31 October 2016

Notes On October Viewing 2016

High-Rise
It’s like Ben Wheatley directed a season of Mad Men.
 
The Last Man On Earth
Vincent Price as a feared killer of men who in turn ends at the same fate. I think what I loved most was the understated presentation of this biological apocalypse. The empty streets, the clear and warm sunshine full of nothing, and the weary narration of a man unaware of just how doomed he is.
 
Panic In The Year Zero
Ray Milland throwing punches and grabbing guns like a drunk Trump supporter. All the paranoia on display - a film made in 1962 by the way - was all the more eerily disquieting as it looked like the same could happen today.
 
Penda’s Fen
What struck me was the intellectual and dramatic subtlety presented in how a young adult molded their identity. I loved how they addressed the mythic element in national identity as well. All in 1973 - almost unthinkable today.

Carnival of Souls
I was not expecting this to be such a knock out. First, Criterion’s presentation is excellent. Definitely one of the best restorations that I’ve seen. Second, the film was an incredibly haunting experience. The setting, the music, the acting - it all meshed so perfectly. This was the perfect Halloween movie.
 
Spider Baby
Lots of fun - Virginia and Elizabeth were especially amusing. Another perfect Halloween movie. Forever in my mind on a double bill with Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Or with Grey Gardens. 
 
Secretary
I was surprised that it wasn’t entirely about kink but also as much about mental health. Self-harm, specifically. I appreciated how the movie handled those subjects sensitively enough. She’s really just trying to find peace.
 
Sombre
There’s a social context to which the film alludes - the kids screaming at the cinema (a self-reflexive gesture, obviously) and the ongoing Tour - and then there’s the personal context to which the film is more directly involved. The woman and the killer representing two degrees of alienation - from family and from society - that somehow complement each other in the film’s outlook. A dysfunctional relationship being the best means of representing it, apparently. As a serial killer film, it’s rather pointless but leave it to the French to use any genre at hand to discuss terrible relationships. And poorly use Bauhaus cos why the hell not? Alan Vega’s unsettling piece was used effectively at least.
 
Tenderness of the Wolves
This movie on the other hand was a more straightforward take on the community delusion that keeps a psychopath in business. 
 
Scream
I had never seen this one before so I was a little concerned at how it would play after twenty years. I’ve seen plenty of Joss Whedon so why not give Kevin Williamson a try? I thought it was pretty good especially since I’d seen so much else in its wake. Plus it was nice to see Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich in something besides The Craft. My favorite scene was the big reveal in the kitchen. Craven really has a flair for shooting maximum drama in small spaces. See also The People Under The Stairs for that.
 
Scream 2
I didn’t find its self-ironic stance entirely interesting especially as it kept trying to stay a few steps ahead of itself but it was still pretty entertaining. Mostly thanks to the actors who really kept a good handle on it all. I think I liked it even more than Scream cos this one was so over the top. You haven’t lived til you’ve seen Laurie Metcalf menacing people with a handgun.
 
Halloween
Having watched Scream really made me appreciate Carpenter’s original much more.
 
God Told Me To
Deliriously unhinged.
 
The Amityville Horror
The horror comedy classic. I thought Margot Kidder was great tho.

I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House
A very slow burn with lots of stillness, natural sound, and restrained aesthetics. This is more a story about the house than the people in it. Which is an interesting idea but it sucks out a lot of the human interest. I think they could have done more with the premise but I do appreciate how they let the audience add it all up.
 
Dracula’s Daughter
You can’t escape your fate.
 
Community (Season Six)
My Mad Fat Diary (Season One)
Babylon 5 (Season Two)

11 October 2016

Persons of Orison: Going to Church with Julianna Barwick

I had the recent pleasure of seeing Julianna Barwick last week perform live in a church in Lexington. I had a taste of the experience in September when she opened for Angel Olsen but it was all too brief. This evening, however, everything was perfect. (It was a smaller audience but it was no less thrilling.) The church was the ideal space. Its ambience and acoustics made it feel like sitting within one of her earlier records. The very sparse lighting and the later hour contributed to that effect. The two opening acts Robert Beatty and Mary Lattimore were no slouches, either. The concert itself was soft but loud. Almost like being wrapped within "Offing" from Nepenthe for fifty minutes. I couldn't tell one piece from another through the sonic haze and I didn't care. Crafting the aura from her keyboard fully ablaze, Barwick seemed more concerned with sustaining the mood. I for one was content within that spell as my mind drifted along. It was sustained beautifully. It was the perfect immersion into her world. The audience filed out in what seemed like a very mellow mood. Much mellower than I've seen in audiences in many years. It was truly wonderful and it felt so, so great to finally see her live after so many years loving her music.

03 January 2016

Music of 2015


Kamasi Washington, The Epic
Quite ambitious at a length of three hours with a full band of twelve players. It can be a somewhat dense listen given the average song length – seven to twelve minutes being the norm – but it possesses a corresponding sum of energy and invention. Energy and invention is pretty much the MO for jazz but here’s it’s especially engaging.

Tamaryn, Cranekiss
It’s something like a kiss. Definitely the warmest album of the year – and the one that I listened to most often in 2015. Swooning and sighing with an androgynous joy that I all too rarely get to hear especially when delivered so lushly and so directly. Just an astounding evolution in Tamaryn’s sound.

Wax Idols, American Tragic
A good complement to the Tamaryn record. Similar textures but here with a much darker hue. Both albums are equally glossy which really just makes them insinuate their sounds into your mind more easily. The singing here is even better – more confidence, loads of swagger, it’s even more of the band that we love. A dark, vibrant sequence of songs always pushing you forward. A lot like the Grimes album, this one also deals in themes of not letting others hold one back. It’s really neat how a few albums I loved this year are similar in theme. You just can’t stop these people.

THEEsatisfaction, EarthEE
Hitting celestial heights that I hadn’t experienced since Grimes. Celestial heights in the manner of Babylon 5 rather than Star Wars, let me say. What I enjoyed most about the album was its perfect nocturnal quality. Driving everywhere – a la Night Drive by Chromatics – with this as soundtrack is even better as it provides so much food for thought. A very political work in that way which I appreciated. It’s a very mysterious but immensely inviting album. The singing really sells that quality there. If you have the exciting mission of counting all the stars, this is the music you want to hear. And they’re also really great live.

Grimes, Art Angels
A bright, weird, and joyous celebration of not letting others hold you back. It’s almost like New Year’s again with each listening. It’s the opposite of Visions in many ways but it has that album’s same strengths just with less darkness. All the black and green and purple on Visions is replaced with tons of yellow, white, pink, and blue. It’s the first day of summer to the late autumn midnight of Visions. Like Tamaryn and Wax Idols, it’s a very interesting evolution and as with those two just as exciting to hear.

La Luz, Weirdo Shrine
Absolutely haunting. Much like an empty beach in the early morning. I love how the guitars and vocals each have their own layer of reverb which really pushes that haunting quality. The guitar playing is also the most assured and fluid that I heard all year. It’s really amazing. The sense of space in how the record was mixed was also something else.

Screaming Females, Rose Mountain
One of the most affirming records that I heard all year. If Marissa Paternoster were a doctor or a chef, I’d be amongst the healthiest, happiest people alive. I wish more indie rock could work at this level.

Dilly Dally, Sore
Loud, strong, hoarse, and blunt like a hammer. I loved every moment of it. Lead song Desire tells you everything you want to know then leaves you begging for more. I really love the style of this album. I’d utterly love it if they toured with Screaming Females.

Shannon and the Clams, Gone Before The Dawn
I’ve loved their other albums, but the lyrical focus on this one as it tied each song together really made it stand out from the previous albums. I love a good break-up album and this one doesn’t disappoint at all. It’s not bitter as much as it’s tired and disappointed which is rather true to life which I think anyone can appreciate. Their style is more soulful than dour which also helped.

Beach House, Thank Your Lucky Stars
I know, I know: who needs another Beach House album? Or even two the same year. But I really liked this one more than Depression Cherry. Edgier guitar, more focused writer, and better structure overall.
 

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