Weekend links 94


Mateo (2011), carved wood sculpture by Bruno Walpoth.

“Dennis Potter’s [The Singing Detective] is 25 years old but still feels avant garde,” says Stephen Armstrong. No fucking kidding, I watched the DVDs again last weekend. Potter’s drama featured non-linear flashbacks, song-and-dance hallucination sequences, an intertextual sub-plot, and a central character who was vitriolic, misanthropic, misogynist and covered from head-to-toe in flaking skin. This wasn’t exiled to an arts channel ghetto but was primetime viewing, Sunday evenings on BBC 1. • Related: “Is Dennis Potter’s singalong noir miniseries the all-time pinnacle of television drama? Graham Fuller thinks it is.”

• American band Earth are using Kickstarter to fund their next project, Wonders from the House of Albion, an LP/CD/DVD/book combining their music with “field recordings from various megalithic and other sites of human/fairy encounters across the UK, also the use of ritual and folkloric magical practices”. Dylan Carlson & Adrienne Davies discuss their work here.

…sort of like Nabokov’s objection to Our Lady of the Flowers, which he saw as a masterpiece but thought, “Why isn’t this book about women?” Nabokov hated homosexuality and was very edgy around it, partly because his own brother was homosexual and his uncle. And he believed that it was hereditary, so he was always nervous about it.

Edmund White chooses five favourite gay novels. Related: a dance adaptation by Earthfall of Jamie O’Neill’s At Swim, Two Boys.

• “The Belbury Tales is the kind of record you feel should have come out on Vertigo around ’73, but never actually did.” Belbury Poly‘s Jim Jupp on ploughman’s lunches, prog rock and avoiding “Clarkson/Wakeman territory”.

Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection, an exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center exploring “the iconography of death across cultures and traditions spanning nearly six thousand years”.

Geoff Dyer’s Zona, an exegesis of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, is officially out at the end of this month. The book is reviewed here and here.

• “Through a blurry electronic prism“: MetaFilter traces a history of analogue video synthesis.

Dylan Ricci‘s wonderful photography of the male body has moved to a new location.

Infinite Forest by Studio a+i, a design for an AIDS memorial in New York City.

Susan Cain discussing “the power of introverts” at Scientific American.

• Strange Flowers on that icon of Middle Eastern music, Umm Kulthum.

Ewan Morrison on “The self-epublishing bubble”.

Winter Sleep (2007) by Valgeir Sigurdsson feat. Dawn McCarthy | Black (2008) by Ben Frost with Valgeir Sigurdsson, Sam Amidon & Sigrídur Sunna Reynisdóttir | Unbreakable Silence (2011) by Ben Frost & Daníel Bjarnason

Sam Amidon and Valgeir Sigurdsson in Manchester


Sam and ensemble.

Bedroom Community, possibly the best label in the world right now” was my earnest declaration back in March after seeing Sam Amidon play for the first time. A few months earlier I’d put Valgeir Sigurðsson‘s Ekvílibríum album on my best of 2007 list for Arthur magazine. Tonight’s event at Trinity Church confirmed that judgement with another great performance of songs from All Is Well by Sam, followed by a set from his Icelandic composer/producer colleague. Support for the evening was from Manchester’s own Denis Jones and a display of his one-man house of cards conjuring with samples and guitar.

Sam Amidon’s set this time lacked some of the stunning impact of the earlier gig but that’s only because the thrill of seeing him for the first time can’t be repeated. If anything the performances were better this time round, not least because there were more string players there to do justice to Nico Muhly‘s marvellous arrangements; Little Satchel especially benefited. Valgeir Sigurðsson (who produced All Is Well) helped out in the background then Sam returned the favour for Valgeir’s set, including singing one of the songs from Ekvílibríum. This easy swapping of roles is one of the things which makes Bedroom Community such a fascinating label; Valgeir produces, everyone plays on everyone else’s albums. All the people involved (Nico Muhly and Ben Frost make up the creative quartet) are highly distinctive and bring a considerable authority to their work. Most of Valgeir’s set this evening was instrumental (there are four songs on the album) and I missed Dawn McCarthy’s vocal on Winter Sleep but the vocal-less rendition gave an opportunity to hear the breadth of the arrangement. The BC site credits the other Icelandic musicians as Una Sveinbjarnardóttir on violin/mandolin, Sigríður Sunna Reynisdóttir on accordion/electric piano and Rebekka Bryndís Björnsdóttir on bassoon/cello.

“Bedroom community” is a euphemism for a suburb or dormitory town, as well as (in the case of the label) a play on the idea of the bedroom musician. Ignore the usual negative connotations of suburbs and think of this community as being one away from the decaying centre and the increasingly desperate frenzy of the mainstream. Back in the late Seventies Robert Fripp was presciently declaring the age of the music dinosaurs over, saying “In the new world the characteristic unit will be small, highly mobile, independent and intelligent.” Bedroom Community, its artists and its ethos, is precisely what he was talking about. We need more like them.

Previously on { feuilleton }
God only knows
Sam Amidon in Manchester