After five years, it seems that this blog has become one of my life’s longest commitments. If you like reading this blog, you probably think that’s a plus. If not, that’s what we have brainwashing for. Odd veiled threats aside (asides being one of the main themes of Invisible Blog), it’s been an interesting five years, containing most of my undergraduate college experience, most of my musical ‘career’, and a surprising amount of my actual personal writing project time as well! What happened?
It seems that the creation processes in my brain only really began to work in any way recognizable to my current self around the age of 16; it was in May of 2008 that I started drafting First Contact Is Bad For You. Years of schooling meant it wasn’t my first attempt at creative writing (and the less said about my earlier attempts around the age of 12, the better), but where I might’ve earlier lost interest in it, I just kept working on it, albeit slowly and fitfully at times due to said times being scarce. I might’ve made some attempts at composing about the same time, but I didn’t really make any significant output until I got my hands on better tools – and with full awareness of what some of the purists might say, Sibelius is better than staff paper.
At the risk of complaining about how my past self didn’t know things my present thing did… my past self didn’t have the (dis?)advantage of future self whispering over his shoulder, complaining about his every pratfall and regret, and therefore had to figure a lot of things out for himself, like how to compose both text and music in a unique voice, and how to make it work. Standards change, and I became incredibly aware of that even during the creation of my earliest efforts. FCB is recognizable as the work it was when I first finished drafting it, but the revisions I made reflected three years of learning, especially aided by the jump in expected standards that accompanied my transition from high school to college. Meanwhile, I experimented a great deal with the limits of stock Sibelius, trying to bend its sounds into heavy metal music, and gradually coming to believe that a composition was more important than how it was performed. Kind of a big paradigm shift after 10 years of piano performance training, don’t you think? Minimalist black metal might’ve had something to do with it.
Then I discovered a little program called Famitracker. It seems that in the average hands, writing chiptunes with Famitracker teaches minimalism and efficiency, and to deny that I acquired some knowledge in that regards would be to deny my musical evolution, but by konsistently ko-opting Konami’s VRC6 expansion chip in to my palette, I found maximum sonar density to be a worthy compliment to my general attempts to avoid repetition. That turned out to be a fruitful approach, although I figured out that I could turn a sparser, cleaner approach into something I wanted to hear – anyone want to record a live version of “Song 31“? I have the sheet music if you’re interested, and it was explicitly designed to be human performable. In general, I feel like 2012, at least in its latter half, was a particularly good year for my creative ambitions – in the case of Famitracker I was writing more coherent and elaborate tracks after a period of deliberately writing ‘video game loop’ stuff, and in the case of this blog, I’d decided I was on a streak of interesting discussions of interesting music. Whether that previous statement is true or not is too subjective a question to answer, but my efforts to improve were still there.
Later years also saw me expanding into new subjects, which is probably why I ended up having a semi-robust ‘humor’ section on Invisible Blog. You’ve probably stumbled upon at least one of the “Bad Ideas” posts, which have steadily grown more elaborate and thematic over the years (although they’re rather less frequent than their heyday in early 2011). One of my buddies read these and insisted I should compile a list of “Pickup Lines That Probably Won’t Work” – when I told him that he ought to write the lines if he were so interested in seeing them exist, it left me with a new feature. Other experiments have lead to a series of little essays on games and game design, a couple of short stories, and the mother of all blog motivations – shameless self promotion! When I publish something, odds are it gets a mention here, since due to its length and consistent output, Invisible Blog has kind of become the unifying force between all my creative endeavors.
As it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if this blog continues for many years – perhaps even decades! It doesn’t get a ton of traffic, but keeping it alive seems to sharpen my skills as a writer, and that has to count for something, right?
I’ve been bouncing around a few ideas for types of posts that ought to be interesting to write about, and you’ll probably see some of those rather soon. The first (and in fact the next upcoming one) is to take the sort of music reviews that are the invisible bread and butter of this blog and apply their methodology to video game music. Unless the universe explodes, you should be able to read the first prototype before the month is out.
Sure, it’s technically an EP, but bands have released shorter full-lengths. Even with its two “hidden” tracks, this remains a concise, coherent release, historically notable for being NIN’s first big foray into rock/metal tropes, as well as a lot of deliberately provocative music video material. Seems to do the trick for me, anyways, but you know my tastes and probably aren’t shocked by this, OR by my totally novel and rad appraisal of Broken as dumping tons of distortion and abrasive noise into pop/rock compatible songwriting.
What can I say? I like distortion and abrasive noise, and therefore, Broken‘s aesthetics and production offer me a great opportunity to nerd out. The soundscape here is rather dense – the actual amount of elements at any one time isn’t so immense, but they cover the frequencies of the mix in a way that only large, terrifying sounds can. The guitars here are particularly notable, and legends (er, I mean Wikipedia) tell me Trent Reznor used a program called Turbosynth to convolute them in interesting ways. Good luck finding it for yourself, but it does kind of just come down to algorithms that could theoretically be reprogrammed as needed.
Every fool with a blog will probably agree with me that this work did much to popularize the nascent “industrial metal” scene, which to be fair was already quite real and vital, with bands like Godflesh, Ministry, Fear Factory already in the process of existing in the moment of 1992. Other things that came into existence in 1992 include your author, but I digress. On their debut, Nine Inch Nails’s songs relied heavily on electronic dance tropes, and that understandably continues here. Seems to me, though, that Broken adopts a great deal of rock “language” (Whatever that means) in order to amp up its sound, which makes for more dynamic and less ambient songs than those of Pretty Hate Machine. What’s particularly important, though, is that the previous songwriting ideas aren’t abandoned – while this EP emphasizes its ‘guitar’ and drums more, quite a bit of the EBM/electro-industrial ideas remain under the surface, particularly in the rhythms. As someone who will not and apparently can’t stop writing about bands in transition, this Jenga-like restructuring isn’t all that common, and a lot of other bands who try it tend to collapse in on themselves.
Given that NIN’s 1994 break-further-through (The Downward Spiral) saw further norming and sonic experimentation, I’m sure you won’t mind me labeling Broken the band’s high point. It’s a concise blast of aggression that still impresses me with its ferocity despite presumably being smooshed by the weight and brutality of my death metal repository.
Highlights: “Last”, “Happiness in Slavery”, “Suck”
P.S: Today is the 5th anniversary of Invisible Blog. I may or may not have some ruminations on this in the next few days.
Sure, this is a bit more niche than usual, but so are many of the other Bad Ideas. Anyways, I came upon some… uh… leaked information about the upcoming 9th season, presumably starring Peter Capaldi and not a doppleganger or clone or android or CGI representation. I assure you these are not just made up – a great deal of thought and effort must’ve went into these episodes.
180-A*. The Doctor faces off against a monster that devours the concept of hygiene; can he defeat it before Clara abandons him for smelling bad?
“What? No! A sonic screwdriver doesn’t have a ‘shower’ setting!”
181. The Daleks try to take over the Earth through vaudeville.
Featuring selections from “I’m Just Wild About Skaros”, and the comedy stylings of Sec, Thay, Jast, and Khan.
182. Russell T. Davies tries to destroy the Doctor Who omniverse, and the only way to stop it is for Clara to bake the perfect souffle.
When five-ish doctors aren’t enough, try a cook!
183. The Doctor becomes obsessed with the grand strategy games of Paradox Development Studio.
“How could one game contain so much potential for malice, hatred, and regicide?” “Was it developed by Silurians?” “No, you fool! Silurians have a penalty to intrigue!”
184. A company from the alternate universe introduced in Season 2 introduces Cyberman easter bunnies in both normal and white chocolate. Only $9.99!
UPGRADING TO GOOD FRIDAY IS COMPULSORY.
185. The Doctor vs Steve Balmer
What happens when you try to upgrade your TARDIS from Windows XP?
186. Davros baked some cookies. They’re dalektable!
Suggested by the owner of the Nullsphere.
187. The Doctor helps a Falapazaxaganican mow his lawn until he learns the grass is not only sentient, but the only nukeball team in the universe capable of defending Falapazaxaganicus Prime from the Judoon. This is a two part episode.
“You do realize that whether or not you win or lose, much of your planet will likely be ravaged, right?” “So po flo bo kno!”
188. A “bottle” episode where the Doctor prepares his lunch.
The Doctor just ran out of Time Lord tumeric, and the preparation methods have been lost to… well… the Time War. Will he have to use inferior Sontaran tumeric, which is like a war with your taste buds?
189. A semi-sequel to The Doctor vs Steve Balmer, where the Doctor tries to figure out why the Xbox One is popping up on every inhabitant planet in the space-time continuum.
“Look, Danny, I know you wanted to play the latest football title, but pretty much every alien within ten million light years prefers cricket.”
190. In the two-part season finale, rabid fans of earlier seasons try to rewrite the Doctor Who universe to their own specifications and accidentally turn it into the “perfect” souffle Clara baked earlier in the season.
He wanted Paul McGann to return to Doctor Who so badly, that he wrote a fan script and submitted it to the BBC. Moffat, in all his wisdom and folly, decided to film it. Little did they know that Paul McGann was the one who set it all in action…
Overall, I expect the upcoming season to maintain the same standards for scientific rigor and thought provoking commentary that previous seasons of the revived series have established. Maybe this season will see the return of the much-beloved Abzorbaloff?