The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia on July 17, 1996 · Page 18
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The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia · Page 18

Sydney, New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia
Issue Date:
Wednesday, July 17, 1996
Page 18
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18 ARTS THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD WEDNESDAY, JULY 17, 1996 B against TS almost like The Blue Nile have done their best to be invisible. In 16 years together, the Glaswegian trio has released only three albums. Video clips have been rare. Interviews have been rarer. They have played only one live tour, a 30-date hop across Britain and the US at the start of the decade. Promotion of their articulate, mature pop records 1984's A Walk Across The Rooftops, 1989's Hats and the new Peace At Last has been kept to what can only be described as a discreet minimum. Even if you bought one (and if you bought one, you will probably have all three), you'd be pretty much none the wiser about the people behind the music the songs may be confessional, but the sleeve notes give away almost nothing. Most artists these days are as famous, if not more so, for their media presence as their work. Most musicians say they want the music to speak for itself, then spend their waking hours trying to drown it out. The Blue Nile are different. So completely have they distanced themselves from pop's Circus Of Ego that their approach is increasingly having the opposite effect to the one intended they have become noticeable for their anti-marketing minimalism. "It is possible that we've overdone it a bit," says singer Paul Buchanan of the refusal to push their own barrow. "The idea was to try and not let our personalities get in the way of the music. "Honestly, I'm just always very wary of it all. I would hate it if people thought that we thought terribly grandly of ourselves. Nothing could be further from the truth." Buchanan's voice is cotton wool soft as he talks on the phone from New York, where the band is rehearsing for another tour, Piano tuners in the wings r AM AH A Music Austra lia is making sure the Sydney International Piano Competition retains its harmony. The company has supplied a highly skilled support team to maintain the IS pianos it has provided for the quadrennial event. The team includes Yamaha's top tuners from its tuning academy in Hamamatsu, Japan, who were flown in before the competition started two weeks ago. Since then, at least two tuners have been on hand at the competition each day. Competitors may chose from a Steinway, Yamaha or Kawai grand piano for their public performances. Wheeling the pianos on and off stage to cater to each competitor's individual requirements means that frequent tuning is necessary. Yamaha has fitted the Hotel Inter-Continental out with more than a dozen pianos throughout its public reception areas and in the rooms of six of the 12 competition jurors including several "silent pianos" for late-night practice. The company has also provided nine-foot grand pianos in three additional venues around Sydney for contestants to demonstrate their skills to the public at the Australian Institute of Music, at the Theme & Variations music shop in Greenwich, and at Yamaha Music Australia's VVilloughby School. "JHlf libnf Homing rralb We if u e IN i For 16 years, The Blue Nile have shunned the marketers and image-makers to produce music that touches people with its quiet reflection, JON CAS I MIR writes. which may or may not make it to these shores. Like the music he makes, he tends towards the quietly reflective, but can be as funny as he is serious. "Can you hang on one second while I very glamorously turn the kettle off?" he asks at one point. It's a question that actually gives away a lot, not so much about his taste for caffeine, but about his ambivalence towards the pop game. Life for The Blue Nile clearly involves a struggle between a desire to make something special and have it appreciated, and a competing desire to keep the purity and heart of the work from being tainted by commercial realities. "I think you give 16 years of your life because you hope that some day in the future, some kid will be walking along the beach and find a little piece of green glass that has been worn down by the waves," Buchanan says. "He'll pick it up and put it in his pocket, take it home and love it. He won't necessarily know why he loves it, but he'll love it. Those," he says quietly, "are the kind of records that we try to make." The Blue Nile are not set against the idea of fame and fortune. They want people to love their music, but to find it in their own time, for the right reasons. To that end, they have never wanted what the marketing department would call an image, but they have found out that such things can't be avoided trying to avoid them creates an image in itself. Peace At Last, the latest album, is at least partly an Crf .-.m,, i "',5R j r- fl . iff ' I - - V y Tuning in, clockwise from bottom left, Tomomi Takahasha of the Yamaha Music Foundation, Masahiro Michimoto, assistant manager of the company's concert piano factory, and sales managers Rupert Hyde and John Kuts. The hands belong to technician Ara Vartoukian. Photograph by rick stevens yMfa U .V have 23 journalists in Atlanta, ready the t attempt to burst the bubble of the mythology that has grown around them, the mystique of the reclusive, perfectionist craftsmen. Buchanan and colleagues have fashioned a "more visceral, less adorned record" than before. "The band was being wrongly perceived in some quarters as being intellectual, a little bit cerebral or professorial," he says. "It certainly wasn't true of us as individuals. It has always been a very passion-driven thing for us, on an unself -conscious level. We're actually fairly like the Marx Bros in our daily routine, but somehow people think we're stand-offish. "That was the reason we did it, combined with a wish in life to simplify a bit more, to reclaim some sort of roots, whether that meant doing a soul song or finding the time to watch more soccer on TV. It kind of boiled down to the same thing. It just seemed time to make a less objective record." Indeed, Peace At Last is far and away the most direct record they have made. From its battered acoustic guitars to its gospel choir, from its distinctly unfashionable slap bass sound to its Marvin Gaye falsetto, it covers more stylistic terrain than any of its predecessors, with a refreshing looseness. And where Rooftops had a restlessness at its core, replaced by a hard-won resignation on Hats, Peace At Last is a more redemptive outing, marked by its optimism. "For me, it's some resolution of a lot of the things that had gone before," Buchanan says. mmiM if j i r t I ? 1 V to provide expert analysis and results t I (f OPTUS PROUD SPONSORS OF THE FAIRFAX ATLANTA WEBSITE. f THE ravels ide "What I would have regarded as my ideals and my expectations had clashed with my experience. Aspects of my own nature had emerged under duress, which I didn't understand. I got to the point where I could no longer solve things by reason. "So I fell back into simplicity. I got a dog and a punchbag. I started running and boxing and walking the dog and staying home at night, cooking pasta, going to bed early, getting up early, doing really basic and fundamental things. "And although I didn't resolve anything intellectually by doing that, I nevertheless regained some fundamental equilibrium. In the process I wrote songs about what it had been like growing up, about where I was at the time and what had led to it. I remembered relationships and wrote about my family." He also wrote about love, in its many and various guises. Its effects ripple through every song, as creator here and destroyer there, as friend and foe, magic and illusion. It is that complexity that makes Buchanan's lyrics worth taking the time to listen to, even if he plays his insight down. "I wish I had wisdom," he laughs. "I don't. I just made the best record I could. I'll nail my shirt to the telegraph pole and say 'this is what went on inside there, this is what I was feeling'. "When I'm writing a song, I'm not thinking of how's it going to be perceived. Your loyalty is to the feelings, to the person you're writing about. And I mean, love's just a problem, isn't it?" He chuckles again, drifts off into a discussion of whether answers to the eternal questions are there to be found, then pulls himself back on track to distil his message as the conversation closes. "Whatever the popular perception of us is," he says, "it's 'HEN the new $7 million Cameron Mackintosh musical, Martin Guerre, opened in London a few days ago it was riddled with more disasters than traditionally pursue Macbeth productions. The three-week postponement of its opening night was like waiting several hours for some "mechanical adjustments" to your plane : your confidence in the trip is never fully restored. And sure enough, at the performance on Monday night, the stage went black an hour into the show. London Electricity had a voltage problem, we were told ; the show was cancelled, the bars were opened and drinks were free. The audience accepted the explanation, although this electrical failure was exactly like one at a preview last week, when the fault was acknowledged to be inside the theatre and related to a power feed to the computerised stage machinery. That preview spilled an audience of the actors' friends back onto the street and it was their stories that started the bad press. Martin Guerre has taken $6 million in advance ticket sales, so one is not worried by the cost of these catastrophes to the producers. But if you're superstitious in an ordinary Christian way, this tale of 16th-century Protestants fighting Catholics does verge on the clerically insulting. We are not talking about the gentle religious humour of singing nuns ; these are serious, sweaty young men doing Tap Dogs routines and crossing themselves in a Catholic manner as they pound their as they happen, via the internet, 24 TT1T T W JI ft The Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan been 16 years of bone-grinding work, trying to combat scepticism and inertia. There have been, a lot of nights I would have rather have been doing different things, but I'm morally involved in it. "I don't want to sound like the Blues Brothers here, but I really genuinely think that if I'm going to do something, I'm London Notices MiCHELE FIELD feet. The producers are intent on showing us parallels between those "holy" wars 300 years ago and-the religious battles in Bosnia and Ireland today. Like the synchronised swimming routine on the theme of Hitler's death camps (which has been banned from the Olympic competition), perhaps there are some stories that are jinxed. Lord knows why. Andrew Lloyd Webber has been speaking about the price of musical theatre, addressing radio audiences and journalists in general. Fifteen years ago, to mount Cats, he was able to remortgage his house and provide a good share of the 500,000 ($1 million) capital. He says if he were starting from scratch now, that would cost 2.5 million to mount and mortgage finance would be irrelevant. The financial pressure on musical theatre is similar to opera, and 75 will, says Lloyd Webber, be the new benchmark for a ticket price. At the moment 35 is what the best London seats cost and whether the doubling of price will halve the audiences . . . well, that is why he's worried. hours a day. The site is now offering FAIRFAX ATLANTA WEBSITE IS CREATED ON APPLE MACINTOSH COMPUTER. C I v V & A y 'is ? i s v A . V. '' I - a w.: My. 1 y Kr v . . . . tries to make records like "a going to do something straightforward and pure that I hope will last." If it had taken him only 10 years, but he hadn't been able to achieve what he set out to do, he says, then he would have been disappointed. "As it is," the laughter returns, "I'm just slightly beaten WHILE we are speaking of prices, at the other end of the scale are those cute mini-penguins which cost 60p in Britain and $1.95 in Australia. Soon you will be saying "Remember them?" For a while Penguin was selling 20,000 copies of some titles each week; British sales are now down to 750 copies a week and the future of the format has been frozen. In Britain, booksellers were forced to order 100 copies of a title each time, so the scheme was only attractive to big bookshops. Now that demand is falling, now that booksellers are charging 60p for two (you buy the one you want and grab anything else), the whole enterprise is looking a bit scrappy. Orion (Allen & Unwin) launched the same 60p format in December and is disillusioned; Faber planned to publish poetry this way, but has reconsidered. We have had the un-serious selling of CDs and books together, like the pasta recipes accompanied by the Italian opera arias you time the boiling to. Now there are earnest efforts. The author of Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel, has a new novel, The Law of Love, accompanied by its own soundtrack of ballads and arias. In November, Harvill (HarperCollins) publishes a biography of Violet Gwynne, who not only entertained the likes of Bartok, Diaghilev and Picasso, but also survived Britain's most famous menage a cinq (Violet with four live-in lovers) and recorded her harpsichord music. A CD of her playing the harpsichord comes with the book. local Olympic gossip and hot medal little piece of green glass". up. You know, it's like a little boat that comes into the harbour. You see it when it comes in, but you don't when it's miles out to sea, trying to make its way in and maybe filling up with water. The guys are still working very hard rowing and baling the water out, but you don't see it. That's how it's been with us." UNTIL this month, Westminster's most famous Member of Parliament did not have a portrait in the House of Commons. The poet Geoffrey Chaucer was an MP for Kent for two years (ejected 1386), and now a portrait new to the public eye, painted in the 1500s from a manuscript likeness done in 1400, will hang alongside Churchill and Wellington. T "AHIS is the time of the year for Aboriginal art fever. (The British seem to buy more Australian themes in the middle of summer.) There are a few galleries with shows of Aboriginal art to sell, and two funded tours which will be seen in public galleries a year from now. The most interesting, therefore, is a show which goes a bit "off beam": the exhibition of Papua New Guinea painter Mathias Kauage at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery which will be opened tonight by the High Commissioner for PNG. Although the new Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art acquired a few Aboriginal paintings, it more zealously acquired some stunning Kauages to upstage them. Glasgow is now selling Kauage wrapping-paper and birthday cards, and last week the Glasgow Herald ran a picture of Kauage in full head-dress chatting to the Queen. Why is it many, many years since this man has sold a painting to an Australian public gallery, or had an exhibition there? tips, to get you into 'games fever' early, Party animals opt for cabaret Theatre BY STEPHEN DUNNE The Wild Party, Cafe De Lane, July 11 MID a sea of booze and drugs, while songs "so blue they re sick" play, -couples dance and bicker and indulge in naked lust. It's smoke-filled, tragic and oh so decadent welcome to The Wild Party. This is the second Australian version of John Moncur March's long narrative poem, a scandalous product of Roaring '20s New York. Charlie Little's two-handed version at the Lookout a few years back had great economy and menace. This production by Mark Lillis goes straight for cabaret. March's poem is celebratory of jazz and jazz culture. It's written with the polyrhythms of music as its metre, so the addition of a band is a perfect complement to the poem. The musical director, Richard Brus, has scored much of the text, and there's some very effective interplay between the musicians and the four actors. Burrs (Nicholas Cassin) has called his girl Queenie (Vashti Hughes) nasty names. She decides to throw a party, at which she will "put the spurs on Burrs". She does this by smooching with Black (David Keene), an Englishman whom the drunk flapper Kate (Eliza Logan) has brought along. There are also two gay piano players, a famous lesbian and a wowser neighbour, but they're barely important. It all ends sadly, but hey, have another bathtub gin and who cares? In terms of the acting, the production is uneven. On this very advanced press night, only Logan and Cassin got to the level of comic intensity required. With the other performers keyed up a bit more, it should settle into its short run quite nicely. There are several songs. The slightly vocally challenged cast go for bravado rather than accuracy, but it's appropriate to the piece - after all, who sounds good singing blues standards at 3 am in the kitchen? The exception is Kate's "I want a two-fisted, double-jointed, rough and ready man", which rightly brings the house down. Cafe de Lane has found a show that is perfect for its intimate cabaret space. Sure, The Wild Party is rough around the edges, but it has large chunks of fun and a thoroughly disarming energy. The Wild Party runs until July 27. Director re-signed ROS Horin, artistic director of the Griffin Theatre Company, has had her contract renewed for a further five years. When Horin was first appointed five years ago, she inherited a company in trouble its Australia Council funding had been cut due to financial mismanagement Her first task was to raise funds for her own position. Now the Griffin, which operates out of the historic Stables Theatre, is fiscally sound and has a budget of $620,000. (This year, the Stables is celebrating its 25th birthday as a venue for Australian productions.) Since 1980, Horin has directed more than 30 stage productions. Recent successes include the award winning Kafka Dances and Passion, a series of six one-act plays televised by SBS. She was also founder and inaugural artistic director of Playworks, the Women Writers' Workshop.

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