Blog Roddus

Blog Roddus
My Favorite Place A Note on my equipment: 1 Tetrabyte hard drive connected by USB to an Acer laptop, connected via USB to FUBAR II Digital Audio Converter, connected via RCA leads to Cyrus system with Tannoy Speakers, Choice!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mt Thomas - 17th August 2014

Uncle Roddus tramping diary: Tramp No.144
Mt Thomas - 17th August 2014

Well, It has been 6 months since my last tramp, what with back problems, boot problems and the usual work commitmrnts, but as we approach spring, I feel the urge to get back out into our beautiful back country and with a perfect weather forecast for Sunday, when I saw a trip up Mt Thomas come through via email from the Tramping Club, I thought this is a good trip to ease myself and my boots back into it. I met the crew from town at the Mt Thomas camping area and we headed off up the direct eastern route through the sludgy snow left over from earlier in the week. It's a straight forward 700m climb up to the summit which we did in just under two hours. We had lunch in brilliant sunshine with a slight northerly breeze. We cam back down the Wooded Gulley track which is through native beech forest as opposed to the pine forest on the track up. We arrived back at the cars by 2:30pm after 4 1/2 hours walking. An easy day and my legs won't suffer too much for it tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Yarland FV-34C Tube Amp

Our New Baby.

Mrs Roddus still has a small collection of vinyl records that she listens to on occasion when I am at work. Over the years I have brought her a couple of cheap record players to keep her happy but the quality wasn't all that great, not that she minded much, as long as she could listen to her records. Some time ago I said I would one day get her something a bit better that would last a lot longer and sound much much better, I had priced up a basic turntable, amp, speakers set up from my favourite HI-fi emporium some time ago and knew I could get her something above average for under two grand. Recently I knew I was about to have the spare funds to indulge in this luxury but I had lost the names and prices of the system I had investigated some time ago. While looking on the web site of the aforementioned hi-fi emporium I came across the above model and it stuck in my mind that a small valve amp might be a sweet choice to use for vinyl records. On a day when we were on a mission in the city, we popped into the aforementioned hi-fi emporium and I told the salesman what we were after and what turntable and speakers he could recommend to go with the above amp that would fit my budget. After parting with only $1800, we came away with the above Yarland amp, a pair of Castle, Knight series book shelf speakers and a Musichall USB1 turntable.
 We had to wait a couple of weeks for the amp to arrive but we finally got the system home and within about a hour, I had the thing set up and ready to roll. This little amp is only about 12W per channel, peaking at 15W, so it is only a baby and I knew I wasn't really going to bother the neighbours with it but for the ridiculous low price it was, it is actually a Class A Push/Pull amp.
 Fortunately Mrs Roddus does have several records in her collection that I have on CD and like alot, so after listening to some Police, Pink Floyd and Grace Jones I was starting to get a feeling of just how good this amp really is. I noticed how easy it is to listen to and the warmth and depth of the music, as well as the separation and detail were really making am impression on me. I was beginning to realise what a quality piece of equipment this really was and surpassed my expectations.
 A few days later, Mrs Roddus was doing a late shift at work and after bi-wiring the Castle speakers, I decided it was time to try out the Yarland with My Cyrus 7 CD player. The first obvious thing I noticed of course was the big step up in volume from vinyl to CD as expected and although the reproduction from the modest Musichall turntable was very good, the big step up in source to the Cyrus was quite breathtaking and although I didn't get a whole lot of time to explore this setup, I now knew for sure that I had a very good amp on my hands.
 I was quite excited about this and rang another small time hi-fi buff mate, who lives locally and told him about my score, he was enthusiastic and said he would be keen to come round for a session. He was running a solid state system not all that much advanced than my Cyrus system.
The next time Mrs Roddus was working a night shift I duly called Mr.Ed, and he hot footed it round for a coffee and a blast.
 He was right off impressed with the look of the amp and the lovely finish of the Castle speakers as we put on my new 180g vinyl copy of Buddy Miller's Cruel Moon LP while we chatted and made the coffee. Next I impressed him some with another new piece of vinyl I purchased, a compilation of T-Bone Walker, which is great Valve music and T-Bone's awesome finger pickin blues sounded just superb. He was mightily impressed the way it handled Grace Jone's "Use Me" as we cranked the volume and noticed how clean it sounded. Moving on to CDs, as the vinyl collection is quite small, we threw at the Yarland, a plethora of different types of music and were both so mightily impressed with the detail and clarity of what we were hearing and also how well the little Castle speakers were reproducing every thing we through at it. The highlights of the nights listening were when I would select an exceptionally well recorded piece that would just stop us dead in out tracks and blow our minds with the sounds the Yarland was presenting us, Koko Taylor's Chess recording of "Wang Dang Doodle" being one stand out and the final track of the evening leaving us speechless, Jeff Buckley's version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".
  The Yarland FV-34C had impressed my so much that I am now rethinking my whole approach to my next upgrade of my main hi-fi system, and Mr Ed was coming to the same conclusion when he left. A stunning little amp at a stunning price, you cant go wrong.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Eyvind Kang - Alastor - Book Of Angels Vol.21 (Tzadik 2014)

Masada Book Two.

With Masada Book Three unleashed on the World(Well NYC at least) in March, I thought that the Book of Angels must be complete after 20 volumes. Alas, here it is, Vol.21, with Vol 22 also done and dusted and hopeful released in the near future, it's gotta be a good thing.
  Having already heard Eyvind Kang via his last Tzadik release from 2012, I wasn't overly excited about this new volume. The new CD duly arrived in the Mailbox and on first casual listen while doing some chores it sounded OK but nothing to rave about. Later on some tracks started to really get my attention and in the early evening I had the opportunity to sit down and really have a listen.
  With a large list of musicians playing a collection of strangely named instruments we get presented with a quite an exotic collection of interpretations covering a wide range of styles in the most impressive manner. I am very very impressed with the width and breadth of the music presented here and have been enjoying this set far more than I anticipated. This release had shot to very near the top of the list for quality for this series and the quality of the Book of Angels just keeps on impressing.Rating 4.5/5.

Throbbing Gristle - First Annual Report (UK 1975?)

Hot out of the mailbox.

Apparently, according to the liner notes above, this is the great lost TG album, supposedly recorded in studio sometime in 1975 but never released by the band. This could possibly be a bootleg although Thirsty Ear is a legitimate  label as far as I know. It was most disappointing for me though, when this arrived, after spending a not to small sum buying it second hand(its out of print), I discovered that I already have all the music included herein on a budget Cd I picked up locally some time back called Final Muzak.
 Overall, this is not a greatly arresting set, but has plenty of sonic peculiarities amongst the drones to keep it interesting. It kicks of with the epic 18 minute "Very Friendly", A quite graphic monologue from Genesis P Orridge describing the Murder of Edward Evans by Ian Brady and Mira Hindley in October 1965. The Monologue is set to a very distorted bass line that starts off impressively enough but gets a bit tedious after 15 minutes, but the piece finishes a prolonged epitaph of quite superb and impressive sound effects in the last three minute giving us a taste of some of the brilliance yet to come from TG.
"Dead Bait" is a very minimal Synth type of thing that is interesting for a start but really goes nowhere but is a piece of quiet relief before the next slab of industrial noise. The rest of the album kinda follows along like the opening track, several not all that inspiring dirges, but interspersed with some pretty good sound effects that keep one interested. The sound id mistakenly TG, but a group still finding their feet. Rating 2.5/5.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

John Zorn - The Alchemist (USA 2014)

More Zorn.

The ever prolific Mr. Zorn with yet another CD in 2014. Another of his Mystic series with two compositional works, one for string Quartet and the other For Voices. I'm not a big fan of his vocal works in this idiom, but it is impressive none-the-less. The title track, being the string quartet, is more enjoyable for my palate and  although I am not a big fan of this sort of thing, I do like to listen to this sort of stuff occasionally. Of course it is sort of avant garde, so not an easy listen. Rating 3/5. 

Xtatika - Tongue Bath (Tzadik 2001)

Tzadik again.

This was the first release in Tzadiks Oracles series, which brings us music from women in the contemporary experimental music scene. This album has a real early 80s post punk vibe and vague comparisons to Siouxsie and the Banshees wouldn't be too far out. The album is quite minimal with a strong tribal vibe and plenty of weirdness. Interesting and challenging but mostly quite enjoyable and grows better with familiarisation. Rating 3/5.

Alvin Curran - Animal Behaviour (Tzadik 1995)

More From Tzadik.

I decided to have a look at the releases from Tzadik at the other end of the time line from the recent issues that have been arriving in my mail box. I have purchased the first release in each of the series issued by Tzadik and this one by Alvin Curran was the very first in the composer series back when the label first started in 1995.
Consisting of just two extended pieces, the title track is an 18 minute sound collage not unlike The Beatles "Revolution No.9" from The White Album. An interesting piece with some interesting sound effects. Not easy listening and it seemed to drive the dog from the room at moderate volume. Still, I think he pulled it of pretty well and it is not at all unpleasant for something like that. The second piece has a more classical feel and some actual musicians playing actual instruments. A slow atmospheric piece with lots of avant garde tinkering throughout, again not at all unpleasant but difficult to stay focused on throughout its 30 odd minutes.
Overall I'd rate this release 3/5.

Various Artists - Angola Soundtrack 2: Hypnosis, Distortions & Other Sonic Innovations 1969-1978

The Other Analog Africa Release.

Yep, more of the same from Analog Africa, non stop toe tapping funky afro grooves. Wall to wall quality like the last one. This stuff from Angola is a little more intimate and laid back than the previous Ghana compilation but no less impressive. Seems to be more instrumental tracks on this one. Rating 4/5.

Various Artists - Afrobeat Airways 2 - Return Flight To Ghana 1974-1983 (Analog Africa 2013)

More funky African Music.

Even more exciting than the previous Soundway compilation, was the knowledge that two more compilations from Analog Africa had slipped out late last year. The Analog Africa compilations had always been the best of an impressive crop. Initially I was slightly disappointed with this, compared with the Soundway Comp. After more attention I still am preferring the Soundway compilation over both Analog comps but that being said, this is still a fabulous set of great Afro funk. Just close you eyes and let the always wonderful African vocal melodies and sublime brass solos wash over you and just see if you can not tap your feet. Rating 4.5/5.

Various Artists - Kenya Special (Selected East African Recordings From The 1970s & '80s)

More African funk.

Was excited to come across this latest afrofunk compilation from the marvelous Soundway Records and it duly arrived in my mail box soon after. Not much to say but this is the usual high quality funky compilation we have come to expect from Soundway with wall to wall toe tapping grooves across two very full discs. Several tracks I was already familiar with perhaps from the Voodoo Funk Blog but plenty else was new.
Awesome, as usual, highly recommended and gets 5/5.

Pet Bottle Ningen - Pet Bottle Ningen (Tzadik 2011)

The next Tzadik arrival.

A quick word on this last Spotlight release, again all instrumental tracks, pretty chaotic freeform jazz rock from this 3 piece with guitar, sax and drums. Needs focused attention for deeper appreciation, but enjoyable enough all the same.Rating 2.5/5.

Les Rhinocéros - Les Rhinocéros (Tzadik 2011)

Some More Tzadik arrivals.

Like most of the releases in this series, this is an instrumental album of rock based tracks. The Tzadik blurb above just about always makes these albums sound far more fantastic than they actually are, but that being said this is another fine release from the label, a bit more laid back than some of the others in this series but non the less enjoyable with its well executed blend of genres. A very cool name though. Rating 3.5/5.

Many Arms - Many Arms (Tzadik 2012)

Tzadik Again.

Three piece rock bands Tzadik album consists of 3 extended instrumentals that are a sort of Avant Rock minimalism with some free jazz thrown in for good measure. Quite challenging and highly technical but interesting all the same and keeps up the high quality of the Spotlight series. Initially I struggled with these tracks but have come to appreciate them more with additional exposure. Rating 3/5.