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The Sound Of… Poll Is Planned Obsolescence For Your Cultural Craving //

2014 is over and the blogs have pretty much said everything there is to say about music last year. So it’s January now and there’s nothing left to do but make desperate stabs in the dark about the deadening, air-headed artists who will inevitably end up soundtracking every mildly uplifitng television ident for the next year or so. Obviously, there’s no better way to predict the future than through a pointless survey of the faceless old guard, the ambiguously, mysteriously termed ‘industry experts’. Maybe I’m just bitter that no-one asked my opinion. Then again, who needs the advice of the staff of a cutting edge music magazine when you’ve got Toddla T and B.Traits on your side? Not the BBC, clearly.

The Sound Of… poll has been running since 2003, and with each concurrent edition, the BBC’s panel has successfully predicted the following year’s least exciting artist. The winner, seemingly, must be an artist with almost no charm who will inevitably manage to seize the attention of the flock-minded, gormless masses with flock-friendly, gormless music for around one year before fading into obsolescence faster than you can say “This update is only available on iPhone 4S and above”.

For an idea of just how cringe-inducingly predictable the results always are, you need look no further than Kitty Empire’s almost flawless predictions in her analysis of the poll back in 2007. That was eight years ago though. I’d love to tell you that something had changed. That critics had stalled from championing bland, easily marketable music to actually take a moment to think about the effect they’re having on the industry as a whole. The cyclical positioning of disposable artists represents a greater ill in the economic backdrop of music. An artist’s longevity is now so short that the poll itself actually rests on the fact that nothing lasts longer than six months, by which time the polls are ready to open again, and the experts begin to twiddle their thumbs over what kind of turgid, grey noise they will tell say you need to listen to in the following year.

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The most glaring heinousness – when you skim your eyes over the previous lists – is that you’re staring at a list of 100 + artists most of whom mean almost nothing to anyone any more. Besides a couple of exceptions like Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who had already had a number one EP in the UK two years before their nomination) and Jessie J (who was already singing annoying songs on youtube a year before hers) their hit rate for choosing paper-thin artists – who stand as much chance of surviving the fray as Jeremy Clarkson does of being invited to give the opening address at the next Love Music Hate Racism event – has been astounding.

The nominations for 2015 included Slaves, who could well be this year’s Royal Blood if they manage to get Ricky Wilson or somebody else who was famous six years ago to wear one of their shit T-Shirts during a GMTV appearance or something. Then there was George The Poet, who’s being touted as a sort of mum-friendly, 2015 version of John Cooper Clarke and does flaccid, tacky motivational, talky songs about… let’s say… the government? And how could we forget Raury? Despite the industry doing everything they can to make Raury trendy, there’s just no escaping the fact that he’s so fucking cheesy it hurts. Of course, there’s no accounting for taste, but when you remember that taste is being forced down most people’s throats by a bunch of insiders who can’t see past the end of next July it’s actually pretty abysmal. Maybe we all just need a reminder that we are our very own human beings with our very own thoughts and feelings.

Honestly, if James “look I’ve got a silly hat” Bay still means anything to the baying hive-mind in 2016, I will not only eat my own slightly pungent, worn out Thinsulate beanie, but I’ll eat his unfeasibly clean, perfectly-tilted, faux-cowboy atrocity too. But fuck eating headwear. I urge you, wade into the world, buy a second hand record by someone you’ve never heard of, fall in love with it and never look back.

This year, a kind of smug Topman brat used to be in Skins took the number one spot by doing a really poor impression of one of those really bad bands that shuffling lads in V-Necks hold very dear. Think Disclosure if their brief had been to make their music intelligible to a baby, or the kind of dog that smiles proudly after relieving itself all over your favourite shoes. So, as the architects of contemporary culture continue to sculpt the musical landscape in their flat-pack, nice boy with acoustic guitar, nice girl with inoffensive voice mould, I can only hope the good public will heed my advice.

Don’t let them tell you what you want.

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Words: Billy Black

@billybillyblack

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Mediaspank: 2014 and The Death of Cynicism

I’m a political obsessive. This conference season I was streaming speeches in their entirety and I’m still somehow reading books about the economic crisis. You’d think writing 2014’s political eulogy would be an exciting opportunity, but it’s not.

The debate’s dominated by opinions taken straight from the bartender of a local boozer that’s crying out for Wetherspoons to put it out of its misery. Yet somehow the politicians spouting this bullshit have forced the people we did vote for to ape their every move.

That’s why the discussion has devolved to the point where you have to start by re-establishing that any problem, from traffic jams to low wages, isn’t caused by Johnny Forenescu, a mythical Romanian beast who’s able to exist in the mutually- opposing states of being a BENEFIT TOURIST while also STEALING YOUR JOB. It’s getting tiring.

But it’s not like we hear that stuff outside of the news anyway. We’re not bumping into these politicians in their taxidermy- clad country club headquarters or those pubs with Sun posters Blu-Tacked on the windows where they do their photo shoots. Nope, we spent 2014 drinking in the safety of bars with exposed brickwork, which serve food on camping plates and stock craft beer poured by barmen with well- maintained moustaches.

But if you ignore Westminster for a bit, there’s a lot of positive stuff happening. In the 90s, revolutionaries like Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna wrote punk songs and zines to create solidarity, and 2014’s feminist added Twitter and the ion canon of internet rage to their arsenal. Crowdsourced rage can be quite the force, as Apple found out with the coercive Songs of Innocence release, and this year we saw how effectively it shut down Dapper Laughs and reduced a hapless scientist to tears.

Emily Maitlis tried to debate the aforementioned fictional character on Newsnight, pressing him on the seemingly ridiculous idea of his audience taking everything he says literally. To her credit, for Daniel O’Reilly’s “internet sensation” to push the boundaries under the comedian’s protective veil of irony he would have to offer more than sub-Danny Dyer cultural insights and shit jokes. That said, let’s not waste too much time attacking a physicist with a Rosetta Project spaceship tattoo and a seriously naff shirt.

Even more exciting than the internet’s ability to question – and occasionally destroy – people who go against the general tenants of liberalism is the kind of awesomeness we saw in Ellen Page and Emma Watson’s speeches about equality (about coming out and sexism, respectively). They were snapshots of a movement that’s percolating through popular culture and can be seen among many writers, artist, comedians and actors who took centre stage this year.

There’s no point in being cynical about the cheap stuff either, whether it’s Pharrell’s hat at the Grammys or the Sharknado sequel. The penny really dropped when a freshly- oiled Kim Kardashian published her spent champagne and Hiyah! Smile birthday suit photos. That’s what it took to remind me it’s important not to dwell on whether the human race will survive the endless Jihad, being drowned by our own filthy capitalist excess and the rapid ascent of Ukip. It’s more interesting to stop being cynical and revel in the astounding pop madness we’ve created.

From John Oliver to the epic True Detective, 2014’s critical output was mind- blowingly good. The latter saw Harrelson and McConaughey’s Oscar-worthy performances drag you into the insect- infested southern states to follow a 17-year hunt for a serial killer. And even with episode titles like The Long Bright Dark, it’s probably the best TV ever made.

My ode to 2014 is to celebrate culture, whether it’s cheap and disposable or nuanced cinema-quality drama, and to stop obsessing about politics. That’s why I ended the year watching endless comic book movies, reading books like The Hunger Games and Hermione Granger and the Narcissistic Boy Wizard, wearing high tops and upcycling, and stopped getting irate every time someone talks bullshit about immigration on the TV.

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Words: Christopher Goodfellow

mediaspank.net

Illustration: Lee Nutland 

Black Sabbath, 1972

Studio To Stereo //

Studio To Stereo is an audio visual exhibition currently hanging in London’s Proud Gallery which aims to marry High Res Audio recordings with never before seen images of artists in their various studio environments. The idea is that it will give the audience the feeling of being in the studio with the artist.

Curated by Alex Proud, and narrated by BBC Radio 6 DJ Tom Ravenscroft, the gallery features pictures of Bob Dylan, Black Sabbath, The Beatles and more. As a special preview we’ve collected some of our favourite images from the show as a Crack exclusive. Check them out in the gallery below and head down to Proud Gallery between 20 Novemeber and 3 December to see the full exhibition for yourself.

Kevin Parker recording Lonerism in his home Studio, 2011


Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) recording Lonerism in his home studio, Matt Savage, 2011

Black Sabbath, 1972


Black Sabbath, Chris Walter, 1972

Chris Martin while recording X&Y, 2004


Chris Martin recording X & Y, Kevin Westernberg, 2004

Ray Manzarek & John Densmore, 1970


Ray Manzarek and John Densmore (The Doors), Frank Lisciandro, 1970

Pink Floyd by Andrew Whittuck-002-HR


Pink Floyd, Andrew Whittuck

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John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison tune up, Ernst Merck Halle, 1966

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Annie Mac’s Twin Peaks rescore is a masterpiece //

A majestic, red breasted robin perches tentatively on a branch, city smog billows from small town factory chimneys, the gears of industry churn as the words ‘Twin Peaks’ appear in moss green to that most iconic of themes; Toddla T’s Acid. Some might call it sycophantic given the curator’s relationship to the artist but, when you peel back the layers and really think about it, what other piece of music could possibly lend itself to the title sequence of David Lynch’s classic surrealist television serial?

How could my eyes not stay glued to the screen as the bass fades and murmurs and the heavy glow of Shlomo’s bass weight Out of Hand kicks in and the people of Twin Peaks make a shocking discovery. Never before has the marriage of dubstep and mystery been so perfectly realised. Was it not but a few weeks ago I was revelling and joyously extolling over the unerring judgement of MistaJam’s now classic reinterpretation of Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood? I really thought it couldn’t be bettered, well, I was wrong – heck, everyone was wrong.

No-one saw this coming, this splendour, this bold improvement on what some close minded ‘film buffs’ have called ‘a masterclass in audio visual acuity.’ Now, I’m not one for spoilers but the moment when Disclosure’s 2012 classic Voices washes over the backwards talking dwarf is sheer genius, an alliance of truth and beauty, a blue sky and a Waitrose smoked salmon, cream cheese sandwich. This is all I have ever wanted, I used to think it would be enough to just be able to watch Twin Peaks but much like that time I reach operating thetan level 4 I now realise that sometimes there’s more to life than meets the eye.

All that’s left to do now is to sit and wait, breath bated as I yearn for next week’s installment of Radio 1 Rescores. I hear Charlie Sloth’s taking on John Carpenter’s classic monster movie The Thing and I am literally shitting myself in anticipation.

Fuck you Zane Lowe. Fuck you very much indeed.

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Words: Billy Black

@BillyBillyBlack

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Mediaspank: Let’s talk about the bombs

When the government’s preparing to bomb a foreign land it always feels like we’re sat cross-legged on the carpet waiting eagerly for them to read another story from the Very Serious Book of Military Intervention. 

It’s a series of watercolours with less than a catchphrase per page. “Look at these persecuted Muslims,” they say, pointing at a picture of appropriately dressed peoples cowering in fear, the furrowed brow lines of a statesman crossing their forehead in metered concern.

The next drawing shows the enemy just metres from the edge of a town; the Wolf at the Door. They’re the ones driving stolen US-bought tanks, waving black flags and beheading people, or clutching AK-47s, banning democracy and harvesting opium on an industrial scale.

“He hates our way of life, our freedom, our democracy,” says Tony, gesticulating wildly at the serious man with a bushy moustache surrounded by rows and rows of parading soldiers, and a palpable certainty he could strike at the heart of England at any moment.

And so it continues. We went into Iraq during the Gulf War in the early 90s and then went back there a decade later with an alarming amount of altruistic spunk. Now we’re running soirees with laser guided bombs in an attempt to halt the cancer-like spread of the latest jihadist group.

If ISIL consolidate their grip on the land they occupy, says the home secretary, “we will see the world’s first truly terrorist state established within a few hours flying time of our country.” We must not flinch! Attack! Attack!

Every time the justification is about what’s happening there and how it’s going to affect us here. This establishment of a caliphate is a “clear and present danger” to our way of life, says Cameron.

That’s not to belittle just how serious the situation is on the ground, where people are dealing with unimaginable terror, or to make light of our international responsibilities. The question of whether we should try to help people in these countries is easy to answer and, therefore, largely irrelevant.

The more important thing to ask is whether we can help, and the government never gives the UK public the respect of having an open debate about that.

The arguments about how the threat there causes attacks here ring hollow. Perhaps we can bomb an ideology out of existence, but attacks on the UK have largely been plotted and carried out by UK nationals – the threat originated in our country – and stopping them has been almost entirely down to the amazing work of our security services, not these wars.

And there needs to be a public forum to discuss every intervention, not a short debate in the Commons made in front of nodding-dog MPs.

We need to make sure the public knows basic facts, like how many people support the regime we’re about to dismantle and what happens after our intervention ends. And these facts, observations and uncertainties, need to be couched in appropriate rhetoric not amped up for the sake of cheap headlines.

It shouldn’t sound like a leader’s personal mission either. Any time the debate turns into a soap box speech in front of an audience of yes men, rather than a conversation about the perils of intervention, we’re in trouble.

We’ve just finished pulling our troops out of Afghanistan 13 years after we invaded the country. There’s no doubt we’ve done some good there, but our involvement looks nothing like what we were promised all those years ago.

Maybe if we learnt to talk about military intervention honestly and openly we could improve the impact and avoid repeating the same mistakes again and again over the next decade.

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Words: Christopher Goodfellow

@MediaSpank

Illustration: Lee Nutland 

Mogwai / Rave Tapes (a-sya)(HSE-30324)

Mogwai at Colston Hall //

Some bands are just meant to be headliners. Some bands combine the reputation, the prestige, the breadth and mass and quality of material, and the sheer sonic impact that means no one could possibly, justifiably go on after them. Mogwai are one of those bands. 

It’s 18 years and 8 albums since Mogwai unleashed the still-peerless Mogwai Young Team on an unsuspecting world. In the subsequent period the Glaswegian collective have experimented, expanded, and ultimately perfected the blueprint laid down by those fiercely creative, staggeringly ambitious young men. Mogwai in 2014 stand alone as one of the most prized and revered assets in British music. And it’s in a live setting that they’re afforded the space and scope to fully exercise all those devastating sonic charms.

The first headliner announced for Simple Things 2014, the event’s entire line-up was built around the knowledge of Mogwai at its zenith. Filling the grandiose and acoustically immaculate Colston Hall main room, this headline performance could go down in Bristol music history.

And for those who can’t make it, you’ll also be able to stream Mogwai’s performance from 23:30 at the following link: simplethingsfestival.co.uk/live/

Simple Things takes place at various venues in central Bristol, tomorrow, 25 October. A small handful of tickets are still available at tickets.crackmagazine.net. Whet your appetites with the video for Simon Ferocious, released earlier this year, below.

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Simple Things 12 Day Countdown #2: Red Bull Music Academy present The Firestation //

We’ve already waxed lyrical about the appearance of DJ Harvey, one of the festival’s most anticipated sets, and performing alongside him at the Firestation is a varied selection of the solid up-and-coming and established talent that we’ve come to align with RBMA. The warped hyper-pop of SOPHIE has become one of the most divisive forces in dance music, so one of his notoriously baffling live performances is not to be missed. The infectious, sample-heavy dance jams of DJ Nature should fit nicely alongside the roughed up cosmic house of Seven Davis Jr., who will play one of his ever-evolving live sets where his warped vocals ride raw, rhythmic soul. Expect talk-box fun with Numbers producer Redinho, who plays following the release of his debut album. Electronic trio Dark Sky, hugely-hyped rapper Rejjie Snow and academy alumni Jolly Mare are pinned together by local talents Futureboogie and The Kelly Twins, the latter of whom have kindly put together an excellent Simple Things warm-up mix, playing the sort of down-tempo excursions they’ll be letting spin at the Firestation come Saturday.
Simple Things takes place at various venues in central Bristol on 25 October. Very limited tickets are still available at tickets.crackmagazine.net.

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Simple Things 12 Day Countdown #3: Studio 89 //

Hosting impressive line-ups of the most credible deep house and disco from the modest confines of a noodle bar basement on a Cardiff backstreet, Studio 89 got people talking about their intimate yet unpretentious atmosphere while inspiring a renewed energy in the Welsh dance music scene. Making Coroners Court 2 their own this Saturday, Studio 89 DJs are joined by regular Owain K as well as young Berlin-based producer Max Graef, whose critically-acclaimed debut album Rivers of the Red Planet won over fans with its sideways take on his diverse range of influences spanning house to hip-hop.

Undoubtedly one of the most highly-anticipated sets of the festival comes courtesy of DJ Sprinkles. Terre Thaemlitz has long been a feature in the discourse of dance music culture, largely because of the extremely eloquent, pointed nature with which she dissects ideas of clubland ideology and queer identity. While the Tokyo-based producer’s thoughts on dance music culture are readily available, a DJ Sprinkles set is something of a rarity. Just what makes a set from the deep house operator so exceptional is the guaranteed slew of ambient excursions and multifarious exclusives that you absolutely have to get off the sofa and into the club to hear. You might know two tracks, tops.

Simple Things takes place at various venues in central Bristol on 25 October. Limited rickets are still available at tickets.crackmagazine.net.

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SIMPLE THINGS COUNTDOWN #4: FACT magazine @ the Coroner’s Court //

The intense potential for electronic music will be fully realised on the FACT-hosted stage at Simple Things. Bookended by sets from the up-and-coming grime producer Impey and the unforgiving teenage techno artist Happa, Room 1 of the Coroners Court will see sets from some of the most intriguing producers in the game: Zomby and Actress.

First emerging with an outsider’s perspective on the bass-fuelled, slower BPM trends of the mid noughties, Zomby’s unpredictable trajectory led him to 2013’s double album With Love, which saw the masked enigma gather fragments of jungle, classical music and eskibeat grime and smother them with a grey-coloured ambience. Notoriously raw and unpredictable, Zomby’s selection will showcase his impeccable taste. Equally as uncompromising, is previous collaborator and peer Actress. Lauded for his experimental tendencies on albums such as Hazyville, R.I.P. and Ghettoville, Simple Things will see him project his thirst for extremity onto the dancefloor at the Coroners Court.

Simple Things takes place at various venues in central Bristol on 25 October. Limited rickets are still available at tickets.crackmagazine.net.

 

 

Photography: Teddy Fitzhugh

Liars

Simple Things 12 Day Countdown #5: Liars //

So assured is Liars current incarnation – a thudding, robotic three-pronged beast unleashing warped 4×4 industrial techno and skewed electronic post-punk clunk that could only be released on Mute Records – that it’s disarming to trace your way back through their undulating, untouchable musical history. 

Yes, this is the same three men who only began dabbling in electronic instrumentation with 2012’s bubbling WIXIW; yes, it’s also the same band who wooed the alternative rock world with the intoxicating guitar riff of Scissor, its rock-pelting video, and the relative tangibility of the accompanying album Scissorworld in ’10. And yes, the same band who produced the searing experimental noise rock of Plaster Casts of Everything from their self-titled record ’07.

And know what – it’s also the same band (although with a slightly tweaked line-up) who came raging out of the ultra-hip NY post-punk revival scene alongside the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the turn of the millennium – only to promptly distance themselves from the hype by holing up in a cabin in the New Jersey woods and producing a dense, unsettling, incredible concept album based around witch hunting. And the same band who then relocated to Berlin to create the percussive, atmospheric experimental masterpiece Drum’s Not Dead, which is where these two subplots merge.

Liars are simply one of the most important, unique, staggeringly unpredictable bands on their time. We are honoured to have them here at Simple Things, and their Colston Hall main room slot will be an unprecedented standout.

Simple Things takes place at various venues in central Bristol on 25 October. Limited rickets are still available at tickets.crackmagazine.net. Watch the video for Scissor below.

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Simple Things 12 Day Countdown #6: L.I.E.S. //

Notorious for taking dance music and running it over with a truck, label head Ron Morelli created something of his own by tapping into a seemingly endless stream of artists with a seemingly endless stream of dark, dusty and distorted dancefloor constructions.

The L.I.E.S. label’s prolific output continues to span nervy lo-fi, lawless techno and multifarious takes on unconventional, unhinged dancefloor cuts, notching up over 80 releases since 2010. Joining us from the label is boss Morelli alongside the hazy, spacious sounds of Terekke and the hypnotizing acidic swells of Svengalisghost. The sun’s gone away and it’s officially time to spend some quality time in dark rooms wigging out to distortion blown sounds. Find them in the dark belly of Lakota room 2.


In order to book your place grab a Simple Things ticket from
tickets.crackmagazine.net. Get a taster for what you’re in for below.

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Simple Things 12 Day Countdown #7: Bristol’s Best //

While it’s obviously hugely satisfying to welcome a wealth of international talent to Bristol, it’s an equally integral facet of Simple Things to appreciate the incredible font of music sitting right on our doorstep. Bristol’s winding musical history spans the eras, and the current crop of bands, DJs, promoters and labels means the city’s musical commitment and eclecticism is now at a point to match the cultural diversity for which it is so celebrated.

So as well as handing over some of the stage reigns to long-running friends and associates, we’ll also be embedding a selection of Bristol-based or -affiliated artists within the festival line-up.

Taking over The Lantern, the Colston Hall’s impeccable second room, will be the Bristol-based Invada Records, run by Portishead man Geoff Barrow. Nestled between hyped acts like The Haxan Cloak and Eagulls you’ll find local bands and Invada signees including the expansive post-rock squall of Thought Forms, the thrilling A/V onslaught of Cuts, and the gothic garage rock of Scarlet Rascal. We’ve also invited back our friends at Shapes after their triumphant stint in The Island’s Courtyard last year, with the highly-respected Bristol staple DJ October appearing alongside techno royalty DVS1, and the rapidly-ascending online hub Stamp The Wax, which started life in Bristol, will host a room in Lakota where local heads including Admin, Seka, Harri Pepper and Robin Sure will nestle in alongside rising house star Damiano von Erckert.

And, of course, we’ll welcome back those inimitable house and disco hearthrobs Pardon My French, who’ll be hosting a cast of friends including Christophe and Twin Picks, as well as welcoming a very (trust us, very) special guest headliner.

Taking over the auspicious Colston Hall Main room opening slot after Oliver Wilde’s stunning showing last year will be the swooning, textured shoegaze of The Fauns, while Wilde himself will act as the centrepiece for The Line Of Best Fit’s offerings in the unique space of the Foyer. Local DIY heroes Spectres will fill the Academy 2 with searing noise, while the Red Bull Music Academy Stage will see Bristol-born, NYC based house icon DJ Nature appear alongside his kindred spirit DJ Harvey, with the stage foundations having been laid by The Kelly Twins and Futureboogie.

And if you can find a more appropriate home for the gritty post-punk of Idles and the riotous stoner-RnR jams of Turbowolf than providing support for world-renowned luminaries Death From Above 1979 and Black Lips in their home town, then we’re all ears.

So there you go. Bristol – we give you Bristol.

Simple Things takes place across 14 stages on 25 October, tickets can be bought here. Check out DJ Nature in the Boiler Room below.

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