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Hammerhead Ray (UK)

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X/Y
X/Y
Price: £21.34

5.0 out of 5 stars Scandinavian beauty., 18 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: X/Y (Audio CD)
In a recent "invisible jukebox" article in Wire magazine, Archie Shepp said "I can't think of a single white performer who had a significant influence on the evolution of musical within this idiom" (i.e. Jazz). It may not count as influential from the point of view of people like Archie Shepp, but to my ears the best Jazz around at the moment on CD is coming out of Scandinavia.

And in particular, this is the best Jazz record I've heard in years.

It's a double CD: CD1 ("X") is the Subtropic Arkestra. CD2 ("Y") is a sharp contrast: Kajfes multitracking trumpet over analogue synth.

The Subtropic Arkestra tracks build on from the reimagined 60s TV/film music theme of their previous CDs (the one that I've heard at any rate). The sound throughout is very live - in particular the drums on opening track "Sand Boogie". All the pieces are originals, except for a Don Cerry cover - "Solidarity (for Moki)". There's some great driving sax soloing peppered across the CD, un-slick driving scratchy electric guitar, modal analog synths, even Moroccan Oud, and Kajfes' trumpet sounds wonderful throughout: melodic, never cluttered, and with a beautiful tone - quite Miles Davis-like in fact, but very european in conception.

On the "Y" CD, the synth textures tip a hat to north european electronic music - Harmonia and Reuber spring to mind - but also to John Surman's ECM synth + sax duets. The sparse backings, mostly without any percussive underlay, necessarily put the trumpet centre stage, but Kajfes again never over plays. Beautiful stuff.

My favourite CD of 2013.


StarTech 1 Port PCI Parallel Adapter Card
StarTech 1 Port PCI Parallel Adapter Card
Price: £20.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Windows 7 64-bit: no problem!, 11 Oct. 2013
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Bought this card for new PC (running Windows 7 64-Bit) with no parallel port on motherboard in order to use an old HP LaserJet. Does the job perfectly BUT the installation is not quite as per the manual:

My Windows 7 PC did NOT identify new hardware.

Not a problem though. After fitting card and booting up PC, went to Device Manager, and could see that Card visible to operating system under "Other Device" as a "PCI Simple Communication Controller". The "PCI . . . Controller" icon had a yellow exclamation mark over it, indicating a problem (no Driver, in this case).

Right clicked on "PCI . . . Controller", and selected "Update Driver Software".
Put Star Tech's 3" CD in DVD drive.
In "Update . . ." window, selected "Browse" and navigated to DVD drive (the disc is called "98XX_DRV"), then went to "Win7_64Bit" folder.
Selected Install: installed OK and defaulted to LPT3.

Checked Device Manager after instal, and card now showed up on list under "Multifunction Adapter" as "PCI Multi-IO Controller", and under "Ports (COM & LPT)" as "PCI Parallel Port (LPT3)".

Added printer against LPT3, installed printer driver and everything now runs 100%.


EMU 0404 PCIe Soundcard
EMU 0404 PCIe Soundcard

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent sound quality, 9 Jan. 2013
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I bought this to replace a Terratec Phase 22 PCI soundcard. In comparison with the Terratec, the EMU's sound quality is slightly crisper, but just as important the reduction in noise is very significant (presumably because the EMU card has RF shielding): I no longer get breakthrough from the PC's LAN connection.

The EMU card is physically easy to instal, but did present a problem in so far as, initially, the PC did not recognise the card - it couldn't 'see' it. This was solved by removing and reseating the card in another PCIe slot.

Once the card is recognised by the PC, loading the drivers is straightforward (this installation was on a WIndows 7 PC): one simply follows the message box instructions on screen.

In use, the card initially presents two problems:
1. its default sample rate is 48KHz, and
2. its default output is SPDIF.

Both these settings are accessible via the 'mixer' application that needs to be installed along with the drivers. Like many PC music users, my recording software (Cubase 6) runs at 44.1KHz sampling rate, and I also use analog In/Out (i.e. not SPDIF). With these settings saved as the default configuration via the EMU 'digital mixer' program, the card started to function pretty well faultlessly.

As a previous reveiwer has said, this card is not intended for general use. However, as a dedicated audio card - for music and video - it is proving to be an excellent buy.


Poppitz ( Cosamera ) [DVD]
Poppitz ( Cosamera ) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Roland Düringer
Price: £7.76

4.0 out of 5 stars Really good Austrian comedy, 21 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Poppitz ( Cosamera ) [DVD] (DVD)
This engaging comedy drives along at pretty well breakneck speed throughout.

The general plot is that succesful Viennese (i.e. Austrian) car salesman husband Gerry is going on a package holiday with his apparently neurotic (German) wife Lena and their sullen young teenage goth daughter. However, he is preoccupied with worries about losing his job: his company boss has just died, leaving the company in the hands of the bosses son who is apparently conducting negotiations by telephone with a German called Poppitz. Gerry thinks Poppitz is going to take over the company and that, if this happens, he will lose his job. At the resort, Gerry finds that not only are half the guests Germans, but one of them also appears to be Poppitz himself, on top of which (the apparent) Poppitz starts blatantly flirting with Gerry's wife.

The film careers along with Gerry venting his supercharged imagination direct to camera as the film veers off into enactments of his constant worst-case-scenario musings. Meanwhile, much fun is poked at the differences between Austrian and German sensibilities, while the staff at the resort are caught on a tourist's videocamera venting steam often to very entertaining effect about the frustrations of their day jobs.

Things come to a head when Gerry decides on the last night of the holiday that the only solution is to kill Poppitz, and Lena decides that the only way they can do this is for her to lure Poppitz to some sort of private romantic encounter - cue startling tranformation, in their chalet bathroom, from twitchy bespectacled mum to exceedingly desirable lady. The DVD is worth buying for the dance scene that follows, not only because Marie Baumer does a great turn on the dancefloor but also because of the way Lena and Gerry completely bungle their kidnap plan. The actual identity of Poppitz finally comes to light on the plane home and it's perhaps the last person Gerry expected it to be.

I bought this film because, after watching Dominik Graf's German Krimi TV series "Im Angesicht des Verbrechens", which I thought was ataggeringly good (why aren't BBC4 showing it on Saturday nights?), I thought Marie Baumer was particularly brilliant (plus her diction is very good - very important when one's German is not strong).

Be warned that some of the humour is quite dark in this film (in particular the dog disappearing in the kitchen and the subsequent barbecue, and the German tourist stranded outside the resort compund - after losing his identity band - unsuccesfully begging the armed sentries to let him back in), but the script is constantly inventive, the performances are good, and the timing is consistently faultless.

NB - This film was released in 2002 in Austria, and is one of their most successful films of the 2000s.


Pong
Pong
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Bass, 13 July 2012
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This review is from: Pong (MP3 Download)
I surfed into this record some months ago on Spotify and found it grabbed my attention completely.

Senking is one of Cologne-based Jens Massel's several projects - his Senking persona grew out of his releases as Kandis around 2000. Massel describes 'Senking' as being an English-German portmanto of senken (to lower/reduce/cut in English) and sinking (which means pretty much the same in English and German). The first Senking CD (released by Kandis) used almost exclusively a single very warm rounded synth bass moving, without drums but with a powerful internal rhythm, through vast lagoons of reverb - somewhat like the Detroit Escalator Co but underwater, hence the name. Massel developed this low-end feel over a series of CDs each one of which adds extra instrumentation without obscuring the central role of deep bass within a huge fluid space of resonance.

On Pong, the rhythm tracks might at first appear to be in a similar groove to much top end German experimental techno (MonoLake springs to mind - Cinemascope) but the overall effect is quite different and the reason may be that Massel apparently uses a VERY austere equipment setup that forces (or enables) a certain approach to music making which has got nothing to do with staring at VDUs but is instead all about listening: he builds up the tracks by bouncing between two minidisc recorders, which means that most of what you hear (including the percussion) is not sequenced but is in fact played live. This process changes the nature of the music: there is a constant development of detail - rhythms and timbre flexing and shifting with and against each other - that is particularly characteristic of improvisation but typically completely absent from most other Techno. Like the music of fellow Cologne resident Timo Reuber (Sudpol), this music has the sonic depth of electronica patched together with the formal flexibility of say a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo (Electric Ladyland).

Most of all though, what I come back to this record for over and over again is the fantastic bass.


Designing Sound
Designing Sound
by Andy Farnell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.32

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for Pure Data beginners, 8 May 2012
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This review is from: Designing Sound (Hardcover)
Initial impression: full of useful and interesting information. In use, however: very frustrating.

This book is badly let down by its feeble index. If like me you're used to picking up a new computer language on the fly - by random accessing reference books - then you will find this book very frustrating because virtually NO attempt has been made to provide any reference in the index to the Object set (i.e. the methods, the keywords that call up the operations that you will actually want to use).

For example, to find any reference to an Object, the Index requires you to look under 'Object'. You might assume that at least the core Objects will be listed there. But they are not.

For example, if you want to find information on 'vline~', not only is 'vline~' not referenced under 'Object', but neither is any other specific audio object. Instead, what it DOES say is "Audio, 185". This turns out to be the first page of Chapter 11 "Pure Data Audio": typically you are more likely to find what you are looking for in this book by first skimming through the contents, and then by browsing. ('vline~' is in fact described on pp 189 - 190).

If you want a crisp and detailed manual on Pure Data, with a DECENT index, then Johannes Kreidler's 'Loadbang: Electronic Music in Pure Data' is a far more suitable book.


Balla: The Futurist
Balla: The Futurist
by Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Alternate edition, 5 May 2009
This review is from: Balla: The Futurist (Paperback)
This appears to be an alternative (and currently more expensive) edition of "Balla: The Futurist" which was also published by Rizzolli International Publications, New York in 1987, ISBN 0-8478-0919-6: Balla


Lyonel Feininger (Documentary Monograph)
Lyonel Feininger (Documentary Monograph)
by June L. Ness
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Feininger's correspondance, 5 May 2009
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This consists mainly of Feininger's correspondance - to and from his wife, and various acquaintances and colleagues. The letters are grouped by recipient/sender, and are in chronological sequence within each group.

The book is primarily intended as a source text, and consequently there are only a small number of illustrations: three sets of plates, only some of which are in colour. The book is indexed, but - because Feininger usually does not refer to specific pieces in his letters - the book is not particularly illuminating for the lay reader wanting to find out about the thinking and work that went into particular pieces.


Balla
Balla
by Maurizio Fagiolo Dell'Arco
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Art as aesthetic research?, 5 May 2009
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This review is from: Balla (Paperback)
This was published as a catalogue for an exhibition that toured internationally in the 1980s: there is a biography (with lots of b/w illustrations), then a series of good quality (though rather small) colour reproductions of pieces from the exhibition each of which has a facing page with notes and b/w reproductions of related Balla pieces.

There is some very interesting material here, much of which doesn't get reproduced in general readers on Futurism. The brief of the exhibition was to show the development of Balla's ideas about representing movement, so there are a lot of interesting sketches and studies - but there are no colour reproductions of Balla's better known pictures such as 'Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash' because these weren't part of the exhibition.

Very stimulating - mathematics by other means, in effect.


Lyonel Feininger (Art & Design)
Lyonel Feininger (Art & Design)
by Ulrich Luckhardt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £42.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dive in and enjoy, 24 Feb. 2009
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As a collection of reproductions of Lyonel Feininger's paintings, this book is excellent.

The reproductions are full page, and each has a brief essay putting the painting into context within Feininger's life. These essays include reproductions of sketches and Feininger's satirical cartoons and it's very intriguing to see how his use of elements of cubist techniques transform the images - particularly since the transformations are sometimes in fact very slight though the (subjective) effect is sometimes very considerable.

The book is prefaced by a fairly illuminating biography of Feininger - the author is an academic Art Historian who did his PhD on Feininger - with lots of factual information about the historical context.

What I missed (as a none-artist) was any useful account or discussion of the techniques Feininger used to create some of the marvellous textures of his oil paintings after 1914 - where he appears to have etched away at layers of paint, for instance - or of the beautiful geometrical distortions of pictures like 'Bird Cloud'.

This one quibble aside, this is a beautiful book.Lyonel Feininger (Art & Design)


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