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Music Moment: Richard and Linda Thompson, “I want to see the bright lights tonight”

yabber….

I’ve a small confession to make. It seems that for quite a while now I’ve been on a bit of a folk music bender. no, wait don’t run away! come back!

Anyway as I was saying, this happens every so often. i do listen to my favourite albums and my banging electronic music, but then I find myself getting drawn towards the open sounds and wide pastures of yore, etc.

It probably started off slowly when i reviewed that Benni Hemm Hemm album at the end of last year. Damn thing is still great and definitely the hallmark of a musician who has matured and now making music for adults to be listen to by adults. Since then there’s been a gradual but sudden surge in the albums I’ve been listening to that have been of the definitely folky variety. Alasdair Robert’s latest albums collaboration, The Hirta Songs, which had a true calling of home I have to admit I haven’t felt in a while. Then there was that debut EP from local artist ADDA, one of the few Icelandic pieces of music I’ve actually played on a repeat basis on my CD player in 2014.

And then over the last month or so I’ve inadvertently found myself checking out some of the people I’ve known from way back in the old country (Shetland). People like Inge Thompson and Kevin Henderson, whose performance at this year’s live streaming of Shetland Folk Festival as part of the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc I checked out on the internet. I was actually taken aback a little with how good the fiddling was in terms of melodies, rhythms and textures. It was rather stirring stuff.Probably will need to send him a line to tell him that.

I do admit that in my younger years I was definitely a little turned off a bit by what they call the heuchter cheuchter old-time reel-based folk stuff. I mean, why would you want to listen to that when you have indie music groove and rave music to dance to? But perhaps it’s the maturing and advancing of my years that have caused me to look back and realise that even back then, folk music left its indelible mark inside me. Like a cultural sleeper cell waiting to explode in your mind once you were ready to take on its liminal qualities, as well as the wonders of a good eightsome reel

I mean take this album, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, the second album from folk legends, RICHARD AND LINDA THOMPSON. I first heard this album, what, only a couple of years ago. But even though the fact that it’s forty fucking years old, it still manages to sound more vital than a lot of the modern folk music that I hear these days. You hear a lot of what is classed as folk music today, and it’s all clean and well to do and proper, but it seems to have this “lack,” as if it they are merely taking the components of what people would call a “folk” sound without it being connected to anything really tangible in terms of placing it to what made the music folky in the first place. People. Places. Events. that sort of thing. I do admit I have some fairly stringent ideas about what folk music should be about and i find that this lack of connect to the world around us turns me off a lot of what I do hear these days.

People have always fought over the idea and soul of folk music through the ages, whether it was Cecil Sharp and his notions of the rural Arcadia, or the purist dogma of Ewan MacColl et al versus the expansive aesthetics of the folk movement of the late ’60s. These days, the quest for purity has led to a lot of really bad stuff, such as the putrid neo-folk movement. a bunch of wannable nationalists harking over a false romantic utopia of history that never existed, or the truly conservative sound and boundaries of the new folk movement of Mumford, etc, and whatever they’re playing over in Williamsburg these days.

But then you look at Richard and Linda with this album and you can see just how good folk was, is, and can still be. What you have to remember is that at this time, they were blazing a similar path made by the like of the incredible String Band and mixing Celtic, North African, and Indian raga sounds with their own English singing sounds. It had one foot in the past and a foot in more than one world in the present. The fact that they ended up the end of the decade as practitioners of the Islamic sufi faith (apparently Richard is still a practicing Muslim), flies in the face of the cheesy, UKIP poisoned, ruddy-faced nationalism that you see in so much of today societal discourse.

All of the songs are so spare, rough and ready, but everything is there in its place and is used for full effect, whether it´s a celtic accordion, a dulcimer, or Richard’s scratchy electric guitar. but it’s Linda’s voice that is the winner here. Songs such as “Withered and Died” and. “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” and “Has He Got a Friend for Me” have that sheer simplicity in their execution that sometimes makes you do a slight aural double take. Especially with their country sound where today people often insist of using an Americana twang, even if they come from somewhere, like Lincoln for instance. The album is just pure class, one of the great folk albums of it´s time. Ohhhh yeah. I’m off to have several beers….

Goodnight

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in music, Video

 

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Mapping the areas of alienation, one blueprint at a time…..

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Live Reviews: Reykjavik Grapevine: Tectonics Reykjavik 2014

 

The Grapevine asked me to go to TECTONICS REYKJAVIK 2014 and cast my critical judgement upon them (mwahahaha!)

And that’s what i did. You can now go and read it online HERE.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Iceland, live music

 

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The Sunday Cult Film Corner: Mona Lisa (1986)

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Been a while since we’ve done these. But as I have some free time on my hands, perhaps it’s best to get my hands dirty again with some hot stinky film action.

You may have heard recently the sad news from a few weeks ago that top British film actor Bob Hoskins died aged 72. He was definitely one of the more charismatic and dynamic of film actors to come out of Britain in the ’70s and ’80s and he will always be remembered for a brace of film roles that included the likes of The Long Good Friday (Which we featured on this blog a while back), Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Last Orders. Even though he certainly didn’t look like a film star, he brought a real sense of brooding masculinity that encased a nuanced, almost sensitive actor.

So for this weeks Sunday cult film corner, we thought it would be best to honour the guy by casting a light on one of his best known films that shows the depth of his acting talent in full flow. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you MONA LISA.

MONA LISA was directed in 1986 by Neil Jordan (who is also known on this blog for his film The Crying Game). MONA LISA was made in the middle of what was an extraordinary run of films written and directed by Jordan, from his debut Angel in 1982 to the Butcher Boy in 1997 that included a swathes of genres and styles whether it was likes of Adult themed fantasy horror such as The Company of Wolves, and Interview With A Vampire, comedies such as High spirits and We’re No Angels, and biopics such as Michael Collins. But it was MONA LISA that i feel to be his most complete, best made film.

MONA LISA stars Hoskins as George a low-level criminal who has come out of a stretch in prison for taking the fall for his former boss, crime lord Denny Mortwell (played by Mchael Caine). Mortwell is now one of the major vice kings in London and as a thank you to George, he give him a job as a chauffeur to a high-class call girl named Simone (Played by Cathy Tyson). After initially showing an intense dislike to each other, George and Simone glow close as friends. Simone asks George if he can help her find Cathy, an old friend and prostitute, who has gone missing, Meanwhile Mortwell put pressure on George to find out about the clients that Simone is servicing. As George tries to find Cathy, he wades deep into the murky and seedy world of prostitution, vice and porn that puts both his and Simone’s life in danger.

MONA LISA is a slick, brilliantly shot neo-noir film that displays a brilliant use of London in all its grim Gritty glory as a backdrop to an unusual blossoming romance. It’s a city where high-class world of politicians and diplomats rub up close with urban squalor. With high-class businessmen at the Ritz sitting next door to the grime of ’80s Soho, where you can almost smell the piss and other body fluid on display. Then there’s the scene set at foreboding place of Kings Cross at night, the main drag for the areas prostitutes (keep an eye out for the night scene in King’s Cross that contains a lovely cameo role from Eastender’s Billy Mitchell aka actor Perry Fenwick).

But despite the realism and grit, MONA LISA has a soft sheen and a pacing that is languid, almost glacial, with Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa” and other songs of his ringing throughout the film. Jordan’s direction and cinematography has a slightly detached camera work and washed out colour palette that is especially noticeable in the the final scenes of the film, which are set in the faded run down grandeur Brighton, a town that bestows the film a melancholic almost dreamlike nature. But despite the dark nature of the film and subject matter, there is no voyeuristic or use of flesh in an exploitative manner that you would almost expect in many other films of this type. There is the odd flourish of violence and flash of nipple, but the real horrors are only inferred, happening behind closed doors away from our eyes. Our imaginations are there to fill in the blanks.

As a vehicle for his talents, MONA LISA  has Hoskins in one his best performances on film, as he makes what is essentially a violent thug for hire the hero of the movie. As a man who went into prison in the ’70s, he comes out to a world that has changed heavily, from minorities living in his neighbourhood to new technology such as pagers and videos. From his early scenes with Tyson we see him as a man who struggles to come to terms with a new London of new finance, smart styles and high-powered business interests, a far cry from the gutter where he comes from. And from the opening scene we see him revert to the snarling hoodlum type that made him famous in the Long Good Friday with him kicking off in the street. , with minorities living in the same street as his daughter  But we soon quickly see that while he he’s a bit tasty and can handle himself, George is no thug. His friendships with Simone and Thomas (played by Robbie Coltrane) show him as a man who may be a thug in the gutter, but who is also with feelings and heart as he is used and abused by those higher up in the food chain to him.

The real villain of the piece is of course Michael Caine as crime lord Mortwell. By the mid-80s, Caine had gone slightly off in the public eye, with him living the louche life in LA and playing forgettable roles in films such as Water, Blame It On Rio, and The Island. Indeed it seemed that he was settling into a star persona of slightly lazy, phoned in roles and growing irrelevance. But with MONA LISA, we got to see Caine in a role that reminded us why he is considered one of the greats. Caine plays Mortwell with relish as a thoroughly nasty piece of work. Compared to old-timer George, he has embraced the cold, ruthless, capitalist ethic and worldview that embodied Britain in the ’80s under Thatcher. But despite his rarefied environment he is all sleazy smiles and lizard charm until the moment when we see him turn that even makes George flinch nervously.

Alongside these two established actors, there’s Cathy Tyson in what was her debut role as Simone. Tyson gives a fearless performance as a woman who is tough, aloof, steely, like a trapped animal trying to work out all the angles to escape. underneath her calculating exterior is a damaged person and we don’t know how far she will go  in order for her to get what she most desires. She does show her vulnerability with George, but like all the other characters in the film, she also keeps her true feelings and intentions close to her chest.

MONA LISA, yeah it´s definitely one of the top UK films of the ’80s. A film about the nature of a friendship between two people who are cogs in a brutal, callous world, who seek solace with each other, but ultimately with different priorities that threaten to cause serious harm.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Film

 

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Music Moment: Sleaford Mods, “Divide and Exit”

Hello there!

So, yeah I’ve been away now for a couple of weeks, being wrapped up in exams and all sorts of fun times, having near public meltdowns and clusterfucks (Man, I completely forgot that this studying lark can be hard at times!), all to make sure I pass my subjects and ensure I get my LÍN funding for another semester.

but now i am done and back in work for this summer. Yup I’m back at Össur, I´m even back at my old workstation. it’s almost like the last 4 months never actually happened! probably wasnt a great idea to go “screw you fuckers, I’m never coming back!” when I left in January. Oh well.

But it’s now back to the enjoyable world of blogging and pissing my verbiage across the screen. and I really think you should listen to this band, SLEAFORD MODS. Even though they’ve been going on now for nearly a decade, the first I’d even heard of this duo was a couple of months ago when their album, ‘Chubbed Up. The Singles Collection’ was reviewed by Marko “K-Punk” Fisher in the Wire (Obviously i have my finger on the musical pulse apparently). Reading about them, it seemed as if they were the angriest band in the world (and possibly all the other theoretical world out there as well). I thought that they must have been a hardcore punk band of summat.

 

A few weeks later, i managed to find their bandcamp page and gave it a spin…… bloody hell! Been a while since a band has made me sit up cat-like on my seat with eyes and ears wide open. Just the sheer energy and verbal attack in tracks like “14 Day Court,”  made me go, “what the fuck was that??”  I’m not going to go into a huge spiel on what they sound like and represent because since Mark’s review, they’ve been in the music media quite a lot, with features about them in the Guardian, NME, MOJO, The Quietus and The Talkhouse (I seriously recommend the talkhouse piece about them by Luke Haines as he describes them perfectly so i don’t have to). An online friend noted the worry he felt that they were being dragged along by a music-biz hype that could easily neuter their anger and then chew them up and spit them out when they’ve had their fun with them after 6 months. This is a definite possibility, but i think they’re too long in the tooth for that to happen like that. they’re just as likely to take a leaf out of Mark E smith’s notebook and say NO to as many offers of exposure as they say yes to.

But SLEAFORD MODS and their music has definitely switched a big switch on in my head over the last few weeks. One possible reason is probably their look and their backgrounds. In the Quietus’ live review, Kev Kharas starts off with the following sentence.

England today must be a lonely place for men like Jason Williamson. It’s a country that just doesn’t seem designed for him any more; 40-ish working-class ex-mod, a face that looks built from belly gas and fag ash, too savvy for UKIP and too hard for steroids, too old for lad culture but too young for early nights [....] But for all that it’d be wrong to say that Williamson revels in misanthropy. He never seems to be enjoying himself enough for that. It’s more that he’s a man with a social conscience trapped in a society that hates him.

Shit, he could be writing about the likes of me there. SLEAFORD MODS’ music seems to magically articulate a soundtrack of what goes on in my head and think about when I see thing before me ALL THE TIME. Culture, society, where you live, and just how shit life around you has become, you know all that stuff. After a while it can get you a bit down, as you start to think that no one else could possibly think this way. So the fact that they’ve come along the way they have has been a little Godsend for me, as it’s good to see I’m alone. And even though Williamson still bears the dapper neat traces of being an ex-mod, his partner in crime, Andrew Fearn, could have been airlifted from the town/estate where my mum and out family live, a place of Farmfood freezer shops, tanning salons, bargain booze bins and Wetherspoons watering holes, where just about every man under 50 is kitted out in a t-shirt, baseball cap, trainers and trackies (Or as we all called it, the Sports Direct uniform). As someone who still decks themselves out in Primark essentials, I approve of his sartorial style and approach. 

 

And now we have their new album, ‘Divide And Exit,’ and it’s that winning mix of spitfire stream-of-consciousness, with minimal made for purpose beat tracks full of hooks that are more subtle than you think. I’m glad these guys came alone the way they did as I was starting to feel slightly overwhelmed by the sheer comfortableness that surrounds me right now. I honestly don’t think that a band like this could really exist up here in Iceland alas. Oh, I’m sure that people would point to this or that punk band, or someone like Grisalappalisa or Muck for “angry” music. And true, their lyrics do talk about being angry at stuff in a poetic way, but for the best part there’s a certain vagueness to the thrust of their attacks, often sometimes merely being content in slyly taking the piss. But the mantra for living round here is that you need to “go along to get along” in a form of comfy chumminess, and very few of us round here could never reach this withering level of puce fucked-offness for fear of pissing of everyone around them.

As Haines points out “Sleaford Mods make Art because they have no choice. They refuse the middlebrow of the (oh so) conventional art scene. They are not “arty.”” SLEAFORD MODS are all about the music of refusal, the refusual to accept what is no longer acceptable to yourself anymore. If they were Icelandic, then they would be compelled take apart everything before them – Bankers, politicians, poncho flouncing 101 moms in coffee houses, the price of booze, living in the suburbs, iPhone apps, Airwaves, Sigur Rós, Harpa, shit shows on Stöð 2, Smelters, mobile phone companies, rotten fruit in the shops, Retro Stefson, comfortable “radical” art, Jón Gnarr, local fashionistas, OAP arseholes in the hotpots at the pool, knitting in the bus station, etc, etc, etc. If someone actually did even half of all this. then I could die happy. would probably kill their career though!

So do us a favour and buy their albums at least, keep them in Stella for the new months. Cheers.

Goodnight…..

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2014 in music, Uncategorized

 

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Reykjavik Grapevine: Album Reviews: Adda and Atónal Blús

A few albums reviews were posted in The Grapevine online this week after being published in the paper. though i’d put them up on here for your reading pleasure….

ADDA: My Brain EP (2014)

‘My Brain,’ the crowdsourced debut EP from singer/songwriter Adda (AKA Arnþrúður Ingólfsdóttir), is a wonderfully austere, haunting body of folk songs. Playing fingerpicked acoustic guitar, Adda sings a lot about her turbulent mind (referring to her brain as a third person entity), as if she were in a passionate relationship with a partner. With all the highs and lows it entails, the intensity and emotional gravity of such feelings reverberate in Adda’s voice (with accompaniment from her sister Sunna). The rising, sustained two-note harmonies on “Taking Off,” for example, set your arm hairs on edge.

Adda has in the past referred to Joni Mitchell as a big influence and Jewel songs such as “Pieces Of You” and “Little Sister” could sit perfectly well alongside this EP. But while those artists have a shiny Americana gloss to them, ‘My Brain’ has a much stronger, rustic folk dynamic, as if it’s been opened up to the changeable elements of Northern European climes. “Waking Up,” with the reedy flute accompaniment of Georgia Browne, is a dew-laden, pastoral sunrise of a song while “I Will Not Forget,” a survivor’s letter of thanks to family and friends, is definitely the best track on the EP. The undulating meter of the guitar accompanied by waves of long drawn cello drones that drift in and out of focus have a mesmeric spectral quality, all windswept cliffs and remote peninsulas.

If there’s one duff moment in ‘My Brain,’ then it’s “Queer Sweetheart” with its finger-clicking jazz-blues melody, which alas does not do anything for me. But even here, decidedly acidic witty lines such as “You might even catch me with a queer porn flick/But don’t tell my country about it though/Cos there I’m a radical feminist oh-oh/And they don’t watch any kind of porn,” made me spit my morning tea out, going “Damn! You went there!”

‘My Brain’ is an accomplished debut EP that’s highly intimate, even confessional, but never comes across as self-obsessed. There is a quiet determination that resides at the centre of the music. The production also shows that when it comes to creating an impact with her song writing, she definitely gets what folk is all about.

Atónal Blús: Höfuðsynd

It should be noted that when you first play ‘Höfuðsynd,’ the debut album from new band Atónal Blús, you quickly realise that despite the cool name, that they’re not really Arnold Schoenberg does John Lee Hooker. But that’s not to dispute that there’s some avant-garde tinkering at play here. The opening track, “Atónal Blús,” is a murky, buzzing, discoloured breakdown of a song that comes closest to the atonal aesthetic implied of the band’s name.

From there it settles down into a spot-welded blend of heaving psych-inflected rock and interesting rhythmic patterns that could be seen as a little bit (whisper it) “proggy.” The rhythm workings shouldn’t come as a surprise. The band’s main instigator, Gestur Guðnason, was a member of Icelandic Balkan beats band Stórsveit Nix Noltes, and a track like “Balkan Boogie” is pretty much a fuzzed up variation on the SNN template, although it’s definitely more subtly employed on tracks such as “Oxygen Kills.” The rock components themselves are manfully done although fairly standard in their structure and occasionally border on cliché (freight train sounds made with the harmonica and acoustic jams with bongos).

All in all, ‘Höfuðsynd’ is a rather enjoyable listen. The drums/bass partnership have been brought right to the front of the mix, giving what could have been an average rock song like “Sexy Slave” some overloading, thumping menace (Jesus, those floor toms!). There are also several moments, such as when the vocals, harmonica and lead guitar combine on “Lítið ljón,” where there’s a looseness that borders on the unstable, giving it a definite edge in comparison to the stiff, crushing orthodoxy of much of Iceland’s lauded “real rock” music. Definitely worth a spin for rock heads looking for a little more danger in their music.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2014 in Iceland, music

 

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Hey there! Still alive apparently…

Evening there You may have noticed the lack of blogging activity over the last couple of weeks. Well this is not due to me throwing in the towel (Perish the thought! I’m not done just yet…), but alas my IRL commitments on my course are taking president. End of term exams, studying, and essays mean that i will be acting like a stressed out weasel over the next few weeks. And that’s even before it comes to the hell that is looking for a job in downtown Reykjavik over the summer. This means having to jostle with competition that, while more callow and possibly not as sharp in the head dept, are naturally more hip, thinner and less cynical than yours truly lol.

I’ll still be making small micro posts as I’m still writing pieces for the Grapevine (Shit, I’ve just remembered that i need to get an interview organised!!), because I get paid for doing that. anything that appears online will end up on here.

In the meantime, have a decent Easter and i think you should all go and buy ‘Thrusters,’ the top notch record from UK bonkers tone bender NOCHEXXX on Ramp Recordings. it will do you the world of good!

Seeya!

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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