Posts Tagged ‘DJ Shadow’

Ice Age III: Ice Age III is the Leprechaun III and IV of its generation. Unnecessary, irritating and damming proof that kicking a dead horse is funny only when it is not used as a metaphor. I can think of only two genuinely funny moments…a prehistoric ostrich chick getting knocked out trying to bury its head on ice, and a deer making fun of the Sabretooth tiger (Diego) for being old and wounded. Hmmm…maybe they should have had a couple of velociraptors beat the crap out of a prehistoric horse. Nah, even that couldn’t save this film. P.S: I loved Ice Age I.


Nowhere: Gregg Araki’s cult status could conquer a small Polynesian Island if it wanted to. Such is his intensity for stirring up emotions through films. There is myriad of expectations (mostly underground, I hear) that greet his efforts. Many assume that an Araki film is more or less doomed to to cross cinematic taboos and explode in the face of every art movie critic while others thump their bibles (or any religious souvenir of choice) and plot devious schemes to keep his films away from their sons and daughters. Maybe I am overhyping the fellow a bit too much, but for what it’s worth his 1997 film – Nowhere – is 88 minutes of nauseating brilliance.

In fact even Araki’s description of it as “a Beverly Hills 90210 episode on acid” seems to fall short of capturing its vivid concoction of sex, drugs, teenage confusion and the devastating aftermath of its collective tryst with romance and violence. James Duval (Dark) and Rachel True (Mel) who plays his girlfriend deserve special mention. The colour of death in their eyes is scary and it almost blinds me to the fact that Shannen Doherty and Heather Graham share the same space with these largely unknown actors. Watch it as you would a Harmony Korine film…with hesitation and with someone at an arm’s length to tell you to persist with it.


Mysterious Skin: While Nowhere was raw and intense, Mysterious Skin is far more cautious in its approach to let its characters toy with the audience’s perception of their lives. Having said that, I must warn you that there is absolutely no redemption in Mysterious Skin, so do not expect Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to get together with Brian (Brady Corbet) and sell surfboards near the warm Atlantic Ocean by the end of the film. Neither is it a heart-warming story about kids dealing with sexual abuse. Gregg Araki has taken a very weird path in this one. It starts off by giving us parallel stories of Neil and Brian – two kids whose slices of Americana have been distasteful and crippling; both seemingly victims of various stages of child abuse. One of them goes on a downward spiral while the other represses the memory and instead gives it enough leeway to screw with his head .

gregg araki

A few of the graphic scenes and the urgency of their appearance almost hinder what is otherwise a decent film. Tthankfully, the actors spare us the loose dramatization of pain and violence, which could have made for tedious viewing. I expect better things from Gordon Lewitt in the future. First Brick, now this. Good boy. As for Bill Sage who plays Coach with such dedication to all things Eighties porn-y and ultra-fucking sleazy, good for him too. I bet his wife never looked at him the same way again. Yes, that’s a compliment.

Scratch: See, this is why I lug my ass all the way to Old Parsons Complex and sit there in front of scornful air-conditioning to purchase DVDs instead of downloading them. With the sheer amount of strangely moving art out there, I sometimes feel that only actual physical and accidental glances might bring me closer to the more obscure ones (…cue American Beauty theme song). During one such visit, I came across Scratch – a documentary by Doug Pray on the fascinating culture of turntablism.


Since I have not ventured too far into the nuances of this art form (apart from DJ Shadow, DJ Krush and Danger Mouse), I had a great time discovering how deep the roots of scratching sink into popular and underground culture. Even if your musical tastes exist beyond the boundaries of hip-hop, give Scratch a try…it can never be inconsequential to watch and listen to artists wax poetic/lyrical/egomaniacal about their music. Of course, I was not a big fan of the DJ Jazzy Jeff’s presence; any man who thinks Will Smith can rap is an idiot in my book.

Thankfully, there is enough lyricism in the way the others have expressed their thoughts on turntablism; so much that I am almost tempted to write letters emails to DJ Qbert or DJ Shadow and to tell them that they are A-Ok in my book. They, of course, would laugh uproariously at the magnificent pointlessness of my imaginary book and then we would get together, listen to some Afrika Bambaataa and make prank calls to Lil John. Hmmm…silly fantasies aside, seriously people, give Scratch a spin.


Transformers II: I thought I’d just post a link to Srikanth’s hilarious review in Seventh Art (brevity is an art), but the prospect of trashing this shit is too much fun to pass. Here we go…take everything you could hate about the 1980s sitcom Small Wonder and throw in all the moments during which you were 80% sure that Robocop was going to cry. Wait, wait…not crappy enough. Matter of fact, why don’t you – the good reader – eat some Mexican food and think about how bad Rajnikanth’s Robo is going to be when it eventually gets released. Now, with that sadness in your heart and steamy bile in your abdomen, take a dump. Yes. That’s how bad Transformers II stinks.

P.S: I hated Transformers I, as well.

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putsApart from being the title of a really cool Wes Craven flick, People Under The Stairs (PUTS) is also what a bunch of jazzy hip-hoppers form LA are calling themselves. Having released over six albums, four EPs, a couple of mixtapes to their credit and having fashioned a laidback vibe that even the late Miles Davis would approve of, PUTS is one amongst a pantheon of underground rap ensembles who don’t stay awake at nights, wrestling with the false notion that maybe someday Carson Daly will give a shit about them. With lyrics such as “When the stress burns my brain just like acid raindrops / Mary Jane is the only thing that makes the pain stop,” Acid Rain Drops reminds me of those surreal nights we spent at the broken bridge in Adyar. It also reminds me how much love I have for Gill-Scott Heron. God bless his groovy heart for convincing Jazz to have sex with hip-hop. Legend has it that hip-hop made breakfast in bed the next morning.


People Under The Stairs – Acid Raindrops

kobayashi1Apparently, Montreal-based Kobayashi recorded their debut Strange Lights and Resolutions in just under a week. Thankfully, their spontaneity has yielded fantastic sounds. For anyone who appreciates eclectic music, Kobayashi’s “Shasta” is probably the greatest James Bond theme that never was. When the trumpet kicks in and swirls around those sticky beats like only the bastard child of DJ Shadow and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy could, you will kneel down before the altar of electro jazz. I haven’t heard music this cerebral and soulful at the same time since Radiohead decided to fuck with out heads and release Kid A.


Kobayashi – Shasta

talvin_singhTalvin Singh is generally held responsible for the travesty that sometimes is Asian Underground. Convincing the Panjabi MCs and Fun-Da-Mental to release albums is probably the most heinous crime it has perpetuated. However, all is not pure evil, as a few of its originators – Talvin Singh and Sweety Kapoor – have put out some good, good music out there. Talvin, especially, is known for teaming up with notable UK acts such as David Sylvian, Massive Attack and The Future Sound of London. As evidenced by this awesome version of Big Time Sensuality with Icelandic goddess Bjork and Frou Frou’s songwriter Guy Sigsworth, the results are often breathtaking. Having said that, hearing Caucasian folks and NRIs fuse western elements with the sounds that evolved from the Vedas only adds to the frustration I have for Indian bands who are completely and willfully oblivious to the forms of expression that are inherent to the land their forefathers hail from.


Bjork & Talvin Singh – Big Time Sensuality (Live)

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conformityWithout politics, justice would wreak havoc on our lives. I really can’t see justice as anything other than pre-conceived faith that we are somehow expected to have in those who have long since spent their lives interpreting a largely Utopian concept into words and numbers. I prefer a corrupt system to an honest one simply because in the light of today’s social consciousness, people’s notions of morality and righteousness are far more dangerous than what they perceive to be unscrupulous and selfish.

Having said that, far worse are the pretensions that come along for the ride to ensure reckless abandonment of decorum. I even remember people hosting lighting candles during the aftermath of the Kumbakonam tragedy. Yes, nothing like an open flame to express a unified voice for the kids who tragically died in the fire.

It’s a twisted hyperbole we live in. One in which morality has spilled more blood than hate can even dream of and violence has saved more lives than good intentions ever could. A nonsensical wonderland where television makes viewers paranoid and religion encourages its’ followers to waste away their lives in fear and racial apathy.

And yet there are people out there – so convinced of their ability to straighten out other people’s socio-political priorities and so much in love with the notion that they are a part of a group that opposes what has prematurely and conveniently been identified as the root cause of a larger problem.

It’s the same logic that gave America four more years of George Bush and Indian cricketers the false notion that they are prima donnas. You could argue that it also paved the way for Barrack Obama to become the leader of the free world. However, Mrs Ann Dunham’s baby boy represented hope and change; two things that don’t belong in the same sentence as “collateral damage bah humbug…let’s just bom the fuck out of Pakistan”.

So what I am saying here, dear random sender of self-righteous email #32, solidarity against terror is absolutely pointless when most of the individuals expressing it are completely irrelevant to our country’s anti-terrorism processes. And if your idea of a perfect world involves hate and fear binding individuals together, I shudder to even imagine what your vision of dystopia is.


DJ Shadow – Midnight In A Perfect World

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Alu, a songwriter from LA, seems to have perfected the art of crafting playful pop songs. But in the continued tradition of good music going unnoticed, hardly anyone bought her brilliant debut – Infomercial Gasmask. Her next album Lobotomy Sessions was even better; not that the album sales were any indicator of quality. The playful innocence that washed over most of the tracks in her debut album was injected with a bit of estrogenic disenchantment for her sophomore effort. This single “Martian Rendezvous” sounds like something out of Roald Dahl’s imagination…warm, melodious and always on the verge of shifting its own shape and sound. She is Sinead O’ Connor lying beneath a mulberry tree. She is Annie Lennox after yet another a heartbreak. She’s a really fucking good singer.

When I heard of a band called Blue Sky Black Death, I half-expected them to be worshippers of John Zorn. Or perhaps ardent dabblers of alternative freakout sessions of Acid Mother Temple proportions. I also considered the chance that they were death-metallers who grunt and scowl at everything that has been left untainted by sheep’s blood and an Iommi riff. Such drastic misconceptions these were. Blue Sky Black Death is a production crew turned hip-hop duo turned instrumentation and sampling geniuses. Their first album A Heap of Broken Images was a difficult double album choke full of underground guest appearances. I say difficult since most of these tracks felt like they belonged in a B-sides mixtape. Second time around, they released The Holocaust, which was a study in the dark Motown soundscapes with tracks like Killer Moth and Twilight Zone that float nervously into the grimy underbelly of rap music.

A couple of months ago, they released Late Night Cinema, which had them straying away the norms and leading their sound into an alien landscape of electronica and classical sampling. With sparse vocals, melancholic strings, menacing beat and everything else that could give DJ Shadow a hard-on, “Ghost Among Men” is a beautiful piece of orchestral hip-hop. Sort of like soul food that you can eat without feeling the burden of calories.

Like his Facebook fan club says, Diplo is the shit. Born as Wesley Pentz, this Philadelphia-based DJ was earlier known for his visceral remixes of Sri Lanka rapper M.I.A that brought roofs down on many London clubs. Known for his music styles that ranged from funk and gothic electronica to southern crunk and drum n bass, Diplo has since become the remixer of choice for Indie legends such as The Decemberists, Hot Chip and Peter Bjorn. It would be dam near crazy to look at him as just another DJ getting his rocks off other people’s music. For proof, look no further than his brilliant remix of New York jazz singer Marlena Shaw’s California Soul. A lovely transformation of a jazz number into a lumbering beast of a lounge track.

Great enough for jazz to take a backseat, I shit you not.


Alu – Martian Rendezvous

Black Sky Blue Death – Ghost Among Men

Diplo and Marlena Shaw – California Soul


Alu’s Lobotomy Sessions

Blue Sky Black Death’s Late Night Cinema

Diplo’s Florida

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The prefix “DJ” in aliases turns a lot of people off away from a whole lot of good music. It’s not all about techno/house/jungle nonsense for these new age instrumentalists. Artists like DJ Krush, DJ Muggs and DJ Shadow are out there, tearing it up with their brand of turntabilsm. Some atmospheric, others groovy, and most of them indelibly captivating in their orchestrated brilliance.

DJ Shadow is a personal favourite of mine. Born as Josh Davis, he began “his music career as a disc jockey for UC Davis radio station KDVS”. Pretty soon, he locked himself inside the studio, hoping to find his muse. The results were breathtaking as the adventures in sound he created with hip-hop, jazz, funk, and psychedelic rock made for compulsive hearing. His first album – Endtroducing – was insanely good. Hell, it got featured in the Guinness World Records book for “First Completely Sampled Album”.

His later albums paled a bit in comparison but were leaps and bounds better than anything produced by The Neptunes or any of their ilk, who wear “bling bling” and feature R&B musicians who really can’t sing.

The soundscapes in “Midnight In A Perfect World” paints a laidback, almost eerily disconnected picture. One, which reminds you of quiet, melancholic nights in worlds untouched by anything unsavory. The harmonies will float inside your head, and the beats will keep your toes alert.

This is the closest to perfection that you can expect from any person who prefixes “DJ” to his alias.


DJ Shadow – Midnight In A Perfect World


DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing

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