Saturday, 31 July 2010

Saturday Fun And Memories With Sometime!

One thing I certainly appreciate about music is how firmly it entrenches itself into the spirals, loops, and overpasses of one's life. It's funny sometimes how, when you hear a song that reminds you of a certain moment in your life, it somehow transports you back to that time, for both good and ill. For instance, I can't help but start misting up whenever Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" makes an appearance around me - it not only reminds me of the massive 1989 earthquake and the perm I acquired from a friend who was training to be a hairdresser, but also my first major breakup!* All in the same day! (The perm, in case you're wondering, made me look a bit like Martin Gore.) But yeah, music is funny that way. But you didn't need me to tell you that. Everybody on the planet has a song hidden in their subconsciousness that reminds them of an important, life-altering moment in their existence. Most have many such songs. As Bryan Ferry sung on Roxy Music's "Oh Yeah,"
And so it came to be our song
And so on through
All summer long,
Day and night,
Drifting into love.
I'd like to take a moment today to share with you a song that means quite a lot to me. I remember having met my girlfriend for the third time in Paris (she'd come over from London on the Eurostar), and, having said goodbye at the Gare du Nord station, I'd come back to the flat and had put on the super-stellar Supercalfragalisticexpialidocious by the Icelandic electro band Sometime. This album is so freaking good on so many levels, it's ridiculous. That being said, when "Heart of Spades," probably my favorite track off of the album, came on, something clicked in my rather sad mind.

That internal clicking was me thinking, One day, I'm going to marry that woman. Fast forward two and a half years later, and that thought is quickly becoming reality. When Diva de la Rosa sang,
The future's undecided,
Just try to have faith.
You take your chance or you will
Never know,
I felt somehow that something good would come - I just needed to be patient. So I was, and here I am. So here, from their 2007 album Supercalafragalisticexpialidocious is the heart-warming and beautiful track "Heart of Spades." I've gotta say, the video is fantastic as well - I'm always a sucker for Alice in Wonderland references.

* By the way, it was only the breakup that made me tear up, whilst on that seat having peroxide (apple pectin, I believe) applied to my hair. The earthquake and the new hairstyle were actually quite fun, in a bizarre and strange kind of way. That hairdressing friend, by the way, goes by the name Isaac and works at a fabulous hair salon in Campbell, California called Faux. If you're in the area and wish to have your hair styled, why not give them a call and make an appointment? The number is (408)378-FAUX. Go for it!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Gig Review: Midnight Juggernauts AND Empire of the Sun.

photo taken by yours truly

17 JULY 2010

The sun was out and an uncharacteristic warmth filled the British skies as the 7th annual Lovebox Festival played out over three days in Tower Hamlets' Victoria Park in East London. Me and 49,999 of my closest friends had spread ourselves out over 40 acres of music, art, food and booze and soaked up the atmosphere on an electric Saturday afternoon. The Lovebox Festival is a three day bacchanalian fiesta of the senses that was launched in 2003 by all-around badass electro-cats Groove Armada, was this year boasting such acts as Roxy Music, Dizzee Rascal, Grace Jones, Mark Ronson and the Business Intl., Paloma Faith, These New Puritans, Hot Chip, Cut Copy, I Blame CoCo (Sting's daughter), Midnight Juggernauts, and Empire of the Sun. It was freaking brilliant, it was.

In between fabulous carnival rides (The Swirly Sea was particularly awesome), drag disco cabarets, over-priced festival food and drink, bumper cars, a Royal Navy helicopter dressed up like a menacing ogre with earth-mover legs, and a giant tree house with sparkling lights, there was actually time to see honest-to-goodness live music! For your reading amusement, I'd like to review the impressive sets delivered by Australian bands Midnight Juggernauts and Empire of the Sun. Yes!

Midnight Juggernauts

May 28th of this year saw the release of Midnight Juggernauts' second album, The Crystal Axis - a hypnotic and soulful hybrid of 70s glam, soaring Ennio Morriconesque soundscapes, and spacey synths that would fit quite comfortably in anybody's music collection. It really is quite a lovely and majestic record that, I learned Saturday afternoon, lends itself very well to a live performance. I'd never seen Midnight Juggernauts live before and was, as I tend to be from time to time, rather curious as to how it would all play out. My curiosity was rewarded, and then some, by this Melbourne, Australia trio who proceeded to blow our minds at the Gaymer's Stage near the massive Tree House tucked into the tree-line. Singer and keyboardist Vincent Vendetta began by apologizing to the audience: "Sorry if we seem rather harried - we were stuck in some serious traffic and just got through the gates fifteen minutes ago!" No worries, mate. Your alleged harried-ness did not appear during your magical 80 minute set.

Launching into my favorite song from the new album, "Winds of Fortune," Vendetta, drummer Daniel Stricker, and bassist/guitarist Andrew Szekeres sounded fresh, vibrant, and completely in charge of the mood-making. To paraphrase Brian Ferry, Midnight Juggernauts let loose with a rhythm of a rhyming guitar, distinctive drumming, and sleek, trance-like synths; every note was resplendent with lushness and beauty. "Shadows" and "Road To Recovery" from their debut album Dystopia were alive and even more dynamic than their studio mixes. New songs "Cannibal Freeway" and "This New Technology" tickled the imagination as to where their music is headed - and it sounds like a wonderful, mythological place indeed. They closed their set with "Into The Galaxy," and as beach balls and straw hats (from the Cuervo Fiesta Hall) flew through the air and young women sat on their boyfriends' shoulders, everything came together with a psychedelic luster that hung invitingly in the air long after the last note was played. As Vendetta sung, "Floating to the edge of the world, floating to the edge of the sea, floating off the edge of the ocean, out into the galaxy." Well done, lads. The new album is, in my humble opinion, quite a corker. Good work!


Winds of Fortune
So Many Frequencies
Vital Signs
Cannibal Freeways
This New Technology
Road To Recovery
Into The Galaxy

And so that was that. My friends Michelle and Peter and I then proceeded to meet up with my girlfriend, who was watching Paloma Faith on the Main Stage. En route, we stocked up on some canned Tuborg and Gaymer's and then hit some of the carnival rides. One in particular, The Swirly Sea, was quite brilliant. Here's a pic:

The sun's final trip towards the Western horizon was well under way as I parted ways with my companions and headed back to the Gaymer's Stage for a show I was very much looking forward to: Empire of the Sun. When Emperor Luke Steele released his multi-faceted and innovative debut album Walking on a Dream in late 2008 (early 2009 for the US release - we always have to wait a bit longer, don't we?), it was almost as if the entire audacious idea had been hatched in the fevered dream of a long-extinct elemental deity. Sadly, Steele's partner in aural crime, Luke Littlemore, had left Empire of the Sun to return to his band Pnau late last year, but that didn't matter here.

At approximately 9:10, the spectacle began! A drummer wearing a bright blue mohawk helmet with LED lights, a guitarist all in black, and four nubile female dancers with skin-tight body suits of powder blue with large half-cubes perched on their heads took to the stage. With heavy drumbeats and an ominous synth score, two of the dancers stood on a raised dais with a golden tiger head at the rear of the stage, in front of a video screen, holding up giant black Japanese fans. As the thematic music, "The Emperor's Heart," came to a thundering crescendo, the black fans were thrown down, revealing the Emperor Steele himself, dressed in shiny black samurai's panoply threaded with silver bands and wearing his trademark sunshine headdress. The opening surf-rock guitar strains of "Standing On The Shore" floated effortlessly outward, and all of us present were thrust headfirst into the realm of the Empire of the Sun.

Empire of the Sun
photo by me

We were putty in his hands. The audience knew the words, note by note, and were more than happy to bellow the lyrics at the top of their lungs. Even for "We Are The People," the crowd was willing and able to hit the high notes of the chorus. More beach balls, straw Cuervo hats, and hula hoops flew through the air - all of which, I might add, are FAR preferable hitting you in the back of the head than, say, the half-empty plastic bottles employed by the audience at the far rowdier Wireless Festival in Hyde Park two weekends ago with LCD Soundsystem, 2ManyDJs, and Snoop Dogg.

The video screen accompanied Steele and his musical disciples with a charged display of trippy galactic visuals and fractal patterns, pausing in between songs to show detailed images of the various planets and moons of our solar system. From time to time, the dancers would run offstage and return, costume changed, as other "characters" from Empire of the Sun's videos. There were the golden-masked green vixens, the "blockheads," and then the shiny black beetle-like sentry warriors with the prisms for hands. Alas, the swordfish girls did not appear.

The space-age surf rock of "Standing On The Shore," sported an intense and extended bridge that was simply electric. "Half Mast," with its sleek, propulsive synch arrangements and driving drums, really got the crowd jumping - the urgency of the lyrics ("Hear me now, I'm down on knees and praying though my faith is weak without you") really shone in a live setting. The weird psycho-funk of "Swordfish Hotkiss Night" throbbed with menacing sensuality, Steele's dulcet falsetto filling the nighttime air with its primal energy. (No dancing swordfish girls, alas.) "King's Cross hotshot, Jesus Christ on web blog," intoned Steele darkly. The sad and bereft heartbreak of "Without You," the set's only slow number, just felt right. But when the opening acoustic chords of "We Are The People" began, the crowd went certifiably apeshit. Everybody - and do I mean everybody - sang along at the top of their lungs; even, I'm proud to say, managing to hit the high notes of the chorus: "I can't do well when I think you're gonna leave me, but I know I try - Are you gonna leave me now? Can't you be believing now?"

It was a magical evening - a flood of plain brilliant music performed with heart and passion to an enthusiastic crowd that believed in this particular Empire. Emperor Luke Steele is onto something special here, and I'm a believer. With a (rumored) second album coming out later this year, I myself cannot wait to see where the Empire is headed.


The Emperor's Heart (Intro)
Standing on the Shore
Half Mast
We Are The People
Swordfish Hotkiss Night
Delta Bay
Without You
Tiger By My Side
Walking On A Dream

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Update and Free Music From Röyksopp!

Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge, better known as the Norwegian chill-out electronica heroes Röyksopp, are incredibly busy bees these days. Just last year they released Junior, their third album (and, in my humble opinion, their finest and most complex); embarked on a fine worldwide tour promoting said album with featured collaborator Karin Dreijer Andersson, the lead vocalist of Swedish experimental electronica duo The Knife; popped up on Swedish chanteuse Robyn's fantastic new album Body Talk Pt. 1 (on the terrific song "None of Dem"); and now have a new album, Senior, coming out on the 13th of September. As Röyksopp themselves explain on their website:
"The two albums (’Junior’ and ‘Senior’) have a kinship, in that they represent Röyksopp’s two very different artistic expressions. ‘Junior’ – with emphasis on vocals, accessible melodies and harmonies, has the energy, the inquisitive temper and confident 'hey-ho, let’s go!'-attitude of youth, whereas ‘Senior’ is the introverted, dwelling and sometimes graceful counterpart – brimfull with dark secrets and distorted memories, insisting 'I’m old, I’ve got experince…'. Senior’ is furthermore an album about age, horses and being subdued – with devils breathing down your neck."
I myself find this to be excellent news! Röyksopp is on constant rotation in my household, and their albums -- The Understanding, Melody A.M., and the aforementioned Junior -- I find to be exhilaratingly gorgeous soundscapes, each with their own personality and inner rhythm. I can easily imagine Brundtland and Berge ("B+B"), with all their warmth and humor, likening them to their children. I've got to say, I'm really quite looking forward to Senior!

However, if one would like to download, for free, some new music from Röyksopp, then do I have some good news for that downloadable-music-for-free person. From now until the new album comes out, Röyksopp are giving a free song away every month. Yep, you read that correctly. A free song every month. And going all the way back to February. Here's the list of songs and their corresponding months:

February: Röyksopp -"Vision One" (Instrumental)
March: Gustavo Santaolalla - "De Usuahiah a la Quiaca" (Verson RYXP)
April: Steve Reich - "Electric Counterpoint III"
May: Röyksopp - "It's What I Want" (Instrumental)
June: Röyksopp - "Happy Up Here" (Instrumental)

... and, this month's musical piece,

July: Röyksopp - "Hus Nr. 9".

So there you have it! And when Senior is in fact released, then by all means expect a juicy review, right here on these very pages. Cheers, my friends. But until then, I'd like to leave you with the mind-blowingly off-the-charts cool video of my favorite track off of 2001's Melody A.M. It's called "Remind Me," and it quite frankly is one of the most pretty and delicate pieces of electronic warmth to exude from my speakers in quite some time. It certainly is time to reclaim it from the aggrieved-cavemen-obsessed insurance people from GEICO, that's for sure.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Electro Classic Jukebox: Icehouse.

Even though I just finished working on this Icehouse essay on their debut album Flowers, it unfortunately got back-logged to the month of May, so some new readers might not get a chance to read it. However, there's always room for more Icehouse, so I'd like to share with you one of my favorite tracks of theirs.

Originally released in 1982 on the album Primitive Man, "Great Southern Land" was subsequently re-released in the United States in 1989 on the compilation album also known as Great Southern Land. It is also, to this day, the single most popular song from Icehouse's oeuvre. It was also featured in a really really really terrible Yahoo Serious film called Young Einstein. Have you seen this "film"? I truly and deeply love and respect Australia and its citizens (in fact, I've plans on moving there later this year), but seriously (haha) - their export of Yahoo Serious should be investigated by Interpol as one of the more atrocious international crimes ever committed. He is that unfunny.

But I digress. The song in question is quite good - filled to the brim with chunky guitar riffs, hypnotic drumming, spacey sound-effects, and a beautiful, soaring synth that nicely dove-tails the whole thing, coloring everything the shade of an Australian sunset (which are quite beautiful). Iva Davies' falsetto voice finishes things off nicely as he sings of his lovely island home and of how it's been ravaged over and over again ever since it was a "prison island."
Great Southern Land, Great Southern Land
You walk alone, like a primitive man
You walk alone with the ghosts of time
And they burned you black,
Yeah, they burned you black.
Anyway, with no further ado, here is Icehouse and the gorgeous desert-set video for "Great Southern Land." Just like with INXS' "Kiss The Dirt," there are fires in the desert at night! Sounds like a great party. Enjoy, my friends. And check out that awesome goanna!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

100 Greatest Movie Insults of All Time.

Now, I know this isn't music-related in the slightest; but goddammit it's really, really brilliant. Harry Hanrahan, a film editor based out of London, England, put this absolutely hilarious and well thought-out 10 minute clip of - you guessed it - 100 of the greatest put-downs, slanders, insults, and general verbal nastiness together ... and the result is nothing short of magical. For a full list of the movies contained herein, click here.

Enjoy! (Though I must warn you, dear reader, that this is totally NSFW. Naughty language abounds in this here clip.)

Electro Classic Jukebox: INXS

Well before Sydney-based rockers INXS (though half of them hailed from Perth, WA) became super-sized stadium champions with a penchant for funk-laced rock 'n' roll (not that there's anything wrong with that), Michael Hutchence -- rest in peace, mate -- and his merry gang leaned more towards the New Wave/pop end of the musical spectrum.

They were also quite prolific during the heydays of the early 80's, having released a total of five exceptional albums from 1980 to 1985: INXS, their auspicious debut; Underneath the Colours; Shabooh Shoobah, laced as it was with tendrils of mysticism and delightful melodies (including, of course, the most-awesome track "Old World New World"); The Swing, which, quite frankly, doesn't have a single bum note on it; and Listen Like Thieves, from whence today's Electro Classic Jukebox selection comes.

"Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain)" entranced me from the first listen. I loved the rolling and playful guitar strumming, that ghostly synth that hovers imperceptibly in the background, that cool little dooboodoodoo sound, and the beautiful lyrics that tell a lovely little story about falling in and out of love, and how the whole process is actually quite good for you. And then it finishes with a healthy rock-out! The video is pretty special, as well. Filmed in one or two of Australia's many vast deserts (hey to any Aussies reading this -- anybody know which one?), it really is quite nice-looking. I love desert imagery, and the members of INXS standing and playing their instruments out in the middle of nowhere is always a nice image to behold.

So! Without further ado, I would like to show you today's ECJ: "Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain)"!

Gary Numan - Rescheduled.

It was a sad day for Gary Numan fans in North America last April when he had to postpone the United States leg of his The Pleasure Principle tour as a result of the spewing ash propelled by Iceland's temperamental Eyjafyallajökull volcano, wasn't it? Yes, it was indeed!

Luckily, he's officially come through with his rescheduling promise and, on top of that, he's expanded the original scope and will now be hitting fourteen cities, instead of the original two (plus Coachella) he had originally planned on. Rock on, Mr Numan, rock on.

Is your city on the list? Look below at the new and expanded dates of the 2010 The Pleasure Principle Tour of North America.

    Oct 17. Orlando. The Club at Firestone 578 N. Orange Ave. Orlando. FL 32801 Tickets $20 Advance. $25 on the door.Oct 18. Atlanta. The Masquerade 695 North Ave. NE Atlanta. GA 30308 Tickets $25 Advance. $28 on the door. Oct 20. Washington DC. Black Cat 1811 14th St. NW Washington. DC 20009 Tickets $25 Oct 21. Philadelphia. The Trocadero 1003 Arch St. Philadelphia. PA 19107 Tickets $24 Advance. $26 on the door. **With support: Emillie Autumn** Oct 22. Boston. Paradise Rock Club 967 Commonwealth Ave. Boston. MA 02215 Tickets $25 Oct 23. New York City. Nokia Theatre 1515 Broadway @ W44th St. New York. NY 10036 Tickets $27.50 Advance. $29 on the door. **With support: Emillie Autumn** Oct 24. Toronto. Opera House 735 Queen St. East Toronto. ON. M4M 1H1 Tickets $27.50 Advance. $30 on the door. Oct 25. Detroit. Majestic Theatre 4120 Woodward Ave. Detroit. MI 48201-2027 Tickets $25 Advance. $28 on the door. Oct 26. Chicago. Metro 3730 North Clark. Chicago. IL 60613 Tickets $25 Oct 28. Denver. Gothic Theatre 3263 S Broadway Englewood. Denver CO 80113 - 2425 Tickets $23.50 Advance. $28.50 on the door. Oct 31. Seattle. Neumo's 925 East Pike St. Seattle. WA 98122 Tickets $23 Advance. $25 on the door. Nov 1. Portland. Roseland Theater 8 Northwest 6th Ave. Portland. OR 97209 - 3607 Tickets $25 Advance. $30 on the door. Nov 2. San Francisco. The Fillmore 1805 Geary Blvd. San Francisco. CA 94115 Tickets $27.50 Nov 3. Los Angeles. El Rey Theatre 5515 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles. CA 90036 Tickets $33 Nov 4. Los Angeles. El Rey Theatre 5515 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles. CA 90036 Tickets $33

So, there you have it! If you get a chance to attend, then I would highly recommend doing so. He doesn't tour all that often, and he puts on one hell of a show. He's Gary freaking Numan, for crying out loud!

And it's The Pleasure Principle in its entirety. You gotta admit, even if you're not especially a fan of synth-pop, this is a damn fine album. Anyway, for your amusement this first of July, here's a taste. This is Gary performing "M.e" from the aforementioned album at the Wembley Arena in 1981. I think, after thirty years, it's going to sound even better! (Not to mention it's my favorite track from TPP.)