A Freestyle No. 1: Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners

June 17, 2016 Leave a comment

My very good friend Dan told me last night that a reworked version of a tune by a band called Cookin’ on 3 Burners from his Freestyle Records label had reached the midweek number 1 slot in the UK.. the first time in his more than 25 years of trading that he’s achieved such a thing..

With a wry smile on his face, he pointed me towards Spotify where the tune, This Girl by Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners (which has already hit the top spot in Germany, Belgium and somewhere else in Euroland) has racked up nearly 39 million hits.. There’s a similar story on YouTube where the current total is in excess of 23 million views….

So here it is.. Apparently Kungs is a protege of David Guetta who has obviously taught him a thing or two about boiling a tune down to 2 or 3 key elements, upping the tempo and adding in a drop and/ or synth stab to get the kids going…

And here’s the original version as found on Freestyle Records, as laid back and soulful as you’d expect…

So huge congrats to Danny. I know the revenue payments from these streaming giants can be pretty derisory, but by my reckoning, any share of more than 60 million of anything, no matter how small, is likely to keep the smile on his face for many weeks to come.

George Shaw – My Back to Nature

May 30, 2016 Leave a comment

A trip to the National Gallery (NG) yesterday to see the work of one of my favorite artists…

In a show entitled “My Back to Nature”, George Shaw’s new work has moved on from the seemingly humdrum Coventry urban scenes that earned him the Turner Prize nomination, and he now seems to be using his trademark Humbrol enamels to paint trees…

Lots and lots and lots of trees.

George Shaw

After his two year studio residency at the NG as an Associate Artist supported by the Rootstein Hopkins Foundation, Shaw has produced a series of paintings, sketches and studies that take inspiration from other works held within the collection.

As he walked through the galleries every day on his way to the studio, Shaw noticed that trees and woodland played a large part in many of the pieces that he liked, echoing his own fascination with those often forgotten, neglected and sometimes dodgy places he remembered from his youth.

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Nicolas Poussin especially seemed to include trees in many of his paintings either as allegory (three trees in a painting will ALWAYS refer to the crosses at Calvary) or simply as a backdrop. There’s a very enlightenin video that accompanies the show in which Shaw refers to the painting below in particular, as embodying the essence of what he was trying to capture.

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Poussin’s The Triumph of Pan from 1636 depicts satyrs, nymphs and animals indulging in all sorts of debauchery and naughtiness. Shaw suggests imagining the scene once all the action has finished and the characters have all shuffled out of view… What remains would be all the rubbish and detritus, the left over stuff that no one wanted, but that at some point in the earlier proceedings had seemed important enough to bring along.

Shaw felt that this resonated with his own idea that “something out of the ordinary could happen there at any time away from the supervision of adults”…

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I have to admit that at first pass, the work on show didn’t grab me in the same way that his Coventry landscapes had. Being an architect, I don’t know whether it was a subliminal preference for buildings over trees, the urban over the rural, but the pictures were all a bit samey and the style of this new work seemed less focused, the lines less crisp and defined, more an impression of things found, rather than a visual record of them.

The School of Love

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But after spending time in the exhibition, watching the accompanying film and then revisiting the work, I left with a feeling of great satisfaction., the work is accomplished, playful and thought provoking all at once. The three large paintings at the end are especially excellent and beautifully made, full of what I imagine are intentionally dark and deliberately ambiguous iconography including rood/ rude screens, porn mags littered in front of dark mysterious openings and red paint/ blood spattered trees…

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Whether this work represents a maturing of style or simply a measured response to the NG collection, time will tell, but I like it very much… Fingers crossed George brings this new found confidence to his next series of urban landscapes…

Talking of confidence, Shaw has taken the decision to populate his works, as this self portrait of the artist doing what we’ve all done in the woods at one time or another attests..

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Laurent Kronental’s : Remember a Future

February 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Some rather evocative photos today taken by a young French photographer by the name of Laurent Kronental

They illustrate some of the large public housing schemes that went up in and around Paris between about 1960 and the mid 1980’s, showing them in the context of their current, mostly elderly residents.

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As an architecture student in the late 80s early 90’s, I remember some of these huge and bizarre “Grande Ensembles” being published. Even then, I got the distinct feeling that they were far more about form than function, style over substance, brought about by the architects desire to show off their paper thin, post modern credentials, than a drive to create human scale environments and sustainable communities (step forward Messers Bofill, Rossi and Botta…)

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In the accompanying text to these nameless, descriptionless images, Kronental suggests that as these anachronistic buildings age in parallel with their residents, their “wrinkled faces and cracked walls” convey a mix of resignation and expectation, of skepticism and confidence” and in so doing become living memories of their time, echoes of a younger generation that did not see itself age.

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I’m not sure about that, retrospective prose seems somehow misplaced in these gargantuan and ultimately misguided social experiments.

They certainly do make very arresting and interesting images though…

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Bill Mitchell’s Wool Secretariat mural receives Nationally Listed Status.

January 24, 2016 1 comment

The listing announced last week of 41 postwar outdoor public sculptures was not only excellent news for the arts in general, but also for my friend Bill Mitchell whose wonderful bas relief “The Story of Wool” was amongst the works deemed worthy of official protection…

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And quite right too. I first wrote about this amazing piece back in April 2011 noting at that time how little I could find out about it online, I wasn’t even certain it still existed…

Jump forward 5 years and as the word continues to spread not only about our phenomenally rich post war artistic heritage, but also about the oeuvre of Mr. Mitchell himself, the number of sites and references to his work seems to be increasing at an exponential rate, which is obviously welcome news indeed….

Located in Ilkley, West Yorkshire the new headquarters building for the International Wool Secretariat was designed by local architect Richard Collick and opened in 1968. Bill was commissioned to create a work to wrap around the lecture theater which Collick had placed over the main entrance. Taking the themes of wool and textiles as a starting point, Bill created what is undoubtedly one of his finest works, and certainly one of my most favourites.

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Rich in detail and imagination with his trademark, deeply recessed and figured surfaces, it was one of the first sculptures Bill made using bronze-faced glassfibre, a material he was involved in developing during the mid 60’s and which he also used to impressive effect on his entrance doors for Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral completed the year before in 1967.

The large abstracted ram motifs to the front and the stylised microscopic cross sections of wool fibres on the side, are tied together by layers of patterning and texture that take their inspiration from the many forms that knitted wool can be transformed into.

So huge congratulations to Bill, as his work continues to get the recognition it so richly deserves. I for one am very pleased to see his name alongside those of Epstein, Moore and Hepworth, great and gifted artists whose work has quite rightly been recognised as worthy of preserving for the enjoyment of future generations.

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Two likes in one…

January 19, 2016 Leave a comment

Mr Bowie in the Scottish new town of Cumbernauld in 1976… Not sure why he was there… doesn’t really matter now I suppose.. probably just doing his usual thing of looking effortlessly cool without even trying…

RIP to both the man and the megastructure…

Cumbernauld

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Tove Jansson’s Illustrations for The Hobbit.

January 16, 2016 Leave a comment

18lv1dy7q3ph8jpgI came across something recently, that I had no idea existed… It was a collection of illustrations by a Finnish writer and illustrator for a Swedish edition of book by an English writer and illustrator…

Growing up, I was a huge fan of both Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll stories and J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale of The Hobbit and in fact still have all of my old 1970’s editions on the shelves here, having dragged them around with me over the years.

So it comes as something of a surprise to find out that the two are so directly linked…

Originally commissioned in 1960, Jansson took the best part of two years to produce the illustrations, however upon publication of the book in 1962, her black and white drawings did not attract the universal acclaim that the publishers had hoped for.

Whilst many of the illustrations were regarded as successful interpretations of the story, there was criticism that Jansson had ignored much of the intricate and detailed descriptions that made Tolkien’s writing so beloved by so many.

For instance, think of Andy Serkis’s portrayal of Gollum in the recent Peter Jackson films, widely regarded as uncannily spot on, and compare that to this image of a not very skinny, and not very obviously something that once was a Hobbit…

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Similarly the figures in image below don’t really bring to mind the elegance, finesse and otherworldliness of the beautiful elven folk of Mirkwood…

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Still, the other images I’ve found are all rather wonderful, rich and evocative of the characters and story…. I’ll have to see if I can find an original copy for sale somewhere online, oh and learn to read Swedish as well…

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Facebook Challenge: 7 tracks, 7 days, 7 nominations: A snapshot of my friends’ musical histories

December 13, 2015 Leave a comment

You may have heard about it, you may very well have participated, but over the last week/ 10 days or so, my friends and I have have been trawling through our memories in a quest to choose a track a day for seven days explaining why it is important and then nominating someone else to carry on the challenge…

I think it’s fair to say that we were all initially rather skeptical. None of us are really Facebook challenge type people, but we were each nominated by someone we knew and respected, and more to the point, it was all about music, and if there’s one thing boys can’t resist, it’s making lists of tunes to share and compare.. On reflection it’s all been really very enjoyable, and I for one am a little bit saddened now it’s done. I think Danny even called it cathartic in one of his posts…

As for the lists, Darren did his chronologically, Danny thought of a track that would appeal to or remind him of, his next nominee, Ralph is sticking to 135bpm+ Electro, Dermot chose some live performances from TV shows, Matt chose guitar based tracks (obvs), Ewa & Kieth seem to be just sticking to Pearl Jam (obvs again) and Sarah F has only just started, so her approach is not clear yet, but The Fall is a strong opener…

The link above is to my list on Spotify. I tried to capture a taste of each of the sounds and styles that have meant the most to me over the years: new wave, techno, electronica, drum and bass and yes, inevitably there’s a prog rock track in there… But it was difficult, and looking at the list now, I can’t believe whose not there, Underworld, Kraftwerk, Fila Brazillia, Soundgarden, Peace Division, Yello, LCD Soundsystem, The The… etc. etc. ad infinitum…

I’ve also made a playlist of my friends tracks. This is not exhaustive as not all the tunes chosen are available on Spotify. It’s also a work in progress and will need updating as the challenge progresses. But as a snapshot of what makes my closest friends tick, I think it’s wonderful. I didn’t know some of the tracks, I was this close to choosing one or two of them for my own list, and there are a couple that I wouldn’t have chosen in a million years…

But that’s not important. These records all mean something to the person that searched Youtube for the video, and as thankfully no one chose Coldplay, I’m very happy to share them all on my blog. As a random selection, they make for very eclectic and interesting listening.. (although if you’re of a nervous disposition, approach the Converge track with caution, cheers Matt…)

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