Music is more than melody, it is texture, colour, temperature, feeling, nostalgia, landscape and dream. This page contains reviews of music, plays, films and books that inspire, engulf and challenge.

Music that Music for Zombies listens to......oh and also also films and plays that we watch and books that we read...

MUSIC

Moon Wiring Club

An Audience of Art Deco Eyes (2007)

This album is like being caught in a perpetual fever dream, drowning in waves of what feels like nostalgia but it's not your own. A mix of ethereal electronic original music, samples and snatches of 70's and 80's TV or radio (I can't be sure and to be honest I don't really want to know) a bit like the TARDIS (to cheekily paraphrase) this music isn't created or recorded it's grown. The art work is sublime too.

Moon Wiring Club

Shoes off and Chairs Away (2008)

Even better than the first. This continuous aural adventure sweeps the listener along. Sometimes doors half open and you peek inside and catch sight of somebody else's dream in front of you. What I didn't say before is that this artist seems able to create a tangible world that you inhabit whilst listening a world backed up by the deeply brilliant artwork. Brilliant and frightening.

PLAYS

It's Like He's Knocking

 

Photobucket

Last night I saw an amazing piece of theatre.


Sorry for the hyperbole but it really was.

I went to see "It's Like He's Knocking" by Leo Kay.

The small audience (it's supposed to be small) left South Street Arts Centre at 8pm and walked down the street and then down an alleyway (by RISC). One of the audience members knocked on a locked door and we were let into a bare bedsit room.

The small square room contained rough  wooden  benches, the windows were covered in cardboard and taped up. A bare bulb hung from the ceiling. The actor sat in the centre of the room whilst we entered and a musician sat to his left.

Leo gave out shots of vodka (he also offered orange juice which was great, as I was driving) and proposed three toasts one of which was to his father.

The following hour was filled with Leo, in a conversation with the audience, telling us stories of his Grandfather and Father's lives. This was highly charged and claustrophobic. The performer locked us in with his gaze and with his evocative storytelling.  The stories were very personal and interspersed with Brazilian music and looped soundscapes that were created live. It was hard to see where Leo the performer ended and where the real Leo began, the two personas merged into one and so this made the experience very unsettling as the emotional charge of the stories told, coupled with the intimacy of the setting created a very real sense of truth in this performance.

It is hard to do the show justice on paper as it covered so much in an hour. Leo used the stories of these two lives and the play itself to work through his grief for the death of his father. This sounds a bit glib reading it back but he really did achieve that and because we knew that he had been doing the show for a while you could see that he was much healthier for the experience.

It was incredibly personal and I felt privileged to be part of the experience. This was theatre as very effective therapy.

Now David Cameron wants us to be a happier nation, as well as resigning immediately and taking that turncoat Clegg with him he could also get Leo to perform this play in every city, town and village, in bedsit flats across the nation and encourage others to follow Leo's example. Leo gave us the opportunity to reflect on our own lives and pasts, something that we don't have the time to do. This show explores and demonstrates very effectively how creativity and art can have a real healing power, it makes us realise how much we need to listen to our parents, find out about them and their lives before they go.

This will be touring again, I urge you to see it.

 

Labour Exchange - South Street Arts Centre (Thursday 28th April 2011)

Photobucket

Last night I went back in time.

Press the button below to simulate timetravel sound effect to accompany the text below...



  Time Travelling by Music for Zombies

I arrived at South Street just before 9pm on Thursday 28th, 2011 and within minutes was taken back to 1933 when 21 South Street opened as Reading's Labour Exchange.


We met the Lord Mayor who spoke of his plans for the building and then were led into the building where we saw Huntley and Palmer employees hard at work after which we joined them for tea and biscuits. Macdevitt's Bar was transformed into a lively canteen in which we sat with the workers and eavesdropped in on their conversations.

We were led out and found ourselves in the 1950's where we saw the arrival of Titus from the West Indies, we followed him upstairs to his bedsit and then watched him settle in and develop a warm relationship with his landlady.

When we came downstairs it was the 1970's, a strike was in progress outside and members of NALGO handed out leaflets and lead us on a march into a club where we experienced punk and the pre-Thatcher years first hand.

Finally we gathered in Macdevitts and celebrated the victory of Thatcher in the election of 1979. I didn't raise my glass to her.

Then without warning I found myself back in the present day!

You can press stop now if it hasn't already finished...

Photobucket

This was a really eye opening piece of community theatre. The play, an excellently co-ordinated piece of promenade, used a mix of professional and youth theatre actors to great effect. It was meticulously researched and the entire building was transformed (several times over the hour long performance) to represent the different eras. Each movement through the building took us to a different time period in which the combination of performance, costume, setting, lighting and incredibly impressive sound design (throughout the building) created a deeply evocative atmosphere, making the jumps in time absolutely seamless. Because we, the audience in our modern dress were mingling with characters from the 70's, 50's and 30's it forced those eras to be compared with the present. It threw into sharp relief the current economic situation and it's mishandling by government, revealing that governments never look back and learn from their mistakes.

What I loved about the whole experience was how it transformed the space and allowed the audience to experience the history of the building. It made me consider that every building has a history, that each building in the world has a collection of stories to tell. This reminds me of when my father, on his 80th Birthday, visited his birthplace only to discover it was now an estate agents, they kindly let him see the room that he was born in. Every house and  every building regardless of age, (although the older buildings would have more stories) has collected families, workers, people with different experiences. Potentially every house or business premises could have a piece of theatre made about it.

Think about where you live.

Think about where you work.

Do you know how many families have lived in your house? Do you know anything about them?

It is absolutely fascinating.

Life is fascinating.

Find out, go on.

 

Do it.

Running On Air - Adventures in Audience Participation – Sitting in a Camper Van with Five (lovely) Strangers

(A Camper Van, outside South Street Arts Centre - 4th June 2011)

Photobucket

 

I almost missed this show.

I had left it a little late, it began at 9pm and I was planning to cycle to South Street Arts Centre. At 8.45 I got out my bike and saw that the tyres were both flat. So I started pumping the back tyre but attacked the task so vigorously that I broke the pump valve. This led to me borrowing my wife’s ancient and very heavy bike with child seat and cycling like merry hell to the venue. I arrived with a minute to spare, wheezing and gasping and plonked the bike next to a camper van.

The performer Laura Mugridge then came out of the van and greeted the audience (five of us) and took us to her camper van and introduced us to it. She called the camper van Joni, she had brought it with her husband and this evening she was going to tell us of her various adventures in it.

We were let into the van one by one and given specific places to sit and distinct roles. One audience member whose name I remember as John was given a cardboard clock to illustrate the times in which various incidents concerning the breakdown of a vehicle. The lady opposite me was given a calendar, the lady next to me used a slide whistle at certain points to illustrate falls in temperature and the chap sitting in the passenger seat behind me (the rest of us were in the main cabin) was in charge of music. I was sitting next to the door and I played the part of Laura’s husband Tom.

The great thing about this show was its intimacy, not only with the performer but also in the strange relationship you built with your fellow audience members who were trapped alongside you. You absolutely had to be willing participants in the whole adventure, Laura was in complete control of the material but it felt organic and real and very quickly the outside world (which in this case was a noisy concert (Dodgy were playing!) with various revellers smoking and chatting outside) faded away completely. I was concerned that my wheezing might drown out the sound of Laura and that I was sweaty and smelly from my mad bike ride (you’d have to ask the others about this). You have to invest in a show like this, you realise that its success relies on you as much as on the performer, you are in the performance space being asked questions and participating.

Laura is a stand up comedian and her work over the last few years has experimented with storytelling and intimacy from performing in a cupboard to one person in Milton Keynes, to three in an art gallery and now five in a camper van. We went on both a physical (Edinburgh to Lands End) and an emotional journey in which we shared the highs and lows of the last few years. There was an ingenious use of props, I didn’t have to worry about learning lines or improvising for the role of Tom (although I was concerned at one point that I might when she asked me what I ate on one particular night in her story) as she provided me with a tape recorder with the real Tom speaking his lines. When we got lost in Cornwall (a projection on the whited out windscreen) John had to find a crumpled map behind him and give directions (the map was crumpled because Laura had got angry with it earlier). The piece de résistance was a beautiful model of some hills near Keswick where she spoke of a revelation concerning her life and career upon which she placed a tiny model of herself. It was like being in a Wes Anderson film (except funny and with actual humanity).

This was a fascinating evening of theatre, one that I completely recommend to any human being. As you can see from previous posts I am getting a real taste for theatre that is totally involving and engaging, you need to commit to performances like this, this is not for a lazy audience.

A lot of this play concerned the trials of Joni breaking down again and again. Interestingly on the way home (cycling back in the dark) the back wheel of my wife’s bike stuck and I had to walk it home the rest of the way. In the van Laura played us a song by a band called “Vampire Weekend” (I’m not very down with the kids and hadn’t heard it before) and said that this was playing when the camper van broke down so they felt the song was jinxed. We then proceeded to sing it together, now it’s either a coincidence or my bike must have absorbed some of this song (it was parked just outside)and gave up the ghost a few minutes after leaving.

Thanks Laura.