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Nubia Alpha Review

Nubia wants you to ditch your phone for its flexible watch/phone hybrid, the Nubia Alpha. Here's why you might want to hold off for now
Should I Buy The Nubia Alpha?
In concept, the Nubia Alpha is phenomenal: a flexible OLED smartwatch display makes total sense. In practice it's less successful, with a bulky design, rubbish camera, and frequently frustrating software. 
Unfortunately, that isn't what we've got, and the Nubia Alpha as-is is ugly, overpriced, and occasionally feels downright broken. I can't recommend that you buy it, but I wish I could.

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Venetian SnaresDaniel Lanois - Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois Music Album Reviews

Venetian SnaresDaniel Lanois - Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois Music Album Reviews
The ambient guitarist and the breakcore wizard bring diametrically opposed instincts and skill sets to an album that strikes an uneasy balance between calm and chaos.

Despite the fact that pioneering electronic acts are annually left off the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ballot and few guitarists ever grace the stage at Ultra Music Festival, guitars and electronics aren’t always diametrically opposed. Nile Rodgers’ upstrokes helped Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” achieve ubiquity, and six-strings pop up everywhere from Boards of Canada to Ben Frost; even Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour once took a trip with the Orb. So a mutual appreciation society between producer and pedal-steel conjuror Daniel Lanois and breakcore/modular synth freak Aaron Funk (aka Venetian Snares) isn’t the strangest of pairings, but it’s pretty damned close.

Despite press photos that look like the duo just rode Harleys across the Trans-Canada Highway together, both men operate at distinctly opposite ends of the musical spectrum. Lanois’ pedal steel evoked a gravity-free state on ambient touchstones like Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks, while his Grammy-winning production on U2 albums feels both gradual and grandiose. But even at his most restrained (as on 2005’s classically informed Rossz Csillag Alatt Született), Funk’s music is teeming, always wiggling to fill out every available space.

The collab stems from Lanois reaching out as a fan, and in 2014, the two Canadians set about playing together in Lanois’ Toronto studio. Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois makes for a sonic speedball, a breakdance routine in the middle of a kabuki performance, a Kaws skull smack dab in the middle of a Mark Rothko canvas. Given their drastically different approaches to space, the album doesn’t quite balance out as a true collaboration, but as an overlay of their sensibilities, it still provides for some striking moments.

Rather than stake out a middle ground between their two positions, more often than not the album finds Lanois pulled into Venetian Snares’ formidable gravitational field. “Mag11 P82” opens with Lanois laying down bucolic swells and vibrato tones that evoke soaring eagles and mountain vistas. Funk makes a low-key entrance full of satellite pulses and sparse hits before going haywire just over a minute in, building, deconstructing, and reconstructing breaks all around Lanois’ hovering chords. As much space as Lanois can conjure, Funk fills it all in.

The dizzying, nine-minute “United P92” is the headiest track of the set, a free fall through space junk as Funk stretches out his bleeps, snares, and squelches. That addition of a sliver of extra time between each sound is just enough to allow Lanois’ discombobulating ambience to come to the fore. In moments like this, the duo conjures the AI telepathy of Autechre’s recent work, wherein humanly impossible rhythms are melded to melodic yet melancholic undercurrents.

The sparseness of “Bernard Revisit P81” turns downright eerie, with piercing, chilly tones lacerating the seeming calm. Against the furious churn, robot chitchat, and backspins of “Mothors Pressroll P131,” Lanois can barely break through Funk’s Tasmanian Devil din. The late-night lonesomeness cast by Lanois at the start of “Night MXCMPV1 P74” is also soon dispelled by Funk’s ceaseless contortions. Despite the omnipresent intensity of Venetian Snares’ contributions, the collaborative project does offer a kind of panacea for the hectic pace of modern life. Lanois and Funk demonstrate that even the briefest pause can reveal a more becalmed state of being lying just beneath all the noise and bustle.

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