JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday 24th February

 

So that was the Brits then, supposedly showcasing ‘The very best in British music’ or was it a two hour MasterCard advert interrupted by other adverts and interspersed with some decidedly-at best- average musical interludes? From a nation which has produced groundbreaking acts such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bowie, The Sex Pistols, The Clash , Kate Bush, The Smiths, Underworld, Radiohead and PJ Harvey then surely the likes of Ed Sheeran and Butlins Redcoat Olly Murs are a step backwards in an industry which insists it is forward looking and streaming the zeitgeist. This was hard to believe after watching Tuesday night’s shambolic fiasco of an awards ceremony-I only watched half as the minute Olly Murs came on with his Seaside Special routine, a performance as flat as his vocals, I could not take anymore- which was a national embarrassment and a sorry indictment on the state of British music.

There is good music out there and of the aforementioned list of innovators both Kate Bush and PJ Harvey received nominations but these were only a cursory nod of recognition and there was never any way they were going to win positioned, as they were,  against the current industry cash cow Adele. Apparently much furore was made concerning her acceptance speech being cut short but she had three wins and a live performance so her screen time was hardly minimal and thus had ample opportunity to thank everyone necessary without feeling too hard done by. Interrupted by James Corden-not sure why he was assigned this role as he is probably the most irritating man on TV and the smug ,perfect example of someone getting lucky- she gave the finger to the ‘suits’ and caused a little bit of limp controversy which was really quite yawnsville. Seeing later that her speech was cut short for Damon Albarn’s eleven minute mockney ‘alright guvnor’ ramblings, the irritation which accompanied her being edited made more sense however.

This was followed by a disappointing performance by Blur which unfortunately was still head and shoulders above the bland drivel churned out by the other guests. Florence and her Machine wailed hysterically whilst resembling the Good Life’s Margo Leadbetter and Noel Fielding in drag and obviously engaged in a competition with Rihanna in-as one observer wryly noted- as to who could sound more like a cat being fisted. Bruno Mars churned out the blandest slop imaginable-apart from Olly Murs of course, though it was a close-run thing- and Ed Sheeran is just totally forgettable, maudlin and twee.

Adele won best album and turned in a stunningly polished performance, as she always does, but it is starting to feel a little tired. Her album 21 is a good, well conceived record but it is more the stuff of background noise at dinner parties than anything else. There is nothing innovative or groundbreaking about the record and the only thing it is likely to inspire are a hundred Dancing on Ice routines.

Mind you the Brits were hardly likely to take flight opening as they did with Coldplay-who have assisted another innovator Brian Eno in sullying an otherwise,U2 aside, almost perfect career- who always make me feel as if I have been robbed of five minutes of my life. It came as quite a shock then to discover on last nights Dispatches concerning online ticket rip-off companies that some people are prepared to spend over two grand to see them live as I am more likely to spend that amount to NOT see them live. The Dispatches documentary was fascinating however showing how secondary ticket sites-in this instance Viagogo was the prime target though there are others- are indulging in despicable practices in ripping off music fans. Seemingly involved in allocation deals many tickets are never actually available to the public at the price advertised and instead are on sale almost instantaneously at vastly inflated prices. Add to this the practice of buying up as many tickets as possible with multiple credit cards to sell on at huge profits and a highly immoral system is at work. Dispatches exposed this and the smug self satisfied attitude of those behind it.

Personally I have never been a fan of large, impersonal stadium gigs so have never actually been ripped off but many of the original prices always seemed excessively high without quadrupling them-at least in some cases- to line the pockets of an essentially corrupt business which in some way is doing its own bit in destroying what little integrity still exists of an already faltering music industry. I don’t understand the point of spending hundreds of pounds to stand outside or in an aircraft hangar sized building to watch a band half a mile away on a video screen so it could be argued anyone who is prepared to part with their hard earned cash simply to imbue themselves with some kudos or delusional credibility is simply getting what they deserve. There are some genuine fans that having queued or saved up are also being ripped off and it is them I feel pity for. The programme was well executed- even if they did make the faux pas of describing a Will Young enthusiast as a ‘music fan’- and exposed those behind the scams so it will be interesting to see what action is taken.

This must be the week of disappointing awards ceremonies as the Oscars also take place this Sunday and as far as I can see several of the years best films have been neglected-Drive and Shame are two unforgivable omissions from all categories- and it is now down to The Artist and The Help to battle it out. My money is on The Artist as although it is French –remember the vehement anti-French sentiment of the last Sex and the City episode after France failed to back the US entering Iraq- it pays homage to a golden era of Hollywood. The only likely competition it is likely to face is the Help which is a much more patriotic film of the sort beloved of the Academy. The Descendants, War Horse and especially Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are mere also-rans padding out the category. Meryl Streep is not such a dead cert for best actress as she was in the Baftas as she plays a British icon which does not hold the same amount of fascination-and hatred- for an American audience as for a British one. The best actor is similarly open though it will probably go to Jean DuJardin even if Brad Pitt gives the best performance in Moneyball and George Clooney’s overrated but understated portrayal in the Descendants is also up there with the favourites. The whole thing will probably be less disappointing than the Brits and there is always some comfort to be gained from your personal favourite not winning as this means it will never be relegated to the overly populist ranks and the sense of being cheated helps it retain some kudos.

Awards ceremonies apart from being a pat on the back from your own industry are essentially guides for people who have little instinct and taste of their own and thus have to be guided into making a decision as to what to see and listen to. Very rarely have I been influenced to investigate something merely because it has won an award and generally the consensus is once something has reached that level of acceptance it is borne of the mainstream and lost its edge. It is always good to see who turns up looking a state though having been convinced by a team of stylists that something totally ridiculous is somehow absolutely fabulous.

This weekend sees another night at the always interesting Neu Reekie and the guest list this time seems as impressive as the last one so that is something to look forward to even if no-one takes home any awards. Not much else going on this weekend in this city with it’s ever rapidly dwindling decent venues although I believe Rugby season is upon us which along with the stag and hen parties merely provides yet another excuse to avoid the city centre on a Saturday night.

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EMA -PAST LIFE MARTYRED SAINTS

EMA-Past Life Martyred Saints

 Rising phoenix-like from the ashes of Gowns, Erika M. Anderson has refashioned herself as EMA to turn in one of the most astounding debuts of recent years. Originally released in March 2011 Past Life Martyred Saints has been re-released as a ‘Deluxe’ package with bonus tracks and videos. To those familiar with the original work this may seem superfluous-akin to drawing a beard on the Mona Lisa- as one of the many things in its favour was the sparseness which did not allow for one wasted syllable, note or use of texture not entirely essential to the finished product, so much so that any addition simply feels unnecessary. Fortunately the bonus version mainly consists of two new extra tracks-one a Nirvana cover- and official videos of three of the albums standout tracks.

Sonically EMA sounds like some unholy collision between the Velvet Underground with Patti Smith as ranting chanteuse whilst Robert Fripp adds layers of his Frippertronic guitar lines all over the proceedings. There is no traditional verse chorus structure on any of the tracks and melodies float in like fragments but once lodged in your brain cannot be dislodged. Add to this the visual dynamic of the progeny of an illicit affair between Kurt Cobain and Kim Gordon with Debbie Harry contributing the sass and class gene. Then take some inspiration from Elizabeth Wurtzel’s nineties generational observation piece ‘Prozac Nation’, but instead of the whinging attitude replace it with something more abrasive and convincing then you have some idea of the motives and genre occupied by this album. Despite this unnecessary re-release the original package was so astounding that perhaps it needs appraisal again if only to introduce it to a wider audience.

Opening with ‘The Grey Ship’ Anderson’s agenda is very much incorporated in the three sections of this outstanding opener. Starting with  lo-fi  beginnings it bursts into aural technicolour midway through with weaving violins and guitars before concluding with the sepia tinted memories of ‘Great Grandma lived on the prairie, nothing, nothing and nothing/ I got the same feeling inside of me, nothing ,nothing and nothing’ . Lead-off single ‘California’ is up next and its intentions are clear from the outset ‘Fuck California, you made me boring’ whilst musically it sounds on the precipice of total collapse- a musical metaphor perhaps on the instability of the sunshine state and its constant threat of earthquakes and drug sated celebrity culture- though the tension is palpable whilst offering some throwaway nihilism ‘I’m just twenty two I don’t mind dying’. ‘Anteroom’ twists and coils itself into your psyche like a cobra ‘If this time through we don’t get it right, I’ll come back to you in another life’ before ‘Milkman’ takes a more conventional alt-rock approach. Not too conventional mind. Up next is ‘Coda’ which offers a weird variant on a satanic, twisted form of accapella ‘These drugs are making me so sad’ she proclaims demonically. ‘Marked’ takes a look at self harming culminating with the fadeout  ‘I wish that every time he touched me left a mark’. ‘Breakfast’ starts off like a sinister nursery rhyme designed to assuage nightmares before a guitar motif helps Anderson reach the orgasmic conclusion of ‘You feel just like a priest to me’. Butterfly Knife’ begins like the aural equivalent of Linda Blair’s 360 degree head turn in the Exorcist with a maelstrom of twisted voices fighting their way through an electric storm of discordant, crunching guitars. The official closer ‘Red Star’ is a slow burning lament of elegiac beauty with guitars drifting into the mix reminiscent of Lou Reed in his Velvets heyday to reach a perfect conclusion of beautifully melded vocals and suitably atmospheric sonic dissonance.

Of the extra tracks ‘To Leave with Love’ was a bonus track on the original release so does not appear incongruous and neither does the cover of Nirvana’s ‘Endless Nameless’ which sounds like mere continuation rather than tacked on filler. The videos for ‘California ‘, ‘Milkman’ and ‘Marked’ show how well suited to rock stardom Anderson is with her photogenic looks, natural instincts and understated approach though unfortunately she may actually be too abrasive and thought provoking to ever achieve the mainstream success she deserves and thus will probably remain the beloved secret of those who like their music disturbing and haunting. Never before has inertia sounded so enthralling!

PSYCHOMODA

Psychomoda

 

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

Email:psychomoda1@fsmail.net

Website  www.psychomoda.co.uk

Facebook Page 320133669767

A DANGEROUS METHOD

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.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

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.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

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.

mark-lanegan-ode-to-sad-disco

AXOLOTL

Axolotl

 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

E-mail- enquiries@axolotl.co.uk

www.axolotl.co.uk