The Secrets of a Rock Producer, Charting M.I.A.’s Controversies, and More: Today’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. Today, we have an interview with rock producer Daniel Lanois, the history of M.I.A.’s controversies, a look at the power of silence in violent video games, and a weird dive into the whys and hows of Facebook and Microsoft laying internet cable across the Atlantic.

At Pitchfork, Marc Hogan does the lord’s work in charting the controversies of M.I.A, who has basically courted the stuff since she started recording music and ordering truffle fries. As his piece points out, though, it’s much more complicated than that. It’s a real treat to revisit M.I.A’s past, especially the portions of it spent with Diplo, because the two of them are definitely no longer friends. Oh, neither are she and Lady Gaga.

April 2010: M.I.A. disses Lady Gaga. “People say we’re similar, that we both mix all these things in the pot and spit them out differently, but she spits it out exactly the same,” she tells the NME. “None of her music’s reflective of how weird she wants to be or thinks she is. She models herself on Grace Jones and Madonna, but the music sounds like 20-year-old Ibiza disco, you know? She’s not progressive, but she’s a good mimic. She sounds more like me than I fucking do!”

Producer Daniel Lanois has worked with some of rock ‘n’ roll’s biggest legacy names, from U2 to Brian Eno, and The Atlantic managed to sit down and talk to him about what exactly a “producer’s sound” is, and how one achieves it. Here’s him discussing the “Lanois sound”:

Maybe in the ’80s it was more specific to a certain approach, when I was doing a lot of records with Eno. We did a lot of textural work and I was really just serving Brian and his vision with those records, but I really got hooked on my effects. Since then, things have evolved and I don’t use so much of that now. My recent record coming out in the fall called Goodbye to Language, I developed this system of taking samples of already existing components and extracting them from—putting them out of sync with the track and then doctoring them externally through other boxes, maybe changing them to slow them down, and if I hit on something special then I go back in and find a spot for that special sound back into the track. It won’t work for most of the songs. I just run it randomly.

The stealth genre of video games is an interesting one, as it primarily involves avoiding the bad guys you’d normally be killing. In those moments, silence is your key weapon. Writer Ed Smith uses Hitman: Blood Money as a jumping-off point for not only the history of the tropes within these games, but how their presence elevates the games they’re in. Also, a look at just how distinctive graphic elements help strengthen the real-world feel of what, at this point, is a dated game.

This dynamic is present, also, in Blood Money’s objective and mechanical structure. Levels are open-ended—the player is perhaps given hints, but largely she must devise and execute her own route to her target. Weapons must be smuggled past guards, security cameras must be evaded, a silent and complex assassination is rewarded by the game above a loud, simple one. In short, Blood Money’s levels are self-contained puzzles. The player is given a problem—47 cannot enter this area without alerting the guards—and a solution: by following this lone guard to the bathroom, she can knock him out and take his clothes as a disguise.

Have you ever thought of the amount of data transmitted by Microsoft and Facebook? Further, have you ever considered how that data is all actually moved? To us, the plebes who just use the internet for livelihood but have little understanding of how it works, it’s all bits and bytes. To actual engineers, it’s a mechanical feat that involves a lot of wiring. So much wiring that it’s even infiltrating the Atlantic Ocean.

The project expands the increasingly enormous computer networks now being built by the giants of the Internet as they assume a role traditionally played by telecom companies. Google has invested in two undersea cables that stretch from the West Coast of the United States to Japan, another that connects the US and Brazil, and a network of cables that connect various parts of Asia. Rather than just leasing bandwidth on undersea cables and terrestrial connections operated by telecoms, the likes of Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are building their own networking infrastructure both on land and across the seas.