Happy new near!

Well, it’s that time again. We have all made another trip around the sun and the behemoth of 2013 is staring us in the face. While most of you read this I suppose it’s nighttime, which is a little odd to countenance right now since it isn’t even midday in Uganda yet. 2012 has been a really big year for me. I finally got off my ass and started the one tertiary degree I always wanted to do, but that did mean I got on a six hour per week commute to Invercargill and back. It’s absolutely been worth it though! I have learned a whole lot more about the world of audio than I knew previously, and I have had to develop more confidence in my ability to do anything important, since I ended up in positions that had some real responsibility attached! I have made some great friends down south too, you all know who you are, thanks for putting up with all the bad jokes. I produced a bunch of material for my outer sound moniker, Blood Turbine, this year. I haven’t uploaded all of it, but I feel like it’s all a good start to get that experimental aspect of my music creation working well. I also learned a lot more about the complications of wearing in-ear headphones. The ears are weird things and they don’t seem to stay the same from day-to-day, or even hour to hour! Those trusty House of Marley in-ears have still stuck by me throughout the epic commutes and the walks around town, I still highly recommend them.

The music of 2012 has been excellent! Releases from The Divine Fits, Poliça, Tame Impala, Clark, Andrew Bird and many many more have made the soundtrack to my year (which you can find further down the blog.) It’s been interesting to listen to them with the ears BAP has given me, I don’t know exactly what the tutors have done to me, but I can hear the stereo imaging (or lack thereof) in every song I listen to now, and it’s not going to be the same ever again.

You wouldn’t believe it to look at me right now (screw you, African diet!) but I lost a ton of weight and did a ton of exercise this year, which gives me hope for next year that I can work off what I’ve had to eat over here (it’s a high-carb diet in a stinking hot country, enough said.) On a diet tip, though, I have learned the benefits of moderation (in some respects.)

Spiritually I have grown a bit (objectively). I guess I’ve had to with all the challenges I’ve faced this year. I still don’t think I’m that great a person, but Philipians 1:6 combined with the very near-deadly mishap I had on my bike this month make me think God isn’t done working on me yet.

So what of the future?

I don’t make resolutions. I find I can disappoint myself easily enough without setting them. I will be going back to the Deep South within a couple of days of touching back down in New Zealand. I don’t know exactly where I’ll be living yet, but thanks to the wonders of mobile Internet can organise that from abroad. Second year BAP is notoriously difficult, so I’m hoping I can knuckle down and work as much as I did last year, if not more.
I’m hoping to do more work on my other musical monikers. Now that Audiobus has finally been released (I have been waiting all year!) I feel like I can achieve a lot more of the work I hear in my mind using just my trusty iPad. I’ll definitely be exercising more. Now that I know a little more about how to maintain my mountain bike I may be able to afford more cycling next year, and I’m eagerly awaiting season 2 of Zombies, Run! Even though I’ve still got about 30km of missions left in season 1. Music is looking promising in 2013 too. I’ve got Minuit’s new album (released on the 21st) to look forward to, as well as the latest release from my favourite electronic producer Lusine, which will be delivered to my inbox the day we arrive back in New Zealand! I don’t anticipate a ton of new releases that I’ll really get into, but that’s ok because I have about 200 albums queued up on Spotify to play through.

Ok, I should probably wrap this up and get over to lunch now, but I just want to thank everyone for all they’ve been this year and pray an extrapolated version of what I usually pray in the morning, that 2013 goes better than 2012 did, and that 2014 is even better again.

See you (in person) in February.

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My band of the year 2012: POLIÇA

Sometimes you have to go looking really hard for a new artist that stands out and even then you have to wade through some of the dross that bands use to earn some kind of notoriety. Weirdly enough though, this band fell into my ears while I was watching TV and they stand out by using what are arguably the scourges of popular music, but in a way that doesn’t make you want to throw rotten fruit at them.

I was watching CSI: Miami late in 2011 and the closing song of the episode caught my attention so that I played through the segemnt three or four times while Soundhound tried to pick up what this strange blend of enectronics and acoustics was. The answer it gave me was Amongster by a band called Polica.

As vocalist Channy Leaneagh’s previous band collapsed, along with her marriage, she started working in Ryan Olson’s project Gyangs. After a while, Olson suggested to her (in an encouraging manner) that she should form a new band. He helped her in this process by finding musicians and handing her some sketches to try out. It all sounds a bit X-Factor but they are unspeakibly genuine. Maybe because Ryan Olson’s running the show, maybe because Leaneagh’s lyrics have depth, meaning and an overarching story.

What doubly beggars belief is the band’s arrangement. Polica consists of two acoustic drummers, one bass player, Olson’s beats and Channy’s vocals, which are sent exclusively through a TC Helicon 5 vocal processor. That’s right, all the vocals on Polica’s debut album Give You The Ghost are autotuned and you know what? Here, with this band, that works. It’s not to say Leaneagh can’t sing, hell no, this isn’t another Rebecca Black story. She has a vocal quality I would describe as bewitching, I have not come across a pop singer who so accurately fits the term chanteuse before, but it really does suit. You know what else? Those two drummers don’t ever fight for space in the music, call it good arrangement, call it good mixing, but they work. You don’t miss the presence of a guitar either, the relatively sparse arrangement is all the band needs.

I will be watching Polica with great interest indeed.

 

…and that’s all for this year’s Stuff on the Year. I’m off on an overseas trip for a couple of months. I may blog a bit more on here over that period, but if you’re interested in what we’ll be up to, hit up http://funnyplace.posterous.com/

 

Overlook of the Year 2012: GusGus – ‘Arabian Horse’

With all the new music that comes my way throughout the years, I often miss a release or two. This year I discovered that I’d completely missed an album from Icelandic synth-pornographers GusGus. The last I’d heard from them was 2009’s 24/7. A six-track album oozing with pheremonic, sexual basslines, lovingly unhinged modular synth noodlings and beats that get you moving. What I didn’t realise was that in 2011 they released a new album on Kompakt. Here’s a 20-minute taster courtesy of KEXP

Tracklist:

Selfoss

Arabian Horse

Over

 

The new album is 11 tracks long, and while still sounding like a GusGus record takes a more anthemic turn than 24/7. The hooks are infectious, the synth pads take on that hazy quality I like so much and the beats are solid in the same way a block of chocolate is solid. Not so hard they would injur you if thrown at you, but not so soft that Arabian Horse becomes a chillout record. If German modular synth manufacturers Doepfer need brand representitives they don’t need to look too far. Female vocalist Earth returns to sing on a couple of tracks (she hasn’t been on a GusGus record since 2006’s Forever.) while Daniel August Haraldsson has lost none of that androgenously awesome voice (seriously, I used to think his parts were sung by a woman before I actually saw him singing them.) It’s hard to pick any standout tracks because the whole album is of a really high calibre, but I would have to pick Selfoss as 2011’s best opening track ever, Deep Inside for combining that compound time with those pads, and Benched for a low-end that what it’s like to have tiny mining equipment drilling through your eardrums and ossicles.

As with all the recent GusGus albums, Arabian Horse is a serious keeper and I simply can’t believe I missed this last year!

My album of the Year 2012 is…

Music has been as big a part of my life as ever in 2012 and a number of new albums that took my fancy were released this year. Albums from School of Seven Bells, Andrew Bird, Jack White and Alt-J were all excellent listens in theit own way, but for me one album stood out. It’s interesting that I seem to be the only person who likes this album, as other critics and fans say it isn’t the artist’s best work, but I feel like this album – in it’s brevity- is complete and wholly engaging.

 

My album of the year is Clark’s Iradelphic.

This is electronic music as people who have studied electronic music know it. Wonderous and captivating, varied but consistant. The whole album deserves a listen on a hot summer day at the bach (or the crib, or the holiday home, or the camping ground.) There are smooth, hazy blends of guitar and synth, drums that feel programmed, but programmed by a musician instead of,say, a rocket scientist. The vocals lend a slightly twee Belle-and-Sebastian vibe to tracks like Open and Secret, and instruments that morph from their original form into a fluid state of synthesis and re-synthesis. Boards of Canada fans should try a listen if they’re feeling nostalgic (Clark is a labelmate of theirs on Warp Records) and if the 12-track album isn’t enough for you there is an extra disc of material available called Fantasm Planes which was released during our spring. Not only that but Clark and Warp have put some of the outtakes from the Iradelphic sessions up for people to download!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my album of the year 2012

Mix of the Year 2012: Otto Von Schirach

I’ve listened to a few DJ mixes this year, but Miami’s Otto Von Schirach scores the highest points for sheer eclecticism with this podcast mix he performed for electronic music magazine/website ‘XLR8R.’ (Pronounced ‘accelerator.’)

I’ve never been so entertained by a song about incontinence in my life, nor have I ever heard a speedcore version of ‘Eine Kleine Nichtmusik’, a version that wouldn’t be out of place in an 8-bit zombie FPS.

To access the mix, click the following link. To digest it, take a good two or three listens.
http://www.xlr8r.com/podcast/2012/08/otto-von-schirach

My podcast of the year 2012: Pensado’s Place.

For 40 weeks this year I spent a total of six hours on the bus between Dunedin and Invercargill. There’s too much road noise to properly listen to music on a bus, so I passed the trips with audiobooks and podcasts. I already have a swathe of tech news, courtesy of http://twit.tv/ but owing to the nature of my degree I wanted something more focused on the world of professional audio. I typed ‘Audio Engineering’ into Downcast’s search engine and found these guys:

Dave Pensado is a renowned mix engineer based in California. He’s been in the audio industry for what seems like ages and has worked on tracks by Christian Agulera, Elton John, Beyonce, even the late great M.J. He has a wealth of experience to share himself, but normally he takes more of a back seat, interviewing other audio engineers, producers and musicians, getting into detail about their work, their experiences and their weapons of choice in the studio or live.

I’ve found Dave, Herb and Will have put together a great source of knowledge for any aspiring audio engineers, producers and musicians and would absolutely recommend this podcast to anyone wanting to learn more about the world of professional audio.

 

…just don’t watch the video version in a moving vehicle, stick to the audio version for that.

My game of the year 2012: You probably already know what it is.

I got into augmented reality games in a big way this year. I’m fascinated by the intersection of the digital world and the physical world and have been impressed at how developers have created other realms that really take off with a little imagination. The added bonus of getting a couch-potatoid figure like me out and about has really paid off too!

My runners-up for game of the year were:

‘Dimensions’ by RjDj

 

I often play this one when I’m in the supermarket or when my flatmates are having a party and I’m trying to sleep. I don’t know exactly how RjDj have managed to warp all the incoming audio from the outside world into the alternate-dimension sounds that come through my headset, but I’d sure like to know!

( http://dimensions.rjdj.me/ )

 

Coderunner by RocketChicken Interactive

In this Orwellian ‘Enemy of the State’-style game you are thrust into the world of espionage, cyber-warfare and blackmail. Dead-drops are set at real-world locations (not just ones provided by foursquare either) and venues listed online are used as destinations in the game. The story is well-acted out and if you take it one mission at a time will keep you going for a while. You can play the whole thing in two hours if you have nothing better to do, but you better make sure you have plenty of battery power left. I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode of this series.

http://www.coderunnergame.com/ )

Ok, those were my runners-up, now for my winner. If you’ve been keeping up with anything I’ve been up to this year then it should come as no surprise to you that my game of the year for 2012 is…

https://www.zombiesrungame.com )

Let me give you a little background.

This is me (the one on the left) about this time last year:

Boombah

I was tipping the sacles at 107 kg. Gabriel Iglaceas would have called me ‘big.’ Not ideal at all. I was cycling as regularly as Dunedin weather allows, but I didn’t seem to be getting any smaller. In the autumn, while I was studying in Invercargill I came across an episode of the late, great AppJudgement show where they talked about this running game where you had to complete missions in a zombie apocalypse. Now, I don’t like zombies. I talk a mean game when it comes to 28 Weeks Later… but I don’t like the walking dead (or The Walking Dead, for that matter) but I decided I was willing to give this a go and see if running through queens gardens late at night in a state of abject terror would make me any smaller.

According to Weightbot, it did.

Granted I did cut bread out of my diet as well, but over the ~6 months I’ve been playing this game I have dropped around 15 kilos and am now sitting on 91.5. 

 

Ok, aside from the psuedo-miraculous weight-loss story this is a great great game. There’s a ton of gameplay to be had (I’m still not finished season 1 and I probably won’t be before season 2 drops) and the audio-centric storyline is awesome, especially when you’re out in the middle of a starless winter night, running down a dimly-lit path in the town domain and even the crackle of your ‘comms’ bursting into life gives you a mild fright. I’m not sure if it was just me of if runs actually got longer the more often I played concurrently, but I approve.

The added mechanics of the game are based around the supplies you collect on your runs and how you distribute them, as well as sharing your run stats and maps via ZombieLink. The app is a suprisingly full-featured run tracker.

Now that I’m back in Dunedin for a bit I’ve taken a break from the running over summer, getting back to my cycling instead, but I’ll be right back on it once I’m down south again.

 

Who knows, I might even hit 90kg.