• December 30, 2011
  • New album & review of 2011

  • 2011 has been the most bizarre and shocking year I can remember. Twelve months of natural disasters, epic protests, unexpected deaths, royal weddings and financial turmoil.

    On a somewhat lighter note, however…

    As always, I’ve immersed myself in culture over the past year and am therefore proud to present the official Culprit 1 Cultural Awards 2011.

    I listened to far more classical music than ever before. This was in response to the devaluation of music over the past few years. The artform is now so freely available (and therefore disposable) that I had a strong desire to return to something more authentic, to music that has been proven to stand the test of time. I went back to the masters – in particular, Bach, Mozart and Mahler.

    I was impressed by four new albums from electronic artists based in the United States – Tycho, Emeralds, Balam Acab and Machinedrum.

    There were also some great gigs. Those that stand out in the memory are Penguin Cafe, Philarmonia Orchestra’s live score to A Space Odyssey, Terry Gilliam’s production of the Berlioz classic ‘Damnation of Faust’ at English National Opera, Metropole Orkest with Basement Jaxx, an intimate Coldplay show at the Roundhouse, Mark Antony Turnage’s ‘Greek’ by Music Theatre Wales, Mouse on Mars with musikFabrik and two superb shows by the Scottish folk trio Lau.

    I also had the pleasure of helping to organise a charity event in memory of my good friend Nat Rowson, who tragically passed away in May. Natnight, held at Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach in August, featured Euros Childs, The Keys, Stray Borders, the legendary Wizz Jones and many more. The Toe also reformed, much to my delight.

    As of January 2011, I hadn’t read a novel for over ten years. I had formed the opinion that there were far too many facts to learn to worry about stories. However, I read so many good reviews of Jonathan Franzen’s ‘Freedom’ that I just had to buy it. That book kickstarted my journey back to fiction. Thanks Mr. Franzen.

    Best music book: ‘Perfecting Sound Forever’ by Greg Milner
    The missed-my-train-station-so-must-be-a-page-turner award: ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed and ‘The Killings of Stanley Ketchel’ by James Carlos Blake
    Best book about a Middle Eastern city: ‘Jerusalem’ by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    Best book to validate my lifestyle: ‘In praise of slow’ by Carl Honore
    Best book that made me worried about spending too much time on the internet: ‘The Shallows’ by Nicholas Carr

    I also kept up my subscriptions to The Economist and Time, both of which continue to provide excellent worldwide coverage every week.

    BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week, Guardian Football Weekly, This American Life and Freakonomics Radio were all superb in 2011. I’m still waiting for a genuinely good electronic music podcast since Beatport Burners stopped a few years back.

    I’ve got in to the habit of watching films on DVD about a year after the cinema release. The only films I genuinely enjoyed were Inception and The Hurt Locker. I thought both were original and engaging. There were so many shockingly bad films that I stopped counting.

    My TV viewing has dropped off a cliff. It must be around 2-3 hours per week now. But there is still one show that I can’t miss – Shameless. True, it’s gone slightly off the wall and surreal of late, but it still makes me laugh harder than any other programme. This year, I also enjoyed The Secret Life of Buildings, Dragon’s Den and Hugh Fearnley-Whatsisname’s vegetarian experiment.

    The only other programmes I watched were the Champions League live matches, University Challenge and Only Connect. Nice mix.

    The Web
    I must definitely include Letters of Note – an incredible collection of historical correspondence, some of which is side-splittingly funny (thanks Richie for the introduction). I continued enjoying the many free lectures on the TED site and regularly checked the ISO50 design and music site – home of the aforementioned Tycho (aka Scott Hansen),

    The best clip on the internet remains Bernard Purdie’s 16th note drum tutorial.

    The protestors
    Mo Ibrahim
    ‘How to Steal like an Artist’ by Austin Kleon

    A new Culprit 1 album in 2012
    I have spent the last few days finalising my third album. No collaborators, no vocals this time around…just me in the studio making instrumentals. I still have to mix the tracks, but they’re pretty much done and I’m delighted with the results. I hope you are too.

    Have a happy, healthy and creative 2012.