New Music : July 2015

July has been an odd month. It’s the first month for a while I’ve spent an extended period of time in one place, and I suppose the music I’ve listened to has reflected this. I’ve had more time to read blogs and websites and hunt out new and unusual things to listen to, and I’ve also spent a fair bit of time reading this month, which tends to require a more ambient and instrumental soundtrack.

It also strikes me I’ve listened to a lot of new music thing month; certainly more than any other month this year.

The full list of what I’ve discovered (and would recommend) is:

Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion Music
Veruca Salt – Ghost Notes
OHMMS – Cold
Nordic Giants – A Seance of Dark Delusions
Carpet – Elysian Pleasure
Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge – Twelve Reasons to Die II
B Dolan – Kill the Wolf
Wilco – Star Wars
Tame Impala – Currents Anthonie Tonnon – Successor
Abyss – Pastel Ghost
Desaparecidos – Payola
Passion Pit – Kindred
Four Tet – Morning/Evening
Marsheaux – A Broken Frame
Toe – Hear You
Locrian – Infinite Dissolution
God is an Astronaut – Helios | Erebus

I’ve also caught up on a few things I missed earlier in the year, specifically Steven Wilson’s excellent Hand. Cannot. Erase. which is probably the most impressive vinyl release I’ve come across since I started buying records again.

August is another month of travelling (starting on 1st, and ending some time in early September), and I’m looking forward to exploring some of this music through headphones when I’m far away from home.

Upgrading the hard drive on a 2011 Mac Mini

I’m off work this week, and I thought it was about time I upgraded the hard drive in my Mac Mini to an SSD. I’ve had this machine for just under 4 years, and it’s been my main desktop computer throughout that time. As such it’s got a lot of data stored locally, and while it’s backed up in three different places it’s still a 4 year old hard drive that is getting a bit slow and clunky.

Replacing the hard drive in this model of Mac is tricky. It requires dismantling most of the computer, and also requires a couple of non-standard screwdrivers (T6 and T8 torx). Thankfully I found some great instructions, and didn’t run into any problems dismantling the computer, removing the drive, and putting in a new SSD.

The challenge with this upgrade was that I planned on migrating to a much smaller drive (500–>240) as as such I needed to organise my data in a different way. What I’d normally do with a drive replacement would be to back the whole drive up using Carbon Copy Cloner, replace the hard drive, and then restore the backup over the new hard drive. That’s served me well with many other upgrades, but it just wasn’t an option this time round.

Analysing what was on the hard drive, it soon became evident that there was a lot of music. Over 200Gb of music in fact (that probably doesn’t surprise anyone). There was also a lot of really old data that was backed up in lots of places, but which was from very old computers (over 10 years old at least). I decided to move the music to a dedicated partition on my external hard drive (500gb, to allow for expansion), and to accept that I probably didn’t need to waste hard drive space on 10 year old files that I had multiple other copies of.

That left about 90Gb of other files, or in other words less than 50% of the new drive. I was happy with that, and started the reinstallation process. I booted the Mac Mini from the clone I made earlier (thus testing that everything works fine, as well as giving me an environment to run the actually cloning task from). I formatted the SSD with Disk Utility, and created a custom Carbon Copy Cloner one-off task that excluded the whole of my music directory plus a few other things I didn’t want on the new drive. I chose the clone as the source, the new drive as the destination, and let CCC do the hard work.

30 minutes later it was done. I rebooted from the new drive and set about doing a couple of post-installation tasks. Firstly I enabled trim support on the new drive. Native support for this was rolled out in OS X 10.10.4, and it’s fairly simple to set up. I then rebooted to allow this to take effect.

I also needed to tell iTunes where it could find my music now. I opened iTunes with the ALT key pressed, and it asked me which iTunes library to use. I pointed it at the external drive, and it thought about it for a bit, and then opened with all my music exactly as it had been on the old drive. I then updated the CCC task I back up my music with to reflect these changes, re-enabled all my other backup tasks, and made sure Time Machine was happy with the new drive and that it could continue to do incremental backups. I ran each backup task manually and made sure data was being copied to the right places.

And that was all I needed to do. The computer feels significantly faster and more responsive, whilst still feeling very much like my computer. I also think that with maxed out memory and a decent sized SSD drive there probably isn’t anything else left to upgrade.

New Music : June 2015

It seems I’ve not listened to a great deal of new music in June. I suspect that a month spent all over the country might play a part in that. And yet, it’s been another month of established artists making unexpectedly good records. Franz Ferdinand & Sparks is a combination I would never have though of, and yet FFS is a great record. I am also very impressed with the new Faith no More record, which manages to sound a bit like old Faith no More and a bit like everything else Mike Patton has made in the interim. After preparing to be disappointed I’ve actually found myself listening to it a great deal. There is also a new Sun Kil Moon record, which has soundtracked my walks to work, and which pretty much picks up where the last one left off. I love it, but I suspect a lot of that love comes from a combination nostalgia and being at a similar place in life, and it may be something of an acquired taste (I acquired the taste for Red House Painters when I was at University and have lapped up everything Mark Kozelek has made since).

So the list for June 2015 looks something like this:

Sun Kil Moon – Universal Themes
Faith No More – Sol Invictus
FFS (Franz Ferdinand & Sparks) – FFS
John Zorn – The Song Project Live at Le Poisson Rouge (not on Spotify playlist)
John Zorn/Mycale – Gomory : Book of Angels vol. 25 (not on Spotify playlist)
Algiers – Algiers
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
Alden Penner – Canada in Space
Brontosaurus – Our Animal Ways