love lies there still

(Would you like one or two songs while you read?)

The oblique light of the afternoon sun brings warmth to the coldest of places. But the cold, cold ground of Abney Church Cemetery resists the thawing rays. The long winter sleep, and the long sleep of death, do not wish to be disturbed.

It is enough that we tread among the headstones for we do not belong here.

Here is a place for silent stone and twisting roots, for old memories and lost love. Here is where life comes to remind itself of death. And here is where the living brave their fears of oblivion and night noises, and walk gladly during the hours of the day.

The bloom of Spring tells the tale of the cycle. And so, even when we come to pass, our substance is transmuted into a new form. Are we not one and the same with the great oak tree and the distant stars?

Are we not stardust?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran


Photographs taken with a Canon Powershot SX10 10.0Mp


battersea power station

I wonder what would have happened to this old building had it not been used on the cover of Pink Floyd‘s tenth album, Animals. It became fused in the band’s imagery. Yet, for a long time, it’s future remained uncertain. It went from being an iconic monument of the glory of the industrial age to the derelict shell it is today, barely preserved by it’s Grade II* listing.

The first half of the building was built in 1933 (imagine the half lengthwise) and the second in 1955. Although designed by a team of architects and engineers, its ‘brick cathedral’ style is often attributed to Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who also designed the ubiquitous red telephone booths and the Bankside power station, better known today as the Tate Modern art gallery.

Older yet much smaller, the Greenwich power station is still active today.


The two parts of the power station were decommissioned separately, just as they had been built, with operations coming to a full stop in 1983 when the ‘B station’ was shut down. The Battersea power station is now, literally, an empty shell with only the outer walls and smokestacks (chimneys) remaining.

Between 1986 and 1990, it narrowly escaped the threats of being turned into a theme park or an indoor shopping mall! While awaiting it’s rebirth, it has been used for a number of events and shoots. Pictures have appeared on album covers for Petula Clark, Les Claypool, The Who and Morrissey and the site was used to shoot videos for Tori Amos and Bruce Dickinson, or in movies from Alfred Hitchcock, Monty Python and, more recently, in Batman: The Dark Knight and The King’s Speech.

The whole site now belongs to Real Estate Opportunities and they sum up their ambitious restoration project thus:

Its sustainable regeneration will offer a mix of uses including residential, offices, arts and culture, all of which will be served by retail, leisure and performance space, along with a fantastic new 6 acre park fronting the River Thames.

Of all the owners since the closure of the station, they are the first to introduce the element of sustainability in their project:

One of Real Estate Opportunities’ key objectives is to create a low carbon development at Battersea Power Station. A major revision to the Power Station itself will be zero carbon, with low energy buildings surrounding the Power Station. Our aim is to reverse the enormous historic carbon footprint of the Power Station.

Through the introduction of a decentralised energy generation facility, the project will be highly sustainable and will be one of London’s most environmentally conscious developments.

Let’s just hope that they deliver on the promises!

Click to enlarge

The restoration of the actual power station is supposed to be finished in 2016, and the rest of the site and adjoining buildings by 2020. I will probably no longer live in London by then but will certainly drop by Battersea when I come back here for holidays or business. You can see more about the current project here.


Photographs taken with:

Canon Powershot SX10 10.0Mp

Pentax P30n (film).



a Sunday morning stroll

(rediscovering what we take for granted)



between two worlds

It takes a certain type of genius and a certain type of insanity, not necessarily in equal measure, to create something radically new. Winemaking has most definitely been likened to artistry before, but what these guys are doing is nothing short of conceptual art.


I love crazy people.


little grey days


i want to live in a soundtrack

There are a lot of groups I grew up with that I never thought I would see in concert.  They had ceased to exist in that way, had disbanded, had moved on to other projects.  I had been born a few years too late for my musical tastes.

But in the last few years, it seems they all made their way back to the stage. Ministry had sworn they would never come back to Montréal after having been, um, shagged by their promoter. But years later, they did. Twice in a year, as I seem to recall. Bauhaus‘ life ended in 1983 – I was just a kid – and gave way to Tones on Tail (for a while) and then Love & Rockets. Their frontman, Peter Murphy, has a successful if somewhat discreet solo career. Why would they reconcile and go on tour so many years later? I didn’t mind, the show was perfect. But you have to wonder.  A couple of years before that, The Pixies did a reunion tour. A Montréal journalist surmised that it was purely for the money. Another that it was meant to satisfy Black Francis’ galaxy-sized ego. After all, The Breeders were doing better than he was on his own. There was also Sisters of Mercy, Front 242, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, The Residents, The Police. To me, The Residents are the weirdest and most visionary band in the history of music and, even though they are still active, I never thought I would see them in concert.

I’m amused at the idea that if you don’t know these groups, their names wouldn’t necessarily make you want to listen to their music. My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult? Thank you, I’ll pass.

When Massive Attack released their Mezzanine album, I brought it to many a friend’s flat and often received dubious looks when I suggested they listen to it. Massive Attack doesn’t sound like an atmospheric, down-tempo trip-hop band, but more like a speedcore outfit.

Something similar happened recently. By similar I mean both seeing a band in concert that I didn’t think I’d see, and telling people about it only to find unease on their faces. “Oh, is this, like, a death metal band?” No, absolutely not. It’s post rock, and I know this doesn’t mean anything to you but if I could get you to listen to even one of their tracks, you would understand why I’m so excited to see them live. Did I mention they haven’t toured in ten years? Hold that thought.

Something happens to me every time autumn comes around, something which lasts into the shivering months. My winter personality resurfaces. It doesn’t create any drastic changes in me, it just sharpens certain aspects of me. I start favoring my black clothes over my (few) colored ones. My diet includes more root vegetables, stews, soups and hearty red wines. And my taste for music takes a turn towards the less primal and more orchestrated end of the spectrum. I listen to soundtracks, like for the movies Akira or Mission, or music that could have been a soundtrack, like Jorane, The Residents (again) or Made to Measure (a project, not a band). I go back to Mogwai, Talk Talk, Radiohead, Einstürzende Neubauten (literally: Collapsing New Buildings. Another one to raise eyebrows!), Do Make Say Think, Patrick Watson and, because that’s where I was headed with this whole post, Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

As far as I knew, Godspeed were done. I mean, when a band has not toured in ten years, has not produced any new material and all the members are involved in other projects (Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-la-la Band, Fly Pan Am, HRSTA, Set Fire to Flames), you don’t expect a colleague at work to tell you how happy he is because he just bought a ticket to go see them. Right?

But they did tour. And they did come to London. And I did manage to get a ticket. They played three nights at the Troxy, two of which were sold out. See what I mean?

The opening act was The Dead Rat Orchestra which left a lasting impression on me with their subtle, textured  and sometimes eerie pieces, drawing from folk but with an instrumental and experimental approach. Listen to some of their tracks here.

For Godspeed, I was oscillating between having no expectations and having a lot. I didn’t know quite what to expect but also didn’t want to be disappointed by a band ‘past its prime’ and\or ‘doing it for the wrong reason’. It turns out they are not, and they didn’t. Changes in membership over the last few years brought us a band that offered less violins and more electric guitars, something I certainly didn’t object to for a live performance. The energy was palpable as they took us through a generous two-hour set of slow starts, multi-layered build-ups and near ecstatic peaks. They certainly have not lost their edge.

As I was writing this post, I thought going on and on about bands you may have never heard of was perhaps a bit dry, so I put together a playlist on 8Tracks. If I’ve managed to tickle your curiosity, you can listen to some of the bands mentioned in this post here. The tracks will only be played in the order I’ve selected the first time, then they will be shuffled. It’s how 8Tracks works. If you want to hear more, try these websites: Deezer, Jango or Pandora (if you’re out of the U.S.you will need to install HotSpot Shield to access Pandora. Well worth the time as this is probably the most interesting web radio). My favorite is Spotify: it’s free but requires installation.

Here are some albums I think are fantastic, in the spirit of this post:

Bed – Spacebox

The Residents – Fingerprince

Explosions in the Sky – How Strange, Innocence

Blonde Redhead – 23

Do Make Say Think – The Other Truths

Einstürzende Neubauten – Silence is Sexy

Jorane – 16mm

Talk Talk – Laughing Stock

Mogwai – Come On, Die Young

Patrick Watson – Wooden Arms


moment of grace

I think Romain was right. It started with the curve of the hill.

It had a subliminal effect on me. I just didn’t know it when we drove up to Michael Dhillon’s winery, Bindi. The first thing that struck me was the impressive amount of kangaroos grazing silently just meters away from the buildings. I mean tens, dozens. The Aborigines have a deep connection to the land – secret sites, sacred spaces in the heartland of Australia. Maybe the kangaroos have it too.

The vineyard was planted by Michael’s father, Bill, some 20 years ago. It was an imperative, a calling, a task set to him by someone dear. The chardonnay and pinot noir vines have pushed their roots through the quartz fragments and the wine made from their fruit proved to be a bit of a revelation.

In the barrel room, the spotlights have been laid on the floor, hidden behind the barriques. Their light projects towards the ceiling and gives the impression that we have just stepped into a sanctuary. Without realizing it, I think we all lowered our voices. Then, complete silence fell on the group as we started tasting his Composition and Quartz chardonnays, followed by the Composition and Original Vineyard pinot noirs. The whites are airy, diaphanous and have a racy elegance. The reds are light, complex and show bright red fruit and notes of spice. Liquid geography? A light rain started while we were tasting and softly drummed on the corrugated steel roof.

As we came out and gathered around the dinner tables, we were poured a glass of 2003 sparkling wine. It has a burnished gold color, a soft creamy effervescence and rich, exuberant aromas. I sipped my glass in Bill’s company, the wise old man with a sparkle in his eyes. I asked him what his career was and not happy with the simplicity of my question, he decided to sum up his life in less than two minutes, including the planting of the vineyard, Michael’s birth, the loss of his wife and ‘here we are tonight’. I was caught off guard. I used to think that death was part of life, something that had to be accepted. And it is. But I lost my father five years ago and only then realized how painful death is for those who stay behind. I’ve become a real sap ever since and my guts turn to porridge every time I hear of someone’s loss.

Dinner was ready and so we sat. Michael stood. He thanked his wife Wendy for the dinner we were about to enjoy. He thanked his father, without whom none of this would have been possible. He thanked his long-time friend Cameron who was joining us at the table. And then he thanked us for being there. I mean, seriously. He makes some of the most fabulous wines in Australia and he was thanking us for being there…

My favourite feeling in the world – and believe me, I’ve given this some thought – is sitting in good company and having had just a bit of food, and having sipped a bit of wine. My stomach is content, yet not full. My head spins a bit but I’m not drunk. That’s when I usually lean on the back of my seat, sigh, and think that Life is amazing and that I’m lucky to have the choice of going through it the way I do.

And here I was, sitting at Bindi. I had sensed something upon arriving. I had been softened by the still wines, elevated by the sparkling one, touched by both Bill and Michael. I was a vessel of joy. The food was delicious, the company pleasant. I was overwhelmed. I stood up during dinner, walked into the darkness and cried. Twice.

When I came back the second time, I noticed Lisa and Romain’s eyes were red as well. I was not the only one touched by so much generosity, by such humanity.

Wendy. Bill. Michael. Thank you!




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