22 October 2005

Solitude II:

This piece was meant to be put up in the middle of next month. Since, it is particularly apt for this week's Illustration Friday's theme, here it is.

Illustration Friday theme: Remote.

"There was once a future
For a working man
There was once a lifetime
For a skillful hand yesterday"
'The Circus' Erasure

21 October 2005



Stronghold

The stronghold protects.


"Artillery towers had other design weaknesses - flaws even, from the point of view of engineers searching out the perfect fortification design. An artillery tower was intended as a massive, self-defending strongpoint radiating defensive fire; to maximise that fire the tendency was to pile up the tiers of gunrooms."
'The Renaissance at War' Thomas Arnold
Figures, Characters, and Faces

The links to previously posted drawings of figures:

Teutonic Knight, Samurai, Handgunner, Byzantine Heavy Footsoldier, Ottoman Heavy Infantry, French Archer, Japanese Infantry I, Japanese Infantry II, German Infantry I, German Infantry II, Byzantine Cavalryman, Roman Legionary

The Keymaster, The Flower-Seller, Little Floating Man, Neil, Damien, Traveller, The awaiting Man

Figure I, Figure II, Figure III, Figure IV, Figure V, Figure VI, Figure VII, Figure VIII, Figure IX

Poet, I must scream

This page will be updated from time to time.



"Your dreams are turning real
You feel so alive
Like you've never felt before
A life beyond reality"

'Subspace' Funker Vogt

20 October 2005


In a Lonely Place

Amidst the silent rooms, she stumbled upon a place of unease...

"The lies you tell
Aren't meant to deceive
They're not there
For me to believe
I've heard
Your vicious words
You know by now
It takes alot to see me hurt"
'Dangerous' Depeche Mode

19 October 2005

The Renaissance at War

I just finished reading "History of Warfare: The Renaissance at War" by Thomas Arnold. Interesting topics covered include new forms of military architecture (the artillery tower and the angle bastion), infantry reform (and the return of the primacy of infantry), cavalry reform (reiters, pistoleers and the caracole), the global struggle between Christiandom and Islam, the Italian Wars, the dynastic struggle for primacy between the Habsburg and Valois, the wars of Reformation (including the French Religious Wars, the German Peasants' Revolt, the Anabaptist kingdom of Munster, the Pilgrimage of Grace, the Schmalkaldic War and the Dutch Revolt). This is one of the most informative books I have read this year.

I will probably explore this area in depth inthe near future.

I would be interested in playing 3W's 'Crossbows and Cannon I' and 'Crossbows and Cannon II'.
Concerts

I was just thinking of the pop concerts I have been to over the years. I realised that I have been to quite a number. They include the following:

Children of the Bong
Banco de Gaia
Timeshard
Renegade Soundwave
Astralasia (twice)
Chemical Brothers (twice)
Leftfield
Orbital
Dubstar
Lush
Cocteau Twins
Depeche Mode
Pet Shop Boys
Yanni
Bananarama
Alphaville (twice)
Erasure
Spandau Ballet (at least what was left)
Belinda Carlisle
Scanner
Lionrock
Fem2Fem (Voyeuz the Musical)


I am pretty sure that I have missed a few. I didn't put any DJ performances like Paul Oakenfold, Michael Dog, and others. I also did not list musicals, plays, classical performances that I have attended. There are probably a couple more. Of late, I haven't been to any. The musical scene here seems rather devoid of anything interesting.

The Orbital concert was one of the most memorable of the lot, as was the Cocteau Twins concert.

Concerts I regretted missing include Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark in 1993, Bjork in the mid-nineties, Marc Almond, Dead can Dance in 1996. Oh well, one can't watch them all.

I have seen Marc Almond perform in a store-signing once. He could carry a tune very well despite singing with only an accoustic guitar accompaniement.

Presently, I know a lot of bands like Imperative Reaction, Assemblage 23, The Cruxshadows, In Strict Confidence, and others are touring the USA. VNV Nation, Clan of Xymox and Covenant did tours there previously. I would loved to have attended those concerts. Of course, if there is a Front Line Assembly concert, I would attend. I would also love to attend a Clan of Xymox concert.

"Machines with living human tissue and programmed to destroy
The silence is deafening
Regression hangs in the air
A motionless world sits waiting
For new codes"
'Mindphaser' Front Line Assembly

18 October 2005


The Poet

He was one with the world. He had written paeans for martyrs of the oppression. He had written for the people. He was beloved by the people and the world. However, he had lied, for he had written fiction in verse. Thus, began the revolution.
Electric Blue

The last time I heard an album with a title of 'Electric Blue' and has 'Crazy' as the first single was sometime in the eighties with Icehouse.

Twenty years later, Andy Bell has released an album titled 'Electric Blue' and it has 'Crazy' as the first single. What an album. Claudia Brucken from Propaganda appears in two tracks and assisted in the writing of one of them. Glorious Hi-NRG disco tracks! What a contrast to the current Erasure album. Fun. Delightful!

First impressions are good.

"Cause my desire
Is running down a city street
Pulled me up to the wire
I'm driven by a heavy beat"
'Crazy' Andy Bell


Playing the Angel

I went to pick up the regular CD of 'Playing the Angel'. Unfortunately, HMV and Sembawang Music haven't got the SACD edition with the DVD (look below for tracklisting).

I settled for the regular CD.

Depeche Mode 'Playing the Angel'

SACDLCDSTUMM260
Super Audio CD Album with DVD Disc Released Mon 17 Oct 2005

Disc: 1 (SACD)
1. A Pain That I’m Used To
2. John The Revelator
3. Suffer Well
4. The Sinner In Me
5. Precious
6. Macro
7. I Want It All
8. Nothing's Impossible
9. Introspectre
10. Damaged People
11. Lilian
12. The Darkest Star

Disc: 2 (DVD)
1. Playing The Angel in 5.1 and Stereo -DTS 5.1 (24bit) -Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (24bit)-PCM Stereo (24bit)
2. Making The Angel -PCM Stereo
3. Precious (Video) -PCM Stereo
4. Clean (Bare)-PCM Stereo
5. Photo Gallery - Candid Studio Photos taken by Ben Hillier at the Santa Barbara/New York/London Recording Sessions


From first impressions, the album is a lot less sedate than 'Exciter' and 'Ultra'. From an interview on the Depeche Mode site, they have focused on analogue synthesizers instead of the soft synths in 'Exciter' and 'Ultra'. They have also opted for a more electronic approach.

The tracks feel like an evolution of the Depeche Mode sound but the use of harsh electronics have given this a mature yet dark edgy feel. The album is cold but it is tempered with Gahan's fragile vocals which is just only alright. The Gahan written track 'Nothing's impossible' and Gahan's 'Precious' are standouts for me so far.

Good dark album. Great? It is too early to assess. Definitely a superior album as compared to the two previous ones. A return to form? Hmm.. I can't tell. I would have to listen to this a few more times.

At the same time, I bought Andy Bell's new album 'Electric Blue'. This disco album is promising from a quick listen.

On an unrelated note, Gramaphone at Specialists' Centre appeared to have moved out. Pity.

"See the Microcosm
In macro vision
Our bodies moving
With pure precision
One universal celebration
One evolution
One creation"
'Macro' Depeche Mode

17 October 2005



Goth Ethereal

There is a sub-branch of goth music which features ethereal female vocals. Here are my favourites in this sub-genre.

Love Spiral Downwards - Idylls
Love Spiral Downwards - Ardor
Chandeen - Spacerider: Love at first sight
Chandeen - Jutland

The first two Love Spiral Downwards albums are, in my opinion, the best that they have ever created, subsequently, their later work veered off towards a languid lounge-cum-jazz direction. Abysmal really. Love Spiral Downwards eventually renamed itself as Love Spirals.

Chandeen has broken up. One of the vocalist has contributed vocals to a recent In Strict Confidence release.

There are five great collections featuring gothic ethereal vocals titled:

Heavenly Voices Volume 1
Heavenly Voices Volume 2
Heavenly Voices Volume 3
Heavenly Voices Volume 4
The Best of Heavenly Voices

The Heavenly Voices series is a good collection if one were to want to explore the ethereal goth music scene.

No Irish folk please.

"Sacred
Holy
To put it in words
To write it down
That is walking on hallowed ground"
'Sacred' Depeche Mode


A Verdant World Revisited

As the Demiurge approached, she came to the realisation that He needed worshippers. She was the raison d'etre for His existence.

"Above the air there is no despair
We are waiting for the moment"
'Everything must perish' Front Line Assembly

Session Report: '7 Ages'

'7 Ages' is a lengthy world conquest and civilisation-building game from an Australian design house. Augustine who was hosting this session and game has typed out this report:

David, Andreas, Augustine, Weiyi and Wayne are currently playing 7 ages, from Age 1 :) Here's the report for the first session. Enjoy...

7 Ages Session Report

At the dawn of recorded history, the Chinese have first claim to the title of the world’s oldest civilisation. Yet the Zhou dynasty was but the first among equals. In the fertile plains of the Middle East, men thrived and grew in numbers, expanding their territory and making great advances. The Phoenicians were the first to discover waterborne trade, with the Minoans close on their heels. Trading on dangerously stormy seas and built ever expanding fleets of triremes, their fleets ranged the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

Meanwhile, in the heart of Europe, the Amazons and the Gauls multiplied, prospered and spread across the land, encircling their smaller neighbour, the Cimmerians. Yet no great conflict raged between these expanding peoples, as each sought to fill the niche they had sprung from. Great cities were built by the Etruscans and the Carthaginians (who else built cities? I think there was one more civ)

The Egyptians, under the brilliant leadership of insert age 1 leader name here, drove relentlessly southward and created an empire that spanned the east coast of Africa, encompassing an area that made it one of the biggest empires of its time. The philosopher queen Zena of the Amazons exhibited her keen edge over her neighbours, even as they strove to compete in terms of glorious achievements.

The first signs of serious human conflict began in China. Convinced that the Zhou dynasty was decadent and weak, the Qin and Shang made their bid for power one after the other. The resulting three way contest saw the surprising defeat of these rebel movements, as the Zhou showed more resilience than expected. Mobilising more manpower than anyone had given them credit for (Weiyi played 2 cards in sequence to increase production or something), the Zhou maintained their hold over China for a little time longer. The subsequent volcanic eruption (or was it an earthquake? Think I was away from the table or wasn’t paying attention then) devastated key areas in China, leading to widespread disorder and chaos. Chinese civilization entered a dark age as the governments, legitimate and rebel alike, collapsed in the wake of the disaster. They would not recover till the Han dynasty several centuries later. (Historical note: There has been some debate about the exclusion from official Chinese historical records of the Japanese colonization of the fertile wheat areas of Shantung and Hopei in the years preceding the Han dynasty)

Euro-African civilization continued blissfully unaware of the disasters, manmade and natural, happening to their Chinese cousins. The rise of the Assyrians as a military power was to change the status quo of the Middle East completely. The first power to fall to the sleek Assyrian war machine was the Sumerians (I think?). The short lived Babylonian empire was the next to follow, after their ill-fated attempt to destroy the Assyrians through treachery backfired as a result of a spy who turned out to be a double-agent. The Assyrians swept south next and took the capital of the hapless Egyptian empire, which had stagnated in the years after the initial expansion and was facing severe disorder in the southern mountainous provinces after an earthquake (is it just me, or do earthquakes like happen ever so often in this version of history :P ) The loss of the capital proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. The Egyptian empire collapsed. The Phoenicians lost land to the Assyrian aggressors too, but did not meet the fate of the other empires (at this time of writing, they have not, that is )

The origin of the Huns remains steeped in myth and hearsay. Some scholars accept the Bucklandi explanation that they were the male slaves of the matriachial Amazonian society who rose up against the latter while others contend that the Huns, like all other civilizations, simply sprang into existence. Whatever their origins, the first act of the Hunnish hordes was to pillage the newly rebuilt Amazonian capital (the old one had been destroyed by, you’ve guessed it, an earthquake), knocking the Amazonians back an ages in the process. They then headed southwest, where the largest concentration of cities was. The name of Attila the Hun would strike fear in the hearts of the Etruscan society.

The scarcely populated Americas took yet another hit when a volcano wiped out the budding Inca civilization. Recent findings surmise that if the Incas had spread themselves out ever so slightly, they might have avoided the civilization destroying cataclysm which left the plains dwelling native Americans the sole survivors in the Americas.

India was relatively peaceful as the Harrapans co-existed with the Tamils with the former taking the north and the latter the south.

It was also around this period that the Javanese trading kingdom came into being.

End of report for Session 1.

Addendum

Recent scholarship (Weiyi, the patron god of the Zhou told me over MSN) has convincingly shown that the battle of Schechuan was won as a result of a Zhou spy in the Qin high command and the rapid dispatch of reinforcements from neighbouring provinces (In game terms, Weiyi played ‘High Command’ that forced Wayne to commit 1-3 units per battle as well as another card that allowed him to shift units from an adjacent province to join the battle). It was not, as was erroneously believed, the result of more manpower on the part of the Zhou but rather the application of that said force that led the Zhou to triumph over the other dynastic pretenders.

16 October 2005



A Traveller trudging through a wintry Landscape

Illustration Friday Theme: Cold

"Complicating, circulating
New life, new life
Operating, generating
New life, new life"
'New Life' Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode new single 'Precious'

In my opinion, 'Precious' is the best single released since 1993's 'In your Room'. 'Precious' is somewhat reminiscent of 'Enjoy the Silence' and could easily have been 'Enjoy the Silence Redux' due to the structure and arrangements. After that horrid venture into electro-blues with 'Ultra' and 'Exciter', Depeche Mode appears to have returned to their roots with this one single. Thanks goodness, no more of that 'It's no good' electronic valium. 'It's no good' is an extremely overrated single and it's simply no good!

I find 'Ultra' to be the worst album ever released by Depeche Mode. Strangely enough, several of Alan Wilder's Recoil albums explored this electro-blues territory a few years before 'Ultra' and 'Exciter'.

I think one only tell if Depeche Mode has truly returned to the sounds of 'Violator' and 'Music for the Masses' after listening to the new album which is to be released on Monday.

'Precious' features Gahan singing without accompaniement and it lacks the commanding voice in previous singles like 'Strangelove' and 'Enjoy the Silence'. 'Precious' could be better. I feel that Gahan singing alone or singing without other member of the band backing him up lack something. And please, no more of those two backup singers from 'Condemnation'. Depeche Mode is not an electro-blues... hopefully.

The myriad singles released for 'Precious'. The Sasha remixes are so-so, undistinguished and while retaining most of the vocals and they have a faster bpm. I don't quite like the remixes.

Depeche Mode "Precious" (UK part 1 MCD)
1. Precious - Album Version
2. Precious - Sasha's Spooky Mix (Edit)

Depeche Mode "Precious" (UK part 2 MCD)
1. Precious - Sasha's Gargantuan Vocal Mix (Edit)
2. Precious - Misc. Full Vocal Mix
3. Free

Depeche Mode "Precious" (UK DVD single)
1. Precious - Video
2. Precious - Motor Remix
3. Precious - Michael Mayer Ambient Mix

Depeche Mode "Precious" (US single)
1. Precious - Sasha's Spooky Mix
2. Precious - Sasha's Gargantuan Vocal Mix
3. Precious - Michael Mayer Balearic Mix
4. Precious - Misc Full Vocal Mix
5. Precious - Misc Crunch Mix
6. Precious - Motor Mix

All the singles here are available from A Different Drum's online store.

'Precious' is excellent synthpop.

"Dangerous
The way you leave me wanting more
Dangerous
That's what I want you for
Dangerous
When I am in your arms
Dangerous
Know I won't come to harm"
'Dangerous' Depeche Mode
Moon over Malaya

'Moon over Malaya' is a composite of many narratives and individual accounts of the Argylls and the Marines in the Malayan campaign.

The cover of the books shows a Lanchester armoured car. It is mentioned that the armoured cars used were of two types. The Marmon and the Lanchester armoured cars were obsolete types and the armour mounted were easily penetrated by anti-tank rifles, anti-tank guns and possibly machine gun fire. There was mention of engagements where Japanese tanks accounted for the few British armoured cars.

The Japanese fielded about 200 tanks in the Malayan campaign.

Lanchester Mark I, II Armoured Car
Armament: 3 x 0.303in (7.7mm) MGs
Armour: 8mm
Crew: 3
Dimensions: Length 4.9m; Width: 1.93m; Height: 2.99m
Weight: 7820kg
Powerplant: Lanchester 6-cylinder petrol, 115.2kW (86bhp)
Speed: 88km/h
Range: 320km


The book described fierce engagements at Upper Bukit Timah resulting in the destruction of armoured cars and a large column of over fifty Japanese tanks and armoured vehicles that could not be stopped. Road blocks, mines, anti-tank rifles and guns had accounted for a few Japanese tanks.

An interesting point to make is the mention of the Tyersall Park camp which is across the Road from the Tanglin Barracks. Today, Tyersall Road is just behind the Botanic Gardens.

'Tyersall Park Camp, the 2nd Argylls' home since December 1939 lay south of Bukit Timah Road and north of Tanglin Barracks. On the west side of the beautiful Botanical Gardens, the site reverted to jungle after the war. The land is still the property of the Sultan of Johore but remains overgrown , undeveloped and inaccessible. 200 yards from Napier Road is the rusted remains of Argyll Gate and further on the side entrance...'

Today, bordering the road is a large forested area where one can find attap huts inside. This forested area is bound by the Tyersall Road, Holland Road, Sommerville Park (apartments). Does this land still belong to the Sultan of Johor? I am curious. I guess one can do a check with the strata titles.

The account also described artillery bombardment of the camp as well as sniper fire.

The volume includes interesting photos of the campaign.

On a related note, I saw a new book 'Did Singapore Have to Fall?: Churchill and the Impregnable Fortress' at Borders. This book by Karl Hack and Kevin Blackburn includes quite a lot of details and raw information include naval artillery and more.

An interesting chapter also included the locations of two mass graves or massacre sites in Bedok and Changi. The first was at the site of the present Temasek Junior College which the second is at the soon to be completed Changi Airport Terminal 3.

"Now the work has moved on
And the factory's gone
See them sell your history
Where once you were strong
And you used to belong"
'The Circus' Erasure