Monday, 2 October 2017

Playtime Paradise!

(This is something of a spiritual successor to the recent 'Fun? Fair?' article I wrote for Ransom Note.)

You could have a fuck-load of fun for a pound when I was a kid. You could buy enough Freddos to induce a mild coma. You could take advantage of the 10 year old me renting out my brothers air pistol for the whole of lunchtime. Or you could have 5-10 goes on a ticket-shitting arcade machine.
These machines were the backbone of my summer trips to Whitley Bay and holidays in Folkstone, Scarborough or similar. I would pester my parents for up to 24 hours a day, and eventually manage to get enough loose change to be able to wander round, honing my skills at ball throwing, thing hitting and general gambling. This tour of the machines would last about three minutes, because I would inevitably lose at everything due to being a stupid uncoordinated kid. On the occasions I did win at these games (about once a year), I’d be rewarded with tickets. These would then be exchanged for things like one fake rubber finger, and a pencil sharpener with ‘Showaddywaddy’ written on it. What more could you want? The best 8 of these games/machines I remember from my childhood years have been compiled for your reading pleasure below. REGARDE!!
 photo Pic201..jpg
1. Cosmo Gang
Shoot the shit out of aliens before they manage to advance forward and steal your energy packs. Which might actually be their energy packs? I can’t remember. But the more I think about it, we might be the bad guys in all this. Excellent music and sound effects as each alien got shot in their bastard alien face. Those poor aliens. I hope I was proud of myself. I probably was. As far as I'm aware, the ongoing human/alien conflict continues.
 photo Pic202..jpg
2. Basket Ball Beat The Clock
Not a tribute to Television X’s ten minute freeview. Basket Ball Beat The Clock was actually a ball rolling game similar to Kentucky Derby (I’m getting to that). My memory’s all gone to shit now, but I’m assuming you had to fill up some kind of score meter before the clock ran out. Then you’d beaten the clock. See? If you didn’t manage it, the clock probably punched you in the face. Strangely, the most memorable I remember about this game is that it played Mussorgsky’s 'Promenade' on a loop. photo Pic203..jpg
3. Feed Big Bertha
There’s no other way to say this – this game is about a fat woman who likes to eat balls. Because she’s fat, she does nothing but stand there waiting for you to put her dinner in her lazy fucking gob. I do that too. As Bertha eats balls she gets fatter and fatter until… the game just sort of stops. But if you’ve done well, a load of tickets come out of what I assume is her vaginal area.
 photo Pic204._3.jpg
4. Whack-a-mole
It wasn't actually called ‘Whack-a-mole’, it was 'Bash the Beaver' or something like that, but I can't remember the propper name for it so we're going to use the yanks name for it, despite the fact that they're always wrong about everything. Anyhow, in our version, brightly coloured things (lollipops?) come out of random holes just to grief you. You must then show them who’s boss by beating them to death with a hammer.
 photo Pic205..jpg
5. Kentucky Derby/Arabian Derby
Known in our family as ‘The Donkey Roll’. Similar to Basket Ball Beat The Clock (which I didn’t explain properly above so the comparison is a bit pointless now at this stage). Basically: roll balls, get them in holes, and this makes your horse/camel move forward using technology and magic. Excellent theme tune. What made this game special is the bloodthirsty competitive element. This isn’t just you playing for tickets – this is you playing against a dozen other people, all of whom might be up to 100% better at rolling than you. Therefore it’s completely acceptable and within the spirit of the game to elbow your neighbours, occasionally to bite your neighbours and DEFINITELY use some salty language towards your neighbours. Sadly, there’s nothing you can do about the people who aren’t sitting right next to you, apart from hope they suddenly die, or throw shit at them. photo Pic206..jpg
6. Rocket Ship
This was ace because of all the lights and buttons inside the cockpit – you really felt as if you were on an Apollo mission (not Apollo 13, unless there was a power cut). You sat in the cockpit, held on (if you were a wimp), and the rocket would go up and down while twisting round a bit. This ride gets into the top 8 for its immersive theming (the buttons you could press that went WOOWOOWOOWOO).
 photo Pic207..jpg
7. Mini Wheel
The object of this game is to sit there going round and round and round and round and round, until your 10p's run out. By the time this happens, there will be a long queue of crying children and angry parents. Ignore them, apart from to ask them if they will give you money for another go. Chances are they’ll say no. No tickets to be won as only a moderate level of skill is involved. photo Pic208..jpg
8. Horse Racing Thing
This had various names, but was generally called something like ‘The Derby’ or ‘Grand National’. It was probably never called ‘Horse racing thing’. You didn’t win tickets, but you did win cold hard cash – sometimes you could win 4p, which was not to be sniffed at. Gameplay was simple – put your money in, pick a horse, then watch the ultra-realistic race play out before your eyes. Different horses had different odds, so some paid out more than others. Having said that, you were never going to be able to retire on the winnings from this game. I wish I could have found some footage of the game to include here, but sadly I fear it would have been missing the all important element of the announcer ordering you to “Place your bets now” while sounding a bit like Stephen Hawking.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Living Daylights!

 photo fb4300db-7f17-431b-a481-a010d4e541c6.jpg

Anyone who ends up on the mailing lists for umpteen labels and promo companies will tell you that for the dozens of tracks you get sent every week, only a small percentage of them turn out to be worth more than a cursory listen. This makes it all the more special when something drops into your inbox that turns out to be very special. The last few weeks seen an uncharacteristic influx of these. Notable among these is the new Smagghe & Cross album 'Timothy Dalton' from Laurent Richard aka DJ Sundae's Idle Press imprint.
The label released one of my favourite tracks of 2016 with a reissue of Pitch's post-punk/no wave anthem 'What Am I Gonna Do For Fun' complete with a stunning retouch from Tolouse Low TracksLaurent and close friend Julien Dechery also compiled the peerless Sky Girl album last year. A magnificent compilation (released on Efficient Space, the label run by the guys behind the 'Noise In My Head' blog) of minimal wave, post pop, Balearic folk, or whatever you want to call it, is without doubt one of the most essential, as well as one of my very favourite, albums of recent times. With this pedigree in mind I was expecting big things of their next release!

 photo L-999813-1461872950-9356.jpeg_1.jpg

Timothy Dalton is the second full-length record from the experimentally inclined pairing of Ivan Smagghe and Rupert Cross. The collaboration has had a prolific year, releasing a well received album on Vladimir Ivkovic's 'Offen' label and no less than three seperate EPs, MmmmmmmTalking To Katz and Jazz, already in 2017.
Described by the duo as 'neither pop, nor psychedelic, nor ambient, nor house, nor techno, nor post punk nor even new wave' the record recalls the sound of 'the beardies from Tangerine Dream being kidnapped by Soft Cell, C86 and 1988, the Silver Apples composing a space opera with the help of an electro cardiogram monitor. Or the Wizard of OZ reviewed and reworked by Psychic TV.'
From the wobbly bass stabs and clattering percussion of the titular opener all the way to the shimmering shards of what sound like Tibetan bells and an unabashedly sweet melodica with its graceful melodic interplay on closer 'Time To Remember' you are in no doubt at any point that this most definitely isn't just a collection of session tracks that have been laying around the cutting room floor and jammed together.
'Klang' and 'Ostend' most strongly recall Smagghe's 'It's A Fine Line' project with their supremely odd dancefloor sensibilities and 'Door Ajar' sounds like it could have easily been transposed from the duo's 'MA' album, but saying that the range of the sound is still never less than striking.
They've drafted in a few extra's on this one to help out, too. Tim Felton from Broadcast's guitar can be heard prominently as can vocals from Andrea Balency, and Roman Turtev fleshes out the drums somewhat. The result is some of the albums standout tracks. 'Circle Around Rings', 'Interlude' and 'Janine'.
Overall, Smagghe and Cross have created a sleek listening experience. They're careful not to steamroller their individual voices either. Their respective signatures adding a striking shine and infectious spirit to proceedings.
Lets just hope that 'Pierce Brosnan' lives up to expectations!

Timothy Dalton by Smagghe & Cross is released on the 25th of September.

Find Idle Press on Facebook, here.
Find Idle Press on Soundcloud, here.

Follow Smagghe & Cross on Facebook, here.
Rupert Cross' website can be found, here.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

How to get rich in the world of underground card gaming + Manfredas BiS mix.

PPPPPPPPPP photo gods-playing-poker_2.jpg

Don’t lie to yourself. You want to be rich. We all do. Staggeringly rich. We all want to be so rich we can march into our boss’s office and tell him we bought the company, he’s fired, the company has been renamed Dave Poncenbry Is A Cunt Recruitment Solutions. Dave Poncenbry was my old boss’s name. Except it isn’t, the legal advisor to this publication made me change it as I couldn’t prove Dave was a cunt to her legal department’s satisfaction. But this isn’t about what my old boss is or isn’t called, it’s about me telling you how you can get rich.

If you’re anything like me you aren’t dedicated or smart enough to get rich in a conventional, legal way, like inventing an app that tells people if they should grow sideburns. Nor do you possess the ruthlessness and amorality required to get rich from a big time criminal career. You won’t make a fortune trafficking drugs across the border via geese flock. At best you’ll be in an entry-level position, trying to stuff drug bags into a goose and getting pecked, hard, for your trouble. Take it from me, there’s only one reliable way for someone like you to get rich and that’s illegal, underground poker.

When I say poker I’m not talking about Texas Hold ‘Em, a game played by dimwitted public school boys named Oscar who used to sit next to me at work and complain to Dave that was writing articles about underground poker instead of doing my actual job. No. I’m talking about a form of the game so frowned on by respectable members of society that it was outlawed by the government even before they’d made it illegal to trample nine MP's to death with a horse, which is what an outraged poker baron did right after they signed the anti-poker law. The type of poker I’m talking about is called One-Card Stud.

It is extraordinarily easy to win money playing One-Card Stud. It’s so easy a camel could do it, if that camel had opposable thumbs and a rudimentary understanding of probability. And if it could talk. There’s a lot of talking involved. Forget it, a camel couldn’t win. But you can.

You might think the best place to play this highly illegal form of poker is in an underground casino run by a slick Mafia boss with a name like Luciano Gambarelli. You’d be right, but Luciano Gambarelli told me that if I wrote an article about him I’d wind up with “even less thumbs than a camel”. He meant “even fewer” but I didn’t correct him as, well, the thumb thing, innit.

So where can you play this game that I can write about and still keep my thumbs? There’s only one place. It’s a bar run by outlaw bikers. The bar is called The Pickle & Unicycle. Don’t tell them this is a stupid name for a bar. The last person who told them that suffered what you might call an 'unexplained disappearance'. You might call it that except it’s easily explained, he was murdered by some outlaw bikers.

Now here’s what you do to get in on this hot poker action. You go to The Pickle & Unicycle and you tell the barman the secret code. The code is “I’d like a delicious roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings”. If you went to the wrong bar by mistake you’ll be served a delicious chicken dinner. If you’re at the right bar you’ll be ushered into a poker room out the back but still wish you’d got to eat that chicken. I should’ve told you to eat before going to the bar, sorry.

In the dimly-lit back room you’ll see other players. There’s two types of people who play One-Card Stud. The first is grizzled Iraq war types called “Cobra”. The second type is people who look suspiciously like you, who are there because they too read an article about getting rich playing illegal poker.

When all the players are seated the dealer will produce a single card. The card bears mysterious symbols and the number twelve. What could it mean? Twelve is a number with heavy numerological significance. The ancient Romans used it to signify the twelfth day of the month. Modern calendar manufacturers use it for a similar purpose.

It’s almost time for the game to start. The dealer will tell you there’s a 5000 pound cash buy-in. Sorry, this is another thing I forgot to mention earlier. The other players, who read better articles about illegal poker than this one, all produce the cash. You don’t have the money so you leave, just as broke as when you went in. Later you learn that every other player in that game is now fantastically rich. So you pull together the 5000 quid and return to the bar. Except it isn’t a bar any more, it’s a shop that sells those giant pants you see in the 'before' shots in diet ads. The only sign of the store’s biker history is the muffled screaming coming from the back room.

You’re dejected. Your shot at riches is gone. You curse me and my terrible article. You start to plot your revenge against me. But it’s too late. That screaming from the back room? That was me. It seems that outlaw bikers don’t like articles being written about their illegal poker games either. Tough break for both of us, but no one ever said it would be extraordinarily easy to get rich playing underground poker. No one except me, and as you’ve learned I’m almost as bad at giving advice as I am at not getting tortured to death in a pants store run by outlaw bikers.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Sport. Whats wrong with it and how to fix it.

 photo images_1.jpg

Two large men throwing each other around on some canvass, ahh, wrestling. You may laugh at the big men in spandex tights, but the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. may just be changing the sporting world!
You do not have to be in possession of a Jewelers eyepiece to work out that its fake. Nor do you have to be working for the Department Of Waste Disposal to know that its rubbish! Indeed, following a court ruling in 1999, American wrestling as then represented by the WWF and Co, could not be called a sport - it has to describe itself as 'sports entertainment'. And yet this more profitable perversion of sport, may, just may, have hit upon the future of sport as we know it. Before getting to the beef, and for the benefit of anyone whos spent the last five years in Mosul, lets remind ourselves of what World Wrestling Entertainment Inc has actually done. Under the stewardship of ex-grappler Vince McMahon, a spectacle in which medical freaks like Andre the giant lumbered around a ring in pursuit of a fat man in swimming trunks, has been transformed into one of the biggest entertainment concerns on the planet. Mostly this great metamorphosis has been achieved by appealing to the very basest instincts of man. In the weekly drama that surrounds the actual wrestling, plotlines that would shame Shakespeare at his most outrageous have been played out with scant regard for the intelligence of the viewer, or the moral health of society. People have been kidnapped and families have been ripped apart, and the ownership of the entire circus changes hands more often than a Q-reg BMW in Scotswood. In one particularly memorable plot, McMahon had his long suffering wife Linda - that weeks proprietor of the whole shebang - drugged and stuck in a loony bin; he then went to visit her with the sole intention of flaunting his nubile assistant in front of his chemically incapacitated spouse. One of the innovations that really put wheels under the WWE in the last 10 years was the introduction of fleets of softcore pornstars who double up as unlikely partners for the drooling monsters of the squared circle, and who themselves occasionally take part in some of the most ludicrous events to happen under the umbrella of the martial arts. My favourite was the evening gown matches, in which two or more of these survivors of a Russ Meyer wet dream scrabbled at each other until one, or preferably all, of the pretty party frocks were ripped off to reveal cubic yards of fake-tanned flesh and bikinis that wouldn't decently cover Barbie. Just how successful this cocktail of bash, cash and flash has become can be judged by the enormous audiences, both live and TV, these performances attract on both side sof the Atlantic. Think about the merchandising and endorsement opportunities. Two WWE autobiographies, Mick 'Mankind' Foley's 'Have A Nice Day! A Tale Of Blood And Sweatsocks!' and The Rock's' The Rock Says', trail only Dennis Rodmans 'As Bad As I Wanna Be', as the best selling sports books in history. Not to mention that Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is now the biggest and baddest cinema box office draw on the planet. His films grossing billions and his rumored movie paycheck is currently only behind that of Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Junior. But its not the theatrics of WWE that presents a danger to the future of real sports, but rather the profoundly clever thing that McMahon and Co worked out. Wrestling, they decided, had something the everyone loved, men kicking the shit out of each other, but the good bits were separated by too much padding, i.e. the actual grappling and wrestling. Their stroke of genius was then to remove the tedious bits, and now each short match consists of only high risk, high violence manoeuvres, performed at the very edges of what the bodies of these incredibly athletic rhinos can tolerate. Phenomenal dives from unlikely perches onto the prone bodies of opponents are the new wrestling's stock trade. It may be as much like traditional Saturday afternoon grip n' grapple with Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks as chalk and Dairylea, but the punters love it. Non of which has gone unnoticed by the suits who run our other sports. They all, of course talk of protecting the integrity of the games they oversee, while all the time envying the profile and money-generating power of this steroid dripping, genetically modified version of wrestling. You only need to look at the meteoric rise of MMA and the multi-millionaires of the UFC. The pressure brought to bear by the ultimate paymaster, television, will cause further unrest. It doesn't take too much imagination to see how other sports might one-day be repackaged with all the non-essential bits removed. Football (or Soccer) has already gone some way down this road in America. Penalty shoot-outs after every match that ends normal time in a draw, are an attempt to solve the problem of how to squeeze the blood of results from the stone of a game whose unit of scoring is too rare for the good ol US of A. Athletics however, is less well set up to take advantage of the wrestling phenomenon, most of its events get to the point double-sharp. The exceptions are the log distance track races, where we are forced to endure several loping laps of the circuit before the inevitable sprint finish. Here's my suggestion; Make the runners do the first 9800 metres (the part of a normal 10,000 meters spent in tactical jogging) on treadmills in the warm up area, then wheel them straight into the stadium and make them run the last 200 metres as a competitive sprint. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Formula One on a Northumbria Bus skidpan (It makes no difference, even in a coma, Schumacher would still win with one hand on the wheel and a mobile phone jammed between his ear and shoulder); cricket, where the only delivery allowed is the a bodyline style bouncer and the only scoring shot is the big slog for six; beach volleyball without the pretence of bikinis you know the sort of thing. Maybe one day a terribly dressed pikey who you'd never heard of 2 years ago could fight Floyd Mayweather and it be the biggest pay per view box office draw the world had ever seen? Maybe the new discipline could even be applied to daily newspapers sports columns. Cut the shite about Paul Pogba's latest bust up, bullshit transfer speculation and general cackle, and cut straight to the chase, every day would just consist of some combination of the following words: first half, clash, blood, genius, great, agony, shock, rival, defeat, glory, sex, groin, strain, fiasco, transfer, dope, test, backhander, and errrr, Paul Pogba!

Thought we'd give you a bit of music to go with the words this time round, and as it's been a while since we posted I thought we'd slip you something a bit special. A live recording of TOLAS fav, Vladimir Ivkovic playing alongside Finnish wunderkind Lauri Soini (more on him in the coming weeks) at the Flow Festival in Helsinki, and it's an absolute beauty. Enjoy. X

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Nepotism for a better life: Force Majeure.

 photo 1aa51ebf-4953-4478-b9b1-654136a28c52.jpg
In a move to fulfill any outstanding contractual obligations I may have forgotton about in the weeks since we last posted, I thought it best to mention the fact that my close personal friend, young Michael Sweeney aka Force Majeure, who just happens to be one quarter of the mob that I run the Body Talk parties with here in Newcastle has just released a fab new record on the equally fab 'Sulk Magic' imprint, which just happens to be run by Jo 'Bird of Paradise' Howard, who is also one quarter of the mob that I run the aforementioned Body Talk parties with! (I assume Clark, the remaining piece of the Body Talk puzzle has been up to something equally exciting all this time, too).
The title track 'Overawed' mesmerises with it's low-slung undulating electronics, acid flashes and arpeggio rhythms. A certified 3 AM, red light burner. 'Cheap Thrills' then accelerates proceedings with unfussy drums and robotic, bleep heavy melodies driving it off into a wonderfully off kilter, left of field crescendo. The release comes with heavyweight support from a host of positively wondrous folk the likes of Chloe, Jason Kendig, Reza Athar, Fairmont, Inigo Vontier, Tim 'Heretic' Clerkin, and has a hefty remix package featuring re-rubs from  Damon Jee, Jamie Blanco and label boss Bird Of Paradise himself. You can buy 'Overawed' on Juno, here.

Oh aye, not content with knocking great records out at the drop of a hat, our Michael has also been busying himself on the old 1's and 2's recently. He's recorded a cracking new mix for the good folk at the 44,100Hz Social Club too which you can listen too and download right here!

Follow Force Majeure on Facebook, here.
Follow Force Majeure on Soundcloud, here.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Thoughts On Love And Smoking Podcast #17 * Zootime Edit.

 photo 10615560_1546780828938916_1819884807627829036_n.jpg
It's always nice to get something great which has been unsolicited. For approximately every 10,000 "Yo! Check out my mixtape!" messages I recieve, it appears that around 2 are listenable and only 1 is any good. This mix from mysterious Dutch DJ/producer 'Zootime Edit' fits firmly into the later category. A welcome surprise which I'm more than happy to chuck into the TOLAS podcast cannon.
In his own words, "I'm Vincent, zOoTiMe, dj, producer and video ediTor, living in the nothern rural part of the Neverlands caLLed Fryslan. There's aloT that enthousiams me, not gonna go there. Enjoy ze thoughts, PEACE!"
Drawing his influences from diverse artists such as Charles Bals, Albion, Jan Schulte, Hans Reuschl, Danny Wolfers as well as the Commodore Amiga 500, he's released records on a number of industry heavyweights like Nein Records and my old mate and sometime studio partner Mick Clarke's label, Flight Recorder.

The mix itself is a real beauty. Ducking and weaving across countless genres maintaining an impressive energy level without wearing the listener out and leaving you breathless. It showcases a real love of all music and a lightness of touch sometimes missing in the days increasingly dominated by heavy electronica and bludgeoning house. But don't take our word for it. Sit back in the sun and let this one wash over you. Cool waves. X

Follow Zootime Edit on Soundcloud, here.
Check out his Youtube channel, here.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Monday, 5 June 2017

Oli Warriner * Humans Go Hungry EP.

 photo 18268110_712254542269858_6338025507396796087_n.jpg
A light sprinkling of nepotism never did anyone any harm, and as such we we're more than happy to find that fellow Northerner and close friend of TOLAS Oli Warriner, was returning to the Night Noise label to release his frankly wonderful new EP 'Humans Go Hungry' later this month so we could indulge in some fawning praise for the fellow Newcastle native.
Oli has managed to take time out from his busy DJing schedule to put together a suitably large and ambitious release full of twists, turns and all kinds of digital surprises along the way. As cerebral as it is energetic, the package unfolds over 6 tracks of electronic lushness with remixes coming in the hirsute form of Ian Blevins, the moody guise of Jo 'Bird Of Paradise' Howard and rising star Buran (who also follows this remix very soon with a full release on Night Noise).

Humans Go Hungry by Oli Warriner is released on June 19th .

Check out Oli's other work on Soundcloud, here.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X