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July 31 2012

Meltdown 2012: What are you looking forward to?

The Antony Hegarty-curated Meltdown festival begins this week. Here's a look ahead to some of the programme highlights

This year's Meltdown festival at the Southbank Centre in London is curated by the musician and visual artist Antony Hegarty. He first emerged from the New York underground scene with Antony and the Johnsons in 1998 and shot to prominence with the Mercury prize-winning album I am a Bird Now.

Since then, critical acclaim has followed each of his projects including the albums The Crying Light and Swanlights. He's also collaborated with several other musicians and performance artists. Here are some things coming up ...

Antony Hegarty: "We need more oestrogen-based thinking"

As Antony Hegarty prepares to curate this year's Meltdown event in London, he talks about the artists who have had the greatest influence on his life and career – and why "future feminism" will make the world a better place

Q&As with Joan as Police Woman, Lou Reed and Kim Cattrall

We've got lots of great interviews with members of the Meltdown lineup for you to read. There's Joan As Police Woman talking about the political side of Antony's music and the new songs she's written especially for the festival. There's Lou Reed praising the inventive Meltdown lineup and Kim Cattrall giving us a sneak preview of her speech on Cleopatra. There are also Q&As with Marina Abramović and Marc Almond too, not to mention a great Dorian Lynskey piece on the New York artists of the 70s and 90s who walked on the wild side.

Antony's Guardian music site takeover

For more Antony-related goodies, and to get more of an idea of some of the wonderful artists he's booked for the festival, head back to October 2010 when he took over the Guardian's music site. There's an interview with Björk, an audio slideshow of Antony's art and a mind-boggling piece of performance art as Claywoman pays tribute to Christopher Hitchens. Antony also commissioned our New Band of the Day series for the week, highlighting the work of artists on the Meltdown bill such as The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black.

Elizabeth Fraser: "I'm so excited to have made this decision to perform"

Since the Cocteau Twins split 15 years ago, their otherworldly singer has lived a quiet life in Bristol. But in August, as part of Hegarty's Meltdown festival, the one-time darling of the music press will sing her own songs for the first time this century. So what prompted her change of heart?

Meltdown 2012 Spotify playlist

To mark his Meltdown, London's Southbank Centre has put together the playlist below, which you can listen to if you have Spotify. It features several artists already announced for the festival, including the ex-Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser.

The South Bank's Meltdown playlist: listen on Spotify

Meltdown – share your thoughts

We'll be heading to as many corners of Meltdown as we can manage but, of course, what we want to know most is how it's been for you.
If you're tweeting then tag your tweets #MeltdownFest and ensure we see them by posting to @GuardianMusic. We'll be publishing the best ones. You can also leave all your comments, reviews and wild opinions here on our open thread.

The Observer is Meltdown's media partner, and there's much more coverage here.


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June 28 2012

Martin Creed: Love to You – review

(Moshi Moshi)

Better known as the artist-provocateur responsible for winning the 2001 Turner Prize for lights going on and off in an empty room, Martin Creed's musical forays are much beloved of the Cribs and Franz Ferdinand, and you can hear why. The Glaswegian employs similar frenetic, jagged guitars, although the way his ramshackle pop teeters on the edge of chaos is more reminiscent of the very early Mekons. Creed's songwriting avoids conventional structures but emerges with quirky tunes, over which he ponders life's daily grind with titles such as What's The Point of It? and Die. The title track is beautifully wistful, and I Can't Move finds him layering vowels, like a painting done with sound. Such minor gems alternate with more provocative short statements. The deliberately irritating Fuck Off is like being harangued by a drunk, and will surely be responsible for one or two scratched heads and grumblings of "Is this art?"

Rating: 3/5


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March 31 2012

Spring arts calendar 2012

From Snow White to Jack White, and Cumbria to Cannes, the Observer's critics pick the season's highlights. What are you most looking forward to? Post your comments below

Download the spring arts calendar 2012

April

2 Pop Dr John The New Orleans legend decamps to Nashville to record with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach; excellence ensues on the Locked Down LP.

4 Art Damien Hirst The world's richest living artist enjoys a major survey of more than 20 years of his work, including medicine cabinets, diamond skull and a certain preserved shark. Tate Modern, London until 9 September.

6 Film This Must Be the Place Sean Penn plays a retired rock star scouring America for the fugitive Nazi who tormented his father in Auschwitz. Paolo Sorrentino escapes from the art house in his first English-language film.

7 Theatre Where Have I Been All My Life? Following the success of London Road, her verbatim musical at the National, Alecky Blythe documents a local talent show for the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Until 28 April.

11 Art Hans-Peter Feldmann A retrospective for the German conceptual artist whose work since the 1950s has involved collecting and re-presenting everyday cultural artefacts. Serpentine Gallery, London until 3 June.

11 Dance A Streetcar Named Desire Scottish Ballet unite choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and theatre director Nancy Meckler in a new take on Tennessee Williams's psychodrama. Theatre Royal Glasgow until 14 April, and touring.

12 Theatre The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning Before he was a WikiLeaks whistleblower, Bradley Manning was a schoolboy in Wales, and this National Theatre of Wales production is staged in his old Haverfordwest school before transferring to two other Welsh venues. Until 28 April.

13 Theatre Wild Swans Jung Chang's international bestseller charting the incredible lives of three generations of women in China takes to the stage. Young Vic, London until 13 May.

16 Classical Bruckner Project Daniel Barenboim (conductor) and his Berlin Staatskapelle orchestra return to London for Bruckner's three final symphonies, 7, 8 and 9, paired with Barenboim as soloist in two Mozart piano concertos. At the Royal Festival Hall, London for three nights.

19 Dance Artifact Set to the music of Bach and danced here by the impeccable Royal Ballet of Flanders is the subversive new-dance master piece of the American choreographer William Forsythe. Sadler's Wells, London until 21 April.

20 Theatre Sea Odyssey The Sultan's Elephant entranced us in 2006; now Royal de Luxe take over Liverpool city centre with 50-foot marionettes for a street spectacular marking 100 years since the Titanic's maiden voyage. Until 22 April.

20 Art Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art More than 130 artists, including 2009 Turner prize-winner Richard Wright, show work over 18 days at this major visual art festival in Glasgow, now in its fifth edition. Until 7 May.

23 Pop Jack White Jack White's debut solo album, Blunderbuss, is every bit as tremendous as you would hope from this restless former Stripe. There's a new colour scheme – blue – and his touring outfit (coming to the UK 21-24 June) features one all-male band and an all-female counterpart. The album, though, doesn't need gimmicks to sell it. Replete with waltzes, ballads, pianos, bravura guitar solos and troublesome women, it finds the newly-divorced White on energetic, mischievous form.

25 Art Out of Focus Major show featuring 38 photographers, including Ryan McGinley, Mat Collishaw, John Stezaker and Yumiko Utsu, who challenge the received rules of the medium. Saatchi Gallery, London until 22 July.

27 Film Albert Nobbs In a role she created on stage 30 years ago, Glenn Close plays a cross-dressing hotel waiter in Victorian Dublin. Close also co-wrote the script with novelist John Banville. Both she and Janet McTeer were Oscar-nominated for the film.

28 Classical Monteverdi's Vespers 1610 The great Italian choral masterpiece associated with St Mark's, Venice takes over the galleries and balconies of Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow for full spatial effect. The Dunedin Consort hold court.

May

1 Classical Vale of Glamorgan Festival Taking place in spring not autumn for the first time, this contemporary music festival celebrates Gavin Bryars, Philip Glass at 75 and more, across several venues in Cardiff. Until 11 May.

2 Theatre The Rest is Silence Site-specific company dreamthinkspeak kick off this year's Brighton festival with a "meditation on Shakespeare's Hamlet". Expect labyrinthine adventure. Malthouse Estate Warehouse, Shoreham until 27 May.

3 Design Bauhaus: Art As Life A big show of a big school: before the Nazis closed it down, the Bauhaus led the way in defining modern architecture, design and art. Barbican, London until 10 August.

6 Pop Grimes Canadian synth darling Claire Boucher brings her Visions album – already one of the year's most talked-about – out to play in Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Manchester. Until 10 May.

8 Theatre Babel Wildworks, the Cornish creators of last year's acclaimed Port Talbot production of The Passion starring Michael Sheen, stage an outdoor event inspired by the biblical story of Babel. A collaboration with four London theatres involving 500-plus people, this epic show explores what happens when the scattered tribes are called back. Caledonian Park, London N1 until 20 May.

10 Dance Snow White With costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier and music by Mahler, Angelin Preljocaj's darkly adult take on the Grimms' fairytale promises a very sophisticated pleasure indeed. Sadler's Wells, London until 12 May.

10 Pop The Great Escape This Brighton powwow has become a nigh-on unmissable appointment with every new band going. Until 12 May.

11 Film Dark Shadows In Tim Burton's film version of the camp gothic American TV sitcom, an 18th-century vampire (Johnny Depp) is unleashed on the year 1972.

12 Classical LSO and Valery Gergiev The London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev brave evening traffic to play Trafalgar Square for the first time with The Rite of Spring. "The acoustics will be a challenge," says Gergiev.

16 Film Cannes Film Festival Wes Anderson's new film Moonrise Kingdom opens the 65th festival. The Artist's silent march to Oscars success started at Cannes last year – will another winner be unearthed this time round? Until 27 May.

16 Art Bedwyr Williams: My Bad Biggest solo show to date for Williams, whose often hilarious work explores the absurdities of life in his native north Wales. At Ikon, Birmingham until 8 July.

18 Film The Dictator After Borat and Brüno – General Admiral Shabazz Aladeen. Sacha Baron Cohen's newest mock-doc character is the dictator of a fictional Middle Eastern state. Megan Fox appears as a concubine.

20 Art Photographers' Gallery Reopens London's biggest public photography gallery, recently relocated to Oxford Circus, celebrates its £8.9m facelift and extension with an Edward Burtynsky show, until 2 July.

23 Theatre Posh Laura Wade's 2010 Royal Court hit about an elitist Bullingdon Club-style dining institution at Oxford gets a West End transfer to the Duke of York's theatre, London. Until 4 August.

27 Classical King Priam A strong season at the Brighton festival (from 5 May) culminates in this rare chance to hear Tippett's King Priam in concert, performed by the Britten Sinfonia and Brighton Festival Chorus, conductor Sian Edwards.

31 Theatre Wah! Wah! Girls Love against the odds in London's East End drives Sadler's Wells' Bollywood-style musical at the Peacock theatre, directed by Kneehigh's Emma Rice. Until 23 June.

June

1 Design Serpentine Pavilion Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, the team who gave Beijing its Bird's Nest stadium, reunite to build the latest of the Serpentine's annual pavilions. Until 14 October.

1 Film Prometheus; Snow White and the Huntsman Beginning of the summer's blockbusters as Ridley Scott's hotly anticipated Alien prequel goes head-to-head with the Grimm Brothers reworking.

6 Dance Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch Month-long season of 10 works by the late, great German choreographer, each exploring a different world city. Barbican and Sadler's Wells, London. Until 9 July.

7 Classical Opera Holland Park Another mouth-watering seven-opera season opens with Lucia di Lamermoor. Also includes Gianni Schicchi, Eugene Onegin and the family-friendly Fantastic Mr Fox. Holland Park, London W8 until 4 August.

8 Pop No Direction Home New boutique festival from the End of the Road people bringing sounds to north Notts's Welbeck Estate. Richard Hawley, Gruff Rhys and Dirty Three headline. Until 10 June.

15 Film Rock of Ages This adaptation of the Broadway/West End smash, a musical constructed around rock anthems, stars a bewigged and mostly topless Tom Cruise as fictional headbanger Stacee Jaxx.

15 Pop Plan B in the Forest The Forestry Commission lures various artists into the trees every year, but urban crooner Ben Drew is probably the most surprising sylvan songsmith yet. Until 7 July.

18 Theatre Kiss Me, Kate Trevor Nunn returns to Chichester Festival theatre for its 50th anniversary, directing Cole Porter's feisty musical based on The Taming of the Shrew. Until 1 September.

19 Art Yoko Ono: To The Light Major London retrospective will include a project called Smile, in which Ono invites people worldwide to email a photograph of their own smile. Serpentine, London until 9 September.

21 Pop Bruce Springsteen The Boss has never been more pumped than on his recent album. Join his tour-cum-rally. Until 24 June

21 Theatre Lakes Alive Les Commandos Percus follow up the arrival of the Olympic torch in Windermere, Cumbria earlier that evening with On the Night Shift, a theatrical lakeside firework display set to music at Glebe recreation ground.

22 Classical Stour Music This tiny 'festival of music in East Kent' held in a beautiful church on the pilgrim route to Canterbury has lured star countertenor Andreas Scholl. Until 1 July.

22 Film Killer Joe Directed by William "The Exorcist" Friedkin, this dark, pulpy film about a murderous cop (Matthew McConaughey) was the talk of last year's Venice and Toronto festivals.

23 Pop Radio 1's Hackney Weekender Hackney's famed football fields play host to a 48-hour Premier league of pop. Jay-Z leads the roll call of international talent, with Lana Del Rey, Jack White and Azealia Banks in defence. The cream of British pop, R&B and hip-hop are represented too (Tinie Tempah, Florence Welch, Emeli Sandé). Best of all it's free. Hackney Marshes, London E9 until 24 June.

24 Pop Nicki Minaj With her Roman Reloaded LP fresh out of the blocks, hip-hop's firecracker is set to dazzle London, Birmingham and Manchester. Until 28 May.

25 Classical The Trojans Berlioz's ambitious masterpiece, conducted by Antonio Pappano and director David McVicar; starring Jonas Kaufmann, Anna Caterina Antonacci and Eva-Maria Westbroek. ROH's Olympic-season climax. Until 11 July.

25 Classical Dr Dee London premiere at ENO of Damon Albarn's masque-cum-opera about the mysterious Elizabethan magician-philosopher, directed by Rufus Norris with conductor Stephen Higgins. Until 7 July.

28 Art Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye The Norwegian artist's interest in photography and film-making is brought to the fore in this major reassessment of his work. Tate Modern, London until 14 October.

29 Film Friends With Kids In this sophisticated Allenesque New York comedy, actor Jennifer Westfeldt makes her debut as writer-director, co-starring opposite her long-time partner, Mad Men's Jon Hamm.

What are you looking forward to this spring? Post your cultural highlights in the comments section below


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December 22 2011

Readers' gig photos: our Flickr picks – in pictures

Here's our pick of the gig pictures submitted to our Flickr group in the past few days



June 10 2011

Countryside opens up to crossover culture

Guillemots members are among the exhibitors at National Trust's Nunnington Hall, one of the UK's most unlikely cutting-edge galleries

Two miles from the nearest B road, one of the UK's leading indie rock band members pauses, hammer in hand, below a 17th-century roof beam, and admits: "I'm scared."

"I mean, can I really put nails into the walls of a National Trust house dating back hundreds of years?" asks Aristazabal Hawkes of Guillemots, the band that has taken over the ancient manor's top floor.

Busy with his own staple gun and a tough stretch of Yorkshire oak, the manager of Nunnington Hall, Simon Lee, replies: "Sure. Bryan Adams did, and Mary McCartney. Why not Guillemots as well?"

It's an exchange that highlights the extraordinary growth of one of the country's most unlikely cutting-edge galleries, spread across miles of stately home and cream tea country on the edge of the North York Moors.

Not just Nunnington, but an entire, delectable slice of North Yorkshire countryside has joined the contemporary circuit for critics, collectors and anyone interested in "crossover culture" – musicians who paint, artists who sing, sculptors who write and many more.

"It's an exploration of the nature of creativity," says Lee, one of a string of arts commissioners who are bringing well-known names from across the world to nooks such as Nunnington and the former home of Laurence Sterne, nearby Shandy Hall. The curator there, Patrick Wildgust, hosts New York poets, South American intellectuals and European artists at the world's first Centre for Non-Linear Narrative, inspired by Sterne's erratic masterpiece Tristram Shandy.

"There seems to be something restless about creativity," says Fyfe Dangerfield, founder of Guillemots, which has been nominated for Mercury and Brit awards. He is equally busy with tape and glue as the band's exhibition goes up in a corridor and two rooms at Nunnington. "Some people argue that it can be narrow – a well-developed ear, for instance, may mean less visual awareness. But we find that music, doodling, taking photographs and making films all play a part in what Guillemots wants to do."

A noted classical music composer as well as Guillemots' lead singer, Dangerfield was talent-spotted for his drawings by Lee. After increasing Nunnington's annual visitor numbers to 65,000 with photograph shows by Adams and McCartney, as well as Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood and Andy Summers of the Police, Lee was surfing Guillemots' website and clicked on their gallery of artwork.

"I thought: this is good stuff and very much in our line of discovering other creative sides to people known for one talent," says Lee. "To put it crudely, if you cut off a guitarist's hand, what are the odds that they would find another medium to express themselves?"

Guillemots members were initially fazed by the invitation. "I thought it might be a wind-up," said Dangerfield, "but then I suggested extending it to the whole of the band, and it's fascinating what's come out."

Hawkes is exhibiting family photographs and collages of concert wristbands, backstage passes and the like; MC Lord Magrão screens a 10-minute film noir; and the fourth band member, Greig Stewart, who says his closest public brush with art was being hugged by Damien Hirst at a drunken Groucho Club bash, has clay sculpture and wall-hangings.

Visitors to the hall keep dropping in on the hanging sessions; with one demanding the "disgusting music" to Magrão's film be switched off, but others intrigued by the crossover theme. Retired teachers Judy and Eric Murphy from Sheffield chimed with Dangerfield's 'restless notion', saying: "We've always liked Guillemots and got their first album, but this looks as though it's going to tell us a whole lot more about them."

The exhibition runs from 14 June to the end of July, after which Lee will Polyfilla and revarnish his attics while planning Nunnington's next contribution to the wider countryside gallery programme.

"There's no problem getting busy or famous people to come here," he said, "because it's one of the loveliest parts of England. And they appreciate being asked. If anyone says, 'Who do they think they are?' or 'It's all rubbish', the answer is that we invited them; they didn't push to come."


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February 19 2010

Nights at the museum

For one night only, the feral indie crew are to transform the esteemed art institution into a 'kinetic, psychedelic' jungle

Animal Collective are to take over New York's Solomon R Guggenheim museum, transforming the art gallery into a "kinetic, psychedelic" installation. The Brooklyn trance-pop gang will collaborate with artist Danny Perez for a one-night-only exhibition, Transverse Temporal Gyrus.

The 4 March event is part of the Guggenheim's 50th anniversary celebrations. After gigs by Yeasayer and Paul Banks last autumn, and one whole day with free museum admission, the gallery will now see its rotunda turned over to the architects of Merriweather Post Pavilion. Their creative partner, film-maker Danny Perez, worked on the band's videos for Who Could Win a Rabbit and Summertime Clothes, and directed their new art-film, ODDSAC.

"One of the things that you notice almost immediately in the jungle are the birds," Animal Collective wrote about the installation. "What are they saying? Does each variation serve a purpose? Why are there repetitions? Is there a pattern or is that just your imagination?" Over the course of Transverse Temporal Gyrus – and across space and time! – the group aim to provoke similar questions. To this end they will use video projections, costumes, props and original recorded music.

"As New Yorkers we are all familiar with the everyday noise around us – the car alarms, the subway trains braking, the music in bars ... Do we not realise how these sounds are affecting us? How they make us feel or act? With this in mind we wanted to create an environment where people could take some time to listen to other kinds of sounds and get away from those familiar sounds of the city. Keeping in mind the birds of the jungle, we've created an array of sounds with Animal Collective's music that is seemingly random – or is it?"

Visitors to the exhibition will be free to explore the group's "mysterious hideaway", wandering over the museum's ramps and across its open spaces. All this, Animal Collective promise, will help to "to unite [our sounds] with the inside of your brain". We just hope it doesn't hurt.

Tickets to the exhibition go on sale this morning at 10am EST.


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