What's Playing Right Now?

Posted by prla1983 on May 12, 2006 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

I guess I'm bored so I decided to break the cycle of reviews. So I'll go out on a limb right now and just let you know what has been insistently coming out of my room's speakers as of lately.

Vanden Plas - Christ 0
This German band plays a true brand of progressive metal and they're probably the best example of binding melody and heaviness together. They also seem unable to disappoint with every subsequent release and "Christ 0" is absolutely no exception. I still need to give this one a lot more spins but from the get-go this album reeks of heavy beauty, in a manner of speaking. Plus, being a concept album loosely based on Dumas' "Count of Monte Cristo" story gives it nothing but extra points I guess.

Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance
I wonder why I never got into these guys before. Hailing from Sweden, all I know about them is that they're familiar with Opeth and that both bands used the same studio to record their respective last albums last year. Finally, I got hold of "The Great Cold Distance" and oh my. Rarely I like an album so much upon first spin but this one totally succeeded. I still need to give it much more love, but it sounded like a much more metallic Chroma Key. Also, reading the AMG review for this album, I learned that Katatonia's singer had to drop his so-called Cookie Monster type voice for medical reasons, and from listening to "The Great Cold Distance" I feel like saying that some evil comes for the good.

Adrian Belew - Side Three
All I knew about Adrian Belew up until yesterday was that he played with King Crimson at some point. Shame on me. Since then I learned he has played not only with the Crimson but also with David Bowie and Frank Zappa among others while having a pretty extensive solo discography to show for. From a recommendation on the Mike Portnoy Forum I decided to pick this one up and it didn't disappoint. Belew is not overly self-indulgent and that helps for pleasant listening. Oh yeah, and Tool's own Danny Carey gives a helping hand (or rather, hands and feet) on the drumset for a couple of tracks. Great! Now I need to get Sides One and Two, which together with Side Three make up for a trilogy which Belew managed to produce and release in the short span of a single year!

Pearl Jam - Ten
Following the self-titled released of Pearl Jam a couple of weeks ago, I decided to go down memory lane and unearth their seminal debut "Ten". Boy, this is a great album and it doesn't really need an introduction, or does it? Just pop this one in, listen to "Once", "Alive", "Even Flow", "Black" or "Jeremy" and you'll know (or recall) what I'm talking about.

Tool - 10,000 Days
Last but most definitely not least, I've been spinning Tool's latest opus quite a lot recently. Having a release every five years tends to help building up excitement and hype around it. As always before, this one takes some time getting used to but once it does, it does with a bang. "10,000 Days" is hard to put in perspective alongside Tool's previous efforts but the thing is that this one will easily be one of the best releases of 2006. I love the way Tool crams so many concepts into a single album and how they interplay heaviness and moody pieces. I can't wait to check out these guys live, too.

Well, more to come next week. Until then, tune in!

Movie Review: "Aardvark'd: 12 Weeks with Geeks" (2006)

Posted by prla1983 on May 11, 2006 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

Boy, what can I tell you?

"Aardvark'd" is supposed to be a movie documenting how four intern developers at a New York based software company create a new application in twelve weeks. In itself, this is probably already uninteresting for anyone who's not tech-inclined and has no idea how software is actually developed in the real world. Problem is, even if you fit this bill but were in fact interested in learning about it, it's certainly not in "Aardvark'd" you'll find out how it goes. Producing a movie like this, you not only alienate about 95% of the world population from the get-go. You go the whole distance and simply alienate everyone.

For this is a terrible, terrible documentary. I can't even begin to tell you how much this stuff sucks. Rarely in the past I've been so disgusted with something I see on the screen, even moreso when I spend real cash having it shipped all the way from New York. Because what we actually get to see is four dudes, some of which look like it's the first time they're getting out of their respective houses, doing just about everything except for coding and getting an application off the ground: one plants tomatoes, another covers his windows with alluminium paper because he thinks some end-of-the-world type thing outside is targetting him (incidentally this is the same guy who seems to be conditioned into saying the word "like" every couple of seconds. Go figure.), another speaks so slow he's either stoned or retarded. I could go on, but you get the idea. And don't even get me started on the soundtrack. I want a puff of whatever these guys have been smoking.

This is a real shame simply because the potential for this to have been a great innovative documentary was enormous. Instead we're left with an incredible waste of our time. I feel like Joel Spolsky - the company owner, mentor of this project and the one who's pitched so much about this DVD that he tricked me into buying it - literally sucked 80 minutes out of my life for nothing. I should be reimbursed for this.

Not even the short appearance of Paul Graham, one of the most proeminent advocates of creating your own company, makes up for it despite those incredibly short five minutes truly being the highlight of the feature.

I hate the concept of censorship, but this one shouldn't have been allowed off the press. This movie is just wrong. Just wrong. Avoid at all costs.

Gig Review: Riverside @ Ritmo y Compás, Madrid (30/04/06)

Posted by prla1983 on May 01, 2006 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

[Disclaimer: what follows is a sort of unconventional, in-depth and deeply biased personal review of Riverside's show, April 30th, in Madrid]

What I'm about to tell you is how the lost dream of seeing Polish band Riverside live (with myself living in Portugal and all), something which I never thought would be possible, came true. It's also a desperate stab at trying to capture all the incredible memories I got from last night. I hate the way our memories are so short-spanned and how we progressively lose bits and pieces of even our dearest memories along the way. If I can tell a good story at the same time, then sure, why not.

So I went to the band's site, surprised that they were touring again in 2006 for "Second Life Syndrome", and for a second there I thought my screen-worn eyes were playing a prank on me: a Madrid date?! It couldn't be!

It was. The date was also perfect because it's a holiday here in Portugal today, so we could afford not getting back in a hurry plus the show would be on a Sunday - slow day, especially in Madrid as we found out later (corolary: lots of parking spots ).

So to try cutting to the chase here, we left Portugal at around 8:00am on the day of the show (scheduled for 9:30pm) and arrived on the outskirts of Madrid at around 1:00pm, at the Formule 1 Hotel, where we had reservations. We checked in, left our sparse luggage there and went off to the heart of Madrid in order to find something to eat.

But first, once there, we decided to try and find the venue (Ritmo y Compas). Needless to say, we got hopelessly lost for a while but eventually found it. This is both a recording studio and show venue, it's quite nice inside and despite the small stage it has very good conditions as we would certainly find out later. Considering we couldn't convert our reservations yet, we went to find somewhere to eat. From the previous time in Madrid, to see Opeth at the former Sala Arena (now Sala Heineken), we knew there's a nice Starbucks (I could start another whole thread just about how we, depleted Portuguese lads, love the Starbucks but have none in our crappy country). Eventually we landed one of the worst lunches of our miserable lives in a Pans & Co. Beautiful.

Of course, to wash all that mess down, we went straight to the Starbucks, seating our sorry little asses in the sofas (we finally got a sofa spot! Miracle! Again, thank god for slow Sundays ) but not before I went to a convenience store nearby and got myself a paperback in Spanish - I love to read and stupidly forgot to bring a book with me, so this also served as good opportunity to improve my Spanish. Sadly not to much avail.

So, after giving peace of mind to our stomaches, we went back to the venue, to try and get our reserved tickets. While we were waiting around for the girl responsible for that to end her phone call, I was looking around the place and started hearing some sparse drum sounds. So I followed the sound and that led me to the room where the show would be held... with half of Riverside doing their soundcheck! In the mean time, after finding out we wouldn't get our tickets at least for another hour, I alerted my friends for what the gods just dropped in my lap (fanboyism rules, right? ) and the three of us just stayed back against the wall for an entire hour watching the band going about their entire soundcheck business and generally shouting to the sound guy in Polish for the duration. We couldn't believe our luck, especially when the whole band got together on stage for the final stages of soundcheck and jammed a great bit of "Second Life Syndrome" (the song) a few times together. It just sounded so good. And, believe it or not, we seem not to be the only sick (as in a nice sickness ) people like this in the world, because a Spanish fan who got there early aswell seemed to be calling everyone in his phone contact list letting them know he was watching Riverside's soundcheck.

(Seriously though, for true fans of progressive music and Riverside in particular, I think it was a really nice thing of the band to let us be around and watch them go about their (private) business. It's not every day you get to see an entire soundcheck in loco of one of your very favorite bands, no matter how big or small they are).

So after the soundcheck was over, we grabbed a bite, eventually got our tickets and just stuck around the stage waiting for the procedure to begin. A spanish couple, one male guitar player and a female bassist, who called themselves The Electrohousen Duo (sp?) were the opening act and together played this weird Yes meets jazz sound, which was quite confusing but quite technical. I can't say I went head over heels about it but hey, much respect for anyone who works towards their dreams and actually gets on stage doing their own thing.

After them, following a 10 minute intermission, Riverside hits the stage. I apologize if I get lighter on description now that I finally got to telling you about the show, but honestly it's hard to put something like this into words, it must be seen, heard and most of all felt (after the show, we agreed that above this, there's only the Dream Theater live experience). With my being so ecstatic about what I was seeing, I kinda lost track of the setlist. I think it went something close to this, but don't trust my word on it:

* Intro (with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" excerpt) segue'ing into...
* Conceiving You
* Out of Myself
* Reality Dream I
* Second Life Syndrome
* Artificial Smile
* I Believe (with what seemed like a different arrangement) segue'ing into...
* Acronym Love
* Reality Dream II
* Dance With the Shadow
* The Curtain Falls

I know this is borderline insane (I mean, spoilers on setlists and all), but if you are going to see this band live and want to preserve any surprises, no matter what you do, don't read the following paragraph. Otherwise, highlight it using your mouse.

On "The Curtain Falls", the band extended the final part of the song and one by one, each of the band members put down or left their respective instruments, thanked the audience and quietly left, first the guitarist, then the singer/bassist, then the drummer and finally the keyboard player. This may not sound like much but it hit me as particularly classy. Plus, the way the song gracefully "degraded" as each instrument went quiet was a truly unique effect.

OK, we're back! The band left but not much cheering, whistling and shouting was needed to get it back on stage. And what a comeback, what with the first track of the debut album, the 12-minute masterpiece...

(1st encore)
* The Same River
* Reality Dream III
* Loose Heart

Again, the band left and got back. The people demanded it!

(2nd and final encore)
* Before

And that was that. The pictures I'm linking below surely tell a much better tale about this show than I could possibly offer here. In short, from someone who listens to a lot of different bands and different genres, with a strong emphasis on Prog Rock/Metal, I honestly think these guys are destined for huge stardom, at least on Prog circles. Letting alone their undisputable technical ability, they also possess a fair bit of that *something* that sets Dream Theater apart, you know what I mean? I don't know, maybe the attention to detail, the little nuggets and of course a huge passion for creating and playing their own music, the way they intend it to be. I just hope they're have that little bit of needed luck and that they stay true to their current beliefs - while still having as much success as possible. They truly deserve it.

And in all honesty, I wish everyone who loves this band could be, like I luckily found myself, in a position to travel and spend money to be able to see these guys. I'm thankful for that, and I wish everyone else could aswell, because it's so worth it.

Oh and one small bit of inside information: expect a new Riverside album sometime in 2007.

Finally, if you got this far, a) you're insane and b) thank you very very much for sharing this trip (in more than one sense) with me!

You can find all the pictures I took right here (slideshow).

Thanks again for reading!