Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Let Them Eat Chaos: Kate Tempest, Album Review for

Having released her first novel The Bricks That Built the House earlier this year alongside running a promotional book tour, touring Australia and playing Glastonbury, Let Them Eat Chaos marks Kate Tempest’s second studio album in two years. In the wake of Brexit Britain, Let Them Eat Chaos is a shrill protest that confronts head-on socio-political injustices from the heart of the modern city condition and from the forefront, the title points directly to a divided and anarchic state. Tempest wrestles with the global destruction of our planet, the refugee crisis and the absence of compassion for fellow humans in a polished and filmic voyage through life and death, entrenched in binaries that opening track ‘Picture a Vacuum’ lays bare.
“Picture a vacuum: an endless and unmoving blackness. Peace; or the absence at least of terror” commands the opening seconds of the album and earmarks these concepts of absence and duality; before pausing for contemplation with the Tempestian cadence “but look”. There are tons of intertextual references across the album spanning Tempest’s literature, music and poetry which binds her artistic values within this love letter to Mother Earth. The album charts one simultaneous minute in the lives of seven central characters; Gemma, Esther, Alicia, Pete, Bradley, Zoe and Pious, all eventually engulfed in an Old Testament style downpour on final track ‘Tunnel Vision’ that alleviates them of their former preconceptions till “they see their city anew”.
‘Lionmouth Door Knocker’ uses an almost telescopic narrative to shrink and swell over a London landscape of bored workmen and haggling grandmothers; the central motif being the boundaries and limitations of class. Often critically compared to Virginia Woolf as well supposedly citing her as an influence in an interview several years ago, Tempest recently admitted at a Q&A at the Barbican centre that she had honestly never read any Woolf, though appreciated the esteem of this comparison.
‘Ketamine For Breakfast’ mirrors this stylistic idea, assembling filmic images within the cityscape, surrounding the character of Gemma. This soon surges into a grubby account of narcotic induced memories and the generational desire to pacify one’s mind. ‘Whoops’ also touches on this idea in the comic study of Pete; a character present in Tempest’s previous 2014 album Everybody Down. Pete is seen here as the blundering inevitable waster who possesses a warped perception of love, “love is only real when you start choking, I’m double dropping in a vast ocean”.
Shining singles ‘Europe is Lost’ and ‘Don’t Fall In’ marry well thematically. Having debuted last November ‘Europe is Lost’  appears on the album with the addition of a preface that introduces the character of Esther; a night-shift working carer who lives “in a basement flat by the garages where people dump their mattresses” an image that chimes familiarly true with Tempest’s home district of South-East London, Brockley. The track is a bitter and jarring execration of society’s bad guys and the malevolence of the “systems too slick to stop working”. It commiserates the fruitless pursuit of capitalism compared to the strife of the victims of global terrorism. It laments the placating of the angry mob through cheap booze and futile pleasures, as well as those who the system has failed; “stuck like stones in the slip stream”, reminiscent of Tempest’s primary influence William Blake. “I am feeling the onset of riot” Tempest croaks.  The second climax of the album ‘Don’t Fall In’ is similarly raw and disdaining with the chorus leading “hard rain falling/on all the half-hearted/half fall/ half walking/ half fury/half boredom/hard talking/half dead from exhaustion/ half pushed but the puddles keep forming/ don’t fall in”; a grinding and convoluted mantra. Track five, ‘We Die’ presents the character of Alicia with a subdued tone and fast delivery, ushering a poignant comment on personal loss and how it permeates daily life as well as the spiritual act of grievance.
Entitlement and gentrification are touched on in ‘Perfect Coffee’ as well as ‘Pictures On a Screen’ the latter marking the late-night disassociation of a successful young professional. ‘Perfect Coffee’ hones in on the perpetually changing landscapes of urban living that gives way to rising house prices overseen by “luxury residents puffing on pleasure”, as well as commenting on Zoe’s obsessive materialism.
Bleeding with fury and malcontent, Tempest asks on ‘Tunnel Vision’ “What are we gunna do to wake up?”; a question first posed on ‘Europe is Lost’ that is threaded neatly through the work. ‘Tunnel Vision’ is an exposé, with lines such as “Indigenous apocalypse, decimated forests, the winter of our discontent’s upon us” bleakly delivered by a misanthropic Tempest. Convictions such as “Thinking we’re engaged when we’re pacified, staring at the screen so we don’t have to see the planet die” and “the myth of the individual has left us discontented, lost, and pitiful” make for charged poetry.
Let Them Eat Chaos is a thorough excavation of human nature, scorning a collective absence of empathy and is a dazzling feat from the UK’s most accomplished jack-of-all-trades creative super-human.
Let Them Eat Chaos is released through Fiction Records on the 7th October, and can be pre-ordered now. Kate Tempest shall be touring the UK in December.
1st – Art School, Glasgow
3rd – Plug, Sheffield
4th – Institute Room 2, Birmingham
5th – The Waterfront, Norwich
7th – Ritz, Manchester
8th – Academy, Bristol
11th – Roundhouse, London
Words by Elinor Potts

Thursday, 1 September 2016

13 Songs to Soundtrack the Imminent Apocalypse: A Prophetic Vision of Post-Brexit Britain

Given the swift disintegration of my faith in humanity and the crumbling of British institutions left, right and centre, why not bring together your nearest and dearest and wail in the face of adversity? With Trump looming in the US wings, and British politicians dropping like flies in a nation now divided and plagued by racial attacks, it’s only natural to try and foresee how people will look back on this moment in the rich tapestry of time. The past few weeks been staggeringly reminiscent of my A-level History lecturer’s favourite mantra and the governing principle of history: “PEOPLE ARE STUPID.”
We’re on the cusp of something, united by complete and utter confusion. Raise your glasses and enjoy this musical venture through the rubble of our once noble Albion, and march into oblivion.

1. Wake Up Alone // Amy Winehouse

The date was June 24th 2016, it was approximately 4am and I’d been pulling an all-nighter following a budget flight back from Copenhagen (thanks, free movement). I watched the sun rise as my National Express coach snaked towards Victoria coach station, penniless and looping this song. Chowing down dry cereal from a plastic bag and wincing at every BBC news update sliding onto my iPhone screen, I clutched my sunburn and gently weeped.
“It’s ok in the day, I’m staying busy / Tied up enough so I don’t have to wonder ‘where is he?’”
Little would I know, the extended metaphor of the UK’s decision to leave the EU would follow suit as members of the Brexit campaign literally did leave! We’ll all laugh about this someday.

2. Dancing On My Own // Robyn

England is falling apart, rebellion is mounting, make way for the Apocalypso. We’re “On [our] Own” now; isolated from our Nordic brothers and sisters. Robyn flails through the storm, the bitter break-up victim. Dancing is a metaphor for trading.

3. Rave On // Buddy Holly

I like this track because it encapsulates a stubbornness that is reminiscent of our fellow countrymen. Rave On, Rave blindly On boys! Stumble calamitously on, pull your socks up and keep going. The Apocalypso may be imminent but Buddy reminds you not to be lonely.

4. Bloody Mother Fucking Arsehole // Martha Wainwright 

In times of anarchic despair, sometimes expletives are all you can muster, and that’s ok. A beautiful likening of the Brexit inability to propose ANYTHING AT ALL post-referendum – to a rotten relationship – “It’s smoke and no fire, only desire.”

5. I’m Waiting For My Man // The Velvet Underground 

An ode to our Comrade Corbyn; bus riding man of the people, My Man. This is also a nod to the yearning desire I have to see him come into office. This is going to be an exceptionally long three years.

6. TV Broke My Brain // Man Made

What’s the opposite of a ballad? This goes out to Rupert Murdoch and the vitriolic right wing press that marginalise the voices of minorities and those fleeing warzones with poisonous rhetoric, instead choosing to give a platform to racists. Patriotism and Nationalism are not synonymous.

7. Great Balls of Fire // Jerry Lee Lewis

Comic relief if you will. A quirky interlude and time for us to unify as a people and laugh at ‘balls’ before the civil war.

8. Pretty Vacant // Sex Pistols & Do Something // Slaves

This selection was a close tie between the two so I’ve chosen to group them. Who knows, maybe some good will come of this socio-political anarchy and 2016 shall come to be known as The Second 77 in an eruption of nihilistically charged music, a Punk phoenix. It’s all very well moaning about the situation but Pistol protégé’s Slaves preach ACTION.

9. Urine Speaks Louder Than Words // Wingnut Dishwasher’s Union

I want to quote this entire song. Verse by excellent verse. A veritable anthem for broken Britain with a cute acoustic riff shadowed by tongue-in-cheek witticisms of:
“Urine speaks louder than words/on a prison warden/or on a politician/Urine speaks louder than words”
It’s rabble-rousing, but in the manner of a naughty little boy. NB: Play this at my funeral and watch my mother scowl.

10. I Know It’s Over // The Smiths

The Royal Family have abdicated and thousands are rioting outside Buckingham Palace. Katie Hopkins has impaled herself on a gate as a martyr of the Monarchy. The Apocalypse is descending and every man is fighting for himself. “I don’t know where else we can go?” people scream. Famine claims thousands more, many resorting to cannibalism. Morrisey eventually perishes through malnourishment.

11. Perfect Day // Lou Reed

The sweet embrace claims us all, shepherding us into another realm. We’re hanging on for dear life. If only we had loved our fellow man? Maybe Albion would have lived another day. If only we had voted In.

12. Lacrimosa // Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

‘Lacrimosa’, as far as I am aware translates directly from Latin as ‘crying’ or ‘mourning’. It’s one of the most evocative pieces of music, ever, and summons that special tingle you get when you listen to a collective of really powerful voices of feeling both awestruck and inferior. It’s a weary and lamenting voyage into the afterlife.

13. Exit Music (For A Film) // Radiohead

The sun sets and everyone is dead. Thom Yorke is the last remaining resident of the British Isles, he appoints himself Lord and reigns peacefully in a Cornish fishing village, listening to A Moon Shaped Pool on repeat, wagging his finger and telling everyone he told them so.
Words by Elinor Potts

Written for The Indiependent:

Live Review: Peace/Superfood MegaBand (Under the Guise of Radical Lasagne) // The Old Blue Last – 26.08.16

Truth be told- arriving at The Old Blue Last and chance-glancing the band times for the night, I was somewhat thrown when I saw that the evening’s entertainment would culminate in a performance from a band named ‘Radical Lasagne’. It later transpired this was but a delicious pseudonym; following a swift Google search and a dusting off of my indie radar.
Supporting punkers Biff Tannen christened the stage, producing minute long thrashes documenting songs of both innocence and experience such as “working at Tescos on a Sunday”, each tale followed with a prompt “fuck you” for reasons still unknown.
Maybe The Indiependent has become unaccustomed to hard-punk, but it felt as if Biff Tannen were sharing some inside joke with the audience that us fearful back-row pundits had not been informed of (I also feared greatly for the wellbeing of my cream suede boots). This considered, a deliciously punky take on The Streets ‘Fit But You Know it’ swiftly united the crowd in being as tongue-in-cheek as the original, albeit with the flair of a three piece punk-suite.
The sheer fact that approximately 70% of 2013’s Indie bests were present in the crowd around us should have told us that this absurdly pasta named collective would comprise of a fine balance of the Indie giants Peace (Harrison Koisser, Dominic Boyce and Samuel Koisser) cuddled up with Superfood (Dominic Ganderton, Ryan Malcolm).
Radical Lasagne assembled an impeccable run of Indie covers, the good-time tone established with opening Dancing in the Moonlight and ranging from Why Does it Always Rain On Me?, to Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit. Peace front man Harrison carried his signature debonair prowess, donning a novelty lemon themed t-shirt emblazoned with a pun that we couldn’t quite read, along with a wildly inappropriate fur-collared coat given the 31 degree heat we had all endured earlier that day. Ryan Malcolm and Dominic Ganderton also took the vocal baton, the latter smiling naughtily and taking centre stage for a heartfelt version of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn.
A relatively intimate crowd, The Indiependent brushed shoulders with Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell, Swim Deep’s Austin Williams and Cavan McCarthy, who merrily propelled himself in a crowd surf for Lasagne’s penultimate rendition of Park Life before footing the night with Don’t Look Back in Anger in an ocean of swinging pints.
Radical Lasagne served up a cheesy portion of anthems, sweeping us back to easier times in this Indie soiree. A piping hot performance with a subtle sweat and well seasoned with a thin crust, as all good lasagnes should be.

written for The Indiependent

Thursday, 25 August 2016

1984 The Play: A Review for Smiths Magazine

Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s recent adaptation of Orwell’s 1984 sees an entirely new cast take to the West End stage of the prestigious Playhouse Theatre. This is a venue that boasts legacy, with a plaque to George Bernard Shaw’s first performance of Arms and The Man along with gilded cherubs, decadent murals as well as having hosted The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles in bygone days.

The question that the opening scene of the book club poses is ‘how does one go about scrutinising a book with such legacy?’ And by extension, how should it be appropriately adapted to the stage? What’s tasteful is the lack of attempt to use the play as a contemporary fable and failing to allude directly to the modern day as the tale exists within its own sphere.

Running at 101 minutes, the scene is set with an unsettled Winston Smith, wracked with nerves whilst hunched over his desk in a dimly lit hard wood-clad office. Winston’s character becomes increasingly disassociated, through an exposition of the consumption of madness and paranoia, perhaps more so than the book illustrates. The play tempts initially at banality, soon thwarted with jarring digital screeches and offensive pangs of white light. The use of lighting as overseen by Natasha Chivers is suitably stark, gentle sephias marking the soft moments of human intimacy, whilst orange hues illuminate the motif of ‘Oranges and Lemons’, all markedly juxtaposed by the clinical floodlights of Room 101.

Mixed media is incorporated through a series of film clips as a window to Winston’s private quarters, ironically displayed across a huge screen that enforces the omniscient nature of the state. This ingeniously frames the dismantling of Winston as a character through the physical deconstruction of the bedroom; momentarily exposed onstage before seamlessly morphing into the torturous Ministry of Love, governed by the cruel hand of Angus Wright as O’Brien.

A sensual assault, 1984 is a violent, terrifying and arresting depiction of a truly dystopian vision.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Mandrea Music Festival, Arco, 2016: Review.

Pitched neatly between the peaks of the Italian Alps, this year’s Mandrea Music Festival offered a hearty amalgamation of Reggae, Afrobeat, Ska, Dub, Hip-Hop and a perpetual soundtrack of acoustic campsite sessions. A stone’s throw from the dramatic blue waters of Lake Tenno as well as neighbouring Lake Garda, the setting is faultless. Birthed in 2012 originally under the name of 'Mandstock', the festival has steadily flourished- swiftly attracting its crowd of easy-going hippies and music lovers. As well as offering a selection of hiking trails and viewpoints accessible to attendees, the festival also boasts several workshops including donkey riding classes, gardening, dance classes and Tai Chi.
Regarding food onsite, Mandrea offer a modest but downright lip-smacking selection of Italian food stuffs. You’ll find stonebaked pizzas, vegetarian paella and outstanding Senegalese coffee making a holy trinity of deliciousness (the latter being a particularly effective staple of the later nights; a continental Red Bull if you will).
This year’s line-up saw Friday night headliners The Congos take to the main stage, administering a hearty dose of classic Reggae from the trio of veterans; a formal education and introduction to their vastly influential 1977 album with Lee Scratch Perry ‘Heart of The Congos’.  Orlando Seale and the Swell later christened the Forest stage with an array of stormy and political songs, illuminated by the female violist and commanding front man vocals. 
Saturday night’s musical highlights included a stonking main stage performance from Sheffield’s K.O.G. and the Zongo Brigade, captained by K.O.G. who enticed onlookers with rhythmically stimulating Afro-fusion anthems making this band a weekend highlight for many. Bristolian Ushti Baba soon followed on the Forest stage, merging traditional European folk with a contemporary flair in an Alpine knees-up.
Between relentless downpours of rain, Sunday night saw the formidable Brightonian 9-piece Town of Cats own the Forest stage with the heavens biblically clearing barely minutes before their set. This didn’t stop revellers from anticipating a rain dance; hoisting over a gazebo to the dance floor, much to the annoyance of a sound engineer. Their set was delectably danceable, punctuated with stories of sin, sex and lashings of salsa. Sunday also saw Inner Peace Records taking to the Barrio Libre stage, the Hip-Hop label hosting a mixture of some of Oxford’s finest talents including King Kahn, Shamanic, Terao,  EarthOne, Tang the Pilgrim, Elliot Fresh and Reejai, passing tongue in cheek exchanges that reflected on the apocalyptic weather conditions Sunday morning had punished us all with.
A serene and intimate festival with a visually dramatic natural backdrop, Mandrea festival is an unspoilt and ethereal beauty. You’ll leave feeling upbeat and wholesome, this idyllic retreat from the grind of your 9-5, and substantially less wanky than that yoga retreat that Stephanie from the office went to. Just don’t go shouting it from the rooftops.

Words by Elinor Potts

Friday, 6 May 2016

Yours Ever Loving/The Frights: Review

Louise Taylor's The Frights
Martin McNamara's Yours Ever Loving

Hosted at ‘Theatre N16’ located above the Bedford pub, Yours Ever Loving is performed preceding The Frights; a poignant and political duo assembled by the Newcastle based Alphabetti Theatre Company. Martin McNamara’s Yours Ever Loving trails the trials and tribulations of wrongly imprisoned 1974 Guildford bomber Paul Hill, incarcerated through the political conflicts between Britain and Ireland and only released in 1989. The piece is a whistle-stop tour through the 1970s/80s with James Elmes embodying the domineering authority as Margaret Thatcher, a Judge, a Kubrick-esque yob, brutish policeman, Roy Jenkins, Jimmy Saville and a vicar, all with a startlingly electric delivery. It charts Hill’s fifteen year prison stint informed through the letters he wrote to his mother during his time away, intersected with radio broadcasts, news updates and popular hits humorously relayed by Elmes. Stefan McCusker’s portrayal of Hill is remarkably human, capturing issues of mental health, repression and the futility of objecting when within a corrupt and horrifically abusive system.  
Physically blindfolded from the offset, Louise Taylor’s The Frights follows. This is a riveting play that charts the readmission of charity worker Hanny (Christina Berriman Dawson) into mundane life following her enslavement by elusive foreign forces. The inconsistency of Hanny’s account of her experience flags fears of deception and the traumatic repression of the returned captive as she is soon united with adoring partner Luke (James Hedley), who pines after the memory of the former Hanny and is obsessively protective. The effect of the performance being obscured through fabric neatly lends to the prevailing obscuring atmosphere with jarring flashes of Hanny’s repression that manifest in audibly graphic torture scenes, sharply contrasting the banality of the doctor’s waiting room. Directed by the inaugurator of the Alphabetti Theatre Ali Pritchard, The Frights is a sensory and psychological nightmarish voyage that shakes public perceptions of truth and the distinction between sugar-coating and fabricating. It fundamentally critiques the nature of the media platforms from which we receive information, scrutinising public entitlement to information as well as questioning attitudes to international charity and domestic hierarchy.