Release the Bats with JOHN CARPENTER (Live Review)

img_1985Troxy, London – 31st October 2016 – Doors: 6:30pm

Official WebsiteTour Dates


 

LOST THEMES FOUND ON STAGE

In the wake of original tour promoters ATP folding, the pre-show ticketing fiasco and the shit-storm which followed the apparent overselling (and under-conscious organisation of) the “upgraded” Manchester date two nights earlier, it would be fair to say there was a fair bit of concern and apprehension amongst the flock of John Carpenter fans snaking around the Tower Hamlets venue on Monday night. Even the stewards seems somewhat confused by exactly who required a re-printed ticket from the box office! Thankfully, everyone was only too happy to help.

… Keep Scuttling!

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Star Wars: Headspace (Album Review)

Release date: February 19th 2016 (Digital), March 18th (CD)

Label: Hollywood Records


 

DARTH PUNK

While the electro-rocking helmet-wearing duo from France have long brought some shiny sci-fi sensibilities to the dancefloor, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who felt that what the contemporary music scene was missing was an injection of space opera. But in yet another example of how ever-present Star Wars has become in modern society, that is exactly what we get with new club-friendly compilation Star Wars: Headspace.

What sounds like an underground mixtape cobbled together in some obsessive fan boy’s bedroom is actually a fully-licenced album endorsed by Lucasfilm and Bad Robot. Those concerned that this is no more than John William’s iconic orchestral score sped up and set to a synthesized drum beat need fear not, as Headspace contains 15 all-new compositions written and performed by such accomplished disc-jockeys as Röyksopp (pictured below), Bonobo, Rustie and Breakbot, and co-executive produced by industry supremo Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C.).

True, the results are a mixed bag, but the majority veer on the decent and endearing side of experimental. Album opener “C-3PO’s Plight” by Kascade was clearly chosen to lead the pack due to its Bespin-high quality – mixing a summery, piano-led vibe with scant interpolations of goldenrod’s dialogue. Track 2, “Help Me!” by GTA is the closest offender to cheesily derivative, sounding mightily reminiscent of an Imperial March remix.

Track 6, “R2 Knows” by Claude VonStroke deserves special mention due to its extravagant robot rap by Barry Drift, which recounts an often cheeky summary of the original trilogy to music (let’s just say they broach the controversial topic of who shot first). The first time I heard it I winced in embarrassment, but a couple of listens later and I was gleefully chanting along with its catchy rhyming couplets!

A number of artists mine the same popular samples, so Darth Vader’s breathing and Leia’s “Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi” line are oft-repeated, while certain elements such as alarm and siren calls become noticeable in their over-use, but Headspace is not the absurd laughing stock it could so easily have been. Audacious, trippy and a lot of fun, I can well imagine Ponda Baba twerking the night away in the Mos Eisley Cantina to “Scruffy-Looking Nerfherder”.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars

Imogen Heap “Sparks” (Album Review)

Release date: 18th August 2014
Label: Megaphonic Records


Ever-busy, yet far from prolific, by 2014 it had been half a decade since Imogen Heap’s last full album, the Grammy Award-winning Ellipse. Belated follow-up Sparks was in production – and lingering in pre-release hell – for three-and-a-half of those, and finally saw the light last summer, self-issued on her own label.

A concept album comprising 14 individual concepts, each “heapsong” was either commissioned or inspired by a different location or idea, whether that be a trip to Beijing as an artist in residence, a jogging app for mobile phones, a soundscape of a first date or a chair which records fans’ answers to a specific question. Recorded one at a time between 2011-13 (and initially released as singles as she went), it is no wonder that when bolted together these songs lack a cohesive flow.

Incorporating numerous genres as diverse as dreamy indie pop and stark electronica, Sparks‘ only loosely familiar element is the intermittent reoccurrence of Eastern themes, interwoven into three or four tracks when Imogen travelled.

It’s certainly ambitious – Imogen has never shied away from stretching herself – and there is some gold in here (Run Time, Lifeline, Entanglement, You Know Where to Find Me and Propellor Seeds are personal highs), but some of the more experimental tracks do fall shy of enjoyable. Neglected Space (a spoken word ‘poem’ from the perspective of disused buildings) and The Listening Chair (condensing the first 35 years of Imogen’s life into five minutes of hollered memories) grind any momentum to a halt and frustrate in their overlong sluggishness.

Personally, the ordering of the songs doesn’t sit well. For all its harmonious, piano-led sweetness, YKWtFM does not an impactful opener make. The same can be said for choosing the beautiful-but-airy Propeller Seeds as the ‘epic’ finale. Flitting from concept-to-concept makes for a staccato listening experience which I would forgive if the songs were presented in production order, but they aren’t; this order was purposefully chosen.

It pains me not to be bestowing indisputable praise upon an artist I adore; particularly one who is constantly innovating and challenging both herself and the mainstream. Some songs may simply take time to settle in (especially considering the length of time we have been living with some of the singles in isolation), however it is still evident to me that Sparks is not Imogen’s best work.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars