Friday, May 23, 2008

Peak Oil

If you haven’t read about peak oil, now might be a good time to start.

Oil is a finite resource. We are consuming it at a rate which will exhaust it completely (this is not in question). So what is the ‘peak’ bit? The peak bit is, at some point we will reach a stage where all major oilfields have been discovered and exploited, and the ‘production’ of oil will be running at it’s historical maximum. Then, slowly, production will start to wind down, as the oil continues to be depleted with no new discoveries being available.

As oil goes past this ‘peak’ of production, there will still be a lot of oil left – but as production starts to come down slightly, the demand for oil will very very quickly outstrip the supply. This will mean two things – firstly, constantly rising prices. Secondly, rationing of oil, and spreading it out thinly to essential services. There are good sites which give a bit of a deeper background on peak oil here and here, and another great article here which explains why the tailoff in oil availability following the peak may not be the smooth ride into the post-industrial abyss that would be the preferable option.

This wouldn’t be so critical, if all of the industrialised western world was not completely contingent on a continuing supply of cheap oil. As the price of oil skyrockets, and supply becomes limited, the wheels are going to come off the current way we live.

Oil is the basis for all transportation – of you, of everything you eat, everything you purchase (how do you think it got to the shop?), and most likely how you get to work and back. All of this will be stood on its head when Peak Oil strikes, and we don’t look too ready.

When will the peak be? Nobody can be sure - some think it may have already happened. One thing which is for sure, is that we won’t know when it happens until after it has passed.

If you can’t grow potatoes and tend chickens, now might be a good time to learn how. (Unless your in Southern California, in which case you’d better hope that you can survive on the oranges that are left when the water isn’t pumping any more)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Theo Parrish – “Falling Up” (Carl Craig remix)

Carl Craig is one of the most prolific remixers on the scene these days. While some of his stuff is a bit ‘miss’ for me, he does occasionally produce something that is genuinely jaw dropping. For examples, check his remix of “Domina” by Maurizio, or his reworking of “Nairobi” by As One on New Religion. Both of these remixes trawl the deeper and more emotional recesses of dance music.

On this remix of “Falling Up”, Craig does something that looks much more to the dancefloor, and in the process creates an absolute monster.

Starting off with an even-tempo clicky rimshot-driven beat, it loops round and round for a minute or two, before the pivotal sound of the remix fades in. It’s a grinding, droning one-note chord noise, pulsating in time with the beat. It covers three devastatingly simple notes over 2 bars, then returns and starts the cycle again, over and over. It’s like the techno interpretation of the scene in “Close Encounters” where they are determining the perfect way to communicate with the aliens.

“Root note.”

“Root note again.”

“Go up a perfect fifth.”

“Up another perfect fourth, and hold it.”

“Ok – keep repeating that.”

Once this pattern starts to burn itself in your brain, and the beat is locked in, then the kick drum drops and the intensity cranks up another notch. This is a ferociously addictive record. (What is it about mantra-like repetition in music that appeals to a certain part of your brain?)

Another couple minutes of the thudding kick drum, the neatly clicking rimshots, and the grinding, pulsating, insistent synth, and then a set of neatly shuffling brushes are added to the mix. Suddenly, the kick drum has a lifting offbeat to play off against, a slice of freshness is added to the unrelenting drive of the chord drone, and from nowhere, the track has bounce.

Another minute, and a held synthline comes in, hanging on the 5th.

There’s something about suspended notes over driving drumbeats that is magnetic, and for some reason, none more so than the suspended 5th. As it grows and grows, suddenly there is a slight phase, and dissonance, and suddenly the suspended synth note starts to wobble and diverge, with two identical notes slowly parting tuning company. The further they go apart, the more harmonic friction is created, the more energy is released.

And all the time, the grinding chord is pulsing out the 3-note pattern, over and over. This is a heavy riffing monster of a track.

Released in 2006, it’s slightly old now (and a bit hammered, as it was understandably wildly popular when it came out) but it’s difficult to believe that this won’t be one of “the” remixes that will withstand the test of time, and end up rightly regarded as a classic.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

François K - Road of Life

For the first time in ages, a house 12" single that's nearly faultless. François Kevorkian has done some amazing tunes and mixes over the years, but they can be a bit hit-and-miss. This one, however, is a hit and then some.

The original version of "Road of Life" is super-slow deep and spacey house, probably too slow for the dancefloor in fact. But it's got so much depth and is so musical, that it commands attention. Perhaps music for the head rather than the feet, but no less brilliant for it.

On the flip side, the "Quiet Village" remix is something else altogether. Ditching most of the elements of the original, this speeds up the track to an even-paced minimal house track, which loops around for the best part of 10 minutes. Rotating around strident walking-speed drums and a clarion-call synthetic bell sound, it's tough, grinding loopy dancefloor house of the highest order.

Highly recommended!