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Album Review: “Tits of Steel”

A brilliantly eclectic combination of performance poetry and punk …

I was lured to this album by C. T. Herron’s glowing review that gave me very high expectations for it, and they were not disappointed … much to my relief, as Anna has been a supporter of this blog since its early days, so it is really nice to be able to write of her work with heartfelt praise.

I should point out, though, that the title claim of Track 4, “I Don’t Know Any Funny Songs,” is a blatant lie, or at any rate unwarranted modesty, as this album is a masterpiece in ironic wit. There seems to be something about Celtic accents that lend themselves nicely to that, so that we can hardly concur when Anna sings later on the album, “I wish I was French but I’m Scottish instead.” (Track 7, “Anna en Francais”) Somehow, her combination of pithy satire and utter surrealism just wouldn’t be the same without her dry, laconic, Glaswegian tones.

Which is not to say that the album is purely an exercise in comic poetry. The musicianship is stunning right from the first, heavy rock track, and continues to show versatility throughout, seamlessly tackling hilarious pastiches of reggae, techno, and funk. The only criticism I could make is one of mastering, in that sometimes the music overwhelms the lyrics, although that would well just be the fault of my inadequate setup (so do try to listen to this on decent sound equipment, as it deserves, rather than a phone speaker or a pair of cheap Flying Tiger headphones).

The whole album was an absolute pleasure for me, but if I had to select highlights, I would probably go for “I Don’t Know Any Funny Songs” (an acoustic number and, as mentioned, a total inaccuracy), “Anna en Francais” (witty, surreal, and all-too-easy for this struggling student of French to sympathise with), and “Catch The Tiger” (which starts off as a series of bizarre self-help style affirmations to a driving, upbeat tune, then turns a corner into something downbeat and ironic, which appeals so totally to my inner cynic).

This is a stunning independent production, the skill and variety of the music perfectly complementing Anna’s wickedly amusing lyrics. The very easily offended might not care for it, but I have no hesitation recommending it to everyone else.

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Album Review: “Pesticide”

Having recently received some lovely reviews on my own work, I feel the time has come to share some of the love around, so the next few posts will be reviews of works I have recently discovered and felt were deserving of a wider audience. To commence, a punk-Goth album by an independent local (as in Welsh) band …


“Pesticide” (by Clusterfuck)

pesticide

I should state, for the sake of honesty, that the founder, drummer, and producer of this band is one of my best and oldest friends, and also one of the nicest people I know and one of the first people to support me in my transition, so pardon me if I am a little biased … That said, I can impartially state that I know few people so committed to their art, so perfectionist in their instincts (I have seen him lose faith in and abandon many a promising track, or take great persuasion to release them), and so wonderfully eclectic in their tastes, with musical influences ranging from The Sex Pistols and Daft Punk, to lesser-known 1950s Rockabilly idols, to contemporary classical composers such as Giacinto Scelsi and Arvo Pärt. This commitment and eclecticism is reflected in his latest album project, the second with this particular band following the almost-as-good “Dear Mortal,” (or visit here to listen online) but I would call this a definite artistic progression, more unified in its structure).

It opens on a epic note with “Reach Out,” with soaring vocals reminiscent of the interludes on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” although by and large this album is far ‘punkier’ than it is ‘proggy’. At any rate, though, it makes for a striking overture, and an impressive lead into the first actual song of the album; “Paranoia.” This piece is as dark as its name suggests and one of the album’s highlights, with a sinister, driving techno beat accompanying the eerie lyrics and the whispering ‘inner voices’ chorus. The Gothic mood continues in tracks such as “Death Begins” and the instrumental “We Are the Void,” the latter in particular being another highlight, its dark electronic rhythms being varied by haunting harmonica fills that seem to echo out of the void (appropriately). Also in this mood – and another of the album’s finest offerings – is their cover version of T. Rex’s “Get It On.” It somehow fits seamlessly into the group’s musical and vocal style, carried along by some beautifully haunting guitar work.

Other tracks, especially to the midsection of the album set a lighter, more relaxed mood, especially the infectiously catchy “Besties,” “Electric Distortion,” (a track on synesthesia, the vivid lyrics delivered in a comically deadpan fashion by the guest vocalist), and the wickedly satirical yet outrage-inducing “Trumped,” consisting mostly of ‘lyrics’ culled from the 45th US President’s most reprehensible statements, along with well-chosen mocking, comically-timed samples. One would love to imagine him hearing it … The satirical mood becomes much darker in the final tracks, with “Money” and “Tazer” dealing with poverty, prostitution and police brutality, but it all concludes on a mercifully upbeat track with “Death Race.”

With tremendous energy, variety, a social conscience, a wicked sense of humour, and a remarkably strong production (especially considering its humble origins, with no big studio or equivalent backing), I have no hesitation in recommending this (with the sole caveat that their language can be quite strong … as the band name itself implies). On a final note, here is me in some rather old footage (taken around 2015) being in a music video for their first album …

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“Shadow of the Rose-Croix”

ShadowsShot4

This has been a long time in the works, but finally I can tick “make a fully 3-D game” off my bucket list. 🙂 I began this project back in 2015, lost heart repeatedly, and finally cracked on with it this year to completion. It was programmed in Visual Basic – certainly not the ideal code for work of this nature, but the only one I know on PC. Thankfully, the tutorials of programmer Jack Hoxley (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) gave me most of what I needed to get my head around the essentials, and trial and error did the rest.

This is a Gothic-style puzzles-and-platforms adventure game, much like the object-collecting and puzzle-solving games popular on 8-bit computers in the 1980s and 1990s except the various rooms it covers are in 3-D, dynamically lit (and, hopefully, artistically), and both player character and viewing camera can be controlled. Also, it features a bit of plot-justified gender-bending. Couldn’t really resist including that …

This game features an original music score composed and performed by Cardiff Punk / Goth band “Clusterfuck” who very kindly donated it for nothing other than the tiny bit of promotion I can give them, and with that in mind …

clusterfuck-banner

For complete story, instructions, and download links …

SHADOW OF THE ROSE-CROIX (DOWNLOAD)

Do please let me know if you have any problems downloading or playing this game. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

 

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Feel lucky, punk?

Just a quick visual post for today, as I have now received and resized the photos from my latest shoot with Jason Marsh. I love this photographer more than any I have ever worked with for various reasons…

1. He only works with vintage cameras and film – none of that boring DSLR stuff – in spite of which he develops, scans, and sends his images to me within a few days or even hours of taking them. I have known digital photographers taking months to send me even a single image.

2. He actually pays me an artist’s fee. You would be surprised how few photographers even think of such a thing…

3. He is full of interesting ideas, and willing to experiment.

4. Most importantly, he is totally respectful, never misgenders or mocks me, and even succeeds in making me feel feminine and beautiful. After every shoot with him I feel validated and empowered again. I would happily shoot with him for free, were he not so conscientious. The world needs more…

Anyway, back to the shoot itself. We had planned to shoot at Penarth, using the substructure of the pier as a backdrop. Sadly, neither of us thought to check the tides… Having thus decided against a sub-aqua shoot, we returned to Cardiff Bay and made the most of the locations there, picking some backdrops we had not used in the “Imago” shoot (such as Ianto’s Shrine, the carousel, and the Lightship).

I had feared my flowly, elegant look might get a little samey, so I decided to be a badass punk for the day. I do hope I got away with it. 🙂 If nothing else, I think I have finally learned how to use my kohl pencil in creative ways, though I did nearly put my eye out with a mascara brush. I guess we can always revisit the pirate theme if that goes to extremes. At least with an eyepatch I could make my makeup last twice as long…

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