When We Were Young [Dusted]

So the great iTunes clean up continues, and I’ve created a playlist that I fill with albums that I want to keep but that I have not got round to listening to, or not listened to all the way through.
Tonight, after coming home tired I listened to Nostalgia 77’s  The Sleepwalking Society after which the playlist continued into When We Were Young by Dusted.  I have had this for a while but not listened to it, hearing odd tracks occasionally when playing my collection on shuffle, but listening to it all the way through, I wanted to try and review it.  I’ve been thinking about writing album reviews for sometime, but never actually done it..so here goes..

I know Dusted is the moniker used by Rollo, and looking it up in Wikipedia, apparently it also includes Mark Bates, I have no idea who he is, so I’ll leave that as it is.. When We Were Young is a concept album based around feelings from Childhood, fairy tales and nightmares mashed into an atmospheric sweep of intelligent hypnotic beats and spaced vocals.

The album opens with Childhood, which I also have as part of the Back to mine – Faithless compilation (as yet unheard) which sets the tone, it builds nicely and hints at something more to come.  Time takes Time takes over as with a vocal and again the track builds, with a choral refrain and a break with guitar sounding riffs being followed by mellowed beats underpinning the chorus.  For me vocals can make all the difference to tracks, when out with my mate Andy we tend to go to more deep or techno nights (buzzin’ fly, Dixon, Deetron) but I can’t help but smile when a vocal kicks in, it can make even a monotonous track inspiring.
Want U kicks off with a silky horn and warm piano drenched intro, before a bass led beat carries you through the rest of the song, including a late vocal before it breaks down and segues into Hurt U, whose vocal makes it feel a lot longer than it’s 1:45 time.
If You Go Down to the Woods is instrumental, but no worse off that, the beats intelligent enough to hook your ears by the time which it’s already over and you are listening to the hymn-like vocals of the atmospheric Always Remember to Respect Your Mother (pt.1).  The Biggest Fool in the World picks up the tempo with some rolling beats and vocal underpinned by a subtle uplifting vibe.  next up Oh, How Sweet kicks off with more trippy beats before breaking down into an acoustic guitar and vocal to the end when Always Remember to Respect Your Mother (pt 2) kicks in, stronger than part one, the spaced beats come in with intention and set the tone for the narrative vocal that comes in over the top.  Winter contains softer beats and vocals than the tracks before it, it’s as if you’re the woods in winter, and you can hear the track through a blanket of fog.  The altered vocal end takes you into the short, weird, The Oscar Song, an acceptance speech given over the top of disturbed beats.
If the feeling is darkened, Under The Sun pulls you up, kicking off with a some trippy beats under the male vocal, before it lightens up with the female vocal joins in and bursts through the cloud of beats to a choral fuelled chorus and a acapella ending.
Finally,  If I had a child is a beautiful, haunting end to what is a wonderful cinematic journey through an aural fairytale.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (David Mitchell)

Fifteen or twenty near naked carpenters are perched on the frame of a new warehouse ‘Idler than a gang of gin-soused Finns…’ mumbles Van Cleef

Mid July 1799 and idle carpenters are one of the many marvels that Jacob de Zoet sees as  he sets foot on Dejima, the small man made island in the bay of Nagasaki, that will be his home for the forseeable future..

So a a little while ago I raved about how enjoyable Aminatta Forna’s the Memory of Love is, and how it was one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, hyperbole almost certainly. I even declared, with absolute certainty, that it was probably my favourite ever book.  And it was.  Unfotunately for Aminatta, her place at the top has been relatively shortlived, the memory of love has been dissolved in a thousand autumns.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is delicious

Everything from the characters and the descriptions are perfectly written and immerse you into the few cross streets that make up Japan’s sole gateway to the world at the end of the 18th Century, bustling with Dutch, Chinese, the odd Yankee and Irishman, a whole school of interpreters (whose inclusion allows for some great devices during the narrative), and one female Japanese midwife.

‘You are most kind to remember.’ Jacob breaks off a  half-dozen young sprigs ‘Here you are.’ For a priceless coin of time, their hands are linked by a few inches of bitter herb, witnessed by a dozen blood-orange sunflowers.
I don’t want a purchased courtesan he thinks. I wish to earn you.

Unico Vorstenbosch’s is a man with a mission, to root out corruption in the Dutch East Indies Company (the VOC) on Dejima.  In his wake trails Jacob de Zoet, a clerk,and their impact on the inhabitants of the small enclave, including the mischievously devious Dr Lucas Marinus, Arie Grote, a man who could ‘sell sheep shit to shepherds’ and William Pitt, a monkey.  The story follows both the fortunes of de Zoet, and Orito Aibagawa over almost a 20 year period, as well as hinting at changes within Japan itself, the end of the VOC and the arrival of the British in Japanese waters, based loosely on actual events, but with a fair dose of David Mitchell’s imagination, all written in absolutely sumptuous prose and a with some brilliant humour that made me laugh out loud and deepened my absolute love for a close to perfect novel.

I won’t say anymore, my book reviews are like a scribble trying to illustrate a monet, but I will say read this book..if your like me, at the end you will feel as if you’re marooned in the bay of Nagasaki, you can’t go back, but you’re not quite ready to leave.

Crossing Continents to the Arab Spring

So one thing I do a lot of is listen to podcasts.  I subscribe to them left right and centre and they range from poetry readings, the brilliant history of Rome, to Above and Beyond’s Trance around the World (they have got me back into Trance, marginally, and it’s great to run to in the gym) and some Radio 4 programmes, including Excess Baggage, Friday Night Comedy and Crossing Continents.
Crossing Continents I started listening to because it touched on my love of travel.  It is a bit hit and miss, but every now and again there are some wonderful, powerful stories that remain with me long after they are told.  The first one to impact me was an investigation of the human trafficking of women from Uganda who ended up working as virtual slaves in Iraq, and how some of them were rescued.  I was walking up round the London Olympic site at the time, it was in the evening and I remember the sun was setting as I realised I had a lump in my throat.
Another one told of the people brokers of North Korea, who smuggle people desperate to escape to the South, The risks that people take to make the journey, and the cost.  It will be interesting to see whether this will be made easier now the Great Successor is in charge, but I can’t see myself putting money on that.
This morning on my tube ride to work I listened to the first in a series of three about the Arab Spring, presented by Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s foreign editor.  He was in Egypt during the revolution and the vivid energy flowing through the country throbbed through my earphones.  On my way home I listened to the second one, focusing on Libya, including an interview with Gaddafi himself, in which he denied that there were any protests at all.  Jeremy Bowen’s conclusion was that he was not mad, but was surrounded by ‘yes men’ who kept him in a state of illusion, or perhaps that should be delusion.

I’ve still got the third one to go but I have already found the first two immensely fascinating. I followed the Arab Spring as much as I could on the news, indeed still follow where I can the situation in Syria, because it seems so alien to me.
I have no concept of living under such a regime, to know that the people who govern and protect you can make you ‘disappear’ should their paranoia become enough to think you are a threat, to smell the reek of corruption that floats at the top of the hierarchy where little benefit flows down to the common citizen.  I also can not fully appreciate the strength and courage that it must take to reach a point where you are willing to lay down your life in order to overthrow something that has been a constant all the way through it.  In a separate edition of World Football on the World Service they did a story on how the Libyan football team had qualified for the African Cup of Nations, and how players took part in the revolution.  One player who was on the front line was given softer missions, or had people go in front of him to protect him if he was shot at  so that he could continue playing football for the national team.

One thought that occured to me during the spring was that now they have the belief that they can change things, I could see it happening more often, I fear for the rebuilding of these shattered countries.  If something is not to the public’s liking or perhaps isn’t happening fast enough (something highlighted by the retaking of Tahir Square to protest at the military’s hand over of power in Egypt) then they will protest again, and again.  I guess this is the growing pains of any nation, or perhaps democracy, but I hope that something healthier blossoms from the Arab Spring.

The podcasts available from radio 4, including crossing continents can be found here