Sunday, 27 April 2008

(Just Like We) Breakdown

Computer problems mean another untimely week off. I shall leave the MP3s up. Take this opportunity to catch up and hopefully I'll have a stable computer to work with after this addition week of servicing. In the meantime, do check out the Contrast Podcast and the many fine blogs linked to in my sidebar.

Note to self: more art.

Friday, 25 April 2008

S15: Voicst - Sgt. Gonzo

"You're talking to a freak."

Way back when (actually, not so long ago) I was Head of Music on a student radio station. This seems like an exciting job at first, until you realise that around 95% of all you receive is pap (you may choose either definition, especially given the number of people famous simply for having breasts getting into the recording studios has risen dramatically these past few years). It then becomes a grueling task, getting up and trying to find the diamond amongst the rough. For a while I had fun sending biting reviews to the marketing companies, until one suggested that perhaps we ought to find a Head of Music who actually liked music and I stood down, instead taking over the role of Programmer, which with its dependency on Spreadsheet management, suited me far better and allowed me to make some much-needed changes to the output of the station.

One band who did capture my ears not unfavourably were Dutch three-piece Voicst. Their name means "manic energy" in Afrikaans and this so precisely defines their sound I feel at a loss describing it else. This song, like the song on which promo it was featured (Acts of Fire), is from their debut, 11-11, released in 2004 in Holland before putting a girdle about the world at a snail's pace, though not for a lack of impact. They've supported the likes of The Raveonettes, Nada Surf, The Bravery, The Presidents of the United States of America, and others. Working hard on touring and building up their fanbase the old-fashioned way, they have only just this year released their second album - A Tale of Two Devils - on which they worked with producer Peter Katis (Interpol, The National).

Good luck finding that one if you're not an iTunes user, like myself.

Much of the information for this article was researched on their Wikipedia entry, which was either penned by someone from their native Holland, or by an English-speaker with a curious idea of the proper application of the present and future conditional tenses.

Download: Voicst - Sgt. Gonzo

And here's a video. We've not had one for a while*. This is the aforementioned Acts of Fire:

Voicst's official website (a few streamable songs set amongst a too-oft clumsy design)
Buy 11-11: Amazon UK (where they've gotten the name wrong) | US

*EDIT: I remembered I could have added one yesterday, so have just done so.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

S13-14: Thomas James - 15 Years / Belle & Sebastian - Simple Things

"I don't exist in usual places."

Two tracks on the blog today, simply because I missed yesterday's. No big deal as I would have had nothing much to say about the last track, except that I found it here and that it's nice, which as we all by now know is hardly a compliment. More a thinly veiled disinterest. Still, with only two samples, however, it is difficult to get much of an impression of the artist. * I think this is especially the case in instrumental piano music. It didn't grab me, so I guess it's not for me.

I don't have a lot to say about today's artist either, though for quite different reasons. This is the peril of such a systematic blogging technique: you don't always have oodles of knowledge to spew forth about the chosen topic for the day. As it is, however, I'm sure most of you probably know more about Belle & Sebastian than I could claim to. As much as I like their clever lyrical wordplay and their seeming simplicity of composition, I can never recall going out of my way to listen to them.

Of course, I have a lot of music to listen to and tend to dart about a little haphazardly around my collection (except the past couple of days when I have been listening almost exclusively to Do or DIY on WFMU, compiled by People Like Us). I have, however, taken to listening to albums again over the last two years; more than I ever did even when CDs were the dominant format. I can't remember the number of tapes I recorded songs onto, re-recording over and over until they wore themselves out - all for my own personal use.

Belle & Sebastian have always been, in my mind at least, a band for the summer. I am more an autumnal type with wintry leanings, preferring The Divine Comedy's earlier work over the pop drivel of their latest album. One interesting fact I can tell you is that Arab Strap, the band after whom the album (The Boy with the Arab Strap) was named, were not so happy with the tribute claiming "there's a limit to putting someone else's name on an album". Arab Strap are now defunct, though both Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton are still active, both with an album release this year. Those who wish to know where the original Arab Strap took their name from should take a look here, then scrub their eyes with soapy water.

See, I can talk away and never get to the point where I get down to really discussing an artist or even the particular songs posted**, but the point of this blog is to allow the music to provide the destinations. The route I take remains entirely up to me and these are but early days. What I have done on this occasion to mask my ignorance of one of the great bands from over the wall is to garnish this entry with myriad links to websites where you can get a lot of free music to sample if you look around. I shall also, as is my current modus operandi, leave you with these two MP3 offerings:

Download: Thomas James - 15 Years (from FreeSoloPiano)
Download: Belle & Sebastian - Simple Things

A video for Simple Things does exist on YouTube, so here it is:

Thomas James's official website
Belle & Sebastian's official website
Buy The Boy with the Arab Strap: Amazon UK | US

*I'd previously typed "Excet" here. God only knows what I was trying to say before I got distracted and went off to edit another paragraph. I never tend to write in a direct top-to-bottom fashion.

**The song actually provided me the quite wonderful lyric for which I went out looking for picture opportunities to accompany. There were a few oddities I spotted in my excursions, the favourite of which graces the top of the entry. Unless somebody can tell me how to add a 'jump' to my blog entry, however, these others shall remain in the picture bin for possible use in future entries.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

S12: Bulldozerman - 8 Hours 53 Minutes

No picture, but then this is a short track* so I shall make it a short entry.

This track is part of a larger project conducted by Soulseek Records, the first of those entitled 24 Hour Massacre. This is a collaborative work where the artists try to segue from the piece preceding theirs in order to make a seamless-feeling unit. With 40 minutes each to make their contribution and get the work delivered to the next artist in line, this demonstrates a unique form of music-making under pressure. It is worth a listen, even if you find it not to your taste. Personally, I've listened to it on a good dozen or so occasions. I find there's a lot to be taken in and a subtle artistry in the arrangements as each artist inputs their unique style into the framework of the piece, moving from another's work into their own.

They have repeated this project a subsequent two times and there is plenty more listening available on the website, including 1 Minute and 1 Second 'Massacres'.

Download: Bulldozerman - 8 Hours 53 Minutes (FTP). Try here (HTTP) if that doesn't work.
Album: On | On Soulseek Records | Direct Download (ZIP)

To fully appreciate the track you should listen to it in context. Give it a go, even if you never listen to it, or anything like it, again.

*Honestly. The track is not 9 hours long. Not even almost. The time in the title is the time respective to the start of the 24 hour window for the project that this musician received the work.

Monday, 21 April 2008

S11: George "The Fat Man" Sanger - Misc. Scary

"Oh no! The dolls are the children!"

The 7th Guest was one of the first computer games I ever played after getting the first family PC - having prior to this been a household of Commodore A550 users. For a game that is simply a series of logic problems its premise is rather complex and its atmosphere tense and, on occasion, rather terrifying, in spite of being unable to 'lose' the game by dying in any way. Part of the reason I failed out on posting early on last week was because of stumbling onto one of the songs from its soundtrack and feeling drawn to actually finishing the damned thing as I never did at the time.

The rest of the week I just felt tired - quite unrelated to the game - and set about on a mission of recovery. Come about Wednesday I decided that it was looking like my first week off and I should resign myself to it and look into hosting of the previous fortnight's music as recompense.

I'm not actually sure where this music can be heard in the game. I dozed off on my two-seater - my sleeping location of choice this past week - whilst playing and must have heard the Downstairs Puzzles music around a quarter of a million times before getting sufficiently energised to get up and turn the computer off. This is why these slow sorts of games are, generally, the only type I ever play. I'm not much of an enthusiastic gamer so anything that requires reflexes or kills you off just because you stopped concentrating on what it was you were meant to be doing for a couple of hours isn't much for me. As it is, what with the Internet and the occasional intelligent person crafting a sufficiently complex spin on this genre - to say nothing of the rather more common non-intellect who also see fit to create their own tribute(s) - with Flash, new games in this vein rarely surface. An unofficial sequel to The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour is being worked on, the Myst franchise seems determined to reach into triple figures and The Fool's Errand (full game download available on the site) also looks to finally be getting a sequel, though the release date has been moved back several times the past five years, sometime this year being the latest predicted.

Here's the opening sequence from the game, in lieu of anything else to post, video-wise:

Download: George "The Fat Man" Sanger - Misc. Scary

The 7th Guest on Wikipedia - also has links to a page where some other relevant MP3s can be found, if that tickles you.

You can probably find the game itself secondhand somewhere. On the other hand, it is now considered Abandonware and can be downloaded from Lost Treasures, here (the site is in French, but the game itself is the English-language version).

Sunday, 20 April 2008

S1-10: MP3s.

Following the advice on hosting from FiL JC*, and as a means of making up for the past week's absence, here are MP3s of the first 10 songs talked about on the journey so far (follow normal procedure to download these files; I have limited bandwidth so would prefer streaming was kept to a minimum):

S1: Beck - We Dance Alone
S2: Jason Webley - Eleven Saints (with Jay Thompson)
S3: Mark Hamn - Mono
S4: Yann Tiersen - Monochrome (Live)
S5: Jodie Foster - La Vie C'est Chouette (from Ubu Web)
S6: Sade - Somebody Already Broke My Heart
S7: Various Artists - It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (Deadly Avengers Takes the Mick Remix)
S8: Goo Goo Dolls - It's Over
S9: Casual, Rock Marciano, Vordual Mega & Tragedy Khadafi - Think Differently
S10: The Bulgarian - Listen Man

All songs hosted now and hence will be made available for 7 days only. If you like the music, throw some support the artists' way - it's how the music keeps on coming. If you own the rights to any music here and wish them removed, fire an email my way - splus7DOTeironATgmailDOTcom (you ought to be able to derive an email address from that) - and I'll see to it they are so.

I hope to be back on form from tomorrow. In the meantime, you could do worse than to head over to the Contrast Podcast, where the theme this week was Snap!, as suggested by myself.

*Oops. Sorry, JC. FiL is great too, but it wasn't his advice I was following on this occasion.

Friday, 11 April 2008

S10: The Bulgarian - Listen Man

The Bulgarian. I know nothing about him except what I learned from Acid Girls (specifically here, where you can, I believe, still download the track along with many others). Acid Girls was one of my regular places to visit back when I read a ridiculous number of blogs. Probably too many. They are now posting on an on-off basis, though the emphasis lies on the off. I shall add them to my BlogRoll all the same, so you can see there if they post anything new.

I had a job interview today and, having failed to get to sleep last night, I've now been awake for approaching 40 hours. That's why this is all you're getting from me today. More organised service, hopefully seeing me taking pictures of things beyond my own four walls, will resume commence next week. I am also thinking of means of sharing the music a little more. Can anybody recommend good, but extremely affordable, hosting options?

The Bulgarian's MySpace

Thursday, 10 April 2008

S9: Casual, Rock Marciano, Vordual Mega & Tragedy Khadafi – Think Differently

"Once the thread is knitted for seven digits, it's just business. No disrespect intended."

Hip hop's not generally my thing. This album, though it is lyrically trite as hip hop goes, filled with the sorts of gangsta' lingo that we middle class suburbanites who imagine with horror that people just can't live like this can do ought but tut and wiggle our fingers at because we know that it just isn't done to "sho(o)t the drug dealer" (rather he should be re-educated in order to become a valuable contributor to society) and so on, does have some great production values. Of said criticism, one is led to believe that if one actually takes the time to read the lyrics they will gain little. Indeed, in this example, one can find peculiarities such as Mr Tragedy Khadafi claiming that he is, "blowin' ox', like oxygen, out of my nostrils," which causes this listener to question whether this is simile nestled within a metaphor the meaning of which may help reveal some greater worldly truth or whether it is more literal and he just has really big nostrils.

Rock Marciano meanwhile can have third prize for best chicken reference in a hip hop track, losing out to Team Facelift's Dippin' Chicken in second (callmeMICKEY - now defunct - would probably agree with me here), and the track that is credited with the birth of contemporary mainstream hip hop, Rappers Delight by Sugarhill Gang. This article has given the Rappers Delight Chicken Verse its proper pride of place in lyrical history.

OK, so I'm being facetious. But it is late - it is best not to take the times of my posts too literally; certainly it is that time somewhere in the world, but not here - and I have to be up and active tomorrow. It's not that I lack enthusiasm - if you have any passion for hip hop this album is worth adding to your collection - and if I came across this album on any other day I'd probably be singing its praises.

Buy Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture: Amazon UK | US

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

S8: Goo Goo Dolls - It's Over

"I can't find the answers when you're gone."

Goo Goo Dolls are another of those artists I can never make up my mind about. Certainly they have their moments and the song selected today is probably one of them. I am of the opinion, however, that they are one of those bands who you could get away with purchasing the Greatest Hits - the first volume of theirs was their latest release, in November of last year - and leaving the rest. This track would be one of the odd exceptions then, in that it is an album track. You know it's a problem, though, when you say that it sounds like it could have been a single, rather than seeing the whole album as a collection.

One thing that surprises about the Goo Goo Dolls is their sheer longevity. Formed in Buffalo, New York, in 1986, they've just kept on going. They've a new album in the works, separate from their Greatest Hits Vol. 2 due out this year. Besides this, they will be playing the O2 Wireless Festival this year.

As it's not a single, there's no official video to accompany this track. However somebody has taken some footage from The OC and edited together into one of those horrible fan-vids. It was either that or Teen Titans, so in my fashion, ignorant to most things televised, I opted for what I've seen in the blogs of others and just hope it's the lesser of two evils:

Official website
Buy Gutterflower: Amazon UK | US

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

S7: Various Artists - It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (Deadly Avengers Takes the Mick Remix)

"If I could stick my pen in my heart…"

Every once in a while, there is a record released to mark an occasion or to raise money for a charity. Very quickly one learns that just because this is the case, the record does not have to be a good one. Bought back in the day when I used to purchase any single with some novelty value, this is probably the one that put an end to that trend. I am not sure whether it is because this record was trying too hard to be Perfect Day II or whether it was just for the painful shamelessness of the two artists in the record who feel the need to point out within the performance that they are in it - those being Spice Girls and S Club 7 - but something just doesn't sit right with this record.

It is hard to be critical of a record that does good for charity, but this record leaves me feeling sour and wishing Jagger and Richards - both present - could have just given the money to the charity themselves and let this one lie. Normally the gathering together of so many big names should be a fact worth celebrating. Not in this instance, unfortunately.

The single was released across two discs (packed full of remixes, mainly). This Deadly Avengers one has the positive aspect of being short - the shortest of all the tracks, being that rare thing of a remix that is shorter than the original track - but on the more negative side of things it does make strongest use of some of the worst (I would go so far as to say irritating) elements of the source material.

Below you can see the video for the original single version. I believe, but having put the single in storage cannot actually check, that an extended version was available on a data track on the second disc. To see the full list of those involved/responsible, click on the video to be taken to the YouTube page that carries it:

The Children's Promise website

Monday, 7 April 2008

S6: Sade - Somebody Already Broke My Heart

"If someone has to lose, I don't want to play."

Whatever happened to Sade? I have to confess that this really ought not be my kind of thing, but Lovers Rock opener By Your Side somehow manages to sway me each time. Certainly, By Your Side didn't do as well as it probably deserved - reaching its highest singles chart position in the UK at #17.

Once again, the song chosen, Somebody Already Broke My Heart, was released as a single. In this instance it was the one single release from Lovers Live.

Official website (not recommended - it suffers broken links and an irritating immutable Flash design).
Buy Lovers Rock: Amazon UK | US

Friday, 4 April 2008

S5: Jodie Foster - La Vie C'est Chouette

"Y a tant de nuits sans avenir qui se refusent à finir."

Today's stepping stones bring us to the B-Side of both of Jodie Foster's two official music releases, both of which came out in France in 1977, when she was 15 years old, Je T'attends Depuis la Nuit des Temps & When I Looked at Your Face. I can thank a variety of sources for the presence of this song, all three of which are worth your attention:
Foster can be seen in Nim's Island, out today - how convenient! - over in the US and next month here in the UK. Not that I'll be going to see it (I am, in its defense, not exactly its target demographic), but relevant information is what I aim to provide here.

I'll be back after the weekend. I am thinking this will be a weekdays-only blog. I have added some links to the side panel for your perusal. It contains those blogs that I have visited since starting my own and tracks their updates so as to provide a 'live' feed. This is useful for me, as I know when they've been updated, and you, as you might find something to your tastes at these sites. Particularly recommended is the Contrast Podcast, to which I am now a regular contributor. Expect to hear me again in next week's episode.

As usual, I try to provide a video. This is of Foster, performing Je T'attends Depuis la Nuit des Temps.

Download: Jodie Foster - La Vie C'est Chouette (from Ubu Web - relevent entry here)

IMDB profile

Thursday, 3 April 2008

S4: Yann Tiersen - Monochrome (Live)

"I am piling up some unread books under my bed."

Yann Tiersen's C'était Ici is a recording of three concerts performed across three nights at Paris's Cité de la Musique in the December of 2002, the second of three live albums to date. The first, Black Session, was incredibly spartan in its instrumentation. This, however, besides the usual handful of guest artists also features the 35-strong orchestral group Synaxis. It thus offers better evidence for Tiersen's scope of emotion and drama, from dense orchestral moodscapes to electronic minimalism that bursts dramatically into a chaotic freneticism.

I should not need to tell you that Tiersen is best known for his soundtrack to Amélie, or - to give it its full title - Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain. However, his repertoire is rich and varied beyond the examples presented in the film, though does demonstrate perhaps why he was best choice for the film. He has long had a fondness for an element of playfulness; I would not call it childishness in spite of the presence here and there of toy pianos, melodica, music boxes and the like.

Monochrome itself was written and sung by Dominique A. who, though I cannot comment on the majority of his works, does earn himself a few bonus points for the naming of his first band after David Lynch's Elephant Man's John Merrick (it might be more, were it not for John Merrick being a fairly dreadful name for a band). It was this song - a hit on French radio, the single release from Le Phare - that propelled Tiersen into popularity.

(An aside: My one complaint of this album, which is just a thing that I find niggling and should not be allowed to detract from the music, is that the final applause is allowed to drag on a little too far. I would much prefer to have it fade out. My appreciation of the music will not be swayed by a cacophonous din as though to remind me that others have enjoyed it before me.)

Those who enjoyed the soundtrack to Amélie will certainly find this track equally enjoyable, as it is not too far removed musically - an energetic string-led waltz (that sounds as though it were initially conceived on an accordion) with chiming arpeggios. The video is presented below.

Yann Tiersen's website
Dominique A's website (French)
Buy C'était Ici: Amazon UK | US
Buy Le Phare: Amazon UK | US

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

S3: Mark Hamn - Mono

One thousand shapes in shades of grey.

Our next step takes us to the first netlabel release of the blog, one Prefixes by Mark Hamn. The artist and his label - Webbed Hand Records - are decidedly vague about what the album is supposed to sound like, instead informing the prospective listener, "This is high-quality sound art that really deserves close and repeated listenings to be best appreciated," and leaving it at that.

I shall do similarly, providing just the one video of Mark Hamn that is available on YouTube, the song itself, and direct links to where you can read more about and/or download the album.

This is the first really challenging work to be posted here, though I am sure there will be more to follow at a later date. This is not meant to be easy listening, however, and I hope you might give the piece a chance, even if you absolutely cannot get on with it. This is sound art and, as with all art, many will find it difficult to appreciate compared to those audio canvasses that are familiar and easier on the ear.

Download: Mark Hamn - Mono

Album: On | On Webbed Hand Records | Direct Download (ZIP)

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

S2: Jason Webley - Eleven Saints

"It's a coffee percolator going wheeeeee!"

This will be a short entry as I know very little about the artist. So, what can I tell you about it? It was rated by Fongolia over at Fong Songs as the Catchiest Song of 2006 and Fabulist!'s Olga and Jewlie dug it too. It was a collaboration with Seattle poet Jay Thompson as part of Jason Webley's collaborations project and is, due to extremely limited runs of these collaborative releases, no longer available to purchase. This page has details of all of Jason's recordings, as well as track samples (rather than sample tracks, hence no MP3 links here).

The video, below, was home made by Webley and friends over two days and is a lot of fun. I shall leave you to enjoy that and I shall enjoy my coffee.

Official website, where you should be sure to check out Webley's collection of short stories.