Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Sunday, 9 November 2014

XTC - 'In Loving Memory of a Name' (1983) (Lest We Forget)

   I freely admit to being the type that ranks Mummer rather highly in the XTC canon. And since I'm no longer an adolescent, I won't mind much that this is purportedly among the more combustible opinions one can share over the combined works of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, Swindon's very own Lennon and McCartney (if such a thing is indeed comprehendible. It's Swindon

   Should one wish to stereotype the band's leaders in the ultra bland sense, Moulding was always the more contemplative one - I'd try "sensitive," but Moulding wasn't the one singing screeds about his ex-wife and the denouncement of God. His best moments make gliding melodies of mournful wistfulness and this, rather than composition or clever lines, is exactly what 'In Loving Memory of a Name' exemplifies. Partridge provides my favourite emotive moments on Mummer - no surprise, given his larger rate of songwriting output - but '... Name' is the tune that brings me closest to its narrator's state of mind, where impressionistic imagery, getting lost in the moment, an ambiguous aside at Christianity  and a respect for England's fallen fighters give direction to the motoring rhythm and perhaps what feels like every rockist musical flourish Britain has produced between the 15th century and 1983. The sweet sort of sincerity, in essence

   And aptly, one for Remembrance Day. "England can never repay you," indeed


Thursday, 31 July 2014

A Review of Czech & Speake's Vetiver Vert



   In a niche cornered by the likes of the renowned Vetiver by Guerlain and Tom Ford's more recent Grey Vetiver, Czech & Speake's own offering, Vetiver Vert, provides an alternative to the former's classical, earthy character and the latter's colder, sensual sportiness. Pleasingly traditional in its "greenness" and ingredients, Vetiver Vert emphasises a more citrus-heavy take on this herbal scent, making for a striking initial impression that exchanges sharpness for smokiness as the topnotes fade

   This produces something of a nontraditional take, at least where vetiver scents are concerned; although some may find it alternately redolent of burning incense or a scented ashtray, it still produces an intriguing effect. At this stage, the vetiver note also begins to assert itself, lending the expected woody character. Once the drydown takes hold, the spice ingredients and the woody notes guide the fragrance in the natural fashion - reassuringly so, given the tendency amongst some contemporary interpretations of vetiver to produce more synthetic results

   Although intended for unisex consumption, Vetiver Vert succeeds as an occasional companion for modern gentlemen and more of a curio for today's ladies past the initial stage of zesty top notes. Nevertheless, I would recommend at least a sample to those in search of a green fragrance for their collection

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A Girl in Terry O'Neill's Soup

Marion: Are you trying to get me tight?
Robert: You're frightening enough sober.
   Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the private viewing for starshooter Terry O'Neill's 'Guys and Dolls' retrospective at Chelsea's Little Black Gallery, whereupon I inadvertently managed to position myself in the hinterland between knowledgeable and know-it-all; a stance that comes as no great revelation to the semi-regular readers of this column, I'm certain

   Take this excellent shot of enduring - give or take an early death - actors Goldie Hawn and Peter Sellers in 1970. Observe the unstudied, spontaneous nature of it that loudly proclaims "Paparazzi Surprise!" as the two stars prepare to adjust to all seeing eyes of the media hounds who sniffed out a liaison in the sun and pounced upon their return. One might wonder, though, as to whether these two were ever involved, particularly as this was roughly around the time that Sellers became involved with Miranda Quarry, whom he married that year. Is this where the construct starts to fall apart?


   In actual fact, it falls apart if one has seen the film. The snappers might not be acting, but the luminaries certainly are, for this is more or less a still from the third act of Roy Boulting's There's A Girl In My Soup. And yes, that revelation did spoil it for at least one person that night. That's verisimilitude for you


   And that person might derive even less cheer from seeing the film, itself adapted by Terence Frisby from his own play; to some, it's a cute, stylish little document of the rigid, punctilious yet surreptitiously naughty mores of the gilded class rubbing up against those of the brazen, hedonistic, everything-is-permissible ones of the hippies; to others, it is overly focused on a self-involved, amoral sybarite whose only concerns are hardwired to his genitals and the out-of-town girl who eventually has him eating out of her hand simply because she deconstructs his seduction routine to the hackneyed wealthy lothario tricks it comprises. Naturally, I rather like it

 

   Dressed peculiarly and exclusively by Mr. Fish of Clifford Street, Sellers's Robert Danvers is the archetypal selfish shagger who discarded with bedposts long ago due to the damage done from adding the notches. I suspect that his "Hairy Chested Love God" (as Grant Morrison memorably describes the 1970s incarnation of Bruce Wayne/Batman) has no small measure of influence on fellow fictional Peacock Austin Powers; indeed, he comes equipped with a devil may care-attitude, an almost irrepressible belief in his own virility and a catchphrase that the swingers of the '60s cannot help falling for - "My God! but you're lovely," as is uttered practically every time he meets a woman, before, during and after game time. Hell, when we first meet this almost irritatingly charismatic "rotter," he attends the wedding of an old lover to seduce the bride one last time and takes a fetching upperclasswoman home as a palate cleanser, playing the cookery show that has secured his in-story fame and excesses on his television as a background boost to his ego

   What does a writer do with the tale of a fashionably attired, Bolly-swigging pure pleasure seeker who lives only for the delights of women, Rolls Royces and gastronomic consumables? Why, one introduces a little anarchy into his decadent little heart. Enter Goldie Hawn's Marion, the perfect Ossie Clarke-clad hellcat for a catalysing touch of the old chaos and disorder


   What is interesting is that rather than have Danvers spend much of the narrative vaingloriously striving to make Marion his, the relationship that forms between them begins rather quickly, but in essence is mostly on her own terms. Belying their wide age difference, she deflects his aforementioned tricks rather easily, only to move herself into his luxurious London flat, direct him to drive her back to the squalid basement where he first spotted her, argue awkwardly with her self-involved, unreconstructed boyfriend and have Danvers flail around with her heavy suitcase as he tries to avoid despoiling his expensive finery. She spends most of her time during the wine tasting trip to France she accompanies him on embarrassingly inebriated and yet able to bed or make a fool of him on a speedy whim. No wonder he does the obvious and begins to fall for her - it's practically a text for "How to Keep a Man Forever 101"

   But inevitably, the tale is a flawed one. The entertainment value of our protagonists is undermined by how unlikeably they behave, although Marion may come off worse, for whilst Danvers learns little about himself, Marion learns nothing at all, content to run with the values of free love and free living for however long she can, utilising her insight and intelligence for little more than manoeuvring the men in her life as she pleases. Which is a conclusion I'd rather not have drawn, for there are some fun moments watching the two trying to fit into each others worlds - that war of the mores again - and though clichéd a storytelling device, even in the late 20th century, what potential there was for such an odd couple to blend their worlds together is lost in the denouement, though I suppose there is a point to be made there as well. Had Frisby been more prescient, Marion's fate would likely have been rather unhappy, for it is more or less clear that Danvers will be fine, no matter what indignities come to him

   The saving graces? Sellers's aforementioned charisma, Hawn's nascent, now time-honoured knockabout persona, the odd Mike D'Abo-written song - nothing that's a patch on 'Handbags and Gladrags,' sadly - and, oh, a veritable goldmine of Peacock Revolution style. All that, at least, gives segments of this production a decidedly delicious flavour


Some of these screen caps were filched from Precious Bodily Fluids. Andrew, I could not have done it without you

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Handsomeboy Technique - Adelie Land (2005)


I hear the drummer strike the sky. I hear the drummer strike the sky!

   ... So naturally, as a consequence of becoming enraptured by Shibuya-kei and J-Pop over ten years ago, I thought it prudent to see what had become of Japan's alternative hip hop produce since everyone's favourite abstruse-trivia-wielding-and-limited-edition-promotional-toys-branding, abstract instrumental hip hop label Mo' Wax first enticed me with it in 1997. Finding the very moment where Japanese hip hop very much became something worth taking seriously (and to much surprise, that moment actually occurred before the end of the 1980s),  James Lavelle's infamous concern issued a beautifully sturdy and artfully rendered boxset of over 40 songs released by Major Force, an exuberant imprint with a fine niche in broken English rap, deeply technical sensibilities, sample-seeking nous to rival their American counterparts and a particular attention to composition that broadened the compilation's appeal amongst demographics that could not easily stomach mangled hip hop slang in slightly off-putting vocal timbres

   8 years following my first experience with "Dope up cyber-rap from Tokyo" brought time wasted with DJs like Halfby and wee papa girl rappers like Halcali - a mainstream-breaking duo not much unlike their Major Force XX chromosome MC forebears The Orchids - but for all their talent, none were as adept at the indelibly memorable, 1970s-impelled party record as the one they called Handsomeboy Technique. Probably a disco biscuits-thing


   Adelie Land comfortably rests in the cut-and-paste party music canon that bursts with luminaries such as Steinski, The Dust Brothers, Coldcut and other DJ-producers for whom the 1980s was a testing ground for musical domination, though the beatific sequences, jaunty 1970s radio polish and heady psychedelic thread that distinguish the record are more in thrall to the itinerant beauty and density of The Avalanches' Since I Left You. Be that as it may, Yoshitaka Morino's debut LP is light on complexity and motors along on repetition, but it also simply gorges on effusiveness and what some particularly enthusiastic dancers and afficionados like to refer to as "the funk." And had this album a wider reach beyond its native Japan, many a breakdancing competition sequence could have been choreographed to the likes of the 'Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)'-sampling 'Miami Radio Flash' or the cheery, vintage rap of 'Season of Young Mouss,' whose childish go-go delights also mark Handsomeboy Technique as a potent contemporary of that more ramshackle and less rewarding concern, The Go! Team

   But in taking cues from his forebears to craft a wider scope, Morino successfully taps not only into the celebratory, but the wistful sides of nostalgia that can make it a more compelling aural aesthetic. The soulful 'Quiet Place' is one contemplative mood shy of a megrim, with bursts of strings and keys that apparate like primary colours in a paintball contest. This is also felt in the lone piano opening of 'Adelie Coast Waltz' (practically a direct reference to the exceedingly similar 'Two Hearts in 3/4 Time' of Since I Left You) through to the sweep of its twee disco romanticism that sounds much like the end of a beautiful "something" should, whilst my favourite cut, ''8000 Laurels,' combines the exuberant patter of a motoring hip hop break and a beatbox with a hooky tempest of turntable swerves, minor key choral vocals and orchestral grandeur gone pop, thanks to a particularly indelible keyboard line. With such a percolating emotional reach, it is no wonder that the closing 'Your Blessings' emphasises - thought not overwhelmingly so - the celebratory approach to end the proceedings, but cannily, it chooses the joy-in-living sonics and sentiments of Freda Payne's 'Cherish What is Dear To You' or the Motown sound (or rather a sample of The Cake's Spector-esque 'Baby That's Me') over simple, hedonistic joy. And that, to me, is always a tune worth stepping out to

  

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Quannum feat. Lyrics Born & The Poets of Rhythm - 'I Changed My Mind' (DJ Spinna Mix, 1999)


   The funniest thing about my connection to this song is my preference for not one, but two of its remixes over the original. However, the Andy Votel version, which is a mildly psychedelic embellishment of the original with a hint of Kraut, is unavailable on YouTube. That doesn't matter for this purpose; this version is a punchier re-envisioning that just so happens to be the best iteration to dance to


   I know nothing about relationships. I do know that the funky fresh fellow who calls himself Lyrics Born has been one of my favourite MCs; a gravelly sing-song voice and prolix, complex lyrical capabilities make for the strangest bedfellows, yet an idiosyncratic warmth and charisma sit at the heart of his displays. He has no need of being a technically accomplished singer - one could not initially imagine his raspy tones lending themselves easily to many sonic palettes, the blues aside - and this is still as brilliant an oddball funk-pop song as 1999 was capable of producing in an era where such things possessed prepotent clout on radio and in memories (this being the year of 'Steal My Sunshine' and Midnite Vultures. Hell of a year, make no mistake)

   This is also one of the best confections to bear DJ Spinna's name; no small feat for a fluid producer with a protean feeling for hip hop, soul, disco, house and all the moods therein. Hardly a stranger to retro-inflected sounds, he creates a mini-history of around 30 years of black music in over 5 minutes, threading in old soul, a tougher funk aesthetic than that of the source material, euphorically energetic scratching and, for a technical flourish, he even structures the kind of anticipation-building breakdown more commonly associated with club sounds as if it was the most obvious and necessary of things

   In essence, he knows where his roots come from. And more deliciously, he always seemed to know exactly how to deploy them. There's no explanation for the deft use of that bell in 'I Changed My Mind' other than this rather plain one: some people are simply born with verve

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Kings of Convenience - 'Winning a Battle, Losing the War' (Andy Votel Remix, 2001)



   Ever been led towards a beauty by a newsletter? I have. Ten years ago, the newsletter from my then-local record shop told me that I should buy this and so I did. It seems silly to admit that, but then a cursory look at my dress sense would suggest a tolerance for public embarrassment, wouldn't it? And all in all, I do think it a colourless life to be one who lacks the capacity for any sort of romance

   The years I spent in a Northern town involved too much whimsical melancholia to count my days as interesting ones, and I sometimes conjured up beatific interludes to pass the time between pretentious conversations with stoners and eventful carousings to meet girls and favourite musicians. I liked running into the bearded psychedelic and freak beat aficionado Andy Votel; he ran a highly interesting record label that was named after a creepy little film called Twisted Nerve (I always think of its theme music as the sound of someone entering another's room and touching all their stuff), made subtly sinister alt-r'n'b covers of Black Sabbath and his idiosyncratic nous for art direction was a masterclass in stitched together aesthetics, inventive 1960s/1970s'-updated typefaces and photography and graphics that were ramshackle, bold, austere and plaintive in measures - how very Northern of him

   Now, I never thought the majority of Votel's solo output took flight - usually, it sounded too controlled, careful and studied, unlike many of the rather tohu bohu and spirited records he enjoys and dices up into collector friendly collections of abstruse European rock that was recorded in cold sheds 100 miles from Warsaw in 1968. I rather think remixing is one of his other fortes; true, he is not the sort to remake songs from the ground up and could remain reverent to the structures of the originals, but on occasion, his approach could deliver some of the most accomplished things in the world just by adding his Votelian twists to that which was already familiar

   And so it is with 'Winning a Battle, Losing the War', in which Votel realised that the poignancy of the Kings of Convenience's original could not be evinced through a minimal musical approach and a story of the desire to heal from heartbreak told through downcast singing alone. Thus, it is not so much a remix or an alternative reading as it is an embellishment of the song's character, melody and soothing, lullaby-esque mood. It's prettier, it's still somewhat touching and the subtle, 1960s flourishes that the ever reverent Votel and his friends brought to the instrumentation make it akin to Simon and Garfunkel writing for the soundtrack to The Thomas Crown Affair and then saving it for something more languorous, introspective and British instead. A Confessions film, perhaps

   I'll always be glad that I purchased this. My beatific interludes needed a soundtrack

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Upper Class Living

 

   Having little care for what passes for entertainment television in this day and age - and how fuddyish of me to consider that I wish Dick Cavett, Michael Parkinson and Michael Aspel were still the leaders of chat shows - I nevertheless chose to watch the latest in class-based reality television, E4's Made in Chelsea, an anaemically produced and performed "inside view" into the lives of monied twenty-somethings that resembles a televised version of the The Sun's photostories, albeit more unintentionally funny and with the crowning achievement of being less intelligent. I wonder if they share scriptwriters; that insipid line about eyelashes could only have come from the mind of one raised on a diet of softcore porn, Dynasty and Brookside

   Of course, even this sterling material cannot quite survive when delivered by a group of young turks who, despite their varying degrees of attractiveness, function under quite a glaring charisma embargo. This concept might have gone over better if they had employed genuine actors with the requisite backgrounds and who would at least delivered the necessary irony to make this more palatable. Of course, the ones I am thinking of - Eddie Redmayne, Imogen Poots, Harry Hadden-Paton - presently have better things to do

   Why were the most poignant comments of the show about eyelashes - from the fellow with great hair as he struggled to reciprocate his girlfriend's gushing compliments about his character - and pineapples - from the pompous-but-lovelorn-so-he-might-be-alright-in-time fellow stroking a globe and openly praying for posterity to record his alleged greatness and socio-economic acumen? Why did they have an ostensibly 15 year old girl socialising in Raffles and hanging around modelling shoots? Why did they not concentrate on the lead girl's singing, a trait infinitely preferable to the written-for-automatons-by-automatons lines she delivered on the subject of her ongoing "love triangle?"

   Aside from the laughs, I gained one nugget of information - The Troubadour on Old Brompton Street is still in business. We are all honour bound to support our aged, ramshackle haunts, after all

   Although he no longer lives here and would have to go online, I wonder if viewing this will cause that Laguna Beach Blogger Fellow - the most SW3 of us all - to experience copious flashbacks to his 1980s days

   I may tune in next week, primarily for the girls, of course. Not for the reasons one might imagine, however - I simply have a theory that most of them prefer the company of dogs to the company of men. And I will never sleep again until this is proven

Monday, 18 April 2011

Shiina Ringo - 'Supika' (2002)



   I've been intending to introduce the music of Shiina Ringo to Mode Parade through a review of her extensive body of work; the nous and attention required to do so has unfortunately eluded me over the past few years. Suffice to say, nothing is new there, oh semi-regular readers

   So, to impel myself into some form of action, I offer up one of my favourites from her salad days; a cover of a comparatively conventional ditty by fellow Japanese rockers Spitz. This makes for a rather nice gateway to her 'Ringo Catalogue;' present and correct are the slightly woozy production tics and offbeat use of low-end that she likes, her soft-to-aggressive-and-back-again delivery, a distinctly feminine maturity - which I stress because most other Japanese female pop singers I'm enamoured of trade in a particularly kittenish or innocently/knowingly kawaii sensibility - and her ability to create some rather pretty melodies out of what would otherwise be construed as blithe and abrasive sonic chaos

   Even though she is not the song's writer (fun fact: the title, which I prefer to spell as 'Supika,' but is also (more) acceptable as 'Spica,' refers to the 15th brightest star of the night sky) Ringo Shiina is one of those disgustingly Machiavellian Japanese musical types that can do any and everything her way, which resulted in her becoming one of her country's most successful popular stars despite trading for a time in music that grew increasingly dense, baroque, fractured and foreboding to the extent that her third album, whose title contains the word "semen," was considered a commercial failure for falling under the million sold barrier, unlike her previous output. One would not be too surprised to learn she has some obsessive tendencies; that same album is also notable for a rigorous symmetrical arrangement that determined the order of her lyrics, the number of letters in song titles and the running order of the album itself

   She's quite a talent, really

MP3 here

With this hill road soon to come to a peak, so too are the ridiculous lies about to vanish
When I picture my favorite season on its way
With a beautiful cord at just the right time, I’m about to reach staggering heights
Longing for us to touch each other beyond words, I’ll push my way on to you

These painful palpitations rush out like powder
Just for now, I’ll look right at you and won’t run away
On a random serious night, why is it that I’m about to cry
Even as happiness gets interrupted it’s continuing on

If even a stray monkey can be in a good mood, then even an unchanging tomorrow is laughable
When I turn to look back, it was in a kind-seeming era starved of kindness

The beginning of a dream still has a bit of a sweet taste
Shouldn’t you carry the broken pieces you have in your hands?
The ancient starlight illuminates us – there was nothing in the whole world except for that

If I were to entrust the scraps of my heart to the flowing clouds in the southbound wind, I would follow...

These painful palpitations rush out like powder
Just for now, I’ll look right at you and won’t run away
On a random serious night, why is it that I’m about to cry
Even as happiness gets interrupted it’s continuing on – it’s continuing on

Friday, 8 April 2011

MGMT - 'Brian Eno' (Cornelius Remix, 2010)




   An unexpected delight tonight was discovering that one of my dearest musical icons had taken on this "vampire punk rock song" by the well-known, noisily tuneful combo last year, for if there's one thing that Keigo Oyamada does peerlessly, it's recombinant mutant pop music that makes hipsters say "Oh!", bloggers say "Wow!" and cats say "Meow!"

   Who knows what invigorating effect a little MGMT has had on Cornelius, but this is his most offbeat remix in quite some time; the sort of à rebours slip into hummable oddity that was last embraced on his remake of Bloc Party's 'Banquet' (and interesting how this paean to the pioneer that has doubtlessly influenced Cornelius and MGMT sounds not entirely dissimilar to the (paid for) paean to Oyamada himself written by Japanophile sonic oddity Momus). In a funny way, this might almost sum up his career, for as a man of consummate kitsch and a connoisseur/player of practically every musical genre created, it is both old  and new for him to embrace that favoured instrument of Dracula's most entrenched pop cultural representation, the harpsichord. A cheeky reading of MGMT's bloodsucker intentions, perhaps, but whatever brings out Oyamada's intrinsic whimsy is good for us all, much like Emma Stone is. Were I angling for a role in music PR, I might describe its frenetically beatless qualities as akin to "skipping on air," but I am seeking to engage, not to scar my semi-regular readers for life; I can do that with my outfit photographs on any other day

   I was in need indeed of a new song with which to see in this season's sunsets; not only do I have that now, but it even doubles as a happy little ditty to imagine playing Transylvanian Families to. That Cornelius: always thoughtful, forever delivering


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Daft Punk - Tron: Legacy (2010)

   To be honest, they had me at the affectionately appropriated John Carpenter synths



   I had eagerly anticipated this latest curio from one of our era's most beloved and occasionally pilloried electronic acts, but the prospect of uniting them with the 85-piece London Orchestra and the guiding hands of orchestrator and arranger Joseph Trapanese certainly instilled promise. Never mind that at far as the cosmos is certain, no other concern is as fated to score a Tron sequel as Daft Punk, but the spectre of third album Human After All still casts a pesky shadow. I cannot recall the halcyon message board day the general approval of 'Robot Rock' dissipated into shards of broken hopes and dead disco dreams when some encyclopaedic wag unearthed its original incarnation as Breakwater's 'Release The Beast', providing both an appreciation of a superb sample source and an accusatory totem with which to beat our favourite French androids over the head, without smirking a little

   Nevertheless, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Man de Homem-Christo have built up enough goodwill over the years to merit more than a little leeway when scoring a blockbuster movie, and if their remit was to produce a soundtrack that stands with the greats of our cinematic history, than the amount of time I've spent listening to this record since its December release suggests they came tantalisingly close to succeeding. For if the duo did not know their way around a hook - no matter how repetitive - their career would have been consigned to history faster than that of The Nolan Sisters



   Of course, such a sampladelic act know their way around the hooks other artists create, and aside from Carpenter and other old hands like Philip Glass, Vangelis (the well played homage 'Arrival') and Maurice Jarre (whose sweeping, bold romanticism and late period synth antics seem to guide the electronic and orchestral merges here as much as Tron's original composer Wendy Carlos. Wagner's here too, of course - who else could 'Rectifier's evil imperial bombast remind one of?), the soundtrack also takes in a very modern sampling of prolific scorers Hans Zimmer and John Powell, who are named in the album's thank you-notes, and whose respective trademarks of moody, minor key, minimalist strings (the recurring leitmotif for the film's sinister, near-unkillable antagonist Clu; 'ENCOM Parts I and II') and muscular tribal rhythms married to string-based melodies and flourishes ('Disc Wars'; 'ENCOM' again) give Tron: Legacy an almost self-consciously contemporary launchpad. Which is why it's so compelling when Daft Punk then proceed to add other twists to it. The repetitive build, swell and release that guides their studio records - utilised here as if to prove that the formula is mutable, not worthless, in a different setting - deftly complements the rushes of emotion, danger, odd austerity and digital battling that the film presents. Indeed, when the aforementioned Carpenter-like four note synth intruded like a warning alarm during Clu's first appearance, I could have punched the air with glee - a newly minted, iconic, modern leitmotif to match Jason Bourne's (the elegant, Bernard Hermann-like grasp of sinister undertones through strings and timpani offering the perfect creepy accompaniment, as does the hot vapor electro hiss when the stern, urgent strings of the final 'CLU' theme incarnation take hold - music for a last stand against a complete monster if I ever heard it. Digital Jeff Bridges is the new Childcatcher)



   The fortunate thing with so many musical reference points is Bangalter and de Homem-Christo's determination to meld them in ways both subtle and overt, refracting this familiarity into their own aesthetic in the same manner that their synths and symphonies wind around each other like sinew, a trick excellently deployed early in the runtime during the first 5 seconds of the stirring, Zimmer-but-different 'Recognizer' alone. Indeed, this piece is demonstrable of the album's significant, intrinsic aspect: the total ease in wedding the orchestral to the machinery, giving both core elements a textural parity that is stunningly synergistic - in this way, and in the recurrence of its own science fiction main motif across the myriad pieces, the work I'm most reminded of is that of Basil Poledouris for RoboCop. Like Daft Punk, he successfully rendered a traditional, yet unconventional, film accompaniment that musically captured the man/machine tension driving the story; in both cases, it is a judicious sense of nuance that results in such textural success. Hence, unlike with Zimmer or even Jarre, one doesn't see "the synthy bit" and "the horny bit" telegraphed a mile off. And it is both this and their versatility that make future Daft scores a prospect worth putting up with the inevitable cash-in remixes* for

* Let us face it - Tron: Legacy Reconfigured would always have sucked most of the interesting elements dry from the bones of the originals


   Even though two years working with Trapanese cannot confer his particular skills upon them, the two minds at Daft Punk's centre are so attuned to the protean aspects of a film's scenes that the score may forever threaten to overshadow the visuals in the mind's memory. Cohesion carries the day - the stylistic, near synaesthetic similarities created through mood and minimal melodies (and of course a band so concerned with hooks would make a film score with a surface so simple), as well as the two's increasingly dynamic mode of production and mixing, are what allows purely symphonic  pieces like the beautiful 'Finale' to gaily coexist with the Springsteen-esque, neon night ride 'End of Line', requiring little glue from the more conceptually enticing in-betweeners like the moving storyteller that is 'Adagio For Tron' (and speaking of leitmotifs, what an excellent plot detail it is to include Rinzler's theme in this piece, furthering the curiosity over this warrior's origins. Other plot guided examples include the reworked refrain of 'Armory' in 'Outlands Part II'). And all of it sounds ridiculously gorgeous and clear as a bell - there's something alluringly crystalline about the pulsingly pretty highlight, 'Outlands', whose wild ride-soundtracking resembles Danny Elfman's 'Flight of the Batmobile' filtered through the breezy sensibilities of Daft Punk's own 'Revolution 909'. And even this gem is preceded by the album's critical consensus-favourite 'The Game Has Changed', where Daft Punk's production nous reflects the fragmentation of the dying Program characters and the sterile yet treacherous and twisting expanse of the Light Cycle grid and the match fought on it through bit crushed martial drums, a hypnotic synth melody and the old build, swell and release as represented by the prominent and then reticent style of the instrumentation


   In order for one to fully appraise the score, I particularly recommend it with the visuals attached. Given that the film was cut to the music, that is no idle witticism - in that sense, it is also the successor to Daft Punk's humourous, nostalgic and entertaining anime collaboration with Leiji Matsumoto, Interstella 5555, which simultaneously played out to their memorable sophomore, Discovery. Tron: Legacy may not have the duo's vision at the helm, but my, are they becoming increasingly adept at telling a story made by others



   

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Richard Lester - Boutique London

   


   Recently, I had the pleasure of finally reading this well researched tome and would recommend it to all Paraders with an ounce of interest in the period and the book's unique yet obvious premise of grounding the 1960s and '70s clothing experience where it truly took flight - in its shops

  Without scans, it's difficult to review this meaningfully - hence the quoted copy below - but it is a very worthy compendium of photographs and Malcolm English artwork that is only intermittently available from other immediate sources (like something called "The interweb," apparently) and, without directly stating it, places much of the emphasis on the now undervalued concept of shopkeepers designing their own desirable products; to do this in a time when practically anything was permissible, desirable and born from one of the boldest cultural intersections in living memory would always ensure these luminaries' places in stylish and entrepreneurial history

   For the record, my favourite portraits naturally feature, or relate to, Hung on You's Michael Rainey and Christopher Gibbs, The Beatles' Apple Boutique, Michael Fish, Blades of Savile Row and Tommy Nutter, as well as the beauties that modelled for BIBA and Annacat. I'll be forever glad, also, that there was ample room for Vivienne Westwood and the late Malcolm McLaren's concern, Sex 

   It is affordable, unfussy to the point of sparseness in its writing and is fundamentally a well presented snapshot of a diversely presentable time. More helpfully, it compiles all the names of all those faces that made this scene one that hasn't lost its large footing in the cultural consciousness into one neatly packaged book. Groovy, Lester
To any style conscious Londoner in the sixties just two places mattered: the King's Road and Carnaby Street. By the end of the decade the whole world came to see and be seen, to take part in the theatre that played out of the new boutiques and onto the street. From the sleek modernist tailoring of 'Top Gear' and 'His Clothes' to the nostalgic dressing up box style of the World's End boutiques, at the heart of it all were the young designers whose conviction to make and sell clothes on their own terms generated an explosion of talent which lasted and evolved over twenty years, leaving an indelible mark in fashion history. 'Boutique London' follows the journey of the first risk-takers like Mary Quant and John Stephen, to the celebrity salons of Ossie Clark, 'Mr Fish' and 'Granny Takes a Trip', stopping along the way to include the weird and the wonderful, the glamorous and the bizarre. With in-depth profiles of over thirty retailers and lavish illustrations, the clothes, interiors and characters of 'Boutique London' are as diverse as they are colourful, vividly bringing to life a vanished London, which changed the way we shop forever.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Bubba Sparxxx - Deliverance (2003)

 I left off of mama's with my thumb in the wind
The leaves on the ground, winter's comin' again
Solid on the surface as I crumble within
But legends are made out of vulnerable men
So on the brink of death I still manage livin' life
'Cause so rarely in this world are these chances given twice
I indeed sold my soul, without glancing at the price
No instructions when I was handed this device
But with what I did get, I was more than generous
Put others over self on several instances
But I'm back on my feet without a hint of bitterness
And one way or another I shall have deliverance
So I say

   Another review that I wrote six years ago focused on the widely underappreciated sophomore cut from Southern boy and Timbaland alum, Bubba Sparxxx

   In 2003, Timbaland was perceived to have begun a decline in his creative and commercial prowess that would last until his recruitment of Nate 'Danja' Hills and their highly populist and propulsive creations for Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake in 2006. In truth, Timothy Moseley was as restlessly inventive as in previous years - when not mixing the clip-clops of horses with flamenco and updating  doo wop swing for an almost perfect r&b record that went unreleased - Simple Girl by Kiley Dean - he was interpolating and sampling recent hits into a country-slanted hip hop album that was as offbeat and contemplative as any Lee Hazlewood number 

   His MC friend wasn't half bad either:

    In which the best known of Timbaland's roster of underrated protégés hits back against the haters, the shamers and those who'd rather forget he ever existed. The essence of the album is Bubba's on-record character, more roundly developed and emotionally invested in than the previous record, with music and beats to match from Tim (with a little bit of Organized Noize to garnish). Importantly, Bubba's way with a rhyme and a microphone carry equal weight with Tim's surprising yet totally sensible bluegrass funk, country crunk, chase scene torch songs and ever excellent ass-shakers (Tim's diminished presence on the second half prevents this from being 2003's perfect hip hop album, but when on point, he's ever the hard act to follow - how the hell is 'Warrant' so confidently funky, mysterious and addictive when it's got barely no beats to speak of?)
   He's got a convincingly guilty conscience on 'She Tried', acts the good time party boy fool on 'Hootenanny' and the ultra-catchy top 10 single that never was, 'Comin' Round' (fiddles! synths! squealing tyres!), and he is straight up convincing about the New South signifier. I believe in Bubba when he's evoking a hard past that may or may not have been on 'Nowhere', because he's mastered the art of convincing soul-bearing on record. And when 'Nowhere', with it's last line of 'If I'm nowhere/let that nowhere/be nowhere near a worry' and the equally underrated Kiley Dean leading a lovely chorus of 'Cry Me A River' (what's done is done, eh, Bubba?), concludes its 5 mins plus of pure symphonic hip hop beauty, Bubba tells us there's nothing he can't Overcome and I hope he's right. Sooner or later, he deserves to have his Deliverance
Recommended tracks: Comin' Round, Nowhere, Warrant



Friday, 12 November 2010

Le Temps de Cartier (1989)

  It takes a particular type of connoisseur, hobbyist or aesthete to procure a horological tome. So, I'm fortunate that my mother owns a copy; I'm not refined enough, nor in possession of a classic Cartier such as the Tortue or the Tank - both featuring from their Edwardian-era guises onward - to have obtained this alone

   In the terms I couch the word "luxury" in, rarity, creativity, fineness, exquisiteness  and beauty perennially loom large, which is why it's so edifying to delve into some of the delights that the house of Louis-François Cartier built. In the age of mass luxury, it is gratifying that maisons like Cartier and Hermès maintain not only their pedigree but their quality controls (as long as the recent stake in the latter taken by Bernard Arnault, chairman to LVMH, does not become too ineluctable, I suppose). Throughout the book, one sees the exhibition-worthy works produced for, or inspired by, gilded clients with influence and/or royal warrants such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (who was presented with the highly aureate Cartier Imperial Egg that now resides in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art), Alberto Santos-Dumont - whose need for aviation comfort, of course, influenced the creation of Santos, the first men's wristwatch - and King Farouk of Egypt, whose commissions tended to be sexually themed; apposite, of course, for a royal connoisseur of erotica and pornography

   But Giampiero Negretti, Jader Barracca and Franco Nencini, who authored the book, also elicit interest in their historical coverage from the reader, transcending the superficial gratuitousness of Timepiece Porn as they do. Of course, there are a great many double page spreads and money shots contained, for this is a history that stretches back deeply into elegant, diamond encrusted and monogrammed fobs with clever shutter mechanisms, utterly covetous platinum wristwatches, elaborate automatic calendars and the ne plus ultra accessorial decor of la Maison Cartier's pendules mystérieuse ("mystery clocks") - so named because the inner workings of those home, desk and travel clocks were concealed under the skilled artisinal artifice that makes such things desirable. Throughout the decades, Cartier's craftsmen would decorate these latter creations with carved jade, sculpted precious metals and artfully arranged jewels in intricate manners that oft drew on au courant themes in artistic movements - Egyptian, Oriental, Indian and animalistic motifs were all explored at one time or another

La Chimère (Chimera) pendule mystérieuse, 1926, comprised of substances such as topaz, agate, platinum


This pendule mystérieuse, dating from the early 1980s, is based on the original Buddhist temple-motif model circa the 1930s, which is featured in the publication


   Fundamentally, this is a social history of Cartier's horlogerie designs as they related to the whims of the market, the events of the passing days (the Viennese Secession, Art Deco, Modernism, World War II), its constant successes in jewellery creation and the exponential development of the firm itself, with the life and innovations of Louis Cartier - grandson of Louis-François - and the company as its foci. Those deeply involved in Louis's personal and professional orbit - his brothers, Jacques and Pierre, who operated and grew Cartier's businesses in London and New York, respectively; Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier's graceful, panther-obsessed Director of Fine Jewellery with an eye for gemmed and sculpted figural pieces based on creatures, as well as Louis's muse and love; Charles Jacqueau, the independent and ornately-minded legend of jewellery design; and Edmond Jaeger, whose legacy is contained not only within the famed Jaeger-LeCoultre firm of watchmakers but also in the exacting movements that he provided for Cartier during his exclusive 15 year-partnership with Louis. Working in such tandem, it would have been impossible not to have ensured Cartier's prepotency in its fields

   Covering the mid-to-late 19th century through to the establishing of Le Must de Cartier in 1973 after the company had passed from the hands of the family into a private group - today it is part of Richemont - the book concludes with a look at the then-contemporary state of auctioned Cartier timepieces, artfully tracing the high value the maison's works have come to command over the decades. But even in this pricey arena, it is the craft, the aesthetics and the sheer invention of these pieces that transcend mere lust and displays of status

   For at the end of the day, it is taste and appreciation that make a Cartier worth having


   Cartier Tonneau ladies wristwatch in 18k yellow gold circa the 1920s

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Basement Jaxx - Kish Kash (2003)


   Speaking of my past self, I am invoking him today to review my favourite record by the Brixton-based dance pioneers. This is my writing style of six years ago; a funny collection of tics, to be sure:
   Kish Kash didn't take much deliberation to make my number one [best album from 2000 - 2004], for it is everything Basement Jaxx is; everything that makes them compelling, surprising, frenetic, starry-eyed, intuitive and above all, just themselves. This is particularly apparent when you've come to terms with the consistency in the album's running order and the way it bursts not only with sounds but with life.
   Like Cornelius['s Point] and The Avalanches[' Since I Left You] (my no's 3 and 2, respectively), there's so much going on that if you don't take time to listen around, you might miss it (but thank God for the RWD button). Not only the sounds of the 3-parties-in-one that are 'Right Here's The Spot', 'Plug It In', 'Cish Cash' and 'Lucky Star' and the Jaxx's all-out Voltron-assembly of pop songs, Prince-outs and mismatched but purposeful sonic chaos, but the things they do to their special guests. In-between spitting catchphrases on every verse, Dizzee Rascal sounds like the electrodes attached to his secret places are working overtime, Me'shell flirts with a gender identity crisis that she can't conceal her enjoyment over, Totlyn deploys a winning bid for Queen (or King) Scatter of 2003, JC further hints at his growing case of Schizophrenia, his emergent tender sleaziness and his desire to be the most Purple teen idol ever, and erotic pleasure belies Siouxsie's dominatrix cries of "YOU'RE INSATIABLLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEE!" And I'll be damned if I'm not. I don't want to miss a thing.
Recommended tracks: Good Luck, Plug It In, Lucky Star, Cish Cash
  

   I also had the great pleasure of seeing them perform twice in support of this record in December 2003, where Felix Buxton, Simon Ratcliffe and their carnival-spirited live band dynamically impelled their music into more frenetic but ever compelling arrangements - a warehouse party for the world stage, to be sure. However, it cannot be denied that in spite of the spirited renditions by their fill-in live singers, each special guest on the album utterly made their songs their own. Not surprisingly, the Jaxx spent part of the time between this album and their fourth as jobbing music producers, creating or remixing some underrated, would-be chart burners for the likes of Chasez and Lady Sovereign

   It remains highly recommended, by the way

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