The Return

I’m back in Notts!

Following two months of lounging round the house, doing the odd bit of playing, eating an unhealthy abundance of bread and drinking tap water from bottles, followed by more lounging about the place, my holiday is at last over.

I spent much of last week packing my things (most of which were already prepared in bags up in my loft – murder getting them all down again, though). This year I’ll be taking on all sort of challenges, some I can already predict, but many will be unknown and completely new to me. Practically the whole of my summer was spent in front of my laptop writing, or prepping myself for the future in different ways.

I already mentioned last month that Platform would be expanding its reach to the online universe this year. We’ll at long last I’m extremely proud to present Platform Online to you. It’s still under construction at the time of posting, but it should be active within the next few weeks. I’ve been working towards this for a full year now, so I’ll be overjoyed to see my articles all in one place. Obviously, I’ve been quite reluctant to share my material until the site is ready. It’s likely to have a few teething problems, but I confident that will get things ironed out.

I can also assure you that I’m doing everything I can to get exciting games coverage up there. This year both PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles are at my disposal and my pool of writers is large than before. The annual GameCity festival is coming up next month and I’ll be there reporting on the event. And we may even have another writer attending a public event in London that same week, so there’s plenty to look forward to. The new content kicks off 5 October, when all the Freshers start pouring in for Freshers’ Week 2009.

So long as I manage to get my time management right, there are also a couple other things for me to share early next month too.

Besides work there’s also been a multitude of other things taking up my time this week, namely bills and rent. Honestly, I never knew banking could be so difficult. My current situation has also been made worst by the fact that two of my housemates are addicted to MMOs (they’re currently playing the new NCsoft one, Aion). Much to my disgust, personal hygiene and keeping the kitchen surfaces clean also don’t seem to be high on their list. Needless to say, this week’s been a struggle and I’m beginning to regret my decision to rent with them.

Fortunately, not all is lost. I’ve got my friends, I’ve got my duties as a student (and journo-in-training) and I’ve got new horizons to explore. Yes, there’s so much potential this year I can almost taste it in the air (were it not for the dull scent of dry wood and musty carpet that’s currently filling my nostrils, in the small bedroom of my rented accommodation). I promised I’d take a trip to Nottingham castle last term which I didn’t fulfil, so that’s first on the agenda.

Hold on tight. If I’m not mistaken, tomorrow comes today.

Hypnotic Brass: Medicine for the Soul

Calming, soothing and uplifting – that’s how I would describe the cosmic sounds of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. I heard one track, ‘Ballicki Bone’, from the brass-brothers during Damon Albarn’s Radio 1 takeover, in January this year. After just one song their music captivated me with fresh sounds and beats, giving me an instant attachment to their music. I got hold of an MP3 version of the radio show and played Hypnotic Brass’ track more than fifty times that same week. Their music is something else entirely. I’ve not felt this way about a band in a long time.

So, to my surprise, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, the debut album from the eight-piece brass band, was released under Honest Jon’s Records in June this year. It arrived yesterday, and after only a day, I can tell this album is going to be standout addition to my music collection. You might expect a full brass and percussion album to be a bit too much after the first two tracks, but that couldn’t be further from the truth with Hypnotic Brass. From the upbeat ‘Gibbous’ to my personal favourite ‘Ballicki Bone’ (which sounds even cooler, thanks to a classy bass line), Hypnotic Brass Ensemble soothes mind, body and soul.

With so many tasks and so much responsibility this year, I am going to need the spiritual energy of artists like Hypnotic Brass to help me survive the up and downs.

Daring Descent

Gliding wistfully through the mid-morning sky, like a singular chrome raindrop falling from the heavens. My hearts skips several b-b-beats as the reality of my predicament sets in. My conical shaped Type-2 scout craft screams through the atmosphere, creating a spiralling trail of jet propellant and water vapour in its wake. The planet is rearing up to meet me – and soon it may swallow me whole.

BEEP!! BLIP!! BOOP!! BING!!

The instruments, dials and monitors that surround me are all blinking furiously and sounding on-off, on-off – one continuous drone of synthesised noise, heralding my impending doom. My hands are gripping the manual steering control so tightly that I can barely feel them anymore. Fighting… fighting to regain control as I plummet towards the ground in a mad corkscrew. My craft’s specially designed G-seat is rapidly absorbing around my head and shoulders – holding my body in placed as best it can to counteract the effects of pressure and impact. Not that it will do much good now. At the rate I’m travelling, I’ll be driven into the ground flatter than a crumpled soda can.

300,000 ft… 250,000 ft… 200,000 ft…

Where were the emergency thrusters? A tiny info notification on the main vid-screen told me the worst. After drifting in space for so long it seems the engine components that controlled the firing mechanism had malfunctioned. Desperately I hung on and tried to force the ship to level out.

Windmill, windmill for the land…

The vivid image of a windmill atop a floating island – one that had been with me since my childhood – flashed amorously in my mind’s eye. My craft is being shaken and buffeted as it crosses the huge continents, gold, green, brown and barn as far as can see from this altitude. And not only have I crossed continents, but time zones too. The light of morning has all but disappeared. Engulfed by bloated grey clouds and colourless rock formations.

Are those mountains ahead? There they were humongous and towering one minute, gone in a sudden distortion of vision the next, as my craft whipped by at a steadily decreasing gradient. Ahead of me there is nothing but open sea. A tempest rages. Great winds are exploding and thrashing about the place. Though, tough to define at this speed the water isn’t a deep blue or even a murky grey – it’s a poisonous mound of blackish purple, swishing and swirling this way and that. Waves as tall as skyscrapers emerge threateningly and crashed down without remorse.
Uselessly is the constant whine of my instruments. Frantically I jab at the control panel. Something, anything, JUST SAVE ME! Darkness is eating at the edges of my eyes. Oh, god. I’m going to blackout. I’m done for! As I slip into oblivion all I can think about is my essential cargo – and how it will never get to its destination.

Just then… … … … … ROARRRR!!!

A thunderous sound from behind me, that sent a jolt through my ship. The thrusters, they must have fired. With less than 10,000 feet to go, my craft was angling me away from the deadly ocean below and towards the horizon. But it wasn’t going to be enough. Still grabbing the control sticks, but barely conscious, I felt my craft slam the crest of a huge wave. It was sent skimming and spinning out of control. And without warning it was suddenly tumbling and scrapping across solid rock. It bumped and bashed itself to pieces for several hundred metres before burying itself in the ground.

Of course, I didn’t know that – I was unconscious long before that.