Bereft of last-minute gift ideas? Then you might just find that PSN-e’s selection of fine books, music and accessories (like Exspect’s TIME Speaker Dock, pictured) comes in rather handy, writes David Davies.
2010 has proven to be particularly fertile in new books related to studio life and music-making, and the cream of the crop undoubtedly includes Phil Harding’s PWL from the Factory Floor (Cherry Red Books). The producer/engineer’s memoir of his time at the ‘80s/’90s UK pop hit factory is now available in an expanded edition featuring a joint interview with Ian Curnow, a section on key PWL artists, and additional images, including exclusive photos of awards, memorabilia, record sleeves and labels.
Selecting the most appropriate microphones and getting the most out of them are among the objectives of Latvia-based manufacturer JZ Microphones’ A General Guide to Understanding & Using Microphones. Published in June this year, the book is designed to appeal to both experienced engineers and those who are just beginning to use microphones. The guide can be obtained in one of two ways: free of charge with the purchase of any JZ Microphones product; or via the VZ Store, priced at $10 (link below).
Also recommended is the latest, third edition of Tim Crich’s Recording Tips for Engineers (Focal Press). Providing simple and practical advice using real-life studio situations, the book features a variety of fresh material in its latest incarnation, including a chapter on mastering, a digital appendix, studio acoustics, additional information on miking and amps, a new chapter on DAWs, and a glossary of frequently-encountered studio acronyms. The book is available now priced €25.95 (Eur) / £21.99 (UK).
It has also been a landmark year for large-scale studies of musical genres and trends, of which the outstanding example is arguably Rob Young’s Electric Eden (Faber). From the influence of folk traditions on composers such as Benjamin Britten and Vaughan Williams, to the pioneering work of Shirley Collins and the Incredible String Band, to latterday exponents like Julian Cope and Circulus, the book is a highly compelling account of English folk’s development and cross-fertilisation with other genres.
Also bearing the Faber imprimatur is Rob Chapman’s A Very Irregular Head. After countless previous attempts by other writers, Chapman has surely written the definitive biography of Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett. Determined to peel away the myth and focus on the creative life, Chapman contextualises Barrett in a thrillingly evocative portrait of late ‘60s psychedelic London.
A welcome account of a highly underrated band, Allan Brown’s The Strange Course of The Blue Nile (Polygon) takes us into the studio with the famously reluctant Glaswegian trio. Brown is particularly good on the influence the band’s home city has had on its distinctive soundworld, while the painstaking creation of its four albums – in particular, the extraordinary debut, A Walk Across the Rooftops – is relayed with gallows humour and rigorous attention to detail.
Sorted for reading matter but looking for a more practical (but still affordable) gift? Then you might want to investigate Exspect’s new TIME Speaker Dock (pictured). After installing a free app for your iPhone or iPod Touch, the speaker dock is transformed into a fully-functioning digital clock, enabling users to wake up to their favourite tunes. Compatible with iPhone 4/3/3GS and iPod Touch, the TIME Speaker Dock is available from HMV, Amazon and Play.com, priced at £49.99 (RRP).
Any list of the best music releases from the year is bound to be highly subjective, but how about one or more of the following CDs to help fill those last-minute present requirements? Ellipse, the new album from Imogen Heap (Megaphonic), is the latest chapter in the increasingly fascinating story of one of the most creative singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalists around. Featuring a striking production from David Kosten, Everything Everything’s Man Alive (Geffen) brought a very contemporary sheen to some vintage influences. Powerful rock and dance came together seamlessly on Delphic’s Acolyte (Chimeric/Polydor), whilst Small Craft On A Milk Sea marked Brian Eno’s arrival at seminal electronic label Warp with a characteristically exquisite collection of ambient miniatures (with a few, rather less characteristic noisy interludes thrown in), recorded with Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams.
Other top selections from the 2010 tunestack? Laurie Anderson’s first album in ten years, Homeland (Nonesuch), married opaque ruminations on the age of terror and consumerism with exquisite backdrops weaved from violin, percussion and cutting-edge electronics. Edwyn Collins’s Losing Sleep (Heavenly) was the singer/songwriter’s first album to be recorded since suffering a stroke and MRSA, and a more triumphant affirmation of being alive is difficult to imagine. One of the greatest live albums of all time – John Martyn’s Live At Leeds (Island) – returned in a new expanded edition featuring even more swearing and baiting of bass legend Danny Thompson. Finally, there was a very welcome return from hugely influential performance poet and author Gil Scott-Heron. Set to ominous string-washes and skitterish electronics, I’m New Here (XL) muses on the passage of time, the role of family and life’s many wrong turns in a 28-minute song cycle that provides further confirmation – should it be required – of the album format’s enduring relevance in the age of the bite-sized download.
Whether you make use of these recommendations, or ignore them altogether, PSN-e hopes that you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!