Hinterland by NVA review


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Tonight I was privileged to be in attendance at the opening event in Scotland’s Festival of Architecture.

Hinterland is a site-specific piece to end all site-specific pieces in that the site is essentially the star of the show.

It’s a 50 year old modernist Catholic seminary (St Peter’s) in the Kilmahew Estate in Cardross near Helenburgh – not the most accessible of venues and a 7 hour round trip to gain access to the totally sold out proceedings.

But it was worth every minute of the journey because this is a spectacular ruin despite its youth.

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It’s widely regarded as a modernist building of global significance and yet only had a life span of 13 years before being abandoned in the wake of the falling off of seminarian numbers and possibly the fact that it was an intolerable living place in the winter.

In the following 37 years the elements (and a succession of extremely talented graffiti artists) have both ravaged and enhanced its brutal concrete beauty.

What remains is an almost wholly concrete bunker with a rain filled chapel filling the centre of the space with all four sides open totally exposed to Scotland’s weather.

We were treated to NVA’s conceptual piece that was built around a massive thurible swinging majestically in the rain sodden chapel spewing out incense, whilst a trumpet player and The St Salvators Chapel Choir from the University of St Andrews emoted a beautiful, sacred music inspired, tonal piece by composer Rory Boyle. This was complemented by a spectacular, but nonetheless subtle, interior and exterior lighting show.

The combination of canvas, sound and light was a unique and deeply compelling performance that I’ll never see the likes of again.

NVA are famous for these pieces having previously lit the Old Man of Storr and for their spectacular Speed of Light show on Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh in a recent Edinburgh Festival, plus other locations.

Bravo. Five stars.

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Why I love Twitter


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It took me a long time to ‘get’ Twitter.

More than half of its now 10 year life.

At first I didn’t see the point and then I didn’t understand how it worked really.

But now I love it.

I love that it brings audiences together at business events.

I love that it enables me to speak to ‘stars’ – musicians, artists (creative types) that would have previously been unattainable to me.

Only this week I conducted a conversation with Kathryn Joseph, the maker of the current Scottish Album of the Year, about the sound of her piano keys on her record..

It’s a leveller.

It’s free.

The stats are magnificent.

Love you darlin’.

 

 

High Rise: Review


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Two thirds of the way, maybe more, into this movie the voice of Beth Gibbons cuts through the mush.

Beth Gibbons is gifted with the voice of an angel.

Her new song, with Portishead, that colossus from Bristol, is a cover of Abba’s SOS and it’s the first time we’ve heard her in many a year.

Eight, to be precise.

So when SOS is delivered, a la Human League’s Travelogue/Reproduction era, with those early doors synthesisers sparkling through the cinema speakers, it’s like God sent us a little gift.

It’s miraculous.  Beautiful.

The song stripped to its bones and crafted back to life outrageously.

The trouble is, it’s set in the midst of an utterly parlous movie.  A film so bereft of greatness that it is pearls within swine.

I love you Beth Gibbons.

But sorry Ben Wheatley – you fucked up.  Big style.

This movie is otherwise shite.

Shame.

But the poster (the unofficial one) is great.

I suppose it’s not surprising because Jeremy Irons is in it.

Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered


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I won’t claim to be a rap/hip hop aficionado.

A cursory look at my iTunes reveals only 26 albums (and one of them is Kate Tempest so I hardly think that counts) in a collection of approaching 1,000 falling under either moniker.

But there’s enough there to make me think I like the stuff.

Kendrick Lamar entered the fray,proper, a few years ago with good kid, m.A.A.d city , an absolute nightmare of punctuation.  It completely escaped my attention, as did the now legendary To Pimp a Butterfly exactly a year ago.

Both of those short sighted mistakes have been rectified now and TPAB is rightly, IMHO, considered a stonewall classic album with a dizzying range of style, ideas and delivery.  If you haven’t heard it I recommend an investment.

Some compare it, and I think the comparison bears scrutiny, to Marvin Gaye’s seminal Let’s Get It On.  Indeed there are moments of pure soul throughout TPAB.

Then, in a Bowie-esque moment of anti-marketing, he let loose untitled unmastered on the world 2 weeks ago.

It’s an 8 track series of outtakes (b- sides?) from TPAB or at least work created at around the same time.

And, although I suspect it won’t dominate the Grammys in the way his last full Monty release did, it’s great.

No cover images, no track titles (like Sigur Ros’ ()) and, as the title suggests low on the uber-mastering that is found on TPAB but it’s nevertheless a similar political, religious, sexual, cultural trawl of life in modern day North America.

It’s just great songs, delivered well.

Pimp Pimp Hurray.

Kanye.  Take note.  This is how to do it.

 

A new word for the English language: Hibsed.


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Those of you who, like me, support Hibernian; Edinburgh’s most stylish football team and forefathers of the rather more successful Celtic FC, will be feeling that slightly sick feeling after once again victory was the more likely, more deserved and more bearable outcome on Sunday afternoon at ‘Scotland’s National Stadium.’

But we were Hisbsed.

We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Consequently, a petition has been set up by a Mr Rudolph Skakel on Change.com begging the Oxford English Dictionary to add ‘Hibsed’ to their content.

It has a smell of schadenfreude about it.

For the uninitiated, to be Hibsed means ‘to be ahead in your pursuit of something, only to mess it up before you cross the finish line’.

And we’ve been Hibsed many times.  On Sunday particularly so, and Liam Fontaine, arguably the man of the match, must feel especially Hibsed as it was he who teed up the winning goal for a team that could best be described as diddy.

I mean, you could fit the population of Dingwall, from where they bide, into the back of a camper van and still have room for a couple of tents.

Many have argued that we shouldn’t be so down on ourselves because it was only the diddy cup we Hibsed.  But we Hibsed it in 2004 against the mighty Ferranti Thistle playing under the pseudonym of Livingston (a town so small it has an Edinburgh postcode).

We Hibsed it every time in living memory that we played in Europe and we’ve Hibsed it so many times against the other team in Edinburgh that I’ve simply lost count.

By Thursday morning there’s every chance we’ll have Hibsed it against that other Highland League powerhouse, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, in the big cup (that we put that other team from Edinburgh out of a few weeks ago), and we’ve already Hibsed it in the Scottish Championship having been in a great position to overtake long term leaders Rangers just after Christmas.

So, go on, Mr Skakel.  have you schadenfreudey moment.  the awful truth is, you’re right.

 

 

The mark of a true man.


Yesterday was yet another nightmare for Hibs fans.  Despite being the better team we inexplicably lost the with of our last ten cup finals.  The 12th of 15 in my life so far.

Arguably the man of the match Liam Fontaine had this to say after the game when he was involved in the losing goal.

It’s a sign of greatness in my eyes.

Articulate.  Emotional.  Great.

GGTTH.

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Laurence O’Keefe. My new favourite Musical theatre writer.


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In the past fortnight I have had the pleasure of being in the audience for two Larry O’Keefe Shows.  Batboy: The Musical and Heathers: The Musical.

He is best known for Legally Blonde.

I have yet to see Legally Blonde, but the two lesser shows in his income stream are both outrageous, hilarious, original and compelling from start to finish.

Both productions were university musical theatre society shows (Batboy: Glasgow Uni Cecilians and Heathers: Dundee Uni Operatic Society) and both were triumphs.

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His style is, shall we say, unorthodox and treads in the same furrow as Avenue Q, Jerry Springer The Opera and, I imagine not having seen it, Book of Mormon.

Irreverent, rude, taboo challenging.

If you’ve seen Avenue Q you’ll love ‘Everyone’s a little bit racist’ and that’s a good reference point as in these O’Keefe shows we get zero racism BUT we DO get insights into incest, homophobia, mental health issues, gang rape, mouth sword fencing and a smattering of other ‘uncomfortable’ observations.

Foul language, extreme sexual references and semi-nudity pepper both shows.  They are a delight and I will forever be looking for Fringe and amateur productions in the years to come.

Thank you Larry.  You’ve made me very happy.

 

 

Tomorrow’s Exploration Project


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World Trade Centre Transport Hub opens for public view today

I haven’t decided yet if I like it.

  • It looks cool,
  • But it doesn’t look like it fits in,
  • I like the concept, as a sign of peace,
  • But I don’t know that you would immediately get it,
  • Its stuck between an ugly building, a fairly open space next to the memorial, and the PATH station,
  • And right now, there are loads of construction walls around, so I can’t tell how well it’ll work

But I’m still excited to see it making progress, and before I leave

So I’m going to have a look around 🙂

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This’ll spook you.


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I saw this in The Met last October.  It’s from a roomful of plates shot in the late 19th century of doctors carrying out electrical impulse experiments on asylum patients to see if they could trigger different facial expressions.

I think this one was terror.

It scared the bejeezus out of me.

 

Emma Pollock Live at Voodoo Rooms Edinburgh


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A quick look through the excellent Setlist.fm reveals that true to her word it’s been a while since Emma Pollock played Edinburgh (nine years to be precise) so no surprise that on the back of her astonishing new album it’s a sell out.

(In Search of Harperfield is surely the hot favourite to win this year’s Scottish Album of the Year and I’d tip it for a Mercury nomination to boot.)

What we experience will have to wait for a moment because, first, I want to put in a mildly nepotous hurrah for Hamish James Hawk who performs as support sans-band, but whips up a great noise nevertheless.  This young man has talent and if he maintains his man of many faces approach and outstanding, between songs, rhetoric he’ll have the audience in his hands for years to come.

To Pollock.

This is no ordinary gig.  Like Hawk, who’s acoustic guitar she borrows for a substitute RM Hubbard number (Monster in the Pack), she has a gift for storytelling.  Surely nobody in the 300 strong audience could fail to be moved by her description of how Intermission came about – how she drove back and forth from Glasgow to Dumfries visiting her parents both ill, in different hospitals, during a spell of beautiful Scottish weather.

They both prevailed.

Her self deprecation is triumphantly engaging as she ineptly changes instruments throughout the gig with guitar straps proving what would be, to others, gig killers but, to her, props on the road to her stand up career.

But it’s her songs and her remarkable voice, aided by extraordinarily good sound and a superb band, that makes this such a profoundly great musical evening.  Not a moment is wasted and her range is fully extended with highlights that include Red Orange Green, Alabaster, Clemency and my personal highlightt, Dark Skies, from the brilliant stage play Whatever Gets You Through The Night (it reminded me that I must go to the Galloway Forest Park sometime).

Emma Pollock is not a prolific performer so it was a real treat to see her perform in my home town.  It would appear that she must be big in Spain because she’s going gig crazy there in April.  And she may or may not be up to something special in the Festival.  I can only guess because she’d have had to kill herself if she told us.

She didn’t.

But a whiff of anticipation smothered the room.