Monday, 22 March 2010

La nouvelle scène française – Part 2 – Les chanteuses françaises

The recent ascension of female vocalists in the U.K, which has spawned the likes of Florence (and the Machine), MIA, and Natasha Khan (Bat for Lashes) to name a few, has propelled such artists onto the world stage. The soaring success of these artists has encouraged the study into the offerings of the female vocalists from across the channel to see how they shape up against their British counterparts.

The first artiste goes by the name of Emilie Simon, an extremely gifted composer of electronic music. Simon has a unique style of performance due to the combination of a traditional musical education with studio experimentations into the technologies of musical sounds. The use of science and technology is a key element of her musical wondrousness, which includes an awe-inspiring arm controller that allows control in modulating and transforming her live singing voice through a variety of controlled effects. This level of control initiates a fascinating intensity of versatility, by using advancements in technology to exhibit unique sounds, solely created by her. This is demonstrated by her most recent single “Dreamland” from the 2009 album The Big Machine.

Camille is a French singer-songwriter who collected the Best Female Vocalist Award at the 2009 Victoires de la Musique. She has a fascinating style, which explores her own personal visions of music and writing after a background in new wave and bossa nova music. Camille’s music clearly exhibits a captivating exploration of the voice after her thread-like 2005 album Le Fil, with only the double bass and keyboard as instrumental accompaniments. Le Fil as well as her 2008 album Music Hole, were both created in collaboration with English producer MaJiKer. The most recent album, Music Hole, displays an exploration of the body on this occasion with fuller backing instrumental accompaniment. The musical resonance leans towards apparent body percussions and tribal sounds after collaborations with the Brazilian band Barbatuques and Sly Johnson of the beat boxing world.

The child of the famous French actor/singer Serge Gainsbourg is the next instalment of French vocalism. Charlotte Gainsbourg delivers a multi-talented array of offerings to the world as both an actress and singer. Debut album Charlotte Forever was produced by father Serge at a time when she struggled to ignore the world of cinema. The second instalment of musical recognition came over 20 years later after taking a back-seat to her acting career. The album enlisted the help of some music greats in defining her as an artist and interpreter clearly out of the shadow of her musical family heritage. 5:55 boasts a spell-binding team of composers, lyricists and producers including Jarvis Cocker, the hugely popular French band Air, and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. The result was a dreamy and ambient exhibition of modern musical intimacy and talent.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

La nouvelle scene francaise - Part 1 - The return to analogue

French culture is well renowned for exemplary cuisine, stunning architecture and trend setting fashion. However the cultural art form that is music continues to struggle to make an impact on a world stage.

In the dance related arena, electronic acts such as Daft Punk, Air and in recent years Justice have made large impacts on young party goers with other acts from the Ed Banger and Institubes labels blaring out of French clubs.

After some in-depth research into the French musical underbelly, there appears to be far more than electronic beats which keep the kids dancing. The following acts, old and new, display invention in response to a relatively unknown musical field.

Phoenix are a four piece band who originated from an affluent suburb of Paris, emanating from the same musical culture of the 1990’s which produced popular dance acts Air and Daft Punk. The alternative rock band have produced four albums spanning nine years, with the most recent Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix released this year. Phoenix are currently touring Europe with headline shows in the UK including London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Turzi clearly derive their musical sounds from the influences of specifically kraut rock, highlighted by the persistent rhythm, and also progressive rock music, which leans towards the exploration of new and experimental sounds. The music itself is described as ‘rock disciplinaire’, which boasts a solid structure of repeated sound patterns. Turzi’s 2007 album ‘A’ exhibits the disciplinary rock perfectly by creating a structured rhythm to which other sounds are added to and modified.

Of the same ilk is the French indie electronic duo Zombie Zombie, who boast an impressive range of synthesisers from previous eras at the same time attempting to keep analogue music alive in an unarguably digital era. Like Turzi the electronic duo appears to be branching out from the French electro scene and into a new clique of retro rock activity, which is reminiscent of Silver Apples and Neu!

These three bands may have started in the shadows of their popular electronic comrades but appear to be shining through in a response to their success in the digital revolution. The digitalised exports dominate listener’s interpretations of the French music scene; however bands such as these display a small analogue revolution to the dominating digital one. Their repetitive and modified sounds exhibit there is much more to France than digital electro beats encouraging listeners to not take for granted a seemingly passing analogue age.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Mob fury at Piccadilly battleground

OVER 40 people were arrested in the confrontation between two political groups in Manchester city centre.

Piccadilly Gardens was swarmed by over 2000 protesters as English Defence League (EDL) demonstrators faced off against members of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) on Saturday afternoon.

The static protest between the two groups was met with a well contained police lockdown. The two factions stood divided by a line of riot police, dogs and officers on horseback.
Persistent anti-fascist chants of “Nazi scum, off our streets” were greeted with patriotic songs and Nazi salutes from the EDL, who strongly oppose Sharia law and “radical Islam.”

Minor pockets of violence and rushes for the dividing police line were quickly halted by officers as around 700 EDL supporters faced up to 1400 UAF demonstrators for over four and a half hours. Speakers for the UAF group taunted their opposition crying “you said you would bring 1000, where are they? There are many many more mosques than you.”

Shortly before 5pm police herded protestors towards railway stations as the protests came to an end. The demonstration is in a series of protests around the country after confrontations in Birmingham and London in recent months.

The demonstration further fuelled a war over the country’s identity with both sides displaying solidarity and immunity to intimidation in the face of the opposition. Some witnesses questioned the conflict demanding “why can’t people live together in today’s society. England is multi-cultural and that is a fact.”

Anti-fascist protesters also directed opposition against the decision of the BBC to allow BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time with plans to blockade the BBC Television Centre, in White City. Witnesses labelled the decision “disgusting” and “disgraceful” in the fight for a multicultural and democratic society.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Xabi Alonso and the mysterious Aquiliani

Following the loss of the arguably most consistent Liverpool player of last season, an atmosphere of regret and mild distress has set in at Anfield.

The consistent and tiring question about the void left by the Spanish midfielder appears to influence performances off the pitch in as well as on it, with a collection of current and former players, in addition to the media concentration, citing his departure as the short circuiting of the
Liverpool electrical make-up.

It is certainly true that the age of Alonso – the dictator of play through exquisite vision, a superb passing range and technical ability – is over. However, as fans and neutrals alike mourn the loss of an apparent idol, it is important to examine the issue in detail after one of the main instruments in Liverpool’s directional play has been removed.

Spoken of as a key choreographer of play, Alonso on the reverse side of the coin placed a strong emphasis on defence by sitting deep next to the Argentine captain Javier Mascherano. The reluctance to burst into opposition territory, while Mascherano sat deep, is seen as some critics as counter-productive. The style of play is the reason for countless attempts at goal from distance, scoring a handful of spectacular goals from inside his own half due to the fact that Alonso hardly ever ventured out of it.

The Spaniard averaged a small number of three goals a season during his stay at Anfield, with the number of direct assists sitting similarly low next to this number. However it is the manoeuvring of the football up to the vital and most important stage, with a series of connections to bring about the act that wins football matches.

Analysing the current balance of play truly shows life without this influential midfielder. As things stand, Alonso has been replaced by the mystical figure of Alberto Aquiliani, an Italian international who arrives with plenty of buzz. It appears that Aquiliani is the antithesis of the departed Alonso, placing emphasis in attacking areas through a high level of dynamicity.

The mysterious figure of Aquilani is yet to surface, leaving Liverpool with fewer options in central midfield and the employment of the crab-like Lucas Leiva. Lucas is the epitome of neutrality, who offers less than zero as an attacking threat, while at the same time neutralising the opposition in the centre of the pitch with strong and niggly tackles.

At present as it stands, the core spine of Reina, Carragher, Alonso, Gerrard and Torres, which nearly won Liverpool the title in the previous year is broken and ageing. The middle man has been removed with a local hero behind him ageing and struggling to deal with an adapted style of play. Liverpool have no doubt strengthened in wide areas with the acquisition of Glen Johnson from Portsmouth, who plays more like a winger at times. However the increase in pace and power exhibited by Liverpool in attacking areas, which has seen them rocket to the top of the Premier League’s goals scored column, has consequently had an adverse affect on the defensive capabilities.

Liverpool after resolute and dismissive displays of the past now find themselves locked in an shootout to win games. The vulnerable Carragher finds himself dropping that little bit deeper to accommodate for the lack of pace against and an increased tempo game. The results of which is the eradication of draws, which hindered title ambitions of last season.

The type of “crazy” games which Benitez hates so much appear to be growing at a faster rate than ever, with Liverpool already equalling their loss tally for last season. The Merseysiders look to have lost their disciplined and efficient element of control in the loss of Alonso. However, until Aquilani materialises it is impossible to say who will be the better catalyst in a game, which is effectively won and lost in midfield.

Friday, 25 September 2009


I constantly wonder the meaning of a theme recurring in my dreams as I embark on that nightly 7-hour unconscious voyage. The constant and disturbing subject matter is that of death. Death, arguably is one of life’s great paradoxes. It is the known and it is the unknown. Each living matter will undoubtedly meet its demise at some point – this is of course the known. The unknown, which stays hidden like the lunar power of the moon over the earth’s tides, is the specific point at which this known will indeed occur.
I have spoken to a range of people and consulted a number of sources on the importance and relevance of death while in the subconscious state. The dream’s analysis perceptibly depends on the sensitive content. From what I have read, these dreams are reserved for the more sensitive amongst us. Although the dark content may be quite frightening, it is the reaction to the dream that carries particular significance. A typically dismissive and an inclination to forget these troubling subconscious images can potentially mean a release from current worries and signify the polar opposite to the subject matter – i.e a recovery or a rebirth.
With this in mind and according to experts change is on the horizon, but how can one explain the fact that this subject matter is constant in my subconscious. In line with said theories, things in my subjective life must always be changing and the death of one aspect of my life is quickly replaced by something new and different. Perhaps these dreams containing strong elements of change are a method of talking to my inner self. Perhaps I will never know specifically what has changed, but I suppose it is that unknown element of death – in a subconscious and literal physical sense - that keeps things interesting.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Tune-Yards @ Trof

Things kicked off with local boys Irma Vep supporting the delightful Tune-Yards. Trof - Northern Quarter - 15/9/09

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Differing projections of Manchester

The first is Wardle Road in sumptuous Sale. A reflection of the sky in a curbside puddle. Its difficult to find a puddle with enough depth to deliver such a reflection from a birds eye view sometimes.
The Manchester Ferris Wheel on a sunny summers day looking upward to the sky. The objective was to make the wheel like a looming, intimidating piece of machinery, while at the same time an impressive piece of architecture.

The final image is from the rooftops of the Arndale Centre car park. This was after receiving a tip from a photographer, who recommended the site as a hot spot for city rooftop views. The emphasis is on the sky after lowering the contrast and clarity of the buildings.