Archive for October, 2005

Countdown to Aerial 1: The Kick Inside

October 31st, 2005 by Reinder

The Kick Inside begins with a brief recording of whale song; once the actual music starts, it wastes no time. Piano, voice (ooooh, what a voice), half a verse before the band kicks in with a Pink Floyd-like tempo. "Moving" doesn't linger either: 3 packed minutes, then it's over. " The Saxophone Song" recorded three years before most of the rest of the album, lasts a little longer, almost four minutes, but still makes its point succinctly. Both tracks wear their influences on their sleeves – the shadow of David Gilmour, who discovered Kate and produced the early sessions, practically looms over the opening sequence – but are distinctly Kate, not just because of her piercing, love-it-or-hate-it soprano voice and piano-driven songwriting, but also because they already show her use of repetition and timing to build tension between sections of the songs.
But it gets even better with song number three, "Strange Phenomena". Where the first two songs stick closely to late 1970s, late-night soft-rock style, "Phenomena" takes the album in a more uncomfortable direction. It's the earliest song in which Kate uses the lower end of her vocal range, creating an eerie, witchy sound. Unlike on her later albums, the menace is relieved by an anthemic chorus. "Kite" then establishes her long-standing relationship with reggae music. Of course, in 1978, there was practically a law requiring each new album to have at least one reggae-oriented number on it, but Kate would return to reggae throughout the rest of her career. It's a catchy tune as well. A mood of Gothic romance dominates the next two tunes, "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" from the Gilmour sessions, and Kate's famous debut "Wuthering Heights". The two songs are two sides of the same coin, in a way: in one, the protagonist, let's call her Fictional!Kate in the tradition of contemporary fannish criticism, has a night-time, possibly imaginary visitor who seems haunted; in the second, Fictional!Kate is Kathy, the protagonist of Emily Bronte's novel, haunting her lover.
The mood shifts radically with "James and the Cold Gun" violent lyrics and Thin-Lizzy-style hard rock. It worked better on Kate's one tour than it does on the album, but it's another signpost – another idiom that Kate would later return to and develop more sophisticated variations on.
Sex and infatuation are the themes of the next three songs, "Feel It", "Oh, To Be In Love" and "L'Amour Looks Something Like You". On "Feel It", Kate allows herself to sing off-pitch in the descending lines of the chorus, as if losing control at the end of each line. It doesn't quite work for me, and this trio of tracks doesn't quite live up to the standards of the rest of the album; however, the record as a whole has such momentum that it can survive a three comparitively weak songs in a row. What they does show is that Kate was fearless even then, singing about after-party quickies and taking her voice places where nice, obedient, record-company-groomed girl singers don't go.
Reggae gets another outing in "Them Heavy People", another catchy, memorable tune if not the sort of thing to hit the listener in the gut like much of Kate's later work.
The album is closed with two songs refering to pregnancy, and again, they seem deliberately paired. In the up-beat "Room for the Life" the ability to bear children is treated as a source of feminine pride; in "The Kick Inside", Fictional!Kate is impregnated by her brother and kills herself. "Kick" is a much-overlooked track, probably because it comes at the end of a rollercoaster of an album. Listen carefully and it's gut-wrenching.
I have no memory of a world without Kate Bush's music. I suppose it must have been 1978 or 1980 when I first heard "Wuthering Heights", and my musical memories simply don't stretch back much further. I've pretty much always been a fan of her work, even when I only knew it as "that strange song with the high voice".

I was born too late to be aware of the musical landscape before Kate arrived on the scene. My interest in classic rock has made up for a lot, but I simply am not equipped to tell what, if anything, the impact of The Kick Inside must have been. I've been told that it affected one or two people.
Today, I tried to listen to it as if I heard it for the first time, giving it multiple spins in one day like I do with all records I review. I don't think I quite succeeded - I just know this album too well.

And you know what? It's damned good. One of three essential albums that Kate has made so far.

Sunday Cycling: Noordpolderzijl

October 31st, 2005 by Reinder

It was the warmest, sunniest October 30 ever, so Sidsel and I went for one more cycling trip. (This year, I ended up not writing about most of our trips, so to recap: no, we haven't stopped going even though both of us had fewer opportunities this year than in 2004). We'd read that Jeroen had gone to Noordpolderzijl and it looked nice in his pictures so we decided to go there as well.

Interestingly, it was exactly a year ago that we'd last been to Noordpolderzijl. The contrast between 2004 and 2005 was enormous: On October 30, 2004, the winter carrot harvest was going on in the Noordpolder, and the entire area was covered in muck. I remember the air being humid as well, but as I didn't take pictures or leave a record of conditions in the blog (bad blogger! No cookie!), I may be wrong. This year, the weather had been fine for a few days and while the area's main crop for 2005 was another root vegetable, sugar beets, the harvesting process didn't seem to have left as much of a mess. We also had more luck riding the north side of the sea dike, which is the nice side with the pretty view of the tidal marshes. The sheep were out in force again though. We had one slightly hairy moment when we passed a fence to a seqment of the dike where a group of horses were grazing: they were startled into a panic by us barging into their enclosure on our bikes, and started running around. Otherwise, the trip was uneventful; the only other problem was the stiff southwesterly wind on our way back. Note for next year: bring sunglasses. The low late October sun can be a bit of a nuisance.

Some tech notes on the server move

October 31st, 2005 by Reinder

Some notes on my new hosting situation, so I have somewhere to point to in case one of these issues causes a problem in the near future. Probably only of interest to the technical-minded among the readership:

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Deep Purple – Rapture of the Deep

October 29th, 2005 by Reinder

The new Deep Purple album Rapture of the Deep isn't working for me. The musicians sound like they're having fun working on complex, interesting ideas, and there is some good songwriting on there. But the record keeps losing momentum because between great tracks like the title track and the set closer "Before Time Began" there are too many duff pieces that sound like 1980s FM rock written by numbers. Tracks like "Don't Let Go" and "Back to Back" just make me nod off.
Mind you, that title track is really very good - proof even that these guys still have classic material in them. Other reviewers have mentioned that it reminds them of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", but a closer parallel is the work of the Canadian 1990s group The Tea Party. Another strong track, "Clearly Quite Absurd", makes the grade despite being in the despised Rock Ballad idiom. It has an interesting chord progression and takes an odd turn towards the end.
One other good thing about the new album are the tantalising glimpses we get of what Ian Gillan can do when he uses the lower end of his vocal range. More of that, please, and less of the screaming; that has long lost its relevance and become nothing more than a party trick. Generally, I like the conversational style of much of Gillan's present-day singing; it isn't quite rap but combines the flow of good rap with actual, if understated melody. It works well with Steve Morse's guitar playing, which is also, in a way, quite chatty.

What I think would have improved the record is a few more songs breaking away from the hard rock style. Those made the difference between, on the one hand, Purpendicular from 1996 and Bananas from 2003, two latterday Deep Purple albums I still play regularly, and on the other hand 1998's Abandon, which I don't. One or two tracks like the quirkier pieces on those albums to replace the uninspired rockers would have made the whole thing a lot more convincing.

Domain changes

October 29th, 2005 by Reinder

In the next few hours, I'll be moving the rocr.net domain over from comicgenesis.com to xepher.net. It's almost certain that things will break in the process, for which I apologise in advance. I'll be on standby this evening to fix the most egregious things, and by Monday, the new domain info should have propagated across the internets.

Fund drive time!

October 28th, 2005 by Reinder

If patronage was good enough for Michaelangelo, it's good enough for me. Now that Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan is a free comic again, I'm going to try the donation/sponsoring campaign thing again. Give money to keep Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan afloat! Get stuff in return! Here's what I just posted on the Fund drive page:

Why a donation drive

Over the past year, business hasn't been great for me. My own state of mind had a lot to do with that - I'd cut down on my activities, because I'd got a bit burned out. I'm better now, and I'll get by, but if I don't make up the shortfall in my income over this year, I'll need to get a job in the final months to get by. And that will mean I won't be getting back to producing new Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan stuff. I can't combine the two, and the last time I tried was a disastrous period for me.

Of course, I can get by for a long time without actually needing to make new work. I've got all the old stuff that I can publish. But I have this idea for a 20-episode story that would fit very neatly just after The Green Knight's Belt, which I very much want to make in November/December so it can go live in January when Belt ends. So I'm trying to raise money to stay off the labour market and go on with webcartooning for another few months.

But it's not all about getting something for nothing. I want to give back to people who donate. Donors over $50 will get a limited-edition print volume of the new story, the first time in five years that Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan has appeared in print anywhere. I will make as many copies as I get donors over $50, plus five to give away on special occasions. They'll be signed and numbered, have a colour cover and documentary material about the creative process. Donors over $150 will get the original artwork of a page of their choice, plus the limited-edition book. Donors under $50 will get access to extra wallpapers, plus the ability to read Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan Modern Tales-style in multi-episode archival pages. Finally, everyone gets the story itself, right here on this website, updating regularly and looking the best I could possibly make it.

The target amount is US $750 a month. That's not all I need in any given month, but I can make the rest through my regular cartooning work for Hello You! and eventually through advertising on the new Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan website. The money will go towards living expenses, tools and materials, the cost of producing the physical goodies and the occasional bit of newly released music.

I've told a few people privately about this fundraiser and got a few pledges in already. You can donate using Paypal:








All of the above is still subject to tweaks. The version of the text on the funddrive page is the authoritative one. I've got one large donation informally pledged already, so the targets are reachable.

Oops!

October 26th, 2005 by Reinder

Sorry about the missing image on the homepage on the new Xepher-based website earlier today. I only discovered the problem now while working on the template for that page.
Apologies also for the use of the old contact address on that front page. That really has to be reinder.dijkhuis@gmail.com as the Despammed address has not been reliable enough to use for some time. I'll change it forthwith.

Update Sigh... Apologies also for the inaccessibility of the episodes for Monday and Tuesday. They are fixed now. Technical explanation: The access rights setting for individual comics should be inherited from the setting for the chapter they're in, but apparently isn't. Or isn't consistently. Or it is, but my understanding of how the system works is completely off the mark. Just this once I don't think it's the latter but I could be wrong.

Note that all of the above are Priority 1 problems, which means that if someone discovers them, they have the right to scream at me to drop whatever else I am doing, no matter how urgent, and deal with those problems. Email should work from now on, and if you happen to have my phone number or IM, you can try your luck with those. Please do - errors like this are annoying and make me angry, but the faster I can fix them, the better.

Non-comics-related blogging will be light for a few more days. Sooo much on my plate right now. If just reading Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan isn't enough to satisfy you, read The Eye of the Underworld as well. It's good and has 14 pages in its archive now.

Lost and found

October 22nd, 2005 by Reinder

Now that I've freed up the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan archives, little pieces of ROCR history keep turning up! I have added the two-part mini-storyline Archery to the archives in the spot immediately following Guðrún. Another, earlier page has been parked on DeviantArt until I figure out where it fits best. Both were originally available only as bonuses for readers voting for ROCR on topsite lists back in the day.

Onlinecomics listings for Geir and Reinder’s comics

October 22nd, 2005 by Reinder

From the department of agitation, propaganda and destabilisation:

White House in Orbit, The Double and The Eye of the Underworld now have listings at Onlinecomics.net. If you are a member of onlinecomics.net and like any or all of these comics, please add them to your favorites. This doesn't just help these comics rise through the ranks and gain readers, it also helps people with similar tastes as you find comics they might like.

Onlinecomics.net listing for White House in Orbit
Onlinecomics.net listing for The Double
Onlinecomics.net listing for Eye of the Underworld

By the way, in the past few years, I've resisted adding Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan to webcomics topsite listings like Topwebcomics.com, for a number of reasons. They tend to demand a lot of screen real estate on the website, and many of the best ones have long-entrenched comics in their lists' highest reaches, making it very difficult for a comic that doesn't have mega-appeal to get that high. If you don't get that high, the lists are usually not worth the bother as promotional tools in the first place. In short, I think they're too much work for too little return. However, I do know that some readers out there like them, and see them as a good way to help a comic they like gain readership. So I'm willing to at least consider suggestions. If you know a topsite listing that might work for Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, let me know.

The Skunk Defense

October 21st, 2005 by Reinder

Today in Fight Cast or Evade, author Matt Trepal finally makes good on a promise! Back when I submitted this guest art to him, which was, er... three or four years ago, he mentioned that he'd got plans to have the character Portia save herself from a tight spot in the same way as I had shown in the guest comic. Well, it's taken a while, but he's finally got there.

That guest comic was fun to do, by the way. Look, furry versions of the Rogues:
fceguest-300.png
Click for full page at DeviantArt