Saturday, December 15, 2012

John Tejada & Josh Humphrey - "Pulse Locker" EP

In the spirit of the great techno DJs of Detroit, LA artists Tejada and Humphrey have unleashed a killer set of 3 minimalist beat-pulses that harken back to techno, trance, and acid's early days, while remaining crisp and clubby enough for today's more forward-thinking clubs. 

The title track is a bouncy minimal techno piece, while "Bifur Gates" brings a heavier, more insistent beat-pulse, reminiscent of Richie Hawtin's heyday to my relatively untrained techno ears. "Unanimous Arc" brings an old-school acid feel, with straight-forward beats and trippy, blippy electronic sequences. This is club music the way it used to be, and solid work it is, too. The extra 4th track, "Femto Frames" (available through Beatport), is a lighter, ambient-leaning bit of post-Orb electronica, and an ideal closer.

Some fine work here, definitely a well-done set of tunes for fans of the minimalist Detroit scene and beyond.

"Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements" 2xDVD (director: Gorman Bechard)

This is a love-letter-slash-documentary to the Minneapolis band who changed the face of indie and college rock scenes in the late 80s, featuring many famous fans. Names interviewed here include members of Babes In Toyland, Husker Du, Decemberists, Archers Of Loaf, and the Goo Goo Dolls, plus names like Tom Arnold, George Wendt, Steve Albini, Jack Rabid, Robert Christgau, Dave Foley, friends, ex-wives, and tons more.

The Replacements were as known for their careless, rowdy attitudes (and drunken sloppiness) as they were/are for their music, which only added to their mythology. The band, not surprisingly, imploded in 1990, only 9 years after their initial formation, but not before they recorded some immensely influential albums and plenty of memorable, catchy, and just plain great rock music.

"Color Me Obsessed" differs from most music bios, as it eschews any use of Replacements music or visuals. The accounts and information are delivered solely through the words of those who were "there". And oddly, it works. The documentary itself runs nearly 2 hours, and the extra disc includes extended interviews and more deleted scenes.  It's a great set for fans, or for those merely curious about the life and times of a great American band. 

"Libby, Montana" DVD (directors: Drury Gunn Carr & Doug Hawkes-Davis)

An exhaustive 2 hour documentary from 2006 that focuses attention on the small town of Libby, Montana, which was the center of a national controversy after a major mining operation (and the area's leading employer) was found guilty of nondisclosure of asbestos and toxic pollution hazards. 

The path to cleanup has been long and difficult for the citizens. This documentary shows the EPA stepping in to help resolve the issues, and the touchy situation that the town had to deal with, as the employer outright lied and attempted to avoid any liability, all the while seeing their longtime employees diagnosed with terminal  lung disease and asbestosis. Many of the town's working class were interviewed for this in-depth documentary, and many have since passed away. But the heart of this film is to draw attention to the rights and wrongs, and how the town never lost it's spirit, despite the devastating pollution and heartbreak brought on by corporate greed. 

It's an engrossing and enlightening film, and deserves your attention. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Einsturzende Neubauten - "Live At Rockpalast 1990" CD+DVD

A vintage Neubauten show, here resurrected as part of the excellent Rockpalast series, originally broadcast on German TV. "Live At Rockpalast" captures Bargeld and the boys in their "Haus Der Luge" period, at an intersection before the group decided to  further make their unique sound sculptures more subtle and, at times, even melodic.

Opening with the scalding noise/silence of "Prolog", and followed by the dance-oriented "Feurio!", "Rockpalast" includes some of the band's best-loved tracks from their earlier days. We get superb versions of "Der Tod Ist Ein Dandy", Sehnsucht", "Armenia", "Yu Gung", "Zeichnungen Des Patienten O.T.", "Sand", and plenty more. The band isn't in their most intense form here, but it's still an excellent show. Bargeld is, as always, dramatic and shrill -- all the while remaining a perfectly refined madman. Behind him, Einheit and Unruh batter shopping carts, industrial debris, and likely themselves. Hacke is the resident "rocker", with long hair flailing about like a metal maven, with Chung tirelessly plucking his bass. It's a classic lineup, thus the classic material.

The DVD is pro-shot, with multiple cameras, so there's enough great visuals to illustrate the beauty and genius of Neubauten. The CD has the exact same tracklist (16 songs), and sounds as clear as a studio album. This is a must-have for serious fans, and would provide a fine introduction or primer for a novice. Absolultely recommended. 

"The Lost Realities Of Hog Caller" DVD (director: Tom Richards)

Less of a narrative film, and more of an extended promo video for Pennsylvania gore/grind/noise/metal duo Hog Caller, this one is all over the place, and not in a good way. 

Mostly, "The Lost Realities Of Hog Caller" is an overindulgent mess of offensive imagery. You'll get plenty of gore, some breasts, comedy skits, pig costumes, Three Mile Island, messing around with dead animals, G.W. Bush hanging out with Bin Laden, magic mushrooms, LSD trips, eviscerating Elvis, and plenty more. Trouble is, there's no order to the madness. And the music? Messy, sloppy, and fairly well unlistenable. A great gift for friends of the band, but anyone else? Seen it before, heard it before, and done better on both counts.

Naevus - "The Division Of Labour" CD

The English post-punk group Naevus, led by  of Lloyd James, has been around for over a decade, and this is his/their seventh album. "The Division Of Labour" is a diverse album combining some seminal influences into a palatable and edgy amalgamation. 

"Man In A Ditch" opens with a dark neo-folk sound, before diving into the Wire-esque "Idiots (Let Me In)", complete with dissonant guitar noise and metronomic rhythms alongside literate vocals. "Bleat Beep" or "Making Hay" feature stark, stylish, and often deadpan vocals in the same realm as Douglas P. of Death In June or Colin Newman (Wire). Other cuts echo this type of sound, hinting at folk and electronic music, but never quite becoming either. Naevus bring the old-school English post-punk back with a fresh coat of paint.

"I Heart Monster Movies" DVD (director: Tyler Benjamin)

A warm love letter to horror films in general, this feature-length documentary is evidently the result of a weekend spent at a national horror convention. The director speaks to a wide array of fans, as well as a large amount of horror stars. We get impromptu interview footage of folks like Tom Savini, Linnea Quigley, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Doug Bradley, Ivan DePrume (formerly of White Zombie), David J, Dee Wallace, and tons more. 

There's not a lot of flash and glitz to this one (aside from some brief clips of some of the more influential horror films mentioned here), just honest people of all ages and backgrounds explaining their fascinations and passion for the scary movie genre. As a life-long horror fan myself, "I Heart Monster Movies" was a fun and engrossing look at a fringe culture that continues to inspire and seduce people, irregardless of class, culture, or age. Bravo! 

(Independent Media Distribution)

Corrosive Carcass - "Composition Of Flesh" CD

The debut from a Swedish death/gore metal band, "Composition Of Flesh" is a thick and sludgy attack, with the requisite gurgled vocals. Is this some kind of tribute to early Carcass? Not necessarily, as Corrosive Carcass seem more structured and, dare I say, almost tuneful as compared to Steer and Walker's legendary English gore/grind act. There remains some quality, if somewhat derivative, work here, nonetheless.

"Self Mutilation" is a solid slab of fuzzy, downtuned guitars and a breakneck pace. "Born In A Casket" would be perfect for a frenzied mosh pit (if those exist anymore), with multi-tempoed attacks that divebomb into blurry thrash madness. Other cuts are dynamic and well-produced berzerkers, as well. Corrosive Carcass aren't doing anything too unique, but they do a wonderful job creating ugly, sludgy metal monsters that mosh with the best of them. I liked.

"Black Metal - Voices From Hell" DVD

Not a documentary (as you'd rightfully and logically expect from the packaging), but  a (likely bootleg) combination of scattershot VHS clips, with only tenuous connections to one another. 

This shady set begins with three low-quality VHS transfers of live songs by Mayhem, Venom, and Celtic Frost (some with digital noise/tape glitches intact). Then we get a brief clip called "Consejo Black Metal", which amounts to a Spanish or Mexican guy in corpse paint ranting. There are some priceless (and hopefully tongue-in-cheek) shots of him reading Bram Stoker's "Dracula" in an outhouse. I couldn't figure this out. Finally there are two "photo galleries", one called "Black Metal Girls", and a "Norwegian Black Metal Photo Documentary", both of which contain some curious still images, but they are all unlabeled and unorganized, so who knows what bands are here? No documentation, just raw materials easily accessed online, I'm sure. 

If that weren't enough, the whole deal runs in 20 minutes!  Very, very shameful. This is a simple case of a company preying upon a faithful fan base, and releasing shoddy product. If that's not pure evil, I don't know what is. 

(XXL Releasing)

Black Sabbath - "The Lowdown" 2xCD

Joining a couple of older Sabbath-related interview CDs in one box, this unauthorized set is one for die-hards only. One disc, "Maximum Sabbath", is a 60-minute audio biography with only occasional interview sound-bites. This is a dry and droll narration by Louise Weekley, and one you will listen to only once, if you can make it all the way through! My advice is to read the band's bio, and you'll be happier to learn the band's history.

The second disc, I was sad to discover, is "Ozzy - X-Posed: The Interview". This disc fails to live up to the already-low expectations, as well. The Ozzy interview recording is muffled (recorded from a telephone interview) and virtually unlistenable. It's a single-indexed track and 45 minutes of an already-fuzzy Ozzy rattling on about his history. This, I'm afraid, is only for serious, hardcore fans. Not me.

Craig Padilla and Zero Ohms - "When The Earth Is Far Away" CD

The third collaboration by these ambient masters goes into uncharted sonic spatial realms, mapping out new terrain beyond the cosmos. 

With 6 tracks of opulent, rhythm-less bliss, "When The Earth Is Far Away" is a relaxing and wonderful soundtrack, full of shimmering celestial harmonies and amorphous sound. "Timelessness", at nearly 17 minutes, is a prime example of the gorgeous atmospherics that Padilla and Zero Ohms focus on. The lovely and flute-laden "Blue Distance" is pure ambience, almost receding it's so subtle. Other tracks echo this direction. A beautiful album here, ideal for drifting off to.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Collide - "Bent And Broken" 2xCD

A new double-album (26 tracks) of mostly remixes from California's finest dark-edged electro-rock act, "Bent And Broken" also includes some curious covers, including The Glove's "Orgy" and Queen's "She Makes Me". WIth the wealth of re-visited material here (mostly from their past couple of studio outings), fans of kArin and Statik's trademark blend of edgy electronica and sleek, ethereal vocal stylings will find much to enjoy here.

Quite often, remix albums are throwaways, shredding the artists' dignity in a shower of generic club beats or mainstream "radio friendly" mixes. For "Bent And Broken", I have to hand it to the band's choice in remixers -- there's nary a moment of "dubstep" foolishness here. Everything keeps Collide's integrity (and overall sound and personal, emotive vibe) intact.

It all opens with a heavy electronic remix by longtime Collide friends cEvin Key and Hiwatt Marshall, which works perfectly well in a trippy, skittering Skinny Puppy fashion. New track "Bent & Broken" is as good as anything the duo have done in the past, while the Queen cover ("She Makes Me") is a lovely, dreamy, even flighty acoustic-sounding rock song, sung in a gentle, ghostly voice courtesy of kArin. Other standouts include "Tears Like Rain (Cloudburst Mix)", which brings a serene, austere Eno piano ambience to great effect. "Counting To Zero (kaRin's Lullaby Mix by Antigen5)" is beautifully atmospheric and almost symphonic, while the "Unraveling Breaths" remix of "Utopia", by Whitney Kew, is a fittingly lovely ambient closer. 

A solid and faithful collection of both outsider remixes and a few new Collide tracks, "Bent And Broken" does the band justice, despite having many outside hands involved. Any fan will be more than pleased with this selection of dark and intelligent electro-rock stomp and slither. 

Desultor - "Masters Of Hate" CD

The debut album from Swedish duo Desultor is what the band themselves call "Murder Metal". I dunno about that description, but "Masters Of Hate" opens well with the big thrashy "Black Monday", which is like classic British metal, albeit with blastbeats! Production is clear and crunchy, so this smokes, right out of the gate.

From there, this 11-song, 33-minute album combines the melodic and cacophonous. "Another World" combines slower, melodic, classic falsetto vocal stylings with fearsome blast-thrash riffs and rhythms. There are guitar solos here, too, so Desultor aren't afraid to go "old school". Solid, solid stuff for fans of metal as it once was.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Escape From Women's Prison" DVD (director: Giovanni Brusadori)

This 1978 Italian sleaze-sexploitation film isn't the best print, looking like a well-generated VHS copy, so set your expectations low. Never a great film by any means, Brusadori still manages to capture an element of pure trashiness with "Escape", so it scores some points for being, well, nothing more and nothing less. The Engish overdubs make it even more weird and somehow out-of-time.

Here's a story of a quartet of women who (surprise) escape from prison only to hijack a bus-load of young female tennis players and their coach and driver. Naturally, these tough girls abuse their hostages in every way, from rape to murder. One of the prisoners is a lesbian, so we get scenes of her forcibly seducing a naive young tennis player, while another sex-obsessed convict preys upon a non-consenting male bus driver. It's tits and ass galore, as these wild and unruly women flaunt their guns and boobs. 

The acting is pretty awful, as is the script, which is naturally little more than an excuse to parade out nude scenes and violence. All that said, I fairly well enjoyed this one. Just keep expectations low, and this little trashy film is a good, mindless way to spend an hour plus. 

(CFS Releasing)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Hostel Part III" DVD (director: Scott Spiegel)

I admit (though a bit shamefully somehow) to enjoying "Hostel" (enough to buy a DVD), and even liking "Hostel 2" fairly well. This direct-to-video continuation, though, adds nothing to the story, only borrowing the idea and transplanting it to a new locale (Las Vegas), all the while missing the mark on gore, sexuality, and clever ideas. Eli Roth is no longer involved, either, so take that as you will.

Basically, after an initially playful and surprising opening scene (kudos to whoever was responsible for that), we get a rip-off of the first "Hostel" movies. A small group of young men are visiting Vegas for a bachelor party, where they mistakenly get involved in some seductive "party girls", who unwittingly get them all staked out as targets of the covert Elite Hunting Club, where privileged members get to place wagers on human lives. 

While not an altogether awful film, "Hostel Part III" lacks any sort of edge or angle to build upon the first 2 films in the franchise. In short, it's a shallow and unnecessary cash-in. Avoid, unless you've got too much time on your hands and are attached to the first 2 "Hostel" flicks.

(Sony Pictures)