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HJ (London UK)

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Roman Polanski Box Set [DVD]
Roman Polanski Box Set [DVD]
Dvd ~ Donald Pleasence

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Polanski Rehabilitated, 10 April 2007
This review is from: Roman Polanski Box Set [DVD] (DVD)
Because Polanski made it as a popular Hollywood director it might be feared that his films would get the shoddy corporate reissue treatment, but this is a fantastic box-set worthy of any conscientious art-house dvd release. It's a beautifully put together package with booklet & lots of extras, documentaries & interviews etc plus a whole disc of early short films from the Poland days, some of which I hadn't seen & all of which are interesting. I'm sure everyone reading this has seen the 3 main movies in this box, they all stand up as classics, both Knife & Cul de Sac would figure in my all time favourites list and it is good to see them in new pristine prints that really capture that beautiful black & white cinematography.

Definitely worth picking up this box, especially at a nice cheap discount price.

Foley Room
Foley Room
Offered by actionrecords
Price: £10.00

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amon Goes Organic, 10 April 2007
This review is from: Foley Room (Audio CD)
Everyone seems to agree that Tobin is some kind of genius but that his albums are erratic. I know several people who've become disappointed with him over the last few releases. He seems so obsessed with the detail of sound manipulation that he loses sight of the compositional form. Although his best stuff is light years ahead of, say, Four Tet, Aphex or Boards of Canada, he lacks the focus that has made their music accessible. He also seems obsessed with distancing himself from the cinematic jazz chill out genre (which he practically invented) & feels the need to swamp his music with headbanging big beats. He probably sees this as loyalty to his hardcore rave roots & keeping up with the hip hop / computer games kids, but it sometimes comes across as a kind of bombastic heavy metal. Track 2 here (Esthers) is an example - a monstrous headcrunching riff interspersed with spacey cod exotica soundscape - a bit like Led Zep circa Physical Graffiti! (I once read an interview in which Jimmy Page & Jeff Beck declared themselves big Tobin fans). But surely Tobin should be aiming higher? The cover namechecks Astral Weeks - now that should be the standard!

Having said all that, Foley Room does mark another intriguing development. Stand out tracks for me include Killer Vanilla, Kitchen Sink, & the closing 4 track sequence. The live group/environmental sampling sources makes for a more organic feel - check out the Kronos drones on track 1 (Bloodstone) or the harp & twangy guitar combo on track 6 (Horse Fish). Certainly the variety & complexity of both textures & rhythms on Foley Room are pretty stunning and (to disagree with a previous reviewer) are shown up best on those "experimental" tracks like Straight Psyche where Tobin gives his music space to breathe & develop. And the album really "grows" after several listens. To sum up: if you are at all interested in Amon Tobin or contemporary electronica you should definitely get Foley Room - but you may like some tracks a lot more than others.

Tout Va Bien [1972] [DVD]
Tout Va Bien [1972] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Yves Montand
Price: £5.40

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jean-Luc & Jane, 10 April 2007
This review is from: Tout Va Bien [1972] [DVD] (DVD)
Jane Fonda & Yves Montand are a radical intellectual couple visiting a factory occupation who, along with the boss, get taken hostage by the workers. The film then opens out into an investigation of what has & hasn't changed since the revolutionary events of May 68 - basically portraying France 1972 as in a state of low level civil war: workers against bosses, students against police, militants against communist/union establishment, women against men.

I'm becoming a Godard revisionist! I'll always love his 60s movies & despair at many of his later films. But I'm beginning to think that his very best films are those in the middle, that he made in the 70s immediately after his "comeback": Tout Va Bien, Numero Deux, Slow Motion, Passion. These seem to me genuinely radical films in the issues they address and the way they are filmed. Tout Va Bien was the first of this quartet & like the others is a relatively lucid satire with a sharp Brechtian humour. There are many memorable images, like the scene where Montand & Fonda actually work on the conveyer belt in the hideous but all too real sausage factory. And Godard freaks will enjoy the characteristic long slow tracking shot set-piece filming a revolution in a supermarket!

It's difficult to recommend Tout Va Bien because you must have some interest in this type of film - it is certainly not cool, chic or new wave - but although a self consciously historical film about 1972, it stands up surprisingly well & is still relevant in many ways. This is a very basic DVD (no extras) but it is good that Tout Va Bien, like Slow Motion, is now available on disc because these films may work best as repeated home viewings rather than as a night out at the cinema (fun popcorn movie it aint!).

Sátántangó [1994] [DVD]
Sátántangó [1994] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter Berling
Price: £12.99

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mud, Rain & Alcohol, 10 April 2007
This review is from: Sátántangó [1994] [DVD] (DVD)
A collective farm in disarray. A messianic agitator. And lots of mud & rain. Yes, it's the infamous 7 hour movie, all in Bela Tarr's trademark style: arty black & white cinematography, long slow takes, tracking shots & zooms. The style recalls Tarkovsky but the sensibility is completely different - relentlessly downbeat, squalid & cynical, a bit like Aki Kaurismaki without the jokes. So you get a doctor drinking himself to death, a cat being tortured & a suicidal little girl taking rat poison - all depicted in slow real time takes. It's uncomfortable viewing not because it's boring but because it gets almost too intense.

This is definitely film making of the highest order with stunning images & a very clever interlocking narrative structure, but I found Satantango harder going than his earlier film Damnation. That film had a more focused setting, plot & characterisation whereas Satantango is rather weighed down with enigmatic surrealism & allegorical overtones. I hesitate to recommend Satantango - various criticisms could be levelled at the film & it is certainly not for the uninitiated, but if you know Bela Tarr's work (particularly if you enjoyed Werckmeister Harmonies) or have an interest in good old European art house cinema then you should get this DVD - it's a unique film for sure.

(Nice to see some of the other Amazon reviews here are complaining that the film is too short!)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 8, 2010 8:31 PM GMT

Cold Mountain
Cold Mountain
Price: £16.05

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pure Garrick, 21 Mar. 2007
This review is from: Cold Mountain (Audio CD)
As part of the excellent Vocalian British modern jazz series, Cold Mountain has appropriately been reissued alongside the brilliant Home Stretch Blues - both albums were recorded back to back in April 1972. Cold Mountain will be welcome to many because it is that surprisingly rare thing - a Garrick Trio album: Garrick-piano, Dave Green-bass, Trevor Tompkins-drums. As with most piano trios following in the Bill Evans tradition, the music could be accused of being too polite or even twee in places, but that would be to misunderstand that this is a kind of "chamber music" genre and that the appeal of Garrick's music lies in the tension between modest restraint & emotional openness. The compositions are all originals from across Garrick's career - late 50s to early 70s - it's a chance to hear some of his tunes, familiar from various band versions, with the clarity of a mature "pure" trio setting. Only on the title track does Garrick stretch out into a 13 minute extended eastern mode improvisation. Listening to this album today it's a mystery why someone like Keith Jarrett was so popular in the 70s compared to Garrick - I'd now say that Garrick made the superior music!

Sitar Beat - Indian Style Heavy Funk
Sitar Beat - Indian Style Heavy Funk

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 70s sitar madness, 21 Mar. 2007
This reissue is not so much a Bollywood album as a "sitarsploitation" album featuring the likes of Klaus Doldinger & Serge Gainsbourg (brilliant!) along with the Bollywood tracks - some of which sound edited & reconstructed in order to emphasise the breaks & beats (this album was originally aimed at the club / dj / sampling cliques of the mid-90s). Lots of instrumentals (though some obligatory Asha vocals here & there), thunderous percussion, psychedelic effects & early 70s funk elements - the whole thing sizzles at an hysterical pitch somewhere between Morricone & Shaft. If you are not necessarily crazy about Bollywood but like your sitar heavy funky & psychedelic then this is the album for you.

John Peel's Dandelion: The Complete Dandelion Records Singles Collection 1969-1972
John Peel's Dandelion: The Complete Dandelion Records Singles Collection 1969-1972
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £10.90

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skeletons in the Peel closet, 21 Mar. 2007
A beautifully packaged box set with informative booklet. Given that Dandelion was essentially an albums label it might have been better to cherry pick from the whole catalogue thus highlighting the good stuff & quietly ignoring the bad. On the other hand a complete singles collection like this is an interesting time capsule - an "authentic" snapshot of the early 70s UK alternative scene. As with Peel's radio show, the purpose of the label was to give a chance to "deserving" acts of the time rather than promoting the best or already successful. The collection does, for better & for worse, reflect Peel's taste to an extent. Lots of rather amateurish introspective Brit-rock - the 70s equivalent to the limp & dull indie music that plagued Peel's later era. And there are quirky novelty tunes, mostly from Bedford & Coxhill, plus a Joe Cocker parody by Bill Oddie (!). Peel's lost causes get several tracks each, such as the excellent trad-rock Tractor, the not so excellent Principal Edwards (though they might appeal to current prog-folk types), the raucous Stackwaddy stick out like a sore thumb - an endearingly inept hard rock outfit who, according to the notes, wanted to be Black Sabbath - much to Peel's horror & he insisted they "dirty up" their sound in an attempt at punk long before punk. And there are many tracks from the three Dandelion mainstays: Kevin Coyne appears in several incarnations - a much loved figure but a bit uneven here; Bridget St John's singles are also erratic (though some are very good) - she is obviously popular again at the moment given the recent vogue for introspective Brit folkies of the Drake, Martyn, Vashti ilk. And, lastly, Medicine Head, who stand up surprisingly well, sounding stark & minimal & a bit Plastic Ono Band. Overall then an interesting box set, just as long as you don't expect the likes of better-known early 70s Peel favourites such as Bowie, Beefheart or Can.

On the Radio
On the Radio
Price: £12.86

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wyatt's Prog Mole, 21 Mar. 2007
This review is from: On the Radio (Audio CD)
If you have a soft spot for Matching Mole - Robert Wyatt's short lived post-Soft Machine band, you'll enjoy this 77 minute round up of BBC recordings from 1972 - 3 Peel sessions & a Radio One in Concert. However I hesitate to recommend it for several reasons. If you are a fan of Wyatt's later career you may be disappointed - there are no songs, hardly any vocals & apart from a nice instrumental arrangement of Kevin Ayers' No Alf Measures there are no "tunes" as such. The music is basically riffs & noodling jamming led by Phil Miller's speedy guitar & Dave Macrae's electric piano. Musically it's not as accomplished as Soft Machine - it's not really jazz rock but more like prog with the usual prog mix of intricacy & bluster. And, surprisingly for 70s BBC sessions, there are sound quality issues. The notes are a bit confusing but it seems two of the Peel sessions are sourced from "recorded from air" tapes by a fan - not BBC masters (presumably lost) & you certainly notice the inferior sound on those tracks. Nevertheless, despite these caveats, this is an authorized, worthy & nicely packaged release & will be a useful addition to the 2 studio albums for long-time Mole fans or Canterbury aficionados.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 31, 2010 1:37 PM BST

Female Convict Scorpion - Jailhouse 41 [1972] [DVD]
Female Convict Scorpion - Jailhouse 41 [1972] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Meiko Kaji

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Meiko Kaji Madness, 21 Mar. 2007
Scorpion & her gang of female prisoners escape from the jailhouse & hide out on a giant garbage tip & prey on passing tourists.

The first 3 films in the "Scorpion" series are probably the quintessential Japanese exploitation cult movies of the late 60s / early 70s. This second film in the series is even more extreme than the first. In its stylised violence the film is influenced by Spaghetti Westerns (right down to the Morriconesque soundtrack) but the whole thing is pitched at an hysterical level of melodrama with pathological anti-authoritarianism & lots of graphic psycho-sexual horror, torture, sado-masochism - all of which is probably unique to Japanese culture in early 70s meltdown. Scorpion is not for the faint hearted or easily offended.

Despite the sleazy exploitation genre however, this is fantastic cinema & this film has even more impressive surreal pop art sequences than its predecessor (watch out for the ghostly old woman sequence & the use of traditional Japanese theatrical elements). Many scenes are visually stunning, with amazing expressionist cinematography. Meiko Kaji gives another remarkable performance, given that she acts almost entirely with her eyes, without dialogue or facial expression. When, towards the end of the film, she does finally speak five words (& laughs) the effect is positively cathartic. Scorpion: Jailhouse #41 is not for everyone but if you like cinema that makes your jaw drop then check this out.

A basic dvd edition with less than brilliant print. Leaflet with brief background essay enclosed.

Still Valentine's Day 1969
Still Valentine's Day 1969
Price: £27.10

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spiritualised Sandy, 10 Mar. 2007
Sandy Bull was, along with John Fahey & Robbie Basho, the leading American "folk" guitarist of the 1960s, who mixed up all kinds of eclectic musical styles & genres. Unfortunately, rather like Davy Graham in the UK, Sandy lost his way due to drug problems & his records were erratic, sporadic & currently hard to find. So it's great to get this previously unreleased concert (actually 2 shows) from 1969, recorded in the intimate Matrix club in Frisco. The Water label have done their usual conscientious job with this release - interestingly designed packaging & booklet with sleevenotes, pictures etc. The sound quality is, given the circumstances, ok. It has to be said that Sandy sounds pretty "loose" and the whole thing has a very tripped out feel. It starts with a hypnotic Bach Bouree & features a couple of nice oud improvisations. But the real standouts are two extended versions of his eastern jazzy improv piece Blend for electric guitar. He meanders, goes down various sidetracks but eventually reaches something sublime. This is an authentic live album. You hear the creative process unfold in real time - a unique artist creating something amazing out of nothing.

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