Sunday, December 03, 2006


So I ordered my first FLAC album from Bleep this weekend. So it is a brand new of audiophillic glory?

Well it actually sounds pretty good and it is probably worth the extra two pounds but I still suspect that for all but the most distinguished ears there is a strict law of diminishing returns.

The Blog is Over

Ever since I discovered Rate Your Music (quite randomly through a tech blog) the purpose of this blog is pretty much over. The site is easy to use and actually music is one of those things where a good indication of the quality of a piece can be obtained by simply asking a lot of people.

Reading through a couple of the reviews does have that infinite Internet monkeys vibe but it's about numbers at the end of the day with the "reviews" really just being justification for the marks (rather like Boardgame Geek).

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dresden Dolls at the Roundhouse

I was delighted to find that the Dresden Dolls gig at the Camden Roundhouse still had tickets available. I have wanted to go to the refurbished Roundhouse for a while and the Dolls seem like the band who will make the most of the venue.

Nouvelle Vague - Dance with Me Video

I stumbled across this video on YouTube which is a mash of the Nouvelle Vague cover Dance With Me with the dance scene from Bande a Part. The two fit so seamlessly that I can only assume that the music was actually set to the timing of the film.

Regardless, it's a great scene and the music is fiendishly catchy. Having resisted the charms of French lounge music until now I gave in and purchased the album from Bleep.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Mercury Prize 2006

Why deny worthy winners? The Arctic Monkeys are clearly the act of the year and are the rightful winners of the paltry 20K prize.

However in terms of the performances it is hard to beat Thom Yorke's spellbinding spot at the piano. Editors also managed the best TV performance I've seen from them although that's not saying much and they looked like they had turned up dressed for football in the park rather than to perform at a major awards ceremony, make an effort damn it! The Guillemots did an interesting turn as did Hot Chip (although I'm not sure I understand the appeal of the latter). Sway seemed a lot more interesting than I had initially thought (I'm a bit wary of Grime in general).

Other than that nothing really stayed with me from the TV show. That said though it was a superb selection of artists and albums on the very diverse shortlist. We seem to be at a very fortunate time for music where there is no dominant paradigm and all manner of great stuff has a chance to bloom and connect with people. For all the moaning about duffers like James Blunt et al they can hardly be said to have popular music in the vice-like grip that BritPop or Stock, Aitken and Waterman did.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

No Bra - Munchausen

Apparently I've made the hideous mistake of not blogging about the absolutely phenomenal slice of satire that is the fantastic Munchausen. Hi, my name is Munchausen how are you?

There is no point in describing this song too much as it is work of complete genius and completely skewers every pretentious wanker you've ever met. Don't take my word for it click on the link and learn about the Anal Staircase and the hitherto uncommented on relationship between Germans and Ethiopians.

It's endlessly quotable and if you're not sobbing with laughter by the end go to KwikFit and see if they can't sort you out with a soul.

I actually went to see NoBra do an instore performance at Rough Trade. To be honest most of the people there were probably like me, enormously impressed by Munchausen and wanting to see if there was more in that vein. The performance seemed very awkward to me. Susanne seems excrutiating shy and has a near zero presence not to mention a weak voice. Performing topless was a bit of a surprise but just added to the general sense of awkwardness.

To be frank at the moment what NoBra is a one song novelty act with the remainder of the show consisting of a lot of rambling poetry being delivered like a brick to the head over the top of wandering electronic bleeping. It's not the worst thing I've seen (because I've seen Fennesz and Icarus live so you've got to be bloody bad to take that title) but it's nothing worth seeing at the moment.

Still that doesn't matter. Listen to Munchausen again, right now before Top Shop gives you syphilis again.

Schengen - The Beijing of Our Career

Schengen are a little Bristol two piece and they have produced some good stuff and some not quite as good stuff (you can hear the best on their MySpace page). Now though (provided you can forgive the punning title) they have released an unreservedly excellent album through their cooperative label MakeMineMusic.

Some tracks such as City and Macdafun have been released before but this recording of the tracks are far superior (perhaps the quality of the engineering and mastering, perhaps experience, possibly both). If you have the Flow sampler give City a listen and then listen to the Beijing version to see the difference.

As for the new tracks it is all of a similar quality and has the warm analogue sounds that characterise the best Schengen stuff so far. The percussion is generally the weak spot in most Schengen tracks and while you're not going to be blown away by it this time either it is well-mixed and supports the strong melody lines that flow through the tracks rather than distracting from them.

The CD has fifteen tracks and there's no better introduction to the sound of Schengen. It is also at a phenomenally good price of £5 so if you fancy a prime slice of mellow electronica get over to MakeMineMusic and buy it right now.

The Pipettes and related

Okay so I've picked up on the buzz about The Pipettes but I needed to have a good listen to their tracks and particularly watch the stage show on YouTube (check out Your Kisses are Wasted on Me) before I was convinced that they are most definitely a Good Thing.

I don't know what the deal is with retro girl groups at the moment but there are also the Puppini Sisters who are frankly just too arch for me. Musically The Pipettes aren't so much influenced by the past but have borrowed the Tardis and have stolen a whopping chunk of it. In this they have a lot in common with label mates Go! Team although the genre being plundered is different.

Researching the Pipettes lead to all kinds of mad stuff. Ex-member Julia is now in the Indelicates. I saw their eye-brow raising single cover in Rough Trade but it was so exploitative that I thought it was transgression wank. However their Myspace page yields some good stuff. Try the track Sixteen which is spot on.

In addition Gwenno Pippette had a former career as Welsh popstress and her own material is also quite good (she has a tremendous voice). Again MySpace is the place to be. Afterglow is phenomenally good.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

MySpace for the Signed

Until now I've thought of MySpace being more for unsigned or indie groups but increasingly established bands are joining as well.

Here's a few highlights:

Free Ladytron download

Go to the Sideload site right now. Download the Ladytron track that is currently on the front page. It's off the Witching Hour album and, unbelievably for a freebie taster track, it is one of the best on the whole thing.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Port-Royal - Flares

A swift turnaround sees Port-Royal's Flares arrive the day after I PayPal it. Record label service can't be faulted but what of the record?

Well I was expecting a minimalist, Arctic techno sound but while there is some of that sound we are more in the Piano Magic/Godspeed/Explosions in the Sky territory and that's no bad thing.

My immediate reaction is that I like it and, goddamn it, Amazon is just too smart in its recommendations. I like label mate Strafrænn Hákon and it correctly put two and two together to make the connection. Just to spite the machine I bought it direct.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Burial - South London Boroughs/Burial

Urban music; in general something that I am happy to leave to the kids. Grime really left me cold so thank god that there is now something out of the London underground scene that I can take real pleasure in.

No less an authority than the Observer Music Magazine described Burial's music as being in the brand new genre 'Dubstep' and I have to say that having read it it is hard to disagree. There is the spacey echo-y Dub elements, the great big soundsystem bass and throughout all of the best tracks an urgent and insistent beat that never outstays its welcome and instead disappears too soon. My only concern is that this genre may consist of exactly one band albeit one that does a fantastic job of merging its component elements. If there's more I'm desperate to hear it but for now this is enough.

Burial is awesome, there is nothing else to say. Go to Bleep now, listen to South London Boroughs. It's dance music... but you can listen to it. It's dub but it's not stoned. It's club music but it is not boring. It sounds retro but it could only be happening right now. It's just amazing!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

MP3 Locker

I ended up having an MP3 Locker because I had bought some music at MP3 Tunes. At first I didn't understand the value of the service and just found it annoying (the script in the plugin cannot deal with big pages full of MP3 links for example).

But recently I've been reconsidering. I have been visiting some of the various John Peel style blogs that are either dedicated to the program and the music of the time or honouring the eclectic style of exploring new music. Most of these blogs have links to recordings of old radio shows, obscure 7" or band sessions. I don't want to download such eclectic material onto my PC, it would be a pain to handle and if its a duffer I don't want to lose it amongst all the other files I have.

MP3 Locker means I can download the file without having to store it on my machine. It also allows me to store a link that may be ephemeral. The locker also has a nice web based MP3 player and allows you to have a quick a blast of something while wandering the web.

It's probably not 100% there yet but it has been becoming increasing useful, to the point where I actually noticed that the SL icon was missing on my MacBook. For music grazers I would definitely recommend, it's the junk store of online music.

D'oh! Or Bleep and Track Numbers

My music player, along with the iPod (I believe) ignores the track numbers in the tagging information on my music files and instead organises directories alphabetically by the filenames. It used to really bug me that once I downloaded something from Bleep I had to spend ten minutes manually rejigging the filenames to add the track number at the start. However it seems that I was just being a bit of an idiot and that if you login and go to your preferences you can select the filename format you want from three options.

Full marks to the Bleep crew for having the option, null pois for advertising it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Primal Scream - Live at the Dundee Radio 1 Weekend

I took the opportunity tonight to use the power of digital TV and the red button to watch Primal Scream perform at the Radio One Dundee event. I've seen Primal Scream live before and didn't really enjoy the experience. That's because for me they are very inconsistent in their output: there's the Rolling Stones Primal Scream, the Stoner Primal Scream and the screaming industrial Primal Scream. That's fantastic in terms of longevity of the band and variety in the albums but live it just results in a confusing experience. As soon as you've got into one style or, rather, as soon as you are enjoying one of the Primal Screams they seem to change to another.

What makes the experience worse is that the band do not seem to have found a way to mesh these styles together into a whole themselves but instead have to lurch from one to another.

It is easy to understand why people like the Scream but personally I think watching them on telly is a far better experience.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Classical Appropriation

I went to see the last Sacred Selection last night (Black Metal). The church was local and the whole performance was less than two hours so it was an enjoyable and easy-going evening.

Out of the music chosen for the night I only really knew Cradle of Filth. So I was coming at it from a very neutral point of view. I was not exactly sure how the important rhythm section was going to be handled and, in fact for the most part, it wasn't due to the selection of the pieces. Something like Cradle of Filth is already orchestrally arranged anyway. A lot of Black Metal albums and tracks also start with keyboard intros based on Requiem style church music anyway so I guess what was more revealing was not the adaption but actually the way it revealed the influence church music has had on the subject matter.

Listening to the recital also made me think about how limited the range of organ music I have heard is. Like many people I most often find myself in a church due to a wedding. At such occasions the music is of necessity mostly in a major key and relatively unobtrusive. It was therefore nice to hear the instrument really displaying a wider range of tone, style and key.

It was also nice to see that the audience was not just die-hard metallers nor the typical ICA art show attendee. Both were present but the audience was broader. It was also a relief to see that the audience for the most part respected the church and its environment as well as the genre. There were a few idiots but there always are at anything that is open to the public.

The show also got me thinking about the way that classical music seems to be plundering popular music genres for ideas at the moment. Over the last year I have bought a couple of classical reinterpretations of dance music and electronica. Generally such crossover traffic is in the opposite direction with electronica borrowing liberally from classical music to provide samples as well as ideas.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ambient Radio

StumbleUpon has just exposed me to a brilliant German Ambient site called Spheric Lounge.
The music is pretty cool and the interface (while a bit pseudy) and stream quality are good.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Arctic Monkeys - Bigger than the Beatles

So I've downloaded their new album from Bleep (Bleep has this new player technology that I'm giving a whirl in this post) and finally I hear what all the hype is about. At first I have to say that I'm not absolutely knocked out, although I admire the musicianship and poetry of the lyrics. Then today in HMV I'm listening to the Foo Fighters being pumped out on the store radio and I think: "My god they really are all that!". The Arctic Monkeys make music that isn't tired and isn't straight-forwardly derived from some other great band from twenty years ago.

That said the band seem to have the same problem I saw with Franz Ferdinand; since most of the songs are about chav-life through the prisim of a night on the town up north they are not going to have a lot to write about for their next album. But maybe that's not the point, maybe the point is that they've created an album of the moment and the place and it is a great album.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New albums ahoy

There are two new albums I'm looking forward to this month. Schengen's new album, they're stuff on the Flow compilation was the best yet so it is going to be interesting to see what they have been up to. The other is a new Biosphere album, always welcome with me.

Bleep also have the Artic Monkeys (gotta give into the hype), the new album from Clearlake (they have had their moments in the past but what is this release like?) and an oldie from Mogwai, Rock Action which I don't have.

Roll on pay day (and release dates)...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Top Tens

Since we are only into the New Year properly now I thought I would have a look at some lists of 2005 records. There's an element of music navel-gazing here but on the other hand I felt 2005 was quite a good year for music.

First let's have the Observer Music Monthly Top Ten

  1. I am Bird Now - Antony and the Johnsons
  2. Demon Days - Gorillaz
  3. Illnoise - Sufjan Stevens
  4. Chavez Ravine - Ry Cooder
  5. Get Behind Me Satan - The White Stripes
  6. You could have it so much better - Franz Ferdinand
  7. Late Registration - Kanye West
  8. Want Two - Rufus Wainwright
  9. Le Fil - Camille
  10. Funeral - Arcade Fire

Excellent, like all good muso lists there is plenty of obscure stuff but what surprised me was that there was a lot of stuff I had heard of but actually didn't like all that much.

Okay, now for the reader's list from the same magazine.

  1. Arcade Fire
  2. Franz Ferdinand
  3. Gorillaz
  4. Antony & The Johnsons
  5. Kaiser Chiefs
  6. Bloc Party
  7. Magic Numbers
  8. White Stripes
  9. Coldplay
  10. Madonna

This seems to me to be a more accurate list based on buzz, the charts and what people were actually talking about. Personally though I think there is something hideously wrong with people who rate either the Kaiser Chiefs or Bloc Party above the Editors. The only real WTF is the presence of Coldplay and Madonna. Coldplay had a good video, a good single and an album that was the aural equivalent of vanilla blancmange, it gave coffe-table music a reputation for being edgy.

Again there is some taste differences. The White Stripes are a good band and their album was probably equally good but I didn't like it, the Magic Numbers seem too retro to actually be interesting.

Right, finally we have my own list, which is actually a bit more than ten because I forget a few that were actually made this year so they had to be slotted in later.

  1. Murcof - Remberanza
  2. Rhythm & Sound - See-Mi-Yah
  3. Editors - The Back Room
  4. Death Cab for Cutie - Plans
  5. Mogwai - Government Commissions
  6. Gravenhurst - The Velvet Cell
  7. Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger
  8. Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth
  9. Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase
  10. The Go! Team - Thunder Lightning Strike
  11. Autechre - Untilted
  12. Antony & The Johnsons - I am a Bird Now
  13. Ladytron - Witching Hour
  14. Isolee - We are Monster
  15. FourTet - Everything Ecstatic
  16. Goldfrapp - Supernature

So, comments on my list. Well the ranking is based on how much I liked the album as a piece of music but really the sign of true value for me is how long I listen to an album after the initial appeal has worn off. With Teeth for example was really a bit of a placeholder record but you have to credit it with a number of grooves that kept me coming back.

The disappointments were FourTet and Goldfrapp, neither seemed too certain where they were going after a good previous album. In FourTet's case his mix compilation was actually better than his own release, not that has to hurt. The new BoC album was a bit uneven as well and while I liked the new Autechre it hasn't exactly been on continual play since its release.

The top four really deserve their rankings and I was disappointed to see no intersection at all on these (although Death Cab and Editors made the Top 100 in the Observer). See-Mi-Yah might pip Remberanza in terms of number of listens since release but Murcof managed a great job of moving his sound on while retaining its essential qualities (in case you haven't heard it: Electronica in a fusion with Contemporary Classical). The same was true of Death Cab for Cutie, the melodies, lyrical keystones and style from previous albums were all present but the product as a whole was buffed and styled to perfection. The opening two tracks are an example of pure pop songs that don't insult the listener.

Editors were a revelation for me this year, seeming to pick up the musical threads where Joy Division left off (only with a lighter tone to the lyrics). Their only deficiencies are a lacklustre drummer in the studio and vocalist live. Other than this they have a powerful indie rock sound that is incredibly slick for a debut.

They've had a lot of stick for their obvious roots in The Cure, Joy Division and lesserly The Smiths but I don't buy it. Sure they have their roots in these bands but they do not sound like any one of them, they are their own thing. As for being some kind of retro indie nostalgia piece... well to me the Kaiser Chiefs and Bloc Party sound like the poor man's Jam tarted up for the disco. For me the Editors didn't just create a pastiche they reinvented.