December 31, 2007

Books: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Despite knowing the story and having seen different film interpretations, I hadn't, until now, actually read the original Bram Stoker novel. The novel is a chilling late-Victorian adventure, with the action described in the journals, letters and notes of the main protagonists. The Count Dracula of the novel is a far more scary prospect than any Bela Lugosi or Vincent Price, and Professor Van Helsing, Dr. Seward and co. have to resort to the latest technology of the day (blood transfusions, the emerging field of psychology) as well as more traditional folkloric methods in order to stave off the threat he poses to the people of London. The novel has several layers and the erotic undertones of the vampire, the fear of the unknown in uncertain fin-de-siecle times and the mistrust of immigrants, are all themes that can be explored at length. Alternatively, it can simply be enjoyed as a superb adventure novel.

Festive penguins in Shinjuku

December 23, 2007

Baan Esan in Koenji

Went to nearby Koenji yesterday in the cold rain, and, after mooching around the used CD and zakka shops, went to Baan Essan for some Thai food. This cramped, inexpensive little restaurant is a great place for a night out ~ as long as your group isn't too big. You have to squeeze past other customers to get to your table as it's a long and narrow place ~ if you stand with both arms stretched out, one would be touching the wall and the other would be in the kitchen! You're spoilt for choice on the menu, and have to shout your orders over tinny cha-cha-cha style Thai pop music (an authentic touch). Last night I plumped for glass noodle salad, stir-fried pork and broccoli and garlic fried chicken, washed down with a couple of beers. I'll definitely be coming here again.

December 22, 2007

Books: Millenium People by J.G. Ballard

This novel by J.G. Ballard is a black comedy set in early 21st century Britain. The narrator, David Markham, is a psychologist, whose ex-wife is killed by a terrorist bomb at Heathrow. No group comes forward and so Markham decides to investigate. His search leads him to an exclusive residential community called Chelsea Marina (actually in Fulham) where some of the residents are trying to start a revolution ~ the middle classes have become the new proletariat. In order to find out more about the Heathrow bomb, Markham has to become more involved in the revolt.

Throughout the novel, there are continual references to the meaninglessness of modern times, and the notion that with increased prosperity has come a spiritual/intellectual emptiness. Such serious issues are dealt with in a humourous way, with chapter titles such as 'Bonfire of the Volvos', and a group of demonstrators at a cat show being likened to 'an advancing chorus of an agit-prop musical' chanting "Moggie, moggie, moggie! Out, out, out!"

A thoroughly entertaining novel and a very astute assessment of modern life. Recommended.

December 20, 2007

10 Songs That Floated My Boat This Year

A lot of good music out this year, so difficult to limit my choice to just ten tracks, but these tracks were ones that I would certainly never skip when I has my iPod on shuffle.

Beaten Metal - Antibalas
A.I.E. - Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
Wind - Sleep Walker feat. Yukimi Nagano
African Rumble - Timo Lassy
Dangerfield - Grimace Federation
100 Days, 100 Nights - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
The Man From Nagpur - quasimode
Irresistible - Sizzla
Seven Nation Army - The Dynamics
Atlantic - Thief


After a great pasta dinner last night we popped in to a cool little jazz bar in Shinjuku for a drink. It seems that Dug has existed in one form or another for 40 years and judging from some of the photos inside, has had some legendary visitors over the years, including the likes of Horace Silver and Max Roach. Last night they were playing a lot of the Count Basie Orchestra, and while big band jazz isn't my favourite, I certainly want to check this place out again some time.

Love On A Sponge!

In Shinjuku there is a large building site where the old Marui shop used to be. While the building work is going on there is a temporary art space with works from young artists. This one is called 'Love On A Sponge'.

December 15, 2007

J.A.M. & quasimode at Unit Daikanyama

After work it was down to Daikanyama for an evening of live jazz at Unit. First up were quasimode, who played a 40-minute set comprising most of their bigger tunes, such as 'The Man From Nagpur', 'Down In The Village' and 'Ipo Amarelo'. In a slightly smaller setting than the Liquid Room, they looked a little less nervous than last month and delivered a solid set that went down well.

Then it was time for the main act, J.A.M., the piano trio from Soil & "Pimp" Sessions. I've seen them play for part of a Soil & "Pimp" gig, but this was the first time to see a full set from them. A few of the tracks were familiar, but there were quite a few new numbers too tonight. As ever, the trio played very tight together and were clearly having a great time up on stage. Josei led on piano, playing with superb dexterity and speed, shaking his head and getting totally lost in the sound, and whilst he doesn't say much on stage, he is most definitely a consumate performer. Akita Goldman strummed away on bass occasionally veering off into interesting solos, and Midorin was a powerhouse on drums. The whole crowd was dancing away throughout the gig as the band turned the heat up with a few funky numbers.

We were in for a real treat with the encore as the full Soil & "Pimp" Sessions band came out to play a blinding brand new track.

I think this perhaps ranks as gig of the year for me and I can't wait for the J.A.M. album to come out next March.