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by Comfort Clinton

27 Jan 2012


Sometimes rejection is the best motivator. This was certainly the case for filmmakers Dan Mirvish, Jon Fitzgerald, Shane Kuhn and Peter Baxter, who took their rejection from the Sundance Film Festival and channeled it into the creation of their own, alternative film festival. Slamdance Film Festival, begun in 1995, has become a yearly event, taking place, “coincidentally”, at the exact same time as Sundance, in scenic Park City, Utah. Run and operated with the mantra of “by filmmakers, for filmmakers” in mind, the Festival, which aims to showcase truly independent films, has drawn quite a following in its 18 years of operation, and even boasts the discovery of directors Christopher Nolan, Marc Foster, and Oren Peli.

Proving a veritable breeding ground for documentaries, in 2005, the Festival showcased Mad Hot Ballroom, which was then purchased by Paramount for a record-breaking sum, and in 2010 was home to the world premiere of Steven Soderberg’s documentary And Everything is Going Fine, which chronicles the life of deceased actor Spalding Gray.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

27 Jan 2012


SPIN Magazine‘s “First Listen” program is featuring the upcoming release from Of Montreal, Paralytic Stalks, due out February 7th. This is Kevin Barnes’ eleventh collection of musical visions since 1997 and he is still clearly at full command of his band. SPIN provides notes from the frontman for each song, making it not only a welcome listening session but a complete artistic immersion with this intimate, behind the scenes read as well.

The album kicks off with the percussive blast of “Gelid Ascent” that is both alarming and intriguing, much like Barnes himself. It opens up to a classic rock feel with echoing vocals saying, “Speak to me”. Music at once experimental and catchy for the next tune,“Spiteful Intervention”, is classic Of Montreal. The soulful singing and funky beat of “Dour Percentage” and “We Will Commit Wolf Murder” expands to the sound explored in more recent albums. A softer approach is found in “Malefic Dowery”, a “troubled love song” explains Barnes. Buzzy blips and electronic dance grooves return for “Ye, Renew the Plaintiff”, with experimental forays to keep the eight minute song interesting. (Indeed, this is one of Barnes’ favorite on the entire record). The next track, “Wintered Debts” begins with an acoustic guitar yet quickly expands into “a country shuffle”, according to Barnes. The experimental focus returns through the final song, “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission”, 13 minutes of euphoric psych pop with Barnes singing, “I love how we’re learning from each other.”

Listen and read about Paralytic Stalks here.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

27 Jan 2012


Portland’s psych rock trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra recently released a video for “Thought Ballune”, co-directed by Jordan Blady and Ryan Knowles. This laid-back dance track gets a creepy house party treatment, which brings an added element to the song amidst a dingy setting. The song off a self-titled debut may have been created by New Zealand native Ruban Nielson’s home studio, but he told Rolling Stone that he didn’t want to go out on the road with a “totally substandard” live show. “I wanted people to be surprised at how good we were, not how bad we were.”

Nielson begins a tour next month with local producer Jake Portrait on bass and drummer Julien Ehrich. They will be headlining at a few venues before joining in support of Girls through the month of March. Plans also include the requisite stop at SXSW for any buzz-worthy band.

by Cynthia Fuchs

26 Jan 2012


“President Reagan has fought long and hard to prevent Congress from imposing new economic sanctions on South Africa. Recently, even leaders of his own party begged him to stop. He didn’t. Today, he lost.” Footage of Dan Rather’s report on CBS in October 1986 serves as a kind of exclamation point when it appears in Have You Heard From Johannesburg. Before and following this clip, the film shows member of the Black Congressional Caucus then and now, recalling their fight to support the ANC against the racist South African government. When at last the Senate and the House voted to override the president’s veto, the movement was approaching its goal, the end of apartheid, the release of Nelson Mandela from prison (still three and a half years away, in 1990), and the official recognition by Western nations—the US, Britain, France, and others—that apartheid was, in fact, a threat to world peace.

This moment was an overlong time coming, of course, but still, when it does come in “Free at Last,” the fifth and final PBS installment of Connie Field’s documentary on 26 January, you’d be hard-pressed not to feel at least a bit of relief. As the film reveals, the strategies to get to this moment shift over the years, as the ANC is joined by other organizations, based in in South Africa and elsewhere. The ANC continued to represent through Oliver Tambo in exile (who says in an archival interview that even as bomb attacks were escalating in South Africa, “We continue, of course, to calculate on what this means for civilians” as well as Mandela (who became the movement’s most recognizable “name and face”). When an interviewer asks him, “Does your wife worry about you?”, Tambo patently responds. “Of course she does. I expect I really do expect that I will be killed by the regime or its representatives.”

by PopMatters Staff

26 Jan 2012


Two Dark Birds frontman Steve Koester left the 24/7 lights of New York City well behind him and forged a new life deep in the Catskills recently. The move has given him a fresh musical lease on life and infused the band’s latest album, Songs For The New, with a new vibrancy. Or as Koester says, “this whole album is, in a sense, about being born… or being reborn.” The music draws from a vast wellspring of influences and sounds, including folk, Americana, R&B, and pysch rock, as well as employing a broad range of instrumentation, of which horns and strings are prominent.

Keeping with that theme, the new Scott Kawczynski-directed video for “Black Blessed Night” depicts the flight of a bird from the confines of the city to the freedom of nature in the mountains. Obviously, Koester is super pleased with his new residence. The song itself is described as being “about freedom and about how nature or music can pull you out of yourself.”


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