the original soundtrack


1. Franz & Shape - 'Countach' + LCD Soundsystem 'Daft Punk is Playing at My House'

The problem with listening to tunes on my iPod is that I get the tracks all confused (it doesn't help that I have it set it to er, schaffel, and never pay much attention to the readout of what's playing.) For about a week now I thought I was listening to LCD Soundsystem's "Daft Punk is Playing at My House," but what I was really listening to was an acapella of it over this Franz & Shape track, courtesy of those old 2manydjs pranksters. After hearing the original "Daft Punk is Playing at My House," I think the Franz & Shape version is way, way more awesome (it's also better than the Soulwax remix.) Done this way, it feels more like Tiefschwarz than LCD Soundsystem--harder rocking, dancier, less self-conscious. (Tiefschwarz remixes are kinda like Kinder Eggs, aren't they--the best part's in the middle, and then there's the multi-tiered reward structure: first the tantalizing chocolate, then getting to build the toy inside, then having the toy.)

In case you're wondering, "Daft Punk is Playing at My House" is better than the new Daft Punk album, which I'm gutted to report is utter shit you should not buy, unless you enjoy seeing your candy-colored robot dreams deflated (Homework being one of my favorite albums by anyone ever, to say nothing of Discovery.)
2. Graphic ft. Beans - 'I am Metal' (Offshore)
3. Ror-Shak (DB and Stakka) - 'A Forest' / 'A Forest' (Disturbulence Mix) (Breakbeat Science)

02.28.05 @ 05:14 AM EST [link]

Everything in Berlin feels a bit techno. Here's a table in the cafe near where I was staying:

Here are some windows in the Reichstag--the parliament building, which runs on solar power:

Here's what it looks like when it's snowing. Note the smart car:

02.28.05 @ 02:12 AM EST [link]

berlin part 2.

While in Berlin, I stopped by the spectacle that is the Berlin Film Festival, a.k.a. the Berlinale. I'd never been to a major film festival before. The Berlinale isn't as much of a celeb frenzy as Cannes or Sundance, but it's up there; I got to see my first real red carpet, where people like Keanu Reeves, Kevin Spacey, and (haha!) George Michael milled about, looking important. I didn't spend much time at the film festival, though; there was far, far, far too much music on the horizon. Berlin's a goddamn garden of earthly delights if you have any interest in techno whatsoever. There was too much music I had to hear while I was in Berlin. Movies could wait until I got back to New York. (Some of the films being screened were things I'd already seen -- Wes Anderson and Anjelica Huston were in town for the premiere of Die Tiefseetaucher mit Steve Zissou, for instance. I could go see that, or I could go visit Tresor before it closes down in a month. Guess which one I chose.) The film festival is in Potsdamer Platz, which has become sort of the Times Square of Berlin--a little dull unless you're screwing around with shutter speeds to make it look more like this:

One movie I did see at the film festival which was pretty great was Verschwende deine Jugend, based on the German book by the same name. It's an oral history of German punk and post-punk music, and it was presented as a cheap computerized black'n'white slide show (the end credits said: "Produced with Macromedia Shockwave"--errr) with recorded interviews playing in the background. It was kind of like watching a book on tape, but it was gripping nonetheless. Plus, it helped to cement the idea in my head that DAF was the most punk-rock band of all time (more on this later.)

It's the thought that counts!

And then there's the most punk-rock venue in the world: Berghain/Panoramabar, formerly known as Ostgut. I have no photos of the venue, sadly, because no one is allowed to take photos, with the exception of--get this--Wolfgang Tillmans, but I'll try to describe it (what I can remember, anyway). It's the weirdest venue I've ever been to in my life.

I've gotten to see several great spaces around the world--some in New York and elsewhere in the US, some in London, Cologne, Berlin, and other parts of Europe--and almost invariably, my favorites are the ones you feel like you can get lost in. Dance music is an audiovisual experience; the flashing strobes, hyperactive fog machines, and twinkling disco balls all have as much to do with the music as the DJ does. But what I find even more important is the actual layout of the space, its architecture. Can you get lost in the space the way you can get lost in music? I love labyrinthine, disorienting spaces with hidden nooks and stairways and catacombs and secret rooms. This was exactly that place.

You immediately feel like you've been transported to Mars before you get in the door. The space is in the middle of nowhere, way out on the east side of the city. The landscape is gritty and barren and grey, with bare trees, concrete, and abandoned buildings, and you you think--could this possibly be it?

You get in the door, see a big line of people, and know you're there. After a momentary security detail, you go to check your coat, and see that they didn't give you a ticket--they gave you a metal dog tag to hang around your neck with a 4-digit number etched on it. Then you walk into space--a converted power station (Germans seem to have a fascination with power stations; Kraftwerk, after all, means "power station")--and your jaw falls. The soaring ceilings are 50 or 100 feet high, there's a football field-sized floor with room for maybe a thousand people, and it all feels very raw. The floor is concrete, the look very minimal, industrial, utilitarian. The original power station details have all been preserved. The crumbly walls are dotted with ancient analog dials that read "Voltage," "Amps," and things like that. The people on the floor, for the most part, aren't the cool fashionable types who frequent places like APT in New York; these people look like they could kick your ass in. Burly dudes are cruisin' sans shirts, doing these weird rigid muscle-flex dance moves, and they're getting down to Electric Indigo, an ace female DJ spinning minimal techno. There's a bar tucked behind the main floor, which looks just as weird as the rest of the place, but then you realize that's not the only bar. You wander around and uncover hidden passageways, stairwells, more bars, restrooms, more rooms, more dancefloors. You're lost, and then you try to reorient yourself. Okay, that's the main floor. That's what I saw when I walked in the door. Or is it? There's the DJ booth. Okay, I'm lost. How do I get back? Wait, where do I want to get back to? Does it matter?

You walk up the stairs and see another dancefloor that's huge but not quite as big as the main one, with massive floor-to-ceiling windows. This is Panoramabar, and DJ T, of Berlin's excellent Get Physical label, is spinning sweaty, hard Chicago-ey house and techno. The ruffneck crowd is very into it, the vibe energetic, effervescent. For a while, Tim Finney and I both feel like we're hallucinating because we both keep thinking that Adonis' 'No Way Back' will have to start playing, but it never does. 'No Way Back' seems like an apt anthem to describe this place, I think to myself. Eventually, many, many hours later, as everyone on the floor looks more and more wasted and the raw early light of morning starts creeping through the massive windows, DJ T smiles devilishly and suddenly, from the giant speakers, a voice whispers:

Too far gone
Too far gone...

02.24.05 @ 06:28 PM EST [link]

berlin part 1.

When I got to Berlin the first thing that hit me was the graffiti. I was in Berlin five years ago, and again for a few days this summer, but I didn't remember there being that much graffiti. In Mitte where I was staying I was absolutely engulfed in it; over the past six months the amount of graffiti in certain parts of the city has multiplied. Paint everywhere, splattered randomly over nearly every building--some in the form of gloriously psychedelic aerosol murals, but also lots of careless 'n ugly (though occasionally lovely) monochrome tags. Unlike New York, Berlin hasn't undertaken a massive Giulianiesque 'clean up the streets' type effort -- the city doesn't have the money to power-wash everything away or initiate draconian law enforcement, so the cops just look the other way for the most part. A skateboard shop I walked by in Prenzlauer Berg proudly advertised that it sold spray cans for the express purpose of art/vandalism; what's a scheming sixteen-year-old to do?

Clever appropriation of iconic national symbols! Go Deutsche Bahn!

I am such a sucker for silver paint.

The contrast between the tendrils of metallic paint and the blood-red color works wonders in this one. I'm doing up my whole room to look like this (okay, maybe not).

A drab wintry landscape made festive and colorful!

Buddha meditates over the train tracks!

Everything looks more badass written in German, doesn't it?

My question is, how did those intrepid taggers reach those windows? Massive ladders? Low-flying aircraft? Shoes with sproingy springs on the bottom? Absent-minded professors? Beanstalks? No! They were levitated upwards by propulsive techno beats! Feel the vibe, ladies and gentlemen. Part 2 on its way.

02.22.05 @ 11:07 PM EST [link]

Perhaps the only thing more depressing than the news of Thompson's death is the ensuing stream of perfunctory, emotionally deadened, and/or impossibly lousy obituaries. After sifting through about 25 obits in both major and minor news outlets, I still have yet to read a really great tribute to the man. Here's one that comes close:

Tom Wolfe in the Wall Street Journal

02.22.05 @ 10:23 PM EST [link]

RIP Hunter S. Thompson.

02.21.05 @ 12:21 PM EST [link]

Back in New York. Working on a massive Berlin post...on the way, I swear!

02.20.05 @ 06:45 PM EST [link]

I will wait to relate copious adventures 'n pictures when I get back to New York on Thursday. Tonight the plan is to see Steve Bug spin. Can. not. wait.

02.15.05 @ 07:34 PM EST [link]

The converted power station called Berghain, formerly known as Ostgut, is the best venue in the world right now. It feels like ten Fabrics stitched together--the most full-on place I've been to in my life, both vibe-wise and architecture-wise. More descriptions on the way.
02.13.05 @ 09:35 PM EST [link]

Last night, I finally met up with the wonderful Tim Finney of Skykicking at a funny little wine place in Berlin. A joint that runs on the honor system. Honor system! You pay about a dollar to get a glass, and then you pour your own wine from the bottle of your choosing as many times as you want to throughout the night, and then drop some money in a bowl before you leave. No one's keeping tabs; you just pay whatever you think covers your bill (errr...five bucks?) I hope New York City adopts this trend. Anyway...Tim! A god among men, it must be said. He'd just got in from France, seen Ada the night before in Paris and hadn't slept in 40 hours, but still managed, in true Tim style, to be an amazing conversationalist. We got along great straight off the bat, and pretty soon things turned to music. Tim has this knack for describing exactly how you've always felt about something; dude has a sixth sense about everything. About an hour after we met, we started talking about Tiefschwarz, and all I could say after what he said was "Yes, exactly! That's it!" Being here is mildly disorienting, but in a great it was Tim from Australia, me from the U.S. of A., both of us sitting in a cafe in Germany, eating Belgian waffles and talking about...UK garage!
02.12.05 @ 02:12 PM EST [link]

It was pitch black when I got to Belgium. Landed at 7.30 am. The Brussels airport ain't much to look at, but there are nice things (Belgian chocolate everywhere, for one, and excellent ales...which people were drinking, even in the raw early hours of morning.) Weird: everyone was smoking in the airport! A polite voice over the intercom said "Smoking is perfectly allowed as long as you are in a designated area." As far as I could tell, any part of the airport that wasn't the runway was a designated area.

Brussels was just a stopover; I then hopped on SN Brussels Airlines from Brussels to Berlin. Weird again: the flight attendants were super-nice! They gave us newspapers in five different languages, fruit tarts, coffee, and, of course, Belgian chocolate, all wrapped in adorable yet economical packaging. And aspirin for my pounding head.

Now I'm in Berlin, where it's grey and raining, but not too cold -- warmer than New York. Plans ahead: Kompaktorama featuring Closer Musik (I think), Transmediale party featuring DJ/Rupture, another big to-do featuring DJ T (Get Physical!)...I'm psyched. More reports on the way.
02.10.05 @ 08:17 AM EST [link]

Me gettin' a little personal about science in this week's Voice: I, Robot.

In mere hours I'm leaving to Berlin(!), so updates will be infrequent for the next week or so.

You've probably already checked out Pazz n Jop by this point. As always, I find Pazz n Jop to be deeply weird--not in the top 10 results, which are pretty predictable to be honest, but in the fringes. When I took statistics, I was always more interested in outliers than in averages. For instance: Phil Sherburne and I were apparently the only two critics in America who voted for the Le Dust Sucker album, and as Phil pointed out to me, if you click on "Le Dust Sucker" you get this.

No, I can't explain it either.

02.09.05 @ 02:46 PM EST [link]

Rest in peace, Nick Kilroy. I never got to meet you in person, but I felt like I did.
02.08.05 @ 03:03 PM EST [link]

traffic cones.

I spent a lot of this week being really frustrated with an article I was writing. Rewrite after rewrite. Deleted sentence after deleted sentence. Every time I got mad, I went to the kitchen and made something, anything--its complexity varied depending on how the piece was going. Sometimes it was something small, like salad, or ginger tea, but eventually I got so annoyed at the article that I ended up making a three-course dinner. When I ran out of things to cook with, I went to the kitchen and crushed cloves of garlic with the side of a big knife, because it's something I know how to do, and I always know how it's going to turn out. Not so with writing. Writing's weird.

In the end, though, it all turned out fine. I not only had a finished piece, but I had an amazing tomato sauce. With plenty of fresh basil. And garlic, of course.

02.04.05 @ 12:57 AM EST [link]

More bad news from the Lower East Side: Tonic is in danger of closing.

02.01.05 @ 02:26 PM EST [link]

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