Friday, December 16, 2022

How to sound like Brian Eno / Daniel Lanois circa 1980

Years ago I made some notes on studio gear used by Brian Eno for his late 1970s productions, in particular the albums in the Ambient series. A recent social media discussion encouraged me to compile and update this information.

In particular, there has been a long-standing fascination with the sound of the album Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror, released in 1980 on Editions EG. This beautiful recording features the minimalist piano of Harold Budd, but is co-credited to Brian Eno, in respect of his production contributions. Budd plays piano, both acoustic and electric. Alongside this solo instrument  are sounds from synths and other devices that have never, to my knowledge, been identified. According to Budd, a Yamaha DX7 and Casio CT-200 were used on The Pearl (released 1984), but these keyboards were not available in 1979 [Prendergast 1986].

The remainder of this article will focus attention on the signal chain used to create such a lush sonic environments from solo piano. This article will break down the equipment used at that time, along with today's alternatives. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Choosing a desktop CPU: three recommendations

Building a new computer? Want to know the best CPU choices for your budget? In this article I apply an objective and replicable method to the 58 CPUs currently available on the consumer market. I'll give you twelve good options before recommending the best three.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Review: Peter Hook and The Light

Peter Hook and The Light
The Big Top, Limerick, Ireland 
10 November 2022

The revenant is that which returns. 

This thought is foremost after hearing Peter Hook and The Light, who tour the catalogue of Joy Division, keeping alive songs that otherwise can only be appreciated in recorded form. The group animates these tunes through exaggeration, adding metal guitar flourishes, over-pronounced dynamics, and fist-pumping choruses to songs ("Love Will Tear Us Apart", "Transmission") which don't deserve the fate of such normative interpretations. Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man? In part, yes.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

About M1 Killers and Bad Reviewers

I am in a position where I regularly need to recommend computer and audio hardware to students, artists, and others. I can't test all of it myself, so I rely on people who dedicate themselves to this task. Essentially I act as an aggregator, leveraging my ability to spot BS. My evaluation process is made difficult by the number of poor reviewers on YouTube. In truth, it takes a lot to be a good reviewer. But there are far too many popular channels that are driven by brand loyalty instead of technical knowledge.

I started writing a comment for one such video, cleverly entitled "They said THIS was the M1 Killer.. <crying laughin emoji> AMD 5900HX Mini PC!" Yes, I should have known what I was in for from the title alone. Unfortunately with half a million views and hundreds of positive comments, such content gets far more praise than it deserves.

My comment got out of hand, in terms of length if nothing else, so I relocated it here to my blog.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

"Aesthetica" by Max Bense, partial translation to English

Max Bense (1910-90) was an important philosopher, publishing over 80 books. Unfortunately none have been translated from German to English. Of particular interest to many digital artists is the volume Aesthetica: Einf├╝hrung in die neue Aesthetik, published by Agis Verlag (Baden-Baden) in 1965. 

As a small contribution, I have translated the introduction and one key chapter of Aesthetica, so that English readers can finally get a sense of this work.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Tips for sharing drives between computers

Operating systems each have their own native ways of formatting hard drives and allocating storage for files. Here is a practical summary for Windows 10, macOS, and Linux. Included are some little-known facts on compatibility that can save you serious headaches!

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Portable Audio Recorders Summary 2022

It's three years on from my last audio recorder summary (July 2019) and so time to update my comparison table. This time it's quite compact, largely due to vendors streamlining their offerings. Please download the PDF. I've included columns for those characteristics I find most useful to distinguish between recorders. YMMV, but it should be a helpful starting point.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

On Censorship and the Zaporizhzhia Fire


This article exists for several reasons. First, to stop the spread of fear over a potential nuclear disaster in Ukraine. We are all overburdened with worry at the Russian invasion of that country. The last thing we need is further hype and extremist announcements. Unfortunately, these are accepted at face value by too many people.

Second, I wish to assert that the censorship of Russian state broadcaster RT is a demonstration of Western propaganda. Since there is almost no free press in Russia, RT exerts unparalleled influence. But this is not to say that Russians naively accept all that it publishes. Outside Russia, RT is a useful way to gauge what the Russian government thinks. How can we fight disinformation if we don’t know what that consists of?

I will perform a media analysis of the coverage of the attack and seizure of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP). To do this, I made a snapshot of several websites on 5 March 2022 between 1300 and 1400 GMT. These articles are from the online versions of RT (Russia), Kyiv Independent (Ukraine), and Al Jazeera (Qatar). All are government-funded agencies.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

On propaganda and the Ukraine crisis

Current events in Ukraine are worrying in and of themselves. But they are doubly troubling in how they are being reported, bereft of historical context, full of unsupported assertions. This article will highlight certain evidence that challenges the dominant narrative.

Please note that this article was written in the week before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. Such state violence must be condemned in the strongest terms. The provocations of NATO and the West do not justify such actions. Nonetheless, it is important to understand a context that goes deeper than the simplistic equations Ukraine=good, Russia=evil. 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Buying a laptop for everyday use

The focus of this blog is generally on higher-end hardware for video production. I've written several articles on that subject in the past year. But this article is for people who:

a) Need a laptop but have minimal funds.

b) Don't want to contribute unnecessarily to e-waste.

c) Don't want a crappy commodity computer that might fail at any time.

d) Don't want to buy from Apple (see a and b). 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

What men can do to stop male violence

We live in a society where the dominant patriarchal order offers men individual and institutional power, resources and opportunities, respect and status, and control over their lives. Women, as a group, do not have the same privileges, a fact that is continuously demonstrated. If a woman is not safe even to walk down a public thoroughfare, there can be no argument that we live in a fair society. 

It's not up to women, the victims of these assaults, to change their behaviour. It's up to men.

Monday, January 10, 2022

How fast are Apple M1 computers for video?

Since Apple introduced their new M1 "system on a chip" there's been incredible hype over the capabilities of their laptops. In this article I will summarise information provided on the Blackmagic forums, in order to judge the worth of these systems for video editing. The results may surprise you. 

Sunday, January 09, 2022

The origins of "glitch"

The word "glitch" is now in common usage, used to describe any fault, applied to artistic products like glitch video and glitch music. It was firmly established as a genre of music circa 1994 when Autechre released the track "Glitch." 

An online discussion prompted me to look for the origins of this curious term. There are multiple places in which the source is cited incorrectly or the source quote is garbled. This post will set matters straight.