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Archive for April, 2011

Watch Bocafloja Exclusively On BAMM TV

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Hailing from Mexico City, Aldo Villegas – or Bocafloja to his friends – has become something of an icon in his home country. Following a tenure with both Lifestyle and Microphonk, he has been enjoying success as a solo artist for over a decade now, ensuring that his unique blend of politically-infused hip-hop gains a much-deserved wider audience with each passing day.

BAMM was thrilled to welcome Bocafloja to our hallowed studio, and even more thrilled to see him lay down a live acoustic recording of ‘Quilombo Mocambo/Todo Cambia’ (featuring the additional talents of Favi and Aha). Check it out below.

BAMM UK: Modern Life Is Not Rubbish

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BAMM UK is a regular opinion piece from our London-based correspondent. This week: Modern Life Is Not Rubbish …

It’s good to have a hobby. Whether your passion is for stamp collecting, kite flying, model building or analysing the architectural slant of 15th century Tunisian doorframes, you’ve got to do what you love. Take this article in The Guardian, for example – entitled ‘Analogue artists defying the digital age’ – which features:

… a poet who composes on a typewriter, a musician who has built an entirely analogue recording studio [and] a photographer who shuns digital for manual vintage cameras and an artist who DJs on a gramophone.

All of which sound like harmless, fun and interesting diversions. Linking these together, of course, is the retro slant; a love of old technology and outdated mediums. Such a pursuit can be really enjoyable, displaying a love for a certain type of craft or a bygone era. It’s undeniable: there can be a quasi-nostalgic rush from listening to a hissy vinyl record rather than an MP3, or cracking open a dusty old hardback rather than reading something on a Kindle screen.

Ah. Yes. But the thing is … that’s only a tiny part of the wider picture. To these people, their ‘lifestyle’ is more than just a hobby. It’s:

… a dissatisfaction with digital culture’s obsession with the new, the next, the instant. They value the hand-made, the detailed and the patiently skilful over the instantly upgradeable and the disposable.

And:

… a willingness to slow down, to run counter to the furious momentum of digitised contemporary culture, its speed and its pursuit of sanitised perfection.

That’s right. Because – as everyone knows – a vinyl record is a work of ‘true’ art, whereas a digital download is a shallow, forgotten-in-an-instant emblem of a worthless bubblegum culture, isn’t it? It’s the sort of thing a jibbering internet-addled idiot would listen to for thirty seconds before ignoring in favour of a YouTube video about a cat flushing a toilet. Right? Right?

Er … no. To use a British parlance, that’s absolute bollocks. Collecting vinyl records is a great pasttime, sure, but once people start to wheel out the old ‘vinyl is so much better than digital music’ nonsense, I can’t help but be reminded of David Cross in this great Mr. Show sketch (watch from 1:10):

Where does it come from, this bizarre Luddite stance? Just look at things objectively: even a lower-range MP3 player can hold thousands upon thousands of tracks, and can be taken absolutely anywhere at any time. A record player is large, unwieldy, sits in the corner of the room and can play maybe five to six tracks in one sitting. By all accounts, the MP3 player is the winner. And let’s ignore the tired old ‘sound quality’ argument – the notion that vinyl ‘sounds better’ is an abject fallacy.

Y’see, this is basically a big old form of inverse snobbery. Example: let’s say Godspeed You Black Emperor! were around twenty-five years ago. How would you get hold of one of their albums? You’d have to pick it up on a physical format at a specialist record shop, or maybe use a mail order firm. It could take days or even weeks of dedicated hunting and waiting. Now? Now you just search on iTunes and start downloading within seconds.

Above: a vinyl snob in cat form

That’s what the retro snobs don’t like. It’s nothing to do with the ‘purity of vinyl’ or the ‘ambience’ or the ‘preciousness of the physical format’. Nope. What really irks them is that the unwashed masses have broken into their little treehouse club. I mean – how dare they! Such people haven’t earned the right to good music, have they? A true music fan would camp outside Camden import shops in the pouring rain waiting for the latest delivery of Afghan Whigs B-sides … and anyone else is just a philistine! A philistine, I say!

That genuinely seems to be their desperate argument – ‘sure, yeah, the man in the street might have easy access to obscure music these days, but he doesn’t really understand it’. To fully ‘get’ music, it seems, you have to be part of a self-appointed cultural elite. Rather than celebrating the democratisation and opportunity the digital age has to offer, the retro-junkies are too busy wallowing in bitter regret because their mint-condition Sugarcubes EP isn’t an automatic badge of cultural superiority anymore.

So: down with the ‘physical format’ snobs. Music is music, however you choose to consume it, and that’s all that matters. It just so happens that digital downloading/streaming is the most convenient, cost-effective, popular and forward-looking. Get over it, guys.

Appwatch: Kraftwerk Kling Klang Machine

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Upon first hearing the words Kling Klang Machine, you would be forgiven for thinking that its some sort of abstract kiddie toy, a bit like a Fisher Price Tape Recorder or a Speak & Spell (note for younger readers: the Speak & Spell was a 1980s contraption launched with the noble aim of helping children learn to read, only offset by the fact that it had a voice like Linda Blair in The Exorcist).

It could come as a surprise, then, to learn that the Kling Klang Machine is the newest venture from the Matrix-plugged minds of German electro-collective Kraftwerk. Taking a step forward from the ambient ‘surroundings as music’ motif pioneered by apps such as RJDJ, Kling Klang Machine features a 24-hour music generator based on a World Time Zone Map. The system creates music and sound based on realtime data dependent on location which are then continuously fed into the app.

The only drawback? Kraftwerk’s latest example of precision German engineering doesn’t come cheap, retailing at $8.99. One strictly for aspiring music professionals, then (rather than people who just enjoy filtering the noise of the neighbours arguing into a ‘unique’ musical soundscape). Still – the Kraftwerk tag has always been a seal of quality album-wise, so there’s no reason to believe this app is anything less than superlative.

Check Out The BAMM Podcast Now

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The Bob Podcast #1: “Best of BAMM” by BAMM.tv

It can be tough finding a decent podcast sometimes – wading through acres of tedious shows like ‘Betty Earthmother’s Vegan Poetry Hour’, ‘Quakers Discuss Their Favourite Clouds’ or ‘The Funny Side Of The IRS’* in the vain hope of finding something listenable. Luckily, however, we’re now able to point you in the direction of the most essential podcast out there: the Best Of BAMM, or BOB as we’ve rather catchily labelled it.

Featuring the dulcet tones of BAMMsters Phil Lang and Brock Alter, our debut show also features exclusive music from Geographer, Ha Ha Tonka, Kelly McFarling, The Constellations, Calahen Morrison with Eli West, and Jesus Diaz Y Su QBA. Where can you listen to this? At the top of this very post, that’s where.

Following this – our very first episode – we’re aiming to have a brand new podcast with you every Monday. Keep your eyes peeled …

*Examples listed may not be real podcasts

BAMM’s Five Questions: AllofaSudden

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Make sure you’re tuned into BAMM TV tomorrow (that’s Thursday April 21st) at 8pm PST for a killer live session from our friends AllofaSudden. Expect their trademark blend of layered harmonies, melodic grooves and pulsing rhythms to brighten up your Thursday evening in style. In the meantime, check out their responses to the soon-to-be-legendary BAMM’S Five Questions

1. What was the worst band name you considered using before settling on AllofaSudden?

Tyler (guitars, vocals): The Same Difference.

2. Name a band (other than your own) people need to check out immediately.

Tyler: The Mother Hips.
Arthur (drums): Led Zeppelin. Have you heard of them? They are great!

3. What’s the strangest place the band has played a show?

Tyler: The middle of Taraval Street (at SF Streets).
Arthur: Jarron’s Living Room.

4. If you could be any musician for one performance only (living or dead), who would it be, where would you perform, and why?

Tyler: Axl Rose in Montreal after James Hetfield got burned so I could not freak out about the monitors, continue the show, avoid the riot, and save the band.
Arthur: John Cage. I would do 4’33″ at the Maverick Steak House in Stevensville Mt. Those beans are powerful!

5. Name one song you wished you had written.

Tyler: Vernie by Blind Melon.
Arthur: Detroit Flu, Riddle of Steel.

BAMM UK: Manufactions

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BAMM UK is a regular look at music/digital issues from our London-based correspondent. This week: Manufactions …

Lady Gaga appears in legendary UK music paper the NME this week (a publication which present editor Krissi Murison is valiantly rebuilding as a decent magazine, following its noughties decline into a teenybop rag fuelled entirely by haircare-product sponsorships). Now, you can either love or hate Gaga – and reaction to her ‘ironic’ new 80s-styled album cover indicates she may well have jumped the shark in many circles – but there’s one thing here which stands out amidst her usual rafter of faux-controversial statements.

‘I’m not going to start churning out what you expect,’ she says. ‘If you want me to be a manufactured act, you can f*** off. Let me tell you something. If you f****** rip my hairbow and my wig off my f****** head, my shoes, my bra, every single thing on my body, and you throw me on a piano with a microphone, I will f****** make you cry.’

Don’t know about you, but I always hear the distant tinkling of alarm bells when I hear someone rally against ‘manufactured acts’. In this case, there’s a bonus element of rank hypocrisy: Gaga is a privately-educated art-school chick who was discovered by superstar Akon and placed under the mentorship of Grammy-winning producer Red One. Sounds pretty manufactured to me, as long as we’re dealing with dictionary definitions here.

But that’s beside the point. The fact remains – is there anything more gratingly tedious and hipster-lite than sneering at ‘manufactured music’?

The argument is usually this: manufactured music is damaging to ‘real’ music, and somehow of a lesser artistic value. Both points are nonsense. Firstly, let’s face the blunt truth – shows like The X Factor and American Idol (the modern bastions of manufactured acts) don’t attract the ‘music fan’ demographic. They are shows for people who buy two or three CDs a year. Music for people who don’t like music: it’s a viable market. And a harmless one. Whatever you think of Kelly Clarkson or Will Young, it’s not as if their billion-sellers results in a massive sales slump for acts like Animal Collective or Beach House. The two markets are distinctive as night and day. So, relax: manufactured music doesn’t affect real music in any substantial way.

The second point is that manufactured music is inherently bad. Not true, as anyone who enjoys listening to The Ronettes or The Supremes or The Monkees or Madonna will tell you. Hell, even Gaga is a great manufactured act – this humble writer happens to believe that Telephone is one of the best pop songs of the last ten years. The main issue with Factor/Idol and their ilk is that their output has been universally dire. Which is to say: if Simon Cowell discovered an artist with the calibre of a Sinatra or a Garland, would it really be fair to downplay someone so talented simply because they’re part of the ‘manufactured’ sector?

There’s room for all kinds of music out there – from shiny pop acts to grizzled bar-circuit veterans. A true music fan would judge acts on their context and ability, rather than instantly dismissing an artist based on college-kid prejudices. And maybe Lady Gaga should take heed and embrace her manufactured elements. That way, it’ll be far easier to blame the record company when she experiences her first big commercial flop …

(Please note: despite any defence of manufactured pop music in the article above, BAMM retains the right to believe that Justin Bieber is infact the Antichrist, and will one day rip off his human-suit in front of a screaming crowd to reveal a hellish demon intent on destroying Planet Earth).

Appwatch: Eavesdrop

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There are various levels of eavesdropping – from simply overhearing a conversation on the bus to camping out in someone’s garden surrounded by surveillance equipment and torn-up restraining orders. Thankfully the good people behind music app Eavesdrop have taken an approach more akin to the former … so please put all thoughts of stalking out of your mind. This isn’t Facebook, you know.

Eavesdrop allows the user to share their media library and listening experience with a nearby friend via Wifi or Bluetooth. So if you’re stuck with a buddy on a long bus/train/plane/magic carpet journey, this could be the ideal entertainment package for those moments when conversation runs dry. Of course, this does mean that your friend will have complete access to your music collection, so it might be prudent to ditch any embarrassing records before booting up Eavesdrop. No-one needs to know that you’re a secret John Tesh fan, after all.

Okay