Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My e-mail to the BBC Trust

March 2, 2010

Dear BBC Trust,

May I respectfully suggest that if the BBC chooses to axe 6 Music it should also make a public statement that it will never brand any future programming, or otherwise seek to associate itself, with the late great John Peel?

6 Music is the radio station which is closest in spirit to the high standard of music broadcasting he effortlessly set in his life. To cut it would be to make the statement that the BBC no longer has any wish to support broadcasting in that tradition.

Yours sincerely,
Andy Regan

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iPad for a laptop musician?

February 3, 2010

[music minded readers may wish to skip straight to fifth paragraph to avoid generic mac fanboi waffle]

There seems to be some quite violent disagreement about whether this new iPad gadget is a revelation or a complete waste of time. People seem to be dissing it for not being utterly innovative – (as if a half inch thin piece of rock and plastic which can beam all the information in the world down from space and turn it into glowing dancing pictures isn’t inherently amazing), for just being a giant iPhone, not having [x feature] or [y feature] – rather than focusing on what it does do. And lots of people seem to be excited about it but not really specifying why.

Personally I like the idea of it. It’s not a serious piece of computing gear – it’s quite clearly aimed at being a leisure device. And as Charlie Brooker has also said (though I thought of it too all by myself) the main thing I can see people using this for is sitting on the sofa idly looking at the internet whilst they watch TV – which is exactly what I currently use my iPhone for.

Look what I found!

My hunch is there’s a market for this sort of thing. Not everyone needs everything a laptop does. Most people want a computer to look at the internet, listen to music, watch kittens falling over, check their e-mail/facebook/twitter – to faff in other words. And if the iPhone’s anything to go by, doing all these things on an iPad will be an absolute pleasure. That’s where it’ll succeed – if it does.

All the gushing reviews say ‘wait until you get your hands on one’ – and that’s the same with any Mac product I’ve owned. There’s no one gimmicky feature that makes them great, they just give an elegant, intuitive, version of the core elements of a home computer. They add depth for serious users, but are also simple and streamlined for casual users who just want to do fun stuff. That’s the market for the iPad- not the kind of people who are employed to write technology blogs.

Anyway music on the thing…

Before the announcement I was intrigued by the possibilities of this mythical iBox for music making. Like most I think I was imagining it was going to be an OSX based tablet computer. I had visions of running Ableton on it at a gig, hooking it up to the monome, perhaps some new touch based music software would come out – maybe a kaoss pad style programme? Mostly I was hoping it might fulfil the role of a Jazzmutant Lemur – a thoroughly exciting multi-touch surface used by Daft Punk & Hot Chip which looks like a console off Star Trek. My hopes of this happening were shattered when I saw that it was essentially a larger iPod touch, with no USB port (seriously wtf?).

borrowed from David's World of Star Trek

iPad space travel app

BUT what honestly would have been the point of something which was essentially a touch screen based version of an OSX machine? Why does an OSX machine need to have a touch interface? I already use a touchpad on my PowerBook instead of a mouse. What else would I gain by being able to drag windows around with my finger? If you’re going to have any kind of Tablet based computer then it needs an OS and a GUI which is geared towards the touchscreen, something like… well like an iPhone.

So having established that my imagined device would actually have been an utter waste of time, how now does the iPad stack up? (remember I’m solely considering it as a musical implement now). Well actually it’s pretty exciting. There’s already a synthesiser application for the iPhone called Jasuto which allows you to manipulate coloured balls in various ways to control sound, pitch, filter etc. It costs about £3 and I bought it, played with it a bit and found that I couldn’t really get into it because the screen… was… too… small…. Hang on…

Jasuto

Suddenly the iPad’s a bit more exciting. Jasuto on a decent sized screen could actually be used seriously in a live performance. It would be much easier to actually ‘perform’ on it. It would be visually interesting for the audience in the same way that a monome or Tenori-on can be. Even some of the more basic 59p apps like ‘Melodica‘ (which is actually like a really basic but fun matrix sequencer rather than a ‘blowy keyboard’ melodica’) would suddenly have more serious potential. Other synths like noise.io and synthpond could similarly come into their own on a larger screen.

Melodica app for iPhone

Synthpond iPhone app

noise.io pro iPhone app

Given how much these slightly cheap and (without being mean) slightly novelty apps would improve on a bigger screen, the prospect that some developers could bring out more seriously priced applications making use of the iPad is quite exciting. It might be a year or two before we see anything like that come out, by which time we might be on iPad 2.0, but it’ll happen.

The only problem then arises in that Apple have introduced some slightly irritating hoops to jump through.

Firstly we should note that you could not, in any seriousness, own an iPad as your only computer. Even a casual user would struggle with this – for example how the hell would you import your existing hard copy music collection? You wouldn’t. For a laptop musician this wouldn’t inherently be a problem given that the only feature of the iPad which is inherently exciting from a musical standpoint is, of course, the multi-touch control surface itself.

But say Jazzmutant brought out a software only version of Lemur/Dexter for the iPad it would be exciting – except the LACK OF USB would complicate how (or even if) you could transmit OSC/MIDI messages from the iPad to whatever the Lemur app was controlling. Big problem.

Jazzmutant Lemur - drool

You also couldn’t (currently) use an iPad with Jasuto alongside your DAW (Ableton or whatever) within the iPad. The only way to get the audio out of the synth and into your computer would be via the headphone output – which would degrade the sound quality. It’s possible that Ableton (or whoever) will develop an iPad version of their DAW, and that could be great. But an iPad with 64GB of storage would barely accommodate the 48GB of Ableton Suite as it currently exists, before you even started saving your audio files. So we’d be looking at a ‘lite’ version.

So the obvious route would have been for the iPad to function as an auxiliary device THROUGH A USB. Are you starting to see what my major complaint is here?

It’s still possible that all this could be achieved via the 30 pin iPod style connector – I don’t know about such things – and this would up the drool factor for potential iPad musicians. Certainly for me.

Lack of multi-tasking on the iPad would be another problem for musicians for obvious reasons. But again we’re getting into territory where you start to think ‘why not just get a laptop’? If you want to run a sequencer then do synth noodles over the top you could use an iPad and another machine – you’re going to need one anyway.

Overall in conclusion it’s pretty positive, there is quite clear potential for this thing (admittedly the same potential that would exist in any Tablet computer). But it’s one area where Apple’s app store with it’s potential for home spun designers to reach a large audience through the app store has potential. Clearly this raise the issue of Apple’s strict proprietary attitude – which is their single greatest failing to my mind.

But an open platform for music software contained within their undeniably elegant design and software implementation? That would be exciting.

Quick update – new song

June 21, 2009

Just a quick one to say don’t forget the new song ‘The Great British Public Becomes Self-Aware’ was made available on friday via my Independent blog. So read all about it and download the full free EP.

Also a couple of gigs coming up over the next week, one of which I’m only just announcing:

27/06 – Zonino @ Brixton Windmill (all day thing, I’m on about 8pm)
01/07 – Milo, Leeds
02/07 – Shunt, London Bridge

PWL USA?

June 16, 2009

With thanks to Theo of Pocus Whiteface here is a spotting of ‘Fight My Battles For Me’ nestled cosily in the racks of Rough Trade:

Oddly they’ve put me in the US section. I can think of no reason why this would be, but I’m strangely pleased about it.

Send more ‘sightings’ of the album to spotted@paganwandererlu.co.uk – maybe I’ll send you all a free mp3 or something?

Weekend blog

June 1, 2009

So I’m back from a weekend’s touring the land. Started in Liverpool for a gig at Elevator studio’s new ‘Leaf’ tea room/café/bar/venue all round place. Caught up with some people I’d not seen in a while and met a new member of my family. The support was a Chilean electro pop singer called Violeta who played a sort lively electro music on a microkorg and ironing board – it was somewhere between clubby dance stuff and more leftfield electronica.

After that I headed to Manchester for a gig with indiepop promoters Pull Yourself Together supported by odd trans-global antifolk duo Moustache of Insanity and humbly excellent ukelele toting troubadour Jam on Bread. It’s interesting that I got put into those two different categories on two different nights. One night electro, one night indiepop. Anyway PYT and the Moustache boys are really nice people and we stayed up late, drinking and looking up nude pictures of Burt Reynolds (nsfw) on The Internet.

The next day was the Brainlove Festival. Now in its third year, it’s basically a chance to hang out with nearly everyone I like who makes music and watch some great bands. Highlights were A Scholar And A Physician, Napoleon IIIrd’s new more industrial, noisy direction, Mat Riviere’s deliciously dark electro grooves, and singing in John Brainlove’s long-mooted ‘Thee Oracle‘ choir – he talks about it as an interactive art piece, but I really enjoyed it as a re-enactment of some really primitive communal singing. Like the music people probably made in caves. There’ll probably be a video online at some point.

I played a lot of new stuff at the gigs. Particularly at Brainstock. People seem slightly baffled by it. ‘Dark’ was the main adjective used. It seems to be a lot more different from what people are used to than I’d realised it was. They all said they liked it though, and why would they lie?

Still, looking forward to getting it finished and ‘out there’.

This week’s video

April 10, 2009


Vimeo

Made by the guilt mirrors.