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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

The Knife: Heartbeats

Brille Records, Release Date: 25 June 2007

Written by Joanna McGarry

In today’s over-saturated electro market it would be easy to dismiss Simian Mobile Disco as just another bleep and whistle DJ duo. However, stomach troche if the reaction of the Hoxton Bar crowd was anything to go by it would seem that what we have on our hands is a bona fide rave outfit.

I’m not talking lamé leggings and novelty over-sized jewellery here (although the room wasn’t short of any of that), but in a scene that’s more about the fashion than the music SMD stand out as one of the few acts who understand what the phrase ‘Rave’ actually means.

A sweaty, hands-in-the-air music industry crowd is a rare sight, and while many tried the obligatory arms folded, ‘contemplating the relevance of the sound look’, it wasn’t long before the irresistible combination of the spectacular light show and pounding, dance heavy hooks and beats had everyone moving like it was 1992.

With all the retina burning, multi-coloured strobe action and the fact that I was stuck behind a couple of six-footers, it was difficult to catch a glimpse of Misters James Ford and Jas Shaw, although it was clear from the head-bopping shadows on stage that these two were enjoying their music just as much as their sweaty disciples. As things reached their climax with the brilliant It’s the beat, there was barely a still foot to be seen and with the whole night taking on a distinctly retro air it was long before the ‘ironic’ old skool hand movements made an appearance, probably in a bid to disguise the fact that GASP, they were actually enjoying dance music. Like it or not, SMD had brought out the Bez in all of us.

This year the RCA’s Summer show combined various fields in an all-encompassing exhibition space that was both innovative and exciting to explore.

Designer Gerrard O’Carroll and curator Claire Catterall created an exceptionally large tent structure in Kensington Gardens – close to the site of the original Great Exhibition – where graduating students in design and applied arts showed their work. The main college galleries were home to painting, sickness photography and printmaking departments.

A new approach was taken for the display of the work, more about as pieces from the various disciplines were shown alongside one another. This resulted in a common ground where the physical space weaved the various works throughout, and at the same time, encouraged viewers to reflect on the faded boundaries between the disciplines. The brilliant quality of the work unified the display, while the wide variation both in form and content of the different pieces was deeply stimulating.

This year there was a strong emphasis on environmental issues, as well as experimental new technologies. Alex Metcalf for example came up with a “treehugger” whose aim was to encourage people to engage with trees. His project developed from his fascination with trees and the fact that one can hear the sound of water inside the trunk, as it is being pulled up from the roots to the leaves through the xylem vessels. For this he invented a tree listening device, based on the same principle as the stethoscope, and projected the sound through headphones hanging from the tree branches. It is a rumbling sound, gentle but full of life.

Craig Morrison won the BSi Sustainability Award, 2007 with his plywood prototype vehicle design. His aim was to “raise automotive industry awareness that ‘wood body panels’ can have a positive environmental impact. I have created a car using sustainable materials and processes”. The outcome brought together good aesthetics, sustainability, and a design idea that could work for the general population in a future that requires environmental solutions with urgency.

It is hard to say whether it is the realization of the fuzzy boundaries between the various disciplines that has aided in more free experimentation by artists, or the other way around. In any case, the result is with no doubt showing exciting results.

There are some bands that we like to keep for ourselves, no rx a secret bond that guarantees the intimacy of a small venue for live shows and the all important notion that the band are playing directly and only to you.. Beirut are one such band, help but as Tuesday at a sold out Koko proved, Beirut are moving out of the bedroom and into the mainstream consciousness.

First up, Dirty Projectors set the mood with their common breed of gentle indie-folk successfully whetting our appetites for what was to come, but breaking no new ground for the well-versed and discerning music fans in the crowd. Then, fresh from Glastonbury and with a jagged looking ensemble of ten, yielding a delightful array of brass and string, (trumpets, mandolins, ukuleles, violins and so on) appeared Beirut. The aim was to capture and arrest the audience with the dramatic and theatrical sounds borne of Zach Condon’s ardently well-read imagination. And that it did. After opening with the powerful Brandenburg, we meander through the majority of the latest album Gulag Orkestar, most of which the crowd is not familiar with but receptive all the same.

Although clearly moved by the prowess of a modern-day Balkan folk band that adequately filled the spacious dome they inhabited, the crowd remained notably still, unsure whether to celebrate the triumphant performance or silently absorb the drama from the stage, thus reflecting a seriousness found in the music itself. Though they found it harder to contain their joy when old-time favourite Postcards from Italy erupted mid-set. And there is no doubt that the Beirut troupe felt it too. Whole-heartedly bashing out the instruments at their disposal, Beirut deliver and with Zach’s confident yet understated vocals, we are witness to the weaving of a timeless tapestry of musical history. Testament to this dedicated engagement with the drama of the music came late last year when 20-year- old Zach was forced to cancel tour dates after being admitted to hospital with extreme exhaustion.

A satisfying three song encore completed the near perfect set; topping off the night with a cover of Siki Siki Baba by Macedonian brass band Kocani Orkestar who some may remember as featuring on the Borat soundtrack; a brilliant stroke of wit and a swipe at those who insist on politicizing the musical offerings of Beirut. Good show.

The Cherryvale Skateboard Co. is a fun, try collaborative project founded by photographer Valerie Phillips and art director Jason Gormley to display their creative ideas in an ongoing manner.

To launch the project, sale they sent fifty blank skateboards to different artists and friends from all over the world, intending to give them artistic freedom to come up with their own version of the object. The skateboards then went back to their Cherryvale home, in Kansas, where they were also exhibited.

The result was a wide array of skateboards painted, drawn and altered, each holding the unique style of its creator. This contributed to the considerable component of spontaneity clearly identifiable throughout the works. As a whole, both the form of the object, as well as idea behind the project, served as key unifying features to the ensemble.

The skateboards are now on display at The Gallery in London, in an exhibition that is without a doubt in tune with the goal of the project, according to its founders one “dedicated to the preservation of youthful idealism, naïve enthusiasms and unrealistic expectations”.

Cherryvale Skateboard Co. at The Gallery 1st floor, 125 Charing Cross Road, London. W1. Hours: Mon-Sat 10-6:30PM.

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Brian Wilson danced gaily on the brink of insanity creating the dream-pop genre before slipping into the abyss and being rightfully branded a genius while there. Dan ‘Caribou’ Snaith’s third record eschews the same sort of floating majesty that Wilson rolled out, visit this site chopped up and popped into his pipe.

Snaith completed a Maths PhD when on the road with the Super Furry Animals plugging his second album The Milk of Human Kindness. He traveled the world from the UK to North America and from Eastern Europe to China, soaking up eastern mysticism, Balkan bombast, American surf-pop and British sensibility as he went to produce this carefully constructed gaggle of tunes.

Andorra, the country that serves as the album’s namesake, is a tiny state in the Pyrenees firmly lodged between France and Spain. The characters in the album were all dreamed up during Snaith’s time there. Desiree, Niobe, Sandy, Eli, Irene, they are all running around Snaith’s mind, crystal clear in his imagining, and poured fourth surrounded by carefully textured ambient songscapes.

Snaith is on a quest to cut the bullshit. He just loves lump in your throat pop songs, songs that draw the emotions to the fore, songs you can get lost. But we all love those songs, don’t we? Any song that draws a bit of nostalgia up, conjures a wistful sigh – an image of a lover past, just sits nicely in the ear. For me it’s Sundialing, but there’s a sense that there could be a song here for everyone, a rare feat.

The music swims like Beaches & Canyons era Black Dice, with the mathematic precision of genre stalwarts Boards of Canada. Nothing is surplus to demand, but you just can’t imagine how he decided it would work, it just does. The vocal is like the aforementioned Brian Wilson if he met The Beta Band and formed a barbershop quartet. Quite beautiful stuff.
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I’ve always been a little torn when it comes to the Klaxons. On the one hand I feel I should resist any band championed by the likes of Jo Whiley and Zane Lowe, diagnosis hyped to preposterous levels and stalked by Peaches Geldof. On the other, I can’t help feeling that ‘Atlantis to Interzone’ is one of the greatest indie/dance/pop crossovers of the past five years. So, in an attempt at an impartial review I’ve decided to put that all aside and try and judge their shiny new single with unbiased ears.

So here we have it, ‘It’s not over’, using the infectious hook brought to us originally by ‘Grace’ in 1995 this is really a great tune by default. In fact with such an unrelentingly catchy sample they’d have to have messed up big style to get this one wrong. Luckily they haven’t, and by keeping the spirit of the original very much alive they’ve continued their trend of releasing solid single after solid single. Some rather prickly guitars and keyboards bring this song very much into the 21st century, added to that some unusually controlled and understated vocals (for the verses at least) reflecting the dark romance in this more sombre offering from the boys. It’s difficult to fault a song that has you immediately singing along but that’s what’s great about the Klaxons. They understand the value of a catchy chorus and a bit of marketable quirkiness but resist the urge to simply churn out one clone after the other. They’re inventive and clever and in the same way that Kylie’s ‘Can’t get you out of my head’ took a step above everything else in pop by creating a sound five years ahead of it’s time, the Klaxons are the future-thinking face of indie. It’s a shame they’ve been tainted by the commercial snowball of a scene they helped to create, but if anyone’s worth looking past all the neon, it’s this lot.

The Twilight Sad are all over it, ed reeling in plaudits from all and sundry, search both here and over the pond. They deserve it too. Singer James Graham just sounds so damn Scottish, and we all know that that is just cool. They also manage to sound like most of the best bits of most of the best bands out Scotland in the last twenty years. They manage the detached, half-drunk commentary of Arab Strap‘s Aidan Moffat, the sheer massiveness of Mogwai and the angry forlorn cries of Biffy Clyro… without even a hint of The Proclaimers or Shamen.

And She Would darken The Memory Of Youth is the full title of the haunting A-side but it’s That Summer, At home I had Become The Invisible Boy that sticks in the head. Graham cries with worryingly real urgency: “The kids are on fire, in the bedroom, and the cunt sits at his desk, and he’s plotting away.” What a cunt.
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Picture the scene, website like this you are an obscure musical outfit, information pills notorious for your belligerent attitude towards the press, cost fiendishly controlling over every aspect of your musical/visual output, then, you have a hit song, a surfer covers it and you become known for it across the globe? What do you do? Well you claim it back, darken it up and release it again of course. At least that’s what The Knife have done with the blissfully electric summer smash of last year – Heartbeats.

Admittedly, it was Heartbeats that turned me on to brother/sister Swedish duo The Knife and I became subsequently rather fond of albums Deep Cuts and the near-perfect Silent Shout. Now I hate to sound like a kill-joy but this latest live version is simply nowhere near the original album cut – Karin and Olof seem determined to strip it down in their live shows, essentially rejecting the fair-weather fans that the original single and the corporate re-hash by Jose Gonzalez (balloons flowing down a San Fran hill anyone?) brought with it. Instead, they have produced a poignant reminder of their penchant for the darker sounds of electronica. They have ruthlessly claimed back their work of art simply to throw a pot of grey paint all over it. The end result is, aptly, disheartening; bubbling electro replaced by a dull thud that actually sounds like slow motion in audio. When The Knife performed this live version late last year in London, you could taste the disappointment in the air; the original song is a carefree, excitable child, while its successor is it’s melancholy, terminally ill grandfather.
There we have it. Three versions of the same song; a veritable electro sandwich (Gonzalez served as filling) with the first bite, as ever being the tastiest.

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