Six Of The Best: TANKENGINE | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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We carry on celebrating local label Sapien Records tenth birthday by reaching out to artists on their roster. Here, Newcastle’s super power trio and purveyors of textural sophisto-rock, TANKENGINE, tell us about their broad influences across the arts with a six of the best.

The Last of Us/Left Behind/The Last of Us Part 2
It’s easy to dismiss games as just a pleasant distraction when compared to music, literature and art as they don’t really make you think, they make you think about what you’re doing, how to do it but not why, there’s limited emotional engagement beyond joy or frustration. The Last of Us and its DLC and sequel would be excellent games in themselves with any narrative due to the gameplay and level design etc but the story is the thing. The way it makes you feel guilt, compassion, accountable, disgust, love is not something I’ve ever experienced in a game before. This is real heart wrenching stuff in places but with stealth kills too. This a leap forward in what games can do and it comes from the story, not the technology. Play the first one first and avoid all spoilers.

Stalker
I only saw this very recently and it’s stayed with me since (please appreciate the pun I avoided). I’d seen Solaris a few times and very much enjoyed it but just never got around to seeing this and when I did it left an impact. Basically The Wizard of Oz via Arrival it’s absolutely stunning. It looks beautiful, rich in imagery and allusion, some very poetic dialogue, it has an oblique story and a dreamy, amazing soundtrack.

David Lynch
I feel like being a musician and saying you like David Lynch took a battering in the past decade or so when it became a byword for standing very still, looking bored, singing as if you’re bored and using a lot of reverb. I’d recently rewatched all of Twin Peaks then went back to a lot of his other films which were referenced either by the use of the actors, themes, images etc. and was struck by how much of The Return was in conversation with what had gone before, traces of Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive, The Lost Highway. Lynch hints at things, huge things; hope, loss, love, dreams, the collective unconscious, the personal unconscious, the shadow but equally has a real sense of comedy and melodrama. His work seems to be ambient as it’s around things as much as about them, communicating through mood as much as dialogue or visuals. The fact it may explain itself, or be able to be explained, never feels like it’s a cheat.

Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing
I’d heard nothing but good things at the time but never got around to this until we were deep in lockdown and it was perfect for that time. A show where two men in their sixties are just slowly funny at each other and looking at water. It’s also very poignant at times, them talking about experiencing bereavement, growing old, their own mortality. It’s a very charming and quietly moving show and never feels jarring when it pivots from Bob falling over for seemingly no reason to Paul going to scatter his dad’s ashes, obviously aided massively by the two main characters in it.

The Blue Nile
I’ve been listening to The Blue Nile for a while now but every year I seem to get more into them. The recent reissues with extra material only added to that and I finally got around to reading the excellent biography by Allan Brown. They’re such a considered and emotional band, it’s easy to be put off by the 80s sheen and seemingly AOR sensibilities of it but after very little in the way of trying it just gets more rewarding. It’s very inspiring in terms of how a very few, very strong component parts can make something so fine and delicate. Paul Buchanan’s voice just sells the whole thing.

Run The Jewels
I don’t want to come across all “I heard of them first” but I likely will, someone loaned me Funcrusher Plus by Company Flow in ‘98 and ‘99 and loved it and have kept up with El-p’s solo output and production ever since. I’d heard Killer Mike on Cancer 4 Cure then got his RAP album because of El-p doing production but I don’t think anything prepared me for Run The Jewels and the development of their subsequent albums. Certainly not for RTJ4 which was uncannily of and about the moment. It’s really inspiring to see two guys, decades into their career cash in on decades of just refining their craft. They’re probably the only band that still gives me that teenage feeling of making me think I’m as cool as the music I’m listening to.

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