Skylight

The theatre, two words that can strike terror into the hearts of many right-thinking people. Werner Herzog the famous German film director doesn’t like it. All that ‘ridiculously shouting’’ has made him swear off the art from for life. Though that hasn’t stopped him producing operas, which surely must be a definition of the phrase …

Physical Graffiti

Who hasn’t got the Led out at some point in their lives? Who hasn’t played air guitar to Trampled Underfoot or sang fiercely into a hairbrush for Kashmir? They may not admit it but Led Zeppelin like acne, are a phase through we all must go. The reissuing of one of their classic albums ‘Physical …

Outline

Rachel Cusk has written a wonderfully subtle and beautifully controlled book that is among the best things I’ve read recently. ‘Outline’ is a novel in ten conversation narrated by a woman so apparently anonymous that we only learn her name is Faye, 200 plus pages into a book which is only 249 pages long. Yet …

Beatles vs The Stones

Just when I thought I’d tapped out my Beatles obsession comes a new book to get me reading about the Fab Four once more John McMillian finds a new angle on the subject through the competition between the loveable mop tops and the big bad Rolling Stones. Up to this point I’d always thought of …

Sketches of Spain

Jazz and flamenco? Do they really go together? On the face of it the idea seems vaguely preposterous and the results potentially heinous. But in reality it turns out they’re made for each other. Well certainly if the album ‘Jazz Flamenco’ is anything to go by. Spanish Jazzman Pedro Iturralde is behind the double album, …

Le Pas du Chat Noir

ECM is a label responsible for some of Europe’s finest jazz recordings. Often more reflective and moody than barnstorming, it’s a place I’ve often checked for more mellow introspective sounds. One of my recent discoveries is the Tunisian Oud player Anouar Brahem. His album ‘Le pas du chat noir’ is one of the more haunting …

Sun Slipping Down

For the last forty years as visitor, social worker and reporter Eugene Richards has been coming to the Arkansas Delta. The result of this deep relationship is his soulful book ‘A Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down’. It’s a timely reminder in these post Ferguson times of how the legacy of racism and slavery …

Lou Reed Animated

Lou Reed was with out doubt one of the more literate rock stars who ever lived. From tracks like ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ to albums like ‘Magic n Loss’ he was constantly producing music and lyrics of depth and compassion. PBS produced this fun animation to accompany one of his interviews in which he lays into …

Gregory Porter at Town Hall, NYC

It’s a long time since I enjoyed a concert as thoroughly as I enjoyed Gregory Porter at Town Hall. His charisma is undeniable and his voice is unsurpassable. He even found time in between blowing the roof off with the power of his voice to allow a fan to propose to his girlfriend. Something neither …

Players Wanted

Having worked my way through a fair few of the Oscar Nominated films I have no hesitation in declaring Whiplash my favorite so far. It’s a film that is resolutely unfashionable in a number of regards but for that very reason seems vital and exactly what we need right now. The protagonist Andrew, played brilliantly …

Bedrooms of the Fallen

How do you show the horrors of war without showing the horrors of war? Ashley Gilbertson has come up with a poignant way. His book ‘Bedrooms of the Fallen’ depicts the bedrooms of soldiers killed in action in Iraq over the last 10 years. The artifacts that litter many of these rooms hint at the …

All-American: Born Ready

‘Born Ready’ is the latest in the All American series, produced by Bruce Weber and his partner Nan Bush that attempts to show contemporary America. The volume starts with a poem from Native American writer Sherman Alexie. According to Weber while the poem ‘looks to the future, it reflects living in the past’ which is …

Voodoo

Originating in Western Africa, Voodoo spread with the slave trade to the Caribbean and later New Orleans where it was fused with Christianity to varying degrees. Gael Turine has attempted to capture the followers of the religion when he travelled to Benin, Haiti and the USA in his book ‘Voodoo’ with spectacular results. The pictures …

Let the Weekend Begin.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve heard a mix CD that really demands repeat listening but New York’s own Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter have released a cracker in ‘Weekends and Beginnings’. They have eschewed experimentation for a series of banging tracks that make you feel that life is worth living after all.

Gabriel Garzon Montano

I know next to nothing about the contemporary soul singer Gabriel Garzon Montano other than he is highly recommended by jazz, soul and funk aficionado Gilles Peterson. It’s not hard to see why. His EP ‘Bishounes: Alma del Huila’ is a beautifully paced mellow ride into the soul universe reminding me a little of early …

The Dying of the Light

For me the photography book of the year is Paddy Summerfield’s ‘Mother and Father’, a work of such simplicity and poignancy that it can move a hard man to tears. The subject is the photographer’s elderly parents and their battle with Alzheimer’s The images are furtively captured from behind windows and bushes and feature the …

Tears Become Streams

When I brought tickets to see the conceptual art meets classical music event ‘Tears become streams become’ I had no idea what to expect. Apart from water. That was clear. Their would be water and probably a piano but outside of that it was all a bit of mystery. Yesterday I toddled along to see …

Invisible City

Ken Schles documented 1980’s Bohemian New York in a series of black and white images taken while living in an East village tenement. They first came to light in the much lauded ‘Invisible City’ published in 1988 and were exhibited at MoMA. Mostly taken at night the images speak to a twilight world reminiscent of …

Philip Glass Etudes at BAM

In a rare moment of high culture interaction I want to see Philip Glass ‘Etudes’ at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was performed by 10 different pianists including Glass himself. A minimal set consisted of a piano and ten piano stools each placed at the back of the stage under a simple backdrop consisting …

The Best Loved Game

To the uninitiated the sport of cricket must seem like a gigantic incomprehensible chess game played in slow motion. It’s a game that can last for up to five days and still end in a draw. Those days by the way are very much days; starting at 11 and ending with the last light fades …

Afterimages

The French have the whole memory thing down,what with Marcel Proust and his remembrances. Not forgetting that our word memoir is in point of fact their word co-opted by us. Patrick Modiano continues the fine traditions in his super short novella ‘After Images’, the first of 3 novellas collected in the book ‘Suspended Sentences’, which …

Heinrich’s World

Many photographers have attempted to give their work a painterly feel. Perhaps one of the most successful was an early Austro- German photographic pioneer called Heinrich Kuhn. Using an early color photography process known as autochrome, he created dreamily impressionistic images of friends and family that seem to exist in some painless parallel universe.

The Obscure Outdoor

Abelardo Morrell is best known for his work with the camera obscura. In order to find new ways to use the technique he worked with his assistant, C.J. Heyliger, to create a light proof tent. This allowed him to project views of the surrounding landscape via periscope style optics, onto the ground inside the tent. …

Do Not Go Gentle

Seeing interstellar the other day reminded me of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas. Why? Because they use some of the lines from his most famous poem throughout the film Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the …

Future Space

When we think of futuristic buildings we see them as shiny, smooth and untouched by time. Not so in the work of Dionisio Gonzalez. In his latest series the architect and photographer creates structures that seem like they were beamed down from the future sometime ago and are now being slowly eroded by nature. When …

The End Of The World As We Know It.

My brain hurts. I just went to see Interstellar and it’s scientific explanations of horizon lines and singularities have left me with a headache. It’s one of those deals where the future speaks to the present, which soon becomes the past all because of some complex formula involving gravity and relativity that I’m too thick …

Nightcrawler

In the disturbing new film ‘Nightcrawler’ people’s insatiable desire for real life blood and gore leads to the creation of modern monsters, namely the men who will stop at nothing to get footage. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a man whose general sleaziness is only matched by his ruthless ambition. Bloom trawls the nighttime streets …

The Book of Strange New Things

Michel Faber gained fame for his book ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ that was turned into a BBC TV series. Recently his book Under the Skin became a film starring Scarlett Johansson as a female alien who prays on her vulnerable male victims. Now he returns to the science fiction genre with a fascinating …

Jump!

According to Life photographer Philippe Halsman when you asked a person to Jump they revealed more of who they really were. So he set out to do a series of portraits under the title ‘Jump’ The book is long out of print but the images of iconic stars of the fifties from Dean Martin and …

Spectre of Hope

Sebastiao Salgado’s has turned his lens on some of the world’s great tragedies: war, famine, enforced Migrations of peoples, a desperate litany of disasters. His images however offer according to art critic John Berger the ‘Spectre of Hope’. Hope, Berger explains, is very different from an emotion like optimism for it can only exist at …

Police Work

Perhaps encouraged by some recent shootings on my New York street, I’ve been looking at the work of Leonard Freed.He was a Magnum photographer perhaps best known for his pictures of the police going about their daily business in the 1970’s. Gritty and realistic his work reminds me of another photographer obsessed with crime, Weegee.

Opening

‘Opening’ is an album that would probably slip under the radar of most music lovers. Yet this dreamy piece of ambient music is right up there with Harold Budd and Brian Eno. Created by San Francisco based Christopher Willits it meshes both analogue and digital worlds into one by taking guitar lines and harmonies and …

Ed van der Elsken

From his first flush of fame in the mid-fifties when he published his book ‘Love on the Left Bank’, Ed van der Elsken spent his life recording the world that he came into contact with in his everyday travels. Whether he was visiting Tokyo or living in his native Amsterdam he managed to capture the …

Gone Girl

As you’re probably noticed Gone Girl has been something of a hit with the cinema going public of America, yet many feminists have also accused it of sexism. The use of the classic manipulative femme fatale drawn from the usual Biblical sources has caused umbrage. However what also can’t be denied is the popularity of …

You’re Dead

Starting with the simple announcement ‘Ladies and Gentlemen. You’re dead’, Flying Lotus went on to make you feel very much alive with a scintillating show at Terminal 5 in New York Standing behind a screen wearing a luminescent headpiece, white shirt and black tie he become the center of a spectacular light show projected onto …

When Jerry meets Wolfgang.

The link between Seinfield and Mozart may not be immediately apparent but pianist Jeremy Denk helped me see the connection in his fascinating lecture, ‘Comedy and Convention from Mozart to Seinfeld’ Part of the New Yorker Festival, the talk was one of four I saw over the weekend and on reflection probably the best Denk …

Isla

Ernesto Bazan was the man who taught me how to take photographs. You may not have heard of him but this is an oversight on your part for he is one of the best black and white photographers in the world today. He has just released his third book on Cuba,the island where he lived …

Hipsters Naked

Ryan McGinley has a new show ‘Yearbook’ features 500 nude portraits on vinyl, plastered on every available bit of wall space at Team Gallery in the Lower East Side. As is typical with his work the nudes featured are strangely un- titillating. Their bodies are presented in all their beautiful imperfection mainly against colorful backgrounds. …

Close Encounters

Scottish photographer David Yarrow made his name shooting iconic images of footballers like Diego Maradona for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. He has consequently become better known for his black and white images of the animals of East Africa. His work has a graphic but intimate feel that allows you to sense the personalities …

Tom Palumbo

A favorite photographer of mine is Tom Palumbo who mainly worked in the 50’s and 60’s. As his name suggests he was born in Molfetta, Italy and came to America as a child. By the late 40’s he was working as a fashion photographer and became staff photographer for Vogue between in 1959 and 1962 …

Just add John

I’m sure many of have looked at some of the classic photographs of the last 100 years and thought if only these fabulous pictures could feature iconic actor John Malkovich how much better they would be. Well it looks like photographer Sandro Miller was reading our minds because he’s actually recreated some of the world’s …

Lost in the Dream

It’s rare to hear a rock album that feels classic without feeling derivative and irrelevant. The woozy, comedown grooves of ‘Lost in the Dream’ by The War on Drugs is just such a beast. It’s an album of long drawn out tracks that swing along without dragging. Like the last album from fellow Philadelphia native …

Schapiro’s Taxi Driver

One of the first films that had a visceral effect on me was Martin Scorcese’s ‘Taxi Driver’. I’m sure for many it’s depiction of the gritty New York streets of the seventies remains the way they see NYC now. In this film it is a dangerous, semi-lawless place where lone psychopaths are just waiting to …

Colorless Tsukuru Tasaki

Haruki Murakami is not everyone’s cup of green tea. His bizarre switches from reality to fantasy can leave more conservative readers both baffled and slightly put out. Talking cats, men being flayed in Mongolian deserts and people inexplicably trapped at the bottom of wells are a few of his more memorable flights of fancy. Yet …

Rome 56

I’ve always been a big fan of William Klein but probably my favorite images are those he took in Italy in the mid 1950’s. They are impressive in their ability to depict a culture to which Klein was a total stranger. His brilliant early work in New York were taken in neighborhoods he knew well …

Detroit 68

Once, long a go, Detroit was an industrial capital. A vibrant, multi-racial urban center that produced the cars that America drove. It’s all recorded in Enrico Natali’s book Detroit 68. First published in 1972 under the title ‘New American People’ the book depicts a city 40 years ago that was at the beginning of a …

Growing Up Black

Dennis Morris is a photographer, designer and musician previously known to me through his photographs of Bob Marley and The Sex Pistols. However he was also a fine documentary photographer as witnessed by his book ‘Growing up Black’ a chronicle of his East London neighborhood during the sixties and seventies. A snapshot of an era …

The World of Yesterday

Hong Kong in the Nineteen Fifties and Sixties is beautifully captured in Fan Ho’s The World of Yesterday. Rather than just attempt to capture candid moments Fan Ho would often find a spot and wait for the perfect light before capturing his images. The result are some dreamy and ethereal pictures that seem to hark …

The Many Splendored Thing

Love is strange, particularly if shot by Alec Soth. Recently I’ve been revisiting his book ‘Niagara’, which deals with honeymooning couples in a motel near the famous falls. What Soth uncovers is something vulnerable, sad and almost desperate. The people in his pictures are young but necessarily in love. It feels more going through the …

Eighties Italy

Charles H Traub, head of the photography department at SVA in New York, spent the eighties documenting Italian street style in Rome, Naples and Florence. It was time well spent to judge by the images in his book ‘La Dolce Vita : Vibrant, Colorful Photos of Italy in the 1980’s’. There’s a wry humor at …

The Notations

Every time you think you’ve heard all the soul music from the sixties and seventies there is to hear you spot another reissued or newly compiled gem.Such is The Notations on Numero. A group hailing from Chicago they had a few minor hits but there fame remained largely regional. However the sweet harmonies and fine …

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