Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Mixed Blessings of Celebrity Crushes



The Mixed Blessings of Celebrity Crushes

Written By Casey Douglass

 


Have you got one? One celebrity that seems to light up your life? Maybe you have a handful, a menagerie that rotate around depending on who might be in a current film or TV series? Either way, I seem to have three. At times, they bring escape, solace or pleasant dreams. At other times, they can bring feelings of depression, hopelessness and loneliness. The media seems to portray crushes at only the extremes, the screaming fans passing out at concerts with tears on heir cheeks or the psycho stalker that might break into someone’s home. Most people will almost certainly sit somewhere in the middle, quietly spending the odd minute, film or TV episode lost in wistful thoughts about their crush.

Image © Copyright 20th Century Fox
My first proper celebrity crush was Gillian Anderson, watching her as Dana Scully in the X-Files. I was drawn to her amazing portrayal of strong emotions, particularly in the scenes where Scully was ill with her cancer. She has carried that same talent to other roles, her characters usually strong- willed women that seem quite stern a lot of the time but when they show emotion, it is a revelation. It can be seen in her portrayal of Stella Gibson in The Fall and as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier in Hannibal. Typing that now has just helped me a see a thread to my next celebrity crush. Isn’t it nice when writing is therapeutic as well as satisfying!

Image © Copyright Contender Films
I first saw Eva Green in Bond film Casino Royale as Vesper Lynd and I have to admit that she didn’t particularly register with me. I think the next film I watched her in was Franklyn, the strange and twisted otherworldly drama about unhappy people and their beliefs. In that, Eva played two characters, Emilia and Sally, both showing various sides of her acting ability. Emilia was dark, troubled and creative and I think this character resonated with me in a number of ways, especially in the manic way Eva played her. I have since seen Eva Green in quite a few films and TV shows: 300: Rise of an Empire as the dangerous Artemisia, Sin City 2 as the clothes shy Ava and I am currently enjoying her talents in Penny Dreadful as the troubled Vanessa Ives. When one of Eva’s characters smiles, which seems to be rare, I can’t help smiling back. Eva has that stern-faced quality that I mentioned above, but I always feel her characters are more chaotic and troubled, like a shaken can of fizzy drink, calm on the outside but ready to explode with lots of energy. Ooh, another thread just emerged to the third and final of my celebrity crushes.

Image © Copyright Century Media Records

Cristina Scabbia is an Italian singer from heavy-metal band Lacuna Coil. With Cristina, it was her voice that first tweaked my heart. She is not one to shy from singing at a great range, the low and the high all equally strong and her voice is the stand out thing for me above the metal riffs of the band. Unlike the characters Gillian and Eva portray, Cristina seems an optimistic bundle of energy, bouncing around the stage and painting pictures with her words. Some of that no doubt comes from her being a singer rather than an actress so it is hard to compare, but I wouldn’t be able to call her stern-faced and believe it. When Lacuna Coil came to Norwich, her performance was even more amazing in person. She is also a great person to follow on social media, always tweeting and sharing on Facebook.

So there we have it, the three women I have never met that manage to enchant me and warrant the term “crush”. At times, with my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I can get very low indeed. Having these crushes can sometimes be very helpful, a way to brighten my day even though I know they are just based on 99% fantasy and maybe only 1% of knowing the real person being swooned over. I went through a stage where I had an elaborate fantasy about my writing involving Gillian Anderson, all played out with a play list created from music artists like Chase and Status, Tinie Tempa and Inner Party System on my iPod. It became my escape from my shitty illness, frustrations and other issues, even though I knew that it was probably not helping anything either.

On the other hand, these kinds of crush can just serve to make you feel even more lonely or low. I had a time where I couldn’t stand to listen to that aforementioned play list because it just made the difference between my reality and my fantasy too painful to bear. I have had times where I have bought films featuring Gillian or Eva and then taken months to watch them because I don’t want the bitter-sweet feelings they will probably cause in me. When I saw Lacuna Coil live, I was on a high while being there but was in a hell of a funk for days afterwards, struggling to listen to their Cd's for maybe a month afterwards. This is the downside, and even being aware of what is going on doesn't always immunise you to the downward swing in mood.

I hope that the above doesn't make me sound like an obsessed loser or pathetic dreamer. It’s just really me thinking over what I get out of having celebrities that I can pine over. As you can see above, it’s certainly a mixed bag when it comes to the pros and cons. The thing is, I couldn’t change it if I wanted to. I use my feelings about these people who I know next to nothing about as a guide as to how I am in myself. If I find myself withdrawing from things and thinking about them more, chances are I need to address something in myself. If I don’t think of them much at all, I am probably more engaged with the “real” things in my life. Maybe that’s the most valuable thing I get out of the situation, seeing myself in a celebrity enhanced mirror and knowing what the reflected images mean.

Thank you for reading.



Monday, 29 June 2015

Dark Music Review - Episode

Dark Music Review – Episode

Written by Casey Douglass



A mental journey through unconscious destruction
With recordings from 2013 to 2015.

The “destruction” part of the above album description seems to be the most apt part, the two tracks that make up Sound Awakener’s Episode are raw soundscapes that to some might be simply dismissed as noise. Listening more closely, you can hear the artistry in how the volume, pace and composition of the tracks changes as the time marker moves on. Let’s take a look at the tracks in sequence:

The Tracks:

Episode – Distorted sound that seems to contain various noises. I could hear hints of wind, rattling foil, an engine. Episode is a maelstrom of ebbing and flowing noise that makes the listener feel like they are caught in a digital storm. There are moments where the sound stops totally and then stutters back into life even more violent than before. There are also great reverb type effects that sound a little like an elephant trumpeting in a blizzard.

Stones Turn To Ash – Very harsh distorted static at the start that seems to keep a balanced range. There are hints of other noises but the sheer volume of the main destructive tone leaves me more unsure if they are just audio hallucinations. As the track nears its end, I think I hear a rising and falling tone, like someone tuning a radio or messing around on a theremin.

Thoughts

The first thing I would say is that these are not two tracks for the uninitiated in experimental or noise based recordings. I have been listening to dark ambient and experimental stuff for a good many years now and I can’t really imagine anyone coming to these as their first exposure to this kind of music and coming away impressed. There are certain degrees of nuance that can only be detected by ears acclimatised to these kinds of track so it goes without saying that I don’t recommend these to everyone.
That being said, I enjoyed my time spent listening to them. They have enough quirks and variation to them to keep the interest, and while they might be uncomfortably raw at times (especially the beginning of Stones Turn To Ash), they never quite get to the “Sod this, I can’t take it any more!” level of audio barrage. Of the two tracks, I much preferred Episode. While a fairly desolate track, it had a bit more to it than the wall of sound thrown up by Stones Turn To Ash.
I give the album Episode 3.5/5, mainly due to the enjoyment of one track above the more monotonous second track. Played one after the other, the listener can experience the progression from one to the next and appreciate the more violent second track, which is the main reason my rating isn't nearer 50%. As a snapshot in time and an audio-emotive endeavour, I felt Episode does a good job of encapsulating what a journey through unconscious destruction might just sound like.

Visit the Episode page on Bandcamp at this link for more information.


Album Title: Episode
Artist: Sound Awakener
Release: 18 May 2015

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Dark Game Review - Big Pharma Beta First Look

If your brain enjoys puzzles and business simulations, check out my first look at Big Pharma on Amongst Geeks, a PC game that puts the player in charge of a pharmaceutical company with the job of making as much money as possible. Click here to read the full article.

Image © Copyright Positech Games

Friday, 26 June 2015

Dark Film Review - Jurassic World

If you like dinosaurs chasing rich people, check out my review of Jurassic World on Amongst Geeks here, a polished but semi-predictable addition to the Jurassic Park series.

Image © Copyright Universal Pictures

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Dark Book Review - Gideon Smith and The Brass Dragon

I review book two in David Barnett's Gideon Smith series on Amongst Geeks. Click here to read my full review of Gideon Smith and The Brass Dragon, another fine steampunk alternative history story from David.
Image © Copyright Snowbooks

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Dark Game Review - Kholat

If you are a fan of walking horror games, check out my review of Kholat on Amongst Geeks, a game that has the player roaming snowy mountains with few of the travel system comforts of other games. Read the full review here for more information.

Image © Copyright IMGN.PRO

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Dark Music Review – Transmissions In Extremis


Dark Music Review – Transmissions In Extremis

Written By Casey Douglass

 



Transmissions In Extremis’ uses only samples of shortwave transmissions/static/noise as its source sounds. The results I hope are eerie and unsettling.

Transmissions In Extremis is a dark ambient album from Birmingham based Dona Nobis Pacem and came to my attention awhile ago after I reviewed Metadronus and Ager Sonus’ great album Shortwave. I was particularly impressed with that album’s use of transmission noises and signals and was put onto D.N.P’s Transmissions In Extremis for the same reason.

The ten tracks that make up Transmissions In Extremis do all indeed contain these same kinds of audio sources, but it is a credit to D.N.P that each track has its own feel and sound that doesn’t make the whole thing sound boring to the ear.

Some of the tracks, like the first, might feature a strong drone and little else for the first segment but then expand to include whooshing static and beeps that make you think of hulking machines and their operators. The beeps evoke images of deep space satellites bouncing their signals from the planetary bodies of far distant star systems, and at times make the listener ponder what eyes or equipment may be watching our own as it floats past their planet.

A particularly nice effect is the distorted vocalisations that emerge in more than a few of the tracks, some sounding a little demonic, as if travelling from a long way only to fall at the last hurdle when they hit whatever equipment recorded them. There are also instances of voices more audible, such as female voices in track 4 listing lots of numbers.

At least one track seemed to feature some kind of morse code in the body of the sound which, in the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit made me entertain the notion of learning morse code to see what the message might be. I also got lost in the fantasy of how cool it might be to know morse code. Not that it would change my life or anything, or help me pull women, although you never know. Anyway, moving on.

Transmissions In Extremis has a very dark feel to it, but I found most of the tracks to be quite relaxing to listen to. The mixture of transmission noises, human vocals and drones creates a real sense of listening in to distant communication, and takes the mind out into space on eerie flights of dark fantasy. Maybe it speaks to my love of codes, encryption and the transfer of information, or maybe it just tickles my dark sci-fi loving gland. Either way, Transmissions In Extremis is a great dark ambient album that I highly recommend for anyone that might have a taste for dark things and technology. For this reason, I give it 4.5/5.

Visit D.N.P’s website here for more information about his work. Much of it is available for free download via Archive.org (which is how I picked up this album), or as Name Your Price purchases on Bandcamp so you have no reason not to check out D.N.P’s dark creations.


Album Title: Transmissions In Extremis
Artist: D.N.P
Released: February 2015

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Dark Gadget Review - ReTrak ThinPlug and Sync Cable

I review the ReTrak Premier Series UK Folding Plug With Tangle-Free Charge and Sync Cable over on Amongst Geeks. A great charging solution with handy cable management to boot! You can read my full review here.
Image © Copyright Emerge Technologies


Friday, 12 June 2015

Dark Film Review - Insidious: Chapter 3

I take a look at Insidious: Chapter 3 over on Amongst Geeks. A reasonable horror with some good scares but could have been better. Click here to read the full review.

Image © Copyright Blumhouse Productions

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Dark Game Review - Horizon Shift

If you hunger for the arcade gaming thrills of yore, read my review of PC game Horizon Shift here on Amongst Geeks.
Image © Copyright Flump Studios

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Dark Music Review - Monde Obscure

Dark Music Review – Monde Obscure

Written By Casey Douglass


Monde Obscure Art

Field recording heavy dark ambient from Croatia. This album is an unsettling tale taking us from the abandon dilapidated high rises where the portals from another world cracks open to leak its black ink into our world. Great attention to detail and layers means this album will be replayed many times before it can all be taken in. Not for the faint of heart.

The above album blurb is certainly accurate, the layers found in Aegri Somnia’s Monde Obscure give the ear a great amount of detail to listen to, and do a fantastic job of conjuring up some strange and twisted mental impressions. Monde Obscure will certainly take your mind on a fantastic journey, each track saturated with strange things and sinister sounds.

The Tracks

Naissance – Footsteps and the squawking of birds backed by a series of sinister drones and beats before being joined by lighter notes and swirls of sound. This track very much hangs from the footsteps, a lone explorer walking through an area that they are ill advised to venture into alone. Near the end of the track, a strange chant resonates, as if the denizens of the place have noticed the intruder and are signalling the creatures within to get ready for lunch.

Esoterique – A gentle chiming mingles with a looming drone filled with the hard edge of metal and magic. A deep chant underpins this, hinting at a ritual setting or place of worship. The dark undertones certainly don’t mark this as a white light praising area. The track swells at the midpoint, a harsh thickly-textured sound covered in grain. This gives way to water splashes and the distant vocalisations of the residents of this dark place.

Les Temps Ont Changé РChimes and chittering begin this track, a wide-open soundscape filled with flight and movement, the creaking and groaning of ancient machinery far out of sight disturbing the vermin that live here. A rustling sound takes over, other things falling more silent, strange speech bouncing from the walls, melodic yet alien. The track is seen out by haunting piano notes and a low drone.

Noir et Blanc – Wind blowing through eerie tubes provides the backing to trickling water and abbreviated coughs, a vibrating drone and wet splats mingling to finish the effect as voices rise in a chant. The whole track puts me in mind of a church surrounded by the gurgling darkness of Satan's masses. The second part of the track is a quieter affair, gurgles and muted rhythms suggesting the church is now totally covered.

Culture Aveugle – A grainy sound begins this track, accompanied by a metallic beat, the atmosphere thickening as a drone seeps in, escalating notes taking on the aspect of cries and calls from strange creatures. Whispers and water join the fray, hinting at a large space full of judgemental and opinionated souls passing verdict as the listener passes through. A lumbering rumbling sound wades in, the opinionated audience falling silent as something more than a match for their bile imposes itself on the place.

Faux Prophete – The sounds at the start of this track give the impression of a large static-filled TV screen struggling to show any strong sense of picture. Tiny figures climb its sides trying to repair it, the clank of their tools and labour echoing around the abyssal space. A beat starts a little later, accompanied by the sound of what could be crunching bones, if your mind is of a particular persuasion. The sounds of more industry ensues, with wolf-like howling beginning in the distance.

Obscurite Totale – Tinkling chimes and guttural noises start this track, the atmosphere darkening as a drone ripens with higher notes and chanting reverberations interplaying with the sound. Most of these fall silent as more furtive scurrying sounds emerge, insectoid and chitinous, a swelling resonance behind it building into a metamorphosing soundscape. As other tracks, this one enjoys a more relaxed second act, soothing breathing intermingled with clattering chimes setting up a great contrast with the first part of the track before it ends with more chanting.

Vitesse D'évasion РDripping water and reverberating juddering sounds begin, a high pitched screeching melding into a distant drone. Things fade to a squeaking space full of rustling and distant chiming. A more distinct creaking and clattering begins, distant calls jostling with deeper notes that loom over the soundscape of creature noises.

Sortie – A thrumming drone surrounded by the sounds of hissing steam and metallic clanks. This track gives the impression of what it might be like to enter an airlock and have the various decontamination systems kicking in, scanning you, disinfecting you.

Sortie II – Beeps and mechanical sounds ratchet into the ear, shortly followed by a swelling noise that hints at things about to happen. What sounds like a robotic cry for help dopplers away from the listener, a pregnant space full of dead technology.

Portal I – Whispers and a metallic beating with a high-pitched backing drone creates a soundscape that feels claustrophobic, in so far as being surrounded by people can feel claustrophobic. That is, until it all fades and leaves the listener alone with something coming their way through the darkness.

Portal II – Bat-like chittering vies with a rumbling drone, wet impacts and what sounds like distant thunder competing with strange speech and industry. A rumbling and slightly confusing soundscape that leaves the listener curious at which way to mentally turn. Things turn technological towards the midpoint which gives the listener more questions than it answers.


My Opinion

As I said at the start of this review, Monde Obscure will take your mind into dark places, dipping your brain in vats of unspeakable grime before laying it out in the swamp for the carrion birds to pick over. There were a number of tracks that I would happily apply the label of “Favourite” to, each for their own particular charm.

Culture Aveugle I love because to me, it really did sound like a room full of beings who thought they were so strong and mighty being cowed by the appearance of a true power. A bit like the difference between a murderer finding themselves face to face with Hannibal Lecter.

Faux Prophete just conjured such interesting images to me, technology and animal sounds mingling to create something strange and unsettling.

Obscurite Totale I enjoyed for the space that opened up part way through the track, the breathing and chimes tinkling one of the most peaceful and relaxing soundscapes I have heard for quite some time.

I give Monde Obscure 4.5/5 and think you would be well advised to visit the link below and have a listen for yourself.

Have a look at the Monde Obscure page here on Bandcamp to find out more.

I was given a free copy of the album to review.

Album Title: Monde Obscure
Artist: Aegri Somnia
Label: Cryo Chamber
Written, Produced and Performed: Jurica Santek
Mastering - Simon Heath
Artwork - Crossfading
Released : 19 May 2015


Thursday, 4 June 2015

Dark Game Review - Homesick

I take a look at Lucky Pause's PC game Homesick over on Amongst Geeks here. A visually stunning game that does a great job of imparting a feeling of isolation to the gamer.

Image © Copyright Lucky Pause

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Dark Book Review - Burton and Swinburne in the Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack

I review another steampunk book in the form of Mark Hodder's Burton and Swinburne in the Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack, a fun romp through a world in which the procession of history has taken a tangent. You can read my full review here on Amongst Geeks.

Image © Copyright Snowbooks

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Dark Game Review - Selfie: Sisters of the Amniotic Lens

I review one of the strangest PC games that I have ever played here on Amongst Geeks: Selfie: Sisters of the Amniotic Lens. No preamble, just read the review, it was hard enough to talk about in depth let alone to summarise!
Image © Copyright Rail Slave Games

Monday, 1 June 2015

Dark Game Review - Medieval Engineers

I take a look at PC game Medieval Engineers, a great sandbox playground for gamers to build and destroy castles and other structures. You can read my full early access review on Amongst Geeks here.

Image © Copyright Keen Software House