Sunday, 20 April 2014

Record Store Day 2014: London in photos

Record Store Day is a slightly different beast in the capital. There's plenty of queues, exclusive releases and in-store gigs but Soho provides an interesting, um, spin on the day. The streets were closed off on Berwick Street and Broadwick Street, the soundsystems and stages were out and there was even a smattering of sunshine.

Record Store Day has caused some controversy with over-worked pressing plants and fans who miss out on exclusives irritated by the constraints of the day. Personally, there were plenty of releases I would've loved to get my hands on but am happy to enjoy seeing my favourite shops rammed full of customers, wander round with a beer and nip in another day on one of my regular trips. I've written more on the subject for The Independent here. Here's a few pics, there's plenty more on Twitter here.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Podcasting: An intriguing medium

As podcasting marks its tenth anniversary, it's a useful time to reflect on the unique spoken word episodic medium. A self-confessed addict as well as a podcaster myself, I've always enjoyed the freedom they can bring to offer specialist radio shows on niche subjects. 

Podcasts like Answer Me This, The Football Ramble and Richard Herring's various offerings have allowed presenters to carve out a distinct voice for a dedicated audience. They also allows fans to build up an archive of shows to enjoy at their leisure. 

However, their long term future - with streaming speeds stepping up and little momentum behind promoting new 'casts from dominant technology giant Apple - is in doubt. I've written more on the subject for The Independent here.

And speaking of podcasts, it's a pleasure to welcome one of my oldest friends and music obsessive Mr James Lambert to my aural adventure, Desert Isolation Discs. You can hear which eight tunes he picked to take with him to survive in a desert by streaming it here or below or downloading the podcast here

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Desert Isolation Discs: Hello Thor co-founder Anders Knight

Barcelona-based record label head honcho and talented marketer Anders Knight is my latest guest over at sister blog Desert Isolation Discs. He became the lynchpin in the arts and culture scene of Nottingham when based there through his excellent stewardship of craft night Jumpers for Goalposts (my former charge), promoting gigs with Super Night, as co-host of the Pretty Dandy Flea markets or enticing us to watch great films at the Broadway cinema. 

His record label Hello Thor - co-founded with fellow friends of the blog Tom Whalley and Nick Lawford in 2008 - is host to a raft of exhilarating acts including Fists, We Show Up on Radar and Anxieteam. You can listen to the interview with Anders below.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Desert Isolation Discs: Designer and mother Heather Lawson

Over at our sister sister site Desert Isolation Discs we have a very special guest… my mother! She was part of the reason I set up the blog and our mutual love of hearing everyone's favourite eight tunes meant I couldn't not interview here for it.

Head over the blog for full more detail and full songs or listen to the interview below.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Hastings: A south coast snapshot

A trip to Hastings for a January pick-me-up proved just what the fun-doctor ordered at the weekend. I first visited the small town on the Sussex coast a couple of years ago to the incredulity of those from nearby who hadn't seen its charm underneath the multitude of pound shops and dilapidated seaside amusements. 

On my previous visit, we had to cut short our stay as our vintage mini looked in danger of being snowed in and on this occasion heavy wind and rain did their best to attack our bobble hats but not before enjoying the friendly locals and interesting sights. I mean, you even get to pass a bar named the 'Route 1066' en route! 

Hasting's charm is in the Old Town, effectively two roads - the High Street and George Street - in which antiques shops stuffed with great records and odd finds, book shops with stacks higher than their owners and plenty of great pubs can be found. I stayed at The Old Rectory, the sister bed and breakfast to Swan House, both of which are highly recommended, stylish and comfortable.

The Jerwood Gallery, a box-y shaped building which stands on the seafront, had opened since my last visit and the works contained within, taken from businessman and philanthropist John Jerwood's own collection were interesting if slightly patchy. The gallery was also a tad pricey and I was interested to spot signs outside for an amateurish but passionate protest site - The highlight was John Piper's The Churchyard which I found a fascinating mix of colour and movement. Here's a few snaps from my trip to the town where battle once commenced.

The AG Hendy and Co Home Store, which dates back to the 19th century, is a fascinating combination of incredibly well put together stylish products and an amazing rickety building. Just being within its wonky walls makes you feel happy.

AG Hendy and Co Home Store

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Julianna Barwick: Six reasons to love Brooklyn's finest

Brooklyn-based soundscape artist Julianna Barwick has been enchanting listeners with her abstract sound for four years. ShadowPlay takes a look at what's caught the ear of a global audience. 

1. Barwick's music is a combination of classic ethereal sounds which melt away like candy floss to the tongue and a more uncomfortable, mournful tone. Whether it's slowly shredding a violin or carefully introducing her piano, Barwick builds up incredible loops which prove mesmeric. 

2. Barwick first released a mini-album, Florine, in 2009 featuring more conventional song structures and built on it for her 2010 release, The Magic Place, which honed her reverb heavy sound. Her latest album, Nepenthe, gave her worldwide recognition and featured in plenty of end of year lists. Highlights included Labyrinthine and The Harbinger. 

3. She grew up in rural Louisiana and a farm in Missouri and, as the daughter of a preacher, allowed the choirs in her church to influence her music later in life. As a kid, she harmonised with random sounds like the echo emanating from a giant tree.

4. She translates her sound well live to leave audiences in her thrall. He she is playing Offing.

5. Barwick has worked with a fistful of musical royalty. From members of múm and string quartet Amiina to Sigur Rós collaborator Alex Somers, she's made a name for herself among the upper echelons of the aural establishment. Oh, and got to record in Sigur Ros' swimming pool studio, Sundlaugin.

6. Barwick has also worked with Radiohead, remixing their tune Reckoner in 2010. In turn, her work has been remixed by the likes of Diplo and Prince Rama.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Desert Isolation Discs: Betty in the Sky

Over at our sister site Desert Isolation Discs I've been lucky enough to host renowned podcaster Betty Thesky as she selects her favourite tunes of all time.

Betty has featured in USA Today, The New Yorker and even hosted her own BBC World Service documentary since hitting the air and the airwaves with her unique podcast. She is a flight attendant for a major US airline and recounts tales of her escapades in her addictive podcast Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase.

Head over to Desert Isolation discs to hear her selections.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Desert Isolation Discs: Alex Lawson

Over at our sister site Desert Isolation Discs I've been indulging in the rather enjoyable vanity project of picking my favourite tunes of all time.

Hope you enjoy and have had a fantastic 2013. I'm very keen to interview people for Desert Isolations so get in touch if you fancy it.

Hear the tracks in full here or listen to the interview with me below.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Soul Jazz founder Stuart Baker and critic Jon Savage on the rise and fall of punk

Stuart Baker, Alexis Petridis and Jon Savage (l-r)
If there's one thing old punks like discussing - it's when punk began and when it died. And so it was that, amid a talk at Rough Trade East primarily about punk 45 sleeves, Soul Jazz records founder Stuart Baker and punk writer Jon Savage turned to the rise and fall of their beloved genre.

Savage's opinion was that, by the Sex Pistols released Never Mind the Bollocks, the buzz around the band synonymous with the genre had already begun to dissipate. Baker, who was a younger punk at the time, believed that while no punk bands sold out, the zeitgeist simply shifted on.

The event itself was an interesting one. To mark the launch of a new book, 'The Singles Cover Art of Punk 1976-80', a collaboration between Baker and Savage featuring some fantastic, iconic imagery.  Everything from the Voidoids to the Stooges feature although Baker's favourite sleeve - featuring a man with his head stuck in a fence - could not be found, he says.

Baker and Savage, marshalled by Guardian journalist and chair Alexis Petridis, also discuss influences on punk design including Pistols sleeve honcho Jamie Reid. The audience features plenty of first generation punks and one pointedly asks whether the genre will die with them. While there's plenty of nods, Baker believes the spirit of a genre which ripped up the rule book, and some of the landmark tunes that went with it, will go on for generations. I tend to agree.

Jon Savage and Stuart Baker debate when punk ended.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

In focus: French graffiti artist Miss Van

Miss Van originally moved from canvas to the walls of her home town of Toulouse to "boycott" the conventional art world, but she is increasingly defining just that. One of the most famous graffiti artists worldwide, Vanessa Bensimon, known as Miss Van, has divided opinion with her army of doe-eyed femme fatale characters.

Like Banksy and Os Gemeos before her, she has created a cluster of characters which riff on the central theme, in her case sexualised, buxom bodies. Feminists have criticised Van's work, originally honed in partnership with Mademoiselle Kat before the former relocated to Barcelona, and its depiction of women. However, this sentiment is in stark contrast to Bensimon's feelings in creating the work. 

"Painting on walls allows me to keep my freedom; as it is illegal, there is no censorship. It is also a challenge, since each time I paint on a wall there is the risk of seeing my work erased," she explains on her website. "Since I like moving around and meeting people, so I prefer painting in the street. It also enables me to make my art accessible to a larger public audience."

This audience has been enhanced by collaborative shows with the likes of Shepard Fairey, Banksy and Mike Giant. Her location in Barcelona allows her fresh work to complement the city's stunning modernist style - crafted in part by Antoni Gaudí. 

Personally, I feel Miss Van is one of the most prolific and innovative contemporary graf artists and in creating a motif of feminine characters she has driven equality in an often male dominated graf scene. 

All images courtesy of Miss Van. See her in action here.