Tuesday, 20 February 2018

WALL OF SOUND PRESENTS: LOVE, LOVE LIFE at Birthdays in Dalston reviewed by JOHN ROBBINS

“I have brought you many things in my time...” So says the late, great Malcolm McLaren from beneath a rubber bondage mask at the beginning of 'The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle'.

But these words are equally true of Wall of Sound label boss Mark Jones. Since emerging as part of the big beat explosion in the mid 90s, the label has done everything from getting Mad Frankie Fraser and Shirley Bassey into the studio with Mekon and Propellerheads respectively, brought Grace Jones and Human League out of relative retirement and scored numerous hits with The Wiseguys, Royksopp and many, many others.
There, behind the decks at Birthdays, is Jones himself, dropping party anthems from Soft Cell's 'Tainted Love' to 'Pump Up The Volume' by M/A/R/R/S and Prodigy's 'Your Love'. Towards the end of the evening, he hands out roses – well, it is Valentine's Day – before joining the crowd for a full on frugging session.

But more important than that, he's put together a packed line up of WoS-approved live acts that are every bit as eclectic and allk encompassing as the stamp would suggest.
There's a natural arc to the evening, and first up is Sabrina Kennedy. She's come all the way from Nashville to share her endearingly sincere songs, and although she's backed up by only one guitarist, she already shines with an unashamedly belting pop voice and shitloads of confidence. One to watch, definitely.

There's no such minimalism for Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations, however. Her six piece band pack the Birthdays stage and wherever you look someone is producing a saxophone or trumpet or wrapping her infectiously lively punk/soul hybrid in layers of backing vocals. She may be a somewhat diminutive frontperson, but she remains very much the centre of attention, throwing everything into her performance as she attacks her red semi acoustic with gusto. It's a big, rowdy racket they make – check their upcoming 'Lady Matador' single for further evidence – but you can hear every word of the lyrics, which have hidden depths of reflection and melancholia. All in all, intoxicating stuff, and the swelling crowd expresses its approval with a loud chorus of excited whooping and hollering.

Artbreak are up next and this five piece from south east London are the slickest and most streamlined outfit on the bill, 'Soda Can' has plenty of jerky, quirky intrigue, and 'Will To Survive' touches on the anthemic. Add a singer with a powerful bellow, two duelling guitar playing brothers and some chunky rock grooves and the results are promising.

Purple Lights have brought the lion's share of tonight's audience, partly because it's drummer Akeeba's birthday – and what better venue is there for a birthday party – and partly because, well, they're great. Blending pure rock with heavy reggae is not your average mash up, but the likes of 'Wake Up' and 'Trigger Man' sound more natural than you might think. They go down so well that they're almost physically prevented from leaving the stage before they perform at least one encore.

A few people start heading off for last trains and tubes as we get past the 11pm mark, but like those football fans who nip out early to avoid the queues and end up missing the last minute drama, they've made a big mistake. Because Sir-Vere from Milton Keynes, tonight's headliners, put on a startlingly energetic show that's quite possibly the most punk rock thing on the bill, even though they're the furthest from the traditional guitar band set up. Stevie Vega – pornographic, homoerotic t-shirt and technology – chucks out some seriously heavy grooves, while singer Craig Hammond howls with devilish intent into the microphone, while guitarist Gary rips distorted riffs from his guitar. Their debut for WoS, 'Holy Fool', is a raucous highlight, but the sense of sheer abandon and fuck you attitude throughout is what really keeps there until the bitter end. Prodigy watch out, you finally have some serious competition!

Text by John Robbins 2018
Photos by Chris Patmore 2018

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Inside Job exhibition at Tate Modern

Press Release

Inside Job is a group exhibition taking place on Level 6 of The Blavatnik Building at Tate Modern on Saturday April the 6th (10am until 10pm) and Sunday April the 7th (10am until 6pm).

Pablo Picasso once claimed: “Give me a museum and I will fill it” The staff at Tate may not have been given their own museum but, for one weekend only, they’ve been given level 6 of Tate Modern’s Blavatnik building to do with as they please.

Inside Job features paintings, prints, videos, installations, light boxes, photography, cartoons and textile art. There will be work from people of very different ages and backgrounds – some artists have been to the best art colleges, won awards or received rave reviews in the press – other people showing have never exhibited before and in some cases are making work for the first time since school.

Inside Job is a show that visitors can discover a little more about the wonderful diverse creative staff who work at Tate, and how as an employer Tate attracts people, who find great pleasure in arts and crafts themselves.
It will bring together Tate's varied departments, its visitors and its staff. Find out what the person who hands you your cloak room fob does in his or her own time? And discover what history of their life is reflected in the things they create?

Above Image: "Always Yes" by Ed Hadfield who works at Tate Modern's Member's Bar.

Above Image: "Untitled" by Klarita Pandolfi-Carr who works as an Information Assistant at Tate Britain.

For more info or images contact Inside Job's press person Harry Pye
by texting 07951189885 or: harry_pye@hotmail.com

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Dale Lewis "Fat, Sugar, Salt" reviewed by Mikey Georgeson

Dale Lewis – Fat, Sugar, Salt – Edel Assanti Gallery  until March 10th 2018
(In conversation with Sacha Craddock Jan 31st 2018)

“Over emphasis of the visual sense created a kind of human identity of the self requiring persistent violence, both to one’s self and to others…” Marshall McLuhan

At the opening of Dale Lewis’ Fat Sugar Salt at the Edel Assanti Gallery I was not altogether clear whether I liked the paintings. Liking things is a popular contemporary past time and perhaps not altogether essential for a pleasurable engagement with Art. I returned for his discussion with Sacha Craddock to try to unravel some of the questions I had. As well as the scale and impasto portions of paint I was struck by the violence in the images. It wasn’t cartoon violence nor was it a shockingly disturbing kind that pulls you up short. The other thing you notice is the frieze-like proportions, which somehow bypass the compositional pitfalls and narrative constraints of a more balanced canvas shape. It does of course call to mind the vast metaphysical landscapes of the abstract expressionist school, namely Jackson Pollock inhabited by the thrashing figures of De Kooning. During the discussion with Sacha Cradock, Lewis, deliberately of otherwise, hinted at an affinity to this heroic indecipherability with reference to his own substance intake as part of the painting process. But I was beginning to think that this need to place something within a canon or lineage is part of what Lewis’s paintings transcend. After-all transcendence is the aim of art? And so we travel along through the show guided by the canvas crossbars of unfurling urban panoramas redolent of the truncated space of Sega street-fighter games.

Family Fortunes’, 2017, oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 200 x 400 cm.

The vast frieze format also evokes the epic dramas of the Renaissance. This is the platform from which De Kooning delivered his lecture The Renaissance and Order in which he talked about a “train track in the history of art that goes back to Mesopotamia.”  Lewis’ extended proportions sit us down in the carriage. - Look there is Uccello’s Rout of san Romano and there’s Tintoretto’s Christ washing the feet of his Disciple’s (by coincidence almost exactly the same size as Lewis’ consistent canvas size of choice). Lewis has not analysed these paintings and describes his experience of them as having glimpsed them from the corner of his eye. The sense of domestic allegory is in the work and instead of Christ the artist himself is scapegoated in Family Fortunes – a title that neatly mixes the abject with the aspirational.  Tintoretto’s later version of the above takes place in a kitchen and there is also the same sense of shallow space found in Lewis’ work. It’s as if the paintings inhabit a perspectival realm but this is interrupted. It’s not the infinite cinematic scope of Uccello but something more akin to a tapestry. A more pre-renaissance idea of life as a cosmic patina unfolding in the now. Much recent art has made use of violence and transgression to award itself the kudos of otherness but this was not the feeling I got from theses paintings. I felt it was part of a struggle to reconnect with the body as part of an experiential existence.

When paintings are exhibited the idea of image is never far from the surface and Craddock was quick to introduce this snarling concept to the visiting public.  After seeing the Rose Wylie and Wade Guyton at the Serpentine recently I felt both artists were making their generations response to our new found position adrift in a sea of images constantly overlapping and shifting to reveal more  hollow icons. But with Lewis something else is happening. These are not images they are paintings with an overtly visceral quality. They are full of bodily matter and function. The shows title, fat sugar salt implies the cognitive dissonance of fast foods guilty pleasures interrupted by the need to schematise their bodily effects. Likewise, the need to place the work within a canon is part of the mind body split that has forced us into the realm of images policed by contructed perspectival space. One of the questions from the floor concerned the use of figures, “why are you using figures if you don’t want them to be seen as narrative?”
The answer is perhaps simply that the paintings are not agencies of encoded signifiers, they are transmogrified lived experience. An expression of themselves.

Rationality (the same demon that led to WWII and stoked the fires under the Abstract Expressionists) and the resultant need for a subject object split have seen to it that we live in the age of image as equivalence (head on a coin). At a recent lecture Grayson Perry half jokingly discussed how his gallery had instructed him that the work needed to work as a jpeg now. Lewis’ paintings have been compared to Perry’s witty tapestries of English society. Perry, however, constructs his work to be read. Lewis’ are much more awkwardly dyslexic and don’t work within the screen format, requiring therefore that we actually have occasion to stand in front of them. They are not there to be read they are an invitation to experience life on a level of pre-intellectual awareness. In a smart world proud of its intelligence this is a problematic concept, which cannot be fully understood only really experienced. Lewis’ paintings embody the struggle that the cognitive brain has in relinquishing its hold over our sense of identity. The violence of the image and its razor blade in the eye of all who consume is resisted by the cut and thrust of bodies lashed together on a new raft of the Medusa.

In conclusion yes there are points in these works where one can make connections to the order of history (His story) and enter into the game of untangling the process, which the use of masking tape and pencil invites but these paintings are something different. They are not about other – they are other. So as I sat there during the gallery discussion searching for the images on the tip of my wounded eye-tongue I realised I needed to let go and allow the work to function as Art. The violence is not a reflection of society and the narrative is not a Beryl Cooke-like staging of our foolish urbo-pastoral foibles, rather these are paintings entangling with our struggle to find a way through the thicket of images into a clearing of authenticity in actual lived events. Painting with its visceral immediacy and ability to push our noses into the image, has returned to remind us of our ability to feel and engage with the yearning of sentient machines possessed by a feeling that they might have a soul.

 "Art's expression is the anti-thesis of expressing something," for Adorno, implies that it remains non-identical to a tendency that is related to the exigency of commodity exchange.”  A Sinha 

Text by Mikey Georgeson 2018
Photo of audience by Jackie Clark

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Nico’s recording of Das Lied der Deutschen reviewed by Andrew Petrie

At London’s Rainbow Theatre on the evening of 1 June 1974, after the applause that greeted her performance of Das Lied der Deutschen died away, Nico told the crowd that Germany’s national anthem of the past 50 years was “a harmless little song”. Ever the provocateuse, she had apparently been inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s incendiary version of The Star-Spangled Banner to radically re-harmonise the song better known to most of us as Deutschland über alles, after its opening line. If anything, hers was a more outrageous move than even Hendrix’s Woodstock meltdown: rightly or wrongly, the song had troubling associations from relatively recent history.

However, the song was almost 200 years old by the time Nico recorded it, and for the first 40 or so years of its existence was simply ‘Gott erhalte Franz der Kaiser’, Haydn’s hymn of praise to Francis II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The poet August Heinrich Hoffman von Fallersleben added a new set of words to Haydn’s melody in 1841, turning it into a revolutionary call for the unification of Germany. This, alas, is where the ambiguity creeps in.

Non-German speakers could be forgiven for missing the distinction between ‘über alles’ (‘above all things’) and ‘über allen’ (‘above everyone else’). Hoffman wrote not about German superiority over other countries, but about the need for a united Germany to replace the loose collection of tiny nation states then in existence. Nevertheless, Das Lied der Deutschen has long been willfully misinterpreted, first for propaganda reasons – as supposed evidence of Germans’ claim to be the master race – and later as a result of simple xenophobia.

In her deadpan way, Nico, the most talented member of the Velvet Underground after John Cale, delighted in exploiting precisely this ambiguity. She was booed when she performed the song in her native Germany: audiences there were shocked at her inclusion of the first verse, which, with its strict geographical delineation of what constituted ‘Germany’, was still associated with the Nazi regime. She probably didn’t help matters by dedicating it to the Red Army Faction’s Andreas Baader, then in the custody of the German authorities accused of a string of bombings and anything but harmless.

Nico’s recording of Das Lied der Deutschen was released as the final track on her album The End…, and is a truly remarkable work. Putting a different set of chords under Haydn’s world-famous melody was a ballsy move for anyone, and in doing so Nico joins a long line of composers that includes Paganini, Tchaikovsky and Bartok. Indeed, Nico takes a more radical approach than the first two of these.

Hipsters will tell you that Nico’s 1968 album The Marble Index is her greatest work, but they’re wrong as usual: there’s nothing on that admittedly fine long-player anywhere near as startling as Das Lied der Deutschen. Hers wasn’t a recipe for commercial success or even much acclaim: the album languished in the can for a year, and Nico never recorded for Island again.
Listen to Das Lied der Deutschen: here 

Text by Andrew Petrie 2018

Giles Macdonogh's After The Reich reviewed by Chris Hick

Forget what you know, or you think you know about Europe after the war. It is commonly viewed, as para-phrased by Hermann Göring and picked up by Winston Churchill that history is written by the victors. In the introduction to his book, Giles MacDonogh, in his book originally published in 2008, the author states that he had spent many years living in Germany and was struck by many of the stories he heard regarding people’s experiences. I too lived in Germany for 8 years and have my own experiences of the people of Germany. My observations, though my contact with Germans was limited, was they, particularly those of an elder generation was guarded and apologetic in equal measure. In Germany there are strict rules about how children put up their hands in class, how Nazi memorabilia (which is plentiful in antique shops) is sold with stickers over the swastikas (while pornography is sold legally and openly) and the display of Nazi imagery is censured. Conversely, school children have the history of the Third Reich thrust upon them and visit former concentration camps as a part of the school curriculum. In addition many German cities have Documentation Centres educating people on the Nazi history and stolperstein, brass cobbles are widely visible as public memorials in front of houses where former Jewish people evicted from their homes and where they were sent to for extermination. These are displayed all over Germany and the rest of the former occupied Europe. By contrast, Austria has been in a state of denial about its past and MacDonogh illustrates that this began from the moment the country was liberated; it conveniently forgot that Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, many camp commandants and leading SS figures as well as the top man himself, Adolf Hitler were Austrian. This book focuses on the fate of the German people after the war, a history mostly denied even to Germans.

This history of German collective guilt was brilliantly highlighted in Gitta Sereny’s book, ‘The German Trauma’, but Giles MacDonogh’s book, ‘After the Reich: From the Liberation of Vienna to the Berlin Airlift’ seeks to explore the terrible events in the last days of the war, the first weeks, months and years after liberation from Nazism with few Germans left unaffected. The book opens with the liberation of Vienna and the hammering the city took in the final days by Soviet forces. It was, as the character Holly Martins, says in the film ‘The Third Man’ (1949), that Vienna was like many other cities in Europe, “knocked about a bit”. The shots in the film's opening show a city almost flattened. Everywhere in areas liberated by the Soviets it was the same: industrial scale rape, theft, stolen watches, out of hand shooting of citizens and drunkenness. It also sowed the seed for the later issues surrounding zones of control in post-war Germany. This pattern continued until the German Götterdämmerung that led to the end of Berlin and the final death rattle of the Nazi regime, fulfilling its prediction of bringing down the German people with them.

For the first two thirds of the book what unfolds is a gargantuan human tragedy where the German people are now the victims on a grand scale. Now, of course it could be argued that “the German people brought this upon themselves”. It could also be said that in 1933 and thereafter you could not find a person in Germany who were against the Nazis and after 1945 you could not find anyone who supported them. They just evaporated. For me, I read this book after reading Max Hasting’s equally brilliant book, ‘Armageddon’ about the final year of the war from after D-Day to the end of the war. The biggest unfolding tragedy in that book, among many, is the tragedy that occurred in East Prussia and Konigsberg. ‘After the Reich’ demonstrates the horrors both the soldiers and the civilians suffered continued on an unbelievable scale. This tragedy continued in Berlin where Germans rightly feared the Russians who, as well as envious of the relative riches the German people had they robbed, plundered, stole and destroyed, as well as revenge for the suffering the Russians endured with 20 million dead. The spoils of war if you like.

Over the following months, even years the tally of German dead continued to increase. Of course in Poland the Soviets encouraged Polish (communists) to take over and push out the German citizens of Prussia and Pomerania, wiping these states off the map. Meanwhile, unbelievable atrocities took place in Czechoslovakia with Theresienstadt Concentration Camp changing caps and murdering Germans in massive numbers. Many thousands were murdered for simply being German. While Poland is more understandable, the scale of punishment and retribution against Sudetan and Czech Germans is puzzling. In 1943 Germans were under the yoke of the cold hearted SS administrator, Reinhard Heydrich and after his assassination the village of Lidice was wiped off the map. Yet, relative to many other countries Czechoslovakia had relatively fewer massacres and tragedies. In all 2 million Germans perished at the hands of their Soviet occupiers and in places was encouraged by other nationals.

What would be a bigger surprise to readers of this book is the treatment meted out to Germans citizens and prisoners of war by the other Allies. The French, the weaker of the four powers had learnt no lessons from the First World War and insisted on taking the Ruhr again and insisting on reparations. Meanwhile, the French occupiers, while fewer of course than their Soviet counterparts also carried out mass rapes and indiscriminate killing, particularly by their colonial soldiers. The Americans seemed to be indifferent to the plight of the Germans and, while there were of course atrocities carried out by the British, they treated the Germans with more respect and followed the rule of law. In all some 100,000 Germans were either deliberately starved by their American captors or as a by-product of their treatment.

Only once the zones had  been established and the lines in the sand had been drawn as a result of the fundamental disagreements between the Western Allies and the Soviets that the British and Americans saw to entice support from Germany with giving hope and something to work for by literal handouts. The Soviet Union’s frustration led to the blockade of Berlin in 1948 (although they never admitted it was as such) which led to The Berlin Airlift, thereby saving Western Berliners from starvation. Soon the Allied positions became entrenched which of course led to the Cold War proper. Hope only really comes to this book in its final pages, for the Germans at any rate. After reading the book the reader will feel if there is a hopeful follow-up book to read, it would be on the Wirtschaftswunder, or Germany’s economic miracle that followed.

It is not a history that has been much written about. For the BBC, Lawrence Rees followed his other studies of the Third Reich with ‘Behind Closed Doors’, but McDonogh’s book deals directly with the experiences of the everyday German and with their own testimonials, but not entirely. There is also a strong focus on the Potsdam Conference, the post war conference in which an enweakened Great Britain and a newer less experienced President in Harry Truman were up against the tenacious and sly stubbornness of Stalin (while the French were mostly left off the table). Elsewhere some of the book deals with the Nuremberg Trials with Göring and Albert Speer’s recorded thoughts, as well as those of literary writers such as Alfred Döblin (who had written the Weimar Period classic, ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’) and Heinrich Böll’s very perceptive observations of a post-war Germany. Germany had lost its dignity after the war and was made to feel it. Surprising and amazing therefore how the country has now grown as one of the most mature and respected countries in a modern Europe.

At about 540 pages this is a very thorough book. It is accessible, but at the same time would appeal to academics. It does have some photographic plates inside but the book could have benefited with more maps. There is one rudimentary map at the beginning of the book with hatching to represent the different zones of occupation as they were in Europe in 1945, but it would most certainly benefit, given the thorough intellectual rigour within the book of having better and more varied maps of the Berlin and Vienna zones and even of the quite complicated zones of the Austrian Tyrol.

Text by Chris Hick 2018

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The Family Bucket reviewed by Harry Pye

The Family Bucket

Live at The White Hart, 184 New Cross Road

I could be wrong but, although The Family Bucket were first on the bill, it seemed the majority of the crowd tonight were here to witness their live debut rather than see  Lucy, Henry’s Face or the headline act Mandy.

The Family Bucket are a punky three piece straight outta Coventry. They seem pretty tight as a band and I thought each member of the group was impressive or intriguing in their own way. Judging by the comments being shouted by certain members of the crowd it would appear the drummer (Cameron Collbeck)already seems to have his own fan club.

I noticed a tendency for songs with one word titles (Information, Because and Meanwhile) and all the songs were short and sweet.
I must admit I struggled to hear the lyrics but I know one of the songs is about Dionysus the Greek god of wine making and fertility. And I’m fairly sure I also heard something along the lines of “I wake up and don’t whether to laugh or cry.”
As tonight was an Xmas themed evening, each band added a classic Christmas tune to their set list. The Family bucket opted for “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” I didn’t like their take on this track as much as the version by The Ronettes but it was entertaining none the less.

Lead guitarist Jim Aucutt shouts rather than sings and on one song he actually barks like a dog and bass player Alex Weeks held the whole thing together. I thought the whole set was brilliant from start to finish and I see a lot of potential in this band.
I don’t know if a Kentucky Fried Chicken Family Bucket is a bargain or a rip off but tonight’s performance was priceless.

Text by Harry Pye 2017
Photos by Alex Wojcik 2017

Thursday, 7 December 2017

The Hustler reviewed by Denni Ruskin

Paul Newman was born in 1925 and started making films in 1954. Despite amazing performances in classic such as Someone Up There Likes Me, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cool Hand Luke, and Butch Cassidy, he had to wait till 1986 till he received a special Academy Award. His performance as Fast Eddie Felson,   a man at war him himself, is a must see – regardless of if you like playing pool or not!
The film’s director Robert Rossen once said, "My protagonist, Fast Eddie, wants to become a great pool player, but the film is really about the obstacles he encounters in attempting to fulfil himself as a human being. He attains self-awareness only after a terrible personal tragedy which he has caused — and then he wins his pool game.”
The legenadey Jake LaMotta (who inspired Raging Bull) appears in this film as a bartender. Somehow Newman is more believable as a pool shark than Robert De Niro was as a boxer. One of my favourite scenes contains this speech which nobody could deliver better than Newman.
“When I'm goin', when I'm really goin', I feel like a, like a jockey must feel when he's sittin' on his horse, he's got all that speed and that power underneath him, he's coming into the stretch, the pressure's on him - and he knows. He just feels, when to let it go and how much. 'Cause he's got everything workin' for him - timing, touch. It's a great feeling, boy - it's a real great feeling - when you're right and you know you're right. Like all of a sudden, I got oil in my arm. Pool cue's part of me. You know, it's a - pool cue, it's got nerves in it. It's a piece of wood; it's got nerves in it. You can feel the roll of those balls. You don't have to look. You just know. You make shots that nobody's ever made before. And you play that game the way nobody's ever played it before.”

Robert Rossen is believed to have named names during the McCarthy era. Some critics have suggested there’s some sort of parallel between Rossen’s bad decision in this matter and Fast Eddie’s alliance with the character Bert Gordon. Whatever Rossen did or didn’t do wrong in his life he was wise to rope in the cameraman Eugene Schufftan to help with The Hustler. Schufftan had made his name working with Fritz Lang on Metrpolis and was a genius at framing shots and knowing how to make scenes unforgettably tense and claustrophobic. This film from 1961 is brilliant.

Text by Denni Rusking 2017