In My Earbuds Lately

Here are some excellent albums I’ve been listening to lately on my trusty smartphone. If you’re into power pop, alternative rock, US folk and psychedelia, then check them out!

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R.U. Sirius Heads New Transhumanist Zine

i-1930d145d94fdde15ffb0ead0e571255-cover_1.jpgi-5e84568ece3a3d19083d77286f7c3100-rusirius.jpgAfter over a year’s near-invisibility on the net, cyberculture guru R.U. Sirius resurfaces as editor of H+ Magazine, a web zine about transhumanism. Explains Wikipedia, transhumanism is a “movement supporting the use of science and technology to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and overcome what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as disability, suffering, disease, aging, and involuntary death”. Shades of R.A. Wilson!

The first issue has loads of interesting content including an interview with hyperclocked science fiction writer Charles Stross. Go check it out!

Genius on the Edge

I worry about of Montreal’s musical motor, pop genius Kevin Barnes. He first got records out in 1997-98, when he was an elegantly naivistic singer of sad love songs. Then he shot like a lysergic rocket straight into Pepperland with four beatlesque albums in 1999-2004. On his 2005 album he suddenly said goodbye to his old band members, returned to confessional mode and sang the praises of married life and parenthood in Norway of all places. And two other new themes appeared: 80s-style electronica and deep depression. That’s where he still is.

With his recent album, Skeletal Lamping, Barnes has turned into a open-heartedly suicidal incarnation of early Prince. Yes he is extremely lewd, yes he is psychedelic, yes he has a plastic synth sound, and dammit I’m afraid the man’s gonna kill himself. I mean, look at this:

“… the hope of another wet nightmare is all we have to live for …”

“Why am I so damaged girl
Why am I such poisoned goods
I don’t know how long I can hold on
If it’s gonna be like this forever

Why am I so damaged
Why am I so troubled girl
I don’t know how long I can hold on
If it’s gonna be like this forever”

“Don’t be afraid lille ven of violence
I’m only poisoning you, not gonna stab you.
Don’t be afraid lille ven of my troubled mind
I’m just poisoning you a little
With my gloom”

There’s some early Bowie and late Lennon in the mix too, and everything’s overlaid with Barnes’s inimitable multitracked vocal harmony. The sunny Brian Wilson influences and Pepperisms are no more. And there’s no getting around it: we’re dealing with a severely depressed musician who somehow manages to release one brilliant album a year and go on tour regularly.

Barnes and his new (-ish) band are playing in Stockholm on Monday, and I’ll be there. He has recorded his latest few albums alone at home, producing reams of highly intricate studio pop. I look forward to hearing live versions of the songs! And I really hope it won’t turn out to be Last Chance To See.

Check out Rolling Stone’s recent interview with Kevin Barnes.

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I Miss The R.U. Sirius Show

i-4bd73bd14f8b14038bc62bb418247b2a-RUsirius_0.gifThe R.U. Sirius Show is/was a great weekly counterculture podcast that aired 88 episodes until about a year ago. Then it went on unannounced hiatus. I miss the show! Can anybody offer information on what R.U. is up to, and whether he has any plans to recommence his podcasting?

The latest interview with Sirius that I’ve been able to find dates from February. There he offers no comment on his silence.

Update 10 February ’09: In an interview on the Right Where You Are Sitting Now! podcast from June ’08, R.U. Sirius explains (about 10 minutes from the file’s end) that his podcasting halted because a financial backer withdrew his support.

Estonian Chicken Spam Nightmare

So it’s the 80s, Estonia is under Soviet rule, and your job is to direct movie commercials. And when you get the assignment to promote kana-hakkliha (processed chicken meat), you know exactly what it will take to make the product a big seller. You need nightmarish imagery, a heavy, psychedelic sound track and dramatic cutting. Because after all, you want to convince the viewers that anyone who overdoses on kana-hakkliha will spend days or weeks out of their freaking mind.

(Though I suppose this must be a humorous re-mix of what the real commercial looked like.)

Tech Note: Flash Memory Random Remix

The micro-SD flash memory chip that came with my new smartphone has some interesting issues with data integrity. I mostly use it to store sound files in the mp3 format, both pop songs of a few MB each and podcasts taking up tens of megabytes. And while listening to podcasts, in the middle of them, I have repeatedly come across three interesting and disturbing errors. The flash memory makes psychedelic remixes of my sound files!

  1. As I listen to one mp3 file, I suddenly hear several seconds from another file before the original recording resumes.
  2. As I listen to one mp3 file, I suddenly hear several seconds from a deleted file before the original recording resumes.
  3. As I listen to an mp3 file, the audio suddenly becomes pitched down to a barely comprehensible guttural grunt for tens of seconds.

These changes to the original files are permanent and always recur in the same way. With audio files, it’s mainly just a nuisance. But there was GPS map data delivered on that chip too. I don’t think it would be very useful after spontaneous random remix with snippets of mp3 audio.

Film Review: Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills

There was a time, around the age of twenty, when I saw some pretty weird movies. First I lived a short bike ride from the Swedish Film Institute, where I caught Kenneth Anger and Luis Buñuel (neither of whom I liked much — I walked out on Anger’s shorts). Then I moved to a place with a TV set just as Swedish commercial television took off. The stations didn’t have much money yet and would broadcast the weirdest, cheapest feature films on weekend afternoons. Two stuck in my mind: one a low-budget Italian Conan rip-off whose title eludes me, the other an American picture from 1989 named Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills.

I only saw about the last third of Scenes at the time, and it really amazed me. It was this completely dream-like ironic bedroom farce where everybody got it on in random combinations. I never forgot it, and so I recently bought it used on video tape (there’s a 2005 DVD edition as well) and had a good look.

I wasn’t disappointed. Scenes is just as weird as it seemed when I stumbled into it. Stylised yet silly, comedic yet with a strange sense of unreality.

The story is simple: a wealthy Beverly Hills divorcee has to find accommodation over a weekend while a bug extermination company wraps her house in orange plastic (cue Christo joke) and gasses it. With her teenage son and chauffeur, she moves in with her equally affluent neighbour, a recently widowed ex-movie-star. A number of other people come to visit, and everybody starts fucking everyone.

There’s a lot of meta-stuff going on. The film helps itself to the good bits out of Buñuel and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the latter providing a template for a lot of purposely hammy acting and dialogue. Reading up, I learn that the whole thing is loosely based on the 1939 French feature La Règle du Jeu and that the title parodies the 1977 US documentary Scenes from the Class Struggle in Portugal. Only mentioning stuff I’ve seen myself, Scenes shares cast members with The Princess Bride, Six Feet Under and Nip/Tuck.

Scenes is a playful, ironic, surreal comedy. It’ll make you laugh, it’s got some righteously soft-porn moments, and after you’ve watched it you’ll feel like your worldview is slightly askew for a while.

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Manson Cult Forensic Archaeology

i-e3422279b1c7a79223c0fcbe1e15c375-hsfridge.jpgHaving done some surface investigations with non-destructive methods, a group of volunteer investigators including Patti Hearst’s Sharon Tate’s sister calls for the excavation of the Manson Family’s last hideout.

“Vass said that, considering the quantity and the types of markers of human decomposition found, the cadaver dog’s response, and the probing exercise, he found enough evidence to warrant further testing at a deeper level and a full-scale excavation at Barker Ranch, according to the report he issued to law enforcement.”

Thanks to Luanne Efird for the tipoff.

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