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Happy 30th, Criterion -- May your next 30 be even better

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 25, 2014 11:18am | Post a Comment
Criterion is, without a doubt, the most loved video-distribution company in the video distribution game. No one (outside Korea) packages their films so beautifully and today they released a lovely, book (just in time for Christmas) of their "covers, supplemental art, and never-before-seen sketches and concept art" featured on their releases over the years called Criterion Designs. They're also beloved for their supplemental special features, which are similarly rarely paralleled, and the high quality of their restorations. There are podcasts, and subreddits, and completists devoted to the label. My only problem with them is over the films which they release -- or rather, those that they don't. 

Criterion Designs
Criterion Designs (image source: The Criterion Collection)


Criterion was launched back in 1984, when Joe Medjuck, Aleen Stein, and Robert Stein founded the company in New York City. From the get go Criterion chose films from Europe, North America, and Asia for their lovingly attentive treatment. I only became aware of the company around 1999. I recognized a lot of their films from introductory film school classes -- the canonical status of which was usually advertised by the stamp of Janus Films. At the same time, couldn't help but notice the glaring omission of ANY films from South America or Africa. When I pointed this out to Criterion loyalists and asked for their thoughts I got the following replies: "Do they make films?," "You mean like Tarzan?," and "You mean like Superfly?" My answers to all three were, "Are you *censored* kidding me?"

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Album Picks: Andy Stott, Sleaford Mods

Posted by Billy Gil, November 25, 2014 09:41am | Post a Comment

Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers (LP, CD)

andy stott faith in strangers lpThough techno/dub producer Andy Stott’s latest release was most certainly made using computers, he’s channeling something otherwordly here. Noirish opener “Time Away” evokes deeds unseen in the middle of the night with its long, foggy tones. Alison Skidmore, Stott’s former piano teacher, lends airy, disembodied vocals for Stott to manipulate and mangle amid squirting synth noise on “Violence,” though some of her seductive intonations give Stott a welcome personality to work with. “Science and Industry” calls to mind Joy Division in its merciless bleakness and clanging beatwork, while “No Surrender” pushes beautiful synth runs into the red, beats bleeding over into one another. Though Stott has the ability to move and sometimes overwhelm you with sound, it’s the silences and sense of space in songs like the title track that make them stay with you, even as “Faith in Strangers” ends up as one of Stott’s most engaging, optimistic compositions. Faith in Strangers isn’t quite as cohesive as his last album, Luxury Problems, but its tracks also feel a lot more like individual songs, rather than parts of one large piece. The source of the creeping menace present in Stott’s music may elude you after finishing Faith in Strangers, but it’s entirely effective in creating a sense of place before unsettling you. Faith in Strangers feels alluringly just out of reach, keeping you delving into its dark passages. Just remember to come up for breath. 

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Such a Vision: Grace Sings Sludge's Red Light Museum

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, November 24, 2014 07:14pm | Post a Comment
grace sings sludge cooper singer songwriter sandwitches last years friend red light museum empty cellar bay area artist painter

There are plenty of divas and dime-a-dozen darlings moving through the vanity fair on any given day, but there is only one Grace Cooper in existence. An artist, singer, and songwriter known in part for her countless collaborations with local visionaries and troubadours aplenty, as well as for her contributions as one-third of the oft celebrated and much missed Bay Area "girl band" The Sandwitches, Grace has lately released a new collection of songs as Grace Sings Sludge, an alias that serves as a monicker for her mostly-solo show, one that is apparently executed entirely on her own terms.

Following up from her past two Grace Sings Sludge releases with San Francisco’s Secret Seven Records, This Time It’s Personal and Last Year’s Friend, this new self-released album, Red Light Museum (via Empty Cellar), is a heady potion of lust, devotion, and darkened encounters that seems to be a more disturbed affair compared its predecessors, in a good way. One bewitching example of this is the opening track, "Difficult to Luv," what begins as an intimate, barely-there rhythmic apparition that slowly slips it's limbs around you, easing into a slow-handed throbbing inquisition for the "Jesus Christ of love" -- see the cattitudes aplenty video for the song, below:


'Under the Skin' Screening at The Regent Features Live Soundtrack Jan. 6

Posted by Amoebite, November 24, 2014 04:07pm | Post a Comment

If you've seen this year's brilliantly heady sci-fi thriller Under the Skin, you know that a huge part of the film's capitvating power owes to its visceral soundtrack.
 
under the skin soundtrackThe newly repoened Regent Theatre in Downtown L.A. will host a screening of the film Jan. 6 with a live performance of the score by a 25-piece orchestra directed by the film's composer, Mica Levi (also of British noisemakers Micachu & the Shapes).
 
There are two screenings of the film with its live soundtrack, at 7:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tickets start at $25, and they're on sale now. The screenings are co-presented by Wordless Music and Spaceland Productions.
 
The film, directed by Jonathan Glazer, stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien given human form who lures men to their doom yet slowly becomes more human as she exists in our world. Based on a novel by MIchel Faber, the film has received generous acclaim, as has its soundtrack. The classically trained Levi's haunting score perfectly vibes with the film's body horror and pyschological undertones. The soundtrack is available now on LP and CD via Milan, while MIcachu & the Shapes have two albums out on Rough Trade, Never and Jewellry, plus the live album Chopped & Screwed. The film is also available on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

Music History Monday: November 24

Posted by Jeff Harris, November 24, 2014 10:40am | Post a Comment

To read more Behind The Grooves, go to http://behindthegrooves.tumblr.com.

On this day in music history: November 24, 1966 - The Beatles will begin recording "Strawberry Fields Forever" at Abbey Road Studios in London. After a three month vacation, the band will return to the studio to begin work on the follow up to "Revolver." The first song recorded is a new composition of John Lennon's titled "Strawberry Fields Forever." Lennon will write the song in Almeria, Spain while filming How I Won The War with director Richard Lester in the early Fall of 1966. One take of the song will be recorded that evening, though it'll change dramatically and grow more complex over the month that it takes to complete the track. The song will mark the beginning of a new era in the band's creativity that will change the face of popular music yet again. The song is named for a Salvation Army orphanage around the corner from Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool where he would attend garden parties in the summer. Once in the studio, the song will evolve from a gentle, sparsely arranged ballad to a heavily scored piece with horns and strings complimenting the basic track. The finished version of the song will consist of two separate versions. Lennon will like the first half of the first remake and the second half of another. He will suggest to producer George Martin that the two be edited together, which at first seems to not be possible since they are recorded in different keys and tempos. Martin will discover that by increasing the speed of one and slowing down the other recording, that they will match. Originally intended to be part of the band's next album (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), "Strawberry Fields Forever" will instead be issued as one half of a double A-sided single in February 1967 (w/ "Penny Lane"). It will peak at #2 on the UK singles chart and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
 

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