Oli Freke

Tech House / Techno / House

Bladerunner 2049 - review (spoilers)

I wouldn't normally post film reviews on this site, but since the original Bladerunner had that fantastic and iconic Vangelis score, and is my favourite film of all time, I thought it was justified.

Plus I wanted to get this off my chest as there are so many ridiculous 5 star reviews around...

PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS PLOT DETAILS SO BE WARY IF YOU'VE NOT SEEN IT YET. I WOULDN'T WORRY THOUGH, THE FILM ISN'T REALLY GOOD ENOUGH TO GET ALL PRECIOUS ABOUT...

I was looking forward so much to seeing this, especially after all the five star reviews it'd be getting from places I normally trust, but I couldn't disagree with those reviews more. I thought the film failed in basically every way and in areas that the original had suceeded magnificantly. How did they get it so wrong??

STYLE
The original is essentially a film noir set in the future, using a fairly standard plot device of a bounty hunter tracking down his victims. That plot is not what makes it interesting; it's just a narrative to hang all the philosophical questions on. But that narrative does require tension, suspense, atmosphere - and that's what film noir gives it in droves. It may be violent, but the end sequence is more about suspense than endless spaceships crashing into Las Vegas hotels.  The violence is eked out and the cat and mouse of Deckard and Roy is what makes the sequence full of drama.

The new film has no style beyond standard Hollywood blockbuster, with scenes lurching from one thing to another thing to another thing, seemingly arbitrarily.

POETRY
The new film comes nowhere close to the poetic dialogue of the first. There's nothing like 'If only you'd seen what I'd seen through your eyes', 'the candle that burns twice as bright burns twice as fast', 'Attack ships on fire on the shoulder of Orion'. Etc, etc. Sure, they attempt it, but the lines sound clumsy and false in note by comparison. There were a couple of good ones, I think, but I can't remember them now.

MUSIC
It's by Hans Zimmer and someone, and it's ok. Standard sort of sci-fi stuff, including an ever increasingly intense engine-rev-roaring sound, that ultimately I found quite irritating. He tries to allude to the original's lush Yamaha CS-80 poly-chords, but it's got an annoying digital edge that defeats it. Either go full lush analogue or don't bother trying to reference it at all. In my opinion.

There's a couple of nods to the evocative descending pitch dive sound, but not really for any particular reason other than the original featured it.

PLOT
It was all plot, so the fact that it was plodding and predictable meant that there was no air of mystery, of 'what's the meaning of this', no ambiguity. It was all neat pieces of the jigsaw that exactly fit together.

See the film once and there's absolutely no reason to see it again. There's no ambiguity to enjoy, which the original has in spades and which is why it's so endlessly watchable.

CGI
All the reviews have banged on about it being the most incredible realised future world ever. But it's not. It's just a load of CGI that lacks the presence and reality of real models (such as the original's giant pyramids of the opening sequence). Every big sci-fi has over the top visuals nowadays, so it just seems kind of run of the mill to me.

Where were all the people? The original Bladerunner feels like a populous and bustling city. That was missing from this. Just felt like a weird deserted computer game world.

And what was the point of the Elvis and Sinatra??? Indulgent nonsense. Oh, and there was no point having Rachel reappear for five seconds before subjecting her to yet more....

...VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
I found the scenes featuring violence against women sickening - stomachs slit, hands crushed and an overlong drowning sequence that the camera seems to think we should really love watching. Well, I don't. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of violence in society, and I'm sick of gratutious violence in the cinema, especially when it's mainly the women characters that seem to suffer it.

And of course, there's the giant hologram women with their breasts out. Pretty much only for the benefit of the male viewers, no? I don't think they can hide behind the excuse of, 'oh, well that's what we think the future will be like', as we're seeing these images in the here and now, and everyone is being exposed to them in the here and now. And it's proven to be a negative thing in society. So just fucking stop it, eh, Hollywood? But then I suppose it's your ingrained culture anyway, isn't it?

[Note - I am aware there are problematic scenes in the original too. Also nothing to be proud of.]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, ROBOTS, ETC
I thought the girlfriend was a good invention; interesting to have a replicant and AI have a relationship. That could have been explored more. The double body sex scene was silly though, and again just panders to the male viewer as mild titillation. (See above)

GOOD BITS
There was a hint about what this film could have been if it had been looser, more mysterious, less willing to spoonfeed each and every plot point: Dr Badger. That scene had life about it, verve, and an unpredictablilty that the entire rest of it lacked.

Sometimes you just have to TECHNO

Craved some techno; found a nice set from D.A.V.E the Drummer from 2011.

Fun fact: I used to share an office with The Liberators (Stay Up Forever) and Smitten Records at Kinetec Records some years ago. DDR, Roland the Bastard, Stirling Moss, James Kinetec and other luminaries of the techno scene were always making their heavy techno records in the studio* behind the shop. 

Have had a soft spot for hard Hackney techno ever since. :-)

(*Am now reminiscing about the Korg Mono/Poly in there. Can't remember what else except a Moog Prodigy, which I had to borrow for a gig once)

Moog Modular 15 – iOS app mini-review

I’ve tried a few synths / sound generators on the iPhone, but have never really got on with them – the Audulus is too confusing; Wobble is silly (but fun for a few minutes); Technobox is actually a really good 303 emulation (but such tiny teeny controls). 

And now Moog have got into the act with a highly faithful reproduction of their classic Moog Modular 15 system from 1973:

Of course, that cost £5500 when released in 1972, and the iPhone app costs only £22! 

And as the price has shrunk, so has the interface. Like really shrunk — onto an iPhone. And this is the problem – time and time again manufacturers of all software emulations of classic synths all make exactly the same mistake: reproducing physical hardware in graphics. It just doesn’t translate. It’s too small, it’s too fiddly and my eyes are now killing me from the strain of looking after only 30 minutes. It’s kind of compounded on the Moog 15 as unlike the Technobox they can’t show the whole system on one screen, you have to scroll around madly zooming back and forth to work out where you are, all the while trying to drag little simulated cables that obscure the names of panels and controls.

You get the idea. I wouldn’t mind having that version if they also had an alternative interface which was quicker to use. One quick idea - given that modular synths are all about the patching, why not just have two columns of drop down menus and select your ‘in’ and your ‘out’. Man that would quicker than trying to  drag cables across this thing. 

Then a couple of simple pages with BIG fader controls for filter cutoff, resonance, envelopes.

I mean the thing sounds amazing and rewards work with beautiful sounds, and it can be synced with Ableton and all kinds of cleverness. It just needs to be a pleasure to create patches with as well. And yes, I could have used an iPad, but my iPad 2 is not supported and why sell it for iPhone if you're going to recommend using it with an iPad?

So, back to you at Moog to make the worlds first useable iPhone synth! 

Top 10 synth presets article

I should have thought of writing this! A not-geeky-at-all* article on Music Radar on the top 10 synth presets of all time:

Top Ten Synth Presets Of All Time - Music Radar

*except a lot geeky

Before reading it, I thought I'd have a go at predicting the choices. Spoiler alert - I only got 3 out of 10 - go back to synth school Oli! 

My predictions before I read the artlcle were: 

  1. Roland Juno 2: #69....What the? ('The Sound of the Hoover')
    As a veteran of the late 90's hard house scene, this was a staple of the genre. Originally debuted on 'Mentasm' by Joey Beltram, it was such an important sound that I had a Roland Juno 2 to generate it authentically - with the external programmer box as well.
    Now available as various VST plugins for your DAW...

  2. TB-303: Not sure if this counts as a preset. The whole machine is the sound...

  3. Roland TR-808: Kick drum, clap, snare, and above all cow-bell. Again, not really a preset as such. I expect they mean digital synths that have recallable sounds. 

  4. Roland D-50: DigiNativeDance. Was used all over the place for a while - I remember it as the last sound of the Grange Hill theme tune (not the brilliant original theme tune, one of the later worser ones)

  5. Roland DX-7. One of the electric piano sounds? I didn't have DX-7, but know that this was the classic sound off of off it (sic). 

  6. Korg M1: the organ sound used in all house records

  7. Korg M1: the Italilano piano sound used in all house records

The RESULTS are in - how did I do?

  1. YES! I am a genius.

  2. No..not a preset machine, obvs.

  3. No..also not a preset machine, obvs.

  4. YES! I am a genious

  5. YES! (though I didn't know the patch name)

  6. Should be on the list..

  7. Should be on the list...

What else was on the list? You'll have to read the article!

Spotify Playlist...

Hey, I've been bunging tracks I like into a Spotify playlist and groupling them by quarter. Cool, huh?

Here's the Jan/Feb/March 2016 one:

Lots of interesting things there no? A range of all sorts too. Hopefully you'll dig some of it. The biggest surprise for me was the Paul McCartney track - I didn't know he wrote stuff like that and I like to play it to people and get them to guess who it is. They invariably say 'Hot Chip'. 

Fibonacci series! Debunked!

Ok, this is not strictly music based, but urgh, I do get annoyed with all the mysticism and nonsense around the Fibonacci series and the Golden Ratio...and it's time to bust a few myths...

Quick recap:
Fibonacci series: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89....
Golden ratio = 1.618033..

Myth 1:
There's something uniquely special about the Fibonacci series' ability to generate the golden ratio by dividing two consecutive numbers

> There isn't actually anything special about the Fibonacci series' ability to generate the golden ratio in this way. ANY series of consecutively added numbers increasingly approximate the golden ratio as the numbers get bigger:

Fibonacci series:

2/1 = 2
3/2 = 1.5
5/3 = 1.667
21/13 = 1.615
...
89/55 = 1.618

Lucas' numbers (starting numbers 1 and 3): 1,3,4,7,11,18,29,47,76,123...

18/11 = 1.63
29/18 = 1.611
...
123/76 = 1.618

Random pair (let's start with 5 & 12): 5,12,19,31,50,81,131,212  

212 / 131 = 1.618

So when people measure the Parthenon and the human body and magically find 1,3,5,8 everywhere, it doesn't prove a thing. They could be looking for 1,4,7,11 or 5,12,19. Look hard enough for small enough numbers in hard-to-accurately-measure things and you will find what you're looking for - and that's Numberwang! 

Myth 2:
There's still something oh-so-special about the Fibonacci series and the Golden Ratio. 

The Fibonacci series isn't even the best or most logical series to use if you're really insistent on the whole adding-consecutive-numbers-together-to-get-the-golden-ratio thing. You should be using the Lucas series as shown above, and for a very interesting and cool reason: 

 > Lucas' numbers (starting numbers 1 and 3): 1,3,4,7,11,18,29,47,76,123...

 > Now, let's raise the Golden Ratio to its subsequent powers and round them off: 

Phi ^ 1 = 1.618 (phi being the Greek letter for the golden ratio, raised to the power 1)
Phi ^ 2 = 2.618 ~ 3
Phi ^ 3 = 4.23 ~ 4
Phi ^ 4 = 6.85 ~ 7
Phi ^ 5 = 11.09 ~ 11
Phi ^ 6 = 17.94 ~ 18
Phi ^ 7 = 29.03 ~ 29

Look! Raising the golden ratio to subsequent powers produces a series of numbers that approximates the Lucas series. 

And if that's not Numberwang I bloody well don't know what is. 

Thanks to a chapter in Matt Parker's 'Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension' which the above intel comes from. 

Notes and Neurons - music & science

Here’s a fairly long, but very interesting, presentation about of how music and the brain works. Well worth a watch. Best bit is at 59 mins - Bobby McFerrin 'plays' the audience...

 

  • Music accesses ‘normal’ emotions, but also deeper ones that aren’t accessed in other ways, perhaps can be considered ‘primordial’.
  • Almost all cultures through time and geography used the octave and fifth. The other intervals can vary.
  • There is some evidence that spoken language reflects the pitches of music. A descending minor third is found in sad speech, a rising minor second found in angry speech. Try saying ‘OK’ using those pitches.
  • Further – this was only really found in negative speech; happy speech didn’t tend to have a strong pitched content.
  • There is a scintillating part at 59mins where Bobby McFerrin ‘plays’ the audience. Leads us to consider how our brains anticipate next notes in a melodic sequence. If you watch nothing else of this, watch this 2 min sequence.
  • Commenting on the above, Bobby McG says it proves the audience ‘knows’ the pentatonic scale, but I wonder if other scales could be primed with different notes, such as a major scale, or even minor.
  • There is a connection between learning music at an early age with higher intellectual performance when older. (OBVIOUSLY!

New Release: Space Power Facility

Space Power Facility is the fourth release from Oli Freke, and is a deep house groover with a gradually evolving vocal – emerging from the depths of the track right up to main break where it becomes a full blown, powerful vocal line. It’s provided by the Rachel G, who has provided vocals for many electro and house tracks. 

The remix takes the groove and has some fun with elements, dropping the main vox to focus on the pulsing vibe.

 

New release: You're The Reason

Out now! A new track from myself!

1. You’re The Reason (Original Mix)

2. You’re The Reason (Fighta Pilot Remix – vocal version)

3. ‘You’re The Reason’ (Fighta Pilot Remix – dub version)


You’re The Reason features the vocal talents of Chantelle Rowe.

The original mix is a upbeat house track with rolling organ style bassline and lovely musical breakdown.

The Fighta Pilot remix is deeper and focuses on pitch-shifted snippets of the original vox and is beefed up with piano riffs and deep sub bass. 

Buy it now from: 

 

New Release: Para da Gracinha

Para de Grançinha is a tough, funky track built around MC Leka’s trash-talking rap. She ain’t falling for your sweet words, flash cash or bump’n’grind, cos she knows what you’re after...
The original mix is the slower version with big chord stabs, funky bass and tasty percussion. Fighta Pilot takes things up a notch with a faster groove and pulsing bassline.

MC Leka is Rio de Janero based rapper, known for her work with Crookers (Man Records