Sunday, June 20, 2010

Genuine Caveman Disco Sound

The title of the post is taken from Comeme Label head Matias Aguayo's description of the Xalapa, Mexico based Rebolledo.

Aguayo is a fascinating figure himself; after being part of Closer Musik, one of the founding minimal techno bands to be featured on the Kompakt label, Aguayo retreated from Cologne and headed back to Chile, where he started a solo career based on strange, divisive dance tracks based on latin rhythms and sampled voices. He started playing Bumbumbox Parties, dance events in public places that used cobbled together sound-systems and played music far from the usual material.

I personally love the videos Rebolledo uses for his tracks; cheap and persistent, just like his music, they run right up to the edge of being a joke and look down into the chasm, floating away on force of will alone.

Taking Latin rhythms and using them for white dance music has been in vogue since the Pet Shop Boys and Madonna did it in the late 80s, and the tendency has resurfaced in recent years. Aguayo, Rebolledo, and their cohorts do something else, using the techniques of Latin pop and dance music to explode the conventions of modern techno and dance and get something very different, but still completely functional as dance music. The ironic thing is that, despite being perverse by the dictates of the dance club, their music is ultimately more accessible to the listener who is not already indoctrinated into those styles.

On the other side of the equation, though, is his Pachanga Boys collaboration with Superpitcher, where any thought of dance music is left behind, and we just get strange, off-kilter art, if that is the right word at all.

Monday, June 14, 2010

4 Lonely Messages From the Future of Pop

For extra credit just play them all at once. I had planned to draw some conclusions for you all, but I have a feeling we'll have to wait twenty-five years or so to really know.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bunny and the Bull - A Short Kind of Review

Don't know when or if this 2009 comedy by Paul King is going to be released in the US, but it's worth discussing for a few reasons. King is the director in charge of a good 20 episodes of the Mighty Boosh TV series, and will probably handle the feature film version of that enterprise, so it's reassuring that this, his first feature, works as well as it does. The Boosh tv show is sort of an odd duck - it's a comedy that stumbles about in an odd, stream of consciousness fashion, with far more emphasis placed on absurd turns of phrase and elaborate graphic design than jokes and punchlines. The tone here is somewhat similar, and its still a comedy, but the whole essence of it is quite a bit different.

In short, an agoraphobic young man remembers details of a trip to Europe he took with his friend Bunny a year ago, which ended with him in his present state. The OCD/agoraphobia thing plays like lazy short hand, the character dynamics (though well played) suggest that the everyone involved saw Withnail and I a few too many times at an impressionable age, and it all ends up feeling both overextended and a bit slight at the same time. But the film uses the flashback structure to present almost all of the remembered material in an exaggerated, mixed media style, sometimes slipping into the territory of straight animation. What's fascinating to me, though, is that there is absolutely no attempt to make the slips into animation at all seamless; you can get a little of the effect from this clip. The flashback structure presents a nominal excuse for this kind of thing, but it's a slim one.The most comparison I've heard is to Michel Gondry's style, but if anything this goes further.

This is hard to articulate, but: this kind of special effects work is nothing new, and in a way the philosophy behind it goes back to Melies at least. Video, however, makes it feel much different, and the fact that this is digital video makes everything feel much different; when every single frame of video has been digitally "sweetened" you simply don't feel that the appearance of a stop-motion bull is an intrusion at all, just an extension of the artifice. A lot of people were wringing their hands over just what kind of impact something like Avatar will have on the way people will watch and make films, but I would argue that it's a low-budget independent film like this one that shows the real impact these technologies are going to have on the film making that will emerge in the near future.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

DJ Power and Associates

Get it Here

Friend of the company Alan Lapointe has been working at his hip hop project for awhile now, but it sounds to me like he's really hit his stride on this one, and not just because he starts it off with an iLove beat. This one is really strong, a sure fire way to start the Summer right.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The iLove 2

Here is a new song "iGot" off the upcoming iLove album. The album will be released September 6th (Labor Day) So, we've got a bit of a wait, but not to worry the new Astro Club Blonde album will be here soon. Very exciting!


Charlie Phillips is featured on the track with a rippin' guitar solo. I'm also putting up the exclusive ghost story b side "iGhost" for a limited time download. "iGhost" will not appear on the album so this may be the only time to get it.



Saturday, June 5, 2010

Notebook Post - Hell with This Video, and Thoughts on Why

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Eighteenth-century satire became nineteenth century observation. In the twentieth century observation became surreal. It became an ironic sensuality, and the basis for satire, which was once moral, became irony. As if by attraction, or even kinship, observation, along with its concerns for sentiment and social justice, followed satire to sit on its new ironic base.

Guy Davenport, from A Balthus Notebook

-Late last year music critic Simon Reynolds wrote a terrifically ambivalent post for the Guardian, explaining why M.I.A. might be the artist of the decade. He suggests, more complexly than my summary will allow, that the amount of buzz over M.I.A. has more to do with a hunger among certain writers about music for a "redemptive populist voice" in the style of Joe Strummer or Bob Marley, something that has been conspicuously absent over the last ten years or so - but only when combined with a use of very web-based modes of distribution and hype that she seemed to use better than almost anyone not named Lil' Wayne.

-"Born Free" exists only thanks to a very, very 1960s/70s set of aesthetic choices. The central sample is from Suicide's "Ghost Rider", linked above. Suicide's name was not chosen in advocacy, but warning; the title character of "Ghost Rider" is "screamin' the truth/America America is killing its youth." Their style was bizarre, theatrical, edging close to performance art, and a kind of legend has surrounded shows were crowds would get outright violent, like the "23 Minutes in Brussels" tape, which ends with Vega's microphone being stolen by the crowd, the singer screaming at his audience. Even today Vega is a bizarre, uncomfortable presence onstage; his acting is both so focused and intense and so on the face of it "fake" that he causes a kind of cognitive dissonance in his audience. Its hard to think of any other now-Canonical rock band that, when viewing their live performances, you have to wonder if this is really any "good" in the first place.

-M.I.A.'s track, recorded in a mansion in 2010, sounds more "Lo-Fi" than the Suicide track, recorded in poverty in mid '70s NY. Why? Affectation. This, after all, is a day and age where someone like Wavves will slather his Garageband recorded tracks in post-production distortion to get that special authentic sound, just to sound closer to artists like Pavement or Royal Trux, who were considered ironic more than anything in the ear during which they emerged.

-The above is the only other track I can think of that cribs so openly from "Ghost Rider." You may recognize it from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Like M.I.A.'s track, it could be described as "kind of political, or something."

-The director of the video is Romain Gavras, son of Costa-Gavras, who made one iconic film (Z) in 1969, and followed it with a career that became increasingly irrelevant, film by film. I guess Romain is best known for this video, which treats content and treats imagery and material that would have read as definitely "retro" back in Suicide's day as completely and totally current.

-The main reference in "Born Free" (is reference the right word?) is Peter Watkins Vietnam Era Punishment Park; the trailer can explain the set-up better than I can.

-Watkins has a long, strange history as a film maker. His best known film is still probably "War Game," a fake documentary ("mockumentary" before the word) that illustrates the effects of a hypothetical nuclear strike on London. He thought that the government had mislead the population as to the true cost of nuclear war, and wanted to set things straight. The movie pulls few punches, and there was something of a scandal upon its initial release. Some years later he would make a film on the painter Edward Munch, combining the usual biographical drama with a very clear emphasis on how the troubled social realities of Munch's era are clearly reflected in his painting, and the emergence of Expressionism in general.

-The painting at the top of the post is by James Ensor, a Belgian painter, born in the 19th century, who managed to live through half of the 20th. This painting, "Banquet of the Starved," was done in 1915, and is more or less his expression of dismay at the Germans having invaded his country. The "Last Supper" reference is quite clear, and so is his commentary. But the painting has a strange, indelible quality; it's so attached to its time and place, but you cold almost imagine it standing in any year of the Twentieth Century. There is an excess, the thing that is left when the "meaning" is explained away, that stands proudly on its own. Watkin's films have a not dissimilar quality; he may not be at the same caliber as Munch or Ensor, but neither War Game or Punishment Park feels dated in the least. This may just be the sign of our time, but "Born Free" feels dated already, and more than a little threadbare.

-So as not to leave this on a sour taste, I will embed another video, a nearly current video even, that hits many of the buttons that M.I.A. and Gavras are missing. I wouldn't say I'm advocating this, not really. But I think that our "Banquet of the Starved," when we see it, will be dressed more in this style than the other.

Major Lazer "Keep it Going Louder" from Eric Wareheim on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thinking About Bananarama

Why? Because it's a Wednesday night. "Robert De Niro is Waiting" about rape? Yes. And "Hot Line to Heaven" is about heroin abuse. Of course. Most people only know the band through the pop hits they had through the production of Stock Aiken and Waterman, but their career, like many British bands with roots in new wave, is stranger and more interesting than their big hit . Their amazing first single was noticed by Terry Hall, of the great band The Specials, and Hall invited the girls to sing backup on his next band, the genuinely very strange Fun Boy Three. Much like,say, Simple Minds or OMD, Bananarama lost a lot of what made them special after they started to hit it big; where they once made perfectly composed pop with strange, unsettling undercurrents they now made perfectly composed pop for its own sake. Not a crime, of course, but one has to wonder what could have been, even just a little bit.

But this post is leaving out a whole lot. I'm sure there are a lot of Bananarama obsessives out there in the audience, what do you guys think of as the band's high point?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"L'Ortolan" - Lilli C a r r é

L'Ortolan from Lilli Carré on Vimeo.

So, Lilli Carre, the young cartoonist whose book The Lagoon is one of the more interesting books I've read in t he last few years, has been making these strange little short films and uploading them on her Vimeo page (all in addition to the great drawings and animated .gifs she has on her blog. She has about five shorts uploaded, and each one is well worth the time it takes to watch (I think What Hits the Moon is particularly good).

The re-emergence of this kind of animation is, I think, one of the great things about the youtube/vimeo world we live in right now. You used to get a ton of short animation as a part of going out to the movies, of course, but that hasn't been true for years and years before we were born, despite the botched attempts by theaters like the IFC center in NY to add short films to their programming. But lo and behold, put up an online video service and you start to get things like this - charming, low budget, and personal. Not to overstate the democracy of this sort of thing - Carre is an accomplished cartoonist with four published books to her name, in addition to all the short work she's done in publications like MOME - and I do not want this to sound like triumphalism for the web. But the existence of this sort of thing, readily accessible and for free, is the kind of thing that makes a bright and sunny morning feel just a little bit less wretched.

Also: Renee French has the best blog of any working cartoonist, by my estimation.