Monday, 28 November 2011

Our Ken

In July I was fortunate enough to see Ken Russell's film The Devils, in the most complete version available, projected at the BFI Southbank and introduced by Mark Kermode.

I had previously seen a dreadful, incomplete, fuzzy VHS - years ago.

The Southbank print was phenomenal. It was, and is, the best film I've seen all year - regardless of release. Primal, passionate, shocking in content and utterly committed.

Ken was due to make an appearance for a Q and A, but was too ill to attend.

Although I feel sad at Russell’s passing today, I would rather celebrate what was a long, magnificent and creatively full life. This guy (along with Nicolas Roeg) is responsible for some of the most vibrant and sensual British films of the late twentieth century.

He was also at the forefront of the most exciting time for television and the arts, and his ground-breaking documentaries increased people’s knowledge of - and passion for – classical music.

He was a visionary, no doubt. He also had a marvellous, healthy disdain for taste and decency – the two great enemies of art. He made films with images like this:

He launched some amazing careers and cast some of our best actors in unlikely, outlandish roles.

He made daring films in the US with people like William Hurt and Kathleen Turner.

Like this remarkable film:

And best of all, he carried on making extremely low-budget (no budget) films when he couldn't get backing and no one wanted to hire him.

Cheap and cheerful tat with sexy goths, in his back garden. Brilliant!

Probably absolute rubbish, but who cares? He clearly HAD to keep on filming.

My favourite Russell films are definitely THE DEVILS, VALENTINO (seriously, it's brilliant), ALTERED STATES, CRIMES OF PASSION and THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM.

Weirdly, although I like The Who and love Russell, I was never crazy for TOMMY.

Maybe I'll give it another go. I'm certainly going to watch a few of his others again.

So don't rest in peace Ken.

Wherever you've gone, keep raising merry hell..

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Last orders

I am aware that this photo is airbrushed to infinity.

I know Christina Hendricks (for it is she) is NOT Joan.

But who cares?

Isn't the whole point of 'glamour' that it IS a construct, a fantasy, a brief escape?

We know it's not real. The illusion is fleeting, fun, finite.

That said, I would happily leave society to live in this photo.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

ear candy 2011

Loosely grouped

Before I begin though, some thoughts:

This is the second year in a row I've done this. Noticed a few things:

1. I rarely – if ever – listen to an album the whole way through these days. I don’t know if this is impatience, a shorter attention span or the desire to hear as much new stuff as possible.

Probably a combination of all three.

I think this is why I like mixtapes so much.

2. I listen to less angry, aggressive music now than at any other point in my life.

Is it an age/mellowing thing? Hmmm.

Still enjoy digging out old ‘noise’ but there are no new loud bands that I am really feeling. In my teens and twenties I listened to predominantly noisy music – tuneful rackets like Husker Du/Fugazi or really agressive stuff like Swans/Slayer.

I should do some noise investigation in 2012…maybe.

Liked bits of Sunn O))), Earth and Boris that I heard a few years ago. I dig what I’ve heard of Mastodon too, they seem to have a dark funk about their sound.

3. I barely listen to guitar-based music. I thought the Vaccines album was fun though. And the Yuck one.

4. I like pop. And I mean glossy, really, really empty pop. Not in an ironic way either, it’s totally unashamed. A lot of the best pop these days is so stupid/funky/vapid I find it irresistible – even when I know it’s disposable and forgettable. In fact the emptier the better.

I don’t download much of it, seems to be very little need – most of it is everywhere anyway – but I like that it’s there.

(I went to the Middle East this year and some very cool clubs in Beirut. They REALLY know how to dance, dress and have a good time there, in stark contrast to the default ‘fear of music’ vibe that permeates quite a lot of London places. Fond memories of listening to an amazing mix of underground music, the cheesiest western pop hits and Arabic beats, all of which emphasise much booty shaking)

5. The more obvious 80s referencing is getting a bit tired now.

I'm more interested in how the post-internet generation are seemingly able to distil 100 plus years of music into really amazing sounds that couldn’t be made in any other era. Someone like Rustie or Micachu or Tobin or a band like Gang Gang Dance or Dirty Projectors or Vampire Weekend is exciting.

6. Hiphop feels like it’s gone the way of rock music now. Aside from some wayward geniuses and Kanye there doesn’t seem to be that much excitement.

I mean I still enjoy it, but the potency seems gone.

7. I’m too forgiving of vocoders, anything with MIDI samples, electro basslines and pop music performed by amazing looking women.

8. I use the word amazing far too much.



Can take or leave the album to be honest but this is EPIC

Not exactly a humming-along-while-eating-coco-pops in the morning number, mind

Makes perfect sense, given the continued trance/hip hop love-in

Souleyman tearing it up from a concept 'album' of exhausting possibilities

House-ier than the average tet

Near-comical doom-synth from the house of maus

Glacial tech from the goddess Halo

More blub-step. Prefer this to Blake though

Hazed out dubby goodness. Good album too

My new crush now that Joker seems to have gone off the boil. EARGASM at 0:38

Amazing year for the Estonian songstress, two albums two EPs. Great live too

2011s least toe-tapping album. More DEATH than RAVE

While Boards of Canada take a break this'll do nicely

Manic (depressive) Miner. 8-bit beats

Beats and rhymes

Asthmatic rap with added swag

Hiphop's two great over-sharers come together. Sweet

Sacrilegeous cover? Nahh, fresh homage surely?

Speaking of which, yeah - he's still got it

Knock me funk-conscious

BIG Atlanta soundz

Evil. The rest of the album’s pretty rubbish, sadly

Pop poop

The T'Pau revival starts here

The Pet Shop Boys revival starts here. DISTRACTING VIDEO

The Beloved/Johnny Hates Jazz revival starts here

The Luscious Jackson revival starts here

The Simple Minds revival starts here

The Toni Basil revival starts here. AMAZING pants

The Morris Minor and the Majors/Weird Al Yankovic revival starts here
(seriously though, even if you hate the lyric and video just listen to that 303, it's LARGE)

The Madonn.. (oh enough already)

Is this the Cardigans on ketamine? Sounds like it

We all have our dark secrets. My love of Ke$ha in all her empty glory is one of mine.

PLUS Vanderbeek.

And she gets bummed by a unicorn in the video. Or something

Trad and lovely

Memo from Turner. His voice just gets richer and warmer by the hour

The most hated song on Iver's album is the only one I actually like

Sounds like Dylan's 4th time around covered by an even more depressed than usual Leonard Cohen

She's found her's Suzanne Vega's

Lovely this though, as is the whole record. Terribly melancholic too

Underwhelming album but this really shimmers (and appears to be also based on Dylan's 4th Time Around. Weird)

Top ten 2011


Pure 80s aural pornography. Loved every single track on this record. Neon dreamz

Only KB can make rhododendrons sound filthy

Absolutely hammered this LP this year. AT a push, this is my fave track. Makes me think of Japan's The Art of Parties and Ghosts.

"She's contrived. She never USED to look or sound like that. She's had surgery. I heard it AGES ago.” Etc

YEAH, whatever.

It's well on the way to being the new Mad World (G Jules version) mind, through over-familiarity.

Hypnotic, lullaby perfection. Again. GREAT video

Sax-honking electro pop monster from an overstuffed, sometimes sublime LP

Lush John Barry intro. Dexterous, angular guitar. Creepy vox. Yes please.

Cracking single but

*that* voice would drive you fucking mental over a whole album, surely?

From 3:35 on

Monday, 15 August 2011

'Merde, eh?'; he wrote

'An opulent, hollow bauble of a film...pretty but pointless.'

The delectable Louise Bourgin (above) aside, I wasn't too keen on Besson's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

Saturday, 13 August 2011

reasons to be cheerful

Ten great things from 2011 thus far.

It’s been a crazy old week, and I haven’t blogged – for various reasons - in a long time.

So this is more of the usual - films, music, telly etc. I don't really do politics here, even with the recent madness...

1. FAUST play power tools at Field Day

My friend Ben and I were at Field Day last week. The sound mix for some of the stages was a bit muted - but overall the day was pretty great.

An amazing, eclectic line-up and unusually sunny weather helped.

This being East London, twiglet-limbed fashion mannequins of both sexes roamed the fields, including some ridiculous Nathan Barley types.

Some absolute bumhat held a bath mat aloft throughout Wild Beasts' set.


The musical highlight was definitely a 12pm set by venerable Krautrockers FAUST.

Setting about their instruments with an intensity that would shame bands a third their age, they ended a vigorous set by playing, with much ferocity, various power tools.

And, I’m fairly certain some sort of lathe.

Great stuff (see 9:06 onwards)

Amusing postscript. We got talking to some Hoxton characters after the set, one of whom said, with absolutely no trace of irony: "Yeah, I saw a band use power tools at a venue in Shoreditch. They were using more complex musical structures though...."

2. The first hour of this..

For at least 50 minutes it's an uncanny, pitch-perfect valentine to Spielberg’s glory years.

Actually quite heart-breaking that Abram’s near alchemy for Spielbergian recreation doesn’t extend to co-opting his masters' genius for narrative drive and suspense.

But WHAT a first hour.

God knows what an actual ten year old, as opposed to a thirtysomething reliving their childhood, would make of it though.

3. Emily Blunt (and Matt Damon) in The Adjustment Bureau

The film itself is OK.

but the chemistry between Blunt and Damon is genuinely affecting, resonant and romantic.

Unusual, in modern American cinema.

And Blunt has a truly beguiling quality.

They should do another (better) film together.

4. South Park Season 15 "You're Getting Old"

I’m not an unconditional South Park fanatic, but weirdly, this episode was probably the most devastating and emotionally resonant thing I’ve seen on TV all year.

It captures, quite brilliantly, the moment(s) where everything you loved suddenly feels tired, exhausted and shit.

It’s not even a particularly funny episode - although the moment where Stan witnesses an endless parade of terrible movie trailers and you realise they are actual films rather than made-up titles (Mr. Poppers Penguins) is OUTSTANDING.

Apparently, it’s a mid-season finale but it actually felt like the last word from two brilliant satirists who maybe, just maybe, feel a little exhausted themselves.

As if the culture they satirise so brilliantly has become so shitty and incomprehensible that there is nothing left to say.

Amazing use of Landslide too.

5. the only music book to make sense of the now

The music book of 2011 and the only author to truly understand pop’s past-present-future-retro vortex and its current, seemingly endless capacity for reframing nostalgia.

6. British telly gets good again

This year, US TV took a back seat for me. My favourite show was on hold and won’t be reappearing on UK screens for ages.

This show, much lauded, left me utterly cold.

But the BBC upped their game. Considerably. Some of their flagship drama has been really interesting. There were shows that were heightened, flawed but gripping, like Exiles and ones that were stylish but frustrating, like The Hours.

But two really stood out from the herd.

One of these shows – which owed clear debts to genius British playwright and TV writer Dennis Potter - thought it was cleverer than it actually was (and it was pretty damn clever).

The other proudly and gleefully celebrated its own utter, rank ridiculousness.

They were both - for these reasons and many others - totally compelling, ferociously charismatic and the best British shows on TV this year, by miles

7. My favourite band of 2010, still my favourite band of 2011

The wondrous Warpaint continue to favour groove over riffs.

It keeps their music fluid, compelling and dynamic and gives them longevity, sensuality and power.

In the space of the last 18 months I have seen them play three amazing gigs.

They should really have a break though.

8. Forever 1985

Ford and Lopatin's Channel Pressure album distils my 80s fetish to an almost perfect degree.

For those of us who will never tire of that much-maligned decade, an era of gilded innocence and misplaced optimism, this gloriously indulgent concept album provides instant sonic time-travel.

9. The Acid House at the Royal court

Saw some excellent plays this year but this one has stayed in the memory.

Maybe it was the inventive decision to stage it in a mocked-up front room that the audience were invited to enter into.

Maybe it was the corrosively funny, consistently brilliant dialogue and performances - especially the luminous Vanessa Kirby and the ever-dependable Dennis Lawson.

Or maybe it was the fact that the writer Anya Reiss, who so brilliantly nailed characters with three generations between them, is only 21 years old.

Hmm maybe that isn’t a reason to be cheerful after all..

Finally, number 10

10. London

Regardless of this or any other year.

For the people I have met and hung out with, the festivals I have attended, the parties I have been to, the films I have seen, the parks I have walked in, the plays I have watched, the bands I have rocked out to, the shows I have thrilled to, the bars I have drunk in, the restaurants I have feasted in, the exhibitions and museums I have been enthralled by and of course the places I have lived in (two of which saw serious riot action over the last week) I salute you.

It doesn’t matter what year it is, being in London makes everything better.

It’s a great city, full of some great people and it can’t be beaten.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Sounds I've been liking

Mid year round-up (kind of)

Love The English Riviera so much I could've picked any number of tracks. This gets the nod for the Japan style guitar..

Another phenomenal new Burial track.

Not crazy about the one he’s done with Thom Yorke much, but THIS I love. Nice video too.

This hits all the right spots. From the blazing 2011 mixtape House of Balloons. 'The weeknd' is a Canadian R&B singer named Abel Tesfaye of whom I know nothing, but this is one of my faves of the year thus far. The production on this track is pure silk.

Thrillingly experimental pop shapes from a young artist who is already amassing a serious body of work.

Got a lot of time for Faris Badwan. I liked The Horrors even before they turned into Neu!

Anyway Badwan’s Cat’s Eyes project is a lovely, lovely, languid record, with cocktail lounge notes and heavy elements of maestro Morricone’s 1960s/70s work. It also has more than a hint of Broadcast (naturally, for the influences are near identical) and the wonderful vocals remind me of the much missed Trish Keenan.

A masterful return from one of my absolute favourite bands in the world and a group who have never disappointed me. Much expansion here on their ultra-minimalist sonics and a little 'Cortez the Killer'-era Neil Young in the guitar-as-landscape sound. Unexpectedly aggressive by Low standards too.

Yet more Morricone, via Danger Mouse and although I am not entirely convinced by what I have heard of this ROME project I am definitely feeling the Hotel California nods here. I fear this album may be a little bit polite and anonymous, as star-heavy collaboration records tend to be, but we will see. This is a very pretty groove and even Jones’ normally soporific vocal has an unexpected edge to it. She sounds like she’s had a heavy night on this.

New/old soundz for the kids. Nostalgia for me. It's 1990 again.

The Abnormals

I'm old enough to remember when comics were mostly read by children.

I was one myself. My dear departed pops used to pick up Spidey and Hulk US imports for me at the amazing, long-gone Yankee Mags in Paisley, Scotland (Oldest UK comic shop, folks).

On the odd Saturday I would go along with him and gaze at the piles of Marvel comics stacked up from floor to ceiling. Happy, simple times indeed.

I even have this, still in very good condition, thanks to a kind and clearly naive older cousin who gave all his UK first editions to me.

Luckily, even at eight years old, I had near OCD levels of keeping/hording stuff.

Anyway, I stopped collecting comics a long, long time ago, but I still have all my old ones and pick up the odd graphic novel now and again, whenever comic geek pals recommend me something that piques my interest. I think the last comic I got obsessive over was probably Preacher, which an ex-girlfriend got me hooked on while I was at Uni.

So I wouldn’t normally be in a position to recommend a cool new comic. Unless someone I know goes and actually produces one.

The Abnormals is the new comic from Grant Springford. Grant is an upsettingly talented comic book artist and writer from London town.

Entirely self-produced, and focusing on a strange collective of London-based super-beings, it comes highly recommended. The first issue is seriously good. The artwork is beautiful and odd, the dialogue whip-smart and intriguing. This dude is going places.

While crafting this opus, Mr Springford offered to place a mock poster of my short 2008 film The Initiation in the panels that feature Westminster Station, which was most kind of him. The juxtaposition of film still and comic looks pretty cool I think.

In return for that favour I am going to be doing something very exciting for the comic later in the year.

You can find out more at the soon to be complete website and the man himself will be at the Bristol Comic Con 2011 doing all things Abnormal. Literally.

Go and say hello.


Le Carpenter c'est magnifique!

Zombie Zombie
are a couple of French whiteboy music nerds who - by chance - I happened to see three times in the space of a year (2008) supporting various other bands (Yeasayer and, I think, The Horrors) and once on their own at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. They weren’t the most er, visually compelling prospect but they did make a really entertaining din - sounding very, very like a certain horror director’s classic scores, played live.

Naturally they’ve now made a John Carpenter covers EP.

And it’s completely boss.

The trick here is that ZZ take the analogue dread of Crapenter’s seminal tracks (and Morrcone’s uncharacteristic The Thing score) and stretch them out into long, hypnotic Can-like grooves without ever losing the essence of the originals.

Love what they do here to EMs super minimalist 'The Thing'.

And with 'Assault on Precinct 13' (complete here with a live video of much nerdgasmic percussion and knob twiddling), Carpenters’ sinister synth lines take flight into a hypnotic space jam with added funk squelch.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Yes yes fun

Although I don't actually buy CDs or records anymore I still have a lot of admiration for artists and labels who take great care over releasing their music as a tangible product. In fact, the labels who have put out some of my favourite sounds over the last few years, like ghost box, are partly defined by this aesthetic, with their music released in lovingly packaged, limited edition ornate LPs and cassettes.

I was a real record shop trawler for years. But now, like many, I am a total download convert. I understand the feverish desire for pretty 'things' and the collector ethos, but the internet is now the greatest record shop in the world, one where the music obsessive can hear endless sounds old and new without the financially crippling task of tracking down actual records, not to mention the difficulties of storage. I realise this is anathema to the artists that keep the vinyl ethic alive but for me music is firmly about HEARING as much exciting stuff as I can rather than ‘owning’ it.

Not not fun are definitely in the obsessive collector tradition and are home to some of the most exciting, compelling underground music of the 2000s. Co-run by La Vampires' Amanda Brown (ex Pocahaunted) they take in bands who deal in psyche-folk, ambient noisepop, Italo disco and pretty much all of the currently active musical sub-genres swirling around the underground right now. Their output seems to have taken up a lot of my listening time of late, unsurprising as 90 per cent of it ticks my musical obsessions to a T.

My good friend and filmmaker Ben Robinson, who shares my love for this kind of stuff, asked me recently where I thought the whole hypno-pop thing that has been blogged about by all and sundry was headed. I couldn’t help thinking that its ultimate endstate would be where almost every music movement ends – utter absorption/co-option into the mainstream and no doubt soundtracking some fey TalkTalk ads very soon.

BUT many of the artists on NNF feel like they’re taking the dreamlike fetishisation/ reimagining of the recent past and moving it further, twisting it into interesting new shapes.

Particularly Estonian-born musician/artist Maria Minerva - whose brilliant, spectral album Tallinn at Dawn is one of my absolute faves of the year so far.

This video is off the scale.

AND THIS from the new-ish Minerva 12" 'Noble Savage' is possibly even better.

LA Vamps own stuff betrays a certain dub/slits influence but again, creates its own strong groove. WARNING: this video could upset those who harbour violent anti-hipster tendencies.

Umberto is another very interesting NNF artist whose output thus far seems to consist entirely of long form doom-synth homages to GOBLIN and other dark purveyors of 70s horror scores.

Geek out to THIS. Love his titles, which are like the chapter selections on sleazy Italian horror DVDs.

This one kicks in around the two minute mark. DARK synths.

For more Not not fun fun, get thee over to pontone for a nice free mix.

Available online, not in a record shop.

Monday, 21 February 2011

James Blake's album works SO much better if.. erase from your mind the idea that it's a dubstep record.

It really isn't.

I admit I was pretty surprised to find that it's mostly sort of quite polite electronic folk-soul.

It's this

plus a dash of this

Nowhere near as good as either of course.

A few of the tracks are actually quite insipid, much more anaemic than expected, and the dreaded glottal stop of Blake's delivery renders at least one track virtually unlistenable.


At its best it suggests a true, emerging artist experimenting with dynamics and sonic space.

And this is great. In the air tonight for the blubstep generation.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

February feeling

five for feb

This track is just so ferocious and evil. It cannot be stopped.

The ghost of some 50s doo-wop band played through an electronic noise box. Underwater.

Toro Y Moi is spring sex music

White-powder soul whose individual elements; an impossibly sunny, smothering sax, New Order-ish guitar lines, vaguely prefab-y vocals, shouldn't really work - but they do. And how.

Teenage girls playing the music of 40-year-old Mojo readers sounds all kinds of wrong, but this is so lovely and timeless, it's hard to resist.


hurry up summer

white and nerdy. And brilliant. And also kind of horrible.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Jaws and jugs

'gleeful, hilarious trash'

my review of PIRANHA 3D over at podcastdoors