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The Soft Machine Operator (COVENTRY, WARWICKSHIRE United Kingdom)
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Stand Well Back
Stand Well Back
Price: £9.17

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and Interesting, 13 Nov 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Stand Well Back (Audio CD)
A small group for Colin Towns, who also plays big band modern jazz with the Mask Orchestra and has recorded arrangements of music by other people, such as Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis (Amongst others!). This album is a genre bending affair, with hints of avant-garde (In the opening track, especially) & progressive rock in some of the instrumental passages. I loved the interplay with the guitar, sax and piano, leading off into solos from one or the other. An absolute stunner of an album, with some fantastic rythmns and a few excursions into jazz/rock fusion. In The Forbidden Dance a modern sounding dub rythmn rumbles away, building up layers with the other instruments befor falling back again and letting another instrument taking over with some atmospheric soloing.

It's always interesting, and in places sounds like the tunes from a yet-to-be made film. Lovers of the jazzier side of Prog Rock will enjoy this!

The Dead [DVD]
The Dead [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rob Freeman
Price: £5.11

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly Shot Zombie Mayhem in Africa, 6 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Dead [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Here's something novel: a zombie movie set and filmed in Africa. The setting provides much gorgeous scenery, and the makers take advantage of this to full. The film looks stunning. That's not just the scenery, but also the makeup and special effects.

After a wham-bang opening in which a plane full of people crashes in the desert, we follow the main character for almost twenty minutes without barely a word spoken as he attempts to get to an airport to escape from zombie-ravaged Africa. He's a mercenary involved in some unspecified war in the country. On the way he teams up with a native soldier, and they form an uneasy alliance. At least I think they do. The weaknesses of The Dead are clear from this point. The script does not really allow the audience to get involved, and there's very little characterisation. What could have added heightened tension to the story is ignored in favour of the scenery and photography. As I said, this is stunning, but I got somewhat bored by shots of people walking around. Attempts at giving the main character a past are achieved by flashbacks, but these seem oddly jarring and clunky.

I don't mind the slow pacing. Some of the best zombie movies are slow, especially the Italian ones, and the marmite flavoured attempts by Jess Franco & Jean Rollin. However, the Romero movies were filled with characters. The Dead is sometimes strangely empty.

In my opinion, this could have been better if there was a bit more depth to the characters.

However, for fans of the genre, this is a must-see.

The Urban Towers Handbook: High-Rise and the City
The Urban Towers Handbook: High-Rise and the City
by Eric Firley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £37.52

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting for the non-architect, 18 Aug 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Firstly, I am no an architect or in any sort of related business, but am interested in buildings and architecture, in particular tall ones.

The book contains fifty case studies of tall buildings around the world, many of them iconic, in which the authors briefly describe the history of the developments, their relationship to their urban surroundings and then notes about the architecture itself. There are plenty of excellent pictures and diagrams. The book splits up the towers into three sections, based on how they are located. I particularly like this approach. For example, a "solitaire" building is a single tall building that has to be incorporated into an existing urban series of blocks, perhaps low rise, whilst in a city such as Tokyo, a tall buildings will slot into a city that's already mainly composed of high rises. I guess if you're an architect, then the setting is important and will influence the visual appearance, and also the ground level where it has to interact with public spaces and existing infrastructure.

The case studies also touch on how the economics affect the final design (i.e. floor height means more can be fit into the building!)

The book is not particularly heavy on architectural terms and theory, which makes it good for a layman like myself.

The final section is a comparison of planning regulations in seven cities - this may be interesting to people in the profession, when when you get down to it, I was mainly interested in the pictures and histories of the various buildings covered.

So speaking as a non-architect, I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in tall buildings who isn't an architect. The writing is clear and concise and the photographs are beautiful.

8 Classics
8 Classics
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £8.56

14 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good value, 17 Aug 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: 8 Classics (Audio CD)
This set consists of eight albums by the MJQ on 4 CDs. It features their classic album, Django.

Eight albums may be too much of this one sitting, but they were a fascinating group with an odd lineup that consisted of vibes, drums, bass and piano. Their albums generally feature a lot of interplay between piano and vibes. Apparently, this stuff was called "Third Stream" due to the influence of classical music.

Highly recommended for anyone exploring jazz, as the MJQ were one of the more innovative and unique groups of post-war years.

Fish (PRS - Polity Resources series)
Fish (PRS - Polity Resources series)
by Elizabeth R. DeSombre
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.45

5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough, 17 Aug 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a thorough examination into the economic, environmental and political issues of Fishing, written in a clear, engaging manner. It covers a concise history of fishing as a commercial industry before launching into the real issues - how politicians have used fishing as a tool to keep people in work, protectionism that results in the death of areas once teeming with fish. The dangers of farming fish are also covered - the waste produced, the effects of in-breeding, and the side effects of displacing species into an alien environment. This particularly applies to the intensive farming that takes place in third world countries, where fishing appears to be far more important economically. After all, the book implies, fish are free and can be caught and sold by anyone.

It's all well researched and engaging. For anyone who is interesting in the industry and the havoc it appears to be wreaking, this is a must-read. The book never appears to take sides, remaining fairly neutral in tone throughout.

Nurses Song With Elephants
Nurses Song With Elephants
Price: £13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Weird and Wonderful!, 16 Aug 2011
The opening track features a mass of multi tracked recorders, flutes (I think) in staccato, with weird synth noises behind it... This turns into a strange drone and the woodwinds and synths rise into crescendos before chilling out again. I think they're flutes and recorders. It could all be early synths.

Welcome to the world of Nurses of Elephants!

Track 2 features creepy voices singing gibberish and a spacey backdrop of synths. This really does sound in places like the soundtrack yet to be made. Melodies creep in and out... Track 3 begins with an orchestra flourish and then turns into an endless wall of quickly played notes one after the after, complete with percussion and weird beats. Sudden bursts of ensemble playing give way to eerie drones and sudden parping and sustained strings...

What did you expect from an album with the title?

If you enjoy listening to free jazz, avante-garde improvised music, you'll love it. I detect hints of AMM, Art Ensemble of Chicago, British horror soundtracks and a whole lot else.

I found it an exhilarating experience. If you're looking for something different, then this is a must. Interesting, atmospheric and never boring. It's also totally unpretentious.

Price: £18.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diverse album of Italian Prog and Rock, 16 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Livent (Audio CD)
By the time this album was released, the New Trolls had already changed styles various times, starting off as a psychedelic beat group, moving into a progressive rock direction before splitting up after the classic Concerto Grosso album. One faction continued with progressive rock (NT Atomic System) and then recorded, bizarrely, an album of Jazz fusion similar to Soft Machine. They then reformed again. This album was recorded by a lineup that saw members of the two factions reform.

It covers all the band's past up to that point, with excellent vocal harmonies, and instrumentation that veers from ballads through hard rock, symphonic rock, progressive rock and a little bit of jazz fusion. The opening couple of tracks are slow ballads with slightly proggy interludes, but by track 4 it's pure progressive. It's really an excellent document of the band's progress up to 1976, before they went on to record a series of pop albums before fragmenting again. The only downside is that there is only a brief snippet from the band's classic Concerto Grosso, but this is more than made up with an absolutely frantic jazz-fusion rendition of Night on Bald Mountain. The final two tracks are back to the ballads, and perhaps hint at what was coming with the following albums.

Some people may find this album inconsistent and schizophrenic, but that's what I like about it.

Requiem for a Village (BFI Flipside) (DVD + Blu-ray) [1975]
Requiem for a Village (BFI Flipside) (DVD + Blu-ray) [1975]
Dvd ~ Vic Smith
Offered by ludovico_institute
Price: £8.69

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of art, 13 Aug 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
An obscure British experimental film from the former editor of Lindsay Anderson's IF. David Gladwell also directed "Memoirs of a survivor", a story that seems apt given the recent youth-led riots!

This is a virtually dialogue free film built scenes of an old man tending graves in a village. As he tends graves his voice-over reminisces about the people that he once knew buried there. While he tends graves, he sees the dead rise and re-enter the village church for a sermon. Then it starts to get experimental.

This is intercut with contemporary images of village life, mainly snippets of a meeting in which the village leaders attempt to form a protest against local development plans, and also of the past with plenty of slow motion shots of lost village life. Images of the present predominate when bikers invade the village.

Clearly made on a low budget, on 16mm film, this is beautiful and absorbing piece of work. The soundtrack consists of pastoral, atmospheric woodwind driven music - similar to the contemporary works of British jazz musician Bob Downes - and hymns.

The whole bundle is excellent value for money, with a detailed booklet containing notes about the film plus an interview with the director. There's also a blu-ray disc and a DVD.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 18, 2011 8:33 PM BST

Apple Macbook Pro 13 inch Laptop (Intel Core i5 Dual Core 2.3GHz, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD, Up to 7 hrs battery life) - Launched February 2011
Apple Macbook Pro 13 inch Laptop (Intel Core i5 Dual Core 2.3GHz, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD, Up to 7 hrs battery life) - Launched February 2011

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Views from a newcomer, 31 July 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am a newcomer to Apple Mac. After years of using Windows and Linux based PCs, I wanted something purely for leisure use - i.e. video, word processing, music and maybe a bit of dabbling with apps for ipad/ipod/iphone. I've used Mac OS a little, and am not blinkered that it's perfect. Applications still lock up, it's file management is somewhat clunky, but it's quite simple and consistent. If you do feel the need to get into its internals, you can use the Terminal.

Design wise, this is a beauty. The screen is a revelation - the clearest I've ever used. The construction method means there are no annoying flaps or doors and the body is sturdy. My old laptop creaked when you picked it up.

Connectivity wise, all angles are covered: 2 USB ports (More might be better), a Firewire Port, a SD card reader and a Thunderbolt port, which is a new general purpose connector. You can hook up a DVI connector this and use an external monitor. The power connector is magnetic, which is an absolute blessing in a house with two curious young children who tend to like pulling out cables. It's also useful for clumsy adults who tend to trip over them. There's a button on the side which displays a small line of lights so you can see battery life without opening it.

I do not, generally, like touch pads and tend to disable them. However, the multi-touch here has converted me. With this feature, the touch pad becomes more like the screen of an iPad/iPod and allows gestures to control the screen. You can scroll with two fingers, and if you're in Lion you can move between web pages and desktops. Extremely usable, and means i no longer have to use an external mouse. The keyboard is also comfortable to use and backlit for night use.

The boast of battery life may be somewhat misleading, but I found that it lasted for a couple of days of light use, with plenty of sleep time.

In use it's virtually silent. I have yet to hear the fan switch on.

As a first Mac, I am pleased, even though I was well aware that for the same price I could have picked up an extremely powerful laptop. That was not the point. The machine is stable, usable and has superb battery life. I do not regret paying a bit more for a well designed piece of kit.

East Of Sweden
East Of Sweden
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, energetic performance, 24 July 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: East Of Sweden (Audio CD)
Any fan of Comus should pick this up! The band reformed in 2008 and performed this concert in Sweden. This is an absolutely fantastic performance that defies description. With Pagan legend inspired songs featuring lyrics about monsters tearing people apart, the music is suitably frantic when it needs to be, with viola and flutes adding a cinematic feel to the songs and backing up the frantic singing and acoustic guitar. As with most of the bands from this era, you don't get verse-chorus-verse, but songs that stop, start, and change pace. The performance is energetic and the music never dull. Track 3's pastoral passages are a welcome respite from the madness of the first two tracks!

I really do hope we get a new album from this legendary band.

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