SEUN KUTI & EGYPT 80/ BOMBAY ROYALE – Hi Fi Bar

Melbourne’s The Bombay Royale look to Bollywood for inspiration, buying into a fantasy world of surf guitar, super villains, and damsels in distress. There’s a cruise ship captain and the horn section wear masks. In front of a typically excitable AWME crowd they tear through tracks from their recent debut album You Me Bullets Love, the searing funk of Sote Sote Adhi Raat a highlight.

When Egypt 80 take to the stage The Hi Fi Bar is bursting at the seams. Their sound is well honed after decades of performing, taut, primed ready to explode. Afrobeat doesn’t get more urgent, more life affirming than this. Kuti appears and is immediately onto the sax, kicking everything up a notch. He’s playing his fathers Zombie “out of respect for the man,” and it’s incredible to the point of being overwhelming.  Next up they launch into Fire Dance from their debut album and the band feel even tighter. This is the way music should be, relentless, primal, and precise. Kuti is all over the stage writhing in time with the music, offering urgent sax solos, though also stopping occasionally to talk politics. “Africa is the worlds experiment,” he proclaims, “you want austerity? We’ve had it for years. You should send over the Europeans, we can train them in austerity and then send them back.” He chuckles to himself before launching into Rise Up, the title track to his last album, a track that felt a little indulgent on record, but live is a welcome breather from the relentless energy. The Good Leaf is also preceded by a monologue, with Kuti pondering how marijuana, something that occurs naturally could be illegal. Earthquakes kill many more people, yet they’re legal he suggests.

Tonight most of the tunes come from his recent From Africa With Fury: Rise album, and Kuti is a passionate spokesperson for his continent. It’s not just in his banter with the crowd, or his lyrics, but his energy, his intelligence and sheer musicianship. The band is of course a weapon, they know no other way than totally uncompromising pedal to the metal.

In the audience bodies are flying everywhere, the effect this music is having is remarkable. When he finally leaves the stage the roar for an encore is among the loudest noises that this writer has ever heard. But this is what Kuti and Egypt 80 do, they ignite the listener, both in body and mind.

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GOBLIN perform the Soundtrack to SUSPIRIA – ACMI 2012

Winning the award for the most unexpected tour in recent years are over the top Italian prog rock maestros Goblin, who made a name for themselves via their excessive soundtracks for the likes of Dario Argento and George A Romero in the 1970’s.  They’re responsible for Argento’s golden period and the crowning achievement is of course Suspiria.

The beauty of Suspiria is its hysterical nature. The music comes in loud, in strange inappropriate places, way too excessive for the moment.  The film itself is colourful, outlandish, demented, at times nonsensical and even horribly kitsch, where exposition occurs with the subtlety of a chainsaw. But this heady brew when combined with the insanity of the music creates a strangely hypnotic, slightly woozy effect.

So out comes Goblin to rapturous applause from the sold out audience. From the opening keyboard arpeggio’s it’s on, as this five piece, seated underneath the screen offer up their chiming feverish sounds, and its incredible. They have banks of keys, an epic kit, some kind of bouzouki and bass, and everyone mutters, whispers, and breathes into their mics, “witch.” It’s spooky as hell, suddenly we’re back in the 70’s, their ability to effortlessly tap into the darkness and the fever to reconstruct their iconic score in front of our eyes is a rare kind of gift. Standing ovation.

Bob Baker Fish

Fragmented Films 28th Nov 12

So Al Gore was right. We have destroyed the earth. He tried to tell us and we wouldn’t listen, or at least that’s the central premise to Abel Ferrara’s latest film 4:44 Last Day On Earth (Icon). It’s a doomsday flick from one of the most depressive filmmakers you could imagine, the sleazebag behind Bad Lieutenant (The good one), Dangerous Game (Harvey Keitel and Madonna) and The King Of New York.  His films have always been seedy as hell, and for a while in the early 90’s he was ‘seedy it guy.’ But times have changed, and his budgets have shrunk, because apparently people don’t want to see Harvey Keitel molesting teenage motorists anymore.

Which leads us back to 4:44 Last Day on Earth. Early on we know that at 4:44am the world will end, now we just have to work out what to do in the interim. If you know Ferarra you’d be expecting a savage dose of violent sexual wrongness, perhaps a spot of looting. But no, at the age of 60 the former terror of New York is acting somewhat restrained. We follow actor and reformed drug addict Cisco (a craggily looking Willem Defoe) and his much younger artist girlfriend Skye, as they attempt to make sense of their lives as the clock is ticking. Skye is determined to finish her art, while Cisco is a mess, trying to score dope and futilely reconnect with his ex wife, daughter and friends via skype. In fact technology plays an important role in Cisco’s life, their New York loft resembles a media unit, with newscasters, a new age guru, and baseball games playing out endlessly. Connections occur via technology, yet it still feels real. There’s a beautiful scene where they let the guy who delivers their Chinese take out skype his family. When he says goodbye he closes the computer and leans down and kisses it. In between they screw, bicker and meander in some kind of existential fog.

But no mistake Abel Ferarra is a sleazy old bastard. Or at least he was in 2007. What 55 year old is so porn starved he decides to write and direct a film set in a strip club, purely to film naked strippers? And then what 55 year old could be so delusional as to make it a warm hearted nostalgic, somewhat quirky almost comedy? Because everyone knows strip clubs are just one big happy family right?

Ferarra has always been idiosyncratic, marching to he beat of his own drum. But surely there’s a limit. And Go Go Tales (Eagle) is it. Willem Defoe again plays Ray, a lotto addicted manager of a strip club that’s slowly going down the tubes. It’s a fantastical vision, Ray engages in cabaret, singing sad songs between strips, Asia Argento tongue kisses a dog, a chef supplies organic hot dogs to patrons. There’s even a stripper talent show where Matthew Modine inexplicably turns up playing a miniature piano, with a miniature dog. It’s an unfocussed film with a real lacklustre quality. Ferrara seems disinterested, perhaps understandably so, only rousing himself when filming the gratuitous nudity. When people aren’t flashing their fleshy bits they’re screaming at each other. Why?

The Abyssinians/Johnny Clarke with Mista Savona/ Iration Steppas/Kingfisha – Hifi Bar

There’s something about these AWME shows, where even early on there’s a palpable sense of energy in the air. Brisbane six-piece reggae outfit Kingfisha, really draw on the vibe of a crowd ready to party, delivering their brand of roots reggae from the golden years.

UK legends Iration Steppas, huffed and puffed and selected some of their own productions, mashing them and vocalising over the top. “Here’s a tune from my cousin,” offers Mark Iration, “it’s gonna be big,” before dropping her sweet take on Dawn Penn’s You Don’t Love Me No No No, name dropping the Iration Steppas in the lyrics. A little cheesy yes, but still a lot of fun.

Next up Jamaican vocalist Johnny Clarke, probably best known for his work with Bunny Lee. Here’s he’s supported by Mista Savona, and he looks incredible in some kind of safari suit and little hat. Age hasn’t weathered his vocals and he rips through some classics, waving his Jamaican coloured scarf in the air, lumbering around the stage, tunes like Roots Natty Roots and Every Knee Shall Bow. When he unfurls his African roots, taking off his hat revealing almost ankle length dreadlocks the crowd goes wild.

“Fasten your seatbelts,” we’re warned as The Abyssinians take to the stage to thunderous applause. Dressed in matching tracksuits, with their big white beards and beatific grins, they look amazing. And for old guys they know how to move, treating us to some incredible boxing moves, uppercuts, roundhouses and a few kicks. Whilst Wicked Men and Declaration of Rights are early highlights, they want to clarify something. “This is not Bob Marley music, this is Rastafarian music.”

There’s no denying what people have come to see. Almost immediately, with that signature slinky horn, the reception to their biggest hit, Satta Massagana, is deafening. They stretch it out, give it back to the crowd who sing some of the verses. They end with djembe, one of the vocalists sitting down and bashing away with wild abandon. You can’t fake the kind of joy etched on his face, and as he enters some kind ecstatic percussive nirvana the crowd seems to sense this and screams, and keeps screaming. Wow.

Bob Baker Fish

Fragmented Frequencies Nov 12

A couple of weeks ago Fragmented Frequencies managed to catch local experimental musician Tim Catlin’s Overtone Ensemble. A quartet, they each played a homemade instrument constructed with a series of aluminium rods that looked like TV antennas. Wearing rubber gloves coated with rosin, they would stroke these rods, making them resonate, creating this amazing pitch of sound that just hovered in the air.

It was a truly unique sonic experience, approached the kind of class and rigour that we’d expect from Catlin. His most recent release, on beautiful white vinyl no less is his second collaboration with prolific Dutch producer Rutger Zuyderfelt, aka Machinefabriek and is called Patina (Low Point). They’ve followed a similar modus operandi as Glisten, where Catlin sends over a bunch of prepared guitar sounds that Zuyderfelt then processes. This time Catlin has his new toy, a prepared sitar (which he also contributed to Children of the Wave’s latest album) as well as guitar and it’s resulted in a quite gentle drone based work, interspersed with fragile flecks of guitar, looped recordings of record surface noise (which is a little ironic) and gentle chiming guitar. It’s an album that offers the space and stillness of Oren Ambarchi’s work on Touch, yet possesses a wider palette and greater complexity. This is truly innovative, immersive and beautiful work.

Last weekend The Infinite Decimals launched their new DVD, an audiovisual opus in which the Melbourne duo of Barnaby Oliver (guitar/piano) and Don Rodgers’s (Bass/percussion) improvisations are married to Paul Rodger’s images. Removing emotive song titles, each release thus far has featured a different array of infinite decimals, thus the DVD is titled 299 792 458 M.S 2012. At times it sees the musical duo somewhat more subdued, having to do less now that the images are providing some sort of contextual cover. Though it might also be because these days Don gets all his existential noisy chaos out of his system playing with the Paul Kidney Experience.

There are multiple techniques at play here, everything from animation to heavily processed images on a city street, though the visuals come in and out of sync with the music, at times seemingly wedded to the sounds, at others the objective seems to be to highlight the difference.

They’ve also just released 0.10992905085008 , another 4 tracks of instrumental goodness, including a 26 minute live recording from a show at Loop in 2011. Check http://infinitedecimals.bandcamp.com/ or facebook page.

After a recent outing with the Congos, California based Texas native Sun Araw has returned with a new album of deconstructed electronic squiggles. Inner Treaty (Drag City/ Fuse) is a typically inebriated mess of sounds that should be conflicting, yet somehow manages to mass into some sort of vaguely coherent whole, referencing everything from dub and reggae to r&b and experimental music. At times we’ve entered spiritual jazz territory, others experimental noodling. It’s scattered, ramshackle, carefree, feeling lose and improvised. The tunes feel static, never really going anywhere, they just appear almost fully formed, play out for a bit before finishing and then we’re onto the next. Yet somehow that’s not a problem, in fact it’s an apt description of the Sun Araw effect: All the rules get broken but that’s what makes it great.

With Melbourne electro Cumbia pioneers the Cumbia Cosmonauts it’s always been difficult to tell where the DJing ended and production began. In fact that was part of the joy of their sounds, a unique fusion of the old and the new.  Their latest release Tropical Bass Station (Chumsa Records) sees them creating much of their own sounds, and moving closer to a club vibe, utilising dub techniques, almost hi life guitar, and all manner of things that don’t fit into most peoples conception of Cumbia. Yet that’s the point, this outfit have moved well beyond the cumbia moniker, now they truly are cosmonauts. They’re launching the album this Friday the 23rd at the Northcote Social Club with Congo Tardis #1 and Lamine Sonko & The African Intelligence. They’ve also just been announced as support for legendary Syrian wedding singer Omar Souleyman next month.

 

Fragmented Films Nov 2012

Bad Boy Bubby as an even handed, freakishly calm, immaculately attired boss? Hmmm. Maybe not. But what about if he guts someone in front of you whilst spewing forth management speak about being a team player? Yep that’ll work.

Gratuitous slasher films are a dime a dozen. But few feature Bubby himself, Nicholas Hope, a man who conjures unhinged with merely a twitch of the eyebrow, as the villain.

There’s a depth to Red Inc (Pinnacle) that feels forced, perhaps a little too metaphorically clever, with victims literally chained to their desk and ruled over by a boss from hell. Yet it is clever, increasing the tension through a mixture of messing with horror cliché, cheekily refusing the payoff, and some truly gruesome and depraved acts.

When mid sentence Hope takes his hand off and reveals a hook you almost begin to cheer.

The tone varies dramatically. Yet its inconsistency only adds to the joy.

For some reason the filmmakers choose to utilise unconvincing US accents, but they know enough not to have the characters speak all the time. The unauthenticity really becomes apparent when compared to Tom Savini’s voice, who pops up as a sex crazed link in the chain. Yep that Tom Savini, the makeup and gore genius behind Dawn of the Dead and Friday the 13th, which is why those pencils shoved through limbs, occasional beheadings, and random eye scoopings look so convincing. In fact Savini’s tips for creating realistic blood, and his technique of shock treatment on maggots in the extra features are nothing short of gold.

Two of the victims’ hands meet over the desk. He says, “this job sucks,” and she (and the filmmakers) resist the desire to stoically say “I’ve had worse.”

Which is why Red Inc works. It teeters on the edge of clichéd cheese, particularly with its eye on the US market, yet its violent sadism, killer effects, and not to mention Hope’s genuinely spooky performance really offers something compelling and frequently scary.

There is also an interview with the effects guru in the special features of Equinox (Umbrella). Yet Dennis Muren’s effects in this 1969 B-movie are a little less special. Muren, who would go on to work on Star Wars actually directed Equinox himself, before inexplicably handing it over to another director, Jack Woods, who added a bunch of creepy scenes involving him and his eyebrows.

The beauty of Equinox is that it is nonsensical. Characters do the opposite of what any normal person would do. The haircuts are bouffant, and rarely move, Satan appears on a horse, as do a whole bunch of monsters. And when they urgently need to find a stick to ward off a giant monster attacking them, the monster calmly waits as they furtively search.

It’s b-movie hell for sure, yet it’s so totally insane that it comes close to genius.  When a group of kids find an evil book deep in a mineshaft and incant out a bunch of demons ten years before Evil Dead, they’re forced to fend off all manner of non-frightening plasticine creatures in the most unconvincing ways possible.  What’s not to like?

 

Fragmented Films October 2012

If you enjoy that moment when watching a slasher movie where you think, wow this is the last thing you should be doing right now, then you’ll love Rabies (Accent), a flick billed as the first Israeli slasher film. Sure there’s a psycho in the woods but he has nothing on the lunatics he’s lured in there. Every moment goes wrong, the wrong impression is drawn and as a result people do ridiculously stupid things and pretty much the worst outcome occurs every time. It’s a domino effect that’s measured in blood.  And to some extent humour because it’s so black, so over the top that all you can do is laugh. And really? Teens in tennis gear? Who doesn’t want to see them slaughtered?  If you have no faith in humanity Rabies will reassure you. It’s much safer not to interact. There’s less bloodshed.

Ok. Lets lay it out. 20 cops decide to raid a crime ridden building presided over by a ruthless crime lord in a Jakarta slum. The crime lord has two henchmen. One is crazy, the other crazier. He’s on the top floor. Between him and the cops are twenty floors of seedy, violent, crazed criminals out for their blood. What does this sound like?

If you answered Donkey Kong with bullets then you’d be right. The Raid (Eastern Eye) is a new kind of action film, simplified, shot and informed by gaming. It’s streamlined action, where it’s all about the fights, the jaw dropping choreography, the brutal barbaric unrelenting hand to hand combat, and plot or character development feels like a distant after thought.  It’s extremely violent and bloodthirsty. That’s meant to be a bad thing. But let’s be honest who wants extensive emotional back stories when you can have comic book villains literally breaking their victim’s necks with a savage twist after exhausting hand to hand combat?

Date Rape Dave is in trouble. Firstly he’s living with both of his ex wives. Secondly they’re sisters and thirdly they’re over his shenanigans. Then of course there’s work which isn’t much better. An LA cop, he’s just been caught on camera beating a suspect half to death.  The higher ups want him out, but Dave is a wise ass and won’t budge. Rampart (Madman) provides Woody Harrelson with an emotional tour de force as a crooked cop desperate to hold onto his work and his family, both of which seem to be slipping away. It’s a star studded cast boasting Ned Beatty, Ice Cube, Steve Buscemi, Robin Wright, Sigourney Weaver and a bunch of other folks all turning the screws on our unrepentant antihero.  Harrelson plays Dave as a dinosaur, an old school cop who’s tried and true techniques that have served him well up until now are now working against him. But he knows no other way. Make no mistake this all about Harrelson, with his red splotchy face, dangerously thin, chain smoking and popping pills Bad Lieutenant style demeanour, watching his former life and with that all of his meaning slip through his fingers.