Wivenhoe

Interesting little book this. One that can be read in a morning or an afternoon (or an evening, whatever floats your boat). It paints a gentle and reflective picture of how relationships within family and community might cope under the stresses of a natural disaster (not so much a disaster in this case, more a fundamental change in the order of things due to the UK freezing over!). Didn’t bowl me over but I suppose I enjoyed it. Well written and very descriptive and assured. 

The Paris Apartment

Another impulse buy based on the cover. It’s a good example of what makes a good cover for the genre. A key covered in blood – somehow that just spoke to me! I suspect, what with it being a posh-looking key, it drew me in with that implied promise of glamour and intrigue that posh keys tend to give off. Either way, not bad. Aside from the slightly unimaginative title (to be fair, it does take place in and around a Paris Apartment), it’s a good book. Well written, plotted and the twists and turns are not all completely predictable. Nice easy page turner. Good for a holiday book. 

Doughnut Economics

This is an utterly profound book that I urge everyone to read. 

For a long time, a thought has been brewing in my head. Why is everyone obsessed with growth? Both sides of the political spectrum are falling over themselves to tell us all how they will grow our economy and make our lives better in the process. I found myself wondering whether I was mad to question this. Surely many of the problems we face in the modern age are linked to growth. Climate, resource limitation, land loss etc. 

The population of the planet reached 8 billion just last week. It seems barn door obvious that this cannot go on forever. (And don’t tell me it’s fine because population growth is slowing. That means it is still growing and I don’t know about anyone else but 8 billion is a tad too many in my books). It is blatant that there must be a limit at which we can build more and manufacture more, space and resources being two obvious limiters. The collateral effect on the climate is also something blindingly obvious but is something that many lunatics seem to still deny. Growth seems to be an infinite prospect that we all must apparently crave but the problem is we live on a planet that is very much a finite playground.

Well, a while back I stumbled across this TED talk by Kate Raworth about Doughnut economics and she verbalised pretty much everything I had been thinking about. And then some. Her book goes even further. 

It is an unmissable and undeniable classic that explains her ‘doughnut’ theory of economics, one which depicts a ring that represents the sweet spot of social pillars such as climate, equality, peace, land, ocean health, wealth etc. Within the ring are represented the things that we still need to grow and improve upon. But outside the ring is where we overshoot into a realm of profound unsustainability. Not surprisingly, we are not doing very well at staying within this ring. 

The book eloquently explains why this inexorable journey in growth at all costs is perhaps not a good idea and suggests ways in which this might be changed.  That it has to be explained is somewhat of a mystery to me, but then this world is a strange place. 

Take home message would be that if all countries in the world grew to the stage at which the US, Canada and Sweden do, we would need 4 Earths to sustain them. 

Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but the fact that there are such odd, politically selfish and shortsighted perspectives out there, particularly from those in the position to do something, that the measures required to change our path are never going to come to pass. 

But either way read the book. Everyone should be forced to do so imo. 

 

 

The Lies of Lock Lamora

I haven’t read what I would call a ‘fantasy’ book for quite some time. I have been thinking about doing so for a while and this is the one that caught my attention. Really enjoyed it. It follows a gang of thieves operating within a gothic, Mediterranean style fantasy city. They are sort of grifters so it resembles a sort of fantasy style Hustle. Good story, interesting characters, good twists and an easy read. You can’t go wrong with this if you like the genre I reckon. It’s the first in a series so I’ll be reading the rest, although not straight away!

Progress!

 
It’s been a busy couple of months for this project. Fortunately there is fruit to show from our labours. Like a mad man, I have decided to tackle two tracks almost simultaneously. If I’m honest, it just sort of happened like that but either way, it’s been an interesting juggling act. The two tracks in question are Nightdrive, the prog rock protagonist at the heart of my previous blog, and Kemosabe which is more of a classic rock song.
 
Since last time around, we have been into the studio for Nightdrive, under the steady gaze of a chap called Al – a producer whose own music I admire greatly. (Check out ‘From Sea to Sky’ by Heights.)
 
 
Such is the length and sheer mayhem of time signature variation involved, it took a whole day just to lay down the drums. Marcus, the man tasked with this hit those things all day and must have been exhausted, while Sanj and Tom bonded over their lack of anything to do.
 
 
 
We are due in to put the rest of the track down next week so watch this space.
 
Kemosabe meanwhile crept up in an entirely different way. While most of these tracks are going to involve new and previously unlinked musicians (hopefully) this track was always going to be an exception to that rule. Since I wrote this song, I have always had it in my head that it would be perfect for one of my uni bands, formerly named Iguazu and more recently a switch to the ridiculously named ‘Tempest Kings’. The issue with this is, as often happens with groups of friends, the members of said musical group have been torn asunder and cast in all sorts of directions. Al (another Al) now lives and plies his trade as a GP in North Wales, Jono is an all action A&E consultant in Bath and Ben is also a GP but rather than living in North Wales, he decided to run off to Australia. Problematic for a reunion one might think. So it was that when I heard that Ben would be gracing the UK with his presence for 3 weeks, I had to make it happen.
Cue some hasty doodlepolls and an online practice session over zoom and all of a sudden we were in the same studio that we had last used to record a whole album a few years back. This time, we would be calling upon the services of John David, an experienced rocker and producer who had just had Shakin Stevens into his studio a few days before and who plied his trade with the Dave Edmunds band back in the 70s. A nicer man you will struggle to meet.
 
Considering that was the first time we had all been in the same room for a few years (since Jono’s wedding in fact) and considering we had not really figured out how the track was going to go, that we got a serviceable song out of it at the end of the day is a bit of a miracle! I must admit, I had been anxious as to how it would all go but we got it done. The studio helped, walls replete with records John had written or produced from the likes of Mr Stevens, Robert Plant and Status Quo to name a few.
 
 
Racks of cool looking guitars created the backdrop for a productive day (Jono and Ben are both guitar geeks and got way more of a kick out of these than I) as did one of the best coffee machines I’ve yet to come across.
Inevitably, the song could not be completed and mixed all in one day so it needed a second one. Alas, Ben had returned down under and Al had returned to patients and children in North Wales by the time a second day could be arranged.
 
Jono was on hand however to help with the finishing touches which turned out to be more extensive than any of us had imagined. With that done though, the final track, needing some fairly extensive mixing still, was done!
 
 
 
Once Nightdrive is done too, I might provide the snippiest of snippets from each track on here but for the full ones, you’ll all have to wait until the remaining nine tracks are all done! If you follow the instagram and social medias links however, you never know, you might get a few extra bits and pieces here and there.
 
W
 
 

Norwegian Wood

This is one I’ve been meaning to read for a while. It’s always on those ‘good book’ lists so I thought I should give it a go. This was the one that propelled Murakami to success. I must say, it was a bit meh in my opinion. The characters are frankly odd. They are not realistic in any way. Exaggerated they may be, it’s possible I suppose that this is not necessarily a bad thing in a novel. But I don’t think it added anything really. It just plugged the gaps in what was a fairly dull story. Well written I suppose and flowed reasonably well but overall, dated and dull. One think I do like in his style is his attention to mundane every day detail – for example, he showered, brewed himself a coffee and then went for a short walk before hanging out his washing upon his return. Might sound odd but that concise summary of an ordinary morning is strangely therapeutic and minimalist. This is something I also noticed in Killing Commandatore, a book I much preferred. 

The Story of Music

This is a fair old undertaking, so it’s impressive that this book is not as long as one might think. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t manage to cram in a lot of interesting stuff. Shore is eloquent and learned in what he writes. There is an enormous breadth of material referenced by him in an assured display of knowledge of his trade. 

From my perspective, I found it enlightening in terms of the evolution seen by music. The enormous shifts within the early twentieth Century in particular in a way that things just made that little bit more sense afterwards. A bit like having looked at one’s location on a map and seeing it’s position in the context of everything else around. For anyone interested in music, this is a good shout. 

 

Try This At Home

I’ve not really listened to Frank Turner much. I’m aware of one or two of his more popular songs but I was going into this relatively blind, mainly as a curiosity from a songwriting angle (In the middle of my own music project at the moment so this was good background reading). Frank Turner is actually quite an accomplished writer. He makes a lot of sense in places and this honest account is quite biographical but also gives a lot of insight into his own songwriting techniques. I don’t really listen to lyrics but, with his work being lyric-centric, I did appreciate a lot of his, each chapter beginning with the lyrics to a particular song. 

For any music fan, this is a really decent read. 

Music Project Up and Running!

We are up and running, as the title would suggest. The journey travelled on this project has thus far been an extremely long one. Any moments of note have been subtle and certainly spread pretty far apart. The latest update therefore represents something of a significant milestone. It is the first palpable collaboration with outside parties since the whole thing was conceived. Very exciting.
 
Just yesterday was the first jam session with an assembled group of musicians – the first I hope of many (specifically 11). Without revealing too much about the song to take this opening accolade, I can at least give it’s name (Nightdrive) and a rough genre (prog rock). Enter Tom (bass), Marcus (drums) and Sanj (lead guitar). Never before have I and these three individuals occupied the same room together and yet, perhaps through some sort of universal musical magic, I think everyone hit of off well! Added to that we managed to get some passable music going and we are now poised to get the track down and recorded as had been the plan all along.
 
The day kicked off with a general chat through the track and some initial chatter. Sanj and Marcus bonded over some mutual appreciation of thrash metal and Tom brought along a ridiculous pedal board that lit up in many beautiful ways. Then we got down to learning and developing the song. Considering it was the first time any of us had really played it (including me having pieced it together into a demo bit by bit) I think we did rather well. A short break and a beer, during which we put the musical world to rights, pointed out some choice opinions on the local music college and discussed the pros and cons of life as a session musician. Then back to the music.
 
Throughout the course of the afternoon, it was noted how, seemingly for the style of music on display, there seemed to be some patterns emerging. Firstly, a propensity for physics and data analysis amongst us. Indeed, between us there were 2 physics degrees and one for electro-acoustic engineering. Secondly and more to the point, three out of four of us had long hair – something surely of statistical significance. I would argue that, if a straightener were taken to Tom’s curls, we could easily make that four out of four.
 
Anyway, satisfied that good progress had been made (and me safe now in the knowledge that I think this project is going to work!) we headed to the pub for some well earned beers. Amongst some fairly deep musical philosophising, we mused over the best decade for music. If you’re interested, the 80s won.
 
 
 
So far then, off to a good start. Keep your eyes peeled for updates on this trick and others as we begin to pick up speed.
 
W
Ps. if you haven’t the faintest idea what this is all about, go to the following website (www.wap-uk.org). I promise you the link is fine!