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Paracelsus1966 (Somerset, England)

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Something Like Happy
Something Like Happy
by John Burnside
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something Like Masterly, 2 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Something Like Happy (Hardcover)
An almost flawless collection of stories from John Burnside. His previous story collection, Burning Elvis, is arguably the best of his early fiction - the novels don't really start doing anything for me until Living Nowhere - and this new book is a worthy successor to Elvis. Several of the stories are not too far removed from some of the novels, with their concerns for dead-end lives marked by violence in dead-end towns - the title story, Godwit, and A Winter's Tale, for example - while others are insightful character studies of people who are lost, in limbo, passing through.

What strikes me about this collection is the subtlety of John Burnside's concerns as a writer; what matters here are the slightest nuances of emotion and thought which, although transient and deeply private, are life-changing for their characters. This is not a book in which stuff happens. (Apart from a few murders, a beating or two, and some strange, darkly erotic games.) But having said that, a good short story could be defined as one in which not much seems to happen, yet everything does, if only in implication. And that defines the pieces in Something Like Happy perfectly.

Hard to choose a favourite - Perfect and Private Things, The Bell-Ringer and Roccolo are stand-outs; perhaps the best of all is The Cold Outside, an extraordinary story about a man dying of cancer picking up - in the sense of giving a lift home to - a transvestite who has been beaten up. This wonderful story is typical of the risks John Burnside takes in this book: small moments that are at once totally ordinary, and at the same time, totally unique, like those rare dreams that, once experienced, you know have somehow added something to your life; you're not quite sure what, but things afterwards are richer, stranger.


Lenovo Ideapad S206 11.6 inch laptop - Grey (AMD Dual Core E2-1800 1.7GHz, 4Gb RAM, 500Gb HDD, WLAN, BT, Webcam, Integrated Graphics, Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit)
Lenovo Ideapad S206 11.6 inch laptop - Grey (AMD Dual Core E2-1800 1.7GHz, 4Gb RAM, 500Gb HDD, WLAN, BT, Webcam, Integrated Graphics, Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit)

4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Machine, 2 Feb. 2013
I had read some not too good reviews of this computer, but now having been using one for a month, I can say it's been pretty good. I use it for writing, music and watching films, as for those uses, it meets my needs. I like the size of this machine - small, light and the keyboard is great. Huge hard drive (advertised as 500GB, you actually get 445 usable GB) is also a plus.

The battery life isn't brilliant - about 2 hours on average - but so far that's not been a problem. I suppose my other gripes are that it's perhaps a little expensive... Maybe around £250 would be better. And the facial recognition thing doesn't seem to work, and the quick start feature isn't worth bothering with, but as I can live without those, I'm not too bothered.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 2, 2013 1:10 AM BST


Tavener: Towards Silence [World Premiere Recording]
Tavener: Towards Silence [World Premiere Recording]
Offered by marvelio-uk
Price: £6.86

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Towards Eternity, 24 Mar. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an extraordinarily haunting work - droning strings, Tibetan temple bowl, the usual lack of development that we come to associate with Sir John. But most of it is very still - only the first 5 minutes have much business in them - the rest of it slowly fades away; programme music, if you like, for Eastern (especially Hindu) death beliefs.

It's not quite a string quartet in the conventional sense, being scored for 4 quartets (as it were), and therfore feels markedly different - far more tranquil and unearthly (especially towards the end, which sounds like it was recorded by NASA) - from his earlier string quartets (Last Sleep of the Virgin, Hidden Treasure, The World etc), but if you do like those works, you'll love this.

My only gripes are that the CD is banded as one track (the piece is in 4 movements) and there are no accompanying works; the CD is only 33 minutes long. Mind you, it's good for the price, and also maybe with something like this, you really don't need any other pieces on the CD. As Tavener notes in the booklet, this is a CD for meditation, so put it on repeat and listen to that amazing temple bowl, the sound of eternity...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 7, 2011 6:50 PM BST


Arvo Part: In Principio
Arvo Part: In Principio
Price: £11.70

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best ECM Pärt since Te Deum, 4 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Arvo Part: In Principio (Audio CD)
This is a brilliant CD which is, for my money, the best ECM Arvo CD since Te Deum. The CDs in the intervening years have all been good, but none have moved me as much as In Principio. Musically, it's both a further development of his tintinnabuli style - the title piece in particular - and a return to some favourites, such as the new versions of Da Pacem and Mein Weg. La Sidone and Cecilia Virgine Romana are very strong, heading in a new direction, perhaps, whilst retaining recognisable tintinnabuli roots, while the closer, For Lennart in Memoriam is a further 'installment' in the series of short orchestral pieces that began with Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, and is deeply moving. Perhaps silence is the only response to music like this, and also time to stop writing about it...


The Hunt in the Forest
The Hunt in the Forest
by John Burnside
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trappist Love Songs, 4 Aug. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Hunt in the Forest (Paperback)
The Hunt in the Forest is John Burnside's ninth collection for Jonathan Cape, and represents if not a retrenchment, then a return to the themes and forms of some of his earlier collections. In particular, I was reminded of The Myth of the Twin (1994) and Swimming in the Flood (1995), to say nothing of his last Secker collection, Feast Days (1992).

The long sequence - which dominated his brilliant 2007 collection, Gift Songs (possibly his best book so far) - is largely absent here, and the bulk of this new collection is made up of shorter pieces. That is not to say it is a less ambitious book; rather, its mood - sometimes dark - is shaped by the vignette- like feel of the collection as a whole.

Given the similarity of subject matter in some of the pieces, I was tempted to think this could be a collection of out-takes from previous collections, but decided that the quality of the writing factored against that. There is a new simplicity in some of the pieces, such as Saint Hubert and the Deer or the three pieces all called Amor Vincit Omnia, making this one of John Burnside's most accessible collections, and a good place for the newcomer to start.

If you're familiar with his work, you may want to go straight to the handful of sequences in the book, in particular In Memoriam, Treatise on the Veil and the Essays Concerning Light and Time. The latter contains my current favourite image in the entire book, that of the `man in his frock coat and gloves, on the cusp of forever.'
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 8, 2011 3:35 PM BST


Crashing dream (1985) [VINYL]
Crashing dream (1985) [VINYL]
Offered by dischiniccoli
Price: £24.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Album that Deserves a CD Release, 7 Feb. 2009
This was the Rain Parade's last album, and is usually overlooked in favour of their more well-known debut, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip and its follow-up, the EP Explosions in the Glass Palace.

This a pity, because Crashing Dream is possibly their finest hour. Gone is the whimsy and psychedlia of their earlier work, to be replaced by a more mature sound. The songs are achingly beautiful and sad, the sound of a band growing up even beyond that remarkable debut.

I bought this album when it was first released in the autumn of 1985, and it's haunted me ever since. Will someone please put it out on CD, so that this lost classic can find a wider audience? (The same could be said for their superb live album, Beyond the Sunset, released earlier in '85.) They were a truly great band.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 8, 2016 7:49 PM GMT


Ummagumma
Ummagumma
Price: £21.09

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, underrated transitional album, 1 Oct. 2008
This review is from: Ummagumma (Audio CD)
Floyd were clearly flailing around for a direction after Syd Barrett left, and the period 1968-71 is probably their most uneven. However, it did produce some good stuff, and I think Ummagumma is by and large pretty good.

The live album is superb, for starters. All the tracks here are, in my opinion, superior to their studio counterparts. They're basically longer and better versions, although this version of Saucerful of Secrets is the re-vamped version, with a stronger, more rock-orientated ending (ie Nick Mason comes in, whereas he doesn't on the studio version).

The studio album is a curate's egg, probably because the recordings are all solo efforts and would have almost certainly benefitted from the presence of the other band members. The studio half contains what is possibly their worst released effort, Sisyphus, by the late and much lamented Rick Wright. It's 13 minutes long, but would outstay its welcome at a third of that.

Grantchester Meadows - by Waters - is beautiful, but too long and hampered by the lack of David Gilmour on guitar solo duties. Waters sounds like he's playing with mittens on. Still, the Barrett-esque beauty of the track more or less sustains it. The second Waters track, Several Species... is actually quite funny. Yes, really. It works in a way that a later attempt at humour - Seamus from 1971's Meddle - doesn't.

David Gilmour's The Narrow Way spends its first half not doing much, before finding its feet. This actually sounds like the Pink Floyd of the 70s, and seems to me to be one of the earliest examples (along with Careful with that Axe, and maybe even its A-side, Point Me at the Sky) of the classic Floyd sound.

The only member of the band to emerge with his copy book unblotted on the studio album is Nick Mason. His Grand Vizer's Garden Party is unexpectedly successful - an interesting collage of drum and percussion stuff that sounds like the soundtrack to a Svankmajer film. Who'd have thought it would be drummer to the rescue?

Buy it on vinyl so you can stare endlessly at that great front cover. Not quite a case of all hail, over all, but maybe some qualified hailing here and there.


The Final Cut: Remastered
The Final Cut: Remastered
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £15.21

38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, 16 Sept. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This has always been one of my favourite Floyd albums, and I'm glad this reissue includes the terribly moving 'When the Tigers Broke Free' (the original single from 1982 said that it was from the forthcoming album The Final Cut, but was never included until this CD reissue).

OK, the band were imploding at the time they recorded it, but I think that has had an added effect on the music, in other words, this is incredibly disillusioned, angry, sad and cynical stuff. With references to the Great Beast Thatcher and the Falklands, shipyards closing and the IRA, this is clearly the work of people (or persons, namely R. Waters) who have lost faith in just about everything.

But this lack of faith is what makes the album incredibly affecting - I would go so far as to say that it is one of the most moving records ever made by a rock band. This is almost as far as it goes. Utter, total contempt for our rotten society, summed up perfectly in The Fletcher Memorial Home, a song which doesn't seem too far removed from Spitting Image or The Comic Strip presents. I particularly like the line 'Did they expect us to treat them with any respect?'

Enough of my fervour. Listen to this and make up your own mind. For me, it's been a landmark these last 25 years. And I think it will continue to be so. Floyd may hate it, but I don't think they realise what a beast - and a wise beast at that - they created with this magnificent album.


Bill Douglas Trilogy [DVD]
Bill Douglas Trilogy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Stephen Archibald

93 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettabe Masterpieces Finally on DVD, 18 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Bill Douglas Trilogy [DVD] (DVD)
Bill Douglas (1934-91) only made 4 films in his career, and the Trilogy forms the core of his oeuvre. Based on his own upbringing in dire poverty in a mining village just outside Edinburgh in the 1940s and 50s, they do not make for easy viewing. But kitchen sink realism a la Loach and Leigh they are not: these are poetic films, and can stand with the best of world cinema. Filtered through Douglas's memory, they are unsentimental, at times bleak and brutal, but always compassionate; rather than narratives, they are more like poems. Poetic cinema is rare enough in Britain, which seems to be embarrassed by such things, and these three films are powerful enough to be remembered by the body as much as the memory. Bill Douglas had a unique vision, and the Trilogy, once seen, will stay with you for A very long time, and can stand up to repeated viewings, each time giving you something new. They are almost totally unique in British cinema, but rather than lament, we should give thanks that at least Douglas managed to make 4 films - all masterpieces (the other being the 3 hour epic Comrades).

The transfers appear to be very good, and the booklet contains a number of essays about the films. Disc Two contains Douglas's London Film School graduation film, Come Dancing, in which his mature style was first evident, as well as a short interview about the Trilogy from 1980, and Andy Kimpton-Nye's 2006 documentary about Douglas's life and work.

I can't recommend these films higly enough. Bill Douglas is a forgotten genius of British cinema, and let's hope this excellent release does something to bring him back to some kind of visibility.


Part - Spiegel Im Spiegel
Part - Spiegel Im Spiegel
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £7.35

77 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than 'Alina', 28 May 2008
This is a better CD than ECM's Alina, as it covers the same ground - i.e. Arvo's tintinnabuli chamber work - but offers a slightly fuller repertoire. In other words, unlike the ECM, this CD offers three different Spiegels (all largely similiar, it has to be admitted, but beautiful nonetheless, and does include all three versions - for violin, viola and cello, where the ECM only offered violin and cello); Alina in its original version (this is where the ECM disc is at it's best and most annoying in only offering great improvisations on this simplest and most beautiful of Arvo's early tintinnabuli works, but neglecting to include the original version); and the wonderful Variations for Arinuschka. My only slight gripe is that it doesn't include Hymn to a Great City, Arvo's only other - to date - tintinnabuli piano piece. Don't be put off by the SACD - this will work on normal CD players. And it's a wonderful CD - something ECM should be envious of. The music itself I cannot really speak about. If you know Arvo's work, you'll know what I mean. This is the sound of those mysterious quiet hours when an angel is said to be close by...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 4, 2009 6:52 PM BST


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