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A single recommendation...
    Posts: 1,231
    Right, so I've been thinking about this for a while. I quite like when people recommend things. What I don't like (which is endemic on forums) is when I say 'hey, could you recommend me some [genre x]' and get an unfathomable list of a million records. So I wondered what happens when you limit people to just the ONE recommendation. Without wanting to put too many caveats on this, if you could recommend something that most people WON'T have heard, that'd be great (and hence limiting it to just one - obscurantism is another internet disease).

    Datblygu. I almost think it's a shame they're Welsh, because they're far too good to be ignored on something so spurious as singing in a language very few people speak. By comparison to other Welsh-language bands (Fflaps or Y Gwefrau) I find Datblygu continually compelling, sinister, vile, acerbic, terrifying... rather than just interesting. The other problem Datblygu have is they're a LOT like the Fall... in as far it's quite scrappy, it does seem like a mad drunk barking a lot. But, well, usually bands ripping off the Fall ends badly. Datblygu somehow manage to reconnect so some spirit of bucolic comedy. There's a sense of ridiculousness, in spite of not understanding the language, when an recognisably-English phrase pops up in, say, this:

    And it's a bit trite for me to say, relying as I do on sleevenote translations, but the lyrics are just phenomenal. Bitter paeans not to Wales' greatness (as per most Welsh-language preservationists, save for Tystion maybe) but to how shit it is being stuck in rural post-Thatcherite Wales. A band far too good to be as obscure as they are.

    Wyau, Psyt and Libertino (2xCD boxset of their three Ankst LPs) is available from your favourite popular music outlets.

    I'll stop there as I could bleat on about them for ages. But yeah. BTB - hit me up with some dopeness I've not heard (or read, watched, looked at, danced to etc) please.
  • Surely you've actually given 3 recommendations there? :)

    Okay, with a movie - one of the best films I saw last year was Zulawski's "Possession". It's got Sam Neill and Isbelle Adjani, and is basically an insane malestorm of screaming and emotional overload from the opening shot. All the intensity of your worst, your most terrible relationship breakup cranked up entirely to the next level and given horrendous psychedelic form. SUCH SUCH SUCH a good film. And really next level in terms of plot twists and so on - I've still no idea what the end is about. Killer cinematography as well.

    Writing this makes me remember I haven't seen any of his other films. I must rectify this forthwith!
  • And a music recommendation:

    I am particularly fond of English psychedelia. I like it because rather than go the screaming acid guitars of madness route of many American bands (fine though that is) a lot of British musicians chose to go the route of geenteel tweeness. An aspect of this is expressed in the dark mysteries of toytown psych wherein grown men basically make music about being five years old – an acquired taste (one I have acquired I admit). Beyond this other influences that impinge on English psych are Victoriana, shades of the music halls, the second world war and brass bands, all these are influences that would’ve been lurking in the near to recent pasts of 60s musicians and when with combined with mod pop art sensibilities and the ability to write killer hooks and melodies well then, you’re “cooking with gas”. One band that seem to exemplify this for me are Turquoise – much of whom’s material was unreleased until a CD a few years back. Here’s my favourite track from the CD – Sister Saxophone.

  • expexp
    Posts: 2,638
    My single recommendation is Yoji Enokido's current TV series Star Driver: Takuto of the Radiance. It may not be the most consistently enjoyable serial I've seen in the last few years but it's amongst the most interesting. I tend to like it more when I'm not actually watching it; it has far more subtext than actual, y'know, text.

    The plot centres around two *secret societies/after-school clubs* vying for control of robotic warriors left hidden deep underground by an ancient alien civilisation. In practice it's much more complex; each of the two opposing sides is further factionalised, with every individual having their own agenda. Heavily ritualised arena combat between duelling robots takes place in an alternate reality outside of space and time, the result being that their teenage pilots cannot be harmed, while the robots themselves can be reconstituted after being destroyed in battle. This is combined with the fact that the names of the robots are based on the Phoenician alphabet; once you know the names of that episodes' combatants you can pause the show, work out their numerical values and forecast the winner (although in practice the protagonist has been top trump every week so far, a quirk of unassailable mathematics). This, coupled with the re-used loops of animation each episode, is a cunning undermining of the the action sequence as plot-driver... these action sequences run on rails, determined fatalistically, with no lasting consequences, and are yet another sci-fi/fantasy representation of the Japanese obsession with honorifics as well as being a comment on the anime trope of reusing stock animation and a piss-take of the Shonen (boys' serial) trope of having every problem solved In The Ring without any lasting ramifications. Accordingly, Star Driver has virtually no plot momentum, instead propelled almost exclusively by developing its own weird abyssal subtext.

    The premise of the show seems determined entirely by its extra-animated context; if you don't have to deal with the fall-out from the death of your teenaged pilots then you can position your show as a throwaway romantic comedy high-school farce and sell both dating simulations and giant robot beat-em-eps as your video game tie ins. Star Driver is the product of another inspired demographic mash-up; it airs early on Sunday mornings, in a slot watched by children who are just waking up and adult clubbers mashed out of their skulls returning home after a night out. As if these four disparate collisions weren't enough, the writer Enokido is into BDSM, psychology, magic and theoretical physics (one of his earlier series contained the first ever attempt to visually represent the Cosmic Censorship Hypothesis). The result is a series that lampoons itself constantly; Enokido has a fine eye for slash pairings and threesomes (all the relationships are about sex at some level); everything exists in a weird liminal state of Freudian and Jungian overload; there's a genderfuck element in terms of locating the male protagonist within the kind of ritualised transformation sequence usually reserved for Magical Girl anime; and the static pointlessness of the narrative is a neat evocation of high school life.

    Episode 15 (out of a total of 25) aired on Sunday, the fansubbers usually have the English translation online by late the same day (an insane amount of high-speed work given the weirdness and complexity of the subject matter, completed to an amazingly high standard). For anyone who has previously watched anime by Yoji Enokido, Star Driver is like watching Gunbuster II, Revolutionary Girl Utena and Ouran High School Host Club at the same time. It's almost a remake of Utena in some ways, and considering that earlier series had lesbians that turned into cars there can be no higher recommendation. For a non-anime fan, imagine a cross between The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, Gossip Girl and Power Rangers.

    This write-up doesn't come close to describing how absurdly mundane this series manages to remain while being conceptually fucked into a cocked hat.
  • exp - I don't know anyone as capable as you of making things I am almost certain I will neither comprehend nor enjoy sound so appealing :)
  • _ch__ch_
    Posts: 1,899
    pondered this for a long time....
    its a very good exercise. i was inclined to settle on a band, or an album, like the
    goodbye babylon boxset, or eric dolphy and richard davis playing "come sunday"; but then what about the films of laurel and hardy?
    so in the end, i plumped for a somewhat left-field choice, thats very special to me...

    How do we all feel about computer games? :-D
    i'm ambivalent. at their best, they are utterly compelling, immersive experiences; at worst, well... Most games lie somewhere in between, and are often useful for filling up a spare half hour or something; but if a game is compelling and immersive, i tend to end up devoting all my time to it, till its done.
    In this sense, i used to consider a game a better value investment than most albums - the game would probably have a shorter shelf life (depending on what it is, once i've completed a game i rarely return to it) but that shorter lifespan could be more intense than most albums could dream of.
    Games from the Resident Evil series, the Silent Hill series and the Project Zero series (for example) have given me weeks and months of "pleasure" - not the right word at all, more an "intensity of experience". (that sounds pretentious tho. :-) )
    I'd heartily recommend them to anyone.
    Of course they're silly, no way around that; running around mixing herbs to heal yrself, putting diamonds in diamond-shaped holes and firing flamethrowers at zombies is, y'know, questionable.
    :-D and they have occupied a dubious spot in our entertainment culture. But certainly with the silent hill series (and to a slightly lesser extent the project zero games) theres a very intelligent psychological manipulation of the player, using the tiniest elements to prod the players imagination. quick example: going into a room in silent hill 2 (3?) and finding an abandoned, rusted wheelchair... such an unsettling image.


    i have never owned a games console (beyond a gameboy), i've always used my dad's ;-)
    its just one of his little vices.
    we used to have a playstation 1, and i think i must have known my mum was buying him a playstation 2 for xmas; because i can remember very clearly being so excited about a PS2 game that i bought it before we even had the console.
    and that game was ICO

    (hererafter, there aren't any real spoilers as such (maybe one), but if you think you'd be interested in playing this, you might be better off just going to youtube and having a quick look there. i don't know.)

    ICO is one of those things; the things where only a small amount of people connect with it, but become almost evangelical in their love for it. It didn't matter that Sony made it a flagship release accompanying the unveiling of the PS2, or that it received near universal critical acclaim; no-one really bought it, and it didn't capture public opinion.

    i think i may know some of the reasons for this.
    ICO is fundamentally different to most computer games in its "computer-game-ness". (hmmm.)
    For one thing, beyond a title screen with some menus and, i assume, a pause screen (really can't remember); there is none of the usual baggage that we are used to... No health bar, no maps, no weapon strength bar, no coins to collect, no health to collect, no skills or weapons to build up. Nothing. Just you on a screen.
    Secondly, whereas most computer games consist of stimulating excitement thru a continual barrage of ramping situations, developments, opponents etc; ICO is, by comparison, placid and restful; "empty" even. The joy in this game lies less in the "doing" of things, and more in the "not doing".

    To summarise all you need know: you play Ico, a small, horned boy who is abandoned in a castle by his village; upon exploring the castle he comes across a captive girl called Yorda, and the rest of the game is spent trying to escape the sprawling fortress.( At this point, i have no doubt that many of you are fidgeting nervously and rolling yr eyes.) This is achieved by solving various puzzles, all bound into the architecture of the castle as a rule; and defending yourselves against attacks from strange shadowy things that try to drag Yorda away.
    Curiously this combat element, which is incredibly simplistic and basic, is one of the few things that annoy in the game. To be fair, it doesn't happen much in the game really, but when it does its a definite annoyance, because i want to get back to "not doing"!
    (The end sequence has combat that becomes so prolonged, that it transcends this and just becomes... odd)

    the "not doing"...
    this is a game which can possibly be summed up in two words: beautiful simplicity.
    everything extraneous has been removed, anything distracting has been edited out. Even with the combat, theres essentially only one kind of opponent.
    so you are left with yrself, and Ms Yorda, exploring a beautiful, empty castle.
    and this is the joy of the game: just walking about, looking around you.
    a great element of the game is the discovery of the outside of the castle - you start inside, where its dark, enclosed and silent, and then the first time proper that you go outside, to the top of the castle, the world becomes full of light and sound and life. And its so open... you find yrself looking out over a massive, ranging landscape, with no other signs of human life
    and this is where i've spent most time.
    Its such a quiet game; i have spent hours just sitting down, looking over forests or sea; listening to the wind and the calls of gulls.
    its incredibly calming, satisfying.
    the incredible sense of space that the game has, has been rarely equalled; and its combined with an intelligent, "artistic" use of perspective which heightens this.

    the other major element of the game is Ms Yorda herself. She speaks an alien language, which is subtitled on-screen in hieroglyphics; so you really have no idea whats going on at any point with her. This adds to the quiet simplicity. To be blunt, you spend alot of time literally dragging Yorda around, hand in hand; or calling/coaxing her to follow you. She's an ethereal figure, and frail. There is a definite sexism argument to be made, regarding boy protecting defenceless girl and dragging her all over a castle etc. Although in the game's defence, the narrative does make it clear that Yorda is an incredibly powerful figure, who's being rendered largely impotent by the castle itself; and indeed its her who eventually saves Ico.
    Both Ico and Yorda are presented as lonely, cursed figures, who connect despite the lack of obvious communication. Its a very sweet relationship; so sweet that it really is beautiful and involving.

    so, if i told you that some of the happiest moments of my life have been spent sitting down next to Yorda, on top of a castle......

  • _ch__ch_
    Posts: 1,899
    this is a clip from the game.
    it does have some annoying combat, and the person playing is rushing thru it, but it gives you a sense...

    Posts: 1,231
    Perhaps I should've stipulated one thing from a given medium; feel free to have second pops at other mediums, as Herr Illmatic has. And I'll come back with a computer game in a bit because, well, I've never stopped being an 8-year-old boy about computer games.
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,638
    I deliberately avoid video games like the plague. Not because I dislike them... I kinda feel as though they're the ultimate entertainment medium, but at 80 hours + to complete some of them I just can't afford to use up vast chunks of my life like that. I've seen ICO played before, as well as its spiritual sequel Shadow of the Colossus, and I understand that the same creators have a third game coming out in 2011, but... well, the games all seem like loving tributes to Ocarina of Time, which sucked me in like no game since my C64 days of Elite, The Sentinel and Paradroid. The new Zelda non-handheld games are the only video games I allow myself to play; I've completed Ocarina, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess and had a whale of a time doing so.

    Another recommendation, this time a comic:

    Kiyohiko Azuma's Yotsuba&! has, on the surface, absolutely nothing to recommend it. There is no high concept; no overarching plot; barely any self-contained plot within each issue; and a subtext that can be summed up in two words (handily provided for you in each of the collected volumes). There is no sex, violence, swearing, next to no intrigue, nothing much really happens, there's virtually no conflict, practically nothing that could be described as 'dark.' Aren't we supposed to find 'dark' things more worthy of our time than anything else these days? They're supposed to be more 'realistic,' right? Because only violent, morally ambiguous stories filmed on a handheld can be realistic... right?

    Well, for the most part, Yotsuba&! is unfailingly 'realistic,' if that's the highest accolade we can give a story these days (what a sad, impoverished world we live in). It's also hilarious. In a way that has virtually no barb or edge. It's riveting in a manner at which most thrillers fail. It's teeming with pitch perfect detail; every facial expression conveys a character's internal life with an almost ruthless economy of line, shape and space; every house, street, animal and telegraph pole seems to share a three-dimensional real world counterpart (it's impossible to believe that these aren't real places that you can visit); every joke - whether it's poignant character-based humour, daft wordplay, farcical comedy or errors, surreal juxtaposition, moronic horsing about or classic slapstick - is constructed with such obsessive attention to pacing, panel design and cumulative tension/release that you wonder how it's possible for one man to be writing and drawing the entire comic by himself.

    Make no mistake: this is the pinnacle of the comic art form. Other creators have produced comics that are every bit as absorbing, but they had fallback positions (things like plot, fight scenes, nudity etc) to allow them to rest from time to time when they couldn't think of a storytelling strategy. Yotsuba&! has no fallback position. The one thing that Azuma has to make this compelling is his absolute mastery of the medium. It's like watching a filmmaker with Chris Nolan's skill and megalomania devoting himself to directing, writing and animating episodes of Rugrats for Nicolodeon.

    What is it about? A little girl and her adoptive father move house. They meet their neighbours. And go fishing. Or to the beach. On one occasion they make shelves.

    Cake is eaten. Milk is drunk. Bicycle journeys to the shop are undertaken.

    One of the best chapters involves picking up acorns.

    What can I compare it to? It's like Seinfeld without the cynicism. Calvin & Hobbes without the flights of fantasy. Linda, Linda, Linda for a younger age group. Jim Jarmusch without the arty pretensions. Azumanga Daioh only richer in character, humour and detail. Winnie the Pooh without the anthropomorphic plushies and nerve-janglingly twee Disney adaptation. Outnumbered without the improvisation or slightly off-putting Britishness overload. A parenting manual with jokes and recurring characters.

    It's funny, profound, warm, insightful, relentlessly enjoyable and should probably be prescribed to people with depression, terminal cynics and people whose Americentrism has permanently warped their sense of 'realism.' The only argument to be had is whether it's the best ongoing comic that's still being published at the moment or whether it's the best comic ever written.
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,638
    Illmatic said: One band that seem to exemplify this for me are Turquoise – much of whom’s material was unreleased until a CD a few years back. Here’s my favourite track from the CD – Sister Saxophone.

    I've finally given myself a day off, so I've just got round to listening to this. Great tune.

  • alan
    Posts: 29
    favourite Italo jam:

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    favourite Giorgio Moroder:

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  • Clive - I tried to get ICO on a PS2 emulator but couldn't get it to work

    But that planted a seed in my mind and left me with the vague desire to play a computer game.

    And last night I installed Half Life on my pc - the first game I've installed on a pc in about 9 years.

    This may only peripherally be traceable to you, but nonetheless, you started this. If it ruins my life and turns me into a drooling, unproductive, gameplaying halfwit I'm blaming you.*

    *Reactionary, culturally elitist, fogeyish opinions contained in this post should be taken as an honest reflection of the poster's mindset. However, the poster accepts that his mindset is unhealthy, reactionary etc.
  • Seth - interestingly a (handheld) Zelda game was the last game I played. The one with the boats on the DS, whatever it was called.

    I bought a cheap secondhand DS to play it when I was feeling rough/wound up, to while away hours. I enjoyed it for a couple of days, but then it turned me into a drooling unproductive zombified halfwit for a week and left me feeling vaguely angry.
    Immediately after finishing it I sold my DS and decided never to walk into a computer game shop again.
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,638
    Sandor Krasna said: Seth - interestingly a (handheld) Zelda game was the last game I played. The one with the boats on the DS, whatever it was called.

    I bought a cheap secondhand DS to play it when I was feeling rough/wound up, to while away hours. I enjoyed it for a couple of days, but then it turned me into a drooling unproductive zombified halfwit for a week and left me feeling vaguely angry.

    Yup. That's why I only allow myself to play the new Zelda games, and even then I restrict the platform on which I allow myself to play it (no handhelds).

    Which leads me to this little problem:

    2011 release date. Will this be the first major test of my marriage?

    Well, the second, if you include the fact that I'm an idiot.
  • _ch__ch_
    Posts: 1,899
    Sandor Krasna said: I tried to get ICO on a PS2 emulator but couldn't get it to work

    hmmm. don't tell me that..!
    thinking about ico made me want to play it again - tho actually i could just play it in my lunchbreaks at my parents. that'll contain the life-destroying elements of gaming....

    i've got to persuade my dad to get a PS3... ha
    for this....
    (ICO 3)

    Posts: 1,231
    I find it incredibly amusing that you're not on facebook but are now on Half Life. [Edit: to Krasna]

    On the subject of computer games, the best game I've played since the days when computer games didn't feel a bit sick and wrong (ie, the days before I could go down the pub or successfully hold down a conversation with an actual woman) is I wanna be the guy (the movie: the game). It's a free download game made on freeware. It's free, and here:

    That sounds like a plug,and it is. Honestly, the most compellingly addictive thing since heroin (I imagine, your honour).

    This from the website: "I Wanna Be The Guy: The Movie: The Game is a sardonic loveletter to the halcyon days of early American videogaming, packaged as a nail-rippingly difficult platform adventure. Players fill the role of The Kid, a youthful, vaguely Megaman-esque protagonist on a quest to become The Guy."

    And it is difficult. Excruciatingly so. I've given the game to people who've struggled for thirty or more minutes moving more than a screen or two. EVERYTHING kills you. I can't imagine anyone completing it without using the walkthroughs on youtube (though fair play if you do manage it). I can't quite explain quite why it's so compelling, because it really was a hell of a lot of work completing it (3-4 months of solid playing). It's just a simple, cute platformer; there's plenty of references to gaming history (Metroid, the Megaman series, Ducktales, Mario [etc etc]). The gameplay is pretty varied -there's no two screens where you have to do exactly the same thing, and there's a multiple routes thing if you really are stuck on one section. I think it's the thing of quite how satisfying it is when you finish that thing you've died on 1000 times.

    Uh... yeah. Give it a try, and I'm accepting no responsibility for broken keyboards, unproductivity or agitated partners.
  • _ch__ch_
    Posts: 1,899
    presume this is for PC?

    my friend recommended a free game, but i couldn't get a PC emulator/whatever thing to work on my mac - might be cavestory?
    he was very gushing about it tho.

    actually, just got it to work... but i'm sure the one he spoke of was quite dark, or maybe it gets dark..
    i don't know.
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,638
    martin_p said: i've got to persuade my dad to get a PS3... ha
    for this....
    (ICO 3)

    That looks amazing. I'm a sucker for anything that feels like it's going to be a playable Hayao Miyazaki movie.

    Although I couldn't help but watch Miller's Crossing in my head as soon as the music started. Difficult to stay in fantasy land when all you can think of is film noir... although some would say that's just trading one fantasy land for another.
  • Kev said: find it incredibly amusing that you're not on facebook but are now on Half Life. [Edit: to Krasna]

    On Half Life? Are you thinking of Second Life? Half Life is just like Quake with Resident Evilish bits as far as I can tell, not an online thing at all afaik. I'm not one of those people... God.*

    *See disclaimer on previous post.

    Posts: 1,231
    Ah, yes, sorry, my mistake. Pray continue.
  • _ch__ch_
    Posts: 1,899

    i didn't even think of that...

    serious money to be made in second life, folks...
    i'm told......

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