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.

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