Sunday, January 30, 2011

What I mean by freedom is the ability to say no...

...Fundamentally, I think the satisfactory outcome for all of this is freedom, meaning the ability to say both yes and no. I think often times we cast freedom as merely the ability to say yes to the things we want, but let’s face it: it’s usually easy to exercise that freedom if you’re a lucky citizen of a modernized country. We’re a culture prone to indulgence, and usually the times we deny ourselves the freedom of doing or having the things or experiences we want are the instances that courage is required to commit. These would be things like quitting your job and starting your own business, or booking a 3 week romp in southeast Asia. That courage is something that Appropriatism, or any other mode of thinking, can’t give you. One just needs to summon it in themselves.

What I mean by freedom is the ability to say no. I don’t consider this a negative way of thinking, but rather a very positive way to have permission to opt out of the things we don’t want to do. I feel we need to acknowledge the value of the freedom derived from simplifying and eliminating the useless things in our life. This means having an understanding of what’s important../
Frank Chimero

February 2011's Calendar

February 2011's Calendar :: 1280x800 (left)

The image used for February's Calendar was taken at the Photosafari I embarked on recently to the SECC in Glasgow... using my Nikon d60 and my 50mm prime lens. I really love the vanishing perspective and thought it an apt photo for my desktop.

1920x1080 (left)
1680x1050 (left)
1280x800 (left)
1024x768 (left)


My top 18 most played artists ... as at 290111

I guess that... whilst I love discovering new independent musical talent... I will always come back to the artists I am most familiar with.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

A day on Byres Road

290111_ graphic in Oxfam

I love nothing better than to park my car outside the old Transport Museum and go for a donder along Dumbarton Road and then up Byres Road. Today, thanks to my mother and father-in-law, Olly and I were able to be a couple and do this sans we'ans.

We meandered through the Salvation Army Charityshop (where I got "Get Back" by the Beatles on 7" for 50p) then up Byres Road... stopping every-so-often to look in other Charityshops, the wee thrift stores or boutiques that mark the road as special.

290111_ Cupcake

We grabbed a coffee and a cupcake in the Starbucks around 11ish... then had a look around Fopp and Papyrus.

290111_ I love Cherry Coke

Afterwards... we headed to a fab wee Manhattan-style deli called "Tribeca" on Dumbarton Road for lunch. I had an awesome 5 egg omelet with chorizo and peri-peri sauce, washed down with a Cherry Coke (I really need to find diet Cherry Coke!!!) and Olly had a bowl of tomato and basil soup that impressed her culinary sense and warmed the cockles of her heart. The deli had 50s rock 'n' roll playing in the background... which was lovely and added to the meal.

We then rounded our wee trip off with a London Fog, a wee read of the iPad and (for Olly) a wee snooze in Beanscene.

A tremendous day was had. Thank you parents-in-law... and thank you Olly for being excellent company.


Friday, January 28, 2011

A photosafari to the Barras in Glasgow

280111_ The Barras #2

The photosafaris that I host at my work are getting more popular. Today's donder to the Barras had 10 participants, 2 of which were new to our wee group. I was delighted with this. We had a lovely walk passed the Trongate to the Barras... which were eerily deserted. I, like others in the group, had only been there on a Saturday when the streets of the open-air market are heaving with people.

Managed to get a few good shots and had a good blether with a few of my colleagues. I have to admit, I love the atmosphere at these safaris. They are so chilled and mutually encouraging. Really uplifting to me.

280111_ The Barras #3

280111_ tied

The rest of the pics are available here.


Mogwai at Paisley Town Hall

270111_ Mogwai #19

I saw Mogwai in action last night at Paisley Town Hall... and was blown away. I love their music... their sound epitomises the idea of post-rock... and their expertise in contrast is phenomenal - light and dark, soft and hard, quiet and loud, their music had it all.

What's more... in the last 30 minutes or so... the audience could feel the music. It was sooo loud, it reverberated through my body. Which is a rather unusual but euphoric experience... albeit I remember an article I read ages ago that talked about the US Government testing a non-lethal weapon that played deep bass notes that made the recipients poop themselves. With my current condition... I was slightly worried. It was that deep.

I can't wait to hear their latest album :: Hardcore will never die, but you will :: which drops in mid February. I have a number of their albums but I have to say my fave is Mr Beast which contains Auto-Rock, Glasgow Mega Snake, and We're No Here... which are simply awesome!

270111_ Mogwai #16

270111_ Mogwai #6

For a full set of pictures... go here. If you get the chance, please go and see Mogwai... they are phenomenal live!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Seven questions... with Wolfgang Merx aka Fripptastic

Wolfgang Merx is another friend and inspiration... who records under the moniker of The Hard Drive. He likes my photographs and I have worked with him on the artwork for a few of the releases he's driven... including The Enemy... a single from The Ambient League... which is a grouping Wolfgang explains below and something I am proud to be part of.

I was grateful when Wolfgang submitted his answers to my seven questions...


1) Who are you and what do you do?

I'm Wolfgang Merx and I play keyboards and synthesizers. I'm the man behind The Hard Drive, my own music project. Another project I'm involved in is The Ambient League, a group of different musicians who work in small and changing units, similar to the King Crimson ProjeKcts. Then there is The W Team but I don't need to tell you about that one, right, Thomas? But there are even more projects to be revealed soon.

Aside from making music I also write album reviews for the website

2) What are you working on at the moment?

Although I'm still working on songs for The Hard Drive my main focus is on two new projects now, a power trio called Vicious Force and a progressive rock/metal quartet. New songs are coming together slowly but we'll keep on working.

There are a lot of ideas for The Ambient League as well and I guess that the second single will be out in February.

3) Who inspires you?

- Name an artist who has inspired you.

Although I have been inspired by so many different artists there is one man at the top: Peter Gabriel. His music and his words inspire me every single time I listen to them. But I have to mention Neil Young and Robert Fripp as well as they are very important to me and my music, too. Neil Young’s special kind of songwriting has influenced me a lot and it’s the same with his lyrics. And Robert Fripp – I think that you can’t escape his influence after hearing his music.

- Name place that has inspired you.

Although I’m living on the countryside with almost endless farmland all around, forests and mountains inspire me most, as well as icy landscapes. These atmospheres are stunning.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.

The sounds of my Moog synthesizer impress and inspire me very often. One certain sound can lead to a whole new song.

4) What drives you to do what you do?

I’m playing keyboards for some years now but I’ve started to record the things I play in 2009. I often play to leave the everyday life and its problems behind. The music is almost like a therapy then. One day I was thinking that there is more behind these improvisations, so I recorded them and worked them out. After releasing them on the internet some people told me that they like my music. This is satisfying for a “personal musician” like me – actually my music wasn’t even meant to be released at all, it just was there. But it became even more important to me because I’ve met so many fantastic people through the music. I can say that it changed my life.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?

Emotions are what music is all about and it’s the same with what I’m doing.

6) What role does community play in what you do?

Community has become one of the key elements of my music. The projects would be impossible without other people. Even The Hard Drive – which is a solo project – is influenced by others. Sometimes you simply need advice.

7) What is next for what you do?

As I mentioned before the power trio and the quartet are on the agenda now. The Ambient League is an ongoing process with many different people and actually can’t be planned although there is plenty of material available to work with. And The Hard Drive… nothing is planned there, too.


Thanks Wolfgang!

Wolfgang also blogs here ::

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This is beautiful :: "The Thomas Beale Cipher" by Andrew S Allen

"Using pioneering animation techniques to create a look never seen on film before, this 10-minute award-winning film tells the true legend of history's most challenging cipher. Professor White, cryptographer extraordinaire, is on the trail of the notoriously uncrackable Thomas Beale cipher—a century-old riddle hiding the location of a fortune in gold that has tormented its pursuers since inception. But White is not alone—shadowy forces are tight on his tail."

Simply stunning!

A convo with a "rational minimalist"

120111_ I love music

I'm not a minimalist... I carry two iPods and use two iPhones, for goodness sake! However, I am intrigued with the concept and after Monday's post about the cost of cluttered space over on we live simply I had an email convo on the subject with JD. It was too good not to post... so JD posted it... and I thought I would too.

Please read this to get the context.


TM: This makes sense but only works if you intend to use the space for something meaningful. Surely not using the space is as bad as using the space incorrectly?

JB: Good point. It's more a question of value I suppose.

For instance, I may not use every square foot of space in my living room for "stuff" but we do use most every space for playing with the boys, lounging on the couch etc. etc. To have tons of empty space in our living room is of HUGE value to me because it means I have more room to play -- and more room when people come over to bring out the folding chairs and allow more people to sit and congregate.

Also, in my garage, we can now park both our vehicles. WOot WOot! But of course they take up a lot of space. And in addition, because we have to get in and out of the vehicles it's far better to have more empty space in our garage than "poorly/incorrectly used space". Otherwise we're forced to back the cars into the driveway before we can readily get in the vehicles and get everyone/everything out of the vehicles and then drive them in when we return.

However, if I clear out all the necessities in my house and realize I have far too much "empty/wasted" space - that could also be a problem. That would signal to me that I'm paying for far more house than I need.. which could be a good thing if I'm able to actually downsize my house to something more reasonable.

Make sense?

TM: Makes perfect sense and would, as such, fall within the idea of "meaningful" space.

I like the point about paying for what we don't need.

Consider the growing trend in external storage. Once used for the in-between time when moving house... people are now storing their stuff offsite. This is crazy nonsense, in my opinion. If you are storing stuff you are not using then this is wasted money - remove this stuff and you won't pay the bills. If your house is of a certain size because of your stuff, that's crazy too.

I guess I am a frugalist rather than a minimalist in that regard. We should be using the space correctly. Using what we have and appreciating what we have.

JB: Totally agree.

"Meaningful space" is a good term to use -- along with "meaningful things."

Buying a bigger house to store our stuff reminds me of the George Carlin bit about our stuff (NSFW without headphones).

While frugality is a good portion of my mindset as well (reuse when possible, don't overspend when you don't have to) I think the "rational minimalist" approach (what I identify more with than just simply "minimalist") is about ensuring you focus on the meaningful/necessary things in life and getting rid of the rest.

Unfortunately, it's far to easy for me to start collecting far to many things if I don't stop and think about what's really meaningful.

Last year when I went through my Fool Month of Purging, I came across a lot of things I had been holding on to for years, thinking they would be important/ meaningful/valuable at some point in the future. Instead, they may have increased in value by a few dollars, but they in the end, after holding on to them for 10+ years, they weren't worth the space they were taking up.

I find that the majority of things I end up holding on to are typically due to 1 of 4 reasons...
  1. Sentimental value
  2. Thinking I'll use it "one day"
  3. Thinking someone else can use it "one day"
  4. Thinking it will increase in value so I can make money on it "one day"
So I store things in drawers, shelves, boxes, etc. etc. and forget about them and they just continue to collect.

I have a box in my office closet with small desktop/shelf type mementos that I keep holding on to thinking one day I'll have the perfect shelf or desk to decorate with them... yet I've also purposely decreased my desk size so I don't take up lots of un-necessary space and I've tried to reduce the number of shelves in my office as well to avoid collecting more clutter. How much sense does that box of stuff make now? :-)

Anyways, I think its a continual battle to be sure we're getting the most value out of our things and the space we keep it in.

Besides, "Things arenít valuable if theyíre not used. So by holding onto things, you are preventing them from actually being used by someone who needs them." - Leo Babauta

TM: Just to be clear, I'd rather have a house that contains the right stuff than nothing at all. That's why minimalism is too extreme for me... I like stuff... but I have learned it needs to fit my needs and be an appropriate and lasting solution.

JB: Thanks for the input and the conversation! Look forward to continuing the journey with you!


In addition to this convo, I shared a great article by Frank Chimero on "Appropriatism". In the article, Frank makes the point:

"Add things until it starts sucking, take things away until it stops getting better."

I think that's a fairly good summary of rational minimalism.

What do you think?


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Seven questions... with Sean Cotterill aka Artificial Sun Project

I think Sean Cotterill aka @asunproject's album "2359" is an electronic masterpiece. There is something wonderfully complete about it. It also reminds me of Boards of Canada which isn't a bad thing... actually, it is a wonderful thing... especially to me.

His other material is equally accomplished and his latest album :: intensity :: is something special too. I consider Sean a friend and have collaborated with him... remotely... as part of the w team.

I caught up with Sean a wee while back... and asked him my seven questions:


1) Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a sixth form student up in the north of England, Newcastle to be precise. Aside from working on my A levels, I’m running Artificial Sun Project – my creative outlet, spawned after having electronic music as a hobby for about 3 years. I make electronic music influenced by Glitch, Ambient, Trip Hop and IDM, along with taking part in some side projects – Vicious Force and The W Team.
I’m also a street musician – I play blues with an awesome harmonica player – we call ourselves The Northern Jukes, and do a bit of an electric violin/guitar combo on occasion. I do a bit of photography too – I’m a big fan of run-down industrial landscapes.

2) What are you working on at the moment?

I’m doing a few things. Right now I’m putting up some of the first decent recordings I’ve ever done with the blues duo onto Soundcloud, which is great at these are the first ones we’ve got. I’m also thinking of how to finish a few Artificial Sun Project tracks which have been hanging around for a little while, and I probably have an essay on the go to finish for school.

3) Who inspires you?

- Name an artist who has inspired you.

While it’s not an “Artist” as such, I think this would have to be the band Portishead. Quite a few years ago, I was really, almost exclusively into metal, and while browsing my music collection, I saw that a band I really liked – My Dying Bride I think, had done a cover of the song Roads by Portishead. And it was pretty amazing – really haunting. So that weekend I went out and bought Dummy. I got in that night and listened to them album from start to finish. And just, WOW. It was incredible. It absolutely blew my mind, completely shattered how I looked at and listened to music. I think that album, more than any, changed my life.

- Name a place that has inspired you.

In my photography I love using run-down, industrial type areas as subject matter. And, while not “industrial” as such, I think the old Get Carter car park in Gateshead was an example. The majority of people saw it as an eyesore, and I could see why, but it was always such an object of mystery to me. It was like a relic of an age that had recently passed, along with the defunct market at the bottom. It just made me think.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.

I think a thing that inspired my hugely was my first real exploration into John Cage’s philosophy of sound. The idea that all sounds around us, are music, the soundtrack to life. It made me think of music in a totally different way. That is to say that it’s not limited to keyboards, guitars and violins, but anything. Anything we can hear is music, and that’s a hugely liberating and really great thing, if you’re just prepared to open your ears and listen.

4) What drives you to do what you do?

It’s twofold. I think I do what I do because it’s kind of therapy for me in a way. If I feel angry, I’ll sit and write the most agro bit of dissonant, pummeling noise-type music ever, and if I’m feeling relaxed, I’ll write something laid back and chilled, and all of the things in between. It’s a way of thinking about things. I also do what I do because it’s really great to know that other people are interested. I can create a track, and that provides me with satisfaction by itself, but now other people can listen to incomplete versions and provide me with feedback, and we can bounce ideas back and forth, it motivates me more, because others help me to add dimensions to my music that I’d never thought of before. The synergy of it all is really great.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?

I’m a big believer that creativity should have no rules. It’s part of the reason why I’m fascinated by the Avant-Garde movement in all of its forms. I think I’d like to express that you don’t need to be held down by any kind of structure with creativity, I like to take things in the direction that they need to go. I know it’s a huge cliché, but there you go.

6) What role does community play in what you do?

I really cannot emphasise how huge the role of community really is to me. When I started my work, back in late 2007, I could only ever see myself listening to these tracks, and that’s how it went for a couple of years. The only people who really listened to anything I produced were me and a few friends. When I moved over to bandcamp and twitter in late 2010, things exploded, the whole project became something I never really thought I’d ever achieve; People are listening to my music from around the world. It’s an amazing thought. The only reason that this has been made possible is because of the community. I’ve had so much support and help through it – I can’t thank the people enough for what they’ve done for me.

7) What is next for what you do?

It’s onward and upward. 2011 looks like it’s going to be huge for me. Hopefully by march/april I’ll be releasing my next Artificial Sun Project album – 62204. It’ll be a kind of diary of my creative thought spanning from the release of 2359 to the new release. There’ll probably be more coming from Vicious Force, The W Team and other projects too. And i’ll soon be getting back playing blues on the street with Doug once the bad weather in the UK has gone I hope. Onward and upward!


Thanks Sean!

For more... follow these links:

My iPhone headphones control my iPod Classic

I love serendipitous moments like this one. Made me smile.

Posted via email from headphonaught's posterous

Trickle for Twitter

I recently downloaded a fab wee twitter app for my iPhone & iPad (it's universal) called Trickle for Twitter that displays tweets in your timeline... one at a time... full screen on the device. You can retweet the message or favourite it onscreen... and the app allows for multiple accounts... which will be of benefit to some.

It's fab for having on in the background... like a newsticker... where you can dip in and out of as you see fit.

Where I see further value is for this stream of consciousness to be projected in a social space. Obviously not *my* timeline as that's mine... and wonderfully so... more for a coffeehouse, bar, church etc to project their feed.

Moving forward, I'd love to see it incorporate hashtags... as this would significantly increase the utility in social spaces where everyone using the tag could have their message projected.

Real potential. Recommended.

Download it now for 59p


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad -

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why man creates... a documentary from Saul Bass

Two parts from a very interesting and wonderfully thought-provoking documentary from Saul Bass... graphic designer and creator of a number of awesome title sequences including...

The Man With The Golden Arm and... North By Northwest.



(via boing boing with thanks)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

People finding words for my thoughts part 2 - Appropriatism

I also found this blogpost by Frank Chimero fascinating... because within it he expresses an idea that I have been considering and, potentially, living for a wee while now :: the idea of "appropriatism"...
"...There’s no name for this way of thinking, but if I had to steal a term, I’d use Merlin Mann’s Appropriatism. It’s not minimalism, it’s not maximalist, it’s just-right-ism. Goldilocks was on to something. The idea sits somewhere in the middle, exactly at the crux of whatever works the best with the least amount. The core precept of all of it is this:

“Add things until it starts sucking, take things away until it stops getting better.”

We’re looking for that sweet spot, the thing that fits just right, plus or minus zero. With that said, this isn’t a zen, simple living blog post. By being an apostle for nothingness, we lose touch with reality. Philosophy is worthless if it is not practical. My intent is to be helpful and useful, not dogmatic. Your mileage may vary, if only because of differing needs.../
He then goes on to describe some of the precepts of this idea...
"...The main ideals of the Goldilocks mindset are not universal truths, but rather a way of thinking with which anyone can agree or disagree. There aren’t many core precepts.
Again: “Add things until it starts sucking, take away things until it stops getting better.” That applies to this list.

  • Fit is paramount.
  • Access trumps ownership.
  • Matter matters. If things take a physical form, it must fill a need.
  • If there’s a choice, tend toward beauty, both in aesthetics and utility. If it’s one or the other, tend toward utility.
  • Optimize for steadfastness."
I would heartily recommend you read the article... rather than taking my interpretation as the original.

I like the idea that we need to ensure what we have fits... not just clothes but everything we have... does it fit into who we are?

I also like the idea that access trumps ownership. This is a principle that explains so much... from our public libraries to video rental to even bit torrents. Do I need to own it when I can borrow it or gain access to it?

The idea that if it takes physical form, it must fill a need and, if I can, this physical form should lean towards beauty and utility. Again, it needs to fit... it needs to work... and be meaningful.

Lastly, steadfastness is, in other words, lasting quality... it should be built to last... like the second hand Levi's I have on as I type this... they have many years left (as long as my belly doesn't get bigger).

This post has really helped me to put into words thoughts I have had. Consider this post or this one you will, hopefully, see that I've been on this journey for a wee while. I'm glad there is a third way... between rampant consumerism and unrealistic minimalism... and I am grateful that it now has a name.


People finding words for my thoughts part 1 - photography, attention & contemplation

I found this post by Jonny Baker fascinating... because it helps to explain my love of photography - photography has increased my awareness. In the post, Jonny quotes from a book entitled Thomas Merton: a master of attention by R Waldron...
to become a contemplative one must develop the spiritual eye of attention and what in modern life symbolises more fully and exactly what the life of a contemplative life entails than the camera

solitude and silence are the sine qua non of being a contemplative. in fact a photographer is a contemplative in his own right: he too must become a master of attention

if we had to reduce merton's 'a vow of conversation' to one theme it would be 'learning to see'

for much of the world's beauty we have only one chance to look
This is really meaningful to me and I am grateful to Jonny for sharing it. Photography has helped me to "see"... and it continues to help me to "see".

I give this to the Lord and ask Him to help me see what He wants me to see... to see His hand in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary... the natural and the supernatural... and to help others see it too.

Thanks Jonny.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Seven questions... with Rainer Straschill

I have gotten to know Rainer Straschill through the wonderful Twitter community that we both participate in for independent musicians on bandcamp. He is a unique voice in the community and his music demonstrates this uniqueness.

I am grateful that Rainer has taken time out to answer my seven questions:


1) Who are you and what do you do?

A very philosophical question.

The short answer: I'm a person,residing in München (Munich), Germany, with a craving for the slightly odd things . I play music and have a day job in automotive chassis electronics.

The slightly longer one (from here:

*Rainer Straschill*, born in and resident of München, Bayern, took classical training in piano (programme for highly gifted children at Richard-Strauß-Konservatorium München) at the age of five and studied composition (also at RSK München) paralleling grammar school.

Apart from that, Straschill has learned to more or less master the trombone, alto and soprano sax, guitars and bass guitars as well as various devices and computer-based systems for the realtime generation and modification of sound.

Starting in 2000, Straschill has focused on the creation of freely improvised material exclusively. In his solo shows, Straschill combines the input of piano, synthesizers, drum machines, his signature "weirdbass" and saxophones and trombone with the processing of dedicated devices, computers and loop recorders (dubbed by Straschill as "komische Elektronik") to an output which defies any stilistic qualification. Audients at his shows found themselves confronted with a vast crossover of abstract experimental eletronica, singer-songwriter stylings, drum'n'bass breakbeats and minimal noise.

In 2010, composed material (both for solo performances and for ensembles) has started to establish itself again in Straschill's work.

In his other life, Straschill works as an expert for automotive electronics. He holds a red belt in Tae Kwon-Do and has participated in various competitions and tournaments in fencing, boxing and sailing.

2) What are you working on at the moment?

The second part of my "Akustik Kies" piano solo double album, entitled "Reflexiv Hören". The double album is a compilation of recordings from my MoinSound Studio Sessions (see below) in 2010. While the first part, "Transitiv Sehen" ( includes material that's only unprocessed acoustic grand piano, the second part will include all of the usual "komische Elektronik" processing.

The MoinSound Studio Sessions do continue :: :: The MoinSound Studio Sessions is my bi-weekly series of virtual performances, transmitted (and open to the public) via internet video stream. Those sessions happen every even calendar week, Saturday at 1600 UTC.

3) Who inspires you?

- Name an artist who has inspired you.

Thomas Pynchon, for an unusual strategy in engaging with his fan base

- Name place that has inspired you.

Shinjuku station, Tokyo

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.

I'm doing electronic music - the transistor, of course!

4) What drives you to do what you do?

I'm really really having fun doing it.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?

None, really. It's just art for its own sake.

6) What role does community play in what you do?

First of all, as a rather self-reliant artist not economically dependent on the success of his art, I'm luckily in a position that I don't need to get a lot of people to enjoy what I do to be able to enjoy it myself (or to make ends meet in any way). That being said, The community (in the widest sense) has greatly influenced what I do, and continues to do so. This is, in addition to my oldskool social surroundings (read: friends and/or musicians I know and have contact with in person), mainly based on two internet-based sources:

i), the Looper's Delight Mailing List ( to which I have been subscribed since 1997 (!), and which, in addition to being the number one info source on live looping, is also a very knowledgeable and musically diverse group of individuals.

ii) a lot of people I got in contact with directly or indirectly via twitter.

Generally, and taking into account the introductory statement above, the greater community gives inspiration (by pointing out, or by consisting of, great artists), tech recommendations, both for music gear/software and internet-based services interesting to musicians, and also suggestions as on what to work on next. I still lack a good source of high-quality constructive critizism, though.

7) What is next for what you do?

Undecided, as of yet... short-time:
  • Performance of a music composition "Leinhos, Peter is out of the office" as part of the MoinSound Studio Sessions. 
  • Work on some archived material - choices from Eclectic Blah, a freely improvised dance group I used to lead around 2001-2005:
  • An Ambient Manifold, a week-long series of sessions I did back last year with lots of nerdy gear: 
  • Restructuring my live audio processing setup to allow for an innovative approach to composition (working title: "Leere Hüllen"), and 
  • perhaps doing some more of realtime internet collaborations in the wake of my earlier kybermusik stuff:
And, as said before, the MoinSound Studio Sessions do continue.


Thanks Rainer!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My set up

190111_ in my bag

Inspired by this post by Frank Chimero... I thought I'd share a wee bit about my set up... and a few other things.

My main computer is a 13" MacBook Pro... its where I create my stuff. Its the perfect size for me and doesn't weigh too much. On it, I have the following:
  • Adobe Creative Suite 3 - I have only scratched the surface of this... mainly using Photoshop to create the images for album covers, posters and the like.
  • Adobe Lightroom 2 - this app is what I use for my photography... mainly for colouring and cropping.
  • Quicksilver - a tremendous free app for launching apps... you need to use it to understand it.
  • Things - its my To Do app... syncing with both my iPad and my iPhone... and helping me to get things done.
  • Reeder - again, an app that I have on my iPad and iPhone... that handles my RSS feeds along with Pulse on my iPad. I like the way it presents the feeds... and yes, I still use RSS.
  • Twitter - I use the official Twitter app on my MBP. Its not ideal but it works for me.
  • Yammer - I use Yammer for private convos with my Something Beautiful buddies.
  • Skype - I use this mainly for convos for the Something Beautiful podcast... but I am known to catch up with pals for the odd off-the-record blether on there too.
  • Google Chrome - I use Chrome as my main browser and am very pleased with it... albeit this may change with their recent announcement that they won't be supporting H.264 HTML5.
  • Paparazzi - an app for screenshots. Works well with most pages but doesn't always like Bandcamp.
  • Evernote - A fab note app that I have on my iPad and iPhone too.
  • iTunes
  • iPhoto - I use iPhoto for my 35mm photo scans and pics from my iPhone. I like the way it works with Flickr and Facebook.
  • Camerabag - a fab wee app that allows me to filter my photos... give them a vintage feel etc.
  • iMovie - not an app that I've mastered... but would love to.
  • Garageband - for recording audio and creating my mixcasts.
  • Silverkeeper - a back-up app that syncs folders on my harddrives.
  • Microsoft Office for Mac - I tried Open Office but just couldn't get comfy. Office for Mac rocks and I'm not *that much* of a fan-boy to admit it.
I consume content on my iPad... which is something that I never thought I needed until I became dependent on it. The main apps I use on it are as follows:
  • YouVersion's Bible app
  • Minimal Folio - for presenting my photos to clients and, to be honest, anyone who stops long enough.
  • Quickoffice - for reviewing and editing .doc, .xls & .ppt files on the go.
  • Simplenote - a wonderfully simple app for notes that syncs with "the cloud" and runs on my iPhone to.
  • Things - as mentioned above.
  • Zenbe Lists - for my "life lists" like "things for Olly's Christmas" or "what's in my camerabag" for when I go on a shoot.
  • Kindle, iBooks & Stanza - for books... and .pdfs. I have them on my iPhone too but only the Kindle app syncs between my iPhone and iPad (and MBP too). I like that and wish iBooks and Stanza did too.
  • Instapaper - an app I love - you save long content on the internet (blog posts etc) for reading "offline".
  • Pulse and Flipboard - for consuming blogs / websites. I prefer Pulse, if I am honest, and use it on my iPhone too.
  • Twitter - I use the official Twitter app on my iPad and iPhone too. I like it.
  • Reeder and Evernote - As discussed above.
  • Friendly - For Facebook.
  • Angry Birds, Words for Friends, Peggle, BeJewelled, Cut the Rope & Tetris are my fave games... on both my iPad and iPhone.
I use both my iPhones main for communicating... the iPhone 4 is my personal phone and my first gen iPhone is my "published" number at work. I won't go into the apps I have on them... I have mentioned the main ones above... other than to mention Instagram and Hipstamatic - two fab photo apps.

I have two iPods that I use too. I got to the point with the 80gb one... where I was deleting content to add new stuff... and I wanted to do the music justice. I love to be able to fulfil the need to listen to any album I want in my collection. Yes, I could subscribe to Spotify, but I like to have it there... in my hand. Oh and between the two iPods I have about 80gb free... and am actively looking to fill it.

Underpinning my MBP, iPad, iPhones and iPods are two external harddrives... 
  1. A 1TB harddrive partitioned in half - first half is for my MBP's Time Machine back up... and the second holds my iTunes data and my "main" Lightroom catalog. It also holds the back-up for my "working" Lightroom (which is on my MBP).
  2. A 500gb harddrive is set up to mirror the second partition on the first harddrive (using Silverkeeper).
I need to get some "cloud" storage... but I am talking approx 250gbs. 

Also pictured are...
  • Sony MDR-XD100 headphones... unfortunately my AIAIAI's died.
  • Bodum 12oz tumbler (25p off a coffee in Starbucks... if you bring a cup)
  • A physical copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets... I have it on my iPad but prefer paper when reading at the end of the day... bright screens can keep you awake (genius of the Kindle is that it isn't backlit)
  • My trusty Moleskine notebook with an Adam Howie and a Lowercase Noises stickers on the front.
Oh and my fave analogue camera... the Olympus Trip 35. Picked up cheap on eBay before they went up in price. The output is fantastic... especially with the sensor, ability to go to f2.8 and the wonderful glass lens.

So yeah... that's me. That's my digital (and analogue) life... all within a Gap Messenger that I picked up for a tenner.

What's in your bag?


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Found: Lost Pictures of New York Blizzard

I thought the photos Todd Bieber found and the sentiment of kindness that he expresses to be very inspirational. I hope he finds the owner of the film!


(via Laughing Squid with thanks)

Seven questions... with Daniel Land

I have a real fondness for Daniel Land's riverrun project. The music on "pentimento" is simply glorious... my kind of ambient... and is on regular rotation on my iPhone/iPod.

Daniel is also the bassist with Engineers whose self-titled debut in 2005 was (and is) a fave of mine... for its interesting crossing of psychedelic rock and electronica (psychedeltronica, anyone?). I now need to check out their other two albums... as Daniel didn't feature on their debut. I have a feeling, however, that they will be on a parr with original, especially considering the awesome electronic artist Ulrich Schnauss is now part of the band too.

What's more... Daniel leads up another band :: Daniel Land and the Modern Painters :: whose version of love lies bleeding is just exquisite. Go here to hear it and other tracks.

I caught up with Daniel... and asked him my seven questions:


1) Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Daniel Land and I'm the singer of the band Daniel Land and The Modern Painters. Recently I've also been working with the band Engineers, and releasing ambient records under the name riverrun.

2) What are you working on at the moment?

After the Daniel Land and The Modern Painters album came out in late 2009, much of 2010 was spent working with Engineers and helping out with Jayn Hanna's band The Steals. Just recently we've started working on the second Modern Painters album, which is the focus for 2011, and should be released later in the year.

3) Who inspires you?

- Name an artist who has inspired you.

Peter Gabriel. He's always growing and always changing, the very definition of an artist in my eyes.

- Name place that has inspired you.

Doniford Bay, in Somerset.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.

Relationships with attractive men.

4) What drives you to do what you do?

I can't speak for any other the guys in the Painters or Engineers, but I'm not sure why I do what I do. I just have to do it. Making music is all I've ever really wanted to do, since I was a child.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?

I think a lot of things I am involved with musically are very sensitive; the opposite of what you could call "macho" music, really. I've always taken a kind of pride in my sensitivity and in the music I guess I want that to come across; to express ineffable beauty in a way that connotes authenticity and credibility. It's a bit like that idea by The Blue Nile - solace in life doesn’t come from faking it, and music that is genuine and is based upon actual compassion for people is very consoling to the listener. That's all I think about, really.

6) What role does community play in what you do?

What we do is almost entirely community, whether it be about the community that buys our records, the community that comes to our gigs and talks to us on Facebook and Twitter, or the gay community that I sometimes sing about in my lyrics. In a smaller sense, bands and their social circles are mini-communities or sub-cultures too.

7) What is next for what you do?

This year I hope to release a couple more records by my ambient side project riverrun, and do some collaborative work with other people. It really depends how much time I have though; as I've said, 2011 is really about focusing on the Daniel Land and The Modern Painters record and getting that released. It's going to be a big year.


Thanks Daniel!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

We Live Simply manifesto

My boy JD Blundell has a cool blog called We Live Simply where he writes and curates a ton of wisdom on how to live simply in today's super-hyper-giga-world of over-comsumption and media saturation.

He has released a manifesto that I am going to try to live by.

I'm sorry if that last statement has resulted in you spitting out coffee all over your PC or Mac... but its true... this materialist and lover of beautifully designed things is looking at how he can simplify his life. Ideas like intentionality, creating stuff, taking digital sabbaths, being grateful and even getting and being organised do resonate with me... so I'm going to give it a go... or should I say I am giving it a go and have been doing so for a wee while now. We'll see where it takes me.

Another thing that caught my attention with what JD is doing is his "copyright"... and I quote:
"This manifesto is Uncopyrighted. Its author, Jonathan Blundell, has released all claims on copyright and has put all the content of this manifesto into the public domain.

No permission is needed to copy, distribute, or modify the content of this manifesto. Credit is appreciated but not required."
I like that!

Go here to download the manifesto... and come with me on this journey.


Visual Inspiration :: Montague Projects


My thanks to my adventure is your advantage for the heads-up to this fantastic collection of inspiring visuals from ullian Montague :: His Flickr stream (Montague Projects) is full to the brim with visually interesting book covers, album covers and posters. Well worth a donder through.



Collateral Architectures


Saturday, January 15, 2011

A photosafari to the SECC in Glasgow

140111_ towards the SECC #2

I had the pleasure of the company of three of my photogeek colleagues yesterday... when we took a wee trip to the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre in Glasgow for a photosafari.

There is so much to see there... the walkway... the Armadillo... and Clydeport Crane and the Squinty Bridge over the Clyde. Would love to go back... my lens had an awful smudge on it that I only noticed half-way into the shoot. I've had to bin some pics or crop them to get rid of it... which is sad on one hand and, on the other, has led to some fantastic abstractions which I am very happy with.

140111_ the Armadillo #4

140111_ the Armadillo #2

140111_ the Clydeport crane & Squinty Bridge #1

The rest of the set are available here.


Saddened by the passing of Trish Keenan from Broadcast

Broadcast 1

I've seen Broadcast play live five times in various locations in Glasgow and Edinburgh. They were... at one point... my favourite "must see" live band. I have great memories from these gigs... they were from a different time with dear friends who I have now lost contact with.

As such... I was filled with sadness when I heard that the voice and mainstay of Broadcast - Trish Keenan - had passed away due to pneumonia yesterday. Hers was a unique voice that added to a unique sound... and I will sorely miss her. I had always dreamt of seeing them live one last time... to emerse myself in their wonderful 60's inspired soundscapes and visuals.

The world has lost a truly gifted and talented woman. My thoughts go out to those she has left behind.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Seven questions... with Matt Stevens

Matt Stevens is a chap who inspires me. He consistently makes great music and he builds community through the tireless work he does on spaces like Twitter and through the webcast concerts he facilitates on the CafeNoodle site - if anyone deserves the title of Social Media *expert* then he does... albeit he is too modest to call himself that. His inclusivity is a breath of fresh air and his approach to music gives me hope for the future. It was him, afterall, who introduced me to bandcamp.

Thanks Matt!



1) Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Matt Stevens - I'm a musician and I use a sampler and a guitar to make music and I also play in a band called the Fierce And The Dead and I do bits and bobs of social media "stuff".

2) What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on my 3rd solo album will be out later this year or early 2012. I'm also getting the debut album by the band I play in ready called The Fierce And The Dead. The band stuff is kind of epic guitar soundtrack stuff and my solo album seems to be more instrumental rock but I'm not sure yet. I just played on a track on Jessica Grace's new album with Seb Roachford from Polar Bear and Kev who produced my solo stuff, I don't think I'm a very good "session player" thou. I only really do my sound. I also played on the Yonks stuff with Lextrical. Blimey.

3) Who inspires you?

- Name an artist who has inspired you.

An artist that inspires me - Bob Mould - From Husker Du to Solo to Sugar - brilliant songwriter!

- Name place that has inspired you.

The place that inspires me is Rushden where I grew up - most of my music is a soundtrack to that place. Spencer Park which is a song off that album is a place there and a song on Relic is called Rushden Fair. Its actually quite grim but it all seeps into your head.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.

A thing that inspires me is Twitter - i use it to talk to and get feedback from my audience. It keeps you sane when you're a solo person!

4) What drives you to do what you do?

I suppose I want to hear new sounds. Its like that thing in Doctor Who with the Master and he says he can hear the drumming. Thats what its like - the music is in my head and i need to get it out! I don't know how it gets in there thou. Its almost like I have no choice. I think coming from a place like Rushden drives you as well because its very much a case being pushed to follow what everyone else is doing and I didn't want to do that, I wanted to do something creative.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?

Honest and Integrity. Music thats real and done because of the love of creating it. When I'm recording I can't wait to hear the finished product, then once i've heard it i want to move off somewhere else.

6) What role does community play in what you do?

Community is essential to me because my stuff is part of an ongoing conversation between myself and the audience. I feel incredibly lucky to have that audience. I never really expected that but I'm really happy people have discovered the music. I've made some great friends, the reception for the last album I did was amazing, far beyond anything I expected.

7) What is next for what you do?

Its all about the next records, my one and the Fierce And the Dead One. The solo one is the final part of the looped guitar trilogy so that will be the end of that probably. I'd like to work with other musicians to play the music on my solo stuff live, I'm hopefully doing more solo gigs later in the year. More of the Ustream streaming gigs via Cafe Noodle, I want to really look after that community. I'd like to do a video recording and live album at some point as well to round off the "acoustic guitar and loop pedal" gigs and albums. I don't want people to get bored or get bored myself. Its important to keep things fresh. I have some other ideas as well that may happen.

If I get time I'll do more with Yonks which a collaboration with my friend Lextrical who does electronic stuff. I'm writing more posts for about musicians building a following. Trying to give people honest, useful information. There will hopefully be some Fierce And The Dead gigs as well and I'd like to do something collaborative with the friends I've met online. We shall see.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Loving... Future of Forestry

Every-so-often a band really grabs me... and Future of Forestry have a hold of me right now.

I heard about them through a Facebook friend... checked them out on Spotify and then spent an Amazon voucher on their latest album (released yesterday) "a film and TV collection" and their 2007 album "Twilight".

I will write more on them later but, for now, I have embedded a few videos below to give you a taster for the band.



Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Seven questions... with Cousin Silas

The first seven question interview is with my dear friend Cousin Silas. Enjoy. Tx


1) Who are you and what do you do?

I am Cousin Silas, and I do what I like to call sound alchemy. Stripping away all the fancy names, I basically try and create moods from an audio perspective. A cliche, but music for imaginary films. Audio photographs?

2) What are you working on at the moment?

I have nothing in the pipeline, as such, but I do, when the mood takes me, drift away with the ol' Silas machine.

3) Who inspires you?

- Name an artist who has inspired you.

There are quite a few, for a variety of reasons. As I have often said before, Brian Eno and JG Ballard are perhaps the biggest inspirations. I am a massive fan of SF, especially late 50s, 60s and 70s books. The strange thing is, that it's only ever been Ballard who touched something truly special in me. Ballard was superb at creating isolation.

Other writers who have inspired include Clark Ashton Smith, HP Lovecraft, M.R. James, Brian Aldiss, and Michael Moorcock. It's almost always the landscapes they use that inspire me. Whilst I truly enjoy art by John Atkinson Grimshaw, Edward Hopper, and obviously Dali, I can't say they have inspired me, as such. Same with most musicians... there's a big difference between being inspired, and enjoyment.

- Name place that has inspired you.

There are many places that have, and do, inspire me. It's always invariably somewhere quiet, sometimes lonely, or isolated. Lincolnshire has been the source of many a piece of music. I can, though, get inspiration from Ordnance Survey maps. Tracks like Barrow Hill, Northcotes Point, Sawney Hill, Whitefield Pits, Friars Ridge and Cloudberry Moor are all taken from OS maps. And, as you well know, when a photograph captures that something special, it captures me as well.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.

See above.

4) What drives you to do what you do?

I don't honestly know. I simply enjoy creating these sound/moodscapes, it is a hobby I suppose. The added beauty is that occasionally other people enjoy the results.

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?

Not sure I want or indeed have any values to express with the music. Can you have values with instrumental music? I just like to think that the listener simply enjoys the result.

6) What role does community play in what you do?

Well... seeing as though I get inspired by isolation, desolation, abandonned landscapes/buildings, etc, etc, I would say community plays very little in what I do.

7) What is next for what you do?

I never really plan the way forward, although I want to fiddle about with my ol' guitar. I am actually more familiar with the guitar than the keyboard (chord-wise). Over the years there's been the odd piece I've done where I have thought that a subtle bit of slow lead work would blend really well. Up until about a week ago, that was only a dream. However, I think I might have cracked it. I'm not going to drench everything in guitar. I still think that the world of software synths and vst is leagues more expressive (for me) than anything a guitar could do (at my level of playing anyway).

Because I am always trying new techniques, discovering new sounds, recording, and experimenting with vst's, I think this is what keeps everything fresh and new. The spark hasn't been allowed to fizzle out yet. Plus, I only really do Silas when the mood takes me. Me and spontaneity have always got on well together, so to actually have any concrete plans for any future developments would kind of spoil it slightly. It would take away the surprises!


My thanks to Cousin Silas. His most recent album :: Complex Silence 9 - Fresh Landscapes :: is available via Treetrunk Records and details of his full discography is available here. He also features on the mixcloud from Phantom Circuit.

Come back on Thursday for the next instalment.


Seven questions... an introduction

I am going to try something new on the ol' nanolog... I'm going to explore the creative spirit through mini interviews with the artists that I am proud to know on and offline. I am proud to know musicians, designers, photographers, and writers... and I want to understand them better. I want to learn about what inspires them and what drives them... and, in doing so, do my bit to promote their art and craft.

Here are the questions I will be asking them:

1) Who are you and what do you do?
2) What are you working on at the moment?
3) Who inspires you?
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
- Name place that has inspired you.
- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
4) What drives you to do what you do?
5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
6) What role does community play in what you do?
7) What is next for what you do?

I am hoping to get content to post an interview every Tuesday and Thursday. Its an experiment... if it works (and I have a feeling it will) then fab... if it dies, so be it.

If you are reading this... and want to contribute then please do so. Send me an email and I'll see what I can do to schedule you. My only stipulation is that you keep it clean... my mother ducks in and out and I don't need *another* reason for her to shout at me ;-)

Thanks in advance.


Saturday, January 08, 2011


081011_ Pippin #3

I'm definitely a dog person... and when Pippin hurt herself earlier in the week and had trouble standing... I, along with Olly and the we'ans, was worried.

Thankfully she appears to be right-as-rain now. Which is a relief.


Some thoughts on St. Peter's Brewery > my sixth guest post by Angus Mathie

251210_ Christmas Day #7

Olly and I gave my dad a copy of St Peter's Brewery by my dear friend JD Blundell. Here's what he thought of the book...


I received this book as a Christmas 2010 present from my family and was delighted to receive the gift for, at least, two reasons:

Firstly, I had come to know and admire Jonathan through his friendship with my son and daughter-in-law, as well as the marvels of modern technology.

Secondly, the book was on my wish list and only various competing purchases had kept it out of my library. I enjoy the somethingbeautiful podcast, which allows me to listen to a wide spectrum of opinion and I expected the book to do the same for me.

Of the book itself, I think it is useful at this point to quote the storyline on the cover of the book:
“As a twenty-something living in Austin, Texas, Jimmy Gaines had it made. A great job in the tech industry, a great girlfriend, great friends and a great life. Or so he thought.
When it all came spiralling down, Jimmy quickly realized that the life he had built for himself wasn’t as great as he’d originally believed. 
Jimmy decides to run from his problems and finds sanctuary within the walls of a small pub in central Texas. It’s there that he’s ultimately forced to face the demons of his past and come to grip with true grace and forgiveness. Discover Jimmy’s slow road to fulfilment with the help of a few friends who set out to share life together through the community they’ve built around the local pub.”
I found the book immensely readable with very fluent novelist’s descriptive ability throughout. Scenes, emotions, thoughts and interweaving action are skilfully described. I read St Peter’s Brewery within 3 or 4 sessions, finding it difficult to put down. For this reason it can be read enjoyably on one level as an engrossing novel tracing Jimmy’s spiritual and physical transformation. On that basis it can be read on, for example, an air flight or for enjoyable leisure reading. However, I found it interesting and challenging on a deeper level.

The book draws on real life situations and I could readily identify the experiences of the Salvation Army couple and the trucker, in particular, and found their thoughts and involvement moving. Would I have reacted to Jimmy the way they and others did and be as open with my history? Do I display such “Good Samaritan” tendencies? Would I have Kim’s patience in dealing with someone who appeared so distrustful and cautious? Also, what do I make of a church in a pub and of the main adherents living in community?

I think the main issue I was confronted with in reading the book was to ensure I try desperately hard not to judge a person by appearances, especially as I do not walk in his or her shoes or know his or her story.

Only one thing remaining is to know the rest of Jimmy’s story.

Angus Mathie

St Peter’s Brewery, Jonathan D. Blundell, somethingbeautifulpress, ISBN 978-1442174788.

Monday, January 03, 2011

This is beautiful :: "Growing is forever" by Jesse Rosten

Growing is indeed forever.



This is cool :: "Undercity" by Andrew Wonder

Please Note
Video contains sweary words... and I don't condone the actions of the film maker or the "tour guide".

OK... with that over, please let me say that I found this video fascinating... and horrifying... in equal measure. I think Steve Duncan over at is my new fave superhero and I think what he does is amazing. Not that I could do it... I fear heights and flowing water equally... and I wouldn't be able to explain getting arrested for trespass to my wife or my mother... but he is inspirational.

Being a photographer has helped me see beyond. It has helped me to see the beauty and majesty in the ignored, in the passed-by, in the decaying and unwanted... and has given me a greater appreciation for my surroundings. I only briefly studied Art History and Graphic Design as elective... my major is Commerce... seeing shapes and appreciating my surroundings is not in my training.

People like Steve take this to a whole other level. This is why I find him inspirational.

I find him inspirational for two reasons:
(1) He sees beyond - beyond the "here and now" and the status quo... and
(2) He's prepared to take risks to see what he sees.

People like me are in his debt... because we tend not to see what he sees... and tend not to be willing to take risks.

My brief experience in urban exploration has me wanting more... albeit without heights or flowing water. Why? because I believe these forgotten spaces need documenting... they deserve to be remembered.

This is why I consider what Steve does to be important... because he is documenting spaces and places that we may have never known about.

My thanks to @kimded for the heads-up.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy New Year

Wishing you all a very blessed 2011... I hope it is filled with laughter, peace, grace, beauty and, most of all, love.

Thank you for reading... for listening and for participating in 2010. Here's to 2011.



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