Dreams of Saturday Night: Rhodes to Freedom

Not much to see in all these drum ´n bass clips, but who needs visuals for music that is so lush and beautiful?! Ambient D´nB really was the music of the future, when it emerged out of dark jungle and hardcore. Of course, much derided by the true innovators who saw this evolution of new-agey, middle-of-the-road-fluff as a dead end street, it was also the instant soundtrack for millions of boutiques and trendy cafés around the world, which might be a reason why the 90s are so undervalued. Most tracks here hail from 1995 when this music suddenly exploded everywhere.

Everything by LTJ Bukem is great and he, along with Omni Trio, was probably the kickstarter of this new sound. Bukem´s music does really stand the test of time as he is a fantastic musician who managed to combine great musicianship with amazing sound and production techniques.

LTJ Bukem: Rhodes to Freedom

LTJ Bukem: Watercolours

PFM (Progressive Future Music) did a couple of 12" and a bunch of remixes with one very impressive sound set-up. Their epic tracks slide along the edge of ambient kitsch but who cares as long as they sound like sonic waves sweeping over you. "Hypnotising" with the often used, but always wonderful "music is hypnotising"-sample was the b-side of their second single. PFM also did a great 9 minute version of Saint Etienne´s "(Down by) The Sea".

PFM: Hypnotising

Goldie had proven that jungle/drum and bass could as well be seen as a new form of soul music when he released the phenomenal "Inner City Life" in 1994. The use of sung vocals was relatively rare in the genre but some of the attempts were outstanding and often became moderate hits.

Saxophonist Courtney Pine and vocal diva Cassandra Wilson teamed up for the beautiful "I´ve known Rivers" which got the d´nb treatment by the slightly overhyped 4 Hero. I wish they would have always been as good as this.

Courtney Pine with Cassandra Wilson: I´ve known Rivers (4 Hero remix)

Another great d´nb vcal track and almost hit came from Soundman & Don Lloydie with Elisabeth Troy. "Greater Love" is amazing in the way it merges the sweet vocals of Mrs. Troy with the abstract and de-constructed beats. Later in 95 the three released an equally good follow-up on the great SOUR-label with "Let me be".

Soundman and Don Llyodie with Elisabeth Troy: Greater Love

Things get a bit rougher with this masterpiece of sonic energy. "Amazon Amenity (Chameleon Dub) by Link is a product of the fruitful partnership of Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton.
In 1992 they released a fantastic EP of Detroit techno, which also included "Amenity". Later they reworked that track into the lush balearic anthem "Links" by Chameleon, which then evolved into "Amazon Amenity". The drum programming towards the end of this epic is simply breathtaking.
"...Life moves pretty fast. If you don´t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Link: Amazon Amenity

Recovering from the hectic d´nb with this wonderfully relaxing abstract re-construction of Japanese outfit Soft Ballet. Once more, Middleton and Pritchard (as Global Communication) show their superiority.

Soft Ballet: Ride (Global Communication Remix)

Check out LTJ Bukem´s label Good Looking for recent d´n b.


Design 8 Itself


The Designers Republic announced last week that they have been forced to shut down due to several unlucky occurrences that all involve money.

Well, during the last years tDR has grown into a very large enterprise that had to run after corporate money in order to keep itself alive. It might have looked strange to their early followers that they were designing the international look of Coca Cola since 2006. According to founder Ian Anderson, he was also aware of this break in ethics and he plans to bring tDR back, probably on a much smaller scale. Design ate itself!

But anyway, If you look through some of their record sleeves (and other works in public spaces from the last 20+ years, it is safe to say that no other company (or single designer) has had such an enormous and lasting impact on graphic design as tDR.
There was Hipgnosis in the seventies, followed by heroes Neville Brody, Peter Saville, Russell Mills and 23 Envelope in the eighties. Designers Republic took all this, wrapped it up and ran with it. You can still spot a good tDR sleeve from one of the countless imitators that followed them.

Of course, thanks to tDR we now have loads of annoying graphic designers who like to have their photographs taken while holding up a fresh din a0-print, most likely sporting a stupid calendar-wisdom in a wacky type face.

Hee hee hee, yes! Wipeout!

It Came from Behind the Iron Curtain

Science-Fiction was always a common vehicle to transport political and social utopia (or dystopia), despite of the political system in which it was produced.

The movies loved Sci-Fi as a great way to sell fear, paranoia or subversive concepts with the use of exciting visuals.
Sci-Fi from the Eastern Block is either hailed as great art (Tarkovsky) or it is basically forgotten like these:

"Через тернии к звездам" - (aka. Per Aspera ad Astra or Humanoid Woman / To the Stars by Hard Ways) is a 1981 sci-fi film, directed by Richard Viktorov in the Soviet Union.

Here is a short scene set to a piece of the soundtrack by Alexey Rybnikov. I love the dominant moog bass, the eerie synths in the background and the anachronistic harpsichord on top of it. Together with the strange and dreary mood of the pictures it creates a very Chernobyl-esque atmosphere. I found the last images of people standing in submerged ruins especially impressive. Since gas-masks freak me out I will probably have nightmares tonight.

Enough of doom and gloom!

You have to watch the next clip! It´s bizarre, beautiful, funny and very relaxing (thanks to the wonderful Russian language). "Moscow-Kassiopea" was a sci-fi movie for children. Directed in 1972 by the same directer as the above, it directly rips off "2001" in a hilariously fantastic way - you know: for kids! Check the colourized landscapes and the monolith, which looks like a wooden door. The aliens look like the Pet Shop Boys, ca. 1993 and towards the 7 minute mark you won´t trust your eyes when a space ship corridor turns into a trippy night-club.

Speaking of DISCO:
Here is more of "Moskwa-Kassiopeja" set to great 70s communist disco music from East Germany. I can´t say enough how utterly amazing this is! Daft Punk had nothing on this!

See kosmonaut-twinks floating weightlessly through their space-ship to the totally tripped out Moroder-esque "In den Kosmos" (into space) by Stern Combo Meißen. This was recorded in 1978, one year after "I feel love"!

Hoch im All (up there in space) is so future-positive that you´d like to travel back in time to enlist for the Russian space program.


Generation Crap

Since I watch TV, the advertisements for "Jacobs Kaffee" (a traditional German coffee brand that is now part of Kraft Foods) have always been a reason to switch channels. I still remember the extremely corny spots for their main brand "Jacobs Krönung" (coronation) from the 1970s through the 1990s - the only thing that used to change were the hairdos and the table decorations of ecstatic coffee-drinkers.

Of course, in recent years the brand tried to refresh its "granny-image" by telling mini-stories involving teenagers and semi-risque sujets without alienating their older clientele.
Some of these clips were as horrible as the idea sounds in the first place. But last year this very funny and clever ad began to air and now -after a brief pause- it´s back again.

It´s about an "intimate" moment shared between a grey-haired but still sort-of-young grandmother and her nice, but thinly characterized grand-daughter.

Below the clip is a word for word translation of their conversation as it might be in English - if people who don´t know youth-talk would have written the script:

Girl: "Wow, granny, the concert was like totally rad! - We totally danced in the mud! In the MUD!!! - My clothes are like, totally ruined now."
(They both smell the coffee and granny remembers)
Granny: "I used to go to a rock-concert too. ´67 Hendrix!"
Girl: "You?! At a rock-concert???"
Granny: "Yeah. We´d also dance in the mud, but my clothes weren´t ruined."
Girl: "Why not?"

Perfect! Although I doubt that this ad will pull the kids out of Starfuxxs to buy Jacobs pads for their Senseo-machines, it most certainly tries to cater to people of my age. You know, the ones in between, who are too old to see dancing in the mud as anything funny and cool, but still too young to get nostalgic over a past that has turned into a sad cliché.


I want your Chocolaty Soul!

This ad for Cadbury chocolate is probably one of the fastest spreading clips on Youtube right now. A perfect combination of totally random stuff like two young kids with very special facial features and a classic electro/breakdance hit from 1984 ("Don´t stop the rock" by Freestyle) will probably reach more people than the new Vatican-channel by next Friday.

It´s the perfect da-da-campaign: Cheap, senseless, original and very effective!

If you haven´t seen it already, here it is:

Still, I felt strangely disturbed by the hilarious eyebrow-ballet of these two kids. There is something very sinister and unsettling lurking behind the surface that conceals a bizarre nightmare logic.

Screenshots of the clip are somehow revealing an almost subliminal vibe, halfway between "Village of the Damned", "The Omen/Exorcist", "Scanners" and "Come To Daddy!"

Saint Etienne - Method of Modern Love

Saint Etienne, the best pop-band in the known universe, have a new single! This one is really new, not like the strangely ineffective remix of "Burnt Out Car" from last year.

Click here for your listening pleasure!

"Method of Modern Love" (not a cover of the Hall & Oats song from 1984, although I wouldn´t have minded if it was) is a very, and I mean VERY poppy song, bursting at the seams with Richard X´s great production skills.
It´s sparkling, upbeat and extremely catchy. There is still that certain touch of melancholy sprinkled over the production which is so typical for Saint Etienne and which will probably prevent it from becoming a big hit.

Despite some very prominent DX-7 bells, "Method of Modern Love" is NOT another 80s pastiche, which is very nice for a change. The amazing multi-tracking of Sara´s voice is definitely the highlight here. It´s also nearly a minute too long for being a perfect pop-single, but the wonderful vocal trickery at the end finishes the song on a very exuberant note.

It seems that Saint Etienne are really trying to break into the charts with this track. So much though, that it lead them to a very confusing release strategy. Apparently the new British chart rules are demanding a single to be domestically released only before the rest of the world is allowed to buy the physical single.
This in the age of the download! Go figure! At least there are plans for an international release later on.

The single will probably promote the release of "London Conversations", which is at least the third or fourth Best-of-Saint-Etienne compilation in their 19-year carrier. Pitchfork just did a great and interesting Interview with the groups Bob Stanley.

Concrete Quarters

The wonderful world of concrete architecture is archived in the trade publication "Concrete Quaterly" which first appeared in 1947.

The first editions were full of bridges and power plant chimneys. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the issues are full of daring and visionary buildings from Brazilia to car-plants in Venezuela and water towers in Italy.

During the 1980s "Concrete Quaterly" switched to full colour print which didn´t help to shine a better light on the boring mass-produced row-homes and suburban churches which began to litter the western hemisphere.

You can download every single issue of "CQ" as a pdf at The Concrete Centre