Review

Vessel destroyed my brain in the best way last Thursday.

Without friends, life would tend to be…well, different, and honestly, probably pretty lame.  In no way shape or form can I imagine not having the incredible and massive group of friends that I have been fortunate enough to amass over the years.  Where am I going with this?  Well with the assistance of my old friend and co-worker Jefferson last Thursday, I wouldn’t have known about the fact that Vessel was playing later that night.  Thanks to Jefferson and social networking however, I was able to catch this show at Kremwerk last Thursday.

Vessel is part of the ever growing list of awesomeness that Tri Angle Records has been politely pumping over the last four and a half years.  I first came across Vessel back in 2013 at (duh) Decibel Festival.  Having heard of Holy Other and Evian Christ, I decided to bounce up to Chop Suey (which is sadly closing soon if it hasn’t already) for the Tri Angle Records Showcase.  Suffice to say, the showcase completely blew me away and I became an instant follower of all things Tri Angle.

Tri Angle was formed in 2010 by Robin Carolan split between London and New York City.  Since then they have done an excellent job formulating a sound that they are now known for, and sticking to it, something that we don’t see as much from labels in this day and age.  Ten to twenty years ago when you found an electronic label, you would more than likely be able to hunt down anything else on the label and probably be pretty stoked about it because it would encompass a lot of the same sounds and/or mood.  Labels these days tend to be putting out so many releases from so many different artists that the art of label differentiation has unfortunately been a bit lost.  This is one of the reasons why Tri Angle is special to me.  You know what you’re getting yourself into when you listen to another Tri Angle Records artists: it’s going to be moody, dark, emotive, bass heavy, industrial, all complete with hidden elements of pop buried between all those other layers.

With that said, Vessel (Sebastian Gainsborough), released his first LP through Tri Angle in 2012.  Entitled Order of Noise, this debut LP saw the Bristol based artist sprinkle his own brand of synth heavy noise across platforms such as techno, industrial, and broken apart dubstep.  Here’s a favorite of mine off the album:

Definitely making an imprint on those who listened, the news of a new LP from Sebastian in 2014 was excellent news.  Released on September 15, 2014 Punish, Honey saw Vessel returning to a fair amount of noise oriented tunes, yet this time a bit more carefully constructed.  Oriented more towards a techno style 4-In-The-Floor beat, this fairly non-dancey, but head swaying styled noisey techno can easily be eaten up by any noise and industrial fan.  It’s slow, it’s sluggish, it’s dark and dreary.  Often sounding like you’re in the middle of some sort of heavy mechanical shop filled with multiple kinds of machines all working at once, Punish, Honey will definitely put you into a certain space, and keep you there whether you like it or not.  Personally, I love it.  Here’s one of my favorites off the new LP:

Fast forward a few years to last Thursday, and a random Google+ post from Jefferson mentioning Vessel in town for $10 got my ears perking heavy.  I hit up Jefferson immediately to get the complete details, and told him I’d meet him down there later.  After a delicious dinner and toasty bowl of sativa with another old friend in Fremont, I bounced down to Kremwerk around 11.30pm.

Container was currently on the decks spinning an eclectic mix of odd IDM infused bass music.  Surprisingly the tiny little space of Kremwerk was fairly full towards the stage, with lots of room to move around towards the bar area.  You never know who is going to be out at a low publicised show in Seattle, but that said, apparently Vessel has his followers.  Vessel stepped up to his table of equipment right around 12 Midnight and began what would end up being a full on journey.

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Beginning with some deep exploratory noise like his LP’s and EP’s, Vessel brought us all into his space through a full static sound bath to get things going.  The next 65 or so minutes were then filled to the brim with all things noise oriented, swimming around in slow industrial based techno beats, hints of Bristol dubstep, random sounds of gabber at 160bpm, and of course, more thick and heavy distorted synth patches.  Beyond the sounds, watching Sebastian have just as much fun up there pushing boundaries was also part of the show.  His stage presence is as such that you know he is fully in it, completely enjoying what he is doing, making, and experimenting with – just as much as we were all completely enjoying the sonic onslaught he provided for our ears.  Kremwerk’s tiny but punctual soundsystem did well handling the raw signal he was sending, as there was definitely no laptop to be seen anywhere on stage that evening.  Here’s some video I took from the night (you may want to turn your speakers down before playing as these are raw and LOUD):

By the end of the 65 minutes, I was already begging for more.  It is truly show like this that keep me interested in electronic music, shows where you know you’re witnessing something different, something cutting edge.  If you’re into any sounds that tend to be a bit darker and more edgy, I highly recommend checking out Vessel and Tri Angle Records.  Their whole catalog is worthy of the snobbiest of ears.

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Need your hot springs fill?! The Olympic Hot Springs just reopened.

God Rays

Nestled and tucked away in the Olympic National Forest is a semi-hidden gem of a hot spring which just re-opened – which I am prepared to tell you everything about so you can be inspired to get there yourself.

Having been craving a dip in some natural and sulfuric hot water as of late, I happened to come across this picture of a pixie I know named Dawn soaking away in what seemed to be quite the pristine location to do so.  I checked in with Dawn to see just where this magical picture was taken, and it turned out to be the freshly re-opened Olympic Hot Springs just outside of Port Angeles.  I checked in with the Jess about when we could head out and she simply said, ‘As soon as possible.’  Fantastic, I thought, the sweet smell of sulfur on skin would be nigh!

Port Angeles is a quiet old port town with US Highway 101 running through it on the North tip of the Washington Peninsula.  There are a few routes to take from Seattle depending on which part of city you’re in, one of them including a ferry ride from Kingston, the other including the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  Here’s where Port Angeles is in comparison to Seattle:

SEA > PA

All in all it’s about a 2-3.5 hour drive depending on if you take the ferry or not.  I personally recommend staying in Port Angeles for the night, as it does require a hike to get out to the Springs.  It’s only about a 25 minute drive from downtown Port Angeles to the trailhead, so getting a little room and going out for some drinks the night before worked out perfect for Jess and I.  We stayed at the Port Angeles Inn ($60/night, Queen size bed, full bathroom) and ended up hopping around town to a few spots before hitting the hay for the hike the next morning.

For a quick bite and a brew we hit up the Next Door Gastropub.  This spot is exactly that, a small little gastropub with $8-$15 plates, and a decent selection of NW brews on 10 or so taps.  You won’t find anything rare from the beer world here, but nevertheless you’ll find something tasty.  I snagged the Fig-N-Brie Panini and was extremely impressed.  Definitely worth the stop in.  From there we continued our usual beer hunting habits and walked over to The Lazy Moon Craft Tavern.  Here they’ve got something like 18 taps, and this is where you’re going to find something rare.  If my memory serves me correctly we found a bourbon barrel-aged stout, and some tasty IPA of sorts.  There’s a pool table, and a bunch of elder locals sipping brews by themselves.  Kind of an odd ambience to the place, but you got to remember you’re in a fishing port town.  Highly recommend stopping through the Lazy Moon if you’re in the area.  We got a good night’s rest and stopped in at Cafe New Day for some espresso and a snack (also recommended if you’re in the area), and set off for the trailhead.

As mentioned before it takes about 25-30 minutes to get from downtown Port Angeles to the parking area for the trailhead.  Head West on the 101 outta town and you’ll simply take a left onto Olympic Hot Springs Rd.  It’s very clearly marked from the 101.  From there just follow the signs for the hot springs and you’ll end up at the trailhead parking lot.  It’s a beautiful drive, and the dam has recently been destroyed and taken down, which apparently has made this drive even more pristine!  Here’s a closer look at PA vs. the trailhead:

PA vs Trail

Once at the trailhead you’ve got a 2.5 mile beautiful hike ahead of you.  We were greeted right off the bat by these incredible rays of light from the heavens above:

Jess God Rays

Some of the scenery along the way:

Mush1

Mush2

Forest Bridge

This is one of the three bridges you’ll cross to get up to the hot springs.  Looks to be semi under repair currently.

Forestry

View from the bridge pictured above.

You’ll start wondering when it is you’ll reach the end of the 2.5 miles, and then you’ll come to a beautiful little clearing with an old school styled outhouse in the middle.  It’ll look like this:

Outhouse

Head off to the right as the signs will tell you, you’ll cross another rustic wooden bridge, and you’ll start smelling the lovely smell of sulfur you’re about to dip yourself in.  Once you’ve crossed the bridge, you’re basically at the Hot Springs.  You will see small pools to the left and right of the path.  Two of these pools are decent to take a tiny dip in, but the most sacred pool you must keep walking for.

Some of the scenery along the path:

Reflection

Beautiful reflection on a sulfur pool.

Sulfur Water

Sulfur water running over sticks and stones creating an epic array of colors.

Scene from one of the better of the pools along the path.

Now you must pay attention if you want to find the best pool located at these springs: go all the way past all of the pools you can see from the trail.  At that point, the trail gets skinny, overgrown, and heads into woods off to the right a bit. Go another 20 yards or so and look for a small trail that goes to the right and very uphill. It’s a bit confusing, but there is definitely a small trail.  One minute up that trail is the last and best pool.  Here’s some shots and a video from around and actually sitting inside the top pool:

From Inside

This is taken sitting down inside the pool.

WINNING

So winning.

Pano of Pool

This is a panorama shot from above the main pool where the hot water is actually coming out of the ground.  On the left you have a changing area and a spot to put your items.  The large log acts brilliantly as a backrest.  Sometimes there are carpets in the bottom of the pool to keep the silt down, but they had been removed by someone for cleaning this trip.

Here’s a video of the scene:

We were fortunate enough to make it on a weekday, which I would highly recommend if you can, as there will be much less humans out there in general.  I think we spotted something like five or six people on the way out to the springs, and once we arrived at the top pool we were greeted by one older local gentleman who warmly welcomed us.  We chatted away fantastic hot spring conversation with Jack until he took off, leaving the pool to just us!!

Overall this is definitely one of my new favorite hot spring experiences.  The hike is just enough to keep the away the miscreant crowd, it’s totally rustic and not built up, you can still be naked and not have to worry about it, and of course, the hot spring itself is magic.  Jess and I highly recommend making the trek out there, and if you do, please let us know, we’ll totally tag along!  Enjoy!

Jess Bridge

Phish Falls & Twists Around Hood In San Francisco

WARNING: Phish garble overload in the following blog post.  Apologies if you can’t understand.  If you care enough, you’ll either know, or look it up 🙂 .

All hail the Phish Lords.  What an incredible show!! I only get a few shows a year these days, so I was beyond excited. To add to that, this was my girlfriend’s first show EVER, and on top of that the SF Giants madness downtown at that point just added to the awesomesauce that was these few days of Phish.

I started laughing right off the bat when Crowd Control dropped as last year they pulled the same stunt. What’s up with SF drawing this song out of the band? Well this year it was definitely the SF Giants crowd melding with the Phish crowd in the same few square blocks around BGCA, but last year? SF just has an epic crowd apparently!

You KNEW immediately the show was going to be ‘one of those shows’ when Mike’s got pulled outta the gate immediately after CC. Fairly solid 10min 3.0 Mike’s, and what do you ya know – the only true Mike’s Groove of the year (but maybe not as NYE is still coming) with I Am Hydrogen blending in to the Mike’s finish. This was great as my girlfriend absolutely loves this song. Slamming Paug to finish the Groove, and then the first breather of the night.

I’ve got 3-4 fav’s off the new album, and Wingsuit is definitely one of them being that it is by far the closest to Pink Floyd (especially on the album) that Phish has ever sounded. Besides the silly flub by Mike at the end (which was in no way detrimental to the song), I was in absolute bliss for those 10 minutes. I love the Floyd explosion that is the end of Wingsuit. SO GOOD. I’d recently been singing Water In The Sky in my head a lot so that was a fun rambler to swim in after flying high in my Suit.

Plasma, a TAB original, was fairly unexpected at first as they’d just played it in Eugene for the first time, but it gained a warm welcome by myself, and the SF crowd. I wouldn’t complain about hearing it more often personally, especially if they allow it to get taken for a ride at some point. Check it out for yourself here:

I’m a big fan of most of Page’s tunes so Halfway To The Moon was sweet to hear live and beautifully executed at the same time.  You can just see Page pouring his heart out up there on stage. Poor Heart you can never go wrong with of course (even if it’s oddly placed into a set) and then BOOM:

That Gumbo!!! Damn what was up with Page?! Killed it on the clavinet! Loving Gumbo to begin with and then getting a Page crushed extendo version?! Stoke. Only issue with that was that Trey kept trying to bring in the Sanity that followed and Page just wanted to keep going! TREY…STFU and let the man ride his glory! Great rendition of Gumbo into a mostly clear transition into Sanity (looking like SF may be the new town for Crowd Control and Sanity, both played back to back years in the same show). Sanity is always a fun sing along and gets me laughing my ass off. You could tell the set was coming to a close soon by the end of the Sanity, but they yanked Antelope out of the bag there at the end. Absolutely kickass cracked out rocking Lope. I remember my friend Trevor saying towards the finish line of Set 1 that we just got a full on Set 2 in place of Set 1 this evening. I then attempted to explain that to my girlfriend as the set break music came on and we went outside to puff a bowl.  Highlights of Set 1: Mike’s Groove, Wingsuit, Gumbo, and the Antelope.

Bowl smoking hit the spot, and by the time we got back inside the lights were dimming, so we smashed in the crowd to find our spot more mid-center, a bit towards Mike’s side. In no way shape or form was I expecting the Kills Devil Falls riff to start out Set 2, nor was anyone else. I think this has happened twice now, ever? Can’t say I was stoked at first as KDF is one of those ‘Meh’ Phish tracks for me personally, but goddamn did they once again prove me wrong this year by taking KDF and bringing it up to the Big Boy S2 opener slot and then going even further by diving into it Type II jam style! I often wonder what it would sound like if Phish (esp. 97-99 Phish) made electronic music. The answer to that question is the last 4-5 minutes of the SF14 KDF. Beautiful bliss that as an ambient musician I could’ve listened to for the entire set, but they had a PERFECTLY placed Mountains in the Mist waiting for us to continue the psychedelic chill vibe for another 7 minutes. Those 20 minutes were pure Phish bliss, and then BOOM (again), the Fuego piano notes drop, letting you know it’s about to get slamming again. Here’s the Mountains:

Really tight and crunchy Fuego capping at about 10 minutes. This being another of the few fav songs of mine off the new album, I was giddy that me and my lady got the two big guns off the album in one night. Fuego puts Phish sounding more like King Crimson and on the progressive rock side than anything else album wise I’ve heard from the group. Besides the funny lyrics, the song is a broken up odd rock masterpiece. Fishman loves it! Julius was a bit of a surprise mid-second set (for these days in 3.0), but welcomed as a loud and forward sing along the whole BGCA was ready for.

THEN – Twist. This Twist is it. Another fantastic reason why all of us addicts keep coming back show after show. A track I’d plop down in front of any non-believer and just ask them to attentively pay attention to the magnificent playing before their ears. Twist has always been a personal fav, and this was my first – STOKE. Having seen such great heights in 2013, and not really seeing much of anything in 2014, I wasn’t sure where it would go…but it ended up being the THE Twist of 2014. Intricate, jazzy, fun, and heartfelt, this will be a Twist I listen to until my deathbed. Hints of the electronic gorgeous side of the KDF 40 minutes before poked through at points as well. Page and Trey gently playing off of each other for blocks at a time with Mike and Fish creating the space to do so. Brilliant locked jamming from all four incredible musicians. They don’t even go back into the Twist theme they were so content on where it went. One of the best songs of the year IMO. Here’s the Twist in HD from LivePhish:

Fairly unexpected was the late Set 2 after an epic Twist Runaway Jim. The beginning is one of the softest ever I’d think, and I wish they would’ve played on that a bit, but you can tell Trey was ready to pick the pace back up, forcing Fish to catch on and bang the song out. (Side Note: Can we expect Crowd Control, Sanity, and Runaway all in the same show in SF every year now?) Fun and a jammy Jim it was (no crazy glowstick war this year), ending in more ambient bliss (theme of the night??) and then out of the glitter, another BOOM: Hood.

Being played at the one off earlier this year in New Orleans, 7 times over Summer Tour, and 4 out of 11 shows on Fall Tour, Hood had a big year. You could tell it was definitely one of the classics the Boys were loving all year. I imagine we’ll see a big one over the NYE run as well. Recognizing that we were only six songs into the set those of us in the know had a little feeling this could be a big one, and GODSDAMN, it was. There are a few movements within this Hood that really stand out, but honestly as a whole the entire 20mins moves along seamlessly as one piece, taking you on an up and down journey through multiple builds and even plains of Phishy goodness. Listen to this Hood – cherish this Hood. It is right up there with the other big Hood’s of 2014 (7/1, 7/12), possibly and probably beating them out. Another blissful ambient outro from the depths of the Hood and Set 2 closes. Here’s the Hood:

Goddamn what a night. The thanks and the first chords of Loving Cup from Page put that huge smile on my face and a solid Cup of Love ends what was IMO one of the best shows of the year, and definitely the show of Fall Tour. Sure Halloween night had some crazy new funk tracks in Set 2 from the Boys, but this show is one I will cherish for a long time to come. Download it, buy it, ask me for it, whatever you need to do, but as a Phan – you want this show. I promise!

A First Listen: Brand. New. Aphex Twin. Syro.

With just over a months official warning, we all of a sudden have a new Aphex Twin album.  It’s been TWELVE YEARS and some change since his last album Drukqs.  (Yes, I know technically speaking he released music under the AFX, Analord, and The Tuss monikers, but we’re not talking about that right now.)  You know where I was twelve years ago?  Drinking my face off in college.  The iPod hadn’t been released yet.  Dubstep hadn’t been invented yet.  EDM (I shudder every time I hear that term) wasn’t a genre of electronic music.  Hell, Skrillex was still screaming his face off in From First To Last.  Suffice to say the world has changed quite a bit, even further more, the world of music has changed drastically.

Apparently Richard D. James is still Richard D. James – but he’s grown up.  He’s apparently moved to rural Scotland (hey they’re voting for Independence today actually), got married, has a few kids, and takes the random small or gigantic Dj gig from times to time.  We heard the beginning of a rumor in 2009 about the possibilities of a new album.  Then an interview surfaced with Richard himself in 2010 about his ‘six unreleased albums he’s sitting on’.  Flash forward four more years and out of no where there’s a slimy green blimp with the Aphex logo on it flying over an Elephant & Castle in England and Aphex logos spray-painted in front of NYC’s Radio City Music Hall.  Something is happening.

Then BOOM – the next day, Aphex’s Twitter account (which has been active for years) posts it’s 9th Tweet ever: a random scrambled URL that is only accessible via the deep web.  If you’re a smart enough cookie to figure that out, you then got launched to a Website with track titles, an album name, and a whole slew of other seemingly useless information.  Later that day Warp Records confirmed – a new Aphex Twin album release is just over a month away.

aphex-twin-blimp

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This is a very different style review than I usually do.  It’s a ‘First Listen’ meaning I’ve just scribbled some notes down for each song as I heard it for the first time last night.  This is not the well written heady review you’re looking for.  Straight first impressions here:

Minipops 67 – The actual ‘single’ from the album.  A tame Aphex style breakbeat with warm glow from his many synths starts this ride out.  Heavily vocoded with many voices, almost R&Bish to an extent.  So good to hear his sounds again!!
XMAS_EVET10 (Thanaton3 Mix) – Stranger, murkier, slower, video garish at points, and thick with deep acid lines weaving in and out and on top of each other.  You don’t realize it’s been ten and a half minutes when it ends.  Hauntingly beautiful.
Produk 29 – Starts fairly gangster as far as Richard goes beat wise, sinks right into Aphex synth with subtle acid lines.  Jazzy to a point.  Then it gets swampy.  Very accessible while being completely full and layered.  Fucking whore!!
4 bit 9d api+e+6 – If I was to choose a ‘single’ off the album, this would be it – it’s Windowlickery to an extent.  Really.  Just massively toned down and not necessarily trying to tickle your brain in ways some might not appreciate.
180db_ – Out of no where a four in the floor groove.  Synth heavy and breakish at points.  Flat.  Doesn’t really seem like a completely finished thought, and doesn’t really fit the rest of the album so far.
CIRCLONT6A (Syrobonkus Mix) – Now we’re back in some far off land that’s close to Drukqs, but much more mature.  Drenched in all sorts of sounds flying at you…never what I’d call overwhelming like points on Drukqs, but still testing limits.  Complex.  Incredible piece of electronica.
Fz pseudotimestretch+e+3 – LoL.  If you ever owned an older organ you’ll totally appreciate the one.  Great segue.
CIRCLONT14 (Shrymoming Mix) – Back to that land near Drukqs.  More modern Aphex mastery.  It’s acid drenched, half timing, and super bouncy.  Yes please!
Syro u473t8+3 (Piezoluminescence Mix) – Possible ‘title track’?  If so I can see why.  Fairly forward acid backbone, dark and grimey throughout.  Drum heavy older Aphex sounding.  A well mastered construction of so many things Richard does so well.
PAPAT4 (Pineal Mix) – Lovers of the Amen Break will bask in the beauty of this one.  Light and fluffy, like laying on pillows, but driven in mellow drum&bass.
S950tx16wasr10 (Earth Portal Mix) – Jungle!!  He brought out the jungle!  Hints of grime on top, not so acidy as a lot of the album until the finish – absolutely love the second half of this track!
Aisatsana – A beautiful birdsong piano played nightcap to a lovely dream inside Richard’s head.  Gorgeousness at it’s finest.

Well, I’m completely sold.  Over all there isn’t as much going on as far as throwing new sounds at you consistently while changing beat patterns every 8 bars like some of his previous works.  This album is not set out to change the face of music like Richard has done countless times before – this album is about Richard doing what Richard does best – being Richard.  Nothing still sounds like Aphex, but Aphex.

Do not think to hardly when listening to this album.  It’s like when Boards of Canada released their first album after eight years last year…way too many people getting caught up in the hype expecting something so over the top, when in fact BoC did what they do best – being BoC.  Don’t go into Syro expecting anything and you’ll come out on top with a shit eating Aphexy grin as much as before.

Thank you Richard for coming back!

SYRO

A Safe & Portable Clean Water Solution For Your Travels.

Okay, so you’re going traveling abroad to a country that is particularly known for not having the cleanest drinking water and you’d like to do your best to not get sick.  For the fairly cheap price of around $125, you too can have a safe and insanely portable solution to cleaning your drinking water on your next trip.  All you require is two products:

~ Steripen Freedom ~

This amazing little device is a bit smaller than the length of the average male hand.  Not only is it incredibly small, but it is USB powered for any of you tech travel geeks that may have your laptop.  The device comes with a USB driven wall charger as well, but you’ll need to find your own adapters for whichever country you’re headed to.  The Freedom charges full in just over an hour and lasts up to 40-50 half liter treatments on one charge!  It packs a powerful UV Light that treats water for a wide range of things you don’t want to drink such as: E. Coli, Hepatitis, Salmonella, and Giardia.  I personally didn’t use it all that much, but if you twist the Freedom in your hand 3 times, it also has a fairly bright LED flashlight that pops on for about 2 minutes.  All in all this device is small, light, easy to carry anywhere, and only $99.95 at Steripen’s WebSite: http://www.steripen.com/freedom/ , OR you can click this little link to probably find it for about $75 on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1qyGXfM .

794.151071_e

~ Camelbak Groove ~

This BPA free plastic water bottle isn’t your ordinary water companion.  The .6 liter/20 oz bottle houses a plant based carbon filter straw system that’s good for around 3 months and/or 300 uses.  For a small fee of $20 (or $30 if you want to purchase a few replacement filters from the start), this lightweight and easy to clip onto any backpack water bottle can be yours for $19.99 at Amazon: http://amzn.to/1qyKuuj .

You may think ‘Why is the water bottle necessary when I probably have plenty already?  Good question.  Well, just because you’re cleansing the water of bacteria doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to taste that great.  The carbon filter in the Groove gives your hydration that extra filtration to make it taste just fine.

So you’ve got your two products. Simply follow this insanely high tech video I just shot and you’re good to go!

This was not an original idea by the way.  It was recommended to me by my dear friend Dawn (World Class Traveler, check out her photography here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/playapixie/sets/) when I met up with her traveling through India.  I took it upon myself to try out her suggestion the next trip I went on, and was sold instantly.  Thanks again Dawn!

Mikkeller Continues To Take Over The World.

Mikkeller BKK

 

Searching for the brand new Mikkeller Bar in Bangkok isn’t necessarily what I’d call easy.  At least it wasn’t when I was trying to find it on the second night after it was opened officially.  I found their address and plugged it into Google Maps, and up came some far off soi off a soi on Ekkamai off Sukhimvit that I thought for sure was going to have me end up in some strange Thai neighborhood in Bangkok wondering where I was.

Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, owner of the gypsy brewery Mikkeller, has chosen to stick his third bar on the planet (the other two are in Copenhagen, Denmark – his home country, and San Francisco) not in the heart of New Bangkok, but hidden, right nearby. The bar itself is simply a house in the more upscale Ekkamai neighborhood converted into a living space upstairs, and the bar downstairs, with the refrigeration and keg storage space in the back.  They’ve turned the lawn into an exceptionally lounged out grassy area with squatter tables with upscale beanbags for chairs.  There’s a patio as well with about eight or so taller sit tables for those that don’t feel like being on the ground, but not in the AC controlled non-mossie environment inside.

To locate the bar, you can now search it on Google Maps, but I may as well just tell you how to get there anyways:  Head to Sukhimvidt Road and head towards Sukhimvidt 63 which is the Ekkamai neighborhood soi.  Take a motorbike taxi from there down to Ekkamai 10, which will be on the right hand side of the street coming from Sukhimvidt.  From there it’s a short walk.  Simply walk down Ekkamai 10 and take your first right.  Then take your first left.  In about 20-40 seconds on the right you’ll see a house, yes I said a house, that just happens to be where you’re going to find absolute deliciousness in the beer realm unlike anything else in Thailand, or potentially all of SE Asia for that matter.

When asked on why Mikkel had picked the location, Pete, the Tap Master (says his card), resident of the establishment, and more outspoken of the three main gents that run the place, simply said, “He wanted it to be a destination.  We don’t want every drunk idiot traveling in Thailand to be able to just stumble in.”  Mikkel’s beers range from a 1.3% ABV Low Alcohol Wheat Ale called ‘Drink’in The Sun’ all the way up to a 14% ABV American Strong Ale brewed with To Øl called ‘Walk On Water’.  Like any new product or service anywhere, these types of things can take some getting used to, especially when the country you’ve landed in normally serves beer at a flat 4-5% ABV.

That evening I chose carefully (as always) and ordered a 12% Imperial Stout named ‘George!’, a juniper berry infused IPA named ‘Baltic Frontier’, a brilliant sour from Mikkel in the ‘Spontaneous Series’ titled ’Spontandoubleblueberry’ (which ended up being one of the best beers I’ve had in almost a year), and a really well done DIPA (Double-IPA for those not in the know) called ‘Dangerously Close To Stupid’.  All were fantastic, with the blueberry sour being one of those brews that your intense beer hunter/geek/snob yearns for in his or her global search for the best brews on the planet.

Though I haven’t actually been to Mikkel’s other two bars in Copenhagen and San Francisco, I hear that the esthetics of the bar are fairly similar as far as paint job, colors, weird little figures on the wall, and such.  Though I was too busy drinking as many danky brews as possible, I snagged one photo out of the few times I’ve been there – it’s not great, but pictured above.  The establishment boasts 30 taps (and around 40 bottles) of all sorts of rare beers – and that’s not just rare for Asia, rare for the world.  Two of the taps are house beers, the Sukhimvit Pilsner and Sukhimvit Brown, both made for Mikkel at De Proef in Belgium according to Mike (one of the three gents).  I sampled them both, here’s what I had to say about them on RateBeer.com:

Mikkeller Sukhimvit Pils | 3.9/5
On tap at Mikkeller Bangkok. This was an absolute delight! Pale yellow pour, medium white head. Notes of grassy fields and a light spice hop. Flavor is light but full of grass, spice hop, and a beautiful bitter finish. Wish I could get 6er’s of this in the States! A must try if you hit the BKK location.

Mikkeller Sukhimvit Brown | 3.4/5
Tap at Mikkeller BKK in January. Sampled a few that night, but went for the two house brews first. The Pilsner being rather outstanding, and the Brown not really adding up so well beside it. Earthy flavors amongst a touch of sweet coffee malt, and a minor roast end. Thin body. Decent, but not great.

At the end of the 2014 excursion through Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand Jess and I had been through Bangkok five to six times in three and a half months.  Each time we stopped through the Big Mango we would stop at Mikkeller if we had the time between flights and attempting to catch up on some sleep.  We sampled around 18-20 different brews in our stop ins, and by far our favorites were the recurring Spontaneous series we kept seeing on the menu.  The Spontaneous brews are a series of sour bretted (Brettanomyces, a non-spore forming wild yeast strain used in souring beers) beers with different fruits infused – the Doubleblueberry and Gooseberry were the top contenders by far.  Here’s what I had to say about those on RateBeer.com:

Mikkeller Spontandoubleblueberry | 4.5/5
Tap at Mikkeller BKK…sometime beginning of February. FULL ON. If you can find this one, get it. I don’t know how often I rate Appearance as a 5, but this beer is blue. Full on brett blueberry funk on the nose. Blends somehow brilliantly and perfectly. You know it’s gonna be a puckerfest. A touch of sweet fruity malt up front before a blast of wood, barnyard, and in comes the blueberries – abound! All over. But sour blueberries, just heaven. Brett and wood in the finish, everything lingering forever – this is one tasty beverage!

Mikkeller Spontangooseberry | 4/5
Tap at Mikkeller BKK beginning of February. This was another one of my favorites in the series Spontan. Whatever it was in the gooseberry it really kick in well with the brett and funky barnyard flavors for a beautiful sour elixir I wanted to drink forever. Dank!

Basically what I am trying to say here is this:
Even if you have only a day or two in Bangkok, if you’re a beer geek whatsoever – stop through Mikkeller BKK.  You won’t regret going on a bit of a Goose chase!

‘Cloud Atlas’ Is Not To Be Missed, In Either Format.

 

Living in the sticks of California usually during the summers in the States, I am quite often fairly out of touch of the world of what’s coming out soon as far as films, as it’s not something I keep up on as much as music, and we usually don’t get all the great options bigger cities get when films do make it out to the small theaters around the small town I live in.

Some time in the early fall a friend of mine (can’t remember whom at the moment) mentioned this film coming out soon that they were excited about.  From the trailer they had seen it seemed like a flick that would be right up my interests alley, with bits of action, sci-fi, and a thick story, from what they could tell.  What was even more intriguing was the fact that each main actor in the film played a number of roles, something that is not often done in cinema.  The name of the film was ‘Cloud Atlas‘.  I immediately looked it up when I returned back to my shed, and was instantaneously excited, as far as I can remember, last year was pretty dull as far as films in my opinion (though I need to go back over some lists and see what else came out to see if I missed anything).

Upon doing some research on the film, I found out that not only did it have a stunning cast including Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, and more, they all in fact do play multiple roles throughout the entire film – a few of them up to seven different characters!  Beyond the great cast, the film has three directors (rare!) with Tom Tykwer (well known for Run Lola Run) originally spearheading the project, and the brilliant Wachowski Brothers stepping in to co-write the screenplay, and eventually co-directing the film, thankfully, as they definitely helped shape the final transition from book to screen exceptionally well (especially in the story of Sonmi-451).

Fast forward to the end of October, and thankfully ‘Cloud Atlas’ was given a wide enough release that it made it out to Grass Valley.  As soon as I had the chance I went to check it out.  With a running time of nearly 3 hours at 172 minutes (in the States – in China 39 minutes were cut out due to nudity, and specific conversations, which I would be curious which ones), I knew I was in for somewhat of a ride.  These days when I’m about to shell out $10 – $12 for a film, I’m usually down for it to be at least 2 hours long, if not longer.

From beginning to end, I was captivated by the extremely thick dialogue spanning across six different eras throughout time, and with this dialogue, each era being vividly represented by stunning set design, locations, and cinematography overall.  Along with this blast of thick visions of the past, present, and future, comes the continual complete change of character by each actor and actress, adding an odd array of conceptuality to the film.  The makeup and costuming is done so well, that until the end of the film, you don’t fully realize just how often the actors and actresses are changing form through the six eras of time, though a few of the characters it’s extremely obvious, as it’s not easy to change a South Korean into an Irish redhead.

Being a huge geek and sci-fi fan, the story surrounding Sonmi-451 for me was potentially my favorite piece of six inside the movie.  Set in Neo Seoul, 2144, the Wachowski Brothers shine throughout this segment, with stunning visuals, spot on acting from Hugo Weaving (a favorite of theirs) and Doona Bae, and an overall post-apocalyptic concept that any fan of Philip K. Dick or Stanley Kubrick will absolutely love.  I could personally see this portion of the film being taken as a side project and expanded upon, but I doubt this will end up happening.

Even though I was fully captivated the entire length of the film, the moment it closed I was already longing for…something…more…yet, I hadn’t a clue what, or why I felt this way.  I felt fulfilled by the film and was taken aback by how the directors had chosen to take six periods of time, and completely shuffle them up to a random point of confusion, yet somehow bring it all back around in the end.  Even then, something was still missing.  Having not known the film was adapted to the screen from a novel, the longing started to make sense.  Had I know this, I more than likely would have attempted to finish the novel before seeing the film.  That said, I went out in search of the book and found it a month or so later, after continually thinking about how blown away I was by this film over and over.

FILM GRADE: A-

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I’m now sitting here in a brilliant little Belgian owned cafe in lower Mcleod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh named Illiterati, where I will trade off my copy of Cloud Atlas, the novel, that I just finished (finally) yesterday.  The sun is setting on the Dhauladhar Range, topping the snowed in peaks of the mountains with a psychedelic orange pinkish hue, letting me once realize just how incredibly thick and expansive, lovely and frightful, and all the time dream-like this life really is.  (Author’s Note: I started this post while I was in India a few months back.  It’s now a few months later, and it’s finally getting posted, but technically, I’m not in India anymore…though I did want to leave this part in.)

This is relevant to this blog post on Cloud Atlas in every which way.

Now that I’ve finished the novel, the longing I felt after seeing the film has worn off as all the holes that they weren’t able to fit into almost 3 hours have been filled.  Reading the book brings you a new, deeper perspective into these six different time periods, and the depth of which each of the main characters within hold while spanning over the 500 or so years that take place as you read.  Without providing too many details here (as the whole goal of this post is to get YOU to read the book and watch the film!), you start to notice subtle differences between the comet-marked souls gliding through time, and how they hold similar stances on life, but continue to evolve as time moves on, with each different life presenting new obstacles and situations to grow from, eventually, gathering enough experience to be completely content with oneself as it rises and falls to the challenge presented.

The stories are written from all sorts of angles including a diary, letters written to a lover, a novel of an account that actually happened written from a different perspective, a last testament before succumbing to capitol punishment, a novel written in the first person, and a tale of life passed down to some children from an elder.  I’ve never read anything like it.

NOVEL GRADE: A

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The comparison between the two lies in that strange void between so many novels made into movies, yet with the film in this case sticking as true to the novel as those behind it possibly could.  The fact of the matter is that transforming a novel into a film is not an easy task, and most novels when turned into films, if done perfectly, would spit out a four to six hour flick.  We all know most audiences won’t sit through something so long, so the filmmakers have to do what they can to shrink the story while still hitting you with as much important relevant information as possible.

I saw the film before reading the novel, and constantly through I knew there was more to the story than what I was seeing in front of my face.  Towards the end of the film I was craving more depth, and at the end I just sat in my seat, reflecting on how incredible the body of work was, but how this was definitely one of those films where I would have to read the novel to fill my craving for more.

What I am about to say is something that I rarely say, but in the case of Cloud Atlas – WATCH THE FILM FIRST.  Get your mind blown with it’s stunning cinematography (in the scenes from the past) and visual effects (in the scenes from the future), set and costume design, and overall homage to the novel.  If you truly enjoyed it, I urge you to read the novel, to fill in some of the gaps with pure information, written at you in a very different creative manner.

Both the film and the novel come at you in movements, just like a classical piece of music, one could say, just like the Cloud Atlas Sextet itself.

A Random Sunday Night Tequila Tasting…

3TFound myself over at a fine tequila loving hippie’s house the other night, as we randomly decided to go for a little vertical tasting of the bottles he happened to have lying around.  Below you will find the tasting notes for each of these wonderful products:

: Manana Anejo :
http://tequilamanana.com/

 Appearance:  Very light straw golden pour.

Nose: Very rounded nose, hints of subtle pines, butter, tender agave, and vanillad oak.  Overall, it’s extremely smooth.  In the very back end of the nose there is a tiny element of booze, letting you know it’s there, but making sure you also know how refined this product is.

Palate: Again, extremely smooth overall.  Light hints of butter blended with tip of the tongue.  It’s not anagave and hints of cacti in general.  There is a spice prevalent, but is well built in to the entire flavor, which is refined so well, that it’s fairly amazing for the price of this bottle, which sits around $50 in California.

Finish: You receive a light caramel based blast and finally the peppery spice you’re used to with a tequila becomes present and sits around the tip of the tongue.  It’s not an overwhelming finish, but it’s polite, and compliments the rest of the drink.  Good stuff here.

Overall: 17/20 : This particular Anejo provides a clear look into how smooth an excellent tequila can really be.  If you’re looking for something not too daring, as in spicey, in the fine tequila depart, that won’t blow a hole in your pocket, this is a fine option.  Great enough to definitely not make with a mixed drink, the Manana is something to be served straight and enjoyed slowly to soak in the flavors of refinement.

: Oro Azul Anejo :

Appearance: Light straw with a hint of maple.

Nose: On first pour out of bottle you receive a huge blast of pepper spice, almost daunting in the nose.  Pepper pepper pepper.  After we let the sample sit for 20 minutes, it mellows out into smelling more like a light sugar cane with some hint of a steely presence.  And it’s not a bad thing, rather enjoyable at that.

Palate: The pepper you get from the nose moves to the back end, we’ll discuss that more in the palate section.  The body of the Oro has somewhat of a refined maple syrup aspect buried beneath the layers of pepper that continually hits you over and over.  It’s almost difficult to gain much of anything else from this on the palate except pepper.  What’s interesting is that if you let the sip sit on your tongue, it’s nothing but smooth, but once it’s pepper for days.

Finish: White pepper.  Lots of white pepper.  Hints of spicey nuts that last all the way down the throat.  There’s elements of the soft agave in there, but it’s fairly buried underneath the spice.  A pour right from the bottle sampled is almost the exact opposite, flaunting the buttery fruit elements over the pepper.

Overall: 16/20 : There is more of a complexity than refinement to this than the Manana.  If you let this product sit our and oxygenate for 20+ minutes, it will actually develop other properties, where the Manana sits as it does.  This particular product has elements of different classifications of tequila all smashed in to one bottle.  Bang for your buck – this is a great choice.

: Clase Azul Reposado :
http://www.claseazul.com/

Appearance: Comparatively to the other products, there is the golden straw color, but also present is a deeper amber hue.

Nose: Rich.  Rich.  On the nose you’re going to smell plums, soft agave, refined sugar, and maplely soft cola nut aspect.  There is no burn.  It’s just happiness.

Palate: Soft sugary agave up front.  The body is smooth.  You don’t even want to swallow.  Let it sit on your palate.  There is no burn here either.  It’s like pouring maple syrup right out there tree, that’s been refined to the finest extent, so that no bi-product is able to pass into the flavors, making it as simple and perfect as possible.  Hints of vanilla, cognac, and sherry are all present, but undeniably built so well into the body that you can’t really pick apart all the different flavors.  It’s a blend, it’s amazing.

Finish: Ultra smooth, hints of nuts on the almond tip with maple buried underneath.  Butterscotch.  There’s elements of vanilla from the oak, but no oak.  Elements of cognac, but no burn.  It’s hard to wrap your brain around how perfect this product is, but, it just is.  Candied sugar.  Almost a hat’s off to the perfection the Belgian’s reach with their candied sugared beers.  Fantastic.

Overall: 19/20 : This is in a class of it’s own.  It sits in cognac, sherry, and bourbon barrels for a while before being blended into it’s refined smooth presentation you get when you pour it from the bottle.  At an asking price of around $90 in California, this is definitely one of the more intriguingly perfect bottles of tequila you can buy for this price.  Excellence at it’s best.  I highly suggest doing some further reading on this particular product.  It’s one of the world’s best, and for specific barrel-aging reasons.  They let this sit in sherry, cognac, and bourbon barrels before blending them all and bottling it for the shelf.  Not many other tequila’s go that far in geekery to achieve this excellent of a flavor.  Each bottle is hand-painted and number, complete with a ringing bell as the cork!  Get this when you can afford it!!

3Tcloseup

The above photo provides a clearer look at the appearance of each pour.  Not too much variation, but the extra barrel aging on the Clase Azul definitely shows up in the color.

This concludes my first tequila write up…I hope this inspires some fine drinking, and if any of you have another fine tequila recommendation, please send it over!  Can e.Mail me directly at: skoinfinite @ gmail dot com .  Thanks!

3Tdrunky

Ciao!

RūdElgin Drops A New Heavy Hitter: RūdE Moods Vol 2

Well well well…it’s been way too long since any info has been pushed through this blogspace…once again.  On that note, here’s a quick lick of information regarding so BASS.  And some heavy BASS at that.

The old homie Elgin Hakala just dropped a new heavy hitting dubstep mix of the most excellent kind.  Deep, dark, agressive, and airy, completely with not a lick of cheesey Americanized falsestep whatsoever.  Having not heard a mix from Elgin in a while, I was extremely excited to see him toss out a mix of the exact same type of true grimey dubstep that I’ve been into for the past couple years.

With an incredible tracklist mixed to keep your body in the groove, this one will be loved by anyone into the deeper side of the step…fans of Kryptic Minds, Biome, DJ Madd, Truth, Versa & Rowl, Osiris Music, Deep Heads, etc will absolutely love this business.  GET IT.

Lights down, heads up, this one’s a percy and it’s for download at Elgin’s Soundcloud:
https://soundcloud.com/rudelgin/rudemoodsvol2

Spaciously Heavy New Album From Portland’s Natasha Kmeto!

On a random whim today I heard about a brand new album release from an artist I’ve heard a bit from, seen a few times, and met once or twice: Natasha Kmeto.  I first heard about Natasha through a series of events from Live’n’Love Productions up in Seattle, run by an old homie, Kyle.  Somehow Kyle had stumbled across her (as she’s from Portland, OR), and started booking her at random L’n’L events.  Believe I eventually saw her at one of the Photosynthesis Festivals of years past, and I remember being fairly stoked at how avant-garde the approach was to her own music.  I’ve since moved to the middle of no where California, and only heard a tiny snippets about her, here and there, until today.

It’s not often I toss down $10 for a 30-minute album without having heard most of it, but knowing she’s in the extended Fam, I went for it – and I’m quite happy I did.  The album starts out with the title track ‘Crisis‘, potentially my favorite off the album after a few listens.  Synth heavy and semi-retro sounding, her gut-wrenching vocal pulses wash over you as a very minimal trap beat exercises itself beneath all the other layers.  If all trap sounded like this, I’d listen to a lot more of it.  The album progresses into ‘Idiot Proof‘ which brings to the table a more vocal oriented track, letting everyone know that she ‘needs peace from all the things she’s supposed to be’.  Not knowing Natasha well enough, I’m not exactly sure what she’s talking about, but she gets the point across easily in minor chords with a very distant house beat in the background, surrounded by heavily arpeggiated synths.

The album is very mature, spacing out the tracks where her voice is the focal point, with many tracks consisting of clever vocal layers without any real singing in between.  I rather enjoy when someone who does get into vocals, uses them in this way, so that the entire album isn’t dominated with literary opinion, allowing other tracks to emotionally speak for themselves, without getting the ego involved.  ‘Take Out‘ is another vocal heavy house oriented track that has a very spaced out 80’s synth-wavey atmosphere, again, politely spacious – making it is quite obvious that Natasha truly knows how to make sure her sound voids are never messy.  Though it seems strange to admit, the album really has a dark and futuristic R&B setting going on throughout, which turns out to be quite rather brilliant.  I can’t really say it sounds like much else I’ve heard, even lately.

Overall, the spaciousness, the darker tones, and the very minimal usage of many points in electronic music make this album quite a solid output in my book.  My one complaint – it’s just too short!  Multiple of these tracks have me going strong at about two and a half minutes, and then they’re done!  I’ve never understood why certain artists love to build people up, just to drop them…Mount Kimbie and Odesza are a few others to name randomly – the builds are there, it crescendos, and finishes.  Personally I enjoy more time inside these fantastic spaces created by the artists.  That said, it’s not my music, and Natasha has created a short, but incredibly solid LP here.  Highly recommended!

More info on Natasha and the link to purchase the album (on tape for $7 if you’d like!) below:

http://www.natashakmeto.com/
http://droppinggems.bandcamp.com/album/crisis