RIP Daniel Hansson

Daniel Hansson RIP

I just found out about Daniel’s death.

I never met Daniel but we exchanged emails about MIDI, quantisation, timing – the usual geeky stuff that electronic music types love to talk about. He was always unfailingly polite, helpful and friendly. He even offered to give me a tour of the Elektron facility the next time I was playing in Gothenburg. I wish I’d taken him up on that last year.

Daniel Hansson is an example of how one person can reach out and positively affect myriad others’ lives. If Elektron hadn’t invented the Monomachine, I would never have come to this realisation. I might be still stuck in a musical rut, wondering why nothing felt as good as it used to and wasting money on plugin after plugin, vainly attempting to re-capture a lost feel.

And, of course, I’m not the only musician who loves the gear he helped create – I’m part of a legion of Elektron fanatics. Each of us has been touched and blessed by Daniel’s creativity.

You’ll be sorely missed, Daniel.

Bearsuit And The Deirdres

On Friday I went to see The Deirdres supporting Bearsuit.

Despite some of the worst live sound it’s ever been my misfortune to experience (thank god I had earplugs in), The Deirdres managed to overcome the obstacles set in their path and deliver us amazing, tickly fun. It takes (hard)core brilliance to battle through and connect with the audience despite everything going tits-up soundwise.

Due to a stinky melding of sexism and rockism, I’ve heard certain people disdain The Deirdres. They just don’t get it. The Deirdres could play the same dull, fifteenth-hand riffs as “serious” bands, they’re all great musicians. They simply choose to do something more vibrant, difficult and dangerous instead. Click here to see vids of The Deirdres gig.

And then, my old Norwich ‘showbiz pals,’ Bearsuit. I’d been chatting to Jan Bearsuit during The Deirdres and she said how they reminded her of a baby Bearsuit. And that made me think back to seeing Bearsuit’s first baby gigs at Norwich Arts Centre…

It’s hard to believe that Bearsuit have been going since 2000, they don’t perform like an “old” group. They ripped through their set with a level of energy that made me quite giddy, always trying their hardest to connect with the audience, to astound and amuse them. Again, rockists won’t get it, they like their music trapped and solid, stolid and predictable. They like their butterflies pinned to a bit of card, not flapping around, eccentrically, as Bearsuit do.

And therein lies Bearsuit’s genius: they are simply an astounding live band. Some bits of their set were like watching a deranged, steam-powered robot flying apart. The shouting, the clattering, the springy boinging. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on but, clearly, they did as, out of the chaos, sweet choruses and livid riffffs leapt out. Click here to watch them in action.

And if you haven’t ever seen them live, book a ticket now!

How Capitalism Is Shit Part 34,723


I love video podcasts. I’m watching one now, Robert Scoble chatting with Cali Lewis. Just finished watching Cranky Geeks. I think it would be accurate to say that I’ve replaced a lot of TV I used to watch with podcasts.

However, there’s one annoying thing. Most of these vidcasts are American. And, inevitably, they reflect the fact that most of the people making them are far more right-wing than their equivalents would be over here.

Over and over again, I’ve heard the same old capitalist religious tenets being promoted: trickle-down, unions are baad, private business = public good. To have this level of dogma wired into you is quite crazy. Note: I would be just as disturbed if these were Stalinists proclaiming the absolute superiority of the Soviet model. What irks me is the blind adherence to economic ideology, left or right.

Now, I’ve just had my tea and I’m a bit burpy so I don’t have time to restate Das Kapital in blog-sized chunks. So let me take only one popular capitalist myth: the free market is the most efficient economic system.

I won’t use some obscure example, I’ll use a real-life event that happened to me, a fortnight ago.

We were having some new windows fitted. The fitters spotted a wasps’ nest, complete with furious inhabitants, right next to where they had to work.

So, we called the council. They quoted us £35 and said they could come in three days. We thought, “Surely the inefficient, publically-run council will be trounced by the dynamic, private-enterprise entrepeneur!” and rang a private insect exterminator.

Blokey came round the next morning. That’s efficient! Sucked his breath in. Mmm. Ahhh… He then informed us that this was a “special” case and he’d have to smoke them out. This essential service would cost us £110 plus VAT.

We said no thanks, we’d get the council to do it.

Miraculously, he changed his mind and then dropped his charge to the council price. He sprayed some powder and the job was done.

You have there, in a nutshell, the whole problem with the wonderful free market. This bloke thought he had us over a barrel. So, he tried to charge whatever he could get away with. If we had paid, he would have carried out unnecessary work, using up precious resources and even more precious time that didn’t need to be used, and then charged us for his larceny.

Why? Because profit is all that matters. Not efficiency, not doing a good job. You can stay in business for years, gouging customers if they have no other alternative / you have a monopoly (hello, Microsoft!). Indeed, if we hadn’t phoned the council first, we might have been stupid enough to pay him his fraudulent fee.

Now take this bug bloke and apply that throughout the “free” market. Think of every mechanic fitting parts that don’t need to be fitted, every salesman fleecing an elderly couple into buying replacement windows they don’t need, every consumer good you buy being built to fall apart so you have to buy a new one.

Look around you at the world of landfills and scrapheaps, discarded mobile phones and instantly-obsoleted computers. All the glistering wonders of the free market system, poisoning our rivers and choking our air.

Does that sound efficient to you?

Polarised Light Experiments

Click the pic for the polarised gallery!

Tonight, I took some experimental pics mucking about with the effect of polarised light on transparent objects. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while but I only realised tonight that I had a readily available source of polarised light. We actually spend a lot of our time looking at polarised light without being that conscious of it.

The shots have turned out quite well seeing as I was holding the objects by hand. I think if I rig up some kind of grippy doodad, I could lower the ISO and get sharper images. I also have to think of different objects to try out.

Taking these shots, my mind drifted to one of my favourite books, QED by Richard Feynman:

QED by Richard Feynman

It’s a wonderful book in which Feynman takes the layperson gently by the hand and leads them through an outline of quantum electrodynamics. If you’ve got enough of an attention span to still be reading this far, I think I can safely say you’d love this book as much as I do. Here’s one of my fave quotes from it:

What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students in the third or fourth year of graduate school . . . It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don’t understand it. You see my physics students don’t understand it . . . That is because I don’t understand it. Nobody does.

I admit, some of the stuff in it about reflection and diffraction hurt my head but it was a good hurt, a mind-expanding, brain-exercising hurt. You know, the opposite of what religion does to you.

Now, I’m off to try and think of some more polarised pics to take!

Keepon Dancing To Spoon!

I love Keepon, the funky little dancing robot. I try to model my real-life dancing on his slick moves.

I also love Spoon. Look, they got best new track here.

Keepon first became famous on the cyberwent as he was filmed bopping to Spoon’s ‘I Turn My Camera On.’ Well, someone has been thinking lovely thoughts because now Keepon is the star of the video for Spoon’s new track, ‘Don’t You Evah.’

Watch the vid, linked above. There’s some mass robot dancing near the end. If I had one criticism to make, it’s that there’s not enough Keepon in it.

I think I’m in love.

Big Blue Playlist 11/8/07

Keepin' 6

Tonight’s best new song was the wonderful ‘Scapegoat’ by Canadian ska-punks Keepin’ 6. Their debut album was released, as you can see above, on June 12 and I think it’s going to be in my top albums of ’07. It’s a deftly arranged and beautifully played collection of songs that vary from pop punk through old-school hardcore via… well, immense catchiness. Every song has a little twist, a tweak that makes it compelling. If you’ve ever bopped to Capdown, Less Than Jake or Lightyear, check out the album.

Ella & Louis

The best old track was ‘Stone Cold Dead In The Market’ by the sublime Ella Fitzgerald and the rockin’ Louis Jordan. It’s an everyday tale of murder and vegetables delivered in a light, calypso form. Wonderful!

(Eagle-eyed readers may spot a slight Chinese punk theme tonight… 🙂 )

Tonight, you heard:

The Lemonheads – The Outdoor Type
El-P – Tuned Mass Damper
Five Knuckle – Not In My Name
Psapp – Needle And Thread
Youth of Today – Understand
Manchester Orchestra – Sleeper 1972
69 – Pengke Wansui
Example – What We Made
High Tension Wires – Outsider
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan – Stone Cold Dead In The Market (He Had It Coming)
The Twilight Sad – Cold Days From The Birdhouse
JME – Serious
The Angelic Process – Million Year Summer
Cylob – Cut The Midrange Drop The Bass
Southerly – Soldiers
Working For A Nuclear Free City – Fallout
Delta 5 – Colour
Sea Wolf – You’re A Wolf
Ascii.Disko – Black Summer
Spoon – Finer Feelings
Blue Scholars – Back Home
Freygolo – Bored To Hate
The Mary Onettes – Void
Lateef & Z-Trip – Devil’s Detail
Audit – Phernie Funk
Brain Failure – Wo Bu Feihua Ni Ye Bie Feihua
Geinoh Yamashirogumi – Kaneda
Milanese – Dead Man Walking
Noisettes – Don’t Give Up
Reflector – Wo Xiang Shuo De Hua
Urthboy – The Signal
Keepin’ 6 – Scapegoat
Stars – Midnight Coward
Huoratron – Male Bonding
Plus Minus – Steal The Blueprints
Suburban Kids With Biblical Names – Loop Duplicate My Heart
The IRS – The World Is Theirs
Lusine – Make It Easy
Evergreen Terrace – Rip This!
Beirut – Elephant Gun
The Narrator – Surfjew
Boom Bap Project – Dealing With All Of This (Ft. Peegee 13)
Rufus Wainwright – California
Stevie Wonder – I Wish
Jens Lekman – I Saw Her In The Anti War Demonstration
Deerhoof – Milkman
A Hawk And A Hacksaw And The Hun Hangár Ensemble– Serbian Cocek
Copperpot – Demo
iTAL tEK – Tokyo Freeze
The Fiery Furnaces – Duplexes Of The Dead
David Bowie – Golden Years
The Wedding Present – Give My Love To Kevin
Common – The Game
Cats on fire – End Of Straight Street
The Slits – I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Circuit Breaker – Still Got The Funk
Samsara – Outcast
The Upstarts – Time’s Right
Why? – Sanddollars
Laakso – Dropout
Tinchy Strider – Underground
Brother Reade – Let’s Go
The Decemberists – July, July!
Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers – Roadrunner
Sibiria – Hat Tillbaks
Cable – God Gave Me Gravity
The Darling Buds – Shame On You
Dyme Def – Getdown
Orange Juice – What Presence-!

Suburban Kids With Biblical Names On 120 Minutes

Suburban Kids With Biblical Names

I’m sooo happy! I taped 120 Minutes and the video for ‘Loop Duplicate My Heart’ turned up amidst all the post-Bright Eyes / Bobcat Goldthwait yodelling bands and “challenging” soundscapes. Yes, as a fantastic pop song, it stuck out like a sore bastard thumb.

The vid is on telly now because their amazing album, ‘3,’ is finally seeing a proper UK release. If you’re a regular Groinker, you may remember it was my 2005 Album Of The Year. I won’t go on about it again now, just pop and have a read about it in that best-of. (Better late than never, eh? If they maintain this cutting-edge playlisting, I look forward to MTV getting into Cats On Fire sometime around 2009…)

Hopefully, this new exposure will mean that SKWBN will become as famous as The Arcade Fire, buy themselves gold-plated bikes and spend all day cycling round, laughing shrilly and hurling their poop at bystanders. They deserve that level of success: they write songs that could easily enthrall and entertain millions of people.

Oh, and look what arrived in the post the yesterday from Cosy Recordings:

Johan Hedberg

Yep, it’s Johan from SKWBN’s solo EP! Now, who wants to touch me? 🙂