Mike featured in Guitar Player magazine

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Exciting news - Mike is the subject of an article in this month's Guitar Player magazine. (The January 2009 issue, with David Gilmour on the cover.)

The article covers Mike's work in Darkroom, especially on Some Of These Numbers Mean Something, and with Bernhard Wagner on their Pedaltone project.

There's no online link for the article right now, but we'll update this post if and when one becomes available. In the meantime, go buy the magazine!

os, Dec 2008

Darkroom interviewed on WeHeartMusic Radio

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Mike and I were interviewed on Sunday for the WeHeartMusic Radio podcast. A big thanks to Vu for making it happen.

You can listen to it here. If you download the whole show, or use the embedded player on the page, our bit starts at about 18:15 in. Or you can download just our section (lower down on the page).

Possibly my favourite quote from the interview: "songs... with lyrics and everything".

Sometimes I forget just how far outside the conventional boundaries of pop we operate.

os, Nov 2008

More reviews

Three more reviews, including a really nice one from Progressive Ears:
- Progressive Ears
- Vital Weekly
- We Heart Music

os, Nov 2008

More SOTNMS coverage

Two SOTNMS mentions to report:
- A review on webzine The Silent Ballet.
- We're currently riding high at number 6 in the nowlikephotographs chart.

os, Oct 2008

StudioRacks

It struck me the other day that a) my studio was a mess, and b) I have a reasonable amount of outboard gear which I once thought was excellent and only stopped using because I went down the "everything must be in the computer" route, and was therefore languishing in various unusable locations.

The solution? Some custom studio rack furniture from StudioRacks. I can't recommend this chap highly enough. Very friendly and attentive service, excellent quality results, and the fact that everything is custom made means you can get exactly what you want.

os, Oct 2008

Darkroom on SoundCloud

SoundCloud seems to be the big thing getting all the hype right now, so we've jumped on the bandwagon.

First impressions are good - it's a nice bit of web design, good looking and easy to use. It remains to be seen whether it's actually of any use.

And here's a special treat (since the Last.fm page for SOTNMS is still bugged - grrr) - a whole track from the new album, via the SoundCloud embeddable music player. Enjoy!



os, Oct 2008

Improvizone at Switch - video

Os and Mike performing with Andrew Booker (drums) and Simon Laffy (bass) at the recent Improvizone gig.


Improvizone at Switch, October 7th 2008 from Andrew Ostler on Vimeo.

os, Oct 2008

SOTNMS - the drummer's perspective

I've just posted a review by a certain Andrew Booker. The attentive will recall that Andrew is the drummer that we recorded for the new album. As he says though, he was adequately uninvolved in the actual process of creating the album that his opinion on it is fairly impartial.

It's a nice review anyway.

os, Oct 2008

SOTNMS now released

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Some of These Numbers Mean Something is now released.

You can order the CD from Burning Shed, or buy the download from most online retailers e.g. iTunes.

os, Oct 2008

First SOTNMS review

First review of Some Of These Numbers Mean Something (which we're calling SOTNMS to save typing), by Michael Peters over on the Loopers Delight mailing list. You can read it here. Thanks Michael!

Michael's Stretched Landscape #1 is a personal favourite of mine. Pick up a copy if you don't already own this ambient classic.

os, Sept 2008

Improvizone at the Woodford Festival

Darkroom will effectively be playing at the Woodford Festival on October 7th, as part of Improvizone. We'll be playing with Andrew Booker, the drummer on Some Of These Numbers Mean Something, and bassist Simon Laffy.
More info on the event page on Facebook or the Improvizone site.

os, Sept 2008

New album now available for pre-order

Some Of These Numbers Mean Something is now available for pre-order from the Burning Shed online shop. Buy now while stocks last!

os, Sept 2008

Some Of These Numbers Mean Something

So here it is - the new album. Entitled "Some Of These Numbers Mean Something", it's 9 tracks of guitary synthy goodness.
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Release date is 3rd October 2008, and with any luck you'll be able to pre-order it before then.

From the press release:

Darkroom's new album - Some Of These Numbers Mean Something - is their 8th to date, and marks the 10th anniversary of their first (Daylight) released by 3rd Stone in 1998.

The original brief for the new album was: guitar under a microscope.
In places it's the heaviest Darkroom album yet, but also the most accessible, combining 70s space rock, 80s Sheffield electronica, 60s guitar instrumentals and 90s post rock.

Mixing classic synthesizer & guitar tones with contemporary post-production,
this album combines improvisation with carefully crafted and layered arrangement, and rewards repeated listening.

From Santana & Tangerine Dream to Cocteau Twins & Tortoise: file under ambient stadium rock.

(full text here)

os, Sept 2008

New album - more progress

The lack of updates here belies the behind-the-scenes goings-on here in Darkroom-land. It's been mastered by a big name mastering guy (more on that experience from Mike at some point), we've got a great sleeve from our good friend Carl at Aleph Studio, and it's been sent off for manufacturing.

Expect to hear release details soon. It'll be available from Burning Shed initially, and in digital form somewhat later. I heartily encourage all to buy a physical copy from Burning Shed, so you can appreciate the majesty of the fold-out CD booklet.

os, August 2008

New album progress

Some news on the new Darkroom album - it's nearly done! The track listing is finalised (there are 9 tracks - two sides of 4 tracks each, with an 'intermission'), and the tracks are all named. On Thursday it's being professionally mastered - a first for a Darkroom album - and then we need to see about some cover art and getting the thing made. From which you'll gather that we're not throwing in the towel on physical delivery of music just yet. (I still buy CDs myself, so I feel other people must do too.) This time however we'll be doing our best to get a vaguely simultaneous release on iTunes etc.

What's the music like, I hear you ask. Well, it's something of a departure if you know us from recent stuff, like the podcast, or the Fallout series, but recognisably the work of the same people. Only one track on the album would class as 'ambient', which is the first word I've chosen to describe what we do for years. In a way it's back to the song-type music we explored on Seethrough, though obviously without a vocalist this time. The inclusion of a live drummer on several tracks lends it some post-rock accessibility, but I don't think anyone's going to confuse us with Tortoise. The brief for the album was "guitar under the microscope". It's not the album I thought we were going to make, but it took on a life and direction of its own, and I'm very pleased with where it ended up.

We took some new photos too, with a view to using them on the sleeve, or in related publicity material. I quite like this one - we look adequately enigmatic, without looking suicidal or homicidal.

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os, July 2008

Os's Last.fm profile

Just in case anyone wants to up their cyber-stalking of Darkroom band members, my Last.fm profile is here:

http://www.last.fm/user/expertsleepers/

Caveat: I share my iTunes library with my wife, so the charts and playlists you see will be skewed slightly. I, for example, am not a great Tori Amos fan, contrary to what Last.fm would have you believe.

os, July 2008

Broken Flowers and Ethiopiques

The Bill Murray film Broken Flowers was on the other day, and I was rather taken with the soundtrack. Turns out much of it is Ethiopian jazz/funk from the series "Ethiopiques", of which there's a rather handy "best of" - see www.ethiopiques.info.

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Highly recommended.

os, July 2008

Darkroom on iTunes after all

It came as something of a surprise to see that someone (presumably 3rd Stone) has put the first two Darkroom CDs up on iTunes. Maybe now would be a good time to push for a royalty statement. Links:
Daylight on iTunes
Carpetworld EP on iTunes

os, July 2008

Back - with a new arrival

You may have noticed a long gap between blog posts. What's been keeping me busy? Having a baby! (Obviously it was my wife etc. etc.)

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I'll endeavour to keep this blog going a bit more now things are (fingers crossed) settling down.

os, July 2008

Cheap Chinese mics 'r' us

14th May 2008 - the second 'audit' session for the new album, and time for a few overdubs. One track only needed a little extra guitar (it must've only had, like, 10 guitar parts at that point).
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Mike had a new cheapo Chinese ribbon mic he wanted to try out - the T.BONE RM700. It's an odd looking thing - like a big metal lollipop. We stuck it in front of Mike's awesome Rivera amp and cranked it up.

The sound is - interesting. Makes things sound a bit old and knackered. Also it turns out there was a nasty resonant buzz on something - maybe the mic, maybe the cab - but fortunately we recorded a DI signal too. You should still be able to hear some of the buzz on the album, where we felt it was tasteful rather than annoying.

os, June 2008

Forthcoming gigs

Some gigs to announce, all under the Improvizone banner.
  • 23rd May 2008 at The Design Museum, London. Mike can't make it sadly. Playing will be myself (Os), Andrew Booker and Steve Lawson.
  • 28th May 2008 at Ember, London. Ember, against all our expectations, has re-opened after the fire that cancelled our residency earlier this year. It'll be Mike & myself, plus Andrew Booker and Simon Laffy - a repeat of the line-up at our last Ember gig.
  • 4th June 2008 at The Plough, Walthamstow. It'll be Mike & myself, plus Andrew Booker and Nick Cottam.
See you all there, no doubt.

os, May 2008

Drums!

16th April 2008 saw an unusual (though not unique) event in the Darkroom calendar - a drum recording session. I'd identified a need for some proper, acoustic drums (you know, real things that a real person is beating hell out of, rather than something programmed) on the new album, so we enlisted the fine drummer that is Andrew Booker to help us out. (We've performed with Andy many times recently, both at the Improvizone gigs and the Darkroom one-off at the Green Dragon recently.)

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Andy did us proud, recording some excellent grooves for about half a dozen tracks.

For the gear-heads reading: we used four mics in total. Andy's Blue Ball was in the kick drum. The snare was covered by a dynamic mic of some sort, which I think was the rehearsal room's. Probably an SM-57. We had one half of a matched pair of Rode NT5s as a close-ish overhead, somewhere over the hi-hat. For some reason we didn't use the other one of the pair. Finally we had my trusty Rode NT2-A as an other-side-of-the-room overhead-cum-everything mic. We've been able to get a very nice sound in the mix from this, somewhat random and thrown-together, selection.

os, May 2008

How to lose 3 million fans in one easy step

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I enjoyed this article in The Guardian the other day.

"The album that almost completely killed our career seems to have become a work of dysfunctional genius," says Andy McCluskey with a grin. "The reality is that it's taken Paul [Humphreys] 25 years to forgive me for Dazzle Ships. But some people always hold it up as what we were all about, why they thought we were great."

I've always loved Dazzle Ships. Some great songs, and moreover some really great sounds. After this album OMD start sounding 'successful' i.e. they sound like they can afford the same gear as everyone else. I love the lack of polish in the earlier albums.
I always remember when I bought Dazzle Ships (which is not something I can say about most albums I own). I thought I owned everything OMD had ever done, and yet I came across the tape (yes, it was a while ago) of Dazzle Ships in a little music shop on Waterloo Station. I felt like I'd stumbled on hidden treasure. And indeed I was right.

os, April 2008

Prophet '08

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A new arrival in the Darkroom studio - a rather lovely Prophet '08 by Dave Smith Instruments.

Dave Smith was involved in the creation of such legends of synth history as the Prophet 5 when he was working at Sequential Circuits Inc. He now has his own company and is turning out some very nice new machines.

Expect to hear a lot of this keyboard (as well as my trusty Juno 6) on the new album.

Today's podcast episode is a track consisting entirely of Prophet '08, recorded mainly as an exercise in getting to know the new beast. Enjoy!

os, April 08

Last.fm

We recently uploaded all the Darkroom material, well, pretty much ever, to Last.fm. You can find it here:

http://www.last.fm/music/Darkroom

For those not familiar with Last.fm:

"Last.fm connects you with your favorite music, and uses your unique taste to find new music, people, and concerts you'll like."

It's a web 2.0 social networking kind of thing, and relies to some extent on people tagging the music they listen to, but also just tracks what music you play and works out what else you might like.

Unfortunately it's utterly brain-dead when it comes to handling multiple bands with the same name. Basically, it can't. Of course, there's more than one Darkroom in the world and so we share the page. Which is why you'll find 'Darkroom' prominently tagged as 'indie' on the site. We may be many things, but I'd suggest that 'indie' is not one of them. So, Darkroom fans - or should I say, fans of The One and True Darkroom (us) - get tagging.

os, April 2008

PS I just noticed Darkroom (presumably the other Darkroom) has been tagged as 'nice'. I ask you, who tags music as 'nice'? (If it's you, dear reader, let us know)

The return of the JamMan

This is a slightly belated report of a Darkroom recording session that happened on 17th Feb. We were continuing work on the "long awaited" (tm) new album.

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I had prepared an unusually large amount of keyboard parts for Mike to play over, so I just sat back and let Mike play this time. We mic'd up a cab driven by a lovely old amp that Mike keeps in his basement. Not least among its features are the rather nice backlit controls - leading us to ignore the music for a bit and have fun taking photos of it in the dark.

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This was the session I finally persuaded Mike to break out the legendary combination of Lexicon JamMan and Vortex, which pair formed the basis of the Darkroom sound for some time - until I started doing all the looping in the laptop. It was well worth the effort, as you'll hear when this material ever sees light of day.

More photos here.

os, March 2008

The Dragon's Ball

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Wednesday 27th Feb: To Croydon, for the Dragon's Ball at the Green Dragon. Darkroom + Andy Booker, or Improvizone with Mike & Os? (Not sure if there's a difference...) Supporting Croydon-based Burning Shedders, The Resonance Association. Thanks Daniel.

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We were billed as 'lo-fi dreamy techno' (!) The theory was we'd play drones with percussion... but to me, the venue didn't seem right for that, and it's definitely not what came out. Haven't heard the recording back yet - but towards the end,  I remember picking up on something Os played and thinking "no echo & maximum fuzz". Darkroom go ambient metal?

The fuzzulator helped make this work: www.demeteramps.com/products/accessories/fuz1.html Small but flexible, it handles vintage, gargly non-linear as well as brutal, bright & focussed with compressed lows. Varying the guitar's volume & tone does something useful as well, and given I typically use a volume pedal after the fuzz, there's a whole range of tones to explore even without echo. Somehow last Wednesday I rediscovered this!

Audio & video to follow...

Mike, March 2008

Update: Andy has written about the gig on the Improvizone blog.

Free download-only release

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Head over to burningshed.com for a free (as in beer) download-only release from your favourite ambient band (that's us, by the way) - The DAC Mixes (slight return) or The DAC Mixes, continued depending on whether you believe the website or the ID3 tags.

Many view Nemeton's "Remix 2", the last track on The DAC Mixes, as amongst the highlights of the album. "Remix 2" was picked as being the best of the four remixes submitted by Nemeton, but it was a close call as the band considered all of them excellent. Rather than have these tracks languishing, unheard, on the Darkroom hard drive, the band decided to put these out as a free download and a subtle advertisement for the original 'The DAC Mixes' album itself (which featured mixes and contributions from Bass Communion, Tim Bowness, Theo Travis, Peter Chilvers and Centrozoon, amongst others).

os, Feb 2008

Os remixes Look See Proof

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In a bizarre quirk of fate, Os has ended up doing a remix for up-and-coming indie band Look See Proof, remixing their previous single "Casualty" for the b-side (if CD singles can truly be said to have b-sides) of their new single "Do You Think It's Right?", released on Weekender Records on 24th March 2008.

Check out the official page here or search on your favourite purveyor of discs/downloads.

os, Feb 2008

The Tape 606

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I read on a blog the other day about Goldbaby and their unusual range of sample libraries, including an interesting take on the ever popular Roland TR808/909 sample set:

Not another 808 sample! Well actually it isn't... this is 407 samples taken from two 808's recorded into an Ampex 351 1/2" valve 2 track tape machine! That's not all... We also put the 808's through other vintage gear. Plus we recorded the 808's naked into a Metric Halo ULN-2 firewire audio card. Then we chose the best samples. All 24 bit, and all phat analog goodness! If you can't get a hold of a real 808 then this is as close as you can get in samples... Maybe even better than the having the real thing!

Better yet, they've put out a free (as in beer) library of TR606 samples, which I've been having fun with recently. Go get it here.

os, Feb 2008

Croydon gig, Feb 27th

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We have a gig on Wednesday 27th Feb 2008, at The Green Dragon, Croydon. We're supporting The Resonance Association. There's a Facebook event for this gig here.

As for the Norwich Loopfest, we'll be joined by Andrew Booker on electronic drums.

The return of the Space Echo

Another recording session for the new album the other day. Unexpectedly productive - by means of recording some long improvisations from Mike, we ended up with the basis of at least three tracks, I'd say. Never mind that Mike ended up playing in a totally different key to the backing track that we were supposed to be overdubbing on.

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As is becoming traditional, here's a photo of Mike's pedal selection for this occasion.

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There was a new toy this time - in celebration of our recent BBC gig Mike had splashed out on the new Space Echo re-issue. It has an interesting sound - it's supposed to be an accurate recreation of the vintage Space Echo, but not having used one I couldn't say. It sounded a little digital to me. It also has a slightly redundant Knight Rider-eque red light on the front, which is probably supposed to indicate the progress of the 'tape', but wasn't obviously useful.

We also tried mic'ing up the fretboard of a fretless bass (do fretless basses have fretboards?). If that's useful, which it may not be, it will be for a Talk Talk-style "record a string quartet and only keep the sound of someone dropping his bow" effect.

os, Feb 2008

Darkroom on the BBC

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A while back I alluded to us being commissioned to do some music for TV - I can finally reveal what that was all about.

We were asked by our good friend (and fan!) Richard Smith to do some music for a special report on the Securitas robbery at Tonbridge, Kent. Yesterday the trial ended and the pieces were shown on the BBC's South East Today show. Some seven minutes of original Darkroom material was used over three sections.

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You can currently stream those pieces from the BBC website - go to www.bbc.co.uk/southeasttoday/latest_stories and look for the sections entitled "The story of a £53m heist", "Heist family's ordeal" and "The robbery that went wrong". It's not clear that these are going to be available long term, so go watch them now before it's too late.

This was a fascinating experience for us, not least because of the complete turnaround in track length from what we're used to - we usually improvise for half an hour at a time, and these pieces needed to be 10-30 seconds long!

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Watch out for some versions of these tracks appearing very soon on our podcast.

os, Jan 2008

Update: The first podcast piece is up - 3 more to follow. Also there's a permanent home for the videos now on the BBC website here - the direct video links are here and here.

On The Corner - still on the edge

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Darkroom post-xmas listening has been filled with a shiny metal box: Miles Davis' 'On The Corner'. It's the 3rd time I've owned the disc itself - both vinyl and BGO reissue having been part-exchanged long ago... so why again? Starting with the reason I haven't owned it for a while - I kept finding myself playing earlier, more atmospheric Miles (Nefertiti/In A Silent Way) or later, fuzz-heavy workouts (Aghata). OTC always seemed too dense, and somehow astringent... meant to be good, but never something I'd reach for to enjoy. Now, having heard all those sessions through, I think this was one set really waiting for digital: the unedited tracks are allowed to stretch out and develop, with the intense balanced out by the more subdued. Like a time capsule, waiting for some alien future technology to help decode it. Some real discoveries; some puzzles (couldn't 'Red China Blues' have been hidden somewhere else, on a separate disc?) Some of the most intense sound ever packed onto tape.

Mike, Jan 2008

Let's Listen To Maths

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I left my day job on Friday (to go to another job, I might add - not quite living the dream yet), and I was touched to receive a custom made leaving card, drawn by Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou, a talented CG artist, and as it turns out, comic strip artist. He's got a comic over at the Zuda Comics site - check it out!

Someone had clearly given Alex some recent photos of me - the pose and angle reminds me of our recent gig at the Norwich Loopfest.

os, Jan 2008

Blog now supports comments

I've enabled comments in the blog, so if anyone's actually reading this and feels like leaving a comment on these posts they can do so. Fortunately RapidWeaver makes this very simple, taking advantage of the free service offered by Haloscan.

os, Jan 2008

Darkroom getting lots of play on SomaFM

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I stumbled across this link the other day: http://www.buzztter.com/en/k/darkroom

It's some baffling twitter-alike Japanese site, but it does give a nice indication of recent Darkroom activity on SomaFM.

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I knew we were getting a fair amount of play on their DroneZone channel, but it would seem that Fallout 3 has become a favourite on their (relatively recently added) Doomed channel.

Which is nice.

os, Jan 2008

Darkroom showcased on the Ambientia podcast

Arms Full Of Sound's incredible keyboard setup

Slightly old news, but I'm posting it now for completeness, since we never mentioned it at the time.

Back in March 2008 Darkroom were featured on Ambientia, an ambient music podcast hosted by the charismatic Paul Needler (aka Ned). Ned's own musical project is Arms Full Of Sound, which was the content of his podcast for its first season, but recently he's been featuring the music of other ambient artists.

The podcast is at armsfullofsound.blogspot.com.

os, Jan 2008

Tom Heasley's new album

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I've long been a fan of ambient tuba player Tom Heasley. I recently got a copy of his latest album, Passages, which for the first time sees him recording with a drummer. Great stuff - check him out at www.tomheasley.com.

I came across Tom when I heard a track of his (Prelude from On the Sensations of Tone) on somafm's Drone Zone. Gorgeous swathes of looped tuba - I was instantly hooked.

os, Jan 2008

Next Ember gig(s?) cancelled

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Sadly we have to report that the forthcoming gig at Ember on January 16th has been cancelled, due to the venue being closed after a serious fire on the premises.

Stay tuned for updates - quite possibly the next couple of gigs in January and February will also be cancelled, or moved to a new venue.

os, Jan 2008

Welcome to the new home of the Darkroom website

Darkroom are now installed in their new home at darkroomtheband.net. Apart from being a slightly more obvious URL, this new location also gives us a lot more space. Expect to see some archive material being uploaded as mp3s soon!

os, Jan 2008

Recording for TV

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On Sunday (6/1/2008) Mike & I did some recording for some music we've been asked to provide for a TV show. More details later, when we can reveal what show it is.

It was a slightly hectic session, as we had to record in about 4 hours all of Mike's parts for some fairly varied pieces. (Not to mention actually coming up with the music too!) The bonus side was that, unrestrained by any consideration of portability or live robustness, Mike was able to get out a lot more pedals than usual.
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More on this later. There should be a web-viewable version of the final TV piece, and the music will most likely make it out on our podcast.



os, Jan 2008

Darkroom photos on Flickr


I'm a great fan of the photo sharing site Flickr. I've started tagging up all the photos of Darkroom with the tag 'darkroomtheband', so you can see them all in one handy place by visiting this address:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/darkroomtheband/

os, Jan 2008

Vintage Darkroom photo

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I just came across this old photo, taken at the Portland Arms, Cambridge UK, on the 29th of April 2000. Don't we look young? I'm not sure I have any of that gear any more, either.

Full res photo on Flickr here.

os, Jan 2008

Welcome to the new Darkroom website

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Welcome to the shiny new Darkroom website. The old one was looking decidedly, well, 20th Century, so here's a new one, built with RapidWeaver.

As well as just looking nicer, there are some useful new features. E.g. the reviews page has been implemented as a blog, so it's easier to add new ones (there will be new ones one day, I'm sure), and you can filter them by tag e.g. here are all the reviews of Freefall.

There's actually a bit more than usual going on in Darkroom-land these days, so stay tuned for more news over the next while. Why not make use of the RSS feed to keep in touch?

os, Jan 2008