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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Atrium Blurew

"We come in peace!" claimed the alien rock star descending from the loft at Cat's Cradle last Tuesday night. So began the Adrian Belew Power Trio's set. Yes, that photo you see may or may not be Adrian Belew, or his alien clone--some say the aliens cannot be photographed, hence the blurriness of the image, having nothing to do with the photographer's lameness whatsoever.

I grew up with Adrian, with the '81-'84 King Crimson in particular hitting me in my adolescent musical sensibilities, though really, pretty much everyone AB has worked with is on my favorites list. He played on "Remain in Light"--it doesn't get better than that! .. and Bowie, Zappa, and so on. His autobiographical video on his website gives a pretty amazing overview of his guitar hero life so far. So it can't be said that I am much of an objective listener.

The question is: what is happening now with the power trio (currently AB + brother/sister team Eric and Julie Slick)? I imagine the Slick's will appear prominently on the forthcoming release of "Side Four", though they do not appear in the credits of "Side Three" (2006), which features bass and drum support from Les (Primus) Claypool and Danny (Tool) Carey. I will say one thing: Adrian and the Slick's are touring like mad and kickin out the jams.

They began the evening with the funkiest song in the Adrian repertoire, "Writing on the Wall" (from the album "Side One"), and played a lot of newer material, some older Belew solo stuff, and of course, a few arrangements from the 80's KC. It was great to relive "Frame By Frame" and some of the 80's era masterpieces, though I did kind of want to jump on stage and fill in on the Fripp guitar lines--as if! Toward the end it was time to let go for some crazy guitar synth improv. The aliens would be proud!

I really enjoyed chatting with Martha Belew before the show, as she shared the insights into the mayhem that is the business these days. The sense I get is that musicians everywhere, even the "big guys", are really struggling during this great transition, where the industry is in decline and we are transitioning to new, download-based distribution economy. Well friends, the revolution is here! All we've got to do is make it happen.

"I can't wait to see what happens next." - AB
"Indeed." - DO

The War on Music

I will hopefully have a "real" blog post up by the weekend, but for now, check out this article on the ongoing "loudness war" in music mastering.

The loudness war, what many audiophiles refer to as an assault on music (and ears), has been an open secret of the recording industry for nearly the past two decades and has garnered more attention in recent years as CDs have pushed the limits of loudness thanks to advances in digital technology. The “war” refers to the competition among record companies to make louder and louder albums. But the loudness war could be doing more than simply pumping up the volume and angering aficionados—it could be responsible for halting technological advances in sound quality for years to come.

To quote everyone's mom, "Turn down that music or you're going to go deaf!"
Meanwhile, the future lies in wait:

Audiophiles looking to the future for relief from overcompression see a cloudy picture. DVD-Audio and Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) are two high-fidelity formats that were thought to be solutions to the loudness war. Both formats offer not only a greater dynamic range than CD but also higher sampling rates.
DVD-Audio uses PCM encoding that can support 24-bit, 192 kHz stereo sound (contrasted with the CD's 16 bit, 44.1 kHz) yielding 144 dB of dynamic range, 14 dB over the human threshold of pain.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Allman Brothers, yep those Allman Brothers

This weekend I made it to the Allman Brothers show in Raleigh. Now, don't get me wrong, I grew up with southern rock. There was a time when I could not understand how anyone could not like Skynyrd, but having grown jaded to most "commercial" music foisted upon us by the industry, I wasn't expecting too much from this show, even though the ABs are veterans verging on senior citizens (well, the original guys anyway) of the music industry. But when you get right down to it, when a band is cranking it out on stage in front of an appreciative audience, the mind numbing sameness of the industry doesn't mean all that much. I was pretty much able to leave my avant-punk attitude at the door and have a good time.

The highlights of the night for me were the soaring lead guitar lines the Allman's specialize in. The solos pretty well rocked, though I found myself wanting more passion from the drum solo.

Of course, we were on the lawn, the only semi-affordable way to go to large shows these days. It was I think the highest concentration of hippies I have been around since my last Dead show, in 198_. Probably the highest hippies as well.

While the Allman's were in their early years in the 70's, across the pond there was a band just getting started in England named Ultravox. I saw this link in Slashdot today with Ultravox drummer Warren Cann. Ultravox were at the forefront of what we kids called New Wave. Anyway, it's a long interview and I haven't finished reading it, but I didn't want to lose the link, so you get to enjoy it too! I actually found that interview on Slashdot from a commenter on this story about the technology of They Might Be Giants. Link to the TMBG interview is here.

So there ya have it all: southern nostalgia, Brit wave, and "other". Hmm, how would you classify TMBG?

Friday, August 10, 2007

DRM Deathwatch

Today it seems Universal has gotten a clue, and will be selling unprotected MP3 files soon.

As part of its six-month DRM-free test, UMG will offer content in the MP3 format through the Web sites of a number of retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores, Best Buy, and, as well as artist and label-branded Web sites, such as and Most of the music will be available to these retailers at standard wholesale prices.

Read the article here.

Had a reasonably anonymous practice at Cafe Kado today. Unfortunately, that looks like the last gig at CK before they close.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Down With Gravity - Exposition

This Friday afternoon from 12:30-1:30 Down With Gravity - Expositions of Guitar and Gadgets - will play at Cafe Kado in Research Triangle Park (Durham), North Carolina. The cafe is located at 5311 S. Miami Blvd., across the street from Wendy's off I-40.

Down With Gravity is the name I use to describe my solo performances, that is, me, a guitar or two, a few pedals, loops, slide, an e-bow, a couple of custom cut guitar picks, and attitude. This will be my first solo performance in recent years to an unsuspecting audience of lunchtime coffee drinkers and hungry sandwich eaters. The question is: will I be able to come up with an hour of listenable material? The question for you is: will you be there to witness this potential death defying train wreck?

Cafe Kado has been in operation for not quite a year, and I recently heard that a coffee store of the huge national variety (you may have heard of them--they're on pretty much every street corner) is opening literally a couple of blocks from the cafe. So the future of Cafe Kado is very much in doubt. If for no other reason, come out to support the future of the cafe, because they truly won't be around for very long without your help.