Cultural Highlights: 2013
December 20, 2013 | by Faber Social
2013 is drawing to a close and what a year it’s been. We’ve asked some of our authors, staff and friends to give us a rundown of their cultural highlights of the year. Happy Christmas from everyone in the Faber Social team and thanks for all your continued support this year! And make sure you check back in the new year for some very exciting announcements.
The artist Andy Holden did a retrospective of a scene he had created with his friends, as teenagers in Bedford, called Maximum Irony Maximum Sincerity, or M!MS. He found actors to re-enact their conversations, drawing up the M!MS manifesto in Poppins Cafe back in the late nineties when the irony wars seemed to matter. The highlight of the exhibition was a day trip to Bedford, to see the almost legendary M!MS sites, including Poppins, Andy’s house, and the very odd Panacea Society. We had a sing-song on the coach home. It felt like we were at school and Andy Holden was our geography teacher, only he was a geography teacher who will probably be Turner-nominated before too long.
Bob Stanley is a founding member of pop group Saint Etienne, journalist and author of hit book Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop
The Laidlaw Trilogy [re-issued] by William McIlvanney. When shining a light into the hidden recesses of the human condition truly great writing transcends genre and trite pigeonholing [‘Tartan Noir’,I ask you]. Although you’ll find these books in the crime section the real crime is that a great deal of Mr McIlvanney’s work is currently out of print.
They Were On Hard Drugs by Julian Cope. My first lysergic adventuring opened my [third] eyes to the possibility that religion could have its foundations in hallucination.The Drude takes this theory and croons over an analogue synth backing to produce my favourite track of the year [if not decade].
The Alternative Guide To The Universe [particularly the work of William Scott] at the Hayward Gallery. An exhibition full of work made by people because they had to not particularly because they wanted to. A beautiful antidote to the stinking mire of commodified art.
Andrew Weatherall is a much lauded DJ, producer and remixer. Andrew is also Faber Social’s current Artist in Residence.
Wizard’s Way. This is a film about some people who play an online wizard simulator, and some other people who make a documentary about them, which I saw in April. It’s written by and stars the Manchester-based novelists Socrates Adams (A Modern Family), Chris Killen (The Bird Room) and Joe Stretch (The Adult) (all also brilliant). It’s hilarious and dark and my favourite film of the year.
Tender. Female-identified web-journal of writing and art, edited by Rachael Allen and Sophie Collins. I am simply consistently astonished by the work in tender, now approaching #3. Highlights so far include Laura Jane Faulds’s story ‘A List Of All The Things I Want To Do, Like, In General’, Daniela Olszewska’s ‘Thirteenz’, Carina Finn’s poems, and Anna Metcalf’s ‘Translating Kafka’.
Crispin Best’s Twitter. Just follow Crispin on Twitter guys. Oh you already do.
Taipei by Tao Lin. Divisive. I think it’s a significant novel and mines new technologies for their metaphorical potential in ways no one else has got close to.Would be interested in/have half-formulated a sci-fi reading of this book.
Glovebox and Other Poems by Colin Herd. I got to write a blurb for this amazing poetry collection released on Dec 1st, that ends (the blurb not the book) ‘I wish there was some way I could actually wear Colin Herd’s poems.’
Cassandra Gillig on the Internet. Because of this and this, and other things you can find if you look. Also everyone should be grateful to her for making this available. Cassandra unfollowed me when I went nuts on Twitter in January which made me regret going nuts on Twitter at all.
Sam Riviere is a poet and co-editor of anthology series Stop Sharpening Your Knives. His debut collection 81 Austerities was released in 2012.
I’m not really a ‘pick yer fave baubles of the year’ type of guy. One persons ‘cultural highlight’ is my cultural ‘lowlight.’ Speaking of which, the real rock n roll low of this year was the death of Lou Reed. Lou meant everything to me and many others. Lou was both the real thing and total artifice. ‘I do Lou Reed better than anyone,’ quoth Lou, and a lot of people did Lou Reed, but Lou Reed was the master.
So, I went back to the old Velvets albums, records that I hadn’t played for maybe 20 years. I didn’t need to play them before – they were my lifeblood, but with the old master gone, I needed to check that – like the smack – they still flowed through my veins. ‘Live At Max’s Kansas City’ the second greatest live album of all time. Recorded on a cassette supposedly at the Velvets last ever show. The VU as a tight barroom boogie band for the Max’s backroom Warhol freak set (including a stoned Jim Carroll trying to score Tuinals) Then on to the greatest live album ever made ‘1969.’ When I was 15, dreaming of writing songs one millionth as good as Lou’s, this LP was my girlfriend. Definitive versions of ‘Lisa Says,’ ‘Sweet Jane’ (recorded the day it was written) and ‘New Age’ with those lines ‘Waiting for the phone to ring, diamond necklace on my shoulder…’ Those fucking lines, man. First love never dies, and I fell in love all over again. ‘1969’ Not, the greatest live album ever, simply, the greatest album ever made.
Luke Haines is an English musician, songwriter and author, who has recorded music under various names and with various bands, including The Auteurs, Baader Meinhof and Black Box Recorder.
The cultural events I remember don’t usually come from cultural or artistic spaces. They’re more things that moved me personally, maybe revealed a truth, spontaneous instants that tickets couldn’t be bought for. 2013 had a mixed bag of them. The year began with hearing in an author’s own voice the story of a man walking up a remote street, hands clenched, describing the households he passed, then releasing a bird from one of his hands through someone’s open window. It was told in captivating literary detail to me alone over a wooden bench beside a vineyard – but the author, as if he held a bird himself, was uncertain about writing it out. It was the most powerful book I’ve never read, which reminds me most of the great ones are still out there, in a life before paper. In September I danced for hours straight at Festival No. 6 to Andrew Weatherall, who wrote a novel with sounds that night, as complex and simple as Tolstoy. I ended the year reading a letter by Charles Bukowski for Letters Of Note – one on writing truth, which reminds me that arena is wide open for 2014. Lets’ go there.
DBC Pierre is a Man Booker Prize and Whitbread First Novel Award winning author. His most recent book ‘Petit Mal’ was published this year.
Clare Yates from the Faber Social team
Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother at Sadler’s Wells was without a doubt the cultural highlight of my year. Shechter’s intoxicating and potent blend of folk dance and ballet with thrashing guitars and ear-splitting drums, made for an intense assault on the senses – creating a wall of sound much louder and more powerful than any gig I’ve been to this year.
Definitely not for the faint-hearted (some the audience left the auditorium visibly shaken) but if you can handle being put through the wringer, Political Mother’s genre-defying, mosh-pit atmosphere will challenge any misconceptions that dance is remotely elitist or pretentious.
“We live in fruitful times my friends, dance music just refuses to head down the cul-de- sac so often predicted for it, restless innovation is married to a visceral need to MOVE, to get down with it, to TESTIFY! Daniel Avery is one such innovator, he points the way to all that is truly wondrous and compelling in Acid House .With his debut album ‘’Drone Logic’’ ,Daniel side steps fad and fashion and in so doing captures the essence of the dance Ritual, its primitive without being simplistic, it has melody, it has mystery, it has an alien other worldly quality, but like all great electronic music it has a very human heartbeat. Perhaps the most striking thing about this album is that though it was conceived on the dance floor of the underground, its not confined to the techno purist ghetto, it transcends genre, and defies easy categorisation, its why its still fun to jack.”
Justin Robertson is a British DJ and remixer of everyone from Bjork to Erasure.
Lee Brackstone, Faber Social Creative Director
In late Spring my friend James Endeacott mentioned a band to me called Hookworms. ‘You’ll love ’em’, he growled. The first track, Away/Towards, on their excellent debut album, Pearl Mystic, is sonic revelation. Nothing new, of course, but classical and pure, in a certain tradition of British psychedelia. And reminiscent of Endeacott’s own trio of two-chord noise pioneers, Loop, who themselves reformed at the end of the year. Other albums I’ve played to death this year include those by Jagwar Ma, Primal Scream (their best for a decade), Jon Hopkins, Kurt Vile, Fuck Buttons, and Grant Hart’s The Argument — the latter an intrelligent and musically various and unpredictable song suite riffing on Milton’s Paradise Lost.
My most memorable reading experience of the year was, as ever, the most sustained and instense. I read John Niven’s Straight White Male in 24 hours and would argue the case for Kennedy’s (its anti-hero) inclusion alongside the pantheon of Amis’s most outrageous protagonists from his mid-80s vintage.
Festival #6 in Portmerion provided many highlights: Daniel Avery, My Bloody Valentine and Johnny Marr amongst them. John Cooper Clarke, to a packed Piazza of maybe 2,000 people, reminded us why he is still Britain’s most entertaining man (and poet).
Perhaps my most cherished memory of the year will be bringing together Michael Smith and Andrew Weatherall to collaborate in words and music on the limited edition release of Unreal City. As Faber Social’s inaugural Artist in Residence, Mr Weatherall has been uncommonly generous with his time and creative insight nd he has left us with a beautiful thing in Unreal City: a concept turned physical artefact. I’m proud it will sit in the Faber Archive on the shelves between Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled and John Carey’s Faber Book of Utopias.
Glastonbury Festival has been the highlight of my year a few timesbefore. 1987 definitely was but I’m not sure then that what I enjoyed most would be classed as cultural.
This year it was a kind of festival based alignment of the planets – The Rolling Stones and The Arctic Monkeys were headlining and the summer looked like it was here to stay for the foreseeable future. It’s a big deal for any band that gets to play at Glastonbury and there was definitely a sense of expectation about The Stones. The pressure was definitely on.
Often, when I’m playing at a festival I don’t get too much time to spend there but we kind of cleared the diary for Glastonbury to make the most of it. It meant I got to see it from as many angles as possible. I played The Park Stage on the Sunday – everyone was making the most of the fact that the sunshinehad lasted. The whole place looked like the footage from those seminal 60s and 70s festivals – hazy and relaxed with a brilliant soundtrack.
An afternoon DJ set before FatboySlim at The Beat Hotel set the tone – then up to The Crow’s Nest for an afternoon’s capers with Shaun Keaveny and Pete Fowler. Every performance of every band I gotto see had something very special about it. Johnnie Marr, Cat Power, The Rolling Stones. So from a member of the audience, performerand music fan Glastonbury was definitely the cultural highlight of the year for me.
Tim Burgess is the lead singer of British band The Charlatans. His most recent record On No I Love You was released in 2012 as well as his celebrated memoir Telling Stories.
Dan Papps from the Faber Social team
The Redeemer by Dean Blunt took me wonderfully by surprise this year. Recommended to me by several friends on the back of an unquenchable Arthur Russell obsession, it’s an unsettling collage of strings, synths, voice and samples all themed around break-up. A dark pop record at heart – a deeply moving one – and like nothing else released this year.
Other notable mentions for Beautiful Rewind by Four Tet, the reissue of Kofi by Donald Byrd, Pearl Mystic by Hookworms and Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo by Hey Colossus. Hey Colossus deserves extra attention. Why aren’t they regarded as one of the most important heavy bands of our time? People are idiots.
Supernormal Festival, held in an artist commune in the Oxfordshire countryside, was a revelation – a truly psychedelic experience in beautiful surroundings, featuring all manner of strangeness across the arts. Clinic, David Thomas Broughton, Hookworms (again) and Art of Burning Water all highlights. Sad to have missed Richard Dawson on the Sunday night but the fear had kicked in and I needed to be back in my pod.
More recently the performance by outsider artist Lorrie Holley at Café Oto. At the time of writing this experience is less than 24 hours old but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Possibly one of the most breath-taking musical experiences I’ve ever had.
The best piece of fiction I read this year was Family Life by Akhil Sharma. Everyone should read this book when it’s published next year. Affecting and hilarious.
Special mention goes to a trip to the strange town of Hudson, NY in October. A long street of record shops, galleries, antique shops, restaurants and bars all set on the banks of the Hudson river. A perfect detour within a perfect trip.
Gemma Lovett from the Faber Social team
My cultural highlight of the year is Laure Prouvost’s Farfromwords at the Whitechapel Gallery, whose installation was inspired by the aesthetic pleasures of a six-month long artist residency in Italy. Bringing together large-scale drawings, collage, and film, the work combined the real alongside remembered and imagined landscapes including birds eating raspberries and women bathing in waterfalls. Dreamlike and hyper-real, the installation offered a kind of paradise and a small moment of summer gorgeousness in the greyness of East London. Laure Prouvost is also the much deserved winner of the 2013 Turner Prize.
My special mention goes to David Byrne and Annie Clark’s performance at the Art Centre in Melbourne this January. Their rendition of Strange Overtones was completely magic and one that I’m unlikely to forget.
The start of a new year is not a time for reflection but a time to look forward. The start of 2013 was different. It began on January 8th when David Bowie asked the question Where Are We Now? For me it set the tone for the next 12 months. It was a year where the past became the present and I spent most of the time asking myself not only Where Was I? But also Who? What and Why? I’ve not answered any of these questions – far from it. I have however been searching…I’ve looked all over the place. A few things have helped me. Kate Tempest at Glastonbury reminded me of the power of the spoken word. The Saturday morning market in Brockley, South East London proved to me that food can still excite. Bob Stanleys book Yeah Yeah Yeah revitalised my love of Pop music and The Drift Record Shop in Totnes made me fall in love with shopping for music again. I’d like to thank Light In The Attic Records and Jazzman Records as well for re-introducing Michael Chapman and Jef Gilson to the world. Someone, somewhere once said the past is a foreign country they do things differently there. Maybe, maybe not. It’s all the same to me these days. Here’s to the future, the present and the past.
Where Are We Now? Still here David. Still here.
James Endeacott signed and A&R’d The Libertines. He now works for Faber Music and his writing his memoir of his time in the record business, The Fat White Duke.