Monday, 20 June 2011

New Facebook page for The Anoraks

So we decided that life is really too hard. It's too stressful to tie your shoelaces, too busy to put your hand out for a bus so we've decided to make it really, really easy. Stand by for life changing news. Yes, The Anoraks have hit Facebook. The fortnightly show Alex Lawson, Alex Burnard and Tom Bonnett present for Shoreditch has hit your favourite social media site and is getting settled in with a cup of tea and a comfy Karrimor here. Hope you enjoy, if you want to make sure you never miss a show then subscribe to our Mixcloud page here, just nip to the bottom of the page and enter your email. You can subscribe to iTunes here.

Monday, 13 June 2011

ShadowPlay Interview: Ólöf Arnalds

Icelandic singer and multi-instrumentalist Ólöf Arnalds has collaborated with the likes of Múm and Björk while carefully carving out a fledgling solo career. ShadowPlay caught up with the diminutive arts graduate ahead of the release of her new single Surrender

“There seems to be some sort of idea about Icelandic music that it’s something that’s magical and mythical and so Icelandic musicians get a lots of questions about whether it’s the nature, or the water, that creates so much good music. These questions are asked over and over and I feel like cutting to the chase that the most important acts that have come from Iceland have been noticed for their individuality and their hard work.”
Refreshing words from a musician not afraid to burst the often sickening media bubble surrounding certain countries, ‘scenes’ or genres which take their fancy that month. What makes Ólöf Arnalds even more refreshing is her acknowledgement that without these musicians she would not be sat in the Vortex in Dalston preparing to play a second consecutive sold out night at the venue. While expressing a feeling of guilt that the playing field is not level, the 30-year-old readily accepts that her associations, firstly as a touring “hired gun” for electronic experimentalists Múm, and then in working with Björk on the ethereal new single, she has raised her profile.
In fact her debut solo album Við og Við, released in 2007 on 12 Tonar, was produced by Kjartan Sveinsson of Sigur Rós, a band whose success appears to be escalating faster than a rickshaw driven by Usain Bolt munching on a particularly large box of chicken nuggets.

What’s clear is that in any language Arnalds will command the stage – as she did at the Vortex – with a quiet, jovial authority, stopping to make jokes, steward the crowd and even lead some birthday celebrations. Her lilting tones are evocative of a harsher Cat Power or a toned down Kate Bush while her musical versatility across various instruments belies the fact she was classical trained and harbours busting pocketfuls of intuition. There’s little doubt it soon won’t matter what language you speak, you’ll have heard of Ólöf Arnalds. 
Arnalds released her second album Innundir Skinni – Under the Skin – on One Little Indian last year and revealed she could take a radical step forward and sing in English in future. “When I made my first record I was going through grief after losing my father – it was a healing record. The birth of my son was a big inspiration on the second – only these little things like life and death hey. But I want to make a joyful, blissful record now. I’ve started writing a few songs in English for this new record so I can interact with the audience in a different way, I live increasingly in an English-speaking world and play one out of 50 concerts in Iceland but some people have said I may lose the mystique of the Icelandic language.”

Friday, 10 June 2011

Go Crease Lightning: An evening of intense folding

It’s not often you’ll find me in a seminar room learning about maths. Yes, that is an understatement. But last night I went along to the London Knowledge Lab’s rather swish HQ off Lamb’s Conduit Street to hear the fantastic Mark Bolitho impart his knowledge on origami to students and members of the British Origami Society in the session. Bolitho is a pre-eminent origami exponent who gave up his job as an accountant to pursue a passion that has taken him all over the world.
Bolitho showed the group how to create small animals (classic origami), pyramids and interlocking geometric cubes. He also ensured plenty of maths was covered, displaying tricks to create shapes with ridiculous numbers of sides as well as some informative stuff on tessalation. Bolitho (above right, with me) is the man behind the glorious range of Muji origami packs and an inspiring figure, not least because he owns the best domain name ever – – do check it out. 

Monday, 6 June 2011

Time to get creative

Creative energy is an interesting entity. It manifests itself in so many different ways, is expended at vastly varying frequencies and means so many things to so many people. The one thing that is widely acknowledged is, it ain’t easy.
Despite the fact I don’t see myself as a creative person and am, objectively shit at drawing, presentation or writing in long hand, in the eight years that ShadowPlay has been in existence the increasing hold television, new media and most importantly, phenomena like the invention of Facebook have created a nation of young people that make bashing out some words, stealing artwork and photocopying them look vibrantly expressive. There are two elements at play in this conundrum: dedication and raw talent.
I see and envy people with the latter all the time, marvel at the way they can find a creative spark and envisage an idea instantaneously. What makes me turn even more green is that, on the whole, many people who turn their hand to one thing – say drawing – and succeed usually find themselves a consummate Jack of all trades at a number of skills.
The central conceit of my day job, journalism, works on this basis. That artists are somehow set apart, that their work means they have achieved an ‘otherness’ and the more lauded they are the more license they have to talk about more quasi-psychological and social matters. Whether it’s just more convenient to work this way is another matter but certainly a few notable examples of artists interviewing each other in music magazines have yielded eminently readable results.
As for dedication, that implies that you can learn to be creative. That absorbing enough information will help bred the skill forcibly but this is a flawed concept, assuming that creativity comes from the conscious, rather than the subconscious.
In truth, their co-dependent. There’s no point having raw talent if you’re not prepared to work for it. I have recently started working on two fledgling projects run by dedicated an admirable Londoners – as reviews editor for football website and as a presenter on (The Anoraks – stream and download at The dedication of the volunteers who work for both projects has been promising but not always consistent. Personally I find myself compartmentalising creativity outside of my 9-5 life, thinking it’s not possible to think in a more expansive manner when concentrating on busy day-to-day tasks, which is pathetic. So how can young people be convinced that it’s work putting in the time and energy to find a creative release outside study, work or an increasingly common unemployed malaise?
Looking at my monthly night Come Get Felt Up (run at the Book Club along with the legendary Anna Harding, Nathan Crawley and Tom Whalley) each month, the small release that participating in a silly competition in which people craft Blue Peter style for naff prizes get from the creativity is particularly evident. So unleash your creativity – glue an egg box, write a letter or build a wonky boxcar – you might just feel better for it.