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Posts tagged ‘Review’

Watching the thone: Kanye West and Jay-Z, Gelredome, Arnhem

It was a drizzly evening, and after checking into our rather underwhelming accommodation in Arnhem, we were nevertheless excited to see the duo that shifted Arena Rock to Arena Rap. On a shuttle from Arnhem Station to the Gelredome (het Grootste theatre van Nederland) we overheard a couple of New Yorkers* one of whom remarked “I wonder how Dutch people will feel Jay-Z?”. We wondered how many people going to the concert were actually Dutch. Certainly, it was fairly international – we heard various British accents, Americans, Australians and New Zealanders, some German, as well as plenty of Nederlanders. It would seem that Watch the Throne has fairly broad cross-cultural appeal. Which completely makes sense. When you listen to the album you can see two masters of their art selecting songs and instrumentation (not to mention politics and lyrics) that will hit the mark with as broad an audience as possible, whilst also maintaining a sense of authenticity – whatever that might mean to whoever is listening.

Anyway, apparently Jay-Z and Kanye’s entourage was sufficiently large that they needed their own parking area**, certainly, judging from the impressive rigging of speakers, lights and other paraphernalia, as well as the enormous stage, looming mixing desk and massive screens, we believed it was possible the parking sign referred to the entourage.

We timed our arrival well – we located the purveyors of Heineken (what else?), Vietnamese Food, overpriced t-shirts (€40 is too much for any t-shirt, especially one with only “NIP” in a gothic script). We drifted towards the stage, and then the lights cut out. If you had checked the European setlist on wikipedia before you went to the concert*** then you would not have been surprised at the thumping bass of H.A.M. The crowd promptly went one of two kinds of crazy: either they danced like their lives depended on it, or they took photos on their cameras or phones. We took a photo of people taking photos, because we like the “meta” thing…

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Live in Paris: M83 at L’Olympia

So last night we got back from five wonderful days in the city of lights, love and chic, Paris. We had a fantastic time, soaking up French and international culture, indulged in a healthy dose of culture courtesy of the gems offered by the Paris Museum Pass (sometimes it pays to take advantage of what’s on offer for your tourist needs!), and gave our feet an intense cobble-street workout as we criss-crossed from the 18th to the 1st and from the right to the left banks and back again. But all these things were a bonus; what really took us to Paris (well, at least, what was the original impetus for this trip!) was a great band that we both really like: M83.

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I’d never heard of…but they were awesome!

Sometimes, when I was younger, I used to love to walk into a record store and find something I had never heard of, buy it, and hope that it was amazing. This could lead to some fairly hit and miss outings. I quickly found that The Charlatans were not to my taste, but that Mogwai were fantastic. Of course, musical taste is idiosyncratic, so feel free to disagree.

Among other things, the digital age and the proliferation of YouTube (self-)promotion has meant that the ability to do this kind of thing has diminished. Why would you go and randomly buy a CD or (wowsers) an LP when you can get it (all but) free on the internet? Why not listen to everything first, then spend your money if you like it.

But, after a recent solo trip to New York, CIA brought back for me a slim, velvety case, with embossed gold lettering. The Sub Pop label had me thinking of Fleet Foxes, so imagine my surprise when Shabazz Palaces oozed bass-y goodness out of the speakers. The song construction felt well-crafted but with a hefty dose of the haphazard (no verse-chorus-verse here) and had me hooked almost from the first minute. The heady drift into gamelan instrumentation was (and is) a wonderful and unexpected punctuation from the dull thud of the beats. You can hear the whole glorious thing here:

Pitchfork went pretty crazy for them. The New Yorker has a review I can’t read (maybe you can). My favourite quote comes from the Guardian:

“Every track is lean and muscular, never losing sight of the fact that hip-hop should move forward.”

I completely agree with the first half (lean and muscular music is just an irresistible image for me); I am probably not qualified to remark on the second part. Nevertheless, the Guardian informed me that, upon hearing Shabazz Palaces for the first time the ex-General Manager of Sub Pop said that it was a little like hearing Nirvana for the first time. If I knew that before I listened, I would have been even more sold!

This is Sub Pop’s first hip hop outing, but it feels more interesting than that. “Yeah You” descends into a kind of impromptu jazz jam, at other times the album melts into a kind of electronic fuzz that makes the room feel small, dark, warm and comforting. I haven’t yet played it through headphones, but I am really looking forward to it.

Writing about music is, for me, a difficult thing to do. Comparisons between artists often feel strained, adjectives feel inadequate, and the medium feels much more subjective to me than writing or painting, the rules of which are much clearer to me. But I love Shabazz Palaces, and I am so happy to have had a chance to hear them sight unseen, and sound unheard.


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