Chi-chi Nwanoku “unconscious bias” quote

We all suffer from a little bit of unconscious bias, you know–and we’ve just got to accept that, not try and pretend that we don’t. We’re at the stage now where we need to just accept it and let’s look at how we can try and identify it and then work with it.

Chi-chi Nwanoku’s Desert Island Discs


Renu–They Dance in the Dark album review

Renu’s journey into the conflict between the head, the heart and the crotch. Hmmm, that’s a weird thing to say, right? Well… no it is, it’s weird–but I never let that stop me from saying whatever’s in my head.

Fierce in her beliefs and true to her art, if Renu’s released a new album it’s because she’s damn well ready to release a new album, and has planted her vision as fully as is possible.

It makes me smile to identify footprints audible in Midnight Radio that she has left throughout They Dance in the Dark. There’s much of that DNA in Queen of Heaven, and I love that–in the delay on Always You–in the spoken word. Water into Words is a good example of what I like about Renu’s style of composition, she puts as much effort into choreographing the slides from section to section as she does in the chorus.

When the EDM vibe is absent, the style is born from geo-political experimentation with a European, straight-edged bass and drum ensemble core and an arabic folk-twist with some beautiful vocals.

Always You got deserved playtime on 6 Music, and also is a proper good EDM tune. Sern Nos is what this album is about, it’s got the barebone, archetypal soul of this album. Throughout the album is a scattering of electronic phrases from the ages, vocal padding as in Chicane’s trance classic Saltwater, drums bit-squashed like IDM from the turn of the millenium in Raised Heavy with that disjointed cerebral IDM drum pattern. Even some guitar tone/effect akin to Radiohead in To the Mountain and Linkin Park in Raised Heavy.

Renu is exceptional at producing with vocal layers. She handles delicate, cracking and ‘overtonal’ sonic qualities as well as anyone I’ve heard.

When Renu gets outspoken with her production is where she seems to shine the most in the more EDM of the tracks on They Dance in the Dark. ‘Salma…’ is throbbing with modulating lead synth. She shouldn’t shy away from pushing her sonic statements right to the top of the envelope. Occasionally I find it isn’t mixed to the kind of limits like I’d want, 1984 for example. Therein lies that conflict between the head, heart and crotch

*Must stop saying crotch, it’s becoming a thing*

In contrast, Queen of Heaven is unmistakeable in its intent and comes right from the crotch, but as Santana points out, you play with your head, heart, soul, god (I think?), and your ‘kahunas’.
Queen of Heaven rings with Renu’s signature string layers which don’t sit smugly, instead they speak with a pseudo-improvisation–an organic dynamism that permeated Midnight Radio. At a point the pace is allowed to drop before all the instrumentation comes back together, as orbiting particles, never quite getting away until they unite back in the groove. I could wax lyrical for ages about Renu’s ability to be understated and therefore say so much. It’s wonderful to listen to.

Now, I really like Boys and that slightly worries me, not for the obvious pun, but because on an album that’s described with as much gender politics as this is, I sort of worry there’s a hidden musical extended-metaphor. Am I reinforcing the mysognistic imbalance? Am I being subversively objectified? Am I patriarchy’s misguided flâneur? Is this white guilt? OK, I exaggerate…
‘Boys’ is a great finisher and ups the pace right at the end, with some awesome Bernard Hermann style strings. And with that, it is almost as though we’ve journeyed from the intro EDM of Always You on into Renu’s head and on into her heart and now we’re coming out from a deep dive, back to the dance floor where we’ll eventually be asked to kindly leave, with some disco synth and 4/4 kick.

Good fucking shit.

Renu’s They Dance in the Dark:

‘Her screwball expression’: Philip K. Dick describes female beauty in The Man in the High Castle; male writers unintentional misogyny in describing love interests; and K. Dick’s influence on me

Philip K. Dick is one of the biggest names in science fiction: fact. His is a well-greased engine, skirting–as all the greatest writers do– all manner of intellectual disciplines as well as the well-trod line between genius and madness.
Of his writing style, his brevity is perhaps one of his biggest strengths: he has a style that is shotgun in its delivery yet dove-like in its poetry.
And just so, a particular paragraph:

But above and beyond everything else, he had originally been drawn by her screwball expression; for no reason, Juliana greeted strangers with a portentous, nudnik, Mona Lisa smile that hung them up between responses, whether to say hello or not. And she was so attractive that more often than not they did say hello, whereupon Juliana glided by.

Like a pinch of gunpowder in a hungover breakfast fry up: brilliant. A wonderful way of describing the often-occuring effect of woman upon man (other variations are available). Read the book to see how that paragraph ends, just as telling as the initial effect where the aforementioned sexualised social interaction is concerned.

At which point a diversion into one of the most frustrating things about male authors: descriptions of female love interests. Unveiled misogyny, or a fair and honest focus on the want of the crotch? I literally closed ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ when I was fifteen/sixteen and lost interest in Milan Kundera based on this male-centred approach to describing the phenomenon that is best explained as ‘woman makes man think of sex’ and is therefore incapable of any accurate empathy, something this reddit thread explores by questioning his relevance in the current age. And as much as I wish I wasn’t writing this, Haruki Murakami is awful for it, though his ‘sad lonely man’ trope does lend itself to such narration, this thread suggests I’m not alone in this and if you read it through you’ll find some interesting theories as to why. It is just so painful to find your heroes are human, that for all their conduction of ethereal abstracts into addictive writing they come out with some dog shit about how some female character is ‘pretty but in a plain sort of way’. It’s difficult to not betray myself here but I read this description of the collision of the human condition and the biological imperative  as ‘yeh I guess I’d probably do her’.

Anyway, back to Philip K. Dick: I came to his writing relatively early in my reading life, probably thanks to the shop Fopp, but being a hesitant reader in my teens it was the films based on his books that had me assimilating his ideas as a permanent canal in my tastes. I’d watched and re-watched Total Recall and Screamers many times on home-recorded VHS. I’d seen Imposter and would soon see Minority Report and I had no idea that they were based on his books. I’d also paid for at least two of the seven different edit-releases of Blade Runner: of which around the time I was sixteen my favourite was the noir, Harrison Ford voice-over release.
In 2006, when A Scanner Darkly came out starring Keano Reeves, Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Jr and Winona Ryder I started reading Ubik because it was cool at nineteen-ish to think I was somehow ‘above’ this fairly hyped, gimmicky cartoon of a film and so the gradual tide of his writing washed over me. Thank god!

Jenny Drew Something

Sometimes blogs fall by the wayside (just look at the gaps between my last post!) Sometimes they change and adapt and have a lick of paint. I’m delighted that JennyDrewSomething has taken the path of the latter, with fresh content and a book “Cartooning Teen Stories” her exploration of real-life important health/mental-health and other similar issues through comics does that wonderful thing of elevating something otherwise banal or tedius–not that the topic is like that, but the detached discussion that we sometimes hear on the radio can desensitise us. I look forward to seeing what she continues to do. In her own words:

“I am an author and Preventions Keyworker for B&NES Youth Offending Service, and I have always loved comics. Since obtaining my Advanced Diploma in the Therapeutic Application of the Arts, I have been using cartoons as a therapeutic storytelling tool with young people. More than just sci-fi and superheroes, everyday narratives and themes can be explored through text and image, in a way that is accessible and unthreatening. Through understanding this visual language, young people are able to express their own ideas using the comic form.

My book ‘Cartooning Teen Stories’ is available to purchase from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.”