Friday 29 April 2011

Books and Music

More books I've been reading

A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving
The Bridge by Iain Banks
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord by Louis de Bernières
The World According to Garp by John Irving

It's a good list I think - I really enjoyed all of these books. First time for me with both Conrad and Steinbeck: very good indeed, particularly The Secret Sharer and Tortilla Flat. I seem to have become a real fan of John Irving - I've read and loved four of his books on the trip; he's an amazing story-teller with a devious mind and an intimate touch. Thanks to Erik Gorter, whom we met in Kenya some 26 months ago at the beginning of this trip, for turning me onto him.

Music I've been listening to

Mainly house mixes, seem to have temporarily taken a break from my world music selection. Did hear a squarepusher band album that was quite interesting.

Derrick Carter Live @ Footwork, Toronto 02/04/2011
My Number 1 DJ really is a wiz, and particularly slick at eq'ing, filters and fx. He really works the mixer on this one with some great new disco house tunes and the odd acapella.

Derrick Carter Live @ King King, Hollywood 22/01/2011
Great section where he uses MLK "I have a dream" speech and Malcolm X (I think) too over a cpla tunes, including Armando's Land of Confusion, effecting to great ... effect - and then seques into a track called "house negro". He's really thinking about what he's doing! Also a wicked old disco section, including Teddy Pendergrass's "you can't hide".

Best mix I've heard by FK for a long while, didn't like his techno sets much. He's moved to digital right? (although he plays at least one record in this set, you can tell) - I'm not sure whether it's his style or the technology, but I find his mixes sound digital, a little forced, not natural, and his eq'ing a bit ... jerky, at times. However, this is a great selection and he does some great things with a sample and fx at one point.

Carl Craig, Francesco Tristano & Moritz Von Oswald Live @ Infiné Week, Gaîté Lyrique 14/04/2011
Only just downloaded this, but what I have heard sounds AMAZING, the real deal, live techno, you don't hear this kind of thing too much. Respect to the masters.

The Philosophy of Sound and Machine
My Australian techno fiend, Andy Craswell, whom we met in Laos a year and a half ago, reminded me of this great compilation on one of his facebook updates. I then managed to get very slightly involved in a conversation about bootlegging with Kirk Degiorgio, one of the guys responsible for putting it out, with Mike Dred, Richard D James and B12 copied in. My friend Andy has my heroes as friends.

Legowelt - Juno Plus Podcast 02/03/2011
Great selection of old, unknown and new house music and oddities (Lebanese dabke from 1982 anyone?) from Legowelt here - particularly like the mixes in and out of chic "le freak".

Mark Farina - Hot Dogs
My second favourite house dj is a bit patchy IMHO when it comes to recorded mixes - some are incredible and some are in places a bit... 'softcock' as we say in the trade, 'scuse my french. But this is absolute gold, a real spirit of deep house thing, from 2004.

Dr Colonic - The Don
One of mine that I made for my friend Chris Don, who I seem to have managed to fall out of touch with. If you're out there Chris, would be great to hear from you, hope you and your family are well. This is the tracklist, classics pretty much all the way...

gina x - no gdm
joyce sims - all in all (remix)
Suzy Q - Get On Up And Do It Again
talking heads - once in a lifetime (carl craig edit)
Marcel King – Reach For Love
jamie principle / frankie knuckles - your love
Afrika Bambaataa / Soulsonic Force – Renegades Of Funk
Deodato - Keep it in the family
eurythmics - love is a stranger
telex - moskow diskow
gorillaz - dare
luke eargoggle - ocarina of time
***men - we love
Syclops - Mom The Video Broke
Unkle Feat Ian Brown - Reign (remix)
afx - analord (not sure which one)
some ambient tune
talk talk - it's my life
kraftwerk - tour de france
landscape - einstein a go go
some jazz tune!

Monday 4 April 2011

Alex on Ecuador

We immediately fell in love with it, even though it was very cold and wet when we entered the country at something above 3,000m. In Tulcan, right on the northern border, I met a butcher in the local market while looking for our morning juice. Rodrigo just wouldn’t let me go, he wanted to practise his English so badly, and then meet his son Patricio, so that he could practise too – then his daughter and his wife … you get the idea. We ended up staying there for 5 days when we hadn’t even planned on staying one. And it was so worth it - Rodrigo took us to some local thermal baths, which we reached by walking back over the border with Colombia in a tiny village. No passport control, woo hoo!, v exciting. While in the pool, we chatted to a young army guy who was there protecting some important dude – all the while his machine gun was pointed directly at my head, that was different. Rodrigo also took us to an amazing ecological reserve near Huacha, about 35 km from Tulcan, where we saw real cloud forest for the first time and real ‘Paramo’ (high altitude plains), with weird plants that reminded us of climbing Mount Kenya, which is also on the equator as it goes. This place is like the only place in the world where the Guandera tree grows – check the website here.

So anyway, enough of this writing business - how about a list of the things we will remember about Ecuador?

Best hot salsa in Latin America (ok - so far) – looks a bit like satay sauce, loads of chilli, lemon?, something else and loads of red onion. Mayonnaise flavour crisps. Guinea pigs as food. Preachy, semi-religious sellers on the buses. Best quality hooky DVDs in Latin America - apparently. Weird, crap pop music, as well as interesting traditional music, different from the rest. Ridiculous changes in altitude over short distances. Cheap travel – a dollar an hour. Better food than Colombia. Real poverty on the coast. Footballers don’t like to play in Ecuador because you lose your strength on the Equator.

Quito is an awesome city. We loved – climbing the towers of the very gothic Basilica (people younger and fitter than us didn’t make it to the top); taking the teleferico up to 4,100m to look down on the city; the incredible Guayasamin (Ecuadorian Picasso) museums; the Jardin Botanico, one of the best I have seen; the massive Parque Metropolitano, which definitely has live bears in it; the Museo Intiñan at the REAL equator, not the monument the French built in the wrong place – and, a 3 hr ride from the city, the absolutely incredible Papallacta thermal baths, beautiful blue-tiled pools amidst mountains in the Amazonas region that every parent will definitely want to go to. I never thought I could spend like a whole day in a bath, but that was very more-ish indeed. And cheap at 7 dollars entry.

Alex on Colombia

The ubiquitous cry of ‘A la orden!’. Arepas instead of tortillas. Drunken Kogi indians. More bananas than you’ve ever seen before. Tree tomato juice. Tropical music on the Costa Caribe. Aguardiente - aniseed flavoured firewater. Big, edible ants. Hello Colombia!

We spent the full two months allocated by the border guy, who kindly double-scribed '60 days' on my passport, so that when we left for Ecuador they thought I had tried to fiddle my allowance. It’s a massive country, over half the size of Mexico, and apparently the 5th most visited in the world over the last year. Many people we have met on the trip said that it was their favourite country, with the friendliest people. For us, it was kind of ... nearly there.

Lots of different altitudes and climates, from the sweltering coast to the consistent freezing wet cloud of Bogota. As is my wont, I found some parallels with Mexico – the traditional music on the radio and the dress style in the small rural villages, for example. Instead of Pulque (made from the fermented sap of the Agave plant), Colombians have Chicha – flavoured, fermented maize juice. We found the food in Colombia generally a bit samey and lacking - meat, rice and yucca (cassava), without much flair. But Colombian soups are definitely better than Mexico’s!

We loved Palomino, up on the coast – Mary and Vladimir at Pachamama were very kind to us and we were tempted to stay and volunteer as teachers for their project. We were quite taken with Bogota, particularly the hip, graffiti-adorned old quarter, La Candelaria. Many parts of Bogota look just like outer London, a trick which no other city has managed to achieve quite so successfully. And in Bogota, you can buy fairly good imitation English ales – a pale, a ruby and even a porter – at modern pubs such as the Bogota Beer Company (BBC)! We liked quaint Villa de Leyva, which was a bit like the Cotswolds, or the Lake District, without the lakes – and has one of the biggest central plazas in Latin America, kind of ridiculously big for such a small town. Lots of the farmland in Colombia has that English patchwork, hedgerow look, which is a bit weird. It turns out lots of highland Ecuador is even more like that.

Colombians don’t say 'provecho' in restaurants, as they do in Mexico and Ecuador. We were a bit shocked by the seemingly nouveau riche day-trippers up around Cartagena, turning up at Playa Blanca in a speedboat to spend a high-profile hour before jetting off to the next stop. Also, the loud party boat on the way to Playa Blanca was a bit Blackpool meets .. Miami?

There were many amazing bus journeys in Colombia, with crazy mountainous landscapes (getting up to San Gil, Santander and from Popayan to the border in the south come to mind). Also pretty crazy drivers – we saw an awful lot of recent, lethal accidents on the road and got quite used to having to wait an hour or so, while ... things were sorted out.

All in all, Colombia was stunning visually and certainly had enough to keep us there for two whole months – but we wish we’d got closer to the warm heart we are absolutely positive is there.