14 February 2019

The Loneliness of the Discordian Mystic Blogger



Last year I spent a lot of time exploring my options with regards to producing audio content. Overall, it went well, the biggest barrier being the time needed to actually record the raw audio, once that's done editing can be achieved here and there on an ad hoc basis.

I have other thoughts on that but you know where to keep track of those.

As a consequence, and due to other relevant factors, blog output was low. The chief and most important factor in dialling back blog output is pure and simple. Blogs are pitched as public online journals but they're really a low-effort format in talk followed by Q&A. To date no low-banter, interaction based format I've engaged in has attracted the attention of anyone interested in bantering.

This, actually, is the problem with both the blog and the podcast. Neither are supposed to dwell in splendid isolation, existing in and of themselves. Both do. The big problem with this being that once you have learned to please yourself with these things then the work is done and further work may only be completed via the vehicle of interaction.

The podcast suffers from this far more than the blog, podcasts are supposed to spawn a web of in-jokes, correspondence and helping each other get better. Blogs may just end up being public, online journals but some are vastly improved by being rallying points for various communities.

I can understand that this doesn't look like the rallying point for a community, maybe for "fans of Leo Stableford - author" I think that's what author blogs are supposed to be, but I'm not really that bothered about that.

This is supposed to be a Discordian, Philosophy, Mysticism, Spirituality blog. What's really funny about that is that it kind of became that during the era in late 2017 we shall call "The Great Content Glut of 2017".

The lesson this teaches us is that "Clear communication is very hard". I actually don't know for certain why no one ever comments on my blog. My last post about top 10 albums was pure initiate a conversation about music fodder. It was, if truth be told, aimed at my more musically minded friends and they did comment upon it upon my personal wall of social media interaction, but it wasn't the treasure trove of interesting observation and opinion that I was craving.

I took a quick skim through some of the product of the Content Glut just now and future me had questions and comments to pass on to past me, no issues. This is what leads me to believe this blog is not so much "read" as "parsed by advertising bots".

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't by any means think of myself as an approachable guy. I feel that close personal connection to the assertion that "I'm a weirdo" in Radiohead's DNA-targeting opus "Creep". The thing is, I am writing this obscure strangeness in order to attract other weirdoes, those who cannot help but ask a question or post a comment. If not here then on some publically-available social media timeline.

And yet, barely anyone ever does. I do not, and have never had, the skill of "reaching out" across the void to create a space, safe or otherwise, for philosophical-mystical-Discordian banter. Having said that, I note this is something I have in common with virtually all other publicly posting Discordians I have encountered.

Maybe Discordianism, for some weird reason, discourages thoughts, input and all but the most *birdsong*-posting of meme-laden banter. I'd ask for thoughts but, well, see above.

This post hasn't turned out at all like I thought it would. In fact, I should probably save the post title and image I had for an actual post about the title I had come up with. Sorry, have devolved into meta-stream-of-consciousness. Catch you soon. Transmission Ends.

3 January 2019

My Top 10 Albums of 2018

It used to be the case that producing a top 10 albums of the year if you were not the NME or similar was just a cute way to get a conversation going with your musical friends. In all honesty, that's all it still is, however, the advent of the interwebnet, streaming and digital distribution channels has levelled the playing field, now the NME's top 10 albums of the year are much closer in the value of their cultural capital to your own personal musings than they would have been in days gone by.

Mass market taste makers of yore are pretty much as lost as anyone else when it comes to distilling the embarrassment of cultural riches that litters our digital pastures in current times. It so happens that I buy all my new music on Bandcamp, so all of my albums of the year come from Bandcamp. Does that mean no good albums were published anywhere else? Well, possibly they may have been from a purely aesthetic standpoint, but there's more to the act of selection than pure aestthetics.

My Top Ten isn't just a list of awesome new tunage that filled my ears and imagination with joy in 2018, the delivery mechanism via the Bandcamp platform is the most direct connector of artist and fan community. The amazing things I have heard via Bandcamp and the way of supporting the artists who produce that amazing material directly are a statement in themselves. The medium is the message, never has this been so true.

The power and influence of Bandcamp in certain musical "scenes", particularly synthwave and downtempo, cannot be underestimated. Bandcamp has delivered a mechanism for uniting fans and content creators the like of which has never been seen before. The platform ends up being more than just a storefront, and yet, in functionality that's exactly what they are, a fan is forced to venture into other social media in order to take the engagement with their favourite artists further. What Bandcamp sacrifices in social networking features it more than makes up for in the power of doing its one job incredibly effectively. On a weekly basis, the storefront serves up a steady diet of all the new music you can possibly stand and it shapes the audience priorities in the music market.

I have been a Bandcamp user for three or four years now and slowly it has become the only place I go for new music. That might sound like a list of my favourite albums of the year might be restricted in sound or scope, but if I bought all my albums of the year from the same brick-and-mortar store you might not think that, even though it would necessarily be closer to the truth. In the physical world the choices of other humans consciously or unconsciously curating the content I can view as part of my choice change the ultimate choices I make.

There are still barriers to my discovery of new music via a store like Bandcamp but they are restricted to problems the artist has communicating to me, the consumer, that there is something on their profile I might like to listen to. All the other intercessions of cultural curators, philosophical and commercial, are pretty much removed. That distils the important power of the Bandcamp process.

That said, let's dig in. The albums are arranged alphabetically, so although it's a top 10 that's where the hierarchy ends, these are 10 amazing cuts and none are better or worse than others. Also, the bar this year was stupidly high. These 10 just represent works that managed to travel that little bit further, reach that little bit higher, but so, so many others came so close. The artists included should know they did something above and beyond to make it into this list because the competition was crazy hard.

30 Years Later - An Akira Tribute

No less notable for being a multi-artist "theme" album for 14 artists to pull their absolute A-game for a project just tells you how lovingly they all embrace the granddaddy of the cyberpunk anime genre. Crossing between cyberpunk, darksynth, synthwave, industrial this collection could have been all over the place, an incoherent grab bag. The fact that it is so tightly focused on delivering that Akira experience tells you how far that movie has penetrated the cultural soul of huge amounts of modern technological society. Every track on this album is rich with the thrum of electronic creativity and the dystopian visions that are a staple of the various genres they exemplify.


Antwerp

A monster synthwave release for being at once so on the nose in terms of synthwave albums but also so accessible to newcomers to the genre. The stroke of genius in this album is the fusing of the neo-retro synthwave vibe with a nostalgic approach to composition that layers samples and sounds like proper old-skool house or hip hop tracks. The result is an album that sounds both new and old in two different ways. The synthwave movement has always sought to draw on the soul of 80s electronica to give the tunes a beating nostalgic heart, but the revolution here is to strip down the sound whilst improving the clarity of the production. Dropping nods to break dancing, Terminator, Ferraris and Donkey Kong is just the icing on the cake, there's nothing sly or subtle about the execution from that point of view, the breakthrough is that this is a synthwave album that actually has something to say about synthwave as a scene and the scene's obsession with the neon-drenched vistas of the 80s as viewed through a cyber-rose-tinted marketer's bio-augmentation visor.


Creeper

An epic collision of sparse-ish techno, head-wobbling bass and horrorsynth make ZombieNick one of the most distinct voices in modern electronic music. In Creeper (as with his previous release "Dead Boy") the attention to detail in the creation of a sinister, threatening electronic soundscape is partnered with a deep love of throbbing bass and insistent drum loops that deepen the general atmosphere of paranoia and dread. The result is a sonic experience as at home in a slasher movie as in the night club, although it has to be said I've never actually visited a night club that would have the balls to put one of these tunes on because, don't doubt, this is the electronic music equivalent of a really harsh horror movie. Something about the sound is deliciously, I don't know, off and that's what the horror fan savours even as the inner clubber throws its shapes in response to the incessant, pounding beat.


Death & Glory

Like many of the albums on this list the heart of this release is the fusion of elements to create something a cut above. Somewhere inbetween darksynth and techno Lazerpunk delivers an all out sonic assault layering harsh square bass and pounding drums to devastating effect. The secret ingredient in Death & Glory is the heart poured into the release. The physical release of the album comes with a notebook "commentary" outlining the personal nature of the album and the emotional energy bleeds through into the music, no doubt. There have been a fair few harsh dark synth releases this year but what makes this one stand above the rest is the sheer catharsis on display. Death & Glory alternates between outpouring, cleansing and maniacal glee but one thing it isn't, ever, is laid back.


Infiction Soundtrack Remixes

This was not a pick I expected to be making as the albums of the year drifted together. It's an album of remixes and my rational mind told me that an album of remixes couldn't compete with original work. In most cases this would be the correct call, in order to ascend into the "best of the year" territory the work has to be on another level. So, it's a very good job that InFiction's work on several well-known (and some not so well known) movie score pieces did in fact manage to surmount the restrictions usually due to reworks like these. The key is in the balance between preserving the beating heart of each piece whilst, at the same time, creating something fresh on each and every track. You still recognise moments from the The Thing, Escape From New York and Hallowe'en 3 but now they are re-puposed, clean, danceable, something other than they were. InFiction clearly approaches each work with love and respect and these shine through in the finished products.


Invaders

Every list of this type needs an "Invaders", something that strategises from a different playbook. In addition to marking out its territory as "not-your-average synthwave album" Invaders inhales a great dose of 50s sci fi grandiosity, faux-soundtrack playfulness and operatic sturm and drang. The result is a theremin-laced sucker punch of synth insanity, giddy in its aspiration and its bare-faced cheek. So many synth releases are intended to be soundtracks to B-movies you can only wish really existed, but Invaders is the only one where you can almost see the chiarascuro of the majestic cinema screen as the flicker of the otherworldly images play before an audience agog, held in a trance by this tale of black saucers and the band of fighters who resist their waves of destruction. A confection, a narcotic, an outstanding aural carnival.


Lost Track

Sometimes, on the other hand, it's all very simple. This is the ultimate boiled down, energetic boom bap release of the year. The rhymes are clean, the flow is smooth and the beats and loops are just divine. There's really not much more to add on this, it is a paragon of the beat-maker's art, it might not be modern hipster-hop but it is a succulent treat for fans of the old school.


Rabbit Junk Will Die: Meditations on Mortality by Rabbit Junk

Any year in which Rabbit Junk offer up a release that release will likely find its home here. Rabbit Junk, to a certain extent, remind me of The Prodigy, or rather, what the Prodigy eventually evolved into, the good news being that RJ have started at that point of delirious creative flow that other artists have to warm up to. The collision of influences from rock, industrial, EDM and even pop are always mindful to remain on target. I have listened to too many albums where it sounded like every track was by a different artist or one artist struggling to find a sound, RJ's sound is the polar opposite of that. From day one it is clear what the sound was always intended to be and the only real difference has been in the increasing skill of application. For which reason Rabbit Junk Will Die amazes not just because of what it delivers but because of what it promises for the future.


Sinner's Syndrome

Words like "outstanding" get bandied about a lot in lists like these, and rightly so, really. All the releases on this list are outstanding in one way or another. They are my 10 outstanding releases of the year and, even in bandcamp land, that's 10 releases out of a buttload of releases. It's rarer to employ the word "remarkable". That's what Sinner's Syndrome is.

The layers of old and new collide and combine to create something utterly unique. It's an album of your classic late 90s downtempo trip hop vibes, a la Portishead/Massive Attack/DJ Shadow/Herbaliser but it picks through a 60s blues/rock/pop theme cleverly and carefully to sound like the soundtrack to the more upbeat, hipper reboot of Twin Peaks. Simultaneously it riffs on cultural notes from rock-a-billy, to psychobilly, to hip-hop (natch), to plunderphonics, to classic soundtracks, to kitsch pop, jazz, blues rock and lounge. And it's not just the sheer breadth of the influences, either. It's the expertise with which they are blended, layered and fired out of your speakers with a mean attitude and a mischievous confidence. Sinner's Syndrome is a contender not just for one of the best downtempo releases of the 2018 but must surely want to elbow its way into the all-time Hall of Fame for slow beats and cheeky jazz samplage along with Endtroducing and Very Mercenary.


T2

There had to be some balls-to-the-wall industrial in this list and Cyanotic hammered out a space for themselves with this album which, technically, is a remix album of their 2017 release "Tech Noir". It's one of those cases where the remix album refreshes the original and goes on to elevate the material to an entirely new level. Incorporating elements of Drum and Bass is the masterstroke here, which, in some cases, could result in a mess but are thankfully applied with the right touch to be always production appropriate in this instance. Slamming jackhammer beats and anguished vocals twisted by synthesizers make T2 the BIOS for an extremely angry robot with a program to kill.

24 January 2018

Gone Podcastin'

Just in case you were wondering I am currently back at the mic with the all-new 80s Kids. I shall attempt to post news etc. everywhere but you might also want to keep an eye on the Revenge of the 80s Kids facebook page and the Revenge of the 80s Kids official page.

1 December 2017

Creativity

Photo montage includes a photo by Cliff Johnson on Unsplash

Here's the thing disco kids, you aren't what you think you are and, more importantly, you may be what you think you aren't. I was convinced for a good three weeks once that I was a cicada but turned out I was a philosopher having a dream I was a cricket, so not even delusional in the correct frickin' language.

In other, more relevant news, I've written novels, although I'm not actually a novelist and blogged although I am not a blogger. I am, however, a "creative", and because I spend a lot of time in front of the keyboard I got the impression I was some kind of writer.

I did go to acting college and I learned to act but realised that I liked the idea of regular Monday to Friday 9 to 5 work, so I didn't pursue it further. I still hear interviews with actors talking about the jewellery they keep close to remind them of the family that their career is deemed more important than and don't regret the call I made.

Then, for a while, I hit my stride with a podcast I put together with some long-time co-conspirators. Check it out, although I can't tell you where in our archive to begin because I haven't yet put my finger on where the quality bar hit "peak" so you'll just have to peruse for yourselves.

The really important thing is that nowhere, in any of this, did I particularly consider myself a Discordian. If you're creative then unacknowledged Discordianism is only holding you back. As recorded elsewhere I had cause to reconsider my relationship with all things Erisian round about the end of summer.

Once you start to engage with your own spiritual engine things go a bit nutty. Since September I have published an epic tome about alchemy, Vodun and Celtic bugaboos, and re-invigorated my love of audio recording projects. This ongoing process has generally instigated a new lease of creative life.

Of course, that could have happened without a newfound respect for ultimate chaos, but... you know... that's kind of the point of ultimate chaos. I could bore you with a rundown of weird little quirks of coinkydink that prompted this repointing and repurposing but these are my omens, not yours, all can be rationally explained away easily enough. They have meaning because they meant something to me. So they aren't really for sharing.

If you are creative and think you are not Discordian I would submit that you are probably wrong about that. Ultimate chaos is the wellspring of magical creativity. It's probably the wellspring of a lot else, but I am creative so that is how it works for me.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that chaos gives a gift intended to make you wealthy. Chaos understands that wealth is a system that is anti-chaos and will only be issued to those who will burn it on a remote Scottish island in tribute to chaos itself. The gift is the gift and I would far rather be fecund than loaded, loaded would be nice but to be barren of fresh ideas is beneath dead to me.

Chaos does for me. It did for me when I didn't embrace it consciously but it performs better, in my opinion, now that I do. I don't know what will happen next with any great certainty but I do know that I have read the stars in the sky from the deck of my sloop and set a heading for peculiar waters. Whatever happens amongst those isles unseen may throw up a lot of experiences, but the experience of being bored won't be one of them.

Sri Syadasti,

The Monkey

23 November 2017

Audio

Photo montage includes a photo by Kai Oberhauser from Unsplash


An inciting incident occurred recently that has re-kindled my energy with regards to posting audio content. I have always loved audio content of all sorts. For a start, audio content is the only way I get to read books, filling in the time I drive to and from work.

Audio content is what helped train me to fall asleep promptly. Audio content is great when you're too ill to get out of bed. Audio content is exciting, vibrant and, when well produced engages the imagination because you're having to supply the visual content using your mind's eye.

There's a curious alchemy between book readings and radio plays. I don't prefer either* but I love them both to be what they are for different reasons. I love to listen to the Hitch Hikers Guide radio serials and I recently took in The Complete Sherlock Holmes read by Stephen Fry. This is what ears were made for.

So, in short, expect audio content in 2018, some you can probably guess at, but I am hoping to surprise you too.

*but I'm not a big fan of audiobooks with an identity crisis who hire in any more than one actor beyond the narrator to voice "characters", make up your goddamn mind.

19 November 2017

I'm Not A Blogger

Photo montage includes a photo by Glen Noble from Unsplash

No, seriously, I'm not, however much this particular internet artefact may attempt to convince you otherwise. I have a blog, sure, conceded and admitted. But I am not a blogger. Bloggers, to my mind, are people who devote their time and attention to producing blog content of a quality where that content stands alone. The blog, as Hamlet would probably say if he knew about blogs, is the thing*.

My blog is not the thing. If I'm honest I don't think novels are the thing either. I love writing novels but, of late, I like writing them in order to have material to turn into audio books. Audio content, ah, well, that might very well be the thing... more on that to follow.

All of this is a roundabout way to lead up to me saying that the days of "three massive content pieces every week" are going on hold now. However, dear reader, you should not presume a return to the days of "one post a year" because that's no good either.

I think where we want to be is regular check-ins and progress updates and maybe two serious content pieces every month, tangentially riffing off the content I have going on at the time.

So, I hear nobody clamouring to know, whither Discordianism? Is that last year's news. No, not at all. I credit my recent good fortunes in the well-spring of chaotic creativity entirely to my renewed interest in the Erisian principle and the Holy Chao. Since re-discovering Discordianism I have got Starfall done and published, pulled some eyeballs into this blog, which, at the end of the day is a blog, in the original sense of the word.

For those now puzzled, what I mean to say is, the early days of blogging allowed the blog producer the liberty to be as random as they wished to be in the content. It's only in later times that you have "food bloggers" or "tech bloggers" or "society bloggers". The idea in the early days was that a blog was an ongoing public journal that would go from cabbages to kings.

I am still running this joint on that basis, people are queuing up to tell me I'm doing my marketing wrong, but I've come to realise this misses the point. If I wanted to "market" with the objective of selling as much as possible indiscriminately then I guess I could. But that's not the kind of doodad I make.

I have never made a secret that the things I cherish most are things like my copy of Over The Edge which I bought after the system had lived it's short beautiful life and passed, long since, out of print. I love it because it speaks right to the core of me. So it took me 15 years from first publication to find it and embrace it, so what. I am the message in a bottle guy. I don't want a thousand bottles to reach a bunch of randoms, I want one bottle to reach the right person.

That's not a way to get rich but it's the way to connect nodes in the great global chaosphere. And that's what I am looking to do. I am a mystic, not a magician. It's all about understanding, it's not at all about power. For which reason, I realise I need to devote the little power I have carefully and, currently, the blog is sucking up too much resource. So, expect less carefully crafted content bombs but I am here, and I do check this and you can reach me, not that anyone has.

Now I'm off to start cooking some audio, it'll be ready in 2018 so you have plenty of time to clear your ears.

Sri Syadasti,

The Monkey

*Which has sent my mind off onto a tangent where I imagine proto-emo grandaddy of all emo kids Hamlet writing long screeds into his LiveJournal about how Claudius is a bastard and Gertrude just doesn't get him. "Oh, God," he would write, "my soul is a cavern of inky despair. Ophelia caught my eye in the courtyard earlier. Doesn't she know she's a popular girl? She and I could never have a meaningful relationship because all she cares about is lipstick and flowers. Going to hang out with Laertes later and listen to some My Chemical Romance. Mood: Contemplating The Void."

3 November 2017

Review Copies



Starfall's been out now for ~2 weeks and very rapidly I've found out that I don't want to give people the option of getting a copy free. Actually, that's not quite true, free as in beer I can handle as long as I know who wants a copy.

I worked a long time on Starfall, over a decade, in fact. Over the last two weeks "people" have stopped by my Smashwords page and chosen to "Pay What They Want" for a copy and none of them wanted to pay anything.

Here's what I think about those people who don't pay anything for the book. First, I suspect they're screen scrapers, procedural bots who hoover up anything that's not nailed down, digitally speaking. Second, I think that if they're not, they're worse.

I take free books when those books are marked "free". If I were to release a free book, and I have, I would say, this is free, enjoy it. Pay what you want, on the other hand, means "not nothing". Or at least it does to me. There are many albums on indie music site Bandcamp that are marked "Pay what you want". If an artist wants you not to pay for their music then they add **FREE DOWNLOAD** to the album title. Then you can take the music for free.

No doubt there are some people who take Pay What You Want music from Bandcamp for nothing. I am not one of those people. Even a nominal fee for the music is a way of saying that the work was worth something to you, the listener. Taking Pay What You Want stuff for a sum of zero just makes you look like a giant, unthinking content hoover.

I am not saying that those people - if they are people - who took my book for free are not going to read Starfall. What I am saying is that I don't believe they are. I find this to be like baking a bunch of delicious cookies and taking them out into the street to offer them to people. If the people believed that I was trying to poison them fine. But this is more like people are taking the cookies but they just snatch them on the way past, no eye contact, no greeting, no sense that they are aware that the human being that baked the cookie is standing, you know, right there at all.

Then, it's like those people throw those cookies away, after taking them, without even looking at them or smelling them or detecting that I threw a dash of vanilla in. Like the cookie was good enough to take but not good enough to eat afterward.

That's what I don't like. Take my book for free, or, at least for a like on my Facebook page and a message that says "Hi, I would like a free copy of your book because it looks interesting and I am happy to go on your mail list about future releases." If you want to not pay money for the book on that basis I am totally fine with that.

But I am not fine with you taking the book for literally nothing as if I am just a book writing machine that needs no more acknowledgement than a kettle. Sometimes I write things for a bit of fun, with a "take it or leave it" kind of attitude, then I will say, hey, just take a copy, that's fine. Starfall, in particular, is not one of those projects. I worked too damn hard on that book to have people not even say "Hi" when they have a copy gratis. So that is no longer an option.

If you don't want to engage with me but you want to read the book now the price is $4. A $0 copy is for people who are happy to like my facebook page and go on my mailing list.

Grump over. Have a nice day.