Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Skream - Skream!

Although he's only 20-years-old, south-Londoner Oliver Jones, aka Skream, is one of the most visible and admired producers inside the dubstep scene. His Skreamizm vinyl series became some of the most sought-after maxi-singles while his debut album was awaited with huge expectation. So here it is and the least we can say is that being the flavor of the month didn't hurt him, on the contrary. Skream!, the album, is dubstep in its purest form, with a strong emphasis on the "dub" side of the word. Although the paranoid sounds and claustrophobic atmospheres that define dubstep are still present, there is also space for some less darker sounds, making this the most luminous album so far to be released in this genre, thanks to a strong influence from Jamaican styles such as ska or reggae. With a huge talent to create original textures with so few sparse elements and using a strong and profound bass that supports everything, Skream creates one of those brilliant cases where the final result largely exceeds the sum of its parts.

The Science Of Sleep

How many ways are there to say "I love you" and how can we be sure of one's feelings? The new movie by Michel Gondry, besides being an inventory of his usual obsessions, fantasies and imageries, also spends some time trying to look for answers. So even if some of its scenes, inventive and ingenious as they may seem, can be considered a bit pointless, its main motive is really simple and captivating enough to make it for a compelling view. One of those rare charming movies that leave us with a smile in our face.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Radio Citizen - Berlin Serengeti

As with a lot of other records, Berlin Serengeti is all about fusion, putting together different languages such as soul, jazz, electronics or breakbeat and, in this specific case, adding an african flavor that Fela Kuti wouldn't disdain. So what makes it different from so many similar albuns that have come out since at least the late 1990's? Human touch is the answer and inspiration is the key. From the beginning and until the very end of Berlin Serengeti you can feel the pleasure that was put into its creation, adding a sense of urgency and vitality that distinguishes creativity from mediocrity. The result is an album of elegant, original and extraordinary music that, better than being a catalogue of its author's many influences, is nothing short of a paradigm in its own indescribable language.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dans Paris

To the question "Can love make someone jump from a bridge?", Dans Paris answers with two kinds of feelings: the love/break-up between a couple and the love existing between two brothers. Like ying and yang, the older and younger brother couldn't be more different, just like the scenes inside the appartment and the ones taking place around Paris streets. Or maybe not... French cinema is known as a laboratory of experiments ever since the Nouvelle Vague, and this beautiful, sometimes touching, sometimes funny movie pays a strong homage to it, while showing us once more why Paris has such a special place in cinema's history. And if sometimes experimentation doesn't succeed (the first minutes of Dans Paris can seem a bit too artificial and pretentious) when it does it's pure magic, which is ultimately what cinema is here for.

V/A - The Roots Of Dubstep

As its own title suggests, this is a compilation that traces dubstep genealogy, collecting previously released maxi singles from 2000 to 2004, making it easier to understand what were its origins, which were its influences and how it evolved during time. Besides its musical excellence, it also serves as a fantastic musical document that captures the exact moment when drum'n'bass, UK garage and two-step were transformed, slowed down and fused with dub elements, giving an important attention to space and silence, originating a new hybrid founded in a profound bass and geometric rhythmic structures, one that targeted the mind as well as the body. At this moment, dubstep is living its most exciting period, slowly coming out of London's underground clubs and pirate radios and having so many paths to go and explore, as shown in two of this year's best albuns, "Burial" by Burial and "Memories Of The Future" by Kode9 and The Spaceape (which were already something else). Right now anything can happen. "The Roots Of Dubstep" makes it easier to understand how it all became possible.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Polaroids # 9

Autumn has finally arrived in Lisbon...

(pictures taken during the first days of November, in Lisbon)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Favourite Movie Scenes # 2

From The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (directed by Wes Anderson)...

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou is surely one of the best movies in recent years and this is its climax scene. After spending the whole movie searching for the mysterious "Jaguar Shark" that killed his partner, Bill Murray's character and his whole ship crew, encapsulated in a small submarine, finally find it. But instead of a horror scene, what happens is something quite different and beautiful... (Soundtrack: "Starálfur" by Sigur Rós)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Magda - She's A Dancing Machine

Minimal techno is here to stay, it seems, thanks to the incredible flux of Berlin artists that keep releasing record after record of hypnotic sounds. The latest and most probably the best of the year in this genre (but I still have to hear the new Villalobos album - "Fizheuer Zieheuer") is an album by another foreigner-turned-into-Berlin-resident musician. Actually, "She's A Dancing Machine" is technically a compilation, using samples of 71 tracks by artists such as Plastikman, Metro Area, Villalobos, Donacha Costello, Larry Heard or Magda herself, which have then been edited, spliced and transformed until they can't be recognized, creating a continuous mix of 78 minutes divided in 16 parts. We say "technically" because the final result is the creation of a solid and original language, one of hypnotic proportions, where each sonic element introduced subtly evolves and transforms itself into another element, in a sequence where there's always enough space and time to breathe. Imagine the aural equivalent of the associations made inside our minds, when we let them run free, and you won't be far from reality.

Marie Antoinette

It's amazing how, with only 3 movies, Sofia Coppola has so strongly defined her own universe in cinema: a passion for outsiders and people that don't fit, the soundtracks having an important role to define emotions and, above all, an ethereal atmosphere that doesn't give a damm about the script, instead focusing on producing mesmerizing beautiful scenes and making the viewers immerse themselves in its universe. I still think Lost In Translation is her best work to date, but this story of Marie Antoinette as a young and rebel girl who has to find her own place in the rigid life full of rules and gossips inside Versailles is not far behind.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Must-have objects for a survival kit #4

Buddha Machine (by FM3)

"The Buddha Machine is a small musical loop player created by the Chinese ambient duo FM3 (Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian). It continuously plays one of 9 ambient sound loops that range in length from 5 to 40 seconds. It is often described as a small piece of installation art. Resembling a small transistor radio, the Buddha Machine has a volume control that doubles as an on/off switch; a headphone jack; a 4.5V AC adapter jack; and a switch that, when moved, selects the next of 9 ambient loops. (...)"
(in Wikipedia)

It's curious to see that in this mp3/ipod era, the physical music format with the biggest sales increase is...the good old vinyl. Maybe this happens as a reaction to the multitude of digital choices available everywhere on the internet, making physical supports seen less as consumables and more as collectibles. With this in mind, it's no surprise that the cult object of the year is something that looks like an old transistor radio and, more than a mere music archive, it's actually like a toy, or a gadget, which you can discover, explore and, ultimately, play with. Buy a lot of them in many colors and don't miss out the fun of playing them all together and making a small intimate concert at your place. Official site here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Lindstrøm - It's A Feedelity Affair

More good treats from Scandinavia? Yes indeed. Lindstrøm is a producer coming from Norway, who, last year, already gave us a great album together with Prins Thomas, a good lesson on how to update disco to our age with an ellegant and inspired twist. This new album collects his previously released maxi-singles and, although it has some works that date back to 2003 and 2004, it's actually another very strong contender to the 2006 album of the year slot. How does it happen? Once again, the most simple ideas are the best: these 11 songs are all about grabbing the perfect groove and exploring it passionately and for our never-ending pleasure, using a sensitivity and knowledge rarely seen, where the final goal is to take beauty and make aural poems and lush sounds out of a simple synthesizer. You can categorize this music the way you want ("space disco", "cosmic disco" and "hippie-house" are some of the most commonly used) but, in the end, what you have is a timeless record, one that seems to make you travel into space, see the stars, fly over the moon, dance on the Saturn satellites, and come back with the feeling you've witnessed something truly unforgettable. Dance music doesn't get much better than this.