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INAPPROPRIATEPLANK

Art, Life & Earth. THROUGH THE EYES OF A DEAF SNOWBOARDING MUSIC NUT.

Tag Archives: Review

7/10 STARK DARK & HYPNOTIC

Little Joy is as hard to pin down as it is to put down. The LP spans many genres without really sounding like any of them. It’s like Mogwai, Brian Eno and Battles doing sombre techno structured covers of The Fall songs on traditional rock instruments. Washes of post-punk/postrock mood drift over stripped down repetitive percussive beats and droning bass, guitars chip in with stabbing dissonant riffs. Vocals are used sparingly and effectively, the largely instrumental tracks are a joy and the restrained, sparse vocals manage to take them on to a different level.

Young chugs along like a bare bones Battles track before the drummer has his moment in the spotlight, his impressive solo kicks it up a gear and flows straight into Turn where the vocals tell us “I turn… I turn to see her…. We passed”. Sunbear brings tense intro chords stabbing away like The Fall in their pomp then the bass cuts loose.

Ignore the whimsical and misleading band name. I had this down as some kind of “alternative dance” band ala Caribou etc before I listened to it. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My Disco are no formulaic rehash. Wonderful.

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8/10 MASTERS AT WORK

I’m a firm believer in the old adage “Less Is More” in all aspects of creativity. If a piece of art can stand alone without any superfluous layers, stripped back to it’s core elements, and still be art then it has truly succeeded. From the simplistic brilliance of Pong to the bare bones of the Blues, less is always more in my book.

Rarely has this been better exemplified in film than by John Boorman(Deliverance, Point Blank)’s criminally overlooked 1968 epic Hell In The Pacific. Only two actors appear throughout, filmed almost entirely on one tiny enclosed beach and with only a handful of lines of dialogue, it is testament to Boorman’s skills as a director that such power results. The direction is matched by fine performances from two giants of the era, a stark score and some claustrophobic cinematography.

The story is simple. Two sworn enemies find themselves stranded on a tiny Pacific island where, away from the war that put them there, they wage a mini-war against each other and then with their own prejudices. A game of cat and mouse ensues and the pendulum swings one way then the other before realisation sets in that they need each other if they are to escape. The lack of common language means communicating these complex stages of emotion is an often brutal process. But the lack of dialogue AND lack of any female presence and subsequent sexual angle means their relationship and personal battle is stripped back to it’s very essence.

In the 1960s there were few names bigger in their respective countries than Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune. Both deserve praise for taking on these risky roles at that stage of their career. As a non Japanese speaker, for me Toshiro Mifune’s (Seven Samurai, Paper Tiger & many Akira Kurosawa classics) performance stands out. I have no idea what he’s saying throughout the entire film, so the fact that he communicates so much to the audience speaks volumes in itself. Boorman’s decision to not use subtitles was brave but in my opinion adds so much to the film. It makes Marvin’s  plight so much more vivid to the English speaking audience, as it does vice versa for Mifune’s japanese audience (I guess).

Conrad Hall’s cinematography veers from idyllic paradise to suffocating isolation while Lalo Schifrin delivers a potent and uncharacteristically minimalist score which allows the silence and the waves space to hypnotise.

I could wax lyrical here about the underlying metaphors for mankind’s appetite for destruction. But to do so would mean discussing THAT ending and spoiling this for those who’ve not seen it. This is a film that really should be watched with no prior knowledge of the plot intricacies.

I love this film. It should get FAR more attention than it does. Maybe that’s because of the utterly shit title, or Lee Marvin’s falling out of vogue in the 70s. But whatever the reason, this film is a timeless classic and a display of 5 big guns firing in their creative primes.

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9/10. Bleak, bruiser.

For many years I’ve been listening to Daydream Nation, 13 Songs, Young Team and Lift Your Antenna, amongst many others, wondering where all these droning, monotonously bleak works of beautiful rambling soundscapes would take me to next. But I never seemed to find any successors. No more examples of that level of craft came my way for a long time. I was stuck with these LPs, looking upon them as some kind of endgame, an evolutionary musical dead end.

I always knew that those albums weren’t really the end. But I couldn’t find anything to hold a torch to their stark power. Everything seemed either too melodic, or too bland. I didnt know what pigeon hole people had put the likes of Mogwai, Godspeed, Sonic Youth etc into. I didnt want to know. I hate bracketing art like that. It restricts and governs it. I really didn’t know where to start looking again. So I waited.

Instead I spent years ploughing through Madlib, DOOM, Zeke, Lee Perry’s back catalogue or a host of other genres. I delved back into Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Authechre, Bowie. I’d put this “post rock” or whatever it is known as, firmly on the back burner.

Just as my copy of Daydream Nation was finally about to disintegrate into overworked dust I stumbled into this LP. I can honestly say, I don’t think I have ever been so instantly blown away by a new album. Ever. Right from the point the first chords of No Words/No Thoughts (below) whacked me in the ears like Mogwai’s Herod did so many years before I knew this was what I’d been waiting for.

Long, drawn out, droning riffs hammered from a single note dragged me down into the Swans’ peculiar world. Soothing pulses calmed everything down before the vocals crept up behind me with some hacked off, industrial guitar drones and kicked the fuck out of my head for the best part of 10 minutes. Wonderful. Almost 30 years since Michael Gira chose the band’s name beacuse “”Swans are majestic, beautiful looking creatures. With really ugly temperaments” they still fit the bill, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Dont get me wrong, it isnt all hard, brutal music. This LP is a beautiful, subtle, crafted masterpiece with many moments of melodic, warm, almost folk/country tinged songwriting. But these moments just serve to make you relax as waves of bleak white guitar noise and deconstructed percussion slide under the melody and drag you back into the hypnotic dirge all over again. It’s an overwhelming LP that commands all of your attention or none at all.

This is head and shoulders my LP of the moment. I have developed a very unhealthy obsession, finding my headphones virtually glued to me wherever I be. The sheer level of craftmanship is astounding, dragging 7 minute tracks out of smashing a single note inside out over and over is no mean feat.

The band’s modus operandi has always been to create music that is at once “soul-uplifting and body-destroying”. An intention they still manage to this day. The highest compliment I can pay this album is to compare it with one of the most powerful, bleakly beautiful books of our times. The similarities with Cormac McCarthy’s epic, The Road, are startling. Much like the book you’ll need a bit of time to yourself after you finish this LP, it’ll drag you down to a dark place but fill you with hope. And you’ll be immensely glad you experienced it.

9/10

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9½/10. Brain & Rib Tickler.

Some say the Swallow flying or the call of the Cuckoo is the first sign of summer. But for me, every year without fail, this album announces the sunshine. I cant help it. As soon as the sun comes out instinct takes over and I play this LP start to finish, over and over.

The music itself is amazing. But do some digging on the lyrics and this LP becomes a fascinating window to the past. Tales of deaths all over Kingston from (knowingly?) infected flour to pre-Hiphop gang fight gun deaths and celebration of black pioneers like Muhammed Ali etc. If you only ever own one Reggae/Dub LP, THIS is the one. An indisputable classic, it was famously name checked by Johnny Rotten on radio in 1978 and became a big punk/reggae crossover hit.

It’s a seminal, all-star 1978 album. Produced by Lee Scratch Perry, King Tubby, Upsetter & Scientist and featuring Horace Andy, Gregory Isaacs and John Holt’s vocals. I couldnt even begin to describe it, so listen:

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