Category Archives: More Cowbell

Music technology, tweak and sound-related postings.

Kraftwerk 3D Live


Soon after their very early Can-like Krautrock years, Kraftwerk began to develop and refine a hardcore man-machine aesthetic, imagining themselves as cyborg musicians, as much enslaved by technology as liberated by it. The amazing thing is that the band-machine has been able to sustain itself on that track. Almost any other group would have gone on to other things after the vein ran cold, but Kraftwerk continue to tap the mineshaft of digitalized culture as deep as it wants to go.

As a boy in the late 70s, I used to sit on the shag-carpet floor of my basement bedroom and gaze into the cover of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, a pair of giant Koss headphones connected to a glowing analog amp by a long green spiral cord, mesmerized by the pulsing, organic, yet also completely artificial sound of this strange German synth group. I imagined myself driving the beige VW bug, watching the black Mercedes zoom past in the opposite direction, as oscillators, generators and patch bays synthesized the sights and sounds of life in a place  called “Germany,” where everyone could drive as fast as they damn well pleased and the album covers went on forever.

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Center of Attention

Music gets all the attention. Record covers a little bit less. Totally neglected are the poor center labels, which are often great little mini-works-of-art. Simon Foster’s Center of Attention publishes photos of excellent LP and 45 RPM center labels. Lest we forget.

Whilst record cover sleeve art has always received plenty of attention (and rightly so) I believe that center labels have been somewhat neglected … To keep the focus solely on the artwork I have purposely not included any information on the music, artists or date of publication as most of that should be self explanatory from the images.

The Compleat Guide to Digitizing Your LP Collection

For anyone over 40 (or maybe 30), having a music collection probably means that, in addition to racks of CDs and ridiculous piles of MP3s, you’re also sitting on bookshelves (or “borrowed” milk crates) full of vinyl LPs. Hundreds of pounds of space-consuming, damage-prone vinyl. LPs were music you could touch, with glorious full-color 12″ album art, meandering liner notes, and the practical involvement of lowering needle to plastic. Long-playing records represent an era when music was less disposable – we actually sat down to listen, rather than treating music as a backdrop to the rest of life. Dragging a rock through vinyl was not some kind of nostalgic love affair with the past – it was just the way things were. The cost of admission was pops and scratches, warped discs, having to get up in the middle of an album to flip the disc, cleaning the grooves from time to time, and getting hernias every time you moved to a new apartment.

Digitizing LPs has almost nothing in common with ripping CDs. It’s a slow process, and a lot of work. But it can be incredibly rewarding, and going through the process puts you back in touch with music the way it used to be played (i.e. it’s a great nostalgia trip). Over at, I’ve written up a guide which I hope will thorougly cover the process of prepping your gear, cleaning your records, and capturing as much of the essence of those old LPs as possible, so you can enjoy them in the context of your digital life.

Read: The Compleat Guide to Digitizing Your LP Collection

The Future of Music Journalism

The UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism recently hosted a panel discussion titled
The Future of Music Journalism: Computer or Curator?, with the following lure:

Critics and tastemakers have been talking about, reviewing, and exposing music to the masses for generations. With the advent of sophisticated algorithms, computer programs such as Pandora and Apple Genius are now suggesting new or unusual music for listeners.

Speakers included:

Tim Westergren, Founder, Pandora
Doug Brod, Editor-in-Chief, Spin
Joel Selvin, Senior Pop Music Critic, San Francisco Chronicle
Niema Jordan, Executive Editor, 38th Notes

The panelists debated “algorithms and blues,” wondering aloud whether technology has freed listeners from music journalists — or made them more valuable than ever. The discussion had a bit of trouble focusing on the topic at hand – many seemed more interested in the completely worn-out question of the impact of blogging on journalism. Fair enough – there are a hell of a lot of excellent music blogs out there, and there’s no question they soak up a lot of eyeballs/traffic that formerly went to Rolling Stone and Spin. But at the same time, very few of the music blogs have the expertise, or go into the depth that RS and Spin do. Still, it’s a pretty tired question by now.
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Know When to Fold ‘Em

You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em… but how exactly DO you know?  Because if you’re gonna play the game boy, ya gotta learn to play it right. Most of us can recall the lyrics like aces, but if you could become Kenny Rogers for a day, would you really know what to hold and what to fold? For a taste of your whiskey I’ll give you some advice.  Click for larger…

And remember: The secret to survivin’ is knowin what to throw away and knowing what to keep.