Bellying Up to a Low Bar

“If one is going to ask readers to pay attention to what one is saying, one would surely want to dazzle with form and content. We’re living in a meritocratic golden age, right? No one squanders taking his or her best shot in favor of taking a mediocre shot just because it is the easiest one to score. That’s the critical distinction between “trying” and “making an effort.” Everything is better now.”

Seymour Glass, “What’s Going to Happen to Us?” 2018

Thin White Rope Reissues on Part-Time Audiophile

In 2018, Frontier Records began reissuing the Thin White Rope catalog on LP, CD and digital. I write about the series on Part-Time Audiophile.

How to wall yourself off from the “Roon Radio” cloud . . experience

With the advent of Roon’s 1.6 update, I’ve found my experience to be wanting.

Suddenly, “Roon Radio,” the software’s recommendation engine, gloms onto The Cloud.

It’s not necessarily a cloud I requested drift over my living room, mind you.

If you have your Tidal account linked to Roon, you’re faced with an endless surplus of presumed recommendation once your library selections run themselves out.

After upgrading to 1.6, I found these recommendations to be running approximately 95% awful. I’m not willing to settle for that 5-percent-okay quotient.

Color me insular, or elitist, or whatever term makes you feel better — but I have a decent track record of managing my own particular “music discovery.” I trust my own abilities over Roon’s algorithms.

There’s a reason I don’t use Pandora. Why? Because the significant majority of its results are far below par. I’m not paying Roon $120 a year to similarly disappoint me with an upgrade I didn’t ask for. I find this enabled-by-default, post-upgrade “functionality” to be a bug, not a feature.

How to fix this?

Wait until Roon Radio foists you off to a track you don’t like.

On the bottom bar of Roon, you’ll notice an icon on the left side marked “Queue.” Click it.

Chose “Limit Roon Radio to Library.”

Voila. Roon will no longer follow your chosen selection from Eno’s “Music For Films” with Billy Joel’s “My Life.”

Favorites of 2018

I managed barely a post a month this year. There always seemed to be other things to do.

I apologize for this apparent lack of commitment, and will try to do better in 2019. Let’s hope our executive and legislative branches do the same.

Happy holidays.

AUDIO

Neil Young Roxy – Tonight’s The Night Live LP (Reprise US)
“Welcome to Miami Beach, where everything’s cheaper than it looks.”

Taylor Deupree Fallen CD (12K US)
Eno’s Thursday Afternoon leavened with a dash of Eno/Budd and glazed with a pleasing dollop of gauze and glitch.

Brian Eno Music For Installations LP box (Opal/Universal UK)

Steve Tibbetts Life Of 24/88 AIF (ECM Ger)

K. Leimer Mitteltöner LP (Origin Peoples US)

Cosey Fanni Tutti Time to Tell LP clear vinyl (CTI International UK)
First it was on cassette. Then CD. Now on double clear vinyl. The best post-TG release.

Jóhann Jóhannsson Englabörn & Variations 2xLP (Deutsche Grammophon Ger)

K. Leimer Threnody CD (Palace of Lights US)

Gentle Giant Three Piece Suite LP and Blu-Ray 5.1 DVD (Alucard UK)

Ólafur Arnalds re:member 24/96 / MQA (Decca EU)
I want to like this on its own considerable merits, but I can’t help but speculate that Mr. Arnalds might’ve been listening to the work of Helios / Keith Kenniff over the past couple years.

Max Richter Never Look Away 24/48 (Deutsche Grammophon Ger)

K. Leimer Degraded Certainties CD (Palace of Lights US)

Marc Barreca Shadow Aesthetics (Palace of Lights US)

Kate Burkart “Moonlight” 24/96 (Luckystar)
She’s my sweetheart and partner. I helped mix it. You think I’m gonna leave it off the list?

BOOKS

Seymour Glass “If You Can’t Be Good, Be Reasonable” tour diary (Chocolate Monk UK, 2018)

Obi Kaufmann “The California Field Atlas” (Heyday, 2017)

The Mono Basin Ecosystem – Effects of Changing Lake Level (National Academy Press, 1987)

Sean Prentiss “Finding Abbey” (University of New Mexico Press, 2015)

Salman Rushdie “Joseph Anton – A Memoir” (Random House, 2012)

Edward Abbey “Confessions of a Barbarian” (Little, Brown, 2003)

Russell Chatham “Dark Waters” (Clark City, 1988)

Doug Peacock “Walking It Off” (Eastern Washington University Press, 2005)

Jeffery F. Burton “Garden Management Plan – Gardens and Gardeners at Manzanar” (National Park Service, 2015)

FILMS

Leave No Trace (director: Debra Granik, Bleecker Street)

TV

The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling (director: Judd Apatow, HBO)

Who Is America? (Showtime)

The Last Alaskans (Animal Planet)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

Speechless (ABC)

“John Cage probably found it a tad on the nose”

Part-Time Audiophile continues to print everything I send them. For this I am grateful. The latest example? My review of The Beatles White Album Super Deluxe 6CD+Blu-Ray Box Set.

Steve Tibbetts, Miles Davis reviews on Part-Time Audiophile

Part-Time Audiophile has posted my reviews of Steve Tibbetts’ Life Of and the quadraphonic SACD reissue Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew.

“It’s one of the first albums I’ve liked as much as Natural Causes over the past seven years. As time works its inexorable magic, however, I’m increasingly challenged to find ways to articulate why and how I love a certain album, or artist. Tibbetts’ intangible artistry doesn’t make things any easier. It’s feasible that I find this album irresistible because I can’t explain why it’s so sublime.

John Stancavage 1959-2018

John passed away on August 10th. His wife posted this obituary today.

I knew John mainly through his posts at Part-Time Audiophile and periodic updates on his Facebook page. I admired his writing and the strength he showed while dealing with multiple serious health problems — ones that would have set anyone else back on their heels. But not John.

We can take a certain amount of consolation in the grace, dignity and good humor with and through which he navigated his difficult last few years.

We need more like him and I hope his life and words inspire others. I know they inspire me.

The obituary (with additional photos) has been reposted on Part-Time Audiophile.

Brian Eno “Music For Installations” 9LP box set on Part-Time Audiophile

I experienced a sighting of a massive new Eno object (perhaps it was all just a dream), and a transcript of my debriefing is now up on Part-Time Audiophile.

Taylor Deupree / K. Leimer / Pod Tune

Taylor Deupree Fallen

This one has has landed squarely in my best-of-2018 list. Why? Why not: minimal piano interludes are glazed with filtered reverb and stretched over a luscious space that’ll entice fans of Harold Budd’s higher-altitude flights. Sometimes there’s a bit more glitch than I’d ordinarily prefer, but Deupree’s measured (yet sometimes untethered) aesthetic and tastefully entrancing use of repetition more than validates the result.

This is music for fog and dusk, for mist and melancholy. It’s alternately ghostly and lovely, often at the same time, and is the most perfect background music I’ve heard in ages… but it also stands up to close examination, if you’re into that sort of thing.

K. Leimer Mitteltöner

(Full disclosure: I was the distributor label manager for Kerry Leimer’s Palace of Lights label until January of this year. I was not on the Palace of Lights payroll then or now).

Mr. Leimer has been quietly releasing music on his Palace of Lights label since the early 80s. A series of reissues and new releases on PoL and a well-received compilation of previously-unreleased archive material on RVNG over the past four years has inspired renewed (and new) interest in Leimer’s work, past and present. Mitteltöner is his first release on the Origin Peoples label and it presents material he’s been working on over the past couple years.

The approach here is more rhythmic than most of Leimer’s output. Where before there was drift and ether, now there is added drive; the pace is faster and more focused. The tracks aren’t really songs, per se; they’re of the tone-poem realm where mood and momentum and vibe are as important as any narrative journey. There’s propulsive krautrock / kosmiche homages here, sure, but, while the phrase “a toe-tapping experience” might not’ve been inappropriate in describing some of Kerry’s past work, this new one is actually relatively catchy — without sacrificing any aspect of his characteristic explorative inclinations.

Some of the more gleaming excursions have a certain similar feel to David Byrne’s Songs from the Catherine Wheel period, and some of the incidental effects and synth motifs might similarly engage fans of Brian Eno’s Music For Films work. I can’t deny that “German Defaults” and “London Interiors”, in particular, provoked pleasant flashbacks to Eno’s “R.A.F.” single.

This album sounds wonderful on headphones, but to benefit from the full effect of Leimer’s instrumentation and mixes, also listen to it (preferably the vinyl) on speakers — at moderate (or, hell, high) volume. A track such as “As Long Ago As This”, especially, shines distinctly in the space of a room.

Among much stellar material, the two closers are my favorites: “Berlin Preset” and “Low Lustre”. These two make for great driving music. Mitteltöner would not be out of place in your vehicle (or your home, for that matter); one or two listens and you’ll discover it to be a noble companion for journeys both within and without the home.

Various Artists Pod Tune

This 2017 release benefits several marine charities, including The Whalesong Project and Ocean Alliance.

When I think of whales and music, I think of the intro Kate Bush’s “Moving”. That’s not far off, except the music on Pod Tunes is mostly ambient or experimental.

The concept: electronic musicians donate a new track that incorporates whale sounds. Featured artists include Christina Vantzou, Scott Morgan (Loscil), William Basinski, Mikael Jorgensen (Wilco), Jacob Kirkegaard There are separate downloadable versions of the release. The CD and LP are out of print, but obtainable via Discogs and Amazon, as well as a 14-track version on iTunes.

This really is a lovely album on several levels, and would be worth your time even if it wasn’t a benefit.

“How Radio Isn’t Done”

My admiration, affection and respect for the work of Don Joyce has been documented here, so I won’t go into further detail about the worth of what he accomplished before he passed away in 2015.

There’s a new documentary out that honors Don Joyce’s Over The Edge and work with Negativland. It’s called How Radio Isn’t Done and can be streamed for 99 cents on Amazon and Vimeo.

I enjoyed it very much (well, not very much. The final 30 minutes are heartbreaking). The interview segments with Don and members of Negativland are illuminating and touching. The only thing I would’ve changed are the animated waveform overlays that accompanied many of the Over The Edge audio clips during the first half; the visuals were inordinately distracting. I found it helpful to close my eyes during those segments of the film.

Joyce’s hermitic life might seem insular to the uninitiated. But the legacy of Over The Edge belies any such characterization. His work drew people in and engaged them — both in terms of audience participation, and his uniquely focused efforts to embrace and push radio to and beyond its highest potential.

I hope Don will be remembered not as a reclusive eccentric, but for what he accomplished in the realm of satire, art and entertainment.

You can browse, search, stream and download an overwhelming archive of Over The Edge episodes on archive.org

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