March 2003 Archives

Went CD shopping today, got a mixture of old and new. As I was ripping my new acquisitions, I was amazed at the ultra high bitrates required to adequately encode the Emperor CD. It's been noted before that metal is very challenging to encode, however I wonder how much of this is a lack of adequate testing on such material.

Using stable EAC with alt-preset standard settings, Some of the Emperor tracks required 280kbps to adequately encode. The target ABR for the alt-preset standard is 192kbps.

I have noticed this also occurs with the closely allied (with regards to sonic density) genre of noise. Artists like Kevin Drumm, Merzbow and Russell Haswell often encode to similarly high bitrates.

Yes these genres love to push the wall of sound approach to it's limit, yet as genres they are not going away. Sony UK just released the latest Cradle of Filth album, which is arguably the first black metal release by one of the 5 major labels.

It might be interesting to encode this cd using 'next gen' encoders (aac, wma9, oog-vorbis)? and contrast bit rates/clarity with a few contemporary CDs mixed with mainstream radio play in mind.

Generally my attitude to scientific progress is quite pro. Recent developments with contentious areas like stem cell research have worried me little.

Still I have my own strongly held beliefs not a religion as such, but values that for me are quite important. One of the strongest is my vegetarian lifestyle. pretty much since I was able to make a conscious decision on my eating choices (somewhere around age 5 or 6) I rejected meat products - then egg and more recently dairy products.

So the development of food additive to reduce the occurence of common food contamination worries me, these type of technologies are usually implemented in a widespread manner even applied in areas where they are not needed.

The approach of using animals to generate antibodies and preventative vaccines dates back a long way, however it's usually done on mammals that are similar in biology to us. In this case the use of chickens as the carrier really concerns me. I simply will not eat food that has been adulterated with a product derived from egg yolk.

The association of this technology with anti-terrorism also is a disturbing but increasing common practice as corporate america uses current world events to manipulate their nations minds.

Recently, I've been noticing that record labels have been taking mp3 piracy much more seriously. This article demonstrates the lengths record labels are taking to ensure they retain pre-release copy control. Also, three new release albums that friends have loaned me to listen to all have had CactusDataShield copy protection. When I explain this to them, they seem surprised that anyone would release CDs which aren't eligible to feature the Compact Disc Audio logo we have become so used to over the past 20 years.

Now, much press has focused on how easy it is to defeat this iteration of copy protection. This is not the point. The point is these CDs are not Red Book standard. The Record companies are saying - it's not OK (legal) to rip these to mp3 and listen on your iPod (or digital player of choice). If we continue to buy CDs without complaint about paying the same for reduced functionality the Record companies will have re-written the legal battleground on this issue without even hitting the courts.

Personally I own an iPod, this has a lot of value added features - peerless size/capacity/flexibility and tracks play history. As a result I treat my CDs as archival material, rip once and place in storage. My home stereo can play my mp3 collection and when I?m on the run the iPod handles the playback. I have a single location that efficiently stores my music and tracks my playing habits.

The solution is to boycott these new albums, buy from the smaller labels who aren't using copy protection. If you have already bought albums like Massive Attack - 100th Window or Ben Harper - Diamonds on the Inside - return them to the place of purchase. Insist on a refund because the CD is not a proper Red Book Audio CD thus you should not be paying the same price for reduced functionality. Also, send a letter of complaint to the ACCC.

The record companies hide behind the retailers on this one, returns hurt retailers much more, but if enough returns occur the message will get through.

In the case of Linkin Park - if the new album is anything like their earlier work, then it would be a godsend if it were never released!

[Addendum] It appears the link is BMG, all the artists mentioned are on BMG who have stated that they will be copy protecting all new products using Midibar's Cactus Data Shield.

This little app - currently in beta testing sounds quite promising.

Really enjoyed last night's Buffy 7.05, I was spoilered out on this one and it was still great.

Although it hasn't recieved the marathon repeat play sessions that the new Opeth has, I thought I'd write a few words about Katatonia's Viva Emptiness. In short, it's a brilliant work, showcasing a mature band who have achieved complete mastery of their current genre.

Many fans of the older doom/death/black era Katatonia still think Brave Murder Day is the band's high watermark. In fact generally I share this opinion. However I've come to evaluate the band as two entities, the Mark I - doom/death/black/drone and Mark II - clean vocals/verse chorus verse/heavy dark rock

It's taken the band a few albums to fully master the challenge of composing songs under an entirely different set of rules. With their previous album, Last Fair Deal Gone Down they nearly had it all right, however there were too many occasions where their influences showed through like ribs on a catwalk model.

On Viva Emptiness, rather than wear their influences so dramatically, they have actually revisited some of their own innovations circa Mark I. These elements have been subtly reclaimed and reworked without seeming like a shallow "return to the roots", indicating that as a band they have finally come to terms with their past.

Viva Emptiness works wonderfully as a complete album, definitely the strongest from the Mark II era. However, there are some real standount tracks. In addition to the three excellent tracks from the promo single, two tracks rise out of the album purely on the strength of the melody and songwriting contained within.

Burn The Remembrance has a haunting clean guitar melody that underpins the entire song, it's one of those simple yet infectious riffs that Anders specalises in. This is counterpointed by a poignant chorus which uses a weird, slightly awkward pacing that helps anchor it in your subconscious. The song rides along on an organic percussive performance that makes extensive use of high pitched toms

Omerta Is a little gem hidden close to the end of this fine slab. Clocking in at exactly 3 minutes, short even by modern Katatonia standards - achieves it's length deceitfully as the track ends mid verse - a technique also used by Opeth on Closure and Serenity Painted Death. Beginning almost as abruptly with the primary vocal and guitar melodies in full swing. The song reeks sweetness that is tempered by lyrics which deal with loss, regret and obliquely addiction/death all wrapped in a vocal tone of innocence.

One suprising element that differs from previous albums is the increased use of profanity, previous albums might feature a single out of context "Fuck", wheras on Viva Emptiness at least three tracks utilise this word, in each case very appropriate to the lyrics. Despite knowing that the band aren't focused on the conventional approach - (release 2 or 3 singles destined for radio) doesn't mean I'm not a little frustrated that some of the strongest songs will get little exposure as a result of this.

Alternately - here's a more concise track by track review, which generally echoes my views on the album.

It feels like my birthday... but it's not.

This morning, I got my hands on the entire new release by Opeth (Damnation) which leaked onto the internet yesterday. I also finished downloading the rest of the new Katatonia album (Viva Emptiness)

I've got the day off work. It's raining outside, perfect time for me to go find a quiet cafe and enjoy these two albums all afternoon. Initial listens suggest I am in for a rare treat.

This little award made me laugh, actually the whole concept of the awards ceremony outlined at this site made me grin.

NOTE: definitely not a worksafe link!

Musical Ability That Makes Others Feel Inadequate

Just finished reading Transit again. It's a book I find myself re-reading on a six monthly basis, usually after I have read a chunk of books (mined a particular sub genre) and want to re-center myself.

Ben Aaronovitch is a unique author, for each novel his basic ideas are quite obviously cribbed, however he seems to have the unique ability to achive much more with these borrowed ideas than the orginator did!

Transit is quite obviously influenced by the cyberpunk genre, but yet manages to gracefully step aside from many of this genres pitfalls, somewhat akin to the take that Bruce Sterling used in novels like Heavy Weather and Holy Fire

Transit was published 10 years ago and with the hindsight and distance that I now have from the fan community, it's actually quite amusing to reflect on how controversial a book it was when first released. Ben had grown a healthy fanbase for his revisionist debut Remberance, most of these fans *hated* Transit for it's attempt to portray a Doctor who was attempting to break from character and tradition. What these fans don't realise is that by placing the Doctor out of his normal context and comfort zone this allows us to see through the human facade to the underlying truly alien character.

The writing is so strong and peppered with so many great passages that the draft nature of the book and the spotty end-game plotting are excusable.

In particular, every time I read the passage in the dying pages of Transit where Old Sam breaks the Katana over his knee and utters the words "I've killed more people than I can count, I come in peace" still brings a tear to my eye each time I read it.

One of the things that annoys me the most is when people refuse to admit their limitations.

Recently, I played some songs to a friend. His comment was: oh you can hear the Neurosis influences This infuriated me as many of the primary influences for the Opeth date back 15 years prior to Neurosis's founding. It would be more honest to say: "well this is outside my normal point of reference, but i do like what I hear. So what are the influences? I think I hear some Neurosis"

Or at work... one of my collegues finds it difficult to admit he doesn't know stuff. So when put on the spot, he just bullshits and makes stuff up. This is such a great way to behave professionally. Instead, he should admit "I don't know, can you help/tell me?"

When people try and bluff, it's generally obvious - even if yourself you don't have much more technical knowledge in that area. It takes a very talented or stupid person to bluff with confidence. For me such bluffing is infuriating. I'd be happy to help someone if they admitted their lack of knowledge, but when they try and bluff me. Well any thoughts of help go out the window.

Well.. after being obvious to the fans since early last year, it's official, Buffy the series will end at the end of the current season.

Personally, I'm quite satisified with the timing. However i won't directly link to any news articles on the end of Season7, they contain too many spoilers for a self respecting aussie fan who would prefer to keep some things a surprise.

Of course, with a sucessful seven year old show ending, the tv execs will of course bandy around the "spin off" concept as a way of retaining the dedicated audience. Will they conveniently forget that this has already been done with Angel to limited success? I have my doubts any other shows in the buffy universe will be able to keep the majority of the current audience.

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