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[Digital review only]
Frou Frou were an electronic duo consisting of Imogen Heap (vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, a huge inspiration of mine) and Guy Sigsworth (multi-instrumentalist, produced Heap's first album, had previously worked with many well-known musicians such as Björk and Madonna). They only released this one album, Details, in 2002, and then split so Heap could concentrate on her solo project and Guy could produce and co-write with a variety of musicians. I discovered this album through Dooyoo, and despite having no particular interest in electronic music before, it grew on me rapidly. Enough background information; you're interested in how it sounds, right?
1. Let Go (4:13)
2. Breathe In (4:37)
3. It's Good To Be In Love (4:39)
4. Must Be Dreaming (4:01)
5. Psychobabble (5:33)
6. Only Got One (4:09)
7. Shh (5:34)
8. Hear Me Out (4:19)
9. Maddening Shroud (3:37)
10. Flicks (3:58)
11. The Dumbing Down of Love (4:44)
12. Old Piano (5:09)
The album begins with some nice electronic stuff, lush strings and Imogen's unique, often breathy voice. The melodies sound so good, as with the entire album. A catchy chorus welcomes in the gated electronic drums, and sets the tone of things to come. I personally find the chorus a little repetitive by the end of the song, although I have given the album an enormous amount of listens. The song is carried out with the strings and Imogen telling us about how "there's beauty in the breakdown". All in all, not a bad start!
A guitar with some unusual processing on the volume is joined by a disjunct bassline, before once more we get the electronic drums and vocals. The chorus is very catchy at first, but again it does seem a little repetitive after a while. The lyrics to the second verse ('What part of no don't you understand? I've told you before. Just get off my case, this isn't happening, stop this now ') sound like one half of a conversation, as do a few lyrics on the album. I like the acapella bridge, before the electronic-ness swells up, the short drum motif plays, and there's one vocal syllable which feels really close, leading into the final chorus. Most instruments disappear at the end, leaving only the guitar and a bunch of beautifully interwoven vocal tracks.
-It's Good To Be In Love-
It's not the most masculine song, I'd be reluctant to listen to it in public during the sad days when I don't have headphones! The drums sound heavily processed, but still seem real. The initial line of "I don't know where to begin: Say I'm tired or throw a party" usually draws a smile. There are some really interesting electronic sounds at around 4 minutes onwards. The song is average; it doesn't sound bad, but it's cheesy, isn't particularly inspiring and doesn't always hold my interest.
-Must Be Dreaming-
The chorus is definitely the highlight here. From the vocal melody, to the glitched snare, to the bass line, to nice pad, to the other instrument in there that I can't describe with words. Each layer on its own is mesmerizing, then they all fit together while maintaining their own space. I think this is partly due to the each instrument's part being written while thinking carefully about the bigger picture, and partly the mix being fantastic throughout the album.
Definitely the highlight of the album so far. After a few laid back songs, things get more intense. I really really love this song, it gives me THAT feeling. The start is a slightly unsettling bell-like descending four note sequence. There's an incredible, unusual, glissando-y bass sound that can probably be best described as doooBEEUW (just listen to it, then you may/may not understand) which is used a lot in the song, and has a really appealing rhythm in the chorus. The strings build until the chorus comes, which is a tense warning of "Do just what I tell you, and no-one will get hurt." After the second chorus, the strings take centre stage for a nice dramatic section with a rhythm that constantly evolves. Then there are a few other brilliant parts - everything about this song is incredible. You need this song, and you need lots of volume. From start to finish, this song is a pure masterpiece.
-Only Got One-
Just before the vocals begin, there's a brief melody on a wind instrument which just begs you to sing it in falsetto with a smile. Or maybe that's just me? Anyway, once again the natural and the electronic are mixed together in such a way that sounds really organic and fresh. It's more upbeat than the first few tracks, and has a certain energy to it. Anybody who has read some of my other album reviews may know that I have a love for rhythms that are out of the ordinary; consequently the syncopation on the delivery of the title line was very welcome. At the end, the focus turns to the piano for the first time in the album, as there's a simple but effective melody.
The first time I heard this song, I wasn't too sure about it, but it quickly became a favourite. The song somehow feels relaxed and yet has a sense of urgency at the same time. The chorus is fantastic. Just before the second chorus, there's a little hint to the bridge, and then when the bridge itself arrives... Wow. It's one of those moments where everything just seems perfect. Pure magic. There's such space, and it makes me feel all tingly inside. A tasty instrumental follows, and it goes on for quite a while until it fades, but there's plenty going on to hold my attention. Considering how short my attention span is, that's quite a feat!
-Hear Me Out-
The intro is an example of the unique sounds which Frou Frou conjure up. As with all the songs, there are plenty of aurally pleasing layers. It's not one of the best songs on the album in my opinion, but it's still worth a listen. The lyrics in the chorus are very straightforward and confessional (Listen up, this sun hasn't set. I refuse to believe that it's only me feeling it. Just hear me out, I'm not over you yet.). There's also a nice little acoustic guitar riff which makes a few brief appearances.
This is my least favourite song on the album, and I've tended to skip it lately. The lyrics seem weak, and the melodies aren't as pleasing to my ears as in the other songs. The most interesting part on offer is maybe the bass, but I can rarely sustain an interest throughout the entire track.
This is where things take a huge step up, back into the favourites. As soon as I hear the opening notes, a voice in my head shouts "YAY!"
The song gradually builds up over the first minute or so. The production stands out on this song especially, but on the whole album the mixing shows lots of ideas, but it never feels like things are being done for the sake of it. The vocals in the chorus are the kind of 'da-ah-ooh-daay-um-da-um-da' nonsense I've come to know, love and expect from Immi. There are plenty of little subtleties and surprises, making it a very fun song to listen to.
-The Dumbing Down of Love-
Another breathtaking song, this one is slower. From the very first listen, I was in love with this song. The emphasis here is on the vocals and piano, with pads and various instrumental additions popping up from time to time. One of my favourite lines I've ever heard is the beautiful bridge:
'Music is worthless unless it can make a complete stranger break down and cry.'
I don't describe things as perfect often, but that line really does sound perfect. There's a huge amount of passion that can be heard in this record, which is a huge positive point for me. There is such an evidently deep connection with the music, which I don't hear often in many musicians. An unbelievably amazing song.
This song has sent me to sleep on numerous occasions, but that's not to say it's boring. While the dissonant piano and intermittent rumbling bass at the start aren't what you'd expect to carry anyone to a hypnagogic state, it's quickly replaced by a nice, simple melody, a soothing clicking, and a lovely ambience which sounds like a mixture between rain and some kind of analog saturation. The trumpet comes back, one of the many things which adds to the unique feel. The abstract vocals (What's that you're saying there? Oh well. Rain rushing window pane. Oh well...) provoke intrigue, and there's a memorable moment where a huge wall of sound approaches, so when it disappears everything feels so calm and free. It's all very relaxing, and enough to send me to sleep with a smile on my face.
Overall, it's a fantastic album. There are a few songs which let the side down for me, but the whole thing may appeal to somebody who usually listens to electronic music. If it was more consistent, I would have definitely given a 5 star rating.
No matter which genres you listen to usually, I'd recommend opening your mind and giving at least a few of the songs a try, then purchasing the album if they appeal to you. I'm definitely glad I tried it!
The CD is currently available at Amazon for £5.93, with free UK delivery.
I decided to do this as I have a bit of spare time but my mind isn't functioning well enough to write a review. Also, my internet visits will give an insight into my mind if anybody wishes to get to know me a bit better. So, in alphabetical order:
For finding things to buy and things to dream about. I've spent a lot of time on Amazon recently, deciding what my future Dooyoo vouchers will be used for.
Next up, Dooyoo! Writing reviews can only be beneficial for my mind, I get a bit of money and self-esteem, I learn lots about products, and of course there is a wonderful community to talk to! I love you people, and your contributions to Dooyoo have made me a happier person.
I don't use Facebook anywhere near as much as I used to, but I still check once a day for any notifications (usually friends sharing songs with me) and have the occasional conversation.
Google is my search engine of choice, and where would we be without search engines? It's simple, quick, and has some inspiring Google Doodles.
got-djent.com is a website for people who enjoy a little genre of music called djent. It features news about djent bands and forums. The majority of us on the forums are musicians with an obsession with experimentation and complex rhythms, and I've learned a lot about recording from the more experienced members. It's quite a small, homely community.
GuitarGuitar.co.uk is, quite shockingly, about guitars. More specifically, it sells them. If anybody here happens to work there... a free PRS would be much appreciated ;)
SoundCloud is a website where people can share their music and general sounds for free. My music has been listened to in countries I never knew existed, and the layout is simple but extremely effective. If anyone is interested in hearing my musical nonsense, there's a wide variety of genres at http://soundcloud.com/callum-martinmoore . Any feedback is very welcome, whether positive or negative!
-Twitter + TwitLonger-
Enough self-promotion, and on to the next two websites. Twitter is a brilliant way to find like-minded people from all around the world. I've learned how to say 'conservatory' in Danish ('udestue', if you happen to be interested) from a fellow Florence + the Machine fan who lives in Copenhagen, had conversations with a huge variety of people, and kept up with my local friends. The limit of 140 characters per tweet means that a single message in a decent conversation with somebody talkative could take 10 tweets to finish. TwitLonger saves the day here as it lets you type for as long as you wish, and just tweets a small link to the rest of the message when you get near the 140 character limit.
Last but not least, is YouTube, which I imagine you are all familar with. It's far too easy to spend hour after hour clicking through related videos and finding new music and live performances of my favourite bands. There's some decent comedy and some useful factual videos too.
Well, that's that, you reached the end. Thanks for reading!
[Digital review only, I do not own a physical copy.]
[There is some strong language in the lyrics. None is quoted in this review, but just a heads-up for if you're considering listening and may be offended.]
Oceansize are a progressive rock band. Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up (their fourth full-length) was released in September 2010. Shortly after, the band split up, which is unfortunate. At least they've gone out on a high!
1. Part Cardiac (4:10)
2. SuperImposer (4:15)
3. Build Us A Rocket Then... (3:59)
4. Oscar Acceptance Speech (8:54)
5. Ransoms (4:07)
6. A Penny's Weight (3:38)
7. Silent/Transparent (8:29)
8. It's My Tail And I'll Chase It If I Want To (3:36)
9. Pine (4:55)
10. SuperImposter (5:16)
(Total Running Time = 51:19)
You may never have listened to Oceansize before, so what should you expect from the first track? A small improvised drum section and a wail of feedback welcomes in the opening song which is very heavy and slow, with each and every dramatic note carrying a lot of weight. It's not particularly catchy, with little predictable repetition, but it definitely gives me an ominous sense of being on some kind of mission. Still, it feels very human in places, and some of the vocals towards the end of the songs are even screamed, which adds to the drama. The opening line of 'Self preserved while the bodies float up and the hard luck follows them all down the well' summarises the darkness of this song, definitely a demonstration of the band exploring their heavier side.
SuperImposer is the only track from the album which was released as a single. Musically this is not as challenging to listen to as Part Cardiac, and it's more mid-tempo and cheery. There are plenty of interesting rhythms, while this is melodically very consonant (a combination which I don't seem to hear often enough). When the lead guitars and vocals perform in unison it sounds wonderful (even keeping its appeal throughout the whole day, when it stubbornly refuses to leave my head). The lyrics aren't simple sing-along material as you'd find in any chart album, with Oceansize instead opt for more intelligent lyrics with depth, such as the epic climax of 'They've no voices, just consequential immunity from reason // Bullets and at birth should be isolated // Protection from decency, 'cause this is how the wars get started.' which is the highlight of the song in my opinion.
-Build Us A Rocket Then...-
This song starts in a huge burst of 7/8 energy, then calms down for the verses in preparation of the moment where an incredible 5/4 lead riff hits at 2:27. From here on in, the song is truly breathtaking, delivering a minute and a half of outstanding and memorable songwriting. I personally love rhythms that require a bit of thought on the first few listens, which this definitely delivers. This song has stood out as a favourite since the first listen; it needs to be heard to be believed.
-Oscar Acceptance Speech-
After all the heavily distorted guitars of the first three tracks, Oscar Acceptance Speech gives a chance to catch your breath. It's almost 8 minutes of progressive goodness, with a rhythmic idea in a dodgy time signature repeated throughout on drums, which alone can keep me entertained for the duration of the song. The other instruments and vocals are top-notch, and I consider the more prominent place of the keyboards relative to the other songs is very welcome. If the heaviness of the album's opening trio of songs seems like too much for you, I'd definitely recommend this song. It's far mellower, but it's still just as interesting to listen to. The last few relaxing minutes consists of only strings and occasional distant vocals. It's beautiful to hear.
Ransoms is another slow song. It's quite mournful as the organs and snare ghost notes sit under the slow vocals of '...When they found her body, no offer or ransom could bring her back to me, for a walk in the moonlight'. The mournful monologue continues and shows desperation, in the anguish-laden repetition of 'I'd pay all the money'. The tremolo-picked guitars drenched in delay and reverb give a huge sense of space when they come in later on, and I find this to be a powerful song.
-A Penny's Weight-
The guitars constantly swapping between left and right with each strum sounds brilliant if listening through headphones with closed eyes. The vocal harmonies are very effective, and the song as a whole has quite a dreamy feel to it. When the drums finally come in after a minute, the slow beat shows a lot of restraint and feel on the drummer's behalf. I may be getting slightly off the topic of this song, but it must be said that the drummer (Mark Heron) never overplays, despite being extremely capable of simultaneous speed, limb independence and playing in a variety of unusual time signatures. Mark is definitely one of my favourite drummers, as he is always complementing the sounds coming from the rest of the band and being inspirational while never trying to selfishly steal the show.
This is another one of the long songs (at 8:29) and also one of the songs that stands out to me. The song never seems neither self-indulgent nor rushed, despite keeping the same basis for the majority of the song, with a gradual progression. I may not be a drummer, but yet again I do spend a lot of time listening to the drums here. This song showcases the vocals extremely well, with some unique lyrics ('a view of space, with an elephant obstructing it') and vocal melodies that are a joy to listen to. The beginning of the song is fairly laid back, before it strips back further and begins a long, tense crescendo. After a cue of 'Silent and transparent - the one who holds the candle to the glow of you', it happens. The walls of guitars come and surround you, drown you in huge instrumental waves, in the best way possible. You're free: swim around, let the waves crash over you. The band name suddenly seems relevant, it sounds enormous, almost like some kind of epiphany. It draws to an unexpected close, leaving only the empty sound of silence, and the temptation of the repeat button!
-It's My Tail and I'll Chase It If I Want To-
Simon Neil (vocalist of Biffy Clyro) does backing vocals on this track; another dramatic one. I find it difficult to tell what Simon says here, as he uses his strange semi-scream. The first time I heard this song I was completely speechless, with more of the large sound and heavily reverbed guitars which wouldn't be too out of place in post-rock bands, such as And So I Watch You From Afar. The lyrics here are rhyming nonsense, delivered at high speed. Although most of the song is instrumental, the quick vocal parts in the middle are fun to attempt singing along with.
Another slower one that sounds very nice. As with Ransoms, A Penny's Weight and SuperImposter, Pine is part of my playlist which I use for carrying me to the edge of sleep. I wouldn't recommend it if you're feeling a bit drowsy and hoping to stay awake (like myself now, after being awake for 33 hours straight so far), while otherwise it's a good song. There's a gentle metronome (or something that sounds suspiciously similar to one) providing a constant tempo throughout the song, which only makes things more relaxing. The lovely sound on the cymbals, snare ghost notes, clean guitars and alternate-picked reverbed guitars all help to build a wonderful soundscape. Also, Pine is a welcome return for strings on the album.
Not to be confused with SuperImposer (see what they did there?), this is the closing track on the album. A nice bass line holds up arpeggiated guitars and more slow vocals. The final verse of the album isn't particularly a cheery finale, with the lyrics of 'Should I not fraternize with these angels I've loved? // But if I'm out of time, I'll say my goodbyes and float downstream // And have cynics witness me grow rotten at the seams.' I generally prefer a bit more light in my music, but it sounds so good that I'll make no complaints.
All in all, Self Preserved is a very interesting progressive album with some incredible rhythms and a very dynamic mixture of heavy and dreamy. If you want a quick bit of karaoke fun then you'll want to look elsewhere, and some tracks may disappoint if you don't enjoy both ends of their sonic spectrum, but it's the kind of release I love, and it always keeps me coming back for more. Let's hope for a reunion!
I had been playing guitar for around 3 years. It wasn't until I decided on an upgrade and purchased the RGA32 that I developed a deep, magical and wonderful connection with my guitar (sad as it may seem!). Instead of just playing and writing songs, I soon felt like I could fully express myself.
The neck is one of the most playable necks I've come across. It's thin, allowing you to do awkward chords and large stretches with ease, and playing something such as an American Fender after seems like a huge effort. It's made of maple, and feels really good. If you want to play slowly and melodically, it will let you feel each note carefully. If you want to go as quickly as possible, the neck will happily let you shred to your heart's content.
It's easy to get from one end of the fretboard to the other, and there's plenty of ground to cover if you make use of all 24 frets. I personally love having 2 full octaves available on each string, as it makes sense from a music theory point of view. There were plenty of times I wished I had 24 with my previous guitar (an OLP Axis), and now I always miss the extra frets when I use someone else's guitar. It's always better to have too many than too few!
The arched top increases playability. It nicely supports my right arm if I want it to, and stays out the way if not. The dimensions always seem perfect, regardless of whether it is fingerpicked or a plectrum is used, whether stood up or sat down.
There is a double cutaway, which makes it easier to reach the higher frets. I would have preferred it if the bottom cutaway went slightly further down, but as the neck pickup physically touches the bottom of the fretboard I don't think it'd be possible to cut much further.
-Pickups and Sound-
Lately, I've been travelling down the never-ending path of searching for the perfect tone. I still use the stock pickups, which are made by Ibanez. There is a CAP-LZ10 in the neck, and a CAP-LZ20 in the bridge. Most guitar nerds (no offence intended, I consider it a compliment) swap the pickups when they get an Ibanez, but I find these can produce a decent tone... at least, until my ears improve and I become nerdier! Both are active, so you'll need to put a pair of AA batteries in to power them for the high output. The batteries last for months and months, so there's no need to worry about the extra cost of batteries. It's just recommended to take spares if you're going gigging!
The Gibraltar Standard fixed bridge is simple, and works as it should. Unfortunately, there's no hole for a tremolo arm / whammy bar / whatever you wish to call it, so if you find it necessary you'll have to either look elsewhere or invest in a whammy pedal. I've developed a habit of resting the side of my picking hand on the bridge when fingerpicking, as it's completely flat and comfortable.
-Pots and Pickup Selector-
There are two pots: one for volume, and one for tone. After using them for a few years, both sound 'scratchy' when turned, so don't expect to be able to get away with never cleaning them. The pickup selector is a 3 way switch, as you'd get in most guitars with 2 pickups. There's nothing special about it, but there doesn't need to be!
Any guitar of mine can expect the occasional collision with the floor in my band's practice room which has no stands. It's always survived these completely unscathed, and usually stays in tune. After nearly 3 years, my trusty Ibanez still looks new. I did have an issue once with the output suddenly being quieter, but a little bit of re-assembling fixed that. Some frets have worn down a bit from my frequent and intense use, which gives a bit of buzz. This can be fixed with fret levelling, but it's not particularly cheap.
Looks are of course opinion, but I've received many compliments on the RGA32's looks from people who normally take no interest in guitars. Most have a natural finish, showing off the beautiful mahogany body, and I think this is my favourite to look at. Mine has a white finish, as you can see in my profile photo and the Dooyoo photo. There is also titanium grey and black available if you're willing to search a bit further.
Mine was £320 from my local music shop a few years ago. They're now available at £269 online, which is a brilliant price. The only guitars I've found that I prefer to this are made by PRS, and are upwards of £500. I've played plenty of other brands around the £1000 mark, and none were as playable as this.
As I'd recommend with any guitar, make sure you play plenty before you make your purchase. I was extremely impressed with this and would highly recommend it, but guitar preferences are a very personal thing.
After spending months searching around for a laptop, this was an offer I simply couldn't refuse. I'm glad I took it!
Unless you connect to an external monitor or TV, the screen is going to be very important when choosing a laptop. This LED 15.6" screen is a nice size in my opinion, and the resolution of 1366x768 is neither impressive nor disappointing. It can go bright enough to easily be seen in strong sunlight.
This was the main reason for my purchase. I do a lot of music recording and production running various plugins, which needs a lot of power to keep everything running smoothly. The Intel i5 2.4GHz processor is truly impressive, and means I'm never left wishing for more power. If you just doing the occasional bit of casual browsing you will easily be satisfied with a cheaper model that has an i3 processor instead. The 6GB of RAM is very good, but many programs don't offer a 64 bit version to take advantage of all of this.
The first setup was extremely easy, self-explanatory and quick. Any computer with Windows 7 Home Premium should be the same.
The massive 750GB hard drive should mean you don't have to worry about running out of memory. I transferred everything across from my old computer and have been filling this with uncompressed music recordings, and still have 500GB left. Storage and retrieval are both quick, and the Intel Rapid Storage Technology that comes with it may be partly to thank.
-Mouse and Keyboard-
The keyboard is nice and springy, which helps with quick typing. The keys aren't particularly raised so catching the wrong one can happen at times, more so than with large keyboards of desktop computers. WiFi, music, screen settings and brightness can all be controlled directly from the keyboard with one press. A small white light comes on the Caps Lock button when in use, which is handy.
The mouse is made up of many small grooves, which gives it a nice texture. It is accurate, and things can be controlled with special gestures. For example, double tapping the top left corner disables the mouse, putting two fingers on it and moving them apart makes it bigger, and moving two fingers down scrolls down. The only problem I've discovered is that the mouse stops working if you have sweaty hands.
There are a variety of colours available, but shops only seemed to have red available. Still, the red looks fine, and compliments the black panels and keyboard. It's sexy!
The first thing I noticed about the built in Altec Lansing stereo speakers is their impressive maximum volume. It doesn't seem to reproduce anything at all below around 200Hz (so there's absolutely no bass), but those frequencies it does bother with sound acceptable.
-Webcam and Microphone-
The webcam is 0.3MP, so not ideal for filming things, but fine for a Skype chat, as you'd expect from a small built-in webcam. Me and my friend both have the same laptop, and we were both surprised by how clearly we could hear each other over Skype, which is a compliment to the built-in microphone.
The WiFi operates perfectly. Along the sides, there are many possible connections and ports. There is a disc drive which is capable of quickly reading and writing CDs, playing DVDs as smoothly a DVD player would, and (although I haven't yet tried it) writing DVDs too. There's a slot for an SD card, 3.5mm microphone and headphones/speaker connections, a HDMI port, Ethernet port, VGA port, and 3 USB 2.0 ports, which are a fairly average speed. I'm disappointed in the lack of Bluetooth, which many modern laptops have.
The battery is Lithium-Ion. To you or me, it simply keeps working for a long time. There are a bunch of power options, including a power saving mode which slightly sacrifices performance and brightness for battery life. For most things this reduced performance will still be perfectly fine, and it can last up to 6 hours.
It's all worked perfectly so far, besides one occasion where it complained about my desktop missing upon startup. I panicked a lot for a second, restarted and then was relieved to find that all was back to normal. It doesn't feel like the toughest piece of technology in existence, but I can't say how well it reacts to being dropped as mine has been carefully carried everywhere.
With it being a laptop, you want something that can easily be carried around. It's fairly average size, with dimensions of 374 x 245 x 36mm, and not too heavy at 2.55kg.
I happily purchased this laptop in January 2012, for £400 from PC World. I've seen it in a local computer shop for £350 second hand, which I think is still quite a good deal. For a laptop with similar spec, it's normally needed to pay much extra.
A quick search around the internet suggests that it's not particularly easy to find, but if you do get the opportunity to buy one and you need more power than the cheaper models, I would highly recommend this.
I don't think many headphone brands can compete with the quality of the pricier Sennheiser headphones. So, how much quality is there in these, at such a low price?
It's expected for the sound quality on these to be inferior to the over ear headphones that are £100 for a pair, but the sound is by no means 10 times worse. I was really impressed from the first listen onwards, and I could clearly pick out details in songs that I couldn't through any of the other hoardes of in-ear headphones I'd tried. The subbass isn't reproduced with as much volume relative to other frequencies, but it's not completely absent (the frequency response covers the full 20 - 20,000 Hz of human hearing) and most genres of music don't make much use of subbass anyway. The box boasts about 'dynamic speaker systems for bass-driven stereo sound' and I must say, the first thing I noticed when I used these is the bass presence. Far too many cheap headphones completely seem to neglect the bass frequencies, while these make a point of proving that despite being small, it's still possible to give a big low end. The mids and highs sound good too, and are in balance. All in all, the sound quality is great.
The packaging is fairly compact but effective, and clearly shows the product. While some companies seem to put effort into making it a physical challenge to rescue the product from the box, this is simple enough to open and easily sturdy enough to protect the headphones. There are some safety notes printed on the inside of the box, which can only be read by ripping it apart (at least it's not wasting paper), but they seem to be little more than the usual 'Don't run in front of cars while listening' health and safety nonsense that's legally required.
Unlike the ones pictured above, mine are blue. The advertising line 'Colour It Loud!' and Sennheiser website place emphasis on the fact that there are a variety of colours available. There is white, red, grey, blue and a golden colour to choose from, so it's all down to personal preference. Mine were given to me as a gift so I had no choice, but I like the blue. As a matter of fact, I quite like every aspect of the looks.
These go louder than most in-ear headphones. Earlier they were able to compete with the volume of a huge drill (the ridiculously loud ones that are used on roads and things) 5 metres away. They can easily be heard over traffic.
-Connection and cable-
The angled 3.5mm jack sends the signal down a 1.2 metre. 1.2m is more than enough to reach down to your pocket, and they boast about having a symmetrical cable which apparently reduces tangling. In my experience, they're usually very tangled after just a few minutes in my pocket.
I have trouble finding in-ear headphones that actually stay in my ears, but these are wonderfully comfortable and very rarely fall out. I use them while walking and in bed every day, and have never had any reason to complain about comfort.
The cable doesn't feel particularly solid, and the casing on the angled jack did split from casual use after just 3 months (as it's angled, it doesn't sit well in deep pocket when plugged in). This resulted in the left channel stopping working, then the right too. There is a 2 year warranty, and when I notified Amazon they sent me a new pair straight away. They took 2 days to arrive, and in this time I tried out a few other headphones I have, such as the ones that came with the PSP and my Nokia phone. Their design flaws and inferior sound quality made me so glad when I got my second Sennheiser pair delivered! In the two months since this, I've looked after them a lot more carefully and they're working well at the moment.
As they were a gift, I didn't know how much they were worth until I checked the internet. I was surprised to find them on sale for £13.73, because I guessed at around £25 from the quality. Bargain!
I think 3D is too expensive at the moment, isn't available on enough TV programmes and doesn't add enough to my viewing experience. If you're happy with watching things in 2D, this TV is a good choice.
Of course, the most important aspect is how good things look. The picture is fantastic, no matter what you watch. The contrast of 50,000:1 and 1920x1080 (Full HD) resolution in progressive scan are still impressive. There are a bunch of different settings that optimise what you're watching (such as Cinema, Game, Sport etc.), which do make a noticeable difference. The 32 inch screen is a brilliant size for many rooms.
The stereo sound is outstanding quality. There is also a 'Clear Voice' feature, which can help with understanding dialogue. Again, there are modes such as Music, Game, Cinema.
I think it looks brilliant. The standby button is a little red circle on the front that rhythmically and slowly get larger and smaller, which is a nice touch.
It's not the most responsive, but it's not particularly frustrating either. It's comfy, and all the buttons are laid out in a logical way.
You can connect almost anything. There are 4 HDMI connections (more than enough for most situations), as well as the usual Scart inputs and suchlike. Also, things can be plugged in via USB and music can be played through the speakers, and photos can be viewed. The disadvantage of the music player is that you can't scroll while listening to something.
-Interface And Setup-
It practically sets itself up, and the menus are all self-explanatory and logical.
It can swivel around on the base (useful for viewing at different angles often) and has built in Freeview. There is a quick beep when the front power button is used, which I find annoying, but it's no major issue.
I purchased the TV in January 2009, and it's worked perfectly since. At only £350, it was a bargain at the time. A quick look on the internet suggests that the price is still the same, despite technology moving on. I stil consider this to be a good price!
I've tried a lot of headphones. As I do all the production on my own music, I need to listen to the subtle differences between every set of speakers and headphones I can. From the first time I used these headphones, I was blown away. The clarity was just incredible, things I'd never noticed before on other headphones or speakers suddenly became crystal clear. I've listened to a huge variety of music with these including jazz, metal and classical - it reproduces everything perfectly. It's even across all the frequencies, so they can be used for mixing, but for the casual listener this means that there's the perfect balance of bass, mids and treble, so you hear it as the artist intended.
They are padded and after a short while it's easy to forget that they're even being worn. I've worn them all day on a few occasions, and never had any kind of discomfort. Despite being large and the cups covering your ears, they are even extremely comfortable when laying down in bed.
They go to a volume far higher than a comfortable listening volume, and can be used as portable speakers if you put them around your neck and turn the volume up, although too much volume could be risky and blow them.
There is quite a lot of 'leakage', so if you put these headphones on anybody nearby will be able to hear your music / TV show / podcast / video clearly, which was an issue in my house when I wanted to make music and other people wanted to sleep (the doors in my house don't block sound out at all).
The cable itself is 5m long, which is useful if you want to listen to music from a desktop computer and move around the room, for instance. It isn't physically built into the headphones, so it can easily be replaced if you want to connect to something other than 3.5mm jack, or if it breaks, as mine has. The one that came with it has gold-plated ends and the 5m part is made of Kevlar (so it can take a bit of a beating), but the end connection of mine has stopped working.
The aesthetics are nothing unusual by any means, the design is simple and effective. I would happily wear these around town if I wasn't so protective of my 'baby'.
-Value For Money-
At around £120, they're not recommended if you listen to just a couple of songs a week. However, if you can justify spending this much on headphones, you will not be disappointed.
I'm going to begin with a confession. I used to have an addiction (of sorts) to toast. I always craved it, and eating a full loaf to myself in a day wasn't too uncommon. After the toaster broke, my mother went out and replaced it with this one. I think most of her decision was based on aesthetics and keeping with the colour scheme of the kitchen, and I must say it looks good. Four slices can fit in at once, which is a useful feature for people who consume toast en masse such as myself, or families who eat at the same time. It's practically silent, and it's never broken in any way.
Unfortunately, the praise stops there. I just can't get this to make me satisfying toast. At friend's houses I can get good toast the first time I use their toaster, and many people have complimented my toast making skills and some have even said it's the best they've ever had with my preparation. With a small loaf, apparently this Morphy Richards toaster performs fine. But with a standard sized loaf, the slices don't entirely fit in. This means that the bread must be put in for a bit, then flipped upside down and continued to toast. Not only is this a lot of hassle that I haven't had with previous toasters, but as the toaster has become warmer by the time the toast is flipped over, you have to change it to a lower setting. Therefore, you can't just find a perfect setting and leave it there forever. The tiniest movement makes the difference between remaining as bread and being severely undercooked.
I've tried many, many times, and never enjoyed the toast from this. It's such a difficult task that I simply eat cereal instead now. At least I have no addictions!
Thanks for reading!
As guitarists, there are so many different pieces of equipment we can swap around before we find the right setup. Plectrums are definitely one of these, so it's good that there's plenty of different gauges in here!
-My opinions on each plectrum
For my hard rock band, I used to use the 1mm plectrums (blue) for a long time, then I decided I prefered the 1.14 (purple). Only recently I switched to the small teardrop Jazz III with the sandpaper grip (which isn't in this pack) as I find it slightly more accurate and it's impossible to drop, but I have plenty of Tortex plectrums, and still find them easily usable.
For acoustic, I find that the Tortex 0.5mm is better than any other plectrum I have tried, the tone it gives is brilliant, without all the nasty attack that a heavier pick would give on an acoustic. I prefer much heavier gauges than in this pack for bass (around 2mm). It all comes down to personal preference, so you could end up with completely different favourites. It's nice to have the option to switch between types as you wish!
Having a few different shapes in the pack would be useful for me to experiment with, but if you like this shape then it's ideal!
I used the same plectrum for at least a year and it barely wore down at all. The bright colours mean they're more difficult to lose, although mine still occasionally find a way to disappear forever!
As Amazon is doing these for £1.85 with free delivery, that's very good value for money. I worked in a music shop for a while and we couldn't profit at that price. My local music shop charges £1 for just one plectrum.
Thanks for reading!
Basick Records have a habit of signing the best new progressive bands, and Uneven Structure are no exception. Februus is a concept album, which I interpret as being about the how you change from birth to reaching your goals. Uneven Structure's quantity of members (vocals, drums, bass and three guitars) allows them to put in a lot of different layers, while most of the time one of the guitars is providing a huge ambient wall that hovers gracefully over the album. It's one of those albums that must be listened to from start to finish without interruption and have your full attention throughout for maximum effect. The opening track, Awaken, is extremely heavy, as Mattheiu's harsh vocals are introduced alongside the low-tuned 8-string guitars delivering complicated grooves at ridiculous speed. These guys are extremely good and making things flow, with seamless transitions between calm ambience with clean vocals and the brutal storm, and even give a complete flow across the entire album itself, such as when Exmersion provides a chance to catch your breath in between having your mind blown by Hail and Buds. A unique point about this album is that there is no repetition in the lyrics at all on the album, and almost every vocal line in rhythmically different. The words may not be delivered with perfect pronunciation, but they can easily be forgiven as English isn't their first language and the lyrics are best read with a dictionary nearby for when what I wonder what a 'macrocosm' or 'bulwark' is.
I love how the album isn't rushed at all. There are a lot of clever motifs in this album, linking all the parts together in a subtle way, and an extended instrumental section building up to the massive end of Plenitude and Finale. These two tracks are just beyond words, but the last line of Plenitude seems to describe it quite well: 'A measureless momentum where matter and mind collapses together to commute into plenitude'. As the instrumental Finale slowly fades out to leave only ambience, I'm left wishing there was more, having thoroughly enjoyed the experience once more.
Also, there is a second disc in Februus' beautiful digipack format. I have never seen the band mention it, but it is three long tracks of ambience. My favourite here is the 15 minutes track entitled 'Promises Of Our Early Days', which sounds so nice, is extremely relaxing, and takes my mind on a peaceful journey.
If you like anything progressive, this album is neccesary for you!
Lately there's been a huge increase in popularity of 'djent' bands such as Periphery. This is where it all started: this album is practically a blueprint for many modern djent grooves. In usual Meshuggah style, this is a slight change from the previous album, Destroy Erase Improve. This time round, there's a lot more start-stop riffs and quick syncopated polymetric guitar lines, while Jens Kidman delivers precise, robotic vocals. Tomas Haake, the drummer, is worth a special mention. He manages to keep the constant quarter note pulse on the cymbals throughout most of the album, while his feet pound furiously at the kick drum in a variety of different time signatures. Fredrik Thordendal's solo work is as interesting to listen to as ever. While he avoids using his unique breath controller, he keeps his signature improvised solo style, showing influence from jazz guitarist Allan Holdsworth, and at times seeming like a random sequence of notes. My personal favourite songs on the album are the groove-laden Corridor Of Chameleons, and New Millenium Cyanide Christ (which has a brilliant video containing the band playing air guitar and Jens screaming into a ballpoint pen). The most accessible track is Sane, which is much less rhythmically complicated than most of their songs. This was the first song I properly enjoyed by Meshuggah, and in the middle, there is a very memorable section where the rhythm alternates between guitars on either side of the stereo field. At the end of Elastic, every song on the album is played simultaneously, which is a nice idea, and it can be entertaining for a minute to try to hear bits from each song. Unfortunately, as expected, it sounds like a mess, and it's difficult to enjoy all the way through. The album's bass tone is a bit growly for my tastes, and a lot of the songs sound very similar, but it's still a solid album. Whether you want an intelligent listen or a quick headbang, Chaosphere will satisfy most looking for some extreme progressive metal.
I had the Nokia 5800 before this, and I was quite happy with it so I decided to play it safe and go for another Nokia, the C7.
-Aesthetics and Buttons-
It looks simple but effective, and fits my hand(s) nicely. The charger goes in on the left side of the phone, which is different to most phones. There are three buttons at the bottom: a green one (for calling people), a white one (for opening the menu or going to the home screen, hold it to show which apps are open. It also wildly flashes for a long time if you have an unread text or missed call) and a red button (for ending calls or closing apps). On the right hand side is the keylock switch in the middle, which you pull down to lock or unlock the phone. Below it is a camera button which you use for opening the camera, starting and stopping videos or taking photos. Above both of these are volume up and down buttons, with a voice commands button in the middle. There's a power button, 3.5mm slot and mini USB slot on the very top.
As the phone is touch screen, you'll spend much more time using it than the buttons. The 3.5inch AMOLED screen has a resolution of 640x360, which is plenty for a phone. The colours are vivid enough and everything can be seen clearly. When touched, it's accurate and responsive. I'd recommend a cover to protect your screen though.
There are two cameras: an ordinary, main one on the back, and another (much lower quality one) one on the front for video calls and vain people. The 8MP back camera photos are good in strong light, but the quality drops a lot as the light does, unless you use the flash. There's face detection, a self-timer, the ability to change things like contrast and exposure, a multitude of possible scenes, and also options such as sepia and black and white. The zoom is digital, but acceptable in most cases. If you go for the full 8MP the pictures will be in 4:3 aspect ratio, which doesn't fit the phone screen. However, if you will only keep them on the phone, it may be best to settle for 6MP, which is in 16:9 like the screen. Video quality is brilliant, with the option of recording in up to 720p (HD), although this does use memory ridiculously quickly. Speaking of which:
There is 8GB of memory built-in, and I use a 16GB micro-SD card also. However, this can suddenly fill up if you record lots of high-quality video or have a large music library (as I do). It will accept a 32GB card if the combined 24GB doesn't suffice.
-Homescreens, Widgets and the Interface-
Since the latest update, called Belle, to the Symbian 3 operating system, there are now 6 customisable homescreens. You can swap between them by sliding your finger across the screen, choose a different wallpaper for each and arrange widgets (e-mail, shortcuts, a clock, weather, etc.). This is one of the few things that many smartphones don't do and this does. As a whole, it's intuitive to navigate through the phone and all the menus look good.
-NFC and FM Transmission-
The C7 boasts NFC (Near Field Communications), which can be used for things such as contactless payment and multiplayer gaming with friends nearby. Unfortunately, I don't know anybody else with NFC, so it's untested as of yet. On the other hand, I've had plenty of experience using the FM transmitter. This sends your music as a radio signal for a short distance, another feature which most phones lack. It can take a while to find a good clean frequency sometimes, but I use it often to listen to music in the car which I don't have on CD.
Unlike on the fussy iPhone or Nokia Lumia 800, the C7 will happily connect to almost any Bluetooth device in order to transfer files or use a headset. When it does so, the speed is phenomenal.
How long the battery lasts depends very much on how much you use it. I spend a lot of time using it, so I have to charge it every night. However, if you mostly leave it alone it will last for a few more days.
With the Belle update, the internet browser became much faster, and is now a joy to use. If you have a good connection (whether WiFi or 3G) then websites such as YouTube will work perfectly. However, Soundcloud refuses to work. There is a Nokia app called Social designed specifically for social networking, but I find the browser based versions of Facebook and Twitter easier to use and quicker.
Visually the music player is very nice, scrolling through all your album covers to find the one you want. It is however disappointing that there isn't the ability to browse by artist. Every friend that has ever used my music player has looked for this function, and been as surprised as I was to learn that it simply isn't there. While it looks like there are two speakers on the back, there is in fact only one, and the other 'speaker' is just for symmetry. It's hard to hear near a busy road, for example, and the sound quality is not good. This can of course be solved by plugging into external speakers or headphones.
Reliability is by no means its strong point. In the year and 3 months I've had it, it's been sent away for repair twice, and fixed for free by Nokia both times. It occasionally refuses to send and recieve text messages despite having full signal, and often doesn't work well after being in moist conditions. Just a few days ago, the keylock switch stopped working, but the phone can still be locked and unlocked without. I would suggest getting a hard case and screen protectors.
My deal is £10.21 per month with £100 initial costs for unlimited texts and 100 minutes. I am still very happy with this, and there are plenty of phones that are no better for twice and thrice the price.
Shop around, try out different phones and read plenty of reviews on them all if you can. The C7 may not be perfect, but I would still recommend it to you.
I believe that the beginning of an album always seems to set the tone for the rest of it. Only If For A Night starts as it intends to continue: sounding beautifully massive, but not the norm. Instead of playing it safe and aiming for more popular success, Florence Welch and her talented machine have expanded on the experimentation and huge sound of the debut album, Lungs. There are a lot of impressive vocal moments on this album, as well as the refreshingly unusual instrument choices (such as church organs and Tom Monger on harp). It's by no means a simple mass-produced pop record, as the vocal lines are delivered with such passion, depth and emotion. The sheer quantity of layers hidden deep in this record only becomes clear after months of daily listens, which keeps me coming back for more and more. Another thing worth noting is Paul Epworth's production on the album, as everything sits perfectly in its space and I consider it to be the best mixing I have heard on any album. It is an extremely consistent album also. On the Deluxe Edition, a track called Landscapes only appears as a demo, but it's easily up to the standard of the tracks on the first disc. A few songs didn't grab my attention on the first few listens, such as Breaking Down and Seven Devils, but they grew on me and are now among my favourites.
If you enjoyed Lungs, you're in for a treat. I would definitely recommend this album.