Friday, July 29, 2011

Music Review: Roger Shah - Openminded!?

Music Review: Roger Shah - Openminded!?

When thinking of premier electronic artists who can easily grace the speakers of any music love, it's hard to go past Roger Shah. His work under his own name and several nom de plume have carved out a niche market in this fickle music world.

With his last solo album, Songbook, being back in 2008, Shah has returned with another breath taking album that is sure to turn the ears of so many back to the trusted trance beats. The steady driving rhythm that plays right through the album is an absolute delight to listen to and will get the most uncoordinated toe tapping away.

His signature mixture of stunning melodies and driving beats are ever present throughout the album. Coupled with the brilliant choice of vocalists featured throughout, it would appear that Shah can do no wrong.

The first single to be lifted from the album is Morning Star featuring the breath taking vocal dynamics of Moya Brennan. For those who don't know the voice, think Saltwater by Chicane. The sweeping sounds of Brennan's lush voice and the almost orchestral quality of Shah's music will sweep you away.

Not one to leave a good song lie, Shah has recruited Sian Evans of Kosheen fame and redone their 2002 worldwide smash Hide U. It keeps the same feel though, at the same time, takes on a life of it's own. It's hard to pick the version to prefer. The original classic, or this newer driving force. The more dynamic electronic sounds ripple with energy and can't help but captivate the club kids who remember the first release, or the new listeners who will be dragged into the magic of the beat.

Realising that he's on a good thing, Shah brings Evans back twice more on the album. She features on tracks In The Light and Shine. Both the tracks are worth any hype made about them. 

When first listening to In The Light, the ethereal quality of Evans' voice, couple with the grit of the heavy trance throbbing creates a feeling which can't be clearly described in simple words. There is something magical about the way the pair work together. This can only, we hope, be an indication of what is yet to appear in the coming years from the music industry.

Shine itself is not without merit. There isn't the harshness of the sole heavy beat. Evans' voice proves that it can be quite melodious and enrapturing all over again. It proves how she has grown as an artist since we first heard her voice with Kosheen all those years ago. Breathe in the wondrous beauty of the song and it's uplifting feeling.

Also appearing for a track on the album is Chris Jones. Hot on the heels of his success with Armin Van Buuren in the song Going Wrong, Shah has brought him in for the floor filler Obsession. Apparently it's not just a Calvin Klein fragrance. It's also an eager track that will pound out over club speakers and have the highs and lows playing out as you lose yourself to the shamelessly enticing sounds of the song.

A dramatic and spicy highlight of the album is Porque. It features the amazing talent of Salma Ros. It would appear to be a debut for the songstress as there is very little information about her out there. The rich and smooth vocals are addictive. The track can be repeated several times over and still not get boring. The excitement of the track and the divinity of the production with the voice all creates a breath taking piece of musical breakthrough.

Appearing as an added bonus for those who buy the digital copy of the album, there is a second Chris Jones track Summer Days. It's got the open and uplifting feel to it that the title would suggest. It's actually hard to describe. There's so many positive things that can be said, it's hard to pick just one or two. The song if just a phenomenon on it's own.

As with any Shah production, there is a second version of each song that is more down tempo. The serenity of each track with a laid back and ambient feel, it's hard not to have your breath catch in your throat. Having Porque stripped back is addictive. Listening to Shine as an acoustic production just enhances it's beauty. It all proves just how truly versatile Shah really is with his production. 

Openminded!? is a masterpiece of electronica. Shah is constantly evolving and learning the art of his craft and applying the evolution to each release. It's crisp and modern yet still timeless. This is a fantastic release that is ready to have the uptempo versions playing before a night out and the down tempo ready for the recovery the next day. Whatever the time, this is an album and trance lover must have.

Openminded!? is out now through Armada

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2

It's over. It's finally over. The last of the Harry Potter movies is now in cinemas and the franchise has finished.

For those who aren't in the know, a boy wizard has to show down the big bad that killed his parents. It's been an epic story of magic, mystery, mischief and an infusion of romance as the story moved forwards.

The story picks up immediately where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1 left off. Voldemort has retrieved the elder wand and is now ready to take over the magical world. Muggles and half-bloods are doomed to misery as his pure blood supremacy takes full force.

The movie is, amazingly, quite true to the book. There are a few bits and pieces which have been dropped or altered to make it a bit more spectacular for cinema goers. Not enough changes, though, for too many grumblings. There's the fact that Harry didn't repair his wand at the end and they did change what Harry did with the elder wand.

Emma Watson is stunning in her role as Hermione, which no doubt fits like a second skin now. The producers must be counting their good fortune when they first cast her in the role all those years ago. Watson has grown into a talented actress with stunning looks.

Daniel Radcliffe has shown he has a career ahead of him. He could possibly turn out to be much like Elijah Wood. A few good movies and then disappears into nothing before coming back with a vengeance. The difference is Radcliffe has done seven well known movies. Note the use of term well known and not good. Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2, however, are certainly the jewels in the crown.

Rupert Grint. He's meant to be one third of the Golden Trio yet his performance didn't dazzle or amaze. He did his role competently but didn't set the screen on fire with his enthusiasm or stage presence like Watson and Radcliffe.

Alan Rickman, however, was a sight to behold. Finally showing the true depth behind Severus Snape, Rickman portrayed his character with an easy grace of the well seasoned professional that he is. Only as the final scene featuring Snape appears, do you truly realise just how amazing the character really was.

For the people who are waiting for that one line between Molly Weasley and Bellatrix LeStrange, it's there. Many were worried that it would end up on the cutting room floor but it didn't. Hearing Julie Walters calling Helena Bonham Carter a bitch... priceless.

The special effects are what you would expect for such an epic fantasy movie. The dazzling lights of the spells and the CGI of the stone gargoyles coming to life and just amazing and absolutely captivating.

All in all, the team did very well for this final piece of cinematic, and literary, history. Should anyone every decide that the will re-boot the series as Hollywood has taken to do doing at the moment, they won't come out of it unscathed. The series is ended, now let it rest. The movie is certainly well worth a look - go and see it now.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2 is in cinemas now!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Book Review: Diane Adams - Rearranging Stars

Book Review: Diane Adams - Rearranging Stars

Diane Adams has successfully returned to the the literary world with her latest story, Rearranging Stars. True to typical style, Adams has written a story that tugs at the heart strings and at the corner of the lips with a smile.

It's her first outing which doesn't fall in with her The Making of a Man series. Instead, this emotional drama, introduces two brand new main characters Grey and Drake. Both are equally endearing for their own character traits. Drake, a guardian angel, with his innocence and Grey, a vigilante mechanic, with his world views.

For those confused how this could work, the answer is very simple, incredibly well. Drake becomes Grey's guardian angel. Most startling to Drake is the fact that his charge can see and hear him. Grey is special and can see the guardian angels and hear what they have to say.

Drake himself is unusual for guardian angels as well. He requests to be a guardian for gay men. Most angels, when their charge passes away, forget their charges but not Drake, he claims to remember them all. He gets asked why at one point and the response is beautiful that they deserve to be remembered and not just forgotten. Adams handles the scene with easy grace and it's one of those precious moments when you choke on your own breath at the beauty of the words.

For anyone familiar with Adams other work, they will be aware that there is more than just crying and tissues with emotional overload. There are also the scattered one liners which are throughout the story. There's also a healthy dose of smut to run your eyes over. That in itself can lead to amusement as they try to work out how to have sex without hurting Drake's wings.

There is precious little that can be said about the story without sounding like hype and that's certainly not something that Adams deserves. The more hype, the less people are going to believe it. This is certainly not the case. This is a great read and an endearing story that sits proudly on display with so many other writers of her genre and sets an all new standard to read by.

Rearranging Stars is out now through Silver Publishing

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: Diane Adams - Stronger in Your Hands

Book Review: Diane Adams - Stronger in Your Hands

So it's finally here. This on going story that chronicles the lives of Alex and Jared has hit the point where Alex is finally 18. Yes, we all know what that means. He's now legal to participate in more adult activities.

Capturing the heart, Adams characters are nothing short of breath taking. The trials and pain that each character faces stops the heart and leaves it clenched. The sadness faced by Alex's best friend, Stevie, will leave tears in the eye of even the most stone hearted reader. The flawless wording leaves nothing to the imagination of the anguish that each character bears in the story.

Fortunately, the story is not completely maudlin. There are some beautiful and uplifting moments throughout. The favourite being the very last scene where the older version of Alex and Jared are dancing together in a park while it rains after the fourth of July fireworks. The scene is moving and the words that grace the screen reveals just how truly intimate the pair are and the deep love and affection that they share.

Of course, now that Alex is 18, there is an entire other side of the story which is more focused to the adult readers out there. Jared is now introducing Alex, a man 5 years his junior, to the world of sex. It's not by any means smut in it's description. Instead, Adams has managed to made it sensual and fun. The interaction between the pair shows an entire new level of intimacy and shows just why The Making of a Man is such a heart warming series.

Do not be afraid to fall in love with the characters as their on going relationship is endearing and even after you've read the title for a second or third time. Every time you read, it feels like a voyeuristic look into the life of a couple who are committed to each other and their relationship . Thankfully, it also feels like catching up with old friends. 

Diane Adams has written a world in which you are welcome to join and love along with the people who are featured. This is recommended for anyone who isn't afraid of love in all it's forms.

Stronger in Your Hands is out now through Silver Publishing

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Coming Soon: DJ Fresh feat Sian Evans - Louder

Coming Soon: DJ Fresh feat Sian Evans - Louder

So you know Sian Evans as the vocalist of Kosheen. She's teamed up with the amazing DJ Fresh and have dropped what is set to be one of the years biggest dance anthems.

This track is very dub step and, as a result, has come under heavy fire. Apparently, not every one likes dub step. Yeah, it is a surprise. Still, this is a testament to the ability of both Evans and DJ Fresh as they have kept their finger on the club pulse and have listened closely to what people are loving.

With Evans' soaring vocals and slick production on the part of DJ Fresh, it's an easily accessible track. Every time Evans hits the chorus, there's an urge to start pumping the fist in the air. This is certainly a collaboration that leaves most other recent releases in the genre behind. They have set the bar and they have set it high.

This is an exciting summer party tune (if you live in the northern hemisphere that is) that will rock the world around. Sorry folks, there doesn't seem to be a release date for the southern hemisphere at this stage... best bet is to add it as a favourite on youtube.

Louder is out July 3rd through Ministry of Sound

Have a look, see what you think:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Movie Review: Transformers Dark Side of the Moon

Movie Review: Transformers Dark Side of the Moon

Well here it is boys and girls. The final installment in the Michael Bay franchise and the movie he should have made instead of Revenge of the Fallen. Bay has it all this time around. Action, romance and comedy.

The first notable difference is the lack of Megan Fox and the addition of Rose Huntington-Whitely. There has been some less than friendly reviews about Rose's acting in the movie. Those reviews must have been written by jealous Megan Fox fans who were annoyed that Mikaela didn't return. How was that worked around? She dumped Sam apparently. Precious little gets said about the character which, for some of us, is a positive.

Also appearing in the movie is the legendary Leonard Nimoy. No stranger to the Transformer universe, Nimoy voiced Galvatron in the 1986 animated debacle Transformers: The Movie. Nimoy comes on board to play Sentinel Prime, the leader of the autobots before Optimus assumed the role.

Other stars pop up such as Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand and Ken Jeong. They have their own roles. Some you can't help but like. Others... well. No so much. They do give it a good go though, don't hesitate to believe otherwise. Of course there is also the franchise staples like Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and John Turturro.

For those not sure how Bay handled the movie, the answer is simple. Very well. The movie contains all the explosions of the second movie and the chemistry of the first movie and blended them well together. The fanboys and fangirls are going to try to tell you it was a bad movie. Sorry children, the cannon has changed and the original cartoon universe no longer applies.

The story is actually well put together with only one or two flaws but, all in all, isn't a bad yarn. The one that was heard most when leaving the cinema was "That's BS. How can there be Sentinel Prime in this movie when they said Optimus was the last prime in the last movie?" Apparently, people didn't actually consider that no one knew Sentinel Prime was still 'alive' until NEST soldiers told Optimus.

Without trying to reveal the ending, it seems highly unlikely that there will be any more movies in the franchise. Unless, of course, they decide to do a reboot in which case they're just going to irritate a lot of people.

The final verdict... it's a good movie. The audience, mostly, seemed to enjoy it. There's a lot going on in the movie and it's certainly a no-brainer. The story line is easy to follow, the one liners are perfectly delivered and the last hour is back-to-back action sequences with stealth, big bangs, fireworks and lots of oversized robots dying. The twist though, was perfectly thought up and well delivered. They say the third time is the charm. In this case, it certainly was.

Transformers Dark Side of the Moon is out now.