Friday, 28 June 2013

Music: Avoid the Pyramid Stage: 10 acts not to miss at this year's Glastonbury festival

With all the huge names playing, it's all too easy to be sucked into to spending most of your time in front of the Pyramid Stage over the Glastonbury weekend.

Here are ten suggestions of must-see acts who will be performing on some of the festival's smaller stages.

Tame Impala, Other Stage, Friday, 18:05 – 19:00
The Australian psych-rock outfit certainly turned a few heads in 2012 with their sound drawing from the same conceptual well as the Beatles during their acid days. If you've never heard their music, brace yourself for a vintage psychedelic wall of sound that swirls around layers of echoic vocals and fuzz-soaked guitars.

Foals, Other Stage, Friday, 21:00 – 22:00
The Oxford-based math-rockers' music is as jaunty as their front-man's haircut. For those unfamiliar with their sound, imagine layers of hypnotic Ethiojazz melodies looped over driving bass-lines and urgent drum beats.

The Horrors, The Park Stage, Friday, 22:45 – 00:15
When Horrors first arrived on the scene, many critics dismissed them out of hand as a band who seemed more concerned with wearing the right clothes and hanging out with Noel Fielding than honing their craft. But they put to rest any such criticisms with the release of their second album Primary Colours, which fused elements of shoegaze, post-punk and sleazy rock and roll to make it one of 2009's most enduring albums.

Jagwar Ma, John Peel Stage, Saturday, 13:00 – 13:40
The darlings of the BBC 6 Music playlist, Jagwar Ma are a band tipped to be one of those 'next big things' you hear about nowadays. With a quirky, reverb-soaked sound that nods back to bands like Mansun and Gomez, they're interesting enough to outlast the NME flavour of the month banner that they are currently flying.

Savages, John Peel Stage, Saturday, 19:50 – 20:40
A band on the verge of big things, Savages took the music world by surprise with their gothic-tinged brand of punkish rock. Their live sets have already garnered a reputation for being intense experiences, so they'll certainly be worth a look.

Public Enemy, Other Stage, Saturday, 22:15 – 23:45
People will tell you that you have to go and see the Rolling Stones – ignore them. You may have the opportunity to see Public Enemy again, but it's unlikely that you'll be able see them do a 90 minute set, late at night, in a crowded field. As soon as Flava Flav asks you to “make some noise, Glaston-berry!” you'll forget that Mick Jagger even existed.

Dub Colossus, West Holts Stage, Sunday, 14:05 – 14:55
Descriptive band names can sometimes sniff of a lack of imagination, but no other name could best sum up Nick Page's brand of dub music. What sets Dub Colossus' sound apart from most dub acts is their fusion of traditional azmari melodies, hip-hop rhythms and thunderous dub-reggae bass-grooves.

Public Image Limited, Other Stage, Sunday, 16:10 – 17:00.
PIL are the band that the Sex Pistols could have been. For those unfamiliar, PIL were John Lydon's music project following the demise of the Sex Pistols. A far cry from the sneery punk rhetoric that shot Lydon into the public eye, PIL created their own brand of poetic, desolate disco that sounds as revolutionary today as they did in '78.

James Blake, John Peel Stage, Sunday, 19:15 – 20:15
The singer-songwriter for the electronic era, James Blake's combination of innovative production and spine-tingling vocals have seen him win critical plaudits and nominations for the Mercury Music Prize and BBC's Sound of 2011. A perfect act for winding down your Glastonbury weekend.

Bobby Womack, West Holts Stage, Sunday, 21:30 – 23:15
He has one of the most distinctive voices in R&B, and has a back catalogue spanning back to the early-60s where he performed with the likes of the Valeninos and Sam Cooke. His 2012 collaboration with Damon Albarn and Richard Russell brought him back to the public's attention, but he's probably best known for the funk classic Across 110th Street which featured prominently on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Games: Console wars - Xbox One versus PlayStation 4

With the unveiling of the next generation of consoles at this month's E3 conference, Jon Cronshaw compares the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 to see which system offers the best deal for consumers.

It's been a long time since console giants went head to head with a new generation of machines in the same year, but 2013 looks to be one of the most exciting Christmases for gamers in recent memory.

But away from the glitz and glamour of the flashy trailers and inspirational speeches of E3's biggest players, many consumers are a little confused.

Xbox One is being positioned as kind of multimedia hub that incorporates on-demand films, TV and music. But with its focus on the complete media experience, it's easy to forget that the Xbox One will also be used to play video games.

The PlayStation 4 by contrast wears its gaming credentials on its sleeve. In the current climate of consumers wanting electronic devices to be fantastic at everything, this is quite the gamble by Sony.

There is no doubt that the PlayStation 4 will be able to play high definition movies, and give you access to on-demand media, but its position in the marketplace has already been established: this is a games console – everything else is surplus.

Many of the old arguments over which system has better graphics or faster loading times are now irrelevant. Realistically, 90 per cent of games will be produced to the limitations of the weaker system’s hardware, meaning for the most part that the gaming experience will be almost identical on both systems.

Where both systems will have the opportunity shine is with their in-house or exclusively licensed games. With the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the difference in hardware capabilities was quickly established with Sony’s console offering more power and more physical memory for larger games with its championing of Blu-Ray technology - but each system worked to its strengths, and that is where seemingly clear choices suddenly looked all the more opaque.

The PlayStation 3's hardware meant that it could produce visually-stunning titles like Heavy Rain, and interact online in a ways that the Xbox 360 could not with games like Little Big Planet which drew on the interactions of thousands of individual players from around the world in ways hitherto seen on a games console.

But the Xbox 360 embraced, and moreover celebrated independent developers. Exceptional and innovative games like Braid, Super Meat Boy and FEZ would never have found the critical and commercial success they did were it not for Microsoft making it easy for indie developers to distribute their creations.

But things aren’t all rosy for indie developers. Last month Microsoft announced that they are retiring their vaunted XNA software. This may mean very little to the average gamer, but for developers it has been a cheap and relatively simple methed for unknown game developers to create new titles and get them to market. Abandoning XNA software could strike a blow to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Of course, Sony have responded to this by announcing that they have been courting indie developers in an effeort to secure the next generation of innovative games for their system. But with the corporatisation of any cottage industry, the bottom line comes into play and what often starts as a creative passion can turn into another risk adverse business.

With the next generation of consoles, things are still uncertain. Microsoft have been in crisis management mode for the last few months after it was revealed that the gaming experience would be more restrictive than any system before – its core focus seemingly to be to control the distribution of content by imposing a charge on second-hand games, creating a convoluted process for lending games to friends, and making it necessary for the system to be online at least once a day.

The backlash on social media and by the gaming press over the restrictive regulations saw Microsoft announce a dramatic U-turn at the end of last week.
A spokesperson for Microsoft said: "An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games - after a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24-hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

"Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today - there will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360."

Though the change in policy has been touted as a victory for the consumer, Microsoft have engaged in the corporate equivalent of taking your ball home in a temper after a missing a goal.

Although the headline announcement seems favourable to consumers, in actual fact Microsoft have pulled the plug on the reselling of digital games.

Originally, Microsoft had planned to incorporate a digital trading platform into the Xbox One whereby the owner of a digital title could offer it for sale to another customer.

Throughout the controversy Sony have come across in the press as the older brother laughing at the gaffes of his younger sibling - but below their relaxed, “aw, isn’t Microsoft naïve and adorable” rhetoric, it’s clear that Sony have been biding their time.

Sony hasn’t taken the fight for the consumer (they were after all one the earliest champions of Digital Rights Management), they simply waited to see how the market would respond.

When Microsoft first announced that they intended to issue a fee to those installing second-hand games, Sony simply watched.

When asked if they would be imposing such restrictions, Sony refused to commit. Once they knew where gamers’ attitudes fell, it was simply a case of jumping on the bandwagon.

It was a cynical move – but it seems to have worked.

What could swing things for many gamers are the exclusive titles available on each system. The PlayStation 4 will boast new sequels in the Killzone and Gran Turismo franchises. Xbox One have already confirmed new titles in the Forza Motorsports and Dead Rising series.

Already confirmed for both systems are some rather uninspiring and ultimately unsurprising launch titles: Assassin's Creed IV, Call of Duty Ghosts, Fifa 14, Madden 14 and Lego Marvel Super Heroes are just the tip of a rather underwhelming iceberg.

Perhaps, more than anything else, consumers buy things based on a perception of value for money. With the release prices confirmed as £429 for the Xbox One and £349 for the PlayStation 4, it doesn't take a mathematical genius to work out which system is the most attractive prospect.

What became evident following E3 is that Sony has definitely won the PR war, with Microsoft having a lot of work to do to win back the consumer. But of course, there are other marketing strategies beyond short-term PR that will come into force.

Not only will both systems have worldwide, multi-platform advertising and viral marketing campaigns, there will be bundles offered by retailers, and consoles bolted on to mobile phone contracts. As most purchases are made by a gut decision, perhaps the victor is not so clear after all.

THis article was originally published by Yorkshire Voice.

Music: My Bloody Valentine – m b v: did the album meet your expectations?

It's been four months since release of the long-awaited follow-up to Loveless. Are you still listening to it now the initial excitement has passed?

After the initial excitement that marked the release of My Bloody Valentine's m b v, it was difficult for fans not be swept along by the surrounding hype.

Four months have passed since its release, so we asked readers whether they're still listening to the album, and what they make of it now. Here's a handful of the responses we received – but what do you think?

"Let the noise engulf you"

"If ever there's been an album that isn't suitable for background listening, it's this one. It's undoubtedly a challenge, but to get the most from m b v you have to almost numb yourself and let the noise engulf you." Edwin Gilson

"The album didn't impress me at first, but it has proven to be a grower. I think m b v manages to be both artful and challenging on the one hand and catchy and dynamic on the other." Mads Kjær Larsen

"It's a full on record and definitely doesn't warrant regular rotation on the train. It's a listening album – if you don't lose yourself in it then it's not for you." Rupert Parrott

"Subtle and elaborate"

"The first three songs are the most subtle and (almost inaudibly) elaborate that Kevin Shields has ever done." Daniel Cruickshank

"Some elements of the album scream cliché, particularly the first third, but the delicate, almost subtle, experimentation on the album, and how it progresses from track to track, perfectly demonstrates Kevin Shields' expertise." Martie Donohoe

"If it comes up on my shuffle, I don't turn it off – but I don't seek it out in the same way I return to Loveless or Isn't Anything." John L. Micek

"I lost interest pretty quick"

"The hubbub and hoopla of it's release was a lot of fun, but after a several listens around that time, I lost interest pretty quick. For me, the album doesn't make for a casual listen considering those last two tracks." Steven Carl Farrell

"Some tracks are incredible, but it doesn't have the magic of Loveless. But then, what else really does?" Chris

"They're one of my favourite bands of all time but m b v simply doesn't bear comparison to the band's output at their peak. Only New You would merit a place on a best of, and the more far-out tracks towards the end may be the least appealing stuff they've brought out." Cafiend

"When Loveless was first released, I played it to death; in comparison I've played mbv maybe half a dozen times. Loveless was some kind of genius – mbv is simply reheated genius 20 years too late." Chip Smith

This is article was originally published by The Guardian on June 25m 2013.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Art: William Scott at the Hepworth

To commemorate the centenary of his birth, a fascinating exhibition highlighting the work of pioneering abstract artist William Scott is currently on display at The Hepworth gallery, Wakefield.

Jon Cronshaw spoke to William Scott’s eldest son Robert Scott and the Head of Exhibitions at The Hepworth, Francis Guy, about the artist’s legacy.

On display in The Hepworth, in an archive showcase, is a photograph of an exhibition in New York from 1954 which has the work of Francis Bacon, Barbara Hepworth and William Scott being shown together with equal prominence.

To bring the artist back to the forefront of the public’s consciousness, The Hepworth and The Scott Foundation are using his centenary as an opportunity to showcase some of his best work.

“William Scott, like Barbara Hepworth was one of the pioneers of abstract art in Britain,” explains Francis.

“For us it is really important to bring to the fore someone whose reputation has suffered, but who in the 1950s and 60s was celebrated.

“He had huge reputation in this country, but near the end of his lifetime there was a slackening of interest not only in his work, but also his contemporaries’.

“Of all the British abstract artists, his use of paint is so incredible – it’s so sensuous and lavish – and that’s not something you usually see in British painting.”

Having enrolled at the Belfast School of Art in 1928, Scott was accepted into the Royal Academy Schools, London, just three years later.

But Scott did not have an easy career, and things weren’t helped by the outbreak of war in 1939.

“He was just beginning when war broke out,” Robert says, “artists like Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson were that much older and had their reputations in motion – he had to start all over again.”

During the war, Scott signed up as a member of the Royal Engineers applying his artistic skills as a cartographer.

“He would draw maps from photographs – he would identify landmarks,” Robert explains. “This is a thing that artists are very good at doing – they can abstract the essential information from a photo. At that time they were being used every night by bombers heading to Dresden.”

Many of Scott’s abstract works are drawn from real objects and places, so it is quite easy to see how his skills as a cartographer were carried over into his art.

After the war, Scott began to rebuild his reputation as an artist. He was represented by the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York which represented some of the biggest American abstract painters of the time including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and William de Kooning.

“When I was a boy, I didn’t realise that these people were famous – I just thought they were Dad’s mates. It was only later that I realised that they were artists who were up and coming or already famous,” Robert recalls.

Scott’s abstract work became recognisable through his use of simplified objects that appeared again and again as motifs in his work.

“He was so inspired by Braque and Picasso and their still lives – their use of iconic emblems like the guitar, for example,” explains Francis.

“He has done the same with very simple objects from his childhood – frying pans, saucepans, fruit. Even though his work is abstract, you can still see those objects coming through.”

Perhaps the most iconic of these recurring motifs is the image of a pear which can be seen in works made decades apart.

“We’ve found a pear painting dating back to 1935 – that was the first pear,” Robert says, “then it doesn’t appear until probably the early 1970s where he did an amazing series called ‘The Orchard of Pears’. There were occasional ones in between, but it became very significant at this time.

“He had a pear tree in his garden that he would attend to.”

In the final decade of his life, Scott developed Alzheimer’s disease. Robert explains: “In the last eight or nine years of his life he couldn’t sensibly communicate.

“His mind was still very visual, but he had great difficulty being able to organise paints or organise a canvas – that physical side became impossible.

“He was very frustrated because all this was in him, but it was locked up. He wanted it to come out, but it couldn’t.”

Scott’s legacy goes beyond the art world – all of the royalties his work generates are donated to stem cell research working towards a cure for Alzheimer’s.

William Scott is on display at The Hepworth, Wakefield until September 29.

William Scott is on display at The Hepworth, Wakefield until September 29.

This article was published by the Yorkshire Post on May 21, 2013. and the Metro on May 25, 2013.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Music: Interview with Andy Tillison from The Tangent

The leader of one of the most revered modern prog rock bands lives here in Yorkshire. Jon Cronshaw spoke to him at his Otley home.

Progressive rock may have had its heyday in the 1970s with the likes of King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Yes selling millions of albums worldwide.

But as prog rock became unfashionable and disappeared from the airwaves, it has continued as an underground movement away from the mainstream since.

Andy Tillison, 53, is a part-time music lecturer at Leeds City College and lives in an unassuming house in Otley, West Yorkshire.

He is also the lead singer 
of The Tangent and he received the Outstanding Contribution to Music award by the Classic Rock Society earlier this year. He is about to release his band’s seventh studio album, Le Sacre Du Travail, which translates as The Rite of Work.

Le Sacre Du Travail is The Tangent’s first concept album. “Rather than being some kind of airy-fairy, Tolkienesque, Jules Verne thing – I’m a realist, what you might call a nice guy anarchist – I wanted to write about something that was real rather than about Mordor and the orcs,” explains Andy.

As a starting point for the album, Andy turned to the hamlet of Blubberhouses, near Harrogate, for his inspiration. He considers how the commute to work can turn a tiny village into a passageway rather than a destination.

“I’ve written about many of the places around here. Blubberhouses, which is a fascinating little village up near Fewston, figures in the new album because rush hour does have its effect on the countryside as it does in the cities.

“Every day you have a traffic jam going through this little hamlet with people trying to make their way to Skipton and Harrogate. With all these cars passing through, it doesn’t really seem fair on Blubberhouses because no one’s going there.”

There are parallels between Le Sacre Du Travail and classical composer Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, celebrating its centenary this year. “Stravinsky is one of my biggest influences – going right back to childhood.

“The Rite of Spring was about the pagan rituals that Stravinsky saw around him in the Russian countryside.

“When I approached the 
new piece, I still wanted to keep with the whole ritual thing. And so I wrote a piece about the ritual of going to work every day – why we 
do it, how we feel about it. I wanted it to be very much about the normal person who has to get up every morning and make that journey into work.”

Andy Tillison

The Tangent have achieved worldwide success – but in Britain, their music is only heard by a handful of dedicated fans. Andy believes that this is because prog rock’s reputation has been damaged by the media since the late 1970s.

“You can’t get through a documentary about prog without hearing about somebody wearing a cape – and that really wasn’t what it was about.

“It was a psychedelic thing – it was a fusion of all different genres from around the world. It was about disobeying rules. It was about ripping up the rulebook, and doing that whole business cliché of thinking outside of the box – bringing things together that did not belong together.”

For Andy, the issue runs much deeper than the genre’s image – it’s about the general public’s attitude towards music itself. “People can get quite indignant about committing to a piece of music if it’s 20 minutes long,” explains Andy.

“I try to make music that you can immerse yourself in. So much music today is just the background to something else – you might listen to the radio while you’re doing the washing up, or it’s on the soundtrack to a videogame – I like the purity of music that doesn’t need anything else.”

Andy also believes that the proliferation of access to music is a double-edged sword. In one respect it gives users access to almost any piece of music they can 
think of within moments, 
and in another, making the music more transitory and of less value – that if it doesn’t grab you immediately, it’s easy to skip on to the next track.

“I used to work in Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip shop after I left school, and I used to save my money up to buy records,” Andy recalls.

“I remember buying The Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis, which is one of the most involved pieces of music they ever did. It cost me £4.25 – which is a serious amount of money for a kid working in Harry Ramsden’s during his holidays. I brought it home and I didn’t like it all – I felt like I’d wasted all of my pocket money. So there was only one solution – learn to like it.

“So I played it and played 
it and eventually fell in 
love with it, and 40 years 
later I still know every note – that’s a kind of value I feel 
a lot of people today won’t get.”

As well as being passionate about prog rock, Andy champions Yorkshire. As a musician who has travelled the world, this is still his favourite place.

“I’m a proud Yorkshireman and always have been. But in particular, I’m a Wharfedale person – I just love this valley. To me it’s like this grand album that I’ve known all my life. I know where all the roads go to get me to my favourite places.

“There’s a particular seat on Beamsley Beacon where I go and sit and write my music and just switch off.

“It’s my favourite view across Wharfedale – you can see everything – you can see towns, reservoirs, hills, Bolton Abbey, you can hear steam trains whistling in the distance. It’s an absolutely glorious place to be.”

Le Sacre Du Travail is released on June 24 through InsideOut records, or can be pre-ordered at

Andy Tillison – Digital Pioneer

In July 1994 the song The Third Person by Andy’s previous band Po95 was posted online, in what is widely believed to be the first instance of a band using a free MP3 to promote their music.

The song took 17 hours to convert to MP3. It then took a few days to upload the file to the internet using a 14.4kbps modem. 

It took a further day for the file to be downloaded, and another 17 hours to be converted back into a usable format – MP3 players hadn’t yet been invented. This was a far cry from iTunes and high-speed internet.

This article was feauture in the Yorkshire Post, June 7, 2013. 

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Art: Behind the mask of Mr Faceless creator

Scunthorpe-based artist Lee Coleman has chanelled his responses to his challenging day job into his work. Jon Cronshaw spoke to him.

Best known for his trademark character Mr Faceless, Lee Coleman’s latest exhibition at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery is a fascinating one man show that displays a thought-provoking series of images shown alongside objects that inspire his art – including his Vespa scooter and his first guitar.

Lee Coleman

But the Scunthorpe-based artist also earns his living as a full-time paramedic – and it was after a traumatic event on the job that he came up with the idea of Mr Faceless.

“I had to give a lady the unfortunate news one day that I couldn’t revive her husband – and obviously that news is very devastating. It’s a powerful emotion that people go through when dealing with a loss like that,” Lee, 41, explains. “I wondered if I could get that level of emotion onto a sheet of paper without showing a facial expression – could you express it with body language and location?

“And that’s where the idea of Mr Faceless came in. I came home and started doodling, and asked myself if I could do it – if I could start using emotional settings and scenarios. It’s amazing that something so unfortunate for a patient has blossomed into something visual. Mr Faceless is part of me really.”

Although Lee was not formally trained at an art college or university, he honed his craft for over 20 years by producing caricatures for family and friends. He grew tired of this, and gave up on drawing until he felt that he had something meaningful to say. “If you have a passion for something artistic, whether it’s cooking, music, art, or whatever it is, you eventually evolve and grow and start to challenge yourself – it’s been more organic than anything,” Lee explains.

Once he opened himself up to dealing with emotional subjects and drawing on his working life, Lee became more than a caricaturist – he became an artist. “Being a paramedic, we see such an array of colourful characters and scenarios that you can’t help but absorb it really. As an artist, a lot of your work ends up being autobiographical because it’s part of your soul. A lot of the things I experience can sneak their way in without you really knowing it sometimes.”

Lee explained that having an outlet for expression has been necessary for dealing with difficulties he faces on a day-to-day basis. “Like any job, you have good and bad days, but my bad day is unfortunately that somebody might have lost their life in quite a traumatic way – and that does affect you. So when you come home, it’s good to be able to channel that energy – I don’t drink, I don’t smoke – 
I play guitar, or I produce artwork.

“It’s definitely therapeutic – it’s an emotionally lifting experience when you produce artworks out of something that’s quite awful.” Lee has worked for East Midlands Ambulance Service for over a decade. He has been a state registered paramedic for almost seven years and has no intention of giving up the day job to become a full-time artist. “It’s the best job in the world – it’s very challenging and very rewarding, it can break your heart but it can make you smile.”

When asked about how he wants his audience to respond to his work, Lee said: “I want people to go away and think about what they’ve seen. I really want people to be affected by it. I want it to stop people in their tracks and think ‘bloomin’ heck, that really makes me think’. That’s all that matters to me.”

Lee Coleman: Six is at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery until June 22.


This article was originally published in the Yorkshire Post, May 31, 2013.