Friday, September 12, 2008

Quest for the 8-Bit Melodies

I never really got with the recent 8-bit/bitpop musical revolution (Crystal Castles and all that lot) despite, back in the day as an impressionable 10-year-old, loving the incidental music on many of the Commodore 64 games. My personal favourite was Martin Galway's (nephew of the famed flautist James) haunting music for 'Rambo: First Blood II'. There's a brilliant Top 15 of C64 themes made by some guy on YouTube -

I then found this incredible site where lots of insane people have remixed C64 theme tunes. Check it out! There are absolutely tons of them. I have barely scratched the surface, but my fave so far is a slo-mo techno version of the music from Bruce Lee - one of my favourite C64 games of all time. God I used to love kicking the shit out of that stupid ninja! I also found this crazy movie basd on the 'Bruce Lee' computer game by the improbably named Bruce Gargantua - It Rocks!

Adventure - Crypt Castle Cult

Anyway, there is actually a point to all this C64 reminiscing - the release of the excellent debut album from Adventure aka Benny Boeldt on Monday. Boeldt is a part of the Wham City Arts Collective and has recorded an album for Carpark Records of Washington DC. The reason why Boeldt's brand of 8-bit awesomeness has resonated with me more than previous exponents of the genre is his brilliant use of melodies. At times it's like prime Vince Clarke crossed with Happy Hardcore - wonderfully emotive hooks and evocative bleeps, all underpinned by bonkers bouncy beats. Adventure and me instantly clicked - maybe it also had something to do with look of pure joy on my 8-month old daughter's face when the album came on and she was in her bouncer - grinning away as she boinged up and down to Boeldt's 8-bit madness. He looks like a bit of a nutter too, and that's always a good thing in my book.

Buy Adventure
Adventure MySpace


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Vitamin Fusion

Pedro - Vitamins

It's taken me a while to give the new Pedro (aka James Rutledge) album, 'You, Me & Everyone' the listening time it deserved. I'm a huge Pedro fan - I have the sleeve of his debut EP (featuring a beautiful drawing of a tree by the late, great Dave Tyack) in a frame on the wall in my house, and those first two EPs plus his self-titled debut album - all recorded for Melodic - I absolutely adore. So I'm pleased to report that 'You, Me & Everyone', is astounding, while also being a giant step forward from his previous output. Its release has been somewhat confusing. It came out on Mush in the States last year, but didn't get a UK release until May 2008, over two years since Rutledge downed tools and put the album in the out tray.

This is proper FUSION music - dense, confusing, complicated, liberating and insane - after my first listen I felt like I needed to have a lie down in a darkened room to recover. Having said this, you can tell that Rutledge had real fun making the album. It's not po-faced noodling; it's the sound of barriers being broken and sonic envelopes being pushed to the very edge and then over into the abyss of the completely new. Take 'Vitamins' - a moody techno intro bursts gloriously into twinkling electronics, tinkling glockenspiels, backwards guitars, brass stabs, mesmerising flutes, and percussion that is RIGHT OFF THE CHAIN. A pox on ye, James, for making me type that last phrase, but I don't know how else to describe it. The drums are properly mental. Double good. In the next life I’m coming back as a drummer...

How the hell do people write music like this? I have a basic grasp of how a band might compose a traditional song of verse/chorus/whatever, but I have absolutely no understanding of how on earth this sort of music gets written and recorded. I would say mountains of psychedelic drugs were involved, but I don't think James is much of a dabbler.

Buy 'You, Me & Everyone' by Pedro from Boomkat
Pedro MySpace


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tina Turner

Fatboy Slim - Michael Jackson

I overheard a woman on the train the other day telling her friend about a party she’d been to at the weekend. The DJ (by all accounts he was one of those cheesy old school flashing light box DJ’s of yesteryear), for some inexplicable reason, decided to drop ‘Rock and Roll Part One’ by Gary Glitter. Of course she said, it cleared the dancefloor. No one wants to be seen dancing to the music of a convicted nonce. Or do they? Apparently, one brave soul stayed on and properly wigged out. He was ostracized for the rest of the night and will probably rot in hell, at least if the outraged female storyteller has got anything to do with it. But I have a grudging respect for this lone dancing rebel. He was probably so skulled he didn’t even make the connection. And anyway, out of context, it's a fine tune, with the kind of infectious, bludgeoning tribal rhythm that demands some kind of hip shaking. If anything, it’s the DJ’s fault. If he hadn’t played it, the dude wouldn’t have been compelled to dance.

I can remember having a conversation with a friend a while back. We were trying to work out of it was OK to still like ‘The Thick of It’ in light of Chris Langham’s conviction. Yes, we eventually decided. Of course it was. It doesn’t stop being funny, does it?

It’s the same with Michael Jackson. Whenever I hear anybody talk about Jacko these days, it’s always with a certain air of shamefaced guilt. I'm definitely not his biggest fan, but ‘Off the Wall’ is an incredible album, and I fondly remember gathering around the old VCR to watch the John Landis 13-minute ‘Director’s Cut’ of the 'Thriller' video my Dad had taped off The Tube the night before. Do families come together to watch monumental TV events like this anymore? I was only 10 and it scared me shitless, but the dancing was bugged out. MJ was cool. Like a billion others, I wished I could dance like him.

Is there really any point to all this random pontificating? Not really. Well, kind of. MJ turned 50 last Friday. It beggars belief that he is half a century old. Happy Birthday Wacko you plastic-faced, baby dangling nutjob*. I would post something by you, but the handful of regulars might boycott my blog. Instead, up there is Norman’s awesome tribute to MJ. Altogether now, “Tina Turner, Michael Jackson…”

Until next time.


(* I know you’re skint, but please don’t sue me. I have nothing.)

Buy 'Off the Wall'
Buy Fatboy Slim