TV

American Horror Story - Hotel: Season 5, Episode 8 - "The Ten Commandments Killer"

Leyla Hamedi

Beautifully crafted scenes, amazing one-liners, and plenty of clues still lead to the most underwhelming reveal, proving again that American Horror Story thrives on details, but can't ever deliver on the basic, main plot.


American Horror Story: Hotel

Airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm
Cast: Wes Bentley, Lady Gaga, Dennis O'Hare, Sarah Paulson, Chloe Sevigny, Matt Bomer
Subtitle: Season 5, Episode 8 - "The Ten Commandments Killer"
Network: FX
Amazon

The identity of the Ten Commandments Killer is revealed in this non-climactic episode, in which religious smugness is not only the raison d'être, it's the clever little secret theme you should've gleaned already. Temptation’s the snake-y mistress that not only drew in our soon-to-be exposed killer, but is the underlying reason for every character's downfall. (Beyond all the mother issues, that is; honoring thy mother has its limits, after all.) And just like we should've picked up on that already, we also should've figured out that Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is the killer.

John (can we call him John, now? We're past the formalities) has been showing us all season-long how he's been infected with the crazy. He keeps staying at that God-forsaken hotel, because apparently Los Angeles has no other lodgings to offer single men; he was invited to a dinner party with other serial killers; and let's face it, he's been frightfully inept at solving this case, which in itself is pretty suspicious. But although we do have all those clues, it is still the underwhelming, "It was him all along," cheap shot that kind of disappoints. Storming into the hotel, he shakes a grieving Liz Taylor (Dennis O'Hare), who tempted fate by falling in love with the Countess' new toy, and demands to know the truth. Which is when Sally (Sarah Paulson) tearfully takes him by the arm and shows him James Patrick March's (Evan Peters) The Most Dangerous Game-themed room. March started the Commandments killings. and waited 90 years for someone dark enough to continue his work. Five years ago, John stumbled into the hotel. Unable to handle the grim images of a murder case, he came in to drink himself stupid, and that's where their friendship began. He just sort of forgot about all that until now.

All this is revealed as flashbacks-within-flashbacks while John confesses to his partner. Tired of seeing the system fail over and over and declaring, "The law has nothing to do with justice," with the gravitas of a ventriloquist's dummy, John is reborn as a really boring Punisher. He revisits a certain case that March alludes to, involving a pedophile, and shows up at the door of a movie critic. The man, Martin Gamboa, pleads for his life, "I'm just a man who likes to write about movies on the Internet," but the merciless detective (whose name let's remember is JOHN, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LITERALLY, HIS NAME MEANS GOD'S MERCY) brains him to death with an Oscar statuette. Thou shalt not worship false idols, indeed. Watch out boys and girls, he's coming for us all.

It took a certain amount of finesse to get John to this point, though. That suppressed rage only came out when March convinced the Countess to kidnap his son, and thus, everything comes neatly full circle. John tries to hang himself after killing Gamboa, because of course he does, but March is not done with him. He orders Sally to keep John in check because as long as she does that, March in turn keeps the Addiction Demon simmering rather than erupting all over the hotel's ghost denizens. The leather-clad bondage gimp with the driller killer dildo, whom we haven't seen since the first episode? Yeah, he’s a physical manifestation of all the dirty deeds the guests have indulged in. Sally's temptation is her prisoner, and John is Sally’s prisoner, and they get increasingly wrapped up, legs and all, as John continues his mission.

John's partner doesn't believe him. Dude, he says (paraphrasing) March died almost a century ago, and your mistress died in 1994. Let's digest this for a moment. It seems like the Hotel Cortez was running on the kitsch of the '80s with its neon written-word light installations and goth new wave soundtrack. It makes sense that the damned would stick to the decade they died/were at their peak, but if Sally died in 1994, there’s absolutely no excuse for that crimped mess she calls a hairstyle. Detective Partner whose name no one bothers to remember, had coffee with John's wife to discuss how crazy Lowe has been lately, and he tells John this as evidence that John's not quite right. Yes, because he's murdering people, but obviously the LAPD is more concerned with feelings rather than actions. Meanwhile, John interprets the fact that the two people who care about him the most met up to talk about him as adultery, because a married woman having coffee with a not-husband man? Heathen! But Sally guides him; you can't murder your wife and heterosexual work partner, everyone knows that. Calm down. Oh, by the way, we do have an adulterous pair that pop by the hotel quite often. Use what March has taught you (theatricality! Poetry! Not at the hotel!) and go for them. So he did or does...? The flashbacks have a way of disrupting the timeline.

When his partner still refuses to believe him, naturally John has to kill him. "Thy shall not covet thy neighbor's wife, that's one of the Ten Commandments". Thanks buddy, we wouldn't have gotten it otherwise. On the bright side, John now remembers all his crimes and says so to Iris (Kathy Bates), whose beyond relieved that she doesn't have to indulge his short-term memory anymore. She reveals the little vampire girl who got hit by a bus was only trying to protect him because Sally told her to. John has a purpose now. Er, another purpose. A purpose-within-a-purpose.

"Death is your art", exclaims March as John adds his partner's parts to the collection. Only two commandments (and episodes) left. John may have clarity now but us OC-types thank him for pursuing the collection to the end. Some (blood-red) apples are too pretty to pass up.

5

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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