You Say You Want A Revolution exhibition at the V&A, London

GrannyNewly opened last weekend, the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington plays host to a celebration of the latter part of the psychedelic 60s under the banner, ‘You Say You Want A Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966-1970’. It’s an often stunning and inspiring look back at a small section of the counter culture that we now think of as ‘The Swinging Sixties’, encompassing music, art, fashion, politics, advertising, product design, expos and the space race. What was interesting, in the light of the recent drug-related deaths forcing Fabric to close, was that LSD was mentioned copiously in the quotes as you entered the exhibition and kept popping up throughout, as a catalyst for the many strands of the hippy movement. One national institution celebrates drug-fuelled counter culture in the heart of the richest part of the city just as another is closed in the East End – the irony.

The exhibition isn’t just about the beautiful flower children chanting ‘hari krishna’ and wearing threads from the Kings Road via India either (*slight spoiler alert!*). A middle section brings you down to earth with a bump, confronting you with the more political side of events at the end of the decade, the Vietnam War, racism, The Black Panthers, police brutality, feminism, gay rights and more. The starkness of this section, largely in monochrome, against the multi-coloured blossoming of earlier rooms, is a reminder that it wasn’t all peace and love man, and that the curators weren’t wearing rose-tinted spectacles the whole time.

It was worth the price of admission alone to see Mati Klarwein‘s original ‘Grain Of Sand’ painting up close. I’ve always loved this piece, never thought I’d see it in the flesh but there is was, nestled behind the entrance as I walked in. Absolutely wondrous.

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There is a LOT to see and take in, an associate who works at the museum confided that the curators wanted ‘everything’ but were restricted by time and conservation rules. There was some padding in parts, a section about consumerism and advertising sees corridor walls plastered with ads, interspersed with huge mirrored sections which give the impression of much more in the reflections but ultimately can’t conceal that not much is actually on display. Film and TV is given fairly short thrift aside from a section about Blow Up, a selection of experimental shorts in a walled-off cinema area and the Woodstock footage (although it has to be said that the Woodstock room is very well put together). Underground comics were almost entirely missing aside from one interior spread used to comment on the Manson murders, no Robert Crumb, Zap, Furry Freak Brothers... The Oz trials were mentioned but I didn’t see any copies of the magazine, or IT, or Ink. There was a lot in it but some omissions were glaring.

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Leaving, to the strains of Lennon‘s ‘Imagine’ and a fast cut montage zooming through the decades up to the present day, you’re depressingly but inevitably taken via the gift shop where you’re confronted with sanitised, consumable versions of the era to take home. Most of it is utter tat and the price tags are enough to burn a huge hole through the Levi jeans they seem to think were a good idea to have on sale. Cleverly, and as a sign of the vinyl-resurgence times we currently live in, they’ve released a compilation album alongside the usual book of the exhibition. Unfortunately the cover – a denim jacket covered in band logo badges – is so horrendous it looks like the kind of three quid compilation you’d find in a service station. There are some beautifully executed repro posters but the prices are so exorbitant I’d rather seek out an original, they’d probably only be a little more.
Still, there may not be many revelations or things you’ve not seen before in an era that’s been to widely celebrated already but it’s well worth the entrance fee. It runs until Feb 26th 2017 – more info here.

 

Out of the Wood radio at FEAST this Sunday

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Above are some of the records I’ve pulled out for this Sunday’s live session of Out Of The Wood radio hosted by WNBC London from the Book & Record Bar in West Norwood. I’ll be on with Pete W. before Alex and George take over for their monthly afternoon Cakelab session. Pete and I will be playing selections from his recent digging finds in the French countryside along with some new pieces of recently acquired vinyl. You can listen live here and it will be uploaded to Mixcloud later. As usual, it’s FEAST weekend which means loads of food stall dotted around West Norwood, food, craft and vintage markets too, all for free and loads of music to soundtrack it all.

*UPDATE* – and here’s the mix (with very low mic. levels) and a photo by Pete of me playing, check his mix after mine, so many great tracks.

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FEAST this Sunday and Out of the Wood radio

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The monthly FEAST in West Norwood is upon us this Sunday with myself and Pete Williams back for the Out of the Wood show on WNBC radio (West Norwood Broadcasting Company). Broadcast live from the Book & Record Bar from 12 midday until 2am when Dr Alex Paterson and George Holt wheel out the 2nd edition of Cakelab for the afternoon. Not sure what I’m going to be playing as yet but I have half a mind to do an El Paraiso Records special as I’ve played little else at home recently. You can listen in live here

Elsewhere it’s well worth coming down in person as there’s all kinds of luscious food, craft and vintage stalls, live music and more – all for free.

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Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick

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The Daydreaming With Stanley Kubrick exhibition started a few weeks back at Somerset House in London’s West End and it’s well worth a look. Curated by James Lavelle, it features many familiar names that hint that his phone book must be a thing to behold. Artists, film makers and musicians from around the world have contributed but with over 40 pieces to look at there’s always going to be some stronger than others.

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For the most part, I enjoyed the more literal, graphic interpretations; the hexagon-patterned floor from The Shining, Space Invader‘s Rubix-cubed Alex from A Clockwork Orange and Doug Foster’s homage to the stargate scene in 2001, ‘Beyond The Infinite’ – a mesmerising widescreen kaleidoscope that constantly shifted to a soundtrack by UNKLE. I was surprised there wasn’t more reference to Hal from 2001 outside of some of the graphics for the exhibition branding though and there was a missed opportunity to do something with Kubrick toys seeing as James has had an affinity with them for so long.

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One of my favourite pieces was Philip Castle‘s 70s airbrushed illustration for the original film of Alex with dentures in a glass. Unfortunately this was represented as a slide blown up rather than the original painting but it still had enough presence, menace and period textured beauty to outshine most of the other exhibits.

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Elsewhere, several installation pieces were the most successful in invoking Stanley’s spirit. A vertical pulsing strip of LED lights by Chris Levine burned images onto the retina from the end of a corridor so that, when you looked away, you saw split second flashes of Kubrick’s face. A ‘breathing’ camera by Nancy Fouts, sat eerily in another corner, rasping in and out to itself. A room of 114 wireless’ all tuned to the same channel in a dimly-lit workshop created a WWII-like atmosphere and the exhibition guide revealed that a huge cast of celebs had made the soundtrack playing through the tinny speakers. Peter Kennard‘s ant-war collages were further bolstered by additions from Dr. Strangelove although it felt largely transplanted from his recent Imperial War Museum exhibit with some added Kubrickisms.

Possibly equal to Foster’s AV piece was Toby Dye‘s small room showing four different scenes from The Corridor, each one using a Kubrick technique of focus pulling in or out of a centralised corridor. This, when shown full frame on each of the four walls, gave the viewer a sense of unease or vertigo as the walls appeared to shift around them. Very effective if off-balancing. David Pellam‘s classic Droog design featured twice, once in the show branding and once in Paul Insect‘s updating of his work, ‘Clockwork Britain’. An iconic design, connected with Kubrick by the simplification of his visualisation for the Droogs, it sits alongside the Shining carpet as a graphic motif instantly connected to his films. A VR headset with interior 2001 space station scenario was also installed but the queue was just too long so don’t head to it at peak weekend hours if possible.

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Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth uncensored signing

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The Gosh Comics signing of the new Judge Dredd ‘The Cursed Earth uncensored’ book was smash hit on Saturday. When I arrived the queue snaked out of the shop, across the road and round the block and they’d just sold out of the graphic novel in question. A quick run to the nearby Orbital Comics revealed the same and Forbidden Planet too. No joy but I did manage to get a snap of the legends, Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland inside the shop before I departed – not a wasted journey at all.

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In case you’re wondering what all the fuss was about, the story in question was the first ever Judge Dredd ‘epic’ (ie. a multi-issue story that spanned over 20 issues) that ran in 2000AD back in 1978. Several episodes featured characters from the McDonalds, Burger King and Jolly Green Giant companies who swiftly slapped the comic with a legal warning that these properties were their copyright. Since the original issues, all reprints of the story have been missing these episodes but recent changes in the law meant that they can now be restored because they fall into the parody category and thus, don’t infringe on copyright as they once did.

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From what I’ve seen, the new hardback version is beautifully restored and features both character and career-defining artwork from McMahon and Bolland, the only artists on the strip, alongside writer Pat Mills. Co-incidentally, the first issue of the comic I ever picked up, as an impressionable eight year old, contained the first episode of the story and I was hooked. I even went so far as to commission Mike to recreate his cover for that prog (61) for me a few years back. The initial print run is now apparently sold out so good luck in tracking one down.

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Funki Porcini’s Conservative Apocalypse

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Last night I played at the launch party for Funki Porcini‘s new album, ‘Conservative Apocalypse’, at the BFI (never a more apt title that in the last two weeks). He showed his rescore to the Russian film, ‘Chemi Bebia’ which was crazed and dark and hilarious in equal measure. You can now see the new short that goes with the album of the same name via the magic of YouTube too…

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Lots of old faces came out for the night, it was like a small reunion of people from the last 20 years, back when Ninja Tune was in Clink Street, London Bridge. Graeme Ross took this photo of me with a strategically placed BFI notice.

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You can now buy Funki’s new album as a rather nifty box set and he has a new website too

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Rat Records instore Soundtrack set w. Jonny Trunk

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Lo, and did the hordes descend onto Rat Records in Camberwell like a plague of locusts and the music flowed freely, from the decks to the racks and into the bags of the hungry vinyl scavengers. Sometimes it didn’t even make it into the racks, being bagsied whilst still on the turntable by eagle-eared punters inquiring, ‘what’s this playing?’. Jonny Trunk and I played whilst Lucy and Pete (behind the camera below) served and a wonderful afternoon was had by all.
Rat has a policy of restocking their shelves with new stock every Saturday and several hundred discs make their way onto the floor each and every weekend for the regulars who are at the door at the 10.30 opening time. This past weekend they had an additional box of soundtracks, library and weird music to add to that, the difference being that no one knew what any of it was until Jonny or I played it so the music stood or fell on its own merits. A collection they’d got in recently was put aside specially for this purpose and most of what was played in the two and half hour set you can hear below was sold. I even added a clutch from my own collection to the box.

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As the box emptied and more friends arrived at the shop it was decided that a drink was needed and the nearby Stormbird bar was chosen, partly because it’s the only place in London you can get a bottle of Pastelism, a beer brewed by Domino Records band, The Pastels. Much was consumed and many words were spoken of the crate-digging, vinyl-hunting nature alongside Tom Central (Keep Up!), PC (DJ Food), Graeme (Frenchbloke & Son) Ross, Zoe Lucky Cat Baxter and more. Robin the Fog and Hannah Brown from Resonance FM were also on hand to conduct an impromptu recording for their Near Mint show and the results can be heard below. The results of the alcohol consumption can also be heard as the show progresses too! It was great to see so many friends and play in my local record shop among like-minded punters and there are plans to do a rematch at Audio Gold in Crouch End soon. If any other record stores want to host this kind of event in the future then get in touch…

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Beautiful typography on one of Adam James Seth-Ward‘s purchases.

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The Force Awakens holographic vinyl release

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Several boxes were ticked last Monday night when I was invited to Abbey Road Studios in North London to feature on a panel to talk about Star Wars and its influence on music over the last near 40 years. It was part of the launch of a new vinyl edition of the soundtrack to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, complete with holographic Tie Fighters and Millennium Falcons etched into the surface of the two discs by Tristan Duke.

Abbey Rd StormtrooperJournalist Andrew Harrison (Your Empire Needs You T-shirt) chaired a small panel of myself, Tristan Duke (peeking over my shoulder) – the man responsible for the holograms, and Alex Milas (centre back, editor of Metal Hammer magazine and life-long SW fan). After plenty of nerdy fan banter two First Order Storm Troopers strode in to deliver the LP to Tristan who then played it as it was projected onto the screen above. Food was served, vinyl was cooed over, photos were taken with Storm Troopers and much was discussed of a fanboy nature.

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A few days later I took on trying to capture the holograms from my vinyl copy at home. This was easily achieved with just direct sunlight or you can use a torch or lamp in dark conditions. This is what the hologram looks like in normal light (above) and this is what it looks like when having direct light pointed at it (below)

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TFALP_embossThe LP sleeve is printed on thick mirror board card which makes the star field sparkle when light hits it and the cover logo is embossed. It’s a beautiful package that Disney/Universal have really gone the extra length to get looking and feeling special. There’s also a 16 page 12″-sized booklet with a forward by JJ Abrams and stills from the film.
It’s released worldwide on Friday, June 17th.

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On the panel I remarked on how the new release is so like the original OST in layout – minimal and tasteful. That made be want to dig out my 1977 copy, check the poster and gatefold. I’d forgotten how big the poster was!SWvsTFALP_ SWLP +poster SWposter

How many Millennium Falcons? Early John Berkey concept painting when the Falcon was a rebel fighter – there’s a fascinating glimpse at more Star Wars Berkey prelim paintings on his siteSWgatefoldSWLPback

Funki Porcini album launch at the BFI

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I’ll be joining my old friend and label mate James Braddell aka Funki Porcini on July 7th for a night of film and music at the BFI in London. As well aa launching his new album, Conservative Apocalypse, he’ll be showing his re-score to Kote Mikaberidze’s silent film Chemi Bebia (65min). Full of clever camera trickery, this Georgian film appeared for only a few days in January of 1929 before being banned for 39 years, and is little known in the West.

James will be talking through some of the new film work he’s been making these past years, some of which will be shown for the first time in the UK. If you’ve ever heard him speak before you’ll know he’s a joy to listen to as he has some of the best anecdotes you’ll ever hear. I’ll be playing in the Benugo bar on the Southbank after the film showing and there will also be some very limited edition versions of the album on sale. Tickets are on sale now here

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Olivetti at the ICA

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The Olivetti exhibition currently at the ICA in London is small but perfectly formed, much like its contents. Blink and you’ll miss it (tucked away in a little room under the stairs to the bar), it’s a beautiful collection of vintage typewriters and word processors supported by original posters, promo material and historical documents.
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Inspired by this tiny treasure trove of gorgeous design I raided my archives of Graphis Annuals and Architecture Aujourd’hui magazines and snapped a few quick shots of Olivetti adverts contained within.

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New Sculpture video for the Splice Festival

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“Untitled” by Sculpture from The Wire Magazine on Vimeo.

More ideas in 8 minutes than some people have in an entire career…

Sculpture will be appearing at the first of 3 nights under the banner of Splice in London next weekend 3rd-5th of June along with many audio-visual acts like The Light Surgeons, DJ Cheeba, Addictive TV, Pete Elastic Eye, Cassetteboy, D-Fuse, Blinkinlab, Matt Black, Plaid, Joe Catchpole, Mixmaster Morris, Matt Sharp, Mark Pilkington and many more.

Splice Festival 2016 from Splice Festival on Vimeo.

Green Party local election leaflet

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Very pleased to see Sadiq Khan win the post of Mayor of London over the weekend but also this campaign leaflet from the Greens raised a smile. With a tagline of ‘Make Your Vote Go Further’, the leaflet can be folded into a paper plane, complete with a note that they’re not so keen on extra runways and please recycle this leaflet. Kudos to the designer who came up with this idea, nicely done.

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Secret 7″ 2016

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Bit late on posting these as it’s been on for a few weeks but I thought I’d let RSD die down a bit and there’s still time to view the Secret 7″ entries before buying day. As every year, I went along to see what was being cooked up on the custom 45 front. This year they reside in the Sonos building in Shoreditch and the sleeves are displayed until May 1st. On May 2nd they are all up for grabs at £50 each which, this year, goes to Amnesty International UK. There are 700 this year and, if you go, make sure you check upstairs as I nearly missed that half.

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