Jun 29, 2009

Kammer time: Mayming in London this week

If you're klammering for something kuriously different, then kop a load of Kammer Klang.

Kammer Kang features my wonderful friend Seaming To. She will weave you loops of infinity as one half of  Mayming, with her equally wonderful friend, the cellist Semay Wu.

Along with Mayming, you'll get some of the best contemporary electronica and classical music. Avant-garde composer Luigi Nono's piece will capture the sound of the lagoons and bells of Venice. Expect the harsh and haunting sounds of Xenakis, and Cornelius Cardew's work will be accompanied by Mao Tse Tung's poetry.

Even more intriguing will be the beguiling Peter Ablinger, who makes his piano sound like a spaced-out voice doppelgänger. Expect performances from Mother Theresa and Billie Holiday... yes, you read right.
It's happening at Cafe Oto in Dalston, London, on Tuesday June 30th at 7.30pm. It costs a fiver, which I think gives you a lot of kwality for your kash.

Jun 28, 2009

Jackson was a hero to most...

I've had to rush to hospital when a family member had a heart attack. I've had to do CPR in a desperate attempt to save someone's life. I still get flashbacks about both, so what happened on Thursday at the home of Michael Jackson was nothing more than a basic human tragedy.

My heart goes out to all involved, in the same way I winced with recognition when I saw the two princes at the funeral of Princess Diana. We're flesh, we're blood, and we bleed with the best of them.

Having said that...

Michael Jackson was a hero to most, but he didn't mean sha mon to me. The way he used narrative in his Thriller videos confused my nine-year-old brain. Pop songs were meant to be instant and intense and fleeting, like a magnesium fire.

The mixture of fantasy (zombies) and credibility (street fights) somehow eluded my leafy South Manchester suburbia. I was more of a Pet Shop Boys kinda guy.

But I admit, Jacko produced some amazing pop music. The basslines and the keyboard riffs on Thriller should be studied by generations of budding musicians. And those studiously-scrawled notes should be tucked neatly into the inside front cover of KLF's The Manual.

One pundit said Michael Jackson had many careers, over and over again. Yes, he did, but only until Bad.

Dangerous was a plethora of wailing over-production (put that guitar down, Slash!) - he didn't even sing in tune on Give In To Me. And it will come as no surprise to you that Earth Song is an anagram of 'The Groans!'

They Don't Care About Us was a little clue for what was to come when he released the worse-than-awful Invincible album. The supposed king of pop couldn't string a basic tune together; the thought of any further Michael Jackson material filled me with a throat-splitting, spine-scraping dread.

I don't think Jackson ever saw himself as anything more than the pretty, smiling young man in the Rock With You video. His Wildean worship of youth, set in stone by an abusive upbringing, led to a public and personal downfall.

In that sense, Michael was a tragic victim of his own upbringing.

But, as another eternally-young costume-wearing saviour of the world once said, with great power comes great responsibility. Michael Jackson's many transgressions, which I don't need to repeat here, were totally unacceptable and were an appalling abuse of the power that he held.

As a black musician, he changed things forever: that is a whole blog post in itself. But he had a woeful lack of accountability. He valued his image - or his own hazed imagining of his image - above his duty as a parent.

Once you are as big a role model as he was, it doesn't matter how much you waffle on about saving the children and bringing world peace: integrity is something you do, not something you say.

As his legacy descends into the inevitable lawsuits and counter-accusations, I'll remember Michael Jackson as a deeply troubled, and troubling, man.

He was both the abused and the abuser. He made the best and the worst music in the world. So yeah, maybe he meant something to me.

And the most amazing thing I have learnt from researching this post? Quincy Jones' middle name is "Delight".

Jun 25, 2009

Someone call an Ambivilance: Bibio thrills as a radio star

Edit: This album is mentioned in my top ten electronica albums of 2009

If you don't buy the new Bibio album, you are stupid and you deserve to be pushed off a cliff by someone disappointing like Cash In The Attic's John Cameron.

The LP Ambivilance Avenue stretches two meaty legs across the decades, from sepia-smeared yesteryear summer pop, to future-bastard electronica that would make Justice control-alt-delete.

A little bit of me - the fascist bit of me that stomps on hamsters and sets fire to people in Father Christmas suits - shivers with disgust at the folky leanings of Bibio. But I'm a grown man now, and I am learning to accept that I can't always have it my way.

However, the bit of Bibio that is techno / IDM makes me want to caress him, have his children, buy a caravan with him, divorce him, split my CD collection with him, not talk to him for fourteen years, and following his plastic surgery to become the world's first human / camel freak, then sleep with him unknowingly in a one-night stand blinded by drunkenness and a half-watched DVD of The Story Of The Weeping Camel.

This kind of shizzle is the sort of shizzle that should be all over the radio. Even if you don't like Bibio (and you should), if you give a stinking damn about well-produced music, you should give Ambivilance Avenue a listen. In fact, if you have ears, you should be listening to this album right now.

No, actually, even if you don't have ears, you should give Bibio a listen. Even if you were run over by an angry tractor driver, and all you have left is a spleen, half an eyeball and the inside of your left knee, you should damn well give Bibio a listen.

Let the music speak for itself at Warp Records. Mind that cliff, now.

Jun 22, 2009

Brian Cox, U R the best thing (apart from the universe-slurping cat, which is even besterer than U)

While I have my computer humped by monkeys dressed in little helicopter hats (the bloke in the computer repair shop said it had worked for him, so I'm giving it a try), I might as well plug something totally unrelated to anything on this blog.

I'm running a book launch for Brian Cox, the telly physicist who does all them programmes about big bang machines. It's happening in the Museum Of Science And Industry on July 7th and you should come along.

I last met Brian when he was in D:Ream, before that song became New Labour's anthem. He already had one foot in the physics camp, and we had some lovely pictures of him posing outside Jodrell Bank looking really, well, sciencey.

He's co-written a book with a very clever physicist called Jeff Forshaw. The book explains why E equals MC2. It's called Why Does E=MC2? (And Why Should We Care?) and it has a brilliant picture on the front of a cat lapping up a puddle-shaped universe.

If you come to the book launch, you get to meet me. And Brian Cox the telly physicist. And the very clever Jeff Forshaw. The woman on the desk at the Museum Of Science And Industry told me Bill Bailey and Neil Sedaka had been in recently, so you might get to meet them too, but only if they buy a ticket.

To buy your ticket (only one quid) and for more information, pop over to this page here.

Susan! Put the monitor down, you'll break it! Sorry, reader - I have called all the monkeys Susan, for no reason other than to provide a way of ending this blog post by referring back to the opening sentence, thereby engendering a sense of closure in the blog reading experience.

Jun 18, 2009


This week, Matthew, I will be Andrew WK.

Wait, that's not what AWK stands for, is it? I shall be absent from my usual typing regime because of A Wonky Computer.

My PC pre-dates Moses and it's held together by gaffer tape and spit. It died again yesterday, so I'm going to explore computer shops this weekend. My options are:

- a simple replacement. Normal computer.

- a little laptop thing that I can plug into a larger screen at home.

- ZX81.

I'm tempted by the little laptop idea: I've seen them, but I've no idea what they're called. If you actually know about these actual things and you have actual advice you would like to give me, do slip your thoughts into the comments section.

In other news, I've just seen two examples of limp journalism that made me cry.

The page five lead in today's Manchester Evening News is a picture of Elbow's Guy Garvey walking through the city centre. Here, in his home city. Page five lead, for goodness sake.

And the Metro (otherwise known as the Daily Mailtro) managed to interview X-Factor rebel Steve Brookstein and not ask him once about Susan Boyle. I sense the heavy-breathing of a PR person in that newsroom.

I ask you. Journalists these days. Tsch!

Jun 16, 2009

Warp Are Releasing Perfection



Warp 20
Pieces Of Music.

What you get:
Artwork: a complete catalogue;
Recreated Warp classics;
Popular Warp top 10s;

Warp exclusives;
An hour-long opus;
Rhythm loops;
Proper vinyl as well as CDs.

Ready to
Pre-order now.

Advance buying gets £15
Reduction in

Regardless of

Whet your
Rob Mitchell would be

Acrostics =

Jun 14, 2009

Trouser-goosing Snares, menacing woodwinds and dribbling my tongue at Björk

Venetian Snares has turned in a brand new EP, Horsey Noises, to go alongside recent splooj-guzzling album Filth (which I writted about here).

The eponymous title track sets some commercial vocals (asking a horsey girl to make horsey noises) against loose drumming and a trouser-goosing bassline. Just when you think he's cantering through some abstract DJ Food-isms, he cracks it up to full-on rave. Aphex Twin tried vocals when he sang about milkmen in the mid-90s, and this is exactly the same wrong side of deranged.

Meanwhile, music technology geek Monolake (pictured) has taken time out from designing midi controllers (no, please, don't click away) to produce his first new material since the 2006 album Polygon Cities.

His new single is called Atlas / Titan, and the two dub-inspired techno tracks are as massive as they sound. The bass on Atlas bangs its fists angrily before the woodwind - yes, woodwind - adds a whole new level of growling menace. It's Autechre in a bloody bad mood. Flip-side Titan is as joyfully dark, but a little duller.

Finally, Icelandic princess Björk has offered us many treats on her new album Voltaic.

She has filmed her tour promoting her last album Volta, where her vocals soared above the abstract atmospherics of LFO's Mark Bell, but she's decided that's not enough.  She has also rammed in about 92,000 other discs, including Volta music videos, a one-take live set recorded before Glastonbury 2007, and a swathe of remixes from the likes of Simian Mobile Disco and Matthew Herbert.

It's probably the most comprehensive album and DVD package ever to exist. Well, okay, it's probably not. But you should buy it because you're in tongue-dribbling awe of Björk's ability to be both a superstar and relentlessly uncompromising.

Jun 12, 2009

Ten absolutely fascinating facts about Rephlex Records

- Rephlex Records began in the same year Chesney Hawkes, Hale And Pace and The Simpsons scored their first and only UK number one hit singles.

- The middle name of Richard D James, co-founder of the label, isn't Delia Derbyshire, although it would be nice if it was.

- Drill 'n' bass mentalists Squarepusher and Mu-Ziq released some early stuff on Rephlex. Junglist cohort Luke Vibert, who invent drill 'n' bass, once exclaimed, "what the fudge is drill 'n' bass". Or words to that effect.

- No-one can spell Rephlex signing Bogdan Raczynski's name from memory (pictured).

- The music newspaper NME called Rephlex "the coolest record label in the world." They also called U2 the greatest rock band in the world, so shove that in your pipe and call it Alfred.

- Rephlex started out as, basically, a vanity project for Aphex Twin. A bit harsh, but essentially true. Edit: This bit is absolute crap. "Not true at all," say Rephlex, and, actually, they're right.

- Label co-founder Grant Wilson-Claridge found his feet in a club called the Bowgie, which is Cornish for 'cattle shed'. Mr Scruff later made a poster with DJ tips for chickens, dinosaurs, snakes and elephants, but not for cattle.

- There are 13 people on Facebook called Richard D James. There is only one Grant Wilson-Claridge.

- Rephlex calls IDM music 'braindance'. 'Rephlex' can be rearranged into 'help Rex'. 'Braindance' is an anagram of 'a nice brand'. 'IDM' is an anagram of 'mid'. Make of that what you will..

- There are only nine facts..

Jun 10, 2009

Why, H, why did it all have to end?

This week, I have been mostly feasting on Moderat.

Moderat is a portmanteau. A what? Exactly. It's a perfect marriage of two Berlin musicians: the cold, hypnotic Modeselektor (described by the duo as "Russian crunk") and techno entrepreneur Apparat.

They last hammered together an EP, Auf Kosten Der Gesundheit back in 2002, when the world was still newly mourning the demise of Steps. Oh H "Ian" Watkins, where are you now? Sob...

...where was I? Oh yes. Anyhoo, a month or two back, Modeselektor and Apparat picked up their rusty nails and hammered together something much more impressive. A whole Moderat album (pictured).

Moderat is all-analogue, recorded where Bowie put Heroes to tape, and it piddles pop sensibilities up against a drizzle of dubstep and a serious slab of sub-atomic bass woofery.

It is melodic and (yeeks) catchy, and brings to mind Apparat's work with Ellen Allien. The album's got a touch of icicle on its edges, though, and the German rapping may well turn you off when you ogle some of the tracks on their MySpace page.

Jun 8, 2009

I sold my soul for the second time*: Oasis at Heaton Park

Y'alright our kid? Oasis were lush the other night. We well got bevvied, the burgers were well mank, but the boys brought the party on big style.

Crikes, matron, pass the vermouth, I seem to have come over all indie kid. But yes, I went to see Oasis on Thursday, courtesy of a couple of kind-hearted souls. We were some way away, as you can see from the piccie I took (above).

I'd sold my soul to Oasis before* - I was at Maine Road in 1996, when they simply entranced. But now I am older, less wise and probably a lot more cynical.

So I survived this lager-sodden football-chanting ordeal by wearing a pair of white trainers. They helped me fit in perfectly, and I always had the option of clicking the heels three times if I needed a quick getaway.

In the end, it was an incredibly good-natured affair. After waiting in the cold without sound or lights for 15 hours, one of the Gallagher boys promised to refund everyone's tickets, and the excited buzz that rippled through the crowd never quite left.

In fact, it wasn't an ordeal at all. The crowd camaraderie was infectious, and I think Oasis top U2 in that whole stadium rock spectacle thing.

So Supersonic soared like the anthem it's always been. Masterplan had pilled-up Ben Sherman lads hugging each other like they'd just come off a football field. And the band is turning out some pretty decent new songs as well (Waiting For The Rapture, which has the same beat as The Doors' Five To One, and Falling Down, which has almost the same beat as the fab four's Tomorrow Never Knows). (Get the set list here.)

Kasabian were moody and powerful, as I expected, and thank goodness I arrived too late for the other supports. Twisted Wheel are dull, and I made my views crystal clear about Reverend And The Makers in this piece here.

So, Oasis, I salute you. You were the best rock band in the world when Definitely Maybe came out, and 15 years later, you were compelling and funny. You just need a Moog solo in every track, that's all.

*a reference to the opening line of The Importance Of Being Idle. And no, I didn't quite sell my soul: I got free tickets on both occasions. I gave my soul away gratis.

Jun 3, 2009

Waxy tip-off: turn up the High Contrast

Time for a lesson: here's the history of drum 'n' bass in fast forward.

Get a crayon, put its waxy tip on early rave, then draw a squiggly line from early 1990s ambient through the breathy jungle of LTJ Bukem all the way to the harder percussion and stepping basslines of High Contrast. End of lesson.

High Contrast is still banging out the choons, although his new best-of compilation, Confidential, has somewhat underwhelmed the BBC.

HC's punchy snares land with a satisfying snap, like a wet towel in a changing room. In his own way, his chord progressions and song structure are -- and I need to whisper this -- as comfortably recognisable and as nicely predictable as Coldplay. He's not afraid of the commercial end of his chosen genre, but what separates him from Coldplay is, well, High Contrast isn't a twazmuppet who covers his hands in multicoloured electrical tape the name of world peace.

He could always draw on his hand with a crayon.

High Contrast's Confidential is a double disc. Once side of the coin is the sprightly d 'n' b we're used to, such as the skipping, airy Return Of Forever (eighties bassline ahoy). The second half is a whole pile of remixes with some big hitters like Missy Elliot and Eric "Teaching Madonna How To Make Fame-Inspired Promo Videos" Prydz.

On this second disc, I can forgive him the odd Adele remix because his Utah Saints reworking is a total monster of a track. Again, his downfall could be his commerciality... but it's so much fun.
The record label that spawned this Welsh bass-stepper, Hospital Records, puts out a jolly good podcast - seek it out on an iTunes near you. In the meantime, bag yourself some Confidential information here.

You may put your crayon away now.

Jun 1, 2009

Is it wrong to be so entertained by a current number one single?

I'm too old for this sort of shizzle, surely? Armand Van Helden has done for Dizzy Raaaaaahscuw what he did for Tori Amos in 1996 and, um, Ace Of Bass in 1994.

Dizzee and Armand's latest single Bonkers held its place at the UK number one spot on Sunday, and it has some severly techno moments. It's the old rule of more equals more.

- Listen to Dizzee Rascal and Armand Van Helden's Bonkers.