Vincent Price's campiest role outside House of Wax also features him in hideously-deformed makeup. In his part as The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Price actually never utters a word on screen, as his voice is instead dubbed in, as a result of his vocal chords having been ruined as part of the same terrible accident that destroyed his face and killed his wife. As Phibes seeks his vengeance, the film verges on silence. There's not a word of dialogue spoken in the film's opening scenes, yet it still manages to be of great unease. This will repeat over and over as the film progresses, and it's one of The Abominable Dr. Phibes' greatest strengths, as it keeps your eyes glued to the screen, so that you know what's going on. Expositional dialogue isn't a thing about which this picture knows, but atmosphere is, and that's why these scenes are so effective. Big points to the filmmakers for using real bats -- all three Fulci films last week featured bat attacks, and were weak as kittens in terms of terror. This still shocks -- visible strings notwithstanding. The deaths, as a whole, are rather clever in their murderous ingenuity, especially as they relate to the plagues of Egypt. The plague of frog (mask) is just astonishing, given its brutality and wit, and I'm pretty sure that locusts eating someone's face off is one of my favorite kills ever. It's an American International Pictures film, but feels more like Hammer horror, thanks to its British cast and setting. The highbrow Seven Plagues method of killing really drives home the Hammer comparison, as well, given that studio's fondness for using already-extant characters and plots -- although, that is something which they shared with AIP, whose greatest work with Price came from a series of Edgar Allen Poe-inspired films. We'll explore those movies, which Price did with Roger Corman, as the week progresses. Watch The Abominable Dr. Phibes via YouTube below. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6FPbt8zB48[/embed]
streaming audio / video
movies, reviews, streaming audio / video, video on October 6th, 2014 by Nick – 2 Comments
movies, reviews, streaming audio / video, video on October 5th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Today's installment is me pulling an audible. Looking at the list, the actual film slated was Dario Argento's Phenomena (aka Creepers), but I just couldn't handle another Italian horror film again. So, I went another way, choosing the horror spoof Student Bodies. It's only 1981, and there's already a well-established pattern of horror movie tropes, and Student Bodies plays on them all. I mean, you could argue that even more than something like Evil Laugh, this was the movie that Scream ripped off, with lines like, "When people go wild and crazy, wild and crazy things happen to them." Of course, given the fact that this is essentially the Airplane version of horror movies, this actually makes Student Bodies more like Return to Horror High (Scary Movie before there was a Scream). It is super-dumb. It is not subtle. "The Breather" is as if the unrestrained id of every teenaged boy was allowed to run rampant in a voiceover, and it's occasionally funny, but rarely hilarious. Granted, the movie does have its moments of greatness. It's usually when Student Bodies avoids the obvious and just gets straight-up weird that its at its best. The shop teacher's lecture early on, wherein he states, "Perhaps man's highest cultural achievement is the horse head bookend"? Brilliant, as well as Malvert the janitor's "No, since accident, Malvert pee red. You know good urologist?" Same goes for the interstitial that might be one of the finest cutscenes ever. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzHKwhrN1Lg[/embed] See? Weird. I miss the fact that movies in the '70s and '80s were completely willing to do things which made no sense plotwise, just fucking because. Student Bodies isn't exactly a calvalcade of brilliance, and it's comprised of a juvenile sense of humor like The Kentucky Fried Movie that comes straight from the junior high locker room. I'm not usually one to suggest completely writing something off, but the kills are bloodless, the humor's juvenile, and the best bits are still funny out of context. Pull the highlights off YouTube and ignore this one. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YM-gFnlnO-o[/embed]
movies, reviews, streaming audio / video, video on October 4th, 2014 by Nick – 2 Comments
The final Italian mind bender this week is Suspiria, the crown jewel of Dario Argento's giallo crown, according to critics and film scholars. It's not my favorite -- I like Goblin's score for Profundo Rosso a lot more, and Cat O' Nine Tails far outstrips Suspiria in terms of plot twists and insane kills. However, Suspiria is the big giant to slay -- and, perhaps not coincidentally, the one Argento film I have with a good transfer and subtitles. The plot is surprisingly straightforward: a bunch of weird things happen at a ballet school, we find out it was ran by a coven of witches, they all die. Now, actually motive and intent are entirely absent, and the deaths of all these people go unexplained, but you know what was going on, if not why, and that's better than usual for most giallo. The most-interesting plot points come as an expository monologue -- it's almost as if Argento set the stage for later slasher scenes in the likes of Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and any other film where the villain needs an interesting backstory. The film oozes with symbolic tension. As Suzy arrives at the school, the rain drips down the front of it like blood. It's a film that's riveting -- you can't look away, for fear of missing a scene beautifully framed, or a detail that will lend some much-needed information. The way by which Argento drives home the growing panic is masterful. His alternating between intimate close-ups of violence -- shot like love scenes -- and wide-angle establishing shots of characters in panic absolutely emphasizes the characters' solitude. The monochromatic shots, and the use of warm colors to demonstrate death and cold ones to speak decay both create further visual cues which telegraph mood and emotion. Suspiria has justifiably earned its reputation as a pinnacle of Italian giallo horror, even if there are other films I find more fun. Goblin's score -- while admittedly not as fun as that for Profundo Rosso -- is still interesting, if a bit sedate. The theme's creepy as hell, though, and you can snag the Cnevox pressing of the score from 20 Buck Spin. Watch Suspiria on YouTube below. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onTYKt5lFNU[/embed]
movies, reviews, streaming audio / video, video on October 3rd, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment
It's best to think of the Gates of Hell trilogy as something unofficial, rather than a planned thing. Catriona MacColl is in all three films, under three differently-spelled version of her name. She's the heroine in each, but a different character each time, but always fighting creatures from hell. One would like to think Fulci planned this to create some sort of through line, but's far more likely just because she was available. The other two films in the trilogy are absolutely sane, compared to House By the Cemetery. I've seen it half a dozen times and read the plot summary on Wikipedia, and I still have no idea what this is all about. It doesn't help that I have a pretty rough copy of the film, likely edited all to shit. However, I've little faith that a better DVD release would make even the slightest improvement. That's mainly because even with a better transfer and edit, you can't get past the fact that the dubbing is ... rough. The sync is pretty awful, the voices are flat, and there is also, of course, Bob. Bob is the epitome of the kid in a movie who's constantly in danger, but rather than fear for his safety, you'd rather he die. Terribly. Repeatedly, if possible. Additionally, while the film has a great stabbing in its opening moments, after that, it's a patient viewer who can make it to the next big thrill without audibly complaining. Then, given the next big thrill is a rubber bat, one's patience is sorely tested. It's a long wait 'til the going gets good, and you have to deal with so much Bob to get there. Once Dr. Freudstein appears, though, the film kicks into batshit high gear, and I think that's what always makes me regard this movie so highly when I'm thinking of it. I mean, it's really fucking dull for a solid hour, if not annoying, but Freudstein and the madness that accompanies him is just magnificent. It's pretty much worth the preceding hour for the ten solid minutes of "WHAT THE FUCK?!?" that conclude the film. Walter Rizzati's score is creepy as hell. It's ponderous, with these electronic flourishes that go right through you. As little actually happens in the movie's first hour, you're still on edge and watching because Rizzati's music has you thinking somethign awful has to be right around the corner. The way Rizzati blends pipe organ with pulsating Carpenter-style arpeggiated synths really drives home the idea that this is almost a modern-day version of Henry James' Turn of the Screw (seriously: creepy kid seeing weird shit in a strange old house). Alessandro Blonksteiner's work on the score is especially unnerving, adding to it these descending note progressions on electric guitar, which always end up denoting some sort of impending doom. Death Waltz Recording Co. re-released this a couple of years back, and you can still grab copies from Light in the Attic on red vinyl. You can stream House By the Cemetery on Hulu below.
garage rock, interview, punk, streaming audio / video on August 21st, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment
Indiana garage trio Apache Dropout just released their latest album, Heavy Window, via Magnetic South Recordings this Tuesday. The album's much darker than their last record, Bubblegum Graveyard which was released in 2012 on Chicago's Trouble In Mind. We've been enjoying the hell out of the LP, so we reached out to the band's Seth Mahern and Sonny Alexandre to ask them about how Heavy Window came together. The new album seems to be a lot darker than its predecessor. Is that intentional? Seth Mahern: Certainly. We were trying to create something both more heavy and tense. More along the lines of our self-titled record. Sonny Alexandre: Heavy Window was definitely a reaction to Bubblegum Graveyard -- that album was seen as our "pop record", even though it was macabre in its way, and contained a lotta gritty lo-fi heaviness. With the new album, I really wanted to make a straight ahead ripper, something more about resurrecting Ron Asheton than Archie and Jughead. The tunes for Heavy Window were never meant to be a syrupy jaunt beneath marshmallow skies, and what I ended up writing was actually a kind of exhibition of my darkside. The record is presented as a piece of occult paranoia, with its Saul Bass-style Psycho-vibes and glow-in-the-dark monster movie chic, but it's actually about my life. How dark is that? Was it sort of an outgrowth of the slightly more psychedelic folk songs on Bubblegumn Graveyard, like "Hey Valentine"? I mean, I was almost expecting this to be full on Tyrannosaurus Rex. Sonny: We tried to leave the folky stuff alone for this one. Only one song on the record has acoustic guitar, and it's more of a Keith Richards-style thing. We did try to make the record as psychedelic as possible, that's why we went stereo. Mono sounds better; stereo sounds headier. 100% of the songs on Heavy Window were written under the influence. Death to false psych! [embed]https://soundcloud.com/magnetic-south-recordings/apache-dropout-trash-is-treasure[/embed] In addition to being darker, it's a little heavier -- still bubblegum, but definitely a lot more low-end. What precipitated that? Seth: I think alot of that has to do with this being our first record that was mixed in stereo. Panning the guitars gave the bass a little more sonic space. Sonny: We recorded Bubblegum Graveyard so fast that we forgot to, like, jam on it, y'know? That record needed a lot more space, a lot more room for us to just play our guitars really loud. We took a long, frustrating time making this record, so we had a little more perspective on it. We thought, "Hey let's do what we do best and play our guitars really loud." Both Bubblegum Graveyard and Heavy Window have artwork that mirrors the lyrical content -- Graveyard looking like a twisted Archie-meets-EC comic, with Window reading like the back pages to the same book. How important is the design to Apache Dropout's records? Seth: Design is certainly really important to the band's over-all aesthetic. We're really keen on '50s and '60s commercial design. Equally important to your sound seems to be the audio design. It's very lo-fi, but not to the point where it distorts the hooks and lyrics. What's the recording process like for an Apache Dropout record? Seth: We've recorded almost everything we've ever released at the Magnetic South studio. Its all analog and alot of the process is based on late '50s and early '60s recording techniques. From where did you source all of the amazing audio samples on Heavy Window? Seth: We're all big record and VHS collectors. They came from our personal collections. What led you to release this on Magnetic South, after your last LP on Trouble In Mind? Seth: Magnetic South finally had enough money in the coffers to pay for the pressing. It looks like there are scattered dates to promote Heavy Window, but are there any plans for a tour, or does the label take up too much time? Seth: We're doing a month long US tour. Gonna see the Atlantic and the Pacific. We'll be in Lawrence on October 15. You can find all of the dates for Apache Dropout's upcoming tour at their Facebook page, and buy Heavy Window from Magnetic South Recordings.
electronic, punk, reviews, streaming audio / video on August 11th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Ray Creature, the new project from Leg's John Booth, has an interesting record out now on Sister Cylinder. While I'm not really into the whole post-punk aesthetic, I've gotten a little further into the synthwave / darkwave / et cetera sets of bands because of my growing obsession with '80s horror flicks. However, while I really dig the synths on this record, the vocals turn me off. The whole demon Elvis croon pretty much peaked with Glenn Danzig, and everyone else is aping him. Find your own voice, folks. "Threat" and "Burning Alive" (especially the latter) are the only really egregious examples extant on Ray Creature's LP, but they're particularly glaring. I mean, the whole album is a mish-mash of styles and influences, which it flies pretty proudly. The instrumental work falls somewhere between Vangelis and Joy Division. "Motions Felt" has a wobbly, off-kilter feel that I really enjoyed, but more because it was where Booth's vocals were reigned in, and he wasn't belting the lyrics out like a Vegas lounge act. Ray Creature seems to be divided stylistically between the two sides. While neither A nor B can be said to be exactly "peppy," there's a much more upbeat feel to the A-side, while the B-side is downbeat and dark. "Long Caress," the track which closes the album, is especially quiet and brooding. It's in strong contrast to the cut which opens the album, "Don't Stop Talking," with its funky bassline and vocal interplay between Booth and Natascha Beuhnerkemper. It's kind of Blondie by way of Tom Tom Club. It comes on 180-gram black vinyl, and it sounds great. The tones of this album are at times very subtle, and the mastering job by Paul Mahern (yes, of the Zero Boys) is absolutely wonderful. It's a super-warm feel for as cold and dark as these songs are. It could've been a very sterile release, but the way "Long Caress" pulses out the speakers is particulalry impressive. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/repartiseraren/free-download-ray-creature-white-suits[/embed] Ray Creature's self-titled release is out now from Sister Cylinder, and available in their webs store.
indie, punk, reviews, streaming audio / video, vinyl on July 21st, 2014 by Nick – 3 Comments
Ever since Late Bloomer debuted "Use Your Words," I've been foaming at the mouth to hear all of Things Change, their sophomore LP on Tor Johnson, Lunchbox, and Self Aware Records. I tried to hold back until I had the LP in my hot little hands, but caved and listened to it streaming a few weeks back. This all goes to say that Things Change is an album which -- once you've had a taste of it -- you want to hear in its entirety, over and over again. "Use Your Words" was and is an excellent introduction, kicking off the album in a way that reminds me a lot of any number of bands I hear in the mid to late '90s, but more in terms of tone than specific sound. Late Bloomer is one of those acts like So Adult or Squarehead that mines the '90s for ideas, but does so wisely, discarding all the dross and waste, keeping only that which worked. It's essentially the mirror image of a band like Creed or Bush: rather than aping the bombast and pomposity, Late Bloomer takes the energy and verve of a Dinosaur Jr or Nirvana's indie / alt rock and mixes in the melodicism and emotional release of early emo like Sunny Day Real Estate. A perfect case in point is "Mirror," which is -- not coincidentally -- the album's highlight. It's this constant building up of layers: plucked bass lays a downbeat foundation, distorted guitar fuzz grows on top of it, and then things start to pick up momentum. The song builds a head of steam, with "I'm not who I think I see in the mirror" operating as a mantra as the song ebbs and flows. Each new build gets a little faster, a little stronger, and a little more until it absolutely explodes. The title track which follows takes the formula further, building upon "Mirror," as well as itself, and just being a loudly-proclaimed declaration of fealty. The entirety of the album is a relative surprise, given that it's at least partially released on Tor Johnson. It's really cool to see the label starting to branch out into music that -- while still heavy -- embraces melodicism. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/beartrappr/sets/late-bloomer-things-change[/embed] Late Bloomer's Things Change is out now, and available on gorgeous split red and blue vinyl. The album artwork by Michael Muller continues inside and on the back of the jacket, with individual icons representing each song. It's pretty damned wonderful, looks lovely, and you should fucking buy a copy, already.
books, movies, reviews, streaming audio / video, tv, upcoming release, video on June 19th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Soft Skull Press always presents a unique twist with its biographies or memoirs. It's never just a straightforward history of the titular individual, but rather an analysis of the environment which produced the subject. In the case of W. Scott Poole's Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror, the author uses the '50s horror host as an entry point to discussing the era's social mores and how the woman born Maila Nurmi challenged the status quo. The author has a wealth of information on which to draw. Sadly, little of it is regarding Vampira herself. There's minimal evidence of her television program, and what remains of her work is, essentially, bit parts in a few films. The thing for which she garnered her initial acclaim exists only anecdotally, leading to a great amount of speculation on Poole's part. This is additionally due in no small part to the fact that many of the stories about Nurmi's childhood and upbringing come from the woman herself. As the author himself states, it's much like trying to find out about Bob Dylan when he was just Robert Zimmerman, only there are no people to whom we can turn for contradiction or confirmation. If you're looking for a comprehensive story of Vampira's life, this is likely as complete as it gets. Sadly, it's a lengthy magazine article, at best. Poole does a lovely job in demonstrating how Nurmi and her character were something new and wonderful, but falls short of convincingly depicting the actress as a world-changing persona. I'll grant Nurmi created some iconic imagery that still resonates, but as a danger because she "embodied both ancient terrors and the modern threats of the sexual revolution" stretches credulity a bit. It's nice to have the full story behind Nurmi's relationships with the likes of Elvis Presley and James Dean, but there's more information on those tabloid stories than on her work in Plan 9 From Outer Space, arguable the thing for which she's most known these days -- and most of that verbiage is given over to discussing much Tim Burton's Ed Wood film got wrong, as opposed to details of the filming itself. Nevertheless, Vampira is an entertaining read, and one that knbows how to engage its reader and provoke some thoughts. It's not due out until September, but keep an eye out for it. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbQfqb2nGi8[/embed]
garage rock, label, punk, reviews, streaming audio / video, vinyl on June 18th, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment
Getting a big package of singles in the mail is always exciting, especially when you're not expecting them. It's bittersweet to open the box and realize that these are the last singles overseen by the late Windian Records' head honcho, Travis Jackson. Jackson died unexpectedly earlier this year when hit by car as he worked on a road construction crew. Looking at the note, which was right on top of the stack of singles when I opened the package, I basically burst into tears. Now, I don't claim to have known Jackson very well, but he'd been helpful with providing some promo stuff for review and play on the podcast, and every interaction I had with him was kind and excited and full of life. It's strange to think that a man who I never met in person would be missed so much, but Jackson's verve for music and excitement for what he was doing with Windian was infectious, and you wanted him to succeed. Eric Brady will continue the label on, and the music looks to be coming strong. Out of this stack of singles, there's not a one that didn't grab me in one way or another. Top of the list has to be Mrs Magician's "Friday Night" b/w "Crosses" single. It was part of the second Windian Single Series, and it's a masterful piece of reverb-drenched surfy power pop. It sounds like summer. Comparisons to the likes of Dum Dum Girls and New Pornographers are inevitable. However, who cares? Because both of those bands are wonderful. I want to put "Friday Night" on a mix CD in my truck and drive around listening to it while drinking lemonade at 2 o'clock in the morning. The flip, "Crosses," ups the surf angle, and jangles its way through three minutes of the catchiest anti-established religion cut you've ever heard. "Crosses" twangs and harmonizes everywhere you'd want a song to do so, and works in girl-group (by way of dudes) "sha-la," "woo-hoo," and every other onomatopoeic vocal affectation in the book. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/mrs-magician-friday-night[/embed] While not reinventing their sound with every new release, the Ettes manage to tweak it just enough to sound fresh and interesting. The last thing I'd heard from them was the gothic country of "Teeth," and it was a full switch from their second album, Look At Life Again Soon, which featured the frantic stomper "Crown of Age." I just never know what to expect from the trio, other than it'll be fucking good. The a-side cut's a little more loose and hazy than we've heard from the Ettes before, and it's fucking great. "Girl I'll Never Be" is darker and more ominous than the a-side, with the bass distorted to the point of almost breaking. It pulses, while the guitar cuts right through in counterpoint. The Ettes spin it around in a whirl of declination, going down into a dark hole of contradictory shouts. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/the-ettes-cry-on-my-shoulder[/embed] The Ar-Kaics are previewing their forthcoming Windian LP (although neither of these tracks on on it), with these two primitive bangers. Snotty vocals, simple pounding drums, and basic churned-out guitars suddenly give way on "Why Should I?" to a surprisingly catchy chorus, replete with an equally-catchy guitar line. "Slave to Her Lies" is a little less poppy, sounding like a dark mirror image of the Turtles' "Happy Together." It's almost as if the relationship in the Turtles song has long since gone sour, for reasons of infidelity and distrust. It stomps along, nearly dirge-like, punctuated by shouted "SLAVE!"s, for its entirety. Dark, dirty, dirgy, and damned good. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/ar-kaics-why-should-i[/embed] This bit of Dictators worship from D.C.'s Killer Bees, Buzz'n the Town, has a lot in common with most punk songs about television. Be it "TV Party" or "Television Addict," the songs have a glee about them, even as they denigrate that about which they sing. The kick drum hits with a flat thud, pegging out the meters, and lending a strange metronomic effect to an otherwise propulsive cut. The guitars rip along, and you know this was a pogo cut in its day. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/killer-bees-tv-violence[/embed] The flip's very much in the same vein, chooglin' along like an amped-up southern r&b act, but manages to throw in some nice stop-and-start "I like it! I love it!" breaks, as well as a solid guitar solo for the bridge. Wish the ending "rock & roll hangover" bits could've been more harmony or more shouted, rather than some half-assed middle ground, though. Is there a bad Penetrators recording? I mean, I know they all sound like crap -- seriously, for all of the Mummies' claims, the Penetrators are the real kings of budget rock -- but the band's songs always manage to have something about them. "Shopping Bag" is nasal, and the attempt at a guitar solo is almost laughable, but damned if this tinny piece of schlock isn't going to worm its way into your head almost immediately. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/windian-records/the-penetrators-shopping-bag[/embed] "Everybody Needs Lovin'" might've been recorded in a closet by mentally deranged individuals, but it's still danceable in its own weird way. The guitar solo succeeds more on this side, but Syracuse's finest fascinate in spite of possible displays of technical proficiency. It's mainly due to a spoken word intro and outro that makes no sense, but sounds cool, like an avant-garde take on the Blues Brothers' version of "Someone to Love." All of the singles are available for purchase from the Windian Records store.
garage rock, interview, streaming audio / video, video, vinyl on June 9th, 2014 by Nick – 2 Comments
Hailing all the way from sunny Spain, Madrid's The Parrots rock a fresh take on garage rock, imbuing the genre with a woozy, surfy vibe. They've a new single out on Austria's Bachelor Records on June 24, but they've shared the a-side, "Loving You Is Hard," online for everyone to check out. We enjoyed it so much, we got the band to answer a few questions for us via e-mail. The Parrots' music is kind of woozy. What lends it that slightly off-kilter, drunken sound? Lots of Sangria in the park! There's also this serious surf vibe going on -- you guys are sunny. How'd that happen? I guess it all comes down to jealousy. In Madrid, we don’t even have a coast, so we really envy not having that relaxing place and that comes out in the music. I’ve never really thought of it until now but maybe this is our way of bringing the beach to Madrid! Is the sunny, happy vibe kind of what influences all your videos to be so fun? Yeah – like everyone, we like to have a good time and I guess that imprints on both the music and the videos. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXGTZ99G5m4[/embed] Was there a change in the recording process for the new single? It sounds a little cleaner. Last time we were in the studio – we only had one day to get everything – even the mastering - done. This time round, we wanted to do things the proper way - so we took 2 days! What is it about the garage scene in Spain that brings out such a diverse array of musicians, do you think? The garage scene in Spain is not actually that big on the whole but within it there are some really great bands. The places we hang out and the venues we play are usually the same for bands in the same city and I think it’s this that breeds these strong local scenes. On top of that, we are all very diverse and influenced by a lot of different things and so this is infused between the different bands. Are there any bands to whom you think you gained a lot in terms of influence? I know the Black Lips comparison gets thrown around a lot. We do love the Black Lips, but we´re also big into stuff from the 60´s and 50´s - like French pop, and The Kinks. How thrilled are you guys to be releasing something on Bachelor, given their strong roster? We really love the stuff Bachelor has released, and thus far, we can only be really thankful for how they´ve treated us. What's the chances of the United States getting to hear any of these new songs in a live setting? Hopefully we will be there sometime soon. We need to arrange things but if anybody gave us a keg of beer and somewhere to sleep - we would be willing to provide for a good party! [embed]https://soundcloud.com/theparrots/loving-you-is-hard[/embed] Go check out everything the Parrots have done on their Bandcamp page.