Summer Like The Season’s “Friend Of The Monster” EP Review

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’s Glacia Offers Chilly Art Rock From Vancouver

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.

https://westernjaguar.bandcamp.com/

The Last Survivors’ Second Summer EP Review

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.

The Last Survivors Second Summer EP

Lightning In A Bottle: The New Coachella?

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.

Photo by Ancient Lasers
Photo by Ancient Lasers

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.  

Photo By Ancient Lasers
Photo By Ancient Lasers


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.  

Seconds later she teleported , I swear to God.
Seconds later she teleported , I swear to God.

 

Photo by Ancient Lasers
Photo by Ancient Lasers

At Coachella, you’ll be trapped top-side while pissing into empty beer cans for 3 hours.

 

Did I mention there was a water-park?
Did I mention there was a water-park?

Yeah, there was a full-blown water-park.

Little lost girl at LIB 2013
Little lost girl at LIB 2013

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.  

Come Party with Bill Nye, Elon Musk and Ancient Lasers to Celebrate The Landing of the Mars Rover!

The raw excitement of planetary exploration is captured at Celebrate Curiosity, with over 1000 of your fellow explorers, friends, party goers, celebrities, scientists, artists, and space enthusiasts. Join us, as we take a thrilling dive into discovering the possibilities at the cosmic frontier in style!

TICKETS: http://marsparty2012.eventbrite.com/

Our Martian Party kicks off after the first day of Planetfest and spans two floors for an out-of-this world experience! As you mingle with your friends and make new ones along the way, keep your eyes peeled back for space industry persons of interest from Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and NASA. During the course of the evening, catch sightings and conversations from the most interesting Space Entrepreneurs, Sci-fi Authors, Screen Stars, and Personalities.

Bill Nye the Science Guy at BlackStarr’s Yuri’s Night, April 2012 

What to expect at Celebrate Curiosity:

  • Customized t-shirts printed while you wait
  • Interactive galactic art by Andrea Lofthouse, NASA JPL’s Dan Goods, and others
  • CEO of The Planetary Society, Bill Nye the Science Guy, SpaceX’s Elon Musk, and hosts breakout talks
  • Short speaker sessions from prolific space advocates!
  • Enjoy tasty Martian treats and cosmic drink specials
  • Interactive video games from GameDesk
  • Gorgeous Spacecraft models displayed for your enjoyment
  • Giveaways from the Planetary Society
  • Get dazzled with spaced out music spun by Ancient Lasers and our Suprise Guest DJ
  • Dance to the undulating cosmic lights of the Jellypuss
  • Adorn yourself with a selection of complimentary blinky lights and glowey things
  • Witness live art in the making, interstellar wall projections, and adult games
  • Intergalactic Girls passing out Space Swag from the likes of SpaceX, NASA, and more
  • Delicious Astronaut Icecream and Space food Sticks from Funky Foods
  • Amazing lightshows with some far-out Tesla Coils!
  • LED Hula Artists!

 

Don’t forget to show off your Martian themed apparal by taking pictures at one of our two sassy souvenir photo booths

 

We have much more up our sleeves, and will continue to tantalize you with the possibilities of A Party on Mars over the next week!

This is an all ages event, but registration is mandatory and tickets are limited!

Dress:

Dress to impress and be sure to wear your intergalactic best!

 

Our favorite Mars Rover Costume, so far

 

Intergalactic Girls

Why Nothing Really Matters (My Trip Inside An Isolation Tank)

Have you ever done absolutely nothing for an entire hour?

I mean nothing.

On March 25th, 2012, I did nothing for the first time in my life.

States Were Altered.

I was invited to the private residence of Edward Arroyo in the hills near Pasadena to experience something called an Isolation Tank.  I had known  Edward since the Transcendent Man screening party, but I never had a chance to check it out until now.  I recently saw him at an Ancient Lasers show, and I realized that, Holy Shit, I still need to do this.

It was a cold, rainy Los Angeles day – which set the perfect mood for introspection.  Four of us arrived at his residence, where we were greeted by sandwiches and refreshments.  He showed us many artifacts he has collected from around the world, most notably, something called Noah’s Ark – a black, obsidian, boat shaped rock.  It only spins clockwise – that is, if you try to spin it the other direction, it vibrates, stops, and corrects itself.

The final stop on the tour was in the back building, where the isolation tank resides.  It is basically a large metal chamber, with the interior completely blacked out.  There is about ten inches of extremely salty water, which is warmed to the exact same temperature as the human body.  The air is also warm, giving the illusion that you are completely submerged in something.

Edward led us back inside the house, where we made final preparations.  I was first, so I took a shower, dawned a bathrobe and slippers, and took out my contact lenses (an act that in itself would be enough to render me deprived of all vision).  Edward was to play sounds of the ocean and some kind of shamanic-sounding hum in the beginning and at the end, to let me know that one hour had elapsed.  One hour is a good initial baseline for time, apparently.  I followed Edward out through the rain to the Isolation Tank, and he handed me earplugs, and a couple towels.  I think Drew, my drummer, was filming up to this point, but as I was about to get completely naked, they left me alone to take the plunge.  I put in my earplugs, threw my robe on a chair, and climbed into the black abyss, closing the door behind me…

The Simpsons Make Room For Lisa
At first I was like this

At first, it felt like you would expect – floating in the dark.  But then I realized how buoyant the water was – it was like what I imagine zero gravity would feel like.  If I didn’t know I was in a controlled, completely safe environment, that sensation would have been utterly terrifying.  I mean, it was utterly terrifying for a few moments, but I knew what I was getting myself into.  I am a sound guy, so I started to focus on the waves/hum noise, and realized how loud my breathing was as it started to fade away.  Once it was completely silent, I kind of had a “now what?” feeling, but tried to focus on my breathing.  At this point, my body had adjusted to the sensation, but I still felt tense in my neck and in my legs.  That’s when I realized I was still actually holding myself up – to some capacity.  I released every muscle in my body in one of the single-most refreshing instances I’ve ever had, and just really let go.  Bingo. Now it’s time to fuckin’ FLOAT.

Monolith
Then I was like this

(From here on, it’s really hard to describe, but I will try.)

I first started thinking about all of human activities – like bills, my job, my band’s next direction, and things like that.  This was probably about ten minutes in, from my estimate.  When your brain doesn’t have anything else to do, you do a really good job thinking about things.  Really fast, and with laser-sharp focus.  It felt that in about five minutes, I had worked-through and addressed my now seemingly-mundane human ‘problems’ in my life.  Well, now what do I think about, I thought to myself.  I don’t know, why don’t you think about what you’re doing here? What do you want to do? What is all that stuff outside? Who are all those people? Do they matter? It feels like it. What are they? And what are you?

It felt like my eyes were moving deep into my body, like my vision was starting to come from my chest instead of my eyes.  And right when I noticed myself slipping into that, I would jolt back awake.  It was kind of like being on sleep deprivation at this point, but still remaining incredibly energetic.  I started to hear foreign music and loud, thundering sounds – big bass notes and something like a trumpet in the distance.  I decided to think about memories and friends from my past, and it was like walking through a party where I knew everyone.  Every room was a different memory, and I could walk in and interact with it – bring it back to life.  Then I really lost control.

It now felt like a DJ had showed up to the party and started remixing my brain.  Memories, ideas, people, music, visual images…all started to get the mashup treatment, and I actually felt my brain using itself as its own sensory input. Like someone plugged a power strip into itself.  I heard a voice say “He hasn’t started using his lungs yet”, which was pretty creepy (perhaps some kind of connection to being in the womb?).  It felt like a bunch of people were above me, looking down, but there was no down, just out.  I started to feel really guilty about things, but kind of ‘as everyone’.  That as humans, we aren’t using all the tools we’ve been given properly, and that we are letting someone down.  That there is some big thing we are supposed to do.

Then I was like this

The ocean sound started to creep up and I started to sink back into myself.  I was expecting to get that horrible sleep-paralysis feeling when I came back, but I had never actually gone to sleep…so I tried moving a finger.  Moving one single finger a quarter of an inch after not having a body feels indescribable.  I clenched my fist, one at first, then the other, and wiggled my toes.  Yep, I’m in this body again.  I slowly sat up in the tank,  both exhausted and completely rejuvenated at the same time.  I pushed open the door, and as my pupils shrank back into tiny black dots, I looked around for someone.  Still alone.  I blindly reached for a towel, and stumbled out into the real world again.  Catching a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror on the way out had a certain completing-the-journey quality to it.  After taking a shower to get the salt off, I sat around the outdoor firepit where everyone was.  I tried my best not to talk about the experience as not to influence theirs, but I think that lasted about ten seconds.

After all four of us had gone in the isolation tank for one hour each, we all had completely different experiences and explanations – but we all agreed it was one of-if-not-the-single-most life-changing feelings we’d ever felt.  And seriously, the way you physically feel afterwards is like getting a massage, doing a full workout, and getting 8 hours of sleep all at once.

Edward showed us the concept video for Floatspace, his next endeavor.  He wants to set up isolation tanks for public and commercial use, and we talked about all the new possibilities that would arise.  What if you could skype with other people while inside the chamber? What about virtual or augmented reality systems? If I could have, I would have invested a cool million right then and there.

With our journey complete, we thanked Edward I think about a hundred times before we climbed back into the car.  The quality of sleep I had that night was unrivaled, and I was able to partially slip back into that floating feeling.  This morning I woke up an hour before my alarm clock.

To sum it all up, go do this.  I feel embarrassed that I haven’t done this before.  Until you try it, you won’t understand what I’m talking about.

 

Why nothing really matters.

Written by Daniel Finfer of Ancient Lasers

BIL Conference: A Casual Convention of People Who Want To Change The World

Whether you have seen the fascinating and often mind expanding videos posted online, or have been lucky enough to go in person, you probably know about TED.  If you are like me (incredibly interested in technology but not really willing to spend thousands of dollars to go to a conference), check out TED’s cooler-yet-nerdier little brother BIL on the Queen Mary March 2-4th in Long Beach, CA.

BILder’s (as we like to call them) come from all around the world to share ideas, give talks, perform live music, teach classes, network, brainstorm ways to fix the world…whatever! That’s the beauty of BIL, what it is and what it will become is completely up to the BILders themselves – theres no concrete agenda.  It is what you make it.

It's kind of like this

Last year was my first BIL experience, and I can honestly say it set the tone for the rest of my year in the most positive way possible.  I met BIL co-founders Simone Syed and Reichart Von Wolfsheild when I hosted the after-party for the Los Angeles premiere of Transcendent Man – Ray Kurzweil‘s feature documentary about the Technological Singularity. I was demoing Ancient Lasers tracks for the singularity folks that night and they asked me if I wanted to play at BIL.

Once there I met some of the most fascinating people I have ever been graced to know.  I spend alot of time around people that don’t really share the same interests as me in my daily life, so it was so refreshing to hear phrases like “machine learning”, “brain hacking”, and “nanobot foglets” being thrown around in casual conversation. I got to meet Burning Man guru John Halcyon, Life extension author Aubrey De Grey, lifestyle blogger extraordinaire Judd Weiss, the folks from the Singularity University…The list goes on.

Aubrey de Grey Speaking at BIL 2011

After BIL, we all kept in touch and I personally know more than a couple new startups and other projects that were born from the conference and the connections it facilitated.  Its incredible to think about how much has happened since last year and how many new friends I made.

This year Ancient Lasers is performing with special guest Max Lugavere from Current TV Saturday, March 3rd at 8pm.  Jimmy Delshad, the mayor of Beverly Hills, life extensionist author Aubrey de Grey, CEO of Virgin Galactic George Whitesides, XCOR co-founder Doug Jones, and many many more.

BIL 2012

I highly recommend coming to check it out, I promise you wont leave empty-headed.

Three Important Tips For Beginning Musicians

Here are some useful ideas for marketing your music in the digital age.

  • Have good music

It may sound ridiculously obvious, but this is sometimes a major factor musicians overlook in the marketing process.  Why spend money on a tour van or radio promotion if no one will even show your music to their Facebook friends first?  You could literally spend $50,000 on marketing and have it go to waste if your music isn’t up to quality standards in terms of production, songwriting and mixing/mastering.

If you are just starting out and don’t have the ability to hire a producer or engineer at a professional studio, there are plenty of programs that will allow you to, after some trial and error, get close to professional quality sound.  I use Logic Pro, some Pro Tools, and Ableton Live for production.  A full tutorial on how to produce music with these programs is another article entirely, but I can tell you some key tips starting out.

First off, don’t use cheesy sounds.  Like any rule in music, this one can be followed by “unless that’s what you’re going for”.  But there was a reason why my painting teacher wouldn’t let me attempt surreal art until I could paint the naked guy standing in the front of the room.  Start out by listening to sounds other good musicians use, and try to replicate those.  Don’t put a ton of reverb on everything, and God dammit stop using that Phaser.  Bass is very important, and if you can’t nod your head to the beat, something is wrong.  Other things to avoid: synth choirs, Midi horns, Apple loops, dubstep wobbles.  Unless, of course, that’s what you’re going for.

  • Give it away for free on “the Internet”

If I have never heard of your band before, I am probably not going to buy your music.  Especially if there isn’t even a free iTunes preview available.  This is because there are plenty of bands that I already like giving away music for free, and in the age of Mediafire and Hype Machine, I can download any album I want in about 4 seconds.  So if a potential fan shows up to your website, has to turn off your FLASH AUTOPLAY WEBSITE (caps because seriously everyone hates these sites), and then gets propositioned to enter their credit card information, odds are they aren’t going down to the car to get their wallet.  And that is a catastrophic failure on your part.  Give your music away for free, at least initially.  Get people excited and interested in your sound and what you are doing.  Think about the old adage “Fake it till you make it”, and how that relates to music – you will make significantly more money down the road using long-tail economics – so stop thinking linearly and start thinking exponentially. Consider this:

Chris Anderson wrote a very profound book called The Long Tail: Why The Future Of Business Is Selling Less Of More that explains how the internet changed the way we do business on a global scale.  A good example is what happened to SEARS, the department store.  It all started back before most farmers could afford an automobile, let alone the fuel to drive into town every day.  Sears had the novel idea of passing out catalogs to each farmhouse, that not only sold things, but sold EVERYTHING.  Wristwatches, thread, lightbulbs, kerosene lanterns, you name it, you could order it right out of the catalog.  This is because Sears invested in the initial infrastructure of large warehouses and trucks to ship things from all over the world to Good Lord, Iowa.  This was great for all parties involved, and gave the masses things from far away lands they previously only dreamed about.

Yet as time wore on, the farmers started showing up to Church with the same wristwatch from the same catalog.  Consumers demanded product differentiation.  They now wanted specialized, niche markets. Competitors and new nation-spanning highways gave people the freedom of choice and customization, which in turn led to Sears’ downfall, and subsequently, it is now  market share leader in washing machines or something.

Let's go buy clothes at Sears

So, what does this have to do with music?

Back when there were only a few channels for wristwatch distribution, the same held true for music.  There were only a few channels on the local radio, and only a certain number of CD’s could fit on the shelves in the record store.  The major labels owned the only distribution infrastructure that could physically get your music to major metropolitan areas, and if you didn’t fit their style or genre, you were condemned to play coffee shops and Bar Mitzvahs for the rest of your career.

Along comes the Internet.  Whoa, wasn’t there a record store here last week? The new paradigm of music distribution allows for infinitely reducible niche markets in music.  Nowadays, the New Age Polka enthusiast can not only find their favorite artist’s music, but automatically and instantaneously receive recommendations of other New Age Polka artists they may like as well.  As an old friend used to say, “there’s a seat for every ass in the house”.  If you make good music, you will find fans, regardless of how obscure it may be.

  • Get 1,000 true fans

I went to a music conference in 2011 that was basically a big waste of time, but I did come away with one new idea of what being a musician will be like in the coming years.  Consider this article, written in 2000, about the then current state of the music industry.

http://partners.nytimes.com/library/financial/sunday/062500biz-berenson.html.

In that year, Eminem, Britney Spears, and N Sync all helped paint a picture of a music industry that was still expanding – a record-breaking 312 million CD’s were sold – that’s an 8 % increase.  The warning signs were there – as most of the article debates whether or not Napster will have a long-term effect on major labels.   But statements like “People do like CD’s. They continue to buy about 900 million CD’s every year in this country. I don’t think people are going to change their behavior dramatically,” offers a glimpse into the prevalent shortsightedness that was going around at the time.

What happened next was a result of that faulty projection.  Based on 2000’s growth increase, the industry’s infrastructure kept expanding while the actual sales started to dip.  Labels started losing alot of money fast, and could no longer give out big advances.  Thus, the days of the mega-stars like Britney Spears are now over.

Yet there is still a booming music industry out there, with billions of dollars in annual global revenue.  So how will it be distributed in the coming years? We will start to see the expansion of the musical middle class.  No, you probably won’t make $10 Million dollars per album like they did in the year 2000, but your chances of making an honorable $40,000 per year are very high – if you can attract at least 1,000 fans that will spend $40 on your brand per year.  Think about it – that’s basically a T Shirt, a ticket sale, and a ringtone. The best way to attract fans is to be real with them, and to be honest.  The idea of being a reclusive, mysterious musician that hides in the studio for weeks doesn’t really mesh well with the age of blogging and Youtube.  Talk to people online.  Share stories and information.  Comment on people’s pictures.  Post videos of your new song idea and ask for input.  Make customized merch that only your most loyal fans can access, and even think about VIP concerts and events.

It may sound strange, but sometimes it feels like the internet has only increased the distance between people in real life. Be someone people can rely on as a digital friend, and I promise you, they will support your musical endeavors.