Over the course of two feature length reviews, Connor Johnston and Mike Riviere will be going head to head and sharing their own views on one of the most anticipated and divisive films of 2016: Suicide Squad
Warning: Light to mild spoilers, some plot details
Let me preface everything I’m about to say with this; I went into my screening of Suicide Squad with no knowledge of other people’s criticisms, any Rotten Tomatoes score or even any knowledge of the plot beyond what the, in retrospect, exceedingly well orchestrated trailers showed off. Thus, during the screening, I was pleasantly surprised. Then mildly entertained. Then confused. And then moderately angry. Walking out of the screening, I entered a fugue state of what I can only describe as being shell-shocked. Let me say this; I actually enjoyed this movie. Correction, I enjoyed exactly 50% of it. What happened after that golden moment can only be described as feelings of resentment, betrayal and despair. Read more …
[Herein lies an extract from my journal containing the notes from my interview with M. de Robespierre]
In order to better organise my thoughts, I will be jotting down the happenings of my excursion to la rive droite for my interview with this distinguished filmmaker. I’ve been flown in by the paper on immediate notice of an interview being set up with the illusive filmmaker Robert de Robespierre. The trip from Toronto to Charles de Gaulle was vehemently early and the 18$ whiskeys overzealously watered. Needless to say, the chic norman decoration and the contralto overture of the narcissistic waitress did little to improve my mood. I look around the 8 foot wide exemplar of a culinary tradition that bold fadedly refuses to adapt to a modern cosmopolitan life. The only other noticeable patron, a forlorn looking refugee from one of the art colleges in the next arrondissement over mirrors myself in a singular way; we are both currently wondering what poor life choices have led to us sharing this terrible, communal experience. She ordered the filet de saumon sauvage 3/4 of an hour ago. I realise that I have more in common with her unavailing plate than I do with her. All of this I notice in order to put off fixing my attention on the matter before me.
There are few albums I’ve looked forward to in recent years as much as the solo debut of Jamie XX (Jamie Smith); SBTRKT’s “Wonder Where We Land”, Bombay Bicycle Club’s “So Long See You Tomorrow” and basically anything from Flying Lotus. But I’ve been proclaiming the greatness of this album before it was even conceived.
Once upon a time, there was this band called ‘The XX’. The band innovated a new type of indie-tronica; whispery, reverbed-to-all-hell vocals over clean guitar and bass licks, topped off with minimalist and esoterically brilliant production. Some would later call this the re-emergence of “dream pop” or music to shoe gaze to. The XX are basically the thinking bohemian’s answer to mass produced commerce pop. (For full disclosure, I may be typing this from my desk which is situated below a poster of the band’s famous “solitary X” logo, which I received in my limited vinyl sleeve of their debut album, including Jamie’s collaboration with GIl-Scott Heron “We’re New Here” fresh off my turntable. Yes, I also may have pre-ordered the limited vinyl of “In Colour”.) You may say I’m slightly biased, which from the evidence presented above, has a slight chance of being true. But I will risk my entire journalistic career on the fact that this is one of the best albums of the year, and my favourite album of 2015 thus far.
Some would say that the success of The XX was grounded on the fact that Jamie Smith’s skills as a producer and pseudo-drum machinist were so up to par they were a hole-in-one from the start. Golf metaphors aside, he has come a very long way from the whispery bedroom antics of a 17 year old. Solid remixes and a fantastic collaboration with legendary blues and jazzman Gil-Scott Heron already set Jamie apart from most of the electronic music scene, but fans waited with (deservedly) bated breath for a solo album, to see what Smith could do when the shackles and conformity of remixes were removed and the extra time to fully flesh out an LP. As a long time aficionado and homager of the UK house music scene, Smith drops hints of his natural element in all his other works, but this is the first time we really see him immersed in the glorious rapture of it. “In Colour” isn’t a revival of UK dance music, it’s a revitalization and celebration of it. From start to finish this album pays homage to this great club culture, making its own mark before reinventing it once more.
Where’s the lighter massive?
All the way from London town
Few recent electronic albums have such a high level of consistent quality as this one. Opening with the club enthused Gosh, Smith sets up one of the most confident and technically proficient openings since Mount Kimbie’s “Cold Spring Faultless Youth”. Many of the tracks seem like the standard Jamie XX affair; minimalist steel drum plucks, the ever present hip-hop and soul enthused vocal cut, and the airy reverb carry overs from The XX, but the album is far from cliché. A track like The Rest Is Noise, one of the highlights, containing so many varying and evolving elements over its four minutes that it achieves a Jon Hopkins-esque level of building rapture.
Just as refreshing are the co-produced joints on the album, with UK electronica veteran Kieran Hebden or “Four Tet” to the uninitiated. Bringing in some signature break beat sampling and ‘arpeggi-all-over-the-place’ melodic runs make SeeSaw a stand out in its own right, transforming what could have been another The XX-alike song into a sonically unique send up to multiple dance genres.
Both of Jamie’s bandmates feature on the album. Guitarist and female lead Romy Madley Croft, featuring on the aforementioned SeeSaw as well as Loud Places (and I suspect having done some extra guitar work on the album), and bassist and male vocalist Oliver Sim, working on Stranger in a Room. Although a solid song that contains an interesting, dark and dreamy aesthetic, it is a shame that it’s so completely overshadowed by basically everything else on the album. But on an album of standout tracks, solid is out of place.
Any one of these songs alone show the talent of the UK producer: Loud Places is a catchy, harmonious, almost indie piece that actually represents what The XX could have been if they took on a Florence + the Machine pop vibe. Amazing vocal work and terrific production lead into what may be the track of the album, if not year. Likewise, I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),featuring Young Thug and Popcaan, is a refreshing Hip-Hop intermission that shows that the UK house head could hold his own on any rap label. As is his forte, Smith illustrates his glorious sample choice with a sample from The Persuasions; joyous 1972 vibes enthusing this minimalist and modernist answer to a west coast beat. Young Thug seems more at home with these playful melodic beats than the rest of his trap enthused back catalogue, and with the whole song is so confident, sound and elegant, I would listen to a whole album of just this pairing.
Although there are several returning tracks from the Jamie XX EPs, such as Girl and Sleep Sound, they fit so well into the album’s high standards that you wonder what impact they would have had hearing them for the first time. A humbling experience no doubt, for any electronic entrepreneurs.A critic could argue that Smith is just pulling a Todd Terje; a “let’s just assemble all the EPs onto one album and go out for lunch” sort of affair. Far from it. I can’t imagine these songs being in any other collection than with “In Colour”. Sleep Sound is so monumentally Jamie XX in its vocal cutting, minimal drum filtering and melodic steel drum that it’s almost nostalgic to hear it again. And with swinging drums, fantastically auto-filtered vocal cuts and a bouncy baseline, Girl being the perfect book-end to the album. Synth work and sound spacing on this track is on another level to anything else this year. If Gosh was the show opener, then Girl is the showstopper, bringing the album back to its peak and leaving you wanting so much more.
This is to the Champagne Crew:
We do not need anybody,
we are independent
Overall, this album holds together so well as a cohesive soundscape that I’m in awe. From start to finish whether you play singular songs, sets of them, or hear it on the radio, you always come away with the same conclusion that this is a fantastic example of how far electronic music has come over the years. Some might say this is the intelligent person’s dance music, and that’s a claim I would not refute one bit. But this is just dance music. From the grimy UK club to the Ibizan beach to the GAP, Hot Topic and more. This is an album for anyone who ever had a tertiary interest in electronic music, up there with “Immunity”, “James Blake” “There is Love in You”, and of course, “We’re New Here”. Despite reinforcing the cliché, there really is something for everyone.
I heavily insist that the album should be listened to all in one sitting. Don’t get me wrong, belting out specific tracks will get any party or kitchen dance floor started. But sonically, aesthetically, thematically, musically and even artistically, it should be your duty to try it at least once. Even if you don’t appreciate “alternative” electronic music, a musical journey will ensue where you will discover a lot about this album, yourself, and what you think about UK house music in 2015. Because we just reached its pinnacle. The Rest is Noise.
February 26, 2010. While exiting the Shuto expressway near the Minato district of Tokyo, Seba Jun’s car was involved in a fatal crash that would claim the young man’s life. Although he was rushed to hospital, it was too late. Whilst fans were desperately hoping for news of a media hoax, Hydeout Productions released a statement: their founder and label head Nujabes had passed away. It only hit home when collaborator and close friend, rapper Shing02 spoke to the media. “We deeply regret the loss of a unique talent and a close friend. Through his soulful music, Nujabes has touched so many people around the world, even beyond his dreams.”
On a thousand year old street
concrete trampled on by a trillion feet,
and they dance,
and they sing.
Japanese Hip-Hop producer Nujabes, or Jun Seba, was at the same time both a prominent and enigmatic member of the underground Hip-Hop community. His music has reached hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide, whilst somehow he had retained his mystique and privacy. Throughout his career, he gave only a solitary interview or two, leaving many people unsure as to what he even looked like. Yet contrastingly, Nujabes released tracks that were so characteristic, extroverted and open in that they were instantly recognisable and personal to his inner-self. Coupled with his innate musicality and understanding of captivating melody and harmony, Seba created music that was nostalgic, timeless and revolutionary, all at once. His production techniques were neatly matched with the best lyricists of the scene, from both sides of the pacific. He released 5 studio albums, 1 posthumously, as well as compilation albums and various tribute albums to him on the Hydeout Productions label after his death.
Cise Starr: “I would definitely say his style is almost spiritual, you know. I mean, he had an approach that would get to you on a soul level… He was very honest when he presented himself in his music.”
Jun Seba was born on February 7, 1974 in Nishi-Azabu, a district of the harbour ward of Tokyo, Minato-Ku. Seba became interesting in beatmaking when, being influenced by jazz and soul records, wondered what it would sound like to loop and sample sounds, whilst layering other loops on top of it. “I started making tracks because I wanted to hear music that sampled the old soul and jazz I liked,” Nujabes said in an interview. His production style was instantly recognisable, avoiding high level production sheen and mechanical quantisation for a more authentic and tonal substantiality that reflected the records he collected and sampled from. In 1995, he opened his first record shop, Guinness Records, at the age of 21. Although not a commercial breakout success, the shop soon developed a cult following due to the cultivated selection of Hip-Hop releases, which often undercut competitors on both time and price. Circulating among his regulars were Seba’s mixtapes; alongside his developed production skills, Seba was a fine DJ, and his fantastic musical taste was understated yet appreciated greatly by the community.
In 1998, Jun founded his own label, Hydeout Productions, which would later hold his entire musical catalogue, as well as releases from prominent artists and friends, Uyama Hiroto, Emancipator, Pase Rock and Substantial, to name a few. Nujabes’ first release “Ain’t no mystery” in 1999 and it’s follow up “People Don’t Stray” showed off his ability to work with eminent rappers, such as Verbal / L-Universe and Funky DL, who would later become frequent collaborators. The following year, Nujabes produced American rapper Substantial’s album To This Union A Sun Was Born, featuring Nujabes’ quintessential jazz sampling and production style, whilst also being a send up to the classic hip hop essence of A Tribe Called Quest and early Dilla. According to Substantial, “There were times where we talked about a song we were going to work on for hours before we actually recorded it.” Needless to say, a Nujabes solo album was greatly anticipated.
Losing my mind so maybe you can help me find
The way to go so I can be leaving this pain behind
Trying to sleep, “Sleep is the cousin of death,”
Said a wise man from Queensbridge, on beats he blessed
Metaphorical Music was released on August 21, 2003. The opening sax sample signifies everything to come in the album: powerful, emotive songs that envelope, proclaim and embody the spirit of the man that made them and the music that inspired him. Short, precise sample loops with swaying MPC drum programming matches the star studded cast of the album; rappers Cise Starr of Cyne and Pase Rock of Five Deez, downtempo jazz hip hop producer and friend Uyama Hiroto as well as frequent collaborator Shing02. Seba’s musical taste is at the forefront of the album, with samples from Pharaoh Sanders, Miles Davis and Baden Powell. Alongside being a proficient sampler, Seba was also an adept instrumentalist: Quite often Seba would choose to replay a passage of the sample on his own piano or other instruments, in order to capture the essence and spirit of the piece. There are frequent musical interludes on tracks in Nujabes’ albums where he plays jazzy passages or melodic solos on flute, piano, sax or guitar. I would liken his musicianship to an artist incorporating mixed media into his piece, using a sincere art style to convey his expressive personality through music.
Letter From Yokosuka
Two years later, a follow up to Metaphorical Music was released. Modal Soul continued toillustrate Nujabes’ craftsmanship and harmonious dexterity.In Feather, Seba starts off his album strongly once more, with what I consider one of the most soul-stirring use of resampling in any of his releases. The inspiriting melody sets the pace for the album; the jazz infused syncopation of the sample and beats coming together to meet the soul infused lyrics create a flowing and serene 63 minutes of listening. Hydeout Productions regulars and friends all grace this album as well, in what can only be called a musical family by this point. Everything feels comfortable and meant to be; perhaps due to Seba’s musical sense, the lyricists’ heartfelt messages or the fact that all the parts come together in something that can only be called easy-listening, but in a encouraging meaning of the term. The album feels very natural and intimate, reflective of the openness that Seba put into his work.
In between albums, Nujabes also collaborated with other Hip Hop producers on a project that would bring him fame and acclamation from the west as well as the Japanese Hip Hop community. Working with Tsutchie, Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician and Force of Nature, Seba provided tracks for the soundtrack to anime Samurai Champloo. The anime featured homages to chanbara style movies and the Japanese Edo period, whilst incorporating graffiti and Hip Hop motifs. Nujabes worked closely on two of the soundtrack albums, and in doing so gained many fans from the western localisation of the anime, probably due to his distinct production style. The album features various instrumentals by Seba, as well as the shows opening and ending, featuring Shing02 and R&B singer Minmi respectively.
Shiki No Uta
Resembling Nujabes’ distinct and soulful use of melody and harmony in his sampling is the depth and introspectiveness of the lyrics to most of his work with vocalists. Shing02’s luv(sic) series is often contemplative and uplifting yet compassionate, discussing being nostalgic, reflective and ruminative. Shing02 comments on life and death, regret, love and remaining positive in the face of adversity. The tracks evoke these sentiments without ever feeling heavy, disheartening or formidable. Rather, it feels like a candid dialogue from someone with an introspective spirit discussing important musings straight from the heart. Likewise, on The Sign, from Modal Soul,Pase Rock speaks about how we can feel that things are pointless or in decline: “Time can be generous but ultimately time is indifferent, / So what will you do? / What will we do?”. Everything in the song feels like genuine concern andapprehension, and the message is both clear and intricate: “We gotta read the signs… / We gotta turn this shit around…”. In many ways, Think Different, off of Metaphorical Music, shows the spirit of Nujabes’ work. Substantial’s lines are a diss to the entire MC scene, taking down chauvinism, thuggish behaviour and idiotic thinking. However, Substantial observes throughout the song, that no matter what we believe “it depends on your perspective” and “i’m not better than you, I just think different”. Somehow the song manages to remain insightful whilst being smart and tongue in cheek. Like most of Nujabes’ tracks, the overall messages of the lyrics are optimistic and compassionate: “Treat you better than me, cause that’s the heavenly key / To unlock the inner strength / where my essence will be”
Later in his life, Seba Jun spent an amount of time in Kamakura, a small costal city in Kanagawa, 80 km’s south west of Tokyo. The two matched perfectly; reflected in Nujabes’ compositions, his tranquil spirit felt at ease in the serene surroundings whilst his music incorporated the melodies of the gentle sea and textures of the soothing rains of the region. The concluding track to the (then) luv(sic) pentalogy, and the follow up, luv(sic) part 6 – Grand Finale, were released posthumously in Jun’s Kamakura studio by Uyama Hiroto, the latter made on a beat found on Jun’s cellphone. “We kept the vibe close to his home environment” noted Shing02. To listen to the song now is a stirring and emotional processes; though the song was originally written for beatboxer Jeff Resurreccion, who was battling cancer at the time, we can compare it in many ways to our relationship with Nujabes. Much like Shing02 and Jun’s mourning for Jeff, this is the final testament and send off to a musical genius, a spiritual soul and a close friend, in every sense of the word. The final verses echoing the thoughts of Shingo and Nujabes fans worldwide:
If you ever felt there was a hole in your heart yearning for the days of early Arctic Monkeys, playful lyrics in catchy choruses and a hefty rhythm section or even want a little indie to your rock outfit, Melbourne trio Pockets have you covered. As most bands do, Pockets was formed in an attempt to pick up girls at a party. However, unlike the aforementioned attempted paramours, this outfit’s first impression is encouraging, to say the least. Their EP, self-funded and available on their soundcloud shows off the band’s commitment to their influences; think fellow countrymen Powderfinger mixed in with a little White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan and Arctic Monkeys Favourite Worst Nightmare. You may think that’s one hell of a cocktail, and you’d be right. But it tastes damn good and hits hard.
Somewhat refreshing is this trio’s chemistry, brought out by three mates playing their parts comfortably and proficiently. Vocals and guitar duties are handled in a way that remains gritty while not neglecting their bluesy roots. Likewise a strong, driving bass & drum combo somehow complements the whole experience without overbearing the singular component. Quite literally, the sum is greater than the whole of the very capable parts. The band also strays away from being a one trick pony with sardonic lyrics and a post-punk infused chorus on one track then leading into a vibrant and invigorating groove in the next. Basically, this band knows it’s stuff, and it will show you, gladly.
Of course every band always has room to grow, and whether the band can keep their energetic momentum into a full length LP remains to be seen. However, for fans of the genre and those that feel nostalgic over a less complicated era of indie, this is a band to watch
Bombay Bicycle Club at the Forum Melbourne, Thursday 26th September
Coming off the back of the festival circuit following the release of their new album, Luna, Bombay Bicycle Club didn’t seem any worse for wear after their lengthy stage tour. “We’re so glad to have a crowd to ourselves again”, proclaimed a high-spirited Jack Steadman, vocalist and frontman.
Steadman’s musical versatility shines live
Presiding over the enraptured audience of the Forum, the Roman decor an elegant background for the at ease and on point Londoners. To label the group with a specific genre would be a daunting task; over the course of three albums the band has experimented with folk, indie rock and world music. Their latest release doesn’t seem like an evolution, but a cumulative experience of how diverse this band’s tastes can be. And that comes across especially so live, with the band blending between songs such as the electronic synth pop hit Carry Me and the eastern world music influenced Feel, BBC’s performances feel confident and effortless. The crowd responding accordingly to the mood dictated to them, BBC conducted a journey through tracks ranging from their debut album to their latest release, with their well-know debut singles still holding a fresh feeling to this day. That can only speak for the showmanship and confidence that a quality group can pull off.
“We promise it won’t be as long before we’re back again, this time”
The opening sets by guests East and City Calm Down, though sometimes hit or miss, were enjoyable and vaguely interesting. East, a female headed neo-rock outfit, took stems from the likes of classic and grunge rockers while embracing the modern rock femme fatale such as the likes of Paramore or The Hundred In The Hands. Sometimes East felt slightly unsure of itself, but overall carried out an enjoyable gig, yet not entirely memorable. Following up on this were four piece electronic group, City Calm Down. Strands of Bryan Ferry, The Cure and New Order were thoroughly apparent in the band’s songwriting. And that’s not a bad thing. The band pulled it off with a nostalgic feeling that was entirely pleasurable. Definitely a highlight and one to watch.
BBC’s live performances portray a confident and playful group
Overall, it’s good to see BBC’s hectic festival circuit hadn’t left a noticeable strain on the band. The crowd seemed to be in the groups’s hands, singing the lyrics with ease to almost every song. And BBC responded in turn putting on a show filled with energy and sincerity. “It’s been a couple of years since we’ve played here, Melbourne,” frontman Jack Steadman smiled to an adoring crowd, “We promise it won’t be as long before we’re back again, this time.”
In the midst of a high energy show, a low-key number brought about an intimate moment between band and crowd