This'll Get Your Adrenaline Going: 'Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride'

Watching all the smiles and the shrieks and kids staggering off the ride, delighted and delirious, you get some idea of the Zipper's infectious magic, the irrational and overwhelming joy it offers.

Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride

Director: Amy Nicholson
Cast: Eddie Miranda, Joe Sitt, Seth Pinsky, Robert Lieber, Lynn Kelly, Domenic Recchia
Rated: NR
Studio: Myrtle & Olive
Year: 2012
US date: 2013-02-05 (Stranger Than Fiction)

"If you have somebody that knows how to mess with the ride, give you a good ride, that's a real... you know, that shit gets your adrenaline going." Jerry operates the Zipper, a ride at Coney Island renowned for getting your adrenaline going. As he speaks, Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride cuts to a series of riders, screaming and laughing, and screaming some more. And it's not only riders, as Zipper owner Eddie Miranda points out. "Everybody used to stand there and just watch the Zipper. Everybody'd just come and stand there and look up. It's like they were riding the ride because they were screaming just as much as the people who were in the cars."

Watching all the smiles and the shrieks and kids staggering off the ride, delighted and delirious, you get some idea of the Zipper's infectious magic, the irrational and overwhelming joy it offers. Or, more precisely, the joy it offered. As Amy Nicholson's documentary goes on to show, the Zipper is no longer featured at Coney Island, where it was a top ride -- even, as Eddie and Jerry have it, the top ride -- for decades. In following the saga of this loss (for now, the 38-year-old Zipper is installed at a resort in Honduras), this deft and engaging film -- winner of the special jury prize at DOC NYC in 2012 and screening at Stranger Than Fiction on 5 February -- considers multiple contexts, namely, the workings of money and power in New York, workings that led to the closing of the Zipper and the other 41 profitable small businesses.

The Zipper, as Eddie points out, speaks to tradition and pride on Coney Island, the storied southern Brooklyn amusement center, first popular in the 1830s and fallen on hard times since World War II, following a series of fires at Luna Park, increasing street gang activities, and, in 1964, the closing of Steeplechase Park after its purchase by developer Fred Trump (Donald's father). Trump suggested he would leave the park open while awaiting rezoning for residential development, but instead the park was shuttered for two years, then bulldozed in 1966.

Viewed through a chainlink fence, scenes of bulldozing make visual the sense of loss that Eddie and his crewmembers describe. Coney Island was for so long a resort for people without means to travel to upscale resorts that the threat of its loss in 2007 generated street demonstrations, with marchers wearing sequins and feathers and bunny costumes and banging pots and drums. A merman pronounces, "We have enough McDisney coca-lands. We need to keep this alive, to celebrate the individual lunatics that make New York the reason all these people want to bring their money."

Other citizens hoping to preserve the park make similar points repeatedly. The argument for development typically involves "improving" the area, by means of retail businesses, residential housing (that is, condos), and chain restaurants (of the Applebee's and Friday's variety). It's clear that none of these developments means to celebrate individuals, lunatic or otherwise, and that they do mean to make lots of money for private corporations.

In Zipper, the primary representative of the process is Joe Sitt, who introduces himself by recalling his childhood nickname, "Joey Coney Island." A longtime comic book collector, he says he named his development business, Thor Enterprises, after the character he saw as a city dweller and a defender of planet earth. This idea, he smiles, "was consistent with the theme of our company." And so, he says, Thor Enterprises determined to buy up parcels of land, and, much like Trump some 35 years before, wait for promised zoning changes. During the wait, Coney Island land prices fluctuate, a process charted here in an animated roller coaster, the car creaking toward the top of a hill... before it inevitably descends. Amusement park rides, you realize, are premised on physics, they account for gravity rather than schemes and fantasies.

Real estate developers -- call them profiteers -- by contrast, are all about the schemes. When the residential-friendly zoning changes don't materialize in the way Sitt imagined, but yet he owned land for which he could charge rent beyond the means of longtime lot occupants like Miranda. As the Bloomberg Administration and local officials continued to negotiate with Sitt, the rides and shops had to go under or move on. "I shed a tear as she drove away," remembers Jerry over a shot of the Zipper loaded on a truck and heading down a long, grey city street. The contrast between this image those of the Zipper working its magic, so huge and bright red and, for all its mechanics, so strangely supple, is surely striking. As it is here treated like a thing, an object en route to relocation, the Zipper looks less like a thing and more like a bit of vibrant Coney Island life, even as it's now hobbled.

This is the indelible point made by Zipper, that profits have costs. That it does so with good sense and good humor makes it simultaneously a great tribute to a great, wild ride.


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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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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