intraspace: the review lounge

Thursday, March 26, 2009

i rush to write this even before i've finished listening to all the tracks - nz electronic musician rhian sheehan's new album 'standing in silence' is a triumph.

i've long been a fan of ambient electronic music probably since it subliminally forced its way into my young subconscious via endless hours of my brother playing the likes of tangerine dream, vangelis, jean michel jarre and other synth geniuses.

anyway, in recent years i've developed a distinct taste for artists like m83, mogwai, sigur ros, mum etc often from the chilly climes of the northern hemisphere. i've always liked rhian sheehan too, but not this much...

his new release channels a whole lot of great stuff, and i can hear a bit of mum in there and sigur ros, maybe a touch of vangelis. it also reminds me of the soundtrack for the aussie film 'somersault' by decoder ring.

to make it that much more tempting, you'll find it on itunes for NZ$11.99 in a non-drm high bitrate form (also on emusic). 14 tracks of absolute goodness for 12 bucks!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

black out!

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. is against this unjust law - help us

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Batman 2

This is a scattered review of the second most popular film of all time. The Dark Knight is that, a four out of five star exposition of the line society holds between order and everything else. Dark he is and becomes during the film, while still ending up as self-sacrificing as any good Knight should be. Over-archingly, it is about life today, at least in big cities in the USA. What does a society do in the face of reckless hate? Become as bad as Bin Laden? Torture etc? The conclusion sums this up perfectly as the Joker sets up an experiment like the one from the 70's where people were asked to shock eachother on command, and did.

How quickly will a white knight give in when senseless violence is metered out? How do you hold the line ... How do you combat forces that hold to no order or rules when you do?

There's alot of deaths, but then there are alot of characters, something which the film does struggle with (this is the curse of Batman films - notice the higher the sequel number, the more characters have always been included - and the suckier they have become yeah). Batman in TDK is really just a co-star with the Joker (as expected) - and Harvey Dent (unexpected) - and this feels a little strange, tho it is a bold choice. Several other supporting characters are important, but still there is the feeling that the central story gets a little overpowered.

The last third while brilliant, is spoilt by the mummy-like makeup on Two-Face. It certainly is out of a comic, and tends to downgrade all the final scenes where we watch Harvey's demise. And what happens to the Joker? Caught of course, but no proper resolution is provided. The reason I'm mentioning more negatives at this point than positives is that after waiting 6 weeks now to see it, and reading all the wonderful reviews, I was expecting a five star flick. But don't get me wrong, I'm eagerly awaiting my second viewing, and it is a worthy combination of Heat, the Untouchables, and Batman Begins.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

M83 - Saturdays=Youth

First couple of songs - I’m asking ‘why cross the line into making synthy 80’s pop?’. M83 has always used epic keys with an 80’s feel to underscore much of his work, but on this new album, well he really gets carried away. I guess the cover should have warned me. Kim and Jessie’ and ‘skin of the night’ really are terrible - two stars, which means they’ll be deleted shortly from my collection.

But then, I get to ‘graveyard girl’ and ‘couleurs’ and I start to dig it. Maybe I was just getting used to it, but these tracks were getting better - more instrumental and epic electronica without any particular decade-obsession.

Unfortunately, the next track ‘up’ douses this enthusiasm, though the slight Coctau Twins resemblance is something. The nicely titled ‘we own the sky’ is ok, and amps up towards the end, but again has too much chorus-ized singing. I’ll spare you too much more of my up and down review, but suffice to say its been quite a first-listen journey.

Late album is mostly 3 out of 5 star territory, until the final track, ‘midnight souls still remain’ - its nearly worth the price of the album itself. Just leave it on repeat for around 40 mins to make up for some of the others, something that sounds crazy, but please, try it.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Speed-the-plow at the Old Vic

On Wednesday, Mim (my wife) and I went to see a David Mamet play called Speed-the-Plow at the Old Vic theatre in London. We'd never been to see a "serious" modern play before, and so we were a bit apprehensive especially as it only features three actors. Part of the draw was definitely the fact that Kevin Spacey (who's the artistic director at the Old Vic) and Jeff Goldblum were the two leads, giving us a chance to see a couple of brilliant (and famous) actors working on stage.

On the whole we were really impressed. The play is driven by snappy dialogue, and watching those two guys acting live made me realise just how good they are at acting. The sets were fairly minimal, and our seats had a slightly restricted view which sadly coincided with the exact spot where at least one character sat for much of the play! What really surprised me was how much I enjoyed the story (which I won't spoil for you - you can find a precis on Wikipedia).

I'd always been worried that I would find modern plays incomprehensible or boring, I guess in a parallel to the way in which I find a great deal of modern classical music impossible to engage with. But as it happens the play did such an enjoyable job of skewering the moral bankruptcy of modern film-making, that I am now keen to go and see some other modern plays. There were downsides - despite being a comment on Hollywood's corruption of art in the pursuit of making money, the play features some fairly offensive language and a liberal sexual morality, but I guess you could argue that the playwright was attempting to reflect the culture he was portraying - it would be ironic if he had included populist material in order to entice people to pay to see the play.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

three for free

when the internet is functioning at its best, stuff is free. here's a little round-up of three websites that made me say, "wow, i can't believe they are giving that away for free." - i can't remember where i first came across this site, but i think it's great. on you can watch political / social documentaries for free, streamed through google video. there is a good helping of not so well known docos but also stuff by the likes of micheal moore. i'm not trying to endorse (or otherwise) these documentaries, but here's a little list of world-recognised films that you can watch for free on the site:

- an inconvenient truth
- bowling for columbine
- the road to guantanamo (recommended)
- super size me
- born into brothels (recommended)
- enron: the smartest guys in the room - ReadyMade is apparently a pretty well known magazine in north america - it offers all sorts of design projects that you can do at home. it's all class. and now they are offering their new issues in digital form for free. check out the latest version here. brilliant stuff. - here's a christian resource for you. is a uk-based website that offers loads of mp3s of various academics etc talking about social and religious issues from a christian point of view. also preserved here are talks by the likes of schaeffer and rookmaaker. i'd spend a lot more time of this site if i had more time.

on the headphones: 'how can i be sure?' by dusty springfield, from the album 'the very best of dusty springfield'.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

nz culture down ya

it's time to get some new zealand culture down ya. here's a round-up of some recent kiwi dvds and cds i've noticed...

cd - liam finn: i'll be lightning. this has been out for a while now, but i hear it's being released soon in the usa. to the mention the usual patter first: liam finn is the son of crowded house's neil finn. even though this fact has been said a million times before, i think it is quite important. there is a musical heritage at work here - liam's uncle tim is also a key nz musical figure, having started the seminal nz band split enz. i have a photo book that came out in 2000 called 'once removed', essentially a behind the scenes look at neil finn's touring life. the young liam lurks in the background of lots of the photos in the book. he's been immersed in music all his life and this matures in 'i'll be lightning'. it's a brilliant, eclectic album, and i have a hunch that it will get pretty big in the states.

also, i need to mention the cover art for this cd which features liam's own very cool photography. given that he plays all the instruments on the album and also provides the artwork for the cover, we have one seriously talented kid here. check out the liam finn cnet in-studio appearance here.

cd - little bushman: pendulum. this is little bushman's second album. i'm not sure how to describe it. the band is the baby of former fat freddy's drop member warren maxwell, who is rapidly cementing a fine reputation in the nz music scene. while fat freddy's drop is a roots-dub experience where maxwell played the saxophone (i think), little bushman is a different kettle of fish. maxwell explores all kinds of musical styles but somehow manages to make it all gel into a unique style. the underlying rhythm tracks are incredible. a socially-conscious album with forward momentum and musical skill.

oh, and one dollar from the sale of every cd goes to unicef to help support gareth morgan's water management project in tanzania. gareth morgan is principally using the proceeds that he received from the sale of a little company his son started called 'trademe'.

dvd - out of the blue. in november 1990, the year of nz's 150th celebrations, the country was rocked when a gunman went on a murderous rampage in the quiet otago town of aramoana. that's only 17 years ago, and it's still pretty fresh in people's memories so it was always going to be a gutsy call to make a movie about it. if the subject had been treated with even a little bit of the sensationalism of hollywood movie-making it would have been a total failure - a completely tasteless and inappropriate project. i have rarely seen any subject handled with the tenderness that director duncan sarkies achieved in making 'out of the blue'. the film doesn't pull any punches but is completely free of sensationalism. even the soundtrack, a minimalist piano piece, doesn't attempt to stimulate the emotions of the viewer. karl urban in the role of the first police officer on the scene is brilliant - urban, in my opinion, is the finest actor produced by nz in the last 10 - 15 years. 'out of the blue' is one of the best films i've ever seen from anywhere in the world. as dominion post reviewer graeme tuckett said, "impassioned, dignified and damned near flawless."

dvd - flight of the conchords. and now for something completely different - from the other end of the nz cultural spectrum. i've talked about flight of the conchords before in my post about eagle vs shark. anyway, to recap, jemaine clement and bret mackenzie are two incredibly talented nz musican-comedians who, incidentally, just won the grammy for best comedy album of 2007. they were given a contract by hbo in the states to create a comedy sitcom based on their live act. the result is very good - not perfect - but very good. always entertaining and sometimes outrageously funny, the dvd of series one (yes, they've been given a second season) has just been released in nz. not a bad valentine's day present, thanks anna.

that's your nz culture round up for feb 08. get it down ya!

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