Kraftwerk V Zapp | Who’s Computer Love is the Strongest?

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house01The 2009 New York Asian Film festival is drawing to a close. The festival was as fantastic as always, offering an endless stream of Hong Kong gangsters, explosive arterial sprays, school girls, samurai, a bakery run by gay models, and a few dramatic moments in the middle.

By far the most surreal movie was the 1977 Japanese horror cult classic “House.” At a commercial and critical low point in the Japanese studio system, Toho decided to take a chance on a television commercial director named Nobuhiko Obayashi (you may know him from his youtube famous “Mandom” commercials). Obayashi described the Japanese studio system as “like a boring grown up” and decided that the most reasonable response was to have his then eleven year old daughter write the script to a horror movie.

The plot and dialogue have a bizarre logic and pacing that only a child could come up with. Characters come in and out of the movie at random. The sets and backgrounds appear as human sized dollhouses. The special effects are created with gallons of bright red corn syrup, marker drawings directly on film, extremely crude green screens, and puppets. The unsettlingly cheery soundtrack plays incessantly like a moog sythesizer battling a broken calliope with no off switch. In the end, no description I give could do this movie justice. No parody of Japanese horror could ever be as over the top as this original.

A little set up: The school girls, each named for their defining attribute (like the seven dwarves) have gone to stay with Gorgeous’s long lost auntie (the older woman with white hair in the clip). Her house may or may not be haunted and the girls have started to disappear or be attacked by inanimate objects in a Scooby-Doo sort of way. This is just a tiny taste of the absurdity of this movie.

If you like what you just watched, I highly recommend taking the time to install the Veoh player and watch the whole thing here.

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Yello is a group that I find endlessly inspiring. Their early musical and video output is an perfect recipe: campy, sleazy, debonair, scary, funny, trashy, and unexpected. Enjoy.

a brief history: Yello is the collaboration between two Swiss Gentlemen, Boris Blank (1952-) and Dieter Meier (1945-). Neither of them is a trained musician. Blank is responsible for the musical output, Meier for lyrics, vocals, management, videos, and presumably art direction. Meier was born to a millionaire industrialist family, has been a successful conceptual artist since the 70’s, a sometimes professional poker player, alternate on the Swiss Olympic golf team, and has a ranch in Argentina. They are the same Yello that made that song “oh yeah” from Ferris Bueller and that Twix commercial, but don’t hold that against them.

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Salvador Dalí | What’s My Line

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Soft Prog | Experimental and Smooth

One of the joys of record collecting is getting to create new taxonomies of music. Record stores do an passable (albeit subtly racist) job of organizing records so they’re easy to find, but most of them don’t do much to help create new connections and genres of music.

Every time we reorganize our records we create a new system before we start shuffling things around. The joy in the end is discovering cultural associations and musical connections that we didn’t know existed before. Suddenly artists we’d never connected to one another sit side by side on shelves. The gaps in our collection are exposed, and most excitingly, new genres emerge.

A genre I would love to see gain wide acknowledgment is Soft Prog. Soft Prog is (or should be) a cousin of traditional progressive rock, but with a decidedly smooth sensibility. Think about it like this: if there is a bleed on one end of the spectrum from early metal bands (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple) into prog groups (King Crimson, Jethro Tull), then soft prog would be the other end of prog that interfaces with smoother, “light” rock and “easy listening” (The Captain and Tennille or Barry Manilow for example).

As a fan of this wholly contrived genre, I’ve compiled a few examples below. They span from the early 70’s to the early 00’s. I’ll refrain from any amateur musicology that would attempt to articulate the common musical thread and instead let these songs do the work for me. Enjoy. Next up: Avant Soul.

10 CC | I’m not in Love

The Band | Whispering Pines

Roxy Music | Mother of Pearl

Alan Parsons Project | Eye in the Sky

Robert Fripp and Daryl Hall | North Star

Robert Wyatt | Shipbuilding

Sebastien Tellier | Universe

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Cool Lessons | The Ronettes Be My Baby (w/ a little Sam and Dave at the end)

The Ronettes were one of the greatest girl groups of all time. This clip devolves into a sort of hysteria induced collapse. I imagine Ronnie Spector as a preacher in a church of teenage cool who’s being driven by a mass hypnosis machine devised by her mad svengali husband. Its funny to think that parents were scared of rock n roll, because this has clearly taken over these kids minds.

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Raquel Welch Space Dance

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Wayfaring Stranger | Bill Monroe

Michel and I came across this video yesterday. I was already thinking of doing a bit about how cool Marty Stuart was in Lester Flatts’s Nashville Grass. After seeing this I couldn’t imagine posting any other bluegrass video. Even Lester Flatt was just Bill Monroe’s side man, and Marty was Lester’s side man. As cool as he is, when Marty Stuart is standing on stage with Bill Monroe he’s just a man standing next to an icon. So here’s the original, Mr. Bill Monroe.

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¡Que Viva México! “The Mexican scorns death”

In 1931 the great Sergei Eisenstein traveled to Mexico to film a documentary about the Mexican people. The film was financed by Upton Sinclair (now that’s a commie team up!) Eisenstein and Sinclair planned on filming one more segment but were unable to get funding before Stalin recalled Eisenstein and slapped him on the wrist by denying him funding. Regardless, the film is amazing even in its incomplete form.

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Cheek to Cheek

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