Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Let The Right One In (Moderate Spoilers)

Let The Right One In is an interesting film, from Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, and one that I struggled to understand until I came home and thought about it after seeing it for the first time this evening in the cinema. The plot focuses on the relationship between a twelve year old boy named Oskar and his mysterious young neighbour Eli, whom he forms a close bond with. Oskar lives with his disinterested mother and is bullied at school. When he meets Eli the pair begin spending time together in the courtyard of their apartment building, and Oskar relates to Eli his troubles. Eli convinces Oskar to stand up for himself and to use violence against the bully to teach him a lesson. What Oskar doesn't know at this point is that Eli is a vampire whose 'watcher' murders young children and desaguinates them, bringing their blood home for Eli to drink. Eli says to Oskar early in the film "I am not a girl," but the full meaning of this statement isn't revealed until the final act, at which point Oskar has already retaliated against his tormentors and Eli's watcher has been killed, leaving Eli with no choice but to find another partner and companion.

The film explores themes including coming-of-age, violence, redemption, revenge, sexuality and love. It can be categorized as a horror, although the more overt moments of horror that occur seem so absurd in an otherwise believable and subtle film, provoking nervous laughter rather than fright. The real horror lies in the details of the story and the relationships between the characters, a more unsettling sense of dread, angst and uncertainty that pulses beneath the surface of the snow-covered, bleak winter environment. It begs serious thought and active engagement to illuminate the subtleties of the plot's subtext. For instance, one may wonder if there is a sexual relationship between Eli and the watcher. Was the watcher young when he met Eli initially, like Oskar? Will Oskar end up the same? None of this is answered explicitly within the text, but enough suggestions and clues are provided for the audience to complete the puzzle.

Eli's hunger is eternal. Oskar will die unless he becomes a vampire like Eli, but if he does so then the pair will not be able to survive together, since Eli relies on the benefits of having a human partner who can travel in daylight, establish a residence and perform other tasks that a vampire would be unable to. The film implicitly comments on the nature of human interdependence and roles of passivity and dominance, as well as violence and intelligence as tools of power and manipulation.

Oskar is enthralled and inspired by Eli. Eli's watcher, by contrast, has become a shell of a human being, a murderer, surviving only to appease and sustain Eli, the relationship between them having been worn down to the process of its own dynamic, highlighting the basic needs at the heart of human desire. Is it still love that is holding them together?

We all use each other to fulfill certain needs, including survival. Love brings hope, the possibility of something transcendental, but love fades. We all hunger for something more, but we will never be fully and permanently satisfied.

Morissey - Let The Right One Slip In

Saturday, 18 April 2009

White Noise and Other Sounds

I've spent the last few days indoors working on my final papers. One of them is about the disappointment of the American Dream and the novel White Noise by Don DeLillo, an amazing book, one of my favourites. It is extremely funny yet utterly morose at the same time. It's basically about a middle class college professor, Jack Gladney, who teaches Hitler Studies and who is obsessed by the idea of death, living with his family and his fourth wife in an archetypal suburban American neighbourhood. A third of the way through the novel a man-made disaster, referred to as "The Airbourne Toxic Event," causes the town where they live to have to be evacuated, and Jack is exposed to a dangerous chemical derivative that forces him to confront his own mortality.

"No sense of the irony of human experience, that we are the highest form of life on earth, and yet ineffably sad because we know what no other animal knows, that we must die."
— Don DeLillo (White Noise)

"The power of the dead is that we think they see us all the time. The dead have a presence. Is there a level of energy composed solely of the dead? They are also in the ground, of course, asleep and crumbling. Perhaps we are what they dream."
— Don DeLillo (White Noise)

"What good is knowledge if it just floats in the air? It goes from computer to computer. It changes and grows every second of every day. But nobody actually knows anything."
— Don DeLillo (White Noise)

"When I read obituaries I always note the age of the deceased. Automatically I relate this figure to my own age. Four years to go, I think. Nine more years. Two years and I'm dead. The power of numbers is never more evident than when we use them to speculate on the time of our dying."
— Don DeLillo (White Noise)

White Noise - New York Times Review

I've also just completed an essay on the legacy of slavery and the morality of affirmative action for my sociology class on ethnic notions and race relations in America. I am not very experienced with sociology so I am worried about whether or not I have produced something appropriate.

I have had enough essay writing for tonight so I am just listening to music at the moment. These are some of the new albums I've been enjoying recently:

Handsome Furs - Face Control

Handsome Furs are Dan Boeckner (also of Wolf Parade and Atlas Strategic) on guitars/vocals and his wife Alexei Perry on synths/drum machine. Their new album, Face Control, is stellar. Boeckner's guitar sounds like rusty metal cutting through bone. "Baby's out of step with the occupation/No one's gonna notice if you disappear/I've heard something about reclamation/Do anything you want but just not here"

Bell Orchestre - As Seen Through Windows

Bell Orchestre are a six piece instrumental band from Canada, including Sarah Neufeld and Richard Parry, full-time members of Arcade Fire, and part time Arcade Fire member Pietro Amato. I saw the band live a few years ago when they toured their first album, Recording a Tape the Color of Light, at the University of London Union and they were fantastic. Their music sounds like travelling on old trains at night through the mountains, somewhere in Europe, while staring at the stars and contemplating romantic fire-lit nights that may or may not have happened.

Dan Deacon - Bromst

This album is pure bombastic noise overdose. I want to hear Red F blasting at earsplitting volume from an amazing soundystem, that would be the definition of joy.

Antony & The Johnsons - The Crying Light

This album is quite minimal compared to the first two, but I think stylistically the sparse texture works very well, particularly since the classical arrangements are beautiful, and Hegarty's songs are as emotive as ever, just less bizarre than the days of, say, Hitler in My Heart. I'm sure most of you have listened to this album already, but have you heard his cover of Bob Dylan's 'I was Young When I Left Home'?

Peaches - I Feel Cream

Only just had a listen to this, sounds good but slightly patchy. I love Peaches though, I think she's amazing, and I'm digging the Charlie Le Mindu wigs in the new video for 'Talk To Me.' I saw Charlie's show during London Fashion Week and it was great. Anyway, this new album has a lot less sex and a lot more electroclash.

Doves - Kingdom of Rust

I remember seeing Doves live nearly ten years ago supporting Travis. It was one of my first gigs, and I thought they were amazing. After the show I rushed to get a copy of both of their albums and used to spin them all the time. I don't understand why they aren't huge now. I prefer them to other stadium 'indie' bands like Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol. I think this new album sounds a lot like Hope of the States, another band that I used to adore but that never really took off.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

I don't think I need to say much about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I love everything they have done. I think Karen O just breathing into a microphone is enough to make me wet. The new album isn't as fierce as their previous work, but there are some gorgeous songs on it, two of my favourites being 'Soft Shock' and 'Hysteric.'

Bonnie 'Prince' Billie - Beware

I was first exposed to Bonnie 'Prince' Billy by my friend Robin in Brighton. We were both quite depressed and sitting in her house not really doing anything when she decided to put the song 'I See A Darkness' on, from the album of the same name, because she said something like it reminded her of me. It brought tears to my eyes and made me simultaneously incredibly sad and incredibly happy. This new album isn't anywhere near as life-changing, but I still have a soft spot for Mr. Billie (real name Will Oldham).

Swan Lake - Enemy Mine

I've already spoken about how much I love this album in a previous post, so scroll down and have a look if you're interested. This is a brilliant album.

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

I never really understood the hype surrounding Grizzly Bear. I missed out on a chance to see them at a small venue in London a few years ago, and now they seem to be pretty big, not least of all because they toured with Radiohead. One of the songs on the new album even reminds me of Radiohead. I still can't say I like them very much, but I'm still trying to get into them. To me they sound like Bon Iver with greater technical skill but less heart.

I will leave you now with an instrumental version of the unreleased track 'Burning Bridges Breaking Hearts' by Arcade Fire, that the band seemed to have either released or leaked to promote the release of their new film Miroir Noir. 'Burning Bridges' was one of my favourites for a while, but all I had was a live recording (see below) that I used to listen to over and over a while ago. Arcade Fire are one of my favourite bands, I've seen them numerous times now and met the band. They are wonderful people and they make music that makes me immensely happy.

Arcade Fire - Burning Bridges Breaking Hearts (Live)

Arcade Fire - Burning Bridges Breaking Hearts (Instrumental)

"we're burning bridges, breaking hearts/everything you taught us to do"

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

A Bloc Party Easter, A Weekend in the City

On Saturday I met up with my friend Marcus and we went to see Bloc Party with our friend Mel.. The gig was at the Olympia, which is 10,000 capacity, all standing. We arrived just as about ten members of Kele's family walked in. Mel took us backstage and we watched the set from the balcony. We also drank an excessive amount of alcohol. Mel had a video recording device with her that she was assigned to use to record footage for their website or something, and so she filmed me dancing around like a maniac, singing along and jumping on Marcus. This was the first time me or Marcus had seen them live and we were both impressed. They played two encores to rapturous applause, although Matt made a dig at the Arctic Monkeys that didn't go down well with some of the crowd.

After the show we went to the afterparty and
danced to Kele's short DJ set, which featured the great anthems Single Ladies and I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

Remi Weekes on Myspace

We decided to go and see the band play again on Sunday.

The band performed even better that day in my opinion, and I preferred the set list. For the encore Kele emerged on stage wearing an Easter Bunny costume. As with Saturday night they closed the set with Flux. We went down to the dressing rooms again and mingled. Kele began to eat a rather large Sunday roast and
Miquitta Oliver was jumping around and making a lot of noise. We passed around and ate a chocolate Easter egg. The band have recorded a new single, something that isn't on Intimacy, and apparently it's very good and they're going to release it soon.

Bloc Party - Idea For A Story

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


This is a photo I took of Daniel Lismore:

This is where I'm DJing on Thursday:

and also Friday, which is going to be amazing:

Right now I'm listening to Low (the band, not the David Bowie album, though I do love Bowie).

About Low, and why I love them:
Low are a band from Duluth, Minnesota, that formed in 1993 and consist of Alan Sparhawk on guitar and vocals, Mimi Parker (his wife) playing drums and also providing vocals, and (currently) Steve Garrington on the bass guitar. Their music is often labelled under the 'slowcore' sub-genre of rock, which is characterised by sparse and minimal arrangements and slow tempos, though the band generally show disdain for this term, and not all of their songs adhere to this style. What draws me to Low the most is the way Alan and Mimi conjure the most striking and powerful imagery from meticulously crafted but very simple and short lyrics, and this, coupled with their gorgeous vocal harmonies, creates some of the most beautiful and haunting music I have ever heard. It's been around six years since I discovered Low, and I still listen to them almost every single day. Unfortunately they're probably most famous for their cover of Little Drummer Boy which was used for a Gap Christmas commercial. They do seem to like Christmas though:

My favourite Low songs (click the song titles to listen):

Dinosaur Act
(all through the dust/you feel you must hear the strings of a dove/but it's a dinosaur act)

(hold me closer than that)

(let's take a ride/starfire tonight/ten thousand miles away)

(does it taste like home/only when your eyes are closed)

(soon it will be over/I laughed under my breath over your shoulder)

In The Drugs
(breaking like dolls/singing like birds/we always get what we deserve)

Over The Ocean
(if I belong/then I'll be longer than expected)

La La La Song
(sometimes I could choke myself with laughter/sometimes everything's so true)

Two Step
(the light it burns your skin/in a language you don't understand)

(with your half of the ransom/you bought some sweet sunflowers/and gave them to the night)

They have released eight studio albums thus far, with a new one supposedly coming this year. Their best album, in my opinion, is Things We Lost In The Fire, followed by Secret Name. The Great Destroyer is interesting in that it's a big departure from their signature sound, and quite a noisy album, but it's probably their weakest, although it has some great songs on it. Their most recent album, Drums and Guns, was partially inspired by the war in Iraq, and featured quite a claustrophobic and tense sound with more electronic aesthetic influences.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Beginning

There are a number of reasons why I wanted to start a blog. Most of all I want to have somewhere where I can just write whatever I feel like writing, whether it's personal thoughts and feelings, things I'm interested in, promotional diatribe or anything that takes my fancy. I want to have somewhere where I can post music I like, and also music that I make myself, links and comments on art or philosophy, random musings, poetry or prose, photographs etc.

Sometimes documenting experiences somehow makes them seem more real.

This week has culminated in me feeling quite glum and contemplative.

These are two of the photos I took the other day:

Last night on the bus home in the early hours of the morning, after going to a rave, and while listening to the great Canadian super-group Swan Lake on my i-pod, I couldn't help but thinking about the absurd. All of a sudden everything seemed so awe-inspiring and yet fickle.

Why I love Swan Lake: Three great song-writers/musicians (Dan Bejar, also of The New Pornographers and Destroyer, Spencer Krug, also of Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown, and Carey Mercer, of Frog Eyes) come together to create some beautifully haunting and powerful songs. Their first album, Beast Moans, is incredible, and personally I think it's very underrated. I find the title very appropriate, the noise they create sounds like the beastly moans of the urban mixed with some ghostly fantasy from the past. Their new (sophomore) album, Enemy Mine, is just as good, if not better. On Beast Moans they sounded like a new, unique, band, whereas Enemy Mine seems to focus more on retaining each individual songwriter's established personality more, and while at first I thought this was odd, it really works. At times their voices interweave and battle each other like monoliths, and I can't even describe the joy it brings me when listening to it. I love all three talents, and the other bands that they're involved with, but I have to say that I'm particularly enthralled by Carey Mercer on this album, and now I eagerly await the next Frog Eyes record, especially to hear a studio recorded version of Paul's Tomb, a song that blew me away each time I saw them live.

Swan Lake - Warlock Psychologist

Today was the first time I really listened to Bon Iver properly, and I have to say For Emma Forever Ago is an amazing album. I think I couldn't have heard it at a more fitting time. The final song, "re: Stacks," brought me close to tears. It's not a particularly strong song on its own, but within the context of the whole album it works very well and I was captivated by it. I love part of the opening lyric "Everything that happens is from now on/This is pouring rain/This is paralyzed" and the final lines "This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization/It's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away/Your love will be safe with me."

Bon Iver - re:Stacks

It perfectly highlights the cathartic quality of music and art, for the audience and the artist/author, and I think this song is both an excavation of self and a kind of burial at the same time. It's about facing something in order to move on, it's not about forgetting but about accepting and cherishing. I am now listening to the album for the third time in a row.

I have a paper to complete for one of my film classes on Hitchcock's
The Birds. I want to just finish by saying how much I admire this film. In my opinion it's still terrifying today, and I'm still amazed at how some of the special effects were completed. In my paper I argue that the competitive and deceptive behaviour of the characters represents, as a microcosm, the tension that was occurring at the time between Nations involved in the Cold War, and that Hitchcock subtly explores how corrupt human behaviour can lead to chaos and the breakdown of social order. The diner scene in which the characters engage in a debate over the perceived level of threat regarding the attacks is highly satirical of the state of paranoia and propaganda regarding the fear of Communist invasion. I read the birds themselves as physical manifestations of, and reactions to, the tension between the characters. They simultaneously hurt each other, and inflict pain upon themselves, through their actions. I have also discussed the existential undertones, such as the angst reflected by the lack of narrative closure and the apocalyptic atmosphere. The fact that there is no conventional score, just the diegetic sounds including the ominous and startling sound of the birds, is brilliant. That final shot of the survivors driving away from the house through the sea of birds is surely one of the most iconic moments in the history of cinema, and one that certainly sticks with me.

Here we go into the unknown...