Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Imagine...A Wild Sheep Chase

This BBC program was curious. After the overwhelming success of Norwegian Wood, author Haruki Murakami resisted fame, he refused to do TV/radio interviews. His feeling being that what was inside him was part of him, was what he wrote about, the whole being an asset to him, and that to expose that somehow reduced the asset. The program does have an interview with Murakami, but not on screen - instead they show the words he said, and have another Japanese man read them instead. So we get an idea, to a degree, of Murakami's input, but in such a way that feels a little dislocated.

The program explores Murakami's life. It goes back to his high school, to other places he studied, libraries and college. It follows through the scenes of some of his books, producer/imagineer Yentob following a "talking" cat, travelling to Hokkaido in search of sheep, and the like. There are various conversations with Murakami fans, and more significantly conversations with Jay Rubin and Alfred Birnbaum two of the translators of Murakami's work. There are various extracts read, Japanese actors to a degree playing the scenes out. Which feels a little odd, the pacing and delivery of the readings just feels wrong to me. Though some of the scenes are nicely done, in my opinion at least, the previously mentioned talking cat, and the reveal of *her* ears.

Imagine...A Wild Sheep Chase

Tue 24 Jun, 10:45 pm - 11:40 pm 55mins

In Search of Haruki

Alan Yentob explores the mysterious, offbeat, sexually charged world of Japan's most popular and internationally acclaimed writer, Haruki Murakami. A literary novelist tipped for the Nobel Prize, he writes cool, witty and often surreal bestsellers. Notoriously enigmatic and media-shy, Murakami has always shunned radio and television, except for this rare and frank off-camera interview with the BBC.

Yentob travels to Japan, through the strange, labyrinthine landscape of Murakami's fiction, on a jazz-fuelled 'wild sheep chase' of a journey. In Tokyo and Kobe he delves into the social and political background of Murakami's work and encounters his fans, critics, translators, and a talking cat. Disturbing scenes. [S]

Subtitles Stereo Widescreen

Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/imagine/

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Headliner:Diane Cluck
Support: Emmy The Great, Younghusband
Venue: Nice'N'Sleazy

Everything says doors open 7.30, arriving at 8 the doors are open, but there is nobody there. How odd. Though, in those moments getting served at the bar both Emmy and Diane potter passed. By the time seats are selected there are other people arriving, though the crowd that comes in over the remainder of the evening can never be said to pack the place. The place being Glasgow’s Nice’N’Sleazy bar and venue. The gig being an acoustic performance by Diane Cluck and Emmy The Great, which I came across from Emmy’s MySpace page.

The last time I saw Emmy she was playing King Tuts with her whole band, supported by band member doing solo set Younghusband. Younghusband is here again tonight, but this time it is him who has his whole band. Strangely, they start the night with the full band set, an indie rock set-up, which isn’t particularly my thing, though the three piece are certainly decent enough at what they do.

After some pottering about, involving borrowing a guitar, having realised about Cardiff she didn’t have hers, Emmy goes on stage with Younghusband providing second guitar and backing vocals. Though, in front of stage, sat down would be more of an accurate description. Encouraging the audience to come down and gather round, and creating a particularly intimate mood. One of her tracks includes the lyrics “You are no Charles Bukowski, and I’m no Diane Cluck”, she hesitates before the track, and as everyone laughs at that line, she stops and admits she is embarrassed. Cluck has leant Emmy her guitar, and sits at the side of the stage scribbling notes, at this point she looks up and smiles, and the music carries on. The last time I saw Emmy, I had just discovered her, listening to a couple of tracks the same day as the gig. This time I was pretty familiar with all the material that she played - from MySpace, Last.Fm, various sessions and the EP that was on sale last time round. Apparently she has just finished her debut album, this gig marking the completion of the final mix. Her sound is a kind of anti-folk, that poppy guitar tunes, and playful vocals/lyrics which has a distinct charm, I find at least.

Despite the reference to Diane Cluck in Emmy’s song, I hadn’t heard of her before seeing the listing for this gig. Like Emmy she plays guitar and sings, another intimate acoustic set, though she stands, and even uses a microphone, dragged off the stage and onto floor in front of stage. She has a curious style, kind of whimsical, kind of story telling. Some of her lyrics are also fun, and work well with performance style to create amusing little pieces. At the end of her set she indicates a pile of her CDs, she has five albums to date, and suggests that they are available for a donation - so I’m curious enough to take a couple of CDs and add some money to the pile. Of the two, the first was about 20 tracks, some of them pretty short, the rest not quite as short, which probably sums up the kind of stuff she does at times, quick little pieces, get to the punch line and move on.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lykke Li
El Perro del Mar
King Tuts Wah Wah Hut
8th June

I discovered these two Swedish girls a few days before they played in Glasgow, one of those happy accidents, where I ask myself - who is playing? Who should I be going to see? Last.fm has a gig guide, and with that tracks to listen to. Hence, I'm in King Tuts on a Sunday night to see two bands I have never heard before a few days before.


El Perro del Mar is a melancholic singer song writer. Short little songs, sometimes amusing, sometimes about love and other relationships. She comes across as straight forward and downbeat, sings while playing the guitar. Though she also played the flute and keyboards, and was joined by members of Lykke Li's band a couple of times to provide extra keyboards and bass guitar.




Lykke Li is quite a contrast in performance terms. While her songs may have thematic comparisons, she is almost a hyperactive blur as she bounces around the stage. She encourages the audience to dance, to clap, while she seduces them with her cute energy and energetic pop songs. Her drummer stands for most of the gig battering away at a drum, while she smashes cymbals, shakes tambourines, spins around, jumps in the air and shakes various other sound creating contraptions. The set is short, but memorable, especially with the encore of a Tribe Called Quest's Can I Kick It?

Stars Of The Lid
The Declining Winter
22nd May 2008

Having done some research into the support for Stars of the Lid, I decided I would turn up late with the hope of missing them. I failed, someone having seen fit to add a second support band, I caught the end of the first band, and all of The Declining Winter who I was hoping to miss. The Declining Winter are a band from Leeds made up of ex-members of various Leeds bands, most prominently the band Hood, who I didn't like either. If the band had been instrumental, their mix of guitar, bass, violin and keyboards might have had some appeal. Might. Unfortunately they had a singer, who really can't sing, for all his enthusiasm. As such the results were some what off putting.

This meant that Stars Of The Lid went on quite late, and probably played a shorter set as a result. Neither support seemed quite in the right place, and this sense became very much clear when the band took to the stage. Stars of the Lid is the band of Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie, both of whom stand on either side of the stage with guitars and samplers and the like. Between the two there is a big screen which spiralling colours, space patterns and the like are projected. In front of the screen there was three women, two violinists and a celloist. Between the bass of the guitars and the more classical sound Stars of the Lid have a really deep, clean and intense sound live. The sort of sound which just blew the support bands away, and suddenly made it all seem worthwhile as the droning, entrancing music took the audience and encompassed them in its folds.

Declining Winter

Stars of the Lid

Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara
The Arches
18th May

Ok. Totally behind on gig commentary. On 18th May I saw Tinariwen for the second time, first time was something like February last year. At that time I had heard a track on the radio here, a compilation track there. This time I had two albums, and as such their unique sound of African blues was much more familiar. And I say unique because I now have more to compare it to, support from Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara was ok, they had a sort of rock blues hybrid thing going on, which was ok, but not really engaging. Similar with Vieux Farka Toure who I saw a few months ago, who even shares a Malian background with Tinariwen. There are several guitarists and most of the members of Tinariwen sing, so the roles within the band change from song to song live. But it is the voice of Ibrahim Ag Alhabib one of the founding members, composers, singers, and guitarists who really marks the band as different. There is something about his delivery that is so soulful and so deep that the band's music really comes to life, much more than when any of the other singers takes lead. Though in saying that, the entire sound and combination of guitars, vocals and percussion is distinctive, mellow and down beat, weary and sunbeaten, political and impassioned. Formed from war Tinwariwen are Taureg, African nomads who find themselves increasingly restricted to the lands of Mali, of the Sahara desert. In the langauge of the Taureg "tinariwen" means empty spaces, and their music is full of this idea of the empty space. This time round their live set up includes a big screen, onto which some of the lyrics are projected, covering aspects of being a nomad and living in the desert, mixed with pictures of the band and the Taureg people.

Juldeh Camara

Justin Adams







Saturday, June 07, 2008

Originally uploaded by remotepush
Freak Angels is a weekly webcomic written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Paul Duffield. It updates Fridays with 6 new pages at a time. At the moment it is half way through what will be collected and published as the first book, though the original material will stay online. Set in a post-apocalyptic London, which the 12 Freak Angels have had something to do with, Ellis describes it as being part of a fine tradition of disaster writing in the UK, particularly coming from the like of Wyndham.

Originally uploaded by remotepush
Necessary Monsters is a new webcomic, E-Merl's Daniel Merlin Goodbrey writes, while Sean Azzopardi illustrates. The site updates twice a week, 6 parts online so far, with the final book being collected and published by Plantet/LAR

Originally uploaded by remotepush
Daniel Merlin Goodbrey publishes his E-Merl site a couple times a week, odd little comics. Though Goodbrey is increasinly turning his hand to writing in particular, with several recent pieces for Marvel Comics.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


I have a series of notes on Myth, which I swear I will write up proper sometime. Honest...Regardless, Myth was a theatre/dance piece by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Characters in purgatory, where purgatory is a library and they are waiting to get out of the library. Here they interact with other people waiting, and are teased, tormented, and played with by spirits/shadows. Intense and dark at times, with a real sense of energy, humour, and a poweful live score. The person who posted this clip has a number of others of the same performance:


This is a 3 minute promo for Bahok, the piece by Akram Khan the National Ballet of China, that played in Glasgow recently, and is currently touring Europe. A kind of behind the scenes, making of piece.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The unformatted and random list of stuff i might do over the next few months. Maybe.
The Infinite Pleasures of the Great Unknown
Fri 6 Jun - Sat 7 Jun

june 8th king tuts
Lykke Li
With El Perro del Mar

emmy the great 13th june nice and sleazys with diane cluck (acoustic)

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
ABC Fri 13 Jun

Masters Of Reality
Cathouse Mon 16 Jun

melt banana 18th june oran mor

RSNO: Orchestra + Concerto for Turntables
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Thu 19 Jun

Old People, Children and Animals
Thu 19 Jun - Sat 21 Jun

Nederlands Dans Theater 2
Theatre Royal
Fri 20 Jun - Sat 21 Jun

aug 28th ivory black

killing joke
abc oct 2nd


Author: Rudy Rucker
Publisher: Tor Books

Postsingular is the first of a trilogy of novels by author and mathematician Rudy Rucker. My previous experience of Rucker's novels has been disappointing, but over the years I have also read a number of short stories by him, some of which have been particuarly good. This novel is available for download on his website, which I have done and am probably 3/4 way through reading, and convinced that I will indeed likely buy this in hardback as soon as I finish reading. I am thoroughly enjoying this novel.

Nanotechnology ants have been released to convert the world into an electronic version, eating Mars to fuel themselves, then the Earth and everyone on it. This is not the most popular idea ever, though who can stop it? Ond works for the company that developed the Nants, and fortunatley has doubts at the last minute, developing a plan to save everyone. A few years later, he releases the Orphids, post-arphid/post-nant organisms which tranfesr the world. Some people think the orphidnet which quickly sweeps the world is just as bad as the nants. But as time passes and Ond goes into hiding the world is left quite changed. Hippy, geeky, mathy, cutting edge quirky science ficiton full of weird and wonderful stuff. Fun.

Title:The End of Mr. Y
Author: Scarlett Thomas
Publisher: Canongate

Thomas Lumas had a certain reputation for the mind games played by his writing. With his career fading his last novel was published, The End of Mr. Y. Within days of completion, Lumas was found dead, shortly after publication his publisher was found dead. The novel gained a reputation of its own, all people who were associated, who read the book died. In the years since the book has pretty much vanished, with the rumour that there is one known copy in existence, in a vault somewhere in Germany.

Ariel Manto is aware of Lumas's work, one of a number of author's she has come across during her wild journies through thought experiments and literature. At a conference a professor gives a talk "The Curse of Mr. Y", having never read the particular book either, he talks about its reputation. When the other 3 people in the audience leave after the talk, Ariel finds herself talking to the professor, flirting, drinking, and eventually persuaded to become his PHD student. In the discussion the obvious question comes up - if you came across a copy of The End of Mr. Y, knowing it was cursed, would you read it? They both say that they would.

Ariel moves to the university town, lives in a grubby little flat, barley makes ends meet, shares an office with the professor. Then the professor vanishes. Gone. No trace. Ariel shrugs and gets on with it, until the building across the road collapses, forcing the university to close for a few days. Due to the danger, she is not allowed to take her car, so she is forced to try and work out how she can walk home in this town she doesn't know. She turns a corner, finds a second hand book shop, she can't resist looking. And there it is, in a box of mixed books, a copy of The End of Mr. Y. Dizzied by the find Ariel grabs it, takes it home and reads it.

The End of Mr Y follows Mr.Y to a sideshow, where he has a strange encounter - entering the Troposphere, a peculiar mind space, constructed from thought or something. Mr.Y seeks the formula for the potion which allowed him to enter this state, but to Ariel's horror the page that delivers the secret formula has been torn from the book. Though, somehow, people know she has the book, and they want it off her.

The End of Mr Y. is the seventh novel by author Scarlett Thomas, and her most ambitious work to date. With her Lilly Pascalle novels she dropped her lead character into an academic environment and then twisted it in a similar fashion to Mr.Y, in that case a trilogy of quirky crime novels. After her third novel Seaside (following Dead Clever and In Your Face), Scarlett changed publishers, and cranked her style up to a new level of hip contemporary literature through the steps of Bright Young Things, Going Out and the particularly memorable PopCo. PopCo, her last novel for Fourth Estate was the first where she started to explore her own interest in thought experiments, filling the work with a puzzle for the reader to work out.

The End of Mr. Y is published by Canongate, her first novel for her third UK publisher - the novel published earlier in the US, following new editions of the Pascalle novels. A genre busting piece of work - combining the fresh academic of the Pascalle novels, with the hip and cool that informed the following novels, with a dose of gothic victoriana, time travel and mind bending science fiction, alogn with a grain of social conscious. This is a great novel, one which is a lot of fun to read, and is a particularly nice piece in Canongate's hardback edition.

Title:Spook Country
Author: William Gibson
Publisher: Viking

When Hollis is offered a gig with Node magazine she takes it. Ex-singer with cult band, The Curfew, she is trying to recreate herself as a journalist. Node is a European Wired, British money or Belgian money, or something. Though, no one she knows has heard about it, as long as her expenses are paid she will continue to research the piece on locative art she has been asked to do. But there are background forces at work, and her project is nudged by shadowy hands towards a man who is hiding information that her boss would like.

Milgrim has been taken into custody. In theory. His captor, Brown, hasn't exactly been forthcoming with information. Milgrim is an expert in a particular form of Russian, an ex-political translator, now a junkie. Brown needs him to translate intercepted messages from a family of Cuban Chinese criminal facilitators - the kind of people who courier data, the middle men in an information trade. If Brown can get close enough, then he might be able to catch the Old Man and the information he is hiding.

Tito moved to New York from Cuba, his father gone through the course of shadowy works, his mother cracked under the aftermath of 9/11. But his extended family have seen he makes good, and Tito has special skills, they all do. His cousin is an expert forger, trained by his aunt, but Tito has the systema martial art and the spirit guides of ancestral religion. Tito's job is to take a piece of secret information from his supplier to an old man involved in the secret services.

Spook Country is the latest novel by William Gibson. Despite his resistance, it ties in to the threads of his previous novel Pattern Recognition. Pattern Recognition is set about 2003, in the ripples of 9/11. Spook Country comes in the wake of the resulting war on terror, a world of information and misinformation, where allegiances and beliefs have shifted. The novels are linked by Blue Ant, a modern PR company, more interested in information, and unique instances, than creating a reputation. The company is run by Hubertus Bigend, who turns up to push Hollis in the same way he did Cayce in the past.

Given Gibson's track record - Neuromancer followed by Count Zero then Mona Lisa Overdrive, Virtual Light followed by Idoru then All Tomorrows Parties - it would seem a distinct possibility that Pattern Recognition followed by Spook Country will give way to a third volume. Though speculation on that front is likely to go on for the next 3-4 years before another novel appears.

With each novel Gibson refines his writing style, toning and honing his words. For me he seems to have attained a new level with Spook Country. It is a common theme/plot in his work that the characters are in search of something - an art piece, an artist, a piece of information in that direction. Spook Country is no exception, Hollis is in search of the instigator of art, and the information he seeks, while other individuals seek the same information through different routes. With that, it feels like Gibson has written his artifact, he has created his own objet de art. The writing ever more convoluted, sculptured, that I find myself wrapping my brain around the detail. At times the book feels elusive and ephemeral, though it is not a constant sense, the novel building towards a point of focus and plot tension coming with that. It is a curious sensation reading Spook Country, one that had me taking it slowly, savouring the pauses as i put the book down to take it in, before picking it up once again.

Spook Country was published in August 2007, the paperback edition is due out the end of July.

Title:Riding The Crocodile
Author: Greg Egan

Australian author Greg Egan is back, after many years of not writing. His first new novel in something like five years, though I would have sworn it was more. His new novel is called Incandescence, which is set in the same "universe" as "Riding The Crocodile", which is available to read on Egan's site. I'm about 3/4 way through a re-read of his second novel Permutation City at the moment, and I will likely get on to Incandescence soon.

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