First impressions: Limbo

Limbo Game

Today I will mostly be playing Limbo. I’m not much of a puzzle person, but this little indie title was so praised, I just had to snap it up in the Steam sale. It’s a 2D side-scrolling platform game, eschewing the familiar WSAD keyboard configuration for the moderately annoying arrows-and-CTRL set-up, and is most notable for its unique minimalist aesthetic. Continue reading

5 bands from China you need to hear

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Beijing is to the world in 2012 what Brooklyn was in 2010 or Manchester was in 1989: where it’s fooking at, man. Only, people have better haircuts (and, in Brooklyn’s case, fewer beards). This isn’t entirely out of the blue – we’ve mentioned Guai Li and 8 Eye Spy and Ourself Beside Me before, and if you haven’t taken time to click on those links, we’ll come over to your house and beat up your cat.

If you did enjoy those acts – that raw, punky energy and sheer incendiary vitality – then here are a few more that you’ll love. I found them via tenzenmen [sic], whose Discover China compilation is a pretty good taster of this genuinely exciting hub of great music.

1. P.K.14

The obvious starting point is post-punk rock, but there’s a mournful violin in there that gives it quite an unexpected edge. It’s the only band that makes me think simultaneously of Sonic Youth and Wire. They’re taking overdone, tired references and putting them together in ways I haven’t quite heard before, and for that I give them kudos. In common with their tenzenmen labelmates, P.K.14 aren’t immediately different but are just quirky enough to be fascinating. They’re not a hurricane like (latter-day) Sufjan Stevens, but they’re definitely a breath of fresh air.

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If Chins Could Kill … Confessions of a B-Movie Actor

I’ll take a few moments to highlight a fun, easy read I breezed through a couple of years back: If Chins Could Kill … Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, which is essentially Bruce Campbell’s autobiography. If you have no idea who Bruce Campbell is, you probably have no business reading it, but he’s the star of the Evil Dead trilogy and go-to cult actor for everything from The X-Files to American Gothic via Xena: Warrior PrincessContinue reading

5 fundamentally flawed albums you need to own

Girl Talk by Gwazda Paris 2007 via Wikipedia

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You may have noticed that we don’t give marks out of 10 here, partly because it renders reviews pointless (you just read the number, not the words) and partly because it’s not fair on the recording itself.  The issue is one and the same: without the context of pointing out exactly what makes it a “good” or “bad” album, you’re doing a disservice to the band, to the listener and to the reviewer. I know why I like something, but if I don’t tell you why I like it, you’re not going to know if you’ll like it too. I could give a metal album 10/10 but if you just plain hate heavy metal, you’re not going to get past the first five minutes. Sure, you save two or three minutes reading the review if you can just get a score, but you waste – what? – an hour? A whole hour of your time struggling through something you were never going to enjoy in the first place because I gave it 10/10 and that means that obviously it must be perfect. I don’t want to waste your time or your money: I’d rather just give a few details about the listening experience and let you make up your own mind.

More problematic still is the 7/10 album. Why is an album less than 10? Because it’s mediocre? Well, that’s unforgiveable, isn’t it? Given the choice between a record that’s been branded “10/10″ and one that has not, you’re not going to bother with the latter, are you? Life’s too short – might as well reserve it for the best. But what about the ones that fail to be “the best” – not because they are boring, but because there’s one big problem marring an otherwise awe-inspiring album? Such as:  Continue reading

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The most amazing thing about Doctor Parnassus is that it was made for £18 million. That’s considerably less than one season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In terms of bang-per-buck, Parnassus is an atomic explosion for 50p.

The second most amazing thing about Parnassus is that it got made at all. Terry Gilliam has always been a precarious director, as Lost In La Mancha testifies. The meagre funding was split between six studios who agreed to finance it because Heath Ledger was in it. Heath Ledger died, then two days after filming wrapped, William Vince died of cancer, and then Gilliam himself was hit by a car. “They got the star, the producer, and they were going for the director, and the f***ers failed on the last one. Whoever they are…” Gilliam grimly recalls.

Beating the odds is essentially the plot to Doctor Parnassus. The eponymous immortal showman (Christopher Plummer) must win five souls before the devilish Mr Nick (Tom Waits) or risk losing his daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole). Parnassus would bring the souls to life-affirming adventures of the imagination; Mr Nick would lure them to shallow thrills. Doctor Parnassus runs a theatre troupe staffed by his BFF Percy (Verne Troyer), Valentina and her would-be boyfriend Anton (Andrew Garfield). The show is a ruse to invite audience members to pass through a magic mirror into Parnassus’s imagination where they will choose between enlightenment or addiction. When the troupe rescues amnesiac Tony (Ledger), he sets about revitalising the ragged stage act while trying to steal Valentina’s heart.  Continue reading

First impressions: Dan Deacon – America

Dan Deacon - America

Oh, this is f***ing beautiful. The phrase “cathedrals of sound” was so wasted on those insipid indie boys. This is playful, exultant, a rhythmic orgasm. It sounds how being tickled feels – breathless, delirious and a little bit dangerous. This is just USA II: The Great American Desert – I’ll get to the rest in a minute.

Battles’ percussive mantras, Sufjan Stevens’ orchestral bombast, Air’s lightness of touch and Necessary’s slinky grooves. There are vocals here, which I didn’t really expect. I’ve not heard anything by Deacon before (I know!) so I can’t compare this to prior outings. The Guardian reckons he’s singing his outrage at US foreign policy, but it all sounds like cotton wool and bunnies from where I am. Continue reading

This Man Is F***ing Outrageous: A Martin Atkins Interview

martin atkins image from kickstarter

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Martin Atkins is a man on a mission. He’s looking to break a world record, and he’s pulling out all the stops to do it. In just six days, his Kickstarter campaign has received 36% of its funding target. He’s unstoppable – and his mission is most unusual.

He’s trying to break the record for the most appearances of the word “f***” in a book.

Martin’s previous publication, Tour:Smart, was hailed as “the ultimate touring manual” by Mojo and “the Holy Grail” by Kraze. As the former drummer for NIN, Ministry and PiL as well as the founder of the band Pigface and label Invisible Records, he had little difficulty pulling together people to contribute to his guides for musicians. Henry Rollins, Chris Connelly and numerous “industry” types chipped into the first, and for his sequel, he asked … me. Continue reading

What is Grimes doing? Plus 6 more what-the-f*** videos

Grimes Genesis video still

Grimes has a new video out. It made me think of some other bafflingly weird music videos.

Grimes – Genesis

Is this supposed to be some sort of Mad Max thing? Why is there a cybergimp (Brooke Candy) prancing about looking high? You’re not going all goth on us, now, are you, Claire?

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