Saturday, 26 April 2014
Directed by Rupert Goold
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (script), Duncan Sheik (music and lyrics)
Starring Matt Smith, Cassandra Compton, Susannah Fielding
Theatre Headlong company at the Almeida Theatre, coming soon to the West End and America
The Almeida Theatre's production of American Psycho: the Musical ended back in February, but with its impending move up to the big time west end scene, The Ephemeric has decided to revisit and belatedly review what looks set to be a very prominent fixture in London theatre towards the tail-end of this year.
But first some history. American Psycho: the Musical is an adaption of the controversial satirical novel by Bret Easton Ellis, which has also famously been adapted to film starring Christian Bale. It is the brainchild of producers David Johnson and Jesse Singer, conceived back in 2008 and ultimately funded in groundbreaking fashion via the crowdfunding medium of Kickstarter. Its protracted production cycle finally ended when London's famously bold Headlong theatre company decided to take it on, and after announcing the unlikely coup of international TV star Matt Smith of Dr. Who fame to star as Patrick Bateman, tickets quickly sold out at near record breaking pace.
Initial reaction to just the concept of this production has been one of puzzlement to some. The Ephemeric himself attended his showing with an individual confused as to how or why someone would adapt some kind of gruesome horror story into a musical.
But anyone familiar with the source material will tell you that a musical is the absolute perfect fit for this absurd satirical tale. At it's heart, American Psycho has never intended to be horror, or scary, it's a darkly comic satire, lampooning the ruthlessness and superficiality of the elite upper class, set against the backdrop of the Reaganite 1980s' notoriously decadent period of excess. American Psycho is about the heartless stereotype of capitalist society, where people are valued as nothing more than commodities, and everyone is so single-mindedly self-absorbed in their own wealth and prestige so as to be completely oblivious to even the most brazenly horrific of actions going on right under their nose. Patrick Bateman's methodical blood lust takes these ideas to the absurdest of extremes.
It's a story that is at its heart over-the-top, ridiculous, and funny. The musical version by necessity dials down the explicit gore of the movie adaption, and casts greater emphasis on the humour and absurdity of the material. Musicals are, but their very nature, over-the-top, exaggerated, and through Duncan Sheik's lineup of extremely catchy original songs, and some covers of 1980s classics, we cut straight to the core of American Psycho's message. Matt Smith with his vacant psychopath stare and surprisingly strong singing voice nails the starring role. Arguably it is the truest and most effective interpretation of American Psycho yet.
Following its success at the Almeida, there is little doubt that American Psycho will be a hit on the west end, with the intention being to move to Broadway shortly after. Anyone even vaguely in touch with the theatre scene would be unwise to miss out when it returns to the stage, to catch it in its early days. As for us, we await with great anticipation the release of the soundtrack.
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Genre Indie Rock, Pop
Label Interscope/Cherrytree Records
Once there was a loose affiliation of DJs and musicians referred to as the Remix Artist Collective, RAC. These days that name refers solely to the work of one man, André Anjos. RAC has since become one of the industry's pre-eminent remix artists, transforming over two hundred songs that vary from chart topping hits to more obscure singles into a final product that's almost always an improvement on the original, often in ways that surprise and delight. Such is RAC's prolificacy that the chances are you've heard some of their work, whether or not you realised.
One of our top previews in the 2014 Hot List, Strangers marks the debut LP in RAC's new foray into original music composition. It has been initially rolled out as two separate volumes, but the complete album can now be purchased as a single LP.
So what can one expect from a remix artist's original content? One might have expected something a bit clubby or heavily electronic that belies Anjos's DJ roots. It's a surprise then that Strangers strikes such a laid back tone, and in a variety of different styles. But while RAC displays an impressive musical range, from sparkling electropop to mellow indie rock and sun-tinged funk, there are common elements that run throughout.
Most tracks are infectiously danceable regardless of genre, and the production quality is smooth as silk. Each track flows effortlessly and strikes an expert balance of being in equal parts playful and soothing. Strangers is additionally boosted by contributions from a diverse array of A-list musical talent which includes Kele Okereke of Bloc Party, Tokyo Police Club, and Tegan and Sara among others.
It's another recurring element through the album to contrast music and lyrics. For example incredibly catchy lead single Let Go, featuring vocals from Kele and MNDR, is one of the album's clear standout tracks. The song's bouncy and carefree melody hooks into its listener fast, but belies at its heart a cautionary romantic tale.
Tegan and Sara's contribution follows a similar style as another example of catchy, and playful pop, resulting in another of the album's highlights with Hard to Hold. Sweet and sugar-toned, the track pulses with frustration beneath, also exhibiting some of RAC's instrumental range with punchy string and piano motifs.
Meanwhile Tourist, featuring the vocals of Tokyo Police Club, takes a completely different direction into somewhat more mellow sounding college rock. A much steadier and grounded melody differs starkly with some of the bubbly pop seen elsewhere, its silky vocals nevertheless provide a comforting contrast through the track's tale of relationship ennui. An extremely smooth and laid back track that crescendos slowly, it works extremely well.
Further good examples of the diversity on offer with this album come from the refreshingly funky Tear You Down featuring Alex Ebert, a track that combines an almost Bob Dylan folk style with RAC's smooth dance beat, while the sun-streaked All I Got, featuring Peter Moren, is another strong addition. Contrast these songs with the two-track combo that opens the second half of Strangers; the acoustic lull of Sixteen that leads into an almost Disney musical style of pop ballad with Seventeen, and it's clear that Anjos is growing into a songwriter of some depth and variety.
Meanwhile it's one of the album's most disparate points, 405 that stands out in particular as a highlight. Guest vocalist YACHT describes the track as an ode to driving along the west coast with its lush 80s tint and twilit melody.
Through it all a consistency in quality really stands out. The album is full of really lovely songs that are a joy to listen to, while there are very few sour notes, the album's second track Ello Ello being the most obvious culprit.
Strangers is a very strong debut album from RAC, and should form an essential part of your summer soundtrack this year.
Must Listen :
Hard to Hold