Cygnus – Cosmos

cover

Cygnus (real name, Phillip Washington) is an electronica artist who hails from Dallas, Texas. He has recently released the album ‘Cosmos’ which is available to purchase from Bandcamp, for $10. Click here to view/purchase.

The album opens with the track ‘Cosmos I’ and an unusual chord sequence which immediately conjured up images in my head, from Ridley Scott’s, fabled ‘Blade Runner’ movie. I also felt that, if played on a piano, it wouldn’t have been out of place in a free-form jazz arrangement, at least until the track develops, adding an arpeggio reminiscent of the type of melody lines used by Plaid (Warp Records).

A few seconds into the next track, entitled ‘Shuttle Launch’, it became obvious that the influence of science fiction was not only inspiring the artwork, but was firmly woven into the music as well. This one starts with much more of a retro sound, which is quickly accompanied by another interesting and slightly bizarre chord sequence, this time reminding me of Max Tundra (Domino Records).

‘Global Satellite Network’ is the name of the third track, which, when the beat kicks in sounds akin to some of AFX’s Analord series. I expect this is partly due to the use of an analog drum machine which may well be a Roland 909. The first, longer track on the album, this one definitely takes you on a journey, seamlessly altering trajectory between sections.

As well as a clear Sci-Fi element, there is also a strong retro feel to this album, not dissimilar to certain 16bit video games, especially some I used to play on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis. And although ‘Cosmos’ may wear its influences on its sleeve, this is in no way detrimental to the finished product, which appears to me to be the alien love-child of IDM and Electro. Whilst it is neither exclusively, a sense of both genres is apparent throughout. Listen out for the fantastic vocoder part in ‘Cosmos II’ and the beautiful synth work in ‘Cosmos III/Laniakea Supercluster’, which makes for my personal favourite on the album.

My only criticism is that the end is so abrupt, but it did leave me wanting more and certainly didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of this great selection of tracks.

Cygnus has also released music through Icasea Records, Central Processing Unit Records and Radical Symmetry Records. I also thoroughly recommend checking out his release ‘Tesseracter’ on CPU [CPU00001101D].

Advertisements

New series of Derek begins

Ricky Gervais as Derek

Ricky Gervais’ comedy/drama Derek returned to UK television last week, this time for a full series. The pilot had apparently been controversial for some, but I just remember being pleasantly surprised by Gervais’ kind but coarse treatment of delicate issues such as disability and the care profession. He did so in a way that was both heartwarming, without ever becoming saccharine, and simple, without ever being boring. A lot of critics seemed unconvinced, but I think they were missing the point, assuming that Gervais was either taking cheap shots at vulnerable people, or that he was attempting some sort of ‘clever’ post-modern ‘so-shit-its-cool’ maneuver.  But this is a sitcom only in the loosest definition of the term, and the only people Gervais is deliberately mocking, are those who get offended mainly as a cover for their own thinly-veiled prejudices. I read a rather scathing review of Derek in The Daily Telegraph today. Nuff said.

The first episode had me laughing out loud a few times, it is definitely very funny – but as with the pilot, the new material is as much to do with empathy as it is to do with cracking jokes. Maybe this is where some of the show’s critics are left wanting. They don’t seem to understand that Gervais is taking the piss out of them. He’s having a go at how, when we see someone we perceive to be different to ourselves, we feel the need to categorise them, and that that category can stop us seeing them as real people – with interests, passions, quirks, humour and emotion.

Coupled with his genuine love for the character, it is palpable that Gervais has created Derek in order to get across his statement about society’s attitudes. When the pilot of this show aired in Spring 2012, a lot of people (critics and newspaper columnists in particular) speculated that the character is Autistic – something which Gervais has denied in the press previously (stating in an interview with The Sun in March last year, ‘I’ve never thought of him as disabled’) and which he brazenly referenced towards the end of the first episode of this series. When a Council representative visiting the retirement home insensitively questioned Derek as to whether he had ever been tested for Autism, Derek offered a stream of questions about what would happen, should he be Autistic, such as, ‘Would I die?’, ‘Would I have to go into a hospital?’ and ‘Would it change me in any way as a person?’. Having received a ‘no’ to all of these queries, our eponymous hero simply said ‘Don’t worry about it then’. In this small dialogue, which lasted no more than a minute, Gervais perfectly summed up his feelings: so what if Derek is Autistic? Can’t we just enjoy him for the unassuming, kind-natured person he so clearly is without questioning whether he has a disorder or not? For Gervais to reply to his critics so concisely through the mouth of Derek was perfect and ingenious. From: http://uktvreviewer.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/derek-episode-1-1-review/

Gervais isn’t scared of getting political either – the main theme of the first installment is public sector cuts. The care home is threatened with closure due to shrinking budgets, and Gervais does a very good job of humanizing this modern problem. It makes for compelling viewing and a very effective strike against this current trend for passing the world’s economic woes onto those who struggle to look after themselves.

All of the characters in Derek represent those at the very bottom of the modern economic food chain –  low-paid public sector workers, the disabled, the elderly, the poor and the unemployed – sections of our communities that have been hit hardest by the Tories’ austerity drive, and subsequently demonized by politicians to justify the attack. Derek forms a much needed antidote to this insidious propaganda, and does so simply by being gentle and honest.

Derek is by no means perfect, and some of the criticisms that have been made of it in other reviews are justified – but I would counter that by noting many may be slamming it because they don’t like the politics. Empathy may be a dirty word now in Tory Britain, but this show is chock full of it – which is exactly why I like it.

Check the first episode out here on 4od:

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/derek/4od

Clay and the Collective Body

Clay and the Collective Body

Just read a really interesting interview with sculptor Antony Gormley (in New Scientist magazine, of all places) that had a surprisingly political slant.

His recent installation Clay and the Collective Body explores “conversations between people – through objects or through the process of creating” by locking 100 random people in a stark white environment, with only a monolithic block of clay for entertainment. This “gave rise to an extraordinary and explosive outpouring of, you could say, collective unconciousness.”

This alien place seemed to trigger something in the participants, something primal that if I was more of a “yogurt-weaver”, I may be tempted to call a universal human connection – certainly the only familiar sight were other people, and the only way of killing time was to create.

“What’s absolutely beautiful is the way that people have occupied that space and become the absolute opposite of what capitalism wants us to be – passive consumers of spectacle, of information, of entertainment, of objects of desire – they become participatory and productive and cross-fertilising.” I thought it was particularly apt that Gormley chose to use the word occupy in that context.

Although Gormley goes on to state that he never intends to make overt political statements with his work, he lets slip that “…there’s no question that many of my works, in different ways, are asking about the connection between humans and our environment. And I think that all my installations in cities of the naked human animal in effigy form – surrogate fossils, industrialised fossils – are asking, where does humankind fit? Now that we seem to be well into the sixth great extinction, how long are we going to contribute to the evolution of life? Those are very big issues”  – and undoubtedly political ones.

Another subject that Gormley brings up in the interview, that is also a favourite of my own, is that of Easter Island.

Easter Island

This ‘ghost island’ captured my imagination from a very young age, as it seems to encapsulate the power that art and iconography can hold over people, our self-destructive tendencies, the damage that can be caused by a flawed belief system and the folly of excess that human civilization seems prone to follow.

“What was in the mind of the man or woman on Rapa Nui who cut down the last tree? It seems the answer to that question is “Well, I cut down this tree because that was what my father did and that was what my father’s father did.” I think we’re in the same position, but we are running on the myth of progress. My work is there to ask pretty serious questions about how we can shift our perception of what constitutes viable human actions or viable human behaviour.”

I always thought there was an eerie connection between Gormley’s sculpture and the statues on Easter Island, and I’m pleased to learn my instincts were close to the mark. Both signify mankind’s strange detachment from the world that bore him, and the lonely marks left on the land after he has gone.

Antony Gormley's Another Place

Gormley also goes on to criticise elitism and the determinism of scientific progress – it is a thoroughly thought provoking and enlightened article, that has once again piqued my enthusiasm for art’s potential to induce change, by making us take a long, hard, look in the collective mirror.

Read the whole interview in New Scientist

The Revolution Will Be Televised

The Revolution WILL Be Televised (Screenshot)
The Revolution Will Be Televised vs. George Osbourne

New BBC comedy series The Revolution Will Be Televised is actually rather good! Like Dom Joly with some more balls, or the Love Police with actual jokes; it is great anarchic fun for all the family, down to earth but with a surprisingly satirical left-wing edge.

Recommended light relief for all those suffering from Tory-itis in these challenging times. If you can’t beat em, laugh at em 😉

Episodes should be up on iPlayer for a few weeks I would’ve thought – here’s a link to their BBC page

Big up the beeb! (and I don’t say that very often)

Religulously Funny

Pretty late to the game as always, I know, but I’ve only just seen this film. A no-holds-barred comedic assault on all organised religion, it is both poignant and hilarious (just what you’d expect from the director of Borat, Larry Charles). Bill Maher travels around talking to various religious types, ruthlessly takes the piss out of them and reveals the gaping holes in their beliefs in the process. It is refreshing to see this sort of thing, as religion is considered a no-go area for such treatment by many, and you can rest-assured, Religulous is as deeply offensive as it sounds! I like that kind of thing it must be said. If there’s one thing holding back social progress (aside from the relentless pursuit of profit, of course) it is irrational belief. If you are an Atheist or Agnostic, or you’re just having theological doubts, you definitely should watch this. Or is that just ‘preaching’ to the ‘converted’?

Wiki on the film

This rip is a bit weird as it has been flipped, but it’s still pretty watchable. Que up all 10 parts and enjoy 😉

Stanhope Strikes Back

Doug Stanhope

There are still a good few dates left of Doug Stanhope’s current UK tour, and personally I think you have a moral obligation to at least attempt to go to one of them.

We did.

Red Eye sent our best reporters to his gig in Bradford last month, so that we could put together a thorough and enlightening review of his latest material, as we thought this information was in the public interest. Unfortunately every single member of that team fell victim to what can only be called, a dangerous and repugnant level of alcohol consumption. When they finally rolled into Red Eye HQ, several long days after the initial assignment, not one of them could string a coherent sentence together, recollect anything about the show that they had attended, indeed it seemed to us, that all they had managed to achieve over that fateful weekend, was to get massively shitfaced.

We can only apologise for their conduct and confirm that no review was submitted to this blog for publication.

Our only advice to Doug Stanhope fans who may be reading this in order to determine whether the show is worth seeing, is to stop endlessly googling shitty reviews of your so-called hero, buy a fucking ticket, and see the goddamn show for yourself. Stop looking at others to tell you how to think. If you like this guys stuff, go and see him while you still can, you revolting, mindless bottomfeeder.

If you’re still unconvinced about whether you should spend your hard earned sheckles on a Doug Stanhope ticket, sort your life out and check out his blog here.
His merciless annihilation of Allison Pearson forms a strong thread throughout his new show. It will make you piss. And he doesn’t even mention kick-fucking girls with cerebral palsy or anything…

Here’s a taster:

This is the arrogance of a media that is beginning to realize that they no longer have a monopoly on public discourse. People like Allison Pearson are dipping their toes into the internet, into the medium that is quickly making them irrelevant and they are shivering at coldness of their own sudden vulnerability.

It used to be that people like me were at your mercy, Al-Zebub Pearson. If I said something considered mean-spirited or off-color on stage, the papers could lambaste me in the press with impunity. Now the shoe is on the other foot as we, the people have columns and readers of our own. You wrote what I found to be loathsome, I gave you a bad review and all of a sudden the flurry of email you’re getting isn’t so pretty.

You are a moribund Vaudeville act. And you can either sink with the ship or come into the future where you are gonna have to hear what people think in whatever language they choose to use. If you google my name or read the comments on any one of my Youtube clips, you’ll find boatloads of comments that are far worse than any of the slings and arrows you or even Fabrice Muamba suffered. It’s par for the course. And if anyone ever went to prison for even a minute because of the viciousness of their online attacks on me, I would campaign endlessly for their freedom.

Enjoy your breakfast.

redeyewitness

Reflections on another Black Mirror

Black Mirror 2 - 15 Million Merits

The second installment of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror leads us to another implausibly grim vision of the future, but the main difference between The National Anthem and 15 Million Credits, is that the latter is actually rather good.

Co-written by Kanak ‘Konnie’ Huq (of Blue Peter fame) and directed by Euros Lyn (Doctor Who), this modern fable is a surprisingly entertaining glimpse at a possible future dystopia. We can only guess that what unfolds is society’s answer to the impending energy crisis, as people are put to work on millions of exercise bikes to fuel a hi-tech, computerised existence, obsessed with mindless entertainment and online living – distractions from their slavery.

The plot is much more emotive and engaging than the first episode, with characters you actually care about and everything – and it does what all great satire should do, which is to push the current way of things to the extreme, in order to reveal some hidden truths about their nature.

It’s also really heartening to see some proper Science Fiction back on the television. The best Sci-Fi uses the future to tell us about the present, and 15 Million Credits does this better than most. Its exploration of the cruelty innate within Reality TV shows like The X Factor is undertaken by pushing them further in that direction. Its subversion of the idea that social networks somehow bring us closer together, its parody of throwaway digital culture, web advertising and online pornography and its use of a Microsoft Points-style credit system in place of a currency – all have deep sociological and psychological resonances with the new ways we have begun to live our lives through technology.

Black Mirror’s dark future is like our own world with the volume turned up, and what is reflected back is not a pretty picture. Most worrying of all is how the technology is used to placate us, used to make the population do the bidding of the powers-that-be, by removing people’s freedom of choice and disempowering them, while making them believe they are actually getting exactly what they want. In full high definition. Just keep peddling and saving up those credits and all your dreams will come true, citizen. It’s the same lie we’ve always been told, and the black mirror of the ubiquitous LCD screen reflects both that, and a ghostly wan imitation of our vitamin D-deprived faces. Now plug in, shut up and resume viewing.

This is a very clever caricature of our increasingly digital world, the full consequences of which, we are still oblivious to. Let’s just hope Brooker and Huq’s vision of a malevolent force behind the network is just another dark fantasy and not a true sign of things to come.

Can’t wait for next one now…

Watch On 4OD