I was up in the Manchester area over Christmas, which offered the opportunity to check out The First Cut, an exhibition of art works crafted in paper at The Manchester Gallery.
There's a lot of beautiful stuff shown in the exhibition, from a host of international and more local artists. One that really struck me was The Wonder Forest, by Manabu Hangai. I hope no one minds but I felt compelled to make a short video:
It was like each tree would respond to the draft created by the movement of another, forming this kind of perpetual motion in the leaves of the forest - I loved the unpredictability of the rotations and the rich colour and textures of the leaves of the trees, which are made from recycled materials.
A bit of a happy accident happened when I set this to music - I've used 'How do birds hear music' by Basquiat Strings & Seb Rochford. It gives it this kind of industrial natural world vibe that actually works quite well.
I'm not posting here as much as I would like to.
Over the past 4 and a half years, so much of what I've explored here has developed afterwards into a useable perspective; I'd hate to loose the outlet for that. But a lot of what I'm thinking about these days could conflict with the confidentiality of the projects I'm working on, so it's hard to know what to write about from week to week.
I'm going to have a go at posting at least something for the first half of next year, and then see where we get to.
A nice mid-week gig outing to the Islington Assembly Hall, dancing to a bit of Afrobeat.
A great support band, the Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra, did a perfect job as a support act - they were exciting enough to warm the growing crowd up, proving themselves to a new audience as a band to look out for in their own headline spots in future, but they still left enough out of their performance to be completely blown out of the water by the incredible Antibalas.
I'd never got fully into Antibalas before, I've been listening to them for a few years but not really got past looking them up on spotify when the mood suggested. I now understand them to be the lynchpins of everything that's awesome emerging from the New York area. If you loved the current David Byrne / St Vincent album, you may already recognise some of the horn sounds, and if you have recently opened up Back to Black you may have also been listening to some Antibalas stars. Chuck in TV on The Radio, Easy Star All-Stars and countless others and you start to get an audio picture of what might happen if you put all these people together.
When everything comes together like that, it's this inspiring, visceral feeling that I can't really describe. It's like a perfect typographic layout, or an awesome CSS code, a spoonful of honey, but you get to dance and scream to it. Which I did.
It was a bit of a shame the venue isn't really suited to the sound, a lot of the vocal impact was projected up into the cavernous ceiling space and didn't always connect, but sheer energy came through in bucketloads. I recommend getting along to see them if you can. I imagine the Melkweg show in Amsterdam will have been perfect. I love that venue.
One thing that niggled me a bit at the time and I can't decide about; they played two Fela songs at the end of the show. People have always done tributes to great musicians who have inspired them, but I feel a bit uncomfortable about the way any afrobeat band I've seen has so blatantly referenced the great man. I can't really think of another genre that's been so completely defined by one person, and I think it's a bit of a dis-service to the creativity that continues in bands like Antibalas, Ariya, London Afrobeat Collective. These groups are taking the inspiring sounds of the 70s and pushing them forward with new layers of tonality, new beats, new styles. I'm not saying they're better or that I enjoy the current bands more (although sometimes...), but I kind of feel like they pull themselves back when they bring up the past. I don't understand.
"I find the British built environment incredibly depressing. Bad design is everywhere in our housing and buildings and I see no hope for improvement on any scale. We’re increasingly urbanised and our green spaces are being eaten up but our development strategy doesn’t seem to create any harmony in its place. Quite the reverse."
A stand-out moment of an inspirational show
I was always very humbled to have been able to work on the Sainsbury's Paralympics site, but the real power and scale of the games hit home last night watching the ceremony. The tone, focussing on human endeavour and eccentricity seemed just right, and I liked the continuity of the Tempest link from the other opening ceremony.
There's quite a cool little gift box you can buy which contains 100 postcards with different Penguin book covers on. Much like Phil Baines's book, which I love, it seems to have captured the imagination of the design / literature crowd, who find a sort of quaint excitement amongst the dog eared edges, the vintage colour palletes and the modern designs spanning nearly 80 years.
My good friend Jess had an amazing idea to capture some of this excitement, with The Penguin Postcard Project. The idea is quite simple; you sign up, she'll send you a randomly selected postcard. You then obtain and review the book, writing your review on the back of the postcard, and send it back to Jess. Her blog showcases the reviews as they come in, from all over the world.
Spot the supermodel...
I was instantly captivated by this version of Train Song by Karen Elson and Ren Harvieu, who I've been discovering this week thanks to The Guardian's Spotify app (which I may write separately about).
I'm never one to complain about this kind of voice hitting the mainstream, and I guess/hope that now that Lana Del Rey has proved the business case, we'll be hearing a few more.
Her album is out tomorrow, May 14th. Listen to Through the night and not Open up your arms
Still pushing on, Aspire to Enquire is my space to write about the inspiring ideas and artefacts I find from time to time.
What is inspiring to me? I like ideas that can bring people together for common good, I like to see things communicated with beauty, and I thrive on finding innovative ways to spread messages.