james debate
james debate

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Genre Dream pop, Electronica
Label Mute
Producers Justin Meldal-Johnsen
Release Date October 18th
m83 hurry up we're dreaming review ephemeric

Even though Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is the 6th studio album of Anthony Gonzalez's M83, chances are you haven't heard of them before. That may all be about to change.

Gonzalez has spent three years pouring over every detail in this latest album, and it shows. Hurry Up, We're Dreaming stretches out over 2 discs and 22 tracks, a rarity for music these days, and yet each song is so meticulously crafted that every synth note, every chime, every buzz feels as though it has been placed with intent and fastidious care. Even during the album's more adventurous, abstract segments there is method and purpose and the end result is that the album sounds exactly as described on the cover, like some ephemeral, velvety dream.

I do not say this merely with regards to how the music sounds, although "dreamlike" would be an apt description for the ethereal, lush quality of this music, but more to its ability to be emotionally evocative. In equal parts uplifting and deflating, this is an album that can be wistful and reminiscent, thought provoking and introspective. In this regard the album feels very much like a dream.

The easy comparison that will no doubt be a feature of every review is one with 80s music, and indeed much of the album will evoke a distinct John Hughes aesthetic, but to characterise the album as simply an 80s revival would do a disservice to the great variation throughout.

Hurry Up, We're Dreaming runs the full gamut from anthemic pop-heavy tracks like Midnight City and Ok Pal, harkening back to the likes of Simple Plan and OMD, to the more stripped down hushed harmonies of Wait and Splendor.

Throw in a few eclectic tracks like Raconte-Moi Histoire, more a throwback to pre-80s psychedelia, and even full blown orchestrated songs like My Tears Are Becoming a Sea and you have some idea of the kind of range we have here.

It is impressive then that the music is so consistent; one gorgeously crafted melody after another and a good balance of instrumental and vocal elements. Each and every song merits a listen, and at its best moments this is an album that absolutely sparkles. If I have one qualm with the music itself it would be that the vocal style is quite the departure from M83's usual subdued yet quietly affecting lull, with Gonzalez taking on the reins himself and Morgan Kibby absent entirely. It almost sounds more in the vein of Kings of Leon or Arcade Fire; that's not to say that it doesn't work, it's just different. Some people may like it, others won't.

The bigger issue is that there seems to be no real structure to the album as a whole, no logical thread running through the length of either of the two discs, let alone the whole package. If one were to listen to the album on shuffle, I doubt they would notice a difference in the experience compared to progressing from start to finish. Hurry Up, We're Dreaming ultimately feels more like a collection of pretty sounds than a cohesive whole, although indeed one could say that this simply adds to the overall dizzying dream-like quality of the album, for better or for worse.

But despite this, Hurry Up We're Dreaming is an album that is hard to resist. Few other albums have captured the dream-like state to such a degree and portrayed it with such elegance and beauty. The attention to detail belies the talent of a true perfectionist and produces a record that may lack the clear narrative to which we are accustomed, but is undoubtedly the embodiment of this man's vision.

Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is M83's most ambitious album to date, and certainly their most impressive. This is a contender for album of the year, it's time to start taking notice.

Must Listen

Midnight City

Steve McQueen


Saturday 17 September 2011

song of the week: "Lungs Quicken" by "Lanterns on the Lake"

thing that makes me smile today: Going to my first Chelsea game of the season.
pic of the day
honeybadger ephemericIN:
Daniel Sturridge
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Cut Copy
Nicolas Anelka
Jane Eyre

Thursday 15 September 2011

Directed by Rob Ashford
Written by Eugene O'Neill
Starring Jude Law, Ruth Wilson, David Hayman
Theatre Donmar Warehouse

anna christie donmar jude law

Eugene O'Neill has always been the sort of playwright who will appeal to a certain crowd, whilst putting many others off with his overwrought dialogue and turgid stylings. Anna Christie is a play which, at first, sounds like a typical entry from his back-catalogue; there is depressive boozing, jaded old men, rough around the edges sailors, and of course the supposedly innocent girl with a shameful past. But to dismiss this production as such would be to do yourself a grave injustice.

Rob Ashford and the Donmar have crafted a superb production which manages to embrace the depth of drama, whilst highlighting the kernel of optimism and indeed throws lashings of good humour into the mix. This is a finely pitched, intense piece of theatre brimming with energy and deftly sidestepping the potential pitfalls of melodrama, one which will take even the most skeptical of theatre patrons and keep their attentions glued to the stage for the entire two and a half hour production.

Indeed much of this quality can be credited to the strong cast, with particular note for the three main characters. David Hayman gives a superbly nuanced and often heart-rending performance, even if he lays his Swedish accent on a bit too thick. Ruth Wilson is accomplished in every department as the titular main role, balancing the acerbic qualities of her world-weary character with a touching sense of vulnerability, although for some her demeanour and vocal qualities might come of as a bit too textbook for such a role.

But of course much of the focus will rightly go to one Jude Law, who has produced a potentially career-changing performance here, breaking free of his effete typecasting and transforming on stage into a gruff, surly sailor with such fervor and character that it is honestly difficult to believe that this is the same actor. Jude Law far exceeds anything he has ever done before, anyone who is not a fan will be after they see this.

The production is notable from a technical standpoint as well. The entire stage is replaced by a mechanical platform which pivots and emulates the tossing of the sea, while dry ice pours fog in from all angles and water sprays on deck. Such is the obsession with detail of setting that reportedly the front rows of the audience in the early showings of Anna Christie were soaked.

Fans of Eugene O'Neill will love the quality of the drama and the level of detail, while those who would not normally consider themselves fans will nevertheless enjoy the range of this production, a highly enthralling and well pitched production for all comers.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by J.J. Abrams
Produced by by Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk
Starring Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler
Running time 112 minutes

Geek deity J.J. Abrams returns with most ambitious foray yet into cinema.

super 8 jj abrams spielberg

Better known for his Television credits, with the likes of Lost, Alias and Fringe to his name, J.J. Abrams has in recent years started to delve into the world of cinema. Beginning with franchise films like Mission Impossible 3 and the recent Star Trek remake, Abrams also saw great critical and commercial success with his first original creation, Cloverfield. Now in Super 8 Abrams teams up with his childhood idol Steven Spielberg to produce a film that is arguably his most mature and polished work to date.

The director's veneration for his producing partner here is apparent throughout, with homage paid repeatedly to Spielberg's classic sci-fi from the 1970's and 1980's. Everything from the setting to the style to the dialogue will evoke memories of Close Encounters of the Third Kind or ET. There are numerous other references of iconic pop culture (eg. Romero, the Twilight Zone, amongst others), but it is certainly a distinct Spielbergian vibe above all else that pervades.

That is not to say that Super 8 is lacking in originality or its own identity. Indeed, Abrams straddles the line between respectful tribute and basic mimicry perfectly, and adds in a few of his own modern touches that make this film distinctly a J.J. Abrams production.

The story itself concerns a group of kids in small-town America (So far so Spielbergian, even the classic character archetypes are all here!) who are in the process of making their own home movie on a Super 8 camera for a school competition, when all of a sudden strange things begin to happen across town. Naturally their childlike curiosity and desire to make a good movie compels them to dig deeper, and thus the plot unfolds.

The narrative that unravels is traditional sci-fi conspiracy stuff, you have aliens and military cover ups all accounted for, and if I were to have any complaint to make about this movie it's that this element of the film feels a bit hackneyed in a 'been-there-done-that' sort of way, and the alien itself was a somewhat uninspiring creation. Not to give too much away, but think more Cloverfield than Close Encounters, a concept which clashes quite strongly with the more simple and down to earth style in which the rest of the film is made (I suppose this would be the Abrams twist on the classic Spielberg formula). Meanwhile the military suits themselves are not fleshed out at all beyond 'look out, bad guys!', which leaves these antagonists lacking the real bite or intrigue that other better movies in the genre have produced.

Fortunately, the quality of the film making here is such that these flaws can be overlooked. The direction and production in general is so spot on and superb that you find yourself caught up in the story even if you don't really buy into it. Ultimately the secret is that none of the sci-fi or alien stuff really matters that much in this film. As strange as it is to say for something which is billed as sci-fi, these elements feel more incidental than central to on-screen events.

The real purpose of this movie lies with the characters, and the magic of film making in general. Super 8 is really a celebration of the passion of film makers, all the way up from the little kid with a cheap handy-cam to the big name Hollywood titans to whom this film so lovingly pays homage, and that desire for storytelling. It succeeds wonderfully.

Go see Super 8. It is a wonderful film, and certainly one of the better I've seen so far this year. Its few nagging flaws or lack of depth do not detract from its many strengths, and to focus upon them inordinately would be to miss the point entirely.

Quality of film making
Loving tributes to classic cinema

The "alien" (ok "hate" is too strong a word)

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