SL-1210 for the digital age?

So you can’t get an SL-1210 anymore, but Technics are keeping with the times and launching a new high-quality music download service offering 24-bit FLACs with 192kHz sampling rates. That’s an offer that puts it in direct competition with the Neil Young sponsored Pono service. Unlike the Pono, there will be no proprietary hardware, and all purchased tracks will be held in cloud storage so they can be downloaded to multiple devices including Apple, PC, and Android devices.

That ticks a lot of boxes, particularly in terms of usability. Whether the Technics name still has the cachet  of days gone by is hard to tell, but this could just be the step needed to revitalise the brand for a new generation. It’s also an interesting step for a hardware firm – one to keep an eye on.

Copyright makes no sense

The Federation of Small Businesses has carried out a survey which shows that nearly a quarter of the trade organisation’s members with a collecting society licence have made a complaint about the collecting society systems. That spells bad news for the PPL and PRS For Music, both of whom have been trying to up their game over the last few years after the 2011 Hargreaves Review of UK copyright showed their processes needed fine-tuning and updating. All that said, it seems that no matter whether music is used in a personal or public environment, it’s always a complete fuss to get artists and musicians paid with everybody happy.

The simple fact seems to be that most people simply do not understand how copyright and music royalties systems function. How we address that, both for businesses and in general, will directly impact on the future success for musicians and their ability to command a fee for their work. The alternative is a system that no longer works for those who support it, resulting in increasing numbers opting out.

New Music November

Tony Allen – Film of Life (Jazz Village)
How many drummers have successfully produced solo albums that capture the imagination as well as their beats capture the feet? We don’t mean Phil Collins’ broad Pop here, but instead taking what all great drummers are best at; creating sounds that impact the body and using them to move the head and the heart. If ever that were possible it would be in the style of Afro-beat, where West African percussive rhythms meld with slinky Funk basslines and Global horn sections to create a music that for so many hits the body, mind, and the soul. With this latest album by the Afro-beat drummer Tony Allen (Fela Kuti, Africa 70) we’re as close as we can get to music completely in check  with all of the bodies rhythms. Check out ‘Go Back’ featuring Damon Albarn to get the feel.

Kindness – Otherness (Female Energy)
Soulful Pop and Future Funk are common currency these days, having established their cool credentials through the work of artists like Blood Orange, Kelela, and Kindness over the last five years or so. We find them all present for vocal duties here, alongside the even better known Robyn, as Kindness deal out a sophisticated and leisurely sprawl of R&B, Soul, and Pop cuts that ooze high quality studio sparkle. Focused on languorous bass, and loungey keys, Otherness succeeds in skirting familiarity and ubiquity by being beguiling throughout. Check out the video for ‘This is Not About Us’ here.

Deptford Goth – Songs (37Adventures)
Now onto his second album, Daniel Woolhouse, as Deptford Goth, continues to produce subtle, synthesised Indie Pop worth paying attention to. Like on the well received first outing, Woolhouse’s falsetto vocals still slip into mumbles at times, leaving his lyrics at times indecipherable; perhaps understandably when dealing with themes as personal  and intimate as love. Yet, those vocals provide much of the depth to this delicate and soft album; even on ‘Relics’, one of the busier tracks, the repeated refrain of ‘the rhythm of life is an irregular beat’ speaks as loudly about the character of this album as the entire 4 minutes of musical beats. Check out lead single ‘The Lovers’ here.

Von Spar – Streetlife (Italic Recordings)
Some forms of music have a very definite style, others are broad churches with disparate congregations. Electro and Electronica are cases in point; while the former is distinctive and immediate, the latter is amorphous and fluid. On Streetlife, Von Spar have produced an Electro album that is heavily influenced by other immediate genres such as Disco and Funk. That this could then be considered Electronica reflects a particularly Germanic sense of musical style; one complete with fast and lightweight drum patterns, heavily echoing synths, and crisp… everything. It’s a wicked basket of styles, and one that is filled with class and cool. It’s not to be missed. Check out ‘Chain of Command’ here.

New Build – Pour It On (Sunday Best)
It’s been two years since the last Hot Chip album, and on their biennial cycle there should be one due this year, but that’s not to be. Instead each member is working on side projects; Alexis Taylor on solo material, Joe Goddard on The 2 Bears, and Al Doyle and Felix Martin here as New Build. Pour It On is perhaps the best of the bunch of releases, with its focus on dancefloors it manages to retain a diversity that narrowing side projects often miss out on. That diversity is, of course, traced with a common uptempo thread, taking in Electro Pop, late 90s Balearica, and House. Think of late period Underworld and you’ll be pretty close. Check out the video for ‘Look in Vain’ here.

Neil Young – Storytone (Reprise)
Neil Young is a busy man. As many prolific artists age we find that their output increases rather than wanes. This being Young’s 35th studio album is no surprise, that it comes as a double package follows in the footsteps of other recent outings. However, few expected an album of big band and orchestral tracks, yet that’s just what we get, with the added bonus of solo renditions of the same tracks on the flip. So how does ‘Ol Neil sound with a 92-piece orchestra and choir behind him? Quite like Neil Young actually. There’s no mistaking that high tenor, the deeply personal or staunchly activist lyrical themes, or the country embellishments. He makes a strange crooner, but continues to intrigue.

We Are Shining – Kara (Marathon)
Some albums are released as soon as they are finished, others get filtered into a complex release schedule based on everything from projected sales figures, to miss festival season, to when the XFactor Final is. Kara is an anomaly in that it is a warm, upbeat, party record perfect for the summer season that slipped out almost unnoticed at the tail end of the summer. We’ve just got our hands on it, and we’re sure it’s the perfect solution to the dearth of hazy, good-time records at this time of year. If you’ve ever wished to hibernate all winter, this may just change your mind. Check out ‘Road’ here.

The Coral – The Curse of Love (Skeleton Key)
Although The Curse of Love was recorded around 2006, on a basic Tascam 8-track no less, it only now sees a release. As is often the case with once shelved albums seeing the light of day, we have more recent material to compare with, and ultimately there is a risk of sounding out of place or hackneyed. Thankfully, The Coral continue to show that sounding just like they’ve always done is no bad thing; full of lightly psychedelic-tinged Indie with hints of Folk. Jefferson Airplane are still a prime influence, of course, but we’re not sure they’ve ever felt as musical as on ‘The Curse of Love (Part 2)’. Check out ‘Nine Times the Colour Red’ here.

In space no one can hear you…

So we all know that in space no one can hear you scream. Sound waves simply don’t travel in a vacuum, but wouldn’t it be great to hear the sounds of space? Thanks to those clever people at NASA now we can. It wasn’t rocket science that has allowed us either; instead it’s just Soundcloud.

Newly launched this week, the new account features the sound of everything from rocket launches, through astronaut chatter, to the sound of lightning on Jupiter. A lot of it ends up a little like music concrète sound collages, but who ever said that was a bad thing?

Here’s one we’ve all heard before


and here’s one that might be new for you

Radio1 re-scores Drive…

In a week’s time the movie Drive will air on BBC3. If you’ve seen it before then you’ll know that the soundtrack plays an important part in establishing a sense of cold, louche cool that’s so important to the character of the film. Mainly composed by Cliff Martinez, but also featuring tracks by Chromatics and Kavinsky, it became a bit of a favourite for many at the time; extending the life of that Italo-disco, synth laden vibe so popular a few years ago.

Next Thursday’s screening will be different though. Rather than watching Ryan Gosling try and stone-face to the soundtrack that played such an important part in making the film what it is, instead you can see it with a brand new soundtrack compiled by Radio1’s very own Zane Lowe. This new soundtrack featured exclusive tracks by a rather impressive line-up, including Banks, Jon Hopkins, SBTRKT, CHVRCHES, Laura Mvula, Bring Me The Horizon, and… Eric Prydz. Lowe has described it as “the most ambitious, awesome thing we’ve ever done”, and Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn has given his blessing, considering it a “great honour”. We’re intrigued.

Here’s a new track by CHVRCHES to whet the appetite…

Dancing with Google Glass






Google Glass has passed by our dipping into Tech news so far, primarily because it’s designed for visual media which isn’t much use when we’re focused on sound. That all changes now though, as this video directed by, and featuring, FKA Twigs has just been released to promote the world’s fanciest goggles.

Here’s a run-down of what to expect;
Does it tell us anything about Google Glass? No.
Does it leave us desperate to find out more? No.
Does it make us want to try Google Glass? No.
Does it last more than two and a half minutes? No.
Does it feature some cool dancing and a couple of songs we’ve been listening to all summer? Yes it does.

Music Under the Skin

Give us Music and then give us Technology and we’ll be as happy as a muddy pig. Well, usually. Then we saw this article in Wired and all of a sudden we’re asking ourselves if we’ve had a humour bypass.

Long story short, someone has taken a scanner, a Wii remote and some motors, along with too much of their time, and created a musical instrument. It’s held on the forearm and is movement sensitive, thus allowing notes to be manipulated. It’s not too different to many things we’ve seen in the past. The trigger source for the instrument is what got us head scratching; it’s a forearm length barcode tattoo. That’s a new one, but if it sounds good then perhaps that bizarre USP will be worth it, and having the means to produce sound inked on does sound kind of cool.

The following demo video opens well, but we’ll leave it to you to decide on the full success of the venture. We’re left with one questions though, that we just can’t get past; what was wrong with using a marker pen instead?

New Music October


Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

Since this is a new Thom Yorke album it was of course released with little lead up, and via a vaguely unconventional manner (as a paid for BitTorrent bundle) that really isn’t very unusual at all. Musically it’s a similarly familiar progression. The downtempo Electronica is both abstract and minimalist, yet less energised than was evident on Yorke’s last solo outing The Eraser, and with his vocals buried deep in the mix throughout. Further, the groove of last year’s Atoms For Peace album is largely missing. Instead the feel is closer to Radiohead’s Amnesiac, and just as it was clearly influenced by the previous decade of Warp records, this album owes a debt to the last ten years of Hyperdub. Check it out here.

Prince – Plectrum Electrum/Art Official Age
Given his extensive back catalogue it should come as no real surprise that Prince has released two albums in one go. The first, Plectrum Electrum alongside his current band 3RDEYEGIRL has a rockier outlook than its sister album Art Official Age, which tends more towards Prince’s now-classic R&B sound. Between the two it’s fair to say that his voice no longer drips with intimate passion, yet it’s no less lascivious when he wants it to be. The title track of the former album is a fantastic Funk Rock monster proving that his guitar chops are as good as ever, while ‘Breakfast Can Wait’ on the latter album showcases those warm, relaxed, fluid basslines that have long been essential to Prince’s sound. Check out ‘Fixurlifeup’ here.

Prince Fatty Meets Nostalgia 77 – In The Kingdom of Dub
(Tru Thoughts)
Taking the classic sound of Nostalgia 77, think light Jazz with hints of Blues and Soul, and giving them a Dub makeover is Prince Fatty on this collection of tracks, the sources of which span the last ten years. Nostalgia 77 have long been a Tru Thoughts staple, and their carefully crafted brand of jazzy Electronica was bound to get the remix treatment sooner or later. That it’s been twisted with Dub, as all Dub should, whilst retaining its character is to the credit of Prince Fatty. His biggest rework is the Alice Russell fronted cover of ‘Seven Nation Army’, now with Dennis Alcapone’s vocal support. Check it out here.

Hackney Colliery Band – A Bit of Common Decency
(Wah Wah 45s)
We don’t often feature 9-piece brass bands, but when they’re filled with as much gusto as this lot, then we’ve got to make an exception. Playing a broad mix of Jazz, Rock, Funk and Balkan Beat influenced swingers, it’s near impossible to keep your feet, hands, and hips still for long while your ears soak up the fun. Having worked with the likes of Bonobo, The Cinematic Orchestra, and Amy Winehouse these guys are no local marching band either, putting out layered compositions that demonstrate a sense of musical inventiveness not often associated with their style. Check out ‘A Bit of Common Decency’ here.

Gregory Porter – Issues of Life: Features and Remixes
As a collection of tracks by other artists on which Porter has featured, alongside other artists remixes of his own tracks, there’s the risk of a disjointed affair. Thankfully those classic Soul vocals are simply too cosseting to be distracted from for long. That said, there’s a great deal going on in some of these tracks, particularly the free Jazz of ‘Army of the Faithful’ and the excitable piano and Porter’s Scat singing on ‘Moanin’’. Elsewhere, ‘She’s Gone’ is a slow crawling Soul jam with a wonderful guitar groove that would be the highlight of many an album. Check it out here.

Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
Now at 80 years old, it should be impressive enough that Cohen is still touring, that he’s managed to release his best album in 20 years is more impressive still. That touring seems to have done him some good, as his voice remains rich, though softly spoken yet capable of the occasional growl. Whilst mainly an intimate, narrative driven Folk album, there’s the Downtempo electronic pulse of ‘Nevermind’ to mix things up. It’s a lascivious creeper of a track, with light hand drums with a sense of Africa about them that makes it a close runner up to key track ‘Samson in New Orleans’ with its affecting post-Katrina narrative. Check out ‘Nevermind’ here.

Perfume Genius – Too Bright
Moving away from the more delicate work that has proceeded it, Too Bright showcases flashes of energy in tracks like ‘Queen’ and ‘Grid’ while retaining the melancholic fragility that has so strongly characterised Mike Hadreas’ music thus far. Despite those flashes, this latest begins with a measured pace in ‘I Decline’ and continues, for the most part, with soft key driven songwriting. Highlight track ‘All Along’ oozes with an intimate warmth before the final forlorn line resolutely declares “I want you to listen”. It’s a reasonable request, as the subtle nature of this characterful album demands keen ears, and rewards them repeatedly. Check out first single ‘Queen’ here.

Alt-J – This Is All Yours
After debut album An Awesome Wave won the Mercury Music Prize it’s perhaps no surprise that this new release has gone straight to the top of the album charts. Those buyers won’t have been disappointed either, as there is no second album syndrome to be seen here. Instead, this is a solid Indie album that manages to sound of itself, rather than imitative, whilst retaining a comforting familiarity. There are hints of Electronica throughout, most clearly in the propulsive groove-beat of ‘Hunger of the Pine’, while elsewhere there are hints of Beck in ‘Left Hand Free’. The latter is perhaps the standout track, with a subtle Southern Rock feel that sets it apart from the crowd. Check it out here.

Raiders of the Lost Soundtrack?

It seems this week is going to be about the movies. We’ve just spotted this rather fascinating article by Steven Soderbergh discussing the importance of staging movies properly. To demonstrate he has re-cut the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark in black and white, and completely removed the original soundtrack. In its place is an ambient soundtrack that intentionally fails to fit what is on screen. It makes interesting viewing, but it also makes an important point; the wrong music makes things really quite weird. Watching the classic scene of Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones run from a careening rock ball with delicate piano accompaniment manages to retain some of the threat yet loses a great deal of the comedy and humour. It’s an altogether different experience, and a simple lesson in how the right music can make such a significant difference.

It’s well worth a watch; check it out here.

Westfield’s Music Cube

This is an interesting new take on music in public spaces. Westfield shopping centres in London and Stratford will be unveiling soundproof glass Music Cube’s which will host gigs throughout the second half of October. Customers will be able to listen in through supplied Sennheiser headphones while the floor underneath them will vibrate as if they are in a normal live venue.

The first artist will be MNEK while the rest of the bill is open for voting on Facebook. Each 30 minute show will be streamed online too, as well as through Westfield’s WiFi network (perhaps for if they run out of headphone?)

Sure it’s reminiscent of Silent Disco, but bringing music into new spaces in innovative ways is always good with us.