Saturday, March 22, 2008

Akron/Family - "Love Is Simple" CD/DVD

This is music by, and for, people who appreciate music, in all it's permutations, forms, and styles. Akron/Family's second (well, third or fourth, if you're counting their works as The Angels Of Light band) full-length effort is a lovely and song-based affair. They come off, on record, as a kind of indie folk act that crosses over into hippie jam band territory almost. But that's short-changing these fellows. First, they can write some fucking great songs - ones that you can sing along to, even. I guarantee that upon hearing the glorious 'Love Is Simple' (the title track), or the memorable 'Phenomena', you will be humming along for the rest of the day. Really! Elements of world, and even religious musics come into play. And it works magickally, somehow, in a big mysterious melange of song and sound. A wonderful CD, this one co-produced by Andrew Weiss (of Rollins Band and Ween fame).
If you're lucky and purchased a first pressing of this, then you also have a nice and tasty DVD packed with nearly 90 minutes of live mayhem from these boys. Here is where it all comes together...from gospel-style hoedowns to frenzied noise to trance-inducing drum circles, to mellow acoustic folksongs - sometimes evolving from and around the same song even. This is what it's all about, losing yourself in the music. No egos, no 'rock star' attitude, just a genuine respect for the sound of 'love'. (Young God Records)

Spring Heel Jack - "Songs And Themes" CD

The UK duo of Ashley Wales and John Coxon have undergone quite a rebirth and, indeed, a near-total re-invention in recent years. Depending on your tolerance for out-jazz and avante garde improv, this can be seen as either a good or a bad thing. Taking their initial (jungle electronica) roots into account, I'd say it's quite a monolithic progression. Enlisting the assistance of esteemed instrumentalists like trumpeter Roy Campbell, Jr. and guitarist Jason Spaceman (Spiritualized), 'Songs And Themes' is a masterful sort of ambient jazz, highly organic in sound, but augmented with a subtle touch of sampling and electronic effects. Noteworthy are the classy string/brass overplay on 'At Long Last', or the dissonant skronk of 'Antiphon'. There's beauty and lush melodicism running all through the album, and an artery of dark noise that filters through now and again. Topping it all off, 'Garlands' is a powerful and sinister post-industrial take on a timeless seasonal theme. Simultaneously encompassing sounds both lovely and bent, 'Songs And Themes' is a masterstroke. (Thirsty Ear)

Tad - "Busted Circuits And Ringing Ears" DVD

The life and times of the grunge-era Seattle band once deemed 'too ugly for MTV' is revisited here in a sympathetic and thoroughly well-produced documentary. Thankfully, input from the band is included, and fellow period scenesters like members of Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney all contribute their thoughts and reflections on Tad's 'heavier than God' sound. The band's rise on the influential Sub Pop Records label in the late 80's is detailed here, as is the major label courting that inevitably came and contributed to the band's quiet demise. From the best of times to the worst, these grizzled rockers rode the Seattle grunge wave and subsequently imploded through a series of bad business choices, drug addiction, and personal strife. Amidst this all, some rather classic noise-addled rock excesses were produced, and this DVD is a definitive look at one of the more interesting Northwest acts of the era. The inclusion of Tad's promo videos is an added bonus. Essential for fans, and pretty interesting even for those merely curious. (MVD Visual)

Honda Ryuichi - "Operation: Pussycat" DVD

An uncomplicated, simple, and short Japanese 'pink' film here that takes a lot of cues from Russ Meyer's trashy 60's 'bad girl' sexploitation flicks, which is funny to see but somehow it works. It's the tale of a trio of fast-driving, bisexual go-go dancers who aren't above killing if it means fun or profit. When a young slave girl witnesses their foul play, they go on a mission to 'kill, kill' her, as well. There's plenty of humor and trash-talking, but nothing more than a little jiggle and blood, all done nice and campy and never hardcore. Fun and memorable! (MVD Visual)

Plastic Crimewave Sound - "No Wonderland" CD

Reissued from an apparently quite rare mammoth double-LP, this well-stuffed CD revisits a wild and woolly psychedelische-kraut monsterpiece from this Chicago collective. Gathering their farthest out-there guitar drones, noisy garage riffs, and freak-space-punk jams, PCS harvest a rich and deeply visceral strain of darkly-lit stoner head music. If names like Can, Acid Mothers Temple, Amon Duul, or Hawkwind mean anything to you, then this groovy set of tunes will easily satisfy. Guest appearances by new-jack hippie-folksters like Devendra Banhart or Josephine Foster are token, but the real meat and potatoes here are the long, enveloping motorik fuzz-jams that demand head-nodding and suggest some rather wicked altered states. Primal, powerful, and trance-inducing, 'No Wonderland' is a real triumph for you "heads". (Prophase Music)

"Liberty In Restraint: Behind The Eyes Of A Fetish Photographer" DVD

Focusing on the life of Australian BDSM/fetish photog Noel Graydon, this feature-length documentary functions as an intimate peek into this thriving yet misunderstood subculture, and includes interviews with a number of local personalities within the tight-knit Aussie fetish scene. Suffice to say, this is obviously mature subject matter, and some of the scenes here will certainly make the more prudish shudder and recoil in disgust. Nonetheless, Graydon turns out to be a likeable family man, and the people he photographs, though perhaps best called 'quirky', aren't the raging maniacs that the media so often portrays them to be. My gripes here? Well, for one, the credits are inexplicably cut off through the entire film (a mastering glitch maybe?), and secondly, the overall pacing seems scattered and unfocused. It's really a challenge to sit through, to be honest. Suffice to say that 'Liberty In Restraint' is likely of interest only to those already involved in the fetish community. (MVD Visual)

Gang Green - "You Got It" CD / "Older...Budweiser" CD / Can't Live Without It" CD

These limited 'gold disc' remasters from the popular and influential Boston skate-punkers Gang Green have aged reasonably well. Not overly concerned with social or political issues (as many of their punk brethren were), Gang Green were more adept at celebrating the libidinal aspects of adolescence, and the blessings of beer and skateboarding. 'You Got It' is a goofy and fun drunk/punk manifesto - only hinting at the metallic crossover sound they would pioneer a few years later. 'Older...Budweiser' inches closer to metal, but retains Chris Doherty's tuneless punk vocals, and adds on the group's Van Halen parody/response, the 'I81B4U' EP. Sure, it's juvenile and irresponsible, but it's also a helluva lotta fun - and a perfect teen party soundtrack (especially with cuts like 'Bedroom of Doom', or 'Bartender', to name just a couple of memorable ones). 'Can't Live Without It' is a live LP from 1990, and features most of the band's early faves - all recorded crisply and professionally. This one's actually a fiercer platter than their studio works, and features a slightly different line-up as members had moved on by the time this was recorded. Overall, some reasonably classic titles from one of skate/punk/metal's legendary acts. (Metal Mind Poland / Roadrunner)

Nick Drake - "Under Review" DVD

This critical overview of the tragic English guitarist/songwriter's life and music is a top-notch look into the world of his inspirations & aspirations, and includes fine posthumous assessments of his influential recorded works. From the point of view of Drake's peers, journalists, and even neighbors, this 90-minute film encompasses just about everything a fan needs to know about Drake's painfully sensitive music and the life that led up to the creation of such memorable songs as 'Pink Moon' or 'Black Eyed Dog'. It's well-produced, literate, and functions as possibly the most comprehensive document of Drake's life available on DVD. Essential for fans. (Chrome Dreams via MVD Visual)

"The Gods Of Times Square" DVD

This simultaneously enlightening and puzzling documentary by Richard Sandler observes an alarming part of America, centered in the heart of New York's Times Square. Filmed in the late 90's, this startling double-DVD set gets up close and personal to a staggering amount of religious fanatics and street preachers who took hold of these bustling streets before Disney and corporate America wiped it all away. Here are the homeless, the delusional, the cranks, creeps, drunks, transvestites, zealots, revolutionaries, fundamentalists, and the just plain mental. Sandler interviews and observes these people, all of whom seem to subscribe to a different system of spiritual beliefs. There's some truly nightmarish visions here, of intolerant bigots and lost souls, all interspersed with flickers of enlightened wisdom. Sandler provides a fairly unbiased (and often humorous) counterpoint to some of the more, uhm, challenging of the street preachers, and the film(s) here show him befriending certain Times Square regulars, like the endearing James or the misguided Jimmy. A fine work, but not something for the squeamish. (Brink DVD via MVD Visual)

various artists - "Earache iCrusher Complete" DVD

This extensive collection of promo clips from one of England's premier metal labels runs the gamut from the early proto-industrial metal of Godflesh (the rather boring clip for the otherwise classic 'Christbait Rising') to the theatrical goth/synthpop of Mortiis to the thuggish Linea 77. Also included are plenty of bland death metallers, the sophomoric hip-hip of Autonomy, and the flesh-hook shock rock of Society 1. The Berzerker is a return of sorts to the label's grindcore roots, with a tuneless blastbeat grind that assaults the eardrums. Not the best showcase for this label's frustratingly inconsistent sounds, and really only fit for completists. (Earache / MVD Visual)

Donovan - "The Donovan Concert Live In L.A." DVD

Unapologetically a product of the hippie-dippie 60's, folk minstrel Donovan spearheaded a lysergically-friendly pop sound with whimsical, childlike sing-a-long appeal. Here, introduced by none other than surrealist filmmaker David Lynch and featuring guest appearances from folks like (Beach Boy) Mike Love and Donovan's own lovely daughter Astrella Celeste, Donovan recreates his classics like 'Hurdy Gurdy Man', 'Season Of The Witch', the superb 'Colours', and, of course, his trademark 'Mellow Yellow'. All of this recorded live in front of a rather huge large audience in L.A. in 2007 to benefit the 'David Lynch Foundation For Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace'. Hmm. Anyway, this is a fun listen and a well-done recording. (MVD Visual)

Al Di Meola - "Speak A Volume: Return To Electric Guitar" DVD

This expertly-produced live performance focuses on veteran jazz/rock guitarist Di Meola's solo electric guitar pieces, as well as featuring new interpretations of his mentor and tango master Astor Piazzola's works. Captured live in Leverkusen in 2006, these 13 tracks present an intimate and lovely blending of jazz and soft rock. Di Meola's guitar work is stunningly gorgeous, and his band's Latin-influenced sounds are evident. 'Speak A Volume' presents a skillful and highly palatable set of tunes that, while they aren't too risky or experimental in nature, are certainly packed with subtlety, melody, and mood. (Inakustik via MVD Visual)

Buckethead - "Young Buckethead Vol.1 + Vol.2" DVDs

This set of old 8mm films from the early 90's captures one of the world's most unique and talented guitarists in his earlier years. With bootleg-quality live concerts by his old band Deli Creeps (who were little more than 90's rock with a ferociously avante guitarist), this stuff is necessary only to completists, or those looking for a deeper peek into the mysterious past and personality of this oddball barnyard virtuoso. Other bits here include backstage banter, an outdoor 'interview' (which goes nowhere and only serves to show Brian, err, Buck's affinity for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and a weird bedroom keyboard solo. The highlight is easily an extended solo guitar improv by Buckethead (in character) filmed at a family reunion in 1991, which displays some incredible riffs and guitar pyrotechnics. Of dubious quality otherwise. (Avabella via MVD Video)

"The Elephant Table Album" 2xLP/CD

This is arguably (probably) the most comprehensive and complete survey of the classic 'Wild Planet' (i.e. classic industrial/electronic music) scene of the early 80's. Compiled by noted journalist Dave Henderson, this set encompasses nearly all the early UK-based 'industrial' and avante-garde artists of note from this era. These are the folks who were truly 'out there', from the proto-EBM Portion Control ('Chew You To Bits' is cheekily dated, but still kinda feral, and certainly a step above the usual synthpop) to one of Chris & Cosey's finer and darker early cuts ('Raining Tears Of Blood'). Coil contribute the rough 'S Is For Sleep' (certainly not at the level of their later work, but a nice and weird piece nonetheless), while Nurse With Wound's 'Nana, Or A Thing Of Uncertain Nonsense' is a classic slice of delirious audio-surrealism. Lustmord gets uncharacteristically funky on 'Bonening Of Men', while SPK contribute the brutal death-industrial dirge of 'Despair'. Still hard to believe that former SPK mainman Graeme Revell is now a top-shelf Hollywood score composer, coming from his horror-noise background! Anyhow, Nigel Ayers and his Nocturnal Emissions present the rather silly 'Suffering Stinks', which they would thankfully leave far behind with their amazing 'Spiritflesh' LP a few years later. Also represented on this amazing double-LP set: Konstruktivists, Muslimgauze, David Jackman (of Organum), Attrition, Legendary Pink Dots, Bourbonese Qualk, and others. Well worth a listen, and a definitive piece of history, here... (1983 Xtract Records UK)
Pick up this rare and out of print collection:

To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie – "The Patron" CD

This slice of malevolent beauty comes from a Minneapolis duo who mix angelic female voices with harsh and often jaggedly crunchy ambient/electronic sounds. Jehna Wilhelm's fleeting and ethereal voice reminds me of Rose McDowell (of Strawberry Switchblade/Current 93/Coil infamy) while the sound (courtesy of Mark McGee) is a varied and swirly vapour of textural dreams and fuzzy hallucinations, sometimes heavily rhythmic and at other times with a decidedly sinister ambient (even post-industrial) slant. One standout, “You Guys Talk, We'll Spill Our Guts” is a dark nursery rhyme, like the transfiguration of a soul into the great unknown. The nearest parallel would have to be the amazing and magickal Coil “Solstice” singles, but To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie conjure their own spirits on this compelling and mysterious debut. (Kranky)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Kone - "Cirrhotic Psychotic" CD

California-based multi-instrumentalist Phil Western is probably best known as half of experimental electronica groups Download and Plateau. But on this solo recording, Western more than proves that his prowess as a programmer and composer may even surpass these better-known, critically-acclaimed projects. Kone's premise is music created with only a simple setup of primitive electronic gear - a kind of no frills, balls-out approach to techno, you might say. And with such tight grooves as the almost acidic 'Movies On My House', this idea works quite well. Recalling the robotic demeanor of Kraftwerk, and gene-splicing in some glitchy minimalist funk by way of Detroit, these crisp and accessable tracks thump and sizzle, while also summoning some nicely ambient textures along the way (as on the lovely retro-stylings of 'Terrible News'). 'Mound (Fully Conscious Mix)' is a jagged and noisy eardrum-rattler that pummels like prime Aphex Twin, and similarly, 'Whoa War Wow', like most of this recording, is actually too manic for most dancefloors. Consider it prime electronic listening music for those with a hankering for something more, eh, corrosive. A really fine recording here, and respect to Mr. Western on a job well-done, indeed. (The Record Company)

Cloudland Canyon – "Silver Tongued Sisyphus" CDEP

The importance and impact of German experimental rock pioneers like
Cluster or Can is nearly impossible to overstate. Cloudland Canyon's debut for Kranky summons these still-relevant ghosts and adds to them a profound drone that evokes even more ancient spirits and altered states of consciousness. The first lengthy track here, “Dambala” begins as a mysterious ambient mist and moves, halfway in, towards a lighter, even lovely psychedelic swirl of syncopated effects and gentle melodies. Beautiful and otherworldly work. The second extended track, “Silver Tongued Sisyphus,” rocks harder, with a pulsing bassline and drums that pay homage to folks like Czukay and Leibezeit. It's a powerful and affecting trance/drone rock track, with incantational vocals and an enveloping groove. Simply, this is a monster kraut/trance release that places Cloudland Canyon in the vanguard of modern psychedelia. I am breathless. (Kranky)

Seven Storey Mountain - "At The Poles" CD

Well-done, aggressive post-punk that channels some strong spirits. Think Wire, Gang Of Four or Killing Joke by way of Fugazi and Jesus Lizard, and you’ll be in the same zip code.
Seven Storey Mountain hail from Arizona and this, their third LP in 10 years, is a nicely dissonant slice of well-throttled guitars, angular grooves and melodic vocals that aren’t adverse to lung-shredding punishment if the song so requires.
“Take The Lead” is a top choice, with its subtle, circular guitar pattern giving way to a driving chorus that reminds me of Chicago punk legends Naked Raygun. But maybe that’s just the vocals of main belter (and producer) Lance Lammers. He rises above this comparison in the oddly shaped but potent “Sinking In,” or the grimy “Elevator.” The latter begins with a confounding, Lizard-esque riff attack, then evolves into a sing-along punk number. A nice touch.
“Take The Lead” is a fairly accessible song, and perhaps the best choice for a single with its muscular and reasonably straightforward delivery. “Sweet Forty-Nine” is packed with noise and intensity, but it’s a slow-building, tense attack, with a raved-up chorus and rolling drums. At The Poles is a finely-crafted, albeit brief (31-minute) set of tunes that are punchy and dynamic. They bring back a time when Touch & Go ruled college radio, and weird noise-rock was nothing to be ashamed of. (Thick Records)

Modeselektor - "Happy Birthday" CD

Electronic music has an image problem. When it's referred to as “techno,” all sorts of stereotypes and biases arise, even among the purveyors of said musics. Berlin-based duo Modeselektor throw it all to the wind with Happy Birthday, dabbling into a variety of electronic sub-genres, from crunky club sounds to Kraftwerkian electro-blips, to mysterious minimalist/glitch soundtracks that could double as alternate Blade Runner themes. Amongst individual cuts, “The White Flash” is an especially memorable cut that features Radiohead's enigmatic front man Thom Yorke. This lonely, icy tech-scape sounds quite in line with his own solo material. Appearances by French rappers TTC, Floridian electro-grindcorist Otto Von Schirach, and numerous others all fit in seamlessly beside the duo's cold and steely synth-structures. You get it all in these 75 minutes - thumpin' rhythms, meditative ambience, and experimental soundscapes. Pretty well a comprehensive scope of modern electronic music. Quite listenable, and a solid piece of work here. (BPitch Control)

P.J. Harvey - "White Chalk" CD

Polly Jean has laid her proverbial soul on the line before. Her early recordings were exorcisms of sorts, pulling all kinds of nasty demons from her psyche and turning them into rally cries for feminists and humanists alike. In the past 15 years, she's dabbled in pop (not to be confused with commercial) music, collaborated with Thom Yorke and Queens Of The Stone Age, and broken the mighty Nick Cave's heart (listen to his album The Boatman's Call for proof positive). She's eschewed a public life despite her growing celebrity, and this latest effort - perhaps her most personal, intimate, and mature yet, is an unsettling, ghostly apparition as sparse as anything she's done before. Harvey's lovely piano work dominates this set, and twisted broken little ballads like “Dear Darkness” details a growing unrest within. Whether she's doing it in a literary sense or pulling it directly from her experience is merely speculation, but White Chalk is packed with subtle and creepy undercurrents of murder, violence, and remorse. In fact, some of this, like the unsettling “Broken Harp,” or the disturbing “The Piano,” are difficult listens, as they seem to be far too personal and painful for public consumption. Polly is a true artist who gives her listeners a glimpse into a troubled world, and her powerful melding of word and sound will never go out of style. This is a world-class recording that will be revisited years from now. (Island)

Puscifer – "V Is For Vagina" CD

First heard on the soundtrack to the otherwise repugnant first Underworld film, Puscifer is a more personal solo outlet for the evidently boundless creativity of Maynard James Keenan (who many of you know as the enigmatic Tool / A Perfect Circle frontman). With this new project, Keenan is at his most internalized - a microscope on his own weird thoughts and obsessions, and without the crutch of a band's input. From creepy hip-hop-inflected unclassifiables (“Queen B”) to dark and slinky electronic soundscape mantras (“Vagina Mine”) to more rock-oriented efforts (the industrial-edged “Undertaker”) to demonic funhouse mirrors (“Drunk With Power”), Puscifer offer a variety of twisted, provocative, and sometimes frightening moods and textures - and it's all tongue-in-cheek. Very enjoyable and a fascinating counterpoint to Keenan's other work. Listen for a guest spot from one Brian Lustmord, too. (Puscifer Entertainment)

Kasey Anderson - "The Reckoning" CD

With a gritty, gravelly voice, Mr. Anderson's latest opens with the title track – a dark, narrative song that's reminiscent of Steve Earle, with a dash of Tom Waits and maybe some Mark Lanegan, all good and fine company. But subsequent songs are more traditionally stuff, with much lighter and melodic material. The juxtaposing of the two is a little off-putting. More successful is the fine “Don't Look Back,” which synthesizes both of these styles quite nicely. “You Don't Live Here Anymore” is a haunting ballad with a well-placed guitar feedback drone and more plaintive vocal style, and “Red Shadows” is another excellent world-wise everyman tale that's stylish, memorable, and well-written. Despite a few minor setbacks, “The Reckoning” is a fine album of darkly-tinged Americana, and I like it. (Terra Soul)

Mono - "The Sky Remains The Same As Ever" DVD

It's been established among the initiated that Japan's instrumental post-rock act Mono is a profoundly engaging live act. Sculpting their dynamic, punchy sound from gentle, lovely melodies (ala Sigur Ros) into grindingly potent noise/feedback screamers (ala classic Sonic Youth), this quartet has a trademark transcendence that expresses itself beyond the need for words. This 110-minute DVD documents their last world tour, and, even if the group's limited English causes some chin scratching, fear not. This is all about the performances. Taken from a variety of venues (Paris, Brussels, New York, and more), as well as some studio recording in Chicago with Steve Albini (and a string section!), this audio-visual travelogue provides a suitable look at Mono's positively cyclonic live gigs. Sure, you don't get the full live effect here (there's no ringing ears or hearing damage included), but it's the closest you're going to get until they come around again. The Sky Remains The Same is a must-see, and when Mono tours again, do yourself a favor. (Temporary Residence)

Al Di Meola – "Diabolic Inventions And Seduction For Solo Guitar Volume 1: Music of Astor Piazzolla" CD

Di Meola is a serious master of his craft, winning a gamut of awards from the prestigious Guitar World magazine, among others, and this interpretation of Astor Piazzolla's brilliant and romantic classical-influenced tango music is altogether uplifting, reverential and beautiful. Di Meola befriended the late Piazzolla before the Argentine legend passed away in the early 90's, and his friendship with the influential and trailblazing composer forever changed Di Meola's musical outlook. Diabolic Inventions (a term Piazzolla used to describe his own music in the face of tango traditionalists) is a wonderful and engagingly easy-on-the-ears experience, and a joy to listen to. Di Meola's sparse and intricate guitar pluckings are both acrobatic and harmonious, conjuring images of warm climes, cool drinks, and old-world beauty. I dig it.  (Inakustik via MVD Audio)

Voodoo Glow Skulls - "Southern California Street" CD

Bouncy, punky Latin-inflected ska from, well, you guessed it, the West Coast. Voodoo Glow Skulls have been around for some time, first with stalwart punk labels Dr. Strange and Epitaph, and now with powerhouse Victory, so they have the credibility to back up their near-20-year history. But songs like “While My City Sleeps” are little more than buffoonish punk cuts with horn & skank sections. Lyrically, these guys are pretty vacant, and though musically they are easily top of the game (perhaps more so than their brethren in the Mighty Mighty Bosstones), this stuff comes across as little more than thuggish and sophomoric. (Victory)

Dave Gahan - "Hourglass" CD

The second solo effort from Depeche Mode frontman Gahan is a subtle and cohesive collection of tunes that move further from the rock-oriented directions of his previous solo work, and actually rival (or surpass) Depeche's own pieces of late. “Kingdom” is the obvious single, and is a top-shelf electro-rock anthem, whereas “Use You” is an industrial-tinged slice of bad-vibe and malediction. It seems that Gahan's tough-living bout in the 90's is well behind him, as he's making some of the most mature and intelligent music of his career here. Gahan's never sounded more confident and diverse, as tracks like the raw and edgy “Endless” illustrate. A few pieces falter a bit, as with the overdramatic and uncatchy “Miracles.” Nonetheless, 'Hourglass' is a solid and potent set of dark-edged reflections from one of the most influential vocalists in the genre. (Mute)

Meshuggah - "obZen" CD

Continuing their evolution into one of hardcore metal's smartest and most imitated bands, Sweden's innovative Meshuggah here takes a sort of sidestep, yet still remain light years ahead of their contemporaries. Their last effort, 2005's amazing 'Catch Thirty Three', was a massive-scale, multi-movement prog-metal assault, with complex changes, wicked tunings, and throat-shredding vocals by Jens Kidman. 'Obzen' sort of keeps it close, eschewing the long-form pieces for more 'song-oriented' waters, but sounding much the same. Their almost mechanical crush-grind is tempered by stop-on-a-dime transitions and riffs that slice like a Ginsu. 'Bleed' is a personal favorite, with furious breakneck speed thrash that would make (2008 tour mates) Ministry proud. 'Obzen' eats other supposed 'hardcore' or death metal acts for breakfast. I am in awe of these guys. Highest praise indeed. (Nuclear Blast America)

Six Organs Of Admittance - "Shelter From The Ash" CD

Six Organs' Ben Chasny is a very busy fellow indeed. In between his gigs as guitarist in psychedelic-rock-mavens Comets On Fire, and his work with such folksters as Current 93, he records solo under the nom-de-plume Six Organs Of Admittance. Taking elements from 60's hippie psyche-folk, avante-garde guitarists like John Fahey, and freeform noise, this project sums up Chasny's headspace better than any of his other involvements. 'Shelter From The Ash' is his 10th studio LP, and it seems to inch a mite closer to actual songs than his past, more experimental offerings. Tracks like 'Strangled Road' or 'Jade Like Wine' are very accessable pop/folk songs with sinister/spooky twists, whereas 'Coming To Get You' is a focused and dynamic assault that grinds and churns with restrained animosity. Overall, this may be Chasny's most satisfying recording to date, and it's already gotten multiple spins on my CD player. So far, one of my top picks of the last year. (Drag City)

Flipper – Live Targetvideo77 1980-81" DVD

Flipper were an essential anomaly in the early American punk scene. Nihilistic and dirgey, their noise-damaged music anticipated the hardcore scene, predated grunge, and even could be seen as a starting point for (some) industrial rock. This classic video, finally reissued in digital format, presents Flipper in all their sloppy, drunken, and chaotic glory. Taken from a pair of shows, this rough (but more than watchable) document shows both a more spunky side (a headlining gig from Berkeley) as well as a more cathartic and intense side (their 1981 Frisco show opening for Throbbing Gristle). Vocalist/bassist Will Shatter mumbles and grunts his way through fan favorites like 'Sex Bomb' or (my favorite) 'Life', while his band tumbles headfirst into characteristically messy, nearly-tuneless abandon. Flipper took punk and turned it upside down, and in the process inspired too many bands to list. This is the real deal. (MVD Visual)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"$100 And A T-Shirt: A Documentary About Zines In The Northwest US" DVD

As an old-school zine-maker myself (19 issues, thank you very much), this documentary serves as a wonderful summation of what drives certain people to create their own indie press publications. Focusing on the Portland-Seattle scenes, '$100 And A T-Shirt' was created on a shoestring budget by indie filmmaker Joe Biel, and it features a wealth of interviews with various publishers and writers from all walks of life and interests, resulting in a sort of symposium on the 'hows' and 'whys' of small-press publishing. It's really an enlightening and inspiring mix of subcultures who share a belief in the power of individual freedom and interpersonal relationships through art. It's great to see that this mode of expression is alive and well, especially in this era of impersonal blogging and mystalkerspace. This may well be the definitive portrait of this phenomenon and subculture. Long live zines! (Microcosm Publishing)

"Bikini Bloodbath" DVD

Delivering everything the title promises, this one really can't lose, right? Sadly, yes it can. A tale of a grisly murderer (the cleverly named Chef Death) stalking some nubile young womanflesh (often with bare boobs) isn't exactly a new idea, and this film fails in nearly every way. With tongues firmly in cheek, the directors create a not-so-classic B-slasher that succeeds only in annoying the viewer. Horrific more for its' awful overacting than for its' tension or murders, 'Bikini Bloodbath' is truly a potent stinker, and even an ample bosom (or six) can't save this one. Bleah. And what's with the hottest girlie being deemed the 'nerd' of the bunch? (Blood Bath Pictures via MVD Visual)

Christopher Bissonnette - "In Between Words" CD

Sweeping, cinematic urban ambience from this Canadian composer, 'In Between Words' utilizes field recordings (including bits of orchestral work) and electronic processing to dazzling effect. Initially inspired by both visual sound and the legendary Detroit electronica scene, Bissonnette's compositions effectively synthesize these influences into floaty, glacial seas of static, drone, and pulse. 'The Colonnade' is an especially effective track, plunging into a dark swath of melodic strings both sad and strident. The closer, 'Jour Et Nuit' sounds like a late-night cityscape re-tooled into chunks of tonal ambient sound. Beautiful and wonderful work here, tailor-made for inobtrusive reading or solitary reflection. (Kranky)

"Captive Files 1" DVD

Here we have another 'pink' movie (Google or wiki it if you don't know) from Japan. And this one's a full-lengther (as in 1:40). As it goes, 'Captive Files 1' (directed by Kim Tae-gwan) depicts a lonely postal worker whose obsession for young teenage girl results in his abduction of said girl. He gradually tries to 'train' her to love him, and resorts to bondage and confinement! Well, suffice to say that things don't quite go as well as he plans. It's not rated, and there's plenty of savage sex and some disturbing plot twists along the way. It's fairly well-acted and scripted, and even the subtitles are well-done. An enjoyable little movie here, and certainly memorable, in a darkly-twisted little way. It may go on a tad too long (the epilogue is dodgy and unnecessary, though maybe it somehow is an attempt to justify the brutality and possible charges of sexism that could be levied against the film), but I kinda liked 'Captive Files 1'. (MVD Visual)

What Is It?

So I finally got a chance to see Crispin Hellion Glover's fabled (and reportedly rare) film (the first of a proposed trilogy) called 'What Is It?', courtesy of my longtime comrade in crime, Pauly R. (thanx brother!), and wow! Imagine a hallucinogenic, surrealist mixture of Jodorowsky and Fellini, with a hint of Korine, and maybe even a dash of Lynch, too. This one is beyond description (too fucked-up/beautiful for words), but I see it as a tale of a young man (with Down's Syndrome, no less), who loves snails and has a wickedly troubled inner dialogue, and some pretty hideous demons to be confronted. That said, it's also a really dark comedy. I knew there was a reason I always liked Fairuza Balk (who portrays the voice of a screaming snail, believe it or not, as well as a predatory praying mantis), and the respected Adam Parfrey is also in it, as well as 'appearances' by Shirley Temple (I think they were phoned in, hah!), and music by Charlie Manson AND the mighty Anton LaVey. Oi vey! It isn't easy to find, but if these names mean anything to you, Glover's artistic vision may be something you need to invest in. Definitely NOT for the squeamish, as there's some graphic stuff here (which I won't go into). Open minds only, please! Check Glover's site for more info.