Friday, April 30, 2010

Ranked & Revisited: Akira Kurosawa

Welcome to the second entry in my unofficial "Ranked & Revisited" series. You may remember last year I set about the task of watching every single film Woody Allen ever directed. It was enlightening and rewarding in equal measure, and since then I've moved my proverbial lens to the work of Akira Kurosawa, the foremost purveyor of heroic filmmaking in the annuls of Eastern cinema, if not the world. Again, it was a daunting task: though Kurosawa has fewer films, they are also, on average, probably double the length of a majority of Woody's films. Also important to this process was my equally enlightening trek through film scholar Stephen Prince's intimidatingly detailed deconstruction of Kuorsawa's major works, "The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa", a book I'd recommend in a heartbeat to anyone even remotely interested in the art of filmmaking or film criticism.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Music Review: Sightings - City of Straw

Sometimes I get the feeling that too much stock is put into the art of progression. Admittedly, I’m as guilty as anyone—I mean, the only real problem I had with the new Liars album is the fact that it didn’t, for the first time, represent any kind of step forward for the band—but I also believe there's something to be said for refinement, particularly when variety itself can be weaved into familiar forms by steady hands. So along with Liars’ Sisterworld, New York noise trio Sightings split this contradiction into a thesis about as well as any avant-rock act in recent memory. Their minimal noise and no-wave roots are well established territory at this point, even amidst their own catalogue. But they’ve managed to sidestep stagnation by kneading their sound into all sorts of intriguing shapes, whether that be hypnotic minimalism (2004's Arrived in Gold) or shrill, anti-blues rawk (2007's Through the Panama), to name just a couple of their most recent iterations. What I mean to say, then, is that their form and function have remained more or less the same, while the execution itself is placed into a continuum where influence can look back and nod in knowing appreciation of the band’s ability to retrace and refract all sorts of micro trends and genres. Sightings’ seventh album, City of Straw, reiterates this concept with piercing dedication.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Music Review: Growing - PUMPS!

Whereas it may be fascinating to chart an experimental artist’s creative arc through conceptual and/or aesthetic conceits, New York-based drone/noise collective Growing have seemingly begun to map things out through a much simpler gesture: album artwork. All their record sleeves are wonderfully evocative, but the band’s last three albums in particular—up to and including their latest, PUMPS!—have so effectively translated each of their respective sonic maxims into cover art that it can be difficult not to conflate the two. Take, for instance, the kaleidoscopic highway shards gracing 2006's Vision Swim, which sounded something like Kraftwerk’s Autobahn sent through micro-fracture digital strangulation. Even more precisely rendered were the patterned headlong glitches of 2008’s All the Way, which featured a cubist framing of bare torso, fog-enshrouded train tracks, and an oversized downhill skier. By this rationale, and even with no prior knowledge of Growing’s recent flirtations with fractured rhythm, a superficial glance at the gaudy cover art for PUMPS! should be all that’s needed to pick up on the band’s latest sonic thread.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Essentials (Music): The 1970s

1960s • 1970s •

Amon Düül II / Yeti (1970)
The Beatles / Let it Be (1970)
Tim Buckley / Starsailor (1970)
Vashti Bunyan / Just Another Diamond Day (1970)
Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band / Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1970)
Miles Davis / Bitches Brew (1970)
Nick Drake / Bryter Layter (1970)
Funkadelic / Funkadelic (1970)
Jimi Hendrix / Band of Gypsys (1970)
Led Zeppelin / III (1970)
John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band (1970)
Linda Perhacs / Parallelograms (1970)
Soft Machine / Third (1970)
The Stooges / Funhouse (1970)
The Velvet Underground / Loaded (1970)
Neil Young / After the Gold Rush (1970)
The Beach Boys / Surf's Up (1971)
David Bowie / Hunky Dory (1971)
Can / Tago Mago (1971)
Leonard Cohen / Songs of Love and Hate (1971)
Comus / First Utterance (1971)
Karen Dalton / In My Own Time (1971)
Funkadelic / Maggot Brain (1971)
Serge Gainsbourg / Histoire de Melody Nelson (1971)
Led Zeppelin / Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
Lucifer / Black Mass (1971)
Joni Mitchell / Blue (1971)
Pink Floyd / Meddle (1971)
Sly & the Family Stone / There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971)
T. Rex / Electric Warrior (1971)
Van Der Graaf Generator / Pawn Hearts (1971)
The Who / Who's Next (1971)
Ash Ra Tempel / Schwingungen (1972)
David Bowie / The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust... (1972)
Can / Ege Bamyasi (1972)
Miles Davis / Live-Evil (1972)
Miles Davis / On the Corner (1972)
Nick Drake / Pink Moon (1972)
Faust / So Far (1972)
Neu! / Neu! (1972)
The Rolling Stones / Exile on Main Street (1972)
Paul Simon / Paul Simon (1972)
T. Rex / The Slider (1972)
Yes / Close to Edge (1972)
Can / Future Days (1973)
John Cale / Paris 1919 (1973)
Herbie Hancock / Headhunters (1973)
Hawkwind / Space Ritual (1973)
Iggy & The Stooges / Raw Power (1973)
Magma / Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh (1973)
Pink Floyd / Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
Roxy Music / For Your Pleasure (1973)
Judee Sill / Heart Food (1973)
Robert Ashley / In Sara, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven... (1974)
Cluster / Zuckerzeit (1974)
Brian Eno / Here Come the Warm Jets (1974)
Faust / IV (1974)
King Crimson / Red (1974)
King Crimson / Starless and Bible Black (1974)
Queen / Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
Tangerine Dream / Phaedra (1974)
Robert Wyatt / Rock Bottom (1974)
Neil Young / On the Beach (1974)
Area / Crac! (1975)
Bob Dylan / Blood on the Tracks (1975)
Brian Eno / Another Green World (1975)
Brian Eno / Discreet Music (1975)
Pink Floyd / Wish You Were Here (1975)
Harmonia / Deluxe (1975)
Anikulapo Kuti & Africa '70 / Expensive Shit (1975)
Patti Smith / Horses (1975)
The Modern Lovers / The Modern Lovers (1976)
Ramones / Ramones (1976)
The Residents / Third Reich 'n' Roll (1976)
David Bowie / "Heroes" (1977)
David Bowie / Low (1977)
The Clash / The Clash (1977)
Elvis Costello / My Aim is True (1977)
Brian Eno / Before and After Science (1977)
Richard Hell and the Voidoids / Blank Generation (1977)
Kraftwerk / Trans Europe Express (1977)
Giorgio Morder / From Here to Eternity (1977)
Iggy Pop / The Idiot (1977)
Ramones / Rocket to Russia (1977)
Sex Pistols / Nevermind the Bollocks… (1977)
Suicide / Suicide (1977)
Television / Marquee Moon (1977)
Wire / Pink Flag (1977)
Big Star / Third/Sister Lovers (1978)
Black Flag / Nervous Breakdown EP (1978)
Elvis Costello / This Year’s Model (1978)
Devo / Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978)
Brian Eno / Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978)
Hosono & Yokoo / Cochin Moon (1978)
Kleenex / Untitled (1978)
Kraftwerk / The Man Machine (1978)
Nick Lowe / Jesus of Cool (1978)
Pere Ubu / The Modern Dance (1978)
Steve Reich / Music for 18 Musicians (1978)
The Slits / Cut (1978)
Talking Heads / More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)
This Heat / This Heat (1978)
Various Artists / No New York (1978)
Wire / Chairs Missing (1978)
Art Bears / Winter Songs (1979)
Buzzcocks / Singles Going Steady (1979)
The Clash / London Calling (1979)
Lizzy Mercier Descloux / Press Color (1979)
Essential Logic / Beat Rhythm News - Waddle Ya Play? (1979)
Gang of Four / Entertainment! (1979)
Joy Division / Unknown Pleasures (1979)
The Pop Group / Y (1979)
Public Image Ltd. / Metal Box (1979)
The Raincoats / The Raincoats (1979)
Swell Maps / A Trip to Marineville (1979)
Talking Heads / Fear of Music (1979)
Throbbing Gristle / 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979)
Wipers / Is This Real? (1979)
Wire / 154 (1979)
XTC / Drums and Wires (1979)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Music Review: The Method Actors - This Is Still It (Compilation)

"Up until a few years ago, the early 80s Athens post-punk movement was one of the most revered yet under-documented scenes from the third wave, post-Jimmy Carter American underground. Where local heroes such as the B-52s and college-rock godfathers R.E.M. have had little trouble keeping their profiles elevated (and for good reason), there remained a number of less heralded bands doing work just as worthwhile—though in an admittedly less accessible manner—such as Pylon, the Love Tractor, the Primates and, for our purpose today, the Method Actors. Shining brightly before their rapid burn-out, this strikingly original guitar'n'drums duo found admirers amongst the ranks of both those aforementioned scene stalwarts, and on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of their debut 7", This Is It, Acute Records (who have also recently resurrected such left-field post-punks as the Fire Engines and the Lines) have gathered a healthy portion of the band’s early recordings and cleverly packaged them as the 19-track This Is Still It. Following the DFA’s gracious reissues of the first two Pylon records, more and more of this particularly fertile Athens scene is coming into sharper focus.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guy Maddin's "Night Mayor"

With Night Mayor, Canadian eccentric Guy Maddin returns to the realm of the short film, the format I feel his silent film aesthetic most consistently compliments.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Music Review: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & the Cairo Gang - The Wonder Show of the World

"It’s interesting to note that an artist such as Will Oldham—who for nearly 20 years now has built a reputation as one of the most solemn-minded troubadours of his generation—would exhibit a lighter, more carefree vibe on much of his laudable recent work. And after only so much as a nominal retreat back into darker themes on last year’s relatively average Beware, it’s nice to once again see Oldham return to his warmer side here in the new decade with another in a long line of collaborative efforts, this time with Emmett Kelly, recent muse and leader of the genre bending folk crew the Cairo Gang. Appropriately, for a team who has spent the last few albums working together (including Oldham’s late-career solo peak Lie Down in the Light), this official collaboration, The Wonder Show of the World, feels more natural and instinctive than some of Oldham’s other recent partnerships, coming across as a continuation of Lie Down’s peaceful resignation, rather than another attempt at re-capturing the death-folk rattle of I See a Darkness or Superwolf.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Podcast: End of Radio #21 - 'Transient Life in Twilight'

"On this week’s End of Radio, your mad co-hosts Jordan Cronk and Jon Staph pull from styles as disparate as avant-prog, IDM, and (seriously) queer-core, while reserving a few moments to remember the late, great Alex Chilton."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Music Review: Autechre - Oversteps

"It’s become evident, nearly ten years after the fact, that 2001's Confield left Autechre's Rob Brown and Sean Booth reeling; the duo found themselves adrift in the splintered early aughts electronic landscape, with little idea how to move forward. After all, that seminal record essentially brought IDM to its most logical and extreme conclusion, and it remains Autechre's last significant full-length—it’s no wonder they’ve been restlessly trying to find their bearings ever since. For almost two decades, Autechre have been at the forefront of electronic music’s development, and just as we think we may have finally digested their last work (2008’s exhausting Quaristice), they’re back with album ten, the comparatively serene and ambient-leaning Oversteps. Since Quaristice wasn’t what anyone would call 'easy listening'—an unrelenting 20 tracks comprised its 75 minutes—it comes as something of a relief that Oversteps (its title perhaps an admission to Autechre's post-Confield excess?) plays just as well on a casual listen as it does under closer scrutiny.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Essentials (Music): 1960s

• 1960s • 1970s
Miles Davis / Sketches of Spain (1960)
Joe Meek / I Hear a New World (1960)
James Brown / Live at the Apollo (1963)
The Beatles / Rubber Soul (1965)
The Byrds / Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
Bob Dylan / Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
Bob Dylan / Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
The Sonics / Here are the Sonics (1965)
13th Floor Elevators / The Psychedelic Sounds of... (1966)
The Beatles / Revolver (1966)
The Beach Boys / Pet Sounds (1966)
Bob Dylan / Blonde on Blonde (1966)
The Eyes / The Arrival of the Eyes (1966)
The Godz / Contact High with the Godz (1966)
The Monks / Black Monk Time (1966)
The Mothers of Invention / Freak Out! (1966)
Cecil Taylor / Unit Structures (1966)
The Beatles / Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Leonard Cohen / The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)
Love / Forever Changes (1967)
The Mothers of Invention / Absolutely Free (1967)
Pearls Before Swine / One Nation Underground (1967)
Pink Floyd / The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)
The Velvet Underground / The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience / Are You Experienced (1967)
Phil Ochs / Pleasures of the Harbor (1967)
Morton Subotnick / Silvers Apples of the Moon (1967)
The Who / The Who Sell Out (1967)
The Band / Music from Big Pink (1968)
The Beatles / The Beatles (White Album) (1968)
Incredible String Band / The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (1968)
The Kinks / ...Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968)
Van Morrison / Astral Weeks (1968)
Os Mutantes / Os Mutantes (1968)
Pentangle / The Pentangle (1968)
Terry Riley / In C (1968)
The Rolling Stones / Beggars Banquet (1968)
Silver Apples / Silver Apples (1968)
Small Faces / Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake (1968)
The Velvet Underground / White Light/White Heat (1968)
The Zombies / Odessey and Oracle (1968)
The Band / The Band (1969)
The Beatles / Abbey Road (1969)
Tim Buckley / Blue Afternoon (1969)
Can / Monster Movie (1969)
Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band / Trout Mask Replica (1969)
Cromagnon / Orgasm (1969)
Miles Davis / In a Silent Way (1969)
Nick Drake / Five Leaves Left (1969)
King Crimson / In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)
Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin / Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg (1969)
Judy Henske & Jerry Yester / Farewell Aldebaran (1969)
Led Zeppelin / Led Zeppelin (1969)
Led Zeppelin / Led Zeppelin II (1969)
MC5 / Kick Out the Jams (1969)
The Meters / The Meters (1969)
Nico / The Marble Index (1969)
Terry Riley / A Rainbow In Curved Air (1969)
The Rolling Stones / Let It Bleed (1969)
The Shaggs / Philosophy of the World (1969)
Sly & the Family Stone / Stand! (1969)
Skip Spence / Oar (1969)
The Stooges / The Stooges (1969)
The United States of America / The United States of America (1969)
The Velvet Underground / The Velvet Underground (1969)
Scott Walker / Scott 4 (1969)
White Noise / An Electric Storm (1969)
The Who / Tommy (1969)
Neil Young / Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)