Plenty going down at Dilated Choonz

Been very busy with work the last few days but I just wanted to say that I've been making plenty of posts at the Dilated Choonz music blog over the last couple of weeks - some interesting stuff there if you want to take a look. Right, more later in the weekend...


Bowie's back

I have to say, I'd kind of assumed David Bowie had retired. After 1995's 1. Outside - if not one of his greatest ever albums, then certainly up there with the likes of Man Who Sold The World and Lodger in the very creditable second tier - we'd had four LPs that were good but rarely great (Earthling, 'Hours...', Heathen and Reality) until a heart attack in 2004, whereby Bowie proceeded to disappear from public view save for the odd phone-call on the Jonathan Ross Radio 2 show (when that was still going) and a cameo in Series 2 of Ricky Gervais's Extras. I'd assumed that he was taking it easy on doctor's orders, or maybe that he was 'doing a Beefheart' and pursuing his painting career.

But whaddya know? Out of the blue up pops "Where Are We Now?" sounding rather like the opposite of an out-take from 'Hours...' (in that it sounds like it would have considerably lifted the quality of that album if it had been included in preference to some of the cuts that did in fact make it onto the record). If the forthcoming album (to be released in March) is up to this standard it'll certainly be a great comeback. Nice effort from the man who was "Dave" before our present pinhead weasel of a PM was even born.


Rock'n'roll innovation means 14-CD box sets at £100 a pop?

Just been having a look at King Crimson back catalogue on CD and DVD Audio. Most of Crimson's albums from the 1969-74 period (and also the early 1980s incarnation of the band) have already been reissued 3 times - the original 1980s CD reissues (which I never heard, but if it was like many of the CD reissues of the time, it was probably pretty bad), a late 1990s "30th anniversary" remaster, and the 35th anniversary remaster in the early 2000s. Now, for the classic 1973 album Lark's Tongues in Aspic (possibly the worst album title ever, but don't be put off, because it's a goddamn classic), there is a CD and DVD Audio 40th anniversary release, but also a 40th anniversary limited edition box set (priced at £100), the contents of which deserve a full listing as they are pretty extraordinary:

Limited edition boxed set, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the classic King Crimson album Larks' Tongues in Aspic: 13CDs, 1DVD-A, 1Blu-Ray in 12” box with booklet and memorabilia.

DVD-A featuring 5.1 new surround mix, original and new stereo mixes in hi-res stereo, a full album of alt mixes by Steven Wilson and more than 30 minutes of unseen footage of the band live in the studio.

Blu-Ray content as per DVD-A with further hi-res stereo material – all presented in DTS Master audio, 4CDs of studio content including CD of session reels featuring the first recorded takes of all pieces on the album, 1CD live in the studio, 8CDs of live audio restored bootlegs and soundboard recordings

plus a 36 page booklet with an extensive new interview with Robert Fripp, notes by King Crimson biographer Sid Smith, album sleeve print, concert ticket replica (with code for further concert download) and band photo postcards.

Now this is a pretty colossal amount of 1973-era Crimson for anyone to get their ears around. I was going to post something along the lines of "who the hell would want 14 CDs of 1973 King Crimson" but then I realised the answer was "me, if I had the money"! I look forward to the 200-CD edition for the price of a small family car in 2023. One interesting question is: Who's buying this stuff to listen to, and who's buying it as an investment? Mrs Berstram bought the Sandy Denny limited edition 19 CD box set for £150, about 2 years ago; it's now selling for at least £900 second-hand. Compared with (e.g.) the stock market, that's a good rate of return (although I'm not sure whether it's suitable for bulk investments.) On the other hand, it seems rather sad just to have the thing sitting on the shelf not being played. My father-in-law has just got into buying vintage guitars where the same kind of considerations apply, I guess.


Reactivated at Dilate!

Happy New Year everybody,

Just to let you know that Hal Berstram is active after a layoff of almost a year at Dilated Choonz... currently posting every couple of days on a Space: 1999 theme. As with this collective of blogs (giroscope/groscope/here), the objective is to post something every day in 2013; so far I'm running at 3 posts in 5 days, which is a little short of that, but still much better than my previous post rate of one a year. We'll see where this mad escapade takes us. Cheers! And it's good to be back on here after a 3 year layoff.


Rediscovering early 90s indie

Great reunion gig by Chapterhouse at the Scala in Kings Cross a couple of days ago. "Autosleeper" still sounded as good as it did almost 20 years ago at the Reading Festival. And the drummer still had almost as much hair... this stuff seems to have weathered better than some of the more mushy by-products of that era.

Not going to many gigs these days, but it's nice when a good one turns up once in a while. And many thanks to Mark, who bought me the ticket.


RIP Super Bass Station

I think my Novation Super Bass Station, purchased for £499 in 1997, has pretty much bitten the dust.

It has had a minor fault since 1999; when you turn the resonance up you get glitching distortion - which can be useful in certain circumstances, but is certainly not what it should be doing. Fortunately, the glitching only manifested itself when using the resonance control manually - not when switching programs via MIDI or the keypad, or when controlling resonance via MIDI CCs - so it wasn't an insurmountable problem. However, it was a pain in the butt.

Things got considerably worse in January this year when in the session in Derbyshire which yielded the "Buffalo Typewriter Sewing Machine" tracks previously documented on this blog, most of the numeric keypad on the Bass Station simply stopped working, and hasn't returned to life since. This means that it's impossible to change things like the arpeggiator settings, velocity sensitivity, or the distortion and chorus effects; the instrument's simply crippled.

I will check out the cost of repairs at the Synthesiser Service Centre or similar outfit, but it may be cheaper to buy the Dave Smith Instruments Mopho (which does all the same stuff except for MIDI/CV conversion) and sell the Super Bass Station on for spares or repair. Which would be a shame... it's a great synth soundwise, excellent oscillators and filter, the best thing available in terms of analogue 'bang for the buck' until the Mopho came out.

But it was just too damn unreliable - probably manufactured using cheap components. Mind you, it's lasted 12 years. We live and learn.


Listening to every Prom

I got a little project this summer... gonna try to listen to (pretty much) every Prom. (I will probably miss out the last night for obvious reasons).

I'm doing a lot of work at my desk (mainly programming and literature reviews) this summer so why not?

I gave Prom 2 - Haydn's Creation oratorio - a shot today. Now, Haydn is a very long way from being my favourite composer. But if I'm doing this I need to do it properly, so I gave it a shot. And it wasn't that bad. In fact, the first 15 minutes or so - the depiction of the formless void, before anything was created - were great. Almost a 20th century sound. It went a bit downhill after that, but still OK. I think we can safely say that Haydn, whilst not really my cup of tea, wasn't a complete duffer after all.