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The diary entries of a little girl in her 30s! ~ Part 2 - Page 898  

post #13456 of 21760
Originally Posted by akash neagi View Post

Hey guys,
I was hoping to change my PC speakers and I found this logitech z906.....
Any clue if this is any good?????

More speakers does not always equal better sound.

It entirely depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Do you need surround sound on your PC?
post #13457 of 21760
I'm so hyped for Pacific Rim.

post #13458 of 21760
Queue the Ultraman, Voltron & Power Rangers jokes... tongue.gif

post #13459 of 21760
Originally Posted by akash neagi View Post

I'm back after a long and tiring week!!!!!!!!


Where did you go?  confused.gif


Originally Posted by DigitalFreak View Post

Originally Posted by warrenpchi View Post

That sounds like a challenge!  Want me to take a crack at something?  smile.gif

Be my guest, the worst that can happen is I have a better looking funky avatar


Okay, you got a link with ideal specs for the artwork (size, resolution, etc.)?

Home of the Liquid Carbon, Liquid Crimson, Liquid Glass, Liquid Gold and
Liquid Lightning headphone amplifiers... and the upcoming Liquid Spark!

post #13460 of 21760
Originally Posted by jgray91 View Post

I'm so hyped for Pacific Rim.



What up, Evangelion syncing



Also, I feel the reason they may seem overly warm to the point of recession is also due to my DAP: the Ipod Mini. It's a great DAP, but for whatever reason Rockbox doesn't want to play nicely on it, so I can't EQ a little on it. Also my portable amp isn't the greatest, but hey, I'm just wanting the X3 at the end of the day. What tips are you guys using? I'm using some Auvio single flanges, but also had the Vsonic long single flanges on. Thinking a nice triple flange may work wonders.

Edited by mosshorn - 6/4/13 at 12:05pm
post #13461 of 21760
Honestly, Pacific Rim is the most anime thing I've seen in a long time, more so than anime. :P

It's just so bonkers. Kaijus! Giant robots! Cancelling the apocalypse! And probably filled with technobabble to explain how there are giant robots and why it needs to have two minds meld together to work. AND KAIJUS VS ROBOTS!!!!!
post #13462 of 21760
I read a paragraph long synopsis of Pacific Rim last Summer/Fall and all I could think of was "OMG OMG live action Evangelion!"
post #13463 of 21760


Quote:Originally Posted by warrenpchi View Post


It's pretty big, but not everything.  Still, I'm pretty sure that North Am and Japan are the lion's share of the audio market.

I think we have to separate portable audio from home audio here. I think portable wise the far east is significantly larger that NA. Korea Alone probably is close to being on par.

As an aside. Do you have any info on who actually makes the Blox drivers?



Are you kidding?  I'm still trying to get a decent amp!  biggrin.gif



Does that mean you have a bad one. By an older Krell integrated and get urinated on by the pseudoCognicenti for buying in at the low end.





Nah, what fun would that be?  Ima wing it and try to give everything a personal flair for now.  tongue.gif


Yes well, you're new. If I had it to do all over again I would copy my every reply SQL em with a random response output logrithm with a keyword filter and call it Modulon Defender of the Internet. Creating an artificail person can be fun (or does that one belong in the disaster date forum)eek.gif


post #13464 of 21760
Thread Starter 

6 / 4 / 13

Dear Diary,



I would like to begin this entry with a word of thanks to those who actually take the time to read through my admittedly self indulgent, meandering "walls of text" (as they've been lovingly referred to by certain others). Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if there were folks who post here---not infrequently---who have never read a single diary entry of mine. Sometimes I feel like an interloper who comes in and goes about her business for a moment before leaving again, quietly slipping out the back door. So for those of you who do take notice of these pantomimes over in the corner: thanks. I'd also like to make an appeal to you guys while I'm at it, and that's to please discuss music more! Not the head-fi member, but the aural fuel for that burning desire to fill your ears. Discuss films. Discuss books. Discuss that even the most pious of saints had their moments of doubt. Hell, discuss antique furniture or the culinary arts if you want. Just for pity's sake don't discuss accumulating wealth. That's one fetish no one deserves to have to slog through post after post about.


Speaking of fetish objects . . . .


I've been on a major vintage planar kick lately. The Fostex T50, the original, has been at the center of these fixations. It sort of coalesces into this category unto itself, as it existed under various guises throughout the 70s and 80s, and there were several OEMs that sprung up like the NAD RP18. I managed to track down one of these New Acoustic Dimension models---the version with the mylar rather than kapton diaphragm---as well as some other even rarer creatures like the Akai ASE-50 and the Aiwa HP-500. The latter is purportedly more impressive sounding than a lot of other headphones, with some ortho-heads I know even preferring it to stuff like the Paradox T50RP. If you want to read more, Tyll talked about the exact set I now own. Naturally I'm excited to hear it.


Photo courtesy of Kabeer via Wikiphonia.


Photo courtesy Wikiphonia, once again.


I'm still looking for one of the original "v. 1" iterations of the Fostex T50. There's also the Sansui SS-100 which is sort of a Frankenstein's monster comprised of T50 v. 2 drivers and T30 magnets, a truly beautiful looking headphone, but a headphone that falls short of the others listed above in sonics according to several sources. The SS-100 comes up from time to time on the 'Bay, but lately it's been going for rather unreasonable sums in my humble opinion. I think I'll wait for the icy grips of madness to thaw a bit before venturing down that road. As for those other guys, the orthodynamic Yamahas, I've been pretty content with my YH-1000, but I'd still like to track down an anisotropic version of the HP-1 at some point.


This morning I've been enjoying my Audez'e LCD-1 quite a bit. Really, it's still among my favorite headphones of all time.


Yup. From Wikiphonia


From what I hear the drivers are just as complex as the original T50's despite the OEM housing. Personally though, I love the hodgepodge look of the thing. I always keep an eye out for another one, as my fondness for it is such that I want a backup pair; unfortunately they only made 25 of them in total.


Sort of feel the same way---though to an admittedly lesser extent---regarding the HiFiMan HE-400. My pair is one of the earlier ones, distinguished from subsequent revisions by their white drivers I believe? The overall balance of these earlier models is darker than their replacements; it actually reminds me a bit of the Stax SR-007, though overall much grittier, fuzzier in background, and less refined. Still I find their sound to be really quite impressive given the simplicity of their construction. That's not a backhanded "hey, it works" type compliment either. Especially since many of the early units didn't work! There was a very brief window between the faulty pre Chinese New Year batch and the newer driver revision however, a batch that still had the white drivers and corrected the previous issues. When it came together, it came together. For their asking price there isn't much in the full-sized arena today currently in production I'd rather listen to personally. On that note, I was saddened to hear that the newer versions are apparently more fatiguing, possessing an aggressive treble and sounding harsher overall. I think their earlier, darker tilt gave them a unique place in the HiFiman lineup. In some ways I actually feel these earlier models sound even better than the HE-500.


As for the LCD-1, had they made more of them and had the rediscovery of orthos been closer to its current apogee at the time, I think it would have been destined to become a classic.



"Fetish is effectively a kind of inverse of the symptom. That is to say, the symptom is the exception which disturbs the surface of the false appearance, the point at which the repressed Other Scene erupts, while fetish is the embodiment of the Lie which enables us to sustain the unbearable truth"


I really like the AK100.


Have I mentioned this?


For one thing the user interface is among the best of any portable for me personally, a nice combination of straightforward touch screen usage and mechanical feedback. It's small and easy to tote around but not so small as to feel obnoxiously insubstantial like the Clip players. It also sounds really good in my opinion, but it's limited. That's its big, fatal flaw. My high impedance SM64 sounds great. The Heir Tzar 350 Sibilance Generator Plus sounds good. For reasons that frankly escape me, FitEar's stuff sounds pretty darn good. On that note, I'm really curious to try the specially-tuned version of the F111 that was made to pair with the player; that may be happening in the coming weeks (along with the Parterre).


Point being, there are special considerations when pairing stuff with it, sure. I don't need to mention the high Z on the thing. ....Or I didn't, at any rate. The AK120 on the other hand seems to be garnering praise from folks who hear it, even reluctant praise from sticklers and curmudgeons, which I see as a very good sign. Well, good in the sense that my "can't I have a player that plays nicely with a wider variety of stuff?" lament may be a thing of the past. Not so good in the sense that I'll likely be shelling out over a grand for a portable device. Honestly though, screw sending messages through monetary-based forms of protest. I'm too far gone for that sort of thing at this point. The UI plus SQ is too much of a FTW to care about the USD. FWIW. SRSLY.



I posted a track by Nadja a while back, "Breakpoint." This was the track that got me into Nadja. It's also a track that fully exemplifies why you should listen to stuff until the very end, why you should hold out despite getting antsy.


This reminds me of a sage I once new, a dude from my LiveJournal days with the handle LostCosmonaut. If you're feeling adventurous and want to end up feeling wholly inadequate, check out his LiveJournal some time. He's still at it even though most reasonably coherent folks have abandoned ship long ago. His breadth of knowledge with regard to music, film, and pop culture puts mine to shame. Hell is entire outlook and practical philosophy put mine to shame. But then he's older, so his truly epic posts are something of an inspirational target. Anyway, this guy once said something to the effect of rock 'n' roll being at least partly about building up tension. I really think there's something to this. At first, my temptation to trace everything backward through time takes hold and the appeal of linking rock directly to stern, well-lined Indian men sitting on cushions playing drone instruments presents itself. I mean, drone is about tension right?


But there's a key difference. With drone, the idea is to eventually let go and transcend that tension, to give in and let it pound your face into the floor. Like Old World medicine: you have to let the big burly guy beat the crap out of you ("massage") or give in and admit you lost the bet with Mother Nature, accepting a swig in the penalty phase ("medicinal tea"). It's like ego dissolution. Stop clinging to that flesh slicker, sailor.


In the case of rock, it's all about keeping that tension alive and well. One should never never say they had a relaxing moment where rock is concerned. Sure, the spiritual elements may be involved, but it has to be abused in a certain sense and co-opted into the service of something for which it wasn't actually intended. It's all about holding out as long as possible for a payoff. You have to know, or at least think, that something is coming. The big crescendo. So if rock is anything like meditation, it's the mutant Western version. Repetition is thus one of the most valuable tools in the arsenal of a rocker, provided it keeps the tension going. I suppose this puts it closer in line with tantric sex. Stop slicking that flesh stick, sailor.


In that sense one of the most gloriously rock 'n' roll moments of the 90s was Boredoms' Super Ae. Specifically "Super Going." The build up in tension is just masterfully controlled curtesy Seiichi Yamamoto, right up to the explosion at the end, an amazing rock orgasm. That final release. Aural sex with the rock gods. That it only lasts 12 some minutes is totally your fault, too. Incidentally there's a 30 minute long version called "Super Go!!!!!!" if you think you can handle it.


Of course, this is more about a general spirit than distinct genre definitions. The "spirit of rock" also pervades punk and metal and other beasties that sprang forth from its loins. Getting back to Nadja, my original point---the whole reason for bringing this up in the first place---was that sticking around 'till the end is important. In this case the track "Breakpoint" eventually succumbs to its own gravitational pull and burns itself out, not so much exploding as in "Super Ae," but rather fizzling out and dissolving into a beautifully mellow coda, a complete 180 degree turn-around. Ironically it's something totally un-rocking that turns "Breakpoint" from a meditative exercise into an actual rocking track. Plus you just have to love Aidan Baker singing about infestations of parasites in a chill tone while lazily strumming a guitar, his voice fluctuating and faltering under various process filters, the jumbling up of ones and zeros as the whole track just slithers down the drainpipe.



"a fetish can play a very constructive role in allowing us to cope with the harsh reality: fetishists are not dreamers lost in their private worlds, they are thoroughly 'realists,' able to accept the way things effectively are -- since they have their fetish to which they can cling in order to cancel the full impact of reality"


Someone mentioned black metal not too long ago in this thread. 


I wanted to touch on a specific sliver of what is inevitably a morass of different subgenres and styles. In this instance: that warped and twisted, misanthropic one-man outsider stuff. This has always been one of my favorite areas of black metal, and it was really the first that truly appealed to me enough to warrant a closer look. At the risk of losing some of my "cred," I'll admit that it wasn't Von or Burzum or older non vikings-go-camping-in-the-woods Darkthrone that really got me into it either. It was Xasthur. Yeah, the not-so-kvlt USBM guy who put out thirty or so different variants of the same record before calling it quits a few years ago.




Seriously though, how kvlt is it to be idolized for being kvlt? It seems a bit self-defeating. Someone like Xasthur may end up in the shopping cart alongside Isis albums half the time, but in a way that makes him more of an outsider. I suppose it just depends on what direction your facing, as being outside the confines of one genre inevitably puts you in the jurisdiction of another. Really his farewell album Portal of Sorrow was a perfect swansong for him, a huge middle finger to the community he was somehow supposed to please.



"Cemetery of Shattered Masks" from Xasthur's Defective Epitaph


Xasthur is usually labeled 'atmospheric' or 'ambient' or 'depressive black metal.' And before you ask, yes, there's happy black metal. It's usually about how fun it is to dress up like a viking and drink beer while dressed as a viking and make love to girls while dressed as a viking. Or, if you're Darkthrone, how fun it is to go camping dressed as a viking. Xasthur on the other hand is all about darkness and voids, feeling suicidal, being trapped in mazes, feeling suicidal while being trapped in mazes, gray landscapes, communicating with the dead via telepathy, general bleakness, and so on and so forth. Malefic, the guy behind the project, doesn't seem like the sort of dude you'd want to talk to at a party.


This particular strain of black metal is indeed all about conjuring up a certain depressive ambience. Most tracks are awash with buzzing guitars, drenched in distortion. It's a sound that owes much to mid period Burzum obviously, but in the case of Xasthur I also hear a lot of dirge-like undertones that call to mind funerary heavies like Thergothon, Skepticism, and even old progressive stuff like Jacula. It's the minor key elements in particular that connote a spectral cascade, this haunted waltz that is particularly Jacula-ish at times. Up 'till his last few efforts, Malefic's percussion was largely handled by drum machines. This is pretty common place for solo efforts in black metal, and in some cases it just adds an entirely new variable of weirdness into the equation. I can't help but think of the wonderfully named Benighted Leams whose albums likely feature some of the most gloriously retarded drum machines ever recorded: rapid lawn sprinkler tik-tik-tik misfires of tepid thwaps, lurching and often completely out of sink with the guitar parts. It lends a likely unintended industrial vibe to this stuff at times.


For the most part Malefic / Xasthur's programmed drums sounded competent. It was actually when he started recording real drums that things took a turn for the more overtly bizarre. Over the course of his last few albums, the instrumentation and arrangements started getting more warped, more off-kilter. By the time Portal of Sorrow came around, Malefic was using his largest repertoire of techniques, experimenting with new instruments, and in general trying to expand his sound as much as possible while remaining loosely in the confines of the niche he carved out for himself. I get the sense he exhausted his creativity and wisely decided to put the final nail in Xasthur's casket. In the end, Portal of Sorrow was fairly left field (it features Marissa Nadler of all people on vocals half the time), and this confounded a lot of metalheads who previously chastised Malefic for being too formulaic, inspiring them to instead chastise him for being too unformulaic. C'est la vie.


As an aside, now isn't really the time to be listening to Xasthur where I'm currently living. This---and much of black metal, really---is definitely the soundtrack for cold weather. December and January music. I have fond memories of walking to college in cold, windy, sometimes rainy weather and listening to Xasthur. My first class at the time was early in the morning and happened to be located across the campus, so I would often cut through the landscaping, passing through lawns with huge trees whose roots protruded from the ground like wood sea serpents. The perfect accompaniment to overcast skies.


It's kind of hard to mention Xasthur without talking about Leviathan too, as both are probably the most well-known examples of solo USBM projects; they also did a truly epic split together that stands as one of the most iconic documents of the whole movement. I actually think Wrest, the dude behind Leviathan, is something of a scumbag, and like Burzum there's this mythos developing around his criminal actions, only in this case because it seems to mainly consist of domestic assault-your-girlfriend type stuff. Then he tries to pass it off as an artistic statement under the title True Traitor, True Whore. I know these guys want to go for the whole "you aren't supposed to like me" thing, but come on, that's just pathetic.


Anyway, I think Wrest is the more talented musician of the two regardless of his personal life. It's his Lurker of Chalice side-project, not Leviathan, that stands as his magnum opus in my opinion however.


I'd love to track down some of the earlier EPs, but as it stands the self-titled album is LoC's only distributed released. While it's comprised of a lot of this early material, it has this cohesive ambience that just slays, a down-tempo and opiated wandering-thru-mistry-forests-at-dawn feel to it. Wrest's vocals are especially grim and have this depth that gives them a bit of a unique flare in a genre where growls and screams are often indistinguishable from one artist to the next; they sound weary and aged, like the demon who found the microphone happens to be a granpappy or something. At times a given track will veer off into laid back, almost jazzy territory as in "Spectre As Valkyrie Is." Therein lie some of my favorite moments. Definite foggy, early morning drive material.


Plus you have to love the Ray Harryhausen monster shot used on the re-release's cover.



"In Nevil Shute's World War II melodramatic novel Requiem For a WREN, the heroine survives her lover's death without any visible traumas, she goes on with her life and is even able to talk rationally about the lover's death -- because she still has the dog who was the lover's favored pet. When, some time after, the dog is accidentally run over by a truck, she collapses and her entire world disintegrates"


At this point I could go on about a number of other USBM bands like Weakling, Black Funeral, Nightbringer, Wolves in the Throne Room, Crebain, Draugar, etc. etc. Plenty of other permutations of 'dark' and 'night' and 'funeral' I'm sure. In a certain sense however no artist in the annals of USBM history is quite as amusing to go on about as Velvet Cacoon. 


Yes, that's Cacoon with an 'a.'


There's a rather predictable irony in the black metal community at times, with many individuals shunning the livestock-like mentality of others while in the same breath succumbing to herd tendencies but hard. You find this in any indie movement coupled with varying degrees of self awareness, but in the case of black metal there's a certain oblivious intensity to everything. You get the same curious dualism of the indie scene, but here it gets dialed up even more: a sworn devotion to certain canon (a very religious mindset despite the claims of anti-religiosity) coupled with a compulsive urge to seek the newest thing. There also seems to be a higher percentage of conartists and frauds in the black metal scene for some reason. This bubbling cauldron of alchemic ingredients is what helped spawn Velvet Cacoon.


When they first appeared on the scene, stories began to surface about how the two band members were "ecological terrorists" who lived in seclusion, on the lamb and hiding out in a cave in rural Oregon or something. Supposedly one of them played a diesel-powered guitar and used tanks of water to somehow amplify said guitar. Yeah, it sounds like utter BS, but people really bought into this. There were rumors of concerts given in the woods using a single lit torch as a light source, rampant experimental drug use, and a frontman who ended up in an insane asylum. Of course amidst all this fantastic lore their earliest demos quickly became much sought-after collector's items.


The truth eventually came to light that all this backstory was bullschiit. In fact, the members of the band weren't corpse painted troo grim warriors so much as some fairly innocuous young man and his girlfriend. As one might expect there was outrage within the black metal community, and for that in and of itself these two deserve some recognition. Masterful trolling, really. I mean at one point their website consisted of a single link to an Air mp3. You know, Air, the French electro-pop band. If anything it all serves as a reminder to not take this stuff too seriously. As someone who appreciates the more self-conscious side of metal,  I like when its pageantry and theatrics are deconstructed. That being said, I'm not sure how malicious their intent actually was. On the one hand they produced their own mythos, something not uncommon in music, and from it some interesting meta-level criticism was gleaned; on the other hand their early demos were actually completely stolen from other artists and repurposed as their own. By their own admission, they're scumbags for doing that.


As far as I know however, their main albums were all legitimately original material. There seems to be actual talent behind all that drama. Genevieve in particular has garnered quite a bit of praise, and for the most part I think it deserved.



The band seems to have split up in 2009 after releasing two final albums around the same time: the more overtly black metal P aa Opal Poere Pr. 33 and the massive black ambient epic Atropine. The latter in particular is something I've been digging quite a bit since its release, a double CD monstrosity clocking in at just over two hours. It's the sort of album you have to plan for, turning off all the lights and stretching out across your bed. It's the soundtrack to just lying there as black vines grow all over you.



There's a novelty factor with a lot of these guys, no doubt. There's also an inherent risk in adopting a certain angle, as people are going to likely end up accusing you of releasing the same album over and over again. Really though, misanthropic one-man black metal is naturally adverse to change from the outset. You can always adopt something utterly bizarre, you just have to stubbornly stick with it until the bitter end, and in that sense most misanthropic one-man black metal outfits aspire to release the same album over and over again. It's a statement in and of itself. It says "F U world, I'm not changing." It's a purposefully myopic vision that traps you inside a solipsistic framework, lets you roost inside someone's damaged---often entirely deranged---psyche.


Sin Nana immediately comes to mind, a chap who likes to take pictures of himself LARPing about the Tasmanian backwoods dressed vaguely like The Observer (aka "Brain Guy") from MST3k. His recordings as Striborg are even more of an acquired taste than anything I've posted so far. You basically enter into his damaged world with these recordings, an often confusional tropical jungle of spidery insectoid guitar riffage, poorly recorded oppressive ambience, and broken drum machines. Remember that blurb about drum machines above? It's here in full force: machine gun blasts of often mis-timed, acoustically deadened thup-thup-thups that crawl out of every nook and cranny, tiny malfunctioning Dr. Rhythm moths trying to find a bug zapper to end their wretched existence. Indeed, much of Striborg's character comes from this bizarre industrial-tinged rainforest of buzzing guitars and wayward samples; it becomes a whole wretched ecosystem unto itself. 




On his later recordings he switched to real drums as these guys are wont to do, and while they don't have that woodpecker quality of his earlier recordings, these later ones still have a certain woozy totter to them, as if they were played while intoxicated. They may very well have been. The rest of the surrounding ambience is often a result of some ancient synthesizers Sin Nana probably found in a hole or something. These synths... are truly horrific. They don't wash over you so much as burble and fart at you. Coupled with the overall vibe this stuff gives off, I can't help but think of those 70s cannibal films from Italian production companies.


Moving along. I can't resist taking a moment to mention Botanist, one of the most striking new discoveries I've made in the last couple of years concerning one-man black metal weirdness. This guy just takes creating an outsider persona to another level: playfully confessing a desire to see the world overrun and dominated by plant life, titling every one of his tracks after various horticultural specimens, using cultivation diagrams as album art. All of this would have merely been a precious curiosity however were it not for the musical genius behind it. To that end, there are absolutely no guitars employed on any of these recordings. Instead he uses a hammer dulcimer. That's right, a hammer dulcimer. An instrument that normally renders folk songs. Behold!



Dunno 'bout you, but to me that's EPIC.



"Sometimes, the line between the two is almost indiscernible: an object can function as the symptom (of a repressed desire) and almost simultaneously as a fetish (embodying the belief which we officially renounce). For instance, a relic of the dead person, a piece of his/her clothing, can function as a fetish (in it, the dead person magically continues to live) and as a symptom (the disturbing detail that brings to mind his/her death)"


Now we come to one of my personal favorite black metal outsiders of all time: Smolken.


Born in Poland, he ended up moving to Texas at some point, though the exact circumstances surrounding this relocation are unknown to me. Regarding it I only know that he eventually moved back. In a way it seems fitting that he should dwell here in Texas during his creative renaissance, as this is also the land where the nigh-mythical Jandek resides. I'll definitely need to post something on Jandek at some point. For now, suffice it to say, both of these gentlemen epitomize 'outsider' to my mind.



Smolken's main project was the wonderfully monikered Dead Raven Choir. Truly one of my all time outsider black metal favorites. Really, the whole endeavor has always just appealed to me: from the mostly illegible logo that looks as though it was constructed out of twigs and should be strung up above the entryway to some bleak cabin like a forest-dwelling loon's dreamcatcher, to the cryptic and enigmatic songcraft contained within the covers of whatever nefarious document Smolken conjured during his most recent dark, archaic ritual-filled wilderness retreat. That sound is both incredibly distinct and distinctly difficult to convey. It functions best as a package, its own living and breathing organic whole; Smolken has crafted an entire mirror world that is even less accessible than those mentioned above---far less so---and more dangerous for the ill prepared. It's a world that is both confrontational in its stark ugliness but also strangely beautiful and fragile at the same time.


As I endeavor to describe such sounds, I should note that there are two very distinct modes in which Dead Raven Choir presents itself. Smolken was utterly obsessed with wolves and used the words 'wolf' in just about every other album title; those albums that contain this designation are always quieter acoustic sets, basically folk with little in the way of black metal to speak of, contemplative recitations of poetry that nevertheless solicit a gloomy and oppressive atmosphere. The albums that don't contain wolves in the title on the other hand are extremely harsh, noisy, and overblown black metal onslaughts; they contain some truly bizarre, mind-meltingly over-the-top material somehow committed to physical media. Wouldn't surprise me however if these recordings eventually self-destruct under their own existential weight.

The film clip used in this particular upload is from Bela Tarr's Satantango, a seven hour-long adaptation of Laszlo Krasznahorkai's novel of the same name and one of my favorite films of the 90s. I'm not sure I agree with pairing it to something so outwardly manic however, as Vig Mihaly's drones are more in keeping with Bela Tarr's vision of hell as an endlessly looping, completely aimless existence. Cue the scenes of drunks stumbling about desolate bar-scapes, the same refrain of garish accordion music playing over and over and over, well past any remotely sane length of time. As the introductory message from Almanac of Fall put it: in hell the devil walks in circles. If anything, Dead Raven Choir seems less about circles and more about sharp left turns from the righthand lane.
Still, the imagery of Bela Tarr's incredible black and white camerawork provides a fantastic accompaniment to "Kigi Wa Haru," the opening track from My Firstborn Will Surely Be Blind. Even at its most overblown, Smolken's creative outpouring has a very distinctive feel to it; despite the cosmic level weirdness of it all, there's a certain down to earth quality that pervades it, a certain undeniable naturalism. It's folksy and familiar. It's like an enigmatic relative from the Old Country who smells vaguely of stale bread and cheese and visits every once in a blue moon. Increasingly as time went on Smolken combined his folk and black metal burnout tendencies into the same vat, and the result is most distinctly expressed on Dead Raven Choir's last three albums: the previously referenced My Firstborn Will Surely Be Blind, as well as Lonesome Drinking Metal and Schmerzensgewalt. In fact he would often do black metal covers of older country and folk songs.

The result is, frankly, just a big ol' bag of 'WTF?' at first blush. Instruments are discernible here and there with the particulars of strings being plucked or strummed or bowed, though the line of demarcation between electric and acoustic gets blurred quite a bit. Because Smolken turns the gain on his recording equipment up into the red, everything takes on a crunchy overblown veneer. Folk instruments are put through the ringer and processed to where their sound becomes distorted and gnarled. Even the surrounding environment---the very air in the recording itself---becomes hostile. All the individual components bleed into one another and end up forming this single confusional whole where you're hard pressed to tell your left hand from your right; the edges of specific shapes get blurred to the point of losing definition, and in turn formal meaning starts to give way to emotional intensity. All that remains are shades of gray.
As with Jandek, discernible melody is scare here and instrumentation is angular. The earlier folk recordings lurch and abruptly halt in a way that further emphasizes their structural awkwardness. Passages of quiet are used to unsettle the listener. Meanwhile those earlier black metal recordings (most of which ended up in a convenient multi CD compilation called Cask Strength Black Metal) present the aural equivalent of getting stuck in quicksand, a suffocating mire with nothing to grab onto, no hooks or musical anchor points to help pull you though. There's no vine to reach for. By the time you get to the last three Dead Raven Choir albums however, there's a bit more substance to the surroundings. The grit is not so flat and impenetrable thanks to the folk tendrils that have grown all over and cracked its facade somewhat. There's a vine to reach for now, it just wont support your weight for long and snaps when you pull on it. A false hope is actually crueler. In drawing you in somewhat, the later albums have more opportunity to confound.
For me these albums connote old abandoned shacks, swamp lands, dirty jail cells, rusty shotguns, muddy boots, faded photographs of Edwardian-type persons, partially collapsed brick walls, old player pianos, handcuffs, hacksaws, mirrors that are so dirty you can't see anything in them, and yes, mangy wolves.
Smolken loves his wolves. For him they function as an avatar for his folksy side, so predictably enough it's this folksy side that gets developed most extensively in his Wolfmangler project (also now defunct). There's certainly a lot of overlap between black metal and folk of various stripes to be sure, and to varying degrees you'll find traces of it infused in black metal canon. See Agalloch or October Falls. Other times you'll find "blackened folk" that approaches the same destination, only from the opposite direction incorporating certain black metal aesthetics and other tendencies into a folk template. Alethes or even Sturmpercht, for example. In the case of Wolfmangler it's very much the latter formulation: not so much a direct translation of black metal sound as if it were Dead Raven Choir in reverse, but rather a folk ensemble's partaking of the same atmosphere and overall spirit as outsider black metal. It's almost doom-like even in its sparse, minimalist intensity. It's a sorrowful folk soundtrack to the world's end.
There's a perversity at work in Wolfmangler's output, very much intentional on the part of Smolken. These blackened folk outfits are just weird by design. Take for instance their final release, They Call Us Naughty Wolves, in which some copies of the album included a complimentary pair of red underwear:



Can't really see it in that picture, but there's a little anthropomorphic wolf dude on the side of them. Snazzy. Admittedly though I can't help but think of the grizzled fat guy from Carpathian Forest who used to come out on stage in a thong. Naughty wolf indeed.



"Is this ambiguous tension not homologous to that between the phobic an the fetishist object? The structural role is in both cases the same: if this exceptional element is disturbed, the whole system collapses"


Since we're been drifting into folk and country territory here, I wanted to take the opportunity to mention a few artists I'm especially fond of in this region of sound-space. Keep in mind "folk" is a pretty nebulous term even on the best of days, so in this respect I'm referring more to certain sensibilities once again; tying all this stuff together with its lonesome ribbons is that spirit of isolationism. As with the tracks above, so too below: lonesome roads, drones, dark ambience, and the nigh-impervious depths of the inner person.




"Pacific Isolation" and "Into the Red Horizon" by Barn Owl.


When it comes to early morning sunrise drives, Barn Owl is a true staple of mine. Their sound is properly rustic. We've made our way out of the forests and swamps conjured up by the dark luminaries [mentioned] above, and now we find ourselves along the outskirts of a wide open expanse. Their sound is of the desert as dusk falls and dawn breaks. It's just the right accompaniment for a sandy desert ocean peppered with cacti and animal skulls and bathed in the light of the moon and countless stars above. The only hints of civilization are the desolate roads and occasional sets of power lines, perhaps a single gas station dwarfed by an incoming squall of towering storm clouds


It's a sound that reminds me of Earth's later direction somewhat. I'm planning on devoting more space to Earth during a future entry, but for now here's something from one of their more recent efforts:



As Earth matured, they went from playing heavy electric drones as a proto-SunnO))) of sorts to playing monolithic rock anthems. The distortion and feedback of their wailing guitars gradually subsided over the years along with the very presence of the band itself. For most folks Earth slipped off the radar entirely for a while. When they suddenly returned to the scene again it was with a nod to William Blake in Hex: Printing In The Infernal Method, and their sound had mutated into something more in keeping with the track above. It's a sound that is massive in scale but manages to stay personal in focus for the most part. It brings to mind those final transcendent shots of Kenji Mizoguchi's Sansho the Bailiff where the mother and son embrace on the beach and the camera pulls back to show them as a small blot amidst the landscape; that simple act of distancing the lens from the subject became one of the most (actually THE most in my humble opinion) utterly breathtaking, heart-quickening moments in cinematic history, only rivaled by the final resurrection scene of Ordet or the moment where Apu carries his son off on his back in The Apu Trilogy. Despite this sudden transcendence, Mizoguchi kept the horrors of their plight very much relevant and through that kept the tension alive; it's relevance is in it being wholly unexpected given everything that occurred before. There's a moment where we see them sitting there on the sands as minutia amidst the wide wide world, and with tears in our eyes we think "they're so small." And we ourselves feel so small. And all of mankind feels so small. However Mizoguchi is able to here transmit something the mystic Simone Weil, herself quite small, said quite astutely:


"Every order which transcends another can only be introduced into it under the form of something infinitely small."


This is echoed in Pascal via his three orders. 


Returning to Earth, both literally and figurative, their more recent albums are like a western novella. Can you not imagine some gunslinger all alone in his travels through the untamed west? There's a certain romanticism involved with this type of character, and there's a certain romanticism involved with the lonesome black metal specter who haunts dilapidated castles and forests at midnight, too. The romantic hero is often surrounded and diminished by a much larger natural world. Of course this archetype is all too predictable these days, but at the time of its inception it was quite novel. The romantic poets were the rockstars of their day.


How the subject is treated in relation to the surrounding environment---the interplay between interior and exterior---is something that fascinates me to no end. Bela Tarr, mentioned above, has a tendency to flatten everything into a single plane. What would be otherwise transcendent is compressed back into a state of mundanity like a celestial abortion. Nowhere is this more obvious than the beginning of Werckmeister Harmonies where the young man gets all of the drunkards in the bar to mimic the solar system, casting them in the roles of planets in orbit around one another. His explanations of how the universe operates falls on deaf ears however. We can imagine that for an Andrei Tarkovsky or even a Theo Angelopoulos, the limits of time and space would begin to break down and for a moment the drunks would be elevated to a loftier hight, just as for them puddles become mirrors into the soul and wedding processions are capable of time travel. For Bela Tarr on the other hand, time is something that never gives way; you feel ever excruciating drop of it as the seconds tick away in an aimless repetition of minutes, an aimless repetition of hours. The orbits of the planets just go on and on, symptomatic of our meaningless life. The drunks aren't elevated to the role of celestial bodies like heros of old, but rather the planets are denigrated to the cast of drunkards.


Maybe Bela Tarr is the ideal accompaniment for Dead Raven Choir, then. Is this not what Smolken is doing when he puts all of those folk and country songs through his overdriven, crumbling ringer? There's a temptation to find transcendence in the work of both, only there is none in the end despite possible glimmers. In one of Tarr's earlier films, The Prefab People, there's a brilliant scene where the estranged husband and wife are riding in the back of a flatbed truck with a washing machine, newly purchased. As if this gizmo is supposed to plug up the hole in their lives? The two sit in the back of that truck, never making contact with one another physically or emotionally, riding alongside that thing until the credits start to roll. The scene just goes on and on, the drive to nowhere and the expectations for some kind of satisfying resolution (even a violent one, so long as it's action of some sort) left dashed. It's like the ending to the Cassavetes film Faces. Or the ending to a Samuel Beckett play. The tension builds and builds, but there's no release in the end despite your fervent need for it. This is cinematic and literary rock 'n' roll. Reach for that vine, sailor.


Honestly, how could Bela Tarr make another film after The Turin Horse? He realized it was over. Everything he wanted to express was there in those final scenes of the father and daughter sitting at the table together surrounded by darkness, fumbling for the potatoes blindly to merely persist. Even if you couldn't live on a diet of potatoes alone (you actually can!), the fact is these two have already died. They were dead throughout the whole film, or rather they were un-dead. An excremental leftover with no place in the universe's hierarchy however diseased it might be. They've even been denied doomsday. Whether or not your characters ultimately transcend their plight or not, there has to be an upkeep of tension; if Tarr made a film after The Turin Horse, I suspect he'd be forced to go in the other direction entirely lest his potency become old hat, and even then the shock would be more a novelty than anything else, a sort of "OMG the father figure and child figure aren't reconciled in a Spielberg movie after all!" type of thing. With a non-romantic devil figure, there's always the risk of it reaching transcendence by walking in so many circles for so long. Even the most gruesome acts lose their potency in a hell comprised of endless torture, lest one import some kind of magical amnesia wherein the damned see their plight as novel again and again. In the last scenes of The Inferno, we encounter a devil that continually beats his wings, creating the very gust that freezes the river that seals his fate. He never seems to learn to not flap his wings, symbolically or not. Any hell worth taking seriously is wholly banal and pointless. Therein lies the ultimate injustice of ascribing some higher purpose to the disease that ravages a human being: any true dignity for the sick has to come from their triumph in the face of that adversity, not from the adversity itself. If we say this or that illness is not pointless---is not meaningless---in and of itself without the human sufferer, then we've elevated the disease to the status of divine messenger.



The extent of a solo artist's dimensions may cover less ground outwardly, but the inward depth might be just as awesome. The Lake Poets and their German Romantic counterparts rekindled a fascination with memory and internal streams of consciousness, and for them the internal state was very much an echo of the wild, unkempt natural world around them. Similarly the gunslinger seems as emotionally barren as the expanses of sand around him, though like the desert there are small things lurking in the rocks and sands. The sea captain, like the ocean, hides all sorts of monsters in his depths. As unintentionally hilarious as I find the term "modernity," I have to admit it's useful in describing this inward fixation in literature and philosophy alike. Subjectivism is by no means the spawn of this period however: it goes back to the Sophists of Plato's day and prior still. Really, the idea of the universes mirroring our internal state is a very old one. The romantics took it to its logical conclusion though, and after that period the incorporation into art of mental landscapes became more widespread.


Chelsea Wolfe has been on heavy rotation for me lately. She does a rather exceptional job baring her inner world and relating it to what's around her.




Her Unknown Rooms album was one of my favorites of last year. If you look back at my "best of 2012" list, you'll see it there. Unfortunately her earlier records are becoming harder to source for whatever reason; now that she's been signed to Sargent House they'll hopefully become more readily available. Speaking of which there's a new release on said label, a collaboration between her and King Dude (another artist from my "best of 2012" list). I should talk more about King Dude sometime for sure.


Chelsea Wolfe's artistry is immediate and visceral. She has a knack for making her raw expression beautiful. Not just "beautiful in its raw intensity," but just plain beautiful. She reminds me of Tara Jane O'Neil in a way, but less coffee shop regular and more bog siren. Maybe the sapphic lovechild of Tara Jane O'Neil and Jesse Sykes? In her vulnerability there's strength, and in her strength there are certain cracks and uneven seams. There are always stumbling blocks and obstructions, always that which eludes integration. We are never truly whole. What was particularly epochal of the romantics, beyond recognizing echos of the interior in the exterior, was the realization that these cracks and uneven seams were also always there in the wide wide world. Schelling in particular saw a fundamental gap in reality as existing since the beginning, the very condition which make it possible for subjectivity to emerge in the first place. This is no mere universal relativism, either; In the romantic mode this retreat to subjective interiority is not to deny external objectivity, and the Cartesian Subject needn't lapse into solipsism. This fundamental split wasn't a problem that demanded a solution, but rather part of the solution itself.



"Not only does the subject's false universe collapse if he is forced to confront the meaning of his symptom; the opposite also holds, i.e. the subject's 'rational' acceptance of the way things are dissolves when his fetish is taken away from him"


A large part of the atmosphere behind these lonesome recordings---be they Striborg or Chelsea Wolfe---comes from their low fidelity. It's a delicious notion as it undoubtedly cause a few audiophiles out there to feel uncomfortable. It seems obvious enough, but one of the most important factors of the audio chain is the recording itself; what is perhaps less obvious to some is that the best recording isn't always the most aurally satisfying. I know some individuals who would disagree with this sentiment, but then I also know these same individuals tend to have a rather narrow bandwidth in terms of what they listen to, and I know still others who deign to listen to lower quality recordings but only begrudgingly because there are no better alternatives. I tend to be this last way with certain material, myself. I think music is, in some sense, more than the sum of the various instances of its performance and the various recordings that might exist of it. Yet in another sense I think music is very much tied to specific times and places, and when it comes to the acts of performance and listening alike, there is a certain context that is always there. As listeners, the act of listening is never without this context. We are always listening to a specific recording, and at a certain point it also becomes impossible to separate that recording from what is reproducing it. This goes back to that "holism" I've mention in regard to high-end Japanese audio. That's why you see so many complete sets of headphones with matching amplifiers, and also why the listening environment itself is so important to the Japanese; it's this sort of mindset that gives rise to themed clubs where the vintage decor matches the vintage sound systems.


An appreciation for low fidelity is in some sense pivotal to certain forms of artistic expression. Take glitch art. Likewise the production techniques of dub, the ambient hiss of dub techno, the crunch of bits in many strains of electronica, and DJ culture in general all derive meaning from the idea of playback and processing. Some artists fixation on notions of degradation. There's also a certain analog to kitsch and low-brow when it comes to the "AM radio sound" of James Ferraro and Ariel Pink, or oddities like Luie Luie's Touchy. Beyond all of this there's a certain attitude that goes along with low fidelity recordings, and as one particularly vivid instance of this, underground tape culture is alive and well in this day and age. Some metalheads feel cassette tapes are more misanthropic (LMAO!). At the very least, it connotes a rebellious anti-consumerist type of spirit.


But let's tie it back to isolation and the solitary minstrel, be they players of metal or folk: the recluse is more likely going to have primitive recording equipment, and in some sense it results in an output that is more authentic. It's more personal. There's also a certain emotional response that comes with fuzzy, hazy recordings. Boards of Canada? Sure. Artists like Tim Hecker, Grouper, and Fursaxa also come to mind.  Then there's the achingly beautiful songcraft of Painting Petals On the Planet Ghost:



The vocals are in Japanese, as are the song and album titles, but the artist is actually an Italian woman named Ramona Ponzini who happens to be fluent in Japanese. Definitely a lot of early morning car feels with this one.


It's really the whole recording itself that is important beyond individual parameters like quality, be it low or high fidelity. At the risk of sounding too metaphysical in the New Age sense, recordings carry with them all the energy of a particular time and place. This is most strongly the case with single-take live recordings at interesting locales or during certain events (rituals, performance art, etc.). However I'd also say recordings carry with them the energy of memories, too. Music gets entwined with our own memories for better or worse, and the associations we carry instantly bring to mind certain sensations, things, people, places. This goes for music that doesn't even exist yet: the artist may transmit these memories in a composition. Such is the case with Arcn Templ's Emanations of a New World.


Arcn Templ is a side project of several members from the incredible Singaporean folk rock band The Observatory (add them to the list of bands I need to talk about more in a future diary entry). Arcn Templ themselves play a less structured, more ethereal type of eastern folk music. Almost like a condensed Taj Mahal Travellers at times. Here's one of the few YouTube clips that exist of them playing along with another musician:



The specific album I'm talking about, Emanations of a New World, is inspired by memories of a particular place: Tiger Balm Garden aka Haw Par Villa. I'm a little obsessed with this place, admittedly, but I still think most folks would find it an interesting curiosity. A bit of history: built in the 30s by a Chinese family to promote their Tiger Balm products, open to the public in the 50s. The park was filled with all sorts of bizarre statues depicting scenes from folklore, imagined hellscapes, and other general oddities. Coupled with crumbling infrastructure and urban decay, the whole thing just ends up being utterly surreal. Like some kind of fever dream.







The park was eventually shut down and converted into housing. There's another location in Singapore that remains open, however. As for the album by Arcn Templ, it's an appropriately dream-like serenade; the sound is introspective and beautiful, almost mournful. It speaks to the locale's decline I think. Indeed, much of my fascination with Tiger Balm Garden parallels my fascination with urban ruins. There's a place on the outskirts of Houston called The Forbidden Gardens that's a weird little out-of-the-way endeavor, the brainchild of someone with a vision and a financial backer. It has replicas of various historical landmarks in China, but it's done in a rather hokey way, so it gives off that same surreal kitschy vibe. Also no one visits, so it's kind of sad and lonely. Similarly when driving from Houston to the Texas coast you encounter a lot of abandoned theme-malls and indoor amusement parks. 



"So, when we are bombarded by claims that in our post-ideological cynical era nobody believes in the proclaimed ideals, when we encounter a person who claims he is cured of any beliefs, accepting social reality the way it really is, one should always counter such claims with the question: OK, but where is the fetish which enables you to (pretend to) accept reality 'the way it is?''" -- Slavoj Zizek On Belief


As a final consideration for this entry---already well past my intended length---I want to mention Phil Elverum. Not only is he of particular importance to me as an influence, but he also pretty much embodies everything this long, meandering post has been about. Most will probably recognize him from his project The Microphones, though in this instance I'm focused more on Mount Eerie.




Elverum has created an entire personal mythology for himself, and his music is an ongoing documentation of both it and his life. The recording themselves are often intensely personal, and in general one can't help but feel as though he's invested a lot of himself in them. Sometimes we get a wholly minimalist side, simple covers of past songs belted out on cheep Casio keyboards---the sort of instrument you find at a toy store---or a skeletal melody strummed on guitar with only his creaking voice to accompany it. Sometimes we get lush, enveloping productions like his Microphones releases. Sometimes they're harsh walls of guitar feedback and abrasive percussion. Other times it's cosmological poetry performed mostly on drums. In all of these cases, the common thread is Elverum and his distinctive voice. Not just his singing voice but the voice of the recordings themselves, too.



He often revisits songs again and again, much in the same way we revisit certain periods of our lives to try to make sense of them anew. Music as memory.


When he confessed his love of black metal in the form of his own distinct take on it, a lot of people balked. Really he sort of epitomizes "poser" from a cursory glance. His quivering lonely boy voice doesn't do any favors in this regard; it seems like he'd break down into a coughing fit if he tried to imitate a proper metal growl. Yet when you dig deeper, you realize he's lived more of an authentically black metal type of existence than a lot of black metal artists. At one point in his life, he decided to pack up a few odds and ends and move to Norway. He lived in the wilderness for months, establishing a rhythm just surviving day to day, plumbing the depths of his soul in true isolation from most of the world.




I suspect Elverum's thoughts became deafening after a while, though some take more to the contemplative lifestyle than others. It's sort of a lost art in this day and age I think. In any case Elverum's seclusion was running away in one sense but also confrontation in another, alone with himself and his ghosts. Wherever you go, there you are. Inside and out.


This seems as good a place as any to stop. Let the sun set on that wilderness we try to order and make sense of. Inside and out.



Edited by MuppetFace - 6/4/13 at 4:44pm
post #13465 of 21760


Holy schiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.


And... first time seeing an lcd-1 :D

post #13466 of 21760

Be expecting a full review on those Aiwa's.

post #13467 of 21760
Originally Posted by jgray91 View Post

I'm so hyped for Pacific Rim.



Originally Posted by mosshorn View Post

What up, Evangelion syncing


So I heard a story that del Toro was originally slated to direct the live action Evangelion movie and when that fell through he took some of the ideas and made Pacific Rim. Kind of like how Blomkampf made District 9 after the Halo movie fell apart.


Yes I'm excited.


Whoah. You weren't kidding when you said you wanted to go for lengthier posts. I am going to have to find the time to carefully digest that one... 
Oh also unrelated, but I made a flickr account :D
So far I'm mostly going through and uploading boring and/or creepy photos of decaying streets.
post #13468 of 21760

I'd like to leave a word of thanks in this thread to the person or people (I apologize for my bad memory; I cannot remember who it was) who recommended Daft Punk's new album. I just bought it today and I'm loving every second of it. This is absolutely brilliant.


@MF: I do read a lot of your posts the whole way through. That last one, however was a bit of a challenge. I read down until you began discussing black metal and then stopped (not out of distaste for the music, but lack of endurance). I think your posts are very well thought out and well written. I definitely enjoyed reading the first portion of this last one, discussing rock and drone. I agree that rock is best appreciated when zero relaxation is involved. Tension and excitement should be the main focus. If I ever have the time and willingness to do so, I will read that other guy's livejournal posts as well.

Edited by C.C.S. - 6/4/13 at 9:17pm
post #13469 of 21760

Holy Sheeeeeeeeeeee MF!!!!

Epic post...

Might have to spend a few reading and listening! ;)


On another note, I bought Filter new record just because.

Have not heard it yet... hopefully it's good.

post #13470 of 21760

Hey gelocks, how are you doing with the AH-C300?  Just received mine and - lemme tell ya - that bass is something to be reckoned with.  I can only imagine the shock you feel when you switch back and forth with the RE-400.  biggrin.gif

Home of the Liquid Carbon, Liquid Crimson, Liquid Glass, Liquid Gold and
Liquid Lightning headphone amplifiers... and the upcoming Liquid Spark!

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