review

Book review: A Dance with Dragons

A Dance with DragonsA Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Five down, two more to go. Well, assuming they’re ever finished, that is. But it does feel pretty good to have reached this point – that’s a lot of dragons, noseless dwarves and creepy sex scenes to go through. But it must be testament to the strength of the story that I’m still here … and a walk-up start for six and seven when they arrive.

The same criticisms I had for A Feast for Crows apply to this one. It’s still pretty obviously half-and-a-bit-more of one text too long for publication on its own, and the absence (or much-reduced presence) of the characters who drove the previous book sometimes leaves the reader with a feeling of isolation or amnesia. It’s easy to lose track of what’s happening where when certain people don’t turn up for a thousand pages or so. (more…)

Book review: A Feast for Crows

A Feast for CrowsA Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I suppose the people were right when they suggested I’d seen nothin’ yet if I thought GRRM’s penchant for waffling was excessive in the previous book. This was easily the series’ most padded work. Many times I found myself retreading ground, or having stuff explained that’d been explained in either another book in the series or in another chapter of this book.

That’s understandable, I suppose – there’s hundreds of cast and dozens of locations in the world Martin’s created – but it certainly is very obvious when you’re reading the series (as it stands) end to end. As you start to build up your own storehouse of lore and family trees, the constant hand-holding can really weary. (more…)

Book review: A Storm of Swords

A Storm of Swords A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The plan to read through all – well, the currently published – George R. R. Martin’s series in a row continues. Though I must admit I found this volume a little heavier going than the previous two. I can’t say why, exactly – it’s just more of the same; the writing is no more or less difficult than ever it was. But I found myself dragging my eyes’ heels (there’s a terrible image) through it.

It could have something to do with the length: locally, this is split into two books. On the Kindle it really didn’t matter, but surely to God there’s something in 1300 pages which could’ve been excised. (more…)

TaikOz Future Directions, 14/6/2014

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Disclaimer: I learned taiko with members of TaikOz for a number of years.

It’s taken a while to write this. I’ve felt conflicted, as I am a TaikOz tragic and want them to succeed and grow – but I’m also a gig-goer with limited time and limited cash. And I like to spend my time (and money) accordingly, and to feel some kind of reward – not always in the form of back-slapping woo-consuming-arts! kind of way, either – for the investment of both.

Unfortunately, the Future Directions gig was one of the poorest shows I’ve seen from the ensemble. There’s been member injuries to contend with – artistic director Ian Cleworth was not on stage – but I feel Kaoru Watanabe‘s guest artistic direction didn’t provide enough cohesion to the performance to pull it off. (more…)

Book review: Loomings Over the Suet

Loomings Over The Suet Loomings Over The Suet by Glen Baxter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The last Glen Baxter book I read was The Billiard Table Murders, about fifteen years ago. Like that title, Loomings Over the Suet is a mystery of sorts, full of police procedure and deduction – albeit with fish in buckets and weird looking radio transmitters. And alphorns.

The narrative doesn’t really make sense, but anyone au fait with Baxter’s style won’t expect it to. If laid out on a page, there’d probably be an A4-worth of story. You can read the book in fifteen minutes or so. But then, you’re not going to be reading Baxter for narrative coherence. (more…)

Book review: A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, the second in the lengthy (and let’s admit it, perhaps never-to-be-completed) A Song of Fire and Ice series.

Reading this one took a little longer than the first. There’s nothing in the prose that’s changed too much, but it lacked – until the later battle passages – some of the quickfire snap of the first volume. Perhaps it’s as it spreads itself a little more widely? In the first novel there was simply Westeros and the Dothraki plains, pretty much – other places were mentioned, but the reader could pretty much think “cod-England and that sandy joint” and be pretty well situated. But here there’s more happening in Daenerys’ storyline in actual cities. It’s no longer courtly life versus who-are-these-horse-dudes? hardships. (more…)

Jamie Hutchings: The Golden Coach (2002)

Click to buy on Bandcamp.This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word.

Bluebottle Kiss have, over the course of the past ten or so years, become stalwarts of the Oz indie rock scene. The Golden Coach is the first solo album from BBK mainman and prime mover Jamie Hutchings, and as such is a more restrained affair than his other works — certainly, it’s a little less histrionic than audiences have come to expect from the purveyor of intelligent chug-rock, though there’s still some floppy-haired pain to be found here, writ large. (more…)

Shakuhachi concert, 28/5/2014

Simon Barker performs.

Simon Barker performs.

I spent part of last night at a performance of shakuhachi and percussion works at Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music. The players ranged from student to shakuhachi master (and grandmaster) level, and while the event did have some slightly off-target moments, it was good to see how a casual approach to programming and execution – and at a free concert! – can yield rewards. (more…)

New Nagual review

My review of Nagual‘s self-titled LP has been posted at Cyclic Defrost. I swear the people at that site must think I’m like some kind of Kurtz, going dark for ages and then sending strange proclamations downriver when least expected. Suffice it to say I just wrote what I heard.

Here’s a sample:

The track moves slowly, steadily towards the light until, a third through, a buzzy, busy sound (akin to a melodica or harmonium) comes through. It’s a Carnatic contender against the large-fisted drone, and becomes more insistent as the track moves, by turns sinuous and deadly, as if charming electronic snakes. The ear’s inability to discern actual instruments – was that a clarinet? – places the listener delightfully off balance a very vocal line swoops against itself, like Narcissus and his own reflection. Until, that is, the track becomes a riot of either buzzsaws or traffic noises, like a Tzadik album abandoned by a freeway, left to bum its way to Masada.

You can read the whole thing here. I really enjoyed this album, so I hope you enjoy the review.

What Is Music? @ Annandale Hotel, Sydney, 13/02/2004

This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word. 

Experimental or avant-garde music is occasionally referred to as “difficult listening”. It’s probably a phrase that was coined by someone after they survived a Fushitsusha gig. Don’t get me wrong – there were many moments of crystalline brilliance – but this was a gig that was always going to require a bit of perseverance.

Fushitsusha are, is, essentially, Keiji Haino. He’s a gargantuan figure in the Japanese music world, though he’s probably got more in common with JD Salinger in terms of his willingness to meet the press or press the flesh. This band is basically his excuse to be the loudest man on earth. From behind wraparound sunglasses, dressed head to foot in black and sporting a haircut so severe that it suggests a goth Ramone pixie, Haino would spend most of this evening playing through a wall of amps pushed louder than any I’d ever heard. (more…)