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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Winter Wonderland And St Fagans

Just about feeling nice and relaxed and on holiday now. The horrid stuff's out of the way, the dreary gray embrace of January beckons and 2006 should be an interesting year to say the least. More on that when it happens.

In the meantime, had a chance to sort some of the images out that have been sitting in my 'to sort' folder. The first few are from Christmas Eve, when we took Elis to the Winter Wonderland by Cardiff's City Hall. Needless to say, he loved it. For once I actually did some tinkering with those photos - levels and saturation wise.

The next lot are from a couple of trips to St Fagans, one at the end of November and the other from yesterday. Frost, long shadows and the usual suspects capture the attention. As ever, hover for more detail.

The little wheel at the Winter Wonderland in Cardiff

Elis whizzes past on the little wheel at the Winter Wonderland in Cardiff

The big wheel at the Winter Wonderland in Cardiff

The Carousel and Helter Skelter at Cardiff's Winter Wonderland

Slate building from North Wales at St Fagans, The Museum of Welsh Life, Cardiff

Icy and wet wooden stakes

The entrance to the Celtic village at St Fagans - The skulls were picked up off the streets of Ely...

Frosted furrows looking across to the old chapel

Frosted furrows and long shadows

Dim sunlit and shadows on the whitewashed wall outside the Red House...

Trees and shadows, and doth I spy a Pinhead?

Stripy shadows on the side of the old Watermill at St Fagans

One of the pigs enjoys the weak sun and scratchy fence

Posted by Dio Bach at 23:40 | 3 comments | links to this post
Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Dio's Top Ten Musical Albums Of 2005

I love this, its my third outing and with the now annual round up of music that's been turning me on and inspiring me over the preceding 12 months. I've actually spent a lot of the year thinking about this and keeping a list of the stuff I want to mention in eager anticipation of writing it (you sad man.)

If nobody ever reads it I care not - As usual its a completely personal thing, doesn't include many albums released during the year and may have some similar themes to previous years (2003, 2004.) I really wish I'd started doing this earlier, as it fascinates me to see what was getting into my head in previous years. I've always been the type who can tell periods of time by what I was listening to at that time and this is a great aid to the old memory. So - here we go. In no order - ten favourites from 2005.

Cranes - Wings Of JoyCranes - Wings Of Joy [1991]

Dating back to the heady days of me latter youth, this was one of those albums I'd had for many years and almost completely ignored. On getting a CD version of it earlier this year, it's become an almost frighteningly regular listen. It even pipped the Crane's superlative new album, Particles And Waves to this coveted list.

I don't know why it had never caught before now - maybe I felt let down following the excellent debut mini-LP (Self-Non-Self), maybe a lot more needed to happen in my life to make it sound so damn good, I don't know. But after giving it another chance its fair to say its a beguiling record. Dark, clanging industrial guitars and Gothic pipe organs clash blissfully with the singer's child like angelic singing. Simple songs, at times perplexingly minimalist, given the intensive sound-scapes. They exist in that vacuum when you remember the songs and love them, but couldn't for the life of you call them to mind to sing, despite frequent listens. Which is probably explains why I've had to listen to it so many times this year.

Broken Social Scene - Broken Social SceneBroken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene [2005]

If I had to choose one city in the world to move to for its music - Montreal would be in joint first with New York. Another great Canadian band featuring members of a number of other classy Montreal bands (full info here - too many to mention) - this album has been one of the shining lights of the darkest final quarter of 2005. Its hard to describe this LP as it could almost pass as a label sampler. It's equal turns joyful, melancholic, exhilarating, dense and frenetic. The sound is thickly layered and it brings to mind bands such as Pavement, Mercury Rev, Sonic Youth and many more.

Every song is a winner - shining and catchy. At times it's funky, at others it's cinematic and epic - it beats you into submission and stamps its authority over your head with gleeful abandon - it turns 62 minutes into seconds and never outstays its welcome. It's hard to pick out favourite tracks as there are too many to choose. At a push, Superconnected burns and brings joy to the heart whilst Ibi Dreams Of Pavement is so catchy it hurts. Simply a brilliant record.

The Ponys - Celebration CastleThe Ponys - Celebration Castle [2005]

This one's just so infectious. Little original to shout about, the Ponys make up for a lack of originality with some sharp song writing, catchy guitar riffage and sheer enthusiasm. It's all played loud and fast, the singing is both laconic and yearning or bright and spiky depending on which band member is singing. It's one of those albums you can put on come a dull Monday morning and it just lifts your spirits long enough to get to the lunch break and to cheer you just enough to not smash a colleagues face in for utter stupidty in the face of common sense - which is a good thing in my book. Another one which is all filling and no filler - like proper albums used to be.

Sleater-Kinney - The WoodsSleater-Kinney - The Woods [2005]

Another of those bands that had been around for years and I'd never come across, this LP saw the band sign to one of my old favourite labels, Sub Pop. I can't compare it with earlier works as I still haven't given them a spin, despite the sheer ballsy class of this record making them worth the effort.

This record is a wall of prog rock noise spun through the acid prism of a spikey grrrrl punk band. That sounds more convoluted than your average Coldplay record, but against all the odds it works a charm. Shimmering angry guitars pound against sarky and half spat words, soaring and shuddering through a range of sophisticated songs. The Woods is one of those albums that stands out for single-minded conviction amongst a year of wishy-washy wannabies and pop-indie-AOR-hell nothings. Juicy and sharp.

Slowdive - SouvlakiSlowdive - Souvlaki [1994]

One of those bands who've name I've known since they appeared, but who's music I've missed, Slowdive recently pissed me off when I discovered they'd made a song called 'Catch The Breeze' almost a decade before my own song of the same name. However, interest in how they sounded made me listen, and my ears have thanked me since. Souvlaki is one of those albums that can only be classed as Shoe-Gazer. It's the sound of my youth, it's sitting in my bedroom dreaming of ghosts, it's music that drips with ambience and it's music that evokes a me of a different age. A lot more dreamy-gazer than bands like My Bloody Valentine, it's none the less compelling and worth checking out for fans of music that shimmers and floats.

Great Lake Swimmers - Great Lake SwimmersGreat Lake Swimmers - Great Lake Swimmers [2005]

Simple, uncomplicated and beautiful - Great Lake Swimmers are the solo musical musings of one Tony Dekker. Every track sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom on an analogue 4-track and features the kind of quirky singer with acoustic guitar sound that makes it worth listening too a bloke in his bedroom being quirky with an acoustic guitar. Slightly surreal lyrics, elegant arrangements and background sounds full of ambience and gripping singing - this is just a joy to listen too.

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - I See A DarknessBonnie 'Prince' Billy - I See A Darkness [1999]

Following on with the simple uncomplicated theme, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy is one of those artists I'm sure I should have heard of before, but only got to know this last year. So far this is by far my most favourite of his offerings.

Dark, brooding and crackly - this feels like lo-fi folk music for people who are beyond caring. Melancholy, regret, distrust and love clash and collide in a stunning collection of songs that make you ache and wince - but in a way that makes you feel alive despite it all. Towering, heartfelt and unforgettable - the way proper music should be.

M83 - Before The Dawn Heals UsM83 - Before The Dawn Heals Us [2005]

Shimmering and pulsating electronica that references everything from Shoe-Gazer to new age sound-scapaes and Pink Floyd like psychedelia. Enigmatic, soaring beats at times bring to mind the laid out beauty of the most sublime Chemical Brothers moments, and paints them with tints and layers which both enchant and motivate. Teen-Angst is a beautiful reminder of a long lost youth and its ideals whilst other tracks in turns scare, exhilarate and tingle in equal measures. Epic electronica for people who like to dance to their music.

The Wedding Present - BizarroThe Wedding Present - Bizarro [1990]

Another band I knew from my youth but never indulged, they were slightly familiar from the days I listened to the late and lamented John Peel Show. Basically, the Wedding Present do one song, but they do it well and at many different speeds. The lyrics are easily interchangeable and pretty standard - usually about discomfort between lovers. But hell, this LP is another of them records that just glistens with energy and persistence. Guaranteed to take your mind off anything worth not thinking about for a short and energetic 45 minutes which basically hinges around the guitar party of the last instrumental half of the Velvet Underground's What Goes On. And is none the less enjoyable for it.

Arcade Fire - FuneralArcade Fire - Funeral [2005 (In The UK)]

Talking about a late entry, I've only known this record a week, but its already a firm favourite (apparently its a hit with the real journos as well.) As far as I'm concerned it will be forever remembered as the record that ruined my 2005 Christmas party. I made the mistake of having the key listen to it before we went to the do. It just wouldn't leave my head and made me heart ache to the point I just could not bare being there and left. It made me want my wife, my son, my home, the things I love. It pressed the fakeness of where we were into a sharp focus and just made me say no to it. I had a downloaded version, but I wanted to leave, go to the record shop and buy it so that the next listen would be truly special. And you know what? It still is.

Outdoing Interpol in the Melancholy as joy stakes, the album throbs with an incendiary intensity. Songs build to epic proportions and its all an unstoppable forward momentum. Truly an emotional roller-coaster, at no point does it feel forced and contrived, every note touches a chord for me. Its about time passing, loved ones passing and the power of love for the things special to you. I can't quite believe my luck in getting to know this record. And what do you know - they're a flaming Montreal band again.

And there we have it. But this year I feel compelled to name check some LPs that didn't make the list but were none-the-less impressive and worthy of mention. They are:

Cranes - Particles And Waves
A Silver Mt. Zion - Horses In The Sky
Yo La Tengo - Electro Pura
Dinosaur Jr - You're Livin' All Over Me
Death Cult - Death Cult
Bauhaus - In The Flat Field
16 Horsepower - Folklore
Hammock - Kenotic
Mono - Hey, You!

So there we go... Until next year!

Posted by Dio Bach at 02:41 | 6 comments | links to this post
Monday, December 26, 2005

Done And Dusted

Ok, another one over with and the same old feeling of disgust and self-loathing to contend with. Christmas. What's it all about? I dunno - its just gets harder each year to give a shit to be honest - the bringing together of family members is about the only plus side, but even that's wearing thin these days.

I made a big change this year to the gifts. Other than some small gifts for the kids of the family to open (creative stuff - scorned on by many of the parents) there was one big item for everyone in the family, friends and kids alike.

I donated a sum of money to the Woodland Trust to help create a plot at a new woodland creation scheme in the Vale of Glamorgan - and in return they dedicated it to all the family in friends. I just can't face feeding the consumer machine any more - buying them all stuff they don't need and don't want (like the obscene amount of plastic stuff Elis received) and felt I needed to make a point.

It's a small point at that, but if it makes them stop and think for a few seconds, then all the better. Plus, if they're ever stuck for something to do for the day, they can go seek their plot of newly planted forest out and have a picnic. Let's not go into the fact they'll have to drive there - lets just look at the positive factors. ;)

They all got a map to the plot, some background info and a copy of the certificate as a gift - and nothing else. Most seemed to appreciate the gesture, others were perplexed, but at least there's something tangible in the world for them to enjoy for the rest of their lives. If it makes them all buy us less next year all the better.

So, been kinda quiet around these parts recently. I've had a lot on at work with the run up to Christmas, been busy on my web projects and doing some maintenance work and things. I've got a lot on the boil at the moment - so naturally this place comes fairly low down the list of priorities. Apologies for the neglect.

The most recent thing I've been working on is this very simple site all about the joys of signing upto the Google Adsense programme in the hope of coaxing people to sign up. Find out why Webmasters Love Google - once again its another quick hitter hopefully to make me a small income. Its very basic, but has a blog element and some basic guides for anyone interested in earning a small income from their websites for what ever purposes.

Other than that, there's little else of interest. I've had quite a few tidy-ups and changes to make to the other sites as well as the day to day running and updates. No photos, not a lot of interesting stuff to shout about and little time for getting stuff done. Hopefully now Christmas is out of the way, that will soon change.

Hopefully you've all had a nice time and a relax (I've been trying to fit some of that in as well). Stick around for the annual musical review of the year, coming very soon.

Posted by Dio Bach at 23:27 | 0 comments | links to this post
Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Third Square Webmaster's Blog

I'm trying something I've never tried before, writing for a new blog which isn't my own. I'm now contributing to a new Web Master's Blog called Third Square. I'm writing for it from a content angle, about ideas for content and editorial concerns, etc.

I joined it through the excellent webmaster forum at Digital Point, where people a lot more talented than me are trying to get it up and running with a big team of writers and a constant flow of articles. There are some real experts there (just to make me feel out of place) but with ambitious plans for it, I have big hopes it could do pretty good. It would be nice to be a part of it.

It's also nice just to turn up, log in, write something, then be on my way - a real change from my current site design and construction intensive approach. Here's to a good future for the venture, hurrah!

Posted by Dio Bach at 23:40 | 3 comments | links to this post
Sunday, December 04, 2005

Day Trip To Bath

Mrs Dio and I had a trip to Bath today on a works organinsed coach outing for the Christmas shoppers. Bath is obviously a popular place for Welsh people to visit around this time of year as it was full of the buggers, I kid you not - I heard more Welsh accents than English.

I quickly spotted some amusing traits that make us Welshies stand out like sore thumbs when abroad in England. Hers's a rough list.

On the other hand, some stuff I noticed about Bath locals. I would like to disclaim here that these are all pretty much sweeping generalisations but none the less ones that struck me during the day. That and Bath stone reminds me of either Korma or Diarrhoea. I enjoyed it though, it was a nice change, we didn't really see much more than the shopping bits.

It was fair to say it was hectic and crammed. The reason for going was for the Christmas Market around the Abbey, but it was so crammed (like the rest of the city) we didn't really bother. I wasn't really out for a snapping frenzy, but I took a few photos, hover for descriptions.

Juggler outside the Pump Rooms in Bath, England

Another view of the juggler outside the Pump Rooms in Bath, England

Old sign on building for the Brush Maunfactory and discreet christmas decorations in Bath

Psychic readings say you're all nuts...

Georgian drainpipes and chimneys in Bath

Darkness draws in but the crowds persist in Bath

The Christmas Market at Bath Abbey as night draws on...

Pultney Bridge Weir in the dark
Posted by Dio Bach at 02:15 | 4 comments | links to this post
Friday, December 02, 2005

Look After Your Nuts

Else a gang of killer squirrels could chew you to death for them. But then again, we know all about chewing squirrels don't we? This looks like a job for the squirrel Tsar!

It will bring a whole new element of fun to the walk to work with Elis, now he will really need to 'keep an eye out for the squirrels' *shudders*
Posted by Dio Bach at 09:55 | 0 comments | links to this post
Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sing A Song Of Icebergs, A Pocket Full Of Ice...

The singing icebergI love this MP3, it reminds me of whale song and other beautiful sub-sonar burberlings.

Scientists recorded an iceberg colliding with an underground pennisular, and the sound of water pushing through its crevices. The build in pressure caused it to sing, but the noise had to be sped up and have the wavelength raised to make it audible. You can read the full story here.

Pinched from WFMU's Beware of the Blog

Posted by Dio Bach at 13:55 | 1 comments | links to this post

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