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Subject: Chalkhills Digest #14-9


          Chalkhills Digest, Volume 14, Number 9

                 Saturday, 15 March 2008

Topics:

                 Tributosaurus became XTC
               Ashes to Ashes, Rock to Rock
                 Andy and Robyn Hitchcock
               'Bored With Music' Follow Up
                Inspired by The Dukes....

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We play the songs much too loud.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2008 07:51:14 -0500
From: Bill Sherlock <bdsherlock@sbcglobal.net>
Subject: Tributosaurus became XTC
Message-ID: <47D52EC2.3080402@sbcglobal.net>

Hi Chalkers,

I went to the Tributosaurus becomes XTC show Friday night with high
expectations, and boy were they met!

Uber-fan and T-saurus member Dag Juhlin stole the show with his
rendition of "No Thugs in Our House" and pleaded with Dave Gregory, who
sent a very nice email to the band that was read by the band leader, to
get this music out on the road. Dag even regaled the audience with his
tale of hanging out in the parking lot of WXRT in 1989 hoping to give
Andy his band's tape, only to have his hopes dashed as he listened to
Andy mock people who do that as the guys played  and bantered on the
radio. He did manage to get his guitar autographed by all 3 guys and I
bet he wouldn't sell it for anything.

I told Jamie Lowe as we walked in that I felt a little bit like I should
be wearing Spock ears to the show, and believe me, I endured no little
bit of mockery from my wife, but the band were beyond good. Live strings
for "1000 Umbrellas", live horns for "It's Nearly Africa", and one of
the guitarist's daughter for the child vocals on "Dear God". An 18 song
set that lasted 2 hours of pure pop bliss. It's such a shame this music
is not performed live more often.

I came too late to XTC to see them live but now I almost feel like I
have. Dag, if you're reading this, keep the faith and let us know how we
can get a recording of the show.

It was great to connect to other Chalkers Jerry Kaelin and Jeff from
Milwaukee, too. Jerry even brought swag! Chris Derfler, I wish you'd
found me too!

Setlist (also available at Tributosaurus.com):

Generals and Majors
Burning With Optimism's Flames
Love on a Farmboy's Wages
Poor Skeleton Steps Out
English Roundabout
1000 Umbrellas
Prince of Orange
Science Friction
When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty
One of the Millions
It's Nearly Africa
Mayor of Simpleton
No Thugs in Our House
The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead

Bill Sherlock

------------------------------

Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2008 11:21:58 +0000
From: Mark Fisher <mark-fisher@blueyonder.co.uk>
Subject: Ashes to Ashes, Rock to Rock
Message-ID: <9F554F12-54D5-41FD-B03C-62BE7B4FB001@blueyonder.co.uk>

In this week's edition of Ashes to Ashes, the BBC TV series in which a
modern-day policewoman in a coma wakes up in 1983 (which isn't nearly
as good as Life on Mars, in which a policeman in a coma woke up in the
1970s), there was an extended sequence set to Sgt Rock. No words were
spoken between the two actors, but the song's reference to the battle
of the sexes fitted the theme perfectly.

Am I the only one to have noticed that White Music had its 30th
birthday a couple of months ago?
---
Mark

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2008 15:45:05 -0700
From: "Benjamin Lukoff" <blukoff@alvord.com>
Subject: Andy and Robyn Hitchcock
Message-ID: <2a720bde0803121545l4596ad4ch8fc208a42741fe83@mail.gmail.com>

Saw on Audities and Fegmaniax! that Andy and Robyn Hitchcock are recording
an album together in Andy's shed. Great news! Anyone know any more details?
The highlights of my professional life at Amazon.com were interviewing Andy
by phone and Robyn in person at a live "in-store" performance. This ALMOST
makes me wish I were back there so I could cover it somehow. Will it be on
Yep Roc?

Ben

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2008 23:08:23 +0000
From: <homefrontradio@hotmail.com>
Subject: 'Bored With Music' Follow Up
Message-ID: <BAY128-W32FBBF0E20C42D1B20C46AD0080@phx.gbl>

Boring technical rant ahead, so feel free to skip if you're not interested
in the properties of CD sound.

Ryan Anthony wrote:>A few months ago, one of our brethren (forgot the>name,
sorry) fretted that all the music in his>sizeable collection sounded stale,
and asked the rest>of us what he should do. The 'Hill, even in its>current
state of snooze, did a good job of>recommending fresh new soundmongers.>I
have another idea. Have you downloaded iTunes and>imported all your CDs? If
not, do it now; it's free,>and I'll wait.

That was me, Ryan.  I've devoted a lot of time to figuring this out lately,
so I'll try and keep this really simple:

Despite the sniggers, it's not simply a matter of getting old, or being
bored.  Random play won't help.  I identified the problem as being modern
mastering techniques, including a reliance on over-compression and the lack
of headroom on modern cds.  This leads to an excess of `clipped' waveform
shapes in the music.  Pre-1991 or so, you're safe, but since then with each
year it's increased to ridiculous amounts.  (And yeah, I could return to my
older cds, but I simply know them backwards to be too excited by them).

Since a flat `clip' is an Unnatural Sound that doesn't occur in nature, it
produces Random Harmonic Responses.  As you raise your volume on the CD
player, those Random Harmonics create their own Random Harmonics, and it
grows exponentially until what you end up with is an entire Random Noise
Field overlayed on top of the song you're listening to.

Because the dynamics don't change, those frequencies are being constantly
sounded, so fatigue the ear and make music tiring to listen to.  If you
listen on your Ipod headphones or in a car, it probably won't fatigue you as
quickly due to the high-noise background, (though I'm very suspicious about
the damaging effects on your hearing in the long term if frequencies are
constantly being sounded for minutes at a time with no relief).  But try to
listen in a low-noise volume on a high end stereo at an immersive volume,
and you'll take part in what constitutes an aural endurance test.  If you're
ever halfway through a song you like, and you're bored, or tired, and don't
know why, and stop it early, even when you thought you loved it - it's
probably listening fatigue kicking in.

The other problem is the mp3 format itself.  Although it was sold as
removing the information that our ears don't hear, we simply do hear it,
with the results mp3 is a lossy format.  Once my own recordings, which are
originally recorded in a 32 bit float, are reduced down to even a 16-bit
320kps mp3, the quality has drastically dropped, mainly affecting the
presence and separation of each part.  It sounds so much smaller, so less
exciting.

That's all the proven science out of the way, so now I'll move into my own
theories on this:

I'm convinced all this affects my emotional response to music:  how
involving the music is, how it maintains my interest during the album
running time, how soon I want to hear it again.  The playing might be good,
the songwriting might be good, the lyrics might be interesting, but I'll
wonder why I don't don't like the cd.  Nothing's obviously wrong with it.
So why can I listen to it a few times and not remember the songs?  Why does
nothing stand out?  Why does a 50 minute album feel so *long*, to the extent
I'm just wishing it would end?

I've come to the conclusion that no matter how much time I put into those
loudly mastered and compressed albums, they'll never repay it, because
*they're simply designed to make listening unpleasant*.

So, rather than whining about it, I decided to try and *fix the problem* and
see what would happen.

I bought two cds recently.  The first was `The Good China' by Australian
Power Pop band `Icecream Hands'.  I've followed this band for years now, but
on first listen I realized they'd lost me, and there was nothing I could do
about it.

I started it playing, and turned it down.  It was still too loud.  I turned
it down again.  It didn't help.  The sound is so loud and in-your-face that
it's unbearable to listen to, and the sound is too tightly compressed to try
and repair the damage.  Even remastered to half the volume, it's still going
to be dynamically boring.  Silence is simply preferable to being blasted by
clipped frequencies for 45 minutes.

Now I know what to listen for, I could have listened to that album in-store
and written off the purchase and saved myself the money, which is what I'll
do in future, as I have no use for $30 coasters that plays test pattern
frequencies with songs buried under them.

My second purchase was the self-titled album by Canadian band `the Foreign
Films'.  It was a 2 CD set that runs about 85 minutes, so I was prepared for
quite a slog to get to know the album and knew I'd never be able to listen
to it in one hit.

It was loudly mastered, but not excessively compressed.  Basically, it could
be fixed, using this tool:

http://www.cutestudio.net/

It uses algorithms and stereo field comparisons to repair clipping, and then
drops the entire volume of each track by -6dbs, (roughly halving the
volume).  It defaults to only declip if there's more than 100 instances per
minute, but I set it to remove every single instance.

I happened to have a lot of downtime at the moment where I was stuck in one
place, so I had more than enough time to listen to the album and was
impressed with the results.

The first thing I noticed was that I could listen to it *really* loud, at
the kind of immersive volume I did when I was a kid.  My stereo rarely goes
over 20 anymore - I was listening to it at 60, and it sounded great.  Lots
of separation, enough that I could notice all the great little touches in
the music.

The second thing I gradually realized was that the music wasn't making me
tired at all.  Most 74 minute cds are endurance tests - I've actually
listened to the entire thing more than once in a row, once again, like I
used to be able to do as a kid.

The third thing is that I could remember the songs after two listens.  I've
looked at entire track listings before and not recognized even one hook
after many listens.  I could remember the hook of each song.

Basically, all this means is my money wasn't wasted on an album I'd never be
able to love.  (I'd also recommend the album to Jason Falkner fans, or fans
of psychedelic power pop in general).  I can play it loud, and sing along.
Basically, that music-loving teenager is still there inside of me, after
all.

Now, if you'd think that I've convinced myself of this, here's two other
cases to consider:

- The only band i've heard in the last couple of years that i've felt
passionate fandom for was Michigan's 'Great Lakes Myth Society', to the
extent i know the albums backwards and have lost myself in them.  On
examination of the wavefiles it now makes perfect sense - they're mastered
so there's only a handful of clips on their cds, (as opposed to something
like Crowded House's 448 clips in *one song* like 'Don't Stop Now' for
example).  Once again, amount of clipping and emotional response are
interrelated for me.

- My 60-year-old mother recently bought a 2002 remaster of `Bat Out Of Hell'
by Meatloaf, and had commented on how horrible it sounded, and how she used
to think Meatloaf could sing but it just sounded `boring' and `flat'.

I didn't voice the problem to her, but had my suspicions went for a look the
next day and tracked down an 80's cd release of it in a second-hand shop
here, and told her to try that one.  A week later she commented on how much
better it sounded - no small wonder since the 2002 release was *three times*
louder, and hugely compressed, basically squishing the widescreen epic
quality of the song down into a pan and scan television version.  The album
was never my cup of tea, but even I could notice how the percussion had all
but vanished in the new master, and how the peaks and valleys of the music
were now just a flat road.

Am I the only one who thinks this is bizarre, that with all our advances in
technology, music technology seems to be going *backwards*?  One of my
recording programmes can float 64 bit sound - so why are we still paddling
around in the 16 bit lossy pool?  Oh, that's right, the crap sound of mp3
became the standard due to *ease of piracy* and online file sharing, so, in
a way, we've gotten the sound format our actions deserved.

Of course, once again, none of this happens with vinyl.  I wonder if I can
talk my sister out of her `Compleat Beatles' vinyl boxset?

------------------------------

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2008 16:24:33 +0100 (CET)
From: Gary Nicholson <member@snurge.fsnet.co.uk>
Subject: Inspired by The Dukes....
Message-ID: <18913593.131141205421873351.JavaMail.www@wwinf3101>

Dear Chalkhills

Last year, I posted a message to Chalkhills about a number of tracks I
had recorded - designed to be an homage to all the bands I wish I
could have been in when I was 16 or so. Just as The Dukes of
Stratosphear had done with Chips from the Chocolate Fireball and its
constituent parts.


Well, now, I've gone and released it on CD. Originally, I asked Dave
Gregory to produce - he was very kind and sent an email saying he was
too busy - but was very encouraging. Next stop was Pat Collier - ex
member (and producer) of The Vibrators, producer of Katrina and the
Waves, Robin Hitchcock. The Soft Boys, House of Love etc. A very kind
man who wears his glasses on a bit of string and drinks tea from a Bob
the Builder mug. The world needs more of that.


I got some great feedback from fellow Chalkhillians, one of whom
called me 'The Punk Rutles', which I thought was immensely
wonderful. Anyhow, it's now available in the USA from CDBaby
http://cdbaby.com/cd/sniffingandcursing at USD19.99. You can hear all
of the tracks in lo-fi on that. I'd draw your attention to track 5
'Ellis Island' by The Nebular Nobsticks which might draw its
inspiration from Swindon's finest. You can play 'Guess the band' with
the rest.


If you're in the UK or rest of Europe, just look at my website
www.sniffingandcursing.com and you can get it via PayPal at GBP10.00
including P&P. Go to 'Buy Now'. You can tell that this is my first
attempt at building a website - ah well, I'll learn soon. Anyone
wishing to volunteer to get the website kicked into shape is welcome
however.

Amazon UK and iTunes etc will follow on its official release date of
1st April 2008. Another homage to 25 O'Clock I suppose. Tee-hee.

Yours,

Gary Nicholson

Rather excited. Winchester. UK. And it's raining.

------------------------------

End of Chalkhills Digest #14-9
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