Posts filed under 'Randomness'

The Mysterious Cypher 7

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Back when I worked at the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory and shared an office with Mike, I had the privilege of unfettered access to a vast collection of CDs. Mike is part of that disappearing segment of society still buying compact discs rather than downloading digital files. One of the most intriguing CDs Mike ever brought in was Cypher 7’s Decoder, a 1996 release from a supergroup of sorts which may or may not have included Jeff Bova, Alex Haas, Bill Laswell (producer?), and Yellowman(!?!). The CD starts off with a sprawling 17 minute jam titled “Dead Drop”, a reference to the outdoor nooks and crannies Cold War spies used for stashing secret microfilm. The song is perfect at evoking nocturnal scenes of rainy winter avenues and the dull glare of sodium vapor street lamps. The track also still feels fresh, even though it came out at a time when the Dave Matthews Band and Alanis Morrisette dominated the pop charts.

There doesn’t seem to be much information on Cypher 7 out there other than it was formed by Bova and Haas in the early ’90s. I believe both worked at major New York studios during the late ’80s early ’90s, so that might have been the connection. Laswell is probably best known for his work producing Herbie Hancock, who Bova played keyboards for. I’m not sure if Yellowman was actually involved in the recording of the Decoder album since he is not mentioned on the liner notes (Amazon does list him though), but he is a well know Jamaican dub DJ who might have provided some of the beats and might have traveled in the same circles as Laswell, who had a close connection to Chris Blackwell and Island Records. It wouldn’t surprise me if Laswell was the one who provided the bass playing on the album. On the surface, Bova seems like an odd musician to be involved in Cypher 7 since most of his work tends to be more mainstream with performers like Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, and Billy Joel. But then again, he also had a long relationship with Laswell, which probably exposed him to more avant-garde musical forms.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’ve also read the primary synth used on Decoder was the Waldorf Wave, a massive keyboard that cost around $8,000 USD circa 1994. Jeff Bova did own a Wave and is reported to have used it on numerous albums from artists as diverse as The Backstreet Boys to Meat Loaf. As an owner of Waldorf’s Microwave II, which came out later in the ‘90s, I can report that many of the atmospherics of Decoder have that Waldorf trademark to them. This is especially true of “Dead Drop”. I don’t know how many Waves are floating around out there, but I bet the numbers are pretty small. And I wonder if Bova still uses his? I would love to hear it on another Cypher 7 album someday. Oh, I almost forgot. Bill Laswell also release a couple of albums called Dark Side of the Moog that are quite good as well. They make a nice complement to Cypher 7.

Listen to “Dead Drop” on last.fm

1 comment August 14th, 2009

Clamming in Seaside

Back when my grandparents owned the beach house at Neskowin, there was a strange collection of narrow shovels and aluminum cylinders in the garage. I was told these were tools used to extract clams from the sand down by the surf line, but I don’t recall anyone in the family ever using these odd items for their intended use. So it was a curious moment last week when Joel emailed to see if I wanted to try clamming over at Seaside. For whatever reason, this stuck me as something I really needed to try, so I went out and bought one of those narrow shovels and spent a whopping $6.00 on an annual shellfish licenses.

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Joel and I had trouble rounding up other like minded adventurers, but Damon, who is always up for a fishing or fishing-like trip, decided to join. We made it to Seaside around 7:30 AM or so and headed out toward the surf after squeezing into our waders. Joel picked the day because it was a minus tide, which means vast stretches of the beach were exposed. Seaside was a strange sight to see. What looked like hundreds of people were fanned out as far as the eye could see. And then were the thousands of mounds of sand, where clams had (hopefully) been dug. We walked straight down from the Promenade and started digging where we thought a clam tell had been. Joel and I just started digging at a furious pace, excavating a very large hole. By now, nearby clammers were laughing and some begin yelling comments like “are you boys digging to China?” Clearly, our technique left much to be desired.

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Fortunately, an older Hawaiian lady on a rusty bike rode up and asked us if we needed help. We soon learned from other diggers that she’s a regular on the Seaside beach and is universally referred to as “Clam Annie”. With Annie’s coaching and some stainless steel clam guns, the three of us start to get the hang of things, and in no time we’re pulling razor clams from the dense sand at a quick clip. One of the hardest parts of clamming is avoiding damaging the shells, which are surprisingly thin. According to other clammers, you have to keep damaged clams, so we had to adjust or aggressive technique a bit. With the assistance of Annie to two other older women, we were able to limit out in about 30 minutes or so. The limit is 15 clams, which is more than enough for a decent meal.

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Back at Stacy’s later in the day, I went through the messy task of shucking and cleaning the clams. It wasn’t quite as bad a task as I expected, but I didn’t expect they would still be alive. Boiling water was used to kill the
clams and open the shells and from there it was just a matter of pulling the body apart from the shell. With scissors I cut the head from the neck and then pulled the lungs and foot away. You can eat the cleaned foot, but to save time I skipped this part. Stacy made a tasty batter and we fried everything up last night. I’m not a shellfish fan, but these clams were really tasty.

For video footage of us in action, go here

Add comment April 27th, 2009

Hoodoo

We had some fantastic weather this last weekend here in Oregon. To capitalize on this rare April event and the fact we had a couple of feet of snow in the Cascades last week, Stacy and I decided to spend last Sunday skiing at Hoodoo down in Central Oregon. For those of you not familiar with this particular ski resort, it’s situated within US Forest Service land on and around Hoodoo Butte, an old cinder cone volcano at the top of Santiam Pass on the stretch of US 22 between Salem and Sisters .

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I haven’t skied Hoodoo since high school, but it was one of those winter destinations we tended to look down on back in the day. Most of us preferred the more popular, and expensive, Mount Bachelor outside of Bend. But now I’m kind of smitten with Hoodoo’s charms, like short lift lines and non-punishing, if short, ski runs. I particularly liked the run snaking around the summit that seems to be not very well known. We took that route a couple of times and rarely came across other skiers.

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Speaking of the summit, besides having an odd shaped crater, it also has a couple of microwave relay stations. There was no identification suggesting who maintains these stations, but it go me wondering if these might be tied to a modernized Long Lines system from the Cold War. More likely, these are relays for cell phone networks, since there doesn’t seem to be any hardening of the structures. Anyway, it was pretty cool seeing all this communication equipment.

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The only thing that marred an otherwise prefect day on the slopes was the ironic fact I lost my cell phone. Oh well, maybe it will turn up later this week.

Add comment April 7th, 2009

Iconic ‘70s Actors

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I hate the phrase “they don’t make them like they use to.” It implies we don’t currently have the option of choosing something of quality, when in point of fact we do — we just collectively choose crappy things for a variety of reasons. Take consumer goods made in China, which is something Stacy and I have been talking about since she has been struggling to find a coffeemaker manufactured outside of the PRC. A recent trip to the local Fred Meyer yielded many coffeemaker options, but none made in a country other than China. I believe there are many good reasons to steer clear of a coffeemaker made in China, including the possibility that a Chinese manufactured coffeemaker could contain metals with toxic impurities. I think some of the blame for all these Chinese products flooding our stores should be heaped on American companies, who have been shipping American manufacturing jobs overseas for years to maintain fat profit margins. But I also think a larger portion of the blame falls on all of us for not caring where our consumer goods come from and just buying whatever is on the shelf at our local store regardless of their country of orgin. There are coffeemakers made in countries as diverse as Holland and the Czech Republic, we just don’t buy them because we can buy a Chinese made one for half the price. But if your health is at stake, where is the savings buying something that could make you sick and possibly cost you money for medical treatment?

So how does this relate to screen actors from the ‘70s? I don’t know if it really does, but hear me out as I try and articulate something. Any trip to your local cineplex will convince you we don’t seem to have the same kind of iconic actors that came of age during the ‘70s. The two actors I’m thinking specifically of, because I’m a huge fan of their work, are Warren Oats and Robert Shaw. Of course there are many others who had obtained iconic status by the ‘70s, but I think Oats and Shaw are in an entirely different class. I was watching The Taking of Pelham One Two Three the other night and was left in awe of Robert Shaw’s portrayal of Mr. Blue, the ringleader of a band of NYC subway highjackers. Dito for his portrayal of Captain Quint in Jaws. And then there is Warren Oats, who was great in just about every movie he starred in. My personal favorites are The Wild Bunch, Two-Lane Blacktop, and Stripes. I don’t know if there are any current actors who I get excited about seeing in a film, but maybe Crispin Glover and Steve Zahn are the closest we have to truly iconic contemporary actors. But like Chinese consumer products, we’re happy with our large of selection of films with actors of dubious quality.

G.T.O explains the 455 V8
http://www.youtube.com

Captain Quint
http://www.youtube.com

2 comments November 24th, 2008

Delta Force Over Roseway

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It was a normal Monday night yesterday. I was lounging on the couch around 7:30 watching The Simpsons and yelling at the cats in a vain attempt to keep them from climbing the drapes. Across the street, Tim was trying to sell a bike to a lesbian couple. Just your average lazy, hazy summer night in the neighborhood. Then all of a sudden, the house rattled violently. Out the living room window, I spied two small helicopters buzzing my front yard at less than a hundred feet. Seated precariously on benches outside of the aircraft were black clad commandos cradling assault rifles. It was totally a scene out of that movie Blackhawk Down. Apparently, my house was under a flight path these Army helicopters were using, because they kept buzzing the house until 10:30. Clearly, they were operating out of the Air National Guard base at PDX, but where they were going was hard to tell. Then on the 11:00 news, there was a brief segment about a joint training exercise downtown involving Department of Defense helicopters and the Portland Police Bureau. But who were those guys being ferried around on the outside of the helicopter? Probably personnel from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) - commonly known as Delta Force. It’s an open secret this counter-terrorism unit often trains in urban environments across the US…it’s just unusual to see this kind of in-your-face militarism in the People’s Republic of Portland.

A little more research yielded a press release from the mayor’s office, which elaborated a bit on the sketchy statements from the Portland Police. From what I gathered, these helicopters were transporting “members of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group and Army Special Operations Aviation Regiment” to “utilize buildings in the jurisdiction of the City of Portland for a training exercise.” I’m guess the Naval Special Warfare Development Group is what us civilians call the SEALS, so maybe I’m wrong about the commandos being Delta operators. The statement from the mayor’s office also said the training included “low visibility movement, military operations in urban terrain, manual and low weight explosive breaching, fast-rope insertion, live fire, low-power training ammunition, flash bang, surveillance, and counter-surveillance.” Just to make things interesting, these flights will occur again tomorrow. And I’ll be out in the yard hopefully capturing it all on super 8.

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So what about those crazy small helicopters? They were MH-6 Little Birds from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) of which about a dozen are reported in existence. The MH-6 is so tiny; it can be transported in the belly of a C-130 transport aircraft. BTW, that Chuck Norris Delta Force movie had a ton of great actors besides Lee Marvin…like Joey Bishop, Robert Forster, George Kennedy, Robert Vaughn, and Shelley Winters. I’m gonna have to go rent that one of these days.

1 comment August 26th, 2008

Summer Music

My homie Mike has put together an iPod ready summer road trip mix and it’s available here for download. You gotta love a mix that includes both the Doors and St. Etienne. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got certain CDs I only listen to during the summer — they seem to just have the right sound for the season. Conversely, I have other CDs I only listen to in the winter, like Autechre’s “Chiastic Slide” or Mum’s “Finally We Are No One”. Below is a list of my current summer favorites:

Call and Response (self titled)
Stereolab style pop filtered through a Southern Califorian lens. Perfect for sitting out by the garden while reading the paper or hanging clothes on the laundry line. These guys sure sound a lot like Free Design, which is a good thing.

Cibo Matto - Stereo Type A
The first five tracks are this disc are totally fantastic. I play this on summer Saturday mornings when I need to get motivated to make breakfast.

The Concretes - In Colour
Wonderful summer driving music from a collective of Swedish musicians. The CD has a very ’70s FM radio vibe to it. If I had a working stereo in the Volvo 1800, this is what I would be listening to.

Beulah - The Coast Is Never Clear
I’ve raved about this CD before, but I don’t actually listen to it much in the winter. It’s perfect for summer driving though. This CD was in heavy rotation when I did that road trip to the Southwest a couple of years ago.

Spoon - Girls Can Tell
This use to be a year-round CD, but recently I’ve only pulled it out during the summer months. It will always remind me of driving to the Oregon coast at night with the sunroof open for some reason.

1 comment July 31st, 2008

Dear OC: I’m Sorry

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OK, sometime we retract statements made here at wildfreshness, just not very often. A couple of weeks ago, I complained about the renovation of the Oregon City municipal elevator. Well, I’m man enough to admit that some of that criticism was unwarranted in light of recent improvements. Last week, the city upgraded the lighting in the access tunnel making the lenticular prints easier to see. It almost makes you forget the overpowering smell of urine. They also added security cameras, which were much needed in light of all the recent vandalism. A ton of new lenticular prints were also added to the upper lobby of the elevator and those are quite fantastic.

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Add comment July 29th, 2008

Band + Super Producer = Fantasy Album

What if, in some parallel universe, your favorite non-mega label band could work with an insanely expensive, private jet flying, super producer? What kind of album would they create? I was thinking about this last week after ruminating on unlikely recent pairings of such disparate folks as Bjork and Timbaland and came up with some unlikely pairings of my own.

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Viva Voce + Jeff Lynn

Lynn is best known for his ‘70s band Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). Viva Voce is known for, well, not much really unless you’re the kind of person who squanders their workday reading Pitchfork.com. That is not meant as a slight, since they’re a fantastic band, it’s just their catchy albums have never reached a large audience audience like their friends The Shins. Lynn’s work with ELO featured copious amounts of lush strings and layered vocal tracks – and lots of vocoders, don’t forget vocoders. Viva Voce has always toyed with a big ELO style of sound, but they have always done so with modest means. What if VV and Lynn spent three weeks holed-up in a Swiss chalet writing a double albums worth of songs a la Out of the Blue? That would be so amazing. Just the thought of it makes me pee my pants a little.

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Trevor Horn + The New Pornographers

OK, bear with me on this one. I know there is not much similarity between this Canadian super group and Horn, an aging studio wizard, but have you listened to Belle & Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit? Trevor Horn did a crackling job with that album. And I realize there are probably a bunch of people out there who discount anything Bell & Sebastian does post If You’re Feeling Sinister, but jeez. I mean, come on, complain about B&S ‘selling out’ one more time and I’m jamming that copy of Tigermilk right up your…

But I digress. The New Pornographers have already made some great albums, but I think working with someone like Horn might add just a little more cohesion to their generally inspired musical collaborations. The Pornographers have already experimented with strings and such on their last album, so someone like Horn could refine that sound further. Just make sure Dan Bejar gets his own track or two like he always does. That guy is a pimp.

Other combinations:

Menomena + Hugh Padham
Jay-Z + M.I.A. + Ratatat

What is your dream combination?

3 comments March 12th, 2008

Random Video Clips

Let’s Make a Sandwich
http://www.veoh.com

All the World Loves a Lover
http://owmysweeteyes.blogspot.com

Space Age Indeed!
http://www.vimeo.com

Add comment November 18th, 2007

Modern Classic: Beulah “The Coast Is Never Clear”

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Dualism: n. 1. A view of human beings as constituted of two irreducible elements.

Maybe no one better personifies this definition than Miles Kurosky, lead singer of the defunct band Beulah. In the documentary A Good Band is Easy to Kill, Miles’ towering ego and immature antics make you wonder if he’s the same guy who penned sentimental tracks like Popular Mechanics For Lovers off the 2001 album. Actually, the whole band comes off as knuckle draggers: from the nasty porn stash in the tour van to dry humping poor John Vanderslice – these guys could make a frat boy blush. Then just when you want to pop the DVD out in disgust, the band does something completely charming, like offering some underage fans their own private show because they couldn’t get into the 21+ venue. So I guess it’s this balance of sweet and sour that makes TCINC a modern classic on the Wildfreshness list. The album had the unfortunate luck of being released on September 11, 2001, which certainly didn’t help sales, but it has developed a following of sorts in the years hence…strong enough to get on The Onion’s Permanent Records list with more familiar artists like The Who and Elvis Costello. Beulah understood balance, both in their songwriting and arrangement. The whole album encourages listeners to be happy, sad, or anything in between.

Add comment November 5th, 2007

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