3 albums from around the world.

Ibeyi

Ibeyi

Ibeyi is the debut album from the French Cuban twin sis­ters of the same name. Their father was the Cuban drum­mer Anga Diaz, who played with Irakere and then the Buena Vista Social Club, while their mother is the French Venezue­lan singer Maya Dagnino.

Hav­ing spent their lives shut­tling between their home in Paris and Cuba the music they pro­duce is a heady mix of vin­tage Cuban influ­ences and a con­tem­po­rary north Euro­pean indie vibe. And is dom­i­nated by an Afro-Cuban beat that man­ages to be at once extra­or­di­nar­ily com­plex and tech­ni­cal and yet irre­sistibly alluring.

Yet there’s a sub­dued feel to the album, born of the fact that a num­ber of the songs address their father, who died when the pair were 13 – they are in their very early 20s now – and their older sis­ter who died soon after.

The Buena Vista Social Club.

The Buena Vista Social Club.

Not that it is in any way a depress­ing album, merely some­what under­stated. There’s a spir­i­tual force behind the songs, albeit a sub­tle one, and one that’s both pre-modern and non Euro­pean – I’m striv­ing valiantly here to avoid the word “primitive”.

The result is indi­etron­ica fused with hiphop of the RnB vari­ety, under­scored by African rhythms and Cuban swing. You can see the video for the sin­gle River here.

Rhi­an­non Gid­dens won a Grammy as part of the roots Amer­i­cana group Car­olina Choco­late Drops, but she only really came to promi­nence after her show steel­ing per­for­mance in the film Another Day Another Time.

The Coen broth­ers had hoped to repeat the suc­cess of O Brother Where Art Thou with this filmed con­cert of the OST album from Inside Llewyn Davis. The forget-the-film-enjoy-the-soundtrack ploy failed to catch fire this time around, and the result­ing fol­low up film was largely ignored. Which was a shame, as Another Day Another Time was a lot bet­ter than it might have been given the input of the one of the Mum­fords. What it did do was to intro­duce the world to Rhi­an­non Gid­dens, whose per­for­mance of a Scot’s Gaelic reel is jaw-dropping – you can see her per­form it in Glas­gow here.

Rhiannon Giddens Tomorrow Is

Rhi­an­non Gid­dens Tomor­row Is My Turn.

Tomor­row Is My Turn is her debut album out on None­such and is pro­duced inevitably by T-Bone Bur­nett. It moves effort­lessly from cov­ers of The Dublin­ers, Patsy Cline and Dolly Par­ton to Odetta and Nina Simone, going from protest, jazz and gospel to coun­try and pop. The result is a time­less, mod­ern Amer­i­can songbook.

Once in a blue moon, the plan­ets align and the uni­verse con­spires to pro­duce an album that has clearly been recorded just for you. I came across Imam Baildi, named after the stuffed aubergine dish from the east­ern Mediter­ranean, thanks as ever to the uber reli­able All Songs Con­sid­ered pod­cast from NPR (reviewed ear­lier here).

The Imam Baildi Cookbook.

The Imam Baildi Cook­book.

The Falireas broth­ers grew up in Greece lis­ten­ing to the Rebetiko 78s that their father sold in his record shop. Rebetiko is a mix­ture of late 19th cen­tury Ottoman Greek, Turk­ish and Balkan influ­ences that mar­ries the sweep­ing, plan­gent melodies of the coun­try with the urban con­cerns of the ports and cities, invari­ably cen­tred around the sounds of the bouzouki. It re-surfaced in the café music of Greece and Turkey in the 40s 50s and 60s.

All of which the band fuse with thump­ing 21st cen­tury RnB, funk, and hiphop. Intox­i­cat­ing. I’ve started off with the sec­ond of their three albums, the Imam Baildi Cook­book, and am doing my very best to limit myself to but two or three plays a day. Some hope. You can hear Busca Ritmo from the Cook­book here. And a track from the 2014 album Imam Baildi III here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below and I shall keep you posted every month on All the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!

Sub­scribe here for reg­u­lar updates. And get your FREE GIFT of the first 2 chap­ters of my book, A Brief His­tory Of Man.

BBC’s Arena celebrates one of the great modern film makers.

Mick Jagger in Nic Roeg and Donald Cammell's Performance.

Mick Jag­ger in Nic Roeg and Don­ald Cammell’s Per­for­mance.

Nico­las Roeg has only made 13 films in total, but the first seven of them makes up one of the most impor­tant bod­ies of work in Euro­pean cinema.

He began in the cam­era depart­ment, and by the 1960s he was the cin­e­matog­ra­pher on some of Britain’s most iconic films, work­ing on Lawrence of Ara­bia, Far From the Madding Crowd and Doc­tor Zhivago, though he remained un-credited on that last one after a falling out with David Lean.

Then in 1970 he made his direc­to­r­ial debut Per­for­mance, which, unusu­ally for a British film, he directed together with Don­ald Cam­mell. Roeg con­cen­trated on the look of the film, and Cam­mell worked with the actors and on the script. The gifted but trou­bled Cam­mell then made Demon Seed in 77, but when the stu­dio man­gled their cut of his Wild Side in 1995, he com­mit­ted suicide.

Julie Christy in Don't Look Now.

Julie Christy in Don’t Look Now.

Although the world of Per­for­mance is very much the one that Cam­mell inhab­ited, with its heady mix of the May­fair set and gang­ster Lon­don, it looks and feels like a Roeg film. And the cast­ing of Mick Jag­ger in one of the leads would be fol­lowed sub­se­quently by Roeg with David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth and Art Gar­funkel in Bad Tim­ing.

Walk­a­bout, his first film proper, was next in ’71. A star­tlingly orig­i­nal take on the clash of civ­i­liza­tions as a white boy and girl are left to fend for them­selves in the Aus­tralian out­back after being aban­doned there. But it was Don’t Look Now in ‘73 that really caught the world’s attention.

Don­ald Suther­land and Julie Christy are in Venice try­ing to come to terms with the death of their child. The film unfolds with an ellip­ti­cal, almost causally poetic mould­ing of time, and it is this more than any­thing that char­ac­ter­izes Roeg’s work.

David Bowie as The Man Who Fell To Earth.

David Bowie as The Man Who Fell To Earth.

This strik­ingly lat­eral, almost anti lin­ear sense of time, and one of the most mem­o­rable and grown up sex scenes in mod­ern cin­ema woke the world up to a seri­ous Euro­pean film maker.

The Man Who Fell To Earth fol­lowed in ‘76, Bad Tim­ing in ‘80, Eureka in ‘83 and then Insignif­i­cance in ‘85. All are crim­i­nally over-looked. They each man­age to be daz­zlingly orig­i­nal in their look and feel as they tackle exis­ten­tial themes with a deft light­ness of touch. Intel­lec­tual depth explored with visual bril­liance, panache and orig­i­nal­ity, so that form and con­tent per­fectly merge.

Teresa Russell in the criminally overlooked Insignificance.

Teresa Rus­sell in the crim­i­nally over­looked Insignif­i­cance.

If you’ve yet to see any of them, lucky you, it’s all ahead of you.

Cast­away was some­thing of a damp squib in 86, but Track 29 in 88, scripted by Denis Pot­ter was a return to form. But his film of Roald Dahl’s The Witches in 90 was another mild dis­ap­point­ment, falling some­where in between a children’s and a grown up’s film.

And that alas is pretty much it. There have been three films since, but they are hardly worth men­tion­ing in the con­text of what had come before. And ever since, Roeg has been talk­ing to var­i­ous pro­duc­ers and financiers about mak­ing a come­back. So the Arena pro­file, aptly titled It’s About Time on BBC4 was some­thing of a mixed blessing.

Gene  Hackman in Eureka.

Gene Hack­man in Eureka.

On the one hand, it was finally some sort of recog­ni­tion for, arguably, the most impor­tant, and cer­tainly the most orig­i­nal film maker that Britain has ever pro­duced. On the other, if felt like an admis­sion of defeat as far as any future projects are concerned.

Watch the Arena pro­file. And then treat your­selves to one of those first seven films of his.

Rather like David Bowie’s six albums between Young Amer­i­cans and Scary Mon­sters, those first seven films of Roeg’s man­age to be at once extra­or­di­nar­ily var­ied and yet vis­i­bly, dis­tinctly crafted by the same bril­liant hand.

In the mean­time, here’s the trailer  for Don’t Look Now. And this by the way is how you cut a trailer. Every stu­dio head in Hol­ly­wood should be forced to watch this at least once a week.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you posted every month on All the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!

Sub­scribe here for reg­u­lar updates. And get your FREE GIFT of the first 2 chap­ters of my book, A Brief His­tory Of Man.

Atom Egoyan’s unfairly overlooked film “The Captive”.

"The Captive"

The Cap­tive”

What­ever hap­pened to Cana­dian film maker Atom Egoyan? Dur­ing the 1990s, he proved him­self to be one of the most excit­ing direc­tors work­ing any­where in the world.

After Fam­ily View­ing (’87), Speak­ing Parts (’89) and the crim­i­nally over­looked Cal­en­dar (’93) he won inter­na­tional acclaim with the bril­liantly intri­cate Exot­ica in 1994, which was one of the films of the decade.

He fol­lowed that up in 1997 with The Sweet Here­after which was almost as impres­sive. It won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes and saw Egoyan nom­i­nated for an Oscar for Best Direc­tor and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Felicia’s Jour­ney was some­thing of a mis­step in 1999, but he seemed to be back on song again with Ararat in 2002.

So what has hap­pened since? Well, there was an attempt at a rel­a­tively big bud­get film in ’05 with Where The Truth Lies, star­ing Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon. Which was all right, if some­what pedestrian.

Then there was Ado­ra­tion in ’08, which felt strained and effort­ful. And, again, pedes­trian. The “erotic thriller” Chloe fol­lowed in ’09, and then in ’13 the unnec­es­sary and baf­flingly straight Devil’s Knot.

So The Cap­tive, which was screened last year at Cannes, is very much some­thing of a return to form. Eight years after their daugh­ter is abducted, her par­ents Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos dis­cover evi­dence that she might still be alive.

'Exotica"

Exot­ica

All of Egoyan’s usual pre­oc­cu­pa­tions sur­face. That sense of insid­i­ous intru­sion that we all feel liv­ing in a world where every­one is being watched. And where the nature of an event and the search for truth is some­how warped when that event is seen cap­tured on a screen.

And how the same events appear in a dif­fer­ent light and present lay­ers of con­flict­ing truths, when they are viewed at one remove on a screen, as those view­ing the events are them­selves watched by us, on ours.

Some peo­ple have com­plained that the story stretches credulity. And it cer­tainly would have been a pleas­ant sur­prise if the vil­lain hadn’t been so vis­i­bly las­civ­i­ous. The banal­ity of evil is much more inter­est­ing and much more cred­i­ble than the sight of man twid­dling his mous­tache with such the­atri­cal rel­ish. And cast­ing Rosario Daw­son as a social worker was always going to be a stretch in any universe.

But the film nonethe­less main­tains a won­der­fully taut sense of ten­sion through­out, and is I fear a much more real­is­tic and bet­ter researched por­trayal of pae­dophile rings and their sophis­ti­cated net­work of vir­tual war­rens than many would like to believe.

Rosario Dawson looking more exotica than social worker.

Rosario Daw­son look­ing more exot­ica than social worker.

It’s not hard to under­stand why it was so com­pletely over­looked at Cannes last year and after its release sub­se­quently, given how far from grace Egoyan has fallen of late. But don’t be fooled by that recent form. The Cap­tive is a tense, intri­cately woven thriller that delves into the dark­est crevices of the human psy­che with verve and intelligence.

You can see the trailer for The Cap­tive here. And for The Sweet Here­after here. The Exot­ica trailer is quite sim­ply pants. So here’s a taster that someone’s posted up as an alternative.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below and I shall keep you posted every month on all the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music.

Sub­scribe here for reg­u­lar updates. And get your FREE GIFT of the first 2 chap­ters of my book, A Brief His­tory Of Man.

Two new albums to set you fare for summer.

To Where The Wild Things Are.

To Where The Wild Things Are.

To Where The Wild Things Are is the sec­ond album from Death and Vanilla. The Swedish trio con­tinue where The White Stripes left off, apply­ing a rig­or­ous sonic aes­thetic with the kind of inten­sity that only youth can produce.

All the tracks were recorded gath­ered around a vin­tage mic found they claim in a flea mar­ket, and fash­ioned from the authen­ti­cally antique sounds pro­duced from a Moog syn­the­sizer, Mel­lotron, vibra­phone, organ, some sam­pled vin­tage vinyl and a harp­si­chord, into which an ethe­real female vocal is dis­solved. Think the Vel­vets recorded for 4AD in Berlin circa’77.

Death and Vanilla

Death and Vanilla

The result is a grungey vel­vety dreamy synth pop that sounds oh so 60s and yet unmis­tak­ably now. Broad­cast is the usual ref­er­ence point, but you could just as eas­ily point to Massey Star via Nancy Sina­tra. Just how vin­tage are they? They’ve even made one of those beguil­ingly eso­teric and enig­matic videos that only the really seri­ous and seri­ously indie bands used to make. It’s for the sin­gle and stand out track on the album, Cal­i­for­nia Owls. It shim­mers and you can see it here.

Kamasi Washington, The Epic.

Kamasi Wash­ing­ton, The Epic.

Kamasi Wash­ing­ton has spent as much time on the hip hop cir­cuit as he has the jazz, sup­port­ing the likes of Snoop, Lau­ryn Hill, Fly­ing Lotus and most famously, as one of the core musi­cians on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a But­ter­fly.

But you’re just as likely to have seen him in the com­pany of Her­bie Han­cock, Kenny Bur­rell and Wayne Shorter and his heart is clearly in the world of jazz.

So he took his core band into the stu­dio and together they laid down some 45 tracks. Even­tu­ally, they whit­tled these down to a pal­try 17, and the result­ing triple album, The Epic comes in at a brisk 3 hours.

Alice Coltrane

Alice Coltrane

You can’t really get away with that in pop or rock, but in jazz the extended time­frame gives that very par­tic­u­lar form of expres­sion the space it needs to breathe. Or at least it does when you’re as effort­lessly ver­sa­tile and a musi­cally edu­cated as Wash­ing­ton is.

It’s released on Flylo’s Brain­feeder records, which is very much as it should be as the for­mer is the nephew of Alice Coltrane, and more than any­one else it’s the light of John Coltrane that the album most impres­sively basks in.

Flying Lotus' You're dead!

Fly­ing Lotus’ You’re dead!

Not that this is any way a con­ven­tional throw­back to sounds of the past. Rather it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of clas­si­cal jazz in its many 21st cen­tury forms. There’s fusion obvi­ously, but also lounge, some strings, the occa­sional female vocal, and no end of out­ra­geously com­plex syn­co­pa­tion. Very much in other words the same musi­cal land­scape as Flylo, whose last two albums I reviewed here and here. Only instead of a sin­gle album in the vein of hip hop, it’s a tre­ble album of clas­si­cal jazz. And not a singe sec­ond of it is wasted.

The boys from Pitch­fork gave is a 8.6 here. And you can get a taster here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below and I shall keep you posted every month on all the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!

Sub­scribe here for reg­u­lar updates. And get your FREE GIFT of the first 2 chap­ters of my book, A Brief His­tory Of Man.

The Jinx”, unmissable and horribly addictive.

"The Jinx"

The Jinx”

First things first, there’ll not be any spoil­ers here what­so­ever. To deprive any­one of the con­stant stream of sur­prises and guilty plea­sures this six part doc­u­men­tary con­tin­u­ally serves up would be a ver­i­ta­ble crime.

If ever any­one asks you, what’s a cliff, all you need say is, episode 5, The Jinx. I had to forcibly refrain from watch­ing all six one after the other, and to some­how con­strain myself to but two episodes in a row, over three weekends.

I won’t talk about any of the actual story, apart from what is revealed in the open­ing 15 min­utes of the first episode.

There, we hear of a dis­mem­bered body that was dis­cov­ered off the coast of Texas, and how, almost within min­utes, one Robert Durst was arrested after he was stopped blithely dri­ving about town with a newly pur­chased hack saw on the back seat of the car. Not in the boot mark you. On the seat.

Capturing The Friedmans.

Cap­tur­ing the Friedmans.

Durst it tran­spires is the eldest son and heir of the Durst empire, one of the most pow­er­ful prop­erty dynas­ties in New York. One World Trade Cen­ter is one of numer­ous build­ings the fam­ily have on the island of Man­hat­tan. Nei­ther was he a stranger to con­tro­versy. His wife had mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­peared 18 years pre­vi­ously, and many of her fam­ily sus­pect his involvement.

When it got to trial, he explained that although he had indeed killed and chopped up his next door neigh­bour, he’d killed him acci­den­tally, in self-defence. And that he’d only chopped him up after­wards as, well, how else do you dis­pose of some­one you’ve acci­den­tally killed, and whose death you could eas­ily find your­self being wrongly blamed for?

The subject confronted; the reveal.

The film maker and sub­ject; the reveal.

Need­less to say, the story made all the papers, not least the New York Times. Mes­merised New York­ers watched as one of their own appeared at the cen­tre of one of those sto­ries that peo­ple like him would nor­mally look down their noses at from an Olympian height.

One of the peo­ple whose atten­tion was grabbed was the film maker Andrew Jarecki, who comes from a sim­i­larly mon­eyed back­ground. And after he had made his star­tling direc­to­r­ial debut, the bril­liant Cap­tur­ing the Fried­mans in 2004, he decided that his next project would be a fic­tion­alised ver­sion of Durst’s tra­vails. But he was deter­mined to do so from an avowedly neu­tral posi­tion. After all, what if he really is inno­cent? Unsur­pris­ingly, the film that resulted, All Good Things was some­thing of a damp squib.

The master.

The mas­ter.

But when then he was asked on the manda­tory pro­mo­tional tour what reac­tion he would like his film to pro­duce, he replied that he’d love to hear what Durst him­self made of it. And sure enough soon after, Durst rings, telling him he really liked the film – as damn­ing an indict­ment as any film could wish for – and would he be inter­ested in inter­view­ing him?

And so Jarecki recorded a gen­uinely exclu­sive inter­view with the man who had hith­erto refused to give his side of the story, to any­one. And from that inter­view – or inter­views – Jarecki began to piece together the two dif­fer­ent ver­sions of his past, that he and his accusers both insist is what really happened.

So from a mix­ture of recorded inter­views, both video and audio, police tran­scripts, some espe­cially art­ful, dra­matic recon­struc­tions and a slew of inter­views with most of the pro­tag­o­nists, the two con­tra­dic­tory ver­sions of his past unfold before our eyes.

"Bitter Lake", the latest film essay from Adam Curtis, this time on Afghanistan.

Bit­ter Lake”, the lat­est eru­dite film essay from Adam Cur­tis, this time on Afghanistan.

A few crit­ics, AA Gill most notably, have com­plained that it’s impos­si­ble for us to trust Jarecki pre­cisely because his film is so art­fully put together.

But that surely makes it even more of a plea­sure, albeit a guilty one. It won­der­fully mir­rors and intrigu­ingly reflects the very sub­ject it charts; truth and lies and the dif­fer­ent ways we all inter­pret the same events, in much the same way that Cap­tur­ing the Fried­mans did.

I men­tioned Orson Welles’ charm­ing film essay F For Fake in my review of Adam Cur­tis’ sim­i­larly visu­ally lit­er­ate All Watched Over by Machines Of Lov­ing Grace here. Like that, The Jinx is a cap­ti­vat­ing com­pan­ion piece to what should have been Welles’ legacy. Except that, crim­i­nally, nobody noticed F For Fake. It some­how man­aged to pass every­body by. No one’s likely to make the same mis­take about The Jinx.

You can see the trailer of Cap­tur­ing The Fried­mans here, and for The Jinx here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you posted every month on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!

Sub­scribe here for reg­u­lar updates. And get your FREE GIFT of the first 2 chap­ters of my book, A Brief His­tory Of Man.