Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas diarising

Lyndsey had a party at her studio last night, which was very nice. I got to catch up with people I've not seen enough of lately, which was fun although I spent a lot of the evening feeling flustered and spotting people out of the corner of my eye who I felt like I was ignoring. Lynds and Jo's studio is full of plants - with the addition of a few strings of Christmas lights and the deduction of some traditional wattage, it made for a dark, cosy, festive environment. Beers nestled in buckets and bottles of rum were slowly emptied.

Vanessa showed me a year of her life on the photos section of her mobile phone. It's an oddly efficient way of catching up; we watched the empty rooms of her new house slowly fill up, her nephew gradually growing, and the South Downs slowly changing colour as the year advanced. We embarked upon a swift psycho-analytical tour of our various friends' psyches, comparing notes, and concluded with a brief deconstruction of the joys of family arguments, during which I enjoyed myself by reminding Van that she is adorable but quite impossible. Me and Lynds did our traditional "who can hug Nessie the longest" competition; frustratingly I think L won this time.

Today my dad is having an operation and I am watching the clock ticking down to its commencement. And to Christmas.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

To Pimp a Butterfly; quick review

Listening fairly obsessively to the new Kendrick Lamar LP at the moment. My tells me I've racked up 99 song plays in the last day or two - am sure that'll be many many more by the weekend. It's much too early to pass judgement on 'To Pimp A Butterfly' after only five or six listens, especially as I mistakenly underestimated 'Good Kid, Maad City' on release - and only latterly realised that how incredibly rich, complex, moving and clever it is.

Something that's broadly true of his whole back catalogue. At the moment it feels like all three of his albums are classics, which puts him ahead of so many of his peers and predecessors.

By my calculation the list of rap artists who managed three consecutive classics is staggeringly short - 2pac, A Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube and Public Enemy. That puts him ahead of Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, Snoop, Dre, Wu Tang (although RZA managed a hell of a run if you count the solo LPs - at one point he racked up 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx', 'Liquid Swords' & 'Ironman' a mere matter of months apart).

Anyway - Kendrick is so profoundly ahead of everyone else making rap records at the moment. The sonic palette on his new one is a perfect and logical brew given his development as an artist and the growth of his themes. Gone are the colder, harsher tones of 'Good Kid, Maad City' and in comes a warmer, more soulful sound, more in the vein of 'Section.80' (which makes sense given that GKMC speaks of a darker, earlier time than his debut).

Along with the soul comes stunning jazz instrumentation and funk breaks, drawing on the conscious rap of Native Tongues as well as the gorgeous warmth of the g-funk pioneered by Dr Dre and DJ Quik. It's the celebration of the West Coast promised by 'Compton' at the end of Good Kid, but richly developed by a rejection of gang-oriented themes and a broader enunciation of Kendrick's black consciousness. There's a lot of spoken word on this LP, including a bravura 'conversation' with 2pac at the album's close which has left the hair standing up on the back of my neck each time I've heard it.

Lyrically, Kendrick sounds like he's on amazing form, but there's so much to decipher and enjoy, and I have literally only just got started on this one. It feels like a work of genius so far.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

On Goethe & the Penguin 80s

I picked up a bunch of the new Penguin 80s last week; a jarring reminder of how emphatically time passes, given I remember so clearly buying the 60s a full twenty years ago. In those days I encountered a host of writers I'd never read before, including William Boyd, John Updike and Italo Calvino, and read them on a beach during one of those languorous summer holidays allowed to the children of teachers. I think, for some reason, I read them beside a lake in the south of France, but my mind could easily be paying tricks with me. Either way, I remember my sunglasses, and Dad bringing slices of watermelon down for us to eat, and the bright orange of the Penguin spines, how the sand nested in the gutters between the pages. It was a long time ago. 

The first of the new series that I have read is the beautifully titled 'Sketchy, Doubtful, Incomplete Jottings', which collects a number of Goethe's musings on the self and on art. A few are lovely.

"If you can seek out good advice, it's as though you yourself have the capacity for action".
"You only really know when you know little; doubt grows with knowledge".
"Intelligent people are always the best encyclopedia".
"The world is a bell that is cracked: it clatters, but does not ring out clearly".
Go and grab the book, at 80p it's completely worth it.

Monday, March 02, 2015

On spring

I had a funny weekend, the kind where all sorts of things come apart and come together - mainly because I saw a bunch of people I've not seen for a long time, or had the sort of conversations I've not had in a long time, and remembered along the way the importance of honesty and candour and kindness, and how vital people are.

On Friday I went to a club in Brighton called Casablancas, which is one of the places I went in my teens and early twenties, and was oddly pleased by the absence of nostalgic feelings. I was bought apple-flavoured shots and syrupy liquors, and watched fascinated as people flung themselves around while dancing, colliding into each other. I was happy to see it and happy to leave.

On Saturday I sat on my sofa - at various times throughout the day - with a few of my favourite people, and wore blankets and talked and felt some real washes of peacefulness, which weren't constant, and which were sometimes notable for being the opposite of other feelings, but was grateful for them.

On Sunday me, Laura and Jackie walked through town feeling untethered and bumped into Eva, who we have not seen in such a long time, and who was delightful as always. I walked home in the rain just scooped out with tiredness but oddly energetic.

It was a weekend but it felt like the start of a new week.

Co-incidentally, it's now Spring.