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CALEXICO, "WORLD DRIFTS IN"


There's not a lot of concert performances that I make a point of owning; however this one is an exception. A few months prior to releasing their 2003 Feast of Wire disc, Calexico took to the road with their augmented touring group, captured brilliantly in performance on this DVD. World Drifts In: Live at the Barbican London is an extra special evening as they'd brought along the wonderful group Mariachi Luz de Luna from their home town of Tucson, AZ to add an authentic flavor to their sound. Shot on video, which for this occasion looks better than film would, this exciting performance from November 27, 2002 is nicely edited together from several angles, including one of my favorites: right beside drummer John Convertino. Anyone that's seen the band live can attest to his mastery of the trapkit, which is a joy to watch. The crystal clear sound appears to be a direct line from the soundboard, with some room mikes capturing the ambience. There are a few moments when Joey Burns' splendid vocal performances on the newer tunes sound better than on what would be their new disc, which seems hard to believe. At 90 minutes, the material performed spans their short yet rich career, including a few traditional Mexicali numbers which highlight the Mariachi Luz de Luna's members as well as a traditional-sounding French number featuring chanteuse, Françoiz Breut. In addition to the performance, the DVD includes an additional hour's worth of extras which include homestyle/silent movies (set to Calexico tunes) of the band's 2003 European tour, interviews from the road with various members of the touring posse and excerpts from the making of Feast of Wire. Of course, videos for "The Black Light," "Ballad of Cable Hogue," and "Crystal Frontier" are included, which up to now I'd only seen as Quicktime files on various EPs. Also included is a humorous two-minute cartoon featuring the group's music and a brief documentary (shot by Señor Burns) which covers the origins of Mariachi through interviews with members of Mariachi Luz de Luna. I understand that this DVD has been available in the UK and Europe for a number of months now, as if to mock those of us in Region 1. Calexico put on one of the best performances I've seen in recent years, though in a club exceptionally smaller than the Barbican. Not surprisingly, although the performance on this DVD is nothing but stellar, it still doesn't top being there—but it comes awfully close.
8689 Hits

warp vision: the videos 1989-2004


As much as we diss Warp for making bad decisions, they have perfected the right techniques that make them a strong label with a strong identity. Most importantly: present the music in a direct and uncluttered way, with a conscious attention to an appealing design, making sure it is never overpowering: essentially allowing for the music to retain its importance over design. It's essentially what they've done for their first various artist video collection. Warp Vision isn't breaking new grounds nor is it the first of its kind (see: Ninja Tune or Matador), but what it does is collect a wide selection of the music videos that Warp has had something to do with over the years. It has no noticeable Easter Eggs, nor any audio commentary. The menu choices are to play all the videos or select them alphabetically, see the credits and see some images. Noticably absent are videos for Autechre's "Basscadet," Tricky Disco's "Tricky Disco" and "Housefly," anything from Vincent Gallo (THANK GOD), as well as !!! and Tortoise (but then again, they were licensed from US labels so Warp probably doesn't even own the rights to the videos). What is included are everybody's favorite Aphex videos with people running around with his ugly ass face on, Chris Cunningham's brilliant video for Squarepusher's "Come On My Selector" and the Chris Cunningham-wanna be, LFO's "Freak" directed by Daniel Levi (gotta love those fiery young Asian girls), plus videos from Prefuse, Antipop, the inexcusable Jimi Tenor, and many more. I'm pleased to finally be able to see videos for Sweet Exorcist (even if it's a lot of primitive graphics and a Pong! game) and LFO's classic "LFO" and the brilliant "Tied Up." Videos like Broadcast's "Papercuts" are just so visually colorful that it reminds me how much nicer it is to see on a full screen as opposed to a tiny little streaming computer image. A couple Warp TV commercials are included for shits and giggles along with a bonus CD of eleven audio mosaics of various tunes from the Warp vaults mixed by Buddy Pearce and Zilla. The CD is forgettable for the most part, but the DVD has its moments that will please different people depending on their tastes. With any luck 4AD and Mute will take a hint and do something similar. (And if you record execs are actually reading: don't leave anything out next time!)

8480 Hits

"ISAN: FOLK & POP MUSIC OF NORTHEAST THAILAND"

Sublime Frequencies
The fourth DVD release from Sublime Frequencies is a 50-minute travelogue through the rural, impoverished region of Northeast Thailand, an area known as Isan. The culture of Isan is distinct from the rest of Thailand because of the marked Laotian and Khmer influence. Because of its remoteness and relative poverty, Isan has escaped the Westernizing reforms that have affected the rest of the country, thus their indigenous culture and unique heritage has been well preserved throughout their years. Documentarian Hisham Mayet shot this footage in March of this year, and has done a very good job in capturing much of the unique character of the region. The film opens with a traditional ceremony and festival demonstrating the rich cultural heritage of the four dominant tribes of Isan: Khmer, Suai, Lao and Yo. It showcases marching regalia of costumed Thai, demonstrations of skills such as fire-breathing, synchronized sword fighting and acrobatics, culminating in a bizarre ritual involving the crowd throwing live chickens into the air and chasing rabbits through the grass. Laotian women participate in traditional dances, performing beautifully expressive hand gestures, synchronized to syrupy Thai music that blares out of a distorted PA system. The remainder of the travelogue features mainly raw performances on traditional Isan instruments from a random assortment of villagers and street musicians. Mr. Ken plays a bamboo khaen, a large double-sided row of pipes that produce a complex, richly nuanced sound with interior countermelodies. Mr. Thongbai plays the wod, a circular arrangement of pan pipes that make an intoxicating and magical sound. Mr. Thongsai plays a lively folk tune on a phin, a three-stringed lute that is played identically to a guitar. A few scenes shot inside gentlemen's clubs in the urban centers of Isan follow, groups of costumed girls dancing seductively in a style known as Lam Sing. The finale was recorded on a busy Bangkok street in the early morning hours, and represents a traditional vocal style called Lum Glawn. A woman sings along with an amazingly proficient performance on the khaen pipes, her dynamic vocals flowing freely at breakneck speed, to match the sophisticated peaks and valleys of the khaen. Isan is a delightful snapshot of a relatively unknown and unsung culture. 
15939 Hits

Brigitte Bardot, "Divine B.B."

Although she is best known for her successful career in films, Brigitte Bardot also had a prolific recording output during the 1960s which carried over into the beginning of the '70s. Thanks to a new DVD compiling all her musical performances for French television, a new generation of fans all over the globe can get a taste of how these two media combined made B.B. the most beloved pop icons in French history.

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12836 Hits

"Made in Sheffield"

Sheffield Vision
The perfect antidote to Twenty Four Hour Party People, Made in Sheffield is a low budget documentary on the post-punk Sheffield scene. It shows the real story of how a few groups of people formed some of the most influential, successful or forgetful bands of all time. I was disappointed that the film was shot in 4:3 but that is only a minor gripe. I also found some of the coverage of bands that have been rightfully consigned to the overflowing dustbin of history a bit too long. However, the rest I found to be an utter delight. The interviewees are honest about their achievments and, for the most part, accept their place in history. I was very relieved that the Human League's well-documented split was covered in a brief, honest, and touching manner. The same old ground was not covered again in some journalistic zeal. Herein must lie one of the stengths of the film: good editing. The wheat has successfully been separated from the chaff. As a bonus, this DVD edition features extra live coverage of some bands (none interesting to me) and longer interviews. Made in Sheffield comes with my strong recommendation to any brainwashed reader and anyone with an interest in the history of modern music.
8833 Hits

"HELL HOUSE"

Plexifilm
Evangelical Christianity continues to exert an inestimably important influence on a large percentage of the world population. To the largely secular world of modern art and media, academia and philosophy, Christianity became a functional nonentity the day Nietzsche declared the death of God. However, millions of people, many in prominent positions of power and influence, continue to confound adversity with their faith in and insistence on the importance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. A recent film that I don't need to mention by name has once again placed the issue of faith versus secularism at the forefront of international dialogue. There is a tendency among the majority of postmodernist thinkers, one which I seem unable to shake, of regarding the New Testament and the evolution of faith in Christ with a clinical distance, something to consider with suspicion and detachment. Having grown up in a strictly atheist family of intellectuals, and from a very young age having become interested in a variety of divergent religious and transgressive occult beliefs, I have had my brain blown open and wiped clean of the possibility of investing fully in the kind of senseless wide-eyed faith, piety and exclusivity demanded by the born-again movement. However, whether reading the profoundly inspiring works of Kierkegaard or Pascal, or hearing the revenant gospel of Blind Willie Johnson or the Gnostic poetry cycles of Current 93, I cannot help but feel a strange gravitational pull towards the faith of Paul, and George Ratliff's documentary Hell House is a perfect encapsulation of the enticing beauty of modern Christianity. Ratliff trains his camera on Trinity Church, a large Midwestern Pentacostal community that has devised a unique method of convincing new members to join the faith. Each year at Halloween, they erect an enormous haunted house, a series of rooms through which visitors are ushered, each room vividly exhibiting a different temptation of the modern world and its disastrous effect on the spiritual life of its victims. Truly frightening one-act plays about such taboo subjects as abortion, homosexuality, family violence, drug addiction and occultism are enacted by a spirited group of young born-agains. A variety of high-tech audio effects, pyrotechnics and even live gunfire are utilized to make each vignette as confrontational and frightening as possible, culminating in a nightmarish vision of hell complete with the souls of the eternally damned writhing in plexiglass cages, screaming penances on the deaf ears of grinning devils. At the end of each Hell House tour, the audience members are given the chance to redeem themselves and become born-again, signing promissory contracts and praying to have their sins absolved in the blood of Christ. The Hell House attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year, and a staggeringly large percentage of the visitors are convinced to take the vow of faith. The passion and work ethic applied to the planning and implementation of the Hell House is the chief subject of the film, and it provides fascinating insight. Ratliff's non-judgmental lens is startlingly objective in its view of middle-American Christians young and old, providing a view of modern religious faith that avoids the "Jesus Freak" cliches I'd become accustomed to. There are dozens of haunting scenes that have etched themselves into my memory, chief among them a sequence showing a typical church gathering, where the Pentacostals speak to God in their "love language" — a string of nonsensical tongues and glossolalia that serves to transcend reason and appeal directly to the spirit. An appropriately ghostly musical score is provided by Matt and Bubba Kadane. Hell House is beautifully and respectfully rendered portrait of a silent majority; the triumphs of modern Christianity have never been so vividly depicted.
9663 Hits

"DISINFORMATION: THE COMPLETE SERIES"

Disinformation
The only hope that remains for this piece of twisted wreckage that we used to call civilization is that, as globalization and homogenization increase, the counter-cultural and transgressive elements of humanity will increase in direct proportion. Judging from historical social paradigms, this seems a forgone conclusion, but in this age of political puppetry, consumerist plasticity and televised humiliation, the situation can at times seem almost hopeless. Richard Metzger created Disinformation in 1996 as a hex against corporate-owned media conglomerates, a source of alternative news reports and a hub for new science and the counter-culture. Disinformation's publishing arm has delivered on this mission statement, publishing a handful of impressive volumes of essays including You Are Being Lied To and Book of Lies, collecting the works of disparate underground journalists, philosophers, occultists and outsiders under the broad banner of alternative media. The unparalleled popularity of this unique enterprise eventually led to a Disinformation TV series on the BBC, hosted by Metzger himself. Containing segments on such various taboo topics as transsexuality, extreme underground pornography, Satanism and mind-control conspiracy theory, the show also featured profiles of underground figures such as Joe Coleman, Paul Laffoley and Genesis P-Orridge. In an absurd scheduling strategy, the Disinformation series was placed in a prime-time programming slot directly following Ally McBeal. It lasted only four episodes, but was soon purchased by the Sci-Fi Channel for broadcast in the United States. Apparently, the network execs realized too late that the show they had purchased was too obscene, bizarre and transgressive to ever actually air, and the series was promptly shelved. This 2-DVD set compiles the four complete episodes of the series, along with some unaired segments and a bonus DVD of footage from the 2001 Disinfo.Con held in New York City. The series itself is ridiculously entertaining and often riotously funny, a postmodern redux of the prime-time news magazine format, moving rapidly from the insane misanthropic ramblings of Brother Theodore; to footage of a real family lighting their drunken, passed-out uncle on fire (from the cult underground video Uncle Goddamn); to an in-depth investigation of the inter-dimensional, time-travelling homoerotic conspiracies of the so-called Montauk Project. It's all delivered by Metzger in a mischievous, cocked-eyebrow tone that leaves you wondering if any of it can be taken seriously. This DVD is a marvelous opportunity to take an objective look at the forbidden science of Radionics, followed by an extended interview with cultural theorist Howard Bloom, right after Songs in the Key of Z author Irwin Chusid introduces the video for "In Canada" by the flamboyantly awful outsider artist B.J. Snowden. The second disc contains a series of live speeches and interviews from Disinformation heroes like Adam Parfrey, Kenneth Anger and Robert Anton Wilson, appearing on stage at the Disinfo.Con. The speakers discuss the current state of culture and media, and their various explanations, solutions and provocations for maintaining a grasp on individualism and expression in the new aeon. Along with Robert Anton Wilson's Maybe Logic, I would recommend this as essential viewing for anyone interested in moving beyond the borders imposed on all of us by the all-pervasive meta-programming of modern media.
17538 Hits

"Folk Music of the Sahara: Among the Tuareg of Libya"

This is the third DVD released on Alan Bishop's Sublime Frequencies imprint, and it offers a rare glimpse at the traditional music and ceremonies of the Tuareg people of Libya. The Tuareg are an ancient desert-dwelling people who have never been subsumed into the Arab/Muslim majority of the rest of the Middle East.

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11969 Hits

"NON LIVE IN OSAKA"

Caciocavallo
Boyd Rice is at the center of that spurious underground milieu which rose to quasi-prominence in the eighties, combining industrial and noise culture with LeVay-style Satanism, social Darwinism and fascist aesthetics. The work of NON, and of its progenitors and followers, influenced a generation of Dungeons and Dragons players, rivetheads and white supremacists to unite their interests under an anti-establishment banner that seemed pretty dangerous and sexy when it was new, but appears a bit silly in retrospect. In truth, Boyd Rice created nothing that hadn't been suggested previously by David Bowie, and especially Throbbing Gristle. TG's interest in musical performance and noise as cultural exorcism, agitation and political rally was clearly a precedent for NON's subsequent exploitation. Boyd's only contribution was to narrow and delineate these interests, and to incorporate his neo-Satanic views and his sadistic sense of camp. Coming after the double disappointment of last year's tepid Children of the Black Sun 5.1 surround-sound album, Soleilmoon officially releases Non Live in Osaka on DVD, a frequently bootlegged recording of a legendary 1989 concert in Japan. This concert was legendary because it was the first to unite Boyd Rice, Douglas P., Rose McDowall, Tony Wakeford and Michael Moynihan on one stage. They appear in a thick fog, flanked by red beams of light, decked out in paramilitary gear, beating on giant barrel drums, while Rice performs a series of propagandistic invocations in his familiar modulated monotone. He spouts off the usual monologues about war, might and superiority. None of this is particularly ingenious, but it's very much better than any NON performance I've been unfortunate enough to witness in this decade. In fact, it all seems quite potent, with the big martial drumbeats, the grinding noise sweeps and Boyd Rice's booming, echoing voice. I especially appreciated the long introduction of Iron Guard marching songs directly preceding and following the performance. Watching this transported me back to a time when I thought it was quite daring to adopt an amoral, nihilistic viewpoint and wear Nazi totenkopf symbols on my clothes. In addition to some nifty photo slideshows accompanied by hilarious Japanese girl-pop, the DVD also includes illuminating commentary and two experimental short films by Boyd Rice. I've often heard these films compared to Kenneth Anger's ritual-on-celluloid masterpieces such as Lucifer Rising and Invocation of My Demon Brother. Judging by the first film, Invocation, Mr. Anger has nothing to worry about. This grainy, pornographic footage has all the genius of any Hi-8 video made by a 13-year old goth teenager from Des Moines. The second film, Black Sun, is much better, a Stan Brakhage-style celluloid trance-meditation on a spinning swastika.
15250 Hits

"LIVE FROM SHIVA'S DANCE FLOOR"

Aspyr Media
Timothy "Speed" Levitch was the star of the 1998 documentary The Cruise, one of my favorite films of all time, which profiled the New York City tour guide's unique perspectives on the city, his own transitory life and deeper questions of existence. Through a series of bus loops, interviews and walking tours, Speed displayed his enthusiasm, his intelligence, his inquisitiveness and his romantic quest for intellectual and spiritual fulfillment. One of the more eccentric oddballs ever captured on film, Speed's extraordinary linguistic gifts communicate his deep passion and jubilation at existence. His ideas are the perfect antidote for a world that every day moves towards irony and detachment, pessimism, cynicism and nihilism. Though it's a minor travesty that The Cruise has never been released on the DVD format (or even a VHS that doesn't cost upwards of $100), Aspyr Media recently released this short documentary also featuring Speed, made last year by Richard Linklater of Slacker. Linklater previously featured Speed in one segment of his animated masterpiece Waking Life, a rambling episodic film that dealt with the many solutions to existence offered by science, philosophy, magic and dreams. Clearly, he was impressed enough to direct this follow-up film, which deals primarily with Speed's response to the September 11, 2001 attack on New York City - its historical context, its ramifications, and Speed's unorthodox suggestion for what should be done with "Ground Zero." It is a refreshing film that completely transcends the seemingly endless parade of ridiculously schmaltzy, over-cautious and reverential garbage that has been said about the tragedy by nearly everyone since 9/11. Speed is anything but sentimental, living as he does in the eternal "now," and his suggestion for the proper commemoration of Ground Zero is uniquely inspired. The DVD also contains numerous extras, including picture-in-picture annotations by Speed himself, as well as some live appearances and readings from his recently published Speedology: Speed on New York City on Speed. Standing at Ground Zero, Speed pontificates: "9/11 was one of the many parables the great sagacious cosmopolitan guru has dropped upon this population to illustrate one of its greatest points: the creation and destruction that is the rhythm of the universe is a part of our universe. Creation and destruction: the dance of Shiva. New York City is an excellent dance floor for that specific choreography."
9555 Hits

"Blow-Up"


Italian auteur Michelangelo Antonioni's first film in English is also arguably his most famous. Although it bears his trademark hypnotic, dreamlike style, Blow-Up transcends to another level with its commentary on and reflection of London in 1966. Based on a story by Julio Cortázar and starring David Hemmings, the plot revolves around a jaded fashion photographer who may or may not have witnessed something sinister during a morning stroll in the park. Like Antonioni's earlier films, Blow-Up progresses at a languid tempo, and instead of plot, the emphasis lies primarily with the essence of the characters, who range from aloof fashion models (one in particular played by Veruschka, who was herself one of the most famous models in the 1960s), naive groupies (Jane Birkin in one of her first film roles), and a mysterious woman (Vanessa Redgrave) relentlessly demanding the photographs taken of her and her lover by the photographer during his walk in the park. The culture of 1960s music is also plays a role in the film with the presence of the band The Yardbirds during a club scene, although the score is dominated mostly by the sleek, cool jazz of Herbie Hancock. It is endlessly stylish (even now, nearly 40 years later), colorful and beautifully photograped by Carlo di Ponti.
Warner Brothers' edition marks the first appearance of the film on DVD, and it is a mixed affair. The transfer is presented in anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which is generally quite clean, although occasionally fuzzy. The sound as well is not particularly dynamic, but this is likely a result of a film of its age. The extras include a music-only audio track, two theatrical trailers and a disappointingly useless commentary track by Antonioni scholar Peter Brunette. Perhaps the nicest extra is the use of the original artwork on the cover of the case.
Although it's often dismissed as pretentious, Blow-Up, which definitely suceeds in being cryptic, is an excellent film. It will likely never appeal to viewers in search of a film with a concrete plot, straightforward dialogue or an ending that neatly ties everything together. It is highly recommended viewing for anyone in search of an escape from the mindless drivel that typically fills the multiplexes in the first few months of the year.
9446 Hits

"THE EYE VOLUME 1"

Brainwashed
Although I've been contributing to The Brain for only two years, I've been a fanatical reader and avid surfer of Brainwashed for nearly eight years, and just because I work for the site now doesn't mean my enthusiasm has faded. So, I was obviously excited last year when The Eye made its first appearance with an impressive 35-minute documentary on Emil Beaulieau. Initially, I wondered how anyone could possibly hope to keep up the daunting schedule of producing a documentary every week. Amazingly, confounding adversity, each week since has brought a brand new episode to readers. I have nothing to do with the conception, direction or production of The Eye, so I can say this without fear of impropriety: The Eye is without peer; there is nothing else on the web doing anything even remotely as interesting as this, and it's all for free. This DVD-R, released as a fundraising effort, collects five episodes of The Eye, including the aforementioned debut episode profiling "America's Greatest Living Noise Artist." Through an engaging montage of amazing live performances and numerous interviews with the ebullient Beaulieau, his friends and cohorts, the doc builds an intimate profile of the artist that illustrates clearly why Beaulieau is a legend in noise circles. "Antony: The Androgynous Zone" is a spellbindingly minimal short film that captures Antony (sans the Johnsons) performing a rare solo piano recital in Boston, as well as sitting for a revealing interview about his work, his influences and his creative methods. "The Dresden Dolls: Brechtian Rock n' Roll" is an in-depth feature on Boston's punk-cabaret duo on the eve of their recent success. Delectable siren Amanda and adorable gothboy Brian sit for an informative and humorous backstage interview about the origins of the band. The Dolls performances excerpted throughout are top-notch. The other two segments feature equally fascinating sketches of unsung post-rock groups Pele and Tigersaw. Sound and picture quality are first rate throughout the disc, far better than having to contend with that little Quicktime window and computer speakers. A brief trailer for The Eye DVD-R series is also included on the disc, with tantalizing glimpses of episodes featuring Out Hud, Coil, Wire and others. I can only hope that the future volumes may bring some of these artists to my home theater.
8577 Hits

Cornelius, "Five Point One"; Belle & Sebastian, "Fans Only

Matador
Five Point One is comprised of two discs: a DVD compiling all ten the videos from Cornelius's 2002 album Point and an audio CD of remixes from the album contributed by fans as part of a contest. The videos, while creative, have a subtle, background feel to them, and seem to be intended more for use in Cornelius's live shows than on their own (and indeed, they were played as a backdrop during his tour for Point). While not wholly uninteresting, the videos are static in their content, usually relying on one or two primary images. "Point of View Point" shows cars and trains in motion, while "Drop" features a little boy standing in front of a sink while the water, synchonized to the beat, drips into the basin. The most enjoyable of the videos is "Tone Twilight Zone," with its images of two fingers walking (Yellow Pages-style) through a landscape of ordinary household objects. The remix CD, PM, is a mixed bag, running the gamut from electronic dance to japanoise to thrashy rock. Some are cute and catchy, and others are forgettable.

Fans Only takes on the task of documenting Belle & Sebastian's inception in 1995 through their seven years of recordings for Matador and Jeepster. Their videos and live footage from various performances around ther world are interwoven into behind-the-scenes material and interviews. The videos proper are largely charmingly appropriate twee shots of the band (there are at least a few where they're seen clutching various stuffed animals) and their friends using super-8 cameras and other low-budget equipment. Highlights include a rendition of France Gall's "Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son," recorded for French television and the video for "Legal Man," which features the band decked out in full mod regalia on stage in a decadent nightclub surrounded by freely flowing martinis and bellydancers, and a hilarious interview with the band for a Brazilian TV show. Clocking in at 136 minutes, Fans Only drags at times, but is for the most entertaining and does an excellent job of capturing the lighthearted, playful essence of the band. 
11432 Hits

Daughters of Darkness

Blue Underground
The legend of the Countess Bathory, the infamous despot and vampiress who purportedly slaughted hundreds of virgins in order to maintain her own youth, beauty, and immortality, is a tale that has been recreated for the screen a number of times. In Harry Kuemel's 1971 film Daughters of Darkness, the character of the medieval Hungarian countess is updated to the 20th century, and appears mysteriously in the lives of two newlyweds in an off-season Belgian resort. The couple, played by Danielle Ouimet and John Karlen (star of Dark Shadows), discover that they are alone in the hotel, bar the countess, her attractive young female companion, Ilona, and a suspicious hotel clerk. The Countess (played to perfection by the peerless Delphine Seyrig) expresses a subtle, yet immediate interest in the couple, who seem to be experiencing marital troubles from the very start, and ultimately she and Ilona set to seducing them both. That is, until their sexual schemes quickly turn into murder.

Although Daughters of Darkness is slowly paced, it avoids being tedious. Thanks to its beautiful photography of the posh resort and its eerie Bruges surroundings, superior performances by the cast (particularly Seyrig who nearly floats through most of her scenes in a series of breathtaking outfits), and a penetrating and haunting overall atmosphere, this film is far better than it could have been in less capable hands. Jean Ferry, a surrealist affiliate who penned a number of significant French films, co-wrote the screenplay, which is rife with often incomprehensible situations and stiff dialogue. Daughters is indeed part campy kitsch-fest, but director Kuemel appears to accept this as part and parcel of making an extremely low-budget film. However, it's certainly to look past the film's faults to discover its true dreamlike genius.

Previously available on DVD in a mostly bare-bones edition, the fab folks at Blue Underground have re-released Daughters of Darkness as a Director's cut edition and with a widescreen transfer. It includes some killer extras to top the whole thing off, including two separate commentary tracks (one with Harry Kuemel and the other with John Karlen), and a charming interview with actress Andrea Rau, who plays Ilona. 

11195 Hits

Seven Women for Satan

Mondo Macabro, as its name suggests, is devoted to releasing onto DVD long-forgotten horror films from around the world. Their most recent unearthing is Seven Women for Satan (aka Les Weekends Malefiques du Comte Zaroff), made in France in 1974. Starring and directed by Michel Lemoine, it recounts the tale of a Parisian businessman, Count Zaroff, who retreats to his chateau for murder and debauchery on the weekends. He is reluctantly assisted in these pursuits by his servant, played by Howard Vernon (a regular in Jess Franco films throughout the 1970s).

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12059 Hits

Can DVD

Mute/Spoon
I've been listening to Can records for years without any kind of visual counterpart other than the one created in my fertile imagination. Other than the few photographs on the inner sleeve of the Tago Mago LP, I had no idea what the band really looked like, or what their stage presence would be, what kind of clothes they wore, or how they behaved in interviews. In part, it was this total lack of a visual context that made their music all the more mysterious and addictive to me. I imagined a group of hairy future primitives; shamanic heads full of acid and tightly wound sagacity, like Gandalf crossed with The Beatles crossed with those aliens from Fantastic Planet.

When Mute/Spoon announced the release of Can DVD, featuring hours of live and documentary footage of the band across two DVDs, I was excited, but apprehensive. Any video image of the group was bound to pale in comparison to the elaborate image I had extrapolated while listening to their explosive records. I was right to be apprehensive. While it is truly wonderful to finally be able to view and own rarities like the 1972 film Can Free Concert and the early performances excerpted on Can Documentary, the rest of this DVD is frightening and pointless. Can Notes is an overlong documentary assembled by Wim Wenders collaborator Peter Przygodda from years of random video footage. There is a heavy emphasis on the period leading up to and following the release of the Sacrilege remix album. Holger Czukay, Irmin Schmidt, Jaki Liebezeit and Michael Karoli are paraded out, well past their prime, to answer a bunch of submental Actor's Studio-style questions, which elicits exasperating, embarrassing results. Why would you sit down with a genius like Holger Czukay and ask him to name his least favorite word? It ends up playing like a low-rent Where Are They Now? on Can, but with the noticeable absence of any material on vocalists Damo Suzuki and Malcolm Mooney, both of whom are alive and well, and continue to make music.

There are four Dolby 5.1 remixes of songs from the Can catalog, which on the surface seemed like an interesting idea, until I realized that the tracks chosen are all drawn from average-to-terrible latter-day albums Flow Motion, Landed and Rite Time. The multi-dimensional retuning adds nothing to this lackluster material. I should add that Can DVD also comes with an audio CD of material by the core members' post-Can projects. While it's all nice enough, it seems strange that this is packaged with something called Can DVD. Can Notes is also stuffed full of footage and material from these later solo outings. It's almost as if I'm being force-fed this stuff. As interesting as one might find the music of Clubs Off Chaos or Irmin Schmidt's Gormenghast opera, one would need to employ heavy historical revisionism to consider this later work to be nearly as significant as the groundbreaking work of Can. Brian Eno contributes an amusing one-minute video which manages to be completely self-aggrandizing even as it purports to pay tribute to his heroes. The disc also includes the presentation of an Echo Lifetime Achievement Award to the band, but strangely, the award is presented to the surviving members of Can by, er, The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Can Documentary contains many terrific moments - the band performing "Paperhouse" live on German television, a delightfully standoffish interview and excellent promo clips for "Dizzy, Dizzy" and their leftfield disco hit "I Want More." Unfortunately, the film spends a disproportionate amount of time on the ill-advised Rite Time reunion album, and ends with a shamefully piss-poor video for the Westbam remix from Sacrilege. Can Free Concert - made in 1972 by Peter Przygodda - is the DVD's sole moment of pure genius. A 51-minute film combining footage from a 1972 concert in Cologne with candid material of Can composing tracks for Tago Mago inside their Inner Space studio, Can Free Concert displays the full explosive range of the improvisational chemistry between the five band members. The director uses disorienting parallel editing to emphasize the primitive, primal and shamanic qualities of Can's avant-neanderthal noise. It's a pure delight to see Damo Suzuki wearing a red-and-pink velvet jumpsuit, furiously shaking his black mane in time to Jaki Liebezeit's tribal trance drumming. Later, in the studio, Damo works out the vocals for "Bring Me Coffee or Tea" with quiet intensity, and I finally experience the perfect visual equivalent to Can's incomparable magic.

Mute/Spoon should have placed this and the Can Documentary onto a single DVD and retailed it for the price of a CD. Instead, we have this overstuffed, prohibitively priced package full of pointless junk, with a little bit of genius thrown in for color.

10705 Hits

"THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND: BE GLAD FOR THE SONG HAS NO ENDING"

Wienerworld
I can remember a time only a few years ago when professing an interest in The Incredible String Band or any of their 1960's British psych-folk contemporaries would immediately get one branded a clueless hippie burnout. Now, following the band's recent reunion and some well-timed reissues of their back catalog, The Incredible String Band are once again being accepted back into the fold as the creators of an impressive musical zeitgeist, idiosyncratic and highly influential. Matmos have acknowledged the Incredibles as a big influence on their newest album, and Current 93 have virtually mimicked them (down to a replica of ISB's album cover) on Earth Covers Earth. On the eve of Mike Heron and Robin Williamson's reunion concert in London, playing alongside the likes of Acid Mothers Temple, Gong and Damo Suzuki of Can, Wienerworld Video unveils a lost artifact from their zenith creative period, the 50-minute film Be Glad for the Song Has No Ending. This DVD contains the entire original film, which was produced for the BBC but never aired, deemed far too odd and abstract for a television audience. The DVD also contains a brief interview with director Peter Neil, who takes pains to give the Incredibles full credit for the shape and tone of the film. Be Glad is nothing like a typical rockumentary. There are very few interviews with Heron and Williamson, and when they do talk it's usually in philosophical aphorisms and poetic reverie. Robin Williamson's glassy-eyed, beatific revelations that "we are involved in the act of creation" really drives home the peculiar mix of pagan and Gnostic ideas that inform his lyrics. Be Glad tries to accomplish on film what the Incredibles do on record - a whimsical, psychedelic journey through their eclectic music, their communal lifestyle and their pastoral "Wicker Man" mysticism. The film contains concert footage, including Williamson's hushed recitation of his poem-manifesto "Head." There are terrific live-in-studio renditions of classics such as "The Iron Stone" and "All Writ Down." At one point, a road manager reads a list of all of the instruments used by the Incredibles in a typical performance, and the sheer number of stringed and percussive instruments needed to achieve their sublime ethno-folk sound is absurdly comical. The last twenty minutes of the film is taken up with a mystical passion play called "The Pirate and the Crystal Ball," an allegorical tale set to an original ISB soundtrack, every bit as surreal and outlandish as Kenneth Anger's Magick Lantern Cycle films. It's clear that a lot of thought went into this film, and the original music on the soundtrack is some of the Incredibles' finest and most adventurous. Be Glad For the Song Has No Ending is an indispensable document, capturing on film that strange spell that The Incredible String Band were capable of weaving at the height of their power.
12581 Hits

eddie izzard, "Circle"

Anti
This performance was filmed in New York City during the summer of 2000, during the follow up tour to Eddie Izzard's breakout US tour Dress to Kill, which subsequently became an Emmy award-winning hit as an HBO special. While most of the cross-dressing actor / comedian's fans will rejoice at the availability of more of his work (this DVD is one of only three live gigs released in North America), those looking for a repeat of the brilliantly funny previous release could be in for a disappointment. Circle, which in fact does have a few brilliant moments, seems to borrow heavily at times from Izzard's back catalogue of material. Although his standup has always been thematic (religion, history, and politics are frequent subjects of his largely improvised, often surreal onstage musings), longtime fans will likely be able to pinpoint the specific previous sources of various lines in this performance. Additionally, his frenetic switches from subject to subject (Jesus conversing with dinosaurs one minute to telling the Queen her dress is the "dog's bollocks" the next) and brief confused pauses in which Izzard tries to get back on topic, seem less slightly less charming and more perplexing than in Dress to Kill. Nonetheless, decked out in Dolce & Gabbana leather S&M trousers, spiked heels and diamond necklace, Eddie is still as intelligent, thoughtful and lovable as ever. Whether he's doing an impression of God in a James Mason voice, or acting out a "lost scene" from Star Wars in which Darth Vader complains about the wet lunch trays in the Death Star cafeteria, he strikes a wonderful balance between intellectualism and pure silliness. What's more is the audience still seems to adore him, even when he seems to be going astray, and Izzard is mutually respectful.
The DVD release contains some nice extras, including "behind the scenes" documentary footage shot during the Circle tour, a somewhat muddled-through commentary track by Eddie, and a performance from the Dress to Kill tour in French (including English subtitles). All in all, it's a great package, and a good prelude to Izzard's upcoming world tour this fall.
11712 Hits

nick cave, "god is in the house"


As the cost of technology comes down consistently, it's puzzling to note that few labels are taking advantage of the marvelous opportunities before them. This is a fantastic example of a music DVD done properly, despite it being a few years after the album release of No More Shall We Part. Most of the material comes from that album, but considering other live videos available from the Bad Seeds, it serves as a fine addition to the library. Here, the Bad Seeds are captured at a concert in Lyon, France (2001). It just happens to be the last tour that Neubauten's Blixa Bargeld is supposed to perform on and here, he, along with Mick Harvey and Dirty Three's Warren Ellis are just as entertaining to watch as Nick Cave, himself. Cave may not quite ever become a household name but he is most certainly becoming a musical legend. Cave's ballads speak volumes and his stage presence is intense, much like an evangelical preacher. The experience of seeing the Bad Seeds live is so intense and dramatic, that it blows away all expectations from merely listening to the records at home. Even a lukewarm album can achieve a thunderous accomplishment as the Bad Seeds are all fantastic players and spend so much time touring. The concert is elegantly shot and edited with a good amount of inclusion of the entire group, and the sound is excellent. In addition, Mute thankfully decided not to hold back on this release and included all three music videos from the album along with a short documentary on the recording of the album. Coupled with the album and the experience is complete. I can hope that it's only a matter of time that labels will release DVDs like this WITH the CD of said album. (But in all honesty, expect it to be a Japanese "perk" for about 10 years before the rest of the world catches on.)
11032 Hits

"Maybe Logic: The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson"

Deepleaf


For the last 40 years of consensus space-time, the entity known as Robert Anton Wilson - author, philosopher, neuroscientist, psychedelic comedian, mystic, shaman and Pope - has been tirelessly exploring the tantalizing, puzzling, enigmatic, bizarre, mind-bending and funny metaphysical mysteries of human existence. Now comes Maybe Logic, a definitive documentary about Pope Bob, in the form of an independently released two-DVD set from Deepleaf Productions.

In 1977, Robert Anton Wilson published Cosmic Trigger, an unparalleled epic adventure of deliberately induced brain change, interstellar revelations and mystical initiation. Cosmic Trigger uniquely accounted Wilson's mind-expanding voyage from an atheist, ex-Catholic skeptic to a Buddhist, a Sufi, a Gnostic, a Witch, a Thelemic Magician and a Discordian Pope. Interwoven into this singularly electrifying narrative were ruminations on the Illuminati, synchronicity, conspiracy theory, Finnegan's Wake, Timothy Leary's eight-circuit model of human consciousness, Aleister Crowley, quantum physics and transactional psychology. Robert Anton Wilson had tapped into a current of thought about the universe that has existed since the dawn of man, and was able to make a linkage between all of the various "solutions" to the impossibly enigmatic nature of the universe - scientific theories, philosophies, religious dogmas and cult doctrines - and in the process, he mapped the interior of our belief-derived reality tunnels. While there are dozens of other futurists, mystics and new-age philosophers who have written about such ideas, no one could ever match the engaging humor, the inherent rationalism and the contagious adventurousness of Robert Anton Wilson's more than 30 books, plays and novels. Pope Bob's unique convergence of ideas has served as the basis for the Church of the Subgenius, The Temple of Psychick Youth and the current of occultism known as Chaos Magick.

The main attraction of this DVD set is the one-and-a-half hour video documentary Maybe Logic. This documentary is obviously a labor of love, combining old footage with abundant new interviews with Wilson himself, as well as a host of colleagues, admirers and disciples. We see Pope Bob as an old man - an eccentrically cherubic, white-bearded cross between Confucius, Siddhartha and Mr. Natural. Sadly, he is in the advanced stages of post-polio syndrome, and is confined to a wheelchair, in acute pain for most of his waking hours. Always a libertarian thinker, his recent illness has led him to become an ardent supporter of medicinal marijuana, which he claims is the only analgesic for his constant, intense pain. But despite these tragedies, one cannot help but be impressed by Robert Anton Wilson's unshakable optimism, his creativity, and his unending inquisitiveness. These interviews are edited together with aplomb, the director using a myriad of cutting-edge, mind-bending digital video effects to further intensify the cosmic revelations in Wilson's monologues. The soundtrack is equally superb, with suitably thought-provoking contributions from Boards of Canada, Matt Elliott, The Cinematic Orchestra, Tarantel, Funki Porcini and Amon Tobin.

The second DVD includes supplemental interviews and lectures about various subjects, from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake to the allegorical BBC television series The Prisoner, as well as some exercises designed to awaken your own internal neurological warrior. If you were hazy about quantum physics, mysticism, magick, conspiracy theories and existentialism before, watching this DVD could truly trigger a Kundalini-like awakening of your dormant consciousness. As a bonus, the simple act of watching this DVD will officially ordain you, the viewer as a Discordian Pope. Wilson's final message is that the universe is "plural and mutable" - a vast, un-simultaneously comprehended confluence of subjectively created belief systems and reality tunnels. If you can properly understand Pope Bob's universe, there can be no room for intolerance or misunderstanding, only a constantly renewed sense of vigour, optimism and adventure in discovering the staggering creative potential of the human nervous system.

16762 Hits