Bagpuss Soundtrack Released

Smallfilms may not be a name that you are immediately familiar with but the works of founders Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin probably are: Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, the Clangers and Bagpuss. A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit a retrospective of the studio in London.

Since its birth in 1959 the works of Postgate and Firmin have delighted millions of fans across the world. The Bagpuss soundtrack release by Earth Recordings is a surprising but pleasant one. The children's classic stop motion show is 44 years old and, for many people, holds a special place in their heart. I never really got into the show, being born in 1981 but I have seen a few episodes and can see the charm. The newly mastered soundtrack by Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner, has been released on vinyl, CD and digital formats and contains 32 tracks with a mix of folk-music, ditties and improvised pieces. If that's your bag be quick to snap up the limited edition formats.

Jean Michel Jarre Equinoxe Infinity- Album Review

40 years ago Jean Michel Jarre released his fourth album, Equinoxe, and confirmed his place in music history as a trailblazer of electronic music. The 1978 follow up album to Oxygene further developed the sound and style that made Jarre's music instantly recognisable, reaching its zenith with Equinoxe 4 and 5.

And so, it is with much excitement that Jarre fans have waited for Equinoxe Infinity, a sequel proper with the strange Watchers featuring prominently, silent sentinels over the many decades...

Equinoxe Infinity contains ten brand new tracks (or movements) which closely mirror the progression of the original album, peals of thunder are interspersed with the soundscapes of running water.

The opening track, The Watchers, creates a sense of awe and wonder as it opens with the perfect mix of organic and digital sounds. The sound of flowing water is closely followed by a deep booming bass that is followed by a deep rhythm that seems to be approaching closer, until it gives way to a full on sci-fi soundscape... Almost as if the sentinels have awoken.

Track two, Flying Totems, introduces many of the sounds that Jarre that has become synonymous with. There are echoes of Industrial Revolutions part 2 as the piece flows and ebbs. There is a sense of pure joy and freedom, almost as if one were soaring through the sky. It's hard to describe but the sense of elation I get from this track is indescribable. One of Jarre's best in my opinion.

The third movement, Robots Don't Cry, is a more measured piece. It has a steady, almost metronomic melotron sound. A violin wends it's way through the whole thing that is surrounded by the airy sounds of Oxygene. It's an interesting track and a grower for sure, especially when the piano-like sounds come in near the middle of the piece.

The next two tracks, All The You Leave Behind and If The Wind Could Speak are a little more soundscapey, with watery burbles and splashes punctuated with some treated vocals, reminiscent of Zoolook.

The highlight of the album for me is track 6, Infinity. It is nothing short of a masterpiece from Jarre. It could feature in many Balearic clubs and be the sound of the Summer. It's so joyful and playful!

Tracks 7 and 8, Machines Are Learning and The Opening are short but strong tracks. Machines Are Learning features a driving rhythm punctuated with odd beeps, bloops and weird vocals. I like it and it reminds me of his older work but can't quite place my finger in it. The Opening meanwhile has a striking rhythm and aggressive synthy sound which I love.

Don't Look Back is track 9 and is quite unusual, starting with an aggressive cello-ish sound that is slowly built on to become softer but no less urgent.

The final track, Equinoxe Infinity, is a seven minute marvel reprising much of what has occurred on the album but with a tinge of wistfulness. Splashes of water merge with echoes that slowly build into a crescendo and a euphoric wall of sound.

Equinoxe Infinity is a thing of beauty.

At just under 40 minutes Equinoxe Infinity is a short but wonderful experience. There is always great danger in revisiting your past but here I feel that Jarre has added to the legacy of the origin work, much like with Oxygene 3 but more so here. Equinoxe Infinity is a much more cohesive album that Oxygene 3 and is probably one of my favourite Jarre albums ever. It is a beautiful and at times euphoric experience and what Jarre fan wouldn't want that?

Come one, come all to hear the return of the great master of electronica!

LINK- Planet Jarre Celebrates 50 Years of Jarre

LINK- Jean Michel Jarre Oxygene 3 Album Review

LINK- Jean Michel Jarre Electronica Vol. 2 Album Review

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power- Episode 1 Review

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a reboot of the 1985 series. The series is a modern reimagining of the character and world of Etheria, which is a good thing. He-Man and She-Ra are fondly remembered, however if you revisit both cartoons in this modern age you realise just how bad He-Man really is and how much better She-Ra was.

This modern take of She-Ra is written by Noelle Stevenson, author of The Lumberjanes and Nimona, both of which I love. She has a habit of creating plucky and interesting characters and so it is with this series.

Raised as an orphan, Adora/ She-Ra is a strong and willing fighter for the Horde, battling against the insurgent Princesses and looking to rule over Etheria in the name of Hordak. However, after retrieving the Sword of Protection from the Forbidden Forest her latent powers are revealed and her secret origins flash before her eyes.

As a first episode, 'The Sword part 1' has me invested. The characterisation of Stevenson's cast is excellent and the interplay between them is wonderful. There are some wonderful one-liners, ''Are you brain-damaged? Please don't be brain-damaged. Shadow Weaver will kill me.''

I am looking forward to seeing if this series lives up to its promise and will be providing a full series review soon but in the meantime, check out the first episode as it is a well done modern interpretation of a classic cartoon.

Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 3- Comic Review

Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle has shown great promise with volume 1 taking us back to Alita's origin as a young orphaned 80% cyborg child named Yoko living on the war-torn surface of Mars with her friend Erica. Volume 2 returned to the present and had Yoko and Erica fighting after 200 years spent apart. Volume 3 returns us to the past to flesh out the storyline of Yoko and Erica in more detail. Yukito Kishiro has always had a bleak view of the world and here it gets incredibly dark as we find out about Erica's family, the tragedy of her past and maybe her descent to the dark side. We find out how the pair were separated yet their destinies forever entwined.

After she is separated from Yoko, who finds her birth mother, Erica no longer has the positive balance in her life and so when the new big bad- Baron Muster, who sports a horrendous deformity which Kishiro seems to revel in drawing, is revealed it is quite simple to work out why Erica would turn on her friend and become a mercenary.

So overall, this volume introduces yet more characters and more sub-plots but doesn't bring a sense of closure to all the other plot threads, however we now know why Erica turned to the dark side after Yoko left.

This series is setting things up but I hope that it doesn't become like Last Order and drag for too long with incidental characters that go nowhere. At the moment though it succeeds in drawing me in and keeping me invested in this dystopian world.

Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 3 continues the journey of Yoko/ Alita on.

Sailors Dream- Video Games As Art

Sailor's Dream is a peaceful narrative experience from Simigo. The only objective is to explore and satisfy your curiosity. You explore a variety of locations including ancient ruins, a windswept ship and an old lighthouse. As you explore the world you find pieces of memories that help you to create a narrative. The experience is beautifully realised and when I am a bit stressed or worried I find a quick dip into this app helps me calm right down. Check out some shots from my play through.

Okami Soundtrack on Vinyl Arrives

Okami is one of gamings most beautiful examples for the argument of video games as art. The imagery from the game is stunningly presented in a traditional Japanese brushstroke form and the music is a collection of traditional instruments and modern synthesizer sounds, recalling a dreamily imagined Japan that has never truly existed.

Data Discs recently sent out the pre-orders of the 4 disc pressing of the remastered soundtrack for the game and I received my copy a couple of days ago. Over the next few days I’ll have a listen and post my opinions here but in the meantime check out the pictures I’ve taken below and underneath more vinyl reviews of classic video game soundtracks, cartoons and retro television shows.

Good Grief, Charlie Brown Exhibition in London

Charlie Brown and Snoopy are iconic creations that are beloved all over the world. Creator Charles M. Schulz worked on the strip for over 50 years and created over 17, 000 strips in that time. It is easy to reduce the love of Snoopy and Charlie Brown to stuffed toys and the plethora of commercial products but it is worth remembering that the comic series is an existential piece of work, a reflective meditation on loneliness, defeat, and alienation. Seriously, if you read the comics you will find hard hitting truths and sharp observations on the human condition… it is a masterpiece of presenting truth, but through the mouth of babes.

Charlie Brown is an everyman, he rarely wins but he gives it his best!

Well, Somerset House have an exhibition celebrating the world of Peanuts running currently and I went along for the ride.

The whole exhibition is beautifully curated with many original strips alongside some personal effects of Schulz, such as his childhood baseball mitt, ice-skating boots as well as the stuff you'd expect from an artist such as his pencils, pens, papers etc.
Upstairs the cultural impact of Peanuts is looked at and there are many modern interpretations of the characters.
Overall, the exhibition is a wonderful celebration of this most singular and influential comic strip artist and worthy of your consideration. The exhibition runs until 3rd March 2019 and at a reasonable £14 entrance price, is worth a couple of hours of perusal.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold Season 3 (English Dub)- Complete Series Review

The original Mysterious Cities of Gold series was a French- Japanese co-produced animation by DIC Entertainment and Studio Pierrot. The series premiered in Japan on NHK on 29 June 1982 and ran weekly for 39 episodes.
I first caught the series on BBC 1 in the early 80s and was beguiled by the mythical adventure story of a young Spanish boy named Esteban who joins a voyage to the New World in search of the lost Cities of Gold and his father. The impressive looking background art, sharply drawn characters, and the beautiful soundtrack kept me entranced throughout the whole series, becoming my favourite programme of all time. It was incredibly formative for me and introduced me to the wonders of the ancient world including the Incas, Aztecs, Atlantis and El Dorado. Even at the age of 37 I still regularly revisit the programme every year and I can attest to the fact that it still holds up as an impressive piece of work.

 The scenery is stunning in MCOG.

The scenery is stunning in MCOG.

There had been talk of a second series for years and preliminary plans were laid but never materialised. However with the re-release of the series on DVD in 2008 and increased interest in the next part of the journey, the new series were finally put into production. Debuting on the Kix Channel in December 2014 the second series landed to mixed reviews.

At the end of the original series the children had only found one of the seven lost cities of gold, yet the conclusion was oddly satisfying in an open-ended way. Well, the second series was a continuation rather than a reboot and so the series picked up from the end of series one; The three children, Mendoza, Pedro and Sancho headed to China in search of the next lost city of gold and the truth about Esteban’s father.

On the whole I really did enjoy the second series but felt that it lacked the atmosphere and awe that was present in the original series. The voice actors were passable, however I did feel that Mendoza sounded angry or annoyed a lot of the time, a shift from his can-do attitude from the first series. Also the synth music from the discovery parts and key events made each new discovery super special. The music that dropped when the adventurers find the Solaris and Golden Condor still sends shivers down my spine. I felt that in the second series moments of emotive music and silence from the characters would have carried greater gravitas than the exposition from the characters. The second series took a while to get going, but after the first 10 or so episodes it did pick up and from episode 16 onwards it had those moment of awe and wonder, much like many moments from the original series.

And so, we get to series 3. I watched the complete 26 episode run in English dub and I have to say that it really continues the momentum from the second series forward, for the most part. The children travel to Japan to find the next city of gold and rescue Esteban's father, Antonios, from Zares/ Ambrosius. Along the way they make many new discoveries, including 2 more cities of gold (in Japan and Arabia), and grow as characters, but more on that later.
The episodes all move at a cracking pace overall, with the first lost city found after just 8 episodes, but the city of gold is spectacular, truly awe-inspiring and magical. The second city is again majestic and sent shivers down my spine but the series, whilst certainly better than series 2 is not as good as series 1 but it is pretty close in my opinion.

The main group of characters are more like the first series in that they are more consistent and less annoyed or cross, like Tao and Mendoza were often presented in series 2. The voice acting is better but it is somewhat strange to hear Mendoza say 'Blimey' at least 5 times throughout the whole series.

I also think the development of Zia as a strong female lead is good but do think they may have overpowered her, what with her ability to speak to animals, having foresight of key events and tragedies and telekinesis... That's quite an arc for any character let alone within 20 episodes! Her personality totally changes and at times it didn't feel like Zia at all. I understand about having strong female leads but a new character, Laguerra (daughter of Dr Laguerra from series 1), is introduced she is the epitome of strong female lead, so what was the need to boss up Zia, the usually quite, thoughtful type? It feels very jarring.

It is after this that I feel it starts to unravel a little with the group breaking up for a really silly reason and a tacked on love story for Mendoza. However that doesn't detract from the rest of the series being phenomenal in places and awe inspiring in all the right places.

The discovery of the 3rd city is majestic and sent goosebumps all over me and the landscape artistry on show was painterly and masterful, complemented by a new score that pays homage to the original but does its own, more modern, thing. There are moments of peace and quiet where you can just appreciate the animation and music without the constant kinetic pacing of series 2 ruining certain reflective moments. For fans of the Golden Condor there are stunning scenes which often felt like Condor porn, as we see the beautiful machine flying against stunningly rendered backdrops.

Overall, series 3 of MCOG is a brilliant continuation of the epic animation. It reaches highs that rival even the original series but also lows (the group breaking up in Arabia) that make parts some of the worst in the shows history. It is a show that is well worth a watch and for fans of the original, you will not be (too) disappointed.

The Works of Mamoru Hosoda

Mamoru Hosoda is the visionary director of such influential films as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Wolf Children and Summer Wars. Last week I went to a free exhibition of his work in London and loved it. Below are some of the photos I took.

Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 2- Comic Review

So, after 28 years we have reached the final arc of Alita’s story in Mars Chronicle but has it been worth the wait? I've spoken at length about how the initial 9 graphic novel run of Battle Angel Alita was one of the finest sci-fi tales of all time but the sequel, Last Order, was meandering and overlong at 19 graphic novels. The first volume of Mars Chronicle showed great promise, taking us back to Alita's origin as a young orphaned 80% cyborg child named Yoko living on the war-torn surface of Mars with her friend Erica.

This volume resumes in the present day, three years after the end of Last Order. We catch hints and references to some of the things that have been going on the last three years, like Alita doing some kind of work for the Jupiter government, but what kind if work is left a mystery.

The first half of the volume is about Alita meeting up again with her childhood friend Erica, who has become bitter towards her over the intervening years. Erica then attacks Alita, who tries to stop her and not harm her as she just wants some information.

The whole volume is an intriguing read as it reveals more about Alita’s past whilst also heaping new mysteries upon an already huge pile. I read Last Order a few years ago and so my memory of all the events are hazy but this storyline seems more cohesive and focused than Last Order.

The art style is just as great as ever and the fight scene between Erica and Alita is kinetically drawn and as high octane as you’d expect from Kishiro.

This is a promising story arc so far and I just hope that the author keeps it tight and focussed, as that was what made the original series so great.

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 1- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: And So It Ends

Sabrina: Graphic Novel Review

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso was longlisted for the Booker prize, the first for a graphic novel, and as such received much coverage and hype. I bought a copy a couple of days ago and read it over a couple of evenings and it was an unsettling experience.

Sabrina, the titular character of the novel, is an ordinary woman, who doesn't return home one night. Over the course of a couple of weeks videos are posted online and to various media outlets showing her gruesome murder. So far so trope-y, but what follows isn't a murder mystery but more of an examination of what happens in the aftermath of such a tragic event. It is a 'state of the nation' study on the current social and political climate where truth is flexible, fake news pervades and conspiracy theories about the Deep State are bandied around as facts.

In an age when the grieving parents of the various high school massacres are accused of being actors, #MeToo survivors of being mythomaniacs and news outlets of 'lugenpresse' (lying media) who do you trust?

In Sabrina, lives are put on hold as we follow the day to day events of friends and loved ones trying to deal with the loss. It is mundane, it is boring but life must go on for those people but what toll does it take to be constantly harangued, harried and pursued by the various factions each out for their pound of flesh?

The book is an excellent look into the age of the Internet and the hollowness that social media has brought on the masses. It speaks of the situation we currently find ourselves in and is chilling in its trajectory of world news items to hot takes to conspiracy theories to old news... The daily news cycle.

The art style was not to my liking but its simplicity and flatness did give it an eerie feel as the story is king here, it all works well. The flatness become more disconcerting the further you read into the novel and by the end you feel like you’ve run a marathon… it’s exhausting and traumatic, but in the best possible way.

It’s by no means the best graphic novel I’ve read, that’d be Maus or Blankets, but Sabrina is a book that definitely deserves the attention it is getting.

Nex Machina- Video Games As Art

Nex Machina is a twin stick shoot 'em up which was developed and published by Finnish studio Housemarque with some consultation with Eugene Jarvis, creator of classic arcade games Defender and Robotron 2084 and console favourite Smash TV. The game casts you as a protagonist armed with a laser gun charged with rescuing humans against an alien horde from a top down perspective. The game is very simple to understand but complex to master, much like their previous game Resogun. The game is beautiful to watch as it is running and whilst I am proud of capturing the images below from my gameplay, do yourself a favour and play the game to understand its majesty. 

The Mysterious Cities of Gold Season 3 Episode 1 Review

The series kicks off straight after the cliffhanger ending of series 2 with the group travelling to Japan to find the 3rd city of gold. Zares has kidnapped Esteban’s father Athanaos and promises to release him only upon the group finding the city, so time is of the essence. The children arrive at Kagoshima, a port town and try to find the city but find another relic made from orichalcum…
And so, with that the new series really kicks off at a cracking pace. It may be that the framing of images is more ciematic and sweeping or it may be that the soundtrack complements what is going on on the screen more but this series has already drawn me in much quicker than the 2nd series did.
The animation style, whilst different from the first series for obvious reasons, has grown on me and I haven’t seen the occasional weird animation glitches or odd character movements or shading that hindered parts of the second series.

This is a solid episode and I will continue to watch the series and hope to have a full series review very soon.

Mysterious Cities of Gold Season 3 Premieres in English!

Finally, after what seems like an infinite amount of time (about 2 years in actual fact) the Mysterious Cities of Gold season 3 has an english dub. The only problem is… it’s only showing on SBS On Demand in Australia. However, if you have a way to hide your VPN then you can watch it for free! I’m currently downloading the entire series and will provide a series review once I’ve watched it!

In the meantime, why not check out the new introduction and follow some of the other MCOG related links below!

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus- Video Games As Art

Wolfenstein is a gaming classic, being one of the original first person shooter games. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is the eleventh installment of the Wolfenstein series and a sequel to 2014's excellent Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This game is set in the Nazi-occupied USA, five months after the events of The New Order, in which the Nazis won the war. In the game we play William Joseph Blazcowicz ('BJ' to his friends) as he kills hundreds of Nazis, deals with Nazi occupied USA in 1961 and starts the Second American Revolution.

The game is a straight forward shooter and makes no apologies, but I'd like to share its art style. There are some beautifully realised locales here and the graphics shine through. It all looks very cinematic and the little details add to the whole feel of the game, giving it a real lived-in look.

Hilda- Complete Series 1 Review

Hilda is a graphic comic series and now Netflix animated show about a young adventure loving girl. The 13 part animate series is adapted from the multi award winning and highly acclaimed graphic novel series by Luke Pearson.

Protagonist Hilda lives with her mother in a cabin near the woods and mountains, away from people and it is in this landscape that Hilda goes on her first few adventures.
The first two episodes are a delight, reminiscent of Tove Jansson's Moomins, in that fantastical adventures are had and magical creatures such as the woodsman, stone trolls and giants are met against the backdrop of the wilds. The weirdness and slight tinge of unease reminds me of Over The Garden Wall, with episode 2 being especially melancholic and touching.

After the events of episode 2, Hilda and her mother leave their cabin and move to the city of Trolberg. Hilda then adapts to life in an urban setting, meeting new people and the complexities that brings. She begins to understand the beauty that can exist in the city and develops friendships through the Sparrow Scouts group she joins and it is here that the main thrust of the series is pushed forward with each episode being an amazing and whimsical adventure. There are elves, stone giants, a Thunderbird and even a nightmare inducing teen thrown into the mix and it all ends up making sense as the world is a tapestry of story and character with its world building logic.

The stories are often simple standalone adventure tales but there are elements of continuity as each episode has repercussions for all that follows. The episodes often have a lot of heart and are touching, something I've been seeing a lot more of in 'children's animation' over the past few years.

The animation is stunning and the colour palette beautiful at conveying the mood. The fully realised characters are beautifully animated and even though they may look quite basic, have warmth and depth.
The voice acting is superb, especially the voice actress of Hilda, Bella Ramsey.

The soundtrack is also really something, all synthy and atmospheric, it has elements of the 80s but is definitely its own thing. The title track by one of my favourite singers, Grimes, is a triumph and interspersed throughout the series' moments of wonder are individual tracks that create whimsy and joy. The standout for my daughter and I was when Hilda was riding of the water spirit in the Lost Clan episode. And that is what this series is about, a programme for adults and children alike. My daughter is nearly 4 years old and loved the episodes I showed her but some of the episodes I didn't let her watch as I knew for prior watching that they would scare her.

I binged the series over the course of an evening and a day and loved it. It reminds me of Gravity Falls and Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated and that is very high praise indeed as those two series are some of the best animated shows I've ever seen. If you get a chance watch Hilda, you won’t be disappointed.

LINK- Disenchantment- Complete Series 1 Review

LINK- Gravity Falls Complete Series Review

LINK- Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated Complete Series 1 Review

LINK- Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated Series 2 Review

A Hat In Time- Video Games As Art

A Hat In Time is a gorgeous cartoony 3D platform game that was successfully Kickstarted a couple of years ago. The game comes from Gears For Breakfast, a single person endeavour that grew into a larger volunteer group who contributed from around the world. What this has done is create a game that is tight and reflects the best of the genre (Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie) whilst avoiding the annoying collectathon that was Donkey Kong 64. I completed the game and had a blast as each new world felt fresh and exciting. It helped that the game was gorgeous to look at too!

V and A Video Games: Design/ Play/ Disrupt- Exhibition Review

The world famous Victoria and Albert Museum in London (V&A) is currently running the Video Games: Design/Play/ Disrupt exhibition. The real boon of the exhibition is that it allows the wider community to understand the gaming community and the lure of the virtual world.

The beautiful V and A museum in London is a great setting for the Video Games: Design/Play/ Disrupt exhibition.

Many contemporary video games are creative, immersive and innovative and some are having a huge social and cultural impact across the globe, not always for the best but it is important to consider the positives alongside the negatives which is what the media seems to focus on. The exhibitions focus is quite narrow as it doesn't really look at the history of video games but rather issues around the medium including the portrayals of violence, race and sexuality, which I feel are very important in an artform that is still quite young and seen as the enfant terrible of pop culture.
Across the exhibition well known big budget games and characters rub shoulders with some indie and cult classics but all are accorded respect and lovingly curated. There are large-scale immersive multimedia and interactive installations alongside the usual display stands and cases.

As I entered the space I was welcomed with a rush of colour and a wall of sound, with an extremely large screen showcasing some of the games I would be seeing.

 A large screen greeted me as I entered the exhibition.

A large screen greeted me as I entered the exhibition.

Passing a material mesh doorway, there was another large screen, this time showing the beautiful images from Journey. Austin Wintory's BAFTA winning soundtrack played and its beauty washed over me. The design documents and concept are from the game were on show and the information accompanying the pieces was informative and rich. The concept art sketches and paintings were wonderful to behold and creator, Jenova Chen, had his storyboard based on the classic Hero's journey on display.

The next doorway led to The Last of Us and had the same layout, a large video screen showing images from the game and some of the minutiae that went into its creation. A highlight was the original cork board from creators Naughty Dog with the notes and ideas that helped to consolidate the narrative arc of the game and characters. Within the same room was Bloodborne, the classic hard-as-nails gothic horror game by From Software. There was a playthrough of the Beast Cleric with a voice over by hilarious YouTuber Matt Lees that discussed the strategies needed to defeat the boss and play the game. Also featured were original sketches and a short documentary  covering the creation of the soundtrack.

The next room did a complete volte-face as it featured one of the most colourful games of the current generation, Splatoon. Some concept art and early prototypes were on display but the wall featuring the logos and street art inspired fashion was the thing to look for here.
Also in the same room was an indie game I had never heard of called Consume Me. It was a fun mobile game with elements of Tetris but with food and details of its calorie content. It features a cute aesthetic and I can see why it was placed with Splatoon.

Following on, we had Kentucky Route Zero, the magical realism game which features beautiful art. The original Rene Magritte painting Le Blanc Seing was beautiful to behold and spoke about the inspiration for the game.

On the other side of the room was Tale of Tales' The Graveyard, in which you play an old woman with a walking stick walking through a graveyard and remembering her past. I had played the experience many years ago and found it moving, however I remember there being a backlash amongst many gamers as they claimed that the title wasn't really a game but more of a walking simulator. The sketchbooks and original wire frame animation offered a real insight into how Tale of Tales came up with their concepts. Their 10 point manifesto challenged what video games could be and how they could emotionally resonate with people, much like the Dogme 95 manifesto did for film.

Afterwards I entered a room which contained No Man's Sky, the much maligned but recently patched and actually wonderful procedurally generated space exploration game. As you entered there was a wall of screens, showing GIFs of the worlds you could explore in-game. It was beautiful and looked like an art installation. There were also animal concept art and books that inspired the look of the game, including Asimov’s Foundation books and Ralph McQuarrie’s Star Wars film art.

The next room was a large one and had several stations which asked deeper questions: Are video games political? Why are video games so white? Why are video games aimed primarily at boys? There was a super wide screen that features talking heads discussing these questions and asking the audience to consider their opinions.

After weaving my way through a black curtain I entered a large room with a huge screen showing a variety of e-sports, showcasing how huge it had all got. There were montages of Eve Online battles, Overwatch matches and League Of Legends world finals. There was also a video on the creation of Westeros from Game of Thrones in Minecraft.

After that I entered an arcade area that reminded me of entering a beachfront arcade in the 80s in Southend or the like... Some muted neon lighting added to the industrial look of the area but it was good to play some of the experimental games.

V and A Video Games: Design/ Play/ Disrupt

And so I had reached the end of the exhibition. So, after all this was it worth a visit. In a word, YES! The whole exhibition was well crafted and placed video games in an interesting space that requires people to examine it further. There is more that can be done but as the first major exhibition of its kind in London it is very worthwhile.

Night In The Woods- Video Games As Art

I've been playing a game called Night in the Woods recently and it has had me reflecting on a lot of things. The game follows college dropout Mae Borowski, who returns home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs. We follow her as she meets old friends and realises that the town she knew has moved on, and not always for the better.
The game rang true on so many levels for me: coming back to a place to see how much yet how little it has changed, how people you knew have moved on or not at all and how tough life has been for some people, who live within the shadow of one of the richest places on Earth, nearly a decade after the economic crises.
Barking in East London is a crap hole but it was my crap hole, it had issues but it did have a sense of community amongst its high rises, empty shopping centre and prevalence of gambling, cheap barely edible vegetable bowls and pound chicken shops.
As someone who spent pretty much their entire life in the town until quite recently I have half remembered memories of Vicarage Fields opening and the whole town seemingly coming out to welcome it and partake in its free peppermint lollies emblazoned with the logo, the cool bookshop on the top floor and the video game shop Whizz Kids selling the latest system and offering playable Atari Lynxes with Chips Challenge. Now it seems like an empty shell with cheap clothes stores and stalls selling phone accessories and plugs.... A shadow of the promise it offers in its youth.
Night in the Woods resonated with me as it sensitively showed that the memories in our mind are often rose tinted and don't actually show the real world situation. As I’ve said, Barking was a crap hole, and even though it didn't have a cosmic horror entity or a death cult like in the game, it never truly felt safe, however I barely remember the bad things… the very high crime stats, the scary train station full of hood rats, the malevolent Vicarage Walk, people asking for a ‘spare 20p’… all horrendous!
However Barking seems to be rising from the ashes of Ford in Dagenham closing as the old 70s high-rises are being knocked down to make way for the new low wise apartment complexes, feeding the lifeblood of the city as it turns into yet another commuter town. This is an improvement after about 20 years of decline but it does feel like an end of something and that is something Night In The Woods captures very well. Who says games can’t be art? Art speaks of the human condition and Night In The Woods does that is spades.

Planet Jarre Celebrates 50 Years of Jean Michel Jarre

With a career spanning 50 years in electronic music, it seems like the appropriate time for Jean Michel Jarre to be releasing a new ‘best of’ compilation album. His music has been a huge part of my life ever since I heard his music on the Landscape Channel in the late 80s/ early 90s. The track, Oxygene 4 is a masterpiece and I have been enamored with Jarre ever since, have heard all his albums and owning most.

This influence map was created as the first piece of work for this webpage way back in 2011 and it shows how prominent a part Jarre’s music played in my life.

In 1976 struggling musician Jean Michel Jarre released Oxygene on an unsuspecting world. It became a huge commercial success and brought Jarre to the masses, becoming one of the most successful French albums in the world. Oxygene has stood the test of time to become recognised as one of the most influential ambient electronic albums of all time and Jarre is on the right side of history, seen as a pioneer and master of the craft. A handful of successful albums and record breaking world tours followed and Jarre dipped back into the Oxygene well 20 years later to release Oxygene 7- 13 in 1997.

A period of experimentation and mixed success followed with highs such as Metamorphoses and Aero but also low lows such as with the much maligned Téo & Téa. It seemed that Jarre had lost his edge, his relevance... but in an extraordinary tale of redemption Jarre came back bigger and better in 2015 and 2016 with the impressive Electronica Vol 1 and 2 albums and a stunning world tour. It seemed like the time was right for Jarre to recapture his crown as the ambient electronica master and so, after 40 years from the original release of Oxygene we had Oxygene 3. When I heard about the release to say that I was excited would be an understatement. I consider the album to be one of the most influential in my life and it is probably my most listened to album ever. I was please but also worried that Jarre wouldn't be able to recapture the magic. It is difficult for many artists to have the fire and creativity of their youth but when I heard that Jarre was taking a back to basics approach and creating it within a 6 week time frame, just like he did for the original, I was sold. This new album was never intended to be a lavish polished production, instead it sounded rough in places but it had Jarre doing what he did best; creating haunting, ambient soundscapes that would stay with you for a long time and transport you to another place. The album was a return to the Jarre of yore, and his old self but with the added wisdom that comes with age.

And so we arrive at this current point in time with Jarre back on form, firing on all cylinders and touring around the world again. I’ve pre-ordered the Planet Jarre album and am super excited to hear my old favourites rearranged according to the four different themes: Soundscapes, Themes, Sequneces and Explorations. The track list is:

 It’s a pretty decent tracklist and I look forward to hearing how they all flow.

It’s a pretty decent tracklist and I look forward to hearing how they all flow.

Jarre has been releasing short videos over the past few weeks reflecting back over his career and it is inteersting viewing.