So far, so transcendent. For long enough the soundsystem, which had been the subject of much self-satisfied, speculation in the queue ahead of the event, had pumped out Scott Walker + Sunn O)))’s visceral, thundering, grim new record, Soused, into the plaster-clad church in Hackney. The album is superlative – much more superlative than you might expect of Scott Walker plus Sunn O))); more superlative than Scott Walker times Sunn O))).
(This was all written, in a rush, in a notebook, during and shortly after the event, and hasn’t been corrected.)
Our leaders are venal, manipulative, incestuous and murderous. And we can’t get enough. The two biggest TV events of the year – the premiere of the second series of House of Cards, in February, and the finale of the fourth series of Game of Thrones this week – have appealed to our unquenchable and contemporary thirst to see those in power slime around.
But why do we like them so much? It doesn’t seem to be a simply reflective appeal –the world is full of selfish and powerful people and it is not a new or interesting insight for a person or TV show to have. Instead, in a bewildering and new age, these programmes demonstrate important contemporary paradoxes. We like our heroes villainous; we want behind the scenes manipulation to take centre stage. It’s more honest, and more attractive: in TV, as in life, it’s the slimy people that make things happen.
It’s a grand claim for a festival, especially one that is more like a constellation of similar artists than the usual fête-y feel of many UK events. But Beyond The Redshift lived up to it:
The cosmological redshift is caused by the expansion of space. The wavelength of light increases as it traverses the expanding universe. Unable to assume that we have a special place within this universe, the redshift suggests to us that everything is moving away from everything else…
We may not be able to go beyond the redshift, but we can certainly think beyond it. We are bringing together artists who expand within their space – artists who create something special within this space.
Beyond the Redshift was held in three venues around Kentish Town on Saturday, May 10. It began at lunchtime and ran till 11pm. It offered a neat rejoinder to death of the festival rhetoric, and a vindication of the heavily abstracted, tightly-defined version of the event-form.
Revenge is the sweetest vice; the possibility of virtuous violence. Violence without revenge is brutality, but with it, violence can become justice. Blue Ruin puts all of those easy abstractions to death.
The film has the making of a plain revenge flick. A man called Dwight has been living in a car at the beach, washing by breaking into other people’s bathrooms and eating discarded sandwiches, apparently unable to join society since his parents were killed. The man locked up for killing them is, at the start of the film, freed. Dwight pledges revenge. It starts, and falls apart, from there.
Unlike most bands, the story of Black Sabbath is one that has been told too many times, by too many people – and each new attempt to do so usually complicates rather than elucidates the legend. Mick Wall (who has written a number of books on the band’s constituent parts) has written a new book that claims to be “The final word on the only name synonymous with heavy metal,” according to its publishers. A big challenge for what might be the bitchiest band in British music history.
Wall does a brave job in corralling those various stories and personalities into something approaching cohesion. When there are falling outs – and there are lots – he opts to keep both stories and remain on the fence about which is true. But that doesn’t always work – when, exactly, did Ozzy Osbourne leave Black Sabbath for the first time? There’s little agreement, so there’s little discussion. In a story where there are so many interested parties trying to bend the story for their own interests – Sharon Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Bill Ward all being busy PR operators – readers need someone to help guide them through the charming but fragmented stories.
There are more than enough reasons to make fun of Kanye West. But the two main ways that Jimmy Kimmel has so far chosen to mock Kanye West were telling. First, in a sketch replayed in yesterday’s interview but recorded years ago, he had Josh Groban sing Kanye’s tweets. Second, in the sketch that got Kanye on the show in the first place, Kimmel had children recite West’s Zane Lowe interview.
In both cases, it’s a simple joke: it’s funny to hear Kanye’s words come from someone who wouldn’t be expected to see them. But they’re stupid jokes too. In the Groban sketch we’re supposed to be on Groban’s (and Kimmel’s) side – what kind of person would say those things? – but that’s asking us to be on the side of the old: Groban sings stupid opera-lite, for a living and in this video, and the tweets don’t fit because it’s an old form. It’s the same kind of superiority masking as faux-humility when people claim not to have heard of One Direction, or ask whether the X Factor is still airing.
The sound of Bell Witch’s first and only release – Longing (2012) – is one that, on the face of it, should be relatively easy to replicate in a live setting: bass, drums, some vocals. But more than the ability to create the right noises is the tone of the record: incorporeal, but emerging from searing pain. That’s hard to recreate in a warm night in a room above a pub in Camden, but Bell Witch did. That was not a matter of being transported elsewhere – of the conjuring up of another world – but rather draining of it. It is a music of concentration, not imagination. I’m sorry for this transcendental wish-wash, but it’s really the only way of talking about it.
The 21st century has, thus far, been a century of fragile towers. The mid-20th century might have been the time of skyscrapers’ flourishing and growth – but not only was the 21st century (at least as cultural moment) brought into being by the destruction of one, its various crises have been negotiated through and typified in its towers. (See this, for instance.) Some towers are for something, and solve problems; some’s entire purpose is ostentation (and, well, yes, it’s a phallus: let’s get that out of the way); the best are both. (See Owen Hatherley on towers: here. And in other places, talking about them just as well.)
But while 9/11’s importance in bringing the 21st century into, well, itself, might be a favourite of cultural theorists, another movement happened at the crest of the 21st century. It looked a lot like this: