スポンサーサイト

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category: スポンサー広告 | permalink | - | - |

About...

本サイトへようこそお運びくださいました。ありがとうございます。

以下に、やたらと文字数だけが多く中身の薄い駄文を連ねている本サイトおよび執筆人について、また本サイトをご覧いただくにあたってあらかじめご承知おき願いたいことを列挙します。ご笑読くだされば幸甚です。(本稿は、状況に応じて随時書き換えることがあります。最終更新日:2005年2月8日)。

サイト内ナヴィゲィションの御案内

本サイト内で青空色のこの文字色(訪問済みの場合は薄い藤色のこの文字色に変わります)による表記はリンク・アンカーです。クリックしていただくと、リンク先へ飛ぶことができます。

現状の設定では、本サイトの内外を問わず、リンクをたどる場合に新規にブラウザのウィンドウ(あるいはタブ)を開くことはありません。リンク先を新たなウィンドウで参照されたい場合は、お手数ですがご使用のブラウザの「(リンク先を)新しいウィンドウで開く」などの機能をご利用ください。

また、画面右側ペインでは、マウス・ポインタを乗せると黄白色のこの文字色に変わるもの(「Recent Entries」(最近の記事)などにリストされている本サイト所掲記事標題)もすべてリンク・アンカーです。本文の文字色とほぼ同じにしてあるのは、画面全体の印象を色味の点でうるさくなりすぎないようにしたい、という意図によります。

各頁下端と各記事末尾、および目次やリンク集のセクション見出し脇にある「」で各頁先頭に、また各頁下端と各記事末尾にある「」で本サイト・トップに戻ることができます。サイト・トップへは、画面上部のサイト名をクリックしていただいても戻れます。

本サイト所掲記事の全体については、右側ペイン「本サイト所掲記事 総目次」をご覧ください。カテゴリ別・公開年月別で、記事の標題および公開年月日を列挙しています。最近の記事については、同じく右側ペイン「Recent Entries」で直近に公開した記事10件分の標題をご覧いただくことができます。標題クリックで個別記事ページへ飛びます。

サイト内検索

検索エンジン経由で本サイトへお越しいただいた際、検索ロボットによるクロールとサイト更新とのタイミングの関係で検索サイト側に保存されたキャッシュが古くなってしまい、検索エンジンからのリンク先ページと本サイトの当該URLの内容とが合致しない場合がしばしばあります。こういった場合、お手数ですが本サイトのすべてのページの上部右寄りに設けた「Search this site」(サイト内検索)をご利用ください。

このサイト内検索は、本サイト所掲のすべての公開記事全文を対象としています。検索語句を含む記事があれば該当する記事をすべてリスト・アップして表示しますが、その際「>> More」(追記部分、個別記事ページに入らないと表示されない領域)に検索語句が出現していて、検索結果の表示ページでは見当たらないことがありえます。その場合は、さらにお手数をおかけして恐縮ですが、「>> More」または各記事末尾の「permalink」(各記事固有URLへのリンク・アンカー)をクリックしてください。

著作権

記事執筆にあたり、出典明記・引用を合法的と思われる長さにとどめる・印刷物の慣例に従い引用であることが一目瞭然となるレイアウトを用いる等々、可能なかぎり権利関係に配慮しているつもりです。しかし、万が一不備および権利侵害を疑われる記述等がありましたら、お手数ですがコメントあるいはメールで注意喚起をしていただければ幸甚です。検討のうえ、早急に善処します。

本サイト所掲の記事は、特記して権利者に謝意を表した箇所(主に画像)を除き、クリエイティブ・コモンズのライセンス(帰属・非営利・同一条件許諾)(リンク先でライセンスの内容をご覧いただけます)に基づき公開されています。

リンク・トラックバック・コメント

リンクについては、申すまでもなくご自由に。トラックバック・コメントをもし頂戴できるなら、たいへん励みになります。こちらもご自由にお願いします。

更新頻度

遅筆にもかかわらず分量を書く癖があります。当然、更新は間遠になってしまいます。あらかじめお詫びします。万が一、本サイトに何か記事がポストされた際にはちょっと覗いてやろう、という奇特な方がいらっしゃいましたら、次項をご参照ください。

更新通知サービス

ウェブログなどを使用して更新通知 ping を発信できるサイトでの更新があるごとに、ご自分でピックアップしたサイトに関して選択的に知らせるサービスがあります。

  • BlogPeople (更新通知表示ほか)

  • MyblogList (更新通知表示、オンライン RSS リーダ)

  • Bloglines (オンライン RSS リーダーほか)

これらのサイトで会員登録がお済みであれば(いずれも無料です)、拙サイトURL(http://blog2.fc2.com/moondial/)をリストに加えていただくことで、本サイトの更新をまずまず確実に把捉していただくことができると思います。(ただし、本サイトのように更新頻度が低いと、更新情報が押し流されて消えてしまう懼れはあります)

なお、私自身は、いつも拝読しているウェブログの更新について、試行錯誤を経て現在は上記のうち Bloglines を利用しています。BlogPeople・MyblogList は、拝見しているウェブログを登録して更新通知を取得するためにはもはや利用しておりません(ただし、更新通知取得以外の一部機能利用のため、2度目の移転に際して新たにアカウントを取得しています)。この点、拙サイトをこれら2つのサービスでご登録いただく皆様には、御諒解のほどお願い申し上げます。

ローマ字(英語)表記

本サイト開始当初の気取りを完全に抜き去ることができず、多数残っています。一部英文に翻訳した記事を公開しているため、日本語環境のない計算機での閲覧に配慮して、ナヴィゲィション案内その他についてできるだけ日本語を使用しないようにしています。また、外国の固有名詞については、発音が確認できずカタカナで表記できないこともしばしばあるので、やむをえず原綴をそのまま用いることもあります。ご海容くだされば幸甚です。

レイアウト等の確認環境

Windows XP上の Internet Explorer 6.0・Firefox 1.0 で確認しています。

全体のレイアウトでは、CSSにより可能なかぎり相対指定を活かしています。本文の文字サイズは "font-size: 100%" を指定してあります。

複数ブラウザへの対応については、自分に可能なかぎりのことは随時試みていますが、如何せん知識と技術の双方に限界があるため、いくつか大きな欠陥を残しています。現状では、私が自分でふだん使用している(若干のカスタマイズを施し文字表示をかなり小さめにした)WinXP の環境と Firefox 1.0 の組み合わせで、ほぼ意図したレイアウトを実現できています。しかしこれ以外のOSとブラウザの組み合わせや各々の設定次第では、表示が甚だしく見づらくなる場合があることと思います。不具合のいくつかは、自分の環境でも確認済みですが、対処できていません。

また、画像を左/右に追い込んでその横にテキストを載せている箇所では、文字サイズを或る程度以上に拡大するとテキストが大幅にずれてしまいます。とくにややこしいことは何もしていないつもり(難しいことを可能にするスキルがない)ですが、現状では対処できていません。申し訳ありません。

アクセス解析およびアクセス・カウンタ

StatCounter にて、来訪者数カウンタ(アクセス解析機能付)をレンタルし、本サイトのフッタ(html/CSSの ID "Footer")部分に設置しています。したがって、本サイトのどのページを閲覧されても、JavaScriptがオンになっている場合には記録されます。非表示モードに設定のうえ利用していますが、これはサイト・レイアウトの見映えを考慮したものです。

このカウンタ・サービスのアクセス解析では、サンプル(ここからさらに画面左側サイドバーの「Visitor」欄をクリック)をご覧いただければおわかりのように、アクセス日時・使用ブラウザ・OS・ディスプレイ解像度・国名・ホスト名とIPアドレス・閲覧ページ・参照元などの情報が、最新アクセス100件について記録されます。このログを公開するオプションもありますが、全情報をパブリックにすることしか現在はできない(改良を検討中のようです)ため、考慮のうえ、より安全な形での情報公開オプションがレンタル元で実装されるまでは非公開とさせていただくことにしました。

こうした情報はJavaScriptとブラウザがローカルに保存するクッキーによって蒐集されますので、お使いのブラウザの設定でJavaScriptをオフにする、クッキーの記録をさせない、などの措置をとれば、ほとんど記録に残らなくなります。いずれにせよこうした情報を悪用する意図は私には一切ないことを明記しておきます。数字がゆっくりと増えていくのを、駄文を連ねる励みにしたいという一点のみです。ご理解とご諒解をいただければ幸甚です。

執筆人

強度の活字中毒。それなりの音楽愛好家。完全なニコチン依存症。隠逸に憧れるがおそらく死ぬまで実現できそうにない給与生活者。気弱なのに偏屈、あるいは偏屈だから気弱(?)です。

執筆人命名縁起

アカウント名の moondial は、「日時計」に相当する英語 sundial からの連想ででっち上げたものです。日本語にすれば「月影時計」でしょうか。一見ロマンティックに映るので、本人は思いついた当初かなり悦に入りました。しかしよく考えてみると、月は太陽と地球との位置関係により、めまぐるしく出没の時刻を変え、盈ち欠けを繰り返し、また日中に出ていても太陽光に圧倒されるため、月光の影で時間を知ることは不可能です。つまり当てになりません。最初の理由とはまったく別の意味で、まさしく本人の特質を表現するものだったわけです。気取ったつもりが本質をズバリ、以って瞑すべし。ゆえに採用決定……。

本サイトの名称

日本語では「夜雨(やう)、冬の……」になるでしょうか(スミマセン、英語なのは完全にカッコツけようとしています)。ウェブログの無料ホスティング・サービスを借りてウェブサイトの開設を考え始めた当時よく聴いていた、Pat Metheny のアコースティック・ギターソロ作品 One Quiet Night のカヴァ写真から連想したものです。冬は低い気温のせいで頭が冴えたような気がして(あくまで気がするだけ)、昔から好きな季節でした。以前は冬でもからからに乾燥した好天の夕暮れが気に入っていましたが、馬齢を重ねるにしたがい、冷たい雨が降りそぼる冬の夜中もその侘しさ加減(max!(笑))がたまらなく好ましく思えてきました。もっとも、冬の間はまあいいのですが、これで夏になってもこのサイト名のままですから、間抜けです。考えが足りませんでした。

なお、サイト副題は「音楽と本についての呟き」というほどの意味です。「Ramble」はぶらぶら歩く、あるいはそのようにとりとめなく喋るということで、こちらは言葉どおりです。

サイト移転について

本サイトは当初、こちらにて、livedoor Blog のホスティング・サービスを利用して開設していました。2004年1月下旬に開始し、同年7月末の時点で長短織り交ぜて約50本ほどの記事を投稿しています。その約半年の間に、自分自身の予想をはるかに超える数の方々にご来訪いただき、またありがたいことにおもしろ可笑しく、あるいは心温まる、また実に示唆に富んだコメントおよびトラックバックを頂戴しました。改めて御礼申し上げます。

この最初のサイト移転に到った事情と理由は、上掲の前身サイト、2004年3月14日付拙記事「サイト移転を考慮中です、が……」本文およびコメントにて縷々述べています。実際に移転するまで相当の時間が経過しているのは、当時から移転先に予定していた現ホスティング・サービスの正規(かつ安定)運用開始を待っていたため、および移転前のサイトを置かせてもらっていたホスティング・サービスも次々に改善が施され、利便性が高まっていた(もっとも私自身はほとんど活用できませんでしたが)ためです。

各ホスティング・サービスを利用した場合の著作権をめぐる扱いの相違に基づいて、最終的に移転を決断しました。権利の問題というよりもむしろ、書いた人間として本来担うべき書いたものへの責任を果たせなくなる可能性を(少なくとも解釈上は)残したままであることが、移転前のサイトにて駄文を投稿・公開しながら常にどこかでひっかかっていました。

さらにその後、最初の移転先のこちらでは、JUGEM を利用して、2004年8月初旬から約5カ月間、(さらに更新頻度が落ちる一方、ますます長文を連ねて)20本ほどの記事を公開しました。上述のとおり主に著作権関係の問題を念頭に移転したこの第2代サイトは、使い勝手も非常にすぐれていました。しかし、残念ながら正規運用開始後もサーバおよびウェブログ・プログラムが安定せず、新規ユーザ募集を中止したうえで度重なるメンテナンスが続けられましたが、ごく短期間の安定した時期を除いて閲覧・投稿ともに非常にストレスの溜まる状況が続いています。このため、これまでに頂戴したコメントやトラックバックを移動することができなくとも再度の移転を考えるべきと判断しました。コメント・トラックバックを寄せてくださった方々、また定期的に拙サイトをご訪問くださる方々には、幾度もお手数をおかけすることとなり、誠に申し訳ありません。

サイト開設の最初から、ごく少数の記事を除いてログ(記録)とは呼べないようなものしか書いていないため、移転に際しては、ウェブログ・ツールで利用可能ではあるが自分にとってはあまり必要性がないものを省き、手作業でやるべきところは補う方向で若干手を入れました。しかし、基本的にはレイアウトその他、移転前のサイトで使っていたものを再現することしかできていません。まったく愛想のない面構えだと我ながら思いますが、今後ともどうかよろしくお願いいたします。

連絡先

何かありましたら、本サイト「Guest Book - 芳名録」(利用しているウェブログ・ツールのコメント機能を利用した簡易掲示板)に書き込んでいただくか、以下のフリーのメール・アカウント宛にご一報いただければ幸甚です。(よけいなお手間を取らせてしまい誠に恐縮ですが、アカウントの悪用やスパミングを避けるため、アドレス表記自体を画像ファイルにしてあります):

  • jpg-ed to avoid spam

以上です。

(2005年2月8日記)

・本稿の改稿履歴
2004年2月1日 第1稿
2004年2月2日 ListMe! ・サイト名の項追加
2004年2月12日 カウンタ設置の項追加
2004年4月2日 連絡先メールアドレス追加
2004年4月25日 サイト移転(予定)に備えて細部手直し
2004年7月27日 一般記事化・ナヴィゲィションの項追加
2004年7月31日 サイト移設の項追加・項目排列調整
2004年8月8日 連絡先を画像表示に修正
2004年9月20日 著作権の項を移入
2004年12月25日 再度の移転に関して追記
2005年2月8日 更新通知サービスの項、改稿

スポンサーサイト
category: backyard | permalink | - | - |

Guest Book - 芳名録

ご来訪ありがとうございます。

お気づきの点、本サイト全般についてのご感想、執筆人への伝言など、お気軽に一言をお寄せくだされば幸甚です。

category: backyard | permalink | Comments(2) | - |

本サイト所掲記事 総目次

本サイトにて公開した記事の総目次です。大別して、カテゴリ別公開年月別の2つに分けて掲載しています。手作業で作成しているため、直近に公開した記事(本サイト・トップにて常時数件表示)に関してはリストアップが遅れ、サイトの実態を即座に反映していないことがありえます。あらかじめご諒解いただければ幸甚です。

以下では、時系列に沿った、古い記事が先頭に来る排列に従っています。利用しているウェブログ・ツールの仕様上、カテゴリ別・公開年月別のいずれの場合でも、当該アーカイヴを開くと、新しいものが先頭に来る排列で表示されます。このため、古い記事を見るためには各アーカイヴでページ下方へスクロールしていただく必要が生じます。この目次では、少なくとも各記事の標題だけは古いものからご覧いただければと思い、時系列に沿った排列を採用しています。

カテゴリ名・年月名をクリックすれば当該カテゴリ・年月ごとのアーカイヴへ、また各記事標題をクリックすれば当該記事へ直接飛び、内容をご覧いただけます。

カテゴリ別

公開年月別

category: backyard | permalink | - | - |

deJune: "deJune" [self-titled]

deJune: deJune [self-titled] (Alg-a ALG012)

Quiet tension runs throughout this self-titled, all-instrumental album deJune (Alg-a ALG012, released late November, 2005), which is peculiarly attractive or even addictive. The sounds heard here can perhaps be classified as "post-rockish"; the basic sonic ingredients are guitars and various synthesised electronic sounds. The guitars are delayed and heavily reverbed most of the time, while the electronics provide the atmospheric droned background as well as noise and other sound effects, and also function as rhythmic "accents".

Non-rhythmic, yet properly "sustained"

The reason why I hesitate to put this superb album (and this is the musician's debut solo release) into the pigeonhole of the so-called "post-rock" is its overall absence of strong(-er) rhythmic elements — like that steady forward drive created by the almost obligatory rock/post-rock drum set, be it from highhat cymbals or bass/snare drums. There is relatively little rhythm/beat in this entire release, except for the fourth, fifth and first tracks, titled simply "d", "e" and "a" respectively. And even in these three tracks, rhythmic elements are not too imposing: in "d", brushed cymbals cut a steady rhythm from beginning to end; "e" includes drum playing albeit mixed low in volume at the start and never becomes loud till the end of the track; and in "a", the cymbal work fades in only towards the end.

And yet, without that kind of immediately recognisable rhythmic groove — which seems like an inevitable cliché and indispensable fulcrum at the same time in many (and maybe too many) of the "post-rock" —, the music of deJune stands firm. The seven tracks in this release, therefore, seem to me to have achieved an extremely subtle balance between the ambient/soundscape sound production and more conventional, traditional "music" with melody, harmony, rhythm and whatnot.

In this respect, deJune reminds me strongly of the series of recent CD-EP releases from the San Francisco, USA band Tarentel, who are apparently delving deeper and deeper into the fusion of soundscape and "music" per se. And borrowing (yet once again) from Brian Eno (linked to the well-known Music for Airports liner notes), deJune here is barely touching the "ignorable" level even though with little distinct rhythm and consisting of higher percentage of ambient-like sounds; and he is still successful in retaining the listner's attention throughout.

Deceptively simple tones

While successfully blending the soundscape/ambient-like sound production and the more musical elements coming from his electric guitar plays, the tones which deJune uses in this release sound rather simple. His guitars are certainly edited and with added effects, but their basic tone is that of warm, natural distortion.

The same applies to the various electronically synthesised sounds. The sweeping winds, heavy, slow wailiing in lower register, background atmospherics — all of these are fairly familiar, "tried and trusted" electronic sounds.

Coupling these two together, you might wonder if deJune should end up sounding unimpressive — which is definitely NOT the case, fortunately for both the musician himself and us listners. I tried in vain to figure out how he's done it, but somehow deJune combines all of those deceptively simple tones together to create an enigmatic musical amalgam, without making it sound dull and slack. This, I believe, can be called a feat in itself, and is perhaps justifiably comparable to what Labradford accomplished in their earlier albums with Moog synthesisers and mostly no-frills electric guitars.

The musician

"Post-rock" or not, deJune was at one time a rock guitarist in a local band, and that was his starting point as a musician. He hails from Galicia, an autonomous community of Celtic origin in the north-west of Spain. The netlabel Alg-a which released this impressive solo debut of deJune is also based in that region, and is run by his friend Isaac Cordal, one of the administrators of Alg-a.com, apparently quite an active artistic website in Galicia.

DeJune started playing the guitar when he was sixteen, and the guitar remains to be his main instrument of choice to this day, for nearly a decade and a half. After the first rock band he played in, he had another band career also as a guitarist in the band named Allgodown (unfortunately, as of this writing this Vitaminic website is apparently in the process of reform and is disabling the free streaming/download of the music samples listed in this URL), self-described as "emo" band with some vocals. And since he left Allgodown, deJune is entirely on his own, although he has some plans to collaborate with his ex-bandmate from the second band, another guitarist.

For the production of this first solo work, deJune spent approximately two months (only that much!), all by himself, composing, recording himself, mixing and editing to the finished form. As to the instruments, he used his "guitar, a little electric piano, a BCR2000 MIDI controller hooked up to Cubase SX" on his computer. He is still experimenting a lot with this setup, making various noises first, then refining them gradually with his guitar and other equipments and the software. In his process of creating music he aims to express certain atmospheres, mostly with sad themes. I heartily concur with one of his friends who (deJune tells us) told deJune that he was successful in realising his aim.

When I told deJune — rather diffidently I must say, as I have a prejudice of sorts that creators generally don't like to be likend to someone before them — that I sensed in his music a similarity to the music of Tarentel and early Labradford, his response was (against my apprehension) very positive; deJune names as his influence, in addition to these two US bands (and Pan American), the bands and musicians on the label Constellation like Godspeed You! Black Emperor/Silver Mt. Zion, and also "Eno, Faust, Cluster, Heldon, Magma, Neu, Can, Isan, Manyfingers, Boards of Canada, Cerberus Shoal... well, everyone who's looking to the other direction". He listens to quite a lot of jazz and contemporary [classical] music as well, and also is an avid cinema fan, particularly of Japanese directors like Ozu, Kurosawa and Kitano.

DeJune has already started working on the second solo project, but he tells us that he isn't quite sure yet when that will be completed. Probably we will have to wait for some months at the least for his next release; but in the meantime I for one will most certainly listen to this first release many more times and hardly ever tire of the music.

[Completed and posted on the 13th of December, 2005. The Japanese version (translated from this original English version this time) with the same title was posted on the 16th of December, 2005, under the category: music.]

[English Articles Index of this site is here.]

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  • This self-titled debut release can be streamed/downloaded from the Alg-a release page referred to above, which links to the release page in the Internet Archive.

    Please note that there is also an almost identical release in the Open Source Audio section of the Internet Archive; the only difference is that the Open Source Audio release contains a longer version of the track "a" (6'53", while the one in the Netlabel section is 3'58" long). DeJune tells us that he forgot how this had happened, but he prefers the longer version.

    According to yet another release page at www.alg-a.com, this work is released under the Creative Commons by-sa (Attribution & Share alike) license. The album "cover" artwork carried here resized with permission, is a trimmed photograph which a friend of deJune's took.

  • As usual, I have created Webjay playlist for this release: deJune. There's also Alg-a sampler playlist, a digest of music picked up from all of the releases to date from this highly attractive netlabel.

  • In closing, my deepest gratitude to deJune, who kindly took the trouble in answering my questions in English, a language foreign to both of us. But as they say, music "speaks" for itself and this release of yours was without doubt the case. Graciñas!

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Sinestetici: "The Definition of Imperfection"

Sinestetici: The Definition of Imperfection (drift001)

An excellent electronica work with truly attractive vocal. Regardless of the genre, it appears (at least to me) that one is able to come across quality vocal music only rather rarely in the current netlabel scene. But this release is, in my humble opinion, one of the definitive cases in point that there really do exist some genuinely talented vocalists emerging from netlabels who are able to sing AND are capable of creating music uniquely of their own.

This six song EP of approximately 28 minutes of music, titled The Definition of Imperfection (Drift Records, drift001), is the very first release from the relatively new netlabel, Drift Records, founded some time around May this year (2005). And deservedly is it the initial, literally groundbreaking release for this label, as its song/music writing, vocals, instrumentation and sound production are all topnotch.

The Voice

The main attraction here is of course the female vocalist as well as songwriter/lyricist Sinestetici, aka Sammie (Samantha) Ryan, reportedly an Austin, Texas (USA) native.

Sinestetici's voice is extremely clear in higher tones—as evidenced in the fifth song "Vision" in which she sings to a plain acoustic guitar; And at the same time, she can sing with a peculiar persuasive power in mid- to lower-range (especially when she goes into slightly husky crooning), as in the opening verses of the first track (very catchy!) "Wrong". Her modes of expression in singing are accordingly pretty versatile, from ethereal to ennuï, to anguished and then to sad, etc etc....

This attractive vocal of Sammie-san's was the first thing that got me hooked upon my initial listen.

The Production

But equally attractive to me was the sound production/arrangement of this entire EP. Three DJs/musicians are given credit to as collaborators for this release, viz: KiloWatts, DoF and Daigoro (whose current moniker is Erstlaub). Sinestetici's vocals are intricately treated (effects added, granulated then spliced to turn the bits into rhythm tracks, etc) by these three masters, as typically seen in songs "Reflective Deceptor" (the third track) and "Ideal Chameleon" (the fourth) where KiloWatts exhibits his skills (but not overly done), or towards the end of the last song on the EP "A Love Song", one of the three collaborations with DoF.

The instrumentation and arrangement of each song are superb as well. Use of electronic instruments are fair and under a very good controll, just enough to let the melodies and Sinestetici's vocals stand out on their own. I am aware that this is my personal preference, but I simply love the mixture of acoustic sounds from piano and guitar with electronic instruments and effects. Here in this release, the balance is very well thought out and effective.

How did this kind of wizardry come about? Sammie-san, in answering my questions via e-mail, tells us about the production process of this release as follows:

All the lyrics in this release, except for those of "Vision" which is an old Irish hymn dating from somewhere in the 1600's, are my own originals. However, I can not take any real credit whatsoever for the actual production of the songs themselves. I have been very very blessed to have worked with some of the finest talent in the netlabel industry at the moment, and all credit should go to them.

[... as for the actual recording/production process,] Believe it or not, everything was done over the net. We all met using a file sharing program called Soulseek. Kilowatts and I did a lot of the discussion and planning of our two tracks together over the phone, but there was no actual face to face communication. I'd send them something I thought would work, they would try it out, if they needed something different they would describe it to me as best they could, and we would work something out as best we could. It offered me the opportunity to take a lot of creative initiative when it came to the vocals themselves, which is something I enjoy immensely. All in all, the process was a lot of fun, and not too terribly painstaking at all.

The Lyrics

I initially wrote to Sammie-san as I couldn't make out most of the lyrics (after all, English is not my native tongue) and I wanted to know what was sung in these beautiful songs. She promptly gave me a reply, with a lyrics file attached.

With her permission, I'd like to quote a memorable passage:

Well I'm sorry
I'm so wrong
but I've been
telling you the truth
all along
and you've only believed what you tried to perceive
and what you wanted me to be
was nothing short of nothing that i am
but i adore you still
and i guess
nothing can and nothing will
change the way i feel
like I'm not good enough
in any way
to make you want to stay
or say
"I'll be there tomorrow morning"

From "Wrong"

A love song—maybe, but perhaps this first person "I" could be you or me, in whatever age, in whatever kind of personal relationship with someone dear. (And it must be made clear here that I am in no position or with no qualification/ability to judge verses in any foreign language.)

Anyhow, as hopefully evident from the quote above, Sinestetici's lyrics are in relatively plain words yet loaded with personal feelings and poignant emotions—don't you think?

....

All in all, The Definition of Imperfection is an impressive release, and deserves repeated listening. The sound heard here—a firm and feminine vocal presence that sings touching lyrics in finely-crafted electronic sounds/beats—naturally reminded me at first of my beloved Everything But The Girl (ebtg), particularly in their later career when the duo turned to electronica. This association is maybe valid at this moment, but most probably we should better be on the watchout, as Sinestetici will no doubt be changing with each of her future releases.

[This was more or less a bilingual writing attempt, and this English version was done first. Completed and posted on the 15th of November, 2005. The Japanese version of this article with the same title was posted on the 15th of November, 2005, under the category: music.]

[English Articles Index of this site is here.]

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  • First, as to legalities as usual. The EP-album The Definition of Imperfection is released under the Creative Commons by-nc-nd (Attribution, Noncommercial & No Derivative Works) license.

    The image at the top of this article is the cover (top side) artwork of this release, done by Drift Records founder (and a musician himself), Rochie. Carried here with permission.

  • In addition to her (more personal?) website (as linked above), there is another (apparently official) Sinestetici site in the Drift Records domain, from where you can get to her official announcement mailing list.

  • Sinestetici's music is already on 12inch vinyl and CD.

    For the former, sound clips are available (as of this writing) at Streetwise Music's Kilowatts: Ideal Chameleon page, released from Sober Music.

    "Ideal Chameleon" is also carried on the CD titled Mixmag Live by Max Graham.

  • Again as usual, I've compiled a Webjay playlist for Sinestetici's work currently on the net: Sinestetici. And yet another playlist for the Drift Records, as Drift Records sampler.

  • Last but not least, Domo-Arigato! to you Sammie-san, for your kindest cooperation in making this little article possible and the wonderful music of yours.

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A Vaguely Sad Summer: "Red, Green, Blue & Other Summer Feelings" and the Sutemos label

Instability by no_joy (Erika Minkeviciute)

Let us imagine summer slowly fading away — sunlight faintly tanning your skin, hot yet dry and crystalline air, utterly silent afternoon approaching sunset, white streets with no one in sight.... This will no doubt be a day in utopia, a place that never exists, because in reality a typical summer day here in Tokyo is too humid and almost aggressively hot which won't even allow you to ponder over something. Most certainly, however, this superb compilation album will let you spend hours simply sitting/lying about doing nothing. And it will bring your mind to some place some day that never was/is/will be, to a precious dream-like summer's end that is both curiously empty and surprisingly fertile at the same time.

I have never had a chance to visit Lithuania. Its name reminds me of reports on the media about the "Baltic countries" towards the end of the Soviet era, or of Sugihara "Sempo" Chiune, the "Japanese Schindler" who was stationed as a diplomat in Kaunas, then the nation's tentative capital, during the WWII when both the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were struggling to establish hegemony in the region, but nothing more. Now I know that Lithuania is home of the netlabel par excellence Sutemos. I wonder what the summer is like over there.

Crepuscule, second coming?

The high calibre of music that is released by Sutemos is clear to anyone if he/she has listened to any track from their catalogue. This cannot be brought about by sheer chance, as the label's ten releases so far definitely have something in common, a "policy" or "intent" of sorts, a consistent taste — which becomes all the more evident when you listen to the Sutemos compilations, where a wide range of musicians/bands with their unique musical styles, instrumentation, etc contributes to giving a very integrated feel to each album. The brains behind this label appear to be always aware of what they aim to put forward as their label's characteristic, and have issued releases slowly but steadily with utmost care and pure love of music.

In theory, their musical excellence is not to be surprised at for me, since I have already called this label "the netlabel par excellence"; yet in practice, it must be a demanding endeavour to actually achieve and maintain the standard this high, in terms of amount of time and labour. Anyhow, what initially attracted my attention the most was that this label was from Lithuania, a country which many would hesitate to name as one of the musical centres of the world.

Sutemos' fast and far-reaching success inevitably reminds me of another seminal label in the past, of more than two decades ago — Crepuscule. The Crepuscule label claimed to hail from Brussels, Belgium, a rather unexpected location for music label headquarters, where many popular/unheard of musicians and bands of unique music styles and superior merits were (at least virtually) gathered. And the label released quality music, often in the form of compilation that almost always managed to convey a sense of integration, a unified atmosphere to its listeners. I should quickly note here that the musical styles and genres of these two labels, with almost a quarter of a century in between, were not that similar. The resemblance is strictly limited to the fact that each label has a sort of distinct "colour" common to each of their releases, and also that the overall standard of music they released is extremely high. And as it happens, both of them are from countries with relatively low musical profile. Hopefully, this comparison of Sutemos to Crepuscule won't be totally out of place.

An "interview" with Sutemos

Out of my ever growing admiration for and interests in Sutemos and their music releases, I gathered my courage to write to them. What follows is a virtual interview conducted through e-mail, with one of the founding members of the label, Walkman.

In my initial message, I explained that I am a relatively new listener to netlabel music (and electronica in general) and that I am not a professional music journalist, just a music lover and occasional scribbler with tiny readership for this humble weblog. Despite these shortcomings that clearly won't contribute much to Sutemos' publicity, Walkman was very cooperative in conducting this virtual interview. My most sincere thanks to you, Walkman!

[Q] To be perfectly frank with you, my very first impression about your label was "Why from Lithuania, for this high calibre of music?" I believe I am not too wrong in saying that very little is known over here (and perhaps in many other countries) about the contemporary music scene of your country. Can you tell us how Sutemos got started?

[Walkman] The website Sutemos.net as a project was born more than two years ago. Original intent of it was to introduce Lithuanian youth to experimental electronic music, IDM culture. I guess that's been achieved a while ago through this website of ours, so we launched its English version, and opened a netlabel to introduce other people around the world to the sounds that we really enjoy.

   There are two goals that we aim to achieve through Sutemos. First, to develop such a netlabel which would be no worse than a real label. And second, to prove that free music in the internet is of the very high quality. That's what we have tried to do, and needless to say, what we intend to continue doing, too.

[Q] Can you give us some "background" information of your label — the main personalities behind the netlabel operation, what are their favourite types of music and bands/musicians, some interesting episodes related to the label?

[Walkman] Interesting episodes? Well, to let you share a secret with us, one of our founding members initially conceived of starting the Sutemos.net project as a personal gift to his girlfriend ;)

   This kind of rather private anecdotes aside, Sutemos as music label simply wants to release the music/artists that we really like. We had only pure love of and interest in electronic music at the label's start. Now, after some two years, we certainly have good relations with various artists, but we try to push the boundaries further. By "pushing the boundaries further", I mean we are doing the stuff no one else thought possible to do.

   Let me give you an example. Sutemos has released four compilations: Intelligent Toys, Intelligent Toys 2, Flow.ers and the latest Red, Green, Blue & Other Summer Feelings. Most typical of how we have "pushed the boundaries" would be Intelligent Toys 2. The artists who contributed to this compilation are real superstars in this kind of music — so that's a good surprise to start with. And not only did these artists agree to take part in our compilation project, but also they were happy to provide us with tracks specifically created for this album, and they even let us distribute these music freely and exclusively through our label.

   I guess what was achieved through our compilations is some kind of revolution among netlabels — we did push the boundaries where no one else could before us (at least people tell us such things — I don't know if I believe in them). We always thought it would be just plain uninteresting to do the usual, conventional things that almost every single music label does and release music that doesn't stand out on its own. We have to be different because we really want to be noticed by people.

[Q] Is Sutemos into some particular music style, would you say?

[Walkman] Talking about musical style, it is based on our personal tastes. By "our tastes", we mean those of the two people who run the label — Sutemos and myself, Walkman. And since the tastes are very different between the two of us, there is no particular style. The only thing we care is absolute quality of the release that we enjoy ourselves.

[Q] The quality of a label's output of course depends on the talents and abilities of musicians/bands that the label carries, and in this sense your label's network of extremely talented musicians/bands is surprisingly well-selected and well-formed. How have you achieved this? How do you approach musicians/bands in the first place? Is it a kind of chain reaction — like a musician knows another, introduces him/her to you, then another and so on?

[Walkman] This was achieved through hard work. We write beautiful reviews, translate many of them into English, inform the artists reviewed of our review's URL, and wait for their responses. You are most likely to be surprised at the number of positive responses you'll get from artists, if you contact them directly. When you tell some artist that you love his sound, that you have written a review of his album, and ask him politely to read your review, you already have conquered his heart. So that's how we are building our network of artists, and I guess this is the root of our success — start communicating with hundreds of artists via our reviews, which contributes to forming a solid mutual trust between the label and the artists. But of course not all of our reviews were written and translated in pursuit of artists — I believe other people like to read them as well.

   And yes, in some cases, it is kind of chain reaction as the world is relatively small — everyone knows each other. Sometimes we discover new artists by accident, like in our encounters with 3tronik, Stockfinster and some more.

[Q] While many compilations are nothing more than a collection of music with no apparent interrelations or significant connections between each track, I am truly impressed by the quality of your label's compiled albums, their "integrated" or "unified" atmospheres and tastes. Can you reveal us a bit of the secret of how you do this?

[Walkman] I guess we have talent for that. It happens naturally when you strive for the best quality available. I always give a lot of attention to the order of tracklisting — I guess this works very good for all the releases. Second thing that we care a lot about is we MUST LIKE THE MUSIC and the music must fit the content of planned release. I have tons of unreleased tracks on my computer just because they did not fit in musical context. This is the price we pay for quality. Sometimes we kind of joke that if the day comes at last when we have nothing to release, we will compile all the music that is left unreleased and make a "Sutemos B-Sides" compilation.

Up until here, you may have wondered that I am a bit obsessed with Sutemos' originating from Lithuania. But I have my own reason for this: the Sutemos catalogue contains many tracks from musicians and bands from/in Lithuania, like IJO (about whom I referred to in one of my previous articles (sorry, this is in Japanese), FusedMARc (linked to their official website; there is an interesting introduction in Sutemos.net as well) and Lys, all creating impressive music. This may be one of the signs of active music scene in that country, and that was a surprise to me.

Actually, geographically speaking the musicians/bands that get released by Sutemos are scattered around the globe, from North America to Europe, to the label's home Baltic countries to Russia. In this age of electronic network which facilitates literally instantaneous communications and exchange of music in the form of encoded files, perhaps Sutemos should better be called a label "via Lithuania", rather than "from Lithuania".

Red, Green, Blue...

The English release note of Sutemos' latest Red, Green, Blue & Other Summer Feelings says as follows:

.... Full of summer's evening beauty Red, Green, Blue & Other Summer Feelings will be dedicated to something that can be named as a soft mixture of post/indie rock, instrumental, synth, ambient music with a sprinkle of electronic experiments. Additionally, almost all tracks will be featured by vocals.

The works on this compilation started last autumn. From the very beginning we tried to concentrate on esthetics and beauty, not names. No numbers, no facts, no data — just pure and gorgeous beauty.

This summery sad and longing compilation will feature artworks from a little fairy No_joy that will be filled with sincerity, tenderness and calmness.

[See the original in Internet Archive, on this album's release page]

I'd urge you to give this compilation a listen, in one sitting from start to finish. Comprised of 14 tracks in total for the duration of approximately seventy-five minutes, the music on this album never betrays the description of the blurb quoted above. What Walkman told us as the label's two goals, "no worse than a real label" and "the free music in the internet is of the very high quality" have been realised beautifully and elegantly in this release.

The title of my article, "A Vaguely Sad Summer", is of course overtly influenced from the album's title itself, particularly "... and Other Summer Feelings", as well as from the phrase in the release note "summery sad and longing...". And it is my humble attempt to capture the music on the album itself in words, too; this compilation as a whole is indeed filled with a flow, an atmosphere of summer, with lots of emotions and memories. Plain code progressions (be it in major or minor) in most of the tracks, slowish tempo throughout and comfortable, not too strong beats, effective sound control with lots of "spaces" — all of these contribute to giving a unified, strangely attractive impression of summer. The album title is definitely apt — and this aptness in turn signifies the sure and solid production process/methodology of this label, with clear purport of the entire compilation firmly in the producers' mind. In this respect as well, Sutemos as music label is competent and strong.

Hot and dry, yet subtle and somehow sad breeze of summer immediately starts to seep into your mind as the album kicks off with its first track, Marsen Jules' "Couer Saignant" (my personal favourite on this compilation). The layered sound of sampled(?) acoustic instruments (harp and strings?) functions as the perfect introduction, and is a true gem uniquely his own. The vocals that the release note referred to are mostly low whispers or choruses not overly expressive, and use of synthesisers and other electronic devices blends well with sounds from acoustic instruments like guitars and cellos that are featured in many of the tracks. The sixth track "A Crack in Time" by Stockfinster, particularly its featured male voice mumbling about something abstract, reminds me of Labradford's "Everlast" (from their 1993 debut masterpiece Prazision LP), but the music here is somewhat brighter. Towards the end, the album apparently changes air and gathers pace at its tenth track, "The Great Century" by Reed Rothchild (another personal favourite), in what I consider to be a typically "Sutemosian" fashion of flowing and quiescent beats; the three tracks follow, two of which can be described as so-called "post-rock" numbers driven by guitar riffs and steady drumming. And "Funny" by FusedMARc, the longest (some eleven minutes) on the album, closes this 75 minute dream trip, with a stronger beat created by the heavy bass guitar line on top of which ethereal high-pitched female voice dances.

The image at the top of this article is "Instability", a painting by no_joy aka Erika Minkevičiūtė, who was also mentioned in the release note. I chose this piece and asked for the permission to carry its image to accompany this article, as I thought it was perfectly fitting to and the most representative of the entire mood of this superb compilation. Many of her impressive works are displayed in the artist's own website and repeated visits to her site is rewarding; her paintings appear to me to share a unique strength hidden deep within the easily discernible delicateness and fragility.

Twilight, the magic hours...

When I was almost finished with the draft of this article, it occured to me that I had forgotten to ask one obligatory question: what does the name of the label "Sutemos" mean?

Walkman quickly gave me the answer, and it surprised me very much:

"Sutemos" in Lithuanian means "dusk" — the magic time of the day when the sun is already down and sky is coloured with most beautiful colours.

This was a genuine coincidence to me, as my comparison of Sutemos to the Belgian record label of more than twenty years ago had been in my mind as I began exploring their catalogue and got hooked immediately to their releases several months back. It was totally beyond my expectation that their label names shared an identical meaning.

Walkman also informs us that there will be another release from Sutemos towards the end of this month, September 2005, from one of the musicians who participated in the Red, Green, Blue... compilation. I am 100% certain that I am one of the many around the world who are eagerly anticipating more from this superior music label, one of the best of the bests, be it real or net- label.

[Translation completed and posted on the 10th of September, 2005. The original article in Japanese with the same title was posted on the 9th of September, 2005, under the category: music.]

[English Articles Index of this site is here.]

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  • First, as to legality. Please note that the image of No_joy's painting in this article is a copyrighted material, and carried here resized, with permission.

  • This should have come first, but once again my deepest gratitude to Walkman and the Sutemos label, for their cooperation in writing this little article about them and their music.

  • For easier downloading of the Sutemos releases, visit the label's page in the Internet Archive.

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mp3 Streaming: Whole Wheat Radio

Whole Wheat Radio Logo

I came across a very interesting and also very cozy webcast station: it's Whole Wheat Radio (WWR), located in a small village (of approximately 400 people, reportedly with a great seasonal fluctuation in number) of Talkeetna (linked to MSN Map; JavaScript needs to be enabled to zoom in/out), Alaska, USA. If you zoom out to the top second or third notch in this map, you will probably get oriented; the village is located about 150km north of Anchorage. The station's studio looks to be a very nice cabin in a forest, as you can see in the photo of it here (in the middle right of the page).

You often find the term "whole wheat" printed on the package of organic food products, and it has a certain ideological connotation (or so it seems at least to me), like environmentalism and fitness-conscious. This may well be a rather personal bias of my own, but you might nod and smile when you browse through the photos in the "Photo" section of the station's website. I do not personally remember the early to late 1960s when hippies and their sub-cultures were in fashion and the anti-war protest against American intervention in Vietnam was fierce, but those two persons photographed appear to have a "feel" similar to that from the said era. The music played over their mp3 stream is mostly by independent musicians and bands, often of the singer-songwriter type with single acoustic guitar or jam bands.

The gentleman photographed is the master of this webcast radio, Mr Jim Kloss. And the lady, whom Jim-san calls his "better half" (another good old phrase, no? :-) is Ms Esther Golton. She is a singer-songwriter herself and also plays the Appalachian mountain dulcimer (I knew virtually nothing about this unique musical instrument). The voices of both Jim-san and Esther-san can be heard in the station's programmes from time to time.

But don't be fooled by this innocent looking couple's ex-hippie like (Excuse me! > Jim and Esther) appearances — Whole Wheat Radio is equipped and run with cutting edge high-tech computer programming and is full of wonder, as explained in the "How It Works" section in their website:

[The stream is] live... sort of. Whole Wheat Radio is a paradox: It's a down-to-earth station, but it relies heavily on technology. So much so, that it can run itself with no human intervention (assuming, of course, that the computers don't crash, and the music streaming provider doesn't go down — hey, stuff happens).

The music is programmed in advance, but the playlist can always be over-ridden by listener requests. Most of the time, there is a live human being lurking in the background. This human goes by the name of Jim Kloss. Throughout the day, Jim puts on his DJ hat, and adds his personal touch to the broadcast.

[WWR is "on the air" 24/7, and appropriately enough, there is a question in their "FAQ" as to Jim-san's sleep. His answer is, "Jim can sleep whenever he wants to sleep [as the whole system is completely automated]."]

I found this webcast just a few days ago. I first visited Jim-san's weblog, followed the link from there to WWR Station Site top page, where I realised it was a streaming station. As you can see if you go on their "Guided Tour", this station site offers each listener a dedicated "Control Console" page. Through this console, you can have access to the playlist, list of fellow listeners logged in (with personal profiles), song request button and the chat viewer where you can have conversations with other listeners, Jim-san and/or Esther-san, as well as the "EJs" (electronic DJs) which are chat-bots. What a gorgeous set of bells and whistles!

For the initial half an hour or so on my first visit to the WWR station site, I was having a peek at this "Control Console", trying to figure out what was really happening there. Apparently it had much more to it than anything else I had previously seen in any of the webcast streaming stations' websites; I couldn't resist the urge to participate for myself. When I joined, Jim-san happened to be hosting his on-air rambling time, and he was so kind to answer my stupid questions (like "Is this a genuine live broadcast?" or "Hello, I'm listening in from Tokyo, Japan. Are you really out there in Alaska?") through the microphone and on to the stream, and also via the chat screen. The "EJ" chat-bots were very active too on the chat, at times mumbling and shouting but mostly behaving themselves; they even made announcements about coming tour schedules of and song releases from the musicians being played on the streaming programme. Last but not least, the WWR listeners logged in were very friendly.

In Japan, we have an ongoing attempt quite similar (both in their spirit and also in their orientation and efforts towards listener/viewer involvement) to WWR, the well-known Tokyo Daibutu TV. I have enjoyed watching their weekly live broadcast, reading (but not joining, yet) the log on its accompanying chat screen (on a separate browser window). I found the interactive aspect of Tokyo Daibutu TV that changes and directs the flow of programme extremely interesting. WWR is the radio version of this, but on the air full time without interruption, and with a much more integrated listener/broadcaster communications interface. The fact that you can make a song request from the WWR music library any time you like, and have a chat with fellow listeners and the people in the studio live, through the single "Control Console" gives you such a wonderful sense of participation and friendly company.

I'd urge you to experience this for yourself; it's so much fun. The talk portion of the stream is in English, and so is the on-line chat. But if you can manage to ask/answer questions like "Where are you from?", "What's the weather like in your place?", "What's your favourite music?" and "Why don't you make a request?", then you can survive and enjoy. You may or may not like the music that gets played on WWR's streaming, but regardless of your musical taste, I can assure you that you will have a very pleasant time logging in the WWR station site.

[Translation completed and posted on the 13th of August, 2004. The original article in Japanese with the same title was posted on the 8th of August, 2004, under the category: radio.]

[English Articles Index of this site is here.]

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  • You can listen to the WWR stream itself from the link in the "Listen" section. At present, the bandwidth is said to be secured for thirty simultaneous listeners.

  • Two stream outlets are offered, one for low bandwidth net connection and the other for better connection. On either, as emphasised in the WWR station top page, MP3Pro works wonders as regards the sound quality at your end.

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mp3 Streaming: BlueMars/CryoSleep

BlueMars Logo

There used to be an outstanding mp3 streaming station named BlueMars/CryoSleep. It has been off the air for quite some time.

[NB: Update] The streaming station BlueMars/CryoSleep has come back "on the air" again to the delight of listeners literally all over the world. It resumed webcasting in early July, 2004, with an addition of the third channel named "The Voices from Within".

The following little essay was written, originally in Japanese, in late December 2003 and published in January 2004, while the station was off the air (it turned out to be temporarily off, but at that time you could hardly hope it would come back), as an homage to the programming and person(s) behind the streams.

Ambient music

I had very little exposure to ambient music in my younger years. There are only two albums in that genre that I would listen to a lot: one was the very well known Music for Airports (released 1978) by Brian Eno; the other was The Pearl (1984) by Harold Budd and Brian Eno.

Among those two albums, the former is certainly a classic. More than a quarter of a century has passed since its release, and perhaps a couple of years less than that for me since I bought the LP. Yet I have listened to it over and over, literally thousands of times, and it never bores me. To me, as well as, I suspect, to many others, Music for Airports has been almost synonymous with the genre of ambient music itself; it is the definitive ambient album. Harold Budd's The Pearl sounds a little bit more melancholic, with its impressive use of acoustic and/or prepared piano combined with atmospheric drone by synthesizers which often leads you reminiscence of the past real and imaginative.

Non-intruding sound/music

The liner notes in Music for Airports carried a short essay about ambient music by the musician himself (which you can also find on the web here). This is, I believe, as well known a document in itself as the album and its music, at the end of which Eno concludes (or defines) as follows:

Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.

The programme contents of BlueMars/CryoSleep, in my humble opinion, did have achieved the aims and standards of musical quality that Eno explained in the passage quoted above. I preferred to listen to the quieter, more soothing (at least to my personal tastes) selection on the CryoSleep channel, but also on the alternate outlet BlueMars, extremely high quality ambient music was being streamed non-stop, without station breaks, sound stickers or jingles. Exactly as Eno says, the selection on these two streaming channels could and in fact did command your concentration if you wanted to listen to it attentively; or else it could be comfortably "ignorable" while you pondered over something.

I would have an almost hallucinating feeling that I had been moved to an unknown place, even another planet maybe, while letting the CryoSleep programme continuously flow through the net connection, especially in the dead of night on to the wee hours of the morning. The old night view from my room window would look quite different then.

The official website of this station was also fairly taciturn, but on every visit to check the current playlist, I was always attracted to the "lonely astronaut" logo graphic (see above), which reads: "In Memory of Earth / B L U E M A R S - 2031 and beyond". The website described its two streaming programmes as "Music For The Space Traveller / lone's ambient streams". This "lonely astronaut" image, together with the channel names of blue (and not red) Mars and cold sleep, reminded me of my favourite short story series written by the Japanese scifi novelist Ryu MITSUSE titled Space Chronicles ("Uchu Nendai-ki"), in which cyborg was depicted as an outcast social class increasingly disliked by the "normal" humankind and finally man as a species attempted to desert their flesh and eternally survive as information only — but I digress.

Tuning in to the streaming of BlueMars/CryoSleep gave me a very nice occasion to realise the power of ambient music. Some twenty years after first coming across Eno's Music for Airports, it was a pleasant surprise to find that this kind of music was indeed ignorable and interesting at the same time, and also had the capability of transforming the listening space and the listener's recognition of it.

Merely pleasing sound/music

Of course, there are currently many streaming stations that broadcast ambient music dedicatedly over the Internet. When you have a peek at SHOUTcast directory for the genre, you can find quite a few. And it was there when I got to learn about BlueMars/CryoSleep in the first place.

Now that BlueMars/CryoSleep went off the air, I try and listen to various ambient streaming channels, locating them through search at SHOUTcast by keywords such as ambient, downtempo, chillout, atmospheric, etc (I am not very sure if all of these can be called a sub-genre of ambient music). But unfortunately, in many cases of my trial listening I feel disappointed, thinking and feeling they are not even coming close to the excellent standard of selection in BlueMars/CryoSleep programming. Where is the difference?

It appear to me that in many of today's ambient streaming channels, the music played are mostly just pleasing to my ears, but has nothing more to them than that. They are alright as long as you let them flow merely as background music; they never distract your attention, nor do they fail to create a certain pleasant atmosphere in your listening space.

These kinds of (merely) pleasing music, however, begin to show their weakness when you want to either ignore or pay closer attention to them. Quite often, they are in a sense too thrusting to be ignored, and simultaneously too coarse or lacking in textures and structure to be attentively listened to.

BlueMars/CryoSleep programming rarely, if ever, included these ready-made, self-assuring pieces of "ambient music". Long after its having gone off the air due to the stupid and greedy (for the music industries, and just simply sad and disheartening for us listeners and music lovers) fuss over the intellectual properties rights and webcast "airplay" fee charging, I now realise that BlueMars/CryoSleep was such a special enterprise. I miss it so much.

[Translation completed and posted on the 5th of August, 2004. The original article in Japanese with the same title was posted on the 26th of January, 2004, under the category: music.]

[English Articles Index of this site is here.]

[Added: the 5th of August, 2004] Please refer to the top of this page for an update as to the current state of the station BlueMars/CryoSleep. It is very much alive!

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  • Here is the official site of BlueMars/CryoSleep.

  • The unofficial (but not officially unrecognised?), definitive resource on the web about Brian Eno is enoweb.

  • A profile of Harold Budd @ iceberg.com.

  • [Added: the 5th of August, 2004] When I published the original Japanese article on my previous website (it's still located here) in late January 2004, I had the "lonely astronaut" BlueMars logo image from the station's official website accompany it, without any permission from either lone (the "station master") or (then unknown to me) the site designer and artist splif.

    In early June this year, when lone kindly let us know via an announcement e-mail that he would resume streaming, I was so glad to hear the good news, and then I realised that as I had expected virtually no comeback of the station, I had not sent the request to ask permission to carry the station logo image in my article, which I should have done long time ago. Belated much too much, but I did write to both of these two gentlemen and they promptly granted me the permission. I thank you, lone and splif, for your courtesy and your excellent work on BlueMars streamings and its official website.

    The official website has gone under a complete renewal in mid July 2004. And do not forget to visit splif's cool website, Bwoup.com.

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An Ideal Shape: "Polonius" by Gert Holbek

Gert Holbek: Polonius

There was one pipe that I desperately wanted to see with my own eyes for quite some time. My first encounter with that pipe was a photograph of it carried in a Japanese book about pipes and pipe smoking, which I bought when I started pipe smoking. It was almost literally a case of love at first sight. The pipe had an almost definitive air of sharpness to it, honed to near extreme but not quite, yet was successful in preserving its unique warmness somehow. It even had its own shape name, "Polonius" (yes, from Shakespeare) and was a creation by the well-known Danish pipe craftsman Gert Holbek.

Design freedom that bent pipes have

When I started smoking a pipe, for some reason I preferred bent pipes to straight ones. "Bent" pipes in contrast to "Straights" have its shank (the wooden tubular part protruding from the bowl) and stem (the mouthpiece, in most cases made of plastic rubber (Vulcanite) or synthesised plastic material (Lucite, etc)) forming an angle other than 90 degrees to the bowl. Novice pipe smokers are often advised to choose a straight pipe for their starting pipe, as it is believed that straight pipes are easier to smoke, and so was I. Upon advice given to me at a pipe shop, I bought a straight Billiard (name of a classical pipe shape), scorched my tongue and palate quite a few times until I learned the knack to keep the tobacco in the bowl burning while at the same time not to make it overheated through incessant puffing. Most probably if you are familiar with any kind of tools, you know the feeling; once you master the basic skills and methods of using it properly, you begin to realise shortcomings peculiar to that tool, and also the beauty it has. With my fist pipe in Billiard shape, I found many of the former (it was inexpensive, to boot, which is not in itself bad, but in many cases implies sloppy craftsmanship) and very few of the latter. Since then about 95% of the pipes I purchased are "bents".

It appears that there exist very few straight pipes which do not fall into one of the classical pipe shapes; perhaps it is more difficult to create a truly original pipe shape for straight pipes. In contrast, by simply giving a certain angle to the bowl/shank connection, it seems pipe craftsmen get a lot of designing freedom. And in fact you can see literally hundreds of different, unique bent pipes being made and sold when you have a look at the showcase in a pipe shop or on the Internet pipe related websites. But having seen so many, and in some cases owned and smoked some, of bent pipes, Holbek's "Polonius" still seems to me to be the ideal bent pipe shape.

No real "Polonius" handy around me

Anyway, when I first learned about "Polonius" there was none available on sale in any of the then extant three or four pipe shops in Tokyo. It was nearly a couple of decades ago and there were no auction sites or the Internet itself. As I gather, there was a pipe smoking boom over here in Japan in 1970s, but it had already gone by the time I started and even any pipe related publications (books, leaflets, catalogues, etc) were scarcely available. I had to consider myself rather lucky to be able to buy a copy of the book in which I came across the photo of Holbek's "Polonius".

More bad news: in this pipe book, it was mentioned that Holbek had been meaning to do industrial designing work (which apparently he did as his main career) and his pipe production was virtually stopped. So there remained very little chance for me to see his pipes with my own eyes, let alone purchase one even if I could afford it.

Well, tough luck; but what would you do if you wanted something so badly, something such as a smoking pipe which is some kind of device or tool, functionality of which is well defined and not that difficult to meet (yes, I know this is an oversimplification; it is extremely hard to craft a genuinely good smoking pipe)? — "Make your own!" was my answer.

Carving to copy...

Amateurs are, by definition, audacious. But as foolhardy as I was, pipe crafting/carving kits ("pre-bored" one, with the smoke hole and bowl already drilled and mortise/tenon fits ready, as well as mouthpiece mostly formed) are not that cheap. Besides, carving three-dimensional objects by myself was new to me, except for the arts classes back in the junior high school days some ten to fifteen years prior to this pipe carving project. So I proceeded with caution, getting myself ready by buying a pound or so of clay for modeling the basic shape to be realised.

Even at this stage of clay modeling, however, it became clear to me that it is almost impossible to imitate (and needless to say, re-create) this characteristic sharpness of the Holbek shape. Copying to achieve a certain degree of resemblance to the original was not that difficult; I got the bowl/shank angle mostly correct, the general shape of the bowl more or less all right. But it is from there that you definitely need a talent. The clay models I made, however hard I tried, always ended up as something that could only be called obese Polonius.

In crafting a smoking pipe, you simply need to maintain a minimum thickness of the bowl and shank walls to prevent the pipe from scorching inside and out (after all, the bowl of pipe is a small furnace where you burn the tobacco and keep it lit). If you make it too thin, it can get burned easily, or the shank can be prone to breaking or cracking even at a slight shock given to it by accident.

By the time I got bored at making clay models and decided to go on and tackle the real briar root for carving, I was pushed to realise that I was lacking in that special talent, and also that there indeed exists a reason for master craftsmen to be called "masters". Doubtless, Gert Holbek was a master extraordinaire, capable of carving out a beauty with such sharpness without sacrificing the functionality and durability of a smoking pipe. My admiration for him grew after a series of my attempt to copy his piece of art.

And... you ask me about the outcome of my trials at pipe carving? No, please don't. I apologise, but I shall not be showing any of my hand-carved pipes until I get a decent one complete.

[Translation completed and posted on the 1st of August, 2004. The original article in Japanese with the same title was posted on the 6th of February, 2004, under the category: nicotiana.

Note that this particular article is a more or less a free translation of the original article, with some paragraphs and passages relevant only to visitors reading Japanese and living in Japan edited out.]

[English Articles Index of this site is here.]

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  • The photograph of Holbek's "Polonius" at the top of this article was scanned from a book written by Mr Souzi MATUYAMA, a well known senior Holbek expert and fan in Japan. Mr Matuyama's book is titled Denmark no Paipu ("Danish Pipes" or "Pipes from Denmark"), published 1983 (out of print, all in Japanese). It contains 8(!) pages of superb full-colour photographs of Holbek pipes (all named after characters in Shakespeare's plays) as well as many essays discussing Danish pipes which Mr Matuyama had contributed to the then active Japan Pipe Smokers Club organ. My thanks are to Mr Matuyama with whom I cannot make an official contact yet to ask for permission to carry this scanned image.

    The caption in the photograph (which is now illegible due to resizing of the scanned original) reads: "POLONIUS/by G. Holbek 1975 normal".

  • Please refer to the official website of alt.smoking.pipes netnews newsgroup for general information about pipes. In particular, its Pipe Parts pages explain with nice illustrations the basic structure and parts names of smoking pipes.

  • The most comprehensive portal website for pipe and pipe smoking resources on the net is Pipes Web Pages. This site was started by Steve Beaty who was a contributing subscriber to the Pipes Digest mailing list moderated by Steve Masticola, to store Pipes Digest back numbers and also other pipe related texts and info.

  • Now we have a detailed story about the master pipe craftsman Gert Holbek himself on the net. www.danishpipesmokers.com has a very nice essay, written by Jacob Groth, with photos of Holbek pipes and the man himself, on the life and work of Holbek at Gert Holbek.

  • Most of Holbek's pipes were sold via the world famous pipe shop in Copenhagen, Denmark, named "Pipe Dan". You can see the scanned images of Pipe Dan product catalogue (in English) in the website of FinePipes.com at Pipe Dan Pipes.

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A Virtual Trip to Staglieno: Joy Division "Closer"

Staglieno Tomb Sculpture

Photograph by Mr Michel Enkiri

This topic may well be a "Not again!" FAQ&A to those genuine Joy Division fans out there. My apologies in advance.

To me, from the very beginning of my encounter with their music, Joy Division has always meant their second (and also the last original) album Closer. To be more specific, Joy Division to me was the four songs on the LP B-side, namely "Heart and Soul", "Twenty-four Hours", "The Eternal" and "Decades", which again always sounded as if they were intended to be a loosely inter-related suite. And last but not least, Joy Division to me has always been inseparably connected to the monochrome "picture" on the record sleeve, occupying approximately the bottom three fifths of the square white quality bond paper. Their music was and still is literally helpless yet positively powerful at the same time, and the scene recalled therefrom as that of depthless lament and despair.

Is this Etching?

For well over two decades, somehow I had believed that this "picture" on the record sleeve was perhaps a piece of etching, or else graphically retouched work of some copper engraving original, as often found in the typeset books printed in the European Middle Ages. The shadows and lights of this "picture" seemed to me to be too impressive and dramatic to be true if it were a photograph of some real scene. Besides, a couple of years after the release of this album, I happened to come across and read an article in a Japanese literary magazine which referred to an oil painting dedicated to the memories of Ian Curtis, by a British painter who took the motif of his work from this sleeve "picture." This anecdote about which I always vaguely remembered may have contributed to forming of my uncorroborated belief that this was a "picture" of sort, not a photograph.

It's a Photograph!

As said above, the music of Closer and this record sleeve "picture" have always been invariably connected with each other in my mind. If this "picture" was indeed an etching or copper engraving artwork, what is its identity and who in the world created such an impressive piece? Up until some months ago, this kind of question had never surfaced while I continued to listen to the album countless times. Yet as soon as this question popped itself up, I could not help but finding out about the "picture." Christian implications or influences are obvious here, and its capability of the scene depicted therein to leave strong and lasting impressions is quite remarkable, so this must be created by a well-known artist?

Apparently, however, there seem to exist very little information available on the web explicitly identifying the origin of this "picture," although there do exist quite a few resourceful quality websites dedicated to Joy Division. Searching by almost every possible combination of keywords that may hit, I came across at long last the Wikipedia (English edition) which says:

The album cover was designed by Martyn Atkins and Peter Saville, with photography from Bernard Pierre Wolf. The cemetery on the cover is Staglieno Cemetery in Genova, Italy. [The original is the second paragraph of the entry Closer (album).]

So... this was a photograph, after all.... My own unfounded belief over some twenty years got finally corrected. But now, who is this Bernard Pierre Wolff (whose surname is sometimes spelled as Wolf (as in the Wikipedia article) or as Wolfe)? And this is a photo of a cemetery? What is this "Staglieno Cemetery"?

Cemetery/Grave Sculpture

Shame on me, I did not know that cemetery/grave sculpture has a long tradition in the history of Western art. Michelangelo's Medici Tomb sculptures are regarded as one of his masterpieces, and many photographers are apparently fond of choosing these sculptures as their subject.

This "Staglieno Cemetery" as photographed by Wolff and used on the Closer album cover, is also apparently quite well-known for its numerous unique grave sculptures. At the official website of Japanese Collegium Mediterranistarum, I was able to find the following reference to this cemetery, in an essay written by Ms Yoko Kamenaga:

The most likely places for Genovese to name as best tourist attractions of their city are neither museums nor churches. They are either of the following two: One is the Aquarium (Acquario di Genova) designed by the architect from there Renzo Piano; The other is the cemetery Cimitero di Staglieno, about which I will write in this essay....

... This spacious cemetery contains many grave sculptures in various styles of Classical, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Renaissance, Romantic, Naturalistic, Symbolism, Liberty, as well as huge chapel artifices. Particularly notable are the emotional expressions and realism of the grave sculptures found in the Corridor of the 19th Century[?]....

[Please note that this is an unsolicited translation done by this writer from the Japanese original, titled "Place for Prayer: Cimitero di Staglieno in Genova".]

This essay by Ms Kamenaga also refers to the book Images of Man and Death (Images de l'homme devant la mort) by French historian Philippe Ariès, which has many photographs of the Staglieno Cemetery.

Bernard Pierre Wolff, the photographer

So far so good; some background about grave sculpture in general and where that particular tomb sculpture on the Closer cover is located have become clear. Well then, who is this photographer who was able to capture and hence eternalise this impressive, tragic scene of intricate shadows and lights?

Another series of searches on the web brought me to the website by Mr Michel Enkiri, who took the photo of the Closer cover tomb sculpture on the spot in Genova for himself, which you saw at the beginning of this article. This site by Mr Enkiri shows you many photographs shot by Wolff, along with the original Wolff Closer cover photo. You will also find the lying Angel[?] photo by Wolff which was featured on the cover of 12inch "Love Will Tear Us Apart" issue by Joy Division. Bernard Pierre Wolff was born in 1930 in France, died in 1985, five years after the release of Closer. Mr Enkiri writes about the work of Wolff as follows:

Most Wolff's B&W pictures that were published are taken "live" in the streets (with his discreet Leica), or portraits. He was fascinated by people on the edge, countries like India or Japan, or cities like New York or London, where everything is possible.

His pictures are focused on men, and they talk to the heart as well as to the eye. They contain joy, despair, friendship, pride, madness, beauty and ugliness, often a real sense of humour and a kind of poetry.

He managed to captivate what he had seen in a second, with the right angle and the right light, rendering the original atmosphere with superb accuracy. His pictures often include a part of mystery, and push the viewer to recreate a story around the image.

Mr Enkiri's Bernard Pierre Wolff page, under the section "His art"

Looking at the photos by Wolff in Mr Enkiri's website, I can only nod and heartily agree.

A Virtual Trip...

I have continued to listen to Closer from time to time, numerous, countless times for well over two decades. When I became heavily (and at times clinically) depressed, I always turned to this album and got myself literally dosed with its music. This may sound overly serious, but I think I would not have been alive now if I had not encountered with the four songs on the LP B-side of this album. Pondering about it, I find it rather ironical that the dark, depressive voice and lyrics sung by the vocalist who hanged himself only months prior to the release of this historical masterpiece keep on helping myself and healing my equally helpless depressive bouts.

Anyhow, if I hadn't begun searching the web for more info on the identity of the Closer cover, most probably I would have believed that the cover artwork was a "picture." till the end. By arriving at Mr Enkiri's website, and having confirmed that this "picture" was actually a photo, learnt that its subject was a real tomb sculpture located in Genova, Italy, and that the photographer who had sadly been dead for many years now took quite a few other impressive photographs, I felt as if I had gone on to and returned from a rather long journey.

[Translation completed and posted on the 22nd of April, 2004. The original article in Japanese with the same title was posted on the 15th of February, 2004, under the category: music.]

[English Articles Index of this site is here.]

[Added: the 30th of July, 2004] Please refer to the bottom of this page for an addendum as to the history of the Staglieno Cemetery.

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  • Before anything, I'd like to express my sincere acknowledgements for Mr Michel Enkiri. Mr Enkiri kindly granted me permission to carry the resized image (at the top of this article) of his own photo of the Staglieno Closer tomb sculpture. I thank you, Michel-san!

  • I'd urge visitors who happen to come and see this little article to visit and see for yourselves the original photo by Mr Enkiri, as well as the original Wolff photograph used for the Closer cover. You will be able to see the details of the sculpture and original photos much more clearly.

  • His website Michel ENKIRI's Homepage (he's a Frenchman but his site's contents are in English) is rich with the already referred to resources about the photographer Wolff, as well as an excellent information collection about the band Joy Division, and his other personal interests.

  • I would like to write more (no, some more!??) about my personal accounts on Joy Division the band and their album Closer. I'm planning to refer to other rich resources that can be found on the web in that coming article.

  • There used to be a very detailed description in English of the Staglieno Cemetery at comune.genova.it... but unfortunately this site has been renewed from the bottom up and the relevant articles apparently have gone[?]. According to my scribbled memo taken from these web pages, the Cemetery was founded in mid 19th century, has many tomb sculptures mainly made of marble, quite a few authors of literary acclaims have been attracted to this place including Mark Twain, etc etc.... The renewed pages seem to be moved and located at cimitero monumentale, but I cannot read Italian.... For a concise description in English, you can refer to Genovando: Staglieno Cemetery.

[Added: the 30th of July, 2004] Our correspondence continues between Michel-san and myself, and as I had told Michel that I cannot read Italian, he was so kind to send me the following translation of the relevant passages published in cimitero monumentale: Staglieno e la sua storia at comune.genova.it.

I have already received this via e-mail from Michel-san on the 8th of July, 2004, but due to pressing of my personal matters and also to a rather prolonged server-side problems caused by network setup renewal at the present hosting service in mid July, it took me over three weeks to publish this addendum and make my small article above much more enhanced. My most sincere thanks are due to you, Michel-san, and my apologies for this belated update.

History of the Staglieno:

The Staglieno cemetery officially opened to the public Jan 1st 1851. At this time it was largely incomplete, but had its basic specific architecture functional and symbolic aspects.

The project had already started in 1835 with the architect Carlo Barabino (1768–1825) — which had an important part in the Neo Classical physiognomy of Genova, and created buildings such as Teatro Carlo Felice, the Palazzo dell'Accademia, etc — just before he died of cholera. The project was then transferred to his co-worker Giovanni Battista Resasco (1798–1871) whose plans were approved in 1840. The works began in 1844, in the area of Villa Vaccarezza, where few people lived and not very far from the city centre.

From the original project of Barabino he kept the rectangle as basic structure, enhancing the monumental character. This brought great admiration from the visitors, who entered via the main gate directly in this scene, with homogeneous porticos, and the "Pantheon".

Once the complex structure of the cemetery works were over, in the 80s, this impact remained strong, even raised by the natural surroundings: The Pantheon with the porticos, the green hills — the zone of Boschetti & Valletta Pontasso — with vegetation and chapels and dissemintated monuments (like the tomb of Giuseppe Mazini and many names of the Risorgimento).

This integration in the landscape was increased in time, like the non-Catholic area or the cemetery of the English, in the last decades of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. The choices of Resasco made Staglieno the model for cemeteries Italian and abroad, combining the Neo Classical architecture, of Mediterranean tradition, a kind of a "gallery" of monuments, and the "natural" type, more specific after the 40s of northern Europe and Anglo-Saxon countries (beginning with the Pére Lachaise in Paris).

The growth of the city being one of the major industrial and commercial centres of northern Italy, provoked several changes. Resasco himself made a change to the north-east area, with new semi-circular porticos, which should have been followed by another one. Only one was built in the 90s, rich with Liberty and Déco works. More works brought several periods to other porticos, as well as expansion to other areas. Like the Valle del Veilino — already sheltering the non-Catholic graves — with the building of the Porticato Montino, rich of Déco & "Novecento" works, and also the area for the dead of WWI (1935–1936), or the latest monumental change with the Portico S Antonino (began 1937, inauguration 1955).

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Index of Articles in English

Since this writer's mother tongue is Japanese, most of the contents in this site are initially written in that language. Articles in English are translated by this writer himself; only those that might prove to be of interest (hopefully) to non Japanese speaking/reading readers are (and will be) chosen for English translation, as the process takes time.

Because of the weblog system used for this site, use of multi-byte Japanese characters at places could not be helped (the "charset" of the whole of this site is specified by the weblog system as "EUC-JP" (which is one of the Japanese language encoding sets currently in use on computers) in the <meta> tag). Apologies for the possible inconveniences caused by this.

Your comments and trackbacks to any article herein are always much appreciated, regardless of its initial publication date.

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