Posts Tagged ‘Shpongle’

It’s fun, and a strong blogging tradition, to look back over year just gone and create “best-of” lists. So here’s absolutely the definitive list of the best music, books and films from the year.

Just kidding, it’s just a random list of my favourite stuff of the past year, conjured by my imperfect memory and no-doubt riddled with omissions, but filled with gems regardless, promise!

Best Music (I discovered this year):

Tijuana Cartel

A great band from Australia’s Gold Coast introduced to me by a friend who stayed with us earlier in the year. alternative/electronic/hip hop/flamenco. Unique and awesome.


An incredibly-talented kid from Berkely whose first album “The Human Condition” will be released next month. We found him a couple of months ago via a friend and he’s been on high-rotation ever since. His sound is… um… pop-orchestral soul?

You can choose what you want to pay to download the album pre-release.


The ex-lead singer of Sigur Ros released his first solo album this year – “Go” – and it’s wonderful. As ethereal and soaring and gorgeous as you would imagine.


I adore Shpongle, so no surprise I think their latest album “Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongeland” is another classic.

Ulrich Schnauss

This album isn’t from 2010, or even close. A Strangely Isolated Place (which the track below is on) is from 2003, and Far Away Trains Passing By came out in 2001, but I only discovered them by chance this year and regret the years I was unaware of this gorgeous ambient music.

Best Books (I read this year):

The Tall Man – Death and Life on Palm Island – by Chloe Hooper

Absolutely my book of the year and genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever read, The Tall Man – Death and Life on Palm Island is the story of an Aboriginal death in police custody in 2004 and a searing portrait of white/indigenous relations. Should be required reading for all Australians.

Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard – by Dan Heath and Chip Heath

The follow up the Made To Stick, Chip and Dan Heath have done it again with Switch. It’s both an inspiring call to action and a practical hand-book for creating change in your life, community or world. Switch is written with the journalistic flair and storytelling style of Malcolm Gladwell but rather than describing a phenomenon it extracts lessons and teaches you how to do it too.

The Eternal Frontier – An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples – By Tim Flannery

America is a very big, very diverse and very beautiful country. After we drove from DC-SF in June I wanted to know more about how it got to be the way it was, so read Flannery’s riveting account of North America’s evolution over the past 65 million years. Ever since I have been able to impress friends with insights on how the Sequoia’s survived the asteroid impact, why most of the world’s edible nuts are from North America and how horses evolved here. Americans – if you want to understand the continent you are standing on, read this book.

Cognitive Surplus – Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age – by Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky is the internet whisperer. He brings together diverse trends and disparate information and weaves them all together to reveal a deeper and more nuanced picture of the world social technologies are creating. Like his previous book Here Comes Everybody it is the most insightful thing I’ve read on the subject, aimed not at illuminating some business strategy or risk as so many books on the internet are but instead designed to reveal how these technologies are changing our cultures, societies and, ultimately, us.

Rand McNally Road Atlas

We set off from DC with two smartphones, an iPad and a GPS. They weren’t nearly enough. With coverage in the middle of the country incredibly patchy and the GPS being useless for choosing long-distance routes on day 3 we bought a proper countrywide map, the kind you spread on your lap in the passenger seat (or “navigation station” is it became known) and get an overview of your next three days of driving and imagine alternative ways of getting there. So much more fun this way too.

Best Films (I saw this year):

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Banksy’s first film and, like much of his art, it’s edgy, unique and a lot of fun. It combines incredible footage of now-famous street artists like Space Invader and Shepard Fairey with a is-this-real-or-not portrayal of the arts industry they (and he) have created.


A wonderful and bitter-sweet biopic of the short-lived but groundbreaking political career of Harvey Milk. And we live just a few blocks from where it all happened!


One-third Alan Ginsberg biopic, one-third the courtroom drama of the Howl obscenity trial, and one-third a psychedelic animated reading of Howl, Ginsberg’s most famous poem. 100% great.

Avatar 3D

A genuine technical triumph. Just a great cinema experience.

Best Websites (I used for the first time this year):


I’m really enjoying keeping my alternative, shorter, “bits and bytes” blog over on Posterious. Check it out if you haven’t yet.


A super-intelligent question-and-answer site. So much wisdom so freely shared.


I’ve been looking for a homepage like this for a while.

Best Software (I used for the first time this year):


Integrates social media with gmail, a really powerful tool for building business relationships.


What I’m using to draft this post. The opposite of Rapportive in a way – it blocks out all the noise on your screen (social media notifications, tabs, various programs), giving you just a plain black box to type in. It’s helped me become much more productive when I write.

That’s more than enough, I hope you either had or are about to have (depending on where you are in the world) a fun and fabulous New Years Eve and that 2011 has amazing things in store for you.


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My friend Keith asked me to list “fifteen albums you’ve heard that will always stick with you”, spending no longer than fifteen minutes to think about it. I may have gone over the time limit somewhat as I found this a fascinating challenge, thinking about the albums that have been most significant in my life, which have stayed with me and remained relevant and listenable.

Music is a repository of memory and emotion for me. Certain tracks make me go almost instantly misty-eyed as my mind jumps back to a festival, a live show, a relationship, a group of friends, a moment, a chapter of my life. Music is my great artistic passion and has played a significant role in my life. My primary friendship groups have often emerged out of the music scenes that I’m participating in, I spent five years organizing music events and I’m constantly listening out for new sounds and artists.

I don’t tend to listen much to music older than the last couple of years. New music constantly replaces old music in my playlist. But some classics remains, or remain so dear to my heart that, even if I don’t get them out and put them on often, if ever, they are powerfully nostalgic when I do come across them. They remain timeless.

Here, then, are my fifteen:

Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mine
Midnight Oil were my first “favourite band”, a love of my early teenage years and the first live concert I went to, when I was 11 or 12.

My Friend the Chocolate Cake – Live at the National Theatre
My Mum was given the MFTCC album “Good Luck” at work and despite it being nothing like what I was listening to at the time I stole it and began a love affair with the band. Something about David Bridie’s voice and the at-times haunting and at-times soaring orchestral folk music really connected with me. As is the case with most good bands they’re best live, and this is a live album which I listened to over and over again in the late 90’s and still enjoy today.

Pulp – This is Hardcore
I loved Pulp. I got into them after Different Class came out in 1995 but it went to a different level after 1998’s This is Hardcore. When they toured in support of the album my friend Dylan and I camped out to get great tickets. Completely unnecessarily as it turned out as no-one else turned up until 6am. Ergo, we must have been the biggest Pulp fans in Sydney at the time.

Leftfield – Leftism
Released in 1995 but still sounds cutting-edge today. At the time the blend of dub, breakbeat and techno was completely new and different. One of the greatest electronic albums of all time.

Various (mixed by DJ Nervous and John Ferris) – Plastic
Plastic was the first club I went to regularly, near weekly for the summer of 99/2000, and am amazing summer it was. I don’t listen to this stuff anymore but this was a really good time. The plastic sound, rocking, sometimes-cheesy uplifting trance, was the soundtrack of university for myself and many friends.

Freestylers – We Rock Hard
When we weren’t listening to the Freestylers that is. This was probably played at every house party I was at from 1999-2001.

Radiohead – Kid A
When OK Computer was released I found it hard to imagine anything better. Then Radiohead released Kid A, so completely unlike OK Computer but to my ears transcending their previous sound for one more complex, chaotic, beautiful and beguiling. Also: I met my wife at a Radiohead concert which heavily featured this album and its immediate follow-ups.

Infected Mushroom – Classical Mushroom
After their brilliant debut The Gathering Infected Mushroom emerged as the biggest psytrance act on the planet with the release of Classical Mushroom in 2000. As the name implies it infused classical elements with thumping, expansive psytrance grooves, overlayed with piano, guitars, sitars and science fiction samples. It infected many, myself included, with the psytrance bug and remains a unique and extraordinary album.

Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Sigur Ros. I was lying on the floor of a darkened room as this strange, ethereal music washed over me, overwhelming my mind with its strange beauty. The lush contours of the music and incomprehensible-but-evocative vocals seemed to contain a dark secret, almost understood, majestic in its power. It still has that effect on me.

Coda – Calling Mission Mu
I loved the “acoustic electronic” or “neo-classical” scene that emerged in Sydney in the early-mid 00’s: bands that re-created electronica-inspired soundscapes with live instrumentation including xylophones, violins, guitars, drums, etc. Coda are the best example of this sound and Calling Mission Mu is a brilliant album.

Ott – Hallucinogen in Dub
Everyone should own this album. It’s that good. British psydub producer Ott deconstructed and reconstructed the sounds of Hallucinogen into a truly brilliant dub record.

Shpongle – Nothing lasts, but nothing is lost
I found it almost impossible to choose just one Shpongle album, they’re all so strong and so individually unique. Their music is a crazy brilliant mix of ambient, world, psytrance and dub. I chose Nothing lasts… in part because it reminds me of a beautiful morning at a festival headlined by Shpongle following the release of this album, listening to this enveloping and inspiring sound while watching butterfly’s float in rays of morning light shafting through the trees above our heads…. Just about as perfect a moment as you could imagine. The 20 “tracks” on this album flow together seamlessly so hearing one in isolation doesn’t do it any justice, but regardless:

Son Kite – Colours
When I started going out to psytrance parties I was all about the full-on morning sound. Initially I found the more progressive side of things a bit lacking in excitement, but over time this longer-form, more subtle variant began to really work for me. Son Kite was one of the first progressive artists I listened to a lot, especially this album.

Lost Keys – Faerie Spell
In 2006 our flatmate Len brought home a demo from a young producer up the North Coast of NSW, a friend of his teenage cousin. It was four tracks of fantastically well-constructed psytrance with great samples and inventive melodies. It was a hell of a lot of fun and instantly became high rotation in our house. Two years later this finished album came out and we’re still listening to it regularly now. All killer, no filler. And this track has a Dark Crystal sample! What’s not to like?

Eddie Vedder – Into the Wild Soundtrack
K and I saw Into the Wild during our frantic final few days packing up our lives in Newtown and preparing to embark on our big overseas adventure. It’s a beautiful film, perfectly accompanied by Eddie Vedder’s brilliant soundtrack. Every time I hear this album it makes me think of travel and distance, the rawer edge of life’s journey and the people you meet along the way.

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