Archive for January, 2012

Celestino Piatti

January 28, 2012 Leave a comment

I came across the amazing work of Celestino Piatti (1922 -2007) recently; colourful, stylish, simple and beautiful.. what more could you want from illustrations.

Piatti was a Swiss graphic designer and illustrator who in the 30 year period bewteen 1961 and 1991, designed almost all the book jackets for the German paperback publishing company DTV, (more than 6300 titles…)

His immeadiately recognisable style usually involved bold illustrations placed on a white background and almost always used the Akzindenz Grotesk typeface (most famously used by Max Meidinger as the basis for Helvetica in 1960)

Possibly his most well known work is the childrens book The Happy Owls from 1963, which I havn’t seen, but looks like I should certainly try and get a copy to sit alongside my Brian Wildsmith and Maurice Sendak books.

As always seems to be the case, there is a dedicated Flickr group and some more of Piatti’s wonderful work can be found here..

The New Design Museum at the Commonwealth Insitute Building

January 26, 2012 1 comment

The Design Museum recently unveiled its plans by the architect John Pawson, for the conversion of the iconic 1960’s Commonwealth Institute Building (CIB) into its new home.

Designed by Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall & Partners (RMJM) between 1960 and 1962, the CIB is possibly the finest example of a hyperbolic-parabolic roof in the country (see the cardboard model to the left as to what that looks like) and the architects original concept of “a tent in the park” reflects both the possibilities of the structure’s tensile, almost fabric nature as well as its setting on the southern edge of Holland Park.

Planned so that the exhibits from the various Commonwealth countries could all be seen at once from the building’s entrance, this resulted in a dynamic and almost futuristic interior with interconnecting bridges, decks and ramps, that you would have thought would work well for the Design Museum (more of which later). The building has been standing empty and unused for the last 10 years or so and only narrowly survived demolition when the Government tried to get it delisted. As it is a number of the support buildings and structures have been taken down as part of the redevelopment.

In the spirit of this blog, an interesting connection that has come to my attention is that one of the building’s original design team was James Gardiner, who was also the principle Exhibition Designer for the Dome of Discovery at one of my favourite subjects, The Festival of Britain (not to mention that Robert Matthew was one of the architects for the Royal Festival Hall).

The new Design Museum forms a key part of Rem Koolhaas and OMA’s redevelopment proposals for the site (now sporting it’s mandatory “catchy” name, in this case “The Parabola“) which was approved a few years ago, and I guess will start on site in the not too distant, if it hasn’t already.

It all looks pretty exciting, even though I’m not entirely sure what prompted the move from up and coming, cutting edge Bermondsey to smelly old establishment South Ken.

A couple of things slightly concern me looking at Pawson’s images below. Firstly the wonderful floating circular deck and its connecting staircases seem to have been sacrificed, seemingly ripping the heart out of the original concept. And the second thing is the unavoidable feeling of it all being a bit Beige Palace, which I can’t believe is the coolest colour for a design based attraction (or is magnolia back in vogue and I’m just behind the times).

Hopefully this is all just in the rendering, and the colours and vibrancy of the original building will be allowed to shine through the new scheme.

The Serpentine Pavilion

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Considering my self professed interest in the arts and architecture, it always surprises me that in all these years, I’ve only ever been to one of the Serpentine Pavilions (the Rem Koolhaas one in 2006)

I think this is probably a shame, and that I should do something about it, so I shall make every effort to get to see this years pavilion when it opens in the summer…

In the meantime, here’s a rather stylish “Infographic” from ArchDaily summing up the last 11 years…

Yuki 7 & the Gadget Girls

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Wong came across the secret Agent Yuki 7 the other day, and just knew I would like her…

She’s a beautifully imagined and stunningly realised combination of James Bond and Saul Bass, who inhabits a perfectly formed world designed by Ken Adam. Imagine a Japanese Audrey Hepburn… but with attitude

Created by American illustrator Kevin Dart, and animated by Stéphane Coëdel, these shorts have immense promise, and I think a feature length version should be made immediately…


A Bigger Picture: David Hockney at the Royal Acadamey

January 22, 2012 1 comment

David Hockney is one of those artists who I’ve always been aware of, but who I’ve never really considered in any great detail.

I certainly like some of his stuff: many years ago I bought the postcard of his 1961 “We 2 Boys together clinging” as I liked the way Hockney used the text in the painting, and some of his photomontages are pretty amazing, like this cubist composition of Christopher Isherwood and Bob Holman from 1983.

In general however, I found his work had a naivety that never really grabbed me, even after visiting one of his shows in the late 1980’s at the (then) newly converted Saltaire Gallery, my over-riding memory of the exhibition is of the paintings hanging from heating pipes, strung along the brick vaults, which meant you could see the back of them with all sorts of interesting exhibition labels and notes on them.

From the images in the press and the TV, this naivety is undoubtedly evident in his new show which is just about to open at the Royal Academy, however this new work seems to have a vibrancy, craft and scale that appeals to me…

A number of years ago, Hockey was approached by the RA about a retrospective show of his work. Hockney however had other ideas and suggested that rather than present the usual mix of old and new pictures across a few rooms, he would create a collection of new landscape works especially to suit the Royal Academy galleries, and in so doing, occupy every room available. As I understand it he didn’t quite fill every room, but this show is billed by the RA as the largest single artists display of wholly new works that they have ever hosted.

And what a joyous and vibrant display it looks too… A combination of over 150 landscape works in oils, photography, film and “Ipad”, most of which were inspired by the Dales of Yorkshire where Hockney now spends most of his time, standing in the middle of muddy fields with a vast array of canvases spread out before him… and a seemingly hallucinogenic palette of colours.

So we’ll be looking to get tickets to go see it for ourselves soon and hopefully it will live up to the images and the hype.. Which has been impressive to say the least. I’ve read at least five reviews over the last week or so ranging from the (mostly) favorable (Alastair Sook in the Telegraph) to the openly hostile (Mr Brian Sewell in devastatingly critical form in the Evening Standard). I was particularly intrigued by his suggestion that Hockney’s pictures are “fit only for the railings of Green Park across the way from the Royal Academy”… Ouch

We shall see….

Anagramic Underground Map

January 12, 2012 1 comment

My friend Darren sent me this today…

Its the third tube map I’ve done in 2 years (see here & here)… but this version definitely deserves a mention. One of those ideas I’m surprised no ones thought of before.

Some of the anagrams are genius…  Thug Loon, A Monster, Snowmobile Thud, Rugby Skin, Godparent Bikers, Scouse Mouth, Rowdy Bus Porn, Dutch Emu ….. plus far too many other good ones to list (and it seems like each time you look at it, even funnier ones appear)

It’s credited to Barry Heck (tee hee), dates from 2006 and even has its own Wikipedia page

Kudos Records – Twenty Years at the forefront of the Underground…

January 9, 2012 3 comments

This year sees the 20th anniversary of Kudos Records, a company founded in Kilburn back in 1992 by my very good friend Danny Ryan and his then business partner Mike Hazel (he of the Golden Girls fame).

Twenty years in dance music record distribution is an outstanding achievement and especially the last twenty, when sales of “physical” music (i.e. vinyl and cd’s) have largely migrated to the various digital formats of today. Kudos was one of the few small independents to successfully make the transition from physical to digital and it’s probably the success of the distribution side of the company, that has curtailed the output of the record label side.

So a huge congratulations to Danny and new(ish) partner Jim. I hope they achieve similar success, recognition and respect over the next twenty years, and as my own small celebration of Danny’s huge contribution to the UK’s independent music industry, I thought that as he nominated me the Official Kudos Records archivist many years ago, I would do something useful with my collection.

So without further ado, here are my thoughts on a back catalogue, which at 25 or so releases between 1992 and 2004 is not huge, but which without doubt represents an impressively wide and eclectic spectrum of sounds and artists… some of whom went onto to be almost famous…

KUD001Industry Standard: Rave On (1992)

To start the ball rolling, a little known production by the Hartnol brothers, otherwise known as Orbital… Mike had the connections (they had previously remixed his Golden Girls track) and Phil and Paul had the tune, and so another techno monster was let loose on the world..

KUD002Spinach: Rewind the Crystal Shells (1992)

A huge, punishing onslaught of sound heralded release number two… 4 tracks of beautiful noise from none other than Mr. Luke Slater… Set the machines to stun…


KUD003 – Pentatonik: Autonomous – Series One (1993)

KUD004 Pentatonik: Resolution – Series One (1993)

Two excellent 12’s from Sim Bowring in his Pentatonik guise. Lush, layered sounds taking the label in a new direction. I must admit that when I first got Autonomous, I couldn’t find the RPM, and as a result I played Catalonia too fast until Dan gave me the CD… Autonomous is also the first appearance of the now instantly recognisable flying K logo.





KUD005 Types: A Kudos Sampler (1994)

KUD006 The Kudos Digest: A is for Apple (1995)

KUD007The Kudos Digest: B is for Brocolli (1995)

KUD008The Kudos Digest: C is for Cherries(1995)

Four very fine and eclectic records. The Types sampler contains some of the biggest names of the time including Dave Angel, Sandoz and Scanner…  As for the Digests, as I remember it, there really was a plan to get to Z … although I’m not sure what the fruit/ vegetable would have been (zucchini possibly). This series was conceived by Danny & Mike as a way of collecting predominantly 12″ vinyl releases and issuing them on a limited edition CD release.





KUD009Jimpster: Perennial Pleasures  EP (1997)

KUD009RJimpster: La di da – Bullitnut Remixes (1997)

KUD010Jimpster: Interconnect EP (1997)

KUD011Jimpster: Messages From the Hub (1999)

A quartet of stunning releases from none other than Jamie Odell in his guise as Jimpster, heralded a new high for the label. Jimpster’s star was in the ascendance and spread across these two EP’s, debut LP and a 12″ remix from Bullitnuts were some truly wonderful tunes… deep, intelligent and very satisfying…

KUD012Unforscene: Remote Viewing EP(2000)

KUD014 Unforscene – The Sulston Connection EP (2000)

The first of a number of excellent EP’s from one of the “nu jazz” scene’s finest exponents. Comprising the core of Will & Ben Bower plus a selection of highly skilled support musicians, Unforscene would go on to become one of the most highly regarded acts from the Kudos stable, and this is where it all began…

KUD013Fila Brazillia: Brazilification (1999/2000)

Inspired by the success of the timeless collection that is Kruder & Dorfmeister’s K&D Sessions, Danny, Mike and Fila’s label boss Porky collected together as many remixes by Hull’s finest Lazy Beat exponents, Fila Brazillia as they could afford… The result was this outstanding double CD, which apart from their seminal rework of Busta Rhymes “Do My Thing” (unavailable due to greed) is choc full of Fila’s finest work… including Radiohead, Unkle, DJ Food, The Orb and Simple Minds…. Marvellous.

KUD015Jimpster: Seeing is Believing (2000)

KUD016Jimpster: Deep Down EP (2001)

Two more fine offerings from Jimpster. I was a bit of a DJ myself for a while and one of the records that never left my bag was the Deep Down EP. The last track, Jack in a Box was always a sure fire floor filler…

KUD017Unforscene: Pacific Heights (2001)

The excellent first Long Player from Unforscene was quite rightly, very well received upon its release in 2001. There are some truly amazing tunes here. The track I keep on returning to is Minus, with its rich, slow first half and more uptown percussive closing section, I think it has a real timelessness.

KUD018Various: A Little Night Music (2001)

A collection of “future underground classics” as the man says, with tunes from Jimpster, Baby Mammoth and Masters at Work.



KUD019Jimpster: Domestic Science (2002)

KUD020Jimpster: State of Mind (2002)

The final two releases from Jimpster for Kudos, were the eclectic and very well received LP Domestic Science and the single from it, State of Mind. Jimpster had set up his own label Freerange a few years earlier (1999 I think) which he not unsurprisingly, wanted to concentrate all his efforts on.

KUD021Unforscene: Trying (2003)

KUD022Unforscene: New World Disorder (2003)

As with Jimpster, and thanks to the exposure offered by their releases through Kudos, Unforscene were gaining a huge reputation and after delivering their New World Disorder LP and the Trying single from it, left to go their own way. My favourite Unforscene track “The World is….” comes from this record, a timeless piece of music and no mistake.

KUD023Various: Pork Chops (2003)

A celebration of Hulls’ finest label, Pork Recordings with a selection of their prime cuts, featuring two of my all time top Pork tracks Fortean Daze by Bullitnuts and Fila Brazillia’s mighty Pots and Pans (a tune that could easily lay claim to being in my 5  favourite records from the whole of the 1990’s)

KUD024Nick Luscombe: Flo-Motion Volume 1 (2003)

KUD025Nick Luscombe: Flo-Motion Volume 2 (2004)

The final two records that Kudos has bequeathed the world (up to now) were these two fine compilations. Mixed by the ever excellent Nick Luscombe, they offered a selection of some of the best downtempo and groovy vibes from the middle of the last decade…

So all in all a staggeringly impressive achievement, and three cheers to Danny (and Jim & Mike).

Long may Kudos continue to full my life with lovely music…

Austin Industries Chess Set, 1966

January 9, 2012 9 comments

How about this as a contender for “one of the most beautiful things you’re likely to see today”….

It’s an extruded aluminium chess set from 1966. It was designed by Austin Cox, for Austin Industries, and manufactured in the States by Alcoa. The silver (white) pieces are natural finish aluminium whilst the black ones have been bronze anodised around their outer edges.

The set came in a hardwood, foam lined box which could be wall mounted apparently, and had a fantastic, blue perspex sliding lid. The pieces were all stamped on their bases and it looks like you could buy each set either separately or as a pair in a single box…

Very, very nice indeed… So if anyone finds a spare one in their games cupboard, please don’t hesitate to let me know….

Stone Carving Classes….

January 8, 2012 2 comments

At the end of last year, I signed up to do a 10 week evening course in stone carving, and I have to take three or four images of things I would like to carve to the first lesson later this week.

I’ll admit that I’m finding it quite a difficult thing to do, to whittle down everything I like into four images…

So far the leading contenders are as follows:

These wonderful plaques are from Scandinavia and date from the 1960’s & 70’s. Designed and made by the likes of Noomi Backhausen and Marianne Starck, they are  beautifully simple, yet elegant things and could be a nice thing to begin with…

Being a big fan of fonts, carving some numbers might be good to do, nice and geometric, I could make a house number plaque using this rather lovely Eames inspired typeface…

Something dynamic and stylised like this beautiful bird by the Hungarian sculptor Magda Franck…

Or maybe something inspired by the more organic style of Barbara Hepworth (might be easier to rectify mistakes and change the design)…

I must say that I’m really looking forward to working a real piece of limestone (either Bath or Portland stone apparently) into something tangible and hopefully artistic…

My biggest fear is that I’m aiming too high and that with images of work by some of the greatest sculptors in the world (Eric Gill, Jacob Epstein, Gaudier-Bresezka , Hepworth, Moore) etc in mind, I may well get dispirited with my own lack of creative ability and give in…

I sincerely hope not…

Don’t mess with the Kitler….

January 7, 2012 Leave a comment

We were watching a Have I Got News for You compilation recently, when this picture came up and I honestly thought my little A was going to pass out, she was laughing so uncontrollably she could hardly stop to breathe in..

I think it was his totally convincing air of evil superiority, as much as the obvious comedy moustache and fringe Hitlerisms that made her laugh so much..

The photo of this cat (who goes by the slightly incongruous name of Snowball) is from a highly specific interest site called Cats that look like Hitler… The poor mogs who get their pictures sent in are known as Kitlers, and believe it or not there are nearly 7000 photos …

The communities that exist online without you knowing anything about it eh?

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