Friday, November 27, 2009

More on Office life

Not a designer but i have heard similar arguments over their years at loads of places as the twats with the ties and pink shirts engage with the 'creatives'. Subs aren't immune to onerous jobs though - best one I ever had was proofing an Enron dictionary of financial terminology just days before they went tits-up.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Twenty years and still thriving

Oh the fun and games I’ve had with Warp20. Originally, I had asked for it as a pressie from my partner (at that price it would cover a few birthdays and Christmases), so was prepared to wait patiently as my December b’day approached. But then George jumped the gun, burning me the Chosen and Recreated double CD elements of the box set.

Trouble was the CDs came with artwork but no tracklisting (ungrateful twat!). That should only entail a quick web search for tracklisting, but I then discovered that through a quirk of George’s iTunes settings that they had not been ripped in track order – where I expected Autechre it started sounding like Squarepusher, Grizzly Bear more Boards of Canada. After a few initial listens I decided I don’t like playing Guess the Artist so a forensic check was necessary. Early cross-referencing of each track with the online playlist and counterpart in the iTunes shop revealed they were ripped alphabetically across the two CDs, so the first CD of each filled up to the time limit with 16 or so tracks, the other just a handful. I had nearly matched all four individual CDs but was still two short on the Recreated CD – having reckoned without bonus tracks. Shazam on the 2580 solved the first – Maximo Park droning out Vincent Gallo’s When to nice effect, but it didn’t solve the last one. Luckily I divined that the languid Nu Yorickshire funk was Nightmares on Wax (remixing Mink’s Hey! Hey! Can you Relate?), and the listing was complete. I could now enjoy without ignorance.

Some thoughts on the music itself, I hear you wail. Well, both elements do more than enough to make you admire the innovation that the label has associated itself with and fostered in its 20 years. The Chosen package of classics compiled by those who voted through warpnet and Steve Beckett are broadly sympathetic in taste and weighted to the big guns - two and a half tracks each for Aphex and Pusher, two each for Autechre, Boards and latecomer Battles, and other acts’ standouts such as Broadcast’s Tender Buttons and LFO on there too. Still not quite getting the loose structures and Dyke Park/Wilson stylings of Grizzly Bear with their Colorado. Windowlicker still astounds for actually making being able to make a tune of Burroughsian cut-up, and I’ll always have a place for the restrained edginess of Freeman Hardy & Willis Acid. I have never understood while I haven’t been an active proponent of Autechre’s mathtechno; Drane's strains in particular really appeal. The dramatic synth vacillations of Clark’s Herzog also stand out among those I’d never heard (actually quite a few, but I’m not going to run through my non-completist consumer buying habits again).

There are a few anomalies – Nightmares on Wax’s I’m For Real was not that good then and isn’t now and only seems to be here to remind us that Warp once put out proper dance music (Forgemasters maybe just, but Sweet Exorcist and Tuff Little Unit were leftfield even at the time of breaks, bass and bleeps). Should have been Dextrous or Aftermath (even if they were both on Warp10). And BoC’s Roygbiv is playing to the gallery (where those gathered will already have it on chillout CDs), but is at least offset by Amo Bishop Roden.

Ignoring the fact that its second disc comes up as Joel Zorababel, Recreated has a whole host of artists involved in reactivating the extensive back catalogue. It offers a big treasure chest of goodies but even a Warp fanboy might find he has to rummage through a mixed bag first. Some remixers go against the Warp grain and even their own styles, others pursue deconstruction to variable success: Haswell’s Cabasa Cabasa stops and starts the techno beat with interstitial squiggles to little effect but Rustie’s Midnight Drive fares better in working modulated thuds against a space-riff as snatched words and song drop in and out, as does Hudson Mohawke’s Night Paint the Stars (probably not worth noting the original producer in any case as if I haven’t known the originals and they can’t have bearing on the listening).

With experimentation positively encouraged – listeners will spot but not necessarily be put off by the occasional indulgence such as Born Ruffians’s double-rmx-in-one of Aphex – and acoustic and delicate synth psych (Diamond Wrist Watch, Gravenhurst, Liddell) also features, sometimes it sounds like an adventurous artist double-album, or one long Saturday afternoon at ATP. Other early ones to have sunk into my consciousness are Plaid’s take on Plone’s On My Bus, its downtempo orientalisms a nice foil for Sylvian’s Ghosts, Bibio’s respectful swelling of BoC’s Kaini and Leila’s heavy piano minimalism on the Twin's Vordhosbn.

Warp was brave enough to know that next-level techno futurism had been largely done and needed complementing and challenging, and the irony is that output such as Jimi Tenor’s Japanese Electronics cover of Elecktroids is now merely traditional fayre. It is one of the few labels where it makes its listeners feel a stakeholder in the fruits of production, and as with all democratic process I’ll have individual grumbles but these shouldn’t detract from the overall achievement. Be brave and whack it on during your Christmas parties, watch Gramps shock out to Clark’s twist up of Milanese’s Mallaeable and the port and lemon might just go down a bit faster for Nan as she blisses out to Gravenhurst take on Broadcast’s I Found the F.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bored tweeting? Go and have a mix!

This is what the employees at Twitter can do in their downtime (from Flavorwire's insightful picture series on the working environment of tech firms, also Office Snapshots). Nearest i get to music at my southbank office is some balls restaurant near Tate Modern playing classical music long into the night, or we might see the morris dancers out by The Anchor or, if we're really lucky, some pissed-up idiots singing all the way back to London Bridge.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Top 10 of the 2000s - Starrzinho's faves

Another mate's contribution to the decade's review: Manchester-born and Blue, Marc was there at the Hac/Madchester explosion and I met him shortly after at Leeds, where his tastes had got rockier and more global (the first tape he gave me had Rage Against the Machine on one side and MC Solaar on the other). During the 90s he spent significant periods in Spain, Portugal and Brazil becoming fluent in those languages and those countries inform his spectrum of music to this day. On returning to Manchester after the millenium he did quite bit of DJing in various insalubrious dens around town, and a lot of reviews for Flux Magazine. He also had a percussion role on Doves' There Goes The Fear and has played with them at Brixton Academy and elsewhere; indeed one day we could see the huge drums he had imported over from northeast Brazil and his own rhythmic vision put to creative use in the studio. Fair to say Marc made me realise the energy and hedonic potential of rock and other non-rave musics, and his selections have a nice disdain for the vagaries of fashion and pigeonholing. Here's the songs that have moved him over the last 10 years:

Nacao Zumbi - Arrancando As Tripas
Nacao Zumbi - O Carimbo
Seelenluft - Manila
Brazilian Girls - Don't Stop
Queens of the Stone Age - Hanging Tree
The Strokes - Reptilia
Datarock - Fa Fa Fa
The Young Knives - Here Comes The Rumour Mill
Konono No1 - Paradiso
Doves - Here It Comes
Mestre Ambrosio - Canaina
Mist+Mast - Turn Into The Turn
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Way Out
New Order - Crystal
The Red Thread - All In
The Shins - New Slang
Smog - Drinking At The Dam
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Spread Your Love
Snap Ant - Grumpy Nymph
Hot Hot Heat - Middle Of Nowhere
Carlinhos Brown - My Honey
Black Alien & Speed – Follow Me, Follow Me
PJ Harvey - The Letter
Whomadewho - Cigar
Heron - Turn The Page

That's just a list, so I got him to expand on a few of the more obscure selections:

Brazilian Girls: 'A track I heard on a compilation and liked the remix, which is the version I'm referring to - Riton (Henry Smithson) used to work at Fat City and be on their label, and has also appeared as Gucci Sound System and Eine Kleine Nacht Musik and is said to be working on a 'krautrock' act with Soulwax as Die Verboten.

Mestre Ambrosio: one of the most remarkable bands I've ever seen. A group specialising in revamping the traditional music of Pernambuco in NE Brazil. They use a traditional violin-like instrument called a Rabeca.

The Red Thread: they're from northern California and the main creative force in the band, a bloke called Jason Lakis, has since formed a new band called Mist & Mast (you can download the album if you sign up here). I think he's wasted on playing gigs confined to his home area and they will hopefully become a band a bit like the Flaming Lips that slowly becomes hugely loved but over about 24 albums.

Snap Ant: a real maverick, from Liverpool, a record I got off Flux and among the few records I can't even remotely begin to categorise, all the more reason for loving his stuff.

Tejo, Black Alien & Speed: the work of a Sao Paulo producer and a Niteroi (neighbouring Rio city) rap duo, Follow Me or Quem que cagüetou? was a tune used on an advert [for the Nissan X-Trail] and sounds like a highly charged hybrid of drum and bass and rio funk.'
I digged a bit more on this one and it seems this is a real Brazilian street anthem (although one a bit more for os meninos). Its advertised fame eventually led to that most unfortunate of fates, a remix by Fatboy Slim, but here it is on a live televised pa:

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Now that's what i call noughties - 'songs of balmy reassurance'

Sure, i got going on my decennary review way back when others had actual contemporary ideas to work on (though possibly not as early as Pitchfork), but they're fast catching up a mere six weeks from the cut-off point for hurried evaluation. John Harris in the Guardian is excellent on what, in some quarters, has been creatively a cowardly decade:

"Musicians, by contrast, have returned time and again to the songs of balmy reassurance that have been the calling card of Oasis, Coldplay and Keane and lately converted into lachrymose show-stoppers for X Factor contestants: piano played with all the passion of a nodding dog, and a singer once again imploring us to "hold on ... Fatalism and impotence aren't the half of it ..."

While the good old NME surprised no-one in naming the Strokes and the Libertines' debuts as the first and second best albums of the noughties. In their rejuvenation of indie from 90s' sludge, reflection of the now rebirthed but increasingly bourgeois cultural spaces for druggy, guitar music and the influence they then wielded on the rest of the scene (not to mention typical trajectories of fast rises and ignominious falls), these are fair picks. But Babyshambles questionably makes number 35. Decent selection outside the NME box were Scream's Xtrmntr (but is the agit-industrial noise approved only because it's Bobby and co?), M.I.A's Arular and Crystal Castles' self-titled debut.
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Monday, November 09, 2009

Anniversary of the widening of horizons

There is schism in the core of old-school friends (the lads I met at school and still form the majority of my physical ‘network’); a schism caused by the 20th anniversary of finishing at our crappy comprehensive which will be marked by an event next summer. Forget the Berlin wall and communism coming down, this is the stuff that shatters. A Facebonk group has already been created for the reunion. Some say ‘come on muzz it’ll be a laugh’ but I have absolutely no intention of going – I left the area for a reason and can see little service in the poorly devised mutual point-scoring system that is finding out what the others are doing. You’ve seen the episode of Peep Show where Mark gets it on with his ex-crush? That’s not going to happen, but dancing badly to Yazz is a distinct and undesirable possibility. The questions are several though – what will have replaced the 80s big hair? Will all the Emmas and Nicolas be there? Will there have been a big enough pool of secretarial work to cope with their entry on to the jobs market in 1990? Or might they have had to consider the bright lights of Camberley or Woking for gainful employment? I’ll go on wondering. It’s bad enough considering a meet-up with expals from a (slightly) broader area from whom there has also been willing estrangement.

Nevertheless, I am delighted to have received a provisional itinerary for the night. Names have been changed where appropriate:

20:00 Arrivals are given masks to ward against the overpowering aroma of cheap perfume; guests are given cheap carbonated fizz in plastic cups just like what used to happen at village hall parties in the olden days.
20:05 Mark Godfree opens up the event with an inspiring rendition of God Save the Queen;
21:00 The DJ, hired out of the back pages of the Farnham Herald naturally, starts up with the 80s pop numbers the crowd craves. Impromptu breakdancing breaks out among overweight men old enough to know better;
21:30 A hubbub is caused on reports that one of the Emmas ‘gets off’ with someone behind a locker. She is married with three kids in a three-bedroom detached in Fleet, for pete’s sake;
21:35 ‘Slow dance’ time. Phyllis Nelson’s Move Closer on repeat. Crowd cleaves to blokes on one side and laydeez as they were never known on the other. This patently doesn’t work and is soon abandoned;
21:50 Old wounds are opened when some of the ‘bad lot’ ‘from the estate’ come down and look surly for 10 minutes;
22:00 Important series of audio-visual lectures from the Guys Who Have Made Good explaining Why Capitalism is Great. Begging bowl goes out for donations to the alma mater;
23:05 Tim Phillips attempts to explain over a beer or three why he cultivated his Aldershot pikey accent;
23:25 Karaoke time – ex-students are invited to choose U2, INXS and Simple Minds songs, them being the bands that got us through adolescence. Small pools of sick begin to appear on the floor;
23:47 Guests are asked to shut up for the playing of Jerusalem. The last train to London has gone.
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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Turquoise flashes

When I picked this up via email I thought it was a mix by BoC themselves. Closer inspection reveals it’s a mix of BoC material by web minimalists Skywave, but it flows dead nicely all the same combining a few BoC biggies (but not, thankfully, Roygbiv!), signature loops and curios such as the band speaking on a Peel session and as such makes for a great aural companion to Rouge Foam’s notes on the band in his hauntology piece.

Available as direct download or via Sendspace.
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