Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Some people have asked so here's one last reminder if you missed the Resonance FM transmission of the Afro Noise I mix, it's still up at the CYRK site.

update: 1,600+ total downloads so far as of July 30th!
update: first 2 vinyl afro noise vinyl releases are now completed and ready to be mastered

Monday, July 28, 2008


Another batch of increasingly less succinct reviews - The Babysitters is definitely worth checking out.

Cocaine Cowboys 2 (***)
continues where CC1 leaves off; we get a more detailed and intimate insight into the mad world of Griselda Blanco aka La Madrina ('The Godmother'), the ruthless Colombian drugs trafficker, mostly as told by her Oakland cohort Charles Crosby; can we take his remarkable testimony at face value? I guess so, but often he comes across as a gangsta/thug fantasist in the mold of Tupac Shakur; curious to see sub-GTAIV animation incorporated into the storytelling

The Dark Knight (**)
how did the once-great Christopher Nolan get this bad? other than Ledger's consistently brilliant turn as The Joker, the movie is but a dreary formulaic Hollywood blockbuster action thriller with an over-familiar cast of journeyman actors which is all dressed up with scavenged bits of lite contemporary morality themes (more neocon than Dirty Harry) and a few contrasting moments of faux transgressiveness welded on to compensate for its little suspense... (pause for breath)... furthermore, it's just way too long, and has a soundtrack by numbers to boot; just like the removal of nipples from 'The' Batman's costume (reputedly at Bale's request), the harder The Dark Knight tries to be 'dark' and 'serious', the more daft and lightweight it becomes

Black Wine (**)
a watchable no-budget STV thriller

The Babysitters (****)
a dark comedy whose subversive sexual themes have, predictably, invoked many US critics' deepseated puritanism - Katherine Waterston is brilliant in the lead role of a slightly gangly but pretty 16-year-old accidentally embarking on a lucrative career of pimping herself and her schoolfriends under the subterfuge of babysitting

Dark City (director's cut) (**)
not seen the original to compare this with yet I can't imagine there's that much to choose between the two: stylish and ambitious, but too many directorial flaws to suspend your threshold of disbelief for very long

Sunday, July 27, 2008


What a glorious twenty-four hours it's been. And not just because the weather has finally seemed to break from the relentlessly bleak grey spell endured here in recent weeks.

Firstly, last night. While I'm loath to give the BBC credit for absolutely anything, a despicable organisation if ever there was, I have been lapping up its 6-part documentary The Story Of India like a dehydrated canine; why the hell we didn't get this kind of stuff in school history lessons is beyond me because you can't help but be enthralled, inspired, and have your imagination captured.

Then there was a nice Sunday lunch.

Finally, the afternoon culminated in a couple of hours spent in the sunshine reading and listening to Imagination (therein lies another tale) by Bruntsfield Links, a beautiful bit of city parkland for such sedentary activities. And it was just as I was about to leave that an impeccably besuited elderly gentleman, with a rather dashing younger guy in tow carrying a large bag, approached proffering a flyer. He was inviting all the sunbathers in turn to visit his nearby Evangelical church, and his companion offered me a bottle of mineral water which was a neat and potent metaphor for the flyer's message of thirst for spiritual guidance. As a psycholinguistics connoisseur, I was most impressed with the minister's persuasive design of his language (and believe me, I'm not at all easily impressed).

Anyway, in more shameless times gone by, like a Venus fly trap, I might have attempted to lure these Christian would-be prosletysers into questioning their own belief systems, however since I am no longer an atheist, considered that option churlish and so graciously accepted their gift.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I find this video of Clara Rockmore so haunting and magical, and it's not your typical example of a theremin merely used to make 'spooky' scifi sound effects. Much thanks to Mary for sending me the link.


For the record, here's the text of an article I wrote a couple of months ago for Zero Tolerance magazine regarding the relationship between creativity and technical ability. It touches on some themes and ideas discussed here before.

As far as I'm concerned, in many ways painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is as creative as baking a chocolate cake for your cousin's birthday. I see creativity as a basic universal human need that's (sadly) often suppressed, and one that can bring us much-needed gratification and happiness in our lives. So in that sense it's what it gives us, the creators, that matters, not what it gives to anyone else. The big difference above is that only your cousin can enjoy the chocolate cake and then it's gone - and there lies the key to artists wanting to spread their work as far and wide as possible because it extends their potential for immortality; the nature of creating things is similar to the model of having offspring. In this sense, not all forms of creativity are equal: in the fields of art, film and music we are fortunate that our work can outlive us - compare that to stage actors, dancers, live comedians, chefs and all the other professions whose creativity is much more fleeting and ultimately less satisfying.

Nevertheless, looking at it from the spectator's perspective this is all irrelevant and entirely subjective.

Whether we're aware of it or not, I believe we measure others' creativity not by their technical prowess but by the artist's intent (often commonly described with words such as 'charismatic' or 'original'). What I personally mean by intent is what the artist, consciously or not, believes about why they're doing what they're doing and the response they wish to achieve. The really important technical gift isn't (funnily enough) the virtuosity of the activity but the skill to achieve the desired outcome.

There are always endless numbers of technocrats on the horizon: skilful musicians, painters, dancers, and so on, yet very few do we value; the most useful aspect of being an amazingly virtuoso soloist (for example) is as a demonstration skill: a way of showing off your potential through a technical showcase. For instance, walking on water is a fairly pointless action, yet it demonstrates to an audience in need of say, salvation, that by implication there must be so much more to offer.

To me, guitar solos have much the same effect as Bach's flamboyant free-form preludes to fugues: they give enjoyment to the listeners who feel comfortable in the knowledge that the performers are talented, thereby adding increased weight to the music; and as long as they don't start to fall in love with the belief that their solos are an end in themselves, they can be a worthwhile component to a traditional song. Now where's that cake?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


If you missed the Resonance FM transmission of the Afro Noise I mix on Sunday, you can get it at the CYRK site.

update: 450 downloads so far as of July 24th

Friday, July 18, 2008


I feel like having a good rant today and there are a few people I just find intolerable. Here are three examples. Please feel free to point out any others.

Charlie Brooker - he's always there leaning at the bar, pint glass in hand, surveying for eye contact and a potential audience, he's the pub's loudest most miserable bore with an opinion about everything, and to whose face no-one will say what an ignorant pillock he is

Ewan McGregor - how the hell does such a wooden actor manage to land so many major roles? am I going insane? please reassure me he really is absolute pants! it tragically disproves the adage that quality will always prevail

Bob Geldof - OK, easy target I know, because I've never met anyone with a good word to say about him - but a brief perusal of 'Sir' Bob's Wikipedia entry will remind you how little this talentless tosspot has contributed to anything, anywhere, at any time


Addendum for some that didn't fit into the previous posting. Personal note to self: devise a better way of filtering out all the trash.

Film Noir (***)
very entertaining adult feature-length animation which is full of fun twists and turns

Funny Games (2008) (*)
Haneke's patronising, sanctimonious, condescending rubbish all over again - but this time without the need for subtitles (wow)

Doomsday (*)
forget viruses, the UK's rotten movie industry should be quarantined to protect us from this kind of rubbish - one can't begin to describe how absolutely fucking abject this film is (and that is despite the money that's clearly been thrown at it)

Seed (*)
it's a shame this nasty little story is so comprehensively betrayed by the pathetically amateurish direction and cheesy score

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Happily, this time there are at least a couple of gems amongst this new batch of FaceBook reviews.

Craig (*)
no-budget Danish movie (in English, bizarrely) about the adventures of a decided oddball named Craig who has his medication taken away - not without a certain downbeat underground charm if you can ignore the atrocious acting on display - unfortunately I couldn't

Redbelt (**)
this typically (and needlessly) convoluted film by David Mamet is a treat thanks to Chiwetel Ejiofor's compelling performance as the reticent jiu-jitsu master; that said, I wouldn't rate it any higher than
Rocky 6

WALL-E (*****)
WALL-E will melt the hardest heart: it's an extraordinary visual feast whose marvellous warmth shines through every scene; while at times paying tribute to 2001, Star Wars, and Blade Runner, overall it's a better sci-fi film than any of them with its understated satire, ingeniously sparse script, inventive soundtrack, and best of all, sweetness without sickliness; a cinematic masterpiece

The Notorious Bettie Page (**)
what a movie about your life would be like if it was your mum directing it -
respectful, vague, and (most disappointingly of all) utterly devoid of sexuality - this should have been a sexy celebration of 50s glamour and SM fetish; instead it's a bland biopic hiding a deeper prurience

Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (***)
Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (**)

mindless dumb humour it might be, yet hard to dislike on account of its relentless irreverence

Heavy Petting (*)
I love animals and I also like a good romcom but it feels like you've been neutered after having to sit through this pile of doggie doodoos

Trapped Ashes (*)
5 'cult' directors, 5 weird tales, zero end product - deeply unsatisfying, clumsily put together, and not worthy of further comment

Pan's Labyrinth (****)
undeniably a great film; ironically, I found the fairy tale element much more engaging and believable than the rather comicbook real-life good guys and bad guys

Insanitarium (*)
with a bit more imagination this might have been quite good but, as things are, it's suffocated by its relentlessly implausible silliness

Titicut Follies (*****)
one of the greatest (and most disturbing) documentaries ever made

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Finally. Sorry it's taken so long, a lot of work's gone into it and so I hope you'll find it was worth it. Link below for a short 8 minute (or so) excerpt from this weekend's Resonance FM radio broadcast of the first afro noise mix - the full version is 49:40 and being broadcast on Sunday 20th July. Enjoy.

DJ Cut Hands (William Bennett) - Afro Noise I (excerpt) 8:14 - mp3/256kbps
  • DJ Cut Hands (William Bennett) - Afro Noise I (full version) 49:40
  • djembe, doundoun, ksing-ksing, synthesiser, electronics by William Bennett; produced by William Bennett
  • also excerpts from Florian Hecker, Whitehouse, East African witchcraft and Ghanaian funeral field recordings (with thanks to Brian Conniffe for his kind assistance), feline recordings

Saturday, July 05, 2008


You know when you want to say something but you no longer know what you want to say and then really just want to know what it was? I had such a killer topic to put in this post, then as often happens wait a day or two to get it just right in my head, and now it's completely gone and it's like the thoughts weren't there.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


I love a good craftsman. Someone who takes pride in their creative work no matter how apparently simple or humble the task.

One of the biggest dangers of going for a haircut, especially for a woman with long flowing locks, is that the 'creative director' (or whatever hairdressers like to call themselves these days) finds it tiresome to just neatly trim the ends. He needs to call forth his 'artistry' and expend much effort in pushing for something far more dramatic and interesting. Sadly too often, to justify the default cost of the grooming ritual and perhaps also enjoying the implicit flattery, the client goes along with this. Subsequently catastrophic results are then overlooked where both parties are complicit in the 'success' of the resulting new look, and further reinforced with friends' well-intentioned but insincerely positive feedback.

In truth, a really good craftsman is hard to find in any field, because so often the rightful intent of their task is subverted by a low threshold of boredom or a fundamental betrayal of their role.

The world of advertising and design is particularly full of these phoney artists. On televsion, on billboards, on buses and trains, in magazines and newspapers, websites and beyond. David Ogilvy wrote a brilliant book that puts this in stark focus - there's something rather excruciating about seeing much modern-day advertising self-indulgence after reading his classic work. Just like the hairdresser and his colluding customer, trendy agency reps and credulous businessmen buy into the (notional) triumph of flashy design over effective content. Despite Ogilvy being a Scotsman, it's generally fair to say that the US (and Asia too) is far less guilty of this wholesale self-deception than we in Europe tend to be.

The way I see it, really worthy artistic expression is borne from great craftmanship and purpose, design in itself has no value and no meaning. This was something I noticed, and continue to notice, with experimental music. It's a real challenge to play a synth and just stick to playing 3 distinct sounds without variation - the temptation to fiddle around, playing rhythms and melodies, is almost irresistible. A great craftsman has the strength to resist.