Archives for May 2015

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.

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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!