Saturday, July 12, 2008

Joe Dante - "The Screwfly Solution (Masters Of Horror)" DVD

Dante has created some gems in the past, to be sure. Everyone has a soft spot for 'Gremlins', for example, and his memorable contribution to 'Twilight Zone: The Movie' in 1983 (remember the privileged kid who got whatever he wanted?) also counts for something. Nonetheless, Dante's previous 'MOH' episode, 'Homecoming', was a real mess, and actually pretty embarrassing, even for a zombie movie. This could go either way.

Jason Priestley stars here as loving dad and husband who discovers a highly contagious virus is destroying the human race by combining the male's sexual urges with raging violence. This volatile mix erupts into a mass anti-female hysteria, and thousands of women are unceremoniously murdered. Priestley, ever the family man, attempts to send away his own family for their own safety, as he finds himself also succumbing to the virus. It's a good tale, with a tinge of environmental and socio-political commentary, and could've made for a really fascinating movie with someone like Cronenberg at the helm.

As it stands, 'Screwfly' suffers from some shaky acting (okay, it's really pretty bad), but the curiously delicious script (mostly) saves it from the scrapheap. I enjoyed it, in a roundabout way.

MOH website

Ruggero Deodato - "Cannibal Holocaust" DVD

This 1980 production is a legendary piece of grindhouse/exploitation and mondo cinema, and has noticeably inspired later-day film juggernauts like 'The Blair Witch Project', and certainly Eli Roth's explorations of taboos and sado-masochistic brutalism. Banned in many countries for years, this film is still a vile, repulsive, and shocking display of transgression and man's own inhumanity, greed, and brazen disrespect towards other cultures.

Featuring some pretty wooden acting, and amateurish 'home-video' filmwork, 'Cannibal Holocaust' is the tale of a group of young filmmakers who travel to the deepest, most unexplored rainforests of Brazil to document the primitive native tribes who are known to be cannibals. Well, their trip, seen through their own eyes (a film company is reviewing the reels for possible release) goes from bad to worse. The natives aren't so welcoming, and we are gradually led into understanding why.

'Cannibal Holocaust' is offensive in so many ways, and is certainly only for jaded gorehounds, and those with a strong stomach. Some would say (and they may not be wrong) that this film is little more than an excuse to parade out excessive amounts of violence and torture (the animal killings are real), plus a great deal of brutal sexual violence. This film blurs the lines between shocking reality and cinematic staging. It's not a 'Faces Of Death'-style documentary, but if you hate death scenes, this one's just not for you, period.

On a positive note, the bit of social commentary is good, as we see the true 'evil' isn't the natives at all, but the rude and disrespectful Americans, who actually, truth be told, deserve what they get. The indigenous tribes are depicted as primitives, but they never kill without reason. They are surviving the only way they know how.

A powerful film, but not an easy film. At all.

trailer (graphic)

Lucky McKee - "Sick Girl (Masters Of Horror)" DVD

Now, this is more like it! McKee, for you horror fans, is best-known for his cult-fave 'May', and this freaky little episode is similarly original. Angela Bettis (from 'May') is cast as the shy, nerdy entomologist/insect keeper Ida Teeter who, upon meeting a promising new lesbian lover (played by erotic scream queen Misty Mundae, aka Erin Brown), is mysteriously shipped a box containing a rare species of beetle that escapes into Teeter's apartment. The insect has a strange power to transform whatever it bites into a weird insect-hybrid for reproduction. Suffice to say, this twisty little jewel of a show has intelligence, a good script, memorable acting by both Bettis and Mae, and mesmerizes all the way to the end.

MOH website

William Malone - "Fair Haired Child (Masters Of Horror)" DVD

A well-unconvincing tale here of a troubled (and supposedly virginal) outcast teen who is abducted and intended to be a sacrificial offering to a demon. The plot involves an icy Lori Petty and her husband losing their son in a drowning accident, and summoning a demon to bring him back (undead) in exchange for 12 virgin offerings. Well, Tara (played by the attractive and decidedly NOT nerdy Lindsay Pulsipher) discovers that she's about to be #12, and with the help of the undead son himself, who develops a sort of love for her, she is able to ultimately foil the couple's plans.

Really, this one doesn't do much of anything for me, with average acting and a plot that begins creepily enough, buy ends pretty substandard. It may not be a low point for this series (that would take some work, surely), but 'Fair Haired Child' is just not something I can recommend.

MOH website

Friday, July 11, 2008

Einsturzende Neubauten - "Zeichnungen Des Patienten O.T. Bonus 12" " + "A Doublevision Promotional Device" 12" " + "Das Schaben 7" "

Einsturzende Neubauten are a musical treasure. Emerging from the late 70's avante garde scene in Germany, Neubauten have carved their own individual sound out of unconventional musical forms. Initially using junk and metal as their instrumentation, the group, led by vocalist/conceptualist Blixa Bargeld, has used what many call 'noise' and created a new language out of it. And rather than going the 'machine' route of so many so-called 'industrial' bands, Neubauten have always had a very human soul behind it all. Their recent material has utilized space and quiet as yet another important musical ingredient, and they have become masters of subtle sound manipulation, as opposed to being seen as simply nihilistic noisemongers.

These recordings are from the band's early days, and are taken directly from ultra-rare vinyl, thus you hear the obligatory pops and clicks of the dust on the records. First, there's the bonus 12" for 'Ziechnungen Des Patienten O.T. (Drawings Of Patient O.T.'), which was issued with some editions of the band's 1984 LP of the same name. It's 4 tracks, of which of couple I believe have never been issued onto CD. The first track, 'Durstiges Tier', uses a percussive sound that was created through fist-blows to the gut of vocalist/guitarist Bargeld. So it's a very 'live' beat...

Also included in the file is the rare promo 12" issued to advertise the band's 1987 concert/concept film/LP 'Halber Mensch'. This 12" was released on Cabaret Voltaire's personal label, Doublevision, and included segments of an interview with Neubauten's Mark Chung, and some musical interludes/live excerpts from 'Halber Mensch'.

Finally, a rare 7" is appended here, called 'Das Schaben', which was included with the first 1000 copies of the Some Bizarre UK copies of the 'Halber Mensch' vinyl in 1985. This is one side of the record, which actually included 2 versions of this same track. I only have the one side, sorry! Great music, though. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. And please leave a comment if you appreciate it, or even if you hate it!

listen for yourself

Controlled Bleeding - "Before The Quiet" CD

New York's Controlled Bleeding are known as one of America's earliest industrial noise acts. From the early 80's, the group, centered around Paul Lemos, has created a dizzying array of releases, covering a wide swath of sounds both soothing and confrontational. 'Before The Quiet' collects their very earliest recordings, and dates back to the late 70's. And while the playful experimentation is there, much of this is closer to a wild free jazz/improv/prog-rock format. The track 'Controlled Bleeding' itself is set to a frenzied and almost thrashy tempo. 'Veal', with it's surf organ, is another anomaly - uptempo and quickly giving way to another breakneck speed-surf-riff-o-rama. 'Fiddles & Joey' features the inimitable scat-singing of Joe Papa, and other tracks (some recorded live, others in garages, on 2-track, etc.) are similarly unique. And strangely, despite this material being nearly 30 years old, nothing here sounds really dated. If you wrote off Controlled Bleeding based on their harsher 'industrial' past, this could change your mind, as these musical chameleons can confound as well as anyone. (MVD Audio)

Check out a free mp3 of CB's first ever single, 'Wall Of China Love Letters' here.

and visit the band's website here.

A Place To Bury Strangers - "A Place To Bury Strangers" CD

Opening for Nine Inch Nails will surely find your band a larger audience, and in the case of this band, it should also open some dialogue about some great 80's-90's acts. Check these guys' record collections, and I'll bet you'll find some classic Jesus And Mary Chain, maybe some old (i.e. good) Cure, and maybe some My Bloody Valentine. Not that those are bad things, mind you. I, myself, own some of these, and am not the least bit ashamed, thank you very much. My only complaint is that this influence is so very obvious. APTBS have the wall-of-pain-beyond-the-threshold guitar noise down, and the low-key, nearly indecipherable 'sad bastard' vocals. Add in some crushing drum machine rhythms and you have a real collision of ear-shredding noise and gloomy post-punk sounds. I like it, but can't divorce songs like 'Another Step Away' - which could be an outtake from 'Psychocandy' - from their predecessors. Good stuff, and I guarantee when the group's next work comes out, they will transcend this comparison. But for now, file under 'bands to watch'. (Killer Pimp)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

KUKL - "Holidays In Europe (The Naughty Nought)" LP

Ask the average joe, and a passing mention of Iceland conjures images of unspoiled nature, Arctic scenery, Sigur Ros (for the hipsters), and, of course, Bjork. Most are familiar with Bjork Gudmondsdottir's indie-pop band The Sugarcubes, who had some success on US shores in the 80's with college-radio hits like 'Birthday', 'Motorcrash', and 'Coldsweat'. It's lesser-known that Bjork had been active in punk and post-punk experimental bands since her pre-teens, even. KUKL was one of those groups.

KUKL immediately predated the 'Cubes, and featured fellow Sugarcube Einar Orn and a cast of Icelandic artists. 'Holidays In Europe', the group's second and final record, followed an ill-fated European tour (thus the title) where the band began their splintering. That the record was released originally on Brit-agit-political punk band Crass's personal label says something. Even fans of Bjork's present-day avante-pop inclinations will likely hate this record. It's packed with weird improv textures and darkly mystical moods, and schizophrenic shouts and wailings from both Orn and Bjork, whose voice is instantly recognizable. Her freeform yells and the scattered, sometimes-bombastic sounds here are more suitable for fans of noise or industrial music, or perhaps (really) free jazz. It's a weird mix, and actually pretty well enjoyable if given a half chance. (1986 Crass Records)

Marc Almond - "Heart On Snow" CD

Poor Marc Almond. It seems he is forever known as an '80's pop star' due to his smash success with electro-pop sleaze merchants Soft Cell. But pity (more) the people who think he's irrelevant these days. Through the years, Almond has emerged a world-class singer and highly literate songwriter, painting sordid tales (ala one of his idols, Jacques Brel) in his highly stylized, theatrical voice over a variety of musical styles and genres, from clubby dance to baroque pop to cabaret. His collaborations with such notables as Jim Thirlwell (Foetus), Psychic TV, Nick Cave, Annie Anxiety Bandez, Coil, and even Current 93 prove that he's no 'has-been' by any means, nor has he been afraid to work alongside other strong and charismatic personalities.

This 2003 album is a selection of old-world Russian folk songs (and a few originals, done in a faux-Russian style), and features Almond in duet with various Soviet singers (none of which are recognizable to me). This is some classy, moody work, full of rich and resonant Eastern European vibes, and Almond's voice has never been so full and well-managed. Tracks like 'Just One Chance', with Luydmilla Zukena, wisely juxtapose the operatic vocals of Zukena with Almond's dramatic torch singing. 'Heart On Snow' may seem kitsch to some, but it serves well as a lovely travelogue, and a nice 'jumping off point' for those interested in classic Russian music. (Psychobaby)

Marc Almond's website

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Abecedarians - "The Other Side Of The Fence" 2x10"

Hailing from California, and coming up in the mid-80's, I'm sure it was rather unexpected for a band to find themselves signed to Manchester's legendary Factory Records (home to Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, New Order, etc.), but that's exactly what the obscurely-named Abecedarians did. They released a single through Factory, and later went through Caroline Records for their last records. Joining moody, atmospheric soundscapes (sometimes hinting at almost Western/desert-themed introspectivenes and desolation) with melodic indie rock, Abecedarians never quite got their due. A superb video, for the superb song 'Soil', was seen on MTV's old '120 Minutes' way back in the day, but it seems to have only aired once.

This recording, an ultra-limited double 10" EP for art-conscious Independent Project Records, was a collection of early demos from 1983-1985, and according to the liner notes, predates even their first official single. Nonetheless, lest it be seen as rough or unfinished material, 'The Other Side Of The Fence' is a masterful set of tunes with few parallels. Echoes of stuff like Joy Division are evident, but Abecedarians brought a very American vibe to that great, gloomy post-punk scene. All of their work is shamefully out of print now, but here's hoping that someone has the good sense to reissue it soon. (Independent Project)

KMFDM - "Extra Vol.1" 2xCD

Compiling tons of vinyl and CD-singles from their classic Wax Trax! Records heyday (1986-1992), this set shows the German-American industrial rock group's quick progression and growth as they stormed the states on a huge tour with Ministry in their prime (1989-90). Beginning with the early raw electronic-beats of stuff like 'Don't Blow Your Top' (featured here in a superb Adrian Sherwood remix), 'Extra' follows the group into a dancier, clubby realm ('Naive', here remixed a couple of times by Chicago sleaze-disco act Thrill Kill Kult), some trippy psycho-dub ('Virus', 'M+F 244'), and finally, their now-trademark electro-rock. One of the band's definitive cuts, 'Godlike', is reprised here, and this Slayer sampling club track can still melt dancefloors while appealing to the longhairs and headbangers at the same time. Very fun. And disc 2 has even more! KMFDM have always been masters of the anthemic, and 'Go To Hell', 'Split', and 'Money' all feature this second disc, often in multiple mixes. The remastered sound here makes it all go 'boom' in the car, as well, so that's always a plus. Overall, 'Extra' is a great collection of now-unavailable mixes and versions for the hardcore KMFDM fan, and also a fitting starting point for anyone curious about this band's extensive 22-year history. (Metropolis)

KMFDM site

D.I. - "Suburbia Sessions 1983" DVD

Californian second-wave punks D.I. are best known for their appearance in the Penelope Spheeris film 'Suburbia', where they performed their infamous 'Richard Hung Himself'. That track is included here, with 9 other songs, and illustrates the band's Reagan-era angst and political awareness. The recording, done by stalwart Flipside Magazine, is bootleg-quality, and this film (of a rehearsal - not an actual concert) is rough and intimate. In hindsight, D.I.'s music was much more melodic than many of their early nihilist brethren, even showing a shadow of new wave somehow. Still, it's a far cry from the fashion punk of today, and takes me back somehow, in a nicely nostalgic way. An interview (with defective audio) is appended here as a bonus feature, and it does nothing but show the band to be, as the camera person puts it, 'jerks'. Hah! No pretense here, just some real-life footage of an early punk band sweating, spitting, and swearing. As it should be. (MVD Visual)