Books

Feeding an Addiction

Photo (partial) by © JenniPenni found here on FlickR.com

Call me a romantic, but after watching so much of that wet and messy business, I crave a less-is-more, simpler, sexier rendition of food porn. Instead, of grotesque, I prefer burlesque and have found that the good stuff isn’t on reality TV.

I am a food voyeur who derives pleasure from watching others handle and prepare it. With dirty, messy details, I like talking about food with others, and will trade stories about the best dish I’ve ever had. I consume cable programming dedicated to it, subscribe to niche magazines focusing on it, and browse the Internet for images of it. I also pay for it, frequently. Whether it’s the cheap thrill off the street or the expensive dish in a fancy joint, I’m more than willing to open my wallet to satisfy my cravings as a food porn addict.

A food porn addict such as myself outranks a foodie in the area of gastrointestinal obsession because, instead of merely seeking out and appreciating a good meal, the addict has food on his mind far more often than he has it in his belly. The addict sees food as a form of entertainment that doesn’t even require participation or the pesky matter of actual sustenance.

As deviant as it may initially read, my life as an addict is not a lonely one. Truly it is an addiction I believe grips those fortunate enough to live in a first-world country with a desire to view food as more than simply a nutritional matter, or a means to silence a growling gut running on empty. It seems to me the food porn addict really emerged in the last six- to-ten years, as food became part of the pop-culture meal plan – and as urbanely urban denizens with some disposable income popularized the notion of seeking out quality consumables that contained fresh, local ingredients in hip, fusion recipes.

While I count myself in those ranks, I’ve recently become bored by the overexposed food porn that dominates television.

Like real porn, food porn has become a big business co-opted by corporations. The fetishizing of food is the sole purpose of Saveur Magazine a “classy” food porn publication begging for a centerfold. Moreso, corporate food porn is the bread and butter of reality-TV channels that have shows dedicated to cupcake wars, dessert challenges, cooking competitions, “extreme” meals, obscure regional favorites, and on and on. The Food Network, and to a lesser extent Bravo and TLC, have built empires of the edible so massive in size as to impress porn actor John Holmes.

Food porn has created stars out chefs. Much as Jenna Jameson became famous for using her specialized talents to bring sex out of the bedroom and onto the screen with graphic efficacy, so have Padma Lakshmi, Giada De Laurentiis, Tom Colicchio and Bobby Flay (to name but a few) become famous for using their “celebrity chef” talents to bring meal prep out of the kitchen. A visit to Colicchio or Flay’s restaurants in New York City are tourist destinations for the starstruck food porn addict, not unlike the AVN awards might be for that other porn enthusiast.

However, when porn becomes too hip, too mainstream even, it loses something of its appeal. That’s where we are now. Food Network has especially become like the Ron Jeremy of food porn; it’s likable enough, but it’s become so popular that it’s no longer sexy. Instead, it's become like a familiar chain restaurant and a reliably mediocre destination.

To counter that familiarity, like sexual pornography, food porn tries to evolve by pushing the boundaries of the fetish ever further. For example, reality TV has gone “amateur”, which is really hot right now. The contestants on The Next Food Network Star and Top Chef are professional amateur, all vying to make it as food porn celebrities. It doesn’t sound that far off from an adult feature film “plot” that has a young starlet looking for her big break.

Meanwhile, Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods dares the food porn audience to see how much they can watch before they gag and look away. After eating the raw seal meat and warthog anus, Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations even abutted the same gross-out two girls and one cup territory as Zimmern, but he kept it classy and transformed his show into a globetrotting, high-art food porn.

The recent evolution of food porn on reality TV hasn’t engaged my interest for the long-term. It may catch me when I’m up late, and I just happen to land on it whilst channel surfing, but that hardcore stuff has gotten real old, real fast for me. The competitive food porn shows have become too snooty -- yet simultaneously cheap -- for my tastes. The “Fear Factor” of food porn robs me of the joy of talking about and fantasizing about both everyday and rare food (it’s hard to find delight in a dish when the entire eating concept is labeled “bizarre”).

Call me a romantic, but after watching that wet and messy business, I crave a less-is-more, simpler, sexier rendition of food porn. Instead, of grotesque, I prefer burlesque and have found that the good stuff isn’t on reality TV.

The curious desires of my food porn addiction are fed through the teasing experimentations of chefs such as David Chang, who is a punk-rock Suicide Girl-esque chef of New York City. The salaciously titled Bite Me, a recipe book out of Canada by artsy mom-types Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat, services my playful and naughty nature with some of the most artistic, yet sensual, food photos I’ve seen. Bite Me also has a sense of humor and keeps the food porn novel without being too extreme.

I've another page-turner in mind, as well. Like a letter to an editor in a nudie mag, the former bad boy Bourdain tells-all in glorious, scandalous detail in his memoir, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook about his insider’s life in the world of food porn.

The best romantic food porn, however, is found online at Chez Pim.com, where blogger and author Pim Techamuanvivit dedicates her site to the pure and simple love of food. By encouraging readers to savor everything from a Kit Kat bar to a rustic fruit tart, Pim’s site is sweet and sexy, revealing but subdued, and inspires the same kind of reaction as a classic Vargas pinup.

Meanwhile, my more-innocent tastes are sated by Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches, a precious collection of lovingly crafted, healthy, cartoon-style lunch recipes, by Crystal Watanabe and Maki Ogawa. It’s like manga for the mouth.

When I’m hungry for something gooey, I find it in the pages of Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, a dessert book based on the creations of a Brooklyn bakery of the same name. For food porn eye candy with hardly a word to get in the way, Food Porn Daily.com is a preferred destination. Through the joys of mobile technology, my food porn addiction thrives with iPhone recipe and restaurant apps like Epicurious, How To Cook Everything (based on the bestselling Mark Bittman book of the same name), Urbanspoon and UrbanDaddy.

So while I’m not afraid to admit my food porn addiction, and will continue to happily seek out thrills to satisfy my appetite, I am hungry for more variety than reality television offers. I will eat it all up online or in books and person, but tuning out is the best way to turn up the heat with the food porn parade.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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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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