— THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE

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MUSIC

I love this idea. So simple, so nicely done, and a great use of YouTube. The problem was pretty simple (and one that I guess Orchestra’s around the world have…) How do you engage a younger audience in the delights of Classical Music? Using YouTube and some of the most iconic movie soundtracks of all time, the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra achieved a 40% increase in youth audiences for their new season of concerts. I love how this embraces YouTube as a communication tool, as much as a viewing platform to really bring home the point. It’s fun, it works and it strips away much of the pretension of Classical Music; which can only be a good thing…

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A slight deviation from my usual digital orientated postings, I wanted to bring to the fore this fantastic 12 minute slice of DFA life. Produced to coincide with the Red Bull Music Academy festival in New York this month, DFA Records was, and remains one of the touchstones of my life musically. (I urge everyone to get this album from 2004: A DFA primer, it’s basically their ten musical commandments…) Their bands, their commitment to great music, and their sheer joy has fueled what much of what makes music so interesting these days, yet they’ve done this through one of the most tumultuous times that recorded music has ever faced, let alone record companies. (Whose woes are well documented and plentiful.) This film shows that passion fuels great art. And the best communication, always comes from the best art. It’s a great coda to the outright quasi-religious experience that was ‘Shut Up And Play The Hits’ 

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I’ve now seen the Dark Knight Rises twice. While there are no doubt plot holes (as has been pointed out especially well in these Reddit posts including SPOILERS), there visual achievement of the films (especially in IMAX), is unboubted. One of the most underrated elements of the Nolan Batman films, and of course Inception is the sound and music. Hans Zimmer in particular, has created a visceral soundscape that is fast becoming a genre all of it’s own. If indeed you have never heard the Inception soundtrack, then I urge you to watch and listen to it performed live with Johnny Marr on guitar (It’s epic. The music starts around 7.30). This film delves into the thinking and processes for Zimmer and the sound team at large. I love how Zimmer blends analogue and digital elements to create something truly sonically unique.  Well worth a watch.

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Last month, Google debuted it’s new Chrome mobile browser. As with the desktop version of Chrome, it’s a significant upgrade, and gesturally very sympathetic to how people consume content on a mobile platform over a desktop. That might have been enough for a company such as Google. Instead, they’ve collaborated with the ever awesome B-Reel to create a mobile chrome experiment in the mold of The Wilderness Downtown and RO.ME. This time, for an artist I actually give a shit about.

‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’ is drawn straight from Soul legend Bobby Womack’s comeback album for XL of the same name. Produced by Damon Albarn and XL founder Richard Russell, it takes a similar approach to the one that worked so well for Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and others. The stripped back, pathos laden ‘final’ album feel. While the album itself is excellent, it’s haunting title track is no doubt well served by the introduction of an interactive experience like this.

As you would expect from Google and B-Reel, this idea is executed to the highest standards, and shows off quite effectively how much great tech is underneath the Chrome Browser for mobile and tablet, with some nice little touches in terms of interaction (that work better at tablet size to be fair), and a visual flair that manages to counterpoint the tech points with retro influenced graphics.

While not as jaw-droppingly ‘new’ as  The Wilderness Downtown was, this is still a worth entry into the increasingly crowded market of interactive music videos.

(Desktop Link HERE_)

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I recently got rid of over 150 DVD’s. During the process, I ended keeping a pile of ‘never throw aways’. Those films that are an indelible part of your film makeup. They might culturally resonate, they might make you think of a person or event, or they simply might just be your favourite. One of those favourites for me, which after uncovering I had to watch again was the Long Good Friday. The tale of London Gangster Harold Shand, his ambitions to ‘go legit’ and the war he faces on his own ‘turf’ from none other than the IRA.

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The film is a great bit of British film-making. From Bob Hoskins’ central character, to the gritty and all too real portrayal of London’s Docklands at the turn of the 70’s. A wasteland ripe for re-development and re-imagining in the 1980’s. It almost feels like another city, so stark is the contrast.

But the films unsung hero has always been the music. Composed by KPM/DeWolfe Library music alum Francis Monkman. The score has a pulsating opening and closing track (accompanying the famous final scene, a lingering close up of Shand as he mulls over his fate at the hands of the IRA). But throughout the film, the weird moog-esque sounds compound the uneasy tension that permeates the film. I always wondered what this soundtrack was composed on. It was so unlike many other soundtracks of the era (save for the work John Carpenter or Tangerine Dream). That’s when YouTube came to the rescue and uncovered this oddity from the early 1980’s. Monkman is seen demonstrating the ‘Prophet 5‘. One of the first analogue snyths that, when played in the video below, feels much more warm yet queasy, as opposed to short and spiky that dominates the sounds of the Sheffield scene of the time. (As Monkman points out).

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Brian Bennett, the Drummer of the Shadows turned Library electronic music pioneer, also must have had a thing for the Prophet 5, as you can clearly hear some of the same tones in his seminal 1978 tune ‘Solstice’.

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This music, both from Monkman and Bennett, feels criminally under-appreciated. Both for it’s forward looking feel, and for the way that both of these artists, through their work with KPM and DeWolfe especially, soundtracked the ‘other London’ of the 1970’s. Not the world of Punk, but of taupe, Cortina’s and a sort of musty futurism.

Enjoy.

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Always a big fan of the Kitsuné Brand (I own a significant amount of their clothes to be fair), there records have always been no slouch. Introducing many an interesting hipster-esque band to the world. (One thinks of The Teenagers in this regard). So it’s no surprise to see (and hear) that the new Kitsuné album ‘America’ is up to the usual high standards. What makes it even more interesting is this cute little idea merging physical and digital to get the compilation across to a wider audience. Using ‘Sound Graffiti’ stations across the city, people can listen to the album in some rather interesting and bizarre locations. There’s much more you could do with this idea in terms of engaging the brands fans in finding these stations; (working around something with Foursquare could be awesome for example), but overall it’s a nice idea and as it comes from Kitsuné (and NYC Creative Agency CNNCTD+) the quality standard is as high as ever.

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It’s a year ago this week that I had the profound privilege of being at Madison Square Garden (and the ridiculous after party at the Tribeca Grand Hotel), and saw the final ever gig of LCD Soundsystem. The band that pretty much documented my 20’s in the mid 2000’s. Even from their earliest records, LCD (and James Murphy) always felt like musical kindred spirits, the soul of crate diggers everywhere, and fundamentally hard-wired into the greatest city on Earth. So it was only appropriate that their final gig was a 20,000 people 4 hour barn stormer, packed with unforgettable moments.

While my memories will always be unique, it sent a glorious chill down the spine to know that there was a film being created of that night. ‘Shut Up And Play The Hits’ in fact does more than just become a memorial of one night, but, as this interview with the directors (Via The ever excellent Creators Project) explains, is also a mediation on that all-too-rare ability these days to go out at the top of your game. What happened when the sun rose at the Tribeca Grand? the drink had been drunk and the records had been played? I know I felt a state of shock, so god alone knows what is was like for James and the LCD Gang.

It’s a novel approach, the trailer (see above), gives you a pretty good sense of what that night was like. But for prosterity’s sake, here’s a couple of videos from the final song (and the emotional ‘New York I Love You’) as well as some after party madness that showed that New York, and the world weren’t quite ready to give the band up that easily.

I cannot wait to relive it again.

Shut Up And Play The Hits premiers at Sundance Festival

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