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Monday, 30 July 2012

Griff says; Father unknown?

Today sees the launch of the free single 'Frances' by Glasgow-based band Father Sculptor. You can pick it up for free over on their bandcamp page and hear their other tunes as well. Father Sculptor are recording and releasing a new song every fortnight throughout the summer of 2012, which are available as free digital downloads, so do keep an eye on their bandcamp and soundcloud pages. Frances is a soaring, majestic, slightly melodramatic, 80s sounding pop anthem of the sort the band seem to specialise in from what I've heard so far.
Father Sculptor seem to draw adjectives such as ethereal and epic to describe their sound and it's safe to think of them in the same sort of vein as other Scottish acts as Frightened Rabbit or The Twighlight Sad but with an added Smithsian overlay. Their last single Rhein, released a fortnight ago, has an unmistakably Marr-like guitar riff, for instance.
As regards the personnel of the band I know very little as they choose to go by the following psuedonyms:

Stringer Bell (throat)
The Greek (keys)
Poot (fingers)
Cutty (skins)
D'Angelo (spine)

I've had it pointed out to me that these are the names of characters from US TV drama series The Wire. I'll freely admit that the significance of this escapes me as I don't indulge in TV cop shows and won't until one gets aired that explains criminal behaviour within the context of a Marxist analysis of Western culture. Yep, I could be waiting for a while. Anyway, here's Frances:


Sunday, 29 July 2012

I Mislpaced It At The Movies: 'Paradis' Found

Exactly one year to the day since the ~Streetlamp~ had enjoyed it's soul cleansing visit to Portencross, we gathered together again, as we had agreed, to set off on another journey into the unknown. Unfortunately for us, the Scottish weather counteracted our plan and decided to offer a cornucopia of high winds, swirling rain and muggy humidity....not a good mix! And with the hills and valleys turned to boggy marshes, even hardy perennials like ourselves had to concede defeat.
So, we turned to Plan B, and decided to have ourselves a mini film festival....

We settled on four choices; Pier Paolo Pasolini's 'The Gospel According To Matthew', the recent Norwegian faux-documentary 'Trollhunter', Giuseppe Tornatore's follow up to 'Cinema Paradiso', 'Malena', and Marcel Carné's 'Les Enfants Du Paradis'. A mixed bunch for sure, and while it would doubtless take me pages and pages to try to analyse the four films in any kind of detail, I've decided to look at what was undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend; 'Les Enfants Du Paradis'.

To describe the plot of 'Les Enfants Du Paradis' often does the film a disservice as it makes the film seem soap opera-ish and a bit soppy, something I warned Griff and Ray before the film commenced. Set in Paris circa 1830, the film sees four men fall under the spell of Parisian courtesan and free spirit, Garance. The men; actor Frédérick Lemaitre, mime artist Baptiste Debureau, aristocrat Count Edouard De Montray, and thief-with-the-soul-of-a-poet Pierre-Francoise Lacenaire all fall heavily for Garance's charms, but none as completely and utterly as Baptiste, whose entire life is taken over by his burning, unrequited love for Garance.
Garance herself, seemingly oblivious to the affect she is having on the four men, shimmers through Paris's 'Boulevard Du Crime' unaware of the murder, madness, home-wrecking and heartache she is causing. That basically is the plot, which may sound underwhelming, but the same could be said of any condensed film plot; newspaper baron reflects on his life, businessman realises his failure of a life has been wonderful after all, two actors in the late 1960s go on holiday to a cottage in get the idea.

So why then does 'Les Enfants Du Paradis' garner such praise as 'the greatest French film of all time', 'the French Gone With The Wind', and in some case 'the greatest film ever made'?
There are many reasons; the script by Jacques Prevert for a start is simply majestic. Every character is given witty, erudite, sparkling lines that reek of cool and hang in the air like Gitane smoke. The acting, right down to the peripheral characters is of the highest calibre; Jean-Louis Barrault who plays Baptiste, excels in the scenes where he performs his mimes in public and infuses the off-stage actor with a truly heartfelt pathos as he yearns for Garance. Marcel Herrand plays Pierre-Francoise with a roguish devilry that betrays his poetic heart. Louis Salou plays Count Edouard, at heart the villain of the piece, as a cold, calculating upper class scoundrel who doesn't think twice about killing anyone who looks at Garance the wrong way. Then there's Pierre Brasseur who dominates every scene as Frédérick, chewing the scenery as both character and actor and devouring every line with relish.

The part of Garance, played by Arletty, is the one performance that has accumulated most criticism. Not that there's a single thing wrong with her portrayal, just that many believe she's too old(she was 45 at the time) to play such a luminescent figure. However the film-makers needed a big name to open the film, and in 1945 there was no bigger name in French cinema. What Arletty does bring to the performance is assurance, presence and star quality, items she has in droves. The DOP's ways of filming her to disguise her age also means that she is the most beautifully lit actress this side of Garbo.

But the main reason for the French film industry to fall over itself in praising 'Les Enfants Du Paradis' is the conditions under which the film was made. The entire shoot was done under the very noses of the Nazi Occupation, using many Resistance figures and Jewish performers and technicians working under aliases. That the huge sound-stages, meticulously capturing 'la Belle Epoque' were constructed with breathtaking detail is a miracle in itself. Only one scene in the entire movie is shot on earth did they get away with it? The film also had to be broken down into two parts to avoid suspicion, which although a slight nuisance, does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the piece.

So....given all the plaudits, all the ribbons and trinkets bestowed upon the film, why does the film elude the majority of non-French speaking film lovers? Pure laziness it would seem. It's well known that many people in Britain and the US simply won't watch subtitled movies, but 'Les Enfants Du Paradis' proves this to be pure folly! Neither Griff nor Ray had seen the film before, almost purely because it never shows up anywhere! As far as I'm aware, the film has only ever been shown on British TV once, and for a while was only available on a VHS cassette released by arthouse video company Artificial Eye. Only recently has it been deemed worthy of a DVD release! For what is considered one of the greatest films ever made? How can this be?

I first became aware of  'Les Enfants Du Paradis' back around 1990. I was in the transitional stage of switching my enthusiasm for music to films, and had recently purchased all three volumes of Danny Peary's peerless compendium 'Cult Movies'. His bristling enthusiasm for 'Les Enfants Du Paradis', which he described as one of the greatest films ever made led, me to wonder why, then, I'd never heard of it. The film was finally released in 1994 on the VHS I mentioned earlier and I immediately snapped it up. I have to confess that I expected to be somewhat disappointed, but from the minute the look in Baptiste's eyes changes the first time he sees Garance, I knew I was in safe hands, and the resulting three hours passed like a dream.

For a period of time, if asked, I would declare 'Les Enfants Du Paradis' as my favourite film of all time, but repeatedly having to try and explain what the film was to the uninitiated (which for a while seemed like everyone!) dampened my zeal somewhat.
Watching 'Les Enfants Du Paradis' with Griff and Ray was a joy however, as it was the first time I had ever watched the film with what constituted an audience. Long, long after the film had finished, we were still debating and discussing the film's myriad treats. Once again I felt like I had just watched my favourite film of all time.

If you've never seen 'Les Enfants Du Paradis' before, I urge you to seek it out. You won't be disappointed!

Bon Nuit,


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Griff says; Saddle up for Lowpines

Back when we first started this blog we used to regularly point you in the direction of the wonderful, creative commons, indiepop netlabel EardrumsPop. For some reason, however, we seem to have rather neglected their output of late and I intend to make up for that tonight by reminding you of their presence by presenting their latest, free new single. The single in question is called 'Give Me A Horse' by the band Lowpines. From what I can gather, Lowpines is a duo consisting of Oli Deakon and Lyla Foy (pictured).

 Extreme indie-music anoraks might recognise both of those names in connection with Adventure Club Records. This is a label self-run by musicians, and over the last few years they have posted several free albums up in bandcamp by bands such as Bear Driver, Binko Swink, Olfar, Ian Williams & The Dead Flowers, Lee Scholfield and Brent Newman & The Broken Arrows.
Deakon and Foy were, of course, both in Olfar. Both, as far as I know, also continue to play play seperately in other bands - Foy in Binko Swink and Deakon in Bear Driver. The Adventure Time sound is generally in the Wilco/Sparklehorse mode. Namely, introspective and melancholy alt-Americana of the sort I've featured on these pages many times before. It'll be no surprise to learn then that the Lowpines single also fits that desription. Have a listen below:

LOWPINES - Give me a horse from EardrumsPop, the label on Vimeo.

As usual, the Eardrums download package contains; two other songs by the band, one of which is a cover of It's Not Happening by The Be Good Tanyas, a beautifully produced booklet, and a wonderfully illustrated cover art image. On this occasion, the artist is Sean Mahan.

Once you've paid a visit to the EardrumsPop page, please take some time to explore the various bands on Adventure Club Records, most of whom also have numerous songs available as free digital downloads.


Sunday, 22 July 2012

Griff says; Bentcousin - it's a family affair!

Well, here's a little surprise for you - a 'Griff says' piece on a Sunday night. I hope that those of you who were eagerly awaiting Gordon's latest ramblings aren't too disappointed, I'm sure he'll have one up soon. In the meantime, it seems I'm the only Streetlamper physically able to post tonight, so you'll just have to accept it. Those of you who read the blog regularly will have realised that our cycling obsessive, Ray, has probably exploded into a thousand little pieces of fairy dust today due to his excitement at the various UK riders' success at le Tour this year. Gordon, meantime, has been badly delayed by an excess of cheap wine and subtitles due to this weekend's bad weather causing us all to stay indoors and accidentally inaugurate the first Streetlamp International Film Festival - a virtual 24 hours of foreign language film watching and lounging around at my house - more of which later, no doubt.
Anyway, I've got something you're all going to like a lot in the form of Brighton's Bentcousin. I don't know a lot about them to be honest, and I suspect that some of the stuff that's posted about them on the net is deliberate misinformation, as they come across as the sort of playfully mischievous types who like to mess around with journos and bloggers. Quite right too, all of the best punk bands did that very thing, as I remember. And that punk reference is a little indication of what to expect from them musically - a melange of tweeish indie-pop with a slice of punky attitude to stop it becoming too cutesy.

So, the band appear to have been formed by 'twins' Pat and Amelia who seem to be backed by three(?) other musicians, one of whom is apparently their uncle. Is that true? I don't know and, frankly, I don't think it really matters - we're all here for the music and Bentcousin certainly deliver on that front. I came across Bentcousin on Idle Fret's free download EP for July and I instantly loved their contribution, the track I Think I Like You Girlfriend More Than You, a song which bears more than a passing resemblance to the sound of Trixie's Big Red Motorbike, a band I have lionised on these pages previously 'here'.
I've embedded I Think I Like You Girlfriend More Than You below for your listening pleasure. Note too that it is available as a free digital download, you lucky people!

Checking out their soundcloud page, I discovered that they had more tricks up their sleeve than jazz-tinged twee-pop and that they can scuzz it up with the best of them. Witness, for instance. I Wanna Be Your Slave, which is not the Iggyesque paean to BDSM that the title may suggest but is, instead, a clever assault on the mindset that allows the ritual humiliation of the uncomprehending participants of current TV 'talent' shows. Have a listen:

I Wanna Be Your Slave by bentcousin

Please visit Bentcousin's soundcloud page to hear what else they are up to. In particular, check out the song Felicity, which is surely the 'bent cousin' of Primal Scream's Velocity Girl. The band are also on facebook, where I'm sure you'll find details of upcoming gigs. The band also have a witty and amusing wordpress site 'here' if you are intent on full-on internet stalking.



Sunday, 15 July 2012

Summer Rain....Blowing Through The Jazzmen In My Mind

Over the last 10 months or so, it's safe to say that I've developed a bit of a love affair with the city of Glasgow. Back in the late 1980s I used to visit Glasgow with an almost weekly regularity, but always felt that I pretty much took the city for granted; never quite appreciating its culture or its staggering architecture. These last few months however, have seen the ~Streetlamp~ pay several visits to the city in search of art, music and culture and the overall effect has been a truly eye-opening and mind expanding experience.
And so, once again, we found ourselves with a Saturday free, so we decided to pay yet another visit to the mean city in search of some cultural buzz. Unfortunately we couldn't pry Ray away from his beloved Tour de France so, leaving him in front of the TV with few baguettes and a gallon flagon of vin du table, Griff and I headed out, arriving in our usual starting place, Glasgow Green in the East side...

As we had no planned agenda for the day, we casually ambled up to the start of the Barras and decided that, as we were here, we may as well have a scout around the market. To the uninitiated, The Barras a.k.a The Glasgow Barrowlands, is a huge street market, set up by the people for the people, deep in the East End of Glasgow, where the majority of immigrants were housed; Irish, Italian, Muslim and now Polish. Founded in the the early 20th Century by Margaret Russell who began selling fruit from her mother's old barrow, a small community of traders built up reaching a boom time between the First and Second World Wars, thriving during the Depression years and continuing unabated till this day. Ostensibly Glasgow's answer to the Paris Flea Market, the Barras now is a bustling quasi-shopping centre where you literally can buy ANYTHING! In the heart of the Barras you can find everything from clothes, furnishings, books, DVDs, knock-off cigarettes and booze, pornography, laminated pictures of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, electrical goods, records and CDs, bicycles, home-made sweets and preserves, and a seemingly endless slew of ephemera connected to Celtic and Rangers (of various degrees of quality and taste).
 On the periphery of the market, some of the poorer people from the area can be seen selling what are probably their only possessions. In the recent BBC 'Punk Brittania' TV series, post-Punk band the Gang Of Four were seen expressing their shock that people in Glasgow seemed to sell the very shoes from their feet in the streets, and yet it still goes on to this day.

Griff and I became quite smitten by a rather vintage looking bicycle. On further inspection we found the bike to be of Dutch origin, leading us to suspect that it was probably part of the Netherland's White Bicycle movement, and had somehow ended up in the East End of Glasgow.
Despite our intentions we didn't actually buy much; Griff bought a couple of maps, and I found a vinyl copy of a 1960s original Beach Boys Live album. But I found our sojourn around the Barras enlightening and educational.

Heading out of the Barrowland area, but still in the East End, is where you find the cooler shops and bars. This is where Mono Records and the 13th Note(mentioned in previous Blogs) can be found, along with retro-fashion shops, comic book emporiums, tattoo parlours, musical instrument shops, alternative medicine and Hemp outlets, and bookshops that double as cafés. This is because these shops aren't expected to do a roaring trade on a daily basis so they can afford the cheaper rates in the East End as opposed to the filthy consumerism of up West.
Again we spent a fair bit of time here amongst 'our own kind', the outsiders and the non-conformists, the nerds and the aesthetes.

After a non-alcoholic libation in the 13th Note, we headed up through the Merchant City, stewing in the muggy, hot swirls of rain that constitute our Scottish Summer, still in search of something of some cultural value to season the day. The International Jazz Festival was on, and whilst I admit to being no great lover of Jazz in any form, we were pretty sure we could stumble upon some live Jazz somewhere in the city. We had heard that the legendary Indie venue King Tut's Wah Wah Hut had some free live Jazz going on, so we headed on up there...

King Tut's is situated well away from the bustle of the city centre, up in the rather odd and incongruous setting of Glasgow's area of commerce. Here, among the vile over-priced restaurants and endless lawyers firms, lies the very black heart of Glasgow's banking system. This is where the streets will run with blood when the revolution comes! So, it was somewhat strange to find ourselves entering into an oasis of musical decorum amidst all this capitalist greed and soulless avarice....
Once through the doors, the heat hit like a blast furnace! No non-alcoholic beverages for us here, thank you kindly, we want freezing pints of the black stuff. As we took our places at the bar, the band were already in full swing....or as full a swing as bunch of septuagenarians can muster; for playing for us today were George Penman's Jazzmen. Formed in 1959, the Jazzmen play regularly all over Scotland, but have made the Saturday Jazz Matinees at King Tuts their own. Eschewing Trad or Be-Bop for a decidedly New Orleans palette, the Jazzmen's mix of well known standards like 'Pennies From Heaven' with some more unusual choices like 'Sugar' from the movie 'Pete Kelly's Blues' made for some extremely pleasant listening on this humid afternoon. As I said earlier, I'm no huge fan of Jazz in any form, but this was just what the radiographer ordered.
The atmosphere was one of affable conviviality; you got the feeling that this was exactly the same crowd who turned up week after week, and they didn't act sniffily at our interloping, but actually welcomed us into the throng, although we got the feeling they thought we were the band who would have been playing there that night and had come in to check out the music after our soundcheck!
Observing the watching/listening crowd was almost as much fun as the music itself....with the accompanying heat, it was like we had stepped into the middle of a Pedro Almodovar film; as the locals looked on there were scornful tuts as the feisty young widow danced in front of the harbingers of the 'Devil's Music', luring the snake-hipped, silver fox Lothario into a dance of sinful profanation under the steely gaze of his wife and the village elders......

Bibulous aporia of course, but somehow the heady brew of heat, alcohol and live music was casting its surreal yolk around us on this strange afternoon. As we sat in the corner we watched the band more closely....their solos were a joy to behold and all met with rapturous applause. I was particularly impressed with the drummer's uber-casual approach of at times not even looking as though he was playing, even though he could clearly be heard.
The second half of the Jazzmen's set strangely petered into chaos....a request from an audience member was met with confusion which led to an onstage argument. Then the next song after that failed to materialise even after the cornet player had affixed a mute to his instrument. It was at this point we decided to make our excuses and head home. Not that we were disappointed with the music (we'll almost certainly be back, probably with Ray in tow next time), just that we had to get back to civilisation.

Walking back to the car, we cut through George Square, where a stage had been erected and lots of types in stiff blazers were cutting about. Passing by the bottom corner of the square, Griff pointed out that this was where British Army tanks had once been placed in 1919 in fear of a Socialist uprising that could have dominoed after the Russian Revolution. As it became clear that those in blazers were ex-servicemen and that the concert was part of Armed Forces Day, we two of Marxist-Anarchist stock made our excuses and fled the atrociousness....

The Revolution Begins At Closing Time!!


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Griff says; A very Finnish Kuu

Lately I seem to have been listening to, and writing about, a lot of high-energy, aggressive music and I've maybe been neglecting the sort of music that characterised the early 'Griff says' pieces; namely, gentle and melancholic freak-folk. However, fear not, fans of that genre, as tonight's offering takes us very firmly back into that world - and what a strange and exciting world it is!

Violeta Päivänkakkara hails from Finland and makes music of such a delicate yet contrary and spectral stripe that it reminds me of something half-heard in a dream; all whispered female vocals and fragile melodica. Imagine waking from a deep sleep to find yourself naked and alone in the forest with just the last few bars of a song slowly fading into the still silence of the wilderness. Well, that's the sort of music Violeta makes.
Her music can be found, and freely downloaded, on her bandcamp page. She has also recently joined up with La Gramolan Netlabel, who have released Kuu, a 5-track collection of personally selected tracks, which is available as a free download from their site or from the Free Music Archive. This is music best heard in a suitably magical ambience, such as lying on your back in the middle of a stone circle, but even if you're somewhere a little more mundane have a listen to the tracks below and prepare to be entranced:


Friday, 6 July 2012

Griff says; Grrrls, don't ever let them silence you.

I'm feeling pretty hyped writing this tonight as I have something really special for you. And what's more, it couldn't have come at a better time. Most of you will be aware that, as well as contributing to this blog, which generally means listening to hours of new music submissions, I also work full time and am involved in various union activities and political campaigns. This can mean that I sometimes  feel as though I'm taking so much punishment that I'm out on my feet. The good news though is that all it takes to get me back into the ring for the next round is finding something exceptional to put on the blog. The other reason tonight's blog is significant is that I'm pretty sure it will cheer up our own Gordon no end. You see, last Saturday, Gordon and I popped into our favourite Glasgow watering hole, the 13th Note, only to realise that we'd completely missed a gig, just the night before, featuring Scragfight, Gastric Band, V is for Vagina and Ana Boom Boom Trash. Those of you who are aware of Gordon's inclination, nay his ardour, for riot grrrl music will realise how crestfallen he was at this discovery. So, tonight, this glittering treasure trove of music I'm about to lay at your feet is also a wee something to put the spring back in Gordon's step, and God knows he needs it after spending most of last weekend listening to me banging on about anarchist theory.

So, what is it that has me so excited? Simply that the Riot Grrrl Berlin collective have just released (4th July) their latest free music compilation. Called 'More Music-Less Macho', this 44 song compilation has been my constant companion for the last 48 hours and can only be described as overwhelmingly brilliant, and what's more it features the aforementioned V is for Vagina and Ana Boom Boom Trash. If you only download one of my music recommendations this year, this is the one to go for. The music is wonderfully diverse, so don't imagine that it's all punk thrashing - although that music is represented here - and very fine it is too. But, this compilation goes way, way beyond that with an eclectic selection that ranges from a sensitive piano ballad to experimental electronica via gritty urban hip-hop. There are so many good tracks on this compilation that it has genuinely been really difficult for me to pick out a few to showcase on the site. I eventually picked three which together should illustrate the range of genres available but, quite frankly, there are so many gems on this that I might do a second piece later in the week to highlight some more of the bands. Yep, this compilation really is that good. So, have I got you interested yet? I certainly hope so. But if not, have a listen to the tracks below and then go and download the compilation, plus the previous three Riot Grrrl Berlin compilations if you're a latecomer, and tell all your friends about it.

Ok, first up is Edith Crash with 'Trop Vite Oublier'. I was able to find an excellent mean and moody video in existence for this fine piece of French noir-pop.

This is worth listening to simply for the percussion alone, I think. Edith Crash has a website 'here' as well as a bandcamp page featuring two albums available on a 'name your price' basis.

Next is 'Comics' by Executive Legs from Leeds who do a nice take on the sort of Casio punk that I've championed before on these pages. Have a listen:

The Executive legs EP, Leg It! can be purchased from their bandcamp site for a paltry £3 for the digital download or £4 for the CD.

My final offering from the compilation is a quirky piece of hip-hop called 'Places We Go' by Punk Rap Princess, from Orange County, USA.

As you know, I love a bit of hip-hop and this has the gritty, lo-fi quality that I really like. It also demonstrates how hip-hop and feminism aren't such strange bedfellows as some people would have us believe. Punk Rap Princess has loads more tracks available as free downloads on her soundcloud page.

I hope you liked those as much as I do. Now get yourself along to the Riot Grrrl Berlin site where you'll find an embarrassment of similar riches. Excpect much more from this source on The Streetlamp in the future.