Comics

Shadowland #1

The Devil Plays His Hand: Central to the "Shadowland" crossover and to recent Daredevil storyarcs (both helmed by writer Andy Diggle) is the question of Matt Murdock's possible redemption of The Hand ninja clan, or the damnation of his mortal soul.

With high-level creative talent like event-runner Andy Diggle and core limited series artist Billy Tan, the real question for "Shadowland" is not whether it will succeed, but why it needs to.


Shadowland #1

Publisher: Marvel
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Andy Diggle
Price: $3.99
Contributors: Billy Tan (artist)
Publication Date: 2010-09
Amazon

It seems hard-fought and hard-won, the new "Heroic Age" that Marvel is just entering into. Ever since "Civil War" things have spiraled into the abysmal . Summer mega-events then and since have seen Marvel holding up a dark mirror to the world of current affairs. "Civil War" would itself mimic a nation split by pro- and anti-war stances, by using the Superhero Registration act as a metaphor. "Secret Invasion" with its hope-fuelled themes would mirror a nation getting ready for arguably the most important election in its history. And "Dark Reign", where villains posed as heroes to seek their own redemption, became the perfect metaphor for restructuring after the economic collapse, arguably engineered, as Andrew Ross Sorkin would suggest, by the very men who resolved it.

It is hard then, not to share in the existential moment of horror, the hell of 'My God, what has happened!' experienced by Tony Stark's Iron Man (an movingly scripted by Invincible Iron Man regular writer Matt Fraction) at the end of the "Stark Disassembled" storyarc. In a single page, after five month's worth of issues, Tony Stark is finally rebooted. His brain is back online after having been months in a coma. But Tony Stark's memories, the memories downloaded from his 'personality backup harddrive', also fail to include events after the dissolution of the Avengers. Reading about what has happened, "Civil War" and "Secret Invasion", for the very first time it is hard to not feel the disillusion and the anguish set in.

Between the far-flung, science-fictional exuberance that began the decade with Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men and the slow-bleed of recursive current-events metaphored as ongoing superhero trauma that ran the full gamut from "Civil War" through "Dark Reign", Daredevil's storyline this decade stands as a kind of sentinel, bridging the gap.

Beginning with the Bendis-Maleev collaboration in the early part of the decade, Daredevil would see the toppling of the Kingpin of Crime by assassination attempt in Underboss, the outing of his secret identity and a running war with paparazzi in Out, Murdock's installing himself as the new Kingpin in King of Hell's Kitchen, and his eventual arrest and disbarment in The Murdock Papers.

The subsequent Brubaker-Lark run would have no less of an impact. Daredevil would escape from jail, chase down a conspiracy across Europe that was targeted against him and his inner circle of friends, and eventually clear his name in the two volumes of Devil Inside and Out. He would go on to reclaim the streets of New York (specifically his home of Clinton), only to lose his wife to psychological trauma in the process. And eventually he would come to blows with The Hand, a ninja clan he has a longstanding history with, only to accept leadership of that same clan in the groundbreaking Daredevil #500. With Andy Diggle taking over as lead series writer from Ed Brubaker, the monthly eponymous series would see a shift back to the occultic elements of the character's decades-long, panoramic history.

So rather than read as Daredevil's story alone, Shadowland Marvel should make clear attempts to integrate his story into the broader Marvel universe? After all Daredevil has been an outlier in Marvel's Earth-616 for the better part of the decade.

Gratefully, no.

Like The Immortal Iron Fist or Nova, but even more so, Daredevil has been one of the secret beating hearts of Marvel's Earth-616 storyline over the past decade. How ever bad things may have gotten for the major superheroes of the day, or for the mutants in the post-M-Day mega-events, Daredevil has been resilient. Diggle's inspired move then, is not reintegrate Daredevil with the broader Marvel panopticon, but to emphasize how significant Daredevil and his own story is, leading to the broader Earth-616 becoming embroiled in DD's story.

In short synopsis, Shadowland #1 ties up some loose ends from Dark Reign: The List--Daredevil. This is the rematch between Daredevil, now clad in a soul-damning black, and Bullseye, perhaps the ultimate DD foe, once again appearing as the villain, rather than posing as Hawkeye.

But the pure thrill of reading Shadowland #1 and I have no doubt this will sustain for the entire crossover event, is seeing how Daredevil has grown greater than his circumstances. In the closing chapter of "Return of the King", moments before Daredevil accepts leadership of The Hand, Brubaker offers a deep-rooted memory of Murdock's grandmaster, Master Izo. In chastising his student Stick, Izo rails, 'You people... You'll be as bad as The Hand with your rules... You were supposed to be what they should have been... not a bunch of prudes...'.

In that single line, Brubaker offered a remarkable reclamation of Miller's Daredevil. If Matt Murdock had a magnificent Ninja Destiny ahead of him, a destiny that singled him out as one birth in centuries, how could his destiny be so small a thing as becoming a street-level vigilante and battling The Hand. In Shadowland Diggle writes out the legacy of Brubaker's one line. And Matt Murdock's Daredevil finally accedes to a destiny that will throw the entire world into turmoil, or redeem it.

8

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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