You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

Howard Zinn died yesterday, aged 87. Zinn was a historian, playwright, and social activist, one of the greatest voices of the US left. He is perhaps best known for the million-plus best-seller "A People's History of the United States", which presents American history through the eyes of those rarely heard in mainstream histories.

Growing up in an immigrant, working-class family in Brooklyn, Zinn became a shipyard worker at 18, later joining the air force and flying a bomber during the second world war. His experiences shaped his opposition to war, and on his return he took a PhD in history at Columbia University, later working with civil rights movement activists including Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman, and leading antiwar protests. Professor emeritus at Boston University, Zinn received a host of honours, most recently the 2010 Martin Luther King, Jr Humanitarian award from New York University for embodying "a vision of peace, persistence in purpose, and inspirational action" [The Guardian].

Howard Zinn was a founder of the Zinn Education project, which promotes the teaching of A People's History in schools throughout America. Moreover, he was a leading member of Voices a education, arts and social justice organization, which aims to encourage civic engagement and to further history education by bringing the history of the US to life through public readings of primary-source materials. Voices works to remind people of the eloquence of ordinary people, as well as extraordinary and well-known figures from the American history.

In 2002, his autobiography, "You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train", was published and the words that end the book are probably the best tribute:
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. 
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of the world in a different direction. 
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
R.I.P. Howard Zinn! Many people paid tribute to the legendary historian. Check out the following:
Thank You, Howard Zinn (The Progressive)
The people's historian (Socialist Worker)
Howard Zinn's lesson to us all (The Guardian)

More info:
Voices of A People's History
A tribute with Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein and Anthony Arnove (Democracy Now!)
Interviews:,   Conversations with History

A People's History of American Empire by Howard Zinn

DJ Cam Quartet - Diggin'

Parisian hip-hop devotee Laurent Daumail (DJ Cam) is one of a few but growing number of French artists updating hip-hop for the chill-out crowd. Here, he collaborates with other great artists to create this brilliant album. The quartet comprises of DJ Cam on scratches, strings, drums and programming; Alexandre Tassel on the Bugle; Christian Brun plays guitar and Jerome Regard is on bass. Excellent nu-jazz/chillout/hip-hop. Highly recommended!

Artist: DJ Cam Quartet
Album: Diggin'
Year: 2009
Genre: chillout, nu-jazz, jazz, hip-hop

1. Nebulosa
2. Montara
3. Everybody Loves The Sunshine (feat. Inlove)
4. Boss Guitar
5. Think Twice
6. Little Sunflower (A Tribute To Freddie) (feat. Inlove)
7. Quincy
8. Mystic View
9. Climax (feat. Fillet Of Soul)
10. You’ve Got To Have Freedom (feat. Inlove)
11. Inside My Love (For Minnie)

Inflamable records

Buy from here.
Check the comments to listen first.

Soft Words Traverse - Gently

Soft Words Traverse is the independent American musician Billy Mays III. "Gently" is his debut, released in 2009. Flowing soundscapes, ambient, electronic, instrumental, experimental and emotional experience. Excellent!

Artist: Soft Words Traverse
Album: Gently
Year: 2009
Genre: post-rock, instrumental, ambient

1. Yield
2. A Cleansing Breath
3. To Circle the Drain
4. Light
5. Sprawling Certainty
6. Momentary
7. Pristine Castles
8. To Go On
9. Paradise, Perfect
10. Thoughts Like Clouds
11. Lungs of Gold
12. A Void Does Not Exist

Official Website

Please support this artist. Buy from here.
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Heinali - Film Music (El Mar)

Oleg "Heinali" Shpudeiko is a minimalist composer, music producer from Kiev, Ukraine. Never took music lessons, self-taught, his sound evolved with time. Experimenting and trying to find his sound, he produced a wide variety of tracks in almost every music genre and style, from noise and ambient to jazz and guitar industrial. In late 2007, he started playing live and mixing hip hop, acid jazz beats with old jazz, soul vocals, dark drum’n’bass basses.  The first single “Ghost of s Chance” was released on Don’t Panic Records in 2008. In 2009, he’s moving away from electronic music and, as the part of Soloma art group, is composing music for art installations and performances. Current sound flows from minimalist, contemporary classical to electronic avant-garde. The music in this album, which (I think) combines the tracks from the EP "In to the Sea" with some additional tracks, is a brilliant blend of ambient and neo-classical. A good one!

Artist: Heinali
Album: Film Music (El Mar)
Year: 2009
Genre: ambient, neo-classical, piano, instrumental

1. Into the Sea
2. Elegy
3. Into the Sea part II
4. A Short Day
5. Million Light Yearning
6. To Live (with Maria Navrotskaya)
7. The Fall of Autumn
8. Icarus
9. Hollow Path
10. Troubled Waters
11. Tu Fantasma

Bandcamp site

Check the comments to listen.

Goodbye Zeros - Top 20 soundtracks (results)

These are the results of the voting for the top sountracks of the decade, organised by elafini. 27 bloggers voted their top 20 soundtracks. My list is here.

The Fountain (no.1) was by far the best soundtrack, easy to predict in my opinion. Clint Mansell has two scores in the top 5. No 2009 soundtrack in the list even though scores like Air Doll and Moon were fantastic. Perhaps, we can vote again in a few years...

The full list is here.
Excellent soundtracks, look for them and start listening.

1. Clint Mansell - The Fountain (2006)
2. Yann Tirsen - Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001)
3. Philip Glass - The Hours (2002)
4. Yeong-wook Jo - Oldboy (2003)
5. Clint Masnsell - Requiem for a Dream (2000)
6. Dario Marianelli - Atonement (2007)
7. Nick Cave & Waren Ellis - The Assassination of Jesse James (2007)
8. Shigeru Umebayashi/Michael Galasso/Various - In the Mood for Love (2000)
9. Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová - Once (2006)
10. Björk - Dancer in the Dark (2000)
11. Jonny Greenwood - There will be Blood (2007)
12. Andrej Djorgatsjev - The Return (2003)
13. Elliot Goldenthal - Frida (2002)
14. Javier Navarrete - Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
15. Johan Soderqvist - Let the Right One in (2008)
16. Terence Blanchard - 25th Hour (2002)
17. Danny Elfman - Corpse Bride (2005)
18. Howard Shore - The Lord of the Rings (complete, 2001)
19. Ελένη Καραΐνδρου (Eleni Karaindrou) - Το Λιβάδι που Δακρύζει (The Weeping Meadow) (2004)
20. Alexandre Desplat - The Painted Veil (2006)

Trevor Tchir - Sky Locked Land

Trevor Tchir (pronounced cheer) is a Canadian folk musician who unites the sounds and images of rural and urban spaces. His music tells stories of the people who work and love in the pulsing cities and austere hinterlands of Canada. "His lyrics are populated with characters who are both universal and intimate: poets who waitress, not-even-exes wondering why love never got a foothold, and grandparents building a nation and a place in it. In Tchir’s hands place, time and relationships become characters, too, with their own agendas and idiosyncrasies". Tchir holds a PhD in Political Philosophy from the University of Alberta! This is his fourth independent album. Excellent folk music! Recommended!

Artist: Trevor Tchir
Album: Sky Locked Land
Year: 2009
Genre: folk, blues

1. Are We There Yet?
2. In The Winter
3. Avalon
4. Borrowed and Blue
5. Georgie
6. Beneath The Mountain Ash
7. The Sweeter Air
8. Stones In The Ground
9. Wildmere
10. Tearing Down The Gardens
11. Myth Of Er

Official Website

Please support this artist. Buy from CB Baby. All his albums here.
Check the comments to listen first.

Motek - Motek

Motek is a three-piece post-rock band from Aalst, Belgium. This is their debut, released in 2006. Brilliant post-rock music, melancholic and cinematic. Recommended!

Artist: Motek
Album: Motek
Year: 2006
Genre: post-rock, instrumental

1. Maybe I’ll Go Home
2. De vlucht
3. Hero
4. Second
5. Swallow
6. I Am Your Son
7. Some Sounds to the Close Night

Official Website (buy from here)

Check the comments to listen before you buy.

Mountain Men Anonymous - Krkonose

Mountain Men Anonymous was a post-rock band from Gloucestershire via South Glamorgan, Wales (two members have now re-formed as Zail). Their discography includes self-titled demo in 2000, self-titled debut in 2001, a 7” split single between the band and Teflon Monkey and the album posted here, their most recent one. They are currently on "indefinite hiatus". Really good album. Check it out!

Artist: Mountain Men Anonymous
Album: Krkonose
Year: 2004
Genre: post-rock, experimental

1. Xanexxx
2. Quim
3. Dolph Lundgren
4. Finding Heart Through Pain
5. We Stole Your Rhyming Dictionary
6. Bringing Out Your Dead
7. Out of Europe
8. Weep
9. If All Else Fails
No website / MySpace

The album is sold out. Go here for digital releases.
Check the comments to listen before you buy.

Money as Debt

"Money as Debt" and "Money as Debt II: Promises Unleashed" are two animated documentaries by Paul Grignon about the monetary systems practised through modern banking. The films visually demonstrate the process of money creation by private corporations known as "banks", illustrate the historical background of this system and warn of its subsequent unsustainability. They explain in simple and straight forward language the true nature of money and the dysfunctional and undemocratic nature of the global banking system. Brilliant and entertaining!

Official Website

Money as Debt (for greek subtitles go here):

Money as Debt II: Promises Unleashed

Rhian Sheehan - Standing In Silence

Rhian Sheehan is a guitarist & electronica producer based in Wellington, New Zealand. His music combines cinematic soundscapes and delicate melodies interwoven with touches of the dub, ambient, and downbeat genres. This is a brilliant album, released in 2009. Highly recommended!

Artist: Rhian Sheehan
Album: Standing In Silence
Year: 2009
Genre: ambient, cinematic, instrumental, electronica

1. Standing In Silence Part 1
2. Standing In Silence Part 2
3. Standing In Silence Part 3
4. Standing In Silence Part 4
5. Standing In Silence Part 5
6. Standing In Silence Part 6
7. Standing In Silence Part 7
8. Standing In Silence Part 8
9. Standing In Silence Part 9
10. Standing In Silence Part 10
11. Standing In Silence Part 11
12. Standing In Silence Part 12
13. Standing In Silence Part 13
14. Standing In Silence Part 14

Official Website

Buy from here.
Check the comments to listen first.

2009 review

The first year of "A Room To Breath In" is almost completed. I'd like to thank everyone for visiting. Today's post is a review of 2009.


In my opinion, 2009 was not the greatest year for music. However, there were a few excellent releases, mostly from independent or previously unknown artists. It wasn't hard to find 30 or more albums that I liked, but here I post only my favourite 21. I couldn't really sort them, so I have just divided them into two groups: top10 and 11-21, with no particular order. You can find all 2009 releases posted in this blog by clicking here. I recommend every album I post. Enjoy!

Group A (top 10):

2econd Class Citizen - A World Without
Arms & Sleepers - Matador
World's End Girlfriend - Air Doll
Clint Mansell - Moon OST
Soap&Skin - Lovetune for Vacuum
Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
Piano Magic - Ovations
Message to Bears - Departures
French Teen Idol - El Siete Es La Luz
Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind

Group B (11-21):

Dead Man's Bones - Dead Man's Bones
James Blackshaw - The Glass Bead Game
Parov Stelar - Coco
Black Heart Procession - Six (link coming soon)
Uniquetunes - 8
Crippled Black Phoenix - 200 Tons of Bad Luck
Flica - Telepathy Dreams
Arctic Plateau - On A Sad Sunny Day
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - Here Be Dragons
ZXYZXY - Hansuru
Luigi Rubino - A Theme for the Moon


Not many good films in 2009, but these three movies were simply brilliant. The first two are directed by usual suspects (Coen brothers and Michael Haneke), plus an amazing sci-fi debut by Duncan Jones with Clint Mansell's music.

1. A Serious Man (Coen Brothers)
2. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)
3. Moon (Duncan Jones)


I don't really listen to the radio, because I prefer the music I download. However, this year I really enjoyed elafini's City Lights at Beautiful film music, different from the typical radio shows; unfortunately only in Greek. (CityLights@PopLie)

In Pictures

I always follow the amazing "The Big Picture", which posts photographs from news stories. Their 2009 review was excellent as usual: part1, part2 and part3

Crippled Black Phoenix - 200 Tons of Bad Luck

Crippled Black Phoenix is a collective of musicians from many other bands (including notably Iron Monkey, Gonga, Mogwai, Electric Wizard and others), formed in 2004 in the UK. Their debut album, "A Love Of Shared Disasters", was recorded at State of Art Studios in Bristol. Geoff Barrow (Portishead), who is a part owner of the studio, produced the disc and released it on his own Invada Records. The band writes what they call "endtime ballads", signifying both the slightly macabre nature of their songs and their unusual blend of styles as the final evolution in music. This strange blend has led to them being called everything from stoner-prog to freak-folk to doom. This is their 2009 brilliant album. Highly recommended!

Artist: Crippled Black Phoenix
Album: 200 Tons of Bad Luck
Year: 2009
Genre: post-rock, experimental, dark, blues

1. Burnt Reynolds
2. Rise Up and Fight
3. Time of Ye Life / Born for Nothing / Paranoid Arm Of Narcoleptic Empire
4. Wendigo
5. Littlestep
6. Crossing the Bar
7. Whissendine
8. A Real Bronx Cheer
9. 444
10. A Hymn for a Lost Soul
11. A Lack of Common Sense
12. I Am Free, Today I Perished

Official Website

Buy from Boomkat.
Check the comments to listen first.

Uniquetunes - 8

Uniquetunes is a great instrumental band from Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Formed in 2005, the band have eight members that use only analog instruments. Their music is a mixture of contemporary jazz, live electronics, modern indie rock and 70’s psychedelic. This is their most recent album, released in September 2009. Excellent!

Artist: Uniquetunes
Album: 8
Year: 2009
Genre: instrumental, jazz, psychedelic, post-rock

1. 88
2. Paper Shoes
3. Linza
4. Dr. Sartor
5. Mexico
6. Birdy
7. Style Kings
8. Blue Mood

Official Website (buy from here)

Check the comments to listen before you buy.

Nosaj Thing - Drift

Nosaj Thing is an American artist from LA, California. "Drift" is his 2009 debut album, praised by critics all over the world. Great album that combines elements from experimental electronica and hip-hop. Recommended!

Artist: Nosaj Thing
Album: Drift
Year: 2009
Genre: electronica, experimental, hip-hop

1. Quest
2. Fog
3. Coat of Arms
5. 1685/Bach
6. Caves
7. Light #1
8. Light #2
9. 2222
10. Us
11. Voices
12. Lords

Official Website

Buy from here.
Check the comments to listen first.

Parov Stelar - Coco

Parov Stelar is an amazing artist from Austria. I posted his debut, "Rough Cuts", here. This is his most recent album, released in 2009. Fantastic fusion of electronica, jazz, electro-swing etc. Highly recommended!

Artist: Parov Stelar
Album: Coco
Year: 2009
Genre: nu-jazz, electro-swing, electronica

1. Coco (feat. Lilja Bloom)
2. Hurt
3. For Rose
4. True Romance (feat. Lilja Bloom)
5. Distance (feat. Lylith)
6. Wake Up Sister
7. Let's Roll (feat. Blaktroniks)
8. Sunny Bunny Blues (feat. Veda 36)
9. Dandy (feat. Yola B.)
10. Your Man
11. Promises (feat. Klaus Hainy)
12. Letoile (feat. Max the Sax)
13. You And Me (feat. Lilja Bloom)

1. The Mojo Radio Gang (Club Version)
2. The Mojo Radio Gang (Radio Version)
3. Silent Snow (Original Version)
4. Ragtime (feat. Lilja Bloom)
5. Libella Swing
6. Catgroove
7. Matilda
8. The Flame
9. Fleur de Lille
10. Hotel Axos
11. Monster (Original Version)
12. Nosferatu (Original Version)
13. Starlight (Clubversion)

Official Website (buy from here)
Parov Stelar @Etage Noir

Check the comments to listen before you buy!
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