Monday, December 20, 2010

Parlour - "Simulacrenfield" CD

From the fertile musical landscape of Louisville, Kentucky, Parlour arose over a decade ago from the same indie scene as bands like Slint, Crain, and Rodan. In fact, founding member Tim Furnish was also a member of Crain, and has played with Papa M/Aerial M, among others. This full-length is their first release in 5 years, and it's a well-done collision of seemingly disparate musical influences. Parlour are a rock band who don't play rock music. The instrumentation is there -- guitars, drums, clarinet, sax, and synths. But the music reveals itself to be more like a post-rock, proto-jazz soundtrack. There are no vocals, as Parlour let their music do the talking, so to speak. And that's fine by me, as this album proves to be an exceptional melange of moods, textures, and rhythms.

The muscular "Destruction Paper" opens, with a densely-mixed music box effect (a combination of keyboards and guitars) circled by tight, propulsive rhythms. Also particularly effective is the swelling and melodic "Wedder", which drives into a beautiful climax of chiming guitars and clarinet squalls. Fans of Explosions In The Sky will appreciate the textural dynamics here. The 10-minute closer, "Sea Of Bubbly Goo", is a spacy and thunderous confluence of Krautrock-style pulsations (think Neu! or Can) and modern post-jazz broadstrokes (ala Tortoise). An incredible track, and a fitting conclusion to this wonderful recording. (Temporary Residence)

Parlour's site

Parlourspace

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy new beer!


Sure, it's a wee bit early to be celebrating the new beer, or is it? This month sees a few of my recent personal tastings, more of which can be found on my beeradvocate.com page. Ratings run the gamut from 1 (nasty, dirty, horrible) to 5 (a taste experience to relish). With that in mind, beers of a 3 or 4 are excellent and worthy. Remember to taste responsibly, and to support your local and craft breweries. Forget BMC corporate "beer" and their monopolizing tactics! Argh! Sermon over and out.

LEFFE BLONDE (Belgium) - 3.5
This traditional abbey-style ale flows with a heavy lacing and a sweet, fruity, yeasty scent -- typically indicative of the style. Points there. The flavor is sweet, with a hint of spice and ripened fruit -- maybe orange. Somewhat on the heavy and sweet side, but definitely drinkable.

BELL'S WINTER WHITE ALE (Comstock, MI) - 4.0
First impression here is with the nose - all flowery citrus zestiness - instantly appealing. Pours a cloudy, murky pale gold, with a rich froth. Taste is sharp and spicy, with hints of clove and orange, but if you're thinking Blue Moon, think of it's bigger, stronger brother. This beer is bold and distinctive, and a definite winner.

SAMUEL ADAMS LATITUDE 48 IPA (Boston, MA) - 4.0
Served only slightly chilled in my New Belgium ale glass, this big and hoppy IPA has a deep, grassy, floral, herbal nose, with huge lacing. Attractively amber in color, this one is smooth and easy up front, followed by a swift kick of hoppiness. But it's not a hop bomb as this may suggest. It's really a steady and balanced flavor, with hints of citrus and spice. Very delicious and a superlative IPA.

STELLA ARTOIS (Belgium) - 3.0
Belgian in origin, but not at all representative of the region's preferred/famous style, this pale golden lager with a thick lace does manage to stand out among the plethora of mainstream lagers out there. The scent is almost floral - a definite spicy, hoppy sharpness and presence. The taste follows this, with more complexity and depth than similar brews. Not half bad, and a solid step in-between mainstream and craft beer.

"America's Music Legacy - Dixieland Jazz" DVD

Looking at this uniquely American conglomeration of styles and influences, fans of Dixieland may be dismayed upon viewing this mid-80s TV showcase. As with previous editions of this series, the historical context of the genre is only briefly examined, with the bulk of the program devoted to live performances from (then-contemporary) artists (often marginally related to the genre).

Standouts here include Scotty Plummer's banjo madness, and the immortal Scatman Crothers (who some may know more from his acting in little gigs like "The Shining"), who proves he was a showman of the first order. Also included here are Della Reese (who's songs seem more Vegas than Dixieland), Al Hirt (who hosts), Gene Estes, and the New Orleans Jazz All-Star Band. As a word of caution, there's a lot of filler here, with little of lasting substance. You're better going elsewhere for a serious examination of the style. (MVD Visual)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Immolate - "Ruminate" CD

This Australian 3-piece are less metallic than I'd expected, but that's not a bad thing. With a simple and sludgy sound, Immolate's punk-meets-doom metal tunes are thick and primitive, with elements of noise rock and stoner metal. Like a grimy collision of Scratch Acid, Motorhead, and Queens Of The Stone Age, Immolate's driving and chaotic songs are given an appropriately raw mixdown by one of the masters, Billy Anderson. Some solid work here, and even if most of the songs sound the same, these guys are on the right track. (Impedance Records Australia)

Immolatespace

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Buzzov•en - "Sore" 2xCD

This limited-to-2000 copies gold-disc remaster combines this South Carolina stoner/sludge metal band's famous second album (from 1994) with another 4-song (28 minute) EP of unreleased material. Unbeknownst to me, this is an influential album of underground metal that, alongside their brethren in Eyehategod, helped jump-start an ugly and evil form of heavy rock that utilized elements of noise and even post-industrial sounds alongside mean, drug-fueled hardcore. It's not a nice or friendly sound, but one rooted in pain, aggression, and negativity. So no upbeat pop tunes here.

Opening with the ugly and hallucinogenic sound collages of "Sore", the band juxtaposes twisted, swampy grooves with energetic hardcore punk/metal crossover. It's a well-layered mix (by Billy Anderson), full of down-tuned guitars, weird and grimy sound effects, and the screeching, pained vocals of Kirk Fisher, who was apparently very, eh, medicated during this band's reign. Imagine Corrosion Of Conformity if they became possessed by evil spirits on a week-long drink-and-drug binge. It's a grueling trip through a side of life we normally don't want to see firsthand. Some uncompromising and harrowing sounds here, not for the faint of heart. (Metal Mind Productions Poland/Roadrunner)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

David Bowie - "Rare And Unseen" DVD

These unauthorized DVDs tread dangerously close to glorified bootleg status, but this 64-minute collection of Bowie interviews proves to be interesting and well-worthy for fans of this rock legend's extensive catalog. Centered around a rather poor and directionless interview by UK TV personality Russell Harty (who asked Bowie condescending, inane and sensational questions), this set inexplicably fails to document contexts for the clips, often juxtaposing 1970s-era interviews with 90s, seemingly without reason or relation. Points off for that. And Bowie's actual music was not licensed, either, so a celebrity imposter chimes in with sounds between clips. But those gripes aside, this was a really fascinating watch. Bowie is a complex individual who synthesizes avante and left-field musics and places them into a more pop/rock context. Genius or charlatan, he's great fun to watch. Overall, "Rare And Unseen" is an engrossing and informative (yet flawed) look at Bowie the man, and well worthy for serious fans. (MVD Visual)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Secret - "Solve et Coagula" CD

This band blew me away instantly with an absolutely punishing sonic maelstrom. Hailing from Italy, The Secret's devastatingly powerful grindcore/black/doom/noise metal muscles it's way through 12 tracks in under 35 uncompromising minutes. With a surplus of big, seething, and dynamic riffs, tectonic drumming, and throat-scarring, lung-searing vocals, The Secret all but annihilate on this, their 3rd LP (and first for new label Southern Lord). The aggressive nihilism never relents, from the initial "Cross Builder" all the way through to the final track, "1968". It's a nonstop ride of blistering torment, wicked grind/metal noise, and feral abandon. Production by Kurt Ballou (Converge) is clear and up-front, pushing the group's intense sound even further into the red. In fact, I'd say his production is a key ingredient here. I've heard few bands this year who are this intense. Wow. This one's all killer, and no filler, indeed. (Southern Lord)

Secretspace

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"America's Music Legacy" DVD series: "Soul", "Folk", and "Blues"

These early 1980s-era TV programs are less historical documentaries, and more simply period showcases of the era's prominent players. And that makes for some rather hit and miss performances. Coming into the indulgent 80s from the disco 70s isn't too encouraging, either. Each volume runs 2 hours, so there's plenty to wade through.

On the "Soul" volume, it's all kicked off in a powerful way with the immortal James Brown, who singlehandedly makes this one worthy with his tireless and charismatic performances. The grooves he and his band kick out are tight and positively feral. Awesome. Standouts are also seen from Ben E. King, Otis Redding, and Gladys Knight and the Pips. In-between some of these fine performers are several cringe-worthy and schmaltzy pop tunes. I say, buy this one for James Brown and Gladys Knight.

The "Folk" volume doesn't fare much better. Buffy Saint Marie is splendid, with her unusual and creative meldings of folk and Cree Indian sounds. Hoyt Axton is cool, too, though he pushes into country strongly. Josh White Jr. brings a strong and soulful acapella showing, and John McEuen's "Old Man From Missouri" is an amazing bit of banjo virtuosity. As with the previous volume in this series, there are plenty of awful moments, with the squeaky-clean New Christy Minstrels being a prime example of glossy dreck. Ugh. And Glenn Yarbrough's silly falsetto folk is effectively a stereotype of its own. Far too much kitsch here to warrant purchase.

Finally, we have the "Blues" edition. The always-amazing B.B. King is a highlight, with 3 songs featured. Joe Williams is another legend here, as is Brownie McGhee, Buddy Guy, Pee Wee Crayton, and others. Some classic blues here, with a fair share of glossy, over-embellished material, but nonetheless, "Blues" is a mostly entertaining watch. (MVD Visual)

December 2010 beer tastings are upon us!

Ah, the holydaze season is upon us, so like it or not...it's time to drink. Forget the malls and shopping centers. Support your local breweries, brewpubs, and independent businesses. It's been a busy time for beer, with all kinds of seasonals hitting store shelves, as well as craft beer's big "mainstream" break, the Discovery channel TV show "Brew Masters", featuring Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head. Stock up and herald the craft beer renaissance. Here are some thoughts on some recent tastings of mine. Remember that ratings run the gamut from 1 to 5, with 1 being toilet bowl dredge and 5 being holy water (and yeast, and malt, and hops!). Hut, hut, hike!

REDBRIDGE GLUTEN-FREE SORGHUM BEER (St. Louis, MO) - 3.0
Commendations to Anheuser-Busch for supporting the growing number of people with gluten (wheat or barley) allergies. However, don't let that dissuade you from trying this one, as it stands on its own merits. Pouring a nice red-amber with average lacing, this sorghum-based beer has a sweet molasses nose, and a rich and malty flavor. The hops content seems subdued, pushing this one towards an overbearing sweetness rather than a well-balanced mix. Still, an easy-to-drink beer, and certainly steps above mainstream American lagers.

NEW BELGIUM - TRIPPEL (Fort Collins, CO) - 5.0
This classic Belgian abbey-style ale with a redesigned label initially pours an unimpressive pale gold, but the thick head and dense nose brings to mind cinnamon, ripe fruity banana, and clove/coriander. The taste is a bum-rush of spice up front, followed by a mellow maltiness, then a stronger alcohol sting (it's 7.8%). A perfect example of this style, and made in America. New Belgium's Trippel is a delightful and delicious beer.

GOOSE ISLAND - MILD WINTER (Chicago, IL) - 4.0
Goose Island seems to have stepped up their brewing in the last couple of years, and this is another triumph. This rye ale is an attractive deep amber with a rich foam and a fruity, biscuity nose. So far seems enticing! Taste is a surprisingly smooth and spicy, with a hint of clove. Subtle and tasty, this one's definitely enjoyable.

SPOETZL BREWERY - SHINER HOLIDAY CHEER (Shiner, TX) - 2.5
A curiosity here - a seasonal ale flavored with peach and pecan. Odd and not necessarily a typical cold-weather brew, but Shiner's always been dependable enough for a good tasting beer. Nonetheless, I'm not overly fond of this one. The sweet flavor is followed by a nutty finish, which sounds well enough, but this is just not one I'd purchase a 6-pack of, at least this year. Maybe next year's batch will be better?

CAVE CREEK - CHILI BEER (Mexico) - 1.0
This creative beer (there is an actual whole green chili pepper inside every bottle) opens with a sickly pallid complexion and a nonexistent head. The only scent I get is, not surprisingly, jalapeno. The taste is, well, like hot sauce. The pepper far overpowers the ultra-light lager beer it's suspended in. I have to admit, it's a nice novelty for the beer fan who THINKS he/she's had it all, but this one is just not appetizing at all. I'm not one to ever waste a beer, but this one's a pourer.

KINGFISHER LIGHT LAGER (Bangalore, India) - 1.0
Pours a decent golden, with thin lacing. Smells of butter and honey, with maybe a little corn. Taste is similar, with only a heavy malt presence and no hops detectable. Seems quite drab and unremarkable. This one doesn't stand out in any way, though it does have more body than most American adjunct lagers. Still, this one isn't crisp or tasty at all. Wouldn't have another.

LEFT HAND OKTOBERFEST MARZEN LAGER (Longmont, CO) - 4.5
This attractive and arty beer (complex and creative bottle renderings) pours a deep amber with an average head. The olfactories reveal an odor of fruit and yeast. Quite appealing already! The taste is crisp and even sweet up front, followed by a slight hop zing in the followthrough. Seems stronger and heartier than most lagers, and this one was a pleasure to finish.

LAKEFRONT - RIVERWEST STEIN BEER (Milwaukee, WI) - 4.0
Pours an attractive amber-red, with average lacing. This rich all-malt lager also boasts of a lovely ripened fruit bouquet, and the first taste reveals a biscuity flavor, with a slight zip of hoppy citrus in the finish. Tasty and well-done, and a perfect example of a lager done the right way.

WEIHENSTEPHANER - HEFE WEISSBIER (Freising, Germany) - 4.5
Poured into my ale glass with a major amount of froth, this well-regarded classic makes its presence known with a slightly spicy, clean scent and a clouded golden appearance. The flavor brings to mind grains and spices, like baked bread with a followthrough of clove. Tasty, balanced, and the best hefe I've had in some time.

JOSEPHS BRAU - DUNKELWEIZEN (San Jose, CA) - 3.0
A thick, dense head on this malty Bavarian-style unfiltered hefe, with a nice scent of caramel, clove, and banana. The taste is bold and roasty with hints of buttery biscuit and clove - spicy and tangy. Not bad, but I found this one somewhat lacking in balance, with perhaps a tad too much of the spiced element.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"The Sacred Triangle: Bowie, Iggy, & Lou 1971-1973" DVD

This full-length UK documentary examines in detail the early 70's collaborations between modern-day rock legends David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed. At the time, all 3 icons were on shaky ground. Bowie was considered a one-hit wonder, and both Reed and Iggy Pop were has-beens, surrounding themselves with drugs and other destructive behaviors. But their meeting in 1971 was a catalyst for some of rock's most iconic and important works.

Bowie, being a devoted fan of Lou Reed's days in the Velvet Underground, ended up producing Reed's successful post-VU solo album "Transformer", spawning radio staples like "Walk On The Wild Side". Likewise, Bowie mixed the proto-punk classic "Raw Power" for Iggy & The Stooges, which, though it failed to make an impact at the time, is now recognized as being one of the earliest "punk" records, and one of rock's most vibrant and unhinged recordings before or since. And beyond these ties, the influences of both Reed and Pop on Bowie himself were the impetus for the creation of Bowie's onstage character, Ziggy Stardust, which propelled him to superstar status. This creative symbiosis between the trio of visionary artists set the stage for the rock of the future, unbeknownst to them.

Including interviews with friends, journalists, and colleagues (and including the outspoken former wife of Bowie himself, Angie Bowie), "The Sacred Triangle" concisely (but thoroughly) ties together the threads between the artists. There are plenty of musical samplings, rare interviews and live footage, and photos to illustrate. I learned a few things, and quite enjoyed this informative program. (Sexy Intellectual via MVD Visual)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Peter Christopherson of Coil & Throbbing Gristle, R.I.P.


Sorrows for the passing of a musical icon. Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson passed away peacefully on November 25, 2010. His musical art as part of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, and Coil burned brightly as a permanent inspiration on my life and music. His work in Coil (with fellow multi-plane spirit Jhonn Balance) remains some of the most potent and magickal sounds I've had the good fortune to experience, before or since. For more information, visit:

Unkle Sleazy TV & condolences site

Official COIL site at brainwashed

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Darshan Ambient - "A Day Within Days" CD

Veteran composer Michael Allison is Darshan Ambient, and this is his 9th album of pleasant and fleeting melodic electronic-based instrumental music. "A Day Within Days" is completely composed and performed by Allison, and it's an impressive collection of music that centers around melody and song, while retaining the moods and gauzy qualities of ambient music. It all sounds natural and approachable, especially on the shimmering "One Moon Shows In Every Pool". "A Deeper Blue" is a moving and serene piece, with piano leading the melodic charge. "The Long Rain" is a dramatic and lovely string-based composition that would fit well as part of a film score. The ending, "It's You", is a spacious, mature ambient pop song with Allison performing vocals, reminding me somehow of Peter Gabriel or David Sylvian, which isn't a bad thing. "A Day Within Days" is a refreshingly human album of tuneful electronic sounds that will warm even the chilliest winter's day. (Lotuspike)


Darshan Ambient site

Monday, November 15, 2010

U.S. Christmas - "Run Thick In The Night" CD

What this Appalachian (Carolina/Tennessee) psychedelic/metal act does so well, can't be easily pinpointed. They write strong, epic, bewildering rock songs with a bluesy side, but their massive, dense sound aligns them closer to post-rock psychedelia. They are as comfortable writing acoustic mountain folk as they are performing deep, crunchy space-out jams. And that is damned cool. The 13-minute "In The Night" opens with an impressive Hawkwind-meets-SWANS astral dirge. It's a powerful introduction, and a perfect harbinger of what is to come on this 76-minute album that dares to send plumes of smoky drones and lysergic effects into the stratosphere. "Wolf On Anareta" is a feral, tranced-out beast, whereas "Ephraim In The Stars" is a memorable and melodic piece with strings. "The Leonids" is a haunting strings & guitar interlude, and the band amp it up for "Deep Green", which swarms with their powerful noise/drone psychedelia that's both imposing and alluring. "Devil's Flower In Mother Winter" is a woozy folk number with Megham Mulhearn's prominent violin. I could go on an on regarding this album, but suffice to say it's one of my favorites of this year. (Neurot Recordings)

USXspace

USX's Nate Hall lists his 5 top places in Appalachia...great article and photos!

Beervember 2010!

So we are officially into the chilly months, so some darker, heavier beers are in order. This month there are some sure-fire winners from some first-rate brewers. But don't take my word for it...try them yourself. Remember that I rate beer on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being undrinkable pisswater, and 5 being nectar of Valhalla. So, it stands to reason that a 3 or 4 will still be a solid drinking experience. Support your local breweries and drink indie!

GOOSE ISLAND 312 URBAN WHEAT ALE (Chicago, IL) - 3.0
A pleasant and cloudy gold, this wheat ale boasts of an appealing banana and biscuit scent. First taste is subtle, with a slight citrus hint, though it is fairly subdued. Like most unfiltered wheat beers, this one's rather heavy and solid. It may not be frilly or challenging, but I found this one comfortable and a fine easygoing brew.

SAMUEL ADAMS - CHERRY WHEAT (Boston, MA) - 3.5
This cloudy golden-amber ale came to me highly recommended by this very magazine's illustrious beer expert/managing editor, and he knows his brews. Not to mention the fact that Sam Adams seldom disappoints, so this one's a "can't lose". What we have here is a cloudy golden ale with a strong cherry nose -- instantly appealing and unusual. My initial taste revealed, not surprisingly, tart cherries with a smooth honey undertone. Cherry wheat is balanced on the palate, and not too sweet or artificial-tasting (as are so many fruit-infused beers). Enjoyable.

NEW BELGIUM - 1554 ENLIGHTENED BLACK ALE (Fort Collins, CO) - 4.0
This deep, dark black ale is supposedly based on a 500 year old Belgian recipe, and it's an unusual and tasty ale that doesn't easily fit into a category. I get a roasty chocolate scent, which gives way to a burnt chocolate palate -- not as spicy as a traditional Belgian abbey ale, and more akin to a softer, gentler stout. It's not snappy or hoppy, but subtle, smooth, and quite tasty. This one's a delightful brew with a unique personality.

WIDMER BROTHERS HEFEWEIZEN (Portland, OR) - 4.0
Cloudy gold, and nearly amber in color, this hefe (unfiltered wheat) ale has a fruity nose up front. That's followed by a sharp and toasty tongue and a brisk, hoppy finish. Widmer's hefeweizen is a more complex wheat beer than most, and the strong, assertive personality may not be for beginners. Excellent.

"Dolla Morte" (director: Bill Zebub)

Dolls in distress. Like "Team America" but with a more sadistic impulse, this 70-minute film from 2006 takes pleasure in slaughtering sacred cows at every breath. Using only dolls, toys, and simple animations, "Dolla Morte" tells a convoluted tale involving serial-rapists, the living dead, Hitler, the Pope, George Bush, Bin Laden, "great white power" sharks, werewolves, conspiracy theories, Jesus, and more. In an attempt to shock and offend, this one goes too far, with no redeeming value whatsoever. The jokes are bad, the story uninteresting/nonexistent, and my interest waned quickly. This one's like one of the less-successful "Adult Swim" skits that gets swiftly forgotten (and justifiably so). I say "Dolla Morte" is a juvenile, unnecessary, and tedious exercise in cheap shock. For fook's sake, do yourself a favor and steer very, very clear of this one. (Wild Eye Releasingvia MVD Visual)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Delerium - "Epiphany" DVD

The first DVD from this longtime ethereal-exotica-electropop act is a well-done multi-cam live recording from the group's 2008 North American tour. Helmed by Front Line Assembly mainman Bill Leeb (who recedes to the background here, performing synths), this incarnation of Delerium was fronted by both the alluring Kristy Thirsk, and former Sixpence None The Richer frontwoman Leigh Nash.

The group faithfully recreates the group's rich and seductive moods with primarily live instrumentation, and minimal electronics. It's a charming and worldly set that includes hits like "Afterall", "Flowers Become Screens", and of course "Silence" (originally sung by Sarah McLachlan), which the girls handle quite well, thank you very much. Complete with textural & abstracted backing films and with plenty of post-production video effects, "Epiphany" becomes a pleasantly psychedelic viewing experience. My only complaint would be the exclusion of Delerium's promotional videos, but that's splitting hairs. This is a superb experience and proves that this studio project is a more-than-viable live entity. Kudos to Bill, Kristy, Leigh, and the boys (and producer NastyByte)...this is a winner. (MVD Visual)

Mindphaser - official Bill Leeb project site

Official Delerium site

Beertober, a wee bit late...


Here we are, another month-plus has gone by, and the seasonal beers have already piled up, been finished off, and more have found their way to Goatsden HQ! But has there ever been "too much beer"? I think not. As always, reviews are rated from 1.0 (outright sewage) to 5.0 (ambrosia from Valhalla). Support indie and craft beer, stay as local as possible, and avoid the multinationals! Onwards, troops!

JACK'S PUMPKIN SPICE (St. Louis, MO) - 2.5
Michelob's entry in the growing pumpkin ale sweepstakes pours a copper/amber, and the initial nose is of nutmeg and clove. The flavor is heavy on the spice, with minimal pumpkin. In fact, I only detect pumpkin in the aftertaste. Jack's is a sweet and malty ale that isn't too complex or unique, and really seems a little overbearing on the tastebuds.

SAMUEL ADAMS OCTOBERFEST (Boston, MA) - 3.5
A nice deep amber with substantial lacing, Sam Adams Octoberfest boasts of a spicy nose and rich, hearty flavor profile. I detect hints of candy sugar in the malts, somehow. Substantial and seemingly heavy, this one's pretty well tasty.

BELL'S OCTOBERFEST (Comstock, MI) - 4.0
Bell's is a typically amber lager with a rich, malty presence, with a slight tinge of hoppiness near the finish. More complex than the other Octoberfests reviewed this issue, and less heavy. I rate this one a prime example of a traditional Octoberfest style, and a delicious brew.

MICHELOB MARZEN OKTOBERFEST STYLE (St. Louis, MO) - 3.5
A nice pale amber complexion for this one, with plenty of suds up front. I didn't get much in the initial scent impression, but first taste hinted at a soft honey flavor, almost. Definitely an easy drinking beer, with a slight hint of hops near the end. Subtle and enjoyable.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"The Electric Chair" (director: Mark Eisenstein)

A little-known cult gem from 1985, this noir-inspired film is a gritty and metaphorical black-and-white amalgam of David Lynch's "Eraserhead" and a Lenny Bruce stand-up act, if that hybrid can be imagined. And it's sadly languished, unreleased, until now.

Dominated by the charismatic and magnetic personality of the late Victor Argo, "The Electric Chair" focuses on a shoe-store manager whose late-night comedy act in a dreamlike, surreal club is gripping and manic. His act is tragically unfunny, and, with the mysterious appearance of a real, working electric chair onstage, his act slowly morphs into a personal journey inside himself. At first, his act is devastatingly unpopular and even painful to watch, as he tells stagnant jokes with pointless punchlines. We, as an audience, eventually witness Argo's character finally find his place on the stage, with a growing audience -- and with more relevant material.

Argo steals the show here, and his powerful performance should be the stuff of legend. A fine art-house film with much more going on beneath the surface, "The Electric Chair" is a compelling and provocative watch. (Wild Eye Releasing via MVD Visual)

Sons Of Tonatiuh - "Sons Of Tonatiuh" album

From Atlanta, Georgia comes this as-yet unsigned aggro-doom metal beast, and this is their fearsome full-length debut. It's a solid work, starting with the thick and sludgy "To The Throne", erupting forth with downtuned guitars, scalding vocals, and a pace that crawls in spots, but alternately amps it up with complex changes and breakneck tempos. SOT go even more evil with "Consumed", which hovers menacingly at first, only to spill out its guts punk-style with a speedy thrash assault. Not strictly a metal band, Sons Of Tonatiuh also channel noise/punk more than effectively, and graft it to a doomy, post-Sabbath sludge-riff bludgeon. Witness the sinister "Adam And Evil", or the scalding grooves of "Chain Up The Masses". SOT's forceful and furious attack leaves no survivors, and daringly combines several styles into a unique and vicious identity all their own. Dig it. (Sons Of Tonatiuh self-release)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

GG Allin + The Aids Brigade - "Live in Boston 1989" DVD

Whether GG Allin was one of rock's greatest or worst frontmen is up for debate. But 20+ years later, one thing is certain -- nobody has taken punk rock to such depraved, confrontational, and vile depths since.

Here, GG and the boys (including brother Merle, who Goatsden did a tape-trade with many years back) play dress-up, New York Dolls-style -- to gain entrance to a club that GG was banned in a few months prior. This drag-queen plan worked, as GG and crew were able to battle through 9 tracks, including such tasteful "classics" as "Cunt On The Loose", "I Wanna Rape You", and "Bite It You Scum".

The show was relatively tame, for GG Allin standards. Musically, the group's basic 3-chord punk wasn't too interesting nor unique, but the antics of their untamed frontman (and the extensive make-up, wigs, and dresses) made this one a definite curiosity.

The added bonus material, equating to 2 additional shows from 1993, stands as prime GG, with all the expected mayhem and feces. It's all spectacle, rather than music here, as Allin baits the (dwindling) audience with threats of violence and sexual assault. It's not pretty or easy to watch. As it stands, "Live in Boston 1989" is good value for Allin fans, as it runs well over a couple of hours altogether, but casual fans will need to see the "Hated" documentary first. (MVD Visual)

GG Allin official site

Also worthy of mention while on the subject of GG Allin...a new throbblehead figure, commemorating the 1991 GG...

Aggronautix, home to the GG Allin throbblehead and tons more...

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Scream Queens Illustrated" DVD (director: John Russo)

Anyone who knows us here at Goatsden HQ knows that we aren't big fans of workout or fitness videos. We ARE, however, definitely interested in sleaze and trash cinema, which this one seems to qualify as. I mean, there really aren't many redeeming qualities on this one!
I can't begin to guess who the target market for this one is/was, but it's definitely a freaky, odd, and tacky set. A compilation of two different 1992 VHS titles, "Scream Queens Illustrated" features "Scream Queen Swimsuit Sensations", and "Knockout Workout", and both titles using the same footage, re-edited and re-arranged.

Included are 3 starlets, all veterans of Playboy videos and low-budget B-movies, but mostly forgotten today. Melissa Moore (cute Kentuckian who is now a horse trainer), Jasae (chick wrestler/boxer with a frightful stair-stepper routine), and Veronica Carothers (who is the hammiest and most dramatic) are examined with brief biographical interview bits, as well as included in some rather tame fitness routines, often with their particular body parts being zoomed-in on. As workout videos, these fail. As treats for pervs and fanboys, they rock. A silly and initially entertaining selection that gets old really fast. (SRS Cinemavia MVD Visual)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Scream Dream" DVD (director: Donald Farmer)

With a tag-line like "Metal Has Never Been So Hot!!", this 1989 film outs itself as a B-grader quickly. Unfortunately, "metal" here is defined as awful 80's commercial rock. It's also immediately apparent that this is a poor print taken from a weathered VHS copy. That's 2 strikes already.
At least the opening scene proves promising -- a voluptuous blonde, bursting from her tattered clothing, being chainsawed from the crotch. But that's as hardcore as this film gets. The acting here is stiff, the "music" poorly lipsynched, and there's a ridiculous belching rubber-puppet "demon" that possesses the film's main female leads. Yes, the problems here just keep multiplying. Suffice to say that "Scream Dream" has vapid characters, insipid dialogue, laughable effects, and horrific music. Just awful. (SRS Cinemavia MVD Visual)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Necrite - "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi" album

I like these Bay Area guys in that they take the typical black metal template and fuck with it, showing a musical depth beyond their years. "Sic Transit" is their debut, following years of demos and shows alongside such heavyweights as Watain and Enthroned. It's an unusual mix of stylings, from dark ambient to slow-burn to all-out black metal ferocity. "A Mass For The Harvest Of Death", for example, is a 16-minute doom ride, with crawling early SWANS-style tempos and gurgled vocals. It's a churning cauldron of pain and torture that eventually erupts into a blur of speed and fury. "Bereft Of Hope" also follows this template. The 27-minute title track is an epic of minimalist doombient madness, taking turns crossing between funereal textures and raving lunacy. The final track, "Worship The Sunn O))), does just that. It's a downtuned clot of bass rumble-drone straight out of the Sunn playbook. Perhaps not original, but at least they acknowledge the influence plainly. Necrite's debut is a strong and visionary showing, and I look forward to hearing where they go next. (The Flenser Records)

Necritespace

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jim Morrison - "Final 24: HIs Final Hours" DVD

Doors frontman and consummate rock god/sex symbol/dark poet Jim Morrison was a symbol of a generation, and his on-and-offstage antics led to some of rock's greatest recordings, as well as some of the most storied antisocial/substance-abuse tales. Retreating to Paris in 1971 to write, create, and evade the intrusive media, Morrison's self-destructive behaviors finally caught up with him, and at 27 years of age, Morrison succumbed to a fatal overdose of alcohol and heroin.

This 60-minute Canadian TV program merely skims the surface of Morrison's Doors career, and instead examines the songwriter's last hours. His demise, which is portrayed convincingly by actors, is illustrated well. Commentary from associates and historians (as well as a fair amount of archival footage) also helps to paint a descriptive and appropriate picture of the singer's final 24 hours. Sensational? Perhaps, but also a solid documentary of the pitfalls of one of the world's all-time greatest rock icons. (MVD Visual)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

John F. Kennedy Jr. - "Final 24: His Final Hours" DVD

The nearest to royalty that America has likely ever had, JFK Jr. was besieged by the tragic assassinations of both his father and uncle. And though in some ways, he led a charmed life, JFK Jr. was always thrust in the spotlight (whether he wanted to be or not) and the pressure to live up to his family's expectations had to be an extraordinarily heavy burden for anyone. His unplanned exit from this world can be seen as yet another evidence of the supposed "Kennedy curse", or can it?

This 60-minute documentary details the events leading up to the fateful night in 1999 when John (and his wife and sister-in-law) all went down with the small plane he was piloting near Martha's Vineyard. Bits of basic biographical info, photos, film footage, and interviews with colleagues and associates all congeal with believable dramatic recreations to form a palatable and educational look at the man's life. And though obviously focused on Kennedy's premature death (witness the title of this morbid but fascinating series), this one's a well-done and concise look at the short life of an American enigma. (MVD Visual)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Queens Of The Stone Age - "Queens Of The Stone Age" album

With his impressive resume as guitarist/vocalist for stoner-metal legends Kyuss, Josh Homme debuted his Queens Of The Stone Age project in 1998 with this long out-of-print gem. Now on deluxe double-LP with bonus tracks, this self-titled album (on Hommes' own Rekords imprint) exhibits the diverse sonic palette that Homme and company have since synthesized and perfected in recent years.
"You Would Know" is a weird pop song that's catchy in a Gary Numan-meets-Ween fashion, whereas "How To Handle A White Rope" is a heavy, sludgy rock song with a melodic pop slant. "Mexicola" is a potent stab of thick & meaty post-Hawkwind riffage, and "Hispanic Impressions" is a silly but heavy 3-minute track with no discernible relation to its namesake. Some of the previously-unheard bonus tracks are as interesting as the original LP, with "Spiders And Vinegaroons" being a top-shelf space-out jam with exotic overtones. QOTSA have found the unlikely path between indie rock and stoner metal, and they've followed that vague formula to major commercial success. This debut remains a strong document of the band's formative years, and it's a superbly catchy, creative, and fun album of out-there grooves from the fringes. (Rekords Rekords)

Queens Of The Stone Age site

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

His Name Was Yesterday - "His Name Was Yesterday" CD

Hmm. New metalcore act opens here with the emo-ish "Where It Ends", which joins pulsing hardcore with more melodic breakdowns. To their credit, His Name Was Yesterday are capable of some punishing sonic assaults, at least when they're not being all sensitive and emocore. But I am skeptical of their need to comfortably fit in with their silly, juvenile metalcore brethren, with awful self-pitying lyrics and all the genre's teenage stereotypes firmly in place. Sonically, "His Name Was Yesterday" is clean and potent, but on closer listens seems rather lacking. "There is only sorrow" indeed, as this positive-message hardcore only makes my ears hurt. (His Name Was Yesterday)

His Name Was Myspace

Righteous Fool - "Forever Flames/ Edict Of Worms" 7"

From a couple of COC members (Mike and Reed joined by Jason Browning of Bad Brains' HR band) comes this heavy doom-stoner-sludge-riff extravaganza. With molasses-thick Sabbath-style guitars, "Forever Flames" tears through a speedy 4 minutes of smoky heaviness (and solid songwriting). The B-side, "Edict Of Worms", is an even more monolithic mid-tempo rocker with a bluesy vibe. Another strong new project from the COC boys, whose COC3 reformation already nets them a renewed interest from old skate punks and metalheads alike. (Southern Lord)

Righteous Foolspace

Monday, October 11, 2010

Corrosion Of Conformity (COC3) - "Your Tomorrow Part 1 & 2" 7"

This is the legendary reformed COC -- the lineup responsible for the "crossover" metal/punk holy grail "Animosity" from 1985. After some years with a major label, and several lineup changes, the trio of Mike Dean, Reed Mullin, and Woody Weatherman re-convene (sans sometime vocalist Pepper Keenan) to bring the heavy punk-meets-metal sound screaming into the 2000s here. Part 1 is a thick and sludgy Black Sabbath meets Black Flag assault -- with elements of doom metal sandwiched between speedy Greg Ginn-styled jazz-noise guitars. Part 2 adds another layer of guitar for an even deeper riff-o-rama. Superb and rocking material, and the best I've heard from COC in years! (Southern Lord)

COC official site

Jesse McReynolds & Friends - "Songs Of The Grateful Dead" CD

I've never been a fan of the Grateful Dead, but mandolin innovator and country and bluegrass legend McReynolds and friends are, and here they ably translate the Dead's material (songs written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter) into timeless songs that resonate with warmth and old-time country honesty. From the folksy Americana of the opener, "Black Muddy River", the songs of Hunter and Garcia are re-imagined in a fresh and enjoyable fashion, with a down-home flavor that wouldn't be at all out of place on a Tennessee stage. It's no surprise that Jesse McReynolds is a 45-year member of the Grand Old Opry and member of both the Country Music Hall Of Fame and the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall Of Fame.

Standouts include "The Wheel" (with some great harmonizing), the lament of "Loser", the elegant "Stella Blue", and the ultra-catchy "Deep Elem Blues". "Day By Day" is a beautiful closer, and is actually a new song co-written by McReynolds and Robert Hunter. It works well to close out this cool collection of roots music that combines two unique legacies into a cohesive whole. (Woodstock Records)

Jim & Jesse McReynolds official site

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Young God Amazon Sampler

With the monumental SWANS reformation tour presently assaulting eardrums across the United States, frontman Michael Gira's label, Young God Records, has released a free downloadable 86-minute sampler of the label's history, including work from Gira as SWANS and Angels Of Light, plus work from Devendra Banhart, Larkin Grimm, James Blackshaw, and Akron/Family, among many others.

It's available from amazon in the USA for absolutely FREE. Fans in the UK have to pay, as do Germans (though amazon.de has a discounted rate it looks like).

The link should be here:
Young God Amazon Sampler

Friday, October 8, 2010

"Assault Of The Sasquatch" DVD (director: Andrew Gernhard)

This Chiller TV network movie fares much better than I'd expected, though seldom does it rise above mediocre. The film begins with some deep-woods bear poachers who unexpectedly capture a rare Bigfoot, and, being mercenaries, it's soon arranged that they are to sell the creature to a rich rare animal collector. But before their deal transpires, they are arrested and incarcerated. And the Sasquatch escapes, running loose in the big city. Needless to say, some bloody deaths result. A small-time police force, with some peripheral characters, are only marginally interesting. The acting and script is competent, but again, rarely more than that. Some bloody special effects are well-done, and there are hints of breastage, but it's done tastefully, for the most part.

The cheese factor ratchets itself up a few notches when the sexy police secretary (and former stripper, go figure!) is forced to show off her knife/switchblade and kickboxing skills against the monster. This is precisely where I lost interest, and with another 30 minutes to go, that was the kiss of death.

On the other hand, I did enjoy how the legend of Sasquatch was well-researched, and the writers played up the survivalist tactics and ancient wisdom of this cryptozoological beast, based on recorded sightings and tales. As it stands, "Assault Of The Sasquatch" isn't an altogether terrible film, but would've fared better as a shorter film with better editing. Frankly, if this were on TV, I'd have to change the channel. (Synthetic Cinema via MVD Visual)

Synthetic Sasquatch page

Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization site (fascinating, and the real thing)

Here's a trailer, for some reason titled "Sasquatch Assault"...

Deborah Martin - "Deep Roots, Hidden Water" CD

This is a remaster of an early work (1999) by ambient composer Martin, who wowed me this past year with her outstanding "Between Worlds" collaboration with Erik Wollo. And while "Deep Roots" isn't as convincing overall, it's still a strong album worthy of attention from fans of ambient and space music.

This one's more electronic in nature, and, with the opening cut, "Haunted By Water", it even approaches a classical structure. "One Sun" brings around some tribal drums for a more nuanced, natural approach, and this is Martin's strength -- wedding sparse electronic elements with organic, worldly textures. "The Strength Of Stones" is a certain highlight, and an effective and mysterious collision of sounds. With former King Crimson member Tony Levin's moody, snaking bassline, this track is a memorable and exotic slice of fourth-world atmosphere. Levin features throughout the album, and the tracks with his involvement also benefit from a more rounded and diverse sound palette. "Voices On The Rim" works well, too, being a Native American-inspired piece. The closer, "Across Sky", is a synth-strings flight of fancy, leaving the ground for a more airborne journey.

Whereas "Deep Roots, Hidden Water" isn't perfect, it is a lovely and refreshing backdrop for some reflective meditation and relaxation. (Spotted Peccary)

Deborah Martin Music

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beertember 2010!

So I've been backlogged with good brews (and some far-ranging music)...here's an installment of beer reviews from the late August to September period. Look out for another beer installment SOON! And don't forget to fight for your right to choose your beer. Corporate beer sucks! Indie beer, baybee! Power to the people, not to shareholders! Remember, my reviews range from a 1 (infected toilet water) to 5 (the fountain of youth). So, a 3 would be a decent (but not outstanding) beer. Got it? And a-one, and a-two, a beer for me, and a beer for you! Hah!

CASTELLO (Italy) - 2.0
Hmm. A thin, pallid appearance and major skunky odor are immediately apparent with this Italian lager. Not a good place to start. Taste is weak, watery, and, well, bland. There's little to grasp taste-wise. I know there are some good craft brews from Italy, but I've yet to encounter one, unfortunately! Awful stuff here.

GREAT DIVIDE - BELGICA (Denver, CO) - 4.0
A "Belgian-style India Pale Ale"? Now that's something I've never had before. Kudos to Great Divide for creativity. Anyhow, Belgica pours a non-threatening pale gold (like a lager), but the sweet and spicy floral notes are prominent and welcoming. My first taste landed me headfirst on the spice train -- warm and peppery. with an outlying hint of citrus underneath. Definitely one for the more adventurous, but quite delicious.

TYRANENA BREWING - ROCKY'S REVENGE (Lake Mills, WI) - 4.0
This cloudy brown ale I'd never seen nor heard of, but it packs a wicked punch. Starting with the endearingly cool "sea monster" bottle art with local legend on the label doesn't hurt. But what matters most is the taste, and "Rocky's Revenge" hit me straight away with a strong nutty, hoppy kick. There's some chocolate notes, too, most definitely, but none of the coffee-like tones of a porter. It's sweet and malty, but, like, heavy, man. A real winner and a unique beer.

BECK'S OKTOBERFEST (Germany) - 3.5
This malty red-amber brew pours with solid lacing, and a rich, yeasty biscuit toastiness upon initial sips. Not really a complex beer, but more than pleasing to my palate. Good showing, especially from the usually sub-par Beck's label.

CHIMAY - TRIPEL (Belgium) - 5.0
Poured into my ale goblet with a rush of carbonation and a sweet, fruity aroma. Very appealing and attractive! The cloudy, golden appearance shows plenty of yeasty sediment, too, and the first taste is a rich and spicy flavor, followed by a slight alcohol presence. Coriander, clove, and candy sugar also come through in this complex and perfectly-done Belgian abbey ale. The hoppy "rolling" finish is just icing on the cake. Absolutely a beautiful and delicious beer!

DARK HORSE BREWING - Perkulator Coffee Doppelbock (Marshall, MI) - 3.0
A cloudy, opaque amber at first pour, this hearty brew smells of sweet malts and roasty chocolate coffee. Initial taste is a palatable sweetness, tempered by an almost fruity character. Maybe a hint of raisin or spice with a final wash of alcohol. Certainly not as coffee-oriented or intense as I'd expected. Love the bottle art, though!

CARLSBERG ELEPHANT (Denmark) - 3.0
Pours a rich, amber-gold with plenty of head and lacing. This nice 7.2% ABV lager has a nicely floral nose and a balanced malty flavor profile -- not too challenging or challenging but certainly enjoyable and easy-going. A good, solid beer with a surprising alcohol kick.

AVERY BREWING - SALVATION BELGIAN-STYLE GOLDEN ALE (Boulder,CO) - 5.0
The ornate, busy, and artful label design is fitting for this opaque golden ale with a brisk 9% ABV content. The taste is rich, malty, and sweet with floral, fruity overtones and a hop-edged finish. A complex flavor that's pleasing and surprisingly palatable. Superb!

AVERY BREWING - THE REVEREND BELGIAN-STYLE QUADRUPEL ALE (Boulder, CO) - 3.5

Opaque, cloudy red-amber with average to medium lacing. Poured this one into a small wine goblet. First whiff is a sweet candy, some clove, spice, and then a profound jab of alcohol burn. At 10% ABV, this one's definitely a sipper. Faithful to the Belgian style, but substantially more assertive. Quite tasty, but perhaps a mite too heavy-duty to really enjoy often.

Rage - "Strings To A Web" album

Well, this little-known (at least on these shores) veteran German metal act has been around for 24 years now, and that likely explains their predilection for classic thrash and melodic metal. Sure, it's a total stereotype, but these guys bring a really strong production, excellent musicianship, and some tight guitar solos and buzzsaw riffs to the table. It's a shame they've yet to "break" America, as they're every bit as good as big names like Megadeth or (cough cough) Metallica. Granted, there are some sappy, silly tracks here, too, that mar the experience. Witness the well-played "Into The Light", which comes far too close to bad mainstream metal, with downright awful lyrics. Maybe there's something lost in the translation from German to English? On a whole different level, "Fatal Grace" is a brief interlude worthy of a schmaltzy adult contemporary recording -- Kenny G, anyone? Nah, me neither.

Nonetheless, "Strings To A Web" is a fun album to listen to -- not too heavy, and just melodic enough to catch the ear. Just don't listen to the lyrics, and you'll be in for a treat of (mostly) old-school heavy metal, clean and clear with a well-developed sense of melody. Rock on, dudes. (Sonic Unyon Metal)

Ragespace

Rage official website

David Helpling & Jon Jenkins - "The Crossing" CD

With mountainous landscapes featured prominently on the cover, and a title like "The Crossing", one would expect to find either a dramatic film score, or a gentle and lulling ambient "new age" recording. Or, in the case of this third collaboration between ambient film music composer Helpling and prog-rock-inspired electronic artist Jenkins, a little bit of both.

As is apparent from the initial track, this won't simply be another album of pleasant soundscapes or sleepytime background music. With plenty of dynamic percussive thunder and deep tapestries of synths and melodic guitars, Helpling and Jenkins craft upbeat and inspiring instrumental soundtracks that convey crisp and cinematic visions. It's a moody music, with moments of introspection that build into expressive landscapes of wonder, mystery, and bliss. "The Crossing" isn't spacious in the cosmic sense, rather it's an organic, earthly journey. I can envision watching vast herds of wildlife from a mountaintop, with brisk winds blowing over the plains. A lovely album of meditational soundtracks with a rock power and ambient disposition. (Spotted Peccary)

Deep Exile - official site of Helpling & Jenkins' collaborations

David Helpling's official site

Jon Jenkins' official site

>wirewall< - "Terminal Man" CDR

With what sounds to me like a cross between the old BBC Radiophonic Workshop electronic experiments of the 60's and harsher underground noise (think "Dr. Who" theme meets Merzbow at his most ear-draining), this mysterious project contains some of the more abrasive sound I've heard in some time. Contained in a deluxe DVD-sized case with obscure art, >wirewall<'s seemingly freeform electronic textures are jagged and difficult, with swollen shards of digital feedback alongside analogue synth burbles and gurgles. The initial track, "electrode", is packed with wicked bursts of static and squealing pulses. The rest of the album isn't exactly easy listening, either. "memristor" is lower key, but still a clot of alien electronica with disorienting machine whines, whirrs, and proto-computer gibberish. "Terminal Man" is recommended only for those who favor chaos and noise, so fans of tuneful sounds approach with caution here. (Cohort Records)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Leonard Cohen - "Bird On A Wire" DVD

This is a lost documentary/tour film of Cohen's 1972 European tour, salvaged from damaged tapes and rusty film boxes, and consequently lovingly and meticulously restored by original director Tony Palmer himself. It's a gorgeous and gritty portrait of Cohen and his entourage, captured at a prime moment in time.

Most notable here are the 17 intimate performances by one of music's most literate wordsmiths, including classics like the poignant "Suzanne", "Sisters Of Mercy", "Who By Fire?", and "Chelsea Hotel". In-between songs, we get to see Cohen assailed by journalists, adoring fans, and a plethora of flirtatious and accommodating beauties. Seriously, Cohen seemed to have a way with the ladies! But I digress. He's also seen writing his poetry, being interviewed for radio and press, and traveling with his bandmates. His improvised stage banter and spontaneous songwriting is inspiring, like his serenading the defective stage amplifier in Berlin.

Truly, this one could've been a holy mess, but credit is due to Palmer and his team, as this film is as good, cohesive, and immersive a tour document as I've ever seen. It's ripe with interesting moments, intimate conversations, and some amazing and timeless songwriting and performances by one of the masters. Simply a mesmerizing film that succeeds on several levels and shows Cohen as not only as a brilliant artist, but a down-to-earth human. Highest recommendations. (The Machat Company via MVD Visual)



Leonard Cohen official site

Negura Bunget - "Virstele Pamintului" CD

This veteran pagan black metal outfit from Romania has definitely evolved far beyond the stereotypical with this album, which as I understand is their first with a new lineup and new vocalist. Exploring the band's native roots with plenty of synthesizers and folk melodies, "Virstele Pamintului" opens with the surprisingly atmospheric soundtrack of "Pamint", which comes complete with flutes and a very Earthly, primitive vibe. Only within the final couple of minutes plus does it erupt into a more traditional black metal sound. Recorded in a secluded forest, "Virstele Pamintului" roughly translates to "Age Of The Land/Earth", and indeed that concept is evident throughout this diverse and visionary album.

Often mixing pagan folk, progressive rock, black metal, and symphonic elements within their tracks, Negura Bunget have created a conceptual monster here. The album flows from track-to-track as a whole, so choosing individual cuts to comment on seems fruitless. Suffice to say, Negura Benget bring out non-traditional instruments like flute and xylophone to add mood to their aggressive and epic metal. It's as if early Dead Can Dance met up with Watain and had a wicked jam -- that worked. I give these guys credit, as they are certainly expanding the language of black metal. This album is a true journey, ripe with medieval adventure, drama, and maybe a little bloodlust. Yes, these guys have more to offer than just blastbeats and juvenile aggression. Kudos to them for breaking the mold, and convincing me to listen multiple times!
(Code666/Aural Music)

Negura Bunget site

Neguraspace

Christian Mistress - "Agony + Opium" CD

Hailing from Olympia, Washington, this new band is comfortable skirting the metal trends of the day (or indie/post-punk as Olympia's known best for). Instead, they focus on classic, American-style hard rock -- the tried and true metal of the late 70's before the glam got in the way. They've been endorsed by Fenriz of Darkthrone (which may or may not mean something to you), but with the charismatic and distinctive vocals of Christine Davis, they're destined to make a name for themselves anyway, I'd say.

They throttle their way through the first 5 tracks before slowing it down on the ethereal and earthy "Omega Stone". "Agony + Opium" is only 6 songs and 28 minutes, but the group's dirty, sweaty proto-metal is convincing and harkens back to the days when metal meant leather jackets and cigarettes. Convincing, raw, and untamed music from a time gone by. Or are Christian Mistress paving the way for a new renaissance? (20 Buck Spin)

Christian Mistress site

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rudy Adrian - "Distant Stars" CD

New Zealand-based composer Adrian is a veteran of soundtracks and ambient synthesizer music, and this release turns another new leaf for the prolific artist. His most recent works have been stunningly evocative and atmospheric homages inspired by terrestrial landscapes, but this one aims much higher. As the title refers, this is Adrian's extended work exploring the heavens.

Interstellar influences in electronic music have been more than well-documented, from the 60s German synth-sequencer brigade (Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, for example) and on through recent works from such artists as The Orb or Pete Namlook's FAX recordings. But seldom does it work as well as Rudy Adrian's deep, mysterious, and contemplative driftworks. Tracks like the 15-minute "Le Songe Du Singe" are truly "space music", as they approximate the infinite expanse of the abyss with a sense of wonder, awe, and sometimes trepidation (as in the foreboding sci-fi textures of "Netherworlds"). It's a successful journey that ends well with the relaxing freefall of "Entering The Temple Of Haruka Kawagishi". "Distant Stars" is an album of sparkling, otherworldly, and well-crafted ambient sounds to soak in and drift away with. (Lotuspike)

Rudy Adrian site

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Neurosis - "Live At Roadburn 2007" CD

A Neurosis gig must be an exhausting experience for the band (as well as audience). Witness this superlative and potent recording of a massive Neurosis live experience from 2007. "Roadburn" amply exhibits both the raw, grueling heaviness and subtle moodiness of this veteran post-punk/noise/metal/psychedelic group as well as any studio recording has, before or since.

The band kicks things off with the 9-minute scalding of "Given To The Rising", which alternates between ambient interludes and monolithic stabs of swollen ferocity. "A Season In The Sky" begins with gently dark acoustic guitars, but soon builds to a huge swell of doomy grind with the fearsome, full-throttle vocals of Steve Von Till. "At The End Of The Road" is an atmospheric beast with creepy electronic effects that are more aligned with industrial music than metal or rock. Again, it all comes down in a hail of Neurosis' now-influential post-SWANS grind and lurch. This is a potent, all-consuming sound that transcends genre.

"The Doorway" closes it out with a maelstrom of noise, electronic effects, and tribal drums that demonstrate the awesome physicality and spiritual power of this band. And at 77 minutes, this is as near to an essential Neurosis document as I've yet to hear. (Neurot Recordings)

Neurotspace (label)

Neurosispace (band)

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Truth Or Dare: A Critical Madness" DVD (director: Tim Ritter)

This low-rent Michael Myers knockoff from 1986 has been advertised as being some sort of lost "classic", and to it's credit, there are some memorable and gory scenes that compare favorably to the B-grade slasher flicks of the era.

"Truth Or Dare" is the tale of a middle-class businessman who finds his lovely wife in bed with another man. This sets him into a tailspin of self-destructive impulses, and increasingly sadistic homicidal outbursts. Impressive are the real auto stunts (and explosions), gratuitous gore, and several titillating breasts. So score a few points for these trash-cinema staples.

Still, some of the acting and dialogue is flat (the "scientific" speak of the therapists is just laughable), and there are some major plot fallacies and unexplainable scenes. For example, the murderous protagonist steals a car and somehow manages to come up with a chainsaw, a medieval mace, and a machine gun soon thereafter. Eh? Sure, the back seat of my car is well-stocked with weaponry, too. Hah!

It's not an altogether awful flick, but there are far too many problems here to make this one worthy of the "lost classic" tag. And the closing theme song is a tragically overwrought 80's-style power ballad. Ewww! Talk about closing with a whimper. (Sub Rosa Studios via MVD Visual)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Front Line Assembly - "Improvised Electronic Device Tour 2010"

Vancouver industrial stalwarts Front Line Assembly have released this video to promote their current world tour (and supporting their new CD, "Improvised Electronic Device"). As a fan and listener to FLA for 22 years, I think this is their best work in many years. In addition to the superb "I.E.D" release and "Shifting Through the Lens" single, there's a supposedly limited remix EP for "Angriff" due for release at the merchandise stands on their tour. This 8-song EP includes mixes by Tim Skold and Project Pitchfork, among others. For details, visit the official FLA site at: Mindphaser.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lee "Scratch" Perry - "Revelation" CD

Lee Perry is an institution in the world of dub/reggae. His illustrious history encompasses hundreds of recordings dating back over 40 years, and he's still as active now as ever, having celebrated his 74th birthday this year!

That aside, "Revelation" is a 13-song collection of supreme grooves and top-grade Jamaican-style dub, with no concessions for modern dancehall or radio fodder. This is pure, uncut, prime dub, with Perry's modern-day shamanic vocals atop beds of adept programming and seamless live instrumentation. He even brings aboard George Clinton for a vocal take and Keith Richards for a guitar lick, so Perry definitely keeps some impressive company. Tracks like the rollicking "Fire Power" or "Money Come And Money Go" prove that Perry's infectious music is both catchy and profound, straddling the line between spiritual journey and booty-shaking experience. Forget the wannabes, "Revelation" is the real thing. (Megawave via MVD Audio)

Lee 'Scratch' Perryspace

Upsetter - A Comprehensive Fan Page

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Suicidal Tendencies - "No Mercy Fool! / The Suicidal Family" CD

Not sure of the reasoning behind this one, but it's essentially remakes of tracks from Suicidal's 1987 skate-punk classic second album, "Join The Army", appended with remakes of Suicidal speed metal project No Mercy's second album. The retooling of "Possessed To Skate" is smooth, fast, and packed with all the punk-funk-metal you'd expect from these hooligans.

I'll admit it's fun to hear these old favorites again, even if they seem smoother and cleaner to these ears. In fact, that's my only complaint here -- the production makes this all seem too tame. "Come Alive" is a fireball of reckless thrash, but it's smoothed out by the production. Likewise, "We're F'n Evil" is another retro-smasher that sounds canned by it's production. Suicidal are a raging band with their hearts in the right place, but this one isn't among their better works. Here's to them letting loose next time. (Suicidal Records)

"Bunny And The Bull" trailer

Aha! Finally, a new project from the creators of "The Mighty Boosh" and featuring Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt. Looks to be similarly odd, offbeat, and good fun! See what you think with this trailer, sent along thanx to Justin.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"I Think We're Alone Now" (director: Sean Donnelly) DVD

For better or worse, I am like most others in that I am prone to judging people. It's easy and convenient for us to label and use prejudice towards others when we see or hear of their differences or qualities we see as somehow "beneath" us or "wrong". This documentary is a sensitive and telling account of a pair of very different individuals who have been labeled by society as "stalkers", and despite their differences, are labeled as marginals of society, and thus have encountered much adversity in their own respective personal journeys.

What do Jeff Turner and Kelly McCorrmick have in common? They are both confessed super-fans, to the point of obsession, of 80's teen-pop star Tiffany. Through restraining orders and unfulfilled passions, Turner (a charismatic 53-year old with Asperger's syndrome) remains convinced Tiffany is a Christ-like figure who he must get closer to. McCormick is an intersex (hermaphroditic) person who believes Tiffany and him/her are destined to be together. Sure, both people are clearly slightly out of touch with consensus consciousness, but, through the wonder of first-tiime director Donnelly's lens, we see both as individuals, frailties obvious but with unexpected (and even perhaps admirable) strengths as well.

Sure, labeling these people as "crazy" is convenient, but seeing them as real humans is also easy, thanks to "I Think We're Alone Now". It's an engrossing and fascinating (even slightly touching) look at life just to the left of "sanity". I say bravo! (MVD Visual)

Official website

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Robert Millis - "My Friend Rain" DVD

This brief documentary presents an almost-surreal travelogue of Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, and, in the true tradition of Sublime Frequencies, these are disembodied images of real life, as raw and rough as it must really be. Forsaking any sort of narration, there are only the native sounds to accompany the rich visuals. Bits of radio pop music filter into the stew, as the camera captures street musicians, celebrations, food preparation, labor, ecstatic dancing, marketplaces, and some oddly morbid artworks and murals. Interspersed with these scenes are wonderful images of monsoons blanketing the ancient cities and streets.

"My Friend Rain" makes no attempt to embellish or tie together the images and sounds. It's presented to you, the viewer, as a look into a window of cultures far off the beaten path. There's no touristy views here. It's an honest slice of these Asian countries' everyday life, an attempt to capture the raw realism of a culture far removed from Western eyes and ears. Succeed? You bet. (Sublime Frequencies)

Neurosis - "Enemy Of The Sun" CD

Originally released in 1994 on Alternative Tentacles, this early Neurosis album shows the Oakland band growing into their trademark symbiosis of tribal percussion, dark industrial ambience, and full-throttle aggro-metal. Since becoming an icon of what's now termed "post-metal", Neurosis' blackened soundscapes (which owe an acknowledged debt to early SWANS) paved the way for so many later acts, it's hard to even quantify.

Here, the band open with the raw "Lost", which is almost asphyxiating in it's density and painful throb/grind. "Raze The Stray" opens with the atmospheric vocals of Erika Little, accented by piano and keyboards. But this is soon interrupted by a screaming rupture of drums, primal shouts, and grinding guitars. The track returns to the moodier sound thereafter, creating an epic dirge that pulses and shifts to and fro. It's a little reminiscent of (Controlled Bleeding side project) Skin Chamber as well, who were working in a similar arena at the time, daring to join experimental industrial sounds and textures with brutal grind metal. The title track is a feral assault, with samples augmenting the percussive attack.

Neurosis' success lies in that they have learned to temper their destructive and primal urges with moments of stark, blissful beauty. And their varied use of nontraditional metal instruments also ups the ante. "The Time Of The Beasts", for example, dares to include horns, even, creating an almost dusky Southwestern vibe amidst the pounding noise, which segues into the 16-minute drum circle & didgeridoo piece, "Cleanse". Fans of defunct California tribal-percussion voodoo-conjurers Crash Worship will appreciate this wickedly esoteric track.

To make this reissue a worthy purchase for fans who may already have an earlier pressing, Neurot Recordings has sweetened the deal with 2 bonus tracks - a demo of "Takeahnase" and a live version of "Cleanse". "Enemy Of The Sun" is a 78-minute set of dark tribal grind metal with few equals. Recommended. (Neurot Recordings)