A Deaf-Friendly Experience at Go Ape

It’s been a while since I’ve been high up in a forest scrambling through an obstacle course like some budding adventurer. So, when the team at Go Ape got in touch asking if I’d like to see how deaf friendly their activity is, (and bring some friends along too) of course I said yes, ready to relive some nostalgia that the experience may bring.

Young man in blue jumper holding a certificate next to a monkey statue

For those who don’t know, Go Ape! is a high-wire treetop course full of fun obstacles and challenges, swings, zipwires, and more soggy bottoms than an episode of The Great British Bake Off (let’s just say that some of my zip wire landings were far from graceful or heroic).

As well as knowing that it would be a grand day out, I was intrigued to see what changes Go Ape had made to make the activity more accessible to deaf people. I remembered reading an article about some deaf customers being refused entry to Go Ape last year, and so was curious to see what new procedures were now in place.

Even before I set foot on the site, I was sent some videos of the training that’s given to customers, with a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter in the corner of the screen. Granted, whilst I only know a little bit of BSL and am certainly not fluent, one imagines that the videos are quite a useful resource for profoundly deaf visitors. I definitely felt a reassuring sense of déja vu when I was shown the ropes – quite literally, in fact – in person when I went to the Woburn site on Monday.

So, after going through a brief training course – with instructions given by a nice chap named Adam – myself and my friend Josh were ready to do the real thing. At this point, I should mention just how great a job the instructors do at making sure the rules are clear and that everyone is confident with what they are doing. Again, after watching the videos I mentioned and going through it in person, it’s likely that fellow deaf people will feel pretty confident about things when they take on the course for themselves.

This brings me on to a discussion I was having with another member of staff whilst we were putting our stuff in a locker. I had seen that there is a whistle available on the belts we have to wear, but I saw that if you needed help and assistance, you could also shout down to people on patrol below you. However, for deaf people who are unable to speak, I was interested in finding out what exactly happens when they find themselves in a pickle.

It turns out there were a few cases where people had come to the course in advance to get a sense of things, or had an instructor follow them around the obstacles. Whilst it may be worth Go Ape having a think about a go-to policy for this, as mentioned above, all the extensive training beforehand does a good job of making people comfortable and confident – thus reducing the chances of any mishaps.

Also, a quick thank you must go to Kieran, another staff member at the Woburn site that let us skip ahead one course so we didn’t have to wait behind some slower customers. We blazed through the course like the true adventurers we are, and it certainly didn’t feel like an hour and a half since we were putting on our harnesses. Time flies!

Speaking of the course, I’ll keep my description vague (so that there’s still that sense of surprise should you wish to go yourself, and because it’s far better to describe these things in video form instead), but the pictures with clear instructions certainly help participants get to grips with each activity/obstacle, which is fantastic. Highlights included the zipwires, pulling several muscles whilst trying to conquer the stirrups, and The Tarzan Swing – where for a brief second, you can experience a sense of freefall which is incredible.

I would like to thank Go Ape such an incredible day out – I really appreciate it. The company is certainly making some great steps towards making Go Ape more accessible for deaf people, and that’s great to see.

Whilst I was offered this experience for free, the opinions within this post are my own and this post is not sponsored by anyone.

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Review | Shelter: The Animation

Music videos have changed. They’ve somewhat moved away from the typical ‘singing artist’ video and now focus on unique storytelling. Granted, some still offer a different take on the typical love story, but the real beauty lies in animated music videos like Shelter – a real rarity within YouTube’s catalogue of music videos.

Shelter is the result of an eagerly anticipated collaboration between DJs Porter Robinson and Madeon. Whilst Porter is responsible for the animation, there are some creative moments which nod to Madeon’s futuristic style of storytelling (in particular, his Adventure trilogy). With regards to this, the technology and 3D elements of the video are particularly interesting.

Asides from the unconventional three-dimensional shots, the rest of Shelter: The Animation is told through 2D anime – a style which Robinson has completely fallen in love with and makes a regular appearance in his previous work.

On Twitter, Porter gives a brief description of the story behind the video:

“‘shelter the animation’ tells the story of a girl living alone in a simulation built by her father to save her from the end of the world.”

As someone who has never really watched any anime before, electronic music is a genre which I didn’t think would fit well with the delicate style of Japanese animation. However, I was proved wrong when the lyrics of Shelter took on a completely different meaning – ‘shelter’ being the simulation the young girl finds herself in.

The magic of this music video is that in such a short space of time – six minutes and six seconds, to be exact – Porter conjures up a new world for us to explore. This is the future of music videos and storytelling.

It’s the fact that the animation and music fit so well together which really makes the video an emotional watch. The soft piano melody towards the end strongly emphasises the emotions we feel whilst watching and listening to create something beautiful which leaves you with a lump in your throat.

Liam

Musical Discovery: ‘Pay No Mind’ by Madeon feat Passion Pit (Lemaitre Remix)

I’ve always been sceptical of remixes. When the original version is something a lot of fans enjoy, seeing the single experimented on by other DJs can worry them. For me, remixes must offer something which is truly transformative, but also preserves the best parts of the original. I suppose something which has led to me becoming disillusioned with remixes is the fact that a lot of artists are keen to turn a song into a club anthem, when it really doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t work for all songs.

So, when I was browsing through Madeon’s releases on Spotify, I found some remixes for Pay No Mind – my favourite track from his debut album, Adventure (and my favourite song of all time, mind). For a long time, I ignored them, but out of desperation for a new Musical Discovery, I decided to give them a listen. Whilst the Yasutaka Nakata ‘CAPSULE’ remix was exactly what I feared in the first place (that it would be turned into a heavy club anthem which didn’t fit with the mood of the original version), Lemaitre’s remix of Pay No Mind is the perfect, upbeat version which does Madeon’s single justice. Their remix of the track is this week’s Musical Discovery.

At first, I mistook the track’s opening to be the same as the original. However, whilst it still has the blossoming note at the start, the bouncy drum beat which accompanies this is bouncy, upbeat, and sets the tone for the remix. In particular, this rhythm fits in perfectly with the lyrics in a way which is simply brilliant.

After this, we see the plucky, trickling melody alongside the jumpy synth chords which run throughout the song. Throughout the track, I was thrilled at all the nods to the original – from the unedited Passion Pit vocals, to the same drum beat and quiet, soft bridge. At the same time, there’s room for improvement. Instead of Madeon’s Daft Punk-style solo in the original, here we see Lemaitre build upon his unique tune before bringing the remix to a satisfying finish.

What do you think of Lemaitre’s remix? Have you heard the original version of Pay No Mind? Comment your thoughts below!

Liam

The 2015 Review

Last year, I gave a light-hearted review of 2014’s culture. In particular, I commented on what the song, TV show and film of 2014 was – amongst others. This year, the blogging ‘tradition’ is back and I try to summarise 2015 in one neat little bite-sized review.

Song of 2015:

In the run-up to his debut album in March, French DJ Madeon released a few singles to tease fans. This included tracks such as You’re On (feat. Kyan) and Imperium. However, in February this year, it was his track Pay No Mind (feat. Passion Pit) which caught my attention. The message of the song was uplifting, it’s synth melody was vibrant and I was constantly listening to it on Fader’s website until the album was released. I’ve been listening to the song regularly ever since and have decided that it’s my favourite song of all-time.

Album of 2015:

Following on from my favourite song of the year (and all-time), my album of 2015 has to be Madeon’s Adventure. It came out just days before my birthday, I saw him live on my birthday, and so the album means a lot to me. As well as this, it’s the music videos, the creativity and the style which all made it such a great debut. I can’t wait for Madeon’s second release.

However, that being said, praise must also go to James Bay’s Chaos and the Calm. Since winning this year’s Critics’ Choice Award at the BRITS he’s done brilliantly. The album is great and he is an amazing performer after I saw him at Glastonbury and V Festival this year. Also, Beneath the Skin by Of Monsters and Men was great too – they were great when I saw them in Lincoln last month.

TV show of 2015:

This is a difficult choice. In terms of the TV channel, it has to be Channel 4 this year, which has released some incredible dramas. However, whether the TV show of 2015 is Hunted or Humans I do not know. Whilst Humans was so thought-provoking that I wrote a three-page blog post/essay on the rise of Artificial Intelligence, Hunted was more relevant to today’s politics. It got me thinking and it was something which I could reference in other similar discussions. It had me on the edge of my seat each episode.

Book of 2015:

For this, I may have to take a risk and recommend a book I haven’t quite finished yet. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know that one of my favourite series of books is the Millennium series (which contains The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

Sadly, the original author, Stieg Larsson, died shortly after submitting the manuscripts for the first three novels. However, since then another author has continued the series with The Girl in the Spider’s Web – which was written by David Lagercrantz.

I’m near the end and the book is one of the few novels I’ve read where I’m kicking myself for not coming up with the idea Lagercrantz had for a crime novel. I love the series and the book certainly appears to be a great continuation from what I’ve read so far.

Film of 2015:

I suppose a New Year’s resolution for 2016 is to go to the cinema more often, as I’ve kind of been put off by films recently. In turn, I can only comment on one film and that is Insurgent (the follow-up to last year’s Divergent). Personally, I still think the books were brilliantly adapted for the cinema. However, this year I would have also liked to have seen Spectre and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Play of 2015:

Lastly, I have to give a mention to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Ever since I saw it in November, I can’t stop telling everyone about how great it was. The play was not just the best play of 2015 for me, but no-doubt the best play of all-time – it was so good!

That was my review of the year – it’s certainly been a great. Do you agree with my opinions? Comment below!

Liam

Thoughts on ‘Adventure Live’

It was my birthday yesterday, and it was by chance that one of my favourite artists, Madeon, was performing on that same day in London that evening.

With Madeon rarely making appearances in the UK apart from festivals, seeing him perform on his own tour was amazing and a chance I couldn’t afford to miss.

The gig itself took place at a venue called Oval Space in London. Although it’s not a particularly large venue like that of Earls Court or the O2 Academies, the small size of the venue gave the audience a perfect view of the performers. Its small, village hall-like feel and appearance made it a unique venue that was different to the mainstream London venues.

After a quick dinner in China Town, we got numerous tubes to Bethnal Green where it was a rather long walk to the venue. Once inside, it wasn’t long before Madeon’s support act, One Bit, took to the stage.

With remixes of tracks such as Need U (100%) by Duke Dumont, I Want You by Saint Raymond and Desire by Years and Years, One Bit’s various styles of dubstep and electro had everyone warmed up and ready for Madeon himself. As well as that, a play of Garden by Totally Enourmous Extinct Dinosaurs was also commendable.

After their set, it was Madeon’s turn to perform. With Isometric as his opening, – accompanied with a stunning visual display similar to Sub Focus’ concentric circle design – Hugo cleverly interchanged between tracks from his album, as well as the favourite, legendary tracks we all love.

But what made his performance different to other DJs is his improvisation. Throughout his set Madeon added slight changes to his tracks that made them unique and different to the CD versions.

As well as that, the design of his set meant that the audience could see his Novation Launchpads – as well as every button he pressed to make his unique sounds.

Madeon’s Adventure Live is a stunning visual display in terms of set design as well as a stunning display of Hugo’s talents. With the perfect mix of old and new songs that makes him great to see live, Madeon is definitely my favourite musician.

Liam

P.S. You can read my review of Adventure in my post here.

Album Review: ‘Adventure’ by Madeon

After releasing occasional, one-off singles, French DJ Madeon (real name Hugo Leclercq) has now released his eagerly anticipated debut album, Adventure.

Madeon’s debut album Adventure is the perfect balance of old and new electronica. Source: Wikipedia.

Over numerous releases, fans have been introduced to Leclercq’s unique style of electronic house. From the dramatic anthem of Finale to the upbeat pop of tracks like The CityMadeon’s talents as a producer and DJ has always been exceptionally diverse. With Adventure, he only develops this further, as well as bringing back the style apparent on his previous releases.

The album begins with Isometric – an atmospheric and colourful introduction to the album. Despite initially starting with calm and mellow melodies, the track develops an active and powerful drum beat that leads the way to the next track, You’re On.

This is the first track on the album to feature supporting vocals. For this track, Kyan provides the vocal talent to a vibrant and upbeat pop homage. It is this rather euphoric and bubbly style that fans of Madeon will recognise from tracks such as The City. This then continues with the groovy electronic funk of Ok. The chopped-up vocals and bouncy rhythm is almost identical to the style of Cut the Kid. In this track, Boom Clap singer Charlie XCX provides the vocal undertones that Madeon then distorts in the track. Although her vocals are not easily recognisable, it’s Leclercq’s respect of the vocal talents when adding electronic effects that makes him an incredible producer.

This respect continues with Dan Smith (from the UK rock band Bastille)’s contribution on the smooth and laid-back La Lune. The strong drum beat and Dan’s vocals are reminiscent of his work with Bastille. However, Madeon’s style of electronica in this track feels disjointed in terms of it following the upbeat Ok on the track list. If the track was placed near the end, the album would have had a cinematic ending that is worthy of such a talented producer and excellent debut album.

However, whilst La Lune was one of my least favourite tracks from the album, Pay No Mind – the following track – is undeniably my favourite song from Adventure.  Starting with upbeat guitar riffs, the song develops into a happy and colourful track on the album. Alongside emotive vocals from Passion Pit, the chorus is catchy and euphoric, making the track instantly memorable. As well as that, a funky musical interlude towards the end by Madeon pays tribute to one of his inspirations – Daft Punk.

This cinematic atmosphere created by Hugo continues in Beings, with an opening melody that is similar to that of Technicolor. As well as this, the track sees the first vocal contribution by Madeon. Although heavily distorted, Leclercq’s talents as a vocalist add another impressive string to the producer’s bow. We also see Madeon’s vocals in the upbeat Zephyr and the atmospheric conclusion to the album, HomeWhilst his exploration into including his own voice in his songs is to be commended, I couldn’t help but think that his vocals shouldn’t have been edited, and that they should have been similar to Kyan’s vocals on You’re On, and Passion Pit’s contribution to Pay No Mind.

But despite most of the tracks having vocals, Madeon is also keen to include tracks which allow him to explore his talents with electronica. With a slow tempo and long build-upPixel Empire is cleverly placed near the end of the album to bring it to a cinematic finish. However, that is not to say that the track doesn’t include the traditional vibrant and jumpy style of Madeon.

Another exploration by Madeon that is apparent in Adventure is his attempt at creating a grungy and borderline dubstep track. With Imperium, Hugo makes a successful leap at the new genre, creating a cinematic anthem and thus opening new doors for the producer to explore.

As well as this, not all of the tracks in Adventure follow the same tempo. In particular, Mark Foster (Foster the People) contributes Nonsense – a track with a rather fast-paced bridge and diverse rhythm. The track’s musical interlude by Madeon also shows his ability to understand the style of each track and mimic it in his melodies.

Lastly, towards the end of AdventureMadeon switches from the euphoria of the first part of the album, to more mellow and atmospheric songs for the album’s conclusionInnocence (featuring vocals from Aquilo) is not as loud as other tracks and has a more laid-back, relaxed feel. This then continues with the final song, Home, which brings Madeon’s excellent debut album to a close.

Rating: 5 out 5

Musical Discovery: ‘Nonsense’ by Madeon feat. Mark Foster

In a surprise release yesterday morning, French DJ Madeon (Hugo Leclercq) revealed the latest track from his debut album Adventure.

Already Adventure boasts vocals from Kyan and Passion Pit (with a track featuring Dan Smith from Bastille yet to be released), but now, the new track, entitled Nonsense, sees Mark Foster from Foster the People lend his vocal talents.

When compared to previous releases, it is clear that each track is creative and allows Madeon to explore his talent. From the grunge style of Imperium to the upbeat pop of You’re On – no track is the same. In this instance, Nonsense has a different structure to Madeon’s other tracks.

Unlike the cinematic choruses of Pay No Mind and You’re On where Madeon displays his creative talent, this time the DJ leaves the chorus to Mark Foster – allowing him to create a chorus that showcases his soulful vocals.

Instead, Madeon adds slight electronic vibes to the song’s verses, as well as a brief musical interlude before the song finishes, of course.

As more tracks from Madeon’s debut album are released, it is fair to say that Adventure will be a hit album when it is released on 30th March.

Liam