Reviews

John Carpenter and His Works, in Still Life

Gazing upon this vast collection of images with an abundance of rare and previously unseen stills, one cannot help but feel that Gottlieb-Walker captures the films' ontological identity.


On Set with John Carpenter: The Photographs of Kim Gottlieb-Walker

Publisher: Titan
Length: 176 pages
Author: Kim Gottlieb-Walker
Price: $19.98
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2014-10
Amazon

Late last year, in the drizzle of the English winter, I found myself at The Barber Institute to view an exhibition of German Expressionist prints classified by the Nazis as Degenerate Art. But it was a second exhibition I stumbled across, Rebel Visions: The War Art of CRW Nevinson, that would etch itself into my memory. Of course this is the result one often hopes will follow an artistic encounter.

The Rebel Visions exhibit forced one not only to consider the individual as creator of the art, but directed you down avenues that are constructed by a contemplation of art in its broader sense. Nevinson captured a world brimming with movement and sound, and set it in stillness. When one gazes upon his work it's possible to see and sense a story unfolding. This sensory interaction serves as a reminder of the power of human expressions and mannerisms; of the collaboration between the artist and their subject; of the artist and their audience to construct a narrative of understanding in which the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words" continues to endure.

By that time I had already requested a copy of On Set with John Carpenter: The Photographs of Kim Gottlieb-Walker. What I experienced at The Barber Institute on that wet Friday afternoon set contemplative wheels in motion and brought two artists working with two different worlds – one a World War and the other a film set – into one another’s orbit. Still uncertain as to whether I subscribe to Arthur Koestler’s belief that “There is no such thing as coincidence”, to have encountered these two artists in the same window of time offered what was nonetheless an evocative reminder of how film and the moving image is a young art form; one of the youngest of our civilisation's creative children.

The name John Carpenter conjures up cinematic worlds full of sound and movement, and for anyone acquainted with his cinema Halloween’s opening Hitchcock influenced tracking shot remains a vivid memory, as does his arresting unification of sound and image. Outside of the point of view of Gottlieb-Walker’s camera this is one common perspective of Carpenter's cinema, but through the gaze of another artist's camera we are offered an alternative view of a world brimming with movement and sound that is set in stillness; people frozen in a ever enduring moment.

For anyone with a passing interest in the films of Carpenter, this book will offer a warm and intimate experience. Taken behind the scenes of Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, Halloween II and Christine, we are offered a glimpse into life on the Carpenter film set. Bottling-Walker's photographs share an intimate view of the actors both at work and play on set and behind the scenes, revealing the actors behind the characters and narratives that have come to define our perspective of his cast of actors, and Carpenter's attempt to create on so many occasions a horrifying suspension of belief.

Gazing upon this vast collection of images with an abundance of rare and previously unseen stills, one cannot help but feel that Gottlieb-Walker captures the films' ontological identity. By capturing glimpses of her subjects who are both aware and unaware of her camera she is able to capture the magic of film; the suspension of belief. This is different than film as created, that is, actors playing to the camera and filmmakers creating for the camera and spectator’s pleasure. Thus, through her images she merges the conscious and unconscious nature of the filmmaking process.

Taking a world brimming with movement and sound and setting it in stillness we are afforded an opportunity to study the smiles and laughs; the momentary exchanges both creative and personal in a way that the moving image would not allow. When one considers that life is comprised of interconnected moments and film of interconnected frames, then On Set with John Carpenter pays tribute to the moments, stories and experiences that surrounded these films. It sets the tales of the making of these five films in glorious stillness, in which she captures the moving image at its still roots.

Not only is this book a record of these stories and experiences that makes for a pleasant stroll into modern film history, but it's a tribute to the still image. On Set with John Carpenter offers an opportunity to reflect on how we construct understanding and meaning from moment to moment, recalling how we as spectators or purveyors of art are co-creators through our knowledge and experiences. With our knowledge and familiarity with these films and the creative talent in front of and behind the camera, this point resonates with a certain vigour. The image itself is a dialect of creative language used by Nevinson, Carpenter and Gottlieb-Walker alike, just as music and the written word are other dialects of the creative language.

Whilst On Set with John Carpenter can be appreciated on an aesthetic level, if one so chooses to look a little deeper, then this collection can offer a deeper discussion and appreciation of the still image; it's relationship to the moving image and the triangular collaborative relationship of artist, subject and audience. What could have so easily been a lethargic compendium to Carpenter's cinema is anything but skin deep, although of course that will invariably depend on the subjective point of view of the reader.

8

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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