Pursued by a Bear »

  • Culture podcast: May 31st

    May 31, 2011 @ 3:45 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    In this week’s Culture podcast Shane Hegarty talks to Hugh Linehan, Anna Carey and Mick Heaney about the role of the critic and Irish cops on television

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  • NattJazz@Bergen: Arve Henriksen, Hedvig Mollestad Trio and a feisty Farmers Market

    May 30, 2011 @ 7:05 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Arve Henriksen is a master improviser, but few people would happily climb on stage with a trumpet and electronics, and compete for space with two percussionists – especially two players with the power and drive of Audun Kleive and Helge Norbakken. Henriksen, though, never takes the easy road, and here the trio build detailed, expansive soundscapes that sit in two worlds.

    On the one hand, there is Henriksen’s mournful, distinctive trumpet, slivers of potent emotion and urgent notes dancing around the tribal rhythms of Norbakken, who directs operations from behind his incongruous kit set-up, like a ship’s pilot negotiating a Norwegian fjord. He thunders and rolls around his instrument, injecting sudden precise bursts of low end that break across the room, and underscore the intricate, unorthodox interplay of Kleive.

    This is deeply complex and accomplished, but it never feels studied. There is a natural feel to the band’s communication; ideas are swapped and passed, avenues explored, and a room filled with vital, exciting and deeply lyrical music.

    Hedvig Mollestad Trio are an altogether different proposition. Mollestad leads her band with slow hand, bluesy rock riffs, ripping them out with no little style and a swagger most rock bands would aspire to. Beneath this, double-bass player Ellen Brekken builds some lovely walking lines, on solid groove foundations. In this context, the drumming is the weak link, and doesn’t communicate effectively between the jazz leanings of the bass and the rock blitz of the guitar lines, relying to heavily on predictable, straight-ahead beats that, for this type of audience, hold few surprises.

    This, though, is still a big sounding band, with plenty to please, and the crowd are lapping up the big, fat riffs. When Brekken heads on a more ballad-like route, the sombre bluesy results are worth savouring; an odd drum solo that soon follows is definitely a step too far.

    This is a rock action in a hard, jazzy space, then, that delivers a welcome, unapologetic diversion in the NattJazz context.

    Sasquatch play fairly straight-up jazz with style and confidence, and amid all the experimentation and the cutting-edge sound creations that this festival offers, it’s really satisfying to walk in a room and hear a band performing solid songs with great writing and strong fundamentals. On stage, André Roligheten on horns, Arild Hoem on alto saxophone, Thomas Johansson on trumpet, Magnus Rød Haugland on bass and Dag Magnus Narvesen on drums create music that is progressive, and fairly timeless. This is a classy affair with plenty of riches worth experiencing.

    Most of the rooms were a little light on crowds, because the Sardinen bar venue was packed to the rafters for Farmers Market, a big brash band with a heart of folk and plenty of boogie-woogie flair. This was a full-out sound, ripped from the stage by a highly strung band who had one purpose – to entertain.

    For me, the band’s repertoire sounded a little dated, but the packed crowd were loving every shape and showman beat, and on a Saturday night it’s hard to argue with a relentless Balkan pace.

    That’s all I managed to see of the main festival at NattJazz, but I’ll be posting a few other observations in the coming days from some choice concerts that were not part of the main programme.

  • NattJazz@Bergen: The Deciders, CakeWalk and rising star Jarle Bernhoft

    May 28, 2011 @ 7:13 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Konigsberg had a last-minute name change at NattJazz festival to the Deciders, but the original line up of Ole Morten Vågan on double bass, Fredrik Ljungkvist on saxophone, Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, Axel Dörner on trumpet and Jon Fält on trumpet seemed to be intact. This type of anarchy seems par for the course for this band. A big, blowsy outfit with plenty of chops and energy in spades, they built a rollicking set in the boozy atmosphere of the Sardinia bar on Friday evening. If one player made a mistake, the rest would dissolve into fits of laughter before picking it up and blasting along with the song, their three-brass-pronged attack making the room rattle and roll, while Ole Morten Vagan tore around the low end with some gloriosuly savage bass playing.

    Jazz attracts a peculiarly respectful crowd, but not at NattJazz. People talk loudly at shows, many will argue with what’s going down on stage, and will shuffle into and out of concerts during songs, and even, shock horror, during solos. It’s a challenging gig for performers, but it also puts it up to them to bring enough energy to the room so that everyone knows who is in charge. The Deciders had no problems bossing the souped-up crowd around, though, and got a fairly thunderous boon of applause in response.

    Just as loud in places but with a very different set-up were Cakewalk, a three-piece band of guitar, drums and keys that produce music that bounces between stripped-back instrumentals and muscled-up post rock. The band build up their songs layer by layer, with relentless impetuousness and a slow and steady approach to songwriting. This is well-covered ground, where you usually find the likes Godspeed You Black Emperor and earlier krautrock acts grazing. It might take its time to get there, but the riptide of deep, intense grooves is hard to pull yourself out of, and when it the wave of noise breaks from the stage and crashes inelegantly into the venue it’s very satisfying indeed.

    Jarle Bernhoft was one of the most anticipated acts at NattJazz, so much so that for the first time this week there were huge queues and a bit of a crush to get into his show. Once you wrestled your way in it was easy to see why. The Norwegian has a deep, soulful voice, drenched in Motown with tones of Bill Withers, married to a more contemporary pop-writing sensibility that should see him enjoy enormous success in the next few years.

    Part of the charm of the show is how he makes the music. Bernhoft sings supporting backing vocal lines into a loop station pedal, and lets that wind around while thrumming out a funky beat on the back of an acoustic guitar before adding a rhythmic guitar line, layering and layering until the sound of a full band is booming through the PA. Then he unleashes the salvo of his full bore soul vocal and the result generally means that resistance is futile.

    For those who have seen the likes of Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy in action, this is not a new concept. Bernhoft carries it off with style and charm, and his acute rhythmic awareness, with pops and beats that Stevie Wonder would be satisfied with, mean the songs shiver and shake in all the right places and even though it’s one man on stage he manages to cook up a funk pop storm.

    The question is where does he go from here? Expect Bernhoft to make a big European impression, and indeed the booking agents were climbing over each other to talk to him after the show. The obvious route to develop this music would be to employ a full band, but apparently he has already tried this with limited success. For the moment, though, he can expect a lucrative few years building a wider fan base and making his extraordinary voice and inventive live show work very hard for him indeed.

  • NattJazz@Bergen – Sidsel Endresen, Building Instrument and the titan Freddie Wadling

    May 27, 2011 @ 6:12 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Sidsel Endresen is one of those people who really makes critics work for their money – it’s very difficult to describe what she does if you haven’t been in the room with her. She’s been working with her voice as an instrument for more than 30 years and what emerges is dark and often unsettling, guttural and animalistic, with sudden breaks for melody. Most acts would use something straightforward to temper this extraordinary vocal, but here she has employed Stian Westerhus, who wrenches sounds and echoes from his guitar that sound much larger than the sum of their parts. There are thumps and percussive slaps, sudden movements and aggressive taunts – at one stage, he pulls out a lonely mechanical echo that sounds like the bell on a sinking ship far out to sea. It’s a haunting experience, primal and challenging, and leaves a long echo in your head and your heart. (more…)

  • Culture podcast special: Jon Ronson

    @ 3:58 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Shane Hegarty talks to journalist, author and film-maker Jon Ronson about his latest book The Psychopath Test

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  • NattJazz@Bergen – Joshua Redman, Jenny Hval and …. Cornershop

    @ 9:41 am | by Laurence Mackin

    The highlight of day one (and some might even have said of the festival) was one of the earliest acts to take to a stage in Natt Jazz. The name James Farm might not mean a huge amount to most people, but this is a band with breadth and depth in spades, led by Joshua Redman, who is setting himself up as one of the finest saxophonists of his generation.

    This was slick and classy affair. There’s a lot of free and experimental jazz at NattJazz, and this band’s crafted, accessible songwriting is a strong contrast to some of the more out there sounds in Bergen. I have heard some people question Redman’s tone, but when he opens it up there are few that are better in the business. He takes an almost boxer’s stance at the mic, pulling and popping his frame as he jabs notes out, percussive slaps punctuating his complex, creative rhythmic approach to his instrument. Then the band will turn it on the head and go for more ballad-like numbers while Redman draws long, slow mournful notes out of the bell of his horn, providing entire fields of colour and breaking hearts all around the room.

    It’s no harm that Redman is just one cog in what is something of a jazz supergroup. Aaron Parks might be only 27 but his piano lines are sparkling, complicated affairs, full of drama and gravitas, and with a decent bolt of bluesy-ness when the band around him decide to start to cooking it a little. Matt Penman pins things together with subtle bass grooves that create plenty of space for Eric Harland to exploit. Harland is a bewildering drummer to watch, and leaves audience members wondering what he is doing and how he is doing it. His techniques and ability are astonishing, and he almost threatens to steal the show out from under Redman. With this band’s ability at full throttle, the show is irresistible.

    If you like your jazz free and as unpredictable as the Irish weather, the Scorch Trio should singe your hair nicely. It’s a multinational group of scarily talented musicians who improvise with not thought for borders, recklessly hammering out lines and chasing down grooves in a wall of noise that can be difficult to get your head around. It’s terrifically energetic and off the wall, and as if the combined weight of Raoul Björkenheim on guitar, Ingebrikt Håker Flaten on (I’m assuming atomic-powered) bass and Chicagoan Frank Rosaly on drums wasn’t enough, here they’ve thrown saxophone player Mars Williams into the cacophonic mix. A dynamic mix for those who like their music at the more off-kilter end of the jazz spectrum.

    The NattJazz festival throws in the odd mainstream act to widen the palette of the festival, from UK act Cornershop (yes, that irritating Brim Full of Asha nonsense) and local pop act Kakkmaddafakka. Jenny Hval is not exactly mainstream, but she is definitely at a remove from much of the jazz acts here. Her music is austere, making easy comparisons with the likes of Anna Calvi and Jennifer Evans. She enjoyed a lot of mainstream success in Norway in an earlier guise as Rockettothesky, and now she has taken a departure for more singular pastures. It’s poetic and challenging, but there might not be enough here to draw the casual listener in. Her music definitely sounds as if it would flourish if you give it the time to take root. The songs are intriguing, her vocal is definitely on the outside edge, and there is a very unified, textural sound between Hval, guitarist Håvard volden and drummer Kyrre Laastad.

    Live, though, her bare-bones approach with the stage and line-up could do with a little polish and more urgency, and this is a set that requires a bit of investment from the audience.

  • A short break in service

    May 26, 2011 @ 6:47 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Apologies, I’ve absconded to Bergen in Norway for the rather excellent Natt Jazz festival for a few days, so I’ll be posting reviews from up here shortly. Normal blog service will resume, but in the mean time it will be nothing but jazz for a few days. Watch this temporarily Norwegian space . . .

  • Culture podcast: May 24th

    May 24, 2011 @ 5:55 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    In this week’s podcast Shane Hegarty talks to Hugh Linehan, Sinéad Gleeson and Jim Carroll about media coverage of the recent State visits, Primavera and other upcoming music festivals.

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  • A Top art prize or easy exploitation?

    @ 4:57 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    There was great news at the beginning of the week when Naomi McArdle, who writes the Harmless Noise blog, announced that she had been hired by entertainment.ie as its new music blogger. This followed a post she had previously put up announcing that she was bringing the blog to an end, because she simply couldn’t afford to keep working on it without making any money. In a poignant and heartfelt (though thankfully no longer) final post, she made some clear points that will strike a chord with many artists and writers. (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend . . . head for New York

    May 19, 2011 @ 5:43 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Listen: New York baby – it’s a cruel mistress and an inexhaustible muse. Just yesterday I was reading this list of books inspired by the Big Apple (some of which I’ve read, more than a few of which I’m looking forward to) and was reminded of the greatest description of the city I’ve read. It’s the opening chapter in Jan Morris’s spectacular Coast to Coast from 1956; I don’t think it has been bettered since. Click here and judge for yourself.

    Of course, you can’t say the words New York without Woody Allen (am I the only one immune to the man’s charms?) springing to mind, so perhaps that was something of a catalyst for Sunday’s Young Hearts Run Free event in the Unitarian Church in Dublin. The subject is When Only Words Can Describe: New York Jewishness/Regret, and among those taking to the podium will be Ivana Bacik, Adrian Crowley, Maeve Higgins and DBC Pierre, with some musical interludes by Katie Kim and David Kitt. It’s at 3pm and all proceeds will go to the Simon Community.

    Go: Africa Day seems to have not taken its name too seriously, and there are a whole host of events on over the next week or so, starting tomorrow. There are too many to list here, so here are just a handful. There’s an interview in Imma tomorrow with Yacouba Konate, curator, critic and professor at the University of Cocody in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on the Romuald Hazoume exhibition; Dublin Zoo is transforming itself into an African Plain on Saturday; and in Galway, Nun’s Island Arts Theatre is screening a shelfload of African films. For much more, click here.

    Learn: The Dublin Writers Festival (shouldn’t that name have a possessive apostrophe somewhere) kicks off this weekend and although the main events don’t really get into gear until Monday – when Louise Welsh, John Burnside, Richard Holloway, Kevin MacNeil, Donny O’Rourke and Dave Whyte get to grips with man’s duality in a Jekyll and Hyde themed reading – Filmbase is jumping the gun. From Saturday, it will be hosting the Sky Arts Den, providing an area to take a break in between traipsing from event to event. It will also be hosting workshops. On Saturday there will be jazz and blues with the Nigel Mooney Duo, a ceramics workshop with Róisín de Buitléar, and Comedic Opera with Opera PlayHouse. Click here for further details.

    Dance: Finally, throughout the weekend De Stilte will be bringing their specialist brand of Madcap to the Ark in Dublin’s Temple Bar. Part of the Dublin Dance Festival, the show builds up a farm-like world with simple objects and exuberant choreography, with dancers Leonor Carneiro, Katarzyna Korc and Camille Pidou, and should charm adults and children aged four and upwards. It’s at the Ark on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can get more information here and here’s a video to get your inner dancing child moving.


  • Grapes of Roth – Booker judge resigns

    May 18, 2011 @ 3:25 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    There is Booker blood on the literary dancefloor, after the resignation of one of the International prize judges. Carmen Callil has withdrawn from the panel in protest over the decision to give the £60,000 prize to Philip Roth, telling the Guardian that “he goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It’s as though he’s sitting on your face and you can’t breathe”.

    Don’t hold back Carmen, tell us exactly what you think. Alright then: “I don’t rate him as a writer at all. [Pow] I made it clear that I wouldn’t have put him on the longlist, so I was amazed when he stayed there [Punch] … Roth goes to the core of [the other judges’] beings. But he certainly doesn’t go to the core of mine [Slap] … Emperor’s clothes: in 20 years’ time will anyone read him? [Kerblamo!]”

    Literary lord above.

    Callil’s decision is fascinating for lots of reasons. You can argue long and hard for Roth’s abilities (and her two fellow judges for the prize, Rick Gekoski and Justin Cartwright, have done just that), but regardless of the author involved, you have to admire Callil for being so forthright in her views. People are terrific at dismissing literary heavyweights in private, but they rarely let their true feelings show in public.

    I’m a huge fan of John Banville, for example, but I know plenty of people who are baffled by his success. VS Naipaul has never done much for me and I find Salman Rushdie’s writing too much like hard work. I’ve had more arguments about Ernest Hemingway than I can remember (I’ll defend his books to the bitter, untimely end, in the lonely, pouring rain), and you only have to let slip the words Martin Amis to hear the knives being unsheathed.

    All a matter of taste then? Certainly, but there is nothing like courage in the conviction to make the arguments a lot spicier, especially in the notoriously bitchy world of literature.

    What’s also interesting is the decision to award the prize anyway. Three people are on this particular panel, two of whom were strong supporters of Roth winning, and one of whom was strongly against – Roth gets the prize, so majority wins over consensus.

    It would probably be impossible to get even three people to agree on an outright winner, but it’s odd to think that someone who one of the judges bitterly opposed could still win (again, this is not a judgment on Roth’s work, but rather on the mechanics of how the decision is reached). What it also reveals it that just because you are on a judging panel, doesn’t mean your favourite author/band/film will win – the best you can hope for is that you will strongly like the winner, and you can pretty much forget about them being your favourite.

    For Callil, not even this was the case.

  • The devil in Pygmalion’s detail – and win some tickets

    May 17, 2011 @ 4:42 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    One of the most impressive aspects of the Abbey Theatre’s current production of Pygmalion is the dramatic devils in the detail. There has been plenty of praise for Peter O’Brien’s costumes, but the set design and the almost incidental paraphernalia on the cavernous stage are worth a close look.

    The towering bookshelves, the furniture polished to within an inch of its lustrous life, even the items scattered on the desks and tables around which the characters pirouette and pontificate, have been giving a long, hard look at by the Abbey’s set-design team. (more…)

  • Culture podcast: May 17th

    @ 2:19 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    In this week’s podcast Shane Hegarty talks to Donald Clarke at the Cannes Film Festival and Sara Keating and Mick Heaney on Fine Gael’s plans for a Literary Centre in College Green and the attraction of contemporary dance.

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  • If you only do one thing this weekend …. throw some shapes

    May 12, 2011 @ 6:32 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Hear: In Wexford this weekend, you’ll find a powerful combination of music, group and venue. Ensemble Avalon, a young piano trio, will be hoping to light up the St Iberius Church with performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They’ll be performing works by (deep breath) Mozart, Schubert, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Beethoven, Strauss and Britten, as well as a specially-commissioned work for piano trio by Irish composer Benedict Schlepper-Connolly. And they’ve roped in the talents of soprano Patricia Rozario and violinist Michael d’Arcy to put a bit of Daz on proceedings. For more information click here. (more…)

  • Ai Weiwei’s “silence before the storm”

    May 10, 2011 @ 5:42 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    For anyone who reckons that, in the greater scheme of things, art is unimportant, here are two words: Ai Weiwei.

    The Chinese artist was arrested on April 3rd in Beijing, and has not been seen or heard of since. His alleged offences are for “suspected economic crimes” but few are in doubt that he is being punished for his relentless criticism of the Chinese government.

    The initial public outcry at his arrest has dampened in recent weeks, so well done to sculptor Anish Kapoor for calling on the world’s museums and galleries to close for a day in protest at Ai’s continued detention.

    Ai Weiwei sits for a portrait at his studio in Beijing, in December, 2010. Photograph: Shiho Fukada

    Many of these galleries have already launched an online petition for Weiwei’s release – you can sign it for yourself over here. Kapoor has also upped the ante by dedicating his next exhibition, which opens tomorrow at the Grand Palais in Paris, to Ai. (more…)

  • Culture podcast: May 10th

    @ 4:45 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    In this this week’s podcast Shane Hegarty talks to Donald Clarke, Tara Brady and Joe Griffin about the Cannes film festival, Portal 2 and gaming journalism.

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  • 12 Points Festival: Day Four – final review

    May 8, 2011 @ 4:06 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    On the final day of the 12 Points festival, it fell to RedivideR to fly the Irish flag (and follow the jazz-band-name trend for odd typography). Band leader Matt Jacobson (who is a divil for the anagrams apparently) drives operations from the back, building big swaggery beats lent style and intricate melody by Derek Whyte on bass, while Colm O’Hara on trombone and Nick Roth on saxophone harry the top lines with bursts of colour and flowing lines of notes. There is stacks of groove at play here, the band making songs that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 1970s cop show, Lalo Schifrin-esque grooves snapping and strutting their way downtown amid the open horn improvisation. It’s a different texture to what we’ve seen during the rest of the week, with soul and funk in unlikely places. Perhaps the band could pursue their rhythmic explorations a little further and dig those grooves a little deeper, but this is a fine, fly set with a solid sense of style and direction.

    The band pretended to be politely amused by another one of Jacobson’s anagrams

    Once again, it’s the middle act that takes the most risks on the 12 Points paper, but are also in danger of delivering the most explosive set. Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler leads a truly international cast of characters and influences in her Acropolis quintet, with musicians from Romania, Italy and Turkey bringing their own sounds to bear on the music.

    There is no way this music should work; Draksler brings austerity, subtlety and poignancy with her fluid piano playing, and rings through in bright, rich textures. Drummer Kristijan Krajncan lays down muscular beats that are supple and intense; guitarist George Dumitriu introduces bursts of electronic colour that contrast with the excellent organic, brooding basslines of Mattia Magatelli, and Turkish singer Sanem Kalfa threatens to steal a show with her melancholic, dramatic vocal that haunts the instrumentation and holds the whole proposal together.

    Acropolis quintet – jazz Tetris champions 2011

    If it sounds complicated, it is – but this is a carefully considered, well marshalled intricacy. It would be all to easy for this band to stumble over each othe’s lines and introduce too many elements to the palette, but the control and restraint they show around the central themes makes for an epic, elegant set that demands to be listened to, and there is a joy on stage and in the music making that make it a privilege to be in the room with. The songs are built up into a tower of sound that references all the glittering influences at play before collapsing down with exquisite musical drama. Perhaps the best set of the week then, and a band that are ready to establish themselves on bigger stages than this.

    So how do you follow that, and put a coda on what has been one of the most inventive, creative and expressive festivals in Ireland in quite some time? Simple – strip it back to a Finnish trio, let them plant some pop seeds that germinate into jazzy green shoots and fill a room with bursts of sound and colour.

    Helsinki outfit Elifantree use saxophone, voice and drums in a way that is anything but traditional. Pauli Lyytinen builds most of the melody, which drops and pops intricate lines that Anni Elif Egecioglu attacks with her vocal, skipping up and down the registers with style and skill. Inbetween these spaces Tatu Rönkkö slots in funky, artful grooves and the set shimmers and shakes with style. A pop sensibility with an ear for a solid riff is allowed to run riot with all the quality jazz craftsmanship that this band can draw on.

    Pauli Lyytinen kills all his own clothes, you know

    At times, the sound is filled out with glockenspiel or small looped delay effects, and this is when the songs really hit the height. That little bit of extra texture boosts the substance of the music and gives Lyytinen, a spectacularly inventive saxophone player that you could happily listen to all evening, and Egecioglu more room to work with. The poignancy that they hint at is allowed to come into full play, and makes music that is greater than the sum of its valuable parts. There is a strength and depth of character to this band – this was a fine, satisfying way to cap an extraordinary festival.

    However, this was a little like the last song before the encore for 12 Points. All week musicians and punters have been making the trek across the Liffey after the final set of the night to listen to improv sets in the Foam festival club. Many of the 12 Points artists have taken the time to hang around the city and spend some time jamming, chatting and enjoying each others’ company, and in a way this facet of the festival is just as important as putting on shows. Last night, the open jam session threatened to lift the roof off Foam, when Pauli Lyytinen and Nick Roth went toe to toe on horns, while Isabel Sorling, reluctant to leave after playing here on Friday, scorched her way through some extraordinary, almost pre-verbal vocal lines, and Derek Whyte lead the local contingent that drove the whole, wild party on.

    Roll on next year.

  • 12 Points Festival: Day 3 review

    May 7, 2011 @ 6:23 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    The third night of 12 Points opened with some seriously peripheral jazz – the Isabel Sörling Group all the way from Gothenburg. They’ve yet to record an album, but this six piece are creating challenging, emotive music lead by the extraordinary vocal talents of Sörling.

    They open the set with a brilliantly rhythmic song, stalking a bass riff in large, heavy slaps while Sörling screams, loops and wrenches out sounds that are more animalistic than human. From there they take a turn for the abstract, and the music becomes much more loose and free, with horns wandering into spaces whose borders are loosely sketched by bass, drums and piano. Sometimes things are a little too loose, and the band appear to be chasing shadows; a little more substance and solidity in the set, as in the cracking opening track, would not go amiss.

    In introducing the Colin Vallon Trio, festival organiser Gerry Godley borrowed a phrase from traditional music – “the raw bar” – and it couldn’t be more apt. This traditional piano trio produce astonishing, intricate music that sounds fresh and inventive from the most typical set up in jazz.

    This band have been playing together for a decade, and it shows – the band sound is so unified and complete it’s difficult to imagine other instrumentation inhibiting on their melodic, austere compositions. Themes are developed in a sublimely organic fashion, with playing of the highest order. It’s a rare pleasure to listen to.

    And from the traditional we move to the inimitable – a Nordic trio of vocal, drums and tuba called PELbO. The tight Gretsch kit that has been playing its heart out all week is replaced by a big, boomy rock set; the bass amp looks like its been dismantled and hammered together again by BA Baracus; and the vocal mic first makes its way through all manner of loops, twists and turns to give this band a sounds that is as big as a cathedral.

    Drummer Trond Bersu wastes no time in ripping out huge, rolling rock beats, upon which Kristoffer Lo lays slabs of low-end tuba, turning the instrument into a vehicle for sometimes fuzzy low end that could knock a house sideways. Over this, Ine Krstine Hoem attacks her vocal with style and skill, harmonises and looping her own lines over themselves – it is virtuosic, aggressive and very rock and roll.

    But the question is unavoidable – is it jazz? No, it’s something better – really good music. So stick that in your tuba and blow it out your bass drum.

    Seconds out; final round. It’s time to finish this festival in style.

  • 12 Points festival – Day 2 review

    May 6, 2011 @ 12:10 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Round two at 12 Points brought bands from the grandes dames of Europe to Dublin, namely Rome, Berlin and Paris, but the music was box fresh and cutting edge.

    The youth of today. Tut, tut

    Opening up the evening’s three sets were the Lisbeth Quartett from Berlin, lead by 23-year old saxophonist Charlotte Greve. This is slick, crisply executed music played with guile, and Greve gets a beautiful tone from her instrument. This sounds and feels like a band playing together, rather than a collection of instruments, with little recourse to charts throughout the set. The band perhaps play it a little too safe – or maybe it just seems that way in the context of the anarchy-like atmosphere that some of the other 12 Points acts bring to bear. But when this quartet push themselves out of their comfort zone and throw some fuel on the fire, such as on set-closer Red from the quartet’s forthcoming album 2, the fluidity of the communication and the subtle interplay at work is very effective and exciting. (more…)

  • If you only do one thing this weekend … get free tickets to Pygmalion

    May 5, 2011 @ 6:29 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    Exhibit: Going to see a Science Gallery exhibition is becoming as much a part of our routine as our morning 10-mile jog (alright, alright), but the boffins are bound to throw up a duff one sooner or latter. This is not the case with Human+, which looks at our future as a species, and promises “augmented abilities, authored evolution, new strategies for survival and non-human encounters.” Out favourite bit, in a macabre way, is a new strategy for death, namely a euthanasia rollercoaster. Basically some scientist type (called Julijonas Urbonas if you must know) has devised a rollercoaster that goes so fast and with G forces so great that you slip unconscious and gently shuffle off this mortal coil in the most spectacular fashion possible. There is even a model of it (rumours that Funderland are negotiating for the plans are said to be wide of the mark). Well if you are going to go out, you might as well go out screaming.

    You ain’t getting your money back after this ride, buddy

    Rock out: 12 Points isn’t the only musical event in Dublin this weekend, and there is a cracking line-up for a musical fundraiser for Aid Japan over at the Twisted Pepper on Dublin’s Middle Abbey Street (where you can also check out their new Loft bookshop). Among those giving their time and talents to raise some cash are Squarehead, Grand Pocket Orchestra, Toby Kaar, Sacred Animals, No Monster Club, We Are Losers, Shapes and Jogging, with DJ sets from Adebisi Shank, Bats, Rigsy, Shortie, Una Mullaly, Nialler9, Moshi Moshi, Chika & Kayo, Aoife Sweet Oblivion, Niamh New Noise, Peter Toomey, Darren Maloney and Liam McCreith. Tickets are €5-10. Clickey here for more infomatics.

    Dance: Last year, I remember coming home from a late night out and turning on the television while the kettle boiled. While flicking around I came across the most extraordinary piece of television that had me staring at the screen, jaw set to slack. A man and woman were dancing around each other underwater (the impression being given was that they were mother and son) in one of the most unexpected and effective pieces of performance art I had seen all year.

    This, it turned out, was Deep End Dance, by David and Madge Bolger, real-life mother and son. David Bolger is a co-founder of CoisCeim dance theatre and a stage version of this film is now touring the country. Swimming With My Mother is at the Dunamaise Arts Centre in Portlaoise tomorrow (Friday) before heading off around the country. Click here for further details, and here’s a lovely short on how the original film was made.

    See: Last night Pygmalion opened to fairly spectacular reviews in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. This is the first time the George Bernard Shaw classic has been staged in the National Theatre, and no effort has been spared in this elaborate production (you can read Peter Crawley’s review in tomorrow’s newspaper). I haven’t seen it yet, because last night I was too busy getting my jazz on over at 12 Points, but next week I’ll be going along, and so can you, because the lovely people at the Abbey have given Pursued by a Bear three pairs of tickets for next Thursday, May 12th’s show to distribute in a fashion we see fit.

    To be in with a chance of winning, simply email lmackin@irishtimes.com with the answer to the following easily Google-able question (not that you need to, whipsmart readers that you are): What popular Broadway musical is based on Pygmalion? Drop us a line with your name and contact details, and winners will be notified via a message from the gods. Or perhaps an email. How’s that for a little nugget of weekend loveliness?

  • 12 Points festival – Day 1 review

    @ 3:21 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    The double-edged sword of opening this year’s 12 Points Jazz festival fell to the Susana Santos Silva quintet, a young group from Porto led by trumpeter Silva. Opening-night nerves were in evidence, with the band relying too heavily on their charts and too lightly on each other in their opening numbers, which featured some terrific and unusual writing. Dark, troubling chords were often dislodged by almost Mariachi-style marches, with Latin influence splashing colour at unexpected turns; there is plenty fluidity and inventiveness here and once the band had shaken off their trepidation and opened up the trumpet of Silva and Zé Pedro Coelho’s flowing tenor saxophone lines, the songs really lifted. (more…)

  • Culture podcast special: May 4th

    May 4, 2011 @ 3:02 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    In this Culture podcast special Shane Hegarty interviews the author and philosopher AC Grayling.

    icon for podpress  Standard Podcast [25:15m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
  • Culture podcast: May 3rd

    @ 1:45 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    In this week’s Culture podcast Shane Hegarty talks to Hugh Linehan, Una Mullally and Conor Horgan about the latter’s new film One Hundred Mornings, album covers and last weekend’s Mindfield festival.

    icon for podpress  Standard Podcast [22:29m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
  • Festivals need gateway arts drugs

    May 3, 2011 @ 6:24 pm | by Laurence Mackin

    There are two festivals on the near and not so distant horizon that are offering niche events that should appeal to a wider audience: the 12 Points jazz festival (which kicks off tomorrow and will be covered on this blog) and the Dublin Dance Festival (which starts on May 13th).

    Now there are two words that will jump out at people from that line, and immediately have them feverishly clicking the back button on their browser, or perhaps blissfully drifting into a somnambulant state: jazz and dance. But bear with us for a paragraph or two. (more…)

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