Dec 28, 2008

What I watched, what I heard and what I thought in 2008

The best scene in a film.

Call it. I'm tempted to plump for Javier Bardem's baiting of a gas station owner in No Country For Old Men, or the moment we realised Indy was on a nuclear test site in that vivid scene with the dining table dummies in Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull.

But it's neither of these, friendo. My favourite scene of the year taught me everything we need to know about the fragility of life. In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, our foul-mouthed protagonist fights an Elemental - kind of a vegetarian Godzilla - and the resulting death scene is astonishing, beautiful and the absolute opposite of the throwaway baddie deaths we often get with Hollywood.

Crappest purchase of 2008.

Gym membership. I should have seen the warning signs as soon as I walked in: "Gym? What's a gym? ... Oh! A gym!"

Back to films again - which was the best in 2008?

Strange beasties ruled 2008. Firstly, Wall-E was one of the best animations for years, and the most tender robot love affair since Bjork's All Is Full Of Love video. Cloverfield was a lost creature of a different kind, in a film which was simply a tour-de-force of suspense and large-scale horror.

Another pair of strange beasties brought us the best two films of the year. Heath Ledger gave us 2008's best performance in The Dark Knight, although he should have rescued his magic-trick pencil and crossed through a couple of over-long scenes. Instead, I raise a glass to the Oscar-winning monster Anton Chigurh and No Country For Old Men - the bestest film of 2008 following a couple of worrying Coen Brothers misfires.

Anti-Obama: the biggest political disappointment of 2008.

Brian Eno has completed his first year as Liberal Democrat youth advisor. I was a tad disheartened to see the modern-fangled youth of today haven't all shaved their head and dedicated their lives to Robert Fripp or Mixmaster Morris. It's still more thug life than My Squelchy Life. Come on, Brian, get it together.

My moment of puffed-chestness in 2008.

I was proud that I tried a stand-up comedy routine, which was scary but gosh I did it. There was some comedy in there, it was rather routine, but at least I was standing up. My challenge now is to do more in 2009.

My greatest personal achievement of the year was losing 50 lbs in a few short months. Yes, I know, I should mention these things on my blog so you can post messages of encouragement / bitter jealousy. The only thing I won't allow is "Thin Roland" jokes, because believe me it has been done to death by my wonderfully supportive if slightly unoriginal friends.

Top telly of 2008. Yes, this is getting a little sad now.

Watching The Wire on DVD doesn't count, because it came out in, like, 1526 or something. So then, two little words sum up my favouritest TV moment of this blessed 12 months.



My worst moment of 2008.

There is only one. A couple of weeks ago, my cat Whiskey died after a brief illness. She had been my closest companion since I was 16, and I have felt aimless and listless since I lost her. I have 19 years of fond memories of a good-tempered, sleek, shy furball. She deserves a hundred blog posts, but what needs to be said can be said in just a few words: I'll miss her forever.

2008's best album. Probably.

A tough one this, as I don't think it has been a classic year for electronica. I think Metronomy and The Whip are a dish best served live. The Bug took one giant dubstep forward with London Zoo, while fellow dubstepper Burial wowed the Mercury Music Prize with his 2007 album Untrue. I seriously rated Bochum Welt's ROB (Robotic Operating Buddy) even though I didn't rave enough in this post from April .

Portishead's Third showed Tricky a thing or two about keeping fresh after years out of the fridge, and Leila's equally accomplished comeback was quiet but beautiful. Gang Gang Dance's primal Saint Dymphna was Warp Record's most tribal release, while Squarepusher held back on the drums for his jaaazz Just A Souvenier album. (Edit: I forgot to mention Autechre's Quaristice, which I attempted to play as background music in my bookshop but only succeeded in pissing people off. Consider it mentioned.)

And finally, top of the tree is a gathering of geeky keyboard wizardary called Hot Chip (pictured). Made In The Dark's mechano pop is a little to commercial for this snobbish blog, but oh what joy when it produces videos like this for One Pure Thought.

Skip to the end...

There. I called it. And it came up heads. I'm going to buy a bicycle before all the shops close down. Meanwhile, I'll cook up a little 2009 preview. While you're waiting for that, have a joyous new year.

Dec 25, 2008

When the snow lay round about, bleep and Christmas Spectrum

A microwavy Christmas to all my readers.

And if that wasn't enough, why not grab the computer you're staring it, smash it with a hammer, and see if it sings you Jingle Bells.


Never mind.  It seemed to work better when a bunch of 8-bit obsessives got the festive bug in this cute collection of Christmas tunes made from old games consoles.  Silent night on the NES wins it for me.

Dec 23, 2008

Farting, belching, bleeping buckets of steaming sub-bass

Murcof (pictured) just seems to get deeper and deeper, into some unknown depths that would even prompt Satan to exclaim: "Hey, what's going on down there?"

The Versailles Sessions, Murcof's new collection of experimental noodlings on the legendary Leaf label, are no less deep. Although the album was meant to work for an arty-farty event on the other side of the channel (in a land called France), the sprawling, spooky compositions work in their own right.

The only downside is the record's loaded with harpsichords and flutes, and is therefore giving me flashbacks to my third year music lessons at Parrs Wood High School.

My favourite album this week is the seething bucket of steaming sub-bass that is Lord for £39, the latest offering from Edinburgh's Neil Landstrumm.

The rolling tech-bass tickles the feet of ragga and plays footsie with bleepy console noises to produce what ought to be a sombre bad-boy wonky techno effort. Except, the album has titles like Ross Kemp As Pixel and Easter Krunk Power, so it's hard not to smile.

Finally, keep your eyes open for a 12" from Dorian Concept called The Fucking Formula. It snaffles Landstrumm's fuzzy bass and wonkiness, but it has a Prefuse 73 accessibility about it. If you like your belches and squelches as low end as possible, whilst keeping your top end nodding in a hip hop stylee, track down this single - and duck when album When Planets Explode hits next month.

Dec 21, 2008

Brass band players, coming over here, taking over our dancefloors

The Daily Mail is an august institution that, in 2008, has had an important and positive effect on modern culture.

I'm not talking about its constant chiding of anyone it considers as non-British, or indeed its fawning over old fashioned values where we could hang misfits and still leave the door open.

No, I'm talking about one of my favourite gigs of the year where the Matthew Herbert Big Band (Matthew pictured) sampled themselves tearing the Daily Mail into strips, before bursting the racist rags into the air in a delightful, synchronised confetti show.

Their album There's Me And There's You is a political mix of brassish oomp-ery and jittery sampling, although Eska's sassy jazz vocals are worth hearing live than through your headphones.

Also out recently was Last Step's 1961, the second album under this signature for Venetian Snares' Aaron Funk. It's a massive, brightly coloured bag of broken Roland 303s, 606s, 808s and any other shiny palindromic music box you care to mention.

If you rate Luke Vibert and Squarepusher (who dazzled at last week's Warehouse Project, but that's for another post), or if you pine for old Aphex Twin, you should have this album in your collection. Just be prepared for sporadic ruptions of cheesy pop and TV adverts.

More straight down the line is Harmonic 313's Dirtbox single, which is a darker bad-boy slice of his usual gasping slow-motion Detroit techno

When his album hits in a couple of months, it will sit proudly alongside his classic album of nearly 15 years ago, the ambient beast that is 76:14.

Ah, yes, 15 years ago. When you could leave your door open, shoot whomever walked onto your property, and Princess Diana wouldn't get suicide-bombed by social workers. Those were the days.

Dec 10, 2008

Fake plastic CDs and eating too much cheese before writing a blog post

I have just been in Subway, where the speakers above my head segued from Blue's Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word into, oh glory, Orbital's Chime. I was so excited, I ordered double cheese.

In other news, the CD is dead. No, really, this time it actually is.

This week saw the first music chart without the behemoth of Woolworths peddling the likes of Killers and Neyo next to their usual jumble of dolls, blank discs, board games and knickers. CD distributors feared a mountain of unsold discs and pulled back on supply. This week was always going to be, basically, a download chart not a real-plastic-CD chart.

So no surprise then that this week's number one, Leona Lewis' wrought version of Snow Patrol's Run, sold more downloads than any other song ever. That's 133,000 copies and a bullet at number one.

Which is really jammy for Leona, because it was just an album track pounced on by pop-thirsty fans after a performance on the Karaoke Factor in November.

I'm a little jealous. So this Saturday I'm going to stand outside the market stalls just off Tib Street in Manchester city centre and belt out my own unique version of Orbital's Chime*.

Millions will flock to the internet and download my song. They will learn my special dance. Woolworths will resurrect itself and sell tea towels with my face on.

I am the future of downloads.

People will eat double cheese in my name, for my name is The Electronica Leona Lewis.

(Blogger: some kind of facility to insert rousing music at the end of blog posts would come in useful here...)

*I will only do this if it's 28 degrees celsius and blazing sunshine

Dec 2, 2008

Rare as a green-- oh, look, there's one now

I have spent most of this week being slapped around by bacteria and being threatened by mutated microorganisms with phrases such as: "Nice bowels. Shame if somethin' were to... happen to 'em..."

Which means I'm catching up on all the wonderful blogness I would have bestowed upon you if I hadn't been as feverish as a the cast of Saturday Night Fever after they've caught scarlet fever from listening to Kylie Minogue's classic 2001 album Fever...

This is an ever-so-slightly Manchester-centric post. There was a great Rare As A Green Dog's night at the Royal Northern College Of Music last week.

The nutty but wonderful Barbara Morgenstern gaily set her grand piano on a Kaoss pad, while asbo-technoist Caro Snatch made some quite frightening noises at spoken word artist Lisa B and soprano Jenny KosmowskyDJ Paizan teamed up with nimble-fingered VJ Digital Donut to provide a rhythmic contrast to the ethereal strains of Peterloo Massacre. A cracking night.

Lisa B's new collection Resonant Frequencies, set to the bold, dirty effects of Caro Snatch, will be released at Nexus Art Café in Manchester next Monday, December 8th, 8pm.  It's free to get in, but only a tad over 100 copies of the album will be available on the night.

And now for something totally un-Manchestery.  The hypnotic animation Waltz With Bashir (pictured, with my green-ness added) boasts one of those soundtracks that swoops up the film and flings it to new heights.  Let your earholes be as seduced as your eyeholes .Go see the film, before I set my infected microbes on you.