Thursday, July 25, 2013

# # # and Punchke @ Prostor Do 20Jul2013

Although, just like Gogo Pavlov, I cannot understand what motivates a band to name themselves ### I come across similar smarty-pantses rather frequently and I even remember I bought an album by a band called ∆Ñ∆ from Bandcamp. At this moment Bandcamp search page alone houses no less than 12 pages full of bands named in this fashion - from lonely Asteriskses to Triple spaces and small posses of question marks surrounded with back andfront-slashes.

Maybe to discourage torrent searches and copyright infringement? Who can say? It just seems like a really bizarre marketing strategy - but then again; maybe they do not want to be popular or available.

Nevertheless, I liked what Hashtags played for us at Prostor Do this Saturday night. They were so loud during sound check that we were a bit worried how this would sound but when the venue filled with people it was just right. As I did my homework and listened through their EP before coming to live act I knew what to expect and I think they did a good job performing. Besides that, this being their first show, I expect them to be even better with a bit more experience. Since, if I was not misinformed*, part of the band is also part of Zagreb/Croatia “kužističke scene” (know-it-all scene behind fun and vibrant Kultivator music portal) this could have gone both ways but I was actually pretty pleased that it felt very cute and natural, and, as much as guys seemed freaked out in the beginning, final result was quite good: energetic post-punk with tendency to slip into noisy instrumental post-rock. My only objection to the act is that it lacked soul - it was technically excellent and they have showed us they can play AND that they know how to communicate with the crowd, but it both felt like it comes out of a book rather than being their second nature.

They will relax with more live performances and this will be just a sentimental anecdote that we could all enjoy, band and the audience that was there for their first show. For all of you that missed the show or ones that want to re-hash the memory here is their EP on Bandcamp.

And then there were our stars of the evening - Punčke.

I was trying to catch one of their gigs from the beginning of this year and I have almost caught them during Terapija portal birthday at Gričevanje and it was close, but no cigar.

Not this time.

I had to tumble my itinerary quite a bit and also miss Fjodor gig and Galactic Picnic on Saturday to be here and I was not dissapointed. Girls rocked!

That rediculous amount of energy that Lucija, the frontwoman sports, is something that regales my soul and makes all this concert-going business all right. Sound was awesome and  girls were in good spirits so the music was explosive and wonderful. They performed and they conversed and they were softspoken and loudthinking and I loved them.

I was also very pleased with conspicuous change in the audience as it, without mistake, contained unusually high number of LBT audience and it was good to see that and good to be there among this crowd.

Here you can browse through their EP/singles discography so far and you can also take a look at their brand new, beautiful video:

 I will most definitely go and see them again and follow closely on release date for their release "Sunčano s povremenom naoblakom" (due September 2013).

*Update - 26Jul2013:

It looks that I have been misinformed as Kultuvator guys contacted me through twitter denying all and any connection with the Hashtags :D
So I'm including this footnote for clarification.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Band Called Death

Last weekend I saw an interesting movie and I’d like to share my impressions with you.

The movie in question is A Band Called Death (2012) and it is a documentary about a 1970s black punk trio whose music managed to become a success 30 years after it was made.

Original movie poster: ©
For me there are three sides to accessing this movie; the music, the life and the movie itself and I would like to say a thing or two about each of those things.

The music:

As and avid concert-goer and a person quite engaged in both enjoying music and music trivia this is a wonderful puzzle piece in World musical puzzle. The band - created by three black guys (!), playing punk before punk and calling themselves Death in a world that runs on sugarcoating - is an aberration to say the least and this is what musical side of this story rests upon. Through the movie we see bunch of short commentaries by popular musicians like Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra and also by people from the music business like producers and label owners and music bloggers and collectors and if this was the only meaning behind the story this would be something fast forgotten because however it sounds surprising there is no real-life weight. It just seems like long-tail nerd business, a legend that gets told and retold only by particular subculture as a way of recognition and kind of rite of passage for aspiring music geeks.

But this is not only meaning behind the story, oh no. This is just the front porch at which you stand while just knocking at the door

...and then the door opens...

and on the inside there is a kind smile and smell of coffee, promise of lemonade, and you - the movie viewer - are ushered into a world of hope and dreams.

This is the life.

The documentarists did not stop on the front porch, showing us only the story of musicians. They knocked on the door and were welcomed into the lives of people - grooms, fathers, brothers, children, employees, house owners, devout believers, students, pack rats and grieving widows. In this movie we see life of a musician for what it really is: another constituent part of life among other roles the person has and it is a role that is sure to bring happiness just as likely as sorrow. These people, brothers and partners in this music endeavor, lived this story and they talk about it here. The story is about music but even more it is about personal relationships, about humanity and trust and hope and adversity. This movie is sentimental, but not corny, and it is oriented on a person and on love and support and on honesty we rarely witness in family life nowadays. When things look bleak and they feel they have reached the end of the road there is always sincerity and tact and they talk to each other and share and are grateful for the things they have and life rolls on. And some fall in this march but they are never left behind and forgotten nor is the nature twisted and pressed into molds that don't fit. As we watch this story through life progress of these people from being someone's kids into being spouses and having kids of their own we can see that all this steps are made with benevolence and growth, carrying genuine love and care from one generation into the next and this is so lovely and engaging and warm I'd be hard pressed to find a movie to match that even in fiction.

And movie itself is a documentary - truly creating and showcasing a "paper trail" for life.

These guys - Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlet - must have gone through a billion conversations and family pictures and meetings and phone calls and punched in thousands of hours to show this story as beautifully as they did. I do not understand technology they used to make ancient photos come to life but it brought tears to my eyes. No part of this film is unnecessary or too long or out of place. Both archive footage and newly made material is beautifully fresh and put together in a way that both shows and celebrates its content as much as the age and the media itself. It is a perfect marriage of contemporary technology and human skill and imagination and I love how this production feels entirely a human effort in using great tools to make the imagined come to life (instead of tools taking over the scene for themselves).

I recommend to everyone to watch this film no matter which music they like or do they even care about music, as a way to remind one's self that if you go through every day with love and integrity what ever the world serves you whenever you look behind all you see will be good life.

... "For The Whole World To See".

Monday, July 15, 2013

Use of Music in Mental Architecture

Since time is short and I have giant bundle of different interests I’m always on the lookout for raising my efficacy standard and streamlining information sources so I can check many things with as little time spent as possible.

So this is my latest and most glorious find: Stereofox!

Stereofox is music portal by music lovers and enthusiasts covering sizeable span of genres but in concise and down-to-the point manner, not spamming the audience with excess multimedia but giving the opportunity to taste the recommendations simply and immediately. Since my first and foremost love is Post-rock here I have found a kindred spirit in “ivo” whose recommendations and preferences I came to trust immensely as well as enjoy his personal remarks.

Another thing I love about Stereofox is social media side that they keep up-to date and interesting all the while not being overwhelmingly affluent.

Some time ago I listened through Stereofox Collective Post-rock vol 1 and I fell madly in love with Mental Architects.

Photo taken from Mental Architects page

Celebrations is so great an album I’ve listened to it every single day since I discovered it here on Stereofox on June 4th. For me this is the spiritual successor to Mirrored by Battles because I could not stomach Gloss Drop and there just was not math rock I liked since Mirrored even with all my beloved Japanese post-rockers counted in. So this is like a ointment for my hurt and battered soul lately; it holds just enough predictability (being MATH rock) so technically is in a way “anticipated” (as opposed to stressful by means of surprise) and also enough imagination to cross the threshold into experience that transcends auditory and uses emotional to build visual, sensuous, visceral.

My favorite song from the album is Once Again We Meet At Last and Mental Architects also have beautiful new video you can check here on YouTube:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful: The Prize for Greatness

I’ve seen Oz The Great and Powerful on Saturday and I can’t stop grinning ever since. This is one great and powerful movie if I ever saw one. Now that my general impression is out of the way and I told you I loved the movie, let me get into more details.

Original Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) Poster - owned by Disney

Oz the Great and Powerful, Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz

I have read gazillion reviews, some of which you can find here on Metacritic, but I haven’t find even one addressing meaningful questions about this movie. Fans and critics both have fallen into same simple trap of not watching the movie before them but feverishly desiring to fulfill one’s own expectations.

This is not really unexpected but is nevertheless funny. So I grin.

Reviewers/commenters (both critics and layman) say that there is no Oz. No Judy Garland. No patting audience on the back and no fodder for nostalgia. That is, of course, true. But on the other hand this is an example of pure brilliance of using psychological validity in making something out of nothing. Something unexpected. Magic. There is magical product inside magical package prepared by process no less magical because few of us can recount its constituent parts.

I can almost see some past meeting in some high-end back yard with selected few guests from movie industry, fashion maybe, some realtors and some know-it-alls and there happened to be few guys from Disney production company, maybe Mr. Franco, Mrs. Williams and Sam Raimi over some lovely catering spread and some cool drinks and with conversation going something like this:

Disney guys: We’re just recycling over and over and that is cool, I mean, but I wonder if there is something more we could do with all this material. Not that we need it, but we’re - kinda - bored.

Sam Raimi: Anything particular you have in mind to transmute?

DG: Well, no, not really, now that you ask. Anything. Everything. It just feels so dead.

James Franco: Don’t say things like that in front of almost PhD in English literature! [laughs] You have classics there, both cinematic and literary: Caroll, Barrie, Kästner, Baum - there’s ton of stuff you can do with them. This in pure gold.

SR: Dead, you say? I am specialist for dead [grinning widely, eyes glaze over with the flood of idea].

So they did not recycle. They made new stuff. Stuff that will be family entertainment, that would contain moral values we all could use and many of us miss dearly, stuff that does not “answer questions nobody asked” as one reviewer nicely puts but just the contrary - tries to give guidelines on how to grow up into honesty and integrity many of today’s adults-by-age sorely lack. And they do it all with cunning style, making use of long known psychological law known as Mere-exposure effect. They harvest the controversy, reap expectations, monetize nostalgia. They have used shroud of implicit contextual knowledge (social knowledge, no less) to bring forth bouquet of freshly picked CG enhanced flowers and not dried-up mementos of times passed.

To say I’m impressed would be to underestimate greatly.

I just love seeing how much people are blatantly underestimating his value as an actor due to his exquisite beauty. This guy is for real, kids! Not only that he is one of the most intelligent people in show business, he’s also intelligent enough not to make a spectacle of his IQ. We have a saying here in Croatia and it goes:”Tiha voda brege dere” (silent stream tears away mountains, very akin to “Still waters run deep”) and after seeing many of his films and reading many an interview I can say that this saying fits him like a glove.

I love how they have (actor and director both) made Oscar approachable, understandable and satirically over-expressive because, as Oscar Wilde finely put it so long time ago: “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you”

... is just perfect as a person that loses her naivety at the doorstep of adulthood and finds herself filled with nothing but malice and spite. It is a rookie mistake that can still be corrected and I love how it was pictured like that in the movie also. Those tear-filled eyes one cannot fake without tasting despair once or twice for realsies and I congratulate to whoever picked her for this role.

... did a wonderful job being thief of opportunity. Evanora (Nomen est omen?) is not really evil but just in a position to claim things that doesn’t belong to her because no one is contesting her for them. She is not really evil but she has never had to be good. She is beautiful, manipulative, tactful and bored to tears. Bureaucratic evil.  In the end she falls prey to her own inability to adjust, rather than strength of an opponent - she just wasn’t prepared to defend her own - because she never learned how - because she never had to. One more character type we see every day of our lives if we only just look.

And finally, Michelle Williams. The good witch.
I don't like Michelle Williams. I find the discrepancy between her angel-like appearance and flat nihilism lurking out of her eyes disturbing, but this is what made her perfect for this role (just like many other roles before, like Cindy or Alma, to name a few). Sardonic remarks coming out of her mouth somehow make the perfect poison dart and yet I suspect there could be many a male (and quite a bit of females) who could not read the spoken from her lips, and could not hear it from too concentrated watching.

So, what is this all about? 

SPOILER ALERT! Do not read below if you would not like to know details from the movie!

Oz the Great and Powerful is a story about a man not wanting to grow up. It is very smartly made, using every dramatization trick and psychology gimmick there is. The only character in this movie is Oscar Diggs/Wizard of Oz and all the others are NPC's (= Non-player Character - I'm borrowing gaming lingo in lack of a better term), personifications in service of illustrating the point in question. Point in question is beautifully stated by our own protagonist and it is as follows: "Oscar Diggs died, so that the Wizard could live."

Right from the very first moment, shown in black and white, all of "real life" is shown colorless just like the protagonist sees it; small, frustrating, unimportant, boring. He is immoral, mean and petty and makes others feel as insignificant as he finds himself to be. Among other things he leaves behind a slew of broken hearts with nary a worry in his mind, using one and the same stupid pick-up line on each of them and consoling himself with the notion that they will get over him "as all of the others did", not really ever accepting responsibility for his actions nor showing a least bit of empathy for anything that surrounds him.

Then, he is faced with great fear (from death) and a change of scenery, into colorful and magic world of all things that could be. This is the world his great fear pushed him into. The world that exists only in the realm of his overinflated escapistic dreams - but he does not know that yet.

He slowly learns that not many dream stuff is what he expects it to be; that many beautiful things are in reality poisonous and that many relationships he took for granted in the real world were actually undeserved perks. It doesn't take long for him to begin to doubt his choices - things seem uncomfortably real when you have to say them out loud and not just implicitly take them as they come. This culminates when he meets Glinda and "recognizes" her as Annie, the woman who loves him in the real world and whose love he dismissed just before his terrifying trip to Oz. In one heartbreaking and magnificent scene all that he is is put in plain sight before him:

Oz: [whispering to Glinda, as her city celebrates his arrival] You know, I should tell you. I might not actually be a wizard...
Glinda: Yes, I know.
Oz: Oh?
Glinda: Well, at least not any kind of wizard we were expecting.
Oz: Uh, you could tell?
Glinda: Yes. I can also tell you're weak, selfish, slightly egotistical, and a fibber.
Oz: I see. Anything you don't know about me?
Glinda: Whether or not you'll save my people.
Oz: Ah, no, I just told you I'm not the wizard.
Glinda: But they don't know that. If you can make them believe, then you're wizard enough. (sadly) These are desperate times, after all. Can you make them believe?
Oz: (nervously) Um... Will I... still get that gold?
Glinda: (surprised) Ah. [nods her head yes]
Oz: [to the crowd] Good people of Oz. Your wizard is here!

And this is really what life is. Life is nothing until we give it meaning, and here he starts to learn how he can add meaning to his life.

Being mature is not a question of age or we wouldn't have so many 30 and 40-somethings squealing on social networks and victimizing themselves over mundane tasks and making a mess of both their own and their parents/partners/children/co-workers lives. Being mature is a question of realizing the connectedness of society and one's own power to positively influence their surroundings and to guide their life instead of just endure it. Being mature is taking responsibility for one's own actions not because this is "the right thing to do" but because it is the only way to live life. "If not now, when? If not I, who?" as Rabbi Hillel concisely said.

Awakened Oscar learns he does not have to start from scratch to turn his life around. He realizes all the things he already knows can (and should) be utilized in uniting his dreamworld with real world. And then we come to seeing through this unification, by words: "Oscar Diggs died, so that the Wizard could live." His weak, shortsighted and fake personality had to die so he himself could live. The illusionist was finally seen as an act, a persona and not a person and when seen for what it really is it could no more be sustained (this is one of the greatest psych gimmicks used here - my favorite: curse of knowledge)

What we really got is the best Oz we could get, because all of those squealing 30 and 40-somethings I mentioned above are just the ones that remember The Wizard of Oz best and they are the ones that can learn most by seeing this film. Film about family and about meaning, about taking responsibility and prioritizing, about how rare and precious is to have somebody believe in you (all the while knowing who you really are).

                                        x                                  x                                    x

I found  one review addressing meaningful questions from this movie and you can find it here.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Kreket at Teatar EXIT - Go See a Wonderful Play

Almost two months ago, on May 11th I went to theater EXIT with a friend to see Kreket, a play based on The Frog Prince by David Mamet and I have been thinking about how to speak about this experience ever since.

It is so weird now that taking pictures with one’s mobile has become the norm, to come to the place where there is explicitly said: “Picture taking forbidden” as it is in Exit entrance.

So I submit this ticket photo as proof:

We met a bit early so I had a chance to nose around and to observe the “audience to be”. At one moment the doors to the stage opened and we flowed like the flood to our seats. Soon, everything started.

This play, The Frog Prince, is not widely accessible. Croatian libraries don’t seem to have copies of original and it seems the play itself was never translated as a book. I did not read it before I went to see it and I still did not manage to get a copy - but I would like to read it, so if you have a copy you could part with please drop me an e-mail.

So, how was the play? Acting? Scene? Music? Experience?

It was wonderful and terrible in one great undividable mesh.

Acting was wonderful: Luka Dragić, Mia Anočić-Valentić, IvanGrčić, Bebe Na Vole - they were all great. I loved how they were expressive and how their acting and playing was beautifully effortless - treacherous and sweet - surely showing endless hours of preparation so everything could look this smooth (congrats to Rene Medvešek, the director). Bebe na Vole, being the music part of this arrangement, was excellent and his music and storytelling both shined and were irreplaceable in progressing the story. Scene was absolutely brilliant and I am at a loss for words how great Tanja Lacko did the scene and Milena Medvešek chose the costumes. I am truly impressed and humbled with ingenuity and clear-cut simplicity that gave wings to the story.

I spent almost half of the play soundlessly sobbing in fourth row, with tears streaming down my face.

Why was that?

Well, there were many reasons and I think I’ll spell out a few.

First, the ingenuity of the stage is unbelievable and it becomes apparent in first few moments of the show.

Second, cast is magnificent and I’m always completely disarmed by what wonderful artists exist this close, so close that it is hard to believe that this people take off their costumes and walk among us every day, going grocery shopping or paying parking tickets, and still act with such force and believability they resemble more Gods than mortals.

And third, I was so shaken with reception by A LOT of the audience it saddened me down to the bone. You see, this is a multilayered story with multiple layers of both meaning and showcasing this meaning. Actors talk, but they do not only talk. They move, they change costumes, they non-verbally suggest and use lot of facial expressions to point out the discrepancy between what is said and the meaning implied. It is so wonderfully multilayered that you can rarely see something so elaborate and so well thought over. But it really felt, there in the darkness of the theater, that I’m surrounded by so many fools that are completely missing the entire story that this saddened me immensely. Every time they laughed at inappropriate place (scene) it just broke my heart. It was so Margaritas ante porcos that it physically hurt.

Disappointment by diagnostics - the harder they laugh, farther from meaning (stupider, really) they are.

I may be at wrong, but I do not think I am.

Go and see it! Next show in Zagreb is scheduled 12.Jul.2013 at 21:00.