Category Archives: 30Hz Bl-g

Ramblings at the frequency of 30Hz

30Hz New Music Radar 2/24/17: Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer

30hz new music radar

Welcome to February 24th. It’s 76 degrees here in Pittsburgh. Everyone thinks its spring and that just means that when it snows again — and it will snow again — they’ll all be in super duper bad moods. I prefer not to get too high or too low about this weather stuff. Either way I’ll still drink my iced americano because I refuse to let the bastards get me down. 

I’ve been waiting for that first top-notch rap or hip-hop album of 2017. Celebrate good times; that record has arrived… in what has turned into a surprising week for new music.

 

30Hz Playlist on Spotify: Every New Music Radar Recommendation.


.
.

30Hz New Music Radar: Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer

stormzy gang signs & prayerStraight out of the UK grime circuit dominated of late by Skepta, Stormzy first made a name for himself with his “Wicked Skengman” series of freestyle tapes in 2014. Gang Signs & Prayer represents Stormzy’s first full-length LP.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in UK rap/hip-hop. Beyond my appreciation for Skepta and the occasional track from Dizzee Rascal, my grime experience allows me license (licence?) to identify grime (I know grime when I hear it!) but not dissect the genre specifics with any confidence. So let’s all learn something together.

Grime originated in London during the early 2000’s — a combination of UK electronic music and hip-hop. The sub-genre also borrows liberally from dancehall and reggae. The most identifiable characteristic of grime is hyperactive, syncopated breakbeats, generally 130-140 bpm. Lyrics depict gritty inner-city life. The casual listener will note a rather standard emcee cadence and those aforementioned roots in UK electronic music, specifically breakbeat, drum & bass, and jungle. #TheMoreYouKnow

I normally stumble on modern rap/hip-hop artists when they go slow jam. Stormzy manages to hold my attention even when the bpm’s drop. “Cigarettes & Cush,” as one example of a slow-burner that still hits. Gang Signs & Prayer lacks not for thumpers. A Junkaroo parade strolls through the studio during “Cold,” and “Big For Your Boots” will challenge your speakers with some low-end Gregorian chants laced behind Stormzy’s rapidfire lyricism.

 

Sample tracks: Big For Your Boots, Mr. Skeng, 100 Bags

Buy Gang Signs & Prayer on Amazon

 

 

 

Also highly recommended this week:

 

Vagabon – Infinite Worlds

A deft tightrope strung between brash art-pop and dream-pop.

vagabon infinite worlds
.

Hippo Campus – Landmark

Minneapolis indie-rock quartet that’s drawing legitimate Vampire Weekend comparisons.

hippo campus landmark

.

Thundercat – Drunk

Neo-soul by way of Frank Zappa.

thundercat drunk

A writer’s manifesto on January 20th, 2017

Today is a day. Today is a day like any other. In Pittsburgh, the sky is overcast with intermittent rain shows. The temperature hovers around 40 degrees. This is what happens in January. Sometimes it snows and wrongly convinces us all that January is not always gloomy in Western Pennsylvania.

a writer's manifesto

 

 A Writer’s Manifesto

 

Right now, just a few hours south, the inauguration of our 45th President of the United States ushers in an era that more closely approximates something out of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley or, well, Mike Judge — who perhaps most correctly predicted this day in the prescient documentary Idiocracy. Somewhere Three Doors Down is playing in celebration of something. That alone warrants concern.

But I’m not here to engage in any kind of political or ideological discussion. Not right now. This is more about how we react as artists. We’ve probably Tweeted and Re-Tweeted, shared Facebook posts, and even made some of our own. Is that the best use of our talents? Is that the best use of our creative energy?

In the time since the election, I’ve been wading through a swamp of disbelief. Guess what? There’s no drain in a swamp. A swamp just is. I’d love nothing more than to pull the plug on this shitshow. It’s not that easy. We can’t bury our head in the rising tide of muck and filth. And we can’t just hope it all dries up.

Tend your garden.

As artists, we cannot be sent into a tailspin of malaise. Use this anger and anxiety. Use this hatred and passion. CREATE. WRITE. PAINT. Do whatever it is that poets do. (I kid.) Use this to inspire yourself to pick up your pen and do what you love. What you set out to do. Exact change through your artistic contributions. Now for a writer’s manifesto, a personal statement about how I plan to endure.

a writer's manifesto

 

So today, on January 20th, 2017 and for the foreseeable future, I vow to do the following:

 

  1. Write.
  2. Read more.
  3. Respect the Presidency but refuse to respect the man elected president. And for the record, I did not like George W. but I still respected him as a man that always intended to do right by his country.
  4. I will not say his name. I will call him Captain Cuntmonkey or Senior Pendejo. Coming up with the most creatively derogatory names as a regular mental exercise.
  5. I will not legitimize. Never legitimize. The man is a cartoon gerbil and should be treated as such. This is not normal.
  6. When all this gets you down, write more.

 

Put something of yourself out in this world rather than retreat inward. Be bold. Allow yourself freedom from your inner critic. Trust your instincts. Surround yourself with good people and trust their instincts. Collaborate.

Join me in ushering in an era of personal accomplishment and creative entitlement. Our collective, creative renaissance begins today. This is our Resistance.

 

 

Mourning Carrie Fisher (and Celebrity)

Mourning Carrie Fisher (and Celebrity)

 

Whenever we lose another celebrity the Interwebs assemble into two primary factions. 1. Those that mourn. 2. Those that begrudge the need to mourn. The latter faction shames the former for feeling sorrow in the wake of the celebrity death. “Celebrity” assumes that we had no real life connections to the deceased — that they were merely a face on the screen or a voice on the radio, merely a fictional personality.

I never knew Carrie Fisher. I never spoke to her at a press junket or a fan convention. Zero direct or indirect contact. But as long as there’s been a “me,” there’s been Princess Leia. Let’s start at the beginning. I was born in 1978, the year after the release of Star Wars. I saw the film at such an age that I do not recall any moment in my life that predates knowledge of the film.

 

mourning carrie fisher

 

I lay no special claim to the following statements, and I know for a fact that I am not alone.

Carrie Fisher was my first crush. Of course, I crushed on Princess Leia and the hair buns and the “into the garbage shoot, flyboy” confidence, the girl that led a rebellion and, lets be honest, the girl that wore the gold bikini. I was of a certain impressionable age. There was just no getting around it. I was and remain only human. Like many others, Leia was my earliest exposure to cinematic badass femininity.

Of course, as I grew older I distanced the Princess Leia character from the actress Carrie Fisher.

Princess Leia belonged to that unassailable, ideal part of my childhood. The part that worshipped all things Star Wars, watched the original trilogy movies on a loop, went as an Ewok one Halloween, made my mom design different Star Wars-themed birthday cakes each year, paused my VHS tape and counted the number of stormtroopers present when Darth Vader arrives on the Death Star and requested that many stormtrooper action figures for Christmas. I had Star Wars bed sheets and posters of all three movies over my bed. I received phone calls on my Darth Vader telephone. These memories cannot be taken from me. They remain pure, perfect nostalgia.

 

mourning carrie fisher

 

I came to see Carrie Fisher meanwhile as a beautiful, damaged, three-dimensional human. As I struggled with feelings of depression during my early 30’s, I looked to her — someone who’d lived with mental illness — as a figure of hope. Someone who knew what bottom felt like and spoke openly about her experiences, using her celebrity to bring awareness to an issue that remained, apparently, off-limits for dinner conversation. And she did so with wit and wisdom and brazen self-awareness. She’d experienced darkness and as a sort of self-satirist could make light of her troubles without undermining the struggles of anyone else. The world seemed healthier, more honest and more colorful with Carrie Fisher dishing stories about her addictions and the absurdities of her life in Hollywood as Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia and daughter of Hollywood royalty, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.

This week we all had to say goodbye to that voice, that wit, that beacon of hope. I have mourned her passing on social media and in the privacy of my home. For the first time in all of our years together, my wife suggested we watch Star Wars to celebrate Carrie, but I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready to admit that she was really gone. Instead I cleaned the house and blared John Coltrane on vinyl. I wasn’t ready to recognize that the 19-year-old woman who’d catalyzed these films that I’d loved throughout my entire lifetime with the line “Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope,” was really gone.

No, I never met Carrie Fisher, but I have shed a few tears over her passing. I will mourn her as an actress. I will mourn her as a voice of reason amidst the madness of our self-obsessed modern culture. And I will mourn the passing of part of my ideal, unassailable youth — my now somewhat imperfect nostalgia. It sounds selfish — but that is our frame of reference for “Celebrity” — the ways in which they’ve touched our lives through their art. I will mourn because I feel sadness, and that’s the first step toward being better, no matter the scope or scale of that loss.

 

mourning carrie fisher

 

And now having just finished the first draft of this bl-g post, I’ve learned that Debbie Reynolds has also passed. And just like that– another radiant beacon of positivity has been extinguished. As fans of cinema we loved them both like family. I cannot imagine the feeling of loss within their real family. 

 

31 Days of Horror: Kuroneko

kuroneko 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unseen Criterion Shame

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1960’s
Country of Origin –
 Japan


 

#18. Kuroneko (1968)

kuroneko posterkuroneko poster

Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko, the Japanese title for Kuroneko takes the prize for most literal name of a transcendent piece of cinema. (I assume.) The literal English translation, “A Black Cat in a Bamboo Grove,” paints a very precise picture. Kaneto Shindo’s film showcases bamboo groves and black cats, oftentimes in the same image and beautifully rendered. Truth in advertisement.

Of course, such precision fails to convey nuance beyond the light and shadow. Even without nuance, however, Kuroneko is a beautiful film. A collection of still images could populate an entire gallery installation.

 

kuroneko

 

A band of traveling samurai rape and murder Yone and her daughter-in-law Shige. They burn down their house, take their food and depart. A black cat appears and licks the bodies of the women.  The women return as spirits having pledged to avenge their death by murdering all samurai. All samurai includes Shige’s husband Gintoki who’d gone off to war in the faraway north. They lure their samurai to an illusory estate in a bamboo grove (a spot near where their house once stood), seduce, then destroy. When news of these samurai butchers reaches governor Raiko, he sends Gintoki to destroy the spirits.

The term “elegiac” resonated while watching Kuroneko. The word itself rolls off the tongue and inspires non-specific romantic pining, sort of like Hector Elizondo. Literally “elegiac” means an expression of sorrow for something now past.

 

kuroneko 31 days of horror

 

The women react to the lives they’ve lost, the blissful illusion of sanctuary. A home, a family, the belief in the altruism of a protective warrior class. As farming peasants, as women, Yone and Shige represented the lowest tier of the caste system, other than ethnic minorities, convicted criminals, etc. (the “burakumin”). Despite their status, they lived a contented existence. A violent death and total disillusionment ferried them back to their vengeful purgatory where they are charged with more than just measure-for-measure revenge. Within this context of mourning the loss of their life and a worldview of untarnished pastoral purity, the notion of Kuroneko as an elegy becomes especially potent.

Let’s further consider the definition of elegiac within poetry. I had to brush up on the broader strokes of the elegiac couplet because it’s been almost twenty years since I last used or studied the term. Greek lyrical poets used elegiac couplets for themes on a smaller scale than the epic. The couplet stands on its own but contributes to the larger work. Individual, isolated pieces of the whole. Though for this conversation the specifics don’t necessarily matter as much as the function of the elegiac couplet. Let’s dig up some of that Freshman English class.

From wikipedia:

Each couplet consists of a hexameter verse followed by a pentameter verse. The following is a graphic representation of its scansion. Note that – is a long syllable, u a short syllable, and U is either one long syllable or two short syllables:

– U | – U | – U | – U | – u u | – –

– U | – U | – || – u u | – u u | –

 

kuroneko 31 days of horror

 

In it’s original Greek and eventually Latin usage, the elegiac couplet was considered a lesser art form. Elegiac poets liberally borrowed the themes of the epic in order to lend more gravitas to the shorter, more accessible elegies. As a horror film, also typically considered lesser art, does not Kuroneko struggle against the same kind of bias? The themes of Kuroneko resonate well beyond the horror genre.

The beauty of the couplet manifests in poetic simplicity. The same holds true for Kuroneko narrative, which relies on light, shadow and often silence. Fog dances among the bamboo forest, the reeds of which appear overdeveloped during processing and reinforces the haunting estate’s isolation. Pure whites and pure blacks. Only the fog lies somewhere in between. Nothing but blackness appears beyond the forest. This turns the most minimal of set designs into limitless space.

 

kuroneko

 

Though Shindo handles the seduction of the samurai with a deft touch, and an eye first concerned with visual poetry, Kuroneko embraces the thematic essentials of a horror film. He begins the film with the massacre of the women and their home, but shows none of the samurai’s overt trespasses. The violence agains the women is left to the imagination — only an image of their charred bodies — but our imagination is often more potent. The women, however, exact their pound of flesh by biting their victims in the neck, ripping throats like a big cat killing its prey.

When Gintoki arrives at the women’s lair, the film strays from any horrific imagery and moves toward a Shakespearean tragedy. Two lovers, reunited. An unnatural coupling of man and spirit. Shige surrenders her soul to hell for one more week with her husband. Meanwhile Gintoki’s mother, bound by her oath to destroy the samurai, offers her son no family discount.

Whether you’re spellbound by the imagery or wrapped up in the sworn vengeance of the wronged women, Kuroneko casts a timeless spell. Conservation of language. The visual poetry of the black and white image. Revenge and honor. Love and death. The shattered sanctuary of home. Elegiac, indeed.

 

Final Thoughts:

After finishing Kuroneko, I sat in silence, watching the Criterion menu. The ultimate sign of respect for any film — silent reflection. (Though, on the flipside, I also sat silently after finishing Nightmare on Elm Street 2 because holy hell that was one terrible movie.)

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

30hzrating41-2

 

 

kuroneko blu-ray Availability: The Kuroneko Criterion Collection Blu-ray/DVD can be purchased wherever fine Criterions are sold. 

Save


Earlier 2016 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown

Save

 

31 Days of Horror: Delirium (1972)

31 days of horror delirium 1972

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature of Shame:
Unwatched DVD.
Picked it up after reading a blurb in Troy Howarth’s Giallo guidebook, So Deadly So Perverse.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1970’s
Country of Origin – Italy


 

The Advance Word: I knew only what I’d read about Delirium in Howarth’s giallo guide, which was that Delirium was a trippy, unique entry in the giallo genre.

 delirum 1972 31 days of horror

 

“There is nothing quite like a Renato Polselli film. You may take that as a good thing or a bad thing, but there is no denying it: the man had a style and sensibility which was uniquely his own. And Delirium is truly one of his most, well, delirious and absurd films.”

After reading this introduction to Delirium in Troy Howarth’s So Deadly So Perverse, I hopped on my phone’s Amazon app and ordered Polselli’s Delirium. Shortly thereafter I found myself in a Twitter conversation with someone who mentioned Delirium as one of his favorite giallo films. For whatever reason, I was not aware of the Lamberto Bava Delirium (Le foto de Giola) so when I engaged him in conversation, thinking we were talking about Polselli’s Delirium, he returned a mighty confused tweet because he didn’t know about Polselli’s film. We shared a good virtual laugh about that, and then I went onto Amazon and added Bava’s Delirium to my order.

Howarth speaks the truth, my friends. I’ve seen a good chunk of gialli, but I’ve never seen a film quite like Renato Polselli’s Delirium.

Everything about the film feels slightly askew. From the jarring guitar-driven score (by Gianfranco Reverberi) to the often uncomfortably brutal sadism and masochism to an intermittently tender husband/wife relationship between our main character/pervert/psychiatrist and the woman who apparently loves him. The actors overplay and underplay scenarios with equal measure. Some are even prone to those dastardly hysteria-driven comas. Polselli seems aware that he’s written and directed something awesomeful. Awesomeful in a way, however, that suggests that every objective misstep is in fact intentional. The frenetic editing, the stilted dialogue, the hyperbolic acting, disquieting episodes of S & M — all of it feels like Polselli constructed Delirium with the intent of receiving side-eye for 100 minutes. The following trailer for Delirium should give you a sufficient dose of said crazy.

The movie opens with our main character, Dr. Lyutak (the bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay), ogling and then murdering a young girl in a fit of psychosexual depravity. He returns home where his marital impotence interferes with conjugal sexy times. His wife Marcia (Rita Calderoni) begs him to do whatever he wants. This brings out a dose of strangulation and a hint of murder before Lyutak dials it back… because he loves and respects her too much. Later he gives her a late anniversary card. His heartfelt words involve being a failure as a man but a supremely successful scientist. That’s just pillow talk, baby.

Lyutak becomes a primary suspect of the initial murder. As you would when you’re a COMPLETE F’ING LUNATIC. He’s cleared of charges, however, when someone else commits a similar murder while Lyutak’s being questioned. (Isn’t that how it always goes?) This means there’s another deranged psychosexual killer on the loose, and poor Marcia’s still a virgin. The body count piles up, and the investigators continue to look the other way while Lyutak becomes ever more unhinged. The fact that nobody identifies him as a stark-raving lunatic becomes increasingly more comical.

Technical Notes:

Blue Underground’s DVD does a nice job of presenting a film that’s likely never been treated very kindly. I’d comment further on the intermittently harsh soundtrack, but for all I know Polselli intended it that way.

delirium 1972 31 days of horror

Final Thoughts:

I don’t know if I can outright recommend Delirium, but I found it to be an intermittently brilliant, often comical head trip. Recommended, with reservations. If you can handle the brutal scenes of violence against women — not necessary gory, mind you, but wholly unsettling — then you might find plenty to enjoy in Delirium’s psychosexual depravity. From a certain angle, this could be an uneven, underrated giallo masterpiece. From another angle, it could be bungled trash. As Black Sheep said, “The choice is yours.”

30Hz Rating:

30hzrating31-2

delirium 1972 dvdDVD Verdict: Plenty layers of weirdness to dig through. I can see myself revisiting this to further investigate the burning question on everyone’s mind regarding Polselli’s Delirium: WTF? 

Availability: Blue Underground’s DVD is available from Amazon and wherever fine trash is sold.

Save


Earlier 31 Days of Horror entries: #1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella

Save