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P Gast "Aeschyluss" (London, UK)

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Bish Bosch
Bish Bosch
Price: £9.49

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique yes, but......., 4 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Bish Bosch (Audio CD)
Whilst The Drift was for me easily the best album of 2005-2006 I don't know what to make of this! Scott Walker is to me an amazing artist in terms of the soundscapes he conjures up-and here again he manages to perform amazing aural feats with remarkably good sound quality in the recording-I don't think this is ever boring for sure! In terms of lyrics I can't work out quite what his intention is-is the joke on the listener? (probably yes-in part), does he want to win a prize for most pretentious lyricist ever?-(could be easily in for the running for that), is it all meant to be a sort of puzzle for the listener to sort out (although here this time I really think you could listen for years and never know what the songs are meant to be about) or is it free-word association and randomly generated?-you know maybe all these explanations are true! I suppose in the world of art there have been many precedents for this sort of thing-William Burroughs cut-up books, in visual art the Dadaists etc-all playing with the absurd. Certain things carry over from the past albums in the lyrics too-the use of caustic put-downs-very well honed this time, an air of total and utter misanthropy, plenty of humour of a very black-sort-but a type of humour I'm very partial too and it IS genuinely funny, and steps out of the avant-garde and into the everyday ("jingle bells" quoted on the last track and a reference to "From here to eternity" on the first track-the equivalent of the Donald Duck voice on the track "The Escape" from The Drift)-citing popular quotations within works of music with a more serious intention being a feature of musicians going all the way back to Mahler and beyond. Walker said this was the last of a trilogy and maybe together with Tilt and The Drift it is-The Drift therefore being the Adagio or Sarabande in the tryptich. Maybe you have got to give this a lot of listens-there isn't anything as stand-out beautiful to my ear here as "Clara" or "Cue" from the drift-i.e. the beautiful way that Walker can go from out-and-out horror-pyschotic music to sweet sound beauty turning the work almost on a sixpence with remarkable adroitness in terms of the use of orchestration-but maybe it just all takes time! Anyway this is music for the iPod and private listening-I can't see it going down well on the X-Factor-though I'd pay to see that! Interesting music for fans of curate's eggs and something a bit different. What ever next for Walker?-like all of us he may have a tendancy towards several sins but in his case being boring certainly isn't one of them!

Comrades and Strangers: Behind the Closed Doors of North Korea (Travel: General)
Comrades and Strangers: Behind the Closed Doors of North Korea (Travel: General)
by Michael Harrold
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely thought-provoking, thoroughly recommended!, 12 Jun. 2009
I must confess firstly that I picked up this book following recent international news coverage about the nuclear testing issue and the showing of TV images of what appeared to be incredible numbers of extremely rapidly marching troops passing the presidential viewing stand in Pyongyang, the capital of a country sometimes referred to by Western media commentators as "the Jurrassic park of communism"-that would arouse anybody's interest!

I personally found this book to be extremely well-written and absolutely engrossing! Speaking as someone who lives in the UK I found it an even more alluring read as it is written by someone who comes from a familiar background, so I found that I could easily identify with his initial outlook and experiences as they happened. I'm going to read "This is paradise: My North Korean Childhood" by Hyok Kang next for what I'm sure will be a quite different perspective on the country.

Reading this you sense that once you go beyond the cultural differences of North Korea, behind the political indoctrination and associated cultural behaviours there's a core of humanity that is the same through all people, maybe twisted one way or another by the environment in which we grow up and the TV and media we are all exposed to-but the account here (to my mind) paints a very positive picture of most of the North Korean people the author has met! Unfortunately all to often political machinations ultimately make friendships come apart, Mr Choe's heartwarming and extremely charming early greeting "I want to be your pliend" begins a friendship that ends with a degree of distrust-an all too familiar trajectory for a lot of the friendships the author makes during his time in the country!

I can't quite work out what made the author stay for so long, personally I don't think I could have endured the absence of an effective private life that was my own personal domain, that must be a very difficult thing to live without-but seven years is an impressive record! Maybe an over-abundance of curiosity on his part?, and the desire to crack the insolveable question of just what makes this country tick?, maybe the enjoyment of having an important job (complete with quite an exalted status)?-I kept asking this question over and over again whilst reading the account!

Ultimately the most moving thing for me in this book is the sheer scale of the supressed human sadness that the people of the Korean peninsula must feel, the desire for reunification of their country and for families split by war to come together are all virtuous, warm-hearted, entirely human emotional needs that these poor, unfortunate people have suffered for decades-you would need a heart of stone not to be moved by this. They are sadly trapped between two competing idealogies (and I imagine both idealogies probably manipulate the truth to some extent to suit their own ends)-it's really hard to see any easy resolution for them! To blame the North Korean people for believing in a world view which saturates their entire existance pretty much from the cradle to the grave thanks to incessant propaganda, a world-view propagated by a body of political rulers which they could not vote against (even if they wished to) would be grossly unfair on them! As in all global conflicts the arguements happen principally between governments but it is the innocent populations caught in the middle who do most of the suffering. For an interesting story, amazing insight into a culture very diferent to our own, and explanantion of how political decisions twist and distort ordinary human lives I'd give this book five stars without the slightest hesitation-essential reading!

One final comment-if you want to spend a little extra and get a different perspective on North Korea I would also strongly recommend "The Aquariums of Pyongyang" by Kang Chol-Hwan, the latter is really one of the most disturbing books I have ever read-and I've read a lot of brutal, and depressing history books/historical biographies in my time. Put together these two books provide-maybe not different sides of the coin-but different cultural backgrounds of the authors, when viewing the same reclusive country-a very interesting pair of books that will change your prspective on how you live-after reading the Kang Chol-Hwan book I thought that I was living almost in a semi-paradise! Like so many I complain and grumble about many aspects of life but reading these two books I realise that there are so many liberties which we in the UK take for granted every single day.

Last Waltz in Vienna
Last Waltz in Vienna
by George Clare
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read!, 10 May 2009
This review is from: Last Waltz in Vienna (Paperback)
"Last waltz in Vienna" by George Clare is one of the most moving, well-written books I've read in a while and I would thoroughly recommend it! Ultimately the story is heart-breaking and doesn't end up with a happy ending, but it is told with such clarity of language, attention to detail, mention of personality nuances etc that you are completely transported to the author's description of growing up in Vienna and the deep love he feels for his parent's comes through very clearly! I would rate this book an equal to "Defying Hitler" by Sebastian Haffner-the two have similar subject matter, roughly equal strength in the writing style and the two make for complementary reading! Sadly George Clare recently died (on the 26th March 2009) and he no doubt lived to see an incredible range of human experiences, both pleasurable and harrowing! This is a fantastic book, very well written and totally recommended!

The Drift
The Drift
Price: £12.66

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sign of the times!, 13 July 2007
This review is from: The Drift (Audio CD)
I bought this album after seeing the Scott Walker documentary on BBC TV-at a time (over a year after the release date) and many months after having read the critical reviews by and largely singing the album's praises. I'd have to say that you have to give Scott Walker some points for originality if nothing else-there aren't that many people producing albums like this! I think of the tracks as a form of mood music, although it would have to be said that the mood in question is very often some form of angst, but in the world we live in today perhaps this just reflects the times. True there's not many tunes, and the 'singing' could be take it or leave it for many, and it may smack of a degree of pretension BUT it does take you into a unique world, and today with almost saturation coverage of multiple, diverse musical forms all available at the click of a mouse that's no small achievement! Walker's ability to fashion menacing and original sounds is truly remarkable, you have to say he is a complete genius in that department! To me so much of the album summons up the feeling you may have had as a little child when confronted by nightmares or the "Big and bad" world-as your percieved relatively small conscience is engulfed by something menacing and much bigger than you are! I could imagine Scott Walker producing endless soundtracks to suspense films. He may also enjoy a bit of a laugh (perhaps at the listener's expense-or maybe we should be in on the joke)-the demonic Daffy Duck voice for instance, which is really frightening on first listen, could have an element of a humorous nod and a wink to it, albeit somewhat black humour. I'd say if you are curious give this album a go, for sure this album might have many sins, but being boring certainly isn't one of them.

Mark Hollis
Mark Hollis
Price: £5.99

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introspective and beautiful, 15 Sept. 2004
This review is from: Mark Hollis (Audio CD)
Whilst so much of today's music aims to explode out of the speakers and redefine your world, with this album you really must listen closely and allow yourself to get sucked into the world of thoughts and feelings it endeavours to elucidate-and the experience is well worth while. This is a very well accomplished album, with a range of styles-some tracks jazzy, others tending in the direction of a more classical style, and all recorded in an intimate acoustic arrangement (including creaking guitars on certain tracks and beautifully sparse piano playing on others). The only question this album leaves the listener with is how long will we have to wait for another album fom this extremely unique and talented artist?

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