Review Archive

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SIXTEEN SHADES OF CRAZY – RACHEL TREZISE

‘Sixteen Shades of Crazy’ is a very well written book about people who live in the valleys - and aimed at people who want to escape the valleys.

WARNING: May contain traces of bias and distain.

Rachel Trezise’s ‘Sixteen Shades of Crazy’ is set in the remote South Wales valleys village of Aberalaw, centred around the lives of Ellie, Rhiannon and Sian – three WAGS of a wannabe punk band called ‘The Boobs’ – whose lives are about to change forever when a drug-dealing Englishman named Johnny arrives at the village – where nobody ever arrives and nobody ever leaves.

Ellie is the rivulet through which we gain the greatest perspective of valleys life; an aspirant music journalist who dreams of one day leaving the valleys – a desire often trodden-on by Rhiannon. Ellie becomes infatuated with Johnny; he is someone with whom she can at last discuss politics and culture.  She begins to re-discover pieces of her former self – a lost identity that the valleys had sucked the life out of long ago.

You’d have to have survived, or escaped the South Wales valleys to appreciate the startlingly accurate scene that Rachel Trezise paints in ‘Sixteen Shades of Crazy’; a colourless socio-cultural backcloth that is out of touch with the modern world; a festering pool of bigotry, racism and resentment of anything, or anyone deemed nonconformist.

More evident than Trezise’s apparent odium for the valleys is the recurring feminist spin – the men in this book are all bastards (except Marc who is punished for it by being coupled with a gob-shite). The feminist undercurrent emerges quite early when Trezise remarks that women wear the trousers in relationships because valleys men are, ‘too dozy for domestic altercations’. She’s right, though; there are new-born baboons more Machiavellian than most valleys boys.

Periodically, I found ‘Sixteen Shades of Crazy’ to be a little too close-to-home – and not just the bit where Ellie reveals to Rhiannon that she knows when Andy wants sex because he brushes his teeth with an electric toothbrush. The abrupt familiarity of the characters sometimes made my skin crawl; I felt like an atheist reading the Bible in church to reaffirm his raison d’être.

‘Sixteen Shades of Crazy’ is a very well written book about people who live in the valleys – and aimed at people who want to escape the valleys. This may be a bias opinion on my part, but twenty seven years of living among the same stereotypes and self-parodies found in Trezise’s book does that to a person – just like it did to Ellie.

If you want the tenacious perspective of a writer who has lived in the valleys, buy ‘Sixteen Shades of Crazy’. If you want to be hoodwinked into believing we all wear Dai Caps, sing a lot and find jobs that match our surnames, buy How Green was my Valley.

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THE ORB & DAVID GILMOUR – METALLIC SPHERES

Post-rave day-trippers team up with prog-rock Godfather.

David Gilmour and part-time Orb turncoat, Martin “Youth” Glover had initially joined talents to collaborate on a version of Graham Nash’s Chicago for a charity project in late 2009.  During the subsequent recording sessions and remixes at Glover’s house – in the company of The Orb’s Alex Patterson – the collaborators became increasingly immersed in the music and went on to record an entire album called Metallic Spheres.

Metallic Spears harks back to the old school concept albums of the 70’s; consisting of two ‘sides’ – the Metallic side and Spheres side. It measures in at roughly 20 minutes each side – roughly the same length as a slice of vintage vinyl.  Each side is composed of five conspicuously intertwined ‘movements’ that will no doubt throw the mp3 generation into shuffles of confusion because there are no individual tracks to download. The movements are so seamlessly melded together that the CD version plays like one long, pleasing opus – with no obvious bridges that separate movements or sides.

The Metallic Slide side of the album features lush guitar layers trickling through oceans and forest Foleys to a hypnotic groove that gradually evolves into a voyeuristic journey through time and space. The coherent drum beats fade away into the void leaving the Floydian strings of David Gilmour and playful samples of Alex Patterson to ebb and flow between Martin Glover’s haunting swells and chords – that sound remarkably similar to the late Richard Wright in places.  It is difficult not to draw comparisons between Metallic Spheres and Pink Floyd; with the latter part of the Metallic Slide falling into the ‘Echoes’ category.

The Spheres side of the album has a more tribal and purposeful timbre. Gilmour’s breathy strums gradually sink deeper into the resonant mix to be replaced by subtle layers of angelic vocals – that could have easily been plucked straight from Pink Floyd’s Live in Pompeii. In contradiction to the Metallic side, the rigid drums carry the momentum through to the end where a concluding symphonic arrangement builds to a crescendo fit for an Olympic closing ceremony – complete with double-decker busses, flying pigs, and a trippy laser show.

A big selling point of Metallic Spheres is the voice and guitar of Pink Floyd: David Gilmour. Such is his style that he only needs a single string to exude poignancy and mood. On Metallic Spheres, Gilmour’s sublime notes weave themselves soulfully in the mix; reverberating across the sound waves like whale song in a deep, blue ocean.  This is signature David Gilmour: simplicity over complexity; understated and sensational. The album does feature some of his recorded Chicago vocals, which is my only criticism:  David Gilmour can hold a note; it’s just a shame that on Metallic Spheres he doesn’t.

Metallic Spheres is arguably the warmest album that The Orb has produced this century. David Gilmour effortlessly utilizes his electric and lap steel guitars to complement the mélange of beats, chords and rich samples. Alex Patterson’s transient dubs and samples, combined with Martin Glover’s expansive chords, wraps the listener in a blanket of tried and tested ambient house that drifts across meandering cosmic landscapes, lush terrains and audible pools not too distant from Vangelis or Jean Michael Jarre.

This coalition of the ages between Gilmour, Patterson and Glover is a very pleasing and rewarding journey, but it is best suited to the genre enthusiast.  It is unlikely that anyone who tunes in to watch cheesy karaoke singers murder good songs in front of an X-Factor audience is going to be moved by Metallic Spheres.  For anybody who thinks that The Orb is the new Blackberry phone, or that Pink Floyd is a two-for-one cocktail, my advice would be to stick with the mainstream and buy the latest Scouting for Girls album. For ambient explorers and acid refugees, Metallic Spheres is a dreamer’s tangerine dream.