Amoeblog

One Album Wonders: V.A.N.

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 5, 2015 11:07am | Post a Comment
V.A.N. - Out in the Rain (1992)

V.A.N. were a short-lived "melodic hard rock" band from Germany who released just one album in 1992, Out of the Rain. I have no idea what the acronym "V.A.N." stands for. It's not derived by the names of the band's members, who were guitaris Frank Elwart, keyboardist and guitarist Helge Engelke, vocalist Jens Reulecke, drummer Kalle Bosel, or bassist Ralf DittrickVereinigung Akustikus Neurinom? I've no idea.



Anyway, of the members of V.A.N., Engelke appears to have had the most previous professional experience having played in the bands Letter X and Zeno. He was born in Hanover in 1961 and began playing guitar at thirteen. In interviews he's mentioned that bands he liked included Deep Purple, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, Yes -- but that his favorite of all-time is, revealingly, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow.

1992 was a critical year in music. In 1991, My Bloody Valentine's Loveless had pretty much found the limits of what good be done with guitar rock whilst the surprise popularity Nirvana's Nevermind sounded the death knell for the sort of pop metal balladry which had previously soundtracked many a rural American prom. Alternative music, albeit a masculinized, dudebro version, soon took control of American airwaves. Sebastian Bach, pretty boy singer of hair metalers Skid Row, cried "they [Alternative bands] took over MTV and it's like Revenge of the Nerds!"




Meanwhile, bands like hair metalers like Poison, and Warrant hardly went grunge but did trade their spandex costumes for leather and denim and grabbed some wooden stools on which to perform new songs devoid of endless guitar solos and gated drums. A
 hunkered down Bon Jovi released the tellingly Keep the Faith -- its cover depicted the members hands joined together in gritty black and white solidarity. Jon Bon Jovi's decision to cut his Samson-with-highlights perm actually received coverage on pretend news station CNN

At the same time, it wasn't as if the old guard were all forcibly removed from music. Despite the hype about grunge (and in the UK, rave), bands like Mr. Big and Aerosmith could still fill 
12,500 capacity Wembley Arena. There were still plenty of chart-topping releases by the likes Coverdale•PageGuns 'n' RosesKiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Saigon Kick, Slaughter, and Def Leppard who seemed content to carry on as if either blissfully unaware or as if grunge and increasingly commercialized alternative were nothing but minor annoyances and not the seachange they proved to be.

Although V.A.N. had a song called 
"Rock 'N Roll Is Back Again" I doubt (without having listened to it) that it was an acknowledgment of the rise of grunge or shoegaze any more than "Yo, Yo, Yo," was a nod toto hip-hop. This was a band, after all, with the necessary naivety (or perhaps simply Germanness) to write a song called "We Are the Leppards." I'm not sure if "Out in the Rain" was released as a single, but here it is for your consideration in all of its hugely produced, blindingly polished glory:




Ultimately the sort of music made by V.A.N. and their ilk did prove to be on its way out, however, and at Pamidas across the Plains and Middle West, Trixter posters were marked down to clearance to make room for those featuring bands like new hair bands like Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. V.A.N. went their separate ways. Bosel joined another melodic hard rock act, Askari. Engelke went on to play in Fair Warning, Dreamtide and with Lana Lane. Discouraged metalheads everywhere took to BBSs to let it be known that heavy metal would one day return!

*****

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We just tell it how we see it, nothing more, nothing less -- Neue Sachlichkeit in film

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 26, 2014 06:12am | Post a Comment

Albert Renger-Patzsch's Hochofenwerk Herrenwyk, Lübeck (1928)


Germany
's interwar Weimar Republic may've existed amidst political chaos but it was an incredibly fertile time for the arts. German Expressionism, although it first developed around 1900, only flowered on the screen during the interwar period. Emerging Fascists enjoyed the themes of  Arnold Fanck and Leni Riefenstahl's Mountain Movies. Less well-remembered today was the New Objectivity, an movements whose chief practitioner in film was G.W. Pabst, whose debut film, Der Schatz (The Treasure - 1923), opened in theaters on today (26 February) in 1923.


August Sander's The Architect Hans Heinz Luttgen and his Wife Dora (1926)

German Expressionism, the best known cinematic expression of the culture and era, first arose in poetry and painting but ultimately made its way to the screen, exemplified by excellent and still widely-enjoyed films like Der Student von Prag (The Student of Prague), Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem), Der müde Tod (Destiny), Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu), Schatten, Eine nächtliche Halluzination (Warning Shadows), and Der letzte Mann (The Last Laugh). The Mountain Movies, or Bergfilm, are generally viewed less seriously as art and are undoubtedly interesting to modern audiences primarily for their fascist themes and frequent involvement of Leni Riefenstahl.


Hans Finsler's Der Sternenhimmel der Zukunft (1932)

The New Objectivity, or Neue Sachlichkeit, arose as a response to both the old objectivity (which is apparently how they viewd Jugendstil) as well as the febrile chaos of Expressionism. The movement was influenced by the contemporaneous Surrealists but its practitioners attempted to approach their subjects with cold, deliberate, and sober detachment where the Surrealists attempted to be automatic, unconscious, and random. The New Objectivity developed at roughly the same time on the page, canvas, and screen – in the late 1910s -- although most of its adherents were painters or photographers. The movement was given its name in 1923 by art critic and historian (and then-director of the Mannheimer Kunsthalle) Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub for an exhibit, Ausstellung nach- expressionistischer Kunst (Post-Expressionist Art).


Still from Die Büchse der Pandora

Painters closely associated with the movement include Albert BirkleAlexander Kanoldt, August Wilhelm Dressler, Bernhard Kretzschmar, Carl Grossberg, Christian Schad, Conrad Felix Müller, Franz Radziwil, Georg Schrimpf, George Grosz, Herbert Böttger, Karl Rössing, Otto Dix, Richard Oelze, Rudolf Dischinger, Rudolf Schlichter, and William Schnarr Berger.


Still from Tagebuch einer Verlorenen 

Photographers associated with the movement include Albert Renger-Patzsch, August Sander, Karl Bloßfeldt, Hans Finsler, and Hein Gorny. Grosz described the movement, or at least his aim, as removing the supernatural God and angels and allowing viewers to see unfiltered reality. Despite their aims and claims of objectivity, the focus on the ugly, and harsh side of life was almost always calculatedly grotesque and exaggerated, especially evident in the paintings and films of the scene.


Georg Wilhelm Pabst at work

Bohemian director Georg Wilhelm Pabst was born in Raudnitz, Austria-Hungary to a railway worker. During World War I he was interned near Brest, France. After working in the theater he began making films, first with Der Schatz. Many of Pabst's films were concerned with the role of women in society and took – as a New Objectivist – an accordingly grim view. Some of his best known films are Die freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street - 1925), Geheimnisse einer Seele (Secrets of a Soul - 1926), Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney (The Loves of Jeanne Ney - 1927), Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box - 1929), and Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (Diary of a Lost Girl – 1929). The latter two films starred the always excellent Louise Brooks. Pabst continued making films until 1956's Durch die Wälder, durch die Auen (Through the Forest and Through the Trees) and died in Vienna, aged 81, in 1967.


Still from Die Verrufenen

Other filmmakers associated with New Objectivity include Berthold Viertel, Ernő Metzner, and Gerhard Lamprecht. Some of the principals of the New Objectivity would be employed Staatliches Bauhaus. Later filmmakers in whose work I detect the movement's influence include Ernst Lubitsh, Ingmar Bergman, the documentarians of the Cinéma direct and Cinéma vérité movements, and perhaps contemporary cinematic sadists like Lars von Trier and his torture pornographer kin.


Still from Die Unehelichen

Films available from New Objectivist filmmakers (but not necessarily in that style – which ended around 1932) on VHS, DVD, or Blu-Ray include Der Schatz (The Treasure – 1923), Die freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street – 1925), Die Verrufenen (Slums of Berlin – 1925), Die Unehelichen (Children of No Importance – 1926), Geheimnisse einer Seele (Secrets of a Soul 1926), Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney (The Loves of Jeanne Ney – 1927), Abwege (The Devious Path – 1928), Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera – 1928), Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box – 1929), Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (Diary of a Lost Girl – 1929), Die Weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü (White Hell of Pitz Palu - 1929), City Girl (1930), Vier von der Infanterie (Westfront 1918 – 1930), Emil und die Detektive (Emile and the Detectives – 1931), L'Atlantide (The Mistress of Atlantis - 932), Don Quixote (Adventures of Don Quixote - 1933), A Modern Hero (1934), The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1935), Rhodes Of Africa (1936), Le drame de Shanghaï (The Shanghai Drama – 1938), Paracelsus (1943), Irgendwo in Berlin (1946), La voce del silenzio (The Voice of Silence – 1953), Es geschah am 20 (Jackboot Mutiny – 1955), and Der Letzte Akt (The Last 10 Days - 1955).


Der Schatz in its entirety with German intertitles and Portuguese subtitles


*****

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Happy Oktoberfest!

Posted by Kells, September 28, 2013 05:33pm | Post a Comment
 
September is nearly over which means that Oktoberfest, the world's largest fair, is in full swing in Munich, Bavaria, Germany (and pretty much everywhere else cold beer is appreciated). Now, I've never really fully indulged in the Oktoberfest thing but this year I'm going for it like a Griswold on vacation. Well, not exactly like the Alpen (or something like it) fever dream pictured above, but more like this:


Glücklich Oktoberfest!  SaveSave

Huge Vinyl Collection to Hit Amoeba Hollywood on 7/21. Eastern European Classical Gems Galore!

Posted by Rubin Meisel, June 28, 2012 12:40pm | Post a Comment

We were lucky enough to buy a huge collection of vinyl from a well-known collector who lived in Kew Gardens in the New York Borough of Queens and collected a bit of every thing. My task is to describe what, in my 39 years of experience, is the most eclectic collection of classical music I have ever seen.

Normally, when one sees a large collection of classical, you see Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and so forth, performed by world renowned artists. But Ed (withholding his last name) collected mainly 20th-century composers from every European country and a lot of American music that has been unjustly forgotten.

I think I know my composers, but there were a number of them in this collection that I have never heard of and whose existence is scantly documented in reference books that are in the English language.

One of the few sanguine effects of Eastern European communism was that each country had it’s own state-run record label that methodically recorded the music of every prominent living composer.

Here are a few examples:

 

COUNTRY LABEL
 Soviet Union  Melodiya
Romania  Electrocord
Bulgaria Balkaton
Hungary Hungaroton
Czechoslovakia Supraphon
East Germany Nova












I could go on but, suffice to say, even Slovenia is represented

Continue reading...

(In which Job enjoys a field trip.)

Posted by Job O Brother, August 3, 2009 03:37pm | Post a Comment

Yesterday, the boyfriend decided to surprise me with a spontaneous field trip to The Museum of Jurassic Technology, located in Culver City. It was my first time there, even though I’d been pining to attend for over four years, and it was not a disappointment.

It’s hard to explain how lovable the Museum is to people who’ve never been, because one doesn’t want to spoil its mystique and novelty, and explaining its merit to those who have experienced it is hardly necessary, assuming, as I do, that everyone is charmed by it. (I suppose there could be some whimsy-less, emotional cripples who wouldn’t appreciate it, but I’d like to think they have no interest in either my blog or my company. Humph!)

If your idea of a dream house is The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland...


...if your idea of a fashion magazine is The Delineator...


...or if your shopping choice for bric-a-brac is Necromance on Melrose, then The Museum of Jurassic Technology is your idea of fun day out.

Highlights for me were an appropriately tiny collection of works by Hagop Sandaldjian, the Egyptian-born violinist-turned-microminiaturist, whose sculptures are displayed at the Museum, each situated on the head of a pin (see picture below), with a magnifying glass poised to illuminate for you each impossibly small figure.


Also deeply gratifying was their exhibit of artifacts culled from Los Angeles area mobile homes and trailer parks, replete with gloomy dioramas of various homes-on-wheels set against urban nightscapes. Oddly shaped cases, reminiscent of coffins, showcased vintage perfume bottles, tatting, and other knick-knacks.


I was seduced, too, by the Delani/Sonnabend Halls, which told the stories of operatic singer Madelena Delani, who was (likely) afflicted with Korsakoff's syndrome, a condition which handicapped her short-term memory; how her life touched that of neurophysicist, Geoffrey Sonnabend, is revealed subtly, and we continue to learn more about this man’s work, devoted as it became, to understanding why humans “forget,” culminating in his three volume work: Obliscence - Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter.


Pictured here? Madelena Delani & Geoffrey Sonnabend

That personal research yields little to prove the existence of such people remains moot when considering the delight their tales bring. While it is folly to whole-heartedly trust that everything you witness at the Museum is factual, it does not stop its complex and diverse exhibits from effusing a general radness.

It’s not surprising, sadly, that the Museum is in dire straits, financially speaking, and I encourage all of you who have never been or who love it already to investigate its treasures. And invite me along! I’m ready to go back already.


Yes, please!

Upon leaving, I had a taste for two things: Indian sweets, which I acquired at a shop a mere block away from the museum, and art songs, often called lieder (which is simply German for “songs”).

While there can be no definitive definition of what constitutes an art song, many works within the Romantic-era of classical music qualify. As a general rule of thumb (or in some countries, the forefinger and one-half the pinky) an art song is a composition for voice, usually solo, accompanied most often by piano (but could be another instrument), though in some cases a chamber ensemble is used.


While composers as early as Mozart and Beethoven wrote material in this vein, most consider the golden age of the art song to begin with (and be embodied by) Franz Schubert, who wrote over 600 of the suckers, with its tradition famously continued in the likes of Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Hugo Wolf.

Amazing variations on this craft occurred later when more modern composers such as Richard Strauss (a personal favorite) and Gustav Mahler, among others, wrote songs that were accompanied by a symphony orchestra.


(You David Lynch fans may recognize the above music as being featured in the film Wild At Heart. The piece, entitled Im Abendrot, is by Richard Strauss and totally gives me a boner in my heart.)

Again, compositions similar to this were written throughout time, making defining an art song somewhat elusive. It’s best, I think, more sensible to determine what is an art song rather than what isn’t. I also think it’s more sensible to wear shoes on the outside of the body, rather than inside. I’m a very uptight individual.


As we departed the wondrous Museum of Jurassic Technology, I cranked up a recording of some songs by American composer Amy Beach.


"What up niggaz and niggettes -That crazy-Ass-Beach is back in the motherfuckin' hizzouse!"

Born (perhaps unwisely) in 1867, Beach was a child prodigy, composing music as early as four years old. (I mean, dude – what was I doing at that age? Like, stealing chocolate chips and pretending my sandbox was a “fancy bar” of which I was the owner, overlooking its occupants with the aid of my magic powers, ability to fly, and pet Pegasus. [The bar was doing well until one day, a centipede was spotted in the middle of it, causing myself and the bar’s imaginary occupants to flee, never to return. It languished as wild grasses claimed it and I discovered reruns of Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.])



Contrary to the societal norm, Amy Beach was not only a composer, but a woman, and no amount of protest seemed to convince her to change this. In fact, her husband encouraged her to switch her focus from performing piano to composing her own work. She eventually stopped writing in 1944, when her death made it too cumbersome and janky.

I couldn't, unfortunately, find recordings of Beach's art songs online that I felt did them justice. Instead, here's some of her other efforts:






Now then, why not take a trip down to Culver City to see the aforementioned Museum? Why, here’s a link to the Museum’s hours of operation – how convenient! And seriously folks, invite me along!
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