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!
Werner Herzog is one of the worlds premier directors. Ever since I saw Aguirre: The Wrath of God, I have followed Herzog's career and what a career it has been. He has made amazing films but in more recent years he has gained more fame for his documentaries and guest appearances, including this awesome one from Rick and Morty (linked below).
Well this year Herzog's focus turns to volcanoes. For the last couple of years I have been teaching my pupils about volcanoes as it has been part of our Geography topic so am pretty well versed in this area. However this being a Herzog documentary it has the amazing voiceover with incisive comments about the human condition that speak to your soul. I'm looking forward to it and am sure it will be as brilliant as his other documentaries.
I read a lot of comics and graphic novels and one of my favourites is The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson have turned what was a bit of a joke character into an excellent heartfelt comic character with a lot of heart. So it with great excitement that I can inform you that Henderson will be signing from 5-7 pm on Friday 11th November at Orbital Comics in London, and this will be followed by an after-hours Director’s Commentary on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe.
I've been to a few of these signings and Director Commentaries and I've always had a great time. If you're a Squirrel Girl fan it's a must go! Eat nuts and kick butts guys!
Giant Days was a small mini-series but has been extended as a full blown series, which is great as the chronicle of the lives, loves and comedic mishaps of a group of university friends is an essential read. The art style is very cartoony and the writing is very culturally aware without trying to be too hard. It is very easy to spot traits in the characters and relate them to your own friends and people you know.
Well writer John Allison will be doing a signing at Gosh Comics in London on Saturday 12th November from 2-3pm. I'd love to go but am doing an event at school but maybe you would like to go. It's a free signing but get there early as I'm sure it will be busy!
Whilst Otomo's masterpiece Akira is in Hollywood development hell two fans of the epic comic series and manga have taken on the challenge to create a CGI Akira trailer. The results are suitably awesome with famous scenes from the animation recreated in amazing CGI. The trailer starts with Kaneda and his biker gang, the Capsules, pursuing the rival gang, the Clowns. The Neo-Tokyo scenes are recreated and the red colour bands from the lights snake in their wake. Check out the trailer below and let me know what you think!
Transformers was a phenomenon in my youth and whilst I was never really into it, prefering Ulysses 31, Dogtanian and The Mysterious Cities of Gold, I did watch the show on occasion. 30 years ago Transformers: The Movie came out and in a surprising bit of casting, featured the voice talents of Orson Welles (in fact it was his last role before he died).
The Cybertronic Spree perform the song "Dare" by Vince DiCola and Stan Bush to celebrate this momentous anniversary. Nothing particularly amazing about that you might say... but if I told you that they do it in full Transformer get-up I'm sure you'd be a little more impressed. Check it out below!
Moby has been making music for many years. I first came across his work when he worked Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks track Laura's Theme into a banger, Go in the mid 90's. His album Play was released in 1999 and was a worldwide smash, its tracks were used in pretty much every commercial going for several years. It was during this period that he created animated videos using his avatar, Little Idiot, to convey his messages.
Now Moby has teamed up with the Void Pacific Choir and animator Steve Cutts to create an amazing video about the worlds obsession with mobile phones. Are You Lost in the World Like Me? looks at how the digital gadgets that were primarily created to keep us more connected are instead further isolating us from one another as human beings.
The animation is obviously satirical, and bears a style remarkably like Felix the Cat, and shouldn't be taken literally but the message is clear; the technology is changing us and not necessarily for the better. Check out the video yourself and see what you think.
On a side note, I'm liking Moby's new musical direction. I feel that he is getting angry and fearless with his music, he sounds like a man who has something to say and is now shouting it out from the rooftops.
One of my favourite films as a kid was Big. The film starred a young Tom Hanks wishing that he were bigger so he could do the things that adults do i.e. Not go to school (although being a teacher myself that didn't exactly pan out the way I planned) and play with a giant floor piano in a toy shop.
There's a scene in the film where he is playing an adventure game on his computer, The Cavern of the Evil Wizard. The game was made up for the film and only constituted one screen but BoMToons has made the game playable in-browser here.
Relive the Big scene yourself and play it!