Scott Walker + Sunn O))), Soused (listening event) – Church of St John-at-Hackney, London – October 14th, 2014

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.)

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House of Cards and Game of Thrones: TV for an age of villainous heroes

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.

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Beyond the Redshift (and the future of festivals)

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.

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Blue Ruin: failures and fantasies of revenge

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.

Dwight, Blue Ruin

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Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe – Mick Wall – Orion – 2013

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.

Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe

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.

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Bell Witch (supporting Samothrace) – the Black Heart, Camden – May 6, 2013

Photo 06-05-2013 21 45 29

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.

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