Friday, 29 April 2011

Bonobo - Black Sands (Genre: Electronic)

  Bonobo demonstrates his versatility as well as his ingenuity with his fourth album.    

Released 29/03/2010

Sometimes beautiful, sometimes haunting, sometimes repetitive. Totally excellent.

  1. Prelude 1:18
  2. Kiara 3:50
  3. Kong 3:58
  4. Eyesdown (feat. Andreya Triana) 5:26
  5. El Toro 3:44
  6. We Could Forever 4:20
  7. 1009 4:30
  8. All In Forms 4:52
  9. The Keeper (feat. Andreya Triana) 4:49
  10. Stay The Same (feat. Andreya Triana) 4:45
  11. Animals 6:45
  12. Black Sands 6:49

"Black Sands", from the outset, is all about diversity. Traditionally a bassline focused producer with predominant usage of more standard electronica production techniques - now marking a shift into more live instrumentation and percussion - Bonobo (aka Simon Green) bursts right out of the gate with Prelude. At first a haunting string refrain, it gradually develops with the help of some sparse piano accompaniment into an uplifting, beautiful piece of melodic work; masterfully mixed to give perfect balance and consistency to the track. A more perfect opening could not have been asked for; every sound used in the song is prominent enough to make its presence felt, but subdued enough to immerse itself unobtrusively into the full "scene", becoming an asset rather than a hindrance.

Setting the standard for the rest of the album, the listener immediately expects track two, Kiara, to be of the same vein. Surpisingly, Green opts for a restrained transition into a mellow yet driven electronic beat, combined with light use of the same string sample heard in Prelude, short staccatto vocal noise and plenty of ambient sound to further encapsulate any listener into Bonobo's world.

This theme of variety and diversity continues consistently throughout the album. From the melancholy lamentations provided by Triana's vocals in Eyesdown, The Keeper and Stay The Same, to the moody, atmospheric and ultimately emotional instrumental works of Kong, 1009 and Animals, the sheer range of musical influence from which Green has seemed to draw upon is immense, and the sound he has forged for himself seems to have the ability to stir up your own memories from your subconscious. If it somehow does not endear itself to the listener fully, the catchy melodic work, great variety and seemingly vast soundscapes will keep the vast majority coming back for a taste at regular intervals.

The only issue that may become prevalent with this album is that often the tracks develop very subtly. Musically this could perhaps be considered a positive thing. However, when I was listening to the entire album without doing anything else I found myself skipping tracks after about three minutes. On the other hand, when I played the album in the background while performing another task I couldn't get enough of it!

Bonobo has surely displayed his skill in his craft with "Black Sands". Irresistably catchy in every track and painstakingly crafted, it is an album which will always keep those who own it coming back for more. Have a listen, please, and I challenge you not to be singing Prelude under your breath at least daily.

Oh, and just look at that album art! Mmm.

SCORE: 9/10

Standout Tracks:

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Blog Standard

Very very regular day at school today, seriously not much in the way of actual events to talk about, so it looks like I'm going to have to actually use my imagination for the first time. Gulp.

Mental blocks are absolutely the worst things ever in my opinion. It's not even the fact that you don't know something, it's because it is just ever so slightly out of your reach - like that bloody dandelion seed that you're desperate to catch. Just me? Right...

I'm sure everyone else has had the depressing "time" thoughts. The thought that every second, millisecond, microsecond of your life is permanently imprinted into history. Not all of it may be significant, of course, but it's still there, and for me when I get on this tangent it seems impossible not to derail myself! What would have happened if I had done this instead of that? If I hadn't done that would this have happened? It's mind-boggling to say the very least, and the idea of action and reaction is something that is so easy to obsess over.

As you've probably noticed there isn't much structure to this post today - it's a little exercise in brainstorming and writing on the fly for me. But hold on for a moment, that doesn't render it meaningless! Sitting here on the couch with the near-deafening sound of the Real Madrid vs Barcelona game flooding my ears, I've came up with two little contrasting ways of looking at actions and consequence.

If we could just bring back the dandelion for a moment, we could use the seeds (the little white floaty things!) to represent every action that we commit. As soon as we do anything, from buttering our toast in the morning or falling asleep at night, that particular action's "seed" floats off, never to be seen again. We can't decide where the seed lands, and once it has been let go that is it, unchangeable. There's a finality to the whole situation, and there is almost a sadness about the lack of appreciation humans now have for time, in a society with an ever decreasing attention span.

Another way to look at it is to look at time - more specifically, life - as a stretch of fabric. In fact, thinking of this idea now I'm pretty sure I have subconsciously plagarised it from Into the Wild (brilliant film and book; credit where it's due), in which the main character uses a leather belt to engrave the memories of his journey on. This metaphor is slightly more encouraging and comforting than the dandelion theory, in that our past experiences are not seen as some unchangeable, inalterable decision, but a lesson or memory whether it is bad or good respectively.

Whichever of these two scenarios you look at, time is precious and our decisions are crucial. They shape who we are and who we will be. The wrong decisions can set you back, and put you miles off track. However, no matter what decisions you make in life, there is always the ability to remedy the wrong ones. All you need is the right people, and a willingness to change. It doesn't have to be a serious mistake, it just needs to be something that you wish was different. And wishing it was different is half the battle.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Breaking Point!

Today has been hectic to say the least. In school, the option I had taken for Higher Music was Sound Engineering. Basically what I had to do was record people playing instruments to build up two contrasting, existing songs, much like a band would do in studio recording an album. The songs I chose to do were Song 2 by Blur (woo hoo!) and Vince the Loveable Stoner by The Fratellis (tune!). If anybody reading this knows me pretty well, you will know that as always, I left it until the very last minute to get it completely finished. I wont go into the mind-numbing details about my crucifixion of a day, but needless to say I did not have lunch, I missed every single class in favour of music, and I never want to look at ProTools again.

All of this led me to think of the amount and effects of pressure on teenagers. My Mum said to me once that it is so unfair that at such a young stage in my life - (I'll say "our" to relate this to teenagers, I know some people may read this who are older but bear with me) - our lives, the choices and work we commit to basically decide which direction we take. We have so much else going on! Hormones, friends, girl/boyfriends, development, individualising (NOT trying to be indie. Eugh.) ourselves and figuring out who we "really" are... It is absolutely crazy! I agree with my Mum, it isn't fair at all that at this stage we are thrown into the deep end and told to swim. Of course we are (usually) given all the help we can get, but we're teenagers! On the whole, we can be lazy, uncommitted, easily distracted, frustrated... And that's on a good day! We all have the absolute potential to do brilliant, and that's not a joke, or just something people say to kid us on; we do!

In my prelim exams (exams you do to fall back on in the event you miss your finals), I was really happy with the results that I got on a whole. I got four A's (English, Chemistry, Music, Modern Studies), and one D (a fail for Maths). Maths was my first prelim and in true arrogant and lackadaisical (brilliant word) style, I didn't study. What followed was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre of exams. I did not have a clue. To put it bluntly, I shat myself. After that I made far more of an effort, and managed to salvage the rest of my exam period. That just told me that all people need who decide they aren't going to do well is a kick up the arse. There are two kinds of people under pressure. Those who crumble and those who don't. In those prelims, I managed not to crumble, but I saw plenty of people who did. They found the first exam hard and immediately decided it wasn't worth the effort for the rest. That's the wrong way to go about it. A bit of elbow grease and a migraine or two and anyone's grade can go up!

I'm going to keep this short today to be honest. I am knackered. Just a message to everyone doing their exams at the same time as me. Keep your head up. You might think you know literally fuck all, and trust me so do I, but the way that will be effective for you is if you put yourself under as much pressure as possible outside the exam (no, listen!) and then in the exam you will feel a wee bit more relaxed. Don't sit and copy out notes on your own terms all the time; get a stopwatch going and do a Past Paper or an Essay! Stop when you're supposed to and if you fall short do it again! We have like a month left. A month of your life gone. If you live for another 65 years you will have 780 more. Go for it and give the colleges, universities and workplaces something to look forward to! Gay rant over, I'm sorry for trying to sound like a motivational speaker, but I don't know... I guess theres a soft part of me that hates seeing people disappointed. The worst feeling in the world isn't any physical pain, it isn't anything like that, it's regret and knowing you could have done better. At least it is for me. I'm going to KO on my bed now. Bye.

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray

My God I should be studying. Going in to town in about half an hour so I figured I'd just tell everyone reading this about a book they should read!

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is by far and away one of my favourite novels, it explores the nature of hedonism (the idea that pleasure is the only good thing in life) and how the main character Dorian's soul decays as a result of his actions. It's absolutely amazingly written, and even if you aren't a massive fan of literature I honestly urge you to give it a look, I could not nor would not put it down. It is Oscar Wilde's only published novel, which is amazing considering how bloody good it is! I'm reluctant to tell you the full idea of the plot (not that Google couldn't do that anyway!) but it's something that honestly has to be read to be understood fully. 10/10 definitely.

I think I might start doing little book reviews on this. Not all the time, just when I think it's worth it or absolutely terrible. Hmm.

Be Decent.

I decided yesterday that I was going to try and be a far more decent person than I am now. I don't know how this came about to be honest, there was just a point (maybe at work) where I thought about how if you comment on someone's appearance without them knowing, it's actually a little cowardly and a really poor method of self-affirmation.

I work in Next, which mainly caters to women from the age of 30 or so up (at least from what I've seen, I don't pretend to notice a target market). Yesterday there was a woman in work who had a stomach that made her look pregnant, as it was just very swollen looking and contrasted to the rest of her body - her face didn't look all that fat, neither did her legs - so I assumed that she was in fact pregnant. However, as one of the staff was helping her get items in the changing room, the women made a comment about how she was on a diet. Being at first pissed off at the fact I was in work while it was such a nice day outside, I automatically laughed along, probably made a funny comment or two on it when the tills were quiet, and then the woman came to my till.

She was buying two tops, one pink and one purple. I remember that she was very dour faced, quite short with me (even though I performed my trademark fake enthusiasm/smile combo), and wanted each top (and the hangers for them) put into seperate bags. They weren't gifts, I asked if she wanted gift reciepts for them and she said that they were for herself. Obviously my initial reaction was to scoff at this, and I believed the woman was ignorant for wanting the seperate bags (how dare she!). On top of this, the customary "Thank you, bye!" was nowhere to be found! To say I was fuming would be a gross exaggeration, but I was irked. I passed a few comments about her appearance to the people working with me, got a few cheap laughs, and then realised: what was I doing?

I was making rude and insensitive comments about someone just because of their appearance. If this woman was completely ordinary looking then the only thing I would have to say about her was that she was a bit of a bitch. No. Because her appearance was a little unusual or unappealing I had to immediately single that out and use that as an outlet for my annoyance. For a moment I got all philosophical and had a look at myself, and a few key points:

  • Was my day as a whole affected by this woman?
  • Did I have any clue what this woman's situation was?
  • Did I have any right to criticise this woman's appearance when people may think that mines isn't optimal either (it isn't)?

Test over. 0%, wait behind after class, and take the Dunce hat on your way out please.

The thing that got to me most of all was the thought that this woman had to wake up every morning with what she had, just like I and 6.7 billion others do every morning. Perhaps the reason she was dour faced was because she had severe self-confidence problems, or because she was sick of how she looked and thats why the diet she mentioned was underway. Point being, I passed comment on a woman without knowing a thing about what she was going through. Doing that is disgusting, cowardly, and sadly it is seen at every level of life. From inside high schools around the world, to the press and the internet. Recently I have had an inner hate-campaign going on against bullies because of things I have been told, and I realised that everybody wants to feel superior to a bully. However, how can we feel superior to a bully when what the majority of us to on a daily basis is essentially just that? Bullying!

Sure, it is socially acceptable now in a culture dominated by women and men who get their kicks out of commenting on all aspects of other people, but that does not make it right! In the old adage known and loved by parents everywhere: If your friends leapt from a bridge, would you?

Sure, the person never hears what you say about them (unless it all hits the fan. ouch.), but again, that does not make it right! They cannot defend themselves and you don't give them a chance to! How many genuinely nice people in the world have been victimised because of their appearance, or because of one mistake? Even if it is just one, which it most certainly isn't, that is still far, far too many.

I guess what I've been saying in a roundabout way is that I'm sick of talking about people in a derogatory manner. I don't care if any people my age read this and say that they don't care and that it doesn't affect them. I'm not naive and I know that there will always be bitches, two faced people, and general nastiness. However, I know that I want to change that in myself. I wasn't a complete bastard, but I was enough of a bastard to want to stop being a bastard (what?), so I'm stopping. Simple as that. No patch (bitch patch? batch? pitch?). Cold turkey from being insulting towards people who will never know I'm being insulting towards them. It's a small change, but it's a change I want to make.

Yes, you can dislike people, if you know that there's no reason for their attitude other than an attitude problem, but if you don't know a person, or don't want to, then leave it out. If someone wrongs you, try to find out why. If it is for the hell of it, then that's a bit shit, and you have every right to be angry, but maybe you had done something to warrant it? It does happen.

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not. - Samuel Johnson