Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Armies, up sleevies...

Good Dog raises some very good points here about the often atrocious quality of DVD sleeve artwork, often those for classic films that would originally have had superbly-executed promotional posters. Most of said poster artwork would have been portrait format, and therefore quite likely to be able to be “re-purposed” (as my lovely business-degree-type friends say) for the sleeve.

Why is this so often not the case? Are there copyright issues over the original poster artworks? In so many cases? Are there legions of drooling idiots who think they know what Photoshop is for (and might even pay for a legit copy of it one day...) who might starve if not given ‘work’ mangling screengrabs in order to produce shouty, hideous imagery for the benefit of, erm, their mates?

It has been suggested by the svelte and effervescent Lucy that Good Dog, I and several of his correspondents may be frankly too long in the tooth to appreciate what is now being offered and harking back to a ‘golden age’ where every scribble on a napkin was a Rembrandt (not exactly her words, by about a billion miles...). She may well have a point. I’m sure that, as always, many of what are now considered design classics in the film poster field were regarded with horror and opprobrium when they first saw the light of day, just as Fred Astaire’s famous (and probably apocryphal) assessment at the hands of an RKO screen-tester described him thus “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.”

Art is obviously subjective and a slippery fucker to pin down, especially in terms of defining whether it is ‘good’ or not. Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko and Henry Moore still divide people and provoke strong discourse on whether anything they produced at all is worthy of the term “art”. I’m sure that several thousand years ago there were druids passing through the Salisbury area that caught a glimpse of Stonehenge and cried “What the holy living fuck is that monstrosity?!”

Sadly, as with war, US chocolate and The Darkness, there is no equation that will definitively prove that something is unutterably crap. If there were, life would be more easily defined, yet almost definitely less colourful. The Eurovision Song Contest is a monument to cheesy awfulness, yet I’m almost OCD about watching it - quite possibly more for Terry Wogan and Ken Bruce’s delightfully bonkers commentary that never quite descends into abuse than for a tiny post-Soviet country’s attempt at a ‘pop’ tune. Strictly Come Dancing is eerily lacking in ‘art’, yet is a must-see for the Sluice household. Its awful North American spin-off, which just oozes far too much saccharine and is laden with too high a quota of “I’d like to thank God for this great opportunity”, makes most UK-residents distinctly uneasy and want to hit the contestants and dancers in the face with a tea-tray (let alone the presenters - where do they get these freaks from?).

Though there’s always a horribly murky middle ground in which the ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ of a piece of work constantly eludes one’s grasp, I’m sure that, if a benchmark has been previously set, then surely one should at least aim to exceed it or admit defeat? If not, then we’re likely to see a case of diminishing returns as Photoshop hackery takes over where art is supposed to be, training replaces education, TV becomes so self-referential (qv. Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach) that it ceases to be about anything other than itself, punctuation and grammar are abandoned in favour of txt-spk, and Shakespeare gets set to drum and bass/speed metal/techno/whatever.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Al-Jazeera proudly presents (in association with Dean Lerner)

(please note, I neither know nor care about the journalistic style of said media vomitorium - ta.)

I’m going to attempt to keep a sporadic log of the progress of the repairs and mix of two album projects I’ve got on the go: Airbridge’s Quiet Sky and the Twelfth Night Live at The Albany 2007 epic, which will also get a 5.1 surround mix for the DVD release. There’s also a potential third album to help a friend arrange, record and mix (more of which in the future).

Background to the albums:
Avid readers (are there such things?) will know that I was once in a progressive band called Lahost, wayyyy back when. Also in that band were members of the (by then) defunct Airbridge, notably Sean Godfrey on bass. As the years have stolen by, some of us have stayed in contact and this has meant that occasionally we get to do bits and pieces of music together or, at the very least, compare notes on what we might currently be doing. Also on the circuit at that time were a slew of other prog bands, some of which have fallen by the wayside (as did Lahost) though some continue to tour even now, notably IQ, Marillion, Pendragon among others.

During 2007, former Airbridge guitarist Lorenzo Bedini had been writing some new material with Sean Godfrey and they asked whether I’d be interested in helping them out with it in terms of production and mixing. I’ll go into detail about the technicalities of what is going with it in another post, but suffice to say that I said ‘yes’. This material was all recorded in Cubase on an old blue and white G3 mac and will be finished/polished/fiddled with in Nuendo on an eight-core monster Mac Pro. Yum.

Look back through older posts for my involvement with Twelfth Night. The November 2007 gig at the Albany Theatre was recorded as a multitrack Protools session, so that repairs/tweaks/mixing could be carried out in order to both release it as a double live CD and to do further surround mixing for DVD release, as the gig was filmed. Most of the ‘repairs’ that are being done are where old guitars had trouble staying in tune, people couldn’t clearly hear each other for timings, pedal switching noises are removed, and so forth. Also being removed (as if it never happened...) is the false start of the first encore, Take A Look, the intro of which went south in a major way. He he he, it’s good to be king... ;-)

TN’s stuff is being produced within the relatively new (to me) environment of Apple’s Logic Studio. I grew up in MIDI terms via Steinberg’s product line. Originally the Pro-24 sequencer on an Atari ST computer, followed by the first (and incredibly flaky) version of Cubase, I’ve been with them through all the subsequent iterations and eventually moved up to Nuendo during my migration Mac-wards, for its surround mixing and post capabilities. So, there’s a fluency there that I won’t have in Logic. I’m sure it can do all (if not more) than Nuendo can, but most of the struggles so far involve finding out how it does all the things I can find quickly in Nuendo. Nothing like learning new stuff though, eh?

Current states of play will follow in subsequent posts. Both projects should be quite interesting for me to work on, not least because both groups of people feature some pretty strong-willed characters with definite ideas of how things should be done (including me). We shall see how that all works out... ;-)

Friday, January 04, 2008

A bit nippy

For those of us in the UK that are currently grumbling about how bad the weather is, how we haven’t had a summer, that the Empire is finally falling, etc., take a gander at this salutary tale from the effervescent Jim Henshaw.


Not so bad in Britain, is it? Apart from the floods, obviously...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


For those UK-based bloggers who still pay any attention to my deranged ramblings, and any other readers of this esteemed organ (coo-err, he’s on a roll here...), there will be a coffee get-together at 1pm on Thursday 17th of January 2008 in the lobby bar at the Euston Novotel in London.

It’ll most likely then lead on to a pub somewhere, so pitch up before 3pm if you don’t want to get left behind... ;-)

Use the email link in my profile (unless you’re on Facebook, where you can contact me directly) if you want a contact number for the day.