2015 Lists

I usually like making best of lists for the year just passed, but I think I’ve failed to do them for the past few years (maybe…) However, as I’ve had a rather busy year, only the music list is a real indicator of what I’ve enjoyed that came out this year. I’ve barely seen any films that were released this year, and I’ve played only 2 games that were release this year (that’s not saying I haven’t played any game though…) So this will be interesting.

Music:
Kontinuum – Kyrr

I adored Kontinuum’s debut album and was super excited when Kyrr was released. While it’s not as tremendous as Earth Blood Magic it’s very close, especially as they head towards slightly unfamiliar territory.

Leprous – The Congregation

I’ve been listening to Leprous for a few years/albums now (pretty much when they first toured with Ihsahn.) The Congregation is their most technically proficient album, and probably most different (it’s wildly different from Coal).  It’s very vocal driven with a even more electronic elements than previous releases.

Shape Of Despair – Monotony Fields

I’ve been a big fan of Shape of Despair for quite a while now, and of course having no new tracks in several years led to big expectations for Monotony Fields, which were easily met and surpassed. It’s been a while since a doom album has felt so complete, crushing, and having a near perfect closing track in “Written in my Scars”.


Triste L’Hiver – Faire un geste

At the start of this year, I moved to Singapore to work for a few months and didn’t have much of a music collection with me. However, I had been using Bandcamp a bit prior to this, but during my stay, this changed  a bit. Through one of my random searches I came across Triste L’Hiver and almost instantly bought their music. Faire un geste is a somewhat experimental album, fusing black metal, electronica, shoegaze, and synthwave. The whole thing is just perfect (as is the follow up Nouveau décret) at this fusion and is really worth a listen, even just for curiosity’s sake.


t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 – アンタラ通信

During my time in NUS, I got really into vaporwave and it’s various subgenres (I’m not well versed in these as the definitions seem to differ). My favourite one by faaarrrr is アンタラ通信 by telepath and I really don’t know what to say about it apart from the embedded track below is mind-blowing. Give the whole album  a listen.

Soundtracks:
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso OST

Possibly my favourite anime this year (besides Kancolle and Saekano…) was Your Lie in April, which focuses on a piano prodigy and a violinist. Of course the music was going to be good. It’s also ridiculously emotional in parts, like the show.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Well, yeah. Don’t have to say much. In the seven soundtracks, TFA ranks behind ESB, ROTJ, and ROTS (so fourth). “Rey’s Theme” and “March of the Resistance” are the clear standouts but the whole soundtrack is dynamic and fresh enough that it holds up against the previous six.

Movie:
Mad Max: Fury Road

Of the few films I saw this year, Fury Road was by far my favourite. Just everything about it was shiny and chrome!

Games:
So, since I only played 2 that came out this year, Until Dawn, and Life is Strange, I’ll add to this with a list of games I played this year.

Infamous: First Light: Ahhhh, this was so good (and I hated Infamous 1 and 2 looks boring)
Batman: Arkham City: This took me long enough to finish. Was a glorious mess compared to Asylum but with playable Selina
Watch Dogs: AWFUL
Remember Me: Slightly flawed, stunning OST, great concept & characters
The Order: 1886: This was great, with a great OST and artwork. The story has a really bad non-ending though.
Until Dawn: Kinda bought this randomly, rather enjoyed it (despite the very simplistic story.)
Metal Gear Solid: Fantastic & almost perfect (even the painfully hard Metal Gear battle)
Metal Gear Solid 2: Almost as good as 1, but had far more interesting characters (except for Solidus)
Metal Gear Solid 3: It starts kinda badly but then OH GOD, it’s so good.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Also, so very good. Especially now that it makes much more sense.
Dragon Age: Inquisition + Trespasser Spent 90 hours on this, definitely need Trespasser to get the actual ending. SERA 5eVER
Life Is Strange: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, this was awesome.

Yep. 2016 has some awesome releases on all fronts, so hopefully more lists again in a year.

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BackLogPlay: Metal Gear Solid

So, if you know me, you’ll probably be aware I have a massive backlog of games to get through (somewhere in the 400s). However, while going through that would be cool (albeit hilariously time consuming.)

I’ve decided to start this mainly because I rather want to play MGSV. However, I know nothing of the MGS world or story. I did play through MGSIV as it came with my PS3 yonks ago (and I reallllly enjoyed it), but I knew nothing.  Moreover, since I tend not to feel like paying $100AU for a game at the moment, I thought two things. Firstly, wouldn’t it be great to know most of the MGS story and secondly, only games are cheap. And thus, I’m playing through all the Metal Gear Solid games.

After much debate and searching through forums filled with various flame wars about what’s the best order to play them in, I decided to play them through in order of release, excluding the original Metal Gear games. It does however include Portable Ops and Revengeance. So onwards with a brief spiel about MGS1. I should note that I played it using the PSN Store download on a PS3.

One of the main reasons why I never got into MGS was that I hate hate hate stealth games. Seriously. My anxiety plays up and it almost physically hurts. Playing through MGS this barely happened, and made me realise that I had missed out on something fantastic for so long: Hideo Kojima is quite clever and really over the top. The stealth component is really a way to tie tension and story progress into a system whereby characters and plots are mostly* extremely well executed. I’m not exactly saying that it’s an interactive movie in terms of cutscene versus gameplay time, but it’s approaching it.

As for the gameplay itself, it’s surprisingly simple and challenging at the same time. In terms of systems, everything is very simple. Navigating a Nikita missile, crawling through tunnels, sneaking, melee combat, and gun combat are all extremely simple. By being extremely simple, they require different usage approaches in different situations. This of course can lead to some hilariously infuriating inadequacies when compared to newer games. “Shooting from hip” is awful when standing yet while crouching behind an obstacle,  works really well.

I usually despise and dread boss battles in any game. I understand that they are a necessity in many cases, and that they exist in MGS, but I never managed to almost enjoy these battles before. It may have to do with having the game on easy mode or easily discernible patterns and solutions, but the boss fights were actually fun, even if it did take me several attempts to do each one. Interestingly, most of the times I died during a boss fight was because of a silly mistake I made. This is much better than dealing with bosses you don’t have to skill to beat. The final fight with Liquid (shirtless fisticuffs), is magnificent. My favourite boss fight though is probably the one against Raven. There is a delayed sense of urgency that creeps up on you, the environment is affected by Snake, Raven as well as time, and the endless raven squawks combine to make an interesting boss fight. The penultimate fight, against Metal Gear Rex, is infuriating though…

The story and it’s presentation are just glorious. The Codec scenes are very interesting and I’m really surprised not that many games use that approach for cheap (performance-wise) storytelling and character development. For what essentially amounts to three animations and some dialogue, it’s amazing effective and very rarely do you not enjoy them. (Also Mei Ling is adorable!) The cutscenes are a level above most things today. How you manage to translate emotion across from a stationary shot of a heavily pixelated structure with narration is astounding. One story device that took me a while to appreciate was the back tracking that Snake has to do to get objects to allow him to progress to the next area or whatever. Games really tend to avoid this nowadays as I guess it adds a certain cheapness to the overall feel of the game (although this is mainly what MMOs consist of) but here, it not only adds new opportunities for events but provides a sense that everything is taking place in a relatively small space. The themes covered in the story pretty much revolve around immortality, impending destruction and unknowable loss. Funnily enough, these themes are still somewhat common in current games, mainly not AAA ones though. The conviction in narration delivery around these themes is astounding and would make most current game designers and directors blush (or shiver).

MGS is also so amazingly over the top. Like, wow, this is beyond anime levels. A Cyborg ninja, people soiling themselves, a love story, twists, and a mech, amongst others come together to form something that is really over the top but feels completely natural. In addition to this, the seriousness in all the fourth wall breaking is great. Most other games when using the fourth wall use it in an awkward and/or comical fashion. Having Psycho Mantis read your memory card and then your controller inputs. Fantastic. Being told in a military briefing style how to use various equipment. Fantastic. I feel that this fourth wall stuff comes from a place of either extreme confidence or massive risk. As an antagonist, Liquid Snake, is so amazingly over the top that his conviction alone suits him as being a villain. Really, all the antagonists are over the top, which I guess is why people still love them today. I do really want more Sniper Wolf, her story is annoyingly short, and she almost appears to be a pseudo-plot device for Hal’s endless loss.

Of course, certain aspects are severely initially hindered by the PSXs capabilities, predominantly the lack of moving mouths (or mouths at all) but after a couple of hours playing, this no longer matters. The fixed & track camera, often blamed on PSX limitations, is very well suited. I love the idea of fixed camera in 3D games since it aids in storytelling, artistic composition, or allowing an event to occur in a particular way. Basically, it can provide an highly effective old film technique to games allowing for more precise tailoring of scenes.

The soundtrack, apart from being well composed and suitable, holds up today in terms of sounds and orchestration. The choir sounds in “Rex’s Lair” is ominous and fitting, and considering you spend a lot of time in that area, never gets tired or repetitive. The soundtrack is worth listening to by itself, although I feel many of the tracks may not be pleasing to those without contextual understanding. As I learned from later MGS media, the ending song is very important, and “The Best Is Yet To Come” is no exception.  I look forward to the later ones as I play through them. Interestingly, not once did I hear the main MGS theme

I recently saw that a famous gamer twitterer state that they skip the cutscenes in all MGS games. How… is that even possible? Seriously? Although, I do understand that if you don’t like story/cutscene heavy games, the MGS series may not work for you but O_O

Overall, I really, really enjoyed Metal Gear Solid. I’m currently working through MGS2, and that will also have a write once I’ve completed it (which I now have…).

New Record Arrivals

I, uhh, spent a bit more on records then I said I would (and also got a couple of gifties…)

2001: A Space Odyssey OST
Favourite track: Aventures by György Ligeti

As 2001 is one of my favourite films (1, 2, or 3), and as someone mentioned that you can still get a hold of the vinyl version of the soundtrack, I thought I would have a look for it. What do you know, easy find (and not terribly priced) on eBay. Haven’t given it a full listen, just enough to check condition, and it’s fine. The gatefold cover awesome!

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Ultravox: Rage In Eden
Favourite Track: I Remember (Death in The Afternoon)

So, I’ve taken a liking to early 80s Ultravox. Anything released after this album, I’m not such a fan of.  Hard to say much about this one apart from that it’s stellar! Quality of side 1 is near perfect, side 2 is a teeny bit crackly and poppy at times.

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Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark: Organisation
Favourite Track: Stanlow

This was really a random purchase (from the same seller as the Ultravox LP). I’m only slightly familiar with OMD, so this was a bit of a gamble. I do rather enjoy it, although it needs a good few dozen more listens.

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The Beatles: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Favourite Track: A Day In The Life

Because you have to have at least one Beatles LP in your collection (2 including the White Album I took from my partner’s father), this is quite appropriate. While this is not an old version (it was pressed last year!) it is awesome. Firstly, it uses the analogue mono master, which is superior to the stereo one for many reasons. Secondly, it’s pressed according to the original pressing notes from 1967. Thirdly, it’s on 180gm vinyl. While not as important, it has the final groove message on side 2.

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I also purchase My partner also got a copy of AFIs “The Art of Drowning” which sounds a lot nicer on vinyl than the dodgy mp3 version I’m used to. She also has the CD version, but we have no idea where that is. There probably won’t be any more purchases for a while due to some money issues (a sick kitty)

A New Hobby: Records

Since I always need someway to spend a bunch of money I barely have, I managed to start hobbies that involve mass accumulation. This one is no different…

Records!

For a few years now, I’ve had a copy of My Dying Bride’s “Turn Loose the Swans” on vinyl but never had a working record player (emphasis on working…) More recently, partner got into subscription boxes. She did a bit of looking and found a couple of vinyl ones, namely, Vinyl Me ,Please, and Turntable Kitchen. While the two records I’ve received from VMP haven’t been fantastic (Lee Perry & The Upsetters and Wilco), the single TK that has arrived was excellent. Anywho, I did a teeny bit of research and picked up an Audio-Technica LP-120 USB Turntable. While I haven’t used the USB signal yet, I’ve had it plugged into my halfway decent PC speakers (Logitech Z3s [I think, I really cannot remember what they are.]) The pre-amp on the LP-120 isn’t bad either, although it does have  a few issues. With this rather modest set-up and comparing between albums I know inside-out that I’ve only ever listened to on CD, records are super refreshing. But I’m not yet an analogue-phile yet…

LP-120 with "Turn Loose the Swans"
LP-120 with “Turn Loose the Swans”

One thing I totally neglected to expect was the fiddliness of setting the turntable up a.k.a counter-weight and tone-arm balancing. I’m still not 100% if it’s correct but it plays records with no issues.

Of course, like many people from my generation that get into records, we have parents that have significantly sized collections. Of course, throw in-laws into that, and the total size of aggregated records becomes quite large. And so we pinched some…

Picked this gem up.
Picked this gem up.

I’m not sure how many we’ve grabbed so far, but it’s enough to start a modest collection. But, record stores exist. And so does eBay. HARHARHARHARHARHARHARHR

My favourite purchase so far is probably the Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack. It has a few minor issues (predominantly on side 1) but apart from that it’s gorgeous. I also have a few eBay purchases that should be arriving in the next few weeks, those I shall post (one of them is unbelievably awesome.)

AHHHHHHH. I own this in every possible way apart from cassette...
AHHHHHHH. I own this in every possible way apart from cassette…

Now compared to my usual music purchases (Bandcamp), these are quite pricey. As such, I think I’ll limit myself to 2 per week or a max of $70AU.

I shall leave at that. While I’ve spent many hours so far listening to the few records I have, I’m still not fully aboard the analogue train. Probably never, but it’s really nice to have yet another way to listen to & buy music.

ttw! + ldr are hopefully back properly now…

An interesting couple of days (basically, the need to set up a TRAC server) has caused me to resurrect ttw! and ldr. In turn, that also means ttw’ing as well.

tiltthewindmill.net is now a hilariously lazy portal of I.

Furthermore, this is now a personal blog, well, moreso. I need to write more, be it academic, fiction, crap, or whatever.

Long time, no music~

During my time in Singapore, I had access to a small MIDI keyboard. It took me a while (well over the halfway mark) to start using it to make music again.
It’s all pretty weird (RE: bad) and you can here how bad I am at playing a keyboard, but I uploaded 6 tracks.
Honestly, 4 of them aren’t terrible…

As such, here they are. You can even buy “there is too much world” on Bandcamp if you want…

A return

This hasn’t been used in a while…
What’s happened since last time?

Deferred PhD start to do an internship in Singapore.
Came back and properly started on PhD.
tiltthewindmill.net has been taking down due to endless errors and hacks. Will fix it one day.

That’s about it really. Since ttw.net is no longer around, this will be my main place for posting about non (or semi)- academic things. I do have a research blog but I shan’t be disclosing that yet (although it’s pretty easy to find.)