I like repetitive music

[youtube=] I was recently given some headphones for my birthday, the first decent ones I’ve had in…. maybe ever actually. I’m slightly shocked and elated and the effect they’re having on my music and I, but at the same time the realization that I’ve been listening to just a fraction of my favourite tunes for years, especially since I stopped going out and hearing music live as often as I used to, is a bit of a blow.

I like bass-heavy music but on the crappy headphones I’ve been using much of the depth and clarity was being lost, as well as the crispness that makes electronic music so immersive. These new headphones have literally added more joy into my day, every day. I’m excited to wear them, thrilled to listen to all my favourite albums again. Everything sounds so much better, so much more epic and exciting. And so life is more fun and inspiring. I can’t remember a new “thing” except maybe our first car, which made life so dramatically better.

As a lover of dance music and someone who has been attending events of various legalities in warehouses and forests for 12 or so years, dancing through the night or the day, with and without any assistance, I’m intrigued by the reaction some people have to dance music. For some, it’s barely recognizable as music at all, and the only way they can imagine anyone enjoying it is if they are intoxicated. “Is everyone on drugs?” I’ve been asked more times than I remember, and as recently as two weeks ago.

As someone who listens to bassy repetitive beats most days I can say that no, most people are not on drugs and do not need to be on drugs to enjoy music of this sort. We just really like it, y’know? And far from making us strange or difficult to understand, this enjoyment actually links us to most traditional cultures on the planet, to the most ancient of human artforms.

Dancing to repetitive music is the most ancient human cultural practice there is, a staple of traditional cultures the world over. The instruments vary, from tapping sticks in Australia to drums in North America, but the purpose remains consistent: to use sonic driving to help people enter a more trance-like state. Far from being a “you must be on drugs” music it is actually the original high on life music, where the music itself is designed to be intoxicating, to overwhelm the senses, to carry us away. Only our desire to make marks on walls has a similar longevity in the realm of human cultural and artistic expression.

The re-discovery of dance music in the West and its explosion in popularity from the 90’s onwards is part of a trend to bring more ancient knowledge and practices back into our lives, along with yoga, aromatherapy and the healing arts. Nowhere is this felt more strongly than at outdoor parties, one of my favourite cultural activities. Just like our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago we gather in clearings in forests to connect with our environment and each other through the stomping of feet into the ground, the releasing of everyday worries and concerns in the rhythm of the dance.

Dancing and dance music have always played a grounding and balancing role in my life. During the hard and relentless years of setting up Vibewire, overcoming intense disappointments and near-fatal setbacks along the way, going out into the bush and dancing with my friends was my main release valve, where I wasn’t in charge, wasn’t a “youth representative” or a “social entrepreneur”, where I could just play with my friends while listening to music we loved. It was incredibly liberating, inspiring and energising, fueled by contact with three of my great loves in life: music, friends and the Australian bush. The people and culture you find at outdoor parties is unique, a connected global culture which is a celebration of life, played out at 142 beats per minute.

I was meant to land back in Australia and head straight to the Regrowth Festival but with it postponed by torrential rain I have yet to make it out into the bush for a dance. I hope to sneak one in before the baby arrives, to reconnect with my home country and tribe, despite us heading into the wrong time of year for bush parties.

Meanwhile I’ve got some pretty rocking tunes keeping me company as I go about my day.

The best of everything 2010

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

[ted id=896]

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.


I'm kinda proud of this mix, the first I've properly put together, which I played on NYE. It was planned for two hours, which is the length of the mix posted here, but ended up being almost three hours on the night, with me extending it with additional tracks, mostly by Protoculture, given the lack of anyone to play after me and the presence of people still dancing. I hope you enjoy it, there's some seriously rocking material here. It's starts and ends a bit silly but in-between it travels from deep electro to tech house and into a solid hour of psytrance via an obligatory "New Years Day" remix. BPM goes from 125ish to 146ish. My advice: put on some good headphones and listen to it the whole way through. NYE 09-10 Mix

Track list:

1. French Emotions - Peter Godwin

2. Really awesome track from a mix my friend Morgan put together that I don't know the name of UPDATE:  Mr. Dry - Tim Green

3. Poor Leno (Silicon Soul remix) + There is a light that never goes out (acapella) - Royksopp + Erlend Oye

4. Good sluts factory (let it CIA mix) - Kiko and Ginos

5. Strip Joint Mathematics (Jet Project remix) - Deepchild

6. Love is going to save us - Benny Benassi

7. New Year's Day (Paul Oakenfold remix) - U2

8. Born on Mars - Mr Peculiar

9. Ain't Talkin Bout - G-Light

10. Inside the Sound - Ananda Shake

11. Hear the Noise (Quadra remix) - Alien vs The Cat

12. Slayer - Toast3d

13. Dismental - Raz

14. Radio Trance - BBP

15. The Frequency (feat Nomad) - Talamasca and XSi

16. Analog - Planet B.E.N. vs Didrapest

17. Illusion - Exordium

18. I Wish (SKAZI remix) - Infected Mushroom

19. Becoming Insane - Infected Mushroom

20. Take Me Home (Benza's Philthy mix) - Phil Collins

Deadmau5 at the 9:30 club

Last night K and I went out to see Canadian tech-house producer Deadmau5 (pronounced "deadmouse") play. Deadmau5 is another internet-fueled superstar, blowing up on Beatport last year to be their number 1-selling artist and now, to my amazement, selling out the relatively massive 9:30 club on a Monday night.

I took a video on my new phone but haven't worked out how to get it off yet so here's another one from YouTube. It's very shaky but gives an idea of both the music and the truly spectacular light show. The production was the best I've seen at the 9:30 Club by far, with a super high-resolution digital screen at the front and 24 LED poles scattered around the stage, all sequenced to produce some fantastic visuals.


It was a lot of fun, and great to have a good dance, even if it has made today harder than it would otherwise have been. It did give rise to a few thoughts though:

1) Monday night, really? How far down in order of importance does DC have to be to get stuck with that? Or is it simply that he was so confident of his popularity here (he previously played here in March) that he knew DC would come out for him even on a Monday night?

2) Whatever happened to good electronic artists headlining parties? Now it seems as soon as a producer has any sort of success they go straight into "touring band" mode, playing gigs at concert venues rather than parties at clubs. I call lame.

3) Looking around at the (pretty young) crowd it's amazing how many girls make no attempt at dancing other than rubbing their arses against their boyfriends groins. Bust out a little! Dance for you, not for them. I blame video clips and the insipid form of "sexiness" they promote.

4) Judging by audience reaction Deadmau5's most popular track is by far his worst, a terrible, derivative uplifting house number that sounds like something Kylie Minogue would put out. Go figure.

Australians! - Deadmau5 is touring later this month as part of the Stereosonic Festival.


Burning Mushroom Part II

I've been meaning to write up my Burning Man experiences but it's harder to do than it sounds. Meanwhile, let me just update you on my excitement to see Infected Mushroom at Burning Man. And boy was my excitement fulfilled; it was one of the most adrenalating, annihilating, wildly surreal dance music experiences of my life. Infected Mushroom were set left on a stage with a projector screen behind them, two lasers arching overhead and a flamethrower directly in front of us throwing jets of fire thirty feet up as ten thousand people stomped and shook and screamed their passion into the night air. It was dance music at its best, as a return to a more tribal state, a giving of yourself to the ancient human pleasure of pounding the earth with our feet, finding unity in repetitive music and motions. It was madness, glorious madness.

Here's the video I took. The sound quality is awful but hopefully you get a sense of the setting. Check out the fire at 2:36.


Here's another good vid of them playing Cities of the Future, one of my favourite Infected Mushroom tracks and very apt for the setting: