Friday, 16 December 2011

Book Review: The Sense of an Ending- Julian Barnes (a few spoilers but not biggies)

I am already laden with a fascination for the human condition of editing our memories, of manipulating perception of our past, deluding ourselves of our futures, probably why I find the weird science of the film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ equally interesting whether we do it consciously or otherwise. It comes as no surprise that Barnes’ ‘The Sense of an Ending’ caught my attention and probably would have done even if it hadn’t won the Man Booker Prize 2011.

The main theme seems to be the unreliability of memories and how this embeds into personal lives via self preservation, delusion, a need to cover up and bury hurt or things we may regret or feel ashamed of, how this also relates to the bigger picture of recording history on a grand scale and can often reduce back down to recollections in nostalgia induced states.

This story starts in the 1960’s, a time of wild revelry and sexual revolution, humorously pointed out as dependent on where you lived of course. Going by the’ book hungry, sex hungry’ Tony Webster at this time, not so wild then, demonstrated so eloquently by the copious amounts of masturbation and ’infra red’ sex (what I call, over clothes feelies, yes we all remember those) he seemed to have with his first girlfriend Veronica.

It is a very simple plot, very simply structured but lusciously written full of poignant philosophical points about perception and how differently people see the same event or chain of events, Tony’s benchmark for this being his rather clever friend Adrian. Of course nowadays that clever friend has been rudely usurped and twisted out of shape by social networking within a global village of memoirs, basically someone you were scared of as a child, who made your life a misery, pops up cyberly and tells you how much they wanted to be you.

That goes into my waste paper bin of fucked upped-ness in that you then have to feel guilty about all the years you wished them dead and now it turns out they admired you…urgh who needs that unravelling your bitter perception and neurosis. So loosely speaking, Tony’s ex girlfriend’s mother bequeaths him five hundred pounds 40 years later after one disastrous meeting way back in history (so easily could have been a friend request but that book would have been shit)

Joking aside from the more modern day social dramas of the online variety and revelations of what you might have been responsible for twenty years ago, this book unravels the memories of one man, the mystery of the blood money and the tragedy of a young friend’s suicide that became one of the buried hurts in this protagonists life as he lays all his bare bones down for everyone to see the beauty and the beast within him.

A man that claims again and again his self-preservation is about maintaining a peaceable life, a trait that infuriated his girlfriend who advocated bluntness combined with enigma but continually got stamped as prickly and difficult when she pointed out Tony’s easy way out was actually cowardice (I liked her) He then marries Margaret, a woman who has clear edges in comparison, but then promptly and amicably divorces her.

Leaping too far ahead now though, the first part of the book is the friendship of initially three boys on the edge of coming of age, thusly joined by the super clever wonder boy Adrian. Their pomposity reminds me much of ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ and particularly as suicide starts to make such an impact on the young lives foreshadowing the demise of Adrian in later years. The boys remain friends through school but drift apart on starting different Universities and finally said girlfriend Veronica severs this, in Tony’s eyes ‘running off’ with the cleverer more suitably middle class match Adrian.

Bitter recriminations ensue and add to Veronica’s character maligned, even by her own mother, when she warns her daughter’s suitor to not take any guff from her. Later nicknamed ‘The Fruitcake’ by Tony’s wife, even after he omits this girlfriend from his own history, initially shows that this woman, as prickly as she might appear, is actually going to turn out to be the greatest victim of the story. So deluded is Tony that as a young man, he even manages to construct a theory of control and manipulation on her part because ‘she is short and never wears heels’. As he looks at her photograph some forty years later, he starts to see things differently.

Part two of the book is the retired Tony looking back and trying to piece together why Mrs Ford, the mother of his ex girlfriend from so long ago has left him money and the diary of his dead friend. This all falls apart and reforms another version of events and tragedies from the past, that as if stumbled upon by accident, throws up questions of vanity, of ageing, warnings that turn out to be betrayals, knee jerk responses that cut to the kill and investigations of responsibility on the scale of JB Priestley’s  ‘An Inspector Calls’ ending with an unsettling self knowledge. 'The Sense of an Ending' is a mere one hundred and fifty pages of ordinariness that turns out to be nothing of the sort.  

Niki & The Dove…release two new videos.

These new videos are for tracks from 2010 to end what has been a phenomenal year for the Swedish duo. Personally, 'Mother Protect' and 'DJ Ease My Mind' are my absolute favourites and beat anything they've done since. Such a welcome and deserved idea to promote these earlier pieces from Malin’s unsurpassable song writing for more a recent audience now they are all over the place since their BBC Sound of 2012 nomination.

‘Mother Protect’ was the first song I reviewed such a long time ago but is still sounding just as undimmed and vitally haunting as back then and was choicely placed on their second EP of this year ‘The Drummer’. This is Malin Dahlstrom and Gustaf Karlov sounding at their most Knife-like; nature centric yet impressively fused with tech pop.

The video is gorgeously fitting with the lovely wild haired Malin running tribal fashion through one of mother earth’s finest forests amongst a beautiful percussive combination of electronics, drums and the primitive sound of a pan flute, all without sounding too toe curlingly folky. As always the Fever Ray vocalising echoes and seemingly channelling of Kate Bush dance moves works wonderfully for the this superior Nordic electro. Enjoy the maternal pulse once again.

Shortly after this treat, ‘DJ Ease My Mind’ popped back into the radar with a new video, admittedly I’m not so enamoured with this one probably because I love the accidental choreography of the foundling tapes containing a trapeze courtship of the original video; simple beauty. Of course, this footage was a cheap way to promote the single at the embryonic stage of the duo’s new venture so now enjoy the glitzy disco vision of this new cut, a more literal interpretation of the song title. The track is as mind-blowing as it was, the new video is, well discotastic then, but lacks depth. The main thing is ‘play that song again’lovelovelove.

News from Fever Ray...

And for those who love their music and want to do something a bit charitable in that lull after all the festivities, there’s a new track from Karin Dreijer Andersson ‘No Face’ on the 14 track benefit album to support the efforts in the post tsunami trauma in Japan due out in January.

The album is mostly commandeered by the band Blonde Redhead but has the known names of artists such as Deerhunter, John Maus and Interpol amongst others. Jump here to the Fever Ray blog for more information on We Are The Work in Progress, a good cause and no doubt musically interesting too. 

Related Posts:

Niki & The Dove - Mother Protect
Niki & The Dove- DJ Ease My Mind/Under The Bridges
Niki & The Dove - Live at Electrowerkz
Sounds *during* 2012

Related Links:

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Sounds *during* 2012: an alternative list.

It’s that time of year again, there are lists everywhere, best designer, best artist, best book, some are surprising, and some are entirely predictable. But what is clear, people from the inside and outside, like lists, be they jolly, festive fun or the rather more staid New Year documenting of crisis and the who’s who of celebrity now six feet under.

I for one love lists and pretty much run my life writing them on pink post-its and occasionally purging myself of them if they get too long by setting them on fire, mostly near a tap, just in case. It’s very cathartic.  Certain publications are, however,  a little guilty of over doing the list thing in times of quiet news, Not Mentioning Explicitly anyone of course.

So today’s (or probably yesterday's by the time I get this done) big music news award goes to the BBC Sound of 2012. This year’s did actually have a band in I’ve blogged about on here and over at Electronically Yours, the rather fab Niki & The Dove. Having fallen in love with them late in 2010 via DJ, Ease My Mind, and then seeing them in a relatively small gig back in May, the Swedish duo are now daaaahlings everywhere. I am your friendly neighbourhood witch so obviously saw this coming.

The BBC are a little lazy on the linking front but the more thoughtful ‘The Line of the Best Fit’ did offer some tasters of any artists on the list you may be unfamiliar with. To be honest, yes they were all OK, it was a varied list which is good but did leave me with that feeling I’d just sat through it’s close relative ‘Later with Jools Holland’ slightly bored. Music is so subjective of course.

So who do I think the favourite is, well there’s dubstep on there of course but surely that’s too obvious in this climate of ‘if it has a pulse, I’m going to dubstep remix it’ so I’m going to hedge my bets on the ‘princess of naughty words’ Azealia BanksNot because I listen to it, just because she will probably do well next year and is everywhere despite the amount of bleeps her tracks need for radio playlists.

Of course, realistically, the newcomer Lana Del Ray is going to take over the world, solve global poverty, rid of us of international terrorism and kick the arse of all her meanie critics. Pout or no pout, she is here to stay and personally I do love her new squeeeeezy hug promo for Born to Die’. Anyway, she’s not allowed on the list, not because of her trashy dress code but I assume as she’s too big, too quick, so strictly speaking, isn’t allowed.  And clearly with the amount of divisive controversy she's stirred up, she could be part of the Illuminati reptilian race anyway.

Also cast your mind back to that thing we use to tape on a Sunday night, where you got cross with the squeaky pause button noise at the beginning and end of a track because the Radio toss jockey talked over to anger you? Well that chart still exists apparently but has the same three bands in it all the time with more than one record. Anyway, nominees aren’t allowed to have been in the Top Twenty or have been on any kind of talent show, thank fuckery for that.

So shortly after reading the list, I thought  ‘wow, it’s a list and it hasn’t got Florence and the Machine or Adele in it’ and has nothing to do with anything strictly xfactoring all over our screens  (although Skrillex I think is pretty well known, whether you care to admit or not, and Flux Pavillion but I digress). Anyway, I thought, I would do a list not ‘of’ 2012 but ‘during’ meaning just hanging out casually next year.  Because really if it’s ‘of’ it will saturate us and kill us all with boredom. I do think to be nominated is super cool but maybe to win can creatively pressure cooker spontaneously combust you in your own success. So big clink of glasses for Niki & The Dove but don’t, whatever you do, win.

After being distracted by this article in The Guardian, ( it doesn't take much right now as my attention span is seriously effected by the little person in my belly) then noting the distinct smaller percentage of industry female pundits in the formulation of the beeb list (25.136612021857924 %)  I did the maths while discounting the few with non gender specific names) and had ‘Where are all the women?’ circulating in my head. Gladly noted is that the list of nominees at least, was even ish, around 60/40 male to female, not bad but then that’s music and not sport’s personalities (bad beeb on that front). I finally decided to DO (see band to left, geddit?)  a list, spent and exhausted after thinking about it too much. My list, at a glance, has an even mix overall but is heavier on female vocals, but then I'm not a corporation that's supposed to be about equality so...

The panel consists of me, female obviously and entirely predictable if you're a regular here plus a fair amount of rambling. I'm not going to write about each band, as I’m sure I’ve said enough over the year. They are in a ‘that’s the sort of mood I’m in’ particular order and I think I may do an odd number, just for the hell of it. Actually, no, I’m going to do 12 to be numerically significant  for the year of course. If you read the list and think ‘who?’ and then never hear of them again, well that’s music for you because digitally the industry has had its soul torn out and eaten so for some well deserving, even a short shelf life is elusive.

And the nominees are (not that there's any voting as I'm the boss here) 

12.High Places (Year Off)
11.The Golden Filter (Mother)
10.Memory Tapes (Creep Remix)  Sneaky two bands I like for one place move (Green Knight)
9.Planningtorock (Doorway)
8.Zambri (On Call)
7.Au Palais (Tender Mercy)
6. Paper Crows (Gone)
5.iamamiwhoami (;john)
4.Emika (Pretend- live)
3.Austra (Beat and the Pulse)
2.The Do (Slippery Slope)

So number 1? Grimes. Super lovely in this clip of new song 'Nightmusic' from coming album 'Visions'. Her 'sometimes mousey' vocals won't be to everyone’s taste but I think there’s a chaotic creativity in it all and I want to hear more of that voice ‘during’ 2012.

Each band has a link to a personal favourite track of course (jump on them if unfamiliar) and are chosen mostly as I love them and partly as they seem to keep dancing about in my radar. Due to my proven predictive powers with Niki & The Dove, some may not happen until 2013. It was so hard to choose from the 24 longlisted from over the year so after a while, I scrapped who I think will technically do well for who I prefer. But who knows in this fickle business and hopefully both will overlap.

Currently touring with Austra and about to do something with Creep, I think Grimes is going to have a good year plus I haven’t shared this video yet. If you've got this far with meme, feel the blog love and enjoy below.

YTGvB: Grimes "Nightmusic" from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

iamamiwhoami - Who are they anyway?

Well, Swedish definitely and fronted by singer Jonna Lee along with a big dose of mystery.

There is repeated symbolism, numerical codes, unusual imagery, cups of semen, mandrake root folklore (you know the thing put under the bed in Pan’s Labyrinth), toilet roll, a black dog, beautiful forest scenes and all while she wears impressive fake eyelashes and very little else. Ticks a lot of my boxes anyway.

Iamamwhoami (it takes a bit of practise to say but you get it in the end) are an ongoing stylised project backed by some pretty hook laden electronic music. They have been around since late 2009 but currently keep popping up in my radar. Interviews are few and far between, identities have been pretty obscured up until quite recently with a cult following of fans deciphering code heavy track titles in the pursuit of clarification of ‘who’. Where some of the mystery is dispelled via online gimmicky technology, that vacuous thumbs up social network, the little birdy information sharer and mostly in the ‘go viral’ world of uploading videos, deleting them due to copyright dilemmas, replacing them with more strangeness where needed and then re uploading. Clever teasing. 

Who knows where it’s all heading but I’m guessing not towards a straightforward EP or any traditional route. The package so far is superbly voyeuristic but not gratuitous photography and videos to promote toe-tapping tunes. To start with is  ‘;john’, at first glance looks like some sort of sperm bank with a queue of scantily clad people waiting outside a room. 

Meanwhile vocalist Jonna clad in a towelling fetishy gimp suit dances provocatively on a bed of toilet rolls before allowing a member of the queue in. At this point she is masked and the mysteries of what then goes on in the room are flashed quickly on screens for the waiting to view. To finish is the hanging of a bag of the collected above a doorway amongst levitating white coat hangers. All beautifully gift wrapped in her unique vocal style and some clever catchy bleeping.

I love the tunes and the videos for that ‘did she just?’ feel; weirdness for weird’s sake perhaps but it works and holds your attention while listening to some very easy on the ear electronic music. ‘Clump’ continues in the same vain with another great track that links in video wise with Jonna again lying on a bed of toilet rolls, shot from above and only from neck up, moving in time to her own music…or perhaps something a little more penetrative?

For those who like The Knife and solo off shoot Fever Ray, she, they or whoever iamamiwhoami are, capture that signature Nordic clash of humanity, mystery, nature and technology while delivering some remarkably simple yet good layered tunes. It speaks for itself.

Interview on Bullet Media

Thanks to NYDiscovery Music on Twitter that's timely tweet reminded me to check iamamiwhoami out further.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Wuthering Heights – directed by Andrea Arnold

Adapted fearlessly from Emily Bronte’s classic tale of illicit love, Andrea Arnold’s work goes above and beyond the realm of capturing the bleakness of the Yorkshire Moors. Shaky shots of nature’s most cruel abound and onslaught on one of the finer pleasures in life; love. 

From the outset, it becomes clear that this is an adaptation of extremes, the wildness, animalistic and unrestrained instincts of the young Cathy and Heathcliff are almost uncomfortable in places while remaining touching and true to the feral young daughter of Earnshaw and rescued foundling Heathcliff’s original story.

Beware those who cannot cope with close shots of death of the small furry kind as puppies are left hanging, animals spines broken by hand and for those a little squeamish, step back from Cathy’s licking of Heathcliff’s wounds after he has been whipped. It is an extraordinary scene that’s power is the illustration of the almost instantaneous and natural bond of the two crossed lovers. As children their growing love and unquestioning urges in the coming of age shows no boundaries of the civilised kind outside the beautifully grey moors and melodramatic climate.

Nature, particularly the weather, dominates this film, the wind and rain envelops you as you sit watching and the passion unfolds mainly through inaction and atmosphere. Beautiful in my opinion but for some might be a hard task to sit through for two hours. 

Alongside the severity and simple shots of nature is the unrestrained sexualisation of Heathcliff’s physical responses to Cathy’s close proximity, often centred around their hair, like animals seeking out pheromones, he buries his head in her scent and she claws at his own, letting it go, freeing him as she does with her collection of bird’s feathers.

Working with this is the harshness of language used that some could say sits clumsily in what most would see as period drama, however it does work in that the shock of the modern words would reflect the kind of language Heathcliff would have been partied to through insults and his own responses of the time. I think it worked although there were definitely some uncomfortable fidgets and a couple of people left in a flurry of coats and bags at the alarm of the word ‘cunt’, it seems ‘nigger’ doesn't hold the same power which leads on to the controversial casting of Heathcliff as a mixed race man.

For me, this made absolute sense as in the novel, his identity is often heavily implied as racially ambiguous and different from those around him, perhaps more traditionally those have seen him as of Romany descent, the foundling for this adaptation from the streets of Liverpool sat fine with the growing influx of slaves and his branding on undressing.

The second half of the film wasn’t as affecting as the story of the two characters’ childhood. The transition from child to man for Heathcliff (James Howson) was fine, silent, brooding passion with an edge of temper and perhaps instability. Cathy, however, in her casting as an adult was lacking in passion and spirit and physically didn’t seem to work. I actually think the two young actors Solomon Glave and Shannon Beer, could have continued in the second half with some subtle change in costume and manner, especially as surrounding characters like Hindley and Nelly remained the same. 

Despite this, her taunting of Heathcliff was infuriating and her eventual demise had impact, again in more scenes of unrestrained and almost taboo responses as Heathcliff kisses her dead body and appears to climax in his grief and unconsummated passion.

Left without his love and declaring his wish she wakes in agony on the other side, Heathcliff’s anger is vent on his newly acquired young wife and ends with his visions of Cathy’s ghost. Of course anyone that knows the book, this is barely half way through the novel as the story almost repeats the illicit love through the next generation showing the spiritual balance is not put in place and the love is borne again to end in tragedy. However, no film seems to go beyond this point.

Andrea Arnold has done a great job, for me the novel was always centred around nature and this was at the forefront of the film, not always pretty but definitely capturing. My only two criticisms are the casting of the adult Cathy (Kaya Scodelario) and the end credit music from (urgh) Mumford and Sons, just seemed a rude interruption to the mystery and atmosphere of the film. 

It is an adaptation for the more traditional Bronte fans but could also pull in new interest, the beauty of this literature is how the stories can fit into a more modern perspective while left firmly in a past of more mystery and accepted cruelty. It remains a timeless tale of impossible and inescapable passion, the consequences of ignoring always being haunted. I loved it.

The Golden Filter: Syndromes

An EP and a short film directed by Kristoffer Borgli...

It is strange where you bump into good music sometimes but this short and beautifully shot film ‘Syndromes’ has sound and music by The Golden Filter, a band I’ve not heard much of before.

New Yorkers, Penelope Trappes and Stephen Hindman,  are no stranger to the more atmospheric of electronic music, the soundtrack for this film directed by Norwegian Kristoffer Borgli, is mesmerising and perfectly fitting in the story of a young girl with healing powers that seems almost farmed out to perform her ‘gift’ by her own mother and protector.

The results be her literally vomiting her nurturing healing power out on to a metaphoric conveyor belt of production; anyone else see a parallel with the exploitative music industry? This film has many layers of meaning wonderfully captured in a matter of minutes of creativity and is almost certainly shot in a way for personal perspective. If that sounds of interest, do jump on the film short for 11 minutes or so of thought provoking direction plus some rather good music.

The Golden Filter are definitely a band to keep an eye out for if you like something verbosely layered with charmingly haunting melody; on first listen for me they seem to be capturing the spirit of early Ladytron’s brooding moodiness, Goldfrapp’s seduction and even in one track Tears For Fears on the cusp of their claustrophobic madness, all of whom have since rather lost their way (particularly Ladytron who seem to have resorted to raping a melange of ancient beliefs via a shopping spree for lanterns at Ikea in their latest video ‘Mirage').

After a couple of quiet weeks, this band and particularly the film were a pleasant find in my fog of nothing to share bubble pricked rudely by endless predictable ’best of year lists’ to bore your festive baubles off (yes, starts earlier every year) The short film gives the music some depth that may not come across when merely listening to it.  The added profundity, I think, shows the impact of a great music video that so few bands bother to do in this quick ‘convenience music’ digital mentality of late.

The EP really is superb and as usual I’m finding it pretty impossible to choose a must listen so take your pick via this soundcloud stream.  Make sure you also check out this gorgeous remix from Au Palais of The Golden Filter's latest single ' Mother' to be released from the EP on December 5th. Enjoy its soundclouding loveliness below via the beautiful marriage of two relatively new and great electronic and atmospheric bands.

  The Golden Filter - Mother (Au Palais Remix) by TheSoundsOfSweetNothing

Related Links:

The Golden Filter on Facebook
Au Palais on Facebook

Related Post:

Au Palais: Tender Mercy

Monday, 7 November 2011

Misfits: Series 3- Episode 1 (spoilers)

Rush rush to get this review online as episode 2 aired last evening, mostly as I stalled catching up on it due to my concerns over the loss of Nathan at the end of the last series. Lots of ‘Shall or shan’t I?’ and then I caved and was pleasantly surprised.

So Nathan’s super power was ‘luck’ if memory serves me so he’s gone now and will no longer don the icky orange jumpsuit. The old team of offenders were kind of tired and getting to the end of their stories: Lauren was, well Lauren, sharp, crude and funny, always very likeable; Curtis, well slightly dull along with his one time ‘lust interest' ‘Alisha’ in the ‘you can’t touch but quick jump behind this curtain while I do a little finger shuffle and you do the old in and out with a hand’…kind of sums up the lewd humour that went to new levels in this opener with the wise crack (geddit) derrière lines from the new character and aptly named Rudy.

Paling into insignificance along side this witty addition to the ‘asboers’ was Simon and who knows where this one is going; apparently he is now good at jumping and has successfully hooked the pretty one. Personally I preferred him as the nerdy, virginal weirdo to the unconvincing nice guy ‘knight in shining slightly off kilter’ cyber goth outfit.

Despite what looked like could be ‘over kill in concrete urban decay’ this opener did work, mostly down to the newbie Rudy. A face and voice that viewers may recognise from skinhead ‘Woody’ in the ‘This is England’ or perhaps your mum may recognise as a ‘Dingle’ from Emmerdale.

There was a slightly lame link for Rudy to the group having been involved with the ‘cock monster’ Alisha and then been so hurt, he’d tried to kill himself. Perhaps a way to gel the character to the group but to be honest, it didn’t work and actually Rudy’s character from the offset was strong enough not to need the tenuous bridge.

His character seems to hint at some sort of vaguely bi polar super power, which could get interesting. How handy would it be to rid yourself of extreme personality/chemical imbalance disorders or use them to meddle in life’s events? Not absolutely sure really, super power or super hindrance?

The new powers offered by the sudden appearance of the suited mystery man hunting for a specific power are a little vague so far, less obvious choices maybe than marvel character-esque invisibility, time reversal and so on, but they will need some pretty strong storylines to keep up the interest and pace that this opener successfully captured. 

Great opening and looking much more promising than after the weaker finale last Christmas. The biggest disappointment for me? Well, killing off the evil ‘pause people’ girl it has to be, I really liked her and would have happily seen her replace Curtis or Alisha as a murdering then duping new insider to the group. Sadly she is now 6 feet under sharing a grave with the ‘she liked it up the arse’ girl...what an epitaph!

Sharp, well shot with very basic humour…at some point a hint at what the storm is all about may start to surface. For now, I think even the writers probably don’t even know and are winging it while keeping us curious.

Anyway, my droogs, not one for keeping to deadlines here, I’m now going to watch episode 2 a day late and hope last week’s wasn’t merely some weird storm honeymoon of comic moments. If you hear no more, it probably means I thought it went downhill too far into smut and unclever ‘get them out for the lads’ cheap tricks to keep its audience.

Jump here to 4OD  to catch up.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Fades – BBC3 supernatural fantasy (Spoilers naturally)

After some resistance, mostly due to being commitment shy when it comes to television and preferring stand-alone dramas, I have succumbed to The Fades. It was only after a big wrestle with the first episode. 

The new ‘Being Human/Sixth Sense-ish’ horror fantastical epic just sounded far too busy and the opening episode for me did wear thin on this point. However, I have liked other things penned by Jack Thorne (Slight exaggeration, I liked This is England) and in my ‘just managed to escape the one hundred and one hours of The Killing by the skin of my teeth’, decided to dive back in via good old iplayer.

Anyway, putting aside my televisual viewing dilemmas, the matter at hand, I see dead people stuff.  First off, the title fills me with such sadness, the thought of people fading in limbo is unthinkable; watching loved ones carrying on and not being able to speak, touch or tell them you are still there is a simple premise though and one that’s been done many times.The Fades with its corruption of spiritual laws, angelic order and soul interspersed with ‘nanu nanu’ humour and reference to cringe worthy Spielberg makes it all the more watchable.

Some interesting interpretations of Biblical hearsay via dialogue and the outrageously Marilyn Manson-esque main murdering Fade is all very visually impacting but for me, the whole thing is a little too heavy on the special effects and glossed up a bit much.

And to get it out of the way, I did prefer ‘Being Human’ for its simplicity on that front; yes two little boys are strung up in the woods and eaten (ick) but that didn’t have me on the edge of my seat as much as the scene in ‘Being Human’ where George started the full moon ‘change’ in a primary school and had to get his wolf alter ego out of there before a massacre of the junior kind. That’s just me though; I don’t mind the odd ‘man in a costume’ not so special effect every now and then.

At this pinnacle in the series, we have gone through that age old teenage oddball story Paul that wets the bed, has a hideously popular and shallow sister, fancies her best friend, hangs out with equally, ‘on the fringe of nerdism’ fellow outcast.

 A compellingly tragic best friend relationship with Mac pulls you in (both have absent fathers to varying degrees) but the difference is, Paul has inexplicable powers. Their friendship alone has held me. I fear for Mac. As much as Jack Thorne likes to make you laugh and shock your socks off, he also makes you cry.

Alongside that there’s more teenage angst (Skins ish of course), lots of grim toilet and masturbation moments, blood curdling unearthly yuck and shoot outs of ‘organic material’. Oh and a very dusty ash ridden place in nightmare form. Lots to be going on with. Extremely compelling shots of rebirth with slimy chrysalis transformation and butterflies, usually beautiful creatures but when huge and coming out of your mouth, take on a whole new creepy persona.

And yes the baddie Fade has that charm of ‘Being Human’s ‘Herrick’ in that he in the last episode did the classic ‘trust me/feel sorry for me’ and then slaughtered away happily. Never trust anyone with 'the hunger' basically.

So the current cliff hanger, it looks like Paul has been bought back from fade hell which means those around him will now be drawn heavily into this horrific existence that up until now has been on the peripheral for them.

Guiding their unknowing ‘angel’ through a life of accusations of ‘weirdo’ with ‘no darling you’re just different’ and replaced with an emotionally charged resurrection. Will his sister now stop the pouty sibling rivalry and be nice? And how is the torn relationship of Mark and Sarah and her involvement with head angel Neil going to develop and knit nicely in with Paul’s story.

I don’t want to give too much away so feast your eyes on some boundary pushing writing and performances from newish British actors that haven’t been nicked/overshadowed by HBO yet (put that in for a friend of mine, he knows who he is)

Wednesdays at 10.00pm. See you there for more blood curdling winged insect biblical/spiritual perversion topped with freakishness and hints of ‘end of the world’ 2012 histrionics; good stuff.

Jump to iplayer for catch up and on the official website for lots more on the fab casting below...

Episodes 1-4 of The Fades
Episode 4
Official website:The Fades

Images: BBC3 and my screen grabber Orac.

Au Palais- Tender Mercy

Not another band standing accused of gothpop...

Au Palais is the latest arrival from Canada;  musically conceived in Toronto, sibling duo, Elise and David Commathe, are now based firmly in London and about to release an EP. 

Title track ‘Tender Mercy’ is quite unique, not really sounding like anything overtly but if your musical tendencies fall somewhere between Zola Jesus and Austra sprinkled with a little Grimes thrown in as a light chaser, this will probably appeal to you.

The track ‘Pathos’ teeters towards the mystery of The Knife in places but what is most striking on this debut is that Au Palais have given these recognisably stark and more other realm brands of electro their own spin. The result is synth layered, slow building with an effect of deterministic and meaningful brooding.

‘Tender Mercy’ still manages, despite the intensity to combine unusually airy and self-indulgent flavours where others have verged on claustrophobia. Yes, they claim to record at night and what could be a better way to tap into movement in music that reflects that time when unconscious thinking plays on the mind.

Music that feels like they’ve analysed, breathed and dreamt it to achieve the charm it exudes.   A perfect treat for this darker time of the year and soundclouding in all its loveliness below…enjoy.

  Au Palais - Tender Mercy by TheSoundsOfSweetNothing

Release in November/Pre-order here:

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Friday, 7 October 2011

Bewitching music for the weekend anyone?

Esben and the Witch – Hexagons II (The Flight)

Esben and the Witch are releasing a new EP on the 7th November and Hexagons is looking as deep and darkly enchanting as the brilliant Violet Cries from earlier this year.

Listen below to the signature reverb and melancholy lament that singer, Rachel Davies, lends her angelic vocals to over gentle and beguiling instrumentation.

Esben and the Witch were a welcome severance into a more tranquil breathing space amongst the higher energy acts at Bestival last month. They put on an exceptional performance to compose oneself to before the evening’s more club like escapades.

If you like to lose yourself in part to a fathomless realm of the more romantic side of goth, then this will suit perfectly and the 6 track digitally released EP Hexagons will burst with more dream like aesthetic.

Niki & The Dove- The Drummer

Very serendipitously, I was only bemoaning lack of exciting Niki & The Dove news in more than one quarter this week so with much elation share this new single ’The Drummer’.

Niki fans have been a little starved of videos from the duo but when they do treat us, it always penetrates the mind, this one particularly for its near channelling of dance moves from the wonderful Kate Bush ‘Running Up That Hill’ classic but with Malin’s internal battle. It is strangely interspersed with what could be a little reminder of the eccentricities of visuals used in ‘The Mighty Boosh’ a few years back too; intriguing and a little bonkers really.

Check out the quirky choreography going on in this clever track that’s brimming with glitch pop sounds and backing that sounds like it’s going the other way into some strange spell of coded message. For me, it is definitely the strongest this year from the Nordic pairing accompanied by an interestingly styled video that is close to breaking my love affair with the trapeze courtship of DJ, Ease My Mind…but not quite.

Enjoy the big hair, even bigger shoulder pads and ribbons absolutely everywhere; Malin’s accessorising matches up to the eccentricities of the pair’s stand alone electro.

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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Do: album review of 'Both Ways Open Jaws' and teasers from M83 'Hurry Up, We're Dreaming.

French/Finnish duo, Olivia Merilahti and Dan Levy, The Do, are finally about to release ‘Both Ways Open Jaws’ in the UK on November 19th.   This follow up to ‘A mouthful’ and the brilliant track ‘On My Shoulders’ and  ‘The Bridge is Broken’ is just as full of unique, glitchy and diverse treats.

Finnish musician and singer Olivia has a similar energy to Lykke Li, Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes and Malin Dahlstrom of Niki & the Dove. The Do are definitely combining that whimsy feel with tracks like 'Moon Mermaids’ and 'Was it a Dream?’ with the tribal beats of the more electronic sound of Fever Ray in the track ‘Slippery Slope’; a mergence of pop and nature sensibility.

The video for 'Slippery Slope' also reminds me of the choreography for Bat for Lashes 'Daniel' from a few years back. What The Do and all these other female fronted musicians seem to achieve is a layered embodiment of that haunting esoteric feel over hooky pop tunes adding a welcome and darker depth.

There’s a vocal effect towards the end which made me flinch in its lack of immediacy but after a few listens adds a hysteric glitch to the beats that works. Personally, it takes me a little while to warm to a surprise within a track but after the initial ‘jump’, I usually do. Have a listen below…

Her distinctive vocals backed by Levy’s music interchange enormously from track to track in range and the music affords the same variegation and is impossible to define in purist terms. It’s very hard to choose from an album of consistently strong tracks but they’re a few online to tease you as the album was released in France in March earlier this year. ‘Too Insistent’ is another favourite of mine and also has a rather good video that somehow reminds me in some shots of something Nick Cave might do and, no, it’s not just the mature man’s dancing.

So final taster was a tough one, I had to toss a coin over ‘Was it a Dream?’ and the opener track ‘Dust it off’. ‘Was it a Dream?’ won on the better youtube static and its beautifully melancholy air that mirrors one of the slower acoustic tracks on Lykke’s last superb offering ‘Wounded Rhymes’.

Only a few weeks to wait to release as the ‘want’ list gets longer and longer. The Do are sounding pretty original with some notable leanings to this year’s current sounds emanating from the colder climes with a touch of French joie de vivre.


Dust It Off
Gonna Be Sick!
The Wicked and the Blind
Too Insistent
Bohemian Dances
Smash Them All Night ( Night Visitors)
Leo Leo
Slippery Slope
The Calendar
Was it a Dream?
Quake, Mountain, Quake
Moon Mermaids

Teaser tracks for new M83 album...

And talking of France, M83 has a super double CD offering being released on October 18th,  'Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. I've already mentioned the first offering which is the synth pop lovely ‘Midnight City’, jumpy jump back some posts here for my immediate thoughts on it; weeks later, it’s still pretty toe tapping catchy. 

After a little bit of searching, here’s the tracklist and another teaser ‘Steve McQueen’ amongst the plentiful that have been removed from youtube pretty sharpish. From the few tracks I’ve heard, M83’s comeback is sounding very promising and will be available shortly.

*Don't forget anything in purple is a link for more info*

Related Post:  Music making me smile this week...

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Monday, 3 October 2011

Doctor Who finale or Merlin opener?

This week’s viewing felt very beeb autumn, fond memories of Robin Hood filtering in through the veil of ‘what not to do with ancient legend’ and confused steampunkish/Star Warsy Sci-Fi. 

It usually happens in the lead up to Christmas and is often full of inaccurate costume and campness. Under this freakish hot sun in October however, teatime Saturday did give me that lovely ‘night drawing in’ feeling and I enjoyed both for what they are.

First off then, ‘The Wedding of River Song’, a tale of near death, of wibbly wobbly time and historical befuddlement and ultimately of higgledy piggledy plot flaws. Still watchable, still endearing, still asking the age-old question of ‘who’ the Doctor is while companions, aliens and the like go googly eyed over the geek chic charm that he eludes in every regenerative incarnation.

Talking of geek chic, surely the Silence moves menacingly down the steps towards Rory were choreographed from an early Pulp music video?

The aliens in ill-fitting suits sort of emulating Munch’s Scream have been the highlight for me. I really wanted them to do that Cocker ‘Are you sure?’ whisper on learning of the Doctor’s fabricated death, mostly as no way is anyone ever going to buy that he’s dead.

My name’s Pond, Amelia Pond’ was cringe worthy on stilts, but again, when the writers allow Amy to be rid of her awkwardness, strange shuffle and empower her, she is so much better. I liked the way she coldly murdered Madame Kovarian formerly known as ‘eye patch lady’ and its hint of a protective mothering instinct.

Her later horror at being the Doctor’s mother in law was all very comic yet reminding us of the family tree that has at best got a few ‘lacking in credibility’ branches, especially when River called her ‘mother’; when was she ever that formal sweetie?

We all knew the Doctor wouldn’t die, it was the twist that was the clincher and I think it was simple but sufficiently surprising, linking the first and last of this half series nicely. It was a diluted version of one of my favourite finale’s ‘Last of the Timelords’ with the correlation of River’s plea for help mirroring Martha’s earlier global cry for the universal prayer ‘Doctor’; he may be tired, he may be ready to go but we, as part of the universe, aren’t letting him yet.

And finally Nicholas Courtney got his fitting dedication in an emotionally charged moment as the Doctor faced the near reality of his own death on the news of the loss of The Brigadier.

Viewers then travelled back in time again on another wibbly wobbly historical journey into Arthurian Legend with’ Merlin’. How super cool would the Tardis landing in Camelot be? I’m sure CGI could do it as they seem to be overdosing the whole production in it. So why have I lumped the two together, it’s not lazy blogging honestly. I do think they are catering for a similar audience (even though Whovians and whatever the older ones call themselves would like to think they are cleverer)

Both are trying to cross the generations in the living room, embracing the darkness of humanity yet not wishing to alienate your Grandmother or give the kidlets too many nightmares.

Science Fiction and Fantasy mixed up with history and legend is for want of a better word, a ‘blurry’ boundary and what both have are ‘fanatics’. Experts to the level of Mastermind specialist subject to really, really big convoluted thesis areas that will watch and have steam coming from every orifice. So what shall we call the Arthur experts, erm Merliniums then.

There’s a lot of men or ‘merliniums’ huffing and puffing at the slight panto going on in this beeb production, you can imagine them fondly reminiscing their first ever King Arthur dress up.

 Imagine the pre pubescent testerone surge as they held Excalibur for the first time, charging at their mother’s skirts probably on a hobby horse. And then there’s the academics blowing a fuse at, well everything. Fisticuffs over dragons basically.

The point is the whole thing is legend…nobody really knows, nobody is completely right and whatever version of the Arthurian tales you read and absorbed will be the one that your loyal eyes will view this with and either love, hate or decide it’s merely entertainment.

If there’s one thing that is indisputable, the legends are full of violence, rape and incest and all of this around magic, all things not do-able at this time on a Saturday. At the central point of the legend is the child of Arthur and Morgana but I can’t see that love scene even being hinted at unless they leave it so long that we forget they are half brother and sister.

So my loyal eyes watch, having loved The Mists of Avalon, the legends written from a more female, pagan perspective than a patriarchal Christian one. Any regulars landing here will not be surprised (or perhaps roll their eyes) so I will get it over with quickly. I am also looking forgivingly so will not go on too much about the repression of the sacred feminine or harp on too much about the evils of Camelot towards the Old Religions they speak so suspiciously of. Just please, please can we have some women with magic that are good and able to use it for positive?

Yes, Morgana is powerful now but you know she’s going to fall eventually because in this, the men with magic will know how to use it for good. Women can’t be trusted and so she proves this again and again. Balance needed.

Delightfully an ancient festival Samhain was referenced (and they said it right), the episode hit and missed on many points but overall was charming, visually exciting, lots of smouldering gazes, impressive magical eyes and the drama of athame wielding sacrifice and blood letting to release banshee like spirits of the dead was sensational to say the least.

The story is moving oh so slowly though; Uther has to go soon surely? And the ménage a trois has been heavily hinted at between Arthur, Gwen and Lancelot. There’s more metaphoric sword envy, men with fine teeth and provocative sorcery to come. As Gaius so wisely said, it’s not magic that’s evil, it’s how you use it.

So can you choose?  I think the BBC has spent more money on Merlin, mostly as they haven’t the fanbase to rely on as they have with Doctor Who. Merlin looked better and was visually lush yet pitted with similar flaws… but it’s early days for Merlin and it has time.

Sadly, with the last series of Doctor Who, I felt you didn’t have to watch anything inbetween the first and last episode to appreciate it any further. I still love Matt Smith as the Doctor but it was a fragile series with a finale that looked too familiar and repetitive in places. For all it’s fluff and heaving bosom, Merlin is looking like it has more potential as they have writers with the ‘fear’ and it all looks like more effort is being made.

What goes without saying is that both dramas entertain; make you smile, warm your heart and occasionally make you grimace and could never be as soulless as Xfactor.

So let’s raise a glass for the end and the Doctor’s survival, the memory of Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen and look forward to more Merlin. I can’t promise I will keep reviewing it, depends on whether they nod to pagan history again and throw in some good witches.

Jump onto the iplayer links below to catch up on the super duper Xfactor bashing double bill below. The ratings war makes me laugh almost as much as the handbags at dawn over whether there were dragons in Arthurian Legend. (Of course there was...somewhere). 

The Wedding of River Song
The Darkest Hour

Images courtesy of the BBC.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Jane Eyre – directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga 2011


So after weeks of underwhelming Doctor Who episodes, I decided to go to the cinema instead and risk watching one of my favourite novels ever put into (yet another) film adaptation. Having studied it a million times and finally taught it myself to students, it is the one novel that’s nearly always on a curriculum somewhere that I’ve never tired of; a gothic romance and timeless classic that couldn't possibly be messed up? Well, maybe by the odd unimaginative teacher.

A wonderful screenplay by Moira Buffini, this adaptation wasn’t a disappointment other than a slightly strange shot of Jane fantasising or having a weird episodic apparition of Rochester in place of St.John. This was dangerously close to the final scenes which would have left me possibly having to be tranquilised in my anger if they had got that far and changed the ending (phew…but why was it there, it trivialised her solitude for me) 

The daunting task of movie-upping a much loved classic was successful and happily for me the darker and subtle supernatural elements of the novel were at the forefront; the haunted red room, the strange drawings of Jane’s imaginations all adding to the ever present cloud of doom that sits alongside the growing love affair between the alarmingly young Jane and the rather cruel and worldly Rochester. 

Cast wise, I couldn’t find fault really, Mia Wasikowska was beautifully fitting in the role of a ‘rare, unearthly thing’, a young woman with directness and opinions that were far too modern for the early Victorians, physically understated but striking in gaze and close to the age of Jane in the book which some adaptations have skirted around or ignored. 

Michael Fassbender was a pretty good Rochester for the most although some might say a little too charming and perhaps too good looking. His dark secret, his fatal flaw and anguish, i.e. the mad (and much maligned wife but that’s a whole other story) Bertha Rochester nee Mason in the attic was overshadowing his character throughout. 

Bertha’s presence in the film was too quiet really and I would have liked to have seen more of the crazed and exotic woman that entrapped Rochester with her bursting sexuality that haunts Jane’s nightmares. 

A filmic moment wasted in my view that we did not hear more of the maniacal laugh in those fittingly dark and coldly overbearing corridors and particularly the part where she tears Jane’s wedding veil in dream like horror symbolising the loss of her virginity moving ever nearer.

The film was shot partially in London and mostly in the north of England,  which in my mind, it could only be. Thornfield in particular was exactly how I have always imagined it; a simultaneously imposing, frightening yet beautifully grand hall of secrets and passion, the perfect setting for any story. There were rumblings of shock at the accents in the film but I found it quite refreshing that the characters had, 'god help us' (mature lady in the audience), their regional accents and for those aghast, it was hardly on the scale of ‘Shameless’ and a pretty accurate reflection of Bronte land.  

Structurally it was a surprise being told mostly in flashback from Jane’s arrival at the home of the Rivers in an almost hyperthermia induced delirium. As a pinnacle point in the novel of change in Jane’s outlook and circumstance of becoming an independent woman of the time, I think it worked.

The harshness of Jane’s childhood and the death of her best friend ‘Helen’ was a little rushed perhaps but the cruelty of Jane’s Aunt and cousins and her treatment as a sinner and outcast at Lowood School were well directed.

I found the script faithful to the original novel with little to find fault, the melodrama of this novel which could be criticised for being coincidental and farfetched in places needs to be kept loyally in the era; a modern view that inevitably questions how Rochester gets away with locking a mad wife away undetected for so long can be explained to insignificance if you think of the time; many rich people would have avoided the shame and cruelty of the madhouse and done the same. 

If you consider the novel alone was originally written under Charlotte Bronte’s male pen name, Currer Bell,  due to the difficulty of even getting published as a woman, this tale of a woman’s growing independence and refusal to settle for anything less in a society, although subtle by today’s standards of feminist, was quite controversial and ahead of its time.  

As a woman who doesn’t play by the rules, Jane risked many times being cast further out and Fukunaga’s direction in this film keeps within the history and contextual boundaries of this.

 This current adaptation is loyal and befitting the Bronte tale of early feminist  unrest and passionate yearnings whilst keeping in the harsh critique of convention and religious austerity alongside the talk of spirit and nature that at the time was equated with all that is evil. 

So yes the infamous line and statement of Jane’s independence ‘Reader, I married him’ cannot be easily translated in film but it was clear that she only returned to Rochester on her terms which was as a woman of substance, keeping her honour intact once he was free of his ‘dark secret’ to be her husband. This was, significantly, after his twin soul call 'in the air' as she refused a marriage proposal from St. John that most in her position would be grateful.

I highly recommend it if you love the novel…jump on the trailer below to see if you want to make a last minute dash to the cinema to catch it.


Mia Wasikowska - Jane Eyre
Amelia Clarkson- young Jane Eyre
Michael Fassbender - Edward Fairfax Rochester
Jamie Bell - St.John Rivers
Judi Dench - Mrs Fairfax
Sally Hawkins- Mrs Reed
Simon McBurney- Mr Brocklehurst
Imogen Poots-Blanche Ingram
Romy Settbon Moore-Adele Varens

Friday, 23 September 2011

New Austra track 'Identity' and remixes for The Good Natured...

Austra: next single ‘Spellwork’ and new song on B-side ‘Identity’.

I didn’t think I’d be writing about Austra again quite so soon but with the release of ‘Spellwork’, the news of a new track was something that had to be checked out. ‘Identity’ is quite lovely in a chilled synth way, her vocals taking on a more Siouxsie haunting pop feel. As a B-side, it is as strong as any on the album Feel It Break and being a little airy and effervescent reminds me of the recently re released Geidi Primes by Grimes…it seems there’s quite a lot of electronic talent coming from Canada right now. Enjoy!

The Good Natured- EP Skeleton and new remixes from Crystal Fighters and Creep.

The Good Natured is made up of brother and sister Sarah and Hamish McIntosh along with George Hinton on drums. The trio are relatively new on the scene and at the tender age of 20, Sarah has written three tracks for the EP Skeleton that tackle ideas of escapism from the rat race and broken love affairs, the territory of angst ridden creativity after dropping out of University to pursue her band more seriously. Seems it was a good move as they were noticed by Robyn producer Patrik Berger and whisked to Stockholm.

Skeleton was out in June and shows a lovely dark sensibility in pop which has transferred itself stateside and been released as part of a 7 track mini album following in the footsteps of La Roux. The Good Natured have been compared to La Roux along with Ladytron, which isn’t hard to hear if you listen to ‘Wolves’ below, my favourite from the EP.

Signed to Regal/Parlophone and apparently inspired by her parents’ record collection of Depeche Mode, Siouxsie, Japan and Tears For Fears, an album from them is eagerly awaited. The first single from the EP was the rather catchy ‘Skeleton’, a little more indie pop sounding, an energetic mix of sirens Shirley Manson from Garbage and further back Saffron from Republica. The final track ‘The Hourglass’ is rather good too and again a little different, jump on their facebook to stream all three and listen to the remixes from the likes of Grum which is also a goody.

They seemed to slip under the radar here a bit but were noticed after Crystal Fighters did one of their rather superb Basque folktronica takes on ‘Wolves’, the title track from the EP, tweaking Sarah’s vocals and hitting a few bits of wood cleverly as they do to make it all rather sunset on a beach somewhere more exotic. It’s now available on free download so grab a last slice of summer feel on today, the first day of autumn.

If you’re anything like me and welcome darker evenings and a time of things more ominous, then jump on this rather chilling remix of Skeleton from the eerie girls from Creep…brilliant.

They are about to embark on a UK tour with The Wombats so will be getting more attention in the months to come, admittedly I’d have to be blindfolded and be wearing reinforced ear muffs to get through a Wombat set but nevertheless, a great slot for them co supporting with the other fab newbies Get People.

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Austra Feel It Break Album Review
Austra Live Review