i rush to write this even before i've finished listening to all the tracks - nz electronic musician rhian sheehan's new album 'standing in silence' is a triumph. i've long been a fan of ambient electronic music probably since it subliminally forced its ...

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  1. i rush to write this even before i've fi...
  2. black out!
  3. Batman 2
  4. M83 - Saturdays=Youth
  5. Speed-the-plow at the Old Vic
  6. More Recent Articles

i rush to write this even before i've fi...

i rush to write this even before i've finished listening to all the tracks - nz electronic musician rhian sheehan's new album 'standing in silence' is a triumph.

i've long been a fan of ambient electronic music probably since it subliminally forced its way into my young subconscious via endless hours of my brother playing the likes of tangerine dream, vangelis, jean michel jarre and other synth geniuses.

anyway, in recent years i've developed a distinct taste for artists like m83, mogwai, sigur ros, mum etc often from the chilly climes of the northern hemisphere. i've always liked rhian sheehan too, but not this much...

his new release channels a whole lot of great stuff, and i can hear a bit of mum in there and sigur ros, maybe a touch of vangelis. it also reminds me of the soundtrack for the aussie film 'somersault' by decoder ring.

to make it that much more tempting, you'll find it on itunes for NZ$11.99 in a non-drm high bitrate form (also on emusic). 14 tracks of absolute goodness for 12 bucks!

black out!

Batman 2

This is a scattered review of the second most popular film of all time. The Dark Knight is that, a four out of five star exposition of the line society holds between order and everything else. Dark he is and becomes during the film, while still ending up as self-sacrificing as any good Knight should be. Over-archingly, it is about life today, at least in big cities in the USA. What does a society do in the face of reckless hate? Become as bad as Bin Laden? Torture etc? The conclusion sums this up perfectly as the Joker sets up an experiment like the one from the 70's where people were asked to shock eachother on command, and did.

How quickly will a white knight give in when senseless violence is metered out? How do you hold the line ... How do you combat forces that hold to no order or rules when you do?

There's alot of deaths, but then there are alot of characters, something which the film does struggle with (this is the curse of Batman films - notice the higher the sequel number, the more characters have always been included - and the suckier they have become yeah). Batman in TDK is really just a co-star with the Joker (as expected) - and Harvey Dent (unexpected) - and this feels a little strange, tho it is a bold choice. Several other supporting characters are important, but still there is the feeling that the central story gets a little overpowered.

The last third while brilliant, is spoilt by the mummy-like makeup on Two-Face. It certainly is out of a comic, and tends to downgrade all the final scenes where we watch Harvey's demise. And what happens to the Joker? Caught of course, but no proper resolution is provided. The reason I'm mentioning more negatives at this point than positives is that after waiting 6 weeks now to see it, and reading all the wonderful reviews, I was expecting a five star flick. But don't get me wrong, I'm eagerly awaiting my second viewing, and it is a worthy combination of Heat, the Untouchables, and Batman Begins.

M83 - Saturdays=Youth

First couple of songs - I’m asking ‘why cross the line into making synthy 80’s pop?’. M83 has always used epic keys with an 80’s feel to underscore much of his work, but on this new album, well he really gets carried away. I guess the cover should have warned me. Kim and Jessie’ and ‘skin of the night’ really are terrible - two stars, which means they’ll be deleted shortly from my collection.

But then, I get to ‘graveyard girl’ and ‘couleurs’ and I start to dig it. Maybe I was just getting used to it, but these tracks were getting better - more instrumental and epic electronica without any particular decade-obsession.

Unfortunately, the next track ‘up’ douses this enthusiasm, though the slight Coctau Twins resemblance is something. The nicely titled ‘we own the sky’ is ok, and amps up towards the end, but again has too much chorus-ized singing. I’ll spare you too much more of my up and down review, but suffice to say its been quite a first-listen journey.

Late album is mostly 3 out of 5 star territory, until the final track, ‘midnight souls still remain’ - its nearly worth the price of the album itself. Just leave it on repeat for around 40 mins to make up for some of the others, something that sounds crazy, but please, try it.

Speed-the-plow at the Old Vic

On Wednesday, Mim (my wife) and I went to see a David Mamet play called Speed-the-Plow at the Old Vic theatre in London. We'd never been to see a "serious" modern play before, and so we were a bit apprehensive especially as it only features three actors. Part of the draw was definitely the fact that Kevin Spacey (who's the artistic director at the Old Vic) and Jeff Goldblum were the two leads, giving us a chance to see a couple of brilliant (and famous) actors working on stage.

On the whole we were really impressed. The play is driven by snappy dialogue, and watching those two guys acting live made me realise just how good they are at acting. The sets were fairly minimal, and our seats had a slightly restricted view which sadly coincided with the exact spot where at least one character sat for much of the play! What really surprised me was how much I enjoyed the story (which I won't spoil for you - you can find a precis on Wikipedia).

I'd always been worried that I would find modern plays incomprehensible or boring, I guess in a parallel to the way in which I find a great deal of modern classical music impossible to engage with. But as it happens the play did such an enjoyable job of skewering the moral bankruptcy of modern film-making, that I am now keen to go and see some other modern plays. There were downsides - despite being a comment on Hollywood's corruption of art in the pursuit of making money, the play features some fairly offensive language and a liberal sexual morality, but I guess you could argue that the playwright was attempting to reflect the culture he was portraying - it would be ironic if he had included populist material in order to entice people to pay to see the play.

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