Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Kills - Richard House (updated as I finish volumes) FINAL UPDATE

I like to think of my readers as intelligent, literary, interested in music and the new, broad of mind and interested in saving money. So this one's for you. 

On the long list this year for the Booker prize is The Kills by Richard House.   It's not on the short list, but the long list gave it some prominence and it garnered some excellent reviews and comment. 

It consists of four separate but interconnected novels. The first Satler is a page turning thriller that starts in Iraq & traverses turkey to Malta and Europe, with random encounters, deaths and mystery. Thoroughly enjoyed its complex incompleteness (after all, it's only the first part, but I am not expecting answers to everything by the end - it's that sort of book), but satisfying. The next The Massive takes the situation from the opening of book 1 (a dump in the desert run by contractors) and expands on it backwards and possibly forward (it does). Characters recur and get filled out with personalities and histories. 

I haven't read The Kill (3) & The Hit (4) yet, but know 3 concerns a novel that gives the novel its name & has been being read at various times - and I expect some of the characters will pop up. The Hit then returns to Satler apparently and muddies that story. I think that there will be a lot of fun following the links, puzzling over uncertainties and just enjoy a well written book.. 

So why here?

2 things. The novel in electronic form contains links or embedded content (which, beware, make the files bigger) of films, phone calls, maps. So far I haven't found them intrinsic, but they are an indication if where fiction could go. 

But to my money conscious literary readers, if you go here (paywithtweet) you can get volume 1 as a free download if you sell your soul and send a tweet. My twitter following is pitiful so there won't be too many people bothered by the spam! Alternatively, each volume is quite cheap from amazon or apple (au$2.99 each from iTunes) which makes up to a good value equivalent 1000 page book. 

As I said, really enjoyed volume 1, 2 is great too but going a different direction, more personal story/ies. Will report back. 

Quick note: do not read the brief blurb for the fourth novel before reading it. It clarifies the role of a main protagonist, while a pleasure of the first third to a half is wondering where these characters fit and their roles.

Ok - have finished volume 2 and thoroughly enjoyed it. It completes some of the picture seen in volume 1 explaining the blast, raises questions about where Satler is, and the question of Guezzler broadens from merely his puppetmaster-like role, but also his identity at the end of 2. The book discussed in 1 was a film in 2 and will be volume 3. So 4 will have to wait to supply more answers.

Volume 3: an interesting murder mystery where we don't really know who was murdered. It is based on the book & film mentioned in 1&2. Lovely writing, amazing sense of dread built, but asks questions and answers few. About its content and action - but also what is it doing here! At this stage I can't see the link to the other volumes other than as mentioned in them.

I am getting through this quickly - don't often read through a novel as big as this so precipitously. What is glorious is the questions it leaves unanswered!

And now finsihed. The final volume continued from the end of the first. Introduced some new characters, revisited some old. A very clever use of the book by one character. Some questions answered, not all ends tied. But another very good read.

Overall well worth the time and money - and enjoyable and thought provoking read. He is great at creating a sense of dread. DON'T READ THE BLURB FOR THE HIT BEFORE STARTING - IT IS A TERRIBLE SPOILER.

Recurring aspects: unidentified deaths, unknown deaths. Misidenticication, misunderstanding. Uncertainty as to the fate of characters. Coincidences.
Well managed development of our understanding.

I was wondering about the placement of The Kill as the third volume. It doesn't directly link in terms of characters, however what I think is that it is largely there as a metafictional game - to remind us that everything between the covers is a novel; and that seeking answers for all the uncertainties in the 3 other books is like expecting the third book to be true - it is all lies. Themes/strands of the overall novel are exlored in this one. But that all 4 novels refelect life in terms of its undertainty and openness.

And a final note on the embedded material - it is interesting and adds a little detail but is not essential. The final film, which explains how Mr Wolf & his brother got the original original novel for their exploits in part 3 was filmed at Halong Bay (which I visited recently) and coincidentaly I have changed my phone wallpaper to a panorama of the bay as it works very nicely with iOS 7 - but coincidence or what!!!!

FINAL FINAL NOTE a couple of days later: This novel, set of novels has stuck with me - thinking about the plot, the fascinating intertwining and the simple pleasure. Well written, well plotted and fascinating - it is totally absorbing as a straight novel, but retrospectively mesmerising in its structure. I read all 1000+ paper pages on my iPhone & enjoyed every minute. Get the free first volume & you will want to buy the other 3 - money well specnt.

A side note about reviewing: when deciding whether to buy these I looked at online reviews. In the Telegraph they say that The Massive We know at the start that these men will die of horrific cancers within a few months of each other. Yet it is very obvious, as the first chapter goes through the deaths (yes) that there are a variety of causes (including suicide) and that the first reported (the last actual) is Santo which makes distinct reference to 36 years of psoriasis and the next starts "before Luis by 18 years came Clark" - makes you wonder how much they read if they get lost in the first chapter 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TIMR 23 : tom phillips

OK - a person not a thing, but then Tom Phillips isn't in my room, he is a presence.

My memory of his entrance into my mind starts with non-knowledge: I had King Crimson Starless and Bible Black and Eno Another Green World without realising that the covers were by Phillips.

A synchronicity of sorts happened while I was in Canberra. There was an article about him in The Age Monthly Review, I found a copy of IRMA (Gavin Bryar's version of Phillip's libretto & score - he doesn't like this, but I love it) which was released on Eno's Obscure Records so I bought it, and the National Gallery had The Heart of A Humument in their shop.

Which brings us to what is his signature work - A Humument. He has taken a Victorian novel Mallock's A Human Document and with a mesmeric obsession excavated it. The Humument itself is in it's fourth edition - the first included every page of the novel as transformed by Phillips. Each page is a miniature marvel. Here is one at random drawn from the web.
Text is extracted to make a minipoem and an image drawn around it. These can often reflect other aspects of his work, other themes. The text has been used in a variety of other works - IRMA is based on texts suggesting sounds, words and moods to create the score. Since the first edition there have been 4 more, and with each some of the pages have been changed so that by the next edition no page will be the same as the first. I now own four versions of this book, plus that original The Heart of A Humument which takes small central fragments and creates even smaller images.

Much of Phillips' work comes from obsessions or concepts - and while much conceptual art doesn't work, I always find his does. These include paintings based on recreating postcards, or specific parts (such as a series of Union Jacks as seen in cards); coloured edges and components based on recycling old paint and I Ching sequences; the Mappin Gallery where he took a postcard of an art gallery and recreated the individual painings as full size - and then recreated the whole room; 20 sites in N years where he goes back to 20 spots in a walk round his neighbourhood and photographs the same view from a fixed spot, creating a view of the changes.

Others of his books that I have are
The postcard century - for each year to the 20th century he curated a selection of 20 cards from his collection, providing a visual history of changes but also recurring tropes. 1974 - This essential text combines 50 Recapitulatory Paintings 1962-1974, which are recreations of works from this period in the size of the book, with reprints of the originals and short text, with essays and images about specific works (Benches, Mappin Art Gallery) or themes (Flags, Berlin Wall). Plus a little about photographic projects and all of his music scores (including the IRMA score [mined from Humument])
Works and Texts - from 1992, this covers some of the same ground in terms of the essays, but brings the artworks up to date, and is larger scale with better production. This one is easier to get, but both are essential.
Dante's Inferno: he translated the Inferno and provide 4 illustartions for each canto, all including worked extracts from Mallock and extensive notes. This was also made into a television series (A Television Dante) with Peter Greenaway
A Humument for iPhone (there is also an iPad version which would give a better experience because of the screen size, but I didn't own an iPad) - go to the app store.

The books give me many happy hours - looking at the pictures, reading the poems in Humument or rereading the texts about how some of these works evolved. The blog is worth following - a high point was when Phillips was creating a multipanel piece and showing pictures of it as it grew and changed. I have been fortunate to see some Humument pages and otehr works in a show in Canberra years ago - to my mind Phillips is not sufficiently celebrated, and I don't know why.

Where to end? A portrait of Brian Eno seems appropriate.

(Note - I have put in links to the relevant pages of the Tom Phillips site - it is a brilliant and detailed beast. Other links are to Amazon where you can see more detail about some of the trade publications). 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cactus Truck: Brand new for China

Brand New For China! is Public Eyesore release number 119 apparently came as a 45rpm disc (I imagine 10") or a CD. I have the second, and the tracks are listed as side A, side B and not on the album.

Cactus Truck are a three piece, John Dikemanon saxes, Onno Govaert on drums and Jasper Stadhouders guitar and bass. The album is to some degree what you might expect from a freeform line up like this. I played this more times than I expected to, and ejoyed it more than I thought I would.

It opens with Aporia, a viscious assault from the sax with driving percussion and guitar. This 10 minute track was Side A, and moves through some more restrained passages, swapping lead, but seems to propel itself onwards. Side B and the extra 2 tracks combine either short (3 at sub 30 second) bursts of noise and three more considered pieces at 5 to 7 minutes. Again there are periods of more melodic sax (such as Coitophobe) together with machinegun guitar. And under it all Govaert pounds away at the rhythm.

In total this is only 30 minutes long - and it benefits from that. The playing is focussed, the musicianship strong, and the raw entertainment and excitement carries you through the time easily. Don't file under easy listening, but do under thrilling and visceral. 

Monday, September 16, 2013



A bit of selfcongratulation: blogger says that I have now had over 20,000 pageviews, and to celebrate here are the stats

Anyway, thank you all for persevering this long!

All time - and we can see a big spike which was probably Marina Hardy

This month - Marina is still there, but some more recent ones are getting hit too!
This week, and surprisingly the most recent posts are up there

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New roden book a'coming - update: has come

On his blog steve roden has noted a new book to be released to coincide with his new shows - called rag picker

I have this info from the publishers, publication studio

The two book launches are in LA (Sept. 14th) and NY (12th), the information we have can be found on our events listing page but more detailed info can be found on both the gallery's websites (their links are on our events listing page).

However, we CAN tell you this about the book: the book will be available tomorrow on our web-store! It's a beautiful full color book that includes new art as well as older pieces, his notes and thoughts. It's a beautiful, very intimate book.

Sounds like it will be good - more info as it comes to hand

The direct link to the book is here

I have bought a copy - I must admit the $10 DRM-free PDF - mainly because the cost of the book and postage was a bit beyond me at the moment (curse you dave mixingtickles stafford). But am very happy and can provide a first report.

It is largely based around the Walter Benjamin immersion and includes some extracts from his books, but mainly is a brief glimpse into the workings of steve roden's mind. Pages from the notebooks which correlate symbols and colours, long lists, a spoken piece called from greensomeness to whitesomeness (based I imagine on colours in the texts), artworks based on postcards of Siena, pages from notebooks which look like a coded text - coloured boxes, crosses, blobs -, development stages of a soundwork, a couple of works from when the body becomes city (seen on the blog, plus the photo of young steve), some extracts from 365 x 433, a series of collages based on notes for baudelaire, a list of benjamin's graphic silences and some card sr made to illustrate them, a video extract, and finally some of the recent paintings that have also recently been seen on sr's blog.

All in all a fabulous slight insight into some of roden's working methods and a lovely collection of images. Looks pretty impressive on the iPad

Friday, September 6, 2013

Grape Nuts

I was eating breakfast this morning and thought, why not blog on grape nuts? The obvious answer to myself was why? But then I answered if you are going to have a solipsistic blog why not use it. So this short paen to the breakfast cereal.
Many years ago, the early sixties, when we lived in England (land of my birth) it was a holiday ritual to get up ealy on the days we were going down to Cornwall and have a bowl of grapenuts before we set off. I don't know how this started or how hard it was to get them in England at the time - presumably hard as it was a treat.

We moved to Australia and the ritual was abandoned and Grape Nuts became a wonderful memory.

Then Carol and I went on the trip described in Fossils and Drones and there were Grape Nuts, available in the supermarket. I bought some and got her hooked.

For the next couple of decades the cereal was like hide and seek - Daimaru opened in Melbourne and stocked it as did David Jones food hall, then they didn't. Some were found at the tastes from home store - which specialised in UK foods but had Grape Nuts - suggesting that they were special for English people.

Some friends I made at a conference sent us a box.

And then Mum found USA Foods - a site for expats which stocks all sorts of goddies - but for us it importantly has Grape Nuts.

We still see it as a little luxury - but one we can indulge more often, and usually as a part of a bigger bowl of cereals. And they stock catering size packs which makes it especially exciting.

But what is it about Grape Nuts? Which have nothing to do with grapes or nuts?

There are two main things, I think. One is the texture and the maintenance of that texture. Grape Nuts are crunchy and they stay that way even after some time in milk. And then there is the flavour - malty in the main with no sense of sweetness. They are just great.

And for me there is the taste of nostalgia for holidays in England, a trip to America and theexcitement of the chase for finding them in Australia.

I don't know why they haven't become big in Australia - part would have been the high prie stores charged for small packets. Through USA Foods they are quite competitive - cheaper than many high end mueslis in fact.

Anyway - to all the Grape Nuts fans out there I say enjoy!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dave Stafford (4) All things being equal

When I downloaded the Pureambient free compilations I was struck by one track that seemed more experimental, edgy. Then while I was first looking through his discography I noticed a track called Blint's tune - parts 18 to 34 I recognized that this was a reference to the final side of Godley/Creme's amazing six-sided opus Consequences. When I saw the intriguing track was from this album, I had to get it. I got All Things Being Equal from the Pureambient site, but it is now available at bandcamp.

This album has three sides to cover. 

The first part gave the album its title. It consists of 7 relatively short tracks, the first composed got the name Pastel = doubt and the idea for a binamial track titling popped into Dave's head, and the album title followed.(The naming also suggests links between the tracks)

The first track Annunciation = day exemplifies the complexity which Dave has inserted into these short pieces - the whole side is only 22 minutes long. A bright calypso beat with steel guitar swings into distorted guitar with a feeling of dread, tabla through back & then back to the steel, back again to distortion, a harp over ticking then theremin, distant guitar solo and beats, piano solo, bloops of synth with low guitar, an abstract segue into a piano solo which (like many elements here) could expand into a long track of its own. And finally it all dissipates into a long fade which is almost as long as the rest of the track. 

Drones open Pastel = doubt joined by melodica like tones (or high strings), with little synth eruptions, quite menacing and slow. A King Crimson feel to Improv = mincer with little percussion bursts, some bendy guitar, deep drone which suddenly bursts and guitar intersperses with Mellotron. 

Day = twilight seems familiar, a car engine tries to start as a calypso beat plays on tuned percussion - and the notes explain that it is track 1 with different settings: an amazing way of working and shows the wonder of modern electronics. The long fade becomes a swirling bleep. A lovely short bass, guitar drum Trio = power.

Doubt = certainty mysterious formless piece of ambience - deep underthrobs, slinking guitar, distant. And finally for this short excursion, Twilight = night takes the drone from the first track allowed room to display itself with some added bass, different reverb and ending this part of the set with a gorgeous long swoop.

Described as the 8th track, Blint's tune = parts 18-34 (note the similar naming) is in its originally format a 51 minute track, as the original mix. But you get a bonus disk (download) which is the 17 component tracks of Blint's tune presented separately in a mix that was created after the single version was made. It is an interesting presentation as it gives each piece its own personal space. 

17 tracks over 51 minutes is too much to try and describe in detail - and even highlights aren't quite the right way. So I'll just throw out some impressions. Opens with percussion & searching guitars finding way. (The drums on the suite are mainly from a piece created by Mike Bowman for Drone Forest to sample). Long slow loop, wild rocking guitar, a cathedral of layered loops, hidden tones, distorted dirty guitar swings from ear to ear, throbbing bass, dark. E-bow, mad percussive loop, building, reverse guitar, e-bow. Gritty guitar, harpsichord, birds reminds me of the original; a sample on a late track also does that), piano, melancholic accordion. A guitar-craft circulation (Dave regrets inserting, but it fits! The longest part) Weird choppy guitar over drums, the final track has cymbals, a drone, slipping into a long fade before the real conclusion on a different drone, distant birds, a dim light at tunnel's end. Changing moods, changing speed, changing density, dissonance to sonority! 

I have listened to individual tracks and the single long version - they each have their place: individually they work as short songs, as a longer suite the fades and segues are seamless but audible - they are smoothly done. This is an album that points in all Dave's directions at once - very satisfying and complex.

I have been lucky in the way I have got to know Dave's music - I didn't have the chance to pigeonhole him as looping-ambience as I have encountered his diversity from the start - Gone Native, this and the ambient albums. And now there is the pleasure of following his path through his various apps - in particular Mixtikl (go to Mixtikl eternal album here) as mentioned before on &etc.

(This will be my last Stafford retrospective review - I have bought another album recently (The haunting - lovely ambience: 6 midlength tracks with 2 whopper remixes). But I will leave it for you to explore, as all Dave's albums are available on Bandcamp which offers the chance of listening on-line for free &/or buying individual tracks or albums. Get there via the Mixtikl link. I haven't hit a dud one yet)