the piece seems like it's about to suddenly change into something new, but then... doesn't. I think that the purpose of that music is to not itself change and dance before a stationary audience, as most music does, but the other way around. The music stays the same, but you change; or perhaps what you hear the music saying to you changes.

I had this in mind when I was thinking about the unusual structure of this recording. As you may have read elsewhere, the programme is a recording of Spiegel im Spiegel for violin and piano; a long interpretative performance of Für Alina; Spiegel im Spiegel for violoncello and piano; Für Alina again; and finally Spiegel im Spiegel for violin and piano again. The last performance of the piece is a little faster than the first.

The title of this review derives from how I feel about the pieces aesthetically; they seem like two sides of one coin. Spiegel im spiegel is a rock, always impassively beneath you, bearing you. It is often used in films (like Wit, and Gerry) as a backdrop to death, that great comforting, crushing certainty.
Für Alina was written for a girl who was leaving home to go and study at university abroad, and is all about uncertainty, freedom and openness. Not wandering lost, exactly, but definitely going it alone. The performances on here by Alexander Malter are both about 5 times as long as the original score, and just further develop the theme. It's not unusual to say this about Pärt's music, but the beginning and ending of the pieces doesn't seem like an applicable concept - more that it is a place without beginning or end which you come into and out of.

So what I am trying to say is that each of the two places you visit on this record complements and, moreover, strengthens the other. The plunging descent on the violin towards the end of the first Spiegel im Spiegel felt like cold, wet comfort; played on the violoncello in the middle track it felt like a hand reaching down to me from above, almost touching me, then pulling back.

Should you buy this CD? It is a pretty unconventional recording, and there are plenty of more "straight" recordings of Arvo Pärt, notably Te Deum and Tabula Rasa (both on the ECM label) which are arguably better to hear first if you are a beginner. On the other hand this music is very accessible and, dare I say it, easy to listen to. Basically, if you liked what I wrote above, you will probably like this CD.

R.M.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 5, 2009 7:48 PM BST


Philosophy
Philosophy
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £14.49

3.0 out of 5 stars get this for "bare leaves", 18 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Philosophy (Audio CD)
This is Coldcut's idea of a major-label debut - an album mostly after the style of easy listening lounge jazz. It's fairly good stuff, but there's one particular reason I keep coming back to this album, and it's the final track. The album features a smooth beat-driven rendition of the jazz standard "Autumn Leaves", but "Bare Leaves" strips away the beats, leaving only the bare vocals over sombre strings and piano. The effect is wonderful, notwithstanding that there have been many better vocal performances of the song over the years. Probably my favourite Coldcut song.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 5, 2009 7:49 PM BST


Nintendo Official Wii RGB SCART Cable (Wii)
Nintendo Official Wii RGB SCART Cable (Wii)

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like, 12 Oct. 2007
I bought this cable more out of curiosity than anything else, and didn't really know what to expect as there seem to be lots of contradicting reports of what RGB scart does for you. Here's my attempt to describe its effects having tried out most of my games on it-

Zelda: twilight princess - This game has lots of very small or detailed text, and the cable improved the sharpness of the details.

Mario 64 - surprisingly, this game was enormously improved from the composite cables, making text more readable and graphics more vibrant and well-defined, making the whole game seem fresher.

Sonic 2 - the game feels more vital somehow- presumably because the lines in the background are more defined so you get a greater sense of it whizzing by.

Zelda: A link to the past - The text across the top of the screen (for arrows, bombs, rupees etc) is more readable.

Super Mario Sunshine - Oddly enough considering mario 64, i saw no discernible difference at all with this game.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes - Detailed textures were sharper, and given that this game makes extensive use of pretty textures it makes the game look better. Note: this game runs in 480i only, and 480i seemed to look a lot nicer on my TV through the rgb cable than through composite, though i suspect that depends more on the TV.

Overall, the edges of text and buttons, boxes etc. are better defined, and the edges of 3D objects are better defined. Fine details in textures which would be lost in the blurring of a composite signal are preserved by the rgb cable.

If you can find one of these cables at a relatively reasonable price (I found one priced at £16.99) then if you're interested in improved graphics it's probably worth it, as it does represent the optimum experience on a standard-definition TV.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 5, 2009 7:51 PM BST


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