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: http://thesoundsofsweetnothing.bandcamp.com/album/tender-mercy-ep

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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...

Related Links: http://www.myspace.com/thedoband


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.