My review of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories has gone up on The Interactivists.
Which is nice.
My review of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories has gone up on The Interactivists.
Which is nice.
I’m a firm advocate of tablet computing. It bothers me immensely when naysayers decry the format as a way to consume content rather than create it. Personally, I use an iPad, and have done for nearly two years, and in that time have created plenty of content on it- from short tweets to whole blog posts, from a quick screenshot uploaded to Facebook, to using various apps to manipulate images. It’s not perfect, and I always feel like I’d be able to do things more quickly on my Mac, but the technology is still relatively young, and is much better than it was two years ago.
So, being a keen podcaster, I’ve decided to look into producing a cast on my iPad. It’s an idea that I’ve been pondering for almost as long as I’ve had an iPad. Frasier Speirs mentioned on Twitter that he was looking at ways to put the entire workflow of his podcast through iOS, which got me wondering whether it was finally possible.
Firstly, and most importantly, there’s the software for recording, and here’s where the idea first falls flat on its arse. I have a neat little stereo mic that plugs into the socket on my phone and iPad, which while it’s possible to record with it into Garageband, the results aren’t particularly good. Garageband currently doesn’t appear to support audio monitoring from external microphones, so I go over to the excellent software that Tascam developed to accompany the mic. Software that can’t share its output with GB. The Tascam software supports Dropbox integration, but Garageband does not, so I’m out of luck there. The only way to do it is to record with one app, transfer it to my Mac, then copy it back into the Garageband folder via iTunes. So I may as well just do it on there.
Moving onto the editing. Garageband is a powerful bit of kit, but if I’m honest it’s not designed for my usage case. It’s designed for people to knock up quick ideas when they’re out and about, that they can then import into Garageband on their Mac in order to refine it. However, I use GB to record my podcasts at the moment, so it’s a logical decision to use it on my iPad.
My podcasts are effectively downloadable radio programmes, with a mixture of music and chat. I would have to make sure that all of the music is available on my iPad by transferring it over from my Mac, but assuming that’s done, let’s make a podcast!
…except GB doesn’t support any kind of automation, so the intro to the podcast, spoken over the instrumental intro to the first song would require at least three channels; one for the speech, one for the music at a lower volume, then a third for the music at full volume.
And so on, and so forth, until you’ve spent hours fiddling away at a podcast that would take a fraction of the time on a computer.
I suppose what I’m trying to do is quite niche, but at the same time it’s something that should be easily do-able. Imagine being a reporter for the BBC, being present at an incident and being able to record, edit and upload an audio package without having to take a laptop with you. With GB that’s *nearly* possible, but it needs an overhaul from Apple to enable some really quite basic functionality.
It’s an idea that I’ll cling to though, as I genuinely believe it’s the way things are going. It may be that there’s more inter-app support in iOS7, leading to apps being able to share files. We could record audio in one dedicated app, then open it in a full-featured multi-track editor.
It could well be that the software I’m looking for already exists, but I’ve not found it yet.
Public Service Broadcasting are everything I love about music, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. They love their art form, and are willing to sweat over it to make it perfect, and that’s alright by me.
They’ve gradually built a positive reputation over the last year, with 6 Music championing them, albeit indirectly. Rather than feature them on the A list - at least in the beginning - they were left to slog it out with the other nearly-rans in the rebel playlist feature. Steve Lamaqc serves up three tracks, listeners vote for their favourite, the winner gets much needed airplay. Twice, PSB won it; first with ROYGBIV, then with Spitfire. Since then, they’ve had a well-deserved season ticket to our radios.
And it is well-deserved, because PSB do something that most now don’t; they sculpt their art, shaping it into something perfect with an almost obsessive attention to detail. They take spoken audio from public information broadcasts, old films, and ancient, long-forgotten broadcasts and make it beautiful. They complement the crackly recordings of 70 year old audio with crisp, precise music, leading to music that oozes love. They didn’t make this album for their audience; they made it for themselves, to pay homage to those disembodied voices of old.
PSB are Lemon Jelly for now, via the dawn of radio and television. They’re Avalanches, with emphasis on musicianship rather than cleverness. Their raison d’etre is to champion the golden age of broadcasting, the early days of the BBC when Lord Reith was still running the show, when broadcasters were respected, and presented themselves in the studio in a suit and tie. The BBC had a duty to educate, entertain and inform, and with that came responsibility.
Lit Up features the breathless description of the royal fleet by Thomas Woodrooffe, broadcasting for the BBC in 1937. Under the influence of too much navy rum, he declares the fleet to be “lit up by fairy lamps”. His beautiful, enthusiastic, drunken commentary is backed by plaintive guitar that, through the course of its 5 minutes builds to something equally beautiful. It evokes those fairy lights, shimmering in the night sky, agreeing with the excitable Woodrooffe. It is wonderful, and deserves to be heard by all.
Spitfire uses dialogue by David Niven from the film First Of The Few to put us in the sky alongside the legendary fighter plane of the same name. We fly at speed through the clouds, swooshing and diving, the characteristics of the plane described with perfect hyperbole. The music pulls back, we’re cruising above the clouds in peace. Enemy planes appear, the music swells, we’re in battle. We’re in a Spitfire, we’re safe.
Current single Signal 30 takes audio from the 1959 American public information film of the same name. Now we’re in a car, driving recklessly at tremendous speed, concerned announcers telling us what we’re doing wrong. This song rocks like an utter bastard, and is probably my high point of the record. It’s difficult to judge though, because the whole album is so lovingly crafted that you couldn’t actively dislike any of it.
Some of the tracks are more low-key than others, but that doesn’t make them any less worthy. Those tracks are designed to take you somewhere beautiful, somewhere more relaxed inside your head. They are a rest for your brain, a chance to catch up with yourself.
There’s the aforementioned ROYGBIV, which is truly wondrous. This is the track that most puts the listener in mind of Lemon Jelly or Avalanches. It takes you to the beginning of colour TV, and the hyperbole that goes with it. Somehow, even without being blessed with synesthesia, the delicate layering of the track makes you hear the colour spectrum. The drums are violet, the banjo green. Orange guitars layered over yellow cowbell. The whole thing carrying you towards the sun in a riot of colour.
I feel uncomfortable writing reviews like this. Perhaps I should offer more disconnect, more balance. But to do so would betray this album. It would be unfair, unnecessary sniping for the sake of it. Inform - Educate - Entertain was painstakingly crafted by people who love what they do. It’s entirely uncynical, so to criticise it wouldn’t be fair.
I could go on about this album, but I shan’t. I’ll leave it for you to listen to, to discover the many hidden gems. My breathless hyperbole couldn’t do it justice anyway. In a year that has brought us new Frank Turner and David Bowie, and promises new Daft Punk and 65daysofstatic, Public Service Broadcasting should be rightfully proud that they will feature in many bloggers top 10s come December.
Originally written for Echoes & Dust
Today the culture secretary Maria Miller claimed that British art should be marketed as a commodity. Like highland beef, or Welsh coal, our culture should be packaged in neat, homogenous boxes, labeled up and shipped out to the highest bidder.
On the one hand, this is an admirable plan. Our government, despite being a shower of obnoxious Tories seem to want to champion our culture to other countries, and in the wake of last year’s incredibly successful Olympics opening ceremony that’s not such a bad idea. Of course, given that previous Conservative governments all but killed any kind of industry we had, then sold our few commodities off to the highest bidder, there’s an argument that culture is all we have left to create. If we can scrape together some money for the national rent by flogging off a few tunes on a global Bandcamp, then so be it.
Culture is not a commodity. Art cannot be put into neat packages and sold to the highest bidder. Art is wild, and free. It goes where it wants to go and fits no prescription. At least in an ideal world.
The notion of making art a commodity leads to ideas of homogenised pop. Certainly, the likes of X Factor can be packaged, because it offers a product to the masses, a lowest common denominator that can appeal to the most amount of people in one shot. But the X Factor isn’t art, it’s commerce, it’s capitalism producing a product in the same way that Andrex makes toilet paper. People need to wipe their arse the same way they need to buy inoffensive music with a beat that sets them free.
But the majority of music cannot be packaged that way. The band playing your local sweaty club on Friday night didn’t focus group their bass lines, they didn’t crowdsource their vocals. They wrote what they wanted to hear, and are now traipsing up and down the country hoping that other people want to hear the same thing. Sure, they’ve got dreams of having a Learjet with their band’s name plastered along the fuselage, but they’re realists; they know that those days are long gone. Even Coldplay sometimes have to fly Easyjet.
People don’t make music, or paint, or film their stories, or write what’s in their heart to order. They create for the catharsis of creation, and there’s no price tag that you can put on that. No box to put it in as a kind of culture humble bundle.
It’s been ten days since I last spilled my enormous guts on how I’ve become a disgusting mess again, so how am I getting on?
In short, quite well.
I’ve become more conscientious about what I’ve been stuffing into the Sarlaac pit that is my gob, and as a rule have been thinking back to the lessons taught to me by my time at Slimming World. I’ve been filling my plate full of vegetables and lean meat, but not being so worried about the contents of my dinner that I’m denying myself all kinds of flavour. For example, tonight I made a lovely beef roast, with dry roasted spuds, but spent time putting together a proper gravy to make the whole thing perfect. I knocked up a slow-cooked chicken breast in cheese sauce with mushrooms and courgette the other day, and admittedly went a little over the top making the sauce as fuckawesome as I could, but it tasted good, and was topped off with a jacket potato, carrots, peas and broccoli. Healthy(ish) and awesome.
But by and large, I’ve been thinking more healthily.
Also, the bike has been taking a hammering. My mum (who’s a community nurse, so knows about these things) reckons I should be doing around 30 minutes of exercise daily. Not necessarily so much that I’m a sweating husk, dragging myself up the stairs at the end, but enough that I get slightly out of breath, and red cheeked. To that end, I’ve plotted a neat cycle ride that takes me around half an hour between two bridges along the Thames. It really helps that it’s a beautiful ride, and is a 5.5 mile journey that I wasn’t doing before, so hopefully it’ll make some difference.
I’m already feeling a lot better about myself, despite not having weighed myself for a while, so I guess it’s doing that for me at least.
Speaking of which, I really ought to get some scales…
Every year on St. George’s day I find myself wondering why I find it so distasteful, and I’ve just worked out it’s because the English who celebrate it overtly are keen to point out that he’s England’s patron saint.
When you think of St. Patrick, St. David and St. Andrew’s respective days, there’s little emphasis put on the country they’re the saint of. But take a look at the St George crosses being posted on Facebook today, and you’ll see that most of them are plastered over with some text about how great England is, and how proud the poster is to be English.
And that’s the difference. It’s an implied xenophobia, a feeling that the EDL have hijacked what would have otherwise been a perfectly nice day.
I’m English, but I’m proud to be British. The whole of our little patch is beautiful, and we should revel in that. Don’t use St. George’s day as a stick to beat non-English people with, because that’s why the other residents of Britain dislike us.
How long has it been since I posted one of these updates? I’d look back, but I can’t be arsed, because it’s been a loooooong time.
So here I am, some two years later, and I’m fatter than ever. What have I been up to in that time? Weight-wise, I lost three stone a year ago, and have spent the last year studiously putting it back on. All of it. Yes, I’m as fat as I’ve ever been, and don’t have the money to sign up to Slimming World, so this ought to go well.
Why have I suddenly made this decision, when it’s far easier to just carry on eating and not giving a shit? Parental responsibility, that’s why. I’ve had Billy all week, and as the week’s progressed I’ve begun to realise just how little I’m able to offer him in my current state. I weighed myself last week, and clocked in at exactly 23 stone. I can’t do anything with Billy without tiring myself out, and so he’s spending more and more time either watching films, playing games or reading, because I can’t do much more than sit around.
I have two things working in my favour right now: poverty, and I’ve finally got my bike up to my flat. So the poverty should be cool, because it means that in theory I’m less likely to buy shite food when I’m out and about. In practice that’s not all true, so I need to sort that shit right out.
But having my bike has cheered me up no end.
I can’t exercise for shit. I hate the gym because it bores the tits off of me, I can’t run because it’s just not safe, and walking doesn’t touch anything. Riding, however, works for me. I can jump on my bike, plan a route that should take half an hour or so, and then go for it.
So tonight I’m finishing off the cider and sweets, and tomorrow I start again.
Hopefully I’ll stick to it…
Thanks to yet another Internet campaign, Judy Garland’s version of Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead is now top 10, as some sort of protest towards an old lady who just died. I don’t really get it myself, but then I’m increasingly unable to understand what the Internet does for laughs.
And so, with the song being top 10, people are beginning to question whether the BBC will play it on Radio 1 on Sunday.
Not for reasons of censorship, or any high minded balls like that, but out of simple decency. Margaret Thatcher rubber stamped a lot of unpopular legislation, that ruined the lives of many people, and continues to do so, but the Chart Show on Radio 1 is not the place to have that debate.
Furthermore, as it stands the song has sold in the region of 11,000 copies. These will be almost entirely to people who no longer make a habit of listening to the chart rundown, and so the programme owes them nothing; not least because I would doubt that many who, on the spur of the moment paid out 79p for the song, will bother listening just for that one hollow moment of victory.
The BBC has to weigh up its options: Does it play the song out of a sense of transparent duty to the programme’s remit? If it does it will please those 11,000 people, but it will draw unnecessary fire from the right side of the press, who already want to see the BBC scaled back. If it doesn’t play it, then a handful of people on the internet will be up in arms, and a day later it’ll be forgotten about. After all, we’re talking about a 74 year old song that has no relevance to today’s pop chart. It’s inclusion is a joke. A fairly shit joke, but a joke all the same.
A year ago today I was a single man. I was floating through life, working for Dominos, wondering if I’d ever find a decent job or a girlfriend. Truth be told, I figured I could never find a girlfriend if I had such a shitty job. But on the evening of the 9th of April, 2012 I got a DM on Twitter from @WaywardLou, with a link to something that @MitchBenn had retweeted.
What the hell, I thought, she looks cute and she’s into cool stuff, so I replied with this.
One thing led to another, and a year later, thanks to Hayley taking a chance on Twitter, Mitch retweeting it, and Louise telling me, we’re now living together in a little flat in Richmond, and couldn’t be happier.
We could be richer, but we couldn’t be happier.
Unfortunately, I can’t be with her today, because of reasons, which sucks, but it’s fine, because we’ve got the rest of our lives to make up for it.
So happy Tweetiversary Hayley, I love you :)
Some years ago I was a welder. Obviously, I therefore worked with good, honest working class folk, men who were there during the Thatcher years, men who worked hard to keep their families fed and clothed. During this time, we were under a Blair government, and so the press was largely anti-Labour.
Whatever Labour were doing for society was being massively overshadowed by what they were doing in Afghanistan and Iraq. Besides, I was working in a steady job, earning steady money, with the opportunity for overtime. I was relatively comfortable, but unhappy. I was in my early twenties, so I was starting to become political, beginning to understand that there’s more to life than wanting all you can get for yourself.
The 2005 general election was approaching, and I was certain that I’d be voting Conservative, partly because I’d only ever voted that way (due to growing up in a safe Con seat), but also because I was too young to understand the implications of Tory governance. As far as I was concerned Labour couldn’t be trusted because of their illegal war and the Lib-Dems were a joke party, leaving only a Tory vote.
I expressed such a view in the tea hut one lunchtime, while skim reading the copy of the Independent I bought because I’m a pretentious wanker, and was cut down by Derek, a blow-hard, shop steward type that worked with us. I’d be a fucking idiot to vote that shower of wankers back in, he told me, which annoyed me, as I then told him. I didn’t know what it was like to live under the Conservatives, he told me, give them another chance and all they’ll do is finish what they started under Maggie. I left it at this point, because he was right.
But it stuck with me.
I’ve spent the subsequent years pondering back to that comment, and wondering exactly what it was like. I was born in 1980, so my earliest real memory of Margaret Thatcher is when she resigned in 1990. Prior to that she was just a lady that was on the news a lot, and the news wasn’t Thundercats, so I didn’t care. No doubt my parents were struggling like hell, but I still had most of what I wanted, so hey ho. Which is, ironically, quite a Tory viewpoint…
But now, here we are under what is effectively a Conservative government, and I’m beginning to understand what Derek said, or moreover, what he meant. Times are tight for us all who don’t have a trust fund paying our way, and important friends getting us the best jobs. The future of the NHS is looking shaky; it’s complete abolition being the best possible memorial to Thatcher that Cameron could probably ever dream of.
A month or so back I openly questioned whether it’s right to still blame Thatcher’s government for the ills of today’s society, but I now believe that it is. What her administration put in place soured society and its communities, and the effects of that are still being felt with no end in sight.
I haven’t seen Derek since I left that job, but I can imagine that he’ll be raising a glass or several down the working men’s club tonight. There will be many middle aged manual workers going to work with a headache tomorrow.