In the May 1989 issue of SPIN, born-again Christian evangelist Bob Larson followed the band Slayer on tour and presented his account in an article called “Desperately Seeking Satan.” By the end, Larson determined that Slayer’s “root of evil” was “rock’n'roll stardom” and that their “act of iniquity” was not with Satan, but with the “Billboard charts and T-shirt sales.” Still, he prayed that “both their eternal and artistic souls” would be saved.
Almost 25 years later, musician and filmmaker Justin Ludwig decided to follow two bands from perhaps an even more mystifying and misunderstood genre of music: Christian hardcore. As Ludwig explains in the beginning of the documentary, hardcore music helped him to break free from the shackles of organized religion and the oppression of conformist thinking.
If ChristCORE were a fictional Hollywood story, it’s easy to imagine that by the end, Ludwig will recant and become a born-again Christian. But, this is real life, or at least the documentary film version.
Are you in Austin for South By Southwest? Are you a fan of Latin alternative? If so, you’re in for a treat. The NPR podcast Alt Latino is sponsoring a showcase on March 14 at Auditorium Shores. Three of the brightest bands in the rock en español firmament will be playing—the experimental rock quartet Café Tacvba, politically-informed rap/rock ragers Molotov, and dance-pop supergroup Bajofondo.
A few weeks ago, Bajofondo released their latest single, “Pide Piso,” on iTunes with little fanfare. As an admirer of musical polymath and Bajofondo member Juan Campodonico, I picked it up with little hesitation. Campo’s self-titled 2012 album caught my attention when it was nominated for the best Latin Alternative Grammy, and its ethereal songs and playful aesthetic made it a worthy competitor in that category.
Though Bajofondo takes a more restless approach to their chosen genre and musical tradition than did Campodonico’s solo project, his approach to music made me curious about how he’d work in a more collaborative setting. The 99-cent risk paid off, and the cascading melodies, shuffling electronic percussion, widescreen string section, and deft use of samples frequently made it into daily play.
Sometimes judging a record by its sleeve yields unexpected rewards. While reading the blog Puerto Rico Indie in search of news about a rumored upcoming release by Rita Indiana, I came across a free compilation put together by the up-and-coming band Las Acevedo. The hand-drawn and collaged sleeve art, with its depiction of a purple-haired, antlered girl snuggling a guitar, drew me in, and within a matter of seconds I found myself purchasing their EP Homemade Cookies from their Bandcamp site.
Time stopped when I first heard Víctor Jara sing. One of my favorite podcasts, Alt.Latino, had included Jara’s music in an episode that looked at protest music from across Central and South America. Jasmine Garsd, the podcast’s co-host, had preceded his song with a description of his importance in his native Chile and his brutal murder at the start of the Pinochet regime. As disturbing and poignant as this biography was, nothing prepared me for the beauty of his music.
The needle dropped on “Un Derecho de Vivir en Paz,” Jara’s song in protest of the Vietnam war. Over a bed of harpsichord and arpeggiated guitar, Jara sang in a disarmingly straightforward voice. His tenor had a reedy tone and a substantial quality that anchored the melody. Like many of its North American counterparts, the song had a memorable melody that could invite singalongs. Where many songwriters north of the border tended towards straightforward production however, Jara’s song featured a psychedelic instrumental break in which a ragged guitar freakout alternated with a bobbling analog synth part. The song ended with what sounded like a spontaneous choir of “la la la”s, which reinforced the spirit of community for which Jara’s time was known. As understated as Jara sounded, a current of sadness and hope ran through his voice, and that emotion made me want to listen to it again and again.
After hearing about his grotesque death, I found myself wanting to see Jara as he was alive. Some excerpts from a live concert he performed for Chilean television came up on YouTube. Seeing and hearing this man, with his steady, weathered voice and his everyman appearance, made him more real for me but also made the tragedy of his death that much more palpable. I was drawn to the honesty of his voice and the lyrics I could understand, but the experimentation in his music beguiled me as well.
In time, I was able to get a boxed set of Jara’s albums through inter-library loan, as well as a copy of An Unfinished Song, the biography his wife Joan wrote about him. I also have been attempting to read The Shock Doctrine to better understand the Allende administration and how Pinochet came to power. Through my interest in Jara I learned that two bands I quite like have paid tribute to him in song—Joe Strummer name-checked him on Sandinista! and Calexico recorded a song called “Víctor Jara’s Hands.”
In spite of these tributes and the praises of other big-name fans, Jara is not well known in the States. To that end, I will be working through his discography and writing reviews for Popshifter when time permits. Víctor Jara created music that both spoke to the people of its day and is still prescient in this day and age. His work deserves a larger audience and I’d like to do what I can to encourage readers to track down his music.
You might have the word “Krampus” around the Internet lately and wondered what it meant. It’s something I only discovered last December and have always meant to investigate further. Luckily, dear readers, you can now benefit from my research into this ancient tradition!
Wikipedia has a brief, but helpful description: “Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish bad children during the Christmas season, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards nice ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair.”
This sounds absolutely amazing to me. The website Krampus.com has an even more detailed and frankly disturbing description which details that the creature is “the dark companion of St. Nicholas” and often depicted as a devil-like beast with “horns, cloven hooves, and a monstrous tongue.” Not only does Krampus punish bad children, he also “swat[s] them with switches and rusty chains before dragging them in baskets to a fiery place below.” This actually reminds me of the demon figure in Insidious, which, Darth Maul jokes aside, scared the crap out of me for months.
New on Popshifter this week: I strongly recommend Richard Crouse’s new book Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils; a concerned citizen lays down some rules on proper Facebook etiquette; Julie can’t find a song to dislike on Gemma Ray’s Island Fire; Emily deems The Very Best Of Vince Guaraldi and The Very Best Of The Bill Evans Trio as “essential” and praises Timi Yuro’s The Complete Liberty Singles as a “wonderful collection”; Paul explains why only hipsters hate hipsters; and Jemiah has good news for people who don’t know the difference between “grisly” and “grizzly” in her review of The Wrong Word Dictionary.
By Paul Casey
Out of hospital a few days. Nighttime seizures cause strange dreams. Out of place. A rare, complete family notion: Let’s rent a movie. A dividing line between a childish reality and a childish regression.
The Coen Brothers did it. O Brother, Where Art Thou? Sympathy for the American story. Great Plains or Skyscrapers; didn’t matter. If you had a touch for music in the 20th Century, pretensions of nonplussed rural plods struck as backwards affect. America was serious business. Real things happened there.
The soundtrack, produced by T-Bone Burnett—a sort who has been responsible for a whole lotta good “produced by” outings, and not too many originals—collected the Alan Lomax perspective with covers by those living. Gillian Welch was the one who took me at two moments. First, flight over fields in prison wear, with Alison Krauss. The Kossoy Sisters were used in the picture, but the soundtrack version stuck as definition.
For those (like me) who have not yet been seduced by the legendary Japanese film Battle Royale, this new Anchor Bay collection—featuring the theatrical cut, the 2001 special edition, Battle Royale: Requiem, plus a disc of featurettes and extras—is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The four-disc set comes in a beautifully packaged booklet and is available in both DVD and Blu-Ray formats.
Battle Royale was originally released in 2000, and was adapted from Koushun Takami’s controversial 1999 novel of the same name. The film exploded into the new millennium, riveting audiences, breaking box office records, outraging censors, and transfixing a generation of film nerds like Quentin Tarantino. Its synopsis is straightforward:
By Melissa B.
How fortunate the New Orleanians are: Once Christmas and New Year’s are over, they get to move straight into Carnival season. Parades, food, music, revelry, and the finest of these things, I’d wager, is the music.
I’ve often wondered how New Orleans can have so many obscenely talented, homegrown musicians. Is it the food, the humidity, the heritage, the proximity to water? Is there a great funk reservoir that all of the drinking water comes from? Do they put it in babies’ bottles at birth? Whatever causes it, there is a bumper crop of amazing New Orleans music out there and Meet Me At Mardi Gras puts it all in one convenient disc, making a party in your living room, or car, or ears. What have you.