Saturday, January 5, 2008

Takashi Murakami

Today the wife and I decided to brave the torrential conditions and head down the mountain to Los Angeles for the Takashi Murakami exhibition at MOCA in Little Tokyo. On the way after the wife had her hair cut at The Spot in Seal Beach we stopped off at In 'n Out Burger in Long Beach, which is easily the best burger around and if anyone tries to tell you differently they are wrong.

Everyone we spoke to told us not to go due to the conditions but we're made of stern stuff and it wasn't that bad - people were quite clearly taking their paranoia pills. This is what qualifies as a bad day in California, got to love the place.

The banner outside the MOCA. The queue was probably a hundred people deep at 2pm and when we left a few hours later it was easily 250 deep. At $8 a head can you say kerching?

For those of you that don't know Takashi Murakami is a Japanese artist who works in a style that he calls Superflat. He blurs the line between high art and low art by making his work easily accessible to both the collector and Joe Soap who wants to buy one of his pins for their children. Kind of like an even more commercially minded Andy Warhol, if that is even possible. Initially he studied traditional Japanese art but then became disillusioned and turned his attention to otaku culture. Otaku basically means obsessed in Japanese. I have a fair few Japanese friends and they all seem to be deeply obsessive about something, be it collecting music, collecting toys, clothing etc. I have one friend who has more shoes than he has space in his shoe box apartment, so he rents a second apartment to house his collection, and that my friends is otaku in a nutshell.

Murakami's Superflat style developed from Poku, (Pop and otaku) which is a culture that he aims to create and represent. This lead to a massive rejuvenation of the contemporary Japanese art scene in recent years with other artists such as Yoshitomo Nara (the wife's favourite) also benefiting immensely from the exposure. Murakami works mostly in acrylic on board but also paints on canvas and his work is bright, exciting and meticulously planned...soul food for the eyes. Standing in front of his canvasses today I was immediately struck by the attention to detail that he has put into his work and the playfulness of his work. His characters, particularly his signature character Mr. DOB come alive and project emotions that you wouldn't think were possible from 2D paintings. His sculptures really caught the eye as well and, again, some of the smaller details were a sheer joy to behold. Every time you looked at them you came across something new. The best bit was that amongst all of this people were openly talking about the work, their kids were fawning over the work excitedly, everyone was smiling and it all lead to easily the best exhibition experience that I've had in a long, long time.

Here he is leading you through the exhibition, this is part 1 of 8. Just follow the links after you've watched every part as I figured it would be a bit obnoxious to put all eight videos up.

Because you aren't allowed to take pictures I liberated these pictures from The Hundreds, which is a great blog that I check every other day (and they have a decent burgeoning street wear brand if you've got some cash). I hope that Bobby doesn't mind.

Below is my favourite piece from the exhibit. I loved that it had a speech bubble with one of the characters asking another if it was feeling ok.

This was the wife's favourite piece by a mile.

Murakami has also done the video and the artwork for the new Kanye West ego-trip (sorry, album) called Graduation. You know the schtick, big samples and complete and utter twaddle over the top. Some of his lyrics are cringeworthy at best especially on the single that the video accompanied (he's like a fly Malcolm X dontchyaknow...twat) but nobody was listening they were just lapping up the beautiful images from the video.

Murakami is not afraid of mass producing his work and a partnership with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuiton bore a whole heap of ridiculously expensive bags and other assorted products. They had a store in the middle of the exhibition but I'm not really up for looking at things that I can't afford and neither is the wife so we didn't go into it.

At the opening Kanye did his thing, and to be fair he isn't bad live but I just wish that he would try and not jump on every bandwagon that comes along. Did you hear his Daft Punk sampling tune? Did you listen to the lyrics? Complete gibberish and not a patch on the original or the NERD version for that matter. Anyway enough anti-Kanye sentiments, check the video.

This is the catalogue from the exhibition and it was on sale for $65 at the exhibition but goes for $40.98 on Amazon, two guesses where I got mine from.

So there you go, if you're in the area get over there before February 11th when they take it down. It's one of those things that you simply have to see. Superb stuff, Takashi.

On the way back we stopped off at Amoeba on Sunset and picked up a few things but I'll save that for a later post.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Some more random shots.

I've seen loads of these cows all over Britain and I'm not really sure what the purpose of them is, and to be honest the silly story that I've made up in my head will only be deflated by the truth, so I'm going to leave it at that. This picture was taken at a school in Edinburgh and it's my favourite simply because of how mean it looks with those gnashers.

On my way home from work one Saturday my wife and I stumbled upon an anti-War rally that somehow turned into a pro-Hezbollah rally, which was a bizarre turn of events. One of the speakers even tried to make out that Hezbollah was justified in all the carnage and needless violence that they've inflicted on the Middle East. It all ended very tense with a group of guys physically threatening a woman for highlighting the plights of falsely imprisoned women in Iran. No wonder people get off on political rallies.

Neil Clarke at Clampdown Records sorted the wife and about six of our friends with tickets for whenSeu Jorge came to Manchester last year to play for some beer promotion type gig. The rest of the line-up and the atmosphere was a little hit 'n miss but Seu took the roof off the place with a great set including those amazing Bowie covers that he does in Portuguese and that were on the soundtrack of A Life Aquatic.

This was taken at the annual Eurocultured festival that they have in Manchester every year. Last years highlight was going to the festival completely battered with my friend Steven and I getting slightly emotional when Datarock ended their set with Bill Medley's 'I've Had The Time of My Life'. The things you do when you've had no sleep.

When we were in Tokyo a few years back Jeni was accosted by a group of Santas outside DMR for no apparent reason. This picture makes me smile every time I see it.

Taipei 101 in Taipei. great bookstore in there that is as good as anything I've seen anywhere else. Apparently renting space in the mall is ridiculously expensive and most of the stores in there do it for nothing more than face and credibility. I guess if you've got the money to burn...

The hedge to end all hedges.

Random shots from our vacation.

This is the wall design in a store called Anthropologie, I'm pretty sure that it is a chain store. The interior and overall aesthetic of the place was great and I tried to get the wife to buy a couple of dresses from there but they came with fairly hefty price tags and she was feeling a bit gun shy.

I tried to find out what this was originally but everyone I asked was a tourist. I forgot to turn my tourist-dar on. I'm going to stick my neck out and say that it was a theater.

The wife and I on NYE.

Teppenyiaki is quite possibly my favourite food ever. This wasn't as spicy as it was in Taiwan but beggars can't be choosers.

This is the best meal that I have eaten in ages. Yum!

This was in the concourse of the Modern Art wing of the National Gallery in Washington. The artists name escapes me but he was prevalent in the 60s and 70s...I'll think of it later. I really like this picture because it is technically so bad that it is good.

This was the plane that got us from Washington to Minneapolis. Again I like it for the reasons mentioned above.

Coming Soon

In the next few days I've got posts on Cosmic Disco, Jamie Hewlett, some of the swag that I got on my trip to DC, Virgina and Maryland this past week, a post game analysis of our trip to the Murakami exhibit in LA tomorrow, new music that has made its way into my grateful clutches and some other bits and bobs.

You lucky, lucky people.

Radio nUboogie*

Ema Nosurak is the talented presenter behind Radio nUboogie* on Salford City Radio every Tuesday from 4pm - 5pm, and she is one of the heads behind Stay Free who brought the legendary New York DJ Nicky Siano to Manchester a year or so back as well as putting on irregular parties in the cities that are all about the music - no large door tax, no gimmicks, just great record after great record played with enthusiasm. Ema certainly has got an ear for a tune that will make a dancefloor erupt as witnessed by her guest slots at the likes of Nish Nash Nosh, Speed Queen, Back To Basics and at her residency at Bar Fifty7 in the Northern Quarter of Manchester.

Her presenting style on the radio is professional and personable, which instantly makes her listeners feel comfortable as she plays belter after belter. At sixty minutes her show is far too short (when was the last time anyone said that about a radio show?) and she's destined for bigger and better things, so keep an eye and both ears out for her in the coming months.

Ema recently did her Top 2007 Show with El Diablo's Danny Webb as the guest and recorded it for your listening pleasure. Get it here.


LCD Soundsystem - 45.33 Part 1
Leela James - Good Times
Chromeo - Tenderoni
Elektrons - Dirty Basement
Chaz Jankel - Your My Occupation

Record Of The Week
Loud E - Sex E (Big Bear)

Domu Presents Pete Simpson - I won't Give Up (Look a Little Further)
Jose James - Blackeyedsusan
Jill Scott - Hate On Me
Maelstrom - Blue Feather

The Future
Hercules & Love Affair – Blind

Ema is also looking for mixes for upcoming shows and if you feel you have something that she'll be interested in then get in contact with her through her Myspace account.

My guest mix should be ready in the summer of 2011, I always start them but get sidetracked.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Back to California

Going back to California tomorrow via Minnesota. Looking forward to getting a solid nights sleep in my own bed.


HVW8 was formed in the spring of 1998 in Montreal, Canada out of the collaborative efforts of a group of like-minded artists and designers to create a vehicle for their art & design work. Drawing from the urban environment, Heavyweight developed a mix-blend of styles & skills accumulated from a free association of intuitive interests - peripheral influences included rare groove album covers, Japanese hyper-pop styles, dub soundscapes, graffiti burns, skate graphics and turntable culture. Heavyweight tapped into a growing artistic community, extending its creative network to include producers, DJs, musicians, filmmakers as well as other artists and designers. What surfaced was a Heavyweight version, street-style campaign of underground parties, music & art shows, posters, flyers and stickers all housed and produced under one roof - forming the main elements of Heavyweight's creative foundation in art and design. The Los Angeles office of Heavyweight Production House operates under the direction of Tyler Gibney and Addison Liu, collaborating with an extended family of creative professionals in art, music and design. Recent clients include: Levi's, Ninjatune Records, Gravis footwear, adidas, Absolut and Wax Poetics magazine.

Their gallery space is located just off Melrose Avenue in LA and as an added bonus you can buy records there, too. The selection isn't the largest in the world but if funk and soul are your thing then they have some choice cuts for your ears.

This Roy Ayers piece was the cover of a Wax Poetics issue from a year or so ago.

This print is available from their website and was also available on a t-shirt that I have stashed away somewhere. It has silver print on a black tee and I only wear it when I am feeling extra-pimp.

In September 2005 they released a compilation on Ubiquity Records called Music Is My Art featuring tunes by Seiji, Owusu & Hannibal, John Arnold, Ohmega Watts, Yam Who?, Rich Medina and many more. I haven't listened to it in a while but from what I can remember the Seiji and John Arnold tunes were particular dance floor burners.

This is the latest collaboration of theirs that I have seen and it is done in conjunction with adidas for their Muhammad Ali series. The shoes are particularly dope but I'm not feeling the jacket as it is a little over the top and the print on the tee isn't the best. The painting itself is amazing and they could do a decent trade selling prints of it, I know that I'd buy it. The shoes are winging their way to me as I type and I'm debating whether to stick them in my 'use and abuse' pile or in my 'pull them out boxfresh in five years' pile. Decisions, decisions.

This video is from the launch, I think. It's a bit Shepherd Fairey heavy but that's not the worst thing in the world.

For more check out the HVW8 Blog. They have a store at their website and they also do commissions and I have plenty of birthdays coming up (touch wood) and these would make me very pressure.

I just found this video of a painting that they did for adidas originals. Adi Dassler in da haus.

Blog Raid

Minnie Ripperton - Reasons

Get more at The Love Unlimited.

Lil' Louis - Nice & Slow

Get more from Chosen Sperms.

Linkwood Family - Piece of Mind

Get more from Spreading The Word.

Baby Oliver - Primetime (Uptown Express)

Get more from Gold Code.

Noze - Remember Love

Get more from Dilate Choonz.

Mission Accomplished

City beat the barcodes today with a fair amount of ease and I think it's safe to say that we've avoided relegation, which if you had listened to the naysayers (bitter United fans) it was never going to happen once Sven and Frank took over.

Everything from here on in is just gravy.

Goals from our Brazilian magician Elano...

...and our Swiss, erm, chocolate (sorry) Gelson Fernandes secured us the win.

Premier League Table as of 2 January 2008

1 Arsenal 21 26 50
2 Man Utd 21 27 48
3 Chelsea 21 17 44
4 Man City 21 7 39
5 Liverpool 20 21 38
6 Everton 21 15 36

And the cherry on the top is that 'Mr. City' Joey Barton is banged up in jail and the assault case brought against him by Dabo is still to come. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Holler Back At Mingus

This is something that I wrote in 2003/04 after a particularly good night out with my Aussie friend, Kelly Layton.

Recently I have been listening to a lot of jazz. Not the watered-down Kenny G shit, but the real deal, MINGUS! Jazz isn't easy on the ear. "Jazz is improvisation, and improvisation is jazz," as Charles Mingus so eloquently put it all those years ago.

Usually when you play something like 'Haitian Fight Song' to people who get their music taste from an FM dial they turn their noses up, they try and get as far away from it as fast as they can and in the shortest possible time. They call for it to be turned off, they even somehow manage to show never before seen acts of intense diligence in getting you to turn, "That shit off." But, from what I have learnt from men who have jazz in their veins is that you never do. You simply can't. How do you cut off your lifeline from the order that surrounds you daily. Don't get me wrong, I am not being elitist, I too have spent moments in the foetal position as, "The greatest change in musical history is about to hit you." It did. I nearly sucked my thumb and called for my mom. I got, and am still getting, my jazz education from one source, Kelly Layton. Listening to jazz with Kelly is like being driven at 300km/h down a one-way street in the wrong direction on a heavily, thunderous rainswept midnight with no hands on the steering wheel. He didn't once make any attempt to ease me into it, like I would do with someone who had only just started listening to house music. I'd have started them off with a Blaze record filled with beautiful melodies and vocals you can sing along to in the shower. Kelly just stuck on Charlie Parker and almost drowned me. It was a good old southern baptism at age 24. I have since learnt to swim and am known to catcall along with Mingus on certain pieces. The best thing about jazz is that you can literally, on some live pieces, smell the smoke in the air. Feel the density of the music as every note hits you.

Now this is going to get the jazz nazis in a right twist, but I don't think that Jazz has to be all about Mingus, Ellington and the dialogue that comes out of Coltrane's tenor sax. Jazz still surrounds us daily. Henrik Schwarz is jazz. The way how he builds his tunes up then takes you down a bit then slams it all in at once, all while adding subtle melodies just shows how much improvisation goes into his records. He'll build an entire record around once single note but never without leaving his own distinctive calling card on the final piece of music offered to the masses, or maybe that should be the 3000 of us that actually buy his records.

DJ Krush is jazz. I was on the brink of tears a few weeks ago at LUXY when he played out here in Taipei. The man simply played his records as if he was improvising with an entire band. He was orchestrating, fine-tuning, experimenting and all the while absolutely crushing my fragile little mind. He only played for an hour, but in that hour he completely pissed over anything you're ever likely to hear leap from two turntables and a mixer. It was far, far too short for my liking but it was perfect. I was astounded by the skills that he displayed. Alot of DJs around the world have taken to the EFX units of mixers like a duck to water, usually with glee as they can finally mask the fact that they have shit taste in music with all the delays, flanges and reverbs. DJ Krush uses all these elements to add to the music, not to detract.

A great Mingus anecdote is from the 60s. Sy Johnson played piano with Mingus during a run at the Showplace. He was apparently quite an even tempered man, or as even tempered as a jazz musician could be, but even he fell foul to Mingus' desire to sabotage everyone's performances in a bid to get them to play above themselves. They were playing 'All the Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud's Wife Was Your Mother' when Mingus started hollering at Johnson to play the pedals. Now, Mingus didn't simply ask his musicians to play he enraged them to the point that they raped their instruments for all they were worth, plucking the last shreds of dignity from every note they could muster. Now ordinarily Johnson was quite good with the pedals, but the fact that they kept on changing every four bars and that one of them was completely fucked didn't exactly make his days work any easier. While he was trying to find something universal he somehow managed to enrage Mingus who threw down his bass and charged over to the piano where he stuck his face right into Johnson's and started banging on the bass end of the paino with his Herculean fists. Johnson was so mortified that he began to take all his rage out on the, by now, severely battered piano. Mingus who had now returned to his bass began hollering back at him, "White boy you sure know how to play!"

So what's my point I hear you cry from the cheapseats? My point is that over time music seems to have lost that need for improvisation. Audiences have been educated to expect normality to the point that NERD sound like they're completely off the map to them production wise. Is it time to start playing music that just improvises all the time and takes out the much needed groove to get your ass swinging? No. If that was the case we'd just be listening to Autechre records and we'd all be even more severely depressed. What i'm calling for is for DJs and listeners to experiment a bit with what they stick into their daily listening schedules. Mix it up. Educate and invigorate. Purge your collections of maligned crap. Get your head around good music, and when Mingus calls to his band, do yourself a favour and holler back.


Today I went to watch Juno in Tyson's Corner here in Virginia and it stands head and shoulders above anything that I have seen in recent months. Ellen Page is brilliant as the title character and Michael Cera, as always, is suitably tortured in the male lead. If you haven't seen it, go see it.

Now the reason why I'm bringing it up is because of a few spots that I made in the film. In Juno's room she has work by Kozyndan, Tara McPherson and David Choe.

Kozyndan is the joint pseudonym of Los Angeles-based husband-and-wife illustator team Kozy and Dan Kitchens, known in particular for their whimsical and occasionally absurd illustrations of modern cityscapes. Check their website out for a tour of the wonderful world in which their imaginations exist. I have a colouring-in book that they did and I've yet to get drunk enough to break out the crayolas and ruin it...yet.

Check their blog out for more.

Tara McPherson is an American painter, comic book artist, poster artist, freelance illustrator, and teacher based out of New York City. A recurring motif in her work is a person with a stylized heart-shaped hole through their chest in the place of an actual heart. McPherson's array of art includes painted covers for Vertigo comic books and graphic novels, advertising and editorial illustrations for companies such as Fanta and Spin Magazine, and numerous gig posters for rock bands such as Green Day, Beck, Modest Mouse, Isis, High on Fire, and Death Cab for Cutie. She also has exhibited her paintings and prints in fine art galleries all over the world. Currently she is working on a painted graphic novel for Vertigo, painting for private commissions and gallery exhibitions, designing a new line of toys for Kidrobot based on her characters, and teaches a Concept Illustration class at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City.

Tara did a signing when she exhibited at the Richard Goodall Gallery in the Northern Quarter of Manchester and I managed to get the wife a Beck poster signed, which won me a kajillion brownie points. I could do stupid shit for three days afterwards and not get sent to the naughty step. Brilliant!

David Choe is a muralist and graphic artist based in California. He mostly does murals, which have appeared everywhere from Los Angeles to Manchester to Vietnam and all stops in between. He is known as much for his exaggerated vulgarity as for his aesthetic sense. His work also appears on a store in the Northern Quarter opposite Eastern Bloc. (I can't remember the name)

This is something else that I found by having a snoop about on the old Interweb and this is Michael Cera's created parody video, "Impossible is the Opposite of Possible" of Aleksey Vayner's truly awful video resume entitled, "Impossible Is Nothing" that lit the internet up a couple of years ago. Watch the original here. Laugh out loud stuff on both accounts.

Oh yeah, and the Chemistry teacher in the film is played by none other than Cut Chemist. (Geddit?)

Here are some videos to waste some of your precious time with some edumackashun.

Here are Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow doing their Brainfreeze thing. Watch it here.

And here he is digging for some records in Torrance in LA.