Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spanish Art Rock Experience II: 29-Jun-2013

The Spanish Art Rock Experience was an event held in Sala Charada, right in the heart of Madrid.  The venue is a night club where a raised part of the room is reutilised as a stage.  This meant there wasn't a lot of room for the musicians to move about much and lighting was limited.  The most impressive lighting being above the audiences head where a multi-coloured LED matrix (about 3M x 6M) which displayed an animated series of geometric shapes (except when it crashed, when it displayed the Asus logo and an error message).  The night promised 3 bands, which is exactly what was delivered.


Cloudmap was the first of the bands that were completely new to me and are from Madrid. The group comprise:

Chema Segoviano:  Guitar
Alberto Segoviano:  Keyboards
Javier Espejo:  Vocals
Manuel Coromina:  Bass & Acoustic Guitar
Ángel Muñoz:  Bass & Mandolin
Hector Calderón:  Drums

Their set began with the playback of HAL's death/shutdown sequence from '2001: A Space Odyssey' and the band came in where HAL began singing 'Daisy, Daisy' in the original.

Initially Manuel Coromina was on acoustic guitar and Angel Muñoz on bass. After two songs Manuel Coromina took over the bass and Angel Muñoz picked up an odd instrument that I first thought was an electric lute (yeah, let's hear it for more rock lute), but later thought it was more likely a very short scale 12 string electric guitar – He was moving around so much it was difficult to get a good look at it. It was only later when I consulted the Subterranea web-site that I saw he was credited with 'mandolin' (which usually has 8 strings), so perhaps this is a prog mandolin, in similar vein to the ubiquitous 7 string guitar so beloved of prog metal bands.

Throughout the performance there were sound montages between songs, including additional sections from '2001: A Space Odyssey'. Overall Cloudmap were enjoyable. In terms of influences (or trite comparisons on my part) I couldn't help thinking they'd listened to a good dose of Porcupine Tree / StevenWilson with some Rush and Black Sabbath thrown in.


This group were also unknown to me prior to this concert. They are based in La Coruña, in the North of Spain and comprise:

Xoan Limia: Guitar
Javi Paz: Keyboards
Cristóbal Castro: Drums
Santy Souto: Vocals
Víctor Gacio: Bass

There were two things that stood out about this group. The first being that the entire set seemed to consist of guitar solos. The keyboard player was allowed a couple of short organ solos and the vocalist was allowed to warble a few words between fretboard virtuosic widdlyness but it was very clear that the star of the show was Xoan Limia on guitar. Or at least he would have been if it wasn't for one other member of the group – the drummer.

They announced towards the end of the set that the drummer had had to learn the set in two weeks, so I cannot be certain if he was actually Cristóbal Castro as listed above (and taken from the Subterranea web-site). What was beyond doubt was that this guy could groove. He played with great feel and imagination and contrasted against the guys of Cloudmap to show just what a difference a good drummer can make.

The groups/musicians I was most reminded of by this set was Mostly Autumn (sans female vocalist) and Jimmy Page, but then this group was all about the guitarist.

The vocalist took a couple of songs to get warmed up but then put in a sterling performance with some excellent rock vocals and also played rhythm guitar on some numbers.


Harvest were the main attraction of the evening. I first heard of Harvest after many reviews of the Celebr8.2 festival (held in Kingston, London) raved about this group. After some youtube research and inspecting their web-site (www.harvestband.com) I downloaded the two CDs from Bandcamp.

Harvest comprise:

Monique Van der Kolk: Vocals
Jordi Prats: Guitar
Jordi Amela: Keyboards
Alex Ojea:  Drums
Toni Munné:   Bass

It was glaringly obvious from the outset that this band are in a different league to the previous groups. The sound is much more sophisticated with beautiful arrangements and thoughtful use of the keyboard sounds. Where the previous two groups had a wall of sound that made distinguishing the individual instruments difficult, if not impossible, with Harvest each instrument had its place and fitted perfectly into the whole. The result was a sparse yet powerful sound that was a pleasure to listen to.

The outstanding element had to be Monique's vocals. In turns delicate and powerful, but always perfectly pitched, her performance was pure ear candy (OK and maybe some eye candy as well).

Once again the drums were a decisive factor in the overall performance, sadly not in the positive way that was the case with Sonutopia. I felt that the drums were consistently played behind the beat and the other musicians were having to hold back to remain in time. The drummer wore headphones throughout and I can only guess that he was playing along to a click-track and something was wrong with the track as other live performances on youtube do not exhibit this tendency.


An enjoyable evening where each group provided something of interest.  I hope the Spanish Art Rock Experience continues to promote progressive rock in Spain and introduces me to new bands and new sounds.  Maybe they will for you too?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Aristocrats - Madrid, 17-Mar-2012

A phenomenal show last night seeing The Aristocrats (my first gig of 2012) play at Randalls in Madrid.  I had a stupid grin on my face the whole time.

I was stood directly in front of Bryan Beller and his Gallien Kruger rig - Trouser flapping bass, but with a great view of both Guthrie and Marco (front row).

I thought it was a disappointing turnout, considering the calibre of these guys - around 200 people at a guess.  The lack of numbers was made up for by the enthusiasm of everyone in the crowd.

Guthrie Govan was just incredible.  There are a couple of quotes on the Adrian Legg album 'Technopicker' that I think apply equally to Mr Govan, the first from Alexis Korner; "Here's a man who completely understands his instrument, plays with fiery passion and controls his rampant fingers with dexterity and delicacy"  The other quote; "...has the virtuosity of a brain surgeon, the taste of a tuna fish sandwich and the speed of a man with more fingers than the rest of us".  Personally I love the way that although he plays incredibly fast, I don't get the impression that it's mindless widdling using standard patterns, rather that every note seems to have its place, changing modes freely to give sections a different spin.

This was the first opportunity I've had to see Marco Minneman live and I wasn't disappointed.  What can I say.  I'm not a drummer, but even a numpty like me can tell that he is in the upper echelons of the skin bashing fraternity.  Two particular highlights for me of his playing were in 'Sweaty Knockers' where he plays over and across a rhythm set up by Bryan and Guthrie.  A perfect example of polyrhythmic drumming.  The second was his drum solo where he not only played his drums (including 'La Cucaracha' on the toms) but also the hi-hat stand and microphone.  Amazing.  I also had the opportunity to briefly say hello to him after the gig and thank him for a great night.

Bryan Beller played some beautiful bass and used the wah pedal to achieve some unusual lead sounds while not destroying the underlying bass tone (split signal maybe?).  Although he doesn't stand out as an overtly technical virtuoso (certainly in comparison to Guthrie and Marco), his playing was nevertheless tasteful, solid, supremely skilfull and a perfect support for his two band-mates.  Bryan was also the principal 'introducer', including a little bit in Spanish.  He told the audience how they had gone to a flamenco bar the previous night and said "now that was rhythmic complexity".  He and Marco then decided that, being Spain, the audience would have no trouble in helping them out by clapping the 5/4 intro for the next song, which they did without a problem.

The trio seemed to have great fun on stage,  each one listening attentively, appreciating and reacting to the other two.  The joy they obviously got from playing this music was transmitted directly to the audience, who lapped it up and sent it straight back to the band.

Overall the highlights of this great show (for me) were 'Sweaty Knockers', 'Flatlands', 'Blues F**kers', 'Boing!.. I'm in the Back' and 'Bad Asteroid'.  Ostensibly because they were familiar to me (from the album available hereAmazon or  iTunes - buy it NOW!).  It is difficult to single out particular songs other than through familiarity as there wasn't a lull in the whole evening and every track moved, entertained and inspired.

Sadly I forgot my camera so I couldn't resurrect my gig photography, last practiced in the early 80s.

Did I mention that I enjoyed this gig?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

High Pass Sharpening in GIMP

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a powerful image editor that is open source & cross platform, working on Linux, Mac OS and Windows operating systems.

High pass sharpening is a method of sharpening an image without incurring too many undesirable artifacts such as noise.  It also operates by creating a layer which can be adjusted to increase/decrease the effect or turned off to remove the effect completely without affecting the underlying image.  A layer mask can also be added to limit the sharpening effect to desired areas.

This method is very well explained in episode 164 of Meet the GIMP.  If you find this process interesting, then I recommend you watch this video.  The Meet the GIMP videos and web-site are an excellent resource for using this application.

For this walk-through of the process I shall use an image of the Palacio Real in Madrid.

 In GIMP I create a duplicate layer where I adjust the colour curves to enhance contrast

The initial image that we will begin sharpening looks like this:

And so we begin with the High Pass Sharpening.

1    Duplicate the layer twice

2    Invert the colours of the top layer

    Color > Invert

3    Set layer mode to Grain Merge

4    Apply a gaussian blur, typical blur value of 20.0 seems to work quite well, but experiment to find a value that works best for your image.

    Filter  > Blur  > Gaussian Blur

The image outline will then appear "etched" in the grey background.

5    Merge the top layer down

    Layer  >  Merge down

 6    Set the layer mode to Overlay

7    The effect can be adjusted with the opacity of the sharpening layer

This is the final image with 100% sharpening applied

Friday, December 16, 2011

4 Note Improvisation

Ambient 4 Note Improv by Neville1308
This is a track based upon four notes. Almost all parts are limited to using these four, except the main melody. It is a multi-tracked improvisation, with only one track needing a second take.

The instruments used are:
  • Korg Triton Studio
  • Rob Papen Albino II
  • Linplug CronoX
  • Arturia Prophet V
  • Arturia Modular Moog
  • Arturia CS80V
  • GForce ImpOscar.
I intend to keep working on this (especially the middle section) and post the progress as I go.

This is something of a departure for me (at least from my perspective) as this is much more electronic ambient.  Probably a result of me starting to listen to artists like Ian Boddy and the music of my piano teacher, Carmen Lazaro.  Not that I would compare myself to either of these artists, but more that they have shown me a new way to think about music and sound.

This is the first time in many years that I have used purely synthetic sounds, having previously tended towards real world sounds, albeit played via a synthesiser or sampler.  With the acquisition of some new VST plugins, the quality of the analog sounds now justifies their use.

It is a long piece, around ten minutes long with a slow start, a middle section which is slow (and still needs some working on) and an ending that is, you guessed it, slow.  This is not a piece to dance to but more of a soundscape to relax and let it wash over you.

I hope you enjoy it, or at least find it interesting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why I downgraded from LibreOffice 3.4 to 3.3.2

I've been a happy user of LibreOffice since the first beta was released in 2010. I was keen to try out the new 3.4 version with a view to seeing further enhancements and efficiencies.

The first thing I noted was that it seemed to take longer to load some of my larger spreadsheets, and even some of my smaller spreadsheets.OK, the LibreOffice download page does stress that 3.4 is not ready for production use and the stable version should be released around the end of the month as 3.4.1 (if I understand the release schedule correctly). The additional load time didn't worry me too much, I usually load spreadsheets up at the beginning of the day and continue to use them throughout the day, so a few extra seconds was not too annoying.

Today I encountered the deal-breaker.

I have a few spreadsheets that I regularly use to track finances. With these I have a 'Net Value' column; a 'VAT %' column; a 'VAT €' column and a 'Gross Value' column. As I do not want a lot of zeros cluttering up the spreadsheet and not all of the entries will have VAT, then I do a check to ensure that the VAT value is calculated only if a % has been specified. Likewise, the Gross value is only calculated if there is a value in the Net Value. It looks something like this as a logic expression.

Net Value



Gross Value



IF VAT% = blank

THEN blank


IF NET€ = blank

THEN blank


This has worked fine in OpenOffice version 2.x right up to LibreOffice version 3.3.2. Now, with version 3.4, LibreOffice returns a “#VALUE” error for the Gross value when there is no VAT. What appears to be happening is that the creation of the blank in the VAT € column (“”) is interpreted in version 3.4 as a text value, and so canot perform the addition.

I cannot see that this would be a particularly unusual configuration, and yet it has slipped through the updates unseen by the developers. I don't want to have to re-write all my spreadsheets to get around this bug, so I have uninstalled 3.4 and reverted to 3.3.2.

Let's hope that this does not become a permanent 'feature' of LibreOffice!

Monday, October 19, 2009

As a first 'proper' post, I'm going to share with you the video for the UKZ song 'Radiation'. It's been out a while now, but there is no harm in adding a link and hoping that it receives a few additional hits. You can see it on youtube here.

Or, if I embed it correctly, here:

If you enjoy it, go over to the band web-site and visit the Eddie Jobson forums, a great discussion place for all things Eddie.

The song is part of an EP of four songs;

  • Radiation
  • Houston
  • Tu-95
  • Legend
The EP is available from the Globe Music and Media Arts site, iTunes and eMusic.

Hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


The idea of this blog is for me to bore the world with my opinions on stuff that interests me. That is usually technology, music (composing, recording and listening), photography and whatever else tickles my fancy any particular day.

So without further ado I hereby declare this blog open. May Google bless her and all who wish to sail in her.