Articles

  • singstar: bleeps!

    15 août 2006, 10h45m



    Well, I was wondering where the Singstar series was going to go next (having done singalong pop, rock and retro) but I certainly wasn't expecting this. Quite a line-up: Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, Cylob, Drexciya, Funkstörung, Gescom, Global Communication, Hecker, John Cage, Kid606, LFO, Mouse on Mars, Merzbow, µ-Ziq, Nightmares on Wax, Orbital, Plaid, Shitmat, Squarepusher, The Black Dog, Venetian Snares ...
  • pearls before swine

    1 août 2006, 15h36m

    For reasons that don't really bear close examination right now I'm listening to Battle Hymns, the 1982 debut of heavyweight cheesemetal champions Manowar. Which is every bit as hilariously awful as you might expect. What you might not expect, however, is to find that their seminal track Dark Avenger includes narration by no less than ... Orson Welles:

    Orson: He was met at the gate of hades
    By the guardian of the lost souls,
    The keeper of the unavenged
    And he did say to him:
    Let you not pass abandon return to the world from once you came
    And seek payment not only for thy known anguish
    But vindicate the souls of the unavenged

    And they placed in his hands a sword made for him called vengeance
    Forged in brimstone and tempered by the woeful tears of the unavenged

    And to carry him up on his journey back to the upper world
    They brought forth their demon horse called black death
    A grim steed so fiercely might and black in colour
    That he could stand as one with the darkness
    Save from his burning eyes of crimson fire

    And on that night they rode up from hell
    The pounding of his hooves did clap like thunder.

    Manowar: Burning, death, destruction raping the daughters and wives
    In blood I take my payment in full with their lives

    No one can escape me on black death I ride
    When kissed by the sword of vengeance
    Your head lays there by your side
    I take the lives of all that I once knew
    The torn flesh of a slow death waits for you.


    Delightful stuff. I guess it beat advertising frozen peas as way to scrape together cigar money. I think it's a pity that more bands haven't followed the 'War's lead, though. Personally, I'm rooting for Dickie Attenborough to pair up with the ever-lovable Cradle of Filth.
  • is this thing on?

    1 août 2006, 15h11m

    one-two, one-two, can you hear me?

    Okay, I've been a bad musicblogger again. See, I went on holiday, then when I got back I was busy with other things, then I went on holiday again, then I was busy with other things again.

    You're not buying this, are you?

    Well, I've been waiting for a chance to polish up the stack of unfinished posts I've accumulated over the past couple of months, but it's never going to happen. So apart from the sleevenotes for my past four mixtapes, I'm going to abandon them and start over.

    Stay tuned ...
  • GIG: alan thomas

    27 avr. 2006, 11h18m

    Alan Thomas
    Hindsight for SPNM, 18 April 2006
    Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, London


    Setlist:

    Elliott Carter: Changes
    Bryn Harrison: Return
    Donald Bousted: Solo for Elisabeth
    Giacinto Scelsi: Ko-Tha (movement II)
    Jerry Wigens: still
    Ed Bennett: My Broken Guitar
    Alan Thomas: Etude 5 - Indigo Wave Box
    Alan Thomas: Etude 2 - Kleptomaniac

    Déjà vu: another fabulous venue, another event at the outskirts of my musical taste, another chance meeting with an acquaintance. Snapshot: experimental guitar works, part of a showcase curated by Rolf Hind for the Society for the Promotion of New Music. Ambience: a bloke in the row in front quite literally stroking his beard. Conclusion: my friend the purist spluttering "that was shit!" about the final, Ligeti-inspired etudes. Another glorious evening draws to its end.
  • lemon

    21 avr. 2006, 9h15m

    From this month's Intersection:

    A few years ago, celebrity architect Frank Gehry announced he was going to apply his architectural fireworks to the common car. This much-feted collaboration between General Motors ... Gehry, and the architect's old friend William Mitchell - head of the MIT Media Lab's Smart Cities group - sounded intriguing, if a bit odd. For one, there are no automotive engineers involved. Instead, the motley group behind the concept car includes urban designers, engineers, computer scientists, a lawyer and a doctor. There's even a rock star - U2's The Edge has made cameo appearances at the MIT Media Lab during the project to show his support.

    I know U2 are a soft target, but they make it so easy, dammit. Next week: Adam Clayton Jr. lends a hand in getting that whole cold fusion thing up and running.
  • DANCE: volumina, about-face and the devil in the detail

    21 avr. 2006, 9h10m

    the richard alston dance company
    1 April 2006
    sadlers wells, london


    [Ed. note: As with my previous post, it's now been too long for me to write this up properly. These are just the notes I made at the time, tidied up a bit. Plus you could fit everything I know about contemporary dance into a matchbox without taking the matches out first, so this is anything but an informed review]

    Volumina: This was basically what I'd come to see. I remember discovering Ligeti sometime in - what? the mid-80s? and the idea that anyone I'd ever see anyone dancing to his music (at Sadler's Wells, no less) would have seemed ridiculous. In the event the music was impressive but the dance ... rather inaccessible to someone of my level of (in)experience. The outfits were Star Trek-meets-Pierre-Cardin; the movements dynamic and dramatic but hard for me to correlate with the music. They looked convincingly overwhelmed by the scale of the music (no pun intended) but ... over my head, mostly.

    About-Face: Set to a 17th-century viol piece (Suite dans un Goût Etranger) by one Marin Marais, this was probably my favourite of the three pieces: the performance matched the intricate, inter-weaved music, with the dancers grouping and regrouping into gridded formations. This looked more explicitly choreographed (for want of a better word) than the other two pieces. Perversely enough, my favourite part was the silent interlude: the thump of feet and snatched breaths made it much clearer that these were real people and real exertions. (I seem to have a bit of thing for viscerality at the moment; I wonder what that's about?)

    The Devil in the Detail : This one was an obvious "crowd-pleaser", a collection of giddy sets performed to Scott Joplin rags. Most interesting how the dancing avoided most of the obvious associations, but nonetheless looked perfectly natural. Unlike the clothes, which nodded towards flapper fashion but seemed oddly dowdy, out of keeping with the dancers' grace.

    Overall, intriguing; but I'm oddly ambivalent about whether I actually enjoyed it. Maybe more of the same would clarify.
  • ART: greyworld at dan flavin

    21 avr. 2006, 9h08m

    Andrew Shoben for Greyworld
    Dan Flavin: A Retrospective
    1 April 2006
    Hayward Gallery, London


    [Ed. note: It's far too long after the event for me to write this up properly. So this is just a lightly-edited version of the notes I wrote at the time, for my personal record rather than public consumption.]

    I'm never sure about music at art exhibitions. On the one hand, I enjoy soundtracking my life, particularly when it there's a significant probability of mood enhancement - as there is at many art exhibits. But the flipside is that you might enhance your mood in the "wrong" way, or at least fail to give the art proper attention. (Maybe all this is just too precious. Or maybe the culture of hushed art appreciation is.)

    So it's nice when the work's done for you - as it was to good effect at Shhh! at the V&A back in 2004. The Flavin retrospective has made considerable use of music, mostly making the obvious connections with minimalism - I wish I'd been around to catch some of the in-gallery concerts - but at least I got a chance to try out the downloadable "soundscapes" composed for the show by Greyworld. Who are some kind of artists' collective.

    There's an obvious temptation to go for minimalism in composing sounds to accompany Flavin's light sculptures - to match the cycles and colour harmonics with pure tones. Some of the pieces play to that expectation. It works sometimes - for the "green fence" piece that dominates the first room, for example, and for the next couple of rooms of monochromatic, highly linear early work. But the later work appeals more to the sensorium than the cerebrum - something that didn't really come through in the musical accompaniment. I'd have preferred to hear something with a more organic quality.

    It would have been interesting to curate my own soundtrack for this. I wonder if that could have been done in an open format allowing mass participation (although I guess the number of participants would be relatively small). Something like the dedications site, but with music. Would there be interest in something like (or piggybacking off) Webjay? But since the Flavin retro has finished its worldwide run, there's not much point trying to do it now. Next time ...
  • mah na ma no no no

    12 avr. 2006, 12h34m

    It would seem that Mah Na Mah Nah was originally part of the soundtrack to a Swedish "documentary" of the sort that used to be watched in private cinemas by men wearing raincoats. Who knew? * (Are there pointless remixes available, I hear you ask? Why, of course!)


    *I suspect the answer may be "everyone but me".
  • join the revolution! we take paypal!

    12 avr. 2006, 12h10m

    I just chipped in $20 towards the International Chiptunes Resistance Tour, featuring Bitshifter and Nullsleep. (They're going round the world, reaching London in May). I don't know if that makes me an early adopter or a complete tool, but it seems like a worthwhile cause (assuming you like ): 8Bitpeoples have been giving away music for years and it's good to give something back. But it looks like they're stalled at just over two grand (the target is three). I'm not sure my faith in human nature will survive if they don't make their target.
  • sleeve notes, february 2006: like drunken hillsides

    7 avr. 2006, 10h22m



    This month's title is a description of icebergs from a documentary about penguins, but I thought it sounded like something a rapper might say to describe his flow. All of the artwork is based on photographs I've taken. The front cover is Death Valley, taken in July 2002; the back cover was taken near the Uffington White Horse in 2004. The booklet interior was taken at Jaen Castle in Andalucia in December 2005. The tray liner was taken from a hot-air balloon over Wiltshire in 2002; the disc is the interior of a crop circle near Avebury in summer 2005.

    Okay, the first week of April is a bit late to be putting together a mixtape based on what I was listening to in February. But that's because I was travelling from mid February until more or less the last week of March. So this compilation is also a bit unusual, since I didn't add much new music. Or listen to as much music in general: I took my iPod, but iTunes says I listened to only 333 items, totalling just over 23 hours. That figure (which as usual doesn't include repeat listens or any music outside iTunes/iPod) is sharply down from last month: so evidently the promise of totally mobile music isn't quite a reality just yet.

    In any case, the upshot is that this mixtape is somewhat different to previous editions: it's basically an edited version of what happened to be in my on-the-fly playlist when I got back to the UK and so it's a bit more homogeneous. The theme, if there is one, is nostalgia, which sits uneasily with my usual tendency towards raging neophilia ... most of these tracks are at least a couple of years old, while others have vintage pretensions.

    (1) This is the first part of as heard on radio soundhog vol 6 - don't call it a comeback, Soundhog's latest full-length mix. As usual, it's deftly assembled, but I particularly like the thematic nicety of meshing Jonathan Weston's World in Action theme with the celebrated anchorman's rant from the filmNetwork. Moment of Truth: 3'30": "I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit!"

    (2) Huddle Formation: This is what I meant about nostalgia: The Go! Team's sound is strongly redolent of vintage pop gems from some half-forgotten era, rather than spanking new (well, as of 2004) sample-heavy confections that clearly also owe something to modern genres. They're like a auditory Rorschach blot for nostalgics: my favourite two interpretations of their sound are "Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang go hip-hop" and an homage to Mike Post. This is on here because it was the very clear soundtrack to a striking dream I had on my last night in Delhi, and I listened to it obsessively during my travels in Italy and thereafter in an (futile) attempt to recapture some of that fleeting mood. Moment of Truth: 2'13": kicks

    (3) The Martin Show - Plus-Tech Squeeze Box: First of three J-Pop tracks that I tend to play back-to-back. I'm not sure quite why I think they fit so closely together, apart from their sourcing: all three have (I think) featured on Fluxblog at one time or another, and two of the bands were featured on the BBC Three show Adam and Joe Go To Tokyo. (Plus-Tech Squeeze Box's appearance was particularly memorable.) Most J-Pop is too saccharine for my taste, but this hits the spot: like the Jackson Five in a parallel universe. What the hell is the title about? For some reason, I like to think that the theme to a spin-off about the wacky adventures of Frasier's dad and his dog, but it's probably not, is it? You can hear more PSB on their website. Moment of Truth: 1'23": up the upbeat

    (4) girigiri surf rider (half rider mix): This track is, somewhat perversely, an exemplar of the problems I have in trying to find good J-Pop. This mix, taken from the Halcalimix remix album, is considerably sharper than the somewhat insipid original. But were it not for Matthew Perpetua, I would probably never have found it. YouTube has a bunch of other stuff from HALCALI, including this utterly mental mix of this standard bubblegum offering. As for the band, I have no clue, except that they evidently aren't doing so well these days - but still attract enough devotion to sustain an alarmingly detailed fanblog. Moment of Truth: 3'36": you should try dancing to this bit.

    (5) GET UP! RAPPER: Salt 5 are apparently one of the products of an annual contest in which members of the Hello! Project, a kind of J-Pop factory specialising in female starlets, are shuffled into one-off acts who then compete to see who can sell most records. (Their songs are, by definition, one-hit wonders). Salt 5 were in the 2003 competition, in which the bands were named after "elements" and the number of members (the others were called 7 Air and 11 Water). It's interesting how unabashedly commercial the whole enterprise is: it makes Gibson's Idoru seem almost out of date. You can watch Salt 5 perform Get Up! Rapper here. Moment of Truth: 1'20": bring it!

    (6) Diamonds And Guns: Another supergroup, this time made up of 1990s punk revivalists (Rancid, Blink 182) playing with rap-metal stylings. Not much to say about this: it's not especially representative of anything in my taste. Sometimes a tune is just a tune. Moment of Truth: 0"56": whoo whoo

    (7) 1st Man in Space: And another supergroup, kinda, although they were more like a sort of Sheffield collective, leaning heavily on Jarvis Cocker for song-writing and an assortment of Steel City vocalists up front. I loved this track, written by Cocker and sung by The Human League's Phil Oakey, when I first heard it - unusually, for me, as much because of its lyrics as much as the music. A disgruntled ex-astronaut from South Yorkshire: what's not to love? But I only bought it this month when I resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to find a decent MP3 of it. Cost me 18.99 for the CD. Arse. Moment of Truth: 1'25": "How you supposed to open these new milk cartons/Why don't they make Golden Nuggets no more?"

    (8) Diplo Rhythm: Diplo's done a lot of good things, but his album Florida wasn't really one of them. Except this track, which The Stycast reminded me of. Moment of Truth: 3'34" : the ghost of Kraftwerk

    (9) Melo do Tabaco (Pirate Soundsystem's Girls On Pills Mix): Baile funk is a another of those genres that I just haven't had the energy to investigate properly. This, however, got sent to me via the Pirate Soundsystem mailing list and thus required almost zero effort on my part. Result. Moment of Truth: 1'42" : she means it, maan

    (10) Siboney: First of three tracks from the soundtracks to Wong Kar-Wai's films. I haven't actually seen 2046, but its soundtrack is great, as I first learnt from The Selector (which now appears to be defunct). Moment of Truth: 0'22" & 0'59": blow

    (11) Siboney: And this is the second version of this song from the 2046 soundtrack, a belting vocal rendition which remains fused to the first on my iPod. And as it happens, the first of three (partially) Spanish-language tracks by singers better known for performing in English. Moments of Truth: 2'30": crikey

    (12) Quizas, Quizas, Quizas: This one comes from the soundtrack to In The Mood For Love, the sort-of-precursor to 2046. In The Mood For Love is steeped in nostalgia, something which its soundtrack manages to evoke through a combination of unlikely elements. Kathryn loved the film, and my memory of seeing it with her is very vivid: something about the lushness of its visuals somehow fits very closely with my mental image of her. What might have been ... Moment of Truth: 2'37" : perhaps ... perhaps ... perhaps.

    (13) Que Sera, Sera: I remember this song from my childhood - quite why, I don't know; I might have seen Day perform it in the film The Man Who Knew Too Much, or perhaps it was just in my parents' record collection. My fondness for it was renewed when a different version of it appeared in the Heathers. It makes me think of black and white squared Formica. Moment of Truth: 0'10" : lilt action

    (14) Back In Baby's Arms: From the soundtrack of Natural Born Killers: a terrible, terrible film, but one whose soundtrack (compiled by Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor) taught me something about the value of eclecticism. Cline is one of the relatively few country singers for whom I have much time, originating from my fondness for this track. Moment of Truth: 0'38": plucks and stabs

    (15) You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve: This track is absurdly hard to find, given that it's become a minor cult classic: Amazon UK is selling the CD single (used) for a whopping £13.49. So my thanks are to Warren Ellis for posting it on his LiveJournal back in January. This is another painstaking reconstruction, this time of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound with James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers (of all people) on production duties. Moment of Truth: 1'23": the Ronettes are making a comeback

    (16) Bo Diddley Is Jesus: I grew up with electronic music, beginning with Jean-Michel Jarre, Tomita and Kraftwerk in the 1970s, as well as soundtracks, pop classical and the inevitable easy-listening types. Pop radio was dominated by endless nostalgia-fests celebrating the rock dinosaurs of the baby-boomer generation, to my enormous frustration. By the time I reached my early teens, I mostly regarded guitar-based music as tedious and repetitive, a prejudice which I have yet to entirely shake off. (Of course, many of my friends regarded my taste in electronic music precisely the same way). But then I discovered The Jesus And Mary Chain. Their combination of three-chord melodies and blowtorch feedback persuaded me that rock didn't have to mean Dire Straits; and their noisy output was the perfect antithesis both of music my parents approved of, and the pure electronic sounds that had been my staple fare to date. My favourite of their albums is Barbed Wire Kisses, their collection of B-sides and oddities like this track; it includes a number of experiments which, unfortunately, they mostly forsook during their later career in favour of more conventional rock 'n' roll. Moment of Truth: 3'02": rifftastic.

    That's it. See you in (rather less than) thirty as I try to work through my massively backlogged Incoming playlist ...