Monday, 29 August 2011

The Return of Florence and her Machine...

What The Water Gave Me...

Looking endearingly befuddled in her promo video for this new track, might explain the brown outfit (come on Flo, come back to black), this track isn't a single but a taster for the new long awaited second album.

Lyrically inspired by Virginia Woolf's suicide, (clearly Ms Welch reads my blog ' A Room of Her Own' then) She sings of her sacrifice to the water, the 'cruel mistress',  her pockets full of stones mimicking Woolf's own self inflicted demise. The track is dark and her delivery implies abandonment and gothic theatre. Has to be good then.

This track hints at darker move in her creativity in contrast to the debut 'Lungs'. I listened to it for the first time after a year or so recently and after a saturation of the 'lovely and her machine', it's now sounding good again. Note to self, do not over play an album.

'What the Water Gave Me' is the consistent and immense vocalising of Florence along with dramatic percussion, harp and cymbal heavy,  I did slightly miss the signature tribalistic drums in this one which have been replaced with more guitar. Still a great sound coming from those lungs with a very difficult follow up to a debut that was everywhere for a good year or so.

So to wait in anticipation for November to hear the album. It's looking like more hefty themes and melodrama packaged in the big and beautiful sound from the quirky one who is already looking like she will be around for a while yet, something quite hard to achieve in music right now and more so if your debut is huge.

Doctor Who - Let's Kill Hitler (review with spoilers)

Or perhaps just use a slightly inflammatory episode title to dangle everyone for the summer into thinking the Doctor could actually change Europe’s darkest hour. 

Yes maybe I am thinking about this too deeply but first off what a waste of the setting Berlin and secondly if you’re going to make a farce of Hitler, don’t just stick him in a broom cupboard,  at least have the backbone to do it Basil Fawlty style and offend a few people.

And then hurtle onward with the drama and introduce another little girl that had dreams of marrying the doctor in the form of Amy’s best friend Mels, who then turns out to be Melody Pond. Link in a few clips of them in history lessons, her claims that the Doctor didn't save the Titanic or stop Hitler and her subsequent ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ line in a crop circle after stealing a flash car in a ‘Back to the Future’ appear from nowhere moment…exhausted yet? Too much, too soon really.

The other dangler from the half series finale was that River Song was Amy and Rory’s daughter. There had been a slow build up of hints and trickery as to what was going on and I think leaping straight into her childhood could have waited. 

Amy and Rory have basically lost a baby and then gained an adult daughter, kind of a lot for the viewer to take on and clever writing could have created a believable bond between the three. However, rushing into her childhood, a speedy regeneration and revelation Melody had been around them all the time just made the bond look weak and unbelievable. Every time the young Melody or River says ‘mummy’ to Amy, it sounds ridiculous and lacks the depth for you to even care anymore whether the parents ever get their child back (accept they have) flimsy plot really that had a promising start. If anyone questions it, just shout ‘Silence’ and all will be OK and explained.

Anyway, enough moaning, the first ten minutes of nonsense was quickly remedied by impressive metamorphosis robots powered by teeny tiny people, the Doctor got a big improvement in the wardrobe department, although again, completely unexplained, the change into top hat and tails and choreographed staggering was very entertaining. 

River Song was as feisty and flirtatious as always with lots of innuendo ‘never shoot a girl when she’s regenerating’ yes very good along with the jodhpurs tease.

Berlin on the eve of war. A world about to tear itself apart. Now that’s my kind of town’ 

Great line but the setting didn’t portray this although River does seem to get the best ones; how many of us have wanted to say ‘Hello boys’ to a bunch of Nazi soldiers?

I loved the robotic Amy, especially when she turned her squeaky head to blankly look at herself and Rory reminding me of the wooden Aunt Sally in Worzel Gummidge. Wooden is clearly one of her specialist areas. Rory finally got his balls thumping a few soldiers, riding off on a motorbike and quipping amusingly about the ‘miniaturisation ray’ shortly before the deadly jellyfish – esque exterminators turned up.

Again the bond between Amy, Rory and River is flawed as they allow River, without question, to save the Doctor at the expense of her own regeneration power. Of course they wouldn’t have known this, but caring parents would question it especially as River asks ‘Is he worth it? She was clearly going to do something big.  

Hopefully this will grow as the series moves on though, as although the parent bond thing would be fragile with the short lived pregnancy and infancy circumstances, there has to be something for you to even care about their relationship and the tiny flashes of affection haven’t brought that across so far.

 I find the ‘almost’ killing of the Doctor thing a little annoying and repetitive now but did like his guilt being dragged up via the voice interface companions. Now he’s seen the date of his own death on the beach too so it’s all a rather confusing ‘the boy who cried wolf’ situation. Will the Doctor ever die? If they keep doing this, we won’t care anymore.

So all in all, silly title, poor beginning then ‘kapow’, big Doctor Who (with quip) opener, impressive robots and baddie creatures and a fabulous spooky doll trailer for next week, hopefully less rushed and with more creep you out atmosphere.

Jump here to iplayer to watch.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Hour: Crosswords and Soviet Spies

BBC 2 Drama by Abi Morgan

So big shocker then viewers, the media, print and broadcasting, kowtow to the government as far back as the stylish 50’s. 

This web of media collusion is all via crossword puzzles and soviet spies resulting in the big riddle ‘Brightstones’. Feel scared if you’re on that list basically. And no I’m not going to mention ‘Mad Men’, mostly as I’ve never seen it.

 So to set the scene, it’s 1956 and the BBC are launching a new magazine programme under the watchful eyes of producer Bel Rowley (later revealed as picked by Clarence Fendley, Head of News, mostly at the easier option over a male producer, this was the era epitomising gender inequality)

The opening episode kicked off with intrigue and hints of deep seated conspiracy with a distress call from Lady Ruth,  an old friend of investigative journalist Freddie Lyon, the creepy crossword guy, Thomas Kish, the murder of political/academic mover and shaker Peter Darral against the background of 50’s London and posters such as ‘Keep Mum, The World Has Ears’. Starting with a bloody murder on the London Underground and ending with the suspicious hanging of Lady Ruth Elms, the next few episodes were about knitting this all together in an elaborate plot of ‘Who’s the baddie/spy/traitor?’

There are a few references to the gender issues of the time; the reference to Bel’s ‘nurturing’ instinct in a patronising manner, dubious reasons for her appointment as producer and later ticking off for the affair with presenter, Hector.

Hector’s wife Marnie’s inane Bridge playing and acceptance of her husband’s infidelity after a high society arranged marriage was frustrating.

She briefly showed some ‘balls’ confronting Bel but later slips back into dutiful daughter/wife role when her options were more open than most women of the time with ‘daddy’ being able to arrange a divorce.

There was some loyalty to the era but for me, considering it was written by a woman, these issues were not really brought to the front and to be honest I didn’t find Bel a convincing career woman, especially with her fast action jumping into bed with her presenter and ‘oh god’ she blubbed at the end, that’s how hard hitting 'journo' she was. There is also the telling moment as Bel walks away from the ‘men only’ bar that she is excluded from despite being the producer.

The female characters were not particularly strong other than the brilliant Lix Storm whose character was a little under developed after some teasing about a broken love affair and her flawed affections.

I wanted to know about her photography career, why she hadn’t danced since the 40’s, why she drank so much and actually I think she was miscast and would have made a more convincing Bel Rowley.

There are rumours afoot of another series so maybe the women will be more of the backbone of the conspiracy theorising/solving while in keeping with the time. Very simply I would have liked a character like Marnie to be meatier but let’s wait and see.  Having modernist ideals in an era of such inequality is a tricky balance though and I thought the open dating between Sissy and the black guy was a little ahead of its time perhaps?

 I really liked the link in with the ‘woman in trouble’ Ruth dilemma  and the way high society ‘killed two birds with one stone’ by trying to marry her off to the gay actor, Adam Le Ray,  who later turned out to be involved with the slimy politician, Angus McCain.

Episode two and three were ‘fillers’ for me (great shots of English countryside estates and ‘hunting, shooting and fishing’ nonsense plus the links with aristocracy, politicians and media moguls)  but episode four moved things on with the affair between Bel and Hector and the ‘connection’ between Bel and Freddie (Will they, won’t they, did they ever?)  but mostly the escalation of historical events such as the Suez Canal Crisis in a country still in recovery from the war and unravelling of the Empire, the beginnings of the downfall of Anthony Eden and overlooking of Budapest and the Hungarian revolution started to liven it all up a bit.

The final episode really brought Freddie Lyon to the forefront and upped the risk factor with the programming and sudden revelations from Lord and Lady Elms and the dreaded Brightstone list.

Bel Rowley showed more backbone in the finale with her hellbent focus to keep to the overall claim by Freddy ‘newsreels are dead, we’ve bored the public for too long’ exposure type reporting going dangerously against Clarence and McCain in order to report the truth at the expense of her career.

Ultimately though, Freddy was the one who ‘pulled it off’ and got the programme taken off air despite the later revelation from Clarence about his motives in information sharing and 'running' stories.

To the bitter end Freddie stamps Bel with the pet name ‘Moneypenny’ even though she was his boss, friendly joshing but again a reality check for the time.

Overall’ The Hour’ was a good Beeb drama with, admittedly, some sleepy parts that maybe could have been cut down and speeded up for three episodes rather than six. Certainly not exclusively for the interest of those working in the media business and timely programming with the current news domination of control issues in the media and civil disquiet on the streets. Biggups for Freddie Lyons, Lix Storm and Sissy (Now why wasn’t she a spy?) for me in this…and well done for those on the peripheral. Not bad at all for a corporation making a programme about itself?

Jump on iplayer here to catch up if you missed...all episodes can be seen now, please check iplayer for availability as all are off by 2nd September.

Jump to the official BBC website : The Hour


Bel Rowley -  Romola Garai
Freddie Lyon - Ben Whishaw
Hector Madden - Dominic West
Marnie Madden - Onna Chaplin
Clarence Fendley - Anton Lesser
Lix Storm - Anna Chancellor
Lady Elms - Juliet Stevenson
Lord Elms - Tim Piggot- Smith
Sissy Cooper - Lisa Greenwood
Ruth Elms - Vanessa Kirby
Thomas Kish - Burn Gorman
Adam La Rey - Andrew Scott
Angus McCain - Julian Rind- Tutt
Peter Darral - Jamie Parker
Issac Wengrow - Joshua McGuire

Monday, 15 August 2011

Cold Cave: Cherish The Light Years: Album Review/Emika's Professional Loving

Are you feeling self indulgent and in need of some austere yet romantic darkwave? Well Cold Cave can provide that with frontman Wesley Eisold's deep, disaffected angst ridden vocals echoing that of New Order, Depeche Mode and The Cure.

The  new wave sound is given a modern American edge and mixed up with some of the theatre of IAMX, it's all rather goth pop new wave lovely. Listen to the rather good 'Confetti' below, it is a bit ' Tonight I'm going to be Dave Gahan' in places and yes I did say once 'no more wanabees needed here', however I renounce temporarily as Cold Cave aren't irritating about it.

The album was released in April on Matador in 2011 but with so much good music about, it's easy for some to pass you can stream the album below for a very thorough taster. Starting with the theatrics of Bauhaus and more recently IAMX 'The Great Pan is Dead' kicks off with an impressive start, the album then leaps to a definite Cure sound with 'Pacing Around The Church' and 'Catacombs'.  

'Underworld USA' has a distinctly New Ordery feel but my favourite is definitely 'Confetti' far. 'Burning Sage' jumps back to the the more industrial sound of their debut Love Comes Close but to be honest this album seems to be getting more attention and hopefully more still now they've supported Austra and The Kills.

All in all,  nine strong tracks, sublime synths and swirling guitars topped by brooding vocals without the pomp of some bands that have tried the same, well maybe a little for that nocturnal melodrama.  They are playing at Reading Festival so if you're lucky enough to be going, dodge the predictable headliners and seek out the noir deliciousness of Cold Cave.

If you'd like to buy the album digitally and support indie labels hit by the recent PIAS fire in the riots, jump here Boomkat: support PIAS labels


More Emika : Professional Loving

My latest girl crush Emika's double A-side single Pretend/Professional Loving is quite possibly the most spookily beautiful offering of eerie electro in recent weeks. 'Pretend' has a wonderful live clip that I blogged last week, jump here if you missed it.

The other track is just gorgeousness and equally as fearless and unique with so many influences evident from her classical training to her home town's Bristol stamp of techno dub vision. This is all merged with the multifarious Berlin scene where she also lives and records part of the time.

   Emika - Professional Loving by Verstörter Charakter

This atmospheric track has the Portishead downtempo of Count Backwards and ends with a quite lovely 'filmic' piano showing what an amazing new and diverse talent Emika is...lovelovelove. It is quite unusual for me to be undecided which track I prefer which I think must be a good thing. Listen and enjoy...

Related Posts :

Glitchy Musicality: Bjork and Emika 
Count Backwards with Emika

Related Links:

Pre order Emika Pretend/Professional Loving here:

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Glitchy Musicality: Bjork and Emika

Bjork: Each song is a star in the galaxy…

‘Cosmogony’ is my next focus from the biggest musical project of the decade so far; Bjork’s starry eyed awe of the origins of the solar system while aboard her ‘mother’ ship.

For weeks now, I’ve felt like I’ve been trying to wade through quicksand when reading about the ideas behind the creation and distribution of Biophilia.  I took delight in the old fashioned I still like a CD’ way when hearing it will be released in a physical sense in autumn. I also kept the mantra in my head ‘She’s at Bestival, I’m at Bestival so stick this app nonsense where the stars/crystals blah di blah really won’t twinkle’. I stubbornly chose the quicksand over embracing Bjork’s ‘brave new world’ however; I take it all back having listened to this interview on XFM.

Very simply, an overdose of kooky, yes, but also a visual and tactile demonstration and interactive musicality to show the movement of music via nature... Have a listen on the link above (look for the purple) , it does make sense when she charmingly explains it. She also makes a really good point about the defeatist self pitying attitude of the music industry regarding online distribution of music and the need for artists to come up with creative solutions.

So listen below to the full version of ‘Cosmogony’, signature Bjork strangeness with her quite lovely melodic vocals. There’s a shift towards the end in this track too, but unlike the claustrophobic machine of Crystalline, it’s a soothing, eerie wonderment.

Bjork has the iconic status that some cynics would say she could dress as a buttercup and play a tune through a blade of grass backed by Borrowers and people would still ‘cry’ over her art. Well, yes I say; she’s still brilliant all these years later.

Emika: Just for tonight, we can pretend…

And now to revisit the rich imaginations of Emika. I fell in love with her immediately with Count Backwards and Double Edge.

This new release on Ninja is super lovely, the techno dub electronic goddess is throwing a big piece of her classical training, her Bristol dub inspiration and Berlin ‘cool’ into a melting pot of bass and glitchy synths  with the double A side ‘Pretend/Professional Loving.

She has produced something that sounds cold in its portrayal of pretense, yet her humanity simmers under the starkness of the music through her unique and atmospherically varied vocals. Emika’s sophisticated and fearless approach to electronic music is outside of the mainstream but very listenable.

Really looking forward to her self titled album in October so listen and watch this fabulous live clip; polka dotted, bobbed hair gorgeousness included...lovelovelove.

Related Links:

XFM Interview with Bjork
Music Making Me Smile This Week
Count Backwards with Emika