Sunday, June 23, 2019

plato's cave ninety one (being a film journal)

Jim Jarmusch - The Dead Don't Die - 2019
I like to see every new Jarmusch film in the theater. His new film has a good concept - a comedic "hipster" interpretation of the zombie film with Romero's Night of the Living Dead as a starting point. A slightly alternative take in the zombie film history that have highlights like 23 Days Later and not necessarily good but prominent works like The Walking Dead. The zombie film has always resonated strongly with me because we basically walk amongst the living dead, are governed by the living dead and have a dead bastard at the helm. Jarmusch is making reference to much of this with his new film both seriously and absurdly. One scene I loved was when each cop shows up at the diner to bear witness to the remains of the first kills. Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Chloë Sevigny separately walk into the same dismal scene where a sort of country muzak (as I heard it, maybe it was a respected song?) playing on the speakers. Their perceptions are all the same, cut for cut, in a way that reminding this viewer of Sam Beckett and his absurdity-repetition like that in Watt and the sucking stones from Malloy. Hearing Jarmusch's dislike of the genre in an interview shed some light on the film for me, I wonder if he had a bit more of a relationship with zombies, the film could have been more successful like his Only Lovers Left Alive. In addition, one wonders if the story would have potentially been more potent without self referencing itself via the fourth wall?

Fritz Lang - The Big Heat - 1953
I personally prefer Lang's American films Ministry of Fear and The Return of Frank James to this film but it surely is a classic worth watching a few times.

Irving Lerner - Murder by Contract - 1958
Bizarre story of a overly confident and incompetent contract killer played by Vince Edwards.

Terence Davies - The Long Day Closes - 1992
Davies' stunning portrait of a man recalling his youth reflected through the eyes of a boy surrounded by cinema, atmosphere, and a loving family filtered through post-war Britain.

Jacques Tourneur - Nightfall - 1956
Filling in gaps lately in my Noir exposure (which honestly is pretty basic). I really loved this film with Anne Bancroft and Aldo Ray giving solid natural performances lacking the ham that is common in this period, especially Bancroft who just masters some sort of non-acting actorshippe. The Criterion Channel's supplementary video for these Columbia Noir films mentions how many of these Noirs don't have the traditional femme fatale which honestly is refreshing.

Takashi Miike - Rainy Dog - 1997
Part of Miike's Black Society trilogy of which I have seen none.  Solid gangster film that revolves around the relationship between a foreign mercenary, his son and a prostitute. Really great atmospheric and quiet film.

Jim Sheridan - In the Name of the Father - 1993
Great use of Hendrix's Voodoo Child (Slight Return) during the riot sequence. Great film when Day-Lewis was on a roll, even though he has always been on a roll. Pete Postlethwaite in addition is one of those actors that grabs your attention with everything he is in.

6.20.2019 - 6.23.2019
Craig Mazin - Chernobyl episodes one through three - 2019
Currently going through this totally devastating and  brilliant mini series on HBO with music by Hildur Guðnadóttir and stunning performances by Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, and Emily Watson, three of my favorite actors. I remember as a boy of about age 12 the disaster had a strangely shocking effect on me even though I wonder if I understood the gravity of the situation. Years later the work 4 Rooms by Jacob Kirkegaard and the photographic survey Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl by Robert Polidori resonated really strongly with me, also Ilya Kabakov's School No.6 which I saw in Marfa Texas. The complete annihilating qualities of the disaster make this series honestly hard to watch and quite depressing but so relevant today. On a side note - Jared Harris is often times considered the son of the great British actor Richard Harris. Years of watching him in films and shows such as Happiness, Benjamin Button, Mad Men and here, I believe Richard Harris should now be considered the father of Jared Harris? He is really one of the top actors working now and has made a very strong impression in the history of the moving image. I would look forward to him just even reading the phone book for 5 hours!

Jim Jarmusch - Down by Law - 1986
One of Mr. Jarmusch's best films, so beautifully shot by Robby Müller. Tom Waits' repetition of "Bob Frost" is wonderful, an underrated actor as is John Lurie.

Hirokazu Koreeda - Still Walking - 2008
Ozu-esque family drama in which a family passes some time exhibiting a bit of subtle but very uncomfortable family tension and dysfunction. The dysfunction can be seen clearly when the family invites the saved boy (their son passed away saving the child) each year to the house and basically showing him very mild hatred in the form of non-kindness and disrespect.  Koreeda's steady actor Hiroshi Abe reminds this viewer very much of Tatsuya Nakadai from The Human Condition and many Kurosawa films, interesting guy, as is the actress Kirin Kiki who appears in many of his films. The sequence with Kirin Kiki frantically pursuing the yellow butterfly around the house thinking it is her son reincarnated was extremely touching, not only because of her actorshippe, but also the work of the dp and cameraman who so expertly follow the two around letting them go in and out of focus in a deeply satisfying way, no idea how they shot that.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

resounding and astigmatic two (being a music journal)

Peter Brötzmann / Juhani Aaltonen / Peter Kowald / Edward Vesala - Hot Lotta
Blue Master Special  / Svarte Records 1973

A post mostly revolving around Polish and Finnish Jazz. Hot Lotta finds the 2 heavies of German free jazz (Kowald and Brötzmann) with the 2 heavies of Finnish free jazz (Vesala and Aaltonen). This is one hard hitting album with much delicate textural work from Vesala and Kowald. A great contrast to the Brötzmann attack. I find Edward Vesala to be one of the most profound of the European Jazz composers/players, he seems quite underrated. Even in the ECM circle, one hardly hears his name. His albums are really quite Godly, especially Nan Madol, Satu and Lumi.

Komeda Quintet - Astigmatic Polskie Nagrania Muza 1965

Krzysztof Komeda's most beautiful album, of which this series of posts is partially named after. This album features the great Zbigniew Namysłowski on alto, Günter Lenz on bass, Rune Carlsson (a Swede) on drums, and Tomasz Stańko on trumpet. For this listener; Astigmatic is one of the just perfect jazz albums, one that is endlessly played and endlessly thought about here at the art of memory. Albums seminal to the Polish jazz scene have a mixture of familiarity with a subtle strangeness, bordering on, but not quite surreal.

Krzysztof Komeda ‎- Knife In The Water / Two Men And A Wardrobe Doxy 2012

The band for Knife in the Water is Komeda on piano, Bernt Rosengren (a Swede) on saxophone, Leszek Dudziak (read on line this Pole currently lives in Sweden) on drums and Roman Dylag on bass.

Edward Vesala - Nan Madol ECM 1976

3 essential ECM releases - First we find possibly the best ECM release in the opinion of this listener, Vesala's Nan Madol with not only some of the most beautiful percussion work put to tape, but in addition melodies that are rich and quite queer in the Lovecraftian sense.  The band features Vesala playing drums, percussion, harp, flutes, Juhani Aaltonen on saxophones, bells, flutes, voice, Sakari Kukko on flute, Seppo Paakkunainen on flute and soprano saxophone, Pentti Lahti on soprano saxophone and bass clarinet, the American Charlie Mariano on alto saxophone, flute, and nagaswaram, and Elisabeth Leistola on harp. One reads of influences ranging from Japanese folk melodies to Alpine herding calls. Quite a metaphysical album which hovers between complete abstraction and traditional jazz (with a touch of world music) and presents the listener with a subtle feeling not unlike the effects of a divine ambrosiac.

Edward Vesala - Satu ECM 1977

Second comes Satu with the magnificent Vesala on drums, the smooth Pole Tomasz Stańko on trumpet, Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet. On sax we have Juhani Aaltonen, the Norwegian Knut Riisnaes and the Pole Tomasz Szukalski. Also Rolf Malm on bass clarinet, Torbjørn Sunde on trombone, Palle Danielsson on double-bass, and the extremely lush and gritty guitarist Terje Rypdal getting Rypdalian with his Strat, overdrive, delay, wah wah, compression, and Marshall amp. Many of these tunes share the quality of an unfathomable melodic purity we find with Charles Mingus.

Edward Vesala - Lumi ECM 1987

Approaching a big band quality with some extraordinary players giving the recording a classic ECM sound, like Iro Haarla on harp. The last track Together is co-written with Tomasz Stańko, Raoul Björkenheim's guitar work here over Vesala's drums hovers in-between atonality and lush-infused noise and is bewilderingly beautiful.

Zbigniew Namysłowski ‎- Winobranie Polskie Nagrania Muza 1973

Recently visited the WFMU record fair and the first booth I hit was that of a lawyer from Philadelphia who had a plethora of Polish jazz. Many of these came from his collection. On this Namysłowski recording we find a heavy in the Pole canon; Namysłowski's 1973 masterpiece featuring his work on alto saxophone, cello, and piano. Paweł Jarzębski is on bass, Kazimierz Jonkisz on drums,  Tomasz Szukalski on tenor, and  Stanisław Cieślak on trombone, and percussion. The first side has some almost witch-oriented female vocals, transforming the modal feel of the album into something approaching the surreal. The side ends like a Polish wedding spinning chaotically into the oblivion. With much of these Polish albums, it is hard not to think of the great write Bruno Schulz and the ambiance he creates with simplicity.

Zbigniew Namysłowski Quintet ‎- Kujaviak Goes Funky Polskie Nagrania Muza 1975

Smooth Polish melodies filtered through some 70s funk with Namysłowski on alto. One can surely hear a Komeda influence in Namysłowski's writing which is pleasantly augmented with some good steady groove bass from Paweł Jarzębski and Mileseque electric piano by Wojciech Karolak. Additionally we have Tomasz Szukalski on soprano and tenor and Czesław Bartkowski on drums.

The Włodzimierz Nahorny Trio ‎- Heart Polskie Nagrania Muza 1968

The multi-instrumentalist Włodzimierz Nahorny plays piano and alto saxophone on his classic free jazz album from 1968 with Jacek Ostaszewski on bass and Sergiusz Perkowski on drums. Essential album for those interested in European jazz and late 60s jazz. Moments of near aural stacis shift into explosive bits of hard bop transitioning into free jazz throughout this album. Side two's Przy Kasie / At The Cashier pairs Nahorny's alto with bird twitters. Great stuff, any album with bird tweets is top of the shelf.

Janusz Muniak Quintet - Question Mark Polskie Nagrania Muza 1978

(two copies in collection, both covers above)

Smooth jazz from Mr.  Muniak and his quintet. Muniak on tenor and soprano, Andrzej Dechnik on bass, Jerzy Bezucha on drums, Paweł Perliński on piano and electric piano (side two he gets pretty magical) and some guitar shredding by Marek Bliziński. Seing these guys in some smoke-filled club in Warsaw drunk on Wódka in the 1970s must have been quite an experience.

Tomasz Stańko Quintet - Music For K Polskie Nagrania Muza 1970

Janusz Muniak and Zbigniew Seifert on sax, Bronisław Suchanek on bass and Janusz Stefański on drums. One of Stańko's best.

Tomasz Stańko - Balladyna ECM 1976

ECM release with Tomasz Szukalski on tenor and soprano saxophone, Dave Holland on bass, and Edward Vesala on drums. I believe named after Juliusz Słowacki's 1834 Romantic novel of the same name.

Tomasz Stańko Septet - Litania - Music Of Krzysztof Komeda ECM 1997

Another completely essential ECM release. Everything perfect: lush cover photograph by Jim Bengston with a no-gray-area high contrast black and white seascape, and design by Sascha Kleis. A fine example of that quintessential ECM sound here obtained by recording engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug and producer Manfred Eicher. A killer band with Stańko on trumpet, the Swede Bobo Stenson on piano, Palle Danielsson on bass. Jon Christensen on drums, Komeda alumni Bernt Rosengren on tenor sax, Joakim Milder on tenor and soprano, and the heavy shredder Terje Rypdal adding often times noisy guitar.

Krzysztof Komeda - Rosemary's Baby (Music From The Motion Picture) 1968

Krzysztof Komeda - Dance of the Vampires Seriés Aphōnos 2013

2 recent printings of Polanski/Komeda collaborations.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

plato's cave ninety (being a film journal)

5.19.2019 - 5.31.2019
Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Harry Bradbeer - Fleabag season one and two - 2016-2019
Waller-Bridge as the memorable character Fleabag, subtly interacting with the spectator in an intimate and quite unique way. Reminded me of Louie, starting off a somewhat standard tv comedy and quickly transforming into something unexpected and intelligent, breaking the rules of traditional narrative, almost avant-garde in a way.

Niels Arden Oplev - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - 2009
This film is better than I had thought it would be, I mostly enjoyed Michael Nyqvist.

Newt Arnold - Bloodsport - 1988
Great film worth many viewings.

Todd Phillips - The Hangover - 2009
I ended up falling asleep midway and the next day the film was no longer streamable... I can live with that.

5.31.2019 - 6.5.2019
GOT season six

Drew Goddard - Bad Times at the El Royale - 2018

Joon-ho Bong - Mother - 2009
Great performance by Hye-ja Kim as the mother. The Koreans make some oddly fucked up films.

Aki Kaurismäki - The Match Factory Girl - 1990
Final installment of his Proletariat Trilogy, after his Shadows in Paradise and Ariel, starring the superb Kati Outinen.

6.6.2019 - 6.14.2019
GOT season seven and eight
I must admit the reason I went through this show beyond a general interest, was because the last season got such bad press, I figured it would be pretty good. Seems when yr average Merkan says something is bad it is pretty good. The dark episode specifically got a lot of shit from people and man these folks must have no ability to comprehend a moving image because it was just a spectacular bit of film-making, uncommon and sublime, I have trouble understanding why someone invested in the show would have a problem with it? It was also a unique moment when the series went beyond the obvious LOTR influence (many shots in the series and especially the battle sequences are just blatantly taken from the great trilogy but who can blame them). This episode reminded me of Lynch's rather intense and lush episode 8 in Twin Peaks. The last two seasons were the best for this viewer, I especially liked seeing the dragon fascist meet her demise, and the battle sequences were really well put together, like the Battle of the Bastards and the Massacre at Hardhome. I would be interested in reading intelligent writing on the show's ending but in a 20 minute search was unable to find any, even surprised the NY Times had such a brain dead review.

David Mamet - Redbelt - 2008
Third or fourth time viewing, becoming one of those films that gets viewed once a year. Mamet's finest in the opinion of this viewer, and Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance is really wonderful, beyond compare, not only in the world of martial arts films but just in contemporary cinema he is one of heaviest of the heavies.

Stuart Rosenberg - Cool Hand Luke - 1967
A film I watched a lot as a young man. So brilliant with a memorable cast (Harry Dean, Dennis Hopper, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Joy Harmon as the car wash lady and many others) and a wonderful visual style. It is a nice treat to hear the few Harry Dean songs and also Paul Newman's Plastic Jesus which was a song I listened to many times in high school covered by The Flaming Lips.

Ruben Fleischer - Zombieland - 2009

Blake Edwards - Experiment in Terror - 1962
Have always been a big fan of Edwards' Days of Wine and Roses, and I found myself a little embarrassed realizing I had never seen this SF classic film noir. What a film, dark as hell and featuring an intensely perverted performance by Ross Martin as Red Lynch. Always a pleasure to see Lee Remick as well.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

resounding and astigmatic one (being a music journal)

Evan Parker - Process and Reality FMP 1991

Multi-tracking solo saxophone, fluttering from speaker to speaker - near silently, aggressively and with a touch of the sublime, and concluding with Steve Lacy's Cryptosphere feeding through the valves of Mr. Parker's instrument. Sometime around 1998 I decided it was a good idea in obtaining every Evan Parker CD and worked at that for many years. Over the past couple of decades quite a few have really stood out which I am re-listening to recently including this FMP release from 1991 with cover art by Roger Ackling (Weybourne 1990). A friend of mine recently saw him perform live put the idea in my head to do some Parker Immersion.

The goal of this series Resounding and Astigmatic is to go through a collection of 3000+ records and compact discs, some of which have been floating around the art of memory's head for 30 years and some for the first time, and give not a review of them but an idea or feeling of personal love and admiration. These images have been going up on instagram but somehow just posting an image seems without depth, so here a non-writer finds themselves wanting to put words to an aural experience which in a way makes this listener uncomfortable. The goal here is to put up as many of the records and CDs I spin as possible, some with text, some without, excluding listening digitally which is what this author does in his 9-5, strictly to pass the time.

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme Impulse! 1965

Around the age of 18 I discovered John Coltrane, shortly after discovering Charles Mingus. In 1993/94 my approach to feeding the habit was to go to either Tower Records in Boston or Cambridge or Newbury Comics and put my money earned washing dishes and serving food in the MassArt cafeteria into a music and book library. The first Coltrane to really hit the ears was A Love Supreme. It is something I had not listened to in a while and recently purchased a vinyl reissue. The last 10 years or so I have mostly listened to (very loudly) Alice Coltrane's version from the 1972 album World Galaxy which is bloody astounding and an album that assists the listener in transcending time and space. Salvador Dalí apparently said "I am drugs", this tune certainly works in a similar way, listening to this music puts one in a state beyond the beyond. Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin have a solid A Love Supreme on the 1973 album Love Devotion Surrender. It is quite refreshing to hear Mr. Coltrane's recording which is often times quite stark.

Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um Columbia Records 1959

Another classic from my youth. Freshman year of college I went down to the dorm tv room and some older students were watching Thomas Reichman's 1968 documentary Mingus: Charlie Mingus 1968. An intense love of music began that day, not only for Mingus and for jazz but for listening to music in general, the man and his music struck me in a way beyond words. I remember going out the next day and buying the laserdisc of the film and watching it over and over and starting a pretty intense Mingus CD collection. I have almost no Mingus on vinyl and saw this album at a few booths at the recent WFMU record fair hovering around $200, I probably spent that much on my Mingus collection the first year of listening, so I found a nice reissue. One moment in the Reichman film which left such a strong impression was Dannie Richmond just pounding hell out of the cymbols after a few moments of silence in a song. Richmond and Mingus interaction is one of the reasons I have returned so often to these great recordings. Present is a pretty classic Mingus band with Booker Ervin, John Handy, Shafi Hadi, Willie Dennis, Jimmy Knepper, and Horace Parlan. The tunes that entered Mingus' head bring to mind the idea of the artist and his/her relationship to divine intervention, much like the work of J.S. Bach. How the hell did someone write this stuff?

Jacques Coursil - Black Suite BYG Records Actuel 1971

The last few years I have been attempting to get many free jazz classics that I know mainly digitally. Intitally hearing the work of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman as a young man, it took some years to discover the other heavy hitters, including the trumpet player Jacques Coursil's extremely powerful Black Suite from 1971which features Arthur Jones on alto, Beb Guerin on bass, Claude Delcloo on drums, Anthony Braxton on contrabass clarinet, and Burton Greene on piano. Just the album cover along makes one jump off their seat, the goddamn music is truly profound. It is interesting playing a record that is roughly the same age as you are, hearing the small imperfections not dissimilar to one's wrinkled and pock-marked skin, missing teeth and graying/vanishing hair.

Tangerine Dream - Thief ost Elektra 1981

Iron Butterfly - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida ATCO Records 1968 

Hadn't really planned on listening to these two records back to back with their Michael Mann implications. The ending of Mann's Manhunter from 1986 with Tom Noonan hunting the blind love interest Joan Allen with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida as a heart attack accompaniment is one of Mann's strongest moments. His Thief is an equally great film, featuring the German masters Tangerine Dream. When I first started getting serious about listening to the classic period of German rock and experimental music, I found myself only attracted to early Klaus Schulze and early Tangerine Dream, of which lately I have completely shifted perspectives. The way Mann has guitar show up in his films is very unique to his style, in Heat we find Moby on guitar getting quite heavy. I had seen the film 50 times and had no idea it was him.

Arthur Blythe - Lenox Avenue Breakdown Columbia 1979

Picked up a rather trashed copy (sleeve-wise) of this underrated jazz classic. A beautiful album which includes Blythe on alto, Cecil McBee on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and James Blood Ulmer on guitar. Harlem inspires good music, Bobby Womack's Across 110th Street comes to mind as well.

Herbie Hancock - Crossings Warner Brothers 1972
(Antarctica Starts Here reissue)

Marion Brown - Three for Shepp Impulse! 1967
(Antarctica Starts Here reissue)

I am the kind of person who would rather buy 3-4 albums than buy a rare LP, especially when I own the CD. One of the most exciting things lately is an email from Superior Viaduct announcing new titles, from John Duncan to Alice Coltrane they are superbly curated with top notch presentation. The Hancock band features some of the most exciting players revolving around the Miles scene like Julian Priester (the ECM album Love, Love from 1974 a must have), Buster Williams, Eddie Henderson, and Bennie Maupin (also his ECM release The Jewel In The Lotus from 1974 is a must).

The Marion Brown release also has some key players like Grachan Moncur III on trombone,  Beaver Harris on drums, Dave Burrell on piano and Norris Jones aka Sirone on bass (Sirone's Life Rays with Walt Dickerson and Andrew Cyrille is dynamite, as is his Live album from 1991).

Paul Bley - Ballads ECM 1971 (German pressing)

Songs by Annette Peacock, with Barry Altschul on drums,  Gary Peacock and Mark Levinson on bass, and B & B Wojirsch on design. Essential ECM.

Mal Waldron Quintet ‎- Hard Talk Enja Records 1974

Ran into this LP at the new Stranded Records in NYC, was not familiar with the release but loved the cover and the players, esp. Steve Lacy and Manfred Schoof. The double volume Hat ART set Live At Dreher Paris 1981, Round Midnight with Lacy and Waldron is some truly great jazz, amongst the best the label issued. Top notch underrated (I think?) album from the 70s.