Sometimes you need a wake up call. My goodness, life has been so complicated this last year…good stuff, but nonstop. Alexander was born in November of ‘21 with extensive complications that had him flighted to the NICU where he resided for the better part of the following month. After much physical therapy and the attention of watchful eyes, he’s approaching his first birthday as though nothing ever bothered him.

During his stint at the NICU, we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus. I tried to pick up a novel, but found myself unable to entertain such a distraction at that time. I all but stopped reading. 

I started to see a therapist, which was nice for a bit. It took six months on a waiting list to start seeing someone, and now every session gets canceled by the other party…so I’ve accepted the system isn’t there to help me. Healthcare is broken in this place. 

I tried to start writing again around the new year…and for a little bit, it worked. I plotted out a story that I’d been preparing to compose, and drafted about 25k words before I had a shakeup at the day job that took away the bit of writing time I was able to carve out for myself. It included a promotion and bit more of a work/life balance, so I’m in no position to complain about it, but I’m hoping to get back to this novel as it gets cold outside. 

We bought a house, too. That was exciting. With Alex entering our lives, we needed more space than our apartment afforded us. This event wouldn’t have taken place without significant help from family, as grinding our bodies against the corporate machine in this bootstrap culture is simply not enough. 

All things considered, life has been good…so of course I slipped into a moderate depression. My wife has gone through the ringer with the complicated birth and the postpartum depression. It’s all been so…difficult. But dare I say it’s getting better? I’d like to think so. 

In September I took Lydia to see our first live music experiences since the pandemic removed that occasional joy from our lives. Father John Misty was such a delightful treat and the band was so sharp, they exceeded my expectations and I felt as though I’d returned to a long abandoned well to find it still held the capacity to sustain these broken yet loving hearts. Twelve days later we saw Nine Inch Nails in Cleveland. That too, brought a peculiar and wretched sort of joy that isn’t exclusive to me. 

Father John Misty in Columbus, Ohio

I’m less than a week away from my birthday. Last year I conjured a list of goals to complete by the time I turn 40, and in the first year of the list I accomplished nothing…and yet…

The growing family with good health…the purchase of our first home…reminders of how art impacts our lives…how good do I have it? I’m waking up to find all the quality life has to offer in my possession. I’ll try to not let it slip through my fingers, but any attempt to control/retain a solid grip is in vain. Life will continue to take me up and down, and I’ll make do with any given moment, as I always have. This post is meant to be a personal update. This insight to personal matters is how I explain my absence beyond the occasional noise I make on social media. Still here…hoping to make something happen. 

Nine Inch Nails in Cleveland, Ohio
Advertisement

Death Loves Veronica:Music Review

Pulsating electronic bass coupled with electro-dance drumbeats is a signature piece that sets the foundation for the kind of vocals where I imagine the singer to be knee-deep in combat boots, standing on a stage of throats. Veronica Campbell has an impressive catalog, but since I’m late to the party, I intend to talk about the 2021 album, Chemical, and the 2022 single, When I Was Dead.

            I opted to check out Chemical the day before the new single dropped, and was pleased to find straightforward songs that take me on the kind of dark wave excursion I associate with contemporary gothic music. She’s not trying to go over the top, nor is she aiming to appear overly complicated for the sake of faux depth. No, it seems to me that Chemical is loaded with love songs written by someone who hates you. Lyrics like, “Nothing dies…the way you do,” in Spindeln was the first instance where my eyes narrowed as I looked to the side and thought, “hell yeah, that’s good loathing.”  Further down the track listing is There’s Nothing Left, where Veronica states, “I hate everything…that fucking reminds me of…you.” The song builds upon rhythm and atmosphere in an organic fashion that stops just short of the ‘wall of sound.’ There’s an emphasis on minimalism, as there isn’t a moment on the record that feels cluttered. Though uncomfortable, the lyrical content is the sweetest kind of bitter, and I’m left wanting more. 

            The twelve songs offer a total of fifty-six minutes of music, all of it appropriate to the thematic elements offered up at the start of it. It feels like a cohesive record that sticks to the honest approach of an artist, uncompromised. It’s been on repeat in my car for since the new single dropped. 

            When I Was Dead came across my radar thanks to guest guitarist, Tim Skold. I’ve been a fan of his solo work for years and he pops up quite a bit in the goth music community. This song has sleeker guitar parts than what was recorded on Chemicals, which was to be expected. But what stood out to me was what made the prior album so special…lyrical bleakness that reflects all I want to hear in a gothic/dark wave song. She croons, “Where were you when I was dead,” which, given the title, isn’t a surprising line, but I’m still taken aback as it’s exquisite when paired with the music. 

            A new record, Corruption for the Insidious, dropped last week on Bandcamp. From what I’ve heard, it’s more high quality ‘hate you’ anthems. It includes the single When I Was Dead. Go give this artist a listen. 

Ships in the Night:Latent Powers:Album Review

Comforting electronic beats direct a ship of dreamy synths through the night in a way that convinces me I’ll live to see the sun again. I found ‘Latent Powers’ by Ships in the Night on a whim. Random scrolling on social media brought me to a record label that tends to deliver material I enjoy, and Cleopatra Records is one of those hubs. I saw a post, and followed my typical streaming routes to a record that’s been on repeat since it’s release. 

Every song offers the kind of quality promised on the official twitter account:music to cry and/or dance to. Medium tempos run the gauntlet of ten tracks, stimulating an atmosphere of blacklight, mist, and a lonely dance. It feels like a singular journey through a story of love and loss that you can apply to whatever narrative you want to give to these wonderfully delivered lyrics. The first three tracks that open the record are my favorite. ‘First Light’ breaks the ice with my heart and piqued my curiosity for more, as I felt something familiar in this new song. ‘When I Was Found’ and ‘Lost Times’ continued the trend of breaking my heart with each line, as the songwriting hits close to home with my own personal troubles. ‘The Fire’ utilizes a pulsating bass line that carries the song in a way that almost deviates from the dark wave sound and borders on what I’d call industrial, without abandoning the overall sound of the record. ‘It Goes Down’ offers an atmospheric tour of sorrow that builds a wall of sound off of pure minimalism, an impressive feat of audio production. The Echo & the Bunnymen cover of ‘The Killing Moon’ caught me off guard in the best kind of way. It edges on the conclusion of the record and once the chorus triggers that nostalgic reaction, a lovely reworking that stays true to the original captivates me. 

‘Latent Powers’ by Ships in the Night is a lovely dark wave record that deserves attention. For fans of Switchblade Symphony, Crying Vessel, or the new Halsey album, give this record a spin.

My Visit with the Goon Squad:Book Review

In 2014 I was assigned the first five short stories (chapters) from Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. Having been involved with music, I found one instance in the text that I didn’t think was historically accurate, finished my studies, and moved on. It wasn’t until I had started playing with a band on campus that a peer redirected me toward Egan’s novel that I opted to give it another chance…and by another chance I mean I bought a copy and let it reside in my bookcase for a few years. I’ve since moved, got married, had a child, and have read quite a few other books. In 2021 I’ve started thinking about music again, and as I consider my options I decided it was time to give Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winner the chance it deserves.

On one hand, I wish I hadn’t waited so long. On the other hand, I needed this read now. It’s a moving book that captures the human element in a way that tends to be background noise in stories in orbit around the music business. A lineal narrative is withheld for time jumping aesthetics. Each short story is centered on a specific character during a particular moment in history. Some of these characters are vessels for highlighting someone else’s trajectory, and aren’t referenced again, but it’s through the glimpse each story offers that provides this point of contact that makes the world so real. Music producers and A&R people are more than two-dimensional figures for satirical abuse. Hopes and fears are presented through the veil of toxic personalities, and I find myself relating to these characters because of it. They’re imperfect people who ache with want, and I see myself in them. Between each fragmented chapter, I found myself taking a breather. I’d put the book down, sigh, and think, ‘damn…that’s good literature.’ I don’t feel that way with every book, so forgive my abuse of the five star system(it just so happens that I enjoy reading)…this novel is nothing short of absolutely fantastic.

With this read, I’m breaking the ice on a project that I’ve been considering for quite some time. This research is a starting point from which I hope to craft a novel, or possibly a series if I can make that much happen. It feels good to be inspired…that’s how good Egan’s novel is. I’m looking forward to her followup, scheduled for release in April, 2022, The Candy House.

Book Review: Calibration 74

This short book by William F. Aicher is a quick read if you opt to treat it as such. On the other side of the same coin, we find something dense that is better digested in smaller pieces over time. The later is how I decided to approach this work. Aicher takes us through a narrative of a mind that is haunted, though it seeks a closure that can never be found. Short chapters, or ‘calibrations’ offer 74 separate segments over 186 pages. It’s an uncompromising romp through psychological terrain of the damaged variety, right up my ally. Calibration 74 is a harrowing exploration of experimental fiction that is worth a deeper dive, so give it the time of day. 

            Rich in thought provoking prose and vivid imagery, I take solace in relatable poetry, if such a thing should be admitted. Our narrator is unreliable in direct ways that relate to numerical obsession, in the moments where he miscounts. It happened on one occasion where he’s counting large numbers, making big picture statements/asking big picture questions between the numbers, 

[One billion four hundred twenty-eight million two hundred sixty-three five hundred and nine. 

The soul is indistinguishable from the body. 

One billion four hundred twenty-eight million two hundred sixty-three five hundred and nine. 

Where do we go when we die?]

Numerical obsession and the fallacy of the human mind is the vessel that moves the story forward. Before and after this hiccup, the count progresses as expected. This break from the logical pattern is enough to suggest the blur is intentional. 

I found solace in the rhythmic use of language. It’s a scattered collection of ashes and even at my slow pace I struggled with authorial intent, so I placed my own meaning where I saw fit. Between the covers, Aicher’s philosophical background is in full view. Direct answers are elusive, but that’s the fun of this kind of read. I definitely recommend Calibration 74. Give it a read.

Intruder by Gary Numan: Album Review

If Edgar Allen Poe or Alfred Tennyson were alive today, had access to synthesizers, and made music of their poetry, I firmly believe they’d make Intruder by Gary Numan. The lyrical theme of the new record puts emphasis on what has been lost to circumstance in such a way as to ache with the particular sting of tragic romance that resonates with certain 19th Century poets. The end of the world reminds me of heartbreak. The hurt that is communicated is so clear and that transparency sounds authentic. There’s poetry in these songs. Collapse and distance are offered with genuine concern that makes the content relatable. The past is haunting to those who’ll have it, and I was struck again and again while listening to this album. Lyrics like, “sometimes when I’m dreaming I forget that you’re gone. Now when the wind cries, I remember you,” uses the simplicity of our shared human experience to cut as deep as anything. The end of the world has a lovely soundtrack. 

This new record is rich with dark electronic textures that eclipse all hope. It contains beats that are fine-tuned and tweaked to appeal to new fans while pleasing those who’ve been listening for decades. It’s contemporary sounding, which speaks to a desire to always be learning and applying it to the craft. It’s scarier than Numan’s earlier work, but that’s a wonderful thing. He’s changed quite a bit over time, which is the desired route of a quality artist who has had the longevity of his career. With that longevity comes a sort of freedom, so it seems this is the kind of music Numan wants to make right now, and it’s nothing short of fantastic.

Distorted beats mingle with authentic sounding pianos and strings with eerie intent that is often both high energy yet subdued at the same time. Sharp percussion hammers at the psyche while the music it holds up offers relief. The production is sleek, bright, and beautiful, an aspect that shines through the darker qualities of the record in a niche where production typically aims for something with a bit more dirt. For that, it stands out amongst its peers. I’ve been listening to the record on repeat since it dropped. I’m still impressed. The song Intruder is my personal favorite. It’s aggressive and angry, and the music reflects that without deviating from the production that shines through the shadows of the subject matter. It represents the tone of the record as a whole, as the dark beat carries soaring electronics to heights I didn’t know I could find in what I think of when I consider ‘industrial’ music, but the tracks don’t lie. It’s a heavy hitting industrial record with just enough pop elements to maintain a lure and a hook in every song. There’s nothing to skip on Intruder. Gary Numan is where it’s at. 

Recent Developments: Sellout Productions

I’d like to take this opportunity to indulge what I’ve been up to. While I’d prefer to reserve this blog to a few specific topics, like reviewing music and books, I’ll drop in to give an occasional update from my side of the screen.

Sellout Productions has long been a name of a fantasy of mine. I came up with it in high school, and all these years later it feels right for these endeavors. At this time, Sellout Productions is more or less a front for my work. My self-published novels and a singular set of enamel pins embody the beginning. While my books will continue to be my primary focus, the itch to make music has returned to me, and I intend to utilize my previous experience in audio production to work on new material with a tangible goal in mind. I hope to finish writing and producing an album in 2021. I fully intend to release it on my Bandcamp page, with wider distribution to follow shortly thereafter. From there, I hope to establish some consistency and produce/release new material on a regular basis. For the sake of soulless branding, the name of the project will be the same I had used for the music I made in college: Sellout. I’m looking to make instrumental electronic music, but that’s pretty broad. I’ll just have to shout it from the rooftops again once there’s something for you to hear.

Branching out in another direction, I’ve opened an Etsy shop. That’s where the enamel pins are available, with other products in the works. These items may take some extra time to produce, as I don’t want to simply flood the market with whatever product that could bear a logo. I may’ve gotten ahead of myself in opening the shop before I had more than one item available, but as any stable business owner will tell you, “I’m winging it.” It’s fine…I’m learning lessons on the fly. I got excited, and the first set of pins has been well received thus far. There’ll be more options soon, just not a plethora for the sake of quantity.

For those of you still around, I appreciate you reading this far. This is my attempt to dehumanize myself down to a brand, all while remaining vulnerable and authentic.

WE ARE NUMBERED_ Debuts with Solid Mix of Dance and Experimental Electronic in “Valley of Tunnels”

WE ARE NUMBERED_ is the electronic dance project of musician/author: Logan Ryan Smith. The first record is called Valley of Tunnels and was released by Club Garage Records last month. The album consists of ten instrumental songs that presented me with the fresh air of something new, juxtaposed with the familiarity that suggests I’ve been here before…a soundtrack to an 80’s science fiction flick that never was.

            The opening track, Running Thru Miami With Swords introduces the project with a pulsating rhythm that has characteristics of an instrumental Blue Monday. With this up-tempo dance anthem to kick things off, synth stabs get to the heart of the matter with rotating hooks that had me on board to give this record a chance. 

            Cloud Break is the second song, and there’s reverb on the opening drums, a departure from the opening song. The notion of dance music takes a backseat to something a little more experimental here, as the drums abandon the four-on-the-floor approach for something a little more thought out. Synth blasts, coupled with the drum patterns took me out of the club and into a sci-fi storyline. 

            We return to beats, melodies, and structure of fun electronic dance in the title track, Valley of Tunnels. Science fiction vibes move through this song as well, but bring the catchy hooks that have this one playing in my head long after it’s over. 

            Andromeda Dropout is the first track where I noticed what I interpreted to be electronic guitars. To this point on the record I’ve only made out programming and synthesizers, but this song is layered with roomy, ambient guitars that again, shows Smith isn’t one to reveal all of his tricks and talent in one place. 

            Dynamics are often compressed out of contemporary productions, especially music that’s meant to make you get up and dance. I can appreciate it when dynamics are used to enhance the flow or altogether change pace. It’s a rarity that catches me off guard these days. When the engine-like sound cuts through Requiem For a Synthetic, I was made to feel uncomfortable, which seems to be the intent. This kind of hard dynamic stab surfaces again in Mannequin Sunshine, when the synthesizer lead blankets the rhythmic flow of my favorite song on the record. 

            We conclude with See You When It’s Over, where we are again shown that not all of Smith’s cards get played at once. The beat deviates from the standard four-on-the-floor beat for something a bit more experimental. I live for the kind of programmed drums that deviate from expectations, and it’s delivered here. A pulsating rhythm sets the foundation for an electronic wall of sound experience, and I will run headfirst into this wall again and again…because it’s that damn good. 

            Valley of Tunnels is a fantastic first effort by WE ARE NUMBERED_ and while it’s been on my rotation, I’m already thirsty for more. Check it out, give it a spin on whatever streaming service you use. There’s far too much good music that gets lost under the radar, but I’ve taken notice of this, and you should too. There is potential for furthering the catalog and if this project continues, I will be there to hear it out. 

Skold delivers with ‘Dies Irae’

After 2019’s industrial release ‘Never is Now’ the 2020 release of the “Not My God” record with Nero Bellum, it comes as no surprise that the new Skold solo record would incorporate a healthy dose of metal guitar riffs and intricate leads. ‘Dies Irae’ is broken up in a back-and-forth pattern of guitar centric rock/metal tracks juxtaposed with the trademark heavy electronic/industrial sound I’ve come to expect from more current projects from Tim Skold. This parallel mixing of musical styles keeps the record moving in such a way as to never feel stagnant. The constant change up results in a refreshing album. While it may be the honeymoon period talking, I’m confident in feeling that ‘Dies Irae’ is my favorite Skold record yet.

The album opens with hard hitting ‘Dirty Horizon.’ This track has crisp sounding guitars that sound both contemporary, yet familiar in a nostalgic way. A scathing chorus hooked me, and I knew I was in for something fun. The guitar solo is a solid tell of things to come, and sets the tone for more metal aggression. That expectation is subverted when the second song starts up. ‘Unspoken’ breaks the ice with some of the more electronic elements I had expected. There’s a guitar solo in this one that shows off the best of Skold’s vast talent, which shouldn’t surprise me at this point, but it’s so good.

My favorite track is ‘Love is a Disease.’ There’s drum programming in the chorus that has this haphazard hi-hat pattern that is percussive icing that coats a bigger wall sound. The lyrical part of the chorus hits in a way that has lost zero impact after multiple listens. It feels like a confession, and I’m here for that kind of honesty. Another authentic confession is offered up in the atmospheric song ‘Terrified’ where Skold sings, “I’m not afraid of dying…I’m fucking terrified.”

Another track with intricate electronic drum programming is ‘Silicon Dreams.’ It’s made clear that Skold isn’t comfortable falling back on old habits when producing new material. The rhythmic work on this track reflects the coexisting grit and shine of trap music with hopeless undertones, and sparse guitar work that makes use of dynamic range.

The album ends with ‘Goodbye.’ This leans more toward elements of a metal track, and was released early as the album’s teaser. It rings as a highlight for me, as this final track was the first one I heard. It gave a good impression regarding the direction of the album, without revealing all of the tricks Skold deals out over the course of this record. This effort feels like one cohesive work, while showcasing an impressive variety and range Tim Skold brings to the table.

Nonfiction Undercover Drug Bust

This was a fun read in addition to being informative. I was in need of some nonfiction research materials regarding undercover police work and illicit narcotic distribution, and Stephen Bentley delivers the goods in his book. It offers personal accounts of the happenings in his life on both sides of the veil, knee deep in underground drug culture, and the burden he carries home when he gets to go home at all. It’s a firsthand account from a former detective who’s been there and done that. It’s a smooth and fast read that I delighted in for it’s factual depiction, and the various touches of personal charm.

Once I had started turning pages, I knew I couldn’t skim through it. Bentley weaves his story with the qualities and personal defects of a person all too relatable, and for such quality, I felt compelled to go cover to cover where I had initially sought a handful of facts and observations. I feel it provided me what I was looking for and more. The people he examines are real, and they’re fleshed out as real people. I especially appreciated the scene where Bentley is revealed to a drug dealer in a jail cell, as it was a moment that struck me as significant as people relate to one another in the midst of deception.

With his background in mind, I’m looking forward to exploring Bentley’s crime fiction.