issue 4 August 08
independent music journalism
Times New Viking The Cool Kids // Stephen Malkmus // Ratatat Port Oâ€™Brien // Busy P // Fight Like Apes
Lead Feature: Times New Viking Cover shot: Loreana Rushe
4. Port Oâ€™Brien
8. That Teenage Feeling
40. Album Swap: Gareth vs. Darragh
12. Boys Noize
18. 8 Bit Music
14. Times New Viking
23. Musical Subcultures
24. Storkboy Choons
26. Busy P
48. Label Love: Kompakt
28. Ugly Megan
50. 1234567890 Achtung!: The Mysterious World of Numbers Stations
Stereolab Albert Hammond Jr the Hold Steady Patrick Kelleher Ratatat Pop Levi
30. Stephen Malkmus
Pivot the Cool Kids Minotaur Shock & more...
33. Fight Like Apes 36. The Cool Kids
Editorial Analogue began as a creative experiment in 2007, an attempt by a bunch of students to find their own writing voice and use it to speak passionately about the music they love, music which is quite frequently neglected in other Irish publications. The Animal Collectives, the Final Fantasys, the LCD Soundsystems, the Wolf Parades and the Times New Vikings of this age all need someone to write about them. Someone to relate stories of their gigs, tell of the interesting new musical sounds they’ve created and, most importantly, someone to impress upon you the listener how essential it is to give their new album a spin! For these purposes and more, Analogue was created. After three successful issues under its belt, Analogue has decided now is the right time to launch nationally. The first thing you probably noticed when you picked up the magazine is that it’s free. This isn’t some one-off offer, Analogue will always be free and available month in, month out, in your local record store or venue. Now that the country is officially in a full-blown recession, you’re going to need to save all your hard earned cash for the next time Springsteen or Leonard Cohen comes to town (this December, coincidentally). So do the economy and yourself a favour and keep reading Analogue… Highlights of this issue include interviews with ex-Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus, one of my favourite of Xl’s latest signings the Cool Kids and, of course, those art rock super fuzz masters Times New Viking. We’re also going to be trying a few new regular features over the next few issues. Musical subcultures is a new series that will explore the hidden of musical tribes in Ireland. Label love will help you brush up on which labels you should be paying attention to. The monthly Album Swap feature will have you grinning from ear to ear as two Analogue writers pick an album from their collection for each other to review. Brendan McGuirk, Analogue Editor
Staff Publisher & Editor: Brendan McGuirk Assistant Editor: Ailbhe Malone, Web Editor: Gareth Stack Features Editor: Paul Bond Reviews Editor: Daniel Gray Art Director: Garrett Murphy Design: Garrett Murphy, Brendan McGuirk, Zoe Manville Illustrations: Sarah Jane Comerford, Zoe Manville, Laura De Burca, Kathi (Ugly Megan) Photography: Loreana Rushe, Sinead Kelly, Orla Graham, Aidan Hanratty, Olwyn Fagan Writers: Paul Bond, Shauna O’Brien, Karl McDonald, Olwyn Fagan, Daniel Gray, Aidan Hanratty, Ailbhe Malone, Darragh McCausland, Gareth Stack, Ciaran Gaynor, Conor O’Neill Contact: email@example.com Website: Check out our www.analoguemagazine.com for the full transcripts of interviews, a daily blog, vidcasts and plenty more web only interviews and reviews... Demos / fan mail: Analogue Magazine, Stoneleigh, Nevinstown, CLoghran, Swords, Co. Dublin To advertise in Analogue: contact firstname.lastname@example.org / ph: 087 69 68 374
Analogue Music Magazine is published monthly by Shady Lane ltd. The opinions expressed within the magazine are those of the individual writers or the interview subjects, and not necessarily those of the publishers or the magazine as a whole. All content, copyright Analogue Music Magazine, 2008.
“Port O’Brien is the name of the site of a port on Kodiak Island in Alaska. There used to be a salmon cannery there. It’s where my parents met in the late 60s. Since then, it‘s been abandoned, bought out and boarded up probably never to be used again. I liked the image: a once-bustling community where people from all over the world would come, and now it’s been taken over by trees and it’s dissolving into the bay. Kind of beautiful.” Van Pierszalowski has a knack for writing beautiful songs about the sea. The difference between Van and the myriad others who invoke nautical themes in indie rock, is that Van is actually a fisherman. Every summer, he goes to Kodiak Island to work on his father‘s commercial salmon fishing boat. He brings his guitar. A couple of times over the course of the fishing season, he comes ashore and meets up with Cambria Goodwin, head baker at the cannery at Larsen Bay, where they put the musical fruits of their solitude together. This is largely how their album, All We Could Do Was Sing was written. They’re both Californians by origin. The contrast is stark, but inspirational. “I think that just being so isolated up there all the time just makes you focus on feelings or emotions that you wouldn’t really focus on otherwise. The dichotomy between between being away from everything, and then being in the city the rest of the year is really interesting. I think most of the inspiration comes from that, the difference there. Not just being in Alaska or being at sea, but the transition periods.” The feeling of being torn between Oakland and Alaska is something that comes across strongly on All We Could Do Was Sing. ‘Fisherman’s Son’ in particular deals with Van’s interior monologue telling him to quit fishing and find a regular job where he doesn’t have to deal with the sea. Being a fisherman’s son is more than just a job, though. You can’t just quit. It can be hard to digest this sort of earnestness when you’re used to heavily ironic or at least distanced nautical metaphors in your indie rock. Using the sea to stand in for everyday tribulations is a level of insulation for a lot of songwriters. There is no insulation with Port O’Brien. There is no literary aspect. It is basically one man’s fears in solitude.
Words: Karl McDonald Illustration: Zoe Manville
“I understand it definitely, because the sea and the ocean and ships and sailing are pretty easy metaphors to use. And have been used probably more than anything in the history of literature and music and films. I think how we’re different is maybe that we’ve actually been on boats, and been out at sea, and know how to tie knots and navigate with charts. Not saying that we’re better than them or anything, it’s just a different way, writing songs from a more literal standpoint.” But are they bothered by how affected it can be, in the sense of using it as an image? “It’s kind of annoying, I can’t really lie. So many bands, especially where we’re from, their press photos are them on a boat,” Van says, before Cambria contributes in a dismissive tone: “In sailor costumes.” “Yeah, what the fuck.” “The sea-faring thing is so trendy. If you go into Urban Outfitters, everything has anchors on it, and all kinds of sea-faring things. It’s just funny when you come from the authentic Alaskan bullshit. It’s like... that’s not really what it’s about”. “It’s a bunch of fat, macho, sexist, drunk people on boats. That’s the real situation”. What about a favourite sea-themed song? “Oh I can think of it. ‘Madeleine-Mary’, by Bonnie Prince Billy. That song is so beautiful. It’s the most haunting thing...” Cambria drifts off. The dynamics between the two, even in conversation, are interesting. They finish each others sentences all the time, but they are different. She tends to speak elusively, with a grain of feeling and three dots at the end of every sentence. Van, on the other hand, deals in definites. “‘Riders On The Storm’ by The Doors. That song kicks ass.” Chances are, if you’ve heard one Port O’Brien song, it was ‘I Woke Up Today’. It featured on their debut album, as well as All We Could Do Was Sing, and they performed it as part of a Takeaway Show in a karaoke bar in Chinatown a few months ago. It is one of those songs, brimming with the same sort of communal energy as Funeral was a few years ago, and catchier than anything bubblegum pop could throw up. There doesn’t seem to be any secret recipe, however. “It just happened to be the one we wrote that had the most potential to be that way. In the future, maybe there’ll be more like that. That song was like two chords, and so is ‘Pigeonhold’, and ‘Rooftop Song’ is three chords. We like to keep it simple.” That song’s adoption by the blogging community, along with the strength of their live show, has led to a Port O’Brien’s reputation snowballing. Playing to a fairly empty Tripod as first support for Tapes ‘n’ Tapes made it difficult to imbue their usual bustling energy. “We usually rely pretty heavily on audience participation, teaching people the lyrics to the songs and having them sing with us. This kind of separation between the audience and the band is kinda hard to do. At home we have big crowds all across the West Coast, but in the middle of the country it’s alway like this. It’s fun though.” One result of their reputation as a live band was their UK tour supporting Modest Mouse last year. “Most of the shows we played in England it seemed like most of the people were just there for Johnny Marr and they didn’t really care that much about the music. But in the US they’re like the top band.” “I kind of fell in love with him”, Cambria adds. “Yeah, I totally fell in love with him. He fell a little bit in love with Cambria too, I didn’t like that too much. We smoked his wife’s pot though, that was amazing.” That’s a pretty good rock star story. “That’s like our only rock star story. The rest of the time is just reading Star Wars books and listening to Mariah Carey in the van.” “One day on tour, we had a Mariah Carey day, and Van made us listen to E=MC2 on repeat all day.” “It was the longest drive, from San Francisco to Portland, like 13 hours. It was awesome.”
That Teenage Feeling The Genealogy Of Our Tastes In Music
Words: Daniel Gray Illustration: Zoe Manville
Adolescence, in case you’ve either forgotten yours or haven’t actually reached it yet and have heard only frightening rumours about it, is a tough time. Not only do we have to start worrying about the daunting cosmetics aisle in the supermarket and a traumatic enough spate of Miracle Gro-like bodily happenings to put Des Lynam off his hyacinths, but we have to begin the somewhat extensive job of painting our identity from top to bottom in the hope that we can invite people in and they won’t be too put off by the Pokemon wallpaper we haven’t quite gotten around to stripping off yet. For most of you reading this wonderful issue of Analogue, and for all of those who contributed to making it so wonderful, one of the main factors in our creation of our unique identities is the music we listen to, that we obsess over, scribble the lyrics of on the back of A4 pads, listen to on the bus to our school trips to Bundoran, make CDs of for our friends and bemoan wasting our childhood without. As I flicked through a dust-covered stack of diamond cases recently I realized what a vast pile of albums I’ve amassed over the past six years that I never so much as consider part of my current taste, let alone listen to. I scoffed at how I was fooled by the NME into buying Razorlight’s first album like a deaf twat. After putting the scratched CD on though I apprehended that no red-top magazine, no matter how hypnotically brainwashing, could force me to memorize every word of it, record tapes of it for my first girlfriend and make me feel as giddily happy as it did. At the time I discovered it I felt I was on to something nobody else was, because nobody in my year knew Johnny Borrell from the next banjax-faced longhair.
And as “Up All Night” spun through it’s hackneyed and halfarsed pop-rock a sadness that I couldn’t attribute to the masochistic audience I was granting the music began to come over me. The more I reminisced about this album, and about the pile of albums in front of me (including oeuvres from Franz Ferdinand, The Thrills, Keane, and that seminal teenage-dreams band Ash) the more and more I felt a niggling echo in my chest: I have connected with so few albums and so few bands the way I connected with those in front of me. It wasn’t a case of sepia-tinted glasses, where I hyperbolized my affection for long-forgotten listening experiences - I truly obsessed about these bands and about their songs, every aspect of their songs in a way I have done with only the most extraordinary of bands since my taste became less singularly devoted to what Conor McNicholas and his evil hack-drones dictates. I’ve swallowed up Kraftwerk, Funkadelic and Jurassic 5, sure, but these are bands with massive catalogues of even-more-massively acclaimed albums. Keane were, on the other hand the sound of wet paint drying. And yet I was as zealously attached to their Hopes and Fears as I am to Trans-Europe Express now. Why has my attachment to bands faded as my infatuation with music as a whole has grown? Is it a case of casting too strong a critical eye on anything remotely hyped as better-than-decent? Was my early experience of music just a giddy headrush that has worn off over time? Growing cynicism, adaption to the instant gratification culture of the internet, too much music and too little time? I had to find out what other’s experience from their adolescence up in their relationship with their music is. And who better to ask than the most zealous of the zealots, the other Analogue writers themselves.
Q. Do you feel you had more of an honest, or a more direct connection with music when you were younger than you do now? A. “Yes and no. While there was a youthful playfulness of listening to and enjoying the chart hits of the time, I can’t escape the fact that I was mainly listening to the music I was being force fed by radio playlists. There may be an element of snobbery to my tastes nowadays, but at least I know I’m seeking out and listening to the music I want to hear, rather than blindly accepting what’s shoved in my face (or ears).” “No it was more of innocence, not knowing the bigger world of music out there at the time “ “Yeah, I remember getting really dizzy and almost nauseously excited the first time i heard Kung Fu by Ash.” “I think I connected way more with lyrics then than I do now. I have actually rooted out my diaries from when I was young, and there’s a ‘meaningful lyrics’ section. Contained are these gems ‘You were there for summer dreaming/ and you are a friend indeed/ and I know you’ll find your peace now/ in eternity’ (Robbie Williams- Eternity).” “At first, yeah. Every song on an album is important when you only have ten CDs, and you know the words inside out, and it kind of feels like the band belongs to you. That faded a bit, but I’m trying to get back to it.” “Absolutely. Music, just like romantic attraction, is a million times more real when you’re 14.” “No. I think there’s just a sort of nostalgia that goes with the music you listen to when you’re younger. I think maybe I used to pay more attention to lyrics when I was younger.” “Not when I was a young teen (13-14) but when I was 15-16 I used to get really caught up in albums, so much so that’d I’d listen to them over and over again. I got a real emotional response from them, which I never really get anymore (or at least very rarely).” I remembered buying every single CD I flicked through; the shop I bought it from, the reason I bought it, the excitement listening to it the first time. I remembered scrounging enough pennies to buy the Killers’ Hot Fuss the day it came out on the back of “Mr. Brightside”, and poring over Anton Corbijn’s artwork, picking up the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds because Interpol’s Antics was delayed and I needed something to review for a Transition Year project, and being venemously irksome when the shop assistant behind a Golden Discs counter had no idea who Editors were, let alone why their album wasn’t in. I have very few CDs or vinyl from the bands I’ve been turned on to over the last year or so, as the internet has become my choice outlet. There’s no sense of hype generated by a magazine or by a pre-release video on MTV2, by Jenny Huston on 2FM or by a massive shop display because I tend to find the songs weeks before their release. Blogs, band’s sites, Myspace, the Hype Machine, and Last.FM recommend something I like the sound of, and I’ll have it within half an hour. Was my earlier appreciation of music more devout because of the channels through which I discovered it?
Who introduced you to the bands and the music you liked then? (Parents, family, friends, TV, magazines?) “My parents never “forced” much music on me – neither of them were what you’d call enthusiasts – and my brother had his own tastes but kept them to himself, so mainly I found music on the radio. By my mid-teens I was buying dance music magazines, but back in the days before blogs music wasn’t as easily accessible.” “My cool cousin Robert. Despite being only a year older than me, he had a ticket to the 1994 Dublin Nirvana show, and listened to Dinosaur Junior and Stone Temple Pilots. He even had an actual record player, and only ever bought vinyl.” “Dave Fanning, and the band names written on the canvas bags of kids in school who were cooler than me” “MTV!” “My mam and My Uncle Tony were huge factors. My Mam comes from the Talking Heads, David Bowie, Mamas and Papas end of music, and my uncle was mad into Brit Pop and Punk. And both of them have an unhealthy obsession with Bruce Springsteen.” “My mother was a big Dylan fan, and I just always loved music” “Ray-dee-yo. Seriously. All we used to do was text in. Also, I harboured a secret love for Bob Dylan (thanks Da) and 60’s pop (thanks Ma). “ “Friends were pretty important, but I read Q and occasionally NME and Hot Press from 14 on, so I was building my own immature picture of what was cool and what wasn’t cool to like. That gave me the notion that a finite number of deadly bands exist, and that the way to get to them is through buying music magazines.” Of course, not every album or band I loved four or five years ago has left me. I have progressed from the bands I loved to the bands they loved. My love for Franz Ferdinand has transferred directly onto Gang of Four, the Fall and Wire, every second I spent on “Is This It” I have replaced with a minute of “Marquee Moon”. The type of song that appealed to me in my early music-listening history has graduated greatly, as it takes more and more to hold my interest. Very few of those bands I listened to survive outside of my iPod’s shuffle mode, but I can recognize that little pieces of what I loved about them, whether witty lyrics or fat-arsed synth sounds, crop up in the songs I love now.
Q. Can you trace elements in the music you listen to now back to the music you listened to way back when?
Q. Which are the acts that you have stuck to liking since you were young? What makes these so durable, do you think?
A. “When I was growing up, you were either a raver or a grunger. If
A. “Dandy Warhols-they’re like musical family. You can fall in and
you were a “raver” you listened to Cypress Hill, NWA and Body Count
out of love with them but youre stuck to them.”
- none of which could under any circumstance be termed rave. Grungers listened to rock, grunge, sixties and indie. Though my musical taste has been well crowbarred open since, I guess I still listen to
“I’d still spin the first Ash album because it has the same timeless youthful vigour as stuff like the Undertones”
much more instrumental than electronic music, and my knowledge of hip hop is limited to early and ‘underground’ acts.” “Some elements, I’ve come to really enjoy instrumental music which I think I can trace right back to Smashing Pumpkins and their style and approach to writing.” “Definitely from when I was 16 or older. When I was 16/17, I had Pavement, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo and Jeff Buckley on heavy rotation. Looking at the bands I’ve been listening to over the last week on iTunes I can see a connection. I still love slightly weird indie rock that occasionally has heavy parts like Wolf Parade, White Denim and Times New Viking but I’ll also listen to folky slow burners like Bon Iver, Le Loup and Beirut.” “Yep. Human error. I still haven’t come to terms with dance music fully. “ “I still listen to a lot of it, so yeah, I guess. I’m a sucker for a melody and a call and answer chorus. Though I probably wouldn’t’ve listened to half the stuff I listen to now when I was younger. I liked an easy listening experience, no growers thanks.” “Yeah, I love melody and I always liked the more melodic stuff in the metal spectrum” “Yes. A good hook, a stupid lyric always gets me” There are some CDs in the less dusty, beside-the-bed-foreasy-access pile that I bought four or five years ago. Eels, Low, and Modest Mouse remain. These survivors are strangely predominantly those I picked up as the least-favoured of a three-for-one deal, or a half-price sale I couldn’t say no to, but I realized I enjoyed at least as much as, erm, Kaiser Chiefs. Some loves, like Bright Eyes and Grandaddy sprung up from emoticon-heavy MSN conversations, or recommendations from my tastemaking English teacher. The fanboylike collection of Bruce Springsteen bits and bobs are direct inheritances, both taste and material-wise, from my mother. I loved him as a kid, loved him as a teen, and still love him now (still as a teen, though only for another six months). Why are some acts timeless in my taste while others have worn thin? Personally, I still discover layers of sounds and new levels of meaning, and appreciate different aspects of the artistry of bands more multi-faceted like Low and Grandaddy that I didn’t have the capability of picking up on when I was more used to inyer-face guff like Hard-Fi. I rarely listen to bands for the memories they evoke, but approximately one night in every three months I’ll throw an older album on for pure nostalgia (can I be nostalgic when I’m only nineteen? Course.)
“Very few. The ones I still actually listen to from that time either stopped making records long before I was born (sixties stuff), or started making terrible records after a certain point (Counting Crows). “ “I still listen to Nirvana every now and then. They are still legitimately good. They are durable in a general sense because kids start liking them for the same reason I did, but for me, I started to hear different things in them when I went back to them a few years ago. Heavy means a couple of different things, and Nirvana are all of them. And poppy too in their way, which helps.” “Pavement, My Bloody Valentine and Elliot Smith. What makes them so durable? I guess it’s because they each have such an original sound and when you listen to them there’s just something that makes you want to hear the album the whole way through in the right order.” “Well I never listen to Smashing Pumpkins anymore, apart from the odd rare b-side or two. Or any other bands from that time for that matter.” Unsurprisngly, everybody’s backstory and how they got to the hetereogenous cocktail of what they drink up today is completely different. It is clear that there are direct links between the DNA of those bands at the top of our music-listening family tree to those alive today. Like all family gene pools, of course, there are some molecules we’d rather delete. As Razorlight finished rotating I could embarrassedly find nothing to appreciate the album, or trace any function it has in my life now other than to allow me to distinguish between an aural pile of excrement and what to me is now “good music”. While in another five years I may well be writing about how nausea-inducing Animal Collective are to me and disparaging my once-upon-a-time love for Built To Spill, I feel while I may have sometimes a less emotional response to the music I listen to know, but a far greater sensoral and intellectual connection to it. And I’m still looking forward to Franz Ferdinand’s third album.
“indie you can hug”
Available@www.indiecater.com only 4.50 euro
Boys Noize Words: Olwyn Fagan
Alex Ridha is a stylish man. Dressed impeccably when Analogue meets him, he is quite simply pretty fucking cool. Counting Tiga, Erol Alkan and 2manydjs among his mates, Alex, AKA Boys Noize has sky-rocketed to fame in the past couple of years as one of the most exciting producers of our era. He released his debut album Oi Oi Oi in 2007 with Oi Oi Oi Remixed following in 2008. Not only that, but between pretty much constant DJing and touring he took the time to compile the Bugged Out: Suck My Deck compilation which was released earlier this year. Phew! No rest for the wicked, as they say. Analogue caught up with said noise-machine for a quick chat before his set at Sonar to discuss music blogs, electro and the art of remixing. First off hello! Helloooo! You released Oi Oi Oi last year and Oi Oi Oi Remixed this year, which would you say are your favourite remixes on the album? Probably the Feadz one, the Apparat one, the Para One one and the ATrak one as well
When given a track to remix what approach to you take? Do you try to improve on it or simply try a different take on the original? Well first off I decide whether or not I like the track! And if I like it, Iâ€™ll get some ideas right away. For me a good remix brings back the vibe of the original but in a new dress so to speak. I like it when the music is completely different but still gives [the listener] a sense of the original. Does the approach you take to remixing a track differ when the artist in question is somebody you know as opposed to an artist youâ€™re unfamiliar with? No, not at all. I actually just did a remix for a friend, Housemeister. The only hard thing with remixing is dealing with techno tracks because most of the tracks only have one theme. You have to work with just that instead of having different parts such as vocals or guitars or other stuff which can be a good inspiration as they give you something to fuck around with. I normally just do what I feel like. I never feel I have to do something in particular.
You’ve remixed indie artists as well, Feist and Cut Copy being good examples. Would you say you have quite an eclectic taste in music? Yes, totally. I listen to everything and look at myself as a musician. I played drums and piano so I’m interested in all music. I listen to anything, even classical music and hip hop.
As a DJ, producer and electronic artist, how do you feel about music blogs giving away tracks for free? For me it’s a love hate kinda thing. I must say because one the one hand it can be a good promotion for you because you never know how many people it’s gonna reach, you know, new people who normally wouldn’t be exposed to your music. But on the other hand there’s no filter of what is good and what is bad. You know, you might see one quality track on the blog and then a really crappy one just underneath. The kid who runs the blog could be about 17 years old so doesn’t really know all that much about music. I think your taste gets better as you grow older and you learn more about music. There’s just so much shit out there, and that’s what I don’t like about it.
Electro’s been given quite a slating of late, with many journalist accusing artists of sounding samey, of the music becoming stale. Do you think this is true or do you think electro will continue to progress? Well I don’t really pay attention to anybody who says that. For me electronic music is something that Kraftwerk started, and you’ll never get bored of a drum machine or a synth, or an 808, which is the classic drum machine. It’s about electronic beats, which will be around forever. At the moment it’s just a case of what’s hot and what’s not. For me, even with indie, electro and of course with guys like Justice at the moment, with any kind of art, there’s a handful of guys who do something exciting or fresh, or maybe innovative which is the most difficult thing. For me electronic music is nothing new, it’s not going anywhere.
How did you get into electronic music yourself? Would you say it was a natural progression from being into music? Yeah, I played drums for 5 years when I was young, so you could say I was always into beats. Then I broke my arm and couldn’t play anymore so I started buying records and got into turntablism. That’s when I started to develop an interest in electronic beats. I had a little programme at home when I was like 14 so I started sampling beats from records. I think that by now, I know a lot about electronic music but when I got into it, I was only putting together shitty tracks at home. Then, when I was 16 I built a studio with a friend (known, by now, to the rest of us as D.I.M.) and learnt a lot about engineering and all that. But in terms of listening to electronic music, I think I liked it before I actually knew what I was listening to. I have a brother who is ten years older than me and he had all the first house and acid records in the 80s. I’d listen to it at home with him, and liked it, even though I wasn’t really aware of what it was.
In terms of making of tracks and playing live do you use more hardware or software? Well in my studio I try to use as much hardware as possible. I have loads of drum-machines, synthesizers and compressors at home. For me, it’s more fun to produce with that and to generate beats out of a machine and generate those sounds, turning knobs while you record, than just clicking. Of course I also use samples but for me it’s definitely more fun to use hardware. I’m not sure using hardware actually makes for better music because you can do great things with software these days but the sound from a real instrument is a bit warmer, you know. And there’s more movement, more freedom to change things as you record. When playing live do you try and play different stuff to the kind of thing you release on your albums? Well I never really made the step to playing live sets because I don’t like the idea of being on stage with a laptop. My only other option would be to bring all my machines, but of course that’s a pain in the ass when you’re traveling and of course, there’s always the risk that the machines would get broken. But I think playing solely from a laptop is horrible to look at, for me personally anyway. Also I’ve been DJing for a long time, and it comes quite easily to me so I think I can do more live elements with 3 CD players, 2 vinyl, some effects and a mixer and it’s more exciting for the audience too. I’ve spoken to many people about this and like even Dave and Stephen from 2manydjs were like, “Please, continue doing what you’re doing. That’s the best way.” They’re totally right. Yeah, audiences don’t really want to see a DJ clicking away on his laptop. Yeah. But loads of artists can claim to be playing live when they could just as easily be playing a pre-made mix off their laptops. Yeah, that’s totally true. You have this laptop, you have your programme and your tracks and all you have to do is click. That’s not what I’d like to see if I were in the crowd. So for me playing a set is really a mixture between DJing and playing live. What I play really depends on where I’m playing. For tonight, I don’t know. I’m not sure if I’m gonna play that many of my album tracks. I’ll see how I feel because you know at this stage I’ve already played them so many times but when I play festivals I kind of have to play my own stuff because that’s what people come to see. It’s different when I’m playing a club. I mean I still play my own tracks but probably would throw in some newer ones. Are there any artists or producers that you rate at the moment? Housemeister. He just played his first gig with us last week in Fabric. We had a Boys Noize label night. He played the best set, I was so happy about it! He’s a really great DJ. Feadz is a great producer too and Jackson of course. He’s a good friend of mine and lives in Berlin. But there aren’t really that many unfortunately.
Times New Viking Words: Darragh McCausland Photography: Loreana Rushe
If art and rock were two circles forming a venn diagram, the zone where they intersect might contain that curious rag-bag of bands who, for one reason or another, are stuck with the art-rock label. It’s home to both the sublime (Talking Heads, The Velvet Underground) and the ridiculous (Fischerspooner anyone?). The relationship between art and rock comes to mind ahead of, and throughout, a conversation with Times New Viking. After meeting in Colombus Art School 2005, this three piece have knocked out three ridiculously good albums in quick succession, ‘Dig Yourself’, ‘Present the Paisley Reich’ and this years muchpraised ‘Rip It Off.’ What is common across all three albums is how the band defiantly buries short, punchy pop songs, sung by drummer Adam Elliot and keyboardist Beth Murphy, in such a maelstrom of feedback, tape-hiss, and distortion that listening to them can sometimes feel like assault and battery. It’s divisive stuff. For some, it’s an indulgent, pretentious mess. But for those converted by it, Times New Viking create some of the most tangible and thrilling music around at the moment, a hissing wonderland where noise is king and melody its subject. Analogue meets them ahead of a recent show in Andrew’s Lane Theatre. The band are accompanied by their almost horizontally laid-back and beardy friend Matt, who guitarist Jared Philips (jokingly?) remarks “is pretty much always on acid.” Since they were abandoned by their bus driver “for a fucking Bruce Springsteen concert” somewhere in Britain, Matt has been driving and helping them out on the road. He also fronts a band, not unlike Times New Viking, called Psychedelic Horseshit, which is possibly the best band name since ‘Congratulations on Your Decision to Become a Pilot’ (look it up). As the interview gets underway Jared is making his first tentative dent into a bottle of Jameson. It will be polished by the end of tonight’s gig, when the band will leave the stage with so much feedback hissing and squealing around their dropped instruments that the venue sounds like a pig pen invaded by rattlesnakes. His physical appearance (notably, eyes that move around independently of his head, not unlike an action man doll) and his mannerisms lend him a sort of outward edginess that is often softened by a warm humour when he banters with his band mates. Diving in at the deep-end, Analogue rolls out the obvious lo-fi question first. Why wilfully thrash and distort such robust pop melodies? Jared replies, “partly it’s a way of recording, constantly trying to mix things so they are constantly louder, and continuing to do that until it’s as loud as possible.” It would seem from this response that noise, and lots of it, is of paramount importance in the Times New Viking universe, and because they are blessed with such a strong pop sensibility they can perhaps do things with noise that other generic noise groups can’t. But how much control is exerted over their often wild and ad hoc sounding distortion? For example does something get this messed up in a very deliberate and planned way? “Some of it’s choice. Some of it’s happy accidents” is Jared’s slightly disengaged answer. At this point the puppyish and smiling Adam lopes in. “He can answer all the fucking questions” he jokes, nodding to Jared. “I’m just gonna drink some alcohol.” He soon joins in, though. Both of them have trouble with the term lo-fi. It’s a label that doesn’t sit well with them, perhaps after so many lazy comparisons to other bands. At different points in the interview they mention Sebadoh and Guided by Voices (whose earlobe-molesting Vampire on Titus, is in fairness, an apt comparison). Jared remarks, “lo-fi, what does that even mean? That has so many different connotations. I mean for the bands where we come from, lo-fi equals a type of sound. With us it’s more like DIY where you record it yourself. We might have been different if we had older people teach us how to use GarageBand [music making software] or if we went to music school or something.” For Adam, making music is a fun, hands-on affair and he bridles at the thought of GarageBand. “That’s like fucking math. How can that be fun? Twisting nobs and not playing instruments. Fuck that man.” Jared jokes, “yeah, then instead of calling [the album] ‘Rip it Off’, we’d have to call it ‘Sample It Up’ or something.” Perhaps the lazy indie comparisons frustrate the band because they did not form in the traditional manner of a bunch of kids who wear their sonic influences on their sleeves and rock out in a garage night after night. It’s clear that while they superficially happen to sound like it, they are simply not that influenced by the early 90s indie sound. Adam mentions that the nascent 80s lo-fi scene (primarily in New Zealand) was more relavent to them. The current indie scene is then brought up when Analogue mentions Bradford Cox’s recent pop at how insipid he finds current indie music
and his apparent abhorrance of Vampire Weekend and Yeasayer. What do they think? The news brings on a veritable orgy of whoops and high fives, followed by shouts of “fuck yeah” and “that’s our Bradford.” “That’s fuckin’ rad” proclaims Matt from Psychedelic Horseshit, “Bradford’s like us. He knows where we’re coming from. He’s a country boy.” Yikes. Never mind Obama and McCain. It would appear from recent Analogue interviews that the battle lines are being drawn for a bloody civil war of attrition in American indie; the sophisticated Brooklyn preps versus the raggedy small town noise terrorists. “Yeah, that’s sort of what we are about,” says Jared. “That’s a part of what we are doing. I’m not going to say we make records just to make reactions against you know, bands like the Shins or whatever…” He’s interrupted by Adam. “You know what we should call this tour?” he laughs, “we should call it the ‘Fuck Yeasayer’ tour.” It would appear that Times New Viking do not see themselves as part of the current indie establishment. Indeed, as the interview progresses, it’s apparent that in spite them now being a touring rockgroup on a major indie label (they were recently signed to Matador), much of their influences and ideas have their seeds in art. The rock band thing may have grown from an extended expression of a previously shared aesthetic. As Jared points out early in the interview, “I mean, we started out in art school trying not to be a rock band, and then we realised we could write and play songs.” Do they see themselves as an Art Rock band? Jared agrees to an extent, saying, “I think that’s where a lot of the ideas came from. I mean all the things in art we’ve done, we see that in all the music we liked.” How so? “you know, the reproduction of something else. You know I think the whole idea of print-making and stuff like that, reproduction, it all feeds in.” Here, it’s hard not to think of their press shot, which is a sort of deteriorated photocopy of a band photo, coloured over with flourescent marker. This too, ties in with what they are saying. They have an awareness that modern rock can only really be about copying what’s been done before and somehow customising it in your own small way. In case there was any remaining doubt that these guys are conceptualists, Adam expounds further, casually dropping the names of a few 20th century art-movements into the mix “I think most of the art that we like, the bauhaus stuff and Dada, its about taking a concept and making it a part of your life.” Towards the end of the the interview, a kettle in the green room suddenly starts to hiss and whistle. The dictaphone recording things is unfortunately postioned beside it. This brings on a spate of jokes about how the interview playback will be apt for a band so noted for their banjaxed tape hiss. Jared then asks Adam to “turn it off man. Hey, that’s what this album should be called. ‘Turn It Off’.” This is as good a point as any to ask why the record is called Rip it Off? “It just sounds fucking cool. Don’t you think it sounds cool?” is Jared’s flippant response. He’s right, though. It does sound cool, like a punkish call to arms or an incitement to do something edgy or illegal. But surely there was more to naming it than that? In light of what they said about art, were they trying to second guess hacks who might accuse them of ripping other acts or a certain sound off? “Yeah perhaps,” Jared replies. “It was also meant to be a multi-faceted title. Nowadays, if there’s anything you want, you can rip it off the internet.” He elaborates further. “For the new generation or whatever, I think the idea of plagiarism has lost its negative connotation. Like if you look through the 40s, 50s and up through the 80s, everything’s already been done. So you might hear a song, and you might wanna play a song like that. Well, then you learn the chords and you rip it off. But what you add to it is your own time and place.” By now, the title that was just “fucking cool” mere seconds ago is aquiring more layers of subtext than Animal Farm. Finally, Jared somehat wearily refers back to the whole early 90s comparison. “Plus, everyone is like ‘oh they sound like the early 90s’, so yeah, that too.” Rip it Off. Who could have thought those three little words carried such a weight of meaning? It’s doubtful Oasis pondered as long and hard before coming up with Definitely Maybe. But that’s Times New Viking for you. They may be taking a gloriously trashy and messy drive through the rock landscape, but there is a very purposeful collective intellect behind the wheel.
that had a little table in the back, sit there with your laptop and work on shit, that was really cool. So I had probably 30 or 40 beats before we went into the studio ready to go.” Once the beat is there, the boys take a DIY approach to assembling the track, as they “just start playing over it, whatever instruments that are around, and when something sounds good record it, and then start playing another instrument over the top,” and so on. With LP3 however, a number of tracks have grown out of a more delicate approach: “there was a bunch of songs that we started with piano parts or organ parts or something rather than beats.”
RATATAT Words: Aidan Hanratty New York-based duo Ratatat have come a long way in the last few years. Two albums, two remix compilations and a few international tours have seen their profile grow and grow, and with the release of their third album, that trajectory does not look like stopping any time soon. I spoke to producer/synth wizard Evan Mast soon after the band finished a brief tour of the southern hemisphere. “It’s a crazy feeling – that’s about as far away from home as you can possibly get, it’s pretty amazing to go there, that people will actually show up to see a show.” This is not the first time that they have travelled this far: “we played there like a year and a half before that, planting seeds there, and the crowds are getting a little bigger.” In Australia the boys found themselves paired up by the promoter with “a band called Regurgitator. I don’t think they’re really known outside of Australia, but they’re huge over there, they’re like a big 90s rock band, like the Soundgarden of Australia or something.” On the other end of the scale, they supported a little known French act called Daft Punk last year. “I got to hang out with Thomas after the show, super nice guy, really cool guy.” Evan was very impressed with the family atmosphere the robots maintained backstage, with friends and family joining them on tour. Around the same time, Daft Punk produced a short mix for Luis Vuitton’s Autumn collection, in the middle of which they dropped Ratatat’s Lex. “It was amazing. I’ve been a fan of Daft Punk for years, so to have them use one of our tracks in that DJ set, yeah that was pretty huge.” Not only that, but, in an interview with Pitchfork, Daft Punk namechecked the New Yorkers as one of their favourite acts of the moment. “I was just kind of blown away by that.” All of this couldn’t help but bring attention their way, so what better time to get working on a new album. Due out this summer, LP3 is a shimmering mixture of sounds from across the world, no doubt inspired by their extensive touring over the last two years. “I was watching a lot of movies before we went into the studio, I was listening to all kinds of music.” Mast does not necessarily look to other artists for a starting point, more than that it seems a question of listeners finding shades of influences at the other end. “I think it just comes out, it’s really hard to trace. You make songs, and there’s new sounds and new ideas coming out.” As far as the production process is concerned, it’s an organic process from start to finish. Sitting on a tour bus isn’t all about sleeping for some people, as Mast found himself putting together an assortment of drum beats as building blocks for what would become the next album. “We had all those times in the tour van, this amazing van
Another venture which has brought a lot of attention their way is their series of hip-hop remixes, something which, despite their distance from the community, is borne out of hip-hop itself: “I think the hip-hop community is open to that kinda thing, they put out twelve inches with just the acappella on the B-side, so they’re expecting people to use it as mashups in their DJ sets or whatever. I think it’s pretty much in line with what they’re expecting.” He imagines that to date most artists are unaware these remixes exist, but even so it’s not something that their labels will need to fight off. “I’m sure if we were printing up proper CDs and selling them for 12 bucks at amazon.com they would have something to say about it, but we’re not really making money off it.” Their approach to creating these remixes is a little different, as they “come together much more quickly, cause you can get away with a lot of repetition in a hip-hop track. I feel like our hip-hop remixes are like a third of the ideas of a Ratatat song.” Experimenting outside of their own material also affords them the opportunity to have more fun and indulge in a certain level of playfulness. “Making those songs a lot of times it was more about just trying to understand hip-hop production,” as well as attempting “certain things where you might pull a cheesy little drum drop, it’s sort of a hip-hop thing that we wouldn’t do in a Ratatat song, but it works in that context.” When I asked him about how each remix came about, he was refreshingly honest: “Initially, the first mixtape, is a lot of stuff we just did for fun. A lot of it wasn’t really songs we were into, for the sake of someone rapping on the beat we used what we had. We got a little pickier with the second one but I wasn’t that into that Kanye West track that was on the second one [Diamonds], but it worked really well with the beat.” While these remixes may have slipped under most artists’ radars, there are some who have expressed an interest: “We did an interview with Beanie Sigel a couple of years ago after we made the first mixtape, and he had heard the track and I guess was really into it. And I’d heard through a friend that Bun B was really into the second volume. But I never really trust when I hear stuff. If I ever meet Bun B and he tells me directly that he likes it I’ll be happy.” Ratatat’s last performance in Ireland came at the Electric Picnic in 2007, a bizarre experience for the band. “We arrived on the day that we played so we didn’t get to see a whole lot, we pretty much just played. It was insane, we played in Barcelona at 5 in the morning or something, and got on a plane and flew to Electric Picnic and had an afternoon set there, so we were completely delirious for the rest of that evening.” That is not to say his brief stay in Stradbally was anything other than positive. “We met some really weird dudes backstage who were just talking non-stop, it was a really weird night actually.” As for their next performance in Ireland, who knows? “I haven’t really seen the upcoming tour schedule yet, but I think there’s a pretty good chance of us coming back to Dublin. If not in July then in the fall for sure.” Here’s hoping.
8 Bit music Words: Paul Bond Illustration: Zoe Manville
Have you ever heard the Russian folk tune ‘Korobeiniki’? If you think the answer is no, you’re probably wrong, for one hundred and twenty eight years after it was written it became the theme-tune, ‘Music A’, to one of the greatest and most popular video games ever made: Tetris. It has since infiltrated popular culture to such an extent that it is instantly recognisable to millions worldwide and is probably the most famous video game theme music ever composed. Of course the version so many of us are familiar with isn’t played on fiddle and accordion, or accompanied by some jaunty Russian singing. We know the 8bit version. Just like so many other classic video game tunes, the 1989 Game Boy version of Tetris was composed using simple tone generation to simulate instruments for melodies and used a ‘noise channel’ for simulating percussion. These are the bleeps and beeps that have since become known as the 8bit sound, yet this particular style of music hasn’t been solely confined to the realm of gaming fans. The first half of 2008 saw the rise and fall of the popularisation of the 8bit sound. Unlike the popular mainstream’s previous annexations of video game culture and music which was certainly tongue-in cheek, this time these 8bit tones infiltrated pop culture through music, and were accepted as a serious and viable, yet still eccentric, musical style. This operation was spearheaded by Crystal Castles, a Canadian twosome that tapped into popular culture’s love-hate affair with the retro video game, and capitalised on this infatuation by layering their intense, rumbling and glitchy songs with 8bit tones and samples. Although there has been a vibrant and growing community of professional acts and amateurs alike who have used the sounds and technology of old consoles to create original pieces for roughly two decades now, they have largely gone unnoticed. These communities have grown exponentially since the rise of the Internet with sites such as 8bitpeoples.com becoming music label, artist gallery and community hub all in one. Yet these communities have railed against Crystal Castles and a number of other bands who use similar 8bit sounds. Nonetheless, through Crystal Castles’ reputation for incendiary live shows and their punk image they suddenly made 8bit music extremely hip and cool, and hence took the indie and popular press by storm.
jority of these 8bit acts inspiration comes from the games created in the late-eighties which spawned the major points of reference for video game music. It was at this time that classic theme tunes were written including; Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, Koichi Sugiyama’s Dragon Quest, Hirokazu Tanaka’s Metroid and Kid Icarus, Martin Galway’s Times of Lore and Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy, to mention only a few. Yet the legacy of these composers is also found in Crystal Castles. Although they do not define themselves as an 8bit or chiptune band, their sound is certainly routed in this style. This is possibly the reason why they have become so popular, because they do not endorse video gaming culture wholeheartedly but merely use it as a means to an end for creating new, exciting music. For all popular culture’s embracement of geekdom, there is still a lingering tint of wariness when it comes to gaming. Just cast your thoughts back to the major moral controversies video games have produced, with titles such as Doom, the Manhunt series and of course Grand Theft Auto all adding fuel to the anti-gaming pyre. Yet mainstream culture also has a tradition of poking fun at gamers and the gaming community, just look at the legendary and hilarious South Park ‘World of Warcraft’ episode if any confirmation is needed. So maybe Crystal Castles’ 8bit style of music is only acceptable to a wide audience because it does not fetishise retro games and celebrate gaming culture, unlike other 8bit acts, but merely exploits it. Either way we should always remember what Shigeru Miyamoto, Mario creator and Nintendo guru, said “Video Games are bad for you? That’s what they said about Rock ‘N’ Roll.”
However the mainstream rise of the 8bit sound has since been marred by two controversies which have tainted Crystal Castles and their 8bit electro-rock genre. Firstly allegations were levelled against the band of using artwork created by the artist Trevor Brown for tshirt designs, 7” covers and other commercial uses without his permission. Secondly and more importantly a controversy arose over Crystal Castles sampling of a number of 8bit acts such as Lo-Bat and Covox. Although the music these bands produced was made available under a Creative Commons license, Crystal Castles were accused of sampling their songs without providing due acknowledgement and of remixing the songs and profiting from the subsequent tracks. All actions which break the terms of the Creative Commons license. But being judge and jury in convoluted copyright cases is not the aim here. Instead we should consider the ramifications of critics and popular opinion alike taking the 8bit sound to heart in the first place and how they accepted it as a serious musical style. It is in itself an infinitely more interesting and culturally resonant style than most modern fads. It has its roots in the second generation gaming consoles, in particular the innovative NES, which provides a lot of musicians who use this sound with the technology to create their work. For the ma-
Words & Photos: Olwyn Fagan
With Irish festivals becoming ever more expensive as the years go by, the latest trend for many music fans is to hop on a Ryanair flight to some European destination or other and spend their hard-earned euros on something a little bit different. By combining designated holiday time with their summer festival quota, punters are hitting two birds with the one stone with the added bonuses of guaranteed sunshine and a lesser risk of being robbed/beaten/exploited by promoters than at certain other events closer to home. Analogue set off to sunny Barcelona this year to check out Sonar and was blown away by the originality, atmosphere and coolness of the whole thing. Offering the very best in avant garde electronica, with a strong focus on film and digital art, Sonar is more a sensory experience than a straight-up, run of the mill festival. Now in it’s fifteenth year, it has established itself firmly amongst dance music aficionados worldwide as the festival of the summer. Taking place over a network of original and sophisticated venues across the city, Sonar runs for three days and two nights with other special events being held elsewhere alongside the main festival.
A general pass granting holders access to Sonar by Day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday as well as to Sonar by Night in Fira Gran Via on the Friday and Saturday, will set you back €140, while night passes cost €48 each, with individual day tickets ringing up at €30 a pop. When you consider the calibre of the acts on offer, as well as the diversity of the film, music and visuals on display, Sonar certainly offers value for money. Sonar by Day is a place for punters to chill out, soak up some rays over a few beers and scope out musical and artistic talent from around the world. Held in the MACBA and CCCB (the city’s modern art museum and centre for contemporary culture), the venue is transformed for a couple of days every June. The museum’s courtyard is covered with artificial grass, recreating the vibe of a regular festival and the museums exhibit specific visual and digital art work as part of the festival. As well as showcasing musical up-and-comings on its many stages, the festival boasts a record fair, trade fair, visual demonstrations and film screenings, all of which take place within the museum buildings.
Most of the bands and DJs who grace the daytime stages would be unfamiliar to anybody from outside the Iberian peninsula, however it is still well work checking out. The vibe is extremely relaxed and obscure though the bands may be, many who play here show real promise. Unsurprisingly given the Spaniards’ relatively relaxed attitude to, well, everything, there are spliffs aplenty out here as people laze around in preparation for the night ahead. Sonar by Night is a different experience altogether, and not for the faint of heart. Held in an old airport hangar on the outskirts of the city, it kicks off at around 11pm and continues to pump well past sunrise the following day, with a large number of attendees choosing to continue the party at near-by anti-sonar when turfed out of the venue at 7 am. Getting there is easy enough. Organised buses depart regularly from the bottom of Las Ramblas and queues move quickly in spite of the hordes of people anxious to get out there. These same buses continue to run to and from the venue until 8 in the morning but can be quite a challenge to squeeze onto on the way back. Prior to entry on the Friday night, thousands of ticket-holders are to be seen gathered around the venue’s periphery wire fences, jovially drinking cans bought from one of the plethora of street vendors and sorting themselves out with “provisions” for the evening. Security is notable in its absence, yet the vibe remains friendly with not a single fight to be seen.
Sonar is famed for its eclectic and orignal lineups. This year’s boasted BC vs. JC feat. Darren Emerson. For the unacquainted, Darren Emerson formed one third of British techno act Underworld and since then has become a huge name in the tech-house field as a remixer/producer extraordinaire. Jamie Cullum, on the other hand, is not exactly a techno overlord. However, the collaboration between him, his brother Ben and Darren Emerson proved to be a highlight. The performance, based on improvisation, combined unmistakable Underworld bass-lines with jazzy vocals, a perfect example of how dance music continues to progress and expand into new genres. It is also a perfect example of the kind of performances that make Sonar stand out as a festival.
The organisers encourage such seemingly bizarre musical collaborations and offer artists a platform from which to display unusual projects. The following night saw X-102 discovers The Rings of Saturn take the stage. Known better to those who weren’t around for the Underground Resistance movement in the late 1980s as Jeff Mills and Mike Banks, the duo’s performance offered an original take on legendary 90’s techno with visuals displaying the latest and never before seen images of Saturn obtained by the unmanned Cassini-Huygens space mission. This is the kind of thing that Sonar is all about. It not only offers a breeding ground for new genres of dance music, it also brings back big name artists who began their careers on its stages time and time again. Over the past fifteen years, the organisers have prided themselves on discovering new artists and evolving with them. As a festival, Sonar embodies the multi-faceted creativity and progressiveness of electronic music. While this year an entire stage was dedicated to the relatively youthful dubstep movement, it also saw performances from 80’s bands such as Madness and Yazoo. Such diversity is celebrated at Sonar and helps explain why it always draws such an eclectic crowd. The night is a long one however and leaving the venue is a rather surreal experience. Imagine something in between It’s All Gone Pete Tong and 28 Days Later and you might get something close. Tens of thousands of spaced out clubbers pile out into the surrounding industrial estate clad and move en masse towards after-parties and raves if they’re up to it, or back home to rest up for the following night. This kind of all or nothing hedonism is another key feature of the festival. It may leave you feeling jaded for a bit afterwards but boy, is it worth it at the time.
Dos Do book well in advance as hotels and apartments are snapped up early by those who make the yearly pilgrimage and agencies often charge through the nose for accommodation over the Sonar period. Do ensure you have credit on your phone. If you lose your friends at the festival, relocating them is no easy task. Do check out Sonar by Day on at least one of days for a completely different experience to Sonar by Night.
Don’ts Don’t forget your sunscreen for Sonar by Day and the morning after Sonar by Night. Sunburn and sequins is never a good look. Don’t get ripped off by street vendors/people in dodgy looking cars claiming to be taxis. People will chance their arm at anything round festival time and the last thing you want is to end up in a van with broken windows on the outskirts of the city with some burly guy named Julio. Don’t dismiss acts you haven’t (yet) heard of. Sonar has built up a solid reputation for bringing to Spain some of the finest acts in avant garde electronica both big and small alike. Some of the highlights of this years festival were the more obscure acts at Sonar by Day.
For anybody who is in any way into electronic music, Sonar is a must see and certainly merits the journey to the continent. The huge number of Irish folk we met there who return year after year are surely are testament to this and exemplify the passion for and dedication to music felt by many of the festivals devotees.
Festival Highlights Friday: El Guincho feat. The Ruby Suns @ Sonar By Day Filling in for Konono N 1, Barcelona-based El Guincho surprised Sonar by Day attendees by performing a special show in collaboration with Ryan Mc Phun of The Ruby Suns showcasing five tracks from the formers critically acclaimed album Alegranza and five tracks from 2008’s Sea Lion by The Ruby Suns. Roisin Murphy Arklow’s first lady of sex-pop proved to be a highlight at this years festival. While live electronic performances can occasionally be somewhat lacklustre, Ms. Murphy’s are anything but. Her live show is quite simply breath-taking, involving multiple costume changes, pantomimestyle theatrics and of course, killer tunes. Diplo Master of the mix Diplo brought his own blend of favela funk to Sonar this year, playing a stomper of a set that switched between baltimore and bhangra within micro seconds, without once losing the attention of the crowd. The Bumper Cars Last but not least. There’s something wonderfully reckless about piling onto a neon bumper car with three of your mates and booting around hammered knocking sunglasses off ravers. All within the confines of a giant air hangar. And with 7 gos costing only €10, sure you can’t go wrong! Saturday: The Field @ Sonar by Day The Field, for those of you who are as yet unfamiliar was once dubbed “one of the few geniuses of Scandinavian minimal techno”. Granted, this was by some obnoxious guy outside the Village but he’s still pretty damn good. As a producer, The Field composes tracks entirely using software however his live performance at Sonar this year saw the addition of a live drummer and guitarist. The introduction of an element of traditional musicianship gave what are already excellent tracks an extra edge. The stronger beats and generally warmer sound made for a set that was met with great enthusiasm from the sell-out crowd at Saturday’s day show. Soulwax Live Dance music veterans at this stage, Soulwax live rarely disappoint and this year was no exception. Playing a mixture of their own night versions and remixes, the boys played an energetic and enthusiastic set from start to finish. Ricardo Villalobos Playing the sunrise set from 5am til finish is what Mr. Villalobos is famed for, and boy does he know what he’s doing. Latin-infused techno made for the perfect closing to an incredible festival and the outdoor setting made it all the more surreal. The Bumper Cars See above. Seriously, the novelty really doesn’t wear off.
Irish Musical Subcultures Words: Darragh McCausland Illustration: Sarah Jane Comerford
I remember one evening a couple of years ago, sitting at home watching Coronation Street with my Mam, (as heterosexual 25 year old men are want to do), when one of the previously innocuous Platt children appeared on telly all made up like Brandon Lee in The Crow. As frog-faced Gail Platt choked and spluttered on her cup of Tetley on screen, my Mam turned around to me and curiously asked “why do they do that?” “Do what?” I replied. “You know, those children who put all the white make-up on their faces. Sure they look like clowns.” “It’s to do with the music they listen to Mammy”, I said. “But yeah, they do look like clowns don’t they?” . Of course, I sniggered away at the random Platt poppet (I forget which one it was, they were pretty much interchangeable in those days), because I thought there was something faintly ludicrous about Goths and the Goth lifestyle. Yet, there I was, shaggy-haired, bearded, smugly judging that poor fictional teenager (ten years my junior) while wearing a paunch-hugging TV on the Radio T-Shirt and an illfitting cardigan. I had more in common with the little Platt than I cared to realise. In my own way, I was marking myself out from the overall public herd as part of a subgroup of people, namely, as a twenty something indie-rock fan (and they shall know us by the diagonal straps of our record bags). People are tribal. Any anthropologist can tell you that. We have some sort of need to separate into groups, subcultures, gangs. Some are large and obvious, like rival football teams. Others less so, such as men who dress up in full sized baby-wear at the weekends. It happens at school. In the excellent teen satire Mean Girls, there is a great scene when the delightful young Lydnsey Lohan character enters school for the first time (long before she made a hobby of snorting speed balls out of Calum Best’s bumcleft as a dead-eyed Olsen twin looks on), and is confronted with a dizzying array of all the tribes at school. A comparison is drawn between the school jungle and the African wilds her safari family just moved from. The school looks far more vicious. It’s a very clever and illuminating scene. When I was a young ‘un back in the early 90’s there were only two tribes in my school, rockers and ravers. Yet, it was still pretty vicious. You either loved Nirvana or the Prodigy. There was no middle ground. No compromise. Which brings us to the role of tribes in music. Ever since the Mods and Rockers belted seven shades of shite out of each other on Brighton pier, there have been fierce delineations between the identities of the groups of people who listen to popular music. These groups can be large overall. For example Heavy Metal would appear to be a very large group in the grand musical scheme of
things. But within the larger groups are many smaller groups. Metal splinters into hundreds of dark shards, some just theatrical, others terrifying enough to make you soak your chinos. There are yer basic Metallers, Speed Metallers, Stoner Rockers, and then you have yer Norwegian Inner-Circle Black Metal Sheep Slaughterers. And that’s just Metal. Dance music is another world entirely. It’s a braver person than me who visits a dance record shop and gamely tries to make the distinction between Micro-Ketamine-Yippedeedooda Techno and Cosmic-Discobiscuit-Italo House. And, yet there are DJs within dance who wouldn’t be caught dead being associated with another scene or genre. I’ve been thinking about these musical subcultures in an Irish context a lot recently, specifically the ones of which I have a limited understanding. There is an argument that in this age of crosspollination between musical genres and cherry picked MP3s, the subculture is dying out. But I don’t think so. There is something more to this than just music. For many, it is a lifestyle. It extends far beyond a CD choice or what T Shirt you wear. I think of the Goths who visit the Dominion night-club in Dublin every Saturday, the hordes of older people who fill mini-buses in full line-dancing regalia to attend Irish Country weekends in Bundoran, the young lads who soup up their cars and attend trance parties on Wicklow beaches, and many others. What draws people to certain tribes? Why do some subcultures, such as metal seem so much more an integral part of a person’s lifestyle than others such as indie? Are subcultures dying out? Are there any old school Teddy Boys left in Ireland? I’m sure there is a bona fide old school Teddy Boy in Chapelizod. I saw him in Spar. I want to know. I want to find out about these groups, their life-styles and their musical tastes. So, I’m going to pull a Louis Theroux and hopefully write a series of features in the coming months about Ireland’s musical subcultures. If you think you belong to a subculture that deserves a feature, don’t be afraid to contact Analogue at email@example.com. Now I’m off to the nearest mirror to adopt Louis’ affected and unsettling ‘you may think I’m a naïve nice guy but really I’m a disingenuous snake’ demeanour. Just kidding.
Storkboy Choons Words: Karl Mc Donold Illustration: Laura De Burca
Into the blank space in the Irish music tapestry where intelligent ambient techno should be steps Storkboy. Working psychedelia into a palette of influences centred around early ‘90s rave sounds, Storkboy manages to paint pictures with music in a way only the most perceptive instrumental artists can. It’s a feat, really. Everything is done on one laptop, using software that he says he “doesn’t understand”. Most songs are written, from start to finish, in a few hours. It’s pure intuitive writing, like an artist throwing paint at a canvas until he gets something he feels represents what he wants to get across. “The tracks generally come together late at night in one go. I’ve found that anything half decent I’ve made has had its back broken in one 3 - 4 hour session. Generally anything that I’ve had to sit down to a few times ends up sounding disjointed and muddy and gets dumped in the recycle bin,” he says. While a lot of electronic music is a bedroom science anyway, there is a definite solitary, late night strain to be heard in Storkboy Choons’ music, especially on a track like ‘Bells For Laura’. Built around a faint synthesised bell motif, its warm, repetitive pulses recall a feeling of over-tiredness and the fuzzy sense of clear vision that comes with it. It also sounds organic. “A laptop is an instrument just like anything else. I’d see a laptop as being as organic as an electric guitar, but maybe not as organic as a didgeridoo whittled from Fair Trade willow by a crusty. All instruments do is make soundwaves in the end, and I don’t know if they are organic.” But even though Storkboy Choons always sounds accessible and warm, there is a melancholy underwriting most of the music. “I find melancholy to be a pleasant state sometimes. I would like to think my music attempts to sound yearning.I think most of the best songs, novels and poems yearn for something that is impossible to articulate. I think you can be optimistic and melancholy, Gatsby staring out at that green light....” Storkboy is an avid reader. He loves Joyce, and post-modernist genius Thomas Pynchon, but it is Ireland’s poet laureate ad infinitum W.B. Yeats that has the most enduring hold on his interest. ‘By The Waters’, the song which has appeared on music blogs and elsewhere most often, samples Yeats’ poem ‘The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water’. The poem is a short one, but it is deeply unsettling nonetheless. The old men, gnarled and aged, look at themselves in water and lament the fact that “all that’s beautiful drifts away”. It is probably the best Storkboy Choons song to date. “I chose the Yeats sample because I am pretty obsessed by his poetry. It could have been any one of his poems, but I do think that once I had chosen The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water, it influenced the path that song took. I wanted it to feel a bit like mossy bubbly brooks and twisted tree roots, so yeah, there’s your organic buzz I suppose. The song came from the title rather than vice versa.” Another song, ‘Rockfield Symphony’, is named after the housing estate in Kells where the young Stork spent his formative years. For a town of a modest 5,000 people, Kells has had more than its fair share of cultural output. Storkboy’s ally and some-time collaborator Colours Move is making music with similar intent, and anthemic indie messers Ham Sandwich released their debut album Carry The Meek to a generally positive response. This is on top of the obvious illuminated Bible resident in Trinity College. Something must be up with Kells. I wonder if being from there is an influence on his music. “Nope, apart from Rockfield Symphony, which is more about nostalgia for childhood or the time of childhood, rather than the physical location of that childhood. I havent really lived in Kells for years, apart from the odd weekend, and at Christmas. I was living in Sligo when I made the bulk of that music, and now live in Dublin. There is a bit of a decentralised Kells scene, but it is more just a bunch of mates from one town hanging out in Dublin, buzzing about in bands, writing blogs or doing stand-up and stuff in their spare time.” ‘Rockfield Symphony’ appears on Indiecater Volume One, a compilation put together by the mysterious mp3hugger, a music blogger who wanted to take an active part in trying to make music a worthwhile way to spend time for artists from Ireland and further afield. www.indiecater.com to buy it.
Busy P Words: Aidan Hanratty Photography: Orla Graham
Pedro Winter, aka Busy P, was the man who brought Daft Punk to the world. In 2003 he set up Ed Banger records, home to acts such as Justice, SebastiAn and Mr Oizo, and as a DJ, he regularly plays across the globe. Last month he played with fellow Ed Banger artist, DJ Mehdi, at Transmission in Dublin’s The Button Factory. Before the show I had the chance to speak with him and talk about touring, downloading, and two French guys who dress up as robots. While he remains friends with Thomas and Guy-Man of Daft Punk, Winter recently stepped down as their manager to focus on his own production work, and of course the work of his artists on his own label. His replacement is “a lovely guy called Paul Hahn, a guy from the movie world. He has nothing to do with the music industry, which is good.” When Winter himself started out with Daft Punk he himself was new to the music business. Hahn is not new completely however, “he set up the Daft Punk company called Daft Arts in Los Angeles, producing the videos, and also he produced the tour. He’s not a new boy.” Since it seems that dance music, to use so broad a term, is finally something of a success story in the United States, I asked Winter what he thought were the main factors in this shift. “Maybe electronic music changed. I don’t think the country or the mentality changed, but I think maybe the music changed a little bit. What we are doing with Ed
Banger is more classified as indie than electronic.” While the music retains its club-orientated energy, the performance itself has become more akin to that of a rock show. “Exactly, it’s kind of a mix of a rock show with electronic sounds, an Ed Banger party sounds like a rave but it looks like a Rage Against The Machine concert.” Such changes are certainly key in breaking a market as difficult as that of the US, as well as the fact that, on the Ed Banger end of the spectrum at any rate, dance music is a hell of a lot less serious than it was in the past, when “things were really serious and music, especially electronic music, was still trying to be a revolution. Nowadays you know it’s not more question about revolution because that revolution was already done by Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, some guys who bring this electronic music to the mass market, to the radio, to the TVs and everything.” With such serious business of mainstream acceptance out of the way, guys like Busy P are free to play what they like, when they like, without reductive questions of genre imposing on setlists every night. “We are making mostly music for fun, and without any pressure about integrity, or good taste or bad taste. Nowadays you can mix everything and it seems to work, and most importantly it seems to be what the kids of today want to listen to.”
One of the most successful Ed Banger “moments” of recent times was SebastiAn’s remix of Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of, premiered at last year’s Coachella festival and used as a show-closer for DJs across the globe for months afterwards. This, along with the Metallica-inspired imagery of Justice’s debut album and live shows, did even more to make the Ed Banger as much a rock cult as a hip electro label, and this doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. “No, no, it’s not, for example on the new compilation, Ed Rec Vol III, the SebastiAn track [called Dog] could be a Nine Inch Nails record or something like that.” The label will not, however, be so easily pigeonholed. “I can’t say for example, the next vibe on Ed Banger will be more metal or more hip hop.” With ten artists on the label, each with their own influences and impulses, the results will always be a melting pot of musical ideas. Winter himself has gone from crunching electro to a more downtempo, hip-hop sound, with LA rapper Murs featuring on his latest single, To Protect and Entertain. But from what is he protecting us? “We are protecting you from the bad taste… No, I don’t know, it’s just a game with the To Protect and Serve of the New York Police. First it was fun with this whole thing… I don’t know what we are protecting you from.” For Winter to welcome someone new to the Ed Banger family, it’s initially all about the music. “I’m a music label so the music is the first thing.” After that, in cases like that of DSL and DJ Mehdi, it’s something more personal. “I know [DSL] for quite a while, for DJ Mehdi it’s the same, he used to put out his records on Virgin Records, and when I set up the label it was a bit natural for him to join me.” Unfortunately, he’s not in a position to sign every artist that grabs his attention. “The problem with the label, as we are a small crew at the office, I can’t sign 20 artists.” That said, there is one more new artist with an upcoming release in the pipeline. “Recently I met a guy from London, called Midnight Mike, and he’s doing a new project called Mickey Moonlight. It’s something completely different than [the] Ed Banger sound, but this is what I want to do, I want, to prove to people that we are not only doing distorted noise music. I want to be a real label with diversity.” One can tire easily of hearing everyone’s opinion, from your average blogger to ill-informed politicians and reactionary industry types, so I like to ask the artists themselves how they feel about the unstoppable force that is illegal downloading. “It’s affected the label in a good way. Ed Banger is a young label, and I think we managed to get that much attention all around the world because of kids spreading out music on the blogs and internet, so I can’t complain. If kids don’t buy CDs any more then we will have to find some other solution to find money.” For the purists out there, downloading may be a starting point, but the ultimate aim for this kind of fan is the possession of a tangible object. “A thing that is important with Ed Banger, it’s the music and also the art, and this is why we have So Me doing all the artwork. The kids can of course download it, but if they want to be part of the whole adventure and have the records on their wall and have the collection they will need to get the vinyl.”
Us Back, a concept held in very high regard by Winter. “Wow, wow, wow. I like this idea of festivals booking an artist to play one album, I love this. In Tokyo Summersonic last year Metallica were performing Master of Puppets. I love this idea.” Hopefully his own travels will afford him the chance to see another such performance this summer. “I’m quite busy all the summer with some touring and some gigs, an Ibiza holiday, and also I have some other projects, we’re finishing some albums, for Mr Oizo, SebastiAn, Uffie” One piece of his own work that particularly impressed me recently was a remix of UNKLE’s Restless with Djedjotronic, another project which came about due to his long-established relationships across the world. “I know James Lavelle and he asked me to do it. Even though musically sometimes it’s a bit too English for me, I’m a big supporter of UNKLE, especially for the first album and also because I like James Lavelle for his whole career.” It would appear that Lavelle’s first label, Mo’Wax, is a big influence on Ed Banger, in particular the manner in which the material is released, with a single artist overseeing all of the label’s artwork. One might even say that So Me is to Ed Banger as Ben Drury was to Mo’Wax. “Exactly, you know you’re completely right, because I’m always quoting Futura [whose designs were used by Drury for many an UNKLE release] about Mo’Wax but I should quote Ben Drury, exactly.” While the label’s output has retained its diversity, his DJ sets are more singular in their focus. “I got a new CD called News Techno, and I think I’m going to play some of those tracks I bought recently on Beatport, or I received, and also we’re going to play some new Ed Banger tracks, it’s going to be mostly electro tonight.” Having played the venue before in December 2006, he expressed a fondness for the setup in The Button Factory. “I like the place, being on the stage like a big theatre, I’m happy to be here.” Almost comically, he said he enjoyed his daytime walk through Temple Bar (though he did not express his thoughts on the same walk around midnight). Thankfully, it was a nice day for our Gallic visitors, though that was unfortunately shortlived. “It’s funny because everybody’s making this joke like you’ve seen our summer.” On this walk Mehdi mentioned to me that Winter had purchased some records during the day, so I asked if any of these would find their way into his set. “I just bought two records of Pantera, I’m not going to play Pantera tonight.” Diversity is all well and good, but I doubt that Pantera would be too well received in Dublin on a Saturday night. “I’m not going to play them because it’s a present for Gaspar of Justice, it was his birthday last week, and he’s keen on all those crazy heavy metal 80s artwork, and honestly, they are amazing.” And there you have it. Busy P - label boss, jet-set DJ, and all round nice guy.
With the best part of a year’s touring under their belt, it seems that the output of material from Justice has slowed up. “They’ve just finished an MGMT remix [of Electric Feel] which is crazy, and now they’re on tour till October, all the summer festivals, all around the world, so they are pretty busy. The MGMT remix was the last thing they did in the studio between two tours, I don’t think they will make music before the winter.” While we were on the subject of festivals, I mentioned having seen Public Enemy performing It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold
Words: Ailbhe Malone Illustration: Kathi
First came Orlando. Then came Kathi and Orlando. Then came Ugly Megan. Orlando Fitzgerald was already recording songs by himself, when his girlfriend Kathi Burke joined in. Abandoning the previous recordings that he had made solo, they ‘started new. We went to my house for the weekend and recorded 6 songs, like a joke.’ The result was Ugly Megan (named after Megan Nolan, a member of You’re Only Massive). When we meet, it is in the bus station. They are going to Galway to play Roisín Dubh. Kathi is sitting on the floor, surrounded by a keyboard, a guitar and a bag full of leads and toys. Orlando is in the shop. Things need to change. It’s awful bringing their stuff all around the country. “We’re going to get a car. It’s in the pipeline. Though we can’t drive. It’s never going to happen, really.” Though Ugly Megan are still quite young, they have two EPs under their belt (‘Three Whole Funs’, and ‘The Gavin, Megan, and Oisin EP’), both put out on their own label – Well Wicked Wecords. Naturally, due to their semi-lo-fi ethos and boy/girl vocals, Moldy Peaches comparisons get brought up. However, Ugly Megan are not the Moldy Peaches. While the Moldy Peaches’ Adam Green and Kimya Dawson blend crass with cutesy in their lyrics (“squinched up your face and did a dance/ shook a little turd out of the bottom of your pants”), Ugly Megan combine toytronica, harmonies, gangsta stylings, and gamine charm. ‘Sunshine Vs Splack’ opens with the Mystikal-esque ‘Shake that ass bitch and let me see what you got’, undercut with Fitzgerald’s Ian Curtis tones telling of long summer days, until, finally, the chorus melts into coos of ‘I love you’. ‘One Night at My House’ sets lyrics like “I really like your trousers but I’d much prefer them on the floor” against a glockenspiel background.
This mixture of pop and hip-hop ties in neatly with the first records that Orlando and Kathi bought. He bought the soundtrack to the Pokémon film, while she bought Eminem’s ‘Marshal Mathers LP’. They add, “we find hip hop really fun. Old school stuff. It’s really fun and summery. We’ll probably start covering Nordic death metal in the winter.” Their general listening is pretty eclectic as well, ranging from Wax Taylor to White Noise, influenced in part by Orlando’s sideline as an eclectro DJ. (‘I don’t have a DJ name. Maybe I’ll make one up on the bus.’) Composing songs is a joint effort- ‘We both write the lyrics. Sometimes we’ll do it separately, but it’s harder to write it together.’- often coupled with some outside influences- “Our song Bobby Orlando is made up of quotes from a biography about a disco producer from New York called Bobby Orlando.” Their relationship is definitely a factor in their music, but one that has changed with time- “Even if we broke up, we’d still sing together. We were a couple before we were a band. Even if we hated each other we’re still going to sing together. I think a lot of the songs when we first started playing were about love and stuff ‘I love you so much/ I wanna be with you babe’. But people get bored with that.” While Kathi frantically checks her pockets for their bus tickets, and an announcement about the bus times to Naas blares over the tannoy, they discuss the band’s image- or lack thereof. “We don’t have an image. I don’t think that hard. We just wear clothes that we think are cool really. My dad calls my trousers ‘elephant pants’.” Though they’re about to leave for Galway, they plan to stay in Ireland for the time being. They were a hair’s breadth away from decamping to the Toronto School of Art, but instead Kathi decided on NCAD in Dublin. What’s Canada’s loss is Ireland’s gain, for Ugly Megan are very special indeed.
my inspiration Dirty Pretty Things
Cos the songbirds donâ€™t do singing on pavements no sweet melody the sound of spit and we spat, Orbit, spoke of lost hopes so toot what you toke man, choke on it Jamie T If You Got The Money
Photography by Roger Sargent 'If You Got The Money' written by Treays/Lewis. Reproduced by kind permission of Imagem Music and Copyright Control.
Words: Karl McDonald Photo: David Torch
Stephen Malkmus is in Dublin to play Tripod with his band The Jicks, and we show up mid-afternoon to try to scavenge an interview. After a period of uncertainty and a lengthy discussion, a tattooed motorcycle enthusiast/sound engineer agrees to do us a favour and leads us in. We follow him through a surprisingly elaborate labyrinth of corridors, stairs and lifts to the backstage area where Stephen Malkmus awaits. The quixotic build-up does not help to disperse the mythic aura he has developed in my imagination. Mostly because of this aura, I am too preoccupied with deciding whether it is okay to ask him questions about Pavement to notice him emerging from his dressing room. He is soaked in sweat and wearing a gaudily-coloured hoodie zipped halfway down with no t-shirt underneath. He could still easily pass for a burnt out skater or a hippie in his late twenties. He is in fact forty-two, and one of the most-revered figures in indie rock. You’d never guess, by looking at him. “Are you here for the chat?”
‘Show me a word that rhymes with Pavement/And I won t kill your parents, and roast them on a spit.’ − Harness Your Hopes (2000) “Back then, you feel sort of indestructible and you have all the time in the world. And also there was a feeling of anticipation, that there wasn’t much out there. People were really interested in what we were going to do next on a wide level. I also knew already after we made Slanted + Enchanted, which had a lot more success than what we’d already did, that I had this idea to make this completely different kind of album. So I felt pretty confident.“ “Maybe some groups do that, and they don’t even have any new songs. They’re just sort of blown away that it even happened. And Slanted + Enchanted was kind of like that for me. But I already knew that we were gonna use bass on the next album, and that it was going to sound big and melodic, and have a different colour and a different feeling. Now, it’s more like we have every two years to do this. And we feel often like we’re yelling into a cavern. People are still listening and connecting, but it’s not the same feeling.”
Stephen Malkmus reflects on the difference between making Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and new album Real Emotional Trash. It’s striking how at ease he is with talking about Pavement’s legacy. Chances are, he’s heard every question imaginable about Pavement in the ten or so years since they became defunct. And there are always going to be people shouting for ‘Here’ or ‘Gold Soundz’ at his solo gigs. You’d imagine he’d be tired of it by now. But there is no sense of reluctance whatsoever discernable in his face when I ask him about his old band. He’s aware that The Jicks are never going to make the best-of-all-time lists in music magazines. He’s comfortable with that fact. There is no “let’s talk about what I’m doing now”. In fact, there is a definite air of pride in the way he talks about Pavement. “There was also less riding on it, in a certain way. Not in the fact that there was less people listening, but now the older you get, time gets a little more precious. It feels like everybody’s got a big life. Everyone in the band’s busy, so you have to say, oh we’ll practice this day. Whereas when you’re 24 or 5 with your friends and you’re all living in the same house, there’s nothing to do except watch TV and go to work and drink beer or whatever. I think that benefits the younger man”
‘Of all my stoned digressions, some have mutated into the truth.’ − Dragonfly Pie (2008) Since turning solo, the focus of Malkmus’ expression has shifted away from his lyrics and into the long instrumental parts that characterise Real Emotional Trash. However, despite proggy time-signatures and non-standard tunings, the music still falls slightly short of being fully straight-faced. He is a master of being serious and tongue-in-cheek at the same time with his words, but it is important to recognise that he is witty with his fingers too. Even the devotees amongst the indie rock critics have had some difficult with the aesthetic, but at this point in his career, he admits that he is really doing it for himself. I ask why he has adopted soloing. “I like a lot of crazy guitar music from the 70s and the 80s too generally. I generally know my way around the 90s and I didn’t really want to know my way around the 80s. I feel like I know what I like from that time. So the 70s and the late 60s are still a point of discovery for me as a fan of music. There were a lot of records in the wake of albums by the Beatles and Hendrix and Cream and these big bands you never need to hear again, little guys getting it wrong and releasing albums that sank like a stone. I listen to that music more, and that’s led, for better or for worse, to more instrumental parts and more solos. That was kind of the name of the game back then.“ When I try to talk about his lyrics, he becomes almost imperceptibly uncomfortable. Is it worth trying to read deeper meanings into the words he sings? “I don’t know. Yeah, it’s alright. I try to leave it not so narratively... like my friend David Berman in the Silver Jews, his songs are kind of airtight in a certain way. I’m just not capable of that.” “You can only do what you do, and I’m just kind of a California kid, you know, just a little bit hang loose. I’d like to be in that vague, but more than the sum of its parts sort of area. But sometimes I’ll just be funny. I just wanted to be original I guess. I don’t really care about the meaning. If no-one else is doing it, that’s a good start. Within reason.“
‘After the glow, the scene, the stage, the set/Talk becomes slow, but there s one thing I ll never forget/Hey, you ve gotta pay your dues before you pay the rent.’ − Range Life (1994) We get to talking about bands reforming. On My Bloody Valentine: “That’d be fun to see. One of Pavement’s first big shows was with My Bloody Valentine, at this thing called the New Music Seminar in New York, which still goes on. They were great. They were famous for being real loud, of course. And they were. But you had ear-plugs in, of course, which you should at 90% of shows if you’re going to be up the front. So it wasn’t too bad.“ He wouldn’t mind seeing the Sex Pistols either. “I think I would go, just because I don’t mind a certain kind of nostalgia. And from reading about it in Mojo, it seems like a genuine thing compared to some reunions. I mean, they genuinely want the money, but they also genuinely love the band and want to play the songs.” Would a Pavement reunion be good in a nostalgic sense then? “Yeah, I think it would if we did it right. I think if I was going to do something like that, I would just do hit after hit. Whatever a hit is for Pavement. Because you’re going to be playing at some festival with today’s
chart-topper, or somebody with at least four hits. So I would just want to play songs that people liked.” His approach to reforming is not exactly hard-line, and he has no problem conceptualising for conversational purposes, but there is probably no need to start saving for the tickets yet. “I don’t really see it happening for Pavement any time soon. There’s gotta be somebody who doesn’t do it. Besides us, and The Smiths.“ I propose that Morrissey is much more fundamentally opposed to the idea than him. “People would love it, but even though it’s a hard ass approach, you gotta hand it to him for sticking to his guns and saying “no amount of money is going to turn me around”. He’s inherited so many Smiths fans, he’s got enough fans for his own thing. He’s not at want for love and attention. “
‘Nine times out of ten, I m not the guidance type/I ve been sitting on a fencepost for the brunt of my life’ − It Kills (2005) It doesn’t take very long talking to Stephen Malkmus to notice his encyclopaedic knowledge of music. He loves to talk about it, new bands and forgotten scenes from the 60s alike. He has two or three examples of bands for every point he makes in general conversation. For example, discussing his 2005 album Face The Truth, which is credited just to ‘Stephen Malkmus’, with no mention of the Jicks: “I was hoping that it would have a different feel to it, hopefully a good feel, sort of an improvisational, temporal thing, like a DIY record from the 80s, bands like the Desperate Bicycles or the Homosexuals. These are British bands that were kinda on the outside of punk rock and post-punk, they just said ‘we’ll do everything ourselves, we’ll record ourselves, we’ll do it really cheap and make a 7” with a black and white cover. Everyone can do it.‘ So that was kind of the spirit of that record, not to make it too perfect, and I really didn’t think anyone else deserved to have their name on it.“ Prompted to name some recent favourites, he takes a second to think, and then lists a ream of them. Sebadoh, Polvo, Pissed Jeans, The Cows, Devo, The Cribs (!), Blitzentrapper. He read about Fleet Foxes on Pitchfork, which seems a little weird but makes sense. When pressed as to whether he is ever surprised to find that bands he’s into are citing his music as their biggest influence, he is dismissive. “Generally not. It seems to be with guitar bands, there’s a divide. There’s the angular, Gang of Four ‘dance-punk is cool’ thing. And then there are more songbased guitar bands, who still like it loud, but sing melodically and aren’t too retro. And they like Pavement.” “It’s surprising with how well known we are that we’ve never had one superstar say they like us. Like Pete Townshend, or like how David Bowie is always coming out for bands, saying the Arcade Fire is great. I guess Radiohead. But they’re like our age. They said they liked it. But not these old geezers. I don’t know why. It’s probably a good thing really. Those geezers, they’re not gonna go out to a gig really unless they’re especially asked and they have a nice airconditioned place to sit, and it’s private. That’s kinda disappointing. Well, it wouldn’t really make me feel that much better if Neil Young came out and said ‘that’s alright‘“.
Fight Like Apes Words: AIlbhe Malone Photography: Loreana Rushe
If Fight Like Apes had their way, Shannyn Sossamon (of 40 Days and 40 Nights fame) would sell their merchandise at gigs. It doesn’t matter that “she probably wouldn’t even be able to count”, I’m told, because she is “an absolute ride”. No, seriously, she is a babe. “Google Images her, it’ll change your life”. That’s the best thing about Fight Like Apes. Everything is allowed, as long as you’re really into it. There’s no need to justify something, all that’s needed is enthusiasm. Whether it’s bad movies – “When we were recording the album, we watched a series of movies featuring Tom Selleck. Anything with a decent moustache. We’ve probably plagiarized his entire career by this stage.”- or songwriting. In response to a quote which opines that “their songs allude to hate figures and love figures and there is virtually no in between”, MayKay laughs and muses that “I don’t see the point about writing about something you’re not really pushed about.” They wear their influences on their sleeve, but just as quickly shrug them off. “At the moment we’re listening to Johnny Foreigner and Los Campesinos!. We’re trying not to be prejudiced against bands that get really hyped up, but at the same time, some of them are actually amazing.” Finding new music is less a game of hipster top trumps, more an actual game – “When we were recording in Seattle we had this game called ‘Brave New Bands’. You had to go into the bargain bin in a record shop, and pick out some CD’s. Then, you brought them back, and we all listened to them. But, you weren’t allowed know who you were listening to. If you liked it, you liked it. We found out about a load of bands through that - like McCluskey, Your Code Name Is Mylo, Rilo Kiley.” ‘Recording in Seattle’ refers to the period that Fight Like Apes spent in the U.S. recording their (as yet) un-named debut album. The band flew out to Seattle to record for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was a lot cheaper than recording in Dublin. A lot cheaper. Secondly, and more importantly, it was so John Goodmanson (Wu-Tang Clan, Death Cab For Cutie, Bikini Kill) could produce the record. “We got John Goodmanson to produce the album, because we’re huge Blood Brothers fans- especially ‘Crimes’. We just asked him to on the Blood Brothers button. We chose him because everything he’s done has been really posh, but also a bit raw.” They’re honest about their lack of studio skills – “We were such melons when we were recording the EP. We kept saying ‘just make it louder” - but at the same time, they were no naïve ingénues at the mixing desk. “The recording was really natural. The first day he asked us to just play live, and he took notes. He had these massive opinions on songs he’d just heard, so we’d fight a bit. Generally everything would work out very easily.”
The origin of their name comes with a cheeky anecdote. “I tell everyone that the name came from ‘Battle of the Planet of the Apes’. Truth is, I stole it off a friend of mine. He wanted to call his band ‘Fight Like Apes’, and I took it instead. We had a laugh about it.” True to form, what began as a something between friends, has, to borrow the title of their next single, become ‘Something Global’. At the same time, there are some fine business minds at work. They tour all over Ireland – “3 of us are from Dublin, and Mary’s from Kildare. A lot of Irish bands spend a lot of time in their home town- saying ‘yeah, we’re playing Galway next year’. From the outset we played everywhere we could.” - and the new single ‘Something Global’ is definitely the most radio friendly thing they’ve written so far – “I’m not going to lie. Obviously we’re going to use the most radio-friendly thing as a lead single. But we didn’t write or record it just for the radio. We wanted something quick and snappy and easy as pie.” They’ve also straddled the commercial and the collector’s market, in terms of record sales versus downloads. “You can pre-order our new single buy text message, which is pretty amazing. The vinyl thing (‘Something Global’ will also be released on a limited run of special yellow vinyl’) was certainly something I wanted to do, plus it looks great.” It’s cheering to see (especially in the Dublin hothouse of bands getting too big for their Chuck Taylors) that no matter how big Fight Like Apes are getting, or - judging from the packed Whelan’s show they played after only a year of gigging - how big they’re going to get, that they haven’t lost their sense of humour. A second after detailing the plans for the limited run of vinyl singles, MayKay giggles and says – “We should have called our album Only Cunts Buy Vinyl.”
Primavera Words & Photo: Aidan Hanratty
Every year Barcelona plays host to a number of festivals, among them Primavera Sound, held in late May in the city’s Parc del Fòrum. Acting as the underground cousin to the more mainstream Summercase, it plays host to many of the best bands on the brink of hitting the big time (MGMT, Vampire Weekend), the biggest DJs who are taking a year off from playing Sónar (Surkin, Supermayer), and old favourites who you never quite expected to see at a festival (Portishead, Throbbing Gristle). With early bird prices starting at €85, rising to just €150, this is very much a festival where value for money is an issue. Flights to Barcelona, if booked well enough in advance, are not extortionate, and a little bit of hunting around means accommodation in the city shouldn’t be too pricey either, so with careful planning a trip to the Mediterranean needn’t break the bank. As with every other festival, the biggest problem at Primavera Sound is clashes. With nearly 150 acts playing over the course of the weekend, judicious choices must be made lest the whole experience become frustrating. Before arriving at Primavera I had made a list of who I wanted to see, but even as I arrived at the venue my decisions were open to further scrutiny. How far is the Rockdelux stage from the Vice stage? How much time should I spend standing and waiting? How close do I need to be to the front for this act? When will I eat? All of these factors must be considered, and while the number of acts I managed to catch is but a fraction of the entire lineup, I still had a damn good time. Arriving early enough on the Thursday, we decided to familiarise ourselves with the layout. The stages at Parc Del Forum are unlike any I’ve seen before, carved into the landscape like a modern day Epidauros. With only five stages and one theatre, Primavera is not the largest festival I’ve ever attended, though it is one of the most spacious. Each stage is a fair distance from the next, so if you’re in the thick of it you’re unlikely to get much of a bleed from other stages. Seeing MGMT perform at the Rockdelux stage was a perfect way to kick off proceedings, as the new kids on the block performed their festival-friendly material in balmy evening sunshine. Following this auspicious opening came Edan and Dagha, whom I had seen in Dublin in March of this year. Mesmerised as I was by their performance at the time, I couldn’t help but feel a bit cheated as I saw more or less the same show, step for step. Hip-hop don’t stop yo, so back we trotted to Rockdelux for Public Enemy’s retread through 1988’s It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back. Well, about 70% of it at any rate. Don’t Look Back is an interesting concept, but it takes a truly committed act to diligently go through an album of such magnitude song for song. That said, the performance was one of tremendous energy and power, and I am happy that I have seen the inexhaustible Flavor Flav in the flesh. Next up on the Rockdelux was, what was for many, a festival highlight: 2008 has seen the return of Portishead, with a new album and a series of shows.
Beth Gibbons’ voice has lost none of its power in the years since their last material, and their performance was a delight. Greater still was the sight of Public Enemy’s Chuck D on stage during Machine Gun. With so many artists playing a given festival, it’s a wonder that more collaboratio - ns of this nature don’t take place. Closing this particular stage on Thursday was a performance from everyone’s favourite daisy-chained rappers De La Soul. Despite the area clearing after Portishead, the boys worked their magic and soon were playing to a substantial, appreciative crowd. Last up for us on the day one was Vampire Weekend. While they have their detractors, one cannot deny that the New York four-piece have a knack for writing chirpy, enjoyable pop songs that are best at home at a Summer festival. Although with that in mind, perhaps their show might have made a little bit more sense in the sunshine than at 2.30 in the morning. Day two began with The Sonics, an influential 1960s garage punk band. Important though they may be, their performance was far from a highlight. Next up was alt rock shoegazers Autolux, another band that didn’t leave a lasting impression. They sound good on record, but seeing them in the flesh wasn’t particularly memorable. Having missed their Dublin show in April, I was quite excited about seeing Why? Unfortunately, theirs was another in a sequence of underwhelming performances. I enjoyed hearing Alopecia in a live context, but the sound at the CD Drome stage was nowhere near as pristine as it was on other stages, and this, alas, is something that is invariably inescapable at festivals the world over. With most performances over the weekend stretching into the wee hours, it is difficult to keep up one’s energy, so before Cat Power an executive decision was made and we decided to grab some food and eat in the large stone theatre that faced the Rockdelux stage. Despite being a big fan, I found this performance to be a bit stale. Perhaps it was because I was so far back from the stage, but I felt her languid, bluesy covers were not best suited to the festival’s main stage. At the other end of the spectrum, haven’t The Go! Team outstayed their welcome? I’ve seen them five times in the past two years, and my interest in them has dwindled with each performance. Ninja’s endless self-promotion does them no favours either. The best really was kept for last, however, as Friday was closed by two acts who really deserve a lot more attention. Local boy El Guincho had the crowd rapt with his energetic display of electronic theatrics, and stage closers Holy Fuck were apt followers to such an animated showman with their own brand of electronica tinged rock and roll. Day Three kicked off with my own personal highlight: having reviewed (and loved) Falling Off The Lavender Bridge last January, I had been looking forward to seeing Lightspeed Champion since it was announced that he would be performing at the festival, and I was happy to see that he exceeded my expectations . He did not disappoint. Humble and humorous, he commented at one point that there was “so much smoke. I feel like Phil Collins”. The man deserves so much more attention, so it was a shame to see on his blog subsequently that someone came up to him and said “Hey man, I really love your album....shame it tanked.” Some people, eh? One often admires an artist’s voice on record, only to be disappointed by that artist in a live performance. This was not the case with Rufus. His voice is as sonorously mesmeric on stage as it is on any of his albums, truly a voice to which one could listen all day. Alas, clashes continued to the death, and we made our way to the Auditori for the industrial sounds of Throbbing Gristle. I’d be wasting my time if I even tried to describe their sound; suffice to say it was the strangest thing I’d ever heard. The act is certainly an influence on Bradford Cox, as he could be seen leaving their performance a mere twenty minutes before he was due on stage with Deerhunter. I think I managed about ten minutes of Throbbing Gristle’s performance. Without doubt, it was one of the most bizarre musical experiences of my life, and any more time in that room would have caused my brain to explode. The sounds they create – the unending drone, the otherworldly resonances – are truly worth hearing, but perhaps on day three of a festival they were a little too much for this writer. That said, the sound in the Auditori was a marvel, and I am glad that I spent at least some time in what is no doubt one of the best venues I’ve ever attended. Crashing back to reality, the next act on my list was Virginia hip-hop duo Clipse. Blighted by the CD Drome’s bad sound (Malice’s mic was off, or at least low, for much of the show), their set, while short, was a blistering run through their material in no particular order. In fact, their track selection seemed a bit bizarre, but that simply added to the “not giving a fuck” attitude exuded by duo.
Dos and Don’ts Do Fly Aer Lingus. Ryanair’s airports are quite the distance from the city, so it’s worth paying extra to save yourself the hassle of too much travel. Do make sure you take in some of Barcelona’s mindblowing architecture, particularly Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and Sight see. The festival only really kicks off when it gets dark, so resist the urge to stay in bed all day and you’ll be in for a treat. Don’t get too relaxed – Barcelona has a reputation for thievery so make sure you don’t have your festival ruined by letting yourself get caught off guard. Don’t be tempted by too many free shots of Jägermeister early in the evening, make sure you remember what follows!
The final hours of the festival were spent in a whirlwind of pounding pounding techno music. DJs Funk and Assault blazed through a selection of ghettotech anthems, an acquired taste if ever there was one, but an entertaining one nonetheless. Lightspeed Champion was undoubtedly my find of the festival, but of the acts I’d already seen, Para One impressed me the most. While it’s always nice to see DJs shake things up and play the unexpected, at a festival one expects the hits. Para One knocked out his own tracks, his own remixes, remixes of his own work, uniformly excellent material. Label-mate Surkin followed with his own brand of Ableton wizardry, and the last act I had the energy for was Simian Mobile Disco. Expecting a live show, I was taken aback when I heard the sound of Green Velvet’s Flash booming from the Rockdelux. Apparently on the way to Barcelona an accident occurred in which the group’s instruments suffered severe damage, so instead of pulling out altogether they played a DJ set. They belted out tune after tune, and as the crunching sounds of ZZT’s Lower States drifted into the early morning sky we made our way to the exit. Soon afterwards, a downpour of biblical proportions was unleashed upon Barcelona, so for us the festival ended in truly Irish style. You just can’t have a festival without rain…
THE COOL KIDS Words: Aidan Hanratty Illustration: Sarah Jane Comerford Photography: Orla Graham
Chicago-based duo The Cool Kids are probably the most interesting hip-hop group out there right now. If you’re bored with Lil’ Wayne and aren’t enthused by the return of The Game, then look no further than Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks, two young guys who “press and twist knobs just to make your head nod”. While their first official EP, The Bake Sale, isn’t released on this side of the Atlantic until August, their material has been floating around online for over twelve months, and their profile has grown exponentially in that time, with international club tours and slots at festivals the world over. While they were originally in Dublin to support M.I.A. in Tripod, upon her cancellation they were granted a late-night headline slot in the more intimate confines of Crawdaddy in late June. This situation came as both a blessing and a disappointment to Chuck: “I’m not tripping on the fact that she’s not doing them, and I’m not excited at the fact that she’s not doing them. I really like seeing her, man, and I really like doing shows with her.” This Dublin performance came on the back of a series of Scandinavian tour dates with none other than member of the hip-hop royalty Jay-Z, shows which went some way to spreading the group’s name to new listeners, people who will “just stop and watch what’s on stage. They might not know who you are but they’ll stop and look cause you’re up there. You can get a lot of new ears from festivals.” Rather than naming other acts as inspirations, the boys are driven by a hunger to constantly improve their skills and expand their repertoire. “We can always be better, or we can always make something iller.” For Chuck, the important thing to remember is that “there’s unlimited sounds in the world.” What makes them different is their uncanny ability to rap about everyday life while at the same time twisting ideas into knockout phrases, and making it seem completely effortless. The standout line, both in terms of their ability and their attitude, is when Chuck states that there’s “no sense in throwing punches, let’s do lunch man, you like me too, ain’t no future in your frontin’.” For Chuck however, this isn’t just about getting away from the violent clichés of gangster hip-hop. “Who the hell can’t say that line and feel like they can own that? I can’t say that I’m gona punch you in your jaw or some stuff like that, that’s just not my personality. I will, but that’s not something that I’m necessarily rapping about, because it doesn’t make sense.” Key for him is grabbing your attention with witty lines. “We like to spend our time being clever. It’s fun that way. If we just said what was blatantly evident we would lose steam, doing this would not be interesting at all. Our job is to find the coolest way to say it.” While speaking of festivals and the notion that fans aren’t always interested in hearing new music in a live context, the Public Enemy performance of It Takes A Nation of Millions came up. While it is a sure-fire way of playing tracks that people know, it also seems a regressive step, celebrating the past rather than moving on to the future. “I’m kind of on the fence about that, all songs ain’t supposed to be done live. You have to be a fan, that’s kind of a niche thing. It’s gotta get old at some point, especially if you’re the dude doing the show.” The Cool Kids themselves grow tired of performing the same tracks, night after night, and so they are constantly writing and recording while on tour. As Mikey says, “there’s no specific time. It’s always going on.” As far as performing new tracks, Chuck is wary of straying too far from the familiar. “People won’t get up unless they recognise it or unless it smacks them in the face so you gotta teeter totter that fence between smacking them in the face and giving something they can relate to right off the bat. People’s attention spans are like this [clicks].” He is aware that at festivals people park themselves in front of a stage, while at a club the
artist is always in competition with the bar or the bathroom. “People want the next song. Like, “Speed it up, let’s get it going.”” Mikey and Chuck are making the most of their international tours, but there are certain inescapeable truths one must face on the road. “We’re not at the point yet where we get a bus with TVs and video games, so I can’t play Playstation 3” says Mikey. “I can’t go and sleep in all day and then wake up when I want to.” That said, he’s not about to give it up for the sake of a few extra hours sleep. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s fun and it’s necessary. A lot of people take touring for granted, and you got a lot of artists who just don’t tour, they’re like “fuck that shit, I’ll just put out songs, and I don’t gotta do shows”, and that’s pretty idiotic, because the whole in person aspect is a whole different world for the people that listen to your music.” This drive to spread their music is what keeps The Cool Kids busy, and they take every opportunity that is thrown their way. Featuring on DMC winner Craze’s Fabric and an Ed Banger showcase CD from Mixmag has helped to boost their profile worldwide, and Mikey does not take this lightly. “It’s all for the better, especially when it’s somebody with a good reputation, that is in a different lane than you are, spreading your music to other people that might not have heard of you before. Even when we got bootlegged with that Totally Flossed Out bootleg, we’re not really mad about it, that’s basically one of the reasons why we’re here today. People pay to get their stuff spread around like that man, and it happened for free!”
Following a riotous run-through of their oeuvre The Cool Kids’ manager sold tee shirts from a suitcase on stage, tee shirts which will no doubt find themselves being sold for large amounts on eBay. At their last show in February I was taken by Mikey’s attire, as he was wearing a Milkcrate-designed purple hoodie showing a blinged-out, Nike-wearing slice of cake. “Man that’s a collector’s item now. There are no more of those being made, those are gone man. That shit is rare man” Disappointed as I was to learn this, at least I know that, whatever about the tee shirts, their music is going to keep coming thick and fast. Well, at least until they stop enjoying themselves. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.
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Album Swap Gareth Stack
( Two men, four ears, two CD’s, and two dubious psychology degrees )
Photography: Sinead Kelly
Counting Crows − This Desert Life Gareth says: The mention of Seattle folk rock sevensome Counting Crows arises in me the awkward defensiveness of intense ambivalence. This is undeniably the band who sold their scant credibility for an eternal plate at the corporate buffet - whether it be butchering Joni Mitchell’s eco ballad ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ or penning soundtrack filler like ‘Accidentally in Love’, a song so risible it tainted Shrek 2. But the Crows are also the band that provided the soundtrack to my adolescence - perfectly encapsulating heartbreak on every note of their critically acclaimed (and internationally platinum selling) debut ‘August and Everything After’ navigating the tyranny of first loves,and the infinite anguish of puppy rejection. ‘This Desert Life’, the Crows third album, all theremin and Hollywood melodrama, mulls over the consequence of the success wrought by that first work of maudlin genius. Self indulgent? Indubitably. But no one articulates bittersweet melancholy better than Adam Duritz, and no one fuses the downhome alt country poetry of Gram Parsons with the epic mythologising of Springsteen, quite like Counting Crows. Darraghs says: You know how you judge someone as cool even though you don’t really know them all that well? That’s what I used to think about Gareth. I had him down as a witty, convivial guy with refined taste in music and pop culture, able to hold a few pints and discuss the European cup final or latest indie-schmindie release with the trendies. That was until this experiment. Gareth gave me an album by The Counting Crows to review. Suddenly, I don’t know him any more. My acquaintanceship with Gareth now feels like the tag-line to a summer blockbuster movie -
THIS SUMMER…ALL YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW ABOUT GARETH…WILL CHANGE…FOR EVER. Prior to the swap I resolved to come at it with an open mind. I pictured myself in the lotus position, dreaming of a blank velvety void and emptying all preconceptions of popular music from my ipod-raped cranium. However, I didn’t count on the ‘Crows. I always lumped them in with ‘Hootie and the Blowfish’ as a band that the characters from ‘Friends’ might like. Additionally, the early noughties experience of hearing the breathless verbal overload of ‘Mr Jones’ dozens of times during shitty student nights (once coupled with a lapful of my own puke) means I have a Pavlovian aversion to The Counting Crows that Zen meditation cannot possibly overcome. However, we can thank God for the small mercy that ‘Mr Jones’ does not appear on the album Gareth gave me, ‘This Desert Life’. Before I go into details about what I think about this record, I want to admit to a deeply humiliating and repugnant thing. I am subscribed to an Internet music site called Last FM. The site records everything you listen to while on the Internet, and builds a profile based on your musical tastes for all your online mates to see. It’s a sort of public musical representation of your inner fan. When I was listening to Counting Crows for this article, I was tempted to switch the site off so people wouldn’t know I was listening to this sort of music. I didn’t, but I did consider it. That would have instantly made me the type of vile hipster I typically rant noisily about after a few drinks. So, regardless of whether I like ‘This Desert Life’ or not, thank you Gareth for helping me recognise my inner twat.
As for ‘This Desert Life’, it starts off thrillingly. A chunky guitar riff and bar piano chords announce a song about the monotony of small town life. It’s called ‘Hanging Around’. I like it a lot. Was it always on MTV ten years ago? I think so. It sounds very familiar, and not a million miles from The Hold Steady both lyrically and musically. Like the song, the rest of the album is very produced, but unfortunately not as catchy. Well not after four listens anyway. I guess an overall polished sound was in mind when these guys were in the studio. The lyrics lack polish though. They are cluttered, earnest and sometimes cheesy, but not manipulative the way a lot of post-REM tripe is. It would seem that nearly everything The Counting Crows sing is sincere. Adam Duritz is genuinely bleeding his heart out. An exception might be ‘Mrs Potter’s Lullaby’. This slick eight-minute piano-based Nashville workout about being the perpetual odd man out at the party strikes a disingenuous note. It’s as if they are trying to mine the same lucrative seam that sprung ‘Mr Jones’.
I will probably never connect with this sort of music. I’m just not that into classic American rock. But there is no denying the record’s honesty. And if I didn’t have such deep-seated issues with ‘Mr Jones’ and the lead singer’s dreadlocks, I’m sure I’d like it more.
Brian Eno − Music For Airports Darragh says: Brian Eno’s ‘Ambient 1. Music for Airports’ is widely regarded as the classic ambient album. Some people have funny ideas about ambient music, perhaps associating it with the sort of CDs that you see for sale on obscure digital TV channels, and which consist of nauseating panpipes punctuated by whale’s mating calls. ‘Music for Airports’ is nothing like that sort of dross. It is a meticulously arranged set of four skeletal pieces of music which unfold slowly in such a way that the overlapping arrangements never once repeat. The mood is somewhat neutral. I think the music sort of absorbs mood rather than evokes it, so listening is always a tranquilising experience. Aural Valium maybe? It is also a ridiculously beautiful piece of work. When I hear those languid shifting parts I think of moving sculptures, mobiles perhaps, or those old fashioned models of the solar system with the planets in perpetual motion. Why did I choose this for Gareth? He seems stressed out sometimes. He might need a bit of aural Valium in his busy life.
C ing r
Gareth says: Brian Eno, Christ, isn’t he that ‘Microsoft Sound’ (tm) chap who cowrote those snowbird Bowie LPs? Didn’t he build some sort of ever lasting eco clock? Even the name ‘Eno’ sounds like a new age mantra performed at peyote solstice by a levitating Terence McKenna. Given Daragh’s penchant for experimental techno, I’m expecting John Cages 4’33”, performed as a rollerskate chiptune triphopera. What emerges from ‘Music for Airports’ is instead, a tortuously minimal contemporary classical soundscape, gradually constructed through piano and vocal loops. My limited touchstones for ambient music are the soundtrack to Godfrey Reggio’s visually arresting documentary Koyaanisqatsi, Aphex Twin’s ‘Selected Ambient Works’, and Vangellis’s music for Blade Runner. All of which are unquestionably evocative, despite their simplicity. Eno’s work on Music for Airports is if anything, even more bare bones. The swelling vocal harmonies of 2/1 (give the tracks a name already!), are utterly simple yet profoundly sorrowful, like the slow sustained melodies of millennial Christian plainsong. For music intended presumably to calm (Wikipedia tells me this album was originally intended to ‘diffuse the tension’ at LaGuardia airport), the auditory uncanny valley of Eno’s synthesised vocals becomes at times deeply unsettling. Each piece builds on the last, so that what begins with basic piano (1/1) and vocal (2/1) loops becomes a mournful medley by 1/2. The final side of Eno’s LP, a light yet grandiose new age track, entitled, predictably enough ‘2/2’, bares the most resemblance to Vangelis’s ‘body of work’. In fact it’s so similar to the single track that Partheon loon has been reissuing under different titles throughout his career, that I’m surprised Eno didn’t issue proceedings. Music for Airports acts as a palette cleanser - I found myself listening, really listening, for the first time in too long, to everything played immediately afterward. In conclusion, Music for Airports - less pretentious, more emotive and melodically complex than it at first appears, yet for the most part unobtrusively appealing. Om mani padme hum. Perhaps there’s virtue in simplicity after all.
Stereolab Chemical Chords 4AD
Rather than the traditional purpose of the title track of an album to serve as a microcosmic representation of it’s album, Stereolab’s Chemical Chords actually acts as a hodgepodge of all the styles Stereolab have classically employed throughout their discography: a repetitive bossa nova rhythm, movie-soundtrack instrumentation, simple swaying melodies, dreamy femme-vocals, elements of drone, and an almost jazz-like interaction between the band members. There’s probably a hidden Marxist manifesto and all. Such a title track reveals this latest release from the Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadler-led outfit for what it isa return to pop-orientated roots with their most recent noise-experimentation sidelined. Microdisney, High Llamas, and the republic of Cork’s very own Sean O’ Hagan also makes his return to the fold for the first time since 1994’s Mars Audiac Quintet for a return to formula, and a return to form. Chemical Chords suffers the same weakness as ever: stretched over 14 tracks it’s a struggle for Stereolab to hold your attention for a whole 48 minutes when repetition and simplicity is their forté. While there are no testing 18 minute epics in the vein of Jenny Ondioline it takes multiple listens for songs to distinguish themselves enough to sustain attention for the entire album. Endurance will be well rewarded however, as the album’s most memorable moments come in it’s closing movement.
‘Cellulose Sunshine’ sports the catchiest of 60’s harpsichord riffs to capture the luminescence of it’s shiny-happy title, while ‘Fractal Dream of a Thing’s dated wobbly synths belie the album’s most concrete song, with rigid drums underpinning a furiously addictive vocal line and climactic chorus. And while the penultimate ‘Daisy Click Clack’ oversteps the line into ever-looming kitsch territory, the curtains close on a dramatic highpoint with the dissonant fuzz of ‘Vortical Phonotheque’. Sadly, after multiple listens it’s still a challenge to look back over album’s track listing and remember which songs were which. Only the noise experiment ‘Pop Molecule’ and the kinetically funky, Dots and Loops-invoking ‘One Finger Symphony’ stand out as breaks from the Stereolab norm on what is a consistently satisfying album that nonetheless feels like the work of a band tired of stretching themselves too much. Banal and all as it is to say so, won’t convert the staunch anti-Stereolab, but if you’re a virgin to their simplistic symphonic seductions Chemical Chords might just be the album to bed you. Daniel Gray
Biffy Clyro Singles 2001-2005 Beggars Banquet
Are Biffy Clyro big? If the press release sandwiched into this singles collection is to believed (and why ever not?) the Scottish three-piece have exploded thanks to the catalyst of their latest album Puzzle, so much so that this compilation has been put out for newcomers/bandwagon-liggers that are too moral to download their older bits and bobs off the Hype Machine or Limewire. Last time I left the band, with 2004’s Infinity Land, they were receiving about the same MTV2 airplay as, say, the Futureheads. Having found them generally incompatible with my tastes of the day (say, the Futureheads), I shelved that album, and never deigned to pay attention to the band again. It’s all change on the Biffy front these days though: they’ve bagged support with the Stones and terrorized the charts both single and album, and they are no longer solely admired by that disturbingly zealous circle of supporters they based their mammoth toilet-venue tours of old upon. While only the deaf will claim the band haven’t mainstreamified their sound on Puzzle’s singles, the band have stuck with their quietloud-quiet-loud-veryfuckingloud dynamics (as perfected by Fugazi, Pixies, and their most common touchstones Nirvana) throughout their career. While this allows a sense of continuity to this tacked-together
retrospective, the quality of the band’s output is decidedly more patchy. The included older tracks, from the band’s debut, contain about as many good ideas as a lemming’s day out at the beach. They do a good impression of sounding like Seafood, if Seafood were superfluous and snooze-inducing. The more enjoyably jerky mid-era numbers are all old school Idlewild with their big-as-the-Scottish-Highlands choruses and warped lead riffs (‘Toys Toys Toys Choke, Toys Toys Toys’ being the most entertainingly screamy song on the album). Infinity Land big hitters ‘Glitter and Trauma’ and ‘My Recovery Injection’ are accessible, and nigh-on danceable, without sounding like compromised versions of the Biffy sound. Fun videos too, if my memory of the NME Chart Show hold true. The real reason this album has been pieced together, it seems, is to save new fans discovering the more tedious and derivative facets of Biffy Clyro’s back catalogue. In this goal at least, it succeeds. Daniel Gray
Albert Hammond Jr. Como Te Llama XL
With his second album since The Strokes, Albert Hammond Jr.’s seems to be establishing his solo career as a day job. Unfortunately, Como Te Llama lacks much of the charm of its predecessor. Although Yours To Keep was criticised for being too effete and indebted to the Beach Boys, it sparkled with undeniable personality. Como Te Llama drops the twee touches, and prefers to experiment elsewhere. A cheap drum machine and dubby bass are employed on ‘Lisa’, while ‘Borrowed Time’ is straight reggae complete with tinges of an affected Jamaican accent at points. However, both songs drop the conceits and move back to conventional rock in time for the chorus. This is indicative of the world in which Hammond is working. The Strokes shot to power on a back-to-basics platform way back in 2001, but since then, guitar music has moved on significantly. There was a time when a touch of “world music” flavour on a rock album was considered commendably broad-minded, but in a post-Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa world, Hammond’s efforts seem a little half-baked. ‘Victory At Monterrey’, sounding like a more sinister version of Spoon with a sleeper chorus, is a bright spot. Karl McDonald
Various Artists Indiecater Volume 1
MP3Hugger is something an Irish ambassadorial success. Receiving more hits a day than a punchbag in a boxing club, the blogger popularly offers free nuggets from his favourite bands both big and small, Irish and otherwise. On Indiecater, his first foray into compilation releases you actually have to pay for, he focuses on pulling together the more obscure acts his .com covers (to whom proceeds of this compilation will go directly to). So what makes Indiecater worth your well-earned cyber-cash in these tight times? Well outside of the exclusivity of several of tracks for the compilation, MP3hugger has created the most perfect mixtape experience: passionate, smile-inducing, achingly romantic and utterly replayable. Belfast’s own Burning Codes open the album with a sleepy, straight-out-of-bed number, followed by the alarm clock of Slushco’s Grandaddy-esque ‘Astronaut’, an upbeat and melodic distillation of all things lovely in the world. Storkboy Choons, in case you hadn’t picked up on this issue’s propaganda, is crush-worthy electronica and his contribution here, ‘Rockfield Symphony‘, is exemplary. Along with Michael Knight’s comp-only ‘Dumbshow’ the Irish artists punch above their traditional weight to convert Indiecater from a simple, unassuming mixtape into a small-scale success story. Daniel Gray
Patrick Kelleher Coat to Wear EP unsigned
Somewhere far below the dross-infested peak of Mount Delorento, strange and wonderful rumblings are now emanating from the Irish underground. A vanguard of bands including Bats, Halves, and now Wicklow native Patrick Kelleher are quietly establishing a confident and diverse underground scene which is rife with imagination and innovation. Kelleher’s new six track EP ‘Coat to Wear’ is a strikingly assured exercise in evocative, experimental pop that deserves notice. In the space of 18 minutes, these curious songs demonstrate a restless imagination that flits between diverse reference points. There is reined in 70s prog excess (‘Coat to Wear’ and ‘Wintertime’s Doll’), Moldy Peaches style acoustic whimsy (‘Boy Named Suzy Q’) and a distinct hum of the woozy dreamlike hiss of Atlas Sound in opening track ‘Wonder’. Kelleher also displays an obvious love of and mastery of musical texture. Relatively simple vocal melodies come swathed in distant hums, cracks and, at one unnerving point, what sounds like the chant of a monk slowly rotating on a pedestal. What ties this rag bag of influences together is hard to pin down, but something sure does, because ‘Coat to Wear’ is more than the sum of its occasionally ephemeral parts. Indeed it is a very satisfying overall listen. Confidently odd and well worth checking out. Darragh McCausland
Pop Levi Never Never Love Counter
Marc Bolan lives. Or at least his spirit does. ‘Never Never Love’ eschews Pop Levi’s Ladytron background, and instead veers directly into glamrock territory. Opening track ‘Wannamama’ stomps to a beat of glitter platform boots, and lead single ‘Dita Dimoné’ is ‘Hot Love’ remixed with some Ladytron synths. Elsewhere, tracks like ‘Love You Straight’ offer chilled out mid-70’s slow-set grooves. This is the record Har Mar Superstar wished he’d made. Ailbhe Malone .
Pivot O Soundtrack My Heart Warp
Pivot’s heart is a troubled heart. Over a mere hour it flutters and glitters, it convulses and rages. It is wracked with indecision and unease, and is sweetly repentant and hopeful. At times it is purposefully propelled forward, before once again being checked and reigned in. It is in a constant state of flux, never stagnating or resting. Yet it all ends with what I can only describe the sound of walking on heavy snow. Walking into a bleak white void, empty of emotion and hope. O Soundtrack My Heart is hardly a new concept, yet here it is perfectly executed. Using a combination of electronics and post-punk guitar, bass and drums, Pivot sketch a wholly forlorn portrait of a heart. A modern heart I might add. The use of dialling tones, audio static and the other sounds of everyday life are infused in the music. For once they are used not just for aesthetic purposes but to convey nothing short of the ever present loneliness and isolation of modern technological life. Paul Bond
The Dodos Visiter Wichita
There’s a lot of crazy anthropological one-upmanship going on in American alternative music at the moment. Exotic influences are being flung ostentatiously around the place like cards in a demented game of indie top trumps played by collegiate hipsters- “Dude, our Javanese Gamelan sound totally beats your Zimbabwean xylophone.” The Dodos’ second album, ‘Visiter’ is the latest record from the States to come marinated in imported musical influences, specifically West African Ewe drumming. I’ve never heard any West African Ewe drumming but, if ‘Visiter’ is anything to go by, it must be bonkers. Drummer Logan Kroeber’s hide-rattling, polyrhythmic percussion is the beating heart and soul of this album, elevating a collection of swirling, enigmatic, acoustic folk songs to thrilling heights. During the rare few times he effectively drops the sticks (‘It’s That Time Again’, ‘Park Song’) the album sounds merely intriguing, but on those songs such as ‘Fools’ where the beat is in full exhilarating flow, this sounds like an album of the year. Darragh McCausland
The Cool Kids The Bake Sale EP XL
Lispector Guide to Personal Happiness Twisted Nerve
The Bake Sale is a whirlwind of ideas, clocking in at a breezy 32 minutes. Much of their production is sparse and bare, leaving their lyrical prowess to roam free over crisp beats and hi-hats. Lyrically Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish are concerned with the finer detail, as proven on Mikey Rocks: “I don’t use bad grammar so please excuse this/I’m just trying to let n*ggas know who I is.”
Lispector is Julie and her Eight Track. It used to be Julie and her Four Track, but in 2004 she branched out, and doubled her fun. Insouciant, but not jaded, Guide to Personal Happiness is the 3rd album for the surnameless Julie, who moved to New York from France in 2000.
Such droll punchlines are a world apart from the overblown lyrical tendencies of many popular rappers, as is the prevalence of a positive, good-natured vibe – when confronted with aggressive guys Chuck doesn’t throw up his fists: “No sense in throwing punches, let’s do lunch, Man you like me too, ain’t no future in your frontin’.” All in all, this short effort is a welcome antidote to the prevailing wind of hardcore gangster rap, and a tantalising taste of what is to follow on their full length debut. Aidan Hanratty
Track one- ‘Lispector Sur Une Balancoire’ is an instrumental glitchy, bleepy, drum-machine-backed waltz. Track two-‘ Romantic at Heart’- is a bedroom voice, saying ‘If you want to see me just come over/ About anytime or even later’, while the drum machine rattles sleepily in the background. By the time track seven- ‘Peachtree Street’- has been reached, with an opening hook and lyrics that Stephen Malkmus would be proud of (‘She was acting so well you know that she died for real’) Lispector has stolen your heart, put it in the locket around her neck, and is promptly writing a song about it for her next album. Ailbhe Malone
Ratatat LP3 XL
Ratatat have honed their signature crunching sound over two albums and two sets of remixes, so with the release of the imaginatively titled LP3, where do they stand? Their signature sounds remain, with swooping guitar riffs matched up against a crunching combination of electro and hip-hop beats, but this time around the palette of sounds is greatly increased. Opener Shiller sees a delicate 3/4 synth line overwhelmed by dancing guitar riffs, while Falcon Jab is a delectable slice of vocodered 80s pop. Tracks like Bird Priest and the dreamy Flynn show the group’s experimentation with pianos, as they briefly set aside the beats that brought them their fame. Dura evokes the same haunting feeling as watching a Dario Argento film, while at the album’s close, Mumtaz Khan and Gipsy Threat are as exotic as their titles suggest. This experimentation will most definitely impress listeners, as it shows a band eagerly exploring new territory. Where they go next is anyone’s guess, but no doubt they’ll have a lot of fans come along for the ride. Aidan Hanratty
Port O’Brien All we could do is sing City Slang
You know how your English teacher in school told you not to start your story with waking up? Well, Port O’Brien don’t care what your English teacher says. All We Could Do Was Sing opens with a fantastic, cathartic track called “I Woke Up Today”, sung (or shouted) by everyone in the band in unison. It’s one of those songs that turns into the only thing you can think about for a couple of weeks. Communal and celebratory. Other than this, Port O’Brien do a good line in nautically-themed folky indie. From ‘Moby Dick’ to ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, the ocean has always been an excellent paradigm for the more solitary emotions in the spectrum. Port O’Brien sell the sea myth pretty hard, but the fact that main songwriter Van Pierszalowski genuinely does commercially fish for salmon makes for heightened fascination with his lyrics. ‘Fisherman’s Son’ is a particularly salient example of this, expressing the conflict that arises from having to drop real life and go to sea for several months. The closer, ‘Valdez’, is a short, sleepy ditty that begins with the line “Exxon, Exxon, clean it up” and sounds like it was recorded on a dictaphone buried under a large pile of laundry. The album is varied enough to be continuously interesting, and if ever you wanted a break from the stresses of real life, there are worse places to look for it than Port O’Brien. Karl McDonald
Digitalism Kitsune Tabloid Kitsune
Digitalism, having enjoyed great success with their last album, appear to be taking full advantage of the wave they’re riding into this release. When asked to create a mix that would tell a story, Hamburg duo produced this compilation of tracks, hence the tabloid reference. Within these appearances are tracks that have inspired the duo and it is impressive that they have acknowledged recent releases among peers along side their retrospective influences such as the Human League. Amongst these peers are Hot Chip, Calvin Harris and Holy Ghost. With Digitalism themselves being a part of the growing popularity of the disco-rock movement, it is to be expected that the tracks included are going to have this similar slant to them. Tracks by Midnight Juggernauts tread the middle ground between Siriusmo’s electro flood and The Kills garage dance-off. In this way the compilation is a good album to play if this middle ground needs to be pleased and should succeed in bridging a happy compromise between most listeners. Perfect for throwing on during a party without much risk of someone taking an excessive dislike towards. However the middle ground often loses its charm after the first listen and this is no exception. Besides the highlights of Hercules and Love Affair, Human League and Midnight Juggernauts the album descends into a bland array no matter how they much it’s sensationalised with its tabloid headline. Shauna O’Brien
Polar Bear Polar Bear Tin Angel Records
Forget labels, definitions of niche genres and styles, just take Polar Bear’s self titled third album on face value. It starts with some chilled jazzy tunes rising gradually to a funky maelstrom, all topped up with a dash of electronics. Then it twists into a subdued freakout of sounds before the funk returns. Throughout it oscillates between these extremes merging and separating as it weaves through these fifteen tracks. Pleasurable enough, but not spectacular. Paul Bond
The Hold Steady Stay Positive
The Hold Steady have always been a divisive proposition for fencesitting music fans. Depending on who you ask, they are either a bog standard bar band fronted by a Bruce Springsteen fanatic with a decent turn of phrase, or the most exciting lyric-driven American rock group since the Replacements. Whichever of the above you subscribe to, there is no denying their consistency. ‘Stay Positive’ takes the robust template of their last album ‘Boys and Girls in America’ and runs with it for another eleven songs. There is nothing here to convert the doubters, and no anthem to top the likes of ‘Chips Ahoy’ or ‘Stuck Between Stations’. Yet, as usual, Craig Finn eloquently holds forth on a riveting musical world of Kerouac-style dropouts whose lives are full of ruined dreams, atypical domestic dramas and guilty secrets. The music is strong, honest and steeped in beery gusto, especially on such songs as “Constructive Summer” and “Yeah Sapphire”. Like marmite, this record will be loved or hated, but for those who come at it with an open mind devoid of trendy fads, the former will hopefully hold true. Darragh McCausland
Minotaur Shock Amateur Dramatics 4AD
This is David Edwards’ second album, under the Minotaur Shock moniker, for 4AD to date and what a wonderful album it is. Touching at points on Isan, Susumu Yokota, Holy Fuck and Four Tet, Amateur Dramatics rambles through its relatively organic electronica at a leisurely pace, never really breaking or testing any boundaries. Nonetheless it is pretty and bright, and sounds like a jungle of tangled organic sounds. Natural electronics meld with acoustic samples, drum breaks and string quartets to create something that always feels lush and alive. On the slower tracks like ‘This Plane Is Going To Fall’ this is daintily displayed in the sweet melodies and ringing harmonies, but on faster numbers such as ‘Buzzards’ it is the mere pace that drives it forward. Don’t forget though that this sensuous organic electronica is all the work of one man only and that it also comes from one of Britain’s less verdant places, Bristol. So kudos is due to Minotaur Shock, for producing an album that is sensual, blooming and entangling. Paul Bond
Parenthetical Girls Entanglements Tomlab
Continuing the baroque revival with lush orchestral arrangements, perverse lyrics and a hodgepodge of eclectic instrumentation comes Parenthetical Girls third LP ‘Entanglements’. Ripe with snatches of verse and vocal phrasing referencing pop’s credibly melodic lunatic fringe (from Kate Bush to the Smiths), the Girls’ album is an intricate, if occasionally overloaded, enterprise. It’s as though someone sat frontman Zac Pennington down and told him he had one final stab at an album, and in terror he threw a career full of instrumental experimentation behind his Conor-Oberst-meets-Travis-Morrison falsetto. ‘Entanglements’ over-the-top production is simultaneously it’s greatest strength and weakness. At its best, as on the dreamy pederastic ballad ‘Avenue of Trees’, or the multiplicitously referential ‘Song for Ellie Greenwich’, or on Penningston’s wonderful reimagining of Michel Legrand chamber-pop staple ‘Windmills of Your Mind’ ‘Entanglements’ is a candy coloured clown tumbling through conceptually driven lyrics and multigenre medleys with knowing delight. But where it falls down, as on the Dresden Dolls style dirge ‘Abandoning’, or the Fiona Appleishly overwritten ‘Gut Symmetries’, the album can seem top-heavy and cloying in a way that eschews the unpretentious evocativeness of the best of its precursors. That said, ‘Entanglements’ is an intriguingly dense listen, highly recommended for the Jon Brion / Andrew Bird retinue, and fans of perverse, delicious, instrumental pop everywhere. Gareth Stack
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Kompakt Words: Darragh McCausland
Hear that sound? That is the sound of the global music business groaning, splintering, falling apart and sinking like the Titanic in slow motion. Ever since Thom Yorke smugly jumped ship and escaped on a little lifeboat called ‘In Rainbows’, the world’s eyes have been trained on this hulking industry as it slowly goes tits up in a freezing ocean of illegally downloaded MP3 files. Many see the current state of the industry as the death knell for record label. Some see this as a good thing. Yer Trents and yer Thoms will happily jig (or do a jittery Ian Curtis-esque jig movement in Thom’s case) on the graves of record labels, as Music Industry 2.0 welcomes us into a brave new world. While many will not mourn the potential loss of the so called big four (Universal, Sony BMG, Warner, and EMI), surely some flowers (gladioli perhaps?) will be kept to mark the final resting places of the more revered smaller labels? Before we all throw in the towel, however, and start awarding posthumous accolades, Analogue would like to direct some attention to the more groundbreaking record labels of our time. Believe it or not, there was a time when record labels (not blogs) played the part of your musically aware older sibling. When I was 16, it didn’t matter a jot what sort of tune I heard but as long as it was on Creation, I was bound to love it. Creation shaped my teenage music years and I thank them for it. For people older than me, it was possibly Rough Trade. For my American counterparts, it was likely Sub Pop or Matador. In short, good smaller record labels have personality and passion. ‘Label Love’ will focus in depth on a different label every month. The structure might vary, but the general idea is to highlight an influential record label, try to explain what makes them special and consider some key releases. In a ruthless game of spin the bottle in Analogue towers, I ended up marked for this first feature. While I am sure many future featured labels will be guitar based, I am going to choose the music label I listen to most right now, a German based techno distributor called Kompakt. Hey, you at the back, stop rolling your eyes and give 4/4 techno a chance. Now, a little back story on Kompakt and a few releases that best represent the full range of its sound.
A Short History of Kompakt Kompakt began with three German DJs (Michael Mayer, Jurgen Paape and Wolfgang Voigt), who worked together (and still do) in a big house in Cologne with a record shop attached. All three look alike and are vegetarians. Sounds like a scary techno cult right? Kompakt is often lazily described as a minimal techno label. While there is no shortage of acts representing that sub-genre on Kompakt, such pigeon holing does little justice to the more diverse releases and the full range of the label’s sound. In truth, Kompakt is home to a remarkably broad range of tastes, running from the strange swinging time signatures of the sound called ‘schaffel’, to the near beatless, ambient washes of the ‘Pop Ambient’ series. Also, the main seam of 4/4 techno the label mines, traverses a long continuum from the playful, campy pop sound of Justus Kohncke to the gothic dramatics of much of Superpitcher’s output. Indeed, the only real thread that ties such varied wonders together is the sheer consistency and quality of the label’s output; a demonstration of its owners’ imagination, impeccable tastes, and never-ending endeavours to push the boundaries of what is possible within techno music. While some will argue that the label’s glories are a thing of the past, recent releases such as Gui Boratto’s ‘Chromophobia’ and The Field’s ‘From here we go Sublime’ show that Kompakt’s heart still beats strong.
Some Key Releases on Kompakt The Mix CD Immer: Michael Mayer For any influential DJ, the most challenging demonstration of your musical dexterity is how you mix a set. For your average Berlin deck monkey, a DJ set will last between 4 and 6 hours, allowing all sorts of breathing space for strange and wonderful build-ups and detours. However, cramming that experience into a one hour mix CD is another thing altogether. Kompakt founder Michael Mayer managed this twice; spectacularly. The big fish that got away from the label was his exemplary, revered and upbeat Fabric 13 mix. But ‘Immer’, his first true mix for Kompakt is a monolithic example of the DJ mix as an artform. The whole of ‘Immer’ is greater than the parts. Mayer selects and precisely mixes a series of pieces that mesh together seamlessly, which, while married to the ubiquitous 4/4 beat, progress through a fully realised journey. In contrast to the circular, druggy abstraction of Ricardo Vilallobos, Mayer likes narrative. Many Kompakt mixes feel like mangled pop albums. They have a beginning, middle and end. ‘Immer’ is the ultimate example of this.
The Sampler Total 3: Various Artists Every Summer Kompakt announce the arrival of the latest sampler from their ‘Total’ series with a huge party in Cologne. While the quality of the Total series has been somewhat erratic in recent years, the early compilations from the label’s hey-day contain an embarrassment of riches. ‘Total 3’ stands out in particular, and with tracks like Superpitcher’s brooding ‘Tomorrow’, Michael Mayer’s playful ‘Hush Hush Baby’ and Reinhard Voigt’s thumping, spare ‘In aller Freundschaft’ it plays like a who’s who of techno’s most innovative producers at the mid-point of the decade.
The Box Set Nah und Fern: Gas ‘Nah und Fern’ is the brainchild of Wolfgang Voigt and is a re-released compilation of four near mythical albums of ambient minimal techno, sampled mostly from German classical records, and inspired by the depths of the Black Forest. The vapourous music made by Gas is difficult to convey in prose. It’s techno in the barest sense, in that you will often hear 4/4 beats, sometimes close, and sometimes further away in the thick mix. They beat dully like signals through thick fog, either anchoring you or tricking you into following them ever deeper into Voigt’s strange, sometimes scary but always beautiful sonic terrain. Essential.
The Full-Length From Here we go Sublime: The Field Like many dance labels, Kompakt butters its bread from the vinyl singles it distributes from its Cologne HQ. Techno is often about that one, blinding shit-hot track a DJ drops at the right moment. Tunes exist in isolation, waiting to be threaded into someone else’s mix. In short, it is an environment where the concept of the album as an artistic statement carries a lot less clout than it does in traditional indie or chart rock. Last year, this trend was bucked spectacularly by Swede Alex Willner (AKA The Field), whose full-length from ‘here we go sublime’ is, well, sublime from start to finish. Glacial, expansive, and exquisite, the album garnered rave (geddit?) reviews on its release and is something of a modern electronic classic.
1234567890 Achtung!: The Mysterious World of Numbers Stations Words: Ciaran Gaynor Illustration: Sarah Jane Comerford
A child’s strange, mechanized voice is announcing a series of apparently random numbers. Odd, xylophone-aided, musical interludes are repeated on a loop. Now a disembodied voice barks the phrase “konek!” and the broadcast falls silent. This isn’t some new musical experiment from Steve Reich. You are listening to short wave radio and have stumbled upon a Numbers Station. These intriguing, and often disturbing, radio broadcasts have been beamed across Europe from various secret locations for the best part of 50 years. But who is broadcasting and what exactly are they in aid of? Officially, the answer is that nobody really knows. Short Wave enthusiasts the world over, however, are unanimous in asserting that these “stations” are a means used by the world’s various secret services to communicate information to spies. They are illegal – in fact, theoretically you could be arrested for just listening to one. Numbers Stations used to be all over short wave radio, especially during the Cold War. Now, they are still in evidence although to a lesser degree. Try scanning through the short wave dial at nighttime, where you will be bombarded with radio broadcasts from all over the world. “The Voice of Russia”, “Radio Havana Cuba”, a plethora of American religious evangelists, distorted pop from the Asian sub-continent; you’ll find it all here. But nothing is more exciting on listening to the SW band than finding a Numbers Station. Radio enthusiasts make a hobby out of searching for them, and swap notes on which broadcasts have been found, which times the recordings were made, which wavelength was being used and so on. But the target audience for these broadcasts is apparently that man on the park bench wearing the dirty rain mac and sunglasses. Or possibly sitting on a train reading a newspaper with two holes cut out for him to peep through. The only people who are prepared to comment on the machinations of Numbers Stations are radio hobbyists, no nation state has ever confirmed or denied that they operate such a station. According to the short wave aficionados however, the station that has become known as “The Lincolnshire Poacher” is operated by MI6, and broadcasts from a rather tatty old building in Cyprus. Its transmitters are directed towards the Middle East so what the secret service can do is send one of their agents to a country like Turkey (for example) and send messages to him over the airwaves. Similarly, it is thought that MOSSAD, the KGB and others have all made use of this means of communication.
So how do they work? All you need to decode the broadcast is a pen, access to a short wave radio and what is called a “one time pad”. Each letter of the alphabet is randomly assigned an equivalent number, creating a numerical language in which messages can be spelled out, jotted down and ultimately interpreted by the agent in question. Each time a new message is broadcast, the letters of the alphabet are reassigned random numbers, making each individual code theoretically “uncrackable” by anyone who hasn’t been informed which numbers represent which letters. Hence, “one time pad”. One of the rare incidences where an institution was prosecuted for using a one time pad happened in 1998 when some Cuban spies were tried in the U.S. In this case, a station called “Atención” had made the broadcasts. One of the messages was the well sinister “Under no circumstances should agents German nor Castro fly with Brothers To The Rescue or another organization between the 24th and 27th…” Broadcasts are typically made in a foreign language to further obscure the indentity of the message’s sender and recipient . Also, the voices of women and children are often preferred. The secrecy and danger of numbers stations is partly what makes them so fascinating, so compelling and so mysterious. Happily they often sound fantastic too, especially if you happen to be into abstract electronica or the spooky music we tend to associate with 1970s children’s television programmes – one thinks of the haunting theme tune to Picture Box, which is genuinely one of the most beautiful pieces of instrumental music you could wish to hear. Forward thinking musicians such as Boards of Canada have peppered their records with samples of Numbers Stations. Wilco named their brilliant “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” album after a sample they’d used of a numbers station broadcast. There’s a website where you can download a four disc compilation called “The Conet Project: Recordings of Short Wave Numbers Stations” for free. It must rank as one of the finest collections of avantgarde or “outsider” music there is. It is named after a mishearing of the phrase “konek” which means “end”, a phrase that brings some Numbers Stations broadcasts to a close. Over and out. www.irdial.com/conet.htm
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