"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).

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