Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Essay: Unicorn Kid and the Chiptune Re-up

What is Chiptune?  It's pretty much video game music, in that its producers use sounds that are made by or put together in succession by computers or video game consoles.  Confused?

Chiptunes origins are found in Video Game Music, which in 70's and 80's was quite primitive and involved using a computer chip would change electrical impulses from computer code into analog sound waves* in real time that produced the digital music that your old console would pump out.

Chiptune music has thrived in recent years. The internet has given Chiptune artists the ability to connect and share processes and ideas.  Organisations like Creative Commons has aided the development of artists and help them learn their craft through it's open source enviroments.

Chiptune has evolved from its humble 8-bit beginnings with producers developing new ways to synthesize their sounds to create more complex sound scapes and approaching their projects with a more melodic sensibility.

The limitations in Chiptune are few, and the increase in technology fuels its fire.  Whether it takes off as a commercially viable musical genre remains to be seen, but you get the feeling that it's creators are happy with things just the way they are.

Creative CommonsUnicorn Kid 

*Pilfered from Wikipedia

A Compilation of popular Chiptune Tracks

Video: Beatphoniks at Aussie Hip Hop Finals

Runners up at the Australian Hip hop Finals Beatphoniks.  Man, I'm tired just watching these guys!

News: Jay-Z to support U2 on Australian Tour

I'm a bit late on this one I know, but I'm gonna report it because Jay-Z is awesome live and to prove it I have a couple of my favourite live Jay vids.

Jay was ripped in the press by Noel Gallagher before this show, saying he didn't deserve to be there.  I think Jay proved he belonged. 

And he brought out kanye for a surprise visit at the Isle of Wight festival, the first live gig Kanye had done since the Taylor Swift incident.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Stream: Kayne West ft. Raekwon & Justin Bieber - Runaway Love Remix

The Twitter-assisted remix between Bieber, Kanye and the Chef himself Raekwon from Wu-Tang is streaming at Hip Hop Connection. Click the link below.

Kayne West ft. Raekwon & Justin Bieber - Runaway Love [HHC World Premiere] | Music | HIP HOP CONNECTION


Nicki Minaj and will.i.am Burgle The Buggles

New Nicky Minaj and Will.I.Am pilfering the Buggles 'Video Kill the radio star' for a cheekily ridonkulous update.  Not sure if I approve.

Nicki Minaj and will.i.am Burgle The Buggles

Essay: Poreotix - The Daft Punks botting on the battlefield

Poreotix are representative of the next generation of Dance Crews, and not just because they won last seasons America's Best Dance Crew and the recent Hip Hop international.

Combining the styles of Popping and Locking with Robotics, Poreotix eschew traditional break battle styles like Freezes, Top-Rocking and acrobatic Power Moves.  As popping is a completely different style of dance (break is mostly on the floor, popping is standing up), it allows more fluid movement amongst the crew and the opportunity to be more theatrical.

It also conserves energy normally used up in the power moves for more higher-speed dance routines.  This has led to different musical genres being used in crew routines too.

Poreotix are 6 asian-american dancers who came together organically in 2007 in California.  Like all crews, their first performances tested the waters and the boys were convinced they had the chemistry, style and work ethic to take them further.

Known for their flashy haircuts, stylish gear and ever-present shades (they wear them in every routine), Poreotix have become accustomed the spotlight and encompassed their crazy persona to the point where they can be themselves on stage.  The ebullient joy of performing comes out in every routine, as their facial expressions seem to say that they can't believe they get to do this either!

Technically sound, theatrically ambitious and always wildly entertaining, Poreotix are a crew on the rise and definite must-see on their upcoming tour of Australia.

Catch Poreotix in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide
For more info CLICK HERE

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Download: Kanye West feat Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicky Minaj and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) - Monster

When Kanye announced last week that he was gonna release new music every Friday, he wasn't kidding!  What else do you call a track with all these heavyweights on it but 'Monster'?  This will be on a Jay-Z/Kanye mini album called Watch the Throne, that should be out December.  No word whether it's on Kanye's album.

Download it HERE 

Friday, August 27, 2010

My Favourite Swedish Albums

Robyn - Robyn

The album that re-introduced Robyn as an independent popstar.  She had a label 'Konichwa Records', that she repped on her intro, and took it's name from a Dave Chappelle skit.  It was obvious she was doing this on her own terms.

The album was a funny, melodic, confident piece of future dance-pop that differentiated Robyn from the cookie-cutter pop queens around her.  From the heart-breaking 'Be Mine' to the defiant 'Handle Me', Robyn always made sure that whilst you were dancing, you were also feeling her on an emotional level. 

The Knife - Silent Shout

Led by the haunting vocals of Karin Dreijer Andersson, the Knife created sound scapes both bracing and beautiful, all the time sounding like nothing elsein music.  Instead of sounding like Karaoke with Techno Music, they made it sound like a hit pop track from 2025.

The title track 'Silent Shout' led the way, sounding like Kompakt had a ghost in their machines.  The combination of vocal-centric and the textural basslines was such a treacherous minefield up to that point, that most acts had not been able to navigate through it.  For The Knife it was no problem.  Each song was fully formed with the sound, with the pulsing beat and wailing vocals meeting gloriously in the middle.

The Hives - Veni Vidi Vicious

The Hives burst out of the blocks at the turn of the century with energetic punk tunes that were both immature and sincere, and funny yet smart.

They had the aesthetics down pat with the matching two tone outfits and their video's were genuinely entertaining.  The tracks worked because they were delivered like punk originally was, with intent, which drove home the emotional impact of the lyrics.

Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala

Jens started out as a modern day troubadour with a penchant for sampling and transformed himself into a fully-fledged musician.  This  album reflected his musical and emotional maturity, and became his most well-received release to date.

His tracks always told an awkwardly sincere story and this album was no exception. 'A Postcard to Nina' talked about pretending to be the boyfriend of a lesbian to appease her judgemental father, and 'Shirin' talks about his Iraqi Hairdresser, who may or may not be an illegal immigrant.  All the talk would be for nought if the music didn't hold up, but it does.  From punchy 60's Chamber Pop tunes to lo-fi disco and the ever present old-school samples, this album had it all. 

Lykke Li - Youth Novels

She seemingly came out of nowhere in 2008.  She had an album produced by Bjorn from Peter, Bjorn and John, a slight voice and some catchy tunes.  Internet buzz pushed her a little further in to the spotlight.

The album itself is a sparse, minimal piece of work, eschewing the 4/4 dance-pop bangers of contemparies Robyn and Little Boots.  Lykkke Li opted for a more intimate sound, which gave her songs (reportedly inspired by an old relationship) more of an emotional wallop.

Songs like 'Dance, Dance, Dance' and 'Im Good, Im Gone' don't blast their way out the blocks, instead luring you in with a purring coo before the hook sucker punches right in the solar plexus.  By that point it's too late to resist, and you're beaming from ear to ear along with her.

The Radio Dept - Clinging to a Scheme

This trio have been around for a while now (15 years), and have managed to stay off the commercial grid for much of that time.  That time together has served them well, as their latest album of lo-fi fuzz-pop would attest.

Their songcraft and emotionally charged vocals are what makes this troupe stand out from their bretheren, and their long career is a testament to their talent.

This album take their staple elements, and applys a brighter, cleaner production to them.  The contrast of the punchy production against the dour, melodramatic lyrics of lead singer Johan Duncanson is a tight-rope that the band never falls off.  Straight-forward and strident, this economical record (it clocks in at 34 mins) is breath of fresh summer air.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Essay: Ricardo Villalobos - Renovations in Sound

When  Eminem announced a few years ago that 'Nobody listens to techno', the statement sounded incongruous to anyone not living in the United States.  Americans have been finding ways to avoid dance music for years, so surely the rest of the world had followed suit?  Luckily, Slim Shady had it all wrong.
From it's inconspicuous beginnings in the motor city of Detroit, Techno spread rapidly across the world and it's familiar 4/4 beat could be heard from Manchester to Rio de Janiero.  As music technology continued to advance, so did production techniques, and with it, the accessibility of the technology itself.  Acolytes from Canada, Japan and Germany began crafting their own forms of techno, bringing their own influences to the table and in turn influencing others.

Ricardo Villalobos was born in Chile, but was raised in Germany, and by the time he was DJing for fun at University, techno was firmly entrenched as a legitimate musical genre.  He's been Djing as a career since '98, and has since established himself as not just a touring or mix DJ, but as a musician, crafting a slew of classic releases.

His signature sound is that of the pulsing 4/4 beat that never climaxes, but builds and swells.  In his own words, it's a 'trippy monotone' that 'does something to your brain'.  His tracks (which are known for being lengthy) are an ongoing experiment in the ever elusive search for the perfect dance floor track and the construction of the ultimate sound scape.

Frequencies and recording quality are two elements of Villalobos' production vernacular that come up regularly.  He speaks of the limitations of Electronic music, as opposed to the space and reverb allowed by traditional acoustic recording.  This is where his experimentation takes place, mixing electronic music and acoustic music to allow the sounds to live in what he calls the 'room'. 

He attempts to create 'rooms' of sound to try to replicate what is captured by the human ear, unlike traditional electronic production, which rids its sound scape of any sense of space and lets the electronic sounds fill every sonic crevasse.

This presents problems for Villalobos in the live arena, as his demands for sound quality are usually met with cries of cost from club owners and festival organizers.  Where he can though, he will bring the highest quality and most organic sounding techno to each and every live set, and I defy anyone within earshot to stay rooted to the floor.

Ricardo Villalobos plays StereoSonic at Bonython Park Dec. 4, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: M-Phazes - Good Gracious

M-Phaze's new compilation 'Good Gracious' starts off very low-key.  The current go-to producer in the Oz Hip hop landscape, Phaze's has crafted stellar Boom-Bap based joints for a slew of local and international names, including Bliss N Eso, CL Smooth and Skyzoo.  With his impressive back catalogue ringing in my ears, I jumped on this new album with high expectations and much respect.

That first track slips quietly through the front door, rather than busting it down.  It does a great job of introducing us to M-Phrazes, quietly and calmly and without the fanfare.  This dude is a workhorse, not a showpony and wants us to know he's more than a few bells and whistles.  Where this works on the first track, it falls flat on the second.  Crazy Westralian Drapht rides Where's Elvis with flow a not seen since Eminem was asking people what his name was.  Unfortunately, Drpaht has little of Slim Shady's raw power, and the title of the track tells you all you need to know about the lyrical content.

The FreakShow and Goodbye Gravity show off more of M-Phraze's signature sounds, and the artists (Mantra, Muph/Plutonic) seem grateful for the chance to drop science on to them.    Home lets veteran Delta blast off, whilst Pegz feels at home on Blind Man and Spit Syndicate rip up the Superfly-sounding Long winding Road.

It comes apart a little from there.  Music Box is an Electro-inspired club banger that probably should be seen as a building block for something better in the future, whilst The Club Song runs through a tired 'Night in the life of' lyrical routine.

NFA gets us back on track with the pacy Running, while Triumph sounds the good, but is a little flat lyrically.  Bliss N Eso turn in a typically high octane effort on Walk On Clouds, and fittingly M-Phazes finds a beat that perfectly matches their gusto.

The last three tracks are also solid and diverse, with Phazes pulling out everything in his portfolio.  Commend M-Phazes for the variety and quality of production on this joint, and be impressed by the all-star coterie he cajoled into rhyming on this record.  Though there a few missteps on this release, M-Phazes shows how he's yet another Aussie achiever punching successfully above his weight, and hopefully he gets the chance to knock out a few more overseas impresario's and blow up like he deserves.

Trailer: Christina Aguilera in 'Burlesque'

It would seem to be the role Aguilera was born to play - A come-from-nowhere burlesque singer.  One look at the trailer has me remembering another role - the one played by Elizabeth Berkeley in 'ShowGirls', a movie any aspiring actress would hardly want to have on their resume.  That said, I may be wrong, and this maybe the next 'Chicago'. 

Video: Spike Can Dance

Spike is awesome at floor-moves and wants to teach you his skills.  Be warned.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Video: Big Boi hit Letterman in a crazy fur hat, performs 'Follow Us'

Australian Hip-Hop in 2010: Back to the future

Speedy, old soul samples, 808 kicks and snares, dramatically laid-back rapping with subject matter that included drinking, boasting and the inanities of day-to-day living.  This is a diluted view of the Australian Hip Hop scene of the last few years.

The big question on everyones lips is where's it heading?  Has it jumped the shark by raising expectation and pressure through unprecedented commercial success?  Will producers rest on their already lofty laurels?  I sense not, and have been seeing ripples in the Hip Hop swimming pool for a while now.

Slowly but surely we seem to be taking cues from our UK bretheren and expanding the genre beyond it's sample heavy confines.  Releases that incorporate electronic influences and the interpolation of Hip Hop lyrics with dubstep sounds are just some of the indicators that the culture that has found it's identity and now wants share it through a widening musicality.

Groups like Bliss N Eso are known for taking chances and trying to incorporate elements from a range of musical genres, mostly without initially planning to.  It's as if the broad listening habits of this generation are being reflected in the type of music that is being produced.

Urthboy, from the band The Herd, released his album Spitshine last year to critical acclaim, most of it praising the producers for the updated soundscapes.  Producers are becoming more willing to embrace what was once considered taboo in many ciphers (synths), and are relying less and less on sample based production.

Bands like The Cat Empire and Lowrider showed Funk and Hip hop could co-exist on the same track, although many other less successful interpolations have come and gone too (28 Days anyone?).

I'll be keeping a close eye on what our choice beat-makers and mic controllers are doing in the future, with the hope upon hope that the baton has well and truly been taken and we're heading in the direction.

I'll leave you with some choice cuts from the Oz Hip Hop canon.

Def Wish Cast - A.U.S.T.  (One of the first big aussie Hip Hop records, and almost certainly the best)

Mass MC - BBQ Song

Urthboy - Ready to go

Bliss N Eso - Down by the River

M-Phazes feat Mpuh & Plutonic

Running on Air

Monday, August 23, 2010

Video: JabbaWockeez & The Bangerz - Robot Remains

Not just a highlight clip, the track for this is actually a single.  The JabbaWockeez and kindred spirits The Bangerz have teamed up for an aural and visual feast that they hope will make serious noise on the charts.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Review: Speaking in Code: A Techno Documentary

I watch a lot of documentary's.  I especially love music documentaries, they are my guilty pleasure.  Learning about a band or a musical movement can expand your musical knowledge and give you a sense of what it was like to be a part of it.

Music documentaries usually follow a familiar route.  In the case of a band, it's usually the meteoric rise, followed by the inevitable descent into irrelevance and excess, and then the unexpected redemption.  In the case of a movement or a musical genre, it's more about pin-pointing crucial times and exposing unheralded heroes, all the while bringing the viewer into the musical world it's chronicling.

Speaking in Code falls in the latter category, or at least that was the initial intention of the film-maker.  In what is an extremely DIY effort, the film-maker must be praised for the lengths they went to get this film made.  More people should be picking up a camera and some credit cards and documenting some of our important movements.  The only problem with films with a budget like this, is that the film-maker is usually becomes a part of what appears on-screen, rather than directing the action, and that's what happened with this film.

What happened over the course of the production of this film, is that the film-maker (or more specifically her husband) started to become another subject of the film.  The doco is about Techno, and reaches out to some top flight names to help us understand it's patterns and ideals, but it's also about the film-maker and her husband, who find their relationship splintering due their different lives, even though both live their lives on the fringe of the Techno Community.

I found the film-maker being distracted from the original idea of what they wanted this film to be, because of the screen time invested in chronicling their fracturing relationship.  Techno (as with most musical genres) is wildly divergent, and moving back and forth between the lives of the Techno pioneers and aficionado's, to the troubles of the film-maker and her DJ/Promoter husband, diluted the impact of the source material left us with an inconclusive argument as to what the film was trying to do.

That said, the chance to get up close and personal with the likes of Modeselektor and members of the Kompakt and BPitch records labels (among others) is pretty intriguing.  We see the interior of the Kompakt label offices and hear CEO Wolfgang Voigt talk about their legacy and humble beginnings.  The Wighonomy Brothers bring the film-maker into their highly stressful and driven lives, and Modeselektor introduce us to their mums.

It's a great ride, with some awesome music, but I can understand how anybody with only a passing interest in techno could easily give up on this one.  The genre begs for a more thorough going over, from a film-maker with a bigger budget.  The film-maker here obviously loves the music and people in it, but from the viewer perspective, we needed something a little more objective and a little less personal.

I recommend this for any casual music fan and it's a must for any dance music lover.  I just wanted it to be something it could never be: definitive.

Bob Burt

Speaking in Code Trailer from sQuare productions on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Video: NASA dancing all-terrain robot

NASA have developed a new all-terrain vehicle, earmarked for missions to the moon and mars, and during testing they used it to make a dance video, with a little help from time-lapse photography.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Video: Lauren wins Season 7 of So You Think YouCan Dance

Lauren Froderman, the 18 ear old Contemporary Jazz dancer from Phoenix convinced judges she was worthy of the $250,000 grand prize, besting Kent and Robert in the live finale.

Judge Ellen Degeneres took to the stage too, teaming with 'Twitch' for a Hip-Hop routine.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Video: Kanye West debuts new song 'Mama's Boyfriend' in New York

At a private party in the lower east side last night, Kanye and John Legend ripped through a few recents tracks and a new one, 'Mama's Boyfriend', which he performed acapella at Facebook HQ just last week.  It's a great track, reminiscent in content to Ghostface's 'Whip me with a strap' from a few years back.  See the performance below and compare the Ghostface classic.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stream: Robyn - Hang with me (Starsmith Remix)

Both the acoustic version and the official single version of Hang with me are stellar tracks, so what did labelmates Starsmith think they could do with the track except stuff it up?  Luckily, these guys are pretty good at the remix game, and have turned in an alternately beefed up and blissed out take on the pop insta-classic from the Swedish maestro.

Robyn - Hang With Me (Starsmith Remix) by sheenabeaston

Stream: Kanye West feat. Beyonce - See Me Now

Kanye West has a new track he wants us all to hear and it's streaming now, and it features Beyonce. What the hell are you waiting for??? Click below!!!

Click HERE

Video: M.I.A. - XXXO

No, it's not the theme song to Gossip Girl, but M.I.A's latest clip. Watching it, I'm not sure whether I think it's awesome or corny. I guess that can only be a good thing, right?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Video: Bouncing Cats Trailer

This looks like a pretty inspiring story. Given that it will probably be a pretty heavy doco, I doubt you'll see it in any mainstream cinema, so check the release date and try and find it on the net if you can.

BOUNCING CATS film trailer from nabil elderkin on Vimeo.

Video: World Record Thriller Attempt in Wisconsin

It's been a little while since any (dance-related) MJ news hit the web, but here we are, a bunch of middle americans trying to break the apex of all World Record attempts.

Video: Zac Efron tips Vanessa Hudgeons during 'Rent' Stripper Dance

Vanessa Hudgeons, of Zac Efron's grilfriend fame, is starring in the musical 'Rent' at the Hollywood Bowl, and boyfriend Zac was on hand to tip her $20 during her sexy solo.

Video: Robyn - Handle Me & Be Mine

Two classic Robyn vids today. Handle Me was a clip I hadn't seen before, so that was a treat for me,but I had seen Be Mine as the clip was made only a couple years ago, even though the track dates back to '04. Either way, they're both classic off of Robyn's last full length.

Video: Janelle Monae - Cold War

Janelle Monae's astounding album The Archandroid has been out a while now, and while it hasn't blown up Gaga style, it has been a major critical success, due to ingenious tracks like Cold War.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Video: So You Think You Can Dance Season 7 - Final Four Video's!

Here's a couple of the best dances from the final four contestants on this Season's American So You Think Can Dance. There's Kent and Neill brilliant contemporary routine, and then Pasha and Lauren's super sexy tango.

Video: Justin Beiber vs. Shaq Dance off!

Justin Bieber is so annoyingly hot right now, and The Shaq just signed with NBA finalists the Boston Celtics, so now would seem like the perfect time for a dance-off. And so it went down, with the two facing off for Shaq's TV show 'Shaq vs.'

Video - Step Up 3D Opening Night Dance Moves

Step Up 3D is out, and if you haven't seen it, do, because it's awesome. The cast hit the red carpet on opening night and showed off their 'go-to' move for MTV.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Video: Step Up 3D out this week!

The third is the series follows former Home and Away star Sharni Vinson as she and her rag-tag group of New York street dancers take on all comers in a series of dance competitions.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Video: Swedish Policeman Dancing

Video: Usher and Chris Brown dance-off at Elephant Man Concert

That happened. Chris Brown and Usher, with a little choreography help from dancehall legend Elephant Man, danced it up at Jamaica SumFest over the weekend.

Who won? Watch and decide for yourself.

Video: Two Corners, Four Guys, Four Minutes

It's raining, po-po is harassing you and your bandana keeps sliding down over your face, what do you do, give up right? No, you pull your pants down a little and start popping and locking like there's no tomorrow. Just like these boys.