Music

Ain't No Cure for the Digital Virus

Photos by Alan Ranta

How I came to love electronic music... I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell looped and thrown over a 4/4 or broken beat with a bad ass bass line.

A brief glance at my PopMatters archive reveals that I love electronic music, from The Orb and Trentemøller to Bruce Haack and Venetian Snares. At least half of my reviews are of albums that fall under that umbrella genre classification, including my first ever published at PopMatters in 2007 (that 9/10 for Younger Brother's classic Last Days of Gravity still holds up).

Bruce Haack - Party Machine

I was not always an addict of electronic sound, though. Actually, for many years, I thought it was nothing short of stupid. I grimaced at the mere mention of "dance" music. Whenever I was asked to list my least favorite music, electronic was not far behind country and metal. Thanks to stereotypes perpetuated by misleading anti-drug propaganda and ill-informed films, I figured the whole notion of electronic music was a litany of repetitive bullshit devoid of any songwriting skill that existed somewhere between Ace Of Base, Much Dance Mix '95, and chemically induced seizures. I even went so far as to say, and I quote, "electronic music has no soul."

Despite my misgivings, a few key things happened to me in my late teens and early 20s that led to my affection for the genre. For a start, I enjoyed the 1997 release of the film Spawn enough to buy its soundtrack, a pivotal release that featured over a dozen all-star collaborations between electronic artists (few of whom I was aware of at the time) and popular rock musicians. It paired the likes of DJ Spooky with Metallica, Moby with the Butthole Surfers, Prodigy with Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello, and Sneaker Pimps with Marilyn Manson. One of my favorite tracks was the Filter assisted remake of "Trip Like I Do" by Crystal Method, the original of which appeared on their debut album Vegas.

Filter and The Crystal Method - (Can't You) Trip Like I Do

I ran into Crystal Method again a year later, through the South Park Chef Aid album. There, tucked snugly near Isaac Hayes' "chocolate salty balls" was the track "Nowhere to Run". It featured Ozzy Osbourne, DMX, and Ol' Dirty Bastard [all of whom I loved] riffing lyrics and rapping over "Vapor Trail" from Crystal Method's debut. This inspired me enough to buy Vegas. It was my first authentic electronic album purchase, although that fact did not cross my mind at the time. Nothing else got the sub in my 1980 Chevrolet Sierra kicking like Crystal Method, and to this day, Vegas is still my go-to album for testing out a speaker system.

I started smoking pot in the summer of 1998. Shortly thereafter, I randomly bought Lords of Acid's sophomore album VooDoo-U from a used CD store, simply because one of the tracks had the word "marijuana" in it and the cover featured a lesbian devil orgy that was irresistible to my teenage self. I would not realize it for many years, but that album turned out to have a massive impact on my future musical tastes. Lords Of Acid was raunchier than a kiddie pool full of baby-oiled Paris Hiltons. VooDoo-U was full of genre unspecific variety, lustful lyrics, and the darkest synthetic sounds 1994 could muster. Although I had little context for either VooDoo-U or Vegas at the time, I could not stop listening to them.

Lords of Acid - VooDoo-U

In my second year of college, I started hanging out with a neo-hippy named Jan. We bonded over politics and poetry, and argued late in the night about the validity of electronic music. At that point, I was still mostly into classic rock, rap, and indie. Despite my apprehension, he exposed me to drum and bass, breakbeat [akin to the big beat of Crystal Method], and progressive trance. He took me to my first rave in 2002.

The first time I ever truly danced was in 2003 at the Manga club night in Edinburgh, Scotland. Before that point, I only ever head-bobbed to the latest singles from Eminem [who I now loathe] and Jay-Z [to whom I am now indifferent]. I suddenly found myself dancing to that "repetitive bullshit" music I had so openly despised. That night, I was fortunate to see London Elektricity perform live with Stamina MC, upright bassist Andy Waterworth, BBC Jazz Award winner Liane Carroll, and the notorious Jungle Drummer. The title track from VooDoo-U planted the seeds, but London Elektricity cemented my love of drum and bass.

London Elektricity - Billion Dollar Gravy (Live)

A crack in that formerly firmly closed door appeared, and more electronic music started to slip into my collection. I attended local club nights, hung out with DJ crews, and made yearly pilgrimages to summer weekend festivals. I attended three Shambhalas in Nelson, three Soundwaves on Vancouver Island, and a Tribal Gathering in Manchester. I still liked classic rock, indie, and hip-hop, albeit far more independent and liberal minded than the misogynistic, materialistic rap of my teens, but unconsciously and over time, electronic music dominated my taste and interest. What's more, it changed the way I listened to music.

Not to deride any genre, but you cannot approach electronic music with the same mindset as you do hip-hop and rock, genres that derive the majority of their meaning through lyrics and the arrangement of pitched notes. With electronic music, the sounds are frequently more important than the structure within which they are placed. The many classifications of electronic music often overwhelm people trying to decipher the plethora of subgenres that follow DJ names and club nights on flyers. That is fine, but the mark of great electronic artists lay in their ability to creating revolutionary sounds, designing sounds that push technology beyond its years.

The ultimate success of most electronic music is marked by a specific audience response: dancing. Of course, people love busting a move to rock, hip-hop, pop, and most other genres, but electronic music has its own unique rave culture, one that shapes the styles of dance and forms of social interaction that accompany a good electronic show. It is called "dance" music for a reason. Outside of experimental and committed ambient stuff, the majoritfy of electronic music post-Kraftwerk is intended to accompany and inspire movement. Even hipsters who have no idea about the history of influences behind the music of Four Tet and Girl Talk can't stop themselves from, at least, nodding their heads at their shows.

The dancefloor at a rave style festival or electronic club night can be a little overwhelming at first. It's different from the pop club dancefloor as significantly fewer people are dancing to be noticed, or expecting to hit on someone or be hit on. On the electronic dancefloor, people are dancing their asses off because they have to dance. Sure, there are many sexy people dancing to electronic music, but the music is getting them off [and I've seen dozens of men and women grinding on speakers that prove that point].

How To Dance At A Rave

(Yes, this is a joke, but if you ever do go to a rave, you will see variations of all these dances)

When you are new to electronic music, it can be intimidating to get next to those people who seem to be getting a lot more out of it. Even after I started to enjoy the music, I didn't attempt to move to it for almost a year. Now, however, it is in me -- I am fully infected by a digital virus. Though my clubbing days are long over, I cannot resist scratching that itch distinctive to electronic music: the overwhelming need to move, even if it amounts to merely rocking on the soles of my feet and nodding while pads wash over me, leads buzz past my head, and bass kicks me in the chest.

There are many layers to the listening process, and it takes a little bit of work, patience, open-mindedness, and the right setting to allow those layers to reveal meaning in this music that is relevant to you. It didn't happen overnight for me, and if I didn't have a good group of friends to grow with, it may have never happened. Everyone comes to electronic music in his or her own time. Merely by reading this column, you may already have unwittingly caught it -- the PLUR laced fever that leads to a full-blown electronic music infection. Don't worry, it's not painful, but you may just get a little crazy, from time to time.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

Next Page

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image