Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rant: New Ghostland Observatory album, how the local record store can stay afloat, why I hate DRM, Sonic Sum, and why a car in San Francisco sucks.

Heads up, I am writing this post spur-of-the-moment. What does this mean for you? If you continue reading this post you're going to read lots of complaining. However I feel I will be addressing a few valid points.

Plan A:
The new Ghostland Observatory album "Robotique Majestique" just came out this week. Ghostland Observatory is certainly one of my top two Austin, TX bands. First thing I did today was to go to iTunes and see if the album was available for purchase. It was, but it was DRM'd content. I'm not down with that, so Apple didn't make any money off me. Why would I buy something that I cannot play on my Roku soundbridge, or in DJing software such as Final Scratch or Serato?

Plan B:
My next idea was to check the MP3 store. I love the fact that they offer the same content as iTunes (roughly speaking) without DRM. I can get traditional old MP3 files that will play on mutliple devices, not just my iPhone. Luckily, they had the Ghostland Observatory discography available, but not the new album for some obscure reason. How can someone run a MP3 storefront but not have the new content as soon as it comes out?

Plan C:
My next idea was to walk to a local record store by my apartment. I will leave their name unmentioned since I don't want to hurt their business. When I asked the guy at the counter if they had the new Ghostland album, he mentioned that he would check. I then thought I would shorten his search time by mentioning that the album came out today. His response was, "Oh, if it's out today then we don't have it." WTF? How can a record store expect to remain a viable source for music if they don't have an album on the day it comes out. This is absolutely CRITICAL for staying in relevant in the format war. I must also mention that this is the second or third time I have gone to this record store and they didn't have a new release. I personally feel that record shopping is an experience that can never be replaced by online storefronts. You may ask why going to a record store was Plan C? This is only because I wanted this record so bad that I couldn't wait until the evening to get it.

Plan D:
My fourth idea was to go to a larger independent record store in town, and see if they had the record. They did, and I ended up buying it. About time. It took me three failed attempts to finally get my hands on the record, but I did. While on the topic, I must mention a few other things of relevance.

Another reason I love record stores: While hunting for the Ghostland Observatory album, I ran across a new album "Films" by Sonic Sum. Sonic Sum's "The Sanity Annex" is one one of my all time favorite hip-hop records. Consequently I flipped when I saw a new album was out by them. This experience doesn't happen online. By the way, so far the record is pretty good.

I finally got into my car with the new Ghostland Observatory album. After opening the album in excitement, I was let down. There was no special artwork or book. I had the stark realization that while hunting for music in a record store is still exciting, actually opening the CD wasn't. This may contribute to the downfall of phyiscal music mediums.

So now a little about San Francisco. I finally started heading back to my apartment to park. Due to this and that, I had to park on the street tonight. It took me 45 minutes to find a parking spot. Argh! At least I had time to listen to the whole Ghostland Observatory album on the way. By the way, it's a damn good record! Everyone should go pick up a copy of the record!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Toy2r's Do-It-Yourself Custom Baby Qee

Toy2r has been in the urban vinyl scene for a while with their Qee vinyl figure platform. I call it a platform because the Qee isn't a specific urban vinyl figure. Rather, it's a shape that they hand over to multiple artists to create their own look for a Qee. Essentially artists come up with the "presentation" or "skin" of the Qee, which Toy2r then manufactures and sells in random assortments aka "blind boxes."

The notion of an urban vinyl figure as a platform for customization began with Kid Robot's Dunny, if I know my history correctly. I myself have never had much interest in the customs scene until recently. I recently stumbled across the "Do-It-Yourself Custom Baby Qee" figures. They cost around 10$, and are about 3-4 inches tall. These are super cool as they let someone who paints such as myself, to try out creating custom figures; all at a rather low expense. Traditionally this required taking an existing artists' 75-100$ figure, and praying that you don't completely ruin it. Not to mention hoping that you don't ruin the artist's original vision. This is sort of like remixing a song. No one listens to remixes that are worse than the original song.

So now all I need to do is get my hands on a DIYC Qee, and see what I can accomplish. If this happens I'll certainly post pics.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Blue Bottle Cafe: Japanese Chem-Lab?

I had the chance to stop by the new cafe opened by Blue Bottle Coffee in SoMa. I've been a huge fan of their coffee kiosk in Hayes Valley for the past year or so, and so I was rather excited to see their actual cafe that just opened. It happens to be located in an alley across the street from Mezzanine, which is in my opinion one of the worst music venues in town. Yet they always have the best line-up. Oh, the irony!

I digress. Back to Blue Bottle. When I first walked in the cafe, I could feel many similarities in interior design to their walk-up stand in Hayes. I was rather excited by this. To make things even more impressive, I notice that they have beer in addition to coffee. And what do I see, but my favorite Japanese import beer Hitochino Nest (Beligan style white ale from Japan.) I was already sold on the cafe by that point. The real surprise was yet to come.

In the back of the cafe they had what best could be described as a chemistry lab straight out of a Columbian drug lords factory. I ended up talking to a guy that worked at Blue Bottle about the contraptions. Apparently the two systems are derived from an ancient style of brewing coffee that originated in Kyoto, Japan.

The first is a gold machine with five halogen lamps. Metal stands are placed over the lights, with clamps used to support glass spheres containing water. As the spheres sit over the lights, the water is heated. Then, there is what looks like a glass tube with a wide top, and narrow bottom. The narrow bottom is placed into the sphere creating a seal. As the water heats, vapor is pushed into the top tube. Coffee is placed in the tube, causing the coffee to brew as water is forced into the tube. Once the water has transferred to the top tube, it cools and then drips back into the sphere as coffee. The presentation really impressed me. The sphere + stand is placed on a tray with coffee cups and ginger candy? This is then served.

The other contraption is a series of spheres and tubes. This is known as Kyoto style iced coffee. Cool water is placed in the top sphere, and over 8-10 hours the cold water brews coffee. This system wasn't in use as it usually takes an entire day to brew.

To top things off, I ran into the guy shown in the pictures above who was giving me a rundown of the system. I asked if he was the "Blue Bottle Coffee Guy" so I guess that's his nickname.

Lastly, these photos were taken with my iPhone so don't set high expectations for quality.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Anticon Anatomy Shirt

I just received a package at work today. Guess what it contained? My fresh new Anticon Anatomy shirt designed by Dose One himself. The shirt is 1/100 printed, using white ink on an American Apparel T-shirt. Damn I love the way AA shirts fit. Anyways, the shirt contains the muscular sytem of the human torso printed on the front and back. In addition, it contains the Anticon logo on the front, and the various artists' names on the back.

Referencing a prior post... I had a chance to talk to Dose One recently at his show, and gave him a compliment on the shirt. He mentioned that his favorite shirt was essentially the same concept but without the Anticon branding. This inspired him to create a version of the label. Very cool to see the source of the idea. Anyways, I can't wait to wear the shirt tomorrow, and I recommend grabbing one while you can!

Pretty much the most beautiful model ever.

I somehow managed to get my consumer self onto the Urban Outfitters mailing list. Based on this I receive an Urban Outfitters catalog about once a month that contains about 1% men's clothing and about 99% women's clothing, which are of no importance to me. However, when I received the Early Spring 2008 catalog I was actually taken back. UO somehow managed to find two incredibly beautiful models. It may be seen as a negative that they only use two female models, but I don't mind. Why you ask? Because one of the women in the catalog might be the most attractive women I have ever seen in my life. Ever. Serious. If I met her I would probably propose right there on the spot. Or, rip out my soul and hand it over. Either would be sufficient. Damn I hate wearing my heart on my sleeve.

Incase you were interested in the catalog, check it out here.

Also, kudos to Clarke Tolton for the excellent fashion photography.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wooooooo! Yeasayer videos

Yeasayer's album "All Hour Symbols" made into the #2 slot for top albums that graced my humble eardrums in 2007. It's now 2008 and I still can't stop listening to their music. I'll probably be still be listening when the world ends in 2080!

I recently had a chance to check out Yeasayer at Bottom of the Hill in SF. I was absolutely blown away by their concert. It was so incredible that I felt the need to go Woooooo! (like at the start of "Sunrise") at every chance I could. At one point the basist mentioned that they were only going to play 3 more songs. At that time I yelled "Play the whole album!" because I feel their album works as a cohesive body (much like OK Computer.) At that time the lead singer called me out for cheering for Fall Out Boy. What the hell? That really tarnished my respect for Yeasayer, but whatever.

Yesterday my roommate sent me mail about a performance of "2080" that Yeasayer did this past week on Conan O'Brian. I was really impressed by their stage presence and the fact that a choir backs the band on the layered vocals. Awesome!

This morning I ran across the new Mixtapeclub video for Yeasayer's "Wait for the Summer." This is easily one of the best songs on the album. I am also rather impressed by the visuals in this video. In addition, if you go to the Mixtapeclub site, they have an iPod download of the music video. I'm not posting an embedded link as the website has much better quality.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

G-rocery Shop RAW

I must start by saying that G-Star RAW is the best clothing label period. No "pretty much" about it. Every time I step into the G-Star store I am blown away by their perpetual innovation on clothing design. There is the occasional flap, snap, strap that doesn't really seem to add anything to the piece, but generally speaking they are on point with their clothing.

Every time you make a purchase at G-Star they throw your clothes in these great branded nylon canvas bags. When I recently made a trip to Whole Foods I realized that they essentially sell almost the same bag. I then realized that these freebie (by freebie I should say included in the cost of their expensive clothing) bags from G-Star make great grocery shopping bags. I'm not sure if they factored this into the design of these bags, but it definitely helps preventing wasting more paper and plastic. RAW!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A decade of Dose (One)

This past Friday I went to Cafe du Nord to see Dose One and Jel in concert. Unless you are linked into the the underground / avant garde hip-hop scene, you probably have never heard of Dose One (Adam Drucker) or Jel (Jeff Logan) However, I have quite a long history with Dose One's music that resulted in a very cool experience at the show this past Friday.

Sometime back around 98, I delved into the whole underground hip-hop scene. I think this all started when I heard Dr. Octagon's "Blue Flowers" on MTV at around 3 in the morning. Well, at the time, the only place I could find the latest greatest underground hip-hop was at ATAK, a mail order site out of California. After listening to some of the music online I ordered the original cassette tapes of Dose One's Hemispheres and Why?'s Part Time People Cage... Or Part Time Key. I was completely befuddled by both albums, partly due to lack of understanding their vision, partly due to complete awe at their ingenuity. However, these tapes were played many times over, with me learning something new about them each time.

Hemispheres on tape:
(picture coming soon)

Hemispheres on vinyl:
(picture coming soon)

A year or two later I was in Tower Records (RIP) in Austin, TX and happened to find two copies of Dose One's Hemispheres on vinyl, and on sale! I picked them both up, as this album was still amazing IMHO. I had just purchased turntables, and was learning all of the various scratch tecnniques, etc. Since I had two copies of Hemisperhes I started learning to loop with tracks such as "Ethereal Downtime" and "Self Explanatory." Sadly though I trusted a friend with one of my Hemispeheres copies for a few days to give it a listen. As hard as I tried I never received the record back.

Well, not it's 2008 and I now live in San Francisco, home of Anticon Records. Well, maybe I should say ex-home of Anticon Records. They are relocating to L.A. as I write this post. One of my all time favorite record labels has left the Bay Area, leaving us with... no one. But I digress. Back to the show. I went up and talked to Adam (Dose One) and Jeff (Jel) at the merch table at Cafe du Nord. When chatting with Adam I mentioned a brief overview of my history of his music, the tape, the records, etc. Adam was so impressed that I owned 2/1200 copies pressed of his record
that he gave me a copy of Hemispheres on CD. I can't describe how cool it is to meet one of your all time favorite artists, and then have them offer their work out of gratitude. I am listening once again to Adam's work as I sit in a coffee shop, and am still just as impressed as I was roughly 10 years ago.

Hemispheres on CD:
(Picture coming soon)

For those interested in Dose One's work, here are a few songs I recommend checking out.
Dose One "As For Bias" "Ethereal Downtime" "Self Explanatory" "That Ol' Pagan Shit" from Hemispheres
Presage ft. Dose One "Riddles" from Outer Perimeter
13 & God "Soft Atlas" "Perfect Speed" "After Clap" from 13 & God
Subtle "Call To Dive" from For Hero: For Fool
Subtle "Falling" from Yell & Ice

Also, I recommend picking up some of Dose' work. Here are a few links.
DoseOne Gigastore:
Anticon Records: