Games

Psych-Horror Flick as Music Video, or Vice Versa: Animal Collective's 'Oddsac'

Musically and visually, Animal Collective's new "visual album" 'Oddsac' is unmistakably in the group's wheelhouse: unapologetically and uncompromisingly weird, possessed of a singular vision, and all the more compelling for it.

When your band's last album was near the top of pretty much every 'Best Of' list in the known universe, you pretty much get to do whatever you want for a follow-up. Apparently, what the fellows of Animal Collective wanted to do with that carte blanche was work alongside director Danny Perez to craft the most psychedelic and frankly frightening music/film hybrid since the Beatles' Yellow Submarine, which, for the record, is goddamn terrifying. In this goal, they succeed mightily with their latest release, the "visual album" Oddsac.

Speaking prior to a midnight screening at New York's IFC Theatre, the film's director advised the audience to just sort of let go for the film's not-quite-an-hour run time. "Don't try to decipher it too much", requested Perez. It's good advice that will contribute greatly to enjoying Oddsac, which alternates between creating psychedelic landscapes of color, motion, and sound, and gleefully context-free vignettes that are by turns meditative and gruesome.

As an album and a film, Oddsac is, perhaps inevitably, uneven--colored static and electronic drones dominate or punctuate significant portions of the work, and at points, these can't help but drag. But they offset the sense of dread that hangs over the work, marked by frequent jump cuts, distorted whispers and indecipherable sounds, and aesthetically challenging scenes seemingly pulled from lucid nightmares. Perez has a gift for the hideous, delighting in confronting viewers with images that ooze, peel, and creep around the border of consciousness. Though one can sense distinct shades of Lynch and Bava at points in the film, Oddsac operates within a striking visual context all its own.

Sonically, the piece is a bit harder to draw a bead on. To a reviewer who is, admittedly, more focused on scene than sound, it seems as if the music takes a back seat to the frequently breathtaking visual tableaus. Though a few strong tracks stand out, they are exceptions on an album that mostly feels like a soundtrack and isn't as impressive or memorable as its visual component. But the two elements are really inseparable, and trying to review Oddsac as one thing or another does the sum of the work a disservice. Nothing springs to mind that, in concept or execution, compares very closely to what has been assembled here, which is reason enough to recommend it.

Musically and visually, Oddsac is unmistakably in Animal Collective's wheelhouse: unapologetically and uncompromisingly weird, possessed of a singular vision, and all the more compelling for it. As such, it's not for everyone, and there are those who will be turned off simply by its nature. But given a chance and viewed with an open mind, Oddsac is an often thrilling sensory spectacle that packs a unique, visceral punch.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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