CUMBIA COSMONAUTS (Scatter Music)

Welcome to nuevo cumbia, a style of music that originated in Columbia and became bastardised by each country it visited, taking on all these crazy traditional Amazonian and Andes influences, mashing them with twangy surf guitar and 60’s psychedelia and even electronic music. Or DJ culture, because by the time it’s come to Melbourne it’s taken on a sort of mash between psychedelic chicha, dancehall, the Tex Mex big beat electronics of scary folks like the Nortec Collective, and the faux dub throb of Burnt Friedman. This Melbourne duo (plus guests) have everything you need. The rusty windmill at the start of Once Upon A Time In The West, donkeys braying and all manner of dusty samples wrenched from old bits of authentic vinyl. Though this has also got them into a bit of trouble as despite the seamless mix of samples and live instrumentation, as well as their pretty amazing production work rendering most of the tunes almost unrecognisable from their originals, their failure to clear samples has this collection deemed as a mix-tape. But it’s a cracker, as they’ve taken on the upbeat joyous feel of cumbia with ease. Their music is designed for the dance-floor, bottom heavy music based on big simple party beats over which accordion, the occasional trumpet, the old timer samples and the donkeys play. What separates this from most other mix-tapes you will hear is the amount of production work, often the samples are used primarily for vocals, introduced at the beginning of the tunes, then done away with, allowing the cosmonauts to do their thing, and only brought back to tie things up at the end. But it’s a painfully short disc, clocking in at an infuriating 25 minutes, the problem being they get the party started but then leave you hanging. Though that may be what the repeat button is for. So if you’re interested in authentic traditional Melbourne electronic cumbia you’ve come to the right place.

Bob Baker Fish

(The Final) Fragmented Films August 2010

“I flatter myself that I have cultivated good taste in almost everything. Especially living. Yes to be dead would be such a bore don’t you agree.” If these words weren’t uttered by Vincent Price you’d stab your TV. Even so much of the hackneyed stupidity that flows from the mouths of the characters in House of 1000 Dolls (Umbrella) is barely tolerable even for B grade trash. The plot has promise: sex slaves kidnapped from a magic show in exotic Morocco. Yet it’s a delusional trawl through Tangiers nightclubs, with female mud wrestling, copious amounts of alcohol, and barely an Arab in sight. Making the least of the iconic Tangiers landscape, the film is overly dark and claustrophobic, shot mostly indoors or on seedy nondescript streets with zero character development and not enough nudity.

You’d think that ninja stars flying out of the butt of our hero in Robogeisha (Eastern Eye) would be enough, or even a Geisha bot with an electric saw as a mouth, or how about machine gun boobs? Nup, none of it works. It’s just too silly. It’ll have you lamenting the taste and sophistication of Tokyo Gore Police, because whilst the ludicrous special effects are mildly diverting and could perhaps be read as a comment on societies obsession with plastic surgery, the film lacks the one thing an ultra ridiculous, ultra violent and hyper gore flick needs to ground it. Heart…and perhaps a little nudity.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) makes imaginative, inventive and eclectic films. Micmacs (Hopscotch) is a typically warm, eccentric and highly stylised work from the Frenchman, brimming with numerous moments of inspired absurdity. It all begins with a bullet in the brain and works its way out, becoming one of the quirkiest revenge flicks in cinematic history as our homeless victim is taken in by a band of weirdoes, each with a peculiar talent that they use to exact revenge against evil arms dealers. Apparently the title means something like ‘nonstop shenanigans.’ It’s A Fistful of Dollars meets the Goonies. It’ll warm the cockles.

The manipulative sociopath Tom Ripley has never been played as creepy and wrong as the young, studly and predominantly shirtless Alan Deloin in the original adaptation of the Talented Mr Ripley, 1960’s Plein Soleil (Madman). He’s of course competing with the likes of Matt Damon, Anthony Hopkins and Dennis Hopper, yet Deloin’s portrayal hits the right balance between unhinged and calculating. The disc is an English dub which is at first disconcerting, but actually begins to reinforce the distance we feel towards Ripley sociopathic tendencies. Whilst the ending is a cop out, it’s definitely one of the more stylish Patricia Highsmith outings.

French director Luc Besson was invented for Blu Ray. Whilst he may be infuriatingly erratic, there’s no denying his visual flair. Subway, The Big Blue, and Fifth Element, are all getting the treatment from Directors Suite. But his first film, the wordless post apocalyptic The Last Battle looks incredible in austere black and white, whilst his underwater documentary Atlantis is so lush and beautiful it could be used to sell televisions.

Fragmented Frequencies August 2010

Tex Morton

If you were glued to the TV during the World Cup you know the ad. It was repeated ad nauseam until it became part of our central nervous systems, part of our circuitry, firing the synapses around our brains. Apparently a split second decision is all that stands between Wayne Rooney being knighted by the queen or living in a trailer park. Yes it’s that Nike ad where they spent gazillions roping in all the stars, none of whom fired in the Cup. Aside from Nike’s desperation to paint themselves as the breakfast of champions, Fragmented Frequencies was left with a lingering feeling, there was something familiar here.

Restless after the tense Spain Vs. Portugal draw, (and the 734th viewing of the ad) it finally crystalized. It was the music, this bizarre inspired hyper energetic meld of rock riffage and, well, yodeling. We’d heard it before. Retreating to the vinyl there it was. 1971’s Moving Waves from Dutch prog dudes Focus. The song was Hocus Pocos and it’s the kind of ludicrous nonsensical fusion that makes music great. Whilst the corporation has ruined it for us now, it does warm the cockles to know that thanks to Nike the band are once again knee deep in cocaine blow-jobs. This kind of creativity deserves reward. And so does the much maligned art of yodeling.

Everything you believe about yodeling is probably wrong. It’s not just a Swiss thing, though a few years ago the Age was heralding yodeling as the new yoga for the Swiss dinner party set. These days however you can find it in not just Austria and Germany, but New Zealand, India, even West Africa. Wherever there are lungs yodeling inevitably follows. There’s nothing like it. It’s possibly one of the most ridiculous sounds that can come from the human mouth, aside from the word “chillax”. It’s absurdly kitsch, yet also undeniably fascinating. Apparently developed over 10,000 years ago by herders attempting to communicate with their beasts at great distance, these days it finds itself acquainted with country music in the US. Gillian Welsch describes her style as ‘yodeling at underwater speed,’ whilst Mike Johnson promotes himself as America’s No.1 black yodeler. Apparently nothing says heartbreak like a good yodel.

In 2006 the Rough Guide to Yodel appeared in which Amsterdam based DJ Bart Plantenga compiled a bizarre collection of contemporary yodeling techniques. Perhaps most curious was the Berlin based electronic dub of Alpendub VS. The Man Cable, which is an impossibly smooth down-tempo electro groove fusion, though the Mongolian throat singing, yodeling and shamanistic wailing of Sainkho Namtchylak makes Yoko Ono sound like the lead singer of Matchbox Twenty.

In Australia yodeling is of course woven indelibly into our social fabric. In Kew in the 30’s councillors drew up a bill to prevent milkmen yodeling in the early hours of sunday morning. However despite the occasional freak kid on Red Faces, it’s our country artists who carried the flag. Like the father of country music in Australia, Tex Morton who recorded My Sweetheart’s In Love With A Swiss Mountaineer in the mid 30’s. But since then everyone from Slim Dusty to Smoky Dawson have had a crack and Tim McNamara’s 1954 Homeward Bound not only mentions the Dandenongs, but has him yodeling a train sound. Yet it begs the question: Where has all the yodeling gone?

Anyway back to the present, and Melbourne’s one man avant garde laser show Robin Fox opened a photographic exhibition last week at the Centre For Contemporary Photography. Proof of Concept is an exhibition of Fox’s visual practice, with images constructed via sound, yet unlike sound they’re frozen in time. “Basically I wanted to capture slices of audible time visually,” he offers. “Just capture a second or two and freeze it so that I could see what was happening in that moment. What I love about the exhibition is that it is silent and nothing moves. That’s really new for me!”

If you’re interested in catching some of his less silent and more agile work he’s putting on his laser show as part of Everybody Talks About the Weather II, on the 26th of August, where some of Melbourne’s most renowned experimental and noise artists take over the Corner’s big PA and abuse it for evil. Joining him are Oren Ambarchi, Marco Fusinato and Pivixki (pianist Anthony Pateras and Agents of Abhorrence drummer Max Kohane), who after a blistering EP on Sabbatical last year have dropped their debut LP Gravissima (Lexicon Devil), which has the label breathlessly referencing the likes of Goblin and Magma which can only be a good thing. If only they yodeled.

Puta Madre Brothers – Queso Y Cojones (Baboso Recording Company)

Queso Y Cojones sounds incredible, like it was recorded in some kind of seedy run down Tijuana recording studio from three blocks away through giant distorting amplifiers and onto someone’s answering machine, allowing plenty of the street sounds to seep into the mix. It’s amazing. The electric guitar is impossibly thin and the album buzzes shudders, and peaks in this overridden life affirming frenzy of Mexican rock and roll noise. There’s rain, cars revving, livestock braying, guns being shot, and all kind of seductive Spanish whispers. It’s the kind of authentic document that you want from your world music. It feels alive, real. Sure they had no money but you can smell the sweat, and it smells like refried beans.

Or at least it would if this trio weren’t faux Mexicans from Melbourne with a unabashed love of mariachi music, and dirty garage sounds. They refer to their sound as MexiMotown and it’s a label that sticks. All the vocals, often multi pronged singalongs are in Spanish and even an awareness of the lack of authenticity does nothing to dispel the pure rambunctious joy at the heart of this music. Each member plays guitar, kick drum and various foot percussion, they all want to do everything. The title means cheese and balls. It’s perfect.

Bob Baker Fish