The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'photos'
Visual treat of the day: Endbahnhof; a collection of photographs of all of Berlin's splendidly varied U-Bahn stations, by Melbourne photographer Kate Seabrook, who moved to Berlin some years ago. The platform are all photographed empty, without passengers or extraneous distractions, capturing the variety of architectural styles: from baroque grandeur and Jugendstil fancy to explosions of psychedelic kitsch, crisp modernism, and various steps in between. (And, of course, the nondescriptly utilitarian stations, typically on the outer reaches of lines, sporting just the stock BVG signage haven't been omitted.)
A French blog named Tout Bon has a gallery of the most interesting street art of 2011 (for varying definitions of "street art"):
And plenty more...
Sleepy City is a website run by someone who (a) is a very good photographer and (b) enjoys sneaking illicitly into underground railway tunnels, drainage systems, abandoned buildings and the like, illegally taking gorgeous photographs and posting them online. Most recently, they posted an epic feature on the Paris Métro, complete with some fantastic photographs:
(via Boing Boing)
What do you get when a plane flies immediately beneath a satellite camera while it's taking a picture? This:
Which suggests that the cameras in question take four separate monochromatic exposures (with blue, green and red filters, and unfiltered for intensity), and composite them together to get a higher-resolution image of the earth (or at least the parts of it which aren't moving at speed at high altitudes).
The Boston Globe has posted a selection of colour photographs taken across the Russian empire around 1910. The photographer, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, travelled the length and breadth of Russia and its holdings (some of which are now in places like Georgia and even Turkey) at the Tsar's behest, producing a comprehensive photographic survey. Of course, colour film had yet to be invented, so Prudkin-Gorskii took his photos by taking three exposures, each with a different coloured filter in front of the lens, using a specialised camera that allowed for the filters to be swapped quickly. (It's not unlike the technique used to take HDR photos these days.) Anyway, the original glass plates were bought by the US Library of Congress in 1948 (not sure from whom; perhaps a White Russian exile took them whilst fleeing the Bolsheviks and they spent three decades in a suitcase in Paris or somewhere?), and have since been composited together into stunning full-colour images of what we too often think of as a sepia-toned age:
The top three cities are New York, London and Tokyo, with Paris and Hong Kong following. Other notable entries: Sydney at #9 (the only Australian city on the list; New Zealand, meanwhile, doesn't rate), Brussels is at #11, San Francisco at #12 (largely, if the caption on the photo is to be believed, for its role in the non-heterosexual world), Toronto at #14, Berlin at #16, Stockholm at #23 (perhaps largely due to Sweden's position as a pop superpower), Zürich at #24, Rome at #28 (presumably that includes Vatican City), and Copenhagen at #37. Dubai leads the Middle East at #27 (the global economic crisis hasn't kicked it off the list, it would seem), ahead of Cairo (#43) and Tel Aviv (#50). Meanwhile, the leading South American city is Buenos Aires (#22), ahead of Sao Paulo (#35), Rio de Janeiro (#49) and Bogota (54).
(Reading suggestion: scroll down the photo essay slowly, and try to guess the city before revealing the caption.)
Foreign Policy magazine has some photographs from Afghanistan in the 1950s. The photographs, from a book published by Afghanistan's planning ministry, show a modern country, or a country aspiring to modernity, along European/American lines, with universities and hospitals, buses and radio stations; women in Western attire (some wearing headscarves) work in offices and factories, and teenagers hang around in record shops checking out the latest beat combos. This world, of course, was annihilated by the decades of conflict and brutal fundamentalism that began with the Soviet invasion. It's all the more heartbreaking to think that such a world existed and to compare it to what's happening there now, and to know that there was a time in living memory when Afghanistan wasn't a hellhole of war and brutality.
A half-century ago, Afghan women pursued careers in medicine; men and women mingled casually at movie theaters and university campuses in Kabul; factories in the suburbs churned out textiles and other goods. There was a tradition of law and order, and a government capable of undertaking large national infrastructure projects, like building hydropower stations and roads, albeit with outside help. Ordinary people had a sense of hope, a belief that education could open opportunities for all, a conviction that a bright future lay ahead. All that has been destroyed by three decades of war, but it was real.
Some captions in the book are difficult to read today: "Afghanistan's racial diversity has little meaning except to an ethnologist. Ask any Afghan to identify a neighbor and he calls him only a brother." "Skilled workers like these press operators are building new standards for themselves and their country." "Hundreds of Afghan youngsters take active part in Scout programs." But it is important to know that disorder, terrorism, and violence against schools that educate girls are not inevitable. I want to show Afghanistan's youth of today how their parents and grandparents really lived.
A collection of poignant photos of ruins and urban decay in Asia; in particular, Japan's Gunkanjima (Battleship Island), an industrial city on an island abandoned when coal was replaced with oil, Hong Kong's lawless Kowloon Walled City (which existed as a rat's nest of cyberpunkesque anarchy until it was finally demolished in the 1990s) and the sadly abandoned ruins of San Zhi, a half-completed futuristic resort in Taiwan:
A photo gallery of masses of unsold cars around the world, building up in parking lots, docks and racetracks as the economic crisis bites. These images have a sort of Koyaanisqatsi-esque beauty to them.
And now, for light relief, here's a cow with its head stuck in a washing machine:
(via Boing Boing Gadgets)
A serendipitous visual juxtaposition from the front page of WIRED today:
This weekend, your humble correspondent went to the Cans Festival, a huge stencil art exhibition in a tunnel under the former Eurostar platforms of Waterloo Station. The festival organisers took the entire road tunnel and transformed it into a gallery, with artists from all over the world painting pieces (most involving stencilling, though a few being paste-ups) along its length. The most publicised name attached to the exhibition was, of course, Banksy, and he had a number of works there; as well as some stencils, he was responsible for a sitting-room installation with derelict sofas and an old piano made available to the public and a number of "remixed" classical statues. Though there were several dozen more artists, and indeed, anyone could come along, register and add their artwork to the exhibition. (On Saturday evening, a section of the passageway was sealed off from the general public and made available only to registered artists, who were busily adorning it with stencils.)
Anyway, here are a few photos; the entire set is here:
Shortly after the drop in diamond sales after the First World War and the discovery of richer deposits further south at Oranjemund, the beginning of the end started. So within 40 years the town was born, flourished and then died. One day Kolmanskop’s sand-clearing squad failed to turn up, the ice-man stayed away, the school bell rang no more. During the 1950's the town was deserted and the dunes began to reclaim what was always theirs.
A couple of old buildings are still standing and some interiors like the theatre is still in very good condition, but the rest are crumbling ruins demolished from grandeur to ghost houses. One can explore the whole area within the fences and it creates the perfect set up for good photographic opportunities.
(via Boing Boing)
(via Boing Boing)
The BBC News site has some user-contributed photographs of odd signs:
(via BBC News)
I woke up this morning to find London covered with snow:
Not surprisingly, there were severe delays on the Tube.
Someone has posted photos of Banksy's Paris Hilton CD, from a copy found in a HMV in Birmingham:
There's also a copy on eBay. Bidding is currently running at £250, with just under 10 days to go.
Over the past few weeks, Dorothy Gambrell (who draws Cat and Girl, an amusing and thought-provoking web comic (though somehow that wasn't enough to get her into the Belle & Sebastian tribute graphic novel)) has been travelling on container ships across the Pacific, from San Francisco Bay to Tokyo, Osaka and Kaohsiung, Taiwan. She has now returned and posted photographs:
Your humble correspondent is currently on the Continent, and hence blogging has been somewhat light. However, here are a few photographs from my journey so far, whilst passing through France:
Seen on a kerb in West London, a discarded television:
Japanese War Tubas. I repeat, Japanese War Tubas:
Seen on this page. The war tubas look like a musical instrument (some kind of Dadaist/Futurist sound-art device, or perhaps a super-loud military-band instrument designed to strike terror into the hearts of enemies, much as bagpipes were), but they were actually devices for acoustically locating incoming aircraft. I wouldn't be surprised if the photograph in question has graced at least one CD of experimental music/noise-art.
(via The Athanasius Kircher Society)
This past weekend, Your Humble Narrator went to see The Sultan's Elephant, a series of fantastic street-theatre pieces put on by French street theatre group Royal De Luxe and involving enormous puppets on industrial cranes, teams of Liliputian puppeteers in red livery and a 40-foot robot elephant. Photos are here.
I took photos on two occasions: once using a digital SLR and once using my small compact camera (a Canon PowerShot A620). Oddly enough, more of the ones with the compact came out well, because, being behind a large crowd meant that the only way I could get a good shot was to hold the camera up over my head, and doing that, aiming is a lot easier with a fold-out LCD screen than using a SLR.
It's occasions like this that made me wish that someone would make a hybrid digital camera, which takes standard SLR lenses (like, say, the Canon EF ones) but is not a SLR, instead having a foldout screen like the PowerShot G series. This would give most of the advantages of a SLR, whilst making it possible to aim without having one's eye to the eyepiece.
A gentleman in Italy has posted a set of photographs from Australia circa 1959, when he apparently lived there. The photos cover Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane as they were then, as well as scenic views which could have been taken yesterday:
It's quite fascinating to look through the photos and see those places, familiar yet different. Though the frames rendered on some of the photos are a bit distracting.
Interestingly enough, the author, one Peter Forster, seems to be a fan of the Nino Culotta books (a series of humorous books written in the 1950s by an Australian named John O'Grady, pretending to be the eponymous Italian immigrant to Australia and recounting the country's customs and morés through the eyes of a slightly naïve outsider).
A few photos I took recently:
Reflections on the London Underground:
A walk along Regent Canal:
And an uncommonly pedantic piece of graffiti on a Microsoft Office ad:
They're apparently from a Franco-Japanese team, and appear to be titled "Mini-Miam", or so I've been able to glean from the Russian LiveJournal where the pictures have appeared.
Last night, I went to see Jens Lekman, the Swedish indie singer-songwriter, at Bush Hall. He was excellent.
There were two supports: the Bill Wells ensemble, and some chap named Richard Swift. The former (who are from Glasgow and have played with Belle & Sebastian) also doubled as Jens' backing band (and did a sterling job of it); in turn, Jens joined them on stage on various instruments during their set. They were quite good, in a jazzy sort of way. The Richard Swift outfit, however, seemed a bit too loud; their sound was distorted and harsh.
Shortly before 10, Jens came on with an acoustic guitar, and performed an unplugged acoustic version of Happy Birthday, Dear Friend Lisa, segueing into an unrecorded older song titled Are Birthdays Happy? ("Are birthdays happy, or just a countdown to death?"), before being joined by the band (three women on brass, a drummer, and Bill Wells on piano). He played a few songs familiar to anyone who has his CDs, including good renditions of Black Cab, A Sweet Summer Night On Hammer Hill, You Are The Light By Which I Travel and a version of Maple Leaves with both English and Swedish lyrics, and a few other ones, which may have been newer, older or both; he sang and played bass, guitar and electric thumb piano, playing for about an hour.
Then, when the gig finished and everybody was turfed out of the hall by the management, he materialised behind the merchandise stall with an acoustic guitar and regaled the assembled punters with two songs, I Don't Know If She's Worth 900 Kronor and Tram #7 to Heaven.
This February so far has been a record-breaking month for gigs; in the past 2 weeks, I have seen what could well be three of the best gigs of 2006. Anyway, Jens Lekman is a class act in every sense, and those reading this in Melbourne should consider yourselves lucky to get to see him with Guy Blackman and part of Architecture In Helsinki as a backing band soon.
This past Friday evening, I went to see Belle & Sebastian at the Hammersmith NME Carling Xfm Apollo or whatever it's called. Apparently (according to Stuart Murdoch), this was the very same historic venue at which David Bowie killed the Spiders from Mars.
The Belle & Sebastian gig last night was brillant; as good as the Brighton gig a week earlier. They started off with The State I'm In, and then went on to play songs including Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie, Dog On Wheels and She's Losing It; it was good to see that both Electronic Renaissance and Your Cover's Blown got onto the playlist; both of these work really well live. Oh, and Stuart went on wearing a school jacket, which suited him.
There was no cover this time and no guest singers, though there was audience participation aplenty. After playing The Loneliness of the Middle-Distance Runner, Stuart paused and confided in the audience that he was wondering what 5,000 people whistling in unison would sound like; he then strummed the chords of the song whilst the assembled audience whistled its melody. (For the record, it sounded quite impressive.) At another time in the gig, Stuart noticed that some members of the audience had brought in tambourines and such and asked who else had brought in instruments. One audience member handed him a kazoo, which he proceeded to play, before throwing it back. At the end, they played Judy And The Dream Of Horses; Stuart didn't sing the first verse, but instead played guitar and let the audience do it; they rose to the occasion with gusto. Of course, it wasn't really the last song; there was an encore, in which one of the songs was Sleep The Clock Around, performed with a piano intro.
I managed to take some photos at the gig; they are here.
Last night, Your Humble Narrator saw Belle & Sebastian at the Dome in Brighton.
The gig was excellent; as impressive as the Melbourne one*. They played a mixture of old and new songs, starting off the gig with Stars Of Track And Field. Stuart was particularly animated; other than dancing energetically, during a performance of Electronic Renaissance, he took to the railing that encircles the general-admission area of the Dome and did a circuit of it, singing into a wireless microphone. The audience was divided between those who turned to follow him, and those who watched the rest of the band on stage, including Stevie also singing. The version of Your Cover's Blown was also very groovy, and they did an impromptu live version of The Strokes' Last Night, which, whilst lacking somewhat in accuracy, more than made up for it in spirit.
I managed to get a camera into the venue, and took some photos. Alas, my batteries soon ran out (a pox on Canon's battery life indicator, which has only two settings: "everything's OK" and "about to die"). I took the remainder of the photos with my cameraphone, which turned out better than one would expect from a phone, though nowhere near proper camera quality. The photos are/will be here.
* except that the girl they got on stage for the encore didn't know the words to any songs, and stood there like a somewhat inebriated deer caught in headlights, singing the few fragments of The State I'm In she could remember. It was alright, though; the audience joined in to help her.
It seems that someone somewhere decided that "Revoltec" would be a good name for a brand of computer peripherals:
And then there's a brand of fizzy drink with a rather Jarryesque name:
Something I learned recently. Some time ago, there was an alarm clock on the market under the name "Time Cube":
Apparently it was made in Hong Kong, possibly by a company named "Dailymate", and had a world time display on the top. I wonder whether one of these clocks could have inspired Gene Ray, Cubic.
Ironic juxtaposition of the day:
On one side of a bus shelter in west London, the following iPod ad:
Your Humble Narrator spent the past weekend in Manchester, visiting friends, catching the Architecture In Helsinki gig there, and seeing some of the sights.
Manchester appears to have an interesting stencil/paste-up art scene. There's even one artist whose thing seems to be gluing his canvases to walls/doorways, with "NOT FOR SALE" stickers underneath them (where, in a gallery, the price would go):
Apparently there's also a big electro-pop scene happening, continuing the Mancunian tradition of combining guitar-rock and dance electronics. There didn't seem to be anything of that sort happening on Saturday night though.
I did, however, see the Haçienda; or, rather, the Haçienda Apartments, a set of yuppie lifestyle apartments built on the site of FAC51, the famous club owned by Factory Records and New Order. Disappointingly, there did not seem to be a blue plaque anywhere on the building saying anything like "ON THIS SITE, THE FIRST DOSE OF ECSTASY IN BRITAIN WAS TAKEN (OR SO TONY WILSON WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE)"; the only testament to the site's significance is its name, stripped of concept and reduced to another couture marketing buzzword. (And it doesn't even look unusual, unlike North London's Visage apartments, which are apparently modelled on Steve Strange's hairstyle.)
There is one remaining venue connected with New Order in Manchester: the Dry Bar on Oldham St. Though forget about it; it's not remotely interesting. The interior looks like a suburban pub (or, to the Australians in the audience, like a RSL club), and apparently it's full of lagered-up chavs on most nights.
There is a lot else to see around the Oldham St. part of Manchester (which is sort of like Byres Road, Glasgow, or a more grungy Brunswick St., Melbourne). The ubiquitous sticker/paste-up art, for one. The shopping's quite good, especially for records (because it's not London, second-hand CD shops tend to have more interesting selections at more reasonable prices). I ended up taking back as many CDs as I could fit in my backpack (roughly 15).
Affleck's Palace is interesting enough, but, one gets the feeling that it's nowhere near what it used to be. Nowadays it contains mostly teen-rebellion paraphernalia of the same kind seen in Camden Market. The various retro shops nearby (including the Pop Boutique, which is more impressive than their London outpost) have, alongside the usual selection of jackets and jeans, quite a few 8-bit computers and vintage video game units. (One shop had a working Amstrad CPC464 on display next to the 1970s shirts and fondue sets.)
Yesterday, Your Humble Narrator went to Banksy's latest exhibition, titled "Crude Oils". It was held in Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, in a shop which had been transformed into a ruined art gallery for the duration of the exhibition. By this, I mean that it had been filled with props such as smashed artefacts and a skeleton in a security guard's uniform, and then populated with dozens of live rats, which were kept provided with pellets and water in shattered vases and such. Because of the rats (which, apparently, were borrowed from a film animal company and had probably appeared in any films, TV shows and commercials made in London recently and containing rats), the main part of the gallery was behind a plexiglass screen and one had to sign a disclaimer, promising not to bother the rats. Time inside the main part of the gallery was limited to five minutes per person.
The exhibition itself was quite entertaining, in characteristic Banksy fashion, consisting of various artworks "remixed" and updated for the grim meathook present, as seen through Banksy's cynical, kitchen-sink sensibility. There were romantic landscape paintings updated with police incident boards, CCTV cameras, submarines, vandalism and violence. A classical nude statue was covered in tattoos, and a bust wore a gimp mask. All the usual sort of thing, and enough to not disappoint any Banksy fan. Though the rats were the stars of the show, and their presence (which one could see, if not smell, all around) made the most striking impression.
The exhibition is open for two more days, 11am to 8pm. Meanwhile, my photos thereof are here.
There is an enormous writing desk on Hampstead Heath; it is there until the 9th of October:
More photos here.
No, this blog isn't dead; Your Humble Narrator was away in Italy for the weekend, with limited internet access. On Thursday, I managed to dodge suicide bombers to get to the airport in time for the plane. Friday and part of Saturday I spent in Florence, managing to take quite a few photos (btw, that Hemingway chocolate place is as good as Cory says it is; particularly the Montezuma). I also visited a few other places; more photos to be posted.
Btw, seen on one of those scooter-trucks belonging to a maintenance firm in Florence:
Seen recently at a North London railway station:
A chap in an olive-green shirt (not unlike those German army shirts, only without the flags on the sleeves). Both sides of the shirt was stencilled with a variety of slogans, in black, white, bright red, sky-blue and cyan, and a ransom-note array of fonts.
The slogans included "London", "Anarchy", "Gothic Dark", "I'm Cool", "Hell's Bells" and "I Pray For Sex".
It looks like the OXO OVO graffiti may have made it to London:
Then again, there aren't any cryptic slogans about literacy, religion or what have you, so it could be fake.
Your Humble Narrator went to see Sigur Rós last night at Somerset House.
The support band was one Amina Strings, who are also from Iceland and have played and collaborated with Sigur Rós quite a bit (I recall seeing a flyer for a gig they did up in Scotland some years ago). Four women who seem to be a string quartet who picked up other instruments. Their set involved them playing various sorts of string instruments (including violin/viola/cello and some sort of harp/koto-like ones), plinking away in synchrony on chromatic percussion, playing a saw with a bow (think Delicatessen; it makes one wonder whether it was an ordinary hardware-shop saw or whether there's a place somewhere that sells special tuned saws for musical use), doing various things on an iBook, and bringing out a Casio VL-1 at some stage, set to Rock 2 (that's the Wöekenender loop). They weren't all that far from Múm territory.
Next up there was half an hour of weird, glacial drones played through the PA as people went to buy overpriced Carling lager in plastic cups. (Aside: Carling is rubbish; it's not so much a generic beer like Carlton Draught, as a homogenised, heavily carbonated piss; probably a similar concept to the US Budweiser, which I've so far managed to avoid. Carling, however, own the live music scene in Britain, and are harder to avoid.) Then Sigur Rós came on. The first thing I noticed was the frontman playing his guitar with a bow. Not one of those E-Bow magnetic devices, but an actual cello bow. The guitar in question looked very traditional, redolent of the blues/rock heritage of the American south; the juxtaposition of it being played with a bow seemed rather postmodern. That's not the only weird thing he did with his guitar; at one point, he held it to his face and sang into the strings.
Sigur Rós played for about an hour and a half, including two encores. They were accompanied by Amina Strings during some of the songs. They played some old favourites (including Svefn-g-Englar and the first two tracks of ()) and what seemed to be some new tracks. One of them sounded a lot more approachable, and almost like a Doves track; perhaps it's a consequence of them having signed to EMI? Anyway, the light show was pretty good too, with the colours (deep golden greens and icy blues) and visual projections (ghostly processed images of moving people and jerky video of electric pylons) going quite well with the music. More photos here.
Proof that we're living in the Interweb Age: bicycle manufacturers give their models names from computer jargon:
The past week has been unusually rich in worthwhile gigs in London, and Your Humble Narrator spent much of it going to such, often with camera in hand:
- Monday night was Suzerain at the infamous Hope and Anchor in Islington. I've seen them before; they're not so much an indie band as tomorrow's chart-toppers who haven't been signed yet. They sound somewhere between David Bowie and Duran Duran, with elements of Icehouse, the Scissor Sisters and early Nine Inch Nails, look not too unlike Interpol or Franz Ferdinand and play a rather tight, catchy glam-pop. They'll probably go far.
- On Tuesday, I went to Club AC30 to see Sambassadeur, a Swedish indiepop band on the Labrador label (also home to the likes of Acid House Kings, Club 8 and The Radio Dept.). They were pretty good; somewhere between various Sarah Records bands, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and other recent Swedish bands including The Radio Dept; two guitars, bass, harmonium, boy/girl vocals and an iPod providing the drum tracks. There are some photos here.
On Thursday, I went to see Mirah, the K Records singer-songwriter and her band, at the Purple Turtle in Camden. They were quite good; the eponymous singer/guitarist was quite animated, and was accompanied by the usual bass and drums, as well as violin and accordion. Meanwhile, the bass player proved that Justin Timberlake and Von Dutch have not yet managed to kill off the trucker hat among US indie-rock hipsters; either that or we are witnessing a second wave of ironic appropriation of mainstream fashion's adoption of an earlier ironic hipster style. Anyway, there are photos here.
I ended up picking up a copy of Mirah's second album, Advisory Committee, at the gig. There seems to be an interesting lo-fi experimental-electronic thing happening on some of the tracks, amidst the (sometimes stereo-doubled) breathy vocals, indiekid guitar strumming, layers of fuzzy sound and the odd glockenspiel and such. It's a bit more adventurous sonically than You Think It's Like This... (if perhaps not quite as innocently playful), and has a sort of spiky quirkiness that seemed to be absent in C'mon Miracle, which (from memory) seemed more like a straight alt-country record.
On Friday night, I went to see a band named My Favorite play in Hoxton. They're an electropoppy outfit from New York; bouncy upbeat songs sounding like OMD or 1980s New Order at their poppiest, with pleasant-enough boy-girl vocals; upon closer listening, though, the songs turn out to be quite dark, about the ghosts of dead teenagers and such. I picked up their album, The Happiest Days Of Our Lives; the booklet looks more like something one would expect from a lugubrious Montréal post-rock collective than a New York electropop band, and betrays a morbid obsession with Joan of Arc. Photos here.
Incidentally, Hoxton Square on a Friday night is a rather interesting experience; upon entering the square, the noise of hundreds of people talking is the first thing one notices. The crowds outside the clubs and swanky bars are to be expected; the large numbers of people sitting on the grass in the centre of the square, as if waiting for a band to come on at an outdoor concert, seemed a bit more unusual. Were they there just to bask in the ambient coolness that is Hoxton? Is this what the cool set in London do when they become too old to get their teenage kicks by walking slowly up and down Camden High St. in orange "PSYCHO WARD" shirts, hardcore band patches and cutesy-goth-cartoon-character bags or something?
A DJ in Russia built his own DJing cassette decks, with hand-operated jog-dials and motor and pitch controls, all in handmade Masonite packaging for that ghetto-tech look. And there's a Flickr photo set here.
Your Humble Narrator recently travelled out of London and stayed briefly in the town of Brockenhurst, on the border of the somewhat misnamed New Forest.
Brockenhurst is a small country town in Hampshire (south-west of London); it either is or was cattle-farming country; at any time, there are cows and horses wandering about, and streets are fitted with strategically-placed cattle grids (as are many driveways). I was struck by how similar it looked to Australian country towns; of course, Australia got its agricultural and civic traditions mostly from Britain, but I didn't think there'd be so much similarity; the streets are slightly narrower, the houses older, and there are no eucalypts, but other than that, Brockenhurst could easily have been somewhere near Echuca or Dubbo. Except, possibly, for the pictures apparently mocking an Australian sports team above the bar at the pub:here.
Here in London, the local NME-Carling-commercial-indie-rock station Xfm (for the Melbourne people, they're sort of like Nova FM or an ad-saturated JJJ) has been running a poster campaign for a radio show, featuring the graphic below:
The graphic looked familiar at first; I then recalled that either it or a very similar graphic, right down to the face on the banner gripping the hoop, was used in a flyer for a 1960s Australian garage-rock/beat group (I believe it may have been Running Jumping Standing Still), reproduced in Iain McIntyre's book Wild About You!.
I wonder where the original graphic is from.
Girls wearing headphones, it seems, are the new girls in glasses. Or perhaps the DJ-culture/music-geek equivalent thereof. (Link is work-safe; via Music Thing)
(via Music Thing)
Looking for thematic photographs for your blog posts/online articles? This article gives a number of websites such as stock.xchng, OpenPhoto and morgueFile, where public-domain, Creative Commons-licenced and otherwise free stock photographs may be found, and where photographers can upload their own.
Your Humble Narrator went to see (a reconstituted version of) 1980s new-romantics Visage play in Soho.
The first support band was Suzerain, already mentioned on these pages. Suffice it to say that they were very good; somewhere between Duran Duran and David Bowie, only with more guitar solos. They have the pop sensibility down pat and the rock-star stage presence, and should go far. It's somewhat surprising that they haven't been signed yet.
Trademark were amusing; three spoddy-looking chaps in raincoats (and later fairy-light-festooned lab coats) playing a warm and somewhat geeky electropop (think something like Barcelona without the guitars, or perhaps Baxendale meets Casionova). The front man looked ever so much like Jack Morgan from Look Around You, and they did a love song with the words "simple harmonic motion" in the lyrics, so where can you go wrong?
Visage (or, more accurately, Visage Mk. II) came on and did a ~20-minute set, a preview of their main gig this Saturday. Steve Strange had hair like a less flamboyant Robert Smith and was wearing something that looked like a torn, paint-splattered military uniform of some sort, and his mascara seemed somewhat smeared. In performance, he wasn't quite the ice queen I expected; he danced around with a slightly goofy grin, and interacted with the audience, laying on hands. At one stage, he took a glow stick from a gaggle of goths near the stage and made their day. Anyway, Visage Mk. II did all old songs (The Damned Don't Cry, Love Glove, We Move, The Anvil and, of course, their genre-defining classic of existentialist disco, Fade To Grey). The songs sounded somewhat different than the old records, being played on modern digital-modelling synths. (Most of the songs had a standard post-90s 4/4 dance beat, for one).
The music played by the DJ between sets was a mix of 80s synthpop/electronic pop (Human League, A-Ha, Dead Or Alive, Bananarama), with small amounts of glam (Transvision Vamp and Electric Six both got a play) and a few goth-club crowd-pleasers (some Depeche Mode, NIN, and an EBM/darkwave/futurepop/power-electronics/whatever they call it version of Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, a.k.a. the theme from A Clockwork Orange). Your Humble Narrator left sometime before the DJ got around to playing Headhunter (which he surely must have; it seems to be the "Gotta Be Startin' Something" of people who wear a lot of black).
Anyway, there are photos here. My camera battery ran down towards the end, requiring me to shoot without the screen, which is why quality and quantity drop off a bit.
And this handy guide to urban survival:
(Btw, should you find yourself at The Foundry, I recommend the "Eco-Warrior" organic pale ale.)
Since buying a decent digital camera in 2002, I have taken a lot of photos (more than 7,000, including ones immediately deleted; those kept are probably a little over half of that). Recently, I found myself going through my collection, and started assembling some of the better ones I took in Melbourne between August 2002 and August 2004 (when I left for the UK) into a set of themed galleries.
These galleries are now online. There are a few themed galleries, consisting of the best ones fitting into a certain category (i.e., photos involving water, light (as a featured element), skies, graffiti/stencil/paste-up art and miscellaneous scenes from North Fitzroy), while others are sets taken together in one place and time.
Sticker seen on a cash machine in west London, 18/2/2005:
My first thought was that it must be a very specialised market. Not many ladies have beards, after all.
Your Humble Narrator went to the Prince Charles Cinema off Leicester Square for the launch of the second Goodies DVD compilation, picking up a copy of said DVDs.
The launch consisted of a screening of two of the episodes on the discs (The Movies and Bunfight at the OK Tearooms); not my absolute favourites from the compilation (that'd probably be South Africa or Radio Goodies), but enjoyable anyway.
After the screening, the lights went on and the three Goodies took their seats on the stage. Tim still looked like Tim Brooke-Taylor, only without the Union Jack waistcoat (maybe he'll wear one during the upcoming Australian tour; who knows?), and Bill looked like an older version of his younger self. Graeme, however, was nigh-unrecognisable without his trademark sideburns (when asked by a member of the audience whether he'd grow them for the tour, he said he may buy a pair to wear).
Anyway, the Goodies answered questions from the audience. Some points that emerged from the session: there is a third 8-episode 2-DVD set planned, for later this year, by when, it is hoped, all the popular and interesting BBC episodes will be available (the Goodies reckon that there are 24 that fall into this category), and possibly some episodes from the final ITV series. Some episodes may not make it to release, due to licensing issues (apparently Michael Jackson is refusing rights to some Beatles material in Goodies Rule OK). The Goodies are about to embark on an Australian performance tour; one audience member asked whether they'd do any UK shows; they said that it's less likely, given that the BBC hasn't screened any Goodies episodes for a few decades, cutting down on the potential following. So it looks like the Aussies reading this should count themselves lucky.
The DVD itself is pretty good. It has eight episodes, and also a good deal of extras. I get the feeling that while the first one was made (relatively) quickly and cheaply, its sales exceeded expectations, resulting in more being put into the second one. As well as the episodes, we get several shorter sketches from other shows, commentary tracks, and PDF files of the scripts, in various revisions, not to mention a somewhat fancier animated DVD menu.
The DVD is listed as Region 2, though the first one (which was also thus listed) was Region 0 (i.e., playable anywhere); no idea whether this one is. It's also coming out in Australia in a month or so, and will probably be somewhat cheaper there.
For your amusement, this charming photo-essay titled "Why Women Live Longer Than Men", and giving eight scenes which, had it not been for luck, could have been Darwin Award material. (via darwin, of course)
Via bOING bOING, gorgeous photos of American industrial landscapes; freight trains wending their way through vast, lonely landscapes and sunrises through the plumes of smoke over steel mills and such. The Appalachian Railroad ones are probably my favourites, though some of the steel mill ones are also lovely (not a word one typically associates with steel mills).
The shoegazer movement may have died out in the mid-1990s in most places, but in London, it's alive and well every month at Club AC30. Your Humble Narrator went along to this month's one.
Club AC30 is held at a pub named The Water Rats (presumably after the Australian police soap; I heard that the Poms love Australian TV, but didn't think they'd take it quite this far), not far from King's Cross, and features bands and a DJ.
First up was a Clairecords shoegazer outfit named Air Formation; they took to the stage and proceeded to make a wall of noise not unlike My Bloody Valentine or someone. The sound in the venue, or possibly the mixing, wasn't the best, though, so at times it was hard to tell whether, in fact, the keyboard (a Yamaha CS-1X) was plugged in. Anyway, they were quite good, though I'm not sure if I'll get their CD.
Next up was a Swedish band named Douglas Heart (not to be confused with Douglas Hart, formerly of the Jesus and Mary Chain). They were basically minor-key pop with some shoegazing elements; two guitarists, a bass player, a drummer, a Roland D-50 keyboard (wasn't that the one all the gothic-rock bands used in the 1980s or something?), and a female vocalist, who also played melodica and trumpet. Except that the microphones didn't seem to work very well, and half of the time the audience couldn't hear her. Anyway, they sounded a bit like the Cranes or the Sundays or someone; most of their set didn't grab me, but the last song (a stomping number with a great big fuzzy monster bass line) changed my mind.
The third act was Rachel Goswell, someone who gets invited to these things largely on the strength of what she was doing 10 years ago. Her act these days is basically acoustic-guitar folk, much of the sort you could find at any acoustic open-mike night in Fitzroy. For some of the songs of this gig, she had a band with guitar and bass, though her set still contained no shoegazing action whatsoever. She does, though, have a lovely voice. The audience hushed respectfully as she came on (shushing those still talking amongst them), applauded after each song, and called for an encore, which she obliged them with.
Between sets, Ulrich Schnauss DJed, playing a lot of ambient tracks, ranging from shoegazer to electronica; there were some really nice tracks in the mix he played.
This evening, Your Humble Narrator went to the first night of Mon Gala Papillons, a two-day indie-pop festival organised by Chickfactor, at a rather plush music hall in Shepherd's Bush named, appropriately enough, Bush Hall.
First up was Amy Linton, of Aislers Set fame; she strummed an electric guitar and played/sang a few songs, and was quite good. Seeing her brought back some memories; the last time I saw her play was in a backyard in Clifton Hill, when Stewart and Jen were honeymooning/holidaying/touring in Australia.
Next up were a female duo from New York named Mascott. Their set started with one of them (Margaret) on stage, playing violin, as the other played a grand piano (located in front of the stage) and sang. The first song was lovely; it reminded me a bit of another New York resident, Greta Gertler. Afterward, the pianist took the stage and picked up a guitar. Some of the other songs were quite nice, though I thought that the first one stood above them all.
Third on was a solo set from Stevie Jackson, of Belle & Sebastian. He went up on stage, smartly dressed in a suit and tie, and started off playing Ode To Joy on the harmonica, before launching into his own numbers. He didn't play any Belle & Sebastian songs that I recognised; mostly his own songs, and mostly ones about girls (because, as he explained, he likes girls). The songs included "Portland, Oregon", "Phone In My Head" (which was particularly nice), and "Lonely Pop Star", as well as a Belle & Sebastian-style rendition of Frosty the Snowman (which someone requested), and a song he said he learned from Alex Chilton toward the end.
Then on came electro-pop duo Pipas, a girl with shortish brown hair in a stripy top and a guy with a bowlie haircut and glasses in a chequered shirt. They had a PowerBook on stage, which they mostly used to play backing tracks (and a bit of keyboards), over which they played guitar and bass and sang, performing songs off their recent EP and past albums. They were a little shambolic, but generally pretty good.
Finally, the Television Personalities came on. I was expecting them to be like XTC or Wire or The Fall or someone, but they were more Mod-revivalist, right down to the bassist having a Royal Air Force roundel and Vespa logo on his bass.
(Apologies for the crappy photos; I left my PowerShot G2 at home, and had only my futurephone to take photos with. I really need to get a decent camera that fits comfortably in a pocket and gives me no excuse to not take it to gigs.)
Photographs by David Shrigley; evocative urban scenes with prepared objects or signs placed, thus reinterpreting the scene imaginatively; in places, they are reminiscent of Far Side cartoons, or perhaps something more ominous. My favourites so far: Try To Be Happy, One Day A Big Wind Will Come, Sunday Adventure Club. (via Gimbo)
Tonight, Your Humble Narrator went briefly to the 4AD showcase at the Institute of Contemporary Art, seeing Cass McCombs; he was nothing like what I expected (I was expecting a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar; I got a band who sounded more like the Jesus and Mary Chain, with bits of Yo La Tengo, Slowdive and The Cure's floatier moments thrown in). Not that I'm complaining, of course.
I didn't hang around for the other bands, though, instead departing for the Barfly in Camden to see Swedish indiepopsters The Radio Dept.. And they were excellent: four members, with guitars, bass, keyboards (a synth with a "THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS" sticker and a toy electronic piano), a laptop and a conspicuously unused drum kit. They did a briefish set, playing mostly tracks off their album, and one new track soon to be released on a single in Sweden. For those who haven't heard them, they're a combination of sweet, jangly indiepop, shoegazer (with judicious use of reverb, skronky guitar feedback and vaguely Slowdive-esque basslines) and subtly distorted vintage drum loops.
The BBC had the following watermark on its programming this evening:
Other TV channels had their own tributes, opening lines for people to pay their respects. It seems that everybody in Britain is missing the loss of Peel, with the possible exception of Julie Burchill, who, some five years ago, did a Hitchens on him.
"Princess Dreams" oven-ready turkey nuggets. Which means that someone decided that the best way to sell mechanically reconstituted meat was to brand it with a sub-Barbie/Disney "Princess" motif, complete with oddly mannish-looking "princess" character.
Commodore brand DVD+R discs. Presumably from the same Dutch outfit which is bringing us the VIC-20 brand MP3 player and PET brand USB flash drive.
This anthropomorphic food mascot, seen in Southborough, Kent, looks like it has an acute anxiety disorder.
London's answer to Victor Lancaster (i.e., the plastic bucket drummer guy in Melbourne):
I wonder what the penguinistas have to say about this:
Seen near Brick Lane, Spitalfields:
And a follow-up to an earlier post:
Seen on a train to London:
Also, it seems that the Heavy Product thing has spread as far as Piccadilly Circus:
"Snodland" sounds more like a video game (of the colourful platform/puzzle variety) than a place in the south of England, though, apparently, that's what it is.
Last night, I went to the ICA to see a performance by Rachel Goswell, who was doing a support set for the Cranes. She did pretty much the acoustic guitar-folk singer-songwriter thing, accompanied by a bloke with a guitar. Rachel started off singing as her accompanist played guitar, and later ended up picking up a guitar (and, towards the end, a small squeezebox). A few songs into the set, one fan called out requesting Catch The Breeze, which Rachel politely declined, saying that it was 12 years too late for that.
Anyway, it was pleasant enough (Rachel, as Slowdive fans will know, has a lovely voice, and the guitar parts were quite good too), though I couldn't help but think that it would have benefitted from a few more layers; perhaps some strings or even some low-key electronics.
I caught a few songs by the Cranes (by when the albedo of the crowd had darkened considerably); they were basically a goth take on early-90s shoegazer, much as I remembered. And the vocalist sounds as if her voice was being played back at slightly too high a speed.
Apparently, the Italian/European name for Twisties is "Fonzies". Perhaps the Happy Days trademark wasn't valid there, or perhaps it has to do with the Italian infatuation with post-war US pop culture.
A graffito seen on two adjacent payphones along Via Nazionale. Either the gigolo culture is alive and well, or someone wishes it was.
A rather unfortunately named brand of calculator, for which there are ads all over Rome. Apparently they make mobile phones too, which promises even more possibilities for poor taste.
Seen in fashion shop windows.
As I mentioned before, the Italians seem to be rather fond of American pop culture, at least of the post-WW2 variety. Where the French are muttering darkly about McDonalds, the Italians openly embrace Coca-Cola (which is more popular here than in Australia, it seems), Disney and the like. The image to the left, a montage of three rather retro icons of American consumer culture, was seen in an Italian café. Elsewhere, you find Disney icons everywhere. Near the Colosseum, a street vendor was selling Mickey-and-Minnie-Mouse puppets which danced to music. The music in question was a rather tinny Eurodance loop, which cqame out of a boom box; for a moment, though, I thought that the embracing-Mickey-and-Minnies were fitted with a chip that plays Eurodance as they move, which would have been even more postmodern.
Another thing the Italians are into is small motor vehicles. Those 2-seater Smart microcars are everywhere here, and seem to be quite the fashionable way to get around. And, of course, there are motorscooters everywhere, ranging from ancient Vespas in various states of decrepitude to shiny new models, both Italian and Japanese.
Seen in a bargain shop on Smith St.:
Because everybody knows that anything sells better when it's branded with a celebrity name (even one that has been bowdlerised for trademark reasons).
A somewhat arty photographic interpretation of Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies; well, half of them anyway. (via Owen)
A numberplate on a motorcycle. I wonder whether it's a coincidence or whether the owner is a vintage PC buff (or possibly was a state-of-the-art PC enthusiast when they got it, 13 or so years earlier).
Displayed without comment
One of the last remnants of the British Empire, Tristan da Cunha is a small, isolated island in the South Atlantic, halfway between Africa and South America. It has no airport and is visited by passenger ships once every six months or so. However, it now has an online newspaper.
Last night, I went to see Mink Engine. They were pretty good; two people with laptops doing music and visuals. The music seemed to be largely prerecorded, though the visuals made the whole thing: there were definite Japanese influences there (bizarre anthropomorphised foodstuffs, cartoonish graphics, and photographs of teenage fashion victims in Harajuku or someplace like that, with amusing speech balloons superimposed over them), as well as a bit of early-80s-style high-tech lettering and some video of the two members of the group in action. What was the music like? Probably somewhere between Daft Punk and Felix Da Housecat; a very 80s-synthpop-referencing electrohouse sort of thing. It was all mixed in one mix, meaning that people could have danced to it had they not been transfixed and watching the visuals.
Afterward, Casionova played. This time he had visuals (on a VCD player; could these be the new MiniDisc backing tracks?). However, his show was beset with technical glitches; devices weren't plugged in properly or didn't work, and sometimes he spent a minute or two fiddling with gear. By the time the show got back on track, the video had run one song ahead of the show, and he seemed to have lost his confidence, and to be trying too conspicuously hard to please his audience (perhaps lest they start throwing cocktail limes at him or something), and cracking self-deprecating jokes about not having a girlfriend and risqué puns on "knob". The stage presence he had at Kent St. last week seemed to have largely evaporated. Though the visuals were good (in a geeky sort of way); had the rest of the show gone better, it would have been impressive.
And now, a selection of images I found while cleaning out the memory on my cameraphone:
Up until recently, I didn't know that they made AAAA batteries. They're like AAAs, only smaller. Not necessarily surprising, given that gadgets are getting smaller and less energy-consuming, and a single standard of smaller batteries makes more sense than a dozen weird, expensive proprietary types. Whether they'll catch on, however, is another question.
You know you're living in the Interweb Age when trucks have the words "Search Engine" painted on them.
A modified street sign, Northcote
I'm not entirely sure what political statement this poster is making; or maybe the futile quest for a connection between submarines (or perhaps Beatles lyrics) and the Howard government and/or a political grievance is meant to be the Zen koan-like message in itself?
I went to the Four Tet/Manitoba show at the Corner tonight. I arrived as Qua was playing; his stuff struck me as being much as it has always been: technically polished and layered, and yet melodically almost completely random; i.e., I'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between most Qua tracks.
Four Tet was interesting. One guy with a laptop and a box of knobs of some sort (either an analogue mixer or a MIDI controller), rocking back and forth to the music as he controls the laptop. Not really much in the way of theatre, though after a while one got used to mentally coordinating his actions with the changes in the music. Anyway, his music tended towards chopped-up granular loops and glitches; not quite as hardcore as Kid 606 or someone. At the start of one piece, it sounded rather like Neu! or Faust or someone.
(Live laptop acts like Four Tet raise an interesting question: what is it exactly that we're watching? We're not watching him compose the music; it's pre-composed. We're not watching hin play it either; the computer is doing that, and he is controlling it. Chances are, as he put it together, he did so in Cubase or Logic or somesuch, assembling something that, when activated, would produce a sample-perfect copy of the recording, with no interaction required. Only that's not much fun to watch, so he'd have had to have dismantled that and put it into a performance system (like, say, Ableton Live), giving him the ability to control the playing mechanism in real time. So, in one sense, the performance is the ritual of producing an imperfect approximation of something more deterministically constructed. Strange, no?)
Then Manitoba came on. They were three guys in animal masks (though, thankfully, not full-body fur suits), and had two drum kits, guitars, some keyboards and a glockenspiel. They completely rocked out; drumming frenziedly, moving around the stage with guitars or playing keyboards. (Nobody was playing a laptop or anything quite as un-rock as that.) Mind you, a lot of the sound obviously came from a tape (the vocals, for one; nobody had a microphone), but the fact that the musicians were playing part of it and doing so well made the show. They played predominantly tracks off Up In Flames, though did an encore of sorts with a sampled rap vocal.
Gorgeous black-and-white photographs of abandoned buildings on Gunkanjima, an island used for coal mining, but completely abandoned since 1974.
I went to the Radiohead show at the Rod Laver Arena tonight. Originally I was thinking of giving it a miss (spending 2 hours staring at The Cure through binoculars from half a kilometre or so away turned me against huge venues), though I ended up going; and I'm glad I did.
First up were the night's "special guests"; some JJJ alternative band neither I nor the indie kids next to me recognised. Rather energetic, punky and syncopated, though not impressive enough to make me hunt down their details and start following them around.
Then they stopped, having played for maybe half an hour (assuming that they started at 8; they were playing when I took my seat). While the stage was being set up, someone had decided to put a reggae CD on the PA; an odd choice, though pleasant enough.
Then Radiohead went on, and launched into There There. They did most of Hail To The Thief, a few older songs (Paranoid Android, No Surprises, Pyramid Song and Kid A were there, along with some from The Bends; one thing they didn't play, which would have been nice, was their piano-driven live version of Like Spinning Plates, though one can't have everything). It was quite an impressive set. Thom sang, danced around, played guitar, and played a grand piano which the roadies kept moving back and forth between songs; the other members did guitar, bass, Mellotron and glockenspiel, as well as providing harmony vocals. (I think it's the harmony vocals that really make Radiohead's sound. That and half a dozen other things, anyway.) They did an encore with about 3 songs in it, and finished up with a version of
Kid A Everything In Its Right Place with Thom singing, then another member looping his voice through effects pedals or similar and chopping it up; then Thom walked off, while his digitally mangled vocals were playing; it was like a Blue Monday for the 21st century. Oh, and the light show wasn't bad either.
This time I got a slightly better seat than at the Cure gig; it was a few rows closer to the front (not that that made a huge dent in the distance), and was right in the middle. I discovered that my PowerShot G2's 11x digital zoom wasn't quite enough (I didn't manage to get any good close-ups of band members, save what was on the giant video screens beside the stage).
(Gig photography tip: Be sure to manually set the exposure time when taking photos. Digital cameras' automatic modes tend to err on the side of overexposure, leading to washed-out, blurry pictures. 1/100 to 1/160 was a good range for the pictures above.)
And I was not the only one taking photos, by the look of it. Below, the sea of heads that was the general admission area was dotted with the telltale glowing white rectangles of digital camera screens. In the row in front of me, one cheeky bugger was even telecasting it on his 3G phone to a mate.
Flyer seen in an inner Melbourne café:
Colour me cynical, but I have some doubts about just how deeply the "Melbourne Ukelele Kollective" is informed by Marxist-Leninist ideology, as the name suggests. Granted, they could, by coincidence, be all committed socialists who gather to play the Internationale and other ideologically sound anthems of the radical proletariat on their ukeleles in North Korean-like unison, from each according to his playing ability; though, somehow, I doubt that. What's more likely is that they're just another group who decided to call themselves a "collective" because it's fashionable, in that apolitically consumeristic, Che-Guevara-T-shirt way.
This trend of calling everything collectives has been happening on university campuses for the past decade, as students eke out ways to be revolutionaries and radicals until getting that job at the accountancy firm; now, it seems to have spread to the mainstream, and appears to be losing most of its Red trappings, with "collective" becoming just the trendy replacement for daggy old words like "club" or "society".
What's next: The Chess Collective? The Red Rebel Motorcycle Collective? Celebrity fan collectives?
Last night, I went to Pony to see a few bands. First up were Ahkmed, a 3-piece who were somewhere between Neu! and Metallica. Well, mostly Metallica; they had a few moments of post-rock and krautrock-influenced grooves, but most of their set was a fairly adolescent grunge/metal, with a bit too many plateaux to grab me. Maybe, in time, they will become more interesting.
Next up were BAM BAM, who were really good; they played a sort of punky psychobilly power-pop with very tight musicianship and a lot of energy; the vocalist (who looks a bit like a punk version of a 1950s pinup girl) put on an over-the-top performance with a good deal of hair-flipping, eye-rolling, and shimmying around the stage, whilst playing guitar and delivering her vocals. All in all, the band powered through their set like a juggernaut.
Keep an eye on BAM BAM; they look like they're going places.
I was walking around North Fitzroy this late afternoon, and happened to have my camera with me as I noticed the play of sunlight on a utility pole plastered with posters:
The Untitled Project is a series of photographs of urban settings accompanied by a graphical text layout. The photographs have been digitally stripped of all traces of textual information. The text pieces show the removed text in the approximate location and font as it was found in the photograph. (via jwz)
I went to the Make Mixtapes Not War benefit at the corner this evening, which was quite good.
I walked in halfway through the Jihad Against America set. They were loud; they're basically hardcore punk/metal played by people some 10 or so years older than the usual hardcore punk/metal band (hi Ben!), and with a sense of irony. They were rather loud, and played fairly tightly, though some of their material (especially the bits with the growly metal vocals) is a bit too close to Filthy Maggoty Cunt territory for my taste. Still, to each his own; the kids in the studded bracelets seemed to like them.
Keith's Yard were fairly good; they were very much in a post-punk vein (think the Melbourne little-band scene), with droning guitars (two or three in each song), bass and drums, and the odd repetitive vocals delivered with a sneer; I imagine that that's the sort of thing one could have seen at the Seaview Ballroom in 1978 or so. (Ben Butler compared them to the Happy Mondays, in their combination of strong rhythm and nonsensical lyric fragments and getting the crowd dancing; though the key difference would be that the Mondays combined indie rock and house/dance music, whereas Keith's Yard are pure post-punk classicism. Still, in the age of punk-flavoured house music, is there really so much of a distinction?)
The Bird Blobs couldn't make it, on account of Ian Wadley being overseas with another project, and so were replaced by an outfit named SNAP! CRAKK!. They were also in a new-wave/post-punk vein, only this time with drum machines and synth keyboards (as well as chaotic guitarwork and random lyrics). The vintage Korg keyboard they used was, amusingly enough, plastered with Burzum stickers.
Love of Diagrams played their classics from The Target Is You, as well as some new songs, some of which have vocals. Other than that, they're doing much the same sort of thing; guitar/bass/drums and lots of energy.
The Bites were OK, and had some good songs. Sinking Citizenship, however, didn't grab me; they sounded like fairly rote post-grunge rock.
The Ninetynine set was interesting; Amy is still in Berlin, so they made do without her (and without her songs, of course; there was no Great Escapes or Highway Delights in the set); however, they had three guest musicians, including a bloke in a pinstripe suit playing cello and an accordionist. They played two new songs, both by Laura; one (called something like Bridge) was in a similar vein to Mesopotamia or Kinetic Factory, with a vibraphone and vocals, gradually building up, and the other (Red Card Yellow Card) being a bit more upbeat. They finished with a rocking rendition of Wöekenender, one of their classic crowd-pleasers. Oh, and Iain had since cut his hair really short, with a slight quiff at the front, which, with his glasses and anorak, gave him a slightly Morrisseyish air. This was the first Ninetynine gig in something like seven months, and (from what I heard) may well be the last one for equally long.
Move over Che: some outfit in Victoria are producing a beer named Chopper Heavy. It's described as "Australian style", and also features on the label an irreverent doggerel verse about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I've no idea what the verse has to do with Mr. Read (perhaps he's a poet as well as a hitman and visual artist?), or indeed whether he has licensed his likeness to the brewery.
Sunday photo feature #4: stencil art:
(Every Sunday, I put up a selection of photographs from my archive, taken between 2002 and now, with a specific theme or motif.)
A fascinating and poignant photographic travelogue through abandoned, radiation-contaminated towns near Chernobyl by a young Ukrainian woman who enjoys riding through the "dead zone" on her high-powered motorcycle; contains photographs of abandoned houses, rooms full of old family photographs, records, dolls and other fragments of interrupted lives, the rusting remains of contaminated fire engines, tanks and helicopters, an abandoned fairground, and an entire deserted city in 1970s Soviet style, dead and silent and slowly being reclaimed by nature:
Actually, some people coming back to their homes and settle down, those mostly old people who do not care if they die today or tomorrow. important is to die at home.
marauders in radiation poluted area are not just a regular marauders, they don't steal stuff for themselves. There were cases of radiactive tv sets and other stuff being sold on city second hand markets and then police shot 7 or 8 of them and it helped
Usually a police officer who call himself a town guard was telling me that I was in town alone. then I could hit roads with no worry that I will run accross some car. This town might be an attractive place for tourists. Some tourists companies have been trying to arrange extrim tours in this town, but people- their customers scared and have been complaining about silence which is hard to stand in empty town. They charged 210 us dollars for 2 hours excursion and town guard say, they all were leaving in some 15 mins, complaining that silense is tremendous as if one got deaf.
(The first thing I thought: where can one sign up for one of those tours? It sounds like an amazing place to walk through.)
oncological hospital has been working for 40 days after disaster, then head doctor died of cancer and people abandoned this hospital
Sunday Photo Feature #03: decoration on traffic-light control boxes in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, 2003:
A few recent photographs of an old office building in St. Georges Rd, North Fitzroy, that's being demolished to make room for designer lifestyle apartments:
In contrast, here is the same building as it was in June of last year:
Airport arrival display malfunctions, displaying HTML source. It looks like those things run on an embedded UNIX system of some sort, with a HTML-based rendering engine (though presumably not a web browser in kiosk mode). Curious... (via 1.0)
(Malfunctioning information displays can be interesting, because the nature of the malfunction often reveals something about how the system works. Witness things like news/advertising billboards displaying Windows error dialogs, or in-flight entertainment consoles showing Linux kernel messages as they reboot or whatever.)
Sleepy City is a collection of very cool-looking photos taken mostly in (and under) Brisbane. The subject matter tends towards underground tunnels, abandoned buildings, sodium-lit concrete wastelands and derelict machinery, though the uses of colour and composition make the mundane seem magical. (via MeFi)
It's amazing how a few drinks can disinhibit the photo-taking reflex. As proof of that, I have a few dozen "artfully blurry" JPEGs of reflections in beer glasses and Hoegaarden labels. I won't be posting them here, as sobriety usually interferes with the appreciation of the results of such experiments.
Though, from time to time, one does serendipitously take a photo that looks just as impressive to the uninebriated eye. The following photo (© acb) was taken a bit over a week ago, whilst drinking with a friend at a bar in Fitzroy:
This could mean one of two things: either Disney are now adding their brand to the family entertainment experience that is Brunswick St., or it's not actually authorised by Disney, but rather is some form of détournement or "subversive" post-Warholean art project or something (possibly even a commentary on the sanitisation and commercialisation of Brunswick St.?).
The Sunday before the most recent one, I visited the abandoned Mayday Hills mental hospital in Beechworth, northern Victoria; the hospital is now part of the local campus of La Trobe University, but many of the buildings are disused and bolted shut; apparently they're on the national trust register and cannot be adapted into modern facilities, or something like that, so they just sit there, slowly crumbling, and giving off the faint but distinctly eldritch aura of buried lives. Here are some photos I took (click thumbnail to see the full picture):
(All photos © acb 2003; if you wish to use them, ask me.)
Some photos from last night's FourPlay gig at Bar Open:
The gig itself was excellent. They played two sets, each of a bit under an hour, to a packed venue, with the usual virtuosity and energy, doing all the old favourites (The Sweetest Perfection, Meshugganah, Gypsy Scream) and some great new (well, newish; a few of them were around when they played Apollo Bay last year) songs, with really intricate arrangements. And they'll be back next year, with a new album. I look forward to it.
Yesterday I met Cos at the Carrington Hotel, an old pub in Brunswick which has, so far, escaped the attentions of property developers, and ended up taking lots of photos (in various states of inebriation). Some of the better ones are here:
Welcome back, loyal readers, and thanks for returning. If you can read this, then the routing woes have finally abated and The Null Device is back for good.
Anyway: some photos taken last Thursday afternoon on a stroll through the streets of Carlton:
A chance meeting between a cocktail-cabinet Galaga machine and a PowerBook running MAME in a Brunswick café:
(Aside: why is it that most cocktail-cabinet arcade game machines around these days are Galaga? Is it the result of some kind of technical and/or memetic survival-of-the-fittest?)
Unlike some people, I didn't get to go to Iceland, but I did get to see a small piece of Iceland tonight at the Corner; namely, Múm. They were supported by Minimum Chips (my second favourite local band at the moment) and Architecture In Helsinki.
The Chips played two sets on the side stage: one shortly after 9, when the doors opened, and one after AIH finished while Múm were setting up. For the first set and half of the second, they played without Ian, with the drum kit standing empty and an old analogue drum machine carefully programmed with all their drum patterns. They played all the tracks off Gardenesque, a few old songs from around the time of Swish and a few from various compilations, which was good.
Between their two sets, local twee indie-pop orchestra Architecture In Helsinki took to the main stage and played for about 45 minutes. They played some tracks off Fingers Crossed (some in extended versions) and a few new tracks; their new material is somewhat less sugary than the album tracks, and perhaps a bit reggae/dub/ska inspired in places. (Which makes sense; they have enough personnel to form a ska band, for one.)
And Múm were pretty good. Their music was rather sparse, drifting between pieces. It is probably a dreadful cliché to say that it evokes the sparse Icelandic landscapes, but it did. They played a number of pieces, including some new ones, melding from piece to piece. I was expecting them to be standing behind laptops and controlling some mysterious process that made plinking noises, but most of the music was live, played on melodica, violin, keyboards (including a vintage Wurlitzer and a Moog), guitar, drums and xylophone; oh, and the obligatory PowerBook. They finished up with an encore of I'm 9 Today. And the Guns'n'Roses T-shirt one of the band was wearing was quite amusing.
And someone kept blowing soap bubbles over the audience during their set. Probably an AIH fan.
Along the lines of stars without make-up: Models without Photoshop (2). With roll-overs showing the Before image. It's interesting to see how fallibly human the original, unretouched images of the Modern Ideals of Feminine Beauty look without that old Photoshop magic. Though some people on MeFi think that the "originals" were retouched in the opposite direction to look exaggeratedly freakish.
Tonight I saw Yo La Tengo at the Corner Hotel. First up were the supports, Decoder Ring, who also played at the Mogwai gig last year; this time they seemed to have more electronics and sequenced synths in the mix, sounding somewhere between (post-)rock instrumentals and some kind of post-Kraftwerk electro; they were pretty good.
Then, after a DJ break, Yo La Tengo came on, and played for some two hours (including two encores), starting off with their cover of Sun Ra's Nuclear War, and going on to Let's Save Tony Orlando's House (one of my favourite YLT songs). They swapped instruments a fair bit, playing four keyboards, two drum kits (plus bongos!) and numerous guitars (which were handed to them by a guitar tech/valet offstage), not to mention some 2- and 3-part vocal harmonies. Ira (the guy in the striped short) stole the show in places with his antics, rocking out on the guitar, thrashing it about, and pretending to be about to throw it, though carefully not letting go. (Perhaps he was only thrashing it about in an ironic sense?)
Anyway, they played a few quieter, country-tinged numbers (Today Is The Day, Tears Are In Your Eyes and Take Care near the end), some of their more upbeat pieces (Season Of The Shark, a great rendition of How To Make A Baby Elephant Float (dig those chords!), Moonrock Mambo, and Georgia vs. Yo La Tengo at the very end), and a few rock numbers (including one off their Christmas EP -- the one with the artwork by Daniel Clowes). During the second encore, whilst taking a request, they said that they didn't like to repeat songs from the previous night; given that they played most of their new album tonight, I wonder exactly which ones last night's audiences were treated to.
Anyway, next week it's Interpol, which should also be good.
Icelandic photographer Nökkvi Eliasson has a lot of artistic black & white photographs online, including some hauntingly stark images of deserted farms in Iceland. (Unfortunately, they're at a rather low resolution; too low to be used for wallpaper on anything newer than, say, a 128K Macintosh Plus.)
Notonova is a site in Germany which has a lot of pictures of recent Melbourne indie band gigs; including a few of which I've been at. (I see someone else has followed Ninetynine halfway around the world with a camera.)
Apparently he'll have videos up soon too; hopefully they'll be longer than the 30-second clips my Canon Powershot makes. (What the world needs is a good Ninetynine live DVD or three.) (via Rocknerd)
Discovery of the day: aquarium fish are fascinated by cameras.
I was at Volare in Brunswick St., and noticed an aquarium full of large orange fish. As large orange fish suspended in water make good objects to photograph, I took out my camera. As I approached, the fish flocked to the lens. Whenever I moved the camera up or down to get different angles, the fish would immediately swarm towards the lens. It seemed that the cheeky little buggers loved having their pictures taken.
Some pictures from this evening's Bidston Moss gig:
The show was pretty good; sweet yet spiky power-pop, with catchy lyrics and hooks. And they are doing another one sometime in the next few weeks.
I also managed to catch up with BeTh, who sings/plays bass in the band, after their set. She's pretty cool, and has an enviable memory for faces. And, it turns out, she works practically just down the corridor from me. It's one of those ironies that I find this out about a week before she emigrates to warmer climes.
A few scenes of autumn in Melbourne. (Click thumbnails to see complete images)
As usual, if you want to use any of these images anywhere, ask me (blog at dev.null.org).
Everyone was joining in, including the guy who goes around with the "psychatric laws are absurd and serve organised crime" sign. His view on war is that religion is to blame, it seems. Of course, he must be an utter crackpot as nobody in their right mind would blame religion for war, would they?
Living in Reykjavík has its advantages; for one, you can take cool photos like these just by going for a walk. (via Die Puny Humans)
The Kraftwerk gig was excellent. I showed up and made my way to the balcony, finding a spot with a good view of the stage, as David Thrussell was playing all sorts of weird tunes. Then the DJ stopped, and things were quiet for some minutes, except for the crowd yelling and stamping.
Then the Metro was filled with the sound of an old-fashioned speech synthesizer uttering bits of German, and the curtain rose, revealing four middle-aged men standing behind consoles (and looking not unlike characters from some Star Trek-like TV show). They played Computerworld and the projection screen glowed cathode-ray green (older readers may remember this colour); they also did Pocket Calculator, with an animation of a calculator, their (quite topical) anti-nuclear protest song Radioactivity, a version of Neon Lights with a verse in German, and their one song about a pretty girl, The Model.
While they stayed at their workstations, playing keyboards and operating their laptops, visuals were projected on the screen behind them, ranging from the sorts of retrofuturistic computer graphics (lots of wireframes; remember when those were cool and shading was too expensive?) to old stock footage of the Tour de France, train and road travel across Europe and the like.
Their songs varied quite a bit from the recordings; the version of The Robots started with them transposing the main riff into different notes, and went on into some improvisation with new (yet quite fitting) synth lines.
(Oh yes, the consoles they were using looked pretty nifty, consisting of a keyboard of some sort, a foot pedal and a laptop. I wonder whether the keyboard part is an off-the-shelf instrument of some sort, or a box containing various controllers and such, and indeed whether the keyboard is not just a controller for software on the laptop, Kraftwerk being famed for their fondness for Cubase VST.)
And here are a few of the better or more interesting photos I took during my recent trip to the UK. These are just from the first part of the trip, mostly around London. (Click on the thumbnail excerpt to see the full image.)
Those quaintly Orwellian posters that are all over bus shelters and the Tube. It's funny how some terrorist bombs and the ravings of a few apocalyptic bampots can make the watchful gaze of Big Brother so much more comforting as an idea.
(All photos are (c) me. If you want to use any of them, email me.)
Artefact seen in window of music shop in the Scottish Highlands:
It looks to be what amounts to an all-electronic set of bagpipes, i.e., a breath controller and synthesizer unit, which adds in user-adjustable drones. Apparently it's of German manufacture, has been around for some years, and is intended for people needing to quietly practice the bagpipes. Not surprisingly, the main market would be in the highlands.
Apparently, it does MIDI, and if you run it through an amp, it sounds quite realistic. Is anybody else wondering what it would sound like through some effects pedals?
I never did end up making it to Machynlleth; as I was making my way to the 13:35 train, I remembered that I hadn't visited the record shop (which Jim had recommended), and so I went to check it out. (I ended up buying 4 CDs there.) Then I caught the next train out, which was meant to be 2 hours later, but was about 15 minutes late on top of that. Britain's railway network, it seems, has seen better days. Anyway, I'm back in London, for now anyway.
(I also managed to score a short-sleeved Ben Sherman shirt which was marked down to £18 at a local clothing shop. That's one of the advantages of visiting from the other hemisphere, where it is short-sleeve weather.)
Anyway, I rather liked Aberystwyth. It's a rather charming combination of Victorian seaside resort (smack bang in the middle of the Welsh riviera), rural Celtic village and happening university town. The weather also seemed quite mild there too; I'm told that because of Aberystwyth's location, it usually is.
All this evening, fireworks have been going off all around (well, all around Ealing and thereabouts, anyway). It seems that, this being the weekend between Halloween and Guy Fawkes' Day, it's a doubly good reason for fireworks.
Some of these look like organised displays, but others probably aren't. Unlike in Australia, anyone can buy fireworks here and set them off, which is why you get bottle rockets whizzing horizontally across parks and almost knocking people over and such; and apparently the casualty departments of hospitals are doing a roaring trade as well.
One thing that I found slightly surprising: the English really get into Halloween (which I thought was an American thing, at least in its modern incarnation). There were carved pumpkins everywhere, and I saw a number of people dressed up for the occasion. (And not just little children in pumpkin suits either; there was one woman walking down Oxford St., attired in green face paint and a witch's hat. Not the sort of thing you see in Australia much.)
As promised, here are a few photos from the Ninetynine gig at the Metro Club, a black-painted, mirror-lined cavern beneath Soho:
A few photos from Portobello Market last Saturday:
This chap's name appears to be Mafa Mianmaud Bamba, and he is a localised celebrity of some sort, at least for his mad hairdo. He was standing near a wall, with a rack of postcards of himself which he was giving away for free, and smiling at people. A number of people posed for photos with him. I don't know whether he has any other claim to fame other than his hair.
A woman with an antique barrel organ and a pram full of small dogs in hand-knitted woollen cardigans. She would turn the handle and the dogs would yap. Almost like something out of the English equivalent of a Jeunet & Caro movie or something.
Marxist chic appears to be big in the yoof-oriented parts of London, with Soviet-flag T-shirts and numerous items of Che merchandise all over market stalls. In fact, not far from where this picture was taken, someone was selling Che handbags. This particular variant of the icon appears on the railway bridge across Portobello Rd.
(I also saw some Giant stickers nearby; though, so far, I haven't seen one THIS IS A HEAVY PRODUCT sticker anywhere in London.)
They played at the Prince of Wales in St Kilda; the last time I set foot at this venue was to see FourPlay, and back then the PA was appalling. Though this time, the problem had apparently been fixed; either that, or with all the amps Mogwai had on stage, the Prince's PA was irrelevant. Either could equally be the case.
First up were a Sydney band named Decoder Ring. Somewhat Tortoise-ish, or perhaps like Prop with guitars instead of chromatic percussion. They were OK; quite agreeable in places, though they didn't excite me all that much.
Then Mogwai came on, picked up their instruments and made a lot of noise. Two basses, 3 guitars, a Rhodes piano, a flute, a sampler, a Titanium PowerBook and a lot of amplifiers, pedals and miscellaneous kit. They started with You Don't Know Jesus, then went into Mogwai Fear Satan, with the quiet flute bit suddenly going into a tidal wave of distorted guitar. They also played Helicon 1, making some quite lovely shoegazer textures, and then went into 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong, with vocoded vocals and a processed drum loop of some sort (though no banjo). For the encore they did Secret Pint (which I thought was one of the less interesting parts of Rock Action, though they fleshed it out a bit with the Rhodes), and then into an intense, headbanging version of the Jewish hymn My Father My King, rocking for a good 10-20 minutes and culminating with the bald guy tearing most of the strings out of his guitar, and leaving it to feedback, turning his attention to cranking all the amps up to 11 and doing things with pedals, treating the audience to several minutes of fucked-up noise. It goes without saying that they totally rocked.
First up were the support band, for whom I didn't care much. Pretty much back-to-basics '70s rock, with a few glam elements. I think they were called The Anyones or something.
Then Morrissey came on. A recording poem (by John Betjeman, I believe) was played, then Moz came on, launching into I Want The One I Can't Have, to riotous applause. He went on stage wearing a simple black shirt, and his trademark short back and sides; a middle-aged man, somewhat paunchy, but unmistakably Morrissey. The crowd (many of whom undoubtedly grew up listening to The Smiths) loved him. He sang a number of old songs (Suedehead, Hairdresser On Fire (with the words changed subtly), a heartfelt rendition of Meat is Murder, Everyday is Like Sunday (with a banjo)), November Spawned A Monster (with some funk guitar, and a clarinet) and some new numbers (more on those later).
Anyway, Morrissey put on a great show; singing with gusto and passion, his voice as clear, emotive and vulnerable as ever, and dancing around the stage, with the sorts of stylised gestures of awkwardness and ungainliness that were so Morrissey. In between sets, he engaged the audience with banter (at one stage announcing that he had nothing with the company named Morrissey which sold see-through underwear, and getting stuck into the media and the meat industry); his speaking voice is a lot deeper than his singing voice.
And Morrissey's new songs are quite good; The First Of The Gang To Die is a classic Morrissey ballad crooned over guitar rock, written in Morrissey's new Los Angeles home. The World Is Full Of Crushing Bores was the sort of thing you could expect from Morrissey; disdain for the vulgar world we live in, with a touch of that famous smothering self-pity. Irish Blood, English Heart is a meditation on England past and present ("I'm dreaming of a time when the English are sick to death of Labour and the Tories..."). It's clear that, as a songwriter, Morrissey is in fine form. I for one will probably buy his next album on the day it comes out.
The show ended with Morrissey removing his shirt and throwing it into the audience, where it was undoubtedly torn to tiny pieces, each of which will be cherished by whoever got it, and leaving the stage, telling us that God, Oscar Wilde and someone else whose name escapes me were with us. Shortly later he came back on, in a plain white shirt, and performed There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, to riotous applause; people were singing along with it in the audience. He thanked the audience and left the stage, leaving the band to finish the song.
(Security was notionally tight, with bags being half-heartedly checked for cameras and recording devices. However, I managed to sneak a camera and a minidisc recorder in in my pockets. I got some photos, but as far as recording goes only succeeded in finding out what an effective low-pass filter a coat pocket makes, and why one should always monitor with headphones when recording a gig. I doubt much could be salvaged of the recording. Time to invest in a good-quality lapel mike for next time, I think; either that or not take photos and record at the same time.)
Update: Photographs of this gig now reside in this gallery.
Tonight I went to the Corner Hotel to the Ninetynine album launch. First up was Max, a local singer/songwriter/accordionist whom some describe as "Björk meets Tom Waits. I got in as she was playing her soprano-klezmer number; she did a few more songs after that, mostly with her Little Ensemble.
Next up were another local band, Love of Diagrams. This outfit have been around for maybe a year or so; they played with Ninetynine and Sir at the Punters Club on Valentine's Day, and have played around town a few times since then. Anyway, they're a band worth keeping an eye on; guitar, bass, drums, and they can certainly fill a space with sound and get the crowd moving. I'll probably put the video I got of them online in the next few days.
Finally, Ninetynine came on, and put on a terrific show, even by their standards. They played for about an hour, doing pretty much all the songs from The Process, and a few older ones too. Cameron was in particularly high spirits, playing like a demoniac, interacting with the crowd and throwing himself into the show. (At one point he announced that Synthetic was about the Pepsi commercial in which Michael Jackson's hair caught fire and the experiments that continued from that; though that doesn't sound much less plausible than the official line about it being about the Assyrian empire.) Towards the end of the set, a guest (Hi Ben!) joined them, adding some extra guitar riffs to The Specialist (their Northern Soul number). The set ended with The Process; the audience went wild calling for an encore, and the band obliged, coming back on stage and launching into Polar Angle, playing until Cameron collapsed. Now that's showmanship.
(I also liked their new merchandise; in particular, the fluffy llama logo adorning it looks quite doovy.)
(Update: photo links now go to images from the photo gallery page for this gig, which also has other images.)
ziboy.com, a photographic blog from Beijing, showing (often technically excellent and sometimes dramatic) snapshots of contemporary life in the Chinese capital, from red flags to mobile phone ads, smiling couples to mass trials to rock concerts, uniformed police to leather-clad mohician punks. (via Robot Wisdom)
This evening I crossed the Yarra and went to Revolver to see Kevin Blechdom and supports; meeting up with Cos there. First up was the obligatory DJ (given that it's in Prahran, I believe there are council zoning requirements mandating DJs in all venues there), playing various electro, including some new Death In Vegas, some Takako Minekawa, a Kraftwerk remix and such. Next up, local Dadaistic hip-hop collective Curse ov Dialect went up, attired in various costumes (as in robes, face paint and a jester hat; no gangsta bling-bling here), running around the stage, rapping and talking over prerecorded beats, in between running into the audience and grabbing glasses off tables. They were quite good; conceptually more original and innovative than most Australian hip-hop (which tends to consist of knockoffs of Afro-American urban culture, down to the beats and samples, with the token Australian accent and slang terms thrown in).
Next up were The Sailors, who appear to be three post-ironic inner-city hipsters doing Detroit-style rock (with a bit of Beastie Boys thrown in for good measure); either that or one of those New-Saviours-of-Rock bands whose names all start with The. Stylistically not in the same bag as Kevin Blechdom, but similarly fond of innuendo (only of a more homoerotic nature, cf. their Stooges-style opus "Y.C.M.A.", which has nothing to do with the Village People). Perhaps one could classify them as an indie-rock Down Town Brown.
Finally, Kevin Blechdom came on. (For those who aren't aware of this, she is female, and Kevin is not her real name.) She started off by playing banjo, solo or over loops from a Macintosh laptop behind her. Later she picked up a home-computer MIDI keyboard (adapted into stage gear by the clever expedient of gluing a strap onto it) and started playing that, triggering some Casio-like buzzy warbles whilst singing. She finished with her exquisitely bootywhangular chair-dance to her electropop cover of Tina Turner's Private Dancer, at one stage falling off the chair but soldiering on. Alas, my digital camera ran out of batteries at the time; had it not, I'd have a video file to show for it.
I'm not sure what to make of Kevin Blechdom. On one hand, some of her lyrics are a bit daft (some choice examples: "use your heart as a telephone, and you'll never ever be alone, you see, you'll be with me", "I don't think you understand, bad music is grand -- like a piano!", and a song about breasts exploding in flames which had a schoolyardish puerility about it), and she overacts more than a little, giving the impression of watching an enthusiastic amateur in a talent show. Though judging by her content, I suspect that that may be a deliberate aesthetic choice. OTOH, she's more entertaining than watching some bloke making burbling noises with a PowerBook, or the sort of dull, pretentious twaddle that makes up a lot of "experimental electronica".
This evening I went to Nic of Dandelion Wine's birthday do at Chung On, a good (if stuck in the '70s decor-wise) Chinese restaurant in Moonee Ponds. A good time was had by all, with a lot of entertaining conversation (not to mention good food; the mango chicken is highly recommended). And the background music was quite amusing; just sufficiently loud to be audible during lulls in conversation, it consisted of an endless loop of ridiculously bland elevator-music instrumentals of pop songs (everything from George Michael's Careless Whisper, performed Kenny G-style, to Burt Bacharach's Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head; no Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins covers just yet, but give them time).
Today I saw a guy named Gary Wiseman (who has interesting CD packaging), the always lovely Jen Turrell, local guitar/double-bass act Sodastream and Amy Linton of the Aislers Set play, in a backyard in inner Melbourne. Which was fun, if a bit chilly at times.
Every band venue should have a Hills hoist in the middle... And every backyard should have a PA setup and a combination mixing console/compost bin.
And that was probably the last time I will see Stewart and Jen (two genuinely lovely people and very talented musicians) for some time, as they leave Australia this week, not to return for some years. The next time will probably require me to visit the US or something like that.
Tonight I went to see Down Town Brown's show, The Future of Rock'n'Roll in the comedy festival. It was quite entertaining, as DtB shows usually are. It didn't differ much from a regular DtB show, save for some interludes, some extra costume changes, and the emergence of the anti-DtB, three highly dodgy geezers with suspenders and bad haircuts/teeth who wowed the audience with a harmonica/guitar/washboard performance and some enthusiastically daggy tap dancing. Anyway, Down Town Brown said that they're extending their season for an extra week (i.e., next Thursday to Saturday), so if you missed them, you can catch them then.
(And it's about time someone brought back the washboard as a deliberately daggy musical instrument, used more for its ironically self-deprecating semiotics than its expressive qualities. Perhaps that would make it a more rootsy/alt-country answer to the Casio keyboard...)
Last drinks, everyone: Today was the end of a Melbourne institution, the Punters Club; the last day of the venerable pub/band venue's operation, and they chose to go out with a bang. The doors were open for free, and they had bands all day, from 3PM until late in the night. And many people rocked up to pay their respects to the Punters, to have one last pot (or several), tread the sticky carpet for the very last time and reminisce about all the great bands they have seen there, among them your humble narrator. As it was the last ever day at the Punters, and entry was free, the venue was packed soon after 3PM; after that, a long queue formed outside the door, with people being allowed in only when others left. Inside it was pretty tight.
I have seen many good shows at the Punters; I remember when I lived out in Ferntree Gully, driving down to Brunswick St. in my mum's car (I must have known the back streets of Fitzroy quite well then, or at least in terms of parking spots) to see The Paradise Motel there, and a number of bands after that. And now that era has come to an end. It's somewhat sad to have walked out that door for the last time, knowing that it's not a doorway I will pass through again in this lifetime.
To paraphrase one graffito in the Punters, Brunswick Street looks likely to die now that its heart has been ripped out. The street's cultural authenticity is in decline, and Brunswick St. is looking more like Chapel St. with each day that passes. (Even in the queue I noticed a difference between the people lining up to enter the Punters and the people walking down the street; the latter were wearing more designer-logo T-shirts, of the sort that sell for $70 in Prahran.) Oh well, now there's one fewer reason to get off the 112 tram on Brunswick St.
Oh yes, the bands. The first one I saw was some country outfit; then came Ruckrover (some of whose members worked at the Punters), who were very tight and energetic, with perhaps a slight Northern Soul feel to some of their numbers. Then came Disaster Plan, who played (as promised) quietly enough to be drowned out by the crowd, and ended with some rants about the inferiority of the other pubs (the Evelyn, for example), and then was Gaslight Radio, who were also quite good.
The show at the Punters was OK. Love of Diagrams was a guitar/bass/drums
outfit who played a really tight, energetic instrumental set.
Then Sir came on, doing a number of songs (topically enough, they played Handsome first); they were good, though let down a bit by problems with the sound.
Anyway, they played their new songs, which was good.
Finally, on came Ninetynine, who rocked. They played various old and new songs
(including the old one with the Casio VL-1 drum loop; a real touch of class,
that), with tremendous energy (as usual, Cameron went berzerk on the drums),
swapping instruments between songs as they usually do.
They also mentioned that they're supporting Stereolab when they tour, though I
think that's at the Prince of Wales show, not the Corner one
(to which I'll probably be going).
Pity I couldn't be in two places at once, because Partition were doing a support set at the Dan O'Connell at the same time. I really wanted to hear what their Field Mice tribute song was like...
Some memes just keep going:
Seen on a mX dispenser (that's the free murdoch full of celebrity stories,
consensus-reality-reinforcing propaganda and other pinkness and horror) in
Museum Melbourne Central station:
This afternoon, I went to the Museum of Modern Oddities (today was its last day, and I hadn't managed to find the time to go earlier). It was interesting, in a surrealistic sense; it was in an old hardware shop in Collingwood (looking very much like something from decades ago, with decades-old stock still remaining amidst the exhibits), and had a number of exhibits, which took the form of found objects and dioramas thereof, with stories attached.
Some of the exhibits they had were Jock the Racing Possum (a dessicated possum corpse and a glimpse into a little-known aspect of colonial Australian life), the Geoffrey Dunstable Mania Dioramas (arrangements of nails and screws said to depict various states of mania and depression), and various arrangements of objects in boxes, often with labels attached giving them new meanings. There was also a do-it-yourself souvenir stand where one could take souvenirs home, in the form of pre-bagged objects from prior visitors, as long as you placed an object of your own in a bag provided, leaving it for another visitor. There was also a book for sale, of which I bought a copy; it's vaguely surrealistic, and has a lot of nice photographs of objects and other good design.
I also ran into Michael from Beebo there (whom I knew from my days at Monash).
The museum is now closed, but with any luck, they'll reopen at some stage somewhere else.
I just got back a roll of film I had sent in for processing. I took it to a Kodak agent yesterday, and selected the "PictureCD" option (for $10 extra). Consequently, with my prints, I got back a CD-R containing scans (at a generous 1536x1024) of the photographs. The CD packaging lists Windows or MacOS as requirements for viewing it, though my Linux machine sees it as an ISO-9660 image containing .jpg files, which is good enough. The Kodak PictureCD service gets a thumbs-up from me; having a CD-ROM of JPEGs is a lot more convenient than an envelope of bits of paper.