Summer Like The Season is kind of genius. It’s actually surprising to even hear this kind of music on Bandcamp, because it could easily be getting reviewed over at Pitchfork in a few years. Reminiscent of Animal Collective, Sufjan Stevens, and even Aphex Twin, songs like “If you’re not weird, you’re not honest” include swelling choir vocals, chopped up drum loops and squelching, warping low end synth work. “Chewing gum and opium” could easily be a Purity Ring song, which isn’t saying its a ripoff, just that its familiar and comforting.
This is honestly one of the best sounding, “homemade” albums I’ve ever heard. While some of the mixing could be tweaked, the sensibilities of the production and arrangement display a true understanding of structure, pacing, and aesthetics. The Terrence McKenna sample is a nice touch as well, fittingly surrounded by a chorus of machine-elves. Friend of the Monster EP is available for free download over at Bandcamp. 9.7/10
Western Jaguar hails from Vancouver, B.C., where they emit introspective and chilly art rock. Describing the sound as a blend between Album Leaf, Bright Eyes, and perhaps even a darker, early Death Cab For Cutie. Something that definitely works is the fact that the synth work sounds very much glued to the rest of the mixes. This can be achieved with great mixing, or recording the audio of a keyboard synth/reamping. With so much electronic music production these days, its production tricks like this that really make a track breathe and sound full of life. There also isn’t a lot of clutter in the mix, which demonstrates considerable restraint.
Lead vocalist Jeffrey Trainor could experiment with some more interesting vocal ideas, but for now – like the rest of the tracks – remains comfortably strapped into the sonic palette he has painted in the foggy landscape Western Jaguar was born out of. Western Jaguar’s Glacia is available at https://westernjaguar.bandcamp.com/ for $6. 7.8/10.
The Last Survivors blend spacey electronica with lively guitar work and chipper vocals in a manner reminiscent of Stars and Death Cab For Cutie. Saying the production draws influence from M83 wouldn’t be far off either, although the mix is drier on reverb than the former. The Last Survivors would benefit from more out-of-the-box sounds (as opposed to loops and software plugins) and some bigger, more-real space between the performances and the computer – which leads me to believe they would be great live. I particularly like the track “Dirt”, where the grittiness lends itself to the otherwise sparse production methods. One weak point would be the dubstep breakdown, which seems a bit forced and out of place in the genre. I’d like to see The Last Survivors stick to the dreampop/postrock aesthetic as opposed to alternative. Overall, a decently produced release from a promising new artist. The Last Survivor’s Second Summer EP is available on Bandcamp for pay-what-you-want. 7.5/10.
Remixes by Glowbug, Stephen Coleman, and Daniel Finfer.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the Do Lab’s quintessential audio-visual-experience, Lightning In A Bottle. And having just come from Coachella’s desert wasteland, I have to say it was quite refreshing. Situated in a cooler environment (Temecula is technically cooler than Indio, look it up) and on a gorgeous lake, LIB already has a few things going for it. And without the draw of major-label acts like Coachella, the general admission noise-floor is considerably lower, and more manageable.
The actual venue size is not only smaller and easier to navigate, but security is mild, and the general mood is pleasant and carefree. Attendance capped out at around 13,000 (approximately), making it a fraction of the size. Complaints, while there, were few. Upon arrival to the ticket-booth at a local community college, the lines were unfathomably long due to an internet error that prevented staff from scanning tickets at a reasonable rate.
Highlights included seeing Purity Ring, Tycho, and Nicholas Jaar from literally the front row – as the crowds are sparse and it is easy to simply walk up to the gate with ease, even in the middle of a set.
At Coachella, you’ll be trapped top-side while pissing into empty beer cans for 3 hours.
Yeah, there was a full-blown water-park.
While Lightning In A Bottle goes through growing pains, and the zeitgeist of the music festival shifts its tastes from gigantic, stressful festivals to smaller, more manageable realms; they can be rest assured I will be a repeat customer to see where the movement leads.
As a music producer and all-around computer dude, I spent a ton of money on cables that usually fall apart much sooner than they should. Being able to make AV cables is an important skill that will save you a ton of money over time. After working at Guitar Center and seeing the profit margin of Monster Cables, I decided to try it out myself. Video and audio cables are very easy to construct with the proper materials and basic soldering skills. Some of the advantages that come from making custom AV cables is the ability to make application-specific precise lengths and the choice of materials that are designed to help maximize signal transfer. Once these cables are finished, a system can have an optimized signal at a much lower cost than utilizing store-bought AV cabling.
Step One: Stripping the Cable
Always start by putting the cable in your left hand and the stripper cutter in the right. It is very important to remember that every kind of stripper is different. A person should point the stripper cutter’s outside away from their cable in order to leave about 1/4 inch of extra cable hanging off the end. They should only remove the extra wire later.
They should remove the insulation in order to expose the braided shielding and center pin. After that, they can slide the collar into the cable. They should not forget this procedure or they might have to start from the beginning once again.
Step Two: Trimming the Wire
After removing the insulation, they should start trimming the center wire to length. This will vary from one stripper to the next, but the usual correct length is about 19 mm from the tip of the conductor’s center to the outside insulation. This is where having the right stripper is very handy. However, a person can still make an excellent cable if they are using a less-than-ideal stripper.
Step Three: Crimping the Cable
Once the center has been trimmed to its desired length, a person should now place the center pin and crimp it very tight. It is always recommended to tug it a little bit in order to make sure that it is secure. After making sure that the center pin is straight, they should go ahead and slide the connector’s body on. They will feel a quick snap when the center pin locks securely.
After this has been achieved, they should fold the braiding back into the connector and slide the wire’s collar up into it. They should also remember to do this without flaring all the way back into the wire’s braiding. This will ensure that they are able to open it a little bit for the connector to slide in. It will make sure that they have a good connection down the road. After that, all people have to do is label the cable with either colored electrical tape or shrink tubing.
Making an Audio Cable
Start by removing the cable’s outer insulation with a standard box cutter or a good quality stripper. They should then cut the cable’s black wire flush of the outer insulation. It is also best to get it completely out of the way.
After cutting the red wire to the desired length and leaving a little allowance, a person should then strip off about 18 inches of the red wire’s tip and twist it very tight. People should cover the exposed copper with solder to make it much easier to move to the center pin.
They should then fill the tip of the wire with solder and slip the red wire into the AV cable center pin. It should be held securely until it cools down. A person should then twist the grounding cable very tight and push it into the connector’s stem through its holes. They should wrap it around to make sure that it is held securely in place.
An individual should then flip the connector over with the stem facing outside up and solder the grounding wire to it. They should trim off the extra ground wire and crimp the collar down on the insulation’s outer part with a pair of pliers. The connector’s body should be screwed on to finish the cable.
Ancient Lasers is the collected effort of Daniel Finfer and Daniel Anderson.
We also got to work with one of the internet’s most transcendent artists – Petra Cortright.
Petra Cortright is either very ahead of her time, or very behind. Or both. Her art pieces usually use some combination of Netscape-era GIF’s, glittery-cheesy-glitched-out-graphics and Myspace=ishASCII fonts. Her YouTube channel is a hot mess of post-human exhibition- complete with bizarre video plugins, presets, and maybe its imovie after effects. It’s kinda like one of those webcam girl pop-up-ads, if it was live-streaming from a bizarre, fucked-out future where America Online and the Super Nintendo are still the coolest dudes in the room:
As we were wrapping up the Ancient Lasers album, I started looking for images similar to her glitch-mountains, which had always fascinated me – since around 2007 – when most of the songs for this record were penned. Like a nature photographer hiking through the uncanny valley, pieces like the one below remind me of some dicked-up digital program.. trying to remember what real life was like way back when:
Somewhere deep inside Google Image Search and FFFFound, I realized that she’s probably not dead yet and that I could just have her create a new one. I decided to send her a picture of Mount Baker, in Bellingham, WA. Primarily because both myself, and Daniel Anderson spent the majority of our lives in the place; but also because I use to stare at this mountain from our farm growing up:
Underneath the gaze of this mountain, the chain of events that led me to discovering my musical ability at age 17 transpired. That’s right, folks! I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with my life until one summer, when I was bored and downloaded Fruity Loops from Limewire. I had always been able to play songs on the radio by ear via keyboard, and had taken orchestra in elementary school (where I played violin and a hilariously giant upright bass), but had never thought about making music. After a few days, it kind of just clicked – pre-Music, I had wanted to be an author and wrote a lot of Sci-Fi stories – and was usually the best in my art class (no offense, Ferndale, but there wasn’t much competition).
I had just transferred to a “hippy high school”:
So my brother had given me a copy of The Downward Spiral to take on the trip. Now, this was destined to be a pretty terrible trip. Something about all my teachers being permanently happy was cool, fine, alright im learning about nanotechnology and resource-based economies; and the combination of listening to lyrics like “God is dead, no one cares; if there is a hell, I’ll see you there” while sitting in a circle of kids burning sage and banging on guitars/djimbe’s was pretty fucking rad.
Anyways, I’m in a shitty tent, alone in a new, weird school, and godam im tired, maybe ill pull out this huge blue sony discman n listen to nin cuz mike said it’s be coool…..
What thaua fuaaak? Music made by machines? A concept album about a lonely human fighting against it? Battling with the inherent lack of meaning that is OUR reality? Thanks, Trent.
Yet it wasn’t until I happened to look at the album liner notes (back when they were paper) and seeing “Pretty Much Everything By Trent Reznor” all over the place that I realized that with a computer, you don’t need to have a band.
You can just be the band.
Once I got home after somehow not killing myself, I heard about The Postal Service – mainly because one of the dudes was Ben Gibbard, who was a Bellingham local. It was a snow day at Whatcom Community College, and we were shoe-sledding down an icy hill on Indian St. because that’s what you do in Bellingham in September of 2003. My friend knew some guy that lived nearby, so we all went to warm up. Keep in mind, this was probably 6 months before Give Up had been released nationally.
The moment I heard The Postal Service in that kid’s house, I realized that not only was electronic music becoming popular with kids that used to talk shit about me listening to Daft Punk’s Discovery in high school (because this weird video game music will never be cool); but that someone from Bellingham, Washington, had made an album that was suddenly gaining mainstream attention. I was there, folks, and it was weird watching The Postal Service go from local heroes to being the band I turn off in the car because I’ve heard Such Great Heights 749,999 times this week on 107.7 The End.
Which brings it all back circle.
One day two kids from Bellingham named, quite eerily, Michael Harris and Daniel Anderson (My brother’s name is Michael and my middle name is Harris), won the EMP SoundOff! competition and were being played on 107.7. My sister heard Idiot Pilot – To Buy A Gun – Strange We Should Meet Here and came home yabbing about it to me, saying “its like gonna be ur fav band cuz NIN and Postal Service”.
I listened to “Strange We Should Meet Here” a few times through, and then read somewhere on Myspace that the album was made on Fruity Loops.
*Queue the sound of something clicking at 450 bpm*
See you later, Chihuahua’s Mexican Restaurant (their actual website).
That very month, I moved to Los Angeles to work on music (in between a few expensive and extremely inconvenient trips to Santa Clara University for some weird networking thing called “college”).
Idiot Pilot had just released Tail Of A Jet Black Swan. I saw a post from Daniel Anderson one day asking if anyone wanted a remix done. Coincidentally, I had just finished an album I am still proud of, Post Human Era – To Build A Fire, with my producing mentor Brian Delizza. I had taken a few guitar lessons from Daniel in Bellingham the summer before, and decided to not be a bitch and send him a few songs. He sent me back a remix of Building The Machine:
Needless to say, I was pretty stoked; and asked him if he wanted to do, like, 13 more, start a new band, and oh yeah here’s Petra’s album cover: