Saturday, 23 January 2016

War On The Dancefloor - 22.01.16

Frighteningly accurate enactment
My first DJing of the 2016 and it's the stompy grounds of War On The Dancefloor at The Q Club. Laying down the sets before me were Darren (who needs to be more confident and move himself up the listing) and Chris, and then Hallam kept them going till the end. For a Friday before the post Christmas payday it wasn't that bad a turn out, and they have started stocking McEwans Champion at the bar so it all got a bit tired and emotional near the end....

11:30 to 12:45

Police State - Birmingham 6
Land of Rape and Honey - Ministry
Bomb the Clubs - Caustic
Scumbags and Spent Slags (Be My Enemy mix) - Flesh Eating Foundation
Airstrike - Seething Akira
Run You - The Quemists
Hallo Spaceboy - David Bowie
I'm Afraid of Americans (Nine Inch Nails mix) - David Bowie
Ace of Spades - The Chaos Engine
Survivalism - Nine Inch Nails
Beast - Rabbit Junk
Skinny Little Bitch - Anglespit
   {Brief Technical Pause}
Torn Apart - Stabbing Westward & Wink
Hammer of the Gods  - Fadderhead
Everything is War - Combichrist
Revolution Action - Atari Teenage Riot
Ghost Rider - Suicide

The Brief Technical Pause was due to DJuced 18 crashing when I tried to move a song from another playlist into the one I was using. Bug report filled and hopefully it'll be fixed in the next update, but I'll be looking into an alternative program if it's going to start playing silly buggers like that. Thankfully the floor waited for me to get things back on the go and they keep moving 'til the end.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Turntables at CES

To go with the recent news that "Vinyl Is Saving Music!" (it isn't, it's 7% of the market that happens to be a more expensive product so makes up a lot of sales value),  Sony and Panasonic have turned up to the Consumer Electronics Show ("This is what you could have had for Christmas!") with a pair of turn-tables. And thus "Vinyl Is Back!" screams everyone who hasn't got a clue what they're talking about but this time hopes they're going to be on the Cool Train.

Now firstly, and I want to make this very clear, the two decks in question are "Nice!". As in 'audiophile says these things are good bits of kit' nice. The Technics are essentially a more modern version of the SL-1200G which everyone of "a certain age" and calibre in DJing has used, because they were actually that good. Even if you weren't of the right calibre you've played on a rip-off of them, because they were just that ubiquitous for a reason, and now they have a nicer direct-drive motor in them so you'll get a smoother mix IF you still use vinyl. Which most people stopped doing years ago, which was why they stopped being made.

The Sony offering PS-HX500 is different approach entirely; essentially the most tricked out version of the "convert you're vinyl to MP3" that everyone one in the days between after you started switching to digital and before you found out you could download someone else's better copy from Pirate Bay. It's got internal audio-to-digital conversion, edit/mixing software, and you can technically hook it up to a audio rig and play out on it at a real good quality.

But you won't if you're serious about your music, because it's vinyl and vinyl sucks. Or, at the very least, it does when compared to modern formats. Yes, vinyl had a very important place in the history of music, and, yes, there was something nice about going to a record shop and fingering through the album racks, and, yes, if you must be the kind of person who's most important format decision is how obviously you can show off that you bought a record, it's nice to have a large physical item with a big cover on the front. I know this, because I've got a collection of vinyl myself as I go weak at the knees being able to touch a bit of music history; it mostly sits on the shelf whilst I listen to the FLACs. Some people still DJ on vinyl, however the two biggest reasons to do this are because it's all part of the performance of that particular event or they are stubborn die-hards that also don't set the levels back when they've finished their sets. Anyone who does it because it's only available on vinyl has long since converted the music to digital, because it's the only way to keep such precious content from falling apart.

Vinyl is heavy, awkward to carry, deteriorates rapidly, and is expensive to produce, ship, and stock. The reason that CD and digital is doing so well right now is because it's about a million times better for most everyday usage, be you a DJ or a regular listener. At one time vinyl sounded the best for the period, before wear and tear kicked in, but those days are gone and you can demonstrably get a far better sound from digital now, as scientifically proved on a number of occasions. You can also, if you're into making music, get it out and about in minutes rather than months by using the magic of electronics.

What's happened with the recent vinyl boom is that a bunch of people decided to be hip and focus on the iconography of vinyl and the retroism of it. The novelty of buying something which a whole generation are just not used to seeing anywhere has kicked in, it's become a cheap luxury item and a means to show musical eliteness with the minimum of effort. And because of that boom Sony and Panasonic have gone "lets make the thing that everyone is asking us for, because everyone's got an MP3 player or streaming device and they all threw their record players away in 2005". They are adding either some minor technical innovation (because it's a technology that stopped advancing 20 years ago) or some consideration to how the technology is being used these days (because the other formats are just more convenient). But they are not going to break the bank with these devices, because vinyl is not going to come back as anything more than niche. No matter how much people scream about it.

Which is not to diminish the kit they are selling, because it is very nice.

Monday, 4 January 2016

The Sonics: Psycho-Sonic and This Is The Sonics

The Sonics are one of those bands that never made it as big at the time as we now think they should have, because what they did didn't really make that much sense to a lot of people until many years later. For the brothers Andy and Larry Parypa in 1964 Tacoma, Washington state, that thing was to play a style of stripped down rock and roll that burned with a rawness, a passion, and a power that would be the tinder and the fuel everything in the line of American folk music that would eventually end up being called punk. Rather than follow the norm of the time and "move on" towards psychedelia, progression, or pop, they hunkered down and tried to find out how much more could be beaten out of the original formula.

The result was the two albums, Here Are The Sonics (1965) and Boom (1966), which have been collected, along with with all the singles and alternative / live versions held from their time with Etiquette records, in the "Psycho-Sonic" album. In this you can hear their dance hall circuit origins in Boss Hoss, Louie Louie, and Roll Over Beethoven: tunes that they attack with a gusto and a sheer volume that clearly was beyond the means of that periods equipment to capture. It's a sound of people who grew up on Blackboard Jungle, rather than with it, and who just wanted to make it bigger. You can also hear the start of the outsider anthem, especially the triumvirate of The Witch, Psycho, and Strychnine, which mixed the dark social/horror themes of the blues with a James Dean swagger that had no clue where it was going or how but knew it had to get their fast. It was anger that wasn't sure why it felt that bad, and only felt worse because everyone else was having such a good time. Its a savage piece of America, but with a musicianship and core listenability that makes it enthralling and occasionally even introvert, and that carries the DNA that you can hear in the likes of The Stooges, The Ramones, and Nirvana (to name but a few of the bands fans). As an album it's a slice of a specific piece in time, of an underground that was just discovering itself, and a timeless piece of rock and roll mastery that you may have overlooked.

Given the history of the band, of their signing to a major label to then have their sound neutered and for them to split before tasting fame, it's natural to ask "what would happen if they were given a second chance now that everyone knows how great they were?". Thankfully This Is The Sonics, recorded 50 years later in 2015 with 3 of the original 5 members and following on/off live performances since 2007, answers this with a clear and concise "exactly the same thing, only louder". "I Don't Need No Doctor", "The Hard Way", and "Livin' In Chaos" are stand outs by a nose, That a bunch of 70 year old's can continue to rock as hard as before impressive in itself, but that they can do it with a sound that comes across as classic rather than retro is pure brilliance. Even the dirty-distortion of their first period is maintained, technology having improved enough to get the full glory of their overdriven glory as this is a band that could play a triangle and make it sound like it was hocked into a Marshall stack. About the only change is that they sound a little more focused, a little less confused, but in no way any more mellow nor one jot less rocking.