Saturday, November 04, 2017

Trip Report

My trip report for this year's big holiday to the US, Kazakhstan and Japan is now available by clicking here or if you're on a desktop via the link on the right-hand side.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Event: Bug X

Bug had their 10th Anniversary this week, and I was able to pop along to one of the shows. With close to 800 videos played over the years it must have been hard to choose which ones to show, but here's the ones they went for.

They started with the first video they played back in 2007, "Atlas" by Battles. I'd not seen this video before but I had definitely heard the track before and it wasn't until I got home I realised it featured in Sony's "Little Big Planet". It's a cool track, the video does have a nod to Superman 2 though and why is the drummer's cymbal so high up?

Next up we had Wiley's "Cash in my Pocket". I know this track from the cheesy film Streetdance. The odd music video was produced by Mark Ronson and is filmed in Southwark. It was released during the credit crunch, so the timing is good and apparently the Office Lip Dub was a thing back in 2007; I don't remember it

We had a Cyriak double bill next with his excellent video for Bonobo and his track "Cirrus" followed up by one he did for Adam's Bug show which is superb. There were quite a few people in the audience who hadn't seen the latter video.

We then had a section on the Johnny Cash Project, a piece of work put together by Chris Milk and Google where people can redraw individual frames from the video. It's not on youtube because it's a dynamic piece that is different everytime you play it. It's pretty clever!

It was obvious Radiohead would feature in this Bug, such is the strength of their videos. The first that was shown was a competition winner for the track "Weird Fishes". The director Tobias Stretch specialises in stop-motion compositions but unique in that they're taken outdoors where the weather and time of day can usually mess up this style of shooting. Whilst I didn't like the track, I did quite like the video. 

Next up, "Until the Quiet Comes", a short film that uses the track by Flying Lotus to show life in Compton. I wasn't that impressed by this one and would have preferred to have seen the video to one of his other tracks, "Never Catch Me", which is so much better. (link to that one here)

Next up we had a great composition from Swede Mason which chops up Masterchef to create a stupidly silly dance track. It's a video that went viral a few years ago.

"70 Million" by "Hold Your Horses features the band recreating famous painting with cheap props. A clever idea and the lighting to get some of these right is very well done.

"Witness (1 Hope)" by Roots Manuva is still a funny video and has him returning to his primary school to take part in his school sports day with the 3-legged race being funny enough for Monty Python. The video, originally released in 2001 is so old that the kids are now probably at university age. 

I like M.I.A.'s stuff but not too sure about this video for "Bad Girls" which is obviously a message to middle east regimes and their treatment of women. The drifting in the video is a common "hobby" for men in that area. Change is happening there as Adam reminded us the Saudi's have just recently allowed women to drive. I'm not sure if they're ok to drift like this though.

Another Buggles video next as we had his explosive performance in the video to "Summer Time Blues" by Japanese punk band Guitar Wolf. Like the Counting Song, this was done for the Bug show that aired briefly on Sky in 2010 (they're on youtube now). There's a nice little cameo by Bad Dad too.

My video of the night was probably this one by Etienne de Crecy. "No Brain" is a simple video but trippy as; not one for the epileptics I'm afraid. It was directed by Fleur & Manu who have featured heavily on Bug over the years so a good choice. I also like that the video appears to have run out of budget at the end.

Los Mujeres video for their track "L.A." isn't on youtube but here's a link to it here. It features rotoscoped footage from Little Women superimposed over footage. Clever but a bit trippy.

The next video was "Simple Math" by Manchester Orchestra and features a guy having flashbacks to his past as he crashes his car. I probably need to watch this a few times before I decide if I like it or not. The track doesn't do anything for me and the video was a bit involved and I guess I didn't pay attention to it on the night. (I was tired)

The final video was Grimes' "Oblivion" and I like her stuff and she was surprisingly good, if shy, when I saw her live a few years ago. This video was done guerilla style at a couple of local sporting events and was her attempting to get her confidence back following an assault by putting herself into testosterone filled environments and having fun.

The final video was Adam's kid playing with a crazy daisy to the sound of "Out of Space" by The Prodigy. Given the content it'll never be uploaded to Youtube so I can't link it but those that have seen it will know the one I mean ;)

For completeness I've included the videos that were part of the Youtube comment sections as there were quite a few of them and the videos are great too. All of the comments chosen feature on the Bug shows mentioned earlier should you wish to see what was said.

OK Go have done a number of great videos all that have featured in Bug shows over the years. Chosen for the special was their first "Here it goes Again".

MGMT "Kids" features a kid terrorised by monsters and was a video I hadn't seen before and I can see why there would be a lot of comments on youtube about it although the band did also post a making of that shows things weren't as bad as came across in the video.

Plan B's "Love Goes Down" is not my thing at all. Whatever happened to Plan B?

The second Radiohead track was "No Surprises", the one in which Thom nearly drowned. It's a classic video even if the track does want to make you throw yourself under a car.

and a Bug special wouldn't be one without a Bjork video. "Crystalline" was chosen for the Youtube comments. Odd video but a great musical ending, and having seen this live it's a great revitalising change of tempo.

and that was Bug, here's to the next 10 years.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Event: QED 2017

Just a quick post to record the fact I attended the ever-excellent QEDcon event in Manchester, a sceptic/science event full of excellent speakers over a fun weekend. With too much to see I ended seeing the following.

Dave Alnwick was this year's MC.

Emma McClure took us through the Phantom of Heilbronn.

Caroline Rance presented on the history of quack medicine

Charlotte Hardman, Kavin Senapathy, Anthony Warner and Andy Wilson held a panel on Dietary Pseudoscience.

Chris French, Carol Tavris, Richard Wiseman and Deborah Hyde held a second panel on Cognitive Biases.

Sophie Wilson gave a talk on the history and predicted future of Microprocessors

Anthony Magnabusco held a workshop on Street Epistomology

Anthony Warner also gave a speech on the science of weight gain.

Phil Scraton gave an emotional talk on the Hillsborough Disaster and the challenge he faced in getting the truth of what happened. A stunning way to end day 1.

Helen Czerski gave a presentation on the ocean and our attitude to it

Simon Singh gave a fun talk on the science of secrecy including a demonstration of a working Enigma Machine

Katie Steckles took us through some math based life hacks. This was fun!

David Gorski gave a talk on integrative medicine

and day 2 finished with Tim O'Brien giving a talk on the universe.

another fun weekend. Roll on next year!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Film: Bladerunner 2049

Ryan Babygoose fixes a piano, finds a sock and sticks his hand in a beehive. Han Solo gives a speech on the subject of cheese.
It doesn't deserve to win the "Best Editing" Oscar but the visuals are great so it might win something in that space.

I may need to give this film another go. On the first viewing it just dragged on and we were waving it on to hurry up, but I think I had a similar experience with the first film. I can't fault it visually and have enjoyed watching behind the scenes footage. It's probably a film that'll be more celebrated for the way it was made rather than the content.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Film: Oxide Ghosts

As part of a small UK tour, Michael Cummings has taken Oxide Ghosts to a number of cinemas around the country and I was fortunate to see the first at the Prince Charles Cinema. Michael was the director of seminal TV Show "Brass Eye", a controversial show, 20 years old and still relevant today.

In this show we got 90 minutes of out-takes and extras previously not broadcast and a brief Q&A with the director afterwards. 

It was fun to get the behind-the-scenes insight into the making of the show but a little frustrating that we'd been asked not to photo or take notes on the chat with the director. 

So it was funny, just like the original show was, and an OK night out.

Film: Kingsman The Golden Circle

I really liked the first Kingsman movie, a nice comic book nod to James Bond with a council kid called Eggsy becoming the latest recruit to an overly British spy organisation. In the sequel it's more of the same with the Headquarters being destroyed and Eggsy needing to unite with his American counterparts to take down Julianne Moore, the leader of a global drug syndicate and a fan of 50's Americana. 

It's more comic book than the first and more disbelief is required to enjoy it. I know that it has divided my friends into love it/hate it camps. I did like it despite the over-the-top Americans being brought in and an Elton John cameo was unnecessary.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Event: Bug 56

I had tickets for this one but had to pull out following a leg injury but the event organisers kindly sent me the play list.

Beck "Up All Night"
Joan of Arc crashes a houseparty to rescue a chap in this rather upbeat Beck track. A rather straightforward video.

Kendrick Lamar "Element"
I'm not a fan of this guys work at all. The video is better with the sound turned down. (The worst recommendation you can give a music video I guess)

Taylor Swift "Look What You Made Me Do"
Big budget and a little introspection. Terrible song but I like the birdcage set!

Dram ft A$AP Rocky & Juicy J "Gilligan"
It's just a bass line with butt cheeks.Terrible. 

Tennyson "L'oiseau qui danse".
The vid on youtube isn't the one they played which is this one. I quite like both the track and video.

Yael Naim "Coward"
This one was quite straightforward and better for it.

Radiohead "There There"
Typical RH video. Pretentious twaddle that I don't get.

Radiohead "Burn the Witch"
A repeat play for this one, which is ok.

Run the Jewels "Don't Get Captured"
An ok stop-motion animation for another shouty-shouty RtJ track.

Father John Misty "Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know before the Revolution"
A quite musical song but a wasted video. I didn't feel this one at all.

Radiohead "Lift"
A song called lift with a video set in a lift and a journey in the lift that gets a bit weird. It's ok.

Jay Z "Moonlight"
I liked the idea of this with a great recreation of Friends with an all-black cast but it petered out into disappointment.

Every Time I Die "Map Change"
Shots of Buffalo to a shouty punk type rock track. It's ok.

Bowie "Sound & Vision"
This one is director group Canada's tribute to Bowie done as part of an exhibition in Barcelona. I'm not a Bowie fan but I did like this work.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Film: Shin Godzilla

Godzilla is back in this little reboot of the Godzilla movies. Originally shown as a limited run global event in 2016 it was a film I'd managed to miss the first time around so was wanting to make sure I caught it on this even more limited re-release.

It's the usual story of the monster coming from the sea and attacking Tokyo. In this one he evolves, starting out as a worm thing before growing into the lizard.

It's quite funny, especially in the way it lampoons the Japanese government and the effects are ok.

Another hit for Toho Studios

Film: Atomic Blonde

Charlize Theron is a female Jason Bourne in this OK spy thriller. It suffers from a bit of a slow start but cranks it up in the second half to Matt Damon levels. The staircase fight must have taken its toll on the pretty obvious stunt double. Like Baby Driver this has a great soundtrack with Peter Schilling's "Major Tom" being my fave but there's New Order, Depeche Mode and Nena in there too; you can't have a film set in Germany and not have 99 Red Balloons on the soundtrack. It's OK

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Film: War for the Planet of the Apes

The latest in the monkey series sees the monkey clan uproot and heading off to the desert, because that's a good climate for monkeys to move to. Just before heading off Woody Harrelson doing a poor Colonel Kurtz kills Caeser Monkey's son and wife so Caeser monkey vows revenge before they head off.

So we have around 2 hours of monkey hugs, monkey stunts and we even have a monkey in a puffer jacket, and a little girl who doesn't have much to say.

It's actually pretty good and they still manage to hit the emotional heart strings despite there being little humans expressing it. The little girl does great in the Alien's Newt type role.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Film: It Comes at Night

When you watch a film and then search for it afterwards and "explained" comes up you know you're probably justified in not having a clue what you just watched, and when those webpages aren't in agreement on what has happened you know the film makers have literally lost the plot.

A family are hiding out in woods following an outbreak of some sort of virus. When a dad from another family stumbles into the house and then asks to bring his family in, we then around 90 minutes of paranoia around whether they have the virus or not.

The son of the first family seems to suffer from insomnia and eavesdrops on the other family, what does he discover and how does it play out.

It's all confusing, and the pay off doesn't come and given the title of the film you don't even find out what "it" is as nothing seems to come at night...unless I and the explainers have all missed something.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Comedy: Old Rope

Tonight's Old Rope was going to be an all-female line up but there were concerns it wouldn't be able to go ahead so the final line up looked like this.

Nish Kumar - Funny
Katherine Ryan - Always good
Tanya Edwards - I hadn't seen her before and she was good
Aisling Bee - Really good
Carmen Lynch - Nah
and the headliner was Lynn Ruth Miller - incredible

MC was Tiff Stevenson and she's good too

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Film: Biophilia Live

Biophilia Live was a concept tour performance by Bjork that ended in Alexandra Palace in North London having toured for 2 years. I was fortunate enough to go to this performance and thought it was incredible. I hadn't realised it was being filmed although I did find it odd that during the show Bjork wanted to redo some of the songs a second time. Now I know why.

The film is great too and perfectly captured the performance of Bjork, 2 musicians and a female choir. It was great to be taken back to that night. Declare Independence and Hidden Place were the stand out tracks.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Gig: Blue Dot 2017

Lots of photos from my time at this year's Blue Dot Festival.

Following an eleventh hour change of pick up point, which some people nearly missed, the organised coach from Shepherd's Bush got us to the site in good time. Last year there was horrible congestion in the final couple of miles but not this year. The queue looked long but we were in within 20 minutes. A great welcome to the festival.

Last year I'd chosen a wooden hobbit house. For this year I just went with a 2-man tent. It would be a squeeze with two people but was fine for just me.

A quick wander around the site and we had a similar array of university science stands.

The Lovell Telescope was not moving this weekend and was in it's dormant up position for the duration of the weekend. The strongest feedback from last year was expecting this to be used for projections during the headline acts; I suspect they'll get the same feedback this year.

Just in case we didn't know where we were.

There was a good selection of food and for the most part it was all good. I had one burger on day 2 that disagreed with me but the overall quality of the food was very good.

The Mission Control stage was a lecture hall by day and a music stage by night. This stage was opposite the main stage so did suffer some sound bleed.

New for this year we had DeLoreans. It's some sort of fan club that use the cars to collect for charity

A strange little robot rabbit thing.

Both were found in another interactive science display.

The main stage felt that it had been moved further back than last year, leaving a huge central area which worked great. 

We had a new illuminarium for this year. It was a little overcast on the Friday so I didn't bother with it today. 

Following welsh crooner Meilyr Jones (who I saw at Margate so wasn't fussed about) we had Jane Weaver. Her stuff sounded OK but the music could have been provided by anyone.

Blue Moon beer had sponsored their own beer tent this year.

More science lectures.

These guys specialised in ear tech and could make custom earphones and clear your ear of wax. I've made a note of them for future enquiries.

More science lectures. The science is as much of a draw as the music with some of the people choosing to come to the festival to hear the noted speakers rather than the bands. I was trying to balance the two with science and talks in the morning and music the rest of the day

A few weeks before the festival started Blue Dot announced Leftfield were going to play a special early set for people who signed up to Amazon. Following a bit of a backlash they dropped that and made it open to all. Being a family friendly festival it meant a new generation were introduced to the Leftism album. This was good to see even the if the set wasn't as polished as their Brixton show a few weeks prior.

Lost Colours were playing twice today with a live band set in the afternoon and a DJ set in the evening. I wasn't really into their stuff although a good bit of the crowd here were. I felt in their suits they were trying to be like 2 Many DJs, so I didn't bother seeing them again later.

The main arena which was busy but not crowded. They had the capacity right.

Off in the arboretum, which I completely overlooked last year, we had a more chilled and folk stage and some art.

These balls played ambient sounds and seemed to entice people to lean on them.

Annabel Fraser had brought along an eclectic collection of vinyl. I only caught the end of the set but I liked what she was playing. 

Anchorsong I found myself not really understanding but captivated by how much sound he was getting out of what looked like a home-made controller.

I'm not sure who Hangin' Out in Space DJs but they were playing Despacio style future disco to a small crowd.

The Contact Stage was a cinema on Friday night showing Contact, Forbidden Planet and Rogue One.

Will Tramp is a well known DJ in Manchester, not so well known to me! He played an OK selection of tracks but I spent more time in his tent than intended because it was raining outside. 

The main stage on Friday belonged to The Pixies. Frank Black is a bit too shouty shouty for me.

The tent for Mr Scruff was too packed for me to spend any time in but I did have a good dance to "The Return of Captain Rock", the track that provided the sample to Prodigy's "Hyperspeed"

Evening entertainment came from some odd circus of large inflatable men on stilts and a marching band of drummers.

Brian Eno did last year's projections on the telescope. For this year they chose Daito Manabe, a Japanese dude. The display was more dynamic than last years but Eno's never repeated whereas this one did.

Closing the Nebula stage was a takeover from a number of weird psychedlic bands. This was Age of Glass who got good reviews but I didn't get it.

Lots of photos from the fire display in the arboretum, this place definitely comes to life at night! 

This was my favourite of the nighttime installations. Called Night Chorus by Kazimie it's a geometric shape surrounded by lasers that plays animal noises. When I was at it I got lots of bird song.

The little stage kept the music running through until 4am each day, but there was no way I could stay up that long.

More shots of the telescope.

Henge is odd. Way too psychedelic for me. The puppet was cool though.

My favourite act of Friday was Vitalic, an all-round electronic music making legend from France. Rather casually attired in a tracksuit he played a blinder of a set with a lot of it sourced from his latest album which is superb. 

2am and all the main stages were done for the night. Time for bed!

Day 2 and it was obvious it was going to be way way way too hot. 

A rather cute stand.

More exploring the science stands.

New for this year was a little planetarium. I could only imagine how hot it was in I didn't bother.

With it being so bright I thought it would make sense to start the day trying to beat the queue for the illuminarium. A smart move...

A mixture of shots within the illuminarium. It's stunning but the camera pulled out the colour more than my eyes could. 

More talks with my favourite being Helen Czerski's presentation on Oceanography.

A selection of the beer. They had a number of mainstream beer tents and this one that did a cask selection. This was better but the cider ran out too quick :(

On the second morning the main stage had a brass band playing some cool stuff including a recreation of Tubular Bells which is great but people only know one bit of it (the exorcist part) and then quickly get bored with the rest of it. The same was true here.

Horsebeach were forgettable, so much so I had to go and figure out who this was when writing this.

More talks...

Bruno Spoerri is a Swiss dude in his 80s who played an odd selection of electronic instruments including one that had him waving his gloved hands in front of a webcam. Bonkers but it worked, and he was accompanied by a drummer who freestyled along.

After them we had the amazing Radiophonic Workshop, a bunch of elderly and very talented musicians who have been around since 2009 keeping the sounds of the disbanded BBC organisation. Doctor Who was a theme for this Blue Dot and these guys played a version of it which was incredible!

The main event of Saturday was Orbital but the only major clash for me had DJ Cheeba on at the same time. He played to a near empty tent unfortunately but I spent most of his set down at the front giving him the support he deserves. This was his Double Trouble which I'd seen before.

The best act on the Saturday was Soulwax who brought the same show as the one I'd seen on the South Bank. This was incredible, and being at the front I was able to get a closer look at the drummers. The female drummer, Victoria Smith was insane! Also the left hand drummer and the keyboard player are Igor Cavalera (former Sepultura member) and Laima Leyton AKA Mixhell.

I'd heard a lot about Max Cooper with what appeared to be procedurally driven music. I tried to like his stuff but couldn't get into it. 

Finishing up in the Nebula stage for me was the Galaxians with a singer who looked just like the one that sung with Lost Colours. It turns out it was Emma Mason and Lost Colours were just the 2-suited guys and they'd pulled a band together including a couple of people from this band. A small world.

More shots of the telescope light show.

Joel Goddard from Hot Chip was the final main act of the night but I'd seen him twice this year already and didn't feel like sticking around to see him a third time, so I finished up with a little bit of the chill out sounds in the Arboretum. 

Sunday morning and I spent 3 hours attending a panel debate on Fake News and Big Data. Insightful stuff such as knowing that Uber knows people are prepared to pay more when the battery level in their phone is running low. A little scary that as a country we don't have a plan to protect our data which is being sold to business.

Playing with the exposure in the camera.

Using the main stage to give a lecture on pulsars. Loving the geekiness!

Josefin Ohrn, the first act on the main stage was a bit too psychedelic for me. An OK sound though, just not my thing.

The illuminarium and telescope.

Rival Consoles was ok but reminded me of John Hopkins, I guess that's a recommendation.

Anna Meredith was my must see for Sunday and didn't disappoint once the sound was turned up early on in the set. The epic sounding Nautilus didn't feel as much of a barrage with the sound a little lower than usual. Great performance all round and Anna continues to have humble and amusing banter with the crowd, which I love.

A space themed puppet show attracting as many big kids as little ones.

One of the campsites.

Another psychedelic rock act Ethan and the Reformation were not my thing. I left after one song. There seemed to be quite a lot of bands featuring people in 60s fashion. Not my thing I'm afraid.

The surprise act of the weekend was Shobaleader One, a 4-piece band lead by Tom Jenkinson AKA Squarepusher and they're playing Squarepusher tracks. The bass playing from Tom was incredible but it's the drumming that blew me away; he was so good. I also liked their LED visor/kendo look. Something was going on with the levels during this show that angered Tom quite a bit, he got more and more animated through the show before playing closer to the drums; I would guess he couldn't hear the drum on his monitor. His anger then had him removing a cameraman who was partially blocking the view of the crowd. At the end of an incredible set he gave us the thumbs up and the sound guy a thumbs down. He could then be seen verbally ripping into the guys after the show; not a happy bunny but clearly someone passionate about his performance.

The Mission Control stage became home to a conglomerate of AV and musical coders under a title of Algorave. These guys worked in rotation to code music, which was interesting to watch even if I didn't understand the language being coded in. It's an interesting scene that I ought to investigate a bit more. 

I think these are The Early Years, a local band that have been around for 10 years but I'd not heard of them. Their sound didn't really resonate.

The headliner on Sunday was Alt-J, a band that I just don't get. They sounded really good live but I just don't like their sound. It's that singers singing voice that grates. What I saw of the live show was pretty good with the band members separated by LED columns. I'd not seen that before. 

Rogue Emperor is a new band debuting their live performances at this festival. They're use to playing live though as one is from the band Doves and the other from Elbow. They sounded great, one to keep an eye out for.

I finished my Sunday seeing DJ Yoda who was bringing his History of Video Games set to Blue Dot. I'd seen the show before but at a sit down show at the Imax, so it was good to see it in a less formal environment. 

So BlueDot was done and dusted for another year and I still enjoy going to this. There were some issues with their inaugural festival last year but they've really listened and improved the festival. It's very family friendly, attracts a more intelligent crowd (it does) and has a great mixture of bands and lectures. As long as I'm not doing anything next July I can see myself coming back. 

Trip Report

My trip report for this year's big holiday to the US, Kazakhstan and Japan is now available by clicking here or if you're on a des...