Bonobo: Flutter

From the album Dial M for Monkey (2003)

Bonobo, the simian pseudonym of UK producer Simon Green has been a downtempo-lounge favorite for a while around these parts. In addition to his excellent production values, he’s notable for his distinctive infusion (though not pervasively) of eastern (mostly Indian) influences into what could be called “intelligent chill-out music.”

With a danceably faster tempo usual, Flutter is actually a bit of a departure for Bonobo. But as seems to be the case with me, it’s an artist’s digressions that attract the most attention.

If upbeat downtempo isn’t a style of music, I nominate Flutter as its charter document.

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What I Love: Those chimes, that kickin beat and the melancholy trumpet.

flutter at itunes bonobo drm-free mp3

Last.fm to be acquired by CBS: Sense of foreboding permeates the Internet

I don’t use the site as much as I should, but it’s cool nonetheless. But I find this trend of useful, independent websites getting bought by soulless corporations to be increasingly annoying. $280 million though. It sure it’s hard for those UK boys to pass up.

The last.fm blog claims there’s no reason to worry and that CBS “understands the Last.fm vision.” Still, as we’ve seen with flickr and reddit, once the “big boys” get involved, things start to change.

I’m not sure I trust plutocrats with an increasing amount of my data. And I’m sure they’ll figure some way to mess it up.

We’ll see how this turns out, but it may be time to uninstall my plug-in.

Additional commentary:

Last.fm forums
Mashable
Digg

Yeah, What They Said 5/30

Yeah, What They Said, pointers to interesting stories. Some people call it “link sharing.”

“Same great Pabst taste, without the beer.” PBR bottled water, available in China:

Pabst Blue Ribbon Bottled Water from Dave Nemetz on Vimeo.

Pi (π) played on a piano
Each digit 1-9 is assigned a note and 0 is a quarter rest.

Cumulative advantage
Some things remain popular because they are popular. As the popularity of something increases, the likelihood that its popularity will continue to increase becomes greater. “If all those people like it, it must be good.” The notion has been common sense for years, but now there’s scientific data pointing toward it.

Album Covers Separated at Birth
There are no new ideas. Pages and pages of album covers that are strikingly similar in concept and execution.

A tip calculator for iPod. It’s not free, but it looks cool. I used to have a tip calculator on an old cell phone and have been missing it for years, so this intrigues me.

Day Trip: Atlanta, Home of the Braves
I live in Atlanta, so I enjoyed this visitors’ travelogue about a day in the city, even though it’s mostly about baseball and other trivia. Did you know that the kazoo was invented in Macon? Oh, and no one calls it “Hotlanta” unless they’re being deliberately obtuse.

The Strokes have produced a music video short film for their single You Only Live Once. It’s very “sci-fi” and a good song to boot:

The $200 terabyte has arrived

western digital my book

A couple months ago, I wrote about the advantages of maintaining a large digital music library, specifically with regards to cost and storage as compared to maintaining a large physical music library. One of my points was that the decreasing prices of hard drives makes it increasingly easy to store, as well as backup large quantities of high-quality music.

I even went so far as to say that “before too long” we’d see the $200 terabyte, which is roughly enough storage for 80 continuous days of lossless quality music plus a complete backup of it all.

Well, that day has arrived. OfficeDepot currently is listing a Western Digital My Book 500GB for $99 after mail-in rebate.

At that price, you might as well get two and secure all your digital media.

Styrofoam: Front to Back

From the album Nothing’s Lost (2004)

Belgian composer Styrfoam is a consummate bedroom auteur, accomplished in the so-called “indietronic” genre, effectively wielding his laptop to weave a kind of downtempo electronic pop music. His early work is more ambient in nature, peppered with influences of 8-bit game-style accents. As his music has progress, however, he’s become ever more audacious in his compositions, fleshing out his sound with a more “organic” feeling, despite his glitch-centered production methods.

This song, Front to Back, meanders peaceably, like a digital lullaby for a good two and a half minutes before launching into a sing-song overdrive. It’s layered, complex harmonies will get stuck in your head.

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What I Love: Marvelous chord changes; those dense vocal harmonies.

dance music at itunes

nothing's lost at amazon

The Mountain Goats: Dance Music

From the album The Sunset Tree (2005)

This song is about escapism. With poignancy and daft lyrical narration, John Darnielle (aka The Mountain Goats) weaves a tale of domestic violence and a troubled life on the skids. The only outlet for the song’s protagonist is the volume knob on his stereo and the “dance music” it amplifies, which he uses to elude the strife in his life.

The beautiful part of this song however, is its clear-as-day construction. With unadorned instrumentation and a simple verse-chorus-verse structure, Dance Music is classic Mountain Goats. What else would you expect from “America’s best non-hip-hop lyricist“?

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What I Love: It’s peppy and sad at the same time.

PS- John Darnielle maintains a blog at Last Plane to Jakarta.

dance music at itunes

dance music at amazon

iTunes Store is schizophrenic about Star Trek

star trek on itunes

One can only wonder what’s up between CBS/Viacom/Paramount and Apple these days.

The first season of the original Star Trek appeared for sale at the iTunes store, only to be removed a short time later. Then, about a month after that, the first season of Enterprise showed up, only to suffer the same fate. Both those shows eventually returned to the domain of the $2 digital download and remain available.

The old adage though is that events happen in sets of three.

And thus, the third Star Trek series to find a home at the iTunes Store, Voyager, also seems to have beamed in, only to beam right back out. Voyager became available a couple weeks ago, receiving top billing on the main iTunes Store front, as well as promotion at Apple’s Livepage. However, at the moment, if you do a casual search for it, you’ll find not a single episode or mention of the series.

Whatever is going on between the two companies needs to be ironed out; this kind of teasing just isn’t healthy.

::

UPDATE 6/5: A quick glance at the store shows that Voyager’s first season is once again available via $2 digital download. Curious though, if you search for it, the store says it’s a “partial season” even though all fifteen episodes are there. Anyway, check it out.

Mouse on Mars: I Go Ego Why Go We Go

From the album Varcharz (2006)

After creating some most infectious and “warm” electronic grooves that were both danceable and singable, Mouse on Mars returned with an album of “spatial free-jazz and cocaine-fried booty funk” on the largely structureless Varcharz. But don’t take structureless to mean groundless. Beats are what MoM do best, and while the album has its share of dissonance, it’s a noise symphony built on a solid foundation.

Take, for example, the assonantly named I Go Ego Why Go We Go. With its calculated repetition and precise layering, the song sounds like it could have been composed by some sort of JamDroid, its disruptive rhythms compelling all the other robots to abandon the assembly line and get on down.

What I Love: It’s Mouse on Mars; the beats are cold and unfriendly, but that won’t stop me from bobbing my head.

I Go Ego Why Go We Go at itunes I Go Ego Why Go We Go at amazon I Go Ego Why Go We Go

Free Download.

Presidents of the USA rarity: Ça Plane Pour Moi

ça plane pour moi cover

A long time ago, while expanding my cultural horizons and getting to know a distant branch of my family, I spent a good portion of the summer in the nation of France. It had the works: sight-seeing, landmarks, historical places, family gatherings, camping, Eurorail, and of course shopping and souvenirs. An excellent summer well spent. And it was made more excellent by a handful of hard-to-find musical acquisitions I made while perusing various stores and malls.

One such find, I believe I picked up at the Virgin megastore on the Champs-Élysée or maybe FNAC, was a CD single by The Presidents of the United States of America, that quirky alt-rock-punk-pop band who emerged from the collapse of Seattle’s grunge scene. PUSA was near the peak of its success that summer and the band was a favorite of mine for a time.

Thus I was quite intrigued when I discovered this cardboard sleeve CD single while browsing the stacks. In French, the title read Ça Plane Pour Moi and the artist, to my surprise, was The Presidents. The song was certainly not a single release from the band’s debut album, with which I was already familiar. It was a baffling mystery, but as a third year student of the French language, I was quite attracted to this French language song.

Plus, I’ve always had a fascination with CD singles. There’s something about the combination of low price and rare songs that I, as a collector, can’t resist.

So, putting it all together:

  1. Francophilia
  2. Rare music
  3. CD single
  4. A then-favorite band
  5. Being able to forever say “I bought this in France”

You bet it was a no brainer. I snapped it up faster than you can say Tout de Suite.

Ça Plane Pour Moi roughly means “This life for me.” There’s no direct translation of the phrase but it is an expression of detached contentment with one’s existence, possibly with ironic undertones. The particular recording is a cover of the 1977 hit by Plastic Bertrand, though The Presidents perform it in more of a happy-go-lucky surf punk style. The lyrics are chock-full of French slang that don’t make any literal sense, but if you have to delve into it, try this analysis.

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For a long time, this song was a rarity, so rare that the disc doesn’t appear on either AllMusic’s PUSA discography or Discogs.com’s listing. Amazon has it for $20+, but fortunately for you guys, iTunes offers it for just 99¢.