Archive for October, 2009

Magazine Layouts

October 30, 2009

These are some select spreads that I made for a magazine we write at work… much as I would love you all to see the magazine in full, unfortunately our company runs on a subscription basis and I can’t go giving it all away on here for free! I do, however, post my articles up on here, so that’s something at least!

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James

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Modern Warfare, Modern Hype

October 30, 2009

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There has been a furore of commentary recently over leaked footage of the highly anticipated FPS Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In the footage we see a terrorist attack taking place in a public airport, civilians duck and cover, bullets fly and bloody rampage ensues. The controversy with the footage stems from the participation the player takes in this mass culling.

Now, video games have always had their fair share of critics and campaigners calling for the destruction of the pixels, but their arguments were normally grounded on a framework of alienation and indoctrination rather than political commentary and taste. What makes this leak more harrowing, more personal and subsequent more tabloid worthy, is the direct comparisons that have been made between it and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last year.

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There have been some perfectly level-headed articles about the footage in question, but there is a worry that this will be outweighed by the more draconian reactionary responses before the general public has had a chance to digest the scene within a narrative context.

It is the focus on interactivity that defines the very medium but is also the cause of most of its ills. How much is too much? Infinity Ward (the developer of the game) are revered for their video game immersion – utilising these bleak set-pieces to absorb the players within the fiction. The opening scene of the first Modern Warfare would be a perfect example of this,

This uncomfortable positioning is the very foundation of the franchise. We are very much aware of our own mortality and the antagonist who is in control of it. This is a developer with no track record of controversial publicity – only consistently compelling FPS’s. Understandably, the footage was vehemently discussed because of the placement of the player within the attacks. We are no longer the impassive president being dragging unwillingly to our slaughter, or the grunt grasping their last breath beneath the mushroom cloud. We are in the position of power now, the Cheney with acog. There is no doubting that the new Modern Warfare will be the biggest selling game this year. I just pray that the footage shown will be part of a narrative that doesn’t leave itself open to a hysterical media campaign.

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We’ve already got the night vision goggles for that.

Dré

The Men Who Stare At Goats

October 30, 2009

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Apart from being the greatest title ever conceived by man, The Men Who Stare at Goats also has an ensemble of genuine Hollywood talent which should see it opening strong at the box office next week. The Coenesque film is an adaptation of Jon Ronson’s book covering ‘the apparent madness at the heart of U.S. military intelligence’ and merges quick-wit satire with military operandi. This is the liberal movie of the year with a post-modern stamp of ironic approval.

You’ll be guffawing over skinnies on November 6th, Here’s the trailer.

Dré

Wiley’s New Style

October 28, 2009

Without trying to sound like rebore Wu Tang, Wiley has fathered many lyrical and musical styles. However, his recent commercial successes, whilst broadening his rapping vocabulary (or narrowing it, depending on how you look at it), have caused a bit of a dry spell on the production front.

But now, it looks like he’s back to his button-bashing best. Over the past couple of months, a few Wiley productions have surfaced that have really caught my attention. Showcasing frenetic drum patterns, little or no melody and sharp interjections of vocal snippets, they contain a hint of the old school, whilst also being totally current and banging.

They are:


Wiley feat. The England 10 – She Likes To

The drums on this kill it. With two kicks battling against skittish hihats and percussive ‘Yelps!’ this is sure to smash it in the clubs. It’s big, brash and dramatic.


Wiley & Shifty vs. Ghetts & Devlin – 1,2,3, GO

This is oestensibly a rap battle track, fully updated and pumped full of adreniline for 2009. The drums are similar to She Likes To but the repeated ‘1,2,3’ refrain adds a nice lead into each verse.

The third example is Fumin’s ‘Out Of The Game’ featuring Wiley, Ice Kid, Jookie Mundo and Diesle, but I couldn’t find a video for it 😛 Sick new style for the Godfather, proving there’s plenty of life in him yet.

Kristian.

Manga – The Adventures Of Manga Review

October 28, 2009

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Manga is a bit of a Grime anomaly; a high-pitched, skippy, bespeckled MC whose bars frequently reference style, garms and crepes, yet unlike most rarely stray into badman territory. As a Roll Deep member, his playful persona often seems at odds with the rest of the group – especially when ‘Skeng’ is the main topic topic of conversation (which it often is.) As such, he has faced stick and general ignorance from both MC’s and fans.

Nevertheless, the perpetually adidas-clad MC has persevered, embracing his differences for debut mixtape ‘The Adventures Of Manga’, released earlier this week. Comprised of a curt 10 tracks, the free download features guest spots from Lady Chann and long time sparring partner J2K, and production from Scratchy, Wiley and Bless Beats.

‘The Adventures of…’ starts as any debut Grime mixtape should – with a collection of snippets showing us Manga’s musical journey thus far. If nothing else, in an era of throwaway music, it reminds us why we should pay attention. Verses cut from ‘When I’m ‘Ere’, ‘Fully Involved’ and ‘Do Me Wrong’ set the right tone; a short, stark reminder of this MC’s calibre and his lyrical dexterity.

Indeed, on closing track ‘freestyle’, Manga showcases a colder, ruthless side that has rarely – if ever – been seen before. Addressing his musical demons and stereotypes, he proves that there is substance to back his bubbly delivery. Which begs the question, why include it as the last track? There it is a footnote, whereas if included earlier, it could have been a bold statement of intent.

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The imaginatively titled ‘Style’ featuring Roll deep affiliate J2K is undoubtedly the mixtapes’ highlight. Over a big bastard of a bassline and skittering drums, the pair talk with finesse about their favourite subject. Given their previous form this should sound tired, but they manage to keep it fresh and enjoyable and more importantly – Grimey.

In fact, from the Chemical Brothers-sounding ‘Me Nar Like You’ through to menacing Scratchy-produced ‘Rampage’, this mixtape showcases a rich tapestry of Grime textures within a dancier, more upbeat context. Yet, unlike many ‘GrimewiddabittaFunky’ mixtapes, this isn’t in any way a compromise. ‘Activity’, Danny Weed’s production of the year makes a welcome appearance, although one is left with the impression that the self-named Sir Matchalot could have hit the much-versioned beat a lot harder.

Unfortunately that is one of this mixtapes’ shortcomings. Whilst you can appreciate and enjoy Manga’s stylistic differences, you just wish he’d punch those lines home and add a little dynamism to his delivery. With such skippy, syllable-governed flows, it’s easy to lose track. The radio clips included on the tail-end of ‘Grime Activity’ hit harder than some of the tracks and if Manga is to become top three, he should recognise this and adapt.

This is a solid mixtape, full to the brim with style and should be a welcome addition to any Grime fan’s MP3 library. A great start for Manga, although he will have to shout louder if he is to step out of Roll Deep’s shadow.

Download here.

Kristian

P.S. – Check out Fullygrown’s interview with the man himself here.

P.P.S. Respect to Lady Chann, apologies for the mistake… check her MySpace here.

Goldeneye Coming to the Wii….Possibly

October 28, 2009

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Is a revitalised GoldenEye coming to the Nintendo Wii?

According to the CV of one Craig Peck, animator at Eurocom Entertainment Software, a new GoldenEye game is in development for the Nintendo Wii. Activision had leaked their plans to release a new Bond game earlier in the year, with 2010 as its intended release date. Peck’s CV is the first indication that it might be another GoldenEye video game entry.

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The N64 game GoldenEye 007, developed by Rare in 1997, is regarded as a classic (proxy mines on bunker anyone?), revered by critics and fans alike. The 2006 game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, developed by EA, was not so well received, to say the least.

Pecks CV reads:

“Eurocom Entertainment Software, Derby, United Kingdom: July 09 – Sept 09 Animator – GoldenEye 2010 (Wii) – Animator on Activision’s James Bond series for the Nintendo Wii.”

Bizarre is confirmed to be developing the next Bond game, with Treyarch taking a break from the franchise. Although unlikely (how many rumours like this have circulated in recent memory?) it’s still possible that Activision has called on Eurocom to work on the Wii game, as they did with Quantum of Solace.

First round, pistols only, no Oddjobs!

Dré

Kidrobot Store Opening in London

October 27, 2009

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Kidrobot, everyone’s favourite toy and apparel label, is finally opening an outlet in the UK – in London to be precise (where else?)

Grand opening is on Thursday 19th November, from 6-8… I could continue typing but all the info is up there, so why waste both my time and yours? Just head down and buy some stuff innit.

James

Norman Rockwell – Original King of the Photoshop

October 27, 2009

Over at Gizmodo, Wilson Rothman has a fascinating article on a new book of photography, highlighting the creative process of Norman Rockwell, edited and compiled by Ron Schtick. Rothman was a sublime artist with the uncanny ability to reimagine countless images with his kitsch signature style

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Wilson calls Rockwell “the original king of Photoshop,” despite the fact that Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers were being gawped at long before Adobe (or indeed any image software) had been conceived. Heres a little snippet,

The book is not about painting. Rockwell’s oil-on-canvas work feels like an afterthought for Schick, who mostly documents Rockwell’s photography and art direction. Throughout the book, you see a painting, then you see the photographs he took to make that painting. In most cases, many shots comprise the different elements, and are joined together only in paint. It’s almost sad: Vivid interactions between people, remembered jointly in the country’s collective consciousness, may never have taken place. Even people facing each other at point blank range were photographed separately, and might never have even met.

Here’s the link for the book, other suppliers are available.

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Dré

Laugh and Cry – Windows and Family Guy

October 27, 2009

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Remember a couple of weeks back when we mentioned a collaboration between Family Guy and Microsoft to promote the new Windows 7 OS?

Reports from Hollywood gloss Variety suggest that Microsoft will be pulling out of its unique sponsorship with Family Guy because of the shows affection for controversial material. Microsoft was worried that the episode would contain “typical Family Guy style jokes,” according to Variety, “including riffs on deaf people, the Holocaust, feminine hygiene and incest.”

A Microsoft statement said:

“We initially chose to participate in the Seth and Alex variety show based on the audience composition and creative humor of ‘Family Guy,’ but after reviewing an early version of the variety show it became clear that the content was not a fit with the Windows brand… We continue to have a good partnership with Fox, Seth MacFarlane and Alex Borstein and are working with them in other areas. We continue to believe in the value of brand integrations and partnerships between brands, media companies and talent.”

Brand integrity aside, the collaboration seemed like a perfect opportunity for the company to wriggle free from their stoic, impassive brand and into direct competition with its spirited, carefree competitor. Given their erratic track record, a little sense of humour could do the company no harm – do they remember Vista?

A little preview found its way on the tube. Let us know your thoughts on the matter..

Dré

Four and a Half Minutes

October 26, 2009

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To many, John Cage was one of the most influential American composers of the 20th Century; many critics have described him as being a pioneer of the post-war avant-garde. His landmark work in the field of electronic music, his deviation in the use of musical instruments and his use of chance to compose music led him to become one of the most controversial and polarising composers of recent years.

Born in 1912 in Los Angeles, California to an inventor father and a journalist mother, Cage began playing the piano in the fourth grade, although it had been noted that from even an early age he had little regard for the accepted institutions of music, apparently paying little attention to composition. Such traits would become more apparent later in his life, when many of his compositions developed from his desire to create work that digressed away from traditional artistic forms to embrace a new and original way.

Disillusioned with the academic pursuit of writing Cage travelled to Europe, believing it to be of more use to him than education. While travelling, Cage managed to try his hand at various forms of art, such as architecture, painting, poetry and music; he eventually decided to dedicate his life to music as ‘the people who heard my music had better things to say about it than the people who looked at my paintings had to say about my paintings.’ Under the tutelage of Arnold Schoenberg, who later described Cage as ‘an inventor – of genius’, Cage learned not only about the art of composing music but also how to live life as a composer. After two years, Cage parted ways with his mentor, more determined than ever to write music.

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In 1942 Cage moved to New York, staying with the painter Max Ernst and Peggy Guggenheim. Through them he was introduced several luminaries of the art world, such as Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian and Andre Breton. Duchamp in particular represents a major Minimalist influence not just for Cage, who is himself considered a precedent for the Minimalist movement, but for the artform as a whole. Duchamp’s ‘readymades’, pieces consisting of found objects slightly altered in some way, represented the most extreme form of Minimalist art at the time; they featured the least amount of physical interaction between the artist and the work itself.

The Cagean representation of this is his appropriation of chance to compose music. Through correspondence with Gita Sarabhai, an Indian musician who had come to America to study Western music, Cage learned about the I Ching, or Book of Changes; more commonly used for divination purposes, this Chinese classic text was used by Cage to decide the arrangement of his compositions for nearly every piece after 1951.

Cage also began to look to everyday objects for musical merit; Oskar Fischinger, an abstract film-maker and animator, told Cage that all things have an inherent ‘spirit’ that can be released through its sound, an idea that lead Cage to experiment with everyday objects as musical instruments and, later, to adapt proper musical instruments to achieve different effects. Cage’s experimentations with music became less concerned with conventions of notation, structure or rhythm, and more to do with an appreciation of sound itself.

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To Cage, the conveyance of a particular message or emotion through music was irrelevant and redundant: ‘When I hear what we call music, it seems to me that someone is talking… I love the activity of sound… I don’t need sound to talk to me.’

On 29th August 1952, in Woodstock, New York, pianist David Tudor performed a piece entitled ‘4’33”’, written earlier that year by Cage. The piece caused uproar – not due to its content, more due to its perceived lack of it. In possibly the most overt example of Minimalist composing ever made, the score for ‘4’33”’ instructs the performer to sit at the piano for four minutes, thirty-three seconds and play nothing. The concept behind this ‘silent song’ is that the sound comes not from the performers, but more from the ambient environmental sounds that the audience hear in their immediate surroundings.

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This bridge into such avant-garde thinking proved to be a significant factor in Cage’s career, though not necessarily a positive one. Many members of the music press, even those who were fans of Cage’s earlier works, disliked his newer material and ignored it, resulting in Cage’s effective exclusion from the musical community. He suffered a similar fate at the hands of many of his peers, who disagreed with his use of chance in composition.

In later life Cage worked on mixed-media pieces – the most conspicuous of which was 1969’s ‘HPSCHD’, which ran for over five hours and included recorded music, slideshows comprised of thousands of images and over forty projected films. Cage’s youth experiences of travelling around Europe informed this new multimedia attitude towards performance, particularly a theatre visit in Seville that showed Cage the beauty of both visual and audible stimulation combined together in one piece.

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The late Sixties and Seventies also heralded a return to conventional notated work and also the recording of a piece entitled ‘Cheap Imitation’; Cage never liked making recordings of his work, meaning that this piece marked yet another landmark shift in his career direction. John Cage, through his influence of fine art and sculpture, re-defined how music could be created and understood by its audience.

Rather than being the representation of one person’s feelings, thoughts or beliefs, Cage reminded the world that sound is organic and therefore is at its best when untouched and un-manipulated. His work with electronic music and the ideas it put forth indirectly informed the dance music scene of the Nineties through its use of repetitive instrumental structure; in many ways, Cage’s work has said more than most composers ever will, even if some of it was silence.

James