John Digweed : Transitions….

November 15, 2014 Leave a comment

Well chuffed that John Digweed chose a graphic we made and sent to him a few weeks ago, for his current Transitions show, and that 343 other people like it. It’s totally made our day…

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Reso Temjin

November 11, 2014 Leave a comment

square-600The odd couplet of words that make up the title of this post will mean little to most people, but since my discovery of this amazing record a month or so ago, I’ve listened to virtually nothing else and its time to spread the word…

Originally released back in 2009, this mind blowing collection of tunes is everything electronic music (and in Reso’s case dub step) can be; beautifully crafted, wildly eclectic, endlessly imaginative and perfectly sequenced…

It was whilst I was helping my friend Danny Kudos reorganise parts of his warehouse, that I came across this wonderful cover in a delivery from Civil Music, a label who had recently entrusted their distribution needs to the Kudos Team.

The artwork alone would have been reason enough for me to find out more, but I’d heard the guys in the warehouse talking about the artists on the Civil Music label, and with intriguing names like Reso, Om Unit and Ital Tek, I had to find out more…

Reso is Alex Melia, a UK based producer who “blends heightened technological futurism with dancefloor prowess to create a densely cinematic musical universe” and “On Temjin wobble, hypercrunk, breaks, wonky, hip-hop and D n B all receive the treatment. Reso’s deep musicality, incredible skill, intricate programming and wildly diverse references place him at the peak of a new breed of electronic producers.”

The above quotes are taken from Reso’s label pages here and I would struggle to put it better myself (although I have to admit I’m not exactly clear what hypercrunk and wonky sound like…)

Anyway see what you think. Like much of the music I seem to be drawn to, it’s not easy listening and certainly won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but the sounds on this record open up whole new worlds of sonic possibility. I never thought I’d find a collection of tracks that so effortlessly channeled the spirits of Daft Punk, Amon Tobin, Andy C & Ram Records, LTJ Bukem, Aphex Twin and Tangerine Dream, to such stunning effect… Check out Hyperglide at about 3 minutes in for an awesome analog synth solo straight out 1973…

I’ll finish with more fine covers from some of Reso’s other records, a man who obviously has similar sci-fi tastes to my own…

Check 1 2

Heavy Arms

Ishimura

Valken

William Mitchell wins 2014 Concrete Society Award.

November 4, 2014 Leave a comment

unnamed_trimMy good friend William Mitchell, sculptor, raconteur and all round legend, recently dug out his bow tie and headed off with his lovely wife Joy to be given an award in recognition of his many artistic achievements.

Sponsored by the British Precast Concrete Federation, this years annual prize for Creativity in Concrete was awarded to Bill in recognition of his lifetime’s commitment to producing and promoting concrete as a medium for making wonderful things.

Bill’s name joins the illustrious list of previous winners of the award, including Jorn Utzorn and David Chipperfield and is further proof of the renewed interest in the work and artistic contribution of this under appreciated genius.

So congratulations Bill, I’m very, very pleased for you and happy that others recognise and think as much of your work as I do. The snowball continues to gain speed and kudos (finally…)

For more information about William Mitchell, start by typing his name into the search bar at the top right of this blog, and take inspiration from the images of his wonderful work you find there…

October Roundup : Music & Art, Swearing & Skating, Poppies & Birthdays…

November 2, 2014 2 comments

What with one thing and another (mainly updating my portfolio, applying for and getting a new job, a nerve wracking experience that I haven’t been through for about 9 years) I’ve not had the chance to write much recently, which is a shame as we’ve done some excellent things together this last month. So what better excuse for a mini roundup as a way of recording them all…

20141004_203121_aFirstly there was our annual trip to Bedrock land to hear the mighty John Digweed spinning his tunes into the early hours. This year though, as he was promoting his rather excellent Traveler album there was a launch party at Plan B in Brixton and we, along with surprisingly few others, had the pleasure of a private play through.

The three fine fellows in the photo are JD himself, his musical accomplice Nick Muir and the Bedrock label manger Scott Dawson. Middle aged blokes in black, proper pop stars or what?..

Taking of middle aged blokes, we went to see Underworld at the Royal Festival Hall, playing their seminal album dubnobasswithmyheadman from start to finish, plus all the other tracks from that early 90’s that so fired me up at the time, Spikee and Rez sounded particularly wonderful. I got all a bit over excited and sang along loudly to most of the tunes most of the time, so apologies to M, D and A for that, but they all knew how much much this music means to me when they agreed to accompany me…

Easily one of the best gigs I’ve been to for ages…

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Then we were lucky enough to be invited to the private view of Lucy McLauchlan’s new show at the Lazarides Gallery. 20141013_210137 copyLucy is a truly excellent and gifted young artist whose immediately recognisable work moves effortlessly from the street to a gallery. There was an interesting selection of new work based around bark textures and florescent colours, however it was this gridded arrangement of painted timber panels with her trademark swirls and lines that was particularly satisfying.

Lucy had just returned from China where she’d been invited to create a mural high above the streets of central Guangzhou. Check out the video below for a little taster. How on earth she so effectively translates the scale of her work from sketch book to such gargantuan proportions is beyond me, and to be doing it that high up off the ground and from a wobbly cherry picker… I bet they don’t teach you that in College…

There was also a little after show party at the newly opening Mondrian Hotel at Sea Containers House on the South Bank which topped the evening off very nicely, with stunning views over the river (shame it was raining so hard though). I wrote about Sea Containers House several years ago actually when it was empty and being used as a giant advertising hoarding, so its good to see that it’s finally being occupied again. (Photo stolen from Dan, mine was rubbish…)

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A trip to the hidden and graffiti soaked under crofts of Waterloo to see my friend’s son skateboarding was the only excuse we needed to visit the House of Vans, and what an amazing place it is. Buried deep below the station platforms, carved out of impressive Victorian brick arches, two skate areas, a bar, a cinema, a gallery space, a club space and a rather excellent cafe (the BEST scrambled eggs on sourdough I’ve had in many years and only £4..).

No idea how long it plans to be there, but with such excellent and affordable food and free skate sessions, I should go see it quick before someone at Vans realises the maths don’t work…

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The Modern Toss exhibition in Shoreditch was small but good fun. Silliness elevated to art but done with so much swearing that you can’t help but be impressed. The same could not be said for the The Lego exhibition in Brick Lane however, which was very average and not worth paying to see.20141006_145125_b The tag line The Art of the Brick is easily the misnomer of the year. Lots of bricks, f*ck all art (as the Modern Toss boys might describe it…).

We’ve been several times over the last couple of months to the field of ceramic poppies at The Tower of London, but now it’s finally complete, it really is quite something to behold.

Repetitive art on a large scale is almost always impressive (Ai Wei Wei at the Tate for example or Anthony Gormley’s Field for the British Isles) and with Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, Paul Cummins has undoubtedly created a very powerful installation to mark 100 years since the start of WW1 and to remember the 888,246 British soldiers who lost their lives during the conflict.

(And yes I did read Johnathon Jones’s piece in the Guardian, and yes he does make some very valid points about not addressing the realities of the war, but I would still contend that this work is both appropriate and moving, especially when you see it first hand. Making the visual connection that each of the poppies represents a life lost, can’t fail to make you stop and think, and the work certainly deserves its place in the Remembrance .)

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And then finally at the end of October, my lovely girlfriend’s birthday celebrations, which once again she managed to stretch out for nearly a whole week… Happy Birthday And, love you lots xx.

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So all in all a most excellent month, busy and full of stuff… Which of course is why we live in London, and why I love this city.

Lazy Post No 23 : Predator the Musical (If it bleeds we can kill it…)

November 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Genius.

A very clever idea, very well executed, this 3½ minute musical epic brilliantly captures everything that to my ears, make musicals so unremittingly awful…

Repeated vocal refrains with more or fewer cast members joining in depending on how the story’s going. Those hateful “call and response” bits between the two main characters, who are usually standing next to each other but looking in opposite directions. Pointless and unrealistic set pieces, clumsily linked together by meaningful looks and semi operatic singing. Obligatory comedy voices for the fat/ odd/ ugly character (delete as appropriate, but there’s always one in there somewhere). And that incessant crashing of the orchestra that serves not just to wake you up, but also to try and convince you something interesting is happening…

A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method – Sir Banister Fletcher

October 20, 2014 Leave a comment

banfletch_cov 001Back in the mid 1980’s when I started learning to be an architect up in Leeds, before the days of the internet with its instant access to unlimited knowledge, the library was where you went to learn more about things that interested you…

Big enough to be exciting to a small town boy like me whilst still being small enough so that all your mates lived no more than 10 minutes walk away, Leeds was a most excellent city to be a student in.

The same couldn’t really be said for Leeds Polytechnic however. Underfunded and lacking those visionary leaders and teachers that set great institutions apart, it generally seemed happy with its lot and didn’t push the design envelope (or the students) too far.

Consequently the architecture library (or more specifically section 720 if I remember the Dewey Decimal system correctly) was disappointingly thin, sadly lacking anything published after about 1975… and the few new/ contemporary books the library had were booked out all term by those that got there first..

Still there was one old book that caught my attention, even if it didn’t really help develop my design skills or understanding of Neo-Rationalism, and that was A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method by the marvelously named Sir Banister Fletcher.

Initially published in 1896, it was a huge tour de force, whose stated aim was to:

“…display clearly the characteristic features of the architecture of each country by comparing the buildings of each period and by giving due prominence to the influences – geographical, geological, climatic, religious, social and historical which have contributed to the formation of particular styles, and which hitherto have not been emphasised systematically in presenting the story of architectural development. The Tree of architecture will help the reader to realise the importance of these influences and the gradual evolution of the various styles.”

tree 001Containing literally hundreds of beautiful line drawings and grainy b&w photos, it became the standard reference text for architectural historians in the first half of last century and I can clearly remember tracing over some of the drawings for various history essay submissions (oh how the tutors must have sniggered, as yet another student tries to pass off achingly familiar drawings as their own…)

Several years ago I came across a Twelfth Edition from 1946 in a local book fair and so for the princely sum of £8, I could once again marvel at the quality of the drawings and wonder at the amount of time and effort that must have gone into this excellent tome…

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banflectch_5 001This last image is from the very back of the book and gives you an idea of how up to date the schemes and visuals were for a student hungry to know more about The Bauhaus and Modernism. And if more evidence were needed, I’ve just checked through the index and even as late as 1946, there is still no mention of Le Corbusier or Frank Lloyd Wright, let alone Walter Gropius…

Still, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed perusing the yellowed pages of this wonderful old book for today’s post. Well worth hunting down a copy if you have an interest in both architectural history and penmanship…. In fact I’ve just learned that there was a 20th edition/ 100th anniversary version updated by Dan Cruikshank published back in 1996. Its available here on Amazon, but at £145, I’d click over to an online second hand book shop, and see what they’ve got….

Alan Bean: Moon Dust in every Painting…

October 13, 2014 Leave a comment

book jacketI’ve been re-reading Andrew Smith’s excellent book, Moon Dust. Published about 10 years ago it’s an absorbing series of tales that came out of Smith visiting, talking to and recording the thoughts of the last 9 people to ever have walked upon the surface of the Moon. Forty years after the moon landings, how did the momentous events of that period shape their lives once they got back and realised they were never going to top those feelings again…

Over the two and a half year period from July 1969 to December 1972, there were 7 flights to the moon, from Apollo 11 to Apollo 17. Apollo 13 famously didn’t make it due to problems with exploding oxygen tanks, which means that 12 men have left their boot prints in the lunar dust.

At the time the book was written, three of these men, Conrad, Irwin & Shepard had passed away leaving only 9. (To this list we now need to add Armstrong who died in 2012)

I’ve made this quick table of the astronauts that made the journey. There are a surprising number of names that are unfamiliar, considering what they achieved, the CM pilots who never reached the moon’s surface, especially so.

Apollo Flights copyThe book is truly fascinating, touching on the highs and lows, the expectations and the disappointments, the marriage breakdowns, the back stabbing, the hierarchy within NASA, the demeaning appearances at conventions for the less well known, the voices from god, the new age beliefs and ultimately asks each man, where they felt they were at the turn of the 21st century, mentally, physically and spiritually…

I can recommend it thoroughly.

NightLaunch 1975One name that has stuck with me is that of Alan Bean. The fourth man to stand on the moon, his post moonwalk journey seems to have been both less traumatic and less obvious that the others.

Staying on at NASA, he lived in Skylab for 56 days over the summer of 1975, was a key member of the joint US/ Russian Soyuz programme before leaving NASA in 1981 to become a full time professional artist.

Attending art night classes whilst on astronaut training, his early work (Night Launch above from 1975) had to my eyes at least, genuine promise, with its expressionistic plumes of exhaust smoke from the jet engines creating a real sense of power.

beanToolsHowever since the early 80’s Bean has developed a singular visual style that focuses solely on the limited amount of time (in his case less than 4 hours) that he and the others spent on the moon, endlessly reinterpreting and deconstructing his memories, sometimes painting exactly the same scene 6, 7, 8 times slightly altering the colours or minutely correcting details in order to capture the essence of the experience…

Bean begins by painting the canvas (or more usually a solid backboard) with a thick paste which he then imprints with a variety of devices especially moon boots and tools he brought back from his trip. He also sticks into the paste small cut offs from the various badges and patches that were sewn onto his space suit. These are ingrained with fine grains of moon dust which then become part of the painting. He also uses specially commissioned scale models to help him “meticulously construct” the desired view and get the lighting correct..

The results I would suggest are mixed…

Some are pretty good like the following four, which capture some of the feelings of what it must have felt like to be so far from home in such an alien landscape…

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Examples of the same view done over and over with slight variations in colour and detail…

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Some works however are less impressive, as Bean seems to rely too heavily on his imprinting techniques to carry his vision across…

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And others are just bizarre.. Oddly these seem to be the ones where he deviates from what happened and relies more on his imagination…

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Still Alan Bean comes across as a contented man in Andrew Smith’s book, which is more than can be said of the other astronauts he meets, many of whom struggled to come to terms with Life after Lunar. And why not, most of Bean’s work is sold as soon as it’s finished for pretty big bucks. There are a few originals available here if you fancy one. Prices start from around $70K. The cheesy (and not unsurprisingly unsold in my book) flag and gold olive leaf one above will set you back nearly $450K…

There’s also a gallery of all Alan Bean’s paintings here where I’ve taken all of the images for this post from.

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