Sunday, May 24, 2015

“On Tender Hooks” DVD (director: Kate Shenton)

Flawed look at fringe subculture

Fakir Musafar and Re/Search’s “Modern Primitives” have a lot to answer for. This documentary centers on the growing subculture of “suspension”, i.e. hanging oneself from meathooks. Director Shenton follows several practitioners in England, as well as partaking herself in a suspension ritual in the final chapter of this marginal film.

As shocking as this film purports to be, I found myself bored and restless, but not because of the “taboo” subject matter. The focus on a small and idiosyncratic group of piercing and suspension fans doesn’t include any history or clear lineage of the practice. Nor does it really touch upon much of the spiritual or cultural significance behind these body modifications. What is the genesis of such a practice? Why would modern-day people return to these rituals? “On Tender Hooks” strikes me as a personal document of Shenton’s experience, but does little to illustrate why it should be significant to an outside audience. As I don’t know Ms. Shenton nor have any insight into her life or history, I’m just left watching someone else’s experience, with little insight. Maybe this one has its own fringe “in-the-know” audience, but to an outsider like me, there is little to glean here, sorry.

Devo - “Hardcore Devo Live!” DVD

Well-done live document 

The fact that I’m not a big fan of Ohio’s legendary Devo doesn’t affect my appreciation for their unique contribution to modern music. Being so instrumental in the developments of both American punk as well as early electronic pop isn’t a feat that should be ignored, as Devo were certainly inspirations to bands from both genres. And although some may only know the band from their mega-radio hit “Whip It” from 1980, they have had a number of memorable and popular cuts that transcend description and era.

Despite the loss of Bob 2 (Bob Casale) in 2014, the band soldiered on with a series of shows called “Hardcore Devo” — focused solely on their earliest, classic material (1974 to 1977). This DVD documents that tour, complete with early and obscure proto-electronic rock tracks that continue to wow and bewilder fans. It’s a seriously professional document, recorded impeccably with multiple cameras quality angles. And, of course, the music is still pretty weird. You get greats like “Bamboo Bimbo”, “Midget”, “Uncontrollable Urge”, You Got Me Bugged (Booji Boy)”, and a ton more.

Fans will already own this one, and if you consider yourself a serious Devo-tee, this one’s for you.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Front Line Assembly - “Kampfbereit ” DVD

First digital live document of veteran industrial band

Vancouver-based electro-industrial group Front Line Assembly have been around for almost 30 years now. It’s a damned shame, but this is their first ever live DVD. The classic 1996 film “Live Wired” has shamefully never been converted to DVD from it’s VHS format, so this is, well, the first, believe it or not!

“Kampfbereit” documents FLA’s 2011 “Improvised.Electronic.Device” tour in Canada, and it does so quite well, especially for the shoestring budget of Anastasia Blink (aka Nasty Byte), who basically crafted this as a labor of love. Without a heaping of digital effects (one of the main complaints about the aforementioned “Live Wired”), Nasty Byte captures the energetic live antics of bouncy frontman Bill Leeb and his team with intensity and honesty. And although I’m making this sound like a bootleg, keep in mind that this well-edited DVD features multiple camera angles, a great mix, etc. It’s far and above the best live visual document of FLA out there, bar none.

Highlights here include classic tracks like “Circuitry”, “Plasticity”, and “Millennium”, and the encore, “Liquid Separation”, all physically intense with the addition of Jason Bazinet (SMP) on live drums. Simply said, any serious fan of FLA (and I include myself in that category) needs to pick up this DVD pronto. It’s a great document and a fun show.

“Memory Lane” DVD (director: Shawn Holmes)

Flawed indie sci-fi

This indie sci-fi/thriller goes in some interesting directions, for sure, but ultimately doesn’t seem to capture the intensity the subject matter deserves. “Memory Lane” follows a troubled war veteran who meets a lovely lass just as she is about to commit suicide. He ends up in love with the mysterious girl (whose full name he never even knows), even going so far as to buy a ring and a house to share with her. Well, when she ends up dead in a bathtub, he convinces himself that she was murdered, and somehow receives visions or flashbacks when he himself attempts (and fails) his own suicide.

He, with the help of his friends, revisits death (via garage-bathtub-electrocution) to reconnect with these visions, hoping to solve the mystery of his love’s passing. It’s a fairly cool premise, but I failed to feel much for the protagonist and his lover, or their predicament. 

Director Holmes definitely has some skillful flourishes as a filmmaker, and some vision, but the overall execution here fails. Editing needs some work, cameras are overly jerky and lighting/dialogue are obscure and sometimes meandering. The acting here is average, but the film’s pace and cinematography made me lose interest quickly. Yes, this one was tough to sit through.

Friday, April 3, 2015

“Necrophile Passion” DVD (director: Tom Heidenberg)

German sicko trashiness

Taking obvious cues (even the box art and font are rip-offs) from the German sicko "classic" “Nekromantik”, this rather foul and explicit descendent/copycat (also, oddly, from Germany, complete with English subtitles) does take itself quite shockingly far, with loads of nudity and rather dubious and vile sex scenes. 

The protagonist is a lonely, troubled, and unlikeable lout with a history of abuse (from an annoying and unloving girlfriend, which seems to be his main hangup). He graduates from simply cutting himself to even more nefarious deeds when he discovers a nude, freshly killed young woman in a woods. It needn't be told what he does to the corpse after a bit of rumination. The lout is played in a mostly wooden fashion by Gunther Brandl, who spends his spare time lazily sulking around his house considering more vile deeds or suicide. I say more power to him, as this guy is really unlikeable in just about every way. Anyway, he eventually decides to get revenge on his hateful girlfriend. Without giving away any spoilers, the ending is indeed a surprise. 

I give “Necrophile Passion” trash-film points for being pretty well disgusting, and with no short supply of breasts or explicit sex scenes. Otherwise, the acting is shallow and unconvincing, the effects adequate at best, and the script pretty unoriginal. Best to leave this one in the bins and invest in Jorg Buttgereit’s great (and still disgustingly shocking) “Nekromantik”.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Rum: Papa's Pilar

So, we here at Goatsden are always open to exploring new spirits, and credit our supporters with “training” us at tasting stuff like sake, whiskeys, wine, and of course plenty of beer. The opportunity to sample some rums that are new to Indiana didn’t go unheeded, so we gladly hopped the train to the islands to try these. Okay, we didn’t have to go that far, but these are really really nice!

Inspired by legendary writer and adventurer Ernest Hemingway (aka “Papa”, and named after his trusty boat, the Pilar), these rums are blended from sources close to Hemingway’s favored travels (the Caribbean, Florida, and Central America), aged at different times in American bourbon barrels, port wine casks, and finished in Spanish sherry casks for added nuance. Yes, if this sounds like a complex mix of rums, you are right.

84 proof, $29.99/750mL

This pale, clean yellow rum pours with an instant aroma of vanilla and fruit, with floral notes. Initial tasting indicates a light, fruit-forward flavor, followed by a mellow spicy character. I also get tones of pear, vanilla, and a sweetness hiding beneath the warm finish.

A solid blonde rum here, certainly, and quite easy to drink.

86 proof, retail $39.99/750mL

This dark amber rum (a blend that includes some 24-year-old rums) pours with an aroma of sweet candy, spice, vanilla, and an earthy, almost peaty, smoky character.

The taste here rums parallel, with an earthy, smoky character and an underlying sweetness under the palate. There’s a potent burn at the finish, but this one remains smooth all the way down.

In short, these are some premium rums, and ones I’d have no problems returning to in the future. These may well be worthy of Hemingway’s considerable legend.

Papa's Pilar site

“High Tech Soul - The Creation Of Techno Music” DVD (director: Gary Bredow)

Superb chronicle of Detroit techno

Director Bredow does a glorious job chronicling the often sadly-neglected history of Detroit techno music — a scene that has spearheaded entire genres of music and inspired thousands of DJs, composers, and artists for decades now. Interviewing nearly every scene luminary, we get to see the faces behind this often-anonymous genre of electronic music. Names like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Eddie Flashin’ Fowlkes, Carl Craig, Richie Hawtin, Jeff Mills, Kenny Larkin, Stacey Pullen, and tons more are featured here, inextricably linked by Detroit’s burnt-out industrial landscapes and a need to express themselves with often-primitive technology. 

It’s relatively brief (lasting just a wee bit over an hour in length), but “High Tech Soul” pinpoints just where this “alien electronica” originates from, as the genre’s forefathers were listening to old-school Kraftwerk, Afrika Bambaataa, and George Clinton records, as well as other oddities wrangled from used record bins and merging that with thumping robotic rhythms and hypnotically soulful flourishes.

Truly, this is an essential history lesson for fans of Detroit’s techno scene. Enlightening, entertaining, and fun, “High Tech Soul” is a must-see for any electronic music aficionado.