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Monday, November 2, 2009

Viva (Cult Epics 2008)
a film by Anna Biller

byDC Larson

To experience delightful sexploitation comedy Viva is to be immersed in arch-stylized 1970s cuts and colors. Indeed, all involved are enthusiastically aboard the technicolored retro train: loud, gaudy ensembles, feathered, fluffed, and lovingly laquered tresses, calculatedly cardboardish (and always effective) acting, the moment's pop culture-choreographed, hipness-ho posturing.

Panache radiates in neon.

Important to Viva's sensory effect as syle is, though, the saucy narrative scores its substantial points through clever plot-craft. Anna Biller as forsaken and frustrated "Barbie" dips a bared toe into the Sexual Revolution, only to be swirled away into its swinging maelstrom of drugs, modeling, delicious licentiousness, and hidden personal costs.

With impressive flair, Anna sported multiple hats in the construction. Writer, director, set and costume designer, starring actor. (She also composes, choreographs, and edits.)

During a post-screening interview, Anna was asked why she had decided to make the fim."I wanted to do a realistic story about a woman who's a scapegoat of the sexual revolution," she responded. "[Someone] who endures everything in the name of being liberated. She's just going with the flow, and it's such a dangerous and demonic world of predators out there, and she's completely unprotected. I thought it was very funny and also a very real kind of story."

Anna claims a BA in art from UCLA and an MFA in art and film from CalArts. While the impressive Viva is her first feature, audiences already know her from several short films and stage musicals; both have been shown at international festivals and art spaces.

Awards Anna has received for Viva include Best Style in a film at the Moscow Film Festival (Vogue magazine), and Best Director, Atlanta Underground Film Festival.(Viva's more than 30 other festival selections include the B Movie, Trash, and Underground Film Festival, the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the Transylvania International Fim Festival, and the San Antonio Underground Film Festival.)

Like the mini-skirted era Anna affectionately sculpts, Viva looks stunning while flirting with fleshly perils.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

VELVETEEN VISIONS: DD Sparks "Maximus Aquarius" review

DD Sparks
"Maximus Aquarius"
(Magic Cabinet Records)

reviewed by
DC Larson

(That DD Sparks, creator of the "Maximus Aquarius" character, is my brother in no way impacts the below judgements.)

Craft is the thoughtful choreographer of creative impulse. Lacking it, one has only unfocused spark, unproductive energy.

But braced by craft's intuitive calculatings, virginal musings assume perspective.

On each action strasse here located, one upturns treasures alurk: Shadow-draped glacial movements, fizzy percolations, spectral intonations -- each distinct shard locks into unseamed correspondence. (And while head may be above-clouds, feet are maintained to terra firma by trenchant six-string coloration and reassuringly familiar sax testimonies.)

About, one spots splinters of Roxy Music, T Rex, and ELO. But only splinters. Influences are subservient to Aquarius's own striking demeanor. At once darkly sagacious and wit-flecked, the observational time-trifler character -- a technicolor pastiche of Victorian elan and fantastic consciousness -- imprints the whole with uncanny lilt and commanding presence.

Craft revels in its peculiar reward.

RECOMMENDED "Cutting In the Blue," "Beloved Nemesis," "trick of the light," "dangerous angels"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Unknown Instructors
Funland (Smog Veil)

This neither respects industry-proffered strictures nor reflects appropriate sympathies.


Ambitiousness of this scope is not found on top marketing charts. Too "self-indulgent," says
Suit One. Too "experimental," agrees Suit Two.

Besides, holds the A&R chorus, tilted atonality that kicks aside standard maps and mass-accessibility formulas to dance on uncharted soils has never known numerically significant embrace.

Of course, self-indulgence is not necessarily a negative. Of what benefit to anyone is the stifled imagination?

Contributors Mike Watt, George Hurley, Joe Baiza, Dan McGuire, Raymond Pettibon, and David Thomas follow without inhibiting commercial heed the muse's seductive siren into leisurely and notion-laden episodes.

Only through bold experimentation can unlikely concepts be unwrapped and assembled. Experiments do not always succeed, but they sometimes do -- with occasionally startling appropriateness.

One at once respects the daring and is impressed by the realizations. High-minded intentions that might otherwise fall are well-raised by agile interpretation. Musicians assembled for this work are of a lofty caliber; their expressions animate creative ideation, giving it practical form.

It is true that no compositions present lend themselves to ringtone-excerpting. Just as it also is so -- and with Funland, again asserted -- that such is not art's purpose.

Recommended Maji Yabai, Later That Night, Frownland, C'mon, No Chirping.

- DC Larson

Thursday, March 5, 2009

They're writing those Depression songs, again

DC Larson

As credentialed experts strive to gauge national economic condition, they should cast beyond standard criteria like GNP and Wall Street permutations to appreciate popular music's public mood mirroring. They would do well to begin with Viper of Melody (Bloodshot), by Wayne 'The Train' Hancock.

Wayne is widely-regarded as perhaps today's pre-eminent purveyor of the bold and bouncy, steel-guitared, upright bassed-Western Swing popularized in the '40s and '50s by Bob Wills and Speedy West, the sort animated and charged by country-jazz guitar legend Jimmy Bryant.

With dependably solid accompanists Anthony Locke, Huckleberry Johnson, and six-string wizard Izak Zaidman, the leathery-voiced Hancock imbues the in turns jumping and swaying proceedings with a magnetic, Everyman tenor.

But of the disc's 13 winning tracks, it is the sorrowful "Working At Working" that most resonates and best articulates fast-emerging national hardships and despairs.

"Well, the rich folks call it 'recession,' but the poor folks call it 'Depression' / Everybody's hittin' the street, with the low-down blues" chronicles the song's protagonist. "I wonder if the President knows how I feel / I've stood in every soup line around."

That sentiment has been sung across America, before.

"They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead / Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?" asked lyricist Yip Harburg, in 1931's "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

Harburg wrote "Brother" together with Russian-born American composer Jay Gorman. And while its mournful,

minor-key melody was reportedly based on a traditional Russian lullaby, the blue travail of which it told was very much of that ongoing catastrophic moment.

"When Bing [Crosby] recorded this song in October, 1932," chronicles a San Francisco State University text, "one out of every four Americans who wanted work could not find work. The banking system was near collapse."

In "Working At Working," Hancock portrays our own, unsettlingly similar contemporary calamity:

"Well, it's gettin' awful hard, to keep livin' this way, stayin' on the edge from day to day / And, if I don't find somethin' soon, I'll be highway bound."

It is fitting, both musically and spiritually, that Wayne ends "Working At Working" with a blue yodel, ala the Great Depression's 'Singing Brakeman' Jimmy Rodgers.

Yip Harburg, Jimmy Rodgers, Wayne Hancock -- the appropriateness of their fraternity is at once wonderful and terrible.


(DC Larson, of Iowa, is CD Review Editor for Rockabilly Magazine. Among his freelance credits are Goldmine, Blue Suede News, No Depression, and Rock & Rap Confidential.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Richie Booker, Randevyn CD reviews

Richie Booker
"Shine The Light" (SKD/Synkronized)

A less creative and adventurous artist boasting Richie's familial link to reggae legend Bob Marley might well be inclined to simply recycle the stylings of his famed brother, hoping for similar reward. But Richie's provocative and inspirational "alternative reggae" is of individually topical character, layering its technicolor, textured world party with rock and pop diversity, and intriguing studio effects. New reggae for the new age.

FROM DANCEHALLAREAZ.COM: "In addition to singing and acting (Palmetto, with Woody Harrelson), Booker produces the annual Bob Marley Caribbean Festival, where for the past 15 years, he and his family have brought together talented musicians as a fundraiser to help feed and shelter the homeless."

Recommended Tracks "Wow," "U Ain't From Around Here," "Station Revelation," "Deja Vu"

"The Randevyn Project" (Earthtone Music Group)

"I aspire to utilize my art to create positive, thought-provoking music that inspires and strengthens humanity," Randevyn says. Such life-affirming ambition abounds not only in the meaningful narratives ("This is my country," he declares in "Jena Tree." "I got a right to be here."), but no less so through equally moving, sophisticated music that often cherishes lush keyboards at its center.

And when he asks, rhetorically, "What if there are really no walls, at all?" you appreciate the wonderful ramifications -- and second that emotion.

Recommended Tracks "Jena Tree," "American Drum," "Dear Diary," "(The Dash In Between)"