Games

Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches

The Brigmore Witches acts as a fitting end to one of the most original IPs of 2012.


Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches

Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1
Release Date: 2010-08-13
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Following the conclusion of The Brigmore Witches, the final piece of downloadable content for Arkane Studios's Dishonored, the city of Dunwall remains an unsettling location. Nevermind the plague that has swept through the city, the hordes of rats devouring discarded bodies, and the grotesque, disfigured masses, it's the city's disconnectedness that causes such disorientation. For a hard-luck city run by a seemingly benevolent family of monarchs, the disarray of the disparate communities and the lack of continuity between locations places you in the middle of a city with a bubbling underbelly of economic strife, political unrest, and a maze of corridors with no cheese at the end (electrified or otherwise).

In The Brigmore Witches, you assume the role of Daud -- the original game's antagonist and the playable character of The Knife of Dunwall DLC -- up to his climactic final encounter with Corvo. Continuing the story of the prior DLC, you search for Delilah, the nefarious Brigmore witch intent on conquering Dunwall. But as you travel to new locales throughout Dunwall via nothing but loading screens, your connection to and understanding of the city wane. There are ghettos enduring civil war between rival factions (the Riverfront in "The Dead Eels") and derelict manors where cults are formed that are busy creating elaborate plots to overthrow the reigning power ("Delilah's Masterwork"). All of which begs the question: how are all of these areas under the same control?

Dishonored put on display how Dunwall fell into madness and disease following the assassination of its empress and abduction of the heiress. The militarized zone featured palatial compounds for high-ranking military targets and garish bordellos for the city's elite, all within confined urban spaces. The Knife of Dunwall filled in the gaps, showing off the source of all that wealth: the blue-collar whale oil factories. But The Brigmore Witches feels disjointed. You explore riverfronts with bare riverbeds exposed, and the docks look more like rail yards and offer little exploration -- you quickly transition into the city's infrastructure.

What the The Brigmore Witches lacks in continuity, it makes up for in story. The Knife of Dunwall left players with a perilous cliffhanger: who is Delilah, why does she have the same mystical powers endowed to the protagonists, and what are her intentions? This final piece of DLC answers all of those questions while tying together the loose ends of Daud's story. The Knife of Dunwall's biggest downfall was its insistence that Daud have a conscience. The Brigmore Witches allows this plot point to resolve itself subtly, significantly affecting the plot of the series without changing Daud's established character.

The gameplay remains unchanged. You are able to import your skills and Chaos rating from The Knife of Dunwall, which, if you choose to, creates an overpowered Daud if you decide to complete the game on high chaos (as I did). The Brigmore Witches introduces few new powers and is better for limiting itself. Why Daud didn't have access to these powers previously presents logical questions about the gameplay and ascribing too many new gimmicks to this piece of DLC would indicate that the designers were reaching for innovative content. However, the Brigmore witches, the DLC's primary antagonists and common enemies, are a complicated entry into the series. Difficult to kill and outfitted with the same powers that you are, navigating around them or fighting through a swarm of them presents unique challenges.

As it strands, The Brigmore Witches acts as a fitting end to one of the most original IPs of 2012. By wrapping up Daud's story, the DLC delivers a relevant piece of plot development to the original game that arrives unexpectedly and without disrupting the core story and gameplay. In a climate where developers use DLC as a quick money grab, The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches show how impactful and integral the delivery model can be to the overall experience.

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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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