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Sid Nuncius (London)
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Moonstone Power bank 6000mAh battery for any mobile USB
Moonstone Power bank 6000mAh battery for any mobile USB
Offered by laZook
Price: £21.50

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, stylish power bank, 27 May 2015
Length:: 4:12 Mins

I was sent this power bank by the manufacturers for review and I think it is excellent. It is well made, is exceptionally stylish and works very well.

The Moonstone has a capacity of 6000mAh which is enough to charge most mobile phones 2 or 3 times or most tablets roughly once - although it depends on your individual device, of course. It's a really useful thing to have if you need to recharge on the move. What makes this one stand out in a crowded market, though is its style. It's a lovely-looking and feeling object with a sense of real class about it. It's shape is square with convex sides and faces, and it has a very nice felt carrying wallet. It is compact at around 7.5cm square and 2cm thick and is light enough to be easily carried in a handbag.

It is very simple to use. Just plug the micro-USB lead supplied (or any other micro-USB lead) into the USB port of a computer or wall charger and the micro-USB socket on the power bank. I found it takes just a few hours for a full charge, and leaving it overnight will certainly charge it fully. It has an elegant display of 4 small LEDs on the underside which you can activate to indicate charge level. Using the power bank to charge your device is just as simple. It has two output ports rated 2A and 1A which will take your device's own lead or the supplied micro-USB lead.

This seems like a very good-quality product. Leakage rate is very low, safety features are properly built-in and it has a good, robust feel. The instruction manual is very good, although it's so intuitive in use that you probably won't need it.

I think this unit's real selling point is its very elegant style. It will serve you well, I'm sure, and would genuinely make a very nice present for someone who can use a power bank - I was very pleased when I received and opened mine. Warmly recommended.


Hallelujah I'm A Dreamer
Hallelujah I'm A Dreamer
Price: £11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Another very good album from Amy Lavere, 27 May 2015
This is a very good album from Amy LaVere. It has taken a while for it to really grow on me, but I think it's a worthy successor to the excellent Runaway's Diary.

Amy LaVere writes fine songs in a variety of styles. This is another eclectic collection, still distinctively LaVere. Her music often seems laid-back and can have a lovely, infectious swing to it, but there's real musical content and depth there. She has a distinctive sound with her upright bass playing and fine, slightly breathy and deceptively girlie-sounding voice. What she sings with it is anything but fluffy and girlie, though; she writes fine, often quirky lyrics which are always intelligent and sometimes really penetrating. The opener is a charming, almost nursery-rhyme-like piece from the point of view of a cricket circling a lamp at night, for example, but is also a metaphor for the realisation of human potential. The title track is another celebration of human diversity and individualism, musically reminiscent of Save The Last Dance For Me; The Last Rock And Roll Boy To Dance is a fabulously swung, bluesy-feeling delight in dancing, and so on...and then you suddenly realise you're listening to Red Banks, a clever and haunting a song about the victim of a violent, abusive, even murderous relationship.

And that's what you get with Amy LaVere - fine, distinctive and diverse songs which somehow come together to form a cohesive album. It's all very well played and performed, with generally restrained production which suits these songs excellently. At a time when there are a lot of very, very fine female singer-songwriters producing excellent work on both sides of the Atlantic, Amy LaVere stands proudly among them, I think. She deserves to be far better known, and I can recommend this (and her last one, Runaway's Diary) very warmly indeed.

(Just in case anyone's interested, these are just some of the albums from female singer songwriters in the last two or three years which I think have been really outstanding. They are in no particular order:

Mary Gauthier - Trouble & Love
Thea Gilmore - Regardless
Amy Speace - How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat
Emily Barker - Dear River and The Toerag Sessions
Natalie Merchant - Natalie Merchant
Olivia Chaney - The Longest River
Amy LaVere - Runaway's Diary
Sharon van Etten - Are We There
Eliza Gilkyson - Nocturne Diaries
Sarah Jarosz - Build Me Up From Bones
Amanda Shires - Down Fell The Doves
Laura Marling - Short Movie
Alela Diane - About Farewell
Kris Delmhorst - Blood Test
Patty Griffin - American Kid
Anais Mitchell - Young Man In America
Lori McKenna - Massachusets
Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer, Different Park)


The Secret Handel - Works for Clavichord /Hogwood
The Secret Handel - Works for Clavichord /Hogwood
Price: £18.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great music and excellent playing, but..., 26 May 2015
This is another volume in Hogwood's "The Secret..." series about which I have the same, purely personal, reservations as I do about the others. The idea is good and Hogwood was a superb musician and considerable scholar, but this doesn't quite come off as a top-notch set for me.

The music, of course is excellent, with some quite subtle but interesting differences from the versions we may be used to. Hogwood is a fantastic musician and plays it all wonderfully. However - and this is almost certainly a personal thing - I find the sound of the clavichord somehow rather unsatisfying. It is a small, quiet domestic instrument and it just seems to me to be straining to be heard all the time - fine for practice and personal use but not really for shared performance. This means that for me this isn't a wholly successful set. It is interesting throughout and charming in places but as a satisfying musical experience it falls a little short.

You may well not share my reservations about the clavichord so please don't let me put you off. These are two discs of superb music, excellently performed. They just didn't quite fit my personal taste.


By Dr Graham Farmelo The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius (1st) [Hardcover]
By Dr Graham Farmelo The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius (1st) [Hardcover]
by Dr Graham Farmelo
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding biography, 26 May 2015
This is a really excellent book. It is fascinating and thoroughly engrossing as well as being funny, touching and very sad in places. Some biographies are worthy and turgid, others full of racy but tenuous speculation. This is neither - Graham Farmelo has a deep affection for this subject but preserves a commendable objectivity. He gives a fine account of Dirac's life and work in prose which is a pleasure to read and with a perfectly judged leaven of amusing stories and poignant personal revelation.

Dirac was (as you will almost certainly know if you're considering this book) the greatest English physicist since Newton, and considered to be almost on a par with Einstein. That he is so little known is largely due to his astonishing reticence and at times almost hermit-like attitude to other people. Farmelo gives an excellent account of both the amusing and the sad aspects of this, and in a brief chapter at the end of the book puts forward the idea (meticulously backed by evidence) that Dirac was autistic. It's very plausible, and I particularly like the way in which he never uses the biography itself to expound this thesis. It's exemplary biographical writing.

Physicists shouldn't look to this book to give a detailed account of Dirac's work - that can be found elsewhere and this is a more general biography, giving an excellent sense of Dirac's life and why what he did was so important, with what seems to me to be a very well-balanced description of the work for the general reader. Non-physicists needn't worry too much about the physics - it is kept to a very descriptive level and even if you can't follow all of it, the book will still give great rewards.

It's a cracking book, very warmly recommended.


Lepow Bluetooth Speaker Modre - Yellow
Lepow Bluetooth Speaker Modre - Yellow
Offered by MoonJus
Price: £24.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A very good Bluetooth speaker, 25 May 2015
Length:: 3:41 Mins

This speaker was sent to me for review by the manufacturers. It has a quirky design which I like and the overall quality is excellent.

Lepow are aiming for style and quality and I think they have achieved both. Its style (based upon an elephant's trunk, apparently) is unusual and, to me, very appealing. It is quite compact: it is about 9cm (3.5in) tall and 5cm (2in) in cross section. It weighs about 185g (6.5oz) so it is easily transportable. The speaker has excellent build quality and has a solid, durable feel. In use it's very simple - Bluetooth connection was easy and solid up to about 6 metres, and it also has jack connectivity if you need it. There are no controls, so volume, calls and so on are all done via your phone or other device. Battery life seems pretty good: I got around 5 hours continuous use, but this may improve a bit as the battery wears in. An AUX jack lead and a micro-USB lead for charging are supplied and both are stylish and of good quality.

The quality of the sound is very good for speaker of this size and price - I was surprised at its quality. Obviously it hasn't got the real depth of a proper hi-fi speaker but there is a bright, hiss-free treble and proper richness of tone in the middle especially, and the bass is very firm for such a small unit. I have listened to a lot of music through it, from Tudor choral music to London Grammar and it all sounds good. A viola da gamba or that rolling sub-bass in London Grammar's Hey Now don't really ring out fully, for example, but the overall sound is very acceptable. The volume goes plenty loud enough for my comfort - fine for a medium-sized room, I'd say.

Just a note on the packaging: the speaker comes in a large plastic coffee cup, of all things. It's a proper re-usable cup and some people like this idea, but I don't. I think it makes the whole thing look cheap, gimmicky and of poor quality. It isn't - it's anything but, in fact - so if, like me, you're not keen on the coffee cup idea don't let it put you off. The speaker itself is genuinely very good.

This is a really good little speaker - it gives excellent sound for its size and works very well. It's robust and stylish, so if you want a small, portable speaker and like the look of this I can warmly recommend it.


Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG by Gulfi (Italian Red Wine - Organic)
Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG by Gulfi (Italian Red Wine - Organic)
Offered by Libiamo Wines
Price: £19.61

5.0 out of 5 stars A dark, rich Sicilian gem, 25 May 2015
I was sent a bottle of Cerasuolo di Vittoria by Libiamo in a mixed case for review, and I think it's really good. It's worth saying that Libiamo's aim is to search out really good wine made by small, out-of-the-way producers (often family owned) from traditional indigenous grapes of the region, an aim which I support wholeheartedly. What they have found is a world away from the characterless homogeneity of the huge conglomerates which dominate the supermarket wine shelves. Every one of their wines I have tried has real character, true depth of flavour and the sort of quality of finish which means you're still tasting it for a long, pleasurable time after you drink a mouthful.

Cerasuolo di Vittoria by Gulfi is a dark, rich Sicilian gem. It is full of classic Italian flavours of slightly bitter cherry and a hint of smoke but quite soft and delicately balanced - and with a finish which means you're still enjoying it for a long time after every mouthful. I love this one.

Having met the team at Libiamo, I know that they really mean what they say about their love of what they do, their enthusiasm for the wines they find and the importance of the companionship which comes through sharing them. I have never tasted anything from them which is less than very good, and many of their wines are simply excellent. For me, this is in the "excellent" category, and I can recommend this very warmly indeed.


STRICT TEMPO LP (VINYL) UK ELIXIR 1981
STRICT TEMPO LP (VINYL) UK ELIXIR 1981

5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual but brilliant, 25 May 2015
This album is a little gem in my view, consisting of instrumental tracks played almost entirely by Thompson himself on a variety of instruments, with Dave Mattacks playing drums (and piano on Ye Banks And Braes.) The music is largely traditional, but played with a real modern zing (although in strict tempo, of course) on electric guitar, mandolin, banjo and other instruments. It is hugely enjoyable from start to finish, and you would have to be made of stone not to smile with pleasure at Rockin' In Rhythm, to name but one.

This isn't what one normally expects from a Richard Thompson album. There are none of the beautifully crafted lyrics, often mournful tunes and distinctive vocals of his self-composed work so if you're looking for that you might be disappointed. What you will get is brilliant playing and truly joyful music and I, for one, love this for what it is - a one-off, different album by a wonderful musician playing music he loves magnificently.


Time Present And Time Past
Time Present And Time Past
Price: £11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb music making with some challenging repertoire, 25 May 2015
This is an extraordinary CD with some outstanding playing on it. How you respond to it will depend on how you feel about the music itself. (The exact contents of the disc are not clear on this page, so I have appended a track list at the end of this review.)

Mahan Esfahani is quite astonishingly brilliant here. His virtuosity is breathtaking in places - in Steve Reich's piano phase which is double tracked and calls for quite remarkable precision and dexterity to be maintained flawlessly for 17 minutes, for example. He also shows a fine engagement with the music, giving the Baroque pieces in particular real meaning. It's a tour-de-force of a performance, and its brilliance coupled with the fine sound of Esfahani's harpsichord (beautifully recorded by DG) is an emphatic rebuttal of Beecham's famous, admittedly funny, but completely wrong-headed dismissal of the harpsichord. (In case it has slipped your mind, he described the sound of the harpsichord as "two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a thunderstorm.")

I tried the disc because I have such immense respect for Esfahani and have enjoyed his previous recordings, but Gorecki and Reich aren't my normal choices for repeated listening. That remains true here, I'm afraid. The Baroque pieces are very enjoyable and superbly performed all round, I think, with genuine intelligence and involvement which is a world away from some of the wallpapery stuff we sometimes get in Baroque recitals. However, the Gorecki and Reich works are ones I'm glad to have heard but wouldn't want to be tackling on a regular basis. They are demanding and pretty hard going in places - the Gorecki particularly, where I felt I was being walloped over the head for prolonged passages - and don't leave me with much of a sense of what they were really about.

This is a matter of my personal taste, of course, which you may well not share. Certainly, this is a disc of astonishing virtuosity and fine music-making. For me, it's a bit of a mixed bag but if you like this repertoire you'll love the disc.

On this disc:
Alessandro Scarlatti
1. Variations on 'La Folia'

Henryk Gorecki; Harpsichord Concerto, Op.40
2. I. Allegro molto
3. II. Vivace

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
4. 12 Variations on 'Les Folies d'Espagne' Wq. 118, No. 9

Francesco Geminiani
5. Concerto Grosso in D minor (after Corelli, Op.5 No.12)

Steve Reich
6. Piano Phase (version for harpsichord by Mahan Esfahani)

Johann Sebastian Bach; Harpsichord Concerto BWV1052
7. I. Allegro
8. II. Adagio
9. III. Allegro


DEBUSSY: STRING QUARTETS/FAURE: STRING QUARTETS/RAVEL: STRING QUARTETS
DEBUSSY: STRING QUARTETS/FAURE: STRING QUARTETS/RAVEL: STRING QUARTETS

5.0 out of 5 stars Another gem from Quatuor Ebene, 24 May 2015
This disc is available at normal price here: Debussy, Fauré & Ravel: String Quartets

Quatuor Ébène are a fantastic quartet, and their debut disc of Haydn (String Quartets Op. 64 No. 5 'the Lark' (Quatuor Ebene)) remains a firm favourite of mine. This disc is just as good, showing that they have as much empathy with Ravel, Debussy and Fauré as Haydn and their superb technique, faultless intonation and brilliant mutual understanding are well in evidence here.

Radio 3's Building A Library reviewer recently chose this recording of the Fauré quartet as the best available, in the face of phenomenal competition form the world's best quartets of the last 80 years, which probably says a lot more than I can about the quality of this disc. It's fabulous and very warmly recommended.

(Do try their Haydn disc, too. If you already like Haydn's string quartets it will be a terrific addition to your collection, and if you're looking for a place to start on them you couldn't do better - it's absolutely terrific.)

Update - 3rd October 2009: This disc has just won "Recording of the Year" at the 2009 Gramophone Awards - just about the most prestigious award available anywhere. It's a deserved honour for a terrific recording by a very fine quartet. I'm delighted!


Coredy BASE-2 Portable Lightweight Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Hi-Fi Headphones/Headsets, Foldable Design with Hard EVA Case, Equipped with AptX Codecs, NFC, Rechargeable for Streaming Music up to 17 hours, MIC for Hands-free Calling, Noise Cancellation for TV, PC, XBOX, Cellphone iPhone 6 Plus, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, 4, Samsung Galaxy S5, S4, S3, Note 3, Note 2, LG G2
Coredy BASE-2 Portable Lightweight Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Hi-Fi Headphones/Headsets, Foldable Design with Hard EVA Case, Equipped with AptX Codecs, NFC, Rechargeable for Streaming Music up to 17 hours, MIC for Hands-free Calling, Noise Cancellation for TV, PC, XBOX, Cellphone iPhone 6 Plus, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, 4, Samsung Galaxy S5, S4, S3, Note 3, Note 2, LG G2
Offered by WOOBER
Price: £49.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent on-ear headphones, 24 May 2015
Length:: 5:31 Mins

I was sent these headphones by the manufacturer for review and I think they are excellent. They are an on-ear headphones with both Bluetooth and wired connectivity, they are smart, well made and - most importantly - both sound and comfort are very good.

The headphones are nicely packaged, and come with a neat, hard carry-case, a standard mini-USB charging lead and a jack-to-jack lead. The User Manual tells you all you need to know, in comprehensible (if slightly eccentric) English. The design of the headphones is very elegant and functionally they are excellent. They are light and very comfortable in use, with all the controls on the right earcup. There are on/off and volume + and - buttons, with separate pause/play and skip forward and back controls. These also serve as the standard phone controls you would expect and all work well, as does the built-in microphone. The headphones grip tightly enough to be stable without feeling constricting and, with good padding on the earcups and headband, I find them comfortable for several hours use.

Being on-ear headphones rather than over-ear there is some sound leakage both in and out. At home and at the level I play them this isn't a problem for me, but if you play music very loud in the presence of others or want to use them in a noisy environment you may need to consider this.

Bluetooth pairing is simple both via standard pairing and NFC, I found the range good with no loss of signal up to about 8 metres and battery life is good. The wired connection via the jack lead is also fine and I notice no difference in sound quality between the two modes. It means you can connect to non-Bluetooth devices, and the headphones work in wired mode without having to be switched on, so if you do run out of charge it's a handy fallback, too.

Sound quality is very good indeed - and the bass in particular is better than I might expect in this price range. Both bass and middles are very strong and resonant, the treble is bright and the clarity of articulation is very impressive. The overall sound is great; I have listened to a lot of music through these headphones, including my Test Tracks list, and everything sounds very good. Classical chamber, orchestral and large choral works are clear and distinct with a lovely full sound (the bass on a theorbo and viola da gamba is really good, for example). Classic rock - like the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter or Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who - sounds great, and the deep, rolling bass in London Grammar's Hey Now (one of my standard tests of headphones) really resonates, which particularly impressed me. Volume goes far too loud for my comfort with no audible distortion, so there's plenty of welly there if you need it.

I think these are excellent headphones, especially at this price. They are functional, stylish and comfortable and the sound is very good. They seem good and durable and they are very portable, too so if you're looking for a good set of Bluetooth and wired headphones, and you get on with on-ear cups, I can recommend these very highly.


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