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Rauoterangi [31 August 2008|11:51 pm]
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[Current Music |'Columbo' by The Verve]

Well, the fifth installment of the Desert Island playlist tournament is being held on Interference, and of course, that means another entry from me that I'll post here. I'm especially keen to record this as I think it's my best Desert Island tracklist thus far. I'm still pretty proud of my DI II, III, and IV submissions, but I rarely listen to them nowadays and skip some sections. This one, I made back in May and I still listen to it regularly in its entirety. It has remained almost unchanged since I made it, which is a feat in itself as I'm very picky with my tracklisting's content and segues, but things just fell into place quite nicely.

It wasn't necessarily meant to be a Desert Island list when I began it. Tir Nan Og by Alcest is one of the most beautiful album closers I've heard, so I decided that it would be a good idea to use it as a closer for a suitably beautiful and atmospheric playlist along DI guidelines. It's titled "Beautiful Island" in iTunes. However, this was more for my own enjoyment, and to have something pretty atmospheric to play while I write essays, as that's the kind of music that I find best for the writing process (I particularly use Pure Reason Revolution's The Dark Third frequently). As it happened, I very quickly had a set of songs and a running order that I felt was good enough not just for my own personal use, but to enter in DI V.

I've found that in many places, the atmosphere of the tracklist reminds me of home in New Zealand. Different passages quite nicely represent different emotions that I feel towards the place, from the memories and nostalgia of childhood through my mixed impressions of it when I've visited recently to the experience of sitting by the sea on a cool, sunny autumn day. Hence the Kapiti Coast-themed title and cover art.

Anyway, enough with the chatter. Here's the tracklist and links to download it. Enjoy.Collapse )
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Health, music, and transport. [26 August 2008|11:33 pm]
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[Current Music |'Hex Omega' by Opeth]

Well, good news in Axverland is that my ear infection is on the mend and I'm no longer nearly deaf. I can hear reasonably satisfactorily now, well enough to listen to music without it sounding either ridiculous, lacking in bass, or dull and lacking in dynamics. Conversations and university lectures are no longer farcical. The doctor has decided to keep me on medication for the time being, but at this stage, I've dodged any kind of unpleasant ear operation. I'm quite relieved about that, as I'm sure you can imagine.

Today was my first day at university for two weeks and it was such a relief to be back. I'd become sick of staring at the same four walls. Thanks to illness, I'd only left the house in the last couple of weeks to see the doctor or buy groceries - hardly the most enjoyable existence. There was one brief break, on the one day between the flu and the ear infection when I felt well, when I saw The Australian U2 Show in Clifton Hill with a few U2 fans I know. It was certainly a rather enjoyable night of conversation, Guinness, and a remarkably convincing and well-executed tribute band. Hell, they even did One Tree Hill in full 26 December 1989 style. Now, obviously, it's nothing like the real deal and there's a certain "thing" about tribute bands, but a fun night out is a fun night out and odds are I'll end up seeing them again fairly soon. Quite possibly Saturday the 6th, if I'm up to it after seeing Opeth on the 5th. Odds are I will be, since live music always leaves me craving more.

Now, that Opeth gig is going to be an adventure. Here I am, legally blind Nerdy Nerd McNerd with his cane, going to a progressive death metal concert. I imagine the crowd will perhaps be a bit more intense than it was for Porcupine Tree, but I'm sure it'll be a good time. And come on, I have a carbon fibre cane. Don't fuck with the guy who has a carbon fibre cane, because one carbon fibre splinter in your bloodstream will have unpleasant results for you. My biggest concern is getting home. A curse on concerts ending at 1am and the last tram running at 1:12am 3.5 blocks away! I've never really understood why they don't run trams all night - surely just a single hourly skeleton service through the wee hours would work, at least on Fridays and Saturdays. Ah well, at least there are the Nightrider buses and, if worst comes to worst, taxis.
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(no subject) [31 May 2008|11:35 pm]
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[Current Mood |geekynerdily analytical]
[Current Music |'Treasure (Whatever Happened To Pete The Chop?)' by U2]

Ah, U2, remember them? Yeah, they used to be my favourite band back in the day. Nowadays, I think almost everything they've done since 1990 other than the Passengers project should be discarded. However, the band's first three albums are being remastered with bonus discs, and since this is from the 1978-1990 era that I love, I was rather excited by the news. In particular, Boy has a lot of potential for a spectacular bonus disc. The tracklists for the bonus discs have now been announced, and I'd like to give my thoughts on them. I've researched the early years fairly heavily for U2gigs.com purposes (and dug up a lot of setlist information in the process), and in a nutshell I am considerably underwhelmed. I am still excited about the prospect of these remasters and I will undoubtedly enjoy them; I don't want to be seen as being negative for the hell of it or anything silly like that. I'd simply like to make my observations on some rather startling deficiencies.

I'll go album-by-album, inserting my comments into the tracklists.

Boy.Collapse )

October.Collapse )

War.Collapse )
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Review of Porcupine Tree live at the Palace Theatre, Melbourne, 25 April 2008 [2 May 2008|09:49 pm]
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[Current Music |'Process Paid' by Bailter Space]

It's Friday night. While everybody else is out probably doing something cool, I'm sitting here about to write some piece on the Kant-inspired democratic peace thesis. It could be worse, I suppose; I am at least going to write it while enjoying a shoegazer kick. My Bloody Valentine were always over-rated, really; Ride are where it's at if you want quality shoegazing and I would consider the Nowhere album - rather than MBV's kind of samey Loveless - to be definitive of the genre.

And, of course, I'm also reflecting on where I was a week ago. I think it's about time I put down some detailed thoughts on Porcupine Tree's concert in Melbourne.

Review of Porcupine Tree's first Australian concert.Collapse )
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Porcupine Tree live in Australia - brief thoughts and setlists [28 April 2008|01:17 am]
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[Current Music |'Buying New Soul (live)' byPorcupine Tree]

I just had the best weekend of my life. I am exhausted, my legs ache a lot, my ears are ringing, and I think I may be lightheaded from dehydration or too much headbanging or most likely both. Why?

I just saw Porcupine Tree's three Australian shows. I just saw all three of Porcupine Tree's Australian concerts from the front row. THREE OUT OF THREE. Two of those were just pure dumb luck - when a spot's free in front of you, you'd be insane to not take it, especially when you're a short and nearly legally blind guy like myself. The third, Brisbane, was very much intentional; I got there quite early in the well-placed hope that I would secure a spot on the rail.

I need to sleep and I suspect I am not entirely coherent right now, as I just got back from the Brisbane show half an hour ago, the most awesome and intense gig of the lot. I'm still in a bit of awe. That was the best gig I've ever seen. So I'm not even going to attempt lengthy thoughts or recollections. I would just like to note two of the moments that most stick in my mind. Firstly, Even Less in Brisbane! That alone made the trip worth it. Secondly, in Melbourne during Hatesong, Steven Wilson got his earpiece lodged in his ear canal! He played on like that through two songs, then finally a roadie was able to remove it with tweezers - as SW remarked, you get everything at a Porcupine Tree concert, including surgery live on stage!

Read more...Collapse )
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So This Is Permanence [1 April 2008|12:56 pm]
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[Current Music |'Dreams Burn Down' by Ride]

It's that time again. Interference is running the fourth edition of the Desert Island compilation tournament. This is the first time the full tournament has not been run by me, and frankly I'm loving not having to worry about it. It's nice to be able to just sit back, make my entry, and watch everything else proceed. My entry for the third edition was meant to be the first quarter of a quadrilogy, and I have the remaining three quarters compiled to varying extents with the second quarter - i.e. this tournament's intended entry - essentially finished. However, I just don't feel as strongly about it now. I feel something new would be more appropriate. The quadrilogy may reappear in future tournaments, but for now, here's my stand-alone submission, complete with links to download it.

So This Is Permanence.Collapse )
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(no subject) [15 March 2008|11:55 pm]
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[Current Music |'Les Iris' by Alcest]

Well, I had a very nice and very exhausting day today. This morning, I had a lovely morning tea/brunch with a group of other Melburnians with albinism. Then afterwards, harmonybear and I went trainchasing in the city. This involved a considerable degree of walking in rather warm weather, and was thoroughly worth it. There is truly something delightful in not being a lone train nerd for a change! What a good day. My legs are killing me in a way I wasn't aware they could kill me, but it was for a good cause, so I'm not complaining! Absolutely need to do that again.

I would love to post some of my three hundred and seventy photos of trams and trains, but they are all on the Mac and for reasons I am not entirely able to determine, the Internet is refusing to work on it at the moment. I've started a thread over on Whirlpool, an Australian IT forum, so hopefully the issue will be resolved. If it looks like taking a while, I'll just burn them onto a CD and copy them onto the Windows. I've a shitload of photo posts I need to make.

On a completely unrelated topic, I hadn't played Alcest's Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde in a little while, but I've put it on this evening and it's blowing me away all over again. Truly the album of 2007, despite how astonishing Porcupine Tree's Fear Of A Blank Planet is. Neige is an absolute fucking genius. Shoegazer meets positive black metal with traces of post-rock? It shouldn't work, and yet it is one of the most stunningly beautiful things I have ever heard. If I were to do a list of greatest album openers of all time, Printemps Emeraude would certainly be on it, and Tir Nan Og would appear on the equivalent list for album closers.

No full albums from 2008 have seriously captured my imagination yet, though I am highly impressed by Agalloch's EP entitled The White. It may not have an individual track of as high quality as Kneel To The Cross from the Of Stone, Wind, And Pillor EP, but its often folkish and very desolate atmosphere is stunning. The run of Pantheist/Birch White/Sowilo Rune is of the most evocative in the band's history.

Now time to go collapse from exhaustion somewhere.
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Every time I turn around, there's another silence drowning me [19 February 2008|11:52 pm]
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[Current Music |'And The Swallows Dance Above The Sun' by Porcupine Tree]

This evening, I've been reading a thread on a Dream Theater forum on the topic of realising your favourite band is not your favourite band any more, and this has sparked a number of thoughts for me. Music is possibly the most important thing in my life, even ahead of literature, my academic interests, and railways. When I wake up or study or do the dishes, I do not feel the overwhelming urge to ride a train, but you better believe I'll soon feel something is wrong if I am not listening to music. When I am watching television, the one thing that often occurs to me is that "I'm not listening to music!" As the most important thing, music is only subordinate to the most important people; only when I'm interacting with people has it never occurred to me that I could be listening to music but I'm not. So I'm sure the patterns of my musical preferences say something about me and reflect where I was at that point in my life.

It is hardly any secret that U2 are my first musical love. I grew up on their music and have always enjoyed them; the first CD I ever bought was the Best Of 1980-1990 when I was 11 and U2 were nominally my favourite band from that point on. I say nominally because I really wasn't that deeply into their music, and didn't own much of their material. Music until I was about 14 was there to be enjoyed and I had already developed the habit of religiously writing while listening to music, but it had not yet developed any serious internal significance. Around that point, however, I got more seriously into U2. My transition from casual fan into serious fan occurred swiftly in December 2002/January 2003 with the release of the Best Of 1990-2000 and my acquisition of the Under A Blood Red Sky and Rattle And Hum videos - from each, the three songs I can pinpoint as solidifying my love of the band are Gone, 11 O'clock Tick Tock, and Bad (so much for the theories on Interference that casual fans won't get fully into U2 unless they're bashed around the head with Where The Streets Have No Name, One, and Beautiful Day for the 1,000th time). I very quickly became deeply into the band, trading bootlegs and becoming an expert on setlists. I still draw endless fascination in the band's setlists and, despite my changing musical tastes, I find working on U2VT to be one of the most satisfying things I have ever done.

However, in late 2005, I started to feel that perhaps I didn't like U2 as much as I did. I was so excited by the prospect of U2's first tour of Australia since 1998, and yet by January 2006, my desire to listen to their music had plummeted. In mid-December 2005, the plays of U2 on my last.fm registered in the hundreds per week. By mid-January 2006, they struggled to break the 40s and have almost never passed 100 since. Just reaching my top ten weekly artists has been an achievement for the last year. Their music, on the whole, just does not resonate with me any more in the ways it once did. I tend to associate U2 with a happier time of my life and some youthful idealism now replaced by a disappointed cynicism and a lack of expectations. I should be clear here and say that The Unforgettable Fire, with all of its beautiful atmospheric soundscapes, remains my favourite album and the 26 December 1989 performance of One Tree Hill is my favourite song. But so much after the end of the Lovetown Tour in January 1990 leaves me feeling empty, especially the superficial and simplistic material the band has produced this decade. I wish they had never written One; yes, I wish the song that saved the Berlin recording sessions and by extension kept the band together had never happened, and not simply because it is a terrible song. If they had split up and left their eighties material as their legacy, they would undoubtedly still be my favourite band. But no band can be my favourite when I wouldn't save half their discography in a fire.

So U2 from the start of 2006 returned to being a nominal favourite. I remember around March and April 2006 I briefly considered Dream Theater to be my favourite band, but there wasn't much passion or enthusiasm behind that. They were definitely a top three band for me at the time, but favourite? No, and as the U2 tour in November 2006 drew closer, U2 had at least some of the trappings of being the favourite for me. I had incredible fun at the concerts and I would do it again in a heartbeat - there is something about U2 concerts that is very hard to describe, but it makes them an immensely enjoyable and rewarding experience. However, not even the tour could reignite my declining love of the band. My top three bands at the end of 2006 were Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, and U2, but none was a distinct favourite.

Early in 2007, I thought Dream Theater were starting to emerge as my new favourite. The anticipation I felt for their impending new album, Systematic Chaos, reminded me of awaiting U2's How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb in the midst of my U2 obsession in 2004. Then two very significant things happened. Firstly, Porcupine Tree released Fear Of A Blank Planet in April and absolutely blew me away. I gave their back catalogue more love too; I began spending time exploring parts that I had neglected and discovered more of the same brilliance. Secondly and most crucially, Systematic Chaos leaked in May. Without a doubt, this is one of the worst albums I have ever heard by any band even approaching half-decent. I have never felt so disappointed or so letdown by any album; I could not believe as I played it for the first time that not one track appealled to me, and that I even vehemently hated some songs in a way I didn't think possible. That one album irreversibly soured Dream Theater for me, and helped highlight just how bad the two preceding albums are too. I still love their 1989-1997 material and that keeps them in my top ten bands, but they are nowhere near the top.

Ever since then, Porcupine Tree have risen sharply in prominence. I'm sure those most acquianted with my tastes are probably surprised they weren't my clear favourite earlier. But by June 2007 I was closely following their setlists, and even songs I didn't love so much initially are now strong favourites. That stands in stark contrast to every other band I've ever been fond of, where those songs I've initially not liked so much have tended to just slide further. Porcupine Tree's music does everything I want music to do, and best of all, it's consistent - there are no albums or songs that I hate. I've even got a strong fondness for some of On The Sunday Of Life and other early releases full of bizarre experimental music. Certainly at this point of my life, Porcupine Tree speaks to me, and has done so in other phases too. I keep wondering if I will be one of those people who ends up with one predominant musical love, or if I will continue to slowly but surely move between bands. I know I will always return to U2 as my first musical love, and Porcupine Tree as the band who opened me up to so much more, but I see some people who have loved Dream Theater as their favourite for 15 years, U2 for 25 years, Rush for 35 years, and in light of Porcupine Tree's clear rise to dominance in my current tastes, I have to ask myself: so, Axver, how long will this last?
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Review of Explosions In The Sky supported by El May and Eluvium, 16 February 2008, Melbourne [17 February 2008|11:57 pm]
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[Current Mood |goodgood]
[Current Music |'How Could I?' by Cynic]

If I had to describe last night's concert in just two words, they would be 'fantastic' and 'intense'. If you ever have the chance to see Explosions In The Sky, I would very strongly urge you to see them. I have never seen a band so intently pour themselves into their music. The opening acts, El May and Eluvium, were both also very good.

My full review.Collapse )
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The moon is up and over One Tree Hill [16 February 2008|07:00 pm]
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[Current Music |'Welcome, Ghosts' by Explosions In The Sky]

Just a quick post today, mainly for the U2 fans on my friends list. I've already posted that when I visited New Zealand for my 21st birthday last month, my uncle gave me a framed One Tree Hill single. I've finally gotten around to photographing the thing, so here are some pictures. Some very bad pictures! Trying to avoid glare was just about impossible and I'm simply a poor photographer. One Tree Hill, as is no secret, is my favourite U2 song and is named after an extinct volcanic peak in Auckland. As for the single itself, it comes from my uncle's collection - back when it was issued, he bought thirty. I have one of them already, plus this one, while he still has the other 28; as the single was only issued in New Zealand, it's actually worth a fair bit now.

Pictures.Collapse )

Anyhow, I have a gig to attend. Have a good one, everybody!
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