TV

Mr. Robot: Episode 6 -- "Br4ve-Trave1er.asf

When episode six opens to find Elliot in terror and panic, it is soon confirmed that he should be.


Mr. Robot

Airtime: Wednesdays, 9pm
Cast: Rami Malek, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Martin Wallström, Christian Slater
Subtitle: Episode 6 - "Br4ve-Trave1er.asf
Network: USA
Air date: 2015-07-29
Amazon

“I, Elliot Alderson, am flight. I am fear, I am anxiety, terror, panic.”

Thus begins episode six of Mr. Robot, “Br4ve-Trave1er.asf”. Last week we saw Elliot in what turned out to be his most triumphant moment in the series so far. Having successfully infiltrated the “impenetrable” Steel Mountain, Elliot, still on a visible high from his caper, calls his girlfriend Shayla to, well, just talk. It is one of the first times in the series that we see Elliot both completely sober, and seemingly content. Even Shayla remarks that he sounds different and new to her.

This victory is markedly short-lived. Not only was the heist ultimately fruitless due to a lack of cooperation from the “dark army”, but episode five ends with Elliot’s realization that his plan to get rid of Shayla’s dangerous drug dealer, Fernando Vera, was not without its consequences.

When episode six opens to find Elliot in terror and panic, it is soon confirmed that he should be. Fernando is locked up and facing decades of jail time, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t act out his will from inside his cell. His minions, including his brother Isaac, have taken Shayla as a means to induce cooperation from Elliot in their plan to help Fernando escape. All they know is that Elliot was able to hack their crime ring into disarray; they figure that breaking a man out of prison will be no harder.

This is the story of “Br4ve-Trave1er.asf”. It is Elliot, with some help from Darlene, vs. the Vera crime family. While Mr. Robot does make a short cameo, the F Society arc is largely absent from this episode and, in a surprising turn, this works incredibly well.

Earlier this season, I remarked about just how much the narrative relied on not only Elliot, but specifically Elliot and his role in F Society. I found myself often frustrated by the side characters and their various storylines, consistently wishing the narrative would just get back to Elliot.

This frustration has curved over the past couple weeks, as both Tyrell Wellick and Fernando Vera have come into the picture as the kind of dark and twisted ancillary characters the show needed to balance Elliot. Earlier episodes hinted at Fernando’s madness, but “Br4ve-Trave1er.asf” is where we see it truly shine. He is clearly violent, self-interested, and power-hungry — all the traits that we are used to seeing in drug lords — but he is also something else: philosophical. His musings on his place in the universe, and in turn Elliot’s role in his journey, are as interesting as they are creepy. They make Fernando a more layered character, but also make him all the more unpredictable. A man who believes in fate can use this belief to justify any number of horrific acts, always able to claim that this is how it was meant to happen.

Elliot opens the episode full of self-loathing, choosing flight over fight, but what we really see in “Br4ve-Trave1er.asf” is Elliot in his bravest form thus far. Last week’s caper saw some quick thinking from Elliot, but it would be hard to describe his actions within Steel Mountain as brave. Although he begins this week’s episode struggling to establish a plan to get Vera out of jail while at the same time securing Shayla's and his own safety, he soon shows signs of fully taking control of his own life.

It is after Mr. Robot’s brief cameo, in which he attempts to convince Elliot to simply let the bad guys have Shayla and allow her to, “become a memory”, that we see Elliot begin to show the bravado he has been lacking for much of season one. As he strolls into the visiting hours of the high-security prison, he is the one wearing the pants. Despite Fernando’s continued confidence that Elliot will get him out, Elliot lays down the law, explaining that he will not go through with the plan without some assurances from Fernando. Elliot uses his hacking ability to put him in a much better spot when negotiating with Fernando, which, more importantly, gives him the confidence to speak to him from a position of power rather than fear.

“Br4ve-Trave1er.asf” could have easily been called “fight or flight”, with Elliot beginning the episode with the latter but eventually moving fully into the former. Elliot is willing to fight for Shayla, and that fact is important to understanding the make-up of his complicated character. “Br4ve-Trave1er.asf” ends with no less than three dizzying twists — one of which has Fernando deeming himself the modern-day Cain — which throw much of what Elliot thought he was doing into disarray, but the essential development of his character is still important. Perhaps it is because he is now free of his morphine addiction, but we are starting to see an Elliot who cares about others in a real way and is willing to fight for them. The real question, however, is whether this new-found thoughtfulness will be an advantage or a detriment to his overall goals.

9

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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