Monday, May 30, 2011

Curiouser and Curiouser

Broadcast, Tender
, Warp

"Tender Buttons' simplicity makes it more demanding than Broadcast's other work; it requires more than just a few listens to sink in.
-- Heather Phares, AMG

I didn't give Tender But-
the chance it deserv-
ed upon its 2005 release. I
heard "America's Boy" and
"Black Cat" on KEXP, and they sounded fine, but more convention-
ally structured than before. It wasn't that Broadcast had sold out or gone pop, but that those two tracks weren't as strange or oth-
erworldly as the material with which I had first fallen in love.

Then they joined forces with the Focus Group for 2009's In-
vestigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age
, and I got all the
strange, otherworldliness I could desire, so much in fact that I
wasn't sure what to think at first, but it grew on me in a big way,
and that convinced me to re-evaluate Tender Buttons. After
all, I had enjoyed everything else with which Trish and James
had been involved, including B-sides and other ephemera.

Now that Trish Keenan is no longer with us (she passed away
in January), I wish I'd taken time to explore this record while she
was still around, because it's hardly the misstep I feared. On the
contrary, it marks another triumph for the Birmingham duo.

Aside from the singles, other highlights include the swirling "Tears
in the Typing Pool," which features Keenan's most enchanting vo-
cal; the buzzing, crackling "Corporeal," which seems even sadder
in light of her premature passing ("Do that to me, do that to my
anatomy"); and the skeletal, bass-driven instrumental "Bit 35,"
which plays like a tribute to the great Young Marble Giants.

With most groups, it's usually best to start with their first re-
cord before exploring the rest of the catalog, but in the case of
, you could start with Tender Buttons and get a
taste of the band at their best and most distinctive. A beauti-
ful way to say goodbye--even if that wasn't the intention.

Click here for a disquisition on black cats in the media.

Endnote: Image from Warp Records.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Doors of Perception



"It feels as
if the doors
have been
flung wide



I expected good things from Moon Duo's first full-length bas-
ed on previous EPs and this year's outstanding single "When
You Cut," but the new album has surpassed my expectations.

Though their influences have always been fairly obvious, Mazes
reveals more of their own unique personality. Their inspirations
haven't changed, but they bring a greater degree of warmth than
before. There's something surprisingly organic about these mot-
orik rhythms, even if "motorik" usually implies coldness (now
based in Colorado, they recorded in the Bay Area and Berlin).

I think it's partly that Ripley's vocals, though low in the mix, aren't
robotic or machine-like. Nor does he sound as agitated as Alan Ve-
ga or Sonic Boom, yet Moon Duo avoid the hippie-dippy trap of
sounding like '60s (or '70s) throwbacks. There's a freshness here.

As for influences, Ripley Johnson (guitar, vocals) and Sanae Ya-
mada (keyboards) may look to artists other than Neu!, Suicide,
Spacemen 3, Loop, etc., but those are the acts they bring to mind.

They may have a different set of influences, or no specific in-
fluences at all, but anyone who enjoys the spacier end of the
rock spectrum will surely find Mazes of interest, especially
those who appreciate song craft, because they have a grasp
on melody that some other outer-space travelers lack.

There's nothing wrong with a time-expanding jam here and
there, but that sort of thing bores me after awhile. I say it all
the time, but I need songs. Verse, chorus, verse. The whole bit.

"When You Cut" and "Run Around" are so upbeat they transcend
the Krautrock tag; the first by using dance beats, the second by a-
dopting a rockabilly rhythm, indicating that Moon Duo's influenc-
es are probably more diverse than a cursory listen would suggest.

I particularly like the way the record starts in semi-dark mode,
with "Seer," before lighting off, as it were, into brighter territory,
ending with "Goners," which is hardly as morose as it sounds. In
"Cut," Ripley sings, "I feel the walls closing in one me." It doesn't
sound like an ideal situation, but there's the sense that he wel-
comes it in some way. A little darkness never hurt anyone.

Endnote: Image from Covert Curiosity.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Movie of
the Month:
Part 28

I recently
ing DVD
Video Librarian, and thought the results were worth sharing.

(Pablo Trapero, Argentina, 2010, 107 mins.)

"Engaging nihilistic neo-noir from Argentine New Waver
about ambulance chasing lawyer trying to escape the per-
ils of his profession. Car accidents and bloody bruisings
galore. I can already see the Soderbergh remake."

--Anthony Kaufman, indieWIRE

According to Pablo Trapero's gritty thriller, Argentina has so
many traffic accidents that "the compensation market is boom-
ing" (an opening intertitle notes 22 per day, 8,000 per year).

Ricardo Darín (El Aura, The Secret in Their Eyes) plays Héctor
Sosa, a low-rent lawyer who meets Olivera Luján (Martina Gus-
man, Trapero's Lion's Den), a medic, at the site of one. They en-
joy an instant rapport, though she refers to him as a "vulture"
in conversation with her partner, because he trolls crash sites
for cases. Worse yet, he stages accidents with accomplices.

As Trapero follows his protagonists along on their rounds, it be-
comes clear that their lives revolve around work, that they're wil-
ling to do whatever it takes to keep going, and that they're more
than a little lonely. In best noir style, Sosa has reached the end
of his tether and is ready to move on. He knows Lujan looks
down on him, so he tries to earn her respect. He succeeds un-
til she glimpses the depths to which he'll sink, and backs off.

After one of his staged events goes wrong, Sosa leaves the sleazy
firm for which he's been toiling, considers his next move, and reig-
nites their thwarted relationship, but becoming an independent a-
gent after years of dirty doings turns out to be difficult at best.

If the pace is more relaxed, until the pulse-pounding conclusion,
Carancho's movie sometimes recalls Martin Scorsese's underrat-
ed Bringing out the Dead, which documented the unraveling of a
burnt-out EMT (Nicolas Cage) in New York's Hell's Kitchen. Both
pictures take place primarily at night when people are exhausted,
vulnerable--and liable to make critical mistakes. Recommended.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part 27: The Girl

Endnote: Slightly revised from the original text. Im-
age from indieWIRE (via the Cannes Film Festival).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Siouxsie's Soul Sister

"Husik's music is clear-
ly the sum of her inspi-
rations: '60s psychede-
lia, '70s sci-fi movies,
and '90s indie-rock."
-- Keith Moerer
, Salon

Bozo (1991), the full-
length debut from multi-instrumentalist Lida Hu-
, marks one of my fav-
orite records of the 1990s.
Here are two videos feat-
uring her haunting vocals combined with two of her finer melodies.

The first features a still of the creepy-cool photo on the cover
. The second is where things get even more interesting with grainy, black-and-white images that capture the spooky beauty of Husik's music.

According to her notes, Shimmy Disc founder and Bongwater mem-
Kramer produced both. She writes, "Kramer's impromptu method and big echo sound influenced a lot of my future output. I wanted an otherworldly and remote mood." They succeeded spectacularly.

Husik has roots in New York and Washington DC, where she record-
ed as Red Emma, but has called Silverlake, CA home for the past few
years. Her website also says that "Lida will begin recording her 10th
record in August 2010 at the Little Golden Book Studio in Portland."

They ate all our candy.

"This video was shot at various locations around San Francisco in 19-
92 by Shane Francis. We filmed at Yosemite, at the airport, and on the
streets. Those were the days when you could walk into an airport and
just start filming an indie-rock video. In Golden Gate Park, we hap-
pened upon a clown who graciously allowed me to dance with her.

Click links for my AMG reviews of Bozo and Your Bag.

Endnote: Image from Salon. For more infor-
mation about Lida Husik, please click here.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

May Reviews

These are the reviews and other pieces I'm working on this month.

Amazon DVDs: Mercy - The Complete Series [five-disc set], The Other Woman (Don Roos directs Natalie Portman), and HBO's five-part Mildred Pierce (Todd Haynes directs Kate Winslet).

Amazon Theatricals: Circumstance and Forks over Knives.

Still playing (or yet to open): (Pom Wonderful Presents) The Great-
est Movie Ever Sold
, Meek's Cutoff, Miral, and
Water for Elephants.

Flavorwire: I get a mention in this piece by Jason Gross.

Though we salute a good number of writers here, this list is obvious-
ly incomplete. There are great writers who are no longer with us (Pen-
ny Valentine), who aren’t writing about music now (Barbara Flaska,
Stacy McArdle), who write occasionally now (Carla DeSantis, Caro-
la Dibbell, Deborah Frost, Amy Schroeder), who currently cover
other parts of the pop spectrum (Kathy Fennessy, Joy Press, Tri-
cia Romano) or whose current music scribing status is unclear...

Parallax View: Interview with Mike Mills (Beginners).

5/24 update: Unfortunately, I didn't get to interview Mr. Mills.

SIFF: Crying Out (À L'Origine d'un Cri), Donor, The Empire
of Mid-South
(L'Empire du Milieu du Sud), Jucy, Lesson Plan -
The Story of the Third Wave
, Love Crime (Crime d'Amour), A
Matter of Taste - Serving Up Paul Liebrandt
, My Afternoons
with Margueritte
(La Tête en Friche), Oliver Sherman, On
(Tournée), Three (Drei), and Winds of Heaven.

Siffblog: Dispatch #1, Dispatch #2, and Dispatch #3.

Video Librarian: Behind the Burly Q, Day-
dream Nation
, Forgiveness, Jolene [Blu-ray], Bed-
, Biebermania!, From Prada to Nada, Guy
and Madeline on a Park Bench
, and Miral.

Endnote: Cosmo the dog from Beginners.