Waiter waiter, this [DJ] food is dry and unimaginative

Who (or what) the hell is DJ Food? Is he (or it) a DJ, some sort of food, or something altogether more sinister?  Confusion still reigns over whether the ‘food’ in question is a concrete or proper noun; when the project began in 1990, as a collaborative effort between Ninja Tune label founders Coldcut amongst others, it was decidedly the former – aimed at providing ‘food’ (samples, breaks, loops) for the nascent trip-hop DJ community.

These days, it seems, DJ Food tends to lean towards proper noun territory.  Strictly Kev, aka Kevin Foakes, has single-handedly adopted the moniker, with the first new album in 11 years.  DJ Food’s early releases in the nineties, the Jazz Brakes series, were invariably filed under Enthusiasts Only, jammed with 30-seconds-or-less tracks that rendered them alien to most casual listeners.  The Search Engine is a more conventional album, but to some extent seems anachronistically trapped in the fire of the nineties from whence its creator was forged, stubbornly using genteel, humdrum big-beats devoid of imagination.

It begins confidently enough, some heavy-set, DJ Shadow-esque beats from opener All Covered In Darkness suggesting sturdy things to come.  But even Shadow more or less managed to free himself from the shackles of flannel-shirted tyranny, with moves towards a grown-up, 21st-century breed of hip-hop.  No such progression is evident here: just dogmatic attachment to dull, ungratifying drum patterns.

As we move onto track 2, ‘GIANT’ – perhaps named after the giant-ness of the eight interminable trundling minutes it goes on for – one of several middle-aged guest vocalists are introduced (The The’s Matt Johnson), and thus the stage is set for what could be the soundtrack to a particularly mediocre British gangster film.  Most entries, including eleven-minute (!) Magpie Music, are chocka with stupid bloody ‘ironic’ samples that stopped being funny years before even the spectre of Lemon Jelly. A man from America talking about astronomy will not distract from your insubstantial noise.

Electronic music is a fickle beast,  and Ninja Tune stablemates like Bonobo and Amon Tobin have mostly managed to adapt to an evolving creative climate by moving with the times and adopting spikier, dubstep-informed sounds. DJ Food seems have aimed for fifteen years ago and still somehow missed. The Search Engine is harmless enough, but it’ll bore you to tears.


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Album review: On Beyond by Muchuu

If your dial was switched to Radio 1 late last year, chances are you will have heard the sparkly electropop stylings of a bright new band named Muchuu, bringing wide-eyed sweetness with electro sensibilities to mainstream radio.  You may well expect such sounds to have sprung from the neon-lit suburbs of Tokyo (especially with a name like that), but this brother-sister combo hail from the green fields of Herefordshire in the English countryside, and their twinkly, good-natured music is finding fans worldwide.

It scarcely seems possible that this fresh-faced pair, whose combined age barely troubles forty, are already on their second album, but On Beyond marks an impressive maturation from their debut Adventure We Go.  The influences are many and varied, but it’s fair to say that Muchuu – composed of Milky (vocals, lyrics) and G-Man (keyboards, synths, backing vocals) owe a debt to the cheery electropop from the eighties onwards, as well as the more experimental output of pioneers like Bjork.

Their songs exist in a fantastical, Studio Ghibli-esque world, a world populated by pirates and dreams, full of imagination and invention. It’s fantastically refreshing to hear pop employ a bit of creativity in its songwriting approach.  Muchuu’s homemade-ness is pivotal to their charm and success – it is probably for the best that they found their audience through the blogosphere than a superficial record deal. G-man’s melodies are not without invention, either, with breezy synth production which wouldn’t sound out of place in a Japanese arcade hall.  Tracks like Dance The Day are peppered with 8-bit Nintendo-style noises and bleeps, appropriately accompanying Milky’s sweet-natured singing.

The tone and style will almost certainly be too saccharine for all tastes, but even then you can’t fail to appreciate the maturity of production and the earnestness of songwriting.  Muchuu boast evident talent belying their young age; it seems highly unlikely they’ll be pop’s biggest secret for much longer.

The Kim who cried ‘rape’

The Artist, obviously, is a stunning, heartfelt, sweet-natured, etc, etc.  I won’t repeat the usual platitudes – if you don’t already know how good The Artist is, come back to me when you’ve read the rest of the internet first. It is utterly lovely.

Unfortunately, it appears there is a single detractor to this truism: veteran actress Kim Novak, who felt it her duty to spend actual cash money on a full-page advert in trade rage Variety on the use of a single piece of music from the classic 1958 Hitchcock film Vertigo, in which she starred.  Scene d’Amour by Bernard Hermann is an impossibly beautiful piece of music, used to devastating, tear-wrenching effect in The Artist‘s climax.  Kim Novak disagrees.

“I WANT TO REPORT A RAPE,” Novak begins, definitely not going over the top with that analogy.  In further overuse of both capital letters and poorly-chosen metaphors, Ms Novak feels “AS IF MY BODY – OR, AT LEAST, MY BODY OF WORK – HAS BEEN VIOLATED”. (Thank goodness for that caveat, eh?)  She continues to complain that the use of the music was “cheating” and “MORALLY WRONG”, and that she is “THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN SPEAK NOW”.

I’m not even going to get into the bombastically insensitive use of the word rape in order to have a bit of a moan about a film you didn’t like – as the AV club put it, the word appears to have “evolved from meaning ‘violent, forced sexual intercourse’ to its more modern definition as ‘something kind of upsetting that happens to famous people.'”

But what really gets my goat is how Kim is so enraged over ‘stealing’ a piece of music which is, itself, hugely derivative.  Anyone who knows Bernard Hermann’s classic Vertigo score will know that it borrows heavily – or, to put it in Novak’s elegant phrasing, ‘rapes’ – from Richard Wagner’s epic Tristan & Isolde opera (specifically the Liebstod aria).  And why not? Great artists, and all that.

I’d perhaps understand her grievances more if director Michel Hazanavicius had remixed Bernard Hermann’s score into a filthy bass-heavy dubstep mashup.  As it stands, she comes across as a slightly dotty, and highly self-righteous, old luvvie.  Well, there’s a place for people like that.

Trailer review: The 84th Academy Awards

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXGI9suAyBI]

We’ve been given our first glimpse of the biggest night in the self-congratulatory calendar, and it’s a veritable smorgasbord of meh.  If you weren’t already underwhelmed about the upcoming Billy Crystal-hosted backslapfest, this should probably do the trick.  The minute-long trail stuffs in plenty of budget and moderately big names, but it’ll be lucky if it induces so much as a wince of a pitying smile. Let’s conduct a post-mortem.

Our heroes are Josh Duhamel, who so memorably played the character ‘Male Human 12B’ in the Transformers saga, and Megan Fox, who thrilled audiences as her ‘Attractive Female Human 1’ in the first two classic instalments of that same critically lauded, Oscar-winning film series (might want to check this is right – Ed). Both appear to reprise their roles from Transformers, i.e. Josh provides all the exposition and Megan keeps quiet and looks pretty.

This unstoppable duo are told to track down a host who has gone ‘off the grid’ by legendary he’s-been-in-everything character actor William Fitchner, who unforgivably is only given three measly seconds of screentime here.  Still, off our two heroes embark on an Indiana Jonesian adventure, “charged with tracking down a legend” as Voiceover Guy helpfully notes.

Their journey takes them to see the decorated Oscar veteran Vinnie Jones, once again displaying his effervescent acting versatility after the success of his British Heart Foundation ad explaining how to give CPR in a manner that East End gangsters will understand.  (Watch the ad if you haven’t seen it, it’s mindblowing. “No kissing!” he instructs, “you only kiss yer missus on the lips” – i.e. “I AIN’T NAH POOF OR NUFFINK”.)

On Vinnie’s recommendation Duhamel and Fox travel to the “furvest location on earf”, where a bearded Robin Williams does one of his funny foreign accents. For the only actual Oscar winner amongst this cast, Williams’ segment is perhaps the biggest dud.  The music even does an abrupt-pause-for-expected-laughter moment for the “He transformed into a Yeti!” line.  Yeesh.

Then finally, the payoff. What we’ve all been waiting for.  “Are you the one they call…the host?”  A lens flare obscuring a scruffy man’s  face suggests a big reveal is coming.  Billy Crystal, our replacement host, the true hero, is to be revealed.  It’s going to be a  massive punchline.  A hilarious punchline

[youtube http://youtu.be/9SK0QyHcCIw]

Gary Busey: then and now

Busey, 1978: nominated for an Oscar.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N50WSWxIYk4]

 

Busey, 2011: advertising cheap Korean cars with a giant hamster.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWL2A8Lw7Os]

 

It’s easy to chuckle at Hollywood’s favourite mentally unstable actor, but his fall from promising actor to unpredictable firecracker is really pretty tragic when you learnt that suffered a pretty devastating motorcycle accident in 1988 which left him with permanent brain damage. Suddenly that Family Guy pisstake doesn’t seem so funny…

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