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Greedo (England)

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Rancho Tetrahedron
Rancho Tetrahedron

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cathal Coughlan's most consistently excellent album?, 17 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Rancho Tetrahedron (Audio CD)
Well, well, well...just when you're ready to officially declare the album dead as an artform, along comes Cathal Coughlan to at least temporarily breathe life into the format.

And it's no exaggeration to say that in my eyes (as in many others) the days of the album appeared to be numbered as a worthwhile format. It's hard for me to think of any from the last year or so that have been consistent enough to listen to all the way through (perhaps Mono's "Hymn to the Immortal Wind" was the last), and even previously reliable and trusted artists had begun to let me down. So thank god for Mr. Coughlan.

It's genuinely hard to pick out highlights or personal favourites amongst this collection of songs, because they all have their charms, and it's one of those albums where sometimes it's the song that you think you're least drawn to that you find yourself humming in the morning and ultimately seduced by. Perhaps the best way to praise the album is to say that this is a collection of extremely well crafted songs, but that whilst this makes them part of a long tradition, they are completely free from cliché - thanks mostly to Coughlan's unique worldview and his well documented ability to write exceptional lyrics.

The arrangements and playing on the album are also top notch, with credit due to the Grand Necropolitan players (who have been coming together for a number of years to help realise Coughlan's songs, and are rightly given joint billing for this album, as they were on Foburg).

If I was purposely looking for negatives (for the sake of a balanced review), I would perhaps say that this is rather more restrained than some of Coughlan's previous records - hence it perhaps doesn't have an emotional focal point or a `heartfelt outpouring' type of song like some of the others do. Often of course it's these sort of songs that affect the listener most deeply, and hence if you forced me to pick just one Coughlan song then it might still be "Dark Parlour" from Black River Falls. But as mentioned above, for sheer consistent brilliance, this has to stand on a par with any of Cathal's previous work.

In summary, I realise that I haven't mentioned a single song from the album in this review, but (having listened for a week) they are all excellent, so you could literally pick one at random as a starting point. It's doubtful that this album will reach many new ears, but existing fans should be as ecstatic as ever...and if you are unfamiliar with Coughlan's music but enjoy well crafted songs - traditional yet completely unique and original - then pick up this album.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil [DVD]
Anvil! The Story of Anvil [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anvil
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.78

38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Either heartbreaking...or inspirational!, 18 Mar. 2009
More than any film that I've seen in a while, this documentary stirred up a wide range of emotions in me, and at times I wasn't quite sure what to feel.

Let me first say up front that this is a great film which I really liked, and is well worth checking out whether you're into heavy metal music or not. Hence one of the many emotions referred to was laughter! As you may have heard, the film is at times hilarious in a "you couldn't make this up" sort of way (apparently some people mistake it for a Spinal Tap style mockumentary, and you can see why - a confusion that isn't helped by the drummer's name being Robb Reiner!). It has some classic lines and situations, and is very watchable. Certainly a film that you can enjoy watching either on your own or in a group.

My conflict came when I tried to work out what to feel towards these aging, passionate musicians. We're often told by inspirational books and films to "follow our dreams" - as a feel good message to motivate us to make the most of our lives. So what are we to make of this band that refuses to give up their art, in the face of obscurity and indifference, and despite the strain that this puts on the rest of their lives? Maybe this depends on what you personally feel about their music: to me they seemed out of touch and out of more than a relic, and oblivious to the fact that they are no longer relevant, or indeed that even if they were still relevant it is hard to get your money back from making an album in this digital download age, or from touring when they've been replaced by younger bands that the kids can relate to. At times you are left with the uncomfortable feeling that they are being exploited.

But right there is the twist and the contradiction that leaves me confused! Because it is as a direct result of their refusal to give up or face the facts of their situation that has resulted in this film being made about them, which has in turn led to them getting a second bite of fame. And it wouldn't surprise me now if they HAVE made money on their album as a result of their new found fame, even though that seemed inconceivable during the film as they desperately tried to find a record label who thought it would be worth releasing. And if this is true, then take nothing away from them...they deserve it!

So many contradictions. Should I pity these guys and feel sad for them and their broken dreams...or admire them for their boundless enthusiasm and refusal to accept life's limitations, and feel happy for them that in some strange way it now seems to have paid off!? Well, I'm certain that in the wake of the film they have no regrets, and feel in some way vindicated, so hats off to them. For the rest of us, I guess all we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

In summary, a fascinating and enjoyable documentary, which I recommend.

Rachel Getting Married [DVD] [2009]
Rachel Getting Married [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Anne Hathaway
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £1.17

8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reminded me in many ways of Dogme 95, 14 Feb. 2009
I'd heard good buzz about this film, even though of all the 2009 "Oscar season" films, it seems to be one of the ones that has slipped largely under the mainstream radar. Having seen it, I can see why, as it is certainly not a mainstream type of film, and would doubtless alienate many viewers within the first ten minutes. However, it is, in my view, a little gem.

It reminded me in many ways of the Dogme 95 movement films, and more specifically, the Danish film "Festen". If you are reading this review because you loved "Rachel Getting Married", I would strongly urge you to check out "Festen". It is shot in a similar way (hand held cameras), has a similar "non-soundtrack", and also centres on a family get together with a rogue element that derails the whole thing. Indeed, like in "Festen", the characters' behaviour will at times make you squirm...a fact that may prevent some people from enjoying the film.

The Direction, by Jonathan "Silence of the Lambs/Stop Making Sense" Demme is excellent...good to see a seasoned film maker still producing interesting and challenging work. The performances are also outstanding. Anne Hathaway in particular - who has been Oscar nominated for her role - absolutely nails the part of a recovering addict, who despite having kicked her addiction, still has to face the feelings that fed her addiction in the first place, and appears totally uncomfortable in her own skin.

Of curiosity to music fans will be the fact that Sidney is played by Tunde Adebimpe, who is singer with one of the more interesting (not to mention brilliant) bands of recent times, TV on the Radio. I had no idea whatsoever that he acted before I watched this film, but since music plays such a large part in the atmosphere Demme creates, it is certainly an interesting collaboration. Along with Robyn Hitchcock, I suspect that there are a number of musicians in smaller roles in the film.

To summarize, this is a fantastic film that will subtly change the way you feel over the course of its running time - the sort of intelligent film making that chooses to "show" rather than "tell" - and I recommend that any cinephiles check it out if they haven't already. Certainly not always an easy watch, and hence not for everybody, but definitely a rewarding one.

In Bruges [DVD] [2008]
In Bruges [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Colin Farrell
Price: £3.00

113 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funniest film I've seen in quite some time, 26 Jun. 2008
This review is from: In Bruges [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Totally agree with the previous two reviewers. This is a film that deserves to be seen by loads of people, as it is truly hilarious!

Granted, it might not be everyone's cup of tea, as there is the odd bit of violence, and the humour is very dark and often non-PC. But hey, we're all adults right!? And anyway, one thing that surprises a little as the film unfolds is that it does actually have some morality at it's heart, as we witness Colin Farrell's character regret his past actions, and Brendan Gleesan's character see a chance for Farrell to find redemption.

The two leads are fantastic - with good chemistry - delivering the many amusing one liners with aplomb, as are the supporting cast, with Ralph Fiennes putting in a performance that will recall Sir Ben Kinsley chewing up the scenery in "Sexy Beast", and the midget (the character Ray's term, not mine!!! I can't seem to see his name on imdb) sending himself up in a manner that you will never forget.

Bruges itself is also a character in the film of course, and despite Ray's constant funny put downs of the place, it looks beautiful. So much so in fact that I now plan to go sometime...I just hope there's no Irish hitmen seeking refuge there when I do!

Great film, recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 24, 2012 11:01 AM BST

Last Lovers
Last Lovers
by William Wharton
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and inspiring, 17 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Last Lovers (Paperback)
Like so many great books and films, Last Lovers alters the way you view the world for a while afterwards, and if you don't feel changed by the emotional conclusion to the tale then you might want to check to make sure your heart is still beating. It is at once poignant, sad, beautiful, and uplifting.

Wharton shows great empathy for the two lead characters. In the case of the painter, this is not surprising (Wharton is a painter himself, and this may/may not be partly autobiographical), but hearing him describe his concerns and desires with regards to his painting is most enlightening - incite that would perhaps be impossible for a non-painter. As for the other character, an elderly blind French lady, I can only guess at where he gained such incite, but the result is an incredibly engaging and thought provoking character, who sheds light on the world not only for the painter, but for the reader also.

A wonderful and magical book!

No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable watch despite ambiguous morality, 15 Jan. 2008
First things first, Philip Seymour Hoffman is fantastically entertaining in this film. In the same way as Mark Wahlberg does in "The Departed", he totally steals every scene he's in, delivering hilarious lines in a hilarious manner. Physically, he seems completely transformed from his roles in, say, Capote or Boogie Nights, and interestingly, whilst being so funny and entertaining, his character also provides the moral core of the story.

Hoffman may be the main crowd pleaser, but the other two 'big stars' (Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts) are also on top form, and the film is so well written that it isn't only Hoffman that gets to deliver funny lines (for instance, in reference to Wilson's office recruitment policy: "he says you can teach them to type, but you can't teach them to grow t*ts"!). Hence judged on entertainment terms alone, the film gets four stars for me hands down.

The only slight reservation, which some will be able to ignore and some won't, is the slight ambiguity and conflict between the films tone and it's message. On paper, it's politics are liberal, and it provides a very intelligent argument against the foreign policy of wading into countries and interfering in conflicts, at great physical and human cost, but then neglecting to maintain this level of interest when it comes to the less glamorous and headline grabbing business of rebuilding a war torn country, and providing education, support, and relief. As Wilson says, "the ball doesn't stop bouncing". This is spelled out very clearly by Hoffman's character, with his very apt Zen tale, and by the Charlie Wilson quote that closes the film. It isn't hard to see the connection between what happened to Afghanistan during this period - and the state it was left in - and subsequent global events.

All well and good you say, and I couldn't agree more. The film is very intelligent in this sense, and articulates something that isn't often said in this medium. However, the problem lies with the fact that this message comes after ten minutes of glorified war scenes, which show ecstatic Afghans (armed by the US) shooting down Russian helicopters and practically celebrating with 'high fives' (I'm exaggerating slightly, but you get the idea). Fair enough, this is only recounting true events, and the Afghanis would no doubt have felt that way in the face of a brutal invasion, but the way it is presented is almost like something out of a Rambo film, with the Russians cast firmly in the "bad guy" role. Given that the Russian's war with Afghanistan has been compared in some ways to the Vietnam War, and that the US (like any country with a history, including the UK) has not always been whiter than white in terms of foreign policy, this all seems a bit tasteless and simplistic.

I guess you could argue that the film is merely crediting it's audience with the intelligence to decipher the message behind the action. Most hopefully will, and those that don't will probably just take nothing from the film in political terms and enjoy the laughs. Fair's just a slight shame that what was potentially an intelligent five star film, well written and with fine performances, allowed its message to get slightly muddied just in order to incorporate some big explosions.

Still, a very enjoyable film, and one that I would recommend to many.

And When Did You Last See Your Father? [DVD]
And When Did You Last See Your Father? [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jim Broadbent
Price: £3.49

119 of 120 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Big Fish" in the style of repressed Englishmen!, 21 Nov. 2007
Although I haven't read the book that this film was based on, I went to see it at the cinema, and I don't remember crying as much at any film for quite a while. I guess the subject matter is likely to be emotive to most people, as we all have parents and will have to confront their mortality at some point in our lives, along with the complicated relationships that we have had with them. Nevertheless, the film is well realised, with strong central performances from it's two central characters (the wonderful Jim Broadbent and the under-rated Colin Firth).

Thematically this film is reminiscent of Tim Burton's wonderful "Big Fish" in many ways. The key difference (apart from the lack of all the fantasy scenes) is it's sheer Englishness, and although all that repressed emotion might leave some people a bit cold, as an English male myself, it moved me greatly. Let me put it this way: being the way I am, I already know that I will never be able to tell my father to his face that I love him (or discuss with him many things from the past that feel unresolved), and yet I also know that one day he will pass away and that I'll wish that I had! If you find that crazy, you probably aren't a repressed Englishman like me...if you can relate to what I've just said, however, then this film will speak volumes to you, and when Firth's character finally breaks down, you will probably find yourself doing the same and having a good old cathartic cry!

Having said all that, I expect that there is much in this film for everyone, as it is a sensitive subject handled well, and perhaps the best English film that I've seen this year. Recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 14, 2009 7:45 PM BST

Play Bass Guitar Now! Dvd
Play Bass Guitar Now! Dvd
Dvd ~ Mel Reeves
Price: £24.84

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential if you're going to teach yourself, 15 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Play Bass Guitar Now! Dvd (DVD)
If you're learning to play the bass guitar (as I am), and you're not actually going to have lessons, I'd say that a tutorial DVD/video is a must. With this mind, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one. The examples for you to copy are very clearly shown (by a friendly man with obligatory music teacher beard) and easy to follow, and the presentation, whilst a little dated, is also good (and let's face it, you're not going to watch this DVD for it's aesthetic appeal).

However, if you are going to be entirely self taught, I would also recommend getting a tutorial book to compliment this DVD. Firstly, there are only so many things that can be included in a DVD of this length (50 mins, much of which is taken up by the examples). Secondly, there were times when I felt that even with the areas covered, more detail could have been gone into. For instance, with the tuning section, the guy simply plays each string repeatedly and tells you to tune your string to it, without any instructions on how to do this! Fair enough, most people know how to tighten a string on a guitar so this shouldn't cause any problems, but for a product of this price, I would have expected more depth. Lastly, I think it's useful to have more than one viewpoint on things such as fingering. For example, the book that I'm using suggests a slightly different fingering of minor & major chord arpeggios, and having considered both methods (and seeing that both are considered to be OK), I was able to choose the one that suited me.

I'm learning to play bass entirely from this DVD and from reading "Bass Guitar for Dummies", and I'd strongly recommend this combination. The DVD gives you examples that you can see and actually copy (essential), but the book contains much greater depth in all areas. With both these products, and with some good hours of practice (which sadly you can't buy on Amazon!), you'll be knocking out those bass lines in no time.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 10, 2008 7:11 PM GMT

No Title Available

61 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Depending on your needs, a solid product, 24 Oct. 2007
I agree with the review already posted on this product, but thought I'd make some additional observations from my own point of view, as the "best" recorder for each person will depend on their tastes and requirements. Hopefully some of this will help people choose the right recorder for them.

OK...I ummed and ahhed for a while over which recorder to get, and narrowed it down to two choices: this one, and the M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 (a third recorder - the Edirol R-09 - also came into my thinking briefly). You can find excellent magazine reviews of each of these recorders online by a man called "Mark Nelson" (just Google his name along with the product name), which feature recordings of all three products for you to listen to.

My own personal reason for buying a recorder was for field recording, and hence I haven't used my Zoom H4 for multi-track recording at all. I wanted something portable that I could keep with me day-to-day, in order to capture interesting environmental sounds/voices which I could then import into my home studio and use to give my music some added depth and interest. With this in mind, ultimately the Zoom was the only answer, due to the built in stereo microphone set up. For the M-Audio Microtrack, I would have to carry around one or two microphones, along with a shotgun microphone holder and wind shield, and this just wouldn't be feasible in my day-to-day life, or when travelling.

With this in mind, the Zoom meets my needs perfectly. Being a music producer, the sounds I gather have to be of a certain quality to be of any use, and the Zoom is perfectly capable of achieving this as long as you set the levels correctly (which is actually very simple if you take half an hour to read the manual). You'll also need to buy a tripod for the recorder to cut out handling noise (as this isn't included). The thread to attach a tripod is actually the size used for camera tripods, so I was able to buy a small tripod from a camera store that does the job perfectly and fits in my pocket. Hence if I run it off batteries, all I need to carry to capture sounds on the go is the Zoom recorder (in its carrying pouch), the tripod, and the sponge windshield (which is provided). For my needs, this is absolutely perfect. Transferring the files to my computer is also very easy, as you can simply "drag and drop" them after attaching the unit via a USB port (cable included).

If your requirements are different to mine - for instance if you know for sure that you only want to use your recorder with external mics - then one of the other two products mentioned might be better (although I think the Zoom H4 is cheaper). Certainly the other two products might 'feel' like they are better when you hold them in your hands: the design of the Zoom is rather bizarre in that it looks rather cheap. This doesn't affect functionally at all (I find it very easy and reliable to use), but some people might want more aesthetically from something that cost them about £200! However, I have absolutely no complaints about this product personally, and it has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me with regards to getting good quality field recordings, and at an affordable price. For this reason, I would certainly recommend it if you want to use it in a similar way. As a self contained unit (no additional mics are needed, just the tripod which is cheap) I imagine it is also a decent solution for most other portable recording needs, such as live gigs, podcasts etc.

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
by Thích Nhá̂t Hạnh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!!!, 18 Oct. 2007
First things first, I completely agree with the many positive reviews already posted. Although I wouldn't have expected it from such a short little book, reading this has taught me simple techniques that have changed my life for the better and made me happier day to day and moment to moment. Hence five stars doesn't really seem enough!!

To review this book from the context of my own life, I have been practicing Buddhism for about a year now. Naturally I have made myself familiar with the theory, and try to practice it, for the benefit of myself and others. Rather than giving a complete overview of Buddhist thought (as many books do), this particular book focuses on just one of the eight practices of the Noble Eightfold Path: Right Mindfulness (of course the eight paths compliment each other, so it is in tune with and beneficial towards all eight of them). As a result of reading this book at this stage in my development, I now feel that I'm much better at practicing mindfulness, and I definitely feel much happier as a result. I think it's one thing to understand Buddhist theory rationally, but this book and its exercises have helped me greatly in terms of putting it in to practice. It's as if my meditation has crossed over into the rest of my life (or maybe the rest of my life has crossed over into my meditation?)!

Buddhism is so inclusive that I imagine that this book would also be beneficial to someone who isn't a Buddhist, and would not clash with any beliefs/non-beliefs they might have. It's simply about learning to live in the moment, and "Be Here Now" seems to be the aim of many different schools of religion and spirituality. It's possible that someone with a very cynical attitude might not benefit from it, and might be annoyed by its occasional repetition - lucky for me I don't fall into that category!

I am someone who always seems to have a whole stack of books waiting to be read, and impatiently ploughs through them on a quest for more knowledge (trying to fill that bottomless bucket!). Reading this book, I had the unique experience of enjoying it greatly, and yet not feeling in any hurry to finish it or to be anywhere other than where I was right at that moment. Hence often I would read just a few pages and then pause and become conscious of my breathing. Not for any reason...just because! And thanks to the Tangerine Meditation, my food has never seemed so fascinating or tasted so good...I've never savoured every single bite like I do now. In fact that is what this book teaches you how to experience fully and savour every single 'bite' of life. It is a book that in one sense did not teach me anything I did not already know, and yet it has made my life so much more enjoyable. What higher recommendation could I give you than that!?

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