The usual deluge of end-of-academic-year coursework deadlines and exams meant this wasn’t the best of periods for me on a cultural front. The only film I went to see was Get Out (which was, to be fair, absolutely brilliant) and I didn’t make it to any gigs or exhibitions or plays or anything else (read: I didn’t get out much…). Which is a bit disappointing. Still managed to get through some decent music and books, though.
Three albums were consistently with me throughout the period. The first of those was Palmistry’s Pagan – all melancholy, stripped back, dancehall-infused pop – on Mixpak. The latest weird and wonderful offerings from Clark and Arca were the other two. Both are typically immersive, with the former more playful, and the latter more intense – but probably my favourite Arca material yet.
I ended up listening to a lot of guitar music, too, which worked well while cross-training through injury. EPs from Sløtface and Estrons were the excellent starting point, but I also got really into albums from IDLES (quite hilarious, quite punk) and VANT (more predictable, but with some catchy tunes).
Luke Abbott’s latest EP, and first as Earlham Mystics, is also stunning (“Truth” is on the playlist below, but I actually think “Stolen Hearts” might be better). Oh, and I rediscovered all my vinyl from years gone by – I end the usual YouTube playlist with a single by Dartz! from yeeeaaaarrrs ago.
(Playlist embedding isn’t working, for some reason. Link here.)
David Lodge’s Nice Work seemed very relevant post-Brexit. A story about overcoming barriers in a divided Britain, it preceded the recent fuss by nearly 30 years. More contemporary yet was Peter Pomerantsev‘s Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, which shone a consistently entertaining light on the farce that is Russian politics.
On a Japan tip, Haruki Murakami’s Underground is an insightful series of interviews and reflections collected in the wake of the terror attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995. Not exactly fast-paced, but it did get very interesting towards the end. Zen in the Art of Archery is a short classic I was recommended before going to Japan a couple of years ago, and the sort of read that makes you rethink your approach to life.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, perhaps the most famous of Philip K Dick’s novels, was another book I’d been sat on for a while. And I thought it was wicked, offering a welcome escape from hours of work. Former soldier Harry Parker’s Anatomy of a Soldier was harder going, and I had to return to it after exams (and after the easier and pretty OK Shame, by Melanie Finn). When I did, though, I found it excellent. Supremely moving and evenhanded in its presentation of modern warfare and its personal impact.