Th Laptop-orchestra and the nature of live performance

Laptoporchestra Berlin
I just got back from MAGISTRALE Kulturnacht‘s Medialounge in which a good friend of mine has some photos on exhibit. There was a series of laptop audio performances by various artists which climaxed with a live performance of the so called Laptoporchester Berlin. Seven guys on laptops nodding their heads.They opened with a couple of pieces that were lead by a guy on a cool seven string electric guitar which had a body that was just snap on bars in the shape of a traditional guitar (see picture). They then ended with a cover of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’ which I’d only recently discovered being a big fan of Steve Riech.
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John Waters Divine Filth

Last night I saw a movie that revolted me so much I could not watch anymore: Pink Flamingos (1972). I can not remember when a movie had last pulled such utter revolt from me. It was to the point I was almost throwing up. Fantastic!

However, it has in a way inspired the Urban Uncle project and given it a style, ‘Trash’, which brings its own freedoms to create. All are encouraged to go out and film their own trashy dreams and ideas. This is what I believe the Punk or New Wave movement was about the “Just do it” attitude. But I digress…

Pink Flamingos intro credits
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Flash, HTML or both at the same time!

OpenLaszlo is mind blowing! If you don’t believe me check their demo Flash Flickr browser AND THEN check their identical DHTML Flickr browser compiled from the same code or XML as it were.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the concept of zero-install, or no-install, stand alone web applications (I prefer widgets) is quite a unique idea and makes it Oh-so-easy to integrate into whatever you need it for like a blog, community portal, forum, static HTML page etc.

The final clincher for me is that its Open Source. Flapping their floppies at the big boys, YEAH! We (I) here at TMI like it and award it the ‘Sh!tHot!‘ stamp of approval, look for it all good websites.

And while we’re on the Dojo subject, why not draw a picture AND THEN playback the creation process in real time! This ones just Hot!

Slagsmålsklubben @ Station Park, Berlin

Station park flyer

Went to this gig at Station Park last night. Was a bit of a fizzer, as far as Berlin gigs go. It was 9 Euro which is a bit pricey for most students here and there are plenty of other things happening on a Friday night in Berliner town. Otherwise there was a lot of potential as the live acts they lined up were quite good.
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Jamie Lidell @ the Sydney Festival

Milan 2005 pic-Arianna D'Angelica

I went to see this amazing act last night as part of the Syndey festival: Jamie Lidell, who is a vocalist that uses looping software (MAX/MSP) to loop his voice. He beatboxes, then loops it and then keeps adding layers on top of it mostly with just his voice. He has a sampler and adds in the odd artificial sound as well. He built up a techno track form scratch in front of us. This live aspect to his electronic music gave his performance an energy you don’t usually get with pre-programmed sets or DJ’ing.

He also did a number of straight soul numbers that were OK, he has an amazing voice and energy, but I found them to be slightly over done and a bit passé in content i.e. not adding anything new to the genre. Still, its interesting to see electronic based music side by side with more traditional styles of music. Particularly coming out of the one musician!

The only real complaint I had was that the show was a bit short (maybe just under an hour) and there wasn’t enough to dance to. Also he stopped between the more techno based tracks and this is annoying when your into the dancing.

Overall an entertaining evening and worth seeing again.

Squarepusher and DJ Luke Vibert at Koko

Squarepusher (live set) and Luke Vibert (DJ set) at Koko last night. Meccano, Jazz, moshing in the setting of the glamour’s Koko theatre/club. It was a night of contradictions.

I last Thursday (17th Nov 2005) I went to see Squarepusher supported by a live DJ set from Luke Vibert at Koko. I was completely blown away by it all!

I went with Dean Chamberlain (thanks for all the pictures) who is a big Luke Vibert fan and manager to spot the man before things got started hanging around the sound mixing booth. We arrived lot long after doors opened. The que was picked at by the mixed carrion of touters looking to buy tickets and party promoters pushing the next gig. It was quite intense which set the mood for the intense evening to come.

meccano music

The first act up was meccano set. A table was set up with a meccano construction on it and a little Casio keyboard. Wheels and pulleys were set up to turn and hit little strips of plastic that were some sort of trigger for a drum sound. The keyboard was set up like a large wind-up music box which had a long black cylinder rotating over the keys. Little fingers stick out form this cylinder would press the keys down making the sequence of notes. There was also a busted up old toy record player that was playing making a recordy ambient sound continually. At first this set up was puzzling and it sat on the projection screen for the first couple of hours. Once its design was understood the novelty wore thin.

The ‘artist’, Pierre Bastien, made music with this sort of primitive, home made, sequencer drum machine set up which was at first curious and then amusing but wore thin after about 10 minutes. He also played a baby muffled trumpet over the top of this and did achieve a sort of blue melancholy sound for some of it. His sound reminded me of Nils Petter Molvaer but with less energy and sophistication.

Luke Vibert started his set completely unannounced. There was an obvious change in mood and track selection which ranged from some very nice down tempo drum and bass to funk, which was completely unexpected and yet another twist in the course of the nights musical meanderings. It was quite refreshing to hear rhythm and melody again after Mr Meccanos forays.

Squarepusher showed up quite late and the place was buzzing with anticipation by this stage. I was a bit annoyed at him showing up so late to his own gig. He finally appeared on stage at 12 and we’d been waiting since 8. None the less he pulled out yet another surprise: Jazz.

Tom Jenkinsonon bass

Tom Jenkinson (aka Squarepusher) started his set off with Paul Hession (drums) and Mick Beck (saxaphone). They did a half dozen psychedelic Jazz numbers mixed with some Squarepusher type bass playing. All the pieces were intense, full of energy and showed a completely unexpected dimension to this arts playing that had me completely impressed.

Paul Hession, drums

A sentiment not shared by all the audience who where expecting a more bangy start after a long wait and who probably weren’t into Jazz. This just helped to highlight the diversity in the crowd that ranged form nerdy weedy white guys to Camden style Goths to Punks to just average looking middle aged couples who were not used to staying up this late anymore.

Mick Beck on saxaphone

Once the Jazz men had taken a bow Squarepusher went solo and did a long hour and a half set with two laptops and switch between three electric bass guitars. He played along to drum sequencing form the laptops that was more the crazy distorted drums and bass you’d expect form Squarepusher.

bass cam

Up until this point I had never really understood where his bass playing was coming from but I realised as he held a fret down and beat out a sequence on the strings with his right hand that he was using the bass guitar as a percussion instrument! He has a background playing drums and Jazz (I assume) and so his music is not that far off modern Jazz percussion. He has changed to a more electronic instrumentation and is always chasing an intense vibe as found in modern dance music. The compositions are intricate and sophisticated. His bass playing technique is highly skilled and full if energy. An amazing performer and artist altogether.

Squarepusher

At this point the dance floor turned mosh-pit and I managed to get close to the front near Dean who as glued to the railing right in front of where Squarepusher was playing. Eventually I retreated to one of the upper tears of Koko.

Koko in Camden is a superb venue. Its huge to begin with and used to be an old theatre I’m assume as it still looks the part. The interior is all a deep red colour and is covered in intricate lace work. There is a 4 meter disco ball hanging from its high roof, the biggest I’ve ever seen, yet it is lost in the feeling of space. There are five or six balconies with two of them sporting small intimate bars (and DJ booths).

The visuals were very well thought out and the most impressive I’ve seen to date. Mostly for their simplicity and effectiveness. The composition during the Jazz set was brilliant. A combination of simple screen wipes and two angle switching of the same shot. There band was emersed in a red wash that didn’t change much and was perfect for the mood. After the Jazz was over they quickly tore down the projection screen which revealed a the second matching box that dominated the stage. Squarepusher was squeezed between these lager rectangles who’s purpose was mystery until he did his first sequenced number, then they lit up jumping with simple white LED lights making patters that rected to the music and wowed the audience.

Overall an fantastic night out. My ears are still rigging and I’m happy to be in London!

The Eclipse of PHP

I’ve been using PHPEclipse at work for 3 months now and I’m impressed with it.

I’ve been using Eclipse at work for 3 months now and I’m impressed with it. It is a Java IDE but has a very flexable plugin architecture so you can get plugins for PHP (PHPEclipse) and HTML, CSS etc. The main reason I’m using it is because it comes with a Visual Source Safe (forced on us at work) plugin that makes it really easy to work with a version control system. I imagine it does even nicer for Subversion and CVS a like. Give you a panel to see a table of who has what checked out and makes it easy to checkin all your stuff in one go.

The general interface is quite nice once you get used to it. Tab panels for everything, and if you double click it makes that tab full screen. List of function in the current file. It also has a panel that lists all the warning as and errors for all the files in your whole project. If you tell it what your include path is this makes it really easy to pick up problems for large projects.

The only bitch is that its written in Java, which does mean it will run on every thing, so requires about 182megs to get going for PHP with all the extra plugin bits. Also its complicated to get it going got PHP (there is a step-by-step guild to installing that really helps, and once setup it will downlaod upgrades to all installed plugins). Also its code completion for native PHP functions is non-existent (it does do it after you have typed it in and you hover your mouse over the function name).

Overall a nice IDE. I tried to use Komodo again and found I liked Eclipse better, and it free!

Le Conseguenze dell’Amore

‘Consequences Of Love’ review

Olivia Magnani as Sofia (left) and Toni Servillo as Titta (right)

Last night Zosia took me to the Barbican where she is employed and we saw ‘Le Conseguenze dell’Amore’ (‘Consequences Of Love‘), an Italian movie directed by Paolo Sorrentino. This movie is brimming over with style and subtlety and has you engaged the whole way. The pace is slow but not unnecessary so and I found myself laughing out loud at some of the stange character interactions. The character is beautifully built up leaving you with a satisfactory truth.

But did I mention the sound track! It features music from Mogwai, James, Terranova, Boards Of Canada and Fila Brazillia. The sound track really made this movie a master piece and brought it together keeping you interested and enhancing the feeling of each scene.

The cinematography is also outstanding even though most of the scences are inside everything is well thought out and the creative camera work seem invaluable to the enhancing the mood of every shot.

This film has so much class it makes everything else out at the moment (Sin City, Episode 3) look like obvious shite.

Warp Records website sucks ass

I like most of the artists on the Warp Record website. Loves ’em I do. So it was only natural to go to their website and check it out. They keep a pretty low profile but have a huge cult following:

“People will look at Warp in 20 Years like people look at Blue Note or Motown now.”

So you figure they could have a huge community driven site, really hyping up the fans, who are all pretty hard core really, but sadly this is not the case. In fact they have a site that not only has music in the front page that you can’t stop (and being a music fan I’m always playing my own so I want to get off the front page in a hurry every time). In a panic I hit the ‘Albums’ nav link which, thank god, makes the music stop but you are presented with a piece of genius user interface design.

warprecords albums navigation screen shot

A grid of squares with one corner lopped off with a seemingly random colour coding. There are 146 of these squares, each representing an album. The only way you can find an album is to drag your mouse over each one which brings up the artist, album and catalogue reference serial. The ordering of the albums and the colour coding seems to be random.

Its assumed that there was some sort of ‘idea’ behind this interface. The little maimed cubes pop up when you mouse over them like sifting though a second hand record collection in an obscure shop somewhere. The trouble is if your looking for something specific it seems to maximise the time it will take for you to find it. At least a record shop has its albums sorted by artist. There is no searching or way to chose sorting, nothing.

Considering its there interface to their online shop you might think they would make it easy for you to find what your after.

Apart form that, there is no community driven stuff on the site, which a label with such a cult following would benefit enormously from.