We signed up for a dose of crazy math rock last Wednesday as Battles came to town. Their live set was as good as their latest album, an intense mix of noise, beats and squeaks in a packed intimate arena, even though we couldn’t see their crazy drummer work his magic. Seeing the complexity of their music created live was quite special, although it is obviously takes its toll as they all looked they could do with a nice cup of tea and a sit down (or perhaps a little less chemical enhancement) by the end of the set.
We spent last weekend relocating ourselves to a new part of the West End – allowing Claire her own room at last and access to Glasgow’s highest concentration of cafe’s and smelly cheese shops. As a bonus we picked up panoramic views of Glasgow (above) to impress guests and make us late for work as we stare out the window rather than eating our breakfast.
We now have space to burn so visitors are welcome – we have our first guest this week as CJ makes his triumphant arrival from his grand tour of Europe.
Having tasted the purity of Scandinavia we then ventured back to the somewhat more rough & tumble Berlin. With more rain, graffiti and abandoned buildings it was a different but no less interesting cityscape that awaited us.
We spent a couple of days in the South West of the city including a day trip to Potsdam and the Sans Souci palaces and gardens(above), and a quick sqiz at the somewhat surreal Norman Foster library at the Free University (below) before heading east.
Most of our time was spent wandering the wonderfully textured inner suburbs of Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain(below) and Kreuzberg ducking into cafÃ©s or bars whenever the weather turned ugly. It was nice to have limited time pressures having covered touristy things in our previous visit 6 years ago. As there is a huge surplus of accommodation in Berlin there are fantastic re-uses of vacant buildings dotted about the place with beautiful run-down apartments overlooking leafy squares.
We tried to taste a bit of the culture of the city – watching Holly Golightly play at a tightly packed smoky bar as well as visiting a slew of Wallpaper mentioned bars and clubs with our architouring friends â€“ the architecture tended to be great while the music was often crappy house. There was even a design festival on while we were in town to allow us to complete our overdose of design.
Located ourselves on the outer edge of Europe for a few days last weekend â€“ a week too early for this yearâ€™s Eurovision Song Contest we learnt to our dismay.
The city itself was fantastic â€“ absolutely spotlessly clean with wide streets and crisp building lines giving a sharp edge to every perspective. Surrounded by water we explored quite a few bays and islands but spent most of our time wandering the streets, checking out new architecture (as we were architouring with our friend CJ) and hanging out in bars & cafÃ©s meeting the locals. Each little bay at the end of a street provided a new surprise – bits of working harbour jammed up against luxury residential development, or an eight storey high ferry moored right in the centre of town.
People seemed particularly friendly â€“ in a bit of a â€˜why the hell are you hereâ€™ sense and we made some great contacts for future visits. The bars and cafes (there isnâ€™t much of a distinction they all serve multiple purposes it seems) were great â€“ quite simple food, very clean understated interior design that made them feel comfortable without seeming fussy.
Architecturally the best stuff we found was at the end of random tram rides (trams are now a requirement for Chhay & my next city of residence, we have decided after this trip) rather than the flashy new buildings in the centre of town.
Aalto’s Finladia Hall (below) was still the highlight however, sitting delicately in it’s context, even if we weren’t allowed inside.
Aberdeen was lovely for a day. The gig on Friday night was an interesting mix of classical piano & guitar with some old school synth action. We then caught up with Claireâ€™s friend and chatted away until about two in the morning. This was fine apart from the 7 am start that she had the next day – necessitating an early exploration of Aberdeen on our behalf. Thankfully the weather was beautiful and the Granite City was sparkling at its finest (we have heard that it is much less pleasant in the grey of winter). After wandering the city for a couple of hours including a trip to the beach and a visit to the medieval section of Old Aberdeen we meandered our way down the coast via a couple of charming spots.
Stonehaven (above) was our first stop – a little fishing village that is the original home of the deep-fried mars bar! We grabbed elevenses at a cute cafe at the end of the pier before wandering down the road to speak to the ghosts at Dunnottar Castle which is sited dramatically on a narrow peninsula.
Late in the afternoon in the deepest heart of Fife we located the Henderson family’s old castle (well large house is a better term really) at Fordell. Now guarded by security cameras and the home of a reclusive Spanish film star we didn’t get past the gates however plans are afoot for the storming and recapture (I have contacted the local medieval society for advice).
Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire absolutely rocked out the Bongo Lounge in Edinburgh later that night, with old skool moves very much the order of the day. A handlebar moustache and Legionnaires outfit completed the picture.
Struggling somewhat after a very long weekend we had a relaxing afternoon at the Tramway back in Glasgow on Sunday, lazing about at the Ballads of the Books gig. A little poetry, some sunshine and a helping of ‘fey indie pish’ (according to our electro-head friend Andy) spent with just about everyone we know in Glasgow was delightful.
Not to be deterred by Monday looming large in the rear vision mirror we squeezed in a late nightclub gig at the styling Optimo watching James Chance & the Contortionists – the white man’s James Brown strut his stuff. Much like James Brown he seemed more dead than alive but despite hair to rival Donald Trump he had the kiddies baying for more.