Friday, December 31, 2010

The Blood Arm "Lie Lover Lie"

Remember how I have been going on about how great Everybody Was In The French Resistance… Now! are? As you will recall, they are fronted by Eddie Argos of Art Brut, but his partner in musical crime there is one Dyan Valdés of the Blood Arm, a band previously unknown to me. When I saw a copy of this album by them going cheap, I decided to investigate.

The sleeve to this suggests that what you are looking at is some kind of Goth band – the cover is dark and brooding, and the band photos are black and white and somewhat sinister looking. It was a bit of a surprise, therefore, when it turns out to be somewhat funky, albeit in a whitey kind of way. My beloved reckons that actually it just sounds like a Franz Ferdinand knock-off outfit. I can see where she's coming from, but the singer is a bit more in-your-face. The music is also rather keyboard-driven, suggesting that Dyan Valdés is at least something of a musical force.

I am not sure if this will prove to be a keeper into the long run future, but it does have some insanely catchy tracks. The opener ('Stay Put!') is one of these, but the particular standout for me is 'Suspicious Character', with its wonderful refrain of "I like all the girls / And all the girls like me". Story of my life, basically.

suspicious image

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

v/a "Warp 10+1: Influences"

This came out to celebrate Warp's ten-year anniversary. One of my pals was getting rid of it – and now it is mine! It consists of loads of banging early dance music tunes. – acid house, early techno, stuff by Mr Fingers, Model 500, Phuture, Adonis – that lot.. Every home should have a copy of this – I am amazed it took me so long to get around to acquiring a copy.

More amazingly insightful record reviews coming soon!

this is acid

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Great Internet Things #42


A Query to the Many Readers of Inuit Panda

Hi dere readers of Inuit Panda. You are familiar with the popular record label Ghost Box? Are there good and bad records/bands there, or is it all good? I have found myself looking at their nice product in Tower and thinking of getting me some of their hauntologocial action, but I would not want to accidentally pick up a record by the Ghost Box version of the Kings Of Leon. Any help in this regard would be greatly appreciated.

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Belbury Panda

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Zwei Filmen von Fritz Lang

Dr Mabuse, der Spieler

You may be aware of Metropolis, the famous Fritz Lang directed film of the 1920s. It famously was cut down for its original release, making the story somewhat incoherent. The missing sections had remained lost – until now, when a bad print in an archive in Argentina was discovered as having far more footage than the standard version. So it was all tidied up and re-released. My beloved and I went to see it on its opening night in Dublin, where it was playing in the National Concert Hall, with a full orchestral accompaniment.

Earlier that day, however, we went to another Fritz Lang film. The IFI was cashing in on the whole Metropolis thing by showing a whole season of the great German director's work. The film we saw that afternoon was the first Dr Mabuse film, a four-hour marathon that introduced the criminal mastermind and his devilish schemes. It is a truly amazing film, with great performances from the guy playing Mabuse and his various minions. One thing I particularly liked was how convincing Dr Mabuse's status as a master of disguise was – he was almost too good at disguising himself, with the result that a succession of scenes had me going "Who is this guy? Why is the camera taking such an interest in him? Maybe he is going to be Dr Mabuse's latest victim… no wait!". The music was also great too, played on strings that gave the whole thing the surreal and semi-nightmarish air the film warrants.

And then Metropolis. The missing bits do make the film a bit more coherent, but there is still the fundamental problem with this film – it looks amazing, but the plot is kind of ridiculous. And the film's reactionary message is rather suckass too. For all its iconic status (and it is a film everyone should see at least once in their life), it is far more about the spectacle than the plot or characterisation. So I suppose that makes it a rather typical member of the Science Fiction film family.

I should mention that I was seated next to The World's Most Annoying Man for this film, a fidgety fucker who could not sit still and had no concept of personal space. My beloved dubbed him Ritalin Man, and his muttering away to himself during the short piece about the film's restoration before it began presaged much of the horror that was to come. Oddly, he seemed to actually like the picture, but in a way that meant he could not sit still or shut his yap. I was rather glad that he did not return after the interval. I'm guessing he ended up in a fidget bar somewhere on the other side of town.

Dr Mabuse image source

widely reproduced Metropolis image

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Mudhoney (in the Button Factory)

The Seattle sensations are the ideal band to see when you have been on a work night out and had a bellyful of teh bouze on an empty stomach, leaving you a bit tanked and ready to rock out. I made it down to the venue to find that they had just started, so after knocking back another double whiskey (oh the nostalgia) I barged up the front and got down to the crazy sounds of the grunge gods. They did little in the way of between song chit chat (unlike when I saw them at ATP), just getting on with dishing out the tunes. Readers will be pleased to hear that Mark Arm can still do the Mudhoney voice.

Some might say that Mudhoney are musically a bit one-dimensional and that there is only so much of them that one can take. These Mudhoney hataz might just be objectively correct, but in a sweaty live venue there is no better music. The front of the venue saw the kind of moshing not seen in Dublin venues for years, perhaps because it featured a great many older music fans who had not been to a gig for years. It was good to show the youth how it used to be done.

Nevertheless, there were actually some of the youth present – I even spoke to some of them. Overhearing one young lad say to his friend that they must be the youngest people present, I advised them that yes, they were. In a brief conversation they revealed that they were 17, and were present largely because of Mudhoney's link to Nirvana, of whom they are big fans. Young people, eh?

For all that Mudhoney are not that great a band, they do have some real stormers in their repertoire, all of which seemed to make it out tonight (you know, 'Touch Me I'm Sick', 'Hate The Police', 'Here Comes Sickness', etc.). They also gave us what is probably their one claim to true songwriting greatness, 'When Tomorrow Hits' (even if it is kind of just 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' slowed down). I love that song, there is a power and grandeur to its doomy evocation of what must surely be the sad world of the junk-less junkie.

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When Panda Hits

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Film: "Winter's Bone"

This is that American film about crystal meth producers in the Ozarks. This 17 year old girl discovers that her missing ne'er do well father has put up their house as a bail bond. Unless the girl discovers her dad's whereabouts before some court hearing her home will be forfeited. She resolves to track him down, but this just leads to a lot of people telling her to stop causing trouble by asking stupid questions.

I found this film to be very enjoyable, mainly thanks to the great performance of the woman in the lead role and its general evocation of the bleak countryside sliding into winter. All the shots of the girl trudging around as she goes about her inquiries (being too po' to own a car, obviously) make things look almost post-apocalyptic.

I would be curious, though, as to what actual hillbillies (if they call themselves that) make of this film. There are some terrifyingly violent and unpleasant people in this film, and there are a lot of people making their living manufacturing and dealing in crystal meth. On the other hand, there are some quite nice people in it as well, and agreeable stuff like people being self-reliant and also helping each other out and stuff. And there is some nice folky music in one scene. So if the good folk of the Ozarks have seen this film, do they pick up on the good stuff, or do they moan about how they are now being stereotyped as producers of crystal meth where once they would have been tagged with inbreeding and moonshine production?

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Film: "Buried"

This is the one about this American contractor in Iraq who is kidnapped by t-heads AND BURIED ALIVE. Only they leave him in a coffin with loads of air and a Blackberry that is still magically able to get a signal through the soil above. So he rings up people and tries to get them to rescue him. And that's it, really. Through the film you never see anyone outside the coffin (except at one point a video on his Blackberry), it's just pure claustrophobia from start to finish.

I liked the way the film stuck to its high concept premise, but ultimately I thought it was not fully successful. In a film like this, the two obvious endings are the happy one (He escapes from the coffin, huzzah!) and the downbeat one (He dies in the coffin, OMG teh sadness!), both of which seem a bit unsatisfying. And without saying what actually happens here, I can reveal that the film-makers did not pull an awesome third ending out of the hat, leaving the film a bit let down by its conclusion.

The film was actually made by Spanish people, which might explain why the main American guy the contractor talks to on phone has an English accent for no obvious reason.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Film: "The Last Exorcism"

This is in some ways almost a film version of 'The Jezebel Spirit', the Brian Eno and David Byrne classic from My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. It is filmed in the style of a documentary, following a disillusioned southern preacher and exorcist as he heads off to do one last exorcism in an effort to show the cinematic public just what a load of charlatanry the whole demon banishing gig is. Unfortunately, as with police dramas about a cop's last day on the force, the preacher's last exorcism turns out to be anything but routine.

This film is basically a horror masterpiece. I defy anyone not to see it and be terrified. A lot of things make it so great, like the plot's ability to twist and turn just ahead of audience surmises. The acting is great too, particularly from the guy playing the preacher (smarmy, manipulative, but also conflicted and still trying to do what is right), the vulnerable and disturbed girl who is to be exorcised, and the girl's father, a mess of simple yet extreme religion, self-pity and quiet despair. That everything we see is presented as documentary footage also ramps up the scariness, as it is like a ghost story where you are reading the diary of the protagonist – you know that they might not make it through this alive.

See it and be unashamed.

this is of course the second time I have review this film. The last one I wrote very quickly for the web, while this one I wrote very quickly for Frank's APA. Which one do you like best?

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Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm as shocked by it as you are, Officer

I don't know what is happening to me, but increasingly The Wire seems like the only music magazine to read. They even seem to have started seeing how funny some of the outlandish conceptual stuff they write about is, or at least I am able to find it funny for them. The must recent issue had some great pieces. I was interested by the cover story on Irish composer and sound artist Jennifer Walshe, for all that it gave almost no impression whatsoever of what her music sounds like. I was also interested by the piece on Detroit techno act Drexciya, not least because I know the guy who wrote it. I really must do something about my almost complete lack of anything Detroit techno oriented, a loss I feel increasingly keenly.

The real stars of this issue, though were Kommmissar Hjuler and Mama Baer. He is a chubby middle aged German cop, she his much younger and rather attractive wife. Together they make what sounds like unlistenable avant garde nonsense they try to pass off as music. They also do visual art, specialising in collages made from images of extreme hardcore pornography. It all sounds a bit "I can explain, officer" – only he is the officer!

I do not really want to hear any of their music, and I would very much rather not have to interact with their visual art, but the very existence of Kommissar Hjuler and Mama Baer is a sign that things are still going well in the world.

more (this is the transcript of the Wire interview with Kommissar Hjuler and Mama Baer; it is also where the above picture comes from. Sadly the completely genius picture of the two of them is not obviously available on the Wire website and I am afraid to do image searches for them)

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Your chance to hear the music of Gerald Barry

You may recall me posting about popular Irish composer Gerald Barry. As it happens, there was a recent episode of Nova on Lyric FM largely dedicated to his music. You can listen to it on the Nova website here; it's the one for the 5th of December. The programme includes some rofflesome settings to music of what seem to be the letters and diaries of Beethoven.
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Nova Panda

Thursday, December 16, 2010

China's Furry Scientists

Scientists in China are dressing up as Pandas. The scientists work in the Panda breeding centre in Wolong, from which it is hoped to reintroduce Pandas into the wild. The scientists are donning Panda-suits to stop the baby Pandas in the centre from becoming acclimatised to people.
My knowledge of Pandas is surprisingly limited, but I suspect that the Chinese attempt to increase Panda numbers by introducing more Pandas into the wild is based on a false premise. Pandas are famously slow to reproduce – lady Pandas are only fertile for a couple of hours a year, so if they do not get it on in that time then they will not be producing a little cub.

The slow reproduction of the Panda is often seen as the problem causing their low numbers, but I think it is more likely to be a sensible evolutionary response to the environment in which the loveable black and white bears live and their diet. Pandas eat more or less nothing but bamboo, a plant astonishingly lacking in nutrition. A Panda needs to eat an awful lot of bamboo a day in order to remain healthy and to have enough energy to amble from one bamboo grove to another. This requires a low population density, as too many Pandas in an area will denude it of bamboo and lead to a food crisis. This makes the infertility of lady Pandas quite sensible – if she produces too many cubs then she and her young will starve to death.

The corollary of this is that the Chinese attempts to reintroduce more Pandas to the wild are doomed to failure. The released Pandas will only be able to survive by displacing existing Pandas, if they are being released into territory with a near maximum density of the bears.

My other heretical theory about Pandas is that they are not actually that likely to become extinct any time soon. Recent estimates put the number of wild Pandas as high as 3,000. That is more or less the same as the total wild population of all Tiger species. I reckon that Pandas have a couple of things going for them which will ensure their continued survival. Firstly, they are really cute and everyone loves them, with that everyone crucially including the Chinese government. Secondly, they are now living in fairly remote areas where they are not too likely to suffer habitat loss through human encroachment (I am open to correction on this). Thirdly, and perhaps most crucially, no Panda body part is a key ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine. I am therefore reasonably confident that the cuddly bears will be with us for some time to come.


image gallery

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Menacing silhouettes, the jangle of little bells

Knight and Squire #2 (of 6), by Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton

I mentioned previously reading the introductory first issue of this title. In this episode we see England's Batman and Robin analogues in their hometown of Great Worden. This time round they have an actual mystery to investigate – someone has been stealing ancient items of occult power. And it turns out to be – MORRIS DANCERS. The sinister Morris Major has perverted the ancient art of Morris and turned the local Morris dancers into something akin to a hey-nonny-nonny version of the BNP; he hopes to use the occult items to magically turn back the clock and make England once more a land of dull uniformity.

This quirky title is rather entertaining, reminding me a bit of many things, including the classic Warrior story Big Ben ("the man with no time for crime"). But the fun is all in the details and story's look and feel. The story itself is maybe a bit weak - Knight and Squire manage to thwart the villainous Morris dancers by calling in the cops to arrest them all. Maybe Mr Cornell needs to work a bit harder on the plotting.

image source

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Gerald Barry [free CD with "Boulevard Magenta"]

The latest issue of Boulevard Magenta (an art magazine published by IMMA) comes with a CD of music by Gerald Barry, an Irish composer of contemporary music – two long pieces and two short, composed in the years between 1977 and 2002. I was very struck by one of the longer pieces, Things That Gain By Being Painted. It has a woman's voice, mainly talking but occasionally breaking into random notes, telling us about various things she likes and dislikes, with a very slight musical accompaniment. I had the vague idea it might be an adaptation of something by Tennessee Williams or another of that lot, mainly because the woman has an accent suggestive of origins in the American South. But actually no, the text is taken from the pillow book of Sei Shonagon*. I like this a lot – there is a mesmerising quality to the rather affected sounding woman sounding off about all the things she likes and the things she simply cannot abide.

I was also rather taken by one of the shorter pieces, L'agitation des observateurs, le tremblement des voyeurs (M. Barry – il parle bien le français, uh huh huh). It consists of series of staccato notes played on a variety of instruments, with short gaps of silence in between. And, when you listen on headphones, what sounds like crowd noise or the sound of people fidgeting. Maybe this is a performance art piece where, in live performance, they keep poking the audience to cause agitation among them; that would rock.

Can anyone tell me anything further about Gerald Barry? I seem to recall hearing about him writing an opera called The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, an adaptation of a Fassbinder film. Did anyone reading this see it when it was on in London?

Pandas that gain by being painted

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* Reader's Voice: "So you are unfamiliar with the work of Sei Shonagon, the sage of Alabama?"

Rip the air raid warden dog

Rip was a very good dog who helped save lives during the Second World War. He was found as a stray by Air Raid Warden Mr E. King. The two became friends, and Rip accompanied Mr King on his rounds. He was not trained in search and rescue work, but he took to it instinctively, sniffing out people who had been buried in rubble after Luftwaffe bombings. In twelve months from 1940 to 1941 he is credited with saving the lives of over a hundred people.


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