Sunday, March 29, 2015
Inspired by legendary writer and adventurer Ernest Hemingway (aka “Papa”, and named after his trusty boat, the Pilar), these rums are blended from sources close to Hemingway’s favored travels (the Caribbean, Florida, and Central America), aged at different times in American bourbon barrels, port wine casks, and finished in Spanish sherry casks for added nuance. Yes, if this sounds like a complex mix of rums, you are right.
PAPA’S PILAR BLONDE RUM
84 proof, $29.99/750mL
This pale, clean yellow rum pours with an instant aroma of vanilla and fruit, with floral notes. Initial tasting indicates a light, fruit-forward flavor, followed by a mellow spicy character. I also get tones of pear, vanilla, and a sweetness hiding beneath the warm finish.
A solid blonde rum here, certainly, and quite easy to drink.
PAPA’S PILAR DARK RUM
86 proof, retail $39.99/750mL
This dark amber rum (a blend that includes some 24-year-old rums) pours with an aroma of sweet candy, spice, vanilla, and an earthy, almost peaty, smoky character.
The taste here rums parallel, with an earthy, smoky character and an underlying sweetness under the palate. There’s a potent burn at the finish, but this one remains smooth all the way down.
In short, these are some premium rums, and ones I’d have no problems returning to in the future. These may well be worthy of Hemingway’s considerable legend.
Papa's Pilar site
Superb chronicle of Detroit techno
Director Bredow does a glorious job chronicling the often sadly-neglected history of Detroit techno music — a scene that has spearheaded entire genres of music and inspired thousands of DJs, composers, and artists for decades now. Interviewing nearly every scene luminary, we get to see the faces behind this often-anonymous genre of electronic music. Names like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Eddie Flashin’ Fowlkes, Carl Craig, Richie Hawtin, Jeff Mills, Kenny Larkin, Stacey Pullen, and tons more are featured here, inextricably linked by Detroit’s burnt-out industrial landscapes and a need to express themselves with often-primitive technology.
It’s relatively brief (lasting just a wee bit over an hour in length), but “High Tech Soul” pinpoints just where this “alien electronica” originates from, as the genre’s forefathers were listening to old-school Kraftwerk, Afrika Bambaataa, and George Clinton records, as well as other oddities wrangled from used record bins and merging that with thumping robotic rhythms and hypnotically soulful flourishes.
Truly, this is an essential history lesson for fans of Detroit’s techno scene. Enlightening, entertaining, and fun, “High Tech Soul” is a must-see for any electronic music aficionado.
“Wrestling With Satan: The Rise, Fall, And Resurrection of the Christian Wrestling Federation” DVD (directors: Paul Aldridge and Tom Borden)
Odd fringe subculture
From the title, you might be tempted to see this as some kind of B-grade comedy, as something so bizarre and unlikely as a marriage between the brute spectacle of pro wrestling and organized religion seems so…very silly. And, to be honest, it is. Seriously. But this union does often have a similarly devoted audience, so a crossover isn’t necessarily so outlandish.
This is a documentary film, make no mistake, and there are a fair amount of genuine fans of this stuff. It’s all obviously a fringe emulation of mainstream pro wrestling, and these guys are capable of pulling off the same kind of stunts, body slams, and smack talking as the “big boys”. But there’s a message in this here rasslin’ — it’s putting Jesus back in the ring and defeating “Satan”. Yes, for their audiences (often in gymnasiums and lawn chairs), these wrestlers are role models for rural American youth, and the message they preach is to be strong with Jesus. I still don’t see much correlation between big sweaty cartoon-men putting on theatrical shows of brute force and the spreading of the gospel, but, apparently some do.
Yes, this is a weird one. I say, kudos to the filmmakers for showing another side of America’s hidden underbelly. These characters seem to mean well, and are sincere in their love of the wrestling “sport”, but that doesn’t mean I’d ever want to meet any of them. Hah! Enough said.
Morning Lamb Entertainment
Friday, March 6, 2015
Reissued 90s electro-industrial mayhem
Back in the late 80s and early 90s, when I was editor of a small-press zine centered on “industrial” music, I received a C90 demo tape from Texan brothers Dwayne and Gary Dassing. It was a heaping amount of well-produced sequencer-driven electronic music that bared much resemblance to acts like Skinny Puppy or Front Line Assembly, with elegant strings bringing a beauty and warmth to the hard programmed beats and heavily-distorted vocals.
Shortly after that demo, the band signed to esteemed German electro-industrial-dance label Zoth Ommog, where they released several albums and singles to much acclaim, especially overseas with the growing legions of industrial fans. Personal strife ended the band in the early 2000s, before they regrouped for Belgian industrial label Alfa Matrix in 2007.
This boxed set is a remastered comp of their first 2 albums for Zoth, “Revelations 23” and “Where Angels Fear To Tread”, alongside a third set of unreleased and remixed material titled “Apocrypha”. Looking back, Mentallo & The Fixer were certainly not trend-setters of their genre, yet these early albums do capture a moment in time when this kind of sound was on the rise, and it seemed poised to make inroads commercially, even. Well, that never quite happened, but Mentallo nonetheless built quite a following over Europe with these albums.
There’s not much I can say individually about these albums, as they are quite similar. The lyrics have little bearing as they’re too distorted to decipher without a lyric sheet. I can report that the remastering adds some depth and kick to the already well-produced sound, and the brothers do manage some rather intricate layering of programming (some of which shows an affinity for the Berlin school of synth-sequencer units, and most likely German synth pioneers like Tangerine Dream). There is a moment of respite in the 1+ minute piano interlude, “Bleek Seclusion, but nearly 4 hours of the sequencer stuff starts to grate, so for serious fans of Mentallo’s aggressive electro, this is a heyday. Casual fans like me? Enjoyable in small doses.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
“Positive Force: More Than A Witness - 30 Years Of Punk Politics In Action” DVD (director: Robin Bell)
The punk music scene has evolved into a fully-established family tree, with branches drifting away from the original sprout in often surprising and diverse fashions. The nihilism of progenitors like the Sex Pistols or Stooges eventually became a lame stereotype, so punks (particularly ones in Washington DC), partially inspired by the anarchist ideology of English band Crass, became “positive”. This film is a lovingly rendered documentary of the Positive Force movement, spearheaded by the Discord Records roster of artists, and most often associated with Ian MacKaye and Minor Threat/Fugazi, who paved a lot of ground for angry, politically, and socially aware punks.
Director Bell brings together loads of pertinent artists, activists, and musicians here, often with slightly different ideologies, but united to make change. It sounds corny and idealistic, but these are people who are fighting for our own rights, confronting issues like racism, homophobia, homelessness, poverty, war, corporate and government corruption, animal rights, and environmental conservation. Positive Force has been and still is driving change like few others.
This feature-length DVD (which includes a wealth of bonus short films and live performances) boasts of rare music clips, as well as footage both old and new to illustrate the grass-roots movement that Positive Force has driven for 30 years now. Of course, names like Fugazi, Bikini Kill, Nation Of Ulysses, Rites Of Spring, Jello Biafra, Dave Grohl, Ted Leo, Kathleen Hanna, and many more appear here, so you know there are good things going on.
In short, this is a superb document of a movement that may not garner a lot of media attention (naturally), yet is an essential component of our homegrown American music scene. Support work like this, and give this cause a boost, as it can make a serious difference in all of our lives. Word.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
“Brew Britannia - The Strange Rebirth Of British Beer” by Jessica Boak & Ray Bailey (2014 Aurum Press UK, softcover, 5.3”x 8.5”, 304 pages)
England’s history with beer goes back hundreds of years. Britain is known the world over as a major player in the world’s craft beer scene, creating great brews for generations. But just as industrial beer corporations took over America for so many years, a similar consolidation happened to England. However, just within the last 50 years, England has “taken back the pint”, and this book details that struggle.
Authors and beer bloggers Boak and Bailey chronicle the beginnings of the notorious “CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale)”, as well as the writers, beer critics, curmudgeons, and cranks that stubbornly refused to have corporate interests water down their ales (and lagers). We get names, places, and hometown breweries that put their own hearts and wallets into creating real beer for real people, and a pretty well comprehensive history of the wheres, hows, whos, and whys behind England’s re-emergence as a major brewing destination of the world. There’s not much as far as illustrations or photos to illustrate this journey, but the book reads well, and most certainly has a place among any legitimate beer book collection. All said, it’s a great piece of British brewing history, and a great document of a story that needed to be told.
“African Brew: Exploring The Craft Of South African Beer” by Lucy Corne and Ryno Reyneke (2014 Random House Struik, South Africa, softcover, 7.5” x 9.75”, 256 pages)
Anyone who supposes that the craft beer world revolves around America, or even England or Belgium, think again. This fine book details, in depth, a wealth of African craft breweries that are bringing it, with inspiring brews outside of the corporate mainstream. Authors Corne and Reyneke go into great detail, speaking with brewmasters about their inspirations, ideas, and business. A ton of photos accompany each entry, illustrating the local flavors of South Africa’s rising beer scenes. Ever imagine an ancient ale from the Zulu nation? Hint: It's a sorghum brew that's been enjoyed for thousands of years. It's listed here, alongside tons of other brews both traditional (pilsners, stouts, india pale ales) and more unconventional (several brewmasters here state that they were inspired to make “weird” beer by watching Sam Calagione’s sadly-defunct “Brew Masters” show on cable TV!
As well, the authors provide tasting notes, food pairings, and even plenty of recipes utilizing the local beer, as provided by the pub and brewery chefs themselves. It's really a pretty comprehensive text, though I have to wonder if the rest of Africa may have other renegade brewers rallying against the multinational SABMiller corporation. Undoubtedly there are. But that's nitpicking.
“African Brew” is a well-written and well-researched guide to the present day South African scene, and is a fascinating and fun read — damned essential for the worldly craft beer fan. This is a fine book with a shit-ton of info you won't find anywhere else (not even beeradvocate), and that's worth the price of admission alone, if you ask me.