Monday, August 27, 2007

Music Videos # 57

Joakim - Lonely Hearts

For a song titled "Lonely Hearts", nothing like making a video of... wedding scenes. The nostalgic appeal of the images also suits the song, which, btw, is just a portion of the many sonic surprises that can be found in "Monsters & Silly Songs".

Joakim - Monsters & Silly Songs

If a few years ago music was well compartmented and divided into clear and autonomous styles, it seems that nowadays the main goal is to use a bit of everything, inventing post-post-movements which, occasionally, manage to create something completely new. This year we already had a mesmerizing paradigm of all this, with Studio's "Yearbook 1", one of this year's best records, with an unique cohesion that came from using so many different and only apparently antagonic styles like new-wave or afro-beat. Joakim, founder of french label Tigersushi Records and well-respected musician, has just done something similar with his third album, one of those records that are happy to confuse our expectations. A bit of new-wave here, some ambient music there, add elements of krautrock, electro, rock, funk, house, psychedelic sounds or even concrete music and voilà, you have "Monsters And Silly Songs". Looking for inspiration in so many different places could result in a total mess, but that's not the case: there's always an unexpected angle, surprising musical solutions and a strong (and somehow charmingly dark) identity, finding a new order out of chaos, one that makes "Monsters And Silly Songs" sounding so urgent and vital that it could only come from this exact moment. (8/10)

Myspace page

Saturday, August 25, 2007

M.I.A. - Kala

Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam's biography is so cool that it could almost be irritating: born from a Sri-Lankan family, her father is a Tamil revolutionary known as "Arular" (incidentally her first album's title), an activist that is still searched by the Sri-Lankan army; because of this, the rest of her family were forced to flee the country when she was very young, escaping to India before finally moving to London, where they were relocated as refugees. Here, she learned english and ended up studying fine art, film and video, while also starting her first experiments with music, together with her then-boyfriend Diplo. After "Arular", widely seen as one of 2005's best records, she was then refused a visa to enter the U.S.A. where she was supposed to work with Timbaland, all because of her origins and family history. She decided to take some time and travel around the world instead, with the goal of collecting new sounds, cultures and experiences that would take part in her second record. And here it is, the result of all this, "Kala". With an immense palette of sounds, beats and atmospheres, the few criticisms that were pointed at "Arular", saying that its songs sounded too similar (they didn't, but ok), are definitely no longer valid. There are still hints of hip-hop, baile funk, grime, ragga, dancehall or electro, but there's also Bollywood disco-sound, kid's beat-boxing, Pixies citations, even-more-audacious sonic elements and filthier beats, and a whole atmosphere of extreme globalization where every culture has something to say, even (especially) the most marginalized ones. And that's another way to look at "Kala": a visceral world-music record as done by a revolutionary woman where, instead of the usual touristic cliches, we have sweat, blood and sex fluids. M.I.A.'s strong and fascinating personna is the commander that gives sense to so many disparate elements, presenting "Kala" as a definition of her own kaleidoscopic and very personal universe. Maybe it doesn't sound as revolutionary as "Arular" did in 2005? Sure, but it doesn't matter anymore. She's already somewhere else and, apparently, she's taken the whole world with her. Actually, you couldn't get more political than that. (9/10)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Music Videos # 56

Rihanna - Don't Stop The Music

Third single from her Good Girl Gone Bad album, after the stellar "Umbrella" and the not-so-good "Shut Up And Drive", this time Rihanna uses a sample of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" by Michael Jackson to reach something of unbelievable proportions. Citing Popjustice again, here's quite possibly "the world's first electro-R&B-filter-house track".

Friday, August 17, 2007

V/A - After Dark

With so many great releases from projects like Lindstrøm, Sally Shapiro or Black Devil Disco Club, italo-disco is definitely back after 20 years buried and hidden deep inside music history ark, and nothing like an enigmatic collection from brand-new label "Italians Do It Better" to keep it alive. As the title "After Dark" says, this time there's not much sunshine around, keeping a cold, distant, melancholic and slightly creepy atmosphere that ends up being totally addictive. Presenting a bunch of new projects (it's worth mentioning and memorizing all of them: Glass Candy, Chromatics, Indeep, Mirage, Professor Genius and Farah) and showcasing their take into italo-disco's vintage electro sounds, analog synths and metronomic beats, there's also a minimal approach that carefully takes this very-cohesive collection into a whole new place of its own. And quite a wonderful place that is. (8,5/10)

Myspace page

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Some late-summer music selections

El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead

While mainstream hip-hop is slowly agonizing in its own vanity (50 Cent vs Kanye West? WTF?), the underground is happily taking it into new extremes. El-P beats are so hallucinating that, at first listen, it's impossible to discern all elements, taking quite a few auditions to understand everything. If you want something as kaleidoscopic as it's humanly possible, look no further. (8/10)

Myspace page

Prodigy - Return Of The Mac

Not to be confused with dance group The Prodigy, this Mobb Deep MC is another good example on how the underground is saving hip-hop. Vintage soul and jazz samples and luxuriant orchestrations in a possible take between the smooth daisy-age of the early days and the harder sounds of gangsta-rap. (7,5/10)

Myspace page

Wiley - Playtime is Over

Grime's most veteran producer releases what is supposed to be his last effort before leaving the spotlight, as usual full of crazy rhythms and furious rhymes. He will be missed. (7/10)

Myspace page

A-Trak - Dirty South Dance (mixtape)

Kanye West favourite DJ (he was the man behind the plates during the "Touch The Sky" tour), releases his own mixtape where, from Justin Timberlake to Klaxons, Giorgio Moroder to The Clipse, Gwen Stefani dueting with LCD Soundsystem or hip-hop marrying with new-rave, everything is sliced, cut, mixed and juxtaposed to form the ultimate block-party soundtrack for this summer (8/10)

Myspace page

Simian Mobile Disco - Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release

James Ford, aka new-rave guru and super producer of the latest albums by Klaxons and Arctic Monkeys, finally releases his first record as Simian Mobile Disco, together with James Shaw. Aimed specifically to the dancefloor, it largely succeeds in achieving its main goal, with a very physical sound that uses all the maximalism / new-rave tricks without a hint of shame, creating muscular electronic hooks of potentially-dangerous impact (7,5/10).

Myspace page

Efdemin - Efdemin

Minimal techno and house from Berlin, full of spare dreamy sounds, blurry progressions and fuzzy melodic shadows, ending up with something so subtle and vaporous to the point of blending perfectly with the air around. Hypnotic. (7/10)

Myspace page

Makossa + Megablast - Kunuaka

Reminding us why Vienna was so cool during the late 1990's, Makossa + Megablast update the trademark Kruder & Dorfmeister narcotic sound to the new millennium, incorporating an african flavour that maximizes its ferocious dancefloor groove. (7/10)

Myspace page

Margaret Berger - Pretty Scary Silver Fairy

Apparently, "Pop Idol" is not as trashy as I thought it would be, at least not its Norway version. The legend goes that Margaret Berger didn't win anything, but she is now the last one to laugh. Her second album is pure and perfect synth-pop with immaculate melodies, crystalline and adventurous production (The Knife meets Britney Spears anyone?) and an indolent charisma. A star is born? (7,5/10)

Myspace page

Owusu & Hannibal - Living With Owusu & Hannibal

Three years ago, things like this were everywhere, with Spacek, Some Water And Sun, Dwight Trible, Sa-Ra... The momentum may now have gone somewhere else, but there are still people out there searching for a new paradigm to the future of soul music. And right now, no one seems to be closer to that goal than this Copenhagen project. (7/10)

Myspace page

Black Moth Super Rainbow - Dandelion Gum

This is what should have happened after Air released their "10.000 Hz Legend" album, if they hadn't become afraid of further exploring those psychedelic influences and were also brave enough to actually turn that fucking vocoder into an instrument of its own. "Dandelion Gum" is actually a good title for mutant folk-pop that seems made by someone slightly paranoid (in a good way, of course). (7/10)

Myspace page

Dan Deacon - Spiderman Of The Rings

Speaking of disturbed minds, this one is a strong candidate to the title of "most hallucinating record of the year". From Wooody Wooodpecker laugh samples to the weirdest sound experiments available, this album full of avant-garde songs has an extra-bonus in the form of an unexpected sense of fun and humour, not taking itself too seriously. (7/10)

Myspace page

Ghost - In Stormy Nights

An enigmatic album by a japanese project that sounds not far from a fusion between folk, drone-metal, free-jazz and prog, this is as challenging as it seems. Definitely not easy-listenning but somehow intriguing, hitting all the right pleasure centers to keep us focused. (7,5/10)


Friday, August 10, 2007

Music Videos # 54 and # 55

"Kala" is coming!...

M.I.A. - Boyz

M.I.A. - Jimmy

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The National - Boxer

Something of this magnitude is beyond comprehension. With fragile compositions that are both epic and intimate, "Boxer" is a dive into the inner mind of a song-writing genius, someone that seems to have seen the light (and also the lack of it) and wants to share his experiences with us, lucky listeners, exposing things that are deep-buried inside him. The intensity felt in "Boxer" is one that seems to be involving us while controlling itself, always on the edge of exploding into a cathartic peak but restraining in the last minute. The fact that this explosion never happens externally / physically and instead is only felt in the inside / our mind, but in a very visceral way, just goes to show how special what we've just heard is. (9/10)

The National - Mistaken For Strangers (video)

Myspace page

Prince - Planet Earth

Another year, another Prince album, and as far as I'm concerned, I really don't complain. Prince 2007 is all about grandiose tracks, epic atmospheres and a more guitar-oriented sound (reminiscent of "The Gold Experience", arguably his best record of the 1990's). Of course there's also space to soul ballads, disco infusions, r&b jams and funky odysseys. Sure, after the almost-excellent "3121" and its futuristic-funk-pop, "Mother Earth" is a bit of a let down. But an average Prince album is still better than a good album by almost anyone else. (7/10)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Home Videos # 8

Bjõrk videos from the Paléo Festival... (and sorry for the bad-quality sound)

Earth Intruders

Pleasure Is All Mine

The Anchor Song

(filmed on the 25-07-2007 at the Paléo Festival in Nyon, Switzerland)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Polaroids # 15

Björk blowing my mind at the Paléo Festival in Switzerland...

(Excuse me while I indulge myself with a text full of superlative adjectives towards my favourite artist of, hum, all time?...)

This was the 4th time I've seen Björk live and if you think she's losing her touch (how can you?), think again: this was probably the best ever. If I add that it was also one of the most intense concerts I've ever witnessed, you'll get the idea. Starting at full speed with a brutal interpretation of "Earth Intruders", she made it clear that we were on to something special. The stage was simple but beautifully effective, with the trees behind it iluminated, making a perfect landscape for a celebration amongst nature. There were also flags, lasers, fire, fluorescent clothes and plasmas, but most of all, there was Björk, energetic and happy as I'd never seen her before and, shall we not forget, with that unique voice, that night sounding better than ever. After the celebratory "Earth Intruders" intro, a special hypnotic tension was then slowly built, with beautiful / touching renditions of favourites like "Hunter", "Pagan Poetry", "The Pleasure Is All Mine", "Unravel", "Jóga"... by the middle, when everyone was already completely conquered and on their knees, things started to heat up even further while the rhythm got faster, ending up with a cathartic experience in our hands where everyone was hysterically screaming and jumping to anthems like "Wanderlust", "Hyperballad", "Pluto" or "Declare Independence". Whoa, intense! And to make it even more special, she was all the time in great spirits, looking relaxed, always smiling and laughing a lot, jumping, exchanging crazy faces with her band and also with the audience, dancing, screaming and doing all those cute Björkish things. In the end, I suppose everyone was feeling like myself: wonderfully happy. Thank you Björk.

(Pictures taken on the 25th of July 2007 in Nyon, Switzerland)


Michelengelo Antonioni (1912-2007)

Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Polaroids # 14

Back from Switzerland after 10 wonderful days, where I once again felt at home and renewed my love for the country. Highlights this time included discovering the many new things that have opened in Zürich and seeing that the city is even better than before; trekking through the Alps; seeing a very-happy-Björk live at the Paléo Festival in Nyon (more about it soon...); seeing the Arcade Fire once again, also at the Paléo Festival; relaxing by the many lakes and rivers; living Bern's charms; seeing the sunrise while on the train back from the Paléo with "Volta" in my headphones; feeding the ducks - aka "Patos Patolas" :) - at the Zürich lake...


Trekking in the Alps

Zürich (favourite city in the world?)

Zürich lake

(Pictures taken across Switzerland between 21st - 30th July 2007; special thanks to Igor for providing us with the best hospitality and being such a nice host :) thank you!)