Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Trip to Chiba, and the works of Steven Wilson


Spent three days in Chiba at the beginning of September, across the country from here. Stayed on the fourteenth floor of a hotel not far from Chiba JR station. The dawn sky one of the mornings was truly wonderful, and the phone picture really doesn't capture the streaks of pink that emanated from the rising sun, rather like the "troublesome" Rising Sun flag.

Didn't stay long in the hotel though, as there visiting family, our grandson and kids.  His name is  翔 馬 (Shoma, soaring/flying horse, ala Pegasus). We also talked and went out with our sons in-laws, and had a ceremony at their local shrine.

A tiring but wonderful trip. Not for making all public here though.

During the trip preparations, I noticed Steven Wilson is about to release his new album Harmony Codex.  Steven seems to have had articles about what he is doing in many of the Sound On Sound Magazines I bought over the years. 

Everything from how he recorded his early Porcupine Tree albums at his parents place, alone, to doing surround mixes for Classic Rock Albums, and becoming one of the goto people for that.

Have know about him for years, and have had his In Absentia album for almost as long.  I played that album on the Shinkansen from my X1 music player using SONY noise cancelling earbuds both ways on the trip. He has also had quite a presence on YouTube, even being interviewed by Ric Beato not long ago.

His album remixing moved from 5.1 Surround to the recent Dolby ATMOS. He has become kind of a spokesperson for ATMOS in some ways. ATMOS seems to be being forced onto the music industry, but I am not going into that. The way it is being done seems rather unpleasant, even if Steven says the results are amazing, 

Steven has taken the unusual step of having exclusive listening parties in places with truly massive ATMOS setups as part of the Harmony Codex PR. Listening to the album the way no one does these days. From start to end, in comfortable surroundings with the lights and mobile phones off. 

YouTube influences in the UK and the USA have been invited to these, and have been duly reporting how amazingly awesome the album is. Enough to make me very suspicious that it couldn't be that good.  So the album has an ATMOS mix, as well as a standard stereo CD release, and there are various boxed sets with discs for the different versions.  

I have actually pre-ordered the standard version Harmony Codex CD from Amazon Japan on getting back home. Will see if it gets on the playlist of stuff I play all the time, or not.  At the same time I also got his older Porcupine Tree Deadwing, Fear Of a Bleak Planet and his last Future Bites albums.  

I am catching up on some of his stuff, the way I did with Freak Kitchen and Smashing Pumpkins, which had proven to be very worthwhile, and inspirational for my own music making. 

Months ago I started on a Comic about From Mono to ATMOS Music Production but discovered a few things that made me stop.  It would have been a continuation of my MUSIC ON LOUDSPEAKERS, from Mono to Stereo. The first page of which is shown here and available here

I have had an interest in Surround Sound for a long time, but the setup for a home ATMOS (and music production) system is rather trying. Can monitor on headphones, but the number of speakers and their placement isn't very practical.  Back in Australia I had a Yamaha Home Theatre 5.1 Amplifier and a surround speaker system in the living room. Rarely used it though, as in an open plan living space it was too loud and annoyed the family not watching the movie, which was 99% of the time. I ended up watching most movies with headphones or just the TVs small stereo speakers. 

These days only have a Small 32" HD Hisense TV with Sound bar, and only got the Sound bar as it made the sound "clearer" and less muffled than the TVs own small stereo speakers. Have no interest in a Home Theatre for Movies any more. 

Last year I did Binaural Headphone Only mixes instead of some of my music, and YouTube Shorts, and think they are really cool. Part of the reason is that for myself, I really only listen to album music when travelling, and that is on headphones. The Shinkansen trip from Kyoto to Tokyo is 2 hours.  One of my YouTube shorts: 

I may still come back to ATMOS.  The Dolby Atmos Composer Essential  package is about USD$164 for the component to be able to mix in ATMOS for my Reaper DAW. That would mean just monitoring in headphones  though. We will see what the future brings.

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