20 September 2014

New Music // Boris Carloff – Days Go By

Boris Carloff is someone who has impressed us previously with his sophisticated take on music. A classically trained violinist, his music is imbued with a sonic depth that is hard to do well. Extracted from his second international solo album Morphosis, Days Go By is another example of that hard to pin down but very cool musical style he paints so well.

The video for Days Go By features Carloff in a beautiful landscape, with timelapse photography and some excellent editing and direction making this video simple but very beautiful. The reversed sequences of the video are achingly beautiful and well choreographed, matching the ethereal nature of the song itself fittingly.

19 September 2014

#SRCZ Music Review // White Sands – The Wait EP

White Sands features members from three bands we love. Namely, those bands are Male Bonding, Novella & Mazes. It may be an obvious thought, but you really can hear the influences of those bands in this short but sweet EP...

Title track and opener The Wait is the first taste we had of the band a few months back and it’s a generous sampler indeed. With an addictive guitar reverb leading the way alongside the semi-spoken vocals that drive the song along  it’s a strong opener indeed for the release.

It’s companion tracks are no less impressive. Expect Nothing jigs along at the pace of a rain shower in Brighton and features a darker undertone. The best part for this reviewer is the breakdown and fuzzy guitar work there in that keeps the listener to attention with a perfect ease.

But for the finale that is Years, things are amped up considerably with a psych fuelled intro pleasing the ears almost immediately. By far the longest track on the E.P. it’s also the most pleasing changing pace  and speed frequently and showing what the band can really do.

Taken as a whole The Wait EP is possibly one of the strongest we’ve heard this year, full of the nervous energy and grey skies of a band that knows what it wants to say and does so with plenty of strings broken in the process. Most notably, the limited edition physical edition release on flexi disc with a Zine designed by the band is another great reason to snap this up! If you like your music well put together and you like a presentation package that is very readable then make sure to check out this excellent EP.


17 September 2014

#SRCZ Film Review // Nick Cave - 20,000 Days On Earth

Directed by: Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard

Starring: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis

“At the end of the twentieth century I ceased to be a human being…” (Nick Cave)

Rock documentaries are rarely as profound and soul-impactly impressive as 20,000 Days on Earth. Documenting, as it does, a span of time with Nick Cave, creator of many a challenging and often beautiful lyric, that’s no surprise.

But, no matter how profound a lyric is, it does not a properly realised movie make. It’s often the case when watching the film, that the visuals hit you in the eye and the accompanying narration from Cave firmly in the soul.

Over 100 minutes, that barely register on any temporal scale as you’re in the moment, directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard paint a picture of a quietly transformative artist. This is acknowledged in the film directly, most noticeably by Cave shooting any such idea down during a conversation with Ray Winstone.

As the film opens we see Cave in bed, silently contemplating his alarm clock. It’s an ordinary start to a very interesting film that floats somewhere between documentary and art movie. In fact, it’s true to say that in its artfully crafted study of song writing and the creative process it’s a masterpiece. This of course works because Cave is a very good songwriter and a gifted performer to boot. The sessions with The Bad Seeds are in themselves master classes in how to write and demo a song and are riveting.

Watching the film is, in the context of the experience itself, a truly eye opening journey into the creative processes of an ever ticking mind. Some may say that Cave is a man who chooses his words very carefully and perhaps they’d be right. His lyrics are poetic, personal things filled with emotional resonance but in conversation, as is often the way with performers, he is much more measured and to the point. But even in these instances it’s eyes on the screen material.

One early scene sees Cave sit down with a psycho therapist, (an experience he enjoyed, according to the live interview that followed the screening of the film.) and it’s beautifully moving viewing. As Cave talks of his father, early relationships and past musical experiences you really sense that this is going to be so much more than your average rock n roll film. The truth is, 20000 Days On Earth is a moving piece of cinema that features many moving and highly inspirational moments.

The conversations between Cave and previous collaborators such as Kylie Minogue, Ray Winstone and more illuminate the sense of artistic purpose behind the movie perfectly. Often hilarious and more often touching in a way that’s hard to describe accurately, this is an emotional study of Cave’s music more than any tour document or band profile. The final moments of the film, with the Bad Seeds on stage performing the album highlight of Push The Sky Away, an enormously satisfying version of Jubilee Street, are precious in their formation.

As we see Cave flashback through the ages, playing on the songs final lyrics of change and transformation, you realise that although he denies the fact, he has well and truly transformed in the space of the decades, and in the space of the film. You see not just a vaguely grumpy songwriter, but a person with an enviable life ethic of pushing further until you’re satisfied with your art.

When the credits finally roll over a night time scene of Brighton, Cave’s home for many tears, you realise that you have to do something, anything to push for the next step of your creative evolution, if you’re to get anywhere near power of Cave’s work. Watch this film. You won’t regret it! If you’re a song writer or creator, you will certainly see yourself here. If you’re not, then you’ll see a song writing genius in action in the most beautiful and moving manner.

Review by Sebastian Gahan.

16 September 2014

New Music // Girl Friend – Stop

This song from (the not quite as you’d imagine them to be by their name) band Girl Friend is a dark slice of synth infused pop that casts a shadow in the most ear catching way:

15 September 2014

Midnight Music // Neil Cowley Trio – Sparkling (Live on the green)

Picture the scene: a cricket green, should you be in the habit of frequenting one, and there’s some damn fine Jazz coming from it. We’re not talking the music of nature here; we’re talking the latest video from Neil Cowley Trio.

Sparkling moves along at a nice pace, a yearning underscore of bittersweet pathos inbuing the scene of cricket on a carefree English afternoon with more than a hint of sadness. But forward a few bars and a certain joy comes through that is truly intoxicating. If you meet any one who says jazz is merely for wine bars, feel free to ignore them! Playing like this shows that instrumental Jazz can be as moving as any other form of music. 

14 September 2014

#SRCZ Album Review // Ani Di Franco – Allergic To Water

It goes without saying that a new album from Ani Di Franco is well worth hearing. In the course of a career that spans nearly 25 years she has released a near perfect cycle of albums on a roughly yearly basis full of essential music that shoots happily under the radar of most listeners.

Released, as ever, via her own independent label Righteous Babe Records, Allergic To Water is her twentieth studio album and it shows no sign of the pool of inspiration running dry. As with her later albums, the music on Allergic To Water is a more subtle show of strength than on her more consciously guerrilla folk styled early albums. Such subtleties have been developing since her albums of the early nougties (or, whatever you call that decade!) and with each passing album there is a certain refinement.

Allergic To Water is, accordingly, an album that will tail your thoughts subconsciously rather than hit you with razor edged guitar solos. Of course, Ani Di Franco is no stranger to a guitar and the sensitive playing here is that of a musician with enough mastery of her instrument that there is no need to show off. As has been said often, the words and emotions are what make an album from Di Franco truly worth the journey.

Simply put, the listening experience of any record the lil’ folk singer is one that is always better accompanied by the always elegant booklet. The digital revolution may well be in full swing, but it’s the physical version of her album that you’ll want. Not only that, you’re supporting an independent artist in the days when looking after the independent’s is more essential than it’s ever been.

But in terms of songs, the twelve here are subtle yet bewitchingly intimate. The sound is rarely frenetic yet the wise intimacy of songs as title track Allergic To Water are undeniably ear catching. Opener Dithering yields the memorable line ‘I got a database behind my face…’ and is another great opening track from the artist. Woe Be Gone is another highlight, some light orchestration adding immensely to its power. It’s one of those songs that Di Franco should trademark the very ethos of, intimate in delivery yet pregnant in messages vital to life.

The song asks at one point for you to ‘raise your hand if you’re at peace’ and although the singer herself was no doubt busy with her guitar at the time, it’s certainly something she should have done herself. It draws comparison with previous album track If Yr Not, and almost seems to answer it as a rhetorical companion piece in many ways. It makes you realise that there is indeed a lot of wisdom to yield from listening to an Ani D record.

It’s hard to fault an album that sounds so off the cuff yet perfectly formed. It’s probably one of her best… but that’s what we say every album. Instead we’ll just say this:


Check Out: ‘Genie’, ‘Woe Be Gone’, ‘Rainy Parade’

Allergic To Water is released via Righteous Babe on November 4th 2014.

(Reviewed by Sebastian Gahan)

13 September 2014

TV Catch Up // Doctor Who, Series 8, Episode 4: 'Listen'

Warning: contains spoilers!

Cast: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson, Remi Gooding

Written by: Steven Moffat

Directed by: Douglas MacKinnon

The Story: We see what worries the Doctor when he’s all alone. And a small boy in a children’s home is afraid of what’s under the bed.

Every now and then Doctor Who throws us an episode unlike most others. When we looked at our Essential Doctor Who episodes in the lead up to the 50th Anniversary special last year, one of our ‘must see’ episodes was David Tennant episode Midnight. Midnight is unusual even in the world of Doctor Who. It is seriously terrifying, especially as you never actually get to see the monster, and you never feel that the Doctor has any serious control over events as they unfold in an increasingly claustrophobic setting. And it’s Midnight that springs to mind when watching the latest Peter Capaldi episode.

Listen begins with the Doctor alone in the TARDIS. Or is he? Haunted by the thought that we may never really be alone; that there may be a creature that lives to hide. Just outside the corner of the eye. Or under your bed at night. This is one that could seriously scare the kids.

But it’s not all scares. There’s plenty of humour in writer Steven Moffat’s script. This is the man, remember, who wrote comedy drama Coupling, and the date and the scenes showing Clara’s much-anticipated and excruciatingly awkward date with new boy Danny Pink are are particular delight. There’s also the frequent and very amusing casual insults flung at Clara by the Doctor. “What’s going on with your face? It’s all eyes.”

Once again, we have the increasingly common sight of Clara playing the grown-up and taking control and Jenna Coleman continues to completely sell Clara to us as a companion worth watching. Clara even takes control of the TARDIS as it zips back and forward along her timeline to key events that show us a young, scared Rupert Pink in a very creepy children’s home and another young, scared boy in a familiar barn on Gallifrey.

Moffat has frequently given us Clara popping up in the Doctor’s timeline and here she does it again, giving him the very words he himself will use to sooth the night time fears of another young boy. Which brings us on to Rupert Pink (a brilliant turn by Remi Gooding), the boy  who, because of the Doctor, grows up to be Dan the Soldier Man. In an especially unnerving scene, an unseen creature appears in Rupert’s lonely room and the Doctor urges Rupert not to look at it.

But the creature is far from the scariest thing in young Rupert’s room as the mad-eyed Time Lord tries to reassure the boy with his ‘dad skills’.

In Listen Samuel Anderson not only gets a chance to show us more of the increasingly interesting Mr Pink, he also gets double acting duties as he also plays Orson Pink, a pioneering time traveller (and the great-grandson of Danny Pink) who’s lost in the silence at the end of the Universe.

Listen is an episode that works really well as a standalone episode, regardless of its references to barns and Time Lords and War Doctors. Even with more than one unseen terror to have you heading behind the couch, the most chilling thing in Listen is the Doctor and what happens when he’s alone with himself. Directed in a wonderfully considered style by Douglas MacKinnon and underscored by Murray Gold’s excellent score, Listen also feels like the first episode where Capaldi truly inhabits the role of everyone’s favourite Gallifreyan.

Did you know? ‘The Sontarans! Perverting the course of human history!’ were among the first words spoken by Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor.

Best line #1: Scared is a superpower

Best line #2: I’m against the hugging

Trope of the Week:  A soldier so brave, he doesn’t need a gun

Fan-pleasing moments: The orange space suit, the cloister bell, the barn, John Hurt. Well, possibly not those last two.

Next Time: Time Heist!

(Reviewed by Andrea McGuire) 

06 September 2014

TV Catch Up // Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 3 : 'Robot of Sherwood'

Warning: contains spoilers!

Cast: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Tom Riley, Ben Miller

Written by: Mark Gatiss

Directed by: Paul Murphy

The Story: The Doctor and Clara discover an extra-terrestrial menace and a hero who can’t be real in Sherwood Forest. After all, Robin Hood is a fictional character. Isn’t he?

Writer Mark Gatiss is something like Marmite in the world of Doctor Who. You either love his stories or you don’t and Robot of Sherwood is sure to divide fandom as much as, say, Victory of the Daleks, which introduced us to a set of faintly ludicrous M&Ms style pepperpots. 

Watched as a stand-alone episode, Robot of Sherwood is a fantastically camp and very rompy thigh-slapper of an adventure that gives more than a knowing wink to old Hollywood. Tom Riley as Robin Hood is all teeth and twinkle and his band of merry men tick every cliché box as they gambol around an extraordinarily sunny Sherwood Forest robbing the rich and giving to the poor.

As a Matt Smith vehicle, this episode would have had quite another feel, but put a man who the Doctor can’t believe is real against our new, very frowny Peter Capaldi Doctor Who and we’re looking at a very different beastie indeed. Capaldi’s always been a great comic actor and here we’re treated to some very well done (metaphorical) pecker jousting as the Doctor and Robin Hood work out how to escape and save the day while trapped in a dungeon with a wonderfully gruesome goaler.

Of course, you can’t have Robin Hood without the Sheriff of Nottingham and Ben Miller gives us the old rotter with a score of 7 of the Alan Rickman scale. And of course, you can’t have a Doctor Who without something un-Earthly going on and the dastardly, eponymous robot (robots?) of the title do this in style as they evaporate useless peasants while plotting their escape from the castle/dominion over the world.

One of the great joys of this new series has been Clara’s evolution as a companion and in Robot of Sherwood, she seems very much in charge, whether she’s choosing where in time and space to go or outwitting the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. 

Robot of Sherwood will probably never make any serious Doctor Who fan’s Top 10 list, but there are so many enjoyable scenes in this episode that it’s worth watching again just to enjoy the showmanship of Paul Murphy’s direction and Gatiss’s mostly lovely, partly daft script. Talking of action scenes (we were, weren’t we?) Capaldi may be the oldest actor to play Doctor Who to date, but whether he’s taking on Robin Hood in a sword fight with a spoon or being clobbered round the head by a giant robot, there’s no sign that he’s doing anything but having a ball in the role.

Following all of the fun and action, there’s a rather lovely and particularly poignant exchange between the Doctor and Robin Hood as they ponder on what it means to be a hero. A legend. A story told in history. It’s enough to make you want to scream at the Doctor to take Robin with him, so we don’t have to leave him in his sun-dappled forest to become a tale told down the ages.

There were some small references to the “Promised Land”/Missy story arc that seems to be building in this series, but Robot of Sherwood is a good enough episode even for the most casual of viewers. In fact, I’d go as far as to say, they’d probably enjoy it a lot more than hardcore fandom. All-in-all, it’s a leave-your-brain-in-a-jar, sit-back-and-enjoy-the-fun romp.

Best dialogue #1: 
Robin Hood “Robin Hood laughs in the face of all! HA HA HAAA!!”
The Doctor “And do people ever punch you in the face when you do that?”

Best dialogue #2: 
Doctor: “Yes, I have a plan.”
Clara: “Can you explain your plan without using the words ‘sonic screwdriver’?”

Best dialogue #3:
Sheriff: “Shortly I shall be the most powerful man in all the realm. King in all but name. For Nottingham is not enough.”
Clara: “It isn’t?”
Sheriff: “After this….Derby!”

Questions of the Week: Where did Clara get all that hair from? And how was it so immaculate after a dip in a moat?

Music of the Week: Murray Gold’s camp, Errol Flynn score during Robin Hood’s fight scene with the Sheriff of Nottingham

Fan-pleasing moments: An arrow in the TARDIS, Richard the Lionheart, Patrick Troughton, a miniscope, the Doctor with a spoon, a self-healing TARDIS.

Review by Andrea McGuire. Image (c) BBC Worldwide