Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best Documentaries of 2013

1. The Cheshire Murders
This is a haunting and truly nightmarish film. It's a fascinating look at perceptions of justice after a extraordinarily brutal crime, the details of which I still shudder to think. The police incompetence on display here is shocking. After last years Aunt Diane, HBO continues to make some of the best non fiction films.

2. My Trip to Al-Qaeda
Based on his book The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright's one man play about the middle east and the birth of radical Salafist Islam is pretty much required viewing/reading for anyone interested in geopolitics, violence, religion or the state of the world in general. These are some of the deepest, well articulated insights into world conflict I've come across in some time. Also check out Wright's new book on Scientology, Going Clear, that just came out- it's fascinating stuff.

3. Blackfish
A massive expose on Sea World and their hate-filled practices. The "trainers" interviewed here make excuses for their behavior throughout the film but are totally culpable - they were profiting from animal torture regardless of what they say now. 

4. On Death Row
Werner Herzog does true crime. Enchanting explorations of the sociopathic mind. Not sure if this counts as a documentary as it aired on TV but it's worth mentioning since this is probably the best television ever made. His short film about texting and driving, From One Second To The Next is contemporary, surreal, powerful Herzog as well.

5. Dirty Wars
An important overview of Jeremy Scahill's recent work on the murderous US force JSOC, the Al-Awlaki killings and the CIA's activities in Mogadishu. The film is adequately made but Scahill is one of the most important journalists working today rendering this essential viewing.

6. The Act of Killing
Joshua Oppenheimer's follow up to 2003's The Globalization Tapes is a long look at retired executioners in Indonesia. It touches on nationalism, propaganda, genocide, and psychopathology while delivering tragically surreal recreations of violent acts with the perpetrators.

7. Valentine Road
Another excellent HBO doc, this time about a recent hate crime in California and the bigotry it revealed in the community. A angry Nazi afflicted teenager murders a flamboyant 14 year old and the town rallies to support the killer instead of the victim. Incredibly, one of his lawyers even tattoos "Save Brandon" on her arm... sickening.

8. Mea Maxima Culpa Silence in the House of God
A revelatory yet unsettling film about worlds largest pedophile cult. Unfortunately Alex Gibney followed this with a despicable hit piece on Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange that made me lose almost all respect for him.

9. The Crash Reel
What begins as a snowboard documentary evolves into an emotional look at life with Traumatic Brain Injury.

10. A Death in St. Augustine 
It was another great year for Frontline. This hour long film about corrupt police covering up a murder by one of their own is the best of the bunch. The final scene is so demented and wrong it is hard to fathom. You can watch it online here.

It didn't see After Tiller or God Loves Uganda but I hear they are great.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Records in 2013


Alberich - Machine Gun Nest Cassette Works Volume 0

Authentic modern industrial delivered with an intensity rarely captured in music. Two of the tracks already appeared on his Psychology of Love LP but they are two of the best tunes ever released on Hospital Productions. Absolutely essential. Play loud. "Album of the year" by a long shot.

Georgia - Asemic Club

Georgia ASEMIC CLUB: Needle Teaser from Georgia on Vimeo.

An (other)worldly collection of instrumentals presented as a well conceptualized LP on one piece of vinyl. (There were too many unwarranted double LPs this year so it's nice to have a record to put on and not have to get up every ten minutes). There's a healthy variety of sound sources here; guitars, drums, rhodes, odd field recordings- the closest comparison I can come up with is later period Sun City Girls. For me, this is an essential companion to all the heavy recordings mentioned elsewhere in this piece. Comes with an amazing B&W newspaper poster.

Felix K - Flowers Of Destruction

Drum&Bass reinvented for 2013. A record full of properly psychedelic atmospherics and nasty dubbed out rhythms. Buy this 3x12" from his label Hidden Hawaii while you still can.

FFH - Make Them Understand

Raw savagery from FFH. Extreme noise mixed with poetic lyrics about bad things. If you like power electronics or angry musics of any sort find this and play it as loud as you can. They only made 114 copies but as of this writing there's a few for relatively cheap online.

Alexander Lewis - A Luminous Veil

Another amazing year for Blackest Ever Black. I didn't have enough money to buy everything they released though I did mange to acquire a few and this is my favorite of the bunch. There is a spontaneity to the arpeggiated synth blasts of noise that I find very listenable and each subsequent listen proves more rewarding. And, of course, the Cuts Hands stuff on BEB and Downwards is essential listening. The Gnod tape was great too.

Other LPs worth mentioning:

Nurse With Wound - Xerography
Nurse With Wound - Silver Bromide
Virile Games - Wounded Laurel
Vakula - You've Never Been To Konotop
Pharaohs - Replicant Moods
Factory Floor - Factory Floor


Paula Temple - Colonized

My favorite track of the year. Exciting, engaging, relevant techno. Temple is taking the form and doing something new with it. The Perc remix is a bit boring but the other two songs are mind blowing. The live sets she uploads to Soundcloud were my soundtrack to driving around Los Angeles this year.

Joe Claussell - Project Residue Part 1: Eno (Melodic Dub)

We are two releases deep into Joe's new series and they are both outstanding. The Melodic dub of Eno is the most techno track I've heard him make in a long time and the second 12", Underground Battle in Babylon, is an epic 16 min piano soundscape. You can get both these stamped 12s dirt cheap direct from his label. Timeless music.

Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement - Refuges From Black Magic 

This mix of rainforest recordings and dark ambient sounds was the perfect warm up to every set I DJed this year. It's also really great home listening. This was by far the best RSE release this year, the sound quality is much higher than the two Hospital LPs. The Bed of Nails 12" is nice but not quite as nuanced as this. It's probably the best thing Dominick Fernow made this year, though Prurient's near total conversion to dance music, Through the Window, was interesting as well. Also, When You Are Crawling by Vatican Shadow is the the best stuff from that alias since his classic debut on Bed of Nails.

Aquarian Foundation - Mystery Track from Silent Teaching EP

Great year for Brian Not Brian's Going Good label out of Brixton. All three releases thus far have been solid. The record pictured is by the Vancouver, Canada group Aquarian Foundation- the 12" on their own Mood Hut records is excellent too. The newest Going Good record is equally as strong- Anom Virus's lengthy EP is all acid squelching and lush pad work.

Gorgon Sound - 2x12"

Bristols' Young Echo collective put out a lot of strong material this year, my favorite was probably this: Kahn & Neek's grime influenced dub project Gorgon Sound. Four monstrous dubs that sound incredible on a proper sound system. The Dubkasm mixes are dope too. Along a similar line, the annual Kang Super Sound 7" on Sex Tag Amfibia is worth looking into as well.

Rrose - Waterfall (Birth)

Crazy tripped out techno with amazing tension. A very serious track on a proper system.

Jay Daniel - No Love Lost
Oake - Nihnin Ned Bargund
Objekt #3
Joey Anderson - Above The Cherry Moon and Sky's Blessings
Valentina - Wolves
Romanonthy - Ministry of Love (Andre Crom Rework)
Dusky - Nobody Else
White Material - Problems
Zsou vs The Velvet Season & the Hearts of Gold - Wild Honeyz