"Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time. You do, almost always, in company. No encounter with yourself can be altogether sterile: Something necessarily emerges, even if only the hope of some day meeting yourself again." (E.M. Cioran)

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 In Review

I'll try to be as brief as I can here - reflecting on the events of 2010 that have stood out in my world. Besides the health challenges, job loss and tragedies, musically-speaking it has been a year of refining the processes of my own music-making, in terms of learning valuable new techniques and of gleaning inspiration from others working in similar fields. I'll start by discussing some of the international acts I have had the good fortune to see/hear in Sydney and my favourite releases.

Shackleton LIVE @ The Civic Underground March 13 To appreciate Shackleton's music, it is useful to leave any idea of genre behind. With clearly established links to what is now called 'dubstep', his sound is so much broader and experimental than this. Landscapes that seem to be built up out of disassociated motifs of global cultures, pushing out of between-station radio static, weaving around lush and complex percussion and bass in a deep and satisfyingly rich sound sculpture. You can forget yourself while dancing to Shackleton's wonderful and unique music.

Derrick May @ 202 Broadway April 18 The only time I've been to this venue, an ex-Bank, upstairs was airy - with comfortable seating and air con, a big, round bar and local DJs (who were all very good, though I'm afraid I don't recall their names). However, downstairs in the old bank vault may have seemed like a cute idea for main acts, but it was stifling and uncomfortable - a typical problem in Sydney venues. I had to keep reminding myself of May's 'legendary' status, because the music he played was very 'party oriented' and funky - well, for my taste anyway. Watching him work the turntables was interesting though, because it seemed so effortless - his movements were almost like natural extensions of his arms! However, as an end-of-summer party, the crowd seemed very happy with the night's offerings.

Scuba @ The Civic Underground July 23 Scuba's set was not Live and, after turning up and realising he was DJ'ing, I rather wished I'd opted for Deadbeat up at Phoenix Bar instead. I felt this was a fairly lacklustre gig and, apart from a few highlights early on - for example, the crowd reacted very positively when he played Mt Kimbie's 'Maybes' remix, a fairly by-the-book affair.

Surgeon @ The Forum October 23 Had been really looking forward to this one, but it turned out to be rather so-so. Surgeon's DJ set was 3 hours long (with only one toilet break!) and reflected his Fabric #53 release. In fact, he has made the set available for download on his own blog
Underneath the tracklist, there is a link to the music.
This was a powerful set - if somewhat relentless - but The Forum is not a favoured venue. Having nowhere to sit comfortably is just annoying - as was the use of strobe lights facing the audience and continuing for much of the performance. Kind of tacky.

Pantha Du Prince LIVE @ The Civic Underground December 18 Although I love PDP's 2010 release, 'Black Noise', I hadn't held it in particularly high regard due to the fact that, after blowing me away in 2007 with his idiosyncratic and hauntingly beautiful 'This Bliss', it seemed like he was still working over familiar ground. However, he really did deliver with this performance. It was perfectly balanced and beautiful from beginning to end and I loved the effect it had on the audience. Rather than the usual yells of approval when the comfort of the kick drum comes back in, Pantha Du Prince, with his wonderfully nuanced, emotionally-charged music, educated as he went and the effect was harmonious. Lovely crowd, beautiful music. What more can you ask for?

There were a few other things, but ....
As far as music purchases this year, it has been a year of buying more vinyl than cds. Wonderful releases from labels Sandwell District, Semantica Records and Blackest Ever Black; Donato Dozzy's 'K' on Further Records; O/V/R, Regis, Dasha Rush's 'Unspoken', RSB's 'Reality Or Nothing' (CH Signal/Function/Silent Servant remixes) and much more. There were some digital downloads - most particularly the Monad series from Stroboscopic Artefacts. Yes, cds were definitely focused on less this year, however some standouts - again, my taste only - are Shed's 'The Traveller', 'Dettmann' (under-acknowledged by critics, I think), Peter van Hoesen's 'Entropic City', Shackleton's Fabric #55 mix and Senking's 'Pong' on Raster-Noton - again, amongst much more. 'Pong' is an especially treasured release this year. The guys at mnml ssgs posted a mix on December 9 by Senking that is based around the album and it's still there to download! And here's a clip of their (totally killer!) track 'V8' from that very album (as also shown on the ssgs site).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

RIP Ziggy (1996 to 2010)

Today is a very sad day. Ziggy, my partner's beloved cat, was put to sleep. After 'the injection', we both had to try to calm ourselves, so sat in the park across the road and just wept. In a mere five weeks, she had transformed from beautiful, healthy, happy and playful to a shadow of herself - almost bald and unable to walk without difficulty - suffering something mysterious (and progressively painful) that we had tried to get to the bottom of as soon as we noticed a few patches of fur missing. Three vets were not able to diagnose anything - instead assuming an allergy or infection due to fleas, which they treated her for, despite the fact that she is routinely treated for fleas. Yesterday, we left her with the vet so that an apparently "more senior and experienced" vet could look at her later on in the day. After his examination, he phoned in the news - an aggressive cancer in her pancreas and liver. So we prepared ourselves last night and made the gloomy trip back to the vet today. She screamed so bad when they were lifting her and giving her a sedative, but she purred gently as we stroked her head carefully and spoke our 'kitty-speak' goodbyes to her.
This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago when she was still able to enjoy my partner's backyard. She appeared to enjoy sitting under my sun umbrella.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Reflections on 2010

The end of another year and - in my world, at least - a crazy one. Let's see. Strange illnesses for both myself and my partner that, over the course of the year and with numerous visits to various doctors and specialists, still only received partial diagnoses. A mysterious one for the cat now too. She has been losing her fur rapidly over the last five weeks and, so far, three vets and (several hundred dollars) have failed to give any satisfactory diagnosis, other than guesswork. We're waiting to see if antibiotics help but, in the meantime, she's looking like the zombie cat from hell and is acting fairly dejected, despite having a normal appetite. Oh, and yes. My job (of 10 years and 2 months) was "migrated" to Malaysia. 2 months of unemployment so far and, with savings already being dipped into, it's looking as if Xmas will be a relatively lean affair. Such is life, I guess.

And with the world? Australia went to the polls in August and we received a hung federal parliament, with the incumbent Labour party returning by a mere nudge - through the backing of key independents. Voters no longer seem to understand the differences between parties and what they stand for. People protest vote. They vote against parties and not for anyone. A general indifference pervades, as well as an alarming adherence to the sound bite-style opinions espoused by the tabloid media. Does anyone actually read any more? Somehow, I'm feeling vulnerable and more than a little unnerved about what might prevail in the future. A new totalitarianism? Shudder....
While I have never believed that the internet would necessarily make us all dumber, the way we receive information these days is very fragmented and it's more of a challenge to get to the truth. The question worth asking here is: Are we bothering?