Archive for the ‘ ARTS/EVENTS ’ Category

PJ HARVEY-THE HOPE DEMOLITION PROJECT

PJ Harvey-The Hope Demolition Project
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This is Polly Harvey’s first album since 2011’s universally acclaimed ‘Let England Shake’ and whilst sonically it uses the templates of that album and extends them-a jazz tinged saxophone is added to the elements- she also draws on the melodic capacity of ‘Stories From the City , Stories From the Sea’ and the muddy blues swap of ‘To Bring You My Love’ all of which rate as her most successful works both artistically and commercially.
However what the new opus lacks is the cohesion of ‘Let England Shake’, the immediacy of ‘Stories form the City…’ or the slinky sparseness of ‘To Bring You My Love’ and emerges as flawed rather than captivating.
Despite this it does warrant repeated listenings which reveal depths which are not apparent on the first few hearings.
The idea to use a journalistic approach to the lyrics is also a gamble which doesn’t always pay off and as such they often sound clunky and forced. The clumsily titled ‘Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln’ is a clear case in point as it is hardly a title to roll off the tongue and into the memory bank.
The album’s two lead off tracks ‘The Wheel’ and ‘The Community of Hope’ helped to raise expectations and it turns out they are the two strongest works here.
The latter is oddly out of place as the album’s opener as it is storming straightforward rocker which feels like it rushes to a premature conclusion and is all over too soon and feels slightly unfinished and truncated because of this.
The song is already controversial with a Washington Post reporter claiming that Harvey quoted her verbatim as she acted as a tour guide on the less savoury sites of DC although the line ‘The school just looks like a shithole’ will probably resonate in several Edinburgh households at the moment with seventeen schools across the capital being closed due to the PFI debacle.
The second number the T.Rex inflected ‘Ministry of Defence’ would have made a more convincing and dramatic opener with its stop-start riffing and well spaced pauses. ‘A Line in the Sand’ could have slotted into her last work unnoticed but it is still a gorgeous track. Likewise ‘Chain of Keys’ and ‘Medicinals’ have a marching tempo to them which also continue her last album’s themes and more and more it becomes apparent that musically this is one of Harvey’s great works—‘The Orange Monkey’ is hauntingly beautiful’- it is the lyrics which let her down at every juncture never lodging themselves in your brain.
Often it feels more like the outpourings of a self appointed war correspondent and observer than one of our greatest lyricists. Journalism and rock music do not always make comfortable bedfellows as this album makes clear.
The last two tracks however manage to draw the listener back in. The aforementioned single ‘The Wheel’ is given the time to find itself that was denied ‘The Community of Hope’ with handclaps, riffing horns and guitars all conspiring to create a stormer of a song based on Harvey’s observations of children in disappearing on a fairground ride interspersed with her memories of similar children in Kosovo disappearing due to ethnic cleansing.
‘Dollar Dollar’ also takes its time getting to where it wants to get to and is all the better for it and makes a beautiful closer to an unsettling work which despite its best intentions hasn’t quite fulfilled expectations.
‘The Hope Demolition Project’ is ultimately a frustrating experience rather than a satisfying one. On one hand the melodies and musical structure are among Harvey’s best but she has chosen to marry it to lyrical themes which are admirable but dispassionate and therefore ultimately unrewarding. Not Harvey’s best album but still a long way from being her worst.

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JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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Well that might just have been the summer then! Beautiful sunshine, unseasonably high temperatures and a general sense of joie de vivre all experienced over the last week seem to have been replaced by a chilly haar with the temperature likely to drop to that more familiar to the beginning of March than the end of April or beginning of May. Let’s just hope then that the forecasters have got it wrong and once the fog clears we are left with bright sunshine which extends itself through the next few months and then some.
Likely?
There is always hope!
Certainly things are picking up around town though. Tonight’s opening at The Whitespace Gallery in Gayfield Square ‘The Antifucktarianists’ features work by four Edinburgh artists- Martin Metcalfe, Jade Gemma Cruickshank, Anjila Wilson and Oskar Kickasso – whose work aims to deconstruct the propaganda of the said F***tarianists of this world. Certainly it is a novel premise and one which captures the feelings running high in the run up to possibly the most important General Election for Scotland in recent memory. Not that this exhibition focuses on the upcoming election however as it is much wider world view which lies at its heart. Certainly one to catch whilst it hangs around which won’t be for long so get there this weekend if you can.
Over at the Gallery of Modern Art the Roy Lichtenstein show is still on and if you haven’t seen this most impressive and comprehensive collection encapsulating both the earlier and later works of one of the leading lights of Pop Art-possibly second only to Warhol in being instantly recognisable- then I suggest you do.
There is plenty of time to see this however as it is showing until January 2016 but with tourist season, school holidays and then the Festival on the horizon I can’t think of a more perfect time to go than now. The Gallery of Modern Art and its surroundings are probably at their most beautiful and relaxed during spring making the experience so much more worthwhile and pleasurable.
Tuesday sees Nick Cave return to the Playhouse as part of his latest British tour. Certainly a musical legend this is definitely one of the must see gigs of the season- Patti Smith performing ‘Horses’ in Glasgow in June definitely THE most essential- and as Cave has no new album to promote, unlike 2013’s tour which drew heavily from that year’s excellent ‘Push The Sky Away’ opus, I am expecting a set to draw heavily from his vast and extensive career in equal measure.
Next Friday (May 1st) Neu Reekie are also hosting a musical/literary extravaganza in honour of their launch of a poetry anthology amd double album at La Belle Angele featuring The Sexual Objects ,The Merrylees, Liz Lochead, Michael Pedersen and an equally impressive cast list of thousands more. Well, maybe not thousands but you get the gist; an early start for this one-6pm- and an early finish too making it the perfect start to any weekend.
Out at the cinemas the ‘Final Cut’ of the classic ‘Bladerunner is still showing so that is also a must see in what is already shaping up to be a busy week ahead.
Been a relatively quiet week on the election front this week although it would seem that the SNP led by Nicola Sturgeon-who remains steadfastly cool in the face of all the insults hurled her way- seem to have the establishment on the run. It would appear that democracy is only democracy if it is at the hands of the Conservative or Labour parties and anything voted for by the people-especially those in Scotland who have gone from being so important to the UK when they threatened to leave mere months ago but now that they might have a say in the next government are being demonised beyond belief and recognition- is not democracy at all but holding the country to ransom. Seeing those two main parties running scared and realising their time as overall rulers may actually be up is so encouraging. If this results in a major shift in British politics and those two major parties are no longer able to get their way then this can only be a good thing!
Oh and if you get a chance-I suggest you make one- then watch the short political satire ‘Jim Murphy: Saviour of the Union’-just google it and click on the link- trust me when I say it is excellent!

Neu Reekie 46

Neu Reekie 46
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A return to Summerhall after last month’s sojourn in New York for the Neu Reekie team and a bit of a racy one at that thanks, in the main, to Salena Godden whose brilliant tirades about an air stewardess and male genitalia were definitely a highlight of the night alongside the evening’s headliners The Merrylees. Not that any of the other acts on the bill were any slouches but those two were definitely the evening’s high points.
Opening with the usual animation sequence the night’s offerings included Oscar Fischinger’s ‘Komposition in Blau’ which resembled a chocolate ad which Cadbury would have been glad to have dreamt up and this was followed by a controversial film ‘Trusts and Estates’ wherein a group of businessmen sat around making profane remarks including sexual references to each other’s daughters. If the intention of the latter film was to shock and raise controversy then it was more than successful as my companion tut tutted and harrumphed her way through it. It certainly raised the bar for the night but the bar was about to get dramatically higher.
Salena Godden then took to the stage and from the off it was clear that this was going to be no ordinary poetry reading. Her first piece was directed at an air stewardess- a female jobsworth- who had refused to lend the speaker a pen although it was blatantly obvious she had one to lend. The tirade was hilarious, sharply observed and vocalised the frustrations so many of us have met with when trying to deal with simple situations which become problematic due to the sheer stubbornness and awkwardness of those who wish to wield what little power they possess simply to make a point.
This however was just a warm up for ‘The Good Cock’ which was a hilarious insight into a sexual encounter in a car at a railway station and a females observance of, well, a good cock. It was in fact- and this is the most suitable word to describe it-cocktastic! Godden’s delivery was outstanding and the work was a clever re-invention of poetry and how it can be both perceived and delivered. She certainly managed to grasp the audience’s attention, by the balls as it were, and she never let go throughout. It was also good to hear female poetry that whilst still addressing ‘love’ was far from insipid but instead in another time zone completely.
Godden provided a hard act-no pun intended,honest!- to follow so on the same theme Norman McLaren’s ‘Achilles’ animation could also be described as being cocktastic! It was certainly an impressive piece of film and one which fitted the seemingly recurring theme of the evening.
Up next was a series of tributes to Tom McGrath from Cora Bissett, Ron Butlin and Calum Rodger which dwelt with less salubrious subjects such as ‘A Wee Dug’ and a fish supper; a bit of a respite after such high octane subject matter and a chance to gather breath.
Next up was the first of the evening’s musical acts, Bird. Highly proficient, expertly nuanced and on a Cocteau Twins/ Florence and the Machine tip their stage presence and capabilities were undeniable if, on occasion, a little generic. They are young though and there is more than enough talent available within their ranks for them to develop into something much more individualistic.
The Merrylees were up next and first things first let’s discuss the important matter of hair. When it comes to barnets these bands has it sewn up with an impressive array of superbly coiffed styles and, let’s face it, this is the most important thing, although their blend of sunshine harmonies, baritone lead vocals and musicianship run their haircuts a very close second. Their second single is due out at the end of next month and definitely one to look out for.
The seemingly nomadic Neu Reekie is on the move again next month a with a show at Pilrig Church. I don’t know whether it will be as racy or cocktastic as this one but it will certainly not be one you want to miss1

LOU REED REMEMBERED

Lou Reed Remembered

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Yesterday October 27th was just another Sunday morning apart from the fact disorientation had set in due to the official arrival of winter with the clocks going back encouraging me to get up at an hour unthinkable a few years back. The only other thing slightly out of the ordinary was the fact I had an overwhelming urge to listen to Lou Reed’s Berlin album.

Usually an album which requires a certain mood as it is a dark, despairing and harrowing listen with little recommendation or redemption for any of its protagonists, even if its message is cloaked in some of the most awe inducing beautiful music ever recorded. Suffice to say it requires melancholic tendencies and I was far from feeling even remotely down; quite the opposite in fact. Melancholy, despair and shock arrived  only a few hours later however as I would be overwhelmed with feelings of sadness  when news of Lou Reed’s death, at the age of seventy one, began to filter through on social media and was later sadly confirmed as fact.

 Two days previously had seen an internet hoax reporting Reed’s death spread like wildfire before it was announced he was alive and kicking. As far as anyone knows at this stage he wasn’t even showing signs of the symptoms which eventually claimed him so some scepticism met the original Sunday reports of his death. In hindsight this made the news even sadder as on one of his last days on earth he had to deny he had died then forty eight hours later he was actually gone for real. In some ways this was typical Lou- rising to a challenge-who many had predicted wouldn’t live through the seventies never mind into his seventies.

 Like many others of my generation my introduction to Reed came through that font of all knowledge, David Bowie, when he tried to resurrect the faltering career of his idol by co- producing his album Transformer with Mick Ronson. Many evenings were spent with a select, elite group of friends lounging on bean bags applying nail polish, smoking mentholated cigarettes and contemplating sex in the hall as we listened to this album with its tales of decadent New York and colourful characters- Candy, Holly, Jackie and Little Joe- who we discovered were real and, at the time, all  very much alive.

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 Other favourites were the New York Dolls, early Roxy Music, The Sex Pistols and Bowie but Lou seemed darker and more dangerous- look at how his made up panda eyes glared past and through you on Transformer’s metallic cover- promising a subterranean demi-monde where it was always after midnight and debauched glamour was the entry code. On top of all this he was the best singer ever and he couldn’t even sing. Perfect!

 Transformer provided a perfect point of entry to Reed’s work and before long I investigated and discovered his Velvet Underground back catalogue which totally blew my mind. To the point I still refer to their debut The Velvet Underground and Nico as my all time favourite album. It had everything; sex, drugs, sado-masochism, twisted love songs, thrashing guitars, Reed’s throwaway drawl, Nico’s Germanic icy cool and Andy Warhol’s Factory people. Here was a record which inhabited a universe all its own and unlike Bowie’s exotic characters Reed’s subject matter actually existed. Oh, how I wanted to be there!

 Discovering Lou Reed was akin to finding a guiding light in my life. He spoke to me through the medium of song in a way I could never envisage my father speaking to me. Lou understood and prevented me from feeling I was wrong when my surroundings were screaming at me otherwise. ‘White Light/ White Heat’, ‘Candy Says’, ‘What Goes On’,Kill Your Sons’, ‘Sad Song’ and ‘Satellite of Love’ are just some of the songs embedded in my emotional hard drive eternally. How also can I forget the perfect chords of ‘Sweet Jane’ or the auto biographical Rock ‘n’ Roll’? As for the blistering assault of the seventeen minutes of mayhem that is ‘Sister Ray’, which at its denouement still leaves me feeling drained, exhilarated, confused, relieved and hyperventilating all at once; well it may be a cliché but they really don’t make them like that anymore.

 Lou Reed meant something not just to me but to so many others and he will continue to mean something. At some time we all have to take a walk on the wild side hitching a ride on a satellite of love and obviously Sunday October 27th was when Lou felt that final beckoning tap on the shoulder calling him. I could go on but really I have only one thing left to say and that is ‘Thank You ’.

ANDY WARHOL: POP, POWER AND POLITICS

 

Andy Warhol: Pop, Power and Politics

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Andy Warhol is better known than the actual art works he produced and whilst this may fit in with his quest as one of the all time greatest self publicists-he was definitely among the first to understand and take advantage of an obsession with media figures- it detracts somewhat from the power of his artistic statement. This exhibition in the Scottish Parliament redresses that balance by showing that far from being a charlatan who used bright colours there is a depth and intelligence in Warhol’s work which despite being over exposed and deeply ingrained in our consciousness actually still resonates with validity twenty six years after his untimely demise.

 The connection with Scotland in this exhibition is the portrait of Scots philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who also lent his name to the prestigious Carnegie Hall. It is a portrait that has previously never exhibited outside the United States and as a dominant central work it commandeers a large portion of the wall it hangs on. Not that the works surrounding it are any less imposing or impressive.

 Other stand-out pieces in this well curated exhibition are German Social Democrat Willy Brandt looking more like a Hollywood film star than politician whilst artist and sculptor Joseph Beuys and his role as founder of the German green party is also represented. The famous ‘Mao’ also makes an appearance though here as a full size drawing rather than the more recognisable screen print.

Warhol’s sole entry into American politics culminated in a poster he designed for the Democratic party in 1972 when McGovern was a contender against Nixon for the Republicans. In a typical Warholian ruse the artist used a portrait of Nixon with the words ‘Vote McGovern’ below to great provocative effect. To give some idea of the political context of this  statement think of David Cameron’s face being used as an advert to vote yes to Scottish independence. Unfortunately Mc Govern lost out to Nixon whose administration never really forgave Warhol who found himself constantly being audited by the IRS during their tenure and beyond. In hindsight his warning showing what people were actually voting for- Nixon- proved itself prescient when tales about Watergate eventually leaked.

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  Endangered species such as Siberian tigers and seas turtles are also on show as a representation of conservational politics as are royal figures including Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and our very own Elizabeth II.

 The Kennedy’s ‘Flash’ section is for me the most captivating work in the exhibition telling the well worn story as it actually unfolds in a wholly engrossing way without lapsing into morbid obsession. Related through a series of telex updates the text is interspersed with visual representation of Kennedy and his widow Jackie as the events of that four days which shocked and changed the world unfold. It is fascinating and even though the events and outcome are known it is as if you are caught up in the drama for the first time.

 This exhibition should help to clear up just how relevant an artist Warhol actually was for anyone who is still in doubt. Whilst his work always seemed to be simplistic it is this very simplicity which also made it complex as simply showing things as they were, the doubt and decisions to be made are all in the minds and eyes of the viewer.

 Andy warhol: Pop, Power and Politics is on at the Scottish parliament until November 3rd. To book free tickets click on the following link.http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/visitandlearn/61837.aspx

NEU REEKIE 39

Neu Reekie 39 Sublimely Sliced

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 Arriving slightly late-not my fault- we thought it best not to enter the show, disturbing others in our quest for a seat, whilst it was still in its early animation stages therefore repairing to the bar for a relaxing drink to wait for the first break in proceedings before making our entry. Unfortunately by making this miscalculation and due to a change in the format of the evening we also missed the set by Pumajaw who I had been hoping to catch.

 Meandering up the stairs the drifting sounds of the Nancy Sinatra classic ‘Bang Bang’ delivered in the hauntingly husky tones of Pinkie McClure delivered over an ambient wash by John Wills it became clear that this was the end of their set and unfortunately we were just in time to hear their last number. I wish I had caught more of their set however as what I did catch was highly impressive. Fortunately most of what came up next-we arrived in time for the first break-was also highly worthwhile.

 Janette Ayachi opened the next segment reading from her acclaimed collection ‘A Choir of Ghosts’ in her inimitable and individual style. This was followed by the Kaspar Jancis  animation piece ‘Crocodile’ from 2009 which told the tale of a down at heel opera start who is forced by circumstance to work in a crocodile outfit before  a more surrealist turn of events take control and a more moving tale takes shape.

 Following this was Billy Letford who rendered what appeared to be a freeform piece about the late night bus journey of your worst nightmares. In truth the work was far too structured to be spontaneous but he delivered it without prompting or notes and made it seem totally effortless whilst his confidence in what he was doing was blatantly apparent  providing a highlight of the evening.

 The first musical segment of the evening- at least the first full set I caught- was by the Wellgreen who with their stunningly beautiful harmonies and immaculate pop sensibilities came across as  Simon and Garfunkel meets the Monkees and in the best way imaginable. The two piece had a sound that was distinctly pure but also strayed away from being overly mawkish. From then it was straight into the closing musical act Linden which I felt was more of the same-including band members- slightly bulked out with more musical muscle but somehow without the potency of what had gone immediately before. Perhaps it was too similar to come on immediately and suffered in comparison  but it didn’t really register with me as much as I felt it should have.

  This was however the penultimate Neu Reekie of 2013 at Summerhall and with Withered Hand and Teen Canteen lined up for the next one I felt this was more of a low key and relaxed affair than some of their more recent outings. It still had its highlights- Billy Letford Janette Ayachi and the Wellgreen maintained the high Neu Reekie standards expected- and the change of format indicates that shaking things up is still high on the agenda and this already has me looking forward to October’s edition.

DIVING

Diving.

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 Moving forward from last years Naked Touch exhibition photographer Gavin Evans has decided to transfer his talents to film making accompanied by musical accompaniment by violin virtuoso Richard Moore. Just as confrontational as his naked portraits, which stripped the subjects bare, his exploratory nature inspired him to take these themes several steps further by creating nine short silent films visually applying psychology to portraits using subjects with strong back stories-loss and alcoholism are just two things which have brought his subjects to where they are in their lives today-  hopefully providing a sense of illumination for the audience.

 Acting as the antithesis to the never ending-and generally unfunny- comedy acts most mistakenly assume are the central focus of the Fringe, ‘Diving’ instead offers a sense of catharsis not only for the artist and his subjects but also the audience themselves as the material asks them to question their own prejudices and preconceived notions. Generally the subjects of these films have overcome conditions or situations that most of society would consider to be either defects or drawbacks-perhaps even both- and the strength they have had to muster up in dealing with these things allows another dimension of the film to unfold.

Using the basics of one light, one camera and one subject, Evans strips things back to basics and provides a visual metaphor for the shaft of light a dive into the sea leaves behind. Whilst the light reveals, the dark in contrast hides but simultaneously also leaves a lot open to suggestion.

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Wes Westenburger who appears in one of the films actually had an accident in the sea which left him a paraplegic so this adds further depth as the name and subject matter were already in place before a chance meeting led to their eventual collaboration. Likewise unconventional and innovative choreographer Javier De Frutos had an innate understanding of movement, light and the use of music so his film will incorporate these elements in a totally different way from most of the others.

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 Alongside these moving portraits by Evans will be impromptu violin scores created by Richard Moore who is an equally vital component in the project. His contributions will be all the more interesting as he will be perceiving these visions through the eyes and mindset of a healthy young man who has yet to endure or experience many of the hardships the subjects  within the films have been through. This provides a different narrative and yet again even more depth to an already multi-textured experience.

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 Showing only for two nights –August 6th and 7th– tickets for this show are bound to be in demand so it may be wise to book in advance although there may be another date towards the end of the festival but as yet nothing has yet been confirmed. Definitely a thought provoking show and whilst some may see it as slightly macabre with a deliberate intention to shock this is not  the case but if it does actually manage to shock well perhaps that could also be perceived as a good thing.

Diving is showing in the Dissection Room at Summerhall on Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th August at 7pm.

Details can be found here http://www.summerhall.co.uk/

All photographs and stills courtesy of Gavin Evans