Album Review: Soman- Noistyle

Posted: December 11, 2010 in Album Reviews

Soman is a one man German industrial act that has been tearing up dance floors all across Europe and has been brought domestically to us by Metropolis Records. The second release by the act is titled Noistyle. Like the last album Sound Pressure 2.0, Noistyle is packed with boot stomping beats, dance floor synth grooves and a ton of attitude. The tracks all contain a hard-edged synth style reminiscent of older analog techno tracks. Each note is played close to its peak before sound decay would occur adding a gritty forefront to the non-stop bass and snare drum barrage. Comparable to music in the Rhythm Noise genre, Soman is so much more than that. With Rhythm Noise acts such as Terrorfakt, Converter and Imminent Starvation hard heavy crunchy beats all played in a repetitive loop create a hypnotic albeit unsettling loud sound. The intent of acts like that is to be in your face, harsh and brutal, and all bands perfected that craft. Soman takes a more structured approach to its sound combining dance infected beats that retain the harder edge of Rhythm Noise, the previously mentioned techno-esque synths, strange musical breakdowns to minimize any thoughts of a repetitive sound, and interlaces each track with enough background sounds and samples to keep things interesting while maintaining ultimate dancability. The finished product is absolutely designed to move to. This is not an album to be listened to while relaxing unless while you are relaxing part of your body is in time with the beat. I find it very difficult to not bob my head along with each highly energetic track. If you want to get an album that is worth dancing to, but steers clear of the goofy mainstream dance sound, instead injecting copious amounts of harshness, then Soman’s Noistyle should top your list of albums you must check out.

Other recommendations similar to this style are Noisuf-X and E-Craft

Paranormal TV

Posted: November 24, 2010 in What else is on my mind

WARNING: The following blog entry is extremely long and discusses a topic that most people wouldn’t give two shits and a flying fuck about. It is written by a non-professional, who, while taking a break from doing absolutely nothing, decided to do something. It should not be read by anyone, anywhere at anytime.

It seems that 90% of the broadcast television realm is now dedicated to reality programs. I have nothing against programs like this, per se, but I do feel that they tend to get somewhat ridiculous. I recently saw that there is going to be a reality show about David Hasselhoff’s family. How much Hasselhoff does one world need? What is the allure about an over-the-hill guy who was once in a show where he talked to a car, at another time made some really bad music, and also at another time worked on a beach show where people cared more about the endowments of his co-stars then his hairy Sasquatch chest? I am sure he is a great family man, and maybe millions of Americans care about his offspring, but I for one do not. Another reality show whose idea should’ve been aborted the moment it was thought up, and the exec who spoke such drivel taken out and executed by firing squad,  is that ridiculous Sarah Palin show that talks about Alaska and seeing Russia from there or some stupid shit. I can’t claim to have seen it to really know what it is about, but it stars Sarah Palin, is there any reason to watch it? You will never hear me say “you bet’cha” to that question.

Then again, my favorite reality shows, aside from The Deadliest Catch and Storm Chasers, are all paranormal investigation based programs. Programs that some would say are a waste of time because there are no such things as ghosts, bigfoot, UFOs, the loch ness monster, Judge Reinhold’s career, etc. Some would say that they are all fancies of the mind and are best told as stories around a camp fire to a bunch of pre-pubescent boy scouts, but I disagree. If someone could take their own personal beliefs of these topics and put them on hold long enough to watch a few of these programs, they would find that they are actually rather entertaining.

Programs about paranormal events and sightings have been on for years in one form or another. The Discovery Channel has had shows on dealing with certain places that are supposedly haunted or had a program speculating about what Nevada’s notorious Area 51 is really used for on once in a while, but the reality programs dealing with actual footage and stories about paranormal events started back in the 90’s with a program called Sightings. It started in 1992 on Fox and ran until 1997 and it featured all sorts of stories dealing with unexplained phenomena. It was part news show and part documentary giving it a very real feel. I remember sitting watching this program being scared shitless by some of the things I would see. This is part of what really got me into thinking about what else could be out there and what else could be going on in this world of ours.

Sightings came and went and left a void in television for me. There wasn’t really any programs worth my time that dealt with the topic in the same fashion as Sightings. Unsolved Mysteries had some stories regarding paranormal topics, but they weren’t delivered in quite the same fashion. Most of the footage was recreated for the show.

The bulk of todays’ paranormal investigative programs deal with ghosts and hauntings. These began to hit the airwaves in 2002 with the Travel Channel’s Most Haunted. This program is a British series that made its way to the U.S. It features supposed mediums, clairvoyants and investigators in the field. I have not seen much of this program, due to the fact that I can’t stand the fucking thing! It is more annoying than entertaining and a lot of what these people see and hear is never validated through proper investigation. There is a complete lack of organization on the show which causes several British people to be screaming or talking all at once. It is quite confusing as to what they are hearing or seeing and some of their experiences are told through a psychic medium, which is a poor way to present anything, given the fact that you can never really know if a medium is really what they say they are. There are probably people who can sense things, but how do I, as an average viewer, know if these people are legit? Is it just because Miss British Poshy-pants host says they are? Not bloody likely.

Paranormal programming changed for the better in 2004 when Syfy (at that time called SciFi) premiered Ghost Hunters. This show really took the reality genre to the next level. It follows around “Roto Rooter” plumbers by day, paranormal investigators by night Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, and their team (The Atlantic Paranormal Society, TAPS), as they visit some notorious and not so notorious “haunts.” The locations are a mix of businesses, tourist attractions and regular residences. The program is done in a way that puts the viewer in the dark with the investigators, giving a birds-eye view of what they see and hear on an investigation. Sometimes it is nothing and sometimes it is something. What is impressive about this program is that they do not go into a place assuming it is haunted. They go in trying to disprove the haunting as a major part of their investigative arsenal is their debunking skills. They will test all sorts of things to find out if a draft is caused by a faulty window or from something otherworldly. The things they are left with are made more compelling because they have tried everything they can think of to recreate or disprove them. Ghost Hunters has become Syfy’s most watched program and is currently in its sixth season. It has spawned two spin-offs, Ghost Hunters International, which is the same as Ghost Hunters only outside of the U.S., and Ghost Hunters Academy which is a competition where wannabe ghost hunters get on the “job” training to see who can cut it and join the domestic or international teams.

Of course, being the top dog in a genre on TV will cause other networks to notice and start their own programs. This is also true with paranormal programming. A&E started their own show called Paranormal State which features students of Penn State University. These students started their own club called The Paranormal Research Society (PRS). They go to haunted locations and investigate the claims of mostly residential locations. They go about their investigation by way of interviews, historical research, and night-time investigations of the location. PRS’s founder Ryan Buell looks at things from a more religious standpoint. Coming from a strong Catholic background he incorporates Priests at times and many of the cases that this group deals with are of a darker nature. Possibly the most intense of any of the shows I have seen were two episodes of Paranormal State that dealt with the same family dealing with a demonic possession. They were set up in a way to be creepy by fault because of the subject matter, but the substance of the program really delivered. It caused me to look differently on the idea of demonic possession, could that actually happen? Paranormal State also has psychics on their investigations, but what is interesting about these psychic mediums is they have no knowledge of the location before they investigate it. A lot of what they sense is backed up by stories that the families have already conveyed to PRS. It adds a new dimension to the theory of extra sensory perception as we are given, at least at face value, a raw look at how a medium in a new environment works and how the feelings they get about a place corroborate with what the clients are experiencing or with the location’s history. In addition to hunting ghosts, PRS has had a few investigations that have dealt with other paranormal topics, such as UFOs, The Mothman, and The Jersey Devil. The program downfalls are several. Each program is only 30 minutes, with an occasional special 60 minute episode. The actual night-time investigation segment of the show is usually short, as more time on the episode is dedicated to client interviews and historical research. Sometimes there seems to be no evidence collected at all, and they are left with just trying to help the family deal with whatever issues, either real or perceived, that they are having. All in all, it is a program worth watching for the simple fact that it takes a different angle on the topic of paranormal research.

In 2008, the Travel Channel added another reality based paranormal program to their lineup titled Ghost Adventures. This show stars Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, and Aaron Goodwin, three documentary film makers turned ghost hunters. The concept for the show was created from a documentary of the same name that the three created in 2007. The shows gimmick is the fact that the three investigators are by themselves with no professional film crew tagging along. They are put in “lockdown” at each location which basically means someone padlocks them in the location or secures it via an all night stake out to ensure no one gets out and no one gets in during their investigation. All footage from the show is obtained from their own camera work. They go to what they describe as “dark” locations with nasty histories of murder, rape, violence, devil worship, etc. Leader of the pack, Zak likes to use provocation to help bring the activity out. He will use language that taunts spirits (all of them “bad” spirits) by bringing up events from a location’s seedy history. A lot of the evidence they collect is shoddy at best. They claim to catch many EVPs (electric voice phenomena) which are supposed spirit voices caught on a recorder, but not heard at the time of recording. Most of these seem a stretch to me, as they are often hard to understand and can easily be something natural making the sounds. EVPs are a strong piece of evidence if they are compelling enough, but if they are not, then they just seem like someone trying to make something out of nothing. The Ghost Adventures Crew (GAC) has caught some interesting things, several of which appear to be shadow figures or apparitions, which are few and far between. The team does not debunk much of anything and throws just about everything that seems like it might be paranormal out there as evidence. What makes this show worth watching are Bagans, Groff and Goodwin. They are corny most of the time, and their reactions to supposed activity is entertaining. The guys act and look tough, but turn into nerds with cameras and a strong belief of things that go bump in the night when the lights go out. The places they visit are interesting and fit right in with the Travel Channel motif of showing various tourist locations.

More recently The Discovery Channel got into the reality paranormal game with their program Ghost Lab (2009-present). Ghost Lab is run by Everyday Paranormal, a group founded by Brad and Barry Klinge. They go to an investigation with their “lab” in a trailer in tow. At each investigation they set up various data loggers to assess temperature and electromagnetic variances throughout a location. They investigate each location using some inventive methods to help get results. They base their investigations on science and try to link historically held beliefs about paranormal activities to locations through their research. For example, with their data loggers they can monitor EMF (electromagnetic field) spikes which have been said to help precipitate or facilitate paranormal activity. If something occurs, whether it be a very strong EVP recording or an actual apparition, they can see if any variances occurred on the EMF data logger closest to the location where the activity occurred. If the two coincide, it helps lend credence to the theory that the presence of high EMF can lead to paranormal activity. The show is well done and the team has gotten some incredible evidence, the best being an EVP at an Opera House in Texas where John Wilkes Booth once worked. The EVP is preceded by the statement “Make yourself known,” and is answered with “Yes, I’m John Wilkes Booth.” This program builds upon the growing field of paranormal research and is done in a way that helps lend credibility.

The most recent show dealing with topics of the unknown is A&E’s Paranormal Cops (2010), which was canceled after one short season. This show features Chicago policemen and a psychic who go to “haunted” locations to help validate or repudiate claims of the paranormal. The only thing that this show does that adds an entertaining twist is that these guys are cops. They deal with real life problems and help people every single day, and extend that same philosophy in ghost hunting. They conduct interviews and can really look at a person to see if they are being truthful or not. With the history of a location, client interviews and any evidence collected they make a final determination on the type of haunting that they feel exists. They use a form that resembles some sort of police citation that classifies the haunting using their scale (Type A, B, C, whatever) and present this along with any evidence or historical information to the client. It’s most significant downfall, was the cops themselves. After the initial novelty of their daytime professions wore off you were left with a rather by the book bunch of men which made an investigation feel more like a crime scene than a potential haunt. It was a show with a unique concept, but lacking in substance and interesting characters to sustain viewer interest.

While most shows focus on ghosts, they are not the only shows on television dealing with paranormal topics. Syfy’s Destination Truth (2007-present), follows Archaeologist/Actor Josh Gates and his team of investigators all over the world following up on folklore creatures throughout all corners of the globe. The show normally turns up zilch in terms of evidence, but delivers loads of entertainment as Gates, who also serves as the programs narrator, is quite adept at ridiculous one-liners and often makes light (most of the time respectfully) of the culture barriers he faces all across the Globe. The most noteworthy of his Cryptozoological findings is a footprint allegedly from Nepal’s version of Bigfoot, The Yeti. The footprint was found while out on an investigation of the mountainous terrain of Nepal and from all scientific studies it has so far been found to be authentic in that it appears to have been created by a large creature and not a hoaxer.

Another non-ghost related program is The History Channel’s UFO Hunters (2008-present). This program showcases a group of scientists and one true believer by the name of William Birnes who go and forensically study locations where reports of UFO sightings, abductions or crashes occur. There is usually some sort of video that gets the team interested in a location. They study the locations scientifically and use any method they can think of to try to find logical explanations for the supposed activity. Well most of them do. Birnes is convinced that everything is extra-terrestrial, while his team of scientists are not convinced until various possibilities are ruled out. This creates an interesting dynamic and presents each case from both sides of the spectrum of believer and skeptic. It is the best and only program dealing with reality based UFO investigating on today.

Another program that I watch is Syfy’s Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files (2010). This show features an ex-FBI agent by the name of Ben Hansen and a motley crew consisting of a scientist, a special effects expert, a photographer, a journalist, and a stunt man. They view a plethora of “viral videos” from the Internet, only dealing with those that have alleged paranormal sightings. They pick videos that can be verified by the original Filmer and run tests at the locations where the sightings supposedly took place. Theses tests span from setting up special effects, creating photographic manipulation, conducting scientific studies, etc. to help get to the bottom of what is on the video. Their final outcome is their take on what the videos really are, hence the name Fact or Faked. Many of the videos they have investigated have been brought out to be hoaxes, but others have left them scratching their heads creating even more questions than what they started with. It is a fascinating take on supposed paranormal videos and helps to weed out those that should not be taken seriously.

There are other shows that are on dealing with the topic of reality based paranormal issues, such as A&E’s Psychic Kids, which deals with real children who have supposed psychic abilities, and History Channel’s Monster Quest, which has scientific based explorations of Cryptozoological creatures. I have seen these programs sporadically, but neither hold my interest consistently.

So as is seen from my rather long history of paranormal programming, the question of what else is really out there is one that many people seem to be asking. I, for one find it refreshing to see that people who are interested in these topics are now getting a forum to view like-minded individuals. However, these programs, go beyond catering to a specific audience. The sheer entertainment value of the majority of these programs is enough to keep even a skeptic watching. Those people will sit there and pick apart why these things aren’t real and why that is fake and this was staged, but let’s face it, it keeps them watching, and some of these people I think secretly are starting to wonder if it could possibly be true. It seems that for now, television will continue to be flooded with programming such as this and I for one hope to see it continue. It brings new light to reality programming which on the whole seems to have taken the route of let’s follow this stupid celebrity around and see what they are doing everyday.

So if you have no life, like clearly I don’t, maybe you should add some paranormal programming to your television viewing.

Thanks for reading. If you didn’t like this excessively long blog or the topic covered, let me know, I will be sure to ignore you and write something even longer and more irrelevant next time.

Hello world!

Posted: November 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

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