DMG's Bruce and Manny

Bob Burnett: Please read the note below from one of my favorite places in the galaxy--Downtown Music Gallery in NYC. I hope someone knows someone who knows someone in real estate...... can help them out.

At the end of this past January, our five-year lease ran out here at 342 Bowery. Our landlord has graciously given us another 3-6 months to find another place but, with 4 to 5 times the rent we're paying being offered by bar/restaurantsfor the space our stay will come to an end soon.

We have been searching for a new location for the past 6 months, but if it's anything close to the 1500 sq. ft. we now occupy and need, no matter how far east we go, the realtors are convincing the landlords to hold off renting until they get a minimum of $ 60-75 per sq ft per year - which for 1500 sq ft means a monthly base rent nut of $7500-9400 - even on Ave D, where no one ventures to!

The only people who can afford that are banks that now make a tidy new-found profit off of people taking $20 out of their account every ten minutes [!] and national chains and boutique franchises that take a tax loss to blanket NYC with their outlets.

Anyone in NYC knows there are many spaces - in both prime and not prime areas - that have remained empty for YEARS due to realtors who have sold their bill of goods to landlords - when we've met those landlords, many have lamented the money they've lost due to the pressure from realtors, and were perfectly willing to talk lower prices, when beforehand the agent said they wouldn't budge.

What we would like is a basement, second floor or higher loft space [with elevator] with about 1,500 square feet for under $4000, hopefully in lower Manhattan - we don't really care what it looks like, or what some snobs might have to say about the neighborhood, just as long as it's secure. We'll do the rest.

We would love to stay in the Lower Manhattan, but we might have to move to mid-town or further uptown or even nearby in Brooklyn or Queens

If you know of a space for us to rent - especially where we deal with the landlord directly - please contact us immediately!

Our time here is limited. We may have to go with one overpriced space - that otherwise meets our needs - within two weeks, so we'd like to hear from you before then

Thank You
Bruce, Manny, Mikey, Chuck, Bret & all at DMG

Firestone Audio Supplier: Delightful Sidekick

Mike Johnston: Regular readers will remember my efforts to improve my computer sound system, reported in an article called "The Moo-Fubar," from January 3rd of this year. Well, the folks at Audiophile Products, U.S. importers of the various wacky mini-components from Australia's Firestone Audio, discovered the review, liked it, and sent me (for free! Woo-hoo! A veritable perk! Years of online writing pay off at long last!) Firestone's "Supplier."

Supplier is simply an upgraded power supply for the Firestone Audio Fubar III USB DAC / headphone amp unit. It replaces the wall-wart power supply that comes stock with the Fubar III. It can also be used with most of the other Firestone components.

It takes about eight seconds to plug it in—there's no mystery to how to do it, no need to refer to the instructions that come with it.

It also takes no skill or subtlety whatsoever to hear the immediate and obvious improvement it makes in the sound quality. My immediate reaction was simply: "wow."

Of course, all it's really doing is allowing the Fubar III to strut its stuff unimpeded; but without the Supplier, you're only hearing the shadow of how good the Fubar III really is. The illusion, though, once you add it, is that Supplier is doing all the heavy lifting, which makes the little red-faced box with the radioactive warrior on the front seem like magic.

The longer I muck about in audio, the more convinced I am that electricity is the source of all improvement. Indeed, one way to look at the history of high-end audio is to see it merely as a continual process of adding bigger, better, and cleaner power supplies to hi-fi components. There was more to it than that, but that's one way to boil it down.

The Supplier makes a huge difference in the Moo-Fubar sound—greatly increased clarity and presence, immediacy, detail, image focus and size, timbre differences between instruments, impact and percussiveness of drums. Ensemble jazz is definitely back in the picture. Generally just makes the music sound so much more alive and vivid. I've spent day after day listening to album after album, awash in lovely sound.

Mostly—through the NHT Pro M-00's, at least, which are acoustic suspension (!) powered speakers—where the Supplier makes perhaps the most difference is with drums. Tuning, impact, leading edges, decays, from the delicacy of the high hat to the impactful thwack of a bass drum. The whole drum kit—especially on good recordings, but even on not-so-good ones—just comes into its own.

Detail is greatly improved. The Moos are still warm, rich-sounding little speakers, but the Supplier lets the Fubar open up the mix. You hear much more of what's going on.

Timbre and texture is a dramatic improvement, and makes different instruments sound so much more like themselves. Instruments suddenly seem to have individual character. From the astringent, articulated bass lines on Slint's "Darlene" (from "Tweez"), to the rolling, vamping solo sax on Sonny Rollins's "It Could Happen to You" (off "The Sound of Sonny"), the sounds just pull you in like a magnet.

Nothing's perfect—sometimes fortissimos can have an edgy hardness with the volume up, and sometimes I think these electronics mess with the balance of the mix a little. But that's probably because they let you hear so much of it—something that's veiled through lesser gear is exposed. These are minor faults.

The illusion of space and the position of instruments is much better, too. Hey, it's a computer system—it's not going to sound like a full-sized stereo rig. But you can follow complex musical arguments much more easily when you can hear all the instruments and differentiate them from each other. Andrew Hill just got a lot more enjoyable.

Overall what I think this new box does is it takes the computer sound from "almost good enough" to "better than good enough," a swing across a narrow but crucial juncture. After two months with the M-00 speakers and the Fubar III, I'd gotten used to its sound. I think we tend to get accustomed to any kind of sound if it's what we happen to have to listen to. It's just that bad sound quality (like I have in my car) sometimes obtrudes with reminders of just how bad it is (and doesn't let you really hear the music—which is okay in the car, I guess, since I already know by heart 98% of what they play on local radio). Decent, middling sound quality is mainly good enough but can still be somewhat fatiguing, so every now and then you find yourself turning the music down or off just to get a rest from it. Really good sound you get used to as well, but there are constant obtrusions of delight: something sounds just so rich and scrumptious that it calls attention to the pure gorgeousness of its sound quality and makes you really concentrate on what the musicians are doing. And if it's also sufficiently transparent, neutral, and accurate, you just don't get tired of listening to it. The music keeps calling me away from my work. The sound quality is whispering, "Yo, listen to this." Familiar old records are a profusion of tumbling delights, one following another.

Again, the Fubar III gets a lot of the credit. But that's where I am with the Fubar III with the Supplier power supply. As far as USB DAC units to replace your computer's soundcard are concerned, there might be better units out there—there should be, theoretically, since you can spends thousands of dollars on some of them. But the Fubar III/Supplier is just very, very good. Buy them together, or buy the Fubar III first and then add a Supplier later. (Actually, the latter appeals to me, because then you'll find out just how much difference the power supply makes—and then you'll be just as delighted as I am.) If you have, or want, a Fubar III, the Supplier is not just highly recommended: get it sooner or get it later, but it's truly a mandatory option.

Thanks to Todd B. at Audio Products


Psychic Ills: Dins

Kim Kirkpatrick: Psychic Ills is a Brooklyn-based band with a musical style that fuses psychedelic, post rock, and tribal sounds into a dense, mesmerizing sound. Dins is their first full length CD, released (and purchased by me) in 2006, but only opened this year*. I find it fits comfortably within my varied musical taste.

My interest in rock/pop started with The Beatles and I was in my prime teenage listening years during the psychedelic period of rock music. Given my decades of listening, I am critical and dismissive of music I find inferior to that which came before it. Contemporary bands lauded as “psychedelic,” for instance, I usually find to be lacking or superficial. Happily, Psychic Ills is not such a band, and they connect with so much more then just the ‘sixties, “mind-blowing” experience.

Dins can be linked to such 'sixties bands as Quicksilver Messenger Service, United States of America, Ultimate Spinach, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and The Velvet Underground (of course), to name a few. In particular I appreciate Psychic Ill’s Eastern influence-the droning and the snake-like guitar playing. This influence was a big part of the 'sixties sound and it is still appealing to me. Psychic Ills nails the feeling and drops in a bit of reverberating Surf (The Mermen come to mind) for extra effect. Coming up a few more years, Psychic Ills connect with many a favorite band: Popul Vuh, Can (including the vocals), Neu, early Kraftwerk, etc. Bands big on atmosphere, expansive songs, with purposeful repetition. Psychic Ills share with these bands a strong, driving, tribal percussion, capable of inducing a night of dancing (be it Grateful Dead- or Rave-related for the listener). Dins shows off the band's sharp edge and free playing, relatable to early Sonic Youth, Spacemen 3, My Bloody Valentine, and Yo La Tengo at their live best.

Psychic Ill’s Dins is a release I can put on repeat and enjoy for numerous plays, never sure where I am at any particular moment but not wanting to leave either. It is a complete release, functioning best as a whole, and speaks well of the band’s direction and skills. In addition to Dins they also have a CD out of early singles called Early Violence. Both are on the Brooklyn-based label Social Registry and are available on vinyl.

*I have always liked to have music squirreled away I have not heard, though the backlog can get ridiculous at times.


Masada: Beeroth (Joey Baron at his best!)

Bob Burnett: Enjoy!!!! It was always a moment of magic to experience John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen and Joey Baron (Masada) in a live environment. I have about a foot and a half of their recordings and treasure them all.


Mia Doi Todd: Manzanita

Bob Burnett: Having previously mentioning my enthusiasm for Jimmy Tamborello's Dntel release Dumb Luck, I've begun doing digital forensic research on the guest vocalists he features. One particularly wonderful song, "Rock My Boat" highlights Mia Doi Todd's lovely singing. I searched around and discovered Mia Doi Todd's 2005 album Manzanita and its re-mix follow-up La Ninja: Amour and other dreams of Manzanita. Manzanita was Mia's fifth album; she's led an interestingly life full of Eastern studies, Yale, playing in New York City clubs, etc. and the fifth album maturity shines through nicely--as done her refined, elegant voice. I'm especially drawn to the quiet moments with simple acoustic guitar and piano--most notably is "Muscle, Blood and Bone" and is time-stopping perfect. I don't quite get going to the rock steadyish "Casa Nova" as the next cut, but that's just me. Plenty more solid material here to make up for that.

La Ninja is a nice variations on a theme of Manzanita--and as is the case with re-mix projects in general, some work and some make you move on to the next cut. It features re-mixes by "friends of Mia" such as Dntel and c60 favorite, Chessie. There are three vastly different re-mixes of the song "My Room is White" as well as three additional tracks not featured on Manzanita including an interesting version of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood". Both are available at emusic and were released by Plug Research.


Kanye West, 50 Cent, Anberlin, Smashing Pumpkins and High School Musical

Bob Burnett: The c60 board of directors got into an email discussion about the Grammys yesterday--specifically the merits of Herbie Hancock's The River winning an award. Out of that discussion we were led into e-chat about what our kids are currently listening to. We decided to focus group our live-in experts, who skew in the ages 15-11 demographic, and here are the results:

Thomas' picks:

Hate It or Love It-The Game & 50 cent (my favorite song, ever)
Hustler's Ambition-50 cent
It's Bigger Than Hip-Hop(remix)-Dead Prez
Shadow of the Day-Linkin Park
Remember the Name-Fort Minor
Grew Up a Screw Up-Ludacris
Heart of the City-Jay-z
In da Club-50 cent
Hip Hop Police-Chamillionaire
Diamonds of Sierra Leone-Kanye West

Zander's Favorites:

Smashing Pumpkins
Silversun Pickups
Rage Against the Machine
Flogging Molly
Red Hot Chili Peppers (not their new stuff)
System of a Down
Minor Threat
Marilyn Manson
Alice in Chains
Queens of the Stone Age

Kendra's Picks:

After the Tragedy
Bow Wow Wow
Built to SPill
Mayday Parade
My Chemical Romance
Pencey Prep
Oh No Not Stereo
Three Days Grace
Violent Femmes

Klara's and Jenna's Picks:

Hillary Duff
Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus
Jonas Brothers
High School Musical 1 and 2
"...and don't forget Low by Flo-rida and T-Pain" said Jenna


Willits+Sakamoto: Ocean Fire

Bob Burnett: This morning I delved into Other Music's digital page to discover a new collaborative effort that I was interested to hear. Ocean Fire is a duet improvisation between "digital age"guitarist/custom-built software player Christopher Willits and composer/synthesist/pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto. The duet works from the perspective of creating a soundtrack for the ocean and does so with immense washes of sound that ebb and flow in a manner like the tides. There are natural connections here to Sakamoto's duet works with "the other" digital age guitarist Christian Fennesz, however this collaborative works in a non-defined sound sculpture mode more than a formal chordal compositional approach. I'm finding great attraction to Christopher Willits' contributions on this album--in fact it led me to explore a few of his solo offerings, most notably the excellent solo abstraction Folding, and the Tea as well as the much more linear Surf Boundaries. Willits comes with an impressive resume--notably a Mills College Master's degree where he studied under the tutelage of c60 stalwarts Pauline Oliveros and Fred Frith. Before Mills he was active in a wider range of creative outlets including video art, sound art/installation, painting and music.

I'm finding great excitement in the listening experiences offered by the current generation where the guitar and keyboard are being redefined as genre-breaking instruments crossing multiple platforms of exploration and legacy. It's engaging to see how the generations of sound designers continue to evolve--that which was first noticed in 1948 with John Cage using alligator clips and other hardware store devices on the strings of a piano for Sonata and Interludes to Fred Frith's early '70s work which expanded textural and rhythmic qualities possible for guitar to this generation's developing new approaches works to open the doors to further possibility. Ocean Fire is a great addition in the legacy of improvisation and sound expansion.


dublab just played Luna and The Sea and Cake

Bob Burnett: I just started listening again to the online "radio" music environment dublab. For any number of reasons dublab fell off my listening list for awhile after a long run of enthusiastically enjoying what they were about. Well, a few stars just aligned for me--the show I stumbled upon today was called "The Heavenly Music Corporation" which is Fripp and Eno code for "oooh what a great album". The second reason was the "Heavenly" DJ played a great Luna instrumental from the Luna EP release as well as back-to-back cuts by The Sea and Cake.

I fell back into dublab because I discovered Jimmy Tamborello (aka electronica musician/curator Dntel as well as Postal Service) is a regular program host of the program "Dying Songs". There is currently an archived program of his that starts with a cut by The Durutti Column. I can't recall the last time I heard a Vini Reilly/Durutti Column cut on "the radio"; probably in 1982 when most likely either Kim or I played one on a radio show someplace.......also.....I am becoming fond of the most recent Dntel CD Dumb Luck. As is usually the case with Dntel, Tamborello's melodic, creative, pulsating music feature a wide range of guest vocalists. (ie Ed Droste/Grizzly Bear, Valerie Trebeljahr/Lali Puna, Mia Doi Todd, Jenny Lewis for example...) There is a subtle soulfulness on Dumb Luck that meshes well with soft acoustic guitar and many simple beat "downtempo" songs. The album causes me to repeat my ongoing mantra: why isn't THIS on the radio? Seriously, why is what's on the radio, on the radio??? Don't puzzle and puzzle 'til your puzzler is sore, I know there isn't a clearcut answer. I've been asking that question since Fleetwood Mac Rumours was a runaway bestseller while Fotheringay's self-titled masterpiece managed a small but fervent following.