Tuesday, 29 December 2015

My Album, Book and Film of the year 2015

The hours I am able to either read, write, listen to music or watch TV are limited to approximately one. It is within this hour I watch Doctor Who. Since that shows last series has now finished I have been spending time catching up on music. There was a lot of catching up to do.

Seasick Steve, The Unthanks, Gaz Coombes, Guy Garvey, Gilad Atzmon,  Polar Bear, Go Go Penguins, Songhoy Blues, Low, Jason Isbell, Joanna Newsom, Bella Hardy, Adele, Django Django, The Kronos Quartet, Richard Thompson,Courtney Barnett, and many others, and of course a sad farewell to Bellowhead.
The album that has excited me most has been 'Music In Exile' by Songhoy Blues. Their combination of roots and riffing bring to mind the blues played in a sun-baked Mail dustbowl. The fact they were forced out of their homeland by a fascist group of religious fanatics committed to banning both cigarettes and music only adds to my enjoyment  of both their defiance along with the music they make.

Sharia law is an abuse against humanity. Thankfully these guys play on. Very folksy, very much of the land they are from but with a flash of the Blues.
"But then Ansar Dine [a local armed Islamist group, whose name translates as "followers of the faith"] came and chased them out. They ordered people to stop smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and playing music. Even though I don't smoke or drink, I love the guitar, so I thought: 'This isn't the moment to hang around. I have to go south."
Garba Toure's guitar has yet to find its own sound but nonetheless is gritty enough to satisfy. Along with the unrelated Aliou Touré  on vocals and second guitarist Oumar Touré and with Nathanael Dembélé on drums a band has formed that promises much. I am very much looking forward to future output. A perfect antidote to the controlling aspect of religion.

As for books...my reading of them has been greatly reduced this year due to work. We all have to make a living, to earn our crust but bread is rather dry without the butter of literature.
The thing with this biography of Edmund de Waal's is the manner in which the author writes. His prose, his style of narrative is virtually post-modern minimal. Paragraphs are short, clipped, presented in robust, stark detail; sometimes as single lines.
His passion for porcelain combined with his flair for experimental English gives the reader an exciting read that never dawdles but moves at a pace that maintains interest yet relays all relevant detail.
His vocabulary adds potency. He is fortunate to have a command of not only his mother tongue butt French, German, Japanese and even a smattering of Chinese. He uses it sparingly and only as a method to add flavour. He is no show-off.
Again, as with 'The Hare with Amber Eyes," heavily researched historical fact is merged with his seamless use of fiction whereby de Waal fuse his knowledge with his own sense of individual character so that traits and foibles, all surmised, add a depth, a layer of interest to what is yet another great biography.
 As for film...oh boy, spoilt for choice. ‘Birdman,’ quirky and off beat. The beautiful love story with the superb acting of Eddie Redmayne, ‘The Theory of Everything.’  ‘Mister Holmes’ is probably Ian McKellen's finest hour. The subject matter appeals to me but it is Ian’s acting that makes an ordinary film rather special. The other film that came as a bit of shock, a pleasant one it has to be said, is Andrey Zvyaginsev’s ‘Leviathan.’ With some magnificent photography that impresses upon you how big, how vast, how unbelievably huge Russia is even when compared to Canada but also how dark and, in some places, uninviting. Although the raison d’etre of the film is to show how corrupt Russian society is it also encompasses a larger contagion, one that is also to be found in the west.

I have yet to see '45 Years' a thing I am looking forward to nor Maggie Smith's performance in 'Woman in a Van' the Alan Bennett true story nor 'Carol' the film based on Patricia Highsmith's 'Price of Salt.' Joys yet to be discovered

This though wins hands down....The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.

 Rather than have the normal highly detailed, beautifully drawn cartoons, the makers have elected to portray the frames as though they were watercolours primitively painted onto porcelain. This has the effect of drawing both eye and attention directly into the film. Its simplicity carries an intimacy that invites you to enter the fantasy being shown you. The minimal images, many of them stills, gives the viewer the feeling of walking through a landscape inhabited by animations as though they, the panels and the audience, are passing through a gallery.

Being the penultimate film in the studio's output before they close their doors, put down their pens and, hopefully, take not too long a break away from filmmaking, this comes like the coda in some magnificent symphony.

This yearly post is not my trying to pass out awards in some sort of egocentric self-centred fashion merely my giving voice to the music, books, and films I have derived the greatest pleasure from. Other choices are available.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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