Sunday, February 28, 2016

Carryover post

I really, really tried to make sure you got a proper post this week.  My fervent hope was that I would complete the next round of work on my Perl module, since it’s been a month since I updated over on my Other Blog.  However, I ran into a couple of crises (one computer-but-not-work related, the other child-and-sickness related) that have conspired to keep me from being prepared to do that.  I’ll have it next week if it kills me.

My next thought was to quickly crank out the next post in my music mix series, because I rather thought I’d already started it, and therefore it would be pretty easy to polish it off.  But, alas: I had the barest shell of a post ready, and there was just no way I was going to be able to fill that out in a reasonable amount of time.

On the other hand, I would once again point you at the post that I updated last week with: Why I Left the C3V.  It really is about way more than Heroscape and the C3V; plus it’s long enough to count for two weeks’ worth of posts anyway.

Until next week.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A post to be: Heroscapers post #2

I’ve actually been doing quite a bit of writing this weekend, but it’s not quite ready for primetime yet.  Hopefully I’ll be posting it within the next few days; at that time, I’ll come back and post a link here.

Update: I did eventually get around to posting it, and it’s now available up on my Other Other Blog (yes, I now have 3 friggin’ blogs, despite the fact that I still think blogs suck).  It’s ostensibly about my favorite game, Heroscape, and my involvement with a fan-based group, the C3V.  However, what it’s really about is group dynamics and politics in a small, volunteer-run organization.  The lessons I learned there (and the mistakes I made) are easily transferrable, I believe, to any such organization you may be involved in: church group, school committee, scout troop, etc.  It’s over four times as long as one of my normal posts here, but I think it’s worthwhile nonetheless.  Check it out if you’re so inclined.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Skip to m'lou

Another busy weekend, coming off a fairly terrible virus that laid the whole family low.  So I just didn’t get around to posting anything for you.  Sorry about that.  Next week should be a bit better.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Shadowfall Equinox II

"This Town of the Dying"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.  You may also want to check out the first volume in this multi-volume mix for more info on its theme.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

As usual, I had enough tracks left over after creating Shadowfall Equinox I to nearly fill out the entirety of a volume II.  I only had to add a few more to complete this volume: in fact, this is one of my shortest tracklists, at 13 songs, though it’s full length.1  It’s just that there are 6 tracks over 6 minutes—2 over 8, in fact—and only 2 tracks under 3 minutes.  I typically don’t like to use songs that long (certainly not this many of them), but this particular mix can sustain a song of that length easily.  The music, as you may recall, is designed to swirl in the background, providing intellectual stimulation without distraction.  Long tracks can actually help with that, sometimes.  As long as they don’t get too repetitive.  But I don’t think you’ll find that to be the case here.

Also as usual, we see a lot of repeats of the usual suspects, starting with those derived from the original inspiration for this mix: “Shadowfall II.”  I took it easy on the Greinke this time, only including a single track from Wide View.  And I finally got around to including Kevin Keller, the other artist who’s central to “Shadowfall II,” although not from the same album as used on the Hearts of Space program.2  Rather, I chose to use The Day I Met Myself, and specifically the track “Unfolding,” which I actually like more than any of his tracks used in “Shadowfall II.”

Other returning artists include darkwave virtuosos Black Tape for a Blue Girl and Falling You.  As per usual, these are the only two tunes with any words, so the latter is our volume namer.  We also have another track from Ronny Moorings, this time as Clan of Xymox, for some proper gothic tunage, and Amber Asylum returns with another dark ambient track.

Speaking of that style, we kick off this volume with Dark Sanctuary, a French neoclassical group that specializes in dark ambient.  Although most of their tunes are a bit too operatic for my tastes, I absolutely loved “Night Rain” the first time I heard it.  What vocals there are here are wordless and backgrounded, a somewhat haunting soundtrack against a stormy setting.  The rain motif continues, belnding almost imperceptibly into “Intangible” by Chad Kettering.  Kettering is ostensibly new age, but this track has more going on: the wind chimes against the backdrop of the rainfall, plus his own brand of wordless vocals (this time more reminiscent of Middle Eastern-style ululation), give this tune a majestic but mildly foreboding feel that helps it fit right in on this mix.  Then we have a surprisingly downbeat performance from instrumentalists Smokey Bandits, also set against a rainy night.

From there we go to another returning star from volume I: 4AD collective This Mortal Coil.  I spoke briefly before about my love of It’ll End in Tears, but it deserves a deeper dissection.  This album is insanely good to listen to when you need to chill out, and for many years (right up until I discovered “Shadowfall II,” I’d say) it was my go-to disc for meditation, relaxation, or contemplation—not when I wanted to fall asleep,3 but when I need to just let my mind drift.  The only thing that ever compared to it was my brief fascination with Enigma and their first album, but that doesn’t have the staying power of It’ll End in Tears.  Given all that, it was inevitable that we’d see a track from that album here on this mix.  “Fyt” doesn’t really have a rain theme going on, but it is reminiscent of the sounds of thunder, so it’s the perfect bridge between the rain group above and the underwater group below.

The pair of songs that have a vaguely submarine bent starts off with Reef Project, who we first heard from on Paradoxically Sized World II.  “Blind Cave” is a bit more somber than many of their other tracks, so it works well here.  And fades beautifully into “Deep Dive” by Deep Dive Corporation.  DDC is one of those bands I discovered mostly by accident: I was listening to a smooth jazz station in DC when I heard “Imagination,” off the same album as “Deep Dive.”  This is doubly unlikely, both because I hardly ever listen to smooth jazz stations, and also because “Imagination” is not really a smooth jazz song.  Furthermore, I only heard part of the song and had no idea who sang it or even what the name was.  I had to go to the radio station’s website and look up which DJ was working when the song was played, and email him to ask for the details, describing the song as best I could.  And, to add to the overall unlikeliness of the entire scenario, the DJ not only recognized the song, but actually took the time to reply to my email.  I don’t know if we’ll hear “Imagination” on one of these tracks one day,4 but I actually like “Deep Dive” even better, and it fits in beautifully here.

Shadowfall Equinox II
    [This Town of the Dying]

        “Night Rain” by Dark Sanctuary, off Royaume Mélancolique
        “Intangible” by Chad Kettering, off Into the Infinite
        “Anjelitos Negros” by Smokey Bandits, off Debut
        “Fyt” by This Mortal Coil, off It'll End in Tears
        “Blind Cave” by Reef Project, off Deep Waters [EP]
        “Deep Dive” by Deep Dive Corporation, off Support Your Local Groover
        “Theme I” by Clan of Xymox, off Medusa
        “Bounce” by Jeff Greinke, off Wide View
        “Varenka” by Falling You, off Human
        “Unfolding” by Kevin Keller, off The Day I Met Myself
        “Riviera” by Amber Asylum, off Frozen in Amber
        “The Apotheosis” by Black Tape for a Blue Girl, off As One Aflame Laid Bare by Desire
        “Without Waves” by Tim Story, off Threads
Total:  13 tracks,  73:51

And all that we have left is the closer: Tim Story’s “Without Waves.”  I was first introduced to Tim Story on a different Hearts of Space program, “Starry Night.”  Perhaps some of the tracks featured there will show up here one day as well, but for now this song from Threads will suffice.  It’s the longest track on the volume, at a whopping 8:45, but I think you’ll find it worthwhile.  It will leave you calm and soothed, ready for the next volume of this contemplative mix.

Next time, we’ll swing back around to video game territory.


1 Currently, my only other tracklist with 13 songs is Smokelit Flashback II, and it’s over 10 minutes shorter than this one.

2 That album was Across the Sky.

3 That would be more likely to involve Victorialand, or India, or possibly Shepherd Moons.

4 But I do know that we won’t hear it on Smooth as Whispercats.  It really isn’t smooth jazz at all.  Perhaps if I ever do an electronica-based mix.