TV

Mr. Robot: Season 2, Episode 5 - "logic-b0mb.hc"

Sean Fennell

Elliot finally gets back in the game, and it couldn't have come soon enough.


Mr. Robot

Airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm
Cast: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Craig Robinson
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 5 - “logic-b0mb.hc”
Network: USA
Air Date: 2016-08-03
Amazon

The fingers are fluttering, the voiceover is in full effect, the eyes are bulging. Elliot (Rami Malek) -- or is this Mr. Robot? -- is back in the game, and it couldn't have come soon enough.

This, the second season of Mr. Robot, hasn't exactly been disappointing, but it has been a bit a trudge. In attempting to rebuild the world that was so easily constructed in season one, creator Sam Esmail has traded in brevity and narrative liveliness for a more measured approach. This can be illustrated by simple fact that it isn't until this week's episode that Elliot touches a computer.

Granted, the hacking aspects of the show have always been used more as catalysts for emotional revelation than anything else, but they are still an integral part of the both the show and Elliot; their absence has made his story play more like one long therapy session than anything with any real-world consequences. This reluctance to return to what, in many ways, makes Elliot Elliot, has been his own doing. In an attempt to scrub himself of the visions of his dead father and of his destructive tendencies, he has strictly kept himself away from any Internet connection. That is, until he can't stay away any longer.

Like a heroin addict who always knew he’d return to his pernicious vice, Elliot can’t help himself after agreeing to help Ray (Craig Robinson) with his coding issues. Almost as soon as he sits down at the computer, he enters a mesmerized and intently focused hypnosis, letting his nervous demeanor fall away and bringing to the surface the mastermind we all knew lurked right below. Therapy helps, staying off drugs helps, the church group helps, but none of it can compare to the feeling of power and control Elliot gets with the world at his fingertips, and it was nice seeing him once again in his element.

Back in the bigger game, we’re beginning to get an idea of the element in which FBI agent Dom DiPierro (Grace Gummer) finds herself most comfortable. During a trip with the FBI to China, in which they are attempting to determine the connection, if any, between China’s notorious Dark Army and the event of 6/9, Dom wonders off into a secluded section of Minister Zhang’s vast mansion. We know Zhang to be the alternate identity of Whiterose (BD Wong), and seeing her interact with the odd statesman while trying to suss out his true intentions is a highlight of the episode.

BD Wong has been fantastic as the creepy and infinitely mysterious Whiterose, but watching him so easily assume the identity of someone clearly working toward some larger goal is fascinating. It isn't necessarily the kind of split personality we see with Elliot and Mr. Robot, but a more composed, meditated design to get exactly what he wants, even if we aren't quite sure what that is. This week, he seems intent on merely figuring out what makes Dom tick, making their dance of mutual inquisition a subtle thrill to witness.

While Dom continues to dig herself deeper into the world of the Dark Army and FSociety, Darlene (Carly Chaikin) and Angela (Portia Doubleday) are trying their best to throw everyone off their scent, or if not, make the scene impossible to follow. After Elliot lays the groundwork, Darlene must reach out to Angela for help, needing her inside access to fully infiltrate the FBI and find out exactly what they know. Darlene and Angela have always had an interesting relationship, and there appears to be little love lost as the two negotiate the logistics of the plan, a plan Angela initially wants nothing to do with. Like most of the characters of Mr. Robot she’s eventually convinced only when the FBI becomes a direct threat to her own self-interest.

Similarly, it's only after Elliot takes care of his FBI issues that he eventually delves into the problem he was hired to fix, and what he finds is as surprising as it is horrifying. In robbing from the headlines once again, Mr. Robot shifts Ray from a likeable, though oddly intimidating side character, to an emerging evil force on par with last year’s criminal psychopath Vera (Elliot Villar). Turns out Ray is the head of a secret darknet marketplace in the vein of Silk Road, in which he seems to be soliciting the sale of everything from drugs to imprisoned human beings.

This development adds an intriguing layer to Elliot's current situation. He was, after all, first introduced to us as a character who worked in secret to bring down evil in all forms, starting with the child-porn trafficking coffee shop owner. Sure, he has bigger things on his plate now, but can Elliot really ignore such atrocities, much less help them succeed? Even in his attempt to figure out the secret he sets himself up for trouble, as the episode ends with Ray's goons giving Elliot a thorough lesson in who not to mess with.

It’s interesting that at this point in the second season, a season that has been dragging a bit, that Esmail would choose to further develop a side bad guy and continue to keep Elliot out of the bigger, Whiterose/Dark Army/Philip Price (Michael Christofer) battle for the future of the country and the world. Not to say that this storyline doesn't have its merit. It's fascinating to watch someone like Craig Robinson so adeptly put on the villain mask and embrace the madness of Mr. Robot, but if it ultimately has no connection to the bigger picture, I'm not sure it's worth all the trouble. Still, it's going to be quite interesting to see how Elliot and Mr. Robot get themselves out of this pickle.

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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