Ryan’s Playlist Picks 🌤 28 June 2017

A lot of the time I listen to music in my car, I just shuffle my entire library and see what comes up. I like the idea of just having what is essentially a Ryan radio station, made up of just music I’ve added to my library. That said, I’ve always been a bit paranoid about Apple’s shuffle feature. It seems to have a recency bias, and doesn’t ever seem truly random. Stuff that’s getting promoted by iTunes tends to pop up on shuffle more frequently, and I am pretty sure it seems to prefer songs I’ve listened to a lot. I guess that’s better for the listener than something truly completely random–it seems random but is familiar enough that it feels like my phone just gets me.

Anyway, this is a playlist of songs that, with the exception of track 1, came up randomly in this exact order on my phone last night and this morning. I think it’s a pretty wide variety of artists, but it works remarkably well as a single musical object.

  1. Backroads by Tall Tall Trees
  2. Places by Georgie James
  3. Open by Com Truise
  4. Colluding Oligarchs by Shabazz Palaces
  5. Falling by Morella’s Forest
  6. Drifter In the Dark by Ween
  7. Surge by Above & Beyond
  8. Pictures of Matchstick Men (Mono Version) by Status Quo
  9. Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect by The Decemberists
  10. Strength by Fraunhofer Diffraction
  11. Bad Friend by Bon Voyage
  12. Red Hot Drops by Chad VanGaalen
  13. Working for Vacation by Cibo Matto
  14. Zeeman Effect by Melodium
  15. Bulletproof by La Roux
  16. clouds & Rain by Zac Love

I hope you like it! It’s good for driving and doesn’t have any bad words.

Ryan’s Music Picks ☁️ 5 June 2017

Here’s a bunch of albums that have fallen in my lap. A lot of them are pretty dark; some are quiet and some are noisy. It’s a weird bunch of albums–there’s something for everyone.

Back to the Future the Ride – Health on Earth (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
BTTFTR make some of my favorite sounds on the earth. He constructs pavilions and landscapes and entire planets with of machine echos and other noise. It gets to my soul and into my being in a way that few things do. Pay what you want (including free!) on Bandcamp.

Danger – 太鼓 (Drum) (Apple Music, Spotify)
I’d lost track of Danger and was excited when they popped up on my tumblr feed, of all places. It’s a mysterious French electronic music band that anticipated the whole vaporwave thing and have now fully embraced that aesthetic. Expect post-apocalyptic music that travels between looped easy-listening spa music samples, heavy glitchy drums, and that incredible 80s cop movie soundtrack synthesizer sound.

Elder – Reflections of a Floating World (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
If there’s one thing you’ve learned of my music tastes by now, it’s that I like my metal to be sludge-laden, doom-heavy, and with plenty of shredding. Elder hits most of these, and has the southern charm and slow-motion chug that can only come from heat and humidity. It’s awesome.

Formation – Look at the Powerful People (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
When I first listened to Formation, I nearly wrote them off as a LCD Soundsystem soundalike. While they definitely are cut from the same cloth as LCD, this is a group of young positive dudes from London, not some world-weary old school hipsters from NYC. The songcraft is light and fun, with some elements of the manual and a good amount of posi-core and late night parties. I love this album.

Fraunhofer Diffraction – Threads of Fate (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
No joke one of my favorite things is when someone recommends an album to me because they think I’ll like it. That’s exactly what happened this and they recommender was right on. They’re dark, gothy electronic music that veers towards hardcore. It reminds me of a less caustic Atari Teenage Riot, or a less mopey Cold Cave. It alternates hot and heavy or cold and dark, but never lets up.

Johnny Jewel – Windswept (Apple Music, Spotify, Buy the digital copy for $1)
Johnny Jewel might be a genius. He excels on using a guitar and a synthesizer to get the exact mood that you need to wistfully sit on your hood in an empty parking lot late at night. He knows how to manipulate that mood to push you towards love or paranoia. Some of the music on this album is in the new Twin Peaks show, too, so obviously he knows how to make music for black lodges and red rooms and damn fine coffee too.

King Tarahumara – The Mystic Mixtape Trilogy (Apple Music: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Spotify: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Bandcamp)
King Tarahumara is Kevin Robinson (formerly of Viva Voce) and a friend of his making weird psychedelic dub cutups. It’s esoteric and kinda noisy, with toasting en Español dripped over the top. Robinson’s funk and pop tendencies push the music into evolving weirdo jams rather than unlistenable tape splices, and it gets deeper with subsequent listens. My favorite chapter is 2 (Turquoise), but the whole thing works quite well in sequence. Pay what you want (including free!) on Bandcamp.

King Tubby Meets Scientist In a Revival Dub (Apple Music, Spotify)
King Tubby is one of the unquestionable originators of the Jamaican Dub sound (along with Lee Scratch Perry), and Scientist was his student. This album is a soundsystem battle alternating between King Tubby and Scientist, each of them one-upping the previous track. Expect that heavy bass roll and that laid back beat in the music of the future.

Monster Rally & Rumtum (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp (old version missing last 3 tracks))
Not unlike King Tubby and Scientist, Monster Rally and Rumtum are two producers who rely heavily on samples, and this is a collaborative album between them. Monster Rally brings his trademark exotica samples and animal sounds, and Rumtum slides in with driving hip hop beats and some beeps and boops. It’s an excellent match.

Radioactive Man – Luxury Sky Garden (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
I’m mostly bad at electronic music genres. There are words and phrases that indicate to me that I’ll typically like a particular piece of electronic music, but most of the time, after I find something I like, I’m hard pressed to call it a thing that others will recognize as a specific genre. So Radioactive Man is the non-Andrew Weatherall half of Two Lone Swordsmen (his name is Keith Tenniswood), and he makes music with lots of synthesizer sounds, acid loops, and microhouse beats. It’s techno? or acid house? maybe you could call it electro? Like I said, I’m bad at electronic music genres but I know what I like.

TOPS – Sugar at the Gate (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Finding out about a previously-unheard female-fronted dream pop band is always exciting to me. TOPS gets a good dreamy feel and adds a guitar-based funky element, like the Phoenix album Alphabetical. It’s classic pop rock at its best.

Wavves – You’re Welcome (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
That Wavves has sustained a bratty, snotty, DGAF attitude so long in his career without becoming a parody of himself is a feat. That fact that each album keeps that fun feel with increasing sonic depth is really impressive. It’s 100% summer jams that get good and weird and sound awesome and don’t care.

Ryan’s Music Picks 🌸 25 May 2017

Looks like I’ve shifted to roughly monthly for these. Thanks for your patience. This is a lot of music that fits well into the late spring season (an important time for music, IMO). There are 3 different albums from 1968-69 in here this time, and a bunch of baroquely complex pop. That’s just what happens in the spring.

Benjamin Clementine – At Least For Now (Apple Music, Spotify)
I discovered Benjamin Clementine thanks to this post on MetaFilter. He’s pretty much a straight-up genius, making incredible piano songs that are equal parts rambling and purely pop. I keep getting lost in his songs and I love it.

David Axelrod – Songs of Innocence (Apple Music, Spotify)
This 1968 album is legendary. It’s been sampled tons of times, and it truly is gorgeous. I know how this sounds, but it’s kind of a jazz rock odyssey, with horns and chimes and drums. It’s definitely a music nerd album, but it’s also a gateway drug, so watch out.

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (Apple Music, Spotify)
I’m late to the game on this album and on Kendrick in general. I would say he’s unequivocally the best rapper alive if Run The Jewels weren’t around, but he’s defintely operating on a different level than most rappers out there. If he’s this good now, I can’t imagine what’s going to happen when he’s the age of the RTJ dudes.

The Mountain Goats – Goths (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
John Darnielle hasn’t been shy about how much he loves heavy metal and black metal, and it’s led his trademark wordy guitar-driven story songs to veer down a dark path. Goths is darker and heavier than most Mountain Goats albums, with songs that highlight the inherent ridiculousness of the goth lifestyle by taking it deadly seriously.

Jai Paul – 2013 Leak (DOWNLOAD)
This album appeared unexpectedly in 2013, basically inventing the surprise album release. The Fader recaps what happened in this recent article. It turns out that it was an unauthorized leak, and, though it was unbelievably well-received, it caused the already-introverted Jai Paul to go into hiding, and he hasn’t released any more music under his own name since. But it’s an incredible mix of beats, samples, and guitar-based pop.

Marina and the Diamonds – FROOT (Apple Music, Spotify)
It’s understandable that Marina Diamandis has a cult of personality among teen girls on tumblr. Her songs have a strong emotional element, unstoppable pop tendencies, and anthemically address issues people like tumblr teen ladies are also dealing with.

TW Walsh – Terrible Freedom (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
TW Walsh has released two of my favorite albums in the last two years. He writes devastating songs and keeps it experimental without getting too weird. TW is in a new band, called Lo Tom, with David Bazan and Jason Martin (of Starflyer 59) and you better believe I’m going to talk about that album once it comes out.

Leon – Bird World (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Leon is well known on weird twitter as leyawn, and though he’s mostly good at sick burns and excellent jokes, he composes as well. He’s created a fun soundtrack to an imaginary game that’s equal parts Super NES platformer, a Playstation JRPG, and an 80s Studio Ghibli film.

John Fahey – The Yellow Princess (Apple Music, Spotify)
Another album from the late 60s, this one is literally a whole album of acoustic guitar improvisation. It’s basically the original one, though. Classic.

Collin Strange – How I Creep (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
This is 4 tracks making up 31 minutes of driving, violent techno, like angry synthesizers and drum machines having a fight club.

Wintergatan – Wintergatan (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
I found Wintergatan thanks to this youtube video. He has a penchant for making syncopated pieces played by oddly automated instruments, and though his album is a bit more complexly produced than the music in that video, it’s no less entrancing.

The Zombies – Odyssey and Oracle (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
The third late-60s album in this collection, this one is absolutely the MOST legendary. You’ve definitely heard several of these songs on movie soundtracks, I know I have. This is the perfect album to blast on a day off while spring turns into summer.

Ryan’s Music Picks 🍔 12 April 2017

Whew, it’s been more than a month since my last one of these. I had nearly 30 albums stockpiled in my working playlist, and I’ve cut it down to 11, but I probably will have more next week or the week after.

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand (Apple Music, Spotify)
At what point do we just crown Mastodon as kings of metal? Do they have to take out Metallica in a fistfight? Does Kanye have to rush the stage during the Grammies and announce that he’s going to let you finish but Mastodon is the greatest metal band of all time?

Geotic – Abysma (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Geotic is the name of the alleged side project from Will Wiesenfeld, who has also released his intricate bedroom/laptop experimental electonic music as Baths. I say alleged because, at this point, there are more Geotic albums than there are Baths album. This is the closest his two projects have come to crossing over, as previous Geotic releases were strictly ambient affairs, whereas this gorgeous piece of work has beats, moments of pop, and even vocals. It still has the patented Will Wiesenfeld touch, which is the ability to get you directly in the feels and install itself there.

Monster Movie – Keep the Voices Distant (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Monster Movie is pure shoegaze and I love it. It’s totally sing-along-able kinda bummed out songs, drenched in reverb and noise, with a emphasis on epic choruses and guitars making noise. Monster Movie are masters and this album is here to wrap you up in sound.

Unwed Sailor – Take A Minute EP (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
I’ve been a big fan of Unwed Sailor’s instrumental jams since the early 2000s but haven’t heard much from him recently. This EP brings back the touchstones of Unwed Sailor of old: syncopated drums and quiet guitar and chimes, with a bit more density than the old stuff, and some synthesizers too. It’s perfect driving music for these beautiful spring days we’re having in So Cal.

Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Brutal and crushing in a soul-rending kind of way. I mean, we’ve all had days like that, right? Just the feeling that nothing’s going right and everything is garbage. I believe in many things including hope, but there are days that just suck, man. And it’s nice to have a band like Inter Arma who has been there too. Self-care on days like that is important. Sometimes you need a good cry, or a quiet evening with a nice book, and sometimes you need the most punishing black metal imaginable to remind you that, yeah, you’re not alone and other people have bad days but they survive and darn it, you will too.

Jean-Michel Blais & CFCF – Cascades (Apple Music, Spotify)
Music for quiet contemplation that might bleed over into the transcendent. It’s solo piano compositions front and center, with CFCF’s electronic sounds playing in the edges. This type of duo is really a novel concept to me, as the non-piano sounds really heighten the drama and push things to the next level for me. A meditative album, to be sure, but one that moves. Fans of Philip Glass and Steve Reich will really enjoy where this goes.

Sin Fang Bous – Clangour (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Maybe I’m just out of the loop, but I don’t think we get so many of these kitchen-sink bedroom pop albums anymore. You know, the kind where one person constructs the whole thing and throws in every instrument and sound they can find, just burying some achingly twee pop songs underneath toy pianos and recordings of wind in the trees. This is adorable and precious and, well, I guess I cannot fairly judge the level of irony here, but I like to think it’s super sincere.

Priests – Nothing Feels Natural (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
It’s…interesting what passes as punk in the year of our lord 2017. Pitchfork, and iTunes, etc. call Priests a punk band, and, well, I mean, okay sure. They rock, they’re snotty. The tempos are fast and it feels like it’s a no-frills guitar/bass/drums setup (but I think I hear some saxophone peaking around the corners?). But I guess punk has meant so many things over the years that we need more words for it. Priests harken back partially to punk’s New York origins and roots in surf, but there’s also a lot of bleed into what I would personally classify more as New Wave. Anyway, genre classifications aside, this album makes me want to give people the middle finger, which is, I think, a sign of a good punk album.

Teengirl Fantasy – 8AM (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Teengirl Fantasy is what it sounds like when you take all of the pop elements out of pop songs. It’s like listening to Britney Spears through a wormhole. Imagine if you somehow became just slightly out of sync with our dimension but realized that you’d left Rihanna playing. All of the pieces of radio-ready dance pop music is there, just assembled by timeless beings with no concept of the self or something.

Pallbearer – Heartless (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Pallbearer is the band my dad imagines when I describe the darkest of the black metal (see Inter Arma, above) to him. It’s got crunch and riffs, but the singing has harmonies, and there are tons of guitar solos. Like, Pink Floyd levels of guitar noodling. It’s got a bent for the old school and the theatric, but it’s still heavy metal, just a bit too slow for headbanging.

Dosh & Ghostband – Def Kith II: The Price is Ill (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Imagine if you had a epic cage match showdown between a bunch of drum machines, synths and arpeggiators. Fights rise, and fall, opponents get tossed out of the ring only to come back and grab the feet of the champs or hand up folding chairs in a moment of chaos. That’s what’s happening here, and we get to sit back and enjoy these machines fighting in lockstep with each other.

Anamanaguchi – Capsule Silence XXIV (DOWNLOAD, Spotify)
Somehow I didn’t fully process what was happening with Anamanaguchi’s weird Capsule Silence video game until recently, but it looks like they have given us between 16 and 35 tracks that represent demos, experiments, b-sides and other detritus from the last couple of years. I feel like this is a housecleaning of sorts before the finally release their next album.

Cryptonomicon in January: Week 4

(I finished the book at some point in March, and basically have been processing and procrastinating this last entry since then. Here comes the chapter recap, with some freeform thoughts at the end.)

  • The Most CigarettesRandy and Avi talk about Andrew Loeb who is suing Epiphyte(2), backed by The Dentist. The Feds show up at Ordo headquarters to retrieve the Tombstone, Epiphyte’s encrypted email box.
  • Christmas 1944Goto Dengo figures out what’s going to happen with the vault and plans an escape route. He is also introduced to the concept of Christmas.
  • PulseRandy presents his Lord of the Rings-inspired dwarf vs. elf theory of dudes who work in tech while going full cyberpunk on the Tombstone during the lawyer standoff. Someone sets off an EMP.
  • BuddhaGoto Dengo is there as the vault is loaded. Then, it’s sealed.
  • PontifexRandy gets the hell out of Palo Alto and flies first class to the Sultanate of Kinakuta. While in the air, he has several phone calls, including one with root@eruditorum.org aka Enoch Root.
  • GloryBobby Shaftoe traverses the Philippines to see Glory. Turns out she’s a leper. It’s a short reunion.
  • The PrimaryRandy goes to Tom‘s bunker in Kinakuta and has a meeting with Epiphyte(2) and Doug ShaftoeRandy discusses his grandfather (Lawrence Waterhouse)’s last decrypts from WWII.
  • DelugeGoto Dengo seals and subsequently escapes the vault aka Golgotha. Not everyone in his crew makes it out.
  • BustRandy flies to Manila, is framed and arrested for drug possession.
  • The Battle of ManilaBobby starts making his way through Manila as it is shelled by General Douglas MacArthur.
  • CaptivityRandy‘s in jail. He talks to his attorney, gets his laptop, and finally has an important conversation with Amy Shaftoe.
  • GlamourBobby in Manila during the battle, part 2. He runs into Goto Dengo and converts him to Christianity. They both run into General Douglas MacArthur. Then Bobby meets his son, Doug Shaftoe for the first and only time.
  • WisdomRandy in jail, part 2. He gets transferred to solitary, reevaluates the relationships with women he has had, and meets his new neighbor: Enoch Root.
  • FallBobby‘s last mission.
  • MetisRandy and Root have a long talk and tier together a lot of disparate plot threads.
  • SlavesLawrence goes through the Japanese code base that Bobby cleared in his last mission.
  • ArethusaRandy talks to The Dentist and finally decodes Lawrence‘s last decrypts, which contain, among other things, the location of Golgotha.
  • The BasementLawrence uses his computer to break the Azure code.
  • AkihabraRandy is released from prison. He meets Avi in Japan and they talk.
  • Project XLawrence has an encrypted phone call with Alan Turing about Arethusa and randomness.
  • LandfallGünter Bischoff and Rudy von Hacklheber meet up after months at sea.
  • Goto-samaRandy and Avi have dinner with Goto Dengo and his son. They convince Goto Dengo to back their expedition/excavation to Golgotha.
  • R.I.P.Goto Dengo and Enoch Root have a chat in Manila days after the Battle of Manila.
  • ReturnRandy sneaks back into the Philippines, consummates his relationship with Amy, and heads out to find Golgotha. They get there and discover a minefield.
  • CribsLawrence spies on a conspiracy at Bobby‘s funeral. He meets up with Rudy to tell them he has broken their code (Arethusa). He promises not to tell.
  • CayuseAndrew Loeb shows up at Golgotha and causes a ruckus.
  • Black ChamberLawrence hides the Arethusa intercepts and replaces them with a very well-encrypted joke.
  • PassageBischoff and Rudy go down with the submarine.
  • LiquidityRandy pumps Golgotha’s gold out.
  • Appendix: Solitaire aka Pontifex by Bruce Schneider.

Hell of a last quarter of a book. While I do love it when a plan comes together, the nonlinear nature of the storytelling in a book like this renders some of the later chapters as essentially background, filling in the history around the plot points we’re already taken as given. Randy undergoes a physical and emotional transition late in the book that coincides with his 1337 hax0r skillz that feels very much like a wish fulfillment “our hero wins in every conceivable way” kind of an ending which disappointed me a bit in its obviousness. Other than that, I finally learned modular arithmetic and have a slightly more detailed understanding of cryptography (though with a decidedly analog bent).

It’s my understanding that Neal Stephenson’s next several books make up what’s called the Baroque Cycle, and they deal mostly with the history of the Shaftoe and Waterhouse families, as well as explaining a bit more about Enoch Root. I don’t know if I’m ready to tackle more from him at this point, but if you’re interested, it’s worth looking into.

I’m not fully over the ending of this book. I can’t fully decide if pumping the melted gold out of Golgotha is a brilliant way to repatriate the gold back to the people, or if it’s a messy but very lucrative cleanup job that will make Randy et al set for life. Essentially: I can’t tell if it’s altruistic or selfish and, while I think it’s supposed to be read as the former, it’s a bit too ambiguous to work as well as it should. It’s neat though. A cool concept.

Ryan’s Music Picks 👽 10 March 2017

The theme of these picks is “dreamlike” in the sense that they are transportative, slightly off-kilter, and a little unworldly. This week is full of slow-burn jams with varying levels of dance-floor, headphone, stadium, and sitting-alone-in-a-dark-room listenability.

Landlady – The World is a Loud Place (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Classic psychedelic rock in a 70s but not self-serious early 2000s way. This album makes me ready for summer right now, as do all the blockbuster movies coming out (as well as global climate issues). It rocks in a gorgeously sunny way, all wide open and happy.

Money Mark – Push the Button (Apple Music, Spotify)
Money Mark is considered the fifth Beastie Boy (after the 3 originals and Mix Master Mike). He’s a synthesizer fanatic who has been recording gloriously funky keyboard songs for years. His music is a half-and-half combination of instrumental hip hop vamps and totally chill indie pop (back when indie pop meant “I don’t know really how to classify this but it’s cute and good, you know?”). This album, which turns 20 next year, is very much a 90s college rock album, but it still feels fresh and brings the jams.

Grails – Chalice Hymnal (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This album is a pretty heavy album, but it’s not really metal at all. On the surface, it’s droney instrumental jams with curious instrumentation and noodly fuzz guitars. Underneath is a sinister undercurrent of magic that runs so deep that if you told me that the music wasn’t so much played as it was conjured into being by a dark wizard, I would just shrug.

Roman GianArthur – Ok Lady (FREE DOWNLOAD, Apple Music, Spotify)
One of the things I have always appreciated about Radiohead is their rhythm section. The drums and bass in their music (not just the instrumentation but the lines, the groove) is always what has set them apart from their imitators. Roman GianArthur, guitarist for Janelle Monáe and Wondaland, has tapped into the underlying grooves in a handful of Radiohead songs and brought them out with full Prince-style guitars and Wondaland production. Paranoid Android works as art-damaged funk as well as All I Need works as a slow jam. But No Surprises (featuring the android queen herself) is unstoppable in this tragi-romantic incarnation, and High and Dry has never had never had so much heart and soul. Fans of R&B and fans of Radiohead need this in their lives.

In Love with a Ghost – Healing (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
In Love with a Ghost is ASMR pop. It’s a mix of ambient sounds and video game and/or soundtrack but not at all vaporwave. It doesn’t feel like it’s distorted through a corrupted rar file, it feels like it’s being played out of your PC speakers or your crappy earbuds at 1 in the morning. This album is a loose narrative about a couple of witches who meet and become friends in a forest, which adds a both charming and spooky RPG element to the music.

Blanck Mass – World Eater (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Blanck Mass make music similar to Grails in the sense that it feels heavy without being, like, actually metal-style heavy. But this time all the arcane dimensions are being opened by machines who have gained sentience.

David Bazan – Care (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This is the erstwhile Pedro the Lion lead singer’s first album with producer Richard Swift, and it sounds like both of them bonded over their love of synthesizers and decided they should make a Yaz record. Actually, like the lyrics, the music is still unmistakably Bazan: bleak with glimmers of hope (but not too much). This time there’s no guitar, just synths and drum machines and flawless songs.

CAPSULE – Wave Runner (Apple Music, Spotify)
I mentioned stadiums, right? Electronic dance music is what we have instead of arena rock in 2017. CAPSULE infuses j-pop with killer drops, and counts the dudes from Anamanaguchi among its biggest fans.

The Octopus Project & Black Moth Super Rainbow – The House of Apples & Eyeballs (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This insane almalgamation is a team-up album between a psych rock group (the Octopus Project) and total synth weirdos (Black Moth Super Rainbow) and it’s just a blast of bright, candy-flavored light right into your earholes. Yeah, it also might induce synesthesia.

Artificial Fear – LoZ: Metal (Bandcamp)
So I hear some sort of new Legend of Zelda-playing device came out. I hear it’s awesome. But is it as awesome as classic Legend of Zelda music played in a symphonic metal style? I’ll let you be the judge.

Playlists:

Cryptonomicon in January: Week 3

At this point, the “in January” and “week 3” are just a joke. But I really like this book and want to finish it and I’m honor-bound to write chapter summaries because I can’t find good ones online. Here’s week 1 and week 2.

  • OutpostGoto Dengo makes it back to “civilization” but is reminded that war is hell. He gets on a submarine.
  • Meteor: We catch up with the erstwhile crew of U-691 in Sweden, on the Gulf of Bothnia. While laid up with a new paramour, JulietaBobby Shaftoe is reminded of Glory back in Manila. A jet crashes.
  • Lavender Rose: Stuff is being brought up from the German U-Boat that America Shaftoe discovered in part thanks to Randy WaterhouseRandy gets an email from root presenting a new encryption scheme. Something comes up from the U-Boat the says WATERHOUSE LAVENDER ROSE.
  • BrisbaneLawrence Waterhouse tries to figure out what to do in Brisbane as his official orders have been essentially canceled.
  • DönitzBobby and Günter Bischoff talk. Bischoff will be rejoining the German navy. They decide to investigate the jet crash and discover Enoch Root and Rudy von Hacklheber.
  • CrunchRandy eats some Captain Crunch, checks his email, then goes to a dance with America among others. He receives some mysterious coordinates.
  • GirlLawrence find a job breaking smaller Japanese codes, he finds a room in a boarding house and then meets and falls for a girl named Mary.
  • ConspiracyRudy tells how he ended up in Sweden (he investigated what Lawrence and Bobby were doing with unit 2702) and Bobby hallucinates a bit. The Societas Eruditorum comes up, and they plan to meet in Manila.
  • HoardRandy flies to the USA to take care of some personal business and writes a long AF email detailing his trip to the mysterious coordinates, where he found literally tons of gold stacked neatly in the jungle.
  • Rocket: A new u-boat (matching the description of the one that Randy and America have found in Manila) arrives to pick up Bischoff, who gives intelligence on this u-boat to Bobby as he leaves. Turns out Bobby and Enoch have both been with Julieta (in THAT way) and they decide she needs an American or British passport. Germans come and Bobby kills most of them but they fatally wound Enoch, who is hurriedly married to JulietaEnoch then dies…or does he? Bobby leaves.
  • CourtingLawrence‘s libido and its effect on his work is detailed, with math. He has to adjust his routine due to his feelings for Mary. He goes to a dance where he discovers she is Qwghlmian, but from Inner Qwghlm.
  • INRIGoto Dengo is convalescing in a Catholic hospital in the Philippines, recovering from PTSD and injuries. He is cured but convinced they tried to convert him to Catholicism. He makes his way to his new post. The Societas Eruditorum is seen again.
  • CaliforniaRandy and Avi Halaby discuss creating a cryptocurrency after Avi picks Randy up at the San Francisco airport.
  • OrganLawrence goes to church with Mary and her brother (his roommate). He obsesses over the pipe organ there and (in my favorite sequence so far–I listened to a recording of the piece as I read this part) triumphantly plays Toccata and Fugue in D Minor while simultaneously working out plans for a digital computer.
  • Home: There’s an earthquake. Randy‘s house is destroyed. America is there somehow, with two of her cousins from the Tennessee Shaftoes. Theme of the chapter is: “you can’t go home again”
  • BundokGoto Dengo gets orders to dig.
  • Computer: Things are going well for Lawrence with Mary, the organ, and his computer. He knows the Japanese are going something with mining and gold in the Philippines.
  • CaravanRandyAmerica and the Tennessee Shaftoes take a car trip to Washington. Randy gets to know everyone better, especially America but not in THAT WAY.
  • The General: Bobby makes his way from Stockholm to New Guinea and offers his skills to General Douglas MacArthur directly. He is ordered to go to Manila.
  • OriginRandyAmerica and the Tennessee Shaftoes use a bizarre real-life graphing system to divvy up his grandmother Mary‘s possessions. He discovers that Lavender Rose was the name of the pattern on her wedding china.
  • GolgothaGoto Dengo draws up elaborate plans.
  • SeattleRandy tries and mostly fails to get information about his grandfather, Lawrence, but does end up with his trunk and punchcards contained therein. He meets up with a friend who collects obsolete technology (to read the punchcards). America decides to head back to Manila.
  • RockGoto Dengo walks through his massively labyrinthine over-designed vault with the general, going over all of the various traps. The general indicates that such a bunker will be duplicated in other sites (…maybe in Kinakuta?).

We’re reading from the chapter Most Cigarettes through the end of the book now. Good luck!

Ryan’s Music Picks ✈️ 20 February 2017

It’s been a while, huh? A lot of stuff happened since my last one of these: Trump became president, my youngest daughter turned one, I turned 34. I’ve been listening to a ton of music and making lots of mental notes and aspirational playlists for this email, but nothing has been actually written down until right now. I just got off a plane not too long ago during which I read (more Cryptonomicon–I’m nowhere near the end still) and so I thought I’d just give you what I listened to in the air and the train ride to my hotel. It’s mostly instrumental and relatively chill because I have travel anxiety and can’t listen to music with words while I read. I’ll also throw in a few albums I can’t help but mention because how much I like them.

Plane Inst:

Balmorhea – Stranger (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Less “epic” than some other Texas-based sweeping instrumental music, Balmorhea (say bal-mor-ayy) is syncopated and soothing with interesting instrumentation like piano and cello. It hasn’t been commodified and added to commercials or movie soundtracks yet, but it’s certainly ripe for that kind of exploitation.

Frankie Rose – Interstellar (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
My take-off music. Having travel anxiety but also a working understanding of aerodynamics (not a useful one, just enough to make me annoying), I’m cool with airplanes and takeoffs and landings, but I still get kind of worked up during a take off. Having good launch music does help with that, and Interstellar is amazing, driving dream rock, with a good balance of a killer rhythm section and floaty vocals/guitars/synths. Highly recommended. I own this album on vinyl!

This Will Destroy You – Another Language (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
I’m just getting into these guys. They have that loud/quiet dynamic like Explosions in the Sky, but it’s darker and broodier when quiet, and has way more of the slams when loud. Killer.

The Mercury Program – New Myths EP (Bandcamp, Apple Music)
One my favorite and first instrumental rock bands, which led me to telling people that I was “way into post-rock” for a few years, which, uh, I don’t even know what that means at this point. Their trademark is delayed guitars and overactive drums and this EP, their first recording since 2009, is right on par with their classics from the early 2000s (which I recommend you also get into).

Teen Daze – Themes for Dying Earth (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
I’m a huge fan of Teen Daze, in spite of their (his, really) pretty kinda played-out name. It’s like a sea of warm waves and boops with icebergs of perfect pop floating by you occasionally. Super soothing but not boring or too spa-music-like.

Nanook of the North – The Täby Tapes (Apple Music, Spotify)
Adorable early-2000s indie pop that’s lushly produced and has back and forth boy/girl vocals. Opus recently tweeted his 13-year-old review of this album and I’m so glad he did, it’s still great.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This is one of those albums that sounds totally different depending on if it’s being played loudly or quietly. If you crank it up, it’s punishing guitars and stadium synthesizers but, if you turn it down, it’s hushed vocals adrift in a sea of noise and tamborine. Don’t ask me how it works.

Other Cool Stuff that I Wanted to Tell You About (quick shots)

Sinkane – Life & Livin’ It (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Sinkane makes music that triangulates a ton of music I love and then turns it into something astonishingly new. There’s elements of so much good stuff here, but it’s the heart that wins out and really holds everything together. The grooves are unstoppable, no question, but the real humanity in this music grabs you and doesn’t let go.

Delicate Steve – This Is Steve (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Instrumental guitar-fronted rock where the guitar functions as much as the lead singer as the main instrument. Delicate Steve plays the most lyrical guitar in the galaxy, and he rocks harder on this album than on any of his (spectacular) previous releases.

Neil Cicierega – Mouth Moods (Download/Stream)
On one level, this is a mixtape of funny, “bad” mashups of songs that are so popular that you probably know the words even if you haven’t heard them in a decade and never made any effort to learn the words. On another level, this is a brilliant, brain-destroying lesson in recontextualization and post-post-modernism. If you have not, definitely check out the two previous releases in this series: Mouth Sounds and Mouth Silence.

I tried a thing:

Cryptonomicon in January: Week 2

It’s looking much more like this is going to be a 2-month book club considering that I’ve gotten halfway through the book at the end of the month. Anyway, a lot of stuff has happened in the book and I still want to finish it. The chapter-by-chapter summary I found online and mentioned previously peters out about halfway through our reading, so here’s very brief sentence-long summaries of the chapters.

  • Lizard: Bobby Shaftoe in Italy while they sit around and make it look like they’ve been there a while and transmit encoded data.
  • The Castle: Lawrence Waterhouse is in Qwghlm and he’s paranoid that everyone is a spy. Also a complete explanation of the creation and use of a one-time pad.
  • WhyRandy Waterhouse is in the Sultanate of Kinakuta decompressing from his flight and preparing for the big meeting by reading the business plan, answering his email (including an interesting one from someone with a root email) and reading up on an old rival who is now into hive minds.
  • Retrograde Maneuver: Japanese soldiers escaping do not sufficiently destroy some code manuals.
  • HuffduffLawrence, still in Qwghlm, engages in subterfuge to make the residents think he’s doing high frequency direction finding while he does other code and information flow works. He advises Bletchley Park to crash a boat with code manuals into Germany as an excuse to abandon codes known to be broken. Lawrence also engages in intercourse with a friendly potential spy.
  • Pages: The Australians find the badly-buried Japanese code manuals mentioned in Retrograde Maneuver.
  • RamBobby is on a boat full of guns. He flashes back to the Italy escape and the very deadly Vickers machine gun, and then witnesses an argument over whether to follow orders and leave a code manual in the boat after it crashes.
  • DiligenceRandy doesn’t tell The Dentist everything that he’s up to in the Philippines.
  • SpearheadLawrence and Bobby investigate the U-553 which just happens to have crashed, with no crew, very near Qwghlm. There’s useful code info on board, but a safe is stuck.
  • MorphiumBobby uses controlled explosives to release the safe. He also gets his hands on some German morphine.
  • SuitRandy emails with root, and has a chat with The Dentist.
  • CrackerLawrence cracks the safe from U-553 and finds a Chinese gold bar and some hand-written encoded sheets.
  • SultanEpiphyte(2) has a meeting with the Sultanate and some potential investors in The Crypt.
  • SkippingGoto Dengo ends up in the water after a surprise American attack.
  • MugsRandy is still in the meeting, realizing that maybe all of these guys are not such good guys. He sets up his laptop for a demo and writes a script that will take pictures of the people who use it.
  • Yamamoto: Admiral Yamamoto is killed while in flight. Dying, it occurs to him that the Japanese codes are probably compromised.
  • AntaeusLawrence talks to Alan Turing. They discuss the Turing machines and binary encoding. It’s revealed that the mysterious handwritten encoded pages on U-553 were in Rudy von Hacklheber’s handwriting.
  • PhreakingRandy reads more about his old rival and his attempts to create a (pre-twitter) hivemind, then watches as some of his pals do some Van Eck phreaking (with explanation) which reveals a long “Letters to Penthouse”-style story about the fetishization of archaic things.
  • AfloatDengo is still in the water. He makes it to shore with one other guy, then finds some cannibals.
  • ShinolaBobby is unnerved by Lawrence but not surprised that he gets along with Root. Now he’s on a mission pretending to be Afro-Caribbean traders and they meet U-691.
  • HostilitiesRandy emails root again, and Epiphyte(2) comes to terms with the idea that they’re going to be helping bad guys.
  • FunkspielLawrence witnesses and takes part in a radio operation to make Germany think that U-691 has been taken by the Allies.
  • HeapRandy emails root agin, then Avi reveals that he’s building the Crypt to store a Holocaust-prevention resource. Randy reveals to Avi that the Shaftoes have found sunken treasure.
  • SeekyBobby and Root get interrogated by the Germans on U-691. They shoot Bobby up with morphine and he tells them everything but they don’t really believe him since it doesn’t make sense. The Captain of the ship, who is the only one who believes that the enigma has been broken, takes back over and decides to go straight to Germany as directly as possible.
  • WreckRandy is back on the water with America and Douglas Shaftoe and they use a sonar ROV to take a look at a sunken u-boat.
  • Santa MonicaLawrence is on his way to Australia. He stops over in the US and, on Santa Monica pier, considers the trans-oceanic data cables.

Whew. See you in…a week 😉

Cryptonomicon in January: Week 1

I decided to read Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon this January for a slightly delayed resurrection of my previous December book clubs. I thought that maybe January would be better because the hectic schedules of the Holidays were over people like to start the year fresh sometimes and decide “this is the year I get back to reading”. So we ended up with an 1000+ page book (depending on the edition) about cryptology, the perfect kind of light reading to help you start the year off right.

We’re reading 32 pages a day, which is a bit more ambitious than I realized. Which is why you’re getting a week 1 recap about halfway through week 2. In fact, here’s the schedule, which is roughly 220-230 pages per chunk (based on my copy of the book, the 2000 paperback edition published through Harper Perennial, which I purchased at a thrift store for $1):

  • Week 1: beginning through Crypt
  • Week 2: Lizard through Outpost
  • Week 3: Meteor through The Most Cigarettes
  • Week 4: Christmas 1944 through end

I have found, in my life, that I prefer certain kinds of literary fiction. While I certainly love the young adult genre novels which read quick and have shoddy world building but fun movies (Harry Potter/Hunger Games come to mind–you’re welcome to fight me about JKR’s Harry Potter world building), I really sink into books that can be charitably described as infodumps. JRR Tokien’s Hobbit is a nice primer into books that have a narrative but spend a bunch of time just explaining stuff, then cutting back to the story. Frank Herbert’s Dune really is where I got my first taste of hardcore, well-thought-out informational overload being balanced with an exciting but somewhat opaque story that slowly comes into focus as background is added. A much more hardcore example of this is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Weird how all of these books have been part of book clubs I’ve led or at least taken part in.

So Cryptonomicon

The book starts with background on, at this point, three main characters. We also start immediately pre-World War II at the tail end of 1941. So we have, in 1942:

  • Bobby Shaftoe, a Marine and eventually a Marine Raider who is a war hero, has seen some shit, and likes haiku
  • Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, an extremely smart enlisted Marine who is tends to treat human interaction as a problem to solve, and not even an interesting one. Friends with, among others, actual real-life historical figure Alan Turing.

In 1999:

  • Randy Waterhouse, systems and network admin involved in some kind of new startup in the Philippines. Definitely related to Lawrence.

So far we haven’t received the inner monologue of many other characters, though we’ve been introduced to a lot of other mostly fictional people:

1942

  • Glory Altamira, Bobby Shaftoe’s erstwhile paramour in Manila
  • Rudy von Hacklheber, former schoolmate of Lawrence’s, very good friends with Alan Turing, it’s worth mentioning that he’s German
  • Goto Dengo, member of the Japanese military who befriends Bobby Shaftoe when they’re both stationed in Shanghai
  • Enoch “Brother” Root, missionary with questionable credentials who once saved Bobby Shaftoe’s life and then ended up in his life again mysteriously
  • Ultra/Magic, not actually a person, but the secret code names of the joint British/American cryptography venture that Lawrence is involved with

1999

  • Avi Halaby, Randy’s business partner who is very excellent at human interaction and also really prefers everything to be encrypted (apparently also a reference to Neal Stephenson’s 8-book series The Baroque Cycle, and not even the only one, though it was written after Cryptonomicon)
  • America “Amy” Shaftoe, who runs a salvage/diving business out of Manila, working with Randy. Definitely related to Bobby Shaftoe
  • Epiphyte (1) & (2), the two startups that Randy and Avi are working on. The first is a project to use microwave antennas to bring greater internet connectivity and asynchronous video messages to Manila, the second is the creation of a data haven.
  • The Sultanate of Kinakuta, this is not a real place, though the Sulu Sea is real. It’s where Epiphyte(2) is building their data haven.

There is a lot happening, and it’s a lot of reading. A seriously great chapter-by-chapter breakdown is over here at rackpull.com with tons of links to relevant wikipedia articles. I particularly appreciate the wikipedia photos of the real life places some of this story occurs in, like the Intramuros or the Pine Barrens.  Also really worth reading is Neal Stephenson’s 1996 book-length Wired article Mother Earth Mother Board, the research for which must have partly inspired this book. MEMB is one of my favorite pieces of non-fiction writing, and having read it helps clarify a lot of the undersea cable talk in the 1999 chapters.


This recap is obviously delayed and there’s definitely the chance that the next one will be too.  ¯_(ツ)_/¯