Apr 28, 2010

Chipmunk warning: this blog may self-destruct

I'm not sure what's going to happen to this blog on Saturday.

For a while now, a message warning me that 'FTP publishing will be no longer available after 01 May 2010' has been screaming from my blog main page.

Without getting too technical, I seem to have no way of switching off FTP publishing. Blogger's 'migration tool' (which sounds like a massive catapult for geese in the autumn) doesn't work. I've contacted their support service, but so far their responses have been (a) blank reply, (b) "we're looking into it" and (c) blank reply.

So several things may happen to this blog on Saturday. It may possibly explode, go into overdrive, wither, carry on as normal or perform the musical equivalent of one of the following:

- speed up until everything becomes a blur as in Moby's Thousand (still technically the fastest song ever);

- become pretentious, overblown and annoying like The Darkness / Queen / the Glee cast (oh come on, you have to admit the sheen has worn off);

- turn into Chipmunk.

If I stop posting from this weekend, I would recommend you keep an eye on my tweets for futher news. You could even follow me, because if you like the crap here, then there's a lot more crap there.

Apr 25, 2010

A music round-up of the 2010 general election so far

As the UK political leaders blind each other with gaudy ties on national television, we're in danger of judging our new prime minister on what he looks like.

Never mind our eyes. Let's plug our ears back into the election campaign. What's the musical judgement on the 2010 general election so far?

There is little in the party manifestos about whether dubstep is dead or whether we are due for an early-noughties hip hop revival. Political pledges seem to be interested in non-musical things like the economy and health and education, which is rubbish because you can't play any of that on the recorder.

Despite politicians' uneasy history with musicians, some of the policital parties have dropped musical hints throughout their baby-kissing trail. I decided to analyse the election build-up so far. Has the 2010 campaign trail been music to the ears, or are we already deafened by the political din?


Dave "Look At My Face" Cameron swiped a Keane track for his campaign and faced the wrath of the podgy-faced piano botherers. Somehow, though, he seems to have got away with using David Bowie's Changes.

Cameron's Tories can rely on the support of the Cheshire set with appearances by Take That's Gary Barlow (seemingly limiting his endorsement to the launch of a talent contest) and getting an approving wink from ubiquitous Cowell-wannabe Sir Lord Baron von Andrew Lloyd Webber. Oh and a grime group called Nu Brand is writing them a 'choon'.

Anyone who doubts Cameron is the new Blair should know Peter Cunnah is now a loyal blue. You know Peter - he was the one who sang Things Can Only Get Better with his band D:Ream back in the days when John Prescott had fights with crusties

Liberal Democrats

Nick "I Agree With Me" Clegg is hoping to be boosted by a Facebook campaign that promises "We got Rage Against the Machine To number one: we can get the Lib Dems into office!" The repeated refrain from that chart-topping Rage track may come in useful if Nick finds himself at the centre of a hung parliament.

Despite their revolution in the polls, the Liberal Democrats are a double-edged sword for music fans. Brian Eno is their youth advisor and Billy Bragg has praised their manifesto. But best not mention that Right Said Fred are writing a song for them, nor that Clegg used to play tennis with Gavin from dreary States-rockers Bush.


What about the defending government? Gordon "Instant Smile" Brown is well connected with "the kids", expressing a love for BBC 6Music and for Glee. He is, of course, lying through his rictus grin, although he does enjoy a broad support from arts organisations.

Labour connect brilliantly with the old, hiring an Elvis impersonator and enjoying support from a Facebook campaign to get Eton Rifles into the charts. Let me make one thing clear: the Elvis thing is absolutely no sign of a political party in the throes of death, no way, sir, no.

Labour connect with the new too - well, they would, being New Labour and that - with Hadouken! writing a song for them and both Cheryl Cole and Lily Allen pledging their invaluable support. Cheryl thinks Cameron is "slippery", although I'm not sure when she last handled him.


As for the smaller parties, Plaid Cymru seem have finally embraced grunge by letting Gwiber play for them, while the Scottish National Party can boast a Runrig member among its ranks. The SNP will also try and cosy up to that annoying mouth from Reverend And The Makers in the Instigate Debate.

Radiohead, meanwhile, have played a benefit gig for a Green Party candidate - a logical connection for a band famous for saving plastic and paper by releasing music online. Their 2003 track Sail To The Moon suggests a much greener method of space exploration.

The BNP had their racist little knuckles rapped last year when they used Manic Street Preachers' If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next. Perhaps Slash 'N' Burn would have been more appropriate for that dribble-faced bunch of gurning pretend-politician reprobates.


What about Plan B, I hear you ask? That's certainly my thought when I come to place my cross. The cheeky grime crooner can't make up his mind in this general election, and will probably set up his own political party. Called the Plan B party. I can hardly wait. Maybe he can visit YouTube's eminently unclickable election song contest to help him decide.

Incidentally, the House of Commons has its own band, comprising cross-party MPs playing Oasis songs and (shudder) their own material, all in aid of chariddee. This is right and honorable, despite making music that sounds like the Proclaimers after a double-stroke.

So on balance then, with the Eno and Bragg vote, the Liberal Democrats have it. Nick Clegg used to be a massive Prince fan, although now listens to cheerful music like Rachmaninov and Johnny Cash.

Next time he's knocking around my constituency, I might ferret him some Venetian Snares - although I might steer him away from 2007 album My Downfall.

Apr 22, 2010

A LoneLady among these dark Mancunian mills


Warp's wicked love affair with the guitar continued recently with LoneLady's debut album Nerve Up (LoneLady pictured above). I always wondered what happened in those smashed-window remnants of Manchester mills... well, here's the result.

Nerve Up is low-fi and immediate like the xx, and like that album it carries off the impossible task of sounding retro and fresh. Hear, if you will, the spirit of The Fall, Cabaret Voltaire, Joy Division and, to a larger extent I think, Gang Of Four, and yet it somehow explodes with potent energy.

Intuition is the immediate post-punk classic here, while If Not Now has the insistence of Tricky vocalist of Nicolette set to an unashamed '80s vibe. And she's not afraid to speed it up either, with the stomping disco of Army and the jangly, hand-clappy Early The Haste Comes.

Sharing a producer with My Bloody Valentine certainly helps LoneLady's album groove and ride and wiggle its way into your memory. Much of the record is reverbed to hell, I guess to reflect the huge mills in which it was created, and so adding a nicely apocalyptic touch.

My concern is if Warp can't convert this album into a sure-fire smash hit (the xx broke the top 40 last summer), what hope is there for any of their artists? I insist, dear reader, that this album is your guitar-rock purchase of the year.


One for the guitar-phobic, now, and an album that is as equally atmospheric as LoneLady's long-player. Loscil's fifth album Endless Falls will envelope you, smother you and send your fuzzy mind spinning into that joyous place just before you drown with suffocated lungs.

Seven tracks of warm, glitchy looping ambience (nine tracks on the vinyl) make way for an epic closing piece of, um, spoken word poetry. Not a single string section, not the tiniest crackle, not a single moment of muffled melancholia is out of place on this beguiling ambient highlight of 2010 and a true successor to Global Communication's early work.

Apr 19, 2010

We want hot modern classic and we want it now

My experience of mixing desks is generally limited to my infinitesimal world of home recording, DJing and tweaking knobs for bands at live events.

What I've never got mired in is the long-haul experience of mastering a band in a studio. Unlike Mixerman, who committed his experiences working for a producer in a series of brilliant diaries.

I have several mates who I love to talk production crap with, cherry-picking sweet snippets from otherwise dull r 'n' b tracks, or (as on Saturday) slagging off over-egged snares in reggae tracks.

Mixerman captures this obsession with the mores of musical fashion with this wonderful treatise on his producer's insistence that the sound be more "modern" by using a classic amplifier called a VOX AC30...
"'Modern' can be very elusive as time marches forward, and if you're not up on the latest music, modern can very easily pass you by. AC30 amps have a sound that one might call classic, but a definitive classic sound scares the hell out of record companies, and when they listen to classic, they inevitably think something's wrong with the production.

"The real bitch is that sometimes classic is modern, but you just have to keep up with the times to know when that is, and then take advantage of that window of opportunity to be both classic and modern simultaneously. Regardless of all that, what the record companies really want is 'now,' because 'now' is something that record companies understand

"Unfortunately for everyone involved, by the time a record comes out, 'now' was 'yesterday' and the record is in the shitter for not being modern enough, even if it somehow happens to be classic.

"Occasionally, a new modern sound is born from some innovative band, and every major label in existence then scrambles to sign anything and everything that sounds remotely similar to that band. Then producers, wanting to remain modern themselves, will try to make records with the similar bands, so that they can be a part of what's 'hot.'

"Of course, none of it really matters, because no matter what, any sound that happens to become 'hot', 'now', or whatever, can be directly attributed to the Beatles. The Beatles are as classic as they come, and the Beatles used VOX AC30 amplifiers on their recordings. So why the hell classic scares a record company is beyond me, since without the Beatles, we'd be fucked. There's going to be a quiz on this later, so try to keep up."
And this is what drives everything you hear. Thanks to Fil for pointing me towards this wonderful little piece of production prose.

Mixerman has a new book coming out this autumn called Zen And The Art Of Mixing. Also, you'd do well to jump onto the Womb Forums, the natural home for anyone into pots and pans and pouring tea on your Tascam.

Extract from The Daily Adventures Of Mixerman courtesy of Mixerman.. © 2002, 2004, 2006 Mixerman Multimedia, Inc.

Apr 13, 2010

The Brainfeeder / Paul Weller connection

It's easy for me to parp on about Warp Records all the stupid time, but there's another record label that is becoming a keystone of modern electronica.

Brainfeeder is the, er, brainchild of Flying Lotus, a Los Angeles producer about whose great aunt Paul Weller once wrote a song.*

Mr Lotus, or FlyLo to his chums, started Brainfeeder as radio show back in 2008 on Dublab, a not-for-profit internet radio station set up by students. The 'feeder mission, "we are here to feed brains," was reassuringly simple, and like a lot of good radio programmes, it was an excuse for FlyLo and his mates to play their own music and the music they loved.

Already with a toe in the door at Warp Records thanks to the Reset EP (used by the Adult Swim cable TV network, which means bugger all in the UK but is a big thing in the States), Flying Lotus was about to step into much bigger things.

His 2008 album on Warp Records, called Los Angeles for blisteringly obvious reasons, had other music producers salivating over his complex, urban instrumentals. I even got drooled on by HMV staff when I bought it on CD (their dribble is like acid: it stings).

As FlyLo increased his knob-twiddling respect levels to 11**, Brainfeeder morphed into a record label. Bolstered by a distribution deal with the legendary imprint Ninja Tune, the 'feeder now boasts Ras G, Lorn, Matthewdavid, Daedelus and the Gaslamp Killer among its roster.

In fact, Daedelus's forthcoming Righteous Fists Of Harmony EP is the label's first put-out-the-bunting and stick-the-kettle-on release: it should propel them into the bleep-o-sphere.

Brainfeeder is exciting because the music is so fresh and so clean. Ain't nobody dope as them. And it's a great complement to the Glaswegian DIY electronica scene championed by Hudson Mohawke and the LuckyMe collective.

To wrap your ears around Brainfeeder goodness, this Red Bull Music Academy show is a good place to start. Or FlyLo and the Gaslamp Killer's Christmas present to everyone is also worth sticking on your iPod. Meanwhile, it's not at all long until Flying Lotus' droolworthy third album Cosmogramma is released on Warp Records.

But then, I'm not parping about Warp, am I? I thought we'd established that.

* Song For Alice (Dedicated to the Beautiful Legacy of Mrs. Coltrane) from Weller's 2008 album 22 Dreams (Mrs Coltrane being FlyLo's great aunt and wife of John Coltrane).

** This is not, as you would expect, a nod to the classic rock spoofudrama Spinal Tap, but instead it is an endearing tribute to the maximum volume level on the BBC iPlayer.

Apr 10, 2010

No Burial was harmed in the making of this blog post: new tracks from LV, Actress, Pantha Du Prince

Time to find out what noises people have been making and say to them OI YOU LOOK AT YOUR NOISE.

LV and Untold

LV and Untold's track Beacon is so minimal, I'm not sure it exists. It's a terrifying slab of stretched-out, bass-whomping clicks and pokes, but it seems to nestle in a cold ether that exists neither here nor there. It's reality drawn out: the sound of loose cartilage if Burial's bones were all broken.

I like this for the Mount Kimbie remix because it achieves a staggering feat. It smears a load of choppy rave chords over the dubbiness of the original track and manages to make it sound more desolate, more textured, and more like Burial not only with broken bones but with his mealeable body stretched out like uncooked dough.


If running Werk Discs (Lone, Lukid, Zomby) gave his twiddly-knob hands enough to do, it's not showing because futuristic funkster Actress is busy churning out some massive music on Nonplus Records.

Machine And Voice is his latest, all broken funk and manufractured(TM) staccato bleeps, and not for the first time on this blog, I've found the real gem by flipping over to the b-side. Loomin' does what it says on the tin
(Nonplus Records) and is the highlight here because of the ferocity of the whirring robotics.

Pantha Du Prince

I'm delighted Pantha Du Prince's stand-out track Stick To My Side has not only got a single release, it has also got its own video that seems to mix two filmic moments from last year: the enthusiastic nightime dancing in Where The Wild Things Are and the eerie visit of the dybbuk in A Serious Man.

It's a smashing track that mixes clubbiness with curious off-tunes and it comes on this single with a thumping remix from Efdemi, an all-too-busy workout from Four Tet, and, on the digital version, a heavenly choirs and bells retake from Walls. As I've said before on this blog, I'm discovering house music again.

Apr 2, 2010

Delirious' bid for number one: the rock delusion?

Delirious? are a Christian rock band that had a string of top 40 hits at about the time the Millennium Prayer was stripping the charts of all that is good and holy.

This Sunday, the band's 13-year-old anthemic worship song History Maker will make a bid for the UK number one position following a Facebook campaign akin to the sucessful Rage Against The Machine campaign three months ago.

Those who lack a religious persuasion or aren't in anyway mired in the odd underworld of Christianity are scratching their heads. Who the hell is this band? Do they really have fans? And why does the campaign matter?


Christian music subculture is massive. There are record labels, shops, radio stations, thousands of bands and plenty of eager followers. Fair play to 'em if they want to poke the charts with a stick and see what happens.

But I'm not a happy Easter bunny. My objection to Delirious’ assault on the charts (I am dispensing with that irritating question mark) is based on two elements: the music and the message.

The music is my first objection. I never minded Delirious back in the ‘90s when I was entrenched in Christian culture. I even sold t-shirts on their tour. But I was never fond of History Maker: it was too simple, too sub-U2. They had better songs, like Obsession. I don’t believe such a badly-dated track has a place in the modern music charts.

Which brings me to the lyrics and the second of my objections: the message. The whole point of the campaign is to have something Christian as the Easter number one, as if a measure of financial success is important in this weekend of all weekends.


You don’t have to look far to find Christians in the charts. Joe McElderry’s X Factor song was rooted in American Christianity, while Owl City had the longest-serving number one single of 2010 so far: his connections to the Christian rock scene are well documented.

And do you need Christian lyrics to find a connection to the ‘other’? Of course not. Delirious are not filling a Godless void.

The lyrics of History Maker remind me of a time when I was young, naive and spoke almost entirely in absolutes. The song speaks of people being raised from the dead, the blind seeing and the fire of God bringing about miracles.

For many people I know, their Christian faith is a quiet faith, one that speaks of humility and of comfort in suffering. And yet, History Maker boasts:
“Cloudless skies will break, Kings and queens will shake... I'm gonna be a history maker in this land, I'm gonna be a speaker of truth to all mankind.”

Evangelical Christianity at its worst churns out worship songs that are all “me, me, me”, and this is exactly that. It espouses a pre-enlightenment, black-white vision of “truth” that has little place in my own faith.

I admit I’m biased. As I post this, my ‘replacement’ is broadcasting on Refresh FM, so I’m not exactly a natural friend to the evangelical world. But it is a world I know well. I don’t think it’s all bad, most of the people in that world are, quite frankly, ace - and as someone who sold Christian music for nine years, I believe my views on Delirious to be reasoned.

Having said that, if they make number one, I'm chainsawing my underpants off and sitting in a bath of woodlice and vinegar.


History Maker will raise money for charity, but it will not achieve its main purpose. It’s a poor advert for Christianity, the music ain’t so hot, and it sustains an inwardly-focussed Christian subculture that often separates itself from the world it seems determined on saving.

And yet, it’s working. The midweek position of number six in the charts may well underestimate Delirious’ impending success in the final chart this Sunday evening. It is still riding high in the Amazon mp3 chart and I don’t think a top five spot is out of the question.

It's just a shame they'll be trounced by the godawful Scouting For Girls. That's like being beaten up by scouts and girls, all at the same time. Even Delirious don't deserve that.

If you want Christian rock music, start with Starflyer 59: they mention Jesus and everything. As for this Sunday's chart, I fear it may go down as an embarrassing footnote in yet another misguided attempt to propogate a form of Christianity that simply doesn't work any more.

Apr 1, 2010

Irritable shafts: the Manchester blog meet

I hurl a hearty howdy at the good folk I met at last night's Manchester blog meet.

A blog meet is where a drone of bloggers gather together and talk page stats, platforms and PHP while keeping the curtains securely close lest an irritable shaft of light fall upon their pale faces.

Which of course is a staggering untruth. I had a couple of conversations about blogging - why wouldn't you when you have a name badge with your fricking blog name on - but the rest of the time was all about being stupid, putting the world to rights and drinking as hard as we possibly could.

Thankfully for Skiddle, who sponsored the event, there were quite a few sober people on the night. Unfortunately for Skiddle, at one point I worked out I'd drunk nearly 20% of the bar tab. I did ease off, honest!

And so big shouts to photographer Cardboard Kid, performer and social animal Cutteruption , reformed cynic Benjamin Judge, lovely Manchester magazine Now Then (they did a piece on breakcore!), author and fellow blog-meet-first-timer Fiction Bitch, digital clever man Technical Fault, Manchester's answer to QI Madlab and of course the organiser of the whole shebang, Manchester's social guru and all-round smashing yankunion The Manchizzle. Oh and Nigel. Oh and, erm, Paul who doesn't really have a blog but does do stuff here.

There were some others I wanted to mention, but they all danced around on the tip of my tongue before drowning in the saliva of forgetfulness. Especially the trance bloke called Cosmic-something. But you were all lovely, honest.

If I didn't mention you just now but you did speak to me on the night, either:

- I forgot your blog name;

- I couldn't see your badge;

- I googled you and didn't find you.

Why not mention yourself in the comments, and I will add you in an edit HERE? [insert embarrassing omissions - such as Where Worlds Collide and the award-winning Words and Fixtures]

Anyhoo, consider my hearty how-do dispensed into the blogosphere. I guess the next step is social media cafes. Blogging: it seems to be alive and kicking its feet merrily under its desk. And not a mention of PHP or any other drug of choice for internet geeks, thank crap.