Buffalo Huddleston Album Launch with CC Smugglers and Whose Shoes – Fermain Tavern – 18/10/14

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

On Saturday 18th October 2014 the Buffalo Huddleston Band launched their debut album, Sunrise, with a very special gig at The Fermain Tavern.

Sold out less than 30 minutes after doors opened, Buffalo Huddleston were joined for the show by upcoming UK new roots music band CC Smugglers, who had previously stormed this years Sark Folk Festival, and Whose Shoes.

You can see my full gallery of photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 25th October:

Buffalo Huddleston album launch review scan - 25:10:14

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

The Abominable Dr PhibesAs a film from the American International Pictures studio I had certain expectations heading in The Abominable Dr. Phibes; lurid Technicolor, a sense of 60’s oddness transposed onto a period setting and Vincent Price taking over the entire film – and on those counts, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The plot, if it can be called that, concerns the titular doctor (Price) and his quest for revenge against the doctors and nurse who, in his view, allowed his wife to die on the operating table.

In this Phibes sounds as if he could possibly be an almost heroic figure and protagonist, out for revenge on those who wronged him. Certainly, he is something of an anti-hero simply by being played by the star, but his gruesome methods, based (loosely) on the plagues of Egypt from Exodus, mean he is the monster.

Unfortunately, what this does is leave us without a real hero. There are various ‘good guy’ type characters, particularly Inspector Harry Trout of Scotland Yard (Peter Jeffrey) and Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotten), who are, respectively, trying to track down the murderer and avoid becoming a victim. Neither though is ever convincingly effective, as a mixture of bizarre comic relief and lack of charisma render them second players to Price and the mystery thread of the police of the police procedural is never entirely convincing as we see Phibes throughout, and even before we meet the police.

The Abominable Dr Phibes setSomehow, this doesn’t really lessen the impact of the film, possibly due to my expectations going in, but mainly because it’s clear that The Abominable Dr. Phibes is built more on the idea of stringing together set pieces than telling a real story. These set pieces are weirdly great, and very well delivered considering the special effects available at the time. The standout is the ‘plague of rats’ sequence with its parallels between Phibes and his pursuers and, had there been more of a sense of mystery, this could have had a similar effect to the tracking down of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.

Imbalance though is the films main feature. For every well executed set piece there is a comedy moment which falls entirely flat, Price is genuinely disturbing as the disfigured Phibes and his lair seems to come from the same world as Argento’s Suspiria (albeit a toned down version), while the rest of the production design (supposedly the film is set in 1925) feels like as much generic 1960s tat.

Dr PhibesIn the end though the film falls together just on the right side of fun, and its lineage can most clearly be traced to BBC Two’s The League of Gentlemen (hence their presence in the extra features of the Arrow Videos edition) and Psychoville as well the slasher movies of the 80s even the likes of Saw. As excpected Price comes away from it with his reputation as a genuinely creepy horror icon more than intact while I’m pretty sure the producers also considered it a success – what Terry Thomas was doing here though remains something of a mystery…

And here’s the Arrow Video box-set trailer:

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari

Der Cabinet Das Dr. CaligariAt 96 years old Robert Weine’s Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) is often cited as being the first identifiable horror movie. While I can’t be totally sure of this, it’s certainly a believable thought, as it combines pretty much every element one would expect from horror, from the silent era and early sound films of Universal, via the 1950s monster movie, Hammer, gialli, and all that has come since.

The plot concerns the titular doctor (Werner Kraus) and his charge, a ‘somnambulist’ by the name of Cesare (Conrad Veidt) and their visit to a small village fair. Following the startling revelation of Cesare, in a shot that is still hauntingly effective as he wakes from his slumber, a series of murders occur and the culprit is caught in the act and then revealed by a young man, Francis (Friedrich Feher) who was witness to the initial awakening.

This leads on to a chase and a revelation, followed by a sting in the tale that, even 96 years in I had not heard the details of, so I won’t spoil it here.

Das Cabinet Des Dr. CaligariOf course, Weine’s film is famous as the touchstone of the German Expressionist movement in cinema, with elaborately un-naturalistic, angular sets creating a sense of something other and building a feeling of claustrophobia that grows as the films goes on and, as they do in most films of this nature, the plot moves towards its inevitable conclusion.

Amongst the sets, the performance of Conrad Veidt stands out. It is mannered in the way all silent performances must be, but there is a sense that it is a much more controlled mannerism than many others exhibit, even Kraus, who gives a good performance as the doctor, comes across as something of an overblown hack in comparison – though compared to many other films of a similar era he too has his controlled moments.

Conrad Veidt as Cesare

Conrad Veidt as Cesare

But, what sets this apart as something special is something that is inescapable in the film’s production history and artistic concept. It’s a point that has been stated countless times before, but, in seeing it in the flesh for the first time it still resonates.

Der Cabinet Das Dr. Caligari was made in 1919, almost immediately following the First World War and the fingerprints of this real life horror are all over it. First we have the expressionist design that demonstrates a broken world, where the normal man, in this case Friedrich Feher’s Francis, strives for control but ultimately has none as power is ceded to an authority run amok.

More famously and obviously is the position of Cesare. Controlled by the same rogue authority he has no choice but to commit murder, he literally sleepwalks into it, and the fate of guilt is left nicely ambiguous.

Werner Kraus and Conrad Veidt

Werner Kraus and Conrad Veidt

I won’t labour the point further but, like most worthwhile horror, Der Cabinet Das Dr. Caligari exists as a product and commentary on its time and, again like many that were to come, leaves things on an ambiguous note that is surprisingly downbeat and sets in motion wheels cinema is still feeling turn today.

A note on the version of the film.

I was watching the newly released Eureka: Masters of Cinema edition of the film which is a restoration and transfer in HD (4K should your system allow it) and, for a film of 96 years, it is truly amazing. Still in place are a number of jumps and scratches that are unreconstably of the time but the image is sharper and clearer than any restoration I have yet seen of almost any film, not to mention one of this age.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vale Earth Fair Reggae Night – Rentoclean and Citizen-X – The Jamaica Inn – 11/10/14

Rentoclean

Rentoclean

Less than two months since this year’s Vale Earth Fair the Collective were back with a reggae(ish) party to continue their ongoing fundraising.

While it was billed as reggae the night actually started out with some electronic sounds thanks to Citizen-X. Armed only with an iPad, X creates sounds live using various electronic music apps on the tablet – usually this takes the form of soundscapes inspired by everything from science fiction and fantasy movies to the moon landings, tonight though he headed more into EDM territory.

While this was a bit different to normal it certainly gave his live show more groove that got a few of the small number in The Jamaica Inn moving on the dancefloor and, in a busier venue slightly, later in the night, I could see it going down very well.

Citizen-X

Citizen-X

While it was clear this was something of a new direction and there were a few technical glitches, it was good to hear X developing his sound and, while a more visual aspect to the performance would be of benefit, it sounded good and seemed to go down pretty well with those who’d turned out for the music.

Despite the EDM opener, between the live acts the reggae was in full flow thanks to DJs Limey Banton and Rob R. While I’ll be the first to admit extended sessions of reggae are not really my thing, Lime once again demonstrated his ability to keep the music varied and interesting but still within the general confines of the genre.

Alongside Rob they both dropped some great tracks, with some of their own embellishments, which kept the upbeat vibe of the night flowing – and it was great hearing some classics of the genre, like Uptown Top Ranking, through a proper PA.

Dan of Rentoclean

Dan of Rentoclean

As Rentoclean took to the stage the small crowd seemed a bit reticent about coming forward but it wasn’t long before the bands infectious reggae-gypsy-punk drew a few onto their feet and kept them their for the best part of the next hour.

Mixing older originals with newer ones the band were on top form tonight showing, once again, why they have become such a renowned party band, as the likes of Opium War and Bean Jar were greeted like hits and new songs went down just as well.

With a longer set Rentoclean had more space to explore more and fluidly slipped in variations and deviations into their more well-known numbers without missing a step with all four members really showing off their musical skills.

While the audience were into it Rentoclean are a band that deserve a bigger crowd as their sense of musicality and fun is genuinely infectious and, after they closed the set with the rather frankly titled We’re All C**ts they had people calling out for more.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gerard Way – Hesitant Alien

Gerard Way - Hesitant AlienFollowing hot on the heels of his former band mate, Frank Iero’s, Stomachaches, ex-My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way has released his much hyped debut album, Hesitant Alien, on the world.

From a first glance at the album cover, as well as the title, its clear that Way is taking some influence from Bowie, but that’s more on the design side of things than the music, as what’s on the disc (or download depending on your preference) is very clearly Gerard Way.

Continuing where My Chemical Romance’s last album Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys left off, but with something else thrown in too, Hesitant Alien is a bit of a mish-mash of sounds that seems designed as a concept album, but one where the concept never entirely coalesces.

So while opener The Bureau seems designed to pull us into the world of Way’s new alter-ego (an idea he’s been toying with at least since The Black Parade if not ever since forming My Chemical Romance) which is backed up through all the associated visuals, the rest of the album comes and goes in terms of reflecting this, which, at times, leaves the whole thing feeling a bit disjointed.

That said, individually there are some great sounds here.

2014_gerardway_reading_AF_22.08.14-0794While Britpop has been heavily mentioned in other reviews it is only a small part of the overall vibe on offer. As well as this there are moments of grunge, pop, rock and electronic with a bit of glam thrown in for good measure and something of a debt to Iggy Pop and The Stooges too. Quite tellingly as well, there is nothing even close to the punk or emo-core that made Way’s name in the mid-2000s.

At its best this mix of styles creates a kind of alternate reality sci-fi pop, with fuzzy guitars and bass, some pounding rhythms and Way’s distinctive vocals. At its worst the album is some decent, if not astounding, pop-rock and, while there is certainly nothing bad on the record, there’s not a lot (on the first few listens at least) that really stands out as a sure-fire killer song, though ‘singles’ Action Cat and No Shows come close.

In the end Hesitant Alien sounds like an artist trying to find their sound, an understandable position for a debut solo record, and has some very good, catchy pop-rock with a nice amount of fuzz laced through it. Following the weight of expectation, though, it doesn’t quite set the world on fire like it was clear many had hoped, and some are claiming, it does, though there is definitely something here worth listening to and a lot of promise for what’s to come.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Heymoonshaker – Shakerism

Heymoonshaker - ShakerismProudly proclaimed as “the world’s only beatbox-blues album”, Heymoonshaker’s debut, Shakerism, certainly comes highly anticipated based on word of mouth from their live shows.

Heymoonshaker are Dave Crowe (beatboxing) and Andy Balcon (guitar and vocals) and, as I recently witnessed, they create an astonishing sound in a live environment that, at times, confounded any expectation. This combines relatively traditional blues guitar and vocals backed by hip-hop and dubstep influenced beatbox rhythms.

I did wonder how this would translate to record and the results are a mixed bag. While their live show really seems to focus on Crowe’s impressive vocal rhythms, the album, wisely it turns out, leans more toward showing off Balcon’s work. So we get a range of blues tones from dirty electric sounds to semi-acoustic ‘Dobro’ resonator vibes, topped with Balcon’s vocals which follow a similar range and are fiery, impassioned and soulful in suitably equal measure.

HeymoonshakerThe tracks which highlight this side of the band, with Crowe’s beatboxing acting simply as a rhythmic underlay, work well, though a few feel a little like unfinished ideas rather than complete songs.

Unfortunately a number of the tracks highlight the beatboxing and, while this works excellently live, on the record something seems to be missing in capturing just how impressive the range of sounds Crowe is capable of creating is. So, rather than impressive dubstep style bass drops and the like, what can be heard on the disc just seems to get lost.

This is a real shame as, while the songs show promise, and the band have a formidable, and worthy, live reputation, Shakerism fails to capture this successfully and, if I hadn’t been witness to Heymoonshaker on stage, it would, I think, have caused the record to entirely miss the mark.

So, if you even half like the sound of the record, go out of your way to see this band live!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Raid 2

The Raid 2 - posterFollowing up a movie like The Raid was always going to be quite a task – the original brought such a new and vibrant flair to the, relatively, mainstream action movie that I found it hard to picture how it could be followed.

In the simply titled The Raid 2 (it comes with the suffix Berandal in some territories) writer, producer, director Gareth Evans takes the bull by the horns and delivers something that certainly lives up to its predecessor, while at the same time not simply reliving past glories, as many sequels are wont to do.

The plot, which is surprisingly involved, expands the world created in the first into a full on, city-wide, organised crime gang war with three families vying for control. Into this, our hero Rama (Iko Uwais) is thrown, via some not entirely legit seeming undercover police, and over two and half hours all hell breaks loose time and again as intrigues of the gang war escalate.

While the story is more solid than I had expected, it is nothing that hasn’t been done before, with a lot of The Godfather and its ilk in the mix and, at two and a half hours there are points where the pacing of the more exposition based scenes becomes somewhat deliberate, if not actually slow, but that’s not really what the film’s basis is.

Iko-Uwais-in-The-Raid-2-Berandal-2014-Movie-Image-650x431Much like The Raid, what makes this movie are its style and its action.

Stylistically, its like a living comic book both in terms of characters, action and direction with camera moves and shots that could be doing a Sin City and lifting frames from a page, if this was based on a comic book, and this gives the whole thing a slightly distancing effect which I think is a blessed relief considering the brutality of some of the action on offer.

The Raid 2 sets its stall out early in this regard with one of the best ensemble fight scenes I’ve ever seen as a prison riot descends into brutal bloodbath which sets the wheels in motion for everything to come.

The-Raid-2-farm-550x365While the choreography is hugely impressive, what makes this (and the other action scenes) really stand out from many others in cinema is how they make it clear exactly what is going on and develop the story, despite the apparent mayhem. Evans has described the action scenes as a kind of violent ballet and I’d have to strongly agree as the story develops as much through the fights as it does through exposition, something a lot of filmmakers could learn from.

As the film goes on, Evans displays an ability to shoot pretty much every type of action scene going from intense one-on-one, hand-to-hand combat to multi-car chases (including a four-on-one fight in a moving car) excellently and, as I commented earlier, the expanded world means we don’t just a repetition of the same action we saw last time, although many of the performers are the same.

The-Raid-2-kitchen-550x365In something of a rarity what has happened in expanding the world of The Raid 2 is that it has allowed Evans to create a film that stands up alongside the original, while at the same time being its own entity and sits up there with The Raid as one of the best action movies I’ve seen.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Heymoonshaker and Robert J. Hunter – The Fermain Tavern – 26/09/14

Heymoonshaker

Heymoonshaker

On Friday 26th September 2014 The Fermain Tavern presented a night of fresh, modern blues from visiting act Heymoonshaker and, now London-based, Bailiwick artist Robert J. Hunter.

While Robert’s band played their own vibrant take on power-trio blues, Heymoonshaker took the sound in a new direction they described as “beatbox-blues”.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and here is my review which was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 4th October.

Heymoonshaker and Robert J Hunter review scan - 04:10:14

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

BBC Introducing Guernsey: September 2014 – Guernsey Song Project and Live & Local

BBC Introducing Guernsey studioFor the sixth anniversary show of BBC Introducing Guernsey things got hyper-local as I took a look at the ongoing Guernsey Song Project which has challenged musicians in the island to write and record a song using Guernsey’s native language, D’Gernesiais (or Guernsey French or Patois).

Also I featured a few songs from recent BBC Radio Guernsey Live & Local sessions that happen every Friday lunchtime.

You can listen to the show until the evening of Saturday 4th October on the BBC iPlayer here.

Tracklist

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Guernsey Press articles – 2010-2011

In going through some of my old stuff, I’ve found these few articles published in The Guernsey Press (and its free weekly supplement The Globe) before I started this site, so take a little trip back in time a couple of years with these.

From Chaos to the Tav to reviews of the year its a bit of a mixed bag, but I hope someone finds it interesting:

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,094 other followers