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Messages - ffcal

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I didn't have any problem with HOS/Fathom for releasing both very commercial material and less commercial material.  What bugged me about what happened there, which led to the demise of Fathom, was that they started out small and humble, and apparently satisfied with selling a smaller number of copies of CDs.  Then when they started releasing the more commercial stuff, as I understand it, they changed their operation and added a ton of overhead (lots of employees and expensive offices) which made the Fathom type releases no longer feasible. 

I say, fine, do the more commercial stuff if you like, but not if it's just a quick path to becoming a bloated, overly-profit-focused corporate entity that can no longer "afford" to do the kind of cool, artistic stuff that got you where you are in the first place.

I don't know.  I think it's far easier to second guess marketing miscalculations in hindsight.  I think it can be difficult for a growing company not to run the risk of being victimized by its own success.  At some point, you may need to grow to accommodate increased demand, but that may lead to giving up a certain amount of control to others (marketers) whose decisions may be ultimately prove to be wrong.  On the other hand, I think that Projekt helped to ensure its continued survival by cutting back its staff and closing its Chicago office a few years back.


I had a brief conversation with Stephen Hill when he stopped by.  I remember him telling me that the success of more commercial releases such as those by John Boswell and the "Celtic Twilight" series helped to subsidize the releases on Fathom.  I doubt that there was any pressure placed by the HOS/Fathom label on Steve or Robert to commercialize their sound.

That is not what the artist on the label told me in conversation (I should point out this was not from just Steve & Robert I heard this, but from other artists as well). To be fair I think Stephen may remember it this way as from my understanding he was not the main person putting the pressure on the artists.

If there was such pressure, I doubt that it was coming from Stephen.  I'm surprised to hear that HOS was putting pressure on Robert to release more commercial stuff.  The closest I heard to a complaint from Robert about them wanting a concert grand piano (instead of the home grand that Robert used) for what later became his "Open Window" release.


One other thing.  While it might seem fashionable to slag a label like HOS/Fathom for releasing both "mainstream" and noncommercial ambient albums, I think it's a very practical thing to do.  It's very easy to dictate the terms of someone else's business, but when it's your own money, you might feel differently about it.


At the time that Bob Ohlsson was mastering Gongland at Hearts of Space, I had a brief conversation with Stephen Hill when he stopped by.  I remember him telling me that the success of more commercial releases such as those by John Boswell and the "Celtic Twilight" series helped to subsidize the releases on Fathom.  I doubt that there was any pressure placed by the HOS/Fathom label on Steve or Robert to commercialize their sound.  I don't doubt, though, that the Fathom releases were phased out after a period of declining sales.


Now Playing / Re: Currently listening, part 1
« on: January 06, 2009, 12:58:03 PM »
Wouldn't be AS bad if sites only put up 64kbs versions of albums,
but putting up 320kbs versions is simply giving the album away
... making many labels wonder why they bother putting all their
time and effort into releasing this music. No surprise we are seeing
more cdr/download releases. Maybe in the future it will be only free
net releases ... with very little quality control,  embedded ads,
interspersed political slogans, and plenty of malware.

I read an article this past week which stated that CD sales had dropped 20% in the past year, and that the drop had not been covered by digital sales, so I'm not surprised that to hear that this has been happening.

I'm now listening to:

Steve Kilbey - Painkiller (much better than I expected)
The Kinks - The Kink Kronikles


Now Playing / Re: Best of 2008
« on: January 06, 2009, 12:52:02 PM »
Thanks for the props/mentions, Dave, avec, Alan and Fern.

Here are my 10 for 2008 (some ambient, some not):

Elm - Bxogonoas (Barn Owl side project)
Fabio Orsi - Wild Light of The Moon (maybe not his best, but his most consistent throughout)
Peter Wright - Pretty Mushroom Clouds
Juana Molina - Un Dia
Forgas Band Phenomena - L'Axe du Fou (melodic Canterbury-styled prog)
Natural Snow Buildings/Isengrind/Twin Sister Moon - The Snowbringer Cult
Nik Bartsch's Ronin - Holon
Jason Sloan - Ending [light]
V/A - Perceived Distances (excellent Blue Oasis comp)
Haruomi Hosono - Archives Vol. 1

Forrest (Sans Serif)

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: AtmoWorks Compilation(s)
« on: January 06, 2009, 12:43:58 PM »

Sounds like a fun idea. I'd be happy to contribute a piece.


Everything and Nothing / Re: Vinyl Mastering
« on: January 06, 2009, 12:42:17 PM »
I have not mastered vinyl myself, but in the days that I released on vinyl, records were mastered to conform to the RIAA equalization curve, which cuts the record with greater highs and less lows, then inverts them on playback.  I copied this explanation from a Wikipedia entry (

IAA equalization is therefore a form of preemphasis on recording, and deemphasis on playback. A record is cut with the low frequencies reduced and the high frequencies boosted, and on playback the opposite occurs. The result is a flat frequency response, but with noise such as hiss and clicks arising from the surface of the medium itself much attenuated. The other main benefit of the system is that low frequencies, which would otherwise cause the cutter to make large excursions when cutting a groove, are much reduced, so grooves are smaller and more can be fitted in a given surface area, yielding longer playback times. This also has the benefit of eliminating physical stresses on the playback stylus which might otherwise be hard to cope with, or cause unpleasant distortion.

A potential drawback of the system is that rumble from the playback turntable's drive mechanism is greatly amplified, which means that players have to be carefully designed to avoid this.

RIAA equalization is not a simple low-pass filter. It carefully defines transition points in three places - 75 Ás, 318 Ás and 3180 Ás, which correspond to 2122 Hz, 500 Hz and 50 Hz. Implementing this characteristic is not especially difficult, but more involved than a simple linear amplifier. The phono input of most hi-fi amplifiers have this characteristic built in, though it is omitted in many modern designs, due to the gradual obsolescence of vinyl records. A solution in this case is to buy a special preamplifier which will adapt a magnetic cartridge to a standard line-level input, and implement the RIAA equalization curve separately. Some modern turntables feature built-in preamplification to the RIAA standard. Special preamplifiers are also available for the various equalization curves used on pre-1954 records.

Digital audio editors often feature the ability to equalize audio samples using standard and custom equalization curves, removing the need for a dedicated hardware preamplifier when capturing audio with a computer. However, this can add an extra step in processing a sample, and may amplify audio quality issues of the sound card being used to capture the signal.


Congrats on your vinyl release, Martin!


Everything and Nothing / Re: CD-R Deterioration
« on: December 23, 2008, 01:49:24 AM »
I think I may have mentioned this before in an old thread, but I've had some success making playable CDR copies of discs that otherwise skip because of scratches etc.  This works best when I use my CDR recorder.  I'm not sure why this is the case, but it does seem to work for me most of the time, unless the disc is completely trashed.


Hey, that is cool, Fern.  Sorry I missed it.


Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Dreamlike/ambient Classical Music ?
« on: December 21, 2008, 03:05:43 AM »
I have mixed feelings about the use of classical samples.  Sometimes it can be done effectively, but it can also be a very lazy way to compose.  Probably the worse use of a classical sample I can remember was Shuttle 358's crude misappropriation of part of Harold Budd's 1st Obscure Records album on "Understanding Wildlife."  Ugh.


Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: SPV Popol Vuh remasters
« on: December 19, 2008, 01:46:17 PM »
There are also the High Tide remasters from around 1992.  I have a few of them and they are not great, but are better than the Spalax versions.  For Hosianna Mantra, the OOP Celestial Harmonies version is best.  I have the SPV version of Bruder des Schattens, which is better than the High Tide version (though it doesn't have the bonus electronic pieces), but is more muffled than my original vinyl on Brain.


Now Playing / Re: Currently listening, part 1
« on: December 17, 2008, 09:25:23 PM »
Still in the 80s time machine:

The Lucy Show - Undone (finally made a nice LP dub of this onto CDR)


Yummy! Full CD please!  ;)


I'm working on it!  I'm actually very close to finishing it, but keep making last minute tweaks here and there...little things I only seem to hear on mixdown that drive me crazy until I can fix them.

To keep that other file company, I've added 2 more unreleased pieces to my page.  One is an extended Spirit Oscillator piece from 2001, and the other is music I composed for a video that Michael Bentley did for Foundry Night in 2004.  These 2 new files are downloadable.  Thanks for listening.


Everything and Nothing / Re: 2008 winter weather
« on: December 17, 2008, 09:18:34 PM »

May 2009 be a great year for you all!!!

Same to you, Bill ... and to other forum inhabitors  (posters and non-posters).


Likewise, Bill!  It's been a relatively balmly upper 40s in the Bay Area today.  Yesterday, there was snow in San Francisco, which was downright bizarre.  I've been hunkered down, getting my last minute online shopping done before Christmas.


Everything and Nothing / Re: Ancient Gugin Music
« on: December 15, 2008, 10:29:13 PM »
I'm glad you liked the track.  Robert actually strung together the listenable bits from two different gu zheng improvisions.  I had tuned the zheng to an unconventional scale that seemed to fit with the mood of Robert's backing tracks.  I don't think I would have the chops to sustain that kind of mood for an entire album.  Thanks for the encouragement, though.  I prefer to work with a "multiple instruments" sound anyway--a lot of layering.  I did recently play a short zheng solo as part of an extended piece that should be appearing on my next album.  I'm not sure how the CD was received by others, but I liked it a lot and it's definitely one of my favorites of Robert's releases.


Now Playing / Re: Currently listening, part 1
« on: December 15, 2008, 10:18:09 PM »
Been listening to:

Thom Brennan - Strange Paradise (very nice floating ambient CD from 2001; it used to go under the title of, "The Secret Faiths of Salamanders")


I've just added a new track for streaming to the page someone previously posted in my name.  (I might as well get some use out of it!)  It's a 6 minute piece called "Cicadas" that I finished in the last month or two.  It should be appearing on a fundraising CD for the WWUH show, "Ambience" by late February 2009.

Here's the new page:


Now Playing / Re: Currently listening, part 1
« on: December 13, 2008, 09:48:23 AM »
The Chills - Brave Words (time for some old school 80s New Zealand pop)


Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Fabio Orsi
« on: December 13, 2008, 09:46:34 AM »
What ever you do, I would steer clear of the Find Electronica release.  It's a 5 minute piece that is about 44 minutes too long.  As Alan noted, Wild Light of the Moon is a veritable bargain, though it's a CDR.


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