Time for another Sunday Sessions, a series where we explore the calm, soothing and relaxing regions of the musical universe. Today's special is ambient music. According to Brian Eno, one of its pioneers, "Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting." (wikipedia). Once again, no comments, just click play and prepare to relax. Of course, you can also check out the tracks individually.
Recently I have lost a good friend. He was a member of my rugby team, which means that he was like family. Only 19 years old he was. Not fair you would say. Another young man in the prime of his life who passed away too soon. I agree. A stupid accident suddenly ended his life. That was it. Gone in the blink of an eye.
It made me start thinking about how insignificant things can be, how we tend to worry about the little things. Am I going to get to work in time? What am I going to prepare for dinner? It is normal, I guess, that we do this. Having these thoughts, I mean. I think we do this because we are still in shock. We go into survival mode and try to comfort ourselves. But it is so damn difficult.
Although my friend wasn’t known for his great taste in music, he still inspired me to write this article. Every day there are people who lose their loved ones. The strong feelings and emotions (sadness, frustration, helplessness, anger…) that come with this can easily be found in music. Its intimate character is often a reflection of what happens inside our minds and hearts. It is strictly personal and no-one can tell you what to love and what not to like. That is why music is so important to me. It is one of the few places in which we can escape and completely be ourselves.
What I want to do now is talk about songs and bands that describe how I have experienced the past couple of days and that have helped me cope. When I say ‘describe’ I don’t mean that you only should look at the lyrics. You have got to let the music do most of the talking. Also, I am looking forward to your lists. The one that I present to you is certainly not exhaustive. There is obviously a lot more that I like and listen to, but I will only talk about those bands that I have been listening to since death became my unfortunate muse.
The Van Jets – Matador
A song by The Van Jets that, for me, is all about desperation and frustration, feelings that are present at the moment. The lyrics and music go together very well and carry a clear message. There is a beast inside that wants to get out.
Steak Number Eight - Ashore
Another great Belgian band that I have been listening to a lot is Steak Number Eight. Their dark tone, noisy guitars and strong vocals create an atmosphere in which I find myself drifting away. It makes me reflect on life and how things could have been. I chose the song ‘Ashore’. It is one of their ‘softer’ tracks in my opinion, but it takes me away when it is needed.
Kapitan Korsakov - In The Shade Of The Sun
An atypical song for this rock band. Their second album ‘stuff&such’ hasn’t stopped playing for a while now. ‘In the shade of the sun’ is a 9-minute emotional roller-coaster. Although music is very intimate, intense and touches a lot of people, I don’t get carried away easily. This song, however, strikes a chord. Listen to it and you will know what I mean.
Killswitch Engage – The Arms of Sorrow
Sometimes it is just not that difficult and not much needs to be said. Killswitch Engage is one of my favorite bands. Singing along with their music really helps me blow off steam, especially in the car. Other songs that do the trick are: My Last Serenade and The End of Heartache
Black Keys - Little Black Submarines (the longer version)
My favorite song… It still gives me goose bumps when I listen to it. It is about being lost, having a broken heart and the need for help. The first half of the song begins as a quiet ballad. The very fragile atmosphere that is created builds up easily and nicely to the second half. What happens then can’t be done better by anyone ever again. Fragile becomes robust. Even the toughest diamonds can be broken.
Metallica – Fade To Black
One of the most depressing songs ever. The past couple of days I have rediscovered this one. It is literally about death and addresses suicidal feelings. Although I certainly do not intend to hurt myself, I can relate to it. Strangely it makes me feel better and alive. Not only Fade to Black, but also Welcome Home (Sanitarium) does this to me. Metallica always helps…
I realize now that having written this article and talking briefly about these bands has been part of my grieving process. I am convinced that there are people that can relate to some things that I have said. There will also be those who can’t. Therefore, I am interested to know how music helped, has helped or has been helping you.
Donald Trump might claim that our country is a "hellhole", but if so, we sure are a great sounding one. For starters, in 1840, the Belgian musician Adolphe Sax (photo left) invented the saxophone (and the saxotromba, saxhorn and saxtuba), which makes our country partially responsible for the entire jazz scene, as well as some people's sex lives.
Later, another Belgian, one by the name of Jeanne Deckers (photo below) became a best selling artist. She sold millions of copies and became the first - and only - Belgian artist to top the highly regarded Billboard Charts. She did that with a French song, 'Dominique' under the moniker 'Sœur Sourire' (The Singing Nun)..
In fact, since Johannes Ciconia (1370 - 1412), this little country has been throwing brilliant artists and musicians onto the world, Peter Benoit, Jean-Joseph Fiocco, Henri Pousseur, Wim Mertens, Toots Thielemans, Jacques Brel, Django Reinhardt, Luc Devos, Dirk Serries, Maurice Engelen, Axelle Red, Jo Lemaire... just to name a few. Bands like Praga Khan, Front 242, Stromae, Aborted, Agathocles, Channel Zero and AmenRa blast through speakers all over the world. Hell, we even had our own music genre for a while when New Beat was the biggest thing ever. And that is only the very tip of the iceberg.
In this series, we explore the rich musical history of a country that seems tucked away between Germany, France and the North Sea. We are a small country. We have our problems, like we've always had. Our politicians aren't any better than yours, but we have beer and chocolate. Our air is polluted but we have some of the best athletes in the world. It always rains here but we still have the best music festivals (Dunk! Graspop! Pukkelpop! Rock Werchter! Tomorrowland! Groezrock!).
You can consider this series as an immense tribute, a glorification of Belgian artists, performers and labels of all times and eras. We delve, quite randomly, into electronic dance music, metal, classical music and so on. Much like all Belgians, we go with the flow on this one. We write what we think about when we think about it. So this article might look somewhat chaotic but you could consider that as just another beautiful representation of what this country is all about. We're weird but we make it sound awesome...
While people may see Renaissance music as something coming from France or Italy, Belgian composers have had a massive influence on early classical music. For some - still unknown - reason, there was a strong link between Rome and Liege, a city in the Walloon side of our country. Johannes Ciconia, Belgium's first known composer, was the son of a priest, born in Liege. He worked most of his adult life in Rome. Papal records suggest that Ciconia was in the service of Pope Boniface IX in Rome in 1391. Ciconia's music is an eclectic blend of styles, which, if you think about it, seems to be something extremely common for Belgian artists. We thrive on crossing over.
Other influential figures in the old ages were Gilles Binchois, Johannes Ockeghem, Jacob Obrecht, Pierre de La Rue, Alexander Agricola, Gaspar van Weerbeke and Guillaume Dufay. The music of Josquin des Prez was considered an aesthetic model for much of the 16th-century High Renaissance. Classical music and opera are still a constant here, with baritones Jules Bastin and José van Dam being top level performers and Helmut Lotti becoming one of the most famous singers in the world with his popular interpretations of opera classics. Not everybody is a big fan of Lotti but still, he filled big venues all over the world.
We take a random leap to the eighties and witness other pioneers, this time armed with electronics and dressed in army uniforms. Front 242 were formed in 1981 in Aarschot, by Daniel Bressanutti and Dirk Bergen. They wanted to create music using emerging electronic tools. Their rough, abrasive and repetitive sound quickly became a landmark and caused a new genre to emerge. That genre was named "EBM", or "Electronic Body Music" and easily became a subculture. Even The Prodigy have mentioned Front 242 as one of their biggest influences.
From there, another genre started to emerge, blending electronic body music with Detroit techno, or "acid house". Belgians started picking up electronic instruments by the thousands now, resulting in an incredible array of electronic musical styles. With all those acts, a huge number of labels appeared as well. Antler-Subway, R&S, Bonzai Records,... each of them became successful and many of their singles are still massive dance floor fillers. The Belgian archives contain more projects and songs than you can imagine. With forerunners like The Neon Judgement, A Split Second and Snowy Red, Belgium grew into an electronic paradise, more varied than the Italo-disco craze in Italy and the French house scene combined. We'll get to Belgian electronics later.
However, those were the eighties and those were NOT the first scenes originated or pioneered in Belgium. The Popcorn music scene first developed from dances held at the Groove discotheque in Ostend, where mid-tempo soul and ska music played by DJ Freddy Cousaert (photo left) became popular. Cousaert was later responsible for Marvin Gaye's move to Belgium in the early 1980s. Popcorn itself originated in Antwerp, in café 'De Oude Hoeve', which was renamed to 'Popcorn', courtesy of DJ Gilbert Govaert. In some cases, DJs slowed down records, by pitch control and by playing 45 rpm discs at 33 rpm, to achieve the desired tempo and rhythm. Yes, we know, slowing down records definitely seems to be a Belgian thing. It's exactly how the whole new beat craze started too.
The year is 1999. Somewhere in Kortrijk vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout and guitarist Mathieu Vandekerckhove decide to form a new band, AmenRa. In 2005, they formed Church of Ra, a collective of collaborating artists which now includes Oathbreaker, Wiegedood, the Black Heart Rebellion, Syndrome, Kingdom and CHVE. AmenRa quickly turns into more than a band. It becomes a way of life. Loads of splits and full-lengths have been unleashed upon the world, followed by astounding performances on festivals and in unusual venues like churches and caves. The groundbreaking band, formed out of the ashes of hardcore band Spineless, is widely regarded as one of the greatest sludge metal bands of all time and can easily stand alongside acts like Neurosis and Eyehategod.
Not far away, in the city of Ghent this time, a label opens in 2007, followed by a shop in 2014. The Consouling Store & Sounds quickly turns into a sweltering cesspool of drones, riffs, drums and screams. The Church Of Ra joins in on the fun. In only a few years, Consouling Sounds becomes a landmark in the Belgian music industry. In his own gentle way, owner Mike overloads record stores with releases by Alkerdeel, Nadja, Snailking, Thisquietarmy, Gnaw Their Tongues, Viscera///, Eleanora, Monnik, Charnia, Barst... The list goes on and on.
Throughout the years Belgium steadily grows into a slow, atmospheric sounding country, and more and more bands start to appear. In the wake of this new found interest in slow sounds, an entire ambient and drone scene starts producing some masterpieces. Fronted by Dirk Serries (photo), who initially gained fame as VidnaObmana, drones and soundscapes seem to emerge everywhere. The capital here seems to be Antwerp, where acts like Stratosphere, Ashtoreth and Premonition Factory become household names. A beautiful testament of the Belgian ambient scene can be found on the compilation 'Belgium experimental underground 017 survey', edited by Unexplained Sounds Group (which Wagner reviewed). Here, the underground is teeming as well. Again, we'll get to that in a future edition of this series.
The unbreakable strength of the Belgian metal scene
Back in 1967, a band named Adam's Recital, was the first band to use the heavy, distorted guitars the metal scene is so well known for. Their only heritage is the 'There's No Place For Lonely People' single (later covered by "The Belgian Ramones", The Paranoiacs) but it somehow sparked ages of headbanging on Belgian fields. The first band regarded as a heavy metal band was Airquick, who released a few singles but quickly faded away.
Today, the Belgian metal scene contains an incredible multitude of bands. Unfortunately, our finest thrash metal band ever, Bliksem, recently called it quits but we still have plenty to be proud about. In the doom metal scene, Bathsheba are one of the best things that ever happened to the genre. Emptiness stubbornly follow their own path, resulting in one of the greatest full-lengths in 2017. Elsewhere, Evil Invaders are thrashing stages everywhere. Our most famous metalband will probably be Channel Zero but we also have Saille, Enthroned & Ancient Rites in the blackened scene and Aborted and Leng Tche in the death metal division. The grindcore scene adores Agathocles and Belgian Asociality appeals to beer-loading punks everywhere. Hardcore, metalcore? We got it covered with Dead End Path, Deviate, Bark and the entire H8000 scene in West-Flanders.
So yes, I think I have plenty of reason to expand this little article into a whole series. There is so much more I want to write about. There are plenty of artists, festivals, venues, labels, writers, pioneers, masterminds. In the next few weeks, months, whatevers, we'll be publishing more glorification-ramblings like this one. We will dig deep into the underground and we will barf up some old favorites.
Welcome to the amazing chaos of Belgium...
Prepare yourself for a journey through space and time. With this new series, we present some of the best psychedelic, ambient and krautrock music and everything that is calm and relaxing. Today, we begin with a tribute to the legendary 'Muziek Uit De Kosmos' series, broadcasted on BRT in the seventies and eighties.
These songs have been selected by Marc (visit his lounge room). We're not going to write comments, just click 'play', close your eyes and enjoy the trip.
Music From The Cosmos - The YouTube playlist
Michael Hoenig - Departure From The Northern Wasteland
Ashra - Midnight on Mars
Ashra - Oasis
Tangerine Dream - Invisible Limits
Klaus Schulze - Blanche
Edgar Froese - Stuntman
Robert Schroeder - Mosaique
Tangerine Dream - Rising Runner Missed By Endless Sender
Kraftwerk - Ohm Sweet Ohm
Baffo Banfi - Oye Cosmo Va
Compiling our previous 'Fuel The Revolution' playlist was so much fun we immediately decided to turn it into a series. So today, we'd like to present part two and throw another bunch of protest songs in your face. I hope you enjoy.
Depeche Mode - Where's the Revolution
Ever loyal to their sound, Depeche Mode never seems to quit being Depeche Mode, which is probably the reason why they are one of the most respected bands in the synth pop scene. Their brand new single is perfectly suited for this playlist, asking a very important question and adding 'Come On People, You're Letting Me Down' in the chorus.
Midnight Oil - Beds Are Burning
This smash hit by Australian rockers Midnight Oil is one of the most recognizable songs ever. "Beds Are Burning" is a protest song in support of giving native Australian lands back to the Pintupi (an Australian Aboriginal group), who were among the very last people to come in from the desert.
Bob Dylan - Hurricane
Bob Dylan is widely known for his protest songs, and 'Hurricane' is definitely one of his best. "Hurricane" is a protest song, about the imprisonment of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. It compiles alleged acts of racism and profiling against Carter, which Dylan describes as leading to a false trial and conviction.
Louis Neefs - Laat Ons Een Bloem / Wally Whyton - Leave Them A Flower
This one might come as a surprise to some Dutch speaking readers who thought that this massively popular ecological protest song by Louis Neefs is actually a cover. It was originally written and recorded by Wally Whyton in 1968 and covered by Neefs in 1970. Nonetheless, it is a very strong and still relevant song, regardless of the version...
Sepultura - Territory
Brazilian metal legends Sepultura have been a blast of pure anarchy since the very beginning. Many of their songs handle themes like war, politics, terror, propaganda and so on. 'Territory' is one of my personal favorites.
Black Sabbath - War Pigs
Heavy metal and protesting have gone hand in hand since the very beginning of the genre. This song by legends Black Sabbath is 47 years old now and still incredibly relevant today. The band has been influencing countless of bands and artists all over the world. Unfortunately, they haven't been influencing politicians...
Bruce Cockburn - If I Had a Rocket Launcher
From Wikipedia (and because I can't explain it better): Although Cockburn had occasionally touched on political themes in his earlier songs, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" was his first explicitly political song to be released as a single, and earned him a new reputation as an outspoken musical activist.
Nicolette - No Government
With advice like this, pop singer Nicolette just had to be a part of this list. To some, she might be best known as the vocalist on the Massive Attack songs "Three" and "Sly".
The Clash - The Call Up
The Clash have been a synonym for anti-war protest songs and an inspiration for numerous punk rock bands around the world. This single was released in November 1980, in advance of the release of 'Sandinista!', with the anti-nuclear "Stop the World" as its B-side.
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Enola Gay
Speaking about anti-nuclear protest songs, did you know you have been dancing to a song about the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima at many wedding parties? Think about that.
Redbone - We Were All Wounded At Wounded Knee
Since we're addressing the themes at wedding party hits, how about a massacre? You can read all about that here.
Public Enemy - Fight The Power
But let's not forget the rap and hip-hop scene. Public Enemy easily became the poster-boys for the militant and anti-government branches of this young scene.
2Pac - Changes
Another icon in the rap scene is Tupac Shakur. The song makes references to the war on drugs, the treatment of black people by the police, the perpetuation of poverty and its accompanying vicious-cycle value system in urban African American culture, and the difficulties of life in the ghetto. Yet, this song is also about positivity.
Peter Gabriel - Biko
This song by Peter Gabriel is about Steve Biko, a noted black South African anti-apartheid activist. Biko had been arrested by the South African police in late August 1977. After being held in custody for several days, he was interrogated in room 619 of the Walmer St prison in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. Following the interrogation, during which he sustained serious head injuries, Biko was transferred to a prison in Pretoria, where he died shortly afterwards, on 12 September 1977.
Pete Seeger - We Shall Overcome
"We Shall Overcome" is a gospel song which became a protest song and a key anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. The song is most commonly attributed as having descended lyrically from "I'll Overcome Some Day", a hymn by Charles Albert Tindley that was first published in 1900.
Oberon is a Uranus moon, discovered in January 11, 1787, by British astronomer Frederick William Herschel. Oberon is characterized by a heavily accidental and cratered surface, probably the result of constant impacts by comets and meteors wandering erratically throughout space. Given its enormous distance from the Sun, the average temperature in Oberon is exceedingly freezing, being estimated in approximately –200º. One of Uranus five major moons, Oberon is the second largest, after Titania, and the second darkest, after Umbriel.
Since its discovery, the field of astronomy has expanded greatly its knowledge about Oberon, although a lot of gaps do exist, and some lines below, I explain to you why. Orbiting Uranus from a distance of about 585.000 km, Oberon is the 9th largest moon in the Solar System, being expressively smaller than Earth’s moon. It is strongly believed that, among its components, water ice may exist in a somewhat prevalent scale. With generic geological features, Oberon has little to offer in terms of geography, and even less to outstand itself from other more curious and interesting moons in the Solar System. With craters and accidental geographical features known as chasmata – which would be Earth’s equivalent of deep and profound precipices, valleys and canyons –, Oberon’s surface is mainly irregular, but has a consistency and a uniformity typical of its structure, although several of these chasmata has been mapped, named and calculated.
Given its distance from Earth, full exploration of Oberon has never been seriously speculated nor considered. Since all of its known photographs have been transmitted by Voyager 2 during the eighties, and even then, taken at a colossal distance of approximately 470.000 km, what we really know about this mysterious Uranian moon – although it comprises a vast collection of information, for sure – still remains little, if compared to other moons in the Solar System. Given the fact that the dark nature of Oberon was a challenge to full visibility, and additional obstacles included distance, perspective and the axial moon’s inclination when the photos were taken, it became virtually impossible to decipher the vast majority of its surface. Unfortunately, there are no plans in any space station in the world today to undergo a more serious mission to study Oberon, or to examine the Uranian system as a whole. As we have no choice on this matter, apparently Oberon will remain, at least partially, a very promising mystery in the records of astronomy.
The universe has no boundaries, but boundaries do exist, precisely in what we know – or what we think we know – about the universe. But we can always count on astronomy to help us discover what exists out there, in the most distant places of the outer space. Fortunately for us, astronomy agencies, like NASA, are always discovering something new, almost every day, and, although it may be sometimes hard to follow all the news, it is not impossible to update our knowledge about the outer space once in a while.
For example: a lot of people still doesn’t know that Pluto is no longer a planet, but it has been reclassified as a dwarf-planet since 2006, and it has five known moons, being them Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx, which comes as a surprise to many, since, until recently, Pluto was known to us all as a solitary planet, isolated in the final boundaries of the Solar System. Today, this image of Pluto is completely demythologized, since ongoing studies about this fascinating and distant dwarf-planet is going stronger than ever, unfolding new knowledge, as well as impressing evidences, about its functionality almost every day.
One of the most intriguing discoveries about Pluto concerns its relation with Charon, its biggest moon. Being more than half the size of Pluto, Charon, besides being tidally locked – which means that both objects always have the same side of the surface pointing to each other –, has a great deal of members in the scientific community calling them a binary system, since the barycenter of their orbits it is not located in anyone of them.
Very recently, in July 2015, the NASA spacecraft New Horizons – part of the New Frontiers program of discoveries – passed by Pluto, and all of its moons, after an almost ten years journey throughout space, focusing its study on Pluto and Charon, more specifically, and revealing for the first time in great detail curious characteristics of the dwarf-planet, unbeknownst to us all, until recently, although what we know – or what we think we know – about Pluto is only a drop in the vast ocean of possibilities.
When it comes to dwarf-planets, astronomical investigations virtually never stop. Ceres, the closest to Earth, being located in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter, recently had the NASA Dawn Spacecraft passing by its orbit, collecting new images and evidences about the mysterious dwarf-planet.
Another major field of study in astronomy concerns the exoplanets – also designated as extrasolar planets –, which means planets located outside the Solar System, orbiting another star, rather than the Sun. A lot of “new” exoplanets had come to light recently, since a lot of them have been discovered in a very fast succession, in the last few years, like 55 Cancri e, discovered in August 30, 2004, WASP-12b, discovered in April 1, 2008, Gliese 581 e, discovered in April 21, 2009, and Gliese 1214 b, discovered in December 16, 2009, only to name just a few.
The extrasolar planets field of study is not just interesting, but very intriguing, since you can really learn the different types of planets that exist in the vastness of the universe, having, all of them, different measures, colors, compositions, sizes and masses, besides a lot of other peculiarities, which makes this particular field of study of great interest to a large group of astronomers. But even science can make its faults, and the scientific community not always agrees in all astronomical considerations and discoveries. Far from that, divergent points of view are more common than we think they are. One case of such notice evolving exoplanets concerns Alpha Centauri Bb, discovered in October 2012. Categorized now as a purely speculative extrasolar planet, considered the closest to Earth, being distant “only” 4.37 light-years from us, the group of European scientists that takes the credit for its discovery received hard criticism from several groups of astronomers, skeptical and cynical for the lack of concrete evidence supporting the discovery, thus affirming that the discovery team misinterpreted their own calculations and information in their database, probably being mistaken by false positives, which is, at least at certain times, a common astronomical factor for wrong conclusions, since much of its results are achieved by mathematical method. Today, the existence of this exoplanet is very controversial, and at least three different groups are involved in efforts to prove or disprove, for once and for all, its existence. In June 2013, a group of scientists gathered together to establish deeply, through scientific methods, the probability of the true existence of Alpha Centauri Bb, and the conclusions they reached turned its existence as highly unlikely.
Another constant point of study in astronomy is Jupiter’s magnetosphere. Being the second largest structure in the Solar System, with an extension of seven million kilometers, behind only the heliosphere, constant research in this field is practically endless, since scientists are always unfolding new information about Jupiter’s magnetic field, and its interactions with the other planets, moons and sidereal objects in the Solar System. But investigating Jupiter’s magnetosphere always represents a risk, because the strong radioactive emissions from the gas giant tends to damage the spacecraft sent to collect images and data registers, and frequently, technical problems represents a challenge difficult to surpass, taking into consideration the strong nuclear radiation that impair the equipment, which was something greatly experienced by the Galileo Spacecraft, designed to carry on missions in the Jovian System from 1995 to 2003. The Cassini and the New Horizons spacecraft gave sequence to the mission, although little significant discoveries have been made, by virtue of the same difficulties.
As any of us can imagine, astronomy has very specific sectors of study, for each one of its many fields, and one of this fields occupies itself in the study of all the natural satellites in the Solar System, from the Earth’s moon to the five known moons of the dwarf-planet Pluto. The most studied moons are, undoubtedly, the Jovian’s Galilean moons – Io, Calisto, Europa and Ganymede –, Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus, and Neptune’s Triton, although there are several other moons in the Solar System extremely studied as well. With very specific programs of study and exploration for each one of the major natural satellites, one that can certainly be pointed out here is Enceladus, the sixth largest moon of Saturn, which has nowadays a lot of proposed missions, one of them being nicknamed as Enceladus Life Finder, whose goal is to send a spacecraft, equipped with technology able to enter the subsurface ocean of the moon, and investigate its potential habitability, unfolding – who knows – a whole new set of possibilities, that, until now, are of a merely theoretical speculative nature, although the importance of this mission cannot be minimized, especially if undertakes promising results, since a lot of similar projects, designed in the same category, are all under development in the present moment, being LIFE (Life Investigation for Enceladus) one of them. All of these projects combined will certainly perform a great degree of meticulous detailed study about this mysterious Saturn moon .
Investigative habitability of natural satellites, although it is not a new field of study, is another sector of astronomy greatly improved in recent decades. Taking into consideration a lot of important factors, especially the conditions on which specifically human life are able to maintain itself outside an earth-like place, habitability of natural satellites points out the very specific values, on which hypothetical possibilities of living are studied, pointing out real expectations of success, when analyzing the habitat of a specific satellite. The composition of the atmosphere, the existence of liquid water, and its location in the habitable zone – a place designated by astronomers as the point of highest chance to sustain life – are all evaluated, to set a standard for the real possibilities of life on such environments, although several conclusions in this field of study are of a highly speculative nature.
Astronomy is important to show us how little we are, inhabiting just a small planet, that could well be seen as just a grain of sand, in the unforeseeable vastness of the universe. Astronomy is also important to show us how much we can expand our knowledge about the universe. And as much as we are able to grow, as much as we are able to learn, we’ll acknowledge our own ignorance about this fascinating subject. It is not for us to establish specific truths about the galaxies, the planets, the several shapes of constellations that we know, to tell or not to tell if we are alone – or not – in the universe. Our final goal has to be aligned to the fact that we must improve our knowledge about the universe, little by little, every day, and, who knows, maybe we’ll be able, someday, to understand ourselves, when the comprehension of the universe, or at least, the most significant parts of it, are deeply rooted in the essence of our very existence, understanding that the process of learning should be infinite, as it is the universe, on which we are just a small – but important – part of it.
HD 189733 b is a giant extrasolar planet, discovered in October 2005, in the Haute-Provence Observatory, located in southeast France, through an astronomic method known as Doppler Spectroscopy Transit. Located in a faraway constellation called Vulpecula, it orbits the primary star of a binary system, known as HD 189733, also displayed on astronomic records as V452 Vulpeculae. Classified as a Hot Jupiter – which is a vulgar term associated with extrasolar planets that are as big as Jupiter in size, but, due to close proximity to its host star (amongst other reasons), are extremely hot –, the average temperature is estimated to be between 1066,85 ºC to 1266,85ºC. In 2013 it was discovered that HD 189733 b has a somewhat cobalt blue color, due to silicate components probably being abundant in the extrasolar planet’s atmosphere. HD 189733 b also became infamous in the astronomic international community after it was discovered that rains of glass are a constant in the extrasolar planet’s surface, all abundantly pushed by hostile winds on a speed of 8690 km/h.
Technology, mathematical algorithms and complex arithmetical systems play a major part on the discovery and examination of extrasolar planets, given the fact that they are so exponentially distant from the Solar System that full observation by a telescope helps little in a more accurate and precise analysis. One of the interesting points about HD 189733 b is the fact that it is so close to its star – 4,7 million kilometers approximately – that an orbit is fully completed in every two days. This proximity also causes the exoplanet to be tidally locked in its gravitational route, which means that one side of the surface is always facing its host star, while the other is perpetually hidden from it. In 2007, only two years after HD 189733 b’s discovery, a team of astronomical scientists published a study showing the probabilities of water vapor to be present in the extrasolar planet’s atmosphere. In this same period, NASA began to show interest and to study HD 189733 b as well. A team of scientists in the University of Exeter, in the United Kingdom, had started also their own studies about the curious exoplanet, measuring the alterations of its luminosity during its gravitational movement around its host star. HD 189733 b also became the first extrasolar planet to be fully heat mapped.
Although a fascinating discovery, there are several others extrasolar planets being fully studied as well, with many more to be discovered in the near future. With extremely improved technological devices and techniques available to realize a more profound study – aiming to compensate the blank spaces in knowledge that we have, since the hugely immense distance from our Solar System to the constellation where HD 189733 b is located turns useless a direct telescopic observation, given the fact that little, if any image whatsoever, can be actually seen – the astronomic international community is excited with the prospect of new discoveries. Although it is almost twelve years now since HD 189733 b has appeared on the map of the known universe, certainly a lot more information will be available in the years to come. Currently, NASA has plans to release in 2018 a new space telescope, called TESS – acronym for Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite –, which has as a primary objective the detection and study of extrasolar planets, using the transit method.
With several complexities that makes investigation of HD 189733 b an intriguing and fascinating challenge, scientists and astronomers are fully absorbed by the peculiarities of this incredible and majestic exoplanet. With a lot of the scientific data fully filled, they seem eager to pass to the next level, to decipher what they don’t know for sure, but are anxious to discover. Marvelously, the universe is filled with unexpected and joyful mysteries, and there are always people eager to decipher them all, for the sake of our fascination and curiosity.
25 amazing synthpop songs that you have never listened from bands you haven’t even knew existed (or the testimony of how a band can become the ground base for an entire genre)
All genres have excellent bands – whether they are still active or have already disbanded, this would not be taken into consideration here – that, besides the fact of playing great, wonderful and amazing music, paradoxically, never had too much success, doesn’t matter if the possibilities were placed under a mainstream or underground basis. But the chance of success is overall reduced for most bands because the music business is thoroughly difficult, and not all the groups listed below, despite a lot of them being quite talented and astonishing, would have the opportunity to conquer an audience, especially if solely based on their musical greatness and creativity. The music industry is complex, and the success of a band depends a lot more on contacts, contracts, publicity, agent and visuals, than talent and musical abilities per se. So, below, I have selected amazing and overwhelming synthpop songs from bands that had potential to break into the mainstream – if not all of them, at least a dozen of it –, but unfortunately, this never happened (although some of them have found a modest degree of success). For one reason or another, the vast majority of these bands haven’t had the opportunity to make it into the music business (with only a few exceptions), never properly consolidating a career.
1 – Michigan: Karma Shines
Michigan – as far as I could research on the web – was a German synthpop group, that had disbanded at some moment, throughout a somewhat prolific career. They don’t have any social media (like the vast majority of bands on this list) to search for, but apparently, had a solid and fruitful career, as YouTube is full of videos featuring their music. They were the primary example of a synthpop band profoundly influenced by Depeche Mode.
2 – Sea of Sin: Ride The Sky
Sea of Sin – again, as far as I could research – was also a German synthpop band. Like other groups on this list, they were thoroughly influenced by Depeche Mode. Apparently, they were active from the early 1990’s, to the early 2000’s, when they ceased activities. In their short career, they’ve released their debut album, Watch Out!, in 1995, and the EP Illuminate, in 1997, both by Subtronic Records. Their final album, a full length titled Urban Chemistry, was released in 2000, by Synthphony Records.
3 – Days of Fate: Lonely People
Another German band, with Depeche Mode similarities, albeit with darker nuances. This band has managed to achieve a reasonable level of notoriety within their home country, building a style of their own, amalgamating a great array of influences and genres in their compositions. Although they have a somewhat very concise discography, the band was active for fifteen years, from 1993 to 2008.
4 – The Dignity of Labour: Liquid
The Dignity of Labour – also known as TDOL – is a perfect example of a little known synthpop group, with a decades long career. Although it has a very short discography, The Dignity of Labour – that shortly after it was created, in the mid to late eighties, diluted as a group, but strongly continued as a project of its main creator and composer, American musician Kirk Taylor – is active nowadays, releasing albums and doing occasional live performances with supporting musicians.
5 – The Human League: Empire State Human
Having Started activities in 1977, in 2017, The Human League will complete forty years of existence. The most successful band on this list, they achieved higher fame in the eighties, with several singles becoming hits worldwide, and greatly increasing their public profile and fame. Among their most well-known successes, are songs like “Don’t You Want Me”, “Human” and “Heart Like a Wheel”. As the band entered the nineties, and the general acceptance and tolerance the public had for electro and synthpop started to decline, the band’s career became unstable and erratic. The only original member is singer Phillip Oakey, that is part of the group since its inception, in 1977. The other members are female singers Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley, both having joined The Human League in 1980, initially only as backup singers, before becoming full time members, with more prominent roles. Now seen more as a nostalgia act, the band has a discography comprising nine full lengths, releasing only one album per decade, since 1995. For live performances, they are usually backed by a cast of additional musicians. They have sold a total of twenty million records worldwide, although the vast majority of these at the height of their fame, during the eighties. Nowadays, they are hardly remembered by anyone outside their cult following fan base.
6 – Seven Red Seven: Thinking Of You
This is a band that has some songs on YouTube, but little is known about them. Nonetheless, they managed to do some interesting stuff in the traditional verve of the genre, being virtually exceedingly influenced by the Speak and Spell era of early Depeche Mode.
7 – Children Within: Headbanger
This is another group, upon which very little is known. But from all of these bands, this is certainly the most Depeche Mode-esque of them all. The song follows exactly the same sonorous patterns, nuances, essences and harmonic devices from the Speak and Spell era. Nonetheless, it’s an awesome tune, and if you like synthpop, there is a high chance of you sympathizing with this song.
8 – Starsign: Patience
Starsign is another unknown band that had disbanded for a long time now. Apparently, they were also from Germany. Their only album, Transceiver, was released in 2003. It is also another example of a group exceedingly influenced by early Depeche Mode, being amazingly impressive how the vocals resembles the voice of Dave Gahan, Depeche Mode’s singer. On this list, this is one of my personal favorites.
9 – Iris: The Picture
Iris is an American synthpop group, active since 1993. With a great presence on the genre underground scene and a respectable discography, Iris is one from only a handful of bands on this list that managed to make a reasonable and moderately successful career. A perfect example of a group that followed a more original and genuine style – instead of being another Depeche Mode-esque generic act – Iris is a duo consisting of musicians Andrew Sega and Reagan Jones. More flavored, romantic, libertine and with an exceptionally free-flowing harmony, The Picture is the cover version of a song by German synthpop group Hubert Kah.
10 – State of the Union: Fall from Grace
Another example of a great and promising act with a very personal style, State of the Union is an electronic project from Laguna Beach, California. Signed with Infacted Recordings and WTII Records, State of the Union is the emotional, creative and artistic vehicle for a musician called Johann Sebastian.
11 – Fake the Envy: Into The Night
Fake The Envy is a moderately successful Danish band, that has achieved some sort of notoriety in their home country. Active since 2001, the group consists of musicians Kristian Krøll, Kent Ricard Petersen and Jonas Gudjonsson, and has four releases available on their bandcamp page.
12 – Edenfeld: Somehow, any day
Edenfeld is another German synthpop group, that apparently had disbanded, although not without consolidating first a good reputation. With a more peculiar style, the song Somehow, any day, is an interesting one, having a presence and a vibration of its own.
13 – Rename: Maybe later I will fall
I really don’t know anything about this band. Nonetheless, the song Maybe later I will fall is a major exemplar of the genre, showcasing in what simple, but beautiful terms the synthpop, as a genre and as a sonorous form of art, should sound like.
14 – De/Vision: Dress Me When I Bleed
Another German band (I know, Germany probably has the highest percentage of synthpop bands per one hundred thousand inhabitants, I suppose [it’s only a speculation, but it’s proved Finland has the highest percentage on heavy metal groups – 54 bands per 100.000 people]), De/Vision is active since the late eighties, and has a very extensive discography. It’s a prominent band in their home country, and this video is probably the most beautiful on this list.
15 – Wolfsheim: Approaching Lightspeed
Wolfsheim was a moderately successful German (what a surprise) synthpop duo, consisting of musicians Markus Reinhardt and Peter Heppner, active from the late eighties until 2004. The band ceased to exist as a result of conflicts and arguments between the two artists, that even led both to court, on legal disputes for the Wolfsheim name. Neither of them gained the battle, as justice settled the case forbidding one to continue the project without the other.
16 – The New Division: Opium
An astounding project by American musician John Glenn Kunkel, Depeche Mode is an obvious influence here, although The New Division clearly has its own style. A beautiful song with a unique beat, Opium is an amazing hit, that combines synthpop with a wider array of electronic influences.
17 – Elegant Machinery: Shattered Grounds
Elegant Machinery is a synthpop band from Sweden, created in the late eighties. Since then, the band has disbanded and regrouped in two occasions. Although it has a somewhat concise discography, Elegant Machinery has managed to improve the scene with their catchy, soft and easy minded rhythms.
18 – Mesh: My Perfection
Mesh is a synthpop band from England. Active since 1991, My Perfection is one of their most beautiful songs. Like a lot of bands on this list, Depeche Mode acts as one of their main influences.
19 – Decence: Speaking
Decence is another band upon which virtually nothing is known. Nevertheless, the song selected below, Speaking, is another great example of a very good and exhilarating synthpop tune. With abrasive and uplifting beats, it follows the general patterns of the genre, although in a more interesting and peculiar style.
20 – Frozen Plasma: Hypocrite
Frozen Plasma is a notorious German synthpop duo, consisting of singer Felix Marc, and musician Vasi Vallis, of NamNamBulu fame. An exponentially famous and groundbreaking act in the German underground scenario, Frozen Plasma has shaped their music towards a more futuristic and modernist sonorous approach, which gave them a unique style, easy to recognize, to love and to sing.
21 –Statemachine: Play With Passion
Statemachine is a synthpop act from Sweden, active since 1996, upon which very little information is known. Their last post on their official FB page was from December 10, 2015, and before that, on March 12, 2015, which indicates that, since there is a lot of time between updates, the band probably are undergoing little to no activity. With an interesting sound, that merges some elements of electronica, the song Play With Passion is a great representative of their style, that closely arranges an eccentric move towards indietronica, as well as other genres, easy to perfectly align with synthpop components.
22 – Portland: You Are Nobody
Another seemingly unknown band, that sounds very similar to early Depeche Mode. Although You Are Nobody is not exactly a great hit, it’s a beautiful song, and very representative of the style followed by the group.
23 – Cause & Effect: The Beginning of the End
Cause & Effect was a synthpop duo from California, formed by musicians Sean Rowley and Rob Rowe. The Beginning of the End is a song with a more Tears for Fears “vibe”, being a very serene and reflexive synthpop tune, although closely resembles more general and traditional influences, like early Depeche Mode songs, like Shouldn’t Have Done That, The Sun & The Rainfall and Lie To Me, amongst others.
24 – Blue Birds Refuse to Fly: Burning
A good song from another seemingly unknown band, Burning has traditional synthpop harmonies, but intertwined with a more electronic vibe. An interesting tune, it departs from the general proceedings of the genre, despite maintaining the basic principles of synthpop.
25 – CHROM: Blame You
Last, but not least, a great song from CHROM, an amazing German synthpop duo, consisting of musicians Thomas Winters and Christian Marquis. Active since 2007, CHROM is characterized by an intelligent blend of futurepop, synthpop and EBM. One of my favorites on this list, Blame You is a superb, drastic and effervescent major song, that reshapes the creativity upon which several genres are able to converge.
Well, what we’ve really learned, throughout this whole ordeal? That synthpop as a genre, and especially as we known today, would not properly exist without Depeche Mode. Their influence was huge throughout the world, whatever and whenever the genre is heard or played. Early Depeche Mode – most prominently their albums released from early to mid-eighties – were a significant influence on most of the acts presented on this list, mainly because the generation of the musicians in question similarly coincide (they were probably mostly teenagers when Depeche Mode began its rise to stardom). Depeche Mode albums released from the mid-eighties to early nineties have played less importance on these groups in particular – and the songs featured on this list, with a fewer exceptions – mainly because most of them had already developed their styles, although Depeche Mode as an influence in general would never stop. And we have to take into consideration the fact that these bands mostly disbanded some time along the way, while Depeche Mode’s career never stopped, although their greatest and most successful period was until the early nineties, with their glorious days going until Songs of Faith and Devotion, their 1993 rock album, that was followed by a live version released that same year. From that time on, Depeche Mode would release only one album every four years (and this is a year for Depeche Mode to a release new material: a new album, titled Spirit, is scheduled to be out in the next month [the follow up of 2013 Delta Machine]). Oh, and yes, of course, on this article we learned also that synthpop is a genre specially loved and appreciated throughout Germany. I don’t have the slightest doubt on this matter!
Fifteen Songs To Add To Your Valentine's Day Playlist
We kick off with some nice love songs for a romantic date. We asked our writers to pick their favorite love songs. However, be aware that our team consists of alternativos and weirdos, so don't expect too much honey-dripping nonsense about eternal flames that would do anything for you because they will always love you. For some reason, we selected these fifteen songs...
Noordkaap - Ik Hou Van U
This can't be any simpler. The song title translates to 'I Love You'. This song by Belgian rockers Noordkaap is an uplifting waltz, irresistible for pretty much every man and woman in Flanders.
The Cure - Pictures Of You
For some here at Merchants Of Air, this song is the ultimate tearjerker (even in a sold-out Sportpaleis with a cringe worthy awful sound - read). The Cure has always been a melancholic band but this one is so beautiful.
Simply Red - Stars
It might surprise you that we picked an act that comes in the much feared reign of commercial music but we have a damn good reason for that. Simply Red is one of those artists who combine excellent musicianship with inelaborate but touching lyrics. So yes, this song belongs here.
Queen - You're My Best Friend
Queen is another one of those bands that easily managed to please fans of pop music and alternativos alike. Besides, a good lover is always a best friend. So this was another excellent choice.
Bob Marley - Is this Love
We'll share the shelter, of my single bed,
We'll share the same room, yeah!
Yes, Bob, that is love...
LL Cool J - I Want Love
Oh man, puberty, what a waste of time and hormones. Still, this is one of the most beautiful things ever to emerge from the hip-hop scene. That being said, today that scene is all about "smacking bitches and grinding hoes", so yeah, the hip hop scene needs a bit of love...
Paranoiacs - I Think I Love You
Once dubbed "The Belgian Ramones", punk act The Paranoiacs wrote tonnes of songs about love and about breaking up. Why? Well, according to an interview, they just wrote about the things that kept them busy and that thing was love. Simple but effective.
Nick Cave - Into My Arms
I've always liked Cave's piano ballads and you have to admit, this one is a "tile sticker" (*)
(*) being Flemish, we couldn't find a better word than "tile-sticker". The word basically reflects the way people dance to these ballads, close together, not occupying more than one tile on the dance floor.
Massive Attack - Live With Me
Trip hop legends Massive Attack delivered a stunning piece of music with this one, deeply emotional and perfectly capable of causing rivers of tears.
Scorpions - Still Loving You
The world of hard rock and metal is not really famous for their love songs. Yet, probably one of the most famous love songs in the history of music comes from a hard rock band. No need to go into details on this one. Just lay back and enjoy this beauty.
Devin Townsend Project - Ih-Ah!
This is a beautiful cooperation between Devin Townsend and Anneke Van Giersbergen. Furthermore, it's an another prime example of how the heaviest and loudest musicians in the world know how to make emotional ballads.
Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
With this one, I'd like to focus on the women in the music industry and their beautiful love songs. In short, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Beyonce and pretty much all their present-day colleagues can learn a thing or two about icons like Aretha Franklin. Even better, can't we just toss the barbie dolls aside and listen to some real women?
Roberta Flack - Killing Me Softly With His Song
To expand the tribute to women, this breathtaking soul-jazz piece by Roberta Flack certainly deserves a place on this list. The song was covered quite successfully by The Fugees, a band with probably one of the last real talented singers in the pop scene.
Ramones - I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
Punk rock usually isn't know for their loving lyrics but punk rockers do have a heart (and it's usually in the right place too). The Ramones delivered an extremely clear message in 1980 when the unleashed this fine tune.
The Beatles - All You Need Is Love
And we finish this list with the Beatles and their hit 'All You Need Is Love'. Why? Well, basically because it's true...
Bonus: Misantronics - For The Love Of The Unknown
As if this whole article is one big advertisement for Serge's own project Misantronics, here is an experimental ambient love song. My wife reminded me of this tune, and it's a love song indeed, one for her. (download for free if you like)
Fifteen anti-love songs
Then, we asked our writers to give us some anti-love songs. Apparently, that was quite a confusing question but we still managed to list fifteen songs that place love in a different light.
Skunk Anansie - Weak
This strong statement about heartbreak has surely passed the test of time. It will always be known as Skunk Anansie's biggest hit but there's a good reason for that. This one helped a lot of adolescents deal with their heartbreaks, that's for sure.
Royal Republic - Tommy-Gun
Apparently, this song is about someone who has been really naughty and therefore has to be turned into an emo, or something like that. I, the writer of this article, didn't know the song so there is not much I can say about it. However, it rocks which is all I need...
Reel Big Fish - I Know You Too Well To Like You Anymore
Well, this one speaks for itself, doesn't it? Happens all the time...
Novembers Doom - Last God
Back to the 'getting through breakups and heartaches", this downright depressing Novembers Doom track had been accompanying one of our writers throughout the darker days. Of course, doom metal often helps shedding the tears and cleansing the soul...
Puissance - Love Incinerate
"Oh, but this one has beautiful classical arrangements and instrumentation". Well, Swedish martial neoclassical music group Puissance doesn't care about love. They don't care about beauty and they certainly don't care about you. told you this was an anti-love list, didn't I?
Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
I heard this song on a wedding once. I wasn't very surprised to hear that they broke up a few years later. Nuff said.
Archive - Get Out
Ok, message understood, moving on...
Ugly Kid Joe - Everything About You
Play this to your Valentine's Day date and you'll get all the time you need to play video games...
Adam Sandler - Somebody Kill me Please
I don't know if he realized it, but Adam Sandler wrote the ultimate heartbreak anthem for the grunge era with this song from 'The Wedding Singer'.
Ben Folds Five - Song for the Dumped
Hurray, financial complications after a breakup. That's all we need, right?
(oh, and to my ex: if you read this, give me back my guitar!!!)...
Misfits - Die, Die My Darling
Katastroof - Afscheid
Belgian bards Katastroof are usually known for their songs about booze and women but, like no other, these guys know how to write hurtful emotional ballads. This one is about a breakup after several years of marriage and the pain it causes.
The Gathering - Shrink
I know, Anneke Van Giersbergen is listed twice in this article but fact is, Anneke can come sit behind a piano in my living room anytime. The most beautiful female voice in the history of metal delivered this creeping tearjerker on the album 'Nighttime Birds', an absolute favorite for thousands of broken hearted people.
Nancy Sinatra - Boots
Another woman from the talent-era, Nancy Sinatra blasted this "get-off-me" anthem into people's faces in 1966. Even KMDFM's version wasn't as powerful as Nancy's.
Nazareth - Love Hurts
Ok, we'll get to sexy time soon, but for now, allow yourself a good sob...
Sexy time songs
Well, if your date goes well, you might be in for some lustful adventures. We asked our writers to pick their favorite sex songs. These are the answers
Fuck Off, You Bastard!
So we kindly asked them to list some turn offs. That was a bit easier.
Still, here are a few sexy songs, delivered by the weird minds at Merchants Of Air. We're not going into descriptions and details on this one... Some kids read this website too you know...
And one more thing, if you ever want to seduce any of us, use one of the instruments below.
There you go, happy valentine's day everybody. We'll be back soon to pick up the pieces of your heart...