Category Archives: Uncategorized

Entropa: International Lampoon

Looks like the penny has finally been spent with The Times headline: David Cerny says hoax EU sculpture inspired by Monty Python. Yet another piece of European aggrandisement and misquoting by The Times, or is Cern being a little too modest? Surely the Czechs have enough right to celebrate their own absurd, surreal and avant garde history? Here’s Cery in his own words:

Grotesque hyperbole and mystification belongs among the trademarks of Czech culture and creating false identities is one of the strategies of contemporary art.  The images of individual parts of Entropa use artistic techniques often characterised by provocation. The piece thus also lampoons the socially activist art that balances on  the verge between would-be controversial attacks on national character and undisturbing decoration of an official space. We believe that the environment of Brussels is capable of  ironic self-reflection, we believe in the sense of humour of European nations and their representatives.

Indeed.

Record LP Sales

LPCoverLover.com

There’s been something of a buzz on Nielsen’s data for US music sales in 2008. Not surprisingly it shows CDs hit by purely digital music, but also a sharp increase in LP sales. Lucas Mearian’s article Back to the future: Vinyl record sales double in ’08, CDs down is worth reading even though it suffers a little from the usual misplaced credulity toward the medium seen often in the more ignorant digerati. This was heard in depth on the BBC World Service Business Daily where a short trip from Shepherd’s Bush to The Walrus would have disabused them of their failure to research. More on that when the podcast comes out.

 

On to the Nielsen data, the overall stats are:

TOTAL LP ALBUM SALES (12/31/07 – 12/28/08)

   

 

(LP/VINYL ALBUMS – IN MILLIONS)    

UNITS SOLD

 

2008

 

2007

 

% Chg.

   


           
    1.88*   .99   89%

But what’s the juice on what people are actually buying?

                       

2008 TOP TEN VINYL ALBUMS

(12/31/2007-12/28/2008)

   

2008 TOP TEN VINYL ARTISTS

(based on vinyl album sales from 12/31/2007-12/28/2008)

                       
   

Title/Artist

 

Units Sold

       

Artist

 

Units Sold

1  

In Rainbows/ Radiohead

  25,800     1   Radiohead   61,200
2  

Abbey Road/ Beatles

  16,500     2   Metallica   39,500
3  

Chinese Democracy/ Guns ‘N Roses

  13,600     3   Beatles   20,400
4  

Funplex/ B-52’s

  12,800     4   Elliott Smith   17,800
5  

Third/ Portishead

  12,300     5   Bob Dylan   15,200
6  

In the Aeroplane…/ Neutral Milk Hotel

  10,200     6   Portishead   15,100
7  

Dark Side of the Moon/ Pink Floyd

  10,200     7   Ryan Adams   14,000
8  

Fleet Foxes/ Fleet Foxes

  9,600     8   Coldplay   13,900
9  

Death Magnetic/ Metallica

  9,400     9   Guns ‘N Roses   13,600
10.  

O.K. Computer/ Radiohead

  9,300     10.   Neutral Milk Hotel   13,200

Abbey Road and Dark Side of the Moon??? What cotton-picking cloth-ears is going out and buying these?

Well so far, only data in for America, not been able to see what the stats are for UK and Europe or global and would love to see what Japanese ears have been listening to. Equally useful would be data on 2nd hand sales, this must be massive with vinyl, especially with sites such as eBay and Discogs.

If anyone has any data, please do let me know.

Irish dropped Bollocks

sexpistolsA thoroughly entertaining snippet in the Gruaniad this morning (nicked from the Irish Times) on the reception of Punk and the Sex Pistols by the Irish authorities and how Anglo Saxon ribaldry upset their Celtic delicates. Recently released Irish government papers reveals what in 1977, the Garda Síochána thought about that Situationista masterpiece: “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.

With shades of Flann O’Brien one Garda Sgt wrote that although he hadn’t actually heard the album:

The title on the sleeve . . . would indicate that the contents of the record is obscene…

Although the Sgt’s missive reached the deputy assistant chief state solicitor, it was decided that murky legal waters were ahead and that in any event the maximum fine would be £2…

In the UK, plod was not so wise and a Nottingham policewoman on seeing a giant poster for the album in the Virgin record store, drew its attention to her superiors. The resultant court case was defended by John Mortimer QC who brought in a lecturer from the University of Nottingham (known as ‘Beeston tech’ by their colleagues over at Trent), one Reverend James Kingsley, professor of English studies.

Having personally studied Heretical Studies Critical Theory at said university, I can vouch that this might have been an unwise move, but the old duffer renowned expert in middle ages literature, proved sound value for money. Kingsley explained that the word ‘bollocks’ had been in use since the year 1000 and:

The word has been used as a nickname for clergymen. Clergymen are known to talk a good deal of rubbish and so the word later developed the meaning of nonsense. They became known for talking a great deal of bollocks, just as old balls or baloney also come to mean testicles, so it has twin uses in the dictionary…

Mortimer’s summing up for the defense is also worth quoting at length, where he asks:

what sort of country are we living in if a politician comes to Nottingham and speaks here to a group of people in the city centre and during his speech a heckler replies ‘bollocks’, are we to expect this person to be incarcerated, or do we live in a country where we are proud of our Anglo Saxon language? Do we wish our language to be virile and strong or watered down and weak?

Bravo Mr QC, those were the days. I can feel a trip to Discogs coming on, the nostalgia has gotten the better of me.

The CD is dead, long live the…

Those creators of the future Gartner have posted a valediction for bidding mourning for the CD. The precogs say that this should be the last christmas for the format: 2008 Should Be the Last Christmas for Retail CDs. Having spent a most pleasant time with the people at Dada Records in Chiswick just before said Xmas I do hope not. Whilst Dada specialise in CDs, there is still a certain pleasure from actually going shopping for music and one amplified by the vinyl shopping trip. But say Gartner, the profits of physical media spell the end of industry practices:

As a percentage of total revenue in the U.S. market, physical media (CDs, LPs, DVD-A and so on) have gone from 91 percent of revenue in 2005 to 77 percent in 2007 and there is also evidence that physical retailers are even reducing the physical floor space dedicated to CDs.

Instead Gartner say, the makers of CDs should abandon the traditional launch, release digitally first and then burn content to order. But what then of the LP? I wish too, but does Gartner’s bell toll the final end of vinyl and the arrival of digital lossless formats such as FLAC? Nano technology aside, LPs are of course still beng released and are getting heavier – 200g plus Japanese imports. Manwhile lossy MP3s still dominate in the overall market.

So what’s going on? Maybe the best barometer is a site such as Linn Records. Linn are offering music in 3 formats – CD, Vinyl and Download. As a hifi manufacturer Linn produce the whole top-end gamut from record players to digital streamers. My Well Tempered turntable already hosts a Linn Archive cartridge (now the Arkiva) and if I ever had to replace the Tempered deck then the Sondek LP12 would be top of my list. Top of my wish of wish lists would be the Klimax DS.But, a big but, at $20,000 a pop, it’s not likely to be in next year’s Xmas goody bag. For this year, I’ve still got some £5 blues CDs to listen to, courtesy of Dada.

Are Gartner right? This is my precog moment…All said, vinyl aint about to disappear, it’s far too high fidelity. Digital will prevail. But the CD? The death knell for the compact disk is when network distribution takes its next leap into uber-broadband and the home becomes a network. People will want HD quality video as downloads and easy streaming across their living spaces. Given the currently immense bandwidth that this takes it will still need a choice jump in bandwidth to become fully effective and accepted. This will/is happening. For musical formats this is fab as it heralds FLAC etc as transportable. All we need then is storage tech to continue its unstoppable trajectory and the 1st fully lossless iPod will be out. A few thousand albums stored in FLAC on a portable player will be fun. That then will see the final end of the MP3. What will be of note at that point, will be the reaction of all those who realise that their entire music collection is in a legacy format. Possibly, maybe, they won’t believe their ears.

Dada Records phone number: 020 8747 9790

Geekbrief.TV : Vinyl, Kloss and no FLAC

They really should know better, in fact I’m sure they do know better, but such is the grime of corporate sponsorship that such items get promoted. In the same show that features Henry Kloss‘ legendary Tivoli Model One, a radio that looks so nice that Paul Smith used to sell it; GeekBrief TV go and plug USB turntables. These things are like a bonfire of the vanities for vinyl and should not, never in any circumstances be brought into any proximity with your analogue software.

Back to Henry Kloss and the Tivoli and what makes them both special. Henry Kloss liked music, good quality music and getting the best from available technology. So he runs counter to today’s MP3 drive, where superb technology is driven in reverse in order to maximise profit and convenience, at the expense of the musicality and tone. In this older aim, our Henry co-collaborated with Ray Dolby to make Dolby B and tried to transform an audio format invented for dictation, the cassette tape, into something the ears can enjoy. He also designed the AR Legend Turntable, a high quality yet affordable device, that I used to proudly own and only sold on eBay only a few years back when I needed the space.

The Tivoli is Kloss’ swansong. Brought out of retirement to create it, Kloss re-evaluated and redefined what FM radio stood for. The end product is simply nice. The tuning dial is on a 5:1 ratio to make precise tuning simple but the real genius of this device is what it does to an FM stereo signal – it get rids of it. Well OK, what it does is double the fidelity by combining the stereo signals into one good quality mono one. The result is a joy. And it knocks the socks of the poor shoddy compromise (at least so far) that is DAB.

Back to Geekbrief, what I’d like to see the delectable Cali present is a bit more on the state of the art analogue tech and the contender for the audiophile crown with the digital upstart FLAC. Maybe next time they’re in San Jose the T-Shirted Diva and Co,  could buy a bag of fish and chips and pop round the corner into The Analog Room, to have a good listen to some musical biscuits. What I’d really, really like, what I really really want, would be a GeekBrief TV show comparing high-end TT with with top-end FLAC, & not seen a peep on FLAC in their archives….

More on FLAC and other such guff in later post. In the meantime I’ll close on another lament. According to Wikipedia (as reliable as Flynn), when Kloss died his lifetime collection of audio equipment ended up in a house-clearance sale…

Cobblers!

Simon Crompton writes of finding a real cobblers in London in the Men’s Flair blog. There are others about – here’s one in the west of London of eponymous name:

Chiswick Cobbler 9 Turnham Green Terrace
Chiswick Cobbler 9 Turnham Green Terrace

On a recent visit to Regent Street the Church’s Shoes shop was of interest. Word on the ground in Npton is that Church’s shoes were ‘dumbed down’ when they were taken over by Prada.

I still recall the days of old, when due to a good friend of mine being lucky enough to have a close relative working at their factory, we used to enjoy getting seconds for around £23 a pair. My friend still has a store of vintage mint brogues, plus quite a few that a more than worn in. Legend has it that Church’s still offer a lifetime repair on their shoes, provided no other cobbler has worked on them. I’d like to see this guarantee enacted at the Regent’s Street store, just to see if it’s still true, or is just a load of Old Cobblers