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Reviews Written by
Simon J. Whight "fourfourfun" (Manchester)
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Smash
Smash
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £14.24

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A breath of electronic fresh air, 1 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Smash (Audio CD)
I've found that some of the big hitters of the electronic contingient of Warp seem to have gone off the boil somewhat. I've found Plaid's last effort, Greedy Baby, showing the odd flash of brilliance but on the whole the same frustrating lack of energy and ideas that happened on Spokes. Also Autechre still seem to be languishing in the realms of rhythmic manipulation that I'm sure is very satisfying to create, challenging to listen to but sadly not a pleasure that touches the soul.

While I sift back to the older albums on Warp, enjoy some of the new acoustic elements filtering through, a little electronic gem has nudged its way to the surface. There is an o2 ad campaign that is going on at the moment with a natty little fractured electric affair going on the background, I myself thought "sounds like the kind of thing you'd find on Warp". Lo and behold it IS the thing you find on Warp, its Jackson And His Computer Band and you've been listening to Utopia! Let the full joy of Utopia unfold on you and you get dramatic shifts in synths, fractured female vocal stabs and a crisp electro break. Then you get the absolute dream of a breakdown with a lovely retro snippet of the Utopia vocal, lush.

The album is full of this sparky lively fractured beats approach. Parts of me think Daft Punk, other bits think Plaid, some bits push my dancefloor buttons and others my soundtracky buttons. Thankfully its not a one track album with so many wicked moments like TV Dogs capturing my imagination.

I'm having a good Warp time at the moment with Maximo Park, Gravenhurst, Broadcast and Jackson And His Computer Band showing that the reasonable people are still firing out the cutting edge of music, without getting needlessly lost in technology.


fabric27: Matthew Dear As Audion
fabric27: Matthew Dear As Audion
Price: £13.25

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly I have to agree..., 23 July 2006
I was really looking forward to this mix having enjoyed a few standalone bits by Matthew Dear and the odd thing off the Spectural Record label. But what can I say? Its thoroughly disappointing!

I like the current minimal sounds, efforts on the Fabric series from Akufen and Craig Richard have been great as far as flying the flag goes. This, however, is just completely directionless!

Take the remix of Wortkabular (which I'm sure is the Luciano remix, I've used it! heh, might have a mislabel). Ableton is in usage here and a wee snippet of it is looped over and over again. A snippet that completely avoids all of the interesting delevopements that happen in that track and just loops over and over making you want to hit the FFWD button. Not a good sign.

There are a few high points, I love the Billy Dalesandro track with its whipping snares, Ali Khan's chesse house snaps ... but its all too little for this mix.

Minimal is the current bag, but it really has to watch out it doesn't do what Progressive did at its height and start spawning infinitely dull tracks, heavily hyped by the media.


Sony PSP Handheld Console Value Pack, Includes Memory Stick, Battery Pack, Headphones, Demo Disc and More
Sony PSP Handheld Console Value Pack, Includes Memory Stick, Battery Pack, Headphones, Demo Disc and More

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I can't decided..., 22 Dec. 2005
...whether this is the big hit I've been waiting for, or a piece of raw potential that needs finer sculpting. Lookswise, this is one of the nicest pieces of console kit that has surfaced in some time ... easily eclipsing the ugly bigger brothers that are the PS2 or the Xbox. Specification wise, it sounds like a dream come true ... a full multimedia device, spanning almost PS2 graphics (yes ALMOST, this machine CAN'T do PS2 graphics or the sheer scale of PS2 games ... place Liberty City next to San Andreas and tell me they're graphically comparable), music, video and net browsing.
The reviews certainly can't sway me, 99% of them swing from whining about a) the DS being much better so buy it now to b) these stats from the Sony hype machine mean that the PSP is the best so buy it now. Sigh. Almost as worthy as claiming that either console is better because Jesus had elbows.
I almost creamed myself when this came out. Sadly I didn't have the near £300 required to get the console, a proper memory card and a game to play on release. So I was a very sad panda. A few months down the line, I'm wondering whether or not I'm the lucky one now. What on EARTH is going on with the games catalogue? The consoles primary function is to play games and the releases have all but dried up but for EA's franchise machine. Sure, we've got a couple of big hitters including Liberty City, but what else is there? I've been endlessly scanning ign.com in the vague hope that SOMETHING may come out on this machine worth paying the money for. But NOTHING, no previews of anything tasty, NOTHING. I'd fear I would have ended up with a machine that can't compete with a dedicated mp3 player or DVD player if I was forced to fall back on the other media functions if I'd rushed out for that first batch.
Ok, so there is the slightly illegal joy of homebrew games. The potential joy of being able to play PC, SNES, Megadrive back catalogues via a bit of firmware flashing and emulation is an appeal in my eye, dodgy as I am. This IS something Sony are cracking down on, however, much to the ire of the modding crew. In their warped view of the world, old games should be free and Sony should be thanking them for making these available to the public, boosting PSP sales. This is, of course, until the likes of Mr Nintendo comes along, pointing out that the Nintendo back catalogue should be PAID FOR and played on their new next gen console, the Revolution, and not a Sony machine, then Mr Sony naturally has to put limits in place.
If the PSP undergoes a slight hardware redesign in the shape of an onboard hard drive, superb firmware support for the non-games playing functions to bring the mp3 playing up to scratch. Then we're starting to get in the right market. If we could see some straight ports of older Sony games (I for one would immediately purchase if Square dished out its Final Fantasy games from the past on this), then we're in market winning position. Until that time, Nintendo, who on paper looked completely OUT of the handheld race, are very much in with a shout thanks to their knack of putting out quality games. This you cannot deny, they are proven to produce quality. Its no good having a machine with wonderful graphics if the actual games are BORING PIECES OF INSIPID TRASH. Need For Speed, Harry Potter, Metal Gear Acid, Medievil ... are these meant to be the machines triple A titles?!
Once the good games start arriving and perhaps a wee tweaky hardware/firmware redesign, then the PSP should rightfully take the handheld market. Right now, its no-mans land.
Check the 'mediocre in all areas' spotlight review for something well balanced. Top marks that man.


FABRICLIVE23:  Death in Vegas
FABRICLIVE23: Death in Vegas
Price: £11.32

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good electronic fare, 6 Dec. 2005
I’m irritatingly pedantic when it comes to mix CDs. Naturally music is about as subjective a passion as anything to give an opinion on, but when it comes to the blending of beats, I know what I want. Beats matched to keep in with 16 bar patterns, subtle blendings that you don’t even know are going on, tracks getting brought in with both first beats of a 4/4 … no bass drum hit being matched with a second beat clap please. That’s just how I am because that’s how I like to mix.
Now DiV’s mixing style reminds me of a very old school philosophy. As if the DJ hears something that he likes in the headphones and quickly slaps across the crossfader so that we, the listener, can hear what he’s hearing. Even beatmatching isn’t a priority when it comes to layering an ambient intro over another track’s beat outro. But consider this, DiV’s resume includes a precursor to the Heavenly Social, a club called Job Club. Such luminaries as Andrew Weatherall and Derrick May were invited to be guest DJ for the evening. But rather than having two Technics to cut a groove on, the DJ was confronted by a humble stand-up hifi system with just the one turntable. The philosophy that it was the records and not the mixing skills that they were there to showcase.
I can see sense in this. I bought a vinyl copy of James Zabiela’s amazingly mixed Sound In Motion and to be truthful, I couldn’t see myself sitting down and listening to 75% of those tracks individually from beginning to end. With DiV’s Fabric mix, each track is a little gem. Ok, every now and again there is a style of blend that doesn’t satisfy my pedant ears (no where NEAR the catastrophe that was the Howie B mix), but where I find myself almost like a mindless Ableton robot, DiV can, say, decide to switch from glitchy tech house to punky electro at will. Freedom.
As a result the mix showcases a grand journey of sounds and electronica, taking in many of my fave artists of the moment such as Alex Smoke and Wighomy Brothers. Tracks that are designed to endure and educate. Thanks to this, I can safely pump this through my ears with a smile on my face.


Revelation Space (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Revelation Space (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Alastair Reynolds
Edition: Paperback

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good start to Mr Reynolds, 6 Dec. 2005
Much as I love a bit of sci-fi, its not been a genre I’ve headed to for reading material since having the misfortune of heading away from the safe haven of Asimov. I began to leaf through a hard sci-fi novel by the much raved about Iain M Banks, only to confronted by an initial chapter that was akin to a minutely detailed description of a robot powering through some sort of space station. Every microfunction, AI thought process and sensor reading scribed in technical splendour. Unfortunately what should have been a pacy and exciting action based introduction was bogged down by this needless technological self-indulgence. It read like treacle and the book was promptly abandoned long before the introduction of any sentient life to endear yourself to. Not the best introduction to hard sci-fi by any measure.
Years later and I’m finding myself in need of some good tomes for my train based adventures to and from work, dying to branch out from my usual genre of ‘ye olde fantasy’. This is where Century Rain comes in, glistening at me in holographic glory in a bookshop with the promise of sci-fi with a paradoxical foot in modern day Europe. Unfortunately my fiancée also found the back page blurb far too tempting so I had to replace a now stolen Century Rain with this, Alastair Reynolds first novel and apparent hard sci-fi epic.
With a slightly nervous disposition, I dived in and, god, I was so glad I could read to the end of the first chapter without any blood vessels bursting in my brain or any seemingly random half-century leaps around time and space by the novel itself. Do not get me wrong, there is complexity within this novel, the precise and intricate structuring with seemingly unrelated and wispy plot lines that begin to converge towards a dramatic conclusion. But it is not overshadowed by needless technology, showing off like a GM enhanced peacock strutting its tail around. The plot moves with the cunning strategy of chess, master players providing move and countermove as the balance of power switches each exciting stroke of the story. The technology is there but not to overshadow the actual characters and plot lines of the novel.
You find yourself caught up in the plight of Dan Sylveste, ousted ruler of the outpost colony of Resurgasm, and his desire to trace the cause of an ancient catastrophe that wiped an entire alien race from the galaxy. Khouri, the mysterious assassin hired for a most unconventional job, and Volyova, the cigarette fuelled bundle of tension, attempting to rescue the frozen captain of her ship from a deadly plague. The plot is so well crafted in the way that each path comes to meet, and forcing you to swap allegiances as secrets are devilishly revealed. One moment you are plugging for Sylveste, the apparent master intellect with a devious cunning and full grip for the bigger picture that is being painted, then all of a sudden, you aren’t so sure that he is a hapless scientist being manipulated to the doom of the entire human race. The works right across the broad range of characters, intensifying as you reach the dramatic and satisfying conclusion.
As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this, my faith in the sci-fi genre restored. Able to be readable, exciting and still giving that technological wow factor that only the future can hold. Grand stuff, living up to the title of ‘master singer of the space opera’.


Bugged Out Presents - Suck My Deck
Bugged Out Presents - Suck My Deck
Offered by Giant Entertainment
Price: £1.16

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Are you a deeeeejay? Got any techno? Anything faster?", 7 Nov. 2005
At first I was put off this mix, mainly due to it being heralded as another Lazarus reinvention in the direction of the currently popular minimal house sound. A CD in danger of being filed away in the dusty musical bible of my mind. However, if you glance over MoodyDJ 25:17, you’ll read:
“…and thus it sat around in dusty splendour until the time when his now longer morning commute gave way to large quantities of listening opportunities.
Lo! He discovered that Suck My Deck has rapidly become one of his most listened to house mixes of recent months. And it was so that his feet did ‘give a little wiggle’ when One Of Our Submarines delighted his ears.”
Seriously though, I’ve not been one to hit a rewind when listening to a mix but I just can’t get enough of One Of Our Submarines. Ricardo Villalobos’ bubbling remix is set off against the most obtuse and almost David Bowie-esque vocal. Its plain wonderful! One of two top tracks on this mix, the other being Freaks’ Tweakers. The MFF crew again providing some off kilter funky and acidic fun in style.
If anything, this wasn’t the minimal glitch mix that I was expecting, more a plain solid and a thankfully more adventurous than the ordinary bear tech house mix. Mixing is of course solid, but now we’re entering the full swing of the Ableton era, I’d expect George W Bush could bang out a compilation, especially with his expertly trained button-pushing finger. This said, I did like the way James Holden got dropped into the mix.
So, chunky stuff and very nicely done too. Worthwhile, especially for those standout tracks.


The Campfire Headphase
The Campfire Headphase
Price: £5.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BoC provides antidote to non-event everyday life, 7 Nov. 2005
This review is from: The Campfire Headphase (Audio CD)
My first play of this was almost like having the first cigarette hit of the day. Rush down shops, buy Campfire Headphase, get packaging off, GET PACKAGING OFF, inCDplayerinCDplayerinCDplayer, PLAY!, whooosh ... ahhhhh. A new injection of calm from my favourite brand of electronica. Big smile on face yet felt slightly ridiculous at getting this giddy over a CD.
Campfire Headphase is a lighter, more organic affair when compared to the electronic icy chill of Music Has The Right To Children or the stark and mechanical Geogaddi. Think Turquoise Hexagon Sun rather than Sixtyten as far as mood goes. More samples and guitars have floated into their sonic landscapes, settling with ease alongside those trademark simple melodies and short interludes that we now know so well. I've already found myself loving the likes of the oh so uplifting Peacock Tail with the rewind button being hit many times to hear those strings kick in just one. more. time.
Some may lay the criticism that this isn't drastically pushing on BoC in great strides, but I'm quite happy taking some more of what they do so well, especially when compared to some recent efforts from some of Warp's old guard. Personally, I tend to stay away from reviews, deciding to form my own love and opinion for albums. There is time and place for Music Has The Right To Children, Geogaddi and now Campfire Headphase ... all of which rank equally in my estimation, all for different reasons. I can say, however, that this has replaced Music... as the album I'd recommend to people to introduce them to the world of BoC. Its an easy album to slip into and sit through from beginning to end, more appealing to those who think that IDM is a brand of PC. Of course, once hooked, they can go delve into the wonderful history of albums, EPs and rarities.
The comforting bubble of BoC is proving the ideal antidote to crowded 7:45am trains, the bustle of people washed away as I find a corner to hide in with the offkilter world of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Paracetamol for the soul.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Complete Seasons 1-7 [DVD]
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Complete Seasons 1-7 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sarah Michelle Gellar
Offered by lightningdvd
Price: £149.99

136 of 140 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid lil investment!, 28 Oct. 2005
You know, I only ever used to catch the odd episode of Buffy on TV. Either it was her having some trauma with Angel or something to do with the rather cold inflicted looking Master. As far as I was concerned it was just a bit of fun, pure standalone episodes, to pass an hour or so of my life away. This was, of course, until I stumbled across someone on an internet forum giving a season by season breakdown of the storylines. I'd never realised the links between each episode, each series, that takes young Buffy from a fashion conscious student at Sunnydale right up to being a General figure leading a bunch of potential slayers into an apocalyptic battle against an almost Lord Of The Rings-esque host of feral vampires and the overal essence of evil in the Hellmouth itself.
So I vowed one day to sit down and watch the entire series from start to finish to take in this epic opus. After finishing it I can say its pure class, the thought that goes into structuring the entire flow of the series. Little throwaway lines that pop up referring to events that may have happened seasons ago, little clues dropped in about the appearence of Dawn in Season 5 as early as Season 3. There are episodes that are standalone pieces of amusement (take Xander and the 'all women love me' episode for example) or those that tackle more serious aspects of life such as the rather sombre The Body. There are episodes the pushed the boundaries of normal US TV viewing such as the musical Once More With Feeling, the silent Hush and the surreal Restless, all episodes that I will recommend to friends to check out to show that there is more to Buffy than initially perceived.
I found the DVDs to be absolute quality, Season 4 onwards are presented in widescreen which is a bit of a treat. Its also the first time that I've actually wanted to sit down and watch through a commentry, Joss Whedon expanding on the excellent episodes of Hush and Restless for example. There aren't as MANY features as I was expecting and there appears to be a surprising lack of Sarah Michelle-Gellar from the mini docus that punctuate the various boxsets. In defence of this, its a joy to hear Joss expand on the creation of the series where you find he approached Buffy from the mind of a film-maker. Hence the absolute quality of visuals, something you take for granted when you're used to mega-epics like Lord Of The Rings. Perhaps we assume too much that when it comes to TV, everyone has the time and budget to knock up something as impressive as this.
All in all, its a top box set. Something you will, and I have, watch over and over again. The characters are absolutely wonderful and have now become popular culture icons, Buffy will become a piece of history so you should really make sure you own it.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 20, 2012 3:05 PM BST


MMII
MMII
Offered by westworld-
Price: £20.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very slick, very very nice, 24 Oct. 2005
This review is from: MMII (Audio CD)
I've put off listening to this for some time, mainly for two reasons:
1) Before his recent Fabric mix, Diggers had gone through a slightly duff minimal Progessive patch, this MMII fell within that period.
2) After searching for 5 years to find the promo only copy of Shakespears Sister - Black Sky with the Underworld mix on, Diggers goes and sticks it on the vinyl issue of MMII, one year after managing to track it down. Guh.
So I find myself in my new house in the outskirts faced with a grey day, a commute into the centre and needing something to just wash away the hordes of the suits, hustle and bustle. After exhausting the collection that was immediate to hand after moving and a LARGE quantity of CDs being hidden away in moving boxes, I succumb to MMII. And you know what? Its a real joy. Struck a much larger chord with me than I was expecting.
The opening section featuring gentle breaks and floating synths stirred feelings of Sasha-esque track selection, a large contrast to the grinding funk of the Fabric mix, the tunes mixing together with the same kind of flow and ease of the Northern Exposure mixes. Just listen to the way you suddenly find yourself progressing from the gentle breaks to the slighty darker hypnotic 4/4 beats as the mix progresses. The house beats don't gatecrash into the mix, but just arrive hamoniously with the pace and intention of the mix. Of course the track selection is spot on, plus the presence of 92's still excellent and still fresh Black Sky is just the icing on the cake really.
Nice contrast to the current sound of Diggers and light years ahead of the likes of Communicate and GU:Los Angeles. Excellent mix.


Dawnthief: Chronicles of the Raven 1 (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Dawnthief: Chronicles of the Raven 1 (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by James Barclay
Edition: Paperback

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprised...., 14 Oct. 2005
Well I have to admit, shallow as I am, I was suckered into this by the ever so pretty purple and black cover. Of course never judging a book purely by a cover, the glowing recommendations from Eddings and Furey gave me the urge to splash out on this. A novel with the promise of pace and action, a much needed antidote to the ever increasing sensation of wading through treacle that I'd experienced further down the line with the Wheel Of Time series.
So lo! I'd bought a nice new shiny book, what better to do than to sift through Amazon and check out the other opinions of fellow reviewers. To my dismay, I was shocked to find two parallels of opinion, either extatic 5 star praise of pace and excitement, or the lowly 1 star flaming of cliche and shallowness. I feared that I may have gone from rock to hard place as far as reading material was concerned.
Monday morning commute commenced and I took the big plunge. Yes, the novel doesn't pull any punches, there is no gentle introduction. Its WHAM, straight in there with the Raven dividing people horizontally with vicious sword action and HardShields all over the shop. After the D&D comparisons read here, I was concerned, half expecting members of the Raven to pause between hits while waiting for an Active Time Battle bar to recharge before attempting a Limit Break! But wait, after the initial confusion and a rather surprising downsizing of the initial Raven outfit, things do settle down somewhat. Surprises ARE sprung, a more weighty plot kicks in and you find yourself becoming part of the new band of Raven. As promised, plenty of energy and excitement yet not overtly cliched and it hardly maintains the sense of being a D&D book for 14 year old metal heads.
I've found myself caught up in the plight of the Raven, the despair as the close knit band is slowly picked apart, but joy as the need to save the world leads to the forming of a new Raven. Everything just slots into place just nicely, written with precision and purpose. The finding of the three catalysts could have easily been spread over three novels, but the decision to go with action pays off. The pages keep on turning and the chapters tumbling by.
This isn't the deepest of fantasy that you will ever read. Certainly the history of the Wytch Lords, land itself and the politics of the various ruling bodies & factions is very lightly delved into and only when the plot deems it necessary. Also it is exactly what it says on the tin, very gritty and down to earth, not quite conjouring the whimsical otherworldly fantasy of Tolkien (but then again, what fantasy has managed this since?). However, I have found this the ideal antidote to a case of the Jordan's, and my commuter packed train journeys have been made better for it. I can easily see myself picking up the next in the series.


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