March 2014

Ghosts by Techno-Animal (6/10)

Format: CD

I thought that Techno-Animal, being the electronic side project of the guitarist from Godflesh, would sound more like the industrial dance-floor tracks from Slavestate. Instead Ghosts is mostly ambient soundscapes with bursts of grating noise and pounding drum patterns. I guess you would call this experimental, but I dislike that term when applied to music (and art). An experiment implies that you are testing something to prove or disprove a hypothesis. It doesn't mean you are just making non-musical, unstructured sounds and calling them songs.

Tim's Vermeer (9/10)

This a nice little documentary produced and directed by Penn & Teller, respectively. This is a documentary for people interested in the intersection of art and technology. It starts out feeling like one of the duo's Showtime episodes where they would debunk ideas—in this case, did Vermeer use some sort of trick or tool to make his paintings—but eventually turns into a story about Tim and the process of making art. I was able to lure my daughter into seeing the film by telling her that it was probably loaded with bad words, hence the PG-13 rating.

Over and Out by Tar (9/10)

Format: CD

More Tar being Tar. This one has crystal clear production and, wouldn't you know it, a little bit of variety in the song writing. I think they recorded this record knowing they were about to call it a day as a band. Well, at least they went out on a high note. More bands need to realize it's time to move on (Jesus Lizard.. ahem). But wait, they returned some 15 years later and "opened" for my band, Nonagon, at the summer PRFBBQ! The circle is complete.

Drupal: My List of Essential Modules

Taking a break from my usual and completely unnecessary review posts, I thought I'd take a moment get a little technical. This site and many others I have developed use the Drupal open-sourced content management system. Drupal is great. It's incredibly flexible, powerful and yet moderately easy to use if you have a little Web design experience.

Other systems I have used in the past, including Microsoft Sharepoint and Wordpress, don't hold a candle to Drupal. Sharepoint is an abomination and the only reason you should ever use it for a public facing Web site is if you work at Megacorp, Inc. and some idiot I.T. guy bought it as part of a multi-million dollar corporate enterprise package. Customizing Sharepoint is an exercise in futility and self-immolation. Just assume that your clean standards-compliant code with get destroyed and converted into a stew of redundant tags and impossible-to-style markup. Wordpress is much better than that but it still falls short of Drupal when it comes to customizing your content types and controlling look and feel. You can hardly do anything custom in Wordpress without having to hand code PHP. Simple tasks like adding an extra field to a post-type are just a pain and require some sort of third-party plugin (of which there are many and all of them do it differently). The only area where Wordpress is better than Drupal is in installing and updating plugins and core systems. Drupal is getting better at this, but it still has a way to go to match the ease of use that Wordpress offers.

For all my Drupal love, it still isn't perfect right out of the box. Any Drupal install is going to require also installing a number of add-on modules to get your site fully reach its potential. So here is a list of the modules that I will include in every Drupal site that I create.

Toast by Tar (8/10)

Format: CD

While this disc starts out with a couple of great Tar tunes it doesn't quite keep the energy up like Jackson does. As I will say every time I write about Tar, they aren't know for wild experimentation. They established a sound early on and just decided not to mess with the formula. If anything, this recording sounds better than its predecessors perhaps at the expense of some of that aforementioned energy.

Borderlands on PC (7/10)

Borderlands - Jakob's Cove

Billed as a first person shooter RPG, Borderlands focuses on collecting loot over story. There a lot of superficial similarity with the recent Fallout games: large open world to explore, quest-based goals and a little bit of humor thrown in. But the world of Borderlands is barren and devoid of interesting people and stories.

Clincher by Tar (9/10)

Format: CD

This feels like it must be outtakes or extras from Jackson. "G7" and "Teetering" are the best tracks on the EP. Some really great cover photography of the band's custom aluminum guitars.

Jackson by Tar (10/10)

Format: CD

This probably is Tar's best record. It's a wall of loud, lumbering guitars and driving bass lines. This is pretty much what every Illinois-based hard rock indie band aspired to sound like back in 1992. This contains some of their most memorable tracks: "Short Trades," "Walking the King" and especially "Viaduct Removal."