Monday, 28 September 2009

A Genuine Rant.

Watching tv this evening, I see an advert for a product.

"But Ben," I hear you cry, "Tv is the natural place for advertising, unless you were watching the BBC, in which case it would be something for an oddity."

Yes, I fully appreciate that TV is the place for advertising, invisible blog reader people, but is TV really the place for advertising this?

Look. Be shocked.








Seriously, are you taking the fucking piss?

For God's sake.

I swear, if this company acheives success with this shit, the world will be over. It's all gone. You blew it up, you madmen!

Monday, 21 September 2009

The Rise and Fall of CGI.

I picked Batman Begins at Asda at the weekend, and as I was watching it on Saturday night, I remembered a story that Michael Caine related about the films development. He was watching a panoramic shot circling Batman, who was standing high on a gargoyle near the top of a skyscraper. He turned to CHris Nolan - the director - and said "How did you get CGI that good?"

To which Nolan replied:

"It's not CGI. We've got a stuntman standing up on the building while a helicopter circles him."

Now, the purpose of this story is not to relate the sheer coolness of the Batman Begins franchise - although its succeeded in making Batman cool again after Joel Shumacher's debacles.

The purpose of this little anecdote is to illustrate the attitude towards CGI in the film industry today. Where once CGI was a novelty, it quickly became a crutch.

Probably the origin of the CGI boom can be traced back to 1996's Independence Day. Whilst CGI had certainly been used before this point, the sheer scale of its usage began to really take hold after this film. After all, who needs deep plots when you can blow up the white house on a weekly basis? Not to say I didn't enjoy ID4 - its a great film, and still holds its own today. But it set a trend where rather than merely using CGI to enhance a film, filmmakers started basing their films around CGI.

More followed. The disasterous 1998 Godzilla remake made the legendary king of the monsters into a Tuna Eating CGI Iguana.

More and more, the marketing of films seemed to revolve around the special effects rather than any actualy plot content. As I previously stated, CGI became a crutch to lean on rather than a tool to be used.

-Yes, I know I'm not giving many examples. Its been a long day.

And somewhere along the line, it began to lose the sheen it had gained from ID4. When you start seeing cities destroyed in every mother movie, soon enough it begains to wear thin. Gradually, CGI fell out of fashion with filmmakers - the notable exception being comic book movies, which, due to their nature, had to rely on the technological breakthroughs that CGI had brought.

Another contribution to CGI's fall was the more smooth integration of CGI into the movie. As it became more difficult to distinguish the computer generated elements from the film, its rapidly began to lose its allure. Its use was assumed, as illustrated by Caine's story, but it was no longer the focus. Gradually movies began to feature less about the special effects.

In some cases it became anathema to even point them out - more marketing effort was put into the fact that films weren't using CGI than those that were.

Perhaps CGI has finally ound its role as a filmmaking tool rather than the focus of movies.

This pointless rant bought to you by:

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Creative Commons Music Week - The Finale.

So, kiddies, what have we learned this week?

Well, I suppose the basic lesson is that theres a hell of a lot of good music out there - 4 out of 5 positive albums cant be wrong, and given that all of them were chosen completely at random, its a good sign of a trend.

The creative commons movement is a triumph for freedom of music. In the past week, I've downloaded five albums, completely legally, without having to worry about the government knocking on my flat door and telling me I've been naughty.

What Jamendo, as a site, proves is that there is a way to challenge the monopoly that the music houses have over the industry. If more and more people show that they're willing to listen to free music, it'll mean that eventually, the music houses will be forced to cater to our tastes.

By supporting - and voluntarily donating to - creative commons bands, you can make them successful completely independently of the major music publishers.

Is this a pipe dream? Ten years ago, I wuld have said so. But ten years ago, wehadn't yet had the advent of the Mp3. These days, music shits just as much digitally as it does on CDs. iTunes is one of the biggest music retailers on the planet.

For the sake of struggling artists everywhere, we need to show that we wont just listen to the music they tell us to listen to. Lady Gaga? no thanks, I'll take Steven Dunston. Good Charlotte? I'd talk Talco over them any day.

There are plenty of good bands out there. Take the time to look. Downloading doesnt have to mean you're getting your music illegally. Enjoy.

Creative commons Music: The Dark Symphony

Belated review is Belated.

OKay, newage instrumental is DEEPLY not my gig. Never interested me. but in the process of picking a random album, I decided to download Roger Subirana's The Dark Symphony, and I wound up being pleasantly surprised.

Thankfully, instrumental music doesnt have any language barriers, so I was free to enjoy this spanish entry without having to worry about those issues, but to be honest, the album didnt have a particularly spanish flavour to it. It's most definitely newage.

One of the things you'll find in Tourist attractions in the UK - specifically their giftshops - are wooden cabinets full of newage music. normaly, these have Twee titles like "Whale song" and "Earth Magic."

Which is probably why a title like The Dark Symphony caught my eye in the first place. It does have a distinctly different feel to it than most other new age music Largely piano based, with hints of pan-pipes, the elements of standard newage are certainly there, but the general tone of the album sets it apart from the usual tourist attraction crap.

On an entirely irrelevant note, at one point my sister was convinced those cabinets were the start of an alien invasion - followed by their more successful weapon of Sudoku puzzles.

Back to the music, Dark Symphony is thoroughly entertaining music. While its perfectly nice to relax to, Tracks like Ancestral Voices also have a good beat to them that makes that worth the effort of getting past your prejudices.

Its good chillout music, and thankfully, a highpoint to end my creative commons music week on.

Download Roger Subirana: The Dark Symphony.

Roger Subirana's Website.


Friday, 11 September 2009


Haven't had a chance to listen to Friday's album yet. review will be posted tomorrow. Sorryz.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Creative Commons Music: Unfinished Business

Well, I suppose the run couldn't last forever. After three days of excellent albums that at least kept me vaguely interested, I finally came across one that did precisely nothing for me.

The shock really comes from the fact that Unfinished Business by the band of the same name is a band that splits itself between Lisbon and England, thus meaning that the music was at least in my native language.

I'm not saying that the music is bad. Technically its at least accomplished, and the blues sound is at least bearable.

But then thats the problem. Unfinished Business Isn't bad. It's merely Indifferent. With this album, its like the band decided it was going to lump every generic sound of 80's rock onto and album and let it go at that. Theres no real flavour to this music, no real verve. In the end its just... unintersting.

The lead singer sounds like he's trying to be Sting. The music sounds like its trying to be Genesis. The whole album comes across as the generic soundtrack of every eighties detective show you remember.

Every song sounds like something you've heard before - and not in a good way.

Download Unfinished Business.

The band's site.


Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Creative Commons music: Combat Circus

Well, The more I download from Jamendo, the more I notice that the music I'm downloading is starting to take on very distinctively mediterranean flavour. Today's entry is one coming from the sunny reaches of Italy - Where the F1 heads this weekend for the Monza Grand Prix, incidentally - and is straying back into my more favoured tastes of Ska-punk.

Talco's entry to the Arena, Combat Circus, draws on some very familiar ground as its basis. Ska has been around for a long time, really, and its a very good mould to follow.

I have to admit, it was with some trepidation that I settled in to listen to an all-Italian album. This is something a lot of people will probably be familiar with - its very difficult to listen to music, even music styles you like, if they arent in a language you don't understand. That said, after the first couple of tracks, I felt firmly like I was in familiar territory. The sound of Brass instruments and shredding guitars greeted me like a warm fire in a log cabin.

A log cabin that was steadily burning to the ground, amidst the tattered remains of a nuclear stricken world...

...Okay, that metaphor was stretched a bit, but that fact that Combat Circus is a fairly comfortable listen for anyone into punk is something that deserves saying, even if the language barrier is in the way. After reading the reviews, I found that the Album apparently has an Anti-Fascist lean to it.

Whilst I didn't get that listening to the songs the first time round, with the tone of songs like Testamento Di Un Buffone and the cover of the Anti-Fascist classic Bella Ciao mena that once you know its there the sentiment comes across pretty clearly.

End of the day, the language barrier on the songs is somethign that can be broken down witha bit of concentration, and what you're left with is a very good punk album, That's definitley staying on my music files for a long time.

Download Talco: Combat Circus

Talco's Band site.


Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Creative Commons Music: The Ugly Army.

I hereby declare this week Bendanarama's Creative Commons Music week! A new Album review every day!

I'll admit something now - I try not to read the genres that are listed when I download a full album from Jamendo. Its difficult, since they're fairly prominent, but it means that I can generally form my own opinions.

Of course, sometimes I cant help it, and when I saw Fresh Body Shop's The Ugly Army describe as "Punk Rock Electro", I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this French rock act.

The initial impression wasn't that great, but I warmed to the album fairly quickly. any trepidation I felt was purely due to the fact that it wasn't like any of the music I usually listen to, and thats something that required me to step out of my brit-indie-US-punk comfort zone.

The Ugly Army has a hell of a beat to it. ANd it's also a hell of an individualistic beat. In terms of Genre, I wouldn't have described it as Punk Rock Electro. I would have gone with "Punk Jazz Fusion" or alternatively, "Hyperspace Wizard Rock."

But then, I'm a bit wierd.

I have to admit, to me personally, some of the songs are a little hit and miss. Ones like Never end up like this and Anythign But You are ones I really enjoyed, but the more Electro sounding ones like My Artificial Sun didn't really do all that much for me.

If I'm honest, I enjoyed most of the album, but the odd couple of tracks that didn't really push my buttons left it feeling a little flat. But, if you like something a little different, its a nice little album, with a very distinctive French flavour to it.

Download Fresh Body Shop: The Ugly Army

Fresh Body Shop's Blogsite.


Monday, 7 September 2009

Creative Commons music: Hymns about her

One of the wonders of using Frostwire is the (relatively) recently added Frostclick feature, that gives you access to tones of free music, completely legally, under the creative commons licensing system.

Generally, I have ignored most of the splash ads that have come up but for some reason, I decided to click on the album cover for Steven Dunston's Hymns about her.

Never have I less regretted a decision. Steven Dunston's album is exactly the kind of Jazzy Piano music I tend to listen for relaxation, and in this case, it is exceptionally good Jazzy piano. Dunston handles both the strings, piano and vocals, and gives a virtuoso performance.

But what you shouldn;t assume is that this a one-note performance. Whilst songs like Tonic and Gin - my personal favourite - and Northern Star are accomplished love songs, others like Lyle Love Song and California have a more poppy, cigarette-dangling-from-the-mouth feel.

But despite this, it is defintely the traditional jazz feel that benefits more from Dunston's vocal style. Whilst Lyle Love Song isn't bad, its more country-ish air doesn't take as much from the vocal style as the slower, more jazzy numbers. Particularly good examples include "When I was with you" and Man of faith.

If you like, even occasionally, to relax to music, then this album is for you. its an isntant calmer - valium, in music form, if you will. Sit back and chill. As I said, my personal favourite is Tonic and Gin. The album also caters to one of my favourite tastes in music - songs that tell a story. The is Pour-yourself-a-drink-and-chill music at its finest.

Get it now.


Get the Album: Steven Dunston - Hymns about her.

Steven Dunston's Site and Blog.