Posts

How to: Re-mix old music, step by step

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The use case here isn't universal, but it is quite common. There are tracks ripped from old vinyl, or available as 'extras' from various sources, and which haven't been attended to by a professional publisher already. You know, those 'Unreleased demo 2' tracks on band Y's latest re-release of a 1975 classic. They all add value to the re-release, but no one has taken the time to actually improve the quality. Well not until now. Using the tools that we have in 2024, it's possible to take tracks apart to a degree and then put them back together in a way that presents the vocals and instruments more clearly. So, where there was originally a mono-ish, muddy mix, probably a capture of a cassette copy of a rehearsal, or similar, we can now have a much clearer, wider stereo version that sounds as if it was recorded in 1995 rather than 1975. Well maybe. Perhaps nearer 1985 in some cases! But better, that's the point. Begging the question 'How do I do thi

The Perfect Quark? (by request!)

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Hawkwind's seminal 1977 album Quark, Strangeness and Charm remains one of my favourites, but as I've previously discussed in these days of digital music, it's possible to curate your own 'version' of anything.  And with that in mind, I've been 'fiddling' with my digital bits and bytes to create my own 'best' album. Culled from the remaster of the actual album, from live bits and out-takes, as you'll see. I'd call it 'definitive', except I keep fiddling further, so it's always being changed in some small way. Happily, the original album, especially in super-clear remastered (by Steven Wilson) form, is so good that there's not quite as much needing doing as on some other albums by this or any other band. Side 1, in particular, is editing to perfection. The 11 minute 'take one' 'Spirit of the Age' was stripped back to verses 2 and 3, 'Damnation Alley' is complete and perfect in itself, and 'Fable

What I don't understand about... holidays!

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I realise that this is a cliche, but I have to rant just a little. I completely understand the point of a holiday. The derivation of the word is from 'holy day', i.e. a day when you don't work and relax instead. At which point I also understand that staying home and not going into work (for example) is also a nice 'holiday'. As is, presumably, if you have no responsibilities and unlimited budget, where you could travel around and enjoying yourself enormously. But.  In between these two stress-free extremes is what most of us understand as a holiday, and it's a hundred times more stressful . There are three factors and I rant and rail at each one when someone starts enquiring after your holiday plans, past or future, and coos "Well, that's nice for you". No, it's usually (mainly) not nice. And I'll explain why. 1. Arrangements For starters, there are 'arrangements' to be made. Nothing to do with getting to your holiday or what to do

Playing Russian Roulette and Folding Phones

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Folding phones have been very exciting to me as a geek, goodness knows I’ve owned or reviewed enough of them, but the physicist in me has always been sceptical. Glass isn’t supposed to bend and fold, and as for the intricate hinges, the less moving parts in a consumer device, the better. My friend Shane Craig’s latest video sheds light on the way manufacturers are not standing fully behind the tech, leaving you and I in the lurch. If the folding glass breaks and there are no signs of external impact (i.e. a drop) then it's always the fault of the tech, its inherent physical design and fragility .  So for manufacturers to turn round and say 'Oh, no, broken screens aren't covered under our warranty' is utterly ridiculous. They were the ones who invested millions into developing products using folding glass and they need to follow through with the usual warranties and support. If only so that the customer won't dismiss the brand when choosing the next device, whether

Compact flagship head-to-head: Samsung Galaxy S24 vs Sony Xperia 5 v

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If there’s one search that I hear about once a month from various people, it’s how to get flagship performance and features at a price that’s not extortionate and a size that's not extravagant. In 2024 we now have flagship phones that are £1000, £1200, £1400, and more, for the folding variety and, if I may suggest, it’s all getting a little silly. Not least because after paying all that money, you’re also stuck with a phone that’s over-large and heavy, cumbersome in day to day life. Why can’t we have most of those flagship internals in a phone body that’s a regular size and a price to match? Well… there are options. The 'correct' size for a smartphone, I contend. No monstrosities, please. Oh, and aim for £800 max! Certainly on the iPhone side, you can’t argue with the performance and imaging in the regular ‘base’ iPhone, the 15 at £800 . It’s not cheap, but it’s terrific quality hardware and software and it’s significantly the right side of a grand. But it you're leanin

Why online advertising is (mostly) a waste of money...

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...So we're listening to a podcast and an advert comes on - each show will have its own cadence, and you'll know roughly how long the ad spot is. If you're looking at your smart device then you'll tap the '+30s' button the right number of times, if you're out walking or similar then you'll ask your voice assistant to 'Fast forward 3 minutes', as appropriate. ...So you're watching YouTube and the pre-roll ads start up, you watch that 'skip' or 'next' button eagerly, either once or twice, and then you're into your video. ...So you're browsing the web and come across a page with content you want to read. If you're smart then you've got an ad-blocker installed, if you're not then you're still only concentrating on the content you wanted. ...So you're watching Netflix or Amazon Prime or (heaven forbid) Now TV and a batch of ads come on before your show: 'Programme resume in 1 min 18s' or whatever

Rock Rarity Review: Steve Swindells: Fresh Blood (1980)

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A while ago, I revelled in the process of digital remastering old 1970s music , enjoying it crystal clear in 2024. And the album I used as an example was  Steve Swindells  (wiki link) and Fresh Blood, along with a smattering of links (also included here). This is such an obscure release that, especially in remastered form, I thought it deserved further treatment in the form of an actual review. Albeit 44 years after release! Being a huge  1970s Hawkwind  fan, I was aware of Steve as a member of the band from 1978-1979, and particularly his use of Hawkwind's  Simon King  (of whom I'm possibly the biggest fan on the planet) and Huw Lloyd-Langton (for whose web site I was webmaster for a decade circa 2010) as backing musicians for his own (second) solo album  Fresh Blood . Also playing on the album was Van de Graaf Generator's Nic Potter. Steve was hailed as 'the next Springsteen' in some quarters, thanks to his lyrical prowess - all the songs are lyric heavy - and son

Rock Rarity Review: Michael Moorcock and The Deep Fix: The New World's Fair

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The background to this rarity (officially still listed in remastered form here on Cherry Red but 'out of stock', so your mileage will vary - unofficial file sources may come to your rescue here) has been well covered in Brian Tawn's excellent book on Mike Moorcock 's music, Dude's Dream, which I've owned from the beginning, in 1997. It's hard to find second hand these days, but Brian has said that he can be contacted on Facebook and still has copies available - so contact him while you can!  I'll attempt to summarise the background to The New World's Fair in a paragraph or two here. Moorcock's literary prowess is his main skill, of course, with a lifetime's career in books and magazines, but that doesn't mean that his music is any the less interesting. Far more niche, but then that's what we're here for in 'Rarities'.  Having sung and played guitar in various pubs and clubs while getting his writing going, Michael Moorcoc

Problem: Apple Music Mac sync waits... forever. Solved!

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This had been bugging me for a year and I finally got music sync between my Mac and my iPhone working reliably in 2024... With a little 'dance' I have to do. Sadly. I don't think I'm alone in having problems, either, judging from reports online, yet the issues are not so widespread that Apple has actually, you know, FIXED them with a software patch. Sigh. The symptom is that, when plugging in to sync (I know, I know, old school), everything just grinds to a halt when it comes to the 'sync' step, i.e. where your music library syncs to what's on the phone. It will hang there forever. What's happening, under the hood, is that Apple's MDCrashReportTool (ironically) has errr... crashed, and, when queried by Finder's Music sync, can't respond to say that all is OK. So the latter just waits and waits...  The 'solution' (which works every time but is a bit of a hassle) is to go into Activity Monitor on your Mac (it's in the Utilities fold

Car musings: To switch from petrol-only to hybrid or full electric?

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I've been wrestling with this for several years now but I think at last I'm coming down to a decision, at least for the medium term. And I'm hoping that my deliberations might help others, readers, who may have been debating along similar lines. (This is in the UK, by the way, so some aspects of the breakdown below may/will be different in other countries.) I should start by saying that I've been driving a Ford C-Max 1.0l EcoBoost for the last five years and it has served me well. It's now 8 years old and (aside from a major clutch server failure, requiring a whole new flywheel and clutch) has never gone wrong in any way that has inconvenienced me. It drives very well, despite the capacity, thanks to a turbocharger, and I get 35mpg worst case, short journeys in winter, and 45mpg average the rest of the year, plus 55mpg on motorways.  It's also classed by the government as only needing to pay £36/year in road tax, and this will apply for the life of the car, as i