Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I tend to focus on a certain kind of music on this blog, but I've been in the mood to get a bit out of my strike zone this week.

As such, I got a nice email from my pal Nick Barat (aka Catchdubs). He tipped me off on a few new mixes and an interview. Check one of 'em here. Also, if you haven't heard what he's up to with Fool's Gold, get on it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

DSCN0090, originally uploaded by cjn208.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Just discovered Yura Yura Teikoku via the Invisble Conga People chart on Earplug. Have a listen.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Circlesquare are one of my favorite bands, hands down. Led by Vancouver-raised and Berlin-based Jeremy Shaw, the band first released the beautiful Distance After EP on the now-defunct Output label. There's a new album in the hopper, due for release on K7 in the coming months.

This track is a good example of the sound. Pitch-bent guitar tones, swollen sub-bass and beautifully detached, Klonapin glazed vocals:

Circlesquare- Sub Reminisce (Deeper)

Also, check the video:

Circlesquare - Sub-Reminisce from Bienvenido Cruz on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The recent Monocle Q&A with Alain de Botton is one of the most insightful interviews I've seen in some time.

To watch it, go to the iTunes store, select Podcasts and search for "Monocle." It will be one of the more recent installments.


Update: Here is a direct link, kindly provided by Naveen.

It's been another busy month. I've been in Chicago, Tokyo, Hong Kong, San Francisco and just got back to homebase in New York. If you feel so inclined, check the photos here.


Tokyo has leapfrogged over Copenhagen and Buenos Aires as my favorite global city. After a few recent visits, I'm starting to get a better feel for everything and can't help but be amazed at how efficiently things run. The Japanese have an incredible eye for detail -- ranging from how your coffee is presented, to general infrastructure, to the incredible new mixed-use Marunouchi development under construction around Tokyo station. Also, as anyone who's spent any time in Japan has undoubtedly seen, the city is full of incredibly innovative retail at a density I've never seen. I can't help but wonder why some of my favorites (Beams, Tomorrowland, United Arrows) haven't been exported to other markets. If you have NRT on your itinerary in the coming weeks or months, shoot me an and I'll be happy to give you some tips and insights. Also, I'd love any other ideas for my next trip.

Hong Kong

Despite an unfortunate bout of food poisoning, Hong Kong was an inspiring experience as well. I divided my time between the chaos of Causeway Bay and the spiraling, Blade Runner-styled architecture of Central. I found it to be a city of really interesting contrasts. You could buy a pair of Tod's loafers two blocks away from open air markets where fish hearts were still beating on the table. Yet, despite this, the city runs incredibly well: a slick transport hub brings you from HKG into the Central station in around 20 minutes, and the subway system (cheap at less than a dollar a ride) is clean and reliable.

San Francisco

After two days turnaround in New York, I was off again to San Francisco to moderate a panel at the PSFK conference. The topic was San Francisco culture as it pertained to business, culture, and technology. I'm pleased to say it went incredibly well. Core77 had some nice things to say here.

A few things I enjoyed over the past month-- some old, some new:
Recloose- Cardiology
Sven Weisemann- Floating Dub
Shuttle358- Calty
Mono Junk- Channel B
The Staple Singers- Uncloudy Day
Marz- Wir Sind Hier
Benga- Diary of An Afro Warrior

The Post-American World- Fareed Zakaria
Falling Man- Don DeLillo
The Blair Years- The Alastair Campbell Diaries
Buying In- Rob Walker

Places, things or people that are great in general:
Peninsula Tokyo
Sushi-Dai at Tsukiji fish market
IFC building in HK
Thomas and the incredible staff at the Landmark Mandarin in HK for helping coordinate a 3:30 am hospital visit for my brother. (He's now A-OK).
The view of SF from A. Rietz's balcony
Jin Ju Korean Restaurant in Chicago

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

DSCN0040, originally uploaded by cjn208.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Feast and Famine

From the ages of 16 to about 24, I spent every cent of disposable income on an addiction.

Black and tactile, with reassuring heaviness and warmth, everything about vinyl fascinated me. Like many obsessives, I dug through record bins and yard sales; I would scour e-Bay for old Scott Walker records, check bulletin boards for rare Mo’ Wax “Headz” compilations and order countless drum and bass 12’s from shops in London -- exorbitant shipping fees and all.

Many others still share this addiction. Vinyl sales – spurred by DJ culture, audiophiles, and perhaps for the reasons I’m about to outline – are actually up in the UK today.

Thinking about this act of collecting and experiencing vinyl as a physical manifestation of sound, I started considering the current climate of digital media, and how, when records are reduced to easily distributed files -- intangible 1’s and 0’s -- content can be devalued.

It’s almost too easy to overdose, flailing softly amid notifications and options, losing precious moments in the white noise of constant information.

We live in a time of tremendous access. Obscure film and television clips previously relegated to memory and subconscious are now on YouTube. Music comes from peer-to-peer networks, connected friends and, often as a last resort, through legitimate download sites.

In many ways, this is great. Palates are becoming more and more refined and the barrier to hearing new sounds and genres is lower than it's ever been. As a result, people have developed more of an open mind. Self-described fans of indie rock, who might have never listened to anything urban and/or electronic ten years ago, are now checking out Dubstep nights. Shoegazers are discovering freak folk, dub-techno and countless other genres with ease – and in ways they inform one and other. This is all incredibly positive.

But, in the wake of this digital feast, there is a famine. Infinite accessibility and portability means many people aren’t experiencing music as deeply as they once did. I suffer from chronic iTunes attention deficit syndrome, clicking through the best bits of several songs and mixes throughout the course of an hour. It’s a forgotten luxury to let an album play through and listen with undivided attention.

I think back to the time when I ordered Sigur Ros’ Agaetis Byrun from Fatcat’s mailorder site and spent much of a year drinking it in, learning every little nuance and texture of the album. Later I played Radiohead’s Kid A over and over so many times on my headphones that I still recall every seamless segue between songs.

Skip forward to today. I recently declared promo bankruptcy. I’m fortunate enough to receive piles of free music in my mailbox, digital zip files of new singles, and enthusiastic recommendations beamed from friends over instant messenger. Inspired in part by the late John Peel, for several years I tried to give everything a listen -- however cursory -- to make sure I wasn’t missing out on something truly special. But in this effort, combined with personal music buying, mix-making and live shows, I suffered a figurative death from a thousand cuts.

For a fleeting moment, I lost all perspective. I didn’t know what was good or bad anymore. The constant onslaught of new music turned into a pink haze of static—as overwhelming as the first time I heard Loveless, but nowhere near as sublime. The consumption of music had lost its pleasure.

To remedy this, I had to force myself to remember everything that goes into creating a single piece of music: the nuances of writing and recording, the creative tension, frustration, aspiration, and the seemingly simple goal of making tones sit nicely together in a mix. The mastering, re-touching, editing and hiss of the tape reel. The magic when things congeal into something special. All of the things that happen behind the new barrier to entry, that little icon you click on your desktop, the bubble mailer with a promo CD in the mailbox.

Things are better now. The panic has subsided. But I learned a valuable lesson that’s starting to seep into other areas of my life: Take your time. Respect the craft and remember the process. Put a record on the turntable and listen all the way through. Enjoy the permanence of physical things and what goes into their creation.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Greetings from a hazy and sweltering Tokyo.

Few things:

I spent a couple days last week in Chicago with my old friend Karl (of Speck Mountain fame).

Their latest LP will be out next Spring on Carrottop in the US and Peacefrog in the UK. Will have some tempting bits and bobs to tide you over in the meantime. Stay tuned.

Also, here's a beautiful track from Honey Owens' Valet project. This is easily my favorite track of the moment. She's incredibly talented so be sure to pick up her latest LP, Blood is Clean.

Valet- Kehaar

Grab the Speck Mountain Valet cover at their RCRD LBL page.