Archive for: February, 2013

Gallifrey One, Dick Mills, and “Inspector Spacetime”

Feb 18 2013 Published by under Film/TV, Humor, Music, Personal, Technology

Us and Dick Mills

My wife and I attended Gallifrey One, the annual Doctor Who convention held in Los Angeles around Valentine’s Day.  It was a lot of fun and super crowded.  We met a doctor (Sylvester McCoy), a bunch of companions, Dr. Bishop (John Noble), and many others.  But the highlight of all highlights was our one-hour small-group meeting with legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop member Dick Mills (pictured above), who was part of the workshop from the late 1950s to his retirement in the 1990s.  During that time, he was responsible for nearly all sound effects heard in Doctor Who and quite a bit of the music as well (including the original title theme, which he and Delia Derbyshire created from a score by Ron Grainer).  It was amazing to get such a first-hand account at the workings of the famous workshop, especially from someone who had been there from the beginning.  To top it off, he was a wonderfully sweet, warm, and engaging person.  He also gave a one-hour talk to the whole convention featuring lots of great photos and sound samples from his many years at the BBC.  That was, indeed, the highlight of not only the weekend but the year, as far as I’m concerned.

Another highlight was my introduction to Untitled Web Series About a Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time, the Doctor Who parody by the guy who played the Doctor Who parody Inspector Spacetime on the TV show Community.  I’ve been amazed by the fan response to a running gag on a show–they’ve created an entire history of the 51-year-long imaginary show, complete with more intricate detail than most real shows possess.  But all that creativity doesn’t really amount to anything if there’s no real show.  So Travis Richey (the 11th Inspector) and his compatriots (all up-and-coming writers, directors, actors, etc) created the show, which consists of one 30-minute web series and another on the way.  My wife and I attended their two-hour-long panel which featured a viewing of the series, interviews with the cast and crew, and a table reading of the first episode of the new series.  As I was watching, I remember thinking: this is the future.  Forget networks, cable, movies, all that–the future is people with good ideas and a little bit of money (they raised the funds for the series through Kickstarter) pooling their resources and creating awesome things.  This future already exists in music; it’s always existed in writing; and it’s coming to the big, big world of TV and film.  I can’t wait.

 

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Quick Thoughts on mbv

Feb 06 2013 Published by under Music

my-bloody-valentine-mbv-608x605_1359883348_crop_560x547.286184210526

My Bloody Valentine’s 22-years-in-the-waiting follow-up to Loveless came out over the weekend.  Like everyone else, I was checking the mbv website all day on Saturday waiting for the technical glitches that prevented the final unveiling from being released for a few hours.  But I eventually got my download (with a CD on the way).  Over the past few days, I’ve been listening to m b v over and over, and the thing that sticks out in my head is that it seems like exactly what it is: a follow-up to Loveless.  It’s not necessarily better than that earlier album, but it seems like a logical continuation of their sound–an incremental advancement in the realm of feedback-drenched-rock.

And…that’s quite a feat.  Most groups that take a long break between releases tend to lose focus, come up with something either identical to the stuff that they did before (read: a dated sound), or try to update their sound to (usually) ridiculous results.  Heck, even bands that wait a few years between releases have a hard time rekindling the “magic” of the earlier stuff.  The Band recorded their first two albums in relative isolation.  Once people heard the stuff and they got famous, they were never the same, and their later albums (recorded months, not years, after the first) were lukewarm at best.  That MBV have managed to keep that magic alive in their sound over all those years is quite an achievement, and a testament to Kevin Shields’s focus!

So I think the album is excellent, and I encourage you all to take a listen.  I don’t want to do a track-by-track analysis (The Quietus already did that, so check it out).  Shorthand: lots of great rock songs with a shimmery, feedback-drenched sheen with a few wrinkles thrown in.  Two of those wrinkles, though, are worth some attention: “is this and yes” and “nothing is.”  “is this” is MBV at its quietest, a lullaby of swirling synth noise, icicle murmurs of vocals, and that’s about it.  But positioned as it is between the first few songs, which feature MBV’s trademark whirling guitar noise, it is a perfect respite, and a great song in its own right.  “nothing is,” by contrast, is MBV at its most punk–a relentless, repetitive attack of bass, drum, and guitar, sped up like they’re being chased by a rabid beaver.  It’s the opposite of “is this” yet these two songs reveal exactly how MBV have molded their traditional sound in new and interesting directions.

Here’s hoping fans enjoy the new work and wait, at least, a few weeks before asking Kevin Shields when the next one is due.

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Camera, Radiate!

Feb 03 2013 Published by under Music

Camera

Camera’s first album is fantastic and a great discovery for anyone who enjoys the Kosmiche Musik of Can, Neu!, Cluster, Harmonia, Faust, and others.  At first listen, they most closely resemble the robot-chugging motorik of Neu!  But while Radiate! shares an exclamation point with Neu! it has echoes that extend far beyond that Dusseldorf band.  I hear echoes of the guitar/synth fusions of Cluster and Harmonia in songs like “Utopia Is.”  There are hints of Can, Ash Ra Tempel, and even Amon Duul II in songs like “Lynch” and “RFID.”  I even get flashbacks to The Cosmic Jokers when listening to “Morgen.”  So, these guys know their Krautrock history.  They know that history quite literally, in fact–their early performances were all unannounced, unofficial, and probably illegal shows in tube stations and shopping areas (they’d set up, start playing, and keep playing until the cops told them to stop).  In this way, they were providing a direct link back to the early performances of Kluster and others in the late 60s.  So, really, anyone who loves that music owes it to themselves to check out this album.

But even if you’re not a fan of all these old German bands, then take a listen to Radiate!  As I listen to this album, I am struck not by how old it is but how new.  This is not a Krautrock cover album or even a Krautrock emulation album.  It’s an album that harnesses ideas from the past in the service of music very much in tune with bands like Sigur Ros, Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine, Swans, and all the other (more or less) contemporary bands that make noise with guitars and synths.

Get the album at Boomkat or Amazon.  Listen below for samples:

 

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Top 10/Bottom 3: February 2013

Top 10

  1. The Cookbook
  2. MuffWiggler
  3. Analog Haven
  4. Seahawks–next year?
  5. Angels–this year?
  6. Pye Corner Audio, The Ever-Present Hum
  7. Hacker Farm, UHF
  8. NHL is back!  Go Kings!
  9. Gallifrey One
  10. Broadcast, Berberian Sound Studio (and don’t forget the film itself!)

Bottom 3

  1. Republicans
  2. The guy who writes the labyrinthine manual for the Maths module
  3. You (or me)

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