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05 May

Aphorisms by Tragical History Tour

Aphorisms is the full LP debut by Derrick Johnston of Make-That-A-Take Records, and countless bands with numerous other releases behind his belt. Ten tracks of heartfelt raw emotion and experience which is undersold by the modest title.

Its a great record, but I’ve delayed being able to write about it and I’m not sure why. Normally when I first hear an album by a band it’s either completely new or there’s a couple of tracks I’ve heard a few times. There are some new tracks on it, but others were on previously released EPs, or had just been being performed solo for so long, and I’ve heard so many times that it causes a jar to hear as a full band recorded. And I know no one reads this blog but I still try and write stuff that’s for people other than me. I don’t know what the experience of someone sitting down and hearing these tracks for the first time will be, but I know that the handful of us who have been to tons of shows in Dundee may have a different experience.

1. Fight For Light

The record opens with Derrick singing acousticly with his distinctive voice. I remember him describing it, but can’t remember the term, maybe polyphonic overtones? I dunno enough about music to know, all I know is his gruff vocals are pretty unmatched.

A wonderful story, presumably about some grandparent or older family friend who was a positive influence on him during a troubled part of his life, and now reminiscing about their loss and the promises made to them.

When I never had a home
You were my place to go.

2. Come On Home, Hero

A song released last year about the Brexit shambles

screaming “we want out!”
without thought or doubt

This is one of those songs I really like, but have heard live solo more than recorded so there’s a nag at the back of my head that is sounds off. But it’s great nonetheless and I can see myself listening to it, certainly of the next year as we raise towards the abyss of ignorance and futility ahead.

3. Old Words

The title track of an EP, it’s yet another great song, and I think the same as the previous recorded version released. Just raw emotion and love poured out into a track, head and shoulders above other similar themes by anyone I can remember hearing in a long time.

4. Three Two

A track I first heard performed by The Uniforms and absolutely loved. The line Tired? I’m exhausted. Sanity?I think we lost it somewhere between California and Colorado Springs. blows my mind every time. The rhyming structure and where the line breaks are, the pause and the tone change are just delightful. It’s surprisingly upbeat for a song about a self-destructive lifestyle trying to cover up internal unhappiness.

5. What Would Vinnie Mac Do?

Another song perfected by a fantastic rhyming structure. This is the kind of track that made it difficult to write about the album. Just listen to it. The contrast of the guitar, the song and the lyrics is just overwhelming and make it difficult to find the words to express the feelings it stirs up.

6. Pink Couch

Another (old to me) tune. I’m assuming a story about visiting some variety of therapist. Maybe because it isn’t new for me I just feel out of sorts not hearing this with a crowd singing along to the chorus. I’ve spoken before of how I don’t listen to music by a new band before I go see them as the live and recorded experience is so different and this is maybe one way I understand it. This song is good to listen to as an MP3 or on a record, but it is amazing to be in a crowd singing along to it. Both are great experiences, but it’s hard to separate the two and for me to love the recorded solo experience as much as the live communal one.

7. It’s Cool, I’ve Got This

The LP has been broken into three parts, the first of the hurt and pain, Pink Couch is acknowledging and trying to deal with it and this track is the start of the turn-around. Getting his life sorted out.

8. My Little Ray Of Sunshine

A great number, and the lyrics can be read as a number of different people in different roles, there’s a bunch of layers there and it will take some more listens to try and zone in on my preferred interpretation.

9. No Advice

Probably the highlight of the entire album. Amazing live, amazing recorded. The chorus of

But if you ask me,
I’ll tell you everything.
I won’t walk away.
You are never alone.

is just beautiful.

10. The Final Intervention

The final and longest track on the album is fantastic. Maybe about the ignorance of climate change? There’s too many things it can be about but it seems to fit best. Ending the track and album with a spoken word monologue of hope and looking to the future. transformation is real.


I’ve known Derrick for at least 15 years, maybe more and so it’s hard to listen to this album and hear the pain and suffering he has been through poured out into it in such a raw form. The narrative structure of the record helps, by starting in the past, a middle break of an understanding of the pain and then looking to the future, concluding with the positive message at the end.

But having stood watching Derrick and numerous members of the crowd with tears welling up in the corner of their eyes during some of these songs makes it a hard album to listen to. The rollercoaster of emotions you will experience every time mean you have to be in a good mindset to even throw it on or the stories with low points will drag you right down with it. And if the biggest downside of an album is it’s so well written and performed it will have an emotional impact on you, then that’s gotta be worth a listen right?

Parental Advisory: Emotional Trauma and Hearbreak.

You have three options with the record, buy online as a download, or as CD or LP which come with the download code too. The LP also came with a fanzine/interview which was great including some old photos and the like and a pile of other material you can usually find on the Distro stand. Can’t say for sure what you get with the CD though, except a promise of cool free shit and what more could you ask for?

10 Apr

Anti Social-Media

I first went on the internet over 20 years ago. At the time the way you connected with people was via email directly or on bulletin boards and forums more publicly.

I really enjoyed it, little micro-groups of interested fowk, with moderation and blocking, and ability to separate interests by different sites. More importantly everything was decentralised.

Then along came social media sites. Bebo, Myspace, Facebook and many more which fell before they gained that level or popularity.

Slowly these disparate communities started to die, either through competition, or turnover as people moved on and new members were not being brought in due to a preference for the ease of a centralised Facebook.

I resisted Facebook for years, eventually caving into having an account so I could manage a Page. But even still I tried to keep it very locked down, everything as private as I could have it, and creating post audiences, and only adding people I genuinely knew. One of the only other things pushing me there was the number of gigs I had missed because promoters had only been promoting them on Facebook and nowhere else I could have seen them.

A few years ago I paused and took a look at the way I was using social media.

In the meantime I caved even further, eroded by comments from friends that I didn’t use it like others, was overly paranoid and so on.

I took a conscious decision to try to navigate it like others, post more, tag more photos of myself etc.

In early 2017 I again paused and took stock. Annoyed by reports of abuse of privacy, Facebook snooping on other web cookies and so on. Constantly having to review privacy settings as they changed repeatedly, always making info more public by default than it had been so.

I took some steps to disconnect Facebook.

Firstly I found all applications I had used a Facebook account as a sign-in mechanism for and de-authorised them, and set up a normal account to them if still needed. I had been interested in experiencing OAuth etc, but the closeness and sharing of data between various applications and Facebook had made me uneasy. The smaller numbers of accounts had seemed positive in the light of the number of password leaks and the like, but using strong unique passwords seems a better strategy than re-using Facebook for everything.

Secondly I de-authorised all apps that were using Facebook. There were only a handful, but I had tried a few to see what the deal was with games on the platform, some I hadn’t used in years etc.

Thirdly I did my almost annual review of friends list. Unfollowing people who posted too frequently or posted content I wasn’t interested in, unfriending those I hadn’t seen in years and couldn’t see me spending time with them again in the near future – former flatmates of friends I’d lost touch with and the like.

Fourthly, I’ve become unsettled at the, admittedly few, times I attempted to post a link to something online on twitter, facebook, or send through a messaging app and this failed, with others reporting failures with that specific link.

After doing this I intended to delete my Account completely. But I then found out that you still needed an Account to use the messenger application. As this was the sole way I kept in touch with a number of friends, it became one of only two things keeping me on it – that and gig information.

What I then did was start isolating Facebook to only use in a separate browser on it’s own. This is bonkers.

After reviewing a bunch of info about Cambridge Analytica and the like I had to pause again. One of my goals is to reduce the time I spend on social media overall. By reducing the amount of things I follow, hopefully the proportion of items I am genuinely interested in will increase.

I’m also concerned that a default bored behaviour is to pick up an application and scan pages of content. I have books on these same portable devices. If I have downtime or am waiting 10 minutes on something running I have something more interesting to do instead.


I’ve taken shears to it.

Photos I was tagged in that weren’t owned by me? Untagged. The number of them which were on pages of people I haven’t seen in 5, 10 years was amazing. Facebook also made it very difficult. Some photos you could just Remove Tag, others you had to go through several menus in a Modal pop-up. I tried unliking a Page and re-liking it and tags were still there.

I was even more forceful with unfollowing. I can’t remember before unfriending family members – but second cousins I haven’t spoken to in real life for 15 years and wouldn’t recognise if I walked past in the street? Removed. People I haven’t seen in years and just post photos of a child I have never met – removed. This is no criticism of these people, just a reflection of my real relationship to them. We aren’t close friends sharing every detail of our life, why are we like that online?

I also scrubbed a large amount of data or made it visible to Only Me.

Next I intend to review my posts and likes and history and try to remove as much as possible. I’ve removed the application from my mobile devices – leaving the messenger app – and intend to just check every so often in a browser. I intend to massively reduce time spent on it to the bare minimum.

I would genuinely encourage others to do the same thing. Untag all the things. Unfriend/unfollow all the distant acquaintances etc.


My Twitter is locked down and private, but I follow hundreds of accounts. The application makes it difficult to review these, having to do in a browser but I found Twitter accounts which had been inactive for 9 years which I still followed. Accounts of people I knew who have died. These will all be unfollowed, and then I will start to review who is following me.


I have kept this as a professional network, adding people I know in real life or have worked with. I am not pro-active at all on it, and don’t even have a profile picture.


I have deleted my Google+ account. It was a bit of a damp squib.


I reviewed who I was following, and removed those who I never see and post things I am not interested in – one was just pages of selfies in the same angle etc. Again, not a reflection on the individuals, just trying to minimise time on social media. I post almost nothing but photos of comics, records and gigs. Even if someone I know is a really close friend and has no interest in this, I would take no offence if they unfollowed me on it.


I’ve never really got this application. Before the awful redesign there were two pages. One where you could see stories and one messages? I think. I never really understood it. All I know is you would sometimes see the same message twice and have stories autoplay after you watched one.

So through all this, apologies to anyone who has taken offence or been upset by removal, feel free to reach out and connect with me if so. I was genuinely trying to just remove those I haven’t connected with in a long time and could sometimes be a bit over-zealous.


I jest because a personal bugbear is people who use Luddite as a term without understanding who the Luddites were and that it’s not really an insult to me.

I’m not averse to using data to document aspects of my life, but I try to weigh them as things where I get a massive amount of free value out of them too instead of a company solely selling my data.

One of the reasons is to reduce the amount of unnecessary duplicate purchases I make in the things I actually consume.

On Goodreads I log books I am reading and intend to go through my entire collection logging my read/to-read pile.

On CLZ I log all my comics and graphic novels, again to spot gaps in story arcs.

On Deckbox I log my Magic cards collection, to keep an own/wants list.

On Discogs I log my music collection, keep a wants list to help complete collections, and try to document local bands and musicians.

But there is an element of concern in the negative aspects of social media.

The way people publicly document details of their life that the Stasi would only dream of.

The way they invite an ever wider circle into accessing ever more details documented.

The ways privacy is eroded through applications trying to access more and more data, whether they genuinely need it to function or not.

The ways privacy is eroded from repeated policy overhauls and more of the data being set to be more public by default and the access to fix these settings is hidden.

There is also the social change. Language and Culture are in a feedback loop and how we interact with each other has changed for the worse. How many times have you bumped into someone you haven’t seen in a while and instead of asking what they have been up to you comment on some detail of their life you know they have been doing? Instead of Wow you have a new job it’s what’s the new job like? instead of where have you been? it’s cool photo of that monument in tourist city. It’s unsettling.

Reduce Social Media, Increase Social Interaction.

Fewer Friends Lists, More Friends.

Reduce Wall Reading, Increase Quantity and Quality of Conversation.

31 Mar

Slowlight ‎– The Only Thing I Want Is To Know What I Want

I’ve been on a bit of an emo kick lately. Probably fuelled by Rainer Maria reforming and then discovering the excellent Save Ends.

At Book Yer Ane Fest 2016 one of the best new bands I saw was Glasgows Slowlight. I got their EP and played it a lot, liking Repeat The Pattern especially.

Then in 2017 they returned and promised an album. Originally only available digitally via a download code in a zine, they have pressed a number of copies for their tour and released it on their bandcamp page.

And it’s a cracking album, probably leading contender for album of the year for me, unless a certain local band can ever skip the queue ahead of the record store day arses clogging up the plants.

Full Of Empty

Track one kicks in immediately and has the paired male/female vocals which makes this music sound so awesome. A sort of sung homage to the opening to Trainspotting with a long list of processes and things you probably want to have in your life, “A place to call your own, a close knit group of friends”.

The Only Thing I Want Is To Know What I Want

The title track pulls it back and slows down with few lyrics that repeat for maybe a couple of times too many in the almost 6 minutes it lasts, and feels more like it could have (should have?) been the opening track to be honest.


Sounding more like something you’d hear in 1996, which certainly is a plus for me, with lyrics more like that you’d hear when the doomsday clock was closest to midnight, which is a sad indictment that we haven’t moved too far from the Reagen era. That you can’t pinpoint where in the world this is written about A town left destroyed overnight. Take cover, then discover we’ll never recover.


A screeching post-hardcore song is the perfect follow on to Blackout. With vocals which reminded me of Mhari Mushroom from Eat Yer Greens.


Respite arrives with Cucumber, peppered with I assume the partner and child of the vocalist in the band based on credit listing. Reminded me of Esperis Seasons Album. And I do enjoy the occasional song that probably can’t be performed live.

Pretend For Real

Probably the best song on the album, and closest to the EP, let’s just pretend for real. Haunting lyrics which can be interpreted in a number of ways, none telling of a great situation.

Strange Shapes

A return to the dual vocals. It’s striking that this is the first time there’s been a second song so far where a large chunk of the song is in a similar style to a previous one. Whether this shows that they haven’t settled on a style they prefer or are just happy experimenting and throwing out a bunch of great songs, either is good.

Turn The Knife

The OCD-record collector in me notes that the lyrics in the booklet are attributed to a second entry of Strange Shapes, so maybe this will be a first pressing, future rarity value, grab it now etc :). I’m not dead but I don’t feel alive, you turned the knife has to be among the emo-est of emo lyrics. Every line is superb.

Let’s Plagiarise!

A song with a tune so good, I’d happily listen to the instrumental with an almost sludgy rhythm. But the vocals above it help to speed it up and give it a faster tempo come the chorus. With a few samples thrown in, I wonder what the Morse Code message is?

Tiger Science

The final track is an ode to optimism, ending with is this real or is this just a dream? Or maybe both?.

I was really impressed with it, even following on from their excellent EP. Maybe it’s because I’m currently going through listening to old records again, but one of the first things which appealed to me was the packaging of physical music. So many random good (and bad) acts I found from the thanks/inspired by sections of liner notes. This has both and mentions a bunch of fowk I know and bands I love. A thanks to Warped alumni Phil Morton, and appeals for you to listen to Terrafraid, Stonethrower and The Kimberly Steaks and calling out Book Yer Ane Fest are the kind of posi things we need in the compact scene.

With a physical copy to be had for less than a tenner, and digital for Name Your Price, there’s no excuse not to pick it up.

10 Mar

Necromunda Novels

In preparation for the re-launch of Necromunda, I went hunting for a bunch of the associated novels. They were generally available as e-books for £6 each, which was their original cover price! I managed to find a chunk of them from online sellers for £6 or less, ignoring the ones that were silly money – if I enjoy the ones I now have I will go for the electronic versions.


I started with this having trusted an online guide which appeared to show it as novel 1 instead of novel 2 in the series. Not that it makes much difference but as they are slightly related it’s disappointing.

The protagonist is Mad Donna, one of the iconic characters from Necromunda. A former noble, then ganger turned bounty hunter. Her name is a clear nod to the origins of the almost cyberpunk dystopia, a parody of the 80s view of it.

It’s certainly a fun read, but I would hesitate to call it good. The story itself is a decent enough romp, and the narrative structure is very good – each chapter broken into current timeline, flashbacks, dream sequences etc, which both coalesce together well enough. I had been disappointed it didn’t give a great introduction to the world but me mistaking it for novel 1 probably explains that. I think the greatest problem though is the series of unbelievable circumstances where only her superior skills at everything could possibly manage to get out of, and where that’s not the case it’s deus ex machina time. Time and time again. You never really get the feeling that this lone person wandering the underhive is actually gonna be in any danger that will result in capture or close death. This is even lampshaded from time to time talking about the number of times anyone else would have died a hundred times over etc.

I had read it assuming it was from the original release time of mid-90s and tried to read it with that mindset, that it was aimed at teenage boys then and would probably reflect it. Woman running through hive fighting to the death with numerous people, I expected her to be called a bitch every so often etc. I had to check though when towards the end there was a different slur used, which I can’t find on a scan-read through, and it was published in 2005. It was certainly one I wasn’t expecting and one which although teenage boys may have used was pretty unacceptable then and especially so now.


I started this thinking it was the second book in the series. It gave a great introduction to the Hive and seemed connected to the Survival Instinct. I then checked and realised it was the first, d’oh!

Zefer Tyranus is a curator for one of the Noble spire houses, a sort of researcher/librarian and the first few chapters focus on his daily life as well as giving hints as to the underhive. He then descends into the underhive, and there are a series of adventures here. It’s all a bit of a rambling mess though. Maybe it was the big rammy very shortly after passing over from the Spire which soured me. The poorly written connection between all the antagonists and their conspiring. The Goliaths being portrayed as unintelligent is expected, but the gangs leader not knowing the name of a Spire Noble House is a bit out there for pushing that line.

The book is ok, not great, and the end seems rushed. When I checked, it was 251 pages. Exactly the same length as Survival Instinct, and 2 pages short of the next one I have queued up. It definitely felt like it was going at a decent pace to lay out the intricate plot then just finished in whatever way the author could to hit the word count/deadline/whatever.

This was a shame, as the core premise and introductary chapters had the feeling of a Discworld novel, with Zefer as a wizard and the Delaque spies skulking around as the assassin guild.

I was also partially soured on it as these books arrived alongside Christmas gifts etc, once I checked they seemed to match description ok I put them away and only dug them out in February to read. This one had been described as Former Library book. Shows definite wear, and perhaps considerable marking on inside.. It was a library book and had the sheets etc in it stuck to front pages, fair enough. When I got into it I realised 7 pages had horizontal tears in them going almost to the spine. I hadn’t noticed when it arrived so it soured me a but on the experience. Maybe e-books would have been better after all.

So overall my impressions of a couple of books on the background of Necromunda is meh. I have a couple more in the pile, but probably won’t review except to star them on Goodreads, unless they surpass my expectations. I’d say not to bother with them unless you really want to read everything you can about the fluff. Even then electronic is definitely a better route than second hand based on my experience!

12 Jan

2017 In Music

I realised I hadn’t written a look back at the year in music yet, after I did so in 2016.


Gig wise the only bigger gig I got to was The Smith Street Band in Glasgow, which was great, as expected. There was of course the brilliant Book Yer Ane Fest 2017 too. There were a ton of smaller gigs, and unfortunately a bunch I couldn’t get to.

New Releases


Black Volvo ‎– Bad Driving, fast as fuck dutch punk, pure braw
Broken Social Scene ‎– Hug Of Thunder, a surprise release after 7 years of silence from a great band, 2002s You Forgot It In People is still one of my favourite albums.
Fresh ‎– Fresh, London punks who are grand, singer has an utterly beautiful voice.
Great Cynics ‎– Posi, enjoyable, but their previous record is probably better if you were to get only 1.
Hard Girls ‎– Floating Now, good indie album via Specialist Subject.
Idlewild ‎– Hope Is Important, debut album from Idlewild saw a re-release on vinyl.
Idlewild ‎– 100 Broken Windows: re-release of the second album by Idlewild on vinyl. Has my favourite track of theirs on it I Don’t Have The Map. I made Idlewild my next band to try and complete collection of, so now need 4 albums and 2 singles to have their entire catalogue on vinyl.
Alice Marra ‎– Chain Up The Swings, Alice Marra from the Hazey Jones with an album of covers of songs written by her dad Michael Marra.
Onsind ‎– We Wilt, We Bloom, album number 4 from one of the best duos in the UK. Folk punk about poverty and exclusion.
Prophets Of Rage ‎– Prophets Of Rage, supergroup effort by members of Cypress Hill, Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine which unfortunately didn’t manage to escape their musical styles of the last 20+ years, which is good, but didn’t achieve greatness.
Public Enemy ‎– Nothing Is Quick In The Desert, there was also a surprise free album release by Public Enemy. But it’s pretty poor.
Rainer Maria ‎– S/T, if discovering Save Ends wasn’t enough, Rainer Maria also returned with a new album. They also keep doing awesome stuff like putting up live performances online.
The Smith Street Band ‎– More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me, I have no idea how this band stay being consistently great. Saw them in Glasgow live in a tiny venue for the nth time, whilst they were sitting at number 3 in the Australian album charts. One of the most underrated/overlooked bands in the world. Fans of Neils dugs too.
Terrafraid ‎– Contentment, top boys fae Dundee who make you smile whilst singing about things that make you sad.
Throwing Stuff ‎– Fit, Fine & Well, pretty good hardcore album.

EPs and other stuff

Burnt Tapes ‎– Alterations, pretty good melodic punk.
Forever Unclean ‎– Float, Make That A Take knocked it out of the park with EPs this year, and this was one of them.
Goodbye Blue Monday ‎– The Sickness, The Shame. There are no words good enough to praise this release. Probably EP of the year, and pushing for best release of the year.
Tragical History Tour ‎– Come On Home, Hero, Deeker was too busy putting on loads of shows to put out an album so treated us to two EPs this year. This one is about the fucking trainwreck of Brexit.
Tragical History Tour ‎– Old Words, there’s also a video for this one in which I may, or may not (definitely can) be seen, as well as tons o’ ma music loving’ pals.

As you can see, a substantial amount of releases last year I bought were via Make That a Take and Specialist Subject, so I have got season tickets for both this year.


The fascinating documentary So Which Band Is Your Boyfriend In? was released after their fundraising campaign 3 years ago. It’s well worth the watch, exploring the experience of women in the music scene.

Music I discovered

Pale Angels, grunge band who I caught at a gig in Dundee at the end of 2016 but must have missed off last year.
Save Ends stand out as the band I discovered this year, utterly amazing in every way.
Shit Present, a band I took a chance on with Specialist Subjects moving sale. Featuring the singer who used to be in Great Cynics.
We Grow Beards, digging through old emails I found a reference to these guys from years ago and had forgotten about them. I immediately grabbed a bunch of stuff off bandcamp. Folk punk band doing songs about working class movements, recommend this album.


I’ve found Discogs invaluable in tracking what music I have. I have tried to use it to rate the music I have, as a guide to re-listen to it all, so that I can definitely make an effort to clear out the stuff I don’t like. I’ll definitely do this. Definitely. I managed to listen to all my vinyl albums and have been listening through all my CD albums. So far I’ve submitted almost 200 new releases that weren’t on it. I still have to go through my CD singles, rip them and check they are the correct submissions on the site too. I’m mainly loving this as in the 1990s I uses a spreadsheet of my own which I would print out and take to record fairs etc.

26 Dec

Reread: The Shadow Of The Seer – Winter of the World Part 6

The Shadow of the Seer is the sixth and final book in a 6 book series by Michael Scott Rohan and a semi-stand alone book.

See reviews of

Book 6 is a stand alone book set another unspecified number of years, but thought to be around 1000 in the appendix, before books 5 and 6. Character wise it can be read stand alone but there is so much built on the mythology of previous ones I wouldn’t think it would be a good idea. There is an appearance of some of the Powers from previous books and I suspect some of these characters may have been mentioned in throwaway lines in previous books and then expanded upon here but I don’t know for sure.

It tells the tale of a Seer amongst people in fear of the Ekwesh, although it is on the Western continent (Asia) and the people described as fighting the Ekwesh are clearly part of the Ekwesh in the previous 5 books which were set later. Alya is a young teen in training with his father when their hamlet is attacked by Ekwesh . He uses the power of the mask to transport himself a far distance and ends up near a larger and more defended location. Here he encounters a cruel spiteful boy called Vansha and the daughter of the headman Savi. There then follows an attempt by Vansha on Alyas life leaving him with no feeling in his legs, and an attack on that village. Ilmarinen intervenes and gives Alya superhuman strength. He then departs on a quest to find and save Savi, with Vansha at his side.

Their quest is lumbering, and encounters numerous people all of whom throw barriers in their way. Nightingale is the most ridiculous of these. I started this book in around May and then finished it around Christmas. I found it so difficult to pick up and read and actually enjoy. I don’t know if he ran out of steam, or I expected something different, or if it was the shift to the other continent. The details of the abuse that Savi suffered at the hands of the Ekwesh, shifting to the trials of Alya the superhuman and his band of hanger-ons just wasn’t enjoyable to read.

The world mythology isn’t really advanced much, there’s a lot of focus on a Seer trying to ascend the wall, there’s reference to the winged bird-human disguise that Louhi adopts later in the series. There’s the mask enabling the wearer to transport themselves vast distances, but nothing like the amount you learn later on. I thought it would show some lost knowledge a bit more. In previous books the geography of the world was explored and expanded on and referenced again, here it is written to be thrown away. The fauna doesn’t take as many giant leaps as in the other books even though it was set before so could have had some thought from the mythology of the set-later books, with one deus ex machina exception. The duargar who were only rediscovered in the earlier books, this would have been a good opportunity to find out about them. Perhaps it was they who left the writing encountered in a few places which was indecipherable.

If you have read the previous 5 books then read this one, but other than that I can’t really recommend any reason to give it a go, which is disappointing. I hope the fluff in the now-published role playing book is better than this anyway, as that may add itself to the queue.

04 Dec

Book Yer Ane Fest 2017

I’m sitting recovering from another weekend of Book Yer Ane Fest, which yet again is the best December event to celebrate.

For a variety of reasons I won’t go into I couldn’t get to MotionFest or the first few BYAFs. The last one I missed I was so annoyed about it I deliberately avoided looking at any info about it at all, and then later found out that Beauty School Dropout had reformed to play it! To say I was gutted is an understatement. Luckily I got to see them play again supporting China Drum a couple of years later so that’s all good. To make up for lost time I think I’ve been the first punter through the door the past few years too at BYAF.

Every year the fine fowk at MTAT organise the event and raise money for good causes at the same time. Previously this was for a local water safety charity, and this year it was split between Young Minds, Addaction, Insight Counselling and Royal Life Saving Society. No idea how much was raised this year but it’s normally a four figure sum anyway.

As well as seeing a host of bands I know of and new ones I haven’t heard of there’s then the chance to dig through random distros and see interesting stalls.

Friday was a wee bit more chilled than the rest of the day with a single line up. Deeker opened as THT and then Tim Loud followed. I hadn’t seen him in a while so it was great remembering some of his songs. Question the Mark closed the basement show with one of their three sets of the weekend. Abertay then opened with Thee Rag N Bone Man – a one man band with a fuller sound than some bands. AVAS next, who I always confuse with Avast! and then get sad they are no more. Get It Together hosted a rammy as per usual. Bird Law followed them and were fantastic. I always love BYAF in that there’s gonna be some gem I haven’t heard before who I love. Last year it was Slowlight, this year Bird Law were one of the great new ones. Stonethrower were the last band I saw and it was so long since I had seen them it ended on a high note.

Saturday was a bit disjointed, and although I understand why there was a split over multiple venues, on Friday it worked well with no overlaps. When the biggest downer from a fest is that there was too much on so you missed some then that’s a great negative to have though. Unfortunately when having to choose between Please, Believe and Elk Gang, I saw Elk Gang last year and can’t even remember last time I saw Please, Believe. Lost Love were great, and it was weird seeing a band who had travelled so far be on so early, but Tongue Trap who followed them were the other new-find of the weekend. That I’ve spent most of the year listening to mostly Rainer Maria and Save Ends probably tells you why I loved these 2 new-to-me bands. Cherym who followed were great as were Coral Springs. Throwing Stuff were a good hardcore band and I think the poor staff in Hideout were regretting their shift. PMX were tremendous as usual, but now the two shows in Abertay were getting out of sync so I was having to cut off one band to see the other. If anyone was trying to also fit in going to the other venue it must have been frustrating to see 1 set every hour. Carson Wells were as good as ever, and a reminder that there’s a bunch of bands I basically see at Fest and never any other time. I was getting pretty tired by this point so held out for as much of Murderburgers as I could before I caught all the Kaddish set. Kaddish, as they do every year blew away every other band no matter how big or small.

By Sunday I was pretty knackered. The day started with the Curator podcast interviewing the MTAT crew, followed by the blues of Holy Snakes powered by DoubleDenim and then Gone Wishing to make everyone full of festive cheer. I got to Abertay in time for VFLambda. Andy Thomas Dust Heart was as good as ever, then Veto were so so good. I recognised one of the songs but can’t track down where I heard it from, I thought it was the Dammit Presents compilation but must be some other random place. Billy Liar was as polished as he ever is. Slowlight were next and having been the highlight of last year they didn’t disappoint. They have recorded an album which they are trying to find money to press and having bought a zine and got a copy of their album can confirm it’s gid.

Goodbye Blue Monday are a band who’s previous 2 shows I missed, but loved the record they put out. They started with a talk by Jo from the Samaritans about the work they do before playing the EP and some other songs. Highly recommend checking them out. Totally not a metal band Fat Goth followed with Fritz looking like a king-sized Kenny. Unfortunately catching the end of them then meant I missed some of the THT full band. I had gotten confused seeing Kev from Broken Stories with gear earlier thinking I’d missed them on the schedule but he was playing in THT. So I was relieved I hadn’t missed them but sad when I realised I wasn’t seeing them at all. Pretty knackered at this point I knew I wouldn’t last til Terrafraid and Kimberley Steaks so called it a night/weekend.

Now I’m working through a pile of the records and trying to recover from a physically draining weekend. I always find myself both emotionally recharged in some ways but drained in others after BYAF too. So much going on, I don’t know how the small group of fowk organising it cope for the 3 days in Dundee and 2 days either side in Edinburgh and Glasgow. But given how great the weekend of music always is and how full of long-term friends, new friends and friends you haven’t made yet I hope it keeps happening.

15 Aug

Change the Record

Given I have finally started making a go of sorting my music collection out I was thinking about why I like vinyl so much. This may be appear disjointed a bit as no matter how I try to construct it, going forward in time, backwards or listing format by format it is all so interconnected that something feels out of place, or tries to reference something before or after it. For that I do apologise in advance.

The 80s

Growing up in the 80s I remember my parents and most people whose home I visited having this kind of stereo set up.

Normally a single unit, or with a turntable on it. Analogue dials, the ability to play records, cassette tapes or tune into the AM or FM radio. Your TV station had 4 channels (that alone probably ages me well). Your remote control was asking my sisters or I to change it. We’d press down one channel and that would pop out the button for the previous one. VHS and Betamax weren’t a thing yet. People bought different weekly magazines with TV listings as there was no red button to check. Teletext and Ceefax were the closest thing you had to the internet we know now. And no one had cable (Telewest etc), or Satellite TV yet (neither Sky, BSB nor BSkyB). You hooked up your home computer – Speccy, Commodore or Amstrad up through an RF cable to probably a 14″ portable TV. Or maybe even a Master System later on. I also remember an aunt having a small 10-12″ Black and White telly as their bedroom telly.

I say all this just to put in context that looking back 30 years it really was a different way we interacted with entertainment.

And that stereo set up, next to or under it were little storage boxes for cassettes and underneath was normally a row of records. These would no doubt follow a sort of bell curve with the bulk being from when your parents were teenagers->having first job and then tailing off to having the occasional new one there. Probably some 45s kicking about too. Usually with some terrible one hit wonder (I seem to remember Joe Dolce Shaddap You Face being in my parents collection).

Later I remember CDs coming along, and the one uncle who had a substantial collection of them also having LaserDiscs in his cool home set up. A whole wall of separate media items, amps, tuners, players of various sorts and catalogued videos and the like.

I seem to have memories of owning a really small portable radio with a CD player on top, and it being rubbish. A portable cassette player and then later the awful portable CD players.

The 90s

At college I managed to get a hi-fi system with separate components.

This kind of thing. Amp, graphic equalizer, Radio, Tape deck and turntable with big powerful speakers, I bought a CD player to go alongside it. This was the ideal set up. At the time the shops were full of single plastic shelled units – if your CD player broke, then good luck you had to go out and replace everything. My current set up uses still uses that same graphic equalizer. I set it up with my TV on a desk with speakers either side. My PC next and the stereo on a unit alongside. With Playstation etc plugged into TV. I also had the Playstation and PC hooked up to go through the stereo. Every Sunday afternoon I would tear down the stereo, clean it all and reassemble taking care to untangle the cable mess that had inevitably appeared.

My music collection was growing with both CDs and records, the occasional tape if it was the only thing I could find a particular album or single on.

We had heard of this new thing called MP3. This was great. WAV files were huge and my hard drives were 4.3GB then 20GB. You had to rip a CD as WAV, which would normally rip at 1 or 2X speed. Then you had to drop the individual file into another program which converted to MP3. You chose 64bit or maybe 128, but never higher as the files were too big. Later you may buy some CD-Rs at about a pound each, and a failure rate of about 1 in 5. You’d then burn about 10 albums as MP3s to a CD at 4x speed. I say this in so much detail so you can put in context downloading an album off a site like bandcamp today where you select the format and download it faster than it took to eject and insert the CD-R.

Hopefully I have now contextualised the different formats I grew up with enough to debate the merits of each of them alongside my memories and interactions with them. I have experienced all of them on great and terrible set ups.


Cassettes had always been a bit rubbish. The memories of tapes being chewed up or the tape becoming dirty. The switching of sides, fast forwarding and the click at the end. The occasionally badly designed album where about half a side was wasted so you had to sit for ages skipping to the end to swap. The jamming mechanisms. The only merit I ever saw was the use for saving programs from the C64 and Speccy. I think my strongest memory of a tape is Dek sitting with some cover tape from a Speccy mag and fast-forwarding through a stereo to a program that was the fifth one on it of 7. The learned audio cues and wasted mental energy we must have had. As well as the time spent! Having to spend 10minutes loading a game, losing and then reloading again. The utility of the format was clearly great but the single way to interact with it makes it feel awkward.

No matter what set up I heard cassettes through, from car stereos, to home stereos, portable players or whatever the sound quality was always terrible. As it leads into the next section, the artwork was almost universally awful, small reproductions of the larger versions used in other formats. Normally the folds at the corners and the thicker plastic there interfered with reading tracklists and so on. Not a great experience.


Trawling Grouchos and Record Fairs, as well as the occasional trip through to a store in Cockburn Street in Edinburgh which stocked hip hop imports was how I acquired records. I used to go through all of Grouchos vinyl about once every six months. Ah those mornings with no classes at College were great. This was in the Overgate Store era (roughly bottom of escalator near loos in current building?). So a bit less stock than they currently have. Vinyl was how you found DJ promos of hip hop singles or older punk records which weren’t really around. Basically anything pre-90s that hadn’t been popular enough to be reissued on CD at the time or possibly even still has not been.

I always loved the massive artwork and huge liner notes normally with the full lyrics. How else do you learn the real lyrics to songs pre-internet? I remember picking up Rap Is Really Changing by Mucho Macho which I had never heard of, as it was 50p or a pound and just had an awesome graffiti piece on the front. It’s actually pretty good and I’m glad I took that chance on it.

At the time, records were becoming scarcer. People were ditching collections after upgrading to CDs. High Street shops were shrinking space or removing it altogether. I remember Virgin having a wall of it. It dwindling down to 2 metres of storage and then up to 4 before I left. All of it by then singles, with the very occasional album. The 7″ was reduced to a part of a 3 disc set alongside 2 CD singles in an effort to mask the dying singles market. Bands would occasionally have 7s on their stalls when touring but barely ever 12s. Why hump around boxes of them in the back of the van when you can store 5 times as many CDs in the same space?

Even at the time I found this disappointing. I don’t think it was even because of memories of records as a kid. I think I had two 7″ flexi discs, one from the He-Man fan club. It was because a format I had grown to love was seemingly going away. I had heard lot’s of people complain about the quality of the format, how CD was better because it was digital. I don’t know what they were talking about. Vinyl played on a bad stereo sounded bad. Uncared for vinyl sounds bad with scratching, popping and hissing. Skipping tracks or being stuck on a track even. But vinyl on a good stereo sounded better than CDs on a bad stereo. I rarely noticed the difference between the two on my good set up.

There was just something about playing vinyl though. I have heard people describe it as like a Japanese Tea Ceremony. You take that giant piece of artwork and remove a record from it. Remove the inner sleeve and spin via the edges to locate the correct side. Place on the turntable and grab a cleaning cloth to wipe it. Place the needle at exactly the spot on exactly the track you want to listen to and sit back to hear it. Once it finishes you pick up the record and flip to the other side and repeat. Just the way you interact with it feels like a level above the crudeness of a cassette where you press a button and the reel moves, with all you see changing is the spool rotating.

This physical interaction with the medium, directly at the location where sound is stored on it is what allowed the birth of hip hop. The fascinating documentary Hip-Hop Evolution has some of the pioneers demonstrating how the created the sounds and techniques which enabled hip hop to be created. It would not have been possible if CD or cassettes were the only formats available.


As someone who grew up as a teenager in the 90s, CDs should really have been my bag. I should be writing this about how great they are and it sucks that digital audio is replacing them.

But CDs were kind of similar to cassettes, in that your immediate impression when picking it up and looking at it is the artwork is a miniaturised version of the proper artwork which was on the record. I think the main saving grace of a CD album was the booklet was usually thick with loads of photos and the lyrics included etc. The disc itself always looked great, if bland. This modern piece of technology which is smooth on each side, at first glance appears an upgrade on a record with its physical grooves you can see with the naked eye instead of a microscope.

The CD single is what generally clued you in to the flimsiness of the CD. Generally being in a very thin, easy to break plastic case, with a thin booklet with tiny writing on the spine, or in a flimsy cardboard sleeve. It definitely appeared to be a cheap downgrade on the 7″.

When I first bought CD singles, it was things like Busta Rhymes – It’s A Party which was 99p and contained 6 tracks. Just a couple of years later, the CD single was £2.99 or even £3.99 and had 3 tracks. Maybe a video of the single if you were lucky. That would generally need you to install some horrible software like RealPlayer or Quicktime though. This, amazingly led to a drop in single sales, so you now got CD1 and CD2, each containing the title track and 2 B-sides, remixes, live tracks or other album tracks. So now you could be paying £8 for 5 tracks when three years earlier you paid £1 for 6. This might highlight one of the overlasting negative impressions of the CD single. Not of the format itself, but of the marketing and promotion of the format.

The Album? Instead of the 8 or £9 I had seen when I started buying music, it was £15 or £16. For people interested in pop music they would be getting the 2 songs good enough to be singles and 8-10 filler tracks. The industry, understandably started to die. Why? The musos cried! It must be online piracy. No other possible explanation for it. The ability to download a single track over the course of an hour was the only reason people could have stopped buying the product we are trying to sell.

There was a bonus to the ability to rip CDs to MP3s at now quicker speed. People would do so then sell their albums on the day of release for £5-6. You could quickly build a larger collection of nearly new items.

During this period CD promo singles were a thing. Normally in weird or different packaging, sometimes with different tracks to the released versions. I collected loads of these for 50p-£1. There are a couple of artists – like Fun Lovin Criminals, where I had pretty much all their singles on vinyl, CD and as a promo of some form.

But there were a number of problems with CDs. The first was that yes, when you get a brand new one and play it it could sound great. But over time, dirt, scratches etc would accumulate and the disc would be trashed. There is another similar issue which I thankfully haven’t encountered called CD Rot. This is where a chemical reaction inside the disc caused the data layer to deteriorate and become unreadable. The promise of the perfect medium to replace the poor vinyl had not been realised.

There was another more serious problem though and is the one which led to the misconception of CDs being a superior format full stop. When records were being mastered for being released on vinyl the audio experts involved would place the tracks in a particular order due to the closer tracks as you got to the centre of the record. No such care was taken with CDs. As the data was all 1s and 0s it was irrelevent. This on the face of it seems great as the artist can present their work in whatever way they intended. But albums would be mastered without taking that care, and then pressed onto vinyl. Leading to horrible audio quality on the vinyl release. So someone comparing the two would, unsurprisingly, wrongly conclude that CD sounded better.

The audio engineers took advantage of another feature too. Those all in one plastic units which I disliked. They generally came with giant subwoofers as part of the speakers because for pop and dance music it would be cool to play the music as loud and with as much bass as possible. This led to what became known as the loudness wars. The illustration on the article shows it perfectly. Originally a track had the volume changing as the song continued. Due to digitally remastering it it’s essentially a block of noise. The sound quality was awful.

The record execs looked at the plummeting sales and again realised the only possible reason was piracy. Not the shit product they were presenting to the public.

Digital music

Seeing their falling sales, and trying and failing to stop online piracy the music industry for on board. Firstly with things like iTunes. The ability to download AAC files which at the time only played on Apple devices didn’t really appeal. Eventually the iPod became to dominate the market, beating superior products like the superior iRiver which could play MP3s or the even better iAudio which could also play FLAC.

Skipping over needless boring details, eventually we got to today where bandcamp provides you with a range of formats and you can throw up a track for free or provide a download with your CD too.

This in itself was a gamechanger. If you bought vinyl you were stuck with a physical medium. With a CD you could also rip to an audio file to archive, back up or play on another device.

The ability to include download codes with physical releases changed things again. My bandcamp collection is almost 200 releases. Some I have bought online, some were free and others came with physical releases. No more did you have to sit down and decided to buy a release on a format and pick CD so you could have digitial audio too. Vinyl started to have a resurgence. This has pros and cons. One of the cons is the backlog at the small number of manufacturing plants. Some bands resorted to releasing cassette versions of their material rather than wait months in an order queue to have it pressed. The tape comes with a download code.

There’s also what I normally call the Phoebe Potential issue. This is from an episode of Friends where Phoebe becomes upset that trees are being chipped so aren’t fulfilling their Christmas Tree Potential. People are buying records and never playing them – just downloading the music or displaying the artwork. Now admittedly I do that with the very small number of casette releases I have bought in recent years but that is because it means I no longer need that tape deck component and wouldn’t enjoy listening through it anyway.

I’m currently archiving all my CDs as MP3s. I can’t be bothered with the extra space needed for FLAC or similar formats. But the MP3s are 320kbs VBR rather than the poor quality 128 ones I used to have. After that the majority of the CDs can be packed away in boxes in a cupboard. Their small storage size helps with that.

As for my vinyl. Although it’s possible to set up equipment to record as MP3s, I haven’t decided to do that yet, although I may. That would also give me the excuse to put it away in a cupboard. Given the vast majority of recent releases aren’t boring black vinyl but bright and colourful and as I described how I enjoy the physical interaction with the medium, I don’t really want to do that. Instead they are on display, in a series of cabinets underneath my stereo. Just as they were in every house I visited as I grew up.

27 Jun

Reread: The Singer and the Sea – Winter of the World Part 5

The Singer and the Sea is the fifth book in a 6 book series by Michael Scott Rohan and the second part of a 2 book arc.

See reviews of

Book 5 is a sequel to Castle in the Wind, set a few years later. Olvar and Gille have moved south to Saldenborg. You hear snippets of what Kunrad has been doing in cleaning up the salt marshes.

A trading ship arrives in town, setting the flavour of the story. By warning them of corsairs as they come in, Gille is rewarded with a kantel, a type of musical instrument, which he can tell has power. A hidden sheet within reveals the secret of making suitable strings for it rather than the rubbish ones it has been equipped with. It turns out to have been manufactured by the legendary Vayde.

Having been annoyed at the local merchants and the guildmasters and the like, they try to secure funds to run a trading expedition to the south. Gille is still his old womanising self, and is distracted by a mysterious woman on the beach. She turns out to be a minor power – Saithana. She assists him to find some sunken gold which wins him a bet to get support for their expedition.

Some goods-laden tradeships head south and encounter a small boat lost at sea with a number of dead and one barely living person in it. With some of the northerners speaking a similar dialect they manage to communicate enough to find out his story. This starts off the main adventure. The boat was carrying refugees fleeing the from the Ekwesh in the west.

Having had books focusing on metalworking, this is an interesting turn to have details of seafaring spread throughout. They sail west and encounter a group of westerners as well as marauding followers of the Ice. Gille has further encounters with a number of the powers, including Niarad and Ilmarinen who discusses having living as Vayde.

This book has far less about smithing in it, and a lot more theology and worldbuilding. It fleshes out some of the history discussed later chronologically in the first three books. I would probably have to re-read those again to catch all the references. One is mention of Vayde having perished in the saltmarshes – when Elof finds his corpse millenia later.

I find it hard to judge this book: as a novel it isn’t that great, as a fantasy novel it’s decent, as a part of the series fleshing out the world it’s good, but compared to the rest of the books I have re-read so far it falls short for enjoyability. It was read in small bursts over the course of 2 months, whilst I rarely found a reason to read something else ahead of the first book in the series which may illustrate how much it falls short.

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