Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The not quite so dynamic duo

Knight and Squire #1 of 6, by Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton

I first came across these characters in a Batman comic written by Grant Morrison and drawn by… someone else. In that story, Batman and Robin were going to a meet-up of all the various Batman and Robin analogues from around the world. Their English equivalents were Knight and Squire. So, you get the basic idea here – imagine if you had Batman and Robin style characters, but in a British setting. They reappeared in the genius sequence in Batman & Robin where the dynamic duo popped over to Blighty to take on the Pearly King and Old King Coal.

So, when this title first appeared I shunned it as another of DC's lamer cash-in attempts. But then on the FA website I read a persuasive & favourable review and decided to give this a go. So what do we get here? Well, this issue is only based around the titular characters in the most tenuous of fashions. The story is set in a magic pub where they and various other outlandish villains and heroes are getting together for a pint, the idea being that no one's superpowers work in the pub and a truce reigns that prevents them all laying into each other.

If that were to give you the impression that this not a particularly serious title then you would not be wrong. The strip features a succession of outlandish heroes and villains, with the following serving as a representative sample: Jarvis Poker (the British Joker), the Milkman, the Black and White Minstrels, and the Professional Scotsman. This is not the Batman of The Dark Knight Returns transposed to England – it's more like the 1960s TV series crossbred with British kids comics and the likes of the British Avengers TV series. The art manages to evoke the kind of thing you would get in the better-drawn Tharg's future shocks, a suitably British reference point.

I found the story a bit hard to follow (something that happens a lot to me now that I am old), but this is still all rather entertaining, if a bit slight. I think they maybe need to do more with the Knight character – give us some sense of him being more than just a bland superhero type. But for all that, I am sufficiently intrigued by this to chance a second issue – good job that #2 has already come out and is now available in the shops, eh readers?

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image source

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I post links

I have two more reviews on that comics website I mentioned recently. I am still finding the idea of anyone publishing anything I write (even if just on the Internet) so exciting that I am going to post you links to them:

Incognito: Bad Influences #1
(previous Inuit Panda posts about Incognito)

The Unwritten #17
(previous Inuit panda posts about The Unwritten)

Unwritten Panda

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Trio Scordatura "Dubh"

The Scords are this classical three piece comprising Elisabeth Smalt on viola, Alfrun Schmid on voice, and Bob Gilmore on keyboards. They play music inspired by the ideas of Harry Partch*. One problem with this record, however, is that it comes with no sleevenotes or anything like that. So I know from a fascinating radio interview with Bob Gilmore on Nova and things he has said when playing live that the trios' music is inspired by the ideas of Harry Partch*, but I cannot not really tell you what those ideas are.

Anyway Dubh features a load of tracks by people like Judith Ring, Linda Buckley, Garrett Sholdice, Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, etc. And nothing composed by Bob Gilmore, which surprised me. I know that Gilmore is a musicologist and an expert on this kind of music, so you would think he would be able to knock something together to include on the record, but nothing appears. Maybe he is a hard-line non-composer, or maybe it is considered bad form to record your own compositions. I do not know. The actual musical pieces sound like they come from the dark ambient tradition rather than anything obviously "classical", using either electronics or funny viola sounds to create a disconcerting atmosphere. I recommend this highly to people who like that sort of thing.

Later: I wrote the preceding embarrassment of a non-review some time ago for Frank's APA. Let me try again to make one more attempt to get across some idea of what the music on this record sounds like. The tracks are mainly driven by the combination of Schmid's largely wordless vocals and Smalt's playing of the adapted viola. I think of the defining characteristic of this record as being slowness – we get pieces where notes are held for long periods, perhaps with very gradual change. This reminds me, of course, of the performance of James Tenney's In a Large Open Space that I saw a year or two back, with which this lot were involved. Some of the other tracks are more from the world of, eh, scratchy viola music, while some of the others use electronics as well as instrumental music. I am curious as to how the composer-performer relationship works with the pieces that use a lot of electronics, as my basic idea of how musical notation works does not comprehend how a composer would tell a performer what to do in this area. Does anyone have any ideas here?

Anyway, I hope that gives a better idea of what to expect with this record. I continue to recommend it highly, but I accept it is not for everyone. That said, I have started to imagine an alternate universe in which this kind of music suddenly becomes amazingly popular, with the Trio Scordatura playing sold-out concerts in the O2, contestants on X-Factor performing covers of tracks from this record and Paris Hilton bringing out an album inspired by the music of James Tenney. Would this be a better world than the one we have?

Should you wish to acquire the Trio Scordatura record, it can be purchased in the Winding Stair bookshop (ask for "the CD", as it is the only one they stock) or online from Ergodos.

*Or maybe it's James Tenney – it's so hard to remember things.

image source (Ergodos)

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Beggars of Dublin #8

This was at one stage this guy's second appearance in Guardian piece, but he must not have been looking sadface enough, as they removed him from the other one.


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Beggars of Dublin #7

This guy may be on a retainer with the Guardian, as I think this is the third piece of theirs he appears in.


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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beggars of Dublin #1

There were no beggars in Ireland in the past, but since the collapse of our economy their numbers have multiplied to such an extent that at least one beggar will feature in any street scene photographed for a UK media outlet. Like this fellow here.

Source (Guardian)

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Clever Birds Mimic Meerkats – to Steal Their Food

The Drongo is a bird that lives in the Kalahari Desert. It has worked out a handy way of getting Meerkats to collect food for it. A Drongo will follow around a troop of Meerkats, and learn the call the loveable mammals make when they spot a predator. When the Drongo sees a Meerkat with a tasty morsel that it would like to eat, it emits the Meerkat alarm call. The Meerkat, thinking that it is in danger, drops its food and runs for cover. "Nom Nom Nom", says the Drongo.


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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hungry Bears Eat You Granny

In the Komi Republic of Russia, the local bears are getting ready to hibernate. Unfortunately, a variety of factors have meant that the foods on which they usually fatten up are not so available this year. To get around this problem, the giant omnivores have started sneaking into human graveyards to dig up and eat the newly interred dead. Apparently a bear in Karelia was the first to work out how to open coffins, and he (or she) then taught all its friends.


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Friday, November 12, 2010

Exciting News For All Comics Fans!

No wait, come back everyone!

There is this guy called Martin Skidmore who edited some comics and brought out a magazine about comics called FA (he shortened the title from Fantasy Advertiser, a name it had been given before he inherited it).

Now in the Internet age FA LIVES AGAIN! - as a website, with reviews and features and news and stuff like that.

Not merely that, but I have a review in it, of issue 2 of Neonomicon, the ongoing Lovecraft-inspired comic by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows. I mention how I thought the issue worked well as horror, but I was a bit creeped out by the extended sexual degradation of the main female character that closed off the issue. You can read my review here.

I may have further reviews on FA in the future.

Angry Panda

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Good Dog Sniffs Out Bacteria

Cliff the Beagle is a clever dog who helps out in the Amsterdam Free University Medical Centre. His work has proved so useful that some have taken to calling him Doctor Cliff. Cliff goes around the hospital sniffing out colonies of dangerous bacteria. With his acute sense of smell, he can find traces of these virulent and contagious germs that would otherwise be almost impossible to locate. And his cheery manner is also proving a hit with the hospital's many patients.


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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

If You Think This Is Attractive, You're Being Deluded

Fixin' The Charts Vol. 1 is the album by Everybody Was In The French Resistance… Now!. I have listened to this a lot, because it is totally ace. If you have read what I said about their live performance you basically get the idea. This record, by the lead vocalist (Eddie Argos) of Art Brut and the keyboardist (Dyan Valdès) of The Blood Arm, gives us songs answering well-known tracks by other artists. The one big difference to the way they sound live is that here Dyan Valdés' backing vocals are a bit higher in the mix. The tracks are largely driven by the lyrics, but if any other band had lyrics this good their songs would be too.

The tunes often manage to be both droll and quite affecting at the same tyme, with 'Billie's Genes' (replying to 'Billie Jean') 'Hey! It's Jimmy Mack!' (replying to, astonishingly, 'Jimmy Mack') and 'Coal Digger' (the chip fat song; I think it replies to some song called 'Gold Digger', albeit in a somewhat notional sense) being especially striking in this regards. A lot of it, however, is straightforwardly funny, like 'He's a "Rebel"' (an answer to some girl group song called 'He's A Rebel') being extremely chortlesome, with its amusing duetting between Ms Valdés (in raptures over this rebellious boy) and Mr Argos (wise to his game, but obviously a bit jealous).

I feel that this record is destined to be one of my favourites of this year. Whatever else you might say about Indietracks, I will be forever grateful to the festival for introducing me to this lot.

image source

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Monday, November 01, 2010

The Healing Power of Jazz

We saw Zahr playing in the Pendulum club night in J.J. Smyths. Zahr are another Francesco Turrisi band, this time playing music from the Italian folk tradition but influenced by tunes from the Arab world and further afield. The draw for us was that he had an oud player with him, so lot of microtonal string sounds, but the percussionist he had was also good crack and would give Salil Sachdev (if you remember him) a run for his money on his ability to make anything into a percussion instrument. Turrisi also did his bit to resolve one of the world's most intractable conflicts by playing both Turkish and Armenian tunes.

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