Archives for July 2013

Daft Punk’s Plush New Album “Random Access Memories”.

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories.

Daft Punk — Ran­dom Access Memories.

Despite the fact that their debut Home­work came out in 1997, Ran­dom Access Mem­o­ries is only the fourth album prop­er from French duo Daft Punk. It’s both a sum­ma­tion of every­thing they’re about, and com­fort­ably their best album to date.

Super­fi­cial­ly, you get the same sense that some peo­ple have when look­ing at a Neo-Clas­si­cal build­ing. It seems to be noth­ing more than a mix and match of oth­er peo­ples’ great­est hits. But the more you lis­ten to it, the more sub­stan­tial it becomes. And apart from any­thing else, it’s absolute­ly sumptuous.

As the boys form Pitch­fork not­ed in their review of it, where they gave it an 8.8, it’s a paean to the kinds of expan­sive, mon­u­men­tal albums that just don’t get made any more.

Paul Williams in Phantom of the Paradise.

Paul Williams in Phan­tom of the Paradise.

Record­ed oh so expen­sive­ly in ana­logue, gone on all but one of the tracks are the sam­ples you nor­mal­ly asso­ciate with them. And in come a host of guest singers and actu­al instrumentalists.

Ani­mal Collective’s Pan­da Bear, The Strokes’ front man Julian Casablan­cas, and 70’s muso Paul Williams, who scored and starred in Bri­an de Palma’s cult clas­sic Phan­tom of the Par­adise (’74), which was such a sem­i­nal influ­ence on the pair. And, hap­pi­ly, most promi­nent­ly of all, Nile Rodgers backed up by Phar­rell Williams on vocals.

But the album’s high­light is Gior­gio by Moroder, a won­der­ful dri­ve thru cel­e­bra­to­ry syn­the­sis of elec­tron­ic music over its first few decades.

Have a look at the brief clip of Girl Talk’s mashup on Fla­vor­wire. And you can see the offi­cial video for their ubiq­ui­tous sin­gle Get Lucky here.

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Alice Roberts’ Lovely Programme on Childbirth Slightly Spoilt by bits of Science.

Alice Roberts, scientist, and mother!

Alice Roberts, sci­en­tist, and mother!

There was a love­ly lit­tle pro­gramme there on BBC2 the oth­er day, pre­sent­ed by Alice Roberts. Who, by the way, is not just a moth­er, she’s a sci­en­tist too. A doc­tor if you don’t mind!

She’d pre­vi­ous­ly pro­duced pro­grammes on human evo­lu­tion and the Human Jour­ney, so she prob­a­bly felt pres­sur­ized to keep throw­ing lit­tle snip­pets of sci­ence in to what was oth­er­wise a delight­ful med­i­ta­tion on motherhood.

What a joy to be able to watch and lis­ten as the nurse talked her through her scan. There are the lit­tle feet! And are they the hands?!

How beautiful is that?

How beau­ti­ful is that?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly though, just as we were set­tling down to hear (and see!), in minute detail, just what was going on there in her tum­my, we were whisked off into the jun­gle to hear a bunch of men (sur­prise sur­prise) dron­ing on and on about chimpanzees.

Instead of all that guff on chimps, what they should have done instead is show us a few shots of women actu­al­ly giv­ing birth. So we could see the mir­a­cle in action for ourselves.

We were privy to a few of the joy­ous shrieks as they echoed tan­ta­liz­ing­ly down the cor­ri­dor in a mater­ni­ty ward. What a tease! And then it was off again for more bits of quite unnec­es­sary science.

Hard­ly the sort of thing you’d expect from a strand like the oth­er­wise reli­able Hori­zon. Must try harder.

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Before Midnight” is the Latest Instalment in this Captivating Saga.

Before Midnight.

Before Mid­night.

Mid­night is the third (so far) in the series of Before films that Richard Lin­klater has made with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Before Sun­rise intro­duced us to the pair of bare­ly 20 year olds who fell mad­ly in love over an evening in Vien­na, before being forced to part the fol­low­ing morning.

10 years lat­er they meet again in Paris in Before Sun­set. And once again, if more qui­et­ly now, sparks fly. Before Mid­night vis­its them ten years on, in their ear­ly 40s. After Paris, Jesse left his wife and son, and he and Celine have been togeth­er ever since. And this finds them on the last night of their sum­mer hol­i­day in Greece where they’ve been with their twins.

Although the scripts are care­ful­ly and pre­cise­ly writ­ten, Lin­klater, Hawke and Delpy work­shopped all three instal­ments exten­sive­ly togeth­er. The result is a trio of films that glide along with decep­tive ease. And it would be easy to miss quite how impec­ca­bly craft­ed and immac­u­late­ly per­formed the three sto­ries are.

Delpy and Hawke in Before Sunrise.

Delpy and Hawke in Before Sunrise.

Or at least it might have been in the first two. By the time we get to Before Mid­night, it’s impos­si­ble not be bowled over by the depths of raw emo­tion on dis­play and the sheer force of the artistry involved.

Sim­i­lar in tone, approach and impact to Bergman’s great­est film, Scenes From A Mar­riage, this third instal­ment in the Before saga is not just one of the best films of the year. It’s a per­son­al tri­umph for Lin­klater, Hawke and Delpy. And I can’t wait to find out how they’re all get­ting on in ten years’ time. You can see the Before Mid­night trail­er here.

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The Art of Noise from New Sigur Rós album “Kveikur”.

Sigur Ros, before  4 became 3.

Sig­ur Ros, before 4 became 3.

After last year’s album Val­tari was released, rumours were rife that Sig­ur Rós were on the verge of split­ting up. Sure enough their long time key­board play­er left a few months lat­er. But his depar­ture seems to have been rea­son­ably ami­ca­ble. And bare­ly a year lat­er, they’re back with a new album.

Sigur Ros' new album Kveikur

Sig­ur Ros’ new album Kveikur

Kveikur is their 7th stu­dio album, and the first since mov­ing to their new label XL, after EMI and Par­lophone were acquired by Uni­ver­sal. And it very much con­tin­ues where the last one left off.

Val­tari, which I reviewed ear­li­er here, was a con­scious move away from the more lis­ten­er friend­ly tracks they’d begun pro­duc­ing four or five years ago. And the depar­ture of their key­board play­er has fur­ther fed into this.

This is a far more mus­cu­lar affair. The rhythm sec­tion has been allowed to sur­face in a way that hasn’t been heard for some time. Not to pro­duce songs, or any­thing that might sound like a sin­gle. But to mar­ry the sort of grungy, post-punk feed­back that sat under some of the tracks on () and Takk with Jonsi’s oth­er world­ly vocals.

As the boys for Pitch­fork remarked in their review, where they gave it an approv­ing 8.1, this is a return, if not to what they were doing before, then to what they’d been hint­ing at in much of that ear­li­er work. Ethe­re­al poise dri­ven by indus­tri­al noise.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every week on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!