Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Title: The Centauri Device
Author: M. John Harrison
The SF and Fantasy Masterwork series from Gollancz strives to keep what some consider to be the most important works from each of the genres in print. With those series there is some cross over, M. John Harrison being one of those handful of authors who have novels in both series. In the Fantasy Masterworks, Harrison has Virconium, the collection of his 4 Virconium novels. While in the SF Masterworks we have this novel, The Centauri Device.
John Truck is a loser. The son of a port whore. An ex-mercenary. An ex-drug dealer. Through his experiences he has some how managed to buy his own spaceship, so that he is now a captain, carrying cargo all over the galaxy. But even having managed to raise himself up to these dizzy heights - John Truck is a loser. And he is now the most wanted man in the universe.
In the past there was a war between the Earth and the residents of Centauri VII. The Centaurans were pretty much annihilated, the refugees scattered across the galaxy, absorbed by the human race. But they left behind a mysterious device, which only a Centauran can operate. John Truck is so unlucky that it just so happens he appears to be last Centauran in the galaxy, a half-breed like him the best that can be found. But what is the device? The IWG think it is a massive bomb, so dangerous that the Centaurans decided to face genocide rather than use it. The UASR believe that it is ultimate propaganda machine, while the Church of the Openers believes that it is God. As for the anarchists, they would just rather that no one got their hands on the Centauri Device.
John Truck staggers around the galaxy. Falling into the clutches of each side, becoming increasingly convinced that there is no one sane left. Just a spacer, a loser, he has no idea of what to do, has no idea what the device actually is. Thus he can only hope to keep ahead, keep getting the breaks that free him each time someone catches up with him. But, undoubtedly, events are going to reach a climax, on the surface of a burnt out Centauri VII, wading through the ash of his people, his birthright awaits him.
From the end of the Second World War to the fall of the Soviet Union there will have been dozens, perhaps hundreds of science fiction and non-science fiction novels that have revolved around the Cold War tensions. The Centauri Device is not one of those novels, Harrison pitching a different future, based on a current and lasting conflict. The Centauri Device was first published in 1975, where the conflict between Israel and Palestine was probably at its peak, compared to now. But there are certainly still troubles there, and the Middle East is still a place of conflict as the current war in Iraq shows. Reading this novel at the time that Ridley Scott's Kingdom Of Heaven is in the cinemas, depicting trouble in the Middle East from 1000 years ago.
So perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that Harrison uses this conflict as his launching point for world powers? On the one side the Israeli World Government took over West European territory, and North and South American territory. While the Union of Arab Socialist Republics swept out of the Arab countries across the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe. Although with this comes one of the most important points for me, the idea that in being able to absorb all these other states/religions to spread a Cold War across the galaxy each side loses those particular properties that made them who they were in the first place.
The Centauri Device is the second novel I have read by M. John Harrison, following his recent return to science fiction in the form of Light after some years off. Having read Light, and some of the stories in his Travel Arrangements, it is clear that Harrison is a slippery and insinuating writer. His words get inside your hear, even when he appears to be going into almost incoherent and intangible territory there is still something striking about how he phrases his madness.
Even so, The Centauri Device is likely one of the most bleak and grimy novels I have ever read. All his characters here are losers or burnt out haggard politicos driven by a consuming need to forward their own cause. Planets filled with dealers and whores, everywhere burnt out industrial ports - abraded hinterlands. Where the floating, frozen corpses mark space battles; the planet/device at the novels core is a memorial to genocide. Where our hero's friends are a dyslexic, violent dwarf, a nostalgia-ridden musician, and his wife is mutilated and neurotic. An oppressive read, the darkness at its core I suspect reflecting the idea of how political rhetoric burns out and the mutually assured destruction that coils through Cold Wars.
Title: The Cat Returns [Neko No Ongaeshi]
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Elliott Gould, Peter Boyle, Andrew Bevis, Tim Curry, Judy Greer, Kristine Sutherland, Kristen Bell, Rene Auberjonois
Director: Hiroyuki Morita
The Cat Returns was intended to be a part of the 2003 London Film Festival, picked up by the London Film Festival On Tour so that it was to be shown in Glasgow as well. I had a ticket weeks in advance. But when we turned up on the night, we were disappointed to find that the film had been withdrawn from the festival. Something to do with who had the rights and the licenses for showing the film.
So now, several years later we get the Disney version, dubbed into English and on an appallingly limited release. The Cat Returns opened in Glasgow on Friday 27th of May, and has been restricted to showing only during the day, which will no doubt severely limit the number of people who get to see it. Particularly annoying given the sort of profile films like Robots and Valiant that have less appeal have been given.
Haru is a particularly clumsy schoolgirl, always tripping over things, always turning up late for class. But when she sees a peculiar cat, carrying a parcel in its mouth, about to be hit by a truck, she surprises everyone with her quick reactions. Saving the cat's life she is astounded when the cat stands up on his hind legs, dusts himself off, and thanks her for saving his life. As it happens the cat is the only son of the King of the Cat Kingdom, who is so pleased by Haru that he swears to shower her with gifts. Though boxes filled with mice left in her school locker don't seem to please her as much as the cats had expected.
The fact that the ultimate gift the King has come up with for Haru is to make her marry his son is an even greater source of distress for the young human. Fortunately a mysterious voice gives her the advice of seeking out the Cat Bureau. The Cat Bureau turning out to be the base for the Baron and his friends - a cat statuette with a soul, along with Toto a crow statue with a soul, and Muta a particularly large cat. Luckily they are willing to help Haru with her plight, but with the cat forces moving to take her to the Cat Kingdom it becomes a race against time.
The Cat Returns is the latest film from the Japanese animation studio Ghibli, originally from 2002 and finally making the rounds as a Disneyfied version with English subtitles. An arrangement which has been going on since Princess Mononoke, I believe. Though undoubtedly it was the film prior to The Cat's Return - Spirited Away - which is likely to have been the most successful release for Ghibli to date. With that, The Cat Returns is not as good as Spirited Away, it would have been pretty hard pushed to top that success. However it is still a wonderful film, and there are several thematic similarities between the two.
Of the half dozen or so Ghibli films that I have seen to date, The Cat Returns is likely the most contemporary. The city that the film starts with is very much a bustling Japanese city, something we haven't really seen before in these films. Perhaps ironically, The Cat Returns is actually a sequel to a film from 10 years ago - Whisper of the Heart, which also featured the Baron helping out a young girl. Though I suspect that Whisper of the Heart has gone straight to DVD, as I am unaware of a cinema release, and the English language version of both films has the Baron voiced by Cary Elwes. Both pieces being based on manga by Aoi Hiiragi.
Though the lead character as a teenager girl is a common thread through a number of Ghibli's films, such that Haru follows in the footsteps of Chihiro (Spirited Away), Satsuke (My Neighbour Tortoro) and Kiki (Kiki's Delivery Service). From that Spirited Away and My Neighbour Tortoro remain my two favourite Ghibli films, but The Cat Returns is certainly up there - I certainly prefer this type of out put from Ghibli than Princess Monoke or Nausica� of the Valley of the Winds.
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Publisher: BBC Radio Five Live
This comes as something of short notice, but only just found out, Chuck Palahniuk will be talking about his new novel Haunted on Simon Mayo's radio show on BBC Radio Five Live in the next hour [approx 3pm in UK now]. This can be listened to live online through the website, and should be available for listening for a week after broadcast.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Title: The Jacket
Cast: Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Kris Kristofferson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Daniel Craig, Kelly Lynch, Brad Renfro, Fish
Director: John Maybury
Jack Starks (Brody) is fighting in Iraq in 1991 when he is shot in the head. He is briefly clinically dead; miraculously he revives, though not without suffering some level of brain damage. Back in America, he is hitchhiking when a stranger picks him up. Unfortunately the car is stopped by the police, and the stranger kills the police officer. Starks is knocked out and the stranger disappears, so Starks gets the blame. Put on trial it is decided to put him in a mental hospital because of his brain damage rather than prison.
There he his abused by the twisted Dr. Becker (Kristofferson), who uses extreme psychiatric techniques that were banned in the seventies. Strange things happen as result, it seems that Starks is going to lose it entirely. Undergoing experiences that seem to suggest that he has travelled into the future. There he meets a young woman, Jackie Price (Knightley), whom he had met as a child - she tells him that he can't be Starky because Starky is dead. From this we have the questions - has he really travelled into the future, and if he has is he going to die and how? With the help of Price and Dr. Lorenson (Jennifer Jason Leigh), one of the other psychiatrists, Starky hopes to answer these questions.
The Jacket seems on the whole to have not been very well received. I know some people want more of a political undertone since the film starts with the Iraq war - I guess the plot could have used any head injury, so it does lead to the question why bother if you aren't going to go there? Others expected more from director John Maybury after his debut film, a biography about the artist Francis Bacon - though I've not seen that so can't really comment.
Plot wise and in cinematic terms, it is hard to deny that The Jacket is derivative. There are elements of films like One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest and Jacob's Ladder, or even something like Donnie Darko. But the most obvious parallels can be drawn between The Jacket and Twelve Monkeys; both revolve around the idea of time travel and mental hospitals - Adrien Brody can be compared to Bruce Willis's character, Jennifer Jason Leigh with Madeline Stowe's, and Daniel Craig to Brad Pitt.
The Jacket is one of those films I went into without particularly knowing much about. I didn't read the bad reviews, or the expectations. And to be honest I just enjoyed it for what it is, we don't get enough out there weird films - with The Jacket being a satisfying example of the genre.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Cast: Tony Jaa, Perttary Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol, Suchao Pongwilai, Wannakit Sirioput
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Ting (Tony Jaa) is on the brink of becoming a monk, though having been taught the combat technique Muay Thai by his teacher he is sworn to never use the skill. However on the lead up to the Ong-Bak festival the head is cut off of the village's statue of Buddha. The village is already struggling, and if the head is not retrieved before the festival then the villagers feel they will be cursed.
Ting volunteers to go after the thieves, and he travels to Bangkok. There he hopes to find the thieves with the help of Humlae (Perttary Wongkamlao), who has moved from the village to Bangkok. However Humlae has turned his back on the village, changed his name to George and is a gambler and a conman. This leads Ting to the fight clubs, where he is forced to fight to retrieve money that George has stolen from him.
This fight brings him to the attention of the people who stole the Buddha's head. Gangsters who are heavily involved in the fighting scene, where a lot of money changes hands. So that it is isn't long before Ting has to get involved in a whole stream of fights using the techniques he swore he would not use in order to be able to return the statue's head to his village.
Ong-Bak is being promoted with the boast that it is all "real" and that there are no special effects being used here. Which is only partly true, as there are plenty of camera tricks, plastic dummies and explosions. Of course they really mean there are no effects in the fight scenes, like the wirework that has been made so popular by films like House Of Flying Daggers. Which is fine and cool, sometimes it is good to see the alternatives, though the fact that instead of really slick cinematography and choreography we have people bracing themselves, and flinching before they are hit makes the film feel a little clunky.
Tony Jaa is being sold as the new Jackie Chan in some circles, but in this context he comes across more as the new Jean Claude van Damme. Particularly with the cheesy way that the arena fight scenes are arranged, absurdly contrived to give it the feel of something like Kick Boxer or Street Fighter. Part of this is Prachya Pinkaew's fault, with his tendency to keep showing stunts again in slow motion or from different angles, something that feels excessive. One particular down side of doing this kind of thing is that in scenes with explosions or car crashes you can see that the person driving is has been replaced by a dummy, which kind of shatters the illusion! With that the film feels like a series of set pieces, particularly the tuk-tuk chase as tribute to Taxi and Luc Besson, especially given the blink and you'll miss it personal message to Besson.
Another thing, which is not the fault of the filmmakers, but more likely of the distributors is the lazy subtitling. Subtitling is a crucial feature when distributing a film around the world and lazy subtitling is just really annoying. Here there are several scenes where the subtitles provide translation for the start of a scene, only to give up after a couple of sentences.
With all of that it would be fair to say that Ong-Bak is awful - what with the retro feel to the proceedings, the dreadful acting, and all. On the other hand Ong-Bak is great. It is just one of those films where the flaws become kind of funny. And the physical abilities of Tony Jaa is undeniable, some of the stunts he performs make it clear why a showcase like this has been built around him. So go and see Ong-Bak and enjoy it for what it is, but don't let people tell you it is something different.
Title: Mysterious Skin
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbet, Elisabeth Shue, Michelle Trachtenberg, Bill Sage, Jeff Licon, Mary Lynn Rajskub
Director: Gregg Araki
Mysterious Skin follows the life of two boys in small town Kansas. Going from the age of 8 to 18. At the age of 8 both boys play baseball with a local team. But from there their lives diverge, such that they have little contact with each other over the years that follow. Brian (Corbet) is bespectacled and bookish, and grows up to believe that aliens have on several occasions abducted him. Neil (Gordon-Levitt) has decided he is gay at an early age, and grows up to be a hustler, involved in increasingly risky sex.
Thus we get an illustration of how different two people's lives can become. Mysterious Skin is based on the novel by Scott Heim and is set between 1981 and 1991. The fact that the film sticks with that period is perhaps curious, it isn't entirely necessary for the material, but is presumably in keeping with the novel.
Cast wise this is a departure from the last time I saw most of these people. Gordon-Levitt most obviously has been in the TV series 3rd Rock From The Sun, though has been in films like 10 Things I Hate About You - here he has much edgier part than either of those previous roles. A similar thing can be said for Michelle Trachtenberg, sure Euro Trip was more risqu� than Buffy, but it was not that far removed from the likes of 10 Things. By contrast Brady Corbett was the insufferable super kid in the recent film version of Thunderbirds, so he goes from action hero to geeky and awkward.
As a film this is something of a departure for director Gregg Araki. Though to be fair, I've only seen two of the 10 or so films that he has done. Comparing Mysterious Skin to Doom Generation and Nowhere there are thematic similarities. Angsty teens, coming of age issues, and punk undertones. But while those earlier films are chaotic and nihilistic, this is a more solid and mature endeavour.
Title: A Good Woman
Cast: Helen Hunt, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Campbell Moore, Mark Umbers
Director: Mike Barker
A Good Woman is a comedy based on the Oscar Wilde play Lady Windermere's Fan. Though it is more droll and witty than more contemporary pieces.
Mrs. Erlynne (Helen Hunt) of the sort of woman who moves from man to main, funding her lifestyle with the lavish gifts the men give her. Run out of her New York base she comes up with a plan that takes her to the Italian coastal resorts. Being that kind of woman it isn't long before the gossip starts. It seems clear to all, except Lady Windermere (Scarlett Johansson), that she has become involved with Lord Windermere (Mark Umbers). With this Lord Darlington (Stephen Campbell Moore) decides to target Lady Windermere, though at the same time Lord Augustus (Tom Wilkinson) is attempting to seduce Mrs. Erlynne.
From In Good Company to A Good Woman, we have the latest vehicle for Johansson to hit the UK (even if the two were actually made the other way round). With In Good Company I felt a little unconvinced by Johansson. Watching her here I think she can be a decent actress, but there is something about her accent, which she uses in all her parts, that comes across as flat and toneless. Ironically Hunt's voice sounds very similar in this voice, underlying that impression of monotone.
Though on the whole that kind of describes the film as a whole. On the whole performances are lacklustre, with only Hunt, Johansson and Sizemore really having anything to show for themselves. For the most part the adaptation feels a little flat, a little tame. Which serves to make the good lines stand out more, emphasizing the material is based on a play. With the fact that those lines stick out servers to make the piece feel inconsistent.
Title: Its All Gone Pete Tong
Cast: Paul Kaye, Mike Wilmot, Beatriz Batarda, Kate Magowan, Pete Tong, Gideon Gold
Director: Michael Dowse
Its All Gone Pete Tong is an oddity. Apparently the name and location were chosen before the film was even written. With major plot points not even coming into play till the later drafts.
For those that don't know, Pete Tong is a DJ, he has had a dance show on BBC Radio 1 for years. His name has become used in rhyming slang, "its all gone pete tong" being "its all gone wrong". With that, Pete Tong makes a cameo early in the film and is credited as one of the associate producers.
To be honest Its All Gone Pete Tong is a mess of a film. All over the place, a bit of this, a bit of that. Structurally it is trying to be a mockumentary about a superstar DJ in Ibiza. With this there are all sorts of cameos by name DJs, scenes from inside Ibiza clubs, and even a spoof video.
From there we follow this DJ, Frankie Wilder (Paul Kaye), and his lifestyle. Marrying the scene slapper, adopting her bastard son, and getting absolutely and totally fucked. Thus we have gone from the idea of a music scene, to a lifestyle of excess. Which is where the film particularly flips out - using a giant apron wearing badger as a metaphor for cocaine addiction or something - honestly!
Then the film changes again, partly following the result of working as a DJ and exploring some of the reasons for those excesses. Though mainly it is just another tangent tacked on to the whole. Wilder realises that he is going deaf, so he goes through the phases of denial, anger and finally acceptance.
Its All Gone Pete Tong could have worked. There are some interesting things going on in there. There are some moments that are actually pretty funny, as well as some issue driven material. But the result has some jaw droppingly baffling moments. So while I kind of, perversely, enjoyed It's All Gone Pete Tong, it was the most people I've seen walking out of a film in a while.
Title: The Interpreter
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Jesper Christensen, Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron, George Harris
Director: Sydney Pollack
You know, standards are definitely slipping in the film industry. Too many films seem to be knocked out with lazy scripts and plot holes, and are just generally sub-standard.
Taking that as your base line then The Interpreter is a decent film, though given the outline of the plot if could have been much better. Undoubtedly a tighter script would have been a good start or cutting scenes that seem to have been inserted for the sake of it. Of course keeping the plot simpler might have helped as well.
Silvia Broome (Kidman) is an ex-African who now works with the UN as an interpreter. Far too conveniently she finds herself in the building at night, where she coincidentally overhears a plot to murder a politician from the country she came from spoken in a language only she would have understood. At the time what she hears doesn't make a lot of sense, but then to her horror she finds that the politician in question is in fact to visit the UN at the end of the week. So she reports this to her boss, but of course she isn't entirely believed. Keener and Penn play the part of US government agents assigned to deal with this kind of problem - but just as the film is as much about Kidman's character as it is about the plot, Penn's character is a tortured soul that eats up screen time, and inevitably will become emotionally involved with Kidman. So we just know that he will go from tough and aggressive and distrusting to supportive and interested and overly involved. Because those are the rules.
The plot is one of those ones where Penn is slapped in the face repeatedly by the punch line. Only for him to experience an epiphany at a key moment, accompanied by the obligatory flashbacks for anyone who has not been paying attention. Just as this is clumsy, so is the "chemistry" between Penn and Kidman - it just doesn't convince. Add to that the silliness - New York based agents assigned to the UN flying to Washington by helicopter for a 2 minute, basic briefing that could as easily have been done over the phone or by the wonders of email; or the photograph presented as incriminating evidence against Kidman, which even a child could tell you was the most blatantly obvious example of Photoshop that they has seen in their life. There are maybe a half dozen comedic moments through the film, but every one of them is pathetic, cringe worthy, and falls entirely flat.
So yeah. The based plot of controversial African dictator to visit the UN, an interpreter overhears a plot to kill him, she has some emotional involvement with the country he is from - that works well enough. Kidman manages to maintain a South African accent convincingly, at least until she raises her voice. Penn continues to be a strangely acclaimed actor, so I'm sure people will enjoy his performance - I don't see why.
Title: Man Of The House
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Cedric the Entertainer, Christina Milian, Paula Garc�s, Monica Keena, Vanessa Ferlito, Kelli Garner, Anne Archer
Director: Stephen Herek
Man Of The House is one of those films that you don't really go into with particularly high expectations. Tommy Lee Jones plays a hard-bitten Texas Ranger, who is working witness protection for a big trail. Except that his witnesses are 5 cheerleaders. Hilarity ensues. Well, kind of. The film is constructed from clichés, and is at times funnier because we can see through the clumsy attempts at being worthwhile.
The 5 cheerleaders do have a surprising range of characters - even if they do on the whole tend towards the airhead stereotype. Some reviews have tried to analyse the film too closely - struggling to reconcile bimboisms with girl power statements. But lets face it, the point where the girls stand up for themselves and the cheerleaders of the world is reekingly jingoistic, the most blatant of self-indulgent feel good propaganda.
Cast wise TLJ pretty mush plays the same part we've seen him play in a dozen films before. Strangely he is also one of the film's producers, which indicates that he was involved on a deeper level. I guess at least he is sending himself up, so we get some laughs from this particular cliché? The girls are headed up by Christina Milian, who at least looks less blatantly surgically altered than some of the other girls. Though she is just another example of a trend towards the idea of the packaged star and "vehicles" being selected to "show case" their "talent". Not that she is particularly bad, just it seems increasingly people are cast as corporate "property" rather than because of their ability.
In singing the negatives of Man Of The House in the end it is what it is - a straight forwardly disposable comedy which has its moments.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Author: Frank Herbert
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
The Guild has a monopoly on space travel, using “spice” to feed their prescient ability to navigate through the void. This spice can be found on only one planet. Arrakis, a desert hell hole nicknamed Dune. Where water is scarce and giant worms attack adventurers.
Frank Herbert drops the reader straight into the narrative in this the first of his Dune novels; something that was originally published in three serialised parts before being collected in one volume. Dune offers the planet of Arrakis and two families – the Harkonnen who were in charge of the spice planet and the Artreides who are just taking control as the novel starts. Within the context of this novel we find that there is a feud between these families, though the history and reasons for this are never particularly explained. However, while the Harkonnen are leaving the planet, they are doing so to set up a trap for the Artreides family, planning to wipe them out with the Emperor’s blessing.
Herbert’s style is interesting, he presents us with the base line plot, who is on the two sides, and who will be responsible for betraying the Artreides to the Harkonnen, all pretty much from the start. So that before we know it the Artreides have been betrayed, the Duke is dead, and the Harkonnen are back in control of Arrakis. However the plan doesn’t go to plan, with Paul Artreides escaping to join the nomadic and ferocious Fremen. Throughout Herbert provides us with the idea of prophecy and legend, and with each layer of that he follows it with the idea that Paul is the centre of those stories, and that he will change everything forever.
Thematically this can be considered to be a novel that remains as relevant today. At the core of the conflict are commodities. The first and most obvious is the need for spice to fuel industry, spice being a ready parallel for oil; with the cultural heritage of Arrakis having some links to the middle east type area. The second is the need for water to fuel life, something that we may find that brings around conflict to a greater degree than oil in the future – a more recent example of this being Ian McDonald’s current novel River Of Gods, which pitches factions against each other during an Indian drought. Of course ideas like spice as a drug, and the precognitions that come with that for some, invite some parallels with the work of Philip K. Dick, one of the contemporaries of Herbert that I am particularly familiar with.
Dune is a tightly written novel. Herbert doesn’t waste time with epic battles and confrontations. There is a lot in these 400 or so pages, that some modern writers would have taken the same again to tell. The result is a sparse, raw work, which may have been written nearly 40 years ago, but it is eminently readable and says something about how things have changed in the time since then. Dune was written for a different market, where author’s didn’t necessarily have the same luxury of word count as some of today’s writers.
Title: Blood Of Angels
Author: Michael Marshall
Publisher: Harper Collins
The third novel by Michael Marshall (aka Michael Marshall Smith) has just been published in the UK in hardback. This should be the conclusion of what Marshall was describing as a trilogy when he was supporting the second novel. The previous two novel are Straw Men and The Lonely Dead.
SF writer Ian McDonald has been blogging for about a week now, using the LJ platform. This link is a to his first really solid post, a discussion on SF trends, and his problem with one of the latest sub-genres that of MSF (Mundane Science Fiction). McDonald's latest novel is River Of Gods, which has just been published in the UK as a regular paperback (as opposed to the over-sized edition I have) - set in an India of 2047 where the country has splintered in to states, war is about to break out over water rights and AIs are getting out of hand.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Title: Aberystwyth Mon Amour/Last Tango In Aberystwyth
In typical fashion I managed to read Malcolm Pryce's Aberystwyth novels in the wrong order, which is a particularly bad idea. Given that while you can read Last Tango In Aberystwyth on it's own, it manages to cover the key events of Aberystwyth Mon Amour in such a way that it makes it a little tricky to go back and read the first novel.
As such, I'm not sure whether I did not enjoy Aberystwyth Mon Amour as much as Last Tango In Aberystwyth because I had too much of an idea of where it was going or because it is an idea that doesn't amuse as much second time round or indeed, whether I was just in the wrong mood. Though what I do know is that reading the second book first and the first book second, I enjoyed the second book more than I did the first.
In both novels we have the lead of Louie Knight, who is a hard-bitten private detective, and while these may feel like noir novels they are set in 80's Aberystwyth rather than 40's LA. Instead of gangsters, "druids" run the town, a sleaze-ridden place filled with corruption and dubious morals. So that Malcolm Pryce's novels have a curious mix of noir meets the UK sitcom League Of Gentlemen. The ice-cream peddlers, war veterans from the war between Wales and Patagonia, and the crazy-golf barons. Where the Sweet Jesus League protests outside night clubs. And in an Austin Powers style manner, money has a curious value, where a pound or two is considered to be a sum to reckon with.
With this Malcolm Pryce still works with the familiar tropes of the genre. Femme fatales turn up in his office. Banter is exchanged. A case of missing persons quickly become more than it appears. And the PI maintains his cool, despite the strained relations with the local police and repeated warnings from the bad guy's heavies. This is pretty much the pattern for both novels, and you quickly get the feel for it as you read.
Title: Where Is My Friend's House? [Khane-ye Doust Kodjast?]
Cast: Babek Ahmed Poor, Ahmed Ahmed Poor, Kheda Barech Defai, Iran Outari
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Where Is My Friend's House? is the first in a trilogy of films by director Abbas Kiarostami, shown as part of a recent season of Iranian films. Filmed in 1987, the story takes place between a couple of rural villages. Mohamed Reda Nematzadeh (Ahmed Ahmed Poor) is given his final warning at school - if he fails to do his homework in his exercise book one more time, then he will be expelled. So when Ahmed (Babek Ahmed Poor) gets home from school to find that he has taken Mohamed's book he realises that he had better get it back to him. However, while the two boys sit beside each other in school, they live in different villages.
Where Is My Friend's House? is an understated film, following an 8-year-old boy's journey from one village to the next and searching for his friend's house. All despite the obstacles thrown in his way, as no one in the village seems to know his friend, or they know someone with the same family name, and the fact that his mother and grandfather both have other things for him to do instead. It is an anti-climactic piece, which has more to do with it showing the nature of village life and their social structures than whether or not Ahmed succeeds. Obviously the film is a little dated now, being 18 years old, though the way that Ahmed interacts with those around him is likely to still be relevant in a cultural sense.
This film is known as Where Is The Friend's House? as well as Where Is My Friend's House?, I've chosen to go with the later because it scans better.
Title: Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels, Christopher Lee
Director: George Lucas
George Lucas seems to be uninterested in the response to his Star Wars prequels from the people that grew up with his original films. To a degree, I respect that, as a creator he has to feel like he is being true to his vision and is pushing the boundaries of his art. Which would be great if that is actually what he was doing. Instead much of what actually worked in his original trilogy is gone from these films. While Episodes I to III certainly are state of the art in terms of special effects, it takes much more than special effects to make a film work. Sure there are plenty of other films out there which are weaker than they should be because they relied too heavily on digital effects but they dont have the pedigree of Lucas.
Star Wars Episode III - The Revenge Of The Sith is in theory the one that we have all been waiting for. The film that links the new three films to Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope, and the series of films that we all grew up with. To do this The Revenge Of The Sith concentrates on the move towards the dark side that Anakin Skywalker started in Attack Of The Clones. Plagued by dreams of the death of his beloved Padmé, who at the start of the film announces that she is pregnant, he feels like he must find a way to save her life.
Of course the war that started in the first film is still ongoing, with Chancellor Palpatine becoming increasingly powerful. As we all know Palpatine is actually a Sith lord, destined to become the Emperor, and the war is all a deception designed to weaken the Jedi and strengthen his position. As a Sith he sets about seducing Anakin to the dark side, persuading him that the Jedi are not to be trusted and that only by becoming a Sith lord can he hope to save his wife an unborn children. Thus the doom of the Jedi is set in motion, and the rise of Darth Vader is assured.
Watching The Phantom Menace originally one was struck by the excesses of the CGI that was used. Though looking back at it after Episodes II and III it doesnt seem to be as bad. With each film the material has become busier, so that it seems like every scene has surplus material added in postproduction. Though at least by adding stuff that the cast dont know about at the time, you get less of the GSS (Green Screen Stare - a glassy stare and unconvinced facial expression encountered with excessive use of computer graphics) that was evident in Phantom. With that it increasingly seems that everything is over designed - so that the space ships and uniforms that worked well enough in the original films have become more convoluted than necessary. Which is particularly evident when Darth Vader finally dons the notorious armour that made him such a memorable figure in Episodes IV-VI, and looks entirely out of place.
Plot wise Revenge Of The Sith is probably the sloppiest of the new trilogy. There is just too much going on, so that we are switching from scene to scene every couple of minutes. So that there is no real feeling that we are actually developing a solid plot or that we are getting enough of a feel for any of the characters that we care whether they live or die. This leads to absurdities like the cameo of Chewbacca and the Wookie army that adds absolutely nothing to the film, and doesnt get enough screen time to even be considered worthwhile as titillation.
Hayden Christiansen is certainly less whiny and irritating than he was in Attack Of The Clones, where he came across as being a pathetic little child, rather than someone prophesised to be the most powerful Jedi ever. Here he has taken more of the darkness on, which allows him to behave more sinister and restrained. Though even then you dont really care. Natalie Portman reprises her role for the third film in a row, but whereas she may have demonstrated some backbone and sass that was almost worthy of her daughter-to-be Leia, she is reduced to snifflingness here. Ewan McGregor also returns as Obi-Wan Kenobi, though he takes his imitation of Alec Guinness to another level, so that he seems to be playing Guinness more than he does Kenobi. As such the lines that might have worked in the original three films are too busy being phrased just so to convey the actual point. In fact having just re-watched The Phantom Menace, I would tend to see that Liam Neeson was closer to the part of Kenobi with his role as Kenobis teacher.
Apart from those performances it is really Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Siddious that steals the film. At least for the first part of the film, he maintains the conniving and devious role, advancing the cause of the Sith and his eventual rise to Emperor. Though ironically the turning point in the film is where he is made to take his character too far, so while things (as far as this film are concerned) really get moving, he is no longer as good as he was. In terms of human performances Samuel L. Jackson, who is often just taking the money for showing up these days, actually gives it is all for when he is on screen. From there it is unfortunate that R2D2 seems to have all the best lines in the first 20 minutes and Yoda is brilliant again, stealing the film every time he is on screen just as he did in Attack Of The Clones.
While I was perhaps offended by how bad Attack Of The Clones was, and looking back I start to feel a certain affection for The Phantom Menace, I have to confess that The Revenge Of The Sith for the most part left me numb. I was pretty indifferent to what was going on through out. Perhaps catching it as one of the first showings in Scotland, at 1am on Thursday 19th of May as it opened, wasnt necessarily the best idea. But certainly from the first viewing, there was some nice touches, it is interesting to see it tie into A New Hope at least, though I feel they took that too far, and other than that The Revenge Of The Sith is distinctly under whelming.
Title: Duck Season [Temporada De Patos]
Cast: Diego Cataño, Daniel Miranda, Danny Perea, Enrique Arreola
Director: Fernando Eimbcke
Duck Season was one of the films that caught my eye when it played in last year's Edinburgh International Film Festival. Which I'm glad to see has gotten a UK release at last. This Mexican film is the latest hit to come from Latin America - it's opening week over lapping with the Chilean dram Machuca, with which it has some similarities.
Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Cataño) are two 14-year-old boys, who have the house to themselves one Sunday afternoon. The second Flama's mother is out the door, having handed over pizza money, the X-Box is out and hooked up to the TV and they are guzzling coke by the bottle. However it is not long before they have their first uninvited guest, in the form of Rita (Danny Perea), the 16-year-old girl from next door. She crashes their party so that she can use their cooker to bake a cake. However the game play and cake baking are interrupted by a series of power cuts.
When the boys decide to order their pizza they reckon that the deliveryman is 11 seconds late and therefore owes them a free pizza. Of course the fact that the power is out so he had to come up the stairs instead of using the elevator didn't help. Regardless the deliveryman Ulises (Enrique Arreola) is not a man who is enjoying his job, so he refuses to give in to these two kids and so he refuses to leave until they have paid their bill. And thus they have their second uninvited guest of the day.
From their Duck Season follows the interaction of the four characters, providing a strange kind of road trip, where they all go on a journey together, without leaving the boundaries of the flat. Shot in black and white this drama is a coming of age film, with 3 of the 4 characters in their teens. Even Ulises comes to some life conclusions through the course of the film. The story touches on sex, sexuality, drugs, the joys of having to put up with the rest of your family, and the lack of job satisfaction that some people get out of life. The black and white film is particularly striking, providing a distinctive contrast, which is particularly noticeable with the exterior shots of the grim grey block of flats that the action takes place in. Duck Season is a funny film, a laugh out loud comedy, and the kind of film that is a perfect example of how so much can be done with so little.
The website for the film http://www.temporadadepatos.com is quite a good one. Including a trailer for the film, character studies, a couple of the more outstanding tracks from the soundtrack and even a recipe for cake.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Title: The Penultimate Truth
Author: Philip K. Dick
When World War Three broke out on Mars it was clear that it would quickly spread back to Earth. So in the East and West the two sides retreated underground. The human race living in tanks, building robots for their side to fight the other. They have been down their for 15 years now. but, after only a couple of years both East and West agreed that mutually assured destruction was not the way forward. Since then those in command set up their own estates, staffed by the robots built by those in the tanks.
The novel follows a cusp moment, working between key characters from above and below. Joseph Adams is a scriptwriter, composing the propaganda shown in the tanks to keep them convinced the war is still being fought. Adams feels a certain loneliness, and an undercurrent of guilt for the way things are run. Nicholas St. James is the elected president of one of the Western tank communities, who is forced to make a bid for the surface when the tank experiences a crisis. Both discover the truth in The Penultimate Truth, and the levels of conspiracy involved - those trying to keep a grip on power versus those who would like to see it all come tumbling down.
Written in 1964 The Penultimate Truth is like many of Philip K. Dick's novels in that while it looks to the future it covers the kind of tensions that were building with the Cold War. As such it is dated to some degree, and the clash of things predicted that never came to be, are clear. But the themes of maintained tensions through misleading propaganda, and the propensity of governments to lie to their people is something that would seem to be consistently relevant.
Thematically The Penultimate Truth has many of those things that Philip K. Dick covered in other novels. In particular there are clear parallels to novels like The Zap Gun and Time Out Of Joint - the faux-arms race and the central conspiracies. The Penultimate Truth is published as part of Gollancz's SF Masterworks series, the 58th volume in the series, and keeps Dick in their as the author with the highest number of books included in this series of classic science fiction novels.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Title: If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things
Author: Jon McGregor
If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things follows two narrative strands, working back and forth between the first person "present" and a third person past. In the present of the novel, a girl talks us through her life and an event that has stopped her in her tracks. At this crux point she recalls a previous event, 3 years before she was a witness to a terrible event.
The novel starts with the hook and punch of the event, grabbing the reader in those first pages. Providing us with the reactions to something, without revealing what that something is. From the girl tries to deal with her situation, while recalling that one particular day. A day that edges forward in increments. Introducing us to the people that lived in this one street, and the minutiae of their lives.
While there are the two top-level stories, the day that is at the core of the story is comprised of a multitude of threads. A street full of people, with McGregor following them all, bringing them together to make the big picture - an illustration of how every mundane thing is actually a remarkable thing.
At times McGregor's writing comes across as having a reasonably traditional narrative structure. But when he hits his most intense he breaks the narrative down, using deliberate structural techniques. Which provide a certain flow, giving a definite emphasis to a writing that becomes lyrical. The density of the detail symphonic, so that there are passages of writing that we can seem to hear.
If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things is a textural novel, painting pictures of men who survived the second world war only to get terminal cancer, of little girls looking for angles, of unrequited love, of birth, death, hope and dreams. All to the soundtrack of life in a street in the north of England.
In technical terms perhaps it can be said that this is a novel in which nothing happens, given that the core is one day where something bad happens and the rest is padding. But it is a vivid padding which creates an environment. To a degree this is a novel about life, about all the little details that often go unnoticed. Though it is also a mystery novel, not in a traditional sense, McGregor works in clues - as you keep track of all the people in this street, in each of the houses, you can narrow down the range of what "the event" is going to be. He plays with this, so there are these false moments and red herrings where you think that maybe you are about to get your revelation, but don't.
Regardless, for me at least, the end isn't entirely surprising, but with a novel like this that isn't entirely the point. Given the size of the cast and the way that McGregor writes them all into this tangled wave, I would make comparisons to Nick Walker's BlackBox, both writers demonstrating a certain level of sheer skill. Though they are both quite different works.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Title: Mean Creek
Cast: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder
Director: Jacob Aaron Estes
Sam (Culkin) gets beaten up as a result of his latest run in with George (Peck). Something that concerns his potential girlfriend, Millie (Schroeder), and older brother, Rocky (Morgan). This leads to a decision, if Rocky and his friends can come up with a way of getting back at George without hurting him, then Sam is happy to see it happen.
George is a problem child, he has been held back in school a number of times, and so he is older than the other children in his year. He has learning difficulties, but either because of that or as well as that, he is prone to lashing out. At the same time this makes him unpopular, it also makes him lonely. So when he is invited to go boating with Sam, Millie, and Rocky and his friends, he is only too happy to come along.
The plan is to take George out on the river and then humiliate him. However once the group is together, they start to realise that perhaps George is just misunderstood. So there are growing doubts as to whether they should follow through with their plan. But then, in the past George has physically assaulted two of the groups members, and over the course of the day he manages to verbally abuse every one of them.
There are clear parallels between Mean Creek and Larry Clark's Bully. Though this debut feature by writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes has less of the feeling of exploitation, an accusation often made of Clark's work. While Bully may have been based on a true story, Mean Creek is perhaps more interesting because there is more ambiguity involved.
From having seen the trailer before the film, the fact that something bad happens in Mean Creek is not a secret, but the way the kids work off each other and develop we aren't sure whether what is going to happen is going to be an accident or murder. Part of this works because a number of the characters have their own conflicts going on, their own issues.
I would tend to say that the two strongest performances come from the two youngest cast members - Rory Culkin and Carly Schroeder, though in saying that there is clearly a tradition of acting from the Culkin's and Schroeder would appear to have down a handful of other films as well as TV work.
Author: New Found Land
Part of the same season that already brought us the short film Rogue Farm based on the story by Charles Stross, just spotted this, which sounds like it has some potential - on tonight on Scottish and Grampian ITV TV regions at 11pm.
Scotland - the near future. Democracy has evolved. Technology has made it possible for citizens to vote in daily referenda. Non-participation is not an option.
With his sister Char, Henry runs a wind farm. He defies the compulsory referenda, but the penalty for doing so also affects Char and their relationship is breaking down. Char wants to leave the farm and plays an interactive game show for the ultimate prize - a place on IM: Heaven Above Earth.
The prize may not be all that it seems though, and when it looks as if Char might win, Henry attempts to stop her…
Niall Greig Fulton as Henry
Jenny Foulds as Char
Neve McIntosh as Fran
Tony Donaldson as Gene
IM was directed and co-written by Craig Collinson and produced and co-written by Nick Wright. IM is an independent production by Heehaw Productions for Scottish TV, Grampian TV and Scottish Screen.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Cast: Matías Quer, Ariel Mateluna, Manuela Martelli, Ernesto Malbran, Aline Küppenheim, Federico Luppi, Francisco Reyes, Gabriela Medina
Director: Andrés Wood
Gonzalo Infante is a young boy at the Saint Patrick's private school in 1973, a troubled time in the history of Chile. Though for the most part the demise of President Allende and rise of General Pinochet is kept to the background. The scale that politics come into things is that the catholic priests that run the school have decided to introduce poor children into each class. Pedro Machuca is one of the children that is introduced to the school, with the racism and resentment he is met with being a microcosmic illustration of the kind of things happening in Chile at the time.
Infante may be a rich kid, but he isn't necessarily a happy one. The spoilt children in his class bully him, and use him to pass their exams. There is trouble at home, his family might be well off, but supplies are scarce, and he is conscious of black market dealings. Particularly where he is dragged along to the house of a man who sleeps with his mother in exchange for goods. So it isn't much of a leap for him to feel some sympathy for Machuca. From which the two boys become friends of a sort.
To make some money Machuca goes along to all the demonstrations that are going on, where he helps his neighbour and the neighbour's daughter sell flags to protestors. Infante joins Machuca, and from that a tentative triangle is formed between Infante, Machuca and the daughter Silvana. From this and the differences in background between the rich Infante and poor Machuca and Silvana tensions are inevitable. The fact that Chile was reaching a point of crisis serves to exacerbate these tensions. A wall that is passed several times in the film expresses the changes just as well as the increasing vehemence of protestors - at the start of the film the graphitised wall says "no civil war", further on the "no" has been scrawled out so the wall now says "civil war", then the new regime comes in and the wall has been painted grey, the voice of the people silenced.
There are strong comparisons between this Chilean film Machuca and the acclaimed Mexican film Y Tu Mama Tambien. Both films have a love triangle at the core, where the two male sides of the relationship come from different social strata, with the greater political tensions being a burgeoning background text. Though Y Tu Mama Tambien has a more contemporary setting, Machuca delving more into a turning point, which defined much of South America for the decades that followed. To a degree the relationship between the two boys is contrived, a convenience that serves to illustrate the big picture. Regardless it serves its purpose well enough, and given that the film was dedicated to a priest from Saint Georges, we can assume that the priest it is dedicated is a parallel to the one depicted in Saint Patricks of the film, and that similar events may well have taken place in reality.
The relationship between the three young characters is less sexualised that that in Y Tu Mama Tambien, giving it a more tentative and exploratory feel. It is also an understated aspect of the film, one which allows the characters to form a bond at the same time as we know that it will also serve to tear them apart. The politics of the film are also a little understated, which is perhaps disappointing, I didn't really get a feel for the issues involved in the story - though the depiction of rich vs. poor, capitalist vs. communist, and the racial conflicts were made abundantly clear.
Monday, May 09, 2005
Title: Woken Furies
Author: Richard Morgan
Publisher: Orion Books
Woken Furies is the fourth novel by Richard Morgan, the third to feature the character Takeshi Kovacs. Returning to the character he introduced in Altered Carbon and Broken Angels after the break represented by Market Forces.
With Takeshi Kovacs, Morgan provides a somewhat unique character - one with an extended life and who has a different body every time we meet him. All thanks to the background technology of this sequence of novels. This is part of what enables Morgan to keep changing what he is doing with each novel, avoiding the many traps that one can encounter when dealing with a recurring character.
Woken Furies takes place some time after Broken Angels and sees Takeshi Kovacs make a return to his planet. Bringing together some of the references from the previous two books. Harlan's World is run by the rich and traditionally everyone else has struggled to make a living. With a couple of failed revolutions led by Quellcrist Falconer (who has been quoted in each Kovacs novel) things have improved, but not enough. We are dropped into this background, with initially little explanation of what is going on.
We follow a transformed Kovacs, a man who has always had violent tendencies as he goes on a killing rampage. Unfortunately while the dead priests only concerns the church, the dead yakuza has made him enemies, and he quickly finds himself with a price on his head. So he joins up with a group of mercenaries and heads off into the no-mans land left by the last failed revolution. Distracting from the way things were going, by fighting intelligent military hardware to reclaim the land.
Which is all good and fine, until two things happen to change things. The group comes across something in the Bad Lands and someone as dangerous as Kovacs is tracking him down. Thus from the headlong charge of the narrative we follow Kovacs into the brink of a new revolution. Along the way we get a mix of Harlan's World's history, what role revolution and the Quellists have had in that history, how that shaped Takeshi Kovacs, drove him to become an Envoy and what events in recent history triggered his current killing spree. Through this we have Morgan's key ingredients elite Envoy training, sleeving technology that lets people change bodies, the alien technology that keeps nudging human culture onwards, and the power plays and violence that go with them.
However to a degree this is a different from Morgan's other work. In Woken Furies his "hero" seems to be particularly dislikeable. Here we have a man who is barely holding it together, with Kovacs being a man driven by rage, detached from any hope that he might have had in the past. He talks to himself and lashes out at anyone who might be a friend. On the whole he seems to be beyond redemption. Which is a difficult quality to sell the reader, and is no doubt part of the reason why the progression and plotting feel different. We are so reliant on Kovacs as narrator that we don't really know where the story is going because he doesn't. In Altered Carbon we had Kovacs as private detective trying to solve a murder, then in Broken Angels a mercenary looking for treasure in a war zone. With Woken Furies the plot is there, but it is considerably less clear cut, which isn't especially beneficial. The novel is hectic and disorientating, so that in the end I am left with mixed feelings.
Particularly in Broken Angels, Morgan built certain scenarios about the nature of his universe and the role of the long dead aliens and their technology in that. Woken Furies perhaps serves to make the over all text a little denser, but it only provides the slightest of advances in the big picture. To a degree I feel like this was a tangential novel, which wasn't as good as it could have been. Inevitably I expect there will be at least another novel with Takeshi Kovacs, questions still hang unanswered. One wonders how Morgan is going to handle the character after this novel, though with the way this sequence works he probably only needs to jump ahead another 50 years, provide a new body and a new scenario and go with it.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Girlmatic: Today is "free comic day", which is an annual promotional event where comic shops give away free comics. This can lead to some interesting promotions, as well as the substandard churned out pap that you might expect. Girlmatic is one of a new generation of group webcomic sites, which work on a subscription basis. This means that some material, usually the latest strip is available as preview, but to read the rest you need to pay a monthly charge. This year for "free comic day" the material on Girlmatic is available for free for today only. Start reading.
Friday, May 06, 2005
Artist: Kallabris, Tam Quam Tabula Rasa and Troum
Label: Old Europa Cafe
Kasha-Pashana is a three way split CD that is released by the Italian label Old Europa Café. It is about 68 minutes long, which gives the three artists roughly 20 minutes each, with a little leeway. Both Kallabris (who start the CD) and Troum (who end the CD) opt to fill their space with 2 tracks each, while Tam Quam Tabula Rasa who link the two provide 3 tracks, although one of those is particularly short.
The German Kallabris tends towards the eclectic, ranging from drones to abstract accordion music. The two pieces here are more in the drone territory, as perhaps might be suggested by the thematic titles of the tracks - Sleeping and Napping. Sleeping is filled with low bass, something that throbs in a solid and repetitive manner. This gradually makes allowance for higher tones, that glimmer and flash through the mix. Providing a contrast in the tone and regularity of the sleep - shiny to the bass grit. The piece expands outward, sustaining these two elements in the process over the 13-minute duration - with other little bubbles creeping in towards the end of this drone piece. Napping comes up amid level bass waves, with a deeper sound buried beneath the surface sensations. A thematic emergence from Sleeping, working in the first hints of melody, of not being as deep in slumber. Awakening pulses, bass bubbles erupting from the surface of the sound, coming with this, a man's voice talking. Giving it that typically eclectic sense that is so attractive with Kallabris's work. Becoming that degree more quirky as the piece moves a little more off kilter in tone before it fades out.
Tam Quam Tabula Rasa start their contribution with the track Sideronecia/Basanos and a clank of percussive layers, with a swirl of bass and a curious non-melody. A kind of swirl and echo, layered to curious and perhaps sinister effect. Via Trucis X is the short piece by TQTR, filled with sharp edged spirals that mix with the loop of mechanical treads. Fickle Procrustean Polymorphous is the last piece by TQTR and maintains the flow of the mood of this material. Metallic percussion strikes in a periodic manner, spaced out, with drone suggestions in the background. Impressions of a haunted factory, sounds of work going on in this distance, underscored by drifting guitar. The focus gradually shifts here to concentrate on the guitar sounds, providing slow, sludgy material.
German drone duo Troum (old German for dream) finishes Kasha-Pashana with their two tracks. The first of which is Finiens, filled with blossoming bass drones, sustained waves and the sighing of an enveloping drift. The second track, Entasis, features some source sound from Yen Pox, which suggests that it is a piece from the Mnemonic Induction collaboration CD that Troum did with Yen Pox. This piece features deeper bass, building from a rumbling start. Vibrating at the wave peaks, chugging slightly as it loops through rolling waves of striped down sound. These two pieces are stripped down drone pieces, which build up the mood interface and then maintain that established feel throughout their duration.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Listen:submix032: Night Glow
Für atmosphärische Reaktionen im Suburban Network
Free audio only instant DJ set.
Mysterious night glow in the rooms of Subsource. Q-Man aka
Felix Jahn travels with this mix from one light source to
another acoustically. He uses electro tones, house music,
techno, ambient soundscapes and even architectural acoustics
for memories on stylistic night sights.
1. Skytree - Sauntrai // http://www.earstroke.com [ear006]
2. Forlon - Architectural Acoustics // http://david.madhc.com/meep [etr005]
3. Badtrans - Like T // http://www.gartenzwerg-records.de [gzr#005]
4. Datasette - Malfunction // http://www.clevermusic.net [clever005]
5. LeCantin - Phase 4uatre // http://www.archipel.cc [arch003]
6. DNCN - How To Know // http://www.clevermusic.net [clever004]
7. Anti Todo - Myolastan // http://www.offaudio.com [offaudio008]
8. Pheek - Anticipation Part 1 // http://www.clevermusic.net [clever001]
9. Donor - Revision // http://www.textone.org [txtn024]
10. Jörg Müller - Wasser // http://www.comatronic.net [com011]
11. Traffic Jam - Montreal (Minimal Rmx) // http://www.site-rec.com
12. Peripherique - Stream // http://www.musicartistry.de [ma006]
13. Nicorola - Schmukkel // http://www.1bit-wonder.com [1bit003]
14. Daniel Stefanik - Earth View // http://www.instabil.org [instabil004]
15. Emil Klotzsch - Whidrek // http://one.dot9.ca [one017]
electronic music culture and contemporary views
An endless source of fascination for George, those boundaries. Marked on the map, but invisible in real life. Invisible but concrete because people had believed in them for so long. He was overawed by the power beliefs could generate. He could even hear it. Like electric fences, the boundaries seems to hum when he approached. He knew them off by heart, as he knew the names of the twenty-nine real policemen who took turns to patrol them. The twenty-nine real policemen, that is. How many dummy police-men there were he had never been able to work out. They were always moving them around.
DREAMS OF LEAVING
by RUPERT THOMPSON
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Monday, May 02, 2005
At school I was a thief and a gyppo and a slag (none true, not at all) for two years until, when I was roughly thirteen, everyone seemed to grow up slightly and I made some friends. It was at this point that I was sent away to boarding school. I was reduced to being a holiday-girl in this town then, trying to excavate pieces of life to take back to school in my trunk, wanting to tell my newly conquered friends about the 'really heavy' experience I'd had with some guy from the record shop, or the cute dark boy I'd met in a café one Saturday. But no one spoke to me. This made me a library girl again; borrowing books about loneliness and waiting for someone to say or do something, anything, involving me.
by SCARLETT THOMAS
She gets a lot of her information from weird interpretations of material in the library. The library is a collection of ancient scripts found way underground in one of the bunkers. Some of them have pictures of people with brown hair! If anyone was born with brown hair now it would be a total miracle. They'd probably be declared deformed and then eaten. I wonder what a brown-haired person would taste like?
by SCARLETT THOMAS
Title: Choresonic Preludes To A Dark Cycle
Label: Drone Records
Drone 65 is Choresonic Preludes To A Dark Cycle, the first release from a new French artist who records under the name Soleilkraast. The disc is black vinyl, with orange and yellow flashes radiating outward, and it comes in a plain black sleeve, which has inlays that are handmade by the artist. Both tracks have been listed as being 8 minutes and 33 seconds each, the first of which is Zoyd Kraast, which starts in a decidedly minimal fashion. Spectral sounds flitting way down in the mix for the first minute or so, gradually rising like the flashes of white spirits on the tips of rolling waves. Twittering chatter in the current, spinning upwards into ever increasing increments of audibility - a discordantly toned discharge, grinding towards noise. Washing off in the home stretch, hints of melody cast ashore. On the flip side we have the piano improvisation of Eesdaia, sparse notes plonking, winding together. A wandering piece, walking a fine line between abstract and beguilingly coherent. Building and twisting to gain a spaced out grandeur in conclusion.
Label: Drone Records
Cisfinitum are part of the Moscow based post-industrial scene and here they present the 66th 7" in Drone records ongoing series of vinyl EPs. The VS EP features two tracks, both similarly named with one letter of difference - Curve and Curse. Curve is the a-side and starts quietly, clanks and dunts in space. This quickly gives way to dark rumbling, thumping undertones and someone waving wind chimes about wildly. Voices call out, lost in the cacophony of dark sound, spun about and falling. The piece shifts and loops, lightening up a degree as it heads into its bogged down final stretch. Becoming more abstract and wandering past there. From Curve we flip over for Curse, which clicks with a sound like train tracks, a ticking clock motion layering on top of that. So we have a more fractioned and particulate interface here. Voices echo and drift, filtered through the lead mechanisms. Bass wells up, bringing an erupting rumble, darkening and thickening the piece, rolling out in oil slicked waves. Crackling and smashing sounds provide percussion as the piece gains an intensity. Buzzing, building, teeth grinding squalor.
Each release from Drone records is a unique item. Even in the switch from the first run of 300 copies to the second of 250 copies there is usually a change in format. Over the years we have seen sleeves made from metal or from brown paper bags, in the case of VS we have something particularly memorable for the first edition, a black and grey striped handmade woollen cover. The colouration of the vinyl reflects this design, with a core colour of black, with grey stripes radiating from the centre of the disc.