Monday, 1 December 2008

December 2008

Zines and comics. Rocket Science. If you want an informed view of comics you're talking to the wrong bloke, but I enjoyed this anthology comic. All the strips are connected by the linking device of a chain of everyday objects. There are several standouts. I liked Sam Chivers' tale of an errant cabaret performer bearing a striking resemblance to Ron Jeremy. Gavin Burrows' minimalist strip takes the classic 'bloke on a desert island' formula and runs with it. This apparently simple piece actually repays a couple of readings. The unfortunately named Toby Parsons (one letter away from sharing a name with a dork), turns in a couple of intriguing strips, sharing a ghostly artiness and strangely cryptic narratives. In terms of drawing style, my favourite by a nose was Peter Poole's odd space epic, which reminded me of a less disturbing Joe Coleman, if you can imagine that. Available for £2 from Smallzone or Armchair Comics, 8 Brewer Street, Brighton BN2 3HH.

Music. Downloads, MP3s. The Capstan Shafts Cretin Flowers . The insanely prolific Capstan Shafts have got a new 6 track single available for download, based on an ‘honesty box’ system where you’re invited to make a small donation. Confusingly, a full length CDR of the same name will follow soon. In the lo-fi spirit of the Shafts I’ll present my responses to my fave tracks, first take, no overdubs or edits. Space Nut to Ape Length; Swirling Hammondy organ gives a 60s garage feel to a Buzzcockesque headlong canter through this tune. Wind and the Longing Road; rockier than the usual Shafts stuff, brilliant widdly guitar intro and a chorus full of quasi classic-rock power chords. 3 million weeks of leaving. Closer to the CS of old with its mix of acoustic and fuzz guitar and the sort of opaque and curious lyrics that make you want to listen again and again; ‘She’s a theory that you doubt’? Genius. Risk-free But Listless; once I’d finished over-identifying with the title I loved the closet metal tendencies in the guitar part and the way there’s a noisy solo all over the vocals of the chorus. So, the usual, then. More throwaway music to treasure forever.

Art. Andrea Joseph. Andrea’s sketches are great. There are hundreds of them on this blog in a range of styles, but there’s always an exactness and attention to detail to them that I love. Favourites from November and December are Some Might Say, which lets you see the progression of the sketch, and Never Ever which catches the detail of the fabric with amazing realism. For some reason, although the style varies, a lot of the work reminds me of children’s fiction. Check this stuff out- there’s lots here to enjoy.

Podcasts. Zine Core Radio Show . This is a neat idea for a podcast. Hannah Neurotica brings you a regular round up of interviews with zinesters, guest readings from zines and news and announcements from the worldwide zine community. This whole podcast has got the feel of a zine – slick it ain’t, but that’s a big part of its charm. Hannah’s interview style is chatty and natural and because of this rather than despite it, she gets some really interesting answers from interviewees. And this is no ego trip; there’s a real generosity at work with lots of time given over to promoting upcoming zine-related events, comp-zine calls etc. My only tiny gripe is that the sound balance is bit off, with Hannah often much quieter than her guests, but like slightly blurry photocopying in a well-loved zine, I can live with it.

Websites and blogs. We Make Zines. If you like making or reading zines I don’t think there’s a better online community to visit than this. Zine related communities on places like livejournal are okay up to a point but they aren’t as closely focussed as We Make Zines. But what marks this site out more than anything is the genuine sense of community. People are friendly and good-natured on here. There’s no snobbery or impatience with people who are newer to zining, for example. My only complaint is that browsing the site seriously eats into my zine-making time.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

November 2008

Zines. Scratch That Itch # 2. The long awaited second issue of Scratch That Itch is a substantial and varied read. There are tips on using up food found in skips which were almost tempting enough to sway somebody as squeamish as me. Other standouts are an account of a trip to the Middle East, which uses the music Kathleen was listening to while there as a structuring device. Badly handled, that device might have trivialised the events described, but it works really well. I also really liked the overview of books she’s been reading on the Holocaust. Sometimes when you get a similar round-up in zines they’re not much more than a list and the stuff listed is a bit obvious. Here there’s real thought in her responses and she’s turned up books that it's likely you won’t have come across. Kathleen’s got a great, clear writing style which is also adaptable. It’s straightforward when it needs to be but, as in the Middle East piece, can be really lyrical and vivid. Available from Marching Stars distro.

Music. Downloads, MP3s. Five Senses, by Wankatorium. This crew specialize in apparently improvised guitar music but don’t let that put you off. I’d run a mile at the mere threat of jazz, but I could listen to this until the cows come home. What you get is a track for each of the senses, ranging from the Rip Rig and Panic style skronk of Smell, to the blissed-out psychedelic guitar noodling of Sight. Even great songs get boring eventually but because I can never remember how these tracks go, I never tire of them. Not for everyone for sure, but I likes it.

Art. Xavier Boutin I was just on the point of thinking, fuck it I’ll skip the art bit this month, because I hadn’t seen anything I liked the look of. Then I happened on Xavier’s site. His sketches all feature ordinary people in streets and caf├ęs going about their daily business, but his technique really makes you see them afresh. I don’t know much about art but I’m starting to get an idea of what I like in terms of artistic style. This stuff is right up my alley; clear, bold black lines, outlines suggesting loads more than is actually there, lived-in faces and bodies moving through a detailed but untidy world .

Podcasts. Marvin Suicide . This podcast’s the perfect length and content for my half hour bus ride to work. Everything on the show is freely and legally downloaded from the internet. Within those parameters there’s a clear and consistent pattern to the content. There’s usually plenty of home-recorded ambient stuff and at least one bit of smirk-inducing juvenile vulgarity from the likes of Kunt and the Gang. More often than not there’s also a track from Catgut, which is always welcome, especially if, like me, (and Catgut) you think Sparklehorse’s first LP was their best.

Websites and blogs. Blog Love Omega Glee. After experimenting with multiple narrators in his novel The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus, Wred Fright continues to develop his fiction in inventive ways. Here he’s posting a new novel in blog form. Set in the near future the regularly updated narrative charts the lives of wrestling-fixated loser Jake and militant waitress Francine. I’ve got some catching up to do but this is addictive stuff. Here and elsewhere Wred’s big strength is in characterization – he’s got a real gift for getting you rooting for characters whose lives have got a bit bent out of shape. This tale’s going to be taking up my lunch breaks for the foreseeable future. Highly recommended.

Monday, 6 October 2008