Sunday, July 31, 2011
Tomorrow is the first of August and I am trying desperately to cling to the memory of my holiday to Jesolo and especially the day we spent in Venice. As such, August's calendar displays the wonder, grandeur and decay of Venice. It will help me to remember and, I hope, inspire you to visit the city and fall in love with her as I have.
As before... the usual flavours are included below... with a new one: iPhone without calendar.
iPhone with calendar -- and -- iPhone without calendar
My sincere thanks to JD Blundell... who forwarded me these instructions on how to jailbreak your Kindle. It works and I've been able to replace Emily Dickinson with some pics of my wife, my family and even "August 2011's wallpaper":
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Another way I discover music is when friends on twitter tweet about music they've discovered. I really like the feature on Bandcamp where you can announce to your timeline that you've just downloaded an album from the site. When I see that... I check it out.
It was in this manner that I discovered ’cross mountain’ by The Smallest Bones... a five-track EP of the most delicious acoustic guitar-led melodies. The Smallest Bones is an instrumental side project of another netlabel face of mine - Julia Kotowski aka Entertainment for the Braindead.
Hers is a wall-of-sound aesthetic... with each track underpinned by the most vibrant field-recordings... the opening track ’wear a warm coat’ refers to, what sounds like, a French cafe... whereas ’a ghost in the kitchen’ sounds like it was recorded in a garden space with the most vibrant birdsong.
The bandcamp page describe the noises you hear and where each field-recording was made:
- a street musician (Alexanderplatz)
- a train ride (Neukölln),
- a yard door (Kreuzberg),
- a parrot through a closed flat door (Flughafenstraße),
- a rattling ventilation fan at (Multilayerladen, Kottbusser Tor)
- old bikes in a backyard (Südstern), and
- an early bird (Hasenheide).
I guess I wasn't ’that’ far off with the Parisian cafe vibe... albeit in a different country.
As the EP progresses you hear new instrumentation that compliments the sound: subtle electric guitars... glockenspiel-led percussion... distorted feedback in the ending of ’you are not (always) alone’ or Kotowski's ethereal female vocals that enhance the final track ’hands in my pockets, I walk home’ and bring the EP to a delightful and joyous conclusion.
I would heartily recommend this EP and look forward to hearing more from Kotowski’s side project... it’s my kind of wonderful!
Amazingly a free download from http://thesmallestbones.bandcamp.com/ ... listen to it below:
Thursday, July 28, 2011
I am proud to call freelance photographer Marc de Ridder a friend. I consider him a source of inspiration for my photography and I am grateful that he has mentored me in the use of my SLRs and in Lightroom. I caught up with him in person on Wednesday and asked him my wee interview... this is what he had to say.
1) Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Marc de Ridder. I currently work as a Solutions Architect for a Bank and take photographs in my spare time, both as a hobby and as a freelance photographer. My main passions in photography are without a doubt landscape, wildlife and travel.
2) What are you working on at the moment?
Working on several photography projects at the moment.
The first one is an ongoing project. I want to create, or should I say finish, a book on La Gomera... a stunning small island west of Tenerife. It's much less touristy... no disco in town... a walkers' paradise that is visually stunning and diverse, ranging from steep cliffs plunging into the sea to steep ridges split by deep gorges to volcanic rock spouts and a laurel leaf forest often enclosed within the low clouds. My goal is to record this island visually from images taken during visits from the past twelve years.
My other project is more recent.. it is to create a portfolio of photos of swallows in flight. Lynn, my partner, and I have recently bought a cottage in West Scotland and the natural habitat that surrounds it is breathtaking. We have a couple of swallow nests and I want to capture these beautiful birds in flight. However getting great shots of them is a real challenge... compared to other animals such as my faithful whippet Lola at speed this is in a completely different league. Swallows are very hard to capture in flight and I am relishing the challenge of observing them, understanding their flight patterns and favourite perches and choosing the right time in terms of light and wind to capture them.
3) Who inspires you?
Name an artist who has inspired you.
I admire the work of a lot of current and historical photographers, famous or not, but the following four stand out for me:
- For Landscapes, it has to be Ansel Adams for his stunning black and white landscapes images.
- For Nature, Frans Lanting. I especially love his storytelling in photos... how he can take a series of photos and tell an interesting story with them, the most famous one being 'Life', a collection of nature photographs telling the story of earths evolution/creation.
- For travel, Felice Beato. His 19th century pioneering travel photography of the far east, especially China is absolutely stunning in addition to recording the time/history.
- For inspiration and stimulation, Calen Rowell. I love his writing and philosophical approach to photography as well as his mountain and nature photography.
Name place that has inspired you.
Two places that inspire me are La Gomera and the Highlands and Islands of the West of Scotland. The latter is one of the reasons why I came to live in Scotland 20-odd years ago and why I bought a cottage out in the wild west of Scotland. The former is a place where we (Lynn & I) would like to move when I retire from my day job.
Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
Let me come back to you on that one... not really into 'things' other than my Canon 5D mrk II and my collection of vintage film cameras, like my Nikon FE pictured above.
4) What drives you to do what you do?
I like to challenge myself with the things that interest me. Without a challenge, I get easily and quickly bored. I find the beauty of nature inspiring and I aim to capture the essence and my awe as best I can. Nature provide endless inspiration and challenges.
5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?
I want to capture and appreciate the nature that surrounds me. Taking pictures is my way of seeing and therefore appreciating my surroundings.
6) What role does community play in what you do?
My community helps me to learn. I share what I have created and learn from the constructive feedback I receive from trusted sources. I also learn from the approach of others and get inspiration from them.
Teaching too. Community let's me reciprocate and share with others what I have learned and give back.
7) What is next for what you do?
To try and finish my current photography projects and spend more time to develop within the category of "landscapes"... motivate myself to adopt the "early bird" discipline to enable me to capture the beauty at sunrise.
To further establish and widen my freelance photography.
Awesome, mate... thank you! Here are some of his swallows:
Marc on Flickr
Earlyguard has produced a wee snippet video to promote his upcoming release... 'a distant proximity'... which will be released on 1st August.
Today I got two rolls of 35mm film from my Minolta P's developed. I really love this camera and the pics are so delightfully expansive. I'm really happy with the output... and would invite you to look at the remainder of the set on Flickr.
35mm film is NOT dead!
I have no idea why these photos are not showing up. I can see them in Chrome on my MBP but I can't see them in Safari on my iPad. Hmmm. If you click on the space where the pic should be it will take you through to Flickr.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
One of the best ways I discover new music is through twitter. If an artist follows me and they list their bandcamp or soundcloud page in their profile, I will check it out. This is how I discovered ’You Are My Symphonic’.
’You Are My Symphonic’ aka Vishal Kassie has released an EP - ’afternoon birds of arima’ and an album - ’I found your faces of Montreal’. Both sound wonderfully fresh and alive to me... with their marriage of acoustic instrumentation (piano, acoustic guitar, strings), layers of electronic manipulation (synths, loops, programmed beats) and infrequent but poignant vocals. Their sound is simply perfect for the brief spell of summer we are currently experiencing in the West of Scotland.
’afternoon birds of arima’ is the soundtrack accompaniment to a friend's wedding and is, as such, wonderfully joyous and upbeat, laced with anticipation and a tangible sense of euphoria. The tracks are centred on piano and guitar... but feature, at times, field-recording samples of the sweetest birds’ tweeting, luscious synths and haunting female vocals (on the closing track ’rainfall in arima’). If I were Kassie’s friends I would have been over-the-moon with such a soundtrack... it is truly heartwarming.
’I found your faces of Montreal’ follows this cracking EP with a collection of vivid folktronic soundscapes. Tracks that evoke a sense of familiarity in the otherwise unfamiliar and alien... with their use of loops and beats over piano, folksy guitar and even harmonica. Kassie’s vocals are a real treat... sounding delicate and ethereal against the wall-of-sound that his tracks become.
Whilst not as instantly accessible as ’afternoon birds of arima’ due mainly to the perceived dissonance of some repetitive loops... ’I found your faces of Montreal’ is worth that wee bit extra effort... especially when you read the story of its creation (link). It grows is size and stature until it just feels right... providing, as it does, a fitting soundtrack for now.
I don’t know for how long I will have the sun... but I think this album will be with me for some considerable time to come. Recommended.
’afternoon birds of arima’ - pay what you want
’I found your faces of Montreal’ - $5 (Canadian Dollars)
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
A hypnotic video for a hypnotic track... well done to akustikfilm. I can't wait to hear the new Pandacetamol EP.
I finally got round to uploading some family pics from our break in Northern Italy. I am blessed to have such a wonderful wife and family... and these pics hopefully show something of the good times we had.
I want to go back so much!
The rest of my pics are on Flickr
Monday, July 25, 2011
This weekend, I was given the privilege to listen to a pre-release copy of the latest release from Earlyguard entitled 'a distant proximity’.
My initial reaction was a collection of drones consistent and in-keeping with the quality of his previous work... But the more I listened, the more it opened up... and became something in and of itself... a unique chapter in Earlyguard’s story.
’a distant proximity’ is about space and distance... it is about the journey or, more importantly, the time between leaving our starting point and reaching our destination... the period of travel. It doesn't have any of the euphoria of arrival... it is more about the journey itself.
Drones of electronic ambience enter the consciousness... hitting the mind like waves breaking on the shore. These drones remind me of being in a car or train... as we enter and travel through tunnels... the sound of displacement and of motion... the key elements of travel.
’a distant proximity’ has a deeply mediative quality about it. The soundscapes allow for space... and provide a gap in the busy-ness of the day to think... to dream... to contemplate... before returning to normality.
I guess this is why I see it as being like traveling... because it provides the space that only the time ’between’ spaces can provide... that combination of moving and waiting that is either valued and used, or squandered.
These are drones to be savoured, in my opinion... because they provide such a space... and, as such, they should be enjoyed and not wasted.
Free from www.earlyguard.bandcamp.com
Saturday, July 23, 2011
I really benefited from my holiday to Jesolo. I benefited from the sun... the rest... the different perspective... the food... and the ability to (re)connect with my wife and we’ans. Part of this benefit can be ascribed to the fact I was offline for 11 out of the 12 days I was in Italy.
Prior to going I thought digital fasts were the latest ’hip’ thing... a fad that people liked to throw into conversation as the latest ’something worth doing’. It seemed more hype than anything else... people online talking online about how they needed a break from being online.
That said... I was anxious about being disconnected. I’m not sure why. I guess I was fearful that I would miss out on the latest ’something’ or that I would be forgotten and lose any influence my ego thinks I might have.
But my frugality overcame this anxiety. I wasn’t prepared to spend £2 per day for 25mb of roaming data... and I couldn’t get text-to-twitter to work (and wasn’t prepared to pay for loads of text messages anyway).
In essence, the potential to know the latest ’thing’ or to have influence came at a price I wasn't willing to pay... and I am glad for that.
Instead of surfing or blogging or tweeting or ’catching up’, I read books... listened to music... and spent meaningful time with my family.
The Kindle is an awesome device and I finished three books on it and got 50% through a fourth. I also read and finished a physical copy of ’an idiot abroad’ - a book I had bought for Olly’s birthday (it's very funny btw and well recommended).
At home this would have been unheard of. Four and a half books in two weeks. I still can’t believe it.
I also listened to music for the sheer pleasure of listening to music. Not just the bleeding edge stuff I get early notice of... but the albums I consider ’classics’ that I may not always get the chance to really listen to. I could really focus on them and soak them up because my only distraction was my daughter in the pool or the need to top-up my wife’s suntan lotion.
I look back with envy at this time because those days were so uncomplicated... in comparison with how I have made my life today. I guess that's the value of a holiday... it is about escape and disconnection.
My mission now is bring regular periods of ’offline’ into my life... and, in doing so, bring my focus back.
I don’t see being ’offline’ as the cure for all my ills but I do see it as an enabler... it will give me the space to read more and spend quality time with my family.
I already need to practice being ’in the moment’ more and it will help with that... but it is more... it’s about quality rather than quantity... it's about rest making us stronger... it's about being a broader and more rounded person (and not because I will eat more).
It's about being a better me... and a better me is better for everyone. Quantity doesn't always lead to better... nor does freedom. This is about quality and discipline... about focus and intent... about being a good steward of all my resources... especially time.
I want a monk’s mind. This is my end goal. I want to be able to switch off the distractions of ’my world’ and concentrate. This is what alludes me. I am too distracted and far too easily distractible. I need to develop routines and habits that help to shape a better me.
It’s a journey... and I am just starting.
Initial ideas include an offline ’sabbath’ once a week, using my first generation iPhone as a ’dumb phone’ (ie no data = offline) for the periods I need to be offline, drinking more water, and listening to mixes whilst working (I find the silences between tracks distracting).
I also need to internalise the sentiment expressed here by Seth Godin ::
"The value of breaking news (news = whatever is new to you) is dramatically overrated, and the cost of keeping up with what someone else thinks is urgent is just too high.I'll keep you posted.
If it’s important today, it will be important tomorrow. Far more productive to do the work instead of monitoring what’s next."
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I am extremely grateful to my friend Noor for pointing out Morning's Pass EP by umber. I hadn't heard of umber prior to his email... but I am glad he let me know... for this EP is the music of my dreams.
The EP features six tracks that present deliciously expansive ambient soundscapes... filled, not just with drones, field recordings and subtle loops, but with piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and banjo (on the standout track "spark mountain" ... which reminds me of the excellent 'lowercase noises').
A couple of the tracks are underpinned by the very reserved use of percussion :: handclaps on "spark mountain" ... a distant tap on "the day we left for earth" ... a skitter of snare on "mellow drizzle" :: these percussive suggestions bring an organic warmth to the tracks... and add that something special... something soothing and somnambulistic like the motion of a train.
This is a truly great release that I thoroughly recommend. It is like the unheard soundtrack to an unseen film... my only wish is that more people get a chance to hear it.
Morning's Pass EP by umber
Sunday, July 17, 2011
My friend Wolfgang Merx has released a couple of tracks from his forthcoming album... and used a picture I submitted for his consideration. I offered a crop of this pic...
...and I am delighted that he accepted it. It looks fab.
The tracks 'live birds' and 'Slow Air (Deep Drone Remix)' are fab too... and well worth checking out. I can't wait to hear the whole album.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Whilst I haven't seen the TV show 'Rubicon'... I was very impressed with their titles after following the link with this tweet from Vimeo. The team behind it's creation have been nominated an Emmy and, from watching the titles more than once, I can understand why. Awesome work!
Simply put... I want to do what Brad Ross-McLeod has done. He has assembled 22 uniquely talented and wonderfully individual artists and asked them to provide tracks for a compilation album. This compilation - entitled 'Conception' - showcases the very best in the ambient electronic genre... and he has managed to do so in a manner that has ensured a sense of consistency and a feeling of together-ness which suggests a single cohesive whole rather than 22 separate parts.
'Conception' is a wonderful compilation of ambient electronic soundscapes that has a real depth and substance to it. It really does showcase the very best in this genre and it has become the soundtrack to my life since I was given a pre-release copy (thanks to Earlyguard for the introduction) earlier this week.
It features 22 artists and lasts 201 minutes (yes... 3 hours 21 minutes). The tracks can be played sequentially or you can shuffle them. In fact, Brad recommends you do randomise the playing order... and I can only agree with this sentiment.
Each track is self-contained but works, at a higher level, as part of the collective whole. It is a saladbowl of sound... where each element is uniquely itself (e.g. a tomato or onion) but works together to make a nourishing salad.
Whilst part of me is loathed to single any specific tracks out... because they are all so good... the other part of me would consider it amiss not to mention personal favourites: Earlyguard, Benjamin Dauer and Philip Wilkerson; who all bring their very best produce to this communal salad.
That said... the compilation has brought to my attention some new (to me) artists that I am eager to follow up on. Andrew Lahiff, Elypixa, Mooma, & Crystal Dreams; to name but a few, are truly excellent and I will be on the hunt for their work.
'Conception' was released yesterday and I would thoroughly recommend you pick it up... for free... from Free Floating Music.
- Tange – 'Psylence II'
- Earlyguard – 'Monoku'
- Bing Satellites – 'Angel of the North'
- Susperia-Electrica – 'Free Floating in Space'
- Benjamin Dauer – 'Harmony Bound'
- Andrew Lahiff – 'Further Distances'
- Elypixa – 'Birth of a Fairy'
- Mooma – 'Tachyon Lullaby'
- Igneous Flame – 'Ultramarine'
- Altus – 'An Atmosphere of Silence'
- Crystal Dreams – 'Flood (Disturbed Earth Mix)'
- Tomorrow’s Man – 'Doomsday Divine'
- Eyes Cast Down – 'Exquisite Divination of Patterns'
- Phillip Wilkerson – 'Luminous Drift'
- Steve Brand – 'Into the Current'
- Daniel Lahey – 'Being Peace'
- Boris Lelong – 'Conception'
- C.paradisi – 'Celestial'
- Lucette Bourdin – 'To The Stars'
- Burning Artist – 'BurningFreeFalling'
- Shane Morris – 'Shimmering'
- Michael Meara – 'Origination'
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Whilst walking along Via Ugo Foscolo I spotted this totally rad Fiat 500. It didn't have a roof or doors... and the "furniture" was rattan rather than the more traditional fabric or leather... but it was just so right for a place like Lido di Jesolo. I was so in awe of it that I didn't see the owner returning... and could only manage to squeak a "very nice" to him before he drove off.
He did thank me, however, which was nice. I guess he liked the fact I liked his wheels. All in... another visual treat whilst on my hols.
One thing that really caught my eye in Lido di Jesolo were the bikes... and the real acceptance of bike culture in the town. We stayed right on Via Ugo Foscolo which was a one-way street for cars/vans between the hours of 0600-2000hrs with a 24hr two-way bike lane. The road closed from 2000hrs... at which point everybody seemed to go for a walk... or cycled. The bikes really stole the show for me... albeit I was terrified to hire one... the folks who rode after 2000hrs must have had a sixth sense and a lot of patience.
Anyway... here's a collection of the best and most interesting bikes that I saw. After bike #6, I had to be a wee bit more discreet. I had a run-in with an Italian lass who, I can only guess, was wondering why I took a pic of her bike. Why she took a pic of me, no one knows.
Monday, July 11, 2011
I've spent the day relaxing (we flew in yesterday to Manchester and drove up last night) and recovering from the temperature drop (from 35 degs in Italy compared to 16 here). I did intend to do the washing... but Olly was far too prepared and my involvement has been to put clothes out then rescue them when they were dry (or when the rain came on)... so I have been processing photos and trying to catch up with stuff.
I've uploaded the pics from my iPhone. We forgot the charger for Miriam's new camera... so my iPhone tended to be the camera we had with us most. They tell the story of lazy days on the beach, by the pool or walking the main street in Lido di Jesolo. We also spent a day in Venice... but I went daft with my Nikon d60 and my Minolta P's 35mm cameras... so you've seen the iPhone photos from Venice already.
The holiday was fab. I feel rested, relaxed and ra-ra-raring to go (Franck Eggelhoffer joke). Apart from one day (the one in Venice) I was able to fast from digital media... and immerse myself in the moment with Olly and the we'ans, read (I finished 4.5 books whilst away) and really listen to music. I'll post more on these thoughts as well as some of the things that caught my eye over the next few days. I will hopefully have more pics to share too.
iPhone photos from trip to Lido di Jesolo (2011)