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Archive for March, 2009

Modernism 101: 50′s Architecture

Posted by Scott

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Just a few gems from the Modernism 101 collection. Modernists in the 50′s had it down and it’s images like these that remind me it wasn’t all garishness back then. Not everything had bubbles and fins and bulges; some people were hiding out in the woods quietly appreciating their straight lines and right angles. Unfortunately, most of them stayed in the midwestern United States. Out here in San Francisco, apparently they decided that the height of architecture was the victorian age so all we got is a bunch of ugly houses with 400 rooms in them and Mel’s Drive In.

Lawrence+Daedelus+10:32+Marumari

Posted by Jakub

Lawrence - Jill
Sten aka Lawrence held my #1 spot on my Top 10 list of 2008 and his 12″ vinyl single Jill on Mule Electronics in 2009 will probably be in my Top 10 list of singles in 2009. I’m a sucker for these lush melodies over the well crafted rhythm sections Peter Kersten puts together. He uses delay so well and mutes notes perfectly like some gentle tribal lullaby if there was such a thing.
I’m not sure what synth it is but it almost sounds like a faint chime in the melody, I think I heard it in 80′s-early 90′s sitcoms, now that sound is just a killing me its so good. Here’s a big fake Pitchfork review rating of 10/10.

Daedelus and his friends started their new label FoF Music which features split EP’s by different aritsts as one release, clever idea if the artists don’t mind, only problem is if you’re not feeling the other music by the other musician on the same release but that’s not the case here since Jogger really delivers some good tracks too. One thing is that vocal sample Billy Corgan? or does Alfred just have a great voice and we didn’t know all this time.

10:32 is Tim Koch who you may know from the free Ghostly Swim compilation on Adult Swim or from the Merck label if you have followed the Tycho catalog follows up with a digital EP on Ghostly with integrating acoustic guitars, female vocals, and raw found sound in a pretty distant and perfect way.

I feel like I talk about Marumari a lot on the blog, he is definitely a favorite producer, this track called A Girl I Met At the Rest Stop was the first song I ever heard by him, its off the infamous IDM compilation series Bip-Hop Generation. The track sounds like a more up front live Selected Ambient Work track like Pulsewidth but way more calm and slower going.

Lawrence – Jill

Daedelus – LA Nocturn

10:32 – Jitter Heart

Marumari – A Girl I Met At the Rest Stop

SSD + RAID = Photoshop Performance

Posted by Scott

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I had planned on writing an article about using RAID with Photoshop for increased swap disk performance (more on that below) a while back but decided to hold off as it seemed that the arrival of SSD (solid state drives) would be a game changer for the concept of Photoshop swap disks. The only issue with SSD’s was the price; they always seemed to hover around the $1,000 range and weren’t any faster than normal drives. But recently SSD prices have plummeted and their speeds have shot up. It seems the age of affordable SSD’s is upon us and anyone interested in speeding up their workflow should take note.

So what’s an SSD Then?
An SSD is simply a hard drive which uses flash memory — like the stuff in your digital camera — to store data instead of the old magnetic platters used in current drives. The major benefits of SSD’s are extreme reliability — 30+ years of continuous operation, silent operation — no moving parts, low operating temperature — they don’t generate any heat, and speed — very fast read/write and seek times. All of these properties make SSD’s great candidates for use as swap drives for Photoshop and other multimedia applications. In the rest of this article I will focus on the benefits of SSD and RAID (more on RAID below) specifically for Photoshop, but they can greatly increase the performance of many other applications in the Audio/Video/Design fields (think media drive for After Effects or multi-track recoding disk for Logic). The only caveat to all of this is that SSD’s have asynchronous read/write speeds. They can read data much faster than they can write it. At the time of this writing, SSD write speeds are still about the same as normal disks, read speed is where they excel. I expect this will change soon though.

The Swap Disk
If you’re not familiar with how the swap drive in Photoshop works (Edit > Preferences > Performance in CS4) here’s a quick, very rough primer: Photoshop is constantly reading and writing temporary files in the background as you work. Ideally it reads and writes this data within your computer’s super-fast RAM. But as you start to work with larger documents (e.g. full size print work @ 300dpi) it quickly fills up the RAM space and needs some place to write the overflowing information. Now, if you have 64GB of RAM in your system you can stop reading here, but for the rest of us this is where the swap drive comes in. Since your operating system is also constantly reading and writing to and from your primary hard disk, it is essential that you have a second, dedicated disk as your swap drive. This way Photoshop can have all the bandwidth of that drive all to itself. The main problem with this is that while having a drive dedicated as the swap disk will help, it will never be as fast as RAM. This is where SSD’s and RAID can start to make a huge difference in Photoshop’s performance.

RAID Zero
One SSD as your swap disk is great, but what if you could stack several together to act as a single drive with a multiplied speed? This practice is known as RAID and it’s the key to boosting disk performance. I will try to explain RAID in simple terms here as it’s a rather complex subject. For our purposes you only really need to know a few things, if you want to know more just google RAID and you can learn the ins and outs pretty quickly. There are many flavors of RAID, but the one we are concerned with is RAID 0 (that’s a zero on the end). RAID 0 essentially takes multiple drives and treats them as one, leveraging the bandwidth of each to create one virtual drive with a greater speed than each individual drive and a total size equal to all drives combined. For instance, TweakTown was able to coax a 650MB/s read speed out of four Patriot SSD’s in RAID 0 on an Areca card.

The only problem with RAID0 is that it’s not fault tolerant, if any one of the drives in a RAID0 array go down, that’s it, you lose everything on the virtual drive that represents those four disks. But this is less of an issue given the inherent stability of SSD’s and for our purposes, we don’t really care about fault tolerance. Since this is only a temporary swap drive, all the files will be deleted each time we quit Photoshop. If you want to write permanent files to a RAID array, look into RAID1 which is sort of a blend of safety and speed, but with the lifespan and stability of SSD’s, you could probably get away with RAID0 for permanent file storage.

SSD+RAID=FAST
Here’s where things get really interesting. And when I say “interesting” I mean 650MB/s of interesting. When I built my last computer I used ye olde hard drives (non-SSD) for the RAID0 array and it was still very fast. This was waaay back (2008) when even one SSD was outrageously expensive so I ruled them out as a possibility. Now you can snag a very fast SSD for under $100, here’s a good example. You might be thinking that 32GB is rather small, but remember, this is just a temporary drive so we are mostly concerned with speed and not so much the storage space. Photoshop swap files rarely (maybe never?) get anywhere near 32GB in size. And if you plan on putting multiple drives into a RAID0 configuration, size becomes even less of an issue. RAID0 drive size is the sum total of all drives in the array. If you have three 32GB drives in the array, the disk size that your operating system will “see” is 96GB of SSD goodness. I could go on explaining how fast things start to get when you strap multiple SSD’s into a RAID0 array, but this video sums it all up quite nicely. You’ll hear a lot of technical jargon so if you don’t understand it all or can’t stand watching that guy talk for more than 30 seconds, just know this: everything he is saying basically amounts to these drives being ridiculously fast and reliable, two qualities digital artists hold in high regard when it comes to hard drives.

RAID Cards
Another thing to consider in all this is how to connect the drives. Most modern motherboards come with a form of RAID built in. Unfortunately, this is usually a software driven type of RAID and so it’s more about reliability than speed. For true speed you need to get a dedicated RAID card with it’s own processor on board. I have the Highpoint RocketRAID 3520 in my system and it’s been great. There are many others (such as the the Areca cards mentioned in the video above) so dig around for the best value. RAID cards can be expensive but it’s a good investment as they deliver great performance for the price. Spending $300 extra on a more powerful CPU might net you a small margin of increased Photoshop performance, but the same money spent on a RAID card and some drives will put your benchmarks through the roof.

Moral of The Story
If you are using Photoshop for anything, you should at the very least have one dedicated drive as the swap. If you are serious about using Photoshop for print and larger file sizes, you should be running an SSD for your swap drive. If you are obsessed with Photoshop performance and are creating 24×36″ posters @ 300dpi, you should be running multiple SSD’s on a dedicated RAID0 card as your swap disk. Sure SSD is still quite new, and the price per megabyte is still quite high (relatively speaking) but the performance gains can be huge. I’m not saying run out and buy up a stack of SSD’s, but if you are considering a new system or system upgrade in the near future, SSD’s should be on your research list. All told, a solid RAID 0 setup with two to four drives will run from about $400-$700 which could net you anywhere from 400-650MB/s swap read speeds. That’s a great ROI and whether you’re running Photoshop, producing music, or doing video, RAID0 and SSD’s are well worth your consideration. The way I see it, the more speed and power at my fingertips, the faster I can work and the more I can experiment with new ways of working. My goal is always to remove as many obstacles as possible between myself and the finished product and more responsive software goes a long way to eliminate the biggest obstacle of them all: time.

Escort+Actress+Marvin Gaye+Yagya

Posted by Jakub

Zombi
I guess there are a lot of zombies artist names out there but I think black or wolf might be used a little more, there is one I posted about earlier this week that does Dubstep and a more disco one that spells his name Zombi. Either way both have great output, especially this remix on the latest Zombi EP by Brooklyn’s Escort. The track has a very DFA sound to it, but what you get are these really sped up Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon sounds transformed into disco, hopefully you can hear the parts i’m talking about.

I was in the car with Scott and Sam from Ghostly International and I flipped over this Actress LP. I can see a lot of people not being into it but if you grew up on Jeff Mills or any Detroit Techno that is this simple yet dark n’ dirty style of making melodies on muted keys and a driving kick that is backed up by cheap strings and thinned out metallic hi hat always will grab me up and ruin me until I just end up dancing in my chair. Also, if just listen to the last 30 seconds if that sound doesn’t grab you, its well worth checking. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Its Marvin Gaye, check it out please, it won’t disappoint.

For all the low level sounding ambient fans, if you haven’t picked up the Yagya record then you’re in for a treat. Yagya has this sound similar to Gas and The Sight Below but goes into the dreamer end. Gas sounds like you’re suck in the middle of field and you’re surrounded by smoke thats in the distance but everything is in slow motion and The Sight Below makes you feel like someone knocked you out of your misery during a tragic second and your half awake and half unconscious but its going to be fine because they’re here to save you. Yagya is more of a slowly floating and you have full control but its always starting to rain and its extra foggy but you don’t care because you’re floating, which is always a good thing.

Zombi – Sapphire (Escort Remix)

Actress – Crushed

Marvin Gaye – Heavy Love Affair (The Revenge Rework)

Yagya – prju

Tim Navis Photography

Posted by Scott

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Navis has been a long time commenter on this blog but I just recently stumbled onto his photography and was very impressed. The colors are just perfect; such a nice tone, feels modern yet still authentic. From the Flickr EXIF data it looks like he’s using a Canon EOS 30D. Tim, perhaps you’d like to elaborate on your equipment (lenses etc.) and methods in the comments?

You can find more of Navis’ work at his Flickr and his portfolio.

Day For Night: Alex Cornell

Posted by Scott

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As you may already know, Alex Cornell — the same Alex who posts on this blog — is also my intern around the studio. A while back Northwestern University asked him to take on the daunting task of layout and design for their “Day For Night” magazine. The previous design was pretty much your run-of-the-mill college publication without much thought put into the design so this was a great chance for him to really evolve the visual language of the magazine. The big constraint was colors; apparently he can only use black, white, and one spot color of his choosing per issue. As you can see, the finished product is superb, Alex’s excellent eye for typography and layout really shine through in his first issue for the magazine. This project was featured (and deservedly so) by Behance last week and is up on Alex’s portfolio page there. Congrats Alex, very nice work!

Back Home

Posted by Scott

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Finally home after an eventful weekend and it’s time to get back to work on the album. I want to thank everyone who made it out to the shows and Ghostly for making it all happen, it was a great time all around. banx_zor got some great shots of the SF show at Mezzanine (posted above). If you have any more of the SF or LA shows let me know! As you can see in photo 2 above, Dusty Brown made a rather animated cameo during the set, thanks to him for tearing it up on the keys. Our very own Alex Cornell also turned in a great performance on a couple guitar tracks (3rd picture down). For those who were wondering, the last 2 tracks I played in each set were new songs, the final one being a single due out shortly on Ghostly International. I’ll keep you posted.

Bullion+Zombi+Librarian+Paavoharju

Posted by Jakub

bullion - young heartache
Before djing in LA before Tycho I had to go music shopping and picked up some new albums and a couple EPs but I mostly played a lot of the tracks i’ve posted on the blog. This Bullion track isn’t really anything for the dancefloor but it was nice to hear it loud and see if people could appreciate it. The samples he chooses are a bit cut up but you never really notice since the rest of the round sounds smooth out the mix and the fast keys looping keep you completely satisfied.

After all the Burial hype someone needed to take the raines and Zomby did just that but with a bit more of a punch, I could only find 3 songs in his whole catalog that i liked but those 3 are pure gems.

The Librarian did an outstanding deep dubby techno track that his label mate Teef remixed. The track has this great line in it: “..the queen has been wounded the worker will fight, the queen has been wounded the worker will die. and i can’t stop until you’re gone. and i won’t stop until you’re gone. your heart is still beating…” really worth checking out.

The dreamy at times Paavoharju put Finland on the map when it comes to indie accepted experimental folk here in the States. The band is on a phenomenal label called Fonal, if you have any time to dig you might want to check that catalog thoroughly because they have some lovely releases.

Bullion – Long Promised

Zomby – Test Me For A Reason

The Librarian – The Hornet’s Nest (Teef’s Antihistamine Remix)

Paavoharju – Kevätrumpu