Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Film: Train to Busan

A great Korean take on the zombie genre set on an Express Train. It would make a great Left 4 Dead level as the zombies chase people through the train and through some train stations. Some great effects and a decent body count makes this a fun film.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Graffiti: Camden

Camden has a new Lost Souls piece so I thought I'd go check it out. By the time I'd got there it was very dark hence the poor colour.




This is the Lost Soul's piece. Very festive!







Also in the area was a wall that used to have a Dan Kitchener on it and now it has a new one by the same artist.



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Film: Your Name

Your Name is a very successful Japanese film that has made its way over to the UK. It has become the first non-Ghibli animated film to break the 10-billion yen mark so it's a pretty big deal. It's had a fairly subdued launch in the UK, and I'd only realised it was being shown here after catching a poster on the underground.

The tale is of a city boy, Taki and a country girl, Mitsuha who become inexplicably linked through their dreams and they decide to find each other. Without giving too much away the story is a little different to the usual love story, and has a good mix of comedy peppered throughout, in particular from Mitsuha's younger sister Yotsuha.

The animation is stunning and rivals that of the Ghibli camp. The story is clever, and you can probably tell I'm not giving too much away; to do so would spoil things.

Highly recommended. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Event: HyperJapan Christmas Market

Some photos from today's HyperJapan event. It was slightly smaller than previous events but the performances were better.

BANG is a robotic dancer which means there was a lot of dubstep. He also plugged the sales of his towel via an amusing promotional video.

Misaki Iwasa used to be in AKB48. Now she sings Enka, which is traditional Japanese singing. Hayabusa are a male trio that sing 70s style J-Pop.

Expensive wooden masks.

Authentic calligraphy.

Stunning art. Not overly expensive and I might get some.

Kiss meet a J-Pop band.

Puppies

Hamsters

Egg yolks. Gudetama is a creation of Sanrio who gave us Hello Kitty and is apparently popular!

The Hoopers are an eight piece girl band who dress up as boys, which means trousers and short haircuts from what I can tell. The advantage in having a large group is that there's inevitably going to be at least one that'll appeal to someone.

Shhh.... I won't tell you which I one caught my eye.

Some more traditional singing on a second smaller stage

Super Smash Bros.

Alpacas

Retro games.

Swords, lots of swords.

Cartography for fictional worlds: Game of Thrones, The Hobbit etc.

The Tomboys were a great sounding rock outfit but I couldn't help but think some of the smiles weren't genuine and they'd been told to do it all the time.

More egg. Apparently the butt crack is intentional.

Neo Ballad take old Japanese folk songs and put them to heavy trance and techno soundtracks.

The competitors in this year's Cos Parade. It appears I'd been spotted so I left soon after.

Another great day, and whilst I'm not into some of the cultural things (I couldn't name any of the cosplay for example) I still enjoy myself. The only downside is that I leave knowing I need to be going back to Japan. I am actually seriously considering this in 2017.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Gig: Autechre "Black Friday" @ Royal Festival Hall

Here's a nice shot I took of Andy Maddox, who was one of the warm up acts for tonight's Autechre show. His music was accessible but unrecognisable to me. The other support act Russell Haswell unfortunately was both inaccessible and unrecognisable, in fact probably unrecognisable to Russell as well. He seemed to make the song titles up as he went along and the music, if you can call it that sounded like he was manipulating feedback in his equipment with a chainsaw. 

Autechre on the other hand looked like this, as the gig was a "lights out" performance. The point was to allow the audience to focus on the music, none of which I recognised, and given the responses of the audience, not recognised by them either. But I understand that may be the Autechre thing as they've cleverly evolved their live sound to be an organic construction rather than a replaying of their albums. What got the crowd to cheer was a recognisable snippet of something that sounded more like music than noise, and as that little 4/4 snippet appeared and allowed us to nod our heads we'd cheer for more but it would soon evolve back into the noise that permeated most of the set. Being in darkness also made any little bit of light that did appear an instant distraction, and as some people left early the ushers, who were carrying muted torches would run to collect them. I seem to find myself paying more attention to that than the stage.

So a weird night, that ended a bit abruptly. I think the set was a little over an hour, and there was no encore. I can say I've done a gig in the dark though. Would I go to another? Probably not if it was Autechre.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Show: Peter Firman "Trix" @ Soho Theatre

Middlesboro magician/comedian brings his Edinburgh fringe show Trix to London and I thought I'd go see it.

I saw him in London a few years ago and was chosen to help with a trick where someone's donated £10 note was going to appear in a monkey nut that I'd pick out of a bag. The show was very entertaining and so I knew what to expect seeing him tonight.

As it happened it was very much a repeat of the show I'd seen before even to me choosing the nut. Yes somehow I got chosen for this trick a second time. I also got to take part in a trick involving a drinks carton that could pour six different drinks. I got to confirm the third was indeed Irn Bru (and it was).

The magic is very good avoiding the usual cards and coins which is refreshing. My favourite trick was the one he opened with where he passes a silk handkerchief through the microphone stand. It's so good, and fast, that he does it twice. I think I know how it's done but I just couldn't catch it despite it being done right in front of me. It's that beautiful simple magic that I love.

Another funny note, when I bought the ticket I had row F. When I got to the venue, rows A-E we missing, so I actually got a front-row seat. Daunting when I got there but it was actually OK, and that's partly due to Pete's ability to relax his audience as well as keep them entertained.

I think the run in London is now over and it was the end of the tour. When he tours again, do go and see him.



Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

A Brit magician with a large collection of monsters in his suitcase travels to New York and accidentally loses some of them in the city, where magic is still being kept a big secret. 

When I left the cinema having seen this I tweeted "I've just given JK Rowling more money and I wished I hadn't". That sums up my impression of the film perfectly. 

It's a great production but it left me disappointed. The Potter Universe moves from the UK to New York and this allows the Brits to be portrayed as the cliches we usually get from American made films. In Potter the British cast were not stereotyped; they were just British. Now Eddie Redmayne becomes a bumbling Hugh Grant character acting like a cross between Tommy Cooper and Tom Baker. At times I thought he might pipe in with "Half a Sixpence". The other Brit, Irish Colin Farrell gets to play the more common cliche, that of the bad guy.

Digital effects are great and you know the actors spent a lot of time in front of green screen. The scenes in the bag are especially clever and probably looked amazing in 3D (I just saw the 2D one). There's a monster that's made from a very complicated particle effect routine that was probably created that way to appear on the digital effects company's show reel.

According to rumours this is the first of a five-part franchise. It'll do very well and I'll probably still see the others if they do materialise but that'll be because I like cinema, not necessarily this film.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gig: Anna Meredith @ Scala

A second visit to The Scala in as many weeks, this time to see Anna Meredith, an artist I was wowed by in Margate at the By the Sea festival earlier in the year, where she played a short set. Tonight Anna was headlining and we'd get a longer show.


Support came from Pixx, a young singer songwriter from South London who was accompanied by a very out-of-place guitarist and a keyboard player who looked like the guy from The Mighty Boosh. But stage presence aside, the music was actually decent and a good promotion for her new album "Grip".

In the run up to the show Anna had tweeted that she was going to start the show with something a little bit special, and she didn't spoil us opening with a surround-sound composition featuring two drummers: one on the stage and the second above us to the side on an overhead gallery. They were drumming to a heavy electronic composition that increased in pace, looking like it was making it harder and harder for them to keep up. Under strobe the drummers looked to sweeping their sticks over the drums but between the light pulses they were hitting the skins hard. It looked and sounded amazing and literally put us into the centre of the music... The only thing that would have made this intro cooler would have been if it ended with Anna introducing herself with a straightforward "hi, I'm Anna Meredith". 

The normal set opened with the immense Nautilus, which was the first track I heard at her Margate set and the track that made me a fan, such was it's impact. An immense sound showing that you can get an amazing sound out of some cellos and a tuba and a composition that doesn't rely on retaining a 4/4 time throughout it's length. Instruments come in on the half-beat and stay there. A track, like a few others, that you find yourself nodding to but then not, then doing so in a slightly different way. Complex but embracing and certainly different to the majority of music "out there".

Tonight we had 2 cellists, at Margate we had one different one. The rest of the band I was getting to see and hear a second time. (Sam Wilson on drums, Thomas Kelly on tuba, and Jack Ross on Guitar). I can stupidly guess the cellist parts are so hard that Anna goes through them like Spinal Tap went through drummers. At time those poor cellists were running their hands up and down the neck of their instruments faster than a touch typist does in a Words-per-Minute challenge. The poor chap in Margate looked to be finding that set tough sweating hard as he did his best to keep up with the tempo of the music; tonight's cellists (Andrew Power and Maddie Cutter) were somehow coping fine, and at times actually enjoying their performance. I guess playing this sort of music makes a nice change from the classical sets they're probably usually playing. I only hope they're given enough respite at the end of each gig on the tour to grow new fingers!

The light show complimented the music really well with a little star field curtain behind the band being used to good effect a few times during the show. We did have a single laser, which didn't really leave the impression they usually do. Anna put that down to the impacts of brexit resulting in her only being able to afford one (ha!). Later in the set Anna also voiced a cute little tune asking that it would be very much appreciated if we bought some of her merchandise. By doing so, I guess we could get more laser in the future.

But it wasn't the cheeky plugs for souvenirs that won me over. It was the epic aural onslaughts from her Varmints album with tracks like R-Type and The Vapours sounding so intense and powerful that you wonder why heavy metal bands don't recruit tuba and cello players. On paper it sounds like a joke that a band could be good with those instruments on the stage; but when you experience the show (and if you've not you should) you realise just how clever Anna has been in choosing them.

An amazing talent, who has been on a roll this year, picking up awards all over the place, but still managing to remain out of the mainstream, and an artist who has probably given me my best gig of 2016. Thank you Anna!

and if the set wasn't perfect enough the encore was a cover of The Proclaimer's "500 miles" with the crowd encouraged to sing along. That's how you do an encore!

An amazing night, and a night that trumped the previous performance at Margate.