Thursday, 21 January 2010

Monolake Interviewed

The Wire has posted a full version of Derek Walmsley's interview with Monolake which is an excellent read, covering a huge range of topics: Monolake's involvement with Ableton, his live performances, Monolake Surround Sound, his approach to the hardware v software debate, working with visual artists, and a hell of a lot more. It's an interesting peek into the mind of a master, I'd highly recommend it. A lot of food for thought....

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Reagenz : Lunar Landing Live

reagenz - lunar landing live by Move D

The past couple of weeks have seen Cardiff blanketed under varying amounts of snow. An unusual occurrence for the city, snowfall and freezing temperatures have made travel treacherous. Living close the the city, I've unfortunately not got out of work, but every cloud has a silver lining- I've meandered the quieter than usual route to the office every morning and enjoyed this uncommon weather. A landscape blanketed in snow an amazing sight- all detail is obscured and only the most elemental features of the landscape remain- the rise and fall of the land, the line of a wall, the height of the trees. I think this unique sight (I can't remember this much snow in Cardiff, and I've lived here for ten years) requires a unique soundtrack, and I think I've found just the thing.

Reagenz aka Move D and Jonah Sharp recorded a live set in Heidelberg in July to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the lunar landing. Punctuated by warped excerpts from the landing sequence, the live set features a mix of new and old Reagenz material. Now the parallel between the moon landing and a snowy landscape may seem obvious-snow is white, so are the images you see of the moon's surface. Footsteps have more potency on the moon and in fresh snow. But, what appealed to me about the mix is the careful way in which sounds build and the delicately constructed sense of drama that runs throughout. Snow is about drama. Snow dances and plays as it falls. And this is the feeling I get from this mix- sounds emerge from a fog of ambient atmospherics before being dragged back into swirling clouds, creating a strong sense of tension and release throughout the mix. It's almost like being in the midst of a blizzard (and several times me and this mix have been). After about an hour, a meandering baseline changes the mood, stepping the mix up a gear. The last twenty minutes see the mix peak in luscious deep house, finishing with a menacing track taken from their recent Workshop release. Finally, the mix dissolves into Neil Armstrong saying those famous words to finish the mix.

All in all, inspiring stuff from Johan and David, a beautiful and sensitive concept mix and one that has fitted my experience of the world perfectly over the past week. If I was taking my first steps on the moon, or equally my first steps into a snowy Cardiff, I'd want this to be my soundtrack. Enjoy.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Colonising the Capital
Colony Christmas Party

The Rhythm Factory, London, December 19 2009
Kevin Gorman
Millie and Andrea

If the past year has proved anything, it’s the truth behind the old axiom: big is not necessarily beautiful. Systems and structures of a super-scale have visibly crumbled, supported only by injections of non-existent cash.  The capital of the consumer society has been pummelled hard, and currently sits under a blanket of snow. London is a dirty old whore of a city (certainly big, and with a decidedly ambiguous relationship to beauty). But, beneath the skin of this heaving metropolis, behind the thick matt of commercial mediocrity, lie some small, but perfectly formed set-ups. And this is where things are currently thriving, proving resilient to the ‘bottom-line’ mentality of the late-capitalist machine. You see, here, profit is defined in terms that are not singularly monetary. Profit is pleasure. Profit is release, abandon, and that indefinable thing that is a ‘fucking good party’. And, as we at Oblique well know, margins (in singular ‘cost’ terms) are tiny. But success isn’t defined by the total of the balance books. It’s defined by something else, something intangible but equally, if not more important: Fun. Happiness. People dancing, smiling and sometimes finding something new. So, in this time of mean-spirited cost-counting, thank God for guys like Lost Souls, and Colony - whose events over the past year have seen some of the leading lights of underground electronic music brought to the Capital. And what better a way for Colony to end the year and fill the bank account with an over-abundance of cultural-capital, than with Kevin Gorman, Sigha, Millie and Andrea and Ben UFO – a line-up that reads like a room at Free Rotation?

The Rhythm Factory, a great venue on Whitechapel Road in East London, felt like a return to Berlin for me: simple, unadorned and with a relaxed atmosphere helped by the cafĂ©/bar style room fronting the street and with a fittingly uncompromising and decidedly chilly bouncer (it’s part of going to a nightclub… why should they be friendly?). Arriving around twelve, just in time to hear the end of MB’s set, the place took a while to warm-up, not helped by the altogether appalling weather and mini-snow storm that blew across the city. However, by the end of Sigha’s set (a tough, deep and unrelenting mix of straight-up techno) the club was getting into its groove and settling in for Gorman’s live-set. Marred only by a slight technical hitch halfway in (seems even a Mac can’t be trusted 100% of the time), Gorman played a string of reworked tracks into a stunningly executed hour and a half of contiguous music. Fast, clinical and simultaneously groovy, The Rhythm Factory was, by this time, getting on with the task in hand and the clearly appreciative crowd had swelled to fill the dance floor towards the end of his set. This, however, was the time I had to make my departure. The bleak weather, combined with the fact that the night bus journey would take around two hours, forced my hand and it was with heavy heart that I left a party that felt like it had really started to get going.

What Colony are doing (and, I sincerely hope, continue to do so), is provide a community feel within a city that has so much in the way of talent and potential but that suffers through the city’s high-prices. Outfits like Colony have defined the parameters of their ‘profit motives’ in a way, however, that outsmarts the restrictions of London: they obviously care about the music, the atmosphere and the nature of the ‘party’ and weight these factors far above the bottom line.

Sorry if this review has seemed like a small exercise in economic reappraisal. But it’s just that if there is one thing that is called for, and that I believe to be of critical importance to the future of this genre of music in a landscape of commercial behemoths, then it’s the judging of success based not on cash-outputs. And that’s where Colony are doing something important, something with integrity. Here’s to more colonisation.