Sunday, April 26, 2009

dave anderson - FH09 mix

Here's a mix for the spring and summer. Much different from my previous dancefloor-oriented efforts, it's more of a chilled out "back to mine" type effort, and as we move (hopefully) into summer, it's for those sunny outdoor afternoon moments, or for those late party sunrise moments.

Tracklist is as follows:

plaid - "undoneson" - (warp)
cim - "comfort control" - (delsin)
bitstream - "monolith" - (signal)
cyrus - "inversion" - (basic channel)
the monsters from id - "bingo" - (signal)
move d - "in/out" - (fifth freedom)
marco bernardi - "trane" - (emoticon)
digitonal - "drencrom" - (toytonic)
digitonal - "carcause" - (toytonic)
future beat alliance - "void" - (delsin)
bola - "vespers" - (skam)

Grab it here - enjoy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

U2 - Magnificent

In Europe, it's pretty cool to not like U2 any more.

If it's not that they don't pay their taxes, it's Bono's preaching about poverty. If it's not that the "new stuff" they are trying isn't as good as the old U2, it's that the new stuff sounds too much like the old stuff. I guess when you reach the mega-pervasiveness that they now have, you are likely to get hung no matter what you do.

I've always found it a fascinating experience to slap on a new U2 album, and (almost invariably) end up a bit confused and disappointed as I go through it. It's not half as good as their last one is it? Naaah. There are flashes, but generally a bit too weird. Then I listen to it again. Yeah. Maybe it's got a song here and there... still loads of stuff I don't really get. Then I listen to it again. Huh. Maybe it's more like half and half - not at all the disaster I first thought. And again. Man. That track is actually pretty good isn't it? There's possibly only one or two dodgy ones on here. And then. Woaah. The whole thing is pretty amazing actually - and so on. Every time it happens this way - for me at least.

And while I like them doing new things which they've been tinkering with really ever since Achtung Baby - and many of the new things are the most interesting - there's still a part of me that hankers for that huge traditional U2 sound, the widescreen rock that nobody else can touch them at. I love it when they unashamedly seem like they're trying to write a deliberately big track. Usually, these are the moments that start out as the comfortably familiar 'flashes' of U2 in a first album listening, and end up almost too played out.

Well here's a flash of classic U2 from the latest album, No Line on the Horizon. Captured on Letterman in the States, it's pretty amazing I think.

There's something just brilliant about the whole presentation - how you get the feeling you're simultaneously watching an intimate gig to a handful of people, and at the same time witnessing something of epic proportions.

The music is really the amazing bit though... the guitar lines in the chorus sections (1:00 - 1:22 for example) are just stunning, and a fantastic counterpoint to the bassline. It's actually really clever the way the bass and the guitar between them imply and then fill in the chords.

And then the verses. Whatever you say about Bono, when he's singing he really does have an amazing voice. The arrangement helps - if you listen in the verses, the guitar is buried completely in the mix - and the Eno synths are just hovering over that solid thudding Mullen/Clayton bass end. It leaves so much space for the vocals. It also means when they hit the chorus and that guitar riff comes in, it really lifts the whole thing into the stratosphere. Another thing is when they hit the chorus and the guitar is back in, the vocal line goes way up in pitch - which means the vocal melody and the guitar aren't stepping on each others toes. It's amazingly well worked out: when the guitar is in the way, Bono is soaring over the top, and when he comes back down, the guitar makes space.

It goes all the way to the guitar solo - when that starts out, the guitar becomes the melodic top line - and Bono is filling in below with harmonies. All the way through the song, the bass and the drums provide the backdrop, and the guitar and vocals just weave in and out of each other.

And that's before you even start on the lyrics. While Bono has had his questionable lyrical moments, when he can avoid the trademark outrageous couplet he can come up with the goods.

"I was born, I was born to sing for you..."

What a band...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Speaking in Code

There's been a little bit of chat recently about upcoming electronic music film "Speaking in Code". Revolving around a group involved in the techno scene, it looks (from the trailer) like an attempt to do some contextualising of techno - almost like an attempt to answer the "what is the point" question.

Pipecock over at ISM takes issue with the selection of artists in the film as shown on Philip Sherburne's blog, on the basis that the film appears hugely Eurocentric and misses out most of the American forefathers of the modern techno sound. He (Pipecock) singles out Mad Mike Banks, but I'm presuming that the criticism extends to the rest of the first couple waves of Detroit artists such as Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, Eddie 'flashin' Fowlkes and so on, who also look very much like they are not included in a major way.

Pipecock is right in one sense - if the film is meant to be a definitive history of techno, then the Detroit guys should for sure be in it - and that's not counting Chicago house or the NYC/Jersey Garage thing, which were (I think) as critical to the future of dance music as anywhere else. However, I'm not sure I completely agree with the point - while the film does look massively skewed in a Euro direction (most of the artists mentioned seem to rotate around the central European scene), I don't think it's the case that every film that aims to give a glimpse inside the world of electronic dance music has to be an exhaustive history of its roots. The story of Detroit has been told so many times that it's a matter of record at this point, and there's nothing wrong with moving on a bit and giving a snapshot of people's experience of the scene as it is at the moment. That's not withstanding the fact that a lot of the German/minimal stuff that is all the rage at the moment completely does my box in - but that's another rant for another day. The point is, every film about techno doesn't have to be reverentially focused on the original Detroit artists.

One interesting thing that I did notice on Sherburne's blog is the quote from Akufen, where he alludes to techno as a means of "speaking in code", referring to the feeling of the electronic scene being one which is very marginal to mainstream life, and in effect a semi-secret subculture. While I understand what Akufen means, to me the idea of techno as some sort of secret code is a major can of worms. Taking pride in the secrecy of an experience smacks of elitism for one thing - it's almost like saying, "the great masses don't deserve to have this experience", which is an unspoken contradiction of the "come one, come all" ethos that makes the best dance nights so special.

The other factor is that the experience that a great night engenders is one which breaks down the barriers that society puts between people, breaks down the barriers inside your head, and quietens the analytical mind which would prevent us from directly experiencing the world without constantly trying to analyse what we are experiencing. Mankind has long understood the power of rhythm in transcending the basic analytical state we need to survive the hazards of daily life - modern culture has simply obscured this understanding with layers of possession, debt, occupation, and "must have" physical artifacts.

Akufen's analogy is actually back to front: modern life is the abstract and unbreakable code, and music and rhythm is the open door to what is really real.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Teenage Engineering - Operator-1

This has to be one of the most interesting bits of studio kit that I've seen in a long time. A new company (seemingly from Sweden, although loads of their website text is oriental) called Teenage Engineering, were showing a new product called Operator-1 at Frankfurt Musikmesse this year.

It's going to be a super portable controller/sequencer, that you can use on the road. One of the most interesting things for me, is that it is going to include a proper (hopefully!) synthesizer, and functions for drum noise generation as well. From talking to the TE guys, they say it's going to have some type of sequencer function, but they weren't clear whether the paradigm was going to be a Cubase/Logic/Sonar type, step, Live, or multiple types.

Either way, it looks really exciting - it's a really slim, Mac-looking unit in a sleek aluminium case, with an absolutely gorgeous OLED display. They reckon it'll run for mabye 8 hours on battery power, and you can use it as a controller for your main computer when it's hooked up.

No idea on price (they made a guess when I asked them, but as I'm not sure they have their pricing and distribution model hammered out yet I'll do them the courtesy of not publishing their guesstimate) - but they plan to ship within the year.

It really does look like very cool technology, and for my money, was probably the coolest new hi-tech MI product at Messe this year.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Went to see Waveriders last night - it's a film about surfing in Ireland, and particularly, the journey of the son of an Irishman in Hawaii who came back to California, popularised surfing, and nearly invented lifeguarding.

It's a good film - there are some great moments, like the multi-year world champion Kelly Slater taking to the Irish water (how easy does he make it look?). There's also epic footage of Aileen's at the base of the cliffs of Moher. Is there a more shapely big wave on the planet?

Anyway it's all great stuff, and I highly recommend going to see...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Amsterdam, Paris, Beer, and Genius.

Having just returned from an insanely chaotic weekend in Amsterdam, following Scotland amidst thousands of Tartan Army, it seems like a great time to post this incredible video compilation of Scotland in France, 2007, and particularly the journey of the Dublin tartan army to get there.

If I live to 80, I'll be unlikely to ever see a better Scottish goal.