Music: Four Tet – New Energy (TEXT Records, 2017)

Two years after “Morning/Evening” Kieran Hebden alias Four Tet returns with a new album on it’s own imprint Text Records. His last record from 2015 was completely different compares with his predecessors in almost every way.

“Morning/Evening” was a two track only album. Both tracks has an extra ordinary runtime around 20 minutes. But that’s not the only special thing about this one. The incluences on “Morning/Evening” follows Kieran’s indian roots. That’s very notable on the Bollywood-styled intro from “Morning Side”. If you red my review from 2015 you know I’m not a big fan about the new direction. So, what’s happend on “New Energy”? His new one goes definitely back to the roots of the melody inspired Four Tet records. There is no doubt “Free Energy” is his best one until his masterpiece “There Is Love In You” and that’s a great success. “New Energy” starts with two of the best tracks on the record. The slow down beauty “Two Thousand and Seventeen” opens the flow perfectly until “LA Trance” focused more on a driven beat/bass sample. The bass here reminds me at some tracks from his single compilation “Pink” from 2012. Very nice! “Free Energy” follows the path of relaxed beats on almost every track. Another example is “Lush” with his catchy background feeling. “SW9 9SL” is a small exception, but not in a bad way. It starts with a catchy bass / club feeling and takes a break in the middle until the focus goes back in the end. A similar effect generated the final track “Planet” and marks a perfect completion for the record. “New Energy” contains 14 tracks and has almost no lengths. Well done Kieran Hebden!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Movie: Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2017)

We live in an era of reboots and predecessor movies. Nowadays the studios have great success with re-interpretations of known stories. If we look back in history there are only a few examples where part two outperforms the original. Mostly a few triologies like the classic Star Wars, Indiana Jones or Back to the Future marks an exception.

In these movies I never have the feeling of an non-essential addition or iteration in the follow-on parts. Every part shines on it’s on. Reboots are special in it’s own way. There are some popular brands from the past like Batman, Ghostbusters or Star Trek. We all love the original films with thier unique touch, but the reboots works only in rarely cases. In some cases the story itself isn’t the main problem. In some cases the originals doesn’t answer all the questions. But that’s not a bad thing and an open mistery for a few movies. And that’s also the case for the original Blade Runner back in 1982. The main story of Blade Runner tells us the story about officer Rick Deckard, an ex-cop and a so-called “Blade Runner”. Blade runners are people assigned to assassinate “replicants”. The replicants are androids that look like real human beings. These replicants commit a bloody mutiny on the Off World colony. So Deckard was called out of retirement to track down these androids. It’s all about the question: What’s the different between replicants and real humans?

The original movie becomes success only years later but nowadays Blade Runner was called as one of the revolutionary sci-fi movies in history. It’s a masterpiece from the past. The combination between screenplay, acting and atmosphere was outstanding from that period. For me, one of the most impressing elements is the camera work. It is very prominent in the last section of the movie where the lighting and shadow effects sets new standards. I’m very sceptical about a predecessor first because I believe that a follow on movie ruined the original.

The truth is, Blade Runner 2049 is a very good sequel and that’s because director Denis Villeneuve looks at every detail of the original. It takes place in the dark and rainy Los Angeles where officer K (Ryan Gosling) discovers the remains of a once-pregnant replicant. Finally K goes on to find former Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) to receive more information about his past. To prevent a possible war between replicants and humans, K is secretly tasked with finding the child and destroying all evidence related to it. Blade Runner 2049 is far away to described as a classical Hollywood movie. For me it’s clear why it’s not a post office hit: All scenes are relevant and full of so many fine details. This fact leads to an extraordinary runtime around 160 minutes. That’s definitely not a typically blockbuster runtime. The acting between Gosling and Ford works perfectly. Also Jared Leto as Niander Wallace convinced. I’m not a big sci-fi specialist but the ability to creates something new without ruin the original is by far a success. Blade Runner 2049 takes his time, builds a great story and delivers a unique atmopshere. That’s also because the compossed soundtrack by Hans Zimmer fits perfect in almost every scene. But that’s one of my few criticism. Originally composer Jóhann Jóhannsson should compose the movie soundtrack, but weeks before the completion Jóhannsson leaves the project. I really loves the renewed Blade Runner theme from the trailer, but it doesn’t appears in the movie itself.

Conclusion: Blade Runner 2049 is modern sci-fi movie packed with great elements from the past. To reconstruct all details of the original movie it makes definitely sense to watch the prequel again until you watched the new one. Of course the main story of Blade Runner delivers enough stuff to create a great movie but this fact doesn’t decrease the success by Villeneuve. Nowadays it is very difficult to convince the audience only by great acting, a good story or a unique atmosphere but in this case Blade Runner 2049 is a silent hit. One of the best sci-fi movies in 2017. I’m really impressed!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Music: Rafael Anton Irisarri – The Shameless Years (Umor Rex, 2017)

It’s been a while since Rafael Anton Irisarri released his last official record “A Fragile Geography” for the influential australian underground label Room40. But this situation has been changed this year. After the awesome collaboration “La Equidistancia” with Leandro Fresco back in April, Irissari released his new record “The Shameless Years” on the Mexico-based label Umor Rex.

Umor Rex is well known for experimental drone music. The distribution will handeld from Berlin and you can also buy records on tape. They offers a small but great collection of ambient / drone records. If you follow me for a while you will known that this kind of music isn’t for everyone. If you are fimilar with artist like Lawrence English, Tim Hecker or Alessandro Cortini you will also like Irisarri’s work. Back in 2016 Irissari hosts a small series of concerts around Europe. He also takes place at Berlin’s “KW Institute for Contemporary Art” in February. The venue matches the style of Irisarri’s music perfectly. It was an intimate small show with an astounding atmosphere. Realy difficult to explain in words but that’s the case if you are listening to his music. “The Shameless Years” follow the roots of his predecessors without to be a simple copy of that. The kind how Irisarri build a unique atmosphere hasn’t changed and if you are listening to “RH Negative” you will understand what I mean. It’s that kind of melody that floats above everything. How is it possible to build a “simple track” like that with an emotional peak like this?! In general it is difficult to describe drone / ambient music, but every artist has his own handwritten identity and that’s the same with Irisarri. 2017 is full of great drone / ambient records and “The Shameless Years” marks no exception. Extraordinary and highly recommended!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Music: Blondes – Warmth (R&S Records, 2017)

Back in 2012, Sam Haar and Zach Steinman alias Blondes released an brilliant psychedelic house record. It was also thier debut record for the small New York underground label RVNG Intl. At that time house music was definitely not my prefered genre. But this one was special in almost every perspective.

It’s near impossible to describe their use of synthesizers, sequencers, and drum machines, without getting in an euphoric mood. The best example for that reason is the double A-Side Single “Lover” / “Hater”. While “Lover” symbolized the pure catchiness as an house/techno/idm track, “Hater” isn’t quite completely different but the bass and background noises are simply impressive. Maybe the FADER live performances even tops the album versions. Anyway one year later Blondes released the great predecessor “Swisher” in 2013. Since them they released the one hour session track “Rein” and the small EP “Percussion” also for RVNG. With thier new release “Warmth”, Blondes jumps on the more dance and club oriented label R&S Records. At first, Blondes are even good in making house music but for me they loose some of the catchy elements of thier debut. Don’t get me wrong “Warmth” also includes great track, like the Four Tet styled “Clips”, the impressive “Quality of Live”, the deep bass track “Trust” and the single “KDM” but if you look at the entirely record there are some lengths. In the end “Warmth” isn’t a bad record but I have expected something more. Maybe next time?

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Movie: Dunkirk (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2017)

War movies have a long history in cinema. There are some famous ones like Acopolype Now (1979) from Francis Ford Coppola or Full Metal Jacket (1987) from Standly Kubric. Both tells us a story in or around the vietnam war. Also in the modern days the topic war is still present. This will showen by movies like Saving private Ryan (1998) from Stevan Spielberg or the untypically Italian Western Inglourious Bastards (2009) from Quantin Tarantino. All of these movies are totally different in presentation. The question is, which intention will be focused, the war or the consequences of the war?

Like Tarantino, Christopher Nolan is one of the last directors with an strong focus on analog production. So there is no wonder that Dunkirk will be produced in 70mm. It is a high-resolution film gauge for still and motion picture photography, with higher resolution than the standard 35 mm motion picture film format. This makes totally sense if you look at the screensplay. In Dunkirk you will find a lot of scenes with the intension that only the pictures tell the story. These pictures are very detailed and full of shocking facts about war. There is no doubt that Dunkirk is a success if you look at the sound effects and camera screenplay. Also music composer Hans Zimmer adds an great minimal soundtrack.

The movie it self tells us three different stories. 1. The Mole: The perspective of the soldier Tommy played by Fionn Whitehead. It starts at the streets of Dunkirk as he was under attack by the germans. Later he met another young french soldier Gibson. Both support them each other in all different war scenarios. 2. The Sea: The secound one is about a family and the evacuation by sea. Mr Dawson played by Mark Rylance and his sons started thier own rescue mission without the help of the Royal Navy. This risky plan includes some dramatic experiences by sea. 3. The Air: The air strikes are focused on three Spitfires, piloted by Farrier, Collins and their Squadron Leader. They encounter German fighters and get into a dogfight, during which ‘Fortis Leader’ is shot down. Farrier assumes command, and although his fuel gauge is shattered, they continue towards France. His colleagues machine was damaged, so he have to fight still alone in the next attacking scenes.

Conclusion: If you expected a feature film you might be disappointed, because Dunkirk is very minimalistic and more an art movie than a normal story telling movie. And there is also the strengthen and the weaknesses. The presentation by screen and soundtrack is impressive because if you look in the younger past you will not pick a lot of movies with these strong intension. Nolan purports only the pictures and the story that results in. The thoughts of the protagonists can be imagine by the spectator himself. This results in a very personal an oppressive war movie that we haven’t seen until now!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Movie: Wonder Woman (DC Universe, 2017)

Nowadays superhero movies are very popular. So there is no wonder that the last Avengers movie “The First Avenger: Civil War” was the most commercial success, grossing over $1.1 billion worldwide and making it the highest-grossing film in 2016. For Marvel it is the most important series together with “Guardians of the Galaxy”. The other prominent studio for superhero movies is DC. But the DC Universe hasn’t that same sucess, excluded the current Batman triology. The attempt to combine two heros in one movie with Batman Vs. Superman wasn’t a great deal for DC and the critics were mixed.

For the only women in the DC francise there is only one movie out until now. The not very popular television Wonder Woman movie from 1974. So there is no wonder that DC would like to change this status. I’m definitely not an expert for superhero movies. I know the old Spider-Man movies by Sam Raimi and the Batman triology by Christopher Nolan.

I would like to be fair, I’m not very impressed by the cinema trailer back in May. At the first glimpse it looks like a overpraised trash action movie. But I have a good feeling about the main actor Gal Gadot. For DC it was a lucky punch as a main character. There is no doubt, Wonder Women scores not for the acting or the high quailty of the dialogs, it’s an action movie. The main story about an ultimate weapon, developed by the germans isn’t totally bad at all. The truly strength about the movie are the comedy elements. The jokes between Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious) and Chris Pine (Star Trek: Into Darkness) aren’t bad and well balanced. Also the two next performers Saïd Taghmaoui (American Hustle) and Ewen Bremner (Black Hawk Down) made a great job. Of course one of the main strengh of Wonder Women is the presentation. Sometimes it is overpraised, like the fighting scene in the last part of the movie. But if I should pick one favourite scene, I choose the defense scene from the trench. Surely, it is maybe the most unrealistic scene of the movie, but for me it works fine.

Conclusion: Wonder Women isn’t that overrated action superhero movie that the trailer claimed. Not in every way. Sure it is a blockbuser movie and if you are expected an high intellectual movie you will be disappointed. But when you admit the setting and the kind of the movie you could be surprised. The movie scores with one main element: Entertainment. Maybe it is perfect for a sunday evening to dive in the fictional world of Wonder Woman. A movie you should watch in a cinema because it’s that kind of typically popcorn movie.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Music: Penguin Cafe – The Imperfect Sea (Erased Tapes Records, 2017)

London based record label Erased Tapes Records is the home of some great neo-classical artists like Nils Frahm, Ben Lukas Boysen or A Winged Vicotry for the Sullen. So, there is no wonder that the re-formed iconic orcestra group Penguin Cafe joins the label. In the past the originally Penguin Cafe orchestra lead by Simon Jeffes was active from 1972 until 1997. In 2009 his son Arthur Jeffes continue the band.

Currently the band consists by a ten-person line-up on stage. This year the band celebrates thier debut “The Imperfect Sea” on Erased Tapes Records. A comment by Arthur Jeffes: “For this album I wanted to effect a departure from where we’d been up to now. The idea was to create a musical world that would feel familiar to an audience more used to dance records but stay true to our own values. So we replaced electronic layers with real instruments: pads with real string sections, synths with heavily-effected pianos, and atmospheric analogue drones with real feedback loops ringing through a stone and a piano soundboard.” Indeed “The Imperfect Sea” is a modern record with classical elements. The instruments harmonize in a perfect way. Each track has his own personality and in it’s entirely “The Imperfect Sea” sounds timeless. But this wasn’t my inital feeling on this. At first I believe this isn’t very exciting. “The Imperfect Sea” combines neo-classical elements with jazz and ambient. Tracks like “Cantorum”, “Control 1 (Interlude)” and “Rescue” shines bright. This year looks also good for neo-classical records if we look back at the beginning of 2017 highly recommended records by Max Richter and Bing & Ruth released!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Music: Caterina Barbieri – Patterns of Consciousness (Important Records, 2017)

After her first EP “Vertical” back in late 2014, Berlin based italian artist Caterina Barbieri released her first full length record “Patterns of Consciousness”. It’s a drone record full of buchla synthesizer patterns. I swiched my attention to this record after I have read an review from it.

I’m a big fan by italian artist Alessandro Cortini, so it’s no wonder that he highly recommends “Patterns of Consciousness” by Caterina Barbieri. Cortini has written the following lines for “Patterns of Consciousness”: “Patterns Of Consciousness finds Caterina Barbieri at her best, elegantly moving between melodically pleasant yet twisted sequences and comforting, reassuring sonic spaces. Every piece, while given a singular identity, is part of the bigger picture: a work of art that will push you, pull you, and then eventually leave you with your back against the wall once you get to the last track.” I’m fully agree with this description! There are less artists outside that can play the buchla synthesizer in this way. Two years ago I visited a live performance at Berlin Atonal by Alessandro Cortini and it blows me away. Cortini plays one of his greatest releases “Sonno” in it’s entirely. This year Caterina Barbieri will also play at Berlin Atonal, so it could be also an outstanding live show. “Patterns of Consciousness” is not a short one by a play time over an hour, but it’s so diversified in it’s entirely that you never lose the focus. If I have to choose only two highlights from it, I will pick the slowley “INCAEB” and the long epic closer “Gravity That Binds”. It’s a beast of a track with an incredible climax at the end!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Music: Yair Elazar Glotman & Mats Erlandsson – Negative Chambers (Miasmah, 2017)

After two excellent records in 2016 for Posh Isolation, Mats Erlandsson returns with a collaboration album on Miasmah. Last year we were thrilled by the awesome drone / electronic / experimental outputs “Valentina Tereshkova” and “Selective Miracles”. This new collaboration sounds not different in every way but you will recognize the fine details.

It sounds like a combination between folk and drone elements. The basic mood on “Negative Chambers” is gloomy and oppressive. It starts with the slowly guitar based “Cornelian Cities”, that fades into an alarming background noise in the end. Follow on track “Orchid Sedation” starts in a similar way but it takes his time. It is such a beautiful melody that will not again leave your mind! This basic mood is like a red line on “Negative Chambers”. The album uses a massive range of instruments including steel-guitar, zither, harmonium, gimbri, transistor radio and Tibetan singing bowls to conjure a sound that seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. There is some incredibly detailed and wide sound design encompassing the pieces, from the pictural stillness of Orchid Sedation to the unnerving mass of dissonant strings on Ceramic Relic. Glotman & Erlandsson are masters in creating a sound filled with solitude, anxiety and intrigue. Recorded both independently and in very close correspondence between Stockholm and Berlin, Negative Chambers is a dialog between the two composers and manages to be both a meditative reflection on the past while also presenting a surreal and detailed piece of contemporary music. Maybe “Negative Chambers” do not fit in the modern world, but anyhow it feels like a modern tone experience from start to finish. If you are interested in dark ambient music you should not miss this record!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Music: Forest Swords – Compassion (Ninja Tune, 2017)

After two great predecessor records from 2010 and 2013, Liverpool producer Matthew Barnes returns with a new one and his label debut on Ninja Tune. His critically acclaimed last effort “Engravings” released on London based electronic label Triangle Records. It is also the home of artists like Haxan Cloak, Holy Other and Balam Acab.

The incluences of Matthew Barns alias Forest Swords are complex. Some elements comes from dubstep and others could be fragments of world music. Back in 2010 american online magizine Pitchfork Media compares Barns alongside to artists like James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Burial or Four Tet. “Comapssion” represents the next step of evolution in his discography. It starts with the intese opener track “War It” and his distorted atmosphere until the drums kicks in to force the rhythm. The follow on track “The Highest Flood” takes away the pressure and plays with voice samples. This track could be a great sample for a typically Forest Swords track. “Panic” shines with his fantastic horn and triangle intro. It sounds beautiful and frightening at the same time and the voice samples provides the rest. But Barns is a master of samples distortion. “Exalter” is one of the best examples. This track is catchy and unsteady at the same time. All in one you can hear in almost every track a mystical touch. Also on “Compassion’s” first sinlge track “Arms Out”. It’s the only track on the record with truly voice acting. At the end “Raw Language” rises the tempo and rhythm again until “Knife Edge” fades out in beautifully piano driven outro. There is no doubt that “Compassion” is his most completed work until now.

Rating: 4 out of 5.