This year marks two important pop-culture milestones: The 40th anniversary of Star Wars and the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. To celebrate these momentous occasions cool geeks Jude and Dan, aka Palette-Swap Ninja, have created a musical mashup entitled Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans. Over five years in the making the album is a celebration of both entities that melds them together to create something familiar but wonderfully original. Check it out for free at the Palette-Swap Ninja website
Fans of composer Nobuo Uematsu will be delighted to hear that there will be a concert of his works at the Barbican. The famed composer, creator of legendary soundtracks for games such as The Last Story, Chrono Trigger and of course, Final Fantasy, will have his works played by Symphonic Odysseys London and the London Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday 20th June. A special highlight is that Uematsu will be giving a talk before the concert for a reasonable price of £10.
Fans of Uematsu should get the tickets soon as they are selling out very quickly. I'd love to go but unfortunately can't as I have other engagements on the date but thought I'd spread the love!
The Moomins are back with a brand new TV animation after being successfully funded on Indiegogo. The series, inspired by the original works created by writer-illustrator Tove Jansson, will use a combination of 2D/3D technology to create a stunning artistic style. The new series will premiere in 2019.
Katsushika Hokusai, born in 1760 in Edo (Tokyo), is regarded as one of Japan’s most famous and influential artists. He changed his name over 30 during the course of his career and up until his death in 1849 at the grand old age of 90 he produced marvellous works on plants, the waters around Japan and people. His most well-regarded work is the Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji series which includes the iconic Great Wave Off Kanazawa. A new exhibition will be running from 12 May to 13th August 2017 at the British Museum and will showcase the works in the latter third of his life, the last 30 years or so.
We have been studying Hokusai in our class as part of our sequence of work on woodblock printing and so I am interested in seeing this exhibition, however being a huge Japanophile also helps and so this exhibition is a must for me.
Those guys at Bitmap Books are at it again with the fifth book in the series proposed; a visual compendium for arguably the greatest console of all time, the Super Nintendo. I love the Bitmap Book series and wrote a glowing review for the NES/Famicom Visual Compendium and if this is anywhere as good as that then expect it to be stunning.
Check the link for the Kickstarter below and pledge if you can. It's already made 4 times the required amount but the more money pledged the better the quality and quantity of the book.
The House of Illustration is a great gallery that holds some wonderful exhibitions. I've been to a few but when I heard that they were going to be holding the UK’s first ever exhibition of handmade background illustrations for classic sci-fi manga and anime films, including works from Ghost in the Shell, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Patlabor: The Movie and Metropolis I was sold! I was a huge manga nerd in my teens and so the chance to see some of the original artwork is too good to miss out on.
The exhibition will run from 26 May to 10 Sep 2017 and I will definitely be going. The link to purchase tickets are below.
The world may seem grim and things may get you down sometimes but there are moments of pure joy and pleasure and these are one of those times. Sega have released the soundtracks to many of their classic games including Outrun, Jet Set Radio Future, Virtua Fighter and NiGHTS on Spotify. I am not a subscriber to the service but if you are then this is pretty awesome!
It was my birthday a few days ago and I received these rather spiffing video games socks as a pressie. I don't usually shill stuff on here but I do think they are pretty cool. They are made by Sammy Icon and they are nifty and comfortable. So if you have a geek in your life these are a good gift.
Vox has created an interesting video interviewing Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Zelda, Mario and Donkey Kong, about his design philosophy. It's a short video at just under 6 minutes and gives you real insight into this video game designing genius.
ET, The Extraterrestrial on the Atari 2600 is widely regarded as the worst game ever and charged incorrectly with being the cause of the great American video game crash of 1983. The game's designer, Howard Scott Warshaw, has a different take on the game and this short video gives his account of its creation. Fascinating stuff!
Nathan Sawaya, the famous Lego artist who created The Art of the Brick Exhibition in London in 2014, is returning to the UK on 1st March 2017 with his new exhibition The Art of the Brick : DC Super Heroes. The exhibition will include over 120 large scale exhibits of characters such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman all made from more than 2 million Lego bricks. The exhibition will be held at a purpose built tent behind the National Theatre and the BFI on the Southbank, near Waterloo Station. I look forward to going and you can go too. The link to website is below but for thoise who won't be going I hope to write up an article of my experiences on this very website!
Duck Tales was an amazing cartoon and one of my favourite of my childhood. I have the entire series, having currently just finished watching the entire Batman: The Animated Series, and am working my way through the 100 Duck Tales episodes. When I heard that it was going to be remade I was a bit concerned but after hearing the stellar voice-cast, which includes David Tennant as Scrooge McDuck,and hearing that the writer of Gravity Falls is involved I am super excited. I can't wait for the new series!
Ah The Moomins! Characters I grew to love over time but was initially terrified of because of the creepy 80's eastern-European stopmotion animation. Well, if somehow this piece of freaky animation strikes your nostalgia bone then you might be stoked to know that the foreboding homemade electro-acoustic, new age, synth driven, proto-techno, imaginary world music is coming out in February 2017. The soundtrack, created by Graeme Miller and Steve Shill is a rarity and will attract a lot of interest so for those keen to purchase it I'd recommend a pre-order now! The playlist is:
1. The Moomins Theme
2. Travelling Theme
3. Hobgoblin's Hat
4. Leaving Moomin Valley
6. Hattyfatteners Row
7. Woodland Band
8. Most Unusual
9. Midwinter Rites
10. Piano Waltz
12. Woodland Band Far Away
13. Comet Shadow
14. Comet Theme
15. The Moomins Theme (End)
In the meantime in anticipation of the soundtrack release check out the first episode of the animation below.
In 1976 a young struggling synthesiser 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. The album contained a mixture of both analogue and digital synths and was well received overall. I enjoyed the album and felt it continued the themes of the original well.
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 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 have 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. So after this rather long preamble... does the album work? Is it worth it?
The answer to this is yes, yes and YES! This new album was never intended to be a lavish polished production, instead it sounds rough in places but it has Jarre doing what he does best; creating haunting, ambient soundscapes that will stay with you for a long time and transport you to another place.
The album is a return to the Jarre of yore, and his old self but with the added wisdom that comes with age. For me the standout tracks are Oxygene 14, 17, 19 and 20 but after only 3 listens this may change. Tracks 14 to 16 work well together and flow beautifully to create the right Oxygene mood, with familiar instrumentation across the pieces. Part 17 is a great piece of electronic pop and I can imagine it on the dancefloor of many synth-electro clubs. Part 19 changes quite a lot during its near 6 minutes, weaving in bits of past tracks to create a uncertain soundscape with arpeggios that John Carpenter would be proud of. Track 20 is a sublime end to the album, building slowly and dramatically to an almost funereal dirge, but in the best possible way.
Some of the younger Jarre fans may not fully appreciate this new release but it is a fitting conclusion to the Oxygene trilogy and sits well with the other 2 albums, complementing them and adding to their tapestry. I am relieved and pleased that Jarre's legacy will remain intact and he will be remembered for being a true pioneer rather than a retro throwback who struggled to be relevant. In such unsettling times as these maybe we could all do with being transported to other worlds, at least for a while.
Jean Michel Jarre seems to be a man on a mission. Since releasing his collaborative album Electronica Vol.1 last year he has been around the world touring, finishing off Electronica Vol.2 and also recording his follow up to the legendary Oxygene with Oxygene 3 coming in just a couple of days time (I'll be reviewing it here).
I've spoken about Electronica Vol.1 before and how there were a few great tunes which I really liked, some that were okay and a couple that I skipped as I didn't like them and this is pretty much in the same vein. The album starts off brilliantly with the atmospheric orchetral The Heart of Noise Part 1 getting you into the ambient mood, then the follow up track The Heart of Noise Part 2 gets more aggressively dance-y and adds a bit more oomph with some heavy base beats and sinuous saxophone weaving its magic through the track.
Brick England is a track created in collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys and their signature sound comes through more than Jarre's but the combination works well and is pure early 90's electro-synth pop bliss.
As One is an effective track with hints of Ethnicolour vol.1 from Zoolook initially but then the bleeps and bloops come in and the backing chorus from Primal Screams Come Together comes in, which itself borrows the chorus from Kaasua Komisaario Peppone by Popeda. The song is good but does sound more like a remix than a collaboration between Jarre and Bobby Gillespie et al.
Here For You features Gary Numan and is quintessentially Numan, his voice suits the electronic sound well but there are not many of Jarre's signature arpeggios in this piece.
Hans Zimmer working with Jarre seems like a match made in heaven and indeed listening to the track it is. Jarre has some signature Oxygene whooshes which blend in with Zimmer's sweeping epic score. It all adds to a dramatic electronic operatic piece which you could imagine being part of a score to a sci-fi film.
Circus, a piece created with Siriusmo, sounds very offbeat 90's electro and is reminiscent of Daft Punk, whilst Swipe to the Right, featuring the irrepressible Cyndi Lauper is definitely a nostalgic hit of late 80s fun infectious pop with wonderful Lauper's distinctive vocals sweeping over the top. Her raspy sound complements Jarre's instrumentation wonderfully and the chorus is catchy as heck!
Overall Electronica Vol. 2 is a triumph, a more consistent album than the first. I found the tracks flowed better with the exception of the Primal Scream, Peaches and Christophe tracks which I felt were a bit awkward in the whole album. They aren't bad songs per se but they didn't suit my auditory palette. However I like the fact that Jarre has put himself out there and worked with such a disparate range of artists. For Jarre purists who are looking for the next Oxygene this is not the album you are looking for but for those willing to trust in Jarre and follow him on a musical odyssey there is much to like and savour.
Carl Sagan was the astronomer who brought the wonders of space to the masses, he explained the complexities of the cosmos in layman's terms and as such made space accessible. This animation is a wonderful showcase of this great man and shows the marvelous oratory skills he had whilst explaining man's place in the universe.
It was nearly 40 years ago that electronic music pioneer Jean Michel Jarre released the legendary Oxygene album. To mark the occasion Jarre has created a follow up with Oxygene 3 to be released worldwide on 2nd December 2016, the exact date the original was released all those years ago (well, except 40 years ago obviously).
I am so excited for this as I am a huge fan of Jarre. In an influence map I created 3 1/2 years ago he features quite prominently and there is good reason. I discovered his work off the Landscape Channel (remember that old satellite TV chestnut?) whilst enjoying the Children's Channel (another old Sky TV errr... Brazilnut?) and falling in love with the synthesizer music of Haim Saban and Shuki Levy for The Mysterious Cities of Gold (a great cartoon which is my favourite show ever).
Jarre's last few albums have been a bit of a mixed bag but with Oxygene 3 I am hopeful. He created the album in just 6 weeks, which is how long it took to compose the original Oxygene, and he has kept the art style the same, borrowing Michel Granger's art style to give the album an added sense of history.
I am eagerly awaiting the new album and will review it here. In the meantime enjoy his new track below and let me know what you think!
Southwark Playhouse is performing an adaptation of Kiki’s Delivery Service. The play is adapted from the book by Eiko Kadono but many people will recognise the title from the amazing animated film by Studio Ghibli.
The story follows the adventures of Kiki, a 13 year old witch. Tradition dictates that at this age young witches must leave their home and make a new life for themselves in the real world. With her feline companion Jiji, Kiki sets out to find a place in the world and find her role in it.
The tale is a magical one all about growing up and being yourself in the world. I love the animation and it is one of my favourite Ghibli films, having a daughter has made me even more sentimental and so I am looking forward to seeing this show. As always I will feedback my opinions of it here!
I've spoken several times before on this website about how formative Twin Peaks was for me in my youth and I am very excited to inform everyone that one of the shows creators, Mark Frost, will be holding a signing in London. On Thursday 17th November from 5-6pm he will be signing copies of his book 'The Secret History of Twin Peaks' at Forbidden Planet. I am hoping to go along as I have a pre-order of the book placed and will also try to get my Gold Set of Twin Peaks signed. If you're a fan why not head along too!