Saturday, October 02, 2004

Having played basketball in decently competitive leagues in good teams for 15 years I'm aware it's not a sport I'm good at. Like with surfing, which I've been doing my whole life; I have my moments, but they're not exactly many and often. For some reason, especially given how rarely I do it, snowboarding has never given me cause to wonder why I bother. The way you're supposed to move on a snowboard makes inherent sense. Something of a pity, as despite friends and industry hookups who can sort cheap gear and lift passes, it's not by any means a cheap pursuit. Tho it's continued into Spring to be the best season since the last best season anyone can remember, I've been really slack at getting into the mountains this year, but the few days had have been really good, including last Monday's split late arvo decision to drive to Mansfield, crash in a cheap motel and be on the hill first thing for a cloudless, warm day on snow mushy enough to give you confidence to try anything.
First thing and halfway up the chairlift from the carpark, a text message appeared from a friend stuck in workaday Melbourne wondering if I'd noticed the apparent latest trend for using a major supermarket chain's green shopping bags as handbag substitutes. I had.
In an effort to promote their doing something for the environment, supermarkets now sell these sturdy green bags, presumably made from recycled plastic, and are encouraging customers to forgo plastic bags for them. For some reason, this initiative has been an astounding success. Retail chains have tried this thing before, but never has such an initiative been so popular. These bags are on the arms of everyone. Young and old and guys too, Coles' bright green shopping bags are suddenly the must-have accessory. Huh? For some reason I find this more baffling than other trends, as its germination has no logic. Why does everyone, and it really does seem to be everyone - was talking to a friend who runs a farm outside Ararat and apparently country folk are even hip to this - feel the need to show the world they're doing their bit for the environment by using a gigantic supermarket chain's plastic bag substitute to carry their stuff, even when not going to or from the supermarket? Or does it have nothing whatsoever to do with showing you care, being just a trend like any other? Any thoughts?
This is made more interesting due to the federal government rejecting a proposal which would have required supermarkets charge a nominal fee for plastic bags, despite polling showing the majority of us would accept the charge with no problem. It's amazing environmental issues have no mandate on either side of politics. Actually it's not amazing at all - while GDP continues to be the barometer of a country's wellbeing, conservation initiatives will never be seen to have anything other than a negative impact on our economy (and therefore on the country's general health).
So yeah, it was a good day, and driving back from the mountain in a friend's brand new second hand car (excuse to take the day off work being he needed to 'break it in') listening to DJ Rels Theme for a Broken Soul, towards the end of the album I couldn't help but feel the only reason we hadn't put something else on was duty to how we felt about Madlib. I should at least be enthusiastic about this record, but for some reason I'm not feeling it, and feeling guilty, in a silly way, for saying so. Are you allowed to not be that into something Madlib does? I haven't checked the rules lately, but I don't think you are.
Like most people who like music I'm fascinated by Madlib and was surprised and pleased and felt fuzzy and warm towards the first Rels 12", buying it off an equally excited Jean-Claude without really listening to it when he pressed it on me in If Music last year.
For fans of his who haven't been exposed to broken beat, his Rels tracks might be a bit of a puzzle, but for someone who DJs this music more than anything else at the moment there aren't many tracks I'd play to a dancefloor. Wait, there aren't any tracks I'd play to a dancefloor. Folks in London was stoked Madlib was doing broken beat when Brownswood dropped, the record even trading a nice line in jazz-beard myth due to the title, referring to Gilles Peterson's old house, allegedly now unlived in but used solely to house his collection. Stones Throw getting the record distributed by Goya - a brave and noble (but slightly silly, you'd think if you'd dealt with them) move - at least ensured it would be noticed by the right target audience, but if most folks who bought Brownswood were asked, they'd probly admit they too wouldn't have if it'd been just another Goya white label. Once the excitement wore off it dropped out of people's charts pretty quick - like me I don't think many other djs would've once put it in their record bag since the first week after buying it, and it's the standout track on the album.
Riding one groove is no bad thing, but to these ears it's not much of a groove.
I feel far too undergunned to get into a debate about whether Madlib's all that and don't even think it's worth starting, but suffice it to say this is not his most rewarding release.
Feel very similar thoughts towards Diplo's album Florida which I've only recently caught up with. He's another producer who seems to come at hip hop from a different sensibility to a lot of other producers, and he works hard to make things sound like it. The first track proper of the album is built around the same string sample as used by Jazzanova on Another New Day (anybody?) and that's nice, and Martina Topley Bird is on it too and that's nice also, but I just haven't found it engaging as a whole, and I can't help feel more than a little churlish for not finding more to like from these well-regarded undie heroes. I'm the first to admit I'm one of those people who follow trends, and if a reviewer or magazine I respect says someone is great then I want to believe they are, and with that in mind I really want to support these releases. It's just they're not much chop. Diplo especially (with the exception of the single, which is really hot, and the track with P.E.A.C.E on it,) coming off like Kieren Hebden or Manitoba on an uninspired day, especially odd/disappointing if you've heard one of his mixtapes, which don't give me pause to think anything negative, relievingly living up to all the hype (I reckon).
Am interviewing Diplo next week - wonder if I'll have the balls to get his opinion on any of this.


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