Gil Scott-Heron

COWLEY: Gifts for the Music Enthusiast/Talentless Scenester

[You have selected… huh, what this??] …Sam Cowley appeared! Gifts for the Music Enthusiast/Talentless Scenester Like myself, you have probably spent the last few weeks either deliberating over potential Christmas presents or guiltily putting off thinking about what to get your loved ones. Other people are just far too hard to buy for. How to resist some form of scented soap for your mum, or bottle of whisky for your dad? Now if I was buying for myself or cared enough about any of my friends with similar taste, here are a few items I would snap up in a second. The Ninja Tune XX Box Set Ninja Tune is one of the coolest independent record labels that we can boast as a nation. They have a sprawling and magnificent back catalogue, which charts the fertile ground where electronic and bass music meet alternative Hip Hop. At £100 their XX Box Set is definitely a gift for someone who bloody deserves it; but rest assured it is a solid investment, which will bring years of listening pleasure and serious music education. All of the music in the package is 100% exclusive to the set and features: six CD compilations, six 7” singles, two 12” singles, membership to Ninja Tune VIP (which gives you access to a world of free music in the future), a hardback book and a Ninja Tune Family Tree poster and Artwork poster. Quite simply, it is an overwhelming amount of amazing music and paraphernalia. Maybe you could all club together and buy me it? Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX ‘We’re New Here’ Limited Edition Box Set Now this is quite an odd one: it is not actually available until early February, but hear me out. More and more in recent years I have been giving out presents that are either non-existent or unprepared for a number of months after Christmas (insufficiently infused Sloe Gin from last year and Vanilla Essence from this). IOU. presents if you will. While this certainly has more to do with my lack of foresight, I like to think that these are the gifts that keep on giving. When the recipient received the unfinished product or promise of future present, they will be almost as excited as if receiving the real thing (honest), they will have a few months of excited (not frustrated) anticipation and finally a glorious second Christmas once they are finally able to enjoy the finished/arrived present. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, to the boxset! If you missed out on Gil Scott-Heron’s powerful comeback album I’m New Here earlier this year, then what are you doing? Close this page [going via Sam Lewis’ fine post] and download/buy/beg/steal/borrow… now! Right, hi there. Amazing isn’t it? Good. Now imagine that brooding, dark and minimal record remixed in its entirety by a master of brooding, dark minimalism. That would be sweet, no? Well imagine no longer. Jamie XX has had his way with the album and added a heck of a lot of stripped back dubstep and minimal electro. You can hear the first release, ‘New York is Killing Me’, here. The Box Set itself includes: the CD album, a CD of instrumentals and beats from the album, two Heavy Weight Vinyl LPs in pink and green, and two Photographic Prints. If you pre-order the box set now you will also receive a free download of New York is Killing Me. Some friends and I recently pre-ordered this for a friend’s birthday and he was so grateful it was quite frankly awkward. We didn’t know if he was going to cry, hug us or go to town on our genitals. You can recreate this flood of conflicting emotions by ordering the boxset here. Probably best not for family members though. It could get weird. Novation Dicer Midi Controller My throbbing desire for this piece of kit can be best explained as the inverse of ‘a bad workman blames his tools’. I am not a good DJ, in fact I probably just straight up am not a DJ. But every fibre of my being wants these. If I had them I just know I would be releasing tracks on Ninja Tune by the time We’re New Here is released. This is, of course, not the case. If I did own them, I would not have the first idea what to do with them, my ownership of them instantly sparking a serious depression as I realise the scale of my own talentlessness. …But my word, how pretty. The idea is that you use them with other complicated technology that effectively turns vinyl turntables into a digital interface. They cue up samples loops etc. Now, I have a pretty shaky understanding of what I just said, but none the less I am very aroused. So if you know someone who seems like they know their way around any form of DJ technology, they will probably weep tears of lust when presented with these. Sure they won’t be able to do a thing with them, but that is most certainly not the point. Tonium Pacemaker 60GB Handheld DJ Console Now this gadget ticks many of the same boxes as the Dicers. I have included them because a) I feel like I might be able to achieve some basic level of competence with it (and if I can do it…) and b) it is gloriously scenestery. The Pacemaker is effectively the DJ’s iPod, allowing you to do everything from practice mixing MP3s on the bus, to actually performing live from the palm of your hand. It is essentially the coolest DJ gadget ever invented. Now, this is important. Have you watched Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris’ crushing satirical attack on modern culture, Nathan Barley? No? Well, you know the score. Off you go… Right then. It’s just as relevant now as it was in 2005, it is basically dealing with the same phenomenon as the popular YouTube video ‘Being a dickhead’s cool’ and […]

SAM LEWIS: 2010 – A Glass Half Empty

[You have selected: Sam Lewis] Sam Lewis continues his look back across the year that kept him down, betrayed him, and forced my sorry self into his life. Part One – A Glass Half Full – was published yesterday. So where the hell were you? A Glass Half Empty: New York is Killing Me – Gil Scott-Heron Of course, 2010 wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops. For all the fantastic music and film that seemed to arrive all at once, it certainly had its fair share of downsides that will dominate any historical narrative to come. For those who know me, I can’t stop banging on about Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here. It’s a deeply personal portrait of a man who was heralded as a voice of a generation, but disappeared off the musical radar for 16 years due to frequent jail sentences. Although the album clocks in at just under half an hour, it still manages to get more emotions (both positive and negative) into it than some artists do in their entire careers. The scope of feeling expressed and the atmospheres created by Richard Russell’s excellent production makes this a really satisfying listen. If Empire State of Mind paints New York as a picture of bright lights and inspiration, New York is Killing Me sketches the city as a hole of excess and dirty living. Mr. Scott-Heron voices the experiences of an altogether different class in New York compared to Mr. Carter and Ms. Keys. Its a reality defined by the drug and crime culture of New York, something that cannot be empirically diagnosed (“Bunch of doctors come around/don’t know that New York is killing me”) yet is very real for those living it. The distorted hand claps and gospel chantings echo the archetypal sounds of the New York streets, but Russell’s production strips it down to something less positive, more run down. The term “underdog” has never had so much meaning to me as it has in 2010. Tuition fees are increased as education continues to be considered in economic terms rather than its personal and cultural value. Haiti is left on the brink of civil war after the international media circus up and left once it had sucked the newsworthiness out of the situation. Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, sparked a worldwide manhunt based on accusations of sexual assault, despite thousands of people still out there waltzing around wanted for worse crimes. It all seems so one-sided, so unjust. I’ll be the first to admit these are starry-eyed and cliché judgements. Many of these reflections are because of the stage I’m at in life. This year the responsibility has become mine to actually make something of what I’ve got. Entering the big bad world, everything seems huge in scale. I grew up thinking that everyone older knows what’s going on, what problems there are and how to solve them. I’ve only been out of education for six months and it turns out that, somewhat obviously, no-one actually has a clue. Its a free-for-all with predecided winners and losers. But whatever ends up happening, 2010 has been a time that will define the rest of my life. Thankfully, I’ve got a great soundtrack and collection of films to accompany it. People don’t seem to know how good they’ve got something until its gone. Well, let’s break the mould and celebrate 2010 for how good it’s been. Choose one of the great records or films that came out this year and let’s make the most of it, yeah? About the author: Sam Lewis is an angry, angry man who,if the prophecies prove true, will watch theworld burn. His constant rages against thecorporate machine cannot currently be foundanywhere else online but you can see himfrolicking in the snow with his bandmatesover at the July Days website.

2010: The First Quarter

After realising how easily I lose track of what I’ve actually listened to/watched/read/played over a year by the end, I came up with the notion of a more regular periodic journal of what I’ve listened to, loved, or been affected by. So, as we arrive at the end of March (and the beginning, apparently, of Spring), I give you more lists, and links (Spotify, unless unavailable or irrelevant).This isn’t the end of any discussion, it’s the start. Take this list and recommend stuff I should be immersing myself in. Please.x Also the source of my most commented-on t-shirt of 2010:Los Campesinos! – Romance is BoringI pre-emptively called this “almost definitely my favourite album of 2010” before even hearing it. Whether that will stand true remains to be seen – come on, 2010, if you think you’re hard enough. I said it immediately, expecting it to change with time, but it hasn’t and I don’t think it will: this isn’t my favourite LC! record. I wanted it push further in the direction The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future suggested, into full-on emo territory. But I’m damning with faint praise here. Romance is Boring isn’t boring. It certainly isn’t a disappointment, and it sparked my love affair with LC! again completely effortlessly. It just doesn’t strike me as a particularly good entry-point into the band, and so isn’t a terribly useful record to talk about. That doesn’t stop it being a stunning piece of work. Hairiest album:Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip – The Logic of ChanceAbout which I suspect I’d have slightly different things to say, had I not been to see them live yesterday. With the beats pushed to the fore (in full t-shirt-quivering bass-heavy glory), and Scroobius’ lyrics feeling slightly more organic in person, the new stuff makes more sense. But it hasn’t changed the fact that Dan Le Sac has grown hugely, and absolutely owns this record, while the words sometimes come off a bit contrived. As recently found in my (lovely) girlfriend’s fridge:Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New HereOne of those things that dropped into my life (thanks, Sam Cowley!) to immediate awe. It deserves more time than I’ve given it, and I don’t know enough about Mr Scott-Heron to comment properly (apparently it’s a more personal album than his usual political material, he hasn’t been around for decades, he was in prison) but that’s part of it. This is one of those albums that is bigger than you, that you just have to bow down to and accept. The ‘companion to reading’ album:The Knife – Tomorrow, In A YearI guess this is the most ‘challenging’ album I’ve spent time with this year (having rejected Joanna Newsom as not for me), being the mysterious Swedish duo’s foray into opera. It’s about Darwin and evolution, apparently. I’m proud to say my boy Sam Langtree beat Pitchfork to the idea that it works mimetically, evolving from a sparse nothingness into some top-quality, almost-traditional Knife material. You must, must, must listen to this through the best speakers you can possibly get access to. On a laptop, it sounds underwhelming but, through a nice soundsystem, it overwhelms. Whether it stands up past that experience, I’m still not sure, but it’s worth a go. It’s already been a strong year for albums which, being an over-analytical music-type, is reassuring. Last year was all singles, but we seem to be looking at a healthy long-form crop in 2010. But the singles are still important. When aren’t they? I can’t believe I didn’t drop a mention to Music Go Music’s Warm In The Shadows in my 2009 round-ups. On repeat, it helped me through 12,000 words of essay-writing in January, and while that’s made it kind of difficult to love the same way in a non-work context, it’s still beautiful and ethereal. Then there’s the Lady Gaga Telephone video, which is of course phenomenal and the pinnacle of everything the Lady’s been working toward – for now. It’s also retroactively increased my enjoyment of the song in general, which I’m always faintly suspicious of. On the other hand: cigarette sunglasses. Right now, my life is dominated by Rihanna’s Rude Boy. It’s one of of those delightful moments where a big pop star finally clicks for me, though I haven’t experimented with Rihanna’s backcatalogue to see if it does more for me post-Rude Boy. Just… the ultimate dominant/submissive, self-aware/silly, masculine/feminine, endlessly quotable/catchy sexy song. I mean, you’ve heard it, haven’t you? “Give it to me baby like boom boom boom”. My 2010 cinematic life has been more dictated by what I didn’t watch rather than what I watched. I haven’t seen Avatar, still, or The Hurt Locker. Ponyo fled from cinemas before I got a chance to see it, and I never got to rewatch Where The Wild Things Are, which I still think deserves better treatment than the melting-screen, broken sound version I saw. I have seen Alice in Wonderland which was okay but had a lack of ideas (always an issue when you’re doing an Alice story) and wasn’t all that stylistically impressive (crippling when you’ve got Tim Burton to direct an Alice film) and 3D is still a load of rubbish.* One game has pierced through all the (rather good, but still largely unexplored) Christmas games to unquestionably dominate my year so far. It’s also dominated the year of my housemates, as discussion of nefarious plans (and misfunctioning files, being a play-by-email game) becomes a standard between those involved in the game. That game is Solium Infernum, a very much turn-based strategy boardgame set in Hell. It’s as little of an Alex Spencer game as exists in this world, and I don’t have the vocabulary to fully capture its majesty, but it deserves your time (try the demo), and the time and annoyance of the people around you. In comics, it’s a bit harder to judge what’s (as they most certainly do not say in the business) hot […]