Thursday, November 19, 2015

“Rebel Scum” DVD (director: Video Rahim)

Dirty document of drunken derelicts...

Sometimes, documentaries are welcomed as intimate looks into celebrated artists, celebrities, events, or historical incidents. This is none of the above. “Rebel Scum” looks at Knoxville’s scuzz-punk band the Dirty Works, and particularly their damaged and recklessly self-destructive frontman, Christopher Scum. Now, I’ve been closely involved in underground music and transgressive art for 30 years, and I’d never heard of this band. Is this even a real documentary? Wild Eye Releasing have done some pretty awful films before…hmm.

Regardless, this purports itself to be a real documentary, so I’m reviewing it as such. The band here is pretty much an inept bunch of drunken rowdies, with an audience that numbers, well, maybe in the tens. Mr. Scum, though seemingly a pretty nice guy, has a serious and alarming problem with substance abuse. The film follows the band around, showing some of the most embarrassingly painful scenes — sloppy, slovenly, and sickeningly drunken and drugged.

Why anyone would like to see this is beyond me. There’s little to be said for watching a man and his friends slowly kill themselves. “Rebel Scum” shows a band who are not so much making music as making a desperate cry for help. I hope someone hears it.

“Immoral Tales” Blu-Ray (Director: Walerian Borowczyk)

Notorious and scandalous sexcapades!

Probing sexual taboo and deliberately probing a big “middle finger” at contemporary mainstream morals and “values”, Borowczyk's infamous selection of erotica vignettes (released in 1974) is as raw and consciously inflammatory as can be, even 40 years later. “Immoral Tales” is a great deal of fun, and it’s more than obvious that Borowczyk wasn’t taking things too seriously beyond his provocative stance. This isn’t a snooty “art” film, nor is it simply pornography. It seems to inhabit a world stealthily in between.

The 5 stories contained within, though unrelated in any way but thematically, each delve into another facet of incendiary sexuality, from spiritual fellatio on a beach (beautiful in it’s own way) to explorations into lesbianism, bestiality, masturbation, incest, and beyond. There’s no taboo here, as Borowczyk’s slandering of Catholicism and “morality” is purely confrontational in every way. 

A celebration of decadent perversity and unashamed sexual liberty, with a liberal amount of nudity (furry beavers, boobs, and butts are the cameraman’s prime focus quite often), this film is a titillating enough experience on merely a surface level. There are plenty of flaws, from poor dialogue to some marginal set design to questionable acting, but “Immoral Tales” remains a landmark in confrontational cinema. Is it art or is it porn? You be the judge.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cider: WILDCIDE Hard Cider

A most excellent cider

As the cider market explodes in America, many craft breweries are getting in on the action, and that’s a good thing. More variety means more experimentation, and this new brew from Gordon Biersch (under their new Aurum Cider imprint) has something unique going for it. Using nature as it’s inspiration, WIldcide is flash-pasteurized, meaning there’s no sulfites added to preserve the product. This is a more natural cider without chemical additives. Ingredients? Apples. Period. How cool is that?

I was lucky enough to be able to taste this fine cider for you, dear readers, and here’s my review, done as I review any craft beer.

Appearance: Pours from the bottle a pale clear-yellow in color, with very little retention or lacing on my pint glass. I attribute the watery look to a lack of artificial coloring that may be present in some of the more mainstream ciders. Good on Wildcide.

Aroma: Fresh, juicy apples, pure and simple. Can’t argue with that.

Taste: Clean and smooth, and clearly more mellow than the competitors. This is a combination of 4 kinds of apples (Fuji, Granny Smith, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious), and maybe that (along with the lack of harsh preservatives) makes this one so much cleaner and satisfying. The finish is dry and certainly not too sweet, either. Wildcide is all about balance, and for that I give this one high marks.

A premium cider that’s, in my eyes, a better cider in just about every way. Prost to Aurum Cider Co. and to Colin Baugh/Emblem for getting this cider to my belly!

“Salad Days: A Decade Of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90)” DVD (director: Scott Crawford)

The quintessential DC punk document

A welcomed and superb full-length documentary on the DC punk scene by longtime scene journalist Scott Crawford, “Salad Days” is as comprehensive as they come. Just about every major scene player is interviewed here, including Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, Thurston Moore, Dave Grohl, J. Robbins, Craig Wedren, Kevin Seconds, and tons more.  

As well, there’s an abundance of great live footage of all the bands, Dischord-based and otherwise (Positive Force and the straight-edge movements are discussed here, of course, too), including Minor Threat, Fugazi, Marginal Man, Embrace, Egghunt, Government Issue, Dag Nasty, Gray Matter, Beefeater, Holy Rollers, Soulside, and more. Detailing the beginnings and endings of the whole scene, from the earliest teenage days to the alternative explosion of the early 90s, “Salad Days” highlights the reverence and relevance that the punk scene had and continues to have today. It’s a loving portrait of the misfits and freaks behind the scenes making a difference and changing attitudes in a city where bureaucracy and corporate interests undermine basic humanity. For anyone with even a passing interest in classic punk rock and the idealism it embodies, this is a must-see. Superb!

Zero Ohms - “Process Of Being” CD

Quiet, minimalist ambience

Veteran ambient composer Richard Roberts is Zero Ohms, and his catalog goes back nearly 20 years with a deep selection of work both solo and in collaboration. “Process Of Being” examines Roberts’ realization that “Being is not a static state, It is not ‘becoming’ anything. It is a process, through which we each exist”. That in mind, the album begins with the ultra-hushed drones of “The Present Perfect Tense Of Being” — 14 minutes of barely-perceptible drones that set up this contemplative and subtle release of gentle, receding ambient music.

“Glimpsing The Eternal” brings flutes and a semblance of structure to the proceedings, though it’s still a minimal and fragile exercise in restraint and elegance. “The Dream Dreaming You” is another flute-led piece of fragility, with a singular string drone floating just overhead. 

On this album, Zero Ohms produce a very gradual and quiet set of evolving sound-sketches, echoing the ever-so-subtle motion in which we exist from moment-to-moment, second-to-second. As a concept, it’s fascinating, and as a recording, this is a fine work.

Zero Ohms Bandcamp

Monday, October 26, 2015

Phillip Wilkerson and Chris Russell - “Vague Traces” CD

Subtle ambient dreamscapes

Two ambient artists combine forces here for “Vague Traces”, a subtle and dreamlike album of lucid waking-dream textures and deliberately amorphous sound washes. The opener, “Far Past”, is a gauzy drone that summons hypnagogic states quite nicely, as does “The Diamond Sky”, which layers gentle wafts of gentle tones into a swirl of fragile sound-clouds. “Across The Sun” sounds almost more urban, with distant dreams of automation in the background, like a narcotic awakening in an urban soundscape pre-dawn.

The rest of these tracks fall nicely in line with this feeling — drifty, narcotic, and softly-enveloping clouds of sound. But fairy dust or window dressing this ain’t — Wilkerson and Russell’s music is edgy and realistic, with hints of darkness alongside the contemplative fragility. 

“Vague Traces” is a sublime and beautiful work of art, and one that can be enjoyed best at late night or during early morning hours. I am impressed.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Csillagkod - “Silent World” CD

Deep and mysterious ambient

Transylvanian-born Oliver Dombi is Csillagkod (Hungarian for “Nebula”), and this is his debut full-length release of deep and evocative space/ambient music. The opener, “The Communication System Between Civilizations Of The Universe” is a fairly static collage of cloudy, layered drones and darkened rumblings, like a less-focused Lustmord, almost, Being a longtime fan of classic “industrial” sounds, I have no problem with that, but luckily Dombi moves along from there on “Silent World”.

“Empty Galaxies” lightens up a bit, moving outwards into the celestial heavens. Dombi really hits his stride with the evocative space music of “The Birth Of The Solar System”, which brings a melodic slant to his drifty and cinematic universe. “Water From Another Planet” is a sublime and beautiful journey, with swells of dramatic strings and tender plinkings, while “Kettoscsillag” is 4 minutes of reverberated chimes and dark undercurrents.

“Silent World” is a surprisingly mature and subtle debut, packed with mystery, emotion, wonder, and majesty. Csillagkod is an artist to watch, and this is a wonderful album.