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Supersilent 7 reviewed

Posted by music On April - 1 - 2006ADD COMMENTS

SupersilentSupersilent 7 cover
Rune Grammofon, 2006

By Allana Mayer

For those of us that may never see this abstract Norwegian quartet in their live improvisational mode, the grainy 16mm recording of their Oslo performance in 2004 may be the next best thing. Though all their albums are equally off-the-cuff, it’s another thing to see this work created in real time. Though I haven’t yet got my sweaty, nervous hands on a copy of this “ultimate” live performance DVD, the audio tracks have been e-pilferable for some time now. It’s only whetted my and other spaced-out electro nerds’ appetites. And until I can chalk up a 40-dollar DVD purchase to satiate my obsessive self, I’ll just loop the soundtrack and dream.

This highly mysterious group lacks album and song titles and is rumoured never to practice in between recording or performance sessions, letting everything flow naturally when required. From almost two hours of live music (including an enthusiastic audience’s strange habit of applauding in unified rhythm) comes a vision of the band at their most connected, dramatic, and expressive. In the first 8 minutes of “7.1″ the tension builds, and doesn’t release until the conclusion of the encore six tracks later. Chopped vocals, something unseen in earlier releases, only adds to the mystery. Supersilent remain wordless and unconventional in their communication.

Trumpet, drums, keys, and electronic manipulation add up to more confusion, as a soft trumpet solo sounds more like a flute, sporadic rhythms speak to synthesized beats, and shiny chimes ring out from lazy fingerings. In the last three minutes of “7.4″ it becomes obvious that this band could seamlessly transition into fully functional electronic music, with rhythm and loop and traditional dynamics galore. Instead, Supersilent chooses to create its own language, of sound and body and discrete looks, speaking to each other, and their fans, in fascinating and compelling ways.

Review of Torino 2006

Posted by videogames On March - 15 - 2006ADD COMMENTS

Torino 2006 (PS2, Xbox, PC)
Published by: 2K Sports
Developed by: 49Games

By Diana Poulsen

To be perfectly honest, I very rarely play sports games, but I adore the Olympics. I suspected that Olympic video games sucked but I decided to try anyway. Two words: No curling!? I was sure that Hockey and figure skating (thank goodness) would be out of the question for the video game, but curling? You got speed skating, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing (super G, slalom, etc., but no freestyle or aerials), ski jumping, luge (no skeleton), bobsled, biathlon and Nordic combined. So pretty much, you play the majority of the not-so-glamorous Olympic sports. Oddly, the sports that are the most boring to watch, Biathlon and Nordic Combined, are the most entertaining to play. Other sports are just too easy, like the luge. I got a gold medal on my first try. The good news is that the learning curve is low, so you’ll learn how to win rather quickly.

You can play with up to four people and three levels of difficulty. You can play single events or have competitions of nine or fifteen events. You can even design your own competition.

There is no background music, but it is oddly fitting, since there is no music in the Olympics. However, to make up for this, the announcers need to jabber more. The announcer will tell you if you are doing good or bad but they don’t say very much. I always laugh when they say, “Oh, it looks like there is a very international crowd. They are expressing good sportsmanship to each other.” The other thing that made me laugh was the very long IOC warning before you play the game.

There are some control problems. For instance, in the speed skating you must press X and O to skate, which is just awkward. It would work better if it was L1 R1, like L1 for the left leg, R1 for the right leg, which would make more sense to me. . Another flaw is that there is no auto-save, so you have to save your own progress. Another annoying thing is that you can’t pick the gender of your player – you are assigned one.

There are too many boring load screens. Fun facts about the Olympics during the load screens would have been cool. As for country selections, there are barely any tropical countries, and while many don’t compete in the Olympics, I still would have liked to see them. I mean, did the developers not see Cool Runnings. That was based on a true story you know. John Candy didn’t just make it up. The good news is that there are no opening and closing ceremonies. Seriously guys, you can make a better Olympic video game.

Xiu Xiu’s La Foret in review

Posted by music On January - 16 - 2006ADD COMMENTS

Xiu Xiu Xiu Xiu\'s La Foret
La Foret
5 Rue Christine, 2005

By Andrew Nicholas McCann Smith

Xiu Xiu is one of the few fag bands around. The others remaining in the endangered species list are Peaches, Antony & The Johnsons, and The Hidden Cameras. Since emo took hold, male hipsters have become effeminate, metro, bi, and asexual: these hipster males are no longer aggressive mate-seekers and concert-goers. Blatant fag bands have become the reaction to this popular effeminacy. Xiu Xiu, a changing band under the direction of Jamie Stewart, has been at the forefront of the fag music movement since they began releasing shock albums such as Knife Play and A Promise, which features a naked Asian man on the cover holding a baby-doll to his genitals. Xiu Xiu’s genius seems to be the blend of touchingly sentimental shock lyrics and experimental recording techniques. Everything on a good Xiu Xiu album becomes blatant: from lyrics about dismembering parents and oral sex to hyperaware production of thick synthesizers and big percussion crashes.

La Foret is probably the tamest of their releases; it seems to lack the imagination and brilliance of earlier albums, like Fabulous Muscles from a year ago. The songs are not nearly as daring, and I swear there are moments where Stewart just copies sections of Fabulous Muscles. For instance, “Muppet Face” on La Foret maintains an almost identical chorus to “Crank Heart” on Fabulous Muscles. La Foret does succeed, in a kind of psychological closeness never quite felt in his earlier works. Knife Play was heavily distanced and character-driven; Fabulous Muscles was much more about the dynamics of a relationship. La Foret is an album of intimate pillow-talk and minor eruptions between a close couple. It begins with a sparse guitar and Stewart singing in his wispy voice. A xylophone enters with a cello. The melody is slow; harmonies are sparse; the song ends with a metallic crack of the xylophone. Thankfully, the production on this album is gorgeous: simple, effective, and clear. Other songs, like “Ale”, have just clarinets, vocals, and a bit of background noise.

Though La Foret is not shocking, its sincerity won me over quickly. Xiu Xiu’s sweet straining voice has left me listening to this album over and over — a strong release of 2005.

Hidden Gem: Blind Guardian

Posted by music On January - 1 - 2006ADD COMMENTS

Blind GuardianBlind Guardian
Nightfall in Middle Earth
Century Media, 1998

By Sam Linton

Honestly, what could be more enjoyable than a power-metal concept album based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion? That’s right, nothing could. Nothing could be more enjoyable than that. Blind Guardian’s first North American release is — start to finish — one of the most enjoyable CDs ever released. Well, not actually start to finish; the final track is just an annoying voice-over, but you can just skip over that.

From the album’s opening track, “War of Wrath”, which features the din of battle and clang of steel on steel, Nightfall in Middle-Earth sets the stage for a truly epic, truly fantastic, and truly geeky odyssey into adventure. What else is there to say? Great guitar work, great percussion, fantastic vocals (how often do you hear choral singing in metal?) and more standout tracks than you can shake a stick at! From the rolling drums leading into “The Curse of Feanor”, to the subdued piano and high-powered vocals of “The Eldar”, to the orchestral majesty of “Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)” (don’t these tracks just have the best names?), there isn’t a bad song on the entire album.

Seriously, whether you prefer your metal very loud or just sort-of loud, there’s something for everyone on this CD. Also, it provides a great alternative to actually reading The Silmarillion. I mean, why read over pages of dense and often cryptic prose when you can have it all in the form of a metal album? Sure, the non-musical interludes between songs can get annoying at times, but those are never longer than 20 seconds.

Basically, there is no way that anyone with a soul could not find this album enjoyable. I defy you to give this a listen without banging your head and throwing up a pair of horns. You will not be able to do it. It’s impossible.

Review of Trace Memory

Posted by videogames On October - 15 - 2005ADD COMMENTS

Trace Memory (Nintendo DS)
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Cing Inc./Nintendo

By Diana Poulsen

When I finally bought a Nintendo DS, Trace Memory was the first game I played on it. The DS is perfect for quirky little puzzle games and other gaming oddities, which is why I love it so much. Quest for Glory 1 (the remake) and 4 would be my dream DS games. If you want shooters and racers I’d recommend the PSP, but be warned: it may give you horrible tunnel vision and there aren’t many games for it. Trace Memory follows the story of Ashley who, on her birthday, is invited to Blood Edward Island by her father, who walked out on her after her mother died. He sends her the DTS, a device that looks suspiciously like the DS. She must use the DTS to find her way to the laboratory and meet up with her father to discover why he left and whether or not he murdered her mother. Along the way, she meets a ghost named D, whom she has to help to recover his missing memories and figure out the circumstances of his death. You can complete the game without recovering all his memories, but it is actually more satisfying to play the game and read the story in its entirety.

Trace Memory is a bit like Myst, in that you wander around solving puzzles and putting together facts to figure out why your dad invited you here and who D was. It requires a lot of reading which can occasionally be tedious, and often you’ll figure things out before Ashley does. On the good side, TM uses all of the DS features, forcing you to think outside the box, which makes it so enjoyable but also a bit of tech demo for the DS’s abilities. On the bad side, the puzzles are dead easy; for instance, turning a crank is a puzzle. I kid you not. The only time I got stuck on a puzzle was when I forgot about a feature on my DS. When I got tired of trying, I had a ‘eureka!’ moment and figured it out. The music is well fitting, but there are only three or four songs, so I played with the music off for the most part.

The game is quite relaxing and perfect to play on a long flight with a long stopover. It’s a bit like reading a book with little puzzles attached, so if you like games with a little more action, this really isn’t for you. The game will only take about 7 hours to finish at the maximum.

I would really like to see more games like this one the DS, but I would like a little less reading and more challenging puzzles.



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