Film

'Bay of All Saints' at the Doc Yard 4 June

Bay of All Saints offers a profound and poetic way to frame any number of problems, the water as metaphor and reality.


Bay of All Saints

Director: Annie Eastman
Cast: Norato Moraes Trindade, Genilza Lima Ferreira, Maria de Jesus Souza, Rafaela Souza, Maria de Paixao Dos Santos Marques, Rebeca do Santos Marques Lisboa
Rated: NR
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-06-04 (The Doc Yard)
Website
Trailer

Editor's note: Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at this year's SXSW Film Festival, the film is screening on 4 June at the Doc Yard, where it will be followed by a Q&A with filmmakers Annie Eastman and Diane Markrow.

I saw your face in a crowded place,

And I don't know what to do,

'Cause I'll never be with you.

-- James Blunt, "You're Beautiful"

"First it was just the water, and we didn’t have anywhere to live, nowhere to stay. We went to live on top of the water." As Norato speaks, you see Bahia, Brazil, a city of contrasts. On land, modern apartment buildings stretch up toward a bright blue sky. On the water, in Baía de Todos-os-Santos, people have built homes on stilts, shacks made of cardboard and corrugated tin, leaning precipitously toward the grim grey sea.

That sea, so near the shore, is littered with plastic bottles and bags in 2005, when Bay of All Saints begins. A handheld camera tracks Norato as he walks along a shaky wooden walkway erected over the water, accompanied by a tinny radio sounding "You're Beautiful." It's 2005, and the refrigerator repairman is making his rounds, visiting customers who, he notes, have frequent need of his services. It's hard to keep appliances running in the palifatas, as these slums on water are known, because water is always seeping in, flooding floors and corroding wires, not to mention the troubles caused by spotty, illicitly accessed electricity.

Most of the homes Norato services are headed by single mothers, women who've built the shacks themselves, creating a kind of "land" by filling in the water with garbage. They look after their children and work jobs too; visits from Norato, the camera crew in tow, occasion discussions of daily hopes and disappointments, as well as plans for the future. In between Norato's conversations, the camera offers glimpses of dogs swimming, kids playing, and dead rats floating in filthy water. This structure is both calculated and revelatory, inviting you to feel both sympathy for residents' resilience and consternation at their living conditions.

Each of the women Norato calls on has a particular story. Jesus lives with her 15-year-old daughter Rafaela, pregnant and asleep on a sofa, the background TV showing soap operas when you meet her. Jesus worries that her daughter isn't working ("Teenagers these days are like that, lazy," she notes, "But you don’t have a mom for your whole life"), and ponders ways to improve their lot; she's especially concerned once the child is born, that he'll become sick, surrounded by so much water and mess. Dona Maria is looking after young Rebeca, whose mother was also just 15 when she was born. "I said, 'I'll keep this cute little girl,'" remembers Dona Maria, worried she'd be abandoned.

Norato calls Geni "my comrade": she lives with her young son Roger: when Geni and Norato take him to visit Santa Claus at a store in town, the boy is resolved not to be "afraid." "I'll sit in his lap," he insists. The sight of Santa -- bright red suit, in a crowded, well-lit space, emphasizes the "two different worlds" where Geni lives. As Norato explains, she travels a distance each day to provide for Roger, working at a pizzeria in town. Here, Norato points out, people don't know about the palifatas, as the film shows shoppers making their way along sidewalks, distracted and apparently content. On the water, people don't have much time to shop.

The film tracks their experiences over several years, as the World Bank allocates $49 million to the state of Bahia in order to "eliminate" slums like that in Bay of All Saints. A local agency, CONDER, comes up with plans to build housing projects, but never quite follows through. The agency holds a couple of meetings with residents, encouraging them with charts and drawings, promising help in relocation and paying rent for actual houses, on land. Geni points out that the planned sites for these projects make it difficult for workers like herself: there's no bus service to get her from a house outside the city to the pizzeria. She begins to organize, attending community meetings and demonstrations against CONDER, whose ideas about filling in land and making profits have little to do with the people who live on the water.

Jesus makes another choice, to move in with Rafaela and the baby with a man who can support them; when he turns out to be a drunk and abusive, the women need to sort out their priorities. When Norato asks Rafaela if she's able to live with a man who seems like "Satan" in order to keep her child out of the palifatas. As they look on a clean beach where people in swimsuits frolic in the waves, Rafaela murmurs, "I never want to go back."

You can understand why, but you can also understand how, as Geni puts it, the shacks seem like "freedom," ways for single women to live on their own, without depending on untrustworthy men and corrupt institutions, among a community forged out of mutual respect and hard work. Still, she observes, the shacks are costly too. "I always thought this place was mine, it was ours," she says. "But it wasn’t ever ours. There will be land and it won't be ours. It will always belong to the water." It's a profound and poetic way to frame any number of problems, the water as metaphor and reality.

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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