Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Headliner:Regina Spektor
Venue:Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow, 19th February 2007

You really have to love the internet, where we have this strange new progress, where within a week of seeing a band playing live, you can watch the same gig back again online. Here is a sizeable chunk of Regina's set, all of it recorded at the QMU gig in Glasgow that I was at:
carbon monoxide
apres moi
on the radio
hotel song
field below
human of the year
your honour
loves a whore

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Headliner:Regina Spektor
Support: Only Son
Venue:Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow, 19th February 2007

What is it about gigs that mean that they very rarely open their doors on time? Even turning up 15 minutes after the doors should have opened, I found a growing queue outside Glasgow Queen Margaret Union, one of Glasgow University’s student unions. While we stood in the drizzle, those of us weren’t students had to fill in forms for no other apparent reason than to be entered into the QMU’s database (though excuses were made about it being a student venue there fore necessary, even though I’ve been in before without having to do so). After that we had the ritual of getting wrist bands if you were over 18 and wanted to access the bar, since it was an over 14s gig.

Eventually we get in. Eventually support goes on in the shape of Only Son. A solo singer guitarist, Jack Dishel, ex of Stipplicon and The Moldy Peaches. Accompanied by backing tracks from his MP3 player balanced on a chair, he played a number of songs from his album The Drop To The Top. His approach was easy going, to his music and to his between song banter. Reasonably pleasant listening if nothing else, he got the crowd onside by making them laugh quite well. About to finish someone shouts from the audience, so he quickly stops the track and changes, “This one goes to the guy who actually knows my stuff!” Which is met with a small cheer, “And to everyone who cheered for that guy.” Finally wrapping up his show he told a story to music, putting on an appalling Scottish accent, that the crowd let him off with.

Regina Spektor comes on stage by herself, dressed in a bright red Borat t-shirt, which she later explains that she got while playing in Texas. Her first piece is a purely vocal piece, accompanied by her finger tapping a rhythm out on the microphone. She then sat at her piano and played a number of tracks unaccompanied. Before being joined by the band who played with up to the encore. Most of her recorded stuff is vocal and piano, with odd little add ons, so I wasn’t sure how it would sound with the band alongside. At times they sounded a little out of place, but for the most part they were non-invasive and complimentary, which was a little surprising and quite pleasing. For the encore she returned, playing a couple of tracks again unaccompanied, before playing another couple of tracks with the band.

Regina has done a number of albums, though the first CD to be released properly in the UK was Mary Ann Meets The Grave Diggers And Other Stories, which was a collection of material from Soviet Kitsch, Songs and 11:11. One of the tracks featured on Mary Ann and Soviet Kitsch was Us, which was a single, and was picked up as the music for Sky TV in the UK. Last year she released her current album Begin To Hope. After her first unaccompanied track she played Summer In The City from Begin To Hope, working through Better, Fidelity, That Time, On The Radio, 20 Years Of Snow, Hotel Song, Apres Moi and culminating with Samson as the second track of the encore. The first track of the encore was Us, for which the audience roared its pleasure. Other tracks included Poor Little Rich Boy, Sailor Song, Carbon Monoxide, Your Honour and The Flowers. Mixed through the set were a handful of new tracks, 3 of which [Bobbing for Apples] I had heard online previously and 2 of which I had never heard at all, including the country and western piece [Love (You’re a Whore)] she played as part of her encore.

The set was filled with little flourishes and improvisations, so that most of the songs felt quite different from the recorded versions. To a degree Regina isn’t necessarily what I would “normally” listen to, but as ever my tastes remain an eclectic thing, and there is just something about her way with words, the power of her voice, and melodies that I find incredibly charming and amusing. All of that came across live, and her performance was just a lot of fun.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

dark horse

Title:Dark Horse [Voksne Mennesker]
Cast: Jakob Cedergren, Nicolas Bro, Tilly Scott Pedersen
Director:Dagur Kári

Daniel is something of a slacker. The film opens with him being interviewed for not having paid enough taxes, which seems to be down to the fact that he just hasn’t earned anything, least not legally. Leaving there he is pulled over by the police, but is so intent on listening to the end of the track on his headphones, that they are forced to block his car, and drag him out of it - the track just finishes before they slap the handcuffs on him, and he pulls the headphones of him and asks them what the problem is.

Most of Daniel’s time is spent hanging out with his friend Grampa, and taking money to spray paint romantic graffiti for men who want to impress women. Grampa dreams of being a football referee, and wears his uniform all the time. He is in love with the girl in the bakery, but is freaked out one day when she acts weird. This is how Daniel meets Franc, and of course when Daniel and Franc get together Grampa is less than pleased. But life is good for Daniel, until things get too complicated with Franc, and he is thrown out of his crappy little flat for not paying his rent.

Dark Horse is a black and white film from Denmark, by the Icelandic director Dagur Kári. It is quite a change from the Icelandic film Noi The Albino, which did the world cinema circuit. The Icelandic director actually studied at a film school in Denmark, and of course Denmark and Iceland have strong links, so the shift from one to the other is not a big surprise. The film is episodic, each segment presented with a chapter heading that defines the incidents which will happen here. The film is funny, the attitudes of the characters to life gets them into strange situations, and Kári adds little elements of surrealism that make you wonder what is going on. A film that I thoroughly enjoyed.


Cast: Viviana Herrera, Andres Ulloa, Aline Küppenheim, Coca Guazzini, Jorge Alis, Francisco Copello
Director:Alicia Scherson

Christina is a young woman who has moved from the rural south to work in Chile’s capital Santiago. She works as a carer for an old Hungarian man, and doesn’t really know anyone in the city. So she gets lonely, wanders the streets, goes down the arcade to play Street Fighter II. But things change when she comes across Tristán’s briefcase. A man in crisis, his wife is leaving him so he moves in with his blind mother and her magician boyfriend, and due to industrial action he is out of work, and when this all happens he is mugged and his case stolen. Christina finds all this out by following Tristán, watching his wife Irene, trying to imitate her and get a feel for the couple’s life. She wanders everywhere now listening to the music on Tristán’s mp3 player, and tries to befriend a local gardener, a young man who is also always listening to music.

Play is one of those rambling films, near plotless in its progression, almost without dialogue at all for the first five minutes. Yet the colours of these Chilean streets provide a texture, the way that Christina follows these other people about and they don’t even notice provides a certain humour. There is something voyeuristic yet innocent about the way she acts, curious rather than invasive, bored rather than malicious. The film switches about some, so that we do also get into Tristán’s head and back again, though so much of it comes from Christina. She walks through a soundtrack by Joseph Costa and Marc Hellner, an electronic scape dreamy and suited to odd construction of the narrative. Overall Play is a pleasant watch, and its nice to see another film coming out of Chile.

last king of scotland

Title:The Last King of Scotland
Cast: Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, Simon McBurney
Director:Kevin Macdonald

It is the 1970’s and young medical student Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) has just graduated as a doctor in Scotland. However, he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a local doctor, who would rather get some excitement out of life. Which is how he comes to be arriving in Uganda the day that the old president has been deposed and Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) has taken his place. Garrigan is picked up by Sarah Merrit (Gillian Anderson) who’s husband runs the medical centre where Garrigan will be working. When Amin visits the local village Garrigan persuades Merrit to go along with him and see what all the fuss is about.

And this is how a young Scottish doctor meets an African dictator. Amin is impressed by Garrigan after a chance encounter, and suggests that he should become Amin’s personal doctor. But the mouthy Scotsman soon becomes so much more to the paranoid dictator. Convinced that everyone is plotting against him, he feels that Garrigan is the only person he can trust, the only person (stupid enough?) to tell him exactly what they think.

Which is great, Garrigan finds himself leading a life of luxury and constant partying. British agents have approached Garrigan, trying to persuade him to be something of a spy for them. But they rub him up the wrong way, with their slimy insidious approach. Which is all well and good until things start to get nasty, Amin becomes increasingly unstable, and finally Garrigan realises that Uganda isn’t really a sensible place to be.

James McAvoy gives a great performance, bolshy and charismatic, he exudes a certain naïve swagger. But it is, of course, Forest Whitaker who commands the screen as Idi Amin. The way he moves, behaves, the way he looks at people, provides such a powerful performance. Between the two leads there is such a chemistry, the film filled with humour and warmth to start with, before becoming increasingly darkened and chilling as the film concludes.

Salaam E Ishq

Title:Salaam E Ishq: A Tribute to Love
Cast: Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, Akshaye Khanna, Ayesha Takia, John Abraham, Vidya Balan, Govinda, Shannon Esrechowitz
Director:Nikhil Advani

Salaam E Ishq - A Tribute To Love is something like 4 hours long, an epic piece of cinema, although really that surprising in Bollywood terms. The film follows 6 couples through various stages of relationships, though one of those couples is only really added for comic relief, and while the other stories intersect there story barely features. But then given the amount of threads and links, half the film could most likely have been cut out and it would have been improved.

Kkamini sings and dances at Shiven’s stag night, and ends up in all the gossip papers as the latest event in the life of an Item Queen. But Kkamini dreams of being much more than an Item Queen, of becoming a famous actress, perhaps even a Tragedy Queen, and inspired she sets about making her dreams come true. Shiven is supposed to be marrying Gia, but he is such a play boy that the idea of not being able to play the field fills him with terror. To this end he starts to try and find ways of sabotaging the wedding, but as he comes ever closer to success he starts to have his doubts. It is too late for that though, as Gia’s father makes moves to set her up with a Canadian Indian instead. Gia’s sister makes plans to travel from London to Mumbai for the wedding, while her husband Vinay arranges Kkamini’s visit to London. But Vinay is bored, and when he bumps into a Anjali, young Indian bollywood dancer on a London train, it doesn’t take much to lead him astray. Then there is Raju, a lowly taxi driver, who sits at Mumbai airport and dreams of the day a blonde white woman will arrive and fall in love with him. Cue the arrival of Stephanie from Canada, keen to prevent her boyfriend from betraying their love and accepting a marriage arranged by his parents. Then there are the less connected stories of Ashutosh and Tehzeeb, a muslim and hindu, who find their marriage thrown into turmoil when Tehzeeb is in a train crash, and finally Isha and Sohail newly weds who would consummate their marriage if it weren’t for constant disaster.

Salaam E Ishq has been getting compared to Love Actually, and given the multi stranded love story and ensemble cast, then it isn’t entirely surprising. Then of course, Love Actually didn’t have the colour, the energy and the dance routines. But those differences are the staple of Bollywood cinema, and don’t necessarily make this a great film. The film is highly polished and slick feeling, and overloaded with all that. There were pieces that did work, and could have been extracted in their own right - the relation between Ashutosh and Tehzeeb, while being one of the more tenuously connected to everything else, is actually one of the most touching and watchable. After than the manipulations of Kkamini, desperate to improve her career, only to have tables turned by her “high school lover”, has a certain something. Lastly the thread with the humble dreaming taxi drive Raju, and the jilted Stephanie, has a certain magic to it.

Bollywood is still one of those things I don’t know enough about. So from my point of ignorance, I did quite enjoy the film. Though I was conscious of the flaws which have meant that it has had a mixed reaction. It is far too long, and there is far too much going on.


Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Kôji Yakusho, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi
Director:Alejandro González Iñárritu

Watching the trailer, following the promotion, one might get the impression that Babel is about the breakdown of communication, about language issues across the world. The trailer looks as though someone gets shot and the whole world reacts. But in actuality the film feels much smaller than that, more confined and claustrophobic in its own space.

After the death of a child a couple (Pitt and Blanchett) go on a trip to Morocco, in the hope that they’ll be able to work out the problems that have arisen between them. Unfortunately she is shot while they are on the bus, and they are rushed to the nearest town in the hope that she can receive some treatment. But things go slowly, the rest of the passengers aren’t happy about being stranded here, and Pitt goes through his frustrated/angry routine, but of course is so much more credible because he is going grey and looks like a real grown up.

In the meantime, a couple of young boys are given a rifle by their father. Told to kill coyotes, protect their flock of sheep, that their livelihood depends on. Arguing over their ability and the ability of the gun, they target a bus on the road some distance away. They fully expect nothing to happen, but when the bus pulls to a stop they start to panic. Things get worse as word of what happened gets out, and the police cruise the hills determined to catch terrorists.

Back in America, the couple have left their two children with their Mexican nanny. Which is something of an inconvenience to her, as her son is getting married. At the end of her tether, she is forced to take the two young children with her. Her nephew (Gael García Bernal) comes to pick her up, and they all spend a day at the wedding in Mexico. But when the nephew gets too drunk, getting back is a problem.

Apparently at random we then have a Japanese girl added to the equation, of course there is a connection, but it is sufficiently tenuous that one can’t help wondering why it is included at all. Chieko is a deaf teenager, being taken care of by her father after the death of her mother. In a bustling hyper cool Tokyo a deaf teenager feels excluded, almost monstrous.

Babel is the third film by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, and adheres to his by now tiresome approach to non-linear narrative. As such the 4 stories flick about, switching back and forth in time and stream, in a manner that I can only guess is intended to provide tension and surprise, and instead seems superfluous as there is really very little that the viewer can’t work out pretty readily. Other than why the Japanese section was included, which remains such a random thing that that has nothing to do with structure. However Babel is considerably more tightly realised than the leviathan of 21 Grams, making it somewhat easier to watch. In the end the Japanese section is strangely the most interesting, the character holding the most interest. While, on reflection, the core of the film starts to take on a lumbering worthiness, a stifling desire to say something that it approaches the obnoxiousness of Crash, though thankfully it never quite gets that appalling.

ils (them)

Cast: Olivia Bonamy, Michaël Cohen
Director:David Moreau and Xavier Palud

Them is a thankfully short film. Based on “true” events there is only so much that can be done with the approach that is taken, without getting really silly. A French couple, a teacher and a writer, move to Romania. A refurbishment of a sprawling and remote house. One night they are woken by sound outside. Someone is stealing their car. With all their documentation in the glove compartment they are distraught. But when it becomes clear that there is now someone in the house they are understandably upset. Dark figures run around, and the couple are attacked at every opportunity.

The film actually maintains a pretty solid level of tension. So that the idea of people coming into your house and attacking you for no apparent reason does become something to get quite bothered about. The film stock seems old, giving the film a very 1970’s grainy/cheap feel. Which is on the one hand atmospheric, while on the other feels quite dated. Though the incident that the film is based on happened in 2002, and the film is clearly not supposed to be feel old.

In the end it’s a pretty by the book film. Very little surprising or of particular merit, and very little for the cast to do really. Perhaps of most interest is that the pair who wrote and directed this French film David Moreau and Xavier Palud are working on a remake of the Pang Brother’s original The Eye.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Title:Pattern Recognition
Author: William Gibson

5 part serialization of William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, on BBC7 online radio. First part on any minute now, repeated tomorrow night, available under "listen again" function for week after.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Writer/Artist: Andi Watson
Site: Nerve

3 Page online comic by Andi Waton.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Title:Ley de la gravedad
Artist:Ojos de Brujo

Title:Todo tiende
Artist:Ojos de Brujo

ojos de brujo
ojos de brujo
ojos de brujo

Artist:Ojos de Brujo
Venue:Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 7th February.

Its snowing, a girl shouts as I hit Princes Street. Two hours after I left work, two hours of traffic, and I arrive in the city with the first flakes of snow. Wrapping up as I head to the venue, looking for somewhere to grab a quick bite to eat. So that I am stuffing a sandwich in my mouth as I find that my friends have arrived there first. After the drive and a day's work, I am pretty exhausted, but with a visit to the bar, and pre-band DJ I start to relax.

Ojos de Brujo - Eyes of Wizard - are a Spanish band from Barcelona who really came to attention with their second album Bari(Joy). The self-released album mixes the traditional with the contemporary. I first heard them on Radio 5's late night World Music slot one Friday night, on the run up to the band winning an award in BBC Radio 3's World Music Awards. Since then they have appeared on television on Jools Holland's program. Following Bari with their third album Techari, which means "free" in the gypsy Calo language.

Ojos de Brujo take to the stage just after 8pm, a 10 piece band tonight. Starting with a burst of flamenco dancing from the pregnant backing singer, and building from there. Two backing singers, Panko providing turntables and electronics, Xavi and Sergio on drums/percussion, Javi on bass, Paco and Ramon play flamenco guitar, While Maxwell plays percussion and sings. Though above all, it is Marina that dominates the stage, her energetic presence central to the bands performance, lightning fast vocals that form a rhythm of their own, particularly when she is joined by Maxwell's raps.

The band play for over 2 hours. A charged mix of gypsy flamenco, with layering Spanish singing and rapping, mixing in with techno and hip hop influences. The result is pretty upbeat and infectious, meaning that it isn't long before everyone is enjoying themselves - smiling and dancing. Between songs Marina talks the audience, and the large group of Spaniards present cheers, after which Panko translates for the rest of us, explaining song titles and goading us on. The bulk of the material is familiar, the highlighs of Bari and Techari brought to life, extended and messed around with.

When the band leave the stage they go off to a roar of sound. Panko leads a handful of members of the band back on stage, who then improvise. Swapping instruments, and grinning have a bit of a carry on. Which is a fun extra, but also sums how much fun Ojos de Brujo are having on stage. When they had done another quarter hour or so, they finally left the stage and the lights went up. Heading outside I half expected to find that there had been a foot of snow while we had been listening to such heated music. But there wasn't a flake to be seen.

Ojos de Brujo - live october 2006 - Streaming recording

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Event:6th February - Hafdis Huld - The Arches, Glasgow
Event:7th February - Ojos De Brujo - Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Event:17th February - Glasgow Film Festival:Fright Fest - GFT, Glasgow
Event:19th February - Regina Spektor - QMU, Glasgow
Event:27th February - "Mmm.." Michael Clark - The Tramway, Glasgow
Event:3rd March - "Akabi" Aydin Teker - The Tramway, Glasgow
Event:29th March - Tinariwen - The Arches, Glasgow
Event:24th April - Yann Tiersen - The Arches, Glasgow

There are green turtles whose feeding grounds are along the coast of Brazil, and they swim 1,400 miles to breed and lay their eggs on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, half way to Africa. Ascension Island is only five miles long. Nobody knows how they find it. Two of the turtles at the Aquarium are green turtles, a large one and a small one. The sign said: "The Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas, is the source of turtle soup..." I am the source of William G. soup if it comes to that. Everyone is the source of his or her kind of soup. In a town as big as London that's a lot of soup walking about.

How do the turtles find Ascension Island? There are sharks in the water too. Some of the turtles get eaten by sharks. Do the turtles know about sharks? How do they not think about the sharks when they're swimming that 1,400 miles? Green turtles must have the kind of mind that doesn't think about sharks unless a shark is there. That must be how it is with them. I can't believe they'd swim, 1,400 miles thinking about sharks. Sea turtles can't shut themselves up in their shells as land turtles do. Their shells are like tight bone vests and their flippers are always sticking out. Nothing they can do if a shark comes along. Pray. Ridiculous to think of a turtle praying with all those teeth coming up from below.

Mr. Meager, manager of the shop and the source of Meager soup stood in front of me for a while. When I noticed him he asked me if I'd got something on my mind. Green turtles, I said. Was that something we'd subscribed, he wanted to know. No, I said, it was the source of turtle soup. He went away with a hard smile.

It's hard to believe they do it by observing the angle of the sun like a yachtsman with a sextant. Carr doubts it and he's about the biggest turtle authority there is. But that's what penguins do on overland journeys. They're big navigators too. I think of the turtles swimming steadily against the current all the way to Ascension. I think of them swimming through all that golden-green water over the dark, over the chill of the deeps and the jaws of the dark. And I think of the sun over the water, the sun through the water, the eye holding the sun, being held by it with no thought and only the rhythm of the going, the steady wing-strokes of the flippers in the water. Then it doesn't seem hard to believe. It seems the only way to do it, the only way in fact to be, swimming, swimming, the eye held by the sun, no sharks in the mind, nothing in the mind. And when they can't see the sun, what then? Their vision isn't good enough for star sights. Do they go by smell, taste, faith?

Title:Turtle Diary
Author: Russell Hoban


Title:Turtle Diary
Author: Russell Hoban
Publisher: Bloomsbury

William is a forty something divorcee, living in a bed-sit in London. Formerly in advertising he now works in a bookshop. he feels like there is something lacking in his life. when he visits London Zoo he sees a group of giant turtles, and reads about how they can navigate the oceans to unfailingly return to the tiny Ascension Islands to give birth. this ability unrealised by captivity comes to represent what is missing from William's life. Leaving from a further visit to the turtles he passes Neaera, and with an exchanged look he knows that’s she feels the same way. A woman in her forties she has a reasonably successful career as a children's writer - Gillian the Vole and Delia Swallow. However she has hit a wall of writer's block, of dissatisfaction, of a need for something that the turtles come to represent. In many other hands William and Neaera would find happiness in each other. Here they know they have too much in common, not least the idea of the turtles and freedom, so instead of feeling uplifted they feel resentment. Yet something must be done, they must address the turtles and so awkwardly things develop. But will these developments actually secure the release or happiness that they desire?

Russell Hoban turns 82 today. Turtle Diary was the first of his some 14 novels. Born in America he moved to London in pursuit of fictional ideas. There he worked in advertising, before moving on to children's books. Roles many of his characters have taken on over the years, including here. Turtle Diary establishes many of the elements that inform his all of Hoban's novels - most are set in London, and most alternate between view points, overlapping thought and situations creating a certain synchronicity, which fits with his typically just a little off kilter view point of the world. By turns melancholic and humorous, I suspect that the balance of those says something about your state of mind at the time of reading. Experience normally has me delighting in his characters and language, which I undoubtedly did while reading this. Though as I turned the final page, I was left with the bleak - relating a degree to much to a turtle in a tank, capable of much more.

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