Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

Babelsberg – a journey to Gruff Rhys’ frontiers

Gruff Rhys is an artist who specialises in creating something new, unique and wonderful at least once a year. Markontour and other fans of the band which brought him to indie-fame were distraught when the Super Furry Animals went on hiatus in 2010, but left to his own devices Gruff Rhys ventured off in all kinds of interesting directions. Last night we had the pleasure of seeing him in his latest incarnation, a seer of dystopia, performing his new album, Babelsberg, in front of a rapt Oxford audience.

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Peterloo

Peterloo, Mike Leigh’s masterful new film, is a dramatic account of the massacre by drunken Yeomanry of unarmed families meeting in Manchester in August 2019, to call for working class men to have the right to vote. It was a formative moment in modern British history and, as the historian E.P. Thompson put it “Within two days of Peterloo, all England knew of the event”, yet it is barely know about today. Leigh’s film ought to do something to redress the balance.

Save Lea Marshes

The Leyton Marshes, part of the Lea Valley which flows down from the Chiltern Hills all the way through London to disgorge into the Thames near Poplar, is a rare haven for wildlife and tranquility in the great metropolis in which markontour lives. Indeed, the beauty of the Lea Valley’s parks, canal and marshes is the main reason we moved to Walthamstow fifteen years ago. Yet now it is threatened by a badly conceived development put forward by the very authority that was created to protect it. It has to be stopped.

Taking inspiration from The Planets

This year marks the centenary of the first performance of Holsts’ epic symphony, ‘The Planets’, and a few Saturday’s ago I was lucky enough to enjoy a celebratory performance at the London Barbican. It was magical experience, giving this amazing work new life and, courtesy of Professor Brian Cox’s enthusiastic presence, introducing the latest scientific thinking to a piece of music whose creation owed more to astrology than astronomy.

Day train to Copenhagen

I am spending a whole day on trains today, as I seek to find a lower carbon route from London to Copenhagen. I visit that wonderful city regularly for work and am likely to need to do so more in the future. In a previous job I used to take the night train, but time pressures pushed me into flying – a bad habit that I am now trying to break. Well aware of the hypocrisy of a climate change professional spending so much time inside a kerosene-fuelled metal bird, I am very much hoping that the day-time rail route proves viable.

Drinking from Israel Nash’s Sweet Springs

I haven’t written any ‘Album of the Week’ reviews for a while, primarily because every time I put on my headphones I just want to listen to Israel Nash. His latest offering, ‘Lifted’, is a hippy Americana chill-out album, that inspires relaxed smiles. I saw him perform at Rough Trade in Brooklyn a few weeks ago and it was an equally blissed experience, despite the inspiration for much of the album coming from Nash’s despair at the state of American politics.

Size and the Big Apple

I love New York and visit regularly, but there are many things I still don’t understand about the Big Apple/Big Oyster, and size is one of them. Yesterday I was wedged in so tight between two ample sized pairs of buttocks on either side of me on the subway that I almost missed my stop, so difficult was it to extract myself. In the end one of my fellow passengers had to give me a push.