Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Oh My God it’s a Toronto Fashion Week Preview!

Next month it’s Toronto Fashion Week, a superb opportunity to check out the latest in trousseaux, millinery and gussets. All the venues are wiping the blood from their catwalks and replacing the dead light bulbs in their dressing table mirrors in preparation for this essential civic event. But before the designers start running around in a panic with pins sticking out of their mouths and tiny chapeaux on their heads, many houses are having special preview shows here in the city. I sneaked in and watched, like that kid in Madonna’s Open Your Heart video.

The first show I watched was by French designer Jacques Du Plex. His spring collection, entitled “Herbs I Have Worn” is full of luxurious lavender, with balsamic undertones. The skirt lengths ranged from ‘serpentine’ to ‘insane’ on the Kupwatt scale. A highlight for me was a hat that looked like a glockenspiel and which fell off the model’s head as she walked down the catwalk, nearly killing Mick Jagger.

Menswear was the name of the game for The House of Ian, and their suits were of the highest calibre. With an asymmetry that can only be described as ‘oxymoronic’ and playfully obtuse lapel angles, I loved these works of wearable art. Even the shirts had an unmatchable pillion density, which is an added bonus in these harsh climes.

What about Elizabeth’s Classified Information, I hear you ask. Well, the saucy underwear manufacturer was out in form, with a great range of tights and bodices made of molluscs. Women everywhere will be able to tempt their man into bed with the smell of cockles and mussels when the new collection is released in November. Oh, and great legs.

Derek’s Vests was a surprise hit with fashion-mongers and –istas. Some of their models were wearing blue vests and red vests but I was quite fond of the cream-coloured vests and maybe also the yellow one. At the end Derek came out on a motorcycle and we all cheered.

As usual, the collection by Colander-Upshot Studios was a disappointment. When will they learn that nobody wants to wear shoes made of coral any more? And their petticoats were woefully badly made, with a tawdry two inch tartan pattern and no hint of glebe on the wrimples. Don’t get me started on their gas masks, either. Utter shite.

For me, Pierre LaPierre will always be synonymous with the 2002 show in which his models walked the catwalk while covered up in large sacks and described the clothes they were wearing when they got to the end. This year LaPierre has gone one step further and had no models at his show at all. Instead, the designer himself appeared and answered yes/no questions about the items in his collection. From what we could gather, the new range will have some green skirts, there’ll be a hat in the shape of a wasp, and Pierre was thinking about a man who is in the entertainment industry but not an actor.

Finally, enigmatically-named designer :Blism: had a show that totally underwhelmed. His pastry-inspired creations didn’t even look like clothes (except the profiteroles, which kind of resembled a muumuu), and some of the models fell over in the slippery cream that dribbled off the first choux bun. Even the music for this show was crap, a kind of faux-gangster rap-pop made by cretins for cretins with no human emotion or sentiment behind it. Ugh.

Toronto Fashion Week will last for approximately seven days and famous people will sit at the front and try to look pensive but fail because the only thoughts actually rotating around their skulls involve wondering how they look on camera and the best way to promote their new sex tape without actually coming out and mentioning it. For tickets call that guy who works in the mailroom who always has tickets for things.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Television Review: Llost

Now that popular American cop drama Law and Order has an English spin-off, it seems that the time has come for more UK versions of US shows. Plans are already underway for CSI: Bromsgrove and Las Vegas: Blackpool Edition; producers hope that they will fare better than Jodrell Bank – Above and Beyond, which was cancelled after one episode in the 1990s.

The BBC’s most eagerly awaited new American inspiration is Llost. Based on a popular US show, Llost opens with a man waking up to find that he has been a victim in an airplane crash, and that he is stranded on a small island off the coast of Wales.

While the island is no more than a rock in the middle of the sea, barely a square mile in area, there is more to it than meets the eye. For example, in the first episode our intrepid hero espies a clan of mysterious creatures. What could they be, with their oddly shaped multicoloured faces and weird ways of walking? Upon closer inspection we discover that they are puffins.

A puffin, for those who have never seen one before.

Another feature of this island of the damned is a strange large black cloud that looms over it for much of the series, adding to a sense of dread and foreboding. Our hero agonises over the meaning and intentions of the mysterious entity for some time, and the mystery is not solved until episode seven when it is revealed that the cloud is full of rain.

Throughout the show we are treated to flashbacks of the man’s life, when we see all sorts of coincidental things related to Wales and islands. In one flashback, he buys a CD by Tom Jones. In another, we see him consider a Hawaiian holiday. The only exception to this trend is episode nine, which contains flashbacks from one of the puffins. To be honest, this is one of the weaker episodes.

I won’t reveal all of the secrets to the show here, but suffice to say that for each question that is answered, many more are asked. Like, what is all that brown foamy stuff that washes up on the rocks each day? Does the island exist outside the normal laws of time or does it just feel like that because the days are so boring? And, is it possible to eat rocks?

Llost is certainly a show with promise. Whether it will match the success of the American original remains to be seen, but the episodes I have seen are full of ennui, despair and existential suffering: just what the UK television audience expects from its drama series. Indeed, an episode of Llost is nearly as depressing as a half-hour of Coronation Street or Eastenders.

Llost, every Tuesday at teatime. For more information on Wales and Welsh Islands, please visit the Welsh Tourism Hut, or see their website at If you interested in puffins, or would like to adopt or befriend a puffin, the police would like to hear from you.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Album Review - Leonard Cohen: The Remixes

Leonard Cohen’s contribution to the world of dance music cannot be overstated. Since his appearance as guest vocalist on the acid house anthem Gimme Ecstasy (Take it Higher) by DJ Marvellous in 1989, the Canadian troubadour has been synonymous with big beats, thumping basslines and hardcore rave.

That said, it is somewhat surprising that nobody has seen fit to compile the dance remixes of Cohen’s songs until now. Few artists have appeared on as many twelve inch white label releases as he, and the compilers of Leonard Cohen: The Remixes must have been faced with a daunting task when they tried to select an album’s worth of tunes.

So for that reason alone, the producers of this compilation are to be lauded. They have pulled off a remarkable feat here, and the album must rank among the greatest dance albums of all time, alongside Elliott Smith Live @ Gatecrasher and the impossible-to-find Tony Bennett vs Felix Da Housecat bootleg.

Take the Armand Van Driver remix of Suzanne, one of Cohen’s best-loved songs. The soft, almost whispered vocals and arpeggio guitar are really accentuated by the chunky 240 bpm bass and newly-added vocal accompaniment on the chorus from what sounds like an angry robot with a sore throat.

While Suzanne is still recognisably Cohen, some other remixes take the balladeer’s music to entirely new places. Famous Blue Raincoat is another fan favourite, but DJ Malty Treat’s remix removes most of the lyrics, the guitar and the backing vocals to make it utterly unlike the original. Consisting of the line “Famous Blue Raincoat” sampled and repeated over a melody created by the sound of drills breaking up concrete, it’s fair to say that this remix, while danceable, takes the song way beyond the one that Leonard wrote.

The main selling point of this album is the remix of Halleluiah by DJ Ubiquitous Ocelot featuring MC Caralarm. It was impossible to escape this track in the clubs of Ibiza and Agia Napa in 2002; for many clubbers it was the song of the summer, and high chart positions over the world resulted. Due to a copyright issue over the use of a Glenn Medieros sample in the track, it could not appear on any compilations until now. And what luck this is for us! With uplifting European house beats and a hint of happy hardcore in there for good measure, the secret chord that David played and which pleased the Lord (but you don’t really care for music, do you?) never sounded better.

Not every track on this album is as good as the ones mentioned above, though. DJ WasBobSagetsDaughterinFullHouse tries to give True Love Leaves No Traces a sparse drum n bass makeover, but it falls flat. From this tune, it’s clear that the songs of Leonard Cohen are really not suited to minimalism.

All in all, this compilation really succeeds in showing the danceable side of Canada’s favourite dour singer/songwriter. From the high-speed German techno gabba of DJ Kuntz’s Avalanche remix to the melodic house of The Dub Waiters’ version of Don’t go Home with your Hard-on, there’s something for everyone here.

Leonard Cohen: The Remixes by Various Artists is released Tuesday on Dance, You Twats! Records. A special double vinyl gatefold edition is available with free dancefloor and doorman. Mp3s can be downloaded for - heh, get this, they’re expecting people to pay for it, the naïve fools - $6.99 from the record label’s website, which I couldn’t be bothered to look up. Just Google it.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Summer Kittens: Part 2

I'm in way over my head here.

I'm supposed to be reading a page of The Little Kittens and the Gumdrop Garden by Norris Squee every day. For those of you who a) didn't read the last post and b) are too lazy to scroll down, I'm doing this in order to finish the book by the end of summer and get the same feeling that the people reading the 1000+ pages of Infinite Jest over the summer must feel.

But it's hard going.

The first page almost finished me off. I lost count of the number of times I had to read it in order to understand it fully. From what I can gather (and the depth of meaning here has left me with the impression that I'm missing some layers of interpretation), there were some kittens. And these kittens were little.

I will confess. This blew my mind. I was thinking that maybe I would be able to read more than one page on the first day, and possibly get ahead of myself, giving me some leeway. But now I see that this was optimistic bravado. I couldn't get my head to understand this first page, and I had to lie down. This could also have been partly due to the pictures in the book; many of them have so many colours that looking at them for any length of time is like pressing my eyes into an LSD-laced box of rainbows.

God, we haven't even entered the gumdrop garden, and I'm already thinking I've bitten off more than I can chew. I need a rest.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Summer Kittens: Part 1

I just discovered the website Infinite Summer. It's basically a project in which people try to read David Foster Wallace's epic novel, Infinite Jest, in one summer. At more than a thousand pages long, the book is apparently the ninth longest in the English language. It also has copious endnotes, and contains massively long sentences and words you've never heard of and have to look up if you're going to understand. Because of this, the 75 pages per week needed to get through the book over three months is pretty heavy going, even for those crazy people who can read entire novels in a weekend.

I would quite like to read Infinite Jest, but I've come in too late to really attempt to it before the end of summer. However, I do like the idea of blogging my findings as I go through a book, so I've decided to try another work instead.

Before the summer is out, I, the Imaginary Reviewer, hereby proclaim that I will have read The Little Kittens and the Gumdrop Garden by Norris Squee, before the end of summer. That's sixteen pages, all of which I have to have read before September 22, a rate of one page per day.

It's a big task, but I'm pretty sure I'm up to it. I'll post regular updates here if I can manage to fit that in between reading. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

My Wedding: Imaginary Reviewed!

As many of you know, I am finally no longer living in sin. Yes, I am now a husband in the eyes of both God and my wife, the two things I fear most in the world. Just kidding! I don’t believe in God.

The ceremony itself was beautiful. As I mentioned before I left, we got married in Hawaii, on the picturesque island of Maui, which lends itself to all sorts of wedding-related puns, none of which I will subject you to here.

The location of the wedding was absolutely perfect. Our setting was a beachfront plantation house with gorgeous views and all-you-can-drink seawater, and the ceremony itself was sheltered by tall, majestic palm trees. Only one guest was maimed by falling coconuts, and his family was treated to a complimentary deckchair.

As my bride and I stood there in front of our friends and family, we listened intently to our priest trying to make himself heard over the sound of the waves, the wind and our weeping bank manager. It was that point when I looked at all our happy guests, my beaming bride and the caterers setting up the tables for the reception, and a big, contented smile ran across my face. Yes, I thought. This is a truly wonderful day. This is a day that I will remember forever, a magnificent and auspicious day. For today I can reveal to my guests that while I told them that there is an open bar, it is actually a cash bar. They may think they’re getting free booze, but I’m not spending a penny on their alcoholism.

You should have seen their faces.

After the ceremony, Mrs. Imaginary Reviewer and I had our photos taken by our excellent photographer (whose thumb is so well-structured that we don’t mind its appearance in most of our shots. In fact, it’s an improvement on my face in many of them).

During the reception, we opened the floor to anyone who wished to make a speech under the strict condition that they did so while trying to avoid a barrage of crossbow fire that my wife and I sent their way from the head table. There was only one taker, and Great Aunt Helga should be commended for her excellent oration and impressive (but not impressive enough) ducking and weaving skills. She will be sadly missed.

Many of our guests informed us after the wedding that they enjoyed the food greatly. In fact, they almost enjoyed it as much when it came back up again, hours later.

Rather than have a DJ at our wedding, we decided to save money by having an iPod reception. We would recommend that anyone doing the same thing should get a dependable, responsible (and preferably sober) person to control the music. As it was, due to my Uncle Vigo’s inebriation and unfamiliarity with new technology, our first dance was to a medley of songs by Extreme Noise Terror and the first twelve seconds of The Macarena repeated sixteen times. The reception carried on mostly in this way, with interesting musical juxtapositions being created between disparate acts such as Alien Sex Fiend, Dolly Parton, Napalm Death and Falco.

After the wedding was over and the landowner had chased us all away with shotguns and dogs, my new bride and I retired to our condo, tired but happy. It was at this point that the marriage was consomméd. After adding a mixture of ground meats, egg whites and tomato to our marriage, we simmered it for a while and then filtered it. The result was not entirely what I was expecting, and I can’t really see what the big fuss is over marriage consommétion. I’m told it gets better with time, so I think Mrs Imaginary Reviewer and I should try again some time. It does make a mess of the bed, though.

So now we are back to the reality of Toronto, with the smog and the raccoons and the unending despair that comes with each day that Now Toronto refuses to respond to my daily begging letters. Thanks to everyone who has sent me congratulatory messages, normal Imaginary service should be resumed shortly!