Week from Monday 4th December 2006

...And how quickly it all falls together, now that I have all the parts of the jigsaw to play with! By Monday, I've probably got half of the album finished already! I'm particularly chuffed with the cut-up 'scat' vocal I constructed to go over one of the 'jazz' piano tracks, which now looks like it'll be the last track on the album proper (before the obligatory 'secret' 'bonus' track, of course). By the middle of the week, I have what looks like a finished album before me and I can do a 'test pressing', so that SHELFY can hear what I've done to his 'art'. I also wish to subject the album to WalkPerson headphone listening on the bus home, the standard test for ANY new seedydisk.

On a whim, I bought the DVD reissue of PAGE & PLANT's "No Quarter/UnLedded" video, mainly because IT WAS THERE. I was astonished - it's the best digital re-mastering job I've yet come across... ever... at all! The picture quality is pin-sharp, bordering on the "High-Definition", even on my tiny little CRT screen (I suppose it helps if the ORIGINAL video was of the best digital technology that money could buy in the mid-90s). And the sound is amazing; even if you don't have the Dobly Five-One gubbins, it's better even than the original CD for clarity and depth.

Actually, I'm STILL not convinced, from what I've heard demonstrated, that Dolby 5.1 is a particularly  MUSICAL medium. It's highly suited to reproducing Hollywood's loudest explosions and earthquakes - fine if you want your living room to sound like the local multiplex. But to these [admittedly compromised] ears, MUSICAL performance sounds boomy and Wembley Arena-like, not MY idea of comfortable listening at all. Still, each to his own...

The CD re-issue of IKE WILLIS' 1988 solo album "Should'a Gone Before I Left", which has long been a fave, just landed on my doorstep. But I've been so busy this week, what with 'real' work and finishing(?) our OWN album, that I haven't had time to listen to OTHER PEOPLE's music!

Week from Monday 11th December 2006

Dear BBC 6Music... As a PIECE OF RADIO, the FREAK ZONE 'live' party was a dismal failure. However much of a good time the audient 'Children Of The Zone' (those who were actually present in Birmingham, sometime last week) appeared to be having, that did not make it fun listening for those of us at home. The choice of recorded music was SAFE, a kind of "Freak Zone's Greatest Hits" playlist. The "Radio One Roadshow"-esque ambience was unbearably naff. The live bands (ZX SPECTRUM ORCHESTRA and MISTY'S BIG ADVENTURE) I found to be unlistenable - and I don't care if one of the Misty's HAS got a dad who was in GENTLE GIANT, they still don't deserve my attention! JUSTIN SPEAR's "University of the Strange" spot (on SERGE GAINSBOURG - How much effort did THAT involve, Justin?) was even more incoherent and uninformative than usual. The word 'DULL' is not one I thought I could apply to this usually fine show, but this week's programme was just that. After a while, I decided that a couple of "FUTURAMA" repeats would be a preferable option.

This week, my reading habits alternate between the earthy realism of CHARLES HIGSON's blackly-comic crime capers and the art-deco splendour of  P.G. WODEHOUSE's boisterous yarns.

The weather has been positively SCANDINAVIAN! We're lucky if we get more than a couple of hours of proper daylight in a day - even the geese have gone home to bed before four in the afternoon!

Now I will DEFINITELY be thanking Computer Music magazine for all the FREE COVERDISK STUFF which "made this album possible", when I come to finalise the sleeve notes for our new project(s). The January edition of said periodical comes with another new MAGIX upgrade, this time in the shape of 'Music Maker 12 Silver'. And very pretty it looks too (very MAC-like, if you ask me!), with some useful 'new' features, as well as all the old ones I've come to adore...

Week from Monday 18th December 2006

For the first Sunday since the heat of summer, the weather was such that I could take an early morning stroll to the car boot sale. The WALK, with the sun a-glistening 'pon sweet morning dew, my podphones a-tuned to the MAHLER folder, WAS THE THING. As for the car boot sale itself, I needn't really have bothered! What 'traders' there were (and there were few) had little to offer but their PRE-XMAS CLEAROUT crud that even e-Bay wouldn't touch. Zero was my compulsion to purchase.

SHELFY popped into the office, bringing Xmas Felicitations, and I gave him the 'test pressing' of "TALES FROM THE WINGED EYEBALL" to take home and evaluate. He seemed suitably impressed by the bits that I played him. I also wanted him to take away the cover artwork to put his own spin on things, but he didn't have any 'portable media' with him.

Having tried out Magix's "Music Maker 12 Silver" for a few days, I've decided, in the end, to stick with the older version (2005 Silver) I have been using recently with much success. Although I love the LOOK of Version 12, it suffers from the problem that effects all 'new' PC software, in that it makes unnecessary extra demands on the system hardware for the same degree of functionality - Bottom line: Every time they bring out a new piece of software, you need a new computer to run it on! On my computer, MM12 doesn't feel as 'comfortable' to use, less INTUITIVE. Simple drag 'n' drop functions seem much slower because they're being held back by the pretty [but graphics-memory-hogging] new skins. With four audio tracks running simultaneously, each with multiple effects, there was some horrible sound distortion, as the soundcard didn't have enough memory to play with. There seems to be more 'unsupported' or disabled features in this 'silver' version than there were in previous free editions (Now look who's being MR PICKY?!). Although some of the new features are a boon - a nice big SMPTE-style timer for once... and the new VIDEO TITLER is nice, but I would probably never need it - some tools I'd grown to love from earlier versions aren't there anymore. I also prefer the look and feel of my current mixer and 'effects rack' to the rather sombre new ones. So sorry, Herr MAGIX... I love yer stuff but, on balance, MM12 is not for me. After all, I've just completed several CD's-worth of delightful music with my existing set-up, so why change now?

SHELFY's verdict, having given the 'test pressing' of the new album the full HEADPHONE EVALUATION EXPERIENCE SCENARIO, was that "it's the best thing we've ever done". Just don't let Sniltweasel hear you say that! Only one of the tracks required a little tweaking, as the GRAND PROFUNDITY of his prose was lost in the mix in certain places. This time, he DID take away the artwork to add his finishing touches... Shelfy has suggested that our next project should involve the songs of NORRIE PARKER'S RAINBOW CHILDREN. I'm all for that, as long as it doesn't get too 'ENGLISH FOLKLORE' ("A Lore Which Should Have Been Repealed Years Ago" - yes, I had to get THAT one in somewhere!). I suggest that Shelfy listens to the ZODIAC "COSMIC SOUNDS" album for inspiration.

Well that's it for this year. Now I have to go and eat figs.

THE XMAS LIST: Well, I saw most of it through a haze of INFLUENZA... A couple of "STAR TREK" movies ("Vere do zey keep der nukular wessels?") and a couple of "STAR WARS" with director's commentary... Quite a lot of MONTY PYTHON (and Python-related)... THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF BRENT's "The Messiah" and "The Complete Story of The Mona Lisa"... A 'CRAZE' for ERIK SATIE (yes, that brassy bit in "PARADE" does sound like "Postman Pat"!)... A big volume of PG WODEHOUSE... The last of WOMAD 2006... The "FREAK ZONE" Xmas Special (of which I tired after about twenty minutes - Sorry, but I draw the line at ye folky Shirley Collins singing Christmas carols!)... "NAQOYQATSI"... More than enough SIMPSONS and FUTURAMA... Introducing my 'ALL-NEW XMAS HOT TUNA SLOPPY JOE TOASTED SANDWICH'... Boxing Day at the cash'n'carry... "PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN"... A Wednesday afternoon in Southampton... TINTIN cartoons dubbed into CANADIAN... "The SECRET POLICEMAN'S BALL In The Hall"...