Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beats, Intl.

All around the Web, blather about a recording called Kinshasa One Two is bubbling up like yeast proofing in warm sugar-water. Let's not be left out, because it's very much worth blathering about.

Damon Albarn (Blur; Gorillaz; The Good, The Bad, The Queen; experimental opera composer and performer) travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo with a few choice music makers this past July. In just five days, they recorded as much music as they could. They collaborated, sampled, performed and mixed on the fly, and then put together an album sponsored by, and benefitting, Oxfam.

Say what you want about Albarn and the Britpop culture from which he sprang. But while his peers have muddled around doing the same old thing or simply breaking up, (hi, Oasis!) Albarn has proven his appetite for creative stimulation and willingness to act on his convictions with numerous projects far beyond recycling Bowie and The Kinks.

Since some of the Soundcloud embeds on various sites seem to have trouble loading, here's a link to the DRC Music page where you can hear the entirity of Kinshasa One Two and a couple BBC interview with Albarn and a couple of his collaborators. And do listen to the BBC interviews, as it makes Albarn's motiviations clear.

If the music pleases you, pay for it and feel better about yourself. Here's a few quick impressions of what we heard:

"We Come from the Forest" -- Two kalimba loops gallivant in the sun, then race to see who gets to the alien disco rhythm first.

"Ah Congo" -- Whooshing voices pan across the speakers while a man speaks the title (and more) in a basso profundo, outdone only by the molten bass wobble that soon joins in.

"Respect of the Rules" -- Drops a flute onto some Moog-y squish, a melting Alan Hawkshaw theme for off-duty customs officials having grilled cheese sandwiches and soup.

"K-Town" -- Bears the unmistakable stamp of Dan the Automator. Seriously, if that beat isn't his ...

"The Departure" -- More of that dubstep sub-bass rumble lurks below an near-ambient treble. Don't fall asleep!

Reference material: If you liked Albarn's Mali Music or went (justifiably) bonkers over Congotronics, this is for you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't Touch That Dial

No really, don't.

Now that the autumnal equinox has happened, it was just a matter of time before Typing Monkey publisher S.L. Kreighton made us all get into his rental car -- this year a minivan, which was actually quite comfortable -- and go for a drive.

Kreighton's goal was two-part and devious to the core. We all expected him to make us partake in his annual ritual of tooling around aimlessly while listening to the entirety of Bauhaus' "hits" disc 1979 - 1983 Vol. 1. The boss does that every year on the first dark, blustery morning after the first calendar day of fall. There's a free coffee in it for anybody who wants to tag along and at least it gets us out of the office for a good hour.

We had a fine time, and everyone agreed that Peter Murphy’s mad-monkey vocal at the end of “St. Vitus Dance” is a rock & roll freak-out par excellence.

Kreighton sprung his ulterior motive on us as soon as the last twinkles of guitar faded from the CD. After casually reminding us of a past car-radio game, he introduced a new one: Radio Endurance Test.

The objective is also the rule: Scan up and down the FM dial (or AM if your area actually has music stations on AM) and find any station you might normally listen to. Then wait until they play something that might normally make you tune in something else. It won’t take long. Now listen to the entire song, no matter what it is.

In less than 15 minutes we came across the opening verse of The Eagles’ “Witchy Woman.” Since it was decided at a staff meeting in 2009 that nobody at the TMI offices likes The Eagles, we knew the game had begun.

That was quickly followed by a fidgety tip-toe through “Behind Closed Doors” by Charlie Rich. When we all began to sing along to that, we realized that we actually kind of like that song. Spin again …

It all went sour when the new intern Eileen opened the side door of the minivan at a stop light and ran into a cornfield. What spooked her? Don McClean’s “American Pie” had begun. We were all so scared and all Kreighton did was guffaw in the driver’s seat. He nearly choked on his cigar. [It’s true. Kreighton is a horrible man. – ed.]

Strike up a game of Radio Endurance Test next time you’re out and about. Your flesh will crawl in no time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happiness Is a Killer Shark

Charles Forsman draws and write comics and does illustrations. In October 2010, he published a series of strips that retold key scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Except he drew them as if they were "Popeye" strips from the 1930s.

This past August, he topped himself by doing the same with Jaws in the style of "Peanuts."

Please enjoy them and then dig around the rest of Forsman's site to learn more about him and see more of his work.

[Tip of the fedora to Comics Alliance]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Waking Up to the Apocalypse

Hollywood's really bad at making horror movies and has been for some time now. It's safe to add science fiction to that statement too. We've discussed it all before and maybe someday we'll get all Yahoo News-y and make a list or some crap.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for Extraterrestrial, the new film by Spanish wrtier/director Nacho Vigalondo:

It may be absolute crap. Nobody sent us a screener, but dag if it doesn't look promising, especially based on the quality of his mind-bending sci-fi-by-way-of-Hitchcock 2007 feature Timecrimes.

If you've not seen Timecrimes, do have a look. It's The Typing Monkey's favorite "Man Witnesses Murder, Hides in Time Machine and Then Really Screws Things Up" feature film of all time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Remnants of Revenants

An archaeological dig in Kilteasheen, Ireland unearthed two bodies buried in a ritualistic manner that suggests the locals were worried the two men might rise from their graves.

What's remarkable about the find is that the circa 700 A.D. preparation of the bodies predates records of when Europeans started documenting how to keep a questionable corpse in the ground. Read all the details about it here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Monkey Reads: Puritanical Ass-Kickery

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
By Robert E. Howard
(Del Rey)
Howard’s kinetic prose elevates the adventures of his “Puritan swordsman” Solomon Kane beyond what a reader should reasonably expect from early 20th century vintage supernatural/action pulp.

Kane doesn’t emerge from his trials a winner, and in fact seems more doomed by his own thoughts than by any of the beasts, schemes or weapons that threaten him throughout the collection. The hero defeats his enemies, but he doesn’t win.

Yes, Kane is essentially undefeated in hand-to-hand combat and villains across the oceans know he’s a badass without equal – the kind of man who would travel from the safe confines of Devonshire to the pirate harbors of the Mediterranean and finally deep into the jungles, plains and mountains of central Africa just to find the kidnapped daughter of a family friend, as Kane does in “Moon of Skulls.”

But the more actively Solomon Kane pursues some unknowable, unreachable destiny, the less attainable it becomes. Unlike many action heroes, who are found by fate and reach greatness as they struggle to claim their rightful place at the top, Kane chases a calling he can’t really answer or satisfy.

Howard’s tales of the curious but introspective adventurer trace the journey of a man who is losing his faith.

The writer even acknowledges in the narrative that Solomon Kane wears the drab Puritan garb only out of habit. By the time Kane finally returns to Devonshire [“Solomon Kane’s Homecoming” one of the tales told in verse], his clothes are ragged, he wears a bright green sash and carries a tribal staff, accoutrements more befitting a pre-Christian shaman than an austere Protestant.

As Kane loosens his grip on his white, Christian (ahem, colonial) perspective on the world, he gains humanitarian enlightenment and accepts that the world is a weird, wonderful and sometimes terrifying place.

Though Solomon Kane exists in a 16th century land of Western expansion, he could stand in for the 20th century academic or expatriate who has seen the world and has begun to question his Western European place in it.

Above all this subtext philosophy rages crackling action and fantasy writing, some of the best of the genre. Kane travels Europe, Africa and briefly lands in the New World, clashing, colliding and cooperating with supernatural beings and profane men who live and die by the blade.

Howard balances compact writing with descriptive flair to make fight sequences and fast-paced action pop with four-color contrast against detailed observances of these alien worlds. As with his horror writing, Howard makes the unreal seem plausible, such as when Kane’s unlikely ally, an aged African shaman called N’Longa, reanimates a corpse to terrify a tribe under the sway of an old enemy of Kane. [“Red Shadows”]

A repeated warning for the casual reader: Like Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft and other fantasy writers of their era, Howard’s work does include language and “truths” about ethnicity that are simply wrong.

Oddly enough, Kane (and perhaps Howard) changes so much through the course of this short story collection, that the hero not only acts as a challenge to the “rightness” of colonialism, but may also be a barometer of changing attitudes in the early 20th century.

Howard lived and wrote in Texas and witnessed his share of ethnic and class injustice. And Solomon Kane is nothing if not a man out of step with his time, finding himself closer aligned with both the ways of a distant past and a possible future his countrymen simply haven’t caught up with.

Reference material: Fans of Dashiel Hammet's Red Harvest might be pleasantly surprised by Howard's similarly gruesome, testosterone-filled pulp. If Sergio Leone's Westerns own some space in your cinematic library, Clint Eastwood's pancho-wearing (anti-)hero bears more than a passing resemblance to Solomon Kane, though Kane doesn't share his carnal appetites. And if you read comics, mom will be delighted to see you reading a "real" book. She doesn't have to know the truth.