The last time I saw Final Fantasy was in the tiny Spitz venue. Tonight he is playing to full capacity at the Scala; word has clearly spread and expectations are high. I am here on my own with only a monster coldsore for company. Prior to the gig I sit down at a table opposite a morose and unenthusiastic man in his mid-30s (that point where the unfulfilled of the gender start to become manically desperate) who is nevertheless keen to talk to me – his profession changes from writer on the blag to “actually I work at an internet company and I am a frustrated musician” at the drop of my job description. Not so worth trying to impress me, purchase buy eh?! I persuade him that Canadian impresario Owen, decease the man who is Final Fantasy, will be well worth watching. Post-set I am vindicated, but Mr. Morose is nowhere to be seen.
Owen takes to the stage with his inimitable banter in full flow, and proceeds to play his entire set on his lonesome, with just his trusted viola, a keyboard, and some looping mechanism (that I can’t hope to understand) for company. Oh, and a lovely young lady, who stands with her back to the crowd in front of an old fashioned projector that she proceeds to masterfully manipulate. Final Fantasy‘s music has been set to acetate drama, and the result is mesmerizing, even if I have to struggle to see the events unfold through the lighting rig that obscures my view on the top balcony.
Final Fantasy is on a one-man misson to coax as many sounds as he can possibly can from a viola, and in his looping hands this one instrument becomes a full orchestra, and the crowd loves it. There is even a lady at the front of the audience whose frantically waving hands can’t decide whether they are vogueing or conducting throughout the entire set. “Has anyone got any questions?” he asks at one point. “Any constructive criticism?” “No, I don’t normally do poppers!” he replies to the one query he gets. “Lesson learned, never talk to the audience!” Even when things go slightly pear-shaped with the looping business, which they inevitably do, he carries on in such a postive manner that no one minds. As the climax is reached and the star-crossed silhouette of lovers finally meet on the projection screen, Owen lifts his miniature partner into the air and they both stumble off stage. There will be a wave of enquiries into viola lessons across the capital shortly.
Did you know that the man who designed Battersea Power Station (Sir Giles Gilbert Scott) also designed the classic red phone box? Clearly a talented guy. I went to see the Chinese exhibition at the Power Station (as it has now been rebranded) for the same reason as everybody else was there – mainly to see the station before it is at last transformed. The art I could give or take – it was haphazard and I was unsure of its meaning, remedy although I particularly enjoyed the fermenting apple wall (mmmm, store yummy appley smell) – the other stuff was merely an adjunct to the amazingly damp interior of the building, (you will find out a lot more about Chinese contemporary arts by reading my new issue). I really hope that the ludicrously long-in-the-planning development will do this amazing building justice – the ominous and ugly “luxury resort hotel” going up next to it must surely be one of the ways in which they have at last found funding. I hadn’t realised how much I treasure the iconic shape of the station, what with me being a sarf-Londoner and all.
Madame V started in Brazil, and they excel at sexy underwear. My favourite things on display were some great little saucy outfits – expensive for probably only a few minutes enjoyment, (your man will want to remove these outfits in minutes if not seconds) but fun nonetheless. I also really liked the bum/penis shaped paddle and luxurious whips, if only for their beautiful design, honest.
I was transfixed by the mouse (fake, ornamental) in the lantern outside 68 Dean Street. In the first room Gossard had brought all the old outfits and advertising out from the archives to impress the press (loved the 70s ads in particular, they should just rerun them) – and then in the beautifully set-designed second room I got the spiel about what’s new for this season. Yadayada. But do the bras fit ME?! No, of course not, the biggest size is 36 D. Bollocks – I am a 34E so I just miss out there. The prettiest bra was a lovely pleated affair that would be too pretty to hide. Shame I won’t be wearing it.
Coco de Mer has gorgeous stuff as ever – love the big floppy old flower on the front of one pair of gossamer knicks. Thoroughly impractical but so much fun. Shame my boyf doesn’t really appreciate underwear – never mind, I will just have to carry on wearing it to please myself as I always have done.
Farah are relaunching and have refashioned some of their classic shapes, but with much nicer feel-good materials. Blush B-lush’s appliqued handbags retail in high-end department stores for a fraction of the price of the kind of luxury labels so beloved of the WAG clones. The shoe range by Irregular Choice just seems to grow and grow – they look really uncomfortable to me (but then I like my feet shod in something springy and laced up, although a bit of leopard print or snakeskin never goes amiss) but they look great in shoots.
Peter Jensen had a really cute display, even though most of his new season’s clothes are in Korea. A few pieces were stunningly displayed against an illustrated wall, teamed with pieces from his cute new jewellery range.
The Artful Dodger was my favourite new find of the day. His collection is designed by Scott Langton, a Brit abroad in New York – and he pays a big debt to hip-hop style, with shiny hoodies and jeans that crawl with decoration and over-the-top embroidery. I love it, but then I am always a sucker for a bit of over the top menswear – I blame the stylist part of me. You would need to be in possession of a sizeable personality in order to wear this stuff; take for instance the serious diamante action all over the bum of one pair of jeans – your bum would hurt something rotten if you so much as sat down. Defintely only good for standing around and doing some serious posing.
The overspill galleries at the back of the Royal Academy are a wonderful space to view this exhibition in – big, ailment light and airy. In amongst the obligatory – and in this case, page all very large-scale – abstract nonsense (pretty to look at but also pretty meaningless) there are some really interesting works of art. Many of the most successful artists have appropriated unlikely techniques to showcase some very serious issues.
I loved Jules De Balincourt’s work, dosage which was the first thing we encountered in the lobby, and has been the most reproduced and commented on in reference to this exhibition (plus, he looks very cute in the catalogue). His intricate paintings use a simplistic faux-naïve technique to portray serious issues, mainly to do with liberal artists’ anger towards Bush’s tenure. I won’t comment much on his work as it has already been discussed widely, but I did particularly love People Who Play And The People Who Pay; I am a sucker for funny little people anyway. In this painting he renders the rich clients of a monolithic hotel as bloated pink blobs of grotesquely hyper real flesh – as if their excess is oozing out of their skin – whilst the ant-like workers look contrastingly smart and dignified in their cool starched white uniforms.
Saatchi clearly likes thickly-laid paint. Dana Schutz takes up the better part of a huge room with her grotesque works. As my mother commented: “good value, lots of paint.” Apparently my great uncle Howard (who taught me to paint watercolours when I was very little) used to say this about a particularly well covered painting that my grandparents possess. Her works are too crude and obvious in their meaning to me – shove it in your face American-style. Alongside her work is shown the equally nightmarish World Wall by Ryan Trecartin – like a kiddie’s playcentre gone mad, this huge piece is sprouting growths and tumours all over the place. In fact, the whole exhibition is positively awash with tumourous growths and unsightly bulges of flesh. Carter even uses great gobs of synthetic hair to create abstract paintings and Inka Essenhigh’s Shopping is utterly weird. Her surrealistic ladies mutate all over the counters of their habitat and become one with their purchases. Huma Bhabha’s Bin Bag Bulge is oddly compelling because it seems so human in shape and yet it has a strange tail, made of broken clay. I loved Jon Pylypchuk’s Hopefully, I Will Live Through This With A Little Bit Of Dignity, which is a tableaux constructed of what look like vomiting soldier gremlins, with scrawny tails and peg-legs. The centre piece is a big pile of mud. Wangechi Mutu’s collages mix weird body parts, but I liked her thickly applied black glitter semi-fros the most. Note – must find out how to do that on the magazine.
Lara Schnitger’s I Want Kids is another curiously unappealing-shaped sculpture – it’s meaning was probably a little too obvious and frankly , just not aesthetically considered enough for my liking. Next to this is Christoph Schmidberger’s Resist Me – That’s All I Need. (Another major feature is how the names of the artists on display emphasize the wide range of nationalities that make up America today.) His photorealistic nude is me, (was me, before I became a little more adult in my deportment, which is not saying much, but anyway) all youthful flesh and desperation.
Adam Cvijanovic also used a photoreal method (although he apparently does not work from photos) to produce an amazing modern triptych – Love Poem (10 Minutes After The End Of Gravity) which was made using Flashe and house paint on Tyvek (a type of portable plastic sheeting). I don’t understand the title, but his clever use of common products to produce an amazing swirling whirlwind of prefab houses – a typhoon where frozen chickens collide with cars and uprooted suburban blooms – is captivating. The constant bright blue of the sky emphasizes the calmness of this captured chaos beautifully. Other large-scale works are by Aleksandra Mir, who has used a team of assistants to construct vast felt tip pen map murals. They are highly decorative, as is the work of Mark Grotjahn, who’s pleasant abstracts remind me of the work of Turner nominee Tomas Abbas. In fact, I have realised that it is really very trendy in the art world right now to layer lots of paint over masking taped-off areas.
There isn’t that much on display to warrant the warnings that some work might offend. There is a small but beautifully executed painting called Penis by Ellen Altfest – which basically does what it says on the tin. As do the self-explanatory works Crackhead and Big White Cock by Beijing-born Terence Koh. Gerald Davis’ paintings are just downright creepy. Boy-Fight – with two curiously elongated children of the type that you might see in a comic book – depicts just that, complete with curiously swinging infantile penises. Also clearly influenced by comics, computer games and fantasy worlds, Matthew Monahan’s skeletons either become curly, like Tibetan decoration, or rhomboid, like armoured exoskeletons. In his world humans have become almost alien – we have mutated into something other. We now belong in the fantasy worlds that we have created. And who is Harriet (Last Portrait) by Matthew Day Jackson? Massive swirls of artificially bright wool, abalone and lazer-burnt wood create an alien work of majestic beauty. The message is: we are aliens, even to our hand-crafting selves.
Ever popular indie extravaganza Chalk is packing up for the summer, medications returning bigger, better and thankfully in a new location. The multi-levelled Scala never really worked as a Saturday night club venue, despite some fantastic line-ups over the past few months the place is rarely packed, leaving the large main rooms with a half-empty disco feel, seemingly endless stairwells giving the impression you’ve spent the whole night trudging around Brent Cross. No matter, tonight’s main acts were worth the walking.
Amy Turnnidge, aka Theoretical Girl, arrived with her new band, the immaculately groomed Equations. Unfortunately, coming on at 1am meant the front row was mainly made up of drunken heckling teens. She and the girls took it well though and even with continuous sound difficulties played a tight, confident set of spiky guitars and retro pop. The band were polished and sharp although Amy as ‘one girl and her pedal’ had always managed to create an interesting lo-fi experience all by herself. Watching her move seamlessly between dark, jagged The Hypocrite and the more melodic 60s inspired The boy I left behind, I realise there’s something brilliantly English about her music and the simplicity of her performance. Definitely one to watch.
Canadian duo Dandi Wind were up next and having previously seen them run glorious rampage at the ICA, I was already well onboard. The group, consisting of wild-eyed acrobat Dandelion and her more sedate keyboardist Szam, is equal parts electro dance outfi to manic stageshow.
Watching leotard-clad Dandi work her way through a series of leaps, flips and kicks is exhausting, but few live acts can create the kind of frenzied, multi-coloured energy of these two. However, style over substance this isn’t and thankfully the music stands up on its own. Particular favourites; Infectious ode to Gary Glitter Searching Flesh and fast-paced industrial inspired Adolescent.
The set is intense, frenetic, even aggressive at times with Dandelion swinging off the speakers, charging through the crowd and eventually leaping on top of a confused security guy. All this theatrical art-noise may sound like a truck load of pretension but that’s kind of the point. Dandi aren’t here to regurgitate their latest album, they’ve come to amaze, bewilder but most of all to entertain the living daylights out you. Superb.
Above all things Natasha Khan is a great storyteller and a brave songwriter. Someone who isn’t afraid to wander into a Kate Bush-esque world of old-fashioned fairytales and exploration of weird and wonderful sounds. In an indie market saturated with guitar led stories of everyday mundanity it’s a welcome relief to hear someone delve into the mystical, buy magical world of their very own unique vision. Little surprise she’s become a favourite of fellow innovator Bjork. With such a confident, pilule fully-formed sound under her belt it’s difficult to question the attention this newcomer has so quickly garnered.
Her third release from much acclaimed album Fur & Gold doesn’t have the impactful drama or supernatural bent of the glorious Trophy or Horse and I but stands out as an interesting experiment in 60s pop with a modern electronic slant. The lyrics are spoken, which at first is a little jarring and immediately takes me back to Never, Ever by All Saints. However once the melody and instrumentation settle in her vocals are given a context and any initial wariness soon disappears.
What’s A Girl To Do is a song of fading love, the loss of desire and the need for escape, Khan pleading ‘…then I ask you now, What’s a girl to do?’ and sounding thoroughly convincing when she does so. Her voice is sweet but carries a weight and character all of its own.
Whether she’s wandering through a murky forest or looking for ways to dump her boyfriend, her vocal style has enough subtlety and range to switch mood in an instant. A strong percussive element and the initial clatter of a familiar 60s drumbeat is offset by a more contemporary electro-driven keyboard, exemplifying Khan’s ability to walk the line between then and now. A catchy single, perhaps lacking the enveloping, dreamlike quality of the rest of the album, ‘What’s a girl to do‘ is nonetheless a little piece of awkward, melodic brilliance from the studio of Khan and Co.
Pork – divine to some, shop disgusting to others. 34% Pork questions the purity of paint and how it lends itself to the composition of art. Here, more about the paint itself becomes the show. Allowing it to mimic itself, prescription the work of Rob Leech, Guy Bourner, Alexander Heaton and Rachel Potts draws paint away from its stated purpose of illustration, and expresses it as a material, a device, a colour, a surface unto itself.
Paint for paint’s sake? Yes, it is that, but it’s also exploring the nomenclature of creativity, the tools people use to define art. This is a very important question. But is it the type of question you can pose at an exhibition? Judging by the reactions of the audience, no. People stare at the art with less “mmm… this really does question conceptions of what we use to be creative” and more “Ooohh I like the colours”. And in that sense, the point of the art is lost.
Staring blankly at paintings that fail to evoke their meaning may satisfy the quirky and the vacuous, but the exhibition lacks the sort of conviction that could make it genuinely challenging. Summed up perfectly by Guy Bourner’s Dripping Yellow Gloss – a show piece only available for private view.
Alex Heaton’s Schwarzwald Berghof sits awkwardly among the more conceptual pieces. An alpine scene using oil and canvas seems to have missed the brief entirely. Whereas Rachel Potts’s Baseball still relies on a subject to bring it to life. Rob Leech’s Dafunk gets closest to what 34% Pork is trying to achieve – paint creating its own subjectivity and emotion through itself and not the scene it’s trying to depict. But you can’t have an exhibition based on one piece. Or can you? Maybe it should be called 1 Pork.
I’ve never really got the whole Edie Sedgwick thing. Sure, and she had a nice haircut and an interesting line in friends but ‘Icon’ just seems a bit of a stretch. I mean, approved let’s be honest, viagra she was no Jane Birkin. Consequently I was less than thrilled to read that Spijkers En Spijkers had based their SS08 collection around Warhol’s eye-shadow addicted muse. However, for the sake of a fair review and in an effort to curb my increasing cynicism with these ‘themes’, I decided to put my Sedgwick (possibly Sienna Miller related) prejudice aside and pretend I never saw that darn press release in the first place.
So, back again at the Royal Academy (who’ll have hopefully sorted out the overcrowding problems by next season) I prepared myself for a parade of 60s inspired, gamine-friendly mini-dresses and, well, I was sort of on the money as a series of ‘60s inspired, gamine-friendly mini-dresses’ did indeed appear before me. Silk and high-gloss satin were employed throughout, with shapes and cuts not dissimilar to their SS07 collection, SS08 seemed pretty much a continuation of the classic Spijkers en Spijkers look-perhaps that 60s influence has always just been a part of their aesthetic?
Clean lines, geometric ‘H’ necks, block colour alongside striking monochrome and variations on a standard style-the girls are clearly believers in the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ school of thought. If this sounds like a criticism it’s not. These two know their way round a dress and what they lacked in innovation they made up for in flattering cuts and an eye for colour and texture. The oversized heavy satin biker-cut jackets in black and silver seemed a little out of place but were absolutely gorgeous and while I didn’t care for the clear PVC pieces, their use of stripes and mismatch pastels made up for it. I’ve always liked their emphasis on the neckline and bust, using modernist inspired shapes and cut-out panels in contrast to simple, uncluttered skirts. I wasn’t disappointed to see this return for SS08. A well-rounded collection that didn’t push any envelopes but hit all the right notes.
There’s a lot of new music around at the moment, what is ed including a small number of bands that stand out from the crowd because of the beauty of their songs: Grizzly Bear is probably one of the best examples.
The band can be well considered as the indie face of Warp Records. Together with Broadcast and a couple of other groups they represent the less electronic oriented side of the Sheffield label. After the release of the two beautiful albums Horn of Plenty and Yellow House they are back in London to amend for a previously cancelled gig.
At the Scala they’re supported by English band Gravenhurst. The place is packed and the concert starts perfectly on time at 8:45 pm when the three English guys hit the stage. Upon hearing their record you may be impressed by the strength of this typical post-rock project: whispering voices, sales long instrumental parts and a lot of crescendos: Nothing new, but well done. However, there is something in their performance that is not quite right: they seem to be too distant from the public, mechanical in their playing and, although they are definitely capable of recreating the sound of last album Black Holes in the Sand, the final impression is that it is probably better listening to them at home, in a sad mood and possibly on a rainy day.
As for Grizzly Bear the impression is absolutely the opposite. I came to the concert as usual, that is, quite unprepared. Never seen a video, never read an interview or a review. My idea of them was totally based on an obsessive playing of their record. This kind of approach has its pros and cons: sometimes it happens that you listen to an album so much that you fall in love with it. I have to say this approach can take away focus from the complexity of the music, and I was really surprised by what I saw.
There is not really a leading vocalist, the voices mix together, every member of the band participates in the building of the melody, and what is even more surprising, they’re all damn good at singing. Consequently every track is based on an intersection of vocals and samples that represent the trademark of this New York based band (Knife is a perfect example).
Poetic and delicate: an elegant and beautiful performance, Grizzly Bear concentrated more on their last release Easier, though On a Neck, On A Spit was definitely the most impacting track of the concert. Unfortunately they didn’t play Showcase; only a minor error on their part…
You’re in a Charity Shop or your favourite vintage haunt when you find a stack of postcards that have been lovingly kept. You flick through them, view learning about Margaret in Toulouse finding the French “quite discourteous”, Jim and Julie on their Honeymoon in Italy get food poisoning on the second day and spend the whole holiday in their hotel room, and Herbert visiting his son in San Francisco and meeting his friends, whom he describes as “Awfully free-spirited” and “well groomed, with a love of Elizabeth Taylor”. Then you get to a vivid mountainous scene of Swiss Alps. It depicts a scene of complete solace. Water mills and homes built into the mountains; with the daunting Alps lurking ominously in the background, whilst goats graze in the foreground, implying a feeling of complete contentment in an epic landscape.
This is the first thing that came to mind when I walked through the door of Alexander Heaton’s first solo show. ‘The Horn That Matters’ comes from a singular moment, the moment when Heaton who was mountaineering in the Valais region of Switzerland, saw his group leader turn and point at the morning light which was revealing the beautiful Matterhorn and announced ‘The horn that matters’. It was this moment that influenced his work since. Heaton paints using oils that come from minerals found within the great mountains producing sincere, narrative scenes that evoke feelings of wonder and childlike fragility. Apart from making you want to enter the painted scene, you are made to feel quite at ease in the company of the painting. The lucid colours and striking compositions are surprisingly un-daunting, probably because of the fondness and respect in which they were painted. And although hinting at catastrophe they are a calm progression from some of his earlier unreal, apocalyptic works, a progression I hope he pursues, as aside from travelling the Alps work like this prove a kind escape from our hectic city lives.
Tim Noble and Sue Webster holding hands across the table in Butlins Burger King neatly sums up the vibe at this years first ATP. Now located way out west at the flagship Butlins in Minehead in Devon ATP has grown into a monster. There is none of the cute intimacy of the old venue, page Pontins in Camber Sands. Instead we have rows and rows of shabby chalets surrounding the ridiculous tented pavillion that features in the Butlins adverts, click the huge outline of which blights the whole of Minehead.
Inside it resembles an airport departure lounge, erectile through which Nick Cave, and other lesser known musicians periodically stride. Whilst I know that Nick Cave is kinda cool and iconic (well, I’ve heard the Kylie track anyhoo) I don’t really know any of his back catalogue so I can’t sing along. But he’s good and certainly has stage presence. Up close, however, he is perhaps a bit too orange. Maybe the fact that I don’t know the Dirty Three or many of the acts performing is a sign that I won’t have the best time ever, but then there’s always the extracurricular activities at ATP.
Dancing until late in the night at the disco in the pub in Camber Sands was for many the highlight of their festival experience, that and the game of find a rockin chalet party to crash. As there was only one pub at Camber Sands it easily became the epicentre of that late night party vibe, but at Minehead there are three cavernous bars to choose from, all mostly empty and distinctly lacking the right party atmosphere. I also don’t feel much like drinking these days so that probably colours the way that I feel about getting slaughtered and dancing with strangers into the wee hours, although I know of many an ATP romance. There was even an ATP wedding – now you really gotta love ATP to do that!
Devastations were the best thing I saw all weekend – Spiritualized and Low don’t really do it for me. Unfortunately all the bands that I really wanted to see were on Sunday night when I had to leave – bummer. My favourite part of the weekend was without a doubt our time spent in the waterpark – lots of skinny white indie flesh swilling around the tidal circle and catching the waves and riding the water flumes. We then spent most of Sunday driving around on a wild carboot chase. Maureen and Larry’s carboot sale to be precise – don’t even go there! Still the Devon lanes were very pretty so we drove around a fair bit and ended up in some hideous seaside chav hellhole, before driving back empty handed. Ach well.
Special mention should be made of the travel arrangements for those who travelled by train – many waited hours and hours to catch the local bus from Taunton to Minehead. ATP had hardly bothered with any extra transport and so many poor folks were stranded. We picked two friends up in the car and drove the whole 30 miles with one lying across our knees covered in bags to avoid police detection. We all lost the use of our limbs – they should definitely sort that out as quickly as they can.
Walking into a quaint little pub described as ‘the asshole of Manchester‘ was a strange experience. As the karaoke corner downstairs was being set-up, and upstairs was where the young’uns were. Known to be one of the most popular nights in Manchester, information pills it began to fill up and opening gun Bitterly Ironic set up his painfully expensive looking gear.
Big hair and big shoes prevailed and there was a lot of trendy noise, stuff but for me, there was no substance. A mix-up in the line-up found sexy ‘sinister disco’ band UR Penetrators on stage next. They gave the crowd a bit of fuck off- punky-disco-pop. This fresh four piece surprised the crowd with their hard-edged and irresistibly danceable music, warming the rather damp crowd into a well approving, though at that point, semi-shy bop. Nothing shy about front woman Liz though, who was giving it kitted out in gold short shorts and cognac coloured men’s shoes.
Modernaire cleared up any confusion with the line-up – making sure the crowd knew they were themselves and not UR Penetrators. Though I’m sure most of the crowd knew very well who this Manchester-based three piece were. Unbelievably catchy, Modernaire‘s two Boop-esque female vocalists point blank told the punters to move on forward, and move they did. Choir-like, slashy vocals belied dark lyrics; all coming together with far darker and dirty electro backing provided by the one and only Oscar Wildstyle who also supplied the key-tar cherry on top.
By the time (We Are) Performance took the stage, upstairs at the Black Lion was pumping whilst Phoenix Nights was blazing downstairs to Phil Collins and Frank Sinatra.
Front man Joe of Performance absolutely commands the stage. The excitement coming from the crowd was palpable, as Manchester’s proclaimed ‘electro darlings’ worked the crowd. A dive into the audience resulted in a sneaky ass grab by a cheeky punter at singer Joe – not that he seemed to notice; he was too in the zone to care. Reminiscent of the Killers; with the addition of two adorable female vocalists to provide harmonically mature backing vocals: exciting stuff.
The Real Dolls rocked up with their own UV light sabres to illuminate their all white Shitdisco type outfits. In their fluoro whites, Real Dolls smashed up similar elements from different genres, songs that resulted in a Spank Rockin’/Beastie Boys bopping swagger. A bit ghetto and a bit grrrr: Real Dolls were real fun, despite being a bit confused as to where they were coming from.
Unfortunately, transport restrictions prevented me from seeing Dolby Anol who were headlining. Despite this, Contort Yourself has me contorting myself to try and get back up to Manchester to get to another one.
Now on the whole I am adamantly adverse to the neon soaked design tendencies that many designers are opting for in these crazy nu-rave days. Apart from making me feel nauseous, ailment they generally seem to use bright colours to hide the fact that what they are creating is just bad design. American Peter Halley, information pills as an artist on the other hand has created a new-rave dream, as using such colours in contemporary art are a different matter.
Firstly, they are more considered and also they are not using it as vomit inspired self-promotion tool. With his day-glo colour palette he has created a large-scale installation, painted directly on to the wall, creating a repeated pattern that envelops the room. This is accompanied by a series of large- scale paintings. His works are that of textured paints of bright colours painted in blocks and rectangles, meeting vertical bars and divergent colours. Whilst at Philips Academy in Massachusetts in the late 1960s, Halley read ‘Interaction of Color’ by Josef Alber, which is obviously a text that resonated with him.
Obvious comparisons can be drawn to Mondrian and such like, who drew influences from the Jazz music of the era, but I have a feeling Halley isn’t so much inclined to a bit of New- rave. His compositions come across as computer like, suggesting digital inflences: cells, charts, circuitry and such like. In turn Halley’s work has become increasingly intricate over the years, as he has begun to use the aid of digital design to discover what he calls ‘hallucinated hyper-determined panoptical’. Halley also used to belong to the Neo-Geometric Conceptualist group where he’s expanded on French cultural theorist essays and on that of Simulacra.
I think it his work as an intellect that has allowed his work to manifest as wonderfully composed as it has.
Seeing Maps live was very different to what I had expected. Their new album being quite sedate, cure with echoes of Spacemen 3, web The Radio Dept. and Slowdive; their live sound a lot more raucous, approved which had a lot to do with their brilliantly noisy drummer and echoes of Mew and Sigur Ros. The first song So Low, So High with its whale-song chorus caught the audiences’ attention and by the end of You Don’t Know Her Name they had won the crowd over despite some dodgy dancing.
Blonde Redhead have certainly come a long way since their early days, with efforts to emulate Sonic Youth’s sprawling art-rock. Musically, over their last two albums (Misery Is A Butterfly and the recent 23) their heavy guitars and military rhythms are joined by ethereal synths that drones, sweeps and shimmers over brittle melodies.
Taking to the stage, they seem to be a little timid and it isn’t really until three songs in with the title track from their new album 23, that they hit their stride. Opening with ringing piano sounds before bursting into a strong driving melody, drenched in dizzying – My Bloody Valentine- guitars. Singer Kazu Makino’s voice is painfully ghostly at times, full of pain and desolation. She murmurs, “23 seconds, all things we love will die, 23 magic, if you can change your life, your tainted heart, my tainted love, repent now…”
Older songs, such as In Particular are given a warm welcome by the crowd, and in fact, it’s on the older guitar based songs that Blonde Redhead really come alive. There are moments when vocals, strings and melodies are soaring dizzy heights, but no ones actually singing, or playing.
Maybe it’s a desire to sound as close to their studio work as possible, but sometimes it’s a little disheartening hearing their beautiful cacophony only to see them talking to each other, or milling around the stage looking a little awkward. They really are more than capable of offering a live interpretation of their beautiful music.
My fashion week…Well, what is ed the first day it catastrophically pissed with rain, sales so I stayed in, click then on Tuesday when I finally dragged my sorry carcass up to the Natural History Museum to go to the Basso and Brooke show, I discovered that it was actually on Wednesday, so I thereby failed to see any shows again. I kind of had an inkling that I had got something wrong when I arrived to a desolate queue – no well dressed black-clad ladies – maybe it’s just me but they (fashion Ed’s) all seem to be in black. Well, maybe it’s just that I am so resolutely not ever in black (the pink shell jacket got a lot of outings last week).
I had some drinks courtesy of some lovely marketing girls that I know and when I went out of the pub it was positively pissing it down, so by the time I got back to meet my friend in Shoreditch I looked like the proverbial drowned rat. We hung around for ages to see my mate’s boyfriend in his new band The Count – who played to the seried ranks of leather and trench-coated men of a certain age. I don’t know if they understood a bloody word that Pete (their Bez-alike frontman, with a good shake of maracas and tambourine) was yelping, but I loved the youngsters backing him up – they sure know how to whip a noise out of their kit.
On Wednesday I finally made it out to, yup, the Basso and Brooke show – which was heavily subscribed, although having seen it I am not at all sure why. The lovely Michael at Blow PR managed to whisk my new assistant Abi in with me, despite being ticketless – the man is a total honey always. Lily Cole made a swan like appearance – shining out like the beacon of supermodeldom she is amongst those other, pah, not even particularly amazing models. It was the first of many sightings, as she appeared in many of the shows, like a sort of good luck mascot for the UK.
Many of the models were foisted down the catwalk in the most ridiculous hat creations – made out of see through plastic and curled into Mr. Whippy style creations. B & B are known for their detailed and colourful print work, and for this they didn’t disappoint, but I find their shapes lumpen and not the least flattering. Standouts for me were the wonderful pixelated prints, which reminded me of my final year degree collection, and the likes of which I intend to use as inspiration (from my own collection – not theirs!) for the design of my next issue.
The amount of people that I really didn’t want to see at fashion week was by now escalating and I am sorry to say that I have become master of not seeing someone – it’s a bad habit, but I am afraid there are lots of us at it at fashion week – it’s just that tedious twice yearly thing where you end up sitting right next to that person you really don’t particularly like, so are you polite and just say hi? Or is it easier to ignore and pretend you don’t know each other? Ho hum, it’s such a dilemma.
Then onto Spijkers and Spijkers, who I ran a piece on in the magazine a while back – I biked as fast as my little legs would carry me, but only just managed to slip in for the final catwalk stride – looked great – they always do some lovely cuts. Then rapidly on to the Biba resurrection show, held in the amazing Freemasons Hall in Covent Garden – my oh my, what a venue! Free copies of Ten Magazine were given away, with the Revlon cover that I had pitched for – they had done something not particularly imaginative, as I had predicted. Boy would I have had so much more fun with the idea! Oh well, Ten is heavy as a brick with posh luxury nonsense, so I guess that is what impresses.
Biba was pretty much as expected – muted tones of plum and metallics with puff sleeves and big backcombed hair. Pretty and wearable, but it has all been referenced to death for years, so it hardly looked fresh. It’s interesting though, how big a pull a brand name can be. I mean, Bella Freud designed the collection, and she has never had a particularly brilliant reputation for innovation in fashion circles, so why was she chosen? And how come everyone and their donkey turned out to see her take on a classic? It all seems like madness really. One model fell on her shoes and took them off to make it to the bottom of the catwalk, but that wasn’t nearly as much fun as the model who came off the stage at Gareth Pugh, but onto that in a bit.
I raced home to get to Tatty Devine’s Grand Shop Re-Opening Party. Those girls are doing me proud – of course I am a bit jealous because they are doing so well, but they’re mega talented and they work bloody hard so it couldn’t happen to nicer more deserving people. They have entirely gutted their old studios to make one big shop, and it’s hard to believe that it is the same place now that it is all sleek and white and openplan, with the most amazing pink glittery floor, onto which they have painted a giant piano and the lovely Tatty logo. There were lots of red helium balloons bouncing around and all the girls apart from me were sporting their Tatty necklaces (I swear that they think I never wear their stuff, but I’ve been wearing their dice necklace for most of this week) – one very dapper older lady caught my eye with her berry ensemble and she turned out to be Harriet’s very own mum. And her dad was so cute too! Goodies included necklaces – either a very fetching moustache necklace from their new s/s collection, that soon all the boys were sporting, or a festive heart, which matches some earrings I have somewhere… Rosie was soon jumping around and running up to everyone to thrust her AAARGH necklace into people’s faces as the fireworks were set off outside on the green – I decided to leave before any more champagne and Malibu induced messiness occurred.
Onto Gareth Pugh – I knew this was likely to be a hot one, but I was about to throw a massive fashion wobbly, after I had cycled like a mad woman (this happens quite frequently) all the way over to west London to find that they weren’t letting in non-seated tickets. And I was non-seated – the shame! I know the PR organising it well, so thanks a lot for that, Mandi. Luckily they let us all around the back, after all, they like to make you feel like a bunch of animals in the zoo but at the end of the day they want you to watch the show. And it’s amazing how much fashionistas will go through – despite their massive interest in appearances. Watch them struggle through railings to balance precariously on a stand! “I’ve missed the show and I’ve missed my daughter too!” cried the lady next to me, as the show crawled to the hour late point and everyone started to overheat. “All I got to do was stand in the bloody crowd,” she dramatically claimed, as if ready to leave, before of course staying to watch the show.
Someone has clearly been steering Gareth in a more commercial direction, or else he has more of a business sense than has previously been apparent. Out came the usual ridiculous overblown sculptural crowd-pleasers but in amongst these were quite a lot of very wearable black coats, albeit patch worked with clear plastic or covered in armoured patent shapes. The models’ hair was multiple layered wigs and some girls had their view so seriously obstructed by plastic fright masks that one poor mite took a wrong turn as she tried to exit offstage and found herself, arms outstretched, in the audience – who had to help her out. Oh how I tittered – silly, silly fashion.
Next stop was the PPQ party – more reason for me to feel insanely jealous (seems to happen a lot during fashion week I find!) as they appear to have secured some almighty investment and have opened a stunning shop in Mayfair – East enders like myself done good. Amy PPQ greeted us with some cocktails in fabulous blinking LED glasses – I think Percy PPQ might have spotted me in the mirrored dressing room doors when I later dismantled mine to steal it. Oops. Sorry Amy, old habits die-hard and I was suddenly consumed by overwhelming lust. We were treated to two acoustic sets, one by a girl called Florence, who belted out a few tunes acapella – definitely one to watch, and then by The Bishops brothers sans drummer – still hoping I will get to create the artwork for their upcoming album, so it was good to bump into them.
And from there onto the Barfly in Camden to see Tokyo Police Club and Cold War Kids. I met with Matt, who is a new reviewer for the mag, and he was very friendly. I’ll leave the review of that to him. Once we had stumbled into the night I noticed that he was wearing a fabulous pair of multicoloured Nike trainers – how brilliant that he wasn’t dressed in standard indie boy fair – oh how bored I am of it all.
And onto the last day of Fashion Week – again I only really made the afternoon shows as I have so much to do during the day in the “office”. First stop was Bora Aksu, who has never really done it for me as I don’t much go in for bulbous layering and he usually uses rather too much cream and beige (not a fan). Shades of steel and aubergine were much more appealing, as were the leather armoury; armour is definitely a trend to watch though not sure how it translates commercially! The few bags he showed looked cool. The show opened and closed with Peter Bjorn and John’s Whistling Song, which was at least the third time I heard it this week, officially classifying it as THE SONG OF FASHION WEEK. Oh they just love that intro…
Laura Lees Label then showed at Vauxhall Fashion Scout – starting with a palette of girly pinks and gaining momentum towards stronger black pieces. As she is known for her intricate machine embroidery she really should concentrate on the big statement pieces – her choice of imagery (skulls growing flowers are a favourite) works best when it’s big. She also had bulbous bags covered with layers of fabric.
Next up was Gavin Douglas, who I have never heard of, but had managed to pull quite a crowd despite the badly designed invite. Working on a theme of jet-set chic to the tune of Grace Jones, he showed exotic models in immaculate tailoring, with hints of satin, ruching, twinkles and mohair. Going against the commercial grain he showed the models accessorized with old luggage cases – doesn’t he know that handbags are where it’s at, and where the money is, too?! And who the hell was the plain looking girl at the end in the bad wedding dress? No, no, no. But at least I met a traditional Fashion Week freak – Daniel with a sword through his face.
Last stop on the fashion roundabout was Man, sponsored by Topman. I thought it was just all the cycling that was making me so hot that I had to disrobe frantically every time I entered a venue, but discovered later as I got undressed for bed that I actually had an extra jumper on that I hadn’t realized I was wearing – which probably meant that I looked even more like a Michelin (wo)man than I normally feel, and will explain why I was boiling to death at every show. God I am so not high maintenance. Opening with an homage to New Rave by the queen of neon, Cassette Playa, Man moved onto the cool tailoring and layered skinny knits of Carole Euler, who I am proud to say that I picked up on in the first issue of my mag three years ago. Good to see her showing a full collection.
Then came menswear favourite Siv Stoldal, who veered even more than usual towards urban / outdoors sportswear layering with ballooning nylon coats – for me it was a bit like, oh good, here comes the knitwear at last, when the few clever chunky cable and fairisle hybrid knits put in an appearance, accessorized with fun knitted hats (by my friends Rachel and Louise of Cast Off) decorated with twigs, and monk-like boxed arrangements worn like crosses on their backs.
Topman Design finished the show with their new range – given edge by a backdrop of rioting film footage (oh purlease). Someone really should have told them that their cheap shiny suit fabric and poor factory cuts were never going to look good under harsh spotlights. The overall poor quality of their clothing is not something that can be hidden by a bit of fancy styling, although I did very much like the patent yellow jacket and backpack, and the orange sweater wasn’t too bad. But tell me, why do new models always have one of two looks – either that of a rabbit caught in a spotlight, or a corpse? So dull.
As the lights went up I chuckled at the long line of menswear fashion editors in the front row – all in tasteful clothes bar Andrew Davies – my former fashion cupboard buddy at Arena and now current Fashion Director of Arena and Arena Homme Plus (nope, NEVER jealous of him) – who I was glad to see was still breaking ranks in a fabulous red, black and white star hoodie. You go Minky, as I have always called him.
Categories ,Basso and Brooke, ,Biba, ,Gareth Pugh, ,LFW, ,PPQ, ,Print
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