Saturday, February 04, 2006

Confession Time


"Confessions On A Dance Floor"

Reviewed by Reuben

Disco is back. The Fawcett weave is back. But ultimately, these all herald something else. Something bigger. The Queen. The Queen of Pop. Madonna is back. Never really leaving the pop world behind her, her foray into vocoded squelching from the draining Mirwais has finally ended (bar one more song). Instead, "Confessions On A Dance Floor" screams "hit record." Starting out with 12", Madonna's love affair with the dance floor at the beginning of her burgeoning career has kept her grounded. And although there were touches of it in "Ray Of Light", nothing came close to her wonderfully naive and splendid "Holiday" and "Everybody." Until "Confessions" dropped.

Touted as "future-dance", Madonna and producer in tow, the electronic wiz-kid Stuart Price (or Jacques Lu Cont as he's better known) collaborate to make a non-stop, mixed CD of funky disco tunes - often paying homage to disco queens such Donna Summer and of course, ABBA. "Hung Up" is the only track that comes close to being rather camp. But the first single is infectious, and instead of desecrating ABBA's brilliant and well known "Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)" - she transforms it. The bass riding high, the electro beats pulsing, one cannot deny that she still has it...and continues to flaunt it.

Seguing into "Get Together", it is quite possibly the dance track of the year. Pity it won't be released and be one of the gems Madonna has held close to her. A cyber concoction of Daft Punk and Pet Shop Boys, the synths are glorious - floating around the psychedelic coloured dance floor. Pulsating and grinding, the beats are subtle, leading us forward to an apology, "Sorry." Electronic synths, an array of multicultural influences and a strong bassline carry this stunning track. Vocally and lyrically flawless - exemplifies how a dancefloor peaks in the wee hours of the morning.

The hyped track, "I Love New York" is haplessly silly. Fun and breezy, the only thing suffering here ispoorly written lyrics. But who really cares when the Queen tells you to "get off the street", toying with our minds with contagious beats and carefully placed synth chords. Hitting at the point of no return effortlessly is "Let It Will Be" - a strong message of confidence and defiance against the tone of synthesized strings and heavily layered vocoded vocals. She will tell us about success, and about fame.

However, all this talk on success and fame still didn't stop controversy. Never one to shy from outcries from minority and majority groups - this time, it's over the name of a particular track - "Isaac." Painting a Kabbalah-istic image kicked up a storm with the Jewish Rabbis - before the track had even been heard. Despite the given nature of the song, it remains a truly epic and uplifting section of the album. After mixing straight into the ethnic-tribal "Push", the closing track "Like It Or Not" shows the side of Madonna we are all so use to seeing, and frankly, expect. Sounding more like "Frozen" it is another epic string-infused, blunt, in-your-face attitude paradox. "Love me or leave me" she beckons. Which will you decide?

Madonna has confessed. And we are all listening.


Originally published 16 November 05 in BEAT Magazine - Melbourne's most well-read music press.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Confessions On A Dancefloor

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Men Behind The Man

Nihongo Influences

influences of music

It is no secret that Rob Dougan is heavily influenced by the Japanese culture - literature, art and music. This is clearly characterised by the use of "Kurayamino" in his mix of his famous classic club anthem, "Clubbed To Death".

In a personal correspondance, Rob Dougan outlines his influences -

"A good friend of mine, who never calls me, Takuya Seki, suggested the name 'Kurayamino' for my final version of "Clubbed To Death". He lives in Tokyo and the name means 'Darkness'. The are some musical feelings in "Clubbed To Death" that remind me a bit of Ryuichi Sakamoto who is a wonderful composer of music."

BiographyAward-winning composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto has made a career of crossing musical and technological boundaries. Sakamoto has experimented with, and excelled in, many different musical styles, making a name for himself in popular, orchestral and film music. Never one to be satisfied with the status quo, Sakamoto continues to push the envelope of his artistry, marrying genres, styles and technologies for the first time to create new and exciting directions in musical expression.

influence of art

Moon Pine, Ueno 1857 (130 Kb); From "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo"; Woodblock print, 13 1/4 x 8 5/8 in; The Brooklyn Museum

Plum Estate, Kameido 1857 (150 Kb); From "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo"; Woodblock print, 13 1/4 x 8 5/8 in; The Brooklyn Museum

Ushimachi, Takanawa 1857 (130 Kb); From "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo"; Woodblock print, 13 1/4 x 8 5/8 in; The Brooklyn Museum

I very much like Ando Hiroshige, and have four works of his. For some reason I find this very inspiring. You can see these on the internet (Omi Province Plate 22 from 60 Odd Provinces, Koma Katado Azumabashi Plate 82? from 100 Famous Views of Edo, Kasumigaseki Plate 12 from 100 Famous Views of Edo, Yatsumi No Hashi Plate 45 from 100 Famous Views...)

Hiroshige (1797-1858), Japanese painter and printmaker, known especially for his landscape prints. The last great figure of the Ukiyo-e, or popular, school of printmaking, he transmuted everyday landscapes into intimate, lyrical scenes that made him even more successful than his contemporary, Hokusai.

Ando Hiroshige was born in Edo (now Tokyo) and at first, like his father, was a fire warden. The prints of Hokusai are said to have first kindled in him the desire to become an artist, and he entered the studio of Utagawa Toyohiro, a renowned painter, as an apprentice. In 1812 Hiroshige took his teacher's name (a sign of graduation), signing his work Utagawa Hiroshige. His career falls roughly into three periods. From 1811 to about 1830 he created prints of traditional subjects such as young women and actors. During the next 15 years he won fame as a landscape artist, reaching a peak of success and achievement in 1833 when his masterpiece, the print series Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido (scenes on the highway connecting Edo and Kyoto), was published. He maintained this high level of craftmanship in other travel series, including Celebrated Places in Japan and Sixty-nine Stations on the Kiso Highway. The work he did during the third period, the last years of his life, is sometimes of lesser quality, as he appears to have hurriedly met the demands of popularity. He died of cholera on October 12, 1858, in Edo.

With Hokusai, Hiroshige dominated the popular art of Japan in the first half of the 19th century. His work was not as bold or innovative as that of the older master, but he captured, in a poetic, gentle way that all could understand, the ordinary person's experience of the Japanese landscape as well as the varied moods of memorable places at different times. His total output was immense, some 5400 prints in all.

influences of literature

Yasunari Kawabata is a great novelist. When I was working on Nothing at all, I even put a phrase from his book, "Snow Country" in one of the lines. I think the book of his I appreciated the most was "The Sound Of The Mountain." [sic] There's a feeling I get from his novels that has inspired me many time. The feeling I got from "Snow Country" and "Sound Of The Mountain" is expressed in "Nothing At All", and parts of "Clubbed To Death."

I really like the theatricality of film makers like Kurosawa and some of that has found its way into being an influence. The film of Yasujiro Ozu, "Tokyo Story" one is my favorite films. I like the slow formal quality, the economy, the understatement....I can't put it into words so quickly....

First Japanese novelist, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature (1968). Many of Kawabata's book explore melancholically the place of sex in culture and people's lives. His works combined old Japan's beauty with modernist trends, realism with surrealistic visions. Over the course of his life, Kawabata wrote more than a hundred 'palm-of-the-hand' stories - as the author called them. They were usually two or three pages long, and expressed according to Kawabata the essence of his art.

In 1954 appeared Kawabata's perhaps best work, "Yama No Oto" (The Sound Of The Mountains), which depicted family crisis in a series of linked episodes. The protagonist, Shingo, represents traditional Japanese caring of human relationships and nature. He is concerned about the marital crises of his two children. Scenes from the hero's daily life are interwoven with poetic descriptions of nature, dreams, and recollections.

Among Kawabata's famous works after World War II is "The Snow Country" (finished 1948), the story of a middle-aged aesthete, Shimamura, and an aging geisha, Komako. As a background of their sporadic affair is a distinct isolated location, a hotspring resort west of the central mountain range, where winters are dark, long and silent. "After all, these fingers keep a vivid memory of the woman I am going to see," Shimamura thinks when he travels to the snow country by train. It takes him to another place, away from his ballet book he is writing. But this far-off destination gives him only a temporary home, a reflection of something else when the night transforms the coach's window into a mirror. Komako is violently in love with him, and she is not a reflection, created according to Shimamura's aesthetic vision. Kawabata later told that he modelled her after a real character.

Snow Country
To this haunting novel of wasted love, Kawabata brings the brushstroke suggestiveness and astonishing grasp of motive that earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature. As he chronicles the affair between a wealthy dilettante and the mountain geisha who gives herself to him without illusions or regrets, one of Japan's greatest writers creates a work that is dense in implication and exalting in its sadness.

"I also like the boldness and extremity of a personality like Mishma. His life is fascinating . He went from being a soft quite "poet", to being a soldier of sorts. His book "Sun And Steel" impressed me very much, and perhaps influence some of the attitudes with the extreme personality on "Furious Angels."

Yukio Mishima (1925-1970) - Pseudonym for Hiraoka Kimitake
Prolific writer, who is considered by many critics as the most important Japanese novelist of the 20th century. Mishima's works include 40 novels, poetry, essays, and modern Kabuki and Noh dramas. He was three times nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature. Among his masterpieces is "The Temple Of The Golden Pavilion" (1956). The tetralogy "The Sea Of Fertility" (1965-70) is regarded by many as Mishima's most lasting achievement. As a writer Mishima drew inspiration from pre-modern literature, both Japanese and Western.

"One of the twentieth century's outstanding statements of literary and personal purpose."

In this fascinating document, one of Japan's best known - and controversial - writers created what might be termed a new literary form. It is new because it combines elements of many existing types of writing, yet in the end fits into none of them.

At one level, it may be read as an account of how a puny, bookish boy discovered the importance of his own physical being; the "Sun And Steel" of the title are themselves symbols respectively of the cult of the open air and the weights used in bodybuilding. At another level, it is a discussion by a major novelist of the relation between action and art, and his own highly polished art in particular. More personally, it is an account of one individual's search for identity and self-integration. Or again, the work could be seen as a demonstration of how an intensely individual preoccupation can be developed into a profound philosophy of life.

All these elements are woven together by Mishima's complex yet polished and supple style. The confession and the self-analysis , the philosophy and the poetry combine in the end to create something that is in itself perfect and self-sufficient. It is a piece of literature that is as carefully fashioned as Mishima's novels, and at the same time provides an indispensable key to the understanding of them as art.

The road Mishima took to salvation is a highly personal one. Yet here, ultimately, one detects the unmistakable tones of a self transcending the particular and attaining to a poetic vision of the universal. The book is therefore a moving document, and is highly significant as a pointer to the future development of one of the most interesting novelists of modern times.


Sunday, June 26, 2005


Written by Kylie Minogue/Rob Dougan. Published by Mushroom Music International/BMG Music Publishing Ltd. Produced by Rob Dougan for Clubbed to Death productions. Co-produced by Jay Burnett. Engineered by Pete Craige.

On "Impossible Princess / Kylie Minogue" (Album):

CD: 11/1997 AU (Mushroom; MUSH33069.2 / 9 397603 306921 M)
[Impossible Princess - 12 - tr]

CD: 11/1997 JP
[Impossible Princess - 13-tr]

CD: 23.03.1998 UK (Deconstruction / BMG; 74321 517272)
[Kylie Minogue - 12-tr]

CASS: 23.03.1998 UK (Deconstruction / BMG)
[Kylie Minogue - 12-tr]

04:02 Jump [09]

[Note: Originally due for release in 1997, the album was delayed
partly due to revamping of artwork after the title was changed
from "Impossible Princess" to "Kylie Minogue", following news of
Princess Diana's fatal accident]


"...Cooler still is "Jump", a collaboration with Mo' Wax's Rob Dougan, the closet Australian classical beats masher. "My friend Skinny was playing "Clubbed To Death" around his house when I was there and I loved it, so Skinny says he knows the guy and offers to set something up." Nice one, Skinny..."

iD (UK) November 1997


If I'm scared let me lose it
If I'm hungry let me have it
If I'm cold let my skin rise
If I'm wrong let me learn it
If I'm grubby let the dirt stay
If I'm tired let me shut my eyes

I have dread and fear and light and laughter
I know there is an ever after
I'm eager and ready
It only hurts sometimes
I run to the future and jump

If I'm hurt let me feel it
If I'm sad let the tears run
If I'm stupid let me be that way
And if I'm bored let me show it
And if I'm bad let me be it
If I'm sure let me have my say

I have dread and fear and light and laughter
I know there is an ever after
I'm eager and ready
It only hurts sometimes
I run to the future and jump

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Furious Angels - The Video

UK 3:45 2002
DIRECTOR: Howard Greenhalgh

Comments from the "Furious Angels" Video Director, Howard Greenhalgh

I have directed literally hundreds of videos in my time, but this one is definitely one of the best. Not just because of the track, but because I got the chance to work with Rob.

He's a really interesting guy. Totally commited to the film making process as much as the music side.

It's not often an artist will let you fly with an crazy idea.
Here's how I put it to him.
"Rob, if you agree to this concept, you are going to get hurt"
"Great" he said.
And he did......the shot where he is sliding towards the rolling car.....well he was supposed to stop 3 feet from the car.
He didn't....he smashed straight into it.

A swift Hospital visit and X-rays later proved he survived.
We went on to drag him across Cape Town. He did 95% of his own stunts. Got cut bruised and drenched......and never complained once.
Believe me, when you are working directly with artists, this rarely happens.

My parting words to Rob were, "whatever you do next, call me. This could only be the start."

I hope he does.

[Courtesy of forum where Howard Greenhalgh has posted his message on Dec. 4th, 2002.]

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Furious Angels

Furious Angels
Review by Reuben

A thousand words cannot describe the overwhelming, aural-sounding orchestrations that "Furious Angels" is. Organic, epic, and highly charged - this album is a labour of love. Taking over seven years to see this in fruition has to be the most satisfying, but exhausting process for Rob Dougan.

When his club shattering masterpiece "Clubbed To Death" arrived on all dancefloors simultaneously in 1995, Dougan knew full well what he was doing. Becoming the most recognised classic club anthem, its electronica-inspired beats continues to be played proudly today.

Intense with richly dense orchestrations, never has one body of work has inspired, tantilized and satisfied beyond high expectations. The classical overtures ring true to the very core of my classically trained body, yet the grinding beats and energy send an ecstatic euphoria that can only be felt in the atmosphere reserved to the darkened club room.

The buildups, the synths, the flurry of strings, the angelic vocals - all contrast against the rasp of Dougan's own, broken voice. Likened to Tom Waits, Dougan's voice is an acquired taste. Full of depth, growling and emotion, he adds another dimension to his creation.

Dougan's music is basically neo-classicaly-electronica: a new breed of music that marries orchestral arrangements with a club foundation. Dripping with emotion and heart-felt lyrics, Dougan's music has resonated in those he has touched. Never content and always the perfectionist, Dougan never stays with the formula. No doubt this classic club hit features prominently on "Furious Angels", he lets his vast musical influences flow and ebb on the rest of the album.

He has the ability to intricately bring in influences from slow jazz ("Drinking Song"), the fury of orchestral brilliance ("I'm Not Driving Anymore") or the simple cinematic experience of "Will You Follow Me" to carve a musical landscape, fit for cinematic audience of today.

Once you've had a taste of Rob Dougan, you'll be hard press to find another musical masterpiece to come this way.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Man Behind The Music

Furious Angels

With a counter-intuitive grasp of pop essentials, a sweeping, cinematic sensibility and an undeniable flair for classical grandeur, composer, producer and performer Rob Dougan may well be the tonic contemporary music is so desperately seeking: an artist unafraid to challenge audiences with his eloquence, elegance and a wide range of eclectic influences.

All this and more is a glorious display with Furious Angels, Rob Dougan's extraordinary Reprise Records debut album, featuring fifteen Dougan originals, written, arranged, produced and performed by the artist, with timely assistance from a few carefully chosen muses and a 122 piece orchestra and choir.

Including his hugely influential UK hit, "Clubbed To Death," the music of Furious Angels is an ambitious, audacious and ultimately inspiring tour de force from a decidedly disruptive new presence in popular culture. It's music, in short, that takes the full measure of the man, leaving in its wake intriguing indicators of a brilliant career in the making.

It's a career that began back in his native Australia, where Dougan attending Sydney's prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Arts (with alumni that include Mel Gibson, Baz Luhrmann and Cate Blanchett) as an acting major. A tumultuous love affair gone wrong sent him spinning off to London where he landed a job selling jeans and trying to concoct a fitting creative vehicle for his restless musical, visual and dramatic energies.

Talent wasn't the problem. His early experiments in remixing quickly established his reputation on the London underground, and the 1995 release of his original track "Clubbed To Death" catapulted him into the limelight with a dance anthem for once, truly worthy of its renown. It was followed in short order by "Furious Angels" with a title sprung from the aeronautic musings of Jean Cocteau - typical of an artist who lists among his influences Emily Dickinson, David Lean, Yukio Mishima and the screenplay to Scent Of A Woman.

The problem was Dougan's stubborn insistence on doing things his own way. The regulation route to fast track success would have been for him to gratefully accept a record company advance and cut an album more or less to specifications. He had other things in mind. Absolutely determined to infuse modern music with texture, depth and perhaps most audacious of all, intelligence, Dougan set about reproducing to exacting tolerances the sounds he heard inside his head.

An imposing feat, first and foremost because those cranial compositions had an enormously expansive range and reach. And when Dougan's UK label balked at underwriting his ever-expanding vision, it was up to the artist to find his own financing.

That turned out to be the easy part. Word of mouth had by this time reached interested parties of very high profile, who kept Dougan busy on all manner of remix, writing and production projects. Among them: Pet Shop Boys, U2, Moby and Kyle [sic] Minogue. At the same time, "Clubbed To Death" became virtually standard musical accompaniment on all manner of commercials, TV scores, and most notably, on the soundtrack to The Matrix. Dougan could quite easily have provided handsomely for himself simply from his for-hire proceeds.

But that was hardly the point. Even as he continued to garner an ever-more impressive client roster, Dougan was spending late nights, early mornings and every spare minute between creating a musical declaration of independence that would finally showcase his multi-faceted gifts. Essential to the effort was Dougan's dedicated, some might say obsessive, hands-on approach to every aspect of production and recording, singing every part, playing virtually every instrument and arranging and conducting the full studio orchestra and choir required to illuminate his sweeping soundscapes.

It was a labor of love lasting the better part of six years, and while the result, Furious Angels speaks, sings and soars for itself, the temptation to sample the critical raves that greeted it's UK release earlier this year is irresistible. "It's made with clinical precision," observed Dazed & Confused, "but you won't hear another album this year with more feeling." "A classy slice of epic, orchestral house music," opined Q, while The Word raved "A sophisticated widescreen epic that defies categorization due to its sheer and utter brilliance..."

All of which may suggest that the music of Rob Dougan regularly leaves listeners tongue-tied. That's precisely the intent. There's simply no percentage in attempting to explain the lingering effects of such standout tracks as "Will You Follow Me?", "One In [sic] The Same" and "Speed Me Towards Death," with their vast orchestral horizons; the haunting evocations of "Drinking Song" with it's bleary barroom poetry or the flat out rhythmic assault of "Clubbed To Death" and the title track. This is music to be experienced, to be lived. Which is exactly how it was made.

[Warner Bros. Media Information]