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Three, Four Tet

“It’s got enough heart that we won’t accuse it of going through the motions, yet if that was all you ever asked from Four Tet, this is surely a dream come true,” says the reviewer on Sputnikmusic of Four Tet’s new album, Four, in a rather passive-aggressive review that calls...

Bands as Saturday Morning Cartoons

This is an enjoyable site: stuffbymark.co.uk, where Mark Reynolds presents imaginary retro cartoons, movie posters and the like based on songs and bands. I loved the bands-as-Saturday-Morning-Cartoons especially – but Reynolds’ great at this.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

Found this in a charity shop today: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, part of The Film Classics Library’s “most accurate and complete reconstruction of a film in book form”. It’s a comic book-like presentation of the whole of the movie and an absorbing read. I often find that stills from movies (especially old black and white ones) often make shots and scenes seem more weighty, more impressive than they seem when you actually watch the movies themselves. I’m not entirely sure why this is – or whether this is something that’s just me. When I was in my early teens I found a copy of the Hitchcock/Truffaut conversations which were accompanied by – what I thought at the time were – amazing sequences of shots. When I saw the films themselves, the Hitchcock ones, they never lived up to how I’d constructed them in my imagination. It’s a little the same here. I do think Psycho is an excellent film – but reading through this book much of it seems far better than I remember Psycho actually being. Look at the final scene with Anthony Perkins sitting on the chair after being arrested (below). That’s absolutely stunning.  It looks like there are other books in this series covering The Maltese Falcon (oh!) and Frankenstein.

 

Philip Glass Solo

There’s already a great deal of Philip Glass in my music collection but I couldn’t resist listening to this latest album, Philip Glass Solo – though it was Luis Alverez Roure’s striking portrait of Glass that caught my attention. I first listened to Glass in the 1980s when I bought a copy of Glassworks on CD from Our Price, finding it both challenging in terms of what I expected from “classical” music as a teenager and beguiling for the strange, circling musical pattens that I found almost hypnotic (plus I also was attracted to the album cover which seemed to me to capture the styling of the time). I have distinct memories of sitting in my bedroom in my childhood home listening to the album in summertime. In the mid-1990s, Kronos Quartet Plays Philip GlassString Quartets 3-5 – (and the growth of the internet, of course) became the mechanism for me to listen to more and Einstein on the Beach, which I continue to find utterly compelling. There was a time when I worked in Canterbury that I’d listen to a playlist of Glass’ when I’d get into work early in the morning.

Philip Glass Solo are 7 (mostly) short pieces played by the composer himself at home on piano during the lockdown. Glass says:

This record is both a time capsule of 2021, and a reflection on decades of composition and practice. In other words, a document on my current thinking about the music. There is also the question of place. This is my piano, the instrument on which most of the music was written. It’s also the same room where I have worked for decades in the middle of the energy which New York City itself has brought to me. The listener may hear the quiet hum of New York in the background or feel the influence of time and memory that this space affords. To the degree possible, I made this record to invite the listener in.

It’s a gentle album of well-known pieces which seem to me to be quieter, pensive, more intimate – maybe less large-scale atmospheric – than other recordings I’ve listened to. You get the impression of the 87 year-old composer sat alone at his piano playing with grace and poised craftmanship. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of unfamiliar, mainly electronic and experimental music, and it’s been lovely to listen to music a little more contemplative and – dare I say – nostalgic.

Feel More Again

There’s something hits different about Cineworld’s current slogan. Being told that I can “feel more again” by watching an animated movie about anthropomorphised mallard ducks migrating haphazardly to Jamaica isn’t quite what I’m going to the cinema with my kids for on a Saturday afternoon. We just wanted to do something and it was raining heavily. Somewhere, I imagine, Cineworlds advertising consultants are leaning heavily on the Poetics as a marketing tool to convince us that the way to cut through post-Covid desensitisatised ennui is by sitting in front of a giant screen, drinking a slurpy and munching through a tub of popcorn. The therapy is the cost of admission (and the shockingly overpriced sweets). Of course, the slogan falls down when the supposed mimetic function is meant to happen in SF, superhero or animated animal adventures. I can’t say I had a cathartic experience – but the kids thought the animated duck movie was ok. It did leave me the impression I was sitting in some darkened, half-filled place in Oceania being told how to react, though.

Make Children Happier

As part of a series arguing for revitalising policies a future Labour government should adopt, Polly Toynbee proposes three key educational reforms:

  • “Bring back those 1,416 Sure Start centres that have closed”
  • “Schools need just one target: make children happier and education a pleasure”
  • “kickstart FE, with the resources and respect it deserves”

Toynbee ends her piece by pointing out the fundamental issue of education at the moment:

Too much education is designed to weed students out, not to find out their skills and encourage them in what they can do. Too many become alienated from learning altogether. Start with the idea that education matters for every child, at every level. They will never learn much if schools are places for exams, inspections, tests and torture, for teachers and pupils alike.

Read the whole piece HERE.

Ending(s), Night Country

LA Times interview with Night Country writer, Issa López reveals something about her thoughts regarding the ambiguity of the final episode’s end (and, to be honest, much of the season). In the interview, López stresses that she was deliberate in creating a story and setting where there can be both rational and supernatural readings of event. Much of what López says holds up – but I’m not entirely convinced that all the unresolved issues about the season are as easily reconciled as she says (for instance, the severed tongue isn’t satisfactorily resolved for me either by the in-show narrative or by López in the interview.

López:

I think that the entire series has two readings. One of them is that everything is connected to the supernatural. The other one is there’s absolutely nothing supernatural happening. The dark brings its own madness and neurosis to some characters. The men walking onto the ice — you can go with they froze to death in a flash freeze and they had paradoxical undressing and delirium because of hypothermia. Or \[you can believe\] they walked onto the ice, and faced the thing they woke up by being in the wrong place. It’s up to you to decide which one of those readings you are going to embrace.

And:

In the very last part of the episode, we see her at peace. It’s up to her to decide if she goes on a walkabout to find herself and come back, as Danvers asks, or if she goes to be with the other women in peace, and is visiting as an apparition.

There’s a dreamlike, phantasmagorical atmosphere that pervades the final episode which makes me question what’s actually taking place. Danvers and Navarro climb through caves and tunnels only to find themselves back at the beginning of the investigation in the scientists’ research base – where Twist and Shout is still being played through the empty corridors and rooms full-volume on loop. Characters encounter the dead and appear to have experiences that are out of chronological order. They walk out into the ice, fall into water, sleep, wake up. There’s a surreal edge to what happens and, the final scene, with Danvers and Navarro share a verandah in a silent, quite peaceful, dreaming.

 

Future Days, Can

The latest episode of BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking arts programme features a showcase of Can’s third album, Future Days. The programme is an enjoyable (and informative), presenting Can’s album in the context of post-Sixties Germany and of the original line-up of the band.

I’m not sure why the programme chose Can’s third album rather than the more directly groundbreaking Tago Mago (or even all first three). In the programme, host Matthew Sweet describes Future Days as “ambient” and different from the preceding and susequent albums. Singer Damo Sazuki left the band after the album’s release in 1973 and his recent death might have contributed to the album choice. Future Days has certainly risen in the estimation of the critics over the last 50 years (Wow! It’s over fifty years old!). There’s a good write-up about the album from 2005 on Pop Matters (from which I learned that the album was recorded straight onto a 2-track machine).

The radio programme prompted me to listen to Future Days again and I’m struck by its gentleness and optimism – as well as how short the album is: four tracks of around 40 minutes in total (Side A has three tracks; Side B is a meandering single track of nearly 20 minutes. It is a pretty uplifting, joyful record which the Free Thinking programme explores excellently.

Can – Future Days (the Radio 3 show) can be listened to HERE.

 

FURTHER DOWN THE STREAM...

Bands as Saturday Morning Cartoons

This is an enjoyable site: stuffbymark.co.uk, where Mark Reynolds presents imaginary retro cartoons, movie posters and the like based on songs and bands. I loved the bands-as-Saturday-Morning-Cartoons especially – but Reynolds’ great at this.

Gallagher & Squire

Eventually listened through Liam Gallager John Squire, the new album by.. er… Liam Gallagher and John Squire. Alexis Petridis claims: “it’s a noticeably better album than anything in Gallagher’s post-Oasis oeuvre, and indeed anything Squire has released since leaving the Stone Roses in 1996. The songwriting is melodically stronger and...

Reading & Writing for Pleasure

Just read the excellent Reading and Writing for Pleasure: A Framework for Practice and Approaches to Reading and Writing for Pleasure by the Open University’s Reading for Pleasure programme. Plus the TES interview with Professor Teresa Cremin about how to encourage more children to read for pleasure. The takeaways seem...

OFSTED try to “do” literature

Amusing – and chilling – piece by the wonderful Michael Rosen about part of the recent OFSTED subject report into English. Rosen examines the controversial paragraph 90 of the report which attempts to insist that only texts of “literary merit” should be studied in schools and attempts a sleight of...

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

Found this in a charity shop today: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, part of The Film Classics Library’s “most accurate and complete reconstruction of a film in book form”. It’s a comic book-like presentation of the whole of the movie and an absorbing read. I often find that stills from movies (especially...

Philip Glass Solo

There’s already a great deal of Philip Glass in my music collection but I couldn’t resist listening to this latest album, Philip Glass Solo – though it was Luis Alverez Roure’s striking portrait of Glass that caught my attention. I first listened to Glass in the 1980s when I bought...

Make Children Happier

As part of a series arguing for revitalising policies a future Labour government should adopt, Polly Toynbee proposes three key educational reforms: “Bring back those 1,416 Sure Start centres that have closed” “Schools need just one target: make children happier and education a pleasure” “kickstart FE, with the resources and...

Ending(s), Night Country

LA Times interview with Night Country writer, Issa López reveals something about her thoughts regarding the ambiguity of the final episode’s end (and, to be honest, much of the season). In the interview, López stresses that she was deliberate in creating a story and setting where there can be both...

Future Days, Can

The latest episode of BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking arts programme features a showcase of Can’s third album, Future Days. The programme is an enjoyable (and informative), presenting Can’s album in the context of post-Sixties Germany and of the original line-up of the band. I’m not sure why the programme...

Laird Barron’s Night Country review

Laird Barron is enthusiastic about the fourth season of True Detective, arguing that the writer/showrunner, Issa Lopez conjures an “ethereal undercurrent of magical realism”. He sees many of the artistic (and philosophical) decisions made reflect the lonely, estranged Alaskan setting. He also discusses the show as being within the tradition...

Curations, artuk.org

Curations are a wonderful means of self-organising British art using the Art.org web site.  I use an installation of Pinry – essentially a self-hosted version of Pinterest – to generally keep and manage images and graphics I want to keep. The Art.org  curations makes keeping hold of images of British...

Dreamfear/Boy Sent From Above, Burial

“caustic rave maximalism… comes across like a forlorn mini cassette mix from the 90s vaults” according to The Quietus. Some sort of teleological excavation of a lost techno compilation from Ninties compressed into 25+ minutes of realtime aural actualisation. Of the two tracks, I find Boy Sent from Above...

Volta, Loula Yorke

Quietus review says that “Yorke’s new release Volta is deeply cyclical” and reflect a period of focused composition rather than Yorke’s previous improvised recordings. Makes comparisons with Hannah Peel’s Fir Wave. All seven tracks are great – though I’m especially taken with An Example of Periodic Time. Have listened to...

Haddit with Reddit

After 12 years using Reddit, I’ve deleted my data*. I’ll give it a few days to check that my comments and posts have been completely wiped and then I’ll permanently delete my account. Like many other long-term user of Reddit, this is in response to the greed of Reddit’s management and...

The Best-Kept Secret

Being an easy pushover for a good UFO book (something I’ve not shaken since my childhood), I’ve just read Jacques Vallée’s and Paola Harris’ Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret. It’s an account of a hitherto unknown UFO crash in San Antonio in 1945 very close to Ground Zero where the Manhattan...

UK Grim

But what’s gone on, what can I see? You’re all getting mugged by the aristocracy But what’s gone on, what can I see? You’re all getting mugged by the right wing beast. I had a long car journey today which gave me the chance to listen to UK Grim, Sleaford...

Gone!

After nearly 15 years on Twitter, I’m gone. I’ve never used it that much anyway and was always more of a lurker than active antagonist on the platform. I followed a small number of people, mostly from education, writing and comics. I didn’t post very much. When I added something...

Gillen’s A.X.E.

Find myself agreeing with Chad Nevitt’s fierce admiration for Kieron Gillen’s coordination of Marvel’s A.X.E. event: “I was stunned by the complexity of the narrative he is telling. It is absolutely stunning to see the various threads weave in and out of different comics, pulling together all of these characters....

60 Years Ago Today: Love Me Do by The Beatles

Someone to love. Somebody new. Someone to love. Someone like you. Time plays odd tricks. It’s 60 years ago that The Beatles released Love Me Do on 5th October 1962. The opening harmonica hook remains haunting and evokes the grainy black and white early Sixties. Melancholic images of fog on...

October comes with rain whipping around the ankles / In waves of white at night

Autumn is definitely here. Not the lingering, warm Autumn of early September, but the damp, wet Autumn that points with trembling finger towards Hallowe’en and the first chill winds of Winter. For me, September has been one of reading tales by Algernon Blackwood that seem to anticipate this change of...