Mar. 6th, 2012

reverancepavane: (Valerie)

Those with a passing familiarity with me might know that I am a fan of the Melbourne group The Twoks, who have a tendency to do a show or two at the last few Fringes. But I also have to admit to being slightly conflicted about them.

You see the very first music of The Twoks was very avant-garde, consisting on layers and layers of Xani's violin (with percussion on the soundbox, beating the strings, and plucking them in addition to the more traditional bowing), resulting in an incredibly complicated and rich soundscape in which she played. They were so large you couldn't take them in in one gulp, but you had to enter them and chase the music as it swirled around inside them. Sort of like a big majestic building. You can build up the sense of the building by exploring it until finally you know the whole building despite being unable to see it entire. Which I admit I found extremely tantalizing, being able to explore the structure of these incredible creative pieces, that you could hear being built for you a piece at a time. What would you find around the next corner?

Creating these older soundscapes required lots of foot pedals to control the equipment required to capture and play the loops at the appropriate time, which often forced Xani to sit and use her feet very dextrously. (I sometimes joked that she played her violin with her feet.)

Anyway over the last few years the music has changed. Become less complex and involved and easier to perceive immediately as a whole. Less avant-garde and more popular. More refined and purer. Sublimated.* There are however two great benefits to the new form. First Xani has added her vocals to the mix. She has a good voice and it adds a thematic component to the music which allows people to follow her through the piece (no more exploring on your own). Secondly, with fewer layers there is less need for her to be tied to a chair in the performance and she is free to dance as she plays, and this just adds incredible energy to the pieces. [It also made the simple slow acoustic piece she did in the middle of the tent very poignant.]

Now I like both versions. A lot. But it's different parts of me that like each of them. So sometimes I mourn for the loss of the original music. But not for long, for the new music has an excellent advantage that outweighs the past. As Rufus** said "And it's great to dance to."

And I should also mention Mark, who is also as much a reason for the current sound of The Twoks as Xani. His percussion gives great form to the music. The chemistry between these two musicians is excellent (and it shows). It also has to be, because many of the pieces are quite susceptible to spur of the moment improvisation. Both Xani and Mark are The Twoks.

Anyway, this year's performance was great. I'm still bouncing eight hours later as pieces of the show are still streaming through my head.

Apparently the Melbournians don't believe that The Twoks can have attracted such a large audience to their shows here with playing just the occasional gig. The obvious solution to that is to get them to come back for more gigs. They have a full CD release coming up in September so I hope they will journey back to do a CD launch here. Failing that, just come over and play a Sunday gig at the Wheatie.

*****

The Twoks consist of violinist Xani Kolac and Mark Leahy on drums. Xani generally makes extensive use of looping to build up a wild and exhuberant soundscape, which is given exacting focus by Mark’s laser sharp percussion.

The music of this band has changed since they first appeared at the Fringe a few years ago. The soundscapes aren’t quite as complex as they once were, but that lack is more than made up for by the sheer energy of the performance and the addition of Xani’s vocals. Plus, the new music is great to dance to if you are so inclined, as well as great to just listen to.

The best way to describe the show (and Xani for that matter), is wild and uplifting. Almost fey. You’ll definitely still be hearing their music in your head hours after the gig.

Again, a one-off show. But definitely keep them in mind for next Fringe.

*****

[* In the traditional sense rather than the scientific sense. As something is sublimated it gives off the impurities and dross and becomes more sublime.]

[** Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.]

reverancepavane: (Valerie)

Having been reminded by Xani's manic dancing on stage whilst playing a violin I should also mention Lindsey Sterling to you all. Take a look at these YouTube clips.

Contains embedded YouTube videos )

reverancepavane: (Beard)

DeAnne Smith: Livin' the Sweet Life.

This was a preview show, which means that Deanne was essentially still trying to sort out some of the more subtle differences between Australian and Canadian humour. ["Eh."] But despite that it was thoroughly enjoyable, and I say that as someone who is really not the greatest fan of stand up comics. It was a relaxed show, with plenty of laughter and sympathetic winces (when the audience could see the inevitable tragedy that lay just ahead in Deanne’s stories), and I think everyone, Deanne included, left feeling a lot better about life. Which really is sweet when you think about it.

Smart, charming, witty, and fun. I particularly enjoyed her very geeky closing song. ["Yes. She sings too. Did I forget to mention it?"]

Eh.

I really am not a great fan of stand up, but this wasn't all that bad. We sat in the front row, and naturally my awesome beard powers came to the fore deflecting comedic thrusts towards my companion of the evening ["My beard is like a shield of steel wool," said in a deep resounding Batfink voice*], although it also apparently meant that I must enjoy porn more than I actually do (am I really all that weird for liking women clothed – I mean, they are a lot of fun to unwrap, especially if you are doing it properly).***

Anyway... I wish to take a moment to thank some of my female friends for having described to me the procedure involved in doing a full wax (and you know who you are), so I could cringe in advance together with about a quarter to a third of the rest of the audience. [Although she didn't deal with the full procedure, so there were less contortions involved.]

Then onto more problems, such as being able to pick up women when you are a young single lesbian (trust me, they don't have any more clue than we heteronormal men do). However she does strongly suggest that knife-throwing whilst under the influence may not be the best way to start unless you want to visit the emergency room instead of the bedroom.

As I mentioned, it was a preview show, so there was a fair bit of probing going on to see what would be a good fit for Australian audience. Applause about a joke combining quantum physics and penis size did elect such a positive response that she finished a really excellent geeky love song (which I immediately forgot because The Twoks music that is still resident in my skull took it outside, beat it, and then shot it). But it was fun. I do hope the fact that the front row was nearly 50% scientist didn't alter her experiment significantly. Although judging from the applause and the anticipation for the song there must have been even more geeks behind us.

Surprising fun, and I'm glad I saw it. Eh. <grin>

[* Of course, my immediate thought on making that statement in relation to this show is then saying "That probably means oral sex is out of the question." (NB: question not directed at anyone in particular, and definitely not to anyone who reads this journal at the moment)**]

[** Although I reserve the right to have some future peruser of this magnus opium [sic] run screaming out of my life if she ever reads this.]

[*** Besides. Where would the legs go? (in joke)]

reverancepavane: (Skraling)

Thinking seriously (again) about doing an Old School campaign, albeit one that has been heavily modified. One of the things I'm thinking of doing is eliminating the Strength bonus to weapon damage. [pause for effect] Well, not really. What I'm thinking of doing is integrating the strength bonus in with the weapon choices available to characters.

Essentially, the damage that a character causes in combat is based primarily on their class. Fighters do d10 damage, clerics do d8 damage, thieves do d6 damage, and magic users do d4 damage. If they wield a weapon in two hands, then they get a damage boost of one step, so a normal fighter wielding a greatsword will do d12 damage and a normal magic user using a staff will do d6.

The damage bonus from strength is applied to this value. Thus a magic user with a +2 damage bonus wielding a 1H would do d8 damage, and a cleric with a -1 damage bonus would also do 1d6 with a 1H weapon.

So not much of a change from normal, really. However the difference is that this damage is actually what determines the weapons that the character can wield. Thus the aforementioned magic user would be able to wield a longsword (d8) in one hand. The cleric on the other hand would only be able to wield a club (d6) damage.

This is because strength allows you to wield larger and heavier weapons more easily. If the weapon does not suit your strength and reach, you will be very ineffective in wielding it. Conversely a weapon that is inadequate to your strength and reach means that you won't be able to gain the full effect from using it.

Does this mean that fighters with a high strength bonus wield supermassive two-handed weapons in one hand? Well no. It just means that the weapon they do wield can be used better. This system innately assumes that fighters wield the best weapons in the game. Thus the ultimate 1H weapon for a human-sized character is in fact the Bastard Sword (d10). Increasing the damage bonus simply means that the character can wield it more effectively when battering you into submission.

Classes will also gain damage bonuses as they increase in level. I'm unsure at the moment whether these should be applied in the same manner as the strength damage bonus (affecting the weapons that may be wielded), or act as a permanent bonus (so a dagger wielder with this kind of damage bonus does d6 because they know where to attack). What I may do is allow either approach, so a character can learn to wield a larger weapon or use a smaller weapon more effectively.

For reference the damage caused by swords are Greatswords (d12), Bastard Swords (d10), Longswords or Broadswords (d8), Shortswords or Smallswords (d6), Daggers (d4) and Knives (d2). Other weapons follow a similar scale, although they may lose a step for a special ability (frex a Spear, which would normally do d8 damage, actually does d6 damage but can attack at reach [and more importantly keep an opponent at reach]). Similarly creature size (and thus weapon size) will alter weapon damage accordingly, so a shortsword (d6) for a Fire Giant (+3 Size) would be a Greatsword (d12) for a normal human (albeit a clumsy one because the furniture would all be wrong - but capable of being adapted by a skilled weaponsmith).

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Ian Borchardt

October 2012

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