3 albums from around the world.



Ibeyi is the debut album from the French Cuban twin sis­ters of the same name. Their father was the Cuban drum­mer Anga Diaz, who played with Irakere and then the Buena Vista Social Club, while their mother is the French Venezue­lan singer Maya Dagnino.

Hav­ing spent their lives shut­tling between their home in Paris and Cuba the music they pro­duce is a heady mix of vin­tage Cuban influ­ences and a con­tem­po­rary north Euro­pean indie vibe. And is dom­i­nated by an Afro-Cuban beat that man­ages to be at once extra­or­di­nar­ily com­plex and tech­ni­cal and yet irre­sistibly alluring.

Yet there’s a sub­dued feel to the album, born of the fact that a num­ber of the songs address their father, who died when the pair were 13 – they are in their very early 20s now – and their older sis­ter who died soon after.

The Buena Vista Social Club.

The Buena Vista Social Club.

Not that it is in any way a depress­ing album, merely some­what under­stated. There’s a spir­i­tual force behind the songs, albeit a sub­tle one, and one that’s both pre-modern and non Euro­pean – I’m striv­ing valiantly here to avoid the word “primitive”.

The result is indi­etron­ica fused with hiphop of the RnB vari­ety, under­scored by African rhythms and Cuban swing. You can see the video for the sin­gle River here.

Rhi­an­non Gid­dens won a Grammy as part of the roots Amer­i­cana group Car­olina Choco­late Drops, but she only really came to promi­nence after her show steel­ing per­for­mance in the film Another Day Another Time.

The Coen broth­ers had hoped to repeat the suc­cess of O Brother Where Art Thou with this filmed con­cert of the OST album from Inside Llewyn Davis. The forget-the-film-enjoy-the-soundtrack ploy failed to catch fire this time around, and the result­ing fol­low up film was largely ignored. Which was a shame, as Another Day Another Time was a lot bet­ter than it might have been given the input of the one of the Mum­fords. What it did do was to intro­duce the world to Rhi­an­non Gid­dens, whose per­for­mance of a Scot’s Gaelic reel is jaw-dropping – you can see her per­form it in Glas­gow here.

Rhiannon Giddens Tomorrow Is

Rhi­an­non Gid­dens Tomor­row Is My Turn.

Tomor­row Is My Turn is her debut album out on None­such and is pro­duced inevitably by T-Bone Bur­nett. It moves effort­lessly from cov­ers of The Dublin­ers, Patsy Cline and Dolly Par­ton to Odetta and Nina Simone, going from protest, jazz and gospel to coun­try and pop. The result is a time­less, mod­ern Amer­i­can songbook.

Once in a blue moon, the plan­ets align and the uni­verse con­spires to pro­duce an album that has clearly been recorded just for you. I came across Imam Baildi, named after the stuffed aubergine dish from the east­ern Mediter­ranean, thanks as ever to the uber reli­able All Songs Con­sid­ered pod­cast from NPR (reviewed ear­lier here).

The Imam Baildi Cookbook.

The Imam Baildi Cook­book.

The Falireas broth­ers grew up in Greece lis­ten­ing to the Rebetiko 78s that their father sold in his record shop. Rebetiko is a mix­ture of late 19th cen­tury Ottoman Greek, Turk­ish and Balkan influ­ences that mar­ries the sweep­ing, plan­gent melodies of the coun­try with the urban con­cerns of the ports and cities, invari­ably cen­tred around the sounds of the bouzouki. It re-surfaced in the café music of Greece and Turkey in the 40s 50s and 60s.

All of which the band fuse with thump­ing 21st cen­tury RnB, funk, and hiphop. Intox­i­cat­ing. I’ve started off with the sec­ond of their three albums, the Imam Baildi Cook­book, and am doing my very best to limit myself to but two or three plays a day. Some hope. You can hear Busca Ritmo from the Cook­book here. And a track from the 2014 album Imam Baildi III here.

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BBC’s Arena celebrates one of the great modern film makers.

Mick Jagger in Nic Roeg and Donald Cammell's Performance.

Mick Jag­ger in Nic Roeg and Don­ald Cammell’s Per­for­mance.

Nico­las Roeg has only made 13 films in total, but the first seven of them makes up one of the most impor­tant bod­ies of work in Euro­pean cinema.

He began in the cam­era depart­ment, and by the 1960s he was the cin­e­matog­ra­pher on some of Britain’s most iconic films, work­ing on Lawrence of Ara­bia, Far From the Madding Crowd and Doc­tor Zhivago, though he remained un-credited on that last one after a falling out with David Lean.

Then in 1970 he made his direc­to­r­ial debut Per­for­mance, which, unusu­ally for a British film, he directed together with Don­ald Cam­mell. Roeg con­cen­trated on the look of the film, and Cam­mell worked with the actors and on the script. The gifted but trou­bled Cam­mell then made Demon Seed in 77, but when the stu­dio man­gled their cut of his Wild Side in 1995, he com­mit­ted suicide.

Julie Christy in Don't Look Now.

Julie Christy in Don’t Look Now.

Although the world of Per­for­mance is very much the one that Cam­mell inhab­ited, with its heady mix of the May­fair set and gang­ster Lon­don, it looks and feels like a Roeg film. And the cast­ing of Mick Jag­ger in one of the leads would be fol­lowed sub­se­quently by Roeg with David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth and Art Gar­funkel in Bad Tim­ing.

Walk­a­bout, his first film proper, was next in ’71. A star­tlingly orig­i­nal take on the clash of civ­i­liza­tions as a white boy and girl are left to fend for them­selves in the Aus­tralian out­back after being aban­doned there. But it was Don’t Look Now in ‘73 that really caught the world’s attention.

Don­ald Suther­land and Julie Christy are in Venice try­ing to come to terms with the death of their child. The film unfolds with an ellip­ti­cal, almost causally poetic mould­ing of time, and it is this more than any­thing that char­ac­ter­izes Roeg’s work.

David Bowie as The Man Who Fell To Earth.

David Bowie as The Man Who Fell To Earth.

This strik­ingly lat­eral, almost anti lin­ear sense of time, and one of the most mem­o­rable and grown up sex scenes in mod­ern cin­ema woke the world up to a seri­ous Euro­pean film maker.

The Man Who Fell To Earth fol­lowed in ‘76, Bad Tim­ing in ‘80, Eureka in ‘83 and then Insignif­i­cance in ‘85. All are crim­i­nally over-looked. They each man­age to be daz­zlingly orig­i­nal in their look and feel as they tackle exis­ten­tial themes with a deft light­ness of touch. Intel­lec­tual depth explored with visual bril­liance, panache and orig­i­nal­ity, so that form and con­tent per­fectly merge.

Teresa Russell in the criminally overlooked Insignificance.

Teresa Rus­sell in the crim­i­nally over­looked Insignif­i­cance.

If you’ve yet to see any of them, lucky you, it’s all ahead of you.

Cast­away was some­thing of a damp squib in 86, but Track 29 in 88, scripted by Denis Pot­ter was a return to form. But his film of Roald Dahl’s The Witches in 90 was another mild dis­ap­point­ment, falling some­where in between a children’s and a grown up’s film.

And that alas is pretty much it. There have been three films since, but they are hardly worth men­tion­ing in the con­text of what had come before. And ever since, Roeg has been talk­ing to var­i­ous pro­duc­ers and financiers about mak­ing a come­back. So the Arena pro­file, aptly titled It’s About Time on BBC4 was some­thing of a mixed blessing.

Gene  Hackman in Eureka.

Gene Hack­man in Eureka.

On the one hand, it was finally some sort of recog­ni­tion for, arguably, the most impor­tant, and cer­tainly the most orig­i­nal film maker that Britain has ever pro­duced. On the other, if felt like an admis­sion of defeat as far as any future projects are concerned.

Watch the Arena pro­file. And then treat your­selves to one of those first seven films of his.

Rather like David Bowie’s six albums between Young Amer­i­cans and Scary Mon­sters, those first seven films of Roeg’s man­age to be at once extra­or­di­nar­ily var­ied and yet vis­i­bly, dis­tinctly crafted by the same bril­liant hand.

In the mean­time, here’s the trailer  for Don’t Look Now. And this by the way is how you cut a trailer. Every stu­dio head in Hol­ly­wood should be forced to watch this at least once a week.

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Atom Egoyan’s unfairly overlooked film “The Captive”.

"The Captive"

The Cap­tive”

What­ever hap­pened to Cana­dian film maker Atom Egoyan? Dur­ing the 1990s, he proved him­self to be one of the most excit­ing direc­tors work­ing any­where in the world.

After Fam­ily View­ing (’87), Speak­ing Parts (’89) and the crim­i­nally over­looked Cal­en­dar (’93) he won inter­na­tional acclaim with the bril­liantly intri­cate Exot­ica in 1994, which was one of the films of the decade.

He fol­lowed that up in 1997 with The Sweet Here­after which was almost as impres­sive. It won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes and saw Egoyan nom­i­nated for an Oscar for Best Direc­tor and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Felicia’s Jour­ney was some­thing of a mis­step in 1999, but he seemed to be back on song again with Ararat in 2002.

So what has hap­pened since? Well, there was an attempt at a rel­a­tively big bud­get film in ’05 with Where The Truth Lies, star­ing Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon. Which was all right, if some­what pedestrian.

Then there was Ado­ra­tion in ’08, which felt strained and effort­ful. And, again, pedes­trian. The “erotic thriller” Chloe fol­lowed in ’09, and then in ’13 the unnec­es­sary and baf­flingly straight Devil’s Knot.

So The Cap­tive, which was screened last year at Cannes, is very much some­thing of a return to form. Eight years after their daugh­ter is abducted, her par­ents Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos dis­cover evi­dence that she might still be alive.



All of Egoyan’s usual pre­oc­cu­pa­tions sur­face. That sense of insid­i­ous intru­sion that we all feel liv­ing in a world where every­one is being watched. And where the nature of an event and the search for truth is some­how warped when that event is seen cap­tured on a screen.

And how the same events appear in a dif­fer­ent light and present lay­ers of con­flict­ing truths, when they are viewed at one remove on a screen, as those view­ing the events are them­selves watched by us, on ours.

Some peo­ple have com­plained that the story stretches credulity. And it cer­tainly would have been a pleas­ant sur­prise if the vil­lain hadn’t been so vis­i­bly las­civ­i­ous. The banal­ity of evil is much more inter­est­ing and much more cred­i­ble than the sight of man twid­dling his mous­tache with such the­atri­cal rel­ish. And cast­ing Rosario Daw­son as a social worker was always going to be a stretch in any universe.

But the film nonethe­less main­tains a won­der­fully taut sense of ten­sion through­out, and is I fear a much more real­is­tic and bet­ter researched por­trayal of pae­dophile rings and their sophis­ti­cated net­work of vir­tual war­rens than many would like to believe.

Rosario Dawson looking more exotica than social worker.

Rosario Daw­son look­ing more exot­ica than social worker.

It’s not hard to under­stand why it was so com­pletely over­looked at Cannes last year and after its release sub­se­quently, given how far from grace Egoyan has fallen of late. But don’t be fooled by that recent form. The Cap­tive is a tense, intri­cately woven thriller that delves into the dark­est crevices of the human psy­che with verve and intelligence.

You can see the trailer for The Cap­tive here. And for The Sweet Here­after here. The Exot­ica trailer is quite sim­ply pants. So here’s a taster that someone’s posted up as an alternative.

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Two new albums to set you fare for summer.

To Where The Wild Things Are.

To Where The Wild Things Are.

To Where The Wild Things Are is the sec­ond album from Death and Vanilla. The Swedish trio con­tinue where The White Stripes left off, apply­ing a rig­or­ous sonic aes­thetic with the kind of inten­sity that only youth can produce.

All the tracks were recorded gath­ered around a vin­tage mic found they claim in a flea mar­ket, and fash­ioned from the authen­ti­cally antique sounds pro­duced from a Moog syn­the­sizer, Mel­lotron, vibra­phone, organ, some sam­pled vin­tage vinyl and a harp­si­chord, into which an ethe­real female vocal is dis­solved. Think the Vel­vets recorded for 4AD in Berlin circa’77.

Death and Vanilla

Death and Vanilla

The result is a grungey vel­vety dreamy synth pop that sounds oh so 60s and yet unmis­tak­ably now. Broad­cast is the usual ref­er­ence point, but you could just as eas­ily point to Massey Star via Nancy Sina­tra. Just how vin­tage are they? They’ve even made one of those beguil­ingly eso­teric and enig­matic videos that only the really seri­ous and seri­ously indie bands used to make. It’s for the sin­gle and stand out track on the album, Cal­i­for­nia Owls. It shim­mers and you can see it here.

Kamasi Washington, The Epic.

Kamasi Wash­ing­ton, The Epic.

Kamasi Wash­ing­ton has spent as much time on the hip hop cir­cuit as he has the jazz, sup­port­ing the likes of Snoop, Lau­ryn Hill, Fly­ing Lotus and most famously, as one of the core musi­cians on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a But­ter­fly.

But you’re just as likely to have seen him in the com­pany of Her­bie Han­cock, Kenny Bur­rell and Wayne Shorter and his heart is clearly in the world of jazz.

So he took his core band into the stu­dio and together they laid down some 45 tracks. Even­tu­ally, they whit­tled these down to a pal­try 17, and the result­ing triple album, The Epic comes in at a brisk 3 hours.

Alice Coltrane

Alice Coltrane

You can’t really get away with that in pop or rock, but in jazz the extended time­frame gives that very par­tic­u­lar form of expres­sion the space it needs to breathe. Or at least it does when you’re as effort­lessly ver­sa­tile and a musi­cally edu­cated as Wash­ing­ton is.

It’s released on Flylo’s Brain­feeder records, which is very much as it should be as the for­mer is the nephew of Alice Coltrane, and more than any­one else it’s the light of John Coltrane that the album most impres­sively basks in.

Flying Lotus' You're dead!

Fly­ing Lotus’ You’re dead!

Not that this is any way a con­ven­tional throw­back to sounds of the past. Rather it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of clas­si­cal jazz in its many 21st cen­tury forms. There’s fusion obvi­ously, but also lounge, some strings, the occa­sional female vocal, and no end of out­ra­geously com­plex syn­co­pa­tion. Very much in other words the same musi­cal land­scape as Flylo, whose last two albums I reviewed here and here. Only instead of a sin­gle album in the vein of hip hop, it’s a tre­ble album of clas­si­cal jazz. And not a singe sec­ond of it is wasted.

The boys from Pitch­fork gave is a 8.6 here. And you can get a taster here.

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The Jinx”, unmissable and horribly addictive.

"The Jinx"

The Jinx”

First things first, there’ll not be any spoil­ers here what­so­ever. To deprive any­one of the con­stant stream of sur­prises and guilty plea­sures this six part doc­u­men­tary con­tin­u­ally serves up would be a ver­i­ta­ble crime.

If ever any­one asks you, what’s a cliff, all you need say is, episode 5, The Jinx. I had to forcibly refrain from watch­ing all six one after the other, and to some­how con­strain myself to but two episodes in a row, over three weekends.

I won’t talk about any of the actual story, apart from what is revealed in the open­ing 15 min­utes of the first episode.

There, we hear of a dis­mem­bered body that was dis­cov­ered off the coast of Texas, and how, almost within min­utes, one Robert Durst was arrested after he was stopped blithely dri­ving about town with a newly pur­chased hack saw on the back seat of the car. Not in the boot mark you. On the seat.

Capturing The Friedmans.

Cap­tur­ing the Friedmans.

Durst it tran­spires is the eldest son and heir of the Durst empire, one of the most pow­er­ful prop­erty dynas­ties in New York. One World Trade Cen­ter is one of numer­ous build­ings the fam­ily have on the island of Man­hat­tan. Nei­ther was he a stranger to con­tro­versy. His wife had mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­peared 18 years pre­vi­ously, and many of her fam­ily sus­pect his involvement.

When it got to trial, he explained that although he had indeed killed and chopped up his next door neigh­bour, he’d killed him acci­den­tally, in self-defence. And that he’d only chopped him up after­wards as, well, how else do you dis­pose of some­one you’ve acci­den­tally killed, and whose death you could eas­ily find your­self being wrongly blamed for?

The subject confronted; the reveal.

The film maker and sub­ject; the reveal.

Need­less to say, the story made all the papers, not least the New York Times. Mes­merised New York­ers watched as one of their own appeared at the cen­tre of one of those sto­ries that peo­ple like him would nor­mally look down their noses at from an Olympian height.

One of the peo­ple whose atten­tion was grabbed was the film maker Andrew Jarecki, who comes from a sim­i­larly mon­eyed back­ground. And after he had made his star­tling direc­to­r­ial debut, the bril­liant Cap­tur­ing the Fried­mans in 2004, he decided that his next project would be a fic­tion­alised ver­sion of Durst’s tra­vails. But he was deter­mined to do so from an avowedly neu­tral posi­tion. After all, what if he really is inno­cent? Unsur­pris­ingly, the film that resulted, All Good Things was some­thing of a damp squib.

The master.

The mas­ter.

But when then he was asked on the manda­tory pro­mo­tional tour what reac­tion he would like his film to pro­duce, he replied that he’d love to hear what Durst him­self made of it. And sure enough soon after, Durst rings, telling him he really liked the film – as damn­ing an indict­ment as any film could wish for – and would he be inter­ested in inter­view­ing him?

And so Jarecki recorded a gen­uinely exclu­sive inter­view with the man who had hith­erto refused to give his side of the story, to any­one. And from that inter­view – or inter­views – Jarecki began to piece together the two dif­fer­ent ver­sions of his past, that he and his accusers both insist is what really happened.

So from a mix­ture of recorded inter­views, both video and audio, police tran­scripts, some espe­cially art­ful, dra­matic recon­struc­tions and a slew of inter­views with most of the pro­tag­o­nists, the two con­tra­dic­tory ver­sions of his past unfold before our eyes.

"Bitter Lake", the latest film essay from Adam Curtis, this time on Afghanistan.

Bit­ter Lake”, the lat­est eru­dite film essay from Adam Cur­tis, this time on Afghanistan.

A few crit­ics, AA Gill most notably, have com­plained that it’s impos­si­ble for us to trust Jarecki pre­cisely because his film is so art­fully put together.

But that surely makes it even more of a plea­sure, albeit a guilty one. It won­der­fully mir­rors and intrigu­ingly reflects the very sub­ject it charts; truth and lies and the dif­fer­ent ways we all inter­pret the same events, in much the same way that Cap­tur­ing the Fried­mans did.

I men­tioned Orson Welles’ charm­ing film essay F For Fake in my review of Adam Cur­tis’ sim­i­larly visu­ally lit­er­ate All Watched Over by Machines Of Lov­ing Grace here. Like that, The Jinx is a cap­ti­vat­ing com­pan­ion piece to what should have been Welles’ legacy. Except that, crim­i­nally, nobody noticed F For Fake. It some­how man­aged to pass every­body by. No one’s likely to make the same mis­take about The Jinx.

You can see the trailer of Cap­tur­ing The Fried­mans here, and for The Jinx here.

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