Archive for July, 2011

July 26, 2011

Amy Winehouse shares fate 27 of the cursed rock star.

Live fast and die young – It’s better to burn out than fade away – Hope I die before I get old.  A long rock lineage encourages the bravado of the young and foolish, the self desire to indulge in one’s fate and the belief of solipsism.  All of this is never more apparent than the rock stars that have left us at the height of their fame, adding to the mythology of their own creation while tragically denying us of their brazen talent.

The 27 Club:

Brian Jones – 27

Jimi Hendrix – 27

Janis Joplin – 27

Jim Morrison – 27

Kurt Cobian – 27

Amy Winehouse – 27

Missing lyricist and guitarist from Manic Street Preachers, Richey Edwards, disappeared at the age of 27.

Satan worshiping bluesmen, Robert Johnson died at age 27.

Nick Drake and Otis Redding didn’t even make it to 27, both died a year earlier.  Syd Barrett lost his mind and receded into the Cambridgeshire suburbs at the age of 26.

Amy Winehouse, the latest 27 club casualty, shares similar psychological traits with all her fellow clubbers, although her one and only female companion on the list, Janis Joplin, could be described as a kindred spirit.  Both of them were troubled souls who often felt alone in a male dominated industry.  Infamous for their hell-raising and heavy drinking they both became submerged into a world of heroin (Janis) and crack (Amy) and consequently died through heavy consumption.  Although musically different both artists only released two albums, Joplin’s second – Pearl was a posthumous release, and both became famous and instantly recognisable because of their powerful and unique vocals, of which spawned a thousand imitators.  Like Joplin, Winehouse’s legacy will live forever and will continue to provide inspiration to many.  Unlike Joplin, Winehouse had already become a global household name before she died.

July 23, 2011

Portishead to head down under

For the first time in 14 years UK electronic visionaries, Portishead, are heading down under for a string of shows this November, headlining inaugural east coast festival, Harvest.  The festival will be held in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, with the seminal band also tipped to perform sideshows in Perth and Adelaide.

The excitement doesn’t just end there.  The touring promoters behind succesful Australian rock festivals Soundwave and Soundwave Revolution, have created a stellar line-up for their new music extravaganza.  Joining Portishead for what is surely one of the best line-ups ever assembled will be:

The Flaming Lips 
Bright Eyes
The National
Mercury Rev
Hypnotic Brass
Family Stone
Holy Fuck
Death In Vegas
The Walkmen
Dappled Cities
This Town Needs Guns
Foxy Shazam
PVT
The Holidays
Phosphorescent
Kormac’s Big Band

Harvest will offer the discernible Australian music fan a world-class line-up in beautiful park surroundings, all with a limited capacity. It doesn’t get much better than that! 

July 12, 2011

Digitalism – I love you dude……..?

Ever since the rise of Kraftwerk and the subsequent dawning of the electronic age German music has become synonymous with dance music.  Digitalism are the latest electronic act to follow this long line of tradition.  Although what Kraftwerk would make of their second album title is probably best left unsaid.  Unlike Kraftwerk, ‘I love you Dude’ suggests that the Hamburg duo are quite happy to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

While the title of the album does them no favours it certainly doesn’t represent the album as a whole, but does unfortunately reflect, at times, a certain fudged approach.  This is mostly evident on the aptly named, ‘Forrest Gump, a synth driven dirge, co-written with Julian Casablancas for Indie kudos.  The experiment, although willing, doesn’t really pay off, with the verses sounding even more soporific than Casablancas at his most uninterested.  This is a dilemma that Digitalism face throughout the album, while trying to evolve and appeal to an indie-dance cross-over audience.

Much has changed since Digitalism first appeared with their explosive remix of The White Stripes, ‘Seven Nation Army’, and their subsequent debut, ‘Idealism’ in 2007.  Mainstream dance music has merged itself with the more mellow strands of pop, electronica and disco, leaving the thumping strains of rock behind.  With their latest album, Digitalism are trying to appeal to the Friendly Fires fraternity while still keeping one foot in the rave rock camp.  Understandably it gives the album a slightly schizophrenic sound and fails to capture the true essence of either.

There are moments of clarity, ‘2 heartsand ‘Circles make a pretty good stab at radio-friendly big-beat pop.  2 hearts’, with its building keyboards and hazy synths, echoes French new wavers, Phoenix, while the stronger, ‘Circles’, captures the euphoric rush of Delphic, all squelchy bass and pounding beats.  The second part of the album has the live show in mind.  The pogoing ‘Antibiotics’ and the Higher Sate of Consciousness acid stomp of ‘Miami Showdown’ will sound thrilling in a festival setting.  Similarly, ‘Reeperbahn’ with its menacing atmospherics and chainsaw riff, will sway a sweaty, happy crowd, but its aged sound, a facsimile of 90‘s Prodigy, feels tired.

The rest of the album throws up a few more unremarkable tracks, fine in a club setting, but  lacking any real nuance to form a coherently and consistently good album.  ‘Stratosphere’, ‘Blitz’ and ‘Encore’ could all be part of the same demo, pounding beats, grinding synths, you’ve got the picture by now?  It’s not that ‘I Love you dude’ is a particularly bad album its just lost its footing in the current climate of dance cross-over, lacking a strong identity it falls betwixt and between.  Without the visionary genius or pop sensibilities of Kraftwerk, Digitalism find themselves rehashing old ideas or relying on studio production to find their place.

July 8, 2011

App to the Future! Bjork and Soulwax kickstart a new dawn.

Once upon a time there was a very simple method of releasing a piece of music.  The only consumer decision was the old-fashioned dilemma of  what and who?  Not how, why or where!  Technology, piracy and affordability has given rise to the complexities of choice in an over saturated market.  With music companies getting increasingly desperate in their attempts to market their dwindling artist fold and consumers having increasing power is it any wonder that the financial soothsayers are sounding the death knell for the mainstream music labels.

Since the explosion of web 2.0 and digital there has been a flurry of false – dawns for the industry, including the increasingly popular but ultimate short-comings of downloads and streaming.  For all the fanfare of these two embedded activities there is still a massive shortfall in revenue and a feeling of opportunity missed.  Technology was too far ahead of the game and the music business has been flailing behind ever since!

Enter the age of the app.  Feverishly popular and singularly controllable it could be the music businesses saving grace.  And get this, people are even prepared to pay for the product!   Even though apps have been around for a few years its only in the last 12 months that artists and their record labels are starting to realise the potential.  Even so, a quick scan through the hundreds of artist apps reveal very few of any discernible value , most of them are just an extension of the artist website.  Of course apps are designed, primarily, as advertising tools, but the sheer lack of creativity and cultural value is startling, so much that most of them have become instantly disposable.  Yet their capacity for invention and value is mind-blowing, offering the user a unique portal into a myriad of ideas.  But only if the artist uses the technology to its full capacity.

Bjork and Soulwax are soon to release very different apps,but both in tune with the ideals of multi-platform digi-tainment.  Bjork’s, ‘Biophillia will comprise of  ten apps under one mother app, released at separate times, all representing different themes.  These apps, with titles including; ‘Virus, ‘Moon’ and ‘Solstice’ will allow the user to explore and interact with the songs different components, even adding their own elements.   They”ll be visually, sonically and conceptually specifically designed for the iPad, as ‘Biophillia’ was partly recorded on the Apple tablet.                          

Belgian duo Soulwax have just released an epic mash-up, 24 one hour mixes that all represent a different genre of music, consisting of different albums.  Visually all the album’s covers, that have been used in the mix,  have been recreated in virtual time, complementing the pro-mash-up that we all come to expect from the innovative brothers.  The project took over 2 years to design and is available free to download, the use of so many samples would have made it a litigative minefield.  A new show will be added every week, for the next few months.

Both apps highlight the vision of the artist and their collaboration with developers and designers, maximizing the creative capacity of digital technology for the enjoyment of the user, as well as satisfying their artistic license for evolving and surprising.  Hopefully it will kick-start the industries creative thinking and slow down the proliferation of apps cynically and singularly designed for promotion.  

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