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ListenUp

A taxman tribute, our 420 playlist, DJ Spooky's #PrivateJam and more in the music we tweeted this week

by CH Editors in Listen Up on 20 April 2014

420, ListenUp, Music, Nas, Playlists, Prince, Record Store Day, Reissues, Vinyl, PrivateJam

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Grace Jones: Me! I Disconnect From You

Model turned new wave R&B diva, Grace Jones remains on heavy rotation at clubs around the world, but for many its her covers that stand out most. Jones reinterprets songs with a certain refined soulfulness that gives even the most familiar track a new allure. Her previously unreleased take on Tubeway Army's "Me! I Disconnect From You" is Jones in her element, injecting her brand of assertive vocals over a stripped-down dub backing. To celebrate Record Store Day, the track will be available on vinyl for the first time from Island Records through an expanded reissue of her 1981 LP Nightclubbing.

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Junior Parker: Taxman

Tuesday, 15 April was Tax Day in the States, and depending on where residents fall on the country's economic scale, some received a small chunk of change in return for year-long investment while others had to give up some hard-earned cash. To punctuate the dubious occasion, we gave a listen to Junior Parker's slowed down, soulful rendition of The Beatles' "Taxman," which reminds us that while we may not always know what it's for, just be thankful he doesn't take it all because in reality, he can come for it any time he wants it. And file those extensions because if you don't want to pay, you'll just pay some more.

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Prince: Controversy

For this week's #PrivateJam, DJ Spooky—the man who exemplifies the idea of the disc jockey as artist and creator of new music—cited Prince's epic seven-minute jam "Controversy" as the song he'd be "really embarrassed to be caught doing air guitar to." He says, "I remember when Purple Rain and stuff like that came through. I always felt it was reaalllly slick and pop. When I was a kid, I liked more independent and underground music like Fugazi or Minor Threat and Bad Brains, and didn't like pop that much. But there's something about Prince…" There's no better guitar legend to air guitar to, we'd say.

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This week marks the 20th anniversary of Nas' (aka Nasir Jones) seminal debut album Illmatic, which remains equally relevant today. The record—permeated with thoughtful and poetic lyrics, performed in Nas' trademark gravelly and passionate voice—is often credited with bringing East Coast hip-hop back into the raw fold and paving the way for the likes of the Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. One listen to "NY State of Mind" and it's clear why the Queensbridge artist became a hip-hop icon—his first recordings have the refined clarity and lyrical range of a songwriting veteran. The anniversary coincides with both special vinyl releases for Record Store Day and commemorative documentary "Time is Illmatic," which kicked off this year's TriBeCa Film Festival.

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Cool Hunting's 24 Songs for 4/20

Today marks the annual cannabis lover's holiday, fondly known as 420. To celebrate, we've selected 24 tunes that are sure to put you in a festive mood whether you're a casual toker or a self-declared pothead—or (questionably) neither of these. With legalization sweeping much of the United States and acceptance among most of the modern world, there's even more reason to roll up a fatty and enjoy the positive vibes put forth by musicians across all genres. So crumble some herb and take a hit from the bong or burn one down—just be sure to pass the dutchie to the left-hand side.

ListenUp is a Cool Hunting series published every Sunday that takes a deeper look at the music we tweeted throughout the week. Often we'll include a musician or notable fan's personal favorite in a song or album dubbed #PrivateJam.

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Link About It: This Week's Picks

Lego Simpsons, Earth's new twin planet, a 13-year-old eagle huntress and more in our weekly look at the web

by CH Editors in Link About It on 19 April 2014

Earth, Lego, LinkAboutIt, Simpsons, Tom of Finland, Video Games, Mongolia

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1. Vein$

Fingerprints aren't the most secure password—as any decent crime film shows, you leave them everywhere. Vein geometry, however, has been shown to be just as unique as fingerprints—even differing in twins—and could be a safer alternative. Palm-vein scanners have already been produced, and even integrated in laptops; the future has already arrived at Sweden's Lund University, where a student has developed a vein pattern payment system in stores and eateries. Forgot your phone or wallet at home? Just stick out your wrist and get it scanned.

2. Earth Twin

NASA's Kepler planet-finding mission kept track of over 150,000 stars in search of a world that might just be like Earth. Its recently shared discovery, the planet Kepler 186f, happens to be exactly that. A little bigger and a little cooler, the planet falls in the "Goldilocks zone" of stellar orbit, meaning that under the right circumstances, not only will it have liquid water, but it's potentially habitable. At 500 light-years away, scientists are speculating on the exact conditions to the best of their ability. But of the 962 confirmed planets found during this mission, Kepler 186f truly stands out.

3. The Imaginary Records of Famed Footballers

Athletes' forays into music have a dubious history. From Shaq's shameful rap album to the unquestionably soulful jazz of classically trained guitarist and Yankee switch-hitter Bernie Williams, the colorful characteristics brought out in the heat of the game don't always translate in the studio. NY-based graphic artist James Taylor channeled the on-field personalities of the world's most famous footballers—from Pelé to David Beckham—for a series of imaginary record covers that translate their pitch performance to a corresponding music style—ranging from sunny Brazilian Bossa Nova to the mania-inducing Brit pop of the Beatles to moody French new wave à la Zinedine Zidane.

4. In Photos: A 13-year-old Eagle Huntress

Western Mongolia is the only place in the world where golden eagles—taken from their nests as eaglets and carefully trained—are used to hunt hares and small game in the rugged, arid terrain. While documenting the coming-of-age process of 13-year-old boys learning the esteemed practice, photographer Asher Svidensky met Ashol-Pan, perhaps the region and the world's only eagle huntress apprentice. Svidensky's photos are inspiring on many levels. From the astounding beauty of the Mongolian landscape, to Ashol-Pan's unfettered joy, concentration and bond with her hunting partner, these photos are a must-see as they illustrate the breadth of humanity as well as shifting gender norms in a place that appears removed from history.

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5. Tom of Finland Stamps

On the heels of a retrospective at MoCA Los Angeles comes a smaller celebration of Finnish artist Tom of Finland. Responsible for inspiring the style of Freddie Mercury and the Village People, the internationally known, post-war artist is greatly admired for his progressive works surrounding homoeroticism. Now residents in Finland can pay tribute with a set of stamps, which will surely add an expressive touch to mail sent from the Nordic country when they're released this fall.

6. 10 Best Mobile Games of PAX East 2014

As we further our attachment to mobile devices, the world of app video games expands in turn. It's becoming an exciting sphere to monitor—particularly for the advancement in graphics. Tech site Evolve hit up the recent Pax East convention and highlights the top 10 mobile games they found there, which span titles from "Hitman Go" to "The Phantom Pi" and "World Zombination."

7. The Simpsons Lego Minifigures

The much-rumored and highly anticipated Simspons' LEGO minifigs have finally been revealed. All 16 characters, including Itchy and Scratchy, are fully detailed and accessorized—and vastly superior to the last Lego Simpsons offering. They won't be on shelves until the Lego episode of "The Simpsons" on 4 May, when each will then retail for $4.

8. Coffee, Cameras and a Cafe

About 40 miles outside of Seoul, you won't find a Starbucks but a café shaped like a vintage Rolleiflex twin-lens camera. Named The Dreaming Camera, it wasn't built to be a tourist attraction or even a regular coffee shop—instead the Korean couple who own it wanted to share their love for photography, but even more importantly, inspire visitors to realize their own goals. Their current method is to take Polaroids of customers and ask them to write down their personal dreams, a poetic way to get them to pay attention to their own hearts.

Link About It is our filtered look at the web, shared daily on Twitter and published weekly every Saturday morning.

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Craig Dorety: Division

Light animation sculptures inspired by ocular migraines that examine our visual limits

by Nara Shin in Culture on 18 April 2014

Contemporary Art, Jim Campbell, Oakland, Electronics, LEDs, Technology

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Opening on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at Oakland's Johansson Projects is an exhibition of hypnotic sculpture animations that will have your eyes watering—after you realize you haven't blinked in a few minutes. In "Division," San Francisco-based artist Craig Dorety is examining visual limits and perception, bringing our own neurological shortcomings to our attention.

Dorety isn't a typical visual artist; he chose to study mechanical engineering (holding a Bachelor of Science degree) and electronics as a means to create art; taking a different path than his father, who worked at IBM and Sun Microsystems in Silicon Valley. Instead of sculpting with clay or found objects, Dorety builds custom electronics that express the complicated, bigger ideas he's developed from experiencing occasional ocular migraines and also synesthesia (he also happens to be a classically trained musician who builds his own sound objects and synth kits).

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Dorety titles his work like a taxonomy of sorts: Geometry—Subject. For example, the shapes in "Offset Circles—Fruits and Vegetables" look like a horizontal slice of a Russian nesting doll or a hard-boiled egg. Behind alternating layers of aluminum composite material and PVC sheets, a micro-controller at the heart of the work reads color information from a digital image grabbed off the internet (in this case, fruits and vegetables) and displays the image, over time, on separated and diffused layers of full-color animated LEDs. The result is an illusion of lights organically moving and pulsing through the rigid shapes, and changing color—breathing life and spontaneity into a cold, technological feat. Other titles reveal different geometrical structures and images grounded in the natural, like "Quadrilateral Hyperbolae—Tropical Fish Tank" and "Aproned Squares—Lush Green Jungle." The embedded YouTube videos convey that these pieces are not static images; the sculpture animations range from 10 to 20 minutes in length.

Through these unique sculpture animations, Dorety is attempting to simulate the visual distortions he experiences during his ocular migraines, so others can see it too. "I see rippling shapes that seem to be comprised of geometrically shaped pixels, like tiny fractals," he says. "These sculptures are illustrated enlargements of what they look like to me, and how they behave. They are self-referential shapes, nested inside themselves." Dorety has done quite a bit of research into the visual cortex, learning that our vision isn't a continuous field of color, but is divided up by the brain for processing. He gives the example of James Turrell's Ganzfeld works, which use similar principles, but notes that Ganzfeld explores the complete field and not the divided.

"I think also a lot about quantum mechanics, and how our universe is comprised of discrete elements. Not only that, but those discrete elements are actually just collisions of wave energies, or interference. Basically, we are distortions. So when I see these pixels of perception, it makes all that more real to me."

The show will also feature a collaborative piece titled "Inverted Pixel Array—Street Scene NYC," created with Jim Campbell. "In this work, we are exploring the interface between the liminal (or barely recognizable) and the completely abstract," says Dorety, who has been assisting Campbell for six years as a design engineer. "Just how far can information be filtered and reduced before it becomes totally obfuscated? It worked; sometimes the imagery is not resolved, other times there is no question as to what is in the imagery." Pushing the boundaries of the two artists' exploration in low-resolution art, this piece brings to mind the moving, blurred forms seen in past Campbell works like the "Home Movies" series or "Ambiguous Icon #2 Fight."

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"Division" opens on Saturday, 19 April 2014 and runs through 14 June at Johansson Projects, 2300 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA.

Images courtesy of Craig Dorety

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