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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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

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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:

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GBG Magazine articles – 2007-2008

Before I started this site I was already writing regularly, with my focus being music in Guernsey.

As well as my articles for the BBC Guernsey website as part of the forming BBC Introducing Guernsey brand, I also wrote a few articles for the locally produced GBG Magazine, in the interest of general interest to those of us who remember the glory days of My Last Victory, Gay Army and others, the swan song of Mechanical Lobster and the only Guernsey Live festival, and for those wanting to look back at what came before some of the things going on in Guernsey music today, here are those few articles:

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From Hell

From Hell coverAlan Moore’s writing has always been something apart from what was around him. Certainly his 1980s work for American comics giant DC has, and can be, included with that decades re-evaluation of the form, but even next to his contemporaries from that era his work has always seemed to stand apart.

So, from the voice finding 1984-like super-anti-hero series V For Vendetta, through his epic retelling of 20th century history with ‘real world’ superheroes in Watchmen (and more in between) we get to From Hell, his take on the Jack The Ripper story.

Much like his previous work, Moore doesn’t take the usual route with his tale of murder on the foggy streets of Whitechapel. Rather than the police procedural a story like this would often be (and to an extent is in the lackluster film adaptation), From Hell focuses as much on ‘Jack’ and the lives of his victims as it does Inspector Abberline of the Yard.

From Hell 1But, what really sets this entirely apart from what it could have been, is its speculative fiction approach. This mixes elements of historical fact with reasonably well supported conspiracy and the odd moment of outright invention to create something genuinely compelling in its basic plot, with a couple of extra layers of social commentary laid over the top.

The basic plot deals with one of the stronger theories of who the Ripper might have been, looking particularly at Sir William Withey Gull and the idea of a Royal and Masonic conspiracy to cover up the birth of an illegitimate royal baby.

This explains, fairly satisfactorily, why the five specific women were killed and, by Moore’s own admission in the book’s footnotes, explores a fairly biased conspiracy against Freemasonry – though coming from where I do I have to admit to finding this hugely compelling as well.

from hell 2On top of this we get flashes of Gull’s supposed madness. While this isn’t entirely based on fact there is evidence he suffered a stroke, which may have led to seizures and arguably ‘visions’. Moore runs with this idea to turn Jack The Ripper into the progenitor of the serial killer as we see it portrayed in both the real world and fiction today and give a twisted motive to his crimes.

This portrayal of the serial killer idea is a fairly obvious, but very well executed, comment on how the media has dealt with the subject since and references the likes of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley and Ian Sutcliffe.

In the eyes of some this may be a controversial set of  direct references to make but, for me, it brings home the reality of the crimes portrayed in From Hell and acts as a reminder that, while this is a compelling mystery narrative set in the now-alien streets of Victorian London, these murders did rally take place and involved real people having a major effect not only on the life of those involved, but also the psyche of certainly the city and possibly the entire country.

From Hell 3While Moore’s writing is, rightly, the most focused on aspect of From Hell, that is to do artist Eddie Campbell something of a disservice. Without his scratchy black and white imagery the feel needed for this story would be lost.

The detailed line drawing style feels right for the setting of the story as it evokes a sense of mystery and gloom that working class areas of Victorian London had. Along side this, it gives a transcendental feel when the visions occur and, with more detailed backgrounds when we see into the lives of the upper class, helps show the social divide at work in the story. Chiefly striking in this is Queen Victoria who appears surrounded and shrouded in her mourning black throughout.

from hell 4If all you know of Alan Moore is his famous American work, or all you know of From Hell is the Hughes Brothers mildly diverting but flawed not-quite-whodunit movie, then I couldn’t recommend From Hell more as the vision of a singular artist, both in its writer and, as described here, in its main character.

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True Detective

True DetectiveGenerally speaking the TV detective drama is not one that appeals to me greatly. From the standard fare of British made TV shows, to the more recent spate of Scandinavian series and more intense and modern British variants, aside from the comic book inflected Sherlock, none have appealed enough in their marketing to make me actually watch.

So I came to HBO’s True Detective hopeful, yet cautious, once my friends’, who’s opinion of TV shows I trust more than any advertising, convinced me it was worth my time.

As things started, I wasn’t entirely convinced as we got a semi-flashback related tale of an ‘exotic’ (for want of a better word) murder that fitted the mould of many seen in films and TV over the years.

What did hook me in though in these early episodes (and the whole series is only 8 episodes long) were the performances of the two leads.

true-detective-the-long-bright-darkWoody Harrelson has long been a reliable screen presence seemingly easily turning his hand to pretty much anything from the light comedy that made his name in Cheers to more sinister roles in the likes of Natural Born Killers. Here was no different as his conflicted, but generally straight and by the book, detective was as believable and well explored as any TV character I’ve seen.

The real gem of True Detective though comes in the form of Matthew McConaughey. Aside from his impressive cameo in Wolf Of Wall Street, this was the first time I’d seen anything from his screen “renaissance” away from the role he’d been stuck in of romantic comedies and leaning on things in posters, and to say he impressed is an understatement.

true-detective-mcconaughyWith a character that shows two different sides from the start, his performance across the series is exemplary and he does what is the most impressive thing an actor can do of disappearing into the role. This is something the likes of Johnny Depp try to do through the use of excessive make-up and physical ticks but here (aside from a wig and a moustache) McConaughey does it purely through performance.

The relationship that builds between the two characters becomes the over arching linchpin of the series and is genuinely engrossing to such a degree that there were points where I though the murder mystery might become pure maguffin to the two detectives’ tale.

True Detective landscapeThe mystery plot however is the series’ other hook. It’s going to be hard to discuss much without spoilers but, having 8 hours to play with, gives the series time to develop what in a movie would be derivative. This creates a creeping Southern Gothic vibe and make the characters, no matter how big or small, become part of the Louisiana landscape that seems to somehow be feeding the events, with the music acting to complement this in one of the strongest ways I’ve seen in TV or film.

With a culmination that adds this to the high-end of the horror-mystery genre seen in the likes of Silence of the Lambs, but with a whole lot more on top, along with a continued focus on the titular detectives’ lives, True Detective has landed near the top of TV I’ve seen.

true-detective-harrelson-mcconaugheyIt combines real high tension mystery with a deep plot, based both in the mystery and in the characters involved, while keeping enough un-shown to make for a genuinely satisfying conclusion that doesn’t instantly set up, or even hint at, a second series.

Added to this there is a sense that this is more than just a murder mystery or detective procedural, but I think the extras everyone takes away from it will be different, so I’ll leave it up to you to discover those.

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