Sophisticated Psychological Warfare: 'Law & Order Criminal Intent: The Seventh Year'

The basic premise of Criminal Intent is grounded on the concept of social inequality.

Law & Order Criminal Intent: The Seventh Year

Distributor: Shout! Factory
Cast: Vincent D’Onofrio and Katrhyn Erbe
Network: NBC/USA
Release date: 2012-06-26

Arguably, Criminal Intent is by far the most intriguing of the series that make the Law & Order franchise. Leaving aside the complexities of trials and lawyers, Criminal Intent focuses its narrative on the motivation and psychology of violent criminals. Featuring the clever mind games played between detectives and delinquents, these TV series managed to become brainier than the standard police procedure drama.

Taking place in the iconic New York City, Criminal Intent follows the skilful police work of detectives Robert Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Alexandra Eames (Katrhyn Erbe). As members of the prominent `Major Case Squad’, Goren and Eames investigate crimes and felonies that involve important persons such as politicians, artists, celebrities, industry tycoons, Wall Street executives, and all sorts of wealthy people.

From this setup, the problematic social dynamic of the show is clearly established. Indeed, the basic premise of Criminal Intent is grounded on the concept of social inequality. Just consider, crimes performed against important and influential people are labeled as ‘major’ and appear to require preferential treatment. Furthermore, in several episodes we are informed that the governor and high ranking politicians demand the swift solution of a crime committed against their friends.

But then again, it's important to remark that in spite of such a thorny starting premise, Criminal Intent does not appear to have an elitist view of violent crime. Indeed, most episodes reveal that the culprit was another prominent member of the upper crust. As such, the show’s political ideology drifts away from class conflict towards the unrealistic sense of privilege and entitlement felt by the high society. At the end, the nefarious criminals are always caught, regardless of their place in the social order. However, Criminal Intent never explores if these powerful people are actually convicted of their crimes in a court of law.

As such, the main theme of the series is the intellectual work done by Goren to solve a variety of violent offenses and misdeeds. Savvy with his library card, Goren is often seen reading books related to the convoluted crime that he is trying to solve. As a proof of his superior intellect, Goren performs a sophisticated kind of psychological warfare on the suspects. And perhaps the most delightful part of the show is when Goren uses his knowledge of the criminal mind to confront the criminals in really amusing and unexpected ways.

In this regard, Goren is somewhat reminiscent of the legendary Sherlock Holmes, the granddaddy of modern detective stories. Relying more on wit and less on forensic technology, Goren is able to solve intricate plots by analyzing minute details in the crime scene. By episode’s end, he's always able to trick the culprits to incriminate themselves or make a confession of their devious actions.

Unfortunately, season seven of Criminal Intent was not the best of the entire series. Despite the success of the first four seasons and the good chemistry between the leading actors, it was decided by season five to alternate between two teams of detectives. The second team was made of detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth) and a parade of female companions including Carolyn Barek (Annabella Sciorra), Megan Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson), and Nola Falcci (Alicia Witt). But sorry to say, Logan is not as bright, sharp, amusing, and enigmatic as Goren.

That being said, season seven features a few truly memorable episodes. For example, in “Smile”, Goren and Eames are involved in a conspiracy that goes from a pedophile dentist, to a disgruntled FDA employee, to a greedy Wall Street corporation. And then, in “Vanishing Act”, the detectives are confronted with what appears to be a good magic trick gone wrong. Indeed, a magician is buried alive for 30 days, but his dead body suddenly appears in the magic show of a colleague of his.

Other engrossing episodes include the involvement of a dilapidated rock star in “Reunion”, a nefarious terrorist cell in “Depths”, a foreign political martyr in “Assassin”, a crooked law system in “Courtship”, arrogant plagiarizing writers in “Self-Made”, dishonest amateur boxing in “Ten Count”, brutal vigilante justice in “Neighborhood Watch”, and a day care center to die for in “Please note we are no longer accepting letters of recommendation from Henry Kissinger”.

However, “Frame”, the season finalé, is likely to have disappointed the hard core fans of the series. Indeed, this episode features the long awaited return of Goren’s most deadly nemesis, the bright but wicked Nicole Wallace (Olivia d’Abo). Perhaps best described as a female version of Hannibal Lecter, Nicole is as intelligent and resourceful as Goren. Unfortunately, in this episode she is on screen for only a couple of scenes, before being dispatched to the afterworld by someone close to Goren. What a disappointing end for such a mesmerizing and pivotal character!

For the fans of the series, as well as for those interested in high quality police procedural dramas, the seventh season of Criminal Intent has been released in DVD by Shout! Factory. The video and audio quality of the episodes is very good. However, there is an unbelievable goof in the DVD set cover. The cover states that the seventh season ran in 2008-2009, when in reality ran in 2007-2008. Still, such an amusing mistake does not demerit an otherwise top-notch presentation of the series. It's quite unfortunate, however, that there are no extra features to be found in this DVD set.

By all means, Criminal Intent should rank as one of the best police series in the history of TV. Featuring an amusing and clever detective, most of the time Criminal Intent offers interesting and intelligent plots. Even after repeated views, this show remains enigmatic, engrossing, and suspenseful. All things considered, this DVD set is widely recommended.


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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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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