Tag Archives: music

An Arbitrary And Not Comprehensive Ranking Of My RSD16 Purchases, ~48 Hours Later

Saturday was Record Store Day 2016, which saw local vinyl shops filled with limited new releases. I went a little nuts, and this is a fairly quick take on what I bought. Thanks to Turntable Lab for making the process painless, and to Dan Budiac for keeping me company in line.

lush-origami

#1 – Lush / Origami

Beautifully packaged, beautifully mastered, and the download codes contain a ton of demos and unreleased tracks. Glad I splurged on this.

whitestripes-peel

#2 – The White Stripes / The Complete John Peel Sessions

Didn’t even know this was getting released. Missed how raw TWS could sound.

RfaD

#3 – Clint Mansell feat. Kronos Quartet / Requiem For A Dream

One of the greatest all time soundtracks, with new material and gorgeous packaging.

tgt-tls

#4 – The Go! Team / Thunder, Lightning, Strike

Has been on my favorite albums list for a while. This would be higher if it wasn’t for the nitpicky issue of this being the other version of T,L,S. (There’s this weird thing where there’s two very similar versions of the same album with some differences in the vocals and samples, and I’m used to the other one.)

The Diary

#5 – J Dilla / The Diary

Didn’t realize this was going to be a vocal album. Digging what I’ve heard so far but I need more time with it.

Cassanova 70

#6 – Air / Casanova 70

Not normally crazy for splatter designs, but it looks nice in person and it’s a reissue of a classic Air track.

Chvrches

#7 – CHVRCHES / Every Open Eye (The Remixes)

Haven’t spent much time with this, but liked what I heard. Annoyed the download code doesn’t work (yet), and doesn’t have a fully design sleeve.

JK+DP

#8 – Junior Kimbrough + Daft Punk / I Gotta Try You Girl (Daft Punk Edit)

Not what I would’ve expected out of a Daft Punk remix/edit, but a solid 15 minute reworking of a soul classic. Nice etching on the B side.

if

#9 – If Music Presents You Need This: Eastern European Sounds (1970-1986)

Some interesting exotic tracks, but Alojz Bouda’s “Random (Naslepo)” was one of those songs you drop the needle on and immediately rip it back off the vinyl.

planetrock

#10 – Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force / Planet Rock (Remixes)

A little underwhelmed with what I heard of the remixes. But one of those classic songs that felt mandatory.

disney

#11 – VA / Disney’s Favorite Songs

Was hoping this would be more than just a by-the-book compilation of well known Disney songs. Dig the cover art, though.

hellokitty

#12 – Hello Kitty / Hello World

It’s telling that no one submitted this into Discogs for a solid 24 hours out of embarrassment. Luckily, I have no shame. Mostly just bought this for Katie’s Sanrio collection – the songs are pretty awful.

NYC 10: Concerts

This month marks 10 years since we moved to New York City. I’m writing on a variety of topics to reflect on a decade in one of the best cities in the world. Read all the posts.

LCD Soundsystem

If my blog archives are to be trusted, within the first two weeks of being in NYC, I had found my way to my first concert (Paul Van Dyk at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square) and my first book event (Neal Stephenson at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square for the release of Quicksilver: Volume One). Both were free, letting me get in very close contact with two artists that I had a deep love for almost immediately after arriving in my new home.

As a first hit, that was one hell of a drug.

New York is constantly busy with events, so much so that there’s no possible way that you will ever attend all, let alone most, of the things you might be interested in. I tried, lacking any better judgement, to do them all for a couple of years, before growing too old/too tired/too annoyed to keep that up.

Concerts are particularly tough. Plenty of concerts start way too late: regardless of day of the week, main acts for rock shows tend to go on around 10 and DJ sets are lucky if they start by 2AM. NYC is dotted with venues with shitty sight lines, crowds are ill-mannered, expensive drinks, and bathrooms that are indescribably bad.

But every now and then, you get that one really really great show, and your faith is restored, at least for a little while. And being in the Media Capital Of The World, most every band you will ever want to see will come to town at some point.

With all that in mind, some high points and low points of concerts I’ve attended in NYC.

THE ABSOLUTE BEST SHOW I’VE EVER BEEN TO AND PROBABLY WILL EVER GO TO

LCD Soundsystem’s final show at MSG, easily. You can grab the documentary of the show easily enough, and it’s worth watching, but James Murphy’s drive to churn out three of the best dance (and I mean that in the actual-music-that-makes-you-want-to-dance sense, not the unn-tsst-brostep-or-generic-trance sense) albums of the 2000’s turned his band’s final show into something unforgettable. It was an almost painfully long set, emotional to be in the audience of, and one of those shows that was truly a “had to be there” experience.

THE SECOND BEST SHOW I’VE EVER BEEN TO AND THE FALLBACK SHOULD I EVER START HATING LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, WHICH WON’T HAPPEN BUT I NEEDED TO CONTEXTUALIZE THIS SOMEHOW

Daft Punk at the Cyclones Stadium on Coney Island. This was the heyday of the Alive tour, with the pyramid and the mashups and the blowing of minds. An outdoor show with perfect weather, with the set just hitting its peak as the sun went down, and a perfect light show – it was magical.

THE SHOW THAT MOST MADE MY SIXTEEN YEAR OLD SELF HAPPY, AND THUS RUINED MY FUTURE ENJOYMENT OF THE BAND IN QUESTION

I have had three opportunities to see Nine Inch Nails play in NYC. The first, a fairly regular show at MSG in support of their 2000-era albums, was alright but perhaps a touch forgettable.

The second show came during the “retirement” tour, and as we crammed into Webster Hall in August of 2009, we were treated to the thing I would have most wanted when I first discovered Trent Reznor: a concert of The Downward Spiral, sequentially from Mr. Self Destruct all the way through to Hurt. It was beautiful, and perfect, and even as the band played stuff off the other albums to cover the second hour of the show, it was sort of set in my mind that when it came to the formative band of my angsty teenage years, it wasn’t going to get better than that.

The third opportunity is in a month or two. And it is an opportunity I’ve passed on, because after I’ve seen you on a retirement tour – especially one where you do wish fulfillment the likes of which that Webster Hall show managed – you’re off my desired ticket list. It’s not getting better than that.

BEST SHORT NOTICE SHOW

LCD Soundsystem again, this time for the show announced a day before it happened for Music Hall of Williamsburg. A tune up before the This Is Happening tour, where most of the new songs were played for the first time. Great small crowd, the band was in high spirits, and it was like a meeting of the LCD Fanclub, since you had to act really quick to have made it in.

WORST SHOW

Chemical Brothers, Hammerstein Ballroom. Half due to the guy drugged out of his mind who kept trying to squeeze in front of us when we were standing at the barricade, who ended up getting removed by security because he wouldn’t stop being a complete jackass.

But beyond him: such a shitty DJ set. Sure, the video display was kind of neat, but it was basically a “push play and then spent the night waving your arms in the air” sort of a night.

By Popular Request, Nine Years Late: Why I Hate Midnite Blaze

3,295 days ago, I penned a blog post reviewing a newly released Bemani remix CD, “V-Rare 5”. Within the context of that review, I wrote the following to open my discussion of track 6, “Midnite Blaze (SySF Mix)”:

And this will be a really tough sell because I HATE Midnite Blaze.

This may seem to casual observers like an awfully specific and odd sentence in the over 1,500 blog posts to point out. I would agree. Which is why I was left dumbstruck by a tweet I received this evening from @Tim_at_where:

"@Remy Please don't block me for this, but care to give me a history lesson on your #haterade toward Midnite Blaze by @U1_ASAMi?"

Well, Tim, since you asked…well, wait, I haven’t listened to that particular DDR standard since probably around 2005. For the sake of remembering it, here it is on YouTube:

Ah. Right.

I hate Midnite Blaze mostly because of the vocals. Scott Dolph‘s rapping was always way down my list of favorite things, and it’s pretty laughable here (“Step by step as I approach / I say to myself I need a coach”). The delivery is way too fast and comes in at really weird pitches. Listen to the second section of his rap – it’s all over the place, like he’s reading the words from the page for the first time and not sure which way his voice should go. And he wrote the lyrics himself, if his RemyWiki page is to be believed. For the record, I never liked Drop The Bomb either.

The refrain comes in at such a high register it gives me a headache, and just as lyrically bizarre. And for what it’s worth, the synth line also feels derivative – it’s a touch too close to Naoki’s Broken My Heart.

For whatever it’s worth: in the 9 years since I wrote that review, the only DDR music that remains in my iTunes library are the 2nd Mix and DDRMAX soundtracks, as well as the BEMANI BEST FOR 10TH ANNIVERSARY compilation and various Diverse System remixes. All the Dancemania albums and V-Rares EPs are gone.

And hey: anyone else has random questions about what I meant a decade ago, don’t be shy! I’m more than happy to elaborate – if I can remember what I was talking about!

Shut Up And Play The Hits

> On April 2nd 2011, LCD Soundsystem played its final show at Madison Square Garden. LCD frontman James Murphy had made the conscious decision to disband one of the most celebrated and influential bands of its generation at the peak of its popularity, ensuring that the band would go out on top with the biggest and most ambitious concert of its career. The instantly sold out, near four-hour extravaganza did just that, moving the thousands in attendance to tears of joy and grief, with NEW YORK magazine calling the event “a marvel of pure craft” and TIME magazine lamenting “we may never dance again.” SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS is both a narrative film documenting this once in a life time performance and an intimate portrait of James Murphy as he navigates the lead-up to the show, the day after, and the personal and professional ramifications of his decision.

It probably goes without saying that there is no movie I want to see more this year than this one.

Why Do Things The Easy Way?

“It has almost bankrupted us, almost killed us, and estranged us from family and friends, but we had to do it.” – Dave and Steph Dewaele

If there is a musical project worth your attention this summer, it is Radio Soulwax.

To describe it briefly: Dave and Steph, two of perhaps the most ingenius DJs on the scene today, have opted to not merely release an hour-long mix every week, but also with an appropriate visual accompaniment. There are free apps for iOS and Android allowing for download and streaming, and the web site provides a rotating scheduled stream of the mixes.

Being 13 mixes in, there’s a solid half day of music up already; some quick recommendations:

* *Introversy* – as many song intros as they could jam together in one hour.
* *(Nothing Worse Than A) Bad Rap* – as many horrible late 70s/early 80s rap songs as they could find.
* *Librarian Girl* – library music, as in instrumentals generally licensed for backgrounds in TV or movies.
* *This Is Belgium Part 2: Cherry Moon On Valium* – perhaps my favorite of the mixes thus far, this mix is 20-year old Belgian rave and Hi-NRG songs that have been slowed down from their typical 140-150 BPM down to a “sexy” 115. This would be amazing even if it weren’t for the visual accompaniment of people doing the appropriate rave dances to the music.

New mixes are released roughly every Monday. Enterprising souls might be able to pick apart the mobile versions to reap the rewards of pure MP4 files.

If you’re into electronic music in the slightest, and have a sense of humor, don’t miss this.

Tant Pis Pour Nous

In a year that’s been filled with disheartening gaming news, this one has made me the saddest: Producer/composer Akira Yamaoka has apparently left Konami after 16 years:

It would appear that he has left the company entirely rather than moving to another international division. As you would expect, there has been no formal confirmation from Konami, so right now this is an unconfirmed rumour – albeit one generated from a pretty reliable source. To date there’s no news yet as to what Yamaoka plans to do next. Since leaving Konami he has been in the States and is now currently in Europe, seemingly on vacation.

Silent Hill fans, who have been lamenting the decline of the series in recent years, should probably consider the series dead at this point. Akira’s scores were one of the most haunting parts of the series, and it’s hard to envision anyone else doing the series justice.
From the Bemani perspective, this is another in a growing line of artists who have left the company in the past few years. Akira Yamaoka joins Taku Sakakibara, Takehiko Fujii, and Reo Nagumo, among others.
In memory of his work within IIDX, a selection of some of my favorite songs:




Here’s to hoping this is not the last we’ve heard out of Akira Yamaoka.

The Big Dipper Of Mixed Metaphor

“12 years too late,” I think to myself as I wait at the intersection of Church and Vesey, fake brass horns and breakbeats burning on my headphones.

“This song shouldn’t have any meaning in 2009,” my inner monologue went on as I waited for the third Lexington express train at Fulton Street as a choir sings portions of “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” over swelling strings.

But as I came up out of the underground by my office, and the same track still playing, my lips could not keep still when the refrain came around once more:

Fuck the millenium – we want it now.

> Be ready to ride the big dipper of the mixed metaphor. Be ready to dip your hands in the lucky bag of life, gather the storm clouds of fantasy and anoint your own genius.

I have been thinking a lot lately about Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty.

Continue reading The Big Dipper Of Mixed Metaphor

Yudo Gotta Groove

Watch out: hardcore Bemani history lesson follows.

If you rewind back to the end of 1997, Konami was beginning to lay the groundwork for rhythm gaming – the very first beatmania title was hitting the market. One of the founding musicians of the series would be found under multiple aliases – n.a.r.d., dj nagureo, Jam Master ’73, tiger YAMATO – and that was Reo Nagumo.

What Naoki Maeda was to Dance Dance Revolution, Reo was to beatmania. Notable songs credited to him include 20, November (leading to it being worshipped as some sort of “Bemani day”, when it is in fact his birthday), u gotta groove (the traditional song everyone starts with when first playing 5-key beatmania), 5.1.1 (the traditional song everyone starts with when first playing 7-key IIDX), g.m.d. (which taught us all that “Konami” rhymes with “trigonometry”), and R5 (which to this day remains my favorite IIDX note chart). His work stretched across all three beatmania platforms, and well into Pop’n Music’s song lists as well.

After beatmania IIDX 10th Style saw a release in 2004, Reo would only have one more song appear on a IIDX release (2007’s DistorteD), which he claimed in the Song Production Info would be his “final opus that will erase [his] past” and identified a sushi restaurant in the US as the reason for his retirement:

Oh, baby, I decided to retire with this track.
Um, I’m going to emigrate to America.
The reason is simple, I’ve found my calling,
Someone left me a sushi place. It’s getting big in America~

I got a fan letter that said:
“The first time I heard R3, I was in middle school.” Thank you. The kids have become adults.
The time for my retirement draws near. The old men should slowly fade away, so the young ones can take over.

You know, even on the eve of the 21st century, I was
Making you guys a track. It’s crazy.
Even when I busted up my Y31, I took out my sadness by making songs.
Thank you, everyone!
I guess I eventually got kinda cool. *tears*
The world really does revolve around you.
Well, it was fun.

But as I discovered today thanks to an inbound link from Finger Gaming, Reo is still doing what he’s always been doing – not running a sushi restaurant but instead a game company, called Yudo Ltd.. Yudo was actually established in March of 2003 according to their press release, and the company statement isn’t shy about Reo’s role in the founding of some Bemani titles:

Yudo created a trend in music-based games with titles such as beatmania and pop’n music, with experience that runs deep into the management level. Yudo was founded, and is currently helmed by, Reo Nagumo, who worked as a DJ under the moniker dj nagureo. The company continues to develop and produce games and music.

With a unique planning expertise, Yudo aims to offer revolutionarily new services and games throughout the world.

Yudo is very much a casual gaming company, focusing on the iPhone and WiiWare platforms. Many of their releases thus far have been $1 games (slogan: “1$-GAMES is ‘One’derful”), including Cutie Scratch, PiyoPiyo Panic, and SpyBugRadar, which perhaps makes more sense if you’ve seen the demo video.

But of course, my admiration of Reo is for his musical output, and that’s where the Aero Series comes in. Much like the cartoon hierarchy is cat, mouse, dog, so too is the music game hierarchy: guitar, drum, synthesizer. Having heard through the grapevine that the guitar and drum versions were a bit crap, I splurged the $3 for Aero Synth Evolution. (I am unclear what the difference is between the Evolution version and the non-Evolution version.)

And immediately, the $3 was worth it: the first song on the Free mode song list is OBAMA by SUPER tiger YAMATO. (If nearly eight years of Bemani obsession has taught me anything, it’s to not question the strange capitalization of song titles or artists.)

Here’s a video of me playing it on Normal difficulty. I apologize in advance about the quality – it’s difficult to play a touch-based game while holding a camera:

(I should also point out that while Yudo has done an excellent job providing English interfaces into their software, it does suffer from the occasional Engrish – such as the “Dairy Rankings“.)

My expectations of most iPhone music games have been terribly low, so this came as a somewhat pleasant surprise. You can tap the notes anywhere along the same general horizontal plane as they are, so long as you hit it with the right timing – thus allowing you to avoid most issues with hand blockage. There’s also chords which will take some getting used to for me to be able to read them properly.

AeroSynth does hold the distinction of being the only iPhone rhythm game I’ve played that seems to really maintain it’s timing window (unlike DDR-S Lite) and not suffer from the occasional bouts of frame dropping (unlike Tap Tap Revolution).

The experience on a whole is not terribly deep – 2 modes, 6 songs, and 9 courses means it’s no DJ Max Technika – but for $3, I have no complaints. For those of you who don’t want to splurge, there’s a free version with a single song.

But that single song isn’t OBAMA.