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The two faces of Zu

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Zu – skronking at the Bronson club, Ravenna, Italy

When it comes to live music I’ve never been much interested in seeing artists who look slick and sound just like they do on their studio recordings.

Performances to me should be an audio-visual experience that takes the listener/viewer into a more spontaneous zone; in other words, to be a one-off event.

But the case of Zu, a band from Rome, is an odd one. They have a new album called Jhator out on the splendidly named House of Mythology label and their tour dates are ostensibly to promote this fact. Or at least they would be in the normal order of things. The sticking point though is that the new album sounds nothing like they did on stage at the Bronson club near Ravenna last night. View full article »

220px-george_charles_beresford_-_virginia_woolf_in_1902_-_restorationOn this day in 1941 Virginia Woolf took her own life aged 59 by  weighing down her jacket with stones and drowning in the River Ouse near her home in Sussex, England.

By way of tribute, below is a You Tube link to Max Richter’s haunting music composed for Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works which begins with a reading of Woolf’s suicide note to her husband, signed ‘V’ which is beautifully read by Gillian Anderson. View full article »

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Who wants to watch an entire film about veganism? Well, I do but I am already converted to the cause so I don’t really count.

Comedian Simon Amstell is aware that preaching to the choir isn’t going to change hearts, minds and eating habits. His savvy BBC film is therefore aimed at the not so silent majority who still cling to the outdated notion that being a vegan is unachievable, extremist and faintly ridiculous. View full article »

modernismSo far this year I have read two prize-winning ‘novels’ – The Sell Out by Paul Beatty (Man Booker) and The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Pulitzer).

Both have been widely praised for their craft and cleverness. Both left me wondering what happened to good old-fashioned storytelling. These are driven by themes rather than plots, each with an unnamed narrator  respectively reflecting upon racism in America and perceptions of the Vietnam war.

The weightiness and worthiness of the topics is beyond doubt but masked by a knowing irony; neither author has any interest in a conventional narrative with a start-middle & end.

Far be it from me to knock the post-modernist slant of these works. As a worshipper of David Foster Wallace, I am fully aware that modern truths cannot always be told in a linear style but at the same time I find myself increasingly missing characters and plots.

I have come to realize just how many classics of English literature I know but have never read; for example Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe. While re-reading Infinite Jest I now intend to plug these gaps. Pre-modernism here I come.

new_skin_for_the_old_ceremony As a gift to a friend of mine who is retiring soon, a group of friends and colleagues have been asked to write articles about a poem or song.

These texts will be connected by the themes of one, or more, of the four elements – fire, earth, water and air.

I have chosen to write a piece on Leonard Cohen’s Who By Fire which, as you may know or recall, goes like this:

And who by fire, who by water,
 who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
 who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
 who in your merry merry month of may,
 who by very slow decay,
 and who shall I say is calling? View full article »
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