Thursday, 25 August 2011

The troubles of over-sharing.

Today we examine the world of couples blogging. Now, as my blog probably indicates, I'm all up for blogging, but is there ever a point where it's being taken too far? A hypothetical line the cautious blogger doesn't cross? Well, as it turns out, yes, and these guys just found it.

Before I go any further I'd like to elaborate on a couple of points. Firstly, blogging is a vehicle for individuals or groups of individuals to express themselves to a larger audience. It can be used simply to update your friends on your hobbies or family life. Or, for instance, it could further your quest for a career in journalism. It could be used as an outlet for your band or, erm, choir. All of these things are just fine, as they have a limit.

Secondly, by definition blogging is putting your life, or a part of your life, into the world of public consumption. As such you are putting forward a deliberately designed digital interpretation of yourself online to be examined and cross-examined by the general masses. This also has limits. I wouldn't, for instance, half-way through this article stop and inform you at this point I went to take a shit. Ok.

However, on the 16th of August 2011, Jenny Stevens of The Guardian brought to light the world of couples blogging, with an opening picture that made me sick in my mouth. The article is a good read, but unfortunately due to the huge readership of such a highly-esteemed broadsheet it never really gets to the irritated subtext hinted at in such lines as "over-sharing". Well, Jenny, that's where I come in.

See, the thing is, who actually wants to know about the intimacies of someone else's life apart from readers of the News of the World? Okay, sorry, too soon. On top of that, who wants to put their love lives up for public consumption? For me, that just screams insatiable arrogance. The article explores several such American blogs, but the one that really hits home is Louder Than Silence.

When I opened this blog and saw the above picture of what I at first assumed to be a reject for "Jesus Christ: The Shoreditch Years", I threw up in my mouth, for the second time. See, regardless of Sally's excuses at the reaction from the article in The Guardian, you can't get away with "if you don't like, don't read it" when you put something like this on the internet. In this sense, I have to give Sally and Ross props, as they unquestionably quench the human desire to look at something they detest, like Friday, or Bieber.

I'd like to go into detail about every little thing that annoys me about this blog, but there's just too many. From "his and her" outfits and "Ross was wearing [insert vintage bollocks here]" to sentences like "I lie. We just both have great taste in tasselled loafers, natch". And did I mention the name?! "Louder Than Silence"! What does that even mean!?

I mean, natch!?

See, this is over-sharing, and it also represents point number two: creating an electronic persona that reeks of narcissism. These aren't two regular Joes who live in an average flat and have average jobs. And there isn't anything particularly amazing about them. They don't dress up as bats and fight crime at night, or knit stuff. They're in graphic design and fashion. They are twenty-something professionals who live in East London and enjoy vintage loafers and anything made by Apple. They go to dinner-parties, private gigs and exclusive functions. This is what they're blogging about, not the functionality of their relationship and their emotions concerned therein, but how cool and hip they are. Regardless of what they say, this blog is a massive sign saying "look at us!", and that's why we don't like you, Sally. And yes, we are envious of your plywood stag's head mounted on your wall, but that's it.


Friday, 19 August 2011

Knitters with attitude.

Welcome to the extraordinary world of guerilla knitting. A place where the mundane is transformed into a riot of colour and weave. Offering a stark contrast to the recent turmoil in Britain's cities, guerilla knitting is a spark of life in the human imagination when everything else seems to be going to the dogs.

I was first alerted to this pseudo-urban practice when I came home after a trip to London to see all the bollards round my house decorated in tightly-fitting civic scarves. Now, there's randomly a knitting night on at my local pub that usually hosts nights to such illustrious names as Hessle Audio, Mr Scruff and Anti-Pop Consortium. To begin with I ignorantly couldn't really understand why such a venue would host such an evening, but now I do. In the dark cellars of the Hare and Hounds on a Tuesday night a new, sinister coterie of grannies plot and scheme before taking to the streets of South Birmingham in the bleak hours of the morning to hang their bizarre creations from inanimate objects.

OK, it's not that dark. Your nan isn't really dressing up in a balaclava and plimsols and sneaking onto the streets at night. Though she could be. But she probably isn't. I think.

So, what really is it? Guerilla, or urban, knitting, is the world's least offensive form of graffiti. Simply put, it is the art of knitting something to spice up something ordinary. Think Banksy for spinsters. Except the spinsters aren't your nans and aunties, they're just average joes with a penchant for threads and needles. The fact the practice still doesn't have a proper Wiki page is evidence enough of its underground principles.

It's hard to find information on who exactly started the practice, but a lot of evidence points to hilariously named group, Knitta Please, being the principal innovators. To quote from their page (they do have a Wiki):

"Knit graffiti began with Magda Sayeg, a self-taught knitter also known as PolyCotN. She founded the group with anonymous member AKrylik in October 2005 as a way to deal with frustration over their own unfinished knitting projects. It started with a doorknob cosy for the front door of Sayeg's Houston boutique. She loved it and, unexpectedly, so did the passersby. That inspired them to make more."

Knitta grew and grew, and copy cat groups sprung up around the world. Now hundreds of knitting activists regularly "yarnbomb" public space, with such side-splitting names as "Notorious N.I.T." and "P-Nitty".

Apparently, and rather unfortunately, the Knitta, Please group has now dwindled down to just its creator, but the fact that the practice has spread across the pond to such cultural cold-spots as South Birmingham clearly illustrates its burgeoning appeal. It's like spray-painting for middle-class kids, and of this we approve. The downside of course is its susceptibility to being vandalised itself. Those twenty or so bollard scarves had dwindled down to a rather pathetic three by Monday morning. Damn kids.

It's a shame, but I'm sure the practice will continue regardless. As I said earlier, it's nice to some members of society trying to liven up our lives, rather than smashing up inner-city shops in an apparent rage against a prime-minister they can't even name (though admittedly, he is a bellend). I'll leave you with the opening statement from glittyknittykitty. Stay safe, knittas.

"We, the Knitted Terrorists, are committed to knittivism through the systematic and systemic use of knitted accessories, short rows and felt. We will spread the knittivist word by reporting on knittivist activities - all who fail to heed our message will be condemned to mass production, chilly winters and bad fashion. Join in. Be a knittivist. Knit a revolution. Now."!/CafeDePhresh

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Mixcakes Volume #2

The second Mixcake is here!

This contribution comes from Martial, bad-ass mixologist extraordinaire. He enjoyed making the mix so much that he went a "little" bit over the recommended time! (An hour and 18 minutes over to be precise!) So, without further ado, here it is!

Mixcakes Volume 2
A rolling spongey base of garage beats and synths iced with a light sugary coating of bass and future rythms. Enjoy!

Mixcake Two: Martial by MrMr onedEck

Due to the length there is no tracklist for this mix, feel free to pester Martial himself though if you feel like it!

PS: Again due to the length the first Mixcake is down for the moment. Once I upgrade my Soundcloud it'll be back, don't worry! Look out for Mixcake #3 soon!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Gig review: Battles.

I was lucky enough to get a free ticket to see Battles last week, and this time in my hometown. If you didn't know, Battles are a math-rock band from New York, New York. Their first album, Mirrored, received critical and commercial success back in 2007, but the band have been pretty quiet till now.

I've seen them once before, at Benicassim festival in Spain, but this time the experience promised to be different for a couple of reasons. Firstly they have recently released a new album, Gloss Drop, and secondly the line-up of the band was different than before...

Now, before I dive wholeheartedly into the show, I'll set the scene somewhat. The chance to go to the gig came as a bit of surprise, and as such my research was hardly in order. I knew the band had a new album out, and I'd heard little of it, if all truth be told. This was partly due to hearsay, and unfortunately the negative kind. It's always tough as a performer when you release a first album of such high quality, to then follow it and hope to match the same benchmark. It seemed from what I had heard that Battles had failed in this regard, and the remarks being bandied about in reference to Gloss Drop were often less than savoury.

Saying that, I was still excited. It was also a chance to return to the Bar Fly, now the bottom level of the HMV Institute, a venue a lot of my friends played at when gigging in the city back in the day. The revamp has certainly done its job: a dark, dusty and rusty corner entered through a parking lot has been converted into a cleaner and much better sounding little den of musical genius. The room is just about the right size for a small venue; intimate but not intimidatingly so. There are a couple of criticisms though, one being the appalling placement of weird arches that emerge from the sides of the bar, and the other being the horrendous price of drinks. My girlfriend's glass of wine, for instance, set me back £4.95.

The support was also great. I've previously mentioned Young Montana? on this blog, so I was delighted to see his mop-topped head appear on stage. He played a great set, mainly from his new LP, though he did find time to throw in 'Sacré Cool' as well. He was obviously a bit nervous, and sometimes this affected his mixing, but never in a less than endearing way. It was a bit of a shame that the majority of the crowd weren't really into this type of music, and it was more disappointing that many seemed unwilling to open their minds and give it a go, but for those that did it was thoroughly enjoyable. It's difficult as a producer/DJ to play as support for a band, especially when you play dance music. I imagine the same is true for other instances like Fantastic Mr. Fox supporting the XX, as gigs are usually early evening affairs, and dance music to an 8pm crowd with an overwhelming sense of sobriety isn't going to get the response it really deserves.

On to the main event. As the stage was set-up, I started to come to realisation that something wasn't quite right here. Drums were placed in the centre, a bass, guitar and a plethora of pedals on the right, and keys and computers on the left. Three spots. Aren't there four people in Battles?

Now, although I like to assume I am a relative font of knowledge in large swathes of modern music, I am almost certain I was the last person in that room to find out a member of the band had left. Turns out Tyondai Braxton (much vaunted man of amazing name, hair, and musical skill) had left the band to pursue his solo works. Unfortunately for the band, he wrote much of the first album, as well as playing key parts of the songs (such as the vocals) that can't really be replaced. As such the band played a very heavily second-album show. Retrospectively, this was totally understandable, but at the time, I was gutted.

This seems like a lot of negativity, but I'll assuage that easily enough. The band's skill has never been in doubt, and knowing that some people (like myself) might be a bit sceptical, they played their hearts out. The drummer John Stanier was particularly incredible. He was there again with his trade-mark higher than high high-hat, and in a heavily air-conditioned room he was a pinpoint of sweat, tears and energy who was virtually melting by the end. You can see why he's placed where most bands put their lead singer.

Another pleasant point was the use of projections on the stage. For reasons already explained there was no singer on stage, and if you look at the tracklist for their second album you'll quickly see liberal use of guest vocalists. So it was pretty unexpected and surreal when three people-sized projections of Gary Numan's face from different angles appeared on-stage. The same was done of Kazu Makino (of Blonde Redhead) and Matias Aguayo and the spectacle really added something to the performance that was perhaps missing with out the antics of Braxton.

The way I see it you can judge the show in two ways. First would be to compare it to previous four-piece performances, and in this respect you can't help but feel slightly let down. This is simply due to the fact that none of the critically acclaimed first album was played, not to the band's individual performances.

I think to look at it in this way would be unfair, however. The band easily could have called it a day after their key-member left, but instead they carried on regardless, and the show should be judged on its own merit rather than what it could have been. As such, I think it was a massive success. The life and energy as well as music brilliance pouring off the stage was tangible in waves. The encore was richly deserved and expertly carried out (an extended version of White Electric getting richly received). We can only imagine what a second album with Braxton would have been like, but really we should be thankful there is a Battles to talk about at all.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Quick hits.

Just a few bits and bobs. There's been a plethora of new music around at the moment to entertain ears, so here's a few that have piqued my interest recently.

This track by We Are The Horsemen has been doing the rounds on Radio One recently, and for good reason. Simply re-edits are often the best way to go with remixes, they keep the vibe of the original, whilst sprucing it up in a new manner that's fresh to here, though sometimes widely different remixes are just as effective, as our next track will show. Expecting some big things from these guys.

Good old Fantastic Mr. Fox has been at it again, this time with a remix of Hyetal's "Phoenix". The original was amazing as it was, so it would take something special to improve on that. As such Mr. Gomberg has taken a widely different route with the track, and the results are spectacular. The track is also available for FREE!

Finally, this is old news, but it's worthwhile I assure you. This fanmade video of Boards of Canada's "Everything You Do Is Balloon" shows what can be done with very little expenses using archive footage. It's take from an old American bicycle safety short-film, and goes perfectly with the music. Does make you wonder though, what were people on back in those days!?

Coming up soon: review of Bon Iver's self-titled second LP, Mixcakes volume 2 and festival previews 2011. See you soon!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Mixcakes Volume #1.

So here's the new feature, Mixcakes!.

The general idea is every week or so I'll get someone new to make a mix for the blog, then I'll upload it here. Any genre of music is encouraged (except Donk), to get a good variety of music, and hopefully to introduce people to a style they are not familiar with! To get the ball rolling, I've done the first Mixcake. So, without further ado, here it is:

Mixcakes Volume 1
A light and bouncey cake filled with futuristic rythms, synths, and snares, topped off with a light smattering of techno and 90's grime.

Tracklist (track/artist):
1) Joe - Twice
2) Joy Orbison - BB
3) Unknown - Sicko Cell
4) Another Girl - Jacques Greene
5) Glut - Ramadanman
6) Getting Me Down - Blawan
7) Here 4 U - Deadboy
8) Neighbourhood - Zed Bias (Roska remix)
9) A Milli - Lil' Wayne (James Blake refix)
10) Let Me See What You're Working With - Rod Lee
11) You Tell Me - Boddika
12) Rotpot - Bad Autopsy
13) Battle For Middle You - Julio Bashmore
14) Manderine Girl - Booka Shade

The Mixcake logo was made by Hi, I'm Ralph. Make sure to check him out. The next mix will be made by Martial, should be top!

Twittering madness.

Lordy, I've taken the ultimate step and created a Twitter account for the blog (and me). Means I can post quick links quickly that aren't worthy of individual blog posts, and then later merge those links into a blog post.


Follow me here!

PS: There is probably a snazzy way to make that link bigger and better on the blog's sidebar, I'll work that out soon...

Quick vids.

Just a couple new and very interesting vids. The new feature, Mixcakes, should be up later today as well. Keep your eyes peeled!

First a new track from the infamous Tyler the Creator, featuring fellow Odd Future member Frank Ocean (with a sweet hat):

Next is the finished video for Kanye West's 'Monster'. The leaked and unfinished version of this video has been criticised widely for its portrayal of eroticising violence against women, and now comes with this disclaimer: "The following content is in no way to be interpreted as misogynistic or negative towards any groups of people. It is an art piece and it shall be taken as such." There is no Youtube link for the video yet, but you can watch on Kanye's official website here.

Thursday, 2 June 2011


Maybe the best thing ever.

Click for some rings, then relax.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

I'm new here.

The legendary Gil Scott Heron has died, aged 62. The details of his death are still unclear, but apparently he picked up an illness whilst visiting Europe, and was unable to recover.

Heron was often described as the "Godfather of Rap", and with good reason. During the 1970s he, along with university friend Brian Jackson, pioneered a minimalist sound of percussion underlying a poetic vocal sound. He, however, rejected this notion; "If there was any individual initiative that I was responsible for it might have been that there was music in certain poems of mine, with complete progression and repeating 'hooks', which made them more like songs than just recitations with percussion."

His music was heavily political, his musical style lending itself to his deep interest in the civil rights movement, and he became one of the first singer songwriters to personally attack the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Throughout his life he struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol, leading to a spell in jail, but this only furthered his music impetus; "When you wake up every day and you're in the joint, not only do you have a problem but you have a problem with admitting you have a problem."

Heron's final release was the acclaimed album I'm New Here, released in 2010. RIP Gil Scott Heron, 1949-2011, your influence will be remembered for a long time yet.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Folkin' Hip-Hop.

Today I have been thinking of a most interesting question. Is hip-hop folk?

Ok, that seems an odd hypothesis, but let me elaborate. First off, when I speak of folk I don't speak of the modern day Mumford & Sons et al (not that they I don't like them, just not that they're not folk). I mean the English folk tradition; songs passed down through the generations.

When I speak of hip-hop, I don't mean the modern day money-grabbers like Soulja Boy and 50 Cent. I mean the original innovaters on the streets of New York.

I make the connection for several reasons. Foremost amongst them is simply wealth. Originally folk and hip-hop were not the realm of the rich man. Both value their ability to make music with little equipment, or even skill. Many folk singers wouldn't be counted as great singers, and the same can be said of many of the most prevalent MCs. A musician could pick up a guitar, learn to play a folk classic, and sing it in any way he could. An aspiring MC could do the same, rapping over the beat of a record, or even making a simple beat of whatever is around.

In this sense they are DIY genres. Anyone can do it, at any time. Many folk songs and hip-hop tracks are even acapellas, requiring no instrumentation what-so-ever.

The next great connection is lyricism. The fast majority of pop songs these days are concerned with just two things: love and fame, maybe with the exception of Friday, which is about... erm, Friday. This is not to say that songs about these things can't be valid, or even good, but come on songwriters, have a little imagination.

Folk and hip-hop to differ in one regard, however, in that hip-hop talks about what's real to the rappers, where as an intrinsic part of folk is telling traditional stories through the music in a bardic sense. Saying that, both are trying to tell a story. Hip-hop was a revolution in American black music, and would only have been possible in that society. America stands out as a leading first-world power that continues to repress its ethnic minorities. This is not to say that racism is not evident in the rest of the world, but the rich/poor divide in America is colossal, and the vast majority of the poor population are black and hispanic. Hip-hop was thus a political expression and movement, directly relating to its community and its problems, and indeed became their only form of communicating their woes to a largely uncaring upper echelon.

I feel it's sad that the genre has lot a large part of this. Nowadays rappers mainly concern themselves with money and fame. But then hip-hop was part of a moment in time, a brief spark that ignited a new culture, and for that its effects can still be felt.

Folk, in some sense, seeks to preserve this. It's an ever-present part of traditional British music. Certain songs have been sung for generations in traditional styles and locales. They tell stories, which are often missed by the casual listener, such as 'Scarborough Fair', where a forlorn suitor is forced into a series of impossible tasks to win his/her love. Folk tells the tales of a persistent generation, hip-hop tells the story of a single but prevalent one.

I guess you can say most songs tell a story, but whilst love songs may reach an audience in some rhetorical or memorable sense, the lyrics will always contain an element of a deeply personal relation, only partly accessible to the listeners. The beauty of truly story-telling music is its ability to reach past boundaries of personal, ethnic or social nature, and thus bear relevance on any one us, and I think this is where the true comparison between the two lies.

So, in answer the question, hip-hop isn't folk, per se. Saying that though, they do have deep connections in the context of their origins and their aims. Both now have pretenders to their name, and this in itself is testament to their success. It may seem like I am simply bashing modern music. This couldn't be farther from the truth. To understand anything present, we must understand the past.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Milk and football,

Milk is great. I used to have a glass of juice with my breakfast, but now I just have milk, even if I'm eating cereal. But I digress.

The football season has thundered to a close with a dramatic finale. Blackpool and Birmingham are relegated on the last day, and both in forlorn fashion. I have to say I'm sorry to see both of these clubs go down. Birmingham as whilst it's not my favourite club (HTWL), it is my current place of residence, and I can't help but think if Scott Dann didn't get injured in January it wouldn't have happened. Blackpool because, well, who doesn't love Blackpool?

Good thing about this whole debacle is that they will both be playing Europe next season. Out. Of. Control.

In other football news, Newcastle seem to be actually making good signings this summer (if you can believe the sources), Mario was to bring his dog Lucky on the Man City tour bus with him, and then consequently failed to turn up, and Ryan Giggs cheated on his wife...

Wait, am I allowed to say that?

Anyway, here's ManUre's line-up for Saturday:

Van Der Sar
Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra
Nani, Scholes, Carrick, an unnamed professional footballer
Hernandez, Rooney.


Wednesday, 11 May 2011


With this hiatus comes a gap in bloggability. Therefore rather than back-track and post old news in new posts, I thought I'd do a brief catch-up on all the interesting stuff that's happened recently, and has thus far gone un-blogged.

I'm talking about the Tories getting into power and ensueing riots. I'm talking about disasters and nuclear power failures in the far east. I'm talking about a motherfucking Royal wedding. (Congratz). Saying that, this blog is more concerned with pretentious culture and needless anecdotes. So...

There's a lot of things that have gone on in our little bubble. Like who the hell produced Sicko Cell? (OK, it's Joy Orbison, but we were wondering for a while). And when will Far Nearer, GR Etiquette, and Getting Me Down get a god-damn release?

There was also the emergence of Jacques Greene and Kingdom, proving the UK sound has now permanently taken residence in the ears of our estranged cousins across the pond.

Saying that, the UK has been stepping up its game. The Boiler Room is reaching an all time high where its online viewers are concerned. There was that Fabriclive from Ramadanman/Pearson Sound, that banger from Julio Bashmore, and the emergence of that Scottish fella, Koreless (one of my personal faves).

Oh, and there was this annoyingly talented chap's album.

In other news: Danger Mouse has released a new album with a bunch of friends, GZA played at my local pub, and Newcastle haven't been relegated! Yet. Talking of football, just what is going on with this Mario Balotelli chap? First he's lauded as the best striker (ever) in the Premier League, then he's getting sent off left, right and centre. Finally, he's been surprising us all by giving money to tramps and stopping school bullies. Wild.

Basically, I missed lots, including doing reviews of Game of Thrones, an HBO adaptation of my favourite series of books by GRR Martin (I'll start from episode five, don't worry). So, I'll have to work hard to get this blog back in shape. Below are a few of my favourite bits and bobs from the past couple of months. Enjoy.

Everything Everything - What's My Name.

Kahn - Like We Used To.

Adele - Rolling In The Deep (Jamie XX Shuffle).

And a couple of vids:

Funny Americans.

Funny answer.

Funny Brian Cox.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Not so ephemeral afterall.

I know, it's been a while. After some well-earned pushes from a puissant proxy close to my heart, I've decided to resurrect this blog. Sorry Mr. Blog, I promise this time I'll take care of you.

Back soon!