Archive for November, 2008

¡Feliz Fiesta!

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I must admit I have been rather lax (or should that be lazy?) in keeping this blog up-to-date.  The idea was for it to be my communication channel back home, and also for my own benefit to keep a record of what’s happening to me this year.

Right now November is almost out and winter has arrived.  I say winter, the coldest it’s been here that I’ve noticed has been 7ºC, which can’t exactly be described as freezing.  It certainly feels it though.  Does that mean I’ve adapted to the warmer climes and when I step off that aeroplane at Gatwick in three weeks’ time I will turn to a block of ice?

The other thing telling us winter is upon us is the arrival of festive themes in Mercadona.  The ceilings are swathed with tinsel, the carrier bags wish us “Feliz Fiesta” and the legs of jamon serrano are out in stacks.  It’s an odd sight the huge containers full of legs of ham, the skin with a subtle gleam and the dozens of trotters waving us a jolly merry Christmas.  I would’ve taken a photo, but who takes photographs in the middle of a crowded supermarket?

Not my photo, but you get the idea.  JAMON.

Not my photo, but you get the idea. JAMON.

The other thing I’ve been meaning to make comment on is the language thing.  Obviously that’s a big part of the experience of moving to another country, so it should get a mention!  My own experience of it is that there’s always a background feeling of frustration: conversations never seem to get any easier.  This I put down to the fact that the more vocabulary and structures you learn (or become comfortable using), the more complex conversations become and the more you have to learn again.  In essence, the more “conversational doors” you open, the more the scope broadens and the complexity increases.  It really is a case of practice makes perfect.

After a long day of lectures and practical sessions, often my head is swimming with all the hard work it’s done.  As it goes, I’m a bad one for learning from lectures as I zone out most of the time, so here I have to try twice as hard to be on the ball.  The juggling of listening to the other language and learning new concepts at the same time is exhausting.  At the same time it is pleasing to realise that it is possible and that I can do it, if not 100% of the time.

With friends, the problem is one of the speed of conversation and the use of slang: obviously, the way you chat in a bar is far removed from the language of laboratory notes!  Again it is rewarding realising you do understand after all, especially when you comprehend a joke, or better, crack one of your own.

This week I head off on a trip to Madrid for a few days, so that should mean photos and more stories very shortly.  I never make promises, but I’ll make an effort to get something written.

Written by Benjamin

November 29th, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Posted in Erasmus, Valencia, general

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There’s a Ghost Inside

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My indecisiveness sometimes gets the worse for me, but the weekend before last spontaneity won and on a whim I decided to pick up a ticket for a Ladytron gig in Valencia.  It was held in a small venue on the far side of town from where I live, a venue to which I will surely return.  The DJ on before the band was playing some top tunes, most of which I hadn’t heard before but gave me a good pointer for some new things to listen to.

I haven’t been to a “decent” gig in a while so I’m really glad I made the decision in the end to go.  It’s easy to forget the euphoria that you can feel shouting lyrics and bouncing like a berk to your favourite song by a band you love.  Without the smoking ban (it’s not been introduced widely here yet) memories of going to a gig and leaving reeking of smoke and with pained eyes and trying to dodge flailing cigarettes were brought back.  It’s unpleasant but somehow the experience lacks without in now in England.

It was clear that half the crowd were dedicated fans, and the other half were friends or lovers along for the ride, but this gave a good atmosphere.  It was pleasing to see the newly-initiated, by the end of the gig, were jumping along just as hard as the old timers.  The last time I saw them was in 2005 (ARU Students’ Union) in a small sweaty room, and this time the atmosphere wasn’t dissimilar.  Somehow dark electropop, sticky floors and dodging glowing fag butts make good bedfellows.

One of the thing that notices with going to see established bands is that boredom does creep into the songs when the old classics are played.  Of course it’s understandable; especially with a song like “Seventeen”.  The repetition of six lines multiplied over the song and over the plethora of shows must be mind numbing, and it’s seen at moments in the faces as they perform.

The set was essentially an album playback, with plenty of older material thrown in for good measure.  I hadn’t heard any of the new songs before (I forgot they had a new album out earlier this year!) but they had me hooked.

Helen from Ladytron (Valencia, November 2008)

Helen from Ladytron

Standout songs, at least for me, of the new album are “Ghost” and “Runaway”.  Even not having heard them before, by the end of each song I had sketchily learnt enough of the lyrics to shout along.  From the album (which I downloaded the morning after and will buy ASAP) “Versus”, which I don’t remember being played live, stands out too.  Most noticeable is the presence of male vocals from Danny, something they’ve not done before.

The sound is more complex, more layered, still electronic but less stark.  Some of the songs even have a hint of warmth coming through, something not normally associated with the sparse lyrics and icy electronica that Ladytron bring.  The evolution since the dark space of “604” and “Light and Magic”, through the turn towards something more indierock in “Witching Hour” has arrived at something nearing perfection of electropop on “Velocifero”, the new album.

Written by Benjamin

November 10th, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Posted in gig, music

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If for some reason the video links didn’t come out properly for the last post, here they are again.

Written by Benjamin

November 1st, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Festivities, Valencia

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