Hinterland by NVA review


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.


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.


Why I love Twitter


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


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.


But the poster (the unofficial one) is great.

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

Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered


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.