Between My Ears There Is Nothing But Music.

Uncurbed Enthusiasm

Flipping out like a Ninja will just have to wait until the next entry, I’m far more in the mood this week to uncontrollably blog all over this page about the highlights of the fortnight that has just been.

Firstly, a big prop to my esteemed friend and very talented author, David J Rodger. He’s recently pulled me out of a literary coma where I’d not read a book for over a year. He suggested that I would perhaps break the negative cycle of not reading by incorporating a book into my journeys to work. What better way to start than to read one of his?!

 He kindly gave me an updated version of his fabulous novel ‘God Seed’. I’d first had the pleasure of reading  it in 1996 when each chapter was fresh off the proverbial press. It was an honour to absorb this gripping, cinematic fusion of sci-fi and Lovecraftian horror so perfectly paced and  vividly descriptive.

 ‘God Seed’ is set in a near future; the kind of world where cars have been replaced by aerodynes and the digital world has integrated itself into a tangible layer of reality. Think of a massively evolved version of the world of Cyberpunk and you wouldn’t be far off. The précis of the book describes the story thus:

 ADAM KYLE, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker for Netwerk Zero, is covering a team of mercenaries engaged in corporate espionage. A company executive wants to smuggle stolen data to Cairo.

Fascist extremists, Islamic terrorists, corrupt government officials and a religion as old as Mankind become fused into a gruesome knot of lies, treachery and murder. Kyle finds himself struggling to save the documentary and his life as a violent ambush launches him onto a dramatic quest that pulls him across the globe, and beyond, into the heart of a monstrous ceremony.

Which eloquently summarises the essence of the story far better than I would have!

The updated version of ‘God Seed’ thankfully doesn’t deviate a great deal from the original 1996 version. Since the primary draft, David has written several other novels that occupy the same universe as the one in which ‘God Seed’ takes place. As these other stories have progressively fleshed out  the world with history , characters and technological advancements, David has cleverly retro-fitted his seminal work to bring it in line with the stories that followed on from it.  A feat he has accomplished skilfully!

Reading it again was like being reacquainted with a long lost friend, I found myself being equally gripped, horrified and enthralled as I was fourteen years ago. I love a story that becomes so absorbing that the world around me begins to fade out, Its words must pour through my eyes until I forget that they are even reading in the first place. David is an author who easily achieves this with his gift for story telling and masterfully demonstrates his skills in God Seed with brutal precision.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. You can buy ‘God Seed’ here.  Also worth a visit: David’s web site

During the week that I immersed myself in the book ‘God Seed’, I also totally fell in love with a new iPhone App called RJDJ, which is another totally immersive kind of experience.In essence, the music tracks are actual software (as opposed to being a standard audio file) that listens and reacts to all external input via the iphone’s mic. Certain tracks are designed to build up in complexity as more external noise is encountered, or to become  mellow as your environment quietens. When selecting a track to listen to, you become a fundamental aspect of how the tune or soundscape develops depending on your surroundings and even subtle nuances of movement picked up by the iphone’s accelerometer. Here’s a brief video introduction.

The software really show’s itself at its best when playing tracks created by KIDS ON DSP or by Little Boots. Both acts have really created some gorgeous electronica that reacts brilliantly to the listener’s input. It makes you feel very much a part of the musical experience rather than a passive listener. It really should be tried to be fully understood.

I accept that this may all seem something of an iPhone praising section of this blog, however as far as I understand, the software developers of RJDJ are currently writing the same software for other phone platforms as well. Android anyone?….

Well anyway, walking through town, taking a bus, popping into the supermarket have all taken on added dimensions since discovering RJDJ. At its very worst, some of the tracks (Known as scenes) have been reminiscent of the kind of auditory hallucinations I remember encountering when coming up on magic mushrooms!

The thing to bring into mind when dealing with this sort of software is to recognise the tremendous amount of potential it will bring with it as development gradually reaches greater heights. The stand out pieces have been created by musicians who have developed scenes that already contain interactive rhythm and melody. I would imagine as more groups decide to experiment with creating scenes, the more spectacular and innovative the results will be. I’m personally hoping that Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has discovered the RJDJ software, it is perfectly suited to his particular bent for experimental musical mediums.

From a user end point of view, there is equal potential for infinite combinations of music that you love. I noted listening to Kids On DSP whilst on the London Underground, that certain tracks built to rhythmic crescendos at the times the train got into busier areas such as the more central stations. This in turn very much suited the momentum of my travel and the energy of moving through London making it a very personalised experience. Having seen the 1970’s and 80’s regurgitated at the end of the last millennium, then more depressingly into the new one, I find it a great relief that things that seem to belong firmly in the 21st century appear to be happening. RJDJ is one of them, it whispers of  delights to come!

RJDJ Is available as a free app from the iTunes store, most of the experimental scenes are free. Those with small charge e.g Little Boots, Kids on DSP and AIR , are well worth buying and can be previewed on the RJDJ homepage here

And then there was Rammstein…

 I’m going to attempt to explain why this was the best live act that I’ve seen in my life. Furthermore, how I expect that there’s a fairly good chance I’ll not see anything that equals it for at least another decade (If ever) unless it happens to be another Rammstein concert.

Tanya & I had reluctantly sold our tickets to see them play in 2004, clashes with work schedules, the expense of staying in London, loss of earnings on either side of the concert had made us conclude that it just wasn’t going to justify the total expense. We later heard of a legendary  concert that we’d missed and felt generally gutted.

I’d not really paid Rammstein much attention since 2005’s mostly disappointing album ‘Rosenrot’; it just didn’t hit the mark for me, I kind of felt that they were a band who’d already reached their peak and this album was indicative of a general decline. In retrospect, I was so, so wrong.

In September last year we noted that Rammsetin were touring to support their extremely excellent album ‘Liebe ist für alle da’ and just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them this time. Sod the expense!

On February the 4th, Rammstein played to a sold out Wembley Arena.

I used to think it was an age thing; the last few bands I’d seen live (Including NIN and Ministry) had been excellent but had left me feeling a bit of a fuddy duddy. I just didn’t go crazy like I used to when I was younger man. I just assumed that that kind of crazy dancing excitement was a thing of the past. Um,… WRONG!

I was feeling generally underwhelmed and “I’ve seen this ,heard this all before” when the support band ‘Combichrist’ performed. It set me in that general mood and expectancy for when Rammstein would play.

After the hiatus of the ‘break before the main act’ had drawn to a close, the arena was cast into blackness. The low synthesised drone of the opening track ‘Rammlied’ began to build and was suddenly accompanied by blazing white light physically punching through previously blackened walls on the main stage. The white lights intensified as the holes got bigger, the music grew louder and two band members emerged from the freshly destroyed holes. While this was happening, I thought “Oh GOD, I hope this isn’t going to be like a Spinal Tap gig!’ I then noticed that the sparking intense light of a Oxyacetylene torch was appearing to cut an oval path around the centre of the stage, this was quickly followed by the oval path exploding outwards with another piercing light as the frontman Till Linderman appeared from a giant glowing oval hole. The song ‘Rammlied’ kicked in fully as the stage was suddenly illuminated revealing the rest of the band against a backdrop that resembled gigantic claw marks…as if some giant beast had punctured its way into our world.

It was a really impressive opening, It had somehow managed to completely avoid being naff in spite of having all the potential ingredients for being so.

(Slideshow photography courtesy of several Flickr users who attended the event. Click on slideshow to see larger images)

 I quickly went from generally impressed to being in complete awe  when the next song ‘Buckstabu’ began. It was the combination of the pale metalic lighting, coupled with the guitarists grinding out razor sharp, robotic riffs as twenty ft columns of CO2 smoke blasted up from vents in  the floor  beside them. Did I mention the subsequent  on-stage explosions and pyrotechnics?

The thing is, the whole concert was symphonic. I say that with the intention of conveying the fact that like a symphony, the concert went through various movements, gradually building layer upon layer. It wasn’t just the music, it was also the variety of lighting, it was the way that the stage at first resembled a platform with a giant torn looking backdrop, that then revealed something that looked like a Nikola Tesla inspired laboratory behind it, that then transformed into a space-age warehouse, that then transformed into a futuristic industrial factory, that finally became an almighty self transforming machine.

It was the way that everything was choreographed with jaw dropping precision, musicians performing with mechanical intensity as fireballs and explosives detonated all around them. Yet the music didn’t falter or miss a beat for all the apparent carnage happening around it. Have a look at the video for ‘Ich tu dir weh’, it very closely, in a condensed fashion resembles the sound and look of the live tour for 2009-2010

The audience were worked up into a frenzy as the evening progressed. It was hard not to, as each song revealed a new facet of this futuristic rock’n roll hyper-drama.

After two stomping encores, the concert came to an end. It seemed fitting that the lingering image was four massive pulsing, mechanical columns of light pumping out dry ice as the band exited. The self transforming machine of the stage was activating its coolant system. Obviously.

I know that other stadium capacity bands have pulled off stunts like stage theatrics, fireballs,dramatic lighting rigs etc. But I can only emphasise, Rammstein have perfected all of those dynamics to such a degree that you cannot escape the fact that they have incorporated the cutting edge of presentation into their live performance. This is compounded by the knowledge that they pull it off without a single hitch. The band kind of morph with the scenery and become an industrial, six man cyborg moving as one.

I’ve given quite a bit of thought as to why Rammstein live has left me with a high that has lasted over a week since the event. It is all of the above, it is also mainly the fact that during the evening Tanya and I both forgot ourselves completely, danced our arses off with utter elation amongst nine thousand plus other people who felt the same way. We were like teenagers again.

In other ways, it’s a pity. Rammstein have pretty much ruined other live acts for me; If I go to see someone else, they may put on a good show, but I know in the back of my mind i’ll be hearing a voice saying “Yeah they were alright, but they weren’t exactly Rammstein were they!” And it will be a correct observation.

This ties things up for this entry, I know this blog has a readership of sorts; I think I’d still journal out my thoughts and experiences even if there was nobody looking. It’s the 21st century way of keeping a diary, albeit  buried in the infinite mound of all the other global websites and blogs. Invisibility in the crowd!

Next time I’ll deliver the rant I promised you, It has been brewing for some time.