Thursday, 23 December 2010

Music You Should Listen From 2010

Matthew Dear @XOYO London 9th December 2010
It's been an eventful year, a coalition government, an oil spill, Lady Gaga's meat dress, ash cloud, snow freeze, you name it, we've had it.It's also been a year of discovery and rediscovery, nostagia and innovation. I won't be listing my top 10 or 20 albums here, you've seen it way too many times. Instead it'll be a collection of singles, EPs and albums in a random order that resembles my journey through 2010. (Note: no Beach House, Arcade Fire or any of that sort).

The Knife - Colouring of Pigeons
Colouring of Pigeons by Rabid Records

This is the first track I went nuts for this year. If you haven't heard it yet, it's about time you get acquintanted with The Knife's most adventurous and fruitful collaboration with some opera singers and classical composers commissioned by a Danish performance art group about Charles Darwin's evolution theory.

These New Puritans - We Want War
The most accompolished and daring track off the whole album Hidden. TNP knows how to impress, the video is a guaranteed hit with any Matrix fans.

Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here
First there's the attempt from Nas to "remix" New York Is Killing Me, hit single from Scott-Heron's poetic and big comeback after 13 years on a long hard road to redemption from drugs and imprisonment. Last month Jamie xx brought out his version. The full-length album is highly recommended, for quiet solitary.

Liars - Sisterworld
This is what pop music sounds like if we were on plant Mars, where there are only angry scruffy men in cheque shirts.

Glasser - Ring
This is what pop music should sound like if Lady Gaga was never born, Beyonce never shaked her booty and Shakira never learned English.
Glasser - Home by Ragged Words

Matthew Dear - Black City
If you are a man in your early/mid 30s comfortable on the dance floor anywhere in Europe as long as they are not playing Bollywood soundtracks and prefers ghostly sounds of Eno and David Byrne then you'd love Black City and possibly Dear's 2007 album Asa Breed.

If you are a girl into deep and playful droning male vocals, some mild techno and serious head nodding then you'd also love this album, front to back.

Check out the remix below on  rcrd lbl and then listen to the original to compare the difference, you'll see what I mean.
Matthew Dear - You Put A Smell On Me (Breakbot Remix)

Teengirl Fantasy -Dancing in Slow Motion ft. Shannon Funchess
If you've heard plenty of How to Dress Well,  Teebs and Forest Swords, you'd love what you find in Teengirl Fantasy's highly anticipated debut album 7AM.
Blending plenty half speed old school R&B and pop with a good dose of synth flutters, this is dream pop at its best.

Solar Bears - She Was Coloured In
Such a shame that I couldn't include these guys in my Bear-named bands lineup post. This Irish duo started in early 2009 who, like Teengirl Fantasy dudes, also met at college for sharing a love of world cinema and sound programming. Having managed to bring out one EP and one LP in the space of a few months, Solar Bears is possibly my second favourite new entry of 2010. Check out Twin Stars, Primary Colours At The Back of My Mind, among the best.

Lorn - Nothing Else
 No comparison has been drawn between Lorn and Hudson Mohawke, but somehow the two connected in my brain. Not when I listen to their albums but when I realised that both have made big impressions this year despite being camera-shy, out-of-town (Lorn in Illinois and Hud Mo in Glasgow - for better or worse?) compared to the likes of Skream and Nosaj Thing.
This is not the best album of the year, but certainly one of my favourites on a lonely winter night in my bedroom when it's hailing snow and rain outside. Your heart grows stronger and your muscles harden with the beats and beeps coming out of Army of Fear and Cherry Moon.

Lorn - 'Nothing Else' Album Mix by BRAINFEEDER

James Blake - Limit To Your Love
This is predictable but for good reasons. If there's one song you should listen this Christmas, it's James Blake's version of Feist's Limit To Your Love, definitely the best song to end your 2010.
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Monday, 1 November 2010

Autumn/Winter 2010 Bands to Watch Part 2

View All Photos | FOREST SWORDSSo it seems that Band to Watch Part 1 has gone down pretty well with the crowd. Here's part 2, in no particular order...

Forest Swords
Tunesmith Matt Barnes AKA Forest Swords gives Liverpool music scene a massive boost with nature-inspired dark and dusty beats. Rooted in classical soul, hip-hop and dubstep, it has been coined "dronestep" by the highly regarded Gorilla vs. Bear, which somewhat undermines the "nowness" of Forest Swords's sound. Drone is Sunn O))), and Forest Swords sounds nothing like a step-version of Sunn O))). It seems almost bizzare that no comparison has been drawn between the Scouser (NOT a "woollyback", a term I acquired on my way up to Liverpool earlier this year) and the mass number of Witch House/Drag bands sprouted in the States this year from oOoOO to Balam Acab. (For a non-typical Witch House playlist, I've put together one here). Perhaps it's because Forest Swords started on this side of the pond, he's been automatically excluded from the "witch house" movement? We would never know.

Catch him DJing at Static Gallery in Liverpool on the 13th of November warming the place for Liars, it'll be good.

Forest Swords - Rattling Cage from ///NO PAIN IN POP\\\ on Vimeo.

Party Trash
Another one-man project it seems, and a member of the mysterious Owlhead Collective, also a member of the Disaro Records family, Party Trash has put together some of the most "difficult" drag/witch house remixes to date. A self-titled album came out in June on Bandcamp, if you prefer Salem and White Ring to oOoOO, as the latter is a tad more poppy, you'd like what you find in Party Trash. Surprisingly, his latest take on Alicia Keys is as smooth and silky as the sheer water on a still lake.

Download the remix here and listen to the full mixtape below, featuring a chilling remix by Master Suspiria Vision of Party Trash. It's better upon second listen, no goosebumps, just waves of "R n B".

James Blake
Everyone's talking about James Blake, and I don't blame them. The rising star in British music has got everyone excited with his varied and contrasted two EPs from sweat and swagger to cool and calm bleeps. He could be the ultimate combo of Radiohead and Skream, bridging dubstep with mainstream electronic in an effortless grace. As if the two EPs are not enough proof, the cover of Feist is simply beautiful and enchanting. The single Limit To You Love is out on his debut album in early 2011, it's going to be huge so I won't post about it again.

Meanwhile, familiarise yourself with his 2010 EPs CYMK and Klavierwerke on Spotify

James Blake - Limit To Your Love from James Blake on Vimeo.

Wolf People

Last but not the least, an actual band that puts guitar at the centre of the stage and yes, they are touring. Make it to Angel Islington on the 16th of November to catch this psychedelic quartet from Bedford/London/North Yorkshire. If you appreciate Black Mountain and Sleepy Sun, then you'd be more than happy with Wolf People's latest attempt to bring back the classic rock sound with pride and honesty. Check out their label Jagjaguwar for the likes of Small Black and Women.

Who said guitar's gonna fade out and keyboard and synth's taking over? Nobody's listening to La Roux any more that's why she's declared that synth's dead.

Rock's more than alive, especially this winter.

Tiny Circles by Wolf People from Secretly Jag on Vimeo. Full post...

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Car crash, crashed cars: art works revisited

A couple of months back I posted about car crash as a subject and object in some artists's works, and surprisingly people seem to be fascinated by car crash, death and chaos (keyword searches on Google told me). Well here is some more, gruesome and graphic images by New York-based Danish photographer Peter Funch and one of the latest photo series from German artist Ricarda Roggan, who's better known for her still-life arrangements and installation of furniture piles.

By moving the spotlight from the human physical beings to the wrecked cars, both artists make these objects represent a human failing or a human emotion, as if they are dying victims rather than just vehicles. In Roggan's photographs a falling-off bumper looks like a frowning mouth, while smashed headlamps suggest downcast eyes. The spectre of abandonment, isolation and death is present – not only because there has been an accident, but because these cars are obviously not bound for the repair shop: they will remain permanently obsolete.

Funch however, approaches the scene with a very different perspective. He captures the moment of clashing forces, the fragility of human bodies and the crash's aftermath perfectly with his journalistic and forensic style, with great precision and careful observation. His latest project Babel Tales is far less bloody and worth a look too.

Ricarda Roggan, Garage (2008)

Peter Funch CRASH (2009)
Full post...

Friday, 15 October 2010

He Sen: the lost generation

Beijing-based artist He Sen has been painting girls smoking, drinking and dazing for a good 10 years now. He has quietly become a powerful force among contemporary Chinese painters. His ultra-realisitc and photographic oil paintings of women, often in seductive underwear and poses, are sharp and blurry at the same time, with starkly contrasting colours, greyed-out background and vivid details which paint a bleak and pessimistic picture of the youth culture in China. 

Without contextualising the images it's easy to dismiss He's work as simply the "objetification" of women, possibly border-line "erotic". But the message here is more complicated than that. These women are beautiful, yet their bodies are deadly grey, their faces often blank and lacking intensity compared to their clothing and pose, shadows often dance into the background and the only one or two details that stand out are the lips, the drinks and the cigarette smoke.  After much fame and fortune, He has moved on in recent years to ink and pen and re-invented classic Chinese paintings of flowers and trees, but to the Western world these nearly naked sad girls still look far more interesting.  

Full post...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Monkey King in contemporary Chinese Art

Ever heard of the Chinese legend Monkey King? Think of Spider Man, but way cooler. Monkey King Sun Wukong can ride clouds, clone himself with his monkey hair, spot demons and witches with his Fiery Golden Eyes, even when they dress up as innocent pretty girls ready to seduce. He's also a shapeshifter, able to transform into 72 objects and animals. He hates the authority and was put under a big rock and spell by the gods for sabotaging the Heavenly Kingdom, until the Journey to the West novel made him a bodyguard of Buddhist monk Tripitaka, who was commissioned, in real life, in the 7th Century to trek to India to retrieve Buddihist sultras. Alone with the Monkey King, there was Pigsy, Sandy and the monk's white horse, whom later revealed himself to be a dragon prince.

The traditional realisation of Monkey King is often in the form of opera, film and staged play, but contemporary Chinese artists have found new ways to re-interpret the classic Monkey - in a space suit with a big six-pack.

Check out the carefully handcafted toy figures by Cacooca, an enterprise based in Beijing that creates funky designs of Pandas in print and figures.

Contemporary Chinese Artist Wang Mian (not the one from the 14th century) has also produced a series of mini-sculptures featuring the Monkey King and his fellow disciples. All in somewhat a futuristic and sci-fi fiction inspired style. Wang's work has been exhibited in China and Switzerland.
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