Ozomatli is all about the party. Or at least they once were. The L.A. ensemble noted for their fusion of hip hop and salsa were always blending styles, instrumentations and even moods, from party jams to somber ballads to conscious hip hop. The band's previous album, Street Signs, was a solid release but reflected more of the ballads and conscious hip hop mentality with much less "party".
Don't Mess With The Dragon, however, is a return to form. Afterall, Ozomatli is the name of the Aztec god of dance, fire, and music, and this new record reflects all of these things. While all of Ozomatli's records have been wonderful in their own right, this is the first that is readily comparable to their first release, Ozomatli, which is widely regarded as being their best. An alternate title for 'Don't Mess With The Dragon' could be 'How Ozomatli Got Their Groove Back'.
It's evident from the moment you press play and are greeted with a rump shaker called 'Can't Stop' that Ozomatli is back in top form. This song alone is like a microcosm of their signature sound, mixing Latin beats with electric guitars, DJ Spinobi's ambient accents, a hip hop interlude and inspirational vocals about "seizing the day" and having "faith in love". In a nutshell, this is Ozomatli.
'City of Angels' keeps the tempo going with a funky beat-infused cowboy anthem about L.A. The rap flows on this track are the most solid since Embrace The Chaos featured De La Soul on '1234' and Justin Porée and Kanetic Source on 'Lo Que Dice'. 'City of Angels' marks the moment where MC's Justin Porée and Jabu come into their own and start to move out from under the shadow of previous MC, Chali 2Na. The addition of The Fred Martin Singers also helps to give the band a soul boost.
Not enough can be said for the laidback, simplicity of 'After Party'. This is the type of song that you wish would start playing on your iPod as your walking down the street on a sunny afternoon. It also shows that lead singer Raúl Pacheco can evoke emotion even when he's just singing about finding a good party.
The title track to 'Don't Mess with The Dragon' is downright infectious. I would like to know the meaning behind this song. Superficially it seems very funny. With a goofy repeating chorus like 'Don't Mess with the Dragon' and someone making monkey noises in the background alá Ben Stiller, it's surprising to read the lyrics and find them to be fairly depressing. But the vibe is upbeat ska with some Far East flavor.
'La Gallina', 'Here We Go' and 'Creo' are almost reggaeton (a genre this reviewer doesn't have much love for) but with enough Ozomatli-ness to make it work. Also, Jabu and Justin seem to be on-point throughout all three, especially 'Creo'.
'Magnolia Soul' is an interesting entry because it's almost completely straight funk. Not much dilution, just straight hip hop infused funk similar to The Breakestra or Quantic Soul Orchestra. The track is inspired by New Orleans with overt references to Katrina.
Rounding out the album is 'La Temperatura' a blast of a song, all about having fun reminiscent of 'La Misma Cancion' or 'Mi Alma' from previous albums. 'When I Close My Eyes' answers the question of what an all ska/punk Ozomatli track would sound like (hint: not bad). 'La Segundo Mano' acts as one last push of hip hop with Jabu shining a little brighter still. And 'Violeta' starts out as one of Ozomatli's signature somber ballads, but ends up with a fun sing-along chorus:
"¿Y tu mama que dice? / Tu hermano y tu papa, / ¿Que dicen? / ¿Tu hijo y tu marido que dicen? / Los nietos, tu abuela, / Dime que te dicen."
'Don't Mess with the Dragon' is a must-have for anyone who has listened to Ozomatli in the past. It's also an excellent starting point for those unfamiliar with the group. It's fun, irreverent and most importantly it's all about the party.
After just declaring April to be Cyberpunk month, it's only fitting that this little video makes its way down the pipeline. It's an advertisement for Intel, but not for any product that they have available right now. This is one of those daydream commercials where a company tries to impress us with stuff that have not even produced yet. I'm not sure how that helps sell existing products or justifies making a commercial, but it's cool any how.
For instance with the first little vignette, we've already got mobile phone/watches being made, or about to be made. We've got voice activated software and I can get my Mac to read me any text on any webpage, e-mail or whatever, and Mac OS 10.5 should bring another leap to speech synthesis technology. As for syncing devices, we've got that with our iPods, but that will only get better as wireless technologies allow for real-time data syncing.
The second vignette is cool because it looks like some kind of advanced GPS application coupled with a mobile phone device. We are getting some of those now. But what's really cool to think about is it's possible that it's not GPS. If the Chinese guy is in a city with a metropolitan Wi-Fi network then his phone could just be communicating with the network to map out the streets. Also having the cellphone wirelessly change the settings of the car and act as the stereo is pretty sweet.
And as for the last vignette, well... what would the future be without a good rave?
This is one of the reasons why I like Apple so much, because of this kind of integration. Like I said, a lot of these types of products are already on the market, but they're not all going to work together the way they do in the video. Apple on the other hand gives me a glimpse into that kind of world. It's not just Apple though, Google is doing a fantastic job of bridging digital gaps. Letting PC's and Macs coexist, pushing your data into a central location (their servers) where you can access it from home, work, or on someone else's computer. Sony is another. I've often thought that if I weren't a Mac addict, I would have all Sony products. Being able to integrate my PC with my TV with my Playstation, movies, Walkman, and Sony Ericcson mobile phone is really exciting.
But that has traditionally been the downfall of these types of technologies; if you want to reap the full benefits of integration you have to sign up for the full package. You have to have all Apple products, or all Sony products or all Microsoft products. Mixing and matching brands is generally going to lead to problems. It's unfortunate, but somewhat true and I think of the big hurdles that we'll need to get over before the future in this video can become a reality. Although that might explain why Intel made this ad. As if to say, buy Intel products now because we've got a lot of cool stuff planned that you won't be able to take advantage of if you buy AMD.
Interestingly though, they don't show us any of the invasive technology that the future may hold. What William Gibson calls BodMod. Getting a wireless implant that can talk to your devices similar in fashion to RFID. Optical implants that show you a HUD (heads up display) that only you can see. Or forget about bone conducting headphones, why not just get the audio implanted into your ear?
Too freaky? Yeah, I agree. In the meantime, I'll stick with devices I can hold in my hand. Besides, what's the point of having these kinds of gadgets if your friends can't see them and get jealous?
April: the calendar year's creepy next door neighbor.
If there is one month out of the year that I don't like (as ridiculous as it may be to declare disdain for an entire month) it would be April.
Why? Because I hate Spring and sunshine, and Easter bunnies? Of course not! I don't like April, because that seems to be the one month of the year where people go a little crazier than normal.
Think about it. The Branch Davidians in Waco? April. Oklahoma City bombing? April. Columbine? April. I'm sure there are more, but I can't think of any others at the moment. I guess I should be thankful for that.
As people who have had cabin fever all winter emerge from their homes and out into the rapidly warming spring air (although not around here; it's still frigid) they take a little of their crazy with them.
So I have decided to celebrate April by escaping the crazies and living in the virtual world of cyberpunk.
What this basically entails is having a month long film festival of sci-fi movies. Over the last couple years I have amassed a pretty serious collection of cyberpunk movies, but it seems like I hardly ever watch them. So now, having April as Cyberpunk Month gives me an opportunity to do just that.
So, if you're interested, here's a quick list of my recommended flicks:
The Matrix Trilogy (for the proper viewing order click and scroll down to Enter The SuperNerd)
Ghost in The Shell 1 & 2 or Stand Alone Complex (if you're feeling ambitious)
A Scanner Darkly
Escape From NY/LA
Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis (2001)
The Thirteenth Floor
Each year I also like to watch a few that I haven't seen before so this year I am finally going to get around to watching the Robocop Trilogy and Tron.
Yeah, I know it's unbelievable that I haven't seen them yet. I've seen Robocop 1, but that was a long time ago and I've never made it all the way through Tron, but this is the year!
Also, if you're not into the whole 'watching movies' thing, there are a handful of books I can recommend too:
Philip K. Dick - pretty much anything by this guys is solid gold and he wrote the books and short stories that a good chunk of the movies listed above are based on. Definitely be sure to check out Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which was the basis for Blade Runner.
The Neuromancer Trilogy by William Gibson. Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Neuromancer is really the book that started it all. Although it wasn't the first, it nailed the concept and style and coined the phrase "matrix" and "cyberspace".
Snow Crash & Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. Snow Crash is genius. It has completely insane and over the top action sequences coupled with analysis of Sumerian mythology and metaphysical philosophy. This book inspired Second Life.
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan. I read this one last summer, it's basically a murder mystery, but the world that Morgan creates is different from anything else I've ever read, while still remaining oddly familiar. It's the first of a series.
Well, I think that's enough for now. If you're still reading this then you are a huge nerd... just like me.
Anyway, enjoy Cyberpunk month. Go try something new!
An expression used out of exasperation after having spent hours crafting a lengthy, informative, and well-written blog entry. Generally used to respond to someone who asks a question that pertains to a blog entry you wrote that they have not read.
Could also be used in a situation in which one is unable to articulate his/her point after doing so exceedingly well in blog form.
Dude #1: "So, what did you do this weekend?" Dude #2: "Are you serious?" *sigh* "Talk to the blog."
Dude #1: "So why do you think Macs are better than PCs?" Dude #2: "Because! ... They've got... It's just... You can... ARRGH! Talk to the blog!"
With all this talk about DRM (Digital Rights Management) lately (see here), I think it's great that we may finally be on the verge of getting rid of DRM'ed music (despite the fact that I don't think we should have to pay extra to get it).
But what about all that music that you've already invested in? Surely, Apple and EMI would love nothing more than to have you download it all over again. But hold on! Before you go rushing off to re-purchase all of your songs, try this simple trick to get around DRM-addled tracks.
1. Find some music that you have bought from iTunes that is in a protected AAC format. If you're not sure if its got DRM "all up in it", then right click on one of the songs and select 'Get Info' to view the 'Summary' tab.
Under kind, it says "Protected AAC audio file". That's the culprit.
2. Put that whole album into a playlist of its own and burn it as an Audio CD.
3. Now, when the Audio CD is finished, leave it in your computer. If it automatically ejected, put it back in. Import the CD that you just burned. A message like this will likely pop up:
Click 'Replace Existing' and you will be prompted with this message:
Now, when you're music is imported, it will replace the existing files, but it will also inhabit and preserve their original metadata, such as Play Count, Album Art and which playlists each song belongs to. Check the results:
But "Wait a minute", you say. "Albums are easy! What about singles?" Well, for singles, you can use the same process, but I recommend using a CD-RW so as not to waste an entire CD on one song. Also, with singles, metadata can be a bit tricky.
The most common occurrence is that if you bought one song from an album it could be 'track 4 of 12', but when you burn a CD with one song on it, that song (regardless of track or album title) is seen by the computer as 'track 1 of 1' and your computer will import it as a different file.
The way around this? Before you burn the CD, change the track numbers accordingly. If you're burning the CD with just one song, change it to 'track 1 of 1'. If accuracy is really important to you (or you think you might go back and buy more tracks from that album later), you can change the that field back to the way it was after you re-import the song.
So there you have it. An relatively easy way to circumvent iTunes DRM and it's 100% legal. If you make a habit of doing this right after buying albums from the iTunes music store it just becomes second nature.