29 June 2008

The Longest Day


Some wet grass, yesterday.

As the years begin to pass like hours, the little things make all the difference. The summer, that season once spent running around the streets and parks of a nineteen-eighties Leeds suburb, no need for the bodywarmer with the ‘BMX’ patch stitched onto one side, in which any given day was but a drop in a limitless horizon, has now essentially been distilled to a single day.

Much as the winter is defined by that ultimate headache of New Year’s Eve, the invariably disappointing peer-pressure-cooker, I now consider the summer essentially over once the days pass that June 21st apex and begin their inevitable slide from blazing heyday toward the grey land of compromised mediocrity.*

I associate with certain individuals who feel positive affect for the autumn and winter months; they are people who actively enjoy wearing clothes and as a result are not to be trusted. The winter is a dread time during which daylight is smothered under the leaden cowl of vespertine hoarfrost, when steam issues forth from the fresh stab-wound you suffered while cutting through the park that had embraced you with rolling, albeit litter-strewn, verdure just a few short months prior.

Winter and its months of increasing cold are a psychic prison writ on the landscape: rather than revel, the best one can hope for is to make do, under the circumstances, and other very British turns of phrase. I’m torn as to whether I loathe the cold or darkness more. The dark does have a certain allure, I must admit, with its anything-goes connotation and whatnot. Sadly, the context of modern day England means ‘anything’=’puke’ and ‘goes’=’being pressed against people with appalling taste in music in a terrible bar because the good places are so full they’re turning people away’.

There is the compensation of feeling a level of snug comfort not attainable at any other time, peering through frosted window onto a vista almost beautifully still, but that falls within the aforementioned genre of ‘under the circumstances’.

I digress. Back in April, when I last saw Boris, I mentioned to an associate that we were but two months away from the days making that despairing retreat into shadows. It’s indubitable that as one grows older, the years seem shorter; in these terms they are reduced to an uncomfortable degree. Rather than sit about and complain about inexorable annual developments, I resolved to make the most of this years Midsummer.

Sadly that was not to be. As has become the fashion of the last brace of summers, the promised scale of daylight was compromised by the fact of the massed cloud plunging the day into murk. Fanciful ideas of relaxing on a field and taking it all in were extinguished by the diaphanous veil of rain that had made its home over Leeds.

A couple of companions and I drove out to Roundhay Park, a microcosmic idyll on the leafy north eastern rim of the city I visit all too rarely. In the knowledge that the park itself was out of bounds, lest we be reduced to wallowing in the mud like a set of maniacs, we paid a visit to an old haunt, the fabulous Harpo’s Pizza, whose move out of Headingley has left a void of quality.

So it was with Harpo’s meat feast (oo-er) pizza in hand that we retreated to the car under the bombardment of precipitation and sat facing the aforementioned park. Radio 2 was on the stereo and it dawned on me that Suzi Quatro is not far off being the female equivalent of Bob Dylan in the awesome DJ stakes. What her play-list lacked in variety was ably compensated by Quatro’s knowledge and enthusiasm for what she was playing. It’s no Theme Time Radio Hour, but what is?

After all my banging on about the negativity of the British summer, this particular case of making-do was very enjoyable. I’m fond of a nice bit of rain, and as it fell over the pretty lush Roundhay Park, I regretted the absence of a camera to capture the exterior surrounding the tranquillity felt in my humours. The rainy day is actually my favourite type; resentment only really boils over when it takes the place of sun for too long, or doesn’t fall in sufficient concentration.

While the day’s light wasn’t quite as strong as I had hoped, it turned out well enough. Edified and nourished, I was able to watch the dying of the light, with little in the way of rage, from a comfortable window seat in the wholesome Roundhay Fox. Sometimes making do isn’t so painful.

Tipsarevic Watch: Rooting is paying off, as the mighty Tipsarevic has slain Andy Roddick and Dmitri Tursunov in quick succession. Excellent.

* Not that the British summer can be characterised as anything other than grey mediocrity for the most part.

25 June 2008

I Wish I Was Unemployed, part one

So I missed this one due to being at work. I caught the score at lunch and Safin had won the first set. I had a gut feeling he might end up taking the match eventually, but that could just as easily have been the sausage sandwich I had just eaten. Anyway, so much for my excited squealing that Novak Djokovic was going to be the (a) man to fear this Wimbo, on his favourite surface.

To be honest I've been pretty much no-selling week one of Wimbledon, as I do week one of most grand slam events. It's a combination of not too much being on the line at this stage and a massive surfeit of matches going on; I tend to get obsessive about things like this, so when there are a million matches on at once I start to sweat. And it saddens me to announce that David Nalbandian's current streak of being completely rubbish continued unabated the other day. Out in the first round to Frank Dancevic in straight sets. And he doesn't even have his own tag on this blog. Tragic.

Still, Baghdatis is still in there, repping the early 2000s scene. He used to have a right girlfriend.

Tipsarevic Watch: Still in! He beat Thierry Ascione in straight sets (as well he should), and is still in the men's doubles. One round down!

Makiri Watch: Out in the first round? In straight sets?! That makes me sad.

22 June 2008

UFC 84

My memory is so bad. Without the crutch of alcohol on which to blame this sad state of affairs, I shall pick that other easy mark: the ageing process. Yes, as I hurtle inexorably to that dread milestone we call ‘thirty’, my memory has degenerated from a taut rock of reliability to a soft, sagging mess. Most of what pass for memories at this stage are most likely unintentional fictions, though as long as I cannot remember that fact I should be quite fine. I’ll avoid cognitive dissonance that way.

One of many things I cannot remember is much of what happened at UFC 84, a show blighted by as unfortunate a title as ‘Ill Will’. Not that this is the first time an observer has dissed the nomenclatural disability from which the powers at Zuffa blatantly suffer, but it does provoke me to consider how future instalments of Men In Cages will be named. ‘Mildly Vexed’, perhaps. Or maybe ‘Surprisingly Irked’. And, given that the titles are supposed to set each episode apart from its neighbour, why is the titular implication of dislike so notable? I fail to recall a ‘UFC: Bezzie Mates’, though admittedly that could be my memory failing once again.

Another man feeling the ravages of Chronos, although in more physical a manner, is one Wanderlei Silva. Once the most feared man fighting at two hundred and five pounds, he went through an unfortunate period of fighting men who were neither Japanese nor smaller than he. So he stalemated against Ricardo Arona, got knocked out in succession by Mirko Filipovic and Dan Henderson, and lost an exciting bout a few months ago to Chuck ‘Also Feeling Rather Tired’ Liddell.

Well, what is now about a million weeks ago, he fought the man who topped Liddell not so long ago, one Keith Jardine. I’m so lame that there has been a show after this one, but I didn’t see it so who cares.* by rights, Silva should have walked away with this one. As far as I’m concerned, fighting should be about how skilled, tough and scary you are. While that used to be the case, the advent of very proficient MMA coaches has meant underwhelming jacks-of-all-trades such as Tim Sylvia and the aforementioned Jardine have proven frustratingly effective.

Sylvia is a lunk who happens to be six feet and eight inches tall. While lacking any natural attributes other than that, his awesome trainer Pat Miletich has forced him into being a very good fighter. He lumbers across the Octagon, struggles to kick men many inches shorter than him in the head, but manages to survive against tenacious grapplers such as Jeff Monson on the mat.

Jardine is another. Cursed with the worst nickname ever (‘the Dean of Mean’ is hideous), he is just good enough to stay out of trouble and deliver a lot of leg kicks. Should he get excited and actually try to brawl, he is extinguished, as we saw in his fight with the really rather average Houston Alexander. Sometimes he hits pay dirt, either by timing well against Forrest Griffin or being cagey enough to not get knocked out by Liddell while staying sufficiently active to get the nod.

It is rather an annoying efficiency, one that lacks any kind of flair, invention or innate skill. Death by rote learning. It’s also precisely the kind of thing that can catch out a fighter who is guided almost entirely by instinct and primary discipline, in this case Silva and the Chuteboxe style of a very street-based Muay Thai. Like I said, by rights, the fight should go to the fiercest fighter, who fights with a ferocity borne of honed instinct, rather than being instructed like a tattooed automaton. The winner of a fight like this should be the one with a nickname like ‘The Ax(e) Murderer’, rather than cute rhyming wordplay.

So it came as great relief after a series of UFC disappointments (Mirko Filipovic, Mauricio Rua etc) to see Silva temper his initial attack with a strategy heretofore underemployed by him known as ‘timing’. He picked his spot, flustered Jardine with a great punch down the pipe and – because Keith doesn’t respond well to being dragged into a brawl – was able to finish it with a bit of ground and pound. I bet he’s still annoyed at being unable to stamp on peoples heads like he did in Japan, but the path to decency is one strewn with many victims. The stamp to the head was always a tad too visceral a sight for my delicate tastes anyway.

While Silva back in the win column I should be heartened, but I’m not really. Despite his two wins over current 205lb champ Quinton Jackson, the differently successful paths the two have taken since then do not fill me with optimism for the man from Curitiba. Likewise, I see fighters like Forrest Griffin and Lyoto Machida being just too organised for him. They also enjoy the advantage of having taken infinitely less blows to the head than Silva.

Machida also fought on this show, against the increasingly Lucanesque Tito Ortiz, a man whose abnormally large head is necessary to contain his equally inflated sense of self worth. Who knew self worth was a tangible feature?

I digress. Machida employed his usual stealth tactic to great success in this one, serving to fluster both opponent (as he did Sokoudjou and David Heath) and blood-baying audience. While he did rather little in the first five minutes, his approach meant Ortiz was able to do literally nothing, thereby winning Lyoto the round.

Machida gets accused of running away from his opponents, which is really not the case. Kalib Starnes ran away from Nate Quarry and rightly lost as a result. Machida, instead, backs away while throwing the odd annoyingly effective shot. Late into the second round, Ortiz managed a takedown and it comes as sobering context that what was traditionally his bread and butter is now viewed as a personal victory; he managed a takedown after nearly nine minutes of the fight. And even that was only effective when he pulled guard rather than his usual double-leg-into-top position.

The biggest comedy came at the end of the second, when Tito shrugged at Machida in jockish fashion, only to be met with a one-two to the mush. This raised Ortiz’s ire and, after attempting to goad the Japanese-Brazilian, he ended up giving chase in a state of vexation. Props to Ortiz do come in the form of his sweet triangle choke, which seemed close to snatching the win for him. The choke seemed solidly executed with more than half a minute remaining in the last round, but Machida was able to extricate himself. By doing so, and lasting til the final bell, victory for Lyoto was assured.

One last thing to mention is the main event and, to me, the most important lightweight match in the spotty history of American MMA. In it, interim champion B.J. Penn sought to win the actual title from disgraced steroid user Sean Sherk. Morality pretext aside (invoking morals is unwise when it comes to the Hawaiian one-time bar brawler), the real theme of the fight was of Sherk’s tendency to bore and Penn representing the best (if not only) chance for fans of the sport to avoid a true reign of terror with Sherk at the throne.

My thinking prior to the fight had involved the fight being decided on the ground: either Sherk would get takedowns early and often, attempting to lay his way to victory by stifling the varied offence of Penn, or else Penn would out-box his quarry for a while before going for his effective rear choke.

As I often say about MMA, the more I learn, the more I realise I do not know. Such was the case here as the pair decided to kickbox, possibly out of respect for the ground game of the other. Whatever the motivation, this strategy meant the fight was Penn’s to lose, to almost a disappointingly easy degree.

After three (of the allotted five) rounds, Penn decided he and Sherk had danced for long enough, opting to throw a delightful flying knee to the HGH-enlarged head of Sherk, dropping him like a sack of Nandrolone. A brief segment of pummelling, and the round, were ended by the bell. From here, the fight took a turn for the surreal.

While ordinarily a fighter would be given the minute to recuperate before the next round, Penn himself decided he had won the fight. This led the commentators to decide he had won the fight. Somewhere down the line it became official that the fight was indeed over, at the behest of B.J. Penn. Sherk, for his part seemed not to object.

I should be happy that the Sherk Threat was avoided, but there lingers within me a sense of disappointment at the inherently inchoate nature of the fight. Perhaps there will be a rematch (I avoid newz sites, so do not know), though knowing my luck Sherk would win that one.

Bloody hell, there’s another show in a couple of weeks…




* All we really need to know is that Matt Hughes got stopped early in the second, which is always good, and Mike Bisping continued his run of annoying American people. They seem to think that his inevitable loss to Anderson Silva will equate to some meting out of karmic justice, despite the fact that Silva does a number on everyone he fights, whether they are gobby northern Brits or not. In fact, given that Bisping actually has some kickboxing skills unlike, say, Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson or Nate Marquardt, he may not actually fare too badly.

15 June 2008

*

I may as well rename this blog to something more tennis-oriented if this carries on. How about throughsilver in lob? Anyway, today ended the Artois championship at Queen's Club in London. The traditional week-long warm-up for most budding Wimbledon competitors, Queen's usually features a mix of potential challengers for the top spot at the nearing grass court Grand Slam event (though never the man who usually ends up with the aforementioned spot, Roger Federer).

In a way it's slightly tragic, as the spoils of this event had been divided equally between perennial Wimbledon bridesmaids Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick for the last forty-three years or so (okay, since 2000). Granted, Hewitt won the last Wimbledon before the onset of the Federer Regime, but since then both Hewitt and Roddick have looked terribly mortal at SW19. So the Artois was something of a comfort blanket for them, a shelter in which they could hide and pretend they are the kings of grass while Roger is plugging away in Germany and similar.

This has especially been the case in the last couple of years, when a new brace of pretenders-to-the-throne have established themselves, yawning ever wider that chasm between RoddItt and the absolute peak of professional tennis. First came Rafael Nadal, that hyper-aggressive dynamo, once a clay specialist, but now so much more; the last twelve months has seen the rise (two GS semi finals, one final, and one title) of the even younger Novak Djokovic. The Spaniard and Serb are both sufficiently excellent, and fit, that the fancy of winning another major has moved so far out of reach for Andy and Lleyton that they must surely envy poor, soggy, old Tantalus at this stage.

Still, they have had Artois and its $800,000 prize money as consolation. Until now! Yes, in a succession of events that display a changing of the guard as brutally as possible, this week saw Hewitt discarded by Djokovic 6-2 6-2 in the quarter finals, while Roddick made it to the semis before taking his leave in straight sets at the hands of Nadal (albeit in slightly more optimistic 7-5 6-4 fashion).

If those results suggest to you that there is nowhere left for the old guard (how ageing is it that this 'old guard' is currently 25 (Roddick) and 27 (Hewitt)) to run, spare a thought for David Nalbandian. Historically close to greatness without ever achieving it, the Argentine player pours hot and cold. He's made a Wimbledon final in the past, as well as semis in the three other majors, but he is currently further from the pace than his usurped peers. The fourth Artois 2008 semi finalist (and fourth seed as I recall), he managed to beg one game from Djokovic before finding himself in a heap outside Queen's Club with head spinning, wondering what exactly happened in that final, love, set.

I digress. The final occurred this afternoon, and a fine example of the sport we call tennis it was too. The initial quarter of a set suggested it would be all-Djokovic as the 21-year-old Serb continued his game-winning streak from the Sacking of Nalbandian, breaking Nadal in going 3-0 up. Given how Novak has said in the past that grass is his favourite surface, and how insanely quickly he is improving, I feared this would be a rout in the fashion of Djokovic's semi final match.

Perhaps the Mallorcan southpaw thought the same thing. After throwing away a break point in the opening game of the match, Nadal quickly brought the match back to 3-3. After a set of pretty spectacular tennis, which Djokovic largely looked closer to winning, Nadal stole the honours in a dramatic tie breaker.

On a high, Nadal took control of the second (Artois is best-of-three sets, for those who don't know) set early on. Both men were playing absolutely insane shots, and the narrative was really of Djokovic using his athleticism and shot-play to get the ball in excellent places on the court, only to look on in disbelief as it returned to his half of the playing area.

Despite Nadal stating in a pre-match interview that he would be happy with the status of losing finalist, both men were desperate for that win, knowing that a loss meant one more obstacle in addition to Federer come June 23rd. As a result, we got to see the rather scarily competitive Djokovic at work (including screams when he missed certain shots, violent introductions of the racket to the lush grass and the kind of fist pumping that was imbued with a meaning absent from every Henman celebration ever). He verges on the psychotic, that man, but he does come as a welcome contrast to both the stoical Federer and super-physical Nadal.

Key moments came in the form of unintentional splits from Novak, a diving shot that almost hit the spot from Rafael, not to mention no small amount of break points. While Nadal hadn't been leading the match until the tie breaker, he had the lion's share of break points, which Djokovic defended admirably.

In a surprisingly draining two sets, though, Nadal emerged victorious with a suitably dramatic smash to take the second set 7-5.

So what does this mean for Wimbledon? Who knows, really. The second- and third-ranked players in the world certainly look like the top two this year, with Federer receiving hidings both in Australia and France and generally looking eminently beatable. But now more than ever am I convinced the Swiss five-time Wimbledon champion will want to send a message to all who would challenge his throne.

For all his relative frailty, the last twelve months have seen him win two majors and reach the semi-final and final of the remaining two. Not to mention the small matter of not losing a tennis match at SW19 since Elvis was at number one in the charts. While I had viewed Djokovic as practical favourite before today, Federer really does remain the man to beat on grass. As great as they have been thus far this year, Nadal and Djokovic will be squabbling for #2 seed in my Wimbledon listings.

I'm official, don't you know.

Tipsarevic Watch: I think I was correct to keep believing in everyone's favourite Dostoyevsky tattoo bearer. He made it to the third round of this years Artois before falling to eventual finalist, and compatriot, Djokovic. We're rooting for you Janko!

Makiri Watch: And after exhorting Maria Kirilenko to reach greater heights after a so-so period, the plucky Russian today won the WTA Barcelona event. Kudos to you, Makiri!

* I could really have just reused the Roland Garros pic.

08 June 2008


I’m not really sure why I am making this post, considering I watched a woefully small amount of this years Roland Garros tournament. At least I could watch portions of the Australian Open before heading out to work (I even watched the men’s semi finals on the BBC website while actually at work, but don’t tell anybody).

New job, new danger. As I am not currently a temp, it would be really rather cheeky of me to use local government resources to watch tennis so, that situation miring me in yawning malaise, I had not been of the mind to watch any remaining action upon getting home. Rounds came and went as the unfolding events occurred to my obliviousness.

Funnily enough the one player I did see in three separate rounds was Gaël Monfils. Each time, I remarked to myself how pleasant it was to see this mine of potential on my screen; each subsequent appearance was more heartening still. In fact, I was surprised by how well he did perform. While not quite a Jo-Wilfried Tsonga* in terms of unheralded Frenchmen surpassing expectations, his showing against Roger Federer was something to fill him with pride, though not to the extent that he would not want to build wherefrom.

I suppose this brings me to the subject of Federer. His relative underperformance (losing to the eventual winner in the semi final? Boo!) at the Australian Open was variously described as an effect of rushing back to competition too soon after his glandular fever and the initial cracks forming in this sporting Roman Empire.

Considering the (again relative) amount of losses Federer suffered between Grand Slam tournaments, and to how many different characters he lost, perhaps both perspectives bore some level of merit. It seemed that Federer was becoming mortal once more (though this seems to have conveniently been forgotten over the years, despite losses in Grand Slam events to Mario Ancic and Marat Safin, not to mention what is swiftly becoming a Sisyphean struggle against Rafael Nadal).

Fears predictably mounted as Roland Garros, the one major he is yet to win, emerged on the horizon. He apparently fared rather well though, as he dropped a solitary set against each of the solid Fernando Gonzalez and aforementioned Monfils. It was, as you may by now be aware, insufficient preparation against a Nadal – already triple champion at this clay event – who was yet to drop a set.

The stats for Nadal are pretty insane on clay courts: he has never lost at Roland Garros; he once won twenty-seven straight sets (sadly not in one sitting) on clay; his run this year took in the likes of top-15 Nicolas Almagro and world-number-three Novak Djokovic without losing a set; he lost just three games against Fernando Verdasco. He’s pretty scary.

But for all the hoopla preceding Nadal, and his enviable clay record against Federer (8-1, prior to today), there was on paper no better opponent to attempt taking him down a notch. Federer, while losing to Nadal in the finals of the 2007 and 2006 tourneys, and in the semis in 2005, is still the second-best male tennis player on clay currently extant. There was very much the sense that if he couldn’t do it, nobody could.

To paraphrase The Simpsons, then, nobody could. Not only did Nadal best Federer this year, but he did so in straight sets. Not just in straight sets, but while losing only four games (at least Australian Open winner Djokovic had the gall to take the Mallorcan to a tie-break in the third set). Not just losing four games, but he won the last set of the tournament 6-0. Djokovic may have been skilled enough to capitalise on Federer’s many mistakes in February, but it had been a long time indeed since the world’s greatest player was dismissed in such comprehensive fashion.**

So what can we draw from this? As I am rather non-committal, I’d venture ‘not much’. Is this the middle of the beginning of the end for Federer? Considering how insane Nadal was this past fortnight, it’s hard to tell. As I mentioned a paragraph ago, world number three and Great Hope for thee Future, Djokovic, got straight-setted, so it’s not as though anybody else was about to beat Rafa. As with the Aussie Open post-mortem, it seems as though it may be a little from column A and a little from column B.

Djokovic is certainly someone not to be messed with. After winning one Grand Slam title already this year and losing to the eventual champ in the semis at Garros (not to mention already reaching the final of the U.S. Open and the semis at SW19), he would definitely be one to fear when it comes to playing on his favourite surface at Wimbledon***. Who can tell with Monfils. Part of me wants to applaud him for performing admirably against the best player in the world, though maybe he just lost in four sets against a former great on the wane; he lingers for the moment in the Potentially Great Frenchmen file with Tsonga.

There was a women’s tournament, in which Ana Ivanovic prevailed after filling the roe of losing finalist last year. Lucky for her that the 2007 winner Justine Henin had recently retired. Speaking of that little development, I had originally been of the opinion that she feared the resurging Sharapova. As the latter got booted in the fourth round by Dinara Safina, that seems not to have been the case. There is always hope for Wimbledon. I can’t wait for Wimbledon! But before I finish, two things remain:

Tipsarevic Watch: Following his respectably losing performance in that epic with Federer (that becomes less impressive with pretty much ever event Fedz competes in. Or maybe our man Janko just wore him down for everyone else?), it turns out that the plucky young Serb was eliminated in the first round. We still believe in you!

Makiri Watch: Following her rather inauspicious performance agasinst Daniela Hantuchová in February, esteemed Maria Kirilenko was uncharitably ejected from this tournament in the second round. Onwards and upwards for Wimbledon, Makiri!


* I was dismayed to learn that Tsonga had been forced to pull out of the tournament due to knee related ailments; chagrined still on discovery that the subsequent surgery should remove him from the roster of Wimbledon competitors.

** Apparently the losing player in my favourite sporting event ever (formerly known as ‘Pat Rafter’) won a love set over Roger way back in 1999. That’s right, Federer hadn’t been this manhandled this century. Scary business.

*** Rain-soaked paving slabs, then.

01 June 2008

Matmos - Supreme Balloon



Just a quick one, hopefully, to add some momentum following the slow blogging month of May. Matador Records charge a lot to send singles to the UK. Being increasingly fond of modern punk rocker Jay Reatard, I am buying his singles as and when they become available. Matador seems to employ a flat rate for shipping costs when it comes to first item, though, as they stick about $22 on the top. That's rather odd for a $3 single, so I decide to make that $22 mean something by ordering an album to accompany it. While I am a slight rube, it is always an album I intend to buy anyway (last time was the rather underwhelming Times New Viking record), so I figure I'm getting an item shipped for free. Just don't put me in charge of the economy or we're (more) fucked.

As you can see from the second picture, there was some slight damage in transit; such is the danger of sending (two) 180-gram slabs of vinyl hurtling over the ocean like some kind of hipster Frisbee. Level Plane records have a better idea: extricate the record (in sleeve) from the packaging so as to prevent it from doing an Oddjob on the surrounding loveliness. And as evinced above (and below), the loveliness in this particular case is great, emphasising the tragedy of its besmirchment. This is my own personal Rape of the Lock.

For the record, Relapse Records is another baddie when it comes to this gatefold immolation; conversely Robotic Empire is thoughtful and thorough in its packaging methods. Shilling complete; free stuff please.

The music itself is lovely. Matmos apparently mentioned Jean-Jacques Perrey and Terry Riley as influences, and while influence of the towering In Sound From Way Out! is audible, my personal aural memory drew comparison with Boards Of Canada's Hi-Scores E.P., all melody and levity pre-Yawntology and seriousness.

I tend to divide the electronic music I encounter into four categories, easily symbolised by areas of human anatomy: head music, as I'm sure you can gather, is the theory stuff which spans a wide region from concrete through IDM even the earnest young bucks of Dubstep; feet, which is dance music obviously*; heart, which is the rarest of electronic musics, but I'd include Vespertine, a lot of Manual's output, as well some H****ology/Ambient stuff like Porn Sword Tobacco, Hulk et al. The last category is the overtly melodic. Perhaps we can call that small intestine music or something. The early Moog stuff was very melodic, as was a lot of BBC Radiophonic Workshop; I suppose it's rather like early video games, the technological limitations thereof forcing developers to focus on 'pure gameplay' rather than the bells and whistles of today’s full-motion-interactive-movie culture.

Funnily enough, some early electronic music was pretty much just bells and whistles.

I digress. I loved this. Didn't quite get it all listened to - I appear to be saving the twenty-four minute title track for a rainy(er) day - but the three sides before that splashed gently over my ears in a delightful and delighting manner. Beyond the initial gimmick (the sticker on the packaging shouted about 'SYNTHS ONLY! NO MICS OR OWT!', which reminded me of the intentional and baffling self-limitation of the likes of Rage Against The Machine ('ALL MUSIC PERFORMED BY US GUILTY PARTIES IS LITERALLY JUST A BASS GUITAR, A REGLIAR ONE, SOME DRUMS AND A DUDE'S VOICE! ISN'T THAT AMAZING. NO, WE SIGNED TO SONY SO WE COULD BRING THE SYSTEM DOWN FROM THE INSIDE, SERIOUSLY') or Iron Maiden ('NO SYNTHS AT ALL! WE'RE LIKE THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT MATMOS WILL BE 28 YEARS FROM NOW. ERR, UNTIL 1986, WHEN WE'LL BE ALL ABOUT SYNTHS. AND SYNTH GUITARS. SORRY ABOUT THAT ONE; IT'LL SEEM LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME')** the music was delightful.

I’m going to have to start a new paragraph now. That one kinda got out of control, despite asterisking control techniques. It should go without saying that I am no subscriber to any single member of the bodypartronica states, the more regions a particular music can straddle, the better for me. So, while I cited Vespertine as heart music, it also resides within the areas of head and small intestine. Not so much the feet, though. LFO is feet, small intestine and no small amount of head, but not the most heart-based of musics I have heard.

Supreme Balloon’s strength lies in its combination of the four. The old breadth/depth trade-off comes into play here, but the original conceit (and execution thereof, aided ably by the likes of Riley and Jay Lesser) is rather head-ly; the most prominent mode of communication here, due to the inherent nature of synthing it up, is small intestine; this retro-activity combined with lovely melodies brings it into heart territory; finally, the sheer unabashed effervescence of the whole brew*** makes one want to dance about the room in wordless joy at the wordless wonderment emanating from the B&W speaker boxes.

Apologies for the lack of content here, though my publication of this particular literary misadventure suggests my apology is not honest. Just wanted to say this is really good, and to share the nice artwork. And also to mention that some of the songs on the record(s) reminded me of Japanese video game soundtracker Koji Kondo, not just in the well thought out construction of the melodies and arrangements, but due more to the fact that they evoked vividly-coloured, rather abstract vistas in my mind. And that those vistas were more naively edifying than the kind of detached cool Rez-scapes that an Amon Tobin or Venetian Snares might cause to bloom in my mind while my eyes are closed and I lie somewhat serenely on my back.

I like both the innocent Technicolor-with-bold-outlines-on-a-sunny-day and the too-cool-for-me-to-legitimately-actually-be-into motifs, so I win either way. Anyway, this is the innocence. But it’s a simplistic innocence masking an endo-skeleton of wires and brains all attached to each other, which is really good because it means I am likely to get more and more out of it the more I listen to it. Which I plan on doing, so this is an exciting time.

* Post-90s, feet music is a preferred mode of musical communication among the electronic music cognoscenti; after the self-proclaimed Intelligent Dance Music clicked and cut its way into something of a cul de sac, it was once again agreed at the electronic village meeting that feet music was more legitimate due to dancing taking precedence over thinking among the no-mates music dorks (of which I am admittedly one) whose sudden self awareness revolted them. It's the Fear Of Pretension, don't you know. Extending this aside somewhat, I always considered 'it's pretentious' to be the single weakest criticism of art in Christendom. Or Mohammedom, Buddhadom or [insert religious figure here]... As Type O Negative said (or more likely quoted): Functionless art is merely tolerated vandalism... we are the vandals.

** Or A Reminiscent Drive. Remember A Reminiscent Drive? (t)He(y?) were all about the 'SYNTHS ONLY. NO GIRLS ALLOWED' mantra way back in the 90s. Mercy Street: eleven years young!

*** Despite talk of ‘brews’ in relation to body parts should in no way be construed as either tacit or articulated endorsement of cannibalistic behaviour. [/disclaimer]

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