*David Bowie: “The Next Day” (2013)

Bowie’s “comeback” album after his ten year hiatus post-“Reality” didn’t really resonate with me the first time I listened to it; I dismissed it as more “latter-day” Bowie and moved on. When I came back to it a few weeks later, I kept listening to it over and over instead of getting around to writing about it. This album may ever surpass 2002’s “Heathen” for me.

There are so many stand-out tracks on this album. “Love Is Lost”, “If You Can See Me”, and “Boss of Me” are all fantastic, and “(You Will) Set The World On Fire” begins with some of the raunchiest, ball-rattling guitar I’ve heard on a Bowie album since Mick Ronson was around. 

(There’s honestly a lot of great guitar on this album. Gerry Leonard, Earl Slick, and David Torn alternately paint landscapes and then burn them with fire. Yet, the guitar remains firmly in a backing role, which suits the material.)

But, “Heat”. Lordy, “Heat” is maybe one of the most haunting tunes Bowie has ever produced — I fell like it presages a lot of what we’ll hear on 2016’s “Blackstar”. I spent most of last night dreaming about that song. As Bono might say, this is one heavy mother.

A lot of the other songs on the album are what I might call “mid-grade” Bowie, i.e., good but not great, though few manage to disrupt the overall vibe of the album — which I think it why it’s so easy for me to just start listening and then not really look up until the “Heat” closes things out.

“Valentine’s Day” and “I’d Rather Be High” are worth mentioning, if only for the disconnect between the music and lyrics, which I think is kind of rare for Bowie. Both pair grim subject matter — the mind of a school shooter and a WW2 soldier’s battlefield mindset, respectively — with bright, upbeat music, which always feels jarring to me. That, and the music is a little happy for Bowie, reminding me of far lesser moments on albums like “…hours”.

It’s also worth mentioning Jonathan Barnbrook’s album cover, or at least, Barnbrook’s desecration of the classic “Heroes” cover. I’ll admit that, like a lot of “modern art” it initially struck me as pretentious twaddle. But, the more I look at both it and the reaction it instills in me, the more I can see how clever it really is. And, really, if artists can mess around with their old songs, who says they can’t mess around with their old album covers?

I could go on about this album for days. Suffice it to say that knowing that Bowie will give us just one more album before he moves on from this mortal plane just makes me cherish it more. To have “retired” from music for a decade only to return by producing some of the best music of his career is a feat that I think few, if any, musicians have managed to accomplish. “These humans still have much to learn; I’d better get back to work before it’s too late.” The fact that the drum beat for “Five Years” appears at the end of “Heat” maybe hints at his knowing time was running short.

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/The_Next_Day

P.S. — A bonus album, “The Next Day Extra” contains a number of decent tracks recorded during these same sessions, plus a 10-minute (!) remix of “Love Is Lost” that’s actually pretty damn good.

*David Bowie: “The Next Day” (2013)

Bowie’s “comeback” album after his ten year hiatus post-“Reality” didn’t really resonate with me the first time I listened to it; I dismissed it as more “latter-day” Bowie and moved on. When I came back to it a few weeks later, I kept listening to it over and over instead of getting around to writing about it. This album may ever surpass 2002’s “Heathen” for me.

There are so many stand-out tracks on this album. “Love Is Lost”, “If You Can See Me”, and “Boss of Me” are all fantastic, and “(You Will) Set The World On Fire” begins with some of the raunchiest, ball-rattling guitar I’ve heard on a Bowie album since Mick Ronson was around. 

(There’s honestly a lot of great guitar on this album. Gerry Leonard, Earl Slick, and David Torn alternately paint landscapes and then burn them with fire. Yet, the guitar remains firmly in a backing role, which suits the material.)

But, “Heat”. Lordy, “Heat” is maybe one of the most haunting tunes Bowie has ever produced — I fell like it presages a lot of what we’ll hear on 2016’s “Blackstar”. I spent most of last night dreaming about that song. As Bono might say, this is one heavy mother.

A lot of the other songs on the album are what I might call “mid-grade” Bowie, i.e., good but not great, though few manage to disrupt the overall vibe of the album — which I think it why it’s so easy for me to just start listening and then not really look up until the “Heat” closes things out.

“Valentine’s Day” and “I’d Rather Be High” are worth mentioning, if only for the disconnect between the music and lyrics, which I think is kind of rare for Bowie. Both pair grim subject matter — the mind of a school shooter and a WW2 soldier’s battlefield mindset, respectively — with bright, upbeat music, which always feels jarring to me. That, and the music is a little happy for Bowie, reminding me of far lesser moments on albums like “…hours”.

It’s also worth mentioning Jonathan Barnbrook’s album cover, or at least, Barnbrook’s desecration of the classic “Heroes” cover. I’ll admit that, like a lot of “modern art” it initially struck me as pretentious twaddle. But, the more I look at both it and the reaction it instills in me, the more I can see how clever it really is. And, really, if artists can mess around with their old songs, who says they can’t mess around with their old album covers?

I could go on about this album for days. Suffice it to say that knowing that Bowie will give us just one more album before he moves on from this mortal plane just makes me cherish it more. To have “retired” from music for a decade only to return by producing some of the best music of his career is a feat that I think few, if any, musicians have managed to accomplish. “These humans still have much to learn; I’d better get back to work before it’s too late.” The fact that the drum beat for “Five Years” appears at the end of “Heat” maybe hints at his knowing time was running short.

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/The_Next_Day

P.S. — A bonus album, “The Next Day Extra” contains a number of decent tracks recorded during these same sessions, plus a 10-minute (!) remix of “Love Is Lost” that’s actually pretty damn good.

Man builds machine to roll die 8000 times and determine bias

Pretty fascinating, both from a DIY hacking perspective and one of dice nerdery. It seems like Gamscience wins the day once again, though enough of this math if over my head that I am not sure.

Mostly this has me wishing that someone out there would get on making truly precision, machined polyhedral dice with the tolerances we see for casino dice. Because my half-elf paladin deserves only the best.

I’m down a dice rabbit hole today.

http://www.markfickett.com/stuff/artPage.php?id=389

The weird dice from Dice Lab

The ochre article I posted about the d120 got me looking at the various dice offered by its creators. Very wacky, very cool. Dice Lab seems to make both unusual dice (the d60, the d120) and unusual takes on the usual dice (“skewed” d6s and d12s, “truncated” d4s and d8s, etc.). Their take on the d20 — a slight different number arrangement meant to be more “true” — is also piquing my interest.

I had no idea that there was anyone experimenting like this with dice — experimenting primarily with mathematics in mind — and I’d love to know if more creators are doing it.

More on their designs: http://thedicelab.com/DiceDesign.html

http://www.mathartfun.com/DiceLabDice.html

The d120 

The die’s most winning property lies in its being numerically balanced: the face numbers are spread out evenly, such that any two opposing sides sum to a hundred and twenty-one. Each of the die’s sixty-two corners boasts equanimity, too. (A vertex at which ten triangles meet, for instance, sums to six hundred and five, which is ten times the average of all the numbers on the die.)

Gotta think Goodman Games is already working on some DCC material for this sucker (and the d60 mentioned herein).

Learn more: http://thedicelab.com/d120.html
Buy one: http://www.mathartfun.com/DiceLabDice.html

David Bowie: “Reality” (2003)

What’s wonderful about this album is “New Killer Star”, which may now be one of my favorite Bowie tracks — not something I was expecting to find in 21st-century Bowie. It’s a fantastic groove that sounds not so much like it picks up where Bowie left off in 1980, but rather that it’s the kind of track he would have written had he never given up that musical direction in the first place. Had Bowie kept hammering away at his incubated-in-Berlin sound, settling in to a “default mode” as so many other artists do, “New Killer Star” is the song he would have written once he got to 2003. It’s like a taste of some Bowie from an alternate universe.

And regardless, it’s a great track. I feel like it’s Bowie trying to do nothing more than be Bowie, and the result is glorious.

The album’s closer, “Bring Me The Disco King”, is also a phenomenal track. It’s practically straight-up jazz, which allows long-time Bowie sideman Mike Garson to really stretch out and bathe us in the glassy warmth of his piano chops.

But beyond these — well, the album doesn’t really do it for me. There are some other good moments, like “She’ll Drive The Big Car”, and hearing Bowie blast out a cover of “Pablo Picasso” is pretty amusing, but beyond that, it leaves me a little flat. It could be that 2002’s “Heathen” set my expectations too high.

P.S., on the associated tour, Bowie had a heart attack on stage while playing a date in Germany. Solidarity, brother.

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Reality_(David_Bowie_album)

David Bowie: “Reality” (2003)

What’s wonderful about this album is “New Killer Star”, which may now be one of my favorite Bowie tracks — not something I was expecting to find in 21st-century Bowie. It’s a fantastic groove that sounds not so much like it picks up where Bowie left off in 1980, but rather that it’s the kind of track he would have written had he never given up that musical direction in the first place. Had Bowie kept hammering away at his incubated-in-Berlin sound, settling in to a “default mode” as so many other artists do, “New Killer Star” is the song he would have written once he got to 2003. It’s like a taste of some Bowie from an alternate universe.

And regardless, it’s a great track. I feel like it’s Bowie trying to do nothing more than be Bowie, and the result is glorious.

The album’s closer, “Bring Me The Disco King”, is also a phenomenal track. It’s practically straight-up jazz, which allows long-time Bowie sideman Mike Garson to really stretch out and bathe us in the glassy warmth of his piano chops.

But beyond these — well, the album doesn’t really do it for me. There are some other good moments, like “She’ll Drive The Big Car”, and hearing Bowie blast out a cover of “Pablo Picasso” is pretty amusing, but beyond that, it leaves me a little flat. It could be that 2002’s “Heathen” set my expectations too high.

P.S., on the associated tour, Bowie had a heart attack on stage while playing a date in Germany. Solidarity, brother.

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Reality_(David_Bowie_album)