I write sated, after another successful Sunday roast. Itunes is making it’s way through a playlist of Christmas classics, and I feel rather at peace with the world. It has been so long since I have thought to write on this site, and now I have my new ultra mobile laptop, it just seems like the right time! The laptop, by the way, is an Asus Eee PC. An Intel Mobile Celeron 900MHz processor chugs along, under-clocked to 600MHz for the battery’s sake. 512MB RAM is plenty for the day to day tasks, and I was impressed to discover that this could be upgraded to 2GB in time (sacrificing the warranty – Asus clearly want very little by way of support hassle!)
The tiny beast sports a 7 inch LCD, which is surprising usable, an uncomfortable (but what do you expect) keyboard, and a fully featured mouse pad with both vertical and horizontal scroll. All are less comfortable to use than their full size brethren, but for a laptop small enough to fit in the pocket of my baggy jeans, I’ll settle for a bit of discomfort. Oh, I nearly forgot – it was only £200. Everyone should own one, there’s no excuse not to. Yeah, it’s Linux not Windows, and no you can’t play Crysis, and no it doesn’t have an optical drive, but it’s rugged (no hard drive, just 4GB SSD), cheap, and gets almost every job you could want to do on the move done.
With my inner geek now under control (I promise), I should mention my latest musical discovery. The Portico Quartet are a wonderful new jazz group whose debut CD, Knee Deep in the North Sea, is as original as it is melodic. The group comprises four accomplished young musicians, and together they have fashioned a hybrid sound – ‘Knee Deep…’ bridges the gap in my collection between the chill of Zero 7, Groove Armarda et al, and my jazz favourites.
The guys are all local to me in Brixton, and I found them performing an intimate coffee-house gig at the Ritzy Cafe. It was the perfect place to experience their sound first hand, and particularly to have my first introduction with the hang – a flying saucer-like steel drum used to great effect on all of the band’s compositions.
The highlight of both the night’s performance and the band’s CD is the album’s title track, which demonstrates perfectly the haunting, mellow backdrop the hang contributes to the soundscape. There was no danger of stolen thunder however – the saxophone and drums were both well played (even if the sax seemed a little rehearsed), and the star of the show for me was the bassist, who manipulated his instrument with the ease and skill one might expect of a seasoned performer, and who was responsible for drawing the other instrumentation together to yield a far tighter performance than we might otherwise have experienced.