Moving music

…or “GoodbyePod”?

I read this Pitchfork article today, all about the excitement of owning a Discman back in the 1990s. And they’re right – it really was something special. Compared to its predecessor, the Walkman, it was a massive step forward. Bigger and more ungainly, yes, but then it had to be because compact discs aren’t very… well… compact. But it was worth it for the ability to skip tracks without the guesswork of holding down the fast forward key for twenty or thirty seconds, like you’d have to do with a tape.

Aside from the size (and consequently, the weight as well), there were other drawbacks. The motor would use up the three or four AA batteries in a disturbingly short time and if you bumped, knocked it, the sound would skip would skip skip. But these things were worth the hassle for the sheer joy of digital music pumping into your head.

Of course, I couldn’t afford a Sony Discman. Not the official one. It didn’t bother me too much though because I’d never been able to afford the official Sony Walkman either.

“You’re only paying for the name,” I would argue. And although the sound quality on the real thing was surely far better than on my no-name-brand equivalent, the £1.99 headphones I was probably using would have been a great leveller, anyway.

I enjoyed tolerated my faux-Discman for a couple of years before I moved on to a Minidisc player (a top of the range Panasonic, no less). This was a step forward, but was also a bit of a pain because you couldn’t buy pre-recorded Minidiscs, so I had to buy them blank and copy my CDs across to them. But there were so many advantages: the size was the big one – this would literally fit into your pocket – as would the spare discs. The battery life was better (and it only took one battery), and it was much better at handling bumps without interrupting the music. Best of all though, you could add track names to the music and they would scroll across the screen while the song played.

This then was the future.

And then along came the mp3. I had a couple of small mp3 players before I got my first iPod in 2005. There wasn’t much difference in size beween my sexy Panasonic and my (white) second generation iPod, and while the battery life was a massive improvement, I’d never struggled with that on my Minidisc player anyway, so that didn’t make much difference either.
But while I could have 15 tracks on any given Minidisc, my iPod could hold 1500 or more. Amazing – sure – but I never did manage to listen to them all in one day.

Fast forward (no pun intended) to the present day, and I’m ready to move on again. My current iPod is full and while (as with many Apple things) it is a design classic, it also (as with many Apple things) isn’t the most user-friendly device. Add the disaster that is iTunes to the mix, and I’m actually done with Steve’s nonsense now. It’s time for another change – and I haven’t made that decision lightly, given that I like to listen to a lot of music while I’m on the go. This must work.

The choice, were I living in the UK (for example), would be clear: streaming. And yes, I do have some streaming service accounts and they work quite nicely, just as long as I am sitting next to a big wifi, as you might often find yourself doing overseas. But data in SA is ridiculously expensive and limiting, and instantly destroys any idea of wandering around listening to music over the net. And so while I like to have these things as a back up, the more obvious answer for me is a 128GB micro SD card in my phone: instant access, effortless movement and choice of tracks, virtually zero battery usage and all on something which I was inevitably carrying on my person anyway.

Apparently there’s not much of a market for single-purpose music players anymore. But I suspect that’s partly a matter of amnesia. We didn’t know it in 1998, but we were lucky that our portable listening devices did not badger us with news alerts and text messages. If they had, the euphoria of the Walkman experience would not have been so pure.

OK, so that is one drawback, and it’s true that pretty much nothing would interrupt my Discman experience back in the day (even though I had a mobile phone back then), but times have changed and if I’m honest, I quite like to have the option to keep in touch – just as long as I can choose to switch it off for the duration of any given album.

I’m open to other suggestions if you have any. I need space for about 12,000 tracks (because you never know when you’re going to need to hear Babylon Zoo’s Spaceman or White Town’s Your Woman) and I’m not willing to go back to CDs. (Oh, and I need a solution for my Windows PC as well, please.)

Gogo Penguin

Gogo Penguin is the latest fundraising idea from those clever folks at the Two Oceans Aquarium.
Basically, for the right sum of money, a penguin or (if you really have spread the wealth) several penguins will be brought along to attend your function and – scantily dressed in basically just some feathers – will entertain your guests for the evening with some hot and sexy dance moves.

Then, once the marine biologists have taken their hefty cut, the remainder of the profits are ploughed back into buying pilchards and oystercatcher polish, plus saving turtles and stuff.

Look, I’m right with you there in your abject horror at this clear exploitation of our Sphenisciform friends, but the good news is that I made all this up.

GoGo Penguin is actually:

a hard-hitting jazz meets electronica Manchester three piece

But this one – Bardo – from their new album A Humdrum Star (downloaded last night) seems more ambient than anything else.

And reminds me of the 90s Cafe del Mar chillout albums. All of them.

I’ve yet to make my way through the rest of the tracks, but this effort seems to suggest great promise for the album.

I’ll report back forthwith.

Blake – Cars

The 6000 miles… Yachting Correspondent recently told me that my taste in music is “weird”.

You’re gonna love this one, mate.
(Spoiler: I doubt it).

And I fully recognise that this new one from James Blake won’t be to everyone’s taste, but put it through a decent set of speakers on some hazy, booze-soaked late night and it will hit the spot.


But can we please agree that this video is spectacular, and even perhaps that James’ thoughts on Eisenbahnscheinbewegung* are also worth a mention:

If the car beside you moves ahead
As much as it feels as though you’re dead
You’re not going backwards.

I think this basically means “never give up”.


* The false sensation of movement felt when looking out of the window of a stationary (no pun intended) train and seeing another train departing.


Yeah, I know that the S is next to the A on the keyboard, but this was no unintentional typo.
This are a plural.

And the Africas we are talking about is this one.

The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless, longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what’s right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become

Yes, indeed.
Toto’s Africa.

So yes, it’s a music post, but it’s one that the 6000 miles…  yachting correspondent might even enjoy. Wow.

Well, it’s actually just an excuse to share a couple of cover versions of that great song. But it’s apt and relevant because we have no rains to bless down in Africa right now, and also because I have plans for the weekend: I’m gonna take some time to do the things we never had.

That doesn’t even make sense. It doesn’t even matter.

First up, Mathieu Terrade on the Harpejji. I’d never heard of one before either, but it seems to be a mashup between a  harp, a guitar and a piano. (And is (ever so) vaguely similar to a hammered dulcimer*.) (But only in appearance.) You can learn about it here. A full size harpejji starts at $3,999 and that’s before you’ve added “racing stripes” or “deluxe trim material”.
And then Maryland residents have to pay another 6% in sales tax as well – presumably to help fund The Guru’s G&Ts on his next boating trip.
So it is expensive, but it does sound good too: just watch (and listen) to Mathieu playing it here:

It’s a lovely version of a great song. But (sorry, Mathieu) for me it’s nowhere near as good as this one. Step forward (and sideways etc) the Angel City Chorale with their (interactive) version:

Fast forward to 2:10 if you’re in a rush and you just want to hear the vocal bit. Such a great version. And that conductor: I’ve been conducted by a good few conductors in my time, some good, some bad. This one looks like she’s just a whole lot of fun. In fact, the whole choir does. Doing music for the right reasons. And it shows.

Right, thank you reading this far, but I’m sad to say that this is the end of the post, and I know that it’s gonna take a lot to drag you away from me, but hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you.

Off you trot then.


* Obviously, Ted Yoder has also done a version of this. It’s not very good. 

Prince of Tears

The second release from Baxter Dury’s new album is the title track.

It’s very catchy.

Second release, because he has already given us Miami which is really good and has an excellent video, but which contains far too much nasty language to be allowed a post of its own on here.

And yes, it seems that this Guardian review is spot on.

Dury has always been good at conjuring up monstrous male figures, their aggressive swagger matched by their glaring inadequacy.

Still, should you be intrigued, you can click through, pre-warned, here.