Film samples in music

I was walking to work, listening to my starred music in Spotify when Not For Want Of Trying by English band Maybeshewill came on…

The spoken word part (and in this case video clip) are from a 1976 film called Network about an ex-TV anchorman.

Hearing this got me thinking about how well the spoken word part fits in with the music. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they had the rant already chosen and wrote the song around it rather then fitting either one around the other. I thought about other songs that feature film excerpts and how it could so easily be done badly.

One of the first songs I thought of with another great film quote where it feels the song was written around the quote rather than the other way round, was Frontier Psychiatrist by Australian band The Avalanches, which features a scene from 1981 film Polyester about a mother dealing with her family.

Unlike Maybeshewill however, The Avalanches’ music is largely made up of music and film clips taken from elsewhere (their debut album is thought to have pulled music from more than 3500 records dug up by the band). Does this mean they deserve more credit? Possibly. It would certainly be more of a challenge for someone with less experience in the field.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals. We’ve all heard Scooby Snacks, we all recognise the Tarantino quotes.

Damn do they look young… Anyway, While the film quotes in this song do give it a certain something, just how well are they used? They fit the theme of the song, but they don’t really fit with the ongoing dialogue of the lyrics. Musically, they break everything down a bit for the samples to give them centre of attention. Before I say this, I need you to know that I love this song and don’t think it would be the same without the samples. The film quotes in this song are NOT well integrated and musically they feel a bit wrong. In my opinion this is a film sample done badly.

Dead Wreckoning by Aborted follows much the same trend as FLC, albeit with excerpts from American Psycho:

Patterns by Mosko is a sort of an in-between track. The music doesn’t change for the Pi sample, but at the same time, it’s not built around it.

Huge differences in musical styles, and huge differences to approach in using film samples. Is there a right or wrong way to do it? No, I wouldn’t say so, but there are certainly better and worse ways.

Maybeshewill, The Avalanches, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Aborted can all be found on Spotify. Mosko can be found on Soundcloud.

You Bred Raptors?

I stumbled across these guys just a minute ago looking for something else. As well as a totally inspired name…

…they seem to be totally nuts. I was initially thinking post-rock, but it seems to be a bit more complex than that!

Check them out!

8-string bass!

You Bred Raptors? on Spotify

Spotify is coming to Australia!

So, Spotify is coming to Australia any week now (or so we keep hearing), but I’m not sure how many guys over here actually know what Spotify is, so I thought I’d do a quick once over.

Imagine you log onto your computer and open Media Player/WinAmp/iTunes, and you could do a search for nearly any music you want, whether you own it or not, and just play it straight away. Spotify makes this a reality. Rather than owning the music and having it stored locally, Spotify streams the music directly off the Spotify servers.

The pluses of streaming include the huge range of music, and I do mean huge. They had an estimated 15.5 million tracks July 2011, and they add more than 10,000 tracks every day so we can safely say they’re closer to 20 million. They also do a fairly good job with new releases with most major labels and bands on there although sometimes it will be a few weeks before a band puts a new album up, as they have to try to sell as many CDs/MP3s as they can first. Another important factor (for me at any rate) is that the artists get paid through Spotify! not a great deal (hard figures are hard to come by but estimates seem to be in the $0.00003 per play region) but if you get enough plays they all add up – and let’s face it, a fraction of a cent beats an illegal download!

The downsides of streaming. Streaming music will use up huge amounts of data. While this isn’t a problem in the UK, in Australia capped internet is what the majority of people have. For the highest quality streaming (which is premium only – more on that in a bit) we’re talking 2.4MB/minute. You only have to multiply that up to see the amount of data we’re talking – 2.4MB/min = 144MB/hr. If you have friends over and listen to music for 4hrs, we’re talking 576MB. If you like to listen to music all weekend, we could call that 10hrs a day for 2 days – 2.9GB. That’s a huge chunk out of your allowance. Hopefully unlimited deals will become more prevalent in the near future, but for now that’s what we’ve got.

As I said before, there are a huge number of artists on Spotify, so you’ll never be stuck for something new (Anamanaguchi anyone? How about some Dananananaykroyd? Holy Fuck?) and besides some of the more obvious omissions (The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Oasis), you’ll find the majority of your favourites!

So, how do the artists get paid? Spotify makes its money through subscriptions and advertising. There are 3 different Spotify packages users can choose from:

Free: (Free) If you go for the free package, you will have to suffer one or 2 adverts interrupting your music every 20 mins or so, as well as banner ads in the program. On top of this, after 6 months you will be limited to 10hrs per month and only up to 5 plays of any tracks. This is to try to encourage you to get a pay account. In the past they have had invite accounts which take these limitations away but currently we don’t know what they have planned for Australia.

Unlimited: (5GBP – approx 7.50AUD) Unlimited gets rid of the adverts and adds a radio option as well as giving you the option to use it abroad.

Premium: (10GBP – approx 15AUD) Premium is where it gets juicy. You get Spotify on your mobile (Android, iOS, Symbian, Windows, and Palm), you get high quality streaming (320kbps ogg), the ability to stream to other devices, and an offline mode (which could save you on the earlier mentioned data).

There’s also a social side. This involves Facebook, which can turn some people off, but for many it’s worth it. Once connected, you can see (and play) other people’s playlists, what they’re currently listening to, what they star, and plenty more. This comes up within the app as well as on Facebook. It’s like last.fm (and yes, scrobbling is supported) but a bit more real time.

I’ve been on Spotify premium for a few years now and it’s much cheaper than buying CDs. The catalogue is huge, the artists get paid, and it’s available on my phone. What more could you want? Visit the official website for more and to sign up for news on when you can get Spotify yourself!

It’s a Pink Moon

Last night was a Full Pink Moon.

I took one look when I saw this statement on Facebook, and started humming Nick Drake’s Classic to myself…

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in making this connection. So just what is a Pink Moon and where does its name come from? It’s the full moon in April and gets its name from herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox.

From Farmers’ Almanac:

• Full Pink Moon – April This name came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month’s celestial body include the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

So there you have it.

It’s also worth noting that this isn’t believed to be what Drake had in mind when he wrote the song, although nobody really knows!

You can listen to the whole of Nick Drake’s album Pink Moon on Spotify.

Is this the geekiest game ever?

Right off the bat you can tell this is going to be a geeky game, but the deeper you get into it the more geeky it becomes.

Let’s start with the basics. Its working title is 0x10c. It’s an Elite inspired space trading game. So far so good. Now it gets more geeky…

It’s set in the year 281 474 976 712 644 AD and here’s why:

In 1988, a brand new deep sleep cell was released, compatible with all popular 16 bit computers. Unfortunately, it used big endian, whereas the DCPU-16 specifications called for little endian. This led to a severe bug in the included drivers, causing a requested sleep of 0x0000 0000 0000 0001 years to last for 0x0001 0000 0000 0000 years.

You know, your typical little endian – big endian mix-up. We’ve all been there. What’s that? You haven’t? You’ve only really used more more modern, higher level programming tools and languages? oh. ok. This next bit may not interest you then…

Finally, within the game is a computer you can program. Well, I say computer, but what you really get is the DCPU-16 which you can program. In assembly language. To quote the official website:

The computer in the game is a fully functioning emulated 16 bit CPU that can be used to control your entire ship, or just to play games on while waiting for a large mining operation to finish.

They’ve recently published the CPU specs to give people a head start writing programs before the game itself is released.

You will even need to balance what equipment you have powered on as your spacecraft’s generator only outputs a set wattage.

This game is being developed by Minecraft developer Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, who seemingly took inspiration from some of the more complex Minecraft creations…

To keep up with developments, follow @notch

On the “Difficult Second Album”

I’ve just given Sleigh Bells’ second album Reign of Terror another try and I’m still not sold.

I can’t put my finger on just what it is that I’m struggling to connect with. Sleigh Bells are a two piece band consisting of Derek Edward Miller (guitar) and Alexis Krauss (vocals). Their first album, Treats, was unlike anything I’d heard before. It was like pop music but with massive levels of distortion on everything – I’m talking guitar, bass, keys and drums, all with highly unpoppy levels of distortion. And I loved it. With their second album, they largely copied the formula of the first and yet I’m struggling to connect with it. This has got me thinking of the issues bands have in pleasing all reviewers and all bands. Although I’m using the second album as an example in this post, and I stick by it being the hardest album any band will make, but it can just as easily be applied to any follow-up album.

You’ve released your first album. It’s been fairly popular, you’ve had largely positive reviews, you have a decent fan following. It’s been a few months and you’ve decided to start work on your second album. At this point you are never going to please everybody.

You can release an album similar to your last album and have *some* fans/reviewers say that you’re stuck in a rut, that you’re a one trick pony, that you have no innovation. That would suck.

You can release an album different to your last album and have *some* fans/reviewers say that you’re alienating the people who made you what you are, that you’re totally indulging yourselves, that you should have stuck with “what you were good at”. That would suck too.

Of course you could always mix it up – have plenty of songs that sound like your first album and a few that are heading in a new direction. The last thing you want is to end up with a disjointed album that sounds more like a Now compilation than your own work.

You only need to look at second album reviews for any number of bands to see what I mean:

Bloc Party, A Weekend in the City:
Good review – “They’ve the technical ability – that was clear two or three years ago – and now they’re beginning to let their hearts into the process as well as their heads.”
Bad review – “[…]the direction in which Bloc Party has traveled is entirely unsuited to its strengths.”

Maxïmo Park, Our Earthly Pleasures
Good review – “Our Earthly Pleasures would be pushing for classic certification, but for now it’ll have to be content to be a marked improvement upon A Certain Trigger.”
Bad review – “[…]they’ll need to pull out all the stops to recover their poise after this worrying misstep.”

You’ll notice that these 4 reviews pull heavily from their previous albums rather than judging them on their own merits. The second album. It’s a tricky one, and you’ll never please everyone.

Sleigh Bells’ Infinity Guitars, from their first album Treats:

You can listen to the whole of Sleigh Bells’ Reign of Terror, Bloc Party’s A Weekend in the City, and Maxïmo Park’s Our Earthly Pleasures on Spotify.

Rooting and rebooting

I’m starting this post on the train whilst listening to SBTRKT. Chances are I’ll finish it on a PC or even a Mac.

None of this has anything to do with why I’ll be rooting my phone. Rooting it will not give it a bigger screen or real keyboard. The reason for me doing so is freedom. I’ve paid good money for my phone, I own it outright, and I want to do whatever the hell I want with it. (For those of you more familiar with their Apple and iOS lingo, this is the same as jailbreaking.)

I’m an Android user and I currently own a Wildfire. It’s my second Android phone and I like Android. I previously had this phone rooted and even had it running Cyanogen Mod 7. The headphone port broke and I had to have it repaired (Telstra shop guy was great, repair centre weren’t). The repair they carried out was to replace the mainboard, essentially returning me a new phone. I’m now running the current HTC/Telstra ROM which isn’t too bad but it has some major niggles. The main one being that it isn’t my idea of current. Another big one is the bloatware on it – I’ve already run out of internal storage! Sure, apps can be installed on the SD card, but as any Android user will know, a great many apps can’t be moved, especially the large Google apps. What I ideally need to do is get rid of the apps that were installed on the phone when it arrived (especially that Garmin sat nav one that daily tells me it has an update). This is where rooting comes in. Even if I decide not to install CM7 on it, if I have it rooted I can uninstall all of these useless pieces of software (why would I want a maps app when Android comes with Google Maps?).

Before I go any further, here is the mandatory disclaimer. Rooting your phone is a scary and risky process. Read the whole set instructions twice before you start and make sure you have all the drivers ready to go.

First attempt this time around I gave unrevoked a try. Not so hot. First attempt did nothing. Second attempt looked a lot more promising when it restarted. Then it hung mid boot. on disconnection, I got a pretty scary looking red exclamation mark on the screen and nothing else. It wouldn’t turn off or do anything. After pulling the battery it rebooted. Slowly. 3rd attempt was nearly successful, but at the last step it failed. This is down to my phone having too modern a version of the HTC security software (a combination of bootloader and NAND lock).

Next I used the “Goldcard” Method. This is the same method I used last time so I know it works. Essentially this is an extended version of the unrevoked method, involving a preparatory step flashing a different bootloader and disabling the NAND lock. It all went well with this method until the last reboot after flashing CM7. I found myself in a loop with my phone just restarting itself. Re-reading the instructions I realised I’d forgotten to clear the cache and factory reset. After that, success!

Yes, you may have noticed I did flash my phone with CM7 in the end. I decided that since I would need to do this in order to use my Australian phone in the UK (with a UK SIM that is), I may as well just do it at the same time as rooting. So, my phone is now running Android 2.3.7, up from 2.2.1, and more importantly has a load of free space. I’ve found a lot more apps can be moved to the SD card than previously as well as the bloatware being absent. Next I need to work through some of the smaller niggles I’m having with CM7, namely that the Market (or Google Play as it’s now known) can take 30 mins from me hitting install to it actually start doing anything.

All in all, this is a vast improvement on how it was before!

You can listen to the whole of SBTRKT’s album SBTRKT on Spotify.

1-bit Symphony

This is the amalgamation of Chips and Tunes. This is what it’s all about. This is part of the reason this blog exists in this form and with this subject.

The whole of Tristan Perich’s 1-bit Symphony is on Spotify, as is his first album 1-bit music.

To Build a Home

I’ve been loving this song this week. It’s really quite beautiful.

To Build a Home is on The Cinematic Orchestra’s album Ma Fleur which is available on Spotify.

Nvidia GeForce GTX680 and going down…

So, it’s been a week now since Nvidia released the GeForce GTX680 and and response has been overwhelmingly positive. AMD have had a good run by themselves at the top end in the 3 months since they introduced their 28nm part in the form of the Radeon HD7900 series. These boards were impressive and many (myself included) wondered how Nvidia were going to compete after their last 2 top end cards were pretty hot and power hungry. The answer is to get rid of the shader clock and pack in a LOT more processor!

Previously, Nvidia ran its shader clock at twice the speed of the rest of the GPU but Kepler has done away with this approach. In doing so they have decreased the power draw and temperature the GPU operates at. Obviously with this halving of speed there will be a massive decrease in performance. In order to counter this, Nvidia has tripled (yes, tripled) the number of stream processors to 1536, as well as increasing the clock speed by nearly 30%. Unfortunately, the RAM side of things has seen no such overhaul. Whereas AMD’s 7970 has a memory bandwidth of 264 GB/s, the GTX680 has just 192.3 GB/s. This is actually down on the GTX580, albeit by only 0.01GB/s. With such a powerful GPU this could be a problem, if only minor. The situations when you need the most graphics grunt are at higher resolutions (surround for example), in 3D, and when applying heavy AA. Guess what? Every one of those scenarios also  requires a decent amount of graphics card RAM with plenty of bandwidth.

Most websites have found the GTX680 to be noticably faster than the 7970 in the majority of games (obviously it depends on the game engine, developer etc.). The real issue (for AMD) is that Nvidia have launched this card cheaper than theirs. We can expect price drops on at least the top tier of AMD’s range, and possibly further into the upper-midrange. This lower price will have been brought about in no small part by the fact that Nvidia have produced a chip that is physically smaller than AMD’s. for the last couple of generations Nvidia have produced GPUs that have been, frankly, huge. The GTX 580 was a whopping 520 mm2 this compared at the time to AMD’s 6970 at 389 mm². Big difference. This time around however, whilst AMD is producing a 7970 chip at 365 mm2, Nvidia have managed to squeeze all thGTX680’s power into just 294 mm2, allowing the use of less silicon, less cost to manufacture, and less price to the end user.

The next big question is the mid-range. How will the new GF104 scale, and how is Nvidia planning to do so. We should be finding out in the next few weeks, but if the GTX680 is anything to go by, we could have some cheap powerful chips hitting the midrange.