Friday 19 May 2017

jazz noir

private email to a friend:

smokey late night jazz, film noir style

tracklist for an imaginary album

1. the conformity
2. he's one of them
3. gutter club
4. the broad dame sings
5. cemetery trenchcoats
6. city under wraps
7. nicotine break
8. projection room
9. glass tower
10. bullets in the rain

piano and brass. cymbals and snares.
deco and sleaze. speakeasy and freeze!
with roots deep into the shadow of a criminal mind.
sound is to describe a mood.
the title theme describes the scene.
his voice is clear spoken and firm;
her voice is diesel husk,
clawed fingertips honey inside your spine.
the best line in the movie was snuffed like a secret candle. 
in an abandoned warehouse downtown.

The Viscounts Harlem Nocturne (inspired by Duke Ellington)

Duke Ellington's Harlem Nocturne
the megabox set of Jazz Noir
personally this seems too bluesy to be proper noir
(still on disc 1, it might change yet)
the style of the albums art is about right

not entirely sure if we are working on this yet
its more of an idea for an idea, than an actual idea
i thought about your music and atmosphere,
emotion and progress: mostly of focus.
again aspiration seizes me with its storm virus sights 
and you know the real sounds come from experimentation
scheming to set up a cymbal and layer up samples of its raspy chime
deadbeat dreams because real work is too much like reality
something we all need to take a break from sometimes
so the plan as it forms is to take half of the tracks each and write the backbone, then
swap and add flesh to it, building in layers
try to stay away from borrowing more samples than we could clear because ultimately the investment of time into productivity should on some level be commercial, commerciable, commercialable, saleable. If not for us then for the kids.

I'm so lazy. this new place is good though - I need to force myself to set the music gear up o I can work with it. Had a setback when i updated the macs OS and the firewire alesis mixer is not compatible with the new OS. Mac's are bastards i have to factory restore it to go backward with the OS and to do that I would lose all my software. Easier to sell the mixer and go back to using the dj mixer through a usb converter. Its funny right, for all the gloss of modern tools, when it comes down to the reality of knowing what I am doing because i know what actually works, it's the low-fi simple crude basics that outlast high-tech 'keeping up with the trend of development'.
Keep it all loose and easy so the tracks can be modded into movie soundtracks, well the whole thing should sound like a movie soundtrack more than a series of vaguely related but very different tracks. Keep it all simple. That's why I started the list:

piano and brass, cymbals and snares.

thinking about music in ways to conform to the structures of the traditional jazz-noir tracks is quite different from the loop based stuff we are used to. It progresses. Sections after sections after sections where the two instruments talk with each other. That's a common theme here, the lead instrument and the answer instrument. They do that and then they play together at the same time. Then the rhythm changes, often introducing an entirely new instrument before the main ones (piano and brass) return. Each section is quite short. A lot of it is long and drawn out, a lot of it is short stabby bursts of sound creating ... they aren't exactly melodies. They are stressful and discordant sections of peaceless fucking nuisance noise. A lot of it falls up its own ass and disappears into self indulgent nonsense. The whole genre does, that's why it only really works when it is totally underplayed. I much prefer regular melodies which you can relate to. Think its time to use some modern synths in here and see what we can come up with that is both trad jazz noir and yet very much 21C. And nothing at all like Blade Runner.

film noir
fɪlm ˈnwɑː,French film nwaʀ/
noun: film noir
  1. a style or genre of cinematographic film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace. The term was originally applied (by a group of French critics) to American thriller or detective films made in the period 1944–54 and to the work of directors such as Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, and Billy Wilder.
    • a film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace.
      plural noun: films noirs

"low angled shots and wide angled lenses"
I was thinking this could mean stereo-panned dubsteppy bass and wide open ampitheatre halls (deep reverb).
trying to find an impressive picture to illustrate this email with. it sure as hell ain't easy.
my shadowed eyes are abstract chessboards squinting through blinds as twitchy as my trigger finger.
Man, we need some cello in here too. It's not going to work without cello. The big ones as deep as fat larry's laughter booming through the subway as he treads into the mists of time.

Next up: Burial (cant recall if it's his 1st or 2nd album). Soulless breakbeat. Urban sounds. It sounds more like concrete. I don't mean "music concrete" because that's 90% shit even if it was an important development in 'what music is' brought about by early-mid 20th century sound technology. Burial is modern noir in its own way. Minimalist and dark. That desperate, fatalistic futility. It's jazz with the jazz taken out, what is left after the storm clears.
What becomes of survivors after the movie is over?

piano and brass, cymbals and snares.
©2017 snakeappletree

Sunday 14 May 2017

Imagining Necromunda

Imagining Necromunda

High tech for the 80s is 16-bit battery op computer terminals. Necromunda is that at best. The infrastructure is closer to WW2 industrial mechanical level technology. Usually it is less advanced than even that.

“Most of that shit doesn’t survive long. Rust is a problem and the alloys we recycle down here, flake out so quick that lcd screens and all that crap are not worth the effort it takes to make them. They might have telepathic holographic sensory immersion technology up above the cloud layers in lala land for the posh but down here you get a lot further with a wrench and a dagger than you do with a digital distraction. Down here the smog eats everything which has not been sprayed with genelichen. Where you see phosphor-moss growing you know there will be air and that whatever it is growing on will last another generation without needing fixing. It grows so damn slow and tastes better than algae so its a rare thing to see around, typically only the abandoned zones have an abundance of it. If you do ever see any of it, bring it to me, its worth fifty times its weight in bullets. But be careful, where it grows means people don't go and if people don’t go there, there is always a damn good reason why.”

Remember always it is a functional society, this is not a post apocalyptic, fallen empire. It has sustained itself more or less the way it is now for at least several generations.

The technology is such that a steampunk approach should be taken. While electronic grids exist, while relays of computer circuitry runs through cables, all of this is a support infrastructure not relied on by most people. Rats, and worse, chew through cables. Plasteel pipes protect cables making for a cross-over between electronics and engineering. Each plant is autonomous, because gangs, tribes, houses, facilities, inbred workers born to the family task, maintain the facilities which make life possible. It is not a high tech civilisation, the game-world was invented before wifi, before even the internet became a reality in our world. Perhaps it exists there but probably not as it is too distracting, the social climate is too violent. You need a gun much more than you need a laptop. It is a crime-land, a gangland, mostly lawless.

The pipes are everywhere and usually customised, new pipelines laid out to provide the temporal fix which became the new permanent after the previous one of those fell to disrepair or damaged by a gang violently moving into the region to take control of the facility and the prestige and power of running it. Purified water at filtration temples, and more often, chemical sludge reprocessed into raw goods, the chemical metal goop which becomes low grade plasteel used for pretty much everything. It rusts quickly and so a version of the goop is used to patch it, or welds are quickly placed, taking parts from a broken machine elsewhere in the region. This has been the way of life for living memory and the bare essential understanding of how things will continue, the facilities are established to permeate that. Chemicals sifted from the toxic dumps and retrieved from the toxic dumps to be sifted back into useful chemicals. Gas which can be burned for heat and to power reactors in the smelting process, since no natural ore remains in the world.

But what is daily life like here? The skirmish based tabletop war-game which we build environmentally, our play-sets, based loosely on the drawings and paintings of the designers, show only mutants, battles, and hulking architecture spiring high above us, rusting all around us. No questions are answered for what life is like on a peaceful day in the region, what non-combative roles are played by civilians, by single parents, by other essential roles in the ever shifting communities. It is the bronx ganglands certainly, tribal markings, graffiti tattoos and colours, yet for any culture there is much more than that. 

Children growing up in this environment, learning skills which requires training, knowing from where to access items, how to barter, how to hunt and to hide, which safe routes to use to access between regions without putting yourself into danger. What call-signs to use when searching for a merchant, where to go for entertainment and relaxation, public 'no-fire' zones, safe places to sleep, where to get food from, the necessity for a factory-line of algae-vats processing into the green biscuits we all rely on which are not quite soylent. Boiler suit clad workers of many castes, and the mafia outfits running various facilities, collecting tithe so they may pay the upper echelons to leave this region alone because nobody wants the off-world purge to come down here and flame the zone. 

In a bar, an old recruitment poster for the spacing marine core and better pay working for the Emperor's glory is all we have here to explain where the biggest and toughest cookies baked down here in the hive and its warrens, shaped by the insanity of life yet taking the only safe route out, where the worst types of troublemakers go when they go up instead of down into the sink, the grimy lower levels where worse things lurk, Lovecraftian things with tentacles and claws and the cultists who worship them. 

We take our rites of passage down there collecting the  psychoactive mushrooms which grow in the chemical soups, eaten by sentient rat swarms which mutate into bipeds and arm themselves, eaten also by us to give us battle strength and dreams, visions of beautiful worlds more peaceful, sedate, sophisticated or simple, communicating with denizens of such worlds who often are too docile to notice when we are looking through their eyes and playing with them as a controller operates a video game character. And which we process and sell upward to the elites for enough profit that they leave us alone or sell us some useful tools and exotic weapons, making it easier for us to protect our tribes, our gangs, our loved ones, our turf, our facilities which are our lifeline.

Only when rival gangs band together can they take on an existing facility. Most of them live in the abandoned towers, fighting for tunnels and vast chambers full of scrap which has been salvaged beyond repair. Most gangs who draw ceasefire and merge do so when they realise it is the only way for them to survive any longer. They present themselves as lower-caste workers for the machines controlled by established houses who are several generations into controlling the region. Because a lowly pay-check and some level of protection from a much bigger and established outfit does eventually seem a better option than the cool of the fast life down here in the slums where making a name for yourself and your gang is all that matters, aside from surviving or going into legend in a heroic, pointless blaze of glory.

Necromunda Sets to Build:

Food schlop trader stall
Green Biscuit vendor 
Algae Tank Manufactory Facility
Red Light Robo Booth
Backstreet Surgeon
Backstreet Munitions Trader, heavily guarded and relatively high tech (cctv, autogun, blast shutters).
 & etc ...

The following pictures are from City of Ember movie 2008, based on the 2003 novel City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. Copyright Images used non-profit for educational purposes only, within International Fair use Policy.

I included them here because they are so similar to official and scratch-built Necromunda sets there is a definite cross-over of inspiration. This movie suggests what life in a Hiveworld might be like if it were less violent.It is certainly full of plot ideas to be integrated into tabletop sessions.