Entering into the premises of Psychomoda in the heart of the Old Town it feels as if you have entered into a fantastical secret place which you want to share with those who are unaware of its existence. It is not, however, an opportunistic new arrival occupying the vacated space of a business which has fallen by the wayside as the vampiric fangs of the recession have bit into the jugular of many others in the area. Instead, Psychomoda is a long standing established business of 20 years-it opened in 1992- which is doing very nicely thank you very much.

This is, in no short part, exclusively to do with the forward thinking and integrity of its proprietor, Alison Harm, who has made it a prerequisite to understand and accommodate her customers’ requirements whilst adapting to the demands of the current climate whether it be financial, cultural or the fickle dictates of fashion. The fact that she manages to do all this whilst maintaining the shops-and just as importantly her own- identity and integrity is highly impressive in an era when many others jump to the dictatorial demands of style mags and find themselves in competition with the corporate juggernauts TopShop , Primark et al.

Psychomoda manages to provide clothes unlike any others available and with all garments being designed and manufactured on the premises-there is a workshop in the basement- most are one offs or at the very least a slight variant on the same theme. There is no chance of that embarrassing moment when you turn up to a party and encounter someone in the same outfit and this is due to the individual nature of Harm’s designs and the sense of occasion they engender. Despite this, recent forays into a more accessible daywear collection are proving highly successful especially amongst those desirous of moving away from the high street generic automaton look prevalent everywhere you turn. There is also a children’s range which is flying off the shelves at a frantic pace due to its individual nature and extremely reasonable pricing.

So what does this cornucopia of fashionable delights actually contain?

First to catch the eye and the feverish imagination is the Tartania Collection-considering the ubiquity of tartan, in particular the lauded and seemingly derivative Corrie Nielsen designs, on the catwalk at last weeks London Fashion Week it would appear Harm’s long-time endeavours are not merely streaming the zeitgeist but have pre-empted it- which mixes together an eclectic fusion of the traditional with the more avant-garde to create something unique, exotic and ultimately stylish. The tartan contrasts with silk and satin panels and a further modern take on tradition is followed through with plaid brooches adding another dynamic to an already burgeoning clashing and blending of influences.


Another favourite is the Prom Dress collection which proves popular around this time of year as the Graduation season starts to loom its sartorially demanding head and young girls and women want that special outfit guaranteed to stand out from the highly competitive crowd. The Corset Range has been a stalwart favourite right from the shops early days and although they seem to have slipped slightly out of favour-possibly due to the Burlesque movement being slightly on the wane perhaps- it is still popular enough to warrant its own section. A Vintage Collection-adhering to the theme of nostalgia termed the New Romantics- is a recent addition wherein Harm jazzes up vintage clothes-particularly the eighties on my visit- with various modifications or appliqué to give it all a contemporary twist and capture  simultaneously forward and backward looking pieces.


This method of juxtaposing disparate elements not usually associated with each other is perhaps the thing which makes Psychomoda’s designs stand out from the crowd and the shop such a unique experience and in a climate of austerity and, let’s be honest, conservatism in the fashion world this is highly refreshing. Harm has been expounding this sense of individualism since the shops inception and the fact she is able to incorporate so many distinctive styles alongside each other in such a small space without any one of them feeling incongruous is also an amazing feat which shows she understands fashion and –more importantly- style with an intrinsic depth. This alone should allow Psychomoda to stand its ground whilst others around crumble as they swiftly go out of the fashion they so slavishly follow.

psychomoda is located at 22 St. Marys Street Edinburgh EH1 1SU

Shop opens 11am and closes 5.30pm Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and 6pmThursday and Saturday

Telephone 0131 557 6777


Facebook Page 320133669767



A Dangerous Method


This Cronenberg film set in the early stages of the twentieth century leading up to the cataclysmic events of the First World War details the intricate and convoluted relationships between Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein . Each at some point was a leading light in their chosen field of psychiatry and psychology therefore creating a cerebral film driven by attempts to unravel and analyse what drove them in their ever increasingly inextricably linked personal and professional lives. Featuring strong performances from Viggo Mortensen (Freud), Michael Fassbender (Jung) and Keira Knightley (Spielrein) it is a beautifully shot film with amazing scenery perfectly capturing the Swiss retreat of Jung. It is also perfectly costumed and the plot and dialogue unravel with slow, deliberate pacing but there is something in the film which fails to ignite and raise it to the high standards we have come to expect from the participants.

What essentially seems to be the main problem is the dullness of the script which never really takes flight or makes the audience feel involved as anything other than a voyeur to a set of problems which at times seem merely indulgent. Knightley perhaps turns in the best performance as Spielrein who as one of the first women to be recognised as a psychoanalyst starts the film as a patient of Jung and hers is the character we actually see grow throughout the films duration. The introduction of Freud into the proceedings and the subsequent competitive nature of his relationship with Jung somehow feels understated and ultimately anti-climactic. Towards the end of their comradeship it feels as if they are merely trading insults, even if they are carefully worded insults in the guise of polite analytical remarks designed to cause the greatest offence, thus rupturing the progress and insights the combining of two great minds could have achieved working together. In the end both made astonishing inroads of their own with differing perspectives so perhaps the loss is not tragic after all and the sniping whilst appealing, perhaps, to students of psychology and analysis is unlikely to hold the interest of cinema goers..

Not much else happens throughout the film other than the intricacies of Jung and Freud’s relationship and Jung’s affair with Spielrein and at times it seems to drag. At one point the audience is informed two years have passed since the last scene and, to be honest, it very much felt like it had played out in real time. It is beautifully scenic and the performances are strong and although this occasionally went some way to making up for the slow pacing it unfortunately was not often enough.


Friday 17th December 


With spring very much in the ascendant it is safe to assume-with this being Scotland-that a late winter is waiting around the corner to pounce on us unawares just when the winter woollens have been discarded for another few months. In some ways the weather has offered some consolation for the curtailment of some of my regular activities due to the mild inconvenience of that February staple, the school mid-term holidays. This week that has meant abandoning my normal relaxing swim and sauna sessions due to the pool takeover by rowdy kids and unruly parents-not sure who makes the most noise between those two groups- and the postponing of the Mummy exhibition at the Museum for the same reasons. In some ways it is quite good to have a reasonable excuse to give up on the exercise regime for a week but it becomes more of an irritant during the summer when the activities have to be postponed for six weeks. Mind you, my plight is probably nothing compared to that of all the parents who have to entertain their little darlings during these times. I have yet to hear one of my friends or family with children say they are really looking forward to the summer/ Easter/ Xmas holidays and I very much doubt I ever will.

Even the cinema during the daytime is a veritable minefield of noise and youthful exuberance and thank God the Muppets movie seems to be the main film acting as catnip to the bunch of boisterous youngsters cluttering up the foyers with their popcorn, texting and Ugg boots. Have noticed that even when out of school there seems to be a generation emerging who still indulge in wearing a uniform of sorts- so different from my day when uniform was to be discarded at any opportunity- resulting in a sense of conformity which is quite worrying. For the girls this seems to consist of the aforementioned Uggs whilst the boys settle for expensive trainers and both sexes then adorn the rest of their young frames in anything by Jack Wills. That most of them are dressing from a shop which describes itself as a University outfitters shows a maturity which is preferable to the teenage Lolita look so prevalent a few years ago, which did little in the way of sartorial kudos other than turning teenage girls into facsimiles of wizened prostitutes. It is, however, more than a little boring and bland with little in the way of individuality or originality. Despite this it is at least good quality clothing and in an age of austerity  perhaps a good investment even if it does turn everyone into a clone of each other, though perhaps this is the point and I am simply missing it.

At the cinema A Dangerous Method-the new Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightly and Viggo Mortensen vehicle- which deals with the intricate and unravelling relationship and differing theories of Freud and Jung, The film seemed to have been held back for a week probably until after the Bafta winners were announced to allow the cinemas to squeeze a little more money out of the Artist, Shame, Drive et al. Actually it was good to see the Artist do so well at the Baftas as it is a hugely entertaining film and although it doesn’t stretch any boundaries-quite the opposite some might say- it does capture the essence of what going to the movies is about and that is not as many CGI’s as possible.

The Baftas , in my estimation, had more credibility this year than the Oscars as they at least acknowledged both Drive and Fassbender’s performance in Shame even if both didn’t actually take home any awards on the night. It also neglected to award The Descendants and this was also justifiable as the film and George Clooney’s performance are highly overrated. Clooney does look like a dead cert for the Oscar however as the Bafta went to Jean Dujardin for The Artist and it is unlikely the Academy will award a non-speaking foreigner over a Hollywood stalwart. Meryl Streep won as best actress and this was a foregone conclusion and ditto for the Oscars also. The Help also took home a clutch of awards in this dry run for the end of the month’s main event although I doubt it will take any of the truly big and most coveted categories. For the best film I think that will be between the Artist and The Descendants with Money Ball giving them a close run and perhaps Woody Allen’s inspiring Midnight in Paris as a hopeful rank outsider.

Other news this week was the sad death of Whitney Houston who was found in a bathtub after two days of partying. I must admit this news left me pretty much unaffected and non-plussed much like her music which was always more about vocal pyrotechnics, distorted features and quivering chin than any real depth of emotion or soul. Her musical legacy is zero in my opinion and signifies everything which was wrong with so much music in the decade taste forgot; the eighties. Her biggest hit was a cover of a heartfelt beautiful song written by Dolly Parton I Will Always Love You which she twisted into a histrionic, overwrought, emotionless power ballad that is responsible for a thousand cruise ship renditions and even more X-Factor auditions. For this alone it was impossible for me to feel anything more than a fleeting sadness for a life wasted, opportunities missed and bad choices made.

Unfortunately the fashion for strident voiced women is very much in vogue again at the moment. This new breed however seems intent on refashioning recent rock and indie standards accompanied simply by a piano in some conceited attempt to lend the song some  not really needed gravitas. It seems to have started with Lady Gaga and spiralled even further down the bounds of taste. So far recently I have heard the XX’S Shelter. Bon Iver’s Skinny Love and The National’s Terrible Love all put through the wringer in this way. Stop This Now Please! It is boring, unpleasant and wholly unnecessary. If you want to listen to someone sing alone at a piano then there is really no need to look further than Kate Bush who is –and always has been- in a class of her own. So no more please!

This weekend it is the last stand and final hurrah for much loved Edinburgh club venue Cabaret Voltaire which I am sure holds a plethora of fond and wild memories-and probably more nights best forgotten- for so many different people. It bows out on Saturday-though bow may be too tame a word, expect it to charge out- with Gasoline Dance Machine and a set from the Cosmonauts which looks like being a night to remember. So polish up your dancing shoes and head out for what will be the last night of this Edinburgh institution.


Friday 10th February


The big news in Edinburgh this week is undoubtedly the arrival of Her Royal Madgesty the former Lady Madonna on July 21st for a gig at Murrayfield Stadium. The excitement amongst the Twitterati was palpable eclipsed only by  the faint odour of fresh paint which undoubtedly follows her around and has already found a way of getting up my nose. Although I am not a huge fan of Madonna-there have been moments when I have adored her but they are a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away around the time of ‘Into the Groove’- I appreciate immensely how hard she must have worked to stay at the top of her game for nearly thirty years in an industry fixated on youth and the next big thing. There have also been some zeitgeist defining singles along the way- Material Girl, Like a Prayer, Express Yourself, Vogue, Ray of Light and most recently the heavily Abba sampled Hung Up- as well as a few fashion moments although none ever had the visual effect of her initial image of tousled hair, fingerless gloves, numerous bangles and thrift store chic. It was at this juncture in which she consolidated her stardom with a look that felt very much her own whereas subsequent image changes always felt a little too much like the work of a team of stylists.

The image has always gone hand in hand with the music-on many occasions overshadowed it- but her eternal popularity is probably down to a clever and knowledgeable use of collaborators most of whom will have been glad of her patronage. Most have benefited from her seal of approval and not only financially-though this can’t have hurt- but also artistically. If just one person was inspired by William Orbit’s –large-contribution to her Ray of Light opus to investigate his former works, especially the dance/ambient classic Strange Cargo 3, then it was job done concerning her role as a vessel for discovering other works more artistically important than her own. Likewise Goldfrapp probably received a lot of attention for their Supernature album after she ripped it off wholesale for her own Confessions on a Dancefloor but it also provided the origins of the rather cruel though very amusing putdown reference, Oldflapps.

It is this need to constantly refer to herself po-facedly as ‘an artist’ which has really grated about Madonna in my view over the last ten to fifteen years. Certainly a certain amount of artistry is involved in keeping the younger pups from snapping at her heels and she admittedly has regarded them all dismissively-whilst also publicly supporting them- from her imperious position. Only Lady Gaga has actually rattled her cage and managed to elicit a few snide putdowns but I doubt that she poses any long-term threat and the catty remarks are probably more down to a fifty something year old feeling a little concerned whether she can continue competing in this arena. Madonna has the savvy to bow out while she is still at the top and let no young whippersnapper ever dare forget that.

As to her gig at Murrayfield I can report I will most definitely, probably, not be attending. Actually I have seen her live before-around the same time I saw Michael Jackson who she outperformed and Prince who outclassed both of them by a country mile- but this is not the reason I will not be attending it is just the thought of stadium gigs fills me with a shudder as they are little more than a corporate juggernaut rolling into town. The thought of spending up to £100-at least- to feel special alongside 20,000 other people does not satisfy any criteria as to having a good time for me these days. For many I feel it is more a case of having been there and the sense of occasion and I can wholeheartedly appreciate that and I have always preferred seeing live music in a contained indoor environment where the atmosphere does not vaporise into the night sky.

Saying this I did attend Arcade Fire at Edinburgh Castle last year and it was an amazing gig. I was in the Royal Box with all the others who were guest listed and as if to confirm what I was saying about the sense of occasion most of those in my immediate vicinity seemed to be there to congratulate each other for actually being there rather than any love of the music on display. There is also the unquestionable question of rain-it is July in Edinburgh after all- and I am simply too old and vain to run the risk of standing outside in the midst of a downpour. I am sure however it will be a great gig as Madonna is unquestionably a great show person who goes all out to make sure her audience leaves satisfied.

Elsewhere this weekend there is Hot Mess at The Wee Red Bar and Jacques Lucont at what will sadly be one of the last Fridays at Cabaret Voltaire. Edinburgh band du jour,  Her Royal Highness, are also playing this weekend at 3rd Door in Lothian Road and should be a good gig to catch them at before stardom beckons.

At the cinema the excellent Martha Marcy May Marlene –a future cult classic-  and Polanski’s slickly paced social satire Carnage are joined by David Cronenberg’s Freud versus Jung drama, A Dangerous Method, featuring the ubiquitous Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley.

Here to kick the weekend off is Mark Lanegan’s storming Ode to Sad Disco-best track of 2012 so far- from what is shaping up to be one of the albums of the year Blues Funeral.




 Ever since Axolotl extravagantly threw open its doors in Edinburgh’s prestigious Dundas Street nearly two years ago it has provided an exuberant breath of fresh air to an art scene which had grown stale and more than a little up itself. By imbuing its events with a sense of fun-not that the art on display was ever frivolous or trite- proceedings were conducted without the sense of a bad smell on the top lip and broom up the rear end which was typical of the reception most galleries extended to those who dared to enter their premises. The positive atmosphere the gallery generated was, in no short part, due to the airy premises which made strong use of the light and space at their disposal but location was not alone in making Axolotl a success as other approaches and attitudes also have to be factored in.

The main catalyst for this new approach of making art more accessible lies with the gallery owner Sarah Wilson who, most days, can still be found meeting and greeting those who venture through her doors. At their legendary openings she could be sighted sashaying through the throng in vertiginous heels and chic ensemble- think Christina Hendricks as Mad Men’s Joan hurtled through the decades in a time machine stopping only to acquire a few select pieces of Vivienne Westwood- accompanied by a salacious cackle. I was therefore sad to hear that Axolotl was closing down though disappointment quickly turned to relief when it was established as simply a case of relocation rather than any permanent closure.

The reasons for the relocation are several but top of the list would be the fact that shortly before Xmas Wilson’s partner-business and personal- was diagnosed with terminal cancer so future plans concerning the business required a rethink even though Axolotl was still functioning as a successful entity even in the current economic climate. Never one to cool her high heels it transpires Wilson already has two venues in the frame, so to speak, as alternative premises for Axolotl to continue their work but details remain under wraps until finalised.

In accordance with her current circumstances Wilson curated the current works on display-many of them her own- with the proceeds going to Cancer Research. As well as all this upheaval she also has her own wedding to organise for mid February which due to the circumstances will be a small family orientated affair although I suspect a donation to Dame Westwood’s pension fund will be firmly included in the choice of wedding outfit.

As to Axolotl’s legacy over the last two years Wilson is effusive in her praise for many of the artists who have shown there. Personal favourites though include Australian Simon Pontin’s collection of strategically hung shed doors engrained with spices eliciting an exotic aroma throughout the gallery. Also in for a special mention was Allan Goodwillie and his Owl assemblage which Wilson, and her equally vibrant assistant Susie Lamb, confirmed was fun and allowed visitors to contribute. Likewise Camera Obscura provided a divertive and quirky alternative to traditional art methods whilst simultaneously proving to be highly popular. A personal favourite of mine was Gregor Laird’s ‘Carrion’ of last summer which offered an interesting take on the obsession with celebrity in our culture.

Usually exhibitions were preceded by opulent, glamorous openings where the drink flowed, connections were made and a hell of a lot of flirting went on. They were always early evening events which continued seamlessly onto the pub-and beyond- resembling parties more than the stuffy atmosphere and cheap wine in plastic cup affairs which usually accompany such events. It will probably take more than a change of venue for the party animal in Wilson to be tamed and a new venue merely means new opportunities in her upbeat and indefatigable mindset.

Whatever the future holds for Axolotl its legacy already assures it will be regarded with a positive attitude and a sense of difference which aims to blow the cobwebs of the stuffy art establishment away with style and élan.

Axolotl can be found at 35 Dundas Street Edinburgh EH3 6QQ

Opening hours are Tuesday- Saturday 11-4

Telephone -0131 557 1460




Young Adult


This slow burning comedy starring Charlize Theron is probably raised to a higher level by her performance alone. It is a reunion of sorts between director Jason Reftman and writer Diablo Cody who previously collaborated on Juno. Young Adult has the same qualities which made that 2007 film such a success-and an ittitant to others- but unfortunately it also tries to be a little too clever for its own good with its quirky odd ball characterisations and pacing which slow things down, on occasion, just a little too much. It is a film which only comes to life once the twisted mindset of Theron’s character Mavis Gary hovers into view allowing us to see how disturbed and delusional she really is.

Once the first twenty minutes are out the way-and they are a long uneventful twenty minutes-things improve dramatically and Theron steps matters up several notches with her portrayal of Mavis, a late thirty-something writer, who after a divorce sets her sights on her small town teenage sweetheart after news reaches her he has recently had a daughter with his wife. Convincing herself he is unhappy and bound to be pining for her Mavis temporarily abandons her Minneapolis home, life and career in pursuit of the unaware and disinterested object of her obsessive affections and desires. Her behaviour reaches alcohol induced highs and morally ambiguous lows all delivered with deadpan chutzpah and throughout we wonder how she is getting away with such intolerable and frankly rude actions.

The matter becomes clear near the films end where it is revealed that the films other characters are hiding behind the façade of pleasant manners which mask their pity, horror and true feelings for the woman who is quite clearly having some sort of emotional crisis. This comes as quite a relief as up to that point it is unconvincing as to why anyone would tolerate such outlandish tactics and basic rudeness to such an extent as Mavis emerges as a character with very few redeeming qualities. It are these outlandish but understated qualities which drives the narrative however and we want to see Mavis push things a little further if only to see how far she can go before chipping through the veneer of social obsequiousness.

This film essentially belongs to Theron as a weaker less sympathetic performance would probably render the film a little flat. As it is she manages to make it an engaging and, at times, very amusing study into self delusion and turns in a performance which ranks along the years best.


Martha Marcy May Marlene


Clumsy title aside, this addition to the psychological thriller genre is head and shoulders above any recent contender due to an outstanding breakthrough performance from Elizabeth Olsen, a sharp script and direction from Sean Durkin alongside adept use of its audiences highly febrile imaginations. Never sliding into parody or cheap tactics the creepiest things in this film are those which are never mentioned, seen or discussed and this is what raises it to such a high level of suspense and intrigue. This method of not deploying the normal tactics in eliciting a chilly atmosphere results in the total absorption of events  and a further sense of dislocation is attained by cleverly splicing together two different time frames thus creating tension and a constant sense of not ever knowing what will happen next or even what has really happened before.

The main protagonist is Martha- who at various junctures also goes by the other three names of the films title – and her involvement with a cult. After making a break for reasons which remain undisclosed- though drugs and sex seem to play a role in their practises- she absconds to seek refuge with her elder sister Lucy(Sarah Paulsen) and newly wed husband Ted (Hugh Dancy) but her erratic behaviour causes tensions and they start to question her mental health. Throughout Martha/ Marcy May experiences difficulty in adapting to whatever environment she is in; the constrictions of one baffle her as much as the restrictions of the other until she is unaware of how to actually think for herself.

Despite this confusion and from the scenes we are allowed to witness, it would transpire that she is more comfortable with life within the cult although it becomes less-rather than more- clear as the film progresses as to why she ran away. There are hints that the sinister Patrick- a chilling John Hawkes- who is the patriarchal figure of the cult is the reason behind her defection but her relationship with Watts (Brady Corbet)-open sexual relationships appear to be the norm- cannot be totally dismissed either.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a film which will stay with you long after its shocking conclusion, which only serves to baffle and render further confusion. It is a thought provoking thoroughly engrossing film throughout and is surely a contender for many awards most especially Olsen’s performance which is understated but effectively lethal.