The Null Device
Posts matching tags '2012'
Dinosaurs ain’t what they used to be when you were a kid. They’ve changed, or rather, our understanding of them has changed. Kids science books always have a dinosaur scene with a Triceratops, a Tyrannosaurus, a Brontosaurus and a Stegosaurus in a sylvan field, always one of each with the gentle eruptions of a volcano in the background. However, now we know of up to 500 species of dinosaurs that lived on most continents and in all kinds of climates and conditions. We’ve come to realise they weren’t solitary cold-blooded herbivores hunted by coldblooded carnivores. We now know they took care of their young and lived in groups. But while Michael Crichton, of Jurassic Park fame, may have changed your view of dinosaur behavior and lent credence to the old idea that the descendants of dinosaurs are birds, the most startling discovery in recent times is that many dinosaurs had feathers; not just the branch of them we thought were clearly related to birds.
Many scientists are working on trying to create scaffolds for cells to grown on with the view to create an artificial organ. This means sourcing materials which cells can grow on that is not toxic to cells or to the ultimate recipient. Late this year, scientists reported they were able to physically print cells in two dimensions and the cells survived. This means they determined where to print the cells and how many they could print. If we can print cells in 2D, then it follows that we can print cells in 3D. We have 3D printers. So we might, some day soon, with an emphasis on soon, actually be able to print cells using a 3D printer into some devices or as actual replacement organs or devices, using the patient’s own cells. We could generate these on demand, without having to wait for donors, or worry about organ rejection. The dream of organ generation is closer than ever.Not to mention the Higgs-like boson, and the replication of the evolution of artificial RNA in a chemical “primordial soup”.
Charlie Brooker's list of words of 2012:
Chadult Movies (chah-dult moo-veez) noun. Big-budget motion pictures featuring children's characters and infantile themes that are nevertheless popular with adults on account of either their quasi-ironic appeal (Marvel Avengers) or dark and pretentious stylings (The Dark Knight Rises). Following the success of the chadult movie version of Batman, McDonald's is to relaunch its mascot Ronald McDonald as "The Vermillion Harlequin: a brooding, psychologically disturbed jester whose noble attempts to feed mechanically-separated meat to the population of McDonaldland are perpetually hampered by disfigured criminal Hamburglar".
Cry Troll (crye troll) verb. Of a celebrity, to claim any member of the public uttering even the mildest criticism is nothing but an attention-seeking "troll" whose pitiful so-called existence is several rungs below that of the lowliest silverfish. See also Freedom of Screech.
Paedosavile (peedo-sah-vill) noun. 1. A threat cunningly disguised as an unbelievably obvious threat, eg a creepy old man with a sparkly tracksuit, gold chain, bleached hair and cigar leering down the lens like a Glam Rock Freddy Krueger. 2. Any entertainer from the 1970s who provokes even the faintest schofeeling (qv).
And now, as usual, here is my annual list of records of the year:
- Aleks & the Ramps - Facts
Melbourne's Aleks and the Ramps have made a career just on the music side of the border between music and comedy, being a bit like a Doug Anthony Allstars with a stronger focus on musical composition and arrangement. Facts, their first record in three years (and their first since the departure of Janita Foley) follows in this. It sounds slightly smoother and more polished, with layers of shimmering keyboards, guitars (ranging from languid slide to funky African grooves and the odd crunchy power chord), the odd banjo and ooh-aah backing vocals forming pop melodies that reach an almost loungey smoothness at times, serving as a bed for Aleks' laconic, deadpan croon, delivering a continuous stream of zingers like “it's hard to breathe in the back of a horse costume, or pay attention to the tension in the room”, “now he never leaves the house looking less than presidential, as he studies all the bridges for their suicide potential”, and “meanwhile back on the Serengeti, my shirt's still smelling all cigarettey". I'd love to see these guys on a bill with Tigercats.
- Beach House - Bloom
With Bloom, Beach House have transitioned to being the closest thing to a Cocteau Twins for the 2010s; they're different, of course (the guitar work doesn't sound quite like Robin Guthrie's, and the vocals are in comprehensible English), but subjectively, the experience of listening to Bloom is like that of hearing the Cocteaus' Victorialand was; the way that the songs come together, build up and envelop the listener. Beach House's previous albums didn't quite gel for me, but this is the one where it all comes together.
- Crocodiles - Endless Flowers
The latest from the San Diego garage-rock classicists, Endless Flowers; it's somewhat more light-hearted than the Dionysiac/Baudelarian darkness of their previous works, perhaps due to happy romantic circumstances in the frontman and songwriter Brandon Welchez' life; No Black Clouds For Dee Dee certainly appears to be dedicated to his new wife, Dee Dee from NYC86ists the Dum Dum Girls. Nonetheless, the Crocodiles do a certain kind of studied yet louche underground rock'n'roll really well, and got quite a few spins where I am. Highlights would include Electric Death Song, Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9) and Hung Up On A Flower, a paean to narcotic languor which ends with the drummer reciting poetry in German through a Space Echo.
- Eccentronic Research Council - 1612 Overture and Purity Ring - Shrines
Two quite different records with a few common themes running through them. Both are predominantly electronic, albeit in different fashions; the warm analogue radiophonica of the ERC contrasting with the icy autotuned crispness of Purity Ring. Both have a connection to the eldritch; 1612 Overture is a concept album about the Pendle witch trials, juxtaposing those with the inequities of Cameron/Clegg Austerity Britain, while Purity Ring's vocals juxtapose a Cronenbergian body-horror imagery with a sheen of airbrushed eroticised glamour associated with commercial pop music. And finally, both albums lift their forms from underground trends; The Eccentronic Research Council (who consist of two musicians–one of whom was in early-2000s Mancunian chilled-beat mongers I Monster, best known for the German lounge orchestra-sampling Daydream In Blue—along with solidly Northern actress Maxine Peake providing the monologues) borrow wholesale from the hauntology milieu pioneered by the Ghost Box label, with their faded retro-modernist cover art featuring geometric forms and Helvetica, and their name, like The Advisory Circle and the Moon Wiring Club, evoking a fantasy pre-Thatcherite Britain of ghost-haunted analogue circuits and a vaguely socialistic yet faintly ominous technological optimism. (And then there's the opening track being titled Autobahn 666, and starting with synthesizer arpeggios and sampled car sounds; I'm fairly sure I've heard something like that before somewhere.) Purity Ring, meanwhile, take the Witch House/goth-crunk trend that all the cool kids in Brooklyn were into a few years ago and run with it for a good distance.
- Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn't
The Swedish crooner and sometime Melbourne resident's first full album in five years, and a welcome return. It's less upbeat than his previous album, 2007's Night Falls Over Kortedala, with Jens having gone through a breakup before writing it, though this is welcome; as a songwriter, he does melancholy better than contentment. (I thought Kortedala was a bit too cheerful, and generally skipped the romcom-in-a-pop-song that was Your Arms Around Me when it came on). And while it is tinged with melancholy, Jens' pop sensibility manages to keep it from being a downer; there is a lushness to its arrangements, and, of course, to Jens' voice. Highlights include The World Moves On (a story of romantic (mis)adventure in Melbourne's inner north on the hottest day on record), I Want A Pair Of Cowboy Boots, and the bare, elegiac Every Little Hair Knows Your Name, which, along with its reprise, bookends the album.
- The Rosie Taylor Project - Twin Beds
Leeds' The Rosie Taylor Project made their appearance in 2008 with This City Draws Maps, an 8-track album of understated folk-pop songs for overcast days, all finger-picked guitars, breathy vocals and the odd trumpet and glockenspiel, somewhat reminiscent of Melbourne bands like Gersey or Sodastream. On their 2012 follow-up on London's Odd Box label, the sun breaks through the clouds as the band finds more of a groove. The first track is a two-minute quasi-instrumental, starting with synth pad, with a dubby bass guitar and drums joining in; the second track, For Esme, gets things moving, with an almost mariachi-esque trumpet. The rest of the album manages to combine the introspective lyricism of its predecessor with a more elaborate production and some catchy grooves, the height of which is probably Sleep, which almost reinvents disco from first principles. Keep an eye on these guys.
- Still Flyin' - On A Bedroom Wall
Not quite the full album of polyester-smooth yacht rock I was expecting after Victory Walker, though these guys sure know how to rock a party. On A Bedroom Wall sees Still Flyin' take a more electro/new-wave direction, almost meeting Cut Copy in the middle. If all the hipsters in your town were wearing cleats for some portion of 2012, this album could be the reason.
- Tender Trap - Ten Songs About Girls
It's fair to say that Amelia Fletcher is no underachiever; having co-founded the groundbreaking Sarah Records indiepop bands Talulah Gosh (whose other alumni include 2012 Turner laureate Elizabeth Price) and Heavenly a quarter of a century ago, she has maintained a presence in the genre all the while becoming the senior economist overseeing mergers and acquisitions in the UK, possibly making her the most senior civil servant with an active recording career. The latest album by her current band, Tender Trap, stands solidly alongside her earlier bands' classic output. Ten Songs About Girls is a record firmly in the Talulah Gosh/Heavenly style, honing and perfecting it and even in one song (Step One) laying down a template-cum-manifesto for it. Highlights include the opening track, Train From King's Cross Station (is that a nod to Betty and the Werewolves' Euston Station?), with its spiky punk guitars and bass and cupcake-sweet girl-group harmony vocals, Leaving Christmas Day (a song about breaking up with someone over his creationist beliefs, which will have a place on indiepop-for-atheists mix tapes next to McCarthy's Should The Bible Be Banned?) and the lovely, poignant Memorabilia, an account of a long-lost relationship in the past through a box of badges, mix tapes and letters. Unlike the works of other veteran indie acts (like, say, Tracey Thorn, The Would-Be-Goods and Saint Etienne), Tender Trap have eschewed writing songs set in later adulthood, staying in the boyfriends-and-girlfriends milieu of an extended adolescence set sometime between the heyday of C86 and now; this works well for them.
- Tigercats - Isle of Dogs
Tigercats have become one of my favourite London bands recently, and their début album captures the energy of their gigs as well as can be done. Their sound is a tightly angular, ecstatically rhythmic, Afrobeat-tinged post-punk party pop, in some cases shading into Architecture In Helsinki territory (such as Limehouse Nights). Highlights include the opening track, a manifesto for the gentrification-besieged Isle of Dogs, The Vapours, which gets its name from a dream of 1980s new-wave one-hit wonders, and the epic roof-raiser Banned At The Troxy. I'd love to see these guys on a bill with Aleks & The Ramps.
- The Wake - A Light Far Out
Glaswegian indie veterans The Wake's previous record was 1994's Tidal Wave of Hype, released by Sarah Records in the wake of Madchester and as Britain's indie underground was exploding into the marketing phenomenon known as Britpop. 17 years later, they return, opening the third chapter of their recording career. A Light Far Out does not sound like either The Wake's starkly monochromatic Factory material nor the almost baggy grooves of their Sarah material, though there are echoes of their material; their melodic basslines, synth pads and an air of wistfulness, augmented with subtle and skilful use of electronic music elements such as granular delays and glitchy loops. The opening track, Stockport, starts with a familiar jangly guitar and melodic bass sound, accompanied by subtle electronics, and soon builds up into something lusher, yet with a yearning quality not unlike The Field Mice, a combination which recurs on If The Ravens Leave, the contemplative Methodist and the layered instrumental Faintness. Carolyn takes over vocal duties on the gentle and yet almost sinister Starry Day, a song with a hint of the Wicker Man about it. A highlight is the 9-minute title track, which is given time to evolve, through gentle guitar arpeggios, vocals and then languid seascapes of synths, subtle electronic beats and, eventually, violins. All in all, a welcome return, and a very strong record in its own right.
Had I to choose an album of the year, it would be either Tigercats' Isle Of Dogs or The Wake's A Light Far Out; two very different records it would be very hard to choose between.
The rerelease of the year would have to be Clag - Pasted Youth, which is more of a retrospective compilation of the Australian twee-punk band's releases and live gigs, long unavailable except on badly digitised MP3s, now remastered and accompanied with liner notes. Were there to be a track of 2012, it would be Peaking Lights' Lo Hi.
For your listening pleasure, there is a mix here.
Reports from the sleepy Pyrenées village of Bugarach, which, according to various mystics, was to be either the only place that survived the Mayan Apocalypse or the centre of the dawning of a new age of cosmic enlightenment. The village itself attracted the mélange of kooks, attention seekers and free-floating oddballs that one might expect:
As the village bells struck noon, the moment at which the Mayans had supposedly predicted the world would end, Sylvain Durif was calmly playing the panpipes for a vast crowd of jostling camera crews. "I am Oriana, I embody the energy of cosmic Christ," he said. "When I was five I was abducted by a flying saucer belonging to the Virgin Mary. I'm here to get my message to the world, that there will be a regeneration."
When two men dressed entirely in tin foil with silver bobbles on their heads walked into the village swigging beer, TV reporters immediately surrounded them. Aged 25 and 40, the men said they had driven down from Lille as a bet with friends that they could get on to the top of the world news bulletins. It worked.Meanwhile, some who weren't particularly concerned with matters cosmic or apocalyptic took this as an opportunity for self-promotion:
An American musician, Jeff, based in Belgium, had driven from Luxembourg and was planning to set up outside in the village and perform his act as a one-man piano and trumpet band. "I came because it's the only place in Europe anyone's talking about," he said, talking of an "astronomical event that should bring light to the world, open people up". He added: "I might get some gigs out of it."And now that the world hasn't ended, the ancient Mayans (who turned out to not be so cosmically enlightened after all) will once again be forgotten. Perhaps 21 December 2012's Mayan Long Count association will end up in the occasional pub quiz, or eventually as a marker of retro-ness in fiction set in the 2010s (Remember the 2010s? Wasn't that a wacky time, with brostep and iPads and stuff, and everyone thinking the world would end?), but otherwise it's unlikely that the peculiarities of the Mayan calendar will feature in public discourse again.
London has won the 2012 Olympics. Which means that Londoners can look forward to public transport improvements (read: entire tube lines being shut down for many months at a time to get them ready for the five-ring circus), not to mention the standard curbs on civil liberties when the event does happen. (For example, wearing a T-shirt bearing a political slogan, such as "FREE TIBET" or "US OUT OF VENEZUELA", or indeed the logo of the rival of an official Olympic sponsor, will probably be an arrestable offense within large parts of normally public space in the city. In Sydney in 2000, it was also forbidden to allow friends to park on one's property, as it would cut into the official parking providers' profits or somesuch; somehow, this probably won't be as big an issue in London.)