Monday, June 25, 2007
Event:25th June - Deerhoof - ABC, Glasgow
Event:7th July - Helter Skelter - The Tramway, Glasgow
Event:27th August - William Gibson - Edinburgh Book Festival, Edinburgh
Event:23rd October - The Boredoms - The Arches, Glasgow
Event:2nd November - Fishbone - King Tuts, Glasgow
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Artist:Stella im Hultberg
Stella im Hultberg
Shop - a few limited edition prints available through her shop, which she intends to close soon.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Support:Tez, Rio En Medio
Venue:The Arches, Glasgow, Friday 15th June 2007
The Arches is a funny old place sometimes. The main entrance all shiny, with reception/ticket desk, lounge bar and restaurant. The other entrance, in a dingy tunnel. Most of the events I’ve been to recently have been through the shiny entrance, Cocorosie on a Friday night was like the recent Yann Tiersen gig, where you arrive at the front entrance baffled to see no sign of a gig. Just as I was arriving, 20 minutes after door’s opening time, they were putting up a sign to say it was the dingy entrance. Great. Unlike Yann Tiersen, we didn’t filter in the back entrance to get to the arch nearest the front entrance, instead we filtered in to the arch nearest the back entrance. Which meant the bar and stage were at opposite ends of the same space, so that for the whole night you had people watching the bands at one end, and people sitting around and drinking at the other end. With every band complaining about the level of chatter noise the whole night, which was a bit shitty and annoying, especially given the amount of money being paid to see the band in the first place.
The first act on was the American Rio en Medio, the project of singer/songwriter Danielle Stech-Homsy, though she was joined on stage by a guy who helped out with the more electronic side of her music. A table with various black boxes and toys add stray atmospheric sounds and odd electronic contributions, fairy lights strung along the front and across to the chair where Danielle sits with her ukulele. The songs are dominated by the sound of strings and voice, reminding initially of someone like early Heather Nova, though as the set progresses there is a sense that there is an element of Cocorosie within the sound. Downbeat, laid back and perhaps a little haunting. The second support band was something of a surprise. One man, one body, the French Tez. A human beat box. Who played an incredible array of sounds, hip hop to techno, layering beats, sirens, vocals, and all kinds of effects originating from his vocal chords. The crowd were particularly appreciative of Tez’s performance, appropriately so, a stunning set.
Cocorosie filtered on stage, working up to it. The sister’s Bianca and Sierra dominated the band of course, but they were backed up by a pianist, a bassist and Tez, with Rio coming on stage a couple of times to provide an extra pair of hands/lungs. Cocorosie are not a band I am especially familiar with, my brother has been listening to them since their first album came out, from which I’ve kind of been peripherally aware of them. That has sunk enough that my vague awareness of them suggested that seeing as how they were playing live, they might actually be worth seeing. The sisters’ vocals cover an extreme of territory. Bianca’s voice initially reminds of Stina Nordenstam, that quirky kind of almost child voice, similar to more recent singer Joanna Newsom. Sierra’s voice on the other hand is more operatic and theatrical, starkly contrasting Bianca, though at times she uses effects to sing through, which bring her voice more into that quirky territory. To the side of the stage there is a table full of toys, bells, chimes, shells, and random bits and bobs, which form the bulk of Bianca’s instrumentation. While Sierra switches from a sequencer to harp as the song demands, with the pianist switching between the piano and sequencer the rest of the time. The sound of Cocorosie is unique and curious, a kind of quirky weird pop, with influences of trip/hip hop working their way in. Stray lyrics identify a whimsical nature, a strange colourful world, contrasted by the more adult nature of some of the themes/influences. Sierra seemed to thoroughly enjoy herself, grinning the whole time they were on stage, Bianca less so, regularly trying to get more out of the soundman, declaring that the audience got the award for most annoying chatter ever - in the end Sierra jumped up and down, waving and grinning, Bianca gave a grudging wave to the strong audience response, turning her back and walking off.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Author: Rutu Modan
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Koby shares a taxi in Tel Aviv with his Aunt Ruth. Business is good, bus bombs mean that people use taxis more. Though with his Aunt and Uncle getting on, more and more of the work load is falling to Koby. One day, just as he is about to finish a shift, Koby is approached by Numi, a young soldier. She suggests that his father might have been one of the people killed in a recent bombing. But Koby hasn't seen his father in years and greets the suggestion with beligerance. Curiousity creeps in after the fact however, along with the realisation that Numi - a too tall, homely looking young woman - didn't approach him in an official capacity, but rather as his father's girlfriend. Thus they form an odd couple, the taxi driver making ends meet, and the neglected daughter of rich parents, setting out to establish whether a body burnt beyond recognition is Koby's father or not.
At the core of Exit Wounds is the relationship between Koby and Numi, how they fight against each other, before coming round to having a certain respect for each other. Mixed through this is the ever absent presence of Koby's father, a womaniser who often failed to deliver despite the best of intentions, and the lives that he has affected in the process. Along with that though, we come into contact with a contemporary Israel, dropped into the snapshots of life - from the mundane petitions to keep a bus station open or the invisible faces of immigrant labour, to the more harrowing, and the people who find their lives changed by a single devastating event like a bomb.
Rutu Modan has won a number of awards in her native Israel for Illustration, Children's Books and Cultural Excellence. Though as far as I am aware this is her first work in English, and her first full length "novel". Published in America by Drawn & Quarterly (a PDF preview of the book is available on their site), who approached Rutu in the first place; though this UK edition comes from Jonathan Cape.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Photos: © Erik Berg
Title:I have a secret to tell you (please) leave with me
Artist: Zero Visibility Corp/Ina Christel Johannessen
Venue:The Tramway, Glasgow, Friday 9th June 2007
“I have a secret to tell you (please) leave with me sees two characters chained deep within a cave. Their vision is so restricted they cannot see each other and the only things visible to them are shadows of statues, models and animals cast on the wall from a brightly burning fire. Breaking free, one of the characters escapes into the light of day and for the first time see the real world in all its wonder.”
Sometimes the problem with a dance performance is trying to tie the idea of what it is “about” to what you actually saw. Straight away, we have the description of two people in a cave, and yet we have four performers. Is that me being too literal in my interpretation? Probably, and that’s why we can only regard the description for a minimal/abstract performance in the loosest sense. Large, thin, white walls set the boundaries of the stage, simulating the idea of the suggested cave. The lighting is carefully designed, and expertly applied, shifting to be too intense, to pinpointing players, to flickering off the walls revealing flocks of birds in motion, to guiding the mind to imagined events. The only piece of set on the stage is a wooden horse, which combined with the lighting and the performer comes to life, evokes the mood of that piece of the performance.
I have a secret to tell you (please) leave with me is a production by the Norwegian company Zero Visibility Corp, choreographed by Ina Christel Johannessen. The four performers are Line Tørmoen, Dimitri Jourde, Sittibancha Bamphen and Vebjørn Sundby. Though the two leads are really Line and Dimitri, Line dominating the piece with her performance, while the guys work around her. The performance goes through emotional highs and lows, childish wonder to adult violence, all to a soundtrack of electronic music. As the cut up, glitch electronics play and the dancers react to it, I couldn’t help but think it was Alva Noto, which I confirmed looking at performance notes later. The music went through periods of toybox and acoustic work to the hard cut up dance music, using various pieces by Alva Noto, Goem, Coleen and FM3, all of which sounded great at that volume and with the performance.
* - Watch the video clip on the Zero Corps website for a feel of the piece.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Venue:Barfly, Glasgow, Friday 8th June 2007
December 1996. It was my birthday and I had time to take off work, which was ironic given that I would barely be back a week before being made redundant. Anyway, decided to take a week and go to London, hit the comic/book/record shops, go to some clubs, and find at least one gig to go. The most obvious option I came up with was to go and see Faust. A band who I had never heard, but I knew the name, had enough of a vague idea of a reputation, so that’s what I did.
My memories of that gig relate more to the spectacle than the sound. The huge, sheet covered object in the middle of the crowd that was revealed to be a wind machine, black bags filled with brown leaves tipped in to it and sent flying around the hall. A cement mixer propped on the front of the stage, for extra bits of metal to be welded on to it, then ground back off again. The singer stripping naked, running through the crowd and starting to paint on a huge white sheet. And all sorts of metal percussion.
Since then I admit I haven’t listened to any Faust either, but when I was in the ticket centre, buying tickets for other gigs, and spotted that they were playing, I decided it would be fun to see them again. This time the set up was a lot more understated, though the bulk of the stage was taken up by the drum kit. From the introductions that were given, it seemed like this performance only included 2 members of Faust, the other 3 performers being from Welsh psychedelic punk bands. The singer/bassist dominated the performance, talking about music, and connections, about not being broken, just disconnected, stray, layering slogans forming esoteric density.
The sound ranged from the wibbling out psychedelic rock to harder industrial rock, hard drums, heavy bass guitar. With the drummer taking up the centre stage, he had a heavy presence, his drum cage rigged out with sheets of metal, in front of that an oil drum, all used to add to the percussive levels. On the left of the stage there was a guy on guitar, and behind him a girl on keyboards. On the right, the singer bassist, and in front of him another girl, playing a twelve string guitar. The two girls adding their voices to the whole sound at various points, though those were often lost to the mass. A couple of times the singer complained about people in the audience talking over the band - at one point the and the girl on the other side of the stage entered the audience, both playing rambling horns, at any point the reached someone that was talking he stopped in front of them and asked if he was disturbing them, before loudly blowing his horn. Towards the end of the performance, the drummer and singer started grinding at the spare metal on the drum cage, started grinding off the oil drum, showering sparks everywhere. Something I missed went off, and the room was suddenly full of choking smoke, great clouds of the stuff, thick with the smell of ground metal.
A more contained performance than the last time I saw them, but this band originally formed in 1971 still play that retro 70’s krautrock/industrial, which can be heard to have influenced bands from Einsturzende Neubauten to Godspeed You Black Emperor, the performance capturing elements of all of that.
Trailer:30 Days Of Night
Film based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith
Music:Warsaw Village Band
Recent live footage of the Polish folk band. Looks like a fun gig! Having seen both Tinariwen and Ojos De Brujo this year WVB are my next must see band from the world music scene!
An Australian artist. I've just read Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse Volume 1, written and illustrated by Templesmith, along with Tommyrot, his art book. I also just picked up the Fell hardback, even though I have the original issues, because I felt it would be nice to have this edition. Animated "trailer" for Wormwood:
Friday, June 08, 2007
Title:Raw Shark Texts
Author: Steven Hall
He comes to on a bedroom floor. After a moment of panic, he realises that he is not going to die. Only from there does he start to realise that he doesn’t know where he is, or for that matter who he is. Between a letter that is waiting for him, and contact with Dr. Randle, it becomes clear that this man is Eric Sanderson. Eric has what seems to be a psychological problem, there is no apparent medical reason for his illness. Unable to get over the death of his girlfriend Clio on holiday in Greece, Eric has been having attacks, after each attack he has less memory of his life than before. This is his 11th attack, and he has less of Eric Sanderson than ever before.
Letters from the first Sanderson arrive on a regular basis, but Eric doesn’t hand them over to Dr. Randle like she requests, but neither does he read them like Sanderson requests. Instead he potters along, he has enough money that he doesn’t need to work for a few years. Hangs out and watches TV with his cat Ian and visits Dr. Randle regularly. He is coasting, going nowhere, getting neither better or worse, until the biggest parcel from Sanderson arrives. Unnoticed it sits on his doorstep till a neighbour brings it to Eric’s attention, rain soaked the box falls apart. Thus, unprepared, Eric enters Sanderson’s life, gets his first direct recollection of Clio and what happened. The next thing he knows he is paddling over deep water and he is not alone, there is a shark and it is coming for him. By sheer fluke, he escapes the shark, and finds himself back in his trashed living room.
This is Eric’s wake up call, and he makes quick work of catching up on all those unread letters. This reveals the existence of the Ludovician - a conceptual shark. One of a number of conceptual beasts, which live in the spaces between words and ideas, feeding on anything from letters to memories. This particularly beast feeds on Eric Sanderson, and is looking to finish the task. Sanderson provides defensive measures, and those could protect Eric. But he is really suggesting that the only real solution is to enter Un-Space, spaces between human spaces, human spaces when they are deserted - crawl ways, tunnels, multi-story car parks, shops at night. If he can follow cryptic clues and pathways, he might be able to find Dr. Fidorous an expert on conceptual beasts. Though it isn’t that easy - why should he trust Eric Sanderson and his rambling insistence of the existence of imaginary sharks and un-spaces? Can he trust anyone who lives in un-space? And what did Sanderson do in the first place to find any of this out?
The Raw Shark Texts is a novel of paranoia and wonder. Quickly launching itself from the mundane every day existence of an amnesiac and his cat and his therapy sessions, into the territory of otherness, the peripheral, the places that exist between one piece of reality and another. Watching a nature documentary Eric wonders at the ability of life to exist in even the harshest of environments, an idea which Hall cranks up and takes to an extreme - the idea that life can exist with ideas. Ideas that can be constructed from ideas to form new kinds of realities - structures, journeys, threats and defences. Steven Hall takes his debut novel deeper and deeper into the realms of imagination and inspiration with each turn of the page.
The novel plays games with the text. An obvious comparison would be to Mark Z Daneilewski’s House Of Leaves. The way both novels play with random inserts, follow the word games, shifting into other colours of text. With that comparison Raw Shark Texts is a much more restrained piece, to a degree that could be considered as being a tighter, more controlled work - making it that degree more coherent, approachable and readable. Though certainly for the reader to get the most from either work it takes a certain commitment. The text becomes part of the tension, the page illustrating the idea of the shark and of the threat its appearances provide. The UK hardback edition, which is the cover I like the most so far, plays similar games with the text, quotes up the spine, the first letter on the back. An embossed shark tooth image, blurring into imagery from Sanderson’s life, the whole forming a kind of Rorschach blot (get it raw shark blot).
The idea of the shark early on reminds me of Russell Hoban’s Turtle Diary, in which one character dreams of sharks, and another character shares the dream and thinks this dream is an omen; the later reference to Orpheus, who also crops up in Hoban’s work, is also noted. Hoban being an established writer who works in that other space in most of his writing. More conscious acknowledgement is made of Hall’s influences in his choice of quotes, his choice of pop culture reference. The novel is split into four sections, each starts with a quote from a writer - Jorge Luis Borges, Raymond Carver, Haruki Murakami and Italo Calvino - all of which capture something of what is going on in these pages. In turn, it should perhaps not be a surprise to find that Hall thanks young British writers David Mitchell and Scarlett Thomas, both of whom have also played in this kind of territory of otherness to some degree or other.
Publisher Canongate have done a good job of getting this novel on shelves, getting it included in special offers, creating enough of a buzz that people are observing the hype. Certainly some will pick this novel up based on hype alone, and they won’t get it or like it, and I can understand that. But for me, I thoroughly enjoyed this work, it’s a type of fiction that I like a lot, it just buzzes with density and ideas as far as I am concerned. Initially I can see little problems with the logic, as we go through there are points I wonder how Hall is going to manage to keep the story going. In the end I lost track of the logic issues, the whole requires a certain faith, and each stumbling block brings a twist that keeps the novel trundling along. Finishing The Raw Shark Texts I have the feeling of discovery, of delight, of having read something that was a joy, and really hoping that this is something that Steven Hall can manage to follow.
[Just come across this as I’m about to post - annotated raw shark - might be interesting.]
Event:8th June - Faust - Barfly, Glasgow
Event:9th June - I Have A Secret To Tell You... - The Tramway, Glasgow
Event:15th June - Cocorosie - The Arches, Glasgow
Event:16th June - En Servicio - The Tramway, Glasgow
Event:23rd June - Nightshade - The Tramway, Glasgow
Event:25th June - Deerhoof - ABC, Glasgow
Event:7th July - Helter Skelter - The Tramway, Glasgow
Ah. Paul Pope. This is my computer wallpaper, has been for ages. A new THB book is due out in the next few months, as well as a long anticipated artbook.
Came across this French artist through her myspace site. I particularly recommend watching her little video clips, illustrating the layering of the images and how they end up looking like they do.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
My brother has set up a new blog to promote his illustration work, and forthcoming publications.
New Dead Language
I don’t post enough about enough of what I would like to post about. I’ve done a few “artist” posts in the past, need to do more, so hopefully this is the first of a series of regular posts. Deseo:
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Minutes to midnight. A girl in a family chain restaurant. A thick book, a cooling coffee. The last train has gone. She is settling down for the night. A world of her own, motivations of her own. Enter a scraggly young man. Long haired, a scar across his face, carrying an instrument. A waitress leads him to a table, but he stops. The girl looks up. This young man is looking at her - I know you, we met, your sister was in my year at school. Uninvited he joins her. A journey starts after dark.
Mari had planned just to spend a night away from home. But with Takahashi's intervention the night is changed. Jazz bars, love hotels, lonely parks and all night convenience stores provide the landscape. Interspersed with this are strange sequences, Mari's sister Eri sleeps, perhaps dreams, is transported somewhere else entirely.
Haruki Murakami is a curious writer, and After Dark feels curious even by his standards. The idea of women in his novels is a recurring one, frequently his lead character is a man in love with a woman, searching for a woman - so often women who have vanished, who are about to vanish. In any of his other novels Takahashi would have been the lead character, instead, undoubtedly it is Mari who is the lead, and I am struggling to think of any of his other novels where that has been the case.
Perhaps that explains the bigger curiosity? That of the narrative voice. Murakami writes in a sort of second person with After Dark. A conspiratorial voice, that brings the reader in, makes them included in the progression - references to view point, camera shots. At times this feels voyeuristic, especially with the Eri sequences, though it is made clear that we as reader can't affect what we are seeing. By the same degree this approach can at times feel a little distancing, artificial. The second person voice is a curiosity, so rarely used that it is a novelty. But with that we can see the reasons for not using it; it often does not sit right with the reader, and can feel gimmicky and distracting.
One thing that strikes me with After Dark is an irony. I introduced a friend to Murakami a few years ago, at the same time she introduced me to Richard Brautigan. The first novel I read by Brautigan was Sombrero Fallout: A Japanese Novel, in which a writer tries to write, but struggles due to a pre-occupation with his girlfriend who has just dumped him. Throughout the novel the story is interspersed with scenes of his ex-girlfriend, a Japanese woman, sleeping a strange and restless sleep. Reading Sombrero Fallout I could see Brautigan as a kind of kindred spirit to Murakami. Now reading After Dark, the whole Eri strand, a beautiful Japanese woman sleeping an extraordinary sleep, seems almost to be a direct reference to Sombrero Fallout.
Apart from that, After Dark has many of Murakami's themes through it. Mari could be compared to Kafka On The Shore's runaway, Takahashi perhaps the runaway’s spirit guide, a conscience who transforms Mari's night and transforms her in the end. Or Eri could be taken as Sputnik Sweetheart's missing girl, a heavy presence that comes up again and again, and yet creating a void at the same time.
After Dark is an understated novel, where it could be said that very little happens in the course of this one night. There is an ambiguity about sleeping Eri, which can be off-putting. But over all this is a quietly readable novel, its 201 pages an easy read, and Mari's story being the thread that keeps the pages turning and the reading enjoyable.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
KTL - archive of live recordings by the band KTL, including last weekend's Glasgow gig.