Review- UON (Urgency of Now)- Exit

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting up with Simon Segal of UON for a chat. It was a typical gorgeous, warm, autumnal Sunday afternoon in Melbourne. Over coffee and pasta at the iconic Tiamo in Lygon St we talked about his new music project UON and their first single; about his life in music and about the way the music scene in Melbourne has changed so much, and not all for the better.

So who are UON? According to Segal, UON is the product of a group of friends coming together because of a shared joy in playing music. They are Susan Hume(vocals), Belinda Cohen (drums), Simon Segal (synthesizers and production and engineering), Dallas Cosmas (bass & guitars) , Paul Healy (grand piano), MIlton Nomikoudis (vocal wrangling), and Wayne Reynolds (technical wrangling). Each with their own talents and with varied backgrounds and experience this group of artists formed not so much a ‘band as such’ but more of a collective of like minded souls. The benefits of such an approach are obvious as soon as you listen to their first single “Exit”.

They are the latest project to come out of the Prototype Musique stable. For those unfamiliar with their work they are an independent production label based in Melbourne.They are the brainchild of Dallas Cosmas (a talented musician in his own right)and they have produced some wonderfully adventurous and thought provoking artists and music in recent years. With over 25 years experience, Simon Segal is a long time friend and co-conspirator. He has worked as a producer on a significant portion of Cosmas’ back catalogue over many years. UON is just their latest creation.

Out Now on Spotify and most other digital platforms

“Exit” is an extraordinary piece of music. It is more like a sculpture made of sound than a song. Because people seem to rely on such things, if I had to name a genre I would go with electro-pop. But, to be completely honest this song defies any kind of label. It is that rare thing in music these days, it is unique.

This is not a work that has been put together with a particular audience or demographic in mind, it is simply a piece of art that has evolved and developed organically. It isn’t for everyone. It is not cookie cutter, paint by numbers music, so for those who like their music predictable and safe, I suggest you move on.

I have it on good authority that this is just the first salvo from UON with more to come over coming months including an album by the end of the year. Exciting news for lovers of great music. In the meantime keep an eye out for their first single “Exit” which will be available on 23 April 2019 on most of the usual platforms.

Review- NY2LA- Raspin Stuwart

Review by Jacqueline Lademann

Regular followers of Indie Music will need no introduction to Raspin Stuwart. The guy is a class act and is a regular feature on the playlists of Indie radio stations across the globe. I first discovered his music on Canadian based internet station KB Radio where his dedicated band of fans ensure that his songs are rarely far from the top of the weekly charts, with good reason.

His long awaited album NY2LA is an absolute cracker. Smooth, intelligent and sexy, Stuwart has delivered an album that demonstrates what a talented and thoughtful artist he is.

Fans will be pleased to find much loved tracks on this album including King of Foolz, the toe tapping Reelin’, and the ever popular Smoke the Hookah. But it’s the new material that got my attention. The title track NY2LA is sublime. But, for me it’s Mama’s Got the Blues that made me swoon.

From go to whoa this album is the real deal. I recommend putting this on, pouring a glass of your favourite tipple and just savouring. You will not be disappointed…except for when it’s over.

To order your copy of NY2LA go to https://www.raspinstuwart.com/ .

The Wasp Factory (Iain Banks) 

This book is fantastic! It is another one of those books, that I go on about, that I found by accident. I had never heard of it until it picked it up, and the only reason I did was because I had finished a book, and needed something to read for the train ride home from work. I don’t even know why I picked it. It was on a shelf, and not displayed prominently on one of the bargain tables, all that was there to draw my attention was the spine. It wasn’t even a big book, just 200 pages; I’m surprised I even saw it.  

Iain Banks was a Scottish author of both general and science fiction. The Wasp Factory was his first novel. In a poll taken in The Independent it was voted by readers as one of the top 100 books of the twentieth century. When it was published in 1984 it received both wide acclaim and condemnation. I can see why it would polarise readers so much. The writing is superb, it is macabre and gruesome with a narrator, Frank, who makes you glad that this is fiction and you have no chance of meeting them in real life. The depiction of violence is chilling, graphic and disturbing. I concede that while I loved this book, it is most certainly not for everyone. If you are at all squeamish I suggest you skip this one.  

The only criticism I have is with the final chapter. The final resolution and denouement, not to mention the ‘explanation’ for the events that had taken place were anti-climactic. The so called ‘surprise’ wasn’t really all that surprising, I had pretty much guessed it almost from the beginning of the novel.  

I would suggest that he wrote the ending first, as most writers are told to do at one point, because it is almost like it comes from a different novel. Even the pacing and the overall tone change from the rest of the novel. Where the story is teased out gradually giving the reader just enough information to want more, maintaining a suspense that is exquisite; the final chapter is rushed with all the action spilling out over the course of a few pages. I am almost tempted to suggest that you stop reading before the last chapter- I wish I had. But, I know you won’t because, like me, I know that you will NEED to know what is on the next page.  

Having said all that, I still think that this is one of the best books I’ve read. It has made me curious to read Banks’ later works. As I said earlier, this book is not for everyone, but if you like horror and the macabre this will satisfy on both counts. 

 

The Salinger Contract- Adam Langer 

I was a little disappointed when I started reading The Salinger Contract when I found, pretty early in the story, that this tale has little to do with J.D. Salinger, except as a hook upon which the real story is attached to. However, my disappointment was only short lived because the book that is actually on offer here is a great story, and an interesting thriller that will keep your attention through to the unexpected, but not wholly unbelievable conclusion.  

The narrator, Adam Langer, is a stay at home dad in Bloomington, Indiana. He had previously worked as a editor on the now defunct literary magazine Lit, and he has one novel to his name. A novel  broadly based on his own search for his absent father, and which caused a rift between he and his mother.  

While wondering through a soon to be closed down Borders in Bloomington, he sees that one of his favourite authors , Connor Joyce, whom he interviewed some years ago for the magazine, is doing an in-store appearance. He decides  to hang around and see him, not thinking for a moment that Joyce will remember him. But, as it turns out the attendance for the reading is pitifully low, and Joyce not only remembers him, but insist on going for a drink after.   

Langer assumes that will be the last he hears from him, only to get a strange call from Joyce the next day. In a clandestine meeting in the local Hilton’s swimming pool- to avoid any possible bugging devices, Joyce tells Adam the most fantastic story he has ever heard, insisting that it is true.  

It seems that in the short time since their reunion the previous day, Joyce had travelled to Chicago as part of the book tour.  While he was there he met a mysterious, and vaguely frightening character, Dex Dunford and his Eastern European bodyguard Pavel. He is given a tantalising offer. Dex is a collector, and his collection of thrillers written by all the world greatest writers, the twist is that each of the books has been written so that only he will ever read them. Joyce is shown a library with books written by Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Harper Lee and J. D. Salinger. Joyce is offered 2.5 million dollars to write a thriller for Dex. The only condition is that know one else can read about it, and he cannot mention the deal to anyone, ever, or he must pay back all the money.  

What follows is a interesting psychological thriller where the ethics and the responsibilities of being a writer are examined. When a writer puts a novel out there, are they responsible for whatever ideas they engender in their readers, and any subsequent behaviour that comes as a result. When Mark David Chapman was found to have a copy of Catcher in the Rye when he assassinated John Lennon, or when John Hinkley Jnr attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan also carrying a copy of that book; is it reasonable to place any blame at the feet of the author? Did Salinger feel anything at all to know that his writing was the inspiration for such terrible acts?  

This is a good book. The story is compelling and it kept me guessing to the end. If I had any criticism it is that Langer (the author not the narrator) rehashes the list of great authors to often. It seems that whenever one of the characters has cause to mention even one of the authors that have previously worked for Dex it is apparently necessary to list them all, every single time. But, that is a minor irritant which shouldn’t retract too much from your over all enjoyment of what is an entirely original thriller. 

 

 

The Luminaries-Eleanor Catton

The winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2013, The Luminaries is an extraordinary work that uses well known and recognisable story telling techniques, all while pulling the wool over our eyes. A whopping great tome of 832 pages Catton uses 19th century language and styling in a way that will be familiar to most readers. But the story and the handling of character development are not.

Set on the west coast of southern New Zealand during the gold rush of the 1860 weaves together a cast of characters that start out as disparate entities but their lives and their tales become increasingly entwined as they each retell their version of events. At the centre of the narrative is a controversy surrounding the suspicious death of a local hermit; the mysterious disappearance of a wealthy member of the community; the passing out of a popular working girl in the main street as a result of some dodgy opium and the ownership of a pile of gold.

The opening of the book is as much a part of the great deception of this book as anything else. We are presented in the opening pages with elaborately drawn astrological charts and character tables which leads you to think that you have your work cut out for you. I was expecting something of the weight and complexity of a Wolf Hall or Bringing Up the Bodies. But, the more you read, the lighter the story becomes. The characters become less substantial and the story becomes less important.

This book is more of an intellectual exercise than a work of storytelling. It challenges the reader to question what we expect from a novel like this. For me I must admit that I’m not entirely convinced that the experiment worked. It seems that I still need a bit more of a story to maintain my interest, because I found my connection with the book waned from about the 300 page or so and it became a bit of a chore to finish. Given that, I’m not all together convinced that this was the book I would have picked to win the Man Booker. Of  short-listed entries for the same year I prefer the Colm Toibin. However, the fun thing about literary prizes is the debates you can have over the result, so I would encourage you to give this a go so that you can join the discussion.