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Friday, Oct 17, 2014
Even with all its XXX gimmickry, Nymph()maniac remains grounded in character. From someone like Von Trier, we'd expect nothing less, and we even get a lot more.

Did we really need more? Did we really need to see a graphic self-abortion, male genitals in all manner of pre/post sexual release? Did we need more conversations between title “subject” Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg in the present, Stacy Martin in flashback) and her Good Samaritan “therapist” Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård)?


After viewing Lars Von Trier’s director’s cut of Nyph()maniac, packing at least 40 more minutes of provocative button pushing, the answer is an enthusiastic “Yes!” Those already inclined to dislike the film won’t find anything new to reverse their opinion. Those who found the director’s dissection of the fantasies and failings of a life devoted to sex interesting will be pleased with the additions, if not 100 percent convinced of their necessity.


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Friday, Oct 17, 2014
A pupil/teacher story dressed up as a battle-of-wits thriller, the pushy, over-hyped Whiplash fails to impress.

In Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, Miles Teller plays Andrew Neyman, a talented and fiercely ambitious jazz drummer who studies at an elite music conservatory. When Andrew is selected by the tutor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) to join the ensemble that Fletcher conducts, it seems like a dream opportunity for the young man to kick-start his career. But Fletcher, it turns out, is a fearsome, take-no-prisoners hard ass with whom Andrew soon finds himself locked in an ever-escalating battle of wills and wits.


Having scooped both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards at this year’s Sundance Film Festival Whiplash arrives at this year’s London Film Festival with a considerable weight of expectation. It looks to be pushing the right buttons for some audiences here too, but I hated the film, passionately. Essentially, the movie is just another guy-on-guy pupil/inspirational teacher story, but one of a particularly extreme variety.Your response to it will entirely depend on how you take to the character of Fletcher and his teaching methods.


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Friday, Oct 17, 2014
Seals isn’t merely continuing to play Garcia’s songs; he and his band continue to push the jams in the bold and exploratory directions the Jerry Garcia Band was always known for.

It was a Friday night in Ocean Beach, where a hippie haven oasis exists in what is otherwise considered more of a conservative town. Deadhead culture thrives here on Ocean Beach’s main drag on and around Newport Avenue, an area that feels like a cross between LA’s Venice Beach and San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Winston’s Beach Club doesn’t quite stack up to Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads in the Bay Area, but the club has been helping to keep the vibe alive by featuring the Electric Waste Band covering the Grateful Dead every week for over two decades.


The club has also been hosting periodic shows from local outfit Alleycat Street, which covers the music of the Jerry Garcia Band. There’s definitely an audience here for Garcia’s musical legacy, one that forever altered the culture of America in a more benign and musically adventurous way. The room may not have the aesthetic decor of some others, but there’s a community vibe that makes Winston’s one of the friendliest venues on the West Coast.


Enter Melvin Seals & JGB on their fall tour, a group who rightfully think of themselves as “keepers of the flame”. Seals joined the Jerry Garcia Band in 1980 and held down the keyboard position until Garcia’s untimely departure from the planet in 1995. Seals and the band always headline the annual “Jerry Day” show in San Francisco every August and keep that flame burning by continuing to tour the nation.


Seals is a Jedi master of the Hammond B-3 organ, so much so that Garcia reportedly nicknamed him “Master of the Universe”. He anchors the band with a zen sort of vibe from his keyboard corner on stage, frequently playing in the pocket yet also dabbling in swirling psychedelic forays at the edge of the space-time continuum. Seals isn’t merely continuing to play Garcia’s songs; he and his band continue to push the jams in the bold exploratory directions the JGB was always known for.


The band hit the stage with the gentle groove of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up”, taking their time to warm the room up a bit with a nod to another Ocean Beach favorite. But then they jumped into the deep end with the full tilt rock ‘n’ roll of “Cats Under the Stars” and the dance party was on. Guitarist/vocalist Dave Hebert makes it all work because he’s, quite frankly, very Jerry. He’s got Garcia’s guitar tone dialed in, and his vocals indicate a devoted disciple as well. Seals also gives Hebert free reign to jam out, as opposed to how John Kadlecik often seems to be on a short leash filling the Jerry role in Furthur.


The female backing vocals are key to the JGB sound as well, with Shirley Starks and Cheryl Rucker adding that extra harmonic dimension for the genuine sound. Drummer Pete Lavezzoli and bassist John-Paul McLean provide a strong rhythm section and it was readily apparent from the hot sound on “Cats” that this band has some real chemistry. “Simple Twist of Fate” was a mid-set highlight, with the band delivering a faithful take on Garcia’s version of the Bob Dylan classic. Garcia’s poignant arrangement is on the mellow side, but allows for some of Seals’ most elegant piano work and deep blues from Hebert.


The band revved it up for “Struggling Man”, where Seals took command on organ to lead a surging jam. The energy carried over into a charged “Rhapsody in Red” with Hebert tearing up the classic Garcia lead guitar trills to close the set with a flourish.


Winston’s always scores highly on being a fan-friendly venue at set breaks. There’s not many other venues where you can walk down to the beach during a break. Or that have a great liquor and tobacco store right across the street, not to mention a variety of options for a quick bite. Or you can just relax for a puff out back as many often do.


“Sugaree” opened the second set in a mellow style similar to the “Stir It Up” first set opener, giving fans a chance to settle back in before a raucous jam on the dance groove of “Get Out of My Life Woman”. The centerpiece of the set occurred during a mega-jam on “Don’t Let Go”, where Seals and the band seemed to be transported back to 1980. The incendiary jam recalled a classic archival release version of “After Midnight” from that year, with Seals and Hebert pushing each other higher with their melodies as the rhythm section drove the groove deeper and deeper. The collective “x-factor” surged as the band jammed to what seemed an infinite forever ecstatic level.


Seals dialed up the perfect interlude afterward with the gospel-tinged spiritual anthem “Sisters and Brothers”, a beloved ode to keeping the faith while making one’s way through this troubled world. Then the band went back to full rock power for a soaring rendition of “Lonesome and a Long Way From Home” to close the set. It was one of those great nights were strangers were stopping strangers, or maybe distant acquaintances, just to shake their hand or maybe share a puff or a tip on the next show. The flame is still burning bright thanks to Melvin Seals and JGB.


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Friday, Oct 17, 2014
Turkish rapper Da Poet returns with another set of moody hip-hop instrumentals.

Still exploring the ambits of hip-hop grooves and jazzy sonics, Turkish rapper and beatmaker Da Poet adds yet another album of instrumentals to his repertoire of work. Last year’s instrumentals collection, Beattape, dipped into artfully lush chill-out and marked the artist’s crossover success, gaining attention overseas with hip-hop and downtempo aficionados. The rapper’s latest is mainly a collection of instrumentals from his 2011 album, Poetika, which was a sizeable hit in Turkey’s underground hip-hop scene. Stripped bare of Da Poet’s earnest and fluid raps, all emphasis is placed on the rapper’s most overlooked skill: his ability to create haunting and evocative melodies.


Tagged as: da poet, hip-hop, turkey
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Friday, Oct 17, 2014
Cracker nails the vintage California rock vibe with its latest single, "Waited My Whole Life".

The long-running alt rock group Cracker has taken on a bold task with its latest LP, Berkeley to Bakersfield. As its title suggests, it’s a California-centric musical journey that spans the hip Bay Area to the desert environs of the Central Valley. The record, a two-disc affair, captures each area with a particular style: the former with a “punk” and “garage” oriented rock with “funky undertones”, the latter with a twangy country style reminiscent of the famed Bakersfield sound. Below you can stream “Waited My Whole Life”, a tune from the Berkeley portion of the journey.


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