Friday, July 31, 2009


There's really nothing like a sweet bit of come-uppance, and after decades of humourless digs at all and sundry in the world of music via his artistically null cartoon, Edwin Pouncey (aka Savage Pencil) feels the heat and sweats cold. All because some Wire reader without a life felt the need to write in and complain about Pouncey's inclusion of an utterly obscure heavy metal band in a playlist; and thus it seems panic has broken out at the magazine's offices, and said Pouncey has had to grovel for mercy by means of a public written apologia.

Of course, what he should be apologising about is his singularly embarrassing taste in music, not to mention his crimes against humour. As far as I'm concerned, black metal is what boys listen to after they've finished all their Harry Potter books; I imagine Iron Maiden would also still be cool, but not a band to be namedropped in The Wire. Graveforests And Their Shadows indeed. Seriously, Stars In Their Eyes is more experimental than this crap.

But that aside, here is Pencil's awkward obfuscating squirm from the latest issue, with annotations.

"My inclusion of Walknut's album in my Black Metal 15 was based purely on the group's music rather than any ugly fascist message..."
hang on, 'ugly fascist message' as opposed to 'nice fascist message'?

"...that they may have secretly buried in the mix."
what, like backwards messages?

"Although ignorance is no excuse,"

"...I was blissfully unaware that Graveforests And Their Shadows contained material that supported extreme racist viewpoints." ignorance is indeed an excuse

"Instead, I heard what sounded like an excellent example of ABM (Atmospheric Black Metal) that I felt was worthy of mention for its musical and experimental qualities."
I'm sure The Wire complainant will be most grateful for having the acronym ABM explained to him - cf. 'paediatrician' (a doctor who looks after the health of children)

"Should its inclusion in my chart have caused any distress to readers of The Wire,"

"...or embarrassment to the magazine's staff, I sincerely apologize and promise to be more alert and responsible in the future. I also agree that racists should not be allowed to have a platform in the pages of The Wire. That said, however, I do feel that Black Metal is producing some of the most interesting and diverse music today, and for that reason alone I shall continue to support it. Savage Pencil"
so, by definition of the 'that said/however' contrast, does it mean Mr. Pencil does feel that it/they should be allowed to have a platform in the pages of The Wire, or that he'll just continue to support it/them for demonstrating excellent musical/experimental qualities?

This was the guy who got so hot and bothered over an erect penis on an album cover? Oh dear.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Russia does not believe in tears: some of the latest, greatest news stories from Pravda.

Russia Loses Its Poker Face Entirely
Before the sad break-up of the Soviet Union, chess used to be a national sport, if not a valued art form. It was said that any Muscovite cab driver was of international grandmaster standard. So it's a bleak day for the Russian nation when, that most American of games, good ol' Texas hold'em poker has become so popular that steps have to be taken to ban it, and furthermore on the grounds that it's not a 'sport'. It reminds of that recent Haiti documentary I saw (whose name escapes me), whilst hoping to discover some new things about vaudou, learnt that all the kids wear baseball caps and Nike trainers, and are into Tupac, Shaq O'Neal, and drive-bys. So depressing.

Michael Jackson’s Bubbles Probably Became World’s Richest Chimp
If this is true, I don't care what you say about Jacko. I've absolutely no idea on what grounds he was ever hailed as a musical genius - but then the same could be said about Elvis 'The King Of Rock 'N' Roll' Presley (assuming he is in fact dead), Brian Jones, and Jim fucking Morrison. Aside from prurient curiosity, neither do I care what he got up to (or not) in his bedroom at Neverland, nor whether his children are really his, nor whether he actually had sex with a woman. However, if he's left $2,000,000 to Bubbles the Chimp, then he's a damn saint in my book.

Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport Ranked World's Second Worst
Thus one immediately wonders which could be the worst; and there are plenty of candidates that come to mind without ever having suffered the alleged indignities of Sheremetyevo. The joyless purgatory that is Heathrow quickly springs to mind for its universally rude unpleasantly inept officious staff, its unending corridors to nowhere in particular, its retail overkill, and the outdoor queueing; not to forget inevitable delays and guaranteed loss of baggage. Then there'd be Stansted or Luton (alternative so-called 'London' airports), both vortices to oblivion; the vertiginous nightmare landing strip at Hong Kong's Kai Tak (though now no more); O'Hare (Chicago's own version of the Gaza checkpoints on a bad day); and surely many other worthy nominees. Is Moscow's really that bad??


Saturday, July 25, 2009



Watchmen (***)
Watchmen might be a superhero movie like all the rest, but at least it's genuinely dark in tone, and at last there's a bit of sexuality; it also benefits greatly from having a less familiar cast (i.e. none of the usual suspects like your Christian Bales, Michael Caines, Morgan Freemans, Robert Downey Jrs., Gwyneth Paltrows et al) - the overall aesthetic is beautifully achieved, and clearly a lot of attention has been paid to detail to keep faith with the source material

Kairo (*)
yet another stupid Japanese film about ghosts appearing in screens - the wooden acting and clunky script help not at all; also, any movie that utilises the internet, or computers, as a plot device is condemned to instant anachrony

Adventureland (**)
wet coming-of-age comedy with godawful 80s soundtrack - Kristen Stewart puts in a great performance against the odds

Visioneers (*)
spectacularly tedious indie film that is neither remotely funny nor intellectually absorbing

Bruno (****)
less spontaneous perhaps than Borat - but in truth Sacha Baron Cohen is at the top of his game in an uproariously, outrageously, consistently funny comedy whose great effect is only sadly undone by the horrid sell-out ending

The Hangover (**)
stupidass guy comedy that's marginally better than average thanks to the splendour of Las Vegas, a witty script, and a few clever plot devices - I always end up hating myself for watching this type of thing however

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


'Twas a splendid weekend in Berlin, a city which seems to offer a completely different experience on each visit. Already looking forward to the chance to go back there again.

Much thanks go to Julian at NK, the sound for Cut Hands was one of the best yet; and also to Antoni Maiovvi for hosting Benetti at Space Operator on Sunday at the delightful Paloma Bar in Kreuzberg; not forgetting everyone who came along to both these events. In between everything, was nice to catch up with Zeitkratzer's Reinhold Friedl and audition the live tracks from Marseille with view to possible release.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


It's funny how things age differently. Some music sounds better today than it did when it was originally released, while a lot matures badly. For example, to my ears, most so-called punk and post-punk sounds like crap nowadays, belying the raw excitement of the times. To listen to erstwhile teenage heroes The Sex Pistols is like listening to crude heavy rock - which is, to all extents and purposes, of course what it was. Likewise, old Throbbing Gristle sounds particularly weedy and undercooked, giving question to even their musical validity, let alone artistic; whereas, on the other hand, the first few albums by Nurse With Wound and The Residents, whilst putting to shame their latter-day output, have a compellingly vibrant immediacy.

Music aside, I've been on a bit of a mondo genre-related movie kick as of late - and the outstanding two by Jacopetti and Prosperi, Africa Addio and Addio Zio Tom (full original versions) seem now to be blessed with an exhilarating freshness and timelessness. It's not that the themes are necessarily more relevant to us today, but that these are works of enduring artistic potency and immense endeavour. The meaningfulness of one's emotional response is more than ever intact - and it's not one founded upon whimsically nostalgic experiential associations, as with most revisits.

So it was while exploring this thread that I picked up Killing For Culture (David Kerekes & David Slater, Creation Books, 1994) for a reread. Described as 'an illustrated history of death film from mondo to snuff', the book is a fascinating resource full of detail on everything from feature films to mondo to so-called 'snuff'. It's the book everyone used to go to before the internet, for info on the Japanese Guinea Pig franchise, or classic underground horror movies like Emmanuelle In America and Last House On Dead End Street, in addition to the less well known Mondo Cane spin-offs. Kerekes and Slater at least seemed to know their stuff, and deserve some credit for their bravery.

Yet, in 2009, Killing For Culture seems noticeably quaint. And that's partly due to Creation Books' notorious mindset where attractive lay-out, correct spelling, and decent bindings are merely expendable inconveniences. But it's mostly thanks to this last decade's extraordinary innovations in people's access to technology and media creation, its distribution and digestion; and thus the almost total blurring of the lines between what is 'real' and what is 'faked' within the domain of TV and film since the book's publication. And that's if those lines ever really existed in the first place. Indeed, these cultural aspects have evolved so rapidly, the authors' own attitudes have been left exposed as hopelessly old-fashioned and, dare I say in this context, prudish. Whilst all the geeks, ghouls, and gorehounds were scrambling to exploit the texts as a catalogue-cum-directory, this likely passed unnoticed.

Its five pages featuring Africa Addio are particularly revealing in this regard. The film is described in deliciously forensic detail where discrepancies are pointed out between the narrative and the footage; scenes which are suspected by the authors of being staged are gotcha'd like smug airport security staffers confiscating 110ml tubes of handcream and unapproved mineral water. Hi-fives all round. This is all well and good until that curiously dowdy, now outdated, British habit of emotional detachment is employed, which allows for the maintaining of fine moral sanctimoniousness whilst secretly masturbating. Patronising references are made of the ignorant reactions of the 'casual viewer', tenuous accusations of directorial racism made, alongside the alleged setting-up of events, and the questionable manipulation of music and picture.

Well, of course there's manipulation - it's edited, it's a movie, it's a work of art, it's entertainment, whatever you want to call it. When we go see a film, watch TV, read a book, catch a concert, listen to an album, we passionately yearn to be manipulated, and manipulated bloody well. The hypocrisy of a shoddily assembled book on gore films, both real and dramatised, making that particular accusation is similar in tone to the police detective complaining of being 'forced' to watch pornos to determine possible obscenity charges. And then get paid for it.

One of the most critical reasons I believe Africa Addio retains such a hypermodern essence is its complete transcendence of western morality's issues on cruelty, gender, race, colonial guilt, and politics. Unlike many of the other copycat films which made self-conscious attempts to rationalise the material. It's worth seeing the Godfathers Of Mondo documentary where much background to the movie is explained by the creators, most telling being the incredible devotion that was expended upon the project. However, it's also here where a Kerekes way out of his depth is bafflingly drafted in as a talking head pundit.

Africa Addio possesses symphonic qualities intended to elicit a meaningful response and it forcefully accomplishes that. It's evident by the way you measure your own feelings; by the time of the closing credits one is overwhelmed by the beauty of the continent: its landscape, its animals, its people, its history - it's a paradoxical reaffirmation of life itself achieved through the masterful composition of audiovisual poetry of astonishing cruelty and horror.

Monday, July 13, 2009


CUT HANDS : live at Salon Des Amateurs, Dusseldorf, Germany : 17th July
CUT HANDS : live at NK, Berlin, Germany : 18th July
DJ BENETTI : live at Paloma Bar, Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany : 19th July
CUT HANDS : live at GRV, Edinburgh : 12th September

Thursday, July 09, 2009


In The Loop (****)
unthinkable: a UK comedy that's funny - unrelenting searing humour thanks to the genial writing skills of Armando Ianucci; fantastic cast with stand-out performances from James Gandolfini and Peter Capaldi - on the downside, there's a pointless tacked-on subplot so that Steve Coogan can cadge a role, but it detracts little from In The Loop's overall excellence

The Haunting in Connecticut (*)
any supernatural film requires a higher qualitative threshold for one to willing suspend disbelief, and since there's so very little to commend in this B-movie retelling of a so-called 'true story', and the mediocre cast have so little to give of themselves, it quickly veers into the unwelcome realm of derivative nonsense

Look (*****)
that Look is entirely made up of enacted CCTV footage is a surprisingly effective gimmick; it's also a measure of how inured we are to this format that within 10 minutes or so you barely even notice; the film itself is a series of loosely connected interweaving subplots, many of whose scenes are occasionally miss rather than hit, yet the good bits are extraordinarily effective, and their ultimate effectiveness creep up on you unawares to the point of eventually becoming moving and shocking, and that is in part due to the unsettling and desensitising effect of our own distant voyeurism

Iron Maiden: Flight 666 (**)
most heavy metal documentary reviews tend to have a reference along the lines of 'like a real Spinal Tap': personally, I see it the other way round: Spinal Tap represents the real heavy metal, the real model other metal bands aspire to, desirous as they are of living the perfect rock fantasy that belongs in the enduring teenage mind of the middle-aged male; Maiden's members come across as rather dull but decent enough guys, and do show incredible diligence towards their legions of worshipping
almost exclusively male fanatics from all around the world - but their music seems to me, even by metal's conformist standards, so unremittingly dreary and one-paced, and beyond that the most drama we get to see in this boring film of this tiresome world tour is a minor accident to Nicko McBrain relaxing on the fucking golf course

The Last House On The Left (2009) (*)
for ten minutes of decent character-building your hopes are raised, but gradually as the frequency of the vertiginously stupid directorial decisions accelerates, you sink despairingly into the realisation of its lacking even the basic entertainment value of Wes Craven's otherwise crap original

JungfrukÀllan (The Virgin Spring) (*****)
it's depressing how this medieval tale has degenerated via Wes Craven and the recent remake into a crude revenge narrative, one bereft of emotional impact - Bergman directs this beautiful, yet shocking, story and does it complete justice with his masterfully elegant and sophisticated touch

Surveillance (*)
it might be time to reappraise the career of David Lynch for this crime of offering his daughter the reins to direct another film - a blatant gesture of nepotism which heaps embarrassment on the family name with this spectacularly cack-handed attempt at a Twin Peaks

La Donna Nel Mondo (Women Of The World) (**)
mixed bag of footage from around the world, some (but not all) of which is eminently watchable; however, it is certainly not as cohesive a film as it might have been - one for the Jacopetti completists amongst us

EXPOSITION 2 much better, some even worse. Here are some further museums and galleries experienced since musing upon the hopeless inadequacies of the Tate Modern in London a few weeks ago.

They may charge you a tidy ransom for access, but in Germany they really know how to do museums. The Museum Ludwig in Cologne is a large modern building situated by the city's imposing cathedral in which, incidentally, my partner and I were squarely rebuked by a scarlet becassock'd nonce for licentious acts in a place of holy worship. Lacking fluency in the tongue of Goethe, I successfully rebutted his admonishments by uttering the single word 'Ratzinger'. However, I digress. Like so many others in the country, the gallery is a sober affair, well-run, where utter confidence is expressed in its magnificent collection (gifted by the Ludwigs in the 1970s), exhibiting a maximum of respect and a minimum of adornment.

I can't believe I wasted the opportunity to visit Kelvingrove Art Gallery to come here. Look, my prurience got the better of me - 'exhibits of a sexual nature that may cause offence' were promised on the garish posters and banners. In your dreams. When designers and curators don't even have a consistent spelling for their own exhibition - Sh[out], sh[OUT], [SH]out, SH(out) et al - you should know you have far better things to do. And before you get too genitally aroused about 'LGBT' and 'intersex' artworks 'liable to offend', let me warn you that there is nothing, no thing, not one solitary thing even remotely sexually titillating, let alone offensive, in this dog's dinner of an exhibition. But you will get preached at, and you will feel sorry for all Glasgow's struggling talented artists seeing massive funding thrown in the direction of self-serving wastrels that would claim to be spokespersons of a 'community'.

Back here in Edinburgh and within beautiful grounds beside the Water of Leith, this is the gallery where faith can be somewhat restored. The descriptions of the works on display may have those infuriating assumptions about the artst's intent in verbiose gibberish where meaning is rendered a futile act of nostalgia, but the signs are small and easily ignored. The museum's ground floor currently enjoys a large Damien Hirst collection, and it's an extremely good one - surprisingly visceral; and credit must be given to the curators for that. For the Otto Dix fan, there's a welcome surprise for you upstairs.


Monday, July 06, 2009


These are those thus far released in the reissue series, limited number of copies available from Susan Lawly:

Birthdeath Experience : LP
Total Sex : 2LP
Erector : LP
Quality Time. : LP
Cruise : 2LP
Bird Seed : 2LP (now shipping)
Asceticists 2006 : LP

Friday, July 03, 2009


It's as if nothing had happened, as if there'd been nothing displaced nor untoward - unless, of course, you already knew about its history. This afternoon was rainy and bleak in Humbie at the infamous Children's Village there once located, and the grey weather only served to ensure that the revisit was a suitably eerie one. Much of the evidence of what it once used to be, such as the children's roundabout, the space rocket, and the child-sized doors, have been removed. The land has been renamed and converted into a small estate of luxury detached houses by a property developer. However, since the original buildings have listed status, the colour schemes and essential architectural features have been retained, thus its troubled past still resonates, darkly; and while most windows are covered in black plastic to discourage the peers of ghouls like ourselves, there were some deeply portentous human shadows behind the improvised net curtains of the few inhabited...