Monday, July 24, 2017

saturday beach fever


In watching Eliza Hittman's melancholy new film Beach Rats, I was strangely reminded of 1977's Saturday Night Fever. Both are character studies within tiny social circles of lower middle class exaggerated Brooklyn-bred machismo--featuring drifting, self-destructive male protagonists. Yet the contrasts between the eras they depict and in which the films have been realized are stark. In John Badham's work, there's a sense of glee and release in its tuneful slate of Bee Gees anthems and its fervent, almost religious view of disco dancing upon a lit-up rectangular dance floor akin to a throbbing stained glass window. The story and its characters may be sad and distressed but they live within widescreen shots of energy, fog-machine clouded orange-red light, and choreography that feels both slick and carefree. In Hittman's piece, the camera catches things very close (Hélène Louvart, who has worked with luminaries such as Wim Wenders and Agnès Varda, is the cinematographer) in shaky 16mm with a paleness and graininess like our lead character's (Harris Dickinson) freckled countenance. The most fun to be had is stationary and aimless, through hoops of hookah smoke, in bro-ish, boring games of handball, and a neon-lit boat party of plastic blue Solo cups, sweaty, hodgepodge bopping and grinding to garish dubstep.



Rudderless within this claustrophobic world of monotony, is Frankie (Dickinson) who is dealing with his dying Dad, drug addiction, and a deeply repressed sexuality. He clicks into cam rooms in the wee hours and smokes and hooks up in beach shrubbery with older guys--to avoid being found out, he relays. By dating shop-girl Simone (Madeline Weinstein), Frankie tries to follow a more traditional path, similar to the way his sympathetic but dryly intuitive mother (Kate Hodge) met his father on a Coney Island boardwalk, but both soon realize the hopelessness of their relationship. "You're a fixer-upper," Simone says in one of the film's few funny lines, "I need newly renovated." His muscled, "beach rat" friends in their tanks and sagging basketball shorts don't offer much companionship and understanding besides ocean dips and attempts to score drugs and girls.



Frankie's dreary surroundings are lit with fireworks (the same old display, Frankie symbolically notes, over and over again) up in the night sky over the beaches of Brooklyn and on his computer screensaver; it's lit with glowing blunts, with glaring blurs of selfie flashes, and carnival lights. As he chats online with his select choices of men, Frankie dons a black ball cap, his pale face and blue eyes aglow from the computer screen. Slyly, the camera frames him at one point, up against a wall marked "Electric Closet."



The film often keeps things at bay. I sometimes wondered how much surrounding characters, primarily the mother, really knew. The father's sickness and death is gently touched upon in the makeshift living room bed, his clothes rippling by a desk fan and in his family's shaky performance of a hymnal. But I wondered too if there were deeper ramifications, besides Frankie's prescription drug hook, that perhaps his father's absence gave Frankie room (a literal one to boot) to explore his sexuality. It could also be inferred that Frankie is seeking a father figure in these older hook-ups; his sexuality so stifled, he caresses a postcard of Jesus and can only quickly glimpse body parts of a train passenger (constriction is also a visual motif--in the passenger's tight jeans and a lingering shot of his mother's pantyhose). He is afraid of going outside of his world of shoreline and Avenue Z, perhaps because he fears the unknown, of being acutely defined as a new person and as a gay man. I could only imagine his dreary existence in winter doldrums. Hittman's direction and script allows a wavy mystery to the proceedings. Even if the story and plot turns are straightforward and rarely surprising, the character studying is very detailed and absorbing. ***


-Jeffery Berg

Friday, July 21, 2017

interview with twin sun!





jdb: Who is Twin Sun?

TS: Twin Sun is Jamie Willcox & Pete Wheeler, both of us live in Reading, UK. We started off collaborating on edits in late 2013 under the pseudonyms Solid Gold Death Star & Wonder Wheel. By the following Summer we knew we wanted to team up properly and in November 2015, Twin Sun was born!

jdb: What equipment do you use to create remixes?

TS: We mainly produce using Logic with a little help from Abelton Live here and there. With those we use software synths like Arturia ones and hardware synth like the Juno 106.



jdb: Any reason why you're drawn to Fleetwood Mac?

TS: Both of us have been huge fans of Fleetwood Mac since childhood, including the earlier blues material and their albums with Bob Welsh before Lindsay Buckingham & Stevie Nicks joined. In 2012, Pete met Alex & Lisa of Fleetmac Wood at their second party while promoting his club night with Psychemagik & Gigamesh (both of whom have produced brilliant Fleetwood Mac edits). This immediately sparked a synergy which has resulted in the numerous Fleetwood Mac edits we've created over the last few years.


jdb: "Gold Dust Woman" is a particularly deep transformation from a folk-rock tune to pulsating Giorgio Moroder-esque disco. What were the elements that made this mix come together?

TS: Our edit of "Gold Dust Woman" came about from the unexpected discovery of a "piano and vocals only" version of the track. The sound of the Rhodes alongside just Stevie Nick's voice transformed the track and gave us the opportunity to seriously indulge ourselves on the production side...and that we did! The chorus had so much potential for being turned into a hands-in-the-air disco moment and the extended outro vocals gave us room to build up a big Moroder style arpeggio with filters into an acid tinged finale. Let's just say we had a lot of fun making that one!

jdb: Are there any songs where you've run into roadblocks in remixing? 

TS: Quite a few of our edits and remixes have hit roadblocks along the way but we find the challenge of that helps ensure you only finish the ones that are really worth it! "Baby Be Mine" by Michael Jackson was particularly problematic

jdb: How did your original tracks "Jump Back" and "Lilac Light" come about?

TS: "Jump Back" came from one day together in the studio messing about with the synths and software. We had already made quite a few slower tracks by this point and wanted something more upbeat. Once the bassline was in the place the synth parts were easy to add and inspired the "jump back" vocal hook. We wanted to get a 'mini-choir' effect so got Claire Morgan (now part of our live band) to add to our voices, creating the final version.


"Lilac Light" began as an instrumental Jamie had started created prior to forming Twin Sun. We sent this to Jen Stearnes from Saltwater Sun and loved the vocals she wrote so recorded her over two studio sessions. The chorus in particular gave us the opportunity to create our own remix for DJ sets which became the "Sundown Version." In live shows, we combine both versions which works really well as the set finale.




jdb: Who are some current musical artists that you are into?

TS: Roosevelt, Parcels, Tuff City Kids, Harvey Sutherland, Fatima Yamaha and the new stuff from Phoenix, Arcade Fire & Poolside.

jdb: Any remixers we should be aware of that maybe don't get much credit?

TS: Fingerman, Dr Packer, Evil Smarty, Twisted Soul Collective & V's are really solid remix/editors. More obvious names like Classixx, Dimitri From Paris & Alkalino we play plenty of edits from too



jdb: What is on the horizon for Twin Sun?

TS: We've been playing live a lot recently with a full five piece band which we've really enjoyed. In September we support Drop Out Orchestra, who are exceptional remixes and big heroes of ours, in London. We also have quite a few tracks that need finishing off and some remixes we've been asked to do so the Autumn is going to be very busy for us!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

zombies

My poem "Zombies," originally published in Gloom Cupboard.



Zombies


In the cemetery, right before rainfall, a man
lumbered towards us with a bad leg
and a wrecked face. You told me

he was coming to get me and there,
before our father’s plot, I thought the man
a widower who had just placed flowers

in front of his wife’s grave,
until the sky broke into thunder,
and he came upon you, strangling you
to the freshly clipped grass. I kicked

off my heels, scrambled
past tombs, towards the Dodge.
Later, in the second story

of an abandoned farmhouse, before the light
runs out, I stand in my gray trench
and bare feet. Through a space between

the boards on the window, I look
out onto all those people
staggering on the front lawn

from out onto the hills
where the sun sets, desperate to see
your black frames. Later tonight,

I will be attacked, I will wake
in my new state to stumble through
fields overgrown, back

to the cemetery
of our father’s plot
where we will find him:

all bones
and together,
the vultures won’t bother us
and we will just walk.


-Jeffery Berg

Friday, July 14, 2017

fleetwood mac remixed




This remix from Twin Sun of "Gold Dust Woman" is really stunning.






Their other remixes of Fleetwood Mac are great too.




Monday, July 10, 2017

art by sandy welch












an interview with artist mj forster



M J Forster is an established British water-colorist. Born in 1975, he has drawn and painted since childhood. With no formal education in the arts, he is self taught and still learning.

Having traveled extensively, he has explored a huge range of subjects in both traditional and abstract styles.

Currently working from his Studio Gallery in Hexham Northumberland, he is currently engrossed in the development of watercolor as the ultimate medium of both technical innovation and total expression.



When did you start painting?

My first memory was drawing a Brio train at around age 3. I suppose I’ve always been an artist. I just love the focus that being creative gives me and the way the time passes. So I used to draw and copy everything I saw. I started painting in watercolor when I was 12 and sold my first painting a year later for £25. That was 1988; I never really looked back from there.



What kind of materials do you use primarily for your work?
I have used a variety of materials over the years. I think I really know what I’m doing now and my materials have naturally reduced down to just three primary colors, a range of brush sizes, a pencil and rubber, lots of paper towels and the stretched paper itself. Oh... and a hair dryer to speed things up a little. You really need nothing more.






What is your work space like?
I have a studio gallery in Northumberland. My studio is fairly small and yes a little messy. The main requirement with watercolor is simply natural light. It’s crucial to gaining consistency with  the colors.

How has your art changed over the years?
My art changes all the time. I really paint for my own enjoyment. It just so happens that people like most of what I do. I’m perhaps best known for landscape painting although my real and increasing love is for more abstract work that reflects the same contrasts in light and tone that my landscape work does. Currently I’m producing a very limited hand made artist's book on this work that I’m crowd funding on Kick Starter (here is a link to my latest campaign). 



What / who are you inspired by artistically?

I'm always inspired by new ways of thinking and anyone who is brave and experimental. I've always been a big fan of the impressionists. It is hard to appreciate now how radical the changes they made to painting were. It’s hard to conceive of such a dramatic shift again. I recently saw a small collection of Seurat's Work and was astounded at the level of detail involved. They were simply incredible.

How do you know when your work is done?
Knowing when a piece is finished is the hardest thing. Many of my landscapes arguably aren't. It's easy to ruin a watercolor with just that final stroke. My recent color contrast work has a far more definite conclusion to each piece. Although I increasingly don't view a single painting in isolation. They are all linked to the previous works and the possibilities involved with the next on, this is what keeps me painting.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

perfect places



Pretty great, Daft Punky remix of Lorde's "Perfect Places" (a cut from her excellent Melodrama LP) by Hibell.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Friday, July 7, 2017

endless poetry


"To life! To life!" That's the kind of glass-in-the-air exclamations that Endless Poetry (Poesía sin fin) relentlessly makes and once that glass is drained, it's gleefully smashed against a wall. Now in his late-80s, director Alejandro Jodorowsky's film is raucous, occasionally outrageous, brazen and a heartfelt goodbye song; the "blazing butterfly" mentioned in the movie could describe the movie itself: a lily gilded with shiny gold spray paint smothered by gold confetti stars. It doesn't care if it's self-indulgent and opaque and it doesn't care if it's on-the-nose. It's Fellini-esque (a filmmaker Jodorowsky admires and obviously borrows from, specifically Amarcord) with its dense imagery: heavily-make-upped clowns and pizzazzy costumes and bosoms and sets upon sets.


It's a family affair of re-imagined autobiography. The director's son Adan (in a rock-wild performance) plays himself as a young misfit Alejandro and the director's older, other son Brontis (who was the child in Jodorowsky's 1970 seminal midnight acid western El Topo) plays his hardened, disapproving father. We watch Alejandro as a poet in 1940s Santiago passionately love and tussle with artists and bohemians, including a fierce and broad Stella Díaz Varín (played by Pamela Flores, who also plays Alejandro's mother, antithetical to Stella, operatically singing all of her lines). Adan also scores the picture, with sweeping romanticism, that perfectly props up the movie's melancholy and extravagance.  


When Endless Poetry works, in its furiously meandering fits, it somehow is able to communicate complicated emotions sincerely--like the idea of aging as a gradual detaching from all things once so treasured and also, the paralyzing inability to stop, with one voice, the mowing down of a fascist political movement. Its death and forgiveness-themed coda is a memorable and haunting. Also, Jodorowsky's tribute to all who helped fund the picture, is so moving, that even if one finds the film too bewildering, they can't help but palpably feel Jodorowsky's expression of gratitude. ***1/2

-Jeffery Berg

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

flag




Some interesting thoughts from Isabelle Loring Wallace on Jasper Johns' famous painting:

“Flag is covered with a lush array of drips and fleshy brushstrokes, initially confirming Johns’s kinship with mid-century American painting. Yet Johns’s motif and technique tell a different story – one of endings and beginnings, and the passage that comes in between. Begun in the fashionable medium of oil-based enamel paint, Flag was completed using the anachronistic medium of encaustic in which pigment is mixed with hot wax and, in Flag’s case, strips of newspaper and fabric to which the coloured encaustic adhered. As Johns explained it, encaustic allowed him to be more efficient and, at the same time, more deliberate in his gestures. In other words, because pigmented wax sets quickly, Johns could add another mark or strip of saturated paper or cloth with the assurance that any previously laid marks would remain unaffected. In this way, each discrete trace was preserved, effectively embalmed."



"Long out of favour and largely forgotten, encaustic was an ancient technique most closely associated with a group of remarkable Egyptian funerary portraits. Affixed to the deceased’s mummy prior to burial, these highly realistic portraits from the second century were designed to preserve the image of the dead, just as Flag and its ghostly white pendant White Flag, preserved aspects of contemporary American painting at the very moment when Johns was laying to rest various aspects of this moribund tradition. A pivotal object within the history of modern American art, Flag was a beginning for Johns, but for Abstract Expressionism it was also the beginning of the end. For in the paintings that followed Johns’s dramatic debut, this audacious newcomer systematically challenged every aspect of mid-century painting, beginning with the tactile brushstrokes that are arrested in Flag."

-Isabelle Loring Wallace



A video of a conversation between Salman Khan and Steven Zucker about Jasper Johns, Flag, 1954-55 (dated on reverse 1954), encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, three panels, 42-1/4 x 60-5/8 inches /107.3 x 153.8 cm (The Museum of Modern Art).


Monday, July 3, 2017

element



Much deserved praise has been heaped upon Kendrick Lamar's album DAMN.

Here's the video for "ELEMENT," directed by Jonas Lindstroem & the little homies, which is chock full of stirring imagery.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

was he slow?


One of the highlights of the uneven but technically marvelous Baby Driver was the soundtrack. Here is Kid Koala's memorably-placed tune "Was He Slow?"



"I tried it on turntables first, mashing all the dialogue bits into it—but it ended up sounding a little too accomplished," San explains. "Like someone who had been spinning for decades—which I have been, but Baby has just started. So I tried it on this magnetic card reader, which was originally made for an elementary school language class. There’s no smooth, elegant, frictionless way to scratch that thing. So when I started trying that it really came out funnier. It made me giggle."