Category Archives: London

➤ Ex-Blitz Kid Rusty Egan and friends dress 80s electro-pop in brilliant new clothes

Welcome to the Dancefloor, Rusty Egan, electro-pop, Blitz Kids, New Romantic, EDM, synthesisers,

Egan deejaying at Tramp this week: a nightclub launch for Welcome to the Dancefloor

AFTER FIVE YEARS OF BLAGGING, and five years of feuding with former collaborators, 80s Blitz Club deejay Rusty Egan’s own “electro-diskow” album, Welcome to the Dancefloor, is out this week and it amounts to a superb sonic landmark. He and his guest performers engage an impressive range of emotions by dramatically humanising the potential starkness many associate with electronica.

ALBUM REVIEW
Welcome to the Dancefloor
Rusty Egan (Black Mosaic)

Spookily, their energy rockets us immediately into that vast clean stereo soundscape that uniquely defined the new music of 1980. Here synthesiser chords are stretched and layered and cracked like a whip, as if by an invisible hand in another time and space, which of course was precisely the sound of London clubland when its youth culture erupted as a volcano of creativity. The album’s pacey opening track finds ex-New Order’s Peter Hook on The Other Side spinning through the Milky Way, his thin 80s vocal style querulous and wistful, yet poppily optimistic.

That era did after all abandon the overpowering noise of the rock stadium and the punk nihilists to celebrate a return to melodious singing voices and to arch lyrics meant for listening, while synthesisers defined a fresh musical ambience. Inexperienced young artists unsure about their singing ability half shouted, half vocodered their limited vocal range to re-imagine their teenage dreams on a different planet.

Egan’s collaborators: click any pic below to launch slideshow

While Egan has carefully selected 13 tracks reflecting the wide spectrum of synth possibilities, half are love songs in the spirit of the 80s generation who were dubbed by the press New Romantics. Nevertheless he has created a consummate showcase for electronic music, co-produced by Nick Bitzenis (aka Nikonn), has had a hand in writing a majority of the songs, many co-written with Chris Payne (of Fade to Grey fame), these subsequently endorsed and expressed by a handful of starry friends such as Midge Ure and Tony Hadley on tracks of their own.

Despite its title, this is not dance music that the funk nation would groove to. Laying down a dominant 4-4 beat is not conducive to free-form movement unless you think you’re Tik or Tok. Exceptions include Egan’s own pulsating title track with robo vocals as if by Stephen Hawking and knowing breaks parodying Tenek and the Human League; also the nippy number Hero, which gains spiritual resonance from Andy Huntley’s richly textured delivery.

The stand-out track is Midge Ure’s transformation of an Egan/Payne song titled Glorious. He rewrote lyrics and melody so as to construct one magnificent crescendo filled with space and tension reminiscent of “Oh, Vienna!” A close second for reconjuring the authentic 80s is Egan’s own Wunderwerke, driven by his Trans-Europe vocals through classic synth sweeps, hypnotic repeats and bass stabs. Third comes Erik Stein on the astonishingly contemplative Ballet Dancer, basking in a wonderful waterfall of synths.

Like Brexit, Tony Hadley *is* Tony Hadley and here (without the Ballet) on the coltish lovesong Lonely Highway he canters to the top of a whole new hill as a crooner. What distinguishes this album is that it’s awash with affecting lyrics and fine voices to listen to in the name of electro pop – among the gentlest are Be The Man featuring the gorgeous inflections of Kira Porter; Nicole Clarke’s ethereal contribution to Love Can Conquer All; and Love Is Coming My Way, a second number from the silken-voiced Stein.

And just wait for the Chariots of Fire finale: Egan’s intensely personal track, Thank You, which unleashes a shock of the best kind. To describe more would be to spoil a gifted idea. It is emotional and all too evidently sincere. Thank you, Rusty.

Welcome to the Dancefloor, Rusty Egan, electro-pop, Blitz Kids, New Romantics, EDM, synthesisers,

Rusty Egan: co-producer, co-writer and much else – has created a landmark album in Welcome to the Dancefloor

➢ Welcome To The Dancefloor was released by Black Mosaic in digital formats on 3 Dec 2016. Pre-order your 180g vinyl LP and CD variants, plus bonus mixes, at Pledge Music

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1980, First sighting of the Blitz Kids

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➤ London Design Museum’s new home is a wow!

 Design Museum, Deyan Sudjic, Kensington, John Pawson, Architecture, London

New home for the Design Museum: The former Commonwealth Institute’s hyperbolic paraboloid roof brings elegance and light to the museum. (Photographed by Shapersofthe80s)

TODAY THE UK’S WORLD-CLASS DESIGN MUSEUM under director Deyan Sudjic opened its doors at an inspirational new home in Kensington. Founded in 1989, the museum has spent 26 years at Shad Thames, near Tower Bridge, though the collection began in the pioneering Boilerhouse Project, located at the V&A museum as the brainwave of Britain’s giant influence on all things designed, Sir Terence Conran. There, the project mounted 20 exhibitions during its life from 1982 to 86 with the aim of helping to explain what design is to a non-specialist audience.

That ethos continues to deliver its visually stunning message in the former Commonwealth Institute, a listed 1962 building designed by modernist champion Robert Matthew, the elegance of which speaks for itself. John Pawson, a perfectionist and minimalist British architectural designer, led the £80-million remodelling of the redundant Kensington building and has worked miracles beneath the controversial hyperbolic paraboloid copper roof which dominates the sparse interior void. Here newly won access to daylight creates vistas that constantly reward the eye as you move from one balcony to another. The museum enjoys three times more space than its previous home.

Click any pic below to launch slideshow:


Signage is minimal so you have to hunt for further rewards: permanent collections on top floor (Designer Maker User) and in the basement; also upstairs, restaurant and members’ bar. Temporary exhibition space is on the ground floor and future themes will reflect contemporary design in every form from architecture and fashion to graphics, product and industrial design, digital media and transport.

The museum’s collection is an important record of the key designs that have shaped the modern world. It tells the history of mass production, from the manufacturing innovations of the 19th century up to the digital and making revolution of recent years.

This week’s opening exhibition, aptly titled Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World, presents an eclectic selection of baffling displays – “networked sexuality, sentient robots, slow fashion and settled nomads” – which require hard-working captions to explain some of their seemingly tenuous connections to design. Disgracefully, the museum has over-charged for admission, as if sponsors could not have shouldered the £14-per-head ticket price. Yes, £14! Major own goal for an opener.

Boilerhouse Project, Terence Conran, V&A , Design Museum,Kensington, Architecture, London

First Boilerhouse Project exhibition, Art and Industry, at the V&A: The origins of the Design Museum lie with the collection begun in 1982, which included this Mobil petrol pump designed by Eliot Noyes in 1968

➢ Fear and Love runs at the Design Museum until 23 April 2017. Tickets £14. Otherwise free 10–18h daily

➢ The story of designing London’s Design Museum

CONSTRUCTION DURING 2015:

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➤ Escape to the Nightlifers’ Shangri-la just in time for Christmas

Animal Nightlife, Andy Polaris, soul music, jazz, pop group,London, Andy Polaris,nightclubbing,Shangri-la, CD

Cool-hunters 1985: the Animal Nightlife lineup who charted with their album Shangri-la. . . Billy Chapman, Paul Waller, Andy Polaris, Leonardo Chignoli and Steve Brown

REMEMBER SNAKE-HIPPED ANDY POLARIS, frontman for Animal Nightlife, the soul/jazz/pop socialist collective who emerged from London’s cool clubbing scene and charted with Native Boy in 1983? This week their debut album Shangri-la is re-issued in a deluxe two-CD edition, having charted in summer 1985 only on vinyl.

Andy says: “It comes with a bonus disc of remixes and a great booklet with retro photos of the band in its two phases. Just in time for Christmas. The vinyl album has long been deleted and since then a very poor compilation of songs was released. The re-issue’s  tracks consist of the album in its original form and a second CD containing other singles and extended remixes that were only available on 12-inch before.” Lois Wilson supplies some nicely informed sleeve notes identifying Animal Nightlife’s role as innovators when the UK’s thriving underground changed the face of nightclubbing.

Managed by Steve Lewis, London’s coolest club deejay in the Beat Route’s heyday, Nightlife’s swing sound with an electronic twist enjoyed its moment as the hippest trend in music while Polaris penned his own brand of torch song and the band wore head-to-foot styles from Bolshevik bolshieness to Johnson’s jazz-age retro. Rabid clubbers must remember how Nightlife’s crazy animalettes and animalads went through about 35 line-up changes during their eight years on the scene, sadly scoring only four chart singles. For some band members, good times tended to take precedence over naked ambition in those highly competitive years when British acts were storming international pop charts.

“Just listen to the Pink Panther style
saxophone of instrumental Basic Ingredients
and try not to lose yourself momentarily
in another world, a better world even”
First review (7/10) by Loz Etheridge

By 1985 the band had slimmed down to the five-piece pictured on the CD cover. They consisted of Andy Polaris (vocals), Leonardo Chignoli (bass), Paul Waller (drums), Steve Brown (guitar) and Billy Chapman (playing a thrilling saxophone). After switching from the finger-snappy Innervision label to supercool Island Records, they were all packed off to Philadelphia where the first album was recorded at the legendary home of Philly World Records.

“The label wanted a bit more discipline from us,” Andy says, “and they sent us to America to get us out of our element and into the hands of those seasoned veterans who’d created the fabled Philly sound. We five working-class boys from London were wide-eyed and just did everything they told us. It paid off, because our producer Dennis Weinreich helped create an urban jazzy feel that translated after our sojourn at Philly World into a more sophisticated British club sound.”

❑ Standout track on the second Shangri-la CD of lost mixes is reggae producer Dennis Bovell’s version of Native Boy. Whoever’s on vibes – “mm, nice”.

➢ Shangri-la is cheaper direct from Cherry Red records (plus quick delivery)

➢ Definitive yet unofficial Animal Nightlife band history created online by Mike Albiston, a fan who remembers their last gig and senses something’s afoot that might require a web update

➢ Catch Andy Polaris’s reminiscences in the recent BBC doc Boy George’s 1970s: Save Me From Suburbia

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Animal Nightlife as part of the second wave of 80s image bands

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➤ Sotheby’s first David Bowie art auction raises twice the expected total sales figure

Frank Auerbach, Sotheby’s, Bowie/Collector, auction

At Sotheby’s Bowie/Collector auction tonight: the pop star’s favourite painting, Frank Auerbach’s portrait Head of Gerda Boehm, eventually went for went for £3.35m. (Screengrab from Sotheby’s live webcast)

PART 1 OF THE BOWIE/COLLECTOR SALE saw its 47 modern and contemporary artworks raise £24m tonight – just over twice the total of top prices estimated by Sotheby’s the auctioneer in advance. So the “Bowie premium” added to market prices for the privilege of owning a memento of the pop icon’s personal collection averaged 105% (with wild extremes either side).

Bowie/Collector, Sothebys, Frank Auerbach

Bowie’s inspiration: Auerbach’s Head of Gerda Boehm (Sotheby)

Most suspenseful bidding came for Bowie’s favourite painting, the Frank Auerbach portrait that the pop star said set his mood every day when he rose: Head of Gerda Boehm was estimated at best to sell for £500k but eventually went for £3.35m when a new bidder popped up at the £2m mark and staged a fight to the end.

As might have been expected, two Jean-Michel Basquiat works went for roughly two-thirds more than best estimates – £2m for an Untitled collage and £6.2m for his large acrylic Air Power. The final lot, a Damien Hirst spin painting on which Bowie collaborated, sold for £625k (top estimate £350k). Hirst’s other work, Untitled Fish For David, 1995, sold for £150k (top estimate £60,000).

Sadly the handful of works that didn’t even reach their low estimates included an exquisite Wyndham Lewis collage, a Paolozzi bronze, a rich Picabia portrait in oil, and a Bomberg townscape in oil. Among many moments of high-speed amusement that enlivened the event was the auctioneer’s unique pronunciation of Lytton Strachey’s name, which suggested this was the first time he’d come across it.

➢ Two more sales of 300 artworks owned by Bowie continue at Sotheby’s London through Friday, live online

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Bowie’s passionate eye for art proves to be not bad at all

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Bowie’s taste in art: respectable, with bargains to be had at Sotheby’s auction

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➤ Bowie’s taste in art: respectable, with bargains to be had at Sotheby’s auction

Damien Hirst, David Bowie, Sotheby's, auction, contemporary art,

Damien Hirst, Untitled Fish For David, 1995, est £40,000–60,000 – From the Young British Artist who preserved an adult tiger shark in a giant tank, this gift from Damien Hirst to David Bowie contains a tiny 2-inch fish in formaldehyde, as “a profound inquiry into human existence”. Here displayed at Sotheby’s London, reflecting and refracting other art in the saleroom. (Photography © Shapersofthe80s)

BEFORE THE AUCTION OF DAVID BOWIE’S ART at Sotheby’s, treat yourself to the free exhibition of 350 works owned by the pop star who died this year. His eclectic taste embraces pop art, Damien Hirst, German expressionism, Tintoretto, Surrealism, Contemporary African, a chess set by Man Ray, a couple of Duchamps, and much primary coloured contemporary furniture from Italy’s Memphis Group (which occupies much of Part 3 of the sale, dedicated to Design). The auction represents about half of Bowie’s entire art collection which he admitted to buying obsessively over 30 years. The evidence is that he had a sharp eye.

What’s surprising is the number of eminently collectable smaller items being offered at affordable prices which are bound to attract first-timers to next week’s three sales – all offering online bidding. Painted tabletop sculptures in aluminium by Ivor Abrahams are priced at a few hundred pounds, his bronze sculptures at perhaps £1,500. Ceramic plates decorated by Picasso and Cocteau are priced at just over a thousand and there’s even Sir Stanley Spencer’s artist’s palette for £2,000. Having toured the Bowie exhibition highlights to New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, Sotheby’s is geared up for long-distance bidding.

Click any pic below to enlarge and launch slideshow


The full set now on display makes an engaging and mischievous show, crammed with paintings and sculpture that may not be masterpieces, as the BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz has noted [video below], but by and large represent good examples from highly regarded artists. In light of which, many of Sotheby’s estimated starting prices seem temptingly low.

Frances Christie, head of its Modern & Post-War British Art Department, explained why they have to apply prevailing market prices: “It’s hard to quantify what the ‘Bowie effect’ might be. We have to take into account market precedents, so for example, the world record for Peter Lanyon’s work is £370k. The Lanyon painting Trevalgan in the sale is not as well known so we have priced it at about £250k, which I think is fair. The range of our estimates can only be a guide.”

“David was like a child, childish and childlike
when he came to see me in the studio and we made
a giant spin painting together” – Damien Hirst

Frances is pleased that as a collector Bowie favoured 20th-century British modernists and, with some prices starting in the low thousands, this sale might help spread the word abroad for names such as Gill, Wadsworth, Bomberg, Minton, Nevinson, Wyndham Lewis, Hitchens, Tunnard, Armitage, Chadwick, Kossoff, not forgetting Moore, Sutherland, Auerbach and Scott.

Gompertz remarked: “Bowie’s taste appears to have been fairly conservative but very specific. He liked the art that came from the same place as him: mid-20th-century UK. It is art that you could argue shared his philosophy, a philosophy that went on to shape his aesthetic. It is art that questioned, that was preoccupied with the surface, that had many sides; that never quite settled. Art that performed.”

Just totting up the top estimates for the 47 Modern and Contemporary works in Part 1 of Sotheby’s sale – which stars Francis Picabia, Damien Hirst, Patrick Caulfield and Jean-Michel Basquiat – could yield £11.6million. How the “Bowie premium” might inflate these auctioneer’s estimated prices is what promises to keep us on our toes throughout Thursday and Friday.

painting, David Bowie, Sotheby's, auction, contemporary art, Memphis Group, Paul Feiler

Bowie/Collector in a nutshell: Paul Feiler, Horizontal Blue + Sienna, 1960, oil on board, est £30,000–50,000. Right, painting by Ian McKever (est £3k), plus bronzes by Denis Mitchell (est from £5k), Memphis table by Sottsass (est £3k)

➢ The Bowie/Collector exhibition is free, unticketed and open to all at Sotheby’s, Bond Street, until noon on Thursday 10 Nov, 2016

➢ Potential buyers must register in advance for the three auctions. All offer ticketed admission to the saleroom, online bidding (BIDnow), absentee bidding or telephone bidding. Incidentally, the web catalogue contains much extra information about selected works, as well as condition reports for all.

➢ BBC arts editor Will Gompertz appraises David Bowie’s taste in art

➢ On video – Working with Bowie: an insight into an incredible mind, by his curators

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