...in an effort to continue a long standing tradition below are ten notable films from 2016...
Corruption born of desperation rots the Romanian education system; Deeply nuanced, intelligent writing and directing from modern master Christian Mungiu. Every scene a drama unto itself.
2 Tony Robbins I Am Not Your Guru
Seekers in the managerial class are evangelized by a superhuman and his music cues; prone to inexperience, weak minds gravitate to authority; in search of the ecstatic - hypnotized by a giant. A peek into nightmarish never-ending team building exercises that only corporate culture could celebrate. However, messages of Empathy and Will are critical. A spellbinding documentary. Fascinating, powerful. I salute the giant.
3 American Honey
Midwest; homeless kids; rap music in cars. A film that exudes life. A scattered, poetic vision of youth; a patriotic, hopeful mirage of America.
Stunningly photographed and directed, the pacing perfectly intertwined with the artistry. A towering achievement from Justin Kurzel.
5 Midnight Special
Faith and the believer unite as 10th dimensional beings reveal themselves in search of a Christ-like E.T.
Not since The Fountain has multidimensional consciousness been so eloquently dealt with. Well-paced, thoughtful excellence.
7 Heaven Knows What
An otherworldly dream-state reality from the Safdie Bros. Grimy, raw & beautiful. Brilliant electronic score. Arielle Holmes is amazing in this and American Honey, a raw talent.
8 Who Took Johnny
A haunting real life conspiracy at the highest levels of control. We've known the truth, here we get closer to proof. Then again, maybe the mom is insane. A mysterious movie.
9 The Witch
Initiation into the coven; An intelligent look at religious madness. A few stunning bravado shots, especially of the witches lair. I read the director studied Klimov's Come and See, it shows. An incredible debut film.
10 Only The Dead See the End of War
Heavy, brutal war footage, Fallujah sequence especially. Non-political, poignant, disturbing.
There was something unique about the intensity of emotion Prince was able to conjure with his music, especially during those straight-from-the-heart moments of vamp singing with total abandon, like in Adore or Do Me Baby. At the same time, there was his unutterable funkiness of mind-bending psychedelic proportions- the tunes that have been making dance floors explode for decades: Kiss or Alphabet St or Housequake or so many others. I've always been particularly fond of his pitched up vocal treatment songs, like his masterpieces If I Was Your Girlfriend or Shockadelica. And like so few he valued the craft of music and refused to bow down to new corporate industry models that make life difficult for so many artists. The light and love Price shined on the earth is truly inspirational. I am thoroughly humbled when considering how powerful one man's life can be. Maybe its time to finally hang that giant poster of him in the shower that came with the Controversy LP on the wall… Rest in Power.
I recorded a mix for Tigerbeat6's Jodorowsky themed Perpetual Dawn party. In their words: "An Unbelievably fine crafted deep mix spanning the outer-most realms of freeform electronic soundart experimental psychedelic ambient drone noise electroacoustic and so on and so forth."
(I didnt make the mix with that filmmaker in mind but after submission it was titled after the name of the party)
Tracklist: Nocturnal Emissions - Sealing a Phase Francis Dhomont - Le Flux Des Sons Ulf Bilting & Zbigniew Karkowski - T Tex Rashad Becker - Dances 1 Maja Ratkje - Acid LST - Lewd Strewth Truth Killing Sound - Eight Methods Wolfgang Voigt - Rückverzauberung 6.2 Alvin Curran - Canti Illuminati SPK - In Flagrante Delicto This Mortal Coil - FyT Black Dice - Trip Dude Delay Oake - Nihnin ned Bargund SPR - Concubine Chris Watson - El Divisadero The Telegraph Time Machines - 4-Indolol, 3-[2-(Dimethylamino)Ethyl],Phosphate Ester: (Psilocybin) Nurse With Wound - Soliloquy for Lilith Pauline Oliveros - Horse Sings From Cloud Vanessa Amara - King Machine Nocturnal Emissions - Blended Senses
Heavy immersion into death camp extermination realized with unprecedented vision by Laszlo Nemes, a first time filmmaker that studied under Bela Tarr. A brave, important exploration of the Sonderkommandos' hell on earth in 1944 Poland. I saw a 35mm presentation with Nemes in person and the man definitely knows what he is doing. Best film in years.
Probably the best movie about drug wars ever made. The two double climaxes, especially the table scene, were truly thrilling. Immorality reigns supreme. Intense.
3. It Follows
A visionary nightmare in a timeless dream state. An amazing follow up from David Robert Mitchell after his incredible teenage study Myth of the American Sleepover. Brilliant, refreshing and genuinely scary.
Set within a lush Irish countryside, master filmmaker Ken Loach explores a 1939 land rights struggle that rings poingently true in today's climate. The summation on many of Loach's themes- the destructive nature of the church, workers rights and the power community- are all represented here. If this is truly the final film from Loach he has ended on a beautiful high note. Thank you Ken!
6. A War
Moral complexities haunt this timely and relevant film on the human cost of politics. Tobias Lindholm and Pilou Asbaek have done it again.
7. Ex Machina
Concise, intelligent sci-fi with fascinating ideas and a perfectly creepy vibe. Great sets and locations too.
8. Anime Nere
Authentic Italian mafia story totally gripping from start to finish with the enormity of the film's power emerging in it's final frames.
9. Colt '45
Taut and bleak French crime film brilliantly directed by Fabrice Du Welz and shot by the great Benoit Debie.
10. One On One
The damaging mindlessness of following orders is dissected in modern master Kim Ki-Duk's latest no-budget treatise on spiritual violence.
RadioActive Lamb was a record label operating in the UK from 1990 -1995. They are probably best known for their rave classic Mohamed's Mind as 2 Kilos ?. Pretty much every release they made was something special and most have been severely slept on over the years. As far as I can tell it was a crew of a few guys that did all the music under a variety of alias'. A lot of it wasn't on Youtube so I uploaded a few gems for posterity's sake and also found a few tracks others had shared. Check them out below. Email me if you want MP3s.
One of the great collaborations in cinema history is that of director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty. They have made what is apparently their final film, Jimmy's Hall. Ken Loach is truly the people director and Laverty has written some of the UK's greatest dramas for him. Here, the lush landscape of Ireland serves as the backdrop for a story about land rights and division of wealth that rings poignantly true in today's climate. With the encouragement and support of the locals Jimmy, based on the life of James Gralton, builds a community center that offers free art/dance/poetry/politics classes. Problems arrive when a pigheaded priest attempts to shut him down in a power play thinly disguised as morality. Most of the story takes place in the years just after the Irish/British war - so when the newly installed government starts removing farmers from their own land Jimmy and his crew stand up for the people and get involved. The film explores the complex relationship between the state, the church, the Irish Republican Army and the young people in the hall that are branded as communists. Jimmy's Hall is the summation of many of the themes Loach has explored throughout his 50 year career including the destructive nature of church power, community building and struggle against oppression. Loach's film is strongly anti-religion and he is just as brutally critical of the establishment as ever- not many young directors are brave enough to do what he does. This was released in the UK and Europe in 2014 but no sign of it playing in the states as of spring 2015. A damn shame not to get to see this masterpiece the big screen. Bravo Ken.
From the heart of Hollywood Babylon emerges the debut 12" by Los Angeles' City Illusion. Side A holds the original mix: a pensive survey of unsettling electronic atmospheres within a cavern of dub; a bass weight meditation born of unholy tradition during Belshazzar's Feast. A pressurized sub invocation & a breakbeat version lie on Side B by forthcoming Tears Of Joy artists Live For Each Moon and Romeo, respectively. Mastered & cut at D&M. Released in an addition of 115 with jacket and insert.
A: Vineland B1: Vineland (Live For Each Moon Dub) B2: Vineland (Romeo Version)
James Gray's modern American classic about the price of freedom. Marion Cotillard is a revelation yet again. The shot of her in the confession booth with her face emerging from the darkness is the best movie moment I saw this year. Pure class, pure cinema.
Maps To The Stars
The sharpest, most brutally realistic dissection of Hollywood culture ever made. A precision look at the damaged psyches within a morally corrupt system that creates monstrous children and churns out content for morons. The actor that plays the spoiled kid deserves an Oscar for being so repulsively vile.
Welcome to New York
A return to form for Abel Ferrara and arguably his best film. A much darker look at debauchery than Leo DiCaprio's Wall Street fantasy from last year. Gerard Depardieu is awesome as DSK. The stunning final shot as he looks into the camera was the best ending of any film this year.
Under The Skin
A uniquely psychedelic vision about the alien within that rides the line between experimental and classical perfectly. Not since Enter The Void have we seen something this trippy on screen. A triumph for Jonathan Glazer.
Abuse Of Weakness
One of the great Catherine Brilliat's most personal films. Deals with her recent stroke and her run in with a famous con man swindler. Up there with Fat Girl and Romance as one of her best. Isabella Huppert is astonishing as always.
Masculinity, violence, respect, anger. All throughly dissected in this hardcore British drama about their incredibly harsh prison system. Tremendous.
Patriotism, ego, homosexuality, sport, manhood, insanity. Steve Carrel as John du Pont is one of the more complex and creepy character studies I can recall. And I finally gained some respect for Channing Tatum. Amazing film.
Not a film per se but a mini-series from the UK. This three hour deconstruction of a killing spree is an intricate portrait of grief. Inventive, scary, affecting.
Heavy movie about a family in crisis punctuated by moments of pure comedy. Bergman-like moments of existential grief mixed in with some of the biggest laughs of the year. Totally unique.
Wolf Creek 2
The horrors the outback come alive once again in Greg McLean's follow up to his 2005 classic. Largely inspired by the unholy killings of Ivan Millet.
Late contender for Movie of the Year: Whiplash. The nerve wracking intensity of musical performance has never been captured like this before. Amazing performances, great music, and lots of huge laughs. A modern classic.
I also very much enjoyed the visceral exploration of alternate dimensions via Ketamine of Coherence, the unexpectedly twisted end to Bobcat Goldthwait's Bigfoot film Willow Creek, David Michod's wonderfully harsh statement on the value of human life The Rover, the awesome rendering of relativity and fifth dimensional timespace in Interstellar, the composed and nuanced paranoid nightmare of Night Moves, the foreboding mysticism of I Origins, the allegorical home invasion in Borgman, Von Trier's epic journey into hell Nymphomaniac, intense crime picture The Drop, the price of conformity exposed in Cheap Thrills and the Australian crime epic Son Of A Gun.
I recommend checking out the inspiring and truly heroic public defenders in Gideon's Army, the demented pedophile cult exposed in Secrets Of The Vatican, the obsessive art recreation in Tim's Vermeer, the unfathomably evil oil company killing people and gorillas in Virunga, Nick Cave autobiography 20,000 Days On Earth and the eight Mind Of A Chef episodes that focus on the brilliant chef Magnus Nilsson (Season 3, episodes 9-16). I also very much enjoyed Lisa Kudrow's brilliant and hysterical satire of Hollywood idiocy The Comeback.
"The Age of Reason and its industrial, post-modern antecedents are facades obscuring the seething dream world of primeval urges that surfaces only in sleep."
Tears of Joy presents the debut album by A Private Realm. Their first release was a 12" and DVD on Tears of Joy in late 2012.
Excommunication & Withdrawal evokes the deadening American landscapes of school shootings, military suicides & general societal dissolution. Thematically the album draws from a variety of inspirations: the media's exploitation of the traumatized, the roots of extreme Islam, the skullduggery of the Cryptocracy, and Elem Klimov's Come And See, the classic film on the unthinkable horrors of the Nazi occupation of Byelorussia- all of which are filtered through the fried brains of two one-time LSD dealers.
Made with a variety of old synths, new modulars, noise boxes, voices and drum machines, musically the work moves from softer ethereal pieces inspired by the likes of This Mortal Coil through to blasts of electronics inspired by the likes of early SPK & the recently departed noise visionary Zbiegniew Karkowski. As lifelong warehouse rats the inevitable thrust of the LP is techno, inspired by the militant sounds of the obvious masters.
Written and recorded under duress in a shitty apartment in North Hollywood while surrounded by poverty, drug abuse and suicide.
Released in an edition of 190 with unique hand silk screened sleeves and stamps, color print insert and download code (with one additional song that wouldn't fit on the vinyl). Mastered by Kris Lapke.
A: 1. Raining Stones 2. Newtown Families 3. Ulster Shadows 4. What Smart Is *Digital Only B: 1. Through A Glass Darkly (PTSD Struggles) 2. Dreamhealer 2. Kill Hitler 3. Cowan Cryptocracy Mix)
Available now from the Tears of Joy shop or in stores December 22nd. Digital available from iTunes, Beatport, etc...
"Do not be lulled into believing that just because the deadening American city of dreadful night is so utterly devoid of mystery, so thoroughly flat-footed, sterile and infantile, so burdened with the illusory gloss of baseball-hot dogs-apple-pie-and-Chevrolet, that it exists outside the psycho-sexual domain. The eternal pagan psychodrama is escalated under these modern conditions precisely because sorcery is not what '20th Century man' can accept as real."
A throughly fascinating and insightful look into the mind of Joni. The interviewer is slightly annoying (interrupting Joni Mitchell when she starts discussing quantum physics) but hold his own well enough. The (medically unproven) disease she continually references is Morgellons.
Some of the best music to ever emerge from Australia was undoubtedly created by SPK. They have one of the more confusing discography's to work through as many releases have various covers for each pressing, different versions of the same song with the same name or no names at all, often different names of the band for each release and even two different versions of the band entirely. It was mainly based around Graeme Revell who was the driving force and sole continuous member during their 10 year existence. He moved to London relatively early in the SPK lifespan and the remaining members, notably Neil Hill (committed suicide at age 28, his wife Margaret Hill died 2 days later from anorexia), still put out music under the banner as SoliPsiK (the ultra rare See-Saw 7"). There were many collaborators throughout the years, the other consistent being Revell's wife Sinan Leong, who appears on most releases and also appeared on a few classic Nurse With Wound albums.
There were three main phases of the band, the first being the early industrial noise material up until 1983 which is arguably their strongest. These very earliest recordings were intense punk inspired songs often creativity utilizing a wailing EMS synth in the background. Those early 7"s were collected onto side one of the essential compilation Auto De Fe:
The B side to Auto De Fe, recorded in 1981 (as opposed to the late 70's) sits perfectly between their noise and dance periods:
The first proper full length (there were multiple live cassette releases and bootlegs) was Information Overload Unit (under the name System Planning Corporation) that was recorded while Neil Hill and Revell were working in a Sydney mental ward- the album deals with insanity and contains field recordings they made of patients. It's an noisey experimental masterpiece of the highest order, predating much of that kind of music:
After that was Leichenschrei, a very dense, amazing industrial classic by anyone's measure. It's a timeless recording- find it, buy it. Next came an incredible EP under the name SepPuKu:
After 1984 came the comparatively commercial period that spawned the dance classics Metal Dance, Junk Funk, Breathless and more, though I would venture to say, while still awesome, this is the weakest of their output. A few years later came the neo-classical ambient world music excursions that evolved into Revell's current film score career. The highlight of this era would be the Zamia Lehmanni Songs of Byzantine Flowers LP that is a groundbreaking mix of world musics and dark ambient textures, the pinnacle being the hauntingly beautiful single In Flagrante Delicto:
The obscure album Revell made up entirely of insect sounds, The Insect Musicians, is worth noting as well.
A totally amazing band, I recommend spending a few months or years exploring their catalog.
Cool documentary from 1986 about the Los Angeles band X. Growing up I never understood why people loved them but by the end of this film I understood. It's good, solid punk rock thats ages well. I recommend getting their albums on vinyl, the productions sounds much better than they do in the film.
A throughly fascinating talk on Bitcoin from Andreas M Antonopoulos. Highly recommend viewing. If you feel like donating to this long running, ad free website, my Bitcoin address and QR are below. I'd use the money to buy server space to keep hosting music for everyone. And it'd able me to post more content. I'd also be happy to trade for records (or files) on PWF or Tears Of Joy. Each vinyl is 0.02050 BTC (or $10 as of May 1 2014). Thanks for your readership.
Upon hearing Ken Loach's upcoming film could be his last I thought this would be a good time to share some thoughts about his work and hopefully turn people on to bits of his massive catalog. I don't think he's ever made a bad movie. If you're looking for mindless entertainment or sentimentality look elsewhere, Loach's work is extraordinarily realistic and you wont find many happy endings in his movies. But there is a deeply human thread running through his body of work that's always interwoven with a concise anti-establishment statement told in an alarmingly natural and relatable way. Loach has made almost 30 feature films, more if you include teleplays for the BBC back in the early years, so the breath of his repertoire may be intimidating and many of his movies are near impossible to find or see (though there are quite a few for rent on his Youtube channel).
Cathy Come Home, 1966
A good place to start is a trio of masterful films he made in the early 90's: Riff-Raff, Raining Stones and Ladybird Ladybird. Each one focuses on the affect a different social institution or program has had on working class UK and each are incredibly powerful stories. Raining Stones deals with poverty most directly- in the opening we find the main characters killing sheep for their mutton to sell in their local pub. The protagonist is a devout Catholic to the point of idiocy yet the film takes a very balanced thoughtful approach to the way religion controls the lives of believers. Riff-Raff deals with safety regulations on a construction site and Ladybird Ladybird is one of his crowing achievements. Grounded by an earth shatteringly emotional performance from Crissy Rock as a mother battling child protective services for the right to be with her kids, it's a heavy, disturbing look at a twisted bureaucracy out of control.
Ladybird Ladybird, 1994
One of the things you'll hear from certain Loach fans is they find his style of docudrama so moving not just because of the quality of the filmmaking and performances but that it was the first time they ever saw "normal" people like themselves on screen; Relatable characters that spoke the way they spoke, dressed like they dressed and dealt with the same daily problems they did. The local dialects and accents in his films are throughly authentic to say the least. For an outsider it can be, at times, difficult to decipher- indeed some movies have been broadcast in the US with subtitles, though personally I can usually pick up on the cadences and slang pretty quickly. The most egregious offender of this is probably 1998's My Name Is Joe. It's a solid film thats deals with AA, poverty and love but the Glasgow accents in this are very strong for those not used to them.
Raining Stones, 1993
Loach is probably best known for the 1969 film Kes: A simple story about a boy and his relationship with his pet falcon that helps him escape from his abuse stricken home life. One of his best movies is undoubtably Sweet Sixteen, another Glasgow set story penned by longtime collaborator the brilliant Paul Laverty. Ken has only written a few of his films but he is there from the inception of the idea and collaborates throughout the process but leaves a lot of the actual writing to others- among them longtime creative partners Laverty and Jim Allen.
Sweet Sixteen, 2002
He has also done a few amazing period pieces, most notable is the riveting and unsettling Palm D'Or winning masterpiece The Wind That Shakes the Barley from 2006. Cillian Murphy stars as a young Republican dealing with the English invading Northern Ireland in the early 1900's. It may be the best film about that conflict ever made, and that's saying a lot. Land and Freedom from 1995 takes us inside a POUM revolutionary group during the Spanish Civil War. The film that followed it, Carla's Song, is set in 1987 in Nicaragua among the Sandinistas. All great movies I highly recommend seeking out.
There have been a series of intelligent political documentaries over the years. Most are tough to track down so I haven't seen them though I did catch his most recent, Spirit of 45, about the history of the labour party in the UK.
The Wind That Shakes the Barley, 2006
His most recent features are slightly lighter fare: the excellent and underrated ode to the joys of whiskey The Angels' Share and the dramatic soccer comedy Looking for Eric. Rouge Irish from 2010 dealt with war mercenaries and the particularly excellent It's A Free World... is one of a few films of his about immigration. All worth seeking out.
I should mention one hallmark of Ken's work is his humor. There are laugh out loud moments- just solid everyday laughs- in even the most dreary of his films. Another consistent throughout his career is the quality of his actors is astounding- almost every lead in every movie is remarkable.
I don't think there has been a more important political filmmaker than Ken Loach. No one has continually portrayed the struggles of the working poor that he time and time again dramatizes so effectively. The trials of oppression are humanized through his films: tragic, educational, comic and ultimately uplifting, Loach's repertoire deserves to go down as one of the finest ever. An important artist is there ever was one.