23 February 2008

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20 February 2008

Hey, the kind people at FACT magazine allowed me to write something for them! It's a small, but rather nicely-formed, review of the Surgeon mix from a while back.

Here's, as some call these things, the director's cut:

I never knew who British Murder Boys were before hearing This is For You Shits, a recent mix by Surgeon, in which he culls a set from the darker side of electronic music. I briefly thought their snippet was Richard James, but the familiar strains of ‘Vordhosbn’ soon intervened to convince otherwise. Turns out half of BMB is one Anthony Child, a.k.a. – wait for it – Surgeon. Not that detective work matters a jot here; the featured songs weave in and among each other like strands in a particularly intoxicated spider’s web.

Perhaps this is Surgeon’s intent. As with current noise-heads Hototogisu and Wolf Eyes (whose ancestors are featured in the form of legendary Throbbing Gristle and infamous Whitehouse), maybe the idea is to let it blitz you, concentration on what is performed by whom constituting one layer too many in the web weaved. Besides, aware listeners will instinctively identify events such as the Bug (‘Killer’) subsiding into the wonderfully ageless ‘My Red Hot Car’.

Signs of a good mix: combining familiar with new-to-me (Tony Rohr + Paul Birken, Cane); one-tracking proceedings so skipping Scorn is impossible. As if you’d want to. At one point I am harshly berated by a Daily Mail voice: must be the aforementioned Whitehouse. Is it wrong I’m disappointed it’s not as abrasive as ‘A Cunt Like You’? My erroneously elegiac contemplation is soon broken by Autechre and Vex’d, sadly not in conference. It’s perversely satisfying that such danceable beats should come so late (fifty minutes) into the mix. Conclusion arrives after Eight Frozen Modules’ fantastic ‘A Low Bite Riddim’, and this mix is pretty much essential.

09 February 2008

'This is not a love Tsonga!'*

So the first major tennis tournament of the year has been and gone and I was quite taken back by the drama it contained. While it was quite something to see neither Federer nor Nadal in the final, in hindsight (and at the time really) it should not have been too much of a shock. For those unaware, both were eliminated in the semi-finals: Nadal was blasted off the court in straight sets by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while Federer suffered something of a melt-down in his straight-sets loss to Novak Djokovic.

While I appreciate everyone is in love with Nadal, and there is a lot in his game to love, it is not as though his experience in the Australian Open has been especially amazing. In fact his semi-final placement this year was his best; he was eliminated by another relatively unsung player in the quarters in 2007, in the shape of one Fernando Gonzalez (remember him? No? OK). In that match, as with the Tsonga one, Nadal was faced with a very strong player who had been blessed with an insane forehand and he lost to the eventual losing finalist. Before that, his best was fourth round in 2005. So while Nadal owns the clay courts internationally, and came on in leaps and bounds on grass last year, those facts do not necessarily mean he is a lock for every major tournament final. (He was of course eliminated in the fourth round of the U.S. Open late last season.)

In terms of Federer’s performance, the man himself put it best: ‘I've created a monster, so I know I need to always win every tournament’. Of course Federer is the number one-ranked player in the world, and has been for years; that does not necessarily mean he is guaranteed to star in every final of a major tournament. Granted, before this one he had been in ten consecutive Grand Slam finals (I think), so I wonder how many more people expected. The last time he wasn’t in the final of a Grand Slam tournament before this was actually in the 2005 instalment of this very competition, when he lost to Marat Safin, the eventual winner.

What we have established thus far is that, no matter the quality of any given player, that player will at some point lose. If that player has never been beyond a quarter final of a particular tournament, it is not a disappointment when that player is eliminated in the semi-final of said tournament. Similarly, it is not the end of the world for the #1-ranked player to lose a tennis match to the #3; the latter player is ranked so highly for a reason. And when that player is the now-Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, it is less the end of the world than it is simply a soon-to-be great player on his way to greatness.

It was naturally a (pleasant) shock to see Federer taken eighteen games into the fifth set by a player I had heretofore never heard of (Janko Tipsarevic) – Federer fears Serbians! – but when young Tipsarevic has a Dostoyevsky quotation tattooed on an arm I won’t grudge him any achievement. It does ask a question of Federer, one I cannot resist despite my seeming coolness above: is he slipping?

The last time we asked that was in the early goings of the U.S. Open, a tourney he started very slowly. But then he picked up his game and flattened Andy Roddick in an outrageous display of skill on his way to the ostensibly inevitable win. The third round drama he encountered in Melbourne seemed merely a precursor to the problems he would have against Djokovic. And they were his problems: while Nadal was battered off the court by Tsonga, Federer seemed to unravel as he hit ball after ball into the net. This is not to say Djokovic isn’t great; he was great enough to pounce on that display of weakness and take the win.

After those semis, the final seemed almost an anti-climax. It was really good, though, and should be remembered as both a partly amazing match (the first set especially) and also the moment Djokovic’s greatness was given official confirmation. One hopes this is not the end of Tsonga, as I look eagerly forward to his coming season. Indeed, his combination of aggression, Nadal-nemesism and Frenchness would theoretically bode well for Roland Garros this summer.

A quick note to those Murray fans who kept banging on about ‘if Andy beat Tsonga, he could have won the tournament!’: no. No. Seriously. The course of the tournament suggested in no uncertain terms that Tsonga was beyond Murray and their hypothetical is just sad. Also, I doubt Murray would have beaten Gasquet or Youzhny, let alone Nadal, so that’s a lot of wishful thinking.

And finally to the ladies. They always get the short shrift, don’t they? Well I have to admit to really enjoying this tournament, as the Williams sisters and Justine Henin got murked before the final, so anything after that was gravy. Sharapova finally looked like the killer we thought would never materialise (and how nice to have a female tennis pin-up who can actually play, dark days of Kournikova finally banished), the delectable Ana Ivanovic proved once again that she is very, very good… and my girl Makiri didn’t do particularly well. Again.

* Psst!

04 February 2008

Well I guess that was just about the greatest Superbowl of at least the last decade. It made me happier than even watching my beloved Steelers win a couple of years ago. Could it be that I hate the New England Patriots more than I like the Steelers? Perhaps, but then there's so much to hate. And this isn't some kind of buzzkill hatred about the Pats' amazing season: if any other team had their results, even with the same players, I would welcome them with open arms and call them my brothers. No, a team one dislikes, performing excellently makes for a despised team, and so it is here.

I stared hating on the Pats in the 2000 season. Back then, a few friends and I would pick an AFC and NFC team to root for during the season, to make things a little more interesting. While a Steelers fan, I picked the Oakland Raiders for my AFC team and the St. Louis Rams for the NFC (it's just a coincidence that they are both former Los Angeles teams). Anybody familiar with that season will be aware of the source of my chagrin. Those teams, and my Steelers, did very well during regular season, and I won the contest with my friends quite easily. However, the stupid Pats beat the Raiders in the playoffs, and clinched the AFC championship in a match with the Steelers when Kordell Stewart passed to someone on the wrong team in the dying minutes. I hated that. Then the Pats beat the Rams in the Superbowl to add insult to injury. When you factor in stuff like the post-Sept. 11 'we're America's team (fuck yeah)' business and their killing off of the awesome Superbowl run-out, wherein every player gets introduced ('let's run out as a team instead. Yeah, solidarity!'), we have a pretty decent case for the prosecution.

So that was the start of the Pats being a great team. And that was a trend that was never more blatant than this season just ended. For those unaware, they went unbeaten through regular season. I don't know what was more scary: the fact that they started off hammering teams by scoring 40+ points on them, or the games they nearly lost but made insane comebacks to win. Let's face it, both patterns made them look pretty unbeatable. The only team historically that has gone through a season undefeated (since the birth of the modern NFL, in 1970) was the 1972 Miami Dolphins and, as much as I dislike the 'Fins, I'd have hated the Pats being elevated to that level.

Playoffs came and went, and possible threats to the Pats' seeming destiny - like the Indiannapolis Colts, or Brett Favre and his Merry Band of Green Bay Packers, though the Pats beat the Colts during the season anyway - fell by the wayside. My friends and I all became very sad, as the Giants weren't a fantastic team. Long story short (anybody still reading this drivel will already know what happened in the Superbowl), the Giants managed to win a very tight game 17-14 at the very end of a ridiculously exciting fourth quarter and the household I was watching in went completely bonkers at about 3A.M. Just wanted to mention that, really.

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