REVIEWS

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-music-mountain-of-wizard
Published  January 2017

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-music-childish-gambinoCHILDISH GAMBINO
“AWAKEN, MY LOVE!”
(GLASSNOTE)

On “Awaken, My Love!” Childish Gambino—better known as actor and comedian Donald Glover— dives headfirst into 1970s-style funk and soul. Glover completely abandons rap, leaving behind the quick word play and one-liners that defined his past numbers like “Bonfire.” Instead, Glover and his longtime producer Ludwig attempt to channel the strange vibe of Parliament-Funkadelic. While Glover may try to channel the group’s feel-good attitude musically, his lyrics have a social consciousness to them. “Boogieman” tackles racial profiling and gun violence with the refrain “With a gun in your hand, I’m your boogieman, I’m gonna come and get you.” “Redbone,” the album’s biggest potential hit, is an infectious tune featuring Glover wailing soulfully over a tight groove and strong melody. Gary Clark Jr.’s wah-wah guitar anchors the soothingly repetitive instrumental “The Night Me and Your Mama Met,” which features a choir and Glover on glockenspiel. On “Riot,” he describes the tensions building inside a rioter’s mind over a hectic, chopped up version of Funkadelic’s “Good to Your Earhole.” While Glover and Ludwig fall short of making the mothership land, “Awaken, My Love!” is a strong tribute to P-Funk’s style and the 1970s. —William Archambeault

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-music-mountain-of-wizardMOUNTAIN OF WIZARD
MAJOR WAVES OF MINOR RESOLVE
(SELF-RELEASE)

By now, everyone in New Orleans whose ears stay piqued by the incessant rumblings of the city’s underground metal scene ought to be acquainted with the four musical shamans collectively called Mountain of Wizard. With a few solid tours under their belts, in addition to previous tape and CD releases, the band has at last committed their best-known heavyweight riffs to a slab of vinyl befitting of the band’s stature. The absence of vocals in Mountain of Wizard allows for the music to breathe ethereally, yet meticulously. Riffs, emulating the likes of Thin Lizzy and early space rock groups such as Hawkwind and Gong, facilitate the Wizards’ musical portal to ebb and flow, crescendo and crash, and wash over and recede. This band understands how to groove within the pocket, rendering striking transitions and signature delivery. With each successive listen, this LP feels increasingly like a concept album, despite no lyrics. Supernautic gauche/watercolor cover artwork, elaborately crafted by local artist Jordan Barlow, completes what is one of the strongest NOLA albums of 2016. —Dan McCoy

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-music-owenOWEN
THE KING OF WHYS
(POLYVINYL)

Mike Kinsella has been at the forefront of the emo scene since 1989, when he played drums in Cap’n Jazz, and then later when he introduced American Football to the world. However, according to recent interviews he doesn’t really consider his music emo—at least not the genre. The King of Whys is Kinsella’s newest addition to the inspiring catalogue that the prolific Owen has produced. Successor to 2013’s Le Ami du Peuple, which felt abrasive and pretty, The King of Whys is a heavy album. “Empty Bottle” opens with ominous guitars marching through a cascade of space. The songs often conjure a gloomy Richard Linklater Midwest montage, wherein a folky outer-shell houses a millennial identity crisis, like “The Desperate” and “Settled Down.” Songs like “Lovers Come and Go” and “Sleep Is a Myth” offer a different perspective on Kinsella’s sound, channeling distorted ‘80s pop via synths and drum machines. Unfortunately, the album loses steam toward the end. “Lost” is a great closer but the album feels like it has about 4 of them. —Robert Landry

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-music-sexy-dex-and-the-freshSEXY DEX AND THE FRESH
PLUS ONE EDITION
(COMMUNITY)

Sexy Dex and the Fresh—formed out of the disbanded local group Glish, and quickly becoming my favorite live local band—has just released their first full length, Plus One Edition. You only need one word to describe their music: Prince. That isn’t a knock at the group. Prince created a genre all his own, and his influence on this band is clear, from the voice modulation on “Open Me Up” to the creative title spelling on tracks like the dreamy “BCNU L8R.” Plus One Edition is the best Prince-like album since The Love Below, and Dex and his Fresh Crew keep The Purple One’s intergalactic dance party going throughout, excepting the second single, “My BAE-B,” which reminds me of early Of Montreal. The album ends in an absolute stunner of a closing track, “Take Me Love Me,” a clear radio hit if this were a perfect world. Thanks to excellent production and a great mix of swagger and humor throughout, Plus One Edition will make Sexy Dex and the Fresh your new favorite band. —Brandon Lattimore

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-music-sneaksSNEAKS
GYMNASTICS
(MERGE)

In a Spring 2015 think-piece Pitchfork published about the lack of people of color in modern indie rock, Sarah Sahim called out Merge’s artist roster in particular. Coincidence or not, Merge signed Olympia artist Sneaks this year, and has reissued her 2015 album Gymnastics. Sneaks’ minimal art punk (just Eva Moolchan’s voice, a bass guitar, and a drum machine) is a weird and welcome departure for a label mostly known for Arcade Fire and Superchunk. All but one of the ten tracks stay under the two minute mark, as Moolchan delivers lyrics in a style closer to spoken word than to singing. As suggested by its title, Gymnastics seems like a fun lyrical exercise for Moolchan, like she’s just having fun exploring how words sound together: in “New Taste,” she sings “Church Bell/Cold Cut/Eye Drops/Old Shirt/New Shirt.” The best parts of Gymnastics sound like a low-key punk dance party, and with a new album coming out early next year, it will be interesting to hear how Sneaks’ sound evolves. —Brandon Lattimore

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-music-a-tribe-called-questA TRIBE CALLED QUEST
WE GOT IT FROM HERE… THANK YOU 4 YOUR SERVICE
(EPIC)

In step with a surreal 2016, a new A Tribe Called Quest album dropped out of nowhere the same year of integral member Phife Dawg’s death, and We Got It from Here… is surprisingly good for a group whose last album came out 18 years ago. We Got It from Here… has the sound and feel of a classic Tribe album, while drawing influence from more current music and politics. The opening track “The Space Program” acts as an affront to Afro-Futurism (“There ain’t no space program for niggas/man you stuck here nigga”) before becoming a rallying cry for Black unity. Tracks such as “Dis Generation” and “Kids” avoid the navel-gazing and gatekeeping often found on albums by veteran rap acts (like De La Soul’s Stakes Is High), and instead offer an optimistic view of the future of hip-hop. All the featured guests bring their A-game, including an invigorated Busta Rhymes, a blistering-as-always Kendrick Lamar, and surprisingly subtle contributions by Kanye West and Jack White. “We the People,” actually written before Trump was elected President, will likely end up being the most talked about track of the record. We Got It from Here… is presented as Tribe’s last album, and the group ends their career shining a bright light at an uncertain future. —Brandon Lattimore

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-music-jamila-woodsJAMILA WOODS
HEAVN
(CLOSED SESSIONS)

The Chicago hip-hop scene has been churning out waves for a while, and Jamila Woods’ debut album, Heavn, is a tsunami. Her appearance last year on Donnie Trumpet’s Surf, an album which also features Chance The Rapper and NONAME, was the slingshot she needed to create the musical multi-tasking displayed on Heavn. Woods’ album blurs genre lines, mixing classic hip-hop aesthetics with contemporary beats and pop song structures. “Bubbles” opens with the line, “Black girl be in a bubble” underneath sparse, pulsing drums and a cozy blanket of vocal hums. “VRY BLK” features fellow Chicagoan NONAME and confronts the issue of the police vs. Blackness. The tone is cool, confident, and honest, lyrics focused on connecting the reality of the Black female experience to listeners, whether or not they are familiar with the perspective. The title track, “HEAVN,” samples the late J-Dilla from a Roots track that melts definitive soul and grace together like the right kind of ice cube in an old fashioned. At moments, the album changes from a soliloquy to an outright cry, like in “BLK Girl Soldier,” where the drums are louder and the vocals stab, coolness intact with a flick of the wrist. Like a hurricane, Jamila Woods throws the listener around like a rag doll just to make sure we are listening. —Robert Landry

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-book-as-you-wereMITCH CLEM AND AVI EHRLICH (ED)
AS YOU WERE: A PUNK COMIX ANTHOLOGY VOL. 5: THIS JOB SUCKS
(SILVER SPROCKET)

As You Were, the punk commix anthology published by Silver Sprocket, gathers comic artists to tell short stories based on a single theme. Past issues have dealt with the sometimes frustrating experiences familiar to punks like “Living Situations” (volume 4) or “House Shows” (volume 1). Volume 5 kicks around the theme “This Job Sucks,” something everyone can get behind, punk or not. The short comics deal with the usual job complaints: asshat co-workers, the lies we use to hype up a new job before daily routine bludgeons novelty to death, and the hazards associated with working in certain locations (like a lemon ice stand). Ben Passmore, a local artist and co-organizer of NOCAZ, contributes a short comic about driving a horny old customer with an unexpected past around Savannah on a pedicab. There are several missives about capitalism and power that are more cathartic when taken as explorations of empathy, rather than as manifestos. Chief of these rants is a mash-up between Hellraiser and Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” that brings me a level of joy that I’m not sure how to qualify. Silver Sprocket does right by the reader in this issue, packing a ton of content from a lengthy roster of artists into 175 pages. As You Were hits all the right pressure points and it’s the product of folks who’d like to commiserate with you over the daily menial bullshit of your job. —Andrew Mullins, III

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-psycho-candyPAULA MEJIA
PSYCHOCANDY
(33 1/3)

Paula Mejia, a Brooklyn-based writer for the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and a handful of others, was in town last month giving a talk on her latest endeavor—a 33 1/3 book on the subject of Jesus and Mary Chain’s first release, Psychocandy. If you’re not familiar with the 33 1/3 book series, they essentially tackle a noteworthy album from concept to creation to completion, using a mix of firsthand interviews and cultural criticism. Mejia’s take on Jesus and Mary Chain’s most lauded collection of songs, released in 1985, takes a few pages to get into, but really hits its stride once her attempt to paint the picture of a blue-collar Scottish band’s unwavering desire to do everything themselves most clearly presents itself. The first chapter of the band’s career, and the creation of the album they’re most known for, comes to life like a movie in your mind as you read about how important it was to them to be present, mindful, and unique in the crafting of their image, stage presence, interview tactics—right down to the editing of their videos. What comes across as exemplary is that while others who have come before and after them throw themselves into the mix to be made into a brand, however the mix-makers-that-be see fit, The Jesus and Mary Chain wanted their product to be one of their own creation. During one of the first interviews the band ever gave in 1985—referenced midway through the book—lead singer Jim Reid answers a reporter’s question of “why are people so excited about you?” by saying “Because we’re so good. Because we’re so much better than everybody else.” Coming from almost any other band that answer would have been infuriatingly cocky but somehow, in this instance, and knowing what you know of them after reading this book, you can only agree. —Kelly McClure

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-film-moonlightBARRY JENKINS, DIR.
MOONLIGHT
(A24)

Director Barry Jenkins, whose first film was 2008’s lovely Medicine for Melancholy, based his second feature on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The stage is set in Miami, in large part at the Liberty Square housing projects, close to where Jenkins and McCraney both grew up. The camera stays close to its protagonist, a boy named Chiron—“Little” to the neighbors—who grows up into a young man called “Black.” The depth of field is shallow and painfully intimate, and most of Chiron’s story is communicated nonverbally, through the stiffness of his body and the many walls he uses to protect himself. His monologues are a negative space, a speaking silence. This is where Jenkins shows his mastery of visual storytelling. The fabric of the film is rich and carefully sewn. A sense of incompleteness left over in the mind of the viewer is no doubt intentional, forcing you to search through the warm darkness for a shadow of moonlight to see by. —Alex Taylor

antigravity-jan2017-reviews-film-handmaidenPARK CHAN-WOOK, DIR.
THE HANDMAIDEN
(MOHO FILM)

This unusual period piece takes place in Japanese-occupied Korea during the 1930s. A dashing conman hires a cunning pickpocket to become the handmaiden of a troubled Japanese heiress. He intends to convince the wealthy heiress to run off with him, from which point he will commit her to an asylum and enjoy life as a wealthy bachelor. The characters are captivating and beautiful. The setting, an odd mansion that marries Japanese and Victorian architecture, is simultaneously bizarre and sublime. This is not a Korean version of a Merchant-Ivory film, however. Park Chan-Wook is also the director of the original Oldboy and The Vengeance Trilogy. If you haven’t seen his earlier films, the most important thing to know is that you can’t take anything in a Park Chan-Wook film for granted. There is always more to the story than what lies on the surface. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that you should be prepared for a thrilling and masterfully composed tale, full of deceit and sexual intrigue. If this sounds like your kind of film, I doubt you’ll be disappointed when the credits roll.—Alex Taylor

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