Thanks to blogger's repetitive deletion of my posts without notification or warning I have now moved to greener pastures!
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Monday, 4 May 2009
New York’s experimental electronic duo RATATAT are not new. Establishing themselves firmly in the music scene for the last nine years, Ratatat have built a rapport and toured with the likes of Interpol, Björk, Daft Punk and Cansei de Ser Sexy. They’ve released three albums and an array of reputable remixes (check out how much they amplify the energy of Björk’s Wanderlust).
Every time they release something they take a progressive step forward. Last year’s release LP3 saw them move beyond the synthesizer and guitar and introduce instruments like organs, harpsichords and even a mellotron. This playful process is something Ratatat plan to continue, as Evan Mast, the producer and synthesizer-playing side of the duo explains. “There are a lot of instruments I’d still like to use. I like to get really unfamiliar stuff around because when you’ve centred on guitar and keyboard for so long you’ve developed all these habits. Picking up an instrument that I have no idea how to play forces me to think differently about melodies and chords.”
The focus on playing around with different instruments may stem from the simple fact that Ratatat are an instrumental band. Though initially Evan had attempted to write songs with vocals he found that he and bandmate Mike Stroud were more comfortable with the instrumental. Given their love of remixing, particularly hip hop, would they ever consider guest vocals on future albums?
“I’m interested in working with rappers and vocalists,” Evan reveals, “but I think probably not on our own records. I don’t want to be one of those producer bands that just add a different guest on every song. I would find that style of compilation album pretty uninteresting.” Ratatat won’t shy away from collaborations though, and have recently played live sets with rapper, Despot.
Ratatat’s success sees them touring a LOT over the next few months in numerous venues across the United States, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia. “[The tour to Australia is] going to be different than the last couple of trips,” Evan considers. “We’re playing these regional shows and festivals outside the major cities. Every time we’ve been there it’s always just been for the major cities. We’re also going to have a couple of days off. Usually it’s show, show, show and we don’t get any time off. I’ve heard so much about the beaches and the Great Barrier Reef.”
While Ratatat love the, er, liveliness of performing live, Evan admits they have a propensity for the studio. “Generally we prefer recording and writing to touring. They’re both fun and completely different experiences but the feeling of creating something new from the ground up, that’s my favourite thing about music.”
With their fourth album on the way Ratatat’s future is as promising as the past has been and while they continue broadening their musical horizon, the positive response to their live act continues to mount. Despite his preference for the studio Evan’s excitement from one of his first big events is undeniable. “I never went to any festivals growing up. The first big festival we played was Coachella. That was awesome cause we’d never been in an environment like that. Everything was coming together at one time. There was this massive audience; it was a really good response! It was a good day…”
Ratatat will be performing at ANU Bar on Sunday May 10 supported by Regurgitator’s Quan. Tickets for this 18+ event are available through Oztix at www.oztix.com.au
Björk - Wanderlust (Ratatat Remix)
Ratatat - Imperials
Sunday, 3 May 2009
It can easily be said that the X-Men franchise is worth a good flogging. Over many years the comics have seen changing writers for the better and the worse. It wasn’t going to be long before someone made a film or three about it; Bryan Singer did a fine job of the first two, and even Brett Ratner’s dependence on direction over dialogue took the characters in new directions in the third.
So what character development can we expect when watching X-Men Origins – Wolverine? The highest expectation I had was none and I was still disappointed. Director Gavin Hood manages to not only bore us with predictable and clichéd scenes (check out the lovely old couple on the farm helping Wolverine “discover himself” by making sweeping assumptions in less than a few minutes) but he also ignores character histories patiently strengthened over the years. Apart from Wolverine’s obvious and overplayed interest in his boring wife/fiancé/who cares, you’ll find yourself wondering what each character’s motivation is, if you are interested enough to consider it (which is unlikely). Why, for example, does Sabertooth keep switching between siding with the “baddies” and siding with Wolverine? The only answer I can come up with is that it’s more convenient that way. Just when Wolverine’s chips are down fighting Deadpool, Sabertooth jumps in to help, when only minutes earlier he was trying to kill Wolverine’s love interest.
Hood manipulates the characters and the “story” to tailor the fight scenes (which are the only highlight of the film). He wants a scene with Wolverine and Sabertooth fighting side by side (seemingly somewhat reconciled but maybe not and who cares because we’re all confused) so he does it without stopping to consider why.
I suspect that for Hood directing is like playing a game of Sims. He’s not interested in how characters make their choices but in what they can do. And even then his mind has its limitations with many of the characters displaying one-trick pony blows.
Wolverine at times is so bad, in fact, that it is almost laughable. The film opens with a predictable “Noooo!!!” scene and is later closed off hastily with a sickly paedophilic-looking Dr Xavier loading trusting mutant kids (including a ditzy carefree Emma Frost) aboard his ship, which has appeared out of nowhere for no reason for the first time.
The sloppy film adds no insight into the comic series, nor does it promote the epic mythology which has grown since the comics began. This is a figurine movie. It looks pretty; there are some “awesome” action scenes and cameos from just about every X-Men character ever that you know, none of which contribute to Wolverine’s actual past. Hood’s unfocussed and lazy approach might get him more dollars thanks to apt marketing but this film serves no purpose to the past, present or future of X-Men.
If you’d like to see some proper character, plot and story development I highly recommend the Astonishing X-Men comics written by Joss Whedon (and now collected in book form).
Unlike Hood, Whedon selects only characters which serve a purpose to the story and develops them by pushing them to their limits. Of particular interest is his focus on Kitty Pryde whose seemingly simple ability to walk through walls is given a much broader level of importance. And the lines are witty and character focussed.
While it might not be fair to compare these X-Men stories across two different mediums I would sooner recommend time spent reading comics with substance and humour than watching a dull pointless film.
Check out the Astonishing X-Men series and avoid Wolverine unless you’re hoping to see some special effects.
Saturday, 4 April 2009
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Who are Mercy Arms? Often I’ll discover a new band or musician through their association with musicians I already love. Menomena turned me onto The National. The Twelves turned me onto Zeigeist. Mercy Arms have toured with the likes of Cut Copy, Editors, and have recorded with Dave Sitek (of the ever-awesome TV on the Radio).
This understated band has been quietly making a name for themselves, hailing from Sydney. At first listen they may remind you of Skeleton Jar Youth Group or Sparkadia. But there’s something bolder about Mercy Arms. In walking a fine line between ambitious rock and patient romantic melodies, Mercy Arms produce a debut full of variety.
In particular there is, at times, a careless throw-away with the use of vocals which reminds me, surprisingly, of The Pixies. This may be why Mercy Arms have toured with The Pixies themselves.
Funnily enough between the days of The Pixies and Mercy Arms lies Radiohead and their musician-followers. One of my favourite bands of all time, Radiohead look fondly on The Pixies but have become more accessible due to (I believe) their melodic vocal arrangement and experimenting with electronica.
Mercy Arms sputter their romantic chivalry with more reverence for the guitar solos than the vocals and it works. While they’re clearly more than capable of managing melodic catchy pop in songs like “Footsteps” and “To Me now,” it is the cacophonous confidence of “Shine a Light Down” (which sounds a lot like old Living End) which lends a forgotten ear to the rebels and poets that preceded musician fans of Radiohead.
The outstanding song here is “Caroline” which looks to The Pixies for influence, and draws the listener back to the ninties when rock momentarily flourished before being snuffed out by acoustic electronica.
Mercy Arms may very well keep a lot of the current popsters from forgetting their roots’ roots.
Mercy Arms - Caroline
Buy their debut album
Mercy Arms - Kept Low (Cut Copy Remix)
Monday, 23 March 2009
REPOSTED minus the leaked (?) music!
I've learned to save my posts elsewhere since blogger started their tyranny of removing posts.
So I've actually lost track of what's truly leaked and what is released (because Australia is VERY behind when it comes to international musician's disc album releases (if they ever are) for bands like Mason Proper. Since I'm never told which links are the problems I can only make assumptions. I have reposted the Pooma song and the Grizzly Bear remix.
I'm here to promote music so I give you my list without most of the links (which sadly, limits the reader to descriptions only). May you discover the sounds through the many channels available!
Stay tuned, this frustrated blogger will be moving to wordpress soon.
The morning air is crisp and noticeably darker, getting out of bed is getting harder and people will soon be going into hibernation.
Andrew Bird – Take Courage
Wow, what a stand-out bonus song! And this missed the cut? Apart from the arrangement this song sounds a lot like it’s being played by DeVotchka. The lyrics are pretty too: “Night’s falling, so take courage that you’re not alone.” Aww, you can keep me company, skinny man.
Loney, Dear – I was Only Going Out
I’ve liked Loney, Dear (aka Emil Svanängen) for some time but I’ve always felt like I needed to be in the right mood for him. He’s great, he’s nice and indie and sad and all without being emo.
But there’s something in his voice that, at least on Loney, Noir, would have me abruptly turning the album off halfway through and saying aloud “okay, that’s enough…”
This time his voice comes across more smoothly and softly. And he lets the instrumentation lead the tunes a little more this time round. Mostly, he just sounds less like Kermit the Frog.
And if I’ve turned you off him just listen and then you’ll know what I mean. You can’t always put your finger on it but there’s something irresistible about Emil’s style.
Mason Proper – Safe for the Time Being
I found this gem through a blog which compared it with another song I love by Sufjan Stevens. Figuring this blogger has good taste I decided to check it out.
The start of the song was a bit warped for my liking but as it continues it becomes a message of solemn dread, delivered with a beautiful guitar riff made more prominent towards the end.
This too was before I realised Mason Proper are amazing!
Entire Cities – The Woods
I can’t wait to get my hands on more music by these guys! They remind me of Third Eye Blind a lot (during that one album when they were good).
It could be the lead male singer, Simon Borer’s voice; it’s heavy and gruff but can carry a tune. Generally speaking, Entire Cities seem to do long forgotten 90’s rock.
In this case, “The Woods” is an awkward piano ballad. I say awkward because of the vocals, not the piano (the minimalist approach is heartbreaking). When Simon sings this one he’s not the high school boy suffering his first break-up, lighting a cigarette under a bridge and thinking about his innocence, he’s the blubbering, broken man yelling out in despair and anger.
Whether or not it’s intended that way doesn’t really matter, it sounds unique.
Doves – Kingdom of Rust
Doves are back! And I don’t mean back from their last album (which was okay, but at times mediocre), I mean back-back! From their older stuff! This is exciting news!
Okay, so I’ve only heard two songs from it so far. The first released, “Jetstream,” could’ve easily slipped in between “Firesuite” and “Here it Comes” on their debut album.
This song is comparable to the sound of The Last Broadcast, more specifically to songs like “Pounding” and “Last Broadcast.” They’re one of the few bands who know how to get an anthemic song right.
New album out April 6!
Grizzly Bear – Don’t Ask (Final Fantasy Remix)
Admittedly when I bought Horn of Plenty I wasn’t sure I’d like Grizzly Bear. I had bought the album on a whim (honestly, I think it was because I liked the name and album artwork) and the experimental noise treads heavily from the opening track till close.
But listen to it all the way through, not fast-forwarding, not hoping to catch an ear-catching pop melody from the outset and you’ll hear something long-lasting.
After buying this album I was pleasantly surprised to see a bonus remix disc with a number of reputable up-and-comers, including the likes of Efterklang and Dntel, working the Bear’s songs to their fashion.
These musicians might now envy the growing popularity of Grizzly Bear as they have drawn the curtains back in preparing more accessible songs. That’s not to say they don’t experiment. The new album, Veckatimest, hyped already long before its cd release date, showcases the vocal arrangements these guys seem to have hidden.
I have heard the new album, I love the new album, but I am now waiting for the cd version because the richness of their sound doesn’t come through in the leaked copy. It’s always nice to hear Grizzly Bear’s songs (even in poor quality) but given the fact that their music is laced with subtle delights, I happily endorse the act of waiting for cd release this time round.
For now I give you my all-time favourite Grizzly Bear remixed song, “Don’t Ask.” Owen Pallett knows how to make things even more pretty!
Pooma – Through the Calm
Check em out
Amazing how overlooked this Helsinki band are. Comparisons to Sigur Rós and Múm are fair but there’s a dark grittiness that sets them apart from the rest.
Gunnar Örn Tynes of the icelandic band Múm produced and partly mixed the album, Persuader, and wow does he do a good job! Like a shoegaze Portishead by way of Inga Liljestrom.
I could easily see this album becoming the soundtrack to a dark fantasy film directed by Malter Murch.
Röyksopp - You Don't Have a Clue
I only really stopped to listen to this band recently and I’m glad I did. The new album, Junior, has been lauded as their best yet, combining the fun and daring dance beats of their older stuff with the melancholic recent.
This song is the "What Else is There?" of Junior.
What Else Is There? from Röyksopp on Vimeo.
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
A winner has been drawn! Enjoy the show, Matt!
A few weeks ago I posted about Groove Armada’s trip to Australia, visiting Melbourne, Wagga Wagga, Wollongong and Sydney from 26 – 28 March.
Thanks to BACARDI and Peer Group Media I have one double pass giveaway to the Sydney concert for BACARDI EXPRESS 2009! This will be held at the Big Top at Luna Park on 28 March.
Fronted by Groove Armada, the lucky winner will also see Bluejuice, Lost Valentinos, Van She, Beardyman and Hoop DJs.
Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer to this question:
What is the name of the Groove Armada song which Brazilian band The Twelves remixed?
By entering this competition you agree with the terms and conditions listed below.
Don’t forget if you miss out on these free tickets you can still enter the ballot on their website to get free passes.
Terms and conditions:
The winner will be notified via email response. This competition requires you to answer the question correctly.
Participants must be over 18 to enter and attend BACARDI EXPRESS 2009.
Tickets are valued at $80. Tickets are non-transferable, non-refundable and cannot be exchanged for cash.
Travel and accommodation are the responsibility of the winner of the tickets.