Sunday, 23 November 2014

Buy a song to save a life

The Portraits: The Rest of Time Emma Whittaker

English folk duo The Portraits have released a single to raise money for Emma Whittaker, a six-year-old girl who is suffering from a rare genetic condition and who needs a find a donor with her blood type by March. Emma's parents are already promoting their daughter's cause with their online Match 4 Emma and #pantsonyourhead campaigns and you can read Emma's moving story here.

The Rest Of Time features Ethemia and Minnie Birch, as well as the voices of 2000 people from across the UK, recorded by The Portraits over the past year. It's something that brings a huge group of people together to get Emma's message heard far and wide.

Singer Lorraine Reilly Millington of The Portraits says: “We wanted to create a huge national choir by layering the voices of different crowds we played to and every person that has sung will be credited on the single. There are enough people with an interest in its success that reaching the charts is really achievable, and this would make a huge noise for Emma and everyone else searching for a donor!”

She adds: “We’ve had such an amazing reaction from real people as we’ve recorded them. The UK has sung its heart out for one little girl, from Lancaster to Leighton Buzzard, Cornwall to Camden. The results are stunning and the song has a huge momentum behind it. Next stop, the charts!”

The Rest of Time is out on 28 December 2014 and is available to pre-order on iTunes and on CD now. For just 79p, you can help towards this fantastic cause – it's not much is it? So click on one of the buttons below to buy the single!

Watch a short documentary about The Rest Of Time below.


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Interview: The Portraits
La Rochelle

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Playlist: Lamb

Electronic duo Lamb (Lou Rhodes and Andy Barlow) released their first album in 1996. Eighteen years and seven studio albums later and I have found myself with a very sturdy seat on the Lamb-fan bandwagon. I saw them live twice within two weeks at two very different gigs recently – one on a lazy Sunday afternoon at Bristol's Rise and the other on a dark night at the O2 Academy.

Getting to know 'the old stuff' has of course been wonderful – what better love song is there out there than Cottonwool? And has any song ever carried as much emotional weight as Gabriel? But the great thing about being fairly new to Lamb's music is the luxury to appreciate the 'new stuff' with no bias toward the old.

The most recent album, released just over a month ago, is sublime. 'Backspace Unwind' opens with throbbing synths in In Binary, and includes We Fall in Love, Backspace Unwind and Nobody Else, which all hit it out the park. It is one of those albums that has very quickly becomes symbolic of how I feel about everything at the moment.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie and the advent of punk

Chris Stein/negative: me, Blondie and the advent of punk, Somerset House

I recently treated myself to a culture + party weekend in London. It was all about Gordon's dingy wine bar, steamy Soho, after-dark underground Dalston and a sleepy Sunday wander through Spitalfields Market

One highlight amidst these was a trip to Somerset House to see the current (free) exhibition of Chris Stein's photographs of his years hanging out with Blondie and the punk set in 1970s and 80s New York, where New Wave ruled with its favourite partners in crime – drugs, booze and sartorialism.

Debbie Harry of course takes fantastic pictures, and this is several rooms of brilliantly nostalgic, edgy and irresistibly hedonistic imagery – what's not to love? Chris Stein is a guitarist and co-founder of Blondie and offers an intimate vision of the band's behind-the-scenes lifestyle with his photographs.

Included in the exhibition is a large pamphlet of two essays by Stein and Harry talking about photography and voyeurism respectively ("I had no idea that Chris was a voyeur when I met him. How could I know? I'm joking... a bit").

It was Stein's piece on the universality of contemporary photography, specifically through Instagram,  that particularly struck me.

"Of late, I really like looking at Instagram. one hundred  fifty million people taking and putting up more than sixteen billion images that's somewhat like the one Cocteau spoke of ['film will only become art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper'].

"Instagram is filled with boring snapshots of pets and food as well as people who are aware of what they are pressing on their 'public.' But every now and then I will come upon an image that is fantastic in its innocence and, some little illuminated square that makes me really wonder if the person who took it knows how good it is."

This is an exhibition simple in curation and concept, but rich in the thought and inspiration it provokes. Catch it before it's gone.

Chris Stein/negative: me, Blondie and the advent of punk runs at Somerset House until Sunday 25 January. 


Photos: Chris Stein/Somerset House

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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Film: Biophilia live

Biophilia: "The passionate love of life and all that is alive" 

– Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973)

On the weekend, Watershed was showing Nick Fenton and Peter Strickland's film of Björk's Biophilia. A stunning spectacle that pairs the 2013 Alexandra Palace live performance with striking visual sequences made by different artists for the album, it makes for wonderful cinematic viewing.

Powerful synth and percussion outbursts bring otherworldly images to life and Björk and her choir set an ethereal atmosphere with their flawless performances. The film is well-paced, with a lovely introduction from David Attenborough and seamless transitions from one song to the next – and between the artwork and performance shots. 

"Welcome to Biophilia: the love for nature in all her manifestations, from the tiniest organism to the greatest red giant floating in the farthest realm of the universe," intones Attenborough's familiar voice at the start of the film. "We are on the brink of a revolution that will reunite humans with nature through new technological innovations. Until we get there: prepare, explore, Biophilia."

Amen to that. For me, highlights in the show are Crystalline, which ends with a fantastic drum 'n' bass-like frenzy of beats, Cosmogony with it's beautiful chorus and Mutual Core, which references diverging tectonic plates and volcanic eruptions. Moon is also gorgeous. The song makes use of the Gravity Harp, a robotic instrument commissioned by Björk and made by Andy Cavatorta.

Having visited Iceland and recently finished writing a piece about Reykjavík for BBC Music Magazine, I have become utterly enamoured with the country and its culture: any mention of it and my ears prick up. So it was pretty special to see one of Iceland's greatest artists expressing her deep love for nature through spectacular sights and sounds. For those of us who weren't lucky enough to catch the 2011 tour, this is not a disappointing alternative. And I have no doubt that it's a great bit of memorabilia for those who did.


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My weekend in Iceland
The Playlist: Ólöf Arnalds
Erró: The World Today, Reykjavík Art Museum