Month: June 2023

Oh what a tangled web


Into the Dirt review

Production company – Tortoise Media

Rating –

Into The Dirt logo

Another release day special here, whilst I could have put this one off until next Sunday, I really didn’t want to. I got sent the first three episodes of a brand new series from Tortoise media, that at first seemed intriguing. And also meant it went straight to the top of my listening pile.

So what juicy morsel have Tortoise released for me to sink my teeth into this time? It’s a very strange story of double crossing, espionage and covert deals. The protagonist is also a very unlikely character.

So what’s it about?

Rob Moore gained fame in the 90s as producer of epic satire shows like Brass Eye. With an inherent mischievous attitude, and an ability to talk people into saying anything he wanted (I mean literally anything. Have you ever watched the “cake” episode of Brass Eye?).

Brass Eye imploded after a mass outcry caused by the release of the episode on paedophilia. Chris Morris went on to be just as satirical and subversive directing films like Four Lions, but Rob Moore found himself without anything to do. As the saying goes “the devil makes work for idle hands”, so what did he have in store for Rob Moore?

After trying his hand at a few unsatisfying enterprises, he was approached to become a part of the world of “corporate intelligence”. To all intents and purposes, a spy. This seemed like a perfect job for someone who was used to talking his way into (and out of) bizarre situations. He was good at it too. Until he was tasked with infiltrating an environmental campaign group who wanted to outlaw the use of asbestos.

He soon found himself at odds with his Buddhist beliefs. His need to “turn poison into medicine” played on his mind constantly and he decided to turn on his employers and blow the whistle on this shady world. Or did he?

Is it any good?

It’s by Tortoise Media. Of course it’s good. I can’t really find fault with anything I’ve heard here (so far). And unless something drastic happens, then this will be another epic story by those investigative journos over at Tortoise. To quote another overused phrase, “truth is stranger than fiction”. As anyone who has listened to series such as Londongrad or Hoaxed will testify, this is absolutely true. Into The Dirt is no different.

I usually struggle to try and avoid spoilers in my reviews. In this case it isn’t too hard. Today, when this show goes on release, Tortoise Media subscribers will automatically be one episode in front of me, so there is nothing that will be any surprise. Even if you don’t subscribe, you can still get the first two episodes immediately.

I think that anyone who loves tales of intrigue and espionage will love this show.

Final Thoughts

This is another outstanding podcast from Tortoise Media. I’ve been a fan of them since Londongrad launched, and as soon as a new show comes out it jumps to the top of my listening pile immediately. I’m so happy that I’ve had the opportunity to get a sneak peak of a new show.

I always tend to roll my eyes when podcasts give a trigger warning (not that this one does have one). I guess I’m not easily upset. This series did get to me though. Before I was born, my father worked with asbestos and he died of cancer related to it. Hearing Harminder describing her father’s illness did get to me, as it was an all too familiar memory.

The only thing I can complain about is that I’ve only got the first three episodes to listen to. I could have got through the whole series in one sitting. But I guess I’ve been spoiled with whole shows on pre-release to binge, and this is so good that I was left wanting.

As I look back through my other reviews in preparation to finish this one, I realise I havent reviewed Londongrad yet. Rest assured I’ll be making a space in my schedule to amend that grevious mistake asap.

You can get Into The Dirt here:

Or wherever you get your podcasts

(un)Happy Shopper

Siege review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

Siege logo

Another short story from the Limelight series on BBC Radio 4, that brought you the previously reviewed podcasts The System, The House the Vanished, Who Is Aldridge Kemp, Firewall and others. From that list, you can see that this series has some big shoes to fill.

Will this series be on a par with Aldrich Kemp, or will it leave me unsatisfied like The House That Vanished? I’m not going to tell you this early on am I? You’ll have to read to the end to find that out.

So what’s it about?

Siege is an interesting take on a hostage drama, told from the perspective of interviews with the hostages themselves after the event. Actually, the term interview isn’t entirely accurate. There are no questions here, just the hostages giving their accounts of what happened, answering unheard questions. This is quite a good idea in practice.

Over the course of 5 episodes, you are on a gripping ride of what should have been a day just like any other, but one that went awry very quickly. What starts as a robbery at a supermarket, becomes a hostage situation after the security shutters fall, and the shoppers are left trapped with the armed robber.

Where the writing really shines is when the same event is told from multiple perspectives. For example, right at the beginning of the siege, the schoolgirl Naomi puts her headphones in and listens to music, quietly singing along. “Aunty” Kemi is busy praying, sees Naomi and thinks she’s praying too, and is even speaking in tongues. This opens the way for the two of them to connect with each other without actually understanding each other completely.

One of the points of the story is that a disparate group of people get stuck together and their prejudices and misunderstanding get put to one side, although the interviews give an insight into their real feelings about the various events of the story.

As the interviews continue, certain masks start to slip and you realise that people’s lives are never as perfect as they’d like you to think at first. Penny’s story is particularly well written, and well acted.

Is it any good?

This is a masterclass in how to make a gripping series with very limited resources. There’s no over the top sound effects, or big musical scores. Just five brilliant voice actors telling a story for the most part (towards the end of the series, a new character, Derek the security guard gets to tell his story).

In fact, the only thing I didn’t really like was the glitchy music that got played between each “scene”. It was jarring and unnecessary, in my opinion at least. As I write this though, I wonder if there was some meaning that I’ve missed for it, although I have gone through the whole thing twice. Maybe I’m not paying as much attention as I should be!

Final thoughts

This series is well worth your time. You can easily get through it in a day should you wish. The story is very well written, and brilliantly acted. It’s a refreshing take on a crime drama, even with the obligatory twist at the end.

You may find the characters somewhat “tropey”, and they are. I don’t think you can really escape that in a drama such as this though. The story demands it. They are so well portrayed though, that it’s easy to overlook this.

You can get Siege here:

Or wherever you get your podcasts 

Drymru Am Byth!

Drum For The Song podcast review

Rating –

drum for the song logo

If ever there was a podcast made for me, surely this would be it. Welsh? check. Metal Bands? check. About Drums? check. Despite being a Welsh metal drummer myself, I will do my best to cast an objective eye, and be as neutral as possible.

I only heard about this podcast in the last week or so (depending on when this gets published). The newest episode cropped up on my YouTube playlist for some reason. Thankfully it’s also available in audio only, so I downloaded a few episodes and pressed play. Of course, as is usually the case, this jumped immediately to the top of my “to review” list leaving other, more established podcasts wondering what it was that just flew past leaving a big cloud of dust.

So what’s it about?

I think I may have pretty much covered the content of the podcast in the paragraphs above, but that would be a bit of a cop out to end there wouldn’t it? So let me elaborate.

Dane Campbell is a Welsh drummer, and son of Mötörhead’s guitarist Phil Campbell. He is also the drummer Straight Lines, and in his dad’s band Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons. Each episode Dane interviews a different rock drummer, ranging from Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats, to Charlie Benante of thrash legends Anthrax and Chris Fehn who was in Slipknot.

This series started during lockdown, and therefore a lot of the conversations discuss the difficulty of playing live, and what the future will hold for musicians. Having come out the other side of the pandemic now, it’s strange to listen back to hear people discuss what we were all thinking at the time. I think it’s also why there were loads of episodes early on. That output has slowed somewhat now that gigs and festivals are back on and as a consequence, Dane’s band is now playing again.

Is it any good?

The way I’ve described this podcast so far might well have you already deciding not to give this a go. I mean, why would someone who isn’t a rock drummer want to listen to a show consisting exclusively of interviews with drummers? The show is more than that though. While there is obviously some gear nerd type stuff (any musician loves talking about their gear), there are also some really interesting stories.

For the most part, the sound quality is really good. There was only one interview that I had to turn off because it was so bad (it was Dirk Verbeuren from Megadeth if you’re interested). It sounded like he was on speakerphone from across the other side of a bathroom. It may well have been easier to understand if I was watching on YouTube, but the audio only version was unfortunately unlistenable.

Dane comes across as a really humble guy, and he has a really laid back interview style. Even though I could listen to drum talk all day, I really like the fact that he’s trying to appeal to a wider market. While cymbal and stick manufacturers are only of interest to drummers, the opinions on how to deal with auditions, or working with professional musicians and producers will surely be of value to anyone trying to start in the industry.

As I write this, he’s 50 episodes down, and while I haven’t listened to every episode yet, I have listened to a lot of them. My only real complaint so far was that the Chris Fehn interview was only 40 mins long. Seeing as it was his first interview since he left Slipknot, it would have been good to have had a regular length episode. Maybe that’s just me being greedy though.

Final thoughts

I’m really growing to like this show, and it’ll be interesting to see who’s upcoming on the podcast. I have a list of people I’d like to hear, but I won’t bore you with those, it would probably fill his schedule for the next three years!

If you’re a drummer, then this is a must listen. If you’re a musician of any type, you may well like it too. Particularly Russell Gilbrook’s interview. There’s some invaluable info for anyone wanting to get session work.

And for those of you who think I typed the title of this post by rolling a tennis ball across my keyboard, I suggest you look up the phrase “Cymru Am Byth”, and then you’ll get the rather tenuous pun.

You can get Drum For The Song here:

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Variations on a Themis

Who Is Aldrich Kemp? review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

Who Is Aldrich Kemp logo

Well folks, it’s been a weird few weeks with all these big release day reviews hasn’t it? Now my release schedule seems to be back to the usual Sunday mornings again, you can enjoy your morning coffee (or tea), and wonder just what the hell I’ll be banging on about today.

Ploughing through the Limelight series of audio dramas by the BBC is something of a mixed bag. You have the excellent, and the not so. So how does Who Is Aldrich Kemp hold up? Well dear reader, you will find out the answer to that very question in the next 600 or so words.

So what’s it about?

Who Is Aldrich Kemp? is a rip-roaring, grab-bag (and possible other hyphenated hyperbole, oooh, alliteration) of shadowy organisations, criminal masterminds, and wise cracking secret agents. A fair dose of Double crosses, unlikely assassins, and plots for global domination get thrown in for good measure.

Clara Page works as an analyst for a government agency that would rather remain off the radar. When the body of a French secret agent gets hauled out of the water in Lake Tanganyika, connections are found to an even shadier group of scoundrels called the Themis Group. The leader of this organisation is a mysterious individual known as Aldrich Kemp.

With nothing more than a name and a (literally) blank piece of paper, Clara soon finds herself on a mad dash across Europe dodging assassins and digging up secret societies. Along the way she will find friends that are enemies, and enemies that are friends.

Is it any good?

I like this more than I thought I would. I bounced between irritation at some of the dialogue (and accents) to a great fondness for the characters and their oddball ways. It’s an interesting take on the espionage genre explored in other podcast dramas, including the previously reviewed Splinter Cell: Firewall. In fact, while that was all American gung-ho action and gadgets, this is far more British in feel. I mean, because it is British.

Aldrich Kemp as a character is more Doctor Who than Blofeld, his puppy like eagerness and sense of humour set him apart from the more traditional crime bosses in fiction. This comes as something of a surprise, as his reputation precedes him in this series, but it’s a nice touch that adds to the whole offbeat feel of the story.

Plucky protagonist Clara Page, has a penchant for fencing (the sport, not DIY) and fish and chips. As the main character, her worldview suffers the biggest change. I’ll say no more than that, but for an already strong (if not somewhat cliched) female character, she really does get the short end of the stick. How will she fair in this? Well, again, I’m not telling you.

Podcaster Kennedy Fisher also makes an appearance too, a name you’ll no doubt remember from The Lovecraft Investigations. It was really nice to see that the character is keeping herself busy, still on the trail of tracking her partner Matt down (even if it is only in podcastland). I think I’ll probably go back and listen to the final series of that, just to see how much leaks through into this show.

Regarding Kennedy Fisher, it blew my mind that the same actress voiced three characters in this series. I honestly thought she was American, so either she’s got her American accent absolutely dialed, or she’s got her British accent absolutely dialed.  There’s no slipping evident, or weird pronunciations as is so often the case with voice actors.

Final thoughts

The problem with shows like this (for a reviewer anyway), is that the story is so cunning and twisty that it’s very hard to talk about it without giving anything away. That is my way of apologising for my rather superficial review. I just don’t want to spoil anything for you.

Looking through the list of dramas in the Limelight series, I see there is a second series featuring Mr Kemp. Therefore, this has jumped very high up my “to listen to” list. I would have listened to it already were it not for the offer of advanced episodes of new series’ to review.

Julian Simpson is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers. I was just scrolling through his Wikipedia page and I see there’s a whole load of audio dramas set in the “Pleasant Green” universe (including this and the Lovecraft Investigations). Looks like I’ve got a lot of listening to do, should I actually be able to track them down. They seem to all be unavailable everywhere. So dear readers, if you know where I can get them, please comment below and accept my gratitude in advance.

You can get Who Is Aldrich Kemp? here:

Or wherever you get your podcasts.


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