Low Flying Aircraft

Swedish Director Solveig Nordlund added another J.G. Ballard adaption to the small number of Ballard-films in 2002. It took her 15 years to let her vision of a film version of "Low Flying Aircraft" become a reality. With the help of a Swedish-Portugese co-production deal, filmed in Portuegese it became "Aparelho Voador a Baixa Altitude"
Set in a perfectly fitting location in an abandoned holiday-resort on the Portugese coast, the seldom seen feature lengths film takes Ballards story on a different, yet very fitting route.

The eerie Ballard distopia tells a story of an empty world that suffers under massive numbers of deformed child births. What sounds like a standard sci-fi sujet ("Children of Men" almost stopped there) is turned on its head by Ballard revealing the disturbing truth about the mutated children.

Nordlund decided to shift the focus of the story on the pregnant female lead Judith Forester (played by hauntingly strong and beautiful Margarida Marinho), who is determined to give birth to her baby, no matter what the outcome might be.

"Aparelho Voador a Baixa Altitude" is currently shown at various festivals. The film has a fantastic setting and amazing production values, despite its relatively small budget. Shot in Portugese and only available locally without subtitles on DVD, it is deemed to remain relatively obscure.

The ever brilliant folks at Ballardian have conducted an interesting interview with Solveig Nordlund recently and wrote a nice write-up of her work. They also extracted three 10-minute excerpts of "Low Flying Aircraft" of which I posted the second part here.

Parts one and three are available here and here. Recommended!


Since you´ve been polyGONE

Norwegian born artist Bård Edlund has worked for over a year on his sad and touching animated short-film "Gone", which follows his faceless, continuously sad, polygon figures through a situation we all know too well.

Today, Edlund lives in New York and works as an art director with CNN. His Scandinavian melancholy seems to have followed him.


Mechatronic Metal Balls

BMW has modernised and re-opened its vanity museum in Munich last month. I don´t usually care too much for real BMWs but I can´t ignore their attitude to spend lots of money on outlandish concept cars and flashy publicity stunts.

Two of their latest, viral image campaigns are particularly outlandish and flashy: The fabric covered and shapeshifting GINA concept is the most amazing car since FAB 1. The moment when GINA opens its bonnet for us is positively obscene! GINA is on display at the Museum and I wonder how "she" looks outside of a perfectly lit film studio (I also wonder if the fabric would make flapping noises on the Autobahn?).

Although, judging by the second featured attraction, I expect GINA to be presented in the best posible light and far out of touch, hidden from closer looks.

The so called "Kinetic Sculpture" baffles the visitor with a 6 minute choreography of 712 "flying" metal balls, constantly re-grouping and morphing to form abstract, flowing images and car-shapes (to remind us of where we are).

A similar work, on a much smaller and less sophitsicated scale was already done by artist Joe Gilbertson. His kinetic sculpture "Tryptich" is composed of 300 balls, suspended from an intricate, motorized machination that constantly moves the balls up and down. The soothing look of the effect is disturbed by the relatively loud noise of the complicated machine.

BMW probably threw tons of money at a horribly named company called "art+com" who took the idea to the next level. The over 700 balls are attached to thin wires which are invisibly connected to an undoubtedly complicated machinery that moves each ball individually and computer-aided on the vertical axis.

Sure, the effect is very nice and haunting, but the purpose of this "mechatronic installation" is diminished by the constant forming of BMW-resembling-models and the boring and painfully unfunny projection of buzz-words such as "innovation", "competence", bla bla bla.

But that´s what you get when you turn to a company that´s called art+com. What sort of name is that? Would you still go to a hairdresser with the word "art" or "avantgarde" on the name plate? Or would you expect having a great night-out in a club called "Old Daddy"? Thought so!

This is a video of the full 6:30 minute lasting cycle.



Mux Nixed

As reported here Muxtape has been shut down by the RIAA.
It took longer than I thought it would, but Mux are confident that they will re-open soon.
Let´s hope for the best.

Sexy Synthesizers: 808 State Luxury Re-Issues

808 State are responsible for a number of spinetingling WOW-moments in my life. From the obvious early-morning-club-bliss to some unexpected encounters with a random track at dubious places.

Listening to the then brand new "Ex:El" in its entirety, front-row, top-floor on a public bus speeding through Hong Kong at dusk will always remain etched in the hard-disc of my mind. The sights, the smells, the exitement, the sounds. It´s still there and to this day, the first meandering keyboard sounds of "San Francisco" throw me back into a treasured playback of this memory.
"Here we go! You must follow!"

It is impossible for me to decide if 808 State is still relevant today, or if their work does sound dated or not. The next two albums "Gorgeous" and "Don Solaris" were a bit patchy at times and they never found an anchor in my mind like "90" and "Ex:El". Maybe this was due to the fact that I never heard them in such an exiting environment. Maybe the amazing 808-sound became a bit of a formula, while electronic music exploded in many directions.

The mash-up of "1 in 10" left me cold and by the time they released the excellent "Lopez" off of "Don Solaris" 808 State somehow merged into trip-hop. I always hoped that 808 State would collaborate with Billy MacKenzie, it might have changed the future. Their last album "Outpost Transmission" from 2002 was more or less released without any interest from the record buying public.

Now its the time to re-visit the legacy of one of the best british electronic bands with the "luxury" re-release of all four albums they recorded for ZTT. In time to celebrate the 20th birthday of the band and the 25th year of ZTT´s existence . Also re-released will be "The North at its Heights" the album they produced with MC Tunes.

Every album is re-mastered and comes with a second disc full of bonus material (mixes, live- and unreleased tracks.)

Check the obi-scans for full tracklisting. As for the MC Tunes album: I am waiting for an instrumental version of this otherwise dated rap-album since it was released back in 1990. Sadly the bonus CD is not bound to fulfill this wish to provide this "lost" 808 State album.

The UK-release is scheduled for the last week of september/first week of october. The Japanese Fans, however have been treated to an early release date on 08.08.08

The official website Global State is worth repeated visits for its generous amount of free mp3´s of demos and live tracks. They even offer cover designs for your self-toasted Cds!


Ejector Air

Two weeks ago I finally found the time to visit Playland at the PNE in Vancouver. Well, Playland in itself was definitely not a destination I would have considered visiting if it wasn´t for the classic wooden coaster. The ride is simply called "Coaster" and celebrates its 50th birthday this year.

I am not one of those "coaster counters" who have to ride every kiddie-coaster in it´s ever repeating layouts, only to be photographed with a mouth-breathing grin, holding up a sign that says "500" some day.
Anyway, "Coaster" is a classic woody with some features you won´t find anywhere else so I just had to ride it.

In all honesty, Playland is a tragic dump which resembles a sad funfair on a forgotten parking lot, somewhere in a not-so-pretty-part of an otherwise beautiful city. So, it was actually good timing that we decided to pay a visit after our involuntary date with a Skunk the night before.

"Coaster" was built by Carl Phare in 1958 and currently holds the 20th place in the relatively respected Mitch Hawker´s Wooden Coaster Poll 2007 (out of 178 listed woodies). Among the top 20 it is the oldest continuously operating ride. All the others (except one) were built within the last 15 years.

Looking at it from the ground you would hardly think that this relatively harmless looking ride could offer anything worth to write home about. All you can see is the lifthill and the elevated turns, which are taken at fairly low speed.

If you are not a coaster dork you will not notice the unique rolling stock, which was specially built for this ride and no other ride on the planet uses the same design.

The trains consist of 8 single-bench cars with flanged wheels. Similar cars are enjoying a renaissance on newly built wooden coasters, since they track much better and are able to maneouver tighter and wilder turns than the usual two- or three row cars. As a simple, but genius device the open front car is equipped with a small oil canister that sprays oil onto the track as needed. This way, "Coaster" always runs as it should: Greased, lubed and wet!

Let´s hop onboard! Thanks to a very fast crew and a refreshingly easy loading procedure the two operating trains (three are available) guarantee a fast moving line.

If you have ridden any wooden coasters recently you might remember that you have to wear a tight fitting seatbelt and an obstrusive, testicle crushing, individual lapbar would pin you into your seat. Padded seat dividers would eliminate any physical contact with your riding partner.

"Coaster" has none of this. You sit down and pull down a simple bar that locks at "elbow height". The smaller you are, the more unsheltered you will feel, but hopefully you will have someone to cling on to.

"Well it can´t be that wild" I thought to myself after seeing this lack of security measures and headed for the last row.
"Dork", Coaster thought back.

Up the hill we went and I was throwing up my hands in giddy expectation. The train immediately headed down the fairly steep first drop and my hands shot back down to the bar as my ass flew out of my seat because it wasn´t quick enough to follow. That´s what we coaster-connoisseurs call "Airtime".

A second, steep and deep drop followed after a slow turnaround and by this time I knew that this ride earned its spot in that poll the hard way.
Two drops and another turnaround later the train passed an elevated brake run, which secures multiple trains running on the course. Luckily it was turned off and from this point on "Coaster" made sure to show us who was boss! The greased track, the warm weather and constant two-train operation had the trains flying over the well worn course.

With ever increasing speed the consecutive hills got lower and the turns get tighter. The train flies through fan-turns and a "reverse curve", constantly subjecting the rider to a rapid change in lateral and horizontal forces. Despite all the rattling and rolling, "Coaster" is remarkably well running. There is no dreaded "washboard effect" or "jackhammering", which so many other wooden rides suffer from.

The final third of the ride was, without a doubt, some of the most extreme and wildest ride I ever had. The negative forces, which usually occur as you fly over a parabolic hill, forced you to stand up in your car! Thighs met the metal bar and as soon as you forced yourself to sit down again, another burst of negative g-force would make you jump back up. No one would hold up their hands anymore. We were all hanging on for dear life and enjyoing every moment of it. THIS is how a coaster ride should be.

There is an especially evil hill towards the end of the ride which is taken at "ludicrous speed" and a quick succession of three extreme "ejecting" manouvers follow it.

Rolling back into the station, braked by skid-brakes which are still manually operated by a guy throwing himself against a giant lever, I beamed with exitement and bruises. They don´t build rides like this anymore. Modern woodies are designed and calculated by computers to offer you a safe, but simulated wild ride.

The USA still has many old, classic coasters but the sue-happy culture has forced the operators to get rid of all the things that make Vancouvers "Coaster" so wild and fun. Around ten rounds later, I was exhausted and bruised but I had bright, beaming smile on my face.

You don´t ride "Coaster"...it rides you! And it hurts so good.


Bridges to Nowhere

The landscapes of Hans Christian Schink are located in L.A., South America, Asia or in former East Germany, where he was born in 1961. Schink has a good eye for decoding these varied landscapes as wastelands, marked by out-of-place architecture. His interest lies not in the landscape or the thoughtless buildings which man put in, it´s the new landscape that comes to existence where they meet.

In this respect his photos taken in Peru, Vietnam and L.A. become interesting in their interchangable, trivial presentation which could be anywhere on the planet.

I really like his series "Verkehrsprojekte Deutsche Einheit" (Traffic projects of the German Unifiction). A stylish collection of early-morning shots of half-finished bridges and roads which lead to nowhere.
This is a far cry from the "blooming landscapes" which politicians enthusiastically promised shortly after the unification.

Billions of Marks and later Euros have been literally sunk into the sand. The irony of history: while eastern germany now has the most advanced roads and infra-structure there is nobody left to travel on them. Jobs are rare and most people have long left to the western part of the country were the streets are crumbling.

Looking at these photos long enough you´ll get the exact sonic simulation of being there. A sort of wet, hollow, opressing silence. Then and now interrupted by the sound of a speeding car on the overhead concrete pass.

The stark contrast to images he collected in Southern California, is that there is no contrast at all.

See more of Hans Christian Schink at Galerie Rothamel

He Said: Could You?

Was it something on your mind? Had your world fallen apart? Had you a glimpse in your eye, had you murder on your heart?

Did you do it for love, did you do it for free, did you do it because no one notices?

I always saw this song by Wire-member Graham Lewis, aka. He Said as a bone-chilling story about someone lying in ambush to commit a senseless crime and getting rid of the evidence.

"Could You?", this twenty year old song came back into my mind when some bored idiot recently threw a wooden block from a highway-bridge somewhere in the dead woods of Germany, killing a young mother in the process.

You had a tool in your hand dragged beyond through your head. You washed the brim from your fingers, bright the stains from your clothes. Washed the sound from your ears, blew the smell from your nose, wiped the smirks from their faces, you were straightening smiles.

You said you did it for love, you did it for free. You did it because nobody notices me.

Lewis released two albums as He Said on Mute Records. At a time when labelmates Depeche Mode went through the roof and Erasure and Nick Cave helped to shuffle in some serious cash, Mute went on to expand their catalogue with a circle of friends and experimental outfits from all over the place.

I an pretty sure that many of these releases never recouped their production costs. Thanks to the adventurous label policy of Daniel Miller, Mute became one of the most prolific and diverse independent labels of all time.

Even before the reformed Wire signed to Mute, all of its individual members released solo- and project works on the label.

With He Said, Lewis explored his semi-concious cut-up lyrics with a funky but brooding electro-pop. Not very far removed from the "Black Celebration"-era Depeche Mode, He Said was actually far more sinister and darker than everything the leather-clad Mode could ever come up with.

Breath some life into this place. Pump fresh blood through these hardening veins.


Johnny Bargeld: The German Recordings of Johnny Cash

It is not widely known among casual listeners that Johnny Cash (alongside the Beatles and others) did at one point record some of his songs in German language versions.

Although the boring and overrated bio-pic mentioned that he actually was stationed in Germany and bought his first guitar there (to some stock-third-reich-marschmusik, blaring on the radio!), the film forgot to mention this footnote of his biography.

Thanks to the presence of the American Forces in Germany, country and western music has always been very popular since the Wirtschaftswunder-years and this might be one of the reasons, some producers dragged Cash into the studio, gave him phonetic lyrics and waited for the cash to roll in.

Didn´t happen!

If you are familiar with German you can hear that Cash really struggled with the words and that he was not really into it.
The record buying public heard this and went on to buy the originals. It certainly didn´t help that the writers didn´t even try to translate the songs. Instead they invented new stories which somehow attempted to emulate Cash´s themes.
Of course they messed this up too, by adding lots of cheesy "Schlager"-cliches.

Wo ist zu hause, Mama? (5 ft. high and rising) completely abandons the original story and turns it into a boring song about "Where is home, mama?"

The amazing "I walk the line" becomes Wer kennt den Weg? and it rides the same reactionary theme asking "Who knows the way", back to the homely roots of your past after you couldn´t find what you were looking for in far away places. Yuck!

Despite the questionable quality of these versions, I prefer them to the simulacra of Phoenix/Witherspoon, anyday!

Thanks to the brilliant Bear Family Records all of Cash´s German songs and much more rare and great recordings are available on a number of great CD-Boxsets.

There were also a number of German Cash-covers, which are actually a genre in their own right. Enjoy this bizarre take on "Ring of Fire" by cover- and novelty-king Ralf Bendix.

His Der grosse Trek nach Idaho" (Ring of Fire) tries hard to transform the music into some ersatz "Beat". With his theatrical crooning, the schmalty choir and the hilarious "Yippieh Ho´s" he almost succeeded to create a camp masterpiece.


Off-World Pitch

Recently at a pitch-meeting between art-director Dario D´Angelo of Armando Testa Agency and a Lancia Executive discussing their ad for the Lancia Delta Runner in Turin:

(click for screen-busting size)

Dario: Do you like our proposed ad?
Lancia Exec.: Is it original?
Dario: Of course it´s not.
Lancia Exec.: Must be expensive.
Dario: Very!
Dario: I am Dario
Lancia Exec.: Lancia
Dario: It seems you feel our work is not a benefit to the public.
Lancia Exec.: Replicant ads are like any other ad - they're either a benefit or a hazard. If they're a benefit, it's not my problem. Go for it!

First Class Shower Scene

This is a picture of a shower. One of two showers that are accessible to the fourteen 1st class passengers onboard the Airbus A380 that is now part of the Emirate-Fleet.

I don´t know exactly how pampered 1st class travellers will deal with the 5-minute time limit for each shower-session, but they will probably complain to the two designated shower attendants who make sure that your precious feet don´t have to squish through puddles your insanely rich predecessor left on the floor.

Read a report of a test-flight at Telstar Logistics and see more photos (including in-flight toasters) here.

All in all there are a few gold trims too many for my taste, but I guess that I won´t have to worry about this style-dilemma any time soon.




I am more a Betty Boo person myself! The old flapper with the extra "p" was always a bit too squeeky for me.

Despite being more or less off the air for quite some time, Betty refuses to die and has long secured her eternal place in pop culture.

It seems that she is a real phenomenon with the Latin population of East L.A. This might seem a bit exclusive for a real pop-icon, but Swindle Magazine knows more.

Let ´em Bleep!

When the madness of Acid-House died down a bit by the end of the eighties, it was time for a breather. But we were not ready for ambient and wall-paper-chill yet. Around the time the British house scene found their own sound by channeling Detroit, Electro, Jamaica and the BBC Radio Workshop.

New labels like "WARP", "Shut up and Dance", "Outer Rhythm" and "Network" were pioneering the sound that was fittingly called "Bleep", or "Bleep & Bass", or "Bleep & Clonk". Actually, "Clonk" was a mini-genre in it´s own right, and I always found it very interesting that the words "bleep" and "clonk" are appearing on the same page in William Burroughs novel "Nova Express" from 1964! Yes, I am sad, I know...

"Bleep" came at the right time for me. The German Techno sound that was developing at the time was never my cup of tea. Far too unfunky and boring for my taste.

The "Warp"-sound however had the right mixture of futurism, rhythmic invention and a nerdy infatuation with sound. Instead of cooking up the same, tired Front 242 formula with "Blade Runner" images, the new "sound of Sheffield" was forward looking, micro-funky and -on the right soundsystem- absolutely earth shattering.

Then of course there was the iconography of the emerging Designers Republic, who helped to carve an image for this futuristic sound.

The scene was a bit incestuous and orbited around studio wizard Mark "Moloko" Brydon and the Fon Studio in Sheffield. Other recurring figures were Richard H. Kirk from Cabaret Voltaire, the late Lee Newman and Michael Wells and - of course - the co-founder of WARP Records and seminal producer Robert Gordon.

In fact, this "Tricky Disco" was clearly music for boys. A new form of bachelor-pad music, which had guys racking up their subwoofers while dreaming up chat-up lines like: "Why don´t you come up to my place and I show you my BASS!"

It didn´t make a big impact on the German club-scene and for the most part it was mostly listened to in an environment that drove your neighbours or parents nuts.

I have written several unfinished "Bleep"-posts, but I recently found out that others have written about the subject much better and with far more authority than I ever could.

Looking back, what was considered to be "state-of-the-art"-music was actually pretty low-tech. Even by the standards of 1989. Acid used "dated" instruments, which were for the most part out of production by the time people started to dig the squelchy sound of the 303.

The "Bleep"-scene used similar instruments. Instead of the expensive Fairlight or Emulator, they utilised older gear and the cheaper samplers which began to appear on the market.

Especially Rob Gordon went further in his attempt to deconstruct the prefabricated sounds by programming them in slower, unusual rhythm patterns. The studio and its effect-boards became another crucial instrument to experiment with sounds.

The subsonic bass and the overall polished production was a product of people who knew their way around a studio. Gordons´ rhythms were syncopated, minimal and often folded in on itself. In all it´s abstract glory and "machinespeak" aesthetic, his productions were often very soulful and heralded a new form of pop-music.

Maybe "Bleep" will never have a real "revival" because it never went away for the people who were into it in the first place. I also believe that the kids of 1989, who are now well in their 30s and beyond, are for the most part interested in looking forward by transporting their "baggage" with them.

I see the current interest in the eerily titled "hauntology" as a result of trying to refrain from wallowing in nostalgia by re-constructing the lost emotions and echoing sounds of the past into a relevant and up-to-date framework. "Meta nostalgia", if you will.

In this regard I see the brilliant net-label Bleepfiend which was born out of an idea by Gutterbreakz.

Bleepfiend is bound to collect unreleased home-recordings from the electronic scene before fully digital home-recording became available. A time when people were still working with minimal equipment, cheap samplers with a sampling time of one second, 4-track tape machines and so on.

As Bleepfind explains: The music on offer was recorded in a time before the Internet made it possible to upload, share and promote work to a wider audience. This is music that never had a chance to be heard by anyone outside the artist's immediate circle of friends. But still it exists...it's forgotten potential locked in the ferric particles of dusty cassette tapes.

At the time of writing there are two releases available for download, which once more show the heavy influence the BBC Radio Workshop must have had on British kids.

Their "Dr. Who" was my "Kraftwerk".

The sound range of a Youtube clip (and laptop speakers) is of course unable to give a good example of what I am talking about. Anyway, here is a Rob Gordon Remix of "Yeah You" by The Step. It´s magic!