Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

You had me at “popcorn”…

Ok, so popcorn only comes into it at the end. But you catch my drift.

Thank you, The Auteurs, for your charming (and helpful) email.

Visible Sounds: What You Can’t See Won’t Hurt You?

Here’s what Serato Scratch Live looks like, if you haven’t seen it before:

When I’m not busy ballsing up a mix, I’m staring at this screen – mainly at the middle, at the sound wave graphs. They’ll show me where a break’s coming, where the sound gets fuller or quieter.

The newer recordings I have tend to be fuller. You can see it onscreen because the sound waves go bonkers, stretching the volume limits and bouncing through at a higher frequency (witness Major Lazer above).

Now I’m no musicologist. But I’d guess that coverage of the Loudness War gets to the root of what’s going on here:

Do you find it a bit weird that we don’t ‘see’ music like this more often?

The graphic equalizer has been around for nearly half a century. But iPods just show us timelines or numerals, and sleeve art. Music videos give us visual reference to understand a song, but rarely any data. The modern displays on digital radios are mainly functional.

Cue data viz delight when I discovered this little number today… A Visual History of Loudness (PDF) [via The Loudness Wars: Why Music Sounds Worse]

Wowzer. I’ve not even included the visual for 2010 here – but it probably won’t blow your mind to learn it gets louder again. You’ll have to check out the PDF.

So there’s one argument that appears to make sense: “Because louder music creates a more immediately pleasing effect on the listener, record execs have been ordering the volume knob cranked up for the last three decades.”

But is there more to it? Feels to me that musicians and producers must have played a role too. Look at this Ableton recreation of ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ [via Lemonade Was A Popular Drink…]

It’s not just about jacking up the volume. It’s about sampling too. Every time a track takes a sample and ‘smacks the pitch up’, it compresses more sound into a smaller space. That also makes it harder for you, or me, to mix it with another record – we’ll need to filter out more sounds to stop that nasty soundclash noise.

*SURPRISE ENDING* You might have heard of The Mosquito – a high frequency sound device that “stops teens from loitering”.

If you’re under 25 you should, in theory, be able to hear this:

The Teenager Audio Test MP3 [via The Oatmeal]

So what do you reckon? Will the music industry get itself back on an even keel? Will Apple introduce iTunes upgrades that let us ‘see’ sound differently? Will bigger gaps develop between the hearing ranges of different generations – and will they be used against us? Or will the kids fight back with ringtones?

Too many questions. I’m sorry. Got overexcited there.

If I were to make a prediction, it’s this – advertisers will make more use of sound and, specifically, sound viz this year. We haven’t seen the last of this.

More sound experiments:

Mathias Delplanque – ‘Call Centre’

– The sounds of the Indian call centre, remixed

Giles Turnbull – ‘The Present Sound of London’

Audio journalism from the Big Smoke’s undersides

More data viz goodness:

Information Is Beautiful

information aesthetics

Flowing Data

The 2009 Feltron Annual Report

The Price of Being Useful

Reitveldt

Red Blue Chair, c.1923

Gerrit Rietveld

Price: c.£600

Mondrian

Composition II in Red, Blue and Yellow, c.1930

Piet Mondrian

Price: c.£2,500,000

“There is nothing any less powerful in the intensity of feeling of the Red Blue Chair than in that of a canvas by Rietveld’s contemporary and Piet Mondrian… [Yet] the Red Blue Chair remains to a certain degree stigmatized by the fact of being useful – no matter how slightly.”

Deyan Sudjic, The Language of Things (2009)

When will this stigma lift?

I wonder if the Serpentine’s ‘Design Real’ exhibition might be shifting things, w/r/t design as art.

On the flip, what does The Affordable Art Fair say about art as design?

37 things that I truly enjoyed in 2009

Google says we don’t need another ‘Best of 2009’ list, and I couldn’t agree more.

Most such lists are, at least in some small way, disingenuous.

Take Vice’s 2009 Albums of the Year list. Clever. But what does it give? What does it tell you about its author(s) – other than the fact that he/ she/ they can deconstruct their own posturing?

We might laugh (*guilty*). Although it’s quite sad. When people aren’t doing the post-modern-show-off thing they’re probably just doing the posturing thing that the post-modern-show-off thing takes the piss out. If you get me.

So, for the sake of sincerity, here’s a personal alternative. A bunch of stuff I enjoyed in 2009, whether it was published/ released/ produced in 2009 or not. It just happened to come into my life last year, and I loved it.

6 things I truly enjoyed reading

Early in November, I read the words “I am in here”. For the next month, I was gripped, and content, because I knew that wherever I went I had 1,000+ pages of Infinite Jest threatening the last threads of my beaten-up manbag.

That bag is now a goner. But if you want to read David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece in 2010, there’s still the wonderful Infinite Summer website/ round table as your companion.

Odd coincidence: most of the action of Infinite Jest (1996) takes place in 2009.

Less odd: information overload = boredom – maybe?

Tao Lin explores this question like no one else I read in 2009, and I admire the bravery of his work. Wonder if he’s a better self-promotionalist than he is a writer. Wonder if he cares, or if he’s just on GChat (to a paying customer). Wonder if he really is Carles from Hipster Runoff.

Short stories were in. I read Miranda July. I re-read Raymond Carver. I read Kmart realism and things got a bit sparse. A bit concrete. The best short book I read talked about concrete, and other materials. Dejan Sudjic‘s little gem, The Language of Things, educated me on Dieter Rams, modern art and the essence of luxury (+much much more) in the space of 218 perfectly considered pages. I raise my cap to him and recommend that book highly.

Lastly – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. We waited 11 years for Junot Díaz to make a comeback. Boy was it worth it.

11 things I truly enjoyed watching

No new film releases blew me away last year. Perhaps I was taking more pleasure from digging – and because Audrey Q‘s flatmate works for Artifical Eye, we always had an archive to hand.

Right at the top of the pile was Emir Kusturica. I loved When Father Was Away on Business (1985), and Underground (1995) was out of this world. Gypsy-carnivalesque-slapstick-allegory. Truly magical.

UNDERGROUND Trailer by musicattaque on YouTube

If I’m remembering correctly, The Larry Sanders Show was buried in a BBC graveyard slot back in the 90s. That’s a complete mystery to me.

It made the mold for recent post-modern comedy, from Curb Your Enthusiasm to The Office to 30 Rock. Every episode I watched last year was A1.

Hank Kingsley by nominal1234 on YouTube

I’ll rat myself out here. I came to the party way too late (via the excellent Underbelly and a newfound bloodlust). But I did watch all 5 seasons of The Wire at the start of the year. Does that need any comment?

At Xmas it got all gory again with another instant classic from David Simon – Generation Kill.

Best Scenes of Generation Kill by DarkEClips on YouTube

No disaster, no massacre without redemption. If Generation Kill showed the bloody worst of Iraq, Mark Cousins’s debut as a director told an entirely different story – many stories, in truth, narrated by the children who live there.

I saw a few brilliant documentaries in 2009. (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell, of particular note). But The First Movie was the best, and the most sui generis. You must watch it.

14 things I truly enjoyed listening to

Bye bye Bmore. Hello Serato. Finally I could play records in the same way I VJ. And we played a lot of MP3s on those two control records.

Track of the year is a toss up between two glitch dubbers: Joy Orbison and 2000F & J Kamata. Since Joy Orbison also made my favourite mix of year, and he called heads, heads wins.

Joy Orbison – Hyph Mngo by HotflushUK on YouTube

Intersections on the various lines between dubstep, house, techno, UK Funky, carioca funk et al got my BPMs racing. Besides Joy Orbison, Floating Points were outstanding in 2009. Mad Decent slipped off my rader a bit, but Major Lazer kept us jumping all summer.

On the Tropical tip, Cumbia was the breakthrough sound – and Buenos Aires’s ZZK Records were always pushing the front line.

El Remolon by ZZK Records on Vimeo

Boogie made a comeback with Dâm-Funk, James Pants and a masterclass from DJ Spinna. Interesting to hear Joy Orbison et al sampling from that era. Probably not a coincidence.

Less sure why Italo is always in my beatbox (synths? irony?) but it appears to be true – Italians Do It Better. Glass Candy at KOKO was one of my gigs of the year.

Glass Candy by Evan Matthews on Vimeo

Back in March 2009, I got to meet a hero. Daedelus performed at Bardens Boudoir with his wife, Laura Darlington. We listened to The Long Lost, looked around the room, and everyone was clearly in love.

The Long Lost – Siren Song by ldtn on Vimeo

*PERSONAL ASIDE WITHIN THIS PERSONAL REVIEW*

Speaking personally, my favourite gig was the Lovebox Arthur Russell tribute night. But  I was VJing at that night. So, as I warned you – it’s personal.

Killer Whale Go Bang by seangorham on YouTube

5 exhibitions I truly enjoyed going to

I’ve already written about Walking In My Mind at the Hayward Gallery, and that exhibition has ended. I don’t think it’s fair to taunt you with the details now.

It’s definitely unfair to tell you about Roger Hiorns’s SEIZURE, if you didn’t make it. But what can I say. It was brilliant. I’m sorry. The exhibition ended on 3 January 2010. Let’s hope it will be back.

Artist on site: Roger Hiorns on Seizure by Artangel on Vimeo

I’ve heard rumbles that The Museum of Everything – a gallery devoted to outsider art – will re-open in some form, at some time, in 2010. I hope that’s true because I’d love to go back.

The Cinema Museum in Kennington does occasional open days and the next one’s coming on 27-28 February 2010. If it’s anything like the one I went to in 2009, you’ll be able to bring old 8mm and 16mm reels for restoration. Something to look forward to, eh?

But if you need a faster fix, mercifully, I can give you a recommendation. Drop everything. Get to the V&A for Decode: Digital Design Sensations before 11 April 2010 and leave plenty of time to play.

London Poetry Systems Round Up

Back in October, London Poetry Systems collaborated with the Oxford University Poetry Society for (what we thought was) a one-off event in Oxford.

It’s now become a two-off. We’re back for Oxfringe on 11 April 2010.

Here are some of the better bits from our last show…

Will Stopha – This City is Larger than Life by Big Face Art on Vimeo

Huck – My Freedom and Me by Big Face Art on Vimeo

George Chopping – Wit off by Big Face Art on Vimeo

Henry Stead – Earth Too Soon by Big Face Art on Vimeo

Yo Zushi – ‘Eva’ by Big Face Art on Vimeo

The Limits of Control

Image cred: kspace.tv

“I abstain from any kind of release for six weeks before a fight, no self-pleasure, nothing,” says [David] Haye, acknowledging that he may have a busy week ahead. “Even in my dreams, I’ll be about to have sex with a beautiful girl and I’ll say ‘Sorry darling, I’m fighting in a few weeks.’ That’s control, bro, when you’re turning down a hot chick in your subconscious.”

David Haye, Observer Sport Monthly | November 2009

Image cred: YR MOMMA’S IN OUR BIZNESS

“Everyone in boxing probably makes out well except for the fighter. He’s the only one that’s on Skid Row most of the time; he’s the only one that everybody just leaves when he loses his mind. He sometimes goes insane, he sometimes goes on the bottle, because it’s a highly intensive pressure sport that allows people to just lose it [their self-control].”

Mike Tyson, quoted in The Telegraph | ‘Tyson 20 years down the line’