Short Ends and Leader

Giuseppe Andrews' The Fast

After nearly a decade dedicated to exploring any and all of the dark recesses in his incredible imagination, watching (Andrews) walk away creatively 'clean and sober', so to speak, is stunning.


The Fast

Director: Giuseppe Andrews
Cast: Vietnam Ron, Ed, Marybeth Spychalski, Walter Patterson, Walt Dongo
Distributor: Self-Released
Studio: Self-Released
UK Release Date: 2009-04-21
US Release Date: 2010-04-21

Just when you think you have him figured out, actor turned auteur Giuseppe Andrews goes and confuses those expectations. First, he finds an inventive post-modern niche in homemade filmmaking, turning his video camera on the residents of a California trailer park and featuring them in his unhinged slices of way beyond the fringe life. Then he takes that basic idea and runs with it, moving from sensible narratives to surreal experiments in tone and genre. Just as you're getting settled in, comfortable with the revolving door cast of real life characters and the frequently deranged plotlines, he again switches things up and take a lengthy sabbatical to focus solely on music (where he's also a god). Now he's back to making movies, and if The Fast is any indication of his latest direction, he's returned bigger, better, and more brilliant than ever.

Pierogi is a recent convert to a raw food diet who wants to fast for 30 days. Naturally, this causes concern among his friends and family, including: a father whose stuck in a psychological warp involving mountain lions and tuxedos; an uncle whose had his blood replaced by coconut water; a brother who believes he's unfit to be a dad; a newlywed neighbor whose obsessed with opossums; and another who wants to use his available land to construct a cemetery (for people or pets). Taking his issues to a local therapist, he finds some solace. Still looking for enlightenment, however, he seeks out a meditation guru who has a unique take on the practice. Finally content to be part of the process, not necessarily the cure, Pierogi tries to act as mediator between his warring relatives and the toxins tripping through his body. It's quite a journey.

After years of constructing his stories out of the scattered pieces of his fractured sensibility, Giuseppe Andrews is back, rejuvenated, and ready to reestablish his outsider cinema dominance with the masterpiece, The Fast. Easily eclipsing the similarly marvelous movies he made in the last few years, it's one of the rare instances where the filmmaker has taken a basic premise - a young man on a self-imposed water and juice regiment - and uses it as a jumping off point for a series of sensational vignettes. Structured to follow almost all of the 30 days individually, with some stop offs being less than a few seconds long, Andrews clearly wants to explore his recent reevaluation, to look at the decision he made a few months back to switch gears, and what had to be the Herculean soul searching that came with such a choice. The lifestyle change facet of the story symbolizes the struggle we all have to make ourselves over - and the effect it has on our perspective and personal growth.

The first few days see Pierogi visit his wealthy health nut uncle (played perfectly by Vietnam Ron, a subversive picture of vigor himself). Their discussion about family and the ill-feelings that often result is something new for Andrews, a reminiscence that seems to come from a private, not a perverse, arena. Similarly, when the brother character confronts Pierogi about his fears over being a father, Andrews sits the man down and has the kind of common sense heart to heart we aren't used to in his films. Viewers expecting a nonstop barrage of sexual innuendos and explicit toilet humor will be flabbergasted to see the director working "straight" for once. Sure, there are a couple of scatological moments, but The Fast wants to deal with the heart, not the more offensive parts of the human body.

This becomes clear in a beautiful scene where Andrews' Pierogi acts as wandering minstrel to the brother and his bride. As he sits on the RV sofa, strumming his guitar and singing his clever "June/Moon" love song, the camera pulls back, allowing the couple room to stand up and slow dance. It's one of the most magical sequences in any of his movies. Equally touching is a scene where Ed, playing Pierogi's dim dad "Dr. Tux", serenades his aging dachshunds to sleep. It's a quaint, sweet throwaway, but it also indicates a newfound maturity. Instead of running away from emotion, The Fast embraces it. It wallows in feelings of genuine caring and gets us involved on a deeper level with the people passing by before us. Even the scenes in the therapist's office pose more intricate questions than New Age answers.

Andrews has found a few new faces to flesh out his always changing company. Old favorites like Walt Dongo and Walter Patterson make mere cameos, while the new featured performers appear like people in the throws of their own personal Hell. This is true of an incredibly masculine woman, faced smeared with make-up, who goes on a long rant about her boyfriend, his abusive nature, her motives, and why she won't leave him. It's heavy - and thanks to her stream of insanity style - rather hilarious. A little more frightening is a last act run-in with a guy who raises weasels…as food. Of course, when we end up seeing what he considers a critter, the sinister edge to his drunken appeal is more or less obliterated. Andrews has always been a genius at showing the real person behind the social stigma. The human wreckage he features here is definitely no different. But instead of the butt of some joke, they now become the truth behind the life we live.

By taking the lead himself, by putting his face (or at the very least, his voice) into every single minute of this movie, Giuseppe Andrews uses The Fast as an update and a revised primer on his current condition and what we can expect in the future. With his gaunt frame, full beard, and endless imagination, he appears recharged and ready to take on any challenge. After nearly a decade dedicated to exploring any and all of the dark recesses in his incredible imagination, watching him walk away creatively 'clean and sober', so to speak, is stunning. That he can still make movies as amazing, as thought provoking, as clever and as concise as this one is a toast to his talent. Usually, when a special artist states that he or she is stepping away from their muse for a while, the return trip back is troubled and strained. In this case, Giuseppe Andrews' Fast has done him - and his audience - a world of good.

9

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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