Three more observations about the iCloud photo library:
Maintaining a photo library in the Apple world is currently a mess. There is the Photostream, some sort of clipboard with a capacity of around 1,000 photos, where the photo apps of iOS and MacOS put photos in and take them out – sometimes automatically, sometimes it has to be done manually. To remove a photo completely, it has to be deleted up to three times, depending on if the phone was connected to WiFi and if iPhoto or Aperture was running on the Mac at some point.
With iOS 8 Apple finally has taken steps to solve to make this work right: one photo library that syncs between all devices and computers. Unfortunately we have to wait until some time in 2015 to have the Mac participate – for now syncing is supported only on iOS, which means the mess will be even bigger, at least temporarily. So what does work and what not? First, the iCloud Photo Library is turned off by default and it’s labeled beta. So a good advice is to leave it at that until Photos on Mac comes out. But what happens if you can’t wait, like me?
Your iPhone or iPad will remove all photos that is copied via iTunes from the Mac and start syncing your Camera Roll aka Recently Added album into iCloud and from there to all other iOS devices connected with the same iCloud account. Shared photo streams work as before but the Photostream disappears from the app. It’s still there behind the scenes unless you turn it off in the settings, and as before transmits your photos to the Mac. Given the beta status of the iCloud Photo Library, this gives you some peace of mind: your photos are still saved locally on your Mac.
Videos are fully supported by the iCloud Photo Library, but are not in the Photostream, means you still need to connect the iPhone or iPad via USB and download them into iPhoto or Aperture. Then you get offered to remove them from your device and I have no idea what this would do. Previously it cleared out the Camera Roll, which used to be a good idea, but the Camera Roll doesn’t exist anymore. In the best case, the iPhone ignores the delete request, in the worst case it deletes all photos from the device and blanks out your iCloud library. I didn’t dare trying.
While downloading photos to the Mac more or less works the same way, uploading is a different story: you can’t access the Photostream from iOS 8 and syncing via iTunes is no longer supported after activating the iCloud Photo Library. If you don’t want to wait for Photos on Mac, Shared Photostreams are the only way (which you can share only with yourself, btw). You share photos and videos into a Shared Photostream on the Mac and then save them in the iPad or iPhone into iCloud. If you want the location information to be preserved, you need to explicitly enable this in the preferences of iPhoto or Aperture. When you do that, iOS Photos (and presumably also Mac Photos), will nicely group the photos by date and location.
One thing to consider with the iCloud Photo Library is bandwidth. After a concert shoot last week I downloaded the photos from a Sony RX 100 via the camera connection kit to my iPad. Big mistake. A photo shoot on a modern camera can easily produce gigabytes of data and depending on your Internet connection the upload may take hours if not days. And there’s nothing you can do against it, save from disconnecting the device from the Internet: deleted photos are also stored in the cloud for 30 days.
This has implications for the workflow: it’s probably not feasible to use an iPad for pre-selecting photos while on the road and then just let them sync via iCloud to the desktop, unless Apple comes up with something like Handover for photos that uses the local network for initial syncing. Also, since the sync is relatively slow and only happening on Wi-Fi, the photo library is bound to get temporarily out of sync between multiple iOS devices, such as an iPad and iPhone – it is probably advised to be careful with editing photos on multiple devices.
With all that, the iCloud Photo Library is not quite in a “just works” state. It’s still a big improvement over the old way of maintaining a photo library on multiple devices.
When Gazelle Twin, the project of Elizabeth Bernholz, released Belly of the Beast as the first track of Unflesh early this year, my first thought was that something must have changed. Musically, it seemed to be far away from the haunted beauty that marked The Entire City, her 2011 debut: hammering beats and distorted, whispered vocals, rather than the smooth synth lines and her beautiful voice, which carried Entire City. And then she announced for the first time extensive tours in Europe and North America - like if she decided to bring Gazelle Twin to the next level.
I saw Gazelle live in London last year at a showcase of her label Anti-Ghost Moon Ray. While I was expecting some sort of Fever-Ray-ish costume-heavy art performance, it was a far more straight-forward affair, which drew its intensity from the pounding beats and Elizabeth’s stage presence alone. Unflesh takes it from that point - it is music that can fill a venue by itself.
Looking at the record cover, it becomes clear that this is not an easy and uplifting album. Gazelle Twin draws a lot of her inspiration from dreams and various states of mental disarray. On Dazed she annotates each song and it is helpful to understand, where she is coming from and that her intentions are deeper and more personally motivated than just being “scary”, an impression one might get after reading the headlines about her music during the last months.
Musically, there is a lot going on on this album. It sets a dark, relentless mood and Factory Floor comes to mind as a reference, with GUTS being the primary example. But Gazelle Twin lets her songs build up quicker and puts more variety into them. They often change their dynamic somewhere in the middle and end far away from where they have started. I’ve been listening to this album many times during the last two days and still have difficulties to pin down the characteristics of each song. I like that – there are only a few hooks, but plenty of intense moments that make me want to listen and experience them again.
To be honest, while I liked the four tracks she released before the album, I rarely listened to them as isolated pieces. Now, in the context of the album it all makes sense. After listening to its predecessor The Entire City again, Unflesh is not even that far off and fits well into the Gazelle Twin narrative. Entire City feels like an idea Elizabeth has taken from her mind into the computer and then followed it to wherever it would take her. Unflesh is where she arrived a few years later: it distills the luscious sound of Entire City down to the ground, to its essence. It is what she wants Gazelle Twin to sound and look like.