Designing and Apartment like a Disney Legend

28 09 2014

I’ve got it! I’ve got a new design theme for my future studio apartment when I move out of the flophouse I currently live in (with roommates, ick). It’s going to be a 1950s fantasy world! ‘It’s the Cold War after all!’ Mary Blair - It's A Small WorldSince I work for a furniture company that sells Mid-century Modern furniture and home accessories, and I get a 30% discount on all purchases, I decided to forgo the Art Deco theme I had in mind for a Mid-century Modern one. Art Deco is my favourite interior design and architecture style, but it’s just too hard to find practical furniture, like convertible sofas, to pull off the Hollywood Regency look in a studio apartment. The middle of the twentieth century was an awful time for urban planning—everything was about cars and highways, and tearing down old neighbourhoods to replace them with parking lots, strip malls, and suburban tract houses—but the interior design and architecture styles in themselves were really cool. Think Jetsons, Star Trek, the Dick van Dyke Show, EPSON scanner imageand the It’s A Small World ride at Disneyland—anything that seemed cool and modern in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, but which is considered retro nowadays. I’ve decided the ‘It’s A Small World’ 1950s Disney fantasy world is the look I’m going for, but it isn’t going to be a tacky carnival. It is going to be sleek and contemporary with a few nods here and there to that era in the decorative arts. Old 1950s record albums. Old cars. Old children’s story books. That is the look I am going to shove in your face when you come to visit my pad. And just imagine it at Christmas, with multi-coloured Christmas lights and retro glass tree ornaments reflecting pink and purple hues off white surfaces! The artist behind the concept work for Disney’s ‘Small World’ ride was Mary Blair. Not only did she design the set and animatronic characters for our most beloved theme park ride, but she also illustrated the backgrounds for feature-length Disney animated films such as Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland. Mary Blair IIA pioneer among women in the world of animation, which was and still is dominated by men, she created some of the most memorable animated landscapes of the twentieth century, and anyone who has read a Little Golden Book based on a Disney film has probably enjoyed her magical artwork without realising who she was. So I have decided to take her as my inspiration. It is the perfect marriage of the retrofuturistic Space Age of Tomorrowland (as embodied by Star Trek and The Jetsons) with the mystical, magical world of Fantasyland, all using the tropes, motifs, and design elements of Mid-Century Modern art. I should add that Blair was not just a children’s animator, but also created remarkably evocative adult watercolours featuring the themes and landscapes of America during the early to middle twentieth century. Anyway, here are the bare bones of my design scheme. I’ve decided to go with a sleek, contemporary, gravel-grey convertible sofa called the Tratus, by the Danish company Innovation. It comes with or without arms, but I am going with arms because I like the ‘complete’ sofa look. I also like the matte, dark grey legs and frame base. Tratus Convertible Sofa                   I am going to get matching chairs for either side of the sofa, in order to create a relatively symmetrical look, and also so I can convert the sofa into a queen size in case some queen ends up in my bed after a night of drunken debauchery. These chairs are made in the same matching grey, although only a picture of the yellow version is available. Tratus Chair                 To these I plan to add a kidney-shaped coffee table with a white, powder-coated, tempered-glass top and lacquered, steel-framed base. There will be matching end tables on either side of the sofa. Appropriate table and floor lamps will be included. Maybe a lava lamp. Hmm. Yes, a lava lamp. Cerise-coloured. Azalea Coffee Table               Azalea End Table                   OK, let’s talk about art. Since I am drawing inspiration from Mary Blair, I have to have some affordable prints of hers to display on my walls. Just enough to conjure up the idea of Mid-Century Modern Disney fantasy world, yet subtle enough to be sophisticated. So here are the prints I have selected below. This one: Mary Blair - Cinderella VI                     And this one: Mary Blair - Cinderella II                   And this one: Mary Blair - Cinderella                   And this one: Mary Blair - Cinderella V                 And this one: Mary Blair - Cinderella IV                 And this one: Mary Blair - Alice in Wonderland                 And this one: Mary Blair - Alice in Wonderland II                   And this one: Mary Blair - Peter Pan III                     And this one: Mary Blair - Weird               And this one: Mary Blair - Headless Horseman                   As you can see, I’m going for the dark Disney look in my Mid-Century Modern flat. I shan’t have anything less. My main goal is to create a darkly retrospective atmosphere with a hint of Mid-century fantasy married with a little bit of retrofuturistic science-fiction. The furniture I showed is neutral—grey and cubical, or elliptic and white. The furniture serves as a device to show off the more carnivalesque prints I intend to put on my walls. What do you think? Can I pull off this Mid-century Modern, Disneyland fantasy look?





Erasure’s Violet Flame

18 09 2014

Erasure - Violet Flame (Photo Shoot)K, synthpop whores! It’s Erasure time again. For a lot of people, the release of a new album by a veteran band means, ‘Oh, fuck! All three remaining members of the Beatles are getting back together again to record…a re-recording of a 1994 compilation of…their number-one hits from, um, the 1960s, which is the only decade they made music!’ So, basically, nothing new.

Erasure are not like that. They consistently release a new album once every two to three years, often with delicious re-releases interspersed with new, original material, and re-inventing their style of synthpop with the latest producers. Most bands that originated in the ’80s can’t boast that, even if some rapper is using a synthesiser riff from their main hit in their latest song.

Erasure’s new album is a masterwork of electronic dance pop. And I say this as a hardcore fan who has criticised the band in the past for producing work which could be judged as marginal because it relied too much on trends in acoustic folk rock (which I deplore). This is entirely different:

My least-favourite album (Loveboat) was highly synthesised, well-written, well-thought-out, and expertly executed. So I am speaking in relative terms.

The band’s two previous albums, Light At The End Of The World and Tomorrow’s World (minus the Christmas album released last year) were very good and had very coherent, well-written dance anthems, but if we are talking about coherent, well-written dance anthems, The Violet Flame blows them out of the water. It is absolutely majestic in its scope. The lead singer, Andy Bell, boasts an incredibly fluid and nimble voice, synthesiser wizard Vince Clarke creates the most beautifully subtle, lush synthesiser arrangements, Andy Bell Erasureand producer Richard X polishes it off with his own HI-NRG take. The result is the perfect melodic dance-pop album.

Let’s talk about songs. ‘Under The Waves’ immediately stands out as an infectious bubblegum tune. It is the catchiest song I have heard in years. ‘Oh-oooh-oh-oooh-oh’, goes the chorus, on and on, against a thick, up-and-down italo-disco bassline. Also notable is the tune ‘Sacred’, which celebrates the extent to which love will realise itself. The most infectious and important of these transcendent dance songs, though, is the sinister and roiling ‘Paradise’. It is all about throwing away everything anybody thought about you and following your passion. It is about being true to yourself. And it’s a dance anthem! To me, this is perfection.

The Violet Flame is perhaps the best dance album I have ever heard. I hate most club mixes—they sound boring and monotonous to me. This album offers dance music that satisfies several important criteria: lyricism, melody, danceability, content. It is lyrical, melodic, danceable, and offers remotely intelligible insight into modern-day relationships and social issues. Erasure have outdone themselves with this album.

 

 

 

 





Review of the Vampire Film ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’

14 09 2014

It is Only Lovers Left Alive - Posterone of the most striking films I have ever seen. Vampires Eve and Adam re-unite after a few decades, and the younger sister, Ava, tries to shatter their dreams by acting like a no-good Angelena. The premise is bizarre, yet fascinating.

Eve and Adam text about Adam’s depression, and she, the ever-sprightly one, decides to travel from her base in Tangier to his place in Detroit, where she attempts to soothe him. Everything is weird—she is texting her lover on an iPhone via her Moroccan boudoir, which is decorated in embroidered fabrics and is probably suffused with various exotic scents. Gold, blue, and white are the main colours. He is consumed in a mess of guitars and violins in a decaying Detroit mansion.

Eve and Adam are humane vampires who acquire blood by bribing hospital staff and local friends to quench their thirst. They have no desire to feed on humans unless necessary. Much like modern-day human vegans refuse to consume animal products unless necessary. Until Eve’s younger sister, Ava, arrives and starts acting like a total douche-bag. "only lovers left alive"She drinks Adam’s musical assistant to death, and Eve and Adam have to dispose of his corpse in a vat of acid somewhere in an abandoned building in Detroit.

After kicking Ava out on her own, Eve and Adam decide to return to Eve’s favourite place—Tangier. Unfortunately, Tangier is infected with contaminated blood. Even Eve’s reliable source of blood—Marlowe—lies dying of contaminated blood. Eve delicately lays her hand on the head of his human care-taker. It is actually a quite moving scene.

The last scene is amazing. Since Marlowe and his special source of blood are gone, Eve and Adam are forced to walk the streets ofOnly Lovers Left Alive - Last Scene Tangier, seeking a source of blood. They are starving. Eve in particular catches the scent of blood. It is a couple making out. She convinces Adam to turn them. He acquiesces. The look in their glassy eyes is disturbing.

Only Lovers Left Alive is amazing not only because it is so cryptic and peaceful, but also because it forces the viewer to re-imagine the vampire as a creature with human emotions. After all, humans are just cattle in the eyes of the vampire.

 





Showcase: Marta Ivanova

13 09 2014

Brandon Arkell:

Starkly beautiful and boldly natural. That is how I would describe Ivanova’s work. There is a sightly disturbing undertone to her photographs which makes it thought-provoking.

Originally posted on Fluster Magazine:

Marta Ivanova (1991, Russia) is a young Lithuanian artist, revealing body, femininity and everyday life intimately and unexpectedly in her works. After graduation in Sculpture in Vilnius M. K. Čiurlionio Arts Gymnasium, she chose Photography and Media Arts studies at Vilnius Academy of Arts. Namely photographic and video material dominates in the artist’s works, but installation or performance expression is also familiar to her. Marta’s works have been exhibited abroad and published in various art review magazines. 

In her works there are constant hints to strands of womanly themes and subtle critique. Every work is different, carried out with various techniques, playing with womanly subthemes and juggling with intermediate situations between him and her. Artist actively uses her personal experience, visually talking to her body.

Interviewed by Chiara Costantino
 
Marta Ivanova-4
 

Hi Marta! How did you come to photography?

Hello, the artist is like a traveler (a tourist), constantly travelling and being escorted…

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30 Years of Italo-Disco

28 08 2014

Michelle Pfeiffer Grease II Cool RiderIsn’t it funny how musical styles come and go? I remember 1950s rock ‘n’ roll being popular when I was growing up in the early ’80s, mainly because of Grease and Grease II. Michelle Pfeiffer straddling a ladder was one of my most cherished memories (and her electrocuting Christopher Walken to death in Batman Returns was perhaps my favourite scene in cinematic history). Everything ’50s was cool then, from the turned-up cuffs to the white socks. One of the first songs I learned to sing was ‘Rock Around The Clock’, but that was in 1982, long after the original song had been played on the radio, let alone penned. I was flooded with images of Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Boy George. The same era had a peculiar dance beat which nobody had ever heard before—a 4-4 dance beat–with synthesiser arrangements.

In the early ’80s a new sound flooded the dance clubs of Europe and trickled down to America (as usual—new sounds happen in Europe first). It was a style of dance music with a rich, heavy, persistent bassline and simple yet elegant melody. It originated in Italy, with musicians like Giorgio Moroder, who produced music not only for Donna Summer, but also for films like Midnight Express and iconic ’80s fantasy films like The Never Ending Story. It clearly derived from 1970s disco, but reinvented itself with modern synthesisers. It became known as Italo-disco.

Probably my favourite italo-disco tune is ‘Hypnotic Tango’, by My Mine:

Isn’t it absolutely gorgeous?

One of my other favourite italo-disco tunes is ‘Orient Express’, by Wish Key:

Isn’t that the most seductive dance tune you’ve ever heard?

Glass Candy basically aced the whole italo-disco revival with the following tune:

How beautiful is that? Ida No, the singer of Glass Candy, is totally awesome.

New italo-disco style music is being created by Sally Shapiro:

Absolutely sublime.

Italo-disco is a gorgeous dance style. You just have to love dance, melody, and rhythm.





Mandatory Colours: Technopagan and Manhunter

14 08 2014

Brandon Arkell:

The very fact that these colours are called ‘Technopagan’ and ‘Manhunter’–not to mention the fact that I am a man-hunter with a penchant for paganism and techno music, or the fact that Deven Green is a devilish comic genius–is enough reason to endorse this refreshingly colourful cosmetic palette. If I were a girl (that is, if I weren’t going to be beaten up on the street for doing so), I would wear all of them!

Originally posted on Deven Green:

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Three Intimate Yet Groovy Dance Tunes

31 07 2014

A lot of people describe dance music as ‘soulless’. I completely disagree. I think this is an idea concocted by people who are more familiar with rave music from the late ’90s than the legacy of funk, soul, disco, techno, and synthpop which has informed pop music since the mid-’70s. Dance music is just popular music with a danceable beat, melody, catchy hook, and lyrics important enough that you keep singing them inside your head.

Some dance songs prove superior to others because they have lyrics which reveal the intimate reflections of their writers. At the same time, the musical accompaniment, whether guitar, synthesiser, or drum, holds up the background and forces people to move. In this situation, dance and emotion are the same. The inner person becomes dance.

The most emotional and soulful dance song, for me, is ‘Hideaway’, by the British synthpop band Erasure. They manage to create a luxurious texture of sounds and melody while conveying a very important message:

Obviously, the song is about coming out as gay. This was actually revolutionary for its time—the song is from the Circus album, which was released in 1987—and singer Andy Bell is one of the first lead singers of a major pop group to come out as gay. I actually personally commend him for writing this song, because it is so important. And yet it is fun, catchy, and danceable! Who’d have thought??

The next song is by somebody everybody knows, but I don’t want to ruin the experience by mentioning the artist’s name, so I will just say that I find it infectious, groovy, and emotionally revealing:

Everybody constantly criticises Madonna, but this song proves two things: her stature as the queen of inventive dance-pop and her ability to reflect on her youth. It is actually really interesting to groove to a song that reveals the inner feelings of Madonna. It is fun, catchy, sing-song, and danceable, but it also reveals her torn memories about her mother (who died when she was only five years old) and her father, who didn’t offer everything she sought. And so she fought for what she has today.

There is one more song I want to add to the list of songs I categorise as intimately danceable. You might think it unusual, but if you know my ear, you’ll know what I mean. It is ‘Sara’, by Fleetwood Mac:

I’m not exactly sure what she’s saying, but the cool, quavering voice of Stevie Nicks has always haunted me. The song makes me want to sway to and fro and coo and echo everything Stevie is saying, as though it flutters within me. And at the same time, it is not a slow song. It is upbeat. It is a song that makes you want to move while feeling what she says.

I don’t care whether it’s Madonna, Erasure, or Fleetwood Mac. A good dance groove with a good melody and good lyrics makes the best song. It shouldn’t matter whether it’s a huge name or not–the point is that dance music can conjure up unexpected emotions. Dance music can be surprisingly soul-satisfying.

 

 

 

 








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