A forgotten Parisian urban utopia

This week I discovered the suppressed architectural alter-ego of Paris. Pretty unusual opener to a blog post.

Forget the Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, and Classical look of the city as we know it. This modernist view is something entirely unexpected but compeletely engrossing.

Local French photographer Laurent Kronental has captured a briefer moment somewhere between the 50s and 80s where a burst of modernist architecture predicted a futuristic utopia. I reckon very few of us living elsewhere would associate this look with the French capital.

As the capital continued to grow with an influx of immigrants and urbanisation, a housing crisis followed and a solution was needed. The answer was to build these imposing modernist buildings, that sadly, within a couple of decades would reflect a forgotten Paris. Younger families moved out, enticed by affluent inner city Paris, older residents stayed put.

This series, titled ‘Souvenir d’un Futur’, looks at the residents of these neglected buildings and what he describes as ‘the poetry of ageing environments’.

Can’t keep my eyes off these.

Really fascinating stuff. It’s almost like a bizarre alternate-universe Paris. I love them, a perfect example of “urban culture” and how a proposed utopia 30 years ago can shift quite drastically from what was envisioned.

What do you think? As always, get in touch in the usual places on social, or in the comments below!

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Steven
UKB

Images © Laurent Kronental

52 weeks of Fanboy

Fanboy, the evolution of the Edinburgh streetwear brand Pieute, has established itself as a bit of a creative hub in the capital.

Taking influences from graffiti, street art, skating and all things local, as well as a good deal of tongue-in-cheek patter (see the take on the controversial Creative Scotland funded arts project the Glasgow Effect) it’s a perfect example of how things could and really should be in the capital. I’m thinking specifically in terms of clothing, art and events.

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Fanboy Effect by Mr Penfold

Having struck up a strong partnership with Cambridge based artist Mr Penfold, their signature tees emblazoned with “Pieute” and Penfold’s characters, brought a piece of the London pie and made it Edinburgh’s.

My tees were promptly worn until threadbare, proud to be able to say that they were born here. I’m a bit like that though.

Last year with the evolution of the brand into Fanboy, and thankfully the new premises on Candlemaker Row, they have really been working hard to step things up.

A renewed partnership with Mr Penfold saw the guys kick off their ambitious “52 weeks of Fanboy” project, where he has been invited to create a new logo every week of the year for the brand.

On the back of Penfold’s predictably impeccable stint during January, Casey Peckio took the reins for “FanboyFebruary” – his challenge to create a new logo each day of the month. His minimal, clean and colourful designs are an absolute delight, even more spectacular given the tight working deadlines.

These are two of the best continued projects going on over on Instagram right now – follow them at www.instagram.com/fanboyco to keep on top of them both.

If I needed to define the sort of stuff I’m into, I’d probably be just as well showing his work. So clean! Too good. An absolute find for Fanboy as well, some of these logos need printing up straight away.

All images courtesy of Fanboy / Casey Peckio

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And if all this wasn’t enough to keep your mind and wallet occupied, join the boys at their Shop in March for the Mr Penfold and Aero exhibition opening. I can’t wait or this one.

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Steven
UKB

5 Pearson Sound tracks for restless feet

Good news on the clubbing front in Edinburgh this month.

Edinburgh based club night Lezure has been on my radar since first experiencing their parties in May 2015. The trio of Berliners, ItaloJohnson, were invited to play some records at the Mash House, and it’s a night that still sticks in my mind as one of the best sets I’ve heard in person in an Edinburgh club.

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Anyway, I was hooked, so their latest event had me scrambling for my debit card quicker than usual.

Co-owner of the formidable Hessle Audio (alongside Ben UFO and Pangaea), Pearson Sound aka David Kennedy will be giving the impressive soundsystem a workout on Friday 26 February.

If you’re already sold like I was, there are some £7 early birds floating around via Party for the people. Profits go to charity – clubbing for a good cause, everyone wins!

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However, at the time of writing, there were still 14 full days of anticipation lying in wait. So I’ve pulled together 5 tracks to help ease those restless feet.

I’ve also tried to put into words why I’ve picked them. However, as with much of his music, I’ve found it really quite hard to put this down in words, so maybe it’s best to let the music do most of the talking…

1. Pearson Sound – Untitled

First Pearson Sound track I bought, and it’s still one of my favourites. Fairly minimal with thudding sub-bass punctuating the track.

I really love the moment early on when the organ and clapping snare combine, as well as the drop with the lurching bass about a minute later. It’s a funny track as there isn’t much to it really, but it also doesn’t feel like it’s missing anything in particular either.

2. Ramandanman – Work Them

Okay, so not strictly a Pearson Sound track. But David Kennedy’s other project, Ramadanman, has more than it’s fair share of highlights so hopefully you’ll let its inclusion slide.

This track starts off fairly quietly with snapping 808 sounds that make way for the “work them” vocal sample and bouncing bass when the track really lifts off. Layered bells, rasps, cracks and chopped vocals give this one it’s dancefloor edge.

3. Pearson Sound – Blanked

Blue eyes has it’s feet firmly in the old dubstep camp of the mid to late 2000s, made clear with the heavy, squelching bass, strings, vocal sample and bleak atmosphere. It sort of reminds me of some of Burial’s work on ‘Untrue’, this one also has a dark urban vibe to it.

4. Pearson Sound – Glass Eye

From the debut L, I first heard this one on Rinse I think and again it’s a masterclass in minimal electronic music. With a stripped back bass line, whipping, wet sounds, this one never really gets into top gear, but there’s something I really like about that.

5. Pearson Sound – Ex

This one’s pumped up, with a biting tempo, gibberish vocal samples laced throughout and a banging bassline. A fine way to leave us hanging on for more until the 26th.

See you down the front!

Steven
UKB

Alex-Ander-Traxx – UKB Guest Mix #36

Glasgow’s Ander-Traxx label has been releasing its own brand of Detroit and Chicago house inspired electronic music since 2012. Two of those releases have been committed to wax, and a number of others digitally, with more expected in the pipeline by the end of the year by label owner Alex Mcvey.

Ander-teaxx-featThe face behind the label put down an hour’s worth of soulful house selections for the latest UKB guest mix podcast episode- and I was hooked from the off. The perfect start to your week, in my opinion…

Like many other DJs and producers currently releasing electronic music, his first exposure to creating wasn’t in the studio but came while playing bass for a number of bands during his high school years.

Midway through taking a music production college class, his lecturer gave him a cracked version of Reason and from that moment on his own musical trajectory altered.

Mcvey always had plans for a label of his own, but it wasn’t until Carlos Nilmmns wanted to remix one of the tracks he had on SoundCloud that it really started moving.

On the mix, Mcvey’s naturally relaxed attitude to pulling it together feels like it’s transferred into the mix, the hour’s journey of free-flowing and brilliantly blended selections seem effortlessly put together. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.

Stay tuned for the tracklist.

Steven
UKB

Rolling back the blogyears – a year of blogging in Edinburgh

I’m bucking the trend. It’s a month past the start of the new year and those lists of “best [insert topic] of 2015” have dried up. Until now!

The blogging year now runs from the start of February until the end of Januray, to coincide with the UK Blog Award nominations.

So with a another “blogyear” complete, I’m taking a quick look backwards at some of my Urban Kultur highlights of the last 12 months.

February, cezrveza y arte in Barcelona

In a misguided attempt to soak up some winter sun (note to self: Barcelona isn’t the answer in deepest winter) I sipped on cervezas and snapped some shutters in the Catalonian giant.

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Read part 2 of my 3 part virtual street art tour in Gracia and El Raval. It’s been one of my most read posts of the year!

March, a UKB Sheik-down

One of the standout UKB Guest Mix podcasts of the year came from Sheik, whose music can be found on the equally impressive District Sound label.

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Featuring tracks from the latest Zed Bias LP (if MP3s wore out in the same way cassettes did, my copy would be un-listenable by now) and rapid transitions, I’ve gone back to this mix time and time again, and so have you!

May, crafty fags with Penfold

In London for the UK Blog Awards last year, I made sure I got time to visit the latest exhibition from Mr Penfold. The subject matter? Tabs, butts and dog-ends. The result? SO GOOD.

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Representing a new direction for Penfold I was excited to check this one out, my favourite exhibition of the year without doubt. Jimmy C’s “Atomised” a close second…

May, Bangers and Mash (House)

ItaloJohnson, admittedly, hadn’t made much of an impact on me before May. Mainly because their appearance at the Mash House in Edinburgh was the first I’d heard of them. But what an impact they made!

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The trio perform with an unusual back to back to back (b2b2b) setup and on this evidence, I’ll crawl over hot coals to get to see them the next time they’re in town.

You can try to relive the episode I’m calling “Bangers and Mash House” – Couldn’t resist the pun (again) – via their equally impressive Boiler Room set.

May (still), Edinburgh’s Bold Town

A summer graffiti jam hosted by Edinburgh’s go-to arts shop, Spectrum Arts, saw some top class UK based street artists in town, including Toasters and RogueOne.

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I nipped down to document the finished pieces that adorned the board by the soon to be revamaped Caltongate area. Tinged with sadness this one. Time is ticking for this space – and it looks like street art like has a limited lifespan at New Street…

December, casting my first pod

Super-excited to have launched my ‘Kulturcast’ podcast, I also created an accompanying video with Fraser Gray whose public artwork has made visits to Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh far more palatable!

Had a blast chatting with him, and checking out his studio in the Edinburgh Pallette complex. Check it all out in my 5 minute video here…

Steven
UKB

Top 5 politically inspired street artists

My recent Kulturcast episode with Dave the Chimp got me thinking.

Dave’s very much into the idea that art should be created for a reason. To highlight an issue, offer support to a cause, or just to use your voice. But not for self-publicising.

The political side of street art is one that’s very interesting, few other art forms have the potential to reach so many, especially now in the age of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

So whose art has been some of the most powerful? I pulled together my top 5 chin-scratching, politically inspired artists and their murals from near and far, recent and long ago.

Escif, Sweden 2015

Escif’s work is almost entirely politically motivated in one way or another. His murals have made clear his position on a number of issues. In this one he sets out support for Greece’s recently elected left-wing Syriza party, and the nation.

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This mural hooks onto the ancient Greek tradition of breaking plates against marble floors of to ward off evil spirits with the clatter of broken crockery. Was this gigantic plate enough to ward off western Europe’s politicians? Only time will tell…

Blu, Berlin 2008

Blu is like the street art Yoda of political muralism. His razor sharp observations emblazoned on the biggest spaces in Europe and across the world. Of his many, many inspired paintings, my favourite is definitely the East/West mural (sadly no longer) on Berlin’s Cuvrystrasse.

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As a self confessed Berlinophile, I loved this mural for 2 reasons. The first, being it’s relation to of one of the most fascinating times in European history. And secondly, the sly East and West hand symbols, with each character representing the waryness of Berliners to their counterparts over the wall.

Banksy, London 2016

There’s a lot of Banksy-bashing going on these days.

Many accuse his work of being a bit tired, symbolising everything that’s ‘gone wrong’ in street art. Basically that his art is now so sought after, people will fight among themselves to be the first to crowbar it off a wall, like it’s some Willy Wonka-esque golden ticket to a hassle free existence.

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The ongoing refugee crisis, which seems to have dropped in newsworthiness from the mainstream media recently, is highlighted here via QR code (incidentally, about the only time these have ever been useful).

The link takes you to a video of the French authorities inhumanely bulldozing camps and using tear gas in Calais refugee camps.

Those who dislike Banksy’s work surely can’t have much to say against this important awareness raising piece.

Stik, London 2010

Stik’s one of my favourite artists. His style is simple, clean and colourful which really appeals to me. What’s impressive is that his work generally consists of 6 lines and 2 dots – but their real beauty lies in the powerful, and often sad, messages they put across.

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Many of his paintings deal with the issue of gentrification in London, especially in areas such as Hackney.

This piece highlights the sadness and ultimate pointlessness of the destruction of the creative hub, the Foundry, on Old Street. The open art space used by a young Banksy, Faile and Invader was bought over by property developers before being left empty. Seriously…

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Special mention to this piece as well, I couldn’t mention Stik and only choose one after all! This one demonstrating togetherness, at a time when some politicians in the UK seem determined to undermine and undo the multicultural melting pot our country has become.

Dave the Chimp, London 2016

Finally, the man who planted the seed for this blog in my head! Dave the Chimp’s not one for wasting an opportunity to get his opinion heard.

As part of the #notacrime project, his work helped to raise awareness of the mistreatment of people who follow the Bahai faith in Iran – many are banned from teaching and studying purely because of their religion.

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Dave’s ‘human beans’ support the Bahais and aim to raise awareness, via the ‘#notacrime hashtag, of this unbelievable persecution of Iranians by their own government.

Let’s chat!

So, there you have it, my current favourite politically inspired artists and their murals.

Who are your current favourites? Do you think street art is the place for political commentary? Share your views with me over on Facebook, Twitter or comment below.

Steven
UKB