Essaie Pas: New Path review – techno dystopias with witty flashes of funk

(DFA) From Run the Jewels to Gary Numan, musicians technophobically fretting over the future of humanity have long used Philip K Dick as a touchstone – and that’s not counting the endless riffs on Vangelis’s synthscapes from the Dick-derived Blade Runner. Essaie Pas, married producers Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau, have used Dick’s druggily dsytopian novel A Scanner Darkly as inspiration for their fifth album, and tap into his dread much better than most. Their aesthetic is mostly cyberpunk coldwave, with techno kick drums pounding uncaringly in 4/4 motion; on Futur Parlé, they are cut through by neon scythes of metallic sound, before being joined by a three-note Chicago house bassline and Davidson’s signature monotone vocals (also brilliant on solo releases and her collaborations with Not Waving and Solitary Dancer). Les Agents des Stups switches up to relentless electro, before Substance M dives back to deep, stern techno. These expansive dancefloor moments are strong, but you long for a couple more of their left turns. Complet Brouillé is apparently inspired by dissociative drug experiences, though this particular K -hole is brightly decorated: another addictive Chicago bassline is placed against a stuttering beat to create infectious, witty funk. The chilling title track meanwhile features a robotic voice spewing shards of A Scanner Darkly dialogue into a void of sustained synth chords, a little like the dying protagonist Hal 9000 in another sci-fi classic, 2001A Space Odyssey. Essaie Pas have gone beyond cliche and fandom to make something that truly speaks to the dynamic thought and droll humour at the heart of Dick’s writing. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Meshell Ndegeocello: Ventriloquism review – timeless, lustrous take on 90s R&B

(Naïve) Meshell Ndegeocello isn’t a fan of modern R&B: “I find myself not being able to listen to a lot of [it],” she recently told Billboard, “just because of the vibration it gives off.” Little wonder then that, after a grief-filled year in which she buried one parent and half-lost the other to dementia, the feted neo-soul pioneer chose to reach backwards, to the comfort of familiar, past sounds. Ndegeocello is no stranger to covers projects. Recent years have seen her pay homage to Nina Simone on 2012’s Pour une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone, and Fats Waller, via guest spots on Selma scorer Jason Moran’s All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller. Ventriloquism casts a wider net, reworking classics by various artists, songs released between 1985 and 95 (the decade that preceded Ndegeocello’s feted debut, Plantation Lullabies). Continue reading… [hmp_player]

‘Pakistan is ready for change’: Verna star Mahira Khan on her controversial career

The star gained global attention when her film about a rape survivor who takes revenge on her attackers was nearly banned in Pakistan. She explains why its release was a victory for all women Mahira Khan represents a face of Pakistan rarely seen outside the country: a face that doesn’t fit into the dynamic in which Pakistani women are either a “Madonna or a whore”. An unapologetic rebel in her life choices, she represents a new generation – and is helping redefine what it is to be a Pakistani woman. The 33-year-old came to the attention of the world in a whirl of controversy when her film, Verna (Or Else), about a rape survivor who wreaks revenge on her attackers, was denied a certificate by the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) in Pakistan because of its “mature themes” and “edgy content”. The ruling attracted global condemnation and the film won the backing of the international film fraternity, including the Oscar-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and the Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone (who had faced a similar backlash for her film Padmavati). Related: ‘Rape is a rampant issue’; taboo drama Verna battles the censors in Pakistan Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Jack White: ‘As an artist it is your job not to take the easy way out’

As the messiah of analogue and vinyl goes digital on his new solo album, Jack White talks about the need to be contrary, his love of objects – and his dislike of the press Jack White is back in the UK for the first time since Seven Nation Army became the unofficial rallying cry for Jeremy Corbyn. But he doesn’t know much about Corbyn and anyway: “I feel like I have to be insanely careful these days because the press has had a lot of fun with me over the years.” White is wearing black sports trousers with panels of green and yellow, and is rather athletic (he has shares in a company that produces quality baseball bats). His most famous song was also used, without warning, in a fan-made video for Donald Trump’s run for president. Via his record label Third Man, White and Meg, his partner in the White Stripes, issued the customary disavowal and Third Man started selling “Icky Trump” T-shirts, punning on the title of the final White Stripes album. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

The final frontier: how female directors broke into sci-fi

It was seen as a job for the boys. That’s changing thanks to the likes of Ava DuVernay, Patty Jenkins and Claire Denis being given opportunities to oversee big-budget productions Critical reactions to Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time may have been mixed, but there’s no denying it is a cinema landmark. DuVernay is not just the first woman of colour to direct a $100m (£72m) movie, but a member of a very exclusive club – female directors of big-budget science fiction. It is sobering to realise that Kathryn Bigelow’s $42m sci-fi noir Strange Days was released nearly a quarter of a century ago. It was a resounding flop, which no doubt convinced studios that women should not be allowed to direct the genre at all. Since then, we have also had Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending from the Wachowskis. But one can’t help wondering if, back in 1999, Warner Bros would have entrusted The Matrix’s $60m budget to a couple of relative unknowns if they had been called Lilly and Lana, instead of Larry and Andy. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Four Days That Shook Britain review – stories of amazing bravery, kindness and humanity in the wake of the UK terrorist attacks

This powerful and affecting documentary follows some of those caught up in last year’s attacks It is a year since the start of a wave of attacks in the UK – Westminster; Manchester Arena; London Bridge; Finsbury Park – when the response became: “There’s been another.” This ITV documentary is about the people for whom it was more than a terrifying news story. Not Khalid Masood, Salman Ramadan Abedi, Khuram Shazad Butt, Rachid Redouane, Youssef Zaghba or Darren Osborne. The attackers barely get a mention. It is about the innocent people caught up, about the stories within the story. Stories of terrible sadness and loss, but also of amazing bravery, kindness and humanity. Dani Singer is a student who was working as a tour guide on an open-top bus, and ran to help 75-year-old retired window cleaner Leslie Rhodes who was hit on Westminster Bridge. Leslie died, but Dani was with him and was able to offer some human contact. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Wake review – Birmingham Opera Company breathe life into Lazarus tale

B12 Warehouse, BirminghamWith local staff, chorus and extras, BOC’s latest project offsets an uneven story with its eclectic score and unique atmosphere No one could ever accuse the Birmingham Opera Company of lacking ambition. Over the last quarter-century its productions have spanned the whole history of opera, from Monteverdi’s Return of Ulysses to the British premiere of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht, and the guiding principle behind every one has been the involvement of the people of Birmingham, not only working backstage in whatever unlikely venue the company has touched down in that year, but forming the onstage chorus and all the extras too. BOC’s latest project – for each show is as much a community project as it is a production – is entirely bespoke. Wake has been conceived for this very particular mix of talents by Giorgio Battistelli, a composer we’ve heard little of in the UK since three of his theatre pieces (the slickly inventive Experimentum Mundi, and the more conventional but less convincing The Cenci and The Embalmer) were performed in London around the turn of the century. His list of operas and music-theatre works now stretches well beyond 20, though BOC’s claim that he is Italy’s greatest living composer – Sciarrino, anyone? Or Francesconi? – is rather stretching things. Continue reading… [hmp_player]