Sankt Bach Passion (1985, 1996) by Mauricio Kagel

Categories: 1985 and 1996.

This is a rather crazy oratorio, based on the idea that Bach was a saint, I guess, and featuring texts drawn from his letters and other sources. There is a lot going on in this piece and, even after 3 listens, it’s hard to really put into words what I think about it. I do think that, along with Kagel’s other tributes to major composers, it has a lot more to do with Kagel than the object of tribute, in this case Bach. But that doesn’t make it bad. This is a monumental work which, like so much of Kagel’s Read More

Mauricio Kagel (2003) by Alexandre Tharaud

Categories: 1969, 1972, 1976, 1982, 1984, 2003, and Music.

This collection is a little confusing in part because of the confusing nature of Rrrrrrr…, which can apparently be performed independently. The disc appears to be a compilation of his piano-based music. Calling “piano music” would be a misnomer, as there are lots of other instruments on a number of the pieces. The pieces from Rrrrrrr… are all over the place in terms of style, starting with ragtime and running the gamut of styles, through pretty traditional to really avant garde stuff (a prepared piano, a “raga”). I like how Kagel turns music on its here but here I have Read More

Vox Humana? / Finale / Fürst Igor Strawinsky (1991) by Mauricio Kagel, performed by Ensemble 2e2m, Lyon National Opera Chorus conducted by Paul Méfano

Categories: 1979, 1981, 1982, and Music.

This record collects three of Kagel’s longish “choral” pieces. Kagel was a weirdo is the best ways. Listening to Kagel’s work, rather than watching it, is a bit of a problem, because Kagel’s work is often “theatrical” not just in the sense of being influenced by the theatre, but of having the musicians act out parts. Listening to the music online you miss that aspect. (Something big definitely happens 10 minutes in, when there is a giant scream.) That being said… This piece sure reminds me of Berio at his most theatrical (in a good way). It is about a Read More

Black Sunday aka The Mask of Satan (1960, Mario Bava)

Categories: 1960 and Movies.

I’m sad to say I saw the American version of this, which was cut of its most extreme horror, apparently. Even so, it’s still got some pretty gruesome effects for 1960 (to my knowledge) and that’s the attraction here. The story itself is pretty rote – doctors stumble upon a creepy, cursed castle – and though everything is pretty strongly gothic, I feel like the Corman Poe films of the era handled this stuff a little better. But it’s atmospheric and even the tamer American version is relatively daring, so that’s something. 6/10 Read More

Black Moon (1975, Louis Malle)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This is a bizarre, barely plotted, surrealistic fantasy/sci-fi French film that tests one’s patience with its attempts to say things as obtusely as possible and with its attempts to be shocking. It’s part of a grand tradition of obscure French science fiction/fantasy films about post-apocalyptic worlds (where the world-building the English-language world loves so much is barely a consideration) but takes a wild digression into adult Alice in Wonderland territory not long into the film. It’s one of those movies where there are memorable moments (as well as moments that are probably meant to be memorable but aren’t) but you’re Read More

TIFF 2016

Categories: 2016, Movies, and Personal.

With the decision not to see the People’s Choice Award today (a musical), I ended up seeing 11 movies this year, a little bit lower than my average. As usual, I saw more good films than bad ones. Somewhat surprising was that there was no clear “great” film – I usually see at least one film that I will consider, in hindsight, to be one of the best movies of a given calendar year. Not this year (I don’t think). Anyway, without further delay, here is what I saw this year: Read More

Mascots (2016, Christopher Guest)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

The decision to see Christopher Guest’s latest at TIFF was one made in ignorance that this is a Netflix film, which will soon be available for streaming. Alas. It’s an amusing film that, as Jenn put it, has no dead air. It’s certainly not Guest’s best – it’s quite slight and the targets of the film are, well, easy – but it’s close to laugh-a-minute and it fulfills most of what we want from a Guest film – quirky, awkward people doing what they love most, in this case, being mascots for very small sports teams. I’d say it’s probably Read More

The Limehouse Golem (2016, Juan Carlos Medina)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This is an atmospheric and entertaining period mystery/horror film that struggles with both telling and tone but which is mostly entertaining. My biggest issues were with the time-hoping – there are flashbacks throughout the film and flashbacks within flashbacks, a particular pet peeve of mine – as well as with the tone of the very serious, very procedural mystery versus the campy/darkly comic imaginings of the crimes. They were enjoyable, but they often felt out of place with the rest of the film. SPOILERS Read More

Okafor’s Law (2016, Omoni Oboli)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

For the first two thirds of this film, it is a reasonably amusing Romantic Comedy – not my thing but effective and, for someone like me not familiar with Nollywood, a decent spin on the formula, despite a few sound issues. But the wheels come off in the third act, with not only a few major tonal shifts (and some violence!) but an ending that makes zero sense. Minor SPOILERS! Read More

Schmilco (2016) by Wilco

Categories: 2016 and Music.

Star Wars made me so happy that I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that this record does not make me that happy. Whereas Star Wars felt tossed off in a good way, this record feels like the toss offs of the toss offs; I can’t help but have the word “slight” pop into my mind every time I listen to it. For a band as adventurous and as large as Wilco, not only is this record not particularly adventurous (there is one song, I think, that lives up to their usual standard of incorporating weird ideas into straight-ahead songs) but Read More

Moby Dick (1851) by Herman Mellville

Categories: 1851, Books, and Fiction.

I discovered there was a free audio version of Moby Dick online, as a podcast, so I started listening to it. However, 3/4s through it, the site went down. So I resumed with an audio book from the library. I think listening to it was a mistake. I distracted myself too many times and missed a lot of stuff over the course of the months I listened to it. I think I will have to read the novel. The good news is that now I am committed to reading it at some point. What I did get from it is Read More

ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail (2016, Steve James)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This film is about the only bank – the only bank! – to be indicted for mortgage fraud in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. It tells the story of a bank in New York City’s Chinatown which detected loan fraud, fired the employee responsible, reported the fraud to their regulator, fired additional employees when more fraud was discovered, and then was prosecuted by the District Attorney of New York City, because some of the fraudulent loans were sold to Fannie Mae, where they made money. Read More

13 Point Program to Destroy American (1991) by Nation of Ulysses

Categories: 1991 and Music.

Nation of Ulysses takes post hardcore and imbues it with art, humour, other genres of music and even more passion than other post hardcore bands of their era (and some terrible brass!). This is one of those records that is everything I wanted it to be. And I’d rather listen to this – where there is more imagination – than a lot of other post hardcore, a genre I quite like. Pretty great stuff. Also, that’s a fantastic title. 9/10 Read More

Steady Diet of Nothing (1991) by Fugazi

Categories: 1991 and Music.

It has been literally ages (a decade or more) since I heard Repeater but, from my poor memory, I think this is musically much more interesting. (Who knows if that’s true.) I can’t help but liking later records more, though; to my ears they hadn’t quite found that thing, whatever it is, that made them great. Most of the elements are here, but something is missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. That’s not to say it’s just okay – it’s quite good and relatively diverse for the genre. I just feel like they improved later, in Read More

Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (1991) by Mudhoney

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a strong, particularly grungy grunge record, with a bit more of a roots feel than some of the other grunge records from the period. I really like the aesthetic – especially because it is a little more musically diverse than I was expecting – but I find the songs not quite up to par compared to some of the other major grunge bands. (For example, Ten has way better songs but has dated horribly compared to this record.) Maybe I’ll come to like the songs more in time, but I still like the record a lot and I Read More

Signals, Calls, and Marches (1981) by Mission of Burma

Categories: 1981 and Music.

The missing link between post punk and alternative rock. I don’t say that lightly. When I first heard their debut album, I was underwhelmed – too much hype. But this EP (along with their debut single, included here) is pretty much the blueprint for a lot of American alternative rock in the ’80s (minus the roots element). I hear echoes of so many later bands in this music.But it still retains enough of what you might call “American post punk” that it is still recognizable as post punk. I need to listen to their debut album again. 10/10 Read More

Bella Donna (1981) by Stevie Nicks

Categories: 1981 and Music.

I prefer Nicks’ songs to many of her bandmates’. But I still don’t absolutely love her songs (there are a few I really like, but not a ton). The advantage she has over a lot of her contemporaries (at least on this record) is that she and her producer have not yet realized it’s the ’80s. The result is that the sound of this album hasn’t dated like so much ’80s soft rock and pop and that makes it a lot more likable than some contemporary mainstream music. But this is still not music I’ve ever going to return to. Read More

The Unknown Girl (2016, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

This is one of those European “social realist” dramas that are extremely deliberately paced, feature no score and alienate a lot of North Americans because it feels like “nothing happens.” (Par for the course: there were plenty of walk-outs.) It’s unfortunate that so many of us over here feel like a film about a death could feel like “nothing happens,” but such is the divide between the heavily plotted American films we see all the time, and many smaller European films. Read More

Catfight (2016, Onur Tukel)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

Catfight is a confused, tonally inconsistent film built around the idea of an ongoing feud between two women without weapons. At some level, I guess the premise is interesting, given that these movies nearly almost always feature men (or families, or gangs). But the execution is so inconsistent that it feels as though this was a first feature. (It’s not. Apparently it’s his 8th or something, which is a real shocker.) Here are a few of the issues: The satire, such as it is, is of American society and politics rather than, say, the revenge genre, and it is extremely Read More

Sexy Pee Story (1993) by Cows

Categories: 1993 and Music.

One of the best album titles ever. I can only imagine my mom’s reaction had I purchased this album when I still lived at home. It would have been pretty great. This is on the nosier side of post hardcore. It’s also on the grungier side. I get a bit of a Flipper vibe from them, actually, if Flipper were more interesting musically and had better production. This is the kind of music which takes a while to get into, but once you get into it, it clicks. I don’t like it as much as some of the other great Read More

Waiting for a Miracle (1980) by The Comsat Angels

Categories: 1980 and Music.

To my ears, the debut of The Comsat Angels marks the point where post punk tried to reconcile itself with more conventional rock music. Though there are still hallmarks of the post punk sound, there’s also much more of a focus on conventional songwriting. It helps that the songs are mostly excellent and so it doesn’t sound like the sound has been watered down for commercial viability or other ideas of accessibility. One thing, though: listening to the expanded edition I cannot help but like the demos a little more than the finished products. It sounds, at least a little Read More

The Grass is Greener (1970) by Colosseum

Categories: 1970 and Music.

I didn’t realize this was a weird, US-only hybrid album when I bought it. I somehow convinced myself it was their most recommended album (I guess I was listening to some US critics…). Anyway… The influence of Cream is particularly heavy here, on the opening track and the Bruce cover (even though it wasn’t a cream song). It’s kind of shocking but it also acts as the missing link between Cream and so much jazz and prog rock. The album is a hybrid of things not usually found together: jazz rock and prog rock. At their most jazzy, they don’t Read More

Functioning on Impatience (1998) by Coalesce

Categories: 1998 and Music.

This is some solid, mathy metalcore that manages a few variations on the what you might expect from the genre, including some a capella (which opens the album, so it really is a shock). It’s a little brief, which is a bit disappointing, but that does mean they don’t lack for consistent material (since there isn’t much material…). I generally prefer Converge, but I can see this band growing on me. 7/10 Read More

Royal Toast (2010) by The Claudia Quintet

Categories: 2010 and Music.

We’re at a time when all genres blend together and bleed into one another. This record is a perfect example of that: there’s music that could be jazz-influenced chamber music, there’s music that sounds freely improvised, there’s music that sounds like jazz, but also sounds like it was completely written in advance (and rehearsed a lot). The music itself ranges from quite pleasant chamber music to lively, intricate, windy jazz fusion type stuff (albeit with very different instrumentation than is usual for jazz fusion), to pretty free stuff. It’s a great combination of stuff, showing off the versatility of the Read More