Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Magic of Vinyl

As the cover implies: a literal explosion of funk

Ladies and gentlemen I have discovered a new hobby and that is crate digging.

Yes indeed! I got a new turntable for Christmas with the vague intent to learn enough about scratch technique to make some of my own original scratches (versus finding new ways to fake it on the computer or creative ways to re-use the same 12 decent scratch samples I've got already).

Having owned a real DJ turntable for a grand total of four days, I haven't done much, but I've discovered it's possible to get some cool sounds without really knowing what you're doing. As an instrument, it's very promising.

What I have unexpectedly discovered, is that the experience of hunting down forgotten vinyl gems and listening to them in their entirety on a good system in a chill room, perhaps with an adult beverage or two is epic. 

Is vinyl really better than CDs or downloads? I think it depends on what you mean by "better", honestly. 

Without getting too nerdily pedantic about it, all sounds are pressure waves in air. Digital audio works by sampling the wave every so often and reconstructing it as shown here.

this is pretty much how digital audio works

physical noise (record not moving)
CD's sample at 44.1 thousand times per second, which is pretty damn fast. Vinyl on the other hand is limited only by the physical limitations of the lathe which cut the disk, which is to say continuous, and by comparison virtually limitless.

I set my turntable up through my computer's audio interface, which I've got running at 96 thousand samples per second (more than twice CD resolution) and I can definitely hear a difference. In terms of resolution, vinyl wins hands down. That being said, vinyl has a ton of surface noise, scratches, pops, hisses, etc ... so in terms of clarity, it looses to CD or downloads.

Listening to vinyl is like watching ultra-high-def TV through glasses with some pits and scratches in them, but in the end that aspect is almost irrelevant.

What I mean by "irrelevant" is that vinyl records are fun in a way that CDs and downloads simply can never be. There is a physicality to getting off your derriere, braving the dustmites, mildew and recovering crackheads at a local thrift store and emerging as Indiana Jones from the jungle with hitherto unknown funky treasures to grace the shelves of your musical lair.

Not only do you get the music, but you get large format artwork, and liner notes, and on average it costs less than a dollar for a whole album! Downloading from iTunes or Amazon is a positively sterile experience. It's the difference between going to a night club and going to a dentist's office.

If like me, you are too young to actually remember the era from which this stuff originated, and at the same time, are too old to give a damn about the crapola on the radio these days, then I'm telling you: You need to check this out. You're in the sweet spot for some musical archaeology.

here is some vintage funk I acquired yesterday via the most excellent Vertical House Records down at the Flying Monkey in Huntsville. Best $5 I've spent in years!

The podcast is an uncompressed 24-bit wav file recorded at 96 KHz, but downsampled to 44.1 (otherwise it'd be huge). This is an mp3 (as close to what vinyl sounds like as I can squeeze through the intarwebz) Get out there and hear the real thing for yourself!

Bar-Kays: Attitudes

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown, Ct

I wish I had the talent and the capability to sit down today, and pour all the sadness and frustration and insanity I'm feeling into a golden song nugget to share with you all; to make an artful statement that would be meaningful.

Unfortunately I really don't, and so these words are all I've got. I intend to use them, for what little they're worth.

I suppose the truly infuriating thing about this is that it was so easy to see it coming. It's happened, over and over and over like clockwork for years. I'm sick of it. We are all sick of it. It is well beyond time for this bullshit to finally end. In case you might be suffering from short term memory loss:
  • 12/14/2012: Newtown, Ct
  • 12/11/2012: Portland, OR
  • 8/5/2012: Milwaukee, WI
  • 7/20/2012: Aurora, CO
  • 1/8/2011: Tuscon, AZ
That is just off the top of my head. The horrifying reality is that this problem is much MUCH worse than that. There have been SIXTEEN mass shootings just in 2012 alone: source.

Perversely, In the United States, it is easier to buy a gun and ammunition than it is to see a psychologist

We have a culture completely and utterly saturated with violence. We have had photo-realistic videogames which are essentially gamified military training for nearly 20 years, and they've been shockingly realistic for nearly a decade. Kids have grown up spending every spare moment simulating tactical murder. Marinate on that for a minute.

We live in a world where the vast majority of us are instantly connected to each other, about everything. We live in a world where no mistake is ever forgotten. We all do some really stupid shit in puberty, but today our children post about it on facebook, and instagram, and twitter and it never ever goes away.

It's not hard to see how this happens, and yet every damn time it does, the tonedeaf establishment shouts back about our "Second amendment rights" and "politicizing the tragedy". It's time to put an end to that nonsense response.

Regardless of this bastard's motivations, he was able to do it. He should not have been able to do it. That's the problem.

The tired old saying "guns don't kill people" is such a cop out. It's like saying "knives don't cut steak", and while this is technically true, it's the ease of which they kill people (or cut steak) that is the very point of the device.

Like almost everyone in the world, I'm just shaking my head not so much in disbelief -- we can believe it, we've seen it happen so many times before -- but more in despair. How are we ever going to slay this beast? It seems impossible.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Perigee Beat (v.2)

"the point in the orbit of an object (as a satellite) orbiting the earth that is nearest to the center of the earth; also : the point nearest a planet or a satellite (as the moon) reached by an object orbiting it."

Happy Thanksgiving. Beats are under construction and stuff. Things are happening in El Studio de la Bootyquake. Trivia: the wobble bass is this one

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Kind of World I Want to Live In

Right now, stop and ask yourself this question: "what kind of world do I want to live in?" We are writing tomorrow's history right now, all of us, together.

I want to live in a world where every damn time I turn on a tv or a radio, there's not someone coming at me with a message that tries to manipulate me by showing me some cleverly conceived way of rationalizing hate for others into love of myself and my family.

I want to live in a world that values education so much that it is freely available to everyone uniformly.

I want to live in a world that simply doesn't give a damn about anyone's personal life, because doing so would just be rude.

I want to live in a world where we can stop trying so hard to take advantage of each other (or kill each other for that matter).

I want to live in a world where I can believe tomorrow will be better than today.

For better or worse, we are all stuck down here at the bottom of this gravity well together. Every last human that ever was ... and the craziest thing about it is that there is nothing standing between us and that world. Nothing but ourselves.

And that's sort of what this song is about.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Toradol (Oruborus Mix)

we cannot stop ourselves
Toradol (Oruborous Mix) by plurgid

I started this beat back when I was in the hospital recovering from some "serious biznizz". That was almost 3 years ago, now. It's hard to believe it's been that long; the whole episode has cast such a long shadow.

I'd brought my laptop and a tiny little midi controller and I was doodling around trying to keep my mind off the "biznizz" at hand.

I was on some industrial strength pain medication.

Several, actually, but eventually the one that worked the best settled out of the mix and that was "Toradol". When they came in with a syringe of that, I was headed down to la-la land for sure. It was down there in that deep medicated fog that I came up with the little sinusodial arp line. That was about all I was capable of at the time, but I did remember to hit record. Of course, that's where the beat got it's name.

We live within a bottomless ocean of loops. Repeating patterns echoing through our history; ebbs and surges, crashing against the beach of the present like waves originating from the dawn of time. The end is the beginning is the end of the next beginning. We can look outside ourselves, and we can perceive the shape and form of our reality, but in so many ways, we're helpless to even perceive the immensity of the system we're inside, let alone effect changes.

It's been one hell of a week, and one hell of a long weekend.

"Drama", I suppose is the word the kids use these days to describe it. I'm tryin' to hold onto my sanity, and I suppose in some small way, seeing things from this point of view helps to make peace with the brokenness of the whole situation.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sound Magic 3: A Taste of The Thumbless Hitchhikers

there is no possible way this quote is wrong.

A Taste of The Thumbless Hitchhikers

No new original tunes this week, but I did shake the rust off  my recording chops, and haul half my studio over to the shed to get our usual Wednesday night jam session on "tape".

Not literal tape of course, because that would require that I spend a fortune on a tape machine, and also haul the 300 lb beast into the shed. Two items that are impossible, and far too sweaty, respectively.

What you are listening to is a one minute and forty second excerpt of my band, The Thumbless Hitchhikers jamming on selected riffs from "Fearless" by Pink Floyd, and "Loving Cup" by The Rolling Stones.

The whole thing is like 45 minutes long. This is the downside of being so cheap as to have resolved to run this website for $0. Were I a spending man, I'd have to cough up some serious dough to post more than two or three of our jam-fusion-odysseys. Soundcloud is really cool and all, but they are clearly biased against jam bands, because they charge by the minute (beyond your free allocation of minutes as a "guest" user). Man, sometimes it takes us 15 minutes just to figure out what song we're playing, LOL :-)

I'm not gonna lie though ... that 45 minutes had a few mistakes here and there, though on the whole it was amazing. This is definitely the best minute forty of the whole night. It was one of those moments where I'm mixing it and just kinda listening and casually riding the faders, then I'm like "whoa ... what was THAT?", and then I back it up and play it like 10 more times.

Sound Magic the third. Sometimes you don't even know how great it was until you listen to it the next day.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dancing Broken (knowledge of self mix)

I don't think I can even caption this effectively.
As I noted a few weeks ago, it has been repeatedly necessary for me to visit the local upscale outdoor shopping mall in town. For one thing, they have the only Apple store within at least 100 miles. For another thing, this community is far too small to support three shopping malls, and so most of the good stores have abandoned the other two in favor of this newfangled hotness.

And I do mean "hotness" literally, because the mental giants who designed this place gave it zero shade ... not even a breeze. With the summer we had, it was essentially: Death Valley with shops.  Getting to the point ... the picture above, is of a compromise the mall's designers put in. It's like ... basically some sprinklers that you can bring your kids to, and they can run through them while one parental unit looks on, and the other goes to the shops.

So there's this kid, and ... God bless him, 'cause I'd have done this exact thing at his age. He has discovered that if he straddles it just right, he can use the deflective power of his booty to create a right angle spray pattern ... thereby hosing down his counterparts and unsuspecting passers by. Of course he's also washing out his butthole in the process ... which is pretty damn gross, and does not go unnoticed, by what I presume to probably be his sister ... who (though you can't really tell it from my crappy cell phone picture ... is making the funniest face of disgust I have ever seen.

Anyhow ... on a completely unrelated note, I decided to do a ccmixter remix, which I haven't done in about 3 or 4 years now.  Not really dubstep ... just like ... heavy dub I guess. It's sloppy, but fun, and ... yeah crank dat bass, yo! I like to think this is a good "get down" soundtrack for that kid butt-blastin' everyone at the fountain in the mall, y'know?

Dancing Broken (knowledge of self mix) by plurgid

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shopping Malls Were Our Starships, Dude.

believe it!
Sun Will Rise (LBD) by plurgid

I think it's safe to say that the Crystal Palace was essentially the original prototype upon which virtually every shopping mall in the world has been based.

Well I mean I think it's safe to say that. I'm not a student of architecture and I'm certainly not a historian. This is based entirely on a picture I remember seeing in my 8th grade world history text book.  hold on, let me google this ... aah yes, here it is:

1851, y'all. For realz.

My eighth grade self said something along the lines of "dayum, that has to be the world's first shopping mall!", and from that point on I just basically have assumed that my eighth grade self was right.

That is until the recent trend of upscale outdoor shopping malls. This trend is inexplicable, and frankly intolerable. ATTN: RETAIL DEVELOPMENT PEEPS: this is the deep south, not northern California; the heat of our summers will rob you of your will to live.

Take me for instance, a dad who wants to lose his kids for an hour or two in a safe, climate controlled retail environment, whilst reading a magazine and perhaps consuming an oversized pretzel or domestic light beer. Such a person as myself would undoubtedly prefer to engage in this activity not getting sunburned and losing half a pound of body mass entirely to crotch-sweat. But hey, that's just me.

Like the most interesting man in the world: I don't always go to the mall, but when I do, it has air conditioning.  As such, on this rainy Sunday afternoon, I loaded up the Canyonero and unleashed my teen girl squad upon the better of the two indoor shopping malls in town.

Malls ain't what they used to be, man. Malls used to have stores that sold things other than girls clothes or food. I mean both of those things are great, I s'pose but ... I distinctly remember there also being arcades and book stores, hobby shops, pet shops and electronics stores (not cell phone booths), when I was a kid. I mean damn! If you don't wanna buy a dress, a new crock pot, some sheets or a slice of pizza, you're pretty much out of luck these days. Used to be I could wander a mall for hours and always find something to spark the imagination.

These days it's just a wasteland. Commerce death row; a gilded hall of throwbacks patiently awaiting the inevitable fate of all retailers not named Wal-Mart or Amazon.  It's the unstoppable march of progress, and for the most part I don't have a huge problem with it. Come Christmastime, hell no ... I'm not going within a half mile of anything other than a grocery store.

We did lose something along the way though. When I was a kid, shopping malls were our starships, dude.

Music: some other thing I was working on that I chopped up and put into a sampler, did dj style cuts n' scratches on, then put some other things on it, processing data at about 58 miles per hour through the fluvium interocitor, yielding the retro-futuristic thing you hear here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


dem clouds!

Altostratus by plurgid

"Space rock", man. That's unquestionably what I'm going for on Signal Fires, and this is one of (if you can believe it) three really good new ideas that I've had over  the past week.

The mp3 player is all hosed up on this site. Some new version of flash borked the old version, so I tried to update it to the new version and now it doesn't work at all. Basically at that point I decided it'd be a whole lot easier to just start using soundcloud for my site player. It makes a lot of sense actually, and I can't believe I didn't think of it before now.

So ... yeah most of my old posts won't play any more. Podcast still works, though and has a complete archive, so I mean ... there's that.

We had some damn impressive clouds this evening. That picture is from my driveway about 3 hours ago. Though you can't tell completely from the picture, it was essentially the collision of two massive layers of clouds. Never seen anything like that before (clouds colliding and passing between each other, etc). It sort of inspired this song. Though I'd been fooling with the basic idea for a few days, the heavy guitar stuff ... which sort of came to define it ... definitely inspired by the driveway sky spectacle.

An Unexpectedly Profound John Cleese on Creativity

John Cleese - a lecture on Creativity from janalleman on Vimeo.

watch this. it is completely worth every one of the 36 minutes involved.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Life Returns

What is Around You (Life Returns) by plurgid
Rain. Holy crap, we finally got some! The heat wave was completely brutal, with temperatures topping 110 day after day for almost 3 weeks on end.

Our upstairs air conditioning unit couldn't  keep up, which is something I've actually never witnessed before. It wasn't broke, it was spitting out plenty cold air, but the temp upstairs never got over 85 or so, and the damn thing just ran non-stop for days on end. I'm rather terrified of my next utility bill.

We started getting little 10 minute afternoon showers about three days ago. It's amazing how resilient life is. After the blasting we took over the past month, literally everything was dead: lawns, shrubs, birds, insects, even weeds ... completely lifeless. It was as if the entirety of North Alabama was turning into a desert before our very eyes. Once water returned (even trivial amounts of it), life sprang back like nature disengaged a pause button.

Now it's pouring rain for the second whole day in a row. The birds outside my window have returned to their nest in our roof top, our lawn is emerald green and temperatures have returned to very comfortable mid 70's / low 80's. That and people are playful again. Brutal heat just pounds any sort of friskiness right out of you like wringing water from a dishrag.

To my amazement, Victoria (pictured above) took an interest in my audio-geekery last weekend and suggested going on a "sound safari" to Monte Sano. This is completely out of character for her new "disaffected sullen teenager" persona, so I mean hell yes, I took her up on it! Keep in mind, this was before we got any big rain, just the little spits of scattered 5 minute showers here and there, so there were bugs and birds and neat sounds like that but the "waterfall" (sort of the main attraction) was literally less than a dripping faucet.
The Monte Sano "waterfall"

That didn't stop us from getting some really badassed sounds though, and from having a pretty good Daddy/Daughter bonding thing.

The fact that the waterfall was more of a drip was actually serendipitous. We were able to climb up into the  cavern that's normally behind the water and mic up the drips echoing into the massive stone space.

there were many thousands more

We also ran into a family of long-legged spiders. I say "family", though they must have numbered in the thousands. Victoria unknowingly put her hand right in their nest, which is how we found them. She must have jumped 10 feet in the air! Good stuff. We caught a few of them in a picture, but by the time we got our wits together enough to get the camera out, 90% of them had scurried off.

So ... what'd I make out of all this? Well ... not much ... yet. More samples for the stockpile, that I'm sure will be useful at some point. I did start to put together a little droney sound collage, which I think is going to end up being an intro, outro or interlude thing in a larger track. This is the track posted at the top, tentatively titled "what is around you" (a phrase Victoria uses do describe environmental droney environmental ambient stuff). Possibly this will have something to do with Azure Sky ... not really sure with that. I must have 10 completely different mixes on that idea so far ... it can go so many different ways, which is of course ... the sign of a really good idea.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Azure Sky

Azure Sky (draft 4) by plurgid

"Paint what you really see, not what you think you ought to see; not the object isolated as in a test tube, but the object enveloped in sunlight and atmosphere, with the blue dome of Heaven reflected in the shadows." - Claude Monet

This is an excerpt of Azure Sky, which is looking to be the opening track for Signal Fires, which I really hope I'll manage to get done this year.

I don't play a lot of guitar solos, and I'm sort of proud of this one, even that's about all there is here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sound Magic 2

Rider Sturgeon Rough Mix

Behold this jam rock odyssey, people!
That's my band, The Thumbless Hitchhikers, just jammin out on an average Tuesday night. Last night in fact. This hasn't really been mixed or really f'd with at all. This is more or less straight off the board. I pretty much did what that guy up there is doing when I heard it just playing back raw. Yeah, there's a couple mistakes and a few things could be better, but holy crap I can't believe how good this is.

Sometimes you just get sounds without trying. Those are the best ones usually.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mixed & Mastered @ BootyQuake.

downloads are free, CDs also free (at the shows!)

I'm mighty proud of this y'all!

This three song demo is something that my band, The Thumbless Hitchhikers, has been working on in earnest for the past month or so.

In addition to playing keys, I engineered, mixed and mastered it ... and you can tell ... dem drums on LA Woman! (LOL). It was a learning experience, and I've gotta say the sounds we did get, while not perfect, are fo' sho' pretty damn great.

We're gearing up to hit the gig circuit around town pretty hard. It promises to be a jammy summer, my peeps!

You can download the demo for free off our bandcamp page, or just give it a listen right here:

'Course if you're a true fan, you'll want a physical disk for your retro CD collection. You can get those at our shows!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Artwork For the New Album

due out: 12th of Never
Writing songs is hard, man. Then it isn't, and that's you get a whole boat load of them done at once. After that it gets hard again. Right now, I'd say I'm in the last third of that middle phase.

I've gotten an awful lot of writing done in the last 5 weeks or so, actually finished 2 songs completely and have mostly written another 3 or 4. Which is pretty much a record for me.

In any case, I've got the artwork nailed down. Sometimes it helps to draw a picture of the thing you're trying to do. I mocked this up about 4 weeks ago. Coincidence?

Making the album cover first definitely seems to have the effect of forcing me to solidify my conception of the songs.

No music to post, yet. I'm trying to stick to the "not posting it until it's done" resolution. So, I've got a bunch of songs written, but certainly not in anything like what will be the final form.

So anyhow ... whenever this is all done. That's gonna be the album cover.

Unless I change my mind.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In summary: this

"Stay thirsty, my friends." -- the most interesting man in the world

Found just now, via the most excellent Danski. I've seen the quote around for a couple of years. Without a doubt, it's core truth speaks volumes to the reason for this blog's existence. First year of beats: done. Second Year of Beats: coming up!

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.
Update (3/2/2012): My dog looks like Ira Glass
So I'm doing the parental thing last night at Andrea's softball practice and Kelly texts me this picture of our dog Scotty. Andrea's older sister, Victoria has outfitted him with some fine eyewear, and my first reaction was like "holy crap that dog looks like he should be doing NPR pledge drives!". I post it here with caption for your lulzy benefit!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Beautiful Day (Dark Road Mix)

“I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you.” - Woody Guthrie

Beautiful Day (Dark Road Mix)

Astute listeners will recognize this, the second track to my upcoming album, Brass Beats, as a remix of Follow Me Home (Beautiful Day Mix). Which is in itself a remix of sorts, in that I nabbed the vocals for the hook off ccmixter.

I've chopped up the beats and refunktified 'em into the angular, IDM'ish jazz style I'm going for on the album. Of course I've added some laid back "soft serve" style trumpet, and I threw in some bass guitar to thicken it up too. Think it turned out pretty good.

I'd planned to have at least one more track ready for Brass Beats by now, but the funniest thing happened. As soon as I declared that I'd found my genre with this stuff, and that this was my sound, the best rock n' roll song I've ever written fell into my lap out of the ether like a 500 pound Italian-immigrant gorilla, out a' work 'cause the union's on strike down at the zoo.

On the one hand, I'm a smooth jazz guy with electronica/hip-hop flavoring, and on the other hand, I've got an itch for writing blue-collar pop/roots/rock stuff.

So today, at precisely 10:28AM, while rinsing shampoo out  of my hair and praying that the hot water wouldn't run out, the most preposterous, over-the-top idea for a double-album that nobody will ever hear or care about was hatched.

This is the gist of it:
Plurgid presents, a Phatazz Orchestra production:
Class Warfare: The Soundtrack

The idea being that "side 1" is a collection of suburban white-collar workin' man's anthems with a side of roots rock and blues, and "side 2" is the smooth-jazz Buddha lounge version of the songs from side 1.

You play side 1 at the tailgate, and side 2 in the cocktail lounge.

It's genius. It will never happen. But if it does it will be completely unknown in my lifetime.  However countless hipsters of the 22'nd century will cherish their vintage mp3 copies not only for the home-made aesthetic, but also for the superb songwriting, and genius beat-making.