Tuesday, 23 December 2008

...And shake it all about.

One of the most dependable aspects of life in Scotland is that in the week preceding any Old Firm clash that there will be a story in the newspaper that insults the intelligence of the entire country more significantly than the thousands of braying 90 minute cretins that will no doubt pack the pubs all over Scotland and Ireland on the 27th.

It is also inevitable that these chancers will turn up at some point offering juicy cliche-riddled anecdotes of a time when men were men and an Old Firm would result in nine men on the pitch and everyone questioned by the polis after.

The stinking farts of publicity going both ways.
Plague. Houses. Etc.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Christmas Gifts

Edinburgh's wonderful shazzblat shaman, Wounded Knee, is offering his peerless seasonal sleigh song "Cold Enough to Snow" for free download from here until January 5th.

The 'Knee has a couple of belters on his myspace just now including an extract from his new release "Orpheus" on Distance Recordings which is a spine tingling live recording of extended vocal improvisations in the tunnels under the Victory Column in Berlin. Oooh, get him. The featured extract "Canary" is my favourite Wounded Knee song and I have frequently given renditions late at night on on drunken nights home. Thankfully there are no surviving recordings of these as he is notoriously litigious.

There's also the wonderful skaters-referencing "My Wooden Cupboard" that featured on the Wire Tapper a few months ago.

Live 'Knee action tomorrow the 19th of December at Canongate Kirk along with other artists from the Edinburgh Composers Collective.

Friday, 12 December 2008

So much, so little

Apologies for lack of action in recent weeks. My work life has taken a turn for the hectic. In all a good thing, but exhausting.

Hoping to get some time over the weekend to write up a few things.

In the meantime here's a haul of some recent, thoroughly irresponsible purchases.

STL- 51 North (Something): Gold. Absolute gold. Insistent, hypnotic, mysterious house music. This completely transports you without seeming to actually go anywhere. Was looking to get some STL having heard the name discussed in end-of-year discussions. Was buying the doublepack and my local record dealer told me to take this too. Gorgeous. To such an extent I sent an incoherent gushing and obviously drunken email to all the staff at the record shop about how much I loved it. So now.

Zomby- Rumours and Revelations (Brainmath): The usual high quality from someone who's going to be huge next year. I'm very, very annoyed that I couldn't find a copy of "Liquid Dancehall" earlier on this year. Eagerly awaiting spending more of my dwindling funds on Hyperdub 16.

$tinkworks- Coelacaenth (strange life records): *Blub*. This record makes me feel funny.

Mikkel Metal- Peaks and Troughs ep (part3) (Echocord): Bought the last one for the Pole remix. And this for Mike Huckaby. Beautiful stuff,

DJ Stingray- Aqua Team 2 (WeMe records): Don't really know what to say about this yet. The usual Drexcian malarkey but I think records like this give up their secrets slowly. Or something. *Update* This is superb. The second record has a stateliness and poise that's all too rare these days. Like being in a deserted church at midnight. For fans of Tri-Repetae period Autechre.

Reggie Dokes- Rain Redemptive Love EP (Philpot): Class. Bought as a few people on InfiniteStateMachine were boosting it as one of the tracks of this or any year. They're not wrong. All three tracks are superb.

Moodymann- KDJ23: I've passed over this record loads of times thinking "Nah, I'll just get it some other time". Having missed out on a couple of beauties this year I decided not to leave it to chance. The bells on A1 remind me of being surrounded by pealing bells while walking through a park.

Peverelist- Clunk, Click, Every Trip (Punch Drunk): Sweet. Yet more goodness from Punch Drunk high heid yin, Peverelist. Serious Underground Resistance business going on here. A sister piece to his Shackleton remix earlier from this year. And he released Gemmy's fantastic "Bk 2 the future". Is there nothing the man can't do?

I'm off to the Giant Tank/Missing Twin Christmas Party tonight for some Usurper/Muscletusk insanity and the drinking of strong beer.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

for the love of god

i know
and that

Friday, 21 November 2008

Disco with a kick.

Everyone in Edinburgh should stagger on down to Sneaky Pete's, the Cowgate's premiere sleazy dive bar tomorrow the 22nd of November for the launch of Wasabi Disco.

Hosted by Pure-alumnus and tiny rave hooligan Kris Wasabi it will feature a five hour mix of "mutant discoisms for beards, queers, freaks, straight folks and the over 30...".

Kris is an absolutely incredible DJ with fantastic taste who's been playing all round the place (Optimo backroom, Pandemic@Sleazy's, X-Vectrian happenings, weddings, bar mitzvahs, Welcome home from prison bashes etc...) for years. It's going to be a messy one.

Bafflingly this is his first foray into running his own club, I'm really excited at the prospect.

And better again it's free.

If you're still not sure then check out his fucking incredible slow-mo disco mix. There are a load of other mixes available on the myspace site.
























Tuesday, 4 November 2008

~Scape sound

Thanks to everyone who came down to the Voodoo Rooms last night.

Great turnout for a Monday night. TR I/O FON were absolutely fantastic, scrambling brains with scattergun clatter early doors. Inspired me to pull out Autechre's Envane EP to follow up.

Played Donnacha Costello's newie too before Araya followed on with a gorgeous set of bright shiny shimmer. Really looking forward to forthcoming releases. Then a few more tunes, Photek's 2 sword technique giving way to Peverelist's awesome remix of Shackleton on ~scape, those technoey kicks sounded brilliant over the Voodoo's sound system.

Then Pole came on and flattened everyone with a great set, starting with his rework of Shackleton's Shortwave and blasting through some Steingarten goodies and the forthcoming 12" "Alles Gut/Alles Klar". A great set from an absolute gent that neatly dispelled the notion that Betke's music is all about the sound design, really physical and great fun. Dancing amongst Edinburgh audiences is as rare as hens teeth and it was nice to see the floor moving!

Superb photos of the night by William Stark.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Pole, Dancing

Exciting weekend coming up, between going out to see Prins Thomas at Ultragroove for Kris Wasabi's birthday and then playing records between the acts at Pole in the Voodoo Rooms on Monday.

Support on the night from Benbecula's Araya as well as dub techno trio TR-I/O-FON. I've never heard of them but if there's a phrase that gives me a warm tingly feeling just saying the fucking words it's "dub techno trio" so get there on time.

Your ticket also entitles you to go along to Pole's production workshop at 2pm in Alison House at the University of Edinburgh.

On sale in Ripping, Underground Solushun and for our wild western buddies Rub a Dub and Monorail.

Thanks to Gav for asking me to do this, I'm a big fan of Betke and his superb ~scape label.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Swoon! Drool! Ooooh! Bok! Whoo!

"Writing is inhibiting. Sighing, I sit, scribbling in ink this pidgin script. I sing with nihilistic witticism, disciplining signs with trifling gimmicks - impish hijinks which highlight stick sigils. Isn't it glib?Isn't it chic?"

This kind of thing makes me feel all gooey inside.

A sexy little updating of ideas from
George Perec and assorted other difficult French avant guardians.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller. Again.

Adrian Searle gets it wrong wrong wrong in his analysis of Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller's excellent "The house of books has no windows" exhibition which has upped sticks from Edinburgh's Fruitmarket and moved close enough to London for the esteemed London art critic to bother his behind attending. There's the statutory London bashing out of the way. Lovely. I saw this exhibition in Edinburgh and have rattled on about it at length already but some of Searle's arguments are ill-construed and occasionally just plain wrong.

Firstly the Killing Machine, the “interactivity” (the installation is activated by pressing a mundane red button, like you might find on a building site) which Searle derides in an infantile manner is entirely the point. It is an effective and vivid statement about capital punishment and the public discourse in the US relating to the state sanctioned murder of wrongdoers. It is a mechanical and dehumanised process which has become disinfected of all the messy business of stoning, shooting or beheading. This antiseptic process is perfectly elucidated in Erroll Morris’ “Dr Death” in which “death systems engineer” Fred A. Leuchter shamelessly declares himself a humanitarian for speeding the passage of his charges. The cabaret/disco/entertainment elements of the piece are surely echoes of the legal/media and political circus that surrounds the death of the condemned, all distractions from the ugly clacking truth of the chair in front of us.

And on we go to the risible notion that Opera for a Small Room is less successful than a Tom Waits song. It’s a little tragic when art critics start talking about music, especially when they appropriate Waits’ vocal affectations (“He don’t need no etc…). If anything Opera… evokes the more recent work of any number of Godspeed! You Black Emperor/Silver Mount Zion projects. There’s doom, regret and isolation in the narrators voice, Waits’ world teems with humanity, his lonely songs sung when everyone’s gone home, not alone in the dark in a shed with an owl. The real treat, as in the Killing Machine, is in the clanking eccentric mechanics of the piece (in a way, this is where Bures Miller & Cardiff actually do share something with Waits)- the way that automation is used to create an unnerving post-human atmosphere in both pieces contributes to the eerie, uncanny atmosphere that both pieces but particularly Opera for a Small Room, evoke. When left to themselves the machines will find their own way to express themselves, recontextualising the work of long-disappeared humanity.

It appears that Searle didn’t even bother to go back for a second look at the Dark Pool which is packed with funny/silly/spooky little details, a tense repetition of words chopped out from books that become a declaration of love laid on a musty old jewellery box, a patented wishing machine, fractious back-and-forth arguments to be listened to through ear trumpets, scratchy radios evoking Dorothy’s deserted home after the tornado in Kansas. All of this is done from memory and it’s months since I’ve seen the work. Perhaps Searle has tasted and tested too much. Dark Pool was lovely, a bit impenetrable at first but I returned to it a number of times over the months it was at Fruitmarket such was the “purchase” it made on my imagination.

The final and most glaring oversight in Searle’s review is that he doesn’t once mention the title piece “The House of Books Has No Windows”, perhaps he walked sniffily past thinking that a big house made of books doesn’t merit the Guardian art critics attention. And that is his loss. This is the newest piece and was commissioned by the Fruitmarket and Modern Art Oxford specifically for these exhibitions! encapsulates a lot of what they’re about beyond the mechanics and the creaks. It’s a house, made of books, with no windows. I loved it, climbing inside the door was profoundly moving, an immediate, emotional experience that evokes the disappeared who once owned the books, the smell of the books triggering memories of clearing out the houses of the dead, the moldering smell of disuse, obsolescence and forgetting, the slow impassive solitary death of objects as a counterpoint to our own messy, rapid and smelly fate
. If you want quiet, undirected understatement Adrian, this is where you’d have found it. But you wanted to climb in the chair.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Frenetic Noise Splatter

Argh. Lack of updates recently due to constant onslaught of freneticism.

Caught Spencer Clark in his Vodka Soap guise at Sneaky Pete's last week with support from Heather Leigh Murray and the mighty Muscletusk.

Muscletusk were superb, a howling squealing morass of nasty and other such overburdened verb chunder. They rock. Anyway. If they play anywhere near you, you should crawl over dead bodies to go and see them. In fact, I think they'd probably love to see the street in front of the venue strewn with corpses so if they're playing in your town try to kill a few people and leave the bodies in front of the venue as an offering. Like a cat. In fact, if you are a cat you should probably go too. But if you're a cat, a fully grown human is probably going to be a bit too much for you to knock off so either get a load of your cat mates and gang up on a person (the elderly and infirm are usually an easy target, and remember, allergies can often do the work of 10 cats so try to keep it indoors), or alternatively bring a mouse, or just get your devoted owner to do the killing for you, they're great like that.

Right. Onwards.

I didn't really feel the Heather Leigh Murray piece all that much. There were some really interesting sounds, particularly when she was playing those really high notes on her pedal steel and using the harmonica but any time it seemed to be going somewhere interesting things seemed to get bogged down and not really progress all that much. This was a bit disappointing because I saw her with Tarpis Tula at ATP a few years ago and loved it but there you go. Saying this probably consigns me to some sort of gulag for a while but it kicks the fuck out of lying about it eh?

Spencer Clark is half of the Skaters and was completely and utterly fantastic and wonderful. I wasn't too familiar with the Vodka Soap stuff beforehand but it was a lovely piece with Clark playing behind a small shrine with a load of burning incense sticks sticking out of the top of it.
The piece was ritualistic, tribal, ecstatic and nicely bananas all the words that usually get trotted out by folk at these things and a lot more accessible than you might think.

Some people feel alienated by the indescribable, tiny noise/improv/out shindigs that are happening all over the shop but I generally find there's always something to enjoy, although I don't go as often as I'd like and by all accounts have missed some absolutely brilliant performances. Still, I've had some nice dinners and nights in by the fire and I wouldn't exchange them for the world.

We left just as DJ Bennetti was kicking off ItaloBlack, an Italo night that's been going every Thursday in Sneaky Petes for a few months now. The visuals, done by DJ Cassavetes were really, really good. I've been to it a few times now and really enjoy myself and indulge in bad/good dancing. More people should go.

Finally, check out the Shazzblog for a great little interview with hyperliterate zonk-monster and Pjorn-King, Fordell Research Unit.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Message to the markets...

Here's a little weekend "to do" list for any jittery stockbrokers out there.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

My love is like a Red Nord Lead.

Today is Notional Poetry Day.

I was going to celebrate this by inflicting a poem on readers.
Then I got lazy, and couldn't manage to squeeze anything out.
So, as some sort of consolation here's some poetry-related malarkey.

Don Paterson wins award with poem about Georgian electronic musician.

Colour me seriously conflicted.
I love Paterson's work.
I also love obscure electronic music.
But this entire article makes me queasy.

There are excerpts from the poem at the end of the article.
Copy & paste them into a more forgiving viewer to read them if you must.

I'm not entirely sure this is the best introduction to his work.
Get Landing Light, Gods Gift to Women, or, if poetry isn't your thing dive into the Book of Shadows and giggle wickedly to yourself late at night over too much booze.

Skittery Jittery

Thanks to Gavros for booking me to do a wee dj support slot for crackly German dub hero and ~scape records founder, Pole in the Voodoo Rooms on Monday 3rd November.

I'm a bit nervous about this because I'm not really a "DJ" dj, it's been a good 4 years since I've played in public!

Expect dub, of the -trad, -techno and -step variety along with a raft of dated electronics and disembodied grumbling.

If you're in Edinburgh come on down, it should be a belter.

Betke is giving a talk in Edinburgh University (Alison House) on the afternoon, entry included on your ticket (which you can buy from Gav at Ripping Records or the other Gav at Underground Solushn').

Proper support from Araya fresh from his great live set at the recent Benbecula label showcase.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

a brief fiction

A 25 pulls off from outside the James’ Centre too late for a boy in a flattering sporty black jacket. The type that takes its inspiration from Japanese motorcycles without the merciless insulation, wholly unsuited to the exertions of the cheek by jowl bus commuter. Thinking quickly he breaks into a sprint, down the hill and the entrance to the Caledonian Thistle Hotel car park, he has to beat the bus over 100 yards, down to the stop outside John Lewis. Get there he’s thinking, go on, just get there. He’s too keen, hasn’t noticed the electronic sign telling him there’s only 2 minutes to the next 25. Picking up speed, funneled down the banked speedway under the pedestrian overpass, he relaxes seeing the bus lurch to a stop halfway along the stretch to let in a Transit. Upstairs, onboard, a slow moving suit with a trench & briefcase is sent stumbling up the aisle, his specs fly off and clatter around the bar on the front window that he also grasps to break his fall. The glasses hang there for a second before he settles himself. Back to the boy, he’s slowing, blinking, strides easing down to arrive just as the blonde girl at the stop steps on. Made it. A joyful moment. All’s right with the world. Off the bus clanks again, into the oppositetheOmni maelstrom, two rows of cars vying for two rows on the far side with another two rows entering from the left. A theatre of false politeness and naked ambition. The bus slows, on the street, a pair sozzled drinkers embrace another. Their faces a mask of drink and grime, one’s rolling a cigarette, the other swigs from a litre of strong cider, the white type. All three seem upset but it’s not clear whether this is for a specific reason or just the general miasmic despair that’s shrouded the city today with the rain battering down and no-one able to get anywhere. All three have slight cuts on their noses, caused by something striking it very hard (L-R, a bottle? a forehead? a pavement?).

On down into the valley of nightmares, the two lane mini-roundabout with an inverse camber and three queues marshalled by temporary traffic lights. Wait. Lurch. Wait. Go! The suspension attacks the camber with gusto, the top deck treated to the now familiar lurch to the right that accompanies any northward transit of this new and already infamous boundary before passing buses edging the single lane of oncoming traffic into the 25’s path on Elm Row. A barely perceptible moan wafts through the top deck as from here you can see forever, down the endless tail-lit serpent, flanked by bandit screens and bollards. Leith Walk. The sensible disembark at the corner of Brunswick Road deciding just to walk it. They’ll be wet but won’t have to breathe the simmering, impatient resentment fogging the windows of the bus.

Passing the Krakow Café and the blonde meticulously painting the incongruous medieval cladding to the wee shopfront, a tiny glimmer of artistry, beauty peeking up and out from the upheaval and chaos all around. Down, down, down the walk the traffic inches. The stop by the KFC just at the entrance to the counterflow, a train of 4 buses all buffalo out into the single lane of exasperated private cars, two make it through. A man gesticulates to get on the stop, the bus driver is ignoring him, his impassive 1000 yard stare silently screaming “I’m away fae the kerb and sitting in traffic pal, cannae let you oan”. Things are getting heated, the man is shouting, angry, there’s a screaming baby, the bottom deck is packed with folk breathing on each other, trying to keep calm. They’re stuck here now, can’t get off, stuck waiting for this light. Light changes and along it goes. Towards the Foot the road narrows, two bare lines of traffic sandwiched between two cages of bandit screens. Nothings' moving the other side, a workie with his high-vis jacket isn’t directing traffic. There’s folk leaving their cars in the oncoming traffic and running into the lane to see what’s going on. There’s quite a bit of exasperated gesticulation. Some guy nearly gets sideswiped by a little digger coming the wrong way up the road. He refuses to move, some of the workies get a bit shirty. The 25 still inching through the tight lane, then stranded as a purple Astra moves out of the oncoming lane and directly into its path trying to get past. The 25 moves forward, the driver not taking this provocation lying down. Out the window, in the corridor along the pavement a beautiful woman wearing a cap is walking up the road with her husband. A passer by grabs her hat, she turns around and runs him down, snatching the cap from his hand. She’s roaring “give us that back you, fuck sake”, her man turns around bewildered and starts walking back. Here’s one of the other guys pals now, roaring “Dinnae touch ma fuckin’ pal or ahl fucking kill ye” at her man. The guy is shitting it, not knowing what to do, way out of his depth. Before he knows it the Head the Ball is on him, the guy doesn’t say anything just tries to get clear, he gets a few boots on his way. Then his missus gets in the way and the Head the Ball pushes her. Her man goes “fuckin’ steady man”, not seeing the bottle in this Rocket’s hand. Smack. Blood everywhere. The 25 hasn’t moved in a while now, the polis on their way. The top deck riveted. The sign beside the road says “Taking you to work in 2011”; in the meantime, you’re going nowhere.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Droids, Slugs, Riddims.

The wearie-curated Blogariddims series is coming to an end, the second last installment is just up.

Droid and Slug joining the dots between todays fractured dubby electronic output and a previous pulse of fractured dubby electronic output.

Just get along and get listening.

"Krib" off Autechre's Cichlisuite EP retains to power to alter my reality.


(Similar starting point from last time, let's see if I get to say what I initially intended to say this time eh?)

Life is infuriating.

There are ways of dealing with it.

One is by portraying yourself as the only sane person on the planet raging against the petty injustices of the world and the cretins who are responsible.

Unfortunately this path is fraught with danger. It frequently leads of ill conceived screeds of muddleheaded bile whereby a hasty rush up the staircase of metaphor leads to a stumble on the first flight, a knock on the head and the remainder of your time spent clinging desperately to the bannister, blood pouring down your face, incoherently ranting about women's bottoms.

The other is to take a deep breath, try to remember that it's probably not that important anyway and there's probably something at home that will remind you that life isn't all that bad
. Or at least distract you until bedtime.


Can't spell "Who Cares" without "H", "R"

Life is infuriating. Generally when anyone asks me "how's it going" my automatically respond "surviving". This is rooted largely in my linguistic heritage, it's the kind of thing an auld fella might say to a passer-by when he's on his way to the pub, existence being a struggle until you manage to get the first pint down your gullet.

But I'm starting to think that "surviving" is an accurate, if unfashionable, statement that existence itself is an ordeal. The notion that someone might find the whole process of life exhausting is something that makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. Frequently in work people will remark that I'm "looking stressed". Sometimes I suppose I do, sometimes I just look annoyed because I would rather be anywhere than there, sometimes I've just read about another sequel to Legally Blonde and wish that the insects would just get on with it, rise up and enslave us all.

The mask that we project to the world is now, bizarrely, crucial to others perceptions of us as professionals. It's not good enough any more to merely be good (or even great) at your job anymore, no, you must be able to create an illusion of serenity while you're doing it. I was recently called up by a co-worker for arriving at a meeting looking exhausted and pissed off. This was related to a difficult aspect of my work, a problem that's frustrating and one to which there is no apparent solution. The meeting was productive and we managed to make a little bit of progress in terms of discussing the matter at hand. I was asked by this co-worker whether everything was alright and whether I thought I needed to take a few days off. I found this disturbing, for a variety of reasons. For me, the entire process of being "off sick" is a depressing and stress-inducing situation which formally isolates the subject from the activity which they're nominally taking a temporary break from.

More disturbing is the notion that my co-worker had taken it upon himself to pathologise my bad mood. Managers frequently take it upon themselves to assume the role of diagnostician in the execution of their management function. One way they do this is by interpreting unhappiness, either professional or personal, as a potential risk to the organisation, co-workers and the employee in question. Once you start looking at unhappy employees as "risks" you are required to begin thinking about elminating that risk as it may, in future, result in damage to the organisation. This is where things start to get sinister to someone of a paranoiac disposition. The primary objective of the "Human" aspect of management is to protect organisations from entirely "human" behaviours exhibited by the organisations "resources". So where does that leave us? In most organisations the "procedures" for absence/disiplinary/stress management exist in order to depersonalise the experience for everyone concerned. This is a neat trick. It creates a control mechanism which generates an illusion that no individual is actually responsible, it is only the "procedure" which decides for dismissal, re-deployment or disciplinary procedures. Sure, it "protects" the manager and the employee from personalising any dispute, something that can be profoundly unpleasant. But I wonder whether it creates a dangerous antipersonality and fosters an environment in which any conflict is seen as "negative" (contemporary shorthand for "evil") and something to be avoided at all costs.

This creates a charter for cowardice to operate at the heart of an organisation. A place where nothing is said or even suggested without being absolutely certain of the answer, an enveloping thicket of predictability; devoid of leadership, vision or humanity.

Hmm. That started in one place and ended up somewhere else.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Which begs the question...

Is it really worthwhile charging 12 quid into Optimo's bi-monthly do in Edinburgh if you know it's going to have an effect on the crowd? Especially given that it's usually half the price in Glasgow?

Is it time to introduce club etiquette lessons to the secondary curriculum? Lots of shoving. And couples mauling each other.

If someone you'd never met before accidentally gave you 20 quid instead of a fiver to add a pint to your order would you correct the mistake?

What kind of a bawbag thinks it's funny to deploy stink bombs in an underground club on one of the muggiest nights of the summer? Twice? Seriously dude, you're a gowl.

Aren't Joakim like a really neat amalgam of Sonic Youth, Franz Ferdinand and Scion?
Ok, that's not really a question. More an observation.

Matthew Bourne loves the sex doesn't he?

Why have all the good techno records gone so expensive?

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Further into the fringe.

The mother and the sister were over during the week and we really did the dog on the festivals! My sister is a musician and composer and every year she comes over and puts me to shame with her energy, basically she probably sees more in 3 days than I see in the whole month. We'd done a bit of homework and booked some good stuff in the Traverse. First up was
Mong Yeon (A love in dream) a beautiful little Korean production. Really interesting visual and musical piece about a widow grieving for her dead husband. Kind of like a really lush version of Ghost produced by an undergraduate Wong Kar Wei. It's a bit of a curates egg in terms of trying to explain what's going on with slightly heavyhanded exposition getting in the way of sublime musico-visual set pieces. A wedding scene is absolutely fantastic, a sugary shimmer like an ice cream in a childrens book. Another dream sequence walks a bittersweet tightrope as the widow dreams of lying in bed with her beloved, a sublime evocation of the giddy thrill of mundanity. The cockerel is a morning demon rousing the bereaved from her dream of love. The piece sags a little towards the end as the young cast hammer a little hard trying to get the message across. Despite these slight flaws it's a beautiful, big hearted and generous production that's performed with joy and conviction by the cast. The sister was seriously impressed by the multitasking actors who managed four part harmonies, live instruments, acting and dancing over the course of the hour. Hard working heroes!

Then it was on to the Fruitmarket for Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller's "The House of books has no windows" which is the best thing I've seen anywhere in ages. Heh, hyperbole alert but it really is that good, a beautiful, immersive, witty, playful, disturbing playpen of wonk. As in wonky. Which is clearly a fantastic thing. The "Opera for a small room", a recreation of an isolated shack stuffed with records, turntables, suitcases, disembodied voices and lights playing on a 20 minute loop is a beautiful introduction to the world of Cardiff & Miller. It's sinister, joyful and doomy all at the same time in much the same way as Godspeed! You Black Emperor. Walking around the pitch dark room surrounded by insect noises, rain (which after the last week's weather I never thought I'd enjoy hearing again) and passing trains you feel transported, despite the often crowded space. Shadows from the window change on the walls creating an uncanny spooky rural backwoods atmosphere. The "House of Books has no windows" piece created for this exhibition is a simple idea executed sublimely and provoked a profoundly emotional response. Sitting in the house breathing in the luscious smell of old books I felt at peace, protected, like a child clasped to an adult. I'd had a stressful day and sitting in there I felt a real sense of peace. The "Killing Machine" is the piece that's getting all the press and it's an absolute belter. Basically a sinister musical torture device that's operated by the viewer it's genuinely chilling. The rest of the exhibition is really accomplished and I've spent the last few days excitedly dragging everyone I meet along for a look.

We went to the Abbey Theatre production Mark O'Rowe's "Terminus" in Traverse and were completely blown away. I'd heard mixed reports about this with some people finding the three rhyming monologues tiresome. I disagree and thought it was a compelling and lyrical piece. Sure it's violent, gory and really lurid but there's a phenomenal imagination at the heart of it. O'Rowe undersells it in the programme notes saying the piece is at least "full of crazy people doing crazy shit". It is but there's a real humanity to the characters. The acting is very strong with Eileen Walsh demonstrating subtlety, power and phenomenal balance in her performance. The script is an absolute revelation with rhyming used throughout. This creates an urgency and rhythm to the piece that drives the story forward, O'Rowe frequently wrongfoots anyone attempting to pre-empt the rhymes and this made for some great comedy allowing the audience some tension relieving laughter in his visceral tale. Reviews of this piece got a bit lost in a phenomenal lineup at Traverse, it deserves more consideration. O'Rowe has a reputation as a "muscular" playwright, something that maybe puts off more lyrically minded theatregoers, this is a pity.

Following night we went to Enda Walsh and Druid's "New Electric Ballroom" in the same room. This is a companion piece to last years "Walworth Farce" which went down a storm. The similar devices are there; isolated, desperate people re-enacting their past to cocoon themselves from a frightening outside, cakes in the face, jet black humour and family secrets. This created a bit of debate afterwards, the wife and my mother both loathed it, found it less enjoyable than the Walworth Farce. I really enjoyed it, particularly Rosaleen Lenihan and Mikel Murfi's performances. The similarities with the Walworth farce are there but the piece is more a meditation on Irish village and family life than the Walworth's treatment of how we deal with trauma. Or at least that's what I got from it. The audience didn't seem to know what to do with it, particularly the penetrating minds who seem to think that wolf-whistling partial nudity is normal theatre-going behaviour. I don't like to be a fuddy duddy but what a total numpty. Strangely, the effect of Terminus the night before meant the initial stages felt a bit lumpen in comparison with O'Rowe's stacatto patter.

More to come, covering clubs, more theatre, more art and a little rant about books.

Sunday, 17 August 2008


Been plenty busy of late between work commitments and the rigours of the festival season taking its toll. I've seen quite a bit but can't really draw on that enthusiasm to write a lot of stuff up. We went to the Traverse the first weekend for some 2 for 1 preview action and really enjoyed the Almeida production of Adam Rapp's Nocturne. It's a beautifully constructed monologue about grief, family breakdown, loneliness and trauma. But entertaining for it. The entire thing hinges on Peter McNamara's stunning performance as the nameless narrator, a writer still grieving over his accidental slaying of his sister in a car accident. The monologues slowly unpack the narrators stacks of baggage in a humane and artful fashion depicting a fraught atmosphere of family tension where the piano, a Steinway, is an ever-present, impassive and malignant presence. The narrator repeatedly invokes Greig, Chopin, Tchaikovsky", names spat out by the narrator, personification of his torment at the familial expection to perform. Each scene is intercut with beautiful, haunting and jarring bursts of piano music, little miniatures of pressure, rhythm and tension in a glorious hour and a half of haunting and musical language. The work really put me in mind of some of Michel Faber's darker short stories with tragedy spun in a scintillating web of gorgeous language.

Last week we pottered on to "Etcetera" at the independent Universal Arts venue on Hill Street. A wordless 50 minutes of puppetry by Polish company Teatr K3 is a wee gem. It's difficult to describe this piece as it suggests much more (play, automation, commercialism, our "metro, boulot, dodo" culture) than it initially appears(three evil sisters tormenting dolls). There's something mythical about it with the three performers stalking the stage selecting their next manikin victim and then, to some wonderful wonky/spooky music, pulling them in hundreds of different directions until they tire of it, discard it hanging on the wall and move in search of their next candidate. The piece is poetic, funny and haunting, the greatest draw being the palpable pleasure the performers take in their exertions. A fantastic piece which seems to have been overlooked by a lot of critics.

Monday evening involved an orgy of classical music with a double header at the International Festival. First up was the Estonian Philharmonic Choir conducted by Paul Hillier. As we took our seats in the top circle of the newly (and not-quite finished) refurbished Usher Hall (after a climb up a scaffolded staircase! one wag said it was a bit more like a Fringe Venue!) I was a bit worried we weren't going to get the full benefit of this well-regarded Choir. That all changed once they launched into Veljo Tormis' "Jaanilaulud"- starting with sounds like the wind in trees or a distant sea at night. The repertoire stayed around the Baltics with Finland and Estonia taking centre stage. Highlights included Toivo Tulev’s 2006 work "Summer Rain" which had a peculiar. lollopping cadence and Arvo Part's beautiful "Magnificat" and “Nunc dimittis”. The final piece, Bergman's "Lapponia", a non-lyrical semi-improvised evocation of the Lapp landscape in winter and summer was a bit more challenging with the 2nd movement "Yoik" integrating LKSDJ song techniques evoking a desolate arctic wilderness. A final piece from (I think) Sibelius left us home with something a bit more tuneful. Not a bad evening's entertainment but the programming lacked a bit of fun and levity after the first, flush of enthusiasm. It got some very positive reviews from people who know far more about this stuff than I do.

Then it was a quick dash through Tattoo Traffic, a quick fortifying Malt in the Bow Bar and on to St Giles Cathedral and Naji Hakim's second performance as part of the Messiaen centenery. The first night was very well reviewed. The performance skewed a little more in favour of Hakim's own work with the second piece Offrande au Saint Sacrement instead of the programmed Offrande et Alleluia from the Livre du Saint Sacrement. This was a little disappointing and confusing for the audience who didn't applaud in the break between "Offrande au Saint Sacrement" and Hakim's "Sakskøbing Praeludier”. I always find this the most offputting aspect of classical music where the neophyte often doesn't know when to clap for fear of appearing to be some sort of thick tongued teuchtar dragging muck in on someone's nice carpet. Still, Hakim was a blast, hammering through the Messiaen and then firing into his own two compositions. The Messaien (a composer I know very little about) sounded to me very like some John Carpenter scores. What I love about Faure, Satie and Poulenc, who are all forerunners to Messaien, is their playfulness, the lightness and beauty that lurks even in their strange works. A few years ago me and the missus went to "Punch Drunk Love" on Valentines Night and she described it as being like a lovely light pudding. That's how the more beautiful modern French music sounds to me, whimsical, slightly bonkers but amiable nonetheless. There were aspects of this in the Messaien along with more discordant spookiness staggering off down the Cathedral to the dark. I expected it to be a lot more difficult and less enjoyable than it was. Someone with more education about this might smirk at my artless listening skills but there you go. The "Sakskøbing Praeludier" is a collection of hymns that seem to come from outer space. Really entertaining, overblown and completely, utterly original. I can't imagine the kind of church this comes from, sort of like looking at the weird space creatures in the bar in Star Wars. Some pieces were quite like video game music, partifularly Hitoshi Sakimoto, the God King of Japanese video game composition who wrote the influential music for the Final Fantasy series. There was also some John Carpenter, but less menacing. The half hour of Sakskøbing Praeludier and the Glenalmond Suite was as entertaining, fresh and enjoyable as I've enjoyed musically for ages. After some well timed applause from a very mixed crowd Hakim treated us to some improvisations which were similarly witty and playful before he tickled us all with a big cheesy deconstruction of Scotland the Brave and some other Scottish airs. He took his heartfelt applause with a big smile that reflects the openness, good humour and accessibility of his music. There's a good youtube of him merrily improvising away for himself here!

As I’ve previously intimated here I’m not all that into stand up comedy. This is largely due to overdosing on mediocrity in the first couple of years in Edinburgh and the frustration that comes from spending extensive amounts of cash to sit and listen to a bare hour of complacent, smug and faux-intelligent wittering. By cutting out the comedy I've had the money to spend on tickets for much of the above so i feel my instinct is right for me. This year I made an exception for both of the Amsterdam Underground Comedy Collective going to both Micha Wertheim and Hans Teeuwen. Wertheim was reasonably funny, largely because he’s quite an astute physical comedian with a really amiable manner. He seemed a little rusty though (this was in the first weekend) and at one stage looked like he was about to corpse. Teeuwen is a class act, a sly and sneakily intelligent comedian as well as accomplished pianist. The hour we spent listening to bizarre ranting setups that blossomed into delicate and intricate routines was as good I think as I’ve ever seen. Days later I’m still unpicking parts of the performance, the interplay of music, language, physical theatre and edgy surrealism left everyone I’ve spoken to about it completely stunned.

More to come during next week, hopefully more theatre at the Traverse and a stroll through some more highlights in galleries.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Bookshelves, Carpentery and The Living End

And so begins another Edinburgh Festival. A few posts ago I referred to it as the Truly Detestable Edinburgh Festival, largely to shoehorn a gratuitous Edwin Collins pun into a moribund review. It's also because every year I feel an ache of apprehension at the invasion of this sleepy burgh by marauding hordes of fledgling PR's with gawping turistas cluttering my normally serene progress through town. Then it starts and I spend the first week manically running around going to a scatter of varied events and staying up way too late. The festivals are what they are and what they are is a fantastic excuse to to run around going to a scatter of varied events and stay up way too late while dodging fledgling PR's and gawping turistas.

First up was the launch of the Edinburgh Art Festival with the Cockburn Street Party joint-hosted by Stills and the Collective Gallery. Thanks to superbly timed downpour the "street party" become "two openings opposite one another with people pegging it between the two". The Stills exhibition of the Martha Rosler Library is right up my street being, well, a library. Had a great time riffling through things finding some superb book titles. Favourites being a translation of Paul Auge's "Non Places: an introduction to the anthropology of super-modernity", "The New Mauve- a collection of flower arrangements by Constance Spry" and the sublime "Grammar of Motives". The library is Rosler's own collection as such has loads of postcards, tickets and other ephemera stuck in as place markers.

It reminded me of Myles NaGopaleen's business idea for "Buchhandlung" in which the libraries of the rich and vulgar are finessed by a qualified person to make it appear that the books had been read. This would be on a sliding scale to suit all pockets:

"Popular Handling" would ensure that all books would be:
"well and truly handled, four leaves in each to be dog-eared, and a tram ticket...or other comparable item inserted in each as a forgotten book-mark"

"Premier Handling" would involved each:
"volume being thoroughly handled...a suitable passage in not less than 25 volumes to be underlined in red pencil"

"De Luxe Handling" would leave smaller volumes with:
"the impression they have been carried around in pockets..., an old Gate Theatre programme to be inserted in each volume as a forgotten book mark, not less than 30 volumes to be treated with old coffee, tea, porter and whiskey stains, and not less than 5 volumes to be inscribed with forged signatures of the authors. "

Then we come, inevitably to the Superb Treatment or "Le Traitement Superbe, as we lads who spent our honeymoon in Paris prefer to call it" in which books are subjected to all manner of thorough and learned handling by master handlers:
"who shall have to his credit not less than 550 handling hours...suitable passages in not less than fifty per cent of the books to be underlined...and an appropriate phrase from the list inserted in the margin, viz:
Yes, indeed!
Yes, but cf.Homer, Od, iii,151.
Well, well, well
I remember poor Joyce saying the very same thing to me."

At this stage Le Traitement Superbe is only getting into its stride,
"Not less than 6 volumes to be inscribed with forged messages of affection and gratitude from the author of each work, e.g.,
'From your devoted friend and follower, K Marx.'
'Dear A.B.,-Your invaluable suggestions and assistance, not to mention your kindness, in entirely re-writing chapter 3, entitles you surely to this first copy of "Tess". From your old friend T.Hardy.'"

This is by no means the full extent of Traitement in store for the hulking libraries of the wealthy illiterate and I would heartily recommend finding a copy of "The Best of Myles" from which these incomplete and completely un-authorised quotes were culled.

Anyway, I digress. The exhibition is a fascinating and compulsive space for a book lover. It could also serve as a fantastic resource for passing new bands who are looking for names! The launch itself was quite busy so not really conducive to the really deep pointless browsing that the exhibition deserves. X and the Living End deserve special mention for providing tunes and flawless crowd control.

Over the road then to Collective and The Golden Record which is a cross platform/cross festival event that looks to recreate a record portraying the diversity of life and culture on earth. More than 100 artists contributed work to the exhibit in the gallery. This is combined with a weekly comedy hustings in which a variety of comedians stand for election in the vote to decide who is the Representative of Planet Earth. There was a projected film in the back with BBC4-esque narration that makes this sound a lot less interesting than it probably is. I have issues with stand up comedy, I enjoy laughter but would tentatively suggest that the last thing Edinburgh needs in August is more comedy. That said, the lineup is good and John Hegley's record cover in the exhibition is a thing of stark brown-baggy beauty. Collective are brilliant at joining things up and have done some great stuff in the past with the Book Festival and National Library of Scotland.

The launch was rammed and good fun with Karen Carpenter (she's looking GREAT) entertaining the crowd. I'd forgotten how much I loved "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft". Entertaining raffle too with Karen and Miss Le Bomb holding court!

There's loads more in the Art Festival over the month and I hope to cover more of it in the coming weeks. More to come from the Book, Fringe and International festivals too.

Comments, quibbles, gripes and declarations of undying devotion gladly accepted.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Ladies Love Cool Cohen

Myself and herself went along to the Leonard Cohen love in this week on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. Got last minute tickets on a slightly tipsy whim when I was alerted to a last minute allocation going on sale the week before the gig. Pals and family had gone to the Dublin and Manchester shows. By the time I realised the only tickets available were expensive "hospitality" tickets I was completely committed to seeing him. So, a pile of money and seven days later we found ourselves guzzling free champagne (well, insfoar as it came free with a £75 ticket!) in a covered pod at the back of the open air auditorium.

My memories of Cohen permeate most phases in my life. My father loved his records and I remember him being played and his songs sung when my folks' parents stayed late drinking wine. I remember "Famous Blue Raincoat" as played by the busker opposite the O'Connell Mall soundtracking tearful ruminations after a drunken teenage drama on the night of my 18th birthday. The rain pouring down and my tearstained frustration at a thoughtless insensitive remark that ruined my own evenings entertainment.

My grandmother, in the later stages of her alzheimers, paranoid we were poisoning her, slipping crushed up anti-anxiety meds into her tea still remembered she hated Leonard's "Mrrrhm, mrrrhm, mrrrhm" droning down from my fathers teenage bedroom.

Cohen's music means things to people. It clearly meant a lot to the lady sat beside me. She stood up and shouted "YOU, JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP" to a gent three rows back who was chatting softly to his mate through the first song. Scary stuff! Clearly she understood Leonard better than everyone else.

The passion that Cohen inspires amongst women of all ages is staggering. The overwhelming impression of carnal quasi-religious fervour was epitomised as a woman dressed in white walked up the aisles in front of the stage like a bride to get a snap of our hero sauntering his way through "That's no way to say goodbye".

The strange sexual undertone was heightened for me by the two women behind me whispering every line of "I'm Your Man" into my ear creating a kind of sexy invisible Greek Chorus alongside Cohen's beautiful baritone. The intensity of the "hear a pin drop" reaction to his reading of "One Thousand Kisses Deep" was a real highlight with a palpable waft of lust in the air.

His band were fantastic if you're into the kind of glistening, virtuosic Adult Oriented Lobby Jazz de rigeur for late period 60's icons. Being a snooty pretendy-avant-gardian git I'd prefer to have had Leonard playing with acoustic backing and treating us to doomy readings of Blake and Burns. But that would require a time machine and an audience of about twenty. This was, despite the wrong-headed myth of Cohen as some sort of tortured hermit, entertainment in the broadest sense and the experience was all the better for it. The crowd were there to enjoy themselves and my apprehension that we'd be stuck with inattentive liggers proved completely wrong. A couple from Shetland offered some of their wine to the people around them and apart from the early intensity of the cultist beside me everyone was friendlier and more open than a lot of trendier gatherings.

Despite not playing any of my four favourites (The Partisan, Famous Blue Raincoat, Last Years Man and Chelsea Hotel #2) the two and a half hour show didn't disappoint with Tower of Song, Hallelujah, Suzanne, One Thousand Kisses Deep and the rambunctious closer Closing Time being the dazzling gems in a cave littered with treasure.

Cohen's chops as a poet seems to have inspired some great work. I stumbled across genius Julian Gough material in comments on a Guardian BookBlog about Cohen. This is number IX in a series of X written late at night and made my heart sing.


You get up at five in the morning
And write poems about poetry for an hour and a half.
You are forty and you have no money and your trousers have split and nobody reads poetry.

But your wife is beautiful.
And your daughter is beautiful.
And you’re wearing a great shirt.
In a few hours you will all have coffee together.

You make a note at the top of a new page
“Write to Leonard Cohen and thank him before he dies.”


I have fond memories of Gough's old band Toasted Heretic, particularly "Songs for Swinging Celibates" which my cousin and I used to sing along to. I'm glad I've managed to master my enthusiasm in recent years as I fear my "genius" idea of singing "Galway Bay" at my wedding to my father in law may have contributed to recriminations that probably would have necessitated another fiver in a buskers' guitar case and a request to "Just play "Raincoat" man".

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Freedom of speech baby.

Free for all comments now enabled!
Apologies to the huddled masses without ID's that have been itching to comment on my
staggering insights.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Heaven and Bloody Hell

The return of My Bloody Valentine has provoked all sorts of half-informed lazy myth driven guff over the last few weeks. These can be roughly summarised thus:

1) Kevin Shields is, like, a total genius.
2) It's pretty loud.
3) You get free earplugs! Score!
4) Loveless is the greatest thing since antiseptic
5) Feedback is the purifying visceral voice of God
6) My Bloody Valentine haven't played live in a while
7) There's a 20 minute section at the end called the Holocaust/the Apocalypse, this is very loud.
8) They're not very chatty are they?
9) Kevin & Belinda have, like, totally awesome guitars! Look a Fender Jaguar! Woo!
10) The fans are delighted they've reunited. The critics smile benignly and offer 3 star reviews and vaguely sour comments about no-one looking like they've aged.

After seeing MBV at the Barrowlands I can say that the above is pretty much all I heard anyone in the crowd talking about before and during the gig. I was surprised that there was so little atmosphere, everyone just standing politely around waiting to have their ears blown off (and relentlessly checking whether their earplugs were in properly or asking their neighbour whether they had their earplugs). The show was pretty good, it delivered pretty much on what you imagine My Bloody Valentine Live to be like (unremarkable early 90's indie music played at thunderous volume) with no surprises. Fantastic. Sort of. But still strangely unsatisfying despite doing everything you'd have hoped. I imagine it's like a middle-aged virgin waiting for years for "the one"and realising, after their first ride, they could have been spending the last 20 years having as much fun with different people. You Made Me Realise (that I've wasted the best years of my life waiting for safe, unspectacular congress with a similarly inhibited old codger) if you will.

Too far? Probably. But this is the problem. The fact that MBV are very loud and very mysterious seems to set them apart from some of their shoegazer alumni, although I did have a soft spot for Ride, Lush and Submarine era Whipping Boy. But there's been absolutely zero growth, no progress, no notion that anyone, fans or band alike haved moved on from 1991.
Between the old-fashioned venue, the throwback visuals and the identical setlist to 1991 the doors of the Barrowlands could actually have been a time portal in which we actually were transported back in time. For all the talk about the physicality of the MBV sound but it pales into insignificance when compared to my personal extreme noise benchmarks: Deepchord over the Berghain soundsystem, Jah Tubby's soundsystem at the Bongo Club, Pan Sonic at the Venue and Wolf Eyes at All Tomorrows Parties. I had expectations that all four of these gigs would be incredibly loud but still left surprised, giddy and blown away.

This is ultimately the problem. I don't think I could have been blown away by MBV unless we all boarded the MBV Starship and blasted off into space destroying the planet and all unbelievers with Kevin Shields' Death Ray. Now that would have been surprising. And something that exceeded my expectations. The effect of the MBV sound on the body is captivating and the noise, coupled with the strobing lights and the overpowering heat a disassociative, transcendent state is created where your mind fills in the blank canvas that the void of noise creates. Some people said they could "hear" guns and air-raid sirens throughout the "Apocalypse" section- my brain told me I could hear crowds cheering, motorbikes roaring across plains, laughter. Ultimately the best thing I can say about them is that they make everyone in the audience use their imagination. And that's a neat trick.

Before anyone gets bent out of shape, Loveless is one of my favourite albums of all time, it's been a friend to me throughout my life and hearing the songs live made me a very happy man. The gig was enjoyable and well worth attending. It's just that the scales have fallen from my eyes now.

Just a (very loud) band.