Murcof, Górecki & Pärt , the Minimalist Connection

murcof

These past couple of months I have been listening to Murcof with a vengeance. Now if you don’t know who Murcof is, Murcof is the name under which Fernando Corona records, produces and performs his music under. In my opinion, and this is just my opinion… he is one of the most incredible of the electronica minimalist artists/producers out there today.

And incredible as he is, I find the fact that he is originally from Mexico to be pretty amazing… and the only reason being that I don’t really think of Mexico as being a place where many electronica musicians come from. Regardless, Fernando relocated to and now lives in Spain.

I just got two of his albums, Martes and Remembranza. I must say that these albums are incredible. Although there are a number of tracks that are pretty astounding, if I were to pick just one to talk about, it would probably be the track “Mo” from the Martes album. Heck, even the tracks titles are minimal.

I discovered Murcof via Last.fm which I think is actually an pretty awesome site, even though it is owned by the man. In addition to Murcof, I also also was able to check out lots of other similar musicians such as Arovane, Deaf Center, Xela, Bola, Monolake, Jules Marsels and many more. Some of the other minimalist musicians I enjoy, but are not actually electronica musicians include Arvo Pärt and Henryck Górecki. Now Arvo Pärt and Henryck Górecki are minimalists but they goes more in the direction of classical music. Górecki and especially Part are some of my top favorite musicians, be it classical or minimalist.

But what is even more interesting to me is that I just discovered that apparently, Murcof does sample some of Arvo Pärt and Henryck Górecki’s recordings and maybe that is why I have really been enjoying Murcof’s music with a vengeance… its the triple threat and also the best of all worlds! Electronica, minimalism and classical… Awesome!

Vivace, One of the Capitol Hill Giants

vivace

When I first moved to Seattle, Vivace was my favorite coffee shop hangout. I thought their roast was fantastic and their baristas talented. I used to frequent their shop that was just off of Broadway on Denny, not to be confused with their other little stand also on northern part of Broadway.

Later after relocating to another part of Capital Hill, I started frequenting Victrola Coffeehouse instead… this signaled the end of my love affair with Vivace coffee. As time went on, I found that I did not like Vivace coffee any more. At first it seemed that for a while, on the rare occasions I went to their Denny Way shop for a cup, their lattes were pretty milky tasting and bland. In my opinion, I don’t think it was the roast that was bad, I think it was the baristas pulling the drinks who were simply doing a crappy job. Yet despite this, I know plenty of people who still totally enjoyed their drink.

Then they opened their third store next to REI and through happenstance and necessity, I found myself going to that store on occasion and getting a latte there. Big improvement! I don’t know if it was just that store or if the store on Denny has also improved, but I am happy to say that I think their coffee has gotten much better… tending towards how I remember it when I first discovered the Denny Way store. On top of that, I discovered that one of my favorite baristas from Victrola works at that store so maybe that’s another reason why the place has gotten better 😉

Just a quick word about Vivace in general if I may. I really like the way they design the interior of the store with the ‘renaissance’ type murals on the walls that give the place an almost Italian feel. I also think that their coffee has much improved but I don’t feel like it is as good as I remember. Yet I believe there are a lot of folks who would dismiss what I think and would vouch that Vivace makes the best espresso drinks. If you have been to Vivace, please let me know whether you think they make great espresso or not, and why did you come to that conclusion.

Segregated Blogs or All-In-One Blog

I am really struggling with something here… Most folks who have blogs, I would argue have varied interests. The question that then comes up is the following. Do you have a separate blog for each of your different interests or do you simply have one blog and combine all your interests in that blog? In my case, I have quite a number of interests including music, photography, martial arts, tech & business news and development. The problem is that trying to separate each of these interests into separate blogs simply means that I have that many extra posts I need to write if I am going to keep each blog updated at a reasonable rate.

Then the other question that I ask does it even make sense to to mix posts that are totally different subject matter in the same blog? For example a blog that has postings about MySQL development and also Murcof’s latest release. Will those interested in MySQL development take that particular blog seriously when the blog also contains information about the latest minimalist electronica releases…

Well I have been thinking about this and it finally dawned on me that I am in some ways getting away from the initial reason a started blogging in the first place. All I wanted was a place to express my personal (but not private) thoughts… and if this is the case, then who really cares whether folks come to my blog because they expect to hear from a SME… I think the main thing is that I will simply do posts about the things that I find to be interesting to me and hopefully someone else out there may find my posts, if not useful, maybe they’ll find them interesting…

I’ll see how long this lasts or maybe I might decide that I want to separate my content again… we’ll see… I need to go to bed in the next few minutes since its getting late and I’m tired… I’ve done the additional content imports I wanted… its all done now…

Fremont Coffee Co: Jitters Downstairs, Relaxation Upstairs

I had a few minutes to spare before my appointment in the Fremont area so I thought it would be nice to grab a latte at the Fremont Coffee Company coffeehouse aka FCC. The place is rather interesting in that it is basically a two-story house that has been sub-divided such that two floors house separate businesses.

The ground floor of the building is the actual coffeehouse. There are a number of different rooms that make is possible to one to seclude themselves from the majority of the patrons and work ‘privately’ The rooms are arrayed with all sorts of seating arrangements including regular table and chairs, bar tools and counter and sofas. The up-stairs area is rented out to licensed massage therapists who are open and run hours roughly the same as the coffeehouse. The great thing about this is that now you can get your fill of espresso downstairs, once the jitters hit, you can then head on upstairs (well its all by appointment) to relax with a soothing massage.

I don’t often get over to Fremont much and often when I do I have already have my daily latte but I think FCC is a great place to relax and enjoy a coffee and free wireless… well, free with purchase anyway.

FCC actually serves beans roasted from Lighthouse Coffee Roasters who happen to be located a few blocks up from FCC on North 43rd Street, on the way to Ballard. The Lighthouse blend they use for their latte is rather interesting because when I asked the barista, what blend they used for their espresso, he replied, “well this is the Espresso Blend.” So I looked at him like he was trying to belittle me and told him, “yes I know that this is your espresso blend, but what is the name of the blend use for making your espresso?” It took a new minutes of going back and forth before I realized that the name of the blend that Lighthouse roast for espresso drinks is actually called, “Espresso Blend”.

And it turns out that the Espresso blend is actually pretty good. I believe it is a medium roast and pretty decent. And I find that in general, I do enjoy Lighthouse Roasters’ blends… I think they do a decent job.

The other interested aspect of the place is that they also sell all sorts of sodas. I mean they have a relatively large shelf that is stocked will tons (well maybe not tons, but certainly lots) of different types and brands of soda. Most of these sodas I have never even heard of them, but non are your ordinary everyday sodas we normally see at your local supermarket.

The one sad thing is that the day I was there, the barista got the news that his dog died. Now I don’t know if the dog had been sick for a while or anything like that, but it was pretty tough on him since it was obvious that he loved the dog. That night they closed early since he was unable to find someone on such short notice to take over his shift… Next time I am there, if he is working that shift, I will have to ask him how he’s doing…

Monkey’s Month of Mixed Blessings

Monkey Bee

Hey there, its me.. the dub Monkey. Right now I am feeling pretty low… sick… I have been battling this cold since last week, and while for a moment there it looked like it was going away, it has come back with a vengeance and is now hanging out. What I really hate about colds is not the stuffy nose, annoying as that can be… it is the throat thinggie. Especially when no matter how much you try to clear it, you just cant quite get to it. What is even worse is when you are at work and people around you have to listen to you clearing your throat every 5 minutes. If it wasn’t me that was trying to clear my throat, that would be enough to drive me absolutely nuts!

On the up side, I had some good news at work on Friday… got a little promotion so that was good considering that with the current economic situation, my company has a freeze on merit pay. Since I don’t normally like to talk about work on my blog, I’ll leave it at that…

On the music side, I have been playing around with Last.FM much more lately. I love that site because its been a great way for me to discover new artists that I wouldn’t normally have been exposed to. A couple of artists that I recently discovered, though they have been around for a while, are Murcof, MoShang, Arovane, World’s End Girlfriend and Apparat just to name a few.

And finally, how can I forget Monkey Bee, my favorite track from the Monkey Journey to the West album by Monkey, who is Jamie Hewlett, the visual mastermind behind the animated group, Gorillaz. Journey to the West is also one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature and I understand kids learn the story growing up and are pretty familiar with it, but I can’t wait for the opera, also by Jamie Hewlett which should be coming out soon. Check out the linked wiki page to more details on this story…

Kaladi Brothers’ Caffeinated Red Goat

kaladi

Kaladi brothers coffee company is an Alaskan based coffee roaster and retailer. They have twelve retail locations in Alaska including one on the little town of Wasilla. And it just so happens that they have a only one retail location outside Alaska, and that coffee shop is located up on Capital Hill. It is also this store where I was first introduced to Kaladi Brothers and their awesome coffee…

The first thing I noticed about Kaladi Brothers coffee was simply their name. The name, Kaladi simply did not speak “Alaska” to me and at first I thought the name was more Middle Eastern sounding… or at least Mediterranean sounding. After poking around a little bit on Kaladi Brother’s website it turns out that the name was chosen from the legend of Kaladi, a goat herder from the land of Arabia Felix, who discovered the stimulating effect of coffee beans… via his goats. This is also how they came up with their logo… which is not a reindeer or an antelope but a goat, a red one at that and presumably, slightly caffeinated…

And what about the coffee? Actually it turns out that all the roasting is done at their roasting plant in Alaska, and shipped once or twice (I forget the actual number of times) a week to Seattle. Surprisingly, the coffee is actually pretty good especially since you don’t really think of Alaska as that great bastion of coffee roasting in the US. The serve what I believe is a medium roast that is at the edge of being a dark roast. The name of this blend is the Trieste Caffe. Its actually quite good.

I also like the barista where. Pretty mellow fellows who seem to know what they are doing… and pretty friendly too. I try to go there one in a while even though I don’t often hang out in that area of Capital Hill… I think they are certainly worth a try…

Why Victrola is the King of the Hill

victrolla221

What can I say? Victrola Coffee is one of my top three if not my all time favorite coffee shop. Zoka Coffee and Migliore both come in at a pretty close second. I also like Caffe D’arte as the third place contender. Vivace Coffee used to be my favorite coffee shop till I discovered Victrola Coffee up on 15th… and at the same time something happened with Vivace and I feel that for a while they had lost their way though they are certainly coming back strong.

What is it about Victrola that makes them number one in my book? There are a few things but the top two are the following:

They start off with freshly roasted beans. One thing I notice about many of the stores I like is that they actually roast their own beans on-site or at least pretty close to on-site. So the beans they grind in their espressos are extremely fresh. Next, they roast and blend their beans in a way that brings out the unique flavor that Victrola is known for. Many of the coffee shops that roast their own beans tend to have their own unique flavor. I think Victrola Coffee’s roast is pretty awesome… well the best. Finally there are the baristas. These are the folks who know, not just how to grinds the beans, the amount to use, but also how to pull the espresso, how to steam (or froth) the milk and bring all that together into the perfect latte. What I like about the baristas here also is that they are actually pretty friendly and pretty cool. And some with the tattoos just look like they ‘understand’ espresso… Now I don’t know what that really means, but I think they certainly look the part

In addition to great coffee, Victrola is also a big supporter of the local arts scene. They hosting various readings of poetry and art work displays and in fact I actually discovered Victrola when I went to a poetry reading they hosted for a number of poets which included a friend who had invited me to hear him rant read. There were a number of poets in attendance and so I got my latte and settled down to listen to some ‘words of wizdom’. Now truth be told, one thing you notice if you’ve lived in Seattle for a while is that the art scene is a little… well may more than a little out there. So whenever you go check out some of these artsy stuff you have to be prepared for anything. And though most of the poets were really not my style I was able to at least listen to what they were talking about and enjoy the atmosphere at Victrola. Little did I know that this was the start of a long and beautiful relationship with a great coffee shop.

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