TRAPPED IN THE GROVE
By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya
Photo: Zahedul I Khan
IT is believed that our generation has a small audience for funk. It is further emphasized how today's musicians don't cater to the genre and therefore, the audience suffers from a lack of exposure. We are prone of fall into the stereotypes because there are few who choose to be different. Well, not in this case. Allow me to introduce you to a group of musicians who go by the name 'Groovetrap' and are indeed, struggling to create something different.
GT, short for 'Groovetrap' recently released their self-titled debut album and has caught the attention of many listeners and musicians already. The album is a pure breed of funk with jazz and rock thrown in awkward places. Experimentation at its core, what is most remarkable about the compilation is how daring the ternary has been in order to produce and record numbers as such that have yet to be proven commercially successful. This only goes to testify that we still have musicians amongst who us choose to be different and will stick with their own originality, irrespective of what the mass audience demands for.
The album opens with a vibrant combination of instruments and words in 'Ek Ochena'. It is taken from the song 'I Heard it through the Grapevine', co-written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, and tuned by The Funk Brothers. The number is said to be popularized by Marvin Gaye. Followed shortly by 'Keno Bolona' that begins with playful piano notes and flows smoothly into the vocals of Simin and Jasper. One of my personal favourites, the second track from the album is tuned and arranged by Saif Quadir. Incidentally, Quadir is the recording, mixing and mastering maestro behind the album and has done a splendid job out of it.
With soulful sax from Andrew Morris and commingling of various instruments, the songs uplift the listeners to another level of sensuousness. Different with each of their presentations; Saif, Simin and Jasper have managed to blend in their individual styles into a collective effort that reflects in all the numbers. The 9th and 10th tracks are in English with slap of rock, fast riffing, piano on the run and a hit of jazz; must favourites for anyone and everyone. Jasper's vocals shape into that of an early '70s entertainer and leave the listeners begging for more. The album closes with an instrumental titled 'Aphrodisiac', a 4-minute blend of funk and rock, smoothly thrown in the right places.
GT's self-titled debut comes in a sleek brass-metal coloured sleeve, redolent of the time of classics played in gramophones and smoky jazz clubs. With the trends diminishing, it is applaudable to listen to music that resonates experimentations from the early '70s. Released under Rage Records, 'Groovetrap' has indeed lived up to its name of bringing a groove to fall for.
AH… Dungeons & Dragons. Where would we be without you? What form of alternative twisted childhood would we have had if you weren't there? Best not think about it, eh?
The second expansion to Neverwinter Nights 2, Storm of Zehir takes place in the aftermath of the Shadow War that occurs in the original campaign. You don't need to have played the first two to play SoZ. The story, though consistent with the previous games, is still independent.
SoZ brings along many changes to the original gameplay. But, let's go over the story first.
Your adventuring party is aboard the resilient vessel Vigilant. Thanks to a deadly storm, it crashlands into your destination. Facing arrest, a powerful merchant vouches for her envoy, Volothamp Geddarm- Volo who invited your party onboard the ship in the first place. Your party begins working as an apprentice under Lady Sa'Sani, who suspects sabotage on the ship crash. “Adventure or Bust!” is your party's motto, and it falls on your shoulders to investigate into the matter.
But, that's not all that you do in SoZ. SoZ sees a nearly complete overhaul of what the previous games have offered. You have the chance to start as a small-time business company in the prominent Sword Coast, and if you play your cards right, you can become the next big thing. Set up trade posts in other towns to connect to your headquarters, help set up patrols and establish trade routes, all the while tracking down the deadly cult of Zehir, the god of poison, worshipped by the Yuan-ti, and find out what really is going on.
A vast new feature is the Overland map. While the previous games had static maps where you click on other town names, and the game simply takes you there, in SoZ, the Overland map is 3D, traversable and very beautiful. While moving from one town to another, you'll have random encounters- fending off wandering bandits and monstrous bands of monsters, or you may stumble onto merchants that sell you magical items, and plenty of ruins full of long-forgotten secrets, gold or a lot of loot. You can decide to evade these encounters or you can engage.
Unlike the previous game, where some of the skills seemed less than useful, SoZ makes sure that every single skill and characteristic you possess count for something. The Survival skill is integral to your wandering the map. A high survival skill ensures that you're able to travel through swamps and jungles without much difficult, and zero penalty on your movement speed. If you have high points on Hide and Move Silently, you won't really have to worry about wandering monsters. Investing in the Search and Spot skill will let you find secret stashes and explorable locations easily.
There's no single protagonist in the game. SoZ veers back to the days of Icewind Dale, and generic dungeon crawling with a bunch of friends. Albeit with a little more dynamism, I guess. Unlike previous games where you were able to control only the prime character in a conversation, in SoZ you can control any of your six characters (2 additional cohorts to your initial party of 4). So, if your leading character doesn't have the spellcraft skill to detect the lack of magic from an item a merchant is selling you, your wizard definitely can.
Storm of Zehir introduces two new playable races: The Yuan-ti Pureblood and Gray Orc. Three new classes are also available. The Doomguide and Hellfire Warlock prestige classes, and the Swashbuckler base class.
The cool thing is you can 'retire' anytime you want to. Not retire as in, save the game and go to bed. You can do that too, of course. But retire as in, stop adventuring. End the current game. Doing this will show you several endings depending on what you did, or did not do, who you pissed off and who you pleased, and so on. If you ever feel like you've had enough of adventuring, you can simply take a hike with the click of a mouse.
In other areas, SoZ has a pretty good line-up of music, and some amusing pop-culture references (to those of ignorant caste, pop-culture means popular culture- references to famous movies, bands and events, etc-just in case), and amazingly-drawn artwork. If you run into Shymon or Scarbunkle, stick around, they might have a good tune for you.
Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir is a wonderfully different RPG experience, unique, fun and casual, driven by a good story, and by what you want to do. Fans of the series should like this game as it is, and new comers may enjoy the different direction the game developers took. Average gameplay is said to be around 30 hours- but thanks to the open-ended nature of the game, there's enough replay value in it for several re-runs of the game.
His week's movie review isn't really one that just came in the mail. Nonetheless, it's worth a watch.
Revolver (2005) is not really the kind of movie that you sit down with a couple of friends and enjoy a good laugh with. Guy Ritchie is pretty famous for his amazingly funny Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Despite being a gangster movie as well, it's far different from those two.
Revolver stars Jason Stratham, yet again, as Jake Green.
After serving 7 years in solitary prison (reason undisclosed), he makes a name of himself by being very, very good at gambling and hoarding up a lot of money, gradually becoming rich. Really, really ***king rich. After that he's going to exact a bit of personal revenge on corrupt casino owner, Dorothy Macha, who sent him to prison in the first place, not to mention an accident with his sister-in-law.
Things don't go really go according to plan, though. As he's about to leave the casino, bags full of Mr D's cash, he blacks out, and is later diagnosed with a fatal rare blood disease that will kill him in about three days. On top of that, Mr D, humiliated in front of several high-rollers by his loss to Jake, and the money loss, puts out a hit on Jake. Loan sharks Zack and Avi contact him, and offer to protect him from his enemies, in return for every penny he has. The viewers are slowly and gradually brought up to speed about the whole deal, as Jake prepares to take on the ultimate con.
It's a great movie with great actors. In my opinion, Mark Strong, playing a hitman that never misses, shone more than most, albeit with a limited screentime. One of the more intelligent, and definitely a little vague movies around, and if you're the kind that enjoys something more than just mere comedy or action, you'll probably be hanging at the edge of your seat. But as it is, the movie deserves credit to make use of a string of complicated plots and weaving them into a web that actually makes some sense in the end.