Comics

Ambiguously Forging the Future: "Wolverine and the X-men #37"

The final battle for the future takes shape, albeit under overly ambiguous circumstances.


Wolverine & the X-men #37

Publisher: Marvel
Price: $3.99
Writer: Jason Aaron, Giuseppe Camuncoli
Publication Date: 2013-12
Amazon

Fixing anything that breaks is hard enough. Fixing it without the right tools is even harder. Now imagine that in order to get those tools, it's necessary to run a marathon and fight a pack of hungry wolves. It's an extreme sort of repair that no reality show or tech support is equipped to handle, but when it's the space time continuum that needs to be fixed, obtaining those tools becomes all the more important. And if they can't be obtained, then it's necessary to improvise in ways that would impress and horrify MacGyver himself.

This is the challenge facing the past, present, and future X-men in X-men Battle of the Atom. And Wolverine and the X-men #37, the penultimate issue of this 10-part series, each era of X-men has to take part in what may be the single most important act of tech support in order to fix the timeline. However, at this point it is no longer possible to completely repair the space time continuum. Like a computer with permanently corrupt files, they can only work around it to minimize the damage.

This began as X-men Battle of the Atom's greatest strength, but recently it also became its greatest flaw. So much of the story was built around the fight to send the Original Five back to the past. It was a compelling, emotional struggle that impacted each era of X-men. Then when it seemed the Original Five had lost and were poised to go back, something unexplained and horribly contrived stopped. For reasons that are only slightly addressed in this issue, the Original Five can't go back to the past. In addition to creating all sorts of complicated consequences for the future of the X-men comics, it rendered much of that early struggle pointless. It's like a rat traversing a complex maze only to find out at the end that it doesn't like cheese.

So now the struggle in Battle of the Atom has to take on an entirely different form. It also has to find an entirely different way to have an impact doesn't feel quite as pointless. At this point in the story, the battle lines are clearly drawn. There's no more ambiguity over who are the heroes and who are the villains. The fraudulent X-men that showed up earlier in the series have been exposed and identified as the future Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. And since their plan to send the Original Five X-men back to the past failed, they're left to improvise in a way that promises to do even more damage to the timeline. They can't surgically repair time with a scalpel anymore. So now they're prepared to use a machete.

In doing so, the stage is set for one last battle. And that battle takes place in an area that has a special resonance for the history of the X-men. The future Brotherhood call it Plan B, but it might as well be Plan Z because they take a page right from the earliest X-men comics, using elements from the X-men's first ever clash with Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. It is by far the most fitting setting for the X-men's 50th anniversary. Even for those unfamiliar with the history of the X-men, the Brotherhood's plan highlights all the right elements that make for an epic X-men battle.

That battle comes together in this issue through a convergence that has been building for the past few issues. The real future X-men have since entered the story and are prepared to aid the wounded and obviously confused X-men of the present. Having already been burned by trusting a bunch of time travelers claiming to be the X-men, it takes a moment for the team to come together. But when they do, they unite in a way that carries them into a clash with the future Brotherhood that has the fate of the timeline at stake. They essentially become the necessary tools to fix what the Brotherhood is about to break. However, what's still lacking is a clear of just how broken the timeline is.

While this epic showdown is effectively set up, it still isn't clear what made this showdown necessary. It isn't necessarily glossed over either. There are some details offered to explain why the Original Five can't go back to their own time and what caused the future Brotherhood to become the Brotherhood in the first place. However, these details are very vague. In fact, that's even pointed out at one point. The explanation does help make it seem less contrived than it did in previous issues.

However, there is still too much ambiguity and without a clear understanding of what is driving this final conflict, it's difficult to appreciate why it matters. The setup itself is also vague. It's clear that the Brotherhood want to change the future by whatever means necessary. It's just not clear how they expect "Plan B" as they call it to accomplish it. There are some hints, but like many other parts of this story, those hints are exceedingly vague. It's like trying to bake a cake without knowing the temperature of the oven.

At the very least, Wolverine and the X-men #37 makes clear that there are other forces at work that haven't been revealed yet. It seems to begin the process of tying up loose ends, but doesn't have all the knots in place. What makes this issue feel less disappointing than previous issues is the sheer breadth of the conflict that unfolds and the classic X-men elements that are used to set it up. This is a story that has all the right ingredients to celebrate five decades of X-men and this issue added the icing. Now it's just a matter of effectively mixing everything to make the final product fittingly delicious.

7

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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