The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

The Aardvark Speaks : reviews

This page contains the last 50 stories posted to this category, sorted in chronological order (earliest first). For earlier stories, you need to check out the monthly archives.


A Brechtian non-movie

From the alienation effect created by the bare theatrical setting and the odd voice-over to the didactic message, Lars Von Trier's new movie Dogville has Bertolt Brecht written all over it, and just as Brecht does, Von Trier explores human nature and human exploitation from an odd analytic distance: his Dogville is no more in the USA than Brecht's Good Person of Szechwan is set in the real China or Saint Joan of the Stockyards in the real Chicago. Rather they are all just examples of universal characters that can be found in any place.

Von Trier's moral inquiry goes one step further than Brecht (whose protagonists typically fail), when he provides a cathartic ending that somehow feels good even though it is totally inappropriate in moral terms; and immediately before it, two characters discuss the concept of arrogance, in which they apply it to totally opposite characters, and yet both are right. Even if it's true that the villagers' best was not enough, who is Grace to decide this? Once she is in a position of power, is she not just as bad as the villagers - or perhaps even worse?

What is the story about anyway? Is it about a poor fugitive who is taken advantage of in the worst possible ways and who then takes bitter revenge, or is is about a group of poor villagers who are taking revenge on a rich girl, only to be beaten back into submission?

And the pictures of poor American farmers from the 1930s juxtaposed with American homeless of the 1990s during the end credits - are they meant as criticism or excuse?

If anything, the fact that the philosopher character, who claims he can see through everybody, is the most clueless person in the film should give you a clue that there are no answers in this movie, only questions, and as soon as you think you have an answer, you notice that you have been deceived.

In the end it all falls back to the question of arrogance that is discussed at the climax of the movie - but who exactly is it that's arrogant? Is it Grace, the gangster boss, the villagers, or is it you, the viewer?

Posted by The Duck on December 07, 2003 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Some movie reviews

I have been going to cinemas a lot lately, and as no other exciting stuff is happening in my life (still no sign of a Taurus woman), I thought I'd write a couple of brief reviews.

Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation was one of the winners at the Golden Globe ceremony yesterday, and quite rightly so. It's a very tender movie, an excellent portrait of two displaced characters (displaced both geographically and emotionally) who seem to be looking for their place in life. This is perhaps Bill Murray's best role to date, which allows him to combine an intense depth of character with Robert Mitchum-ish ironic detachment. As for Scarlett Johansson, I don't know if she's had plastic surgery yet, but I certainly hope she never gets any. It's her minor imperfections that make her so perfect, and it's totally stunning how totally this 18 year-old girl gets into the skin of her character. This movie will be one of this year's high points.

Also enjoyable, if on a totally different level, was Calendar Girls, the story of a couple of middle-aged women who pose for a nude calendar for charity. It's a good picture that lacks the brouhaha of The Full Monty, but towards the end it goes totally awry when the screenplay enforces a conflict between two characters that may be kind of credible, only the way it's acted out between them is totally out of character and doesn't really make sense. Still, it was a good movie with likeable characters, and Helen Mirren is a prime example of a good actress aging with grace.

Clint Eastwood's Mystic river was also a pretty good movie with profound acting from Sean Penn and Tim Robbins that concentrated a lot on the inner conflict of the two characters. However, I'm not sure if I get the last five minutes; what makes the Laura Linney character suddenly turn into Lady Macbeth? If anything, it's ultimately a statement about the immorality of the world and the lack of any justice, but somehow this is at odds with the rest of the movie. I'm somewhat confused about this.

Ram Gopal Varma's Company is one of the most dense, compelling gangster movies I have ever seen. It's also one of the best Bollywood movies I've seen so far. In fact, Ajay Devgan's gangster boss is on par with any gangster boss that Robert de Niro has ever played — and he's a lot cooler in what must be his best performance that I've seen so far. This film is just one further example that Indian films are unjustly underrated.

I've also seen what must be one of the most romantic movies I've ever seen (only slightly short of Harold and Maude actually), but as it's not romantic in the conventional sense (well, neither is Harold and Maude), I won't mention the title, or you'll think I'm seriously twisted, which might easily happen because I've mentioned the words "bizarre fantasies" on this weblog far too often lately. Not that this movie was all that bizarre, mind you.

Posted by Horst on January 26, 2004 | # | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

Romanticism

Recently, I was talking about a very romantic movie, which started me thinking about other movies that I felt were romantic. Consequently, in true Nick Hornby fashion, I wanted to compile two lists for this weblog — one of my top 5 romantic movie scenes and one of the top 5 scenes that always move me to tears.

Only, I can't seem to be able to think of five truly romantic scenes. A couple of online lists [1] [2] [3] I consulted only produced mostly totally unromantic movies. It seems that people's concepts of "romantic" vary highly. As I consider myself a hopeless romantic, it comes as a bit of a shock that my idea of romantic seems to be totally off the norm.

Anyway, I'm kind of stuck with just two highly romantic scenes, which is not really much of a list. And although I remember being very moved by a film recently, I can't remember which one it was. Compiling these lists seems to be more difficult than I thought. If you'd like to share your favourite romantic and moving moments on film, feel free to post a comment.

Posted by Horst on January 30, 2004 | # | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Romanticism (2)

Okay, so after some thinking I think have finally come up with a list of five deeply romantic scenes on film. I'm not sure if they're my top five, and this may still need some revising, but anyway I thought I'd share them. Just tell me if my sense of what's romantic and what's not is really as twisted as others would have me believe.

  • The ending of Amélie, when Nino finally arrives at Amélie's door and she lets him in. Plus, of course, their game of hide-and-seek in front of Sacre Coeur.
  • The ending of The Apartment, from when Fran Kubelik runs to C.C.'s apartment, popping cork and all, to "Shut up and deal". I also love it when he cooks pasta for her with the tennis racquet.
  • Towards the end of Secretary, from when Mr Grey carries Lee up the stairs to when he answers her questions with "Des Moines, Iowa".
  • From Hana-Bi, Nishi and his wife next to the bell and in the zen garden. And, of course, when he "guesses" the cards in the car.
  • From Lady and the Tramp, the spaghetti dinner.

The list of moving-to-tears scenes is still under construction. Results will be announced later.

Posted by Horst on February 03, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Divertissement

As is to be expected from a Friday the 13th, today has been hell so far, so I'm going to cheer myself (and you, dear reader) up by posting a link to...

...my favourite Indian film song of the moment: Woh ladki hai kahan ("Where is that girl?") from Dil Chahta Hai, which I got from a friend on DVD as a Christmas present. The main musical influence here seems to be Irish, of all things. I love Indian eclecticism (and I apologize for the poor sound quality, but at least the clip seems to be legal. Lyrics, with English translation, are here, by the way).

Posted by Horst on February 13, 2004 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Utterly compelling

London Tube ride - this may take a while to load...

The English company Video125 is selling Driver's Eye Views videos of British rail routes. While you can thus see much of Britain's scenery from a train driver's perspective, what's particularly interesting is their extensive programme of Driver's Eye Views of the London Underground, on most of which you can't see much more than, well, a Tube tunnel.

Still, I recommend that you buy one of those and watch it. It's an utterly compelling, almost hypnotic experience. I probably couldn't have done the German London Underground map without it.

Note to the baronesse: if you want to licence the clip above (it's the Northern Line somewhere between Oval and Stockwell) for your boring moving pictures series, feel free to do so.

Posted by Horst on April 15, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Photo of the day

Today's picture of the day comes from Ms Godany (the first of the three). I don't know if it's sad or funny, probably both, and absolutely brilliant.

Posted by Horst on April 20, 2004 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

It is extremely stupid, but it looks really cool

Saw a pretty mysterious movie trailer at the cinema yesterday. Checked the IMDb to see what it was all about. Found this review:

Eventually, you do learn that Aliens have a big part in this movie. Now, you never really "see" any aliens. However, random people just get sucked into the air........ which I think is extremely stupid. However, it looks really cool. [Source]

Some reviews are just priceless.

Anyway, the reason I was in the cinema was that I was watching Michael Mann's Collateral, which is interesting as it's a movie that is totally predictable (guess who will be the 5th victim, guess who will go through a complete personality change, guess who will die at the end and how — you'll guess all of it correctly, and you'll probably also notice at least two of the four blatant plot holes), and yet it's still oddly entertaining, and there's still lots of suspense, which I guess is due to Mann's taut direction and solid acting of Jamie Foxx (and Mark Ruffalo in a supporting role). The one slight disappointment is Tom Cruise, who looks a bit like a Richard Gere clone and is rather miscast as Vincent the killer, but then he's miscast in pretty much every movie he's been in, so that's not particularly big news. All in all, Collateral is quite watchable.

Posted by Horst on September 27, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tonight

Mark E. Smith

We are Northern white crap that talks back / We are The Fall we are spinning we are stepping / Cop out, cop out as in from heaven / The difference between you and us is that we have brains / Cos we are Northern white crap / But we talk back / Uh oh, uh oh / Bang f**king bang, The Mighty Fall / The Fall, we are back, we are back...

Szene Wien, 8pm. See you there.

Posted by Horst on October 12, 2004 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

We apologise for the inconvenience...

Sorry, the entry planned for today turned out to be more work than expected and had to be postponed until tomorrow. Instead, thanks to eedoo, a fellow Fall fan, I can offer you a few snippets from last night's excellent concert:

  • All Clasp Hands (MP3, 3.3MB)
  • Theme from Sparta FC (MP3, 3.6 MB)

(N.B.: These tracks will only be available for a very short time are no longer available)

Posted by Horst on October 13, 2004 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Interview with Ben Pritchard of The Fall

Well, not really an interview. After the Fall gig on Tuesday, I walked into the bar for another beer, and there were Ben Pritchard, Steve Trafford, and one of the guys from their support band Doc Schoko talking and enjoying after-gig beers. When the Doc Schoko guy left, I walked over to Ben and Steve, only to congratulate them for the great gig, but we ended up talking for about half an hour. Jim Watts joined us later, too, but it was mostly Ben talking.

Which is why today I am proud to present you an Aardvark exclusive — an approximative interview with Ben Pritchard talking about The Fall.

Slight disclaimer: I didn't take notes while we were talking, so everything is pieced together from the things I still remembered on the next day. It's a bit sketchy, and the quotes reproduced here aren't really verbatim. I hope I am reproducing everything correctly, because the last thing I'd want is Mark E. Smith sacking Ben because I wrote nonsense here. So anything that's wrong here is entirely my fault.

The obvious starting point for talking to Ben and Steve was to congratulate them for the great show. The Fall feel so much more like a real band at the moment, playing together really well, and appearing very much in sync.

"Thanks. Yes, I guess that's true. We now have some really good musicians who are getting along really well, and that's why we're getting better as a band, too."

During the gig, it sometimes seemed as if he was kind of in charge musically — playing a strong lead guitar, signalling Spencer [Birtwistle] the breaks, that kind of thing.

"No, hell no, I'm not in charge of anything, and I certainly don't want to be. The thing with Spencer is that he just joined us and he doesn't know the songs all that well yet, so I have to signal him when there's a tempo change or something. That's really all there is to it. They say that on the internet too, you know, Ben does this, Ben does that, but I really don't."

Spencer unfamiliar with the songs? It seems incredible if you've seen him in action. I think he's an amazing drummer — terribly precise, and he adds such a lot of drive to the music. He's really powerful and can be very taut when necessary, unlike any Fall drummer before him.

"Oh yes, he's really becoming an important part of the group. He's very different from Dave [Milner]. Dave was a great guy and a really good drummer as well, but Spencer has a totally different approach to drumming, one that fits in really great with the kind of music that we're playing now."

While we're talking about new band members, does it feel temporary to be in The Fall?

Ben laughs. "I guess so. I've been in the band for five years now, so that's either a very good thing or a very bad thing. In the end, only Mark knows."

I don't really want to talk a lot about Mark, after all I'm talking to Ben and don't want to turn this into a Mark-this and Mark-that conversation. But there is one question that I have about the man whose band changes its line-up at least once per year: is he really such an erratic person?

"Oh yes. He is certainly... unpredictable. He'll also come up with the most amazing ideas when you least expect it. I've known him since I was 15 — a long time before I joined the band — and he is certainly the most creative person I've ever met."

I've seen Fall gigs — a particularly bad one in the mid-1990s comes to mind — when the group seemed in disarray and even Mark was a mere shadow of himself. But now it seems as if he has more stage presence than ever before and the group is really dense and focussed.

"Well, the band is really good now. That makes it a lot more interesting for him to invest time and energy into it, and he is doing that now, and of course you notice that immediately."

Ben asks me if I was at the last Vienna gig three years ago. I tell him I wasn't. That was after their previous album Are You Are Missing Winner, and I didn't really like that album.

"The problem with AYAMW is that it was recorded very quickly."

I tell him that I always felt that it sounds like it was recorded and mixed in three days with total lack of interest.

"We probably did it even quicker. But do you like Country On the Click [a.k.a. The Real New Fall LP]?"

Well, yes, of course. Who doesn't?

"You see, the reason this turned out so good was that we spent a lot more time on it. Actually I think it wouldn't be so good if Missing Winner hadn't been so bad. That way we really wanted to make an effort to make this better."

I say that part of what makes Country such a good album is that it seems to have a sense of purpose, of direction. Many of the 1990s records were meandering, probing all different sorts of things, some (like Light User Syndrome, Marshall Suite and Unutterable) very successfully so, some not, but the main difference now is that it seems like the band's really found a direction.

"Absolutely. I'm not sure it's the direction Mark expected to find, but it's there, and there's a whole new sense of purpose in the band."

And the band just seems to get better all the time. I never liked "Green Eyed Loco-Man", thinking it was kind of lame actually, but tonight's live version just blew me away.

"I know. It's a different song now than when we first recorded it. We keep playing it, and it just keeps growing on us and getting better. Same with some other songs. It works with this band. It's amazing."

I say that I'm really looking forward to the new album, which will be out on November 1st.

"Well, it's not a real album, you know. It's kind of in-between. We've been touring a lot, so we haven't really had the time to write a lot of new songs lately. We hope to get a proper album out next year. Making one album a year is very demanding, so this is just like half an album. It was done very quickly, it's probably very raw."

I guess this means it can either be very good or very bad.

"Let's hope it's good," Ben says, "I haven't heard it yet, let me just knock on wood and hope it turns out good." He walks over to a table and knocks on it, then he notices it's a metal table. "Oh dang, this isn't even wood."

"After this tour, we need to take a break for a while and work on new songs for the next album proper. I've got ideas, Steve's got ideas, Spencer's got ideas--

I suppose Mark's got ideas as well...

Ben laughs. "Yes, he does. He does. But what we really need is some time to get them down and turn them into proper songs."

It's almost the end of the tour, isn't it?

"It's Munich tomorrow, and then right after the gig the same night we're off to New York to play at the Virgin Megastore. But the worst thing is that we have to wait 6 hours at Heathrow for our connecting flight."

Sounds like fun.

Ben agrees: "I'm going to be soo knackered."

I express my sympathies.

Ben takes the cue and checks his watch. "Well, I guess I'm off so that I get at least some sleep tonight."

I wish him a good night, tell him to keep up the great work, and not to get sacked too easily.

He laughs at that last remark. Obviously, in the end, only Mark knows.

Posted by Horst on October 14, 2004 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Smashing concert

Camper Van Beethoven ticket

Left to right, top to bottom: Victor Krummenacher (bass), Jonathan Segel (violin, keyboards, guitar), David Lowery (guitar, vocals), Greg Lisher (lead guitar).

Longish setlist of some 25 songs, well over 100 minutes total. Took them a bit to get into it (especially as the venue was pretty empty at the beginning), but after five songs or so it turned into a smashing concert.

By the way, they are still looking for their gear that was stolen in Montreal. David's green Surfcaster was much missed tonight. There is still a $1000 reward for finding the stuff. Contact them if you come across any of these items anywhere.

Posted by Horst on December 03, 2004 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

No, it's not

Vienna title

Sometimes you notice that things are just not what the people on television would like you to believe.

For example, on this TV series that I've been indulging in lately (due to a Xmas present consisting of 12 DVDs of said series), they wanted me to believe that this is Vienna:

not Vienna

But obviously it's not. I'm not quite sure which city it is though, so any help would be appreciated. First I thought it was Amsterdam, but the tramway on the left would indicate otherwise. It looks a bit like a Tatra tram, so I suppose it could be somewhere in Eastern Europe.

Which poses the question if stock footage of Vienna is really so difficult to obtain. But then again, the picture below is supposed to be of Malaga, Spain, when in reality it's quite obviously Stockholm, Sweden, several hundreds of miles to the north:

Stockholm

And that would be even more off the mark.

But back to Vienna. Do you spot the obvious mistakes on the following pictures, which prove this was shot nowhere near Vienna?

Spot the mistakes - pic 1

Spot the mistakes - pic 2

Spot the mistakes - pic 3

Interestingly, as you can see on the penultimate picture, they got one minor detail right (which somebody on IMDb thought was an error, because they mistook one symbol for another). It's interesting to see though that people can get minor details right and goof up with the really big things.

Oh, and speaking German as these "CIA agents" do, they would fool nobody into believing they were natives. Contrary to real agents, for that matter. I heard David Cornwell (a.k.a. John Le Carré) speak German once, and his accent was next to undetectable.

But that's just a minor quibble. As it is, this series already demands a greater suspension of disbelief that others I've seen, so I suppose I can live with that. It's still enjoyable enough; still, if I were a bad guy on a TV show and had the choice of being beaten up by either Sydney Bristow or Emma Peel, I suppose I'd still pick Emma.

Posted by Horst on January 17, 2005 | # | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)

Quote

Sam: "You gotta hear this one song. It'll change your life." [QuickTime, 4.2MB]
— from Garden State

Posted by Horst on January 18, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Film buffs

Found this on the Internet Movie Database:

Bollywood=2movies/day on an average n only 2 good movies/year!!this is one of them!!
Author: [removed]

I personally don't watch many hindi movies bcause normally they are dumb n stupid and treat their viewers on same line!!

but this is one of the best movie coming from Bollywood!!only seeing is believing!........Direction,Camera Work,Back ground score, editing(superb),acting from all lead cast and one n only song(which is played in background during a chase sequence)are all top notch!!...........can put some of best hollywood flicks to shame!!

You know, sometimes I wonder why people even bother to write reviews if all they can come up with is typos, clichés and factual errors (let's see if you can spot at least two of those). And why the editors on IMDb don't even bother to clean up the mess. And that's despite that fact that in this case I even agree that the film is good.

In countless other cases, however, I wonder how often people go to the cinema or how many movies they've seen because I don't think there's hardly any movie on the IMDb where someone hasn't written a review that says it's the best movie in the world. Now while I know that tastes are different, this makes me wonder what people expect from movies and what they get from it, and to what extent they really believe it's true or whether they simply apply the term "best movie in the world" to the last movie they've seen and liked.

Honestly, I couldn't say which film I'd call the best movie in the world. Certainly none of the Top 15 on the IMDb Best-of list anyway.

Posted by Horst on January 25, 2005 | # | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

New in my record shelf

Acquisitions of the past 2-3 months, most recent first. The usual recommendations. All links point to the official websites. Brief reviews on my music page, as usual.

The Decemberists: Castaways and cutouts Rogue Wave: Out of the shadow Lou Barlow: Emoh Bob Dylan: Blonde on blonde (2-SACD remaster) The Arcade Fire: Funeral Lester Young: laughin' to keep from cryin' The Fall: Hex Enduction Hour (expanded 2-CD reissue) Talking Heads: The name of this band is Talking Heads TV on the Radio: Young liars The Shins: Oh, inverted world The Decemberists: The Tain The Shins: Chutes too narrow Garden State: Music from the motion picture TV on the Radio: Desperate youth, blood thirsty babes Johnny Cash: The man comes around The Decemberists: Her Majesty Brian Wilson: Smile Joanna Newsom: The Milk-Eyed Mender

Posted by Horst on February 23, 2005 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

By the way...

It kind of got the strikethrough treatment yesterday, so let me just take the opportunity to repeat this:

Raincoat. Great movie. Official site. Review. IMDb. Buy.

112 minutes, no songs, no dances, no kitsch, next to no overacting, basically just 3 long dialogues between just 3 people, and lots of rain. Intense. One of the best Indian movies of 2004, no doubt.

Don't read the IMDb reviews (or reviews elsewhere) if you want to see the movie because some of them contain spoilers that make the movie much, much less interesting.

Posted by Horst on March 10, 2005 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A walk in the garden

Insane? Are you taking a stroll in the garden?

If you ever thought that Indian English was a particularly strange language variety, then perhaps you should sometimes try to watch a Hindi DVD with German subtitles. Yes, they do exist, although considering the quality of the translation I am wondering why they bother. I am not sure which computer translation they used, but they were not entirely successful.

Sure, takes a good watches the girls. Behold, how they are standing.

Large wide! Make the enquiry that you want to make.

I have come to take back the home to you.

I am reflecting on it a good property, sister.

Sorry, translating the subtitles back into English does not work well, so I fear today's post will be lost on my non-German-speaking readers. English syntax is much simpler than German syntax, so a word-by-word translation back into English actually makes sense again. Well, in some cases anyway.

By the way, it's not just the German subtitles that are bad. The entire movie is pretty useless.

(By the way, the English subtitles make sense, but unfortunately they don't make the movie any better.)

Posted by Horst on March 23, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (3)

More weird subtitles

Tonight, just a day after I posted the strange German subtitles from the Hindi movie Market, I came across the website of molodezhnaja, who posted even better ones from the movie Chokher Bali (and I'll spare you the rather obvious pun):

Second, will you excrete me this here in the middle of this river.
"Second, will you excrete me this here in the middle of this river."

The company who made this DVD is the same as the one who did Market and obviously, so is the technology they used.

This time, the German sentences are so weird that I can offer some kind of English translation. The German is funnier though.

Opened the door! The bootlickers have been cut.
"Opened the door! The bootlickers have been cut."

Rohini was fully blushed by youth, her beautyoverflow.
"Rohini was blushed in full by youth, her beautyoverflow."

The basic difference here to the other DVD is that I thought Chokher Bali was a really good movie — it's based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore, and while it is a bit bookish at times, I found the story of the young widow who refuses to conform with customs totally compelling (as was the performance of lead actress Aishwarya Rai). So this is definitely one to rent, if you peruse the English subtitles.

(Maybe I'll also have a look at the German subtitles on the Raincoat DVD, which is also from the same company. But then I really do like that movie, and it's easier to do this with movies you don't like.)

Posted by Horst on March 24, 2005 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Music DVD of the year?

Wire

A bunch of 50 year-olds. Two of them wearing glasses. Two of them bald, and it's not quite clear whether it's for fashion or biological reasons. The lead guitar player, aged 58, grey-haired, is totally stoic. The singer jumps around the stage like a 20 year-old. Without looking ridiculous. Exquisite noise punk. Wonderful.

Get your copy here: www.posteverything.com

Posted by Horst on March 25, 2005 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Recent music

50 Foot wave: Golden Ocean The Decemberists: Picaresque Sonny Rollins: Tenor Madness Carole King: Tapestry Amon Düül II: Tanz der Lemminge
The Byrds: Untitled/Unissued Wire: The Scottish Play Yo La Tengo: Prisoners of Love Mahavishnu Orchestra: The Inner Mounting Flame Chet Baker Quartet featuring Dick Twardzik
Miles Davis: Four & more Wes Montgomery: Movin along Tori Amos: The beekeeper Ani  DiFranco: Knuckle Down Sonny Rollins: Freedom Suite

Posted by Horst on April 07, 2005 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Teaching a Plant the Alphabet

Teaching a plant the alphabet, by John Baldessari

It seems that I have done a lot more pointless things.

The John Baldessari exhibition at Vienna's Museum of Modern Art is open until June 3rd, and if you are in Vienna, I strongly suggest that you go see it.
Also at the MUMOK until June 5th: Rainer Ganahl. Brilliant. If you can't make the exhibition, at least check out his website, which contains many of the exhibits.

Posted by Horst on April 17, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

Significance

The Fall: The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004

The Fall: "28 years, 24 studio albums, 22 live albums, 41 singles, 31 compilations, 10 record labels, around a thousand gigs, 48 members, three Top 40 hits, 14 Top 75 hits" (according to Daryl Easlea's liner notes to 50.000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong). However, this may be their most significant release to date.

In fact, despite a slew of other great re-releases and band reunions I'm pretty sure that this may well be the historically most significant record release this year (and all you Van Der Graaf Generator fans calm down for a moment): finally, the complete collection of The Fall's twenty-four radio sessions for the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1 are available to buy as an extremely handsome 6-CD box set.

This is significant not just because John Peel, the UK's most influential radio DJ who died unexpectedly last year, was perhaps the band's most ardent — and certainly most influential — fan; it's also not just because the sessions span almost the band's entire career; it's mostly because on these tracks that were especially recorded for the radio show, the Fall often play with an immediacy and direct approach that they barely ever managed to achieve on any of their regular album or single releases. The Fall's Peel sessions were always raw, uncooked, sometimes under-rehearsed, but steadfastly unrelenting.

Last year's compilation 50.000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong was the introduction for beginners; this is now the real thing, a chronicle of musical genius and musical failures. It may not always be pretty, but it's as close to the group's essence as you can get: it's essential in more than one sense of the word. It's a document of almost three decades of Fall-ness, the essence of a band that, according to John Peel is "always different, [...] always the same".

Admittedly, the six discs (97 tracks) are a bit of a tour-de-force, but then you don't really have to listen to all of them in one go. But then on the other hand, if after seven hours of listening you finally arrive at "Blindness", the stand-out track from their last session, and it blows your brain out (figuratively, of course), you'll be thankful. Seriously.

Available from Amazon, Action Records, or (perhaps) a dealer near you.

Posted by Horst on April 29, 2005 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Variation

While in Belgium recently, I saw a feature on the BBC in which they talked about a new TV series created by David E. Kelley, the man behind the mid-90s (and very Clinton-era) series Ally McBeal — that's the one that, bizarrely enough, had us under the illusion for a few years that lawyers, especially those in Boston, are actually kind of cool. This was then followed by the slightly more Bush-era lawyer series The Practice, which tried hard (and rather unsuccesfully) to convince us that lawyers could be cool, even though they lived in Boston.

Turns out his new TV series is about —gasp— a bunch of lawyers in —gasp— Boston. Well, he's only done this a couple of times before, so we can expect a totally new concept here, right? Also turns out that it stars —big gasp— James Spader and —even bigger gasp— William Shatner. (And for all you Trekkies there's also, by the way, Star Trek Deep Space 9's René "Odo" Auberjonois in a supporting role, only my guess is that he won't change his physical form here very often).

They also showed a little excerpt from a courtroom scene. The amount of variation was compelling. It looked like something of an instant replay from Ally McBeal, only with James Spader instead of Robert Downey Jr, and William Shatner as something of an older and weightier Peter MacNicol. The case was something about dwarves. I forgot the details, but it was like something I'd seen before.

I'm afraid that unless Spader's character is something like E. Edward Grey and, more importantly, his secretary is played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, there's not much chance I'll watch it if it ever appears on Austrian TV.

Update: I just saw on the IMDb that Kelley has yet another TV series in production. Apparently it's called The Law Firm. I rest my case.

Posted by Horst on May 06, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

2 reviews

Van Der Graaf Generator: PresentIt seems that bands who have been around for a while, or bands that reunite after a while, usually take one of two options: they either constantly re-invent themselves, as Wire have done on a number of occasions, or they firmly hold on to their schtick. Depending on how well they do it, both strategies can lead to success or failure.

To the amazement of quite a few people, Van Der Graaf Generator, originally founded in 1967, have recently reunited after something like 30 years and released a new album, Present, and it turns out that they are one of the bands who hold on to their past. With a vengeance. This is both good and bad: musically, it works remarkably well. What we get on this album is pretty much the same crossover between prog rock and jazz that VDGG played in the 1970s, and I'm not sure if they updated it in some way or if it simply fits into our times a s well as it did 30 years ago, but it's fresh, it's powerful, and it's —most importantly— interesting.

Lyrically, it is, however, something of an anachronism. Song titles like "Nutter Alert" and "Abandon Ship!" are very 1970s Van der Graaf, "Architectural Hair" even harks back to things like Amon Düül's "Dehypnotized Toothpaste". And I won't say too much about the lyrics, which are fine in some places, but deeply stuck in 1970s naiveté and/or bombast in others: "Every Bloody Emperor", a thinly disguised attack on U.S. foreign politics would be more successful if it were somewhat more subtle. Thankfully, this weakness is limited to CD1 of the 2-CD package, as CD2 contains a wealth of instrumental jam sessions and improvisations that will delight everyone who's remotely interested in fusion and prog rock crossover.

Putting this aside for a moment, though, VDGG have delivered what none of us would have believed possible: a totally up-to-date 1970s album. Quite remarkable.

Update: The CD sold in Germany and Austria is copy-protected, whereas the CD sold in the UK is not. I therefore strongly advise you to buy it from a UK dealer via mail order.

The Mountain Goats

Friends of mine have been trying to convince me that John Darnielle, the man behind the one-man project The Mountain Goats is a musical genius. Their advantage, perhaps, is that they have been following all of Darnielle's releases, even the very obscure ones that came out on audio tape only and had to be ordered from Darnielle himself. I only know his three most recent albums, the ones on the 4AD label, and so far I have been mostly underwhelmed.

As for Tallahassee, the first 4AD release I agree with Rob Mitchum, who wrote in his review of the album that "Darnielle's apparent phobia for full-band arrangements prevents the music from keeping pace with the storylines" [source], and We Shall Be Healed left me thinking that Darnielle could be doing better. So it is finally with his latest album The Sunset Tree that I am beginning to glimpse first traces of the man's potential genius.

And while I like much of what I'm hearing on this album, I still find plenty of room for improvement. That said, the first half, up to and including track seven, is near perfect. The songs may seem a bit jumbled at first, the musical direction a bit unclear, but it falls into place so nicely on listening to it a second time that you start wondering what you didn't get at first. The songs, particularly "You or your memory", "Broom people", "This year" and "Up the wolves" are little gems, musically and lyrically.

However, the second half does not quite live up to the promise, and I wonder whether it's a problem with the track sequence or simply a lack of musical ideas; I guess both. "Lion's teeth" and "Dilaudid" are simply two versions of the same song with different lyrics, just as "Tetrapod" is an only moderately inspired reworking of "Palmcorder Yajna" from the last album, and towards the end of the album, a couple of slow songs with little musical variation make things drag on. Yes, the last song, "Pale green things", is so beautiful that you will want to weep, but maybe you haven't even made it this far, and if you have, you'll find that it lacks a certain closure quality that a last song of an album should have, so you'll probably feel all hollow when it's over and there's nothing but silence coming from the speakers.

I guess this is an uneven, but generally good album. My advice is to program your CD player so that it skips tracks 8, 9, 11 and 12, and you'll arrive at something that is well worth your time and money, even though it's not the manifestation of musical genius you may have hoped for.

Posted by Horst on May 10, 2005 | # | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Florian Holzer and the best lamb curry in Vienna

Austria has a small mafia of restaurant reviewers. No matter which newspaper or magazine you read, you'll notice immediately that the restaurant reviews are either useless, or they were written by one of three specific critics, who publish a lot in many different media.

One of them is Florian Holzer, who writes for Falter and Der Standard among other things, and while I appreciate his style and wit, I find myself disagreeing with his restaurant reviews at an increasing rate. Which is especially nasty as he seems to be the spearhead of the Viennese bobo community, who will pick up any of his cooler recommendations and turn them into major hypes.

Like this one restaurant which Mr Holzer liked a lot and which was subsequently booked out for the next few months. I once managed to get a seat there by mere chance, and while the interior architecture was, well, moderately interesting, the food was pretty average. Not worth queuing for. Not even worth booking in advance for.

Or this other restaurant, specializing in Asian food, which he reviewed very favourably, and where I found the red Thai beef curry pretty much inedible, due to a spiceless sauce and cheap, low-quality beef. I was beginning to suspect that Mr Holzer either has a better writing gift than tastebuds, or he was deliberately luring the bobo crowd away from the really good restaurants to the pseudo-stylish bobo enclaves so that they would stay among themselves rather than contaminate his favourite places to eat.

And then last week, Mr Holzer heaped a lot of praise on a newly-opened Pakistani restaurant, where he called the lamb curry not just "perversely delicious" , but also stated that it was "the best in Vienna".

Now I don't really want to discredit this restaurant, because they were very friendly, have incredibly fair prices and really good food, but on trying the food, I found that the review may be a showcase for either journalistic exaggeration or the relativity principle of restaurants: compared to other Indian/Pakistani lunch buffets in Vienna, their food is easily among the very best, if not the best; compared to à la carte food in similar restaurants in Vienna, it's pretty good. Compared to what I or Mr deedee cook, it's almost identical (the aloo gobi tasted exactly like mine, and the beef curry exactly like Mr deedee's, but I like my dal better). Finally, compared to Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi restaurants in London, it's kind of average.

No use luring the bobos there either, because even though Mr Holzer called it "cool and relaxed", it's probably too relaxed and not cool enough to make the bobos feel at home there.

But, you know, I really wonder how serious Mr Holzer was when he wrote this, and if yes, how many lamb curries he has eaten in his lifetime, and where.

Posted by Horst on May 23, 2005 | # | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Revision

Recently, I wrote a favourable review of the new Van Der Graaf Generator album on this weblog and said something to the effect that it was a good idea to buy it. I am now revising that statement:

If you live in the UK, stll go ahead and buy it. If you live in Germany or Austria, don't buy it.

That's because the CD sold in Germany and Austria is copy-protected, whereas the CD sold in the UK is not. And even if you think copy protection per se is unproblematic (which it is not, because the sound quality is inferior and you may not be able to play it at all), the impertinence with which the record industry has chosen Germany and Austria as the countries stupid enough to put up with inferior discs without complaining, that alone is reason to show them that they're gravely mistaken.

Posted by Horst on May 30, 2005 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Channeling (2)

Matthew Herbert: Plat du jour For example, Matthew Herbert's Plat du jour is a record that seemed almost overdue because the idea that fueled it has been part of our daily discourse for a while now, and was only waiting to be turned into a concept album. And by that I mean "concept album" in the sense of "concept art", seeing how meticulously Herbert researched and prepared this record.

"the ultimate modern compromise: brown bread is nutritionally better for you but contains 5 times more pesticide residues (due to the milling process) than white bread."

Herbert's dissatisfaction with industrial food that contains so many additives that some of it is unsuitable for small children and that seems to be more unhealthy than nourishing, led him to make a record based entirely on food.

"my personal favourite is Shrek cereal: a tie-in with a film that says you can still be loved if you are fat, used to sell heavily-processed breakfast cereal that, ahem, makes you fat."

All the instruments played on this record are food or food packaging: be they 30,000 chickens, a bottle of branded water, 60 coffee beans dropped into a can of weedkiller, or two slices of toast and an electric toaster -- you name it, it's there, and it's always closely linked to the topic of the respective song. The cover art is food colourings on chromatography paper, with information about their adverse effects on health.

ricetec patent no. 5663484: this is the patent number in which ricetec, a texas agribusiness firm, attempts to patent basmati rice, a plant neither created by ricetec nor indigenous to america.

As for the music on this record, I think I might like it better if I were more into electronca and house. The musical ideas are good and remarkably varied, but not entirely the kind of thing I usually listen to, so I fear my expertise here is not too sound. At any rate, I like it surprisingly much, especially for the first 45 minutes or so. However, it seems that there isn't enough musical variation in here to fill a full 60 minutes, and so the last few tracks drag on a bit, even though they contain funny ideas, such as the dinner prepared by Nigella Lawson for George Bush and Tony Blair being driven over by a battle tank. Also, the lyrics of the one non-instrumental song are fairly poor and rather flat, but the instrumentals more than make up for this. Overall, you simply have to appreciate this album for the thoroughness with which the artistic concept has been carried out and the amount of work that has been put into it.

"the bpm of the track [fatter, slimmer, faster, slower] is 85 since 85% of british girls have tried dieting by the age of 13"

All the quotations are from the record's liner notes. Matthew Herbert's website is at http://www.platdujour.co.uk/.

Posted by Horst on September 05, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Record review of 2005, part 1: The Disappointments

It's that time of the year again when music magazines everywhere publish their annual music polls, even though the year is not quite over yet; I presume they are doing it so that you can still buy your last-minute stocking fillers in time for Christmas.

Anyway, who am I not to join the trend? Over the next few days I will publish a number of articles about my favourite records of 2005. All of this is necessarily incomplete and subjective, so beware.

I'll start with this year's five biggest disappointments, i.e. the records that I expected to be good, but which turned out to be worse than expected. If you are wondering why this does not include Paul McCartney and other artists resurrected from the dead by the record industry in time for Christmas, well, I didn't expect them to be any good.

Sun Kil Moon: Tiny Cities - After recording my favourite album of 2004, this record of Modest Mouse covers is about the most uneven (and at times, boring) thing Mark Kozelek has ever done. Which is why the Special Award For Biggest Disappointment In 2005 goes to this record.

The Decemberists: Picaresque - Never a band with a particularly strong focus, they lose themselves in, well, picaresque and arabesque ornament and release a perfectly mediocre record that may appeal to fans into circuses and freak shows, but not to me. And I liked the two previous albums so much! Sob.

Broken Social Scene: Broken Social Scene - Another band with great potential and total loss of focus. This is not even particularly bad, it's just that I think they could have done so much better.

Beck: Guero - Okay, maybe it was silly of me to expect anything of this man, whose best times are obviously long gone now. But I hadn't expected anything this boring.

Interpol: Antics - Considering everybody except me seems to like this record, it's probably me who has the problem, but I consider this to be the most annoying record of the year, even more annoying than Franz Ferdinand, and that means something.

In part 2, to be published in a few days, I will be looking at a couple of records that I discovered this year and found really great, but that were unfortunately published before 2005.

Posted by Horst on December 10, 2005 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Record review of 2005, part 2: Not released this year

As it turns out, some of my favourite albums this year weren't released this year at all. I made some late discoveries, which can't make it into the official polls, but which I nevertheless listened to quite extensively.

A Ghost Is BornWilco: A ghost is born. Probably my favourite album this year, but, alas, released last year. For some reason I totally ignored it when it came out, but then I bought the vinyl, which was released this spring, and was instantly hooked. I prefer this a lot to their much-lauded previous album because it has a few more edges, but it delves into a similar musicality and range of ideas. It's good to see that someone still cares to make records like this.

You Are FreeCat Power: You are free. Even though it is a bit overlong, I still admire this album for its barrenness, its bleakness and its fragility. It's a kind of music that I only realized I'd wanted once I'd found it. Hard to describe really; I guess you actually have to listen to it, but it's hard to deny that there is power behind that frail voice. I wouldn't call it "cat" power though.

Bryter LayterNick Drake: Bryter layter. I will probably remember 2005 as the year in which I discovered Nick Drake. This may seem awfully late since he recorded his albums well over 35 years ago, but it was this year that all of a sudden I stopped complaining about the string arrangements and recognized Drake's songs for what they are: brief moments of perfect beauty; and some of these songs are so beautiful that they make you cry. It's true; I swear.

The TainThe Decemberists: The Tain. Much as the Decemberists' new album disappointed me, their previous one became one of my favourites this year. It's a lengthy narrative very much in the tradition of Jethro Tull's Thick as a brick, and it's impossible to deny that there's more than a structural resemblance. Jimi Hendrix's "Manic depression" also makes a brief appearance here, but for all its pastiche, it's a remarkably powerful and remarkably original recording.

Posted by Horst on December 21, 2005 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Record review of 2005, part 3: Reissues of the year

Before we come to my favourite albums of this year, today's installment of my annual record review covers my favourite reissues.

Complete Peel SessionsThe Fall: Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004. Massive in scale, this 6-CD box documents all 24 radio sessions (97 tracks!) that Mark E. Smith and his mighty band The Fall recorded for John Peel's radio show during 26 years. Sadly, Peel's untimely death makes this a definitive, complete collection, and it shows the band through all its ups and downs, triumphs and embarrassments. Maybe not the perfect way to get to know The Fall, but still recommended for fans and non-fans alike.

Peel SessionsTh' Faith Healers: Peel Sessions. Unbelievably, eleven years after they disbanded, an obscure Americal label releases this CD of sixteen tracks that th' Healers recorded for John Peel, and like the set by The Fall, this is much appreciated (even if it is not complete) and a wonderful record. Documenting the period 1992-94 (the 1991 session was released earlier), this features well-known and unknown tracks, but there's not one dud on this. Perfect.

Early YearsChet Baker: Early Years. Buying heavily into Chet Baker's back catalogue this year, I am now convinced that most of his best recordings are really from the last decade of his life. I still wholeheartedly recommend this newly released 4-CD box from Proper Records, because it gives a good, fairly complete overview of Baker's recordings 1952-54, and it comes at a totally decent low price.

Posted by Horst on December 23, 2005 | # | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Record review of 2005, part 4: Special awards

Before my favourite records of this year are finally revealed, I am dishing out some special awards to those who really deserve them.

Mittelpunkt der WeltBest Lyrics Throughout an Entire Album
Element of Crime: Mittelpunkt der Welt. Considering how awful most German song lyrics are, it is barely believable that the award for best lyrics should go to a German record, but Sven Regener, singer and lyricist of Element of Crime and recently also acclaimed novelist, has clearly outdone himself. Even when they wallow in sentiment, his lyrics stay clear of kitsch; throughout the entire album, they're intelligent and touching and always feel genuine. A rare feat.

Still Feel GoneBest Neil Young Song Not Written Or Sung By Neil Young
Uncle Tupelo: "Looking for a way out". Sorry for overlooking this little gem for so long. I know this came out 14 years ago, but I only came across it this year. Uncle Tupelo's Still Feel Gone is a strange album that is full of songs that let the band's influences shine through only too obviously: a couple of songs seem to be stolen right off R.E.M's Out of Time, also released that year. "Looking for a way out" is very obviously a heavy nod to Neil Young, but what a great one. It's almost like the song that Young never managed to write, and you can see in it the foundations for Jeff Tweedy's later songs that came to full fruition on Wilco's A Ghost Is Born.

The Best Party EverCutest Album Cover of the Year
The Boy Least Likely To: The Best Party Ever. Infantilists rejoice: here is a perfectly cute album wrapped inside a perfectly cute album cover, and it's still intelligent enough not to make you feel all dumb. A touch of Belle and Sebastian perhaps, but who the heck cares with a cover like this?

You Could Have ItMost Overhyped And Overrated Album of the Year
Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better. I'm not surprised that this album sold so well, because bad albums usually do. I'm more surprised that even discerning record critics liked this lame excuse for playing the same song thirteen times and then release it as an album.

Kidnapped by NeptuneMost Abrasive Female Singing Since PJ Harvey's Rid of Me
Scout Niblett: Kidnapped By Neptune. This is not an easy album, nor is it an album that you are ever going to really like, but it's a pretty good one. You never quite know whether Scout Niblett is really such a twisted, tormented personality or whether it's just part of her act, and that puts her firmly in the ranks of scary female singers. Although it's obvious why she is often compared to PJ Harvey and Cat Power, she brings in enough original style and madness to make this an original, if totally spooky record.

A Ghost Is BornBest Neu!/Byrds Crossover Song So Far
Wilco: "Spiders (Kidsmoke)". The rhythm pattern is stolen from krautrockers Neu!, the guitar solos could be right out of the Byrds' "Eight Miles High"; both elements and an instrumental chorus (I love those!) are amalgamated into one of the most hypnotic 10-minute songs recorded in the past decade. You either love this or you hate it, but you'll always treat a song like this with respect.

Posted by Horst on December 29, 2005 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Record review of 2005, part 5: Finally, the favourites

I'm not really sure what happened to music this year. A couple of strange developments, both in terms of retro movement, hystericism and stripping down to bare essentials occurred this year, which is why much of this year's music is more reminiscent of late 1960's/early 1970s than anything else. Whereas chart music has mostly turned into forgettable trash, the indie/alternative fringe seems to have grown older with most of its listeners and critics. Not a bad thing at all, but a record like Sufjan Stevens' Illinois or Devendra Banhart's Cripple Crow would have been inconceivable five years ago.

Anyway, let's cut the crap and talk about my favourites:

Man-MadeTeenage Fanclub: Man-Made. Neither particularly surprising nor particularly innovative nor overly ambitious, Teenage Fanclub's new album is simply a logical progression from their previous albums. Recorded in Chicago with John McEntire, they have recorded their best album ever, 12 songs without a single dud, just beautiful music from start to finish. Along with Wilco's A Ghost Is Born, this is the record that had the most rotation on my stereo and iPod this year.

IllinoisSufjan Stevens: Illinois. Certainly the most ambitious album of the year, and probably the one that with the most cult potential. With its compelling, at times eccentric storytelling, Illinois expands like a cinemascope movie in front of your mind's eye. It may be a bit too long and occasionally a bit overindulgent, but it's simply impossible not to acknowledge the effort.

EmohLou Barlow: Emoh. After an extensive discography with Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion, Lou Barlow's first solo effort turned out to be a fairly pleasant surprise. While all the trademark elements of his previous works are still there, this largely acoustic set is more consistent than any of his previous albums and based on stronger melodies and lyrics than ever before.

In the ReinsCalexico - Iron & Wine: In the Reins. Considering that I'm usually not the kind of person who is attracted to Country Music, this collaboration by Calexico and Iron & Wine took me completely by surprise. Again, this is beautiful music that immediately grabs your attention, and the sentimental moments are either few, or they simply feel so right that you can't complain about them at all.

Apologies to the Queen MaryWolf Parade: Apologies to the Queen Mary. At first I thought they were too hysterical, then I thought they sounded too much like the Arcade Fire, but then I started to like both the hysterical, tormented singing and found that they were actually better than the Arcade Fire because they seem to have a wider musical range and less inhibitions.

Honorable mentions:

Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production of Eggs
Sleater-Kinney: The Woods
Wilco: Kicking Television - Live in Chicago
The Fall: Fall Heads Roll
Archer Prewitt: Wilderness

For more great albums, see the special awards posted earlier.

Posted by Horst on December 31, 2005 | # | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Chet Baker for beginners

I've been wanting to write about this for a while now, but someone else beat me to it. Duh. In a recent posting on his weblog, Mr deedee revealed my obsession with the music of Chet Baker*, especially the post-1977 recordings, which are ignored by most (probably because they lack the commercial backing of a big record company), but which I consider to be his best.

One of the problems with Baker's recordings is that there are no good compilation records that serve a a good introduction; this is mostly due to the fact that Baker recorded for a myriad of record labels, some fairly obscure, and assembling a compilation requires dealing with more copyright owners than a human brain can deal with.

EMI has been issuing a vast number of compilations through its Capitol, Pacific Jazz and World Pacific labels (like this and this), but these only chronicle the time when Baker was a superstar, 1953 to 1956, and these are just the starting point of his musical development. There is one decent compilation of the Riverside years 1958-1959, and a few by PolyGram/Universal for some mid-1950s and mid-1960s recordings, but the recordings from 1977 to 1988 have not been compiled at all.

This means that to get acquainted with his music, you have to dive into the regular releases. The problem is that there are a myriad of releases, and the fact that Baker was a heroin addict for over 30 years means that he made a lot of pretty bad records simply to get money for drugs.

At the behest of Mr deedee, I have therefore compiled a list of twenty Chet Baker albums that I consider money well spent. This list necessarily reflects my own personal taste and may include albums that you don't like. My suggestion is that you start with an album whose description interests you and then look at albums from the same or a different period, depending on whether you liked it or not.

Essential Chet Baker - click here to go to the list.
To order any of these records from Amazon.de, click here.

*) As of 30 January 2006, the Wikipedia entry contains one error -- can you spot it?

Posted by Horst on January 30, 2006 | # | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Oh my. This is incredible.

Th' Faith Healers. Photo by Mick Mercer.
Th' Faith Healers around 1991/92. Photo by Mick Mercer. Used with kind permission.

It seems there is an almost unbelievable explanation for the sudden spike of visitors to my Faith Healers fan website during the past few days. It also explains why I received an e-mail from Gordon Moakes of Bloc Party, in which he writes about his appreciation of th' Healers.

Th' Faith Healers reunite for a series of concerts in March and April 2006.

Oh my. It seems I will be travelling to Berlin and/or London pretty soon.

Posted by Horst on February 04, 2006 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Music reviews

Just a brief note that I have migrated my music page to Movable Type, meaning that the record reviews are now also available as an RSS feed.

Posted by Horst on February 16, 2006 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Why oh why

So this thing begins with some tape background noise. Then there's a disaffected drummer churning out a Yanni-type pseudo-bossa nova beat, and immediately some kind of bleeping organ sets in, like those small Casios they had in the early 1980s, only it can't be because this was recorded about ten years earlier.

And then, a few beats later, a trumpet player appears in the right speaker, while the drummer and the Casio continue on the left, and it's obvious that this man can't play. At all. The song is only 2:38 minutes long, but he is struggling to get a straight tone out of his instrument every time he blows into it.

And the next song offers no particular relief. The Casio bleeps along again, and the trumpet player still hasn't learned how to play. At least on the third song, the trumpet is at some point drowned by a heavy-handed Hammond organ that was mixed on top of it, presumably because some sound engineer decided that no listener should have to endure this abysmal playing.

And you are asking yourself: "Why, oh why did they record this? And how could this ever end up in record stores? And what on earth were they thinking?"

It turns out that the bad Chet Baker record that I mentioned last week is really pretty bad. In fact, it completely redefines how the term "bad" can be applied to music recordings.

The story goes that the comedian Steve Allen was a big fan of Baker and let him appear on his TV show several times in the late 1960s when Baker was in pretty poor shape because he had lost his teeth and couldn't play the trumpet properly any longer as a consequence of this.

At some point Baker asked Allen for $5000, and Allen said he would give him the money, but he wanted Baker to make a record for it. And so they recorded Albert's House, a record of tunes composed by Allen, which Baker fans have since been referring to as "Albert's House of Pain".

What's so weird about this record is the acute sense of unintentional (or perhaps intentional?) irony about it. The liner notes call this "a welcome collection of warm new melodies" and say that there "is a quality in Baker's tone that is unmistakeable". Well, yes. The song "A Man Who Used to Be" is referred to as "a haunting waltz ... which may one day become a standard". Which is even true if you take "haunting" very, very literally. There is a reason why this hasn't become a standard.

Picking A Man Who Used to Be as the title for the reissue is ironic again considering Baker's biography up to that point, and issuing this rather hard-to-stomach record in the "Tasty Jazz" series seems pretty daring. Especially considering that it comes in a pseudo-luxury slipcase and is apparently a "24-bit high definition remaster". Considering the piss-poor sound quality of the original I'm not sure if it wouldn't have been preferable to do a low-definition remaster instead.

I don't think I have even one other record that is quite as bad as this one. There are records that are bad simply because they are totally average, or totally boring. This one, however, is an unique blend of incompetence and irony that alternatingly makes you wince in pain and laugh in sheer disbelief.

I'm not going to listen to it very often, but somehow it was worth spending €6.99 just to see how bad a record can actually be.

Posted by Horst on February 22, 2006 | # | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Entertainment

Huchting

True fans will easily recognize which concert I'm going to tonight just by looking at this picture.

Update: Back from the concert. Good stuff. The support group was a bit lame, as their name already suggested, but the main act lived up to the expectations, even though their second guitarist was ill and therefore absent. Romantik!

Posted by Horst on March 07, 2006 | # | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

I have been Healed

setlist

It involved a lot of noise, and I was slightly deaf afterwards, but it was worth travelling all the way to Berlin just to see them live. What a night.

Posted by Horst on March 12, 2006 | # | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

We interrupt this hiatus for a few pictures...

th faith healers

Click the pictures above to see more photographs from th' Faith Healers concert on 20 April at 93 Feet East, London.

Posted by Horst on April 25, 2006 | # | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Re-evaluation

I'm beginning to re-evaluate the image that I had of Miles Davs as an innovator in jazz music. The more stuff I hear that other musicians recorded at around the same time, I'm beginning to think that Miles may have reacted to what was going on around him rather than having been a driving force in the reshaping of jazz music during the 1960s and 70s, and that his relative importance may have more to do with the fact that he had the backing of a strong record label than with the music that he recorded; in other words, that he is simply better known than some of the more innovative musicians of the time.

Point 1: Clifford Brown. If you take what Miles recorded between 1953 and 56 and compare it to Clifford Brown's output, Miles looks remarkably poor. It's obvious that Clifford Brown was better, both in terms of composition/conception and execution. Unfortunately, Brown died in a car accident in 1956, so it's impossible to say just how he would have developed. On the other hand, in the same year, Miles made the groundbreaking recordings with his first Great Quintet, even though it can be (and probably should be) argued that the greatness of these recordings, just as was very obviously the case with his second Great Quintet in the mid-1960s, was really more the result of a group effort rather than of his own making.

Point 2: Grachan Moncur III. Who but the truly initiated have ever even heard of Grachan Moncur III? Yet on his 1964 album Evolution, Moncur has already developed a musical vocabulary that is very obviously taken up or at least referred to repeatedly by Miles on a couple of albums stretching from Nefertiti (1968) to Get Up With It (1975), and the fact that you find traces of Moncur's brilliant "Evolution" over ten years later in Davis's equally majestic "He Loved Him Madly" says a lot about the sheer power of Moncur's compositional prowess.

I could add more points; the one about John Coltrane eclipsing his former band leader being the most obvious one, but I think the point that Davis was perhaps more successful but not necessarily not more innovative than other musicians has been made.

That is not to say that Miles wasn't an innovator. He was, but the closer you look at what was going on around him, the more you begin to feel that this was more by chance than on purpose. Different musicians reacted differently to the Great Crisis of Jazz in the late 1960s. Chet Baker and Bud Shank, and even Wes Montgomery went commercial, and very shamelessly so. Grant Green went hopelessly astray until he found a footing in Soul again. Miles too tried to adapt to what was "hip" at the time, but apparently he needed the money less urgently, or he found different things to be "hip", but the chaos on some of his early 1970s albums may be loss of orientation after all, especially as over and over again you find single tracks that prove that from time to time he did indeed find musical spaces that he could identify with. But I now feel very strongly that is was more hit-and-miss than I originally thought.

Posted by Horst on May 30, 2006 | # | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Deaf

In the liner notes to the recent CD reissue of Die Donnergötter, Rhys Chatham writes that the excessive noise created during his performances of "Drastic Classicism" (also included on the CD) is very likely responsible for the fact that he lost his hearing, as well as for significant hearing damage to half the New York art world.

The way he writes it makes it sound as if this is an accomplishment that he is somewhat proud of, and he encourages the reader of the CD booklet to "play this piece LOUD!" He may say so because apparently you can only hear some of the overtones in this piece at an extremely high volume level; or maybe Chatham believes that artists really need to have an impact on their audience's lives, even if it is by making them deaf.

Recent Chatham reissues on the Table of the Elements label:
Die Donnergötter (TOE-CD-801) | An Angel Moves Too Fast to See (for 100 Electric Guitars) (TOE-CD-802) | Two Gongs (TOE-CD-73) | A Crimson Grail (for 400 Electric Guitars) (TOE-CD-106).

Posted by Horst on December 14, 2006 | # | Comments (0)

Songs of the year 2006

Favourite songs this year. Not a top ten, just a top nine, sorry.

9. Tortoise & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy: Daniel - This year's second-best cover version comes from Will Oldham and Tortoise, who give Elton John's "Daniel" a particularly successful treatment, removing all the easy listening pop feel and filling it up with a profound sadness that is enhanced by a rhythm track of repetitive sound loops that further enhance the feeling of loss - "I can see Daniel waving goodbye, God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes".
On: The Brave and the Bold

8. Jonathan Kane: I Looked at the Sun - This year's most interesting instrumental track is Jonathan Kane's 13-minute improvisation over a simple, steady blues beat that very cleverly variates several guitar riffs into overlapping loops. The result is both hypnotic and eminently listenable.
On: I Looked at the Sun

7. The Mountain Goats: Woke Up New - John Darnielle sings about what happens "on the morning when I woke up without you for the first time", and it rings so true that it's painful even if you haven't lived through it recently.
On: Get Lonely

6. Victory at Sea: To You and Me - I guess what I like so particularly about this band is the clever way in which the piano player fills in for the missing bass, and the sheer competence of their drummer, and of course the tortured vocals -- when Mona Elliott sings "we can still be friends", you're fully aware that it won't work out. Greatness.
On: All Your Things Are Gone

5. Iron & Wine: The Trapeze Swinger - Want to know if you are a good person? Simple: if you don't weep at some point during the seven minutes of this song, you don't qualify. Sam Beam gives a new meaning to the word "sentimental", but even though nothing much happens during this song (and there is a "clean" version omitting one occurrence of the "f" word), this is almost seven minutes of perfect beauty.
On: Live Session

4. Yo La Tengo: Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind" - An 11-minute extended guitar jam with some mostly undecipherable lyrics; certainly the most cathartic song this year, especially if listened to loud. Not that it would work any other way.
On: I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

3. Califone: The Orchids - It's one of those songs you feel forced to play at the end of the day "when all the numbers swim together, and all the shadows settle, when doors forced open shut again". Originally by Psychic TV, Califone have recorded this year's most beautiful cover version.
On: Roots & Crowns

2. The Decemberists: The Crane Wife 3 - Colin Meloy's slightly abrasive voice sits on top of one of the most cleverly constructed songs in a long time. That bass guitar entering after the first few bars must be the most exciting thing that happened in rock music since the 1970s. "I will hang my head low"? Not at all.
On: The Crane Wife

1. Beth Orton: Shopping Trolley - A brief, simple song sung over a catchy riff and a fast-paced, almost thundering drum beat; this song has an immediate pop appeal and still remains interesting even after you've listened to it a hundred times, as I certainly have this year. "I think I'm gonna cry but I'm gonna laugh about it all in time." -- yep, exactly, that's what 2006 was like in a nutshell.
On: Comfort of Strangers

Posted by Horst on December 29, 2006 | # | Comments (2)

Neil Young 22-2-08

Neil Young has been around the music world for over 40 years, and he is perhaps the only one of the old dinosaurs who is quite unable to make a fool of himself on stage. I hadn't even heard that he would perform in Vienna until I read in a newspaper that the concert was completely sold out about three weeks ago. I was somewhat disappointed, but when I heard about the excessive ticket prices, I wasn't all that disappointed any longer.

However, when I got the surprise offer to get a free ticket about an hour before the concert started, I didn't say no.

I arrived just in time, but missed most of the opening set, apparently a folk/country inspired performance by Young's wife Pegi. It was pleasant enough, but really the kind of music that you want to listen to in a much, much smaller venue with a considerably smaller audience. The songs had a potential for intimacy, but all of it just evaporated in the cold, bare hall of the Austria Center.

Still, when Neil Young came on stage and started his acoustic set, everything seemed to change. Suddenly it was an unbelievably intimate setting. The main problem here was just that the stage was so far away and I couldn't really see him; the music itself was close and immediate. The opening tracks "From Hank to Hendrix" and "Ambulance Blues" hit the nerve spot-on, the sound was clear and crisp. For some reason, the songs performed on piano didn't work quite as well as those on the acoustic guitar, and the need for a cheesy synth on "A Man Needs a Maid" escapes me. The highlight from this set for me was a particularly touching version of "Mellow My Mind" performed on banjo. The rest of the audience seemed to prefer "Heart of Gold" though. All through the set, Young seemed to be totally absorbed in the music, so much that his body language totally reflected the emotionality of the songs. One perfect hour.

After a 30-minute break, Young returned for the electric set, which was, at least where I was sitting, considerably less enjoyable. The walls of the room seemed to reflect and excessively amplify certain frequencies of the electric guitars, so that from where I was sitting, much of the music was little more than a distorted wail of sound, which even managed to almost completely drown out the drums. Only the snare was audible, the cymbals weren't, and the bass drum only barely, so as much as I wanted to enjoy the set, I really couldn't.

Young seemed in a good mood though and even opened up a bit during the performance, though his body movements on stage during the rock numbers seemed less convincing than during the torn, tortured performance of the first set. Song-wise, while the first set was excellent throughout, the difference between the good stuff and the bad stuff became painfully obvious during the second set, especially when the newer songs incorporated too many recognizable elements from older songs. The three opening songs, "Mr Soul", "Dirty Old Man" and "Spirit Road", came across as rather weak songs, and there was really nothing Young could do to make them interesting. As a result, the audience did not really respond to a good rendering of "Down by the River" either. On the other hand, when the anthemic riff of "Hey hey my my" came on, many jumped from their seats and rushed towards the stage, frenetically jumping up and down, and apparently causing the management concern that the floor might collapse (there was an announcement to that effect). Things cooled down again after that, and many returned to their seats during "Oh Lonesome Me" and "Winterlong". The set was closed with an intense 20-minute treatment of "No Hidden Path", a rare case of an impressive performance saving a not-so-great song.

I left when they started the first encore "Cinnamon Girl" because it was already past midnight and I wanted to catch the last subway train home; it seemed like I had heard the essence of it after a 90-minute electric set. I expect that the audience reaction to "Rockin' in the Free World" must have been the same as to "Hey hey my my" because it's the kind of song the audience seemed to react well to.

Conclusion: Young is in great shape, but unfortunately his songwriting hasn't quite kept up with his performance skills -- the newer songs simply aren't all that great. An added problem is that of the older songs, the largest part of his audience seems to prefer the brainless stompers to the true gems. I felt like an outcast in there, thinking that the best songs were the quietest ones: "Mellow My Mind" and "Ambulance Blues", and all the rest of the acoustic set touched me much more than the electric set, where again the quietest song "Oh Lonesome Me" felt like the most successful performance. Of course the abysmal acoustics may have been to blame because the quieter songs sounded good, whereas the louder ones were just one big blur.

Definitely worth it though, even if I would have had to pay for the ticket.

Posted by Horst on February 24, 2008 | # | Comments (4)

Join the Gospel Express

As we all know from the movie Walk the Line, prior to his breakthrough Johnny Cash was trying to start a career as a singer with gospel and religious country music before Sam Phillips managed to convince him otherwise, stating that there was no money in gospel.

This may not be entirely true. It may also have been connected to Sam Phllips' musical taste, because there was definitely a market for country/gospel music at the time (though possibly a smaller one than what Phillips was aiming for).

Louvin BrothersOne of the most striking examples of this genre are for example the Louvin Brothers, who in 1960 released an album entitled Satan Is Real. The striking cover, which was, by the way, completely free of irony, soon became a cult object among even the most atheistic of record collectors. To recreate their vision of hell, the brothers had a 7-foot statue of Satan built from plywood and then set fire to numerous kerosene-drenched car tyres that had been hidden under rocks, before assuming their positions in the midst of it. The story goes that Satan wasn't as stable as he was supposed to be, and that the kerosene was a bit more explosive than expected, so at some point during the photo shoot Satan fell over and caught fire, also igniting one of the brothers in the process. Luckily, they managed to escape without any serious injuries.

Musically, the album is surprisingly good, although if you don't subscribe to the brothers' world view, you may want to choose not to listen to the rather bluntly religious lyrics and to ignore the sermon on the title track. However, the country arrangements are tasteful, and the harmony singing is first-rate, and it's not all that dissimilar from pre-breakthrough Johnny Cash. Also, the record does seem to have its fans, as it didn't just catch dust in bargain bins, but was reissued several times and is currently available on CD.

MarcyA somewhat different story is Little Marcy, probably one of the strangest expressions of American religious music of the 1960s. The moniker refers to ventriloquist Marcy Tigner, who sang "duets" with her puppet Little Marcy.

The highlights from her repertoire of exceedingly bizarre performances, which were obviously aimed at the religious education (or can we say indoctrination?) of children, include songs such as "Join the Gospel Express", "The Lord Is Counting On You", and a version of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" that would make Nina Simone weep. As you listen to this music, you can't stop asking yourself just what is more absurd, the concept itself, Marcy's crazy doll-like falsetto, or the almost psychedelic guitar-heavy arrangements. Still, this kind of music seems to have either had sponsors or customers, for Marcy's discography is impressive. What happened to the children who were exposed to these records is unknown.

Let's just be thankful that Sam Phillips ushered Johnny Cash into a different musical direction.

Hinweis: eine deutschsprachige Fassung dieses Artikels gibt es beim basicblög.

Posted by Horst on April 24, 2008 | # | Comments (7)

If you're ever in Drosendorf...

Yesterday, I wanted to post a brief entry on the jazz saxophonist Herwig Gradischnig on this blog, recommending his latest CD and advertising the free concert he was giving at the Arkadenhof in Vienna's City Hall yesterday evening. Other things interfered with the blog posting, so it didn't happen, and you missed a very fine concert indeed.

I personally think that saxophone trios (sax, bass, drums) are extremely interesting combos, but also very demanding ones. There is no other instrument that any of the musicians could hide behind, especially no piano that could make things "rounder", so they're pretty much exposed and can't really afford to make any mistakes. However, if the musicians are good, they're usually excellent -- see Lee Konitz's Motion, Sonny Rollins' Night at the Village Vanguard or John Coltrane's "Chasin' the Trane" from Live at the Village Vanguard, all of which are extremely impressive recordings.

Herwig Gradischnig's Ghost TrioGradischnig and his "Ghost Trio" (Matthias Pichler, bass, and Klemens Marktl, particularly impressive on drums) were in great form yesterday, even though the audience seemed somewhat indecisive about them, which may have had to do with a location that didn't feel particularly cosy. Gradischnig was a lot more energized than at the last concert I had seen him at, when he seemed a bit pale on the stage and was lacking some of his punch. The whole thing was clarified when he walked to the mic between tracks and said, "If you would do me a favour... if you're ever in Drosendorf in Northern Lower Austria, don't eat the seafood pizza. Just don't. Please.”

I've been wanting to pass on Gradischnig's warning for a while now, and I'm glad I can finally do my blog readers a service this way. If you want to hear what Gradischnig sounds like when he hasn't upset his stomach and don't want to risk not being informed about his next concert by this unreliable blogger, you could buy his new CD (or listen to samples on iTunes). It may not be as immediate as a live concert, but it's still an engaging and energizing recording, taut and flawless, oblique enough not to ever become boring, but not so oblique that it could scare off people who listen to jazz only occasionally. Of all jazz CDs released this year, this is so far my favourite.

Posted by Horst on July 14, 2008 | # | Comments (1)

It's not only rock'n'roll, baby

It's not only rock'n'roll, baby

As usual, my blog posting comes far too late. A few months ago, this could have been an encouragement to go to Brussels and see an interesting exhibition, but typically me, I write about it when it's almost over. Two days left, to be precise.

So I was in Belgium last weekend, mostly to meet friends (like Zoe and Quarsan), see a Sun Kil Moon concert and gain weight by eating lots of fries, mussels, carbonades and stoemp, but particularly bad weather on Sunday persuaded me to see two exhibitions -- apart from the Pavilion of Temporary Happiness (made of 43,000 empty beer crates -- so much about temporary happiness) there was of course the Bozar (Palais des Beaux Arts), which is always good for interesting exhibitions.

It's not only rockn'roll, baby features art exhibits by rock musicians -- Alan Vega, Antony, Bent van Looy (Das Pop), Bianca Casady (Cocorosie), Brian Eno, Chicks on Speed, David Byrne, Devendra Banhart, Fischerspooner, Jonsi Birgisson (Riceboy Sleeps), Kembra Pfahler, Kyle Field, Laurie Anderson, Miss Kittin, Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeah's), Patti Smith, Pete Doherty, The Kills, The Residents and Yoko Ono, an obvious concept if you consider how many musicians started out as art students.

Mixing the old and the young, the established and the upcoming, the settled and the unsettling made for an interesting show of strikingly varied quality -- enter a room and you'll immediately notice what and how much a certain musician has to say and is able to express through visual arts. Some of the exhibits were stunning, others seemed oddly flat and void of substance.

Pieces that impressed me were of course Yoko Ono's massive installation "Ex It" with trees coming out of coffins; Nick Zinner's photographs and Brian Eno's meditative "77 million paintings". David Byrne's tree diagrams were funny in his usual way; the Residents' photographs were good, but known from album cover art; Devendra Banhart's drawings intriguing if a bit schizophrenic; and The Kills' video installation and polaroids surprisingly effective.

Brian Eno: 77 million paintings

Eno's "77 million paintings" is an application of his music to the visual arts by presenting a seemingly static, but really very slowly changing image. You don't really notice that anything is changing, but after a while you realize that you are staring at a completely different image.

And why was I not surprised that Pete Doherty made his drawings using his own blood? They were better than I expected though.

It's not only rock'n'roll, baby, 20 June to 12 September 2008, Bozar, Rue Ravensteinstraat 23, 1000 Brussels, Belgium. Catalogue available from Amazon.de, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

Posted by Horst on September 10, 2008 | # | Comments (6)

Yma Sumac R.I.P.

Yma Sumac - Voice of the XtabayYma Sumac, one of the most unique and original singers of the 1950s passed away last Saturday aged 86. Born Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chavarri del Castillo in Peru in 1922, she was first noticed by a larger public in 1950, when her debut recording Voice of the Xtabay was released. The unsuspecting listener was not only confronted by lush orchestral arrangements conceived by the "king of easy listening" Les Baxter, but also by unprecedented vocal acrobatics. Sumac's voice had a range of four and a half octaves (she herself claimed to have five), and the record was clearly designed to showcase this incredible range in each and every song. Baxter managed to create a pseudo-exoticism that was on the one hand immediately recognizable as American, but that still carried a strange otherworldly flavour, which was further augmented by the claim that Sumac was actually an Inca princess. Together with the liner notes, which explained that "xtabay" was the primal female energy, the album was a stylized product of mythical exotic femininity. Voice of the Xtabay became a huge success; it is the only record that was never deleted from the Capitol catalogue since its first release in 1950.

Yma Sumac - MamboThe success of Voice of the Xtabay led to other records; none of them was quite a match for the debut, but they still kept up the atmosphere of unrestrained exoticism and gave ample room to Sumac's vocal acrobatics. Inca Taqui from 1952, which further built on Sumac's alleged Inca heritage (which in turn led to the rumour that her real name was Amy Camus and that she was in reality a housewife from Brooklyn), was followed in 1954 by Mambo!, a crazy set of -- as the title suggests - eight fiery mambos, arranged by Billy May using brass sharper than a sane ear could bear and sung by Sumac in multiple voices reminiscent of anything between the Muppet Show and the Queen of the Night from Mozart's Magic Flute. It's more mambo that a sane person can stand, but it's an unique experience packaged inside a fantastic record cover.

Yma Sumac - Legend of the JivaroSumac's success seemed to decline somewhat towards the late 1950s. Later recordings, such as Legend of Jivaro, whose liner notes claimed that Sumac and her husband Moises Vivanco had travelled to the Amazonian jungle and studied the music of the Jivaro, a tribe of savage headhunters, are lacking both the tightness and the novelty factor of earlier recordings; in fact the album cover of the Inca princess among the headhunters is slightly more appealing than the music. Still, even though record sales decreased, Sumac toured regularly through the United States and other countries, and her stage presence was legendary, even when her vocal range decreased with age. She retired in the 1980s, claiming to have moved to Peru (which was not true; she lived in Los Angeles), but appeared occasionally on stage, even at age 75 at the 1997 Montreal Jazz Festival.

Yma Sumac, the "nightingale of the Andes", born September 13, 1922, died November 1, 2008.

Posted by Horst on November 03, 2008 | # | Comments (2)

Bosna

The name itself is already the first mystery -- is it "Bosna" or "Bosner"? You can read both variants, but only one is apparently correct (the former). It has nothing to do with "Bosnier" (Bosnians), that much is certain. And as many sausage stands have trouble spelling it correctly, they have even greater problems making them from the correct ingredients. So here's the deal: two thin grill sausages (Bratwürstel), fresh onion, mustard, ketchup (optional) and lots of curry powder (mandatory). All of this ends up in a hot dog bun that has been grilled to a flat, crispy something.

Fact #1: the best Bosna are available in and around Salzburg. The most legendary Bosna place is the "Balkan-Grill Walter" located inside the passageway of the building no. 33 Getreidegasse, and the Bosna there are highly recommended. Still, even the Turkish kebab place at Salzburg railway station (ground level, next to the entrance has decent Bosna, much better than anything served under this name 60 miles to the east.

The capital of Upper Austria, Linz, which is about 60 miles to the east of Salzburg, used to have numerous sausage stands with excellent Bosna, but all of them seem to have closed now, and the Bosna available there at the moment are rather disappointing; they are, however, still better than anything offered under that name another 60 miles to the east.

Fact #2: East of the river Enns nothing served as "Bosna" even remotely deserves that name. If you are, as I am, a person who grew up near Salzburg now living in Vienna and have an occasional craving for Bosna, what can you do, other than be thoroughly frustrated by inedible sausage products masquerading as Bosna? You spend a lot of time testing sausage stands and torturing your gastrointestinal tract. It is a long, tedius, painful quest.

So far I have found three sausage stands whose "Bosna" are kind of acceptable, so here are my recommendations for fellow Bosna-ites:

  • The sausage stand right outside Währinger Straße-Volksoper station, on the the outer Gürtel side.
  • The sausage stand at the intersection of Albertgasse and Josefstädter Strasse, where tram lines 2 and 5 meet. The younger, more talkative sausage seller claims to have worked in Salzburg and makes decent Bosna even though he says that neither the sausages nor the buns that he gets are the authentic ones.
  • The sausage stand near Ottakring station, under the subway bridge right next to the tram stop of lines 2 and 46. If you're asked if you want two thin sausages or one thick sausage, demand the thin ones, by all means.

Every other Bosna I've tried in Vienna so far was anything between forgettable and terrible. The bigger and the brighter the "Bosna" sign, the worse the product. If you have found good Bosna somewhere in Vienna, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Posted by Horst on November 07, 2008 | # | Comments (3)

System requirements

77 million paintingsThe "home version" of Brian Eno's 77 Million Paintings (previously mentioned here) is something of a disappointment. Of course I hadn't really expected it to be something like the huge 12-segment presentation that I had seen at the exhibition in Brussels, but I must admit that I had had some kind of small hope, and getting just one segment at a time takes much of the majesty out of the visual experience.

The realization that I'd need not just a big exhibition space, but also at least 4 PowerMacs and 12 huge flat-screen monitors to reproduce something of the experience is slightly disillusioning.

Even worse is that it's not just any PowerMacs that I'd need, but very specifically G5 PowerMacs. That's because the system requirements for the software are such that the "generative music", which creates an endless soundtrack of something like 77 million different combinations of ambient sounds to go with the 77 million paintings, only works on G5 PowerMacs. PowerMacs with G4 processors and even PowerMacs with Intel processors don't get the "generative" continuous soundtrack, but instead have to play a very ungenerative 33-minute MP3 file over iTunes to get any kind of soundtrack at all.

Considering that the G5 PowerMacs weren't exactly the widest-selling computer hardware and considering that Intel PowerMacs even have better processing power, these system requirements are among the most pointless and most frustrating I've ever seen, especially for a product that was released when Intel PowerMacs have been very widely available for quite some time now.

I'll try and install the Windows version on VMware on my Intel PowerMac. If this works, then the software isn't just an exercise in frustration; in that case it's Software of the Absurd in the best Beckett-ian manner.

Posted by Horst on November 21, 2008 | # | Comments (0)


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