Out of Tune – Mojave 3

I love this album. It’s remained a constant favourite but always gets its biggest work out during or near the warmer months. It has that feeling for me, that feeling of not so much summer but holidays, space, openness. I often take it with me in the car when I’m doing a lengthy solo drive. Just me, the car, a long straight road. Big sky, ocean or endless fields. That’s what I see in my head anyway. I’m more than happy to stick it on repeat and get lost in the audio and the air it creates.

I was surprised on checking the cover to find a 1998 date on the album. It don’t recall it being that old, or is that part of its appeal? Even when it was fresh and new it already felt of another time and place and had the power to transport you there, so its age is of little consequence.

Soak up some goodness.

Kurt Vile. Oh yes.

Last week when the Meredith line-up was announced I honed in on just one name. Kurt Vile. It was with school-girl glee that the next few hours passed. I’m surprised I pulled off ‘normality’ at work. Finally the international act I’d most wanted to tour for the last few years was coming to our shores.

My discovery of the aural pleasure that is Kurt Vile’s music came about around two years ago. That part of your brain that grabs a hold of something at first sight/listen/taste came out to play hard and there was no point fighting it. I can pretty much pinpoint when it started to the community radio play prior to ‘Childish Prodigy’ being released. It made me seek out anything else this Philly wonder may have laid his hands on. My hunting did not go unrewarded as my local indie record store was able to source his (mini) album ‘God Is Saying This To You’ but the earlier ‘Constant Hitmaker’ was to provide more of a challenge with my own internet scouring required for satisfaction. Then ‘Childish Prodigy’ was released and in the space of a few months I had three albums to flood my mind and my ears.

Putting this into context 2009 was still a time when music was at the top of my obsession heap. Film got to fight for number one spot during obvious times of the year (MIFF anyone?) but generally speaking music still took the crown. And since I’d been earning a wage with a weekend job at high school buying music consumed a fair portion of my disposable income. Bring on uni and throw gigs into that music spending mix, not a lot had really changed over the years in that sense. 2009 though was a little different in that music really jumped up a notch. I devoured more music that year than any other year I can recall. I also saw more local live music than ever before. Strangely it’s not all a total blur. There were a few artists that stood out for me that year and Kurt Vile was one of them. Two years down the track he continues to do so.

In late 2009 Kurt Vile supported Big Star in Brooklyn. You know how sometimes you just wish beyond all reason or reality that something insane could happen and you’d miraculously be teleported to another place or time? This was one such moment. I was happy to step away from reality for the night and be dropped off at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple then picked up 6 or so hours later and reinstated with real life. Not only Kurt Vile & The Violators but Big Star too. The words. They still fail.

At the start of last year there were the usual “who would you love to tour” questions floating around on social media, the same again this year. Both years Kurt Vile has been at the top of my list. In 2010 I knew there was little to no chance of this happening so I had to be content with the release of the Square Shells EP to tide me over. This year with a new album due for release I had hope. When ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’ came out I wished for news of concert dates but nothing eventuated. I kept reading reports of great overseas shows, additions to well-known festivals, so many good reports, and of course his hair! It is hard to miss the hair, there’s a lot of it.

So now I wait. The Sydney show was announced, went on sale and by all accounts is close to sold out. In Melbourne with Meredith at centre stage we need to practice patience, although if I can read Mistletone’s twitter feed correctly tomorrow may be the day the all important news arrives. That news being – when and where in Melbourne does one go to see Kurt Vile play? (and when do the tickets go on sale!)

For the time being, here’s some soothing sounds to get you through the long wait for summer and the tour to hit our shores.

EDIT: So you wanna catch Kurt Vile at one of his Australian east-coast (Melbourne/Sydney) side shows? Click for Mistletone’s updated tour news!

Joining the dots

Last night I finally saw Withnail and I the way it should be seen: on the big screen, in a cinema with other patrons laughing along, a drink in hand and good company. I was at the Astor Theatre for a suitable double feature, wondering why I’d never seen it at the cinema before.

I’d watched it often enough on DVD but not when it was fresh and new, I came to the film quite late. My first experience of anything to do with the film had been without even realising it. One of my early band obsessions was Ride. By the time their second album ‘Going Blank Again’ came out in 1992 I was well and truly hooked. I was completely unaware that the soundbite at the start of track 7 “even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day” was Marwood from early in the film, or that the track title “Cool Your Boots” was another quote (Danny) from late in the film.

It’s an odd moment when you do eventually join the dots and find you’ve come to things backwards. That album is so familiar to me. It was at a time when the music I was listening to, my friends, seeing bands, going out, dancing, socialising, that was everything. I knew the soundbite was from a film, but at the time that was enough. It’s years later that I wonder why I never did wonder more back then.

So why write this now? Seeing the film large, loud, with full surround sound at the cinema really made that connection hit home. Even though I’d made it previously the size and volume, ok the volume, lets bring the focus to the sound where it’s due as that’s what really did it. I’ve already said my first accidental run-in with the film was via the audio and although I was watching the film my instinct shot me back to my first association which was listening to the music that came with that sound. I sometimes worry about the way my mind works, or wanders.

Either way what it does for me now when I watch the film or listen to the album is it makes both experiences a little more enjoyable, as I have that extra connection I missed for so many years, and that’s got to be a bonus.

So why not flash back to the early ’90s with Ride and Cool Your Boots. Enjoy!

Losing time and it’s Radiothon already?

I’m not quite sure how it happened but with the blink of an eye and the clap of a hand that four day gap that is supposed to see me rested and recuperated between the end of MIFF and the start of RRR’s Radiothon evaporated without any chance of recovery. I’m usually so good at this. I block the Monday out, sleep, eat, watch tv then sleep some more but this year I had visitors on the Monday. Ok. It was my folks and my nana. I couldn’t say no to my nana. She’s so cute, and little and frail these days. It was great to see them but boy could I have done with more sleep.

Anyway somehow Monday became Friday and worse still that lurgy I’d fought off right through the film festival made an appearance – for radiothon! Not cool. You thought that was bad. ‘My thing’, ‘the thing’ I do during radiothon is bake lots. Bring on sickness and baking stops. I mean I like to share but I draw the line at sharing germs with two dozen people via a couple of batches of cupcakes a day. As a consequence my only baking this year was for Monday’s Breaking And Entering shift. So sad.

You can’t have it all I suppose. But there is something you all can do and that’s subscribe!

Subscribe to 3RRR

MIFF catch-up

It was bound to happen that with so much on I wouldn’t get around to writing a word about anything I was seeing. I now understand why taking time off during MIFF felt like such a necessity. I miss that privilege. So here I am, last day of the festival. On my way to the Forum for my final volunteer shift, sleep deprived after 16 days of squeezing more than I should out of myself, burning the candle at three or four ends to accommodate as many films as I could and then to top it off – Closing Night, what fun. It’s been such a wonderful festival, it always is but this time it’s been different. I haven’t simply seen a spectator I’ve got to stick my head behind the curtain and it’s been lots of fun.

But the films. Can I write anything coherent about the films I’ve seen in my current state? I think I’m likely to have to add a further post or two after the festival as a personal reminder of what I’ve seen or particularly enjoyed. I’m still cursing that I can’t find my marked up guide from last year’s festival with my film selections but can recall the films I saw in 2001. What ludicrously!

The tail end of my festival has been exceptional, though I still have two films after my shift today but believe they are relatively safe bets (Another Earth and Le Havre). Friday afternoon I saw a fun Australian feature Swerve. Friends that had already seen it mentioned the story felt familiar which I wouldn’t argue but I enjoyed the ride. I loved Melancholia. I know after the first screening there was lots of chatter from both sides of the Lars von Trier camp shouting adoration, maybe with this I missed the negative comments also floating about. I didn’t notice the 130 minute length, the time flew for me, but others I’ve spoken to this weekend wished for it to hurry up, ‘do’ something, ‘say’ something other than simply look visually stunning. Stunning it did look right throughout. The final shot is awe. For me though the entire film had me gripped. The story first told through Justine’s eyes suffering depression then Claire’s with another ailment I found so honest and true.

But here I am at the steps of the Forum. Shall finish this another time.

MIFF 60, it begins

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Melbourne International Film Festival, it’s my 11th festival (yes I was a bit slow off the mark) and it’s also my first festival in a while where I’ll be juggling work commitments with festival sessions. I’ve been fortunate for the past few years to have an accrual of leave allowing me to take the full festival as paid leave, grab a passport and pretty much settle in and develop a vitamin D deficiency while chalking up as many films as I could handle between countless coffees, drinks and chats with films loving friends.

This year I’ve taken a different approach. I decided to put my hand up to volunteer for the festival. Something I’d wanted to do for a while but it would mean giving up on my 60+ sessions. As it turned out, this is to be the year. I’ll mostly be gracing the corridors of the Forum (my favourite Melbourne venue) with one side trip to IMAX.

Last night saw the donning of one’s finery for the festival’s rather lax interpretation of a ‘black tie’ Opening Night. Seeing as only this week I commented on twitter that ‘we really did wear a lot of black in Melbourne’ I opted for a very bright, very girly, vintage frock from the wardrobe. Pity about the winter chill but bright yellow and red accessories it was to be. It’s always fun to dress up for a night.

I only clicked on Wednesday that this year’s opening night film, The Fairy, is the new film by the creators of Rumba (MIFF 2008) which I thoroughly enjoyed. This was another charming little slapstick comedy from directors Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy, though Rumba’s running time of 77 minutes possibly suits their style of film making a little better than the 93 minutes allocated to the The Fairy.

The Fairy

After the screening we all waltzed our way around the corner from the frocked up GU (it’s amazing what a layer of curtains can achieve) to the more fitting Melbourne Town Hall where most flocked immediately to the bars for liquid refreshment. Not boozing for the evening I was able to wait for the masses to thin out then politely ask for a mineral water. There was plenty of opportunity for film chatter with friends, opinions on the film we’d just seen, what we were most looking forward to seeing, if we’d make it to an 11am screening tomorrow etc. After much harassment and no opportunity for a hasty exit without being spotted, I joined the AFI circle for a ‘quick dance’ before leaving. Once you start of course you don’t stop and before I knew it the house lights were on and it really was time to go. Much fun was had and again what a great start to the festival!

Now wait for it, I woke up and booked a film! I saw the King of Comedy this afternoon which was great. There was a big group of us there which made for even more fun. I’m not sure what was better, seeing it on the big screen or Glenn Dunks cackling two seats over.

In other news, my first volunteer session is on Sunday!

In the frame

One of the things I am most guilty of when looking at art is getting lost in the frame. I mean that literally. Most of the time I will first look at the painting, photograph, print etc but eventually my focus will divert to the square surrounding it. The frame.

I will become completely lost in this square of timber, fabric, paint, embellishment. I am absorbed in the craftsmanship, intricate detail, variety of material, colour, scale, the volume of work that has gone into this ‘encasing’ of the artwork, yet is given so little acknowledgement and recognition.

You can understand then that I was so very happy this week to discover that recently the NGV Australia has started to amend its information plates to include detail on the frame. In the 19th century Australian art galleries on the second floor of the Ian Potter Centre select works now contain information about the frame. Whether it is original or a reproduction, who the maker is or otherwise ‘maker unknown’, if it is a reproduction when it was reproduced and based on what timeframe etc. I haven’t yet checked across the road at the NGV International to see if it too is doing the same but would be very excited to find that it was.

Now me being me I couldn’t just leave it at that. I had at ask about why some of the information plates contained frame detail and others didn’t, and what informative and helpful responses I got from the lovely NGV staff. If I’d thought about it for a minute or two I would have figured it out as it’s pretty obvious really. If research has been undertaken on a frame then it can be labelled with what was discovered. I did say it was pretty obvious. I was also directed to an interesting book on the frames in the NGV Collection, titled Framing the Nineteenth Century by John Payne.

One of my favourite frames in this gallery is fitted to Ugo Catani’s Lovers’ walk, Mount Macedon. It is rich, dark, layered, full of detail and fits perfectly with the painting without detracting from it. The frame maker is John Thallon of Melbourne and there are quite a few of his frames in this gallery.

Ugo CATANI Lovers' walk, Mount Macedon, 1890 Melbourne. Frame: original, by John Thallon, Melbourne

Detail of John Thallon's frame around Lovers' walk, Mount Macedon by Ugo CATANI

A frame you can’t miss due to the scale of the work (285.7 x 433.0 cm) surrounds John Longstaff’s Arrival of Burke, Wills and King at the deserted camp at Cooper’s Creek, Sunday evening, 21st April 1861 (1907). The frame is mammoth but when you get up close the workmanship is beautiful. I stare in wonder and think of the hours involved in creating each of those leaves and buds, and that’s just the outer layer of the frame.

The enormous original frame by an unknown maker around John LONGSTAFF's Arrival of Burke, Wills and King at the deserted camp at Cooper's Creek, Sunday evening, 21st April 1861 (1907)

The works in the Joseph Brown Collection do not contain frame information as they came from a private collection and as I was reminded collectors commonly re-framed works to fit with the appearance of their existing collection. A nice example of this is Rupert Bunny’s Mermaids dancing. Although the painting is from 1896 it’s paired with a clean mid-century frame. Very nice.

Rupert Bunny's 19th C Mermaids dancing in a 20th C frame

Many thanks to Vicki at the NGV library and MaryJo in the Furniture and Frames department for their helpful responses to my email.

On my mind

Life’s pretty crazy. The way an idea can pop into your head, rustle up old memories and emotions, settle down then just as you’re getting back into the swing of things slam, life hits you in the face strong and hard.

Over the past week or so I’ve been thinking a lot of things past. I can’t put this sudden turn of sentimentally down to anything in particular but I’ve been remembering old friends; some I still keep in touch with, others I only rarely bump into and others still I haven’t seen in a decade or more. I’ve been thinking of films and tv shows from my teens and twenties, books I haven’t read in a long time due for a re-read and even old clothes I used to wear.

Then I get sinking news about one old friend and dreadful news about another in the same day, the type of news that makes you want to grab each and every friend and relative you have, hold on tight and never let go.

So maybe that burst of sentimentality was my brain’s subtle way of telling me to catch up with my friends and cherish them, to make the time to see them instead of getting around to it one day. And with the other stuff, to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures like reading a book or watching an old film I haven’t seen in a while. I’m usually so busy filling my head with new things I sometimes forget how nice and fulfilling the old ones are.

Things I’ve discovered in my trial semester back at uni

I selected my taster subjects well.

My doc did pick a rather inopportune time to mess with my migraine medication. Choosing the six month period when I will be reading more, spending more time in front of a computer screen and more time watching film is not the best time to pull me off what works to try something else.

At some point in the past 20 years I’ve lost the ability to “just write”. It appears I’ve become programmed to edit as I go which inevitably hampers the flow of ideas onto the page. While writing the first of my final essays for the semester it got to the truly ridiculous point of having a huge brightly coloured sticky note proclaiming STOP EDITING, JUST WRITE. EDIT LATER! stuck in front of me. This at least helped.

I really do enjoy learning. Ok, that one was a given. I’m constantly digesting information but it’s been lots of fun learning with a group of like minded people. Tutorial discussions in particular with lots of ideas bouncing around the room were particularly enjoyable.

Even though I was only working a few days a week and studying part time I still managed to over fill my week. I’m not seeing any surprised faces at this point. All that know me will be accustomed to my ever expanding diary and desire to squeeze just that little bit more out of life. There’s an upside and a downside to this approach; I manage to fit a large variety of activities into each week but at the risk of running myself down and at times leaving my mind so full and muddled that having a conversation with me can be a very confusing experience. While I’m physically there with you my mind can be racing through the mounds of things I’ve sent it, scheduled myself to do, wondering about dates, bills, this, that and a little of xyz.

So next semester I’ve decided to take a break. Give some time to me. Pick a few of the things on my never ending list and slowly, at an enjoyable pace get around to them. It’s time to give my mind a chance to just be before I take the real plunge and apply to get into that degree course. I now know I have the interest, desire and passion to pursue that line but first I know I must take the time to stop. Allow myself the time to read some of those neglected books, finish that sewing project, sit in the park and draw – simply put stop putting off the me things for everything and everyone else.

My favourite place (in the city)

Last year I used to visit at least once a week but it’s been far too long now. I’ve become lost in that haze of searching for work to fit within my very specific needs that I haven’t been to my happy place – the NGV!

When I worked off Flinders Lane, right near Degraves St I would visit the NGV Australia, the NGV International or both weekly. I could spend my lunch hour listening to something wonderful on my iPod while admiring the art. I highly recommend this if you work nearby.

To be specific the NGV Australia Level 2 is one of my favourite places in Melbourne’s CBD. It houses the 19th and 20th century Australian art components of the NGV Collection, The Joseph Brown Collection plus the current exhibitions of the Australian fashion & textiles gallery and the Australian photography gallery.

Since I’d last visited the Jreissati Family Gallery (gallery 8 ) has had a complete facelift. I guess it’s part of the new hang of the 20th Century Australian Art Galleries for the NGV 150th birthday celebrations and I adore what’s been done.

Because I love it so much I’m going to walk you through the beautiful new space – the artwork as well as the slight movement of fixtures which help direct you through the gallery. Here we go!

I could easily walk you through the entire space but I’ll behave and only point out a few highlights. On the right hand wall when you walk in there are now seven lovely John Brack pieces. Joy Hester’s (Untitled) (Head of a woman with hat) splits the Bracks from a mass of Sidney Nolan works, the bulk of which are on the back wall in an interesting new display.

A wall of NOLAN

Tucker, Boyd, Percival are all still here with the ceramics case now splitting the space in two. Around the corner there’s a nice placement of Jeffrey Smart’s Kapunda mines (1946) next to three Russell Drysdales.

Continue along and a wall of abstracts follow. My favourite piece in this section is Godfrey Miller’s Still life with musical instruments (1958). This piece appeared in the Heide exhibition ‘Cubism & Australian Art’ but I don’t recall seeing it. Unfortunately my photo doesn’t do it justice but the colour in this work and the light and shade I find much more striking than his two pieces across the corridor in the Joseph Brown Collection (Trees in quarry 1961-1963 & Still life with jug 1949-1954). Visit, then you be the judge.

Godfrey MILLER Still life with musical instruments (c. 1958)

Gallery 7 had also undergone a re-hang but not as heavily as gallery 8. There are some lovely new pieces but the bulk is unchanged. I may write up a new post on these changes soon.

The 19th Century Australian Art collection in galleries 5 and 6 next door was closed, possibly in the middle of a new hang, on the day I went in. – which is in itself exciting.

If you’re available at 12.30PM on Thursday 17th March 2011 I’d recommend attending a Floor Talk: The NGV Collection – 20th century Australian art. It’s a free event occurring in my favourite place. Enjoy it on my behalf, I’ll be at Uni at a film screening…