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.