Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Is it just me....

...or is T.I. feat Rhianna's Live Your Life this year's American Boy? I can't say for sure, but sampling O-Zone is a stroke of genius.

Top 5 Reggaeton Tunes

Reggaeton has been much maligned since it first appeared on the international scene, a scene which it pretty much went on to dominate for a period of two years or so. As Calle 13 put it in their hilarious tune 'Japon', "hasta en Hong Kong se escucha reggaeton-ton". This negative press is I think, a reaction to the sheer ubiquity of reggaeton. There is a near-palpable sense of public outrage that this niche form of dance music, at once both deeply accessible and wholly alien, should have come to dominate our airwaves. Who are these trumped up lotharios whispering sweet nothings whilst grinding up and down on our legs like a sex-crazed chihuahua? Reggaeton lacks the favela chic of Baile Funk (although like its Brazilian cousin it is equal parts working class and mechanised beats), and the implicit threat of Dancehall and Bashment. In my opinion however, it more than makes up for this with its imported Gringo glamour, its unashamed fixation on the ass, and its innate ability to get people dancing. Below are a list of my top 5 tunes.

1. Daddy Yankee - Machucando
Occupying the number 1 spot (as well he should) is THE man of the scene, Daddy Yankee. You may be surprised not to see Gasolina here, which was el hit que pego, but to my ears, this is a far superior song. Baaiiiiilandoooooooo.....

2. Calle 13 - Atrevete-te
Injecting the fun back into the genre, Calle 13 made a huge splash when they first exploded into the global consciousness. Witty, vernacular lyrics (spouted by Latin America's best MC, the Eminem-esque Residente) coupled with snaking, internationally minded beats from accomplished beatsman Visitante, have made for lasting success. Note the cumbia hook on this number which really goes to show how important cumbia is in this part of the world.

3. N.O.R.E & Daddy Yankee feat. Nina Sky - Oye Mi Canto
Aside from Gasolina, this was the tune to make a real splash in the States, probably because a large chunk of it is in English. A truly infectious hook, and a great video make this a guaranteed summer hit.

4. Pitbull feat. Lil' John - The Anthem
Who would have thought coupling reggaeton with Eurorave tunes could work so well. Pitbull truly is one of the GODS of the scene, and quite possibly, one of the scariest looking men I have ever seen. Any tune that samples Calabria is A-OK with me.

5. Wisin & Yandel - Me Estas Tentando
Famous for adding a touch of lovers rock to what can be an at times solely abrasive genre, Wisin & Yandel offer up a slice of more soulful reggaeton. Is it me or does this share a passing resemblance with Timbaland's The Way I Are?

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Oscars 2009

The Oscar nominations have just been announced. So far, and they are still in the process of announcing them, they look like this:

Best Picture
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk
  • The Reader
  • Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director
  • Danny Boyle, 'Slumdog Millionaire'
  • Stephen Daldry, 'The Reader'
  • David Fincher, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
  • Ron Howard, 'Frost/Nixon'
  • Gus Van Sant, 'Milk'

Best Actor
  • Richard Jenkins, 'The Visitor'
  • Frank Langella, 'Frost/Nixon'
  • Sean Penn, 'Milk'
  • Brad Pitt, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
  • Mickey Rourke, 'The Wrestler'

Best Actress
  • Anne Hathaway, 'Rachel Getting Married'
  • Angelina Jolie, 'Changeling'
  • Melissa Leo, 'Frozen River'
  • Meryl Streep, 'Doubt'
  • Kate Winslet, 'The Reader'
Best Supporting Actor
  • Heath Ledger, 'The Dark Knight'
  • Robert Downey Jr., 'Tropic Thunder'
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, 'Doubt'
  • Josh Brolin, 'Milk'
  • Michael Shannon, 'Revolutionary Road'

Best Supporting Actress
  • Marisa Tomei, 'The Wrestler'
  • Taragi Henson, 'Benjamin Button'
  • Viola Davis ,'Doubt
  • Amy Adams, 'Doubt'
  • Penelope Cruz, 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'

For Best Picture, it surely has to be a three-way battle between Benjamin Button, the lavish $150 million David Fincher directed Southern fairy-tale, the thespy Frost/Nixon, and the out and out favourite, Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire. The Reader is a) not good enough and b) too divisive to win, and Milk is an example, common to all biopics, of a movie in which the the acting, in this case that of Sean Penn (and a very underestimated James Franco), is better than the movie itself. If I was a betting man, I'd say its Slumdog's year...

I think Best Director is a formality. The sheer energy and dynamism that Danny Boyle was able to draw out of his Mumbai experience make him a clear fav, and I can't really see anyone else coming close, although I thought Fincher did a superb job with Button, as he did with Zodiac, The Game, and pretty much every movie he has ever worked on.

Best Actor is probably the toughest of the major categories to pick. Will the Academy voters go for Mickey Rourke's art-mirrors-life performance in The Wrestler, Sean Penn's prosthetically-aided rendition of gay politician Harvey Milk (heck, it worked for Nicole Kidman in The Hours), Richard Jenkin's understated performance as Walter Vale, a disenchanted college professor in The Visitor, or Frank Langella's gracious and magnanimous performance as the disgraced President Nixon? Although I thought Pitt was superb, I think this won't be his year, and Lord knows he is sure to get plenty more chances. I personally thought he should have got a Best Supporting Actor nod for his performance in Burn After Reading, but c'est la vie. I would like to see the award go to Langella, as I feel he deserves it for his work both on and off-screen, but Rourke and Penn are both very much in the race.

I hated The Changeling, and if all it takes to win a Best Actress statuette is to look both pretty and upset for over two hours, then Angelina has this one wrapped up. Don't be surprised if Kate steals the show here. She has been overlooked so many times that this might well be her year. However, seems mad to me that she might win it for The Reader, which to my untrained eye seemed like little more than a titillating apologia for the abuses of the Third Reich. Having said that, I didn't think she was much better in Revolutionary Road, so maybe they just flipped for it?! Its good to see Melissa Leo there for a great performance in a what is a pretty boring film, and as for Anne, never fear love, your time is coming.

The Academy voters seem to love a backstory and for that reason, I think Heath will win Best Supporting Actor. Cue retrospective montage and not a dry eye in the house. Don't utterly discount Michael Shannon and Josh Brolin. Actually, scrap that. They haven't got a chance.

Finally, as for Best Supporting Actress, I think Viola Davis will nab it for 'Doubt' but I'd like to see it go to Amy Adams. I've been mad about her since 'Catch Me If You Can', and thought 'Enchanted' was the best Disney movie since 'The Lion King'. She was also great in the as yet unreleased 'Sunshine Cleaning' and I expect big things of her. Bring on 22nd February!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Todd Edwards

For anyone who has even a passing interest in UKG, Todd Edwards was and is an almost prophetic figure. Todd Edwards singlehandedly introduced the chopped up vocal to the scene, and in so doing, spawned a whole new musical direction.

Gone were those sub-bass rumblings that UKG inherited from its Jungle roots, and in their place came soulful, episodic samples that complemented the Champagne Room vibe. It wasn't until the release of Dem 2's Destiny however that the transition was finally complete. In terms of garage, it seemed for a time that London was the new New Jersey.

All seemed to be going swimmingly until Y2K came along and screwed everything up. Initially it was the emerging schism between 2-step and grime that appeared to pose the biggest problem. People assumed for some reason that the two were incompatible. Clearly, this is not the case. One need only look at Meesrs. Wiley and Dizzee's new tunes to see that bouncy and grimey are not mutually exclusive, although on that evidence you might wish they were. Likwise, Rephlex's two seminal releases, Grime and Grime 2, were testament to the fact that both UKG and Grime were kindred spirits who had both somehow lost contact. Of course, this is not to lay all the blame on Grime's doorstep. Garage had started to wear at the seams long before the inhabitants of Hackney and Bow started MCing over the Playstation-produced beats, and as each hit that was released climbed higher up the charts and lower in fan's estimations, it soon became clear that things would fall apart, the centre could NOT hold.

Step up you oiksome Norfeners. The bassline/Niche scene of the north has been well documented, and down south, it appears that it was little more than a flash in the pan. NOT FOR ME. I see a direct line from Todd Edwards all the way to Jamie Duggan, which manages to encompass Monsta Boy , Shola Ama, T2 (Heartbroken was THE tune of 2007, just ask Micah Richards, and the Ferdinand brothers if you don't believe me), and which culminates with tunes like this.

So in conclusion, thanks a lot Todd...your work has been indispensable in creating a decent 25-30% of the soundtrack to my life.


No, this is not a TV blog, and the title above is not intended to refer to that sizzling shit-bucket of a show with Hugh Laurie innit. Oh no. This is, quite simply, the best house tune ever made, BAR NONE.

When the woman starts wailing towards the end, its like The Lady of Shallot has come back to life circa 1987 and is doing Kate Bush at her local Chicago Karaoke Bar. Has been sending shivers down my spine for about 5 years now, and still doesn't seem to get old.

Mad Men

Given the fact that I am one of the faddiest people on the face of the earth, it may come as no surprise to learn that I gunned the entire first season of Mad Men this weekend. The show, which screened on AMC in the US, has been in the news of late because the show's creator (a creation which by all accounts he runs like a mini totalitarian state, micro-managing every last detail) Matthew Weiner has been holding out for an alleged $6 million a year to continue with a further two series. I'm glad AMC and Lionsgate who produced the show, acquiesced because this really is top notch television.

However, before I go off on one, there are a couple of salient points that need to be made. Yes, the show looks amazing. The costumes are wonderful, and often, the joy is in the details. In one episode, the show's leading male, the mysterious Don Draper (played well, but not astoundingly I thought by Jon Hamm) is given a new pair of cuff links by Rachel Menken, to replace his own shoddy ones which keep falling out in a meeting. Menken is the daughter of a Jewish department store owner whose business needs a new lease of life, and who approach Sterling Cooper to provide that. For an ad firm, this is mid level work. These are not big clients. Instead, they are parochial and quaint. These cuff links, two planes, become symbolic of the sort of work Draper should be getting with companies like Pan Am, work that he is offered and turns down when he is approached by Jim Hobart of rival firm McCann Erickson. This is by far the most cleverly constructed episode in the series. In a clever way, it is Menken's gift of two little airplane cuff links, and Draper's subsequent attraction to her, that make it clear he will never take the McCann Erickson job. Why? Well it is exactly because Don Draper, for all of his Manhattan swagger, is quaint and parochial, and the flighty, head-in the clouds gift of the cuff links is given to him by Rachel Menken, someone who is similarly mundane, with one eye on the future and the other securely on the hoserie business on Second Avenue which her father turned into Menken's Department store on Fifth Avenue. These two are one of a kind. Far more so than Draper and his wife Betty.

January Jones, who plays Betty Draper has been getting a lot of attention for her part on the show. Admittedly, most of this has centred on how beautiful she is - which is of course true - but little has focused on how wonderfully she has played the part of Betty Draper. Sure, there were some awkward moments, her wobbly hands in the first few episodes, and her humping the washing machine (would someone that beautiful really only get any loving from household apparatus or is something else being hinted at here?), but her ability to absorb criticism with a glint of a smile, to bow her head whilst fluttering her eyebrows, and to wholeheartedly capture the difficult female position of being subservient and alluring, made her performance stand out.

Nonetheless, the best performance in the show, and also my favourite character HAS to be Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway, the Sterling Cooper office manager. Acting almost like a sexed-up one woman Greek chorus, Hendricks is our initial introduction to the world of Madison Avenue advertising, but also the epicentre of calm around which the incessant activites of drinking, smoking and fucking revolve. It seems, more so than any other character, that she has fully intuited the existential nightmare that lurks behind every character's psyche, choosing less to ignore it, but instead run with it come hell or high water. She also has the best clothes, hair, and lines.

This is not however, faultless TV. Don Draper was an arresting lead, but was it just me or did we feel like Bertram Cooper was right when he said he couldn't care less about Draper's past. The flashbacks used to elucidate this "mystery" looked cheap and tacky, and utterly incongruous with the rest of the show. Similarly, although most of the writing was excellently researched and choreographed, I couldn't help thinking that the sheer gusto with which some of those lines were delivered made it all look a bit 'acted' so to speak. I also felt that once the point was made that they were all partial to a drink and a fag, it never really reached its natural conclusion. Consistency is of course something to be aimed for, but I at times felt this could possibly be an example of a fabricated consistency? Forgive me if I am wrong, becuase there is on the whole, very little to fault. The framing device of the Kennedy/Nixon election worked wonderfully, as did the inclusion of important ads of the time like Doyle Dane Bernbach's Lemon Ad for the Volkswagen Beetle. The ensemble acting is generally excellent, and I can't express how very genuine this looked. Although some of the scenes set outside Manhattan did tend to feel a bit Desperate Housewife-y, that is probably because Desperate Housewives is a direct throwback to that 1950/60s manner of suburban living. To lampoon Desperate Housewives is to praise Mad Men, and for that alone we should give praise.

Companion Piece: Catch Me If You Can
The same aesthetic, with a daring storyline, a chutzpah-heavy performance from Di Caprio, and even a pithy part for the WONDERFUL Amy Adams.

Non-Companion Piece: Revolutionary Road
This heavy-weight paring of Di Caprio and Winslet (their first time together since Titanic), directed by the ingenue of American suburbia, Sam Mendes, this is a long, self-indulgent snore fest, that starts poorly, and ends depressingly. Very similar aesthetic, but none of the charm.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Heino and Rulli Rendo

There's probably a nice Taschen book of album covers somewhere out there in the world, but assuming one doesn't exist, I have undertaken the first steps to creating a really budget one, albeit online. So first up we have this little beauty from German Volksmusik artist Heino. An aryan Andy Warhol, he makes music that you really wouldn't expect to hear from someone who looks like that, and as an added bonus, likes to sing about the post-World War 2 German diaspora to South America!

Next up is the indomitable Rulli Rendo. A Peruvian songsmith of astounding potency, his tropical rhythms really are something to behold. I particularly dig his salmon suit in this video.

This is obviously one stylish dude, because that shirt/white pants combo is a real knock out by anyone's standards, especially with the slightly cocked right leg. Un...!!GOLAZO!! Thanks must go out to Berlin-based Max Meran for flagging these beauties.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

New Vans

Bought me a dishy new pair of Vans in my (non-existent) lunch break today, and feeling pretty fresh. Got my Vans on but they look like sneakers....

Mark Thomas: My Life In Serious Organised Crime

It is not unusual to wake up to Radio 4. Humphrys and his coterie do a wonderful job in getting a variety of intelligent, varied, and consistently sleepy guests to appear and fight their corner. Admittedly, if you listen to it from 6am until 9am, it does get a bit repetitive, but hey, how much news can take place in 24 hours. Nonetheless, I imagine a lot less people go to bed listening to Radio 4, and I imagine even fewer still sleep all night with it on in the background (much to the chagrin of an ex-girlfriend). Personally, I like to be tucked into bed by Zeb Soames (who I met when I was doing work experience with the BBC on The Culture Show - no word of a lie, that guy can't be a day older than 30, right, yeah, I know, its mad, crazy right?), and then have the dulcit tones of Neil Nunez caress me into slumber (please somebody tell me you have heard this guy speak, his voice is like fine gravel being filtered through a bed of Nicaraguan coffee beans) once the World Sevice kicks in at 1am. However, one thing that does NOT do it for me is the comedy the programmers always schedule in as a repeat at 11pm. Often it seems like they got an autistic work experience kid to right these awful comedic stabs in the dark. We get grating surreal sketch shows, imbecilic radio sitcoms (surely anathema?), and camped up historical farce, which whip me into such an angry frenzy that I can't even dream of sleep until at least half way through Sailing By. So imagine my sheer unadulterated pleasure when Mark Thomas came on one night in March 2007 whilst I was revising for my finals. This is ESSENTIAL listening:


After a series of successful plays on NYE at the delectable Stanway, I still can't seem to not play this tune at least twice a day. Coming from that reputable Old Elliottonian (that's the SW15 based comprehensive, alma mater to OEs such as several members of Hot Chip, Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet), John Spencer from the 1960s group, Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, and even ex-James Bond turned operatic singer, Pierce Brosnan; and not the more upmarket comp based in a village outside Windsor) Will Bevan (aka Burial), this really is a current fav. Rumors abound that there is also a DJ Kicks album coming from this beats impresario so looking forward to that...

In other news, I have started getting really into different types of sings - you know, road signs, warning signs and so on. Check some of these out.Thanks to R. Ainger for pointing these little beauties out to me when revising for his Health and Safety Test at work.

That's a Norweigan sign warning about oncoming reindeer which puts me in mind of Woody Allen's greatest ever stand up gag, The Moose.

Here we have a frill-necked lizard warning sign from Australia which I think is amazing. Looks like they pulled it from the set of Jurassic Park.

And finally, what about this little beauty which warns drivers that there may well be fire trucks in the vicinity. What is it, Arsonist's Alley?!

Friday, 9 January 2009

The Wire - The Rivals

To paraphrase a very good friend of mine, when people ask me what I think of The Wire, I find it both a very easy question to answer and a very hard one at the same time. Its easy, because I simply need to point you in the direction of the many far superior writers than myself who have chosen to unzip their flies and emblazon the show with their proverbial (Bunk) spunk to attest to its brilliance. However, when I see a reaction to the show's genius such as that elicited by two artists I very much admire, in this case M.I.A. and (Baltimore born) Blaqstarr's version of Way Down In The Hole, I am inclined to wish they hadn't bothered. This is fucking terrible. I mean really fucking shit. Cheapest video ever made M.I.A. proudly tells us as if this were some sort of benchmark for success. PLLLLLLLLLEASE.

If however, you want to see how it is done, look no further than this. Thanks to Fred/Gringo/Felonious Monk for sending this my way...


Not the Italian patriot and revolutionary, nor those rank biscuits, but instead the twee early 90s Mexican pop sensation, GARIBALDI had a profound influence on me as a young lad. OMG, like I totally used to love this song.


As promised, next up is a further discussion into the history of Colombian music. In all honesty, I have never been that into Salsa. Having been brought up on a slew of Grupo Niche, Gilberto Santarosa, and Juan Luis Guerra releases (which incidentally have some of THE most jokes album covers in the history of music), I have never been able to get into them in the way my hirsute father would wish.

I have to give props to Niche for their unequivocal attitude to banging out tune after tune after tune, and a certain kudos to Juan Luis, for the sheer catchiness of some of his better numbers. However, when I listen to them now, I can't help thinking how glad I am that I have reacted against the incessant trumpet flares, the constant declarations of bollock-squeezing eternal love, and the HI-NRG rhythms that whip you up into a libidinous Latino frenzy. Cumbia however is a totally different proposition.

Like Champeta, cumbia developed amongst the slave community of North Western Colombia, but unlike its chaotic cousin, it was far less insular and more inclusive of the Western musical heritage as most of it was played on Western instruments such as the flute and guitar. Nonetheless, like Champeta, it was a predominantly lower class musical form, and in my opinion is one of THE dopest musical traditions anywhere in the world.

It adopts a slinky 4/4 beat that is coupled with a nasty syncopated rhythm that hints at its shared Carribean background with Jamaica's most famous musical export. Traditionally, singing is kept to a minimum (if only more Latin American artists would take note), and the dub heavy sound treads a delicate path between maxed-out reefer mind fug, and the more uproarious sophistication of Cuban Big Band.

As you might have noticed, the accordion features pretty heavily. Colombia's most famous accordion sound is that of vallenato, most famously represented by that universally acclaimed douchebag, Carlos Vives. Do NOT get the two confused. One is possibly the finest indigenous musical form ever created, the other is dogshit.

However, it seems a few people have found out about Colombia's best kept secret, because cumbia is making waves at the moment. Both Diplo's MAD DECENT podcast and the XLR8R podcast (the latter being one of if not the best ones available on the internet - download now) have been repping the sound, particularly on behalf of a crew from Buenos Aires called Zizek. Named after the Slovenian post-Marxist philosopher, they have been reinterpreting cumbia for a 21st century audience and critically speaking, reaping the rewards. Having checked out a couple of their mixes, I have to say I am quite impressed. When Dubstep first exploded, I couldn't help thinking how similar it sounded to the traditional cumbias I knew and loved (although with the sub-bass cranked up to cataclysmic levels), especially some of the more Eastern influenced, flutey tunes coming from Skream, and it seems Zizek have also noticed the link, cranking up the bass and adding reverb and other such distortions to bring the sound more in line with what is en vogue at the moment.

However, I can't help feeling that the new cumbia mash ups, so obviously created for the Buenos Aires cognoscenti, have lost some of the original haunting, almost baroque majesty that you find in those traditional ditties, used both as courtship dances, and as a tacit show of defiance against Spanish rule (much like Capoeira was against Portuguese rule in Bahia). If you want to know more, I RECOMMEND you buy Cumbia Y Porros De Siempre. I bought it in Colombia, and I can't find it on the internet, but if you do ever come across it, it remains an essential purchase.

PS. You may also want to know that THE dance music hit of 2007, Samim's Heater, was taken from a cumbia, in this case La Cumbia Cineaguera. La Cienaga is a semi-salinated body of water just outside the town of Cienaga that has some of the coolest mangrove swamps in the world. That yellow line which mindlessly seems to separate the sea from the sea is probably the most dangerous road in the world and really has to be seen to be believed. All this and only 30 mins away from MY home town of Santa Marta!

View Larger Map

Thursday, 8 January 2009


Speaking of more techy sounds, I thought I had to include this absolute monster by Lindstrom. Although there is little discernible link with my previous post, the bongos that pop in just over half way through do add a touch of Latin flavour. Aside from that though, this is one acid-induced Moroder-inspired head fuck that sashays into your head and leaves its nasty chemical remains in there for days at a time. SAFE to say I love it.

And if Lindstrom has tickled your fancy, you might want to check out this sleazy cum-rag of a tune, that sounds like porn soundtracks should.


In this, my first ever blog, I hope to put down thoughts which might be of relative interest to someone. It is an attempt to give insights into my life and other such boring things. Perhaps I should begin by way of introduction. Probably better to get this out of the way at an early stage: 22 year old currently living in London, soon to be made redundant, and wondering what on earth to do next. If anyone has any suggestions please do let me know.

In the meantime, until events make themselves clearer, I will mainly be posting links and my subsequent thoughts on them. Accordingly, we begin with Champeta. As I am half-English and half-Colombian, I thought I would begin by giving a shout out to that wholly Colombian hybrid of musical styles. Champeta is both an indigenous and contemporary musical form that hails from the black neighborhoods of Cartagena De Indias and Palenque on Colombia's Caribbean coast. A cross between the African influences of the ex-Colombian slave community, and the salsa, merengue and reggaeton of the area, champeta is a full on assault on the eyes and ears. It has recently been receiving shout outs from that litmus paper of global fads, Diplo (alongside Cumbia of which more to come later), and expect to hear plenty more about it in 2009 before it is unceremoniously dumped in favour of the next post-Apocalyptic trance movement from Laos or some other such crap. Not that those who live and breathe champeta would really give much of a shit. It is perhaps the most derided of musical forms in Colombia, and has been a laughing stock for as long as I can remember it. Nonetheless, it without doubt seems to get the party started and should be commended simply for being played through some of the most insanely huge soundsystems south of Kingston. Rey De Rocha seems to pretty much the boss the scene and El Pulpo has to be the most accomplished beatsman en la costa Caribe.

Also check out some of the mad Perreo productions coming out from these fertile shores. Perreo is primarily a dance move associated with reggaeton (formed from the root of the word perro meaning dog, the translation is associated mostly in the UK with consensual sex between two people in empty late night Tesco car parks), but it seems in Colombia at least it is being adapted to the needs of the Champeteros who are producing a more techy and less distinctly African sound.