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Thursday, 20 May 2010

Oracle Roulette is moving! Now at

If you are wonderful enough to have bookmarked me, then firstly THANKS! You're pretty bloody ace :). 

Secondly, please update your bookmarks and/or links - I've moved over to Wordpress (sorry google) and I'm now at: Much easier to remember, and makes me cringe substantially less every time I give out the url (there is pre-existing evidence for me not liking rubbish names like - um - blogspot... *runs and hides*). Oh and the comments work. PHEW!

Clearly, even if you've not yet bookmarked me so far, then you should still visit me over on, because it would be lovely to see you there. Please say hello when you visit! (The comments section over there works, did I mention that?).

This site will stay open, but it won't have any new posts, so get yer botties over to my new site. You can subscribe to it over there and everything

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Faking it...

...for Counterfeit. Ok thats a really shite title, I'll admit it. But I am rubbish at headlines still, and I simply want to show you these links to a couple of articles I've done for Counterfeit magazine, who have kindly humoured me and allowed me to waffle on for a few pages about tuneful noises. Well that's just the kind of magazine I like quite frankly.

So - here they are: 

First of all a short snippet from a night of Synthpop at the legendary Sheffield Grapes (yes I did really drive all that way for no more than free entry and a complementary miniature hero..)

...followed by what I got up to at the fast-becoming-legendary Live At Leeds Festival in - er - Leeds. Photos (including the one above) are by the certainly-should-be legendary Dan Sumption

Hope you like :)

Friday, 7 May 2010

Icelandic banking or British politics?

You know how there's always something you forget when you go on holiday? Well I've forgotten my guidebook. But actually it's not really that much of a disaster. I've been before, have a rough idea of a couple of the things I'd like to see, and am meeting up with a(n) acquaintance(s) who have offered to take me to hot rivers and to bars (I'm still assuming the names I was given were names of bars and not strip joints... I'll probably still go anyway mind..).

I have no actual plans and won't until I get there, but I think that's actually the kind of trip I want. I'm going to Reykjavik (amidst cries of "plug up that bloody volcano while you're there"; "so you're going to see the volcano then"; "is it safe?"; "HOW are you going to get there, aren't all the flights cancelled?" and "ooh isn't it expensive?"), and I loved it so much last time I went, I'm actually going this time to find out a  bit more about the real Reykjavik and Iceland, and seeing if it's somewhere I could live. Not having a guide book will mean I have to ignore my instinct to have lots of lie-ins, go buy some tourist tat and end up in Sodoma every night, and talk to people who live there, do as many different things as possible, and maybe even learn some Icelandic. Even though I can't roll my "R"s. One thing is certain, there will be lots of late nights and lots of stupid photographs taken :)

Despite all this yet-to-be-written adventure, I'm a little bit sad to be out of the UK this weekend, as I'll miss all the bitching, backstabbing and coercing that will see the future of my country unfold. A hung parliament (in any other country it would be referred to positively as an opportunity for coalition government, where politicians - gasp! - work TOGETHER!), negotiations on people actually cooperating for positive change, and discussions on how electoral reform might happen, plus of course the incessant genius, sarcasm and insight of twitter - I'll miss it all as it happens and have to wait to find out how people are actually dealing with it (and exactly how much transparently obvious spin David Cameron thinks he can fool us with).

But onto more immediate things - I have a volcano to go and investigate! I've no idea which side of the plane Eyjafjalla will be on my trip up (some have told me right, some have told me left) - but I've got a right hand window seat and will be there like a sad geek with my camera and if nothing else I'll get some cool pictures of clouds. Or the glacier. While I glug coffee and dream of leaving the chaos behind.

[I'm posting this from Terminal 1 on an overpriced internet connection and the right click doesn't work so I am unable to copy picture links into this today. But I'll try my best for next time, promise x]

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Get yer lugholes ready...

Live at Leeds is fast approaching us (1st May 2010 to be precise), and I'm writing a little preview for you which will be with you - um - as soon as I finish it. 

However in the meantime I made a Spotify playlist containing something from each of the bands who are playing the Saturday (the ones who have a Spotify presence anyway).

Whether you're planning on going to Live at Leeds or not, you could do worse than to click the link (in my humble opinion ;) )


A Vinyl Junkie's Sundrenched Dream

I've been having a little browse around the blogosphere today (yeuch, terrible word, who thought that up?) and happened upon fellow culture vulture contributor Ben Denison's Good Arrows, who does lots of inspiring creative stuff with Leeds' Hope and Social. This ties in nicely with some things I've been wanting to say about Record Store Day, for which I was queueing yesterday at the ungodly hour of 7.40am, outside Crash Records in Leeds, to buy VINYL. In 2010. And I don't even have a record player.

Record Store Day Queue - Leeds - 8am

Let me start at the beginning...
I've long loved packaging of music and its presentation - the more quirky or unusual the better. We never really had music on in the house when I was growing up - Terry Wogan over marmite on toast was about as avant-garde as it got. My mum didn't like my dad playing anything more risque (Ian Dury and Led Zep are all I remember) with us youngsters around, and Top of the Pops was banned for the same reason. I even remember covering my ears and crying when a 60s party compilation cassette was on in the car once - the music wasn't the sort of stuff Wogan played and I wasn't used to it; I didn't know how to react (I was only 7 in my defence). But I do remember poring over the inlay, and the brightly coloured drawings of the hip and groovy Austin Powers style scenesters partying on the front. And thinking wow. I can't stop looking at this.

I've never bought my own records (aside from a couple of awful 7"s that I demanded to be allowed, when 7"s were all anyone bought), and then when my dad moved out and took the record player with him, it was cassettes all the way. Not really getting out much when I was a teenager meant my life revolved around the radio and the cassettes I (sometimes) bought or (more usually) borrowed & copied from the library or my friends (yes kids, this was how we used to do illegal filesharing). 

Old-skool cassettes: side Ride

My choice of tapes was undoubtedly pretty pedestrian but I loved the artwork and attention to detail. Like a lot of people, I'd sit and listen to my new acquisition, staring at the packaging throughout the whole album - opening it, looking at the pictures, folding it back again, opening it up slowly, turning it round, trying to compute what the band wanted to convey. Had the artist made the words flow around the pictures? Were there any quirky details? (Side Drive / side Ride and trumpet silhouettes on the run-in were two of my favourites). This is something that's engaging, and priceless even, about physical format music. You get none of this inclusivity or visual connection with mp3s, and sadly, a lot of this is being lost from commercial CD packaging too, to keep design and printing costs down and maximise profit - necessarily so in the on-demand culture. Naughty mp3s.

So it's 2010, and I'm queueing to buy a cassette..
This brings me to Record Store Day (see my previous blog for culture vulture). There were two releases I really really wanted: firstly the new Blur 7", and secondly the new limited-to-300-worldwide Goldfrapp cassette. 

Goldfrapp- Head First (cassette release)
Mother Vulpine - Keep Your Wits Sharp (her words are quick) (mint green vinyl release)

Now I didn't think I'd have to fight for my Goldfrapp (sadly) but I knew that Blur would be a different kettle of fish - I'd never been shopping that early in my life. Fortunately the morning was sunny and my fellow queuers were in amiable mood, and I tried not to think about the facts that I was 34th in the queue and that Crash had only 25 copies of the Blur record on order. 

1st choices of the first 31 people in the Crash RSD queue / I'm 34th!

But what else would I get? I have been known to buy vinyl before, if I love the band and the artwork, despite not having the facilities to play it in my own home (I do have friends who do I hasten to add). My prized mint green vinyl Mother Vulpine 7" is a case in point. Some of the RSD releases were really special, and the effort gone into the artwork on the majority of items was stunning, even the simple stuff. 

Queue buddies
My queue-buddy for the morning (hi Jonny!), who turned out the be a graphic designer, also often buys vinyl on the strength of the artwork or presentation. People don't tend to release on vinyl these days unless they're really passionate about their art, because they understand what I've long believed, and what Ben Denison explains better than I ever could: that the end result of creating according to your own art is more inspiring, joyous and desirable than anything produced with commercial goals in sight. 

You may - or may not - like to know that I plumped for Crystal Castles in the end, with cover art that reminded me of how 12"s USED to be - those illicit LPs in my dad's collection with just an atmospherically yellowed photo covering the front; the only text on the 288 square inches of the whole cover being boldly and simply on 6 lines on the back, just white on black. Speaks so many volumes, and differently to everyone who sees it.
Crystal Castles / Doe Deer 12"

Getting physical (Ha. Sorry..)
So unexpectedly, my Record Store Day experience has reminded me of things I'd long forgotten about physical format music, and in particular, vinyl. The cameraderie in the queue; the genuine and good natured excitement about what we would get to rummage through; hopefully take home, look at, hold, listen to, share, enjoy, and look at some more. My friend's reaction when I gave him the Mogwai/F*** Buttons white vinyl 10" split I'd bought him. My other friends' reactions when I showed off my haul. 

Mogwai/F*** Buttons 10" split on white vinyl

The last time I felt that was when I was swapping homemade tapes with my schoolmates when I was 15. But this is grown-up, and much much prettier. 

I'm off to borrow some separates.

Monday, 12 April 2010

In Store for Record Store Day

Well I don't know about you but I'm getting a bit excited about Record Store Day. Which is probably quite a dangerous thing considering I am skint and don't own a record player..

We have three independent record stores in Leeds who are participating in Record Store Day, and fortunately there aren't just vinyl-related shenagins going on - releases will be on CD and cassette (god bless you Alison Goldfrapp!) too, plus some exclusive instore performances from some pretty big names.

You can read more about what's going on in my culturevulture Record Store Day post here: 

Friday, 9 April 2010

Exposure in Leeds

Image (c) Tim Parkin

This week I dragged a friend to hear landscape photographer Tim Parkin speak at the Leeds photography network ExposureLeeds meeting. I say dragged - my friend loves photography, especially landscape, but he's been feeling a bit disillusioned lately and hasn't been taking many pictures. It probably didn't help that I probably bigged it up a bit too much and made it sound like a compulsory networking event, but fortunately he ignored me and succumbed to my additional bribe of cider and cake. Always a winner.

Tim Parkin comes across as a lovely, unassuming chap with a real and expert passion for his photography. As well as talking us through how he'd developed as a photographer, he'd also brought along his fabulously complicated looking large format camera (it's VERY different to digital, non-photography geeks). These things take an hour or so to set up to get the photo you want, but he demonstrated this so simply and clearly, he made even me (who gets intimidated by the vast majority of the functions on my single lens intermediate camera) want to go out and have a go.

Tim's a sneakily inspiring speaker - he clearly knows a lot about his craft, both technically and compositionally, but describes it in such a straightforward way, with subtle yet obvious passion, it feels like he's explaining it over a quiet pint in the pub, making it seem realistically achievable for you to develop your artistic streak to its maximum too. 

He certainly had this effect on myself, and my friend as well, who took it a step further and resolved to go out the next day (not having been out taking landscapes for a good six months) and put Tim's top tips on composition, colour and timing into practice: This is the result:

Clicking the links below each image will show them a bit bigger and in a bit more glory on flickr.

Thanks Tim!

Have a look at: 
Tim Parkin's website
Tim Parkin's flickr
Malcolm F Stoney's flickr