I Was Wrong…

Dot Tunes on the PSP

My rant yesterday about the future is woefully conservative.

Look at this article.

That’s now.

Okay, so Wi-Fi is still pretty patchy and there are no big national networks. Yet. But for how long…?

Surely the writing is on the wall for music players that feaure any kind of onboard storage, whether flash memory or hard drive?

The future’s so bright, I gotta wear mirrorshades

Ten Years Online

In 1995, I bought a Motorola V.34 modem, plugged it into my Escom P60 (Pentium 60MHz, 16meg RAM, 540*Mega*byte hard disk) and went online.

A lot has changed in ten years.

Back then, my first point of contact with the net was Compuserve and their user groups. I quickly moved on from there to the wild, open spaces of Usenet. Ahh, golden days! Hanging out on alt.geek, uk.music.alternative, rec.arts.sf. Yeah, there were crossposters and flaming, spammers and nutters but Usenet in the ’90s was a million miles from the world of easy-access web forums we live in now, where anyone with half a brain can click and post streams of shite. If that sounds elitist, it is: I’m prejudiced against dickheads.

I did an essay for Uni in ’96 and here’s a screengrab of Usenet at its finest:

The alt.2600 group in 1996

A lot of posts about Kevin Mitnick, as you’d expect. Back then, the net as a whole was a lot geekier. It wasn’t the massive, rolling juggernaut it is now, bulldozering into almost every aspect of modern life. Ten years ago, if someone told you they were on the net, you could pretty much be certain they were a fellow geek. Nowadays, it’s about as unusual as having a mobile phone. Maybe in ten years time, people who aren’t online will be regarded as freaks in the same way as people who don’t have televisions now are.

Here’s how the number of people online has grown in the last ten years:

Internet Growth 1995-2005

What an incredible increase, from 16 million to nearly one thousand million, from 0.4% to 14.6% of the world on online.

Of course, net uptake is still hugely skewed towards the rich countries. But what will happen in the future? I think it’s pretty obvious that internet access in the future will be through wi-fi WANs. We’ll regard our old access via home cable TAs and ADSL boxes as nostalgically as I do my v.34 modem.

The cost of providing this infrastructure will be enormous but I think it’ll be absorbed by government. We would worry about which ISP we’re with / how we connect to the net as much as we now worry about streetlighting. The net will be ubiquitous and free at point of purchase (which is definitely not the same as free). Whether the funding comes via taxation (as for streetlights) or private enterprise (as in non-BBC radio and TV), I don’t know. Personally, I think access to the net will become such an everyday part of future life that only a government determined to hobble its populace would leave internet access to the anarchy of the market. As the price of tech comes down, the poor countries will finally come online and the net will lose the English/American parochialism it now has.

Just yesterday, I found this excellent new tech demo via Digg. Go and have a look.

You back? Okay.

So… imagine…

It’s 2015. You’re walking round Derby, up Sadlergate towards the Guildhall. You’ve got your net shades on or perhaps you’re vain and wear contacts. As you look around, you interface wirelessly with the net via your watch/music player/GPS. You don’t need anything as bulky or old tech as an iPod. You listen to your own music collection legally via a future version of Last.fm – it’s streamed from their servers, why would you want to carry the data around with you?

As you see people approaching, some of them allow you to see their public glyphs. Imagine something like a MySpace or Friendster profile that pops up when you glance their way, hovering a foot above them or next to them if there’s room. Of course, there’s nothing there in the physical world: it’s data abstracted from the net and then mapped onto your shades/contacts via a future version of that software dugg above. Can you imagine how this would enhance flirting? If you’re a pretty boy/girl/neuter, you’d probably get bored with the amount of saucy IMs beamed at you as you stroll round town. Remember, any advance in tech is first used for sex, it’s our favourite activity.

As you get to in front of where the Assembly Rooms used to be before it was burnt down by a clutch of escaped gentech dragons in 2010, you see a commotion ahead. An enormous Pac Man the size of a bus appears to be racing across the square. Some bloody kids have have hacked the council’s 3D image servers and pasted some retro imagery into the public access viewspace.

Note: the real world, unassisted by the net, looks the same. In fact, it’s duller than before. Why should shops and banks spend money on flashy plastic signs when they can stick an electronic facade up on the net? It’s easily updated, never wears out and can’t get encrusted with pigeon shit.

If the above sounds like sci-fi lunacy, bear in mind how much the net has changed our lives in the last decade. How many kids running round now wouldn’t have existed without net romances? How much shopping have you done on the net? Ebay and Amazon are ordinary words now in our everyday conversations.

On a global level, how much is the huge antiwar movement that’s mobilised against Bush a product of the net? I know that in Gulf War I, information was much harder to access than now when it’s one click away.

The downside will be our loss of anonymity. Total strangers will be able to do the future equivalent of Googling us anywhere at any time. Do you really want people you don’t even know sniffing at your naff musical taste as they pass you in the street? What about the access to your data the police and government will have? It’ll make the current furore over ID cards seem quaint.

I have no idea whether any of my predictions will come true.

But I know the next ten years are going to be very interesting.

All Fur Coat & No Knickers

Acts from Athlete to the Sugababes and Basement Jaxx are asking for help from stylists. And Keane, one of the major breakout groups of 2004, had hired a consultant to advise them on their look, logo and promotional material before they had even made a record.

“Our job is to visualise the larger picture behind a band – to make music visible in some way,” Gerard Saint, creative director at design company Big Active – who work with Athlete, Garbage and the Futureheads – told BBC World Service’s The Music Biz programme.
(Source: BBC News)

Surely the above is another sign that we are in THE END TIMES OF INDIE.

It’s beyond a joke. Why the hell should any band need to go to a stylist? A band’s style should come from themselves, not from outsiders. If they haven’t got any idea of how they want to look, or at the very least how they don’t want to look, then the fuckers shouldn’t be in a band in the first place. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care how a band dresses as long as the inspiration is theirs.

The most ridiculous part of this is that there are now apparently “indie” stylists.

I want that job. Gimme.

“Lads, lads… get rid of all that posh clobber, I’ve been down Portobello Road and got you some smelly old coats. Don’t wash your hair for a couple of weeks, stay out of the sun, eh? And could you all make a bloody effort to look more po-faced and depressed at the next video shoot, eh? Here, have these choccy bars, they’ll help bring out your spots and make your gums bleed properly. Now, pass round this bag of fleas between you all…”


Last.fm : A Musical Snowball?

Here are some stats for Last.fm:

Stats recorded @ 2005-08-24 06:30:10

3,361 new registrations in last 24 hours
160,671 users listened in last 30 days
128,098 users listened in last 7 days
83,726 users listened in last 24 hours
4,253,230 submissions processed in last 24 hours (49.23 per second)
0 submissions received in last 24 hours (0 per second)
cluster(1) received: 0 queued: 347
cluster(2) received: 0 queued: 1,203

Seems to all be ticking over very nicely. I wonder if the new regs have gone up since the revamp?

Bear in mind that the following graphs were generated just now so the actual figures may not match what I’m saying if this article is very old when you’re reading it.

Country Distribution

Good show, Blighty! But we can do better. C’mon, get clicking! How come Denmark is so low down compared to the other Scandies?

Age Groups

Around 13,400 30+ wrinklies on there. Not bad. And ‘we are all getting old,’ of course 🙂


Gah! Only 27% women? 🙁

I wrote a while ago how Audioscrobbler had regenerated and come back more handsome and toothy as Last.fm.

Since the site’s transmogrification, I’ve found it to be eminently more usable, friendly and geeky.

I guess it helps that this is social networking around a core theme: music. It’s so easy to browse round your favourite bands, see who else likes them and then say hi or add them to your friends. You can get a sense of someone’s personality on Last.fm. I know music isn’t the key to everything but hopefully if someone is a fan of McCarthy, Dead Prez and The Redskins, they’re not a Tory. Or, if they are, they’re broadminded enough for it not to matter overly.

But the absolute best thing about Last.fm?

There are are 13,400 OLD PEOPLE on there!

Yep, geeky people over thirty who actually still listen to music avidly and perhaps even buy new stuff too. An entire layer of the ’80s British indie mafia seem to camp there (just look for the Sarah Records-related bands). Loads of old punks, synthpop kids and hip hop heads too. I set up a group on Last.fm called ‘Old People, New Music‘ and in just a day, two people messaged out of the blue and joined. Not world domination but a start, innit?

So, if your every waking moment isn’t already spent checking your stats on Last.fm / spying on others’ music tastes / seeing who’s listening to your band, click here and get Scrobbling er… Lasting?

A CD Playlist For You

Nothing fancy, just what I’m listening to in my car at the mo. Mostly brand, spanking new but a couple of older jobbies too.

Car August 05
Total playing time: 01:13:06

01. Riddle of Steel – Baby Bird
02. Architecture in Helsinki – Do the Whirlwind
03. The Books – Be Good To Them Always
04. Apparat – Komponent (Telefon Tel Aviv Remix)
05. Black Lipstick – Viva Max
06. Brakes – Heard About Your Band
07. Caribou – Pelican Narrows
08. Dor – In Your Grill
09. Kettel – Every Kiss You Gave
10. Grayskul – Deadlivers
11. Jennifer Gentle – Nothing Makes Sense
12. Logh – Destinymanifesto
13. Lord Tariq – Spit That
14. The New Pornographers – The Bones Of An Idol
15. Tom Vek – C-C (You Set The Fire In Me)
16. IAM – Revoir Un Printemps
17. Touane – Backward is Forward
18. Sufjan Stevens – Chicago

Brakes, Bus Feat. MC Soom-T

Today, I got these CDs in the post:

CDs I got on 24-8-2005

Jennifer Gentle I’ve already rambled on about here.

Brakes album ‘Give Blood‘ is a rocky guitarry indie gem. If you love sarky, mardy, sneery, punky songs that have a pop at anything within spitting distance, you’ll love this. Apparently, it was all recorded live, the talented bastards!

Here’s what their label says about them:

The debut album from brakes who consist of tom and alex white from electric soft parade, eamon from british sea power and marc from the tenderfoot. they might make music for fun / friendship but they have without doubt recorded one of the albums of the year. the entire album is over in 28 minutes with the shortest track just 10 seconds long.
(Source: Rough Trade)

The best thing about this record is the singer’s gorgeous accent. As Eamon yelps magnificently through the frankly brilliant lyrics to ‘Heard About Your Band’ I couldn’t help but smile in recognition and solidarity. How many of us haven’t been accosted by shite-spewing cokeheads while trying to watch a band we love?

Ummm… I suppose I should give you some sonic references. Well, it’s indie guitar rock (as you may have guessed). There are shadows of the sadly-defunct Mclusky, nuggets of the bile of The Circle Jerks and the withering scene-eye of prime Pooh Sticks. Oh yeah, and the verse from ‘Ring A Ding Ding’ is a great steal of ‘Virginia Plain.’ Niiiice!

Really, how can I dislike a band with a ten-second song called ‘Cheney’ which basically demands he stop being a dick? Who said all political songs had to be long and meandering? I do reckon these lads could do a great cover of ‘Deny Everything.’ That being said, I much prefer Brakes’ original songs to the two covers on here. They’re not bad, just… well, un-necessary.

I notice the fashionable indie sites are already queuing up to slag this album. Fuck ’em if a record of great pop tunes can’t melt their cold hipster hearts.

And now onto Bus featuring MC Soom-T’s album ‘Feelin’ Dank.’ This is another collaboration between Bus, Berlin electrodub funakteers, and MC Soom-T, fabulous Glasgow rapper.

Here’s some guff about Bus:

Bus approach at a leisurely speed. Since their inception in 2001 Daniel Meteo and Tom Thiel have zigzagged their dub double-decker between a handful of stops to release their music into this world. Besides a chronic lack of time this is less of a concept, but rather a freedom they claim to tackle ideas spontaneously and with the right impulse. When it comes down to it, their common love of reggae can always be relied on as an ignition and directional musical compass. It comes as no surprise that Daniel Meteo and Tom Thiel would meet one day, as both are heavily involved in Berlin’s musical menagerie.
(Source: Bus Stop)

And some about Soom-T:

contrary to her youthful good looks, mc soom t is an experienced and well travelled mc on the glasgow underground scene. having rapped since ’98 with many hip hop, techno and electro sound systems, she has recently proved her versatility again by getting thru to the final of the 8 mile mc championships 2003 (click here for review). although she did not win the final, she fully represented for not only the females (only female finalist), but for the scots as well (only scottish finalist!) thus we crown mc soom t scotland’s best mc and the uk’s best female mc!
(Source: Monkeytribe)

So, yeah, the CD is bassy, natch. It’s also subversively catchy. When I first heard it, I just left it on as background, quite low. But then I found myself stopping to listen to certain tracks more closely, turning them up and exploring. Some of it sounds vaguely like Funkstorung’s remix work but less frantic. There is the same sense of twitching, stridulating electronics though, in total contrast to the distorted confinement of Brakes.

There’s a lot of space to explore here. Bus clatter and clug along, always sparse but never lazily so. The drums on tracks like ‘Diamond In The Rough’ sound like pan lids but they’re meshed into smooth sub and squelchy countersynths.

You can hear the post-processing of MC Rhino on ‘Psychotic Episode’ (maybe Melodyned?) and the effect is perfect both rhythmically and thematically.

This CD isn’t as obviously poppy as a lot of the stuff I rave about. In that, and only that, it’s like Durutti Column. It requires your time and attention. Or should I say inattention? I think if I’d sat down and “listened” hard to it, I might not have liked it as much as being ambushed.

So there you go: two albums, totally different. One baked from electronics, one not even had a sniff of a computer. One cowpunk gobshiteing, one Scots-Berlin para-grime.

Both fucking great!

Organic Choccy Treats

If you’ve never met or seen me in the flesh, you may not be aware that I am something of a gourmand, which is the polite way to say fat bastard who hangs round outside cake shops.

I love good food.

So I was delighted to stumble across these today in Bennetts:

Mmmmm....organic chocolate

They are:

Gently roasted organic pumpkin seeds and soya beans with soft, juicy organic raisins covered in organic Belgian milk chocolate.

What they actually are is tiny bites of heaven. If you’re into your chocolate (or seeds/beans), you’ll love these morsels.

They’re made by a Derby firm, Organic Seed and Bean Company, who seem to be based just off Burton Road so I may go and have a root through their bins for any umm, waste choc. You never know…

Buy their lovely products and feel good that you’re supporting a local business as you pile on the pounds.

This is what the packet looks like now:

Mmmmm....organic chocolate...all scoffed

Gorn…all gorn! 🙁

P.S. For all you vegans, the chocs are shellac-free so you can happily munch on the plain choc version.

R.I.P. Bob Moog

R.I.P. Bob Moog

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — August 21, 2005 — Bob died this afternoon at his home in Asheville, N.C. He was 71. Bob was diagnosed with brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme or GBM) in late April 2005. He had received both radiation treatment and chemotherapy to help combat the disease. He is survived by his wife, Ileana, his five children, Laura Moog Lanier, Matthew Moog, Michelle Moog-Koussa, Renee Moog, and Miranda Richmond; and the mother of his children, Shirleigh Moog.
(Source: Moog Music)

My Dad bought me my first proper synthesizer, a Moog Rogue, when I was 17 in 1983. I gigged with it around the country and loved it dearly. I still do – it’s sitting in my studio now and I recorded a solo with it last week. It’s still a great little synth with a fun, happy character, a bit like a Yorkshire Terrier in electronic form.

I fell in love with synthesizers around 28 years ago. That’s when I first had organ lessons. Even then, I dreamt of playing Moogs, Rolands and Korgs rather than the rather middle-aged and drab organs I learnt on.

It’s impossible to say what the world of electronic music would be like today without Bob Moog. Going from his original Theremin kits up to the huge Moog Modular beasts, so many musicians from so many genres and at so many levels owe Bob their thanks:

Where would R&B, rap and hip-hop be if groups like Parliament and Funkadelic hadn’t used Moog keyboards? Where would rock and roll be if groups from Yes to the Beatles hadn’t used Moog keyboards? Would jazz music have branched off into fusion without Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea using Moog keyboards? And would classical music have enjoyed such resurgence without Wendy Carlos and her modular Moog synthesizer? The questions are hypothetical, of course, because synthesizers have infiltrated every style of music, and so many companies have tried to recreate that analog sound. But above all the copycats and spin-offs, it always comes back to one name: Moog.
(Source: Moog Music)

With all that history behind him, Moog could have rested on his laurels, content to wallow in synth nostalgia. But he kept going, kept designing and the Moog name kept appearing on quality instruments.

R.I.P., Bob.

You will be missed.

Touane – Awake

Touane - Awake
Touane – Awake (Persona Records PRS-015CD)

Seems to be my night for Italian music. I’m now listening to the new album by Touane. It’s called ‘Awake’ and came out on Persona Records this May.

It’s damn near perfect for this time of night. It’s not as glitchy as, say Nautilis or OOO but it’s still got a hefty rhythmic base. It’s also more upbeat than Seven Ark’s last album, as lovely as that was.

‘Sleep Tight You’re A Star’ is my fave so far, with its lazy jazziness accompanied by the obligatory IDM insect rhythm section. I’m a sucker for vibes playing major 7ths, man.

But all the tracks have their own little twists and turns. ‘To Dream About Them People’ is almost (but not quite) disco whereas the opener ‘Pendulum (Let Your Nerves Speak)’ starts off all thin and clicky but then wheels in a bassline pinched from a ‘Speak And Spell’ offcut. Well squidgy, in a random arpeggiator way.

I think it’s the rhythm of the album that’s hooked me. In places, it veers into minimalism, ambient even. But you’re never too far away from a head-nodding beat or another lovely obese bassline. ‘Backward is Forward’ comes in all Neu! but then goes a bit George Benson before adding a Devo bass.

God, I’m making this record sound completely derivative! It isn’t, it’s just I’m not as good a writer as Touane is a musician. He’s managed to incorporate so many diverse melodic, structural and timbral influences that this record is a little treasure chest for anyone who loves electronic music, as I do. (I say electronic but there are plenty of guitars on here. Electronic guitars, mind.)

Although it sounds bugger-all like it, trying to review this CD reminds me of this breathless Usenet review I did back in 1998. I loved that CD as much as I love Touane’s. I’m not mentioning the band by name here because they’ve since become the one electronic band every indie kid has in their collection (after Aphex Twin) and I’d hate for this album to suffer the same pigeonholing.

This is great music. Music everyone should own. If you make space and time for it, it’ll nuzzle up to you and purr.