A Boatload Of New Music

Posted on April 24th, 2013

Filed under: General Noise,Music News — Karl Olson @ 4:15 PM

April’s Free Release:
Ultraklystron – Music For Tablets (Mediafire)

Oh, and this was finally finished as well:

Meanwhile, I’ve just wrapped my finals up. I have countless resumes to send out at the moment (and a lot of leads to follow up on now that I have the time,) but there is still tons of music in my archives for me to finally group together and release, so I should be able to keep up with my goal of a EP or more per month.

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Rave Culture: A Handy Guide For Sourpuss Dissmissives

Posted on January 16th, 2013

Filed under: General Noise — Karl Olson @ 9:21 PM

So apparently some one at Vice UK thinks America knows nothing about rave culture.

For starters, the first paragraph undermines the author’s whole premise as he concedes out of the gate that American invented rave culture, just that the US didn’t nurture it the way the rest of the world did. Taken at face value this is already a pretty screwed up statement in many ways. Yes, we had a number of seminal electronic artists spring from our cities (it wasn’t called Detroit Techno and Chicago House to be cute, it’s where the genres started.) Yes, outside of occasional flirtation with mainstream breakthroughs such the mid-90s hype around the Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers and the Crystal Method (oh, who were from Las Vegas, Nevada, and whose music seemed to be in every other film and video game for much of the late 90s, even in the US,) the US has tended toward a more underground position for electronic music and rave culture as a whole until really the past two years. Though, to be fair, a lot of other one and two hit wonders existed on the electronic music front like LaBouche, Technotronic and all the Miami Bass acts too through out the 90s, so it wasn’t a real anomaly, and it was all over ads and movies. However, there was a lot of give and take been the US and Europe, and you belittle the fact that folks like Juan Atkins loved acts Kraftwerk. Electronic music in general has been a global development, the US included, and the article does an awful job of capturing that. Beyond that, this doesn’t mean that just because a generation of Americans (that was largely born after the mentions acts had their moment of US radio play) is now getting to EDM (and yes, EDM – Salsa, Soca, Polka and many other genres are dance music, but they aren’t electronic, now are they?) that you get to basically insult a scene that as the author admits, created much of the basis the world now enjoys.

Essentially, to try say that previously the US was all “‘Euro-fag’-hating teenagers” before Skrillex is the most willfully dense nonsense I’ve heard since 20/20 screamed “Stop The Raves” about the US rave scene nearly two decades before this article was written (which should say something about the roots and scale of the US rave scene itself. It made TV news magazines regularly, and beyond that ecstasy and it’s ephedra-laden knock off cousin herbal ecstasy were part of panicked news reports too.) Every major city in the US could boast an active electronic music scene since the mid-90s at the very latest. Those nascent scenes were anything but small as massive multi-thousand person events existed from coast to coast from the mid-90s onward, and they weren’t just filled with import talent, as countless new US acts made their name in those scenes. Pendulum snagged their drummer, KJ Sawka, from Seattle. I recall reading articles in Mixmag UK (which by the way, was in almost bookstore magazine section in any major US city starting in the mid-90s, I bought it on the regular and made collages with the photos for art class) that lauded the Crystal Method for helping to make Big Beat a commercial genre in Europe. All the teens and twenty somethings who I chatted with on local area rave email lists and online bulletin boards back in the 1990s would probably be pretty miffed at the accusation that we didn’t care about rave culture and electronic music the way Europe did. In fact, I DJ’ed many of high school’s dances during the late 90s and early 00s, and even then, as much as they wanted to hear Britney Spears, they didn’t bat an eyelash at Daft Punk, The Prodigy, even Aphrodite and Cornelius. The one dance I went to at another school during high school, they’d literally hired a bunch of trance and breakbeat DJs. That was maybe a bit much at the time, but a lot of people loved it.

I mean, I could keep going on what all this guy gets wrong (how lots of old line electronic dance acts from the UK use live drums and instruments being a huge one, and how there are plenty of straight edge dance music acts being another,) but let’s end on the two tritest points in the article: the elitist little jab about UK politicians using Underworld in campaigns, and the last minute save by trying to bring kinship with your fellow man into it. On first point, it’s sign of just how stogy electronic music had perhaps become in Europe when political campaigns use it. It’s so mainstream and palatable that you can use it to back your brand. If that’s not a negative, then lets remember that Bank of America was using Aphex Twin’s “Boy/Girl Song” to flog loans in the US back 1998, and even Gap stores in every shopping mall in America included Air’s Moon Safari in the playlist, so again, we’ve had a similar acceptance of the music from a “using it to sell your brand/self”-thing. It’s a non-point. Meanwhile, if he really wants some kinship, don’t be a rude skeptic right as electronic music finally finds a wide embrace in the US roughly 2 decades after the Summer of Love in UK. Let the scene grow naturally, and embrace that fact global electronic music culture is finally mainstream in a global sense too, at least in most developed countries now.

TL;DR: I will not get off your front lawn. It was never yours only to begin with, and you need glasses so you can see all the variety and beauty that’s always been in front of you.

That was a nice vent.

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The Only Constant is Change

Posted on January 14th, 2013

Filed under: General Noise — Karl Olson @ 3:57 PM

So, after over decade of existence and a change of ownership and name, Anime Kingdom/Anime Raku, the anime store that was critical not only to my development as an anime fan, but as a human being as I made a lot of life long friends there, went out of business in October 2012. I only found out this past weekend when I was running some errands while visiting the US. I was pretty shocked by it.

Truthfully, it was probably a pretty inevitable thing. Niche retail doesn’t survive gentrification, and hobby-oriented shops are niche pretty much no matter the hobby is. It doesn’t help that anime and manga as a physical retail medium as opposed to streamed and downloaded content has essentially been the end game for that market even while the physical market boomed from 2000-2007, but given all of the stores selling figurines and plushies up here in Canada, I have to think it wasn’t just the content being sold that was the problem. A lot of the pieces of downtown Bellevue have changed radically over the past decade or so, and the financial crisis and the dot com bust were always ever only going to be speed bumps in Bellevue’s eventual growth from bedroom suburb to high-rise condos and such. The buildings that sat half-finished during the years where I made it downtown every Friday to pick up a stack of new manga and DVDs, and to hang out with the friends that probably kept me from being a hapless shut-in were all finished years ago. Therefore, it only makes sense that some of the last 1-2 and story retail spots in that area would eventually succumb to the bulldozer. That’s not to say the building itself has been flattened yet, but apparently it will be.

It also wasn’t all great memories in the long term either. Friendships that seemed at the time to be immutable were felled so rapidly it hardly seemed possible. People grew up, got married and simply disappeared from the social circle not out of malice, but maturity. Even I’m part of that – I hadn’t bought anything from the store in years, not because I wasn’t a fan, but because I couldn’t reasonably be spending big money on school and anime at the same time. My purchases have narrowed into very specific releases, and are pre-ordered from Amazon. I’m sure other folks from those days have made the same kinds of trade offs.

Still, I’ll always reflect fondly on those days. They provided a lot of fodder for my blog posts, and while some of them are coated in the most embarrassing fanboyism (not that this post isn’t, and not that I won’t probably regret this meta-aside a decade from now looking back,) I will always cherish the memories themselves. Yeah, it’s bland and banal as all get out to fondly remember taking the bus down from Bellevue Community College, walking in the winter cold down the alleyways, and going in the back entrance to Anime Kingdom to see a group of good friends talking about the latest episodes of the newest shows. It’s plebian to cherish walking out that back entrance across the alley to the Starbucks attached to the Barnes and Noble (whose manga selection sucked back then, and who didn’t have 10% pre-order discount,) and buying a venti peppermint mocha and a slice of lemon pound cake or a chocolate croissant with your friends, then walking back to that store and talking geek stuff until the store closed at 7. I know many other people’s early 20’s are way more exciting than mine. However, they were mine, and I will always look on them fondly.

Rather, I loved that chapter of my nerd life, and there can no be question that it is closed.

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Do the right thing

Posted on November 27th, 2012

Filed under: General Noise — Karl Olson @ 11:22 AM

Just after midnight, as Danielle and I drove back from a early birthday dinner at Lolita’s Cantina, we spotted an older person in only their underwear and a T-shirt walking down Hastings. As it was freezing outside, we circled back and offered the man my coat (it was just an old one from Target.) He asked for a ride to a shelter, and since he was mostly lucid (he had been walking in the wrong direction,) we let him in and drove him down. It turns out he had a drunken argument with his girlfriend, and she’d kicked him out. As we dropped him off, I recalled that I had a fleece blanket, a spare pair of Kmart sneakers, some granola bars and some vitamin waters in the back of the car, so I popped the trunk, and Danielle outfitted the man as best as we could. He said it was quite nice of us, but Danielle commented afterwards that it wasn’t something extraordinary; it was just the right thing to do.

Still, it feels good to do the right thing.

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Return of Forever

Posted on September 18th, 2012

Filed under: General Noise — Karl Olson @ 9:44 PM

So, earlier in the month I was down in Seattle for a fall festival. More specifically, the Aki Matsuri that was held on the Bellevue Community College Campus. It was weird being back on that campus. Their are a lot of little things I’d forgotten about. The campus isn’t actually all that big for starters, and the places where I hung out and loitered on campus were actually pretty small relative to the environment I have now at SFU. I mean, I barely believe I ever thought that getting around campus between classes was problematic, and after the 500 person lectures I’ve had for a few classes at SFU, the classrooms seem more like study spaces.

Little things have changed – the old, dying piano has been replaced with one of the electric pianos that were used as MIDI controllers in the music production program (easiest As ever for me.) I’d recalled it being a Pepsi campus (Mt. Dew Amp being a staple for getting me through classes in those days,) and it’s all Coke products now. Funny enough, the reverse brand switch just happened on the SFU campus.

Still, the places where I made some of my longest lasting friends are all still there. The student center building, aptly nick named “the fishbowl” for it’s semi-circular floor-to-ceiling windowed front. The classrooms where I’d watch anime that are now going out of print. The bus stop where I’d disembark half awake with a venti mocha in my hand and a chocolate croissant or slice of lemon pound cake in the other. Just like the those pastries, I can’t even really get at some of those friends any more.

It was weird being back there. Brought up a lot of weird memories for me. It was a great time, and to be ungrateful in anyway would be denying the privilege inherent in being able to take 4 years to get a 2 year degree, in taking summers off (though it benefited the family to have a “free” babysitter,) in being able to going to the anime store every Friday and have 50 different manga and anime series on pre-order. I worked a mediocre retail job a couple of those years too, but on the whole, I was lucky to get the chance to work out what I wanted to do in what was probably a much lower pressure environment that if I’d been paying triple the amount per semester for classes, and living on campus in another city. As this blog entry itself is a slight testament too, I am a bit of a neurotic guy, and I think in a more intense situation, something would’ve been left by the wayside. What that would be besides the friendships made by being in that place and time, I’m not sure.

Like I said, it was weird being back there. It feels good to say that here somehow.

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