Saturday, 31 December 2011

325 in 365

830 by Dubdog@Flickr
830, a photo by Dubdog@Flickr on Flickr.

McJunk total at end of 2010 = 505
McJunk total at close of 2011 = 830
Hmmmm. McHappy New Year!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Talk to a brick wall

Talk to a brick wall by Dubdog@Flickr
Talk to a brick wall, a photo by Dubdog@Flickr on Flickr.

I saw this scrawled on a pavement in Ipswich yesterday. Is this a very concrete form of Brian Eno / Peter Schmidt's Oblique Strategies?

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

This is what a year sounds like, 2011

Well, here is the annual round up of what I've been listening to this year; be it bought, given or burnt.

It's been a strange but good year musically. Many of my favourite artists released something, and only a few were disappointing. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's Wolfroy Goes To Town is his best for a while, and Wire still have it—Red Barked Tree hasn't been far from my headphones all year. The critics got it largely right with PJ Harvey, and it was right that she was recognised for such a major work, although I would also have cheered had King Creosote & Jon Hopkins got the Mercury Prize instead. Björk proved she doesn't need app gimmickry to still make compelling music. The Fall and Magazine were both great live, and while I like both of their 2011 albums, neither stand up to what were exhilarating live performances. Tom Waits was Tom Waits and Mogwai were Mogwai—who would want either of them any other way? Beastie Boys made me smile again, that is until I got tired of Hot Sauce after about eight listens. There is enough that is good on Roots Manuva's 4everevolution to tip its balance away from lacklustre. Unfortunately, I found King of Limbs to be a bit featureless with only a few moments of clarity—if only The Daily Mail and Staircase had been included to give it a little more texture. Robert Wyatt got in there during 2011, sort of, with The Unthanks live recording of some of his and Anthony Johnson's work. And lastly for the ancient's, appropriately the album that has tickled my fancy of late is the bizarre folk world of those post-punkers The Mekons with Ancient & Modern.

So, that's the oldies out of the way, many of them making better new music than younger artists. Where are the decent new bands and artists of creative integrity? They are few and far between on my radar, although I'm prepared to believe my modes of delivery may be slightly to blame for me not finding them. There's got to be more life out there!

Of the new acts I did discover, (I'm painfully aware some of these have been around for a while), DELS astounded everyone by not hiding the fact he's from Ipswich and making a truly interesting record; the boy has a bright future. On a guitar kick, Bo Ningen's noise screech, one year old but heard by me for the first time this year on Mark Riley's 6music show, was a trip down memory lane and provided a balance that ideally complimented Iceage's punk thrash. I discovered both bands in the same week and though they were more refreshing than brilliant, they awakened an old aesthetic in me that I'd long ago dismissed no one could do justice to again. Impressed by Warpaint's live Glastonbury set—seen on Freeview, I only go to folk festivals these days—I bought The Fool, but I was disappointed it didn't have the same sonic dynamism of their live performance. However, above and well beyond anything listed so far in this post, the new (to me) artist who knocked me for six this year was Merill Garbus's Tune-Yards. Her far from singular vision that was the album Whokill had me considering influences as wide and disparate as; The Slits, Nina Simone, Pil circa Flowers of Romance, Adam & The Ants, Solex, Vampire Weekend and Polar Bear. All this was forced through a crude fucked up splicing machine, which for me, defined 2011 much better than any other music I heard all year. Here's a sample for the uninitiated:

That said, my favourite album of the year actually came out last year. For some reason I resisted buying it at the time and it took some friends to get it for me as a birthday present this year for me to hear it's brilliance, (thanks to the Allpresses). It is the Tradi-Mods vs Rockers Congotronics compilation where post-rock artists rework and remix tracks by the likes of Konono No1 and Kasai Allstars. I couldn't possibly do justice to the album here, but this clip should go some way to showcasing its unique soundscape. This is a film of a collaborative tour that was thrown up in the wake of Tradi-Mods vs Rockers release:

Kinshasa Superband Promo Reel (english subtitles) from pierre Laffargue on Vimeo.

The list:

Sons of Joy - Sons of Joy EP

Wire - Red Barked Tree

Wire - Strays EP

British Sea Power - Valhalla Dancehall

The Jesus & Mary Chain - Upside Down, The Best of…

Prince - Sign O The Times

Wire - The Ideal Copy

Consolidated - The Myth Of Rock

Akron/Family - S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT

The Streets - Computers and Blues

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

Various - Froots/Folk Against Fascism compilation

Radiohead - The King Of Limbs

Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

The Beatles - White Album

Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx - We're New Here

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine

The Beatles - Abbey Road

Flux of Pink Indians - The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks

TV On The Radio - Nine Types Of Light

DELS - Gob

African Head Charge - Voodoo Of The Godsent

Max Romeo & The Upsetters - War Ina Babylon

Gorillaz - The Fall

Kode9 & The Spaceape - Black Sun

Varous - The Ugly Truth About Ipswich

Metronomy - The English Riviera

Magazine - Play.+

Buzzcocks - Spiral Scratch EP

Kate Bush - Hounds of Love

Magazine - Magic, Murder And The Weather

Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two

Flux Of Pink Indians - Strive To Survive Causing Least Suffering Possible + Neu Smell

Crass - The Crassical Collection: Christ The Album, Yes Sir I Will

Kasai Allstars - Kasai Allstars

Aidan Moffat + The Best-Ofs - How To Get To Heaven From Scotland

Lou Reed - The Raven

Burial - Street Halo EP

DJ Shadow - I Gotta Rokk EP

Lee 'Scratch' Perry - The Return Of Sound System Scratch

Tune-Yards - Whokill

Sons & Daughters - Mirror Mirror

Scientist - Scientist Launches Dubstep Into Outer Space

Warpaint - The Fool, Exquisite Corpse EP

Brian Eno - Drums Between The Bells

Lou Reed - Ecstasy

Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat

Various - Invasion Of The Mysteron Killer Sounds : 3D Dancehall Digital Dub

Lou Reed - Growing Up In Public

Various - The Wire Tapper 26

Various - Caveat Emptor

Andy Moor and Yannis Kyriakides - Empire Abroad, Surveillance At Home

Various - Tradi-Mods vs Rockers

Little Dragon - Ritual Union

Steve Mason & Dennis Bovell - Ghosts Outside

Public Image Ltd. – Plastic Box

Gang Of Four – Content

The Who - The Who Sell Out

The Jam - In The City, This Is The Modern World, Setting Sons, Sound Affects, All Mod Cons

King Creosote - Bombshell

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Trout Mask Replica

Radiohead - The King of Limbs Remixes

Bjork - Homogenic

Pete and the Pirates - One Thousand Pictures

Iceage - New Brigade

Bo Ningen - Bo Ningen

Half Man Half Biscuit - 90 Bisodol (Crimond)

Thee Oh Sees - Castlemania

Roots Manuva - 4everevolution

Magazine - No Thyself

Björk - Biophilia

Jeffrey Lewis – A Turn In The Dream-Songs

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy – Wolfroy Goes To Town

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

Lou Reed – Take No Prisoners

Iggy Pop – TV Eye

Nick Cave – Kicking Against The Pricks

Dave and Ansel Collins – Double Barrel

The Stranglers – X Cert

Scott Walker and The Walker Brothers – The Best of

Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow

Gillian Welsh - The Harrow and The Harvest

The Mekons - Ancient & Modern 1911-2011

The Fall - Ersatz GB

The Unthanks - Diversions, Vol 1: The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons

Low – C'mon

Sugar Minott – Reggae Anthology: Hard Time Pressure

Sons of Joy – Songs of Joy

King Midas Sound – Without You

Mark Stewart – Nothing Is Sacred

The Kinks – The Kink Kontroversy

The Pioneers – Long Shot

Jello Biafra And The Guantanamo School Of Medicine – Enhanced Methods Of Questioning

Tune-Yards – Bird-Brains

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The mysterious case of the Christie typeface

My wife likes to read books in the bath. Due to this we have a growing collection of charity shop bought Agatha Christie books on the windowsill of our bathroom, with the paper getting slowly damaged by the changing humidity therein.

Apart from worrying about the condition of the books, I haven't really paid much attention to this collection until the other day. For some reason I decided to check out the covers, and I immediately noticed the lack of cohesion in the choice of typefaces used. This is particularly striking when looking at the one consistent feature of these covers; Agatha Christie's name. To illustrate my point, below are scans of a selection of our bathroom books ranging from 1956 to 2002 .







c.1995 (American edition with no date in book—1995 noted on price tag sticker)


As an experiment, before scanning these in, I laid them out in the order I thought they were released in, based on the choice of typeface. Apart from one—the 1980 Helvetica rendering that I thought was late 1960s—I got the order spot on.

Considering the attention to detail that is lavished on TV adaptations and films of Christie's work, in terms of getting date specific references for architecture, clothing and product design correct, I find it interesting how typographic details on these books are rooted in the time of the reprint's release, rather than paying any attention to the context of the book.

Monday, 19 December 2011


Different methods of getting in touch with Innocent drinks company:

I particularly like the idea of getting in touch via the medium of interpretive dance.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Go2 Kontroversy

Yesterday in Southwold, I happened upon a CD Fair. That was pretty much the rest of the afternoon written off!

Trawling through the 1960s section, I found some Kinks. Owning only Something Else and Village Green Preservation Society on CD, and a greatest hits compilation, I snapped up The Kink Kontroversy. And what a great record it is.

However, music aside, the back sleeve was intriguing. At first glance it is standard fair for a 60s release. Title, track listing and blurb about the band.

But on closer inspection the copy involves a lot of humour which mocks the band—such as bemoaning poor Pete for singing on Till The End Of The Day—which I thought was quite brave for 1965.

Then, as I read the Michael Aldred penned piece about the band, I got the feeling that it seemed somewhat familiar.

After a few minutes I worked out what it reminded me of; XTC's sleeve for Go2 (below), by Hipgnosis. I have always considered this sleeve to be an ironic postmodern masterpiece, in terms of sleeve design, and further to this, I had also previously thought of it as being completely original. Now I'm wondering whether I'm right in that assumption. Not that this new knowledge changes my view of the brilliance of Go2, everyone has to get their inspiration from somewhere, and Hipgnosis developed the concept much further and took it to its logical conclusion.

Compare the two pieces and make up your own mind about whether the 1978 post-punk classic below is indebted to the 1965 mod original above. (Click on images for larger view).

Friday, 16 December 2011

Closing shops

I hope that the trend for closing up shop doesn't increase, as this week, Design Assembly blog announced its closure after 3 years of excellent design writing. If you haven't seen the blog previously, they are honouring its memory with 3 books, available here. My copy is on order.

This comes a few weeks after Airside announced they were winding down next year, see the Creative Review article about it here.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

R2 R1

R2 R1 by Dubdog@Flickr
R2 R1, a photo by Dubdog@Flickr on Flickr.

A photocopier engineer left this test sheet behind at work the other day.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Turner trailer

I've just seen the Channel 4 trailer for their Turner Prize 2011 coverage, and my gut instinct was that is was yet another quality output from Why Not Associates, and I wasn't wrong—a quick look at the WNA website and I find that they did indeed do this.

In the usual end of year polls, Why Not Associates have got to come top in the design company category. Equally adapt at turning their skills to good use for corporate and cultural clients, their work just get better and better in my opinion.

Why Not Associates' website