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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Robin Allender: The Bird and The Word

Dream Boat Records

Written by Marco Barbieri

Those of you who’ve seen Fame (you know the one, store information pills “Remember my name (FAME!)/I’m gonna live forever” and all that jazz) may remember the relatively small but significant character called Bruno. He hated playing in the strings section of the orchestra because he could electronically create an orchestra of sound and fury on his own, information pills healing resulting in much dancing in the streets and on taxis…

…The comaprison: Napoleon IIIrd Napoleon IIIrd. Why he hasn’t had more Fame action himself is quite beyond me. Though that said, I had heard on the grapevine that the man was touring with a full band and was hoping to see and hear such a spectacle in the flesh. But alas, whilst hoping that the brass section was hiding out in the toilets working up the saliva to play, the man himself emerged to take his place behind two microphones, that met above a keyboard, nestled between all manner of electronic and musical paraphernalia…and no band.

Never mind though, performing solo, he didn’t disappoint. Unexpectedly formidable, Napoleon is energetic and jerky as his music often is. One thing is that from the start, Napoleon is so believable. Without guile or pretensions, yet vaguely angsty and almost aggressive, not quite desperate but definitely hopeful, he is one man doing his own orchestral manoeuvres in the dark.

Like a proud band leader, pumping his metaphoric baton triumphantly, Napoleon IIIrd conducted his way through the set with a well practiced panache; twiddling with levels, blue-tacking keys, pressing buttons and bristling on his guitar. Completely comfortable but not complacent, Napoleon IIIrd played with abandon. With heavy industrial beats, crunchy glitches, big refrains, random samples and a pre-recorded choir of Napoleons to back him up, Napoleon IIIrd’s music is quite epic live. It’s all the more strange to match the sound to the scene when the guy is all alone on stage amongst his band of merry, electronically recorded selves.

So remember his name, because Napoleon IIIrd is dynamite.
Having studied graphic design, remedy I too had put on a show at my university and then made the journey to London to showcase my talents to industry moguls. My experience was, remedy well, pretty shit – but this was flawless. With over 50 stands showcasing talent, 2 fashion theatres and an orange-carpeted Moët bar for pre-show drinks, GFW supported by River Island (amongst other major players) really packed a punch.

The show itself was excellent. Well produced and structured with 15 of MMU’s elite from the BA (Hons) Fashion programme presenting their collections. There were few reoccurring themes between designers, and I was actually pleased to see that all but one (who shall remain nameless) had resisted the urge to dress his/her models like circus acts. PVC was present in more than one collection as was a Nu-Rave theme (yes, I know) which, on first look, was a little bit disappointing. The graduates had selected carefully, however – and fluro accessories were paired well with excellent tailoring. Silver and charcoal colours were strong and far more charming than anything in neon.

Liam Evans started the show with a gold gimp suit (think Gareth Pugh). After a little eye rolling (from me) and rib-poking (from my friend) Evans’ collection was actually okay with some interesting printed numbers.

The collections of Chhaya Mistry and Ross Stephens won my vote in menswear, featuring (amongst other things) heavy references to the past, ghetto gold accessories and classic tailoring any modern gentleman would be proud of.

In womenswear, where the competition is stark, none of the designers were disappointing. Jocelyn Coleman’s elegant dresses were fantastic, with a ‘twin’ theme, which again gave us something new and exciting without being ridiculous. Empty twin-halves and shoes featured in the outfits and created emotion, and Coleman’s closing piece, a twin-dress (featuring 2 models) was a delight. This was all complimented with the inclusion of well-tailored commercial denim pieces proving Coleman will be an all-rounder.

Jude Macaskill’s simple yet elegant jersey bat-winged dresses were sporty whilst not overdoing it, asserting an evident knowledge of key trends. Rachel O’Loughlin was suitably on the ball too with newsprint t-shirts, pleated skirts, trenches and badge clusters.

Hasan Hejazi is sure to be a designer to watch, and presented the most sophisticated collection. What looked like sheepskin was used for both coats and skirts; using feminine shapes, a bold red palette and PVC for a hint of kink. And even though the nature of a graduate show lends all the exhibitors couture status, it was Hejazi’s collection which would fit most under a ‘couture’ heading.

It was Jane Rutter’s collection which was most arresting, with a sudden change into classical music. Models were strewn with old navy rope, and rag dolls were suspended from their shredded clothing which featured tired and worried Union Jack prints. A real story-telling collection – even though I’m not exactly sure what the story was.

Overall, a very sophisticated show with an enjoyable blend of conceptualism, creative skill and appropriate splendour. MMU, along with Northumbria at Newcastle, has a reputation for nurturing future British designers in the North. From what I saw, it should hold onto that reputation for, at the very least, another year.

Well, view well, visit this well what a show. Wholly impressed by the overall talent residing in these four walls of the ever-so-nice Banqueting House just off of London’s Whitehall, cost I found myself wanting to see more, to stay longer – although a seat would have been nice. Incredibly sleek and professional, Kingston’s Graduate Show this year boasted the cream of their fashion-student crop with a diverse range of designs and fabrics, interestingly expressing the stark differences between one creative mind and another. Neon shoes, metallic leggings, smart tailoring, plimsolls, pompoms and chains of jangling keys…

An impressive collection of design emerged from this years Kingston University BA (Hons) Fashion Design. Joshua Kane’s dapper Dandy Boy- inspired collection of burgundy rocking horse printed pyjama-style trousers, teamed with high-necked shirts and waistcoats were outstanding, as were Rachel Buck’s creations including a fabulous pompom cape, a fur pompom hat, mini skirts and sheer fabrics in pale yellow, lilacs and metallics.

Students cheered one another on; Polly Davis teamed red skinny jeans with PVC. Maria Plene designed turned up, pointed flats with PVC and tailored jackets, Florence Raymond designed some wonderfully large jersey zip-up tops with leggings, hot pants and slim gold waist belts. Joanna Senez worked tie-die, tailored suits, half gold, half black all- in- one playsuits and canary yellow fabrics. Jin Cho created folded silk dresses and tassled leather cowboy jackets. Emma Rogers created puffed sleeves and oversized jackets. Claire Barrett designed silk dresses which were wonderfully sculpted to the figure, along with leather jackets, embellishments and corseted dress with hair replacing cord. Suzanna Symons used electric blues and a mixture of textures, whilst Holly Luxton matched very soft pastels and sheer fabrics with metallics and jackets.

Katy Rutherford knitted woollen jumpers and long cardigans teamed with long socks over black jeans. Victoria Luckie designed pretty printed dresses worn with black cutout belts as well as floral prints, dresses, white socks and Blackman’s Brick Lane plimsolls. Michelle Morgan created jersey, frills and neon leggings – very pretty and beautifully cut.

Thomas Cash showed a very impressive collection using neons, plastics and spray-painted shoes. Elizabeth Sutherland matched tangerine orange fabrics with beautiful bags and clever tailoring. Kate Davies made some wonderful woollen cardigans and lightening shapes in bright and bold tones.

Samuel Taylor’s magpie inspired bundles of keys on chains, watch-prints, monochromatic tones, and rubber and metallic leggings were outstanding. Ming Wang created some striking silk shorts with puffed pockets. Natalie Frost showed a peasant-inspired collection, where black prevailed and a sense of costume design certainly exuded here.

Christopher Owen showed chunky knits and a strikingly large plaited scarf. Elinor Foster gave much attention to detail, creating soft silhouettes, empire lines and some colourful Russian influences. Sophie Gordon’s models wore army boots and camo- fabrics, braces and bandaging.

Overall an overwhelming variety of styles pervaded The Banqueting House – very impressive, Kingston.

Ladies and gentlemen, cost I introduce to you: First Thursdays – a new East End art innitiaive conjured up by the Whitechapel art gallery and Parasol Unit. Fully supported by those good fellows at Time Out, viagra 100mg First Thursdays asks, malady simply, that the multitude of galleries that populate this bizarre cultural nub we call the East, stay open until 9pm – allowing, presumably, the hard working folk of London to saunter up after hours and check out the abundance of wonderful art the scene has to offer.

By 8pm, the well-worn tributary of Redchurch St – home to Museum 52 and other assorted spaces – was like the Circus Maximus. Thronging crowds, heading either to or from the opening of Martin Creed’s exhibition at Hauser and Wirth’s Coppermill space flowing down the road biblically.

Right, I think… I shall go to the Coppermill and review Creed’s show.

This plan is immediately thwarted. An ebbing, thronging multitude of young and old art tarts has formed, not a queue, but a bolus like human assemblage at the entry. The bolus swells and boils, some voices are raised … some tempers are flared. I should have known really. Upon my arrival I noticed that the railings of Cheshire Street were smeared with loads of pushbike action: the sure litmus test of a successful East End art event being the cycle tally.

I retire. I’m not going to bother. I shall return ‘semi-triumphantly’ in the morn and have the spread to myself. Yes, I shall review Creed in the morning.

I return in the morning (lunchtime). As expected the place is empty if only for the occasional whiff of spilt beer and pantomime left over form the previous night

As I saunter towards the entry to the main exhibition space (a cavernous, soon to be reclaimed, warehouse) the words of a lady friend of mine (who’s name, for dignity’s sake will remain undisclosed) uttered the night before at the post First Thursdays event at Bistroteque, rang clear. Upon my issuing of a series of reasonable inquiries about the show, she announced in response to my questioning – “It’s got a projection of the most beautiful cock”.

Really …

At the time I recall ignoring the desire to inquire as to what criteria she was applying to her aesthetic analysis of the cock in question, I remember thinking, oh well, I’ll see for myself, make my own mind up as to whether it is beautiful or not.

Right on cue, upon entering the space, I notice a giant cock. It’s alright. Not bad. Beautiful? Not sure, perhaps I should leave that to the Ladies. In crisp black and white the cock is rhythmically entering a woman from behind; for just over four minutes this hypnotic operation is performed. Accompanying the film, in the far corner of the large warehouse space, a rather stern looking pianist (not penis) slowly plays an escalating scale on a rather ropey looking piano.

As I later find out, the previous night had featured a comically arranged orchestra playing similar ascending scales. Not today. Today we only have the piano and girl for company. Looking around, the scene is the usual Spartan field we have come to associate with Creed’s work. A collection of seemingly divorced objects sit together awkwardly; a large sculpture made from industrial planks, a Serra-meets-Morris type bit of metal, some nails, some paintings – both figurative (a girls face) and abstract (diagonal lines as usual) – and a neon-sign that turns on and off (as do the warehouse lights after each four odd minute film screening – remember the Turner Prize?).

All in all, well… it’s stylish isn’t it, it looks good. Rather than heralding the return of a pure aesthetic to the sparse sphere of his remarkably well-received super-post-minimal art, I rather feel that Creed is the arch constructor of delightful, enchanting even, pools of entirely numb, insubstantial and vapid non-conceptuality (concepts create, among many other things, ‘meanings’, this does not) that simply feel right. Maybe this is the point, maybe not. I’m not sure I care, because I’m off for a beigel.

Occupying the central space of Vilma Gold’s new gallery premises just off Hackney Road are the paintings of recent Royal College graduate Nicholas Byrne. The crisp white wall space remains untouched, this site instead battened from ceiling to floor a set of board backed canvases hang on simple wood structures aligned in a mono-directional procession. Alongside stands a larger canvas similarly supported from ceiling to floor, thumb though facing the other direction to the adjacent procession of smaller works.

Clustered under the collective exhibition title Seven Metals Seven Planets Seven Days of the Week, the show alludes to the Ptolemaic cosmology and the geocentric conception of celestial alignment maintained during the middle ages. This is an illustrious source for inspiration, and the sense of elapsed historical wisdom radiates from Byrne’s work. Forms seemingly lifted from dusty renaissance scrolls swim in heavily applied oil, while architectural sketches evoking early studies in perspective drift into billowing colour.

The referential tension in the work is clearly set between science and art. And it is in terms of the latter element of this coupling that Byrne really cuts loose. He rather haphazardly deploys a myriad of art historical references; De Chirico styled busts backed are by the opticality of Cruz-Diez or Bridget Riley; Cubism, Maleivichian Suprematism and Mondrian’s palette all wrestling with each other for precious space on Byrne’s canvases.

Whether the relentless referentialism of Byrne’s work is a spoiler, I’m unsure. What can be said is that it results in a rich and intriguing space for those willing to indulge in a spot of visual archaeology. As an individual inclined to such activity, Seven Metals Seven Planets Seven Days of the Week, proves more than worthy of attention.

Cardiff’s beautiful and in my opinion best venue, buy information pills The Point is more than 3/4 full this evening. For a band that had released just one single before today this is a rather remarkable achievement in itself. Los Campesinos! are the current Cardiff buzz band, viagra the latest ‘talking’ band if you like. So, frenzied excitement aplenty greets the seven members – who have all incidentally, and rather ridiculously changed their surnames to Campesinos! (Yes, with the exclamation mark).

There is no formal introduction from the band, it is only after two rather lacklustre numbers do we get a mumbling of ‘Hi, we are from Cathays’ (Cardiff’s student district), which is greeted with a handful of whoops of recognition from the audience. Things brighten up next with a more raucous female led offering. It is somewhat spoiled by a final minute of unnecessary thrashing, but it is the first song of note of the evening.

The bands set up is quite bizarre and there is a definite divide onstage – one half is home to the static Campesinos’, whilst the other features the grooving Campesinos’. Furthermore, for a band with seven members, their sound, for large chunks of tonight’s set at least was very rudimentary – and I found myself questioning band members’ contributions, wondering if their roles were necessary.

However, new single ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ (Y, they do love an exclamation mark) was the definite set highlight and suggested that there was at least some merit behind the hype. Layered guitars, spiky bass and a catchy chorus – and it felt like the whole band contributed as well. If only they could do this more often.

With their debut album not scheduled for release until 2008, there is still plenty of time for Los Campesinos to develop and improve. They certainly need to if they are not to fade into obscurity. Unfortuatley on tonight’s evidence they are a band running before they can walk.

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It is nigh on impossible to talk about Elvis Perkins without mentioning his tragic life story. Son of actor Anthony Perkins, information pills famed for his role in Psycho, doctor who died of aids in the early 1990s, Elvis’ mother was a victim of the attacks on the world trade centre. Early interest in Perkins seemed more focused on said life story than the actual music he was making. But, with a string of warmly received live dates and glowing reports from across the pond (Ash Wednesday has been available in the US for a number of months) attention has now firmly shifted onto his musical worth. Perkins doesn’t disappoint in this department. His debut release is an excellent advert of his talents.

This is a record characterised and sustained by loss. Its mood is wilfully downbeat, but never morose. There are nods to fellow troubadour Willy Mason (whom he recently toured with) and Texan Tunesmith Micah P Hinson. The album’s overall feel however is reminiscent of Beck‘s brilliant break up album ‘Sea Change’. Like that record, Ash Wednesday also takes it time to show its true colours (a sign of longevity perhaps). Patience is required.

While You were Sleeping, the albums opening song starts sparsely; simple acoustic guitar and vocal. It ends with muted brass and crashing drums. In between – Perkins spins an engaging yarn concerning, amongst other things, personal takes on Death, Birth and Religion. He creates imagery that is mysteriously intriguing and at times bleak, and his gift with words is one of the records main strengths. It also helps compensate for the meandering nature of many of the songs: five minutes plus is the norm here.

The mood is lifted with the upbeat sing-along May Day; the albums only ‘pop’ moment. Its jaunty, carefree tones are a perfect tonic for the more sombre, focused remainder of the record. It is one of many album highlights.

Penultimate track, the rather beautiful Sleep Sandwich employs brass (again) and sweeping strings to brilliant effect. “Everyone will know who I am,” Perkins croons. He just might be right as well you know. Ash Wednesday is a work to savour.

Okay, information pills so the Windmill in Brixton isn’t the kind of venue you’d want to see Beyonce play (and I have it on good authority that if you did want to see her play, you wouldn’t be welcome there anyway) but a perspiring crowd saw Broken Family Band play an intimate afternoon gig there on Saturday. The Cambridge quintet have a wide host of influences, have a very strong fan base, and really enjoy playing together – combined with sounding great, you’ve got a darn good set-up. They’re also really, really nice guys, and front man Steven Adams kept the crowd pleased with his satirical anecdotes and nonchalant charm. I’m not one for quirky tactics, such as plying your audience with booze, jewellery or airline tickets, but the cake-fuelled interval and occasional free glass of wine actually suits this band’s happy-go-lucky, likeable presence. This also gave lead Adams an excuse to hurl expletives at us during the second half, which, of course, had the crowd in hysterics.

Experts in music pastiche, the BFB throw you from melancholic guitar ballads, to anthemic rock anthems, to smooth country and folk inspired rhythms. Seeing them live is a bit like riding a roller coaster that you actually want to ride. Songs like Devil in the Details and Cocktail Lounge are haunting and emotive and show the BFB as natural storytellers. Happy Days are Here Again (as the name suggests) was an uplifting, lively number and a crowd favourite. The somewhat up-tempo Love Your Man, Love Your Woman was a particular highlight for me and definitely worth a mention as it’s their new single – out now!!

They are constantly exploring new directions with their music, and the Summer brings a number of festivals and a new album amidst rising acclaim. The Broken Family Band are deservers of success and I hope that they can manage to retain their intimate charm and like-ability if and when they make it big. Look out for them at a small, sweaty venue near you – there are few better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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This is the kind of album you’d like to listen to before going to sleep, cost or the one you’d play on a Sunday morning when you’re off work. I started to wonder where abouts in the United States this guy is based. Probably somewhere north in one of those forgotten states where there is nothing better to do, symptoms and so tempted to take a guitar and get in to that sad and dreamy folk mood trying to escape – at least musically from the boredom of your neighbourhood.

To my surprise I discovered that not only is Robin Allender English, he is also not that unknown. He is in fact from Bristol and also signed to Warp Records, with his other band Gravenhurst.

The album itself comes in a beautiful case, the cover showing artwork of a simple plant to prepare you to that folkish atmosphere you’ll be surrounded by from the beginning. As a matter of fact the whole of the album is focused on Allender vocals and his background guitar can be compared to some of Jim O’Rourke solo projects, the only difference being that Allender stays closer to traditional composition, building mainly three minutes songs. Iron and Wine or Chris Brockaw are other songwriters that probably share something with him because of that delicate touch they’re capable to give to their songs, while Aerial M and Nick Drake come to mind when I listen to his gentle guitar melodies.

There is little strength in Allender’s voice and words are constantly delicately whispered in you ears. Sometimes there is a chorus (Leaves is an example) adding more depth to the whole sound while sometimes fellow musicians Alex Wilkins, Sam Tarbuck and Dave Collingwood from Gravenhurst appear giving a little bit of movement to the track. As The School Field is the only song that really makes you move your head to the tempo. Nature is always present: from the album title itself to the track names; often referring to leaves, oceans, waves or winter.

In my opinion the best track remains anyway Stag and Hounds, one of the shortest yet most dramatic songs on The Bird and The Word. Here Allender finds himself back from the war discovering how everything has changed, leaving him incapable of even recognizing the trees of his childhood.

This is however just an example taken out from a box of jewels: Allender managed to escape from the powerful sounds of Gravenhurst to build his intimate universe made of falling leaves and infinite sadness, creating a debut album that is one of the most promising things I heard in a while.

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One Response to “Robin Allender: The Bird and The Word”

  1. Thanks for the review! We made a video to go with one of the tracks here: http://www.dreamboatrecords.co.uk/video/greenwound/

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