Monday 31 December 2018

Best of 2018

2018 LPS
Everywhere At The End Of Time: Stage 5 - The Caretaker
Pastoral - Gazzelle Twin
Make Me Know You Sweet - Pendant
Mandy OST - Johann Johannsson
A Laughing Death In Meatspace - Tropical Fuck Storm
Everywhere At The End Of Time: Stage 4 - The Caretaker
Psychedelic Spirit Show - Moon Wiring Club
Mother - Xylouris White
On Drugs - Primitive Calculators
Unfold - Gabor Lázár
Double Negative - Low*
Sydney Rococo - Steve Kilbey
Addendum - John Maus
Culture II - Migos 
Insula - Proc Fiskal
Cocoon Crush - Objekt
Sleepmassk - Sleepmassk
Ways Of Seeing - The Advisory Circle

This list is not as authoritative or comprehensive as it usually is (go to FACT, ComplexOPIUM-HUM or The Wire for that) because I didn't check out hundreds of albums this year like I normally do. Severe debilitating migraines caused my life to be lived at about a 3rd of its capacity. So I was rarely in a jovial mood to even entertain the thought of listening to the latest pop tune or experimental opus. The above records are just the handful I managed to enjoy in 2018.

I didn't mind Sleep's The SciencesLate Electrics by Rangers, Young Thug's Slime Language/On The Rvn, Future's Beast Mode 2Kazuashita by Gang Gang Dance, Laurel Halo's Raw Silk Uncut WoodThe Invisible World Of... by Beautify Junkyards, Neville Watson's The Midnight Orchard, Duppy Gun's Miro Tape etc. They might have ended up in my main best of 2018 list but I just haven't listened to them enough to rate them properly. I can't even recall if I liked Let's Eat Grandma's I'm All Ears or Sophie's Oil Of Every Pearl's Un probably not.

There were new records from GasOneohtrix Point Never, Alvin Lucier, Eli Keszler, Chris Carter, Bruce, The Weekend, Metro Boomin, Pusha T, Cardi B, Travis Scott, Rico Nasty, Teyana Taylor, Playboi Carti, Vince Staples, 21 Savage, Chief Keef, Gnod, Dead Can Dance, Julia Holter, Autechre, Supersilent, Jon Hassell, Hailu Mergia and a bunch of others that I just didn't get around to listening to let alone buying. Then there's all the new people I don't know. FACT even have a list of the best 13 ambient LPs of 2018. None of which I've heard either and that's probably where my head should have been at more than anywhere else this year. I'm sure some of this unheard music is good stuff but that's the way my 2018 cookie crumbled.

On the soundtrack front I enjoyed Rob's Revenge OST and Colin Stetson's Hereditary OST but I didn't even get around to that Scott Walker/Sia soundtrack or the new Halloween from John Carpenter & Co.

I nearly fell into the nostalgia traps of new releases from Space Afrika, Beta Librae, Barker... all perfectly adequate facsimiles of past high water marks in innovative electronic music.

...apparently rave is the new old thing...hasn't it been the new old thing for at least seven years now?

...apparently speed garage is also the new old thing...

...liquid Drum'n'Bass, seriously people?!

Was The Sons Of Kemet album really all that?

I wonder what Mark Fisher would have made of Guttersnipe's My Mother The Vent? Being Mars wannabes in 2018 is kinda trad, innit? Talk about not killing yr idols. Mars formed in 1974! Another case of a band picking up on the sonic aesthetics of a band but not understanding the revolutionary ideas behind them.

I don't even know who Twenty One Pilots are or what they same goes for Amnesia Scanner and Tirzah. Do I need to know? Am I missing out?

I enjoyed track-y tunes like Ramos from Ploy and Agua Y Puerta by Lechuga because they sound like I could have made them myself on GarageBand if I could have been bothered.

What would Mark Fisher have thought Part 2: Vessel's Queen Of Golden Dogs? I mean I get what they are doing but why would you want to do that? It feels like a thesis for a music degree doncha reckon?

Oh...and who gives two fucks about Kendrick Lamar when you've got YG serving up Californian gold ala Big Bank! YG is West Coast's main man.

This record is a bit like Sun Kil Moon's Benji album from a few years back, it was hard to ignore due to the groundswell of popularity on the internet and even from the archaic printed paper people. I first heard Low on the legendary Witch In The Colours radio show hosted by Jason Reynolds on Melbourne's 3RRR when I Could Live In Hope was released in 1994. At the time they were described as an American answer to Slowdive, which was a little misleading. I still remember hearing Lazy for the first time and its Slint meets Twin Peaks reverbed vibe had me mesmerised. To me, Low reached perfection in 1995 on their 2nd album Long Division. That LP was a three piece doin electrifying minimal rock with their signature threatening, gloomy and slow burning jamz that sounded like they were recorded in a cold and lonesome echo chamber. Sure they had excellent records after Long Division particularly the following The Curtain Hits The Cast (1996) and a couple recorded with Steve Albini. I lost touch with them after that though. So it was weird listening to them this year but also a joy. Double Negative is like a Low chopped & screwed tape. I don't know how they ended up in this sonic terrain (although they have always had an experimental bent) but it's great that they did. Low are still Low of old ie. lovely yet intense melodious close boy/girl harmonies. Its just that the sonic textures have been beautifully fucked with. Stuff drops in and out, gets slowed down, gets chopped, gets sent into the red, goes glitch-y and disintegrates then swells back to life in a swathe of distortion. The outstanding track Always Tying To Work It Out sounds like DJ Screw could have been at the controls. This all might sound like a strange juxtaposition but it works to an impressive degree. Enthralling.

A Dream Sails Out To Sea: Get At The Wave - Takashi kokubo
Tadaima - Akiko Yano
Paraiso - Harry Hosono & The Yellow Magic Band
Cochin Moon - Haruomi Hosono & Tadanori Yokoo
Philharmony - Haruomi Hosono
Orient - Hiroshi Sato
Black Mass - Lucifer
The Unexplained: Electronic Musical Impressions Of The Occult - Ataraxia
Memoire Magnetique Vol.1 1966-1990 - Bernard Parmegiani
The Girl From Chickasaw County - Bobbie Gentry
Goodbyes And Beginnings - Suzanne Menzel
The Music From Bagpuss - Sandra Kerr & John Faulkner
Impressionz - Ekoplekz
Chronolyse - Richard Pinhas
East West - Richard Pinhas 
Rhizosphere - Richard Pinhas
Jazz, Jazz Jazz - Seif Abu Bakr and The Scorpions
Asnakech - Asnakech Worku feat. Hailu Mergia & Temare Haregu
African Scream Contest Volume 2: Benin 1963-80 - Various
Two Niles To Sing A Melody: The Violins & Synths Of Sudan - Various
Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth-Boogie In 1980s South Africa - Various
Onda De Amor: Synthesized Brazilian Hits That Never Were 1984-94 - Various

These records are obviously in no particular order. Apart from those three LPs mentioned, by Lucifer, Ataraxia (both Mort Garson pseudonyms) and Bernard Parmegiani, I'm pretty out of the loop now when it comes to ye olde pioneering electronics reissues. God I even missed an Aussie Creel Pone release this year! How many live recordings of Throbbing Gristle do I need? Well all of them so I guess one more wouldn't hurt. Then there was a whole deluge of Japanese electronic, ambient, city-pop, image albums and Ghibli soundtracks from the 70s & 80s, a lot of which are getting issued in the west for the first time. Have all the good electronic and horror soundtracks now been reissued? I don't even know if great labels from the 00s like Trunk, Omni Recording Corporation, Strut, Harmless or Finders Keepers are still reissuing interesting esoterica in 2018. On the African tip there were choice compilations on Habibi Funk RecordsSoundwayOstinato Records, Awesome Tapes From Africa and Analog Africa, that stuff seems to be petering out now that they've reached the 80s Post-Boogie/R&B/Pop phase. What comes after that? Probably not much. Then again maybe in Africa they did noise-rock, indie, grunge, riot grrl, acid house, 'ardcore rave, techno, ambient, jungle, speed garage... who knows? Uh-huh! I just saw on the interwebs, a compilation Pantsula! The Rise Of Electronic Dance Music In South Africa 1988-1990 was released last year on on Rush Hour Music.

The anthology show that is sometimes horror, sometimes black comedy, sometimes drama and sometimes all of the above. Most film-makers get 2 hours plus to tell their story and it's usually not a masterpiece. Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton give themselves 29 minutes and make a twisted ripper every time. Only comparable to The Crown in consistency and quality. Their genius is breathtaking!
Even better than the first season.
Pretty good but hey, I guess you can't top The Wire can you?
Fascinating true crime documentary series. Did the justice system get it wrong? Surely Michael Peterson is guilty but yeah I get it, there's not enough solid evidence against him though.
Disturbing four part true crime documentary about a bunch of fucking nutters and their strange hair-brained heist scheme that culminated in the murder of the pizza bomber. I don't know who or what to believe. You do not want people like this in your life.
Alison Brie is so charismatic as is Kate Nash and surprisingly Marc Maron is very good. Best telly soundtrack of the year ie. bunch of terrific old 80s radio songs I haven't heard since the 80s.
Bananas OTT crime drama/soap opera/comedy with the best wardrobe in TV since the 70s. Very 2018. This was entertainment.

Evil Has A Name: The Untold Story Of The Golden State Killer Investigation. 
This is an Audible exclusive. Six hours featuring audio from key detectives, profilers, criminologists, forensic experts, victims etc. in the saga of The Visalia Ransacker/East Area Rapist/The Original Night-Stalker. Fascinating insight into the revolutionary ways of catching old evil cunts ie. Joseph DeAngelo the man who raped over 50 women & girls and killed over 13 people in California from 1974 to 1986. Paul Holes is the rock star of detectives! and the escalating technology surrounding DNA is the catalyst that is the icing on this case's cake. Amazing story.

Happy New Year!

Sunday 30 December 2018

More On Movies XI

Strangers On A train (1951)
Great Alfred Hitchcock noir with fantastic premise, script, actoring, directing etc. Mostly totally riveting and highly suspenseful but there is a bit of a lull when it gets to the tennis scene (Hitchcock loves to not trim his fat) but it comes back strong with a raucous merry go-round climax.

Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)
Funny little melodramatic Hitchcock noir. Sometimes this one gets a bit too ye olde for me but there's no doubt it's a fantastic and suspenseful story though. The cheesiness gets to me but I guess Hitchcock's just trying to contrast that phoney American veneer with the reality of it's dark underbelly like Sam Fuller and David Lynch have done since. Serial killer films have been around for a long time. Many people think Shadow Of A Doubt is the greatest of Hitchcock films including Alfred himself, I do believe.

The Wild Bunch (1969)
I've been expecting to become a late 60s and 70s Western aficionado for a long time now. I've probably enjoyed Spaghetti Westerns more than American ones from that era to be quite honest. I would have expected by now to fully love The Wild Bunch as it is directed by Sam Peckinpah who is responsible for some of my all time favourite films Straw Dogs, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia and The Getaway. I don't hate it, I just don't worship it...oh the sacrilege! I prefer Westerns that were made earlier than The Wild Bunch actually, like say No Name On The Bullet (1959) and 3:10 To Yuma (1957). Maybe due to Deadwood's utter magnificence I will never be able to enjoy Westerns from the New Hollywood era and beyond, the occasional McCabe & Mrs Miller aside. Am I bothered?

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
I don't know what the consensus is now on this film but it was pretty polarised when it was released. I was split in two too and couldn't decide if it was a brilliant masterpiece or complete tosh although I did watch it like 10 times when it was first released. Almost 20 years on I can say it's a pretty good movie if way too long. I am not as concerned with the linear reality of the plot as I once was. Reality and fantasy intermingle to create some pure cinema. I feel like it's a small, perhaps slight story that probably didn't deserve such an epic magnification of its contents. If you give into the cinema of it all you should enjoy or at least not hate Eyes Wide Shut. I guess that'll all depend on whether you can stand Tom & Nic.

Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
Excellent horror/serial killer thriller that I once hated. I cannot for the life of me figure out what I hated about this modern masterpiece. Silence Of The Lambs hardly needs my endorsement.

Frightmare (1974)
Gruesome British family drama horror involving a psycho grandma, insane asylums, mysterious packages, bikers, bartenders, power drills, tarot readings and a body count. Not your typical English horror fare of the time ie. no fangs or cloaks, plenty of blood though. Frightmare has more in common with the demented American movies of the early 70s ie. Last House On The Left, Texas Chainsaw Massacre etc. Highly recommended.

Symptoms (1974)
Spectacular British horror movie. Helen played by Angela Pleasance is mentally fucked up. She invites her friend Anne (Lorna Heilbron) to stay at her mansion in the gloriously picturesque English countryside then shit starts to get weird. Also includes legendary character actor Peter Vaughan (Straw Dogs, Game Of Thrones etc.) as the groundskeeper. A study in feminine psychosis where the atmosphere is hauntingly oppressive. I think this is another UK horror flick that was missing for a while but has now had the full restoration and blu-ray treatment. Great score too.

Frenzy (1972)
The wrong man is nabbed for the crimes of a serial killer known as the necktie murderer in 70s London. Will he be able to prove his innocence or go to gaol for the rest of his life for crimes he did not commit? Alfred Hitchcock could have removed so much flab from this terrific suspenseful story to make it lean and mean but...what the fuck did editors get paid to actually do back then? Definitely worth watching though.

And Soon The Darkness (1970)
Two young English ladies go on a cycling trip through the beautiful French countryside. The once bucolic french landscape gradually becomes a dread inducing nightmare-scape of menacing claustrophobia. And Soon The Darkness is an outstanding, relatively obscure British Giallo. There are so many red herrings, everyone barring the missing woman come under suspicion. Beautifully shot and stylishly put together. A real eye-opener. I recommend.

Mean Streets (1973)
Raging Bull (1980)
King Of Comedy (1982)
Goodfellas (1990)
After Hours (1985)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Casino (1995)

Sunday 9 December 2018

More On Movies X

The Undertaker aka Death Merchant (1988/2010/2016)
Can I say Joe Spinell gets more demented than usual? Probably not after Maniac (1980). He's a loveable undertaker with more than that on his mind and perhaps his colleagues should look out. Sadly this was Spinell's last piece of acting caught on celluloid. You're gonna watch this if you're a Spinell fan (speaking of which here's a mini doc on his life) or just a little bit mental. It's not that bad considering it wasn't even released straight to video at the time. This unfinished movie finally got a semi-official dvd release with stupid added in footage in 2010 by Code Red. The 2016 blu-ray restores The Undertaker to its original form. This is another Vinegar Syndrome release that brings you the dregs from the depths.

Apostle (2018)
Boring horror movie Netflix shit. Got 20 minutes in and that was it.

The Hearse (1980)
Funny and a bit crap but it tightens up a little towards the end. This is a haunted house/satanic/nightmare kinda thing where dreams and reality get blurred. The Hearse is probably loved because of its campy absurdity than due it actually being chilling or frightening. An inept film that seems to miss every beat. Quite a feat.

Don't Answer The Phone (1980)
Strange tone from the very beginning which is so sarcastic. A man who's fat, rapey and hysterical commits ritualistic murders. Very much wrong but somehow enjoyable. I can't believe the brilliant noisy electronic score is actually part of this movie. If you like what I just described you'll either say this is another Vinegar Syndrome winner or moan.

78/52 (2017)
Delve into the minutiae of Alfred Hitchcock's shower scene from Psycho. This is a Netflix documentary that's not as boring as you might imagine. I guess if you don't know much about Hitchcock or Psycho this would be much more interesting ie. I'm very much aware of most of what is being repeated here by so-called horror experts. There were a couple of little bits of information I didn't  know though. I always wondered how they didn't get water on the camera lens in the shot looking directly up at the shower head from fact I'm still not quite sure how they did that. On the talking head front we could have done with a lot less Eli Roth and just way more Bret Easton Ellis!

Secret Ceremony (1968)
Bizarre. This is all about the clothes, the house, the interior design, the eerie, the perversion & the depravity. Not quite like anything else I've ever seen. This film has to be seen to be believed. Cenci (Mia Farrow) is a regressive 22 year old whose mother died when she was little but she finds a lookalikey in Leonora (Liz Taylor) on a bus one day. The strangeness then begins. Add to that a pervy stepfather named Albert played by Mr. Robert Mitcham. Secret Ceremony is an outlandish psychological horror film that is incredibly entertaining. I imagine this is a cult classic in many circles.

The Dead Zone (1983)
An excellent movie that nobody ever says is great. I would have thought people imagined a Stephen King story in the hands of David Cronenberg would have been rather bloody and brutal but Cronenberg tones down the gore here. It's his first time directing a film that he did not write himself. Fine performances from Chris Walken, Herbert Lom, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt etc.

Christmas Evil aka You Better Watch Out (1980)
This film's tone is all over the place. Christmas Evil had real potential but seems to have been put together rather haphazardly. However it's easy to see why it's gained a cult following. It's funny, it's got murder by christmas decoration and Santa is an anti-social outsider. Harry (Brandon Maggart) is a disgruntled toy factory worker who takes it upon himself to become a real life Santa who ends up murdering people who do wrong. Worth watching at least once for historical purposes as this is one of the early examples of a homicidal Santa.

The Hitcher (1986)
I know I watched and wrote about this recently but Emma had never seen it and it's just been issued on blu-ray. The Hitcher would be in my top 10 movies from the 80s. The film-makers just do not miss a beat in this film. I'm thinking that it is perhaps flawless. There is something mysterious about the relationship between the psycho hitcher John Ryder (Rutger Hauer) and Jim Halsey (C Thomas Howell) the kid who gives him a ride. Is there something telekinetic going on or possibly a homosexual subtext? Am I just imagining this? It's hard to tell giving this film an enigmatic aura.

The Stepfather (1987)
I can't believe this is not a TV movie as it just felt like one. ie. rushed script, direction, editing, one take acting etc. The Stepfather has a very similar premise to Michael Winner's 1984 film Scream For Help but it's nowhere near as compelling as that nutty piece of work. Worth a look for slasher completists and fans of psychotic fathers.

Next Of Kin (1982)
I became aware of this film many years ago as someone suggested that the soundtrack was fantastic. Being a fan of Mr Klaus Schulze I tried to find the soundtrack but to no avail. I recently discovered the soundtrack was never actually released but it was a bunch of his music complied from his classic LPs of the 70s and early 80s. Despite Next Of Kin's relative obscurity now, this movie must have been known to cinephiles, at least, because it appeared on the front cover of Australia's legendary film journal Cinema Papers (see above) in 1982. Next Of Kin is a fabulous piece of underrated film-making. Director Tony Williams is obviously influenced by Giallo movies, classic haunted House films and probably The Changeling (1980). The cinematography is stunningly beautiful. It's a good little story with spot on direction, pacing, acting, atmosphere and sound design.

The Alligator (1980)
Great fun When Animals Attack film starring the fabulous Rob Forster. Terrific little story written by John Sayles. Don't you love it when directors write scripts that they don't actually direct? ie. Quentin Tarantino, Terrence Mallick, Larry Cohen, Paul Schrader, Walter Hill etc. A pet baby alligator is flushed down the lou with dire consequences. Funny, bit scary and fine entertainment!

The Last House On The Left (1972)
Haven't seen this for years. Haven't seen Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (1960) which this movie is based on since I was in my early 20s, you know, when you felt like you had to watch every bloody arthouse film ever made. Anyway this left me guessing right up until the end. The Last House On The Left is a nasty yet compelling exploitation/complex rape revenge movie. Wes Craven's not my favourite director but this is way better than his other major 70s effort The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and probably his best work. Ooh the VHS nerd nostalgists wont like that comment.

They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018)
If you're a cinephile, Orson Welles fan or just interested in history you will have probably already watched this on Netflix. It's a great doc about The Other Side Of The Wind, a film that never was. Many years ago there was a documentary on like five or six films that Welles never finished which I recall being very frustrating. However somebody has completed The Other Side Of The Wind. I haven't watched that yet but this doc makes you very excited about the prospect of, at least, seeing a 2018 version of this film.

The Exterminator (1980)
Was not aware of this movie until the Diablolique Website did a fantastic list of the best vigilante films earlier this year. Sure, The Exterminator's not the best film ever but there are some scenes to maybe make it worth watching ie. NYC cesspool, Viet Vets, cars that blow up immediately after crashing, burning people, meat grinders, flame throwers, death by rat etc. It's quite a convoluted plot in a movie that could have done with much more editing.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)
I guess you know to expect absurd vigilante action thrills by now as this is the fourth in the Death Wish series. It's unbelievable that Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) survived this film. We're Back in LA for Death Wish 4. Many baddies have many bad shots at Kersey so he survives to tell another tale. That's enjoyment of Death Wishes 3 and 4 now, perhaps I really am becoming a Charles Bronson fan. Bring on Death Wish 5.

The Changeling (1980)
Not as boring as I remember, actually it's quite the opposite. The Changeling is a brilliant, grim, brutal and ultimately sad haunted house story with a deliberately slow burning pace. I wouldn't say I'm a big haunted house movie fan but this one really gets you in. An incredibly well executed film with stunning cinematography and a great unsettling atmosphere.

Death Line (1972)
Although there are comic moments here this is one of the saddest horror movies ever. I became aware of this in the 90s due to its fantastic Will Malone score. An upper class Englishman goes missing late one night in a London tube station. An investigation ensues with very unexpected, strange and twisted results. Donald Pleasance plays the arsehole Inspector Calhoun brilliantly. Death Line is worth watching for that performance alone but The Man played by Hugh Armstrong is a haunting pièce de résistance of pathos.

Rope (1948)
Alfred Hitchcock is so adept at creating suspense it's ridiculous and er... masterful. Rope is set in real time and I enjoyed every reel minute. Two posh young gentlemen (could perhaps be read as 'preppy dandies') murder an old school chum as some kind of exercise based on the ideas and philosophies of Nietzsche and De Quincey. Will this murder be an act of brilliant supremacy or supreme idiocy? Much technical wizardry and an ace script based on a play from 20 years earlier.