Monday, March 30, 2009

homme du monde - Mark Et Paul

homme du monde - Mark et Paul from Paul Edwards on Vimeo.

From my friend Paul Edwards, a noise piece improvised over a old TWA short film about New York.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Every mumblecore film ever

And this is why mumblecore is ass. Summed better than I could ever rant it. I spot references to The Puffy Chair, Dance Party USA, Old Joy, Baghead, and Juno. Crap gets skewered! Okay, so there were some good parts of Old Joy. But still I just wanted to reach into the screen and tell Will Oldham's character to grow the fuck up.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

MUR #1

Introducing a new feature here - Music Under Review (MUR), in which I'll be blogging some short quips about the music that is currently under review, often soon to be published elsewhere. This will be a place for my first impressions, or thinking out loud about how to come down on something.

Mark Pritchard - ? / Hologram (Ho-Hum; 2009)

I interviewed Mark for PopMatters yesterday, talking primarily about his latest record as Harmonic 313. He mentioned this new single, released under his given name. The Harmonic 313 LP was dark, but "?" is black hole space of another kind - nary a beat in site. Should be reviewing this one for the milk factory soon.

The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die (Take Me To The Hospital; 2009)

Hello again, old friend(s). Most of you will best remember The Prodigy for its hit singles "Firestarter" and "Breathe," more than a decade (!) old now. After a just-okay come-back album in 2004's Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, The Prodigy sound reinvigorated this time around. There's a palpable "blog house" influence on some of these tracks, but luckily its kept to a minimum. Instead, most of Invaders is the rave music that Liam Howlett and co. and best known for, amplified to 11. Plus the return of vocals from Maxim Reality and Keith Flint - good show. Might review this for Coke Machine Glow. In the mean time, I'll be seeing, writing about and photographing The Prodigy live at the Roseland this Thursday for PopMatters. Trying to interview them for PM too, but it looks like I'll be out of town during their scheduled press time.

Atom™ - Liedgut (Raster-Noton; 2009)

Before hearing this latest release, I knew Atom™ best as Señor Coconut, known for his Latin Pop-tinged versions of Kraftwerk. This being a release on Raster-Noton, I knew to expect something rather different. Ostensibly, the theme here is romanticism; according to the press release, Nietzsche is somehow involved. I don't speak German, so both the liner notes and the lyrics here are a mystery. But there's some beautiful and innovative glitch here, including a series of pieces built around polyrhythms of cell phone-speaker interference. I'll be reviewing this one for PopMatters.

Babe, Terror - Weekend (Perdizes Dream; 2009)

Ever since Panda Bear's last record, neo-exotica has flourished - check out El Guincho for another kindred spirit. In a somewhat similar, but decidedly more experimental vein comes Babe, Terror, the alias of Claudio Szynkier from São Paulo, Brazil. Weekend's pieces consist of intimate and engulfing manipulations of Claudio's voice. Rather than lyrics, we get vocalizing, at times appropriately harmonic and atonal. It's the debut work of a truly individual artist. I'll be reviewing it this week for Coke Machine Glow.

Dntel - Early Works For Me If It Works For You II (Plug Research/Phthalo; 2009)

Jimmy Tamborello, best known as the electronic half of The Postal Service, is, it can be argued, responsible for the popularity of "lap-pop" artists in indie circles. Outside of his collaborations with the perpetually whiney Ben Gibbard, however, he's got a lovely repertoire as Dntel, best known for 2001's shimmering Life Is Full Of Possibilities This 3-disc package reissues his first recorded album, Something Always Goes Wrong, along with his first released album, Early Works For Me If It Works For You, and a new successor to Early Works that compiles unreleased material from around the recording of Possibilities. I'll say this - his material from when he was a college student definitely bests anything I could come up with at that point. I'll be reviewing this one for PopMatters.

AGF / Delay - Symptoms (BPitch Control; 2009)

Antye Greie and Sasu Ripatti make intriguing bedfellows - literally, as the two are the pre-eminent power couple of experimental techno. Both have entered this latest collaborate record off strong solo releases; Greie as AGF with the thought-provoking Dance Floor Drachen, and Ripatti as smooth house cat Luomo, with the collaboration-heavy Convivial. The presence of Ripatti seems to mellow Greie out a little bit, while she in turn pushes him to further experimental lengths than he's been in a while. A good match, then. I'll be reviewing this for the milk factory.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

nanoKontrolling my heart

The other day I ventured to a music shop to pick up a new guitar tuner (RIP my last one, but we had a good 10-year run), and ended up with this little piece of gear:Meet the Korg nanoKontrol. It's essentially the controller I wish had existed when I first went shopping for one years ago. Finally, someone has caught up with the desire for increased portability in laptop-based music. At the moment, my main MIDI controller for home production is the MPD24, which I have nothing but good things to say about, but,'s a pain in the butt to schlep it to smaller gigs. Plus I don't really need those pads for DJ gigs.

Those pads are total butter, though.

So, what do we get with the nanoKontrol? Nine faders, nine knobs, and 24 buttons, 18 of which are placed with the faders, and six of which are designed to be transport controls. Korg has also wisely elected to feature four different switchable "scenes" for the controls, giving a total possible 168 assignable parameters.

Right from the get-go, the controls feel surprisingly solid for how tiny the unit is (I'm not sure the precise dimensions, but it's the length of a first-generation Macbook, and the width can't be more than 2-4"). The faders and knobs have decent resistance, and while they certainly don't hold a candle to something like Native Instruments' Kore, for such a cheap and portable controller it's to be expected. The buttons are rubbery and firm - as others have pointed out, it's possible to get the buttons stuck underneath the plastic face, but this is easy to avoid and also to correct.

The real diamond in the rough of this controller is the behavior of those buttons. Using the free Kontrol Editor software, you can change the buttons from momentary to toggle function (useful particularly for turning virtual devices on and off), and also set attack and release times. The adjustable attack and release rates on the buttons make for some dynamite possibilities - set both high up and get an instant filter-sweep, for example. It's a neat feature, and good on Korg for including it.


The nanoKontrol is pretty clearly intended for use with Ableton Live - it even comes with a $50 coupon good for the purchase of Ableton (sadly, not valid for upgrades or educational, and thus useless to me). Even so, I've had no trouble getting it to work with my other setups in SuperCollider and Digital Performer. The unit does feel a bit flimsy - it's slim, shallow, and plastic, and certainly doesn't have the commanding weight of other controllers. I get the feeling it could easily be snapped in half by hand, if I wanted to. But I don't, and for a portable controller at a decent price with lots of options, it's pretty unbeatable.

Note: There are two other controllers in this new nano line - the nanoPad and the nanoKey. The nanoPad features 12 pads plus a kaoss-syle x/y controller that Korg is known for, while the nanoKey features two octaves of tiny keys. I haven't try either in person, so I can't really comment, but they both look at least worth checking out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Warp20 - pick your favorites!

In honor of its 20th (!!) anniversary as a label, Warp Records is asking for fans to submit their 50 favorite tracks. The top 10 (from different artists) will be released as a compilation in August 2009. Vote here!

Each user is allowed to vote up to 50 times, though never more than once for the same track. If you're interested in who I voted for (I've already used up my 50 votes), my page is here.

For Warp's 10-year anniversary in 1999, we were treated to a series of three compilations, the 10+ series, including 10+1: Influences (pictured above), focusing on house and techno classics that were sold in the Warp shop before it became a label, 10+2: Classics, featuring some of the early singles that established the bleep-n-bass sound Warp was known for, and 10+3: Remixes, in which outside artists were invited to have their way with the Warp catalogue.

It'll be interesting to see what ends up on this 20th anniversary disc. In the mean time, here are some classic tracks that I'd love to see included:

Soundtrack Of Space - B12

Second Peng - Autechre

Freeze - LFO

Roygbiv - Boards Of Canada

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Back yet again + UR video

After a number of false starts, I'm back on this blog for good. It'll be a place for discussion of items mostly relating to music and pop culture, but also a place for links to pieces I've written. Hope you enjoy!
To start things off, here's a video that Timh at 555 Enterprises tipped me off to, about Underground Resistance, from Current. Click here to watch.

A little bit about Underground Resistance: Also known as UR, it's one of the best techno labels out of Detroit, the city where the genre was born. Started by "Mad" Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, and Robert Hood, it presents a militant, yet also artistically open, response to excess and cults of personality in the music industry. Notably, Mad Mike refuses to be interviewed without wearing a bandana to cover his face - you can see this in the Current video, and also in the clip below, from a documentary called Universal Techno:

UR are well worth getting to know, but it's hard to provide a great jumping off point. Many of the best albums released by UR are difficult to find these days. In the mean time, here are some great songs to start with, including "High-Tech Jazz," which became the de-facto genre name for the style it pioneered:

Galaxy 2 Galaxy - "Hi-Tech Jazz"

Jeff Mills - "Changes Of Life" (original is also very good)

Mad Mike - "Death Star"