Monday, August 18, 2008

V Festival 2008: A review of sorts.

Some of you may be surprised to find out that I spent a good chunk of the weekend at V Festival in Staffordshire. I know it's probably the last place you'd expect to find me, given its mainstream leanings, but there I was, with the missus and a couple of friends in tow, until the rain, mud and general apathy towards Sunday's line-up drew me back home yesterday afternoon.

Anyway, here's a random, Smash Hits-style list of good points and bad points of my V Festival 2008 experience...

V.V. GOOD: The old-skool Wimpy in the Sandbach services on the way down. Rather marvellously, my friend's quarter-pounder came on a wholemeal bap, even though she didn't ask for one. The fuck is that all about?!

V.V. BAD: Our complete lack of skills when it comes to putting up tents. I'm a festival veteran, but I'm clearly a bit rusty when it comes to erecting these fuckers.

V.V. GOOD: Carl from Clitheroe, who despite being clearly inebriated, was a massive help with setting up our camp.

V.V. BAD: £5 for a sausage muffin from the burger van in our campsite?! Robbing bastards!

V.V. GOOD: Remembering how good Squeeze are.

V.V. BAD: Remembering how rubbish Travis are.

V.V. GOOD: Girls A-fuckin'-loud being amazing, even if Sarah looks like Annie Lennox these days.

V.V. BAD: The twats chucking the hard plastic frisbee around during Girls Aloud that hit a female member of the crowd square in the face right near us. Not cool.

V.V. GOOD: Rum cocktails and classic jungle (as provided by the wicked Toddla T) in the Bacardi B-Live Bar. 'Incredible' even got an airing. Needless to say, it was pretty jumping.

V.V. BAD: XXXChange's poor mixing skills in the Bacardi B-Live Bar. I'm no Larry Levan either, so I shouldn't throw stones, but I thought he'd have been better than that.

V.V. GOOD: The 15 minutes or so that we caught of Robyn being typically awesome.

V.V. BAD: Robyn being on at a different time than was listed which meant we didn't catch all of her typically awesome set.

V.V. GOOD: Hot Chip. All-too-short at just over 30 minutes but great all the same. The songs from Made In The Dark are much meatier live than on record, I'm pleased to say.

V.V. BAD: The rain. Oh my god, the rain.

V.V. GOOD: The Verve coming on to 'Holy Are You' by The Electric Prunes and then tearing into a pretty darn electric 'This Is Music'.

V.V. BAD: The rest of what we saw of The Verve's set. After generating so much goodwill with the opener, they then proceeded to piss it up the wall with dull-as-ditchwater renderings of 'Space And Time' and 'Life's An Ocean'. They even managed to make 'History' dull and lifeless. Why have they even bothered?

V.V. GOOD: The common sense shown in ditching The Verve to return back to camp.

V.V. BAD: The tent collapsing fiasco that pretty much sealed our return back to civilisation the next day.

V.V. GOOD: The pretty awe-inspiring morning mist that I saw at 5am.

V.V. BAD: Being a bit of a mud-pussy.

V.V. GOOD: Getting home in time for the United-Newcastle game.

V.V. BAD: Drawing 1-1 with Newcastle.

So there you have it. The bad kind of outweighed the good in all, which was a massive downer, but hey, got to see Girls Aloud.


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Monday, August 11, 2008

Life in Low Motion and other concerns...

It's been a while, but now I'm back to post about some stuff I've been meaning to post about in, like, ages or something...

One of my personal favourite albums of the year so far and one which has been getting even more repeat spins as of late (put it down to the inclement summer we've been having) is Low Motion Disco's Keep It Slow. Released on the always-excellent Eskimo a couple of months ago (vinyl version comes with a CD too! Good thinking, Eskimo), Keep It Slow sees LMD easily passing that most difficult of acid tests for dance music producers; making a coherent, indelible statement outside of the 12" comfort zone.

Keep It Slow pretty much sums up LMD's aesthetic, as does their name and it's a mantra that's interwoven so definitively throughout the album, even reflecting itself in the song titles (most of them contain some derivation of the words 'low' or 'slow'). It's Low Motion Disco's humanist, emotional take on the now uber-hip cosmic disco sound that marks it out from the crowd. Whereas others use the cosmic sonic template as a means to stretch out grooves to breaking point, making for ultimate DJ-set fodder, there's a timeless quality to LMD's debut that transcends mere of-the-moment bandwagon-jumping.

Ultimately, it's also fairly accessible. I can see Keep It Slow breaking through into the lucratve dinner party listening/ad-soundtracking market, but it's too good for that. Although it occasionally strikes all-too-familiar touchstones (sampling 'Ooh Child' and calling the track 'Things Are Gonna Get Easier' is a bit on-the-nose, don'tcha think?), nothing about Keep It Slow suggests laziness. From the gently-tweaked funk guitar of 'Frantic Low Moment', to 'People Come In Slowly''s driving bass and low-key beat, the hippy-dippy tambourines and acoustic guitars of 'East Mountain Low' to 'Born On The Low Wind''s sheep samples (!), this is a chillout album (as loathe as I am to use that phrase, it definitely applies here) that packs more invention and warmth into each track than your average record of that ilk does over 12. You do the maths.

Low Motion Disco - Talk Low When In Space (mp3)

Low Motion Disco - Low Italian Dessert (Try It Out) (mp3)

Low Motion Disco - Love Love Love (L.S.B. Mix) (mp3)

The Belgians are really spoiling us. Eskimo have also recently released the superb Best Of Allez Allez compilation which acts as a fantastic entry-point to probably the funkiest band to ever come out of the home of chocolates and smurfs (I love a lazy stereotype). Plenty new-wave bands in the early-80s experimented with disco and African rhythms, but few did it with the unreconstructed verve and effervescence of Allez Allez. It helped that they had one of the more charismatic vocalists of the time in American Sarah Osbourne (later Sarah Gregory after she married Heaven 17 frontman, Glenn), but Allez Allez also had an absolute killer rhythm section, one that is really pushed to the fore on the eight original cuts here.

'She's Stirring Up' is something of a cross between Chic, Tom Tom Club and early Spandau Ballet (I'm thinking of 'Chant No. 1', rather than 'Gold' or 'True') and the band's self-titled anthem with its rolling piano, plucked bass and cowbell is one hell of a party starter. Elsewhere, you've got the Grace Jones homage/pastiche of 'African Queen', the uptight funk of 'Wrap Your Legs (Around Your Head)' and the moody, Martyn Ware-produced 'Valley Of The Kings' that nicely represent all facets of this forgotten great band's meagre output (they lasted a mere two years, putting out just two full-lengths).

On top of the eight original cuts, you get four remixes which seem a little like afterthoughts (as good as they are) next to the fantastic originals. Don't let Allez Allez remain a footnote, as this compilation proves they were one of the more vibrant, invigorating European bands of the 80s.

Allez Allez - She's Stirring Up (mp3)

Allez Allez - Wrap Your Legs (Around Your Head) (mp3)

A couple more things of note now. If you happen to pick up this month's issue of Arena Magazine and turn to page 70, there's a little article on mp3 bloggers. In the sidebar, you'll find a little spotlight on three bloggers and one of them is me. Nice of them that, isn't it. Apparently, I'm "laconic" and "articulate". They forgot to include "dashingly handsome", but I'll let them off.

Thanks to everyone who came down to the first Dig For Victory! a couple of weeks ago. There weren't all that many of you but, hey, from small acorns and all that. More info on the next one coming very soon, but in the meantime, here's a link to a little promo mix I put together for the night and distributed through Facebook (you should join the Facebook group, actually. What harm could it do?). Tracklisting below...

Dig For Victory! Promo Mix

The Staples Singers - Slippery People (Epic)
Junior Byron - Dance To The Music (Vanguard)
The Beta Band - The House Song (Regal)
INXS - Need You Tonight (The Lonely Mix) (Atlantic)
Owusu & Hannibal - What's It About (Ubiquity Records)
Marvin Gaye - Funky Space Reincarnation (OOFT Music Edit) (Five20East)
Daft Punk - Da Funk (Virgin)
Marsha Hunt - Hot Rod Poppa (Track Record)
Can - I Want More (Virgin)
Jollymusic - Radio Jolly (Illustrious)
Tori Amos - Professional Widow (SDC Disco Mix) (Five20East)
Stevie Wonder - All I Do (U-tern Edit) (No Label)

That's all for now!


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