Wednesday, 7 June 2017

It's been a while since I recorded a DJ mix (or written a blog post, for that matter), so I felt it high time do so.  I got booked to play at the excellent Noisily Festival this Summer, so I made this particular mix in anticipation of my set there (Sunday on the Treehouse Stage, for anyone attending!).  Dub and reggae of the highest order, as usual - listen here if that tickles your fancy.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

I tried to post this on New Year's Eve but Blogger was sketching out and it wouldn't work - so much for my end of year list going up on the very last day but hey-ho, it's all still relevant.  Twas another cracking year for books and music with much eager devouring afoot. Slightly less so for films, personally: only made it to the flicks twice, to see Arrival (which was very good and refreshingly, if at times disarmingly concise) and the slightly older, but utterly sublime Song of the Sea - a magical, beautiful film.  I also greatly enjoyed watching Mr.Turner, and I took far more pleasure than I should have done in watching Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.  Tale of Tales was another good'n - flawed, but highly enjoyable and atmospheric.

As an avid reader of fiction I'm well used to finshing books with a distinct air of frustration, from either fizzling-out non-endings or otherwise unsatisfactory conclusions, but reading The Miniaturist followed by His Bloody Project proved a cruel double whammy.  Both cracking books but somewhat ruined by expectations not being realised (in the latter case I was bloody certain the granny would have a pivotal part to play and change everything but she never got mentioned again and the book just plodded on to its conclusion.  I'm not saying every book needs a pivotal granny but in this case everything seemed to be building towards it - a missed trick if ever there was one.

Still, you can't go wrong with with William Boyd, and Sweet Caress was the best of the new books I read this year.  He just maintains such a high standard, even with a distinst break from the norm such as this one - a thoroughly refreshing read (not to mention a brave conceit) from one of the finest novelists around.

Other recent, if not new, books I read this year that I'd also recommend were the Lives of Others, A Brief History of Seven Killings (the Booker shortlist is always reassuringly reliable) and the somewhat older, previously mentioned Poisonwood Bible.  I also got Prisoners of Geography for Christmas and so while I've only just started it, it's turning out to be one of the most fascinating and insightful books I've read - my understanding of the world has reached a major new level in a short number of pages and I can't wait to find out more!  I can't recommend this book highly enough. 

Music was excellent this year too.  Clinton Fearon and Grouch are bang at the top of their game so a year with albums by both of them is a good year indeed; This Morning doesn't quite scale the utterly stellar heights of Clinton's previous, Goodness, but it's a grower so it might get there eventually (the odd performance wobble notwithstanding - tunes and sound are superb), and Corpus Callosum is a very, very fine slice of gloriously inventive and solidly grooving psychedelia.

In the wonderful world of metal I have to go with the general consensus and say the best album of the year was Gojira's Magma - they were pretty good before but they've really stepped up a few gears this time and Magma is incredible.  You might even like it if metal's not your thing, such is the range of texture, atmosphere and fearless invention.  And I think my other favourite album of 2016 is completely at the other end of the spectrum - Love Letter For Fire by Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop, whilst edging ever so slightly too far in the direction of twee at times, is just a lovely, lovely record.

And, POW - another last-minute blinder: like many it seems, I'd kinda lost interest somewhat in The Coral in recent years, but their new Distance Inbetween record is outstanding.  Full of surprises, whilst doing everything that you might want it to in all the right places, it's driving but subtle, dark but warm; dynamic, atmospheric and psychedelic, and just full of downright cracking tunes - really really top notch.  All the more so for buying on a whim whilst Christmas shopping (you've gotta treat yourself too, eh) - something I realised I (and, I'd wager, most people) don't do that much of any more in these days of easy, instant online previews.  It's great to have one's curiosity piqued and then take a chance on something (anything really - not just music) without checking beforehand - just dive in!  I should really add the caveat that, barring Soundcloud (where I'll tend to buy the tunes I like anyway, if they're released) I'm not a fan of streaming and I buy all the music that I listen to - old school, but preferable in every way.  Streaming, to me, just feels like one massive, never-ending preview.  Other good albums that I enjoyed from this year came from Hedflux, Meshuggah, Resonators, Squid Inc and the cracking new reissue of Yabby You's Beware Dub.  Splendid.

Happy New Year to you all - I hope 2017 is a belter in all the best possible ways.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Just a quickie, this, to let you know about the wonderful New England House Christmas Open Studios show, happening next week here in Brighton, and which I'm very proud to be a part of again this year.  It's part of the Christmas Artists' Open Houses festival, but quite different to the other venues in that it's way bigger and only open for three consecutive days as opposed to the weekends of the festival.  There's so much going on this year - a huge range of fantastic artists, designers and makers selling all kinds of amazing, unique, creative wares, locally made by lovely people!  There's free mulled wine, mince pies and even life drawing sessions going on across all three days.  It's well worth a visit and probably the best one-stop shop for Christmas presents around.

And here's a brazen gaze (nowt sneaky or peeky about it, frankly) of a new print that I'll be selling there - one for the reggaeheads and soundsystem fans out there, perhaps (or just those who like the colour red and simple shapes).  I hope you like it.  I'll also be selling lots of other prints, greeting cards, notebooks and a few Christmas cards - do come along if you can!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

A few sketchbook pages from my Italian voyage.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

I've just returned from a smashing holiday on the island of Elba and in Italy's Cinque Terre.  The area is a revelation - a true delight for artists of any persuasion, botanists, mountain bikers, walkers, foragers, gourmands (if you ever catch me using the term 'foodie', shoot me), bird lovers, animal lovers, door lovers, lovers and friends.  I came away with the fullest sketchbooks I've kept whilst travelling for a very long time (see subsequent post), and probably the most photos as well (mostly of doors).  I also kept up my daily haikus, which more than ever acted as a handy kind of short, snappy diary - carefully concise descriptions of things I'm seeing or doing.  Elba is beautifully tranquil, rugged yet densely vegetated (many of the steeply terraced wine vineyards that covered the island's hills were replaced with trees in the last century so I found it unexpectedly lush and verdant) with all manner of fascinating plants, many of which are wild herbs that fill the air with delicious fragrance.  I had the most splendid time on a mountain bike, in the sea and on foot, and there was some pretty crazy weather as well as very welcome sunshine - all in all, a good bit of everything and I'd highly recommend visiting both places, but perhaps waiting a little while till the pound's calmed down a bit if you're a Brit!

Whilst away I read Barbara Kingsolver's fantastic epic The Poisonwood Bible - the third book about/set in Congo that I've read in the last few years (the others being Heart of Darkness and the interesting but somewhat distasteful Blood River) and an absolute cracker: characters, plot, history, description - rich and compelling in all aspects.  Two passages about voting really struck a chord in these Brexit nonsensetimes, this one in particular: "To the Congolese, it seems odd that if one man gets fifty votes and the other gets forty-nine, the first one wins altogether and the second one plum loses.  That means almost half the people will be unhappy and, according to Anatole, in a village that's halfway unhappy you haven't heard the end of it.  There is sure to be trouble somewhere down the line".  Another vote happens a little later in the book, where "some of them that voted for Leah were put out with [the village chief] and some were put out with [an unpopular outsider], so everybody ended up getting what they didn't want, and now had to go along with it".

Friday, 7 October 2016

I overheard a fellow in the pub saying this.  I don't know the context, but I thought to myself, is there a more concise, more solid indication of an excellent situation and all being well?  I think not.  Dancing is the best, and if everyone is doing it, that's clearly a very very good thing.  Indeed, two activities beginning with the letter 'd' - dancing and drawing, are, I feel, the two number one ways to respond to and interact with your surroundings, to heighten your senses and awareness, to focus, meditate, relax and stay healthy, not to mention nourish the spirit.  It has also recently been found that, out of a range of activities, drawing and dancing are the most effective at staving off the effects of ageing, both mental and physical.  A good dancefloor is also a cracking example of human unity and positive energy, with everyone adding to the whole and everyone benefitting.  With regard to drawing, it seems life drawing sessions these days are often sold on their therapeutic and meditative qualities as much as their creative ones, which can only be a good thing - the world would, without question, be a much much better place if everyone drew and danced as often as possible.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

I was planning on making this - a humorous, silly but also somewhat serious and pertinent little sign - for a wee while, just for fun, but then something happened a few weeks ago that sped up the process.  I was having a ride up on the South Downs to pick blackberries, close to Devil's Dyke, and left my bike, complete with lights, water bottle and pannier, next to a path.  As is the way of such things, I went further and further away from it as I delved further and further into the bushes, but always peered back to check on it.  At one point I emerged from deep within a bramble to see across the field a fellow cyclist standing next to it, and assumed he was just checking it out to see what was going on; we stood looking at each other for a short while, I still in my helmet, sharing what I assumed was an understanding.  However, when I returned to my trusty steed I found all my stuff scattered about it, my pencil case and smaller sketchbook bag opened and rifled-through and my water bottle and a light taken off the bike frame.  The other light had been swiped.  The bastard!  And a fellow cyclist!  I was seething - a light's easy to replace but I was so annoyed that some people see fit to do that kind of thing, and out on the downs in the middle of the countryside!  Still, just goes to show that there are indeed cunts out there (and not just the robbing kind), even atop the Downs, and it's wise to be careful.  However I am still firmly of the opinion that such care and caution should be subject to restraint, and that it's very important to be largely trusting of people and to stay relaxed: a world of suspicion and paranoia is not a world I want to live in.  Anyway, it felt good to make this (I'm a big fan of swearing as well as catharsis) and I will no doubt do more with it in the near future, perhaps a sticker or a bookmark (book thieves are the worst, after all).  My haul of blackberries was also underwhelming, but I made some reasonable jam from it and gathering them is always such a great pleasure, no matter what happens.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

So, once again a seasonal post.  As everyone knows, Autumn is the best season, and indeed for many people and in many aspects it's the start of the yearly cycle.  Hooray for Autumn.  I produced this image a few years ago but was looking over some old work and decided it could do with improving, so I did so, and here it is.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

This is a new piece of personal work I made to celebrate the changing seasons and everything becoming more green as Spring arrives and eventually becomes Summer.  Having found a printer that not only makes square postcards but can print multiple designs in the same run (yes mate) I also wanted to make a bespoke image for my next postal campaign.  It's also quite a good example of something that I occasionally try and incorporate into my work - a dub influence.  Dub music is quite a big presence in my life - I make it, spin it and listen and dance to quite a lot of it.  It's a unique genre in many ways; indeed, it originated not as an actual genre at all but more as a mixing technique and for a while there was no purpose-built dub - the only dub records were reworkings of existing (reggae) tunes.  It's also the only music style (alongside reggae) I can think of that encompasses such a wide gamut of transmission or dispersal - you could go and hear a dub DJ (whose set could comfortably span forty years of music), and an MC or a singer or you could see a fully live dub band or an entirely digital/electronic solo producer or band, or you could hear (and most crucially, feel!) dub in its most natural and archetypal setting, the soundsystem (if you've never gone to a proper, heavyweight dub/roots soundsystem dance you really should!  An experience like no other, but not for everyone...!).  And part of the beauty of dub is that, whilst strongly established as a stylistic form in its own right, it is, in essence, a process - something that is 'done' rather than something that 'is'.  Therefore you can apply dub techniques to any style of music and combine it with anything.  And I thought, why not art?  Why not dub things up visually?  So I often like to strip things back, cut things up and add 'effects', chop and edit, whilst leaving traces, snatches, echos and impressions alongside little pockets of detail.  And the best dub is always a little bit rough and unrefined - grit, gnarl and texture always feature in my work, alongside pattern and repetition in the manner of a spaced-out delay.  One of the key aspects of dub is also creating space (and thereby emphasising the underlying structure) - I'd love to do this more but it doesn't always work out that way (especially in commissioned work).  And, in Jamaica, where it originated, there is a strong culture of re-using, recycling and re-purposing, which is something I also like to do (both in my work and life generally - waste is a terrible thing and "if it's nice, do it twice").  As a wee aside on repurposing, my friend Mairead once suggested doing a Google images search for the term "gambiarra" - if you're unfamiliar with the term do check it out.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Today is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, truly an excellent time of year.  Best wishes to all of you on this most auspicious of days and may a wonderful Summer lie ahead for everyone.  This was going to be a colourful image, but being England, today is cold, wet, windy and grey, therefore I've kept it monochrome (for now, it's trying to brighten up out there...).

Thursday, 16 June 2016

I suddenly found myself with a bit of bonus time on my hands after a big-ish project fell through earlier this year, which conveniently coincided with the timing of this year's Secret 7" competition.  So I picked two songs (not my usual cup of tea at all but good songs) and did two routes for each (one I posted previously).  Yet NONE got selected for the exhibition (bah)... clearly there was some kind of mix up at HQ or something.  Still, it's a laugh eh.  Always enjoyable getting a bit more experimental and responding to specific music, in this case Tame Impala's The Less I Know the Better and Clearest Blue by Chvrches (still not sure what that v's doing there).  Trivia fans will no doubt be thrilled to learn that those windows are in Essaouira in Morocco and that's a finest South Cornwall sea.