Sunday, October 29, 2006

Music Videos # 20

Beck - Cellphone's dead

Another great video directed by Michel Gondry.

Beck - The Information

One of my favourite artists is back, once again giving us some more evidences on why he's a favourite and such a prolific musician. If every single one of his albuns has an identity of its own, "The Information" is no exception but in a totally surprising way. Up until now, we had lots of different and separated Becks with millions of influences, which we could vaguely divide in two categories: the excessive, luxurious and upbeat musician, mostly influenced by hip-hop and funk, a sampling-lover which we could hear in "Mellow Gold", "Odelay", "Midnite Vultures" and "Guero"; and the more introspective and serious Beck, influenced by classic musical genres such as country, folk or blues, shown in "One Foot In The Grave", "Mutations" or "Sea Change". With "The Information" and like last year's "Guero", he is once again influenced by his own past. But if "Guero" was mostly an update of 1996's "Odelay" (still widely seen as his best work to date), with his new album, and for the very first time, all of his personalities show up, appearing together and in harmony in each and everyone of these 16 new and brilliant songs. So, what do we have in "The Information"? Mostly, an impressive showroom of its author's universe, uniting disperse elements such as hip-hop, folk, funk, pop, krautrock, country, lo-fi, sampling, blues or psychadelic rock, putting together something so amazingly coherent as only his mind could create. Add to it a sophistication and some darkness only possible after years of experience, and a couple of the last songs, so hallucinating that they end up almost inventing a whole new musical genre (who said he couldn't take risks anymore?) and you end up having another classic Beck album. Is he getting all mature and grown-up? Yes, and that's a surprise, but in his case those are also wonderful news.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rhythm & Sound - See Mi Yah Remixes

Discreetly, a mysterious duo from Berlin underground scene has been constructing one of the most cohesive musical universes of the past decade with their record label Basic Channel. Their music can be described as minimal techno with a strong dub-influence, full of repetitive and hypnotic details, echoes and, most of all, with a strong and profound bass where everything is layered upon. Imagine underground caves full of smoke and you won't be far from reality. As Rhythm & Sound, one of their many pseudonyms, they are joined by declaimers such as Paul St Hilaire, Willi Williams or Sugar Minott, as seen in last year's album "See Mi Yah", making it once again clear that Jamaica is one of their biggest sources for inspiration. And now first-class producers such as Carl Craig, Ricardo Villalobos or Vladislav Delay and insiders like Hallucinator or Substance, re-work last year's material with some brilliant results, taking it to a whole new level but never forgetting the main foundations of their source. This fact and the surprising consistence and coherence of this compillation as a whole, ends up making it a well-deserved homage to Basic Channel itself.

In Flagranti - Wronger Than Anyone Else

Here to save the fun side of clubbing, enter In Flagranti, a duo from Brooklyn with an energy and infectious mood rarely seen. Known for their doubtful-taste imaginary seen in their irresistible videos and record covers (for a glimpse, visit their site), the music has a visceral and urgent feeling that is impossible to ignore. Disco, funk, post-punk, rock, electro, everything is put together in an orgasmic non-stop cauldron to create a physical sound full of hedonism and eroticism. Recommended as a soundtrack for unforgettable parties.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Favourite Movie Scenes # 1

From Jackie Brown (directed by Quentin Tarantino)...

Right in the opening credits, Pam Grier walking through an airport, to the sound of "Across 110th Street" by Bobby Womack. And isn't this the best song ever?

Kode9 + The Spaceape - Memories Of The Future

So it's official: dubstep is the sound of 2006 and Hyperdub its most important label. Some months ago we already had Burial's debut album, which is setting out to be the record of the year. And now the man behind Hyperdub, Steve Goodman (aka Kode9), puts out his own landmark, one that is simply and hauntingly brilliant. If "Burial" was already the soundtrack for the post-apocalypse, "Memories Of The Future" is post-post-everything. As if there's nothing left in the world, the sun has long disappeared, taking all forms of life with him, and we only have shadows, empty spaces, darkness, echoes and a sense of fear and loneliness in the air. Musically, this translates once again in an obsessive attention to the sounds geometry, an almost claustrophobic one, where only the absolutely necessary is heard. But if "Burial" was mostly instrumental, "Memories Of The Future" has the collaboration of declaimer Spaceape, reciting its scary poems in a monochordic and haunted voice, just like a prophet would sound after the end of the world, adding to the fear sensation that makes this album so unique. Somewhere in a line between life and death, and in the words of Kode9 himself: "14 dread filled flash-backs and flash-forwards from a world trembling in an echology of fear".

Monday, October 23, 2006

Music Videos # 19

El Perro Del Mar - God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)

Cute little video for one of the main soundtracks of my last summer, directed by Åsa Arnehed.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Music Videos # 18

The Long Blondes - Weekend Without Makeup

I'm totally addicted to this song!

Mummer - SoulOrganismState

Does the world really need another jazz-blues-pop-electronics album? For the past years, we thought it didn't, but then comes an album that defies all logics and makes us fall in love with Vienna all over again. And, in the meantime, it also reminds us that all creations are just a matter of inspiration and that's surely one thing that didn't lack while "SoulOrganismState" was being done. Defined by its author as "an ecclectic mix of this and that", it truely is that simple. So, even if its separated components are nothing really original, the sum of it all invents a new positive language, in twelve classic and timeless songs where each physical element serves a purpose. Which is to improve our fantasies and elevate our spirits.

Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye

And with their second album, Junior Boys start all over again and thankfully we're allowed to make this journey with them. Gone are the muscular beats and rhythmic structures that "Last Exit", their first album, presented. This time, inspiration is taken from a multitude of 70's and 80's references, from electro to house or disco to r&b, but it's never just a name and style dropping catalogue. Instead, these recognizable elements are all worked out and slowed down until they serve an ultimate and bigger purpose: to build strong and inspired elegant songs, constructing beautiful and gigantic but also ethereal and intimate anthems. There's a sense of romance and distance in here, exulting an atmosphere that is coherent with its title: quiet and nostalgic for something which is probably already gone but that still gives us wonderful memories.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Polaroids # 8

Luzboa 2006 International Biennale on the Theme of Light

"Need money for food and to go home"

Art gets you through the night II

(pictures taken between 21st - 30th September 2006 around Lisbon streets)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55

The daughter of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin enters automatically into the pantheon of the relevant female singers of today, with an album that has an enviable list of collaborators: music by Air, lyrics by Jarvis Cocker (ex-Pulp) and Neil Hannon (Divine Comedy) and production by Nigel Goldrich (Radiohead, Beck). It could be the opposite way. With an all-star cast to help her, it would be easy to see her as a mere vehicule for their collaborators fantasies. Instead, what we have is an interpreter that absorbs their help and subtly makes them secondary figures of her own vision, such is her presence and personality that is heard in these songs. The main influence that comes to mind is actually of her father, in an album of nocturnal and ghostly fantasies and cinematographic atmospheres. Melancholic, elegant, sensual and vaguely decadent, here's a monument to french charm.

Beyonce - B'Day

So far, she had been more of a singles artist, each of her previous albuns (as a solo singer or with Destiny's Child) having 3 or 4 good catchy songs, later turned into smash hit singles, and more than a half of filler ballads. That perception is changed with her second solo album, her most solid and mature album to date. To cut it short, B'Day is an unstoppable funk machine, each song having an infectious vibe rarely seen in her previous work. So much so, that there's not an obvious catchy song in here, the emphasis being more in constructing an album as a whole. And then, having been recorded in just a couple of weeks, there's a sense of urgency feel from start to end, so huge as if there's no tomorrow (hence the reason why she screams so much), turning this album into an ode to independence and, most of all, to (her) freedom.

Kill the DJ presents The Dysfunctional Family (Mixed By Ivan Smagghe & Chloe)

Not all club music is fun and silly, and this compilation by these two french DJ's couldn't be a better example. Dark, minimal, powerful, nocturnal, sensual and even with a bit of a perverse atmosphere, it's the complete opposite of easy-listening. But what makes it so special is its intelligence and delicate ellegance, mixing so many different styles as techno, electro, house, krautrock, blues and even experimental rock. As a whole, it's perfect to hear at full volume, in very dark, colorless and decadent urban clubs where dancing is just a question of letting your imagination do unlimited trips (with no additional substances needed).

Islands - Return to the Sea

There really must be something in the canadian water that boosts the creativity molecule. Following recent local phenomenons like Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade or Bell Orchestre, here's another band deconstructing the normal rules of alternative rock to create an universe of their own. Once again, the method used is to search harmony out of a chaotic use of intruments, in little song pearls with intricate melodies and a multitude of strong emotions. In this case, a wild imagination results in successful musical experiments. Listen and feel inspired.

Lady in the Water

By far, the most beautiful movie of the year. Yes, it's a fact that we live in a cynical world, so when we're told about a bedtime story that features narfs, wolves, eagles and monsters, it's hard not to giggle about it. But M. Night Shyamalan makes us want to believe it. It's true that sometimes he may be almost pushing it too hard (and what is that visible microphone doing at the top of some shots?!?). But in the end that doesn't matter a tiny bit, as he never stops feeding us with his incredible faith, and faith is ultimately what this film is all about. So suspend your creeds and beliefs and let yourself go in the world of this beautiful and powerful fairytale.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Music Videos # 17

Madonna - Jump

Directed by Jonas Akerland, here's the fourth video to be taken from the Confessions on a Dancefloor album. Filmed in Tokyo during the final leg of her Confessions Tour, it revolves around the urban-free-style discipline known as Parkour. A simple and effective idea, beautifully done and with great shots, it's a quite a cool video, with a very fresh feeling, while she looks simply amazing in it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Squid and the Whale

Small independent film from Noah Baumbach, who previously wrote the screenplay for some Wes Anderson movies, this is a reminder that the cinema exists to tell us stories and that there's nothing more interesting than common people with common lives and common dreams. Taking place in Brooklyn during the 1980's and showing us the family consequences of a divorce, especially the effects it can have on two teenage sons, this movie is full of irony and small details with big meanings. And then there's the brilliant last scene, proving that you can say so much with so little. As one of the characters says after passing off a Pink Floyd song as his original work and performing it at a high school talent show: "I felt I could have written it so the fact that it was already written was kind of a technicality".

Kelis - Kelis Was Here

Kelis is probably one of the most fascinating women in the pop universe right now. Too weird for the mainstream and considered too manufactured to be taken by the alternative public, there's always more to her than the eye first meets, from her blasé philosophy to the extravagant looks, strong-independent-woman imagery or an irresistible fuck-it-fuck-them-fuck-me attitude that confuses the regular music consumer. She's not afraid to use new radical sounds - Kaleidoscope remains the best Neptunes-produced-album ever, while Milkshake, her biggest hit to date, is nothing less than pure infectious genius. But she also has no inhibitions to explore (and conspurcate) the mainstream, using the hottest producers of the moment and making market-oriented songs (just let's not talk about that Enrique Iglesias duet, ok?). For her fourth album, the formula remains effective enough to keep us fascinated, expanding even further the music horizons (everything goes in this r&b pastiche, from 80's electro to indian sounds, rock guitars, gospel choirs, brazilian rhythms or opera samples) while the attitude is her strongest and bitchiest ever ("I'm bossy / i'm the bitch y'all love to hate", "You want to get in my pants / I don't think so", "Awww shit / I can make the whole song talk shit"). It may not be her best album yet (as a whole, it lacks a certain sense of unity) but it sure is great to have her around.