Saturday, September 3, 2011

Time Being -"A Dimension Reflected" CD

The first release from the duo of Phillip Wilkerson and Jourdan Laik, "A Dimension Reflected" is a stately and wistful collection of pure ambient music. That is to say, these 8 extended passages are fleeting and vaporous clouds of relaxing and peacefully mysterious electronic drones and pulses. Think Steve Roach, Robert Rich, or classic Brian Eno. "Dust Of Sorts" shimmers and sparkles, reminding of a lovely lake at dawn, rife with ripples and reflections. "Future Forming" is majestic, with a hint of shadow. Beautiful music here, and perfect for unwinding to. (Lotuspike)

Voivod - "Warriors Of Ice" CD

A well-recorded live album from these Canadian tech-prog-metal futurists, "Warriors" reunites the 3 surviving original Voivod members for a set of classics and favorites, including "Voivod", "Nothingface", and "Nuclear War".

It's good to hear these legends going back to their thrashy roots, with songs like "Overreaction" being blurs of primal metal fueled by visions of a post-Bladerunner cyberpunk world. "Brain Scan" is prog-metal with clarity and guts, and sans pretense or wankiness. It all closes with the band's notorious and wonderfully faithful cover of Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett-era psychedelic masterpiece, "Astronomy Domine". The recordings here are crisp and punchy, with plenty of bottom-end crunch. Superb work from some legends who keep motoring on. (Sonic Unyon Metal)

official Voivod site

"Live From Tokyo" DVD (director: Lewis Rapkin)

This is an extraordinary and enlightening documentary of the underground Japanese music scene, and I was pleasantly surprised and inspired by it. Rapkin focuses his lens equally among bands and clubs, with all sorts of musics represented. The backdrop of the bustling urban metropolis (Tokyo) is daunting, but somehow technologically beautiful, in a futuristic way, and an entirely different vibe than New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Japan, as a culture, doesn't have the extensive history and background in rock and avante musics. Their European and American inspirations are evident, but the ingenuity of many Japanese artists are taking these templates into entirely new and unexpected directions. Makoto Oshiro, for example, is a mad genius of sorts, creating odd feedback instruments and some explosive performances. As well, the Enban club/live house/shop/bar is a place I'd be inclined to visit, and a comfy place for left-of-center and eclectic musics and fans to congregate and socialize.

There's plenty of samples of live musical performances, some interesting characters interviewed, and plenty of info, especially for anyone interested in exploring the thriving underground music scene in modern Tokyo. Well-done! (Good Charamel Records via MVD Visual)

Official site with trailer

East Bay Ray And The Killer Smiles - "self-titled" CD

Former Dead Kennedys guitarist and band (fronted by current DKs vocalist Skip Mcskipster) here team up with Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary, who acts as producer. The results are strong and heavy on the punk tip, not surprisingly.

"You're Such A Fake", for example, is a punk song at heart, with hints of rockabilly and surf, courtesy of Ray's distinctive riffage. "Area 51" is a driving, up-tempo heavy attack, while "The Heart Is Something" is melodic, downtempo, and almost balladic, reminding me of Green Day. The boys will hate me for saying that, but it's true. "It's Broken" runs back to the more aggressive side, while "I'm A User" is classic-style melodic punk. This is a completely solid album, with superb production and plenty to offer for fans of classic punk rock. (MVD Audio)

East Bay Rayspace

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All Pigs Must Die - "God Is War" CD

Fronted by Hope Conspiracy bellower Kevin Baker, and including Ben Koller (and producer/mixer Kurt Ballou) from famed hardcore nihilists Converge, APMD unleash a devastating blow on this debut album. It's a brief yet grueling affair, running all of 8 tracks and 33 minutes, but All Pigs don't waste any time showing their crust/hardcore roots. Every cut here is positively ferocious.

From the opening of "Death Dealer", APMD bruise and pummel with unrelenting viciousness. "Sancrosanct" approaches black metal, whereas "The Blessed Void" is a low-end blur of head-smashing thrash. It all leads up to "Sadistic Vindicator", which closes things out with a huge wall of guitar sound and brutal, churning rhythms. This is an album of violent aggression, and though it's a limited palette of sound, it's a wholly effective one. (Southern Lord)

All Pigsspace

Monday, August 29, 2011

"2001 Maniacs: Field Of Screams" DVD (director: Tim Sullivan)

Carrying on a theme began in 1964 with Herschell Gordon Lewis' extraordinary "Two Thousand Maniacs" (and continued with Sullivan's debut, "2001 Maniacs"), this semi-sequel squanders fine performances by Bill Moseley and Lin Shaye (Granny) via a terrible script, awful acting, and crappy effects.

Notable for little more than an appearance by Skinny Puppy frontman Kevin "Ogre" Ogilvie, "Field Of Screams" basically amounts to a hack-take on buffoonish MTV-style teen stars (blatantly patterned after Paris Hilton) who end up interacting with the down-home backwoods Southern folks of Pleasant Valley. Who, of course, happen to be vile killers and cannibals. You already know the rest, and you've seen it done with more flair and charisma. Sure, there are some sick deaths (often tongue-in-cheek) and some off-color jokes, and some touches of breast action, but nothing here adds up.

Truly, this one was a pain to sit through. Steer clear. (First Look Studios)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"1970s New York Grindhouse Super Stars Triple Feature" DVD

This set of mid-70s porn is re-visited under the 'grindhouse' heading, and these scratchy, rough prints illustrate a unique era between the free-love sixties and the plastic 80s. Hardcore (porn) wasn't a big business yet, but certain names became legendary in the seventies, despite some rather dodgy and amateurish films. This trilogy of hour-length skin flicks has its ups and downs (and from-behinds, but that's a tale for another lay, I mean day...). Hah.

"Tycoon's Daughter" is the best of the bunch, being a weird and almost scary tale of some sleazes who abduct a rich girl, hoping to extort wild cash from her well-to-do family. Along the way, they meet up with a sexually-liberal farm family, and there's all kinds of wacky mix-ups. It seems that not only the abductee is horny, but so are her captors and their host family! This is a fun story and with plenty of sordid trysts in the woods and barn. It's actually as funny as it is frightening, believe it or not!

"School Of Sexual Arts" fails, being a choppy and story-less mess. To top it all off, there are some embarrassingly bad moments of overdubbing during some of the sex scenes. Moans and groans that obviously emanate from neither partners' mouths. Hmm. Lots of threesomes, hairy people, and some pretty hideous characters make this one forgettable, and almost unwatchable. Yuck.

"Kathy's Graduation" succeeds only because of one factor: Annie Sprinkle, who later went on to performance art fame, got her Ph.D in Human Sexuality, and who even worked with the Hafler Trio (listen to the magnificent "Masturbatorium" CD). Here, we get some extravagant action involving fruit (courtesy of Ms. Sprinkle), as well as a heavy-duty DP. Hardcore, indeed!

So, in summation, a nice time capsule of an era, but that doesn't mean it's all very worthy beyond a single viewing. (After Hours Cinema)

"Cuba - Island Of Music" DVD (director: Gary Keys)

Filmmaker Keys is best-known for his jazz biographies, but this recent release has him traveling to Cuba to document the vibrant Afro-Cuban music scene. "Cuba -Island Of Music" follows less of a narrative style and serves as more of a travelogue, presenting random images and sounds from the streets of Cuba. We get dancers, full bands, and even classic American cars to accompany the sounds, as Keys presents his vision of life on the economically poor but culturally rich island.

Along the way, Keys has interspersed interviews with jazz legends like Billy Taylor, who have taken aspects of Afro-Cuban music into their repertoires. This film succeeds in showing the joyous fervor, as well as the richness of the traditional Cuban music, and how it's interwoven into the fabric of life there.

A lovely and vivacious film, full of unforgettable images and sounds. Superb! (MVD Visual)