In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. — Margaret Atwood
Yes the doors into the Green Man Pub from the stone patio outside Kinrowan Hall have been open since mid morning as it’s both warm and sunny out, a refreshing change from the stormy weather we’ve been having. And the inhabitants here have been all lending their help to the annual task of cleaning out the Winter debris from the flower beds that surround this building.
We’re also doing the annual repotting of all the house plants that are resident here — hundreds of pots holding everything from bromeliads that need bigger pots to the ivy that hangs thickly from the shelves on either side of the windows here in the Pub. If you look through that ivy to your left, you’ll see a number of greenman representations ensconced there.
What’s that music I’m playing? That’s Skara Brae’s ‘Casadh Cam na Feadarnaigne’ recorded off the soundboard at Dunlewey Lakeside Centre, just after New Years fourteen years ago. It’s a superb concert that never got released officially but that recording is fairly widespread these days. Now let’s see what we’ve got for you…
Most of us know Brian Froud of Dark Crystal and Labyrinth fame, but Mia introduces us to his wife, an artist in her own right: ‘Wendy Froud’s The Art of Wendy Froud is an 80 page art book, a collection of examples of her amazing faerie and mythic sculptures and her musings on the nature of her work. More than that, it’s an adventure for the reader, as every page brings new and amazing images to awaken the imagination.’
Another artist get an appreciated look by Jack in his review of Michael Babcock’s Susan Seddon Boulet — A Retrospective: ‘Pomegranate has done the art world and its often not terribly bright chroniclers a service by showing what a truly great retrospective is. From the quality of the printing job, which is superb, to the text by Babcock which is both well-written and intelligent, this is one of the best books of its kind that I’ve ever read. It will certainly have a treasured spot in our collection of art books!’
Given the preponderance of books featuring images this week, it’s only fitting that we see Robert’s reaction to Joseph Campbell’s The Flight of the Wild Gander, which is, after all, ultimately about images: ‘The Flight of the Wild Gander is a series of essays produced betwen 1944 and 1968 in which Campbell was, he says, “circling, and from many quarters striving to interpret, the mystery of mythology.” The “mystery,” as comes clear as one reads, is that of the origins, dissemination, and meaning of the archetypes of human myth.’
And guess what: we just happen to have on hand a review of The Secret Sketchbooks of Brian Froud. How’s that for a nice balancing act? Robert says: ‘I suppose there might be someone, somewhere, who has never heard of Brian Froud. He was already gaining a reputation as an illustrator of books for children when his distinctive vision was brought to a wider audience through his designs for the films The Dark Crystal in 1978 and Labyrinth in 1986, both directed by Jim Henson. His first collaboration with Alan Lee, Faeries, published in 1978, set the course for his future work, which has garnered him a number of awards, including a Hugo in 1995. The rest, as they say, is history.’
Michael has a double bill for your viewing pleasure: ‘Some of the greatest fantasy movies in recent memory have come from the incomparable, unbeatable, and sadly never to be repeated collaborations of Jim Henson and Brian Froud. Take the magical madness of Henson’s muppets and the bizarre mythic imagery of Froud’s faeries, throw in some special effects and superb actors, and you get two of the best-loved fantasy movies of the 1980s, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.’
Denise takes a look at culture. Well, cultured food that is. As in probiotics, fermentation and the like. Michelle Schoffro Cook’s The Cultured Cook is more than a recipe book, it’s a look at how these foods interact with our bodies. But don’t think this book is too scientific for you: ‘What I like best about this book? It’s not scary. I like to keep my scares in my fiction reading, thank you. Each recipe is easy to understand, with less than ten ingredients per item – most with five or less – and the instructions are simple.’
Cat (the Cat also known as ‘The Chief’) has a look at Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency, a comic series that starts to seem frighteningly real: ‘Global Frequency is a organisation devoted to combating those incidents that are too extreme, too weird, or just too dangerous for the usual first responders to handle. Funded by the mysterious Amanda Zero, it consists of exactly one thousand and one agents, all of whom are specialists in something, say, for example, bioweapons or taking out snipers.’
Lars is pleasantly surprised by this recording: ‘Why was I taken by surprise by Himmerland’s The Spider in the Fiddle? Firstly, Denmark is full of good music, and Danish groups are constantly producing lovely music. Secondly, I have twice before discovered new favourite groups with Ditte Fromseier in. First there was Flax in Bloom, a group that never recorded but in concert turned out smooth Irish music, then Habbadam, a trio playing traditional music from Fromseier’s native Danish island of Bornholm. Habbadam’s albums still get played in my stereo.’
Gary reviews the new release from folk duo Anna & Elizabeth, The Invisible Comes to Us. He says ‘on their third full-length, Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt have moved to the forefront of avant-garde folk music.’
Robert brings us back to Nordic music, this time with a Norwegian cast, in Gabriel Fliflet and Ole Hamre’s Eine kleine Kraftmusik: ‘My first reaction to Fliflet and Hamre’s Eine kleine Kraftmusick was to break into laughter from sheer surprise and delight. One forgets, sometimes, how raucously fun-loving Norwegians can be. That is only one point in favor of this collection — one gets a strong sense that the performers take their music very seriously, themselves, not so much so. (And how often does that happen?)’
And another Nordic tradition (it’s actually a Baltic tradition, but we’re sticking with Nordic for now): two collections of choral music, Oslo Kammerkor’s Kyst, Kust, Coast and Voces Nordicae’s Nordic Voices: ‘Together, these two discs offer a good glimpse of the range of choral music in the Nordic countries, from traditional folk songs to thoroughly contemporary choral works. I found them particularly hard to review, simply because I was too absorbed in listening to write anything down.’
Our What Not is on the matter of Complaint Choirs. So you might well be asking ‘What is a complaint choir?’ No, it’s not the musicians in the Neverending Session expressing their annoyance at having to wait too long for a fresh pint of Winter Ale, so go thisaway for the charming tale of them. Yes, charming.
And for our Coda this week — well, Spring is here, so why not go with the obvious choice, especially if you have a high-energy version, complete with bird calls? Presenting Red Priest performing Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons. (Yes, of course we’ve reviewed it.)