Sunday, June 28, 2009

Record Scores - Your Soaking In It

Lee Konitz - Motion Lp (Verve)
- 1981 Japanese remaster of a 1961 session with Sonny Dallas & Elvin Jones. Good clean trio work on 5 standards, a good breezy summer album. Elvin Jones is serious.

John Coltrane - Kulu Se Mama Lp (Impulse!)
- The astonishing John Coltrane Quartet plus Pharoah Sanders!

John Coltrane - Africa/Brass Lp (Impulse!)
- The Africa/Brass sessions are some of my favorite. The experimentation is fluid, natural, effortless...

BusCrates 16-Bit Ensemble - Test Press 7" (The Harmony Society)
- It's so awesome holding this in my hands. i will probably write a little something up here once everything is finished, but you can also check out for more announcements.

Cannonball Adderley Quintet - Hummin' 7" (Capitol)
- After finding the 12inch with the Large Professor remix of "Hummin" last week, I was flipping through the 45s at the digging spot, mostly looking for some cool labels i could use for a poster design i was working on, and came across a copy of this gem in good condition. The flipside is "Country Preacher," famously sampled by Pete Rock, but I love the original with the dubbed in applause from a church congregation giving the track its very stirring quality.

Brother Jack McDuff - Oblighetto 7" (Blue Note)
- another great jazz 45. I have somewhere around 15 Jack McDuff albums, but i have yet to stumble across the album "Moon Rappin" that features "Oblighetto". Hard hammond soul jazz.

The Works - Yokahama 12" (Rust)
- a nice 4 cut EP from friend of 720 Records, Thomas AKA Terry Tester with production partner Twelve Beats. This EP includes one cut with an MC and 3 downtempo instrumentals. Lots of thickly layered, dusty samples. good stuff.

Vincent Van Go Go - Do U Know? 7" (Murena)
- a poppy, soul group from Denmark who croon to the out-for-a-drink-crowd. not normally my thing, but they do their act over snappy, live-sounding production from The Works, the production duo of Terry Tester & Twelve Beats.

Quincy Jones - Gula Matari Lp (A&M)
- Keeping that 'Hummin' theme going, this album not only features an extended jam session in the title track from great musicians like Ron Carter, Eric Gale, Herbie Hancock, Toots Thielemans, Bob James, Hubert Laws... but also includes a strong, slinky cover of "Hummin"

DJ Cam - Success 12" (Inflamable)
- this 12inch was a big hit at the radio station where i worked, and i've just never run across it before. France's answer to DJ Krush has a pretty standard hiphop beat reworked by Kenny Dope, Attica Blues, and Thievery Corporation. Attica Blues won this contest, really making the track their own with added vocals from Roba, and that crunchy sampling style.

Chris Bowden - Beautiful Nasty 12" (Ninja Tune)
- i passed on Chris Bowden's somewhat tame jazz/downtempo hiphop fusion stuff because it just didn't really push any boundaries, but i found this single at the digging spot for cheap and the mix of live instruments and programmed composition is well achieved if a little forgettable.

Brenda Russell - S/T Lp (Horizon)
- Went to catch Thomas Cox, Jwan Allen, and friends spin some house and disco, and when Tom dropped "Way Back When," a slow, but aggressive disco stomper, i had to make a note to score this. I still couldn't tell you what 10 good off-chart disco cuts are, but i'm definitely more open to the genre.

Dudley Perkins - Fonky Soul 12" (Epistrophik Peach Sound)
- Dudley Perkins aka Declaime is a great emcee because he brings a very unique perspective, and a loose, freestyle approach to his rhymes, but that also has a way of making a lot of his work sound half-assed and silly some of the time. Luckily, any shortcomings in the craft of Dudley's rhymes is more than made up for by the thick, syrupy, cosmic space boogie layed down by Georgia Anne Muldrow. Ms. Muldrow is currently one of the only active artists currently on my shortlist, and people are seriously sleeping.

Build An Ark - Dawn Remixes 12" (Kindred Spirits)
- Like any Kindred Spirits release, when you see it available, snap it up, especially if it's from this juggernaut spiritual soul jazz collective. Much like the Remix EP for "Peace With Every Step," Carlos Nino & Friends farm out cuts from their 2nd album to get reworked by some of the best underground beat scientists doin' thangs for the love of the music. Like that first EP, these remixes are going to take some time getting used to, because most of the time, I'm just straining to hear the beautiful originals buried under the new quantized drums. Daedelus returns for another go around, and his is once again the best. His style really emphasizes the peaceful nature of Build An Ark's sound, and i really prefer that to Ras G's attempt to bring the banging snares. The Long Lost's remix is the same as the one from the 7", which is frustrating since it made that record redundant, but they're a great group and a good match. Basically this 12" has just made me more impatient for the delayed 3rd album from Build An Ark, which was supposed to be out last month. If Carlos Nino puts out much more music this year, he's going to monopolize my top 10 list.

Baron Zen - Strange Woman's Room 12" (Stones Throw)
- one of Stones Throw's electro artists, Baron Zen was active from 1988-1992, making music at home like a pop-locking Emily Dickinson. The nutty cratedigging squad behind Stones Throw and Now Again records unearthed his stuff and brought him out of retirement to make new electro-rap oddness. Most of the material I have from Baron Zen in the past has been reworked by James Pants, so i'm not entirely sure how much i like Baron's stuff on its own. This single, which has 2 tracks, plus remixes by James Pants and Peanut Butter Wolf, isn't really doing it for me.

The Boogoos - Theme De Yoyo / The Journey 12" (Perfect Toy)
- A modern Bulgarian afrobeat ensemble? yeah, i'm all kinds of skeptical about this one. Even the best afrobeat groups today sound like Fela cover bands, often much more compelling live than on record. But this group hooked me by covering "Theme de Yoyo," one of my favorite oddball soul-jazz tracks from The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and they do it justice. The flip is one of their originals and it stacks up fine against the likes of Antibalas, Akoya Afrobeat, Nomo... so good on 'em.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Record Scores - Bill Murray Marathon

Anthony Braxton - New York, Fall 1974 Lp (Arista)
Yusef Lateef - The Gentle Giant Lp (Atlantic)
Cannonball Adderley / Ronnie Foster - Hummin (Large Professor Remix) / Summer Song (Diamond D Remix) 12" (Blue Note)
Dom Um Romao - Spirit Of The Times Lp (Muse)
Skull Snaps - Skull Snaps Lp (GSF)
Boss - Progress Of Elimination 12" (Def Jam)
Marion Brown - Vista Lp (Impulse!)
Phenomenal Hand Clap Band - Baby 7" (Truth & Soul)
Little Girls - Thrills Lp (Mexican Summer)
Tortoise - Beacons Of Ancestorship Lp (Thrill Jockey)
Ty Segall - Universal Momma 7" (True Panther Sound)
Loren Connors - The Curse Of Midnight Mary Lp (Family Vineyard)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Record Scores - The Sweet Stack Of Music And The Depressing Rant That It Inspired.

Flotsam & Jetsam - No Place For Disgrace Lp (Elektra)
Skinny Boys - Skinny (They Can't Get Enough) Lp (Jive)
Title Tracks - Every Little Bit Hurts 7" (Dischord)
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - Alyo 10" (Honest Jons)
Ghost - The Payoff 12" (Breakin Bread)
Eric Kloss - Sky Shadows Lp (Prestige)
Carpenter Ant - Never Stop Skating 7" (Union City/Double Decker)
Shirley Scott - Mucho, Mucho Lp (Prestige)
Hawkwind - Hall Of The Mountain Grill Lp (United Artists)
Mood - Secrets Of The Sand 12" (Blunt)
A Tribe Called Quest - Beats, Rhymes & Life 2xLp (Jive)
Alice Coltrane - Radha-Krsna Nama Sankirtana Lp (Warner Bros.)
Alice Coltrane - Transcendence Lp (Warner Bros.)
Doug Carn - Spirits Of The New Land Lp (Black Jazz)
El Chicano - Viva Tirado Lp (Kapp)
Jack McDuff - The Reentry Lp (Muse)
Kenny Drew Trio - If You Could See Me Now Lp (Inner City)
Chico Freeman - Spirit Sensitive Lp (India Navigation)
Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden & Ed Blackwell - Old And New Dreams Lp (ECM)

The last 10 titles came from a record show just up the street from my house. It was different from the usual depressing record fairs that you find at Holiday Inns across the country because it was at a bar, pretty informally organized, and the people selling stuff were just thinning out their collections. It was not the weird dudes who thought that their Elvis, Beatles and Rolling Stones records were a ticket to easy street. It was also not the dudes that treat records like a bulk business, tractor-trailering hundreds of boxes around of never-hit 12"s by artists like Da Brat. Still, as i type up this list of goodies, hoping to make some other record nerd out in the ethernet just a little bit jealous, I'm feeling a twinge of melancholy. These are records that have been collected, dug out of the crates, kissed with that sense of victory, that consumer high, and now that luster has left. Sure, that's how this digging game works. I get that Chico Freeman record because your tastes have evolved to apalachian folk music, or you desperately want a flatscreen television, or you can't make rent, or you're accumulating medical bills, or your husband just died... As I celebrate fishing my wish, and adding that Hawkwind record to my collection, it's a little bit like digging a soccer trophy out of a Goodwill bin.
sheeeeit. as soon as i drop that needle into the deep, black ocean of ripples, squeeze a little taste of victory out of that raw human creativity, I'll forget all about that melancholy. Never come down.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ocular Optometrical - Halfway To The Year We Make Contact

Some films i've watched in the past few months.
As always, when writing about any of these, I will try to avoid any big plot points, to avoid ruining them.

The Hangover (2009) - Opened with a Glenn Danzig song, which was a damned good start, but then got a little dicey with a bunch of homophobic frat humor. Even though most of the best gags are in the trailer, it was an entertaining enough comedy. Zach Galifianakis, whose stand-up material i find way too self-indulgent, is actually really good and subdued.

Good Humor Man - a little indie drama, most noteworthy for featuring Jorge Garcia (Hurley of LOST) playing against type as an antisocial menace. A good, slow & meandering plot, sprinkled with honest observations, and a bit of the 'Rivers Edge'. Some of the script is a bit too precious, but there is no lack of earnestness.

Land Of The Lost (2009) - way better than you'd expect. Galaxy Quest meets that Will Ferrell character with a little bit of that Danny McBride character sprinkled on top. Thankfully they left out the two kid characters too! The only Will Ferrell movie i've been able to stomach since Elf.

Science Is Fiction

Living Dead Girl - A decent French zombie film from the early 80's, which basically mimics the Italian zombie movies of the 70s. Why futz with a good formula? Slow walking euro-babes, gorey eye & throat stabbing, people standing around talking about the threat of zombie babes... A good film to organize your records too.

Coraline - Dark, creative, and beautiful. This will terrify most children, and open a deep vein of gallows humor in the right ones.

The Package - Caught up in a huge conspiracy, Gene Hackman devolves from a cracker-jack sargeant in the Army into a guy that knows how to look people up in the phonebook. A weird thriller from the 1989 that somehow looks like its already aged 40 years. Shakespearean thespian, Tommy Lee Jones co-stars in one of the 30 sub-plots.

The Man From Earth - avoid this shit. Take a single, largely uninteresting hypothesis of pseudo-science and hand it to a group of scene-chomping, community players to run it into the ground over and over again.

Champion - A documentary about the interesting character-actor with an off-hollywood past, Danny Trejo, featuring a bunch of talking heads waxing non-commitally about him for an hour. Edited like they were expecting to sell it to the E! Network, with redundant place holders already in place for the 3,000 commercial breaks.

Party Down - Season 1

Up (2009) - This movie made me sob uncontrollably... twice. During the 2nd half, the film tries to shoehorn a more traditional kids story in, and i got a little bit bored, but, over all, this is a great movie. The dog animation is stunning.

Drag Me To Hell (2009) - A fun piece of schlocky horror like only Raimi could deliver.

Candyman - I had never seen this and felt like it was regarded well enough by enough people that, as a horror fan, I should know what it was. It isn't bad. I appreciate that it has a new, original mythology and that the exposition unfolds pretty naturalistically. Even small touches like the pompous professor having already written a paper on the Candyman myth and dismissing it as passe material give the movie a lived-in quality. Candyman himself is an interesting villain but not quite as menacing as you'd want. There is a stiffness to the 90's ideal of cool, a stayed, detached, quip-dispensing standard, that informs Candyman even though he is written to be more passionate and violent. Virginia Madsen is a good hero, capable and adventurous, but the film does tread in some uncomfortable scenes of angry black people accepting a white savior because she's hip and not like those other racists; basically the liberal fantasy.

Terminator: Salvation (2009) - Loud and boring.

Con Air - I caught this on TNT, and it was the perfect TNT movie.

Mission Impossible 3 - Another TNT movie, and the only Mission Impossible film that i've managed to see all of the way through.

Mask Of the Ninja - Casper Van Dien fights ninjas in this classic 2nd-Unit film (a film where the crew that usually shoots all of the stunt scenes decides that they are tired of playing second fiddle and try to make their own film only to end up with a movie crammed full of flashpots, flame bars and air cannons). This movie features, not one but, two scenes at an asian massage parlor, both with dialogue about 'happy endings.'

Doubt - Meryl Streep gives an acting seminar. The rest of the cast and the film's plot struggle to make it mean something profound, but largely come up short.

They Came Back - An interesting French movie that takes the zombie premise of your loved ones coming back from the dead but excizes the notion that they just want to kill you. It asks some fun questions about the psychological impact of returning from the dead or accepting a loved one back after having already dealt with the loss, the burden on governments & communities of supporting them, and the underlying question of what their purpose is. The movie seems to be at a loss when it comes to moving beyond those questions though, and slowly fizzles out as it tries to inject a conventional plot.

Observe And Report (2009) - i liked this okay. i have very low expectations when it comes to comedies these days. i think the cast did pretty well, and, at any given time, 1/2 of the humor lands while the rest leaves you shaking your head. A lot of the film relies on that sense of disbelief when jokes are taken well beyond the limit of good taste, and while that is sometimes cheap and immature, it is more interesting than your usual bout of well worn homophobic frat jokes.

Andromeda Strain

Troll / Troll 2 - Troll 2 is celebrated as one of the worst films ever made, and it's bad, but bad in the sense that a bunch of non-filmmakers got together and tried their hand at it. It's badly acted, scripted and shot, but its honest and fun. Honestly, that doesn't mean it doesn't drag or get willfully stupid at times, but i can roll with 'shot in the park' over soulless, Hollywood dreck any day of the week.

Next Day Air (2009) - This was awful and NOT the loveable stoner comedy that the commercials advertised. All of Mos Def's scenes are in the commercial. Everyone plays this as a broad comedy but at the same time want to be "real" so they shoot and beat people, a lot. It reminded me of the weird disconnect in tone of 'Smoking Aces.'

The Girlfriend Experience (2009) - Soderbergh's movie that pretty effectively blurs the line between drama and documentary by casting porn star Sasha Grey as an escort and interviewing her character with questions you could easily have for a porn star. It's not bad, but it could have explored a few more ideas to prevent it from feeling slightly inconsequential

Star Trek (2009) - This was the sort of film that Star Trek producers have been trying to make since Star Wars came out, a film that is action packed, funny and full of wonder about space travel. I'm not really a Star Trek fan, but i've been around the geek block long enough that i've absorbed most of the show's mythology, so i got all of the references in the movie. The movie has some nagging plot problems and plays the humor too broad in some scenes (anything involving Simon Pegg for example) but it's all easily overlooked in deference to the sharp pacing and clever service to both fanboy and normal audiences. Critics who insist that this film somehow betrays Roddenberry's original vision of a stark humanist celebration of hard science can come down out of the clouds, take an honest look at the television and film history of Star Trek and acknowledge that just because space ship battles and bare-chested fist fights are done poorly doesn't mean that they're not the main focus, or that most of the movies involve fuzzy, feel-good, Christian fantasy.

GI Joe - Resolute (2009) - If you played with the 3 3/4" GI Joe figures. watched the cartoon or read the Marvel comics as a kid, then you owe it to yourself to see this. This is essentially an anime adaptation that manages to distill most of propety's mythology into a satisfying movie with the added notion that bullets and explosions can harm the human body.

Crank: High Voltage (2009) - Good schlocky fun. It gets a little Manswers/Maxim at times in the way that it celebrates misogyny or racism and then lets itself off of the hook by winking but I don't think you could take such an anarchistic approach to storytelling and remain politically correct.

Wolverine (2009) - Committee filmmaking of the worst kind. Hugh Jackman does a very admirable job of throwing himself into the role and really trying to carry this piece of shit by himself, but was doomed from the start by an awful script.

The Loved One

Caprica (2009) - I wish that Ron Moore had started this series at the same time that he was doing Battlestar Galactica so that he would have had a dumping ground for all of his terrible ideas and BSG could remain pure and kick ass. This is poorly made hokum deserving of the Sci-Fi channel.

Geisha Assassin
Fanboys (2009)
Watchmen (2009)
Knowing (2009)

Monsters Vs Aliens (2009) - This just gave me a headache after a while. Lots of shouting and disorienting 'camera' moves. It reminds me of the first time I saw people playing Street Fighter Vs Capcom 2 at an arcade and it made me feel too old to ever grasp the hyperactiving on display.

Friday the 13th (2009) - Given a bankrupt idea like remaking Friday the 13th in 2009, this is the movie that you will end up with. The only thing that this movie added was an unwelcome self-awareness that leads to the inclusion of the 80's cliche rich asshole, subversion of the slasher film sex rule, and violent slapstick humor from Jason.

The Last House On The Left (2009)
The Haunting In Connecticut (2009)
Notorious (2009)
Taken (2009)
Donkey Punch
The Burrowers
Land Of Plenty
Tokyo Zombie
Tell No One
Frozen River
Double Dare
Advise & Consent
Rachel Getting Married
Still Life
The Signal
War Inc.
Extreme Movie
Stoned Age
Little Children
The Good Night
The Verdict
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer
The Ten
Final Destination 3
Blue Sunshine
Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired