Sunday, July 27, 2008

I've been on the market for a stereo since I've moved. I've finally got the space to get a big deafening stereo. I had been thinking I wanted to put together a silver era 70s stereo of stuff like marantz/mcintosh/pioneer/sansui equipment, and then this stereo fell into my lap. Feast your eyes on the totally awesome KLH Model 20+.

(this is not my picture- mine is dirtier and has one cabinet sanded down right now) Apparently in the 1960's, KLH was a boutique brand. They have since, of course, been reduced to the ultimate humiliation of being sold by radio shack.
Anyways, it was not working when I picked it up. So I paid $20 for it. It will need a cartridge, new grills at some point, and the solid walnut cabinets will be refinished once I have the money to buy the tools I need.
The only real problem was with the speaker connections flaking out, but that's an easy fix. Worst case scenario is that I have 3 of the coolest end tables you've ever seen.
Until then, the radio sounds so good on this that I actually sat down and listened to it this morning. The radio!
I also grabbed a Tourney 10 speed at the same house that just happened to also be on craigslist, for $15. Just an older Sears bike, but with a rack and a little better knowledge of the city I live in, it'll be my new best friend. It's obviously not been used a lot, as the owner had a kryptonite lock on it and lost the key. So now I have the job of trying to dremel or saw or whatever through a cable.

I knew I was in the right place when the lady selling the stereo says to me "you don't do transfer of LPs to CD or mp3 do you?" and I kind of sheepishly said yeah I guess. So she comes downstairs with a copy of "Soul Flutes: Trust in Me"
I had to do that record for free, it was her favorite record and I knew I'd enjoy it. Turns out its a real greasy piece of soft psych light jazz with herbie mann (or hubert laws,CTI doesn't know?!) and I've got tons of stuff to recommend.
I can tell that the area is going to be a great one to watch craigslist for. It's got a long history of wealthy old people with expensive taste, so these garages are just teeming with this kind of thing!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Talentmaker Restoration

Yesterday and today I opened up the Talentmaker and got the old can of component cleaner out to go to work in it. It was filthy. Full of sowbugs and roaches and little plastic tags from clothing. The entire inside was coated with a cigarette smoke yellow dust that wouldn't wipe off without component cleaner. I replaced the drive belt with a standard postal rubber band, and I fixed an arm tension problem with a strip of electrical tape. So I'm happy to say now that the instrument will start, turn off, and lift to let me change disks like brand new. Until I swapped the belt, it was kind of a routine that I would have to put the belt back on. So now it's been completely cleaned and it's holding a tune rock solid- according to my junky guitar tuner and my even less reliable ears. So the total cost of fix was under a dollar so far.
Somehow, after putting it back together I now have a ground issue. If I can't isolate it, I'll just have to ground the jack to the stainless steel plate with the chord buttons.
I'd post a picture, but my stupid camera likes to have dead batteries more often than not.

The sample above is, of course, the "Cocktail piano" disk. As you can hear, the Talentmaker holds a steady beat, and has a lot higher fidelity than the Optigan. The highs get a lot better as you slide the mixer toward the chords section. It actually surprised me how well this sounds on a lot of the disks.
Here's the list of disks I have:
  • Hawaii 4/4
  • Hawaii 3/4
  • German Band
  • Polka
  • Guitar Waltz
  • Bounce-A-Long
  • Cocktail Piano
  • Marching Band
  • Dixieland
  • Rhumba Rhythm
  • Skating Rink Waltz
  • Organ
I also have the following literature from this sale:
  • Talentmaker Contempo Hits
  • Talentmaker Sacred Songs
  • John M Williams Older Beginner's Piano Book (1946)
  • The Chord Organ Library: Country Gold
  • Chilton Talentmaker Optical Organ Manual
  • Optigan Oldies and Evergreens
Oh, and one more thing. The Dixieland Disc is hilarious:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

YES! Chilton Talentmaker!

So, even though I am pretty po-broke right now, I still keep an eye on craigslist for interesting junk that might float through town. Wouldn't you know it, there was a Chilton Talentmaker on the Kitsap musical instruments list. The Talentmaker is a patent infringer on the Optigan and Orchestron, but is said to be more reliable than the Optigan. Thats not saying much- mine is functioning because of electrical tape in two places, and it needs a new rubber drive belt.
Now, it's really difficult to judge how rare something like this is. So far as I can tell, it extremely rare- enough that it's difficult to discern its value. But I'm pretty sure that it's worth more than the $40 I paid for it. It was owned by a schizo hoarder who died and left no family to claim anything of hers. The people who sold it to me
had just kind of moved in to her mess and were digging through it all.
So I've been a giddy, bouncy ball of energy all day. It came with TONS of discs and song books- not tested it yet, but I think it even has an OUTPUT!'
The instrument is a huge inspiration-especially with the discs in upside down so that the accompaniment plays backward.
So I don't know if I exactly got one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals moneywise- but it is far and away the rarest thing I will probably ever own...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Earfl Example

Here's an example of what I was talking about in the earlier post:

Spiders Make Me Pee

I like the story because I get the impression that whomever told it was under the impression that it would never make it onto the internet, or gain a public audience.

Growing Archive of Anonymous, Strange Stories has recently launched a website that aims to archive the "juicy secrets" - received by phone, of as many people as they can. I've not yet decided whether I think this is creepy or fascinating, or whether I even like it. But it does have that crucial car accident quality of "you can't look away" to it.
Stories are archived under categories, and participants are typically responding to a prompt something like "tell us something you'd like to forget" or "what is a secret you have been keeping for someone else." I haven't heard anything really graphic yet- but I'm going to go ahead and assume it's out there. The prompts tend to dig pretty deep into "I would never tell anyone this in person" kind of territory.
Since the stories are completely anonymous, you never know who is pulling your leg, but I think most of the stories I heard were believable. If you get a bored moment, you might want to check it out some time.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Great Way to Learn Mixing

Now, I'm sure that this is not "kosher." But I stumbled upon one of the best learning experiences and interesting exercises I've ever had. While browsing about a torrent search, I noticed that you can actually find multitrack WAV bundles of some songs. Right now I'm playing with "Heard it Through the Grapevine"- it's actually just 8 mono tracks! I'm also gonna be playing with Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" when it's done.
Grapevine is really interesting because that great drum sound that I've always liked so much is so much different than I thought it was! Upon listening to it in isolation, it's really distorted. It's really interesting how much the recording carries the illusion of "stereo image" without actually being in stereo. I truly have no idea how you do that. I think that the sound I really like from these recordings is coming from lots and lots of instruments playing the same parts- and it really carries the effect I desire with or without panning. The whole mix is overdriven, but there doesn't really sound like there's a lot of EQ or compression- really any effects at all. This leads me to believe that these sessions really are as simple as they're fabled: nice hardware and no fuss. It sounds like these setups weren't tweaked to be exactly right, nothing was made perfect, tons and tons of noise and people talking in the background, etc.
It's an interesting experience and you should play with them if you are interested in recording or music.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rebirth of the 1970's

So, it's a recession, gas crisis, a couple of really lousy presidents, American car makers struggling to downsize their fleet fast enough to meet demand for high efficiency vehicles, etc. There are a lot of things going on that make me think my era is going to resemble the 1970's. Not the least of which is an economic recession and a strong public outcry to end a foreign war that's been going on too long. It makes sense that the hobbies and interests of depressed eras will have a lot in common, and that economic recession will have americans looking back to see what others have done for fun or money when there wasn't a lot of either around. It seems like people's style starts to get a little more ornate and rich- less of the clean square lines of the 1950s, 80s, and 90s and more of the embellished edges. People start to see things like music and art in a different light- it's hard to take music seriously when you have so many people with real, serious, problems. So I expect to see a lot more dancing, and a lot more sounds of disco and folk. Probably even some "ironic" take on using an actual string section for disco strings in music.
I'm not the only one who has had this thought on my mind for awhile now, apparently. I'm seeing a total resurgence in late 1970s obsession with the 1930s. I'm also seeing things like rollerderby, silver-era stereo refurbishing, movies about the 1930's, rollerskates(not blades), and knee socks popping back up(or is that Bremerton?). I am even seeing 1970s furniture(probably the worst thing about the 1970s) start to get bought up and repainted. I assume everybody else sees the bigger picture when they start a rollerderby league- but they may not. So what I'm wondering is: what are the musical signs of this stylistic change?
I know it's still 3-5 years off, but the rumblings are here now. And if you want to make a buck from it, jump on board.

Cafe Campagne is on the Ball!

So, I just happened to be comparing stats with my wife's blog yesterday, and I noticed a referrer from an email inbox at Cafe Campange. Apparently they have some kind of service that's emailing them every time some sort of review goes live on the web for their restaurant. I'm going to choose to believe that, and not that they are trying to send cease and desist notices to anyone hosting bad reviews...
But I'm pretty impressed that somebody followed that link to my blog in under 24 hours from it's being posted. So now their probably going to follow another link just to read this. I should add them as a tag to every post from now on so that they have to read my blog.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Finally, A Trip to Seattle!

So, my wife and I finally mustered the courage to try and figure out that darned ferry system. We were so happy that we could walk from home to the ferry, then from the terminal on the other side we could walk to all kinds of things in Seattle. Round trip for both of us, the tickets cost $13.40. It's pretty fun to be able to navigate a city without a car. So much less stress- I would HATE to have to find parking down there, and it would have been considerably more expensive to drive there than take the ferry. We ate lunch at Cafe Campagne . It was about $25 for both of us to eat, and the food was the best I've had since we got here. I got a lamb-burger with aioli, roasted red peppers, greens, balsamic onions, and french fries fried in duck fat. She got a tuna baguette with an olive tapenade and greens, with a couple fennel-y gherkins on the side. Service was great! We were really braced to meet the kind of jerks you meet in touristy urban areas. Instead, everybody we met was just as nice as they had been in Portland. Got coffee at a little place called the "Chocolate Box." It was adorable inside, but their roast was a little too blonde, and the baristo let half my espresso run down the drain. That's after they forgot my order and served 3-4 people before me. But I was impressed at some characteristics of the house blend- it can be tough to get a lighter roast without making it too tart.
It was a great day. We didn't have the money- but we needed something to remind us why we went through all this trouble. Seattle feels so full of possibility and variety. I felt like I had poked through every nook and cranny of Nashville. I had gotten to the point of getting the Nashville phone book to look for random things to do- and not finding much in the way of anything that interested me any more. Seattle has so much left to see, and so much of it is within a pretty quick walk and a relaxing ferry ride of my front door.
So we're a lot happier about our decision than we were yesterday.