Sunday, November 22, 2009


if you have any interest at all in electronic music, you should watch this stormin' bbc documentary about the birth of synth pop in the uk. here's part 1 of the 9 parts that can be found on youtube...

Saturday, October 24, 2009


i guess ideally blog posts are supposed to be on the leading edge of the hype wave. everyone trying to pick the next big thing. this post here is decidedly derivative - not terribly original at all. but i thought i'd like to point out 'beached az' - a series of animated shorts in which australians take the mickey out of new zealanders and do it very well. here's a sample - there's loads more on youtube...

Monday, October 05, 2009

zero massive chinese air

it's a big month or two for kids like me who like trippy downbeat music. three of the legends of this kind of sound have/are bringing out new material:

1. zero7 - released their new album 'yeah ghost'. (zero7 released their first album 'simple things' in 2001 - mellow loungey music but subsequent albums have explored new musical territory while maintaining that essential mellowness)
2. massive attack - have released their new ep 'splitting atoms' this very day. (the greatest band in the world. yes you heard me. released the groundbreaking 'blue lines' in 1991 thus changing the world's musical landscape forever. the new ep is four tracks long - the lead single (made with damon albarn of blur and gorillaz fame), and three superb remixes of songs that i assume will be on the full album - to be released sometime next year)
3. air - release their new album 'love 2' today too. (quirky french loungesters that march to the beat of their own drum exploring all sorts of sonic fields. very french. they released their severely popular and very classic album 'moon safari' in 1998)

and that picture up there isn't a still from some fantastic new (or old) sci-fi film, it is in fact rows of chinese policemen taking a break while guarding the aquatic centre during the beijing olympics in 2008. [source: time]

Sunday, September 27, 2009

mos def

i've liked mos def for a long time since seeing him on a dvd doco called 'freestyle: the art of rhyme'. recently he's probably been more publicly visible (read: "visible in the mainstream") as an actor (ford prefect in 'the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy' and as chuck berry on the recently released to dvd 'cadillac records'). but while i enjoy seeing him in films, it has to be said that rap is where he really excels. his latest album 'the ecstatic' is fantastic.

so first up here's a little clip of him dropping some lines while walking along some japanese street:

and here's a clip from the aforementioned 'freestyle: the art of rhyme':

Thursday, September 03, 2009

pull my heart away

i think you might need to be a hunk of wood not to like this song - and i think even some hunks of wood would appreciate it...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

little house on the central plateau

this is a bit of a teaser... a short video clip from one of the locations of one of my current art projects. the project involves a paper model that i designed and constructed (based on our house) photographed in different locations. all part of my safe little world concept. on the weekend my brother and i went off photographing and i commenced my project with locations in rotorua, the desert road, mount ruapehu and turangi. the film clip was shot in the desert road location on the same camera as i was taking the house photos on (my much-loved canon g10). a spectacularly beautiful location with cold wind and views of mount ruapehu. afterwards we realised we'd actually been standing in an army training area...

safe little world: little house on the plateau from andrew killick on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

a brittle filament

nice little animated music video from Hrishikesh Hirway who performs as 'the one am radio'. track is called 'a brittle filament'... music is available from emusic - oh, and if you decide to sign up for emusic (recommended) then let me know before you do - because if i refer you then we both get free music : )

Friday, July 03, 2009

audio player software break-down

me and mp3-playing software go back a long way. it all started with 'music match jukebox', which came with one of my computers about 8 years ago. in those days i wasn't really into the mp3 thing - i was most definitely listening to cds - frankly my hard drive would never have coped with a big music library. it wasn't until i upgraded to a computer with a 200gb drive that my hard drive-based music collection began to take precedence.

after a brief dalience with windows media player i moved on to itunes. most people go to itunes because they get an ipod but i was just using it because it seemed to work well. i liked that it was free and i liked features like 'smart playlists' etc. but apple kept on upgrading it and making it bigger and bigger so that it started taking up more space and i started to go off it. by then the itunes store had come to nz so i was using it for that and intitially i thought i was stuck because of the amount of itunes music i had (still in the days of itunes drm).

then i started doing some research and after a bit of trial and error decided on mediamonkey. it was feature-laden, had a smaller memory footprint than itunes and, when i tried it out, actually seemed to be making my music sound better. not only that but it played my itunes music fine and supported (another must).

and thus it continued for over a year. but mediamonkey - despite what they say - is not actually free. its advanced features are locked away until you pay. and unfortunately some of those advanced features are to do with smart playlists - limiting what you can do without parting with cashola. i always thought i would end up paying for the full version of mediamonkey... but just recently i decided to delve into the world of mp3 software again.

the first program that really caught my attention was songbird. it is a very cool concept that has a lot of features and is still in development so should continue to improve based on user feedback. songbird's particular claim to fame is that it also works as an internet browser, making it very handy when you come to interface your music collection with the resources of the internet.

i was happily using songbird one evening and playing the software version of risk when i noticed that risk was hesitating before certain actions - a sure sign that something was using a lot of ram. sure enough i discovered to my dismay that songbird was using twice the memory that mediamonkey had used and research on the net revealed that this a well-known weakness of the program.

so i went looking again and this time i came up with j.river's media jukebox. this software used to run on the same basis as mediamonkey with a free and paid version, but since j.river released a new software solution that encompasses all the media in your home they have made their music player 100% free. and it's a great program. you have to put up with a bit of advertising for amazon's music download service and i found that j.river want payment for the mp3 encoding feature (you can also use your own external encoder), but other than that it is feature-rich, sounds great, has native support and is very customisable. and for all that, its memory footprint is actually slightly less than mediamonkey, plus you don't need to run the program to scrobble so you save memory there too.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

the shop

here are some pics of the new shop in cherrywood that we have opened... for more about annie blackberry go here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

magic llama

there's a mysterious magic llama for sale on trademe at the moment. it gives the owner a number of benefits including invisibility and, somewhat paradoxically, attractiveness.

realistically, i should be keeping this discovery under wraps, but i'm a generous soul who only hopes that the llama will go to a home where it is most needed.

the golden llama can be found here.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

on demand

over the last year or so, i've really got into watching 'tvnz on demand' - free streaming video from tvnz. in particular it's excellent for watching the material which tvnz itself produces. since going digital and introducing its freeview tv channels, tvnz has found a home for some of the more obscure special interests programs that it makes - including two of my favourites: 'the gravy' and 'new artland'.

i don't have freeview (we've got sky instead) so for now i watch this content online.

it started with discovering 'the gravy' - a show in which the hosts go out and interview creative new zealanders - the range and scope is vast. it is shot beautifully and uses nz music as its soundtrack. with tvnz on demand, i can watch the episode whenever i like, so once i ran out of new episodes (we are currently between seasons - i hope) i decided to check out 'new artland'.

'new artland' is hosted by chris knox and each week features a different artist. the show follows the artist from concept to completion of an artwork especially commissioned for the episode. excellent stuff.

tvnz on demand has recently relaunched, integrating itself into the overall tvnz website. so, here are the links to the two shows:

the gravy: here
new artland: here

this week i was particularly interested in an episode in which a video artist went to a faceless apartment complex in mt eden and interviewed the residents before projecting those interviews onto the outside of the complex. very cool concept that rang my 'safe little world' bells.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

star wars news episode IX: star trek

the triumphant return of star wars news: news from the dark nether regions of star wars fandom. this time in celebration of the release of the new star trek movie. this footage was captured over san francisco...

this edition of star wars news was brought to you in association with the quote: "When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not, hmm?" - Yoda

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

creative juices 1

two almost completely unrelated things have caught my imagination in the last week. sometimes something you see or hear or read pushes your imagination that much further on - gives you a little kickstart...

1. the bone people by keri hulme. a new zealand book that won the booker prize for fiction in 1985 and has consistently been on nz bestseller lists ever since. i studied nz literature at university but somehow missed reading this. the only thing i knew about it was its reputation - i knew nothing about its plot etc and that is still a mystery to me that's unfolding as i read. i'm only a few pages in but what i've read has captured me with its beautiful writing, unconventional narrativ
e styles and a host of other things that might be ruined if i try to put them into words...

2. rip - a remix manifesto. watch this thought-provoking film for free. a documentary about remix culture and the things threatening it...

here's the first chapter, the rest is here...


video platform
video management
video solutions
free video player

Thursday, April 23, 2009

music video

a very nice bit of video using old 8mm stuff by jamie strange. he tells me that he was thinking of me when he put the video together because i love old footage. he's right:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

droppin' kiwi style

darn there's some nice kiwi music floating around these days.

on friday night anna and her sister and friend and i went over to hamilton for anna's birthday outing. we cruised into hamilton on the weekend of the V8 street races. we were in 'boganvillia' (not to be confused with the island in the solomon's group or the red-flowering creeper of the same name). at each intersection in town rock poured from pubs while blokes in high-waisted tapered jeans (motor racing shirts tucked in) wandered the streets in various states of inebriation checking out pit girls in outfits described by the female occupants of our car as 'underwear'.

our destination was the casino and the slot machines. i always find casinos pretty surreal places - so much money leaving people's pockets, surrounded by gaudy glittering lights. expressions range from out and out excitement to tired wan resignation. i feel an intriguing mix of sickness and fascination.

anyway, on the few occasions that i visit a casino it's always my aim to beat the house, even if just by a little. in the event my $20 capital grew to $30 (twice). unable to exceed that $10 profit i gave up trying.

all this is an unnecessarily long story to say that because i didn't lose my money at the casino i had some extra disposable income in my pocket today. unable to think of a better self-indulgent outlet, i decided to download some tracks from (i thought of using it at itunes but amplifier looks less like 'the man' and i imagine that the artists see more of the revenue from there.)

i came away with 11 nz tracks which proved to form a rather cool / crunchy / dubby / trippy / catchy / stomping / quirky mix. i list the tracks below with glowing recommendation:

4 tracks from sola rosa's latest album 'Get It Together':

Lady Love Featuring Bajka
I've Tried Ways Featuring Serocee
Turn Around Featuring Iva Lamkum
Love Alone Featuring Spikey Tee

the p-money single:

Everything feat. Vince Harder

all 7 tracks from the kora remix album 'Kora! Kora! Kora! The Cabaret Voltaire Versions':

Skankenstein (Cabaret Voltaire Remix)
Pop Your Bubble (Cabaret Voltaire Remix)
Flow (Cabaret Voltaire Remix)
On My Mind (Cabaret Voltaire Remix)
Burning (Cabaret Voltaire Remix)
Crazy Things (Cabaret Voltaire Remix)
Burning Reprise (Cabaret Voltaire Remix)

all this is evidence of good things happening in nz music, especially when you consider every one of these tracks is a collaboration - and in some cases these collaborations are transglobal (with appearances by german and british artists).

Friday, March 27, 2009

art (or 'why you hate art')

three comments about art that i stumbled across this morning. the first from the website 'new math' by craig damrauer (via ffffound)...

the second is from the website 'but does it float' curated by folkert & atley, a statement which reads...

"The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery"

the third from an article about the psychology of why creationism is attractive (via aaron). the article isn't about art at all but provides a quote which fits rather nicely with the question of why people, in general, struggle with contemporary art and poetry:

"According to [University of Michigan psychologist Margaret] Evans and other psychologists, including Deborah Kelemen from Boston University, there’s a very specific cognitive glitch that invades our rationalist thought whenever we’re pondering the subject of life’s origins, something those who do research in this area refer to as “teleo-functional thinking” (reasoning about the functional purpose of an entity or object in question). When scratching our heads over an artifact—with the end product before us, asking ourselves how it came to be—these scientists find that we tend to start off by trying to deduce what it’s meant for."

while this tendency might actually have the potential to make a person study the art piece until they find meaning, combine that tendency with a short attention-span (and the fact that much art evades one specific meaning), and the viewer quickly gives up or disregards the piece rather than investigating it more deeply.

on the headphones: 'part 12' by rhian sheehan, from the album 'standing in silence'.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

standing in silence

i rush to write this even before i've finished listening to all the tracks - nz electronic musician rhian sheehan's new album 'standing in silence' is a triumph.

i've long been a fan of ambient electronic music probably since it subliminally forced its way into my young subconscious via endless hours of my brother playing the likes of tangerine dream, vangelis, jean michel jarre and other synth geniuses.

anyway, in recent years i've developed a distinct taste for artists like m83, mogwai, sigur ros, mum etc often from the chilly climes of the northern hemisphere. i've always liked rhian sheehan too, but not this much...

his new release channels a whole lot of great stuff, and i can hear a bit of mum in there and sigur ros, maybe a touch of vangelis. it also reminds me of the soundtrack for the aussie film 'somersault' by decoder ring.

to make it that much more tempting, you'll find it on itunes for NZ$11.99 in a non-drm high bitrate form (also on emusic). 14 tracks of absolute goodness for 12 bucks!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

HSR safelittleworld remix

the second piece in my remix project.

some comments about the piece: The 'cut-up' methodology for this piece was more extreme than it was for the Kinkade piece, and the 'remixing' more extensive. I read through the Steiner Rice volume and wrote down individual lines that appealed to me - extracting words from their rhyming couplet context. The role of personal aesthetic was even more evident here than in the Kinkade - as lines that resonated for me may not resonate for another reader. Having written a fair bit of poetry myself, I couldn't help feeling slightly guilty about removing the lines from where Steiner Rice had placed them. But I came across an interesting footnote in the collection I was reading: "This poem combines favorite lines from several other Helen Steiner Rice poems, a practice Mrs Rice sometimes used when pressured to produce new verse on demand."

Using some of the lines I had selected, I reworked them into a new poem, placing lines together with a kind of conceptual flow, and thereby creating meaning by placing concepts side by side. Graphical treatment of the resulting poem had a lot to do with typography. I further fragmented the lines by placing them as broken parts across the page. I liked the idea of having certain parts of the text blocked out. There is a mystery to blocked out, crossed out, twinked out text - it sparks a kind of desire in the reader as you look for hidden words and meaning. Working with the Steiner Rice material and reading her biography, I couldn't help feeling there was powerful subtext operating in her poetry, hidding behind the greeting card rhymes and sentimentality.

In an urban context, graffiti is also blocked out by city officials - as can be seen, in fact, in the photograph I chose for this piece.

To create the text to be blocked out in the poem I used 'latin' place-holder text and then crossed it out with a very heavy typographic line. In the event I actually quite liked the poem with it's 'nonsense' 'latin' interjections, for example "all my dreams were built around you dui te dunt / alit lobor augait iure i send a loving dart" - but kept with the blocked out text concept instead.

The final visable text reads:

but it is also my cathedral

all my dreams were built around you
i send a loving dart
built on ideals of
girls and boys
in lovely rapturous surprise
grant rebirth to man’s slumbering soul
a mere interlude of inflamed fascination
i’d like to be your shadow
across the years, we’ve met in dreams
but to keep the peace we must conquer the soul
become a seething sea of faces
the life he’s dreaming of
it’s the why and wherefore of infinite living
Christ is more than just a figure wrapped in ethereal glow
the comfort of transformation
so rest and relax and grow stronger
life is forever! death is a dream!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

TK safelittleworld remix

so here's the first piece of the thomas kinkade and helen steiner rice remix project. see this post for a wider discussion about the two artists. the text down the side of this piece reads: "kinkade morning light safe little world remix 09".

some comments about this piece: Having searched through the Thomas Kinkade coffee-table book that I got from the library, I found a few pictures which I thought might work for the project. I tried out a few of these on photographs I'd taken of back alley walls - an 'urban setting'. At this point it was clear that personal aesthetics were going to play a part. I was choosing my source material for what looked good (to my eye). My piece would be a remix or collage where my personal taste would come to bear. The Kinkade component that I chose is from a painting called 'Morning Light'. Kinkade's caption for the piece reads, "In 'Morning Light', a flower garden becomes a fabulous canvas onto which the morning sun paints a glowing picture. Suffused through the mist, the light dazzles with subtle flashes of color."

I liked the juxtaposition of the brick wall with the urban alley wall, and the vivid colours with the muted tones of the photograph. Where others have subverted Kinkade, I tried to treat the material with more positivity, genuinely aiming to make the Kinkade element look its best in the context. I wasn't trying to make fun of it.

I overlaid the Kinkade part and 'degraded' it a bit and wrapped it around the window to make it blend and appear more like it was applied to the wall by some very talented urban artist. At the bottom of the picture though, the Kinkade part overlaps the curb so that in some ways it is still distinct from the wall itself.

tomorrow: the steiner rice piece.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

the painter of light, the ambassador of sunshine vs safe little world, pt 1

Two of the most commercially successful artists of the American 20th century also happened to be Christians. Poet Helen Steiner Rice and painter Thomas Kinkade 'captured the hearts' of the American middleclass with a commercially viable artistic style that could be called something like 'Christian Romanticism' - a warm view of the world and humanity laced with Christian concepts.

Burgeois, trite, chocolate-box, sentimental, kitsch in the view of people that appreciate art and literature on the cutting edge, what Steiner Rice and Kinkade have produced is undeniably 'successful' in terms of sheer popularity.

I grew up surrounded by Christian pop culture, albeit removed from the USA. Our Sunday School and Bible-in-Schools classes were illustrated by flannelgraph and soft-focus poster images of woodlands overlaid by uplifting scripture verses. These illustrations were indicative of a machine that was (in the early 80s) already in full swing manufacturing product for a lucrative Christian market.

My first awareness of Helen Steiner Rice comes in the form of a memory of Mum buying greeting cards at the local news agent stationery shop. As a four year old (or so) I helpfully select a floral card from the rack for my mother's consideration. She looks inside, and with a definite air of something on the spectrum of repulsion says, "No, that's a Helen Steiner Rice card." My mother is clearly queasy about a type of poetry which I would later come to label 'doggeral', overly sentimental, and perhaps penned under the influence of Christianity tainted by humanism (that concept came from Mum). We did, however, have a collection of HSR's poems on our bookshelf at home - a gift, as I recall it - from a well-meaning friend of my mother's.

My concious awareness of Kinkade came later, after I had already grown up and been to university, after I had turned my back with disgust on Christian cliché and had gone off seeking after artforms that I felt engaged with Christian concepts in a more meaningful, grittier, cutting edge way; before then returning to kitsch Christian commercialism with a kind of curiosity touched with affection. In hindsight, I had probably seen his work before, but my attention was drawn to him sharply by a book called Making Contemporary Art: How Today's Artists Think and Work by Linda Weintraub. In this wide-ranging book, Weintraub had clearly decided that America's top-selling artist should be considered along with all the other artists more readily acceptable to the tastes of the art establishment. My interest was piqued.

In my own art, I had been looking for opportunities to critique the product of Christian commercialism that I had grown up with. I decided that a way to do this was to attempt a blending of the two bastions of Christian commercial art - Steiner Rice and Kinkade - with a style that I was personally working with - a gritty urban context. I wanted to see what would become of their work if I took it, 'remixed' it, and reimagined it a context removed from the comfortable living rooms of Bible Belt America.

In the event, the conceptual side of the project has probably outweighed the artistic merit and weight of the finished product. The more I thought about the project the more it formed a conceptual grid of ideas in my mind - most of them probably impossible to make explicit in the art itself without some kind of accompanying document.

I started out by doing some research to learn a bit more about the artists and also find the material that I would 'sample' for my remix. A coffee-table biography of Kinkade, illustrated with large colour reproductions, was easy to find at the local library, as was the collected works of Steiner Rice.

Thomas Kinkade is self-styled and promoted as 'the painter of light' - interesting when compared with the fact that Helen Steiner Rice was known as 'the ambassador of sunshine'. The research lent some interesting insights into each artist.

Steiner Rice

Steiner Rice was born in 1900 and died in 1981 - a life and career span that takes in all the turmoil of the 20th century. Her work was in marketing for an electric light company and then later for Gibson Art - a greeting card manufacturer. When the greeting card editor at Gibson died suddenly in the mid-1930s, Steiner Rice took over the job, and so the mass output of her verse began. When the stock market crashed in 1929, her husband (a banker) descended into depression and never recovered - taking his own life in 1932. Having been touched by this event and some of the other dramatic events of the 1900s, one thing that is noticeable about her poetry when it is read in collected form is that her subject matter is not always light and airy. She writes about grief, death and winter, but nearly always with a hopeful twist appropriate for a greeting card. What is also notable is that regardless of her subject matter, her style is always the same.

An advertising poem she wrote to promote the use of electricity in the home:

The Happiness of Housekeeping

Your room shines out in splendour,
No dirt or dust is seen,
Because the rugs within your house
Are bright and Hoover-clean.

A poem that deals with her own death:

When I Must Leave You

When I must leave you for a little while,
Please go on bravely with a gallant smile
And for my sake and in my name,
Live on and do all things, the same -
Spend not your life in empty days,
But fill each waking hour in useful ways -
Reach out your hand in comfort and in cheer,
And I in turn will comfort you and hold you near.

Helen Steiner Rice’s books of inspirational poetry have sold nearly seven million copies.

Thomas Kinkade

Kinkade was born in 1958. Having started as an art student at University of California at Berkeley, he dropped out after two years and eventually published a guide to sketching which sold well. He hit upon a popular style of painting which sold extremely well in galleries across California and he eventually formed his own company, Media Arts Group Inc. The paintings are sold through mail-order and dedicated franchises, and are available in formats ranging from 'originals' (hand painted copies signed by Kinkade) to posters and calendars.

Meanwhile, from 1994-1997, Russian artists Alex Melamid and Vitaly Komar hired a research company as part of a fascinating conceptual art project to conduct interviews to find out what ordinary people most want to see in a painting. The research was conducted across several nations, and then Melamid and Komar painted the pictures that people most wanted to see (according to the resulting statistics). To summarise their findings, people most want to see landscapes, hills, a tree, a big lake, they like the colour blue, they want to see deer, families and George Washington (I assume that last one is influenced by American data). 88% of Americans surveyed favour outdoor scenes over any other representation.

Interestingly, quite separately to Kinkade, they have arrived at a rather fitting description of Kinkade's work (although I've never seen this fact mentioned elsewhere). The genius of Kinkade was hitting on the formula without the research. And so, it is estimated (by Kinkade's own company) that 1 in 20 American homes have a Kinkade print. Kinkade is reported to have earned $53 million for his artistic work in the period 1997 to May 2005.

Melamid & Komar:


In rough form here are some of the things that I wanted to experiment with in my project:
  • commercial art tested out in a non-commercial space
  • idealised sentiments tested out in an unideal context
  • 'Christian Romanticism' remixed into an 'unromantic' context
  • a test of Christian culture in the 'marketplace' - the commercial marketplace and the 'marketplace' in the sense that evangelicals talk about it as the place we live and work
  • if the work of these two artists is in fact 'beautiful' then they are being given a chance to 'beautify' an 'unbeautiful' space
  • testing work designed for a refined suburban context in the back alleys of an urban / suburban setting
  • contrasting the aesthetics of urban / street art with the aesthetics of popular art - both are 'art of the people'
That's the background, next up my pictures...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


a superb 'flight of the conchords' tshirt that all you ex-pat, oeing kiwis may wish to invest in - will save time with casual enquirers... [available here].

Friday, January 09, 2009


i was just thinking how much i like mashups: "a song or composition created from the combination of the music from one song with the a cappella from another. A mash-up is a song created out of pieces of two or more songs, usually by overlaying the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the music track of another. In full swing at the end of the 20th century, mashups have been described positively as "ultimate post-modern pop song[s]" or "'culture jamming in its purest form'". [wikipedia]

here are some reasons i like them:
- they take the catchiest part of tune and use it shamelessly
- they use samples that you would need to have hundreds of millions of dollars to get clearance for
- they subvert the pop form
- they are all about enjoyment against money-making

here are some great examples so you can check it yourself...

- stereogum (in association with team9 - hey jono, they're aussies!) releases a free annual mashup compilation: vol3, vol2, vol1
- girl talk is one of the best-known mashup artists: his latest album is available on a pay what you want basis.
- and then there's 'bootie' - a mashup party in usa. each year they release a free 'best of' compilation: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005.

just a slight word of warning: because rap vocals are easy to lift, a lot of mashups use them, and there is corresponding bad language in places.