He’s released the soundtrack for the films, and it’s beautiful. My favourite piece is probably ‘The Model Engineer’, which sits very comfortably alongside my slate of music to work to (Clint Mansell scores, Dear Esther, Doctor Who clips and Tron: Legacy).
Client Room Radio was something that a group of us started doing in our old office room at Last.fm. I wrote about it once before, but basically it’s a Last.fm radio station built using the music libraries of anyone working in the room, a playlist based on multiple music tastes.
The office layout changed about a month ago now, and we’re no longer in a room together, so for the last few weeks I’ve booked a meeting room and invited the old group of us to colonise it. It’s not as successful at bringing a bunch of us together as the old set-up, but the few times we’ve done it it’s been lovely.
I’m on my own in the room today, and rather than play my library radio I’ve tuned to the radio station generated by our shared Last.fm account. Clientroom was the user we created to stream the stations from, and it’s amassed a diverse library that reflects the shared listening experience of those of us in that room (it also broadcasts what’s playing to Twitter).
It has a history of its own, a catalog of music it’s capable of playing to me, and according to the Last.fm tasteometer our musical similarity is SUPER. And it is an absolute bloody pleasure to listen to. There are fragments of music in here I would simply never have played, given a choice, tracks that I can pin to the likes of Andy or Phil, and new favourite bands I’ve found via Coffey.
But Client Room Radio is made up of people and algorithms, choices and chance. Listening is deeply satisfying because it feels like something we built together. It’s not ‘a 21st century mixtape’ or anything like that, but it is a snapshot of about a dozen people’s lives, timelapsed into something we can return to, forever fresh because it’s driven by data. It feels like something new.
Listen along, if you fancy it.
I haven’t written about music on here in ages. And I’m not going to now. Not really.
I was listening to M83‘s fabulous Saturdays = Youth again the other day, and I got wrapped in staring at the cover art. It’s an album sleeve I absolutely adore, one of the few younger than twenty years old I’ve spent time actually thinking about.
The day I bought the CD, at Rough Trade East in Spring 2008, I remember unpicking the cellophane and getting lost in the sleeve. The whole thing seemed like some perfect snapshot of poseur youth, a mob of fictional characters captured for a second in a perfect setting.
The images spilled across M83′s single releases off of the record, matching up the motley crew with some of the characters that pepper the tracks; the graveyard girl, Kim & Jessie, the girl with the rocket, several ghosts and all the kids of the woods.
If, as an M83 fan, you were expecting the car-chase freneticism of Before The Dawn Heals Us then the cover torpedoes those expectations right away. It throws you into vogue, with a bunch of stories that share more in common with John Hughes and the idea of Kate Bush than the blasted cityscapes of 2004 single “America”.
Saturday’s = Youth is so wholly packaged along those themes that I find it hard to fault.
When I picked the album up it got me thinking instantly about The Polaroid Press and all I’d hoped to do with that project. For all of the retro-charm it had it never pulled together tightly enough for my liking.
Every time I return to The Polaroid Press – to try and collect it or to reignite it – I think instead about starting with a new vision of stories and the gangs that will populate them. I think about the unity that these sleeves have and the stories that spill out of these static images.
Saturdays = Youth is a mash-up of dusky romance, innocent sex and chaste seduction, a memory tape that reminds you about how young-adult TV shows used to talk around what goes on in the bedroom.
It’s totally nostalgic, and I’m sure Kieron hates it, but that’s because it’s not made for people like him. It’s made for people like me and Mark, people who don’t remember The Breakfast Club from first time around.
It’s made for people like the Videopia crew, or the London Fields Radio ringleaders, all of whom are seeped in ’80′s cultural nostalgia and don’t see anything retrogressive about it; people who are getting excited and making stuff as a matter of course.
And that’s something else these sleeves make me think about. I’ve always found nostalgia, even fake nostalgia, quite motivating.
If nostalgia is a yearning for places that may never have existed then those places have to have qualities that make them ‘better’. As a result there’s no harm in trying to let a little of that aspiration bleed into whatever you’re building for tomorrow. You just have to reign it in from time to time.
As promised, the latest volume of Mark Higgins’ Bitter Fingers podcast features Mark and I talking nonsense about our favourite songs of 2010.
Starting the year with a retrospective – feels about right.
Worth warning you – I’m a bit close to the mic. Sorry.
The Festive Ten is a tradition started shortly after John Peel’s death, in which myself and a rotating cast of friends and villains gather and compare out top tracks of the last twelve months. If you want to know what I thought of this selection you’ll have to listen to Festive Fingers, Part 1, next week.
Remember, these aren’t ranks; this is more a tracklist for a short mixtape. You can find a Spotify playlist of the whole lot right here, or follow the playlinks in brackets.
Track 1: “Indestructible” – Robyn (HypeMachine)
Track 2: “Sweepstakes” – Gorillaz feat. Mos Def and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (HypeMachine)
Track 3: “New Lipstick” – The Kissaway Trail (HypeMachine)
Track 4: “Baptism” – Crystal Castles (HypeMachine)
Track 5: “A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me State; Or, Letters From Me To Charlotte” – Los Campesinos! (HypeMachine)
Track 6: “Love Fade” – Tamaryn (HypeMachine)
Track 7: “Teenage Dream” – Katy Perry (HypeMachine)
Track 8: “Hillcrest Park” – Nigel Godrich (YouTube)
Track 9: “Cleaning Out The Rooms” – British Sea Power (YouTube)
Track 10: “Rill Rill” – Sleigh Bells (HypeMachine)
I’ve got a new job. More about that later in the week, but for that reason alongside a couple of others I’m slowing down the pace of projects known and unknown.
The recent comics blogs (now redacted), the unzine, a few microfiction projects: all on hold or dormant. The Audioboo-related project won’t see light of day until August now, and it’s likely to be a much more background affair, a compliment to threesixfivestart and The Polaroid Press rather than something totally new. WAW+P continues, although that’s going to transform a little too, and I’m also going to be working with Emma Vieceli and the rest of the team to produce the Comic Village at London’s MCM Expo.
I’ve also been closing tabs. Chrissy Williams had a chapbook – The Jam Trap – published the other week over at Silkworms Ink and, much to my annoyance, I hadn’t read it last time I saw her. I have now, chuckling away in the living room while The Girl dozes next door.
It’s a lovely collection – short, sweet and funny – and I’m going to reblog one poem here – Digital Ghost Towns – because I like the images so much. I can’t stress enough how good Chrissy is live. She’s become one of the most charming performers I’ve seen, and I always feel nudged to do something live after I’ve watched her.
I forwarded you the thing about the British Library’s web archiving project and you said it looked very interesting and I suddenly remembered that time I was trying to google some old poetry sites and kept seeing things like No Updates Since 1997 and how depressing it was and how somehow it was even more depressing seeing these digital ghost towns than it was for a physical magazine to simply stop making any new issues and then how the more I looked the more I realised the internet is full of dead ends and holes and the bits of it that actually work are just bright lights shining in a desert, not like Vegas because Vegas is offputting to lots of people so it’s a bad analogy but I just mean that when the lights are working they’re wonderful and anything abandoned especially something creative makes me sad but it’s part of the process I suppose and we just have to try and avoid these holes and my god how many blogs will there even be online in 50 years’ time and have we got another 2000 years of blogging coming up and shouldn’t we be setting up grander projects that will last brightly forever without getting lost on the internet and just what are we playing at anyway? “Shall we put the kettle on?” I say.
Sarah Jaffe‘s also been busy, and her latest column for Global Comment is one close to my heart. She meanders through London looking for some kind of Bowie-ghost, and it conjures up a little of my New York wanderings last year as I groggily tried to hunt down something like inspiration.
And standing in the liquor store line with my mother back in the States, buying wine that we would drink later and cry over, it came on again, “China Girl,” and by now the only thing those piano plonks reminded me of is the fact that they kept appearing to remind me of things. Suddenly I didn’t want to tell that story anymore.
That’s a wrap. Keep an eye on the WAW+P blog for an update soon.
There are clouds outside, and it’s raining, but it feels like summer in the flat. For all of the tumult of the last week, for all of the import of a new face behind number ten, ‘Rill Rill’ by Sleigh Bells leaves me thinking that none of it matters. With the windows open, friends in the flat and a beer on the go it might just work out okay. Is that true? I haven’t had many goes at this whole election thing after all.
Sleigh Bells are, I think, one of those gateways an older brother could have been for me. Gateways like that crop up sporadically; cultural moments like Phonogram, The Rules of Attraction (film and book) and the entirety of British Guitar Music since 1992 that make you pay attention to the pop-culture milestones that helped build them. I’ve got Funkadelic queued up, which can’t be a bad thing, but like all of those gateways ‘Rill Rill’ wouldn’t be nearly so effective if it was just a sample loose on the wind. The sample is a tool for fine art after all, not a cudgel, and they work wonderfully on Treats. Even that heart-on-sleeve apologist Morrissey make it in, as Nitsuh Abebe pointed out over on a grammar: “How Soon Is Now? About fifteen minutes after you got really into this album.”
And, yes, the fact the band probably look like a couple of my friends after being dragged through American Apparel backwards bleeds through the track but I can’t hold that against them. The whole thing sounds so smart and it’s just made for tinny car stereos, iPod earbuds and these damned mac speakers. It’s made for summer.
Give it a spin anyway,
I haven’t come close to thinking about what data access really means yet. I have flashes of it, thinking about layering the context of an article to a further degree than simply an ‘I listened to this…’ link, but what does that really mean? Where’s the story?
I ‘discovered‘ ‘Some Indulgence’ in Sweden last year, arriving at the SPX after party with Marc, Adam and Anna ahead of the others. Drinks in hand we just sat soaking up the view from the Kulturhuset for a while, thinking about how strange and brilliant it was that comics had taken us there. I hadn’t started the second phase of We Are Words + Pictures by this point, and the trip – along with Phonogram vs The Fans – started me thinking about what I wanted to do with small press work. I was incredibly happy, especially with those people, but my notebook just contained urgent scribbles demanding that I do more and not just tag along anymore. In so many ways ‘Some Indulgence’ was a perfect counterpoint for all of that tension and urgency, because it just made me want to dance. We did. And it was great!
I continued to discover ‘Some Indulgence’ over the next month, eventually listening to it on Spotify rather than CD. Calling it up on a whim was clearly fabulous, as I could slip it alongside The Clash and The Apples In Stereo without thinking twice. I don’t really remember those moments, but given that I would have been staying in a box room at my Dad’s for a bit, with all my belongings boxed up around me, I had a need for music with momentum to it. I was also drawing to a close my time at The Opera House, and the bounding optimism of ‘Some Indulgence’ or ‘Beautiful Machine’ suits sunny springtime and impending adventure.
And ideas. Searching my inbox for things this time last year tells me that I was in The Charles Lamb on the 29th with Matt Jones, Matt Webb and James Bridle, the first time I’d met the latter two. So much spilled out of a few hours of increasingly inebriated discussion that I floated for weeks on the drive from it. ‘Some Indulgence’ has the kind of rhythm that you can go for months on. Much like ‘All Night Disco Party’ or ‘All My Friends’ you simply wouldn’t mind if it played for six hours; some latent part of my brain is telling me that’s because there’s a suspended chord at work, but I quite clearly don’t know what I’m talking about there so I might be wrong. Anyway, BERG’s launch was a tilting point last year in terms of what I was engaging with, and James remains a model for anyone making a living out of being interested in things. There’s rarely a post on his booktwo blog that doesn’t make me think ‘I need to do more and I should do it now’.
And then, looking at the plays again, ‘Some Indulgence’ kicks me into gear on the morning of May 1st too. Important day that. It was a friend of mine’s birthday, to which Quinns and myself rocked up carrying a huge bottle of whiskey and some halloumi. We browbeat anyone in earshot while getting progressively drunker, and I before I realised it I was on a bus home reading a text that said “You should have kissed me.” I’m spoiling nothing by telling you it wasn’t from Quinns (who at this point had fallen asleep on a bus which took him to Victoria; he was aiming for Old Street). I followed the advice of that text the very next night.
A year on and I’m living with The Girl, running Drop In + Draw comics sessions, printing anthology newspapers and writing this in the BRIG, meters from the desks of James, RIG and BERG. Last year kicked into gear in Sweden, a glass of beer in hand, watching the sun go down over Stockholm with some very good friends, and in some ways the last twelve months tilts around ‘Some Indulgence’ and the moment I grasped hold of that feeling.
Maybe it’s just coincidence that this soundtracked it, but you should scroll to the top of the post and play it again just in case.