Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dahga Bloom - "No Curtains" (Captcha Records 2014)

Dahga Bloom
No Curtains

Dahga Bloom's second album, No Curtains, is warped danger muzak for those chemical-fueled police chases you keep getting yourself into, with a suitcase full a' money and a dead body in the trunk.  These four guys from Orange County have that ragged, ugly mutt sound of the late 80s/early 90s Pacific Northwest that i miss so much, like Love Battery and Screaming Trees and Mudhoney and Soundgarden, but all out of its mind from huffin' on model airplane glue. it's interesting to note that not only is Dahga Bloom guitarless, but they feature not one, not two, but THREE  fucking basses, and holy shit are they making a racket.  an unrelenting hallucinogenic wall of noise. whatever you are running from, No Curtains will aid you in your getaway.  drive safe.

and they were kind enough to provide some tasty mind-melting eye candy to soak in while listening. god bless them. i wish more bands did this. 

and they sure seem to bring it live, too.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Fantasy Art of Hannes Bok

Hannes Bok, (real name Wayne Woodward) (1914-1964), was an American illustrator best known for his Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine work.  His full color covers are lush and luminescent, influenced by the heavy layering of glazes by his hero Maxfield Parrish, and his black and white interior illustrations are odd and deeply compelling.

Bok's entry into the world of commercial fantasy art came through his friendship with a young and then unpublished Ray Bradbury.  By 1939, Bradbury was committed to becoming a sci-fi/fantasy author and hopped on a bus from Los Angeles to New York City to attend the World Science Fiction Convention.  Since Bok was unable to attend the convention himself,  Bradbury brought along an armload of his friend's work to show off to the editors there and to kill two birds with one stone.  It worked, and the rest is history. Bradbury etched his name in sci-fi/fantasy granite, and Bok became one of the most beloved illustrators from the Golden Age of sci-fi illustration.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Al Lover - Sacred Drugs (Psych Army/Crash Symbols 2014)

Al Lover
Sacred Drugs
Psych Army (vinyl)/Crash Symbols (cassette/digital) 2014

San Francisco DJ Al Lover has been an unrelenting force on the international psych scene for a while now.  If there is a beautiful meeting of psychedelic minds somewhere in the world, chances are he is right there at the epicenter of it all, spinning a tripped out dj set for everyone's enjoyment.  There are hours and hours of his remixes and cut-ups and mix tapes floating around, all of them worth checking out, but for Sacred Drugs, his first official LP of original material, Al Lover stretches his tether out  further than he ever has before.  The work here is deeper, more personal.  The beats are more subdued and heavily sedated. The atmosphere is thicker.  Everything is more ambient.  Sacred Drugs seems less designed to drag your ass out on the dancefloor and more for laying you out like a fucking rug in the comfort of your own home, gently holding you down and opening cosmic portals for altered states.  Most of the tracks seem like brief snippits of infinite loops, and explore a wide variety of sounds and textures... there are meditational soundscapes, slow-crawling trip hop grooves, and weird alien noise.  But make no mistake, this is not a relaxing experience by any stretch of the imagination.  The listener is kept discombobulated throughout as the album meanders through these strange sounds, and there is a bit of a paranoid feeling dripping off of the walls.  Sacred Drugs is the soundtrack for a dark, personal voyage, allowing your mind to wander deep inside of itself.  So get comfortable, relent to it, and ride it.  Safe travels.

Buy the vinyl HERE, and the cassette and digital download HERE.  follow Al Lover on Facebook and Twitter.  Check out HEAD MEDICINE's Al Lover interview from 2013 HERE

Stand out tracks: "The Shaman's Hand is Infinite," "The Shadow Self Shake," "7 Senses of Cosmic Understanding," ""Up Is Down and All Around Is Within"

guest appearance by Morgan Delt on "Super Strength (Power Plants)"!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

John Alton: Master of Light and Shadow

                                                                                                                                    from Raw Deal (1948)                                                               

     In the world of Film Noir in the 1940s and 50s, few filmmakers had as profound an impact as John Alton.  The Hungarian-born photographer/cinematographer took the highly stylized shadows of German Expressionist masterpieces like Fritz Lang's M and it's American descendents Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon and applied them to low budget American gangster movies to great success.  His mark was made with his early collaborations with director Anthony Mann on T-Men in 1947 and Raw Deal in 1948 and peaked in 1955 with The Big Combo.  These films dove deeper into the shadows than anyone else had dared, a place that only Alton was able to navigate and accurately capture on film.  He had complete mastery over light, oftentimes giving only a sliver to slice dramatically through the darkness.  The actors puppeteered long shadows across the walls and ceilings until these silhouettes were almost characters themselves.  Gangsters oozed out into view from a sea of black ink on the screen, and beautiful damsels stood silhouetted under a street light with an eerie fog rolling in, photographed like an urban Ansel Adams piece.  Alton had an impeccable eye for composition and possessed flawless design instincts.  Nearly every shot is perfectly balanced, every element from the foreground, middle ground, and background worked together, and the actors oftentimes walked through these various levels as if they are on completely different planes.  Shadowed figures in the background lurch towards us through a back lit hallway, and just when they disappear into the murk, they emerge in front of us under dramatic lighting.   He utilized the full range of camera angles, from low worm's eye views to high, tight down shots,  extreme closeups balanced with wide panoramas and everything in between.  Alton also had an adventurous eye to place the camera in unusual positions... looking up through a table lamp to a group of scheming thugs, impossibly dramatic shadows drawn on their faces... behind a heavily silhouetted figure in the extreme foreground, dividing the screen down the middle with action to the far left and right. He was fearlessly creative.  Alton's early Noir films were created cheaply and on the fly for small independent studios and was given complete creative control. Later, while neck deep in the rigid confines of the Hollywood movie making machine, Alton still played by his own visual rules, but it came at a price. He constantly battled for his visions. Eventually, Alton had enough fighting with ignorant producers and retired from filmmaking in 1960.

It is worth noting that although Alton is most famous for his shadowy Film Noir films, he put his stamp on several color films later in his career.  He won his only Oscar Award for his work on the famous ballet scene from An American in Paris, world-renowned for its beautifully saturated hues.  Also worth mentioning is his work on the pilot for the Mission: Impossible television series in 1966.  Alton curiously emerged from retirement to work on this single episode and it still looks fantastic, like a piece of technicolor pop art (and a precursor to Jim Steranko's innovative Nick Fury books for Marvel Comics later that year).  He returned to retirement when filming was finished and faded into obscurity.  In the years since, filmmakers like Martin Scorsese have hailed him as a visionary and his work has now come back into critical view.  John Alton passed away in 1996 at the age of 94.

Here is a short but effective documentary on Alton:


T-Men (1947) (full movie)

Raw Deal (1948) (final sequence.  full movie streaming on Netflix)

He Walked By Night (1948) (full movie)

The Big Combo (1955) (full movie)

Mission: Impossible (1966) (full pilot) (streaming on Netflix)

Mission Impossible 1966 S01E01 - Pilot by madonna-jackson