Dedicated to classics and hits.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Show Review: Holograms (Captured Tracks) & TV Ghost (In the Red) @ Soda Bar

Show Review:
Holograms (Captured Tracks)
 & TV Ghost (In the Red)
@ Soda Bar  San Diego, CA.

  I found myself at the Soda Bar last night, looking at Instagram photos of the label head of Captured Tracks, Mike Sniper, hanging out in NYC with my partners in Zoo Music, watching one of his bands play, a band from Sweden, thinking about the recent glut of Bergman films I've watched in the last few weeks, and the fact that I had August Strindberg's By The Open Sea waiting to be completed upon my return home.   It's all...interconnected.

 Parked over at the formerly The Void parking lot-  The Void is definitely closed- next time I'll check the front door to see if a formal announcement has been posted.  Soooo mysterious- want to hear what happened?

  Opening band TV Ghost is from Indiana and on In The Red- another Revolver/Midheaven distributed label.  They have an LP out that didn't quite make it to Pitchfork (track review, but no album review.)  TV Ghost performed as a five piece and had a trad goth-rock sound:  keyboards/synths and howling, stylized vocals on top of a basic rock line up.  Considering they come from Indiana I'd say they've done pretty well- and the crowd was into it, but they are a bit to clunky for my taste- particularly the drumming, which needs an upgrade.  They'll never be Pitchfork darlings and the five piece look is daunting, but they aren't wasting their time.

  Watching Holograms to see why Captured Tracks locked them up so fast, I could see it.  Personally- and I say this as someone who released a 7" from a UK band last year and is releasing a 7" from a Danish band next year, and as someone who produced and distributed an LP in EU/UK only this year, I have my issues with bands from the EU.  The US is SUCH a huge market, and it is SUCH a stretch for a UK/EU indie band to make any sort of impression in the US.  You almost need to have a major label backing you to make the leap- add in the lack of a booking agent or prior touring experience and the hurdles can seem overwhelming.

 Holograms fight those issues with an appealing goth pop sound that recalls, who else, Joy Division. Although their PR narrative typically involves a discussion of the privation they've experienced growing up on the rough streets of Stockholm, Sweden, they looks to be healthy and happy, with equipment befitting a touring band in the US.  I don't know if Captured Tracks is supporting them on the road, but they were hardly the clad in rags waifs you would expect if you've read anything about them online.

  They pulled a very good crowd- I was expecting low turn out but it was crowded at the Soda Bar- who almost seemed caught by surprise by the turn out (only had one bartender working.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Wise Blood (1979) d. John Houston

Harry Dean Stanton in John Houston's 1979 film Wise Blood

Movie Review
Wise Blood (1979)
 d. John Houston
Criterion Collection #470

  Yeah I mean I've lived my whole life and I just found out that "Southern Gothic" is a literary genre, that Flannery O'Connor is emblematic of the Southern Gothic literary genre, that Wise Blood was Flannery O'Connor's first novel and that it was published in 1956, and that this film version- WHICH IS AMAZING- was made by John Houston in 1979, and set in the 1970s.  I watched Wise Blood simply because it is on my Hulu Plus quesue and close to the bottom- and is an actual Criterion Collection title vs. those Eclipse titles they try to pawn off as legit Criterion Collection titles.

  Wise Blood is like a constituent element of what we would today call "Lynchian" though it also dove-tails with contemporary film makers like Harmony Korine, as well as the American independent films of the 60s and 70s.  That Lynchian aspect is emphasized by the sepulchral presence of Harry Dean Stanton as a "blind" preacher.  All of the performances are creepy and distinctly "southern" in tone.  Presumably, Houston made a conscious choice to transport the late 50s time of the book to a late 70s reality.

  If you are a fan of the Jarmusch/Lynch/Van Sant wing of the Indie Film Museum- don't miss Wise Blood- it is a  MUST.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Inferno (1908) by Henri Barbusse

Book Review
The Inferno (1908)
by Henri Barbusse

   The Inferno (L'enfer) is a proto existentialist work about an unnamed protagonist who finds a hole in the wall of his boarding house room, allowing him to spy on his neighbors in a variety of "shocking" behaviors: adultery and homosexuality included.  This might be the least popular Novel on the 1001 Books List. The Inferno only has a "stub" Wikipedia page.

  Considering the racy subject matter, seems like a property ripe for a revisiting but until we get the movie version, the fact that the original is brief and an early trip to the play fields of 20th century existentialism is about all that needs to be said.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Show Review: INC. @ Soda Bar ALSO: THE VOID IS CLOSED

Formerly bar Eleven, the Void appears to have shut for renovations: The Void 2013-2013

Show Review:
INC. @ Soda Bar

  I went to see INC. last night at Soda Bar, but I parked in the Void parking lot to see what was up because they have officially zero shows booked for the rest of time.  To recall, my initial announcement of the Void being in existence was published on January 13th, 2013.  As of last night, I infer that the Void is now closed and being remodeled. I don't know if the name is being kept or what, but as of 10 PM last night there was construction equipment in the parking lot and the front door was closed.  Those observations, combined with the lack of upcoming events of any kind, cause me to surmise that something is amiss, or that it is something more than an update of the present Void- because why wouldn't any shows be booked for the future?

 If it turns out the Void is, in fact, done, just wanted to say that I thought it brought some fresh energy to San Diego, and while I don't think "it will be missed" is strictly speaking, accurate, it was appreciated while it existed.

 As for INC. they fit squarely- squarely- into the new genre of pbr&b where young people re-create the sounds of 70s/80s/90s r&b with home computer emulators, sampling, and in the case of INC., and actual six string bass.  I could maybe hear why 4AD signed this band, but I certainly couldn't see it.  It is a positive flood of bands in 2013 that came through with electronic inspired music and failed to make an actual impression on a live audience.  Shades of the Witch House trend of 2010-2011, and Lo Fi before that 2006-2008.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Song Writing Technique for Top 40 Songs: Getting Into the Chorus Quickly/Having a Chorus

  It is common for art critics to flatly assert a variation of the refrain that the general audience for art commerce has "no" taste.  This argument is derived from the long discredited distinction between "high" vs. "low" art, and is as antiquated as the later distinction (between high/low art.)  In fact, the large popular Audience for art does have a specific taste in terms of song construction.  There are techniques that cut across genre, artist and international markets to unite the Artists who write songs that appear on Top 40 playlists.

  The single most wide ranging song writing technique that Top 40 compositions share in common is that there is a quick opening verse- often it is only a refrain or couplet- followed by the full weight of the chorus.

  Story of My Life by One Direction is #6.  The chorus for Story of My Life comes in at just over a minute, ends at 1:50- through a four minute song- meaning that the chorus occupies half of the first half of the composition.

  In this Luke Bryan country/hip hop/rocker, the full chorus drops a little over 40 seconds into the 3:30 run time.  That's My Kind of Night is up to number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.

  Timber actually OPENS with the chorus, a technique increasingly prominent in the genres of EDM and hip hop.  It is #2 right now on the Billboard Hot 100.

  So like every time I watch a shitty rock band play a club I ask myself the question, "Why the fuck does it take you so long to get into your chorus OR Why don't you have choruses/Why do your choruses suck.  Show you can adhere to established artistic conventions before you go off trying to reinvent the wheel. After all, if you want to perform your compositions live there must be some desire to actually PLEASE your Audience, so why not become aware of what actually pleases an Audience in practice, even if it is an Audience you despise.

  Burn by Ellie Goulding hit #16 on the Billboard 100- chorus comes a minute in.


A Room With A View (1908) by E.M. Forster

Helena Bonham Carter starring as Lucy Honeychurch in the 1985 Merchant-Ivory production of the 1908 novel by E.M. Forster.

Book Review
A Room With A View (1908)
by E.M. Forster

  I'm sure I'm not the only person who associates the books of E.M. Forster with the films of Merchant-Ivory Productions.  In fact, A Room With A View is perhaps the best known of E.M. Forster's books as well as the quintessential movie version of the book.  Released in 1985, the movie version stars Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch, the familiar young female protagonist familiar to readers of any novels at all written before 1908.  The movie version also paired Dame Maggie Smith as Charlotte Bartlett with Dame Judi Dench as the novelist/ troublemaker Eleanor Lavish.  A sterling and iconic cast to be sure, casting being a particular strong point of all of the Merchant-Ivory/Forster adaptations.

 It is impossible to discuss the Novel itself without referring to the relationship between Henry James and  E.M. Forster, which from my perspective looks like the relationship between a master and a student picked up early on.  A Room With A View shows a concern with fashion and style- in the same way that Patrick Bateman's monologue about Huey Lewis and the News functions in the American Psycho novel.  Lucy's prediliction for playing Beethoven on the piano is a central metaphor/plot point, and the idea of Italy as a stylish place for young English heroines to go is developed more like a Henry James novel than any other examples that come before it (Standard English Novel marriage plots taking place in Italy.)

  Forster shows several narrative/stylistic techniques in A Room With A View that are arguably "better" or "more sophisticated" than the techniques of Henry James himself.  For example the A Room With A View starts in what I would call "in situ" by which I mean that all of the pieces have been arranged without any reference in the novel itself.  Forster knows that his Audience knows "how this starts."  You compare that with any James novel and it's clear that Forster has advanced, because omitting the first 40-50 pages of exposition creates a more visceral connection with the reader.

  It also produces a length that is close to the novel equivalent of the three minute formula for a pop song.  You can sit down and read A Room With A View in a sitting if you dig the plot.  You CAN NOT say that for the other novels that were being published around that time.  Even Henry James himself.  From that "in situ" start it is easy to see why A Room With A View  would make a good film adaptation-  Forster saves the adapter the difficulty of pairing down Lucy's back story, a familiar component of similar novels at that time and before.

 I haven't actually watched the movie version but looking at the pictures of Helena Bonham Carter on Google Image Search I'm going to search for it now.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hits from 1908: Fig Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin

Hits from 1908: Fig Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin

  What were the cool kids listening to in 1908?  RAG TIME PIANO MUSIC. I am all about 1908, as should be some-what clear by now.

Sawdust and Tinsel (1953) d. Ingmar Bergman

Movie Review
Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)
 d. Ingmar Bergman
Criterion Collection #412

  Understanding the career of Ingmar Bergman requires understanding his initial "break out" from the European film scene into the American/UK markets.  Ingmar Bergman started directing films in the 1940s.  By the time The Seventh Seal was released, February 16th, 1957, he had been making films for a decade.  As this Google Ngram showing the popularity of Bergman in the English language clearly demonstrates, 1957-1958 was a break out year for him in terms of audience size:

  You can see that between 1950 and 1960, Berman experience a 500% rise in popularity.  The release of back-to-back masterpieces: The Seventh Seal in February AND Wild Strawberries at Christmas in the same year, clearly led to a dramatic uptake among English language movie fans.  This rise in popularity continued until 1975, when Bergman reached his peak, likely as a result of Bergman influenced American film makers (Woody Allen, most notably) reaching their peak.

  Thus, whatever one may think of Bergman's pre 1957 out put, it's important to recognize that any appreciation is essentially in the nature of a revival.  Films like Summer with Monika and Sawdust and Tinsel were, at best, novelties, and did not have the break out quality of The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries.  What you see in these earlier filims is a working-out of what was to become the Bergman signature style of combining dry humor with trenchant meditations on subjects like death and loneliness.

Harriet Andersson in Sawdust and Tinsel.

 In Sawdust and Tinsel, the story is a more conventional melodrama, though with obvious Bergman signature like an explicit acknolwedgement of human sexuality as well as actress Harriet Andersson playing her lusty peasant girl character to the hilt.

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