Thursday, April 17, 2014

Download these: Wild Beasts

So many good tracks, where to start? Top albums Two Dancers, Smother and Present Tense. Download them all!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

British Sea Power in Camden

When I went to see Editors in Brixton back in November I arrived just at the end of the support act and saw a bear on the stage.

My heart sank, as that could mean just one thing: I missed a chance to see British Sea Power.

In my defence my ticket just said "and support act" without saying BSP so I wasn't to know, but I left determined to keep an eye out for their next gig.

I was not successful, as shortly afterwards I missed what sounded like an epic event: a showing of the mesmerising film "From the sea to the land beyond" (as blogged here) with BSP playing live underneath the Cutty Sark! How cool would that have been.

So when I heard they were playing in Camden last week I went along to hear them for myself and discovered that they are one of those bands that are even better live.

Indeed Rolling Stone magazine once wrote of the Reading Festival "F*** this puerile drivel, we’re off to see British Sea Power”.

BSP have two sides to them. Firstly there is the lyrical, such as the song of the Great Skua, and who else could get away with a wordless song about a seabird played with video of the bird in the background? Or the one above with star fields and Polaris (above)?

Then there are the full blooded anthems to get the mosh pit moving - and it seemed to be mostly comprised of middle aged men trying to recover their youth and memories of being at Oasis gigs in the '90s.
No I was not one of them, honest!

As I said BSP are great live, full of live and character, not just with the brown and polar bears but decorating the set with twigs (no I don't know why, they just do).

My only wish was there had been more from my favourite album "Open Season" (blogged back 2008 here) which veers to the lyrical side with songs of Victorian Explorers, the Larson B ice shelf, North Hanging Rock and True Adventurers.

It was one of the albums I took on the Arctic Sail so has lots of good associations.

As I posted back in 2008 the sleeve notes (yup, old fashioned CD then) said:

There's hardly anything more impressive than a great sheet of water which is motionless and soundless. At such rare moments at sea it is almost frightening - and then when the moon comes up, then it is truly a shining level

I think that's something that Turner could have related to.

A great evening out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Turner Picture Puzzle

What's the connection between the scene above and this Turner:
Bonus question: what are the further connections with the Editors, Wild Beasts and Docklands?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Turner: mugs not nothing

Towards the end Turner's style changed yet again to an impressionist style. Swirling clouds, indistinct boats with a stream of smoke and merging sky and sea, as famously in this Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth.

It was very different from the early days and not everyone liked it.

Indeed William Hazlitt described Turner's experiments as "pictures of nothing" as if they were the 19th C. equivalent of Seinfeld.

Oh, how very wrong Hazlitt was.

Turner knew what he was doing, and, as posted earlier, he was an excellent sailor. Famously Turner is said to have himself "tied the mast of a ship in order to experience the drama" of the elements during a storm at sea.

When he went to see Fingals Cave at Staffa island it was so stormy several boats were unable to land - and you can feel the changeable waters and sky in the scene he captured of it:
I just loved this picture which is hanging at the end of the exhibition and spent ages staring at it.

To be honest quite a bit of that time was trying to answer which direction the boat is heading and why there was a red light on what looked like the starboard side (reflection I guess).

In fact I liked it so much I bought the official "Turner and the Sea" mug with this image wrapped around the outside.

Not nothing indeed.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Turner the "excellent sailor"

After the wonderful Turner and the Sea exhibition (only a week to go before it closes!) I wanted to know about this remarkable artist and so browsed the shop for a bio to read.

The one I picked up was the Peter Ackroyd "Turner" on the grounds that he can be a rather entertaining writer and, more importantly, it wasn't too long. I don't feel I have to know everything about Turner: just an overview, and fun one at that.

I've passed the half way point and its already been worthwhile. For example I've learnt that Turner was an "excellent sailor".

Once they went out to sea and the swell became rather "boisterous", causing some passengers to feel rather unwell.

However according to one observer Turner "sat in the stern sheets intently watching the sea, and not at all affected by the motion... when we were on a crest of a wave, he now and then articulated to myself - for we were sitting side by side - 'that's fine! - fine!"

So when you see a picture such as the early "Fishermen at sea" (above, from 1796) you can believe that he had been out there and seen it for himself, maybe with those actual fishermen.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sassi lurves Kate loving sailing!!!

Hi Guys,

OMG! How much do I luurve HRH Duchess of Cambridge, oh yes I'm talking Kate here!!!

Not just a maternal angel and queen to be, she can not only sail as well!!

Here she is at the wheel-thing of an America's Cup yacht (is that right? can't see any of those foils JP was babbling on about) in Lord of the Rings land New Zealand.

And our Kate beat Will with score 2-0 on the waters off Aukland. She knows a thing or two about boats as apparently she sailed Challenge 72s in her gap year!!

She is a sailing queen-to-be of hearts!

Luv ya!

Sassi xxx

BBC here:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Two sides to Turner

Yesterday's post showed one side to Turner's pictures: the stormy scene full of drama. But there was another aspect to him, as he also often painted tranquility with meaning.

The classic example is above, The Fighting Temeraire, shows the old three decker being towed off to be scrapped at the end of its glorious life. This was painted in 1839, many years after the Wreck of the Transport, which is dated from 1810.

The symbolism, with the modern steam tug and the sunset in the background is clear, even if the geometry is suspect (if the tow was up the Medway heading west the sun should be behind the observer). Note also the horizon line at about 20%, giving plenty of room for a sky with sunset, clouds and a new moon.

Seeing the picture in the flesh also made clear other details, such as the way the waters were beautiful still in the foreground but then disturbed by the wake of the steam tug, again highlighting the disruptive nature of change.

Turner was often anti-social and took long walks, and there was clearly time for much thought about how to improve his art, and it is shown in the later more complex structures.

Another example is Keelmen heaving in coals by night, below, from 1835, close in time and feel to The Fighting Temeraire.
Again we have in theory a tranquil, moonlight scene with calm seas.

But the moonlight divides the picture into two unequal parts. The smaller to the left shows tall ships heading out to sea, taking advantage of the tide (visible around the buoys).

The greater half to the right shows coal being loaded, again a sign of modernity. Where as the sailing ships are angelic white heading towards the light, the night works are a fiery red.

Turner would have been in his early 60s for these two pictures and it isn't much of a leap to guess at the psychology involved.

But he wasn't necessarily rejecting modernity, for two of his greatest pictures are from his final years and showed him embracing new techniques.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Turner's Wreck of a Transport and The Hobbit

Turner is known for his seas - and his great skies.

As I wandered round the Turner exhibition at the National Maritime Museum I'd try to estimate where the horizon line dividing the two was on the canvas.

Usually the picture was dominated by sky, with land or sea only taking 20 - 40% of the picture, giving lots of room for big billowing clouds framing beams of light.

The Wreck of a Transport, however, had almost half sea - implausibly wild waves that an admiral agreed would be unsurvivable for the transport ship here.

To be honest this one didn't feel convincing: it felt like a normal storm with the height scale pushed up to 11.

It reminded me of why, unlike Lord of the Rings, the two Hobbit movies failed. Both ended with chases that defied belief, pushing beyond the book's solid story into extremes and implausibility.

But it shows Turner's desire for drama, to catch the eye and make a statement, and of his love of sea and boats.

So if this was a lesser Turner, what makes a greater one?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Turner and the Sea at the National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich is currently showing an exhibition called "Turner and the Sea" and it is absolutely brilliant.

Ok, I might have to qualify that with the proviso that you must like art and J. M. W. Turner the artist and his sea works in particular. If you like (say) Old Masters or want to see Turner's "Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway" then you're going to be disappointed.

But I loved it and made lots of notes which might leak out over the next few days but the main point of this post is that the exhibition closes on the 21st of April so there are less than two weeks to go.

This might not be much help to those who aren't in the UK now or over the next fortnight, but if you like sailing and art its not to be missed so plan your trip over to Greenwich now.

I went Saturday afternoon which to be honest meant it was a bit crowded but there was plenty of time to have a good close look at favs like this one:
There was the Turner and the Masters on a few years ago at the Tate and this exhibition complements that one nicely.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Thames Flying Squad

After the Boat Race the Thames River Police, technically the Marine Police Unit (MPU), turned their RIB's nose downriver and opened up the throttles.

The results were rather spectacular: I'm not sure what the official line is on power boats racing on the Thames but its said that all you need for a race are two boats heading in the same direction and in this case there were three of them.

I don't know which one won, but I'm guessing their colour would be black.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Wash out boat race

Oh dear.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.


Well at least there was national treasure Clare Balding:
I can see fireworks somewhere upriver: I can't imagine what they are celebrating.

Time for stiff G&T.

Updated: also spotted Olympic medallist Katherine Grainger, who I last saw at the London 2012 Beach Volleyball.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Rigging the mast boat race style

Also spotted behind this classic car below were the Cambridge crew.
Ok, you can only see their boots, but trust me on this.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Pre-Boat Race Photo Shoot

It's The Boat Race this weekend, and the two teams have been out on the Thames.

Here we see Cambridge out for a practice with some paps taking some close-up action shots.

There was probably the other team out there somewhere who alas are the bookies favourite.

Good luck Cambridge!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Editors in Brixton

I thought I'd follow up yesterday's post on Wild Beasts at the Brixton Academy with some pics from the Editors playing there from back in November 2013.

Rather a good gig it was too: I think the Editors songs work rather well with the Brixton Academy's sound system as they are rougher and rawer than those from the more delicate Wild Beasts.

But it got at least one rather snooty review - I'd certainly say they were better than "adequate". It's interesting how perspectives on the same concert can vary: so much of how you experience music depends on mood, expectations and how familiar you are with the songs.

Maybe the Editors should have used some lasers: everything is better with lasers.