Friday, February 29, 2008

Supermarket Musical Massacre - Recording

Over the last two days, the D.I.Y Art Films crew and all of our genius musical collaborators have been locked in Oaklands Productions Studio in Nunawading, laying down the soundtrack.

The track is sounding incredible. We were absolutely blown away by the hard work and talent of the composers, Nat Bartsch and Oscar O’Bryan, and musicians Josh Holt, Angus Rigby, Jeremy Hopkins and Ainslie Wills.

We were also mightily impressed by the studio, and by its founder and head sound engineer Jarrad. Jarrad and his studio assistant (also called Jarrad) worked skilfully and tirelessly with us throughout the recording and put together a fantastic final product. Visit the Oaklands Productions website here.

Jarrad and Jarrad at the desk.

What's the score, Oscar?

Nat on glockenspiel.

Jeremy on drums.

Josh on double bass.

Double bass.

Ainslie: the voice of our leading lady.

Gus and Oscar at luncheon.

Chris getting into character for his vocal cameo.

D.I.Y Art Films: Chris, Maia and Steph.

Thanks again to everyone involved - we couldn't have asked for a better team!

We'll keep you posted as production progresses. And don't forget to sponsor the film!!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Being Cool Is Serious Business: Thoughts On Lupe's Second Album

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Lupe Fiasco is a conundrum: a mainstream rapper who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke and doesn’t go to clubs. He raps about everyday people and their problems, avoiding the mainstay topics of clothes, cars and conspicuous consumption that enthral most of his fellow artists. It’s rare to find mainstream hip-hop that isn’t self-absorbed and narcissistic, but Lupe’s music makes skilful use of characters and narratives to explore real issues and complex themes. His style goes some way to making hip-hop relevant to the listener, not just another artifice of celebrity culture. In contrast, the slavish worship of Hennessy, Benjamins and custom Cadillacs make most his contemporaries seem about as important as Britney’s latest wardrobe mishap.

Of course, Lupe’s not scratching out abstract beats in his basement. His sound has a distinctly mainstream aesthetic. He’s also a very big deal, and as such, he’s susceptible to industry pressures. Sooner or later, he would have to indulge in some self-reflection and luckily for us, The Cool is it. His second album in, Lupe takes time to examine his place in hip-hop culture. This is standard writing material; it’s common for hip-hop artists to use music in order to question the nature of fame and the future of their craft. Don’t be put off, though: this isn’t another over-inflated ego whining about Coldplay or comparing paparazzi to the evils of Nazi Germany. Lupe’s anxiety is justified because he’s just so different to most of the other main players. Does this relative newcomer from Chicago herald the toppling of an old empire corpulent with material excess or is Lupe’s formula at odds with its environment?

First thing’s first: the hype you’ve been hearing is probably not true. Despite his anointment by Jay-Z and Kanye as the saviour of hip-hop, Lupe’s not revolutionizing the game. His music has an orthodox commercial sensibility; there’s no denying The Cool’s studio-room polish. Even more so than its predecessor Food & Liquor, the tracks on Lupe’s latest album sound ready for radio. For a supposed revolutionary, there’s not a lot of ambition on display to move in new directions. (If you’ve any remaining doubts about this, listen to “Hi-Definition” where Snoop Dogg makes a cameo appearance.)

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this. Hype is rarely accurate and the mainstream scene is not changing overnight. Lupe is a talented artist but perhaps his potential is constrained by the weight of expectation and the need to fit in. No mean feat in a mainstream scene that’s harsher than a cheerleading clique from Orange County. I just hope this doesn’t pose too big a problem. For as much as Lupe rebels against industry pressure for him to “dumb it down” in the searing synth-and-bass-laden track of the same name, perhaps it’s the album’s first single, “Superstar”, that uncovers his true anxieties: missing out on mainstream acceptance by refusing to cash in. “Superstar” is optimistic and determined; the vocals of Matthew Santos soaring above stadium keyboard while Lupe tries to “believe his own hype”, ultimately wishing for a world where fans are numerous, reviewers are friendly, and the “light bulbs around [his] mirror don’t flicker”. Don’t we all.

Luckily, this is a side issue and Lupe has a long way to go before he starts complaining about the caviar in First Class. Overall, this is a solid album with plenty of strong songs on offer. Track-for-track, The Cool is a more enjoyable album than the occasionally patchy Food & Liquor. These songs are lean and mean: choice cuts that barely hit the four-minute mark, there’s no excess fat. The Cool’s consistency might have something to do with having fewer producers on call than its predecessor.

Producer Soundtrak has been invaluable for the album’s epic, cinematic sound structure. From the monumental second track “Free Chilly” to the sinister swagger of “Put You On Game”, this album packs a heavier punch. Despite this album’s title, it’s actually Food & Liquor that’s more laid-back and cool. This album has moments of blistering hip-hop angst; it takes you down a slightly darker road. Throw on “Hello/Goodbye” for a representative sample of this journey: an aggressively crouched track – wound tight like a Tesla coil – with explosive drum rolls as Lupe’s rap propels you through streets on fire with poverty, selfishness and single-minded oblivion. The Cool’s apocalyptic sound is thanks largely to the more rock-focused feel of the drum production and prominent guitar mixing. The strings take more of a backseat this time around and overall, the result is a more involving, atmospheric listen.

All this can get a little claustrophobic, though, and perhaps Lupe is conscious of this. Some tracks try to inject a little fresh air: the Gothic choir at the start of “Little Weapon” gives way as the track blasts into high gear with some much needed energy, and “Hi-Definition” and “Paris, Tokyo” are fluff. What’s missing is a sense of humour: aside from some brief dialogue at the end of “Dumb It Down”, there’s a distinct lack of it. I guess I was searching for the sense of fun that Kanye manages to pull off time and again – that enthusiastic celebration of music in its purest form – that Lupe is missing out on.

I could forgive a lack of humour if the album was consistently dark. But it’s not; which brings me to my final point. The Cool is apparently a concept album, but there’s not much concept to it. Lupe claims the album is based around the character introduced in Food & Liquor’s “The Cool”, but aside from one track on the album, this reviewer isn’t convinced. This album is too oblique in delivery, overall, to transcend the sum of its parts.

But if the quality is so high, why am I so disappointed? Admittedly I went in with high expectations. I guess the praise that Lupe seems to uncritically garner has rankled. This album is just not ambitious enough to warrant the acclaim. It’s almost like Lupe has to try harder to be different and stretch himself to really deliver some magic. Some experimentation wouldn’t go astray. He’s got too much talent to keep underperforming on the road to mainstream.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Saul Williams - The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!

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I first heard Saul Williams on the Blackalicious track "Release" off their "Blazing Arrow" album. Honestly I loved it. I found his spoken word style very affecting and evocative.

"The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!" is his 2007 album, produced by Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails. I just stumbled across it yesterday (it's available online for only $5 USD).

It's pretty different from what I expected. There's not as much rapping or spoken word as I expected. In fact, most of the vocals are (sort of) sung (a bit like some of Cody Chesnutt's more incoherent ramblings). A couple of tracks still have that really powerful spoken word delivery I love ("Break", "Scared Money", "Skin Of A Drum"), but most of the other stuff isn't like that. In fact, most of the spoken stuff is kind of wailed and stylised... quite different to what I heard on "Release".

The production is pretty intense, but if you're into NIN or El-P etc, you will probably get into it.

The biggest surprise for me was his cover of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday". This actually sounds pretty awesome. I would not have thought it, but the track is rocking.

I've only listened to the album pretty briefly, but I might throw up a quick review once I've listened more closely. You can download it using the thing below. It's only $5 USD, so it's pretty low risk if you ask me!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Supermarket Musical Massacre - Press Pack Online

The press pack is now online!

It contains all the information on the SMM website (plus more), all in one handy PDF file.

Download it here!
(7MB PDF File)

Supermarket Musical Massacre - Website Online


At long last the official website for Supermarket Musical Massacre is now online. It contains information about the project as well as the sponsorship page. The new press pack should be up in the next few days (maybe even today if we're lucky).

Check out the site at: www.diyartfilms.com/smm
And don't forget to sponsor us!

So You Think You Can Dance Australia - Animation Hip-Hop



I don't care what the judges said, I thought this routine was sick.

If anyone knows what the song was, please let me know.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Supermarket Musical Massacre - Promo Material


Another teaser. (A team work!)

Kid Reviews Rambo



This kid is a champion! I hope he likes Supermarket Musical Massacre as much as he liked Rambo!

(And make sure you watch it till the end. His logo is the best part! This video is also something pretty special, just made my day!)

Chasm - "Beyond the Beat Tape"

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Sydney producer Chasm has just released his first full length album. "Beyond the Beat Tape" is album of the week this week on Triple J.
I heard a couple of the tracks today and so far it's sounding pretty good.

Chasm's first EP was released a few years back through Melbourne label Awakenings. He also co-produced the Astronomy Class (Ozi Batla, Chasm, & Sir Robbo) album which was released on Elefant Traks and did pretty well on triple J.

Beyond the Beat Tape features a whole bunch of guest MCs including Pegz, Muphin, Ivens, Urth Boy, Ozi Batla and my favourite Australian MC, Mantra. You can hear a few of the album's tracks on Chasm's myspace page. If you like what you hear, the album should be available at most large CD stores. It's also available for download on iTunes. Beyond the Beat Tape is out now on Obese Records.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Supermarket Musical Massacre - Promo Material

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Here's a preview of the promo material we've been working on for Supermarket Musical Massacre. More images and our full press pack will be online within the next week. Check back soon for updates!

Flashing Lights Video

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Co-directed by Spike Jonze & Kanye. Is it worth the fuss? Is it over people's heads? I don't really think so, but decide for yourself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Imperial Shearers

Imperial has just released a new cut. The "Shearers" just launched at San Fransisco's Self Edge a few days ago.

They're a mid/high-rise jean with a nice tapered leg. The Shearers feature Imperial's impeccable construction and quality Japanese selvedge denim. They've also got a pretty cool leather patch featuring a sheep (a very handsome sheep!).




They are now available for sale at Self Edge for $265 (USD), with free international shipping. Dig it.

Melbourne's All of the Above should be getting them in sometime soon. I'll let you know as soon as they do. I'll definately be trying them on myself... maybe a graduation present to myself in a few months time... hmmmm...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Supermarket Musical Massacre - Rehearsals

We just had a day of rehearsals. The song is sounding great! All the musicians were amazing, and it was really exciting to hear all the parts together for the first time. We're really looking forward to the recording sessions (which are less than two weeks away). Thanks to all the musos for doing a stunning job, you guys are the best!!!


The whole crew (from left to right, top to bottom):
Josh Holt (bass), Oscar O'Bryan (trumpet), Jeremy Hopkins (drums), Angus Rigby (sax), Nathan Liow (synths), Nat Bartsch (keys), Ainslie Wills (vocals).


Kirk's lemonade should really be sponsoring this film. Kirk, if you're reading, hit me up!



The rhythm section.



Oscar & Nathan rockin out.



Maia & Ainslie.



Working things out.



Gus looking thoughtfully handsome.



Maia looking pretty.



Oscar looking... angelic???


We'll keep you posted with more developments over the next few weeks as we get the soundtrack locked down. Let's just say we're excited!!!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Honey - Erykah Badu

Yo, this is the lead single from Erykah's new album, due out later this month I think.
The song itself is pretty dope, and growing on me. But the clip is really cool. I love the way it references all the old hip-hop, soul and funk records, just like Erykah's music does.


Flyentology Video

This is an old favourite. Flyentology was the first single from El-P's latest album, I'll Sleep When You're Dead. The track features Trent Reznor (from Nine Inch Nails) on guest vocals and co-production.

The video was produced by the Adult Swim team (the guys behind Harvey Birdman, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, etc). I really like the simplified tonality and colour scheme (black, white & the def jux green). A great example of how 3D CGI can look great without looking like "wet clay".

Dig it:



Def Jux (El-P's label, which features artists like Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, & now Del tha Funkee Homosapien) & Adult Swim also teamed up to release a free downloadable album called Definitive Swim. It contains singles from both El-P & Aesop Rock's latest albums, as well as some remixes and unreleased material. It's not all gold, but there are a few quality tracks. My personal favourites include the Brovaz Remix (Mr. Lif featuring Can Ox), Get Rich or Try Dying (Despot), & Blood Boy (Cage).

It's free, so what's the worst that could happen? Download it here.

Anyone feel like dancing? Anyone?



Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Pet Family: Episode One

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Tom Hanuka

I came across this guy's work through the cover for Aesop Rock's Bazooka Tooth. I never really liked that, but his other work is straight dope. Really striking imagery and great use of colour.

I love it. Check out his folio website here.






He also has a blog with his brother Asaf, and it's well worth checking out!

Dig it: http://tropicaltoxic.blogspot.com/

Australia Says Sorry

And about time too. Let's just hope that this is the start of a movement towards real change!

You can watch the speeches by Kevin Rudd & Brendan Nelson on the ABC website.




Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New N.E.R.D

Just when I thought the Neptunes (and not to mention N.E.R.D) were getting past it. This is dope!



Unfortunately, there's no video for the track yet, and I'm not sure if this is the final mix version or what. Either way, dig it!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance Australia - Update

Tracked down the footage of Drumstick.



Sadly he didn't make it to the top 20, leaving after day three of the week in Sydney. Either way, I know he's going to keep on dancing and doing great things for the dance scene in Melbourne. Congratulations Drumstick on all your great work! (Don't forget to check out his website here!)

Let's hope Sid makes it through!!! Good luck Sid!

Shifted

I just caught up with my old family friend, Keith Wong, today for some Chinese New Year luncheon. Keith has a masters in Fine Arts from Monash, and has had shows both in Australia and overseas.

He co-runs the gallery/studio space "Shifted" in Richmond, which has a ton of exhibitions scheduled for the coming months. Check out their site here.

Keith's been producing some really interesting work over the last few years. We'll keep you updated with his progress and his future exhibitions!

Caught Out There Video

I just caught this video this morning and it really took me back. I think "Caught Out There" was one of the first Neptunes-produced songs I ever heard, probably along with "Shake Ya Ass" by Mystikal. Considering the huge impact The Neptunes have had on pop music over the last decade, it's pretty cool to go back and hear the stuff they were doing before they were super famous.



Dig it!

RAW!

Friday, February 8, 2008

D.I.Y ART FILMS SHOWREEL

We've finally got around to posting our 2007 Showreel on youtube. Check it out, and please excuse the rubbish pixelation.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

(Before) So You Think You Can Dance Australia

Unfortunately I haven't been able to track down any footage of my mates Drumstick & Sid on So You Think You Can Dance Australia. However, there is a ton of older footage on Drumstick's YouTube page. So I thought I would post some stuff that you can't see on TV.

This is a video of Drumstick at the 2006 Shakedown competition. He kills it! And he actually jumps over Sid's head early on in the video!



As well as going to high school together, Drumstick & Sid were also both in the crew Liquid Xpress before Drumstick left to start his own dance school (Groove Dance).

If you're interested in seeing more of the local dance scene, check out the Groove Dance YouTube page!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Supermarket Musical Massacre - Recording Sessions Booked

That's right folks, the lyrics are written and we're booked in to record the musical section of the film (which is most of it) in the last week of February.

It's a very exciting milestone for us, and we're really looking forward to getting into the studio and hearing the band at work. In the meantime, we'll be drawing more storyboards and working towards our first animatic (more about that later).

We'll keep you posted with more about the arranging, rehearsing & recording of the music over the next few weeks. Check back soon!

A Mesmerising Performance

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Although it's a little late to review Bjork's appearance at Melbourne's Big Day Out, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to rave about her captivating performance at this year's festival. I knew all of maybe four songs before going into her show and everyone knows the Big Day Out is not the ideal place to hear a performer reach their full potential, what with a commonly unbalanced sound system and the rolling waves of bogans to contend with. Yet, none of this mattered in the end when the sun started to set and Bjork's warbling voice began to float over the swirling orange dust storms.

A full brass band strode onto the stage, decked out in costumes that looked like a cross between that of a marching band and a tribe of Indian cheifs. They later turned out to be back up singers and dancers too, which I was mightily impressed with! Then entered the leading lady herself, decked out in a head to toe gold panelled kimono of sorts, with elaborate makeup and head-dress. Sounds ridiculous in writing but everything makes sense with Bjork. From that moment on I was star struck by her unbelievably powerful voice, peculiar dance moves and even stranger speaking voice. She was accompanied by an impressive band and a form of live digital djing, which I find hard to describe in words here. I'm probably years behind, no doubt most of you out there have seen all that before!

Bjork ended the set with what she called a 'lullaby for the indigenous people of this nation'. As she raised her arms high above her head and cried out to the crowd "Erase your flag!" I saw a lot of confused looks on the faces of true blue aussies with Australian flags wrapped around their sunburnt shoulders. But I saw a lot of elated smiles too. At that moment my respect and admiration for her was firmly cemented and it was suddenly clear why she has made it this far, why she has produced so many albums, and why she has so many loyal and devoted fans. Bjork, you're amazing!

Monday, February 4, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance Melbourne

I was just watching the second episode of So You Think You Can Dance Australia which happened to feature two of my old high school mates Geoff "Drumstick" Lim and Sid Mathur!

Both Geoff and Sid came correct and scored themselves a spot in the top 100 (check out the official listings here).

Congratulations to these two immensely talented lads! Make sure you watch next week to see their progress! Hopefully I can track down some photos or videos to post here soon!

(Also, check out Geoff's website here.)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Review: Cold War Kids - "Robbers & Cowards"

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Cold War Kids
- "Robbers & Cowards"

Yes, the Cold War Kids do sound like The White Stripes. That might bother some people, but it doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me because, while there might be similarities between the two bands, the Cold War Kids have enough individuality and overall quality to make them not only enjoyable but exciting to listen to. Some songs are just straight rocking (Hang Me Up To Dry). If you’re after quality raw bluesy rock, then you’ll get it. But what really makes “Robbers & Cowards” such an exciting listen is the depth and subtlety contained in its songwriting.

The album’s first track, We Used To Vacation, describes an alcoholic’s struggle (and probable failure) to overcome his addiction. Singing in character, vocalist Nathan Willett employs storytelling techniques that are both tantalising and sophisticated. The song’s first lines – “I kiss the kids at noon / Then stumble out the room / I caught a cab / Ran up a tab…” – paint a very clear picture of the main characters everyday life. As the song progresses, however, it also becomes clear that we are listening to a narrator that is not completely reliable. We are told of his promise to “never touch another drink as long as I live”, and his chanted belief that “this will all blow over in time”. By the end of the song it is clear that it is not us he is trying to convince, it is himself.

Other lines, such as “That accident left everyone a little shook up” and “But at the meetings I felt so empty”, are provocative. I was left wondering: What led this character to drinking? And what led him to revaluate his life? I was left imagining the shame and regret he might experience, sitting in a meeting for Alcoholics Anonymous. A less ambitious songwriter would have resorted to plain reportage: “I am an alcoholic. I am trying to overcome my addiction. I am in denial.” Willett communicates all this information, but does so in a way that is far more imaginative, challenging, and frankly just more interesting.

Such artful storytelling is also featured in tracks like Saint John and Hospital Beds. Both songs outline a loose narrative but leave much about the featured characters and their surroundings to the imagination. The stories are easy to follow, but the meanings behind them are left for the listener to decide.

In terms of overall sound, “Robbers & Cowards” is very cohesive album. With the exclusion of maybe Passing The Hat and God, Make Up Your Mind, all the songs combine to form a natural whole. In terms of specific instrumentation and production, "Robbers & Cowards" has a lot more drums than I expected, both in terms of mixing and drum patterns. Coming from a hip-hop background, this is something I like. A lot!

As I mentioned earlier, the album is raw. I’m talking about jarring changes in tempo & time signature, instruments getting out of time with each other, and occasionally playing a few notes in the wrong key. When done well, I really like this. If I formed a band and played like this (which I probably would because I have no musical talent) I’d sound like an amateur. These dudes make it sound good. Very good. A lot of bands, including The White Stripes, make use of a very raw sound. In my opinion, one thing in favour of the Cold War Kids is that they apply it in a way that is very appropriate to the mood and subject matter of their songs. They aren’t just raw for the sake of being raw. The changing tempo and crazy guitar in We Used to Vacation (particularly towards the song's end) build upon the character’s words to create a frantic, almost disturbing mood. This technique (and subject matter) reminded me of the Velvet Underground classic Heroin (if you dig this, check out the album version of Water by The Roots).

In the same way, raw instrumentation lends a very palpable extra edge to Willett’s vocals on songs like Saint John and the album’s secret track, Sermon Vs The Gospel. In Sermon, both the vocals and instrumentation sound completely uninhibited. It is not a watered down, pristine, studio recording, and the song benefits significantly from this. The band seems to almost shake from the energy and emotion behind the track’s lyrics.

Unfortunately "Robbers & Cowards" is not a stellar album all the way through, it does have low points. The strange, and at times almost carnivalesque, God, Make Up Your Mind deserve a hearty skip in my opinion. And depending on my mood, I may or may not bother to listen to Passing The Hat and Robbers.

Other than that, this is a sold album. Be prepared to give "Robbers & Cowards" a few listens, as some of the songs did take a little while to grow on me. If you’re into raw music, or good story-based songwriting, then this might be something for you.

Vote 1 Liow

D.I.Y Art Films friend & associate Nathan Liow has just made a last minute entry into the ABC Classic FM "Orpheus Remix Awards". For the competition he had to use some sample mp3s to make his own "response to both the Orpheus myth and the notion of 'opera'"... whatever that means....

Opera is a fair way from Nathan's regular production/playing styles of jazz & electronica, but he's put his own signature glitchy stamp on this remix and managed to create some interesting stuff. If Opera was a bit more like this then maybe I'd be more inclined to listen (sorry to all the hardcore opera fans out there).

Nathan's remix is called "iOrpheus"; you can listen to it here.

Support the cause and click here to sign in/register and vote!

(Don't forget to check out Nathan's myspace to hear some of his work in other genres.)

Tom Lehrer - Poisoning Pigeons in the Park



Genius.