30 April 2009


I've been playing around with Spotify this week. Download the program and you can stream a staggering amount of music for free. And it's completely legal. Some thoughts for the curious... 

ADVERTS: So you have to pay £9.99 a month to go Ad-free, which seems a bit steep to me. I'm happy with the free version for now. The ads aren't any more or less intrusive/irritating than what you'd hear on most independent/pirate radio stations. Typically, listening to a full album will only be interupted once by a couple of ads somewhere in the middle. The 99p 'day pass' option could be useful if, say, you were throwing a party and wanted to prepare some suitable playlists. Hook the laptop up to an amplifier/speaker set-up for instant, ad-free soundtrack to your swanky dinner party. Guests can have fun picking tracks without getting their grubby little mitts on your beloved vinyl/CD collection.

CHOICE: Considering it's still at Beta stage, the choice of music is enormous. Obviously, if you're specifically looking for niche/marginal genres, you'll be very disappointed. Dubstep is only really represented by the Soul Jazz 'Box Of Dub' compilations and a few other bits here and there (my in-progress dubstep playlist here). Post-punk electronica is quite well represented due to involvement of Mute/Grey Area (a nice playlist I built here). Recent releases by Warp acts like Autechre, Squarepusher and Clark are available, but generally there's a lot of work to be done before electronica reaches an acceptable level of representation. Where Spotify excels is, naturally, the pop/rock area. Some big names like The Beatles and Pink Floyd aren't involved yet, whilst Elvis and the Stones are. Some 'classic' Left-field artists like Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and Soft Machine are comprehensively covered, and krautrockers like Can, Faust and Neu! are also well-represented. Yet I can't find anything by Scandinavian Dutch prog-rockers Focus yet. No doubt these anomalies will continue for some time. Afterall, there's an awful lot of music out there to collate, publishers to negotiate with, etc.

FUNCTIONALITY: Searching the site is pretty straightforward and especially helpful if you're not quite sure what you're trying to find. Type the word 'Donk' and you'll be quickly directed to Blackout Crew's "Put A Donk On It", type 'Sigor Ross' and you'll be asked if you mean 'Sigur Ros', etc. The ability to create playlists is useful and fun, though I think it would also be nice if there was a facility to build your own virtual 'collection' of favourite artists/albums, organised by genre/year or whatever. Perhaps that'll come later. Being able to share/modify your playlists with other users is useful too and could lead to fruitful collaborative efforts. Those who still prefer to buy their music elsewhere may still find Spotify a useful tool for previewing material and researching artist's catalogues. The speed of delivery is superb - the stream kicks-in almost instantaneously when you make a selection (it's as quick as playing mp3s on your media player) and I've had no system crashes yet. 

ETHICS: Look, it's legal, okay? So everyone gets paid, right? And I don't need you giving me a fucking guilt trip cos it's not a 'real' format. I still love and maintain a hard-format collection and I think I'll always enjoy the act of searching for and acquiring vinyl records, though I rarely buy CDs these days. A big part of my motivation is tracking down music that hasn't been absorbed by digital formats - those forgotten remnants and curios of the 20th century that only exist in the analogue world. Plus vinyl is a joy to handle and drool over, you can smell it, and of course it sounds great providing you look after it, but there's the problem: the burden of ownership means you have to protect your investments. I've got some lovely, collectible records that I never play cos I'm too scared of ruining their condition. Sometimes I pull them out of the stack and have a good oggle at them, but then put them back unplayed. Sometimes I feel weighed-down by the responsibility of maintaining this wall of 12" cardboard and plastic that I've put all my adult life into ("my possessions - will the howling never end?!"). Sometimes I almost wish I owned nothing. And with Spotify you really don't own anything. You don't even have to worry about how much space your MP3s are taking up on the hard drive - the burden of ownership, maintenance and storage has been passed on. Yes, Spotify reduces music to a souless stream of zeros and ones, and renders proper sleeve art useless, but it sure takes a lot of the worry out of my listening experience. Inevitably, this is the way most passive music consumers will access sound in future; there will no longer be individual character-defining collections, just one gigantic all-encompassing stream; especially when it becomes possible to access this kind of service from mobile phones, in-car systems, etc. Only producers and djs will need more 'malleable' media. For the rest of us, resistance will constitute little more than an alternative, 'eccentric' lifestyle choice.

27 April 2009


Just spotted this on Facebook...

REWIND! The Tribute To Neil Kymatik

Room One : Dubstep

Mary Anne Hobbs
Search and Destroy
Rossi B

Room Two: Trisect : D&B


Room Three : Bristol Crew! : Eclectic


£5 adv + b/f - tickets will be available from Bristol Ticket Shop

For those who knew Neil Kymatik, he was a very special person. In honour of this legend, we are throwing a massive rave as a tribute to him.

We have booked Lakota for one huge party in his honour - and the date is:


We will be going all-out to make this the best party we can provide, as a testament to the man who's passion and enthusiasm touched so many lives. A legendary rave for a true legend.

All proceeds from the event will go to charity.

Needless to say, Neil loved his music - so we will be putting together an incredible line-up of quality sounds for this. The line-up will be announced soon and it is BIG!

However, we do need a lot more than just the music!

We want this to be the most magical evening possible, and to do that we need all the bits and bobs that make a rave like this go that extra mile.

So, we're looking for VJs, Decor, Rigs, Lighting, Fire Spinners, Magicians, Face Painters and so on - anybody who feels they can add a special element to this party. As this is for charity, we would be asking you to donate your services for free.

We are also looking for as many people as possible to help with the promotion of this. We want as many people as possible in attendance to rave it up in honour of Neil - so it's vital we have a team dedicated to helping us get the word out!

If you think you can help us in any way with the party, then please get in touch - either by messaging me on here, or contacting me at: info@byte-club.co.uk

Above all though we want you all to come and party! Tell your friends, spread the word, and come down to call for the Rewind!


I notice there's also a thread on the Hijack forum that's become a place for people to pay tribute to Neil, and some of Neil's mixes have been gathered together here

23 April 2009


Make sure to lock-on to Resonance FM this Saturday (25th April) at 9:30pm when Data 70 (aka Bob Bhamra and John Chambers) will be guests on Johnny Mugwump's show, chatting and playing some exclusive music from their exquisite forthcoming release 'Space Loops Vol.3'.

20 April 2009


"Readers who find themselves daunted by the unfamiliar narrative structure - far simpler than it seems at first - might try a different approach. Rather than start at the beginning of each chapter, as in a conventional novel, simply turn the pages until a paragraph catches your eye. If the ideas or images seem interesting, scan the nearby paragraphs for anything that resonates in an intriguing way. Fairly soon, I hope, the fog will clear, and the underlying narrative will reveal itself. In effect, you will be reading the book in the way it was written."

J.G. Ballard, 2001

So I dug out my copy of The Atrocity Exhibition (revised Flamingo edition, 2001). As a personal tribute to the man, I'm gonna have another go at it. Hoping that my hypersensitized nervous system, fortified on a steady diet of Twitter-stimuli, will be able to cope with the intellectual demands of non-linear narrative this time. Afterall, the above note by Ballard describes almost exactly the way I read Twitter updates.

19 April 2009


...of my Farfisa Rhythm 10. This was the sort of technology required to spit out a basic tango riddim back in the '70s. You could actually make it play two different riddims at once, thus creating variables by combining say, 'Slow Rock' with 'Bossa Nova'. Then send the output through an echo and a VCF and things start to get interesting. That's how groups like Cabaret Voltaire started out, anyway. You ever heard that brutal hissy thud that propels the Cabs' cover of "Here She Comes Now"? That's a Rhythm 10 in action.

The problem with my machine isn't with the circuits, its with the power supply, which is knackered. I managed to briefly revive it a few years back by experimentally poking around with exposed 9v wires. Took me a while to make the right connection, but then there was a crackle, a spark and then a clunky cha-cha riddim kicked into life and thundered out of the amplifier. I managed to record a few things before it died again. Actually there's quite a few examples of this baby in action in my tape archive. If I thought for one minute that anyone out there gave half a shit I'd upload a couple of bits. But I don't, so I wont.

Still, I keep thinking it would probably be a fairly simple job to build a new power supply and get this beast back into active service. Not by me, though. I can't build or solder electronics for shit. But maybe if I can find somebody local with the necessary skillz...


In other news: RIP J.G.Ballard. I read a few of his books. I liked most of them. Especially High Rise. Though if I'm honest I found The Atrocity Exhibition a bit hard-going.

Of course, I first heard the sad news via BBC News' Twitter update. Then I started wondering what would be a respectful period of time to leave it before 'unfollowing' JG_Ballard on Twitter, because, somewhat naively, I assumed that it was actually the great man himself. I mean, why not? There's bloody loads of (semi)famous people twittering like maniacs now, and I could almost imagine Ballard getting a kick out of Twitter. But then JG_Ballard sent an RIP tweet to himself, which kinda gave the game away.


I love Twitter, for nearly all the same reasons that Doppelganger doesn't. But then, if I love the 'dissected consciousness' of it so much, then why don't I like The Atrocity Exhibition? Hmm...maybe I need to re-read it. Maybe it'll make more sense now, along with Naked Lunch. I mean, I always liked the idea of the 'cut-up' technique, but it only really worked for me when applied to audio (as with Cabaret Voltaire's Burroughs-inspired sonic collages). When I'm reading a book, I generally get on better with a clear narrative, which is why I enjoyed reading something like Junkie more than Naked Lunch. But with Twitter it's like this live cut-up happening in real time - a non-hierarchical stream of info where 'important' events like Ballard's death rub shoulders with ludicrously mundane facts, like jrowett burning his lunch earlier today. I'm trying to get all my mates to get on board cos I think it's the best form of social networking I've seen so far. But a lot of people just don't seem to 'get it'. Or they're too busy piddling about with all their wanky Facebook apps. Or, maybe, they've got a 'real' life.

18 April 2009


Pre-programmed for your listening pleasure. Found these pics in a folder on my hard drive. Can't remember where I stole them from.

(I once owned one of these)

( I still do own one of these, unfortunately it's broken)

15 April 2009


Neil Kymatik at Noir 2006
photos by Jack Rampling

Just spotted the tragic news over at Headhunter's blog. I don't really know what else to add. I wouldn't say me and Neil were ever 'close', but if you type 'Kymatik' into this blog's search box you'll see that he was a regular face on the Bristol dubstep scene that I tried to document here, and someone I enjoyed many conversations with and dj sets by during that great clubbing adventure. My deepest sympathies go out to all Neil's family and friends. Rest in peace, mate.