Journey.

What a trip.

Hello void dwellers, time for another pry?

OK, firstly, this site is now up and running due to the kindness of a friend I’ve never met but known digitally since the days of my first website ‘Hellclouds’, heh! Apple ceased hosting last Sunday and hiab-x needed a new home. Thanks Jason 😉

I’ve been very busy recently as a subcontractor in the centre of Bath, I’m helping with the assorted repair and rebuild requirements of a central 18th century hotel. It’s great having the regular work but oh boy, getting up at 5:30 to start at 7:30 Mon-Fri is making me resemble a walking corpse by 8:30 most evenings, my appetite for brains has leapt through the roof.

I must admit that I do love my work in spite of its regular coating of stone dust and building site grime, every job has its own unique challenges and I sometimes have to pause in amazement at the strange trajectory my career path has taken, it was rather unexpected and I’m now a qualified stone mason/conservation mason. It’s funny turning up at a job, being briefed on what I’m required to do then being left to my own devices. And I know what to do! I don’t have to generally ask anyone how to do something anymore.

In between work I do like my follies and side projects. Last blog entry I was generally

bemoaning the whopping disappointment that was Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’, however before seeing the film, I had been inspired by promotional images of the giant statuesque head featured in the movie. I set to work carving a small scale replica which kind of became a book end. I found the project challenging as most of the images I could use for reference were frontal views bathed in shadowy light. I’d also not carved a human head before. I eventually bought the ‘Making of Prometheus’ book in hope that It would contain another perspective…which it kind of did but not particularly satisfying as the side view was also obscured by bloody set building equipment! Errrr, well I did my best…

I also recently carved the grumpy looking piece of stone at the top of this page.

Now, it’s commonly known by the one or two occasional visitors to my blog that I’m a pretty keen gamer, it was either computer games or football. I opted for computer games and fucking loathe football. Anyway, I’ve recently played a stunning game that I’ll briefly gush praise upon here.

‘Journey’ by That Game Company. (PS3 Only)

Journey is a gaming experience like no other. The first tantalising clips appeared a couple of years ago on various gaming websites, it promised to be visually stunning, revealing a wonderfully rendered cartoon like world where the player controls a mysterious,cloaked nomadic figure and traverses a strange desert like landscape filled with the remnants of a fallen civilisation.

What these teasers promised, delivered in spades. Journey transcends the well trodden path of so many games to a point that it becomes an incredibly emotional artistic experience that one interacts with.Even though it employs some basic platforming game mechanics such as climbing and jumping to reach certain areas, it still manages to dazzle the player with the most glorious visual array of sublime imagery.

So, what’s it all about? I won’t include spoilers from my own playthrough but I can say this; on the surface, Journey is what it says it is. The player begins in a desolate sand dune within a sparse desert, you then begin your travel to a mysterious looking mountain somewhere in the faraway horizon. Along the way, the game provides you with little gifts and visual cues to help your travels become less monotonous than wading through sand, these come in the form of little power-ups that can help you to jump and fly for a brief period, or slide gracefully down a sloping dune.

You will periodically encounter ruins that reveal a visual narrative that begins to provide a backstory for your character and the world it inhabits. I particularly enjoyed encountering these as they remind me of the art of ancient civilisations such as Mayan or Aztec pictorial hieroglyphics, albeit in an animated,computer generated way.

Once you have become familiar with the game mechanics, which are beautifully simple and elegant, you then travel through a gateway leading to the next level of the world you are exploring. It is from here where the player then will possibly encounter another player. Considerable thought was put into how to to achieve this multiplayer dynamic without breaking the spell of the atmospheric environment that the game offers. The result is breath taking, other players remain anonymous in terms of username and there are no distracting voice chats, silly gestures or any of the other often annoying attributes found in other games when meeting other players. Your Journey companion will only be able to interact with you by staying with you, or calling to you by means of singing a musical range of notes. You can only do likewise. It keeps the vibe totally in check and just encourages the player to remain perfectly in character.

On a deeper level, Journey can be seen as a visual metaphor for the path of one’s life, the world we actually live in and the people we encounter during these things. It refreshingly  contains no violence or accumulation of impossible super powers, within the linear narrative of the experience, you are meant to travel through the levels of the game until you reach the mountain. Your journey may be solitary or it more often than not, will be about being a travelling companion with another player. One of the other notable aspects about being a companion is that you will most likely be helped by other players on your first playthrough, should you return (And there are several reasons why you’d want to) you find yourself naturally wanting to help your other companions.

Journey may not be a long game by any means, one can travel from start to finish within a two to three of hours, yet within that span there is so much quality within the experience, it becomes obvious that the duration is note perfect for delivering all of the narrative points that it needs to make.

I can’t finish this brief review without also mentioning the absolutely stunning soundtrack composed by Austin Wintory

This little except to any who have played Journey will prove to be incredibly emotionally evocative.

I don’t mind admitting that at the end of the game I was moved to tears through a combination of having my heart strings pulled by the haunting finale of the game and its rousing score. Its a testament to the game’s creators for being able to pull the player in and involve them so deeply into the narrative. It’s a truly rare thing and even more beautiful for being so.

On to other things. In a brief moment of nostalgic inspiration yesterday, I started the ball rolling with building a new radio playlist called Radio Jacquard. It’s an ode to an old nightclub in Norwich where I spent many a Friday evening dancing and pratting around with friends. The Jacquard was pretty much the only alternative nightclub in the city back in the late eighties and early nineties. On Facebook there’s a Jacquard fan page populated by generations of former club goers. Sadly the club eventually closed leaving a legacy of memories that spanned three decades.

Yesterday, I started chatting with a few old friends and John  the DJ about what music they remembered and associated with the era of our own visits, I’ve managed to rustle up a playlist that contains a good thirty tracks so I’m planning on splitting it into Radio Jacquard Volumes 1 & 2.

If on the off chance you’ve found this blog entry because you were looking up the Jacquard and you attended during the period I’ve mentioned, feel free to drop me a line via Facebook. I’d be interested in any anecdotal memories you may have, also, I’m planning on giving one of the playlists an accompanying picture (album cover) that features old photo booth images of attendees back in the day. (inspired partly by the following sleeve by Sheep On Drugs)

 

So, if you did attend the Jacquard on Fridays between 88 & 91 and would like to be included in a nice little art project, do drop me a line. If you don’t have Facebook, try hiabex303(at)gmail(dotcom)

I’ll post links to Radio Jacquard sometime over the next few days on my usual Radio page.

Other bits briefly…

I’m probably going to alter the section called Mnem so that It feeds directly from my Tumblr account, site statistics suggest that nobody actually bothers looking at this current section anyway but I seem to have an old stubborn stalwart attitude where I’ll post things to it regardless of an audience. The old grid format was a pain to keep updating and takes ages to load.

For those of you who enjoy electronic music with heart, I cannot recommend enough taking a listen to the new album called ‘Napoleon’ by Napoleon (Simon Mills from duo ‘Bent!) It’s a great album, full of sunny audio beams that take the edge off of the British Summer we are currently not having.

Charlie Brooker suggested that we should just rename the season ‘Glummer’ and be done with it. Anyway, Napoleon, have a listen…

Beautiful!

You can get the album from the usual outlets.

OK, that’s me done for this entry. Cheerio
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