February 7: Musicians who are missing in action

The internet is an endlessly fascinating place. It has made finding new wonderful musicians easy and immensely satisfying. I could not begin to name all of the musicians who have crossed my path, quite by accident, over the last decade or so.

The odd thing is that occasionally one of them (or two in this case) will go missing, leaving only the music that led me to them in the first place.

The first is Brendan Campbell. He may have had another record at some point, but the only one I know of is Burgers & Murders. I’m listening to Pleiades right now. This guy is so gone that he doesn’t even have a licensing deal with iTunes anymore. I found that out when I realized that none of his songs were on my iPhone. Had they not been downloaded to my MacMini years back that music would have been gone, maybe forever.

Brendan Campbell

The other musician is even more obscure. All John Danley left behind are a handful of videos. He was (is?) a wonderful finger-style player. From what I’ve been able to find he’s totally done with the whole music deal. The last reference I saw about him mentioned that he’d turned to a career in psychotherapy.

John Danley

A handful of years ago, he had a working website. What must have happened for him to let both his website’s eponymous domain and the site itself slip below the electrons of the internet? I just don’t get it. It’s just too easy and inexpensive to keep a website online to let one slip away. I actually mentioned Danley’s name to Will Ackerman a couple years back, along with a link to one of his videos. I had a kind of fantasy that Will might have recognized Danley’s talent and would want to set about using his industry connections to get him discovered, but Danley’s anonymity remains frustratingly intact.

How many more wonderful musicians am I doomed to find and lose? To put a tiny spin of optimism I could say I’m fortunate to have found Danley & Campbell at all, and that’s true. It’s always hard to keep from wanting more, I suppose.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Had I been willing to let this post wait until tomorrow I would have done a better job. For some reason tonight the WordPress desktop app will let me do everything but write a post.

The optimist would say how lucky I am to be able write what I have on my phone.

February 7: Musicians who are missing in action

February 1: Analog and, damn, but January went by fast

pCloud actually finished the digital upload. It didn’t finish on time, but it did finish. So, today I moved the first of the LP AAC files onto pCloud. Files seem to move quickly when, even though the files are large, the number of files are relatively small. I had one early LP that had a skip producing a skip that pissed me off. Since I was familiar with the record I was surprised to find the visibly-evident smudge. Once I found it and cleaned it the LP was fine.

This miniature misadventure got me thinking about analog, especially about the LP. As I have said before, I have no nostalgia or happy feelings toward the LP. They sound better but they are a pain in the ass. There’s no dispute about either end of that sentence, at least to me.

The thought did move me to consider all of the turntables I’ve owned in my 60 years. I need to back up first to my brother’s Acoustic Research AR XA which I am guessing he bought in 1969 or thereabouts. I do not, sadly, recall the cartridge. That was the first analog rig that allowed one to hear into the recording in a way I’ve not generally been able to recreate with any digital equivalents. I was only 8 or 9 then I think it was another handful of years before I bought my first table at Fedco, a BSR. It didn’t sound very good but I liked it anyway. By then, the XA and even the XB were long gone or wildly reduced in quality by whatever forces affected such changes in the early 1970s.

Still, I used that BSR happily until I found a seemingly ancient Empire 298 Troubadour with a poorly-matched Infinity Black Widow arm. The arm was far too low in mass to work properly with the 298 and it took forever to find the proper belt but it sounded pretty good. Again, I do not recall the cartridge but I do remember that the rig was befouled by relentless acoustic feedback and a stubborn ground-loop hum that only my brother, John, was able to chase down.

I then went Japanese, first with an entry-level Technics SL-20 and Empire cartridge that I bought, new, in like 1975. It sounded excellent but suffered from feedback and rather surprising wow and flutter especially since it supposedly used a synchronous motor, so let’s be charitable and blame the speed issues to the drive belt which always felt a bit stretchy.

What next? Well, I’ll have to think for a bit. Holy shit, I remember, even though I would rather not.

It was the Harman/Kardon ST-7 Rabco. Oh my god, the promise. Oh my god, the horror. Straight-line tracking. How do you do better than that? Tell me, how?

I had three of these in the late 1970s, though I do not recall the faults of the first two that resulted in the third. I can only say that the dealer was as unhappy as I was. To say they were casually, tending towards carelessly, assembled would be kind. Yes, the channel balance was superb. And, yes, the speed precision, considering one motor drove two belts (the one that drove the platter and the one that drove the arm) was quite good. But, feedback was horrendous even with the most conscientious placement (another room, more than twenty feet away).

As another reviewer wrote about a pair of Jason Bloom’s Apogee speakers, the ST-7 was a glimpse of heaven and a look at hell, all at once. But, that glimpse of heaven was hard to forget.

A couple years later I bought my first REGA product, a Planar 2. Nirvana. It didn’t sound as good as any of the previous tables I had used yet somehow it sounded more right than any of them. Plus, it worked. It was free of hum, had impeccable speed control and keep feedback at bay. Later, I bought a Planar 3 that I used as a reference while many far more expensive tables made their way into and out of my listening room. The most impressive were the tables from Franc Kuzma, first the Stabi and later the Stabi Reference. Yes, it helped that I was working for the distributor at the time. It also helped that the distributor also brought in the amazing cartridges from Dynavector in Japan.

Ah, Kuzma and Dynavector. Would anyone ever imagine that a Slovenian turntable and a Japanese cartridge would work so well together?

Well, they did.

Hey, wait just a second. I’m way beyond my daily word allotment. I’m going to have to finish this tomorrow. For all of you who care about my analog evolution, please drop by tomorrow. For those of you who don’t care, well, I will leave that decision up to you.

Thanks for reading.

February 1: Analog and, damn, but January went by fast

January 31: More about pCloud than you (or I) ever wanted to know

It’s true, pCloud is coming into the home stretch though I will remind you that the upload process has been very slow (but steady) at least after fooling around with the upload speeds in settings.

There were about 9,000 digital files to start. Owing to its unbelievable initial sluggishness I began to plot its progress to see if I had tossed $50 into the street (yet again).

8057 files were ready for upload on last Sunday:
7916 3:22pm Monday
7767 8:08pm Monday
6658 10:23am Tuesday
6582 2:38pm Tuesday
6442 11:57am Wednesday
6385 3:10pm Wednesday
6274 10:23am Thursday
3902 10:30am Friday
3026 11:09am Saturday
2024 12:04pm Sunday
1288 11:36pm Sunday
1018 11:19am Monday (today)

Right now, it has 50 files (6.33GB) to go but it’s stalled (which seems to happen a couple times a day). When I’m done with this post I will quit and restart which is the recipe to getting things flowing again. Check that; it’s uploading again…44 files remaining (5.87GB) estimated as an hour and thirty-seven minutes (I’m guessing around 12 hours of actual upload time).

Off and on I’ve taken look at the pCloud app, which looks like this on my iPhone:

The pCloud iOS app Home Screen

Now let me explain what I think (and I emphasize the word think) we’re looking at. First of all, the top three folders labeled My Music, My Pictures and My Videos have absolutely nothing in them. That explains why they’re at the top, doesn’t it? I am genuinely unsure if they’re intended to be placeholders or samples or just something to look at.

It’s very weird and significantly kludgy.

But wait, look below and you’ll see a green folder labeled pCloud backup. Now we’re cooking! That’s full of good stuff like what pCloud refers to both within the app and the desktop app as the MacMachine pCloud is Swiss, you know).

The whole deal looks like something AOL would have considered cutting-edge back in 2003.

As I mentioned before, once I’m done with the digital stuff I plan to add a folder called LPs to the upload. It’s good to know approximately where this will live once it’s on p’s cloud.

My hope remains that pCloud will do exactly what I want it to do when it’s all done, house my digital music in a non-Apple cloud as well as the AAC files of my LPs. I’m cautiously optimistic. If it works I’ll be more than happy to pay for a lifetime subscription which is something under $200. I’ll keep you posted.

My musical company this evening is Remembering Mountains sung by Sharon Van Etten from the 2015 record, Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton. Unheard indeed. The record has fewer reviews (18) at Amazon than my first novel (20).

Oh well, I’ll boost the count up to 19 once I’ve penned mine. The title song is fantastic and at least two others (Don’t Make It Easy and At Last the Night Has Ended) are very good. So, here I am listening to and buying songs by a songwriter I’ve never heard of until a couple weeks ago. Who said the internet wasn’t amazing (as well as occasionally horrible, intrusive and possessed of post-apocalyptic potential?). I’m going to try to read up on Dalton. Don’t surprised if you read more about her from me soon.

January 31: More about pCloud than you (or I) ever wanted to know

January 28: More informal research on the valley to valley hike

I did a little more informal research on the valley to valley hike. It would appear there’s a cook point of sorts north of Kanan, in the area of Oak Park. I think it can be overcome but I’m not sure. I will have to take a couple short hikes in that area and consult Mr. Google and perhaps some actual paper maps. The park cane be worked around but only with a lengthy street hike that I don’t want to do. As I said, lots more questions need answers.

Today was windy, not quite enough wind to keep me off the trail but enough to make hiking into the breeze, especially up hill a real challenge. Here are a few photos from the day:

Looking north and east. That’s the El Escorpion trail at the end of Vanowen, center left.
Looking northeast…a fire-scarred but hopefully still living Valley Oak.
A less fortunate victim of the flames, its dead leaves still singing to the living.
Bible rock.

By the way, pCloud is positively sprinting toward completion now. Only 3298 files remain, with an 18 hour estimate for those that remain. If the upload is done by the end of the weekend I’ll be surprised.

Call me pessimistic.

Tomorrow I will start the LP upload in earnest. I don’t intend to sync to pCloud until all of the digital stuff is on p’s cloud. And, once I do start to upload I intend to upload one LP and then sync to pCloud so the system is never choking on a whole bunch of huge files.

Seems like a prudent plan anyway.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Emily Barker’s Letters from her 2015 record The Toerag Sessions. This solo version differs significantly from the version where Barker is accompanied by The Red Clay Halo on their 2013 release. Not surprisingly, the solo version is a bit more raw and elemental while The Red Clay Halo brings a gentle opulence to the arrangement. Listen to both, buy both, is my motto!

Thanks for reading.

January 28: More informal research on the valley to valley hike

January 25: The pCloud plan, etc.

The other day I mentioned that I had dropped $50 on a year’s worth of pCloud’s 500GB storage plan.

At the time I was waiting.

Right now, I’m still waiting.

Files are being uploaded at what can charitably be called a leisurely pace. There are 80GB still to go and the estimate for completion is 5 days and change. All of that is Ok if far slower than I would have expected. But, if pCloud is choking on the compressed digital stuff I’m a little concerned that uploading the FLAC files of hundreds of LPs could necessitate a digital Heimlich Maneuver.

I’m going to start slow, however, when it comes to the LPs. In fact, I’m going to upload just one LP. The first upload will be of an AAC file and the second will be FLAC of the same LP. Then, I’m going to listen to both, and I’m going to be cruel. If I don’t find a significant difference I’m going to do the rest of my LP collection via AAC and I won’t look back. You see, I’ve decided if this all works I will probably end up keeping all of my LPs.

That’s not a difficult decision. I love my old Per Madsen rack. It just stands there, not bothering anyone holding hundreds of LPs and CDs (sans jewel cases, of course). Even if were to start buying LPs again regularly, and I find that doubtful, I would be unlikely to buy all that many. Who knows, maybe a handful a year? I may even institute a One In, One Out policy as I do with new shirts. That would work for a while since I have a good number of duplicate LPs and some I will never play. I can pretty much promise the second (and maybe the first) copy I own of Pat Metheny’s Chautauqua is on its way out, one way or the other.

The music management process feels good, if a little tedious like the upload speed of pCloud. I’m actually looking forward to playing every one of the LPs. Some of those guys haven’t been spun in a good long while. They’re all fairly clean but should a dirty one find its way onto the REGA’s glass platter my trusty Nitty Gritty record cleaner is right where I left it on the top shelf of my closet. I’ve got a nice collection of good quality poly sleeves for both LP and CD, too. My guess is I’ve got enough LP sleeves for all of the possible acquisitions I might make from now until the end of my LP spinning days. CD sleeves are another matter. I have less than one pack of 100 left, and I’m using them for my jewel case elimination project. And, the company that sells them keeps pushing their availability date back month by month, with the last being November of last year. My optimism is waning and I’m not aware of a suitable substitute.

Who knows? The ones I have may be the last of their kind, as everything is eventually.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Giant of Illinois from Andrew Bird’s 2014 record, Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of… It’s an odd, personal and evocative song I find myself listening to again and again.

January 25: The pCloud plan, etc.

January 23: Stuck in neutral

Feeling stuck in neutral is not fun for anyone, especially me. For the last week or so it feels like I’ve been waiting for a lot of things. I’m waiting on the cover art for Cottonwood. I’m waiting for a rush of ideas to come to me for my next book. I’m waiting for golf season to really get going. I’m waiting for the wind to calm down (I think it finally has, at least for now). And, I’m waiting for pCloud to finish backing up my music.

Yeah, I know.

That decision came out of nowhere. I had been thinking about subscribing to iTunes Match for a year but I’ve been underwhelmed by Home Sharing of late (it doesn’t always show all of my music) and there are scores of complaints about Match failing to sync entire libraries. I liked the idea of jumping the Apple ecosystem, only when it comes to music. I’m thinking ahead to when I might have my LPs uploaded (to somewhere other than iTunes) and hoping pCloud would handle those files while iTunes would not. We’ll see. I only have $50 on the table for the year so I kind of see it as an experiment.

Today I found myself encouraging my associate in Japan to feel free to experiment a little more. He’s new to the business he’s in and like everyone is trying to accomplish a lot on the fly. For the most part, I hate on the fly, but I know it has its place. I understand the motivation to do everything now; advertise, promote, build, sell. But, each of those tasks are intertwined, especially for a new business. And, quick decisions on each, in its way, can discourage valuable experimentation. After all, once the website is up, you’re done with it, right? It’s all too easy to move on without determining that decisions are being made with as great an emphasis on the quality of the decision as there on the speed of the decision.

Of course, I’m also the guy who feels like he’s in neutral so maybe there’s something else going on here. This is my year of known transition, that transition being the end of my long-time employment. What I’m hoping for this year is an extra dose of intensity but maybe intensity is driven a little more by a valuation of the speed of decision. That is not something that comes naturally to me.

The end of January is right around the corner and I have every confidence that its pace will be matched by the next 11 months. It’s time to get going. Neutral is not my friend. I’m done waiting for stuff. I’m happy to experiment, and willing to fail if there’s some learning in the process. But, being stuck in neutral is getting old and bringing me closer to nowhere. Thanks for reading.

Cayucos, California
January 23: Stuck in neutral