Saturday, November 25, 2006

Right Again!

"The warning on that cigarette package should read: CAPITALISM IS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH.

Dejan, easily my favourite blogger of the moment, again says what needs to be said. As some of you may know, I am a smoker. And of course I am well aware that I am running a hell of a risk to get cancer somewhere along the way. But it is equally true that, all things considered, I am living a reasonably healthy life. As opposed to most people I drink, apart from a few daily cups of coffee, only water, tea and fruit juice (and not liters of coke, lemonade, beer, spirits, wine and what do I know). I eat my daily portion of fruit, dairy products and vegetables. I hardly consume any fast food and do not eat a lot of meat. And more importantly: I never eat too much.

But of course I am punished for my smoking, an activity that these days seems equal to being the antichrist in person. Each year I am paying more and more money for my cigarettes (when I started smoking a package costed about 1.80 euros, now it costs 4 fuckin' euros). I am being chased from restaurants, bars and most public spaces while fumes from cars, trucks and industrial facilities merrily continue to pollute the air that I breath. At the same time wine, spirits and beer remain relatively cheap and are promoted by advertising, while the rate of alcoholism, especially among young people, is rising. With fast food it is even worse: it is rather expensive food and it makes you fat and you risk diabetes and cholesterol. Soon in the USA (and as we know most American trends tend to cross the ocean at one time or another) monstruously fat people will make up the majority of the population.

I would wish that people in power would spend their time solving other, more immediate, crises, yearly taking the lives of millions of people. Like poverty, war and, indeed, capitalism.

Coup de Torchon [1981]

Philippe Noiret, with doubt one of the best French actors ever, died a few days ago. He is usually lauded for his performances in the classic Le Vieux Fusil and Marco Ferreri's scandalous La Grande Bouffe. But I have always liked him best in Bernard Tavernier's Coup de Torchon, a film lossely based on Jim Thompson's Pop 1280. Here he plays a sheriff living in a small French colonial village just before World War 2. He is usually considered a softy and gets ridiculed by everyone. Until he turns into an exterminating angel and starts killing just about everyone, with the aid of his mistress, played by an incredibly sexy Isabelle Hupert. And of course he gets away with it. The dialogs are pleasantly immoral and, as is the action. And true to French tradition it is actually one of the funniest films you have ever seen. Great movie. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema

I'm curious and then again not. The latter mostly because the choice of movies I've read about up till now is a little bit disappointing. Dr. Strangelove, The Birds, Blue Velvet, Psycho, The Matrix... so much has been said already about these movies and they have been analysed to the death. They are, on top, all films that are so blatantly connected with psychopathology and neurosis that it is difficult to imagine you might learn something new unless you are a complete novice to film theory and critique. More about it when I've actually seen it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Kitsuné Maison Compilation 3 [cd kitsuné]

Kitsuné has over the years become a household name when it comes to punkfunk and other new wave influenced stuff. Colder, Black Strobe, Digitalism and Zongamin are just a few names that made it real big after appearing on a Kitsuné compilation. But as is the case with a lot of series the third episode of the Maison story is beginning to suffer from diminishing returns. Fifteen tracks in all and it bangs and bumps like on the two previous collections but the element of surprise is gone. All numbers are catchy but it is all so overtly poppy and in some cases blatantly hopeful for that Subpop contract that at times it makes you wretch. With most of those would-be electropunk tracks you can imagine the remix-pack with the Ewan Pearson, DFA, Booka Shade and Riton remixes already during the first refrain. It is not all bad of course: The Van She remix of Klaxons reminds pleasantly of my favourite Daft Punk moments, Boyz Noize and Simian Mobile Disco are not too bad either and Oh No! Oh My!'s 'I Love You All the Time' has the advantage of brevity (1 minute 22 secs), while the autumnal techno tones of 'Done with You' by Erlend Øye's newest project The Whitest Boy Alive go well over five minutes without boring one second, a bit like a good Echo & The Bunnymen track. But that's really it. Last time we checked 5 out of 15 does not make a good compilation.

New York Noise Vol. 3 [cd Soul Jazz]

The third installment of what has been generally a good series, with this one being my personal favourite. Mostly because I have been looking for vinyl versions of Implog's 'Holland Tunnel Dive' and Dark Days' 'Nudes in the Forest' for what seems decades now. The Martin Rev track is also pretty awesome and shows clearly that Suicide's role in the current neo-wave climate is being constantly underestimated.As usual nothing but revolutionary and really obscure music from the Big Apple, with material dating from 1979 to 1984, a musical vault of treasures that at the moment is being rapaciously plundered by James Murphy and his mates at DFA and in Europe. With diversity really having a meaning over at Soul Jazz HQ you get to take a trip that takes you from the free music inspired percussion blues of James Blood Ulmer, via Boris Policeband's 20-second demented punk poetry and the electronic coldwave of Ikeyard and Dominatrix, to the 8-minute long proto-techno ramblings of Implog and Martin Rev. And there is an Elvis-cover somewhere in there too. Über-essential!

Thomas Brinkmann: Klick Revolution [cd Max Ernst]

I think Thomas Brinkmann is a fucking genius. I love all his work. His Soul Center* stuff alone would rank him among the greatest, but his ultra-minimal records (like his Hawtin and Studio 1 variations) are even a tad better. This newest, Klick Revolution, on one of his many labels (Max Ernst in this case), seems made up out of mere static. He has taken short samples from an array of records (all neatly mentioned with picture) but you have the distinct feeling that he has only retained the crackles and the pops, the skips and the dirt in the grooves. The original melodies, if there ever were any, have been shredded and then randomly restructured. As all good minimal techno composers (with those we mean the kind of producers whose records do not actually sound like a collection of mixed-together farts) he begins all his randomly named numbers with disparate elements that at first would seem to go to war with each other and it can take two to three minutes before you start to discern any melodic element. But once it is there and you have noticed it, you are bound to have that melody racing around in your brain for the next few hours. There are only six tracks so you know he is going to take his time developing and creating minimal rhythmic soundscape structures. And he does exactly that and it grabs you by the balls with sheer invention and that unique fingerspitzengefühl for embracing every idea, however crazy, demented or just plain wrong. Klick Revolution sounds like a collection of mistakes that, brought together, in the end sound like they were the right thing all along. Those who remember the Various Artists 12-inch on Chain Reaction should really investigate this one. Snap, crackle and pop to the Max!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Professione: Reporter (1975)

As Omar pointed out last week when writing about Fellini's Roma, they don't make them like this any more. Antonioni in retrospect is probably, together with Ingmar Bergman and Alain Resnais, one of the few directors who has ever radically attempted to put an idea into film. It is probably also the foremost reason why he has always been considered too intellectual, even boring. True, as David Cook points out in his History of Narrative Film, his treatment of subject matter (in this case the question: what is identity?) is indeed virtually touching on the inhumane. It is as if the actors are no more than substrates for the concepts he is trying to introduce. And it is of course equally true that such treatment of actors and action is by most people not considered to be the ultimate goal of a movie.

But then one would pass over the fact that art since the advent of modernism no longer has the duty to please. No, art has the duty to put relevant political questions on the table, a duty most artists seem to have forgotten all about in a time when words like 'idea' and 'intellectual' are thought of as cusswords and entertainment has taken the place of art, up to the point that most people have forgotten what the attributes of true art are. More to the point, art has to raise more questions than it is able to answer. Art is supposed to be an endless generator of ideas, so that, when the artwork is put outside of its original context, it continues to disseminate meaning.

That is the reason why Antonioni's movies are pure art, almost unto the brink of total detachment. Seldom before have I watched a movie that contains so much emblematic dialogue. Where in other movies conversations mostly follow the logic of the action, in The Passenger they follow the logic of ideas. In this movie you are not one moment tempted to view Nicolson as "that actor from Five Easy Pieces or The Shining". Rather he becomes a vehicle for Antonioni's filmic statements about loss of identity, alienation and the inability of communication. It comes as no surprise then that, at the end, although surrounded by people he loves (or pursued by those he used to love), he dies alone.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I'm not too big on plugging other blogs, even less when I am detecting Lacanian dynamics (although that may be a little prejudice based on ol' Jacques' methodology). But it is an undeniable fact that people like K-Punk and Dejan are infinitely more interesting than your average blogger, being more directed at ideas and real critique instead of offering the usual bloated 'I like this' or 'I think that'. So I'd like to signal the latter's Cultural Parody Center for all your critical cultural needs. The writing is sharp as a knife, it's totally irreverent of whichever reputation and the scope is definitely multi-dimensional, ranging from Madonna and porn (or is that the same?) to the Efteling and Zizek. And that is how I like it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Vinyl Update

I'm going to have to wait some weeks to have access to my mp3 collection again, but luckily I am one of those people who have turntables at home, so listening to music is not a problem. Here's the weekly harvest from the vinyl shops.

Villalobos: Fizheuer Zieheuer [12", Playhouse]

Record of the year! 1 loop, 37 minutes, 2 sides. Get! It! Now! Nice sleeve too. And a new double vinyl on Perlon is forthcoming too. Go Ricardo, Go!

Theo Parrish - Falling Up (Technasia Remix) [12", Third Ear/Synchrophone]

Been a while since the Technasia duo pulled off a really great track. It's no match for the Carl Craig remix of that same track, but it is über-functional and warm Basic Channel meets Detroit techno nonetheless. Should be a well-deserved hit on every techno dance floor.

Tim Xavier - Stuck on Earth [12", LTD400]

Kosmische goes minimal. Three hard-edged minimal grooves that remind of a typical Perlon release, but with lots of crazy edits, industrial sounds and cosmic wizardry. And the last track with the tropical thunderstorm sounds is a dj's dream. This is how techno is meant to be.

Outlines - Listen to the Drums [12", Sonar Kollektiv]

Jazzanova are back with a vengeance with a splendid 4/4 remix of Irfane's broken beat original. Classic house sounds rule on this really sexy record. If you like the early Âme releases, you should dig this too.

Magnus International - Kosmetisk [12", Full Pupp]

More laidback electrodisco pressure from Prins Thomas's excellent label from newcomer Magnus Sheehan. A little bit of disco, a little bit of italo, a little bit of electro and so forth, you know the deal by now.

VA - Kings of Techno Part A [2x12", BBE]

Red hot compilation of techno monsters, proto-techno and Detroit pioneers by Carl Craig and Laurent Garnier. The vinyl version includes extra tracks by Liaisons Dangereuses, Severed Heads and a top Detroit techno track by Instinct (from the short-lived but legendary Decisive imprint). The Temptations, The Stooges, Aretha Franklin, Visage, Carl Craig ('No More Words', with its first official outing since the original Retroactive release), The Black Dog (the classic 'Virtual') and Capricorn ('I Feel Love') are featured too. Part B is equally succulent of course.

Black Devil Disco Club - 28 After [12", Lo]

The first record from 1978 recently resurfaced on Rephlex and so Bernard Fèvre decided to make six more tracks. Completely original electronica somewhere between disco kitsch and typically French way-out thereness.

Radio Slave - Secret Base [12", Rekids]
Spencer Parker - Beautiful Noise [12", Rekids]

It does not get more contemporary than on Rekids. Two times classic acid house sounds from Matt Edwards's classy label, with additional remixes by Rob Mello and Ripperton. Pumping stroboscopic dance floor fodder without a lot of pretense. Just jacking the house, baby!

Holden - The Idiots are Winning [2x12", Border Community]

James Holden is one sick motherfucker. Initially each number sounds like a regular club track. But then he starts to get real nasty and perverse with the melodies and rhythms, turning every track into freak heaven. Free techno at its very best. Wow, this guy's a talent!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Just My Luck

The last two weeks are turning out to be my personal computer hell. Last week, after seven years of heavy duty my cpu gave up on me. No alarm, I just needed to get a new power unit and that would be fixed. Guess what? As I'm installing the new power unit, my hard disc fails. So, the next few weeks I'll be working with a Pentium II I got on loan from a mate. Talking about primitive communications.

But that ain't of course the worst part of it. Because not only were all of my documents (of six, seven years of data) on that hard disc (Ok, I'm stupid for not taking a back-up), my mp3's of the last six months were too. So now I'm going to have to pay a lot of money to get those data retrieved, because no way I'm gonna spend time re-downloading all that music. But better times are ahead. One of these weeks I'll be able to buy a new cpu for a mere 130 euro's. So, perhaps there is mercy after all.