Words On Sounds, home edition

This blog functions primarily as a place for music and book reviews, and essays on music, art, books, and our society. On occasion, though, a "housekeeping" update makes sense, especially when it relates to music and the stuff in the essays.

On reviews: I've been getting a few submissions directly to me through this blog, and Paul from Killed in Cars is keeping me quite busy with submissions from his direction. Because I try to write relatively detailed reviews, they can be time consuming--I listen to the album being reviewed dozens of times, research the career path(s) of the artist(s), listen to relevant related albums for context and comparison, and generally immerse myself in the music, sometimes even contacting the artist(s) for clarification. I may be doing it as a labor of love, but I take it very seriously. As a musician myself, I know how gratifying it is when reviewers "get it"--and how irritating it is when they miss the mark without even trying very hard. I may not always make that magical mark, but it won't be for lack of effort.

So do keep submissions coming, but bear with me as I catch up on a fairly impressive backlog:

My own musical efforts: As noted in a previous Technology and Humanity post, I'm slowly recovering from a personal creative valley in my life. I'm letting things happen organically, so it's taking some time, but I'm coming out of my funk slowly but surely. I've taken my own advice in simplifying things to avoid the Paradox of Choice by selling off what I decided were unnecessary guitars and effects and the like. As part of that critical thinking exercise, I took a very detailed look at what specific needs I have for guitars I'll actually be excited to play regularly, and I've decided to focus my efforts on playing only 2 particular guitars for the foreseeable future (quite a feat for a fellow that's used to keeping around 10 guitars ready to play). They're guitars with more of a shredder pedigree than a lot of avant-art folks would be "proud" to play, but in being honest with myself, I find them comfortable and flexible to be used in the wide variety of approaches I use (which do include some technically challenging stuff on occasion). They're both S-series Ibanez guitars, a 6-string and a 7-string, with very thin necks (which I further sand and refinish with a light tung oil), and the relatively new ZR tremolo design with a ball bearing pivot instead of the knife edges of the old Floyd days that wear out. It also has countersprings to maintain tuning stability through unison bends and string breaks, stuff that didn't exist 12-ish years ago, which was the last time I was actively buying new guitars. They're very elegant instruments that I've started practicing on with a goal of getting so comfortable with them that they simply "disappear," and I can make music without having to think about switching guitars for different approaches or sounds. Baby pictures, for those who like looking at guitar pRon:

It's been a long-term goal of mine to put music of my own on this blog, linked for free download. That's still my intention, but of course I wasn't producing anything to download during my musical hiatus. For the immediate future, I'm finishing a couple of projects that have been sitting around, and whatever I finish of my own will appear as a free download available here. Relating to some of my thoughts about music production and analog versus digital issues that I've mentioned here recently, I'm considering what I might do toward making a small batch of recordings available on vinyl. Maybe I'll just pay for very small runs of 50-100, or perhaps I'll look into Kickstarter campaigns or something like that. It's premature to get too involved with those concerns, but if you're a person who'd like to spin some vinyl someday, I'd appreciate the feedback. While I'm getting new things completed, I'll be posting a set of Shinyville demos and a project called Dr. Squarewave that was finished for release a few years ago but ultimately remains huddled on my hard drive. Look for those soon.

Large books update: I wish I could say that I've had great success diving into all of those Giant Books mentioned a year ago, but it's been slow going. I've read a ton of stuff in that time, but only one Giant Book has made the cut so far: JR by William Gaddis, instead of his Recognitions that was included in my list. And I haven't even finished JR yet, though I LOVE what I've read so far. It really is difficult to integrate the reading of huge tomes into life, at least for me. But I still want to do it, maybe even need to do it on some level. I've got to figure that out.

Lefty's is awesome: one thing that hasn't changed for me is the strong desire to listen to massive amounts of music, new and old, every chance I get. Doing music reviews has been a fun way to turn that listening time into an even more interesting exercise. Sadly, over the last few years, all of the "legit" record stores in my area have closed, at least if you're looking for new releases. When even my favorite used vinyl store in town shut its doors last winter, I got pretty bummed out. But things have vastly improved since late summer/early fall when Lefty's Records opened up. It's a small store, but the selection (mostly vinyl) is seriously better than I've found even during visits to big cities. I've found things there that one simply never sees in Midwestern record stores: Zorn, late-era Zappa, Snakefinger, Gong, Material, Henry Cow, and more. Record stores are places that really help me feel like I'm living in a place that appreciates "culture," for whatever that's worth, and Lefty's has made me feel like the cultural value of Lincoln has actually gone up since August! Cheers for good record stores.

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