Reviews

Prison Break

Much as the Scofields despise the abject corruption that got them into this fix, they plainly feel less affinity for shadows than full-on righteousness. They believe they can get even.

Prison Break

Airtime: Mondays 9pm ET
Cast: Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, William Fichtner, Peter Stormare, Rockmond Dunbar, Amaury Nolasco, Sarah Wayne Callies, Robert Knepper
Subtitle: Season Two
Network: Fox
US release date: 2006-08-21
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As the audience starts to see first one and then another and then another of our protagonists getting killed or getting caught, it becomes kind of a dark American Idol, where you tune in to see who’s going to get eliminated next week.

--Paul T. Scheuring, "One Way to Keep Things Lively: Kill off Characters" (New York Times, 20 August 2006)

Now that eight inmates have escaped from Fox River Penitentiary, terms have shifted for Prison Break. The first few episodes of the second season have returned to the prison occasionally, to show Warden Pope (Stacy Keach) angsting over how those damn inmates got away, as well as terminally angry CO Bellick's (Wade Williams) overwhelming desire for vengeance. As low-ranking reps of the system, these guys are aptly frustrated, not quite comprehending what's happened but determined to make their worlds right.

Last season, the upper-rungers, those who presumed they not only understood what was going on but also that they controlled it, were primarily political. Secretive and imperious, Vice President Reynolds (Patricia Wettig) and Governor Frank Tancredi (John Heard) were also the bad guys (and like 24's President Logan, their villainy was a function of their power and treachery). Now, it appears the major adversary for the brothers Scofield -- Michael (Wentworth Miller) and Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) -- is federal agent Mahone (William Fichtner).

Introduced in the season's premiere episode, Mahone is both upright and a little too obsessed. Like Inspector Javert before him, he's possessed of the sort of doggedness that makes him seem less admirable than overzealous. Though he has not yet, after three episodes, quite revealed what drives him, he has appeared popping pills from a pen-like container (he hides his habit/need) and jumping steps ahead of his compatriots in the chase. Indeed, Michael and Linc have already shared a "Who are those guys?" type moment. Headed down the highway, Michael noted in the third episode, "Scan," "There's something about this guy. It's like he know s where we're going, what we're thinking." It's sort of ooky, but mostly it's upping the ante for Prison Break, which previously had the brothers' schemes thwarted (however briefly) by brute force, rather than cleverness.

In this first episode, the unimaginatively titled "Manhunt," Mahone made his entrance at a press conference, where he provided his mission with historical context. Eschewing the sort of stern-faced, just-the-facts stance taken by so many representatives of the law when seeking "most wanted" criminals, he instead turned poetic. "I'd like to talk about John Wilkes Booth for a moment if I could," Mahone said, the camera close on his face and low-angled.

Twelve days, that's how long it took to find him. In his journal, [Booth] wrote that the shadow was his friend, the night his domain... and he acknowledged that whatever neurosis that drove the criminal to commit the crime is compounded, magnified, by flight, the sounds of dogs at his heels. Fear becomes paranoia, paranoia ultimately psychosis. I bring this up because in 140 years the fundamental mind of the escaped man has not changed. The escaped man is still human, he is still afraid, and he will stop at nothing in his attempt at flight. Fortunately for us, while our quarry has shadow and night as his ally, we have something far greater: television.

Bingo. Full of moralizing phrases to paint the "criminal" as lonely as well as depraved, the speech also underlines changes in the way criminals are produced and pursued. Television is exactly what makes manhunts different now and forever (projecting into a Minority Report-ish future). It makes Amber Alerts national news, it grants America's Most Wanted tipsters four minutes of fame, it creates Geraldos and Nancy Graces. It has changed the way law enforcement works, the very conception of crime and punishment.

That Michael and even Linc, to an extent, are smart about this new system until now allowed them to feel steps ahead of their decidedly old-school opponents (it helps as well that the series is fond of trick editing and cunning dialogue that set scenes together that aren't really in the same space, and Keeping ahead meant manipulating allies, like the governor's doctor-daughter Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies) or even Lincoln Junior (Marshall Allman). Now that they're outside Fox River's walls, Michael's still making noises about the plan: his elaborate tattoo is still guiding their steps, the precise meaning of each number or hieroglyph exposed, step by step, the body art a map for the series to follow for a couple of seasons, anyway. It makes you think Michael designed the prison to allow the escape he somehow knew would be necessary, years after the construction.

All of which leads to the current season's imminent body count, at least as it's been insinuated by writer/creator Paul Scheuring. With the escapees spreading out, their storylines separating, their potential deaths loom like little detours. True, it was a shock to see Veronica (Robin Tunney) shot through the head in "Manhunt," after all her earnest legal efforts to free Linc last season. She believed that finding the truth -- namely, the president's undead-after-all brother Terrence (David Lively) -- would save her and Linc start sundry wheels of justice turning.

Poor thing, to be so deluded as to trust in the administration and the legal system. And poor Linc, who listened to her die on the cell phone, a trauma that caused him but an instant of grief and then, well, he was over it, on to the next step, trusting Michael, "of course," and figuring ways to get LJ out of prison, where Mahone was trying to arrange an exchange of sorts, dad for son, a proposal both parties knew not to trust, because, unlike Veronica, they lack any faith whatsoever in the integrity of official representatives. Though the brothers' first effort to spring LJ failed -- and had them face to face, sort of -- with Mahone -- they'll try again. Because they're stubborn, angry, and vengeful, less standard issue manly men than cynical and weary men.

The most recent episodes, "Otis" and "Scan," demonstrated again Prison Break's insistence on setting up and then slightly torquing expectations: it offered little bits of typical behavior by the solo escapees. Where Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) went hysterical (believing his girl only needs to see him in order not to marry her new beau, he screamed off in a stolen car with a bobble-head nun on the dash) and T-Bag (Robert Knepper) went sadistic, forcing a veterinarian (Ranjit Chowdhry) to tend to his injured hand, then killing him by lethal injection, his face set with the sort of awesome serenity that popular fictions assign to the psychopathic serial killer. Terrible as T-Bag must be to set off Michael's ruthless morality, he does bring a certain lyricism to his ferocity: told by the doctor that "nobody can undergo a procedure like this without an anesthetic," he smarmed, "I ain't nobody."

His sense of self is inflated, but the truth is, nobody is nobody in the mediated universe Mahone identified, not incidentally, for the members of the press assembled before him. Though more than one character has announced this season that "someone's going down," for whatever reasons, no one is going quietly. Least of all the Scofields, whose stated aim to "disappear" in Mexico seems unlikely, both as aim and as event. Toward that end, they staged a sensational, fiery car double death, good for distracting Mahone and setting up for yet another scheme.

But they're not about to disappear. Much as the Scofields despise the abject corruption that got them into this fix, they plainly feel less affinity for shadows than full-on righteousness. Or more accurately, in this new era, when authorities are simultaneously aligned with the shadow and the light, their bad deeds fully visible but accepted by a cynical, downtrodden public. Though it may turn out that Mahone is a good man associated with bad leaders, he is plainly "neurotic" in a way that Booth might have appreciated, familiar with the shadow. But so are the Scofields. Even as they embody virtuous resistance to the administration's rampant immorality, they are also reasonably fearful, . When that fear edges over into paranoia, they will only be products of an age in television is a "tool" for law enforcement, which also makes it a tool for the bad guys. Linc and Michael are not deviant, but logical, highly visible results of a schizzy moral system.

Their perspective is changed by their season in prison. Riding in a car toward the end of "Scan," Linc remembered what it was like in prison, comparing the quiet of the empty road before them to the din. "Inside," he said, "There was always noise, I kinda got used to it." Michael smiled, his brilliant eyes lit up: "Yeah, we should go back." And they laughed, loudly and uproariously, delighted by their dark joke.

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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