Inherent Vice film review

Inherent Vice is a film of a recent Thomas Pynchon book of the same name. By all reports, not one of Pynchon’s more profound novels, but that still puts him head and shoulders beyond most fiction writers. Except that Pynchon is only partly a fiction writer; he has been chronicling historical eras through his own lens and for his own philosophical purposes since Gravity’s Rainbow, his third book in 1973.
Here, the dope-infused California of 1970 is the scene and star of the film. Any Pynchon book, because of the constant and staggering outpouring of detail, would be extraordinarily difficult to film – perhaps why this is the the first one – but Paul Thomas Andersen, director of The Master, There Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights, has succeeded beyond expectation. His use of the saturated colour of 70s porn films added a brilliant atmosphere to the film.
It has a distinctly convoluted Chandleresque plot (has anyone ever figured out The Big Sleep?) that takes us through the drug consuming and dealing strata, free love, the LA cops, the inevitable property developers and the equally inevitable (this is California) rehab & religion retreats. So it is not unusual in that sense, treading similar ground to film such as Chinatown or The Big Lebowski. But it is different, told as it is from the perspective of the pot-befogged private eye,Doc Sportello, perfectly portrayed by Joaqin Phoenix. There is narration (by squeaky voiced Joanna Newsom) but Doc remains the central character, a kind of intelligent cypher with alternately spine-chilling and sexy characters swirling about him like devils in some pothead medieval painting.
There are currents and undercurrents: the slightly mentioned but indelible Manson Family, the crooked LA police, crooked large scale hard drug importers, crooked hospitals and, of course, crooked land developers. But there is an ultimate awareness that there is something afoot that is greater than the sum of these parts. Nevertheless, throughout the film is hilarious; I found myself frequently laughing out loud – and not alone, as is sadly often the case.
It is very Pynchonesque, and very telling, that “inherent vice” is an actual technical term which means “The tendency of material to deteriorate due to the essential instability of the components or interaction among components.” So, humorous though it may be, it would be a mistake to see this film as a comic paean to the hippie Garden of Eden when it’s really about the snake. 2015-02-07_1828

Review: Anthony Braxton in Bristol

Anthony Braxton
The Lantern, Bristol
Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Anthony Braxton made an extremely rare appearance in Britain – the only one on this European tour, a real coup for Bristol’s Colston Hall – and was greeted by a big and very warmly appreciative crowd. He brought with him an orchestra of three: Mary Halvorsen on electric guitar, James Fei, alto sax, and cornet-flugelhorn-valve trombonist Taylor Ho Bynum, a longtime collaborator with Braxton. And there was a computer that issued a constant stream of ambient background sounds programmed by Braxton.
Anthony Braxton, at 70 looking like a rumpled favourite grandfather, has for 50 years taken a path that starts in jazz and then takes a route that no other has tread. It has strong roots in free jazz, but it is not that; there is a huge element of composition. As one onlooker said, “There’s obviously intelligent design there; I just can’t tell what it is.”
There were tonal centres; the music was very rarely dissonant. Generally, one player would take a lead role, playing something in a stream with continuity, while the others played a combination of short bursts of sound and subdued long notes. Usually if one horn was coming out with short stabs of sound, the other one would be playing long tones.
Mary Halvorsen, the guitarist, played combinations of dark chorded brief rhythms, those same punctuative stabs, and occasional series of chords that, in the context, seemed strangely conventional. Not to worry, though, they were few and far between.
Interestingly, Braxton himself, on alto, soprano and piccolo saxophones, was the most conventional sounding when he was in the lead role, and he took that role more than any of the others. It was still very free playing, and his tone and energy were beautiful and strong; at 70, he is not old.
They played continously – maybe 40 minutes – when, after all the disparate elements of the music unexpectedly met in one unison place and stopped and Braxton announced the interval. The audience, which had remained riveted throughout, erupted in rapturous applause. This same form repeated for the second half, the final applause even more ecstatic than the first.
Anthony Braxton’s music has the elements of all music and does what music does: evokes an emotional response and puts thoughts in your head. In the first segment particularly, there were moments, long periods, really, where it seemed naturalistic: one could very easily imagine a strong wind rattling the windows, blowing the occasional rubbish bin lid down the street, and so on. This is reminiscent of John Cage, who could hear music in everything, all the unceasing sounds around us. But much of it was just music, with or without mental pictures, but rising and falling, with elegiac passages, crescendoes, interplay and, above all, composition.

Gretchen Peters: Hello Cruel World cd

Gretchen Peters

Hello Cruel World cd

Scarlet Letter Records

Gretchen Peters is firmly lodged in the Nashville pantheon of songwriters but has for years been trying to break out of that box as a performer. Being the writer of Independence Day and The Secret of Life plus many more made hits by others is a huge obstacle to overcome, but she has two things on her side: she never stops writing great songs and she is a terrific singer, the best interpreter of her own songs.

Gretchen’s writing is stunning, flowing like silken water from a perfect tap. Writing from the heart and mind of a woman, she might be seen a woman’s writer; she ought to be required reading for every man. Her singing is clear and expressive, exquisitely articulating the rhythm and meaning of her words, serving the song, enchanting the listener.

Hello Cruel World is a sublime expression of middle age, the realisation of failure, limitation and regret while treasuring basics: love, sensuality. The opening title song has a great slow groove, a Bobby Gentry feel, a mesmerising string arrangement, and lyrics that could make you cry and feel optimistic at the same time. The album continues this way, sustaining mood without a wrong step, a rare union of songwriting craftsmanship and penetrating artistic vision.

released January 31, 2012

Earth: Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light

Earth

Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II

Earth is guitarist-composer-conceptualist Dylan Carlson with subsidiary musicians, like a sun with three tiny planets orbiting. In 1991 he changed heavy metal by reconceptualising it, filtering it through minimalism; he made it food for thought instead of headbanging. After nine years off, he returned in 2005, altered but undeterred in minimalism.

Angels of Darkness is Earth’s fourth post-break album and change continues, very slowly, like the music. Textures – its essence – formerly derived from sheer volume are now constructed from more sources. Metal riffs have gradually morphed into blues lines.

The addition of cellist Lori Goldston replacing organ-horn player Steve Moore is significant: he augmented; she adds. New bassist Karl Blau is a stronger flavour in the recipe. Earth music is like evolution: minutely slow, deeply fascinating to watch.

Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II release date: Feb 13, 2011